Abort Alito

Has a nice ring to it, don’t it? Unfortunately, taking the “Shoot down Alito at any cost” tack feels too much like Schadenfreude, Pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others.

Alito wrote two memos in 1985 that rocked political circles when they were made public in November.

In one, an application for a promotion in the Reagan administration, Alito wrote “the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion.”

He said he was proud to fight for such causes in which “I personally believe very strongly,” and he cited his membership in a conservative Princeton alumni group widely criticized for opposing efforts to bring more women and minorities to that university.

The other memo outlined a strategy for attacking the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion nationwide, asking: “What can be made of this opportunity to advance the goals of bringing about the eventual overruling of Roe v. Wade and, in the meantime, of mitigating its effects?”

Alito and his supporters have sought to put some distance between him and the memos. Republicans predict he will survive this week’s grilling and be confirmed to succeed centrist Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, a step that could shift the court notably to the right.

seattletimes.com via the Wayback Machine

His misfortune to have been on record being honest in his opinions (misguided or not) Bush’s misfortune to have (apparently) been elected in the first place. He’d have been better off if he’d never ventured into politics.

…So would most of the rest of us.

Smoking, Smoking, I Feel Alright Mamma, I’m Not Joking

First round: Just Say NO! to Compromise

The city of Austin proposed a smoking ordinance in 2003 that would have banned smoking in public places. It passed. They then went on to offer to sell smoking permits to businesses that wanted to allow smoking. In other words, they could pay to get a permit to do something that they should have been able to do anyway, but now have to pay for because the city government felt pressured to act. Then they realized they’d created a massive cash cow that they could suck funds out of. It’s a beautiful world, isn’t it? There was a chance that other alternatives to the original ban might be entertained alongside the permits idea.

Rock Howard proposed the following in response to the suggestion that any form of compromise would be an abandonment of our principles as libertarians. This is a compromise on the smoking ordinance that would simply clarify business practices that already exist, allowing the customer to then make an informed choice.

To me an example of a workable compromise would be:

a) If they wish, an establishment can sign up on a city maintained smoking registry, but doing so is not necessary if the owner puts up a sign near the entrance(s) of the establishment detailing their smoking policy. (Minimal signage would be: “Smoking Permitted”.) or

b) If they wish, an establishment can sign up on a city maintained “smoke free” registry, but doing so is not necessary if the owner puts up a sign near the entrance(s) of the establishment to the effect detailing their smoking policy. (Minimal signage would be: “No Smoking” or “Smoke Free”.)

This compromise would hopefully placate those who consider cigarette smoke as an assault on their personages. (For some people it actually is an assault) As far as abridging rights goes, it is simply coupling the right of the property owner to the equal and legitimate responsibility to make their smoking policy clear to prospective patrons either through signage or by the public process of signing up on a registry.

As far as the permit idea goes, let’s see if we can dig up actual examples where a permitting process for smoking turned into a ban. If we can do that, then that would be helpful as it might give the business owners more intestinal fortitude about defending their rights. At this point many are seeing this as a life and death issue for their businesses and that makes more susceptible to a slippery slope compromise.

When further objections were offered, he then posted the following.

It is possible to stay with our principle but also get involved with the current process too. If we refuse to get involved for the sake of principle, then we abandon our constituents to their fate (which likely entails a slippery slope compromise that dooms them in the future) The only other avenue is the courts, but we have no friends or power their either.

I have seen this fight in other cities and with the current political mindset of the voters, as long as it remains a political battle, we are doomed. If we can be smart and lucky we might be able to help craft a compromise that staves off the rights-snatchers for a while and, more importantly, helps preserve the livelihoods of our core constituents for the time being. If we do, then we will have bought ourselves some time as well as additional support for the long term project of opening up the minds of the people to the larger issue (i.e., the critical importance of personal property rights.) This will take time and money and, without it, we are just kidding ourselves about our ability to win this battle.

The only reason that I used the word compromise in the first place is that there are only two possibilities right now: 1) no compromise happens and the current harsh Smoking Ordinance goes into effect; or 2) a compromise occurs to stave off the most harsh effects of the ordinance for some time. I do not accept that there is a third option (as much as we would all prefer it) in the near future. I suggest that to get to the preferred outcome that we all want, it makes sense to be involved in the current process as the outcome of “no compromise” will simply kill off many of the small businesses that we are supposedly trying to support.

In point of fact, if the local [LP] works against some sort of compromise, then we are, in effect, working to enact the Smoking Ordinance. Go ahead and do so if that is what you want, but in my considered opinion that approach is counterproductive in the short, medium and long run.

Then the argument really started.

If we try to mediate a compromise in this case, we are saying that government taking away just some of our rights is ok verses taking all of them. If we need to take this to court to fight this injustice we should, it would really make a name for ourselves. We should stand up for what’s right, not for what we feel is acceptable for the moment.

