Wednesday, March 31, 2004

The thing about commas...

Just in case my posts seem strangely devoid of commas... especially in places where they really ought to be; that's because I write like I think and I don't happen to think with commas. Strangely enough I don't think with letters either.... yet I don't seem to be having any trouble with those. You'd think that after ten plus years of grammar in the public school system I'd have conquered the land of comma splices and run-on sentences, but instead I've morphed them into... and... and... Oh yeah, and sentence fragments. Are everywhere. Then there are the strange noises that defy gramatical explanations: hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm....... Good thing my old english teachers aren't savy with the whole internet thing. I'd hate to explain all this... in bad grammar.... (still can't pull of the split infinitive very well... I'm working on it though)

The constitutionality of military action

Michael Badnarik - Issues - War on Iraq

From Michael Badnarik's website:

"The war on Iraq is unconstitutional as it is currently being prosecuted. Only Congress has the power to declare war, as delegated to them by Article I, Section 8, clause 11.


[The Congress shall have Power] "To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;"


Congress has not declared war. Instead, they have attempted to delegate their authority to the Chief Executive by suggesting that if the President wants to go to war, then Congress would not stand in his way. That is not an acceptable substitute! Congress was not given the authority to pass the buck. The founding fathers gave the power of war to Congress explicitly so they WOULD stand in the way of a blood thirsty President. The members of Congress should either step up to the plate by declaring war, or they should admit that they do not have the courage and integrity to uphold their oath of office, followed immediately by tendering their resignation!
"

But is it really unconstitutional? This seems to me to be a question of interpretation, and the historic interpretation seems to be that military action by the united states without a declaration of war is not unconstitutional. In fact for most of the history of the United States congress has passed resolutions authorizing the use of military force in some situation or another without a declaration of war. As early as 1789 the year the constitution was ratified, congress authorized the use of military action in a naval dispute with France.

Congress has declared war only 5 times in U.S. history, while it has authorized military action on many many occasions, from the conflicts with the Barbary Coast pirates to the Vietnam war, to the conflict with Iraq. Is this banned in the constitution? Nope. Is war, and military action clearly defined? nope. So whether or not congress and the executive branch have been waging unconstitutional wars, and granting unconstitutional authority is a question of interpretation. Many libertarians would argue that this is what was intended by the founding fathers.

Yet many of the founding fathers were later presidents and did not hesitate to take military action without declarations of war when they were able to obtain congressional approval. Was this an oversight on their part? Regardless presidential war powers has been a contentious debate for a very long time. I suspect the only way to end the debate and what libertarians view as an abuse of presidential authority is through a constitutional amendment. Until it explicitly says in the constitution that the president cannot take military action without a declaration of war by congress, he can and will regardless of our interpretation of the document.

For more on the issue:
Cnn.com
The Use of U.S. forces abroad
Legal aspects of the use of military force

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

In the hands of Bill Clinton...

The recent discussions about potential new military drafts and the possibility of mandating community service for teenagers etc. has got me thinking about my own experience with military service. I seriously considered joining the military, specifically the navy, though I did give some thought to joining the army. Also I was considering applying to a military college, as a result I took the ASVAB (armed services vocational aptitude battery) and had the unfortunate distinction of making the highest score in my region. Luckily my scores were somehow misplaced temporarily and as a result I was left alone by the marines, and the air force. However after a while the navy stumbled upon the mistake, (and I suspect the army did too though I'm not certain) because they literally called everyone. Once they had my name down as interested and therefore a potential recruit they happened to discover my scores. As a result I began getting calls from the navy recruitment office 3 to 4 days a week. I even got a call from the guy who was in charge of recruitment for all of North Georgia after the other recruiters failed to entice me into the Navy's "nuke" program. And I WAS interested in it... that's the funny thing. They could have had me easily and signed up for a 6 year term no less if they had just had a little respect for me and not been such pitiful liars. I'm not exaggerating either.

Let me tell you a little about myself. First of all I'm female in case you haven't figured it out. I'm out of shape, as are most americans. I'm horrible at personal time management (I'm an advanced procrastinator), but great at it whenever I'm working for someone else. And going into my senior year I was torn between persuing a degree in physics and astronomy or pursuing an engineering degree. So here's what I wanted to get out of military service:

I wanted to get into shape
improve my self discipline and time management
improve my organizational skills
I wanted to pursue job and/or education that involved physics, engineering or some related discipline.
Oh yeah and one other thing I liked the idea of living on a ship at sea for long periods of time.

Notice how I didn't say "I'm interested in money" or "I want the job that will pay me the most..." etc. If I had a dollar for every time I heard the phrase "$60,000 dollar re-enlistment bonus," I'd be rich now. That's right they were trying to entice me to join the Navy's nuke program with a re-enlistment bonus. That means that in order to get it I would have had to have served for 6 years and then re-enlisted for at least another 4. Apparently the navy thinks that 60,000 dollars (that you receive 6 years later) is enough to entice someone to sign over ten or more years of their life.

Another thing you should know about me, I was raised by people who happened to be a little paranoid and very suspicious of government. As a result the only chance the recruiters had of signing me up was by not appealing to my natural distrust of government, and by offering me some value that would entice me to put aside my suspicion for the sake of rational self-interest. And what value did joining the Nuke program have to offer other than a re-enlistment bonus?

A chance to get into shape,
live aboard a floating city,
improve my self discipline, time management, and organizational skills,
2 years of training and education that was transferrable to college credit,
eligibilty for the Montgomery G.I. Bill (college tuition)
an education that included studying math, physics, thermodynamics, electronic engineering, and hands on training in running and maintaining nuclear reactors.
Oh yeah and 4 years experience at a job that would transfer nicely into the private sector.

Wow... it almost makes my mouth water just thinking about it... thermodynamics... electronic engineering... (so I'm a geek...) Where do I sign?!?! You see... anybody with half a brain could have convinced me to sign up for that... unfortunately they mistook me for a quiet, mild-mannered, un-assertive, young lady that could be pressured into making an impulsive decision regarding the next 6 years of her life. I had been asked by the recruitment officer to come down to their office to allow him to tell me about their programs and to give me information. He said it would take 30 to 45 minutes. Since I was interested I decided "why not?" I was there for over two hours. Three different recruitment officers including the one that was in charge of that particular office ran over the programs with me multiple times each. I had one tell me that if I signed up for the nuke program I would become rich, buy a nice car, a nice house, and find someone to marry who loved me because I had so much money. I'm not kidding... that's exactly what he said... I would find someone to marry who loved me because I had so much money.

He told me this after I told him explicitly that he wouldn't convince me based on money, and that I was interested in the education and potential for improving my self discipline and organizational skills. Then he tried to get me to sign up right then and there... which absolutely floored me since I had been told before I came that they would only be giving me information and not be trying to sign me up for anything. All three of them attempted to sign me up... they got out the paper work and everything and were like: I'll just need your social security number and... and "are you ready to do this?!" and "are you with us?" and "are you ready to be a part of this program?"

The second guy was the worst though, he's the same one that gave me the spiel about someone loving me for my money, he actually tried to trick me into signing up. He thought I hadn't been convinced on the nuke program specifically so he told me I could go down to the "MEP center" where I could take more aptitude tests and they would be able to offer me a wider range of possible jobs and programs. Well that sounded pretty good to me. He also assured me that I would be under no obligation to take any of those jobs if I didn't find one I liked. I almost agreed to it... literally I was interested in going and taking those tests and finding out what jobs I would qualify for. I was just a little confused about what it would entail and by that point I really wanted to get out of that office and go home. Later on when I was talking to my brother whom had joined the Navy I found out that "MEP" stood for Military Entrance Processing. I would have had to sign up for military service of some kind before I would have been taking any tests.

("oh yeah before you take these tests we just need you to sign a few things...") In fact I suspect the only reason I didn't get suckered into "going to the MEP center to take some tests" was because it occurred to the officer or rather "navy counselor" (I suspect he wasn't actually an "officer") to ask me if I was 18 yet. I wasn't... as a result they couldn't sign me up without the presence of a legal guardian... he he he (like my dad would have ever gone into a recruitment office...) That took a little of the fire out of their pursuit, and I have no doubt that I would have been there another two hours if they hadn't realized that I was a minor.

In any case I knew better than to make impulsive decisions and I knew a hell of a lot better than to sign anything inside of a military recruitment office. I wouldn't have signed a check in there unless I had been positive that I wanted to give up 4 to 6 years of my life. Like I said... paranoid family. So my experience got me to deeply contemplate for several weeks the pros and cons of military service. I spent a lot of time trying to talk to people who had joined, find out info on the internet, and really talk to anyone except the recruiters about whether or not it was a good idea. I did end up talking to them a couple more times, and to the army recruiters as well... but you couldn't have paid me to go back into their office until and unless I was ready to join. (BTW I didn't drive at the time so when I went to the recruiter's office the recruitment officer had picked me up and was also my ride home... looking back that was such a horrible idea.)

