(Archive #2: July 1 to July 31, 2001.)

DON'T GET ME STARTED...!



In this space, I offer brief comments and analysis of current events. I also provide this as an opportunity for readers to ask questions on politics, philosophy, or other items of general interest. (Thanks to my wife for suggesting the title of this daily feature.)
Archive #1: May 24 to June 30, 2001.

Archive #3: August 1 to August 31, 2001.

Archive #4: September 1 to September 30, 2001.


July 31, 2001

Disabled Thinking

Recently, President George W. Bush simply gushed over that delightful monstrosity, the Americans with Disability Act, passed during the administration of his father, George the Elder. Too bad the ADA has worsened the plight of the disabled (or handicapped, as they were known in my youth).

Fewer, not more, disabled folks have found gainful employment since the ADA was passed. Employers are more reluctant to hire such prospective employees. If the new hiree is unable to do the job or turns out simply to be not a good worker, the employer risks a potentially devastating lawsuit from the discharged disabled person for "discrimination"...even if the reason for the firing has nothing to do with the person's physical problem.

Who the heck wants to hire someone essentially for life with no easy way to discharge him if he proves to be unsatisfactory?

Then there are the egregious abuses of the ADA as the scummier or more piously self-righteous of the supposedly disabled milk the system for all it's worth. Such delightful folks as a wheelchair-bound woman who demanded her chiropractor install a ramp at big expense rather than accept assistance up a short flight of stairs or a referral to another practitioner who already had a ramp installed. Or another woman in a wheelchair who sued because she couldn't get hired as a dancer. Or the guy who was too fat to fit in a subway driver's chair and wanted to be hired anyway! Or the idiotic woman who claimed a "shopping disability" to escape jail time after she embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars from her employer.

Defenders of this piece of BS legislation defend it by claiming that the majority of bogus lawsuits are tossed out or decided in favor of the employer. Big frigging deal! Lawsuits are not costless. Not only do we not have a "loser pays" system for covering court costs, there is still the time involved in fighting such suits; the emotional stress; and attention diverted from profit-making.

Beyond all those practical concerns, of course, is the fact that the ADA is a gross affront to freedom and our right to free association. People have the right to discriminate! (See my essay, "The Right to Discriminate.") If someone wants to make accommodations to a disabled person, fine and dandy. But it is wrong to force such an accommodation, to violate someone's property rights. No one has a right to any particular job or career.

The ADA breeds contempt for and resentment of the disabled just as does affirmative action for women and favored minorities. Let the marketplace punish employers who are unreasonable in how they treat disabled job applicants.

Save the sanctimony regarding the ADA, however, for someone who gives a damn.


July 30, 2001

Bill-a-bong

Happy, happy, happy! Oh, the residents of Harlem are happy, happy, happy! Billy Clinton's comin' to town. Oh, happy days!

Conveniently forgotten by all the star-struck sycophants of our ex-prez is the fact that his first choice for offices was on West 57th Street in NYC just down the way from the Russian Tearoom. Shh! Mustn't mention that impolitic fact.

Like the arrival of some rock star, Bill's ascendancy will be heralded today with a three-hour celebration. (Fathers: lock up your daughters...) "Oh, we all love Bill," you hear Harlemites say on television. Why? "He's one of us. The first black president." (Ack! Guck!)

Such sentiments say way too much about what is wrong with much of black culture today. To fawn in appalling bootlicking adoration over a cigar-shoving, lying, cheating, possible rapist tells us where the values lie for these people. This so-called man shredded the Constitution, arrogantly assumed he could do whatever he damned well pleased (and, sadly, pretty much succeeded), and loved power for power's sake. He's a classic second-hander, a social metaphysician of the first order whose sole raison d'être is feeding, vampire-like, upon the emotional drippings of those who idolize him.

The nauseating commentators on television prattle on about how poor, poor Bill now has to "live like the rest of us"! What unadulterated crap! Here's an idiot who reportedly puts a million bucks in a checking account and can't figure out how to use an ATM card. (Ah, how cu-u-te!) He gets millions for saying nothing at speaking engagements, but the sad little waif has to deal with a flooded basement and must suffer the trauma of learning that house insurance doesn't cover the costs of repair. (Play those violins!) He's so inept, he can't even use a phone correctly without accidentally turning it off. He flies first class around the world, is surrounded by bodyguards, and, of for sure, he's just like the rest of us!

To add insult to injury, we're treated to creeps like Chucky Rangel telling us that, oh, except for Monica Lewinsky, Bill did such great things!

Don't get me started!

Nearly everything Billy-Bob did during his "reign" was an affront to decency, freedom, and reality.

We'd all be so much better off if dear ol' Bill would take a long walk off a short pier.

Fat chance of that, though. Until then, we'll have to endure decades of sickening "news" about this disgrace to humanity.


July 29, 2001

Under Pressure

Seems the nanny-state has been working overtime lately. This week alone I've mentioned revised media labels for parents, more detailed food labels, and warnings against eating meat cooked well-done. Now it appears that the benevolent souls so obsessed with your "welfare" want to mandate air pressure sensors in tires!

Most of us are probably aware by now of the controversy between the Ford automotive and Firestone tire companies. Some SUV drivers suffered tread separation on their Firestone tires. Ford blamed Firestone for making defective tires. There might have been a bit of truth there; the tires in question were manufactured during a strike when replacement workers were brought in.

The picture was muddied, however, by a practice of some Ford dealers. The ride on their SUV's could be a trifle rough if the tires were inflated to the proper pressure. So, to make the SUV ride smoother, the tire pressure was kept lower. Well, that helped some with the perceived ride, but the lower pressure put extra strains on the tires. This no doubt contributed to the problems many SUV drivers had with tread separation and subsequent rollovers.

Another confounding issue is the fact that other SUV's from different companies did not report the same kinds of problems. Probably both companies shared a bit in the blame.

Of course, none of this justifies the near-hysteria in the Capital as hearings were convened and company executives grilled. Normal legal channels and desires to protect product reputations sufficed to bring the problem under control without the ham-handed intervention of clueless politicians. Indeed, Firestone got a new man-in-charge who took to the airwaves explaining that all was much better now.

As an extension of this busybody nonsense, now some dull-as-dirt politicians believe you are too stupid, ignorant, and/or lazy to regularly check the pressure in your tires, regardless of what you drive. Solution: place sensors in the tires with idiot lights to warn you when there's a problem.

And "idiot" light is oh-so-appropriate. Someone too slothful that he cannot be bothered to check his own tires deserves whatever consequences he suffers. To add insult to injury, the politicos want to make cars more expensive for the rest of us to protect those numskulls too lame to take responsibility for their own lives.

How about checking the "pressure" in the brains of these politicians? Something is definitely amiss in their mental wiring.


July 28, 2001

Going to Havana

The U.S. House of Representatives recently voted to allow American citizens to travel to Cuba. Whether that change will ever become a reality remains to be seen.

Up until now, only such select folks as academics and journalists could obtain special permits to visit the island. The United States government maintained that the embargo against Castro would help bring him down.

Well, we know how well that worked. After forty-plus years, I hear that Castro will be feeling the pinch any day now...

Economic embargoes against enemies rarely work. The common people are the only ones who suffer. Even more ludicrous, almost every other country in the world trades with Cuba. Of course, the single hold-out, the U.S., is held responsible for all of Cuba's abysmal economic conditions. Its communist dictatorship, of course, has had nothing to do with it...

It's fine if our government has no official relationships with a nation. Citizens, however, have the right to do the wrong thing, including going to Cuba. Of course, having Americans going there might be one of the best ways to undermine Castro. The more Cubans who see what they're missing, the better. I suspect, though, that quite a few of them already know.

