Britain in the Ashtray        

"...Let it simply be said that Notes on a Scandal shows a kind of genius. That genius lies in the completeness with which it reveals a society as free from all ethical moorings - as free even from the vaguest recollection of ethical moorings - as Weimar Republican Berlin. Apart from two minor characters (Stephen’s bewildered father, and a briefly glimpsed veterinary surgeon who attends to Barbara’s cat), the only figure capable of behaving like an adult is Barbara. And she herself soon comes to take an unhealthy interest, possibly erotic, in Sheba. The difference is that she realizes the interest’s unhealthiness, and labors to abide by a moral code that she did not simply filch from last month’s number of Marie-Claire. Such labors make her as undesirable a freak, to her colleagues, as if she were Jane Austen. Therefore she must be punished with the full rigor of BoBo justice, where the Nanny State’s law counts for everything and the wider natural law counts for nothing; where friendships are ended not by grown-up discussion, but by the issuance of restraining orders; where being a narcissistic little girl trapped in a fortyish art teacher’s body is considered, not a disgrace to adulthood, but a valid lifestyle choice.

There is no reason to suppose that this near-perfect depiction of nihilism exaggerates, in any way, the quotidian horror of Britain under Blair. There is every reason to suppose that, if anything, it understates such horror. The British dispatches from Theodore Dalrymple, Peter Hitchens, and Geoffrey Wheatcroft regularly convey to us a land as unrecognizable from its 1970s self (some of us remember that self from our youth) as today’s Spain is from Franco’s. Note that to perceive Britain’s current thoroughgoing civilizational corruption, we need not even behold Blairism’s most specific miseries: the exorbitant crime rates that have ineluctably resulted from gun control; the inundation of every British metropolis under Islam’s tide; the home-grown terrorists; or the same-sex “civil union” bill that a putatively Christian Queen Elizabeth II signed into law. Notes on a Scandal leaves these unmentioned. They would be irrelevant. Sheba Hart’s environment is, heaven help us, the comparatively amiable face of modern Britain. Orwell’s words remain apposite:

“Emancipation is complete. Freud and Machiavelli have reached the outer suburbs ... one is driven to feel that snobbishness, like hypocrisy, is a check upon behavior whose value from a social point of view has been underrated.”..."

          By: wreck1080        
@psycho milt: But banning indoor smoking is nanny state, thought you guys were against nanny state?
          Not just tyranny, Alexis, but also the nanny state        
"[Tyrannical] power is absolute, minute, regular, provident and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing. For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness; it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances: what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living?"

-- Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) French historian

Even when the stated intent is security and protection, the end result of the nanny state is to "spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living."

          Harmful Digital Communications Act indeed        
Turn away for long enough and I find the NZ government does something outrageous to curtail freedom and to expand Nanny State, sure enough it has with the Orwellian sounding "Harmful Digital Communications Act".  Even if I supported it, if I was a Minister getting that title passed over my desk by a Ministry of Justice manager, I'd have tore a strip off of her or him for having had a complete lack of any education in either literature or history to give ANY legislation such a title.

The purpose of the Act as well has shades of Big Brother:

"to deter, prevent, and mitigate harm caused to individuals by digital communications; and
provide victims of harmful digital communications with a quick and efficient means of redress"

It's a curious post-modernist trend for laws to be created not to protect rights based on well worn principles of individual rights and freedoms, property rights, contracts and torts, but to "prevent harm" - to have laws to sanitise life so that "everyone" is protected.

However, the term "harm" doesn't mean physical harm.  There is no need for new laws covering an actual infringement of your body (although the digital dimension does justify ensuring laws protect your property and covers contracts and torts), for such laws exist - in abundance - including ones to protect you from yourself.  The harm being covered is, what "The Flight of the Conchords" would say are "hurt feelings".

Being offended, is to be harmed.  To be distressed by what someone else has said, is to harmed.  This goes beyond defamation, which is - indeed - damage to one's property in the form of your reputation. It's an almost childlike drive to make everything structured and inoffensive.  In the UK, it came out in its most absurd form a few months ago with the National Union of Students Women's Conference saying:

"Some delegates are requesting that we move to jazz hands rather than clapping, as it's triggering anxiety. Please be mindful"

I didn't make that up.  If someone is a little bit upset, then everyone else must conform to avoid upsetting that person.  It's the radical so-called "progressive" identity politics champions being manufactured by post-modernist university departments out of air headed students raised on this form of Newspeak. 

So the Harmful Digital Communications Act is about "serious emotional distress".  It is now a crime in New Zealand to make someone else upset, digitally (now now!).  I know I did that when I separated from my wife, thankfully I didn't do it by text message today, or I might be in trouble.

However, let's see how you might get into trouble, because Amy Adams, the National Party, the Labour Party, the Maori Party, NZ First and much of the Green Party thinks your freedom of speech should be curtailed, in case it distresses someone.  Kudos to ACT's David Seymour for standing up to it, and indeed Russel Norman, Gareth Hughes, Julie-Anne Genter and Steffan Browning for having thought about it.  

I know this legislation has had much coverage online for what's bad about it, but it deserves constant attention, and every single MP who voted for it needs to be exposed for their moronic endorsement of it.  It's a disgrace to all who voted for it, and if anything indicates clearly how utterly incompetent they are in being able to apply principle and concepts to problems and issues, it is this law.

I encourage all to push the boundaries of this law to expose this incompetence.

The Act defines the term "intimate visual recording" to demonstrate that the English language is a lost cause in New Zealand, with the word "toileting" having been exuded because MPs can't cope with the words urination and defecation. The mere fact that it was decided to have to define this should raise alarm bells, when the issue itself can more clearly be defined on principle as one of property rights.

What does the Act do?  It sets out, oddly, a set of "communications principles", which are the post-modernist lawyer's way of not clearly defining anything.  However, many of those principles are unreasonable in any free society.

Principle 1
A digital communication should not disclose sensitive personal facts about an individual.

Really?  Why not?  You can write a letter about someone having committed a crime, or cheating on you, or having no money, or being indeed anything else.  Why should this be a crime?  It is quite one thing to have legal protection for you supplying personal information to the state, or to any other organisation under contract, another to "prohibit" "disclosing" sensitive personal facts.  Can a parent not send to the other parent information about their child's weight?

Principle 2
A digital communication should not be threatening, intimidating, or menacing.

So what is threatening? Shouldn't that include a threat to commit a violent or sexual offence upon a person?  Is a threat "I'm going to leave you"  or "I'm going to tell everyone what a prick you are"? Sections 306 to 308 of the Crimes Act already covering threatening behaviour, it should be relatively easy to ensure such legislation is inclusive of threats communicated digitally.  

Indeed Section 306(1)(b) states Every one is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 7 years who sends or causes to be received, knowing the contents thereof, any letter or writing containing any threat to kill or do grievous bodily harm to any person

How difficult would it have been to insert into that Act a definition of "writing" that includes any digital communications?  Similar provisions apply to threatening to damage property, and could have been extended to other forms of violent or sexual crimes.  Why not?

Principle 3
A digital communication should not be grossly offensive to a reasonable person in the position of the affected individual.

Why not? Why is the law to protect people from being offended?  If I am Muslim am I protected if someone sends me a drawing of Mohammed? Is there a law to protect me from being offended by what someone says to my face?  Of course not.

Principle 4
A digital communication should not be indecent or obscene.

All in the eye of the beholder.  One person's indecency is another's desire.  

Principle 5
A digital communication should not be used to harass an individual.

The Harassment Act 1997 exists.  

Principle 6
A digital communication should not make a false allegation.

The Defamation Act 1992 exists.

Principle 7
A digital communication should not contain a matter that is published in breach of confidence.

Legislative and common law of contract exists.

Principle 8
A digital communication should not incite or encourage anyone to send a message to an individual for the purpose of causing harm to the individual.

This is one step removed from the act itself.  You should't send an email to encourage anyone to write a letter or send a message.  So don't text your friend to tell her to tell her boyfriend to "go fuck himself for being an ugly stupid useless dickhead" because you want him to experience serious emotional distress.  You criminal you.  You can't even encourage someone to send someone a message that might upset them.

Principle 9
A digital communication should not incite or encourage an individual to commit suicide.

Section 179 of the Crimes Act already applies.

Principle 10
A digital communication should not denigrate an individual by reason of his or her colour, race, ethnic or national origins, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or disability.

Identity politics hate crime time.  Yes it's vile, but it is part of the sanitising of communications by law process.  I'd much prefer that anyone who does this simply gets their communications published and exposed for being a repulsive fool, but then I think free speech should be fought with free speech.

Yet these "principles" are not law, but what a new bureaucracy - the Approved Agency - will "take account of" when it censors communications.

For that is what this Act does - it sets up a central People's digital communications censorship office, to parallel the Office of Film, Video and Literature Classification.  You can officials are watching, in Beijing, Hanoi, Abu Dhabi and the like.

Now yes, it is meant to "act consistently with the rights and freedoms contained in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990" yet it most expressly undermines these.  This is a law that constrains speech. If there were a NZ equivalent to the First Amendment, the Supreme Court would rule the law as unconstitutional.

The "Agency" has powers as follows:

(a) to receive and assess complaints about harm caused to individuals by digital communications:
(b) to investigate complaints:
(c) to use advice, negotiation, mediation, and persuasion (as appropriate) to resolve complaints:
(d) to establish and maintain relationships with domestic and foreign service providers, online content hosts, and agencies (as appropriate) to achieve the purpose of this Act:
(e) to provide education and advice on policies for online safety and conduct on the Internet:
(f) to perform the other functions conferred on it by or under this Act, including functions prescribed by Order in Council made under section 7.

It is the state regulator of digital communications.  You complain to it, and it addresses your complaint.  Upset at what someone said to you? Complain to the government, it's here to help.  

Grounds to refuse to assess a complaint will be if it is frivilous, trivial or vexatious, unlikely to "cause harm to any individual" (any, of course, includes children or anyone with any mental "condition" or if it doesn't contravene any of the "principles" above, and it has discretion if it doesn't think action is appropriate.  In other words, it had carte blanche to consider action if anything you have published or sent digitally could "cause harm to any individual".  Interfering with a politician's career, reducing the patronage of a business, or making someone feel a bit uncomfortable. 

So who can get the new agency (let's call it the Ministry of Information for argument's sake) to act?  Anyone...

an individual (the affected individual) who alleges that he or she has suffered or will suffer harm as a result of a digital communication: a parent or guardian on behalf of the affected individual:

So you claim you "will suffer harm" because of something published on a blog, or on Twitter, or an email, then you can go to Court.  Indeed if an overly protective parent sees something a child's friend has sent a child and thinks it is harmful for the child, then off to court the parent can go.  Think of a parent who catches that a girlfriend and boyfriend have been sexting each other - off to court.  Any age limit?  Well no. You can be 20 or even 30, and the parent can do so on your behalf, because you would rather Mum or Dad took the lead, because you can't handle a "digital communication".

Time to remind you of the definition of "digital communication" again. It "means any form of electronic communication; and includes any text message, writing, photograph, picture, recording, or other matter that is communicated electronically".  That's not just a private communication, it can be a social media post, a blog, a news item or a broadcast.

So yes, a politician or an entrepreneur, hearing that a broadcast is to be made that exposes a scandal, dishonesty or the expression of an unsavoury opinion, could go to court to stop the broadcast going ahead.

Oh yes, this is the charter to sanitise investigative journalism and discourse BEFORE it is published.  

An offence is created of posting a digital communication with the intention of "causing harm" to the victim, as long as it would do so to an "ordinary" reasonable person in the victim's position and actually causes harm.  Presumably intended to cover revenge porn, it also covers any communication of outrage to distress someone, regardless if that person hurt you in the first place.  Imagine someone who caught her partner with someone else and then texted a juicy message and said it was over and to move out immediately.  You may well indeed intend to cause harm, because you have been hurt.  It's a natural human response, and in a free society is par for the course of human relationships. However, with this new law, the recipient can attempt to criminalise YOU for sending it.

Furthermore, the Ministry of Information that will enforce this can be ANYONE appointed by the government.  Amy Adams is on the lookout for who can be the Stasi for the internet - a classic example of a state coercive function to be "outsourced" by a government that prefers corporatism to freedom, the free market and personal responsibility.

So yes, this law is a disgrace.  Amy Adams, with her first class Honours law degree (albeit from Canterbury - oops that probably breaks the law) should be utterly ashamed.  She is younger than me and quite clueless about the digital sector, having agreed to a law that isn't only unworkable, authoritarian and invasive of privacy and free speech, but a bastardisation of the English language.

Cyberbullying is a problem, but here's how you resolve it:

1. Extend legislation on all real crimes and harassment (including inciting suicide) to include digital communications.
2. Clarify how property rights applies to all photography and recordings of people (including intimate ones).  If you make a recording of yourself, you own it.  If you sent it to another person, that person owns it too and unless you communicate it with the express condition that it not be made available to others, then you've transferred that right to another.  Own responsibility for content you make of yourself.

It isn't actually a crime to "bully" someone that doesn't involve actual threats and harassment, so trying to create an online crime for it is absurd.

Return to first principles.  Don't pass laws to protect people from "serious emotional harm", because life creates serious emotional harm.  People will lie to you, people will let you down, people will break up with you, people will insult you and belittle you.  Your reaction to all of that is what you own.  If it's your children affected by other children, then confront the parents, keep the children apart, confront the school or other institution if it is happening there, but most importantly - teach your children how to block or delete communications they don't like.  Expose those who express hate and are vile, and demand that social media platforms and the like enforce their own terms and conditions for behaviour (which exist and can be legally enforced too).

As I said at the beginning of this rant, one of the worst trends in recent years has been the drive - particularly by those on the "progressive" left, post-modernist identity politics types, to sanitise discourse and to declare how "offensive" something is.  It would appear those types are now writing our laws and passing them.

Is there now a generation of soft-headed easily offended adults who run to nanny state to fix their personal problems?

Do people really want a public-private agency to run to if they are upset at what they see online?

Is the National Party now just Helen Clark's administration under a different party?

Does Amy Adams have a clue about what harm she has done?

          é£²ç”¨æ°´å«æ°Ÿï¼Œä½ åžå¾—下?        