So I found out that when you join the U.S. miltary you are technically the property of the United States Government. This is so that if you do something stupid like intentionally injuring yourself they can charge you with destruction of government property. REALLY.... I asked the recruiter about this and he confirmed it. That drove home to me the point that I was putting my life into the hands of the U.S. Government specifically the Navy... and who was commander and chief of the armed forces at the time? That's right Bill Clinton. It was early 1999 and we were right in the midst of the impeachment frenzy. So it occurred to me that I could be sent to another country potentially into a dangerous area. I might have to risk my life... I could even die. I knew this was a part of military service and I would not have stayed away for that reason. The question was could I or would I be sent into a dangerous area, risk my life, or even die not in support of the defense of America (females don't go into combat), but for political reasons? Could I end up in a dangerous situation because the president, or congress even is using the military or military action for political manuevering? And if I'm property of the U.S. government what say would I have in the matter?

I narrowed all this down to one simple question: Would I put my life into the hands of President Bill Clinton? He had lied to all of America on national television... the answer was no. Not even for the chance to live on a floating city, study thermodynamics, get into shape, and become eligible for a re-enlistment bonus after 6 years. Would you?

Critiquing Rand

Ms. Logic and the Law

I just wanted to put up a link to one of the best critiques of Ayn Rand's position on anarchism (or lack of any real position to be precise) that I've come across. It's a bit extensive but it's worth the read.

Monday, March 29, 2004

What's in a Name... What's in the film?

Film adaptations - www.ezboard.com

This is a thread I started a few weeks back at "The Ponderer's Guild." Since the subject is of particular interest to myself I thought I would post part of it here.

A couple years back there was a movie that came out based on The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. The movie was called "Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo." I enjoyed the movie, it was action packed and had an interesting plot. However the movie had almost no similarity to the book. A man is wrongfully imprisoned, escapes, finds treasure, seeks revenge, that was all that was similar. The whole focus of the book was the elaborately planned, and carefully executed revenge. Well everything that was done by the main character in the film; all of the plot for over half the story was completely different from the original. I don't take issue with the fact that it was different. The Count of Monte Cristo would be a very difficult book to adapt to the screen.

I take issue with them pinning the author's name to the movie when the movie was not true to the original plot. There were similar problems with the production of "Anne Rice's The Queen of the Damned." (Anne Rice said so herself, she said she felt like the audience had been "cheated," because it was not a faithful representation of the book.)

When the movie Dune came out it was called "Dune," and was disavowed by Frank Herbert. Later when it was redone by the Sci-fi Channel they called it "Frank Herbert's Dune" because they had made a point to be true to the plot. It was not however, an identical match of the plot. Some things were left out, and a few minor things were changed, but they weren't things that altered the spirit and integrity of the work. I don't think the hollywood production of "The Count of Monte Cristo" has any business calling itself "The Count of Monte Cristo" when it had so little in common with the book much less attaching the author's name.

Shouldn't film adaptations have to be true to the plot and/or character of the work they are based on to have the author's name attached? Especially since it is in possesive form as if this were their own personal work? It's a simple matter to throw in a "based on" or "inspired by" in the credits. I think putting the authors name in the title of a movie that is only loosely based on the original story is akin to fraud. Is that too extreme?

The implication of putting the authors name in the title to me is that the author, were he or she alive would endorse the work. Thus the film would have to portray if not the precise plot, at least the theme and spirit of the work. In cases where the author is not alive to endorse it and the plot deviates significantly (obviously this is up to interpretation) from the original it seem to me like it is dishonest to attach the author's name to the title.

For example:

"Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo"

That says to me that that is his work. That the above film is not only based upon but is "The Count of Monte Cristo" as envisioned by Alexandre Dumas himself. To say that the film left out parts of the plot would be an understatement. The plot of the book was so elaborate and precise it would be hard not too. The film easily left out half of the plot and made significant changes to that which they kept and added a few inventions of their own. It could still be argued that the film did capture the major theme of the work, but I don't think it captured the spirit at all. I don't think the author would have endorsed it either. That's my point, I think they just threw on the author's name as a marketing ploy. Something about pinning an author's name to a film makes it seem more like literature and less like formulaic hollywood mind-candy.

Free beer and sausages could have rigged election

Ananova - Free beer and sausages could have rigged election

"Officials in the city of Ulm ordered the villagers of Ballendorf to go to the polls again - but this time without the enticements.

They said it was conceivable that the winning candidate had influenced the vote by handing out the free beer and sausages.
"

mmmmmmmm.... democracy.... never tasted so good.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Anarcho-Capitalism is not Utopianism

I wrote an article a few years ago called "utopia is not a preference." This was in response to the common accusation hurled against libertarians on the internet that they were utopian, or that they were advocating a utopian and thus impossible system. The point was to paint libertarians as idealists advocating ideas that would be impossible in application and thus not worth consideration. What conservatives both on the left and right fail to consider is the intrinsic nature of utopia.

Utopia is a book by Thomas More, that illustrates the author's view of a perfect society, and is the basis for all subsequent utopian ideologies (communism, utopian socialism etc.). What is intrinsic to Utopia as well as any ideology that envisions a "perfect" society is stasis. That is the vision is always one of an unchanging society; a society in an unchanging state of perfection. Anarcho-capitalism as well as libertarianism in general are in no way utopian because they do not advocate, nor envision "perfect" societies nor systems of government that would require a state of perfection amongst society. What they advocate are free societies, that's all. The societies might be by and large moral, or immoral; they may be strong or weak; creative or not... arguably there will be no "by and large" that will be a meaningful description of the society but that's another issue.

Anarcho-capitalism may require a certain amount of education and intelligence on the part of the populace but it does not require, and would not require "perfect" people, nor a whole society of "perfect" people. What is most remarkable (in my opinion) about libertarianism and anarcho-capitalism by extension is that they advocate dynamic systems of governance, and thus ultimately dynamic societies. Given that the world changes, times change, and people change any static system no matter how well planned will ultimately fail through obsolesence.

The term utopia literally means "no place." From dictionary.com: New Latin Utopia, imaginary island in Utopia by Sir Thomas More : [Greek ou, not, no; see aiw- in Indo-European Roots + Greek topos, place.]. It was describing a society and a place that could not exist, not because it was ideal (it wasn't really ideal) but because it fit to one single vision of perfection. Not only did the government of utopia fit Sir Thomas More's definition of perfection, but every individual that made up the society fit his definition and vision of moral perfection. Ironically the typical arguments in favor of communism, a utopian ideology, are that communism is a perfect system and human beings are not "good enough" to practice it. Yet had More actually believed that a society could exist that required a society full of individuals that fit his own definition of upmost moral perfection surely he would not have entitled his work "no place" a.ka. Utopia. Thus the communists among many other of the advocates of utopian ideologies have seriously missed the point.

I'd also like to point out that "ideal" is not the same thing as "perfect." A description of a libertarian government, society, legal system etc., such as an anarcho-capitalist system, may be called ideal because it embodies the idea of the non-coercion principle. This does not mean that it is extreme, unrealistic, naive, or even a vision of "perfection." Only that it is the result of the consistent application of an idea and/or principle. Saying "a system is ideal" implies that it is the best application possible of a given idea, or potentially the system that would offer the best course of action/result possible among a conflicting set of ideas.

So to sum up: Utopia=perfection=stasis Anarcho-capitalism=free society=dynamic.

Idealized? yes at least in the abstract, utopian? no. Impossible? I don't think so, but definitely not likely to happen anytime soon.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Quotes from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

Here is a selection of quotes to get a sense of the man.


from Faust, by Goethe:
"He only earns his freedom and his life
Who takes them every day by storm."


"What business is it of yours if I love you?"


Enjoy what you can, endure what you must.


"We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise we harden."


Age does not make us childish, as some say; it finds us true children.


The artist alone sees spirits. But after he has told of their appearing to him, everybody sees them.


If you must tell me your opinions, tell me what you believe in. I have plenty of doubts of my own.


We know accurately only when we know little; with knowledge doubt increases.


Man is not born to solve the problem of the universe, but to find out what he has to do; and to restrain himself within the limits of his comprehension.


The first and last thing required of genius is the love of truth.


The phrases that men hear or repeat continually, end by becoming convictions and ossify the organs of intelligence.


Whenever I hear people talking about "liberal ideas," I am always astounded that men should love to fool themselves with empty sounds. An idea should never be liberal; it must be vigorous, positive, and without loose ends so that it may fulfill its divine mission and be productive. The proper place for liberality is in the realm of the emotions.


