Independent Country

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

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Marijuana legalization is the new gambling legalization

Bernie Sanders is receiving good publicity for calling for marijuana legalization.

It might seem like progress. Libertarians have called for the legalization of all drugs for 50 years, and marijuana legalization is finally making headway. But it's highly doubtful that "freedom" is Sanders's reason for his position. Actually it's impossible to believe so.

Consider his opposition the Citizens United decision, Sanders would deny you even the freedom to give money to people you like.

Someone who wants to do that, wants the power to run everything in your life. The reason he might not to do in a particular instance would be pragmatic. That's Sanders's seemingly hands-off approach to marijuana. There's no moral principle at stake, just pragmatic politics and policy.

Meaning, what's best in terms of taxing and spending.

And it's easy for someone like Sanders, who wants "free" medical care for all, to support legalization.

There's the cost-benefit analysis of the drug itself. Will its supposed dangers and supposed benefits, overall, lead to rising or falling costs? The growing consensus is: probably falling

And then there's the cost-benefit analysis of legalization. Money would be saved in the police, judicial, and penal systems, and revenue would be generated from taxing legal marijuana.   

What Sanders likely won't say, however, is that marijuana should be legal because your body belongs to you, and you should be free to do with it as you like.

Because saying so would go against everything he stands for.

When a Statist calls for an illegal thing to be legal, it's about the tax revenue.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Oldies Diary 30 October 2015

Da Ya Think I'm Sexy - Rod Stewart. One Star.

Where Did Out Love Go - The Supremes. 3.5 Stars.

Lean on Me - Bill Withers. 4 Stars.

Cracklin' Rosie - Neil Diamond. 4 Stars times a million.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Oldies Diary 29 October 2015

My first day of this diary is unusual, and the next few days may be unusual as well. I traveled 220 miles today, so there will be far more songs mentioned today than I think will be normal for this "Oldies Diary." And I won't remember every song I heard today, but I'll mention what stood out. Here's how I rate songs.

Love Will Keep Us Together - Captain and Tennille. 3 Stars.  Good song that still feels fresh because it's not overplayed. And it reminds me of my early childhood with this on the radio or older siblings playing the record.

Small Town - John Cougar Mellencamp. 1.5 Stars. Fit right in with Mellencamp's Scarecrow album, but as a single got tiresome right out of the gate.

Glory Days - Bruce Springsteen. 1.5 Stars. Again, fits right in with Springsteen's Born in the USA album, but as a single got tiresome right out of the gate.

The Joker - Steve Miller Band. 1.5 Stars. Played just too damn much.

Jet Airliner - Steve Miller Band. 4 Stars.  This also gets play a lot, but never gets old to me.

Kodachrome - Paul Simon. 4 Stars. Because it fits into my vocal range and I can sing along without straining.

Sad Songs Say So Much - Elton John. 3 Stars.

Cat's in the Cradle - Harry Chapin. 2 Stars,

Live and Let Die - Paul McCartney & Wings. 

Love Train - The O'Jays. 3 Stars.

Woolly Bully - Sam the Sham. 1 Star.

Groovin' - The Young Rascals 1.5 Stars. Yawn.

Another One Bites the Dust - Queen. 3 Stars. Teetering on "overplayed."

Movin' Out - Billy Joel. 4 Stars.

I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues - Elton John. 3 Stars

Bennie and the Jets - Elton John. 3.5 Stars.

Heart of Glass - Blondie. 4 Stars.

You're So Vain - Carly Simon. 3 Stars. In the "overplayed" territory.

Hungry Like the Wolf - Duran Duran. 3 Stars. Played just enough, and it's their best song.

Rock the Boat - Hues Corporation. 4 Stars for the first #1 disco hit.

An Oldies Diary Rating System.

I listen to oldies radio stations with some frequency. Not during the workday, but usually while driving and often alternating with nationally syndicated sports talk radio shows. I'll stay with sports until commercials, and stay with oldies until commercials or songs I don't like or have heard too often.

I am 45 years old, Some oldies I remember growing up, some were around after I was born but I didn't know until I reached adulthood, and others were from before I was born. It came to me that I was categorizing songs. To be brief, I'll assign them stars:

1 star: I always switch the dial or turn off the radio when I hear it played.
2 stars: I sometimes listen to the song, but am also likely to turn the dial because I have grown tired of it through sheer repetition.
3 stars: Always keep the song on because I like it.
4 stars:  I turn the volume up because I love it.

I'd like to keep some semblance of a diary of my reactions to songs I recently heard. I'll link to this post each time. If nothing else, I'd like to see if there's a pattern to my tastes. That is, why like this song from this artist, but not this other song from the same artist? Why like this cheery up-tempo song, but not this other one?

I'm not saying that a recording is good or bad. I'm not ranking anything. I'm just reporting on how much I like it.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Only the State must respect freedom of speech

Don Boudreaux, from a letter he sent to The Wall Street Journal:
Today’s "Notable & Quotable" reports that more than half of America’s college students oppose free speech on campus – which means that more than half of America’s college students are one small step away from opposing free speech everywhere. 
It's certainly disconcerting that so many oppose free speech on college campuses -- the one place above all that it should be tolerated.