這一切根源,都要從約 120 年前開始說起。在二十世紀初期,美國科羅拉多州的科羅拉多泉市(Colorado Springs)和馬尼圖泉市(Manitou Springs)出現了許多奇特的病例。這些病人的牙齒上出現明顯的褐斑,而且通常都是發生在小孩身上。

這個現象驚動了當地的牙醫師馬凱(Frederick McKay)和研究人員布萊克(G.V. Black),在經過三十年鍥而不捨的追蹤調查後,終於發現這種「科羅拉多褐斑」(Colorado Brown Stain)是因為當地飲用水中的含氟量過高所致。

這項研究在當時還伴隨著另一個意外發現,就是牙齒上帶有「科羅拉多褐斑」的小孩,其蛀牙率似乎都明顯較低。當時美國國家牙科研究中心主任迪恩(Henry Trendley Dean)經過實驗後發現,飲用水中含有 1 mg/L 的氟最能夠預防齲齒,並且較不會產生科羅拉多褐斑。同一時間,其他研究中心的研究結果似乎也都證實了飲用水加氟可以預防齲齒。





從權威機構的音量來看,正方(支持飲用水加氟)的分貝明顯較高。有許多政府和相關組織都願意為飲用水含氟背書,其中包括世界衛生組織、世界牙醫聯盟、以及美澳加等國的牙醫協會。在飲用水中人工加氟的國家,也有包括美澳加等將近 30 個國家。


畢竟,全世界196個國家中,只有 30 個國家在飲用水中人工加氟。若是以統計人數來看,全球約只 5% 的人口在飲用加氟水,而且其中有半數以上的人都集中在北美地區。相較之下,歐洲地區幾乎有高達 98% 的民眾並不飲用加氟水。

如果再平衡報導一下反方,我們就可以發現更多反面案例。比方說,德國、芬蘭、丹麥、瑞典、中國、匈牙利、和以色列等 10 個國家現在都已明令禁止、拒絕或已停止在飲用水中人工加氟(2)。(台灣並未添加。)



在科學證據的戰爭中,兩方人馬可以說是旗鼓相當。正方確實有不少研究指出,飲用水加氟真的有助於防治小孩齲齒(3, 4, 5, 6),但是,反方或中立方也有不少研究顯示飲用水加氟並無明確效益,尤其是對大人(7, 8)

若把格局放大、並著眼於大型文獻回顧論文,我們就可以發現,關於飲用水加氟對民眾健康影響的大規模科學研究結果,基本上可以用一句話來總結,就是缺乏縝密的實驗和明確的正反證據(3, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13)。







不過大家要注意的是,反方在提出氟對身體產生危害的證據時,通常都引用了「高劑量氟」的相關研究,然而,高劑量的氟畢竟很少出現在自然環境中。因此,雖然高劑量氟很毒,但是以此來反氟卻是有點岔題的一種亂入。畢竟,幾乎任何東西攝入過量都會中毒,連水喝多了都會 水中毒了,更何況是氟呢。






文/謝伯讓的腦科學世界 (《都是大腦搞的鬼》作者)


1. Peckham, S., & Awofeso, N. (2014). Water Fluoridation: A Critical Review of the Physiological Effects of Ingested Fluoride as a Public Health Intervention. The Scientific World Journal, 2014, 293019.


3. Iheozor-Ejiofor, Z et al. (2015). "Water fluoridation for the prevention of dental caries.". The Cochrane database of systematic reviews 6: CD010856. PMID 26092033.

4. Parnell C et al. (2009). Water fluoridation. Eur Arch Paediatr Dent. 10(3):141–8. doi:10.1007/bf03262675. PMID 19772843.

5. Truman BI et al. (2002). Reviews of evidence on interventions to prevent dental caries, oral and pharyngeal cancers, and sports-related craniofacial injuries [PDF]. Am J Prev Med. 23(1 Suppl):21–54. doi:10.1016/S0749-3797(02)00449-X. PMID 12091093.

6. Griffin SO et al. (2007). Effectiveness of fluoride in preventing caries in adults. J Dent Res. 86(5):410–5. doi:10.1177/154405910708600504. PMID 17452559.

7. Fagin D. (2008). Second thoughts about fluoride. Sci Am.298(1):74–81. doi:10.1038/scientificamerican0108-74. PMID 18225698.

8. National Research Council. Fluoride in Drinking Water: A Scientific Review of EPA's Standards. Washington, DC: National Academies Press; 2006. ISBN 0-309-10128-X. Lay summary: NRC, 2006.

9. SCHER (2010).

10."Introduction to the SCHER opinion on Fluoridation". European Commission Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks (SCHER). 2011.

11.Centre for Reviews and Dissemination What the 'York Review' on the fluoridation of drinking water really found, University of York, York, United Kingdom. Originally released : 28 October 2003.

12. Calman K. Beyond the 'nanny state': stewardship and public health. Public Health. 2009;123(1):e6–e10. doi:10.1016/j.puhe.2008.10.025. PMID 19135693. Lay summary: Nuffield Council on Bioethics, 2007-11-13.

13. McDonagh MS, et al. (2000). Systematic review of water fluoridation [PDF]. BMJ. 321(7265):855–9. doi:10.1136/bmj.321.7265.855. PMID 11021861. PMC 27492.

14. Balbus JM, Lang ME. (2001). Is the water safe for my baby? Pediatr Clin North Am. 48(5):1129–52, viii. doi:10.1016/S0031-3955(05)70365-5. PMID 11579665.

15. Kunz D, et al. (1999). A new concept for melatonin deficit: on pineal calcification and melatonin excretion. Neuropsychopharmacology 21(6):765-72.

16. Mahlberg R, et al. (2009). Degree of pineal calcification (DOC) is associated with polysomnographic sleep measures in primary insomnia patients. Sleep Med. 10(4):439-45.

          The context of George Will's campus rape column        
[Another headache for US conservatives regarding women and rape]

The silver lining in George Will's recent column decrying progressivism on college campuses is that he has accidentally trolled both the misogyny and rape culture and an ugly side of conservatism.

I have no doubt that there will be dozens if not hundreds of blog posts on George Will's  trivialization of efforts to deal with sexual assault at universities in the United States. Sadly, many of them will be in defense of the attitude expressed in the op-ed.

Despite the coverage that the column has received it is first and foremost is not about rape on college campuses. It is about painting an awful caricature of those who are socially and politically progressive.

According to the metaphorical analysis articulated by George Lakoff in his book Moral Politics, wherein Lakoff claims that US citizens subconsciously treat society as a really large family, US conservatism tends to favor a government that behaves like a tough-love disciplinarian  and strict father-figure. Spare not the rod so you don't end up with a helpless wuss who is defenseless against danger and temptation in a dangerous, sinful world. People largely deserve what they get and get what they deserve, and personal moral failures such as dependency and lack of ambition are the primary cause of social ills. Individual strength of will and character is the primary virtue.

The other side of the coin, which Lakoff associates with liberalism in United States, is the nurturing parent. Leading by example rather than demanding obedience is preferred. Tolerance and acceptance are lauded. Hard work is also promoted, but systematic inequality and discrimination means that some people do not in fact get what they deserve or deserve what they get.  In this view societal problems are linked largely with selfishness, and morality is as much of a community virtue as an individual one.

These are generalities about ideologies and not straight-jackets for individuals, but these generalities do seem to describe some fundamental differences in perspective and attitude that show up in national debates. Approaching societal issues from the strict father-figure perspective, the nurturing parent approach appears weak and soft. The liberal view is overly permissive. It does not adequately challenge the citizens to improve, instead coddling them and keeping them from the discomfort of the hard truths of life. Asking about inequality for women and minorities or the poor is whining and trying to correct such inequalities demonstrates an unearned sense of entitlement. Challenging the unearned privilege of those who benefit from their sex, gender, skin tone, religion, and so on isn't a fight for equal rights but a demand for "special rights". The liberal view is associated with a negative spin on Western cultural stereotypes of femininity, hence the term "nanny state" for anything that isn't sufficiently libertarian.

Following this strict father-figure view, all of the rules and regulations liberals want are just ways to prop up inadequate ideas, businesses, and people and to keep the latter dependent so that they in turn will keep voting for liberal candidates. Unless of course it comes to issues such as controlling women's bodies, denying equality to the LGBT community, or protecting the interests of the very wealthy, in which case government isn't interfering with personal liberty but rather acting to promote the proper view of morality. And while on the one hand this nurturing paradigm is naive and squishy when it comes to its ideas and attitudes, its governing wing is portrayed (when convenient) as a strong-armed totalitarian regime. Like the worst misogynist stereotypes of women, the liberal paradigm is either a dithering sappy ditz or a manipulative hard-assed witch.

This is the social and political context in which Will wrote his column and it is important to keep in mind to appreciate his choice of words and his examples. He talks about "the regulatory state" and how those in academia who support it are now being broken in "the government's saddle". People are so coddled by liberalism and its governing elite that it isn't just too easy to label yourself a victim  and get attention for you hurt feelings and a kiss on your imaginary boo-boo, but "they make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges". If you have been traumatized in the past by violence, you should understand that your sense of "entitlement" to things like trigger-warnings on material that may cause you to re-live some aspect of your pain is just part of an effort to make everyone on campus "hypersensitive, even delusional".

Isn't that just like a clueless, soft-hearted broad--err, progressive? Hypersenstive and delusional?

This is the heart of the op-ed. It is not about whether some efforts at making college campuses safer are effective or whether other efforts are over-reaching. It isn't even about whether the campus rape epidemic is real or exaggerated. This piece is a screed against progressivism and how it is dangerously ridiculous and ridiculously dangerous to (college) men and common sense, especially in the hotbeds of liberalism known as universities. Or even more succinctly, life at universities is awful and getting worse because the faculty and administration embrace progressivism.  There is also the usual implication frequently made by conservative pundits that progressivism is once again making a mountain out of a mole hill and that liberal politicians and Washington bureaucrats are using that as an excuse for the federal government to intrude further into everything.

The trivialization of campus rape by the specific example and mismatched statistics are there to illustrate the larger point that progressivism is delusional, hypersensitive, and out of control. Will doesn't come out and say that women are lying about being raped. But what other idea are we to draw with his example of a woman who said "No" to sexual contact but who didn't fight off her former partner while screaming and fighting tooth and nail? That it wasn't really rape?  That she must not have been too certain she didn't want sex? Especially given that he prefaced that example by talking about "the supposed campus epidemic of rape" and followed it by

  • putting "sexual assault" in scare quotes.
  • suggesting that assault claims are being dug up rather than reflecting genuine complaints.
  • insinuating that these claims are tenuous because of hormones and a hook-up culture (which fits well with the men can't control themselves when tempted/it's a woman's fault if she tempts a man kind of thinking on sexual assault).
  • trying to make it look like the number of rapes isn't really so high after all, despite the numbers put out by the CDC as well as the fact that under-reporting of rape on campus is a known phenomenon.

There is much ado about the idea that George Will suggested that rape victimhood is a status coveted by women on college campus, and that this somehow explains the discrepancy produced in Will's arithmetic purportedly showing lower campus rape figures. But there is much revealed in that column, not only about Will's views and attitudes, but the views and attitudes of a segment of the population of the United States that continues to misunderstand and misrepresent sexual assault. Apparently in this view it is somehow OK to perpetuate such mischaracterizations in order to feed and maintain the negative stereotypes about progressivism, especially progressivism at universities. To diminish the legitimacy of sexual assault claims to make a stale political point.

There was an idea that briefly emerged after the national 2012 elections that Republicans and conservatives really ought not to talk about rape other than to say it is bad. Or as GOP strategist Kevin Madden put it, "If you’re about to talk about rape as anything other than a brutal and horrible crime, stop."

When is that message going to get through?
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          Sickness Absence, Ankle Arthritis, Hot Flushes, Guillain-Barre Syndrome        
Inside Health examines advice for when parents should and shouldn't send their sick children to school. Is this another example of the nanny state, or a useful guide? Hip replacements and knee replacements are well known treatments but now a new trial is looking into the effectiveness of ankle surgery for arthritis. Margaret McCartney reveals the origin of the word hypochondria. Plus, how effective is HRT for the commonest symptom of the menopause, hot flushes? And Inside Health answers listeners' questions on Guillain-Barré syndrome, what are the causes and treatments.
          Dominic Lawson: Why Our Cautious Chancellor Just Dropped a Brexit Bomb On Berlin        

That is what the bureaucratic EU does – it makes silly nanny state rules which damage free enterprise, slow GDP growth and increase unemployment.

          You won’t need a meal plan in the nanny state        
You know what I find ironic? And not Alanis ironic, which is really just crap luck, but genuinely ironic. How vehemently opposed to government “interference” in their lives many people are and how many people ask me to give them … Continue reading
          Raw milk ban gift to big business once again        

It is with sadness that I wash my milk bottles, perhaps for the last time. Every Sunday our milk bottles are put in the oven at 100 degrees to sterilise them before they are dropped off to the dairy on Monday and new bottles full of amazing creamy goodness picked up.

 I can see a few of you may be twitching now. “data error” is flashing up on your brain screen. How can it be that someone is taking responsibility for the safety of their food? We go out of our way to do this. We go out of our way to pick up our milk. We do this because we want to know where our food comes from. We do this because we think what farmer Brown can produce is a better product than what we can by at any supermarket.

 We know farmer Brown and his fastidiously clean ways. We know his cows and see them eating their farm grown hay in the winter and wandering the lush  - non supered – pastures during the summer. We know where our food comes from but we are not just trusting farmer Brown to deliver safe milk. We need to ensure this ourselves by keeping our bottles clean and sterilised, and by storing our milk in a timely manner in refrigeration – much the same as any food you might buy from anywhere.

Over the years as we have all been disengaged from producing our food, we have also be absolved of much of the responsibility of keeping our food safe. Governments have assumed this responsibility. They have departments and thousands of forms and regulations.  So there is a lot of stuff in train to keep our food safe. Even the man who puts a bag of flour in a bread maker and delivers it to his B&B clientele the next morning needs to have a food handling safety course.

So have you ever bought an “off” chicken at the supermarket? I have. I could smell it was off straight away. I made a decision that it was not safe to eat something that smelled like that despite the fact that is was for sale as an edible product.  And if I knew that this chicken sat in a water ice slurry contaminated with the burst intestines of other chickens I would not have made the purchase in the first place.

 But you see the forms in the factory were signed saying the bacteria count was acceptable. The transport truck was approved by Primesafe and has it’s temperature recorded at regular intervals. The supermarket freezers were also up to regulations and the best by date (printed on the chook wrapper) had not been exceeded.

Who’s to blame for that bad chicken? Well nobody can be blamed because all the regulations were followed. If somebody died from eating it, unfortunately nobody is a fault because all the boxes were ticked. Unfortunately the occasional sick or dead person is the price paid for a food system that is  mechanised, intensive, often inhumane  and disconnected from the end consumer.

Most of us get a product that while it won’t kill us has questionable nutritional values. That’s how we all get along in this world. And even when products are introduced that might increase nutritional values and humanness  - for example “Free Range”, the government makes the regulations so lax as to allow any operator to mislead the public. I heard a lady in the supermarket inform her daughters (as she pulled some cage eggs from the shelf) that “all this free ranges stuff was shoddy – most days they don’t even let them out!”.  The boxes to tick in this case probably do not exist. This allows businesses to make more money from doing less. Business people will do what they are required to make profits – they are not bad. The government allows them to do it through lack of legislation and regulation. Lack of regulation may exist on the part of getting a better quality egg to the customer but you can be sure that lots of laws and regulations exist to protect these large and inhumane businesses from competition from small operators. In the US there are laws that label people as terrorists who film animal cruelty and expose it using social or other media. These laws aren’t here yet but our country so loves to emulate the Americans it is probably only a matter of time before the industries try to slip these laws through.

