That Perennial Western Malady, the Revolt of the Individual Against the Species

Atom Feed

Creative Commons License

Contact:
Blogger Profile
LiveJournal
Email
AIM

Get Firefox!
This site appears best in the FireFox web browser. Faster, Safer, and Free.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation

Institute for Justice

I Proudly Fly the Gadsden Flag

Bill of Rights Enforcement Defend the Bill of Rights





eXTReMe Tracker

Friday, April 08, 2005

On the Minimum Wage

Minimum wage hurts poor people. I have every Nobel laureate economist on my side. This was a response to an acquaintance of mine after the expected "greedy bastard" remarks.

You are scrubbing floors for $5.15 per hour. It sucks, and it's hard work, and you do a good job. Suddenly the politicians decide they're going to do you a favor and raise your salary, because your greedy ass boss is obviously exploiting you. So they raise the minimum wage to $6. Good for you, yes? Unfortunately, the market has already determined that it is only worth $5.20 per hour to keep an employee on staff to scrub floors. Your employer is not going to pay $6 for for something worth only $5.20. He wouldn't buy candy bars at $.75 and sell them for $.50, either.

GreedSo you aren't scrubbing floors for $5.15 anymore. You're unemployed. Bad for you, yes? So you go looking for another low end job. Double-unfortunately, the minimum wage hike has also put you buddies Frank and George and Bob in the same predicament as you. (You were all janitors at EvilCorp.) The first place you go looking has already hired Frank. The second has already hired George. You land a job cleaning up horse shit for a company that offers tourists carriage rides through the city, only to find out two days later that Bob has offered to work longer hours and has no particular aversion to touching horse shit with nothing but latex gloves on. They decide to hire him instead.

Who's better off? Certainly not you; you're unemployed. Not any of your friends; they're each working a shittier (HA!) job than they used to. Not EvilCorp, it's other employees, and its customers; now their floors are vile and disgusting because it's not worth cleaning them anymore. Who's better off?

The politicians. They feel good, warm, and fuzzy. They can go into the next election season with another notch in their belts for "helping the working class," for "fighting against big money and greed." Who else is better off? Perhaps your fellow janitor Greg (He wasn't included in your group of friends; he was always working too hard.), but then again now he's pulling the weight of all four of you and getting paid only a few cents more to show for it, and it's certainly at your expense.

Now consider this happening on a grand scale. Consider the misery and pain it's caused. Those people were poor because they don't have a good job, for whatever reasons. Congratulations, it's just become that much harder to manage to get one. Congratulations, they've just lost that much hope of ever crawling out of the tight space they're in.

Take a walk through an inner city ghetto someday. If it weren't for minimum wage, those people wouldn't be dealing drugs. If it weren't for minimum wage, their average life expectancy wouldn't be stuck below 40 years. The police wouldn't be afraid to be available to help them.

Quote:
You don't understand that it doesn't matter if you work fulltime or not, your time is still worth more than $5.15 an hour.

You don't understand that the value of your labor is not determined arbitrarily but by existing market forces. Any widget is always worth exactly what the market will bear, always. If anyone, a storekeeper, a monopolist, a government, attempts to artificially raise the price of the widget, its value will not increase. People will simply stop buying widgets.

This isn't theory, it's been observed empirically for hundreds of years. What the "social progressives" in this country hold to isn't theory, either. It is doctrine. It is religion. It is emotional feel-good nonsense, and it's hurting people.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Uh Oh.

Uh Oh. The layout is f****d. I'll fix it soon. Cross my heart.

I just found this tasty bit in my inbox in the latest Reason Express. It's their Quote of the Week.

"We are not the speech police. The FEC does not tell private citizens what they can or cannot say, on the Internet, or elsewhere" - Federal Election Commissioner and amateur comedian Ellen Weintraub on new FEC regulations.

source

Laugh.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

Stated as articulately as it is true.

You show me a polluter and I’ll show you a subsidy. I’ll show you a fat cat using political clout to escape the discipline of the free market and load his production costs onto the backs of the public.

The fact is, free-market capitalism is the best thing that could happen to our environment, our economy, our country. Simply put, true free-market capitalism, in which businesses pay all the costs of bringing their products to market, is the most efficient and democratic way of distributing the goods of the land – and the surest way to eliminate pollution. Free markets, when allowed to function, properly value raw materials and encourage producers to eliminate waste – pollution – by reducing, reusing, and recycling.

In a real-market economy, when you make yourself rich, you enrich your community.

The truth is, I don’t even think of myself as an environmentalist anymore. I consider myself a free-marketeer.

Corporate capitalists don’t want free markets, they want dependable profits, and their surest route is to crush the competition by controlling the government.

Let’s not forget that we taxpayers give away $65 billion every year in subsidies to big oil, and more than $35 billion a year in subsidies to western welfare cowboys. Those subsidies helped create the billionaires who financed the right-wing revolution on Capitol Hill and put George W. Bush in the White House.

--Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.


Props: The Mutualist Blog, Libertarian Critter

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

No Posts

I'm sorry there haven't been posts here in a while. I'm going through something big right now, and I'm not quite myself lately.

Tim West's new blog is up, LibertyForSale.com. I'm going to take Tim's advice, get rid of the snooty tooty name for this blog and rename it simply Spenwah!, as soon as I'm back on my feet.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Fever Dream

Some days her shape in the doorway
Will speak to me
A bird's wing on the window

Sometimes I'll hear when she's sleeping
Her fever dream
A language on her face

I want your flowers
Like babies want God's love
Or maybe as sure as tomorrow will come

Some days like rain on the doorstep
She'll cover me
In grace in all she offers

Sometimes I'd like just to ask her
What honest words
She can't afford to say

Like I want your flowers
Like babies want God's love
Or maybe as sure as tomorrow will come

--Samuel Beam

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Read the Bills!

DownsizeDC is on another great, historic campaign, this time to pass legislation that will force politicians to read the bills they vote on. It's common sense.

If you read that a little fast, you might have missed it: Bureaucrats do not read the laws they pass! Most bills are literally thousands(!) of pages long, packed to the hilt with pork and special interest favors. The legislation will require the politicians to listen to a reading of every single word of a bill before being able to vote on it. Additionally, it will establish a mandatory waiting period of seven or more days between the reading of the bill and the time it is voted on so that the public will have the opportunity to make their opinions known in Washington. Congress and lobbyists will hate this plan, but the general public will love it.

This comes from the direct mailing I received today:

Congress passed the Patriot Act without reading it. They made it the law of the land before a single copy of the bill was printed.

The recently passed National Intelligence Reform Act was 3,364 pages long. Two copies of the bill were made available two hours before the vote.

The Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2004 was 3,200 pages long. Congress didn't read that one either. Page 1,112 of that bill empowered appropriations committee chairmen or their "agents" to examine individual tax returns, including potentially yours.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist told "Face the Nation" he had no earthly idea how the provision got there. He blamed Representative James Istook for it, but Istook denied responsibility, saying, "I didn't write it, I didin't approve it, I wasn't even consulted..."

This is par for the course. Pork, favors, and special powers are dropped into bills at the last moment, In secret and behind closed doors. They become the law of the land without debate, because Congress doesn't read the laws it passes!

Ignorance of the law is no excuse for you and me, but it's standard operating procedure for Congress.

We propose to draft, promote, and pass a simple law dictating that:
House and Senate members must physically sit to hear a complete reading of every word of every bill before they can vote on it, and any member not in attendance to hear every word of a particular bill will be ineligible to vote on that measure.

Strom ThurmondIt's a simple idea, but the effect would be revolutionary. Can you imagine, the entire house and senate listening to thousands of pages of mind-numbing legalese, aging Senators asking for "potty-breaks" so as not to miss a single word?