Smoker

What about the rights of the non-smokers to do business in a smoke-free environment? What about the real health issues involved in breathing smoky air? I assure you that the solid majority of Austinites are 4-square behind an outright ban based on those two arguments alone.

I don’t agree with them, but they are our audience.

A requirement to sign the exterior of your business is no different than putting ingredients on the outside of packages, or spelling out the details of a contract in advance. It’s not a compromise it’s collaboration, an acknowledgement that there are telling arguments for those who support a ban, but that a ban is not necessary or even desirable.

IMO, signing the exterior of your business IS what is right. Some of us would prefer to do without the smoke. Thank you, Rock, for the level headed suggestion.

Afterword

The outcome of the vote on the smoking permits was a landslide in favor of it, the council couldn’t resist that cash cow. The local LP candidates (except for the exceptional Rock Howard) opposed all compromises and sunk any chance of sidestepping what happened then, and what happened next. At the suggestion of the moderator at TCLPactive, I then moved the resultant discussion to my Liberty List

Second round: Smoke lies are 50 (dead link)

Getting in your car and driving will lead to serious health consequences, to the same degree that lighting a single cigarette will lead to serious health consequences.

Smoker

It has nothing to do with the number of trips. I can get in my car right now and drive, and while I stand a statistical chance of harm, the mere act of driving the car does not increase the chance in and of itself.

My wife and I were test car drivers for quite awhile. She has driven more than a million miles. She’s still breathing.

A relative of mine has smoked 3 packs of filterless cigarettes a day for 30 years. He’s had cancer twice, (thankfully not lung cancer) cancer that is statistically related to smoking, and he still insists that the smoking isn’t the problem, all the while smoking like a chimney. He may still be breathing now, the latest radiation treatments won’t start for a few more weeks. The man could have lived in good health to the age of 100 or more, without the cigarettes. I personally don’t think he’ll see 70 because of them.

There are three kinds of men: The ones that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.

Will Rogers Said That. Except He Didn’t.
– Ben Yagoda – February 12, 2017

Your rights are not being transgressed when someone smokes in your presence, because you are free to leave, or not to breathe the smoke, or to wear a mask. Your rights are being transgressed when someone forces you to do something that harms you or others, or when they harm you directly.

Smoker

When I am engaged in commerce, dining out for instance, I and the parties I am doing business with have entered into an informal contract. Part of that contract involves a smoke-free environment if you are doing business with me. During the process of commerce, while I’m eating for example, someone decides to engage in their particular form of self-destruction and lights a cigarette.

How am I free to leave? I daresay that the owner of the establishment would take exception to my departure before contracts are satisfied, before I paid, in this example. As someone who is known to demand a smoke-free environment, why should I be expected to leave? Since non-smoking is something that I demand up front, should not the smoker be ejected if he refuses to leave?

…”wear a mask”. Why doesn’t the reverse apply? Since smoking carries no negative impacts, let the smokers wear a mask and not waste a single breath of their precious nicotine.

…”not to breathe the smoke”. Not breathing as a choice. No, I don’t think so.

The truth is, when someone lights up in my presence, they are in fact forcing me to engage in their habits. It’s a cop-out for libertarians to say “you’re free to leave” or “it’s a (property) rights issue”, because that is just the surface. The reality is much more complex than that.

Your usage of “informal” is as a euphemism for implied. A contract not discussed and not agreed to is a contract which does not exist.

Smoker

Informal does not equal implied. The words have different meanings. Walk on a check at a restaurant and see if the restaurateur doesn’t think you have a contract. That you are expected to pay for services rendered and food consumed is an informal contract; informal because you did not agree to the contract in writing, in advance.

When people complain about an aspect of free-wheeling liberty (such as people lighting up whenever they please whenever the owner of the property they’re standing on doesn’t mind), it is my reflexive assumption that the person making the argument would turn a blind eye toward government force should it be stamping down on that aspect of liberty…

Smoker

I have the right to object to harm and I will exercise that right vehemently. To put the shoe on the other foot; do you put tags on your car? carry a driver’s license? pay income taxes? If you answer yes to any of those questions, then by your definition you can apply the label to yourself, because government force is used to mandate things which are infringements on our liberty as we define them.

Austin banned smoking recently, and no, I’m not going to spend time fighting that battle now. The alternative wording (see above) that I agreed with was deemed a compromise by the local activists, and they decided to stand on principle and go down with the ship. Well, the property rights ship sank, and smoking is banned here now, unless the business owner agrees to pay the city for the privilege of allowing smoking. As Austin is “the liberal island in the conservative sea of Texas”, this is probably the way it’s going to be for awhile.