But by saying they  "are one small step away from opposing free speech everywhere," Boudreaux suggests college students are just a small step away from supporting State censorship of words. I don't  draw that conclusion.

After all,  in practical terms we - you and I - oppose free speech almost everywhere already. That doesn't mean we want The State to punish speech. I think Boudreaux would agree...
  • You're within your rights to ask a guest who's making offensive remarks to leave your party.
  •  Ushers or security can escort out talkative patrons during a theater performance.
  • Church leaders can be fired for preaching or writing heresies.
  • Employees on the job aren't exactly free to air their grievances with their employer in front of others without risk of being fired.
  • Individuals can be fired for remarks made in social media, on their own time, about issues that have nothing to do with their job.
  • Social media platforms have terms and conditions regarding content.
A university is similar. The most it can do to punish speech is fire or expel people. It can't fine, punish, or execute them.

While those who oppose free speech on campus are more likely to support State censorship, there's still much more than a "small step" between the two, just as there's more than a "small step" between agreeing with YouTube or Twitter closing an offensive user's account, and saying that user should go to jail.

The State must respect your freedom of speech. No one else has to.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Why did Gloria Steinem say that?

This morning on CBS, Gloria Steinem was on, uh, CBS This Morning.

She said the #1 feminist issue in the world, along with equal pay, is violence against women: sexual violence, domestic violence, violence in wartime.

One piece of evidence of this, she says, is that for the first time ever there are fewer women in the world than men.

My initial thought: "China's one-child policy, where parents favor having boys." This is unfortunate in itself, but not violence.

My Dad said, "Fewer major wars." Which is a good thing. In America alone, more men would be killed in a day of combat in the Civil War, WWI, and WWII than we've lost in combat in the past forty years. The difference in Europe and Asia between combat dead, then and now, is even more stark.

I don't want to diminish Steinem's overall point about violence against women, which should be eliminated. And war itself should be eliminated. The time constraints of the interview prevented Steinem from elaborating. 

Which is too bad. Yes, women lost in wartime is terrible, and violence against women overall is terrible. But I don't see how it remotely explains that there are fewer women than men. Intuitively, my Dad and I seem to have better explanations. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

What's democracy got to do with it?

A Mormon leader, Dallin H. Oaks, announced that public officials "are not free to apply personal convictions -- religious or other -- in place of the defined responsibilities of their public offices." 

This makes sense. Don't seek a job from The State if it inherently or may possibly violate your convictions, and if you are already an officeholder and face an unexpected conflict between your duties and your conscience, then quit.  
  • If you are an enlisted soldier, you don't get to choose which wars to fight. You can't support one war but be a conscientious objector to another.
  • If you are a county clerk and issuing marriage licenses is part of your job, you don't get to stop issuing them because you disagree with the law's definition of marriage.  
Most people on all sides of war, marriage, and other issues tend to agree on that point, and this Mormon leader says what seems to be to be common sense. One way of saying it is the first of Richard Maybury's Two Laws: Do all you have agreed to do.

But as reported,  Oaks also "said citizens in a democracy are bound by the governmental law and court rulings, even when conflicts between religion and law arise."

What's democracy got to do with it?

If the law is unjust, why does it matter if it was imposed by democratic institutions or by a dictatorship? The State employee is still conscience-bound to enforce the State's decrees, as he or she agreed to do, or to quit.

And citizens who never sought State jobs -- who never agreed to do anything for The State -- are no more no more bound, morally, to obey unjust laws in a democracy than in a dictatorship.

Injustice is injustice, regardless of the system of government. There are pragmatic reasons to suffer some degree of systematic injustice if punishment or death is the alternative. But I don't see how there's a moral requirement to support injustice just because a democracy produced it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Equal Payment for Equal Car

A used car salesman has two cars of the same model and in identical condition. He has a $10,000 sticker price for each.

Bart walks in and eventually he drives off in one of the cars after negotiating a price of $9,000.

Then Leslie walks in, and soon drives off with the other car, having paid the full $10,000.

Shouldn't there be "equal payment for equal car?"

That doesn't make sense to the salesman. He had his reasons to want the cars to sell for $10,000. He wanted to maximize his profits, but didn't think anyone would pay more than that.

The same profit motive led him to settle for less than $10,000 when he sold Bart the first car. It's not his fault that Leslie didn't want to haggle over the price and Bart did. The salesman gets more profit from Leslie's purchase and less from Bart's, but Bart's offer was still profitable enough to make the sale.

Coincidentally, Leslie and Bart hold the same position at the same company.  Bart asks the boss for a raise, and gets it. Leslie fears souring relations with the boss, never asks for a raise, and never gets it.

But shouldn't there be equal pay for equal work?  

Why? From the boss's point of view, Bart is a less profitable employee after the raise, but still profitable enough. Leslie, who isn't given a raise, is more profitable. While would the boss voluntarily offer a raise that was never requested?