It's fun to visualize, but it would never happen. Instead, Congress would have to change its behavior to preserve its own sanity. Legislation would become much shorter so the readings could be accomplished in one or two sittings. New laws would become easier to understand, and shorter bills would probably mean each new law would be restricted to one subject, instead of the grab-bag bills we have today.

These changes would have further profound outcomes. Government growth would slow because the legislative process would take longer. Secret provisions could no longer be inserted at the last minute. Congress would be less able to pass bad proposals by combining them with popular measures.

All of this is very powerful. But we want to propse one thing more. We want to rob Congressional leaders of one of their most powerful tools for avoiding public scrutiny.

Congressional leaders rarely give much advance notice of when they plan to hold votes on controversial measures. They like to schedule surprise votes before public opposition can organize.

So we are also proposing a requirement for a waiting period, and a public notification period, to give groups like DownsizeDC time to respond. Once Congress has heard a bill read it must wait 7-days before it can vote, and must also give the public 7-days advance notice of exactly when the vote will be held.

This one simple law, with its few simple provisions, would change American government overnight. It would slow government growth, stymie special interests who exploit the current system to gain preferential treatment, and give the small government movement a fighting chance.

Nearly every person in America will support this bill. The politicians will have no choice but to vote for it. If the possibilities of enacting such a law excite you as much as they do me, please contact your representatives and let them know or donate to the DownsizeDC campaign.

Make Congress read the law they pass!

Friday, March 11, 2005

Robert Locke Gets a Fisking!

The article "The Marxism of the Right" by Robert Locke, to be published in the upcoming March issue of The American Conservative, has been getting a great beating lately from the libertarian blogosphere, and for good reason. It's chock-full of misstatements and logical fallacies.

Perry de Havilland's post at Samizdata, "Marxism of the Right?," has already generated over 170 comments in just three days. In particular, I like these snippets:

...He asks libertarians many questions:

What if a free society needed to draft its citizens in order to remain free?

Then is it in fact a "free society" to start with? Or is it just "less un-free" than some alternative? More correctly however "society" does not draft its "citizens" (and I prefer the more honest term "subjects"), only states do that... and the two are not the same thing at all.

What if it needed to deprive citizens of the freedom to import cheap foreign labor in order to keep out poor foreigners who would vote for socialistic wealth redistribution?

PWN3DBut surely here the problem is not the origin of voters but rather unconstrained democracy. This is not an argument for controlling immigration but rather for sensible constitutional constraints which set the acceptable limits of politics.

..Locke rightly points out that libertarians come in many flavours but contrary to what he says, it seems to me that most libertarians I know have nothing against collective action (most rather like the idea of voluntary collectives like companies and associations) or altruism (most rather like charities and organizations like the RNLI or volunteer militaries etc.)... moreover they want roads maintained, diseases combated, children educated, garbage collected and fires put out as much as socialists and conservatives do. Where they depart from both the left and right statists is that they think all these things are more likely to get done effectively and more morally when they are not done at gunpoint (i.e. compelled by law)...

Also morally speaking, the "altruism" that the Robert Locke article says is needed for societies to function is not really altruism at all because surely it is impossible to compel altruistic actions. If my money is taken by force and given to another, that is not altruistic of me (I have no choice), it is not altruistic of the tax man (it is not his money) nor the person receiving the money (who is just the receiver of the benefits). This is hardly a surprise as the sort of conservatism one sees in places such as The American Conservative is really just utilitarianism and thus rarely has much to meaningfully say about moral theories.

Read more...


My favorite post of all, and one of the funniest pieces I have read in a while, comes from Scott Scheule at Catallarchy, "Libertarians Do It Laissez-Faire." Here are a few of my favorite bits for the people who won't read the whole thing (but, really, reading it is in your best interests):
Flitting about as the first line, no less, the reader can catch a glimpse of this magnificent creature, the enchanting Blue-Beaked Ad Hominem:

Free spirits, the ambitious, ex-socialists, drug users, and sexual eccentrics often find an attractive political philosophy in libertarianism...

Ah yes, the old saw about pot and sodomy, so relevant to the validity of a political ideology (and Heaven forbid our philosophy should attract "the ambitious"). Well, if we're going to be judged by gross generalizations of the company we keep, perhaps it's only fair to return the ruling. Religious fundamentalists, ex-Klan members, creationist country bumpkins, homophobes, and lousy American Conservative columnists often find an attractive political philosophy in conservatism.

Ah, the father Ad Hom, joining its roost!

And libertarianism degenerates into outright idiocy when confronted with the problem of children, whom it treats like adults...

Almost as egregious a sin as treating adults like children, which has been the conservative philosophy to date. But speaking of outright idiocy...

What's this, fallacy-watchers? Binoculars up! It's a flock of Southern Black-Winged False Premises, returning from their northern migration. Let’s watch.

Libertarianism offers its believers a clear conscience to do things society presently restrains, like make more money, have more sex, or take more drugs.

I imagine someone as aged as Locke could believe there's no difference between allowing people the freedom to choose something and approving of that choice—but I don't think it's likely.

Incidentally, is there some kind of legal limit currently in force on the amount of sex I can have? If so, I better slow down.

...[L]ike Marxism, it has its historical myths and a genius for making its followers feel like an elect unbound by the moral rules of their society.

Which is why Micha and I go out every weekend looking for hoboes to shoot.

Libertarians try to get around this fact that freedom is not the only good thing by trying to reduce all other goods to it through the concept of choice, claiming that everything that is good is so because we choose to partake of it.

An interesting argument, considering most libertarians believe politicians choose to screw us over, and yet seldom find any goodness in the act.

Furthermore, the reduction of all goods to individual choices presupposes that all goods are individual.

OWNEDOnly if you believe that no individual will choose to act for the collective good—but if that’s true, how does one propose to make them vote that way?

Ah, zee majestic and rare Red-Tailed Strawman Argument. Let us watch its elegant approach:

The most fundamental problem with libertarianism is very simply: freedom, though a good thing, is simply not the only good thing in life.

Gosh, you wouldn't know it from Bush's preaching about the Middle East. Collateral damage be damned: freedom by executive fiat!

To be fair, all libertarians do believe freedom is the only important thing. Most of us will often skip meals and instead eat big warm servings of freedom. This is why so many of us are so skinny. And dead.

No sooner have the Strawmen taken their fill, but a pair of rambunctious young Post Hocs come bounding out of the nearby bushes:

A major reason for this is that libertarianism has a naive view of economics that seems to have stopped paying attention to the actual history of capitalism around 1880. There is not the space here to refute simplistic laissez faire, but note for now that the second-richest nation in the world, Japan, has one of the most regulated economies, while nations in which government has essentially lost control over economic life, like Russia, are hardly economic paradises. Legitimate criticism of over-regulation does not entail going to the opposite extreme.

Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, for instance, are two libertarian economists who refused to read anything published after 1863. (Milton thought old paper smelled better, and Hayek—well, "Nutty Hayek" they used to call him).

Moreover, what a ridiculously bad post hoc ergo propter hoc. Japan is regulated, therefore regulation is good. Nazis urinated, therefore all who urinate are Nazis.

A squawk in the sky, and then a timid Australian Fine Feathered Fallacy appears in the sky, chasing its own tail and making a lazy circle:

While it is obviously fair to let people enjoy the benefits of their wise choices and suffer the costs of their stupid ones, decent societies set limits on both these outcomes.

It is decent to limit freedom. How do we know? Because decent societies limit freedom.

And what outing would be complete without spotting a herd of the Long Toothed Outright Weird?

The libertopian alternative would be perhaps a more glittering society, but also a crueler one.

As opposed to the warm and welcoming bosom of conservatopia, where if you puff a joint or snort some coke, we'll lock you in a little hole, or, barring that, elect you President.

