Sunday, October 31, 2010

Thoughts on the election (yawn).

I realize I've really not blogged anything about the election in general. Perhaps that is because there is nothing to get excited about—absolutely nothing.

Obama has alienated a huge percentage of voters. Even those individuals who are voting Democrat aren't excited about the man. He has failed to perform almost completely in any area where his campaign promises were good and decent. Where he promised bad things he has delivered and then some. This blogger considers Obama worse than President Shrub, and that says a lot.

Just as Geogie Jr. horrified the majority of voters and drove them into the Democratic camp last time around, Obama is driving them right back to the Republicans. Yet, the voters are not happy with the Republicans which doesn't mean they are happy with the Republicans either. And believe me, the system is so rigged by all this so-called "campaign finance reform" and other election laws that it is virtually impossible for anyone to challenge the two-party duopoly. Given how each screws over the public for special interests we may as well assume we live in a one-party state. Regardless of which party is in the White House the occupant of that building will be more like Mugabe than like Jefferson.

The one alleged ray of hope, for less intrusive government, was supposed to be the misnamed Tea Party. But look at the sort of creeps that are considered the leading TP candidates: Sharron Angle, Christine O'Donnell, Carl Paladino, Ken Buck, Joel Miller or even Randal Paul.

Not a one of them actually wants to get government intrusion into the personal lives of people reduced. If anything these clowns want more religion-based policies to control how you live your life. We were told that the Tea Party had a "libertarian" bent to it. Right, these guys were so libertarian (NOT) that they managed to make Wayne Root even look libertarian in comparison—and believe me, Root is no libertarian.

Angel, O'Donnell and Paladino are complete whackjobs, but then so is Miller. Randal Paul is just another power-hungry politicians who sees principles as bargaining chips, something that can be traded away when power is at stake. He is as bad as his father, on those issues where Daddy Paul is bad, and where Daddy Paul is good, junior falls to perform. Daddy went over to the lunatic Religious-Right some years ago and Randal is sucking up to these theocratic creeps even more. Randal will win, in my opinion, but then his opponent actually managed to look ever more crazed with his "aqua Buddha" commercials.

My guess is that the Tea Party candidates won't do as well as people assume they will. And I actually think they gave the Democrats more than they took from them. People are disgusted with the fake in the White House and his party but the Tea Party fringes are making a lot of voters think twice about voting Republican.

Certainly the Republicans had a shoo-in seat in Delaware before Christine O'Donnell won the Republican nomination. What was a safe Republican seat looks to me as one that the Democrats will pick up. The Democrat, Chris Coons, has had a steady and healthy lead over O'Donnell from the beginning.

California's Barbara Boxer was vulnerable, and with good reason. Sure the Democrats have been advertising heavily against Republican Carly Fiorina. But from what I've seen of the ads, which have been pretty brutal and, in my opinion, dishonest, the most effective strategy the Democrats have is the Tea Party. They are trying to paint Fiorina as "too extreme for California." But this "too extreme" campaign is one the Democrats are playing around the country.

They are doing so because the Tea Party types that did win Republican nominations are actually rather extreme whackjobs. The TP gave the Democrats about the only strategy that would work for them in this election.

Face it, the Democrats can't run on keeping campaign promises. The one big promise they kept, the take-over of health care, is the one that has voters infuriated. And the Democrats don't want to bring up campaign promises anyway—since they did so badly on them. Consider various reports that gay voters are now more likely to refuse to vote than ever before because Obama has talked like Lady Gaga but performed like Georgia Jr. on issues that concern the gay community. Given how bigoted the Republicans have been regarding gays, this constituency ought to be safely Democratic. Obama has been so miserable on those issues that he alienated the most secure voting block the Democrats had outside of black voters. Only the hard-core, brain-dead Obamatrons continue to make excuses for the man in this area.

The Tea Party types are scary and certainly not advocates of small government by any means. They are the worst elements in the Republican Party, not the best. About the best Republican around is Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico. I believe Johnson is fundamentally a libertarian—more so that Ron Paul for sure. I've questioned him and listened to him carefully. Even Jon Stewart, when interviewing Johnson, said, "But you're a libertarian?" Johnson smiled and said: "You think!"

I saw Johnson at a huge Tea Party rally trying to interest these Know-Nothings with his libertarian message. The response he got was deadly silence. What did get them salivating, and then foaming at the mouth, was anyone who got up and bashed Mexicans. I swear a heavy insult directed at brown people gave many in that Tea Party crowd the first orgasm they had in about six decades. Just the thought of it sends shivers down my spine. There is one good thing I can say about the Tea Party types I saw: the average age was just shy of death. A good number of them would be lucky to make until Tuesday.

Yes, the Republicans will make gains. And some big gains. But they couldn't help but do that since Obama handed them the election last year. The Tea Party probably dulled those gains somewhat. The TP movement is, in my opinion, a flash-in-the-pan and I doubt it will have any lasting impact.

The voters will continue to move in a mushy libertarian direction. The political system will continue to be "reformed" in order to prevent any real political challenge to the Democrats and Republicans. And that is the central issue in American politics today, one that no one is really talking about. The voters are moving in one direction while both parties are continuing to ignore the sentiments of the voters preferred instead to cater to their core members: left-wing loons and Right-wing bigots. Voter discontent is growing and the major parties have rigged the system so that they keep power in spite of that discontent.

Consider the "campaign reforms" that have been pushed in several places which prohibits any more than two candidates on the general election ballot for any one office. Those laws explicitly ban choice at the polls. Campaign finance reform was geared to protect incumbents from challenges, not to keep elections clean.

So, with rising voter discontent there is almost no way to fix the problem at the ballot box. The Demopublicans have made solutions illegal in order to continue their hold on power. In a third world country that would be a recipe for revolution. What it means in America is any one's guess.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Thank god for bigots.

In the last couple of days I have come to appreciate the bigots. Take the brain-dead fundamentalist from Arkansas who was vice president of the local school board and yet who posted a message about gay kids killing themselves by saying he would be happy if they all killed themselves.

That message was so raw and so ugly that it worked up a lot of people.

I come out of a fundamentalist background myself. I know precisely how ugly, cruel, intolerant and vicious those sweet, smiling Christians can be when given half a chance. I know first hand how small-minded they are and how prone they are to believe the most absurd and ridiculous thing about anyone that they despise.

The school I attended was associated with what was then the largest fundamentalist church in America. I don't mean denomination when I say church. I mean this one single church was literally the largest church in the world when it came to attendance. I am thrilled to say it is a shadow of its former self these days.

I graduated from their high school and moved on to the seminary. I look back on it and shake my head in wonder. How could I possibly have endured such morons for so long? But I did.

The schools were dominated by Right-wing extremists, often of some very ugly tendencies. The John Birch Society was considered fairly middle-of-the-road by these people even when the JBS started indulging in crazy Illuminati/CFR/Bilderberger nonsense. The far-Right author of None Dare Call It Treason, John Stormer, taught classes I attended, at least briefly. This sort of conspiratorial nonsense was taught as fact.

In addition the church itself had dozens of members who were active in the Klan. The school pushed Bircher theories. I got such theories directly from the leaders of the school and the principal was a key influence in forming the Moral Majority. I also heard him make some pretty racist comments in class about the inability of blacks to learn. He said reasoning was beyond them and that only memorization worked.

With top officials pushing the Birch Society I got involved in the organization. And while the JBS had a public profile of pretending to shun anti-Semites and other such bigots they didn't try very hard.

I was a young kid and these people were feeding me literature about how the Jews were the real conspirators and trying to take over the world. Yes, they actually believed in Jewish conspiracies. From within the Birch Society I was introduced to every extreme theory on the Far Right that you could possible find, at least at the time.

With the church and the school pushing similar ideas, I naively thought I had to accept them as true. So I did. All of it seemed to make a sort of consistent sense to me. Based on the false premises I got from the school, the JBS made sense. Based on what they taught about conspiracies the anti-Semites seemed to make sense. The racism seemed to make sense. And then they all would refer to the Bible for their proof.

I went to the summer youth camp that the Birch Society was organizing. I meet the top Birch officials and writers there. I ended up a youth leader in the American Party, an offshot of the bigoted campaign of George Wallace. I attended their conferences as well. Deeper and deeper it seemed to go. The loony consistency of all of it seemed to make sense.

And then one day something happened and I woke up. It was really pretty simple. I saw the real face of this movement and it terrified me. I saw what hate looked like when it was behind closed doors and allowed free reign.

Someone I knew from church invited me to a private meeting held inside a large garage at some one's house. I remember walking up this long driveway to the garage where there were around 50 chairs set up theater style. We sat down and the owner of the home welcomed us and then introduced the speaker. I honestly don't remember his name, it isn't important. It didn't matter who he was. What mattered was what he said and what he did.