He who wishes to exert a useful influence must be careful to insult nothing. Let him not be troubled by what seems absurd, but concentrate his energies to the creation of what is good. He must not demolish, but build. He must raise temples where mankind may come and partake of the purest pleasure.


What is not fully understood is not possessed.


Nothing shows a man's character more than what he laughs at.


The society of women is the element of good manners.


Everything in the world may be endured, except continual prosperity.


Anecdotes and maxims are rich treasures to the man of the world, for he knows how to introduce the former at fit place in conversation.


Trust yourself, then you will know how to live.


All truly wise thoughts have been thoughts already thousands of times; but to make them truly ours, we must think them over again honestly, till they take root in our personal experience.


There is a courtesy of the heart; it is allied to love. From its springs the purest courtesy in the outward behavior.


When ideas fail, words come in very handy.


Love is an ideal thing, marriage a real thing; a confusion of the real with the ideal never goes unpunished.


Certain flaws are necessary for the whole. It would seem strange if old friends lacked certain quirks.


"Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth--that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves, too."



More light! - Goethe's last words

Friday, March 26, 2004

An interesting note about marxism.

I've been studying marxism lately both of the socialist and communist variety (I'm an anarchocapitalist... gotta keep up with the opposition afterall). Anyhow I've discovered something interesting about current day marxism, I'm not certain though I think it's probable that what I've discovered applies to all marxism... I just haven't delved that deeply yet. So for BilLee and the rest of you to whom this is already common knowledge bear with me, this is new fascinating information to me at least. I've discovered that current day marxism defines itself in opposition to capitalism (of course it's their own personal definition of capitalism but who's counting). Now I alread knew that marxist were anti-capitalist, but that's irrelevant, I'm a capitalist and could easily call myself anti-communist. That doesn't mean I define myself through my opposition to communism. Marxism does... that's what's fascinating about it. The skewed economics are easily enough to make one's head ache... kind of like Kant in philosophy... but if you come across any current day marxist sites that are designed to be an easy read for your average web surfer they all have one thing in common. They live and breath their opposition to capitalism. It's kind of like the way the libertarians define themselves by their opposition to coercion and the use of initiatory force. The ideas seem to have some original thought at first with the whole proletariat vs bourgeousie thing until you realize that proletariat means employee, and bourgeousie means employer. Or as they might put it owner of the capital versus those that apply their labor to the capital to produce goods. You see it's all about not-capitalism. Now of course they have their own ideas about what to implement, and an ideal society, but all those are defined as what they view and believe to be the polar opposite of capitalism. I mean I personally abhor marxism in practice and the kind of totalitarianism, and life-crushing horrors it's inspired. But the ideology itself is clever. It's a complex ideology and yet every part of it, every remote aspect that I've encountered seems to be defined by it's opposition and what it views to be the polar opposite of marx's definition of capitalism.

Libertarianism is based on one core principle, which then inspires multiple ideologies that share that same principle as their core. Marxism is based on many principles that all revolve around one central theme: not-capitalism. I mean you could argue that it's based on dialectical materialism or some other such term the marxist throw about but I'm telling you that's a front for "not-capitalism." What does this mean? It means that without the concept of "capitalism" as marx defines it, and I believe he may have coined the term, marxism couldn't exist. So perhaps I shouldn't find this so interesting... but I do. And I think it's important to note that capitalism is not defined through it's opposition to anything. It's defined in part by it's recognition of capital as a factor of production, that is an economic resource. The economic resources being land, labor, capital, and entrepreneurial ability. Guess how many of these is treated as a resource under marxist economics. Only one... kind of. Labor is kind of treated like a resource, but only so under marxist socialism and not at all under marxist communism. You see marxism ascribes to the labor theory of value which it deems to be in direct oppostion to capitalism where value comes only in part from the labor and capital involved and is ultimately determined by market forces. Namely supply and demand. That's a little simplified of course, my point is the marxist see the labor theory of value to be the direct opposite of capitalism in part because they think that capitalist don't really recognize labor as a resource, and they are recognizing it as not only a resource since resources are only on the supply side of the market but also as a self-regulating demand unto itself. As I said before in practice socialism kind of treats labor as a resource, and communism doesn't at all. It's all very clever... academically speaking anyway. The really funny thing is that since marxism doesn't originate from economics, what I mean is since it's roots don't lie in economic but rather in political philosophy, marxist leave major holes in their economic reasoning. I mean the philosophy is fairly consistent, the economics and their criticisms of capitalist arguments and of Adam Smith's "invisible hand" tend to have major gaps in their reasoning. I mean if your reading it and you haven't studied economics it'd be hard to tell because they typically use a series of subtle non-sequitors until they're no longer talking about Adam Smith or this or that economic argument but instead have jumped back to their favorite subject: not-capitalism.

Let me demonstrate this excerpt is from a socialism faq I ran across:

"Supporters of capitalism like to make out that in looking after their own interests capitalists are generally speaking also looking after the interests of society as a whole. This is because it is in their commercial interest to produce what consumers want, and because competition from other capitalists forces them to keep down their costs."

Yup that's what we "like to make out..." let's see how you marxist counter the mounds of economic data and over 2 centuries of history that support this conclusion:

"This equating of sectional and common interest, is called the "invisible hand of the market", a term coined by Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations back in the 1770s. No one claims that they equate exactly, but, all the same, we are made to believe that there is a reasonably close match."

Wha???? You had me up to the "equate exactly" part.... Reasonably close match???

"In fact they diverge far more than is generally acknowledged. As a result, rather than being an invisible hand the market should be more modestly described as an 'invisible boundary' that places an outer limit on how far a capitalist economy can deviate from the common interest."

Wait? What.... where's the economic refutation of the "invisible hand" in all this? Where's the basis for the "invisible boundary" assertion... and what does it have to do with Adam Smith and "capitalist economics"...

"This 'invisible boundary' means that capitalism is vastly more efficient than a lot of other economies. For example, it is much more efficient than the kleptocracies of present-day Africa, the feudalism of the Middle Ages or Vikings marauders during the Dark Ages. It also means that capitalist economies tend to work better when the government clearly defines and protects bourgeois property rights and avoids excessive efforts to 'regulate' the market."

No it works best when all property rights are clearly defined. Define one group's property rights but not another it won't work. Your customers have to have the ability to own your product before they can buy it, otherwise what's the point? Yeah but it is more efficient than some other systems...

"The basic weakness of the 'invisible hand', is that dog eat dog behaviour really can't replicate the results of genuine cooperation. Below we identify the main reasons why this is so. They are not necessarily in order of importance:"

Hooray we've arrived at the argument! The problem withe the "invisible hand" is that dog eat dog behaviour can't replicate the results of genuine cooperation. What? genuine cooperation how is that an economic argument... how is that an argument... okay it's a bit philosophical but they'll back it up just give them the chance...

Under capitalism vast amounts of knowledge and information are commercial secrets. This increases the scope for errors in investment and labor training decisions, limits the use of the best technologies and methods, conceals skulduggery and limits the ability of consumers to make the best choices.

Not-capitalism... The FAQ follows with about ten more not-capitalisms before it moves on to another question. What's my point... yeah some of those might very well be legitimate weaknesses of capitalism... but where's the economic reasoning that marxism will solve these problems without creating worse problems than the one's it is trying to solve... there isn't any. The basic reasoning seems to be that it will work because it's not capitalism. Oh yeah it promotes cooperation because capitalism doesn't, and it promotes self-esteem and creativity, because capitalism doesn't and this is afterall the opposite of capitalism... Oh yeah and all of the inventors, artists, and innovators that have thrived under capitalism, thrive in spite of capitalism not because of it. The whole world is just waiting for the marxist to swoop in and save us from the evils of capitalism. Well I hope they're not holding their breaths.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Down with religious propaganda

USATODAY.com - Anti-smoking campaign could go off air

Finally a little fresh air has blown through the offices of the tobacco companies. I don't smoke, but the blatant lies and drivel spouted by the "truth" anti-smoking ads often makes me want to start. They remind me of the truth-eating-darwin fish I used to see on people's cars back when I was in high school. Though those weren't nearly as offensive as these anti-smoking ads. I think that given the amount of science (that is none for those of you who have better things to do than watch this crap) involved in this campaign as well as the intentionally misrepresented statistics, I think that the "truth" anti-smoking campaign has about as much claim to the term "the truth" as those creationist that were sticking those anti-darwin fish on the back of there cars. But then now that I think of it the creationist actually believe what they are saying. Can the same be said for the anti-smoking vice police at the American Legacy Foundation, the foundation that runs the ads? Who knows? I probably shouldn't, but I usually find religious propaganda that either attacks science, or blatantly misuses it to support their position to be offensive. This is no exception.
I can respect the creationist, because even though I almost always disagree with them they don't make anyone else pay for their message (at least they don't anymore). In this case millions of smokers are having to pay more for their cigarettes to fund a campaign of lies to discourage teen smoking which doesn't appear to even be effective (I know it wouldn't have discouraged me in any case).