Meanwhile, we're treated to the spectacle of that worthless piece of politician, Colin Powell, who had the temerity to suggest that Castro and his regime really haven't been all that bad. After all, he said, they have good medical care and education.

Aarrgh!

The Great Lie continues. The "universal health care" and "universal education" championed by such closet statists as Powell (who favors affirmative action and gun control among other wonderful notions) are crap. Bring your own bandages if you want medical care in Cuba.

Until Castro dies and his successors fall, Cuba will remain a Third World country. I look forward, however, to one day having the option of visiting a reborn Cuba, the adopted land of Ernest Hemingway.


July 27, 2001

Dead Meat

First, those deeply concerned citizens encouraged the insipid radio ads telling us to "thoroughly cook" our meat lest we -- oh, no! -- suffer from food poisoning; that our "mothers would be proud" of us (gag, me; mommy-ism incarnate); that the "good folks at the FDA" only have our best interests at heart.

Now the likes of those nut-jobs at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI; what an Orwellian name they have...) who warned of the dire dangers of movie theater popcorn and Chinese food are telling that meat that is cooked too well is bad for us! Damned if you do and damned if you don't.

If one were the suspicious type, one might suspect that the actual goal of these meddlers is to eliminate meat from our diet entirely. After all, if you shouldn't eat meat that isn't cooked well and it's bad for you to eat meat that is cooked too well, that pretty much eliminates your options.

Such a Catch-22 is hardly unexpected. I would bet dollars to donuts that those who champion such nonsense are also supporters of the fallacious notion of "animal rights." Anything that is extreme and designed to limit your enjoyment of life is right up their alley.

The CSPI weenies also fit right in with that weird woman I mentioned yesterday. In this case, however, they want "new" labels on food, with bolder, bigger type and more details. But if people are too frigging lazy or ignorant to read what's on a package of food, they have nothing to complain about. People have no "right" to have manufacturers provide them any and all information they want. Obtaining information has costs. If you don't like products that don't have the labels you want, then don't buy it. No one has a right to force others to do what he wants.

The CSPI folks also want to change the "food pyramid." As alluded to above, the CSPI agents are against meat. They are also against milk and cheese and such. They'll be happy only when we're all reduced to eating grains and vegetables.

Let's support that alternate-PETA: People Eating Tasty Animals.

Then go put another shrimp on the barbie.


July 26, 2001

Ratings for Dunderheads

I guess I missed that part of the Constitution that granted Congress the authority to rate the contents of movies, television, music, and videogames. What? They don't, you say? You'd never know that from their actions. Once again, headline-grabbing politicians are holding "hearings" regarding the alleged deficiencies of the current ratings system.

Of course, the ratings system is "voluntary," just as voluntary as the income tax and the "protection" offered by a thug so he won't smash your business. The feds forced this ratings system on entertainment producers to "protect" the poor chillens whose parents are too lame and "busy" to take care of them. It's the same impulse motivating the feds who increased the costs of new televisions by mandating the ridiculous "V-chip," a chip used by fewer than 1 in 5 parents who own such TV's and by an even smaller number of parents overall.

Actor Billy Baldwin testified that, well, maybe you can rate films and such OK, but music is too subjective in terms of a listener's response. Maybe that's true. It's also completely irrelevant to the basic issue. Bad enough that he gives any implicit sanction to this horse-and-pony show. Worse was a "concerned" mother who testified.

She finds the ratings "too confusing." Ah, poor, sweet baby! She wants more "detailed" ratings. She wants listings of what kinds of "sex" or "violence" occur in movies or programs and how many such questionable actions occur.

What is astounding (not really...) is that this blather was taken seriously!

Here's a grown woman -- a parent -- too frigging incompetent, lazy, and/or stupid to monitor her own children's entertainment and wants the nanny-state thugs to force others to make her life "easier."

What she really needs is to grow up and keep her stupid nose out of other people's business.


July 25, 2001

Kosovo

Is anyone surprised that the current prez has reneged on his promise to get American troops out of the quagmire that is the former Yugoslavia? If so, I've a bridge to sell you.

Bill "Depends-on-What-the-Meaning-of-'Is'-Is" Clinton told us years ago that the soldiers would be outta there by Xmas. Anyone care to guess how many Xmases ago that was? Or maybe Billy Bob meant "some Xmas, someday."

In yet another war that violated the Constitutional requirement of a declaration of war from Congress before sending in our troops, this Kosovo nonsense ties up more of our military and turns them into babysitters for people who can't police themselves.

The proper task for the United States military is to protect us, not the citizens of other countries. Or have we started collecting taxes from those people, too?

Now, the poor Macedonian citizens are trying to protect themselves from attack by outlaw elements of paramilitary groups. But rather than at least allowing them to purchase the arms they need, we're actively patrolling the borders to keep out such weapons. This is yet another example of the fallacy that "more guns equal more crime."

Well, I hope these self-righteous creeps sleep well at night knowing they're condemning individuals to death who might otherwise be able to defend themselves.

But, of course, these idiots don't have either the intellectual capacity or self-awareness to know any such thing.


July 24, 2001

Social Security Nonsense

The president's social security study group has recommended changes in the current program. The members warn of big problems with increased taxes and/or decreased benefits if nothing is done to alleviate the difficulties inherent in the system. They recommend a (too) small proportion of social security taxes be placed in individual retirement savings accounts.

The opponents of any changes in this dinosaur from FDR's reign claim that there are no problems with social security. And they do this with straight faces! Lessee, if there aren't any problems, then why do they advocate that mythical and pointless "lock box" to "guard" nonexistent social security funds?

The IOU's, i.e., bonds that the government issues to cover their theft of those funds are essentially worthless. There are no assets backing them up. If they are to be redeemed, at all, it will and can be done only through future taxes. One opponent of change had the temerity to claim that those bonds were rock-solid investments, the best and most certain you could ever hope to hold!

Whatta crock.

Congress can change the system anytime it wants to, including eliminating it. To claim that social security bonds are good investments would be akin to me issuing bonds based on my assets, spending the money the bonds (IOU's) are meant to cover, then claiming those bonds are wonderful investment opportunities.

Of course, none of this has anything to do with the coming disaster that is the social security program. It has solely to do with power. Opponents of change in social security are either incredibly stupid or incredible liars. Any honest moron can see we would be better off financially to get the country out of social security as rapidly as possible.

Oops. That answers my question. There are morons in Washington. Unfortunately, none of them are honest.


July 23, 2001

Thought Crimes Expanded

A case is currently plodding through the justice system. Some weird guy who fantasized about having sex with children made the tactical error of committing his lascivious dreams to paper. He detailed his desires in a personal diary.

Well. In today's ever-vigilant society, that act of authorship makes him a criminal. As one prosecutor on TV said, having the fantasies on paper will somehow "compel" the man to act out his imagined behavior. Thinking about it is fine, but writing about it leaves you a compulsive offender? Egads.

Not only is this extension of "thought crimes" a travesty, locking this sicko up for writing what is, in essence, a piece of fiction lest that fiction become fact is an egregious example of prior restraint. Ya can't go locking up people until they actually DO something wrong! Talking about killing someone or writing a story about doing so no more makes you guilty of a crime than does writing a novel about killing the entire U.S. Congress and the president (as Tom Clancy did in one of his novels).

As soul satisfying as it might be to lock someone up because of his disgusting desires, thoughts, or words, that preemptive strike would violate the precepts of morality. Despite what Jimmy Carter said, lusting after another woman "in your heart" is not the same as cheating on your wife.