While food should be about nutrition people, I’m afraid it is about making money. There are a myriad of rules and regs that claim to be making our food safe. What they actually do is keep smaller players (who could supply a better and more nutritious product) out of the market. Only large businesses can manage the paperwork and infrastructure required by these regulations. So sit back , relax and get ready for another contraction of the food system as nanny state takes aim at raw milk. It’s all to protect the public they will tell you and gosh ( as they slap each other on the back) they’re not going to lose any votes from this one! The media will probably hail them as superheroes.

However I think they are wrong about the votes as this issue is set to galvanise a very thoughtful  and articulate group of people. People who care about real food safety and real nutrition in food. Lets face it – people who go to this much trouble to get a product they are happy to feed to their families are not going to take this government over-regulation lying down.

And finally I would like to take a moment to thank Raw milk dairies for producing the wonderful, nutritious product they have been producing up until this point. They are the real super heroes. People of substance and integrity who care about good food and have the courage to produce it.


          Intro to 'Total Passion'        

Kyrel Zantonavitch's new review on Amazon of my book, 'Total Passion for the Total Height,' prompted me to start re-reading the thing myself. As I made my way through the Introduction I became quite exercised by the trenchant accuracy of my own observations, and motivated to lift myself from the pessimistic funk induced by the horrors of which I write. It occurred to me that I'd never published that Introduction here. Here it is (oh, and of course, buy the book if you want more!):


I'm proud to present at last this selection from my writings, speeches and radio and television editorials—most of them since the time I founded The Free Radical magazine in 1994. One year earlier I had left TVNZ, pronouncing its news and current affairs "braindead." At that time I was also presenting a pro-freedom breakfast session on, of all places, World Service New Zealand, the local break-out of the anti-freedom BBC. From then till now my single-minded over-riding passion has been to proselytise for liberty. The samples of my polemics reproduced here, I fondly suppose, would, if absorbed and acted upon, be sufficient to liberate New Zealand—and indeed the world—from the slave-pen of statism.

Fat chance of that, however. To say I've been breaking wind against thunder would be understating it somewhat. New Zealanders are less interested in being free now than when I set out on my mission. Thomas Jefferson said that the natural order of things is for government to gain ground and liberty to yield. Anti-Liberty, it seems, is a monster that grows multiple new heads every time one is lopped off. Not just in New Zealand but worldwide, the old-style totalitarianism of places like the Soviet Union has been replaced by soft tyranny via the relentless advance of the Nanny State and Political Correctness. These are smart forms of creeping despotism in line with the strategy of Gramsci, of whom I write here. Generating a counter–"Long March through the Culture" is proving to be well-nigh impossible, and it may well be that only a much-deserved international cataclysm will jolt survivors into repairing to government confined to securing the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

As it is, libertarians are hit by multiple whammies. At the same time as freedom is subject to ongoing assault, government education churns out citizens too conceptually catatonic to identify the assault, or even to understand what freedom is. Never in the field of human discourse have so many had such universally audible megaphones ... and had so little to say (see my short diatribe on "Faecesbook"). All these zombies have the vote, which they will cast for whoever dangles the biggest bribe. Generation Airhead, steeped in the culture of "cool," is all too eager to be gathered up by Nanny's tentacles and dumped into her suckhole, an amorphous mass of conformist blobs. Political Correctness dictates that no one may cause offence, meaning no one may say what I just said, rendering political discourse so blandified that the parties are indistinguishable one from another, with the ostensibly pro-freedom parties intimidated into making their message unrecognisable (see "The Blandification of [N]ACT"). In many fields, mediocrity is valued and deliberately cultivated over excellence (see "The Rice for the Putts" and "The Dunce-ification of Everythink"). Collectivism is running amok. President Obama can utter a crudely communistic, envy-driven atrocity such as, "If you own a business, you didn't build that," and his burgeoning constituency of Occupy Wall St dregs cheers him to the echo (see my various articles on "The Anti-American President"). Conceptual dysfunction is so rampant that "rights" are now deemed to pertain to puddles but not people (see my ruminations on eco-fascism).

All of this is rather a lot to take on, especially when doing so makes one a pariah; this is not a culture that welcomes dissenting voices. I personally am now black-listed by all media; this book has been turned down by a string of publishers who praised its content but deemed it unlikely to sell and/or too hot to handle. This response from one of the heavy hitters was typical:

”While you are indeed a very clever and accomplished writer and communicator, our list wouldn't be the natural home for a book such as yours. As a general trade market publisher we don't specialise in handling political or philosophical works, which is what I think you have presented in this selection of your published views and commentaries. Very clearly expressed views, eloquently and cleverly articulated views - but on balance a much more serious book with weightier themes than we would feel able to do justice to - perhaps this might be better suited to one of the University presses?”

Yeah, right!

Ultimately, the Anti-Liberty Monster's many heads must all be lopped off in one fell meta-swoop. Whether or not this can happen without the catalyst of a shocking global cataclysm is moot, but the fact remains: a philosophical revolution is what's needed. The doctrine that man is a sacrificial animal who exists for the edification of the collective—the equivalent of a dutiful ant that has no right to chart its own course—must be, to change the metaphor, uprooted. The opposing proposition, that each human being has the right to live his life as she chooses, as long as he doesn't infringe the right of others to do the same, must become as ingrained as statist sacrifism is now.

I hope this book serves as ammunition for that revolution.

          The New Nanny State…        
          â€œScotland in the 21st century is a hotbed of the new authoritarianism”        
Brendan O’Neill on the odd disconnect between American views of Scotland (roughly summed up by kilts, whisky, and Braveheart) and the reality: … far from being a land of freedom-yearning Bravehearts, Scotland in the 21st century is a hotbed of the new authoritarianism. It’s the most nannying of Europe’s nanny states. It’s a country that […]
          Scotland ratchets up the Nanny State        
Last year, the Scottish government introduced legislative proposals to nominate state guardians for all Scottish children, to be called “named persons” and to exercise rather Orwellian powers over the child and the child’s parents. The legislation is now in force, and Stuart Waiton explains why it’s such an intrusive step: The children’s minister, Aileen Campbell, […]
          Scottish government assigns state guardians to all children        
The SNP has introduced brand new form of interference in the lives of Scottish families: Under the “scary” legislation, known as Getting It Right For Every Child or GIRFEC, every child aged under 18 will have a ‘Named Person’ with the legal right to ensure they are raised in a government-approved manner. It will also […]
          Editorial: Trans fat ban a success        
Our opinion: While critics derided it as the nanny state in action, Albany County’s decision ten years ago to restrict use of trans fatty acids by restaurants and bakeries was a smart, healthy move. When it was first proposed in 2007 that Albany County ban use of trans fats by restaurants and bakeries, critics decried
          The Ends Of This Country        
By Flea - Be A Survivor

I hope California cracks off at the San Andreas fault and drops into the fucking ocean.  There, that should win me some friends, and start the post off with the right tone.  Followed Shortly thereafter by the Northeast portion of this fine country.  I once lived in the People's Republic of New Jersey and that place is a notch below California in being fucked up beyond belief.

Now before you go all Rosie O'Donnell on my ass, I know there are some fine people being held prisoner in these re-education camps, either because of family or a job, and I feel for you, I really do.  The rest of you need to fucking move to France...a place you love to hold up as a beacon of hope to the rest of us.  Learn to speak French and the proper way to drop a rifle and high tail it away from danger (Le Coward)...get 45 weeks of vacation, or just fuck the whole job thing and become a dependent of the state.

Many of the people who live on the ends of this country often forget about the rest of us...those pesky people who cling to their God and their guns...I would help sign the petition on the White House website authorizing you to secede from the United States and form the joint republic of We'reFuckedUp-istan.   Just show me where to sign...

Oh there are a few exceptions in the middle of the country like Chi-raq, I mean Chicago.  The place with the strictest gun laws in the country yet more people were killed there last year than American soldiers in Afghanistan in the same time frame.  None of the gun grabbers ever talk about Chicago.  It's like that weird Uncle everyone has that we all know probably molested the neighbor's kids but everyone ignores it and say "oh that's just Uncle Johnny, he's always been a little different".  It's the exception, not the rule.

When the "insert your choice of disaster here" hits, the population centers will be the first to bite the dust.  Those folks are fucked, no two ways about it.  You're packed in like sardines, in a nanny state that tells you when to piss, shit, or fart.  They keep you placated and disarmed.  "Don't worry it is REALLY hard to catch Ebola."  Really?  Then why are your telling me this covered in head to toe plastic and rubber with a respirator?  If it's that fucking hard then why all the cloak and dagger?  If it's that fucking hard why are people dropping like flies in Africa.  If it's that fucking hard why is the WHO telling us the outbreak is spiraling out of control?  I'll tell you why...BECAUSE IT AIN'T THAT FUCKING HARD to catch it.  Granted the flu kills more people worldwide every year than just about everything else.  I guess there just something about bleeding from your eyeballs that screams..."don't fucking catch me - run, don't walk, in the other direction."

Eh...Ebola- schmola.  That shit is the least of our worries.  I can't tell you enough how stupid the American public is.  The vast majority of people mindlessly go through the motions.  They have to be stupid because I cannot believe that people just don't care THAT MUCH.

Oh and here's your survival tip of the day (I forget this is a survival blog sometimes)...don't listen to survival experts who run survival blogs on the Internet if you want to survive...and oh yeah, store canned food..blah...blah....blah.

That is all...
          Candyman - The Shit of the Nation        

If you have any brains, you would be appalled by a post like this. In his basic fanatic leftists bullshit, Candyman explains to all of us that those of us that voted McCain have no RIGHT to celebrate Obama

Candyman, nothing describes you better THAN a piece of shit, you don't deserve to live in this country, and for sure you have no right to champion Barack Obama who on his acceptance speech basically blamed himself for not earning the support of the rest of us. I celebrate Barack Obama because I celebrate the sheer awesomeness of how democracy moves in this country. I celebrate because even though I do not agree with the policies he tried to sell the nation, he is still my leader. The point of this nation is NOT to be divisive if we do not get what we want.  My opposition for Obama does not come from the same disgusting hatred that YOU, YOU YOU YOU YOU YOU, a soft tolerant liberal have anyone on the right, but comes from policy only. I NEVER doubt that a person like Barack Obama wants the best for this country, I simply disagree with his views. So does this mean I still don't get to celebrate a new leader? Even if you disagree with a conservative, would one ever not reach over his hand to deny you the right to celebrate with him that our democracy still works? This is a victory for EVERYONE, you shit for brains. Its a victory that the gears of our democracy work and the people get what they wanted. If he does a crappy job, we vote him out. 

You, have no right to claim any allegiance to this country with that attitude. Until you party is made up of saints with no money in their fat pockets, you have no right to judge those on the other side. 

You really think the democrats are some godly party? You really believe the democratic party is NOT responsible for this economic slump? Wake up you moron. You don't think your god Obama didn't have some blood money in his pocket? Wake UP! 

If anyone is the party of emotions it is YOU! Your crusade to always be kind and fait have brought on disastrous laws like the Community Reinvestment Act. It's people like you that never thought that the sexual revolution of love and peace would have any affect on the future generations. It is your party that is  aiming toward more PC bullshit. It is your party that helps the gang mess. You breed an unhealthy tolerance toward the rotten in this society thinking that good might come out of it, when reality dictates they need to be deported. But you don't, cause you kiss the mexican lobbyist to get their votes. You are the party that is always concerned with not hurting anyones feelings. You are NOT the party of freedom. You are a party that has grown to making this country a Nanny State. Legislating what is good for us no less than what the right used to do. 

No wonder I hate these leftist extremists. They condemn the right-wing extremists but think their own shit doesn't stink. I rarely hate people, but Candyman I hate. His posts are routinely  filled with venom and insinuations about other people. He truly is a piece of shit.

          Children's Fight Club        
As moral panics go, this week's isn't yet a patch on last week's (Cannabis increases risk of Psychosis by 41%) but I've dealt with that one here and here.

You've got a week to watch Panorama's latest rant on the BBC site.
If you miss that opportunity, I've uploaded a copy to mediafire which you can download (57Mb wmv file) here.

The rant is - as the patronising title suggests - about the latest "wicked" wheeze being practiced by our younger primates; i.e. the mobile phone footage of violent attacks by teenagers against other teenagers, sometimes staged purely for the purpose of the capturing such footage in order to try to win a ratings battle on Youtube.

As is usual with adolescent primates, the kind of playacting they did as infants has lost its charm and become genuinely aggressive and violent as they vie for status within and between their gangs and cliques. The older primates are troubled and looking for ways to control their offspring.

Back in the days when status came automatically with age or wage, it was enough for an elder primate merely to scold or cuff a junior and the deviant behaviour would be nipped in the bud. But this generation of young primates is too well educated and too intelligent to be bamboozled into believing that any of the elder primates has any moral authority over them in today's world.

After all, they've watched Presidents and Prime Ministers start illegal wars, killing hundreds of thousands of people, including thousands of their own people, and get away with it. After that, what credible objections can we make about a bit of brutal happy slapping where hardly anyone dies? Yeah, it's bullying and nasty and humiliating and gruesome and gross and childish and chimplike. But then, quite a lot of real life is like that. And always has been. We just haven't previously acknowledged it or allowed it to be seen.

The question now arises as to what, if anything we should do about this accelerating phenomenon. What the nanny state - on this occasion represented by one of its senior and more respected publicity agents, the BBC - wants is good old fashioned 20th century censorship. As we know, censorship has an excellent track record of success in modifying a wide variety of social behaviour so it makes eminent good sense to apply it in this situation.

The lawyer in the Panorama piece wants to criminalise the practise of recording such violent acts. This man must have an IQ higher than his shoe size. Has it not occurred to this LAWYER that these videos constitute evidence which can be used against the perpetrator?

Yes, I know that SOME of the violence only happens because it is now possible to share the videos. But if you think that this video game represents even a significant minority of routine teenage violence, you are living on a different planet. In fact the real problem with the videos is that generally, they're of abysmal quality.

This works to the advantage of the victim because most of them can't be recognised from the videos and, thus, the subsequent humiliation is a little reduced. Not much, though, because their peers will still know what happened and, as any adolescent primate will confirm, what your peers know and think is vastly more important than anything else.

However, it also works to the advantage of the perp, in that we can't identify the bastards well enough to sustain a conviction. So we desperately need much better resolution.

We also have the problem that we don't know - to the level of satisfaction required for a criminal conviction - whether the footage has been tampered with. To solve that problem, we need to store a fingerprint of the videos created at the time and recorded to an immutable audit trail.

Providing we can trust the time details recorded in the footage or find witnesses to confirm the time of the recorded events, and we can trust the timestamp of the fingerprint, then we can reliably determine the earliest and latest possible times for creation of the video data. If that "window" is narrow enough, it eliminates the possibility of tampering. Now, unless the apparent victim comes forward, without duress, and convinces us that it wasn't really a crime (it was only a gory scene staged for the camera) we will have good grounds to prosecute and a high probability of conviction.