It's time the tobacco companies stop paying for this drivel. I've seen the ads of Philip Morris, the ones they voluntarily run (as opposed to the "truth" ads they were forced to pay for). As for rhetoric the Philip Morris ads have nothing... I repeat nothing on the "truth" ads. They are entirely devoid of propaganda, they are straight forward ads that present a clear message of the dangers of smoking and point to their website to find out more. The "truth" campaign uses intentionally misrepresented statistics, misleading information, emotionally charged rhetoric and images, and blatant lies to try and discourage teen smoking.

For example:

"Lorillard Tobacco Co. has filed suit against the American Legacy Foundation, saying the ads have vilified the company. Lorillard points to one radio ad in which a person identifying himself as a dog walker phones the company and tells the operator he wants to sell the company "quality dog urine" because it is "full of urea," one of the "chemicals you guys put into cigarettes."

Lorillard, of Greensboro, N.C., has said urea is found naturally in tobacco leaves.
"

Kids might believe that nonsense when they are in middle school and elementary school, but by the time they get to high school and/or college they'll likely be as pissed off with the lies fed to them when they were young as I was. And it all worked on me I thought that if I ever drunk alcohol I'd destroy my liver and become an alcoholic for life... thanks to the drug and alcohol classes I had to take in middle school and my freshmen year of high school. What did that mean when I got to college and had easy access to alcohol even at age 18 absolutely nothing. The alcohol and drug awareness program at my school would have been more effective if they had bought a case of beer and passed them out. And BTW I was an exception in my metro-atlanta area high school. Most of my classmates had experiemented with alcohol and drugs (of all varieties) long before their senior year. I was one of the rare individuals that didn't try anything until I got to college. Why? Because I was afraid to, and that's what these commercial really promote: a fear ideology. Don't do what your afraid to do, and you should be afraid of this... and this... and this... marijuana is a gateway drug... cigarettes will kill you... experimenting with drugs and alcohol is "high-risk" behavior... buying drugs funds terrorism... oh yeah, and they told us that marijuana is often laced with cyanide and that just one puff could kill us, and would likely ruin our lives if it didn't.

Be afraid, be very afraid, don't take risks, shelter yourself, act on fear... I'm beginning to think these ads don't have anything to do with smoking, or with saving lives. What do you think?

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Back in the Day...

Today is the one month anniversary of my blog. That's right Somewhere over the Rainbough has lasted a whole month. Also today happens to be my 23rd birthday, and after celebrating a little late last night and getting hardly any sleep at all on my friend's air mattress I'm exhausted. On a more sour note I've just noticed that my blogroll is down, so my apologies to those looking for their link. I haven't been able to access the blogrolling site to figure out what's wrong so hopefully that will all be back up and rolling tomorrow. If not I'll have to stop being lazy and put up all those links manually... if I can remember them all. Also my link referrer stuff isn't working either; who knows what's going on there I think I might find a new referrer service since this isn't the first time it's been on the blitz. So I decided that today I'd take a look at what I've done with this blog so far.

My very first post on February 24, 2004 was a scathing critique of the website and professed issues of Aaron Russo, a candidate for the Libertarian Party nomination for president. Since then I've discussed my newfound respect for Ralph Nader while simultaneously finding great amusement with the democrat's lively display of their complete lack of integrity and how they aren't even bothering to attempt to hide the fact anymore. I've explored and discovered the true meaning of the term "electability." I've looked at a few of the other LP candidates, ranted about how the FCC is trying to smother out free speech they deem "indecent," ranted about the blatant fence-straddling worm-ism of John Kerry, gave my own spin to the state definition of marriage, contemplated the experience of a "stateless" immigrant, and came out in favor of the Bush administration's actions in Iraq. Next I presented my own personal theory regarding the inherent weaknesses or rather potential weakness in any human governing system. I had a fun, hair-splitting argument over the existence of non-human, non-sentient animal rights. I ranted about the verdict in the Martha Stewart case, and about a new law in Georgia requiring the DMV to collect the social security numbers of all licensed drivers for the benefit of another government agency. I contemplated the shortcomings of the bill of rights, as well as the two major parties' fake attempts at torte reform. And this past week I have ranted about the hypocricy of zero tolerance policies at public schools, argued for the legalization of incest, analyzed civil disobedience and the Left's continued misuse of the term, discussed the use of human rights for political leverage in the U.S. and internationally, analyzed the "Pitfalls of faith" from the perspective of an atheist and former believer, and discussed Lysander Spooner's essay Trial by Jury and the importance of the jury in safeguarding a free society against government oppression. Gee... It's been a good month. ;) Oh yeah and BilLee's had quite a few good things to say as well, thanks to him I have a post for almost every day.

Well the sky's the limit from here. Thanks for reading and here's to another month (and hopefully a great many at that) of good blogging.

Rainbough Phillips

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Trial by Jury

I've just recently started reading Trial by Jury by Lysander Spooner. It's a good read, I had been putting off reading it for a while in spite of my interest in the subject, because it is a bit extensive. Though recently I've discovered it's a lot smoother read with reading glasses (who'd of thought?!). It focuses on the Jury as the ultimate defense against the oppression of government, and argues that it is not only the right of a jury to judge the validity of the laws but an obligation. It includes an analysis of the origins and purpose of jury trials as well as their historic role in the Magna Carta, and in English common law.

It's kind of the missing piece of the puzzle when it comes to libertarian ideas, and free societies. I've read many books, fiction and nonfiction, outlining the way a libertarian or free society could or would function. The main one's that come to mind are Atlas Shrugged, The Probability Broach, and Healing our World. While all of these gave one a sense that things could, and would work out in a society of rational beings, there did always seem to be something missing. I wouldn't say they were lacking real world application because both Atlas Shrugged and Healing Our World were full of real applicable solutions to todays problems, while the Probability Broach was more focused on what was possible in a free society with no coercive government; certainly those are real world ideas. The looming question is always what to do with the irrational beings? There is a certain amout of recentment I think in both the libertarian, and anarchist communities towards those that perpetuate government coercion due to fear and irrationality. There are other reasons for supporting coercive government, given, but the focus tends to be on those who propagate it because they don't know, or can't know better. The implication is that those of us that do are subjegated to the irrationality, fears, and stupidity of those that feel they can't survive without a government to solve all their problems and force their solutions onto their neighbors.

I suppose it is proper though perhaps pointless to feel that resentment. The implication is always that if everyone were rational, then this (insert ideal free society here) is the society we would be able to have, then we would not be subject to the whims of our neighbors whenever they need money for education or a new park etc. I think this resentment may have spread feelings of helplessness among self-government, and minimal government advocates. Enter the Trial by Jury. Wha???? But how could that be the solution? We have trial by jury now and it is not protecting us from government. Lysander Spooner argues that all the trials of his day were illegal because the juries were not legal. The original idea and function of the jury was to be a "trial by the country." To have a "trial by the country" one must choose randomly without any previous knowledge of selection from all those freemen eligible for jury seletion so that the jury is composed of both the rational, the irrational, the pro-government, the anti-government, those that would sympathize with the accused, and those who would not, with the ultimate requirement that they reach a unaimous verdict regarding the guilt of the accused. The only prerequisite for jurors being that they swear not to acquit a guilty man, and not to punish an innocent one. He goes on from here discussing the necessity of jurors to judge of the laws themselves, of what evidence is admissable and what weight it will be given, and of whether or not the law in question should be upheld at all.

Exerpt:
"The trial by jury, then, gives to any and every individual the liberty, at any time, to disregard or resist any law whatever of the government, if he be willing to submit to the decision of a jury, the questions, whether the law be intrinsically just and obligatory? and whether his conduct, in disregarding or resisting it, were right in itself? And any law, which does not, in such trial, obtain the unanimous sanction of twelve men, taken at random from the people, and judging according to the standard of justice in their own minds, free from all dictation and authority of the government, may be transgressed and resisted with impunity, by whomsoever pleases to transgress or resist it. fn3

The trial by jury authorizes all this, or it is a sham and a hoax, utterly worthless for protecting the people against oppression. If it do not authorize an individual to resist the first and least act of injustice or tyranny, on the part of the government, it does not authorize him to resist the last and the greatest. If it do not authorize individuals to nip tyranny in the bud, it does not authorize them to cut it down when its branches are filled with the ripe fruits of plunder and oppression.
"

You see what I mean about the "missing piece of the puzzle." Maybe this sort of "trial by jury" won't be necessary in a system of private courts, but it seems to me that in any system of minimal government a judicial system that includes a reformed trial by jury, one that functions as the jury originally functioned under English common law, would be absolutely crucial to the preservation of a free society, and a very limited government.

