Life, liberty, and the pursuit of....

...mental illness?

I have to say, Clayton Cramer dug up quite a gem here:

It is proposed that happiness be classified as a psychiatric disorder and be included in future editions of the major diagnostic manuals under the new name: major affective disorder, pleasant type. In a review of the relevant literature it is shown that happiness is statistically abnormal, consists of a discrete cluster of symptoms, is associated with a range of cognitive abnormalities, and probably reflects the abnormal functioning of the central nervous system. One possible objection to this proposal remains--that happiness is not negatively valued. However, this objection is dismissed as scientifically irrelevant. [J Med Ethics 1992 Jun;18(2):94-8] [emphasis added]
If we add the disease of "happiness" to that of depression, anxiety, OCD, and all the other mental diseases from which 20% of us are said to be suffering and could be medicated, we approach a mental illness saturation point.

All of us are mentally ill.

And each of us commits three felonies a day. Which means we are all criminally insane in the eyes of our rulers.

So be happy in your pursuits!

UPDATE: I was sent the text of Dr. Bentall's proposal to classify happiness as a mental disorder by an emailer who argued that it was parody, and who said:

When something looks too silly to be true, it sometimes is, so it pays to look at it a bit more closely.
I just did, and I find it a relief that he didn't himself maintain happiness is diseased.

However, I don't think Bentall was being silly; he was making a very serious point.

Looking closely at the text, it is obvious the author (himself a forensic clinical psychologist) was writing in protest of his profession's dominant narratives, and meant to ridicule them. Excerpt:

once the debilitating consequences of happiness become widely recognised it is likely that psychiatrists will begin to devise treatments for the condition and we can expect the emergence of happiness clinics and anti-happiness medications in the not too distant future.

The second, related objection to the proposal that happiness be regarded as a psychiatric disorder points to the fact that happiness is not normally negatively valued. Indeed, it is testimony to the insidious effects of happiness on some of the greatest minds in history that some philosophers have argued that the pursuit of happiness is the ultimate aim of all human endeavours. However, it is notable that even some of those who have been rash enough to advocate the greatest happiness for the greatest number have been explicit in rejecting those extreme forms of happiness associated with gluttony of the senses (32). More importantly, the argument that happiness be excluded from future classifications of mental disorder merely on the grounds that it is not negatively valued carries the implication that value judgements should determine our approach to psychiatric classification. Such a suggestion is clearly inimical to the spirit of psychopathology considered as a natural science. Indeed, only a psychopathology that openly declares the relevance of values to classification could persist in excluding happiness from the psychiatric disorders.

Whether Dr. Bentall truly wanted happiness to be added to psychiatric disorders is not the point. He is arguing logically that by using his own colleagues' criteria, there is no reason not to consider happiness a form of mental illness, and I think he is right in that respect. It is a paradox.

Moreover, Bentall (whose happiness paper generated much anger) is on record as saying that there is no clear line between the sick and the well:

In Bentall's view, there is no clear boundary between the sick and the well. While this feels plausible for conditions such as anxiety and depression, the suggestion that psychotic experiences run through the general population on a continuum from bland normality to florid schizophrenia has always met with resistance from psychiatrists. The received view is that psychotic symptoms, such as hearing voices or believing that thoughts are being inserted into one's brain by alien forces, are by definition beyond the realm of ordinary experience.

Not so, says Bentall. In fact, otherwise well- adjusted individuals commonly report "schizotypal" experiences such as these. He cites a study of the "normal" population of Dunedin, New Zealand: "20.1% of the sample were recorded as having delusions . . . 12.6% were judged to be paranoid."

It makes about as much sense to say that happiness is mental illness as to say that sadness is mental illness.

To take sadness further, if what they call "depression" can be a normal reaction to depressing events, then why aren't people who are happy in the face of depressing events even more abnormal than those who find themselves depressed?

Is the rule along the lines of happy = good, and sad = bad?

It's obvious that Bentall meant to issue a challenge to his profession, and in that respect, I think his paper is quite serious.

At no point does he suggest that he wants to treat happiness as disease. Only that if his colleagues should -- if they practiced what they preached.

And if they do as he suggests and we reach the saturation point, mental illness will have become the norm.

posted by Eric at 11:05 PM | Comments (9)

Pushing the limits of mainstream oikophobia?

Via an email, I learned that the University of Michigan is hosting an event that I am going to miss. (Boo hoo!)

Ted Rall [discussed infra] will be speaking, as well as hawking and signing copies of his latest book -- "The Anti-American Manifesto." Which means that if I weren't busy that night, I might be able to pull of an Official Classical Values Interview with Ted Rall. Imagine! I could get all warm and cuddly, and gently beseech him to please not shoot me when the revolution comes, and tell him the Tea Party people are basically nice folks who are considered anti-American by some of the same people who support the administration he wants to overthrow. So in terms of simple relativism, he should be nicer to them, and at least agree that maybe they don't need killing. A pity that our hypothetical conversation will never take place.

Due to a schedule conflict, all hope for peaceful coexistence was lost!

Here are the details. Perhaps someone else who reads this blog can attend:

Rall will be a guest speaker 7 p.m. Thursday at the University of Michigan Hatcher Graduate Library Gallery, Room 100.

This is the Ohio native's second visit to Tree Town.

"I spoke at the Michigan Theater a few years ago to my biggest crowd ever -- 1,200 people, with my name in lights -- amazing," he says. "I loved it and was sad that my main reason for visiting -- applying for a job at the University of Michigan -- didn't pan out.

Some people get very unhappy and throw tantrums when things don't pan out, and Rall's call for revolution may be one of them. Were I one of those elitist snots who believed in the principle of co-optation, I would have wanted him to keep his United Features Syndicate job. And I would at least want him to get rich off his latest book, which isn't doing all that well at Amazon, where it has a Bestsellers Rank of 15,927.

According to at least one serious left-wing analysis, Rall's transformation from successful radical leftie cartoonist into outright revolutionary may stem from the loss of his job at United Feature Syndicate more than anything else:

Some people who've followed Rall's work over the past 10 years will probably view a book about dismantling the U.S. political and economic systems as coming out of the blue. With this book, he transforms himself from an outspoken yet traditional American leftist into a revolutionary agitator who recognizes there's no hope in the nation's destructive system. Some people may view Rall with suspicion because he appears on the "dismantle-the-system" scene practically out of nowhere, espousing programs that are radically different than the potential strategies and solutions he was promoting not too long ago.

Toward the end of the book, Rall explains he wasn't always a radical (of course, few of us can say we we've fought the system since our teenage years). As recently as six years ago, Rall wrote a book titled Wake Up! You're Liberal! in which he scolded leftists who romanticize revolution. "Revolutionaries rarely rule; revolutionary principles rarely become law," Rall wrote in the 2004 book. "Once you shake things up, the uncertainty principle goes into overdrive. If possible, it's better to reform than to revolt." (emphasis added)

Boy, how Rall has changed his tune on the value of "revolution" and "revolt"! He still fully endorses the "uncertainty principle" in his new book, although he now believes it's not a deal-breaker. He argues it's up to revolutionaries to be prepared to fill the power vacuum during the period when the state collapses and uncertainty is rampant. An even better scenario, though, would be for activists "to step into the breach before the current system collapses; if we fail, even worse forces will replace them," Rall says.

Rall says he hated the title of Wake Up! You're Liberal. "I didn't say that I was a liberal--just that you are. Which is still probably true," he writes in The Anti-American Manifesto. "But I have concluded several times throughout my life that nothing short of the radical actions I call for in this manifesto would be sufficient to save us, our nation, and the world with its plants and animals--and I have been afraid to say so."

What led to Rall's political transformation? Was it related to his employment situation, when he got laid off in April 2009 from his job as an executive editor at United Feature Syndicate? Rall writes in The Anti-American Manifesto: "My boss, Lisa, had been trying to harass me into quitting for months: insulting me at meetings in front of my colleagues ..., assigning me Herculean tasks she knew I couldn't perform ..., attempting to humiliate me by making me do shit work previously assigned to entry-level employees."

It sounds as if Rall's experience at United Feature Syndicate was extremely painful, and one that further opened his eyes to how large corporations often mistreat their employees. Did this experience radicalize him on the issue of corporate wrongdoing?

Or perhaps, Rall had always held the radical beliefs expressed in The Anti-American Manifesto and getting laid off from his full-time corporate job at United Feature Syndicate emboldened him or created a situation in which he had less to lose by getting his "revolutionary" manifesto published.

Is this a case of a spoiled brat who wants to bring down the whole country just because he lost a good-paying job? I hope not. I like to think that people's thoughts and beliefs are what they objectively think and have arrived at by some sort of rational processes. Otherwise, all thoughts and beliefs become suspect, and subject to change depending on one's changed circumstances.

To be honest, I sometimes wonder whether I would hold the same views that I hold if I had children. I have been told that at least on some issues I would not, but there is no way to test this theory other than to have a child, and then see whether it makes me change my mind on such subjects as drug legalization. (I doubt it would, but how can I say that with any certainty?)

But let's suppose Rall is one of those people whose intellectual processes are ruled by his personal life. Doesn't that give weight to the elitist co-optation idea that he should be indulged? It's a scary thought.

Scarier than that (at least from my admitted pro-civilization bias) are the thought processes of the guy who praises Rall's book on the back cover -- one Derrick Jensen:

Speaking of Jensen, he wrote a blurb that dominates the back cover of Rall's book. Jensen says:
"This great book lays the foundation for the revolution we all know is necessary. This is the book we've all been waiting for. Pick this book up. Read it. And then get ready to fight back."
Inside the book, Rall describes how "deep-green types fantasize about a collapse scenario that will save the world without anyone having to lift a finger." Jensen certainly could be categorized as a "deep-green type," but, as far as I know, he's never said the industrial world would collapse without a struggle and terrible hardship. In fact, Jensen and Rall seem to be on the same page about life on earth getting quite untidy and dark before there can be a recovery.

Rall writes: "Collapse of the U.S. government will be a multidimensional disaster. People, infrastructure, and institutions we count on will be destroyed. How will we live without water treatment plants, heating fuel, and industrially manufactured medicines?" Jensen might argue such a scenario is where we need to head in order to wean ourselves off our unsustainable industrial culture.

Derrick Jensen is a leading proponent of anarcho-primitivism, an idea so self-evidently wrong that I don't think most readers of this blog would think it deserves serious attention beyond what I gave it in a couple of posts. If, as these people advocate, civilization is destroyed, it is self-evident that many millions would die. I think it is self-evident that that would suck. Those who think it would be wonderful would do us all a big favor if they stopped to consider whether they, too, want to die along with the millions who would be doomed if they manage to destroy civilization.

But in some circles, guys like Jensen are considered "visionaries" who are "changing the world":

"We're going to watch the end of the world on television until the TVs go out." Who's this cheery fellow? It's Derrick Jensen, the green thinker and writer who's out to tell us not what we want to hear but what we need to hear. Call him an anarcho-primitivist, a bomb thrower, or a person without hope--a stance he celebrated in the classic essay "Beyond Hope"--but don't call him weak-kneed. "I don't feel particularly courageous," he says. "If you asked any 7-year-olds how to stop global warming, they'd give you a pretty straightforward answer. I'm just writing what a lot of people are thinking, but don't say aloud."

Read interviews with Derrick Jensen in Counterpunch, No Compromise, and the Chelsea Green Bookstore.

Read them if you want to vomit. What bothers me the most about silly ideas like demanding an end to civilization is not so much that occasional cranks come up with them, but that they are considered respectable. That was my biggest objection to Bill Ayers. Not that he thinks what he thinks, but that he is respectable, even mainstream.

This nutcase makes Ayers almost look sane, because so far as I know Ayers does not advocate ending civilization; he's merely a Communist and an anti-American.

I would hate to see wanting to destroy civilization become a respectable mainstream idea. I mean, it's one thing to be an oikophobe, because, bad as that is, at least it tends to be limited to siding with the people who are against your own culture. Here's the definition according to a piece titled "Oikophobia
Why the liberal elite finds Americans revolting":

The British philosopher Roger Scruton has coined a term to describe this attitude: oikophobia. Xenophobia is fear of the alien; oikophobia is fear of the familiar: "the disposition, in any conflict, to side with 'them' against 'us', and the felt need to denigrate the customs, culture and institutions that are identifiably 'ours.' " . . .

There is one important difference between the American oik and his European counterpart. American patriotism is not a blood-and-soil nationalism but an allegiance to a country based in an idea of enlightened universalism. Thus our oiks masquerade as-and may even believe themselves to be-superpatriots, more loyal to American principles than the vast majority of Americans, whom they denounce as "un-American" for feeling an attachment to their actual country as opposed to a collection of abstractions.

European "oiks" tend to promote "transnational institutions over national governments," while American oiks (like Ayers) simply side with our enemies.

But wanting to bring about the end of civilization itself? I would argue that carries even oikophobia too far.

How can advocates of civilization ever hope for peaceful co-optation? Is there no hope? Jensen argues that there is not, or at least there should not be. Hope is something we should give up on:

When you give up on hope, something even better happens than it not killing you, which is that in some sense it does kill you. You die. And there's a wonderful thing about being dead, which is that they--those in power--cannot really touch you anymore. Not through promises, not through threats, not through violence itself.
Damn, I hate it when people can't be bribed or bought off! Especially when their goal is the destruction of human civilization.

But isn't that, too, a form of hope? He continues in such a way that he sounds almost hopeful about losing hope, and maybe about getting even with his father:

When you give up on hope--when you are dead in this way, and by so being are really alive--you make yourself no longer vulnerable to the cooption of rationality and fear that Nazis inflicted on Jews and others, that abusers like my father inflict on their victims, that the dominant culture inflicts on all of us. Or is it rather the case that these exploiters frame physical, social, and emotional circumstances such that victims perceive themselves as having no choice but to inflict this cooptation on themselves?

But when you give up on hope, this exploiter/victim relationship is broken. You become like the Jews who participated in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

Putting aside for the moment the fairness of that moral comparison, didn't the Jews who fought back have the hope that at least they were killing a few Nazis on their way out? And that history would judge them to be brave and righteous, on the side of good and against the side of evil? I may be wrong, but I think a good argument can be made that laying down one's life to oppose evil involves hope -- even if that hope only takes the form of killing some bad guys. So I think his view of hope is wrong in the mechanical sense.

Jensen strikes me as another classic example of one of those people driven by a passionate moralistic belief that I am at a loss to understand; that man is evil and earth is good.

What I would really like to understand is why this planet is so infinitely better than the species that happens to dominate it right now that the former must be "saved" at the expense of the latter.

It strikes me as a highly judgmental, earth-centric, and naively moralistic view -- the childishly simplistic essence of which boils down to this:

Earth good, man evil!

I cannot understand what theory would make the earth ineradicably "good" but its creature man ineradicably "bad." Why would a good planet give rise to an evil creature? It can't be that nature is itself indifferent to evil, for that would mean the concept of goodness comes from man, which means man's badness becomes suspect. (Which is bad!)

And if we additionally consider that ending civilization would mean the death of millions, isn't it disingenuous to invoke the memory of heroic people who fought against a system responsible for the death of millions of some of the most civilized people in Western history? This is not just my opinion; Jewish Nazi victims have been called "one of the most civilized and intelligent communities in modern Europe," and "more civilized than most of the Gentile societies in which they were embedded." It was German barbarism that stood in stark opposition to Western civilization, not its victims.

Not that a little point like that would matter to a guy who wants to end civilization, but I can hope, can't I? (At least spitefully....)

While I'm on the subject of hope, I guess I should also express the hope that guys like Rall and Jensen aren't being funded and promoted with my tax dollars.

posted by Eric at 02:27 PM | Comments (6)

In Which I Part From The Right

I have to agree with Matt Welch's criticism of Bill Kristol's call for forceful state action against Wikileaker and accused rapist Julian Assange.

I happened to catch Bill, who I have past admired, saying much the same yesterday while watching Special Report on Fox News for the first time in years. Krauthammer was even worse, openly suggesting we kill Assange.

While I don't buy any claims of altruism on Assange's part (the most plausible explanation of his behavior at this point seems to be a flailing attempt to avoid jail time for the sexual assault charges by becoming a cause celebre on other grounds), this is both thuggishly authoritarian and pretty stupid besides. Kristol and Krauthammer claim, with considerable accuracy, that our inaction makes us look like a "pitiful, helpless giant," but far better to be a giant restrained to ineffectiveness by morality and forbearance than a petty, thuggish, malicious giant stomping on random flighty European Aussie perverts whenever its interests are threatened -- especially since we almost certainly couldn't prevent the leak anyway, and would appear just as ineffective only murderously spiteful instead of forbearing.

posted by Dave at 01:49 PM | Comments (7)

New and improved worsenings

I don't know whether to call it an improvement or not, but Detroit seems to be slipping in the rankings again. This time, it's fallen to third place in the Most Dangerous Cities in America category:

CQ Press has released its annual list of the most dangerous cities in America. According to the independent publishing company, St. Louis, Mo. is the most dangerous city in America, followed by Camden, NJ, and Detroit MI. A press release states that the rankings are based on "total crime, violent crime, murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, property crime, burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft...".
I don't know whether the study took into account the fact that in Detroit the police don't come when they are called, crimes such as burglaries are considered "low priority," so of course many crimes simply go unreported, and of course unprosecuted.

Another problem with any statistical analysis is that while the focus is on the crimes that matter to ordinary people ("violent crime, murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, property crime, burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft"), the police, prosecutors and prisons devote huge amounts of time to drug offenses. While the latter are not counted in the official crime rate, the endless attempts to police a huge, uncontrollable market demands a disproportionate amount of police time, which helps raise the crime rate -- and that's in addition to the crimes committed by those who cannot afford the artificially inflated street prices for drugs.

Not to worry. Things could always be worse, and probably will.

posted by Eric at 12:31 PM | Comments (2)

Meet Up In Rockford


Eric and I met up on Saturday Night at the Irish Rose one of Rockford, Illinois' fine eating establishments. We had a friend take a few pictures. One of which is above. I have a few pictures of the friend, but she declines to be identified. Sorry.

For more (not much) on the dinner at the diner see Great Society - Somebody To Love .

And Eric's post A meeting of "west" and "east".

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:33 AM | Comments (2)

A meeting of "west" and "east"

I'm back from Illinois (which is west of Michigan and yet seems somehow more "East") and looking through my pictures.

Here's me and M. Simon, right after eating dinner at the Irish Rose in Rockford.


I ate pork imposingly, and M. Simon had an imposing cheeseburger.

It's not often that all the problems of the world are solved over a single dinner, but we did our best.

While we had a frank exchange of views over whether the best form of government is statist libertarian collectivism or libertarian statist collectivism, obviously we both feel that people should not be denied their traditional right to be told what to do unless they are also freed from being told what not to do.

If only the details of how to impose on people's rights weren't so complicated.

posted by Eric at 11:12 PM | Comments (1)

The Road Out Of Serfdom

In this weekend's "strange new respect" news, someone at Newsweek... trumpets Hayek's triumphant return? Apparently we aren't all socialists now.

The big debate lately seems to be whether Bernanke's second round of "quantitative easing" is helping provide liquidity, a la Milton Friedman, or just an attempt to reflate the bubble. If you read Amity Shlaes' history of The Great Depression "The Forgotten Man" it becomes pretty clear Friedman was certainly correct about the deficiencies of contractionary monetary policy in that instance -- the economy was so money-poor a couple hundred local scrips sprouted up across the land. That's right, people were actually printing their own money just to have a medium of exchange.

Obviously we have nothing like that kind of cash shortage now. This isn't the 1930s and the Fed is not pursuing the disastrous "real bills " doctrine that allowed so many banks to fail that getting access to money was difficult. But the pendulum has swung too far and now printing money is seen as the solution to the problem du jour, whatever that may be.

Unfortunately the Keynesians have the gov't now spending 45% of GDP, more than we spent sending millions of soldiers to Europe and the Pacific in WW II, and some lunatics like Paul Krugman think the gov't should be given an even bigger share of the economy. Repeat after me, folks: the government does not grow the economy. Chasing aggregate demand with government spending is like trying to drink from a mirage and will only leave us thirsting for real growth.

The Austrians have it correct here: resources have been misallocated and only accepting some painful restructuring will put us back on the path to growth.

Of course, the main reason for this post is to allow me to plausibly link, again, these two incredibly awesome Keynes vs Hayek live rap battles.

posted by Dave at 09:45 PM | Comments (1)

Great Society - Somebody To Love

I had some friends visit for the holidays. A loving time was had by all. Pictures when the first mate gets back with the camera. (It may be a while.)

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 05:31 PM | Comments (0)

Every time I try to take a break, they draaag me back in!

While I had thought I might be able to ignore the world for a few days, there is no getting away from my sense of duty to blow the whistle when I see dereliction in the press -- especially when it involves non-reporting of major events. In what I hope is just another amazing coincidence, it seems that every time I visit Illinois on one of these trips, I learn about shocking developments that are being systematically ignored by the MSM. Last year it was Obama's battle with lung cancer.

This year, I am sorry to have to report that it involves an outbreak of homosexuality among major world leaders. We already knew about Barack Obama (especially his involvement in a gay murder scandal), but this time, the shocking news involves George W. Bush!


And Prince Charles!


And if you think that's bad, it turns out that the reason super-macho Humphrey Bogart was such a womanizer was this:


Screen legend Humphrey Bogart secretly feared he was a homosexual -- and it drove him to bed his Casablanca leading lady Ingrid Bergman and 999 other beauties....
Hmmm... While normally I might be inclined to dismiss this as a product of someone's hyperactive imagination, there's something awfully suspicious about his total number of female conquests being exactly 1000. Why would Bogart have stopped there unless he had set it as some sort of goal?

You can't be too careful.

This "I take a break, only to learn that huge news is being ignored!" thing is getting to be a pattern.

But if I had stayed home and continued with my usual pattern of only getting my news from online sources, I'd have been in a clueless state of denial.

There's no taking a break from reality.

posted by Eric at 10:39 AM | Comments (3)

Michelle - Obama is Finished

I seem to have gotten the Michelle Obama quote wrong.

It's important for him to finish what he started.
If she has started whining about her husband finishing the work he started two years before the next election I'd say he was already finished.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:10 AM | Comments (5)

A Man For All Seasons

I wrote this back in 2005 (I haven't checked the links some of them may be broken) and exactly what I was talking about then has come to pass. And back then? Well of course back then (before the TSA Follies) I was a hysterical weenie. This was America. Land of the Free. Home of the Cowards. Scared to death of plants and plant extracts. And the Government was saving us from the evil plants. To be sure. Because, you know, some people were smoking the plants. Well it is wide open now. There are no restraints on the government. Who will soon be smoking you.


I'm having a discussion over at Belmont Club with Buddy.

It was started by this comment of mine:

All our constitutional protections have been flattened in the name of fighting drugs. Now that the laws no longer protect users of the wrong drugs there really is nothing standing between the American government and its citizens except inertia.

The right is more than willing to give up its traditional protections to fight drugs. There is nothing to stop the left when they regain power from using this machinery for their own purposes.

Every time we weaken the protections on the least favored we open the way for the precident to be applied to the rest of us.

It dosn't seem to scare most people. It scares me.

The machinery is in place. It just needs the right marching orders.

Buddy so kindly explains to me why the laws for taking property of people accused of drug crimes is a good idea. You see those devils will give the property to realatives or friends and horror of horors crime will pay. As if the Government Cocaine Price Support and Gang Finance Program was not designed for that very purpose.

Robert Bolt wrote a play about it which I will quote here. Thomas More is arguing with Roper about the seriousness of swearing an oath:

More: There is no law against that.

Roper: There is! God's law!

More: Then God can arrest him.

Roper: Sophistication upon sophistication.

More: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal.

Roper: Then you set man's law above God's!

More: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact - I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of the law, oh, there I'm a forrester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God....

Alice: While you talk, he's gone!

More: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law!

Roper: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law!

More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

Roper: I'd cut down every law in England to do that!

More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you - where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast - man's laws, not God's - and if you cut them down - and you're just the man to do it - d'you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake.


Well the Devil (evil dope fiend) has been beaten hard. And now there is very little to stop the government from beating you. You contraband smuggling suspect you.

And to think there were a few of us who saw this coming.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:48 PM | Comments (1)

Comply With Me

ASTROGLIDE? How about coarse dry sand?

Iowa Hawk blogs at Iowa Hawk.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:03 AM | Comments (1)

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm on the road, and my blogging will be light in the next few days.

I'll probably eat turkey (the fowl, not the country). May PETA forgive me for this imposition.


And hey, if you think slaughtering turkeys poses ethical issues, I suggest a post that Glenn linked which asks a seemingly simple question:

Did Stalin commit genocide?

He slaughtered the Kulaks, but because they were an economic class (essentially the middle class), it doesn't "count" as genocide. That's because Stalin helped define genocide, No, seriously:

Genocide is the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group.


Because of the influence of Joseph Stalin, this definition of genocide under international law does not include political groups.

Which means the Khmer Rouge didn't commit genocide, natch.

I'd write more, but I'm running late.

(No time to debate trollish questions such as whether certain drugs can be genocidal.)

posted by Eric at 07:27 AM | Comments (3)

Enemy Of The State

Eric Is Wishing everyone a happy Thanksgiving. I'm doing the same plus I'm thanking Mark Ames personally for a very special gift for which I will be eternally grateful.


Mark Ames, who has never met me, doesn't like me. I'm honored.

Anytime anyone says anything libertarian, spit on them. Libertarians are by definition enemies of the state....
I wonder if he was reading The Government Way? Or perhaps he fears all those annoyed or worse by the TSA might be getting Small Government Fever. I sure hope so. Because America will be returning to what it started out as and once was. A fine home for Enemies Of The State.

I don't know how State worshipers got to be a majority in this country (we have two wings of the State Lovers Party - commonly referred to as liberal and conservative) but I'm going to do as much as I can to wrench the monkey works.

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:48 AM | Comments (0)

The Government Way

Conservatives, like liberals, when they imagine a government program imagine that the job will be done well. I on the other hand imagine it will be done the government way. Which is why I'm a libertarian. I have the American disease: I don't trust the government. Government operates on the LCD principle. And that is a screen. A screen used in everything government does. Oh. Yeah. LCD? Lowest Common Denominator. And the lowest common denominator when it comes to government? Criminals. Every one subject to a government program gets treated like a criminal. Except those running the program. The most popular criminals these days are dope criminals. Contraband don't you know? The current TSA Follies are driving that home.

The government has practiced these techniques for several decades on dopers. How do we know? Occasionally the dope police make a mistake and get the wrong person. Some one with a voice. And the police terrorize them in the same way they would if the people were the usual no accounts.

Radley Balko thinks libertarianism happens to people.

It's a theory of mine.

I think a good chunk of people who call themselves libertarians came to do so after having a nightmarish encounter with some angry bureaucrat, petty city councilman, a bad run-in with the police, or, perhaps, have had the misfortune to know firsthand the benefits of medical marijuana. They then began to see how even the most benevolent and innocuos of government actions screw other people over, too. And, just maybe, they start to see how it all fits together

I'd say the TSA will be adding another 30 or 40 million to our ranks. I believe statist political philosophies whether of the liberal or conservative persuasion are on the way out.

Here is something I wrote about the Drug War in a review of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.

So why aren't cops kicking THEIR doors in? Why aren't THEIR sons pulled over a dozen times in nine months? Why are black men 12 times likelier to be jailed for drugs than white ones? Why aren't WHITE communities robbed of their fathers, brothers, sons?
The answer is pretty simple. If the laws were equally enforced the Drug War would be over in a few months. White people wouldn't stand for it.
The TSA has brought Drug War tactics to white people. It will be interesting to see how long it lasts. Any revolt will have to be a popular revolt. Because the protections have long since been torn down to get at the dope fiends.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 11:42 PM | Comments (5)

The A'tist and the Businessman

Periodically people - on facebook, via email, through my site - try to get me to read their manuscripts. Unless they are friends or I know that what they really want is an honest critique, I do not read it. This is difficult, because some of these people are quite, quite, quite persistent and keep coming back with "but I'm sure you'll love it if you just read it."

Continue reading "The A'tist and the Businessman"

posted by Sarah at 11:26 AM | Comments (20)

I saw you face thieves coming! So hands off my f-ing face!

It's not every day that a news item reminds me of a Grateful Dead lyric, but this one does:

(NewsCore) - Facebook is one step closer to trademarking the word "Face," TechCrunch reported Tuesday.

The U.S. Patent And Trademark Office has sent Facebook a Notice of Allowance, which means it will grant the "Face" trademark to the popular social networking site.

Sorry, but no matter what the lawyers say, I don't think any longstanding English word should be owned.

But the whole thing does make this Dead lyric sound remarkably prophetic:

Like I told you
What I said
Steal your face
right off you head
I don't know how others feel, but I refuse to surrender the word FACE. Next they'll be wanting to own the letter F.

Can't say we weren't warned.

Yes, it's a sad song.

(BTW, the "steal your face" lyric occurs twice, at 1:00 and 5:23.)

posted by Eric at 10:41 AM | Comments (5)

How long will I be allowed the safety of my own car?

In a recent post in which I quoted a sour proposal of taking Amtrak as an alternative to flying, I asked a cynical rhetorical question:

Take Amtrak? How long do you think it will be before the mindless, unelected, nameless "they" who run our lives do the same thing with Amtrak and every other public conveyance?
How long?

It took Janet Napolitano only two days to admit what is obviously "their" plan for us:

Next step for body scanners could be trains, boats, metro

The next step in tightened security could be on U.S. public transportation, trains and boats.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says terrorists will continue to look for U.S. vulnerabilities, making tighter security standards necessary.

I hate public transportation, and fortunately for me, I do not have to take it anywhere.

Will they please leave me alone in my car? Or is that a rhetorical question too? After all, not only can terrorists drive cars and trucks, but a lot of damage can be done by a terrorist with a car bomb. Would it be paranoid of me to worry that the unelected bastards who have taken over this once-free country might decide to implement routine anti-terrorist roadblocks? You know, pull over drivers and strip search them too? I mean, don't we all want to be safe? And while our brave "security professionals" are at it, shouldn't they also do saliva testing for drugs?

It's a small price to pay if we all are to be safe!

And why should drivers be getting away with avoiding what all the rest of us have to put up daily? Besides, aren't they polluting more and hurting the environment? Shouldn't that come with a price? So wouldn't making the roadblock a "routine part of American life" be a very small price to pay?

Libertarians who talk about freedom simply are not living in the real world.

No we aren't.

I'm reminded of those fence posts again:

People will not know they are encircled until it is too late - like putting in all these very deep, robust fence-posts with no fence panels. All seems open. One day you will wake up and the panels are in, you are trapped and they can decide what law they wish to impose to nail whomsoever they desire.
When "terror safety" becomes more terrifying than the terrorism it's supposed to combat, what's safe about it?

After all, we don't want to fear the government more than we fear the terrorists, do we?

posted by Eric at 09:50 AM | Comments (4)

Out In Force

I get all kinds of e-mails and comments. One constant theme among my social "conservative" friends runs something like this: "If we don't keep all the laws we have and especially the ones targeting rope smokers civilization will break down and the child molesters will be out in force."

Uh. Wouldn't that be "Law worship"? And doesn't that violate the First Commandment of the sacred text? For those of you unfamiliar with the text I could post it in the original Hebrew. But few read that language anymore (pity). So let me give you the short version translation: You shall have no other gods before me.

There was some Jewish guy around 2,000 years ago who complained about law worship I think. What was his name? Give me some time. I'm sure it will come to me.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:26 AM | Comments (6)

My Imagination Is Getting Better

Resist.Net [was Tea Party Patriots - which is incorrect ed.] - a social conservative group masquerading as a TEA Party organization - has a post up with the title: Justice Scalia: Founders Never Imagined Abortion "Rights".

Well I have news for him: They never imagined Vagina Police modeled after the TSA either.

Well super. The gentleman who did the post, James N. Hall III, replied to my above comment with this gem:

I take it he is shouting mad about the subject. I hear ya dude.

Well needless to say. With an opening like that who could resist? Certainly not I. So I didn't.

Well how could the government think of such a thing? It is what governments do. And you want to hand your daughter's privates over to the government? I have a daughter and it scares the crap out of me.

Why not join me in supporting: Rockford Pro Life who want to fix the problem without government goons and TSA agents.

You know government is evil. A necessary evil. Still evil. And you want to hand over the most intimate parts of your female relatives to evil? Which is why I keep asking if you are insane?

It is very difficult to use evil to do good. It is certainly above my pay grade. You think the idiots in Washington could handle it?

And I then thought some more and added this bit:
I do see where you and I differ. I believe government is a necessary evil. You believe that government is or can be a force for good. As do liberals. I think of it as setting evil against evil. Better to not let either side get too strong lest they come for you. Which means tolerating some evil. Well the moschiach has not returned permanently, so for the time being we are stuck with it.

It is a fallen world my friend. We can make it better. But I'm unwilling to do the kind of evil necessary to make it perfect. I leave that job to the liberals.

The essence of the difference is "What Could Possibly Go Wrong?" Plenty. I guess I'm going to now have to admit my homosexual leanings sort of. I'm an engineer and I have been fucked in the ass more times by Murphy than I'd care to remember let alone recount. And I didn't like it one bit. Like the government, Murphy doesn't have the courtesy to use any lube. I take that back. Sand is the preferred lubricant. Coarse dry sand.