A valid crime must violate someone's rights. If no child is molested or has his photo taken for child pornography purposes, his rights have not been violated. Writing in a diary is no more deserving of child pornography charges than is drawing a picture of a child or creating one in a computer for such purposes.

Advocates of freedom must often defend immoral, repulsive behavior that is not rights violating. This is one such instance.


July 22, 2001

Anti-Poor Protesters

Once again, the leaders of the industrialized nations meet to discuss trade policies. Once again, neo-hippies, crypto-Marxists, Gaia freaks, and other off-the-wall groups gnash their teeth in protest against the evils of capitalism, big business, and globalism.

Now, those creatures of collectivism and statism protesting in Genoa, Italy, might have a point if they stressed the fact that large corporations should not be receiving subsidies from governments. They might have a point if they focused on globalism's threat to freedom (not that pseudo-sacred god of the statists, "democracy." Brr...). They might have a point if they urged the lowering of restrictions and regulations that impoverish the many for the benefit of the poor.

Instead, what do we get? "Forgive the Third World debts!" (How's _that_ for globalism: spreading welfare worldwide.) We get, "Stricter environmental standards!" We get, "Biotech is evil!" We get, "Free trade perpetuates poverty!"

In other words, what we get is nonsense and calls for more -- not fewer -- government interventions into the lives of those very same poor people they pretend to champion.

I don't care a great deal for President Bush. He has, at least, given lip service to free trade. He correctly points out that free trade is the best hope for helping individuals lift themselves into wealth. Too bad his actions don't always mesh with his words. In California, he okays price caps; loose ones, true, but price caps, nonetheless. We get more protectionism for the steel industry all for the sake of hypothetical votes he hopes to gain in the next presidential election. We get more State control of education. We get prescription drug benefits for seniors.

We get more -- not less -- government theft.

As Ayn Rand frequently pointed out, sometimes our so-called friends are our worst enemies.

How about let's give freedom a chance? Let the G-8 or 10 or whatever it is these days butt the hell out of our lives.

Laissez faire!


July 21, 2001

Jailed for Cold Medicine: Drug Thugs Among Us

Iowa is a hotbed of methamphetamine production, more commonly known as meth. Leave it to the State to expand another dismal failure, the Drug War, aka the War Against People.

This week, a half-dozen young people, most of them eighteen years of age and foolish, made the dire mistake of purchasing "suspiciously" large amounts of cold medicine. Ya see, such medicine contains one of the prime ingredients for manufacturing meth.

(While I don't know all the ingredients nor the precise method of making meth, if you go to one of the many anti-drug, aka anti-people, sites, you can discover lists of those evil materials. The drug thugs are so concerned, you see, with this problem that they've exacerbated, they want all the good citizens of the country who don't give a frig for freedom to recognize "excessive" demand for those items and snitch squeal rat out fink report those purchases to the Gestapo, er, anti-drug Nazis, er, authorities.)

So, these six schmucks were followed to a hotel by the narcs. There, the polizei found "evidence" that meth had been made in the bathtub. (No mention was made of whether these drug thugs had a warrant or not. But then such niceties seldom bother these self-righteous purveyors of slavery.

Of course, it never occurs to the drug thugs to let adults purchase or make whatever they want. Then we wouldn't have otherwise innocent folks and misguided young people risking twenty-five years for providing a product that other people want to purchase. And, of course, the drug thugs would not longer have a lucractive source for funds and power over their fellow citizens.

The Drug Thugs deserve our contempt. After all, they have only contempt for our moral autonomy and our freedom.


July 20, 2001

Shooting the Moon

Today marks the 32nd anniversary of the first manned landing on the moon. (Quick, who were the first two men on the moon? Who stayed behind in the orbiter?) When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped onto the lunar surface, the world paused in awe at what humans could accomplish when they set their minds to it. While Michael Collins circled overhead, Armstrong and Aldrin trekked across Tranquility Base.

I remember sitting in front of my folks' black-and-white television, transfixed by the ghostly images. I listened to Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, and others discuss the significance of these events. Indeed, I recorded on small reel-to-reel audiotapes hours of these talks. (I hope someday to record these onto a format I can actually use. When was the last time you saw a reel-to-reel tape player?)

A space buff from my youth (one of my first memories is staring up into the infinite blackness of a country sky), I followed all the missions.

Unfortunately, America turned its back on space. The shuttle program has been a costly boondoggle. Private ventures beyond our atmosphere have either been crowded out or frozen out of space by the State. Relying on ancient technology and plagued by bureaucratic inefficiencies, NASA has long been more an impediment than an aid to expanding our presence in orbit, the moon, and beyond.

This is 2001. There is no space odyssey. No spinning space station complete with hotels and restaurants. No lunar shuttles, no moon base, no interplanetary manned craft, let alone one capable of reaching Jupiter.

I grew up during spaceflight's infancy, saw it shrivel and contract its vision as governments concentrated on squandering our money on vast welfare states that impoverish us all, retard our freedom, and sink us deeper into the paternalistic arms of "gentle" tyranny.

I feel cheated of my rightful heritage, of a future that could have been ours, of a nation that once applauded achievement rather than dependency.

So should you.


July 19, 2001

Instant Check This...

Let me get this straight...

First, Congress and the former Prez enact a law that requires an "instant" criminal background check for anyone wanting to purchase a handgun (and later, any gun).

Anyone care to define "instant" for me?

Plus, the law contains a provision that the information on checks is not to be kept but immediately destroyed.

I wonder what part of "immediately" they don't understand?

Then that paragon of virtue, Janet Reno (*urp* Excuse me. I always want to up-chuck when I think of that @#%&) arbitrarily decides that it's OK for the feds to keep the records for six months...for "auditing purposes."

Puke.

Then a pansy court agrees that such a blatant violation of the law is hunky-dunky with it.

Now, a new AG, John Ashcroft, says he wants the information held only for a day. An improvement, I suppose, but still not in keeping with the law. So, the House has a bill to make that the law: keep the records for no more than a day. But...! The Senate introduces a bill to make the six-month limit the law!

Anyone besides me think this is all cockeyed? What happened to the original law? When was that repealed? And how is it that the former AG can simply decree six months is fine but the new AG has to get a law to make the time limit one day???

Cripes.

If they have to do these asinine background checks, there's a much simpler way that at least gives a semblance of protecting innocent people's rights. Have a data base of prohibited individuals. Have the dealers anonymously check to see if their potential client's name is on the list. If he's not, then proceed with the sale. If he is, then further checking might be in order.

(Of course, the notion that a felon who has served his time is still prohibited from owning a gun is wrong, too. Plus, in today's idiotic legal system, you can become a prohibited felon for non-violent crimes or behaviors that should not be a crime in the first place, e.g., drug usage. Plus, the government has no right imposing all these stupid requirements on an economic transaction, in the first place. We don't do background checks when some moron buys a car, do we? Wait...I don't want to give the nimrods any ideas...)

Let's do "instant checks" on politicians, instead. If they propose an unconstitutional law, we lock them up until they repent of their evil ways.

And I'll be sure to "lose" the keys...


July 18, 2001

It's a Gas

The evil SUV's are under assault again. This time it's not for the "threat" they pose to other vehicles and drivers. Their "poor" gas mileage has the ecos gasping and shrieking.

(In the interests of full disclosure, I'm no big fan of SUV's. Too many of the drivers are rude, aggressive, love to speed, and worst of all from my point of view, love to tailgate. Grr. But don't get me started...)

First of all, what objectively determines what an appropriate level of miles per gallon is? Is there some rule of nature or a Platonic Ideal that should guide us?

Noooo...

Second of all, does the Constitution grant Congress the authority to regulate the kind of mileage a vehicle should get?

Noooo...

Third, are these whiny, tin despots sickening in their sanctimony?

Yessss...

Apparently, a lot of Americans want bunches of power under the hood. They want a lot of cargo space. They want a lot of passenger room. They want to be able to tow trailers and boats and whatever.

They also, illogically, want excellent gas mileage at the same time (excellent here defined as near the top of what is currently possible).

Sorry, Charlie. If you want all the features, something has to give. Unless you want to construct these SUV's out of cardboard, they're gonna have to weigh more to provide all the bells and whistles consumers want. Big bodies, big engines, big power equal lower gas mileage. (Though even at that, they get on average more mpg than my ol' 1973, 350 V8 Camaro did...and I drove that for 22 years at 15 mpg...if I were lucky...)

Sadder yet, SUV's grew in popularity after those self-same idiots in D.C. and their eco-allies demanded lower gas consumption in the first place and killed station wagons. SUV's and such were classified as trucks and thus exempt from the car mpg mandates. If the nuts in Washington had left well enough alone, people might have merely continued buying station wagons; we wouldn't have lighter cars that get good mileage ratings but are more dangerous in accidents; and we wouldn't have to lose more of our freedoms again.

The State has zero, nada, zilch right to be mucking about with cars or mileage or energy policies. Let the market, i.e., regular people who buy these products and the folks who produce them, decide among themselves what best fits the needs and desires of the public.


July 17, 2001

Selling Yourself

Despite being against the law in nearly every nation on earth, the selling of body parts continues. It has, for instance, long been illegal in the U.S. to sell your blood. Most people believe it is "immoral" to do so. Better to donate your blood for the "good of your fellow man," they say. Put the needs of others above your own. The unfortunate result of this stance is a chronic shortage of blood.

In the past, I donated blood, though for various reasons I haven't done so of late. I understand concerns that blood for dough might increase risks of introducing tainted blood into the system. (Not that such does not occur with donated blood.) Still, while no tests are perfect, with today's technology, most blood can be checked for suitability.

Oddly, the objection to selling blood does not extend to selling your blood plasma or white blood cells. Even then, however, the appeal is for "donors" to give because it's the "right thing to do." Buyers of such products tend to downplay the compensation you receive. Why not extend the same policy to blood? I might well go in more often if I could receive cold, hard cash for my blood.

(Also, to show the hypocrisy of politicians, when I sold plasma in grad school, the money I received was untaxed. Now, however, only a portion is tax-free. After a certain amount is "earned," you're taxed on every dollar above that level. There appears to be nothing safe from the Taxman.)

For organ selling, kidneys are currently the only organs safely taken from live "donors." Yet again, even that option falls outside the boundaries of the law. Organs would also be more plentiful if we could sell our bodies after our deaths. By doing so, we would have more incentives to care for our bodies as valuable assets. We would also have more of an "estate" to pass on to kin or friends.

Instead, we're treated to the sanctimony of those who know better than we how to deal with our bodies and parts. How many of those naysayers, though, are "pro-choice" when it comes to abortion? If we "own" our bodies in that regard and the State has no right to "tell us what to do with our bodies," then why the disconnect? The same (il)logic applies to those who oppose drug re-legalization and all the other choices we (could) make with our bodies.

What the do-gooder mini-tyrants need to be told is:

Keep your bloody hands off my body!


July 16, 2001

Nickels and Dimes

Yesterday while on the road, I heard a woman on a PBS program discuss her experiences while researching a book on the working poor in America.

This pampered woman worked -- get this -- a whole month each at three different jobs. She got entry level positions at Wal-mart, in a low-end restaurant, and in a house cleaning service.

Guess what? She discovered that it's tough making ends meet in such low-skill positions. She learned that it's a lot of hard, physical work. She made the brilliant finding that sometimes you have to work two jobs. She found out that employers of such workers are not always nice people, that the working conditions often are nasty and lacking in dignity.

Whoa! Hold the presses! The Pope's Catholic!

Her remedy, gleaned after her grueling three-months of "experience"? Unionize the workers! Viva la revolution!

Left-wing drivel dressed up in compassion. Slumming disguised as caring.

She totally ignores the fact that few minimum wage workers stay minimum wage. She is oblivious to the fact that the "poor" are not the same individuals in perpetuity. In a free society -- hell, even in our own semi-slave society -- people move up (and down) the economic levels all the time. Immigrants come in. They take low-level jobs and work their asses off so their children can be better off. They get promotions, they move up, they move on to better jobs and better working conditions.

She also is ignorant of the role these people themselves play in their situations. How many of these folks have little education? How many have neve pushed themselves to improve their lot? How many of them got pregnant when they could not afford to raise a child? How many married jerks then divorced them?

People have a certain level of moral responsibility for their lots, even in our distorted economy today.

If leftists like this snotty woman really wanted to help the poor, she'd work to cut income taxes so these folks could keep more of their money; she'd advocate ending regulations that stifle new entrepreneurs and keep them locked into dead-end jobs; she'd push for the elimination of insurance mandates and rules that raise the costs and act as a break on productivity and keep some from switching employers. If this writer truly wanted to help people escape poverty, she'd help get the State out of the way.

Her attitude is no different than with advocates of affirmative action whose condescending beliefs contribute to keeping blacks and minorities helpless, dependent, and surly. Her bad ideas breed Marxist class envy. Her narrow-focused blinders lead her to castigate the results of State intervention while remaining clueless as to the causes of many of those problems.

She needs to learn that freedom and free enterprise are the answers to helping poor people help themselves. We need more wealth, not less. Unions ain't gonna cut it.

Neither is her phony-baloney "expose."


July 15, 2001

Dogs vs People

You've heard about him. A guy was involved with in a minor traffic accident with a woman. During their argument over what happened, the creep grabbed the woman's small dog and tossed the critter into traffic.

Dog meets car. The outcome did not prove beneficial to the pooch.

Quite some time passed before the perp was found. Eventually, though, he was charged, tried, and convicted. For destroying the white fluff ball, he was sentenced to three years in jail.

Now, this guy is surely a disgusting human being. Where he really screwed up, however, was in not attacking the woman. Hell, if he'd beat the crap out of her or pushed her into traffic, he might well have been convicted merely of assault or manslaughter. Then he might have gotten only six months or a year in the slammer. Given today's topsy-turvy world, he might even have skated with probation.

Kill a little dog, though... Hooboy. You're in trouble now...!

The issue here, of course, isn't that the guy had either the moral or legal right to take that dog and kill it. What is sad is the spreading poison of animal "rights" that leads to a dog's life being valued over that of a human. Animal cruelty laws and calls for animal "rights" serve only to debase the already wobbly foundation for human rights. That's just what the animal "rights" nuts want.

A cat is a rat is a boy. All the same. That's the mantra they push.

Now the wackos want pregnant pigs to be granted rights-bearing status. Yup. In Florida. The idiots want to wield the club of government over farmers so pigs can be treated "properly."

Anyone who supports laws that punish people for abusing animals is, despite good intentions, merely subverting rights for anyone and everyone.

Rights apply only to people. Animals are property. If someone destroys or harms your property, punish him for that. If he harms his own property, ostracize, embarrass, or boycott him. Don't run to the State and tell us "there oughta be a law."


July 14, 2001

Imagine That...

United States Attorney General John Ashcroft has dared the unthinkable. He has said -- in writing! -- that the Second Amendment to the Constitution actually guarantees an individual right to keep and bear arms, not the right of a militia to do so!

Whoa! Imagine that. After thirty years of lies, the government of this nation has admitted the truth.