The net effect is positive for me personally, since health issues are deemed too touchy-feely to be taken seriously by hard-core types. My choices were reduced to either choke on the smoke of the free-wheeling, or breath the socialist air. So my fellow libertarians (who love to talk about choice) forced me to pick the lesser of two weevils. Not a position I relish, I assure you.

That’s also an assertion. I don’t know what study it’s based on but I’ve enough smoking and second hand smoking studies demolished by examining their statistical methods that I don’t put any stock in them. Cato has plenty of these. The claim that 400,000 Americans die every year from tobacco is an outright fabrication from the American Cancer Society, for example.

Back to the original question, the only acceptable smoking ordinance IMO is having establishments clearly post their smoking policy at the entrance so you can make your decision before entering, as was suggested by Rock Howard previously

Smoker

Back at the beginning I endorsed Rock Howards proposal, so I think we’ve come full circle here. As another aside, The CATO Regulation article that is being alluded to was addressed in ACSH – Environmental Tobacco Smoke: Health Risk Or Health Hype? Needless to say that I think the scientists at ACSH are pretty sure of their numbers.

Third round: A non-smoker clears the air on smokers’ rights

About the only thing that the writer got right was that it’s not an issue of smoker’s rights.

What most people who aren’t in the architecture field don’t realize is just how controlled building standards are in EVERY OTHER AREA except indoor air quality. The establishment of building codes that spell out minimum standards would go a long way toward addressing the problems of smoking vs. non-smoking, giving more choice to people in the long run rather than a strict smoking/smoke-free establishment.

Back in the good ol’ days the upper class spent the money to have smoking rooms, because it was ill-mannered to smoke in front of the ladies. Now we’re all slaving in a socialist paradise, chucking the niceties of proper etiquette and the class structure, dragging the unwilling along with us kicking and screaming in whichever direction the whim of the majority takes us. Soon we will all be trailer trash (what in math is referred to as a Lowest Common Denominator) and not even the trailer trash will be allowed to smoke. Ah, democracy.

Business owners want one thing over all others: profit. I say fine, but let’s get to the real cost and benefit of the systems that we create. restaurateurs and club owners will not take a hard stand for property rights. It doesn’t sell food and drink. Oh, they’ll cheer us on, but they’ll toe whatever line that a) causes the least trouble, and b) makes them the most cash in the system.

…and the system does not take long-term health effects into account.

So, you had business owners who were more than happy to crowd everyone together with sub-standard ventilation, breathing each other’s exhaust fumes, because it was cheap and the majority of the population smoked. Now the majority are non-smokers, don’t want to smell smoke, and are willing to subvert property rights (Just as it’s been done since the beginning of time) in order not to have to. Guess what? The business owners will make the just-enough-to-prove-a-point noise about it, and then roll over and comply. That’s how they ‘work the system’ to their advantage. They get to appear sympathetic to the ‘poor smoker’, but they can follow the majority and their dollars into a non-smoking paradise; best of all they get to keep their poorly ventilated, overly crowded buildings just the way they are, and look good in the process.

Best bang for the buck that there is.

This has been my point all along. Ya’ll can stay on the high horse of property rights, and loose. You will lose, mark my words. If it’s a choice of defending this myth that business ownership is some kind of grandiose last stand for property or defending my desire to breathe cleaner air, then I’m going to breath easier.

I could do that or we could establish that the system should take account of air quality, just as it does minimum structural standards, minimum exiting standards, minimum bathroom sizes, etc, etc, ad infinitum. Call it signage, call it minimum codes, call it defending my property, my body, from the negative health effects of your bad habits, even when I’m not physically on land that I own. I don’t care what you call it but it’s better than establishing smoking bans all over the nation, which is where we are headed right now. Then we can add tobacco to the list of black market drugs. How about ‘smoke-easy’ establishments? They probably already exist in New York.

Do you know what I would love to see? Smokers wearing space helmets to smoke in. With a HEPA filtration system on the helmet, no smoke would escape to annoy the non-smokers. Can you arrest him for smoking in his own private space? Would anyone bother? That would be an argument involving the rights of the smoker and no one else. Do you think we’d find a volunteer to test the theory? Or does even the most devout smoker balk at being cooped up in small space with too much smoke in it? If you really believe that it’s not a health hazard to smoke, then why would you not be willing to?

There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power government has is the power to crack down on criminals. When there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.

Ayn Rand

I’m sure some of you out there dismissed my solution out of hand “Bah, more minimum standards. Just another there-oughta-be-a-law solution for problems that are none of the gov’ts business.”

Now, if I were talking about law, then I would agree with you. However, that wasn’t the subject. Building codes are not laws. Yes, I know, in most places they are adopted and enforced as laws; but they start out as guidelines drawn up by groups concerned about public safety. They are minimum standards for safe building, and are as necessary in the scheme of things as any written manual. Anyone interested in limiting their liability, and most businesses are interested in this, will attempt to follow some acceptable standard of practice. So the creation of minimum standards for building was inevitable and actually desirable.

