Independent Country

I wonder why so many people who took the side of Han Solo when they were kids now support the stormtroopers.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Dislike of the First Amendment Isn't New

A recent poll indicates more Americans support than oppose laws against "hate speech," defined as "public statements which would stir up hatred against particular groups of people."

But it's not a majority; 41% are in favor and 37% opposed. That leaves 22% undecided.

It seems unlikely, however, that hate speech laws will be imposed anytime soon. If the courts protect the least sympathetic hate group of the 21st century, the rest of the haters are probably safe.

That said, the poll does raise concerns that so many dislike or are ignorant of their human right of freedom of speech as protected under the First Amendment.

But it's not new.

Consider laws against obscenity, which the Supreme Court said isn't protected by the First Amendment.

Or regulations on "commercial speech," which the Court deemed can be infringed in pursuit of a "substantial" government interest.

Not to mention campaign finance regulations, which inherently stymie freedoms of speech and the press by choosing how much one can support another's statements and writings.

What these three previous ongoing attacks on free speech have in common is common to all laws against non-aggressive activities in general and anti-First Amendment laws in particular: ambiguity and arbitrariness.

That's when the accused ends up in court without knowing that anything illegal was done.

  • How could a pornographer know when the line was crossed into obscenity?
  • How could a legislature know that an advertising law it passes advances a "substantial" public interest, or a "less substantial" one? How would a court know the difference?
  • As the John Edwards case illustrates, a prosecutor may decide there's no distinction between a politician receiving gifts from wealthy friends, and donations specific to campaigns.
Likewise, hate speech laws are arbitrary and ambiguous. Would they apply to stereotypes said in jest? Derogatory words not said in jest? Using manufactured statistics to shed negative light on a group? Using factual but incomplete information to make a point about a group?

Wouldn't it be used as a political weapon by those in power against opponents?

And, does America want to go down the path of other countries, in which The State itself becomes the source of hate speech?

Consider many in Europe, who believe drawing satirical cartoons of Muslims is "hate speech" that can be banned, but then also deny Muslim women the right to wear face coverings.

If calling for "Burqa bans," targeted at the freedoms of a specific minority, isn't "hate speech," then what is?

In any case, even those deemed "not guilty" of hate speech will have been punished severely in time and expense of fighting the charge.

Meaning, the only "winners" of hate crime laws will be lawyers and judges.  

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Bigotry is a vice, not a crime


On a pragmatic level, I think this was a mistake by the owner.There’s no upside to deny business to a willing customer.

And even if I was on the side of Christians who hold some definition of marriage as sacred, I’d think discrimination is wrong-headed.


It boils down to this…

“Earn all you can, give all you can, save all you can” 

Discrimination defeats that purpose. It make you lose money for no apparent reason and is counter-productive to whatever statement Christians wants to make.

After all, discrimination…
  1. Is not a loving act; it defies the baseline of Christianity, which as I understand it is charity (good will) toward others.
  2.  Goes against one’s basic self-interest: why make others dislike you?

So, discrimination seems wrong to me, whether the reason is sex, sexual orientation, skin color, nationality, religion, or what have you.

But on the other hand…

It seems to me that it’s worse to fine or throw someone in prison just because they want to discriminate.

That’s because bigotry is a vice, but not a crime. As Lysnader Spooner said
Vices are those acts by which a man harms himself or his property. Crimes are those acts by which one man harms the person or property of another.
[…]
For a government to declare a vice to be a crime, and to punish it as such, is an attempt to falsify the very nature of things”



At worst, bigotry wastes other people’s time, But it doesn't hurt people the ways violence and theft do.

Criminal wrongdoing, however, is a a crime. People are hurt. Measurable damage is done to people and/or their property, without their consent.

Bigotry doesn't damage other people the same way. 

Just like other victimless "crimes" like prostitution or drug addiction, bigots harm themselves..
Bigotry hurts the bigot more than the target of bigotry.


Bigotry is its own punishment.  

And it's not a crime.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Partial Observer - The Problem of School

Does it make sense that children are held back academically so that they'll gain athletically?

The Partial Observer - The Problem of School

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Why we believe things

Fans of Alison Rosen created their own podcast. In one of the episodes, SuperFan Meghan mentioned how she believed in Santa Claus as late as the 6th Grade.

If that sounds silly, think again. Meghan had long before dispensed belief in the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairly.