This unprecedented event, of course, has the anti-gun nuts such as Sarah Brady up in arms (so to speak...). How dare the A.G. say such a thing! Why, such a heretical position undercuts current lawsuits, e.g., the Emerson case out of Texas in which a husband had his right to keep and bear arms restored after a restraining order denied him that right. We won't be able to enforce laws of "reasonable" gun control (*ack* ptui! blech! Sorry. I can't help choking on such an oxymoron as "reasonable" gun control, i.e., victim disarmament). Boo-hoo, boo-hoo!

Unfortunately, lest we gun owners start celebrating, the A.G.'s offices has made it clear that Ashcroft's statement will not prevent them from enforcing present federal laws. Oh, boy. Yippee. So we're still saddled with the Brady Bill's "instant" check that now holds records for 24 hours rather than 6 months. We get to enjoy enforcement of that doubly unconstitutional Lautenberg law that permanently disarms citizens for misdemeanors that may have happened decades in the past. Can you say ex post facto laws, Mr. Ashcroft?

Guess not.

Don't expect the "assault" weapon ban to disappear. Don't rush out to buy those 14-shot clips for that semi-auto. Don't strap on that gun or carry that rifle down the street or while you're on the road or traveling between states.

Hell. Nothing's changed except a bit of salving rhetoric to sooth gun owners.

Talk's cheap, though, Mr. Attorney General. Roll back, repeal, reduce all those federal anti-gun owner laws. Restore a bit of the Constitution.

Then it will be time to party.


July 13, 2001

Alienation of Freedom

A man in North Carolina recently won an award for being cuckolded. His wife reconnected with a high school sweetheart, began a love affair, and eventually married the "home wrecker."

The husband took -- not his ex-wife -- but her new husband to court for "alienation of affection." He contends the man "stole" his wife, ruined his marriage, destroyed his family, and created financial hardship for him. For this dastardly deed, the new beau has been ordered to pay a million-plus dollar award.

Well, gee. I can imagine how upset, angry, and hurt the guy might be. Six months before the affair began, his wife had given him an album for an anniversary commemorating all the great things about their relationship and their life together. But, he says, he did not bring suit to exact revenge (yeah, right...) but to help him since he faced the loss of his home and custody of his children.

In other words, he needed leverage during the divorce settlement proceedings.

Not many states still have such quaint, antiquated laws on the books. Even North Carolina is considering repealing this one. Yet the "quaintness" of the law in no way obscures the fact that bad laws can still ruin people's lives. Laws still exist in many states against adultery, cohabitation, fornication, sodomy, and bigamy...even foul language. Even if rarely enforced, such violations of rights are clubs to be wielded by a vindictive State or disgruntled citizens to intimidate or punish unfavored individuals.

A woman is not "property," as such alienation of affection laws imply. A husband is not entitled to "compensation" if another man "steals" his wife. (It also matters not if a wife sues another woman who "steals" her husband. The logic is still as stupid.) No one can "steal" another's spouse unless that spouse wants to be stolen. Even temptation or "ruthless" pursuit (as this man characterizes the actions of his rival) can force another person to love you and abandon spouse and family.

People have free will. We are responsible for our own decision, our own actions.

Even worse, in this particular case, it was the wife who initiated the affair. And what of the husband's own part in "alienating" his wife. Something was lacking there, or she'd not have gone seeking elsewhere for love.

The legislatures of this country need to realize we're in the Twenty-First Century now. Even more so, the courts should toss out such dangerous silliness as affronts to justice.

If I were this guy, I'd be too embarrassed to air this dirty laundry in public. Even more so, I'd be ashamed to demean myself and my beliefs by pretending that someone else owed me love; that, once won, it was somehow mine by right, never to be lost.

But embarrassment and shame are rarely emotions evinced by those who wittingly or not weaken the foundations of freedom and morality.


July 12, 2001

Don't Know Nothin' 'Bout Birthin' Babies

A schmuck loser in Wisconsin, David Oakley, is yet another creep who tests the boundaries of liberty in this country.

The prospects so far are not encouraging.

This 34 year-old guy has nine children by four women. Apparently, he owes twenty-five grand in child support. Because he refuses to pay, the Wisconsin Supreme Court has ruled he cannot father any more children while on probation unless he supports all his offspring. If he violate the terms of his parole, he'll be sentenced to eight years on the slammer.

Lessee here...

One loser guy, four loser women. His first wife had four kids with this jerk. She's happy as a lark he's received this sentence.

Well, lady, I have something to tell you:

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

It takes two to tango. This fool of a mother hit the dance floor four times with this bum. What?? She didn't realize he was a deadbeat after the first baby?

Maybe this guy's guilty of, what, theft? Fraud? He owes a debt and won't work to pay it off. So he's threatened with jail. Sounds to me a lot like debtor's prison. I thought we outlawed such punishments? Even if Oakley refuses to work, this guy's gotta be getting moolah from someone, somehow. Track down that source of income and garnish X% of it. Don't threaten him with jail.

The majority on the court said, well, if we threw him in jail, he wouldn't be able to father kids, anyway, so what's the big deal.

Man, talk about your circular arguments. They justify an inappropriate sentence by a jail term they did _not_ give him. This nonsense assumes that the reason for putting him in prison is primarily to keep him from fathering children rather than as punishment for not paying a debt he owes (which, for the sake of argument, we'll allow, wrong though that idea may be).

Even the women dissenters on the court are barking up the wrong tree. One judge says the sentence is unfair because it means future women Oakley screwed (literally and figuratively) would have to choose between having an abortion or sending Oakley to jail.

Duh! Fallacy of the false alternative here, folks. How about another possibility: Don't have sex with this moron! Or: Ever hear of birth control?!?

If this is the level of "intellectual" argumentation represented by the top court in the state of Wisconsin, I'll take vanilla!

Sheesh.


July 11, 2001

No Room For Losers

"No room for losers."

With a title like that, you might think this commentary to be a call to be assertive, confident, and constantly striving for worthwhile goals.

Ah, would that it were...

Life is economically not a zero-sum game. There is not one set amount of wealth for all eternity. When you earn more money, you are not depriving others of wealth they might earn. Still, this in no way implies you will -- or even can -- get all you want.

No one enjoys losing (unless you're some kind of sadist...). Most of us do what we can to avoid such an outcome, whether the field in question is education, work, love, or entertainment. In economic terms, a disparity always exists between wants and available goods, intangible or otherwise. In other words, desires and demands are essentially infinite while supplies of any particular value are limited. Plus, no matter how much you have, you can always think of other things you would like to obtain. Even in terms of choices we make, there are "opportunity costs," i.e., if you decide to take one job, you foreclose the chance to work at another. This holds whether you're discussing vacations, wives, or paintings.

Thus in many endeavors, there will necessarily be winners...and losers.

You wouldn't realize this, though, when examining how many schools and organizations treat children. To sooth the poor, delicate souls of our fragile youth, many "educators" and community leaders are attempting to repeal reality.

Oh, they say, let's not keep score in this soccer game. We don't want to have any losers.

Oh, they cry, let's not have a valedictorian. We don't want any students to feel bad that they weren't the best in their class.

Oh, they sob, let's give everyone who runs in this race a ribbon. We don't want any wee one to bawl.

Oh, don't get me started...!

Yeah, it sucks to lose. But it feels great to win. When you obliterate the idea of "losing," you simultaneously destroy the concept of "winning."

Winning is what drives our economic system. Competition and the rewards attendant to winning lead to progress, lead us to try harder, lead us to improve who we are and what we do. Yes, winning isn't everything nor even the only thing.

But it ain't half bad.

The soft-headed touchie-feelies of the world need to quit sheltering our kids from reality. Yes, keep competition and winning in perspective. No, don't create a generation of whining brats who view every minor setback in their lives as a threat to their oh-so-precious, so-called "self-esteem."