The problem with building codes is that they become bound up in the bureaucracy of government. Wander down to the building department in nearly any city in the U.S. and you will see the stellar results we get from this approach. In Austin, the indecipherable rat’s maze of overlapping authorities has lead to the need to create an office – the Development Assistance Center – just to tell the newcomers where they should start in the maze. One size fits all – and you will comply with the standards.

Tying the codes to government has several other undesirable side effects. I want to focus on one of them: The negative effects that rigid standards imposes on innovation. Many of the new technologies face impediments placed in their way by codes that were drawn up before they existed. IMHO, minimum standards for indoor air quality is one of the areas that has been affected by this, which has lead to the panic over the negative effects of secondhand smoke.

The solution to making the codes more responsive is to divorce the creation and enforcement of building codes from the government altogether. Much like independent Underwriters Laboratories creates minimum standards and tests assemblies and devices based on those standards, building codes should be based on logical, definable standards that can be tested, inspected and approved by any sufficiently educated third party. Allow the property owners and the professionals who design the facilities to decide what standards they wish to meet; and then hold them accountable for failures in design.

…and the solution to the smoking issue in the built environment is to create a minimum standard for indoor air quality that addresses the public’s concern.

It is not the strongest species that survivenor the most intelligentbut the most responsive to change

Charles Darwin
Editor’ note and Postscript

This is another historical argument from my file of archived messages. Austin passed several smoking bans. Passed and overturned and passed again. This back and forth of the issue of how to handle the hazards of smoking in the city of Austin lead to some interesting thoughts on mine and other’s parts. This is some of it.

Since Yahoo has shuttered its groups and removed the group archives from public access, this record and others like it scattered across blog sites on the internet are the only records available of the more than twenty years of conversations that happened in groups hosted by Yahoo unless Archive.org or some other group interested in preserving history gets ahold of those old group archives.

These conversations were a clusterfuck to edit together the first time, and it has been a clusterfuck every other time I have tried to re-edit them. Pulling quotation marks and semicolons left and right. Typing out full words for stupid abbreviations. I think it sort of makes sense now. This article remains a cautionary tale for trying to record conversations in a format that doesn’t permit real dialog. The question that should be asked before embarking on this task is this one: “is it really worth the trouble? Can I turn the dialog into a monologue that doesn’t sound insane?” If the answer to that question is no, then don’t even start the editing process in the first place.

There were arguments along the way through the conversation about smoking bans that suggested something to the effect that “the average person doesn’t care about smoking, and so the smoking ban will never pass if put to a vote.” Not too long after the Round 3 discussion, a referendum on banning smoking indoors in Austin was put before the voters, and it passed by a slim majority. This development put Case Closed on the subject of smoking here in Austin, and it reversed the council’s transparent attempt to milk cash out of business owners who wanted to cater to smoking clientele.

The battle went on in court over the new ban, but it never looked good and eventually was upheld. Personally, I don’t think the courts want to reverse a ban instituted by referendum. There is such a fear of the will of the majority that minority rights are ignored when the majority deems it necessary. This has been true since the day when democracy was invented.

So the dust up over the property rights of business owners comes to naught, except for those business owners who see a serious dent in their profit margin in complying with the new ordinance. Which is pretty much how I saw it shaping up in the beginning.

Immigration, Take 2

An Anarchist friend of mine suggested that I wouldn’t find anything to object to in The Libertarian Immigration Conundrum by Per Bylund. However, I didn’t get into the second paragraph without doing so.

On the one hand, it is not possible as a libertarian to support a regulated immigration policy, since government itself is never legitimate.

Mises.org

I don’t want to argue with anarchists, I really don’t. It’s counterproductive. I want government out of my life, they want government out of their lives, we shouldn’t have to argue about the little nit picky things like government legitimacy.

And then one of them goes and throws a bombshell like the above. For the record, there are two kinds (at least) of libertarians. One group freely calls themselves anarchist (technically anarcho-capitalist) and takes the above view. The other (far larger) group just wants less government interference in day to day life (Less government interference = more freedom) some of us freely use the label that Robert Nozick (that Per Bylund references in his piece) coined for us, Minarchist, which loosely translates into “The least amount of government needed.” Mr Bylund himself must therefore be aware that his sweeping generalization is in error, but he goes on with the article anyway based on this erroneous assessment of Libertarians.

The reason that open borders is the right way to look at immigration policy is pragmatic, not idealistic. Pragmatically, the cost to close borders is prohibitively high, just in monetary terms. The cost in lost privacy, freedom, etc. doesn’t even bear thinking about (which is why anyone that advocates closing the borders isn’t a libertarian) Realistically, we have never been able to close the borders, not even in a state of war.