Used like this, the technology is an example of Trusted Surveillance. But how do we separate footage deliberately taken with a view to sustaining prosecution from that taken "for a bit of a laff". Simple, we build the timestamping and web storage into the phones so that the footage doesn't have to be uploaded to Youtube as a separate operation. Uploading starts, to your own secure webspace, from the moment you start recording. And it costs you nothing.

Unless, that is, you ever want to access the data for purposes other than supporting a criminal prosecution (like posting it as entertainment up onto Youtube). Then it costs whatever the market will sustain. Your video fingerprint and record of ownership, however, can be made available to the authorities if the community votes that your footage represents an offence which should be prosecuted. It may well be that a jury would regard your failure to use the evidence as a crime of ommission on your part. That's a risk you will have to take.

Of course, this means that Youtube and others like it, need to fine tune their "flagging" systems. We need to be able to flag a video specifically as a "Potential Criminal Offence - Poster's details should be passed to the authorities for prosecution". Of course, we can't expect or require Youtube, or anyone else, to react to just one person raising such a flag. There must be genuine democratic support for the condemnation.

Once such a flag is raised, it should, in fact, become impossible for the Poster to remove it. After all, that might constitute "interfering with the course of justice". Instead, a notice should go up alongside the video inviting people to watch it and judge for themselves. Nobody should be allowed to vote unless they've watched it. That is a simple matter of cookie management. Once certain thresholds are passed, the site owners should consider themselves instructed, by the community, to act against the Poster/s of the video.

The thresholds cannot be too low. A persuasive cult or corporate could organise a few thousand drones at the drop of a hat to vote almost anything they disapproved of into purgatory. So your voting authority would have to be linked to your site activity. Another task for cookie management. It would mean that those who spend hundreds of hours on Youtube would have more voting power than someone like me, who spends, perhaps, an hour or two a week on those kind of sites. It would mean that regular community users couldn't be outvoted by voters bussed in for the gig.

So, with that "activity based weighting" in place, we'd then need a minimum of - say - 10,000 votes to be cast for any vote to matter; and a minimum 90% majority must approve of criminal prosecution before the instruction is valid.

Don't even think about trying to justify a simple majority. If 49% of the community approve of a video that is more than enough to justify it's continued presence. But if 90% disapprove, that's a reasonably powerful argument for removing it and - if appropriate - passing on relevant details to the forces of internal repression. (If the 10% desperately want to continue sharing such material, they'll have to go off and create their own site)

This arrangement gives the community democratic "teeth" which we can use to control the more outrageous examples of video nasties. It also defends the service provider. They can honestly say that the site ethics are controlled - as they should be in a democracy - by the site community. Censorship might well be justified, on occasions, but such judgements should never be made other than by We The People. We're the only ones that ought to matter.

As for weaning junior primates off this behaviour, I can think of nothing more effective than revealing, publicly, how similar their behaviour is to chimpanzees. With that in mind I propose that someone with appropriate time, energy and editing skills put together a video compilation interspersing choice examples of chimpanzee violence with teenage gang violence. Volunteers and suggested sources are hereby invited.

Once humans with reasonable intelligence begin to realise how chimplike and unintelligent their behaviour really is, then instead of their self image being boosted by peer approval, they'll all begin to realise what a bunch of pratts they really are. And it's never been cool to be a pratt...

[update 11 Aug 2007 - speaking of using Youtube postings as evidence... (irritatingly, I can't find the actual video)]
          Julia, Vote for Me        
I am certainly not the first to comment on it, but I am not sure how to react to the Obama-Biden Campaign’s web-ad Life Of Julia.   I literally don’t know whether to laugh or cry. 

If you haven’t seen it, go ahead and click on the link and have a look.  In the style (and intellect) of a children’s cartoon, the site chronicles the life of a fictitious character Julia, recounting how life is all peaches and cream for her because of Obama’s policies:  Head Start program at 3 years old; superb SAT scores at 17 because of Obama’s “Race to the Top” program; college admission at 18 under a Pell Grant; healthcare coverage while in college at 22 because she gets to stay on her parents' healthcare insurance; equal pay for equal work at 23 because of the “Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act”;  student loans easily paid off at 25 because Obama has kept the interest rates low; at 27, she can rest assured that her health insurance covers birth control and preventive health care; and on and on it goes until retirement when she collects social security and Medicare.  All these wonderful things happen to Julia because Obama is president or his policies are in place.  

By contrast, life would be awful if that evil Mitt Romney or his ideological twin Paul Ryan had their way.

My first reaction is laughter.  I can’t make this stuff up.  They are proudly campaigning on the promise of a cradle-to-grave nanny state, enthusiastically perpetuating an unsustainable status quo that is destined for implosion unless we reverse course or engage in the very sensible reforms that the evil Romney-Ryan duo are proposing.  It is so patently absurd that even children can see through it.

I have of course enjoyed the conservative commentary and tweets parodying this mindlessness:
  • David Burge: “At age 28, Julia drops out of the labor force, helping keep the unemployment rate down.”
  • Teri Christoph: “I love how the Julia slides end abruptly when she’s 67. Just what does Barack Obama have in store for our older citizens?”
  • Casey George:  â€œJulia died at age 78. She voted Democrat until age 92.”

But the more I think about it, the “Life of Julia” site is not so funny.    The sad fact is that this hilarious nonsense might actually appeal to an increasing portion of our population.  Perhaps there are too many voting age adults who easily fall for what children should see through.  With only about half of the population paying taxes and an ever increasing percentage on the government dole, the cradle-to-grave nanny state is actually something desirable for such an increasing target audience.  It is also frightening to think that a dull and lazy population does not have the intellectual will or character to see through such disingenuous pabulum.

My last thoughts on the subject are the opening lines of an old Beatle song by the same name, which are utterly appropriate:.

Half of what I say is meaningless.
But I say it just to reach you, Julia.

          The Government Paternalist: nanny state or helpful friend? [Video]        
Speaker(s): Professor Julian Le Grand | Should governments save people from themselves? Do governments have the right to influence citizens’ behavior related to smoking tobacco, eating too much, not saving enough, drinking alcohol, or taking marijuana—or does this create a nanny state, leading to infantilization, demotivation, and breaches in individual autonomy? Looking at examples from both sides of the Atlantic and around the world, Government Paternalism examines the justifications for, and the prevalence of, government involvement and considers when intervention might or might not be acceptable. Building on developments in philosophy, behavioral economics, and psychology, Julian Le Grand explore the roles, boundaries, and responsibilities of the government and its citizens in his new book The Government Paternalist: nanny state or helpful friend? Julian Le Grand is Richard Titmuss Professor of Social Policy at LSE. Howard Glennerster is Emeritus Professor of Social Policy at LSE. The Department of Social Policy (@LSESocialPolicy) is the longest established in the UK and offers outstanding teaching based on the highest quality empirical research in the field. Credits: Tom Sturdy (Audio Post-Production), LSE AV Services (Audio Recording).
          Food policies: Justice or “nanny state”?        
After removing a controversial provision that flirted with the idea of restricting fast food restaurants in Seattle, a City Council committee approved the "Local Food Action Initiative" by a 2 to 1 vote Tuesday, sending the measure to the full council for a likely vote Monday.
          Nanny State of the Week: Government fingerprints on your beer bottle        
In the recent history of our great nation, it has been an American privilege to stop by the local brewer and pick up a six-pack of your favorite beer without any government hassle.
          Nanny State of the Week: City cracks down on crawfish boils after mayor’s aide complains        
From spring through late summer in Mobile, Alabama, it's crawfish season. At least it was, until the nannies came along.
          Nanny State of the Week: No sipping and selling for Alabama winemakers        
Alabama state law forbids wineries from offering tastings of their products in the same location where those products are for sale.
          Nanny State of the Week: Alabama town considering banning saggy pants, mini skirts and more        
An Alabama town is considering banning low-hanging pants, mini skirts, short shorts and other articles of clothing.
          Food Labeling And The Nanny State        
Back in February, a WLF Legal Pulse postapplauded the food and beverage industry's proactive move to create uniform standards for "front-of-package" (FOP)labeling with its "Nutrition Keys" program. We also noted the predictable opposition of nanny-state activists and academics who cringed at the non-governmental standard setting and assertion of commercial free [...]
          Salt, Round II        

You know summer is coming when news about salt intake and supersized soda banning makes it to the headlines.  Well, here we are!  I felt compelled to re-post one of my favorite tirades about idiocy in our society as it relates to moderation of the intake of everything from fat to salt, sugar, alcohol and even marijuana (Mayor Bloomberg, you sly dog.)

First, let me link you to the story on salt and how they're now saying there is no connection to hypertension and high blood pressure (the rest of the argument falls in line, as far as I'm concerned.)

The second, to the aforementioned Mayor of the Big Apple and his personal crusade to slim down NYC residents.  One Big Gulp at a time.  

Sigh.  Here we go again...

"I'm mad as hell, and I'm not gonna take it any more!!"

When you begin to read daily about idiotic food legislation, especially as it hits closer to home, you can only stay quiet for so long. 

What is with these people?  Assemblyman Felix Ortiz of the New York State Legislature has proposed a bill that would make it an offense for any restaurant in the state to prepare food for public consumption with...SALT.  With each offense punishable by a $1000 fine.  Yes- the calendar is correct- it is NOT APRIL 1.

Seems Ortiz lost his father to a stroke from high blood pressure resulting (or so it's claimed) from high-sodium diet.  Where was Ortiz when Papi was chomping on the pork rinds and soy nuts?  He says high medical costs and poor health is what inspired the bill.  This reeks of special interest groups and backroom funds changing hands.  I mean- salt? Really?

"Biologically speaking, salt (sodium) plays a major role in human health. It not only feeds nutritional mineral elements to our cells, it also dissolves, sanitizes and cleanses toxic wastes from our system. It is this latter function that makes salt such a healing substance.  All classic biology textbooks refer to salt as the cleanser of bodily fluids."  From "Everything you ever wanted to know about salt"
 Okay- so, if we're on the same page that salt is not the evil killer of restaurant goers, let's get on the same page regarding seasoning with salt.  For a cook or chef to not season with salt (and pepper) is like a swimmer who tries to do laps without getting wet.  Salt goes in the water your pasta is cooked in, it goes in the water your veggies are blanched in, it goes on the thick cuts of meat that get braised to permeate and season throughout for FLAVOR.  FLAVOR, folks.  Salt is a naturally occurring substance (you know, like on the periodic table of elements??) in foods.  Fish live and thrive in salty water.  I don't want to hear any flack from neo-hippies about raw veggie, no-salt diets.  You're wrong about flavor.  Seasoned food tastes better.  Period.  If you have issues with your salt intake, YOU deal with it, but keep your legislation off my pots and pickles! 

Salt is a necessary (albeit tiny) component in baking.  The baking process NEEDS salt.  Are you going to tell me now that the great bakeries of New York City are going to have to cut salt from making their breads?  NO salt= no bread.  Idiots.  Before we had commercial bakeries and bread was only made by hand, salt wasn't added because the salt from the hands of the baker and perspiration was all the bread needed to complete the chemical process of yeasts, sugars and salt, also known as fermentation.  
  • Salt slows down all the chemical reactions that are happening in the dough, including calming fermentation activity to a steadier level.
  • Salt also makes the dough a little stronger and tighter.
  • Salt impacts the shelf life of baked goods, but its effects depend on weather conditions. Salt is hydroscopic, which means it absorbs water. Consequently, in humid climates, it will trap moisture from the air, making a crisp crust soggy, and therefore shortening shelf life. In dry climates, however, the salt helps hold water in the bread longer, inhibiting staling, and thus extending the bread's shelf life.
  • Salt, of course, adds flavor to baked goods. It also potentiates the flavor of other ingredients, including butter and flour.

But enough about salt.  Let's talk about legislation in schools.  The same progressive city of New York is now sticking their heads in public schools and dictating not only how many bake sales can be held a month (ONE), but what can be sold ("Taking the Bake out of Bake Sale")  Otherwise, only fruits and vegetables and any of 27 packaged items that meet city Health Department guidelines on calories, fat and sodium (again with the sodium) can be sold at schools.  I'd love to know what those 27 packaged items are, who came up with them, and what connections those people have to the companies that produce, market and sell them.  More Nanny State b.s..  I don't see the State or City Legislature going after McDonalds.  And you know why?  Because they have too much money and political influence- and they can squash just about anyone.  

Now Philadelphia has become the second city (guess who's first) to ban trans fats from ALL restaurants.  Not some.  All.  It starts with things that are fried in trans fats and any spreads.  Then after September 2010, it goes to all trans fats in foods of any kind in restaurants.  

To say that education is the problem seems both obvious and unpopular.  So let's break it down.  This country is too damned lazy.  There is a reason more than half the population is considered "obese".  There is a reason pre-packaged, hi-sodium, high-trans fats foods exist in tremendous abundance today: we are too god damned lazy.  We want it fast, we want it convenient and we don't want to make it ourselves.  And companies know this and create products because of the "need".  Gives disgusting a new meaning.

If we took an interest in our health, our family's health and our impact on each other, awareness would more than serve as a balance.  We are at a point in history with technology and information where practically everything is at our fingertips.  Why do we need ridiculous laws to govern the ungovernable when radio, news and television could do stories on these "dangers".  Why are they only covered when someone tries to pass widespread legislation that hamper our civil rights?  I know there are documentaries out there.  But people pay to see them.  It's like preaching to the choir.  Why not put an hour long special on prime time television about salt and show people why it's necessary, how too much can harm you, a little bit of history, and throw in some boobs to keep people interested.  This country has gone over the edge, I tell ya.

Do we really need to connect the dots for some people?  Do we really need to narrate a not-so-unbelievable scenario that has people buying soggy, taste-free bread because we're unable to trust ourselves with intake?  Do we really want to go into restaurants and ask for the salt shaker (to apply the salt ourselves) before we ask for a menu or cocktail?  Do we really want and need ANY agency to tell us what we ingest, how much and to what degree?  The answer of course is "NO" to all the above.  We don't want or need those scenarios, but they are not far from becoming reality if we don't do something and say something about it.  

The French must be laughing their asses off at us.  "No salt in zee food?! Ahaaahaahahaahaaa!  What next?  U can cook only in purified water?!? Ahhahahahahhaaaaa!"  

I'm certain the bottled water lobby has a plan on the table already.

Listen- I'm not a fanatic.  But this is just people in positions of power making STUPID laws because they think WE are stupid.  And unless we say "no", it's going to continue.  It starts with awareness and needs exposure and education.  And how about some responsibility?  A dash of common sense?  Are these fanatical concepts?  Nope.  They just keep us from looking...well, stupid.  


          Modern Educayshun        


''[[Modern Educayshun]]'' is a short film by [[Neel Kolhatkar]]. The film is a satirical attack on [[political correctness]].