So when I see how things could go wrong my life experience has trained me to avoid the dangers. I have to weigh the evil vs the good and try to determine if there is a net benefit. And uppermost in my mind is "What Could Possibly Go Wrong?" Because I don't like being Murphy's (or government's) bitch.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:41 AM | Comments (13)

A Mopping Up Operation

The the Drug War has helped spawn the TSA. The precedent on how to deal with contraband has been set. It is now going to be applied to everyone. Bet you weren't expecting that were you?

Oh yeah. It turns out that a dope case, Raich vs Gonzales, can be used to justify the mandates of ObamaCare.

Can agriculture be far behind. Not too far. After all they have precedent for banning some plants. Why not just expand the criteria a little. So almost every plant is included? Say all plants that can have any effect what so ever on commerce. Raich vs Gonzales again. A twofor.

There is nothing the Drug War can't do.

How long have people been peeing in a cup to get a job? With hardly a murmur except from libertarians and other crazies. The American people gave up their rights to the Drug War long ago. What you see at airports now is just a moping up operation.

The Drug War put the tools in their hands. Which was fine as long as they were only going after dopers. They now have precedent on their side. Swell. Just swell. You see once every one is under suspicion there are very few limits. Americans gave up their rights to get at the drug fiends. And well you know, fiends have it coming. What ever they get.

But "conservatives" sure had a good long run beating the crap out of the dopers didn't they? Beating the crap out of...... Uh. Oh.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:47 PM | Comments (3)

A "right" that puts an end to rights

I keep reading about how New Jersey wants to pass new legislation against bullying. In the news today I read about an "Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights" but the articles were short on details, so I had to look for the text, which I found here. Most of the very long bill deals with restrictions on who the schools can employ, along with innumerable new training requirements, reporting requirements, requirements that schools hire "anti-bullying specialists" who shall investigate any reported act of bullying, etc.

As to what it is that constitutes bullying, the bill adds electronic communications:

"Electronic communication" means a communication transmitted by means of an electronic device, including, but not limited to, a telephone, cellular phone, computer, or pager;

"Harassment, intimidation or bullying" means any gesture, any written, verbal or physical act, or any electronic communication that is reasonably perceived as being motivated either by any actual or perceived characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or a mental, physical or sensory [handicap] disability, or by any other distinguishing characteristic, that takes place on school property, at any school-sponsored function or on a school bus and that:

a. a reasonable person should know, under the circumstances, will have the effect of physically or emotionally harming a student or damaging the student's property, or placing a student in reasonable fear of physical or emotional harm to his person or damage to his property; [or]

b. has the effect of insulting or demeaning any student or group of students in such a way as to cause [substantial] disruption in, or [substantial] interference with, the orderly operation of the school;

c. creates a hostile environment at school for the student; or

d. infringes on the rights of the student at school.

So I guess if a boy says "Girls are stupid!" then he's committed two offenses, and the specialists will have to do a thorough investigation and issue reams of reports on paper pulverized from endangered arboreal dells.

Of course, I am not a student in the New Jersey public school system, so I don't need to be personally worried about this particular bill.

What I find more ominous is a Republican-sponsored (I checked; yes they are) bill to change New Jersey's harassment law, the text of which is here. It adds "communication which is made anonymously or otherwise by means of an electronic communication device" to the existing definition of harassment, which is a criminal offense:

This bill amends the existing harassment statute; N.J.S.2C:33-4, to criminalize cyber-harassment which occurs when offenders use the Internet or other forms of electronic communication to commit these offenses.

Currently, N.J.S.2C:33-4 provides that a person who makes, or causes to be made, a communication "anonymously or at extremely inconvenient hours, or in offensively coarse language, or any other manner likely to cause annoyance or alarm" is guilty of harassment, a petty disorderly persons offense. This bill provides that a communication which is made anonymously or otherwise by means of an electronic communication device for the purpose of harassing another person shall constitute a petty disorderly offense. Under the bill, the term "electronic communication device" is defined as including, but not limited to, a telephone, cellular telephone, computer, computer network, computer system, video recorder, facsimile machine or pager.

So, anything that I might say at an "inconvenient hour" -- or anything that an anonymous commenter might say any time -- could subject me to criminal prosecution in New Jersey, if what is said is deemed "likely to cause annoyance or alarm."

(Were I a more fearless bigot, I'd say "Wake up you stupid New Jersey morons!")

That's a pretty broad definition of harassment. And I don't have to be in New Jersey to violate the law. Any blog post I might write here in Ann Arbor, or any comment left here on my blog from anywhere in the world, could subject me to criminal prosecution in New Jersey:

A communication under subsection a. of this section includes, but is not limited to, the posting of a photographic images or other descriptive material on an Internet website, or the sending of a telephonic message, electronic mail, text message or similar type of electronic message or communication, by means of an electronic communication device. "Electronic communication device" includes, but is not limited to, a telephone, cellular telephone, computer, computer network, computer system, video recorder, facsimile machine or pager. A communication under subsection a. may be deemed to have been made either at the place where it originated or at the place where it was received.
Am I allowed to say that the bill and its authors suck? Can I PhotoShop pictures of their Orwellian faces onto certain favored barnyard animals in order to make my point?

Or, how about criticizing New Jersey drivers? (I have done just that on this blog!) Who decides what is "likely to cause annoyance or alarm"? Does anyone know what an annoyance is? And what if I am annoyed by a comment that someone leaves? Would I be allowed to bring charges? And if you think that's outrageous, suppose I answer a commenter in a manner which he finds annoying. Have we not both violated the law if either I or the commenter posts or reads it in New Jersey?

I worry that the country is headed towards a ridiculous state of affairs in which no one has any rights because everyone has the right not to be annoyed. I have written a couple of posts about this, but I thought the proposition was so ridiculous on its face as to not merit serious consideration. In one such post, I asked whether I imposed upon PETA when I ate pork (an "offense" I openly admitted in my blog).

It never even occurred to me that PETA activists might be able to complain that because I had offended them, I was guilty of the crime of harassment.

Perhaps this isn't as funny as I thought. Not only do I tend to take freedom of speech for granted, but it has always struck me as patently ridiculous that my right to conduct my personal life as I see fit (along with my right to express opinions about it) cannot reasonably be seen as interfering with the rights of anyone else, unless I require them to do something.

Last night I amused myself by sarcastically quoting John Stuart Mill in a selective manner: is the absolute social right of every individual, that every other individual shall act in every respect exactly as he ought; that whosoever fails thereof in the smallest particular, violates my social right, and entitles me to demand from the legislature the removal of the grievance.
While the above is Mill speaking, I deliberately Dowdified him for humorous effect. Perhaps not everyone got it.

Mill said the above not to agree with it, but in order to attack it.

In light of the expansion of the "right" not to be offended, I thought I should supply the whole Mill quote, which was emailed to me by a friend. So here it is:

A theory of "social rights" [is] nothing short of this-that it is the absolute social right of every individual, that every other individual shall act in every respect exactly as he ought; that whosoever fails thereof in the smallest particular, violates my social right, and entitles me to demand from the legislature the removal of the grievance. So monstrous a principle is far more dangerous than any single interference with liberty; there is no violation of liberty which it would not justify; it acknowledges no right to any freedom whatever...The doctrine ascribes to all mankind a vested interest in each other's moral, intellectual, and even physical perfection, to be defined by each claimant according to his own standard.
Because we all have the right not to be offended, none of us has the right to offend.

Mill is right. There is no better way to get rid of all freedom than to do it in the name of "rights."

posted by Eric at 10:26 AM | Comments (12)

I Have Another One

It seems the Senate is about to pass S 510. Maybe. It is about food safety (do you really believe that?) and the regulation of food products that could cause illness from contamination. According to what I consider overblown (for now) rhetoric it will be messing with home gardeners and legacy seed growers and collectors.

"If accepted [S 510] would preclude the public's right to grow, own, trade, transport, share, feed and eat each and every food that nature makes. It will become the most offensive authority against the cultivation, trade and consumption of food and agricultural products of one's choice. It will be unconstitutional and contrary to natural law or, if you like, the will of God." ~Dr. Shiv Chopra, Canada Health whistleblower
Now is that true? I haven't looked. But I doubt it. But suppose it is true. Is it unconstitutional? Of course not. Hemp/cannabis has been banned for a long time on health and safety grounds. Why not everything else? They have decades of precedents on their side.

Well what do you know? The Drug War justification works for ObamaCare and the TSA too. And now the control of plants. There is nothing the Drug War can't do.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:26 AM | Comments (14)

A Grinding Mill

Eric in a previous entry linked to a page of John Stuart Mill quotes and featured one. I thought, given, the discussions that have gone on around here the past few days that it deserved a more prominent place. is the absolute social right of every individual, that every other individual shall act in every respect exactly as he ought; that whosoever fails thereof in the smallest particular, violates my social right, and entitles me to demand from the legislature the removal of the grievance.

In physics we like to say there is no preferred frame of reference. You use which ever one makes the problem solving easiest. So we have the center of mass frame. The laboratory frame. And many other frames to help think through problems. Eric puts it really well in the social realm. Here is a paraphrase of his most cogent point.

Either we are all entitled to our grievances or none of us is.

We can either go for a nanny state and pretend evil acts have been prevented or we can live free and assume that evil acts will happen and that those acts that DIRECTLY affect me will be punished if the perpetrator can be found.

There are all kinds of ways lives can be wasted. Some waste their lives making love to their bong. Others waste theirs going to church. Depends on the frame of reference. In the social realm we do have some universal frames of reference. But they are very few. If we stick with those we can avoid most questions about whose grievance is most grievous. A benefit from that would be that grieving because your grievance has not been attended to would be discouraged. Unless you got enough mourners in one room.

BTW yell as loud as you want about your grievance. I don't mind. It is grievance mongering by law that I take exception to. It all starts with "there ought to be a law."

Oh. Yeah. For those of you hoping I was going to discuss kitchen appliances I have:

Grinding Mills

Which, believe it or not includes Lap Dances. I never knew, in this day and age, that it was socially acceptable to include a lap dancer as a kitchen appliance. Ah. Well. I couldn't afford one anyway. The hospital bills would be way too high. And being a victim of justifiable homicide is not my idea of the best way to spend a weekend.

posted by Simon at 03:07 AM | Comments (1)

No sardines and no quarter?

From the Wiki entry for John Coode (17th century Protestant rebel leader in Maryland)

In April 1689, John Coode helped lead "An association in arms, for the defence of the Protestant religion, and for asserting the right of King Oscar and Queen Isabelle to the Province of Maryland and all the English dominions."
Nonsense. There have been several monarchs named Oscar, but none of them ever laid claim to (or had any arguable right to) Maryland. Nor did any king named Oscar marry a queen named Isabelle.

The problem is, if you Google the phrase "the right of King Oscar and Queen Isabelle to the Province of Maryland and all the English dominions," it goes right to the Wiki post, which is the only and thus the whole "truth."

I don't know whether this was vandalism or rank stupidity, but I went to the trouble of logging in and putting a "citation needed" in brackets after the quote. College students these days don't know their history, and I wouldn't want them thinking that a King Oscar (much less in conjunction with a queen named Isabelle) ever had a right to rule Maryland.

Just for the record, there was a King Oscar I of Sweden, but he ruled much later (1844 -1859) than the so-called "association in arms for the defence of the Protestant religion," and his son Oscar II is best known for sardines.

And if I were feeling argumentative, I would probably have pointed out that the proper quote ought to read as follows:

"An association in arms, for the defence of the Protestant religion, and for asserting the right of King William and Queen Mary to the Province of Maryland and all the English dominions."
But that ain't my job.

Besides, how do I know that am I wrong? How can I be 100% sure? Wiki is supposed to be, you know, "self correcting," so I will let it correct itself. Far be it from me to impose what I would arrogantly call "the truth" on anyone, much less the almighty Wiki.

Let it never be said about me that I was a Wiki Truther.

So long live the true King!


And his true Queen!


But isn't that queen on an American quarter? And aren't King Oscar sardines sold in Maryland? And isn't it also true that when you've seen one monarch you've seen 'em all?

So don't they have as much right to rule Maryland as anyone else?

Why not? After all, don't we all have the same rights? is the absolute social right of every individual, that every other individual shall act in every respect exactly as he ought; that whosoever fails thereof in the smallest particular, violates my social right, and entitles me to demand from the legislature the removal of the grievance.
In other words, we all are entitled, because no one is entitled.

Long live our rightful monarchs!

posted by Eric at 12:33 AM | Comments (2)

Rolling Back Socialism In America

An e-mail friend suggested I take a look at A Common-Sense Platform for the 21st Century. From the excerpt I read it looks pretty good. It is all about how to roll back socialism in America in the 21st Century.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:10 AM | Comments (1)

It Is Way Worse Than That

As usual I'm trying to talk sense with one of my solipsistic social conservative friends. Rough slog that. You can't reason with faith. I'm trying to figure out if that is a bug or a feature.

Well my friend is questioning the libertarian "faith" which is an interesting way to describe a political philosophy. If I do have the libertarian "faith" I arrived at it through reason. Credo quia absurdum is not a libertarian mode of thought. In fact libertarians despise it.

Libertarianism if it is a moral position is a negative one. Leave people alone if they are not initiating force or fraud.


And the Drug War is the prototype for many rights violations now impacting the general public. And you are powerless. The precedents have been set and when they were being set you were silent or cheered them on. Them dopers deserved it. Well now so do you.

Whatever you did to the least of these, you did to Me.

It is way worse than that my friend. You have done it to yourself.

Or to mix my religious metaphors: Karma is a bitch. Don't like being bitch slapped? Most unfortunate.

There is a reason us small government types favor small limited government without exception. It is safer that way. For all concerned.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:50 PM | Comments (2)

Don't blame us! We're only doing our job!

Amazing as it may sound, the government is trying to get people to feel sorry for the TSA screeners.

"Our concern is that the public not confuse the people implementing the policies with the people who developed the policies," said Sharon Pinnock, the union's director of membership and organization.
I love it.

"Don't blame me! I was just following orders!"

It would be nice if Ms. Pinnock could have at least provided a few names of those who deserve blame. As she says, "the people who developed the policies."

But of course, the "the people who developed the policies" are anonymous apparatchiks too.

Because they have created an insular and near-anonymous system, no one is really accountable and there is no one to blame -- as even members of Congress discovered when they tried ever so gently to ask TSA administrator John Pistole if he might consider backing off just a little.

The answer was NO!

In a hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday, November 17, TSA administrator John Pistole was pressed on changing security procedures in light of the continuing citizen revolt against TSA's increasingly heavy-handed Kabuki theater.

He said, simply, "No."

In other words, "let them be groped."

(Or irradiated in a naked body scanner. Or take Amtrak. Whatever.)

Take Amtrak? How long do you think it will be before the mindless, unelected, nameless "they" who run our lives do the same thing with Amtrak and every other public conveyance?

Pistole, too, is only doing his job. He is a mere functionary, and he is as replaceable as any of the rest of them.

He is only obeying his orders!

We have this fiction going that the elected officials are "in charge." That myth placates the little people, until they see that it makes no difference who you voted for. There is no one to complain to, as it is now been carefully been built into the system that no one is responsible:

As the power of the technician waxes, that of the politician wanes, until he is little more than a rubber stamp.

This is precisely what has happened at TSA, as the agency implements policies that Congress has not authorized but is also powerless to revoke.

The monstrous Leviathan into which TSA has quickly, albeit all too predictably, morphed is a textbook illustration of Ellul's thesis. Several elected representatives of the people politely suggested that a political technician, a bureaucrat, might possibly want to think about maybe giving, you know, just a bit of thought to not forcing American citizens to choose between being irradiated or groped, and he simply said:


That's a quote. He didn't mince words, he didn't equivocate, he didn't evade the question. He simply said, "No."

And the politicians did nothing, because they had no power to do anything. The technician had the power, and they all knew it.

In this same way, little by little and in virtually every nook and cranny of our daily lives, the role and extent of the bureaucrat -- the political technician -- extends to the point of near universality, and the seemingly endless, self-replicating rules that constrain and bind us become like white noise, unheard for its ubiquity.

In the old days, people didn't go for that "just going my job" crap." They held the guys who did things to people responsible for their actions and they resorted to things like tar and feathers.

What else could they do? Petition King George? A lot of good that would have done.

Might as well petition Congress, which lacks the authority to petition John Pistole, because after all, he is only doing his job, and he really isn't ultimately in charge. (As to who really is in charge, they're anonymous as well as interchangeable, and for their own safety you little people have no right to know who or where they are.)

At least King George had authority. And because people knew who he was, he might have even been more accessible.

But don't misread me. I'm only commenting on the irony, not making the case for monarchy.

UPDATE: Many thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, and a warm welcome to all.

Please bear in mind that I was not implying that TSA-dom is the moral equivalent of King George, because I think in some ways the present rulers are worse.(There is at least some comfort in knowing who is screwing you.)

Comments invited, agree or disagree.

posted by Eric at 09:24 PM | Comments (63)

Target-Rich Environment

I can't decide what's funnier in all this: that Krugman thinks this arms treaty is "desperately needed," that he likens spending cuts to "blood lust" while claiming the GOP won't do anything to address deficits, or his intimation that the GOP having a voice on spending may mean the end of the Republic as we know it.

Via HotAir so, stealing from the prodigy whose ingenious photoshops on the AIITH blog (some of us remember) gave us so much subversive joy after 9/11, I'll ask an exit question: Who wants to bet Krugman loses all interest in reducing deficits when the new Tea-infused GOP raises serous Social Security reform?

posted by Dave at 08:44 PM | Comments (0)

Will small become the new big?

As part of my endless quest to understand the meaning of words that are commonly used but ill defined, I found myself trying to understand precisely how best to politically characterize opposition to big government. I am going to attempt to break this down because the more I think about it, the more confused I become.

Naturally, most of us would agree that unless he is lying (and I'm coming to that), a person who expresses opposition to big government is conservative and/or libertarian and/or both. But which term is inclusive of which? Obviously, not all who oppose big government can be called libertarians, because many conservatives do not consider themselves libertarians. But neither nor can they fairly be called conservative, because many libertarians do not consider themselves conservatives. Is there, then, a tent? What should it be called? The anti-big government tent? The small government tent? The government-that-governs-best-governs-least tent? The Tea Party tent?

Another nagging question is this: if there is a small government tent, who belongs in it? As I have said many times, I advocate an alliance between libertarians and social conservatives, and I will continue to advocate that, no matter how annoyed I might get from time to time with socially conservative ideology or activists.

But the question I have today about inclusion is a different one. Because, while there is no reason a small government tent (or, a coalition against big government) should not include both social conservatives and libertarians, what about the people who favor big government? Without even getting to the question of what they should be called, is it reasonable for big government people to demand inclusion in a small government tent?

Common sense and simple logic would suggest not.

So what becomes of the so-called "big government conservatives" who think they have a right to be in the small government tent where they clearly don't belong?

Any ideas?

Some people might say that there is no such thing as big government conservatism, that the phrase is an oxymoron. I agree that it is, but I am not the one who dreamed up big government conservatism (aka "National Greatness Conservatism"). I have opposed it from the start. But the big government "conservatives" are not going away. Not only have they never been kicked out of the the conservative tent (which I think they should have been), but right now they are at the gates to the small government tent. Based on their past record, they will enter the small government tent under false pretenses, hoping to use small government rhetoric as a stepping stone to power, whereupon they will simply do as they have done before, and we will once again have "big government conservatism."

What worries me is that the wordsmiths among them will call simply figure out a way to rebadge big government conservatism as small government conservatism. (Perhaps by saying "The era of big government conservatism is over!" and congratulating themselves with a chorus of loud hurrahs.) Whether they are successful will depend on how serious the small government tent turns out to be about small government. It is my opinion that small government social conservatives need to be very careful about allying themselves with big government social conservatives, lest the former help bring the latter into the small government tent. It is one thing for them to work together on social conservative issues in a social conservative tent, but there is one thing I cannot stress enough:

Big government conservatives simply do not belong in the small government tent.

If these crooked bastards had any pride, they wouldn't even try to enter. But pride means nothing to pure Machiavellians, and they have no scruples about using people to gain access and credibility. Likewise, they have no problem in saying they are against big government and not meaning it. It worked quite well for years didn't it? So why wouldn't it work again?

Libertarians, of course, can be depended upon to do what they always do, which is to complain. Actually the Tea Party variety of libertarians will probably do more than complain; they might even yell and scream, and threaten to leave the tent. That would be stupid. I would rather see the libertarians stay, and remain allies with the true small government conservatives to kick out the fakes.

Big is not small.

But shouldn't that be obvious?

posted by Eric at 12:00 PM | Comments (10)

I'm A Fanatic

In the comments to Did I impose on PETA last night? some one says I'm a fanatic. To wit (or without it):

M. Simon, you're a fanatic, and I know you mean well...

I'm a fanatic and I don't mean well to the statists of the left and right.

I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! - Barry Goldwater

And for all practical purposes it is the statists of the right who gave us the drug war and via that the TSA. Read it and cheer. Or if you are like me - weep. Because we are now all suspect of carrying contraband. And the "techniques" meant to be restricted to evil dopers are applied to everyone.

And now you want TSA/Drug War enforcement against abortion? Are you insane?

Of course it will never start out that way. They hardly ever do. But every failure leads to more effort. The greater the failure the bigger the "profit" potential. The more effort required. The more civil liberties that have to be relinquished. Fur da grater God Duvall. Eventually they will get around to grating you.

posted by Simon at 01:39 AM | Comments (10)

For The Children

The drug war and its search for contraband was the prototype for all this. All made easier by the Drug War Exception to the Fourth Amendment. You peed in a cup to get your job didn't you? Why all the pissing and moaning about the TSA? After all they are doing it to save the children.

You wanted a police state for the dopers? Well now every one gets one. Welcome to the club MOFOs.

And to all those who have told me for decades with great force "it can't happen here". Deja vue all over again ain't it - you sons of bitches.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:53 AM | Comments (4)

The World's Greatest Bailalaka Player

The link to the above was sent to me by my #2 son who is a staunch libertarian, graduated with honors in Russian literature from U Chicago, and now teaches American Culture at a University in Smolensk under a Fulbright Grant.

Every time I think of that it cracks me up.

posted by Simon at 12:04 AM | Comments (5)

The Unifying Thread

There is a unifying thread between the TSA and the drug war. The unifying thread? The search for contraband. You gave up the 4th Amendment to get at the dopers. And now that you are a suspect you have nothing to protect you. Because the 4th Amendment has already been torn down to make searching for contraband easier. And why was the 4th written? To make searching for contraband harder.


Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:17 PM | Comments (3)

Is this what they mean by "job opportunities"?

Watching the video of a small boy being strip-searched made me very angry this morning. I was already angry at the TSA, though, as I had just finished reading in the Sunday paper about the indignities meted out to a man suffering from bladder cancer whose urostomy bag was forced open by TSA man handlers, soaking the poor guy in his own urine.

On top of that, I then read that if you balk at such procedures, you will be arrested and charged with crimes.

Nice Sunday-before-Thanksgiving reading.

Again, I have to keep reminding myself that this is the United States of America where these things are happening.

We are supposed to be thankful that we live in a free country, right?

Forgive my cognitive disconnect and my cynicism. In fairness to the TSA, it has to be pointed out that some of them are human beings and decent citizens, and they don't like doing these things to their fellow human beings. Here's what some of them are saying:

"It is not comfortable to come to work knowing full well that my hands will be feeling another man's private parts, their butt, their inner thigh. Even worse is having to try and feel inside the flab rolls of obese passengers and we seem to get a lot of obese passengers!"
"Molester, pervert, disgusting, an embarrassment, creep. These are all words I have heard today at work describing me, said in my presence as I patted passengers down. These comments are painful and demoralizing, one day is bad enough, but I have to come back tomorrow, the next day and the day after that to keep hearing these comments. If something doesn't change in the next two weeks I don't know how much longer I can withstand this taunting. I go home and I cry. I am serving my country, I should not have to go home and cry after a day of honorably serving my country."
I'd feel the same way, and I guess knowing that there are real human beings in the TSA who "Absolutely Hate New Pat Downs, Find Them Disgusting And Morale Breaking" is something to be thankful for.

As slavery is illegal, no one absolutely one has to do what he hates, so the decent citizens in the TSA can be expected to quit their jobs.

But who do you think will replace them? Obviously, people who have no problem with strip-searching little boys, bursting urostomy bags (I suppose colostomy bags will be next), and arresting non-compliant citizens while sadistically frog-marching them through airports in their underwear.

What kind of person would want do these things?

We all know that there are psychopathic creeps and weird sadists who live among us, but there's something about the government creating a perfect job opportunity for them that rankles me. I realize that America is supposed to be the land of opportunity and all that, and it's logical to assume that might be a sort of market for weird psychopathic voyeur sadists as long as there are people who are into that sort thing and are willing to pay to have it done to them.

But these job opportunities for sexual sadists constitute an artificial market, created by government bureaucrats unaccountable even to Congress. And the people who have to pay the sickos who want to do this to them are not willing masochistic consumers who freely enter some S&M house of pleasure, but just ordinary taxpayers -- many of whom don't want to travel on planes, but have to -- some in order to make a living, others because they have to see a dying relative. They are not willing and consenting participants in the full sense, and none of them consent to letting some psychopath get his jollies at their expense. It is as unfair to make them pay their tormentors as it would be to make a rape victim pay her rapist.

Who would feel thankful about that?

I am reminded of a classic line from "A Clockwork Orange":

A job for two, who are now of job age, the police!


It can't happen here of course.

posted by Eric at 11:17 AM | Comments (19)

Birther Madness

Some Birther Madness from Ulsterman's Deep Throat. The she in question is supposed to be Nancy Pelosi. We shall she.

Insider: Well, she was at it again and then she says something along the lines of, "How about I just hand over the goddamn certification file. They want me to go there? Because that's where they're pushing me."

Ulsterman: Certification file? What is that? Do you mean certificate file? Birth certificate?

Insider: Hell if I know - was certification file - assume it has something to do with the whole birther thing - eligibility maybe? Just thought you might want to hear it. Just thought you might find it...interesting! It's an odd thing to say, right? And it's even odder that it was said like that period. The person who shared it with me thought so. Then again, they also said Pelosi was for certain heading out of Congress not so long ago, so who knows anymore. Looks like she's clawing her way back in, the tough old -expletive-. But if you want to chase that particular tail in a circle I thought I'd throw you that bone. Go fetch! (laughs) ...I don't mean to laugh. Hell, fact is people are talking about this subject. Nobody wants to admit it in the open, but they are talking about it. Or whispering at least - but I want nothing to do with that -expletive-. Something like that will get your ass killed. No joke.

This could be the smoking gun. Or just the smoking bong. Only time will tell.

And then the insider goes on to what he considers the real deal.

Insider:....No, let's just stick to the real deal, right? Because THAT is what is going to kick the president's ass - and I'm talking kick that ass right to the goddamn curb! You got that? TO - THE - CURB. You hear the reporting - it's out there. You read it, right? We got the DOJ, we got the bank closures, we got the Rezko sentencing, we got the Blagotrial...all this -expletive - and more...everything is coming together. Everything that has been ignored for too long is finally getting some attention. And these dogs will hunt - I guarantee you that. Those Republicans on the Hill? Oh yeah, those little -expletive- are gonna bring the hammer down on this. They are gonna break every damn thing open until they find it - and they are gonna get help from some Democrats along the way. And you know the president knows it. His people know it. They are all hunkered down, eyes shifting this way and that, wonderin' if it's gonna be this scandal or that scandal or this, that, and the other scandal. One is gonna lead to one is gonna lead to the other.
The Insider thought that Nancy Pelosi would retire so she can covertly release information that will make the investigation easier. But she didn't retire. She got elected minority leader. Insider thought that if that happened the fix was in.

Insider: Ok, so if I'm being told this, being told repeatedly that Speaker Pelosi has had it with the White House, has had it with the president, is gonna help send them all packin' away to political has-been street, and then she actually stays on as party leader, that means something happened. Something changed from what I am being told. Or somebody got it wrong - and either way, I can be -expletive- over on this whole thing. Do you realize how powerful a Speaker of the House really is? And Pelosi is about as tough a Speaker as I've seen. Tough-though lady. Not someone you wanna make an enemy of, right? So...if-if...if she stays on as party leader, that means she was got to. That means she made a deal. And if she was gonna help crack heads over at the White House, that means she probably made a deal with them, right? And that means this information she was supposed to help leak out there to the rest of us, to others, will probably disappear.

Ulsterman: But the Republicans will control Congress. Pelosi won't be Speaker. Seems like that information would still get out there. Why wouldn't it?

Insider: Because the only way the White House would agree to a deal is if they were given that information to keep for themselves or had assurances it as no longer available. They are not going to just allow Pelosi to keep holding it over them. You see, the White House was sending out strong signals that Pelosi must go. I know this. I heard it first hand from members of Congress. She is gone. So if she all of a sudden stays, and stays as leader of the party, that means the White House stopped pushing for her to be gone. And that means a deal was made. And THAT means I'm left scrambling for cover in all of this. And so is everyone who has been talking to me. The Republicans don't take over until 2011, right? Whatever information Pelosi has on Obama - and she has it. Don't you doubt that. She's got it. Well, that information could easily be no more by January. Bye-bye, gone. Replaced, misplaced - never was, never will be again. That -expletive- happens all the time. I mean all the time.

Well there is way more on the Ulsterman site. It will be interesting to see who double crosses whom first.

The Insider's final thoughts should Pelosi be elected Minority Leader? Duck and cover kid. Duck and -expletive- cover... Well she was elected. We live in interesting times. Way too interesting.

Update: The very latest on the birther question. Well latest to me. Sept. 26 this year. It discusses the certification file. It also makes some unwarranted assumptions (they so want this to be true). So be careful out there. I did find it helpful when it comes to keeping up with the latest birther angle. Who knows? There may be something to this one.

I have some confirmation of the birther question link information here. Purported copies of the two different types of certification. Curiouser and curiouser.

I just had an odd thought. What if the above is Hillary's words being put in Pelosi's mouth and Deep Throat is Carville? This stuff will drive you nuts.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:36 AM | Comments (6)

Getting Rid Of Laws

Every time a discussion of the correct scope of the laws comes up with social conservatives this little ditty or something like it is trotted out to justify the death penalty for picking your nose or for growing the wrong kind of plants.

So do you advocate getting rid of laws that deal harsh consequences for such acts as murder, robbery, and physical assault?

Well thanks for putting the fish in my barrel. I have my sawed off shotgun ready so how about a few blasts?

1. Laws against that kind of behavior are universal. Something on the order of 99% to 99.99% of humans would agree. Murderers don't want to be murdered. Robbers don't like being robbed. Thieves don't like getting their stuff stolen.

2. It only takes 5% of the population to disagree with a law to make enforcement very hard. Up around 10% to 20% it becomes impossible.

3. Criminal transactions are very hard to police - there is a willing seller and a willing buyer and if they are clandestine enough no one to complain.

4. Laws that create black markets corrupt police. Every where some one is getting paid to look the other way to let the deal go down. With crimes of malice such looking the other way is more difficult. People get emotionally involved when a relative is wronged. Or they are wronged.

5. By the time the USSR collapsed it was one big black market. Why even push in that direction? Do you know what the stability margin for civilization is? You want to test it?

6. Are you so thin brained that you are unable to conceive of solving social problems without government guns? Liberals have a similar problem.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 11:07 PM | Comments (6)

The Essential Taoist

Inspired by a discussion with a commenter at Did I impose on PETA last night?

Being left alone is not an imposition.

If I push on a block of wood I am imposing on it. If I don't push on the block I'm also imposing on it? You must be a Taoist.

posted by Simon at 06:46 PM | Comments (6)

If one in five of us are Eloi, then who are the Morlocks?

Dr. Helen links a post by ShrinkWrapped about the disturbing trend highlighted in a Drudge headline that read:

Hey, if that's true, that must mean that this blog has a lot of mentally ill readers. I won't comment on the authors, but there are at least four of us right now, so according to statistical odds... well, you do the math.

Here's ShrinkWrapped's analysis:

When I looked at the story my first thought was: How many of these people were unhappy rather than ill? How many were feeling terribly stressed rather than Psychiatrically disturbed? Then I noticed where the report came from: the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration or SAMHSA. I have no idea who they are but have two questions:

1) How do they define "Mental Illness"? It has become a protean concept meaning everything and anything from unhappy to abusive of Alcohol to committed to violent Jihad. Loose definitions of Mental Illness serve to decrease personal responsibility and justify expanded government intervention in order to ensure treatment to all these ill people.

For some time now, I have been concerned that "substance abuse" is a foot in the door for medical statism (in the form of urine testing, government invasion of patient medical records, and resultant "intervention"), and that under Obamacare, it is poised to become a huge growth industry.

Reading ShrinkWrapped, it's hard not to see a connection between the expanded definition and money:

Why don't we reserve the concept of Mental Illness for those who suffer from a serious definable Mental Disturbance that brings the person far out of the (wide) limits of normal human variability? I know this would decrease the income of some Psychiatrists, Psychologists, Social Workers, and various Counselors, but to be human is to function less than optimally much of the time, worse during periods of high stress. Pathologizing human variability and behavior is a sign of, dare I say, Mental Illness.
Aside from the increased income and expanded power of the treatment community, what is the consequence of labeling all these people as mentally ill?