From this door to the house come a group of men in full uniform, brown shirts, dark heavy black boots almost up to the knee, armbands emblazoned with swastikas, arms held out in the all-familiar "Heil Hitler" salute. The head of this clownish, in a Stephen King kind of way, band of Nazis stood at a podium. The uniformed would-be thugs he brought with placed themselves in a circle around the audience, as if they were watching us all very carefully.

This man then launched into a tirade about "niggers" and "kikes" and that come the revolution they all would be rounded up, tortured and killed. He gave a long, gruesome description of how those massive tree grinding machines could be used. The Jews, he said, could be tossed into them one person at a time and obliterated into a heap of bloody, fleshy pulp in a matter of seconds. He laughed about it. He found the entire depiction amusing and inspiring.

He did his best imitation of the Fuhrer, sputtering and spitting and hollering at the top of his voice his message of undying hatred. For years all this Right-wing bullshit had been fed to me, but it was all ideas and concepts. This hateful man made those ideas and concepts flesh and blood. He personified all that was wrong with what I had been taught. All the careful wording that used to placate the sensibilities of the media were forgotten that day. He said precisely what he meant and what he intended to do if ever given the chance.

I might have been just a teenager but this experience shook me up. It was so ugly, so inhuman. It started me wondering. I began questioning everything I had been taught, without exception.

I left that church, though not Christianity yet. I moved on to another, smaller church albeit one that was still fundamentalist. I was not yet ready to give that up. I started reading more widely and researching. I took all the conspiracy literature I was given and studied it, and all the books that were footnoted, and then read those books and their footnotes. I went through conspiratorial literature that went back two centuries. And the more I read the more clear it was to me how much nonsense it all was.

My new church disagreed with my old church on some key points. Yet each claimed to be following the infallible word of God. The more I studied the more I was unsure of any of this as well. And eventually I came to dismiss all theology and all deities as wishful thinking.

I was still in the seminary but having doubts. One day a kind and gentle Christian introduced himself and I was so thrilled that the semester was starting off with a new friend. Instead he merely wanted to know my name because he determined that my hair was about 1/3 of an inch too long. His feigned friendliness was a front in order to get my name so he could turn me in and get me in trouble with the school authorities.

At this time along came Anita Bryant with her very ugly anti-gay campaign. It reminded me of what I saw in that garage that day, the same kind of scapegoating. Instead of Jews in the cross hairs Anita was going after faggot and queers who "can't reproduce, so they recruit -- your children." Anita would speak but it was that jackbooted thug that I saw in my mind. Sure she smiled more and didn't want have them killed, just cured, or put back in the closet where they belong.

I wrote a letter to my local paper and signed my own name, opposing Anita and speaking out against her campaign. And from there the last ties I had with fundamentalism came crashing down. All these Right-wing types who saw me as their golden boy, as the teenager who understood their ideas, were furious. I listened to tirades from former friends calling radio shows to denounce me for criticizing Sister Anita. I packed my bags and left. I took a job writing and was soon spending a day with Anita and reporting on it. I went to a Moral Majority/Anita Bryant meeting called to demand that homosexuality be made a felony in the state. Jerry Falwell and Anita were the headliners. I reported on how I witnessed these "Christians" having their kids march around with signs calling for the murder of gay people. But hey, they didn't suggest tree grinding machines.

I may have forgotten the name of the jackbooted Nazi who spit out such hate and venom, but I will never forget the incident and tone and mental stench from the hatred. It started me on a journey, one that I continue every day. From that moment on, no belief I held was sacred, they still aren't. I continually reconsider and change views or modify them, and often reconfirm them as well. I also have moved more in a direction where I see the utter evil of hatred and of wielding power over others.

I don't know what would have happened had I never experience that jolting experience of seeing hate so perfectly illustrated in front of me. I like to think I would have evolved anyway, but I can't be sure. Yes, such things are ugly and horrible to consider but they do have their uses.

When Clint McCance went on Facebook and said he hoped all gay kids would kill themselves his venom was so disgusting that he lite a firestorm. Good for him. I'm glad he did it. In a sense he serves to others the function that Nazi wannabe served for me.

People want to think that the beliefs they hold about other groups or classes of people—gays, Jews, Mexicans, "illegal immigrants," or whoever is the target of the day—are reasonable and "moderate." Few extremists actually think they are extreme. Now and then someone takes their premises and follows them to the logical conclusion. And when that happens the moderates are shocked and horrified. They don't want to excuse it, but they aren't sure how to condemn it either. It causes them great discomfort because, for the first time, they see precisely where their beliefs are leading them.

That Nazi thug scared me because he was taking the beliefs I had been spoon fed by the church and school and moved them in a logical progression consistent with the premises held. He forced me to ask myself whether this was what I really wanted. And I didn't. I didn't want any of this. The images that day horrified me so much that I was terrified that if I said anything they might do some of these things to me. I only wanted to get out of there.

I did get out of there. And eventually I got out of the entire fundamentalist mindset. I became an atheist because I felt the entire god concept didn't make any sense. I abandoned the authoritarians of the Right and became a libertarian. The more I saw hatred the more I became concerned about oppression and people being harmed by the collectivist mob mentality of bigotry.

Clint McCance is a nobody whose ugly hate got him attention he wished hadn't have happened. Fred Phelps is a tyrannical minister filled with hate who abused everyone in his life, in one way or another. Yet his "God hates fags," and "God hates Jews" protest rally massive protests from every community he visits.

These bigots force people to see the logical results of bigoted premises. And that forces people to decided whether or not to cling to those premises, or to change them. We have seen huge shifts in public attention on issues relating to the state-sanctioned oppression of gay people. And one reason for this is because people like McCance and Phelps wake people up. They force them to see where the premises they hold are leading.

When it becomes clear that these premises are so ugly and so cruel, people begin abandoning them. I may not believe in a literal god but I can thank this mythical being for the existence of these bigots. These bigots are changing minds, just not in the direction they intend. Clint McCance got people in Arkansas thinking. He so shocked them that few would publicly defend him. After all, the man said he wished school kids would kill themselves, and he did so based on what he says the Bible teaches.

Today bigotry is weaker in Arkansas as a result. Just as the horrors of communism in practice discredited communism in theory, the horrors of bigotry in practice discredits the theories on which they are based. That also means that McCance made fundamentalism a little less appealing to some of its adherents. Like I did, some of them have now begun their journey away from hate because McCance made hate so real to them. And that is a good thing.

Labels: ,

Friday, October 29, 2010

At least he had the sense to resign.

I am pleased to report that the Arkansas school board member who said he wished all gay kids would kill themselves, Clint McCance, has resigned from the school board.

He says he regrets the remarks. I'm sorry but I have to wonder if he is sorry he said it, or sorry that there was such a response to it. Those are not the same thing.

This man said he would disown his own children if one of them were gay. Wow! What sort of message does he think that sent to his own children?

He says: "The words I used were unfortunate but they can't be taken back." No, they can't. But they were not unfortunate. This was not just an "unfortunate" incident. He chose to say what he said, what is unfortunate, for him, is that he is paying the price. His political career is over.

I am glad he resigned and glad he apologized for the incredibly cruel things he said.

But I am haunted by the words of McCance that he would disown his own children. Such things happen in fundamentalist homes more than most people realize.

In his day the so-called "faith healer" Oral Roberts was well-known for holding the typical anti-gay view. His oldest son and heir apparent was Ronald Roberts. He was considered a highly intelligent man with the perfect family himself. But then Ronnie divorced and admitted he was gay. A few months later, facing nothing but rejection from his fundamentalist family and friends, Ronnie Roberts killed himself.

Ronnie's nephew, and Oral's grandson, Randy Roberts Potts, wrote about his mother's eyes would light up every time she spoke about Ronnie, her brother. Randy says that his want he wanted from his mother when she spoke about him but says that "her eyes don't ling up anymore, and haven't in years—for the last five, at least."

His mother wants little to do with Randy as well. Randy, like his uncle, had married and had a perfect family. And like his uncle he knew he was lying. He too was gay. Apparently the Roberts' family learned nothing from Ronnie's suicide. Randy is now alienated from his own family, living in Dallas and raising his children.

I hope Mr. McCance realizes how easily this can come to his own doorstep. He says he loves his two children, yet he said if one of them were gay he would "run them off."

Anti-gay bigotry is in a unique class of itself. A racist who hates blacks will not suddenly discover his own child is black. But the anti-gay bigot could wake up and find they have a gay child. It has happened time and time again. The adult disparaging gays could be insulting their own children in an incredibly cruel way without ever knowing it.