Libertarianism itself is based on the conviction that it is the one true political philosophy and all others are false. It entails imposing a certain kind of society, with all its attendant pluses and minuses, which the inhabitants thereof will not be free to opt out of except by leaving.

This is different from any other political philosophy how? Is it not true that believing one political philosophy is true entails believing the alternatives false? Or is Mr. Locke willing to admit that both conservatism and libertarianism are true? In which case, wherefore this dribble?

And how exactly are we to be free to opt out of the conservative imposition of society, "with all its attendant pluses and minuses," short of leaving?

Begged Questions flock to the brook:

Libertarians need to be asked some hard questions. What if a free society needed to draft its citizens in order to remain free? What if it needed to limit oil imports to protect the economic freedom of its citizens from unfriendly foreigners? What if it needed to force its citizens to become sufficiently educated to sustain a free society? What if it needed to deprive landowners of the freedom to refuse to sell their property as a precondition for giving everyone freedom of movement on highways? What if it needed to deprive citizens of the freedom to import cheap foreign labor in order to keep out poor foreigners who would vote for socialistic wealth redistribution?

Yes, and what if an asteroid smashes into conservatopia, eradicating not only bacteria, but even Sean Hannity? What if the conservative forces of government don't properly mix altruism and selfishness? What if they curtail domestic liberties and implement an authoritarian state? What if Bill Frist crowns himself Emperor of the Tri-State Area?

And a lonely Striped Non Sequitur rustles through the nearby grass:

Empirically, most people don't actually want absolute freedom, which is why democracies don't elect libertarian governments.

OWNEDOf course. And, empirically mind you, most people want agricultural subsidies, tariffs, and massive amounts of pork barrel spending (they also want Presidents fellated in the Oval Office).

please read more


PWN3D

Thursday, March 10, 2005

The McCain-Feingold Insurrection

This blog is a sacred expression of my First Amendment-protected, natural right to free political speech. I will continue posting whatever the hell I want to, regardless of or in spite of the immoral and illegal laws imposed upon an unassenting public by Senators Herr John McCain and Herr Russ Feingold. Morality, therefore, dictates that I openly declare my public rebellion and sedition in the face of these unjust laws. The owner and publisher of this blog, who considers himself a modern-day pamphleteer, is aligned with The McCain-Feingold Insurrection.

Insurrection:
n. The act or an instance of open revolt against civil authority or a constituted government.

Spencer, fix this picture link.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Get Pissed Off

Get pissed off! This is important.

The McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002 (or the Incumbent Politicians' Protection Act), which until now has been used to destroy our First Amendment right to free speech only in television, radio and print, will soon also apply to the blogosphere and message boards. Posters who "improperly link" to a candidate's web site or press release will be nailed with steep fines from the federal government.

Where are we, North Korea? The Founders are rolling in their graves!

From CNet.com:

The Coming Crackdown on Blogging
By Declan McCullagh

Bradley Smith says that the freewheeling days of political blogging and online punditry are over.

pissedIn just a few months, he warns, bloggers and news organizations could risk the wrath of the federal government if they improperly link to a campaign's Web site. Even forwarding a political candidate's press release to a mailing list, depending on the details, could be punished by fines.

Smith should know. He's one of the six commissioners at the Federal Election Commission, which is beginning the perilous process of extending a controversial 2002 campaign finance law to the Internet.

In 2002, the FEC exempted the Internet by a 4-2 vote, but U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly last fall overturned that decision. "The commission's exclusion of Internet communications from the coordinated communications regulation severely undermines" the campaign finance law's purposes, Kollar-Kotelly wrote.

Smith and the other two Republican commissioners wanted to appeal the Internet-related sections. But because they couldn't get the three Democrats to go along with them, what Smith describes as a "bizarre" regulatory process now is under way.

CNET News.com spoke with Smith about the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, better known as the McCain-Feingold law, and its forthcoming extrusion onto the Internet.

...What happens next?
It's going to be a battle, and if nobody in Congress is willing to stand up and say, "Keep your hands off of this, and we'll change the statute to make it clear," then I think grassroots Internet activity is in danger. The impact would affect e-mail lists, especially if there's any sense that they're done in coordination with the campaign. If I forward something from the campaign to my personal list of several hundred people, which is a great grassroots activity, that's what we're talking about having to look at.

Senators McCain and Feingold have argued that we have to regulate the Internet, that we have to regulate e-mail. They sued us in court over this and they won.

If Congress doesn't change the law, what kind of activities will the FEC have to target?
We're talking about any decision by an individual to put a link (to a political candidate) on their home page, set up a blog, send out mass e-mails, any kind of activity that can be done on the Internet...

So if you're using text that the campaign sends you, and you're reproducing it on your blog or forwarding it to a mailing list, you could be in trouble?
Yes. In fact, the regulations are very specific that reproducing a campaign's material is a reproduction for purpose of triggering the law. That'll count as an expenditure that counts against campaign finance law.

This is an incredible thicket. If someone else doesn't take action, for instance in Congress, we're running a real possibility of serious Internet regulation. It's going to be bizarre.
Bizarre in a sad, depressing, fascist kind of way, maybe.

Radley Balko:
If there's one thing the blogosphere can agree on -- right, left, and everything in between -- it ought to be this. The idea that my linking to a statement on the Bush or Kerry site counts as a "contribution" is patently ridiculous. And it Smith's right, we could fast reach the point where the only people allowed to express their opinions about politics in print without FEC scrutiny are hard-copy newspapers and magazines.

Congress needs to act. Now. As Smith notes, now is the best time for this to happen. If one side or the other begins to scratch out an advantage, this will quickly become a highly partisan issue. The idea that bloggers and web writers -- who in many ways are modern pampleteers -- should be shut out of the political debate for expressing their opinions online is anathematic to even the most restrictive interpretations of the First Amendment.

It'll be interesting to see how newspaper editorial boards react to this. It'll be a nice test of their real allegiance to free expression.

This is what campaign finance regulation has come to. This is the absurdity of curbing poltical speech in a free soceity when drawn to its logical, foreseabble conclusion.

Get pissed off. This is important.

Try it, and there'll be at least one more criminal they'll have to deal with.

Props: The Agitator, Catallarchy, Flash of Freedom, A Stitch in Haste

Friday, March 04, 2005

Thoughts for the Day

Some thoughts for today, via the latest ThinkLibertarian.com update.

From the homepage:

Thanks to republicans & democrats, who are the only two parties truly in charge, the United States currently ranks 49th in world literacy and 28th out of 40 in math literacy; remember this, before the Department of Education was started in the early 1950's, we were ranked at the top.

From an excellent article at The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette by Dennis Roddy, Grounded: Millionaire John Gilmore stays close to home while making a point about privacy:
I used to laugh at countries that had internal passports. And it's happened here and people don't even seem to know about it.

www.EFF.org

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Haliburton, Railroads, and Marxist Capitalism

This is another one from a discussion forum, in response to a comment that "'capitalism' is not getting the job done right in Iraq."

Haliburton does not represent capitalism! Haliburton could not exist under capitalism! There are no market forces affecting Haliburton and how it manages its operations. Supply, demand, competition mean nothing to them. There is no consumer demand for their services; the only reason they can exist is because we have a central government that is free and able to sell political favors.

The Pyramid of the Capitalist SystemThis is, however, 100% capitalism in the Marxist sense, in the sense of business and government coalescing to rob and rape the common people. Another perfect example of capitalism that is not capitalism is the 19th century railroad tycoons. They did not have to rely on market forces to obtain the vast amounts of land and capital required to construct continental railroads. They had buddies in government who could steal money, rob people of their land claims, and keep any legitimate competing rail lines from posing any threat.