By seeking to avoid "losing," we will merely ensure that we wind up with a crop of young people who are nothing but losers.


July 10, 2001

Expelled for Smells

Boy, if you're a high school student in Massachusetts, you better hope your parents don't smoke. If they do, and you attend a particular Taxachusetts Center for Indoctrination, you could find yourself getting the ol' heave-ho.

Seems that some of the perpetual busybodies-nannies-thugs-petty-tyrants in the Land of Kennedy are so blinded to all sense of proportion and so dedicated to micromanaging our young people into accepting the most outrageous of nonsense that, come this autumn, they will kick a student out of school...

...if there is even the smell of tobacco smoke on his clothes!

Egads!

(Though in the long run, the imperious Tobacco Smoke Smell Police may be doing the little bugger a favor by extracting him from the statist environment of our government-run "education" system.)

Did the evil one actually smoke?

Doesn't matter.

Did the nasty perp merely catch a ride with a parent or friend who smokes?

Who cares?

Did they find cigarettes on the kid's body?

Why bother looking?

The nose now knows all...at least for these idiots.

The school jailers, er, administrators are encouraging other snitches, er, students to rat out their buds. Sorta reminds me of those tales of Soviet children denouncing "politically unreliable" parents or reporting to police parents who take illegal drugs of any kind...

...No. Wait. The latter happens with the brainwashed graduates of the inane "DARE" program here in the good ol' U. S. of A., not the Soviet Union.

But, of course, cigarette smoking is of such monstrous danger that merely inhaling some second-hand fumes will instantly strike you dead and thus justifies such draconian approaches to control.

No. Wait. No one has ever died from inhaling -- let alone smelling -- second-hand tobacco smoke.

But smoking will kill the student who is smoking, so full speed ahead into dictatorship.

No. Wait. You have to smoke for years -- decades -- before you might die from some smoking related health problem, long after you've ceased being a teenager.

What the ding dong is happening here?

The lunatics are running amuck, that's what. Unfortunately, they're they ones in power. What they really need to smell is the sweet freshness of freedom.

Of course, on that aroma, they always choke to death.


July 9, 2001

Peek-a-Boo

Smile! You're on candid camera...

In the near future, in a town close to you, you may have a great opportunity to make your video debut. More and more cities, for example Tampa, Florida, and Virginia Beach, Virginia, believe that "face recognition" software is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Video cameras are popping up everywhere and not just in privately owned stores determined to cut thefts.

Your friendly neighborhood law enforcement official will doubtless welcome such developments with relish. Already commonplace in Great Britain, electronic snoops will track your every public move. Combined with fast computers and databases of known criminals, our ever-vigilant guardians will scan your face as you stroll blissfully unaware down the sidewalk and see if you've been naughty or nice.

Illegal search? Nah! Trust me, they say...

When these public "servants" justify such intrusions with that tired, old line, "Well, if you don't have anything to hide, why should this bother you?", a red flag should pop up and start waving madly before your eyes.

"Probable cause" means nothing to such folks. They abandoned that quaint idea when they adopted "drunk traps" on the highway (oh-so-"cleverly" disguised as "safety checks"), seat belt compliance checks, drug checks, asset forfeiture, racial profiling, automatic photographing of red light runners... Well, you get the idea.

Sure, they may catch a crook or two. At what price?

Next, they'll be pushing even harder for DNA databases of everyone. First, it was just for convicted criminals. Then for anyone arrested. Soon, it'll be for all of us.

After all, what do you have to hide? Eh?

Big Brother? Well, my brother never proposed such intrusive violations of my rights.

If we're not careful, soon we'll be lucky to have even occasional glimpses of our freedom. For that, I'd prefer not to have to play peek-a-boo.


July 8, 2001

Ends and Means

This Tuesday, the city in which I live is having a vote for a local option sales tax (LOST...and, boy, is that ever an appropriate acronym...). Because of their great management over the years, the city swimming pools are falling apart. A more ambition set of plans for full-fledged "water parks" went down in flames a year or two ago. But like good statists everywhere, the bastards never give up. Vote after vote after vote. First they got their stupid new baseball stadium. Then their (first of many) bond issues for school "improvements" (once again demonstrating the incompetence of the "public" sector in maintaining anything).

So, not satisfied merely with raising our property taxes, now they want to join most of the other counties in Iowa with a LOST. Nine of twelve people running for upcoming city offices support this LOST. As with all statists, they never met a tax they didn't like.

But this is not about increasing our sales taxes by another percentage point...at least not directly.

When you read the letters pro and con in the local paper on this LOST, the proponents all focus exclusively on, oh, our poor wee ones do so need swimming pools! Oh, pools are so wonderful! Oh, if we don't have pools for the citizens, no one will want to move here to work!

(As John Stossel would say, give me a #$^!@# break! Do you know anyone anywhere who made a decision whether or not to work in a particular locale because the city did or did not have a frigging publicswimming pool??? And if someone did, I sure as hell don't want such an idiotic fool polluting my neighborhood.)

Whew! Don't get me started...!

Anyway... Who really believes that swimming pools aren't nice? The pro-LOST statists would have you believe that those opposing this extra tax are anti-pool bigots or some such nonsense. It's the same tired "argument from intimidation" practiced whenever the city wants a new little goody. Heck, a new baseball stadium is nice. Expanded and improved bike paths are great. Spanking new schools are wonderful.

So what?

While there are times that statists and those who believe in freedom differ on the goals to be sought, more often than not, it is the means to reach those goals that are the real issue.

Health care coverage? Gotta love it... But I hate Medicare, Medicaid, and government mandates for both insurance and how health care is to be delivered.

Comfortable retirement? Super... But I hate Social (In)Security that robs us of that very goal.

Roads? Clean air and water? Good jobs? Safe cars? Wholesome food? Sing hallelujah, brother!

But get the &!#@$* government out of the way!

The statists focus solely on the desirable goals and ignore or downplay the means to achieve those ends. (And the means they do focus on are merely variants on more taxes: LOST vs bonds, for instance. Cripes. Talk about a circular argument.)

As Ayn Rand said, both goals and the means to achieve those ends must be considered. Both are equally important, especially since some goals become the means to other goals.

The ends never justify the means. The petty tyrants of the world have forgotten that truism...or never learned it. Deep down, they are no different than the worst thugs. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and I see the mileposts zipping by with ever increasing speed...


July 7, 2001

Media Effects, Strong and Weak

Yesterday, I discussed some of the issues raised regarding media's influence on consumers of cigarettes. Some claim that women are tricked or seduced into buying and smoking tobacco products.

This area of inquiry goes far beyond cigarettes, of course. In communication theory, there are two competing models of how media affects consumers: the "strong media effects" view and the "weak media effects" position.

The former says that mass media messages act almost as "magic bullets" or "hypodermic needles." In other words, media almost literally "inject" a message into those who read, hear, or see various mass media advertising. Television is claimed to be the worst due to its immediacy and pervasiveness. But radio, newspapers, magazines, and books all fall under this rubric.

Essentially, this theory portrays people as helpless consumers who fall prey to slick, Madison Avenue advertisers. Echoing Marxist lingo, this theory says that people buy and consume things they don't need and didn't realize they needed until told to do so by some advertising mogul. We accept false images of femininity and masculinity, torturing ourselves to fit a mold that exists only in the fantasies of these male manipulators.

The alternate media effects model, the theory of weak effects, says that, yes, we may be influenced by media messages. But we can choose to be active consumers. We can decide for ourselves whether or not we want to purchase a given product or view a particular movie. We have free will. We can tune out, turn off, and take our own course.

The strong model says we are helpless pawns. The weak model says we can choose for ourselves.