:''Modern Educayshun'' is set in a small advanced [[math]] class at some university. A new student (Kolhatkar) arrives in class and is shocked at what is happening. Instead of seeing math as a logical and fact-based subject, in this class it's all based on feelings and political correctness. Student grades are based not on whether or not they got the correct answer...and they are awarded bonus points for how many hardships they face and they lose points based on their privilege! It's all completely insane ... and very funny.[]
==See also==
*"[[The Politics of Anti-Racist Mathematics]]"
*[[Anti-bias curriculum]]
*[[Privilege (social inequality) ]]
*[[Nanny state]]
*[[Social justice warrior]]

          Happy at defeat        
After all the hydra heads of Trumpcare had been chopped off in one roll call after another, the Affordable Care Act and the health care system still lay in peril this week, subject to the whims of a vindictive president.

After all the hydra heads of Trumpcare had been chopped off in one roll call after another, the Affordable Care Act and the health care system still lay in peril this week, subject to the whims of a vindictive president. But humiliating as it was for Republicans and scary for the 400,000 Arkansans and 20 million other Americans who had gotten health insurance, the ugly congressional battle did one wholesome thing.

It stripped away the political pretenses that all sides had conjured up for either defending or killing the 2010 health-insurance law that Republicans dubbed "Obamacare." It left standing the real issue from the health care debate's beginning in 2009 until today: whether people have a right to medical care. If they do, then the government is obliged to find a way to provide it for everyone.

That is what the Affordable Care Act, with all its interlocking and often confusing parts, was designed to do and what all the amendments and "replacement" bills set out to undo. They stripped away one or all the Affordable Care Act's mechanisms for helping people with incomes under 400 percent of the poverty line pay for coverage and to make it more affordable for those above the line. Every bill sank when the Congressional Budget Office and other analysts supplied the numbers: Millions would lose access to health care.

Although polls have long shown that most Americans think everyone should be insured, it is not a one-sided theoretical debate. Libertarians like Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and the so-called Freedom Caucus are frank about it: The government has no business subsidizing anyone's medical care. If a person can't afford it, she shouldn't get it. The whole safety net, from Social Security to Medicaid, creates a nanny state that whittles away at the liberties of people who are better off.

President John Quincy Adams said the great object of government was "the progressive improvement of the condition of the governed," but the contrary view is now in charge of all three branches — or at least it was before the actual voting on various Obamacare replacements, which would take insurance away from 15 million to 30 million people. Depending on the variation, from three to nine Republican senators voted against them and many others voted for them only on private assurances that the bills would not become law and expose them to the consequences.

Trump himself embraced the Adams theory. He always insisted that his plan (it was always near completion) or the bills he endorsed would cover every American with better benefits than Obamacare. CBO forecasts were fake news.

The repeal debates stripped away all the political shams that had made Obamacare so unpopular: that the government would decide if old people got medical care, that the government instead of doctors and patients would dictate care, that millions would lose health care rather than gain it, that Medicare would be bankrupted (Obamacare extended its solvency by 10 years), that it would bankrupt the country (it reduced budget deficits) and that it would close businesses and slash jobs (it did the opposite).

The defeat of all the bills left governors everywhere, including Governor Hutchinson, happy because it left intact the whole Medicaid program, a budget saver and economic boon for the states.

Trump, whose mere election after promising to kill Obamacare, rattled the insurance industry and began to drive carriers out of the market, threatened to destroy the whole scheme in retaliation for the defeat of the repealers. He can do it by stopping the federal subsidies to the carriers to cover the out-of-pocket medical expenses of low-income people. Next week, insurers will have to set their premiums for next year and they will have to guess what he will do and decide whether to raise their premiums sharply, shift the costs to others like your employer health plans, or just get out altogether.

But there was an amazing development last week. A half-dozen GOP senators, led by John McCain of Arizona and Lamar Alexander from Tennessee, decided to try in September to solve the problem like Congress had done the previous 225 years: by legislating with both parties. They would amend the law to make it clear that out-of-pocket costs, which were built into the act's subsidy schedule but not clearly spelled out, were a government obligation. They were talking about making other changes in the law, perhaps even including Democrats' own thoughts about fixes to the law they would have made if the filibuster threat had not blocked all alterations in the conference process in 2010.

In the House, a bipartisan group of 23 congressmen calling itself the Problem Solvers Caucus talked about the same thing.

Partnership? Compromise? Don't count on it. Disunity, hate and revenge are still the ruling passions of civil society. Just catch any day's presidential tweets.

          Confessions are down, I must confess        
Confessions are down, and the Catholic Church is going to do something about it. The AP/Brietbart story says the Church will publish a guidebook on confession to boost the practice. Could a slick ad campaign be far behind? I hope so. I enjoy seeing religious, cause-related and spiritual messages compete for attention alongside all the “Buy me! Buy me!” hype.

MSN’s Slate Magazine on line tracked the same trend in Nov. 2005 in an article called “The Sin Box.”

Catholics are instructed to confess their serious sins to a priest at least once a year, and everyday faults (venial sins) may be confessed as needed, including violations of the 9th and 10th Commandments (“mere” lying and coveting respectively). I found the catechism (Part 2/Section 2/Chapter 2/Article 4/ VII - The Acts of the Penitent) on line at St. Charles Borromeo’s of Picayune, Miss.

Protestants and evangelicals don’t practice confession nearly as regularly, even though the Book of James (5:16) instructs followers of Christ to “confess your trespasses to one another.” I rediscovered the idea of confession as I studied accountability and its role in helping men practice Christianity.

The social networking websites, confessional blogs, and gossip media (TOO MUCH INFORMATION!) notwithstanding, America’s lax attitude toward confession is yet another indicator of soft Christianity that has little impact on followers or the onlooking general public.

What I tried to teach my children during discipline:
QUESTION NUMBER 1: Did you know the rule?
Unlike most country judges, ignorance of the law is an excuse. So it’s up to me to keep the rules (the letter of the law) and the heart attitude (spirit of the law) clear and understandable. As they get older and assume more responsibility (encounter more people, property, territory, experiences), they need a way to make decisions, a protocol for behavior, not just more and more rules. The over-reliance on rules rather than emphasizing pricipled behavior and sound judgment is killing our nation and making us the worst kind of fascist, nanny state.

(Here in Colorado, lawmakers just passed a “no texting while driving” law, due to a high profile traffic death of a child. Surely the State Patrol can write a strong enough ticket against “dangerous operation of a motor vehicle,” or “driving while distracted.” But I digress.)

In most cases, people know what they did wrong.

QUESTION NUMBER 2: Did you willfully break the rule?
Here’s where confession comes into play. The court of Dad looks very favorably upon a detailed, complete statement of willful wrongdoing. Such a confession will usually result in a punishment/penance of restoration/restitution, and a denial of privileges for a period of time to sufficiently remind the child of the root of their transgression.

Evasion, denial and outright lies will result in the most severe punishment, designed to inflict a stronger, more painful and enduring reminder. In dealing with an unrepentant sinner, it is also important to provide some way for the scofflaw to encounter the truth of the situation (the facts), the reality of his attitude (which drives bad behavior), and the path to redemption (hope, the second chance, a do-over, the nature of mercy).

That’s all. Just two questions are in play as we encounter our own sins (“missing the mark”).

Yes, confession is painful. I remember a preacher once said, “confession is good for the soul, but it’s bad for the reputation.”

Whether to a priest, pastor or peer, the regular practice of confession is not optional. I cross the line. God is offended and so are people. I must own it, put it on the table, make it right to the extent I can, receive forgiveness, and “go and sin no more.”

          The Statue of Liberty And A Line In the Sand        

Mandeville, LA - Church Doctrine - On 5 March, 1836 Colonel William Barrett Travis famously drew a line in the sand at the Alamo, asking for volunteers to cross the line with him and defend the fort or stand their ground and flee to safety. Of the 180 men gathered not one took the option to flee. Fast forward to today, 230 Congressmen have voted to “defund” the moral and Constitutional atrocity that is ObamaCare, they are being threatened with their legislative lives. Some Congressional leaders have drawn a line in the taxpayer sludge of the House floor, asking members to stay and defend that vote, like the Alamo, I’m certain the effort will fail, but if the Country and the GOP have any prayer of reversing the rise of Nanny State, they must hold the line ‘til the end of the session next November if that’s what it takes.

The post The Statue of Liberty And A Line In the Sand appeared first on The Mike Church Show.

          Hiding Won’t Make a Lien Disappear        

Hiding Won't Make a Lien Disappear

When a lien is filed, owners get scared. That's what makes a lien such an effective tool! In order to avoid the property encumbrance, owners should understand exactly who is working on their project and make sure everyone is paid. Perhaps the best way to do this is to request preliminary notices and to require conditional waivers when payments are made. By the time a lien is filed, it's typically too late and owners have fewer options. Hiding isn't one of those. As Amor Real Estate Investment ("Amor") recently learned, hiding won't make a lien disappear.

The Case

The fact pattern here will start a little later than most since this is about the (lack of) response to the lien. AWC, Inc. ("AWC") filed suit to foreclose a mechanics lien against Amor. When AWC attempted to serve Amor, things got silly. A lawsuit can apparently make an owner disappear, but that won't make a lien disappear.

The first attempt to serve Amor resulted in the nanny coming to the door. The nanny stated that she knew the person listed as Amor's registered agent and that she thought they might own the home. The next attempt had a similar result. This time, a male resident opened the door. He confirmed that the house belonged to Amor's agent, but claimed the agent neither lived there nor regularly went to that location. The third attempt at service resulted in no answer at the door.

Fortunately for AWC, the phrase "See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil," does not apply to mechanics liens. (For the record, I wanted to include those monkey emojis in this post.)

After service failed, the next step was to file for substitute service. With proof of due diligence in attempting to serve Amor, AWC filed for substitute service through the secretary of state. The state accepted the citation for service on Amor through the secretary of state on March 3, 2015. Because Amor could not be reached for service, this allowed AWC to serve the secretary of state in Amor's place. This does not purport to serve the property owner from another angle. The secretary of state actually stood in the place of Amor for the purposes of service. The secretary of state forwarded the certificate of service to Amor by certified mail. No return receipt was received by the state.

With no response, default judgment was entered in favor of AWC. Notice of the judgement was sent to the very address that had now received three attempts at service and another attempt to notify Amor of the suit. Magically, this caught the attention of Amor who filed for appeal two months later. Amor claimed that because the secretary of state did not receive a response to the citation sent through certified mail, the default judgment should not stand. But the citation sent from the secretary of state was not an attempt at service. Service had already been completed on the secretary of state in place of Amor. Because service was rendered, there was no error on which to overturn the trial court's decision. AWC's lien was foreclosed.


Liens can be scary, but that's the point. Without this tool, contractors, subs, and suppliers would be disadvantaged in payment disputes. Most disagreements can be nipped in the bud with clear communication at the start of the project. Here, it appears the project was probably devoid of communication from start to finish. Property owners should know that hiding won't make a lien disappear. Rather than avoiding problems when they arise, the best course of action is to establish transparency from the beginning.

[zlien id="28424"]

The post Hiding Won’t Make a Lien Disappear appeared first on zlien.

          Want To Tell The State To Stick It? Homeschool Your Kids        
Swelling legions of homeschoolers poke a subtle rebuke at America’s ever expanding nanny state.
          Comment on Where Did Americans Move in 2016? by Mike Smith        
Bingo! Tax the working class and become a nanny state, and they will simply move on to greener pastures.
          FDR3528 Is Feminism Evil? - Call In Show - December 9th, 2016        
Question 1: [0:00] – “It would appear that everything about feminism has undermined marriage in the West. Could it be said that feminism is evil for this reason alone, assuming that marriage is in fact necessary to keep Western (or indeed any) civilization and its traditions going? If feminism is indeed evil, then how are we to cure this evil?”

Question 2: [56:30] – “We can all agree that a 3-year-old bears no responsibility for the events in his life, while a 30-year-old bears complete responsibility for the events in his life. At what point does one become responsible for the events in one's life?”

Question 3: [1:11:58] – “It is my assessment that the left has destroyed at the very least the nuclear family and consequently gender roles by creating a nanny state. However, it seems that my dear group, the atheists have destroyed any sense of community that extends beyond family and are pushing a sort of hedonistic anarchy. It seems more and more that we need something but being an atheist, the idea of going back is akin to being asked to believe in Santa Claus again. What can we (as atheists) use as a long-term supplement?”

Question 4: [2:05:21] – “I've been listening to your show over the years and I think I've identified logical objections that Stefan has with the existence of a possible God. I don't want to make too many assumptions but the first is that he seems to believe matter is necessary for the existence of consciousness, and therefore God cannot exist because he would be immaterial by definition. Why do you think Consciousness is derived from matter?”

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           Universal Basic Income: The Complete Caplan-Dolan Dialog        

Bryan Caplan is Professor of Economics at George Mason University and Senior Scholar at the Mercatus Center. He is the author of The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies, named "the best political book of the year" by the New York Times, and Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent Is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think.He has published in the New York Times, the Washington Post,the Wall Street Journal, the American Economic Review, the Economic Journal, the Journal of Law and Economics, and Intelligence, and has appeared on 20/20, FoxNews, and C-SPAN. He is now working on a new book, The Case Against Education.

Ed Dolan is a retired economist, active blogger, and Adjunct of the Niskanen Center. At various times, he taught at Dartmouth College, the University of Chicago, George Mason University, the American Institute of Business and Economics in Moscow, the University of Economics in Prague, and the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga. He is the author of TANSTAAFL: A Libertarian Perspective on Environmental Policy and editor of Foundations of Austrian Economics. He contributes regularly to,, The Milken Institute Review, and Ed Dolan’s Econ Blog. He holds a PhD in economics from Yale University.

This impromptu dialog took place over several days in early 2017 on several different platforms. For readers’ convenience, I have put all the separate segments together here. To help keep things straight, everything written by Caplan is set in the Helvitica font and everything written by Dolan in Times

CAPLAN: Opening Statement (Econlog, Jan 24, 2017)

The Many Faces of Means Testing

Isn't a Universal Basic Income just another name for a negative income tax, such as Tax = -$10,000 + .3*Income?  If so, isn't a Universal Basic Income means-tested by definition?
The answer to the first question is Yes.  UBI is just Milton Friedman's negative income tax in new packaging.

The answer to the second question, however, is more equivocal.  The UBI is means-tested in the weak sense that your net payment falls with income.  But the UBI dispenses with many other traditional forms of means-testing.  Most notably:

1. Means-testing by age.  Most welfare states prioritize children and the elderly.  The implicit theory is that, unlike prime-age adults, the very young and the very old are unable to provide for themselves.

2. Means-testing by dependents and marital status.  Most welfare states prioritize single moms with minor children.  The implicit theory is that single moms have reduced opportunities to work due to their family responsibilities.

3. Means-testing by health.  Most welfare states prioritize the disabled.  The implicit theory is that they're not healthy enough to work.

4. Means-testing by job history.  Most welfare states prioritize people who recently lost their jobs over people who have never worked, or lost their jobs a long time ago.  The implicit theory is that the short-term unemployed are unlucky, while the long-term unemployed are lazy.

If your UBI proposal includes factors like these in its formula, it's very hard to see what makes it a UBI. 

