Independent Country

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

Monday, June 29, 2015

Hoping Obergefell isn't a bad precedent

Long ago, involving some people I knew, a pastor refused to perform a marriage of a female-male couple, at least one of whom grew up in the church. Why? They were living together. Meaning, everyone new they were having sex before marriage. "Living in sin."

The parents of the woman left the church because the pastor refused to perform the ceremony. As far I know, there was no lawsuit. They found another church..

Was the pastor or church committing a crime? If so, who's the victim?

Another experience: longtime friends, including one from another country, were engaged. The women's home church declined to perform the wedding because the groom wouldn't convert to Christianity. As far as I know, there was no lawsuit. They had their wedding at a college chapel.

And in both instances, it seems a Justice of the Peace was available or some other "government official" could have been hired. They weren't. Another clergy person took their place.

I don't have the knowledge right now to make a judgment about if the Obergefell vs. Hodges case legalizing gay marriage is "correct" on a strict Constitutional bases.

What I WILL say, is if it's used as a precedent for gays getting married at a Justice of the Peace, I don't have a problem with that. Not exactly happy, because ALL laws favoring married people over single people should be gotten rid of. I believe in the Separation of Marriage and State, but I view that its lack of existence as just "one of those crappy things" and it's not a top priority.

But I'll ALSO say:  if this Court ruling sets a precedent that FORCES pastors to perform gay weddings (or ANY wedding,  as described above), or forces people to serve flowers or bake cakes to people they don't want to serve, I'd hope, to the extent possible, to be at the barricades. And NOT because of I'm against gays. This would be ALL ASPECTS of the First Amendment under assault.

Which side would you be on? 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The R Word

I went to a K-8 school that had a group of students called "non-graded." We often went on field trips together, and got to know some of them pretty well.

That was "unusual" in the sense that most schools didn't have that kind of group of students. But who hasn't had contact with people with Downs Syndrome or other mental retardation?

I wish "retarded" was still acceptable to refer to the mentally handicapped. Everyone knows what it means. But people started using it as a pejorative against others whom they disagree with. Meaning, they used a word for people who are morally innocent of their mental incapacity, and then used it on people they think are morally guilty of willful ignorance or bad ideology. The word was abused. That's why it's becoming unacceptable. And it seems to me that those who rail against "political correctness" the most are the ones who abuse language and other people the most.

Not that I'm for "political correctness." There should be no law against offensive speech, and it's poor policy for even private schools to ban certain words.

But that doesn't mean there aren't consequences. Careers and reputations have been destroyed by using the N word. It might happen soon with "retarded."

And it's a shame, because there's nothing inherently offensive with "retarded,: nor with "nigger" if understood only as a local dialect version of "Negro."

But when words are abused to abuse people, it's not surprising when civilized people choose not to use those words anymore, and look askance at those who do.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Bill Cosby and accepting the pill

This has been bugging me, and it's hard to bring up because it will sound like I'm "blaming the victim." In the Bill Cosby rape allegations, as far as I know nobody said their drink was spiked, but that Cosby offered a pill which was accepted.

The only pills I ever accepted were from my parents when I was a child or from doctors. It would seem odd to me to have a stranger offer a pill, even if he or she was a highly-admired celebrity. Why are there pills in their pocket to offer to other people? Who does that?

Of course, I grew up in a different era than the 60s- early 80s when most of this allegedly occurred and stuff seemed to be pretty free-wheeling, and in some ways I was raised in a "morally sheltered" environment. And I'm male, and never felt vulnerable or expected to be abused. So, take all of that into consideration: different gender, different era, a religious upbringing. And, again, I'M NOT BLAMING THE VICTIMS.

I'm just curious if women from that era, or any era, (or men) can provide insight into this. Why accept the pill?

My first thought is that women aim to please, so when something is offered, they take it so as not to hurt feelings of the person making the offer.

But I could be wrong. I want insight and perspective, not blaming. And if possible, if women who were grown up in that era and partied, your perspective would be much appreciated in the comments. The only question being: "why accept the pill?"

Sunday, May 31, 2015

National holidays should be on Fridays, not Mondays

Imagine two worlds:

World One: You work for The State, or are a student at a State-run school. National holidays are on Mondays. The next day is Tuesday. Back to work for most people.

World Two: You work for The State, or are a student at a State-run school. National holidays are on FRIDAYS. The next day is Saturday, Another day off for most people.

One of my favorite holiday experiences was on a 4th of July that fell on a Friday. I had a wonderful time, and the next day was a Saturday. That was the best part.

I had the holiday, and THEN I had the weekend.

It doesn't work the other way for Mondays.

Yes, the long weekend is good in itself. But the Monday off has Tuesday and back-to-work looming.

A Friday holiday has Saturday looming.

More to the point, it's probably more respectful of the spirit of the holiday in question if it's on Friday. More likelihood of parades, and of people showing up for parades. Fridays can be the start of a celebration or memorial, instead of their end.

Whether it's Memorial Day, Labor Day, President's Day, or whatever, make them all Friday!

Who are you hurting?

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Solving the NBA's Conference Imbalance

My latest at The Partial Observer - Solving the NBA's Conference Imbalance

Is the public the people, or The State?

In the name of public health, the FDA is banning trans fats.

When I first heard the term "public health" sometime in my youth,  I thought it was about protection from dangers that could harm anyone and everyone: contaminated air, water, or land; contagious diseases.

I thought public health had something to do with the public!

Turns out, when most people talk about public health, they refer to what people choose to ingest or smoke. Unhealthy choices, they say, will drive up health care costs.

But whose health care costs?

Health care is expensive because of supply and demand. The State restricts the supply of medical professionals, prohibits some kinds of medicine, and regulates procedures and facilities.

All these restrictions mean there's there's less health care to go around. Naturally, prices go up.

So it's not our "health care costs" that concern The State. If it cared about that at all, it wouldn't restrict the supply.

 It is, rather, The State's own health care costs that it's worried about. After all, it must pay for the "free" health care it promised to various large constituencies.

That's why it insists on supposedly healthier and safer options for you and me. Our liberty is subservient to The State's bottom line.

One can't help but conclude that in the mind of those who would ban trans fats and a multitude of other things,,,

The public isn't the people, the public is The State.

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.


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!