“Land of the Free” Sightings

Balko takes an extensive look at a few of the worst prosecutors in the country. And shame on any member of any jury in any of these cases who aided and abetted the prosecutors and the state in their criminal enterprise.

What in the holy effing hell?

Well, clearly the cobra must have its mouth sewn shut, is de-fanged, or otherwise rendered inert, but this is one disturbing video. Human beings have evolved fear of snakes for a good reason, and those ancient ancestors who didn't possess a healthy degree of fear never got a chance to propagate their genes.

The Clever Japanese

Living there for five years, I never ceased to be impressed with their ability to utilize space in very efficient ways, and it's something that pretty much permeates everything they do.

They hadn't invented cubic watermelons yet, however. In retrospect, seems kinda obvious, eh?

Isn’t it the truth?

"Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats."

— Howard Aiken, computing pioneer and innovator

“Smart” Money “Logic”

Now hear this. The income tax is a blessing.

The more money you make, the more income tax you are required to pay. A blessing?  Yes, in a round-about way. If you had to pay more income tax last year, it means you also earned more in spendable income.

All together, now, kids: parable of the broken window (broken window fallacy). Ce qu'on voit et ce qu'on ne voit pas. Setting aside the moral principle that all taxation is always theft (though legitimized through law, like slavery used to be), she is taking account of ce qu'elle viot, but not of ce qu'elle ne voit pas. She's looking only at the increase in funds not stolen, not the increase in funds stolen, or what you or any individual might have been able to do with them. The dollars you earn ultimately represent your time, either time you spend at labor, thinking, producing, or future time at leisure. This is gone from you for good, and it's being spent or squandered by some other individual or several individuals other than you. Take account of that. Your tax money is not being spent by "the government" or "society." It is being spent by one or more individuals, and they are spending your money on their values instead of yours.

Far from being a blessing; it's a curse.

Yes, Finally

Maybe I haven't been paying enough attention, but this is the very first time I've seen fully honesty injected into this situation, other than by me. Radley Balko, on To Catch a Predator.

I also think there’s an important distinction between men who arrange for with sex post-pubescent girls below the age of consent, and men who prey on young girls and boys who haven’t yet reached sexual maturity. The former is a natural, hard-wired attraction. I agree with laws that put the age of consent at somewhere between 16 and 18, which means I agree that people who break those laws ought to face some sort of penalty. The hard-wired attraction, then, is countered by by the promise of punishment, and hopefully one’s own recognition of the exploitive nature of engaging in sex with someone not psychological or emotionally mature enough to make good decisions about physical relationships.

But there’s something sleazy, unfair, and itself exploitative about sending an attractive girl (who sometimes is of age, but poses as underage) out to tap those natural impulses, removing the social barriers to acting on them (by giving the targets anonymity, the promise of no-strings-attached sex, and massaging away their apprehension), pouncing on the weak-willed men, then raking in cash from advertisers while showing the whole thing on television.

I think that men with thoughts of engaging in sex with post-pubescent girls were a lot more deterred back in the day when they understood that they might have to deal with a father, brother, or uncle.

Please, Indeed

Lew says "oh please," but this for me would constitute my largest problem with Paul (follow the links, if you like). I don't mind that he has faith in a deity, for it's not really a scientific proposition, and so much of it is wrapped in family tradition anyway -- I love Christmas time, even though I consider literal belief absurd. But denying the scientific fact of evolution and natural selection -- especially using that ignorant "just a theory" line -- tells me that in some measure he places his faith above his perception, cognition, conceptualization, and reason. I simply cannot take anyone completely seriously who denies evolution and natural selection -- either because they're ignorant (excusable, but why take ignorant people seriously?) or explicitly places some degree of limitation on reason in favor of faith, which is really inexcusable, and you must therefore place great suspicion on their ability to honestly deal in facts.

I could have taken it a little easier if he'd waffled on the issue, simply stating that he's not well enough versed in the theories to judge one way or the other, and he doesn't consider it important that he does. Misrepresenting the word "theory," however, is a pretty serious offense, in my view. Ever heard of the theory of relativity, or the the theory of quantum mechanics, or the theory of a host of other things? How about this one: the theory of gravitation, which ultimately described the motion of solar systems.

I suppose you can look back to the time where it was outrageously suggested (and how dare they teach out kids!) that the sun, planets and other galaxies of stars didn't revolve around Earth each day and understand that it literally took centuries for the theory of gravitation and other clearly observable aspects to be accepted. And the reason it took so long, of course, was because of religious doctrine that was wrong -- just like it's always eventually wrong when it seeks to explain complex scientific phenomena from the perspective of people who haven't even figured out running water, forced air heating, or refrigeration. So, understandable, because I guess that's just the way people are. But that doesn't make any of those people any less ignorant or obstinate, indeed inexcusably stupid, once facts with clear logical implications were established. So, the question is: how stupid do you want to be? You can be as stupid as you like, you know.