Capitalism is a term invented by Marx to describe these processes. Its original definition, which many sociology students also use, has nothing to do with free markets. Lately, I've been describing myself more and more often as an "advocate of free markets" rather than as a capitalist, whereas not very long ago I (literally) wore that term on a shirt. The entire of logic and reason is built on definitions, and the real definition of capitalism (the one represented by Haliburton and co.) is actually the system I have been actively fighting against for the past year or so.

In conclusion:
Haliburton, dead railroad tycoons, FCAT, Florida bars that allow customers to smoke, New York taxi cab companies, etc. = Marxist capitalism.
Free markets = Classical liberal capitalism.

Monday, February 28, 2005

Your Home is Your Castle

Florida legislators are getting at least a few things right. S.B. 436, if passed, will authorize homeowners to use deadly foce against intruders. It's unfortunate that we need a law for such a common-sense idea, but it's moving in the right direction.

Bill Would Paint Target on Backs of Intruders
By Alisa Ulferts at The St. Petersburg Times

Under current law, homeowners cannot use deadly force unless they believe an intruder intends to kill them or a loved one, or severely harm them. Although criminal case law tends to favor homeowners, anyone who kills an intruder can be arrested.

Would you burglarize this guy?Under the bill, anyone who breaks into an occupied house or car would be presumed to have deadly intent. Victims would no longer have to determine the intruder's intent.

"You can't expect a victim to wait and ask, "Excuse me, Mr. Criminal, are you going to rape me and kill me, or are you just going to beat me up and steal my television?' " said Marion Hammer, lobbyist for the National Rifle Association.

The bill has law enforcement support because it does not allow homeowners to shoot law officers who legally break into homes, such as when they believe someone is in harm or evidence is being destroyed.

"I think if you talked to the average Joe or Jane Citizen they would say, "There ought to be a law.' This is your chance to make a law," said David Murrell, lobbyist for the Florida Police Benevolent Association.

The bill does not allow people to shoot intruders outside the home.

read more

Props: Florida Politics

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

What We Think II

I am working on submitting a few pieces for What We Think II by College Tree Publishing. I encourage any of my young readers to do the same.

Posted on the CoolParty.us message board:

Hello! I just stumbled on your site. I am Seth Spores, the Libertarian/Centrist leaning editor for College Tree Publishing.

What We Think: Young Voters Speak OutWe contacted hundreds of university and college conservative, libertarian, green and liberal groups, political science departments, and university news papers and requested essay submissions from people in the 17 to 25 year old age group on political and social issues. The end result was What We Think: Young Voters Speak Out, which was put out nationally in late October. The book was meant to be a running forum for political expression of America's youngest voting demographic, and in that regard has been a success. Since the book was published in October, the book has already received national press on CNN, MSNBC, an hour long special on CSPAN-Book TV and has been nominated for the Franklin Award.

We are a non-partisan company possessing a Republican, Democrat and Libertarian leaning editor, trying to give fair and equal voice to all ideologies present among college age youth. We are currently accepting submissions for our next two books, What We Think 2 and What We Think About God and looking to increase the number of well written pieces. Our goal is to receive 10,000 submissions from now through summer, and to publish the top 200 to 300 in late third quarter.

Because there seems to be a liberal leaning on most college campuses, we are trying to branch away from requesting submissions through simply the college scene. Hence, I am contacting many blogs and other forms of media not necessarily connected to Universities, in hopes of reaching a wider base of essayists. We would like to know if you would run a short story on your blog, stating that we are requesting submissions for national publication. We'd love to have people who are already writing for your site submit to us. All authors are given full credit for their work, a short bio is dedicated to them in the back of the books, and we've been arranging book signings and talks across the country for authors in our current edition so these young authors get the credit and visibility they deserve.

Please feel free to contact us with questions or requests for more information,
Seth Charles Guy Spores
Editor and Co-Founder of College Tree Publishing
seth@collegetreepublishing.com
www.collegetreepublishing.com
509-483-4079 (Office)


I'll post updates.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

On the Japanese Internment

Today, February 19, is the Japanese-American Internment Day of Remembrance. Stephen Gordon posts a brief history in photographs of bigotry in America with a warning: Don't let it happen again.

hate


Props: Flash of Freedom

On the LP Reform Movement

I often get discouraged about the state we're in.
Virtually every news story points to more government expansion and control, more weathering away of the vision that was the Founder's America. Public discouraged facediscourse has shifted to a position where the discussion assumes that government can solve any problem at hand; we debate how the government should solve the problem rather than the extent to which government should be involved and how the problem began in the first place. We debate trivial facts rather than ideals and principles. My generation totally suxors (how else to describe the youth's patent inability to think? -s), for a variety of reasons, and the entrenched academia is aligned staunchly against us. What's more, the opposition force we make up is desperately undersupplied and unorganized. The National Libertarian Party, which should be a shining beacon for the hundreds of thousands of disenfranchised, both Republicans and Democrats, during this dismal period of American history, is increasingly on the fringe. The National Headquarters' inability or refusal to foster an online community and an organized activist network is leading us on the path to extinction. I believe the majority of Americans already agree with us, fundamentally. They only need to be presented our ideas in a rational, moderate, common-sense manner. Frankly, the National LP leadership is making this difficult to do.

Thankfully, the hard work of Stephen VanDyke and Stephen Gordon will pay off soon. They'll soon go live with their "libertarian supersite," a network and central hub for blogs, political campaigns, activist efforts, and fundraising. An excerpt from Stephen VanDyke's post:

Anyone will be able to sign up and start their own journal, or integrate an existing blog into the site via RSS or permanent migration and redirection (I will eventually be migrating Hammer of Truth into the new site permanently). While there will of course be issues that we still have not tackled, we hope to create a central meeting place for libertarians in order to harness the numbers we do have and grow the potential numbers at our horizon.

This will begin the jumping point for the masses of libertarianism to grow as a political voice, regardless of whether our own stuffy relic of a political party wants to let control be wrenched from its hands or not. Sadly, there is one thing they should have realized: they never had a choice.

excited faceI am genuinely excited to be a part of this. That is why this project is so great, why it will succeed. Everyone will contribute, regardless of how modest or insignificant their independent role in the blogosphere. This project will result in something far greater than the sum of its parts.

This is a big deal.

Props: The New Libertarian, Hammer of Truth, Flash of Freedom

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Abortion and the Right to Life

There is an interesting discussion regarding abortion going on at Ken Grandlund's blog, Common Sense. My comments:

I do not suggest that life is sanctified. But the fact remains that every individual is the sole owner of his body and life. This is not a religious principle, it is a rationalist one derived from the facts of nature and reached through reason and common sense. Except when the pregnancy endangers the mother's life, there is absolutely no scenario in which the abortion of a person should be legal.

Congratulations, it's dead.On the flip side, it seems to me that the abortion of a fetus before it becomes a person ought to be totally legal and unregulated. There are many things that are "bad for us" that I am sure you do not advocate state intervention in. I am proud to be able to eat Hardee's Monster Burgers and Oreo cookies and occasionally stay up all night reading blogs. These things are bad for me, but making the personal decision of whether or not or how often I will partake in them confirms my status as a sovereign individual; society has no right to dictate how I use my own personal private property, in this case the property being my body. How do abortions differ? Fundamentally, how are they different than ear piercings, tattoos, or liposuction? From where does society assert the right to dictate to a woman how she uses her own body? This essay and your recent one on the drug war seem to contradict each other.

Essentially, there is no gray area in this debate. Either a given fetus is a person and owns its life, or it is only a part of the mother's body, no more of an individual person than her arm or foot is. If yes, it is murder, in every sense of that word, to abort it. If no, then the question of whether or not to abort the particular pregnancy becomes an amoral one -- the fetus has no rights to consider.