Which is why we should just let ’em in. Get whatever information the control freaks think we have to have in order to track the new immigrants (fingerprints, DNA, retinal scans, whatever) and let them get to work. I don’t have time for fantastical arguments concerning natural rights and the ownership of the commons, those sorts of things can be saved for the day that the anarchists get rid of government. I doubt that I’ll be there for that.

Postscript

Wait a minute. What did I say in that last paragraph? I don’t have time to argue about rights? Who is this imposter?

Immigrants Mucking Up Our Country

Listening to Boortz today (Yeah, I know it was a repeat, so what?) He goes raging on about closing our borders so as to deflect terrorists and preserve “our way of life”. I like to listen to the guy, but a libertarian he is not.

The reason I’m bringing this up is that I’ve noticed a disturbingly repetitive mantra going around for the last few years concerning closing borders and (like the title says) keeping out those immigrants mucking up our country. From where I’m sitting, the immigrants that are mucking up the country are the descendents of the European immigrants (those pesky white people) who seem bound and determined to destroy liberty in the name of security.

I’d just like to point out that, unless you are a brown-skinned native (what the average white American thinks of as Mexican but are most likely people who aren’t from Mexico at all; merely true Native Americans, those pesky indians that white settlers have never been able to get rid of, or the native populations of America that the Spanish subjugated and abused for hundreds of years. Chicanos, Hispanics, whatever you want to call yourselves) then you are the descendant of an immigrant. You have no more right to be here than those being called illegal aliens today because they crossed some line drawn on a map by people who have never been to the area in question.

And closing the border is an impossibility. You can patrol it, and turn back the migrants, but truly closing it can’t be feasibly done. Nor do I think that it’s desirable in the long run to do the limited amount of patrolling that can be done. Why? Because migrant workers do most of the work in the South and Midwest, and not just because they work cheap. I don’t know any real immigrants (white guys. see above) who are willing to work out in the sun all day, every day for a living; but I can’t count the number of natives that I’ve worked with over the years who don’t even blink at doing so. If the border could be effectively closed, the resulting price spikes for construction and food production (not to mention manufacturing) would probably devastate the economy.

So what would work? Allowing in and documenting anybody who was willing to work (one of the only things the sitting president has said that I have ever agreed with) Ending 9/10’s of the welfare programs (including corporate welfare) that act as a lure, and a crutch, for people who aren’t willing to work. Ending the empire building and military meddling around the globe that the US is engaged in. Get back to the core of what this country was about to begin with (life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness) and stop thinking that we have the right to demand whatever we want of the world.

And the Terrorists? Frankly, the only terrorists that we’ve seen on our own soil were trained by terrorists that we trained in Afghanistan. We seem to be our own worst enemy, or as people more poetical than me have said “We get the best enemies money can buy.” I think we should stop buying them.

I’m sure the mantra will go on. It’s a mindset that sells in this day and age; fear of others, fear of those outside. However, if you are going to go raging on about closed borders and true Americans, you are going to eventually look like an idiot, because the reality of the situation won’t be corrected by that type of rhetoric. But then I think that time has come and gone when it comes to Boortz. He is the Mighty Whitey, indeed.

To a nation built on immigration it should seem strange to have a president investing in keeping foreigners out, and considering fines on employers hiring immigrants

The Libertarian Immigration Conundrum by Per Bylund
Postscript

I was doing so well, keeping the rabid spittle from showing in my text, right up to the point where I say the part about ending government welfare. If we are cutting checks to anyone, we should be cutting checks in dollar amounts for every person on the planet, just so they know that Uncle Sam is why they can buy stuff. What comes around, goes around. Better yet send them a smartphone with a US government sponsored account funded in dollars on a monthly basis. They’ll all want to get their governments to join the United States then.

Christmas lists…

“Dear Buddha, I would like a pony and a plastic rocket…”

Malcolm Reynolds

I have a different kind of list in mind. A list of standard rants that I just want to get off my chest. The opportunity for them occurs nearly every “Holiday Season”. So let’s just get to it, shall we?

First.

Every year, I hear the same thing. “Holiday this” and “Holiday that” and the counter mantra “they’re taking god out of Christmas”. There seems to be some confusion about the origin of ‘Christmas’. Let’s see if we can clear this up, eh?
Christmas is a ‘bastardization’ of “Christ’s Mass”, which is a Catholic celebration. The Catholics, being the earliest example of ‘admen‘ on the planet, realized that they could more easily sell their religion if they simply adopted the holidays in the areas that they wished to convert. When they moved into Northern Europe, they took on the holiday known as Yule and incorporated it into their religion as the day of Christ’s birth (even though it’s considered most likely that the date would have been in spring) ergo, “Christ’s Mass”. (Mass being what a protestant refers to as a ‘sermon’) What I’m getting at is, if you are calling the holiday ‘Christmas’ and you aren’t a Catholic, you are referring to the secularized holiday formerly known as Yule. There is no need to further secularize it by calling it a “Holiday”.