Monday, March 22, 2004

The Pitfalls of Faith

Having recently had a discussion with a friend of mine at a party I have found myself with an overload of subject material for a proper rant, so bear with me... or don't read it whichever you prefer. The topic is religious faith. I feel uniquely qualified to speak on this subject (though qualification is clearly unnecessary) because I am an atheist whom once was a very adamant believer in christianity. And though many christians might now claim that since I am not christian now I must have never truly believed, I would tell them that had they known me at the time, as many of my christian friends did, they would personally vouch for my faith. I prayed everyday not at a specific time, just whenever I felt the need to talk to Jesus. I was wholly engulfed in the idea of a "personal savior" I had been baptized three times; the final time of my own volition because I wanted to become "more committed to God." I had felt love, spiritual fulfillment, and even bliss on several occasions during worship. I do not point all this out to try and discourage anyone from their faith nor to lead people by example away from their religion, only to point out that my experience and my faith was indeed real and it is upon those experiences that I draw my knowledge of christianity; protestantism in particular.

Now having titled this entry "The Pitfalls of Faith" I could easily run off into a session of bashing the faithful as unscientific, irrational, foolish, immoral, and out of touch with reality. I could, but I won't because not only would that be pointless, but also I actually have quite a bit of respect for many who do have faith, and have encountered quite a few who are in fact rational believers (as strange a creature as that may seem to those of us on the outside). The "pitfalls" that I am going to discuss are not the pitfalls of having faith in one idea, or another without evidence, because people of all walks of life do that at some point even the most scientific minded. Which is not necessarily a bad thing to do. I am interested in a few pitfalls I see that seem to be unique to religious faith.

In science one cannot draw any conclusion without adequate evidence, that being said adequate evidence is not by any stretch of the imagination absolute or even solid proof. Sometimes one might form a theory that explains the set of data collected. The data then would not prove the theory but merely be consistent with it, and further data would be necessary to be considered evidence supporting the theory, or "proof of the theory" etc. I point this out because science always has to make a clear distinction between observational data and/or scientific facts, and their interpretation of those facts/data. The same is not necessarily true for a religious believer. To have faith in an idea or entity tends to go beyond just believing that that entity exists and did what you believe they did but also having faith in the interpretation of those events that you have been taught or that you have personally formulated. The question that I present isn't "What if you are wrong" but "what if your interpretation is wrong?"

The typical response is that one must have faith that they are correct, or that they speak to God and he tells them that they are correct or something of that nature. When it comes to Christianity in particular there are many, many different interpretations of the same information that go back for nearly two millenia. Why should one believe that the baptist interpretation of the bible and christian doctrine is any more correct than that of the catholics, the eastern orthodox, the methodists, the unitarians, the coptics, the marthomas, the lutherans, the presbyterians, the anglicans etc. At one point in American history those distinctions between one branch of prostestantism and another were very important. They were the topic of intense political struggles. Now a person can go from one protestant church to another until they feel "at home" spiritually. I know because this is what my family did for most of my childhood. As a result I started out baptist and ended up a member of a "church of God" which is apparently a branch off of the pentecostals. How they are different from the other protestants I don't know except that they seem to care very much about speaking in tongues (I never figured that one out). The reason for this ease of transition is because of a book that was published nearly a century ago called The Fundamentals. Hence fundamentalist christianity.

Many protestant christians draw on the ideas and traditions that were created by this book without realizing that the book ever existed nor that their traditions may not even be consistent with the origins of their faith. For example I went to baptist churches for many years and was in fact raised baptist; I also went to several presbyterian churches when I was young (in fact every year we attended bible school at the same presbyterian church). I never in all that time knew that there were any fundamental differences in the beliefs of presbyterians and baptists. There are. The presbyterians believe in predestination and the baptists are staunch advocates of free will. Or at least they were once, I have yet to run into a baptist who feels like the belief in free will is a central tenant of their faith, though I have run into presbyterrians who thought the idea of predestination was important to their faith. Nonetheless most baptist I have known, regardless of whether they believed in free will or not, would find no quarrel with the Presbyterians because they agree on the "fundamentals." And while the American prostants have for the most part agreed on the "fundamentals of Christianity" they do fail to recognize that these "fundamentals" do not apply to all christianity, and that it would make almost no sense whatsoever to call a catholic or a greek orthodox christian a "fundamentalist" regardless of how devout they may be.

So back to that "pitfall;" the pitfall comes in when one convinces themself that god thinks this way or that way, that he is this way or that way, that the world, people, etc. are one way or another because of the religious traditions and interpretations that they have been raised with, regardless of where those interpretations might have originated. Almost as an extention of their own faith they refuse to question that interpretation, nor to open their mind to the possibility that perhaps the teachings of the religion they profess might have been misinterpretted over the years. I would like to see those christians that I do respect and admire practicing a faith consistent with the teachings of christ rather than a collusion of traditions and interpretations created by several hundred years of prostantism wandering between various philisophical ideas and stumbling upon a thorough book that enshrines one interpretation, one faith, and one set of ideas that would have meant very little to the great christian thinkers of the past much less to those whom lived in the time of Christ.

On this point I like to quote Thomas Jefferson:

"Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear."

I would not call faith "blindfolded fear," though I think that for many that is effectively what faith has become. Those rational christians whom I respect and would consider friends and collegues do not hold their faith due to fear, nor would they refuse to question their beliefs out of fear; but because questioning them would seem to be contrary to the nature of faith. I do not call on them to question the existence of God, but rather to question the interpretations of their beliefs, and of the teachings of Jesus that they have adopted. I do not think that such a thing is contrary to the nature of faith, nor that it would weaken it, but rather that it would lead you to broadening your horizons about the depth of meaning within the christian ideas, the diversity of ideas, and to a better understanding of the true meaning of Christ's work and teachings. If you find that you have adopted ideas that are undermining your own life and efforts which were never professed by Christ nor by the ancient Israelites, then such an exploration would only serve to enhance your faith and your relationship with God. If there is a God (and I do not suspect their is) then it follows that it was he who gave you a brain, and a mind; surely he meant for you to use them. If not in the exploration of the ideas you profess to believe in, if not for the purpose of broadening your own understanding, and strengthening your faith, then for what?

Democrats would cause terrorists to attack the UN

Magnifisyncopathological: The Internationalization of Iraq?

The gist of this post on Drizzten's site is that if the jihadists attacked Spain because of it's involvement in the Iraq War then they would attack a wider range of countries if the UN etc. got involved.

"If we reconfigure our strategy and go all multilateral on Iraq's ass, doesn't that mean all of a sudden our terrorist enemies will have a much greater selection of nations to attack? Doesn't that mean we expose the nations in the internationalized force to direct reprisal? Wouldn't that be a serious consequence worth considering before just falling back on one of the most irritating default Democratic positions: that any efforts abroad be done in coalitions and through multilateral institutions?"

This post is definitely worth reading.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

The new Psuedo-science.

Ice age to warming - and back? | csmonitor.com

"In the absence of better knowledge, we have to assume that humans are making abrupt climate change more likely - not because humans are worse than nature, it's just because we're changing the system," says Richard Alley, a Penn State University paleoclimatologist. Dr. Alley led a 2002 National Research Council panel that examined abrupt climate change and laid out recommendations for research priorities and possible adaptation strategies.

In the absense of better knowledge... What does that statement mean if not "since we don't actually know..." Since we don't actually know we should assume the worst case scenario. Having no knowledge, and having presented no evidence nor discovered any that humans make abrupt climate change more likely we should assume that that is the case... until we know better?!? That's not science. Science can't assume anything without evidence. I suspect the only reason for making such a statement in this case is to keep the tax dollars rolling in for further research regardless of whether there's a good reason for it.

A fellow libertarian describes coming to join us in anarcho-capitalism

Magnifisyncopathological: The Anniversary of the Iraq War

Drizzten makes the following statement near the end of his post:
Such a stance implies anarcho-capitalism and that does not bother me.


Well in that case, welcome to anarcho-capitalism. In this place in the political spectrum, we truly understand that life is to be enjoyed. So, welcome to our special little paradox of "Individualists of the world, unite." :-)

Oh by the way, a safer term for the position is "radical libertarian." Surprisingly, most people are not inclined to engage in a debate about what is and isn't anarchism. Whatever it is called, I remain hopeful that someday I will be living in a free society where sentient being does not rule sentient being.

I am persuaded not to see The Passion of the Christ by someone that liked it.