Your attempt to remove religion from the debate also removes ethics, the most central and crucial branch of philosophy. Popular opinion ought not have any weight in this discussion.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

About-Face of the Gingrich Brigade

Republicans love big government! It's not very often that I'm tempted to insert expletives into my posts, but this is certainly an exception. God damnit, stop voting for them!

from The New York Times

The Revolution that Wasn't
Sheryl Gay Stolberg

WASHINGTON — If the history of the Republican revolution were being written today, a single overarching question would have to be answered: Whatever happened to the promise of smaller government?

That question was asked again last week, when President Bush unveiled a $2.57 trillion budget for 2006, the largest in the nation's history. The cuts he called for, in areas like veterans' medical care, farm subsidies and vocational training, were met in Washington with doubts that they would ever get through the Republican Congress.

"Republicans have lost their way," lamented Newt Gingrich, the government-slashing firebrand of a decade ago.

The About Face of the Gingrich BrigadeIn 1995, a band of 73 freshman Republicans swept into the House of Representatives, with Mr. Gingrich as their speaker. Flush with ideological zeal and determined to get government off the backs of the people, as Ronald Reagan would say, they pushed through a budget resolution that called for eliminating scores of programs and three federal departments.

Their fervor was so politically potent that in 1996, a Democratic president, Bill Clinton, declared, "The era of big government is over."

Yet government has only grown. The Cato Institute, a libertarian research institution, says overall federal spending has increased twice as fast under Mr. Bush as under Mr. Clinton. At the same time, the federal deficit is projected to hit a record high of $427 billion this year.

These trends seem likely to continue. The White House estimated last week that the cost of prescription drugs for Medicare beneficiaries, originally projected at $400 billion from 2004 to 2013, would, in fact, be $724 billion from 2006 to 2015. Republicans called for scaling back the benefit, but on Friday, Mr. Bush said no and vowed to veto any changes to the Medicare bill...

read more

Click on the picture inset to see the full size graph. I'd love to have it printed on a poster. It would be so useful for beating people over the head with.

Props: Marginal Revolution, Mises Economics Blog

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Over-Regulation and Drug Prices

Does the FDA cause the prescription drug crisis? Its regulations force companies to spend decades testing life-saving drugs before they can be brought to market and make many drugs for treating relatively rare diseases economically impossible. Two new studies examine the financial costs.

A study by Joseph DiMasi, Ronald Hansen, and Henry Grabowski and published in the Journal of Health Economics in 2003 found that the average total cost to pharmaceutical companies of developing a new drug is $802 million. Responding to criticisms that these results were doctored or fake, two economists at the Federal Trade Commission attempted to replicate the study using a different data set. They concluded that the actual number is substantially higher, somewhere between $839 and $868 million. They also point out that certain drugs, for instance, drugs for treating AIDS, are developed at nearly half of the cost of developing the average drug and suggest that this difference is due to differences in regulatory policy.

Discussions of these studies here and here at Marginal Revolution.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Stephen VanDyke's Politics of Fear

Stephen VanDyke created this beautiful poster to market the Libertarian Party's foreign policy positions. We are not anti-war.

http://hammeroftruth.com


Props: Hammer of Truth

Friday, February 11, 2005

Kim Jong Il is a Dickhead

Just look at him.

It's rare for a news item to make me genuinely angry. Here's one that does.

North Korea has Executed Seventy Returned Refugees

Kim Jong Il the DickheadSEOUL, Feb 11 (Reuters) - North Korea has executed about 70 refugees who were captured in China and sent home, a South Korean group that helps North Korean refugees said on Friday, citing informants in China.

The Commission to Help North Korean Refugees, a private, Seoul-based conservative group, said about eight or nine of the 70 executed last month were put to death in public to discourage others from trying to slip across the border into China.

This guy is a maniacal murderer. He ought to be dealt with just as soon as he starts making those nuclear threats. And the sooner the better.

Jesus, if any country needs "liberation," if any country is "a threat to the civilized world," it's North Korea, not Iraq or Iran.

Props: Deleted by Tomorrow

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Attention Randroids:

I'm a few days overdue for the obligatory "libertarian-blogger's-Rand-centennial-post" post. Actually, I'm a few days overdue for any kind of post. So, without any further ado...

First, I have some email to share from some guy named David Gulbraa:

Dear Admirer of Ayn Rand,

Peter Schwartz, chairman of the board of directors of the Ayn Rand Institute, is scheduled to appear on C-SPAN 2 this coming Saturday, February 12, 2005 at 11:30 a.m. Eastern Time. Mr. Schwartz was taped by C-SPAN giving a speech and answering questions on "The Virtue of Selfishness" at the recent Ayn Rand Centenary celebration. This program is two hours long. Please check your local listings for program times in your area.

I suppose I'll watch this, or at least record it and mean to watch it for a few weeks. And I'll write about it, too.


Also, I finally got around to reading Ayn Rand at 100 by Cathy Young in the latest Reason Magazine. Here are a few comments and highlights.

Reading Rand's philosophy can be an exhilarating, head-turning experience... Rand's rejection of the moral code that condemns selfishness as the ultimate evil and holds up self-sacrifice as the ultimate good is a radical challenge to received wisdom, an invitation to a startlingly new way to see the world... In Rand's hands, the "virtue of selfishness" was not a dry, abstract rationalist construct with a bloodless "economic man" at its center. It became a bold, ardent vision of defiance, struggle, creative achievement, joy, and romantic love.

"Exhilarating" certainly is a good description. I might go so far as to use "emotional." Even a large portion of her nonfiction writing is exciting to read, most notably the essays in For the New Intellectual, The Virtue of Selfishness, and Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. While reading, she seems to anticipate your own thought process and complete your ideas for you, mid-thought. And it's certainly rousing when she reminds you insistantly that you've really been right all along, even if you didn't know it. "Whatever we are, it's we who move the world, and it's we who'll pull it through." I read Atlas Shrugged the summer before my sophomore year, and lines like that one still stick in my mind.

Perhaps Rand's biggest error was the totalism of her philosophy. Having rightly concluded that the values of the free market were moral, she went on to make the sweeping assertion that those values were the only moral ones, and that all human relations must be based on the principles of "trade."

I always get lost everytime she uses a phrase such as "morality of death" or the like when describing non-Objectivists. Couldn't a utilitarian call Objectivism a "morality of suffering," just because it doesn't hold humanity's net happiness as its highest goal? Whatever.

Politically, too, Rand's insistence on de-emphasizing, or even denigrating, family, community, and private charity is not a particularly clever tactic for capitalism's defenders. These are the very institutions that can be expected, in the absence of a massive welfare state, to meet those human needs that people prove unable to satisfy through the market.

Amen, preach it sister! Listen up, Randroids.

Rand's unshakable belief in the power of the human mind led her to refuse to recognize the mental deterioration of her husband, Frank O'Connor, and she tormented him with exercises in "psycho-epistemology." When she herself was diadnosed with cancer, she refused to disclose her illness publicly, evidently because she believed, according to Barbara Branden, that cancer was the result of philosophical and psychological errors.

Rand was definitely an extremist, attempting to apply her philosophy unilaterally to every conceivable aspect of human life. This is most clearly seen, in my opinion, in her essays concerning emotion and art in The Romantic Manifesto. She was absolutely positive of the perfection and completeness of her work, even to the point of refusing to stand behind it in debate if she viewed it to be beneath her. Among her close followers in New York City, a strict dogma was adhered to. Many were ostracized for mundane differences of opinion or reading the work of a frowned-upon author. Reading a non-Objectivist's book, even for the purpose of rebutting the author's ideas, gave that author's work the reader's "moral sanction," Rand asserted.