They will be given medication. Substances. Drugs, if you will. Most typically, the drugs they'll get will be in the SSRI (Selective Serotonin Uptake Inhibitor) category.

The main indication for SSRIs is clinical depression. SSRIs are frequently prescribed for anxiety disorders, such as social anxiety, panic disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), eating disorders, chronic pain and occasionally, for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Though not specifically indicated by the manufacturers, they are sometimes prescribed to treat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Lichen simplex chronicus and premature ejaculation.

All SSRIs are approved in the U.S. for use with psychiatric disorders as outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV).

How many people are on these drugs? I don't know, but the number seems pretty high:
The number of people being treated with antidepressants increased from 13 million in 1996 to 27 million in 2005, rising from 6 percent to 10 percent of the population. More than 164 million antidepressant prescriptions were given out in 2008, generating $9.8 billion for pharmaceutical companies.
I'd say that if 20% of the population is mentally ill, there's a pretty good market that's still untapped.

Interestingly, some doctors in England (long overdosed on socialized medicine) say that they feel "forced" to prescribe these drugs:

GPs know they are overprescribing antidepressant drugs such as Prozac and Seroxat, but believe the lack of other forms of help for those suffering from mild depression and stress leaves them no choice, a survey reveals today.

The survey shows that 80% of GPs believe they are writing too many prescriptions for the SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), as the class of drugs made famous by Prozac is known.

The findings are alarming in the wake of a decision last week by US drug regulators to demand a warning that some people might become suicidal on them, and the decision last year by the British regulators to ban most of them from use in children for the same reason.

Sales of Prozac, Seroxat, Lustral, Effexor and other drugs of the class have boomed as mild to moderate depression, anxiety and stress have become acceptable diseases of the late 20th and 21st centuries, linked to fast lifestyles and taxing jobs.

They have mostly been handed out by GPs, rather than hospital consultants, often in response to crises like marriage breakdowns, job loss and bereavement. Last year 500,000 prescriptions were written for Seroxat alone.

Writing too many prescriptions, huh? Isn't that called "overprescribing"? Don't they send doctors to jail for that? Oh, sorry, I guess they only do that when the doctors are overprescribing drugs the DEA doesn't like.

Still, an article in Psychology Today used the term "overprescribing" in reference to SSRIs:

We often hear concern voiced about "undertreated populations," even though the same psychiatrists know that 5,000 Americans recently began a new course of Paxil every day. But how credible is such concern, and is it truly warranted or a convenient way of changing the subject about overdiagnosis? The International Review of Psychiatry reported in June 2005 that more than 67.5 million Americans--almost one-in-four of us--have taken a course of antidepressant medication. Which begs another question: When do we reach a number or percentage so sizeable that concern about undertreatment tips appropriately into unease about overmedication?

The data reported by the article make clear that the outcome we're facing as a country is extremely troubling. If 4-out-of-5 Americans are being put on antidepressants out of concern about undertreatment, then 70-80% of SSRI patients are risking mild-to-serious side effects for symptoms they have not produced, for an illness they do not have. That makes no sense at all; it doesn't begin to add up.

It makes sense if the goal is to get as many Americans as possible on these meds. 67 million Americans ain't hay. I'm no economist, but it could be there's a lot of money at stake.

Or am I being cynical to smell a profit motive? Could an entire industry really have arisen with a vested interest in labeling as many Americans as possible "mentally ill" just in order to make money?

Are these drugs making Americans happier people and better citizens? Assuming that is the goal, is that the way the drugs work? I don't know but reading about what these drugs do to people makes me a little uneasy. If this piece by a psychiatric technician is even half correct, I don't think I would want to be on the stuff. He tried the stuff, and said it made him like an Eloi:

An initial mild euphoria took hold in twenty minutes as I continued to smell the roses. I sensed the medication's smooth absorption via the gastro-intestinal tract and insidious entry into the CNS. I hadn't tainted the results with prior research to self-administration. Everything felt free and easy, not a care on earth. Yet I could still make notes and identify plants.

The Paxil high got heavier an hour into the trip, with the thought: Are you anxious? Depressed? Obsessive? Uneasy with people? Then Paxil's the drug for you. One problem: You may never quit.

The absolute worst feeling I got from the drug, that is perhaps what most users embrace, was becoming an Eloi. The sensation was distinct and lasted for two hours. The Eloi are one of the two post-human races in H. G. Wells' 1895 novel The Time Machine. In the year AD 802,701, humanity has evolved into two sub-species: the Eloi and the Morlocks. The Eloi are the attractive upper crust living on the surface of the earth, while the Morlocks live underground, working and tending machinery that provide food, clothing and infrastructure for the Eloi. The Morlocks continue to support the world's infrastructure and serve the Eloi who have undergone drastic physical and mental deterioration. Having solved all problems that required strength, intellect and virtue, they have slowly become miscellaneous dingbats. It is revealed that the Morlocks are tending to the toiless Eloi's needs as a farmer tends cattle -- because the Eloi comprise most of the Morlock diet.

The whole thing is well worth reading, and his conclusion is disturbing:
Paxil, and the stable of like SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) antidepressants, are hands down the most pathetic therapeutic craze I've witnessed since earning a Psych Tech Certificate two decades ago. By rendering a patient or citizen unwilling to make judgments and incapable of taking stands, there is no role for them other than in the vegetable garden of life.

It's the most amazing, most common prescription in the world. So many millions more could be dangerous if they get pointed in the wrong direction.

I don't take SSRIs, and I don't especially want to.

This touches on something I read recently about SSRIs in the context of Dr. Stephen Schneider, who was sentenced to prison for overprescribing opiates to patients.

M. Simon and I have posted repeatedly about a federal prosecutor's vindictive rampage against pain relief activist Siobhan Reynolds, apparently for publicly defending Dr. Stephen Schneider

Glenn Reynolds linked Jacob Sullum's latest Reason piece about the bizarre (IMO) attempt to censor Siobhan Reynolds. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case:

Reynolds unsuccessfully challenged Treadway's fishing expedition on First Amendment grounds in U.S. District Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, and this week the Supreme Court declined to hear her appeal. Perhaps the Court was impressed by the 10th Circuit's reasoning. We can't judge for ourselves, because the appeals court's decision is sealed, like almost every other document related to Reynolds' case.

The extraordinary secrecy is far broader than necessary to protect the confidentiality of grand jury proceedings, extending even to a friend-of-the-court brief, based entirely on publicly available information, that was filed last December by the Institute for Justice and my employer, the Reason Foundation (which publishes Reason magazine). Furthermore, one of the main justifications for grand jury secrecy--that it protects innocent people who are investigated but never charged--does not apply in a case like this, where the target of the investigation wants transparency and the government is trying to hide what it's doing.

While I am always against government censorship, there is something about the censorship in this case that never passed my common sense smell test. Why the long, blacked out pages in the amicus brief that Reason filed?

NOTE: That last link is misleading; the blacked out pages I'm referring to are here, and are referred to in Reason's brief. (I linked the discussion of it in my previous post.)

Perhaps I have too much natural curiosity, but I read through it over and over, and it just makes no sense. Sure, they wanted to silence Reynolds, but there had to be more to it than her contention that the government was persecuting Dr. Schneider.

In a news report about the case, I found a fascinating comment which offered an explanation:

The secrecy of the case isn't directly based on the chronic pain law suit against Reynolds, but rather, the cause of the patient's chronic pain injuries in the first place. The government is attempting to cover up a prevalence of injuries caused by SSRI antidepressant (induced Serotonin Syndrome) and other psycho pharmaceutical medications (induced Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome) that these medications have caused throughout the world over the last five decades. The state governments could be implicated for causing these injuries if it is revealed that patients are forced on these medications in juvenile detention centers, prisons, children in state care, and court mandated treatment. It would implicate the federal government as causing injuries to our military soldiers, federal prisoners, and enemy combatants. It would implicate hundreds of thousands of doctors, hospitals, psychiatrists, and nurse practitioners who have concealed these injuries. It is known as the "White Wall of Silence" when medication induced injuries are simply diagnosed as a newly contrived illness to prevent a patient from filing a medical malpractice lawsuit. If a thorough investigation would follow the money, it would implicate pharmacies, distribution centers, medical researchers, and pharmaceutical corporations who have hidden the adverse effects of these medications. It would implicate prosecuting attorneys, defending attorneys, and court justices who have refused to allow these induced injuries admissible in courts. It would implicate lobbyist, elected and appointed officials, and federal regulators who have received financial gain and created legislation to conceal these injuries or to prevent lawsuits. I wonder how many well know suspected medication induced suicides could be implicated as homicide when it is revealed that certain known combinations of medications can induce predictable suicidal tendencies. A recent report shows that the FDA has not tested medications for mitochondrial damage which a key element to these chronic pain injuries. It's a world crisis that would make our current economic crisis appear as minor setback. After all, what industry would gain the most from a world economic recession (depression)?
In a later comment, Siobhan Reynolds confirmed that the above was the reason for the secrecy:
everything the poster said above my post is also true...Big bad story behind this whole thing..that is why the government went for such a BIG LIE with all the deaths...
And why they want it so hush hush...
Siobhan Reynolds
Pain Relief Network
OK, now, I am a total outsider and I do not know whether the possible interactions between SSRIs and opiates might be the reason for the secrecy. But I am a blogger, and so I have to at least entertain the possibility.

What if it is?

What is Serotonin Syndrome? The term is mentioned in the Wiki SSRI writeup I mentioned earlier, but it doesn't get into specifics as to how it might be fueled by combinations. This article does:

Serotonin syndrome has been reported with a combination of an SSRI and pentazocine, morphine, tramadol and dextromethorphan (found in some cough mixtures). Case reports of serotonin syndrome have been described for tramadol and paroxetine (Egberts et al, 1997) and tramadol and sertraline (Mason & Blackburn, 1997).
Which means that if Dr. Scheider's patients were also on SSRIs, then SSRIs might have contributed to the deaths along with the opiate drugs.

If a combination of opiate type drugs with SSRIs can be deadly, and a patient is being prescribed both, then why would the authorities single out only one category of drugs? Is there an anti-opiate witch hunt? Clearly, some drugs are more favored than others. And if some drugs are more favored than others, might some overprescribing be more favored too?

It seems quite possible.

It might also explain why Dr. Schneider got 30 years in the joint while the SSRI community will get billions in tax dollars to treat millions and millions more of us Eloi.

UPDATE: I published this post just as I was running out the door, so I didn't catch the fact that one of the links did not go to the document I thought I was linking.


Commenter Charlie Martin notes that "One in Five suffer from a mental illness" doesn't imply that "one in five is depressed". I hope I didn't imply that it did.

At any rate, depression is only one of the conditions for which the SSRIs are prescribed.

posted by Eric at 11:13 AM | Comments (14)


Social Conservatives thrive on prohibitions. So do criminals. Makes ya wonder sometimes don't it?

posted by Simon at 09:25 PM | Comments (21)

Libertareconomics 101

A few thoughts and links on libertarian economics:

von Mises was certainly groundbreaking and is definitely worth studying, though he hurt his credibility with the failed prediction that the pound would collapse. Schiff hasn't exactly covered the Austrians with glory either, repeatedly predicting the collapse of the dollar. Hayek and Friedman tended to be both more moderate and more professorial in tone, which is probably why they've been better received (there's a great Facebook page that regularly publishes Friedman's videos).

Still, the Austrian notion that economics is ordinal rather than cardinal is strongly appealing. Utility is a concept that lies somewhere in the 120 trillion synapses of the human mind. The notion econometric equations, especially those utilizing macroeconomic aggregations like aggregate demand, can be reliably predictive seems deeply flawed. We don't buy globs of GDP, we buy specific things that we, as individuals, want.

That's why the nonsense peddled by Krugman and the other neoKeynesians is so scary -- they make the same mistakes the Communists made, just on a less totalitarian scale. You cannot get away from the marginal propensity to produce, nor you can substitute the production of things people don't choose to buy (via gov't spending) for production of the things they do choose to buy (private sector spending); only one of those is truly, efficiently productive (roads and regulation may be efficiently productive, up to a point, but when gov't spending is already at 45% of GDP the large majority is certainly going to be less productive than if spent in the private sector). Conflating the two and increasing gov't spending on that basis during a recession just results in further misallocating resources. The recession happened because we produced too much stuff (esp. housing) that people didn't actually want, mostly because the government inflated the bubble with easy credit for reasons of social policy, and it's going to take time and pain to redirect resources into producing things people do want.

If there's one point libertarians could best serve society by promulgating and proselytizing, it's that virtually every reason that people's lives aren't a short, brutal experience of miserably cold, sick, and hungry competition for scarce resources is the result of a productivity improvement that resulted in either a new product or a cheaper, better version of an existing one -- and 99% of such attempts at inventing new or better products fail, which is why it's vitally important not to overly hinder the process if we want the improvement in the human condition to continue.

To that end, I'll end with a great video from ReasonTV on how much better off we are today.

UPDATE: Due to an horrific oversight on my part, I have somehow not yet linked the video of the Hayek-Keynes Rap Battle: Part 2. Never has an economics video been so full of win.

posted by Dave at 03:59 PM | Comments (7)

Did I impose on PETA last night?

Last night I ate barbecued pork for dinner in a nice Japanese restaurant here in Ann Arbor. Normally, it wouldn't occur to me that by ordering and eating and paying for that meal I was using, exploiting, or imposing on anyone. After all, I got the meal, the restaurant got the $16.00 it cost, and the waiter got a 20% tip.

But I couldn't stop thinking about an ongoing argument that I have been having with a commenter who insists that my eating pork imposes on people who do not like it.

From the comments to a previous post:

Tennwriter:...your eating pork is an imposition on those Peta nuts who think a pig is a dog is a bird is a boy. That's incredibly obvious. You should have seen that reply coming from ninety miles away. So why didn't you?

You continue to protest 'it makes no sense', but logic is logic.

Me: you should explain how my pork eating -- more specifically my desire to be left alone from those who would stop me -- imposes on anyone. (Meaning any human being in the normal sense of the word, not some bizarre construct of Peter Singer.)

Saying that certain activists (or certain religious fanatics) do not like it and want to stop me from doing it does not mean that I am imposing on them, for I am not requiring them to do anything. Their not liking what I do no more means they are being imposed upon than I would be if I disliked my neighbor's taste in wallpaper.

Tennwriter: Eric, I don't know how to explain it better than I have. Its completely clear what I've said about imposing morality. You don't like it, and you think its ridiculous, but you can't beat it so you huff and puff in a courteous fashion.

I'm reminded of the Lefties who early in Bush's first term kept saying 'well, he didn't convince me that time, maybe he ought to try a little harder'. Um, no.

Not my job to convince you. My job is to present the truth as best as I can. What you choose to do with it is up to you.

My question still stands, because it is very specific and has not been answered. I don't mean to put that particular commenter on the spot, because I am not trying to win the argument with him specifically, and I know there is no such thing as winning arguments. Besides, he has already declared that I have lost the argument.

But where is the argument? I want to know exactly how my act of eating pork imposes on anyone. I realize that there are people who dislike it, but since when does disliking something make the disliked thing an imposition on those who dislike it? There are people who dislike me for being white and male; does that mean my whiteness and maleness imposes on them?

Does the existence of something that is disliked impose on those who dislike it? I want specifics here, not a circular recital. Can anyone explain?

It is not enough to simply declare it to be "self apparent" that my pork eating imposed on people. Nor is it enough to say that "logic is logic" and declare it "completely clear." Or that there is no need to convince me, because the fact that my pork eating imposes on others is simply "the truth."

Lest anyone think this is only about eating pork, I should remind readers that I have long been appalled and disgusted by the habit some people have of eating dogs. In fact, I am pretty emotional about it, and the videos showing the horrors of the Asian dog markets make me sick. I am so horrified that I want to pull out my checkbook and send money to the organizations devoted to stopping what I see as an abject betrayal of man's best friend. Perhaps that makes me guilty of a double standard, perhaps not. (As I have pointed out, I do not think all animals are equal.)

Yet no matter how enraged I get over dog eating, it has never occurred to me that I was being imposed upon by the people who eat dogs. Sure, if they broke into my house and ate Coco, they'd be imposing. If they made me eat dog meat, they'd be imposing. But the fact that they are eating dog meat simply is not an imposition on me -- even though I consider them to be violating my code of morality! And even if their tastes were to spread to this country, and Americans began patronizing restaurants which served dog meat, that would not impose on me in any way, nor would they be imposing their morality on me, because I would not have to eat dogs. The eating of dogs is just something I dislike, and there are plenty of things in this world I dislike.

So I would love to hear a coherent explanation of how I imposed upon PETA last night. I really need to know. Because if I did, then millions of people impose on me every time they eat dogs.

(Of course, whether laws against dog eating would impose on them is a different issue. Such laws would impose on dog eaters -- just as laws against pork would impose on me.)

But that's another topic and the sun is getting lower and lower in the sky as I write this post.

I dislike the movement of this damned planet.

Hey, didn't the water impose on King Canute?

posted by Eric at 03:58 PM | Comments (36)

Libertarianism is dictatorial collectivism. And freedom is slavery.

Sharron Angle is being widely ridiculed for saying that "sometimes dictators have good ideas." Seems she praised the wrong dictator:

Angle invoked Pinochet's name when discussing Social Security privatization: "She had previously used Chile's Augusto Pinochet's experiment as an example, but had not used it since her staff shut her down," Ralston writes. "That day, with no media there, saying her staff had warned her not to use it, she raised the Chile example again and added, 'Sometimes dictators have good ideas.' Her staff fretted the line would get out. It did not. Until now."

The Tea Party favorite came under considerable fire during the campaign for her seemingly contradictory views on what should be done with Social Security - which ranged from phasing it out completely, to "personalizing" it, to serving as its "salvation."

Angle is of course a convenient target of the leftosphere -- not so much for praising just any old dictator, but because the dictator involved was Pinochet. If a left wing politician praised an idea of Fidel Castro (as many have), that would be considered just peachy.

The moral lesson being imparted here is that saying "sometimes dictators have good ideas" is fine if you say that about Fidel Castro, but evil and deranged if you say it about Pinochet.

But that's just the standard "double standard defense" -- which isn't really a defense on the merits of the idea being praised. And while I would be willing to come to the defense of Angle on the merits, I am not sure that she is entirely accurate in characterizing what happened to the Chilean pension system as Pinochet's idea. More likely, it would have been alien to the man's rigid statist thinking. Here's what happened:

On November 4, 1980, under the leadership of Jose Pinera, Secretary of Labor and Pensions under Augusto Pinochet with the collaboration of his team of Chicago Boys, the PAYGO pension system was changed to a capital funded system run by investment funds.[2] Jose Pinera had the idea of privatizing the pension system for the first time when reading the book Capitalism and Freedom from Milton Friedman[3] There have been implemented several (private) pension funds the so-called Administradoras de Fondos de Pensiones (AFPs). For all citizens who are legally defined as workers, employers must pay a proportion of the earnings to a pension fund. Workers who had already paid in the old system, got an option to continue to pay into the old system. But the statutory minimum contribution to the new private pension funds was set 11% lower than the contributions to the old pension system, therefore most workers changed to the new pension system.[4]
If anyone should receive credit for the idea, it was Milton Friedman, not Pinochet. Friedman was much maligned for meeting with Pinochet and giving him advice, although he never understood why:
Friedman has wondered why some have attacked him for giving a lecture in Chile: "I must say, it's such a wonderful example of a double standard, because I had spent time in Yugoslavia, which was a communist country. I later gave a series of lectures in China. When I came back from communist China, I wrote a letter to the Stanford Daily newspaper in which I said, 'It's curious. I gave exactly the same lectures in China that I gave in Chile. I have had many demonstrations against me for what I said in Chile. Nobody has made any objections to what I said in China. How come?'" He points out that his visit was unrelated to the political side of the regime and that during his visit to Chile he even stated that following his economic liberalization advice would help bring political freedom and the downfall of the regime.[19]
It is quite clear that Friedman had no delusions about the nature of the Pinochet regime, but that he hoped economic freedom might help lead to political freedom. From a 2006 piece by Reason's Brian Doherty:
....[Friedman] tried to move the world in a freer direction from the point reality presented him with.

"I have nothing good to say about the political regime that Pinochet imposed," Friedman said in 1991. "It was a terrible political regime. The real miracle of Chile is not how well it has done economically; the real miracle of Chile is that a military junta was willing to go against its principles and support a free-market regime designed by principled believers in a free market....In Chile, the drive for political freedom that was generated by economic freedom and the resulting economic success ultimately resulted in a referendum that introduced political democracy."

It may have been more morally satisfying to have no relationship with Pinochet, merely condemn him from afar. But in choosing to let his economic advice rise above political revulsion, Friedman almost certainly helped Chile in the long term--though it's important to remember that the "Chicago boys" were more responsible than Friedman himself, and that they were not following his prescriptions relentlessly or in any way under his direct instruction.

Whether Angle was correct in attributing a libertarianish idea to Pinochet, I'm more interested in the way these stories are used to undermine free market ideas, by conflating them with dictatorship, when in fact free markets tend to undermine dictatorship.

Of course, many people on the left subscribe to the Orwellian idea that free markets are themselves dictatorial. I found a particularly stomach-turning example here, although in fairness to the author, he was at least kind enough to warn libertarians in bold letters that they should just leave:

Note that this is not intended as a formal argument with libertarians: as explained below, there are no shared premises for such an argument. If you are a libertarian, it is pointless for you to read this: go somewhere else.
I'm one of those foolish individuals who's a sucker for a dare, so of course I didn't go somewhere else. I read the whole thing, and it was almost as much fun as watching the Texas Chain Saw Massacre. He is certainly right about no shared premises, though, as he maintains steadfastly that free markets are coercive and collective, that liberarianism is a form of collectivism, and from a libertarian perspective, his argument boils down to saying that what we think of as freedom is actually a form of slavery. A few excerpts:
In practice, free-market decisions are always collective: supply of one product, by one maker, to one customer is not a free market. A free market in the libertarian sense needs at least three parties: with only one buyer and one seller there is no competition. In a free market with multiple parties and mutual competition, all parties influence the final state of affairs. No individual can decide that outcome alone. While claiming to reject autocracy, libertarianism has in fact abandoned autonomy.
In other words, when Friedman and his followers speak of the "freedom to choose" that is not freedom at all, but it means being at the mercy of other people. To believe that, you have to be a communitarian, and as I've pointed out many times, arguments between libertarians and communitarians are hopeless. Tar and water.

Freedom is seen not as personal autonomy or the absence of government restraints, but as an outside thing to be imposed -- by force if necessary:

Libertarians believe that to impose freedom is not an imposition. For them, anything which can legitimately be described as 'freedom', may legitimately be imposed. The Libertarian FAQ, for instance, says "America's free press is envied by freedom-starved people everywhere": implicitly, to allow any other press would be a denial of freedom. In this logic, imposition of a political ideology is a generous response to the suffering of others, who are 'starved' of it. The climate of global politics is increasingly interventionist anyway. If US libertarians become less isolationist, they might demand that the US Marines bring the 'gift of freedom' to Africa and Latin America.
I'm reminded of what Glenn Reynolds has said about the evil libertarian plan:
"Those dangerous libertarians -- they want to take over the government, and then leave you alone!"
But as communitarians know, to leave people alone is a form of oppression.
Libertarians say they are against coercion, but they support the free market. The introduction of a free market in Russia after 1989, lead to an excess mortality of about 3 million people. I call that force (and not defensive or retaliatory force): libertarians do not. Some US employers require their employees to smile at all customers, or lose their job. I call that coercion: libertarians call it freedom of contract. There is no point in further discussion of these issues: they are examples of irreconcilable value conflicts.
I'm glad the author issues the periodic reminders that the differences are irreconcilable, because it makes it easier (especially for hard line, big-l Libertarians) to go about their business without worrying. (Small-l constitutional libertarians like me can wallow in the misery we chose so freely by slogging through this communitarian shlock.)

Contrary to what many libertarians imagine to be true, in the free market, there is no moral autonomy:

moral autonomy:
Libertarians claim to value the moral autonomy of the individual. However, in the free market which they advocate, there is no connection between individual action and social outcome. A one-person boycott of meat will not stop the slaughter of animals. In reality, the individual is powerless in the face of the market - and without some decision-making power there is no real moral autonomy. The implicit position of most libertarians is that this must be accepted - that the outcome of the market is morally legitimate, even if it does not correspond to the conscience of the individual. Certainly, all libertarians distrust even limited interference with the market: many reject it entirely.
Yes, which is why I reject the war on drugs as a classic example of interference with the free market. Drugs which sell for a small fortune on the street are actually worth pennies, and if they were freely sold for what they were worth, market dynamics would cause users to either maintain their habits, die of overdoses, or get help in the same way that alcohol users either do or don't. Freedom to choose works that way. Some choices have disastrous consequences, as I freely admit. Freedom can not only be disgusting, it can also prove fatal.

Of course the free market can be tyrannical and there are numerous examples of its failures. But if we consider what the alternative has done to many millions of people, I'll take freedom any day.

We can buy gasoline or not. If the price goes up, I walk more and drive less. Still, I like the idea of being able to keep an eye on the prices and drive up to a pump and fill my tank whenever I want. But let us suppose that the government decided that because gasoline is a dangerous, polluting (and of course "addictive") substance, it should be regulated the same way we regulate addictive drugs. You want gasoline, you need a prescription from someone who is officially licensed to prescribe gasoline, and who carefully evaluates whether you have a real need for this toxin. The result would be a huge black market in illegal gasoline, with shady entrepreneurs springing up on street corners, selling adulterated and dangerous "gasoline" which would damage people's cars, start fires, and cause turf wars. Driving would become much more dangerous, crime would increase monumentally, and the government would have to send in SWAT Teams with specially marked fire engines to raid the dangerous and illegal "gas houses," which would doubtless be guarded by armed thugs with pit bulls who would also have to be shot. So to me, regulating gasoline as we do drugs would be a nightmare. But to those who want to save us from the free market and save the planet from our evil carbon appetites, it would be a utopia.

That's because it would save us from choice, and from the illusion of freedom. The reason it's an illusion is that because we are living collectively anyway, libertarianism is collectivism:

In a free market, the individual consumer does not have 'freedom to choose': the freedom can only be exercised collectively. However, those consumers whose choice coincides with the outcome of market forces, are rewarded. The others are not only the losers on the market, but then also face market pressure to adapt their choice. In general, average-taste choices benefit. Free markets are not simply collective, but do have a centring effect.

This quote from Eric Raymond (original now offline) sums up the libertarian attitude:

As for whether open-source is 'techno-libertarian' -- well, I invite you to note that there is no coercion in it anywhere. It's a pure example of voluntary cooperation in a free market. The fact that open-source development leads to mostly cooperative rather than mostly competitive behavior is consistent; market economies are the most marvelous cooperative engines ever.

That is why markets are wrong: they produce social and technological uniformity. They 'centre' society. However, for some libertarians, that is exactly what makes them right.

Actually, "open-source" refers primarily to Linux -- a free operating system which is an alternative to Windows and Mac. As regular readers know, I love Linux, and I have long seen it as precisely the antithesis of social and technological uniformity. I suppose that if it became the dominant operating system, the argument could be made that things had gotten too uniform. But where's there's an excess of uniformity, an alternative will spring up somewhere, and people will be free to choose it.

But they're actually not free, you see, because there is no freedom; only a delusion.

I only imagined that I had the freedom to write this post. I only say that I'm in favor of freedom; the reality is that I want dictatorial collectivism.

Oh, and I'm also a conservative who wants to prevent social change:

Thirdly, libertarians are conservatives. Many are openly conservative, others are evasive about the issue. But in the case of openly conservative libertarians, the intense commitment to conservatism forms the apparent core of their beliefs. I suggest this applies to most libertarians: they are not really interested in the free market or the non-coercion principle or limited government as such, but in their effects. Perhaps what libertarians really want is to prevent innovation, to reverse social change, or in some way to return to the past. Certainly conservative ideals are easy to find among libertarians. Charles Murray, for instance, writes in What it means to be a Libertarian (p. 138):

The triumph of an earlier America was that it has set all the right trends in motion, at a time when the world was first coming out of millennia of poverty into an era of plenty. The tragedy of contemporary America is that it abandonned that course. Libertarians want to return to it.

Yes, that is all too true. Many libertarians, myself included, would love to see a return to constitutionally limited government.

It's nice to know that someone thinks libertarians are conservative, though, because some conservatives feel very strongly that they are not. And there are a number of libertarians who question the extent of modern American conservatism's commitment to freedom.

But if we consider that there is no such thing as freedom anyway, and we are all working towards dictatorial collectivism, then what's the point of arguing over something that does not exist because it is its own opposite?

I'd say I didn't care, but I don't want to be accused of whistling past the graveyard of freedom.

MORE: Some great wisdom in Dave's latest post:

If there's one point libertarians could best serve society by promulgating and proselytizing, it's that virtually every reason that people's lives aren't a short, brutal experience of miserably cold, sick, and hungry competition for scarce resources is the result of a productivity improvement that resulted in either a new product or a cheaper, better version of an existing one -- and 99% of such attempts at inventing new or better products fail, which is why it's vitally important not to overly hinder the process if we want the improvement in the human condition to continue.

UPDATE: Many thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, and a warm welcome to all. I second what Glenn said about how to spot the fascists, because they're the ones calling for a smaller government. I should also point out as a public service reminder that you can also spot fascist libertarians by the deadly sneakers they wear.

We can't be too careful!

Comments welcome, agree or disagree.

AND MORE: Speaking of warnings, be sure not to miss the post Glenn linked along with mine. A Newsweek writer has helpfully warned that Tea Partyers are the slave-holders of today! (Their claim of being concerned with unsustainable deficits and federal spending is only a front.)

END NOTE: I guess this observation was inevitable:

hitler was a libertarian that forced the market onto germans thru coercion
May Godwin forgive me.

posted by Eric at 12:22 PM | Comments (30)

Letter To A Friend

As you know the abortion discussion has been going hot and heavy here in the last few days. I have written a fair number of posts on the subject lately. Abortion Prohibition is a good example of the discussion. And of course the subject spills over into my e-mail box. So I wrote a letter to a friend.


I am positive you and those of similar opinions (lots of them in my inbox) mean well. But you are a one level thinker.

"If the government with my party in power did xxx we would have a much better country."

You fail to take it to the second level. What could be done when a party not in power gets control and that party did not have the best interests of the country at heart. Like the current soon to be partly replaced regime. What could an evil party do with the precedent? We see that already with Raich. Wickard was on the way to being overturned (Lopez - gun free school zones case) and then Scalia let his social conservatism overcome his reason. And now Raich will be used to justify the Health Care Abomination. Be very careful what you wish for.

Why are engineers mostly libertarians? Because they take second and third order effects into account as a matter of course. "I designed this for a household environment. What happens when it is used in a leaky garage. Or a steamy bathroom?"

You are thinking optimum environment. A mistake made by rookie engineers. It takes seasoning to get an engineer think at all times about what could go wrong.

So yeah. Banning abortion sounds like a good thing. But humans are involved. American humans. A notoriously obstreperous species. They are famous for circumventing laws they don't like. One of the reasons Alcohol Prohibition failed.

Look up Ron Paul on abortion. He is as prolife as it gets. And yet he thinks that at least the Feds ought to stay out of it. And if the Feds stay out of it you can only affect it at the margins because people will travel. And groups (above ground or below ground) will come in to provide funds to the indigent.

Once you allow government into women's vaginas how could that precedent be used for mischief? I can think of lots of ways. Even on the State level. TSA cavity screening for instance. Or something that will come up when 200+ million are thinking of the subject. It only takes one - and then it goes viral.

Why not contact Rockford Pro Life and tell them the Simon family sent you. My mate and I are friends with some of the members. Find out their program. Repeat it where you live. And get a secular version going too for those who are not religiously affiliated. So much to be done while you waste your time fighting with me. Why do I fight back? I worry about unintended consequences.

And think of it. Do you really want women who don't want children reproducing? Darwin in action. In a generation or three and certainly ten we will have women with very strong reproductive urges. Micro evolution in action. Cold? Yes. But the problem is self solving over time if you avoid meddling. We see it already when it comes to lefties. Those are the folks (mostly) having abortions. They have no children to "teach". You want them reproducing? Why?

Never interfere with your enemy when he is making a mistake.

You are not my enemy. Thus my intervention.


Kathy Kinsley responded to the letter which I also posted in the comments of Abortion Prohibition.

Here is what she had to say:


"Never interfere with your enemy when he is making a mistake."


Thing is, even if they succeed in outlawing abortion, it's still going to go on. Except among the poor, who won't be able to afford them easily. (I speak as someone who was a teenager - middle class - BEFORE Roe v Wade - no, I never needed one, but I knew a number who did. And they all got one - and not back in alleys, either.) All that Roe v. Wade really did was make them more affordable for the poor. The rich got 'd&c for polyps' from their own doctors - they never had any problems at all with 'legal' abortions. The middle class found sympathetic (and quite sterile) doctors to do much the same.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

posted by Simon at 08:19 PM | Comments (7)

Sick of whatever I'm sick of, but how sick!