Civilization Watch - February 29, 2004 - The Passion of the Christ -- Three Reviews and a Letter - The Ornery American

First, I didn't realize that Orson Scott Card had such strong feelings about this sort of thing. I appreciate seeing a Mormon stand up for Catholicism. I may not believe in it anymore, but my mother does and I love my mother.

That said. He has successfully bridged the cultural gulf for me to describe why this film has done so well. It is a Christian film. (Specifically, it is a pietist Catholic film. But, I'm nit-picking.) It really speaks to the culture of believing Christians. It is not going to change anybody's mind about anything.

I'm not Christian. So, this movie is not for me. And that is ok. I now have a greater respect for what this movie was. It was an artistic expression of a culture that I don't identify with. Since I never really did identify with it, I often find it quite alien.

That culture is the largest single self-identified culture in the country. That is why it sold out. I can now strike seeing it from my list of things I might do.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Jesus Battles Zombies at the U.S. Box Office

I just wanted to make sure people caught this headline. It is hilarious.

Jesus Battles Zombies at the U.S. Box Office

A Libertarian welcomes the Democrats into Opposition

The Libertarian Party is the penultimate opposition party. By it's nature, it will always work to keep itself from becoming the dominant party in government. I know this is not even a possibility right now, but I want you to think about systemic incentive-structures and how they could play out eventually. Regardless of the flavor libertarianism to which one adheres, success can be finitely achieved politically. Success would also shift the social focus from government to culture hopefully permanently. Social conservatives and social liberals would then be battling it out in the cultural arena. (Think Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ) The death of coercive politics would mean the death of political parties. This would include the Libertarian Party. This describes the Libertarian dream best case scenario.

It is very hard for someone to voluntarily fire oneself from a job they were proud of accomplishing. So mission-creep would set in. Then the Libertarian Party would fracture among political faultlines. (Probably radical vs. reformist vs. conservative.) This is a more likely scenario.

In A Call for Libertarians to Reform the Democratic Party the Democratic Freedom Blog attempts to persuade libertarians over to the Democratic Party. I think he jumped the gun.

The Libertarian Party has spent more than thirty years in opposition. We're comfortable here. (I'm a card-carryin' member.)

For most of that time, we have been watching our government do a lot of things we find shameful. During that whole time, it has been dominated by the Democratic Party. Occasionally, there has been a Republican President that was the electoral equivalent of voters saying "hey stop that" to congress. They seldomed stopped it. They usually just scaled it back or did it more quietly, or more piecemeal, or more slowly. Nixon even aided and abetted. That encouraged the Libertarian Party to organize in the first place.

A socially liberal friend of mine once told me that she had wondered why so many libertarians made common cause with conservatives. The answer is the old "enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend" principle. Also... Since they were the underdogs, they needed us. And when you have spent as much time out in the political wilderness as we have, it is nice to feel needed once in a while. That said. Now the Republican Party is the ruling party. Give us time and we'll be more comfortable making common cause with Democrats.

At the rate that things our going, the Republicans will be ruling for the next twenty years. That is half as long as the Democrats ruled, but it is still plenty of time for those of us in Opposition (Democrats and Libertarians) to get to know each other again. Once we know each others concerns, values, and principles, we can start working on mapping a path to a world that we all can feel secure in. (I do not accept the belief that those who don't understand economics must necessarily oppose sound economics.)

For now, I'll keep my voting strategy. Where possible, I vote third-party (preferrably Libertarian). Otherwise, I simply vote against the incumbent. If it is an uncontested election, I write-in 'None of the Above'. (If I am particularly well-informed on individual candidates and I know one of them is a principled libertarian, then I vote for that one. I don't let party-affiliation trump the possiblity of a principled statesman.) I am well aware that in elections that aren't contested by a third party. My opposition vote has a greater probability of going to a Democrat.

We all know about the libertarian Republican Congressman Ron Paul. Depending on how the upcoming elections go, he might be joined by a libertarian Democratic Congressman in the next session. If we could ease ballot access restrictions, I bet we would actually have a libertarian Libertarian Congressman elected from one of the many districts in this country that are currently uncontested.

Life in opposition can be fun. Just remember it's only politics. This is a big country. If things become too bad, it is not hard to disappear into the swamp/desert/tundra/forest/mountains/international waters etc. within 300 miles of where you live. ;-) Welcome to the Opposition. I hope you enjoy your stay. :-D

A point about definitions and Haiti

niraj: WHEN IS A COUP NOT A COUP?

Apparently, Haiti had a civil war. What happened there recently did not qualify as a coup d'etat.

"The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right name."
-Ancient Chinese Proverb

Friday, March 19, 2004

Human rights vs. political sway.

El Salvador vote recalls cold-war power play | csmonitor.com

The U.S. government using immigration laws to effect an election in another country, imagine that. It's bad enough to see a country that has become dependent on another country to survive, not through trade but through migration. But to see how that relationship has become the U.S. government's means to politically throttle and indirectly control the other country is disturbing to say the least. No, no, bad El Salvador, you want to keep getting checks from your relatives you better not elect a communist. There, there good little country. Arguably they wouldn't have elected the communist anyway, but nonetheless a border isn't a national property line. A border ultimately is still an individual property line, and non-violent people should be able to cross those lines provided they have the permission of the owner, if they choose to. And when it comes to public roads, public cities, and public places we don't have a right to turn away those whose only goal is to peacefully make a better life for themselves and their family. It seems like anytime we give the government the ability to infringe on such a basic human right they ultimately abuse it. The government restricts immigration in certain countries in the name of "security" or protectionism and that's okay with the American public... We're afraid of losing our jobs to foreigners, we're afraid of terrorists crossing our borders. Then we turn around and find the state department hinting that they might restrict immigration to El Salvador if the election goes unfavorably. Of course they probably wouldn't... The State department is using a blatant lie and the U.S.'s ability to do such a thing to impact the voting population of El Salvador. As long as they don't know that such an action is unlikely, being unfamiliar with the American political process, it might as well be true. When the bully threatens your livelihood your first concern isn't whether he's bluffing, it's whether or not he could actually do it. Poor voters in El Salvador can't afford to bet their lives and well being on the potential dishonesty of the Bush administration. So human rights becomes a means of bluffing our way to political sway, but then why am I surprised? The U.N. Human Rights Council says it all. Sudan... Saudi Arabia... Looking at it's current state I think that it's fair to say that if the U.N.'s Human Rights Council had existed during World War II Germany would have been a part of it. Where else would the worst offenders of human rights in the world want to be, but on the one council that gets to decide which countries should be sanctioned and condemned over the matter. Migration is a human right otherwise political boundaries might as well be prison walls.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

What is Civil Disobedience?

Thoreau's Civil Disobedience

With all this controversy over gay marriage going on a lot is being made of civil disobedience. The question is: Does using one's own elected position/office to break and or protest an injust law constitute civil disobedience?

Personally I like MLK's presentation of civil disobedience:

"I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law. " -MLK

You see explicit in this statement is that an act of civil disobedience involves breaking the specific law that an individual finds to be unjust, and willingly accepting the penalty for doing so. Thus I would argue that even though those whom issue licenses illegally to gay couples might be said to be abusing their authority, or their office (whether that is true is another issue) what they are doing is in fact civil disobedience provided that they are willing to accept the penalty for their actions. Some of them have issued licenses only while the issue was ambiguous under their own state laws but backed off when some court, attorney general, or other figure declared it illegal. Technically they don't qualify since they only broke the law when it was ambiguous whether they were actually breaking it. That being said one does not have to be punished, nor accept a punishment as fair and not fight against it to be considered to have committed an act of civil disobedience. What those certain mayors and officials did, even those that backed off later is far closer to actual civil disobedience than most of those actions that pass under the title these days. For example when war protesters blocked traffic to protest the Iraq war, even though this was illegal it was not infact civil disobedience unless the protesters thought the traffic laws were unjust. When protesters chain themselves to buildings to protest some policy or another, it is not civil disobedience unless they believe laws against trespassing on private property are unjust. When a protesters chain themselves to trees in order to keep them from being chopped down and then willingly accept the punishment for doing so it may very well qualify as civil disobedience because they are in fact protesting individual and company's rights to do what they want with their own property. Specifically their right to cut down their own trees. Similarly those who electronically attack the websites of organizations such as the WTO in order to make them inoperable, may claim this is civil disobedience; but that would only be true if what they considered injust was the ability of others to express a message that they disagreed with. Since the effect of their actions is to halt the transmission of that message these anti-globalization protesters are in fact committing acts of civil disobedience that symbolically protest free speech. So the next time you read about a protester who is proud of themselves for getting arrested for throwing a rock at a police officer, and claims they were protesting globalization and that this is a symbolic act of civil disobedience you can smile and nod. Knowing that the only thing their act symbolized was their distaste for laws against assaulting police officers with rocks and other sharp objects.