But Santa Claus was different.

Why?

Because the weatherman was tracking Santa’s movements on the news! Why would the news spend time on a story that wasn't true?

This is what Kid Logic is all about. The logic is irrefutable. The facts are wrong. But it’s not the child’s fault that she was lied to.

My Santa experience is totally different, but I get where Meghan’s coming from. In the 1990s, Major League batters were hitting home runs at record pace. The media said that steroids could not help baseball players. Therefore, baseball players weren’t taking them. Therefore, there was a conspiracy originating from the Commissioner’s Office to “juice” the ball. That was the reason for the offensive explosion.

I believed it all. I had a job and a life. I had better things to do than double-check what journalists said. I thought double-checking is their job. So I believed baseball players weren’t juiced.

And it was all wrong. The ball wasn’t juiced, the players were. Just as Santa isn’t real, no matter what the weatherman says.

So why do we believe what seems absurd?

It’s because our brains are not only wired for logic, but also programmed since birth to trust authority. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Logic is our instinct, but we also need guidance based on the experience of others if we are to survive.

That’s why we believe what we’re told. Whether it’s parents about Santa, sportswriters about baseball, or Colin Powell about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, we believe. We don’t have time to investigate everything we’re told. We only have so much time in this life, so we can’t afford not to believe.

That’s why we are where we are, and the country and world are what they are. For the most part, we believe and duplicate what we’re told.

It’s natural.

But it’s also against our self-interest. The less we trust our logical instinct and the more we trust authority, the greater the mess we find ourselves.

That’s why I rely on two rules.
  1. If it’s too good to be true, it is. Santa is too good to be true.
  2.  If it’s too bad to be true, it is. Meaning, if politicians try to persuade you to give up your rights and liberties to address an evil, the politicians themselves are probably more evil than the evil they want to defeat.
In other words, it’s probably best to rely on logical instincts. You don’t have to go through life trying to disprove the claims of others. But you should insist they provide evidence for their claims.

Don’t distrust authority, but be skeptical of what seems to be unreasonable claims.

Why even have "trade agreements?"

A major sticking point in the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement is the supposed special legal privileges given to multi-national corporations.

The mechanism is called the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDB), and it allows corporations to sue governments.

At first glance, ISDB seems like a bad idea. Obviously, corporations shouldn't have special legal privileges to circumvent a nation’s laws.

On second glance, however, maybe they should…

As the Cato Institute’s Daniel J. Ikenson points out, countries can still legislate, but can’t discriminate when doing so...
The states can ban cigarettes, for example, but not cigarettes “from Indonesia.”
And what if you’re an Indonesian manufacturer of cigarettes, and your product is banned not because they’re cigarettes, but because they’re from Indonesia?

Aren’t trade agreements supposed to prevent that from happening?

One can say that the grievance should be at the State level; that the dispute should be between the Indonesian government and the government that bans its cigarettes.

But here’s the problem…
  • The two countries signed a trade agreement.
  • One country discriminates against the Indonesian cigarette maker in spite of the agreement.
  • Indonesia has the right to file a grievance, but might not do so for totally unrelated diplomatic, security, or other reasons
That means, the Indonesian cigarette manufacturer has a legitimate grievance under the trade agreement, but no legal recourse because of politics. The government may be on the side of the cigarette manufacturer, but its interests are not the same. The government’s interests is power and revenue, whereas the manufacturer’s first interest is its own profitability.  

ISDB gives legitimate victims, such as this Indonesian cigarette-maker, a recourse.

That seems reasonable, but as Ikenson persuasively points out, it’s probably an unnecessary hurdle to pass the TPP.

But that raises the question…

If an aggrieved party, such as our hypothetical Indonesian cigarette-maker, doesn’t have legal recourse under a trade agreement, what’s the purpose of the trade agreement at all?
  • Without a trade agreement, do business in a foreign country at your own risk
  • EVEN WITH a trade agreement, do business in a foreign country at your own risk
How is one preferable to the other?

Every country would, of course, be better off with freer trade. But it shouldn’t take an “agreement” to make that happen.