Was Leslie treated unfairly in either case? Is Leslie victimized for not knowing that Bart had better deals? Should Leslie be patronized? Should Leslie be allowed to sue for unequal treatment?

On what grounds? Both Bart and Leslie are men.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Mostly Not Crimes, Mostly Not Horrible, Mostly Not Forgtten

I took the clickbait.

After reading an article on the Internet, I clicked on a promoted link to a slideshow from September 9:  Celebrities You Forgot Committed Horrible Crimes.

I couldn't resist clicking to the next slide to see how stupid this would get. Many of these "crimes" were victimless or otherwise barely count as crimes at all. Others were real crimes, but hardly horrible. And for the most part, these weren't even forgotten.   

Here are the 19 celebrities mentioned:

Mark Wahlberg. At age 15, he "had a civil action filed against him for harassing black children, and at 16, he assaulted two Asian men in racially motivated attacks. As of the time of this writing, Wahlberg’s application for a full pardon from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is still pending. Wahlberg claims that he’s gotten over any guilt he may feel over these incidents..."
Crime? Yes
Horrible? Yes, and Wahlberg's request for a pardon makes him look worse. Pardons should be for those who broke unjust laws, or who were wrongly convicted. That Wahlberg seeks a pardon suggests he feels entitled to be forgiven. No one who feels genuine remorse would seek a pardon.
Forgotten? Yes and no. Many knew he a teenage thug, but may not have known any details. 

Tim Allen. Cocaine possession before he was famous.
Crime? Victimless
Horrible? No.
Forgotten? Either you know this part of his biography, or you don't.

Hugh Grant. Soliciting and engaging with a prostitute
Crime? Victimless  
Horrible? No
Forgotten? Maybe by some. For me, it's now the first thing that comes into my head when I hear his name.

Mickey Rourke. Spousal abuse
Crime? Yes, if true
Horrible? Yes
Forgotten? Yes, mainly because charges were dropped by his wife.

Martha Stewart. The piece said "insider trading," but the crime for which she was punished was lying to the FBI.
Crime? No and yes. "Insider trading" is an exchange between consenting adults;  Stewart was arguably guilty of obstruction of justice, but only in an investigation that should have never taken place. 
Horrible? No.
Forgotten? I remember it because I believe she was unjustly imprisoned; it may be forgotten by others.

Robert Downey Jr. Drug possession and use
Crime? Victimless
Horrible? No
Forgotten? Specifics are probably forgotten, but his drug issues and legal problems are part of his biography. 

Jay Z - Stabbing.
Crime? - Yes
Horrible? Yes
Forgotten? It was by me, if I had known about it at all; I don't follow the rap community. 

Mike Tyson. Rape
Crime? Yes
Horrible? Yes
Forgotten? By whom? It's a central piece of the Tyson biography.

R. Kelly. Battery
Crime? Yes
Horrible? Yes
Forgotten? Yes, because we think of his horribleness more in the context of "predatory behavior toward teenage girls."

Winona Ryder. Shoplifting ($5,500 in designer clothes)
Crime? Yes
Horrible? No
Forgotten? How so? It seemed to have derailed her career.

Lindsay Lohan. Various DUI's and drug possession 
Crime? Possession isn't; reckless driving would be.
Horrible? Like all DUI's, could have been horrible if people got hurt or died.
Forgotten? Actually, what's forgotten is that she was a promising actress who was in some good movies. 

Wesley Snipes. Tax evasion
Crime? Depending on whether you think compulsory taxation is theft, or if it's necessary for peace, liberty, and order.
Horrible? No. In fact it can be seen as heroic because taxes go to needless wars abroad, and the Police State at home.
Forgotten? Perhaps by most.

Ozzy Osbourne. Drunkenly urinating on a cenotaph (a tribute to those who died in the Texas
Crime? Yes; don't deface property that isn't yours
Horrible? No.
Forgotten? Yes

Bill Gates. At 20 years old, was arrested for speeding and driving without a licence.
Crime? Depends on whether the speeding was actually reckless driving. 
Horrible? Even the author concedes it isn't; this was included mainly for the mug shot.
Forgotten? More like never known because it happened long before Gates was famous.

50 cent. Drug dealing, gun possession
Crime? Victimless
Horrible? No
Forgotten? Specifics are probably forgotten

Christian Slater. Drunken driving, assault, gun possession.
Crimes? Assault is, gun possession isn't. Drunk driving depends on whether he was pulled over for reckless driving or was victim of a checkpoint
Horrible? Assault certainly is.
Forgotten? Mostly, as his star wasn't exactly shining during this period.

Kobe Bryant. Rape
Crime? If true, yes; no criminal trial but there was a civil settlement
Horrible? Yes
Forgotten? By whom?

O.J. Simpson. Burglary
Crime? Yes
Horrible? Yes, as weapons were employed.
Forgotten? Only by being overshadowed by his murder trial which resulted in an unpopular "not guilty" verdict.
The only thing this piece got consistently right is, at least they were all actual celebrities.

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.