(I was at a charter school the other day that is hosted at a Catholic Church, and they actually used the phrase “Holiday Party” to describe the Christmas Party. If there’s one group that should be using the word “Christmas” it’s the Catholics)

So, if you hear me wish you a “Merry Christmas”, it’s because “May your feast of the Winter Solstice be enjoyable” is too cumbersome to say repeatedly.

Second.

“Jesus is the reason for the season”. See the above rant. Axis tilt (22.5 degrees) is the reason for the season. Lack of sunlight causing depression is the reason for the celebration. Marketing is the reason that Jesus is associated with the season.

Admen everywhere should give thanks for their unique heritage; and I really don’t understand a protestants insistance on associating Jesus and the Holiday formerly known as Yule. I thought they wanted to get away from Papal edict?

Third.

For some reason, the last few Christmas seasons have occasioned messages in my inbox exhorting us to rediscover our ‘Christian roots’, telling us to hold tight to our language and our culture. Most of them have declarative statements similar to the following:

“…Christian men and women, on Christian principles, founded this nation, and this is clearly documented.”

Anyone who has done more than a cursory hours worth of work on the subject KNOWS that this is incorrect. If you are talking about the ‘Founding fathers’, then you are talking about educated men for whom the dogma of organized religion represented the belief system of the past. True men of the enlightenment age (most of them) while they still professed a belief in god, they were not ‘Christians’. Fully half of them were acknowledged ‘Deists‘, which is the belief system of the true ‘father’ of the philosophy that is enshrined in the founding documents, John Locke, who first wrote the famous phrase as life, liberty, and estate (Jefferson changed the last to “Pursuit of Happiness” for various reasons)

But, the basis for this (country and philosophy) is not Christianity!

If, however, you are talking about the average people who founded this country…
…Then you would also be mistaken. From Buddhism to Zoroastrianism America has been host to every religion known to man, and those who came here weren’t told to “check their religion at the door”. We don’t even “Speak English” as some of the posts assert (the British would attest to that quite readily) walk into any major city and see how many languages you run across.

While I despise the word “multiculturalism” as much as the next guy (the next guy probably being blissfully ignorant of Postmodernism and its adherents dismissal of objective reality and reason. Reason being the basis for Humanism and the Enlightenment, this country’s REAL foundations) the “Melting pot” that is America isn’t something that happens instantaneously; and as with any alloy, the base material is changed by what is added.

Yes, I know, I’ve ruined Christmas for you. I’m sorry but, the world isn’t as simple as you want it to be, it won’t change just because you think it should, and like those toys you bought for the kids, it won’t go back in the !@#$%^&*! box so that you can return it to the pimply clerk that sold it to you so that you can just get the preassembled one that has all the pieces in the right place! The kid will be happy for the gift anyway, he probably won’t notice the missing parts, and the world will continue to spin on it’s (tilted) axis whether we will it or not.

Just relax, sit back, and have some more eggnog (or whatever your beverage of choice is) it’s just a few more weeks and then we’ll have a whole new year of problems to deal with. Now isn’t that a refreshing outlook?

…Oh, and Merry Christmas!

Killing In Cold Blood

Reading Knappster today (“Surf Naked for Jesus” why did you change that?) Ran across his entry on the 1000th death penalty victim. I don’t shed tears for murderers, whether they work for themselves or the state, but I do have one point I’d like to make.

The quote is:

“For some reason, apart from my general opposition to capital punishment (which pretty much comes down to “I can’t trust politicians to deliver mail on time; why the hell would I trust them to decide who needs killin’?”), I didn’t find “Tookie’s” case exceptionally compelling. Maybe if I’d studied the case more closely I would have, but I let it go by because … well, pretty much because a lot of people more prominent, more educated in the facts of the case and more interested had already taken it up. So. Anyway. Another state-sanctioned killing under the bridge.”

(emphasis added)

I can define my opposition to the death penalty quite easily. The government should not be allowed to do anything that individuals within the society are not allowed to do. Killing in self defense is allowed, and cops and prison guards should be armed (and forgiven) for actions taken in ‘self defense’ of themselves and ‘society’.

But, I have a hard time believing that an unarmed prisoner strapped to a gurney (or a chair, depending on your states murder predilection) presents any kind of a threat. And the killing of that person can only be counted as murder, making us no better than the murderer that we have exacted justice upon.

Life imprisonment without the possibility of parole is preferable, in my opinion, than making myself party to murder; even if the man that we are killing “needed it”.

Postscript

I know I’m not a libertarian anymore because I feel no need to utter the word state when I mean government. When you need special words to describe the thing you hate, so that people like you can understand what you mean, you have started down the road to mass hallucination. However, the subject of killing in cold blood remains largely the same as it was back in the 90’s when I convinced myself I was a libertarian. This post was reworked for another post in 2017.

East of “the Great Wall”

I always bristle when the average Austinite speaks up and disparages the East side of Austin. There’s this general impression of the East side (East of I-35, the “Great Wall”) as being a trouble spot, where criminals run rampant and the residents cower in terror.

I’ve lived in East Austin for about 15 years now, and I prefer it to any other portion of Austin. Imagine my mirth when I stumbled across this site today:

http://www.incidentlog.com/lookup.pl?Src=81 (Site no longer exists. Redirected to the Wayback Machine. The map was pretty blank East of I-35. -ed.)

In case you are wondering, the big blank spot on the East side of Austin is my ‘neighborhood’. Ah, I really love being right sometimes. Wish it happened more often.

Supreme Court to Review Texas Redistricting

Texas Republicans in control of the state legislature shifted congressional district boundaries enough in 2003 that 8 million people — including large blocks of Hispanics — were placed in new districts, represented by different U.S. House members, justices were told.

Kennedy, a centrist swing voter, focused his concerns on how the shift affected Hispanics in South Texas. “It seems to me that is an affront and an insult,” he said.

The Texas boundaries were changed after Republicans took control of both houses of the state Legislature. DeLay had helped GOP legislative candidates in 2002, and was a key player in getting the new map that benefited him and other Republican incumbents.

Since then, however, he has struggled from the fallout. He was charged in state court with money laundering in connection with fundraising for legislative candidates. He gave up his leadership post and is fighting the charges.

DeLay also was admonished by the House ethics committee for asking a federal agency to help track aircraft that flew several Democrats out of state as part of quorum-breaking walkouts during the bitter fight over maps.

Justices did not mention DeLay, and he was not in the crowded courtroom.

Austin American Statesman, High Court Tackles Political Boundry Case
March 2, 2006

Supreme Court of Texas contact info

Computer redistricting. Anything else is Gerrymandering. Strangely enough, this is old news. What I want to know is, why didn’t the state act on the following two years ago?

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

TESTIMONY FOR NON-PARTISAN REDISTRICTING

Austin, Texas, July 2, 2003 — The Texas House of Representatives Committee on Redistricting heard testimony today from members of the Coalition for Non-partisan Redistricting, Robert Howard, Jon Roland, and Patrick Dixon.

A video clip of the testimony can be viewed online at http://www.house.state.tx.us/fx/av/committee78/30702p38.ram. To view it you will need a viewer such as RealPlayer from http://www.real.com. See also http://www.house.state.tx.us/committees/redistricting.php.

In their testimony, the witnesses rejected not just the proposed new redistricting map, but the map used in the last election as well, and asked the Legislature to adopt a new method of obtaining district maps that is impersonal and not subject to human tampering or political manipulation. Instead of debating and adopting particular maps, the act would provide the specifications for the computer program, called Target, to use in drawing the map, and whatever map the computer produced would be the official map to be used in the next election.

The witnesses explained that each time the computer program is run, it produces a different map. The process is random. But all of the maps will meet the specifications. If anyone doesn’t like the maps, they should advocate different specifications. But any such specifications would be explicit and subject to public debate and judicial scrutiny.

Roland suggested that if the Legislature is concerned about the computer producing anomalous maps, the proposal could be modified to have the computer generate, say, a dozen maps, and then have a certain number of “strikes”, as are used to exclude prospective jurors during jury selection, to be applied by various members of the Legislature to eliminate some maps. The final selection would then be made from among the remaining maps by random lot.

Roland emphasized that this controversy threatens the precious bipartisan collegiality that has prevailed in Texas for more than a century, which allows legislative proposals from all parties and factions to be considered on their merits. If we allow such devisive issues to shatter that tradition, the result may be that only proposals by the leaders of the dominant party will have any chance of being heard. The result would not favor good or efficient government.

The proposal is at http://www.constitution.org/reform/us/tx/redistrict/cnpr_proposal.htm.

The Texas Legislative Council site is http://www.tlc.state.tx.us/

For a demonstration of the computer software see
http://txliberty.dyndns.org/inetpub/wwwroot/webfiles/LL030517H.rm

Out of the frying pan…

So, we had a freeze last night that involved ice on the roads. In Austin, this is nearly a freak occurrence; something that only happens once every few years. They had the cops and emergency services out in force..


I heard a pretty funny quote from one of the Highway maintenance people. They were going to apply a special chemical “prophylactically” (his exact word, I kid you not) to keep ice off the roads. He had the guys at the radio station scratching their heads about it for about an hour.


…Covering all the bridges and generally creating a confused mess. In the midst of all this, I try and make my way home. Nearly there, I come across one of the helpful public servants who has parked his neon yellow vehicle across the 4 lane bridge and is directing traffic…

…Directing traffic onto the FLY-OVER RAMP! Single lane, 30 feet higher in the air than the bridge he had so helpfully closed with his vehicle. And he couldn’t figure out why I wouldn’t follow his directions, if you can believe that.

I did finally make it home (obviously) but it makes a great point about government assistance, doesn’t it? Really guys, I appreciate the thought, but I’d like to be allowed to make my own decisions. If it isn’t too much trouble. OK?

Well actually I’m going to do it anyway, just thought I would ask first.

Righteous Indignation

I’ve been meaning to write this one for awhile. I dragged myself out to vote November Eighth. I do this every time an election rolls around, not because I think my vote will be counted properly (another rant in the making) and not because I think it will change anything (most of the issues go the other direction by hefty majorities. I blame it on education) I do it because it gives me a license to bitch when the will of the majority goes awry. As it has in the past. As it will this time around too.

With the passage of Prop. 2 here in Texas, the majority has officially endorsed the end of “equality before the law”. What do I mean by that? Quite simply, they have stated that certain individuals have more rights than others, according to law. That if you cohabitate with A member of the opposite sex, you can declare what you have a marriage, and claim the privilege that come along with it. Things like tax exemptions, health insurance coverage for family members, etc. Things not available to people who happen to cohabitate with any number of other people (no matter what sex they are) for whatever reason. Prop. 2 writes into the Texas Constitution that a household formed of one man and one woman has rights that others in the state don’t have, setting up preferential treatment for a specific portion of the population. Some of us (and since I’m one of the special people who happens to cohabitate with a woman, I’m one of us. Go figure) have more rights than others, and it’s written right into the ‘law of the land’. Equal before the law? Not any more.

How dare they put their faith above everything else? “Marriage is Sacred” they say. Then why can it be performed by a judge? It’s just another contractual arrangement now, no matter what it was in ancient times. If they wanted to retain the sacred rites of marriage, then they should never have allowed the government to take part in the rites at all. It should only be performed in a church.

Back at the dawn of the internet, I used to spend time arguing on various forums on CompuServe (back when I was simply known as 71613,115@compuserve.com, before AOL bought the company and gutted it of its hardware) on the Gay and Lesbian forum I had several arguments with well intentioned people who were convinced that they needed special laws to protect them. I only ceased arguing with them when they provided proof that they were still persecuted in modern day America. I ceased to argue with them, but my views have not changed. There should not be special laws for any group in America. Not for Gays, not for Women, not for Minorities; and most definitely not for ‘Marriage’.

I was and still am outraged at this, especially in light of the straight majority in Texas having now added one more misbegotten and meaningless amendment to the Texas constitution (a document that with each passing election shouts its need for complete replacement. Just try reading it sometime) that will most likely backfire as have most of the ones before it. And I really hope it does. Just waiting for that case that opens the can of worms. “What do you mean, no marriages are legal in the state of Texas? How could that be?”

Postscript

My first written article that caused me cognitive dissonance. I was so afraid of being gay myself, for so many years, that I had a really hard time even admitting that I had changed my position on the subject of homosexuality. I knew, intellectually, that there was nothing wrong with being gay. Accepting homosexuality doesn’t mean you are a homosexual yourself. It took writing this article to make me realize that I hadn’t killed that zombie belief. That I still felt I was protecting some hidden part of myself by not speaking out on the subject of the poor treatment of the LBGT community, the disenfranchisement of my brothers and sisters in the false belief that they were less than I was.

This article was my first foray out into a subject that I knew would get me push-back from good friends, and it did:

I believe legal marriage should be between a man and a woman. Apparently, so did more than 70% of Texas voters.

What you believe is irrelevant; nor is there really an animal called legal marriage. What has occurred in Texas (and in several other states) is a complete misuse of state power, and a further dilution of the effectiveness of a state constitution that is already on the ropes.

But it really makes no difference. The only reason that same sex marriages are being sought is so that the financial benefits (some might even suggest they are illegal or unconstitutional) of marriage (tax, insurance, etcetera) would be available to couples that do not fit the traditional definition of marriage. As if marriage by a judge was traditional. It’s just another form of legal contract, no matter how much the religious types out there kick and scream about it being some sort of ‘sanctified union’. Tell that to the children of divorced parents (yeah, let’s go after those divorce’s next. Why not?) I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop now. Not quite sure what form it will take but I can predict the offended outrage of the good christian folk who should have seen it coming.

The amendment is just proof positive how backwards most of Texas (and the US) really is. It also proved to be a complete waste of time because the SCOTUS declared all such attempts to restrict marriage contracts to heterosexual couples to be unconstitutional. It was about time, too.