If your UBI proposal dispenses with most or all these factors, then it is a distinctive reform indeed.  But "distinctive" is a far cry from "good."

Advocates correctly note that dropping multi-faceted means-testing reduces moral hazard: If your monthly payment doesn't depend on your health, you have no reason to fake bad health.

But there is also a gargantuan disadvantage: Dropping multi-faceted means-testing greatly increases the number of eligible recipients.  If perfectly able-bodied, childless adults are eligible for free money, plenty will take it - and many won't work at all.  Taxes on remaining workers have to rise to pay for them.  This probably won't create a "UBI death spiral," but a milder sloth spiral definitely kicks in, especially over the longer run as stigma against idleness erodes.  And the burden of supporting able-bodied non-workers is also very likely to cut into funding for the more deserving poor.

Frankly, given the bleak long-run fiscal forecast for the U.S., I'm baffled that anyone with libertarian sympathies takes the UBI seriously.  The welfare state is already unsustainable, largely because our means-testing by age and health isn't stringent enough.  The elderly may have trouble working now, but since they had a lifetime to save for their own retirements, few of the indigent elderly are victims of circumstance.  And given the huge long-run rise in the share of U.S. adults on disability despite rising health and less strenuous jobs, its clearly far too easy to plead disability.

What's especially strange is that the bleak long-run fiscal forecast makes old-school libertarian austerity more relevant than ever.  Why are so many libertarians running away from our core ideas when conditions are nearly ripe for mainstream America to finally listen to us?

DOLAN: Opening statement. (, Feb. 6, 2017)

Why Should a Libertarian Take a Universal Basic Income Seriously?

In a recent post on EconLog, Bryan Caplan writes, “I’m baffled that anyone with libertarian sympathies takes the UBI [universal basic income] seriously.” I love a challenge. Let me try to un-baffle you, Bryan, and the many others who might be as puzzled as you are. Here are three kinds of libertarians who might take a UBI very seriously indeed.

Libertarian pragmatists

Philosophical issues aside, what galls many libertarians most about government is the failure of many policies to produce their intended results. Poverty policy is Exhibit A. By some calculations, the government already spends enough on poverty programs to raise all low-income families to the official poverty level, even though the poverty rate barely budges from year to year. Wouldn’t it be better to spend that money in a way that helps poor people more effectively?

A UBI would help by ending the way benefit reductions and “welfare cliffs” in current programs undermine work incentives. When you add  together the effects of SNAP, TANF, CHIP, EITC and the rest of the alphabet soup, and account for work-related expenses like transportation and child care, a worker from a poor household can end up taking home nothing, even from a full-time job. A UBI has no benefit reductions. You get it whether you work or not, so you keep every added dollar you earn (income and payroll taxes excepted, and these are low for the poor).

But, wait, you might say. Why would I work at all if you gave me a UBI? That might be a problem if you got your UBI on top of existing programs, but if it replaced those programs, work incentives would be strengthened, not weakened. In which situation would you be more likely to take a job: one where you get $800 a month as a UBI plus a chance to earn another $800 from a job, all of which you can keep, or one where your get $800 a month in food stamps and housing vouchers, and anything extra you earn is taken away in benefit reductions?

Or, you might say, a UBI might be fine for the poor, but wouldn’t it be unaffordable to give it to the middle class and the rich as well? Yes, if you added it on top of all the middle-class welfare and tax loopholes for the rich that we have now. No, if the UBI replaced existing tax preferences and other programs that we now lavish on middle- and upper-income households. Done properly, a UBI would streamline the entire system of federal taxes and transfers without any aggregate impact on the federal budget.

Classical liberals

Not all of those with libertarian sympathies are anarcho-capitalist purists. Many classical liberals, even those whom purist libertarians lionize in other contexts, are more open to the idea of a social safety net as a legitimate function of a limited government.

In his book Law, Legislation, and Liberty, classical liberal Friedrich Hayek  wrote,

The assurance of a certain minimum income for everyone, or a sort of floor below which nobody need fall even when he is unable to provide for himself, appears not only to be a wholly legitimate protection against a risk common to all, but a necessary part of the Great Society.

Philosophically, classical liberals see “social insurance” of this kind as something to which they would willingly assent if they considered it behind a “veil of ignorance,” where they did not know if they themselves would be born rich or poor. Once the philosophical hurdle is overcome, the practical advantages of a UBI become highly attractive. In terms of administrative efficiency and work incentives, a UBI wins hands down over the current welfare system, and beats even the negative income tax famously championed by Milton Friedman, another classical liberal,.

Lifestyle libertarians

The libertarian sympathies of still others arise from the conviction that all people should be able to live their lives according to their own values, so long as they don’t interfere with the right of others to do likewise. These lifestyle libertarians are drawn to a UBI because of its contrast with the nanny state mentality that characterizes current policies. Why should social programs treat married couples differently from people living in unconventional communal arrangements? Why should welfare recipients have to undergo intrusive drug testing? Why should food stamps let you buy hamburger and feed it to your dog, but not buy dog food?

Writing for, Matthew Feeney urges libertarians to stop arguing in principle against the redistribution of wealth. Instead, he says, “scrap the welfare state and give people free money.” Feeney sees a UBI as an alternative that “promotes personal responsibility, reduces the humiliations associated with the current system, and reduces administrative waste in government.”

So there you are. A UBI is a policy for pragmatic critics of well-intentioned but ineffective government, for classical liberals, and for advocates of personal freedom. No wonder so many libertarians take the idea seriously.

CAPLAN: Reply to Dolan (EconLog, Feb. 7, 2017)

Ed Dolan thoughtfully replies to my Universal Basic Income challenge on the Niskanen blog.  Here's my point-by-point reply.  [Dolan blockquotes in Times.]

Here are three kinds of libertarians who might take a UBI very seriously indeed.

Libertarian pragmatists

    ...By some calculations, the government already spends enough on poverty programs to raise all low-income families to the official poverty level, even though the poverty rate barely budges from year to year. Wouldn't it be better to spend that money in a way that helps poor people more effectively?

Sure, holding spending constant.

A UBI would help by ending the way benefit reductions and "welfare cliffs" in current programs undermine work incentives. A UBI has no benefit reductions. You get it whether you work or not, so you keep every added dollar you earn (income and payroll taxes excepted, and these are low for the poor).

But, wait, you might say. Why would I work at all if you gave me a UBI? That might be a problem if you got your UBI on top of existing programs, but if it replaced those programs, work incentives would be strengthened, not weakened.

This is a serious overstatement. 

First, as Dolan acknowledges elsewhere, the disincentives are theoretically ambiguous.  Yes, the UBI encourages work via the substitution effect—if you get paid more per hour after taxes, work is more attractive.  But it also discourages work via the income effect—if you get more free money, work is less attractive.
Second, as I emphasize in the piece to which Dolan is responding, existing welfare states make it hard for prime-age, healthy, childless citizens to get free money.  For the vast population in this category, a UBI is a clear addition to existing programs, because they're currently ineligible for most existing programs.

Or, you might say, a UBI might be fine for the poor, but wouldn't it be unaffordable to give it to the middle class and the rich as well? Yes, if you added it on top of all the middle-class welfare and tax loopholes for the rich that we have now. No, if the UBI replaced existing tax preferences and other programs that we now lavish on middle- and upper-income households. Done properly, a UBI would streamline the entire system of federal taxes and transfers without any aggregate impact on the federal budget.

I urge the friends of UBI to click on the "Done properly" link.  In it, Dolan crunches a lot of numbers to estimate the maximum feasible UBI if (a) taxes stay the same, and (b) we abolish a vast array of government programs.  His answer: $4,452 per person per year.  I say this confirms the obvious: A UBI high enough to be politically appealing would be utterly unaffordable because it wastes so much money on the non-poor.

Classical liberals

Not all of those with libertarian sympathies are anarcho-capitalist purists. Many classical liberals, even those whom purist libertarians lionize in other contexts, are more open to the idea of a social safety net as a legitimate function of a limited government.

Indeed.  But even moderate classical liberals have traditionally tempered this concession with elevated concern for scarcity, disincentives, desert, and long-run fiscal stability.  Concern for scarcity makes them ask, "Shouldn't we target anti-poverty resources on the very poor, instead of helping everyone?"  Concern for disincentives makes them ask, "What about the UBI's effect on prime-age, healthy, childless citizens?"  Concern for desert makes them ask, "Shouldn't we target anti-poverty resources on people who genuinely can't help themselves, like children and the severely handicapped?"  Concern for long-run fiscal stability makes them ask, "Shouldn't we get our fiscal house in order before we contemplate massive new spending programs?"  I'm not saying that libertarians should oppose the UBI because it's inconsistent with anarcho-capitalism.  I'm saying that libertarians should oppose the UBI because it's even more oblivious to our many well-founded reservations about the welfare state than the status quo.

Lifestyle libertarians

The libertarian sympathies of still others arise from the conviction that all people should be able to live their lives according to their own values, so long as they don't interfere with the right of others to do likewise. These lifestyle libertarians are drawn to a UBI because of its contrast with the nanny state mentality that characterizes current policies. Why should social programs treat married couples differently from people living in unconventional communal arrangements? Why should welfare recipients have to undergo intrusive drug testing? Why should food stamps let you buy hamburger and feed it to your dog, but not buy dog food?

Simple: Because people on welfare are interfering with taxpayers' right to live their lives according to their own values.  It's entirely appropriate, then, for taxpayers to impose conditions on (a) who gets the money, and (b) what they have to do to get it.  This principle is widely accepted even for voluntary charity: If you want to sleep on my couch and eat my food, you have to follow my rules.  This applies even more clearly for involuntary charity: If you're living off my money without my consent, you have a grave responsibility to spend my money prudently and strive to become self-supporting.

Writing for, Matthew Feeney urges libertarians to stop arguing in principle against the redistribution of wealth. Instead, he says, "scrap the welfare state and give people free money." Feeney sees a UBI as an alternative that "promotes personal responsibility, reduces the humiliations associated with the current system, and reduces administrative waste in government."

This neglects a middle path for libertarians: Arguing for limits on the redistribution of wealth.  What kind of limits?  "You shouldn't get money unless you are absolutely poor through no fault of your own" isn't just great place to start.  It also has great intuitive appeal for non-libertarians.

Dolan, Rejoinder (EconLog Feb. 8, 2017

First of all, thank you, Bryan, for the civil, cogent, and detailed response. I think we might even find common ground--I might eventually be able to get you to concede that libertarian sympathizers should "take a UBI seriously" (that is not the same as drinking the UBI Kool-aid, after all) and in return, I will concede that a UBI is not a magic bullet, but nonetheless is worth serious consideration.

A couple of specifics:

1. You say that I acknowledge elsewhere that the incentives are theoretically ambiguous: income effect vs. substitution effect and all that. Fine, but you give the wrong link. The place where I discuss that issue in detail is in the two-part series that starts here. Part 1 of that post deals with theory, and shows that although there is some ambiguity, it requires very special and implausible assumptions for the income effect to outweigh the substitution effect. Part 2 looks at the empirical literature, and concludes that the overwhelming weight of evidence suggests that a UBI improves work incentives relative to any means tested program.

2. You are very right to zero in on the "done properly" proviso as critical. I completely agree that tacking a UBI onto the existing system would not work. I also strenuouslyobject to the line you get from some conservatives that a UBI should replace welfare for the poor, but leave all tax and transfer goodies intact for the rent-seeking middle and upper classes. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Does that make a UBI a hard sell politically? Maybe. I'm a lowly economist. As the song says, "If the rocket goes up/ who cares where it comes down?/ That's not my department/says Werner von Braun."

3. Taxpayers have right to attach conditions  to public charity. I don't dispute that. Whether pragmatic considerations might lead them to avoid excessive or silly conditions is another matter.

4. "You shouldn't get aid unless you are poor through absolutely no fault of your own." Yes, that argument has some moral force. However, pragmatically, it is hard to pull off since it requires a huge welfare bureaucracy to decide who qualifies, and the very effort to decide has a Heisenberger-like way of changing the nature of the phenomenon you are trying to evaluate. Exhibit A is our disability system, which tries to follow the principle you suggest, but ends up with massive unintended consequences (UBI vs. disability is subject of a forthcoming post.)

CAPLAN: Rejoinder on UBI (Econlog Feb. 9, 2017)

Caplan in Helvitica,  Dolan in Times

    First of all, thank you, Bryan, for the civil, cogent, and detailed response.


1. You say that I acknowledge elsewhere that the incentives are theoretically ambiguous,income effect vs.substitution effect and all that. Fine, but you give the wrong link. The place where I discuss that issue in detail is in the two-part series that starts here. Part 1 of that post deals with theory, and shows that although there is some ambiguity, it requires very special and implausible assumptions for the income effect to outweigh the substition effect. Part 2 looks at the empirical literature, and concludes that the overwhelming weight of evidence suggests that a UBI improves work incentives relative to any means tested program.

My apologies for neglecting your Part 2.  Well-done; I encourage everyone interested to read it.  But I'm puzzled that you describe the evidence you summarize as "overwhelming."  It seems fairly weak overall to me.  And my understanding of the empirical consensus is that, in general, income effects are at least as large as substitution effects.  I'd put more weight on that standard finding than experiments from decades ago.
Even if you're right, you're ignoring my central point: The UBI unambiguously hurts incentives for the vast population that's currently ineligible for most government benefits.

2. You are very right to zero in on the "done properly" proviso as critical. I completely agree that tacking a UBI onto the existing system would not work. I also strenuously object to the line you get from some conservatives that a UBI should replace welfare for the poor, but leave all tax and transfer goodies intact for the rent-seeking middle and upper classes. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Does that make a UBI a hard sell politically? Maybe. I'm a lowly economist. As the song says, "If the rocket goes up/who cares where it comes down?/That's not my department/says Werner von Braun."

My point is stronger: Even if we followed your proposal to the letter, the highest income floor you say we can afford is far lower than almost any non-libertarian would accept.  This isn't surprising, because you waste so much money on the able-bodied.

3. Taxpayers have right to attach conditions to public charity. I don't dispute that. Whether pragmatic considerations might lead them to avoid excessive or silly conditions is another matter.

I'm against "silly," too.  But where do you see "excessive" conditions in the U.S. welfare state?  Wherever I look, I see only profligacy.

4. "You shouldn't get aid unless you are poor through absolutely no fault of your own." Yes, that argument has some moral force. However, pragmatically, it is hard to pull off since it requires a huge welfare bureaucracy to decide who qualifies, and the very effort to decide has a Heisenberger-like way of changing the nature of the phenomenon you are trying to evaluate. Exhibit A is our disability system, which tries to follow the principle you suggest, but ends up with massive unintended consequences (UBI vs. disability is subject of a forthcoming post.)

The American disability system's whole problem is that it's gradually moved away from the principle I suggest.  It used to be hard to go on disability; now it's easy.  We should blame the unintended consequences not on standards, but lack of standards.  Reformist libertarians should be pushing to restrict benefits to the truly disabled, not extending them to everyone regardless of need.