This underscores why trade agreements are unnecessary. If businesses will be at their own risk in other countries regardless, the only purpose of trade agreements is only to make trade more regulated and less free.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

August 26: Mother Theresa, After Hours

August 26: today in history (from Wikipedia)

1748 – "The first Lutheran denomination in North America, the Pennsylvania Ministerium, is founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania." Coffee and cookies were then served in the basement.*

1789 – "The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen is approved by the National Constituent Assembly of France." Isabel Paterson didn't coin "the humanitarian with the guillotine" out of thin air.

1920 – "The 19th amendment to United States Constitution takes effect, giving women the right to vote." This started off well for the U.S., electing Harding and Coolidge. Not so great ever since; but really, it wasn't so great before anyway.

Notable quotes:

"Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person."

- Mother Theresa (August 26, 1910 – September 5, 1997)

"If an investigative reporter finds out that someone has been robbing the store, that may be 'gotcha' journalism, but it's also good journalism." 

- Benjamin C. Bradlee (born August 26, 1921)

 "I went to school for clothing and textiles and thought this is what I was going to do. Then I started working in costumes and literally said, 'I don't know if I can take the actors.'"

- Melissa McCarthy (born August 26, 1970)

Song of the Day:

Happy 70th birthday Maureen Tucker of the Velvet Underground!

 

* Heard the "coffee and cookies" joke about Lutherans in a Lutheran Mutual radio commercial some ten years ago.

Monday, August 25, 2014

August 25: Happy Birthday Elivis Costello!

Returning to this "This Day in History" series after a four-month lay-off, if even for a day: 

August 25: this day in history (from Wikipedia)

1609 – "Galileo Galilei demonstrates his first telescope to Venetian lawmakers."  Why is Galileo considered a hero? He went against the scientific consensus of the day. Those who do that today are marginalized as crazies and quacks.

1883 – "France and Viet Nam sign the Treaty of Huế, recognizing a French protectorate over Annam and Tonkin." How enlightened of the French!

1950 – "President Harry Truman orders the U.S. Army to seize control of the nation's railroads to avert a strike." Today Truman is viewed as a "great" or "near-great" President, because historians like Presidents who act like dictators.

Notable quotes

"To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time."

- Leonard Bernstein (August 25, 1918 – October 14, 1990)

"In my experience of fights and fighting, it is invariably the aggressor who keeps getting everything wrong."

- Martin Amis (born 25 August 1949)


"Things that I grew up with stay with me. You start a certain way, and then you spend your whole life trying to find a certain simplicity that you had. It's less about staying in childhood than keeping a certain spirit of seeing things in a different way."

- Tim Burton (born August 25, 1958)

 
Song of the Day

Happy 60th birthday, Elvis Costello!


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

April 15: the Old Leonardo, the New Emma, and What's Up anyway?

April 15: this day in history (from Wikipedia)

1892 – "The General Electric Company is formed." Created David Letterman and Seinfeld. Good enough for me.

1947 – "Jackie Robinson debuts for the Brooklyn Dodgers, breaking baseball's color line." Too bad African-Americans don't play baseball anymore.

1955 – "McDonald's restaurant dates its founding to the opening of a franchised restaurant by Ray Kroc, in Des Plaines, Illinois." Best day ever?

Notable quotes (from BrainyQuote unless otherwise sourced)

"It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things." Leonardo da Vinci (April 15, 1452 – May 2, 1519)

"Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind."- Henry James (15 April 1843 – 28 February 1916)

"I'm going to do what I want to do. I'm going to be who I really am. I'm going to figure out what that is." - Emma Watson (born 15 April 1990)

Song of the Day

Happy birthday Linda Perry of 4 Non Blondes!


Monday, April 14, 2014

April 14: the Queen of Country Music, Serpico, Charley Hustle,videotape, etc.

April 14: today in history (from Wikipedia)

43 BC – "Battle of Forum Gallorum: Mark Antony, besieging Caesar's assassin Decimus Brutus in Mutina, defeats the forces of the consul Pansa, but is then immediately defeated by the army of the other consul, Hirtius." Why are people so ready to die to fulfill the ambitions of politicians?

1927 – "The first Volvo car premieres in Gothenburg, Sweden." Boxy, but good!

1956 – "In Chicago, Illinois, videotape is first demonstrated." Sex and lies were demonstrated a little while before that.