Guess which model the politicians and statists unknowingly adhere to?

Duh.

Because the gnomes in Washington and elsewhere view us as idiots, they ban Joe Camel from billboards and ads to "save the wee bairns." (Oops. Smoking among teens, especially girls, is up even though Joe is on permanent furlough.) They banned tobacco ads from TV long ago. While they didn't directly ban hard liquor ads, most such companies "voluntarily" chose to stop them rather than face the Wrath of Congress. Only recently have they taken to timid forays into TV advertising to try to stem some of the erosion of their hard liquor sales.

Naomi Wolf, in her book, The Beauty Myth, said that anorexics and bulimics and the billions spent on cosmetics and clothes could be blamed on the nasty, male-dominated beauty industry. Young women, she claimed, were brainwashed and helpless before this media assault.

Hmm. Yet somehow she did not fall prey to the vicious lies. How did she -- and no one else -- manage to escape the clutches of those fiends?

Because violence and sex in movies degrade morality and create killers -- aarrghh! -- Congress declared we should all pay more for TV's for V-chips to protect us from ourselves. (Too bad violence in real life has decreased even while violence in TV, movies, and video games continues to climb...)

SUV's, junk food, fatty foods, soda pop, and who knows what else are assailed by the petty tyrants seeking to impose their own warped values upon the rest of us. Somehow all of us consumers are helpless, yet the do-gooders are not. Somehow the producers of all this poison are immune to their own and others' wares.

How? Why? What makes them all so special?

Bah.

Excuse me while I put a DVD of "Terminator 2" into the machine, pop the top on a Pepsi One, and grab a cheeseburger and a Hostess cupcake.

*Burp* Ahhhh!


July 6, 2001

Debbil Tobacco Made Me Do It

One of the broadcast networks last night had a show detailing the "special needs" of women in regard to cigarettes. The program traced some of the history of smoking, for example, advertising from the Twenties and Seventies promoting, respectively, weight loss and independence ("You've come a long way, baby!). Eighty years ago, tobacco companies even tried to teach women how to smoke in a "feminine" way.

Of course, the results from long-term smoking can be nasty. Since many people still believe smokers "did it to themselves," though, they do not always receive the degree of sympathy that some activists believe is their due. After all, the report says, the women who smoked for decades were "tricked" into doing so by evil, "big tobacco" and by misleading government studies.

(Why is it always "big" tobacco? Is "small" tobacco okay then? And why don't these media types every append "big" to "government"?)

"Tricked"? "Misled"?

Don't get me started...!

The negative effects of smoking have been known for centuries. Plus, no one I know of ever became hooked after one or two ciggies. You have to really work at becoming "addicted" to cigarettes. It's not easy to inhale acrid smoke into your lungs and learn to do so without suffering a hacking cough.

(For a few months as a grad student, I "smoked," i.e., I puffed on cigarettes. As did our ex-prez with a different kind of smoking, I didn't inhale. [No! Really!] The few times I accidentally did inhale the smoke, I choked and wheezed. Yuck.)

No, it's not generally a good idea to start smoking...for men or women.

Let's not blame the messenger, though. Self-government begins with governing yourself...that includes beginning or continuing to smoke.


July 5, 2001

Stem Cell Research

The latest controversy in Washington, D.C., concerns the possibility of President Bush denying federal dollars for research on stem cells retrieved from aborted embryos. The hope is that these "precursor" cells can be used to produce various types of tissue -- perhaps one day even organs -- for those suffering various medical problems. Diabetes, nerve damage, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's are some of the targets for this course of study.

Since the use of these stem cells is intimately tied to the interminable abortion debate, the arguments are guaranteed to continue for some time.

The anti-cell stem folks merely assert that the cells are from "babies." The other side merely asserts they are not. Both are engaged in circular arguments (a.k.a., begging the question), i.e., assuming what they need to prove: that embryos/fetuses are/are not "babies" deserving of rights.

The real issue here, though, is not about abortion per se. It's about the role of government in science.

There is no proper role for government in science.

Bush is correct that federal tax dollars should not be used to fund abortions or stem cell research. Unfortunately, he is right for the wrong reasons. Not only should no one be required to pay for research or programs or whatever that he disapproves of -- either on primarily moral or practical grounds -- no one should be taxed even for programs they do approve of.

No one should be taxed. Period.

Government should also not be in the science game for the same reason it should butt out of education: it has no business regulating ideas. When bureaucrats or politicians give funding to one group and deny it to another, they are doing precisely what the First Amendment forbids them to do. Politics shifts dollars to problems that get the most publicity, not ones objectively most in need of funding (cf funding for breast cancer vs prostate cancer). Tax funding can also distort the very conclusions scientists reach, e.g., global warming and ozone or self-defense related issues. (See my, "The Resurrection of Lysenko.")

If private organizations want to fund stem cell research, then that is their right. Since most anti-abortionists rely solely on religious rather than objectively derived arguments for their positions, their arguments should not be permitted into the political realm.

Repeat loudly to the State: Keep your hands off my wallet and your nose out of my science.


July 4, 2001

Independence

Happy Independence Day!

Notice that today is not "Dependence" Day nor even "Interdependence" Day.

No, it's Independence Day.

In a political context, of course, to be "independent" means to be free of initiated coercion or force. As I mentioned yesterday, few individuals in this "land of the free" have any true understanding of what that means. Even more ignorant are the citizens of Europe, Asia, and just about anywhere else in the world.

Technically, given the proper definition of freedom, no nation is free nor has any country every fully met the conditions necessary to qualify. Our land came closest to the ideal, however, in its first century of existence, more so than has any other nation in history.

A certain level of state coercion existed here since the founding. The Federalists passed such delights as the Alien and Sedition Act that placed you in jail merely for exercising your right to free expression. Fights over a central bank, government work projects, and other controversies marred the freedom so many fought and died for.

Still, coercion stayed at a relatively low level. The degree of slavery felt by the average citizen -- excepting those blacks who, to the discredit of many, truly were enslaved -- was minimal. Indeed, the interactions between freeman and the government were minimal. That, of course, is how it should be. The State should be essentially transparent and in the background most of the time.

Today that relationship has flip-flopped nearly a hundred-eighty degrees. There is virtually no area of life that the State does not -- or at least has the legal if not moral authority to -- intervene. From toilets to helmets to food, the State pokes its big nose into all aspects of daily life. Nowadays, you have to work to avoid its entangling tentacles.

Watching news shows this morning, I found the hosts and their guests particularly disgusting in regard to the chasm between their words today and at other times. One show took place in Philadelphia. There, we were treated to the "praise" of these slick faces extolling the virtues of Washington and Jefferson and Adams, telling us how great the Declaration of Independence is...or was.

These are the same hypocrites who otherwise are the loudest in their complaints against "guns," i.e., the right to defend yourself; the most vociferous in condemning "violent" media; the first to clamor for suing "big tobacco" and gun manufacturers; in the front row wailing over "big oil," "price gouging," and business in general; the biggest cheerleaders for the welfare state, who never met a law or regulation or tax they didn't like.

These #$#%&* deserve to be spit upon. Instead, they reap in their millions while proclaiming their disdain for the "rich."

For the few of us who appreciate freedom and who valiantly and defiantly shout that all chains should be removed from our necks, let us tell others we meet that we -- and they -- deserve to have our right to liberty acknowledged, our autonomy defended, our decisions as adults respected.

Freedom must be won and defended a single person at a time. The critical mass to reverse our long slide deeper into enslavement may not be reached in our lifetime.

It never will be, however, if we don't start now.

July 3, 2001

Reinventing the Wheel

Tomorrow is Independence Day...or the 4th of July in the parlance of those brainwashed in our statist bastions of collectivism, "public" education.