BilLee's life in the Political Spectrum (Part 1)

Libertarian Purity Test

I took this test a while back and was reminded of it again by a recent entry at Catallarchy.net called The Proper Terms of the Debate.

(I tested 160 out of 160, but I'm willing to listen to principled arguments in disagreement.)

I came across this link to Brad Delong's No Libertarians in Eighteenth-Century Highlands in the same entry.

All of this has gotten me waxing nostalgic for the wide-range of political thought that I considered (and held) over my early years. I'm 25 now. I have been for about a month. I've been thinking about politics most of my life. I started with a few ideas, inclinations, fears, etc.

Around kindergarten, I was told that I needed to conserve electricity, water, etc., because the world was running out of natural resources. I was a very bright kid. I looked at the figures that they presented me. I considered what they wanted to do about it. Their plans were inadequate to the scale and scope of the problem that they were purporting to solve. This meant that they would fail. That failure could be delayed by the "environmental' policies we were to implement in our day-to-day lives and in society-at-large.

The more I examined the data of the "environmentalists." The more inescapable I found the conclusion. Civilization would inevitably collapse. This was a simple fact about reality and contained no moral judgment about civilization.

I found this oddly reassuring at the time. I'm having trouble remembering why I found it reassuring, but it made sense at the time. (I have a bad memory which makes nostalgia take a long time and a little bit surreal from a stream of consciousness point of view.)

I've always been very empathic. I tended to pick up on other people's emotions very easy. (I'll get more into this at a later time.) I originally thought everyone was that way.

I used to think that money, i.e. medium of exchange, would became obsolete. The last authoritarian political tendency of which I let go was a knee jerk support for minimum wage. My dad is a retired economics professor. I knew the economic argument against, but couldn't bring myself to oppose it. Every politician that I saw on TV who opposed the minimum wage was an annoying social conservative.

I forget where I was going with this. I'll try again tomorrow after I get some sleep. (I type slow. I've been working on this all night)

(to be continued)

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

What's wrong with Incest?

So what's really wrong with incest? It's gross... it evokes the ick-factor... it conjures up images of having sex with one of your own sibling... eehhhwww yuck! But just because we find something to be gross doesn't mean it should be illegal. We already frown upon incest, most people disapprove of it and find it to be deplorable. It wouldn't become widespread if it were legal. If two consenting adults want to have sex, and happen to be related what right do we have to stop them. The biggest concern most people have is children. Which is where safe sex comes in, that being said accidents can happen and if we are going to respect the rights of consenting adults we must also respect them to choose whether or not to take such precautions. Here's the thing it's been shown that we are sociobiologically programmed to not be sexually attracted to those we spent our first 30 months of life with. Siblings, cousins, parents, even friends that you are around at a very very young age you will not be sexually attracted to later in life. That's why most of us find the idea of sex with a sibling to be "icky," it's perfectly natural to. That being said when that exception occurs, or when someone wasn't around their siblings early in life and are later attracted to them what should be done? What precautions should be taken? I would argue that responsible adults should always take precautions in regard to sex, however beyond that the government shouldn't interfere, in spite of the possibility of children coming out of the relationship.

Why? First of all it is incredibly unlikely for a baby born from two siblings to be genetically deformed. There is a higher probability that it will occur than if they were unrelated, but it is still not a likely outcome. Most people think that deformites are guranteed or at least a 50/50 probability, but they're not. Your'e far more likely to have a deformed fetus from drinking while your pregnant, or not getting the right nutrients, and that's not illegal.... but then drinking and not eating right aren't considered "icky." The real risk comes when this happens through multiple generations, basically when the children of an incestuous relationship create children themselves through an incestuous relationship. Because of our sociobiological programming against this, the high improbability of getting pregnant in general, and the much higher improbability of having a deformed fetus through incestuous sex, the likelihood of multiple generations being the product of, participating in and creating children through incest is nil. My point is this, as "icky" as incest might be it does not need to be regulated. It is not a risky activity even if there is offspring, and since it can be done safely without the possibility of pregnancy there is no good reason for it to be outlawed. I don't think we should ever find it less "icky" I know I won't but that doesn't mean it should be illegal for those that want to do it. What remote risk there is can be easily annillated by using a condom... I have a similar position on prostitution by the way.

So to all the conservative who say: "If gay marriage is made legal won't that open the door for polygamy and incest?" "Where do we draw the line?" My answer is yes, and why do conservatives always think they should get to "draw the lines" for the rest of us anyway? I mean if social conservativism is legal won't that open the door for intoleration and stasis? The answer is yes it could open the door to such things at least on an individual level, but outlawing it would be worse. If people have a right to be intolerant, static, wastes of human flesh, they damn well ought to have a right to be incestuous. Just for the record I don't approve of incest, and I don't approve of conservativism either... but in the long run which of those has actually hurt more people?

Teaching Toleration

Student Suspended After Police Dog Smells Drugs

It's important to embrace our differences, to accept people for who they are, to be tolerant of people who make different lifestyle choices, to be respectful of those you disagree with... But where do we draw the line? How about we draw the line if someone smells like an illicit substance? we should have zero tolerance for smelling like substances the nanny-state has declared to be bad for us, and therefore illegal. If we're so concerned about educating kids in this country why are we spending money on drug testing, and taking time out of class to invade the privacy of students. Apparently punishing kid for using or even "passive participation" (whatever that means) in drug use is more important than making sure they get educated. That's the message that this sends. When you suspend a student you are literally telling them that you won't teach them, and won't let them make up their test and assignments for x-amount of days. I would think that suspecting a student of possessing or using illicit substances would be reason to keep them around more, not less, certainly it's not a good reason to send them home for three days.

The truth is I don't suspect that our government school system really has anything to do with education, I think it's about controlling young minds; creating "good citizens." "Good Citizens" don't break the rules, no matter how ridiculous or wrong they may be. "Good Citizens" respect the authority of the government, and a "good citizen" would be happy to take on an undeserved punishment if it meant helping to maintain the authority and control of those above him. Afterall a few days suspension in the name of protecting and preserving his schools sacred zero-tolerance policy is a small price to pay. Education?!? Who said anything about education?!? This is about winning the drug war! No matter what it takes.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Urrrrrgggggggggghhhh!

Sorry I haven't blogged much lately. I've spent the last 4 hours trying to get my home network to work... and just now figured out that my network card wasn't installed, and that my (actually BilLee's) computer wasn't recongnizing it for some reason. Why did it take that long to realize that you may ask? Because there is a working device under "net adapter," and there was a working connection that popped up and said it was connected, not only that when I connected the network card to the hub, the hub recognized it. So how would I know that the card I was physically connected to was not the "connection" nor the adapter my computer was actually referring to. There aren't any other network cards... there aren't any other "connections" what else could it be. It turns out I was setting up a LAN using a firewire connection and a firewire net adapter on the software side. On the hardware side I was using an ethernet card that the computer wasn't recognizing. Did windows xp's much renowned troubleshooting program help me... no... it just had me do stupid crap like unplug and replug the network cord, and make sure the driver isn't corrupted. Finally, finally I figured out that my connection wasn't ethernet, almost by accident by doing a search on the web for information on the connection type. But I still didn't figure out that that connection and adapter weren't coming from the network card I had hooked my network cable into (the only one I have). Not until my brother pointed out that if my "adapter" was firewire then it would have to use a firewire cable, and thus there must be some other card in there that isn't being picked up. urrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrggggggggggggggggggghhhhhh.... so 4 hours after I start I realize that the problem is that my hardware and software are figuratively speaking on two different planes of existence. In other words I was trying to use the software of a device I didn't know I had to utilize the hardware of a device my computer didn't know I had. Funny it didn't work... ha... okay I've had enough techno-lingo for one day to make my head explode. I just want to be able to play games across a network. Two computers talking to each other... that's all. That's supposed to take like 5 minutes to set up. In fact it turns out that if there was a firewire port on BilLee's other computer windows xp would set up a network between them automatically. All I'd have to do is connect them.... It's funny when all the stuff designed to make stuff easy and user-friendly get in the way of you actually getting stuff to work right. I mean if that firewire drive didn't show up automatically as a net adapter (and who knew that firewire could be used for LAN's ?!?!) I would have known immediately that the computer wasn't recognizing the network card. And many hours today... many hours on other days... and many hours put in by BilLee would have been saved. I hate Windows!

Friday, March 12, 2004

Protecting America from frivolous lawsuits.

