Independent Country

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

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Don't women's bathrooms have stalls? So who cares?

A new North Carolina law requires transgendered persons to use public restrooms of the sex they were at time of their birth. It has sparked outrage; Bruce Springsteen, for instance, is refusing to perform in the state. And that outrage has sparked a counter-outrage. For example, ESPN baseball broadcaster Curt Schilling  raised the specter of cross-dressing men sharing bathrooms with little girls. He was fired for his remarks.

This has been an eye-opener for me. I didn't know this was such a problem. But it must be. After all, conservatives tend to be skeptical of laws that micro-manage every little detail in life, especially if the risks are minor and there are already laws on the books that address the underlying concern.

Now, I have been in women's bathrooms. To take out the garbage because it was part of my job. Once or twice by mistake. Those I have been in have had bathroom stalls, just like men's bathrooms. Only they have more stalls and no urinals.

For NC's law to make sense, apparently my experience is an outlier. Apparently... 
  • In most women's rooms, there are no stalls separating the toilets, so female "private parts" are exposed.
  • In defiance of my personal experience and what we routinely see in tv and movies, women do not actually go to the restroom together for protection. 
  • Parents routinely send little girls into the public bathroom alone. 
  • A law will actually stop men from posing as women to get into  a women's bathroom for whatever perverse thrill that may provide.
  • Male-to-female transgendered persons actually do get some perverse thrill by using the same facilities as little girls or women.
  • There are no indecent exposure laws, or they don't apply to women's bathrooms. 

It seems to me that NC legislators made a "mountain out of a molehill" except that the molehill is nothing. Whether is was motivated by transgender bigotry or not, it's a law that "solves" a non-problem. 

Everyone of us knows little girls we care about whom we would not want to see harmed. Daughters, nieces, neighbor kids, whomever. I see no less risk to them with laws such as North Carolina's, and no greater risk without them. Either way, the public restroom is one the last places I'd worry about them.

Heck, maybe we're better off integrating restrooms. Urinals one side behind a wall, sinks in the middle, stalls on the other side that anyone can use. Then we can all shut up already about this non-issue.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

It's tolerance, NOT "cultural libertarianism"

I posted this comment at Garry Reed's Examiner story "'Cultural Libertarianism' isn't new, it's just gone international."
Ms Southern's major error is suggesting that non-State forms of suppression can be just as bad as State censorship. Yes, the shaming, slanders, boycotts, protests, disinvites, and bans (from private organizations and/or property) can be very unfair. They can even temporarily ruin lives. But they're not nearly as terrible as a policeman's jackboot stomping on your face. Or prison.

Regarding the Breitbart piece: it muddies the waters terribly to call someone a "cultural libertarian" just because he or she's proudly "politically incorrect.". Several of these people support State policies that are anti-immigrant and/or anti-Muslim. There's nothing "libertarian" about that, and particularly nothing "culturally" libertarian.

Cheers to them, and anyone else, who is tolerant of other people's speech and expression. Who protest speech codes, reveal arbitrary and biased censorship on Internet platforms, expose hypocrisy, etc.. But I think the word "tolerance" will do quite nicely. I won't label anyone as any kind of libertarian when they're not.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Tax Ethics

A recent conversation reminded me of the desire of people to grasp at anything to feel they're morally superior to people who make more money than they do. The topic was rich people who find ways to minimize their tax payments.

I'm still trying to grasp their moral condemnation.

For example, let's say a rich man tries to file his tax return. It appears to him that he owes $1 million, which seems high.

And so, he hires a team of lawyers and accountants. They figure out ways to lower his tax payment to $10,000. They charge fees totaling $989,000. The man's total expenses are $999,000. He saves $1,000 by hiring them.

Q. What does the law say the rich man owes?

a) $1 million
b) $10,000

Q. Morally speaking, what should the rich man pay?

a) More than what the law requires
b) No more than what the law requires

Whether you believe taxes are theft and pay only under duress, or believe that taxes are good and are the "price we pay for civilization," how can there be any sane answer to either question other than b?

As federal judge Learned Hand wrote in Commissioner v. Newman, 159 F2d 848 (1947):
Over and over again courts have said that there is nothing sinister in so arranging one's affairs as to keep taxes as low as possible. Everybody does so, rich or poor; and all do right, for nobody owes any public duty to pay more than the law demands: taxes are enforced exactions, not voluntary contributions. To demand more in the name of morals is mere cant."
Even if you want more laws and more government, you can't ascribe moral failure on people who do no more than minimally comply with the laws as they currently exist. They have no ethical obligation to go above and beyond their required duties.