          Waist management: Can government regulation curb our bad eating habits?        
Banning the Big Gulp isn’t enough to tip the scales in America’s obesity epidemic.

Gluttony is the only one of the not-so-magnificent seven that is literally a deadly sin; Americans have been proving that through congested arteries and heart disease for decades. Lifestyle-driven diabetes makes a cross of daily life for thousands and now even burdens U.S. children, many of whom contract the debilitating illness because of sedentary childhoods and poor eating habits.

Current rates of obesity in the United States have been unknown to recorded human history. The nation’s leanest state today—Colorado, with 20 percent obesity—just 15 years ago would have qualified as its fattest. The obesity epidemic has obvious personal costs, but it also creates losses for the economy in health resources, premature deaths, and reduced productivity.

It’s no surprise that some political leaders have weighed in on the crisis. In New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposes clearing store shelves of perhaps their most useless product, the food-like entity we know as soda or pop and its uncarbonated variants. Bloomberg’s proposal would limit all “sugar water” products—a misnomer since virtually all such products are sweetened with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)—to just 16 ounces.

The proposal has already generated outrage among those who haven’t seen a government regulation they like. But you don’t have to be a civil libertarian to spot government overreach, even if it’s just across a 7-Eleven counter to knock a 64-ounce soft drink out of your hand. Beyond the specter of a tsk-tsking nanny state that it raises, the mayor himself suggests a fatal flaw in the proposed code: No one could stop consumers from buying two or three 16-ounce HFCS drinks, he reassures skeptics.

But while Bloomberg’s method may be wrong, his concerns are not misplaced: The obesity crisis is real, and government regulation is partly the answer. (Getting off our couch once in a while and eating non-processed, locally grown food wouldn’t hurt either.) Bloomberg’s error is to apply government authority at the wrong end of the problem.

Americans don’t need ordinances aimed at rebooting consumption patterns. The government regulation that has gone off track can be located at the beginning of the food system, where federal programs encourage vast overproduction of commodities that propel “innovations” like HFCS.

Americans, like lab rats, are only learning to consume as the market-clearing needs of our system dictate. Overproduction leads to a market glut of corn, cleared by the creation of a new magical food additive that leads to a glut of a different sort—one that hangs around consumers’ waists as they are trained to accept ever-larger portions of empty calorie products.

Bloomberg’s 16-ounce limit is one way to interrupt this cycle, but a better approach may be to turn down the commodity spigot by committing firmly to a reform of the federal farm subsidy program. Every four years the nation has the opportunity to reconfigure its diet with the renewal of the federal farm bill. It will do so again this year by October.

The 2012 farm bill will establish policies that guide not only what we grow but what we, and the rest of the world, will eat. U.S. bishops are calling for an overhaul of “our nation’s broken and outdated agricultural policies,” arguing for a more finely tuned subsidy program to promote economic and environmental sustainability for farmers here and abroad and guarantee sustenance to the world’s hungry, including those within U.S. borders.

Let’s not forget that America’s overeating weighs heavily on the world, not just on our own bathroom scales. U.S. overproduction can wipe out subsistence farmers in the developing world, forcing them off the land and making them pay more for first world food products. Before wasting any more political calories on anti-Big Gulp ordinances, the fine print of the farm bill needs to be explored with an eye to healthy and moral eating.

From the perspective of overall national health, our cheap food policies appear costly indeed.­ 

This article appeared in the August 2012 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 77, No. 8, page 39).

Image: Tom Wright


          A Field Guide Extra - Nanny State Idiocy        
Two Nanny-state stories that were to outrageous to not talk about.
          [UPDATED: Pew Responds] How The News Hour Got Duped by Sloppy Pew Poll on Trans Fats        

On PBS's News Hour last Thursday, Judy Woodruff interviewed Dr. Thomas Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control, about the government’s efforts to rid artificial trans fats from the country’s food system.

From the tone of the questions, it was clear the program wanted to stoke the fires in what USA Today refers to as the “nanny state debate.”

Why, Woodruff wanted to know, was the government taking any steps to rid the food system of trans fats, since the industry itself was already moving in that direction?

Would  the government’s

The post [UPDATED: Pew Responds] How The News Hour Got Duped by Sloppy Pew Poll on Trans Fats appeared first on iMediaEthics.

          By: mikenmild        
No nanny state restrictions when you have an imaginary holiday, starboard.
          Nanny State Tuesdays        
Decided I liked being able to just post everything I came across instead of having to save a few items for the Tuesdays, so it's back to business as usual.
          What Happens When You Take A Firearm To NYC In Your Luggage? Fines And Jail Time        
New York is determined to persecute gun owners, and if you have a firearm, you're an easy mark for the nanny state justice system in that city.
          Sodomy and the lash        

THE END OF Tony Blair’s honeymoon, so long predicted, can now be officially confirmed. His beloved mentor and dining companion Paul Johnson is threatening to file for divorce 'In his faultless handling of events after Diana’s death, Tony Blair seemed to be aligning himself with the decent majority,' he writes. ‘But sometimes he is less clear about where he stands.' According to Johnson, who has long boasted of his friendship with the Prime Minister, we are witnessing a millennial struggle between two ‘images of Britain’.  One is the ‘tender and beautiful' country which wept for Princess Diana. But there is also 'the nightmare Britain' of pop groups, Booker Prize authors and sensation-seeking artists -  'perverted, brutal, horribly modish and clever-cunning, degenerate, exhibitionist, high-voiced and limp wristed…’

A suggestive selection of epithets, wouldn't you say? What he is trying to tell us, with untypical coyness, is that he can't stand poofters. Hence his rage at Blair's recent message of support for the Gay Pride march - 'an affront to ordinary Londoners'.  Hence, too, his reminder of what happened to the artists and writers of the last fin de siècle: ‘These precious creatures were riding high until, in 1885, the conviction and imprisonment of Oscar Wilde, the paedophile, brought the edifice of fashionable degeneracy down in shameful ruin.’ Actually, Wilde was convicted m 1895; but this is the least important of Johnson's clod-hopping errors and idiocies. 'In Oscar Wilde's nineties,’ he claims, 'the decadents had to operate with limited resorts and spoke to a restricted audience. Wilde's West End plays were tailored to the moral tastes of the Victorian middle class - he kept his vices private until they were exposed by his own folly.'  Today's degenerates, by contrast, receive 'huge publicity. More publicity than Oscar Wilde? I think not. Gilbert and Sullivan wrote an entire opera satirising his flamboyant aestheticism. W.H. Smith refused to sell The Picture of Dorian Gray - described by Richard Ellmann as ‘one of the first attempts to bring homosexuality into the English novel' - because it was deemed too ‘filthy’. One might add that a man who wished to ingratiate himself with the Victorian bourgeoisie would not have written a book called The Soul of Man Under Socialism.

What of the plays? Wilde's first West End success, Lady Windermere's Fan, deliberately inverts middle-class morals by giving the devil all the best lines. 'As a wicked man I am a complete failure,’ Lord Darlington comments. 'Why, there are lots of people who say  I have never really done anything wrong in the whole course of my life. Of course they only say it behind my back.’ A dunder-headed alderman who praised the playwright for ‘lashing vice' was swiftly and publicly corrected. ‘I can assure you that nothing was further from my intentions,’ Wilde declared. 'Those who have seen Lady Windermere’s Fan will say that if there is one particular doctrine contained in it, it is that of sheer individualism. It is not for anyone to censure what anyone else does, and everyone should go his own way, to whatever place he chooses, in exactly the way that he chooses.’ At the first night, Wilde took his curtain-call wearing a green carnation and mauve gloves. His next play, Salome, was banned by the Lord Chamberlain. This scarcely suggests that he tried very hard to appease the Paul Johnsons of his day.

A century later, depravity stalks the land once more and our own Paul Johnson is in an apocalyptic frenzy. ‘Will the Decadent Nineties end with an evil elite taking charge of our culture?' he wonders. 'The phenomenon I call the Diana Revolution - the birth of Diana Power this month - makes me suspect that the decadents are not going to have it all their own way. There is a stirring of decency at the grassroots.’ By decency, of course, he means heterosexuality.

The idea that the Princess's admirers are all decent, wholesome queer- bashers is certainly original. It is also quite barmy. The most obvious manifestation of 'Diana Power' is the huge popularity of 'Candle in the Wind' - performed by one of the most famous homosexuals in the world. Though Johnson assures us that all but ‘A few thousand' Britons share his foaming homophobia, he then explodes his own premise by grumbling that ‘scarcely a day goes by without an MP or even a government minister “coming out'' as a sodomite or a lesbian, introducing his or her partner to the world and receiving not public obloquy but approval and praise for his or her ''courage'' “honesty''.' Er, quite.

'It is,’ Johnson concludes, 'high time for Tony Blair…to make up his mind where he stands.' Indeed it is. On the one hand there are the millions of people who have bought Elton John's record and are sublimely untroubled by Angela Eagle's lesbianism; on the other, alone and ridiculous, is Paul Johnson, gibbering like the ghost of the 9th Marquess of Queensberry. If forced to choose between his country and his friend, the PM may well decide - however reluctantly - that a certain red-haired, red-faced adviser has outlived his usefulness.

(Guardian, 24th of September 1997)


WHO WAS THE ONLY woman ever to sit in Mrs. Thatcher's Cabinet, apart from the PM herself? Baroness Young (for it was she) might have expected that this unique achievement would guarantee her lasting fame, but it didn't.
Now she is making another bid for political immortality. In the House of Lords today she will invite the assembled backwoodsmen, bishops and bigots to throw out amendments to the Crime and Disorder Bill, passed by a huge majority in the Commons last month, which would lower the age of consent for homosexuals to sixteen. 'I think there will be a lot of support on the Conservative benches.’ she says. Since most of the long-suffering benches in the Upper House are occupied by Tory bottoms, she may well succeed.

Baroness Young justifies her attempted sabotage by grumbling that ‘there was no chance for a proper debate’ when the amendments came before the Commons. On the contrary: there was a long debate on the evening of 22 June. Not a very good debate, I agree, but that's because politicians who oppose an equal age of consent are the same people who usually thunder against the 'nanny state' and insist on the sacred importance of ‘equality before the law'. To get round this inconsistency, they were therefore obliged to talk in non- sequiteurs throughout. Nevertheless, the opinions of those who belong to the Baroness Young school of thought - more of a borstal, really - were thoroughly aired. Sir Patrick Cormack MP warned Honourable Members to remember ‘the old description of the Navy, ''rum, sodomy and the lash'''. To Sir Patrick's annoyance, this provoked sniggers. ‘There is nothing funny about it,' he snapped. 'lt is a perfectly reasonable point to make in support of my argument'. Another perfectly reasonable point came from Nicholas Winterton. 'Am I not correct,’ he asked, ‘in saying that a homosexual act is unnatural and if the Lord Almighty had meant men to commit sodomy with other men, their bodies would have been built differently? ‘

‘I hope I shall be acquitted of the charge of being antagonistic to the homo- sexual community,' Sir Norman Fowler told the House. To prove his lack of antagonism, he then went on to confuse gays with paedophiles, citing 'the case of Roger Gleaves, the self-styled “Bishop of Medway''', as an argument against changing the law. Rather absent-mindedly, Fowler forgot to add that an age of consent set at twenty-one did nothing to stop Gleaves's  sexual abuse of boys. Crispin Blunt MP was also worried about vulnerable teenagers, since  much homosexuality ‘depends for its gratification on the exploitation of youth'. Although girls need no legal protection from older men, 'the everyday experience of adolescents, combined with scientific observations, make it clear that boys of this age are self-evidently less mature, sexually and in judgment, than their female counterparts... My conclusion is that we have a duty to protect boys of sixteen and seventeen.’ Girls of sixteen and seventeen, by contrast, would presumably still be free to go to bed with Bill Wyman or the Tory politician Peers Merchant.

I expect that today's discussion in the House of Lords will reach the same high standard of unprejudiced ratiocination. But there will be one element missing. The Commons debate included a deeply pious speech against the new age of consent by the Labour MP Stuart Bell, who pointed out that he was expressing both his own views and those of the Church of England, whose interests he represents in the House as a Second Church Estates Commissioner. It was not ‘morally right or socially desirable' to give homosexuals the same rights as heterosexuals, he said. Instead, we need 'a broader agenda of moral vision'.

Bell set out his own sexual agenda some years ago when he wrote a novel called Paris 69. Though it is now sadly unavailable, here's a sample: 'And she keeps on sucking, sucking and nibbling and filling me with yearning, with desire to thrust her back on the bed now,  strap her to it the way the schoolteacher had shown me… I wanted that she be tied to the bed and I dominate her, rape her, burst inside her and be cleansed.’ The narrator, I need hardly add, is a man; there's nowt queer about our Stuart. Perhaps, during today's debate, someone from the Bench of Bishops will tell us whether the ‘moral vision' of their parliamentary spokesman is also the Church of England's official policy.

(Guardian, 22nd July1998)

          The Senate Just Confirmed an Anti-Gay Blogger to the Federal Judiciary        

The Trump administration’s assault on LGBTQ rights scored a major victory on Thursday when the Senate confirmed John K. Bush to the powerful 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Bush, perhaps Trump’s most controversial nominee to the lower courts, has a long history of making homophobic and sexist comments during his years as an anonymous blogger. Yet every Republican senator (except the absent John McCain) voted to confirm him. Bush, who is 52, will serve a lifetime appointment.

Bush’s record overflows with offensive, archaic, and bizarre comments, many directed toward women and sexual minorities. In 2005, he used the word “faggot” in a speech to a private club, quoting Hunter S. Thompson. In 2008, he referred to then–Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi as “Mama Pelosi” and urged Congress to “gag the House speaker.” When the State Department introduced gender-neutral passport applications to accommodate same-sex couples, Bush complained in a 2011 blog post that the move was worthy of “outrage”—though “not Obamacare-level outrage.” He added that the change means “both parents are subservient to the nanny state—more precisely, a nanny Secretary of State.” Bush also credulously reported a story from World Net Daily, the discredited promulgator of birther conspiracies, alleging that then-Sen. Barack Obama played a role in the detention of a WND reporter in Kenya who’d been investigating the future president’s half-brother.

Unsurprisingly, Bush’s stated attitude toward constitutional jurisprudence aligns neatly with his personal values. In 1993, he wrote an amicus brief on behalf of a conservative group opposing the admission of women into the Virginia Military Institute, asserting that VMI “does not appear to be compatible with the somewhat different developmental needs of most young women.” In 2008, he compared abortion to slavery, juxtaposing Dred Scott with Roe v. Wade and writing, “The two greatest tragedies in our country—slavery and abortion—relied on similar reasoning and activist justices at the U.S. Supreme Court.” In a 2016 paper, Bush bemoaned the Kentucky Supreme Court’s protection of same-sex intimacy, criticizing a 1992 ruling which “immunized consensual sodomy from criminal prosecution under the state constitution.”