For all her flaws, Rand remains a towering figure on the last century’s cultural landscape. She arose in an era of competing totalitarian ideologies and declared that communism and Nazism were not opposites but evil twins, and that their true opposite was freedom. In an era when collectivism was seen as the way of the future, she unapologetically asserted the worth of the individual and his right to exist for himself, and declared the spiritual dimension of material achievement. In an age of existential doubt, she offered a celebration of creativity, of the human mind, of the joy of life on this earth.

This, I think, summarizes the whole of Rand's work. Life and happiness were her moral goals. That joy is a moral virtue, that man's nature is to be beautiful and great, that is quite an uplifting message indeed.

"I need no warrant for being, and no word of sanction upon my being. I am the warrant and the sanction."
--Anthem

"Show me your achievement, and the knowledge will give me courage for mine."
--The Fountainhead

"The world you desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it's yours. But to win it requires total dedication and a total break with the world of your past, with the doctrine that man is sacrificial animal who exists for the pleasure of others. Fight for the value of your person. Fight for the virtue of your pride. Fight for the essence, which is man, for his sovereign rational mind. Fight with the radiant certainty and the absolute rectitude of knowing that yours is the morality of life and yours is the battle for any achievement, any value, any grandeur, any goodness, any joy that has ever existed on this earth."
--Atlas Shrugged

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Political Bumper Stickers

I came across a site selling political bumper stickers yesterday, ThePoliticalSticker.com. Here are some of my favorites:

The Invasion of Iraq has Made You Less Safe. FDR: No Longer the Worst President in History. What's So Conservative About the Biggest Budget in the History of the Whole World? Ron Paul for Chief Justice Don't Blame Me, Libertarians Never Win Screw Left and Right - Choose Liberty The Right is Wrong, The Left is Stupid There's Nothing Conservative About Being a Republican Government is Best Which Governs Least Only Congress Can Declare War

If anybody from ThePoliticalSticker.com drops by here, maybe I should get a couple freebies, eh?

Instant Runoff Sucks - an Update

This is an update to my earlier post about Instant Runoff Voting. I want to clarify my position that 1) IRV sucks and pursuing it is a huge waste of energy, 2) Condorcet and Approval Voting are both superior to IRV, and 3) Condorcet is the most accurate method, but the cost of switching to it make it an impractical short-term goal.

I fully support Approval Voting as an immediate solution to the problems caused by the current system. Approval Voting allows the voter to vote for multiple candidates for a single office. For instance, I would have voted only for Michael Badnarik, but my family could have voted for both Badnarik and President Bush. Implementation would not require any new equipment, and the alterations to the existing ballot design would be limited to changing the wording of the instructions from "choose one" to "choose as many as you wish." It can be implemented immediately and costlessly, and is a huge advancement over Plurality Voting and much better than Instant Runoff. Approval Voting is not as accurate as Condorcet, but the potential financial costs and the learning curve that would be associated with switching to Condorcet make Condorcet desirable as a long-term goal. Approval Voting is a practical solution with definite positive results that can be implemented TODAY.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

I Was Mugged Today

I was mugged today.

Infraction: Endangering Self
This is the $65 fine I was ticketed today for boating without a life jacket. I received warnings for carrying an expired fire extinguisher and a dirty mirror and not carrying a whistle or a "boating license." As a minor, I am required to carry proof that I have passed a "boating safety course," which entails filling out a short form and mailing it to Tallahassee with $20.

I was "let off easy," the officer said, as if he had the right to dictate how I conduct myself with my own personal property, to the possible detriment of no one but myself, and as if his actions weren't morally reprehensible. No, I was robbed, stolen from. The next 14 hours of my labor belong to the state.

More Guns, Less Crime

Everyone can learn something from the Swiss.

from Girl Beats Guys: A Swiss Teen Rifle Festival
by Stephen Halbrook

The greatest shooting festival in the world for youngsters takes place every year in Zurich, Switzerland. Imagine thousands of boys and girls shooting military service rifle over three days amid an enormous fair with ferris wheels and wild rides of all kinds. You’re at the Knabenschiessen (boys’ shooting contest).

Held since the year 1657, the competition traditionally has been both a sport and a way of encouraging marksmanship in a country where every male serves in the militia army. Today, girls compete along side the boys. In fact, girls are now winning the competition.

It’s September 13, 2004. In the U.S. on this date, the Clinton fake “assault weapon” ban sunsets. In Zurich, some 5,631 teens – 4,046 boys and 1,585 girls, aged 13-17 – have finished firing the Swiss service rifle, and it’s time for the shootoff.

Geschossen wird mit dem Armee-Sturmgewehr

A Swiss teenager competing with her fully automatic assault rifle.That rifle is the SIG Strumgeweher (assault rifle) model 1990 (Stgw 90), a selective fire, 5.6 mm rifle with folding skeleton stock, bayonet lug, bipod, and grenade launcher. The Stgw 90 is a real assault rifle in that it is fully automatic, although that feature is disabled during the competition. Every Swiss man, on reaching age 20, is issued one to keep at home. Imagine all those teenagers firing this real assault rifle while their moms and dads look on with approval, anxiously awaiting the scores.

...In Swiss shooting culture, a few accurate hits are superior to lots of “spray and pray” shots. Before World War I, a German general observing Swiss military maneuvers asked a Swiss militiaman what would the Swiss do if a German army, twice the size of the Swiss militia, invaded. The militiaman responded, “Shoot twice and go home.”


Props: Marginal Revolution, Deleted By Tomorrow

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Newsflash

NEWSFLASH: bin'Laden is Dead or Alive

Props: The Decadent West, BigBrainBoy

Friday, January 28, 2005

Evidence of Common Sense?

Evidence that there is at least some common sense in Washington? Pushing it, I know, but...

Kennedy Calls on US to Begin Troop Pullout
from The Boston Globe

...The Massachusetts Democrat said it has become clear that increasing troop levels in Iraq will not bring peace to the region because the troops are often targets of attacks, and he said the United Nations must fill the nation- building role that America is playing largely by itself. Thirteen months after Saddam Hussein was captured, the presence of 157,000 US troops in Iraq is contributing to a perception of a "military occupation" in the country -- a situation that helps recruit terrorists and is a recipe for endless cycles of violence, he said...

Twenty-four Democratic House members filed a bill this week calling for an immediate pullout from Iraq, and Representative Martin T. Meehan of Lowell -- a Democratic member of the House Armed Services Committee -- outlined a proposal for a phased withdrawal...


Three cheers.

Props: The Modern American

Thursday, January 27, 2005

A Bit on Anarchism

I posted this on a forum, and thought it could go here also. I haven't read much Murray Rothbard, so I would really appreciate it if people who have would comment and point out any obvious flaws I've made.

Anarchism certainly can work, and it would not be a system of chaos or havoc, either. Robert Nozick wrote about the voluntary, noncoercive "protection agencies" that would arise naturally in a state of nature. They would function similar to insurance agencies, charging individuals a fee to resolve their conflicts with other individuals. Resolution in cases where both concerned parties are members of the same agency would come very easily. In cases where there is a dispute between two individuals who are each a member of a different agency, the two agencies would choose a third, neutral agency to serve as an arbitrator because violence in any case is nonconducive to profit.

But anarchism in practice contradicts its own purpose. The moral argument for anarchy is that the natural rights of each individual cannot be infringed upon in any circumstance. Coercion (the infringement of natural rights) is intolerable, and by definition, a state is a coercive organization. But in the above scenario (a state of "market-anarchism"), a few individuals who for whatever reasons could not become members of a protection agency would be left without any means of securing their own rights and have no redress when they are violated. A system based upon the absolute sovereignty of the individual's natural rights cannot stand when some in that society have no redress to the violation of their rights. The argument for anarchism is contradictory to its end result and so fails.

I consider myself a "natural rights utilitarian" or "minarchist," a political philosophy shared by Thomas Jefferson and many of the Founding Fathers (although it was known simply as "liberalism" then). That is, anything that increases the net protection of individual natural rights is good. From this comes the state. Its purpose is the protection of individuals' rights, although in order to exist it must violate some. Taxation is a coercive power but is necessary for the existance of a police force, criminal investigators, and court system. The creation of these systems, although it requires that some individual rights be infringed, brings about a net increase in the protection of the natural rights of all individuals in a society. Any operation of the government whose direct goal is not the net increase of the protection of natural rights is morally illegitmate. "Wealth redistribution," a coercive practice, is only moral when its purpose is the protection of individual rights. Anarchy is immoral because some members of society are left without the means to protect any of their natural rights.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Gay Marriage Will Destroy Society!

If homosexuals are allowed to marry, everything our society is built upon will crumble. We as a moral and God-fearing culture cannot allow this to happen!

12 Reasons Gay Marriage Will Ruin Society, by the University of Florida Gator Gay-Straight Alliance.

Ketoacidosis

A post about me. Written for acceptance into the Telluride Association Summer Program. Comments always welcome.

Ketoacidosis

I awoke to a beautiful morning. The September air was warm and pleasing, the songbirds were congregating just outside my window, and the rising sun was busy painting the cloudless sky in pastels. The earth was gently wrapped in a smooth, pure sheet of gray and pink and baby blue, a magnificent gradient, and even the birds were hesitant to enter it.

My father had agreed to drive me to the county health department today. Over the past month, I had lost excessive amounts of weight, become increasingly lethargic, and developed a constant and unquenchable thirst. Two years prior, my best friend had been diagnosed Type I Diabetic, and in an effort to better understand his condition, I spent a number of days researching his disease. Now I was showing all the classic symptoms.

It was Monday, and I had been expressing my health concerns to my parents throughout the past week. I welcomed the checkup, but they seemed to dread it. In my mind, there was little doubt that I did indeed have the disease. My mother made passing references to hypochondria on at least one occasion, but I knew she could see the symptoms nearly as clearly as I could. It was as if they believed that in delaying the date of diagnosis, they could delay the onset of the disease. I suppose it could seem less illogical if never said explicitly.

We arrived at the health department, and my body was soon put out on display. I was prodded and examined. I extended fingers for blood drawing, answered their intrusive inquiries, and urinated in their small containers. Soon the doctor confirmed what I had already told him – that I was insulin dependent, Type I Diabetic. He put my father and me in a white, windowless room with three chairs and one empty can of Dollar Store brand orange juice, where we waited for two hours. One could call it a bonding experience.

It was decided that I should be referred immediately to the Shands Children’s Hospital in Gainesville. Our bonding activities moved to the car, where they continued intermittently for the next two hours. Upon arriving at the hospital, an obese, homosexual man drew blood from my arm, and I was force-fed Gatorade until I vomited multiple times into a white sink. The vomit was the same shade of lime green as the sports drink and left faint stains on the clean white in spite of the running water. I was attached to an IV drip and made to lie down for the night, sharing a room with a black boy who had overdosed and was having the contents of his stomach vacuumed out. The nurses had instructions to draw blood samples from me every two hours, and judging by my roommate’s incessant moaning, neither of us slept very soundly.

In the morning, history was being written and skyscrapers were crashing down. On the morning of September 11, 2001, my seventh grade classmates were sitting at their desks. I had a bed, albeit a rather uncomfortable one. I was one of the oldest patients on my hall of the hospital, and a handful of the nurses were in my room when the World Trade Center towers collapsed like vomit into that pile of so much valueless rubble and destruction. The curtain divider beside my bed had been slid back, and I shared the television also with the black boy and his parents. His father was a large man who stood and walked with his chin raised and his head level. His mother I never glanced at without having a smile returned. My only regret of the day was my failure to learn their names.

I returned home later that day as a person very changed, although I did not realize it at the time. My disease demanded a rational mindset and a calm demeanor. I spent the following week at home before returning to school, learning the various new skills and techniques my survival would now require. During this time I experienced one of those rare “defining moments” that men are presented with every so often during their lives. I had just filled a syringe, first injecting the insulin bottle with air, then holding the bottle upside down and slowly drawing back the plunger as I had been taught, when I was struck so strongly with a single thought that it might as well have been a physical blow – I could either spend my remaining life as a handicapped person, struggling to crawl about from benefactor to benefactor, or I could plunge this needle into my body, inject its contents, and continue living, for the sake of life and accomplishment, in spite of my physical setbacks. I could laugh in the brutish face of Fate and gain whatever revenge I desired through success. This is what I have chosen to do.

I share a bond with the victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks that few others not directly linked to them can claim to share. Just as the skyline of New York City was permanently altered that day, so was my life. Just as the survivors of the attacks now must bear a tremendous scar for the rest of their lives, so am I now faced with the burden of treating my disease and continually checking my lifestyle. We have been dealt similar hands, and we have faced the task of choosing how to play them. Just as I have made the decision to persevere, to triumph over whatever might be thrown at me in the future, so has the city of New York chosen to stand back up on its feet, tall and defiant and proud.

Life goes on.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Intellectual Property?

Stuart Richards posts at The New Libertarian on a topic I've been struggling with lately myself -- intellectual property.

And he doesn't reach any more of a conclusion than I do.

Are intellectual property rights inherent in the creation? Reflexively, it's easy to assert that they are, but it's harder to derive an argument supporting this. Where do intellectual rights come from? Are there "implied contracts" attached to things like music, movies, and art limiting how individuals may use them? If so, what kind of role does the government play in enforcing them? Should they be treated like any other form of contract?

While it's arguable that they were necessary up until just a few years ago to maintain the inventor's incentive motive, the recent explosion in the open source community shows IP rights are, at most, less than vital to continuing creativity. But I'm really not concerned with whether or not (or to what extent) upholding intellectual property rights is beneficial to the economy, but only with the moral arguments supporting or opposing them and the proper role of the state in enforcement.

I count myself in the pro-IP camp, but I'm far from able to make a convincing argument in defense. Perhaps this is why I don't feel at all guilty for sharing over ten gigabytes of music on a number of peer-to-peer networks. Also note the "Creative Commons" copyright notices on this page -- I've chosen to only reserve some rights.

This isn't a big issue today, but as the "file-sharing" generation grows up, it certainly will be soon.

Martin Luther King Day

Today is Martin Luther King Day.

Today we remember Martin Luther King, Jr., a prostitute pushing, anti-Patriotic, plagiarizing socialist and equal rights opponent.

Martin Luther King should be remembered as a fearless and powerful leader who ultimately changed America for the better, but he shouldn't be idolized. Most of the things the Right tends to say about him, that he fought against communism, against race-based privileges, for Christian values, generally for founding American principles, are false.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Bush Country

Bush Country
Counties Represented by Population

http://www.cscs.umich.edu/~crshalizi/election/

Maps and cartograms of the 2004 US presidential election results
created by Michael Gastner, Cosma Shalizi, and Mark Newman

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

White Trash Pick Up Trash

Well this is interesting.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court let stand on Monday a ruling that the Ku Klux Klan white supremacist group can take part in Missouri's "Adopt-A-Highway" program in which volunteers pick up trash along the road and the state puts up a sign thanking the group.
Link

It's a perfect example of the conflict inherent in (or the inherent impossibility of) "public" or "communal" property owned by "everyone." Every Missouri citizen is financially responsible for the construction and upkeep of the highway and is therefore a part-owner and entitled to equal use. When a hate group such as the KKK contributes, some people are offended, violating their rights as part-owners and controllers of the property. But denying another group's use of the property violates that group's same right.