What is saddest contemplating the mental condition of too many citizens in today's culture is the necessity of refighting old battles. A recent survey found that over twenty-percent of young people cannot even identify what nation we won independence from. That echoes with my own experience: students who have never heard of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, who barely recognize the name of Benjamin Franklin, or who know of Thomas Jefferson only in relation to his purported relationship with Sally Hemings.

Over forty-percent of Americans oppose the First Amendment. Few would support the Constitution if to were put up to a vote.

We know the principles that must be followed for achieving liberty. Except for a few minor aberrations, the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence set them down reasonably well. Throughout history, various thinkers and writers have discussed the ideas necessary to establish and maintain a just society. Bastiat of France is one prime example. Dozens more in England and elsewhere struggled to get people to see the truth. Lord Acton warned us that power tends to corrupt and that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Ayn Rand laid out the moral foundation to carry all the rest.

It seems, however, that the vast majority of folks refuse to learn from the mistakes of the past thus condemning the rest of us to suffering the consequences of those dreary and repetitive errors.

It's not rocket science.

Never initiate coercion or violence against others.

Only voluntary, mutually agreed upon interactions are accepted. This is the basis for laissez faire capitalism/free enterprise.

Respect private property rights.

Everyone has the right to defend his life and his property.

The purpose of government is only to protect our rights. Governments have only those powers and authority directly delegated to them.

We've been close to such conditions before. Perhaps someday we will be again.

The battle for liberty truly is never over. The forces pushing for our enslavement never rest.

Neither can we.


July 2, 2001

Technology

While I haven't yet see Stephen Spielberg's new film, "A.I.," the movie has generated discussion on the potential future of artificial intelligence, in particular, and technology, in general. This is of particular interest to me after struggling with a balky computer the past two days.

Some individuals fear the rising tide of technological innovation, others impatiently wait for the next promised invention or improvement to make its way to market. In general, I think progress in technology is a positive development. There are, of course, costs as well as benefits involved in adopting these changes.

As a small example, consider the transition from handwriting to manual typewriters to electric ones. Next came electronic typewriters/word processors then general purpose computers that can do word processing. In a small way, voice recognition signals the day when typing will be a far less important skill than it is at present.

Personally, I would never want to return to the days of typewriters. Revisions were excruciating. While jammed keys disappeared with the introduction of type-balls, a computer is able to capture your thoughts more quickly and make the correction of typos a simple process. Correction ribbon and lift-off tapes are pains of the past.

Yet now I face lost writing (like yesterday) when my computer freezes for some inexplicable reason before I have saved my file. With handwriting or typing, that problem did not exist. Today, I wasted an entire morning trying to correct the problem and optimize my ancient system.

Another problem is the loss of revisions and changes. With a handwritten or typed manuscript, the various versions were visible and retained for later comparison. On a computer, quick revisions wipe out alternatives. Unless you save each and every version of a file, overall changes disappear into the ether.

Still, such issues may fade as time passes. Computers continue to increase in speed and capacity. They may one day shrink to the point where they physically become part of ourselves. Linked to a future version of the Internet, memory problems will disappear when we can access any fact that has been recorded somewhere by someone.

One day, we may even be able to make back-ups of our memories, perhaps to be downloaded into blank brains -- organic or electronic -- that may achieve a kind of virtual immortality.

If nano-machines ever live up to their potential, many physical ailments that plague us may become moot as these tiny molecular bits scour our innards making repairs as they go. Combined with advances in genetic engineering, we may be able to grow new eyes, new organs, perhaps even new brains. Perhaps we will be able to re-sculpt our current bodies into new forms or possessing new capacities.

Just as TV, phones, and the Internet are converging, so, too, may computers, nano-machines, and genetic engineering.

Whether I'll live long enough to benefit from some of these sometimes overly-hyped changes remains to be seen. Ethical and political debates will rage over every small change. In the end, however, let us hope that the advances of the human mind will be welcomed and not suppressed. The older I get, the more I would welcome a bit of intervention...


July 1, 2001

Trusting Yourself

One of the most difficult -- and sometimes tricky -- things you can do is to trust yourself. The twin traps of subjectivism and skepticism are approaches too many people fall prey to in this aspect of life. Those tactics are, however, merely flipsides of the same coin. While leading to opposite results, they are essentially variations on the same intellectual error.

A large number of people -- especially younger ones -- subconsciously adopt the tenets of subjectivism. In terms of reasoning, subjectivism basically deals with truth from the position that "X" is true simply because you believe or want "X" to be true.

For example, you say that movie you saw was great. Why? Because you liked it. If no other evidence or facts are offered for the movie's "greatness" other than the fact that you believe it to be great -- that you like it -- then you would be guilty of the logical fallacy of subjectivism.

You could, of course, avoid that error if you appealed to the appropriate standards for judging a film and if you provided specific examples from the movie. If you discussed plot, acting, cinematography, music, editing, directing, special effects, and so on, then you would be making an argument objectively.

Few individuals commit subjectivism in its most egregious or obvious form, e.g., saying you believe you are the richest man in the world and then acting as though you are. Such fantasies, steadfastly held to, would land you in a psychiatrist's office. You'd literally being losing touch with reality.

A basic point as to why subjectivism is a fallacious form of reasoning is that if it were valid, you would be infallible. After all, if "X" were true simply because you believed it, then how could you ever be wrong?

Not many folks are willing to state publicly that they are infallible.

Yet there are more subtle ways of committing this subjectivist mistake. The most common form of this is to say that your opinion is as good as anyone else's; or, well, that's my opinion (with the subtext that that should be sufficient proof for you; how dare you question what I believe).

This kind of belligerent "tolerance" is particularly disgusting. Facts, logic, and reason are irrelevant to such people. They blame you if you have the temerity (in reality: integrity and adherence to the truth) to challenge their unsupported beliefs.

Such nasty people are among the most dogmatic and arrogant you'll meet. Hypersensitive to criticism, they "trust" themselves inappropriately without any correspondence to the facts. Superficially, they exude great certainty. In fact, they do not trust themselves, at all. They must viciously assault anyone who dares to disturb the shaky structure of their self image. Confidence in themselves and their beliefs is nonexistent on a deeper level. Fooling themselves and others is their only means of defending the illusions and delusions that guide their lives.

A seemingly opposite avenue to life is that followed by the skeptic. He does not trust anything or anyone. Nothing can be known for certain. Everything is up for grabs.

Of course, the contradiction inherent in stating with absolute certainty that nothing can be known for certain is not something they care to examine. As with the subjectivist, the skeptic must avoid introspection as much as possible lest he be found out. So, not trusting anything or anyone, he obviously cannot trust himself.

A more innocent variant on this theme occurs with those who faced some life-altering event that threatened their personal worldview. "How could I have made such a mistake?" they say. "How can I ever trust my judgment again? I was wrong once. I'll probably be wrong again."

Once burned, twice shy is an understandable reaction to being hurt or mistaken. However, the antidote to this problem is not to distrust all others or yourself. The proper way to deal with such issues is to be objective. This means gathering as much relevant and significant information as you can and attempting to fit it in with the overall context of what you already know.

Simply because we can be mistaken in some areas of life in no way implies that we must be mistaken in all situations we encounter. None of us are infallible. We need to acknowledge that fact to ourselves but also not beat ourselves over the head with that realization. If we are objective and do the best we can, we'll generally succeed. If we err, we should discover the source of that misguided judgment and correct it.

We must accept the reality of our human nature. We are not perfect, but, again, that does not mean we are always imperfect, either.

So give yourself a break. Be objective, not subjective. Be questioning, not skeptical.

Be happy.


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