That said, the hopeful thing about Paul is that he doesn't want to force his silly religious views down your throat or mandate they be taught in schools. He wishes to eliminate the Dept of Education, which should be done: education should take place at home, or at the authority and expense of a small local community, however they may decide to do it.

Update: Well, look at this. Turns out the original video was doctored. I don't know that it makes a huge difference, but I suppose it's more along the lines of the waffling I wrote about.

“Good Cause” or “Social Contract?”

Well, which is it, because people keep telling me it's not theft.

From today's New York Times, page B1:

"Laurel Touby, 44, an entrepreneur based in New York City, [sold] mediabistro.com, a Web site for job-seeking media and creative professionals that she had founded in 1996. She sold it for $23 million -- leaving $9 million ... in her bank account after taxes."

"Edward Bartlett, a 41-year-old accountant in Westminster, Maryland, won $84 million in a lottery last summer -- $33 million after taxes."

Oh, don't tell me. I know. They oughta just keep quiet and count their blessings; stop being so greedy.

The Just War for Southern Indpendence

Just War, by Murray Rothbard, is essential reading. It's probably a 30-60 minute read, depending on how fast you go though it or ponder it. As with almost all things, I don't accept many of the implicit premises. However, I do agree that Rothbard's political and legal logic within the confines of the premises is pretty consistent.

The main idea advanced by this essay is that America has only fought been involved in two just wars: The American Revolution and Southern Independence (The "Civil War"). In other words, and he lays out a pretty good argument, the Southern States were conducting a just war against the unjust North for pretty much the same set of justifiable reasons the American Revolutionaries waged a just was against the unjust British crown. It's certainly not a new idea that the South was right -- Southerners being Southerners -- but the just reasons they had to go to war have always been overshadowed by the slavery issue. After all, the North won and the winner gets to write and teach history.

A few key excerpts:

...a just war exists when a people tries to ward off the threat of coercive domination by another people, or to overthrow an already-existing domination. A war is unjust, on the other hand, when a people try to impose domination on another people, or try to retain an already existing coercive rule over them.

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Virtue Nugget

Most of my online time today (well, yesterday at this point) was spent brushing up on Lincoln stuff. Lots of it. It so happens that Lincoln is my whole touchstone for what I am today in the libertarian sense. It was essentially discovery of the Lincoln myth in 1990 or so that got things rolling for me. Everything followed from there. Without that, I'd be watching Fox News every day, preening after talking-head liars like Kristol, Hannity, and O'Reilly, generally making myself fit the inner automaton regurgitating memorex that typifies just about everyone else who stoops to that.

More on all that, later: once I get all my bits & pieces in a row. In the meantime, I came across an interesting Murray Rothbard essay (there's a brief mention on Lincoln), Frank S. Meyer: The Fusionist as Libertarian Manqué. It's an excellent read from the perspective of sorting out some of the distinctions between certain types of libertarians. (Note: when I write "libertarian," or even "Libertarian," I am never, ever writing about the great contradiction: "The Libertarian Party.") Section II covers Frank Meyer's position on freedom and if you read nothing else, read section II (it's short). Here's an excerpt:

...To be moral, an act must be free.

Frank Meyer put it eloquently in his In Defense of Freedom:

. . . freedom can exist at no lesser price than the danger of damnation; and if freedom is indeed the essence of man's being, that which distinguishes him from the beasts, he must be free to choose his worst as well as his best end. Unless he can choose his worst, he cannot choose his best.

And again:

For moral and spiritual perfection can only be pursued by finite men through a series of choices, in which every moment is a new beginning; and freedom which makes those choices possible is itself a condition without which the moral and spiritual ends would be meaningless. If this were not so, if such ends could be achieved without the continuing exercise of freedom, then moral and spiritual perfection could be taught by rote and enforced by discipline – and every man of good will would be a saint. Freedom is therefore an integral aspect of the highest end.

Freedom, in short, is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the achievement of virtue. With Lord Acton, we may say that freedom is the highest political end; in that subset of ethical principle that deals with the legitimacy of the use of violence between men, the libertarian – as well as the fusionist Meyer – position holds that violence must be strictly limited to defending the freedom of individuals, their rights to person and property, against violent interference by others.

Good stuff. It pays to keep reminding yourself: "...if freedom is indeed the essence of man's being...he must be free to choose his worst as well as his best end. Unless he can choose his worst, he cannot choose his best." I don't know about you, but I think that's just a brilliant insight into the essence of freedom. Seems so obvious -- like it's always been there -- once you read the words.