If you disagree, consider: would you expect government employees to work overtime for free? Are they "unethical" if they won't?

If you won't expect them to go "above and beyond," then don't expect that from the rest of us. Even the rich.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Trump Lite

Candidate: "Here's what I'll say in my speech: I'll do my best to make it easier for you to start businesses and create jobs by lowering taxes, reducing regulations, abolishing licensing requirements, and repealing zoning laws."

Consultant: "That's over their head, sir."

Candidate: "Okay, how about: Illegal immigrants are stealing your jobs! Other countries have unfair trade!"

Consultant: "Much better. Always blame foreigners. But then condemn Trump for his racism."

Candidate: "But I feel dishonest and dirty. Like a demagogue."

Consultant: "Don't worry. Everyone in both parties has been repeating the same drivel for decades and always will. It's only racist if Trump says it. The majority of voters think Trump's rhetoric is impolite. They think, I'm not racist because I don't support Trump."

Candidate: "So anti-Trump voters won't confront their own xenophobia."

Consultant: "Exactly. They feel like well-intentioned moderates, but they want Trump Lite."

Candidate: "But it's morally wrong and stupid!"

Consultant: "Do you want to sound like a crazy libertarian, or do you want to win?

Candidate: "Ok. Whatever you say." 

I disagree with the Libertarian Party on... the death penalty?

I went to the website, mainly to see how much I agree with various Presidential candidates. That itself was out of curiosity and not a determination of who I will vote for (if I vote at all). The results also show how your answers compare with the "party line" of each party. 

It's the best political quiz I've ever taken. Other quizzes might ask a question like, "Do you agree with subsidies for Planned Parenthood" and if I say No, I'm categorized as a social conservative. This quiz allows for more nuance; I could say something like, "No, and I oppose all subsidies to any organization." That points, more accurately, in the libertarian direction.

But is the quiz, on the whole, accurate? Probably, but I'm left wondering a bit.

My results show I am in 97% agreement with the Libertarian Party. No surprise there. I searched for the disagreements.There were some differences in how I answered that I consider minor. Others, however, struck at me:
  • Affirmative Action. The quiz says the LP is against. I'm against it in State-controlled institutions, but have no objection to preferential hiring or admissions in the private sector. I believe my position is more libertarian. Here's the confusing part: it is also the position of Section 3.5 of the Libertarian Party Platform.
  • Immigration: The quiz assigns the LP answers that seem more restrictive than I would have thought, and more restrictive than I answered. My hope is that libertarians who want restrictions do it only as a security issue, and never as an economic or cultural issue.
But the biggest surprise was the death penalty: The quiz assigns the LP as in support. That's not how I answered. There is no "libertarian" answer to criminal justice issues except to compensate the victim more than we do now. And I have no more moral objection to killing a murderer than I do killing a dangerous animal. But I thought that libertarians generally agreed that the criminal justice as it exists is so broken, the taxpayer cost of death penalty appeals so great, and the risk of executing the innocent so great, that prudence and justice would call for its abolition. Even the conservative Nebraska legislature abolished it. 

It's no big deal to me that I disagree with other libertarians or the Libertarian Party on some things. And 97% agreement suggests that there isn't much. But I am curious how the quiz came up with its "party line" answers.

And if it is sometimes wrong with LP answers, could it be more often wrong on other party answers? Or candidates?

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

When Headlines Lie

One big pet peeve is headlines that lie. I don't mind sensationalized headlines. But I hate it when the story says the opposite of the headline.

For instance... "Patriots fans blast Robert Kraft, Tom Brady over Donald Trump endorsement."

I knew that Brady talked of his friendship with Trump last football season and wore a "Make America Great Again" cap, but retracted his "endorsement" a couple of days later. I also knew that Kraft had made at least one cameo on Trump's Celebrity Apprentice

But I didn't hear of a new, official endorsement from either. I clicked to read the story.

Turns out, "neither Brady nor Kraft officially endorsed Trump."

The linked story of Kraft's relationship with Trump even has the sub-headline, "Don't call it an endorsement, but Robert Kraft really likes Donald Trump." The story goes on to say that Kraft doesn't like to discuss politics but was very appreciative of Trump's support when his wife died.

  • Kraft and Brady are friends with Trump. That's not news. Rich and famous people have rich and famous friends. No reasonable person would hold the mere friendship against them.
  • Neither has formally endorsed Trump.
  • Fox Sports writes about voter reaction to Brady's and Kraft's endorsements of Trump, which they never made.
I understand trivial, filler news pieces. I understand biased news.

But dishonest headlines to attract readers is unacceptable.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Should this post be regulated?