Photo: Clint McCance

Labels: ,

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Jihad in Arkansas

Jihad is an attitude, one that says that others actually deserve to die because they violate your own religious fantasies. I have argued that the fundmentalist Christians are basically compelled to cruelty and hatred based on their view of the Bible.

Let us move to that cultural cesspool known as Arkansas where self-proclaimed "Christian" Clint McCance sits on the Midland, Arkansas school board.

First, allow me to remind you of the events that lie behind this astoundingly reprehensible actions by Mr. McCance.

As this blog, and thousands of others, has reported there was a tragic series of young teens killing themselves because they were being harassed and bullied for being gay. The faces in this blog are some of those kids. Please keep them in mind as you read about what Mr. McCance did. Keep in mind that McCance is one of the elected officials in Midland, AR, whose job is to run the school system that incarcerates thousands of students on a daily basis. His job is to "educate" these children.

After the series of suicides there was a national outcry against the bullying and some groups promoted an awareness campaign where students would wear purple on one day to bring attention to these tragedies. Mr. McCance responded to the campaign by saying that he wanted gay kids to kill themselves. I am not making this up. He posted the following on his Facebook page and keep in mind that the "queers" he mentions are young kids. The spelling is his own, indicating one doesn't have to be intelligent to run a school, at least not government schools.
"Seriously they want me to wear purple because five queers killed themselves. The only way im wearin it for them is if they all commit suicide. I cant believe the people of this world have gotten this stupid. We are honoring the fact that they sinned and killed thereselves because of their sin. REALLY PEOPLE."
This self-identified Christian then responded to someone who protested his wording and his monstrous sentiments.
"No because being a fag doesn't give you the right to ruin the rest of our lives. If you get easily offended by being called a fag then dont tell anyone you are a fag. Keep that shit to yourself. I dont care how people decide to live their lives. They dont bother me if they keep it to thereselves. It pisses me off though that we make a special purple fag day for them. I like that fags cant procreate. I also enjoy the fact that they often give each other aids and die. If you arent against it, you might as well be for it."

"I would disown my kids they were gay. They will not be welcome at my home or in my vicinity. I will absolutely run them off. Of course my kids will know better. My kids will have solid christian beliefs. See it infects everyone."
So how has the Midland School Board responded so far. First they removed the names of their board members. Then they disabled their email system to prevent outsiders from using their site to send them emails. McCance has not retracted his comments nor apologized for them.

What kind of moral compass is operating when a school official wish gay students would kill themselves? McCance says his three passions are "god, family and fishing." I can't speak for any god, nor will I pretend to, I will that to theologians, they are so good at faking that they speak for the divine. I can, however, say something about family. And this invoking "family" to justify hating other people's children is as anti-family as one can get. Like it or not gay kids are not found in cabbage patches. They grow up in families. They have brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. And all of them grieve and mourn when their gay loved one dies. "Family" is not a code word for hate, no matter how much fundamentalists pretend it is. Families are cemented together by love and any family that can't say that is not really a family, just a collection of people accidentally related by blood.

In this blogpost I wrote about "telling kids they are worthy of death." I noted how religious messages, especially coming from the fundamentalist sects, are quite openly sending out messages that gay people should die. And they are sending that message to their own children. Even if they never have gay children themselves, which is not something they manage to avoid all the time, they are still sending that message to other children. We should also remember that they are sending this message to kids who then bully and harass other kids precisely because they are gay. These messages give succor to the bullies and help justify their actions. These "godly" messages tell the bullies and bigots that jihad against gay people is divinely sanctioned.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Angle pulls out the racist card

This is the very ugly, very racist tirade of Sharron Angle the so-called Tea Party candidate in Nevada. Any libertarian who is still defending this disgusting movement has either not been paying attention or is brain dead. The Tea Party is anti-liberty. They are bigoted against immigrants and gays and are actually worse on social liberty than your normal Republican. Surveys show that the Tea Party is mainly the most reactionary element of the Republican Party.

Angle, who is also a staunch anti-gay bigot, of course, claims that "waves" of Mexicans are coming to America. Actually immigration flows are way down because these people came looking for jobs and when jobs dry up they go back. But in Angle's fevered, bigoted, little brain these people are not coming to America for work but for the explicit purpose of "joining violent gangs, forcing families to live in fear."

Is this true? Are millions of Mexicans flocking to America to join gangs? For answer I turned to the National Gang Threat Assessment published by the FBI and various police agencies who deal with gangs.

The first problem with Angle's slander against Mexicans is that millions of them can't be joining gangs. The NGTA report indicates that the total number of gang members in the US, of all races and nationalities tops out at 1 million. And of these over 100,000 are in prison. So Angle's estimate of illegal immigrants in gangs exceeds the total number of all gang members in the country

So Angle's main claim is impossible. Another problem is indicated when we look at which regions of the country report gang activity. In the Southwest, where most illegals come into the country, 63% of law enforcement report gang activity. This is lower than the Southeast region, or the Bible-belt where 68% report gang activity. The national average is 58% so the region with the most Mexicans is barely above the average. For instance the region include Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming came in at 58%, yet this is not a region known for having large numbers of illegal immigrants.

We should also look at what fueled the rise in gang numbers in the US, and it wasn't immigration, legal or otherwise. It is the war on drugs that creates massive profit opportunities for gangs to deal in drugs. The report notes:
During the 1980s, gangs that engaged in drug
trafficking in major cities began to expand their
drug distribution networks into suburban communities
influenced by local gangs. The larger
gangs controlled drug distribution in city drug
markets; they were motivated to move into adjoining
communities to generate additional income
by capitalizing on burgeoning powder cocaine and
crack cocaine abuse. Large urban gangs generated
millions of dollars from trafficking illicit drugs in
urban and suburban areas; this income enabled the
gangs to recruit new members and to force smaller
local gangs to either disband or align with them,
thereby increasing their dominance. To enhance
profits from drug trafficking and other crimes, large
urban gangs also deployed members to locate new
drug markets throughout the country, including in
suburban and rural communities. As various gangs
attempted to expand nationally, they often were
met with initial resistance by local gangs. This resistance
resulted in an increased number of homicides
and drive-by shootings in suburban communities.
Gangs expanded in the US during the last few decades for the same reason that the Mob expanded during Prohibition. Government stupidity pushes up the profits in offering an illegal substance that are desired, rightly or wrongly, by a large percentage of Americans. The profits are artificially high because the drugs are illegal. Given the violent nature of the drug warriors themselves it makes sense that over time more and more of the distribution of drugs will be handled by individuals who are just as violent, if not more so, than the police agents who enforce this law.

Gang members who do migrate illegally to the US do so to take advantage of the drug trade or because they work with the drug cartels who have been created by the prohibition of drugs. But there is no evidence that a significant number of undocumented workers in the country are here for gang activities. Drug prohibition is the main source of gang income. According to NGTA: "Gangs earn the profits essential to maintaining their criminal operations and the lifestyles of their members primarily through drug distribution." However, the crack down on the border has pushed many gangs into the people smuggling business. As usual prohibition fuels criminal enterprises.

Since millions of illegal immigrants are NOT fueling gangs how many are involved? Here is an estimate based on the NTGA estimates of the major gangs with Hispanic members, not all of whom would be illegal:

18th Street Gang: 24,o00 to 40,000 members who are assumed illegals.
Almight Latin King: Has 20,000 to 35,000 members but is open to "individuals of any nationality." No mention of significant illegal immigrant membership.
Florencia 13: about 3,000 not all of whom are illegal.
Fresno Bulldogs: 5,000 to 6,000 not all of whom are illegal.
Sureños and Norteños: No membership figures but these are gang members from other gangs that are numbered. These are members of other gangs imprisoned and working in the prisons. So these figures are included in other figures.
Tango Blast: Formed by Hispanic men in prison as protection against other gangs such as the Aryan Brotherhood.
Barrio Azteca: around 2,000 many illegals not all.
Hermanos de Pistoleros Latinos: around 1,000.
Mexikanemi: around 2,000 members.
Mexican Mafia: about 200 members.
Neta: Hispanic but mainly Puerto Rican not Mexican.

That is a list of the major gangs that are listed in the report which have Hispanic memberships of any significance mentioned. Their totals are around 90,000 or so and not all of them are illegal.
Many were actually born in the United States.

The gangs in America certainly are growing and as long as the drug warriors have their way these gangs will get bigger and bigger and more and more violent. Violent drug warriors encourage increasing violent drug dealers. The war on drugs won't stifle the demand for drugs and as long as demand remains high the drug war will offer massive profits to anyone willing to take on the cops. And who is willing to take on the cops: violent gangs.