CNN.com - House bans fast-food lawsuits - Mar 10, 2004

How far will the politicians and the trial lawyer's go to protect their legal racket. Every other industrialized country on this planet has a civil court system where the loser pays. That means that if you sue someone, and you lose then you have to pay the legal fees of the defendant. That may sound bad, but it makes sense. You are costing them time and money on the hope of recouping money and losses that you claim that they cost you. If the accused is in fact innocent than the lawsuit itself, the cost of it, represents damages that you have caused them to take. The point of having such a system isn't merely to discourage frivolous lawsuits, though that is a great benefit, the point is to prevent our judicial system from being used as a weapon to legally inflict damages on another whom is guilty of nothing. If a judicial system becomes rather than a means of creating and preserving justice, a means of inflicting and spreading injustice than it has failed in its purpose and in the service that it was meant to provide.

Thus this simple correction to our judicial system is all that is needed to protect it from the swath of thousands of cases created for the sole purpose of milking some company or some rich person dry. Right now doctors have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for medical malpractice insurance, not because of the risk of losing a malpractice case, merely due to the risk of being sued at all. Every case will cost the doctor thousands of dollars in legal fees, dollars that will never be recouped, even on the most ridiculous charge. The republicans say that our court system needs reforming, and it does, they know how to reform it, and they won't.
The democrats say that outlawing a single class of lawsuits is wrong and won't solve the problem, they're also right. They too know how to solve the problem, they know that a loser-pays system would rid our courts of 90 percent or more of the frivolous lawsuits that currently clog it up without compromising the service and protection those courts are meant to provide. Will they advocate such a system, of course not. Many of them were once lawyers, many of their friends, family, collegues, contributors, and even constituents are lawyers. Why would they want to get rid of such a profitable system if they convince the rest of us that they're "doing something" about the problem with laws like this one.

Congress has no business deciding what cases can and cannot be tried in a civil court. That's up to the judges, not the house of representatives. They can change small technical aspects of the system, such as with a law that requires the losers to pay the legal expenses of the winner. Congress has stepped over the line by trying to tell judges across this country what cases they will be required to throw out, or even what cases can be filed. What's next? Will they ban cases where a customer slips in a restaurant, will they ban the cases where someone claims that their pizza burnt the top of their mouths, will they ban cases that claim a swimming pool is too deep, or their car drives too fast? I'm glad congress has so much time to decide exactly what cases are and aren't "frivolous." I'd hate to think they were spending all this time over stepping their authority when they had real work to do.

GaryNolan.com - Blog

GaryNolan.com - Blog

How about that. Here is one of the Libertarian Candidates for President who has his own blog. He updates it on a fairly timely basis and I enjoy reading it. If he gets the Libertarian nod, then he has definitely got this BilLee's vote come November.

He has written on Ballot Access laws, the flip-flopping of both Sen. Kerry and Pres. Bush, the Democrats fussing over Bush's use of 9-11 footage in his campaign ads, what it would be like to have a Bush/Kerry ticket, and that the Sen. and the Pres. should have there pay docked for every day that they campaign instead of working. All that was just the last week. (Yeah, I know. I read more than I write, but I should get more polished with time.)

Thursday, March 11, 2004

What's in the bill of rights?

Confederation & Constitution: Bill of Rights: James Madison Proposal

I hear a lot of discussion about what is and isn't in the bill or rights. For example when it comes to the second amendment, many people think it does not prohibit gun control because of the inclusion of "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state...," since the military/national guard no longer gets its weapons from the individuals it recruits. The classic argument against the "right to privacy" was that it was not explicitly included in the bill or rights. I heard a similar argument regarding separation of church and state, specifically that that separation was only a requirement of the federal government not the state governments. Since there was no explicit right to choose one's own religion in the bill of rights then there was nothing wrong with the state governments being partial to one religion or another. These arguments are fairly easy to tear apart, and I'm not presenting them here for that purpose. The bill or rights was never meant to be a comprehensive list of rights. It was not meant to be a philisophical treatise on human rights, and in fact the 9th amendment makes this explicit:

"The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

Which makes me wonder what are our other rights? It says "retained by the people," would this imply that if we give up these rights willingly or unintentionally perhaps, do we no longer have them? What I mean is though those rights are no longer respected, are they in fact still rights? Obviously the 9th amendment cannot, and should not be used to retract the existence even theoretically of a political right. But it does seem to me to be saying: What we have now we want to keep, regardless of whether or not it is included in the Bill of Rights.

Does that mean I have a constitutionally protected right to grow hemp and huff ether because these were rights enjoyed by the people at the time the Bill of Rights was ratified? Or does the 9th amendment only apply to those rights we enjoy now? The right to choose my own religion for example cannot be infringed upon in spite of the fact that it is not explicitly included in the Bill of rights. A right to self-medicate or partake of mind altering substances for any purpose religious, recreational etc., was a right enjoyed and retained by the people when the bill of rights was created. Thus there was a time when it's lack of existence in the bill of rights was irrelevant because it could not be infringed simply because it had not been included. I guess the 9th amendment is kind of ironic in that sense since had it been included it couldn't be infringed now (at least not without a constitutional amendment nullifying it).

The Bill of Rights was never meant to be comprehensive, in fact it's author James Madison, didn't believe it was necessary. Yet it seems that it could have been said that those rights which are not enumerated in the Bill of Rights, will ultimately be denied and disparaged. So while the argument could not have been used that "there is nothing in the Bill of Rights guranteeing a right to smoke pot," due to the 9th amendment. In a way this was irrelevant, there was nothing in the constitution prohibiting the government from infringing upon that right, nor of making it illegal.

It seems to me that nowadays the Bill of Rights is used, and has been used, to make every conceivable human behavior that was not explicitly protected in the document fair game for government regulation. I once heard a democrat say in support of his argument that some activity or other should be illegal; "We live in a regulatory state." You can imagine what followed that statement. He's right of course we do live in a "regulatory state," but it didn't start out that way, and I don't believe it should stay that way. Regardless, I have to believe that we would be worse off without a Bill of Rights than we are with one, even if it might be in part to blame for the rise of the "regulatory state." I guess there's no way to know if it would have risen anyway.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Numbering Identity

As of January 1, 2003 the state of Georgia started requiring individuals applying for or renewing driver's licenses to submit their social security number. I know a lot of other states already require this including Texas the state I am moving to in a few months. But I found this rather curious given that social security numbers are not supposed to be used for identification purposes (or that's what the American public was told when they were first invented), and the Georgia DMV has never before felt it necessary to acquire SSN's before. If a year and a half ago the georgia DMV felt that a birth certificate and proof of residency was enough to verify your identity, and thus issue an ID, what has since changed it's mind. It's not like obtaining a social security card requires anymore stringent measures of verification than a state-issued ID. On the contrary I think you present a birth certificate and a state-issued ID in order to get a social security card. So what exactly would be the point in requiring a social security number as well? Well a search on google revealed the answer: Georgia House Bill 319; This is the bill mandating that applicants submit their SSN before they may be issued a license. According to the actual wording of the bill, requiring SSN's for driver's licenses has nothing to do with identity verification; nor was the requirement mandated for that purpose. Here's what the bill says under section 5 of the bill after laying out the requirement that applicants submit SSNs to be eligible for drivers licenses:

"The Department of Motor Vehicle Safety shall provide to the Department of Human Resources, in addition to other information required to be provided to the Department of Human Resources, such social security numbers of individuals who have been issued a driver´s license, a commercial driver´s license, a learner´s permit, or an identification card. The Department of Human Resources shall use the information provided by the Department of Motor Vehicle Safety pursuant to this Code section for the purpose of complying with the requirements of law concerning the enforcement of child support."

Oh why didn't you says so... The DMV is just collecting the information on behalf of the department of human resouces who need my SSN in order to enforce child support. You know I can understand that there are problems enforcing child support orders, and that some measures may need to be taken to enforce court orders regarding child support payments. But requiring every driver in the state to turn over private information so that they can find a few dead-beat dads seems a bit extreme. But what's much worse is having the DMV collect information on applicants with the explicit purpose of turning it over to another state agency.

You can't drive your own car unless you turn over this information to us that we neither, need nor want but are collecting for another agency. If you can't feasibly get to work, school, the grocery store, home, etc. without driving yourself; too bad. That's extortion if you ask me. I think I'll start a petition, a petition to change the name of the DMV to the DCPIPC. The department of collecting personal information on private citizens. In this case they're not even hiding that fact, and I suppose they don't have to. Nowadays nobody really cares. When our grandparents raised concerns at the inception of social security about having social security numbers used for personal identification, what were they concerned about? we do it everyday? When civil rights groups raise concerns about government agencies collecting information on their own citizens what are they afraid of? The DMV does it now? Nobody's alarmed. When our driver's licenses have effectively turned into a national ID card required for driving, flying, and cashing paychecks everywhere you go, what's there to be afraid of? It seems we've long since forgotten.