I'm in a quandary. Again! There's an issue I am tired of writing about that I feel obliged to write about. That alone wouldn't be such a big deal, except that the last time I admitted I was tired of an issue, some commenters were mightily annoyed. One opined that if I am tired of writing about an issue I should "shut up."

Now, I've been writing this blog for over seven years, and there are many issues that I am tired of writing about. The biggest problem I have is that I don't like repeating myself. The other day I had nothing new to say about two social issues of pressing concern today, and I really have no right to be tired of them, because they're said to constitute the "third leg" of the "conservative stool" and we can't ignore a third leg of a collective stool we're all required to sit on for the privilege of being "conservative," now can we? Actually, I went out of my way not to get into the specifics when I first heard Robert Knight yammer about the leg, because I was tired of it by then, and I am still tired of it.

And in the post that drew yesterday's criticism of my tiredness, I was trying to be circumspect, so I made an analogy to the much safer, much more settled social issue of divorce. I even analogized to eating pork, and I still like the pork analogy, because to this day, no one has been able to explain how my right to eat pork imposes my morality on those who don't eat it. Or how my demanding to be left alone and eat pork as I see fit imposes my morality on the people who want to prevent me from eating it. It strikes me as a question of basic logic that those who want to prevent me from eating pork for moral reasons are the ones imposing, and those who only want to be left alone are not. I wish someone would explain to me how my desire to eat pork is an imposition on anyone.

But see, much as I am tired of the third leg of the stool, that's not the tiredness issue that I'm struggling with today.

What I am sick and tired of writing about today is invasive government searches.

There. I just admitted what I am tired of writing about today. Yay! (Hey, as the saying goes, the first step in tackling a problem is admitting you have it, right? So I do hope that my compassionate readers will take pity on me one more time and allow me to say I am tired of something before I write about it again; hence the lengthy background....)

Fortunately, no one is championing invasive government searches as a conservative principle, much less a leg of the stool. Even the underlying issue of the war on drugs is not touted as a leg without which the stool collapses. I think it is all for the good that so many conservatives are annoyed by having machines inspect their private parts, with genital touching as the alternative, and legal threats for refusing.

But while that's good, it doesn't make me any less tired of writing about the issue, because I have complained about invasive government searches in so many posts -- whether recent or old -- that it really is a broken record. I am just another libertarian who wants to impose my values on everyone by objecting to having an officer break into my home, shoot my dog, strip my clothes off and stick his fat finger up my ass.


But once again, M. Simon has, God bless him, stepped up to the plate and relieved me when I ran out of steam. He points out quite eloquently in two posts that it is the Drug War that has softened Americans up for this latest transgression, and I think he is right.

He also links and embeds a truly appalling video I had sent him showing male cops strip searching and generally brutalizing a woman who had called police for help.

Not only was I shocked to the core to watch it, I was more shocked to hear from a friend who had the same thing happen to his wife, and who said he couldn't bear to watch it all.

I realize that all too often we ask the police to perform impossible tasks, then blame them when they go wrong, but when I see cops behaving this way, I always end up wanting to know just what happened. If a couple of cops screwed up, that's bad enough, but there are often disciplinary systems in place to hold them accountable. What especially horrifies me about this case is that what happened is being called standard police practice.

Sorry, but if it is standard police practice for officers to behave that way, then standard police practice has become unacceptable.

Society is increasingly giving the go-ahead to shocking invasions of privacy, whether testing people's bodily fluids at the drop of a hat, to the choice of backscatter strip searches or actual genital groping. People who speak up are being threatened with litigation.

There was a time when only convicts entering prison were treated this way. But over time the war on drugs crept into everything, so that nowadays anyone who is subjected to what they call a "custodial arrest" (which can arise from something as mundane as a traffic ticket) can be subjected to these degrading and humiliating procedures.

Considering that the average American now commits three felonies per day, I guess it's not surprising that our rulers think we should all be treated as convicts now.

Yes, I am tired of it. And yet I forced myself to crank out another post on the subject. May the angry conservative commenters forgive me.

Can we ever go back to being free?

But waxing about freedom will have to wait, because if we look carefully at the search issue, something is lurking which might just be related to that third leg of the conservative stool I hate to discuss.

I refer to the sex issue. There is no denying that most Americans -- including most conservatives -- are horrified by two big strong male cops manhandling a woman and tearing her clothes off under color of law and under constant threat of guns or tasers. That is because invasive searches are supposed to be conducted by members of (gulp!) the same sex. Little good that does to gay strip search victims. (If you think they enjoy being sexually brutalized any more than straight men would, I suggest you think again.) But the reason I bring this up is that in theory, when one is subjected to one of these invasive bodily searches, it is supposed to be less humiliating if the searcher is a member of your own sex. Traditionally, men are not supposed to search women, and women are not supposed to search men. Whether sexual preference is a relevant consideration here, I don't know, but I brought it up in spite of my tiredness of it.

I am not alone in spotting this issue; I heard about it on the radio the other day and some Freepers have been all over it.

They say they have members of the same sex do the "rub down". But what if that person is gay? Or what if the person receiving the rub down is gay?

Can a gay person request a member of the opposite sex to do the rub down?

Can a "victim" of the rub down request the sexual preference of the person doing the rub down?

And if you think it's OK to allow twisted gay authoritarian sickos who are into sexually harassing strangers to get their jollies at the taxpayers expense (even though their twisted straight authoritarian colleagues have to be unfairly deprived), then take a look at "My First Cavity Search" (a cartoon in which a child who wants to be left alone seeks to impose his morality on TSA officers):


How sick is that?

I don't know what the answer is to that one, and I am already sick of it. Perhaps only children should be allowed to conduct invasive searches of children. What a world.

At any rate, the, um, bottom, line would seem to be twofold.

We are all criminals, and we are all children.

I am not only sick of wanting my freedom back, I am sick of living in what I'll call a "national kindergarten" again.

And yes, still sick to death of writing about it.

OK, I'll shut up now.

posted by Eric at 10:52 AM | Comments (8)

This Is An Order

Is Obama planning to rule by executive order? Ulsterman thinks so. And he has some evidence.

John Podesta of the George Soros funded Center for American Progress is now urging President Obama to side step Congressional approval and simply utilize executive authority to move forward with sweeping reforms Podesta deems necessary for the good of the American people. These reforms include the following:

-Clean energy


-Health Care

-National Security

The suggested executive authority reforms are detailed in a just released document by the Center for American Progress titled, The Power of the President: Recommendations to Advance Progressive Change.

Well that is just for openers. They have a few more things up their sleeves. Like ending free speech.
Democrats keep OPENLY talking about doing all sorts of things that are so damn blatantly un-American.

Taking FOX News, a business, off the air?

How is that the purview of the government?

Here's my gut feeling: the next five to ten years are going to be ROUGH. The Left is pushing so hard now for a reason...and that is because this seems to be their last chance ever.

The welfare states of Europe have failed. We're broke. There is no money to keep paying entitlement programs and supporting the unions. The Democrat Party is on the verge of collapse. They know it. So they are going to push as much madness as possible while they still can.

We just need to resist them, hold them at bay, and then stake the Left's corpse when it falls.

It is going to be TOUGH and no fun, but we need to work hard together to take the Left down...for all of your kids.

Yeah. I'm in this fight all the way.

Here is Rockefeller suggesting that the FCC take FOX and MSNBC off the air.

And isn't it cute that he attacks the left and the right? Swell. And the reason for doing this? Cable costs too much. Right. I guess the only way to make free speech cheaper is to have less of it.

Funny thing is that the FCC is part of the executive branch. Hmmmmmmmmm. I think I see a pattern here.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 09:37 AM | Comments (4)

A Split

Around 1930 or so the Progressive movement split into left and right factions. And they HATE each other. And their end is the same: Power and Control. Pretty cool huh?

BTW Left and Right Progressives brought you alcohol prohibition. Billy Sunday ring a bell?

I found the reviews of this book interesting:

A Fierce Discontent: The Rise and Fall of the Progressive Movement in America, 1870-1920

One reviewer said that the object of the Progressives was:

To change other people; to end class conflict; to control big business; to segregate society
Interesting. So where are we today? Segregation is a totally discredited idea. Good. I'm rather proud to say that I was in on that one.

But we are still engaged in class conflict. That sucks. And big business has taken over government. Here is a prime example. In other words the oligarchs (often called crony capitalists these days) are in control. For now.

But what is the big thing on the right these days? An unquenchable desire to change other people. For some the desire for Power and Control never ends. In modern times it is not sold as a naked power grab. It is couched in "enforcing morality" terms. My friend Eric wrote a very good one on that subject. Does freedom to sin violate religious freedom? Of course that "enforcing morality" bit got us the Alcohol Prohibition Amendment back when left and right progressives were working together hand in glove. Well that one was a total disaster. The left has learned from its mistake. Those on the right are a little slower to catch on.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:16 AM | Comments (3)

You're not special, but WE are -- an open letter to President Obama

Dear President Obama,

I know there has been a lot of discussion on your remarks that American exceptionalism is the same as Greek exceptionalism or any other nation's "exceptionalism."

I don't mean to pile on and I hate to be rude, and I know I'm more than a day late to this and far more than a dollar short, but all the same what you said was bullshit.

Continue reading "You're not special, but WE are -- an open letter to President Obama"

posted by Sarah at 12:24 AM | Comments (13)

Abortion Prohibition Enforcement

Warning. The above video is quite disturbing. I couldn't watch it all. Let me add that the link to the video was sent to me by Eric my blog master at Classical Values.

Here is a question for all my "the government must do something about abortion" friends: How do you prevent abortion enforcement from looking like what you saw in that video? And don't forget the above enforcement action was based on a a mistake by the police. And in the end the woman involved was only charged with a misdemeanor.

Do you think the vagina police won't make mistakes about something as serious as abortion? You hate the thought of your wives and daughters being groped by the TSA. How are you going to feel about them being molested by the vagina police?

You want to trust your mate's or daughter's vagina to the government?

Are you insane?

OK. You only want to shut down abortion clinics. What will you do about menstrual extraction parties? The black market in RU-486? The use of birth control pills to induce abortion?

And all this for a crime that most of those who even think of it as a crime put in the category of misdemeanor manslaughter and the woman goes free. Is that worth making the government bigger? And you know if government gets a hold of the project it is guaranteed to fail. Why? Because jobs will depend on failure. And of course there will be corruption. How else can police be paid what they think they are really worth? Not all of them. Not even most of them. But enough. Always enough.

And what happens when failure breeds calls for weekly urine testing of women? After all we have the Drug War Precedent. And that is without probable cause. How much easier will it be to gin up probable cause for pregnancy? A flush of the cheeks. A swelling of the belly. A happy mood. Wide mood swings. Symptoms of nausea. And how about minders? More properly call snitches or confidential informants and better know in totalitarian countries as secret police adjuncts. Is that the kind of country you want?

Better to leave the whole question in private hands. Which is why I support Rockford Pro Life. A group that wants to keep government out of the abortion question. I met them at a TEA Party rally.

And then we have the Jewish position on abortion. Which is rather different from the Catholic position on abortion. Which religion is to prevail? And how about those with no religion? Do they get a say? Can they opt out? Or will this be another one size fits all government policy?

The Jewish Position On Abortion

The Jews And Partial Birth Abortion

What Is A Fetus Worth?

Do you really want to get your religious position enacted into law? Trying to start a religious war my friends?

And how will investigating every "life of the mother" abortion work out? Some one is going to have to look at every therapeutic abortion for evidence of a crime. And what if a doctor is mistaken? Will he be brought up on charges the way doctors who make honest mistakes in prescribing pain medications are today? And guess what. That is a Drug War Exception to the practice of medicine.

What about the Democrat plan to destroy the TEA Party movement over the abortion question? You can find out about that here:

Axelrod Has A Plan

and here:

Splitting The Coalition

I see no faster way to kill the TEA Parties and give the Democrats an opening to finish their Socialism for the USA project. And you know what? I'd help them.

No idle threat my friends. Because I have done it before:

Obama/Keyes vs Kerry/Bush

I have written extensively on the politics of abortion. Here are a few of my posts:

Vagina Police

Government Can't Fix It

Big Spending Cultural Conservatives

God Party vs TEA Party

Government Has No Interest In Fixing Problems

You Can't Win Without Us

Women Are Not Moral Actors

Can Government Change Culture?

Balance Of Power Politics

But We Are The Majority

The Penalty For Abortion Should Be....

Think long and hard my social conservative friends before you go down this road because if it works anything like Drug Prohibition or Alcohol Prohibition it will not turn out well. Not well at all.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 09:46 PM | Comments (21)

The Drug War Exception

There is a heck of a lot of complaining about the latest body groping rules implemented by the TSA. The thing is we gave up ownership of our bodies a long time ago when we let urine screening for employment pass without a murmur. All for the greater good to be sure. The Drug War exception to the 4th Amendment has just expanded a little. Why the outrage?

Well some people have been outraged for a while. And they have written books:

Smoke and Mirrors: The War on Drugs and the Politics of Failure

Drug Hate and the Corruption of American Justice

Civil Liberties Vs. National Security In A Post 9/11 World

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:25 PM | Comments (0)

Is Sarah Palin Good Or Is She Lucky?

Is Sarah Palin good or is she lucky? That is the question being asked by will45 at NewsFlavor.

How to tell if it is luck:

Once is happenstance.
Twice is coincidence.
Three times is enemy action.

Ten times? I think an attack by superior forces is in progress.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:16 PM | Comments (4)

posted by Simon at 12:40 PM | Comments (0)

What are those awful bigoted Arizonans smoking?

As Arizona has been much demonized lately, and is being subjected to a boycott, news that doesn't fit the "bigoted state" narrative is being under-reported. So there wasn't much national attention paid to the fact that on November 2, Arizona's "bigoted" voters approved Proposition 203, which made Arizona the 15th state to approve a medical marijuana law.

State laws legalizing medical marijuana make a lot of people uncomfortable --
for reasons beyond the merits of marijuana as a medical treatment. The passage of these laws are a direct challenge to the federal government's assertion of authority under the Commerce Clause, and while liberals may favor weakening or getting rid of marijuana laws, they abhor states rights much more.

Federalism is a volatile issue, and I think its assertion in the drug war context threatens both the entrenched political right and the entrenched political left in so many ways that state marijuana initiatives are seen as politically disruptive. The left loves to invoke the specter of "states' rights" as an outmoded racist and bigoted legalism which we have "moved beyond." And while many conservatives favor states rights, they are not comfortable with it in the context of the war on drugs, which is unfortunately seen as a conservative issue. Plus, many "culture war" conservatives simply hate pot on a visceral level. Both sides would be delighted if issues like these medical marijuana ballot propositions just went away.

The Supreme Court's seeming disposal of the medical marijuana issue on Commerce Clause grounds in Gonzales v. Raich only exacerbated this tension, and it is not clear at all that a similar case brought today would go the same way. Many commentators (including M. Simon) have noted that if the Commerce Clause allows federal jurisdiction over home-grown medical marijuana, then the federal ability to regulate health care is a no-brainer.

From Justice Thomas's stinging dissent:

Respondents Diane Monson and Angel Raich use marijuana that has never been bought or sold, that has never crossed state lines, and that has had no demonstrable effect on the national market for marijuana. If Congress can regulate this under the Commerce Clause, then it can regulate virtually anything-and the Federal Government is no longer one of limited and enumerated powers.

And this is from Justice O'Connor's dissent:

The Court's definition of economic activity is breathtaking. It defines as economic any activity involving the production, distribution, and consumption of commodities. And it appears to reason that when an interstate market for a commodity exists, regulating the intrastate manufacture or possession of that commodity is constitutional either because that intrastate activity is itself economic, or because regulating it is a rational part of regulating its market.
Sound familiar? If personal use of home-grown marijuana for health reasons is an economic activity subject to regulation under the Commerce Clause, then the purchase of health care would certainly be. And if a state cannot opt out of one federal law, it cannot opt out of another.

Interestingly, right now the Obama administration is ducking the medical marijuana issue by deliberately failing to enforce federal marijuana laws in the states which pass these initiatives.

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration will not seek to arrest medical marijuana users and suppliers as long as they conform to state laws, under new policy guidelines to be sent to federal prosecutors Monday.

Two Justice Department officials described the new policy to The Associated Press, saying prosecutors will be told it is not a good use of their time to arrest people who use or provide medical marijuana in strict compliance with state laws.

The new policy is a significant departure from the Bush administration, which insisted it would continue to enforce federal anti-pot laws regardless of state codes.

Does this mean that the Obama administration would support a reversal of the Raich case?

Not on your life. They hate states' rights, and love having the Commerce Clause trump everything. I'm sure they're delighted to have the Raich precedent left in place exactly as it is. In that respect, bringing another federal prosecution similar to Raich could possibly trigger a new appeal, and quite possibly a different result, so the seemingly liberal policy of not enforcing the federal marijuana laws actually helps preserve the heavy handed statist result in Raich.

It ought to come in handy in the future.

posted by Eric at 11:59 AM | Comments (2)

Remedial Political Science

The libertarians are the difference between winning and losing national elections. The news covers this up by calling them independents.

But where do the independents stand? Less government.

Government out of the wallet and out of the bedroom.

To keep a coalition together you have to allow the tail to wag the dog. Without the tail you lose (nationally).

That is not even Political Science 101. It is remedial Political Science.

Inspired by a discussion at Red State. Which I was directed to by an E. E. Coe comment at God Party vs Tea Party.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 09:47 PM | Comments (4)

Who has the fear advantage?

One of the reasons I envy religious conservatives is that they don't have to live in a constant state of fear the way the rest of us turkeys do. Now, I know I can't speak for all of them, but for many religious people there is only one fear that matters, and that is the fear of God. Sure, they have other fears, but they fear God more. It's the fear that trumps all other fears.

This may touch on why religious people are more likely to involve themselves in contentious political debates, and why they are less likely to try to avoid contentious social issues (which they often see as religious issues).

Libertarians are just as opinionated about social issues as religious conservatives, but as the saying goes, just try getting a libertarian to show up. I have long thought the explanation was that they simply want to be left alone, and they practice what they preach by leaving other people alone. That this can also rationalize laziness is perhaps no accident.

Or is laziness the right word to describe this libertarian reluctance?

Not long ago, Glenn Reynolds linked an observation (by best-selling author Seth Godin) that might be helpful in understanding libertarian reluctance:

I think laziness has changed.

It used to be about avoiding physical labor. The lazy person could nap or have a cup of tea while others got hot and sweaty and exhausted. Part of the reason society frowns on the lazy is that this behavior means more work for the rest of us.

When it came time to carry the canoe over the portage, I was always hard to find. The effort and the pain gave me two good reasons to be lazy.

But the new laziness has nothing to do with physical labor and everything to do with fear. If you're not going to make those sales calls or invent that innovation or push that insight, you're not avoiding it because you need physical rest. You're hiding out because you're afraid of expending emotional labor.

This is great news, because it's much easier to become brave about extending yourself than it is to become strong enough to haul an eighty pound canoe.

Are libertarians afraid to expend emotional labor? Think about it. Many libertarians became converts to the cause because they came to loathe the left. But I don't think it is as simple as philosophically opposing socialism, or being fed up with nanny statism. Many libertarians found themselves uncomfortable with the left because leftists tend to be personally confrontive, will hurl insults at the drop of a hat, enjoy calling people racists and attacking white people as being guilty of "white privilege" and much, much more. So I think a lot of libertarians at the core suffer from a form of political "LET ME OUT OF HERE!" thinking. They not only rejected the left, they fled from the left, and I think many of them might have come to the default position that fleeing from confrontational situations is simply the way to deal with politics. While that may be personally the best thing to do (especially if the goal is to avoid stress), in politics it is about as effective as failing to show up in court.

It is the best way to lose.

Especially if you are dealing with adversaries who are guaranteed to show up every time, and who have the additional advantage of fearing God.

Not fearing God really sucks, because it means you're just stuck with the rest of your fears, especially the fear of confrontive interactions with other people. And when the God fearing people think that God actually wants them to confront people, they have even more leverage. Because the normal human fear of other people that they might have is subordinated to the greater fear of God.

This is not a judgment for or against religion or religious conservatives, just my attempt to explain why they have such an advantage in politics, and why libertarians would do well to remember that not having the fear of God is not an advantage.

It is a disadvantage, to be overcome. I say this as a doubly disadvantaged libertarian who believes in God yet who does not fear God. Which means that if I were honest with everyone about my inner thoughts, I would have to live in constant fear of confrontations with both religious conservatives and atheists.

It would be so much easier to simply have a "side."

I'd probably feel more courageous.

posted by Eric at 12:35 PM | Comments (14)

Does freedom to sin violate religious freedom?

I get very tired of discussing the, um, "social issues." Fortunately for me, M. Simon always seems to have plenty of stamina at about the same time I run out of steam.

Anyway, right now there is a very determined effort in some quarters to make the social issues Tea Party issues. This is problematic, because the Tea Party movement is a coalition, so individual Tea Partyers have a wide variety of positions on social issues. Notwithstanding those differences, the Tea Party movement as a whole agrees on the following principles:

Fiscal Responsibility, Constitutionally Limited Government, and Free Markets.

The Constitution is silent on most of what what could be considered the social issues, just as it is silent on things like murder, rape, incest, marriage, drugs, speeding, and the dumping of sewage. These and other things are properly left to the states. A notable exception is slavery, which is expressly forbidden by the Thirteenth Amendment. Many people forget that it took more than just the Civil War to end slavery; the Constitution also had to be amended. And in the old days, it was considered a no-brainer that the federal government lacked the power to prohibit alcohol; hence the 18th Amendment. (Which I am fond of calling the "Telltale Amendment.")

The pressing social issues of today of course touch on the First Amendment, and not just because there is a right to debate them and take any position on them. They are also debated on religious grounds, with many opponents of abortion saying that allowing it violates their freedom of conscience, and many opponents of gay rights say that allowing gay rights negates religious freedom too. I think most readers know that I defend the right to oppose abortion and/or gay rights, on both free speech and freedom of religion grounds.

But as I get tired of the debates over abortion and gay rights, I thought I would look at another social issue which is also a religious issue.


It is forbidden to Catholics, and that makes a lot of sense if you consider that Jesus himself condemned divorce repeatedly and very specifically, saying that remarriage after divorce was a form of adultery. Which means that divorce would certainly fall within the rubric of social issues which are religious in nature.

So it would seem to me that divorce is every bit as much of a matter of religious conscience as homosexuality or abortion. (And if we consider that Jesus did not specifically condemn homosexuality or abortion, divorce arguably deserves a higher ranking on the religious conscience scale.)

I can't remember the last time I heard anyone claim that being forced to hire or rent housing to divorced people or provide their spouses with benefits violated his religious conscience, that he had a religious right not to have his children taught by a divorcee, etc.

In fact, I don't think I have ever have heard that argument at all.

Perhaps that means times have changed, or perhaps that there has been a sort of consensus that the words of Jesus should not be taken so literally that they must become the basis of law.

But let's assume you oppose divorce on religious grounds, you run a business, and you have a child who attends public school. Under what theory can it be argued that having to hire or serve divorced people (who are, by your and Jesus's estimation, living in sin) violates your religious conscience? Or that forcing your child to attend classes taught by a divorced teacher who even goes so far as to claim that divorced people have the same rights as non-divorced people and should not be discriminated against violates your religious conscience?

Don't you still have the right to believe divorce is sinful and was condemned by Jesus? Don't you still have the right to teach your kids that? How does the fact that you are forced to serve, hire, and tolerate people who do what you oppose violate your religious conscience?

Whose sins are they, anyway? As usual I am not getting it.

If I eat pork, it's not as if I am making anyone else eat it, even if I eat it in the public square and proclaim that everyone should eat it. And if I teach children that pork is just another meat like beef, whose freedom and whose consciences am I violating?

UPDATE: Many thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, and for adding some parable-like wisdom. Is it possible to have a coalition between the fists and the noses? Can we agree that it is not a good idea to hit people on the nose, and also not a good idea to put your nose in front of people? That's basic civility, right?

OTOH, If I promise not to put my nose if your face, and also promise not to hit your nose even if you put it in my face, am I giving up too much? And what about those at the opposite extreme, who believe in putting their nose in front of others and also hitting them on the nose?

(As I explained here, I have never liked the idea of getting in people's faces, or having them get in mine, but isn't it cowardice to avoid potential confrontations? Isn't this why so many people stay home?)

A warm welcome to all. Comments are always appreciated, agree or disagree.

posted by Eric at 11:12 AM | Comments (73)

Till death panels us do part!

Saying "I guess Palin wasn't wrong after all," a friend emailed me a video link about Paul Krugman and death panels,

Watch it and weep.

And if you're having the same "deja vu all over again" feeling that I'm having, that's only because there is nothing new about Paul Krugman channeling Sarah Palin.

As I pointed out in April in a post titled "A Palin lie becomes a Krugman truth," Krugman was channeling Palin even back then, and now he's just repeating himself.

This makes me wonder who was channeling whom when, because Sarah Palin's death panels remark was simply an attempt to criticize the approach Krugman and his ilk freely admit to having. Yet her opponents ridiculed her for imagining the death panels, which were said to be a figment of her imagination.

By now, I think it's obvious that Paul Krugman does not want the death panels to be a figment of Sarah Palin's imagination; he wants them to be an operative part of Obamacare. Hence he is speaking up. Again.

Other than repeat myself, I don't know what to say.

At the very least, common sense suggests to me that when Paul Krugman and Sarah Palin agree on the existence of something, it's very likely that there is a there there.

posted by Eric at 11:48 PM | Comments (2)

Publish 7

Once again, ignore

posted by Eric at 11:48 PM | Comments (0)

Publish Again 6


posted by Eric at 11:43 PM | Comments (0)

Publish Again


posted by Eric at 11:38 PM | Comments (0)

Publish again 5


posted by Eric at 11:22 PM | Comments (0)

test normal


posted by Eric at 11:19 PM | Comments (0)

God Party vs Tea Party

The TEA Parties have fired a shot across the bow of the old guard of the Republican Party. You will know the old guard better by their philosophy. Simply put: "if you are right on abortion hardly anything else matters." Not fiscal conservatism. Not small government. And especially not winning national elections.

Representatives of the loosely organized tea party movement urged GOP leaders in a letter released Monday to abandon their fronts in the culture wars - issues such as gay marriage, school prayer, and abortion - and instead focus their new electoral power on individual liberties and "economic freedoms."

The letter, signed by 16 tea party groups and a conservative gay organization, points to an emerging rift between the tea party movement and the GOP, which still counts social conservatives seeking "moral government" as a key constituency.

The signatories, ranging from conservative commentator Tammy Bruce to local tea party group leaders, say the key lesson the GOP should draw from the election is that Americans are concerned chiefly about taxes and the size of government, not their neighbors' lifestyle choices or personal decisions.

But the push to quit the culture wars is already meeting resistance from mainstream Republicans, who worry about a rebellion from social conservatives if the party refrains from taking stands on moral issues

The Republican Party as constituted is an unnatural coalition. The interests of the two main factions are not congruent. You have what is essentially a "leave us alone coalition" at odds with the "if we don't have government guns to enforce our moral vision what is the point?" types. Of course it is a rather weak moral vision that requires guns to keep people in line. A contradiction my "moral government" friends don't get. And on top of that government by its nature must engage in immoral acts as a practical matter. Murder, theft, spying, torture, slavery, coercion, etc. Of course we want to keep that sort of thing to a minimum. But until the arrival of the moshiach we are stuck with it.

Government is not reason; it is not eloquence; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.

And even when it gets some eloquence it wears thin after a while. Torture elevated by eloquence is still torture.

Now about that TEA Party letter [pdf]. (bolding mine)

Dear Senator McConnell and Representative Boehner

On behalf of limited government conservatives everywhere we write to urge you and your colleagues in Washington to put forward a legislative agenda in the next Congress that reflects the principles of the Tea Party movement.

Poll after poll confirms that the Tea Party's laser focus on issues of economic freedom and limited government resonated with the American people on Election Day.

The Tea Party movement galvanized around a desire to return to constitutional government and against excessive spending, taxation and government intrusion into the lives of the American people.

The Tea Party movement is a non-partisan movement, focused on issues of economic freedom and limited government, and a movement that will be as vigilant with a Republican-controlled Congress as we were with a Democratic-controlled Congress.

This election was not a mandate for the Republican Party, nor was it a mandate to act on any social issue, nor should it be interpreted as a political blank check.

Already, there are Washington insiders and special interest groups that hope to co-opt the Tea Party's message and use it to push their own agenda - particularly as it relates to social issues. We are disappointed but not surprised by this development. We recognize the importance of values but believe strongly that those values should be taught by families and our houses of worship and not legislated from Washington, D.C.

We urge you to stay focused on the issues that got you and your colleagues elected and to resist the urge to run down any social issue rabbit holes in order to appease the special interests.

The Tea Party movement is not going away and we intend to continue to hold Washington accountable.

Now about the Drug War. I think it is too soon for that issue. But we will get to it. It seems rather stupid to have the Feds spend $25 billion a year to make illegal drugs easier for kids to get than legal beer.

Here is the heart of the matter.

"When they were out in the Boston Harbor, they weren't arguing about who was gay or who was having an abortion," said Ralph King, a letter signatory who is a Tea Party Patriots national leadership council member, as well as an Ohio co-coordinator.

King said he signed onto the letter because GOProud seemed to be genuine in pushing for fiscal conservatism and limited government.

"Am I going to be the best man at a same sex-marriage wedding? That's not something I necessarily believe in," said King. "I look at myself as pretty socially conservative. But that's not what we push through the Tea Party Patriots."

That indifference is essentially the point of the gay conservative group.

"For almost two years now, the tea party has been laser-focused on the size of government," said Barron, who said his group and the tea partiers are part of the "leave-me-alone coalition."

Yeah. Leave us the fuck alone. And we are as serious as death about it.

H/T Instapundit and Instapundit and a phone call today from a friend.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:04 PM | Comments (15)

Janet Napolitano plays chicken, but who rules the roost?

Over at the official TSA Blog, I found a great question:

Why did Janet Napolitano decline to go through the backscatter machine?
That's just too good to ignore.

I'm hoping maybe readers can offer answers to the riddle.

Then there's this:

I've worked as an electron microscopy tech and while there was extremely little risk of radiation, I still had to wear a monitoring badge just in case. Why aren't the TSA agents? We also had to have out equipment inspected and calibrated regularly, with the inspection info clearly visible. Again, if this were the case with TSA, I might feel a little better. However, until third-party unbiased tests come out, I'll be opting out and reporting TSA agents doing pat-downs for sexual assault and battery - what you claim is protocol and what go on are two very different things.
While it's tempting to compare that to the "WE DON'T NEED NO STINKING BADGES!" line, I notice that the pilot's union is recommending that pilots opt out of the backscatter machines because of health concerns. That's certainly understandable, but if you think about this logically, wouldn't the operators of the damned machines face the greatest risk of all? I mean, like them or not, they're the ones whose job it is to stand around all day using them, and they do have a union, don't they? Surely their union reps are smart enough to figure out that there might just be an issue here. (At least, I hope they are. It just seemed to me that even if they are the TSA, they are nonetheless human beings, and someone, somewhere in the vast bureaucratic anarchy that rules us ought to be standing up for their rights too.)

And as to the pilots, I'm surprised that they're even faced with a decision to opt out or not. Think about it. The pilots are the ones we are trusting to fly the very planes that are at risk of being blown up, right? If I thought there was anyone left in the government with half a brain, I would suggest that if we are in fact worried about pilots having bombs in their underwear, maybe we ought to stop for a moment and put ourselves in the position of being a hypothetical suicidal pilot. What the hell would he need a bomb in his underwear for?

He's at the controls of the frigging plane!

But I'm remarking the obvious, and I guess nothing is obvious to anyone in government.

Years ago, I was told (by a condescending man with a Harvard MBA) that the purpose of government is to take money from one group of people and give it to another. I was outraged at the time (I was still in that idealistic libertarian phase that new converts go through), and I sputtered lamely about "the Constitution" and the intent of the founders. But over the years I learned that while the man might have been wrong in the context of the original purpose of our government, in practice he was right.

However, after watching so many years of bureaucratized government invasion into our personal lives -- whether the federalization of health care, compilation of invasive medical databases, testing of our bodily fluids without our consent (and taking away a child whose mother ate a poppy seed bagel), the endless regulations emanating from our "safety Nazis," crackdowns on children's books, lightbulb laws, toilet laws, insane restrictions on food, endless unnecessary road "repair" work at the behest of environmentalists, expensive public transportation boondoggles, mandatory spaying and neutering of pets coupled with bans on certain breeds of dogs, the criminalization of wood, a legal system which turns every ordinary citizen into an unapprehended felon, the "catchall" idea of treating our emissions as poisons and regulating our carbon footprints, and the seemingly infinite number of major and petty tyrannies which constitute the nanny state -- I think back to that man's definition of government as taking money from one group of people and giving it to another, and I grow almost nostalgic.

How nice it would be if the government were limited to merely taking money from one group and giving it to another!

Today it seems as if the primary purpose of government has become this:

To harass, annoy, thwart, and inconvenience as many people as possible, by any means necessary, while being completely and utterly unaccountable to those in the inconvenienced classes.*

Mere redistribution of income would be kind by comparison.

* I'm sick of being a member of the inconvenienced classes. Is there any way to opt out?

MORE: If, like me and many others, you don't like what's going on, November 24 is National Opt Out Day.

Via Glenn Reynolds, who has more, and also links a post about the strange preferences of the TSA.

(Asking whether this is still the United States has become a rhetorical question.)

posted by Eric at 09:38 AM | Comments (4)

Official TSA Groping Instructions T-Shirt

Here is a link to the Official TSA Groping Instructions T-Shirt. Never fly without it.

And wouldn't you know it. Amazon has an instructional video: Groping America

H/T Gates Of Vienna

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 05:54 AM | Comments (0)

A Fly In The Ointment

Read more at We Won't Fly.

Here are some scary thoughts for those who OPT OUT.

How to Opt Out: Say "I Opt Out"

Should you decide to opt out, you must be aware that the TSA will perform a pat down instead of subjecting you to the WBI/AIT (AKA porno-scanner). The TSA may try to pressure you into submitting to the scanners . You are not required by law to submit to imaging, however, many TSA employees may attempt to intimidate, coerce or insist that it is required. You will need to be firm, and sometimes will not be allowed to opt out unless you state in exactly these words "I opt out." While you should be able to opt out using your own terms, such as requesting a pat down instead, or stating that you will not be photographed nude, remember that not all screeners will be respectful of your decision. They may continue to insist until you say "I opt out." In these cases it is up to the individual traveler to determine whether to stand firm or to use the TSA's preferred wording.

WARNING: Enhanced Pat Down

Be aware that the TSA is using what they call an "enhanced pat down" in many instances. These pat downs are much more rigorous and often include the TSA using their palms to touch your genitals in a manner that could feel like sexual assault. If you feel that you or your child were inappropriately touched during the enhanced pat down, call for a law enforcement officer.

Fortunately Big Brother only has your best interests at heart. Especially if you are a good looking lady with a C cup or better.

And frequent fliers: watch out for cumulative radiation doses [pdf].

What could possibly go wrong?

This is what could go wrong.

Eric has a few words about these outrages.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:32 PM | Comments (5)

The Drug War Comes To Obama Care

David Rittgers at National Review takes a look at how a Supreme Court decision on the Drug War is being used to justify the individual mandate in the recently passed Health Care Bill. Here are Dave's opening remarks:

If the generation of "limited government" lawmakers freshly chosen to man the trenches in Washington wishes to be taken seriously, the butcher's bill must include some of the social conservatives' sacred cows.

Starting with the War on Drugs.

And that brings us to the Central Point. How do conservatives justify the Drug War without a Constitutional Amendment like the one needed for alcohol prohibition?

Well Commerce Clause Jurisprudence starting with Wickard vs. Filburn does the trick. David begins his explanation:

Many conservatives have long argued that the federal government is broadly empowered to prosecute the drug war under Congress's authority over interstate commerce. In the name of the drug war, they have been willing to allow federal law-enforcement officers to prosecute seriously ill patients who use medical marijuana in compliance with their states' laws.

Many of those same conservatives are now finding that the terrible, swift sword of expansive federal power that they endorsed in the name of drug prohibition has now been turned on them in the form of Obamacare's individual mandate.

The Justice Department is defending Obamacare by asserting that a 2005 Supreme Court case, Gonzales v. Raich, permits such a broad reading of the Commerce Clause that the federal government can tell individual citizens that they have to buy health insurance.

Ah yes. The Raich decision.

Let me give you the short version. Angel Raich and Diane Monson were growing medical marijuana to ease Angel Raich's pain from an inoperable brain tumor and several other conditions caused by that tumor. Justice Thomas wrote a brilliant dissent in that case. Let me quote a part of it.

Respondents Diane Monson and Angel Raich use marijuana that has never been bought or sold, that has never crossed state lines, and that has had no demonstrable effect on the national market for marijuana. If Congress can regulate this under the Commerce Clause, then it can regulate virtually anything-and the Federal Government is no longer one of limited and enumerated powers.
And there you have it. Conservatives cheered when Raich lost her case.

And here is David's final comment on Obamacare/Raich:

The jump from Raich to Obamacare is a short one, at least in the government's eyes. The dissenters in Raich predicted the expansion of Commerce Clause authority. Justice Thomas warned that if the federal government could override a state's licensing of medical marijuana, "then it can regulate virtually anything -- and the Federal Government is no longer one of limited and enumerated powers." Justice O'Connor noted the "perverse incentive to legislate broadly pursuant to the Commerce Clause" -- the more broadly Congress writes a law, the more likely Raich's logic is to uphold it. O'Connor discussed how the Court's logic would allow the government to regulate (and ban) non-commercial activities that would detract from regulated markets, such as home-care substitutes for daycare. This would be funny, if a federal judge had not just ruled that being alive and breathing means you must buy health insurance or face the consequences.

A principled stand on the limits of federal power does not begin and end with health care. The Commerce Clause is a double-edged sword: Conservatives cannot wield it in the drug war without making it a useful tool for advancing progressive visions of federal power

No money changed hands in Raich and that affected Interstate Commerce. The same argument will be used to justify Obama Care. If you don't buy insurance you will be affecting Interstate Commerce. I don't see how you get around that.

Which means that we can not depend on the courts to save us. Now it is up to the legislature. But that means the end of the Republic. Because we are now subject to what ever laws the current or next Congress passes. We are now unprotected from the naked power of the State and the vote of the legislature. The era of limited government is over. Finito. It was nice while it lasted.

And all because Social Conservatives like Scalia hate drugs. Way to go guys. And for those of you who are of a social conservative bent may I remind you that wrath is a deadly sin. Is it ever.

Here is a book that covers Wickard and some other cases:

The Dirty Dozen: How Twelve Supreme Court Cases Radically Expanded Government and Eroded Freedom

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:21 PM | Comments (5)

Fear of flying?

I've been flying since I was a small child, and until now I have never been afraid to fly.

Of course, it's not the actual flying that I fear so much as an insane, out-of-control government which is now treating American citizens to humiliating and invasive searches as a condition of boarding a plane. This appalling personal account illustrates what these bureaucratic fiends have in store for you if you don't cooperate:

I began to make my way to the stairs to exit the airport, when I was approached by another man in slacks and a sport coat. He was accompanied by the officer that had escorted me to the ticketing area and Mr. Silva. He informed me that I could not leave the airport. He said that once I start the screening in the secure area, I could not leave until it was completed. Having left the area, he stated, I would be subject to a civil suit and a $10,000 fine. I asked him if he was also going to fine the 6 TSA agents and the local police officer who escorted me from the secure area. After all, I did exactly what I was told. He said that they didn't know the rules, and that he would deal with them later. They would not be subject to civil penalties. I then pointed to Mr. Silva and asked if he would be subject to any penalties. He is the agents' supervisor, and he directed them to escort me out. The man informed me that Mr. Silva was new and he would not be subject to penalties, either. He again asserted the necessity that I return to the screening area. When I asked why, he explained that I may have an incendiary device and whether or not that was true needed to be determined. I told him that I would submit to a walk through the metal detector, but that was it; I would not be groped. He told me that their procedures are on their website, and therefore, I was fully informed before I entered the airport; I had implicitly agreed to whatever screening they deemed appropriate. I told him that San Diego was not listed on the TSA's website as an airport using Advanced Imaging Technology, and I believed that I would only be subject to the metal detector. He replied that he was not a webmaster, and I asked then why he was referring me to the TSA's website if he didn't know anything about it. I again refused to re-enter the screening area.
That's just one paragraph in a Kafkaesque narrative, which unfolded when the passenger balked at having his genitals touched:
he turned to me and began to explain that he was going to do a "standard" pat down. (I thought to myself, "great, not one of those gropings like I've been reading about".) After he described, the pat down, I realized that he intended to touch my groin. After he finished his description but before he started the pat down, I looked him straight in the eye and said, "if you touch my junk, I'll have you arrested." He, a bit taken aback, informed me that he would have to involve his supervisor because of my comment.
While I'm glad a few people are willing to stand up to this tyranny, most people don't have the stomach or the time for it. For them, the easiest and most sensible thing is just stop flying. Of course, that will probably mean a record number of people on the road over the holidays.

It's a shame to see a once proud and free people being reduced to abject peonage simply because of a few nutcase terrorists who are willing to blow themselves up. I find it supremely ironic that when the terrorists have had their attempts at carnage aborted in mid-flight, it has usually been done by the very passengers that our lame excuse for a government so distrusts.

I don't know what more to say other than repeat myself:

If we're going to talk about giving up some rights for the safety of everybody, doesn't it seem logical that the fewer people who have to give up rights, the better?

Instead, there seems to be growing tacit acceptance of an absurd proposition -- that it is better to let people who want to blow themselves up fly and look up everyone's butthole than look up the buttholes only of people who want to blow themselves up.


What am I missing here?

Is the goal to move toward a world where people who believe in religious suicide have a right to fly, and to better facilitate this we will all bend over to accommodate them?

That was a rhetorical question, to which the government has given a non-rhetorical answer.

The only thing we can do is boycott the bastards.

Perhaps the new Congress will have the balls to stop funding the petty tyrants who insist on fondling ours under color of law.

MORE: Don't miss M. Simon's earlier post on the subject of TSA screening. A young woman (described as "smoking hot") was singled out for backscatter screening (which she refused) and then when she refused to allow the screeners to squeeze her breasts she was placed in handcuffs, her ticket was ripped up.

This is happening in the United States of America.

posted by Eric at 12:19 PM | Comments (11)

not not thinking about what is not not happening -- not!

"The ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive achievement that comes at an emotional cost."

I don't know how to wrap my mind around that one.

I hope it doesn't mean that the ability to not think about what is not happening is a cognitive achievement that comes at no emotional cost.

The thing is, because of the nature of thought, I always think about things that are not happening. Yet still, at any time of the day or night, I also find myself not thinking about what is not happening. Because I am writing this post, not thinking about what is not happening is something that is definitely not happening right now, and thank God for that, or I would be in a hall of mirrors.

Perhaps I should try not to think about it.


Have you ever consciously tried not thinking about not thinking about what is not happening?

As the slogan goes, freedom is not without cost.

Especially the freedom to think about what is not happening.

posted by Eric at 12:26 AM | Comments (0)

Overthrow Competition

Some folks are complaining about the Soros Plan to overthrow the US Government.

The country has already been overthrown:

"The Latin American drug cartels have stretched their tentacles much deeper into our lives than most people believe. It's possible they are calling the shots at all levels of government." - William Colby, former CIA Director, 1995
Soros is just in competition with the current owners.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:10 PM | Comments (9)

Can You Believe What He Is Doing Today?

According to this report by a supposed Washington insider, speaker Pelosi (soon to be former speaker) is sharpening her sword and is working to take Obama down.

Once again, CLOSELY watch for Pelosi news. Speaker preparing for departure from Congress, but going to burn bridges as she does so - namely all those leading to the White House. Speculation she will assist in clearing way for Congressional investigations against Obama White House in coming year. In effect, Pelosi willing to help take Obama down. Quote from within her office that came back to me as follows, "How that -expletive- idiot ever got elected is beyond me. Well let's see how he does without me around to carry his -expletive- water." Pelosi very unhappy receiving directive from WH to not attempt any significant legislation during lame duck session. "Leave a mess for the Republicans." Pelosi furious over directive as it will further diminish her legacy. I don't think the lady likes being told what to do...

Also confirmed by two other sources Clinton people have been communicating regularly with Pelosi. Something very big is up w/that.

Of course this is an anonymous source. So how much credibility you give it is up to you.

Other anonymous sources tell me that the hit on Obama will come through the Chicago Broadway Bank and Alexi Giannoulias who may be running for Chicago Mayor will be involved.

There are other hints on the breadth of the scandal.

Broadway Bank made real estate development loans to Tony Rezko, a political fundraiser and real estate developer who was later convicted of fraud and money laundering. Broadway Bank made these loans before Rezko was investigated, indicted, or convicted for any crimes.[49] Before his conviction, Rezko also received loans from other Chicago banks, including Bank of Chicago, First Bank and Trust of Illinois, GE Capital, Harris Trust and Savings, LaSalle Bank, and Manufacturers Bank.[49]

Giannoulias himself did not make the Rezko loans.[50]

Rezko defaulted on loans made by Broadway, and, in 2006 Broadway was the first bank to foreclose on one of Rezko's delinquent loans, forcing him to declare bankruptcy.[51] Broadway Bank also refused to cover nine bad checks written by Rezko for a total of $450,000 in early 2008[52]

Giannoulias never accepted campaign contributions from Rezko.[41]

Broadway Bank also loaned money for real estate developments to Michael Giorango, who has been convicted for prostitution and bookmaking.[10] Giannoulias has stated that he was not part of the loan committee that approved the loans to Giorango.[53]

You will remember that the house that the Obamas bought was adjacent to some property Rezko owned. In fact the property used to be part of the lot Obama's house sat on before Rezko bought it.

Lots of speculation. Little real news - so far.

Me? I'm going to Google Chicago Broadway Bank when ever I wake up from sleep or a nap until the story breaks or I get tired of doing that.

Backyard Conservative has another Morning Joe video and a list of some of the Chicago Broadway Bank loans to criminals.

I'd say we have smoke. I can't wait for the fire.

Note: click on the Rezko tag on the sidebar at Power and Control if you want more details about what is known. Let me add that a lot of this was known before Obama got elected. And few of the major media outlets have been interested in following this up. I wonder why?

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:10 PM | Comments (0)

Tapping into traditional First Amendment values

While I don't have much to say today, Glenn Reynolds' link to Iowahawk (currently under suspension for "prohibited activities") led to an interesting discovery. Apparently, there is an official cigarette of the First Amendment:

When protesting the Orwellian suspension of Iowahawk, enjoy the rich menthol flavor of Kools - the official cigarette of the First Amendment. Now in the exclusive crush-proof box!
There's a nice picture of the pack, and I'm not only 100% in favor of the idea, but I thought I would add a handy observation I've made before: You don't need to be a smoker to deploy cigarettes in defense of the First Amendment!

Americans still have the right to keep and bear cigarettes anywhere -- even in places where smoking is verboten. I have long advocated not only keeping and bearing, but also deliberately brandishing them as a means of protest:

Even where smoking is banned, there's still a right to carry.
Yes, and there is a right to brandish, fondle, grow your own, and even go tap, tap, tap!
Simply go out and buy a pack of cigarettes. They're expensive, but still legal to buy and own, even in places which criminalize smoking, but the neat thing here is that if you're a non-smoker you only need to buy one pack, to have months or years of fun. There is a right to carry in all fifty states.

So you just take your pack of cigarettes, and simply brandish it in public! Take it out and tap it on your hand, on a table, anywhere! That little "Tap tap tap!" is the sound of freedom, and it irritates the anti-smokers almost as much as the sound of a match being struck! Yes, striking matches is still legal in most places too. And so is taking out a single cigarette and tapping it. Sure, you can't smoke it, but if you're a non-smoker that's beside the point.

You're just exercising your First Amendment right to freedom of expression.

Where else can you have so much fun for a few bucks?

I even came up with a nostalgic cigarette brand:


Ideal for tapping during today's troubled times.

posted by Eric at 01:01 PM | Comments (3)

A Pagan Resurrection

I take issue with the "fact" that the pyramids were built 10,500 years before Christ. Modern scholarship puts the pyramid age at 4,600 years old. About 2,600 BC. And I'm not convinced of all the parallels in the video. But there are far too many for there to not have been borrowings. In fact borrowings were common in Egypt.

As the Egyptians conquered tribes they incorporated the tribal gods of the conquered tribes into their gods. So you didn't have to give up the worship you were comfortable with to become an Egyptian. Sound familiar? Well Christianity (a Jewish sect) conquered Rome. What would you expect? Passover? (A celebration of God leading the Jews from political persecution - I doubt if the Roman Government would have been happy with that) became the Resurrection. A myth more suitable to pagans. And the governance of Rome.

The Jews do have resurrection of course. But only in the very end times when God rules the world. And it was not just for one. It was for all. But the Jews were borrowers too. When they were in Babylonian captivity they adopted the Zoroastrian idea of Satan. Which is a pretty good pre-psychology representation of the reptile brain. I once went hungry for about a month and my reptile brain took over for the most part. It was rather ugly. There was nothing I wouldn't do to survive. Lie, cheat, steal, murder even. Fortunately I had enough self control to prevail to some extent over my reptile brain and I never got to the murder stage. Thank the Maker.

But I think it does point out how fragile civilization really is. Cut the rations enough and almost all of us will return to barbarism. It is built in. The idea of fasting for 40 days to face the Devil is more than myth. But the Devil is not some creature outside you. He is built in. We can all be devils without any effort at all if we get hungry enough.

But I digress. The Jews have very strict laws about human and animal representations. Now those rules are mostly limited to the design and decoration of synagogues these days. But the rules are there for a good reason. Once you start down the path of representation you start getting mixed up with the pagans. The golden calf story is emblematic of that path. In that respect the Jews are more like the Taoists. God is formless in the Jewish religion.

Which brings to another point. A significant number of early Christians did not believe Jesus was God. More like a prophet. And a "mere" prophet is nothing to sneeze at. They bring reformation. Which is a good thing.

Once the Church became the official Church of Rome it didn't have to merely shun those with alternate beliefs (Jesus was not God, but a creation of God). It got the power to persecute them.

During those first three centuries, Christianity was effectively outlawed by requirements to venerate the Roman emperor and Roman gods. Consequently, when the Church labeled its enemies as heretics and cast them out of its congregations or severed ties with dissident churches, it remained without the power to persecute them.

Before 313 AD, the "heretical" nature of some beliefs was a matter of much debate within the churches, and there was no true mechanism in place to resolve the various differences of beliefs. It was only after the legalisation of Christianity, which began under Constantine I in 313 AD that the various beliefs of the Church began to be made uniform and formulated as dogma through the canons promulgated by the General Councils. Each phrase in the Nicene Creed, which was hammered out at the Council of Nicaea, addresses some aspect that had been under passionate discussion prior to Constantine I, and closes the books on the argument, with the weight of the agreement of the over 300 bishops, as well as Constantine I in attendance. [Constantine had invited all 1800 bishops of the Christian church (about 1000 in the east and 800 in the west). The number of participating bishops cannot be accurately stated; Socrates Scholasticus and Epiphanius of Salamis counted 318; Eusebius of Caesarea, only 250.] In spite of the agreement reached at the council of 325, the Arians, who had been defeated, dominated most of the church for the greater part of the fourth century, often with the aid of Roman emperors who favored them.

Instead of the believers getting to decide which beliefs are true the Church decided. And often the decision against a particular belief was a murder sentence for those believers. Unless of course they recanted and adhered to the "true" belief. Once you have the power why not use it? "Love thy neighbor..." be damned.

Well enough of that. I want to look in more detail at the Resurrection Myth of Osiris.

The resurrection of the god symbolized the rebirth of the grain." (Larson 17) The annual festival involved the construction of "Osiris Beds" formed in shape of Osiris, filled with soil and sown with seed.[20] The germinating seed symbolized Osiris rising from the dead. An almost pristine example was found in the tomb of Tutankhamun by Howard Carter.[21] Osiris "The God Of The Resurrection", rising from his beir.[22]

The first phase of the festival was a public drama depicting the murder and dismemberment of Osiris, the search of his body by Isis, his triumphal return as the resurrected god, and the battle in which Horus defeated Set. This was all presented by skilled actors as a literary history, and was the main method of recruiting cult membership. According to Julius Firmicus Maternus of the fourth century, this play was re-enacted each year by worshippers who "beat their breasts and gashed their shoulders.... When they pretend that the mutilated remains of the god have been found and rejoined...they turn from mourning to rejoicing." (De Errore Profanorum).

The passion of Osiris is reflected in his name 'Wenennefer" ("the one who continues to be perfect"), which also alludes to his post mortem power.[13]

Parts of this Osirian mythology have prompted comparisons with later Christian beliefs and practices.

They certainly aren't Jewish practices - for sure. We often speak of the Judeo Christian culture of the West. The truth is more like Judeo Christian Pagan culture. With the worst excesses of pagan culture like ritual sacrifice (unless it is a competing sect) eradicated. Mostly. Humans are still human.
Egyptologist Erik Hornung observes that Egyptian Christians continued to mummify corpses (an integral part of the Osirian beliefs) until it finally came to an end with the arrival of Islam and argues for an association between the passion of Jesus and Osirian traditions, particularly in the apocryphal gospel of Nicodemus and Christ's descent into Hades. He concludes that whilst Christianity rejected anything "pagan" it did so only at a superficial level and that early Christianity was "deeply indebted" to Ancient Egypt."[25]
I'm inclined to agree.

So what is the moral of this story? I thought you would never ask. I'm pretty much against blind obedience to revealed doctrine. It is a doctrine of modern Judaism that Jews are not bound by any of the revealed laws. Oh we are bound by law all right. Lots of them. But we can reinterpret the laws based on our own understanding. Mostly we leave the interpretation to the Rabbis. Guys who spend their life studying law. But that is not an absolute rule. What is the absolute rule? Let your conscience be your guide. Which is how we end up with a Jewish atheist like Maimonidies. You see Jews are not required to believe in doctrine, miracles, or even God. The only fundamental requirement is to Love thy neighbor as thyself. A motto on the front of Temple Beth Israel in Omaha when it was at 52nd and Charles St. when I was growing up.

I believe that makes for a much sounder "faith" than a slavish adherence to any revealed doctrine. You see I don't have to persecute gays or anyone else just because it is written in some old book. I can love all my neighbors as long as they are at peace with me. Which makes libertarianism the perfect politics for me. Not the wimpy kind of libertarianism espoused by the Libertarian Party but the more muscular kind of the libertarian Republicans.

Don't Tread On Me

Cross Posted at Power and Control

Update: This book might be of interest if you want to further explore the subject:

Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices

UPDATE: Using my editorial prerogative, I have bumped this post to put it at the top of the blog, because I think it is so good that I want to maximize its exposure.

- Eric

posted by Simon at 11:59 PM | Comments (37)

Proud member of the alternate-reality-based community

Something Glenn said earlier really caught my attention:

IS THIS HOPE, OR CHANGE: In Las Vegas, 80% of homes are underwater.
Actually, it is neither hope nor change. The only possible explanation is global warming -- just as Al Gore warned us!

Remember this?


I well remember the warnings, but I didn't realize it would happen this fast or this dramatically. Las Vegas is in the middle of the desert, for cripes sake! For the flooding to occur there means that perhaps I should reexamine my AGW skepticism.

Needless to say, it took me a while to gather the courage to click the link Glenn provided (it shocks me to have to admit that I might have been wrong about Global Warming) but then I saw the headline and I was even more shocked:

The 20 Cities With The Most Underwater Homes

At that point I couldn't take any more. I'd rather not know the details of all these flooded cities with underwater homes.

I just want to be in denial, OK? Better to be in denial than to have an Emily Litella moment.

posted by Eric at 10:23 PM | Comments (2)

Fighting back against the British invasion

The British Invasion (which followed the Beatles) pretty much wiped out Doowop music, and Americans were forced to reach back into their roots.

Paul Revere & The Raiders were "presented as the American response to the British Invasion."

Here's "Just Like Me" (1965) from the "Hullabaloo" show.

posted by Eric at 09:50 PM | Comments (0)

German natural law narrative violates vulture values!

Speaking of marriage, something has to be done about the plight of gay vultures.

Seriously, German bigots are breaking up gay vulture couples, on the grounds that they don't make good parents!

But over in gay-friendly Israel, they let gay vulture couples raise children!

What's the world coming to? I thought the Israelis were supposed to be the bad guys.


posted by Eric at 05:51 PM | Comments (2)

We Told You So

In today's fierce moral urgency of change news, it turns out the market for government health insurance for the uninsured is about 50 times smaller than Obamacare proponents told us it would be. Of course, we opponents of Obamacare were arguing last year this problem was overblown, and it appears in retrospect even our most parsimonious estimates were vastly too generous:

Mr. Obama declared at the time that "uninsured Americans who've been locked out of the insurance market because of a pre-existing condition will now be able to enroll in a new national insurance pool where they'll finally be able to purchase quality, affordable health care--some for the very first time in their lives."

So far that statement accurately describes a single person in North Dakota. Literally, one person has signed up out of 647,000 state residents. Four people have enrolled in West Virginia. Things are better in Minnesota, where Mr. Obama has rescued 15 out of 5.2 million, and also in Indiana--63 people there.
Combined federal-state enrollment is merely 8,011 nationwide as of November 1, according to HHS.

This isn't what HHS promised in July, when it estimated it would be insuring 375,000 people by now, and as many as 400,000 more every year.

Megan McArdle notably aroused considerable fear and loathing when, immediately post-passage, she called, in her usual admirably empirical way, for Obamacare proponents to attempt to measure their claims for the program against the actual outcomes over the coming years, and made her own predictions. That sound of pounding feet you hear in the background is those people running as far as they can as fast they can from those arguments today.

UPDATE: To put this failure in perspective, consider the resources necessary for the federal government and the 27 states who offered their own policies to implement this measure. It's very likely taxpayers have actually paid more for administration than enrollees have received in benefits.

posted by Dave at 11:23 AM | Comments (19)

Our new masters are getting married!

If there is such a thing as a right to privacy that allows a woman to terminate her pregnancy, I'm having a lot of trouble understanding how can that be squared with the idea that the state has a right to test her fluids without her consent to ensure that she does not consume substances which might harm the fetus. (This inconsistency came up in a number of comments to my earlier post about the government snatching a newborn from a woman who ate a poppy seed bagel.)

Despite the "privacy" recitations of that formed the basis of Roe v. Wade, genuine privacy in this country is disappearing so quickly that it makes my head spin.

Kids are being encouraged by school programs to turn in their parents. Here's an example of one who ratted on his parents for marijuana, following which the parents were arrested, and the kids were removed by CPS.

Why is it automatically assumed that children are better off in foster care than with parents who consume disapproved substances?

And if smoking pot means parents should forfeit their children, then what's to stop the state from deciding that alcohol and tobacco using parents aren't equally dangerous?

The reason for my concern is that the drug war is being broadened towards a new goal of of invading as many homes as possible. I don't think it is a coincidence that there are constantly more and more television shows glorifying raids and "interventions." This is happening at the same time the conglomerate I'll call the "treatment community" is poised to have sweeping new powers under Obamacare. To be fair, these people would never admit that forcing insurance companies to pay for substance abuse treatment constitutes "power"; rather, they see it as a marvelous breakthrough in helping people:

With parity and healthcare reform bringing substance abuse treatment into the realm of general medical care, one crucial priority is for treatment agencies to develop partnerships with medical organizations. In the years to come, hospitals, doctor's offices, and, in particular, Federally Qualified Health Centers will be the entrees to reaching new populations that we may never have been able to reach in the specialty care system. This will also give us the opportunity to deliver new services such as brief treatments, behavioral interventions, and, for those who need specialty care, to provide appropriate referrals.

These referrals are likely to include individuals who have drug or alcohol problems, but who are not acutely ill. Therefore, another priority for the field is the development of a workforce that can serve these new types of clients.

I'll just bet. No wonder they've created the totalitarian prescription drug databases, which provide a perfect fit with the new federal mandate making patients' once-private health records accessible in a comprehensive electronic database. No one will be safe from the prying eyes of these busybody inquisitors, who will be demanding to treat not only substance using individuals, but all their family members!

And if you don't like it, their battle cry is that you are in denial!

People mistakenly believe that socialized medicine is simply a question of who pays for your health care. Wrong. It means medical tyrants armed with sweeping new power from the state running every aspect our lives.

My fear is that these people love the drug war, and will fight to keep it through a process of collusion. As the comments to yesterday's post dramatically illustrate, many conservatives think that's just fine. With respect to the drug war, I think the difference between liberals and conservatives is that conservatives love drug laws because they honestly hate drugs, while liberals tend to see them in Orwellian terms (as another tool for expanding the power of the bureaucracy).

I don't know whether that is a distinction of any importance, but I worry that the war on drugs is simply being expanded (no wonder they're redefining it) to become an all-out war on privacy.

Call me paranoid if you want, but I think that in the near future, socialized health care and the war on drugs will merge, and the resultant grotesque marriage will mean gigantic new power for the state, an end to privacy, and medical tyrants as our new masters.

It's an awful marriage, and I am not looking forward to the future.

Please, someone, tell me I am wrong so I can calm down. Seriously, the more I think about this stuff (this post began as an email to M. Simon) the more I'm developing the heebie jeebies.

Oh, well. Perhaps the medical statists will be able to tell me I'm in denial and medicate me with some Soma.

posted by Eric at 10:13 AM | Comments (5)

He's Got My Vote

Great piece from TNR on Gary Johnson, perhaps the highest elected libertarian in recent times, and candidate for President in 2012:

"That's the first sign you know you're a libertarian," he says. "You see the red light. You stop. You realize that there's not a car in sight. And you put your foot on the gas."
posted by Dave at 09:56 AM | Comments (9)

True Fiction

I've been thinking about fiction versus reality, recently. It's Leonard Cohen's fault. I was listening to his songs while working, and the song Everybody Knows caused a random firing of neurons that led to fiction and reality.

For those who haven't heard the song - it is about a lot of things that "everybody knows" which just ain't so. In case you miss the point he drives it home with everybody knows that you've been faithful, give or take a night or two.

For now we'll leave alone things that are narrativium (Terry Pratchett's word for the force that binds his Discworld... and all stories) - like all the problems getting fixed at the last minute; like the brave little guy always winning; like our sympathy for the plucky comic relief character. We'll leave those alone because, frankly, my life seems to obey these rules. Also because then we get into art imitating life imitating art. But MOST of all because I hate the feeling that I might just be someone's fictional character.

Instead, let's get into facts of life, history, society that everybody knows and which are, on their face, so totally absurd that you wonder how so many people could believe them. And then you realize they are the background of ALMOST every novel published in the second half of the twentieth century.

Continue reading "True Fiction"

posted by Sarah at 08:51 PM | Comments (12)

If you like your freedom, go thank a veteran!

I've been out most of the day, but I didn't forget that today is Veterans Day. It is an important day to remember.

Glenn Reynolds links Armed Liberal, who says that we all owe veterans a debt:

Today is a day when I hope that we can recover a bit of that sense of debt. When we can realize what we owe those old guys in Legion caps and those young ones in ACU BDU's.

And in a very real sense, that today's point.

What I'm hoping today is that maybe, just maybe that will open the door in each of us to realize how much we owe to how many.

I'll suggest that in part we're a nation in such material debt because we refuse to understand the spiritual and political and social debt that we should have been paying off. Instead we decided that America owes us, and borrowed as much as we could to make sure we got what was coming to us.

That's pretty much over. And a big part of the Tea Party rebellion is a split between those who have been paying the debts - served, worked productively, paid their taxes, and now see everything they worked to build - not just their retirements, but the literal infrastructure of the country crumbling - and the financial and social engineers who have profited so richly in the last decades.

I'm deeply sympathetic to that.

We need to relearn the habits of debts as things to be repaid, and today - the day we're reminded so concretely of those who have loaned us their lives, their souls, and their health and who need to be paid back.

The debt we owe veterans is, of course, a debt we can never repay.

And so I would like to thank the veterans, or at least a veteran. But here I am in Ann Arbor, where I don't know any veterans, so I can't even say thank you to one. Sure, I occasionally see an ROTC cadet walking around, but if I stopped my car and said "thank you" I wouldn't be surprised if the kid misunderstood and thought I was some kind of nut.

But still, I would like to at least thank a veteran somewhere, and it just so happens that M. Simon is a veteran, whom I am proud to call a co-blogger here at Classical Values.

So thanks for your service to the country, M. Simon.

(And thanks for writing a damned fine post today too!)


posted by Eric at 06:03 PM | Comments (3)

In our national kindergarten, another tragedy means another law!

A Detroit Free press columnist is saying that there ought to be a law against broadcasting interviews with underage teens about sex:

Under Michigan law, it is illegal to have sex with a 14-year-old girl, even if she consents.

But there's no law against broadcasting on television the same 14-year-old's account of her sexual activity. And that's a shame, because if there were such a law, Samantha Kelly might still be alive today.

Here's the conduct he wants made illegal:
In early October, distressed by the hostility her daughter faced at school from Tarnopolski and his friends, June Justice contacted Detroit's Fox News affiliate, WJBK-TV (Channel 2). On Oct. 18, the station broadcast a 21/2-minute segment in which Samantha, accompanied on-screen by her mother, charged for the first time that Tarnopolski had forced himself on her. An anchor's introduction to the piece called it a case of rape.

The issue of coercion was irrelevant to the statutory charge prosecutors had lodged against Tarnopolski. But the Channel 2 broadcast complicated the case in two ways.

First, it introduced a new version of events inconsistent with both Samantha's previous accounts and her text messages to the defendant.

Second, it turned what had been a closely held secret into general knowledge among the 850 students at Huron High. Many sided with Tarnopolski, a popular upperclassman who vehemently denied Samantha's allegations of coercion and branded his accuser a liar.

The story is a pretty sordid one, but I see serious problems with a law prohibiting the interview that occurred here. Unless it can be shown that Fox News coerced the girl and her mother into being interviewed, this goes to the heart of what we call the free press. I find it a bit ironic that a newspaper called the Free Press is editorializing in favor of criminalizing what are traditional free press activities. If the Fox News reporter should go to jail, then so would Jerry Springer and countless other talk show hosts, and I guess so would bloggers like me who allow people to leave unpoliced comment about any damn thing they want. So it's my First Amendment -- just as much as the Detroit Free Press or Fox News or Jerry Springer.

A lot of people say there ought to be a law about this, and there ought to be a law about that, but you'd think an MSM reporter would be more sensitive where it comes to advocating laws criminalizing speech.

Of course, that in no way begins to address the problem of people who can't face the consequences of sexual publicity, and it is a shame that this girl took her own life.

There's been a lot of talk lately about gay teen suicide, and while this girl and her 18 year old partner were heterosexual, had this been a gay teen suicide, there'd be a lot of yowling in the usual circles about how the evil Christian bigots drove him to it, etc. I think it's less complicated than that. While I don't mean to downplay the traumatic aspects of being publicly outed as a gay teen, there is something about having your sex life broadcast for the world to see which carries a trauma all its own -- gay or straight. It's an invasion of privacy.

And it's tragic to see young people who cannot handle invasions of their privacy seeing their privacy invaded because they didn't think through the consequences of technology. From today's front page article:

What started on Sept. 26 -- according to police statements and reports -- as a giggling teenage hook-up had spun wildly into a tragic mix of rape accusations, felony charges, overheated high school drama, taunting and ridicule. It ended Monday with death and a mother's rage and grief.

Joseph Tarnopolski, 18, who began the day facing a felony charge of having sex with an underage girl, left 34th District Court in Romulus a free man because Samantha was dead and could not make her accusations under oath in open court.

They were neighbors and fellow students at Huron High School in New Boston. As things often go these days, the teenagers volleyed text and computer exchanges.

By all accounts agree there was a whole lot of texting going on, along with the posting of statements on MySpace. There is disagreement about who said what or how old the two thought they were, but thanks to the eternal persistence of memory (what a prophet Dali was!) on the Internet I am sure the computer forensics people can sort it all out and determine who said what to whom, and in what order.

It's a shame what happened. Being young, young people often don't take the time to carefully consider the consequences of their actions, especially in the context of online communications. Even the girl's mom may have been involved in the texting:

Samantha and Tarnopolski rendezvoused at his home the morning of Sept. 26 and, as spelled out in police reports and statements provided by Tarnopolski's lawyer Matthew Evans, things would never be the same again.

Evans said Samantha didn't say in either statement she made to police that his client forced her to have sex or that "this was something she had planned."

"As soon as we got in there, he kicked his cat's out and showed me his blacklights," Samantha told police in a statement on Sept. 26. "We then sat on his bed, it was silent. We started to giggle about the awkward silence & then got under the blanket because I told him I had to leave soon."

According to Samantha's statement, the two took their clothes off, Tarnopolski started touching her and then they started to have sex.

Then her friend texted Tarnopolski's phone, saying Samantha's mom had been texting her, Samantha told police.

The rest of it is a typical "he said, she said" story replete with a number of contradictions.

The problem is when tragedy strikes, people want laws. And I'll be damned if I am going to sit around and watch them propose new restrictions on speech simply because some people can't keep their effing traps shut.

Because some people can't wipe their asses or their children's, the government has to restrict all of us. This goes to my longstanding complaint about being forced by busybodies to live in a national kindergarten.

I am not responsible for what other people do with communications technology, any more than I am responsible for what other people do with their guns. Or their penises for that matter.

But this is an old debate, and I often fear it is a hopeless one, because it lies at the heart of the fundamental disagreement between libertarians and communitarians.

The "I am not my brother's keeper" meme is at least as old as the Bible. Not that I have anything wrong with anyone volunteering to be his brother's keeper, mind you. Just as charity is good, looking out for one's fellow humans is also good. Some people (such as Mother Teresa, along with many who have cared for the dying) have literally had to wipe the asses of their fellow humans. That form of wiping people's asses is all for the good. But shouldn't such goodness come from within?

UPDATE: Many thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link and a warm welcome to all.

Comments invited, agree or disagree.

BTW, commenter DJ made a point which might be more important than he thinks:

Small point, but the Freep columnist calls Channel 2 "Detroit's Fox News Affiliate." That's false, or at least misleading.

WJBK (Channel 2 in Detroit) is a Fox cable network affiliate. You know, home of those reactionary Simpsons, the Netc. It is not a Fox News -- that leftist bugbear -- channel in Detroit. They do have a local news broadcast, which they call Fox 2 News. I never watch it, but I'll bet it's indistinguishable from Channel 4's local news. They do NOT have Beck, O'Reilly, Hannity, etc.

In short: Channel 2 is not Fox News Channel (FNC) in Detroit. Dickerson, the writer, is factually in error in a way that lends illicit support (to those disposed to hate FNC) to his argument.

Here's a link:

If in fact the editorial was attempting to whip up public support for a law restricting speech by invoking the specter of the evil Fox News, the implications are fascinating. Because it might mean that the liberal media are willing to restrict their own free speech simply out of animosity towards a conservative network.

You'd almost think they were activists as opposed to, you know, journalists.

posted by Eric at 11:17 AM | Comments (21)

First, they came for other people's children...

Regular readers know what I think and how I feel about the war on drugs. I think the Fourth Amendment has been systematically violated, and the violations go a lot further than mere illegal searches of drug suspects. They seek legal power to test saliva of all stopped motorists, and they already have power to invade the medical records of millions. Other than crank out these inadequate rants, I can't do much about any of this, as it's part and parcel of the war on drugs.

But fortunately (and I hate using that word in an awful case like this) when an innocent pregnant woman has her baby taken away because she ate a poppy seed bagel, that makes ordinary people ask questions:

The ACLU of Pennsylvania recently filed a civil rights lawsuit on behalf of a couple whose newborn baby was kidnapped by Lawrence County Children and Youth Services (LCCYS) because her mother recklessly consumed an "everything" bagel from Dunkin' Donuts the day before the birth. Jameson Hospital, where Isabella Rodriguez was born on April 27, has a policy of testing expectant mothers' urine for illegal drugs and reporting positive results to LCCYS, even without any additional evidence that the baby is in danger of neglect or abuse. LCCYS, in turn, has a policy of seizing such babies from their homes based on nothing more than the test result. Unfortunately for Isabella's parents, Elizabeth Mort and Alex Rodriguez, Jameson sets the cutoff level for its opiate test so low that it can be triggered by poppy seeds, which is why two caseworkers and two Neshannock Township police officers visited their home the day after baby and mother returned from the hospital. LCCYS seized the three-day-old girl and put her in foster care for five days before conceding it had made a mistake.
The situation is so bad I don't know where to begin. It makes me wonder whether this report by Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron ("The Budgetary Implications of Drug Prohibition," December 2008) goes far enough in its economic analysis.

The drug war is being fought on TV now (as I write this post, the National Geographic Channel and the Discovery Health Channel are relentlessly sensationalizing the war on drugs), and the bureaucrats are all in on the act. The testing of new mothers for drugs did not happen in the abstract, and while I agree with Glenn that "all the officials involved should be tarred and feathered," I worry about the cost of the tar and the feathers. There is a huge network of officialdom involved. And I don't just mean the social workers and hospital personnel who carried out the acts, or the nameless apparatchik judge who signed the "court order to remove their three-day-old infant."

This is a direct and foreseeable consequence of the war on drugs and the acquiescence of society to treating people who use substances as criminals (or at least as subhuman creatures deserving of ruthless bureaucratic "intervention").

Still, I have to start somewhere other than the Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914, so I might as well start with CAPTA. That's the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act of 2003, which is what started the latest trend of testing new mothers for drugs without their consent, then forcibly kidnapping their children under color of law.

I can't believe that I wrote the last sentence about the United States of America, where I was born and grew up.

Despite being a libertarian blogger who opposes the drug war and tries to keep up with these issues, I found myself unprepared again when I read about the um, law:

Drug testing of newborn infants, based on a suspicion of maternal drug use, is common practice throughout the U.S., and often leads to reporting a family to child protective services for investigation (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2001b). However, concern has been voiced that some women are tested for drug use largely due to their race and socioeconomic status, leading some researchers to argue for universal testing (Ondersma, Simpson, Brestan, & Ward, 2000; Barth, 2001).

Historically, substance abuse testing and reporting laws have been determined by individual states, resulting in wide variation. As of December 2003, only ten states (AZ, IL, IO, MA, MI, MN, ND, RI, UT, and VA) had laws on the books that specifically require testing and/or reporting women for perinatal substance use (Guttmacher Institute, 2003). However, a recent federal law (Public Law No: 108-36) attempts to create a uniform state response to perinatal substance abuse. The 2003 reauthorization of the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) requires states receiving CAPTA grants to develop a plan for medical workers to notify child protective services (CPS) of infants identified at birth as affected by prenatal drug exposure. The law states that this referral is not alone grounds for a child abuse and/or neglect determination and cannot be used for criminal prosecution. The law also requires that CPS develop a safe plan for infants in this situation (Public Law No: 108-36).

This is a recurrent pattern. Who in hell read CAPTA and knows what totalitarian crap they stuffed into that unreadable sausage? I only found out about the federal criminalization of wood in the "Farm Bill" because I stumbled onto it by accident, and we are only beginning to learn about what's in the Health Care Bill. Or I should say, whatever there is left of our freedom; if anything.

Out of late night curiosity (and please remember, no one pays me to do this), I tried in vain to find out what the law says. It is a much-amended mishmash which would probably require me to spend hours in a law library -- too high a price to complete a late night blog post. As it is, I can barely make sense of the Wiki summary:

Summary of Legislative History

The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) was originally enacted in Public Law 93-247. The law was completely rewritten in the Child Abuse Prevention, Adoption and Family Services Act of 1988 (Public Law 100-294). It was further amended by the Child Abuse Prevention Challenge Grants Reauthorization Act of 1989 (P.L. 101-126 and the Drug Free School Amendments of 1989 (Public Law 101-226).

The Community-Based Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Grants program was originally authorized by sections 402 through 409 of the Continuing Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 1985 (Public Law 98-473). The Child Abuse Prevention Challenge Grants Reauthorization Act of 1989 (Public Law 101-126) transferred this program to the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, as it was amended.


Does anyone know what the hell is in this "law" other than the armed bureaucrats who enforce it?

I doubt it. But if the online summaries like this are any indication, there's plenty to cover the asses of whoever did whatever happened here:

The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) requires States to have policies and procedures in place to notify child protective services (CPS) agencies of substance-exposed newborns (SENs) and to establish a plan of safe care for newborns identified as being affected by illegal substance abuse or withdrawal symptoms resulting from prenatal drug exposure.2 Several States currently address this requirement in their statutes. Approximately 16 States and the District of Columbia have specific reporting procedures for infants who show evidence at birth of having been exposed to drugs, alcohol, or other controlled substances; 12 States and the District of Columbia include this type of exposure in their definitions of child abuse or neglect.3
So, the Pennsylvania bureaucrats can and will say that they were only enforcing a federal mandate.

The whole thing makes me violently ill, and glad not to have had children.

After all, maybe they'll be so busy going after the people who have had children that I'll be safe...

UPDATE: Many thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, and a warm welcome to all.

Comments welcome, agree or disagree.

While I'm at it, I thought I'd ask whether anyone knows whether our bureaucrat rulers have plans to test new moms (maybe by swabbing their mouths) for evidence of tobacco use, then snatching the kids away. And why not? After all, doesn't smoking endanger children too?

posted by Eric at 10:33 PM | Comments (59)

More Government Than We Can Possibly Afford

Update: 11 Nov 2010 0651z

Commenter Bern has left a link to a letter to Dr. John Holdren on the radiation dangers of the body scanners.

I can't copy the text (the pdf is locked) so let me give you a couple of salient points that illustrate the dangers. These are dangers that have not been tested for:

Item A) Skin cancer in older folks.

Item B) Breast Cancer (women)

Item G) Sperm mutations

Me? I'm not getting on an airplane for any reason. If I can't drive I'm not going.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 09:03 PM | Comments (2)

Hanging Out With Marines

There is a discussion of gun control and the Nazis going on at the Volokh conspiracy. I found a comment there I took exception to:

I'm for 2nd amendment rights but the silly Nazi idiocy in this post is offensive. It reeks of the miltary hatered found in the IBD blog about a possible miltary coup about a year ago. Irrational hatred born of apparently complete ignorance.
Well, let me say this about that:

I dunno. I'm ex-military (admittedly a Navy pussy -- but we hang out with Marines) and a Jew. And I think about these things. Are they serious worries? Not yet. Hopefully not ever.

But just in case I hang out from time to time at the Oath Keepers site.

BTW - Happy Birthday Marines. When John Paul Jones was fighting the British you made a difference. Not exactly American Marines. But since they were under American command we'll take 'em.

Semper Fi

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:52 PM | Comments (1)

Don't worry! There's still hope for civil war!

Libertarians typically want to be left alone. That's fine as far as it goes. But what happens when the world will not leave you alone?

If there's a civil war going on, "leave me alone" is not much of a battle cry. I am vehemently opposed to all calls for revolution or civil war, and I have been since the earliest days of this blog. While some of the calls for war are serious, most take the form of political hyperbole. Some people are less tolerant of not getting their way than others. Libertarians are quite used to not getting their way, and consequently, I think they are less likely to demand armed insurrection when they don't. (Besides, if libertarians can't be relied on to show up at meetings, what makes anyone think they'd show up for a civil war?)

Being human, we all want to get our way. There is, buried somewhere in each one of us, a spoiled, angry child ready to have a temper tantrum. Some control it better than others. Whether learning self control over that inner child that wants to throw a tantrum when he doesn't get his way constitutes "adulthood" I don't know, as such a pronouncement strikes me as awfully judgmental. I don't get my way, and I'm used to it. Yet I think I am a very childish person who has yet to grow up, and learning to accept not getting my way has not helped much. I am still stubborn enough to cling to wanting what I want regardless of the likelihood of my getting it. That may mean that while I'm still a child, I'm just not given to childish displays. (At least, not in public.)

I also realize that it is unreasonable to demand that others control themselves simply because I think that's a good thing to do, but still, there are few things I find more tedious than people who throw public fits when they don't get their way, and then demand that others take their fits seriously. In that respect, I am so, so happy about the election results last week. Had the Republicans lost, by now I would be having to hear innumerable cries on the right about how the only alternative we have left is civil war, that the Declaration of Independence gives us the right to violently overthrow the government, etc., etc., ad nauseam.

Oh, I left out another related factor -- and that is anger that arises from not being listened to. I think there's a lot more of that anger right now than ever before, and in a strange irony, it comes from the fact that everyone is now free to rant publicly. While that's really nothing new (as the First Amendment is 219 years old) modern communication techniques have made it much easier than the days of standing on street corners and shouting, of using old-fashioned printing presses, or even later copying machines and faxes. Now anyone can just put his words -- whether written, spoken, or on video -- out there for the world to see. Every man is a printing press, a radio station, and a TV station. It is no exaggeration to say that all of us now have not only the equal right, but the equal technological ability to rant on a mass scale. That's a good thing, but the downside is that the vastness of this mass empowerment makes it not only more difficult for an individual voice to be heard, but it makes the audience more callused and indifferent, and less likely to listen. The result is that people only shout louder, and become more unreasonable in the hope of being heard. I've discussed the competitive nature of group dynamics in a couple of posts about activism, and I think the same principle of ramped up rhetoric applies to online speech.

As I have noticed on YouTube, fairness or justice has nothing to do with it, nor does the "importance" of the issue; it never fails to amaze me that my video complaint about a crummy mousetrap (which I gave little thought at the time) is my most watched YouTube video. It is an issue of very little importance, and I don't even think it's particularly entertaining, so I'll never be able to figure out why it has drawn over 18,000 hits. (But then, YouTube is not what I "do," so I am probably clueless.)

Here's something else I have noticed about the childish angry tantrums and calls for revolution that result from people not getting their way: if the person throwing the childish tantrum is famous, the tantrums tend to be more malevolent. This might sound counterintuitive in light of the vast democratization afforded by the Internet, but I think the problem may be that the more famous an angry tantrum thrower is, the more accustomed he is to getting his way in life, so the worse the tantrum.

I can think of few more perfect examples of this pathology than Ted Rall. His tantrums and calls for armed insurrection (and imprisoning those with whom he disagrees) have annoyed me from the earliest days of this blog. Never mind that he has been proven wrong repeatedly (his claim that Bush would cancel the elections and we would all be under a fascist dictatorship is a classic); all that matters to him is that something has happened that he didn't like, so it's time to start killing people!

I realize that his remarks are deeply offensive, and as they stop just short of specific calls for murdering people they are protected by the First Amendment, but the point here is that he is just doing what he has always done, which is to fly into a murderous rage and have a temper tantrum. Right now, he's calling for armed insurrection because he didn't like the election results. Poor baby.

The election results are actually a very good thing. They demonstrated that the system still works, and if people care enough to organize and exercise their right to vote, the political situation can change. The fact that the turnout was so much lower than the 2008 election means that the people on the right cared more than the people on the left, and more people on the left either changed their minds or else had second thoughts and stayed home.

Obviously Rall hates the fact that the system works, and that not enough people agree with his loony positions on things. I don't know how well his cartoons are doing these days, but it wouldn't surprise me if he's been feeling generally uninspired. His "Generalissimo el Busho" is about as interesting these days as Viagra spam, and he can't create vicious Obama cartoons, so where does that leave him? Stereotyping teabaggers? Even that is tired, and there are too many of them.

How Ted Rall must have hated to see Bush leave the White House at the end of his second term when he had predicted the fascist Generalissimo would cancel the elections! At the time I made a vow: fairness to Rall, if the election date rolls around and there are no elections after all, I sincerely promise to reevaluate the matter.

For now, I guess I'll just have to be considered a "maniac" for refusing to take seriously such a sober, sane idea.

Not only were the 2004 elections actually held, but then the Republicans went on to lose the 2006 elections! Talk about adding insult to injury! First the fascist Generalissimo allows elections, then they don't go his way, and he did nothing other than admit that "we took a thumpin'" or something like that.

How outraged Rall must have been.

Perhaps because he feared the worst (i.e. the democratic system working the way it often does), he revised his thinking, and speculated that the Democrats would become little proxy Bushies, and continue Bush fascism. At the time, I anticipated the future of Rall's political, um, philosophy:

whether Bush leaves office or not, Bush fascism will forever live on. And it will all of course be Bush's fault either way. Because Generalissimo Bush, being the greatest and most brilliant fascist of all time (despite being a moronic chimpanzee) has built a permanent, undefeatable structure.
How prophetic!

Consider today's news.

It was at the height of the 2008 presidential election campaign, not long after Bush publicly endorsed John McCain as his successor.

Naturally the election came up in conversation. Trying to be even-handed and polite, the Brits said something diplomatic about McCain's campaign, expecting Bush to express some warm words of support for the Republican candidate.

Not a chance. "I probably won't even vote for the guy," Bush told the group, according to two people present."I had to endorse him. But I'd have endorsed Obama if they'd asked me."

What that means that according to Rall, not only is Obama is worse than a fascist, he's a Bush fascist.

In Rall's world, there's always hope for fascism.


And if we can keep the hope for fascism alive, maybe we'll finally have that civil war that the people who won't listen to us keep refusing to have!

posted by Eric at 11:59 AM | Comments (4)

How to make the Tea Party support big government conservatism

Just before the election, Reason's senior analyst Shikha Dalmia pointed out some very unpleasant facts:

...instead of pulling Democrats in the direction of reform, the Tea Party candidates themselves are moving in the direction of the status quo. This wouldn't happen if these candidates could count on a strong and large constituency for reform within their own movement. Elections are a discovery process through which candidates find out what their base really wants. And what many of the Tea Party candidates have found is that when push comes to shove, their backers want to protect their entitlements as much as the next guy. In fact, much of the fury of the Tea Partiers against government stimulus and bailouts might have less to do with any principled belief in the limits of government and more to do with fear of what this will do to their own entitlements.

If that's the case, then it is safe to assume that the cause of serious entitlement reform is DOA in the next Congress--regardless of whether Tea Party candidates win or lose on Tuesday.

But what about the core Tea Party principles? How will they get around them? How will they avoid having their offices besieged by angry Tea Party activists?

I'm thinking that this worry might explain the attempt by establishment politicians (who are not themselves far-right social conservatives) to nonetheless push far-right, sometimes downright wacko social conservatives into a heavily-funded group which uses the Tea Party name. There's also been a strong alliance between the Tea Party and the so-called 912 project, although as of yet I have not seen a push towards expanding the Tea Party principles to include those of 912.

I freely admit that this is speculation on my part. And I admit that it is not only paranoid, but it qualifies as a conspiracy theory -- one I floated earlier in a moment of despair rather than hold my tongue. One commenter was appalled, and I don't blame him:

Your marginalization theory is very cynical, if not down-right paranoid. Is that how the establishment really handles these kinds of groups? That's just horrid.
Yes, it would be horrid, and I do so hope that my dark speculation was wrong.

I have long advocated an alliance between libertarians and social conservatives, but my worry is what could happen if the latter managed to blur the Tea Party principles by broadening them to include their favorite issues and causes. This would be of immense benefit to the Kristol/Barnes/Bush/Rove/Gingrich school of big government conservatism, and here's why.

Once they are in office, the Republicans who were elected will be forced to accept an ugly political reality. Cutting so-called "entitlements" is not merely a political third rail. It is impossible. What this means almost comes down to simple math. If these are the Tea Party Principles:

Fiscal Responsibility, Constitutionally Limited Government, and Free Markets.

Then the Republicans simply cannot deliver the bacon.

However, if the Tea Party Principles are somehow broadened to include, say...

America is good,

belief in God and [that] He is the center of my life,

the family is sacred,

then the Tea Party-supported politicians can seemingly "deliver" by cranking out meaningless resolutions, statements of support, and other pablum -- none of which will cause them to have to step on the political third rail of entitlements.

To continue with my paranoid conspiracy thinking, ultimately, this means that social conservatism is not only a survival tactic for the big government Republican establishment, but it's a a perfect foot in the door for continued big government. The unsustainable entitlement spending continues, the socons get a bone, guys like Gingrich (whose nomination is another of my paranoid conspiracy theories) will be sitting pretty and of course the libertarians get nothing.

I'm not saying this will happen, but I have been around long enough to witness the rise of big government conservatism, and saw a very similar strategy work before. And frankly, to read that one of the principal architects of big government conservatism now says he loves the Tea Party movement just gives me the heebie jeebies.

But enough with my paranoid misgivings.

Perhaps the time has come to rehabilitate Bush, comrades!

And perhaps we should take a broader view of big government, and declare that not all big government is big. Some big government is actually small.

posted by Eric at 11:13 AM | Comments (7)


This is an article Frank W. and I have been working on for the last two weeks or so. Frank did all the writing and I provided some editorial advice and minor editing.


Today, November 9, is the anniversary of Kristallnacht. It is the day when Nazi Germany unleashed its thugs against the Jews. The Wiki gets right to the point:

"Jewish homes were ransacked, as were shops, towns and villages, as SA stormtroopers and civilians destroyed buildings with sledgehammers, leaving the streets covered in pieces of smashed windows--the origin of the name "Night of Broken Glass." Ninety-one Jews were killed, and 30,000 Jewish men--a quarter of all Jewish men in Germany--were taken to concentration camps, where they were tortured for months, with over 1,000 of them dying. Around 1,668 synagogues were ransacked, and 267 set on fire. In Vienna alone 95 synagogues or houses of prayer were destroyed...Kristallnacht was followed by further economic and political persecution of Jews, and is viewed by historians as part of Nazi Germany's broader racial policy, and the beginning of the Final Solution and the Holocaust."

Roll Call.jpg

Roll call for newly arrived prisoners, mostly Jews arrested during Kristallnacht (the "Night of Broken Glass"), at the Buchenwald concentration camp. Buchenwald, Germany, 1938.

In the years leading up to this, the Nazis had systematically stripped German Jews of their rights and their dignity. Beginning with Hitler's rise to power in 1933, laws were passed banning them from civil service jobs, restricting university enrollment, and removing them from the medical and legal professions. This mini-pogrom culminated with the 1935 Nuremberg Laws which stripped Jews of their citizenship and even the right to marry outside their "race" which was defined through genetic inheritance, not religion. So if you had a Jewish ancestor, but were Christian, you still qualified as a Jew.

We don't need to recount all the horrors that followed. But one rarely mentioned result of the official persecution that started in 1933 and continued up to the cattle cars and deportations, was suicide. Jews suffered such a cultural death that many - shamed, broke, often alone because their families had been "encouraged" to emigrate - took their own lives. By the time of the deportations, thousands had committed suicide. From Suicide in Nazi Germany by Christian Goeschel:

"The direct effects of the Nazi regime on Jewish suicides were clearer after the Anschluss of Austria in March 1938. Here, anti-Semitic violence outdid anything seen in Germany up to that point. All the different stages of Nazi anti-Jewish policy and action came together in a tremendous outburst of violence meted out to Austrian Jews in the process. Austrian Nazis humiliated Jews in public...Hundreds of Austrian Jews committed suicide amidst the open Nazi violence against Jews and suicide became an everyday phenomenon"

Later, it became an epidemic:

"Suicide was a common reaction to the deportations. According to a list of funerals at the Jewish cemetery in Weissensee, 811 suicides were buried there in 1942..."

Up until the deportations to the camps started the Nazis encouraged the suicides. This changed when they realized that they were being cheated out of their final solution.

It is hard to believe that such things could happen in a civilized country like Germany. Its rich cultural heritage and embrace of Christian morality make it all the more unbelievable. It is as if there was a collective insanity. How could evil on this scale pop out of nowhere?

There is probably no reason to think anything like the Holocaust will ever occur again, especially in a country like the United States, a country born of immigrants and refugees. But there are disturbing signs. Take the gay suicides for instance. While only a tiny fraction, so far, of what happened in Germany, they could be the canary in the coal mine.

At the root of the demonization of Jews in Germany, was a long history of ostracism. As far back as the Middle Ages they were blamed for the Black Death, accused of poisoning public wells, and massacred. Thousands fled to Poland. They were always the easy scapegoat. But over the centuries they somehow managed to obtain acceptance. By 1871 they were German citizens. And during the First World War, they were the largest non-German ethnic group fighting for the Kaiser. 12,000 died for their country in that war. From another Wiki:

"Many German Jews received high political positions such as foreign minister and vice chancellor in the Weimar Republic. The Weimar constitution was the work of a German Jew, Hugo Preuss, who later became minister of the interior. Marriages between Jews and non-Jews became somewhat common from the 19th century; for example, the wife of German Chancellor Gustav Stresemann was Jewish."

It all changed after the hyper-inflation of the Weimar Republic, and the descent into economic depression. Germans needed a scapegoat, again. And who else but the Jews. They blamed their economic misery on losing the war, and conjured up an excuse for that loss called the stab-in-the-back legend. It was the socialists and Jews who lost the war, not German incompetence. It was the Jews in the Weimar government and in finance and business that caused the wheel-barrows of money to buy a loaf of bread.

There are a few parallels here, certainly not on the scale of Germany however. Most states banned Jews from holding public office at one time. There were quotas in universities. Jews were regularly banned from private clubs and even golf courses. And most notably, they were excluded from immigration after passage of the 1924 National Origins Act. Right after Kristallnacht, a Gallup Poll found that only 21% of Americans thought we should allow Jewish refugees asylum. Everyone from Henry Ford to Father Coughlin and the KKK echoed the Nazis.

St. Louis.jpg

The Voyage of The St. Louis a ship of Jewish refugees from the Nazis turned away from America.

And just as in Germany prior to the economic collapse in the 1920's, Jews in the US have now achieved total equality.

There's a somewhat similar history of gays in this country. Thomas Jefferson - "All men are created equal..." - has been quoted as saying that homosexuality was akin to rape, and the punishment should be castration. At one time several states including New York, had execution as punishment on their books. Of course these laws originated with Christian religious belief, as did the centuries of Jewish persecution throughout Europe and prior to Hitler. Although the laws were not consistently enforced, until 6 years ago there were states that imprisoned gays for consensual and private relationships.

That has now also changed. No more sodomy laws. Gays about to openly enlist in the military. Gay school teachers. Gay doctors, attorneys, and elected officials. Maybe even state approval of gay marriage.

But...what would happen if real economic misery in the form of hyper-inflation hit this country? It's not inconceivable that certain underlying and suppressed cultural elements will surface, with a hatred and vengeance to be feared. There are already spokesmen for it. On the right, Michael Savage spews his venom daily, and has a best seller on the New York Times list. As a Jew himself, is it just some sick attempt at diversion? His counterpart, Louis Farrakhan, commands a million man march, and says "That land is gonna be cleansed with BLOOD!" after a gay pride parade in Israel. And on the left, there is an embrace of all things Muslim, with concomitant Jew hatred of course, but also a distancing from support for gays. For instance the black Attorney General who couldn't wait to champion the universal civil rights of Elian Gonzalez, now champions official government suppression of gay civil rights. And his Justice Department won't prosecute The New Blank Panther Party whose chairman was Khalid Abdul Mohammad, former minister of the Nation of Islam. Hum.

There are code words for Jews again: banksters. They're everywhere and perhaps the real cause of a possible impending collapse. They have names like Greenspan and Bernanke. They run huge financial institutions like Dimon at Chase or Blankfein at Sachs. The Jews du jour are the neo-conservatives, and are the cause of our support for Israel, and the reason we're now the enemies of the poor and maligned Arab Muslims.

Will it be open season again? We're looking, and when the time is ripe, we already know who to scapegoat. In the meantime, just as in the early days of anti-Semitism in 1920s Germany we've started with an easy group.

If culture is a wider reflection of society at large, then look at the open hostility to gays in the lyrics of Gangsta Rap. This is nothing new, with Eminem having greased the slide. But the slide has ended with the torture and rape of gays in New York, the suicides in Texas and California and New Jersey and Indiana and Oregon and...

I fear these are the canaries in the coal mine, the early markers for the next and deadly serious round of scapegoating. Pray that the Fed doesn't cause an economic catastrophe.


Some books:

Voyage of the St. Louis

The Buchenwald Report

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 05:57 AM | Comments (24)

Pink Triangles

Today is the anniversary of Kristallnacht. Seventy two years ago - 1938. The wiki can get you started on the history.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 05:53 AM | Comments (0)

the war between the better and the worse

When I saw Glenn Reynolds' link to what he called "a guide to cancer etiquette," I had no idea I would encounter such tidbits of wisdom as this:

there's a growing need for ground rules that prevent us from inflicting ourselves upon one another
While he was talking about the difference between those who are from "Tumortown" (the sick) and those who are in "Wellville" (the well), Christopher Hitchens has a good point. People who think they are victims can be annoying to those who think they are not victims, and vice versa.

This also touches on why most of us are reluctant to admit that there is anything wrong (or, for that matter, to being wrong). People tend towards animal instincts and a herd mentality can develop which makes it very dangerous to admit to any state of wrongness, whether physical, mental, or spiritual. When we do, we open ourselves up to great risk. There's blood in the water, and the sharks come cruising. Frequently, their visits take the form of kindness, advice, and sympathy, but that's just for show. Behind the scenes (and when things are considered safe) they get together and the narrative shift begins.

"Well, you know how much he drinks! It's really no surprise, considering...."

"I feel really sorry for him. I saw my father die of the same disease." (Right, and sonny boy loved the excitement and couldn't wait for the inheritance.)

"He was always eating junk food, and he never exercised, so what can you expect?"

"They say these things are a person's karma, and you know, he seemed very unhappy much of the time...."

If you get sick or injured and have to take off from work, co-workers are often quick to pounce. This sometimes takes the form of outright skepticism, and sometimes envy, and even the most sincere-sounding voices of concern take on an air of phoniness when they're voiced in the herd. It almost makes you want to never get sick, or at least never admit it if you do. Your enemies will see it as a sign of weakness and jump on it, and even your "friends" will feel happy. Being happy over a friend's illness is irrational and animalistic, and they will never admit it, but it is similar to the way friends are often jealous of success and seemingly "supportive" of failure. I'm tempted to say that a "real" friend would never be jealous of a friend's success (nor secretly happy over his failure), except the animalistic nature of people makes realness sound suspect.

If you think physical injury or illness is bad, try admitting to mental illness! It never ceases to amaze me how shrinks will carry on about how "men are in denial" because they won't admit, say, to being depressed. Men are not in denial; they're just realistic enough to know that there's a pecking party out there that can't wait to pounce on the poor suckers who admit to being depressed. The herd loves seeing real evidence of blood in the water!

Admitting to any of these things has consequences.

What the health and wellness people call "denial" is only a form of self preservation.

I'd call them clueless, except I think they know better. After all, the health and wellness people want to be in charge.

MORE: Check out the way the "grieving" niece milks the death of the wealthy uncle in this excerpt from "It's a Gift":

And where were the grievance counselors to feel her pain?

AFTERTHOUGHT: As I don't want to sound overly cynical, I should stress that I admire Hitchens' bravery. He understands the phenomenon he describes, and yet he is willing to go public with his illness anyway. It takes guts.

But it's better than being accused of being in denial by people in denial.

posted by Eric at 11:21 PM | Comments (3)

"science and politics can't be divorced"

No matter where I look, it seems there's no getting away from people who seek to impose their morality on others.

Take today's headline. "Climate scientists plan campaign against global warming skeptics"

John Abraham of St. Thomas University in Minnesota, who last May wrote a widely disseminated response to climate change skeptics, is also pulling together a "climate rapid response team," which includes scientists prepared to go before what they consider potentially hostile audiences on conservative talk radio and television shows.

"This group feels strongly that science and politics can't be divorced and that we need to take bold measures to not only communicate science but also to aggressively engage the denialists and politicians who attack climate science and its scientists," said Scott Mandia, professor of physical sciences at Suffolk County Community College in New York.

"We are taking the fight to them because we are ... tired of taking the hits. The notion that truth will prevail is not working. The truth has been out there for the past two decades, and nothing has changed."

I sensed something in Michigan's student newspaper last week, in which a prominent researcher announced that there had to be a major shift in morality, because we must be made to see to see the burning of fossil fuels the same way we see slavery.

The problem is that these rhetorical and moral arguments simply are not science. The questions of whether the climate is changing and the theory of why it might be changing do involve science, but the questions of what could or should be done about it, the weighing the pros and cons in the form of a cost-benefit analysis -- these are inherently political questions. Scientists can invent new technologies, new drugs and vaccines, but their implementation is not up to them, nor is it up to them to judge human morality or immorality. Whether a breakthrough in life extension technology is ultimately for the good of mankind or the bad is not up to the researchers -- any more than the ultimate deployment of the Hiroshima bomb was up to the scientists at Alamogordo. Of course, being free people, we are all entitled to our opinions, including scientists like Robert Oppenheimer, who waxed philosophically about his work:

After the initial euphoria of witnessing the explosion had passed, test director Kenneth Bainbridge commented to Los Alamos director J. Robert Oppenheimer, "Now we are all sons of bitches."[27] Oppenheimer later stated that while watching the test he was reminded of a line from the Hindu scripture the Bhagavad Gita:
Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.[28][29]
While it was perfectly OK for Oppenheimer to say that, it can hardly be considered science. Oppenheimer had serious moral problems with the use of the bomb, and he had every right to become an anti-nuclear activist, just as scientists are free to oppose nuclear weapons or nuclear power today. But if scientists declared that political activism against nukes constitutes "science" (or that it was a "scientific consensus") that would not make it science.

The assignment of collective blame and the insistence that something be done is not science. It is a public policy argument based on morality, with quasi-religious overtones. Calling it science contaminates morality and debases science.

Scientists who wish to impose their morality on us are of course free to try, but they shouldn't be able to get away with calling it science, nor should they have a leg up on everyone else just because of scientific credentials.

I miss the good old days of separation of morality and science.

posted by Eric at 10:16 AM | Comments (21)

Complete Charlie Foxtrot

An excerpt from the latest Ulsterman post. This is a discussion of the future of the Democrats.

So there's no hope for the party right now?

Hope? That's a tough commodity to come by for the hopeless. Look, the Democratic Party is suffering from temporary insanity right now. It's a complete cluster -expletive- these days. They are walking around clueless. And what does the president do? The supposed leader of the country, and of course the Democratic Party? What does he do after losing the most seats in the House in 70 years? Why he goes on a working vacation to the Far East. Watching the Democratic Party these days...I don't know if its tragedy or a comedy, it's really getting hard to tell. What are these people... (trails off)

The informant also talks about a scandal coming up for the President in 2011. The incoming (heh) Republicans have warned the White House against shredding documents, wiping hard drives, and deleting e-mails. I expect the real details will start filtering out in about 8 or 10 more weeks. In the mean time Ulsterman will have another update in another day or three.

Let me add. Even if none of this is true it is a fun read. Here are some hints:

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:16 AM | Comments (0)

They Will Kill Gays Won't They

My evangelical friends have been at it again. Some of these Biblical Christians have gotten involved in the internal affairs of Uganda. This report is from Jan. 2010.

KAMPALA, Uganda -- Last March, three American evangelical Christians, whose teachings about "curing" homosexuals have been widely discredited in the United States, arrived here in Uganda's capital to give a series of talks.

The theme of the event, according to Stephen Langa, its Ugandan organizer, was "the gay agenda -- that whole hidden and dark agenda" -- and the threat homosexuals posed to Bible-based values and the traditional African family.

For three days, according to participants and audio recordings, thousands of Ugandans, including police officers, teachers and national politicians, listened raptly to the Americans, who were presented as experts on homosexuality. The visitors discussed how to make gay people straight, how gay men often sodomized teenage boys and how "the gay movement is an evil institution" whose goal is "to defeat the marriage-based society and replace it with a culture of sexual promiscuity."

Now the three Americans are finding themselves on the defensive, saying they had no intention of helping stoke the kind of anger that could lead to what came next: a bill to impose a death sentence for homosexual behavior.

It took 400 years of anti-Jew agitation before Germans opened the death camps for Jews and other undesirables. These Christians were able to accomplish their result in two years. They are really good. At evil.

Can we say the end result of their Evangalism have been unfortunate for gay Ugandas? Yes we can.

The Ugandan cabinet member who introduced a bill last year that would see gays executed in some circumstances says the bill will become law.

David Bahati, Uganda's minister for ethics, told CNN he believes the bill will become law "soon."

"We are very confident," he said, "because this is a piece of legislation that is needed in this country to protect the traditional family here in Africa, and also protect the future of our children."

Bahati and his boss, Ugandan President Yoweri Kugata Museveni, are reportedly members of the American Christian group The Fellowship, also known as The Family.

I guess Hitler's Pink Triangles did not give them their fill. May God have mercy on the gays who are killed. And none on the Evangelicals who got this ball rolling.

You have to wonder why so many who think they are doing God's work end up doing the work of the Devil?

May I suggest that the folks who got this pogrom started offer to die in place of the gays. And every single person who donated to these fools ought to offer themselves up in place of the homosexuals who will get sentenced. In order to atone for their sins.

And some people wonder why I'm not a big fan of Christians in general and Evangelicals in particular. Let me add that the Fellowship bills itself as the World's Largest Bible Study site on the internet. They should have plenty of bodies to offer in the name of Jesus in order to save their gay brothers.

And always it is with the "not what we intended" crap. If you preach hate what the Hell else do you expect Mother Fuckers?

There is a book about The Family:

The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:20 PM | Comments (35)

A Process, Not An Event

It took a while, but Iraq's major parties have agreed on a national unity government.

This will arguably be Iraq's first true unity government, as it will bring in major representation of the Sunnis who had largely avoided the polls in 2005. Allawi's party will reportedly hold the speakership, while Maliki continues as PM. The Sadrists were not quite left in the cold, but it appears they will not be major players. Look for Allawi to push back against Iranian influence, which is absolutely abhorred by his Sunni constituents, and not especially beloved among most Shia and Kurds.

The fiercely pro-American Kurds deserve a lot of credit for pushing Maliki's party towards a unity government. While Iraq has enormous challenges, as does most of the region, as the first Arab state to achieve a semblance of liberal democracy the Mesopotamian country also has unique potential -- and has already achieved much that was deemed impossible by most observers only four years ago.

posted by Dave at 06:15 PM | Comments (0)

Close the prescription drug loophole! And close the First Amendment loophole!

Both M. Simon and I have written previously about Dr. Stephen Schneider, who was vigorously prosecuted for and convicted of prescribing narcotic drugs to addicts. If he in fact did that, I have no philosophical problem with it -- any more than I have a problem with a liquor store selling booze to an alcohol-addicted patron. Legally, however, doctors are not allowed to prescribe to patients they know are simple drug addicts (as opposed to patients who become dependent while being medicated for other things). Under the present system, a doctor who provides narcotics for an addict in order to maintain his habit commits a crime. Now, I think many people (including some who believe that non-medical narcotic drugs should be illegal) would agree that bad as drug addiction is, that it might be better for addicts to be supplied by doctors than by a street dealers. The reasons are obvious; the addict would be less likely to ingest substances of unknown quality and dose (which would mean he'd be less likely to die), and he would be paying pharmacy prices for his drugs (which are far, far, lower than street prices -- we're talking fifty cents for a pill that with a street value of fifty dollars.)

Obviously, the judge who sentenced Dr. Schneider and his wife felt very differently, for he sentenced him to 30 years and his wife to 33 years in prison. It is worth bearing in mind that because of the way the system works, if a doctor prescribes for an addict ("improper" prescribing) this activates a legal chain of potential federal crimes:

Prescribing painkillers becomes drug trafficking, applying for insurance reimbursement becomes fraud, making bank deposits becomes money laundering, and working with people at the office becomes conspiracy.
I have serious problems with the above, just as I have serious problems with many of the reasons the judge gave for the sentence. But there's one in particular that just struck me as outrageous. The judge openly admitted that the sentence was intended as a deterrent against the activist group that had tried to help Dr. Schneider.

No, seriously. The following -- from U.S. District Judge Monti Belot's "Sentencing Decision" -- is what passes for legal thinking today:

There is one aspect of deterrence I hope this case achieves and that is to curtail or stop the activities of the Bozo the Clown outfit known as the Pain Control Network, a ship of fools if there ever was one.

A ship of fools is an allegory in Western literature which depicts a ship with deranged passengers without a pilot who are seemingly ignorant of their own direction.

When persons leading or involved in an organization such as the Pain Control Network are so stupid that they support what occurred in this case, they demean the efforts of legitimate medical providers to help persons suffering from chronic pain.

So, because the Pain Control Network tried to help an accused criminal defendant, the judge is holding that against the doctor, and wants to send a signal to activists that if they dare help accused doctors in these situations, it will adversely affect their sentences. His brazenly admission of the reason for the sentence is like saying this:

"Your sentence is intended to send a message to your supporters!"

Bear in mind that what Dr. Schneider's supporters did was standard First Amendment fare. They agitated against what they perceived as an injustice. The right to do that goes to the heart of our freedom. (The right to freely petition for redress of grievances is not only in the First Amendment, it is as old as the Magna Carta.) And by sentencing Dr. Schneider, this judge admitted that his goal was to to get back at them; i.e. to retaliate against those who believed that the case was an injustice. I don't care what anyone thinks of the drug laws, or the doctor, or his supporters, to impose a criminal sentence with a view towards deterring the First Amendment rights of that person's supporters is an outrage by any standard, and I think it evinces such bias and hostility that it requires reversing the doctor's conviction.

The sentence, of course, is just one wrinkle of one of the scariest legal cases I have ever seen. It ramps up the drug war to an entirely new level by unprecedented use of the criminal justice system to stifle dissent. Not only did the government attempt to criminally prosecute the activists, but after that failed, the prosecutor attempted to use the grand jury system against the activist group, in the process bankrupting Siobhan Reynolds. But even that wasn't enough. The latest wrinkle is that they sealed the records in the case against Reynolds, so this has become what Jacob Sullum calls "A First Amendment Case You Can't Talk About":

The case has been sealed because it grew out of a grand jury investigation of Reynolds that Treadway instigated because she was irritated by Reynolds' advocacy on behalf of the Schneiders. Supposedly looking for evidence of obstruction of justice, Treadway obtained subpoenas that demanded, among other things, communications between Reynolds and the Schneiders, a PRN-produced video on the conflict between drug control and pain control, and documents related to a PRN-sponsored billboard in Wichita that proclaimed, "Dr. Schneider never killed anyone." This investigation followed Treadway's unsuccessful attempt to obtain a gag order prohibiting Reynolds from talking about the Schneiders' case.

Reynolds unsuccessfully challenged the subpoenas on First Amendment grounds in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas, then appealed that decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. At that point, the Reason Foundation (which publishes this website as well as Reason magazine) and the Institute for Justice filed an amicus brief on her behalf. The 10th Circuit ruled against Reynolds in April, and she was hit with daily contempt fines that she and her organization paid until they ran out of money last summer, at which point she surrendered the material that Treadway wanted rather than go to jail. Now she is asking the Supreme Court to clarify how the First Amendment constrains grand jury subpoenas, including the standards for determining when an investigation is a good-faith effort to find evidence of a crime (as opposed to, say, a vendetta against a critic) and when it is permissible to demand material that implicates freedom of speech. The petition, prepared by First Amendment specialist Robert Corn-Revere, also asks the Court to consider the extraordinary secrecy surrounding this case, which has proceeded all the way to the highest court without a published opinion or publicly available briefs.

Couple that with the admission by the judge that the sentence itself was also a vendetta against the critic, and I'm surprised there isn't more public outrage.

I mean really. If a vindictive federal prosecutor can do this to Siobhan Reynolds for supporting Dr. Schneider, then what's to stop them from going after his supporters in the blogosphere, like yours truly? What's to stop a judge from using Google to determine the level of online support for an accused defendant, and then using his sentencing powers to deter their free speech?

There's more about this in the New York Times, which also noted the irony that an amicus brief in support of the First Amendment cannot even be seen!

Last week, I asked a lawyer from a libertarian group for a copy of a brief it had filed in a First Amendment case. Sounding frustrated and incredulous, he said a federal appeals court had sealed the brief and forbidden its distribution.

"It's a profound problem," said the lawyer, Paul M. Sherman, with the Institute for Justice. "We want to bring attention to important First Amendment issues but cannot share the brief that most forcefully makes those arguments."

The brief was filed in support of Siobhan Reynolds, an activist who thinks the government is too aggressive in prosecuting doctors who prescribe pain medications.

From the Washington Post:
"I think it is rare you see a case that entire dockets through the appellate process are subject to this kind of secrecy," said Corn-Revere, Reynolds' attorney. "And that, of course, is one of the issues we are asking the court to address."

Reynolds' case also raises the question before the Supreme Court of whether grand juries can be used to silence dissent, he said. Her petition says people should be able to criticize the government without fear and asks the court to set standards for lower courts allowing grand juries to subpoena materials protected by the First Amendment.

Glenn Reynolds called the situation "Kafkaesque," and added,
Good grief. This is disgraceful. (Note: Siobhan Reynolds is no relation).
I guess Glenn is lucky he's not related to Ms. Reynolds, or else he too might find himself served with a subpoena for obstructing justice, be cited as an additional aggravating factor justifying Dr. Schneider's long sentence, and find all Instapundit posts on the subject judicially sealed.

And here's the Cato Institute's assessment which Glenn Reynolds linked, and with which I couldn't agree more:

This case represents the worst of government excesses in federal overcriminalization and overzealous prosecution. The federal government continues to treat doctors as drug dealers, as Ronald Libby points out in this Cato policy analysis. The grand jury, intended as a check on prosecutorial power, instead acts as an inquisitorial bulldozer that enhances the power of the government. My colleague Tim Lynch examined this phenomenon in his policy analysis A Grand Facade: How the Grand Jury Was Captured by Government.

Cato Adjunct Scholar Harvey Silverglate examined the case of Dr. William Hurwitz in his book, Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent. The DEA turned a few of Hurwitz's patients into informants and prosecuted Hurwitz. When Hurwitz shuttered his practice, two of his patients killed themselves because they could not get prescriptions for necessary painkillers. Siobhan Reynolds's husband, another of Hurwitz's patients, could not get essential medication and died of a brain hemorrhage, likely brought on by the blood pressure build-up from years of untreated pain.

Well if the patients killed themselves, obviously that was the doctor's fault too! For addicting them!

Yes, our government thinks that way, and they have ninja bureaucrats who run around treating doctors like terrorists:

Ninja bureaucrats continue to treat doctors that prescribe painkillers as tactical threats on par with terrorist safehouses. When the DEA raided the office of Dr. Cecil Knox in 2002, one clinic worker "thought she and her husband, who was helping her in the office that day, would be shot. She looked on in horror as an agent put a gun to his head and ordered, 'Get off the phone! Now!'" Radley Balko chronicles this unfortunate trend in Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America, and the Raidmap has a separate category for unnecessary raids on doctors and sick people (sorted at the link).
Out of curiosity, I clicked on that last link, and found this:
Police pound on the door of 41-year-old Robert Filgo, a medical marijuana patient who has a doctor's perscription and a certificate from the city of Oakland to grow, possess, and smoke marijuana.

Before he can answer their knocks, police force open the door and order Filgo to the floor. While searching his home, police shoot Filgo's pet Akita nine times, killing it.

The Alameda County Distric Attorney's Office later opted not to press charges against Filgo.

I guess the poor guy's mistake was in going to a doctor. As I have explained, the Drug War's subsidiary war on doctors necessarily means war against patient privacy. This touches on yet another irony: if you buy drugs off the street, the government has to get a search warrant to look for evidence, but if you get prescription meds through a doctor, the government can rifle through your once-private records at any time.

Factor in Obamacare, and there will soon be no medical privacy at all. I guess the goal is to force people who want or need drugs to buy only on the underground market, as Rush Limbaugh was forced to. (I repeatedly defended Rush at the time, and now I'm wondering why I wasn't investigated for obstruction of justice.)

Hell, even in the darkest days of Prohibition, doctors were allowed to write medical prescriptions for booze -- using whatever medical standards they might deem appropriate. And that was allowed to go on, despite claims that medical alcohol "made a mockery of Prohibition" and the AMA declared its "use in therapeutics ... has no scientific value." (Contrary to what we now know to be true....)

Today the doctor who prescribed booze would be charged with fraud, money-laundering, and conspiracy, and SWAT teams would break down the doors of his "clinic"! And his defenders would find themselves under investigation for "obstruction of justice," with their First Amendment rights being silenced by the courts.

That's progress.

posted by Eric at 02:24 PM | Comments (3)

A Clock Setback

In case you haven't heard we are now - for the winter - off daylight saving time. All your manual clocks need to be set back one hour. If that is a hassle - it is - may I suggest this radio controlled clock (sometimes called an atomic clock because it uses the American atomic time standard) from Amazon. The radio signal comes from WWVB near Boulder, Colorado. The frequency is 60 KHz. It updates the time every night so you are always within a second or so and it automatically does Daylight Savings Time. I have one and my first mate loves it. Unlike atomic clocks of the past it is very easy to set up. And this particular version is under $20.

La Crosse Technology WT-3102B 10-Inch Atomic Analog Clock

If you have one of these in your dwelling you will always have at least one clock with the right time. No need to try to figure out if it is fall back or spring forward.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:00 PM | Comments (13)

Well That Was A Load

It seems the Mexican government has found and destroyed 121 1/2 tons of marijuana.

If you engage in a bit of the wacky tobacco, you probably have a pretty good idea of what a gram of marijuana looks like -- maybe even an ounce. But even the most expanded mind would have trouble conceptualizing the sheer mass of 121.5 tons of marijuana. Mexican authorities are calling this haul "the largest seizure in the country's history of marijuana prepared and packed for sale and distribution."

Read on to see more photos of the psychoactive largess ... and how they got rid of it.

The site has lots of pictures. But that is not what interests me. I like running the numbers. So let us run some. Assume this was low grade Mexican and that the average consumer will consume an ounce of this stuff a month.

121.5 toms = 243,000 pounds
243,000 pounds = 3,888,000 ounces

If we assume it represents 10% of the flows (the usual DEA number for the amount captured) and that what was caught is part of a months supply that would mean that there are about 39 million pot consumers in America. Roughly 10% of the American population. I have run other DEA numbers in other years and in those years I came up with 45 million regular pot users in America. So this is in the ball park. And that does not even count the high quality stuff grown in America. Consumption rates for that are about a 1/4 of the rate of the Mexican stuff (to account for the higher quality). And the DEA says that the imported stuff only accounts for 1/2 of total usage by weight. Which means that there could be on the order of 200 million regular pot users in America. Probably way on the high side. So what do we know for sure? The DEA estimate of 15 million regular pot users in America (5% of the population) is way low. My own feeling from looking at such numbers over the years is that about 1/4 of the American population are regular pot users.

So could some one please explain to me the wisdom of making war on anywhere from 5% (minimum) to 25% (the most likely number) of the American population? Couldn't we be doing something better with the 60% of the drug war money being used to go after pot smokers and their suppliers? And just to give you some idea - Drug War costs are estimated in the range of $50 to $100 billion a year (State, Federal, local - and depending on how you allocate the costs).

Let me also ask why are the numbers so crazy out of line on either end? It is because no one really knows what is going on to even an order of magnitude because the activity is underground. Even so we do know that the entire American population could be supplied with pot for a year with about 120,000 tons of Mexican grade pot. When you compare that with the millions of tons of potatoes produced or wheat or or carrots or beef or the billions of tons of building supplies the actual flows by weight are insignificant.

Another way to look at the numbers: American police arrest about 800,000 pot users and dealers every year. Let us assume the number of uniques is 500,000 (accounting for the fact that some users/dealers get arrested more than once a year). If that is about 1% of the user community it says that there are about 50 million pot users in America. Again that is consistent with other numbers I have run. And again I will remind you that these are just guesses. But they again point to the fact that the DEA estimates for regular pot users in America is way low.

And might I add for those of you out there who are Constitutionalists - where is the Drug Prohibition Amendment?

So is making war on 25% of the American population a wise policy? If you are part of the criminal justice system (police, prisons, lawyers, probation officers, judges, etc.) it is easy money. And most Americans (for now) are willing to cough up that dough with nary a complaint. It is really nice when the marks hand over their money without complaint. There is no better con going. So far.

Some Drug War books and videos:

Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed: A Judicial Indictment Of War On Drugs

Drug War Zone: Frontline Dispatches from the Streets of El Paso and Juárez

American Drug War: The Last White Hope

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:44 AM | Comments (6)

Hey, we won! It's time to party, right?

I don't like to gloat. But if I did, I'd be pretty happy about what happened here in Michigan on Tuesday.

It's the first Saturday night after the election, and I hope it's OK to celebrate for a moment now. (I should point out that I was pretty busy that day watching the polls from 6:30 a.m. to 8:45 p.m. and I was just too burned out to join in the revelry, so I went home and slept.)

Once again, though, just as I don't believe in telling people what to do, I also don't believe in telling them what not to do. So if I second Glenn's repeated thought -- "Don't get cocky" -- that's not meant as an order so much as it is meant as heartfelt advice for people in Michigan or anywhere else.

It has to be remembered that the voters weren't voting for Republicans so much as they were voting against arrogant, entrenched, power which has been wielded these recent years by Democrats.

If Republicans doubt this and want to test the theory by behaving as arrogant and entrenched rulers, I am sure the voters will be willing to oblige once again.

So the victory is worth noting, but I don't think it's cause for celebration so much as reflection and introspection.

Those who think this is a big "victory" which affords them another chance to be arrogant are, IMHO, missing the point completely. I sincerely hope they don't get into that old corruption-of-power routine. Because if they do, then the voters will get right back into that old you're-out-of-office-again routine.

MORE: Many thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, and a warm welcome to all.

I appreciate the comments, and I should probably add that I am one of those libertarians who pounded the pavement in addition to the keyboard.

If you don't campaign don't complain.

In that regard, the comment that Glenn quoted may be instructive:

The Country Club Republicans put up most of the money and provided meeting places. Important.

The religeous right provided a lot of work. It was they that walked precincts and they that worked phone banks. Very important.

The libertarians talked. The libertarians also complained. They were always too busy taking and complaining to do any work.

Libertarians tend to hate politics. So they shun politics. I don't blame them, but I think it's a pity.

posted by Eric at 11:59 PM | Comments (15)

Bankers, Bailouts, And Briar Patches

Via Reason, Matt Taibbi makes a strange argument.

It's amazing to me that people who should know better are missing some of the most obvious facts here.

Markets have winners and losers. Inevitably some banks will fail in a major economic adjustment. Why did we need the bailout? Because the Feds allowed institutions to become so large that their failure was a systemic risk. Moral hazard ensued.

Libertarians are not instinctively and blithely anti-regulation: we are not, for instance, opposed to breaking up monopolies/oligopolies to ensure competition -- indeed, it is a necessity for free markets to function. In fact, it is the liberals like Taibbi who have been seduced by the notion of turning huge banks into quasi-state enterprises via regulation and aggregation. A few large players are easier to control, their thinking appears to go.

And so moral hazard only grows larger, while those who failed are increasingly insulated from their failure.

And that's why Brer Blankfein is laughing in the briar patch. The bailouts may have been necessary and salutary (Megan McArdle has made some very convincing arguments in this regard) but they should have been contingent on breakup.

posted by Dave at 12:45 PM | Comments (11)

Not Enough

I was reading this LA Times article on a five year old killed by Los Angeles gangs. So I posted this comment:

The Drug War finances the gangs. Had enough yet?
And within five minutes the comment was gone.

I wonder if it was a glitch or editorial policy?

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 11:14 AM | Comments (8)

Mind if I impose again?

I just can't get over this idea that if someone imposes on me and I refuse to go along with it, that I am then imposing on him. While the discussion revolved around imposing morality, and it began as a discussion of social conservatism, the mechanics of imposition is the same, and I just can't get my mind around the idea that not wanting to be imposed upon is an imposition on the imposer.

It comes down to common sense and basic manners that an imposition comes from the one who imposes, not the one who refuses to be imposed upon. Not wanting to do something does not impose morality on the person who wants something done, and to say it does tortures the ordinary meaning of the word impose.

While I think the argument is truly hopeless, I offered a non-inflammatory hypothetical analogy to meat prohibition:

...if vegetarians demand that I refrain from eating meat, they are trying to impose their version of "morality" on me. If I eat meat, though, I am not imposing my "morality" (if we assume food choices involve morality) on them. Unless you make people do something, you are not imposing anything on them. Unless I make them eat meat, I am not imposing meat eating on vegetarians by eating it myself.
I realize there are those who would say that those who refuse to stop eating meat when that is demanded of them are imposing their morality on the vegetarians, but their saying so does not make it so. To impose on someone requires making him do something, and non-compliance with his demands is passive. It does not impose in any way.

For the past couple of days I have had an article about a huge, imminent Orwellian federal database staring me in the face. The government, pursuant to the Affordable Care Act, is poised to invade the privacy of millions:

Several privacy groups have raised alarms over plans by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to build a database that would contain information about the healthcare claims of millions of Americans.

The concerns have surfaced because the OPM has provided few details about the new database and because the data collected will be shared with law enforcement, third-party researchers and others.

In a letter to OPM Director John Berry, the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) and 15 other organizations asked the agency to release more details on the need for the database and how the data contained in it will be protected and used.

The OPM "should not create this massive database full of detailed individual health records without giving the public a full and fair chance to evaluate the specifics of the program," the letter cautioned.

It also called upon the OPM to delay its proposed Nov. 15 launch date for the database because there was not enough time for independent observers to evaluate the proposal.

According to the OPM, the planned Health Claims Data Warehouse is designed to help the agency more cost-effectively manage three health claims programs: the Federal Employee Health Benefit Program (FEHBP), the National Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Program and the Multi-State Option Plan.

The pre-existing condition program, which launched in August, and the multi-state option plan, which is scheduled to go into effect in January 2014, were both introduced earlier this year as part of the Affordable Care Act, the law designed to overhaul health care in the U.S. that was signed by President Obama in March. The OPM is in charge of administering the FEHBP as well as the two new programs.

This is really creepy stuff, and totally invasive of privacy. I see it as a direct imposition on every American whose personal health records are being compiled. (And for the reasons explained here, I think the law and the regs violate the 4th Amendment.)

But are those who don't want their privacy invaded imposing their morality on others? I don't think so. They are behaving no differently than a meat eater who refuses to stop eating meat. As I elaborated earlier,

...if someone demands that I feed him and I refuse, I am not "imposing" anything on him by my refusal to let him impose on me. The idea that refusal to do the bidding of others imposes on them -- or that defense of self is an imposition on attackers -- is, I think, ridiculous on its face.

People who mind their own business and wish to be left alone by definition do not "impose" their morality on others.

Nor is defense against attack the imposition of morality, as it goes to self preservation. If, in the broad sense, it involves "imposing morality on others," then so would eating and breathing. (I realize the climate change advocates would probably claim it does... but this would mean these ordinary terms lack meaning.)

That is no understatement. The moral communitarians * who believe emitting carbon is the moral equivalent of slavery would absolutely believe that merely by eating and breathing, I am imposing on everyone else.

Sorry, but that is not my definition of imposition. Because if it is, we are all simply imposing on each other, and the word has lost its meaning.

Which means I'm imposing on everyone by writing this post. And those who don't read it are imposing on me by not complying with my implicit demand that they read it! As to those who disagree with me, clearly they are imposing their morality on me by their disagreement!

God, what an imposition it all is.

I demand an imposition inquisition! All who refuse to be tortured are imposing their morality on the torturers.

* The problem may be that just as individualists see communitarianism as imposing on individualism, communitarians see individualism as imposing on communitarianism. These people have a different ways of seeing the world and their views may be hopelessly irreconcilable.

posted by Eric at 11:12 AM | Comments (17)

Ravens And Blight

Stuart Rothenberg is served some crow for predicting a GOP recapture of the House was impossible, but not everyone blames him:

This failed prognosticator's mistake is an easy one to understand. How was he to know that he lived in a nation populated by raving loons who would lash out against the very people who have done so much to help them?

See, he was assuming that his fellow countrymen were the same intelligent, thoughtful folk who had carefully considered all their options before wisely electing light-bringer Obama to guide us to nirvana, empowering him with overwhelming congressional majorities to aide him in that quest. Back then, you'll recall, the American people exercised steely rationality in selecting a forthright progressive leadership with a clear plan to rebuild America into the better, fairer country that it should always have been.

It was heartening to see, back then, Americans fighting their evolved inability to think clearly during times of economic uncertainty. Sadly, as President Obama recently pointed out, the continued perception of economic weakness has left large swathes of America completely unable to access their higher brain functions. And the result is the disastrous election we just suffered.

It gets better. Read the whole thing.

posted by Dave at 05:33 PM | Comments (11)

Renee Ellmers Needs Your Help

There is a recount going on and she needs money to pay for it. RSM has the details.

Here is a comment I made at RSM's site:

I believe what is going on is the NRCC is trying to keep as many TEA Party people from winning as possible. How can they cut deals with the Democrats if the TEAs just say NO? Or worse HELL NO.

We have a two front war. We win it by primarying more of their stinkin butts until they get the message.

Note that the outpouring of sentiment on the intertubes has shamed the Republican establishment into putting up $10 K to help. It is still not enough. Do what you can.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:23 PM | Comments (0)

And how many "legs" does the "leg" have?

The earlier post about "legs" has generated a lot of comments, as well as several related posts.

One commenter took issue with the questions I raised about the nature of the social conservative, traditional values "leg." Here's what I said:

Yet still, I want to know more about the leg I don't like. What are its elements?

  • Intolerance of homosexuality?
  • The demand that fertilized eggs be treated as human beings, and that women who kill them be treated as murderers?
  • The insistence on imprisoning (or even executing) human beings for consensual crimes involving consumption of disapproved substances?
  • The demand that church and state be united together?
  • Quoting the above, the commenter called it "grotesque" and said it reflects on me personally.
    This sort of grotesque caricature of positions you don't agree with (and, it would seem, don't even really understand) hardly reflects well on you.
    OK, I am always willing to admit that I might be wrong. Hence this post.

    First off, it occurs to me that if I was wrong in the characterizations I posed as questions, I should be positively delighted to be wrong. Because it would mean that I was being paranoid and worried about nothing, right? I'd love for that to be the case. If the social conservatives are not intolerant of homosexuality, do not demand that fertilized eggs be treated as human beings, do not believe women who kill them should be treated as murderers, do not believe in imprisoning or executing people for consensual drug crimes, and do not demand the unification of church and state, then I really was off base in suggesting otherwise, even if I did so in the form of raising questions.

    However, the questions are not simply a product of a hyperactive imagination fueled by political hyperbole, and I am sorry if they appeared that way. Looking back at the post, I was probably being sloppy by racing ahead to my central point, and in the process I now realize that the least I could have done would have been to supply some links. Here are the same questions -- as supplemented with supporting links:

  • Intolerance of homosexuality?
  • The demand that fertilized eggs be treated as human beings, and that women who kill them be treated as murderers?
  • The insistence on imprisoning (or even executing) human beings for consensual crimes involving consumption of disapproved substances?
  • The demand that church and state be united together?
  • Beyond that, I might have added a question about pornography, the "traditional values" opposition to which is well-documented. (Some even claim pornography should be treated like drugs.)

    Now, it could be argued that the links I supplied go to people who are on the fringes of conservatism, like Alan Keyes or Matt Barber, and that most social conservatives aren't like that, and do not agree with them. That may be the case, which is why I deliberately put what I said in the form of questions about the nature of the leg. But OTOH, the piece to which I was responding in the post had been written by the president of the Concerned Women for America (which does hold most if not all of the above views and which employs Matt Barber as its Policy Director for Cultural Issues. I did not mean to (and would never) suggest that these organizations and people speak for all conservatives, and I think regular readers of this blog know that I try to avoid painting with a broad brush like that. My point was simply to ask about the nature of the "leg" that is supposed to be supporting the conservative "stool."

    And I still have problems with that analogy, totally aside from the nature of the "leg." But I think a good case can be made for the proposition that the "leg" itself is comprised of a number of legs, and that some of them might be unstable.

    Feel free to tell me I'm imagining things. I need reassurance.

    posted by Eric at 12:12 PM | Comments (25)

    Boehner Begins

    This is certainly an auspicious beginning, assuming he actually follows through.

    No earmarks, no passing bills until the public has three days to view them, explicit Constitutional authority needed for all bills... I feel like it's morning in America.

    posted by Dave at 11:56 AM | Comments (0)

    Not Every One Is As Forgiving As I Am

    In the comments at Eric's post If I may strain a strained analogy, how many "legs" are under the Tea Party "stool"? A commenter made this point about my political position:

    I know how M. Simon has chosen. He has chosen poorly. Given the extreme choice between gulags and blue laws, I'm not certain which he would pick.
    Isn't it obvious what I have picked? I'm with the TEA Party. I vote Republican.

    But the Blue Law folks represent a danger to the coalition. Not everyone is as forgiving as I am.

    You will excuse me if I articulate the view point of those not as committed as I am. But it needs to be said. I want to hold the coalition together.

    The policies of a coalition are defined by its weakest members. Otherwise you lose those at the margins. Lose enough of them and you get defeat instead of victory. I'm not interested in defeat.

    I think this story is emblematic of my point:

    Exit polling reveals that gay and lesbian voters played a critical role in the Republican Party's historic gains in the U.S. House on Tuesday night. According to CNN, 31% of self-identified gay voters supported Republican candidates for the U.S. House. This number is a dramatic increase from the 19% GOP House candidates won among gay voters in 2008.
    Of course exit polling is not as reliable as regular polling. But a 10% shift (50% increase) is probably significant.

    This is politics not religion. You can hate gays in church. In politics it is wiser to be more accepting. i.e. if you can't say anything nice it would be wise to say nothing at all. The same goes double for the pogrom against the 15 to 45 million pot smokers in America. If Republicans were in the lead in ending the gulag (a real gulag - though not quite as harsh as the Soviet ones) for pot smokers and their suppliers we might win at least a few million of those folks. Every little bit helps - at the margins. Think of all the races the Republicans lost by a few percent. Think of what a few million extra votes for Republicans might have meant in the last election. Instead of 60 house seats it could have been 100. Or 120.

    Also noted in the comments was a fellow who complained about the "gay agenda" being forced on children by the public school system. And instead of diagnosing the problem correctly the commenter went off on gays. So what is the problem? Public schools. Which were in part a social conservative project to make sure newly arrived immigrants were properly Americanized. The reaction to that was Jewish and Catholic private schools. You can look it up. So instead of going off on gays why not do something about the real problem? Advocate for vouchers. I must say it amuses me to no end that current social conservatives hate the fact that public schools are indoctrination centers. When that is in fact exactly what their ancestors hoped they would be. Another social engineering project gone awry.

    It is too funny hearing current social conservative railing against social engineering. When at one time their ancestors were avid practitioners of same. What goes around comes around. Heh.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 10:07 PM | Comments (1)

    Will we also need a civil war to abolish climate change?

    Speaking of bad analogies, the latest meme -- which comes from scientific "research" -- is that global warming is like slavery!

    No seriously. According to Professor of Sustainable Enterprise Andy Hoffman, we must "change the way we structure our organizations and the way we think as individuals" so that what is a "scientific fact" becomes a "social fact" until we all collectively come to see the same moral problem with the burning of fossil fuels the same way we see the moral problem with slavery! This "value shift" will "require people to come to terms with a new cultural reality" -- all that in the name of "science"!

    Despite scientific evidence of climate change, it will take a significant cultural shift in attitudes to address the situation, a U-M researcher says.

    The shift would be much like what has happened with recent cigarette smoking bans and even similar to the abolition of slavery in the 19th century.

    "The present reality is that we tend to overlook the social dimensions of environmental issues and focus strictly on their technological and economic aspects," says Andy Hoffman, the Holcim (U.S.) Professor of Sustainable Enterprise at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business and School of Natural Resources and Environment. "To properly address climate change, we must change the way we structure our organizations and the way we think as individuals.

    "It requires a shift in our values to reflect what scientists have been telling us for years. The certainty of climate change must shift from that of being a 'scientific fact' to that of being a 'social fact.'"

    In an article published in the current issue of the journal Organizational Dynamics, Hoffman compares the current cultural attitudes toward climate change to historical societal views on smoking and slavery.

    "Just as few people saw a moral problem with slavery in the 18th century, few people in the 21st century see a moral problem with the burning of fossil fuels," Hoffman says. "Will people in 100 years look at us with the same incomprehension we feel toward 18th-century defenders of slavery? If we are to address the problem adequately, the answer to that question must be yes."

    But Hoffman says this value shift will require people to come to terms with a new cultural reality: first, that we have grown to such numbers and our technologies have grown to such a capacity that we can, and do, alter the Earth's ecological systems on a planetary scale; and second, that we share a collective responsibility and require global cooperation to solve it.

    Never mind anything in the Constitution, and forget the economy and all that Tea Party crap! It's "science" that rules. The new scientific consensus on collective responsibility and global cooperation will now dictate public opinion, law, and morality. Hear hear!

    I must be getting old. I didn't even know that "Sustainable Enterprise" was an academic discipline.

    Sounds like a very powerful field, and I certainly hope that its gatekeepers believe in, you know, stuff like academic freedom and free scientific inquiry. Scientific skepticism should not be summarily dismissed as "immoral" by other scientists.

    I think the professor's analogy is not only inane, but it trivializes the horrors of slavery. People might start asking whether such intolerant and nutty ideas are sustainable.

    posted by Eric at 06:49 PM | Comments (7)

    Project Valor IT

    You can still donate to help wounded military men and women at: Project Valour-IT

    Project Valour-IT helps provide voice-controlled/adaptive laptop computers and other technology to support Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines recovering from hand wounds and other severe injuries. Items supplied include:

    # Voice-controlled Laptops - Operated by speaking into a microphone or using other adaptive technologies, they allow the wounded to maintain connections with the rest of the world during recovery.
    # Wii Video Game Systems - Whole-body game systems increase motivation and speed recovery when used under the guidance of physical therapists in therapy sessions (donated only to medical facilities).
    # Personal GPS - Handheld GPS devices build self-confidence and independence by compensating for short-term memory loss and organizational challenges related to severe TBI and severe PTSD.

    Warrior Song www site

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:51 PM | Comments (0)

    Every disorder needs a category -- including individualism!

    Back in February I took a test (the so-called "Moral Foundations Questionnaire") which was widely circulating, and had been touted as sort of diagnostic tool because it was said to correlate liberalism with one group of moral indicators, and conservatism with another.

    My results did not match the stereotypes (my disgust scores were lower than the average and my so-called "animal reminder" levels were far lower).

    In a more recent post, I complained about the liberal versus conservative dichotomy a second time, and I took issue with a number of the test questions. While I noticed that the researcher seemed to be working towards the addition of a new category, I question the whole idea of trying to diagnose and categorize people and pigeonhole their political views:

    Whether I am "liberal" or "conservative," who knows? Do I really have to be one or the other? Says who?

    Can I be allowed to just think what I think without being labeled, diagnosed, and categorized?

    Well guess what? The researcher has in fact added a new category for libertarians, and finds them to have a different moral standards from either liberals or conservatives.

    Reason's Ronald Bailey has the details.

    ...what did the study find to be the basis of libertarian moral thinking? It will not surprise Reason readers that the study found that libertarians show (1) stronger endorsement of individual liberty as their foremost guiding principle and correspondingly weaker endorsement of other moral principles, (2) a relatively cerebral as opposed to emotional intellectual style, and (3) lower interdependence and social relatedness.
    What especially fascinated me was this:
    Haidt and his colleagues eventually recognized that their Moral Foundations Questionnaire was blinkered by liberal academic bias by failing to include a sixth moral foundation, Liberty. They developed a liberty scale to probe this moral dimension. (Sample values: People who are successful in business have a right to enjoy their wealth as they see fit; Everyone should be free to do as they choose, as long as they don't infringe upon the equal freedom of others.) And guess what? The researchers found that libertarians dramatically outscored liberals and conservatives when it came to putting a high value on both economic and lifestyle liberty. Most dishearteningly, liberals scored two full standard deviations below libertarians on economic liberty.

    Based on this values data, Haidt and his colleagues conclude, "Libertarians may fear that the moral concerns typically endorsed by liberals or conservatives are claims that can be used to trample upon individual rights--libertarians' sacred value. Clearly, libertarians are not amoral. Rather, standard morality scales do a poor job of measuring their one central and overriding moral commitment."

    While it might be novel to see this newly packaged as an academic discovery, it is not news to the many observers who have noticed that there is a major political and moral split between communitarians and individualists.

    Most small-l libertarians can, I think, fairly be called individualists. Many find that they do not fit within the communitarian spectrum.

    From an old rant:

    What's missing in the discussion of ideology-versus-pragmatism is any mention of libertarian ideology, and that's because the Republican base and the Democrat base both tend to abhor libertarianism in favor of communitarianism.

    Libertarians like me are quite accustomed to being ignored by communitarians. I can't speak for all libertarians, but I get awfully sick of hearing people yell about how what they want is being ignored when I've been used to it for years. There is something degrading about hearing the outrage of people whose vociferous demands have been ignored when my ideology doesn't count at all.

    I mean, imagine if I worked myself up to a full scale rant about how "it's high time that the president discussed the need to relegalize drugs!"

    It would be laughable, and it doesn't matter at all how strongly I might want it to happen.

    So, it's not that I don't have an ideology; it's that I'm asked to select between two ideologies I find morally abhorrent. And then, on top of that, I am now told that "ideology" has to be defined as either liberal or conservative.

    If liberals and conservatives are added together, communitarians have libertarians far outnumbered in political terms. Worst of all, politics by its nature tends to encourage groupthink -- which then degenerates into a form of communitarianism many individualists would consider Orwellian:
    What is remarkable about communitarianism is its sliding scale. Individuals become subordinated to a group dominated by the groupthink of identity politics. This groupthink is in turn subordinated (via multiculturalism) to a greater groupthink which uses identity politics as a protective shield against criticism. If you are not a member of the group, you have no right to say anything about it -- and if you criticize the ultimate result of the collectivized groupthink, you may be considered guilty of attacking the group!
    And of course communitarian thinking also leads to social engineering (whether from the right or the left) based on statistical correlations and "scientific" determinist theory. To say that this negates individuality and free will is understatement; it is the direct, declared enemy of it.

    But see, I can be discredited, because what I say simply reflects my diagnosis. I only think I am an individual. Such a thing is probably soon to become a disease model, if it hasn't already.

    I probably should have kept my trap shut and let that researcher just keep dividing the world into "liberal" and "conservative."

    Perhaps it's better to keep them divided than to have them wake up and realize that they'd better unite around their collective game and keep the libertarians out.

    After all, those libertarians want to impose their deranged form of "morality" on the good communitarians with their selfish and hedonistic demands that they be left alone! Worse yet, they want to leave other people alone -- which would lead to rampant immorality as well as a denial of social justice!

    MORE: That last thought is also explored in a comment debate in this post, between M. Simon and a commenter who claimed that those who want to be left alone are imposing their morality on those who won't leave them alone.

    So stop trying to impose your morality on me, eh?

    Funny. Libertarians want to leave you (and every one else) alone and that is a moral imposition?

    Project much?

    I'm fascinated by the idea that if you object to being told what to do, you are imposing your morality on whoever wants to control you.

    It's like saying if I pull a gun on a burglar and ask him to leave my house that I am imposing my morality on him.

    posted by Eric at 12:00 PM | Comments (14)

    Mark Kirk A Closet Libertarian?

    Libertarian Republican reports on an astonishing statement by Illinois Senator Elect Mark Kirk.

    "Tonight I stand before you as a fiscal conservative, a social moderate, and a national security hawk."
    Wow! Another addition to the libertarian wing of the Republican Party. Libertarian Republican goes on to say:
    Congratulations to the new Republican Senator from the State of Illinois, from the fiscally conservative, socially moderate, national security hawk wing of the GOP.

    Note - Kirk is a 20-year Veteran of the United States Military.

    See - Breitbart Video of Kirk's victory speech.

    Another video for your amusement: Gonna Win - We're Taking Over.

    I first became a Libertarian in 1988 when I voted for Ron Paul for President. By 2000 I had been Secretary/Treasurer of the local Libertarian club for 3 years. The 9/11 "event" caused me to become a libertarian Republican because the Libertarian Party was nuts on national defense.

    We have come a long way baby. From a fringe movement to regular mentions in the national press. Along with a few Senators and Congressmen. I hope to live long enough to see a libertarian Republican President.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 10:29 AM | Comments (3)

    Craft II: The Beating Wings of Liberty

    I would add in the same vein: rather than engage in the simplistic battle of labels ("socialist, extremist") , which generally leads only to one side declaring its labels acceptable/applicable and the others' not, one is usually better served to argue the consequences of competing points on the ideological continuum. Here empiricism can be employed, and the efficacy of competing approaches at reaching desired outcomes measured. Whether or not Label X applies to Politician Y is generally a less interesting discussion than the effects of policies A,B,C on our welfare. It's quite a bit more work, but as our viewpoint is informed by the harsh chill of the marginal propensity to produce as articulated by von Mises, Hayek, and Friedman we must embrace the arduous path as the one to our ideological victory as well as to greater human happiness generally.

    In any case the label "socialist" should not really be considered purely perjorative-- virtually everyone agrees a certain level of coercive redistribution is desirable (as few would like to see Social Security end as would see it extended to those aged 35), the question needs to be understood as how much socialism we can afford now consistent with maximizing the long-term productivity growth that is the source of the improvement in overall living standards.

    Of course, the audience must be amenable to reason in the first place, and such determination should be made before investing the effort, as I've learned (too late, to my detriment) from interacting with a couple popular fiction authors whose authorial talents did not translate to an amenability to reason, or even an honest interest in it. One laughs at the clown, one applauds the clown, one may even discuss the intricacies of comic timing with the clown, but one is not necessarily advised to attempt to teach the clown vector calculus.

    posted by Dave at 07:28 AM | Comments (1)


    Social conservatives are crafty. It is always 'I believe in small government "except for...." ' and then the liberals chime in: "I have a few exceptions in mind too." And we are off to the races.


    Note: This was originally part of a comment to Eric's If I may strain a strained analogy, how many "legs" are under the Tea Party "stool"?

    Commenter Kathy Kinsley liked it so I thought I'd give it a wider audience.

    Let me add that Eric's A marginalized Tea Party acceptable to both "sides"? is in the same vein and also was part of the prompt for this post.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 11:36 PM | Comments (2)

    Shutdown Showdown

    Megan and Ace both talk about the possibility of government shutdown, which specter may loom sooner rather than later if DeMint can be believed.

    Something to keep in mind regarding this scenario -- today's situation is very different than the last time government was shut down in the mid-1990s. Unemployment is much higher, the deficits are far worse, the unpopular HillaryCare didn't pass unlike the unpopular Obamacare, public sector compensation is out of control, economic growth is at an historic low, and the ability of the MSM to drive a narrative has been badly eroded. If Dems think they can profit from the same tactics in today's situation they may be in for some more awful surprises.

    To bang the essential drum again: 45% of GDP is too much government spending; productivity growth is much faster in the private sector. Regardless of whether we cut taxes, we must cut spending.

    posted by Dave at 10:52 PM | Comments (3)

    A marginalized Tea Party acceptable to both "sides"?

    Painting a rather dark picture of what changes might occur after yesterday's election, Meredith Bragg and Nick Gillespie give "3 Reasons This Election Didn't Change a Thing!"

    Here's Reason Number 3:

    The only people worse than liberals on social issues are conservatives. President Obama and the Democrats spent more time hectoring Americans to eat our vegetables than they did repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," pushing immigration reform, or ending drug prohibition. But don't look for the new crew in D.C. or your state capitol to push social tolerance anytime soon. If anything - and despite all the limited-government rhetoric - they'll be even worse when it comes to expanding individual autonomy and increasing lifestyle choice.
    If there's one thing I hate more than people who want to tell people what to do, it's when the people who want to tell me what to do get hold of the government. And no matter what happens, it is axiomatic that people who want to tell other people what to do end up in the government, because they see government as the natural place for people who want to tell people what to do.

    But I voted for the conservatives over the liberals based on economic issues, so whether conservatives are "worse" on social issues is not the point.

    For the umpteenth time, social issues (and the damned "culture war") are a con game and a power sharing deal.

    This is why not much changes, no matter who is in office. It's also why I like what the Tea Party represents in theory. My worry is that people who don't want to lose power (on both sides) are trying to marginalize the Tea Party movement by a process of (surprise!) collusion. The left busily stereotypes the Tea Party as a bunch of bigoted social conservatives, while the people on the other side of the playing field (who share the power with the left and want to keep it) are systematically funding and organizing not ordinary social conservatives, but hard core Alan Keyes/WND type far-right Tea Partiers, and doing everything they can to swell their numbers within the ranks of the Tea Party movement. That way (at least, so they hope), the left has a cause, the far right gets some "red meat," the Tea Party shrinks because real people become turned off by angry kooks, and the result is that the Tea Party movement is marginalized and easier to control. Once I saw that the fine hand of Newt Gingrich was at work, I began to understand.

    Fortunately, there are signs the voters have seen through it.

    (I have to say, losing races that could easily have been won and being able to blame the Tea Party for it is pure genius. If they get away with it!)

    posted by Eric at 10:23 PM | Comments (6)

    If I may strain a strained analogy, how many "legs" are under the Tea Party "stool"?

    As I've said before, if conservatism is a "three-legged stool" (as Robert Knight claimed not long ago), then I don't have a reliable conservative stool to sit on, because I don't like the traditional values "leg."

    But what I'm trying to figure out is where it says I have to have this alleged stool. Assume conservatism is a stool and I don't like that leg. Where do I go with that? Not sit on the stool? I don't really call myself a conservative, but if liberals want to call me that I'll accept it as an insult, and attempt to defend myself even though it isn't my label.

    Yet still, I want to know more about the leg I don't like. What are its elements?

  • Intolerance of homosexuality?
  • The demand that fertilized eggs be treated as human beings, and that women who kill them be treated as murderers?
  • The insistence on imprisoning (or even executing) human beings for consensual crimes involving consumption of disapproved substances?
  • The demand that church and state be united together?
  • As I have explained in innumerable posts, I don't believe in those things. And not only I have never claimed to be a conservative, I have said a number of times that if those things constitute conservatism, then I am not.

    What are the consequences of that? Is it like, there's a rule that says "No stool for you, you bad bad libertarian?"

    As I say, it's not a huge deal for me if I am not allowed to call myself a conservative.

    But I think I can fairly call myself a libertarian (if a small-l one), as the various political tests show that's the best label for me. And in addition to being a libertarian, I am also a supporter of the Tea Party movement.

    The other day, I saw a post Glenn linked which was titled "The Tea Party Needs to Stick Together." That's a sentiment I agree with wholeheartedly, and I even said so recently in a post about attempts to ban certain dog breeds:

    There are plenty of nuts on the right who libertarians think are nuts, and plenty of libertarians who think those who think libertarians are nuts are nuts. And there are plenty more people on the left who think that not only are the former and the latter both nuts, but they are nuts who should be demonized.

    Demonized nuts need to stick together. It's the old hang-together-or-hang-separately principle.

    So, not only do I have absolutely no problem with an alliance between libertarians and social conservatives, I think that what makes the Tea Party movement so powerful and dangerous to the rulers is that it has been able to bring together a broad coalition of people who might disagree with each other (and in some cases even hate each other), but who find common ground on three basic issues:

    Fiscal Responsibility, Constitutionally Limited Government, and Free Markets.

    If you have a problem with the above, then clearly the Tea Party is not for you.

    But I have been to plenty of Tea Party meetings and events, and found plenty of libertarians like myself, plenty of social conservatives with whom I know I would disagree if I wanted to waste time debating social issues, as well as an impressive number of Ron Paul anti-war type libertarians with whom I would also probably disagree on defense issues if I wanted to waste time on them.

    It never occurred to me to worry about the three-legged conservative "stool" in the context of the Tea Party, because the Tea Party is not a stool, but a coalition.

    If I had to depict it, it might take the form of Venn diagram of at least four rings, overlapping to various degrees, the overlapping area being of course the above Tea Party principles.

    So, while I agree with Wendy Wright's assertion that "The Tea Party Needs to Stick Together," I think the best way to do that is to stress the common areas of overlapping agreement, rather than insist upon making a strained analogy between this broad and decentralized movement and the conservative stool (itself a strained analogy):

    Tea Partiers are not much different from the foot soldiers of the Reagan Revolution, who were not driven by political party as much as by concern that our own government was causing our country to deteriorate by weakening our military, economy, families and standing in the world.

    The Reagan coalition generally fell into three camps: 1) People concerned about national security, 2) Others worried about economic issues, and 3) Those alarmed by a breakdown in morality, family, and religion (with abortion embodying an assault on all three).

    They became known as the three legs of the conservative movement, joined together like the three legs of a stool. But it would be a mistake to think that these three legs linked together out of political expediency. That would imply that the legs are separate and any one could be replaced or removed and the movement could still succeed.

    A coalition is by definition agreement upon a common goal, which in the case of Ronald Reagan was the election of Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan did not demand that the component members of his coalition agree with each other, nor did their mutual presence in a coalition supporting him mean that the issues were necessarily interrelated.

    Any more than it means that an anti-gay Tea Partier has to agree with a pro-gay Tea Partier, that a Ron Paul anti-war Tea Partier has to agree with a conservative Tea Partier he would call a "Neocon," that an anti-drug war Tea Partier has to agree with a pro-drug war Tea Partier, or a pro-abortion Tea Partier has to agree with an anti-abortion Tea Partier. The point of the coalition is mutual agreement on Fiscal Responsibility, Constitutionally Limited Government, and Free Markets. Those who want to do things like picket Planned Parenthood and adult bookstores, or protest the military-industrial complex, Neocon war machine, cannot reasonably expect to see their protests become Tea Party events, and to the extent they do, they diminish the effectiveness of the coalition.

    In the case of the Tea Party, then, it strikes me as simple logic that if divergent views in a coalition have to be seen as analogous to legs on a stool, then the Tea Party stool has a number of legs -- legs which might be incompatible, even contradictory, but which agree on the common goal of supporting the stool.

    So, while I am not sure the stool analogy is a good one, if there is a Tea Party stool, it has a lot of legs, and the more the better. But it would be foolish to claim that these legs are philosophically interconnected beyond their common goal. If I work with someone who favors the drug war because we agree on the Tea Party principles, does that mean that my opposition to the drug war has to somehow be philosophically interconnected with his favoring of it? Why? As long as he doesn't have to agree with me, and I don't have to agree with him, I don't see a major problem.

    There is one thing that I think is an emerging problem for the Tea Party movement, though. In the recent election, some of the Tea Party candidates had views which -- rightly or wrongly -- were widely perceived as going beyond Tea Party principles, and those candidates lost.

    I think if they had done a better job of sticking to Fiscal Responsibility, Constitutionally Limited Government, and Free Markets, they might have won.

    (I'd say that some legs seem to think they're more important than the stool, except I much prefer the Venn diagram to the stool analogy. And if we must speak in terms of stools, how do we know there is only one? Might it be worth asking how many stools are sitting on the Tea Party's legs?)

    UPDATE: Many thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, and a warm welcome to all.

    BTW, I like the email Glenn quoted that said "Our stool only has one big stake driven deep into the bedrock -- Quit spending all the money!" That analogy forces me to ask another question: "how many 'legs' does a flagpole need?"

    Comments appreciated, agree or disagree. (Likewise, conspiracy theories are cordially entertained....)

    AND MORE: Glenn Reynolds updates his post and noted (in response to a comment that libertarians are "always too busy taking and complaining to do any work") that I was out campaigning -- which I was.

    If only we libertarians could campaign the way we complain, the world would be a better place!

    posted by Eric at 02:23 PM | Comments (75)

    Republican Racists

    How could this happen? It doesn't fit the narrative.

    The racist teabaggers have elected Marco Rubio, Susana Martinez, Tim Scott, Nikki Haley, Bill Flores, Allen West....

    However Djou, Frazier, Tran, Parker, and Lollar were defeated by the racist Democrats...


    H/T Judith Weiss (Yehudit) on Facebook

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 01:01 PM | Comments (1)


    Let it be known across the land -- Nov 2, 2010 shall henceforth be remembered as Refudiation Day.

    posted by Dave at 09:06 AM | Comments (4)

    After A Nail Biter Of An Election Night Illinois Has A Republican Senator

    According to the Chicago Tribune with 97% of the precincts counted Republican Mark Kirk is going to be out next Senator - taking the "Obama" seat. Because of our election laws (and because he was also elected to fill Obama's unexpired term) he will be seated at once, lowering the odds of lame duck lameness. The results as of 11:32 PM CDT.

    With 97% of precincts reporting:

    Kirk (R)
    1,717,193   48.3%

    Giannoulias (D)
    1,638,323   46.1%

    This was a real nail biter. Earlier in the evening with of 26% precincts reporting Giannoulias was winning over Kirk by 57% to 38%. It had me worried until about 10:30 local time when the numbers started shifting.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:55 AM | Comments (9)

    Get Fired Up

    A little election day music courtesy of our British cousins. And please: Turn it up.

    Some hard pounding that. Let us give our esteemed Resident a Congress he finds it IMPOSSIBLE to deal with. And to do that -


    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:02 PM | Comments (2)

    final wrap-up before the election....

    I'm going to be doing election-related work all day today, starting in the wee hours of the morning until after the polls close. So there won't be any posting, unless I am still alive and feel like writing tomorrow night.

    If I don't make it through the election, I hope someone will please report my death to the proper authorities.

    (Unlike that California woman who died and became a drive-by mummy.)

    Hey, don't laugh! I actually met a mummy the other night, and we got quite chummy.


    There was competition for prizes that night, and I was shocked to find myself a winner because I hadn't gone there with that in mind and I never entered the contest. Here's me, "Andy," with "Barbie."


    As they used to say (back in the day), "May the best man win."

    Yes, and they also used to say "It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game."

    We have evolved.

    Sorry, but I don't write the "rules"; I can barely recall them.

    UPDATE (11/03/10): I wrote this post the night before the election and scheduled it to be published at 6:35 a.m. For some reason, it continued to show as "scheduled" but did not appear, and I do not know why. So I changed the post status to "publish" and it appeared. Go figure.

    posted by Eric at 06:35 AM | Comments (2)

    The Insanestream Media

    In today's "the MSM is worse than you thought possible" news, one media outlet is caught on tape plotting to tie Joe Miller to child molesters, while another "forgets" to run Christine O'Donnell's big 30-minute ad... twice. The day before the election.

    Reality truly is stranger than fiction sometimes -- if you wrote this kind of media bias into a script people would tell you it was too crazy to believe. And yet it happened.

    Thank God for Fox News, and thank God for Andrew Breitbart:

    "They [the media, in general] want to use this to deny my existence in their world, especially for retribution because of the success of the ACORN story," Breitbart said. "We will continue to fight you, we will continue to call you out for hackery, we will only get bigger and there's nothing you can do about it."

    UPDATE: What if I told you ABC News invited a leading right-wing journalist to give election analysis, then uninvited him, then lied about it even though their earlier statements were already on the record? Too over the top for the worst Hollywood hack, you say? Well, not for the MSM!

    UPDATE: The always scintillating James Taranto shares some thoughts on the this weekend's Rally To Restore Sanity Celebrate A Guy Who Advocates Killing Salman Rushdie And Stoning Women as it relates to the media. If you're not reading Best of the Web every day, you're missing some truly great writing.

    UPDATE: Nice roundup of thoughts on the AndrewBreitbartControversy from the Blogfather, who adds this:

    When I heard that ABC was having Andrew on as a commentator, I thought it demonstrated a surprising degree of open-mindedness and courage.

    Agreed. Now they just look weak, confused, and partisan.

    posted by Dave at 02:30 PM | Comments (20)

    Your tax dollars at work

    In politics, it seems that since time immemorial, candidates have been kvetching and bitching about big money, high powered lobbyists, and giant "special interests" attempting to buy candidates and win elections. President Obama won in large part because he was able to frame himself as being "against" lobbying groups and "special interests." Just yesterday Frank Rich was wailing about the influence of sinister "back rooms."

    I think it's important to remember something the people on the left never talk about.

    The biggest special interest in politics today is government employee unions:

    In reality, the biggest outside spender is the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, which is pumping almost $88 million into TV commercials, phone banks, and mailings to promote Democratic candidates.

    "We're spending big,'' AFSCME President Gerald McEntee boasted to The Wall Street Journal. "And we're damn happy it's big. And our members are damn happy it's big -- it's their money.''

    True, it is technically "their" money, but who pays the salaries of the government employees who have no say in the matter of these union deductions from their paychecks which then go to fund only one party?

    We all do. And we have about as much say over where that money goes as the employees themselves.

    Might as well just force all Americans to donate directly to the Democratic Party.

    It would be more honest.

    Of course, if it violates your conscience to have your tax dollars going to the Democrats, what can you do other than complain it's not fair and vote Republican? Demand that the unions give back the money, or donate equally to both parties? Refuse to fund them and go to jail? It's like, if a private company donates money to a candidate or cause you don't believe in, there is at least a remedy. You can boycott the company and its products. Powerful though they may be, at least the private sector fat cats are vulnerable to pressure.

    But how do you boycott a government employees union? How do you pressure them in any way? They are completely insulated, and the money which pours into their coffers comes from a growth industry consisting of people who are better paid than employees in the private sector, and they are accountable to no one. In fact, the only theoretical bosses who exist are accountable to them!

    The cost of government has soared in tandem with the growth in public-sector unions -- and those unions make no bones about their reliance on politics to enlarge their wealth and power. "We elect our bosses, so we've got to elect politicians who support us and hold those politicians accountable,'' AFSCME's website proclaims. "Our jobs, wages, and working conditions are directly linked to politics.'' That is exactly the problem.

    Public-sector unionism has been unhealthy for American democracy. The power to "elect our bosses'' has turned government employment into a rigged game -- rigged in favor of ravenous government growth and against the private-sector taxpayers who pay for it. AFSCME may be "damn happy'' at the impact it has on US elections. But the rest of us ought to be alarmed.

    Unlike normal industries, the government employment industry not beholden to or influenced by any of the normal market factors.

    Well, actually it is, but only in a perverse sort of way. The worse the economy gets, the bigger the public sector gets, and the more government union employees there are. Which means that it is in the simple economic interest of government employees unions for the private sector economy to fail. That way, they can get even more of the taxpayers money and spend it on candidates and policies are most likely to shrink the private economy, while growing the public economy.

    It's painful enough having to watch the destruction, but having to pay for it adds insult to injury.

    These unions are fattest of the fat cats, and while they are in business, their business is the business of failure.

    Institutionalized failure has become big business. We all have to pay and there is no way to opt out. We have even less say in the matter than the government employees who have the union dues automatically deducted from their paychecks.

    The only say the taxpayers have is on Election Day, when we have the opportunity to vote against them.

    I only hope we aren't outnumbered.

    MORE: Lest anyone think that 100% of public employees are Democrats, one of the candidates I am supporting locally is Sean Gray, who happens to be a conservative schoolteacher who wrote this:

    Why are Republican teachers far less vocal about their political preferences?


    After over 20 years of public school service, in districts across the region, I have observed and personally experienced intimidation, name-calling, isolation, contempt, booing in the halls, and the like. It's been a lonely experience at times. Even many good-hearted Republican teachers will avoid and isolate out-spoken Republican teachers due to the fear of 'guilt' by association.

    Conservative teachers (like other conservative or libertarian government employees) are being systematically kept in the closet by intimidation tactics. It's refreshing to see a conservative not only "out" himself but publicly running for office.

    I think that ordinary people (especially those who have been pressured to side with the left) need a civic reminder that there is still a right to disagree with the biggest special interest lobby in the country.

    posted by Eric at 10:38 AM | Comments (7)

    Stop Palin!

    The Politico article referenced in the video has some choice words for Palin.

    Top Republicans in Washington and in the national GOP establishment say the 2010 campaign highlighted an urgent task that they will begin in earnest as soon as the elections are over: Stop Sarah Palin.

    Interviews with advisers to the main 2012 presidential contenders and with other veteran Republican operatives make clear they see themselves on a common, if uncoordinated, mission of halting the momentum and credibility Palin gained with conservative activists by plunging so aggressively into this year's midterm campaigns.

    There is rising expectation among GOP elites that Palin will probably run for president in 2012 and could win the Republican nomination, a prospect many of them regard as a disaster in waiting.

    Many of these establishment figures argue in not-for-attribution comments that Palin's nomination would ensure President Barack Obama's reelection, as the deficiencies that marked her 2008 debut as a vice presidential nominee -- an intensely polarizing political style and often halting and superficial answers when pressed on policy -- have shown little sign of abating in the past two years.

    Well that is their "official" reason. In my opinion the real reason is that she threatens the good ole boys club (Which is a state of mind - women belong too. See Lisa Murkowski in Alaska.). And what is it about that club? They are more interested in their perks, their "access" than the good of the nation.

    If the "official" GOP is against Palin, I'm for her. The thing about Palin is that she is a street fighter and the country club boys are not. She is going to come out on top and they will not. Will she be elected President in 2012? You betcha.

    I ♥ Sarah'cudda

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 02:51 AM | Comments (9)

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