The individual KKK members are part-owners as well, and entitled to access as long as they are forced to subsidize the highway through taxation. It is a problem with no solution.

Friday, January 07, 2005

The Adam Smith Institute's Scorecard of Ideas

Sometimes it is good to take stock of the battle of ideas and see how the scorecard stands.
http://www.adamsmith.org/blog/archives/000971.php

There is no overpopulation crises, the planet is not running out of scarce resources, the rich/poor gap is not increasing...

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Tsunami

This pic shows a bit of the reality of what we've been hearing on the television.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Americans are Dissatisfied! -Voter Turnout Statistics

Americans are dissatisfied with their options.

IDEA, the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, tracks election statistics for every country on earth from 1945. (There were 1,617 democratic elections held on earth between January 1, 1945 and December 31, 2000.) At 48.3%, the USA ranks 139th in voter turnout out of the 172 countries that have held at least two elections.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

More on the Intelligence Reform Bill

I came across this great article by Mike Whitney at ProgressiveTrail.org, commenting further on the civil liberties threatened by H.R. 10 I discussed only briefly here. Mainstream media is failing horribly at educating the public about these issues. They give us the horse race, with commentary on the bill's chances of passing and who supports and opposes it. They don't bother to tell us any of what the bill entails beyond vague references to National Intelligence Directors. They tell us it is a bill designed to protect us. No mention of a national I.D. card ("show me your papers, please"), the abandonment of the Fourth Amendment (probable cause just gets in the way, and not just for "terrorists," either), and the legal indefinite imprisonment of citizens who haven't been charged with any crime. Why must Americans rely on underground media sources for this vital information? I don't know whether I'm leaning toward "stupid" or "evil."

Please, please consider copying or paraphrasing the open letter I posted earlier and mailing it to your representatives. I will not live in Amerika!

http://www.progressivetrail.org/articles/041216Whitney.shtml
The new Intelligence reform bill is a more stunning attack on the Bill of Rights than the Patriot Act. Most people have no idea how dramatically their "inalienable" rights have been savaged, or to what extent the Congress has sold them out... The document that will be signed into law next week is a frontal assault on the fundamental rights of man.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Is America Becoming a Police State?

A great essay by one of my only living heroes, Congressman Ron Paul, asking if America is becoming a police state. Disregarding the concrete examples Paul mentions in his essay, there is a growing and prominent mindset, especially in youth today, that behavior should either be required or prohibited with little room for choice. Is America becoming a police state? Are constant surveillance, routine searches, and identification papers things I will live to experience?

http://www.lewrockwell.com/paul/paul225.html
After all, proponents argue, the government is doing all this to catch the bad guys. If you don’t have anything to hide, they ask, what are you so afraid of? The answer is that I’m afraid of losing the last vestiges of privacy that a free society should hold dear. I’m afraid of creating a society where the burden is on citizens to prove their innocence, rather than on government to prove wrongdoing. Most of all, I’m afraid of living in a society where a subservient populace surrenders its liberties to an all-powerful government.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

An Empire Under Strain: Britain's Wars for Empire and Her American Economic Policies

Written August 23, 2004.
Prompt: To what extent is the following statement true?
Britain's wars for empire, more than her mercantilist policies, were responsible for the attitudes and conditions that created the American Revolution.

By the mid-18th-century, a shifting had occurred in Britain’s imperialist design. Strategic trade was no longer its sole purpose, and American and British officials were now supporting gaining land for land’s sake. This was Britain’s motivating mindset during the French and Indian War, and at its conclusion, Britain owned nearly a third of the North American continent, all land east of the Mississippi River (save New Orleans) having been ceded by the French in the Treaty of Paris of 1763. But after nearly a decade of operations, Britain had also gained a staggering war debt. This led to the sharply increased taxation and stronger enforcement of the mercantilist trade policies in Britain’s colonies. The war would have far reaching implications for America. Ultimately, it was Britain’s wars for empire that dictated the economic fortunes of her American colonies, more than her mercantilist policies.

Mercantilism, the political economic system based on national accumulation of wealth through a favorable balance of trade, was the prevalent system in Europe after the decline of feudalism. Rather than import materials from other nations, Spain, Portugal, England, and the other powers of the European world began establishing colonies as a means of producing resources and markets for the nation’s products. America was one such colony of England, and, consequently, mercantilist trade restrictions had always applied to the American colonists. Mainly, Americans were permitted to trade only with other British companies and ships, in order to keep as much wealth as possible within England.

Although these policies were in place throughout the history of colonial America, they were not always enforced. During most of the eighteenth century, Britain did not even have the means to. The bureaucracy in London was so large and inefficient that no department really had much control over colonial affairs. In America, what would later be regarded as smuggling was practiced openly and as the norm. Furthermore, there was little accountability among the royal duty collectors, who often collected bribes rather than duties. Although each royal colony had a governor appointed by the king, the colonies had each established strong, independent representative governments and were largely left to their own devices.

After the French and Indian War, however, the British sentiment quickly changed. The government had huge war debts to pay, and the wealthy English aristocracy was not keen on having them passed on to them. A new king, George III had ascended the throne in 1760, and in 1763 he appointed George Grenville prime minister, a man convinced that America owed much of that debt. Moreover, after nine years of warfare on the continent, Britain now had a well established military force in the colonies very capable of enforcing British trade policies. Navy ships began patrolling American ports and waterways searching for smuggling, and industry was heavily regulated so as to not compete with the expanding industry of Great Britain. Britain raised the duties on household goods such as sugar and tea, and imposed revenue generating taxes such as the Stamp Act of 1765, which required a tax to be paid on most printed documents. England was soon collecting yearly from the American colonies more than ten times what it had before 1763.

New taxes and trade regulations continued to be passed and imposed upon the colonies, and by 1765 a few radical Americans were already discussing revolution and independence. For the first time in their histories, the separate colonies began the process of unification to oppose what they considered British tyranny. Although directly it was Britain’s mercantilist policies that dictated America’s economic fortunes, it was ultimately the cost of her wars for empire that required the strict enforcement of those policies. Had Britain not amassed such debts, the requirement for fast profit from the colonies would not have been nearly as urgent, and many of the profit generating mercantile laws would not have been imposed. The war debts dictated a quick source of revenue, and because of its role in the mercantilist system, America was an expedient source of the needed revenue. Had England not been involved in the French and Indian War, British officials would not have a reason nor means of imposing the taxes and regulations.


Sunday, December 05, 2004

Stop the National I.D. Card!

Mailed December 05, 2004 to Senators Bob Graham and Bill Nelson and Congresswoman Ginny Brown-Waite. First paragraph of letter taken directly from the online petition at DownsizeDC.org.

Dear Representative

The national ID database and ID card provisions in the recently passed HR 10 are intolerable to me. And the new powers granted the Attorney General are, if anything, even worse. I urge you to act now to reverse these provisions, without delay.

The National I.D. card can do nothing to counteract terrorism, it will only interfere with the lives of ordinary Americans. I do not trust the future beaurocrats to wield the power provided them in H.R. 10 responsibly and morally. I do not want the federal government maintaining a database of my private, personal information. I do not want to be required to carry a National I.D. card to travel, obtain health care, buy a gun, or get a job. I do not want the Attorney General to have the power to require my employer to submit the fingerprints and DNA of his employees to the federal government.

Furthermore, movement-tracking microchips are already being installed in passports (starting in 2005). Unless the Congress acts now, decisively, to block this trend, microchip equipped National I.D. cards will be a reality in the near future.

Please help protect Americans from the tyrannical provisions of H.R. 10. Those willing to sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.

Sincerely

Mr. Spencer K. Neff