I sent this letter to the Lincoln Journal-Star:
Dear Editor,

George Will could have mentioned one often overlooked facet of the campaign finance reform debate ("Sanders, Clinton attack free speech, " Feb 14).

The Constitution empowers Congress to regulate the "Times, Places and Manner of holding" federal elections. It does not, however, empower Congress to regulate election campaigns or campaign contributions.

And how can they be regulated? There's more to the campaign than advertising. Our political thinking can be influenced by anything from a novel written decades ago to a comedian's satiric Tweet to conversations with friends.

To single out paid advertising for regulation is an arbitrary and capricious standard. Let groups of people be free to express their beliefs collectively, just as they are free to do so individually.   

James L. Wilson

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Monday, January 25, 2016

Happy birthday Lucinda Williams!

January 26 in history

1838 – "Tennessee enacts the first prohibition law in the United States"

How could they enact such a stupid law? Were they drunk?

Notable quote

"Building weapons that we don’t need, don’t work, and aren’t necessary, and have no mission — that’s not bad politics, that’s robbery." - Paul Newman (January 26, 1925 – September 26, 2008)

Song of the Day

Happy birthday Lucinda Williams!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Warren Zevon still in our hearts

January 24 in history

1933 – "The 20th Amendment to the United States Constitution is ratified, changing the beginning and end of terms for all elected federal offices."

One of the few Constitutional provisions that aren't ignored.

1984 – "The first Apple Macintosh goes on sale."

I though I was eating them long before that.

Notable quotes

"An unalterable and unquestioned law of the musical world required that the German text of French operas sung by Swedish artists should be translated into Italian for the clearer understanding of English-speaking audiences." - Edith Wharton (January 24, 1862 - August 11, 1937)

"Any team can have a bad century." - Jack Brickhouse, Cubs sportscaster (January 24, 1916 – August 6, 1998)

Song of the Day

Warren Zevon would have been 69 today. Still in our hearts.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

When Rock and Roll officially became institutionalized

A great start. Now the Hall accepts almost everybody. Pete Rose has a chance to get in.

Notable quote

"It is something that most parents hope for in life: That their children will be moderately successful, polite, decent human beings. Anything on top of that is something you have no right to hope for, but we all do." - Packer great Jerry Kramer (b. January 23, 1936)

Song of the day

Happy birthday Anita Pointer!

Friday, January 22, 2016

I will give this blog to Leno for $45 million

January 22 in history

1889: "Columbia Phonograph is formed in Washington, D.C."

And they signed Bruce Springsteen the next day.

2010: "Conan O'Brien performs his last Tonight Show on NBC as a part of the Tonight Show conflict of 2010."

One year, NBC thought Conan was indispensable. Next year, they pay $45 million to get rid of him. I want to work for NBC!

Notable quote

"If a man be gracious and courteous to strangers, it shows he is a citizen of the world, and that his heart is no island cut off from other lands, but a continent that joins to them."

  - Francis Bacon (January 22, 1561 - April 9, 1626)

Song of the Day

From Malcom McLaren (January 22 1946 – April 8 2010), who would have turned 70.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

I know how Mac Davis feels

January 21 in history

1908 – "New York City passes the Sullivan Ordinance, making it illegal for women to smoke in public, only to have the measure vetoed by the mayor."

Clearly he was swayed by the tobacco lobby.

1977 – "United States President Jimmy Carter pardons nearly all American Vietnam War draft evaders, some of whom had emigrated to Canada."

Because of these cowards, we're all speaking Vietnamese today!

Notable quote

"Princes may make laws and repeal them, but they can neither make nor destroy virtue, and how indeed should they be able to do what is impossible to the Deity himself?" - Ethan Allen (January 21, 1738 - February 12, 1789)

Song of the Day

Happy birthday, Mac Davis!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

So isn't THIS the real Independence Day?

January 20 in history

1783 – "The Kingdom of Great Britain signs a peace treaty with France and Spain, officially ending hostilities in the American Revolutionary War."

So isn't THIS the real Independence Day?

1877 – "Last day of the Constantinople Conference which resulted in agreement for political reforms in the Balkans."

Good thing it happened. The place could have become a mess.

1887 – The United States Senate allows the Navy to lease Pearl Harbor as a naval base.

But Americans are not like Europeans. It's not like we'll colonize the place!

Notable quote

"Too bad that all the people who know how to run the country are busy driving taxicabs and cutting hair." - George Burns (January 20, 1896 - March 9, 1996) 

Song of the Day

Happy Birthday to Eric Stewart! I love the sonic atmosphere...