Add into this mix the new profits being offered because of the border crackdown and the federal government is literally handing millions in artificially high profits to the gangs. Now, will Angle do anything to help encourage "legal" immigration or to end the war on drugs? No, just the opposite. It is Angle and people like her who are creating the very conditions that fuel the gangs.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

One case that says a lot.

I still run across moronic conservatives and even some very stupid libertarians who argue that gay couples can get all the same rights as straight couples merely through private legal contract. Of course that is just so much bullshit. A private legal contract would not save this couple from forced separation. And while marriage laws are state issues, under the so-called state's rights doctrine, immigration law is not. So, yes Virginia, there is a need for federal recognition of gay relationships. Marriage would stop the deportation process if they were straight. It might not mean the spouse can stay since the Feds routinely separate legally married people in their zeal to keep the xenophobes happy, but it would stop the process until the individual case were adjudicated.

In addition this case smashes the claims made by the bigots at the National Organization for (sic) Marriage. NOM claims that gay marriages would be a push for special rights not equal rights. Equal rights would give both kinds of couples legal rights in regards to immigration. Special rights would give one set rights that are not enjoyed by the other set. The only people pushing for special rights is NOM, which uses the Mormon supplied funding it receives to deny gay couples even the right to be together, let alone marry.


Legislation requires you to lie.

There is a case of interest brewing in Michigan. A woman named Tracie Rowe put up an ad at her church saying: "I'm looking for a Christian roommate."

For that she is facing charges in court for violating the federal fair housing laws. The bureaucrats pushing the case say it is a clear case of "an illegal preference."

Let me state immediately that while I'm an atheist and opponent of bigotry, I support this woman's right to make this decision.

Rowe was specifically looking for someone to share her living quarters, much the way that someone looks for someone to share a life with, which includes living quarters. Having a roommate encompasses many of the same issues that being married entails. There is an intimacy to sharing living space that does not exist in other human relationships.

Right-wing Christian groups are defending Rowe. The Alliance Defense Fund said, "This is outrageous to think that the government can come into your private house and try and tell you who you can and cannot have as a roommate. It's just absurd."

I have no love for the Alliance Defense Fund, they are a nasty bunch of bigoted fundamentalists. But here they are right, even if they are stunningly hypocritical. Why do I say that?

ADF is one of the religious Right groups wanting to deny gay couples the right to marry. Let us take the ADF's comments about the Rowe case and rewrite it very slightly: "This is outrageous to think that the government can come into your private house and try and tell you who you can and cannot have as a spouse. It's just absurd."

So, it is absurd for government to regulate roommates, but not absurd for government to control who is your legal spouse?

The lawyers from ADF say that this is a matter of freedom of association. True, it is. But so is marriage. In fact, under the law, as it has evolved, the government grants far more freedom in marriage than it does in others are of life. You can't racially discriminate in hiring, but you can in marrying. You can't refuse to perform business services for a Jew but a Catholic priest can refuse to perform a marriage for the same Jew. If anything, the legal case against state control of spouses is greater than the case against state control of roommate advertisements. Who one marries is ultimately more important to them than whether one's roommate has the same religion.

Need I remind the readers from the Left, with whom I share many values, that before they laugh at the utter hypocrisy of the Right in this case, that they should also consider their own contradictions. The law under which this woman is being prosecuted is one the Left supports. They said that the freedom of association of this woman must be infringed in the name of "fair housing."

What is particularly bizarre is that the woman can still only take on a Christian roommate, she just can't advertise for one. As was reported: "Haynes (one of the bureaucrats) says Rowe can live with whomever she wants, but law '804-C' is about what you publish. The law says you can't print publish, or advertise based on race. limitation, sex, or religion." So, an atheist such as myself can't say, "No religious need apply." But I can still only share a house with atheists if I prefer, I just can't tell the truth in my ad.

Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech, so the Constitution says. Yet many of my friends on the Left who are quite willing to apply free speech protections to pornography (as I would) are not willing to apply this same principle to stating housing preferences. Remember that the crime here is stating the preference not indulging it.

And who are these bureacrats helping? Is it the people who would be discriminated against? No, not at all. Remember Rowe was still allowed to pick only a Christian roommate, she was only forbidden in expressing that preference. So individuals, looking to share a house with someone, could take time off of work to meet with Rowe, they could go out of their way to get to her home, spend their precious time and resources to meet with her, without ever having a chance to actually be a roommate. They aren't allowed to get advance warning that they are throwing away their time and money to meet with Rowe.

This does NOT mean they will be roommates as Rowe is still free to reject them. But Rowe is not allowed to let these people, doomed to failure in the roommate search, know that they would be wasting their time. The law itself inflicts additional damages on the unsuccessful roommates by requiring them to spend resources foolishly because the knowledge they needed to spend it wisely is censored under federal law. So the "victims" of the discrimination are not made better off by the law. All the law does is increase the costs for everyone. But it gives parasitical bureaucrats an excuse for squandering more tax funds.

Looking at roommates and spouses as a matter of freedom of association means I oppose both the Left and the Right. I oppose the Left when it comes to "anti-discrimination" laws, such as the one at stake in the Rowe case, but I equally, and for the same reasons, oppose the Right-wing attempts to have government control whether or not one may marry a person of the same gender. I agree with the Left when it comes to their general support (Obama is a big exception) for marriage rights for gay couples, but I equally, and for the same reasons, support the right of private individuals to decide who to room with.

By the way, the case for gay marriage is even stronger that that of roommate preferences. Government discrimination is far more onerous and troublesome than private discrimination. With private businesses that discriminate it is easier to move from one company to another; there are literally millions of employers seeking employees. But with government monopolistic power structures that is very difficult to do. If the US government discriminates, as it does with marriage rights, then you are screwed unless you can get another government monoply power structure to see things differently and allow you to live there, which is very difficult

It is far easier to avoid private discrimination than it is to avoid legislative discrimination. A non-Christian wanting to rent a room would have a much easier time locating a roommate who isn't so picky than a gay person would have in finding a government that will legally recognize his marriage. Government has more control over larger areas of life than any one private business can ever have, that is why private discrimination is not nearly as worrisome as state-mandated bigotry.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Giant penis attacks Texas


Friday, October 22, 2010

Collective rights, petty debates and real pain.

Because many libertarians came to their philosophy from the Right they often bring with them a style of discussion that betrays their roots. While philosophically their position may be correct the way in which they express themselves conveys meanings they do not intend and alienate the people whom they are hoping to address.

Libertarians believe in individual rights. I have no problem with that. Rights do reside entirely in the individual. There is no such thing as collective rights, just the rights of the individual. So it would seem logical for a libertarian to shun terms like “woman’s rights” or “gay rights” or “minority rights,” etc.

We should be clear that people use the term “rights” in two different ways, and without clarifying which one is using can lead to unnecessary confusion. When a libertarian says that someone has “rights” they are referring to the ideal situation, not to the actual situation. It is to the libertarian vision of individual rights that they are referring.

This causes an immediate problem as others may be using the term to describe the actual legal state of rights, not the ideal state of rights. Yes, gay people have precisely the same rights as straight people in the ideal sense of the term. In the actual sense of the term they do not.

Two men, each identical in every important sense of the word, who attempt to join the military may be treated entirely differently if one of those men is gay and the other is not. There is an inequality of legal rights, even if in the ideal sense of the word the two men should have precisely the same rights. Similarly two couples will be treated very differently when it comes to marriage rights if one couple is gay and the other is straight. Legally the rights of gay people in America today are not co-equal to the legal rights enjoyed by their heterosexual siblings.

Often when the term “gay rights” is used it is a term meant to address the inequality of rights that exist, not the ideal sense of rights. It is an attempt to move the actual rights enjoyed by gay people to an equal plain with the rights enjoyed by straight people. The term “gay rights” is often used by someone who has no intention of creating a system of unequal rights. It is not a “special” right that is being sought but precisely the same rights that have been denied gay people by law. Similarly the term “women’s rights” is not generally meant to be a situation where women have different, or superior rights, but precisely the same rights as men. This does not mean that some people use the terms to disguise a campaign for unequal rights, but most people who use these terms do not mean that at all. More often than not their opponents are actually the advocates of unequal rights before the law, individuals who wish to reserve special privileges to a class, race, gender, or sexual orientation.

Consider the likes of Maggie Gallagher and Jennifer Roback Morse. They fight for a system of marriage rights that excludes one class of people—gay couples. They want legal privileges reserved to another specific class of people alone. Yet opponents of equality of rights argue that it is the gay couples that are seeking “special” rights, when in truth they are attempting to eradicate special rights in favor of equality of rights.

There is also another aspect of “rights” which libertarians simply tend to forget, or never realized. While it is true that a person does not have rights because he is a member of a specific group it is true that individuals frequently have their rights violated precisely because he is a member of a specific group.

A woman who is gay may ideally have precisely the same rights as any other adult, but she may be denied some of those rights because she is gay. Taxation may violate rights on a relatively equal basis. A general sales tax hurts everyone regardless of what group he may be a member of while Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell disqualifies individuals on the basis of a collective trait, not an individual one.

Racists attack blacks, or Jews, or foreigners, not on the basis of their individuality, but on the basis of some collective trait. Ayn Rand described racism as the “lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism. It is the notion of ascribing moral, social or political significance to a man’s genetic lineage—the notion that a man’s intellectual and characterological traits are produced and transmitted by his internal body chemistry.” Rand is correct this is what racism does.

Modern prejudices or bigotries basically argue that an individual is not judged by his individual characteristics but simply because he is a member of some larger collective. Instead of judging on the basis of the content of their character the stigmatized individual is judged on the basis of his membership in some collective. Thus a woman may be deemed of lesser value because she is a woman, a black man may be treated like a criminal because he is black, and a gay man may be attacked physically or verbally simply because he is gay.

The bigot ignores all the aspects of the individual and instead focus on some shared collective trait. “All Muslims are... All homosexuals do... The problem with Jews is...” They don’t need to evaluate the individual because they assume the collective trait dominates. Thus all homosexual men are disqualified from the military, not because of any trait of the individual, but because of their group status. A Jew may be attacked, not because he or she has done anything wring, but just because they are Jew.

When individuals are attacked because of their group membership they will quite naturally and reasonable focus on how members of their group are being singled out for attacks. While the terms “gay rights” or “minority rights” or “woman’s rights” are not philosophical precise they are a reasonable response to the attacks these people suffer because they are members of groups. They are not singled out for attack on the basis of their individuality, but on the basis of a shared collective trait, usually one of no significance.

But, consider how libertarians respond to this understandable reaction by members of oppressed classes. The libertarian will often tend to ignore the fact that such people are being attacked for their membership in some larger collective. Instead of recognizing what is being conveyed they will attack the use of the collective rights terminology. So they will launch a high-sounding dismissal of the concept of “gay rights” while ignoring the way gay people are denied their rights due to the shared trait of their sexual orientation.

They are technically correct but they have defeated their own purpose. They are ignoring the real troubling issue at stake to concentrate on a less significant detail. By launching into a discourse on how rights are not collective traits they are not informing their listener about the nature of individual rights. They may mean to do that but they are not doing that. They are actually sending the message that they don’t care that the rights of certain people are being denied because of some collective trait. And that makes them sound like conservatives who are often the most vocal collectivists when it comes to denying equality of rights before the law.

The libertarian sentiment should naturally side with those who suffer oppression in a state or culture because of collective traits. Libertarians, who tend to be individualists, ought to be on the side of individuals who are being singled out because of collective, insignificant traits.

Libertarians ought to weigh the two sins being committed. On the one hand the victim uses a term that is imprecise and seems to convey that rights reside in collectives. On the other hand what they are addressing is how they are being harmed by a hate that singles them out collectively not individually. Of these two the violation of individual rights is surely far more severe than a loose use of a term.

The first reaction of the libertarian should be to acknowledge that an individual is having their rights violated due to a collectivist concept regarding who they are. First address the issues of the oppression and collectivist hate. Before you begin lecturing someone about loose terms address the real, significant violation of rights that these victims are attempting to convey. Don’t major on minors.

When I hear the terms “woman’s rights” or “gay rights” I see what people are attempting to convey, not a philosophical debate. Turning it into a philosophical debate ignores the pain and oppression that these people have experienced at the hands of bigots. That is what I would expect from conservatives, not from libertarians. Focus first on the main issues, defend the rights of the individual which are being violated, make an ally and a friend, and they worry about terminology. Put the intent of the phrase ahead of the literal interpretation and give the philosophy lecture after you are established your credibility.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Don't kill Bilbo!

Here is something you don't see often—thousands of workers protesting AGAINST a union.

As many of you know the Lord of the Ring films were produced in New Zealand. I've even visited Hobbiton there, or at least the location where it was filmed. Peter Jackson, who produced the films, was working on production of the prequel, The Hobbit. But an Australian based union got involved and started demanding a world-wide union boycott on the film because Kiwi workers were being exploited by Jackson, who was only paying the actors $5,000 per week for their work.

Does this union represent the workers? Nope, it only has a handful of members in all of New Zealand. They supposedly only represent 70 people in the entire country but they are working to put thousands out of work. Worse yet the union is not even registered in New Zealand which would make negotiations between Jackson and the union legally impossible.

The tiny union that is causing the trouble was going to hold a meeting in Wellington when they heard that a protest march was going to be held against them. They canceled the meeting, tucked their tails between their legs and beat a hasty retreat. Of course they blamed the workers they are seeking to unemploy by claiming that they (the union) felt threatened by the anger of the workers.

It was only a handful of highly-paid actors who were involved in the dispute but numerous trade unions joined the boycott forbidding their members to work on the project. While the Screen Actors Guild has canceled their boycott other unions have not done so yet. Warner Brothers is meeting with Jackson to discuss moving the film outside New Zealand, destroying thousands of local jobs.

By the way, the workers protesting aren't being paid $5,000 per week, like the actors. Apparently the union wants a few highly paid and pampered actors to take precedence over thousands of average working people. It may be too late to save The Hobbit. It's a shame really, considering that New Zealand made a perfect Middle Earth.

The New York Times updates the story:
New Line, a division of Warner Brothers, said it had “been attempting to receive an unconditional retraction of the improper Do Not Work Orders for almost a month,” but that New Zealand Actors Equity and its umbrella group, the Australian Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, “continued to demand, as a condition of the retractions, that we participate in union negotiations with the independent contractor performers, which negotiations are illegal in the opinion of the New Zealand Attorney General.”

The statement continued: “The actions of these unions have caused us substantial damage and disruption and forced us to consider other filming locations for the first time. Alternative locations are still being considered.”

Labels: ,

Sex hysteria and inflating words

Three of the performers from Glee did a photo spread for GQ magazine that has the sex hysterics panting, breathing deeply, and ready to explode in a fit of verbal diarrhea.

The Gleeks who modeled in the spread were Corey Monteith, Dianna Agron and Lea Michele. Now, for the record let us notice that these three actors are all adults. To be precise Cory is going to be 29 on his next birthday while Dianna and Lea are both going on 25. Second, we should note that GQ photo shoot is not sexually explicit, does not include nudity and is merely suggestive at worst, if you consider such things bad—which I do not.

None of this has any impact on the hysterics at the Parents Television Council. Contrary to its name this is not a collection of parents per se. It is a Right-wing political organization founded by L. Brent Bozell, a far right activists and relative of William F. Buckley. Its whole purpose is to promote censorship, either voluntary or coercive if need be.

The slightly racy, but not sexual photos, however got PTC president Timothy Winters in a dither. He released a statement of monumental stupidity. He claimed that the photo shoot "borders on pedophilia." What the fuck?

How does a photo shoot of young adults in their mid to late 20s border on pedophilia?

Apparently the idiotic Winters assumes that since they play teenagers in a television show then this "borders on pedophilia." Apparently if one of them was in a movie where their character was killed then this would qualify as necrophilia as well.

Note that the way these loons use the word "pedophilia" that they are stripping it of any definition. We should be clear as to what this is.

Pedophilia is a persistent sexual attraction to prepubescent children. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV also says the adult partner must be at least 16 years of age and at least 5 years older than the child. Non-sexual photos of adults, even of adults who play teenagers on television, is not even on the borderline of pedophilia.

In fact, by definition, even if the photo shoot were of actual teenagers this would not be pedophilia. Notice what pedophilia is NOT. It is not the violation of age of consent laws. Age of consent is a legal definition for a status crime, it is not something that falls under the clinical definition of pedophilia.

Nor is pedophilia a sexual relationship with significant age differences, unless one of the individuals is a prepubescent child. A man of 50 who dates an 18 year old is not a pedophile since the 18 year old is not a prepubescent child.

Pedophilia is a sexual attraction to sexually immature children.

The PTC is trying to take advantage of a political trend that has been going on far too long. They know, like many lobby groups do, that a very large percentage of people are disturbed by sexual activity between adults and prepubescent children. The reality is that most people don't like pedophiles.

Since that is the case, political lobbying groups attempt to redefine pedophilia to include things which clearly are not included. The reason for doing so is to encourage the same sort of fear response from people that they display toward pedophiles. In other words, since people fear actual pedophiles, let's take non-pedophiles, redefine them as such, in order to get the same fear response people exhibit toward the real thing. And the reason to expand the fear is quite simply in order to achieve political goals that actually have nothing to do with pedophilia.

The PTC knows that this is not borderline pedophilia. But they don't care. What they want is to promote censorship. They are inherently anti-sexual and want to wipe out all such images.

The Glee stars didn't even do this modeling on television. And, I should note, that the outfits worn in the QC spread could be worn on almost any television show without fear of falling afoul of federal censorship laws.

Pedophilia is intentionally being inflated so as to mean what it does not mean, in order to accomplish other agendas by those doing the inflating.

What may be the PTC agenda here? Consider that Glee is one of the more pro-gay television shows on the air as one possibility. I also happen to think it one of the more moral shows, if we use morality in the real sense of the word. Morality, to me, is more how you treat others and less about whether you have orgasms and with whom. Right-wing moralists are obsessed with hating orgasms and sex, but have no problem with mistreating others or being intentionally cruel to others.

They would love to remove this show from television entirely, not because the show itself is portraying anything unacceptable in the realm of sexuality, but merely because it cuts against the anti-gay, moralistic campaigns of the Religious Right.

So they pretend that a magazine photo shoot is really about television. They also pretend that this is about pedophilia even though all the actors are sexually mature adults. They call it borderline pedophilia and a "near pornographic display" in order to justify their conclusion that it is "only masquerading as family show" (sic). The goal is to attack Glee, and since they couldn't do it on the the actual content of the show they looked for other reasons to attack.

They actually hate Glee quite a bit and warn that is totally unsuitable for anyone under the age of 16. They give it a "red light" warning because it is supposedly includes "gratuitous sex, explicit dialogue, violent content, or obscene language." That, quite simply, is bullshit, something that they would consider obscene language. But it is still bullshit.

All in all the show is rather sexually tame but PTC does mention one thing, which I suspect bother's them a lot: "One boy has recently come out of the closet..." That would be the character of Kurt Hummel, one of the characters who actually adds a great deal of pathos and damn good storey-telling to the series.

One of the worst trends in politics is how both Left and Right attempt to drag "the children" into every situation in order to panic parents into pushing for some other agenda, which in truth, is totally unrelated to children.

Photo: This is one of the "near" pornographic photos that the loons at PTC says is borderline pedophilia. They are not borderline assholes, they are clearly over the border.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Little things make a difference.

This is a touching short commercial about bullying. I like the understated nature of it, but yet it makes the message clear.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Three rules for good living.

First, my apologies for being away, but I'm back.

Today I was doing some shopping and found myself humming some of the music of Virgil Gibson, the lead singer from the original Platters. I recently became a fan, not a fam in the rabid, stalking sense, just a fan in the sense that I enjoy his music, I enjoy his style and I like the man, even if we would vehemently disagree about religion.

During my recent trip I spent a short time talking with Virgil, who had expressed something to me about how he was impressed with libertarians and basically realized that is what he has always been. He also told me about some of his charitable activities and the projects that he works with, especially with kids.

I was thinking about his charitable work today and with my own increasing emphasis on the need for charity to create a better world, one we can be proud of living in. From all of this I formulated what I consider to be the three rules for good living.

Rule #1: Never do anything to violate the life, liberty or property of another person.

This is the prime directive of libertarianism, which is an ethical system that tells me how I must treat others, at the very minimum. It is not the be all and end all of life, but it is the foundation on which all else has to be built. A good house must be built on a firm foundation. You need the foundation in order to have a good house but the foundation is NOT the house. You need more.

Rule #2: Take responsibility for yourself. It is your responsibility to pay your bills, correct your own mistakes, and sustain your own life.

The nature of our species is such that for us to live we have to have input. By input I mean we need certain resources directed to our uses. We need food, liquid, shelter, medical care and such. I like to look at life like a bank account. There are withdrawals and deposits and there is a balance. If you overdraw the account somebody has to pay.

If you overdraw your life account some else has to pay. There really is no such thing as a free lunch. We must find the resources we need someplace. We may borrow from others or we inflict the costs on others. If we do not pay the costs ourselves we are actually violating our first rule for living—–by imposing our costs on others we harm others.

This is easy to forget because the harm we inflict is often indirect. If I mug an old lady to buy something I right the harm I inflict is direct, explicit and guilt-inducing. It would be for most people, which is why only a few engage in open criminal assaults on others. This does not mean that they eschew such practices altogether, unfortunately they want the self-directed benefits of robbing others while trying to avoid the guilt-inducing aspect of the activity——they seek indirect means of inflicting harm on others and surround it with high-sounding, often altruistic, motivations.

The most efficient means of indirectly exploiting others is to hire political officials to do the work on your behalf. Frederic Bastiat put it well: "Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else."

You must take responsibility for yourself make sure your deposits do not exceed your withdrawals, and make sure you don't inflict harm on others. And you must make sure you don't inflict indirect harm on others as well. Don't hire state agents to steal on your behalf.

Rule #3: Try to do some good for others.

The first two rules prevent you from doing harm to others. And they require you to act in the voluntary sector in order to secure the inputs you need for life. That will mean that you must engage in trade. And if you only engage in voluntary exchange of goods and services then each such transaction will benefit others. That is one of the miracles of free exchange——it can increase total wealth with increased production.

For instance, if you sell a vegetable to a family you value the proceeds you receive higher than you value the vegetable. Similarly, they must value the vegetable higher than what they gave you. Both of you exchanged voluntarily and both of you were better off because of it.

And while market exchanges are wonderful, the reality of the world is that there are places in the world, and people who are unable to make those exchanges——often through no fault of their own.

I have seen enough of the world to know that there are governments and systems which create obstacles preventing people from doing well. One of the most absurd claims made against libertarians is that they believe the poor and needy are at fault for their state. That undercuts a basic principle of libertarianism——that institutional structures can inflict great harm on people.

Throughout the Third World people suffer because their governments inflict marketing boards on them, which confiscate the wealth they produce. These boards force food producers to sell to them at below-market rates. The boards, who should I say the politicians who control them, then sell the produce at market rates keeping the proceeds while ripping-off the poor. We have ethanol subsidies that push up world food prices so that the poor have trouble feeding themselves. Around the world political structures reduce the supply of medical care while encouraging greater consumption, resulting in a constant process of rising costs and frustration.

While there is no shortage of individuals who made decisions that overdrew their life-account, the world if filled with people who are victims of coercive institutional structures which make it difficult for them to achieve a decent life.

Thre is a real, pervasive, and unavoidable need for human compassion and charity to undo some of the harms inflicted by coercive institutional structures.

Libertarians preach voluntary charity as being superior to state welfare. I believe that myself. And that brings me to a very important lesson for libertarians: libertarians who want private charity must themselves practice it.

Charity is necessary to undo these harms. I would argue that coercive charity is unlikely to effectively reduce the harms inflicted by coercive structures. Coercion begets coercion, harms inflict further harms. It is a never ending cycle of pain. Mitigating the pain inflicted by institutional structures requires peaceful, voluntary actions outside those structures.

Charity, voluntarily given, is inherently libertarian. It is also, I believe, one of the most subversive means available to undermine the coercive structures that are harming our world. Anyone can talk about healing our world, but it takes individual compassion to actually do it. Even if we were to successfully change the structure of the world, to one of entirely voluntary interactions and exchanges, it would take decades, perhaps centuries, to undo the misery and harm already inflicted. Long after a utopia is implemented, if such a thing is even feasible, there will be need for human compassion and charity.

Libertarians should practice what they preach. Those who are unable to do so should just shut up.

That brings me full circle to what Virgil Gibson was saying. He basically said he was an instinctual libertarian without realizing it. He was someone who believed in not harming others, and trying to undo the harms they had suffered already through his charitable actions. For me that made clearer the intimate link between fundamental libertarian principles, such as the non-initiation of force and voluntary exchange, with that of individual compassion and charity.

And just for the fun of it, here is some of Virgil in action.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, October 16, 2010

It Gets Better

Ft. Worth city council member Joel Burns speaks about the harassment he experienced as a teen and reaches out to gay teens who are contemplating suicide because of attacks they may suffer. I've seen many such videos and this is the only one I felt I had to share.


Well worth the time to watch

Here is a relatively short video of the famous clock in the old town square in Prague. I was in the square at just the right time one day and saw it in operation. The clock is 600 years old and was fascinating. But this modern celebration is absolutely brilliant. It was one of the most enjoyable things I've seen.

The 600 Years from the macula on Vimeo.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Polls confirm voters don't like GOP but really dislike Obama

For a couple of years now I have been repeating a mantra of mine: voters are voting against incumbents not supporting the other party, regardless of which party is in power.

People hated Bush and voted Obama because they were sick of Republicans. Obama and the Democrats stupidly assumed that was support for them and a mandate to screw up health care with government mandates and controls. I have been arguing that voters would flock to the Republicans because they aren't Democrats, not because they support the theocratic conservatism of the Religious Right.

So, it is nice to see Bloomberg news confirming what I've been saying. They say voters are moving over the Republicans but that polls suggest "voters aren't embracing Republicans as much as they are rejecting Democrats." They write: "Republicas are in an anomalous position—poised to make political gains while the party and its policies are unpopular.

What is particularly worrisome for the Democrats is that the Bloomberg poll shows that voters who are most likely to vote are overwhelmingly rejecting the Democrats. Among those who say they will definitely vote 51% lean Republican and 37% lean Democratic. About half of voters, 49%, said they would benefit if the Republicans win, 29% say they will be harmed and 27% say it will make no difference. Apparently Nancy Pelosi is highly disliked; 52% have a negative view of her, while only a third are positive. I'm with them on that one, I can't stand the woman either.

Given the option of voting Democrat, Republican or Other, 18% of voters prefer other without having an other named. Now, the Libertarian Party won't be able to capture that vote. It ruined its reputation as a libertarian party with clowns like Barr and Root. And certainly the runner-ups in that race would have been pathetically poor candidates. Given the same choice over again I would prefer Steve Kubby but, as nice a guy as he may be, he wouldn't be a great candidate. The LP simply has NO one worth supporting.

My guess is that the most successful third party option would be if moderate Republicans broke off from the GOP. There are a couple of races where this has happened and the race is between the now Independent, but formerly Republican candidate, and the GOP, with the Democrats trailing the pack.

If an independent party could be orgaized around individuals taking the best from each of the two main parties, it might succeed. Certainly someone as decent as Gary Johnson, former governor of New Mexico, would be a good option. While he isn't as pure as some LP people, he is more decent than many and more electable.

I loved Johnson on the Jon Stewart show. Stewart looked at Johnson and said, "But aren't you a libertarian?" Johnson just smiled and said: "You think!" It was a perfect response that caught Stewart a bit by surprise. He seemed speechless for a second and then asked again and Johnson nodded his head. I like Johnson, I saw him tell Tea Party types that they needed to end the war on drugs, which took guts since that would only lose him support. At a dinner party of about 40 he was the main speaker and he was approachable and open to ideas.

"Moderates" can win. The polls show strong support for lower taxes, less government, and a balanced budget. A plurality or majority, depending on the poll, don't like Obamacare, and wait until people start losing the insurance they were told they could keep. Voters are not favorable to US interventionism overseas. The endless wars have tired them and they want out. And few favor the moralistic bullshit of the Religious Right, which the GOP is continuing to promote.

If a moderate party adopted lower taxes, a balanced budget, reduced government, and actually supported bringing the troops home (unlike lying Obama) they would go a long way. If they repealed DADT most voters would have no problem with that, polls show most people favor that move. They don't even have to embrace a pro civil liberties position, if they just refrained by the Theopublican policies of bashing people in the name of God.

Voters have been beaten down by theocratic Republicans like Bush. They have been smacked around by elitists who look down on them, like Obama. They really do seem to want a government that will just back off and leave them alone for awhile. A moderate party, made of Republicans who want to tell the Religious Right to fuck off, and Democrats who are sick and tired of being lap dogs to unions and progressive, would have a chance. It's too late this year, of course. But we can dream.


Monday, October 11, 2010

PC madness: motes and eyes

Here is an unusual story out New Zealand. Te Papa is the national museum on the Wellington water front. As far as museums go it is a fair collection, and certainly a lovely building. I attended the "Lord of the Rings" showing there as well as a banquet with Bjorn Lomborg, so I know the place.

Recently they sent out invitations to regional museums for a "behind-the-scenes" tour, which would included the Taonga Maori collection. The museum, however, informed guests that women would be excluded, if they are either pregnant or menstruating. Maori religious beliefs consider this a taboo.

Feminist writer Deborah Russel, who I often don't agree with, said: "I don't understand why a secular institution, funded by public money in a secular state, is imposing religious and cultural values on people. It's fair enough for people to engage in their own cultural practices where those practices don't harm others, but the state shouldn't be imposing those practices on other people."

Let me be clear—this taboo is irrational superstition belonging to a primitive era, not to the modern age. And, it most certainly is not a taboo that a state museum ought to be imposing.

A spokeswoman for the museum, Jane Keig, offered the irrational explanation that the "policy is in place to protect the women from these objects." That is, since some of the items were weapons used to kill people, and since woman are cursed if they are pregnant or menstruating, then their near presence to the weapons could harm them. In other words, Keig is protecting them from supernatural occurrences in the same way that one would intervene if a thug were stabbing a woman.

That, of course, is known in technical jargon as bullshit.

But, this is religious bullshit and there seems to be an exception granted to irrationality provided it has religious justifications. Invent some god or demon and you can't get away with anything.

Of course, Western types will gloat a bit, and look on this incident as a silly manifestation of the tolerance provided primitive religionists with their irrational, and utterly stupid, beliefs.

But, before the West gloats too much, they should remember to check the moat in their own eye, before condemning the splinter in the eye of another.

Consider a recent controversy with Tea Party Republican Carl Paladino, who wants to be governor of New York. Like about 100% of the other Tea Party candidates, Paladino is anti-libertarian when it comes to certain people.

Recently Paladino addressed ultra-fundamentalist Jews and launched into an attack on gay people, which included claims that gays are perverts after children. Some of the worst aspects of the attack were removed from the verbal presentation but appeared in the earlier written draft.

Paladino, of course, attacked equal legal rights for gay people, while incoherently claiming he opposes all forms of discrimination. Right! He's opposed to discrimination except for when he favors it.

So, why this attack on gay people? According to Paladino he was just expressing his religious viewpoint. But why do that? He's running for governor, not pope. He seems to think he is being elected in order to impose Catholic theology on people.

When obsessive anti-gay bigots, like Maggie Gallagher or Jenny Roback Morse, start screaming about gay people they want their own obsessive religious beliefs imposed on the entire nation. Morse is quite clear that she thinks gays shouldn't marry because her increasingly bizarre Catholicism forbids it.

What Te Papa did in comparison is rather mild. The museum wanted to enforce a Maori superstition on women "to protect" them from the curses associated with the artifacts used in Maori slaughters of the past. Given the limited number of invites that went out for this tour it is likely that only a small number of women were disadvantaged by the requirement. And, since Te Papa wasn't planning on vaginal inspections, any women who wished to ignore the silly edict could pretty much do so.

Not so when rabid Christians, like Paladino, Gallagher or Morse, have their way. What they specifically demand is that US law deny equality of rights to one group of people because the superstition that they cling to rules these people to be taboo. This isn't really that different from the BS associated with Maori superstition, except it hurts more people.

I know of one brilliant economist who will not drink water during a speech unless his own wife has poured it. Otherwise he sees it as violating a Jewish taboo. My Catholic grandmother spent much of her life shunning meat on Fridays because Catholic tradition said so.

We have Mormons walking around in magic underwear, meant to protect them from harm.

Without religious taboos, the drive to deny gay people legal equality would be over. It relies almost entirely on the Christian equivalent of what Te Papa did in the name of Maori superstition. One difference is that Maori taboo is not imposed by the force of law, whereas Christian taboo is. Of course, Christians who imposed such laws, like Paladino, Gallagher, and Morse, believe their "faith" is superior. When the Maori do it, it's superstition, when they do it, it's God's will. Why is it so easy to see the absurdity in other people's religions, while we seem to think our own makes perfect sense?


The perfect storm: Bernie Baran

Here is the trailer from the film Freeing Bernie Baran along with a short excerpt. I recommend seeing this film if you are able to do so.

Baran was just a teenager when he started working at a day care center in Massachusetts. When a set of very low-class parents, with dubious parental skills themselves, discovered Baran was gay they started making accusations against the boy. It was the era of the day care witchhunts where the media, government agencies, and feminist-oriented therapists, created a hysteria that swept the nation. People became convinced that organized rings of Satanic pedophiles had infilitrated hundreds of day care centers. Police and prosecuters had a field day.

Literally hundreds of innocent people were rounded up across America, thousands of children were psychologically tortured by the child abuse industry and taken from their parents. To this day many of the victims of the hysteria still sit in jail. It was 25 years before Baran finally had justice and was released.

For those with short memories, or who are too young to remember, it was this bogus hysteria that inspired short-sighted politicians—as if they are any other kind—to pass hundreds of new laws to "protect" young people from sex. The result of that hysteria is that today teens are routinely arrested and charged as child molesters for normal adolescent sexuality. A teen, exploring their sexuality, takes a photo of themself standing naked in front of a mirror, discovers they are a child pornographer. Two young people have sex when their parents aren't around only to find they are now guilty of mutual molestation. Personally I'm surprised that some moronic politician hasn't introduced legislation to define masturbation as self-molestation. Worse yet the politically-induce "sex offender" panic, the resulting legislation, means these kids will be legally tormented for the rest of their natural life.

Bernie Baran was the victim of the perfect hysteria. He was gay and accused of child molestation. Combine anti-gay bigotry with a sexual panic of this kind and you know something ugly will happen. It is the kind of campaign that only the most despicable amoral scum would knowingly initiate, but many of the instigators were just terrified parents believing the breathless stories fed them by the media.

When fear inspires "urgent" political action you can bet the farm that the action taken will almost always be the wrong action. Political campaigns that rely on fear, something that Democrats and Republicans are both guilty of, are attempts to stampede the public into supporting precisely the wrong sort of legislation. Be it child abuse, drugs, the war on terror, gay marriage, illegal immigration, global warming or whatever the panic d'jour may be, fear campaigns intentionally shut down the critical reasoning faculties of the human mind. The results are always wrong, always ugly and victims are created.
"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."
HL Mencken.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Oops, boy is that humiliating.

Here is an irate customer calling a British supermarket, ASDA, to complain about the pizza he bought. Listen to the end, it is actually hilarious.


Saturday, October 09, 2010

Riches of embarrasment: when libertarians associate with wackjobs

One of the great problems of the campaign to get libertarians to move to New Hampshire was that the organization pushing the campaign included a lot of right-wing cranks in the campaign. And that means the movement was associated with some wackjobs.

Add in the continuing worship by some libertarians of the extremely cranky Ron Paul as a problem as well. Paul has long been associated with extreme Right nut groups like the John Birch Society and even nuttier types like conspiracist loon Alex Jones. Paul does have libertarian tendencies but then most people do, at least on some issues. But he is decidedly anti-libertarian on issues as well and, worse yet, he promotes certain theories and organizations that are just insane, perhaps literally. The continuing deification of Ron Paul as some sort of libertarian hero legitimizes the wacky groups Paul associates with, including the Birchers, Jones and others.

One example of how these leads people astray is a story that has gone viral with the wacky Right. According to them a young couple, Jonathan Irish and Stephanie Taylor (who is married to another man) had a child together and the wicked State came in and "kidnapped" the child merely because Irish is a member of the Right-wing Oath Keepers group.

If that is all there was to the story then it would be of concern. And some libertarians, who tilt farther Right than the tower in Pisa, started spreading the story and protesting it. I didn't mention it for two reasons. One is that I assumed that there was more to the story than meets the eye. Second, the Oath Keepers association made me wonder what else was going on. The one time I saw an Oath Keeper speaker it was at a truly wacky conference, which of course included Ron Paul, and some absolutely insane types. Oath Keepers seemed to be typical far Right types to me and nothing for genuine libertarians to be excited about.

I figured I would wait and see what materialized before shooting off my mouth and making claims that would prove embarrassing. I have long ago realized that any association with these Right-wing groups, who are notoriously dishonest in how they report facts (as are far Left groups), hurts libertarianism more than it helps.

What I read about the so-called victims in this case reeks of low-class white trash. Now, that is not a crime, but it ought to cause one to consider the values of the people involved and what else may be going on.

Irish lives off of state welfare, while hating the state. His girlfriend, Taylor, is married to another man. Irish makes excuses for his welfare taking. He says he takes government welfare because he is blind in his left eye. Of course, plenty of people who are blind in one eye manage to find productive jobs, and earn their own way. In fact, plenty of people who are blind in both eyes manage to do that. If this were a recent disability I could understand, but this was a condition he had since childhood. He apparently is well enough to stage demonstrations and be a political activist but becomes too disabled when it comes to looking for a job.

He also says that his girlfriend suffers form a "stress-induced" problem which means she can't work and that he has to stay with her to take care of her. I certainly can understand that sometimes there are stress-induced problems that people have—been there, done that. But, I also know that "stress-induced" conditions are easily manufactured and often have been, especially when it comes to collecting welfare from the state.

Irish is quite vocal about how he is a victim of the state. And he is absolutely convinced he is being persecuted for belonging to the nutty Oath Keepers, a group founded by a former staff member for Ron Paul. Supposedly the group is for law enforcement and military types who promise to never violate the Constitution (however they interpret it). But I have to wonder if that is really true, especially if Irish is a member. He's unemployed so not in the military or law enforcement. And certainly any disability that prevents him from working would prevent previous military service as well, especially since he had the blindness in the one eye since childhood. Further research shows Oath Keepers lets anyone join.

Personally I wouldn't mind active police members or military service members refused to perform unconstitutional acts. But I wouldn't count on Oath Keeper members from what I see. All the board of directors, that are listed on their web site, are inactive in such endeavors. That is, they are former police officer and former members of the military—though obviously people like Irish apparently qualify as members as well. Dare I say it is easy to pledge to disobey invalid orders when one is not being given orders. Oath Keepers is as much a group of law officers as the Union of Concerned Scientists is a scientific organization. Both are political groups masquerading as something else.

Of course Oath Keepers is milking the matter for all they can. Their web site has a long rant about the matter that briefly mentions that there are "very serious allegations" in the affidavit that Irish was given. But Oath Keepers "out of repspect for the privacy of the parents" won't tell anyone what they are.

Shouldn't that raise some red flags? There are clearly issues involved in this case which have NOTHING to do Oath Keepers, issues that the OK founder admits are "very serious allegations." But that doesn't stop people from jumping to the conclusion that Irish is a victim of an over-active state. He may well be, or he might not be.

So what are those other allegations? Oath Keepers won't tell you, I will. As for privacy, there is no privacy in this case since Irish has been publicly portraying himself as a victim and holding press conferences.

Let us recount some of what has happened. Irish and Taylor have moved-in together. Taylor has two children with her actual husband who were apparently living with her and Irish at one point. The couple lost custody of those children during a trial sometime ago. At that time a judge determined that Irish physically abused the other two other children. Now this is rather serious and ought to overshadow whether Irish is a member of some far Right group.

In addition, the affidavit says that Irish has a "lengthy history of domestic violence," and that in previous incidents Taylor said he choked her and beat her. Previous incidents of violence by Irish were sufficient enough that he was ordered to take a domestic violence course but he dropped out of that.

The affidavit seemed to mention Irish's association with the Oath Keepers but that was not the reason for taking the child into custody. Oath Keepers is mentioned because Irish has gone out and armed himself rather heavily. It would seem that this was mentioned because of the history of violence on the part of Irish. If I were dealing with someone with a history of violence I would want to know if they were armed. Irish, of course, glosses over the abuse and claims that the mention of OK and his guns is the REASON for the custody order. But having already been found guilty of domestic violence, against children and Taylor, seems to be the main issue here.

Defenders of Irish seem to take no account of his history of violence against children. One protester, who said he was part of the "freedom movement" used absurd logic to defend Irish. The man said: "Maybe he's not that great a guy. Maybe he has a record. But just because the government says it's so, I don't believe it. The fact that there are documents about it is meaningless. but what they do is no different if I kidnapped the baby."

If that statement is accurate, the man is a moron. He said that he refuses to believe the domestic violence simply because a government agency said it happened. That is asinine.

It is true that government can alleged domestic abuse where none existed and use this as a tool for other means. But, more often than not, the government tends to ignore real abuse that has been committed against children. A substantial portion, if not the vast majority, of such custody orders are instituted after abuse has been documented. There are all sorts of political pressures that distort government intervention in child custody, that is absolutely true. But that there are bad cases of this doesn't mean that all allegation and convictions of child abuse are false.

Anyone can allege abuse and a huge number of the allegations are proven unfounded. But when courts rule that abuse has taken place, the likelihood is that abuse has taken place.

There is no shortage of paranoid delusion conspiracies on the part of the Right. But such thinking has no place in libertarianism. There are plenty of innocent people who are victims of state-induced injustice, we don't need to manufacture cases and try to make guilty people look innocent.

Police reports show numerous domestic violence incidents with the man. He and his married girlfriend have already lost custody of two of her children due to his abuse. When such cases happen, and they do happen, it is not atypical for the state to take custody of other children when they are born. That the state frequently botches up doesn't make this case a botch-up as well. And the incentives in the state system are perverted in the opposite direct—that is they are more likely to miss real abuse than they are to allege it when it doesn't happen.

Labels: ,