Notable quotes (from BrainyQuote unless otherwise sourced)

"Acting is half shame, half glory. Shame at exhibiting yourself, glory when you can forget yourself." - John Gielgud (14 April 1904 – 21 May 2000)

"An honest cop still can't find a place to go and complain without fear of recrimination. The blue wall will always be there because the system supports it." - Frank Serpico (born April 14, 1936)

"I was born on the day Lincoln was shot and the Titanic sank." - Pete Rose (born April 14, 1941)

Song of the Day

Happy birthday Loretta Lynn!


Sunday, April 13, 2014

April 13: $2 bills, Rocky, ethical instruction, etc.

April 13: today in history (from Wikipedia)

1964 – "At the Academy Awards, Sidney Poitier becomes the first African-American male to win the Best Actor award for the 1963 film Lilies of the Field." I saw this movie a very long time ago, as a kid, and barely remember it. But I recognize the importance of Poitier. If he got stuck in too many roles as the "noble black man," he paved the way for guys like Morgan Freeman, who started taking roles (e.g., The Shawshank Redemption, Seven) in which white actors were originally in mind.

1976 – "The United States Treasury Department reintroduces the two-dollar bill as a Federal Reserve Note on Thomas Jefferson's 233rd birthday as part of the United States Bicentennial celebration." The two dollar bill is one of those minor pleasures in life. I once tried to give money to a homeless man, and he said, "A two dollar bill? I don't want to take that from you!" He saw in my eyes I didn't want to part with it. I wish I had one right now.

1997 – "Tiger Woods becomes the youngest golfer to win the Masters Tournament." Time flies.

Notable quotes (from BrainyQuote unless otherwise sourced)

"State a moral case to a plowman and a professor. The former will decide it as well, and often better than the latter, because he has not been led astray by artificial rules." - Thomas Jefferson (April 13 [O.S. April 2] 1743 – July 4, 1826) SOURCE

"I feel that everyone who wants to say anything, do anything, should be able to say anything or do anything, within the limits of not hurting another person." - Madalyn Murray O'Hair (April 13, 1919 – September 29, 1995)

"People still come up to me and ask me to sign their records. That's right, records! Man, they don't even make records no more!" - Al Green (born April 13, 1946)

Song of the Day

Happy 72nd, Bill Conti, responsible for the greatest movie soundtrack album of all time.


Saturday, April 12, 2014

April 12: Lonely and dreaming of the West Coast

April 12: today in history (from Wikipedia)

1606 – "The Union Flag is adopted as the flag of English and Scottish ships." And by The Who, which formed round about that time.

1917 – "World War I: Canadian forces successfully complete the taking of Vimy Ridge from the Germans."




1981 – "The first launch of a Space Shuttle (Columbia) takes place - the STS-1 mission." Most people thought we'd have bases on Mars by now; instead it's, "hey, let's settle for orbiting the earth."

Notable quotes (from BrainyQuote unless otherwise sourced)

"The fundamental purpose of property rights, and their fundamental accomplishment, is that they eliminate destructive competition for control of economic resources. Well-defined and well-protected property rights replace competition by violence with competition by peaceful means." - Armen A. Alchian (April 12, 1914 – February 19, 2013) SOURCE

"I don't necessarily start with the beginning of the book. I just start with the part of the story that's most vivid in my imagination and work forward and backward from there." - Beverly Cleary (born April 12, 1916)

"There's no business like show business, but there are several businesses like accounting." - David Letterman (born April 12, 1947)

Song of the Day

Happy 52nd, Art Alexakis!


Friday, April 11, 2014

April 11, 2014: 400 miles

April 11: today in history (from Wikipedia)

1957 – "United Kingdom agrees to Singaporean self-rule." We need more Singapores. A world of tens of thousands of city-states would be far superior to our antiquated nation-state system.

1976 – "The Apple I is created." Whatever became of that company?

2006 – "Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announces that Iran has successfully enriched uranium." As is its right under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Notable quotes (from BrainyQuote unless otherwise sourced)

"But of all plagues, good Heaven, thy wrath can send, Save me, oh, save me, from the candid friend!" - George Canning (11 April 1770 – 8 August 1827)

"A conservative is one who admires radicals centuries after they're dead." - Leo Rosten (April 11, 1908 – February 19, 1997)

"The things we hate about ourselves aren't more real than things we like about ourselves." Ellen Goodman (born April 11, 1941)

Song of the Day

Stuart Adamson (11 April 1958 – 16 December 2001) of Big Country should have turned 56 today: