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Marriage in a free society

In all the fuss a few years back about gay marriage, a lot of people didn't realize that the State wasn't always looked to as the marriage authority, and before that the Church wasn't either. In an op-ed in the New York Times, Stephanie Coontz writes some excellent historical reminders about marriage in the past—and, for libertarians, hopefully the future too—and why these two mammoth institutions I don't particularly care for got their dirty paws on it.

Via Jesse Walker at Hit and Run


Voting for something like this couldn't hurt

If you're like me, and I know I am, the Guns and Dope Party sounds like a party I'd like to be at.  In a post denying himself his own endorsement for Vice President on the G and D ticket, Kn@ppster shares a gem I had not read before, Guns and Dope Party Position Paper #23:

Little Tony was sitting on a park bench munching on one candy bar after
another. After the 6th candy bar, a man on the bench across from him
said, "Son, you know eating all that candy isn't good for you. It will
give you acne, rot your teeth, and make you fat."

Little Tony replied, "My grandfather lived to be 107 years old."

The man asked, "Did your grandfather eat 6 candy bars at a time?"

Little Tony answered, "No, he minded his own fucking business."


I, American, wish we would follow this Canadian example

Canada orders review after Taser death

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada ordered a review into the use of Tasers on
Thursday after graphic video footage emerged showing police using the
stun guns to shoot an unarmed Polish immigrant who then collapsed and
died.

...

The video cast severe doubt on the official Royal Canadian Mounted
Police account of the incident, which said officers fired Taser shots
at Dziekanski after he became abusive.

The video, taken by a
bystander at the airport, initially shows a sweating and upset
Dziekanski throwing a small table at a window in the luggage retrieval
section and shouting at airport staff. By the time a team of four
police officers arrives, he has calmed down and is standing still.

Police then fired at least two shots from Taser stun guns at the
40-year-old man, who collapsed to the ground howling in pain. At least
three policemen could then be seen kneeling on Dziekanski, who died
shortly afterward.

...

The left-leaning New Democratic Party said it was unhappy the Mounties were investigating the conduct of their own members.

"There is a litany of cases in which serious errors have been made when
the police investigate themselves," said spokesman Ian Capstick.

Imagine if this had happened in the U.S. First, not one member of either of the two big political parties would have a thing to say about it. Second, the law enforcement agency would have automatically concluded that justice was done, and would only delay this announcement by the routine "investigation".  The media would report this rather uncritically and the average voter would be satisfied.

Let's take a lesson in being civilized from the Canadians on this one.


Maps and statistics are a great combination for nerds like us

Here's another map/statistics site for your viewing pleasure: Worldmapper's Cause of Death Maps.  These maps use data from 2002, so, for example, Iraq doesn't figure very heavily in the war deaths map, but the disease maps should still be basically representative.

Of course, Worldmapper is not all about death.  They also have a whole bunch of other maps like work, income, communication, and pollution.  Check them out. 


Welcome to the club

Remember when the U.S. took a lot of heat a few years back for having a huge percentage of people who couldn't find Iraq on a world map? Well, turns out we're not the only ones with widely-known educational troubles. El País reports that 33% of Brits believe Mt. Everest to be located somewhere in Europe, either in the Alps or in Britain itself.


Point/counterpoint about the Writer's Guild strike

Point: Lots of the other people who work on shows are suffering financially. The Gerli Life shares an email from a crewmember of The Office detailing the 102 jobs that got cut this week after its 14 writers went on strike. Surely this event is repeating on other programs. The email continues

I have been in the motion picture business for 33 years and have survived three major strikes. None of which have been by any of the below the line unions. During the 1988 WGA strike many of my friends lost their homes, cars and even spouses. Many actors are publicly backing the writers, some have even said that they would find a way to help pay bills for the striking writers. When the networks run out of new shows and they air repeats the writers will be paid residuals. The lowest paid writer in television makes roughly twice the salary than the below the line crewmember makes. Everyone should be paid their fair share, but does it have to be at the expense of the other 90% of the crewmembers. 

Counterpoint: Let's face it, most television shows are horrible. If it's not bad acting or cheesy writing that insults your intelligence, it's both, and on steroids. At Film.com Cole Hadden gives a list, including

5.) Grey’s Anatomy
I have unfortunately been coerced by feminine wiles to watch more than two-dozen episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, including a rather exciting episode in which Meredith’s faux-boyfriend blows up, as well as a much sillier one in which he returns a la Obi-Wan Kenobi. Amazingly, every episode has been worse than the one I saw before it, which means that this season ranks right around there with a prostate exam.

He makes a good point. If I am remembering correctly, I have seen Grey's Anatomy and it was unbelievably bad. Even if that wasn't what I saw, I did see some show. So if this entire section of the American economy that panders to people who refuse to chew what they eat goes under, maybe that won't be so bad.

Hat tip to Skip Oliva, who is paying way more attention to this event than I could


Christian soldiers in the New Rome

Despite the long-standing tradition of the separation of church and state, every major political candidate in every election always make his/her Christian faith known.  It's a prerequisite for political success.  No, it's a necessary condition for even being considered.

I find this very disturbing.  I'd much rather the candidates be grilled the other way around.  Do we really want someone with his/her finger on the button who waits and prays for the imminent apocalypse?  Do we want someone who believes in talking snakes presiding over the system that governs an advanced industrial country?

Unfortunately, the Christian Right knows how to strategize and is well-funded, and they've reached their tentacles all throughout the U.S. government, all the way up to the top.  There might be a handful of legislators who aren't religious, but the executive and judicial branches are headed by the religious.

It's not just in the visible places: the military is being overwhelmed by the evangelical tide.  David Antoon, former Air Force officer for 30+ years, recently wrote a fantastic piece on this.  He chronicles their infiltration of the Air Force Academy, and coincidentally in other important positions in the Department of War and—surprise surprise—at Blackwater, the hidden minions of DoW.

    In order to better understand this shift to a religious ideology at this once
secular institution, I called the Academy Association of Graduates (AOG). Its
response: "We don't get involved in policy." What I didn't
know was that the AOG, like the academy, had affiliations with James Dobson's
and Ted Haggard's powerful mega-churches. When Dobson's Focus on
the Family "campus" was completed, the academy skydiving team, with
great ceremony, delivered the "keys of heaven" to Dobson. During
some alumni reunions, the AOG arranged bus tours of Focus on the Family facilities
in nearby Colorado Springs, Colo. I also learned that the same Monday night
Bible studies discussed at orientation were taught by bused-in members of these
evangelical mega-churches and that some spouses of senior academy staff members
were employed by these same religious institutions. It seemed that my beloved
United States Air Force Academy had morphed into the Rocky Mountain Bible College.

    The academy chaplain staff had grown 300 percent while the cadet population
had decreased by 25 percent: from six mainline chaplains to 18 chaplains, the
additional 12 all evangelical. The academy even gained 25 reserve chaplains,
also nonexistent in earlier times, for a total of 43 chaplains for about 4,000
cadets, or one chaplain for every 100 cadets.

    In the following weeks, a uniformed Army Maj. Gen. William Boykin began sharing
his Christian supremacist views from church pulpits around the country, declaring
that he was "God's Warrior" and that "America is a Christian
nation." He demeaned the entire Muslim world by stating that his God was
bigger than a Muslim warlord's god and that the Muslim's god "was
an idol." He received little more than a token slap on the wrist. At the
time, Joseph Schmitz, then the Department of Defense inspector general (Schmitz
is currently the chief operating officer of Blackwater International), found
that Boykin had committed no ethics violations.

There are plenty of Christians who take the decent side of this issue and who would say these people are distorting and dishonoring the teachings of Jesus, Paul of Tarsus, and those who follow in their footsteps.  I don't mean to kick them out of the tent.  But it's clear that the Dobsons, the Bushes, and the rest of the religious-military-industrial complex need to be checked.


Lots of links tied together about poverty and marriage

Recently Arnold Kling cited Walter Williams saying:

There's one segment of the black population that suffers only a 9.9
percent poverty rate, and only 13.7 percent of their under-5-year-olds
are poor. There's another segment of the black population that suffers
a 39.5 percent poverty rate, and 58.1 percent of its under-5-year-olds
are poor.

Among whites, one population segment suffers a 6 percent poverty
rate, and only 9.9 percent of its under-5-year-olds are poor. Another
segment of the white population suffers a 26.4 percent poverty rate,
and 52 percent of its under-5-year-olds are poor.

What do you think distinguishes the high and low poverty
populations? The only statistical distinction between both the black
and white populations is marriage.

Now thanks to Radley Balko's link to the Top 101 City Lists, I see that comparing the maps of the top 101 cities with the least people below the poverty level (pop. 50,000+) and the maps of the top 101 cities with the lowest percentage of single-parent households (pop. 50,000+), they're almost identical. Have a look.


Illegal leader commits illegal actions (in Pakistan)

It seems that the "valuable ally" in the Great Struggle for Freedom across the world turns out to be a bad choice:

``Some judges by overstepping the limits of judicial
authority have taken over the executive and legislative
functions,'' the government's proclamation of emergency today
said. Musharraf, 64, sacked Supreme Court Justice Iftikhar
Muhammed Chaudhry, five months after a failed attempt to suspend
the top judge. The president will address the nation at 11 p.m.

The suspension of the constitution for the first time since
Musharraf seized power in a 1999 coup came as the Supreme Court
was nearing a decision on the legality of his re-election as
president while also serving as army chief. The main gates of
the Supreme Court in Islamabad were sealed by security forces
after a seven-judge panel headed by Chaudhry earlier said any
declaration of emergency would be illegal.

Really though, let it not be said that Musharraf was substantially worse than other U.S.-supported leaders in foreign countries.

On the bright side, the article indicates that Musharraf's days may be numbered.


Today's 'isolated event'

Once again Rad Geek shares some infuriating news about a vicious criminal gang running amok—and getting away with it.

The money shot: "This is not a matter of some fundamentally humane institution being
perverted, under the influence of corrupt individuals or a corrupt
internal culture, into an abuse of power. The thing itself is the abuse."

Read the whole thing.


Ayn Rand Lexicon freely accessible

The Ayn Rand Lexicon is now online, free. This is not only good for people who want to remind themselves about key points without digging through the whole library, it's also good for people in foreign countries (who can read English anyway) who might not have these works in hard copy readily available.  [Hat tip to Ayn Rand Meta-Blog]


Viva Ecuador

Two can play this game:

Ecuador's leftist President Rafael Correa said Washington must let
him open a military base in Miami if the United States wants to keep
using an air base on Ecuador's Pacific coast.

Correa has refused to renew Washington's lease on the Manta air
base, set to expire in 2009. U.S. officials say it is vital for
counter-narcotics surveillance operations on Pacific drug-running
routes.

"We'll renew the base on one condition: that they let us put a base
in Miami -- an Ecuadorean base," Correa said in an interview during a
trip to Italy.

"If there's no problem having foreign soldiers on a country's soil,
surely they'll let us have an Ecuadorean base in the United States."

The U.S. embassy to Ecuador says on its Web site that anti-narcotics
flights from Manta gathered information behind more than 60 percent of
illegal drug seizures on the high seas of the Eastern Pacific last year.

I'm glad to hear about someone growing a pair and telling the U.S. to play by the same rules as everyone else.  Not under threat of force, just under threat of non-cooperation.

Moreover, ceasing to aid the Armed Forces in the grossly immoral and destructive quest of Prohibition is good news on its own.

Via Rough Ol' Boy 


Yeah, they really acted like that in the '60s

After a little ignoring of older libertarian literature and a little awkward stuff about the appeal of Ayn Rand to Jews and gays, Aaron Haspel has a hilarious characterization of the four Randist types, including:

4. Twitchy. Twitchy has one overwhelming appetite that he
hopes Objectivism, which seems to have all the answers, will either
justify or cure. Sometimes it is for religion (”you haf read ze
proofs?”), sometimes for drugs, sometimes for homosexual sex. He scours
the Objectivist literature on his specialty, in which he is a match in
learning even for Bully-Boy. A gay Twitchy once argued to me that it is
“irrational” to choose a sex partner on the basis of gender because
“one’s gender is not a moral choice.” Call me old-fashioned, but I
prefer “got a light?”

Read the rest.


Where to start?

This site is just begging to be swamped by libertarians.

Welcome to governmentisgood.comWhy a website extolling the virtues of modern democratic government? Because for years conservative politicians and pundits have been disparaging and demonizing government and too little has been done to defend it. The idea that "government is bad" has been one of the overriding themes of the Republican Party; and it has pledged to reduce government programs to a minimum, except for a few areas like the military and national security. And whenever and wherever conservatives have been in power, they have tried to put their anti-government philosophy into practice by cutting taxes, neglecting social programs, and undermining environmental, consumer, and workplace regulations.

This online resource is a response to this political attack on government and an effort to set the record straight about this much-maligned institution. It will show that government is not a scourge on society; it is a valuable and positive force in the life of every American. Government is not the problem; it is actually the only solution to most of the pressing problems we face as a nation – from global warming to our growing health care crisis. If we want an America that is healthy, secure, well-educated, unpolluted, compassionate, prosperous, just, and free, we need a strong, active, and well-funded public sector.

This site challenges many of common criticisms of government – that it is massively wasteful, incompetent, the enemy of economic prosperity, etc. An objective examination of the actual record of government reveals that most of these charges are exaggerated, misleading, or simply wrong. This is not to deny that American government has its problems. For one thing, it is certainly not as democratic and accountable as it could be, and special interests have way too much political power. Such problems need to be fixed, and this site identifies several needed reforms. Nonetheless, whatever drawbacks this institution has right now are far outweighed by the enormous benefits that we all enjoy from a vast array of public sector programs. On the whole, government is good.

If only it were true that the Bush years have been an assault on the power and moral justification of the state. In any way. At all. Even just once.

Brief rundown of counterexamples to this guy's point:

  • Undeclared war in Iraq, hundreds of thousands of casualties
  • Undeclared war in Afghanistan, unknown thousands of casualties
  • first $2 trillion budget (the first $1 trillion budget was during Bush I)
  • Enemy combatants, extraordinary rendition, torture
  • No Child Left Behind, massive centralization of education
  • 'War on Obscenity'
  • SWAT teams in even small backwater legal jurisdictions

The modern Right is apeshit about government. Let's not kid ourselves.

Via Human Iterations, where it's also maintained that the site is not a parody


Spitting on Hobbes's grave

A few days ago Chris Edwards broke down Hillary Clinton's $5000 baby proposal with seven objections.  I found this through Rough Ol' Boy, and really he already quoted the best part:

Generational Issues. The current Social Security and Medicare systems create a huge and involuntary transfer from young people to old people. Senator Clinton does not favor cutting these programs, while her new baby proposal would create a new program to take from older people (who are paying taxes) to give to young people. Clinton thus favors different programs that work exactly against each other.

Rather than having multiple government transfer programs working at cross-purposes, politicians might try simply cutting benefits and scaling down the fiscal war of all against all. 

This is a brilliant way to put it: the fiscal war of all against all.  And not just with this proposal, but generally speaking.