During his confirmation hearings, Bush repeatedly misrepresented his previous statements, tiptoeing right up to perjury. Twenty-seven LGBTQ rights groups signed a letter opposing his nomination while both Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America urged moderate Republican senators to vote no. But in the end, Republicans followed the party line and elevated Bush to the 6th Circuit by a margin of 51–47. (In addition to McCain, Democrat Debbie Stabenow also did not vote.)

Thursday’s confirmation vote provides a reminder of the Trump administration’s vigorously anti-LGBTQ stance. Trump himself may or may not hold animus toward sexual and gender minorities, but his Cabinet, advisers, and allies in Congress are working sedulously to reverse progress on LGBTQ rights. Once Trump stacks the federal courts with reactionary activists, his judges can chip away at landmark rulings protecting marriage equality and the broader rights of same-sex couples. Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s Supreme Court justice, has already signaled his eagerness to reconsider gay rights. Judges like Bush can help to weaken gay-friendly precedent in the lower courts, making them more vulnerable to reversal.

In the coming days, the Senate will also vote on Damien Schiff’s nomination to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, which considers environmental and regulatory lawsuits. Schiff has written that the Constitution does not bar states from criminalizing homosexuality. He also declared in 2009 that a California law prohibiting bullying wrongly taught “that the homosexual lifestyle is a good, and that homosexual families are the moral equivalent of traditional heterosexual families.” His article was entitled “Teaching ‘Gayness’ in Public Schools.”

Every Republican in the Senate is expected to vote for Schiff’s confirmation.

          Why Do Conservatives Misunderstand Libertarians        
A gang of us over at Talk Polywell were discussing my recent post Emotional Decision Making.

One commenter left a link to Why Liberals Misunderstand Conservatives. Well that got me thinking, "Why do conservatives misunderstand libertarians?" Naturally I added a few words on the subject to the discussion.

For example, one of the leading approaches to the study of political attitudes states that political conservatism is a form of motivated social cognition: people embrace conservatism in part "because it serves to reduce fear, anxiety, and uncertainty;...


If you have been following along some of the other threads that is exactly the point I have been making about some of our conservative friends.

They hate that.

Politics is in the main a fear driven activity. To get meta to it you have to be mostly free of fears. i.e. you can't let your gut drive your thought. It leaves you without reason.

Carl Sagan looked at that in his "The Dragons of Eden" book.

When we live in fear we are little better than animals.

Which is why conservatives hate libertarians. "What? You are not afraid of X? What is wrong with you?" In fact just telling them they should be free of fear (it was at one time referred to as "Trust In God") drives them into a frenzy. Which gives a fine object lesson to the lurkers.


Then I added a comment to the "Why Liberals Misunderstand Conservatives" site. Reprized at Talk Polywell with a few prefatory remarks:

My attitude is: what ever comes up I will deal with it. What is the point of being afraid?

Here is a comment I left there:

You don't get libertarians. They are not morally impoverished. They are free of fear (mostly).

Which makes them a whole other animal compared to the left or the right.

In a different age it would have been said "They Trust in God". So important it is even printed on our money.


Which is to say we live in a godless age. An age full of fear. Which may be why the founders said that without God liberty can't survive. Those who printed "In God We Trust" on our money were trying to send us a message. It was not about Talmudic like scholarship and the "shalls" and "shall nots" - which vary according to place and time. It was being confident that what ever came up you would deal with it to the best of your ability. No nanny state required to prevent some things from coming up.

So let me repeat here something from some of my favorite girls. The Bene Gesserit Sisters.

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.


Cross Posted at Classical Values

          By: Mina        
<p>Umm, I accidently hit post before I was done. I meant to hit preview, and was going to erase the last paragraph since it occured to me that I really don't know where America is headed. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that European style socialism is where the left in America wants to go.</p> <p>Regardless, I don't see much free market support in the middle east, but then again I'm not the most knowledgable either. I tend to be something of a pariah when I espose the merits of the free market, but I guess that's no different than US politics really. The nanny state exists everywhere, I'm afraid. I've pondered this as I was reading through your entry, and I wonder, if America got to that stage in my lifetime, where else is there to move to?</p>
          By: apotheon        
<p>I agree with your conclusions, Mina, and appreciate your expression of them. Perhaps moreso, though, I appreciate the addition of some perspective on the situation that comes from outside most of my experience (what little time I've spent in the middle east, I didn't really interact with the culture at all). It's interesting to think of the problems of liberty here in terms of how they contrast with the problems in the middle east, in Arab nations dominated by an Islamic culture (as opposed to being dominated by the liberal Western traditions, where "liberal" is used in the classic, non-Democrat sense).</p> <p>One difference that strikes me is that, in the aggregate, the middle east is moving toward greater liberty while the west (meaning mostly North America and Western Europe) is moving toward less liberty at present -- though, of course, in specific cases that can vary quite a bit. The secularists and (classical) liberals in the middle east are adamantly dedicated to increasing liberty, while the general populace here in the US is content to let the nanny state make all its decisions for it, having grown too trusting after two hundred years or so of relative freedom from oppression. We're about to the point where we have to pay for our complacency, as the increasing centralization of power is overcoming the increasing tolerance of individual differences.</p>
          Comment on What to do if police ask for your camera by Jonno        
This is exactly right. People behave like kids and then moan about a nanny state. Accept responsibility for your actions... you decide to ride powerful bikes, decide to twist the throttle, and decide whatever other traffic laws you break. And then blame the pigs for catching you! Grow up.
          Briefly Breaking Down the Debt Ceiling        

So here’s what has happened.  This year, Congress would have to raise the debt ceiling or America would default on its debts and lose its super awesome credit rating for the first time in history.  Raising the debt ceiling is a pretty routine, perhaps lamentable, event that the government has done dozens of times before in the background without many people noticing.  But this time it’s different, because Republicans control Congress, and the Republican party has been infiltrated by a bunch of know-nothing Tea Partiers, and Obama is the devil.  So they have demanded that in order for the debt ceiling to be raised there has to be serious deficit reduction in the budget, or something like that.  Also, Amurica, and Obama is certainly the devil.  You with me so far?


So Democrats said, “Hey, we wanna do that, too!  Let’s get our fiscal house in order!  Reducing the deficit is a good thing.  Experts say the best way to do this is by cutting spending and increasing taxes.”  Actually, they didn’t say that.  They said “increasing revenues,” because it sounds better.  But close enough.  They wanted to match every cut in spending with an increase in taxes on the rich, dollar for dollar.


Republicans said, “No way.  Fuck that, and fuck what experts say.  Obama is the devil, and now is not the time to raises taxes!  We’re in the middle of a recession, for fuck’s sake.  Probably created by Obama.  Most likely, because he’s the devil.  It’s hard to remember past 2009.”  Instead, they argued, we should cut from nanny state programs like Social Security, Medicare, Federal Aviation Administration, National Public Radio (they’re liberals), and the National Endowment for the Arts.  Of course, you can’t cut from the biggest chunk of our budget, national defense, because only pussies would do that.  There is no ceiling for military spending.  “Also, rich people can’t afford to pay more taxes, because they are job creators, you stupid, wimpy liberals.  Remember the last time we let the rich keep more of their money, and they created all those jobs?  We’re pretty sure it happened, but it’s hard to remember past 2009.”


So those spineless Democrats were like, “Hey, we’re all about compromise, and you make some good points.  We can’t piss off our corporate masters on Wall Street too much, so here’s a deal we’ll pretend to be really pissed off about, but we’ll go along with it anyway.  Let’s we make it a 3:1 ratio.  For every dollar of tax increase, we’ll do $3 of spending cuts.  Pretty good, right?”


And Republicans were like, “Did you hear me, bitch?  There is not going to be any tax increase on anybody, especially rich people.  And we’re getting our Social Security and Medicare cuts, goddamnit!”

So the Democrats assumed the position, bending over, and they said, “Ok, ok, ok… here’s the deal.  We’ll cut trillions in spending over the next decade, and instead of tax increases, we’ll just eliminate tax loopholes that allow rich people and corporations to not pay taxes.  Fair enough, right?  But here’s what we want.  Instead of cutting things like Social Security and Medicare, we’ll cut things that just don’t make sense, such as oil subsidies.  There’s no point in giving Americans’ money away to oil companies when they are extremely profitable to begin with, year after year.  That’s a pretty good deal, right?  You getting hard yet?”


Indeed, the Republicans were hard, because they knew they had this in the bag.  They dropped their pants, stuck the tip in and said, “You’re gonna love this.  Here’s what we’re going to do… fuck you.  Hard.  And you’re gonna like it.  You’re gonna pretend you don’t like it, but you’ll love it.  Here’s our compromise.  We’re going to cut spending.  A lot.  And you’re gonna take it.  And that’s it.  Because THAT is what you do in the middle of a recession.  If we hear another word about taxes, we’re sticking it in the other hole, and not gently.  Did you not hear us the first time when we stated our position?”


Being the submissive partner, Democrats secretly enjoyed their position, but still kind of wanted to like help the country and stuff.  So they were like, “Yeah, we like that.  That’s pretty hot.  Pull our hair when you shove it in.  Stick your fingers in our mouths and choke us if we even try to mention taxes again.  But how about we make more sensible cuts?  Like maybe instead of robbing old people of Social Security, could we maybe stop starting so many wars?”


And the Republicans said, “You’re gonna do what we want, bitch!  Stop trying to act like you have a say in things.”


And Democrats were like, “Dude, this feels pretty good, and we like it rough, but what about what happens to the country?”


The Republicans responded by saying, “When I want your opinion, I’ll tell it to you.  Even if the country defaults, it’s not like anything will happen.  Interest rates will just go up.  Big deal!  Here’s our final offer.  You do what we want to do, which is to keep the government running until next spring, when we can have this fight again.  That way, Obama will look bad going into election while the economy continues to tank.”


So Obama went on TV and tried to evoke a spirit of compromise and asked that people get involved by telling politicians what they want. 


Rep. Boehner followed up on TV with the Republican response.  He said Obama is an asshole, and he’s ruining this country.  Also, he’s the devil.



          Nanny State: NYC Mayor Bloomberg’s Sugar Soda Ban Sails Through His Self-Appointed Dept. Of Health, Despite Massive Public Opposition        
As if there were ever any doubt… The New York City Board of Health has approved a ban on the sale of sugar sodas in containers larger than 16 ounces at the city’s restaurants, fast food joints, delis, arenas, movie theaters and even street food carts. The new law, which takes effect March 12, 2013, was […]
          Nanny State: Santa Monica Bans Smoking IN YOUR OWN HOME        
While smoking is already banned at beaches, parks, restaurants and near buildings in Santa Monica, Calif., the municipality’s Nanny State City Council has now voted to ban a wholly legal activity: smoking in your own home! The frightening new civil liberties-sucking ordinance says that all new tenants of apartments and condos are committing a crime by […]
          Nanny Bloomberg Is At It Again With Sugar Soda Smackdown        
Mayor Mike Bloomberg is bored again. Whenever that happens, count on another Nanny State law taking away civil rights from the residents of New York. He’s obviously still pouting because his last attempt to tax sugar sodas was laughed out of the legislature. But this time our closeted Queen Dictator is making sure he has […]
Democratic Pros Fret About Obama Campaign Ineptitude.

On a balmy night in early June of 1986, a successful business executive and two-term Congressman named Ed Zschau won the GOP nomination for US Senate in California. Seen by professionals as the rising star of California Republican politics, Zschau defeated a divided primary field of more conservative candidates. It was widely expected in political circles that he would go on to defeat incumbent Sen. Alan Cranston in the general election.

The very next night, the Cranston campaign unleashed a sustained, weeks-long negative campaign advertising attack on Mr. Zschau. The idea being that if Zschau was given time to regroup for the general election, he would be unstoppable.

Sen. Cranston did not have a record that demanded his re-election. The issue had to be the challenger, not the incumbent. It was the first time in modern campaign history that a statewide incumbent had ever gone flat-out negative so early in the general election cycle.

It worked. Zchau's campaign wasn't ready for the assault. The damage done in June proved too much to overcome in November. Sen. Cranston was narrowly re-elected.

This year's presidential campaign sets up much like Senator Cranston's re-election campaign of 1986. President Obama cannot risk an election that becomes a referendum on his record. Fairly or not, that's a framework for defeat. So the task of his handlers is to make the election a referendum on his opponent.

Since even my dogs know that Mr. Romney is going to frame the election as a referendum on President Obama's stewardship of the economy, the Obama handlers must do everything they can to make people imagine that President Romney's stewardship of the economy would be worse; an assault on the interests and values of "average" Americans. Thus today's 2-minute ad on Bain Capital's unsuccessful turn-around of GST Steel in Kansas City. The ad's thrust is that Romney was (and is) an economic "vampire."

What's remarkable about the ad is not its content (mis-leading though it may be). Anti-Bain ads have been used against Romney in 1994 (by Ted Kennedy's handlers), 2002 (by Shannon O'Brien's campaign) and 2012 (by New Gingrich).

What's remarkable about the ad is that it raised at least as many questions about the Obama campaign as it did about Mr. Romney.

On the very day that the ad was released, President Obama attended a fund-raiser in New York City hosted by a senior executive at the Blackstone Group, a leading private equity firm and frequent co-investor with Bain Capital on turn-around projects.

And, it further turns out that a 2008 and 2012 campaign finance bundler for President Obama, one Jonathan Lavine, was a managing director at Bain Capital during the time that GST Steel was being “run into the ground” by the evil Bainiacs.

And, just to put some icing on the cake, it turns out that Mr. Romney was off fixing the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics during the time that Romney and Bain were allegedly “vampiring” GST Steel.

It makes you wonder. Did Team Obama think that no one would notice? Did they assume that only right-wing bloggers would care?

Had this been an isolated event, Democrat campaign professionals might not be all that concerned. Mistakes, after all, are made. But this was hardly a "one off." There are, in the view of many Democratic pros, far too many other examples of the Obama campaign making a hash of fairly straightforward political matters.

Most recently, for instance, Vice President Biden previewed the president's "evolution" on the issue of same sex marriage on NBC's "Meet The Press." The press, predictably, made it the next day story.

Two days later, the voters of North Carolina, in large numbers and by a wide (61-39%) margin, voted against same-sex marriage. As messages go, it was hard to misread.

The very next day, President Obama told the North Carolina knuckleheads to take their referendum and shove it; he endorsed same sex marriage, although he didn't make a federal case out of it. He left it for the states to work out the legislative details (conveniently enough).

The mishandling of the President’s endorsement of same sex marriage sent the president's re-election prospects into a tailspin; electoral college handicappers busily moved North Carolina from “toss-up” to “likely Republican.” And it necessitated today’s "let's-get-the-media-talking-about-something-else” news event (the Bain attack ad).

Because we have been told for so long that Team Obama is the very model of the modern campaign operation, we have come to sort of believe it. In reality, they’ve been surprisingly inept since they set up shop last year. They've been through three slogans and four over-arching re-election "themes." They've made a big deal out of Romney's dog. They've introduced us to "Julia," which seemed like a right-wing parody of the perfect constituent of the nanny state. One could on (and on).

So far, the president's re-election campaign measures up poorly, in terms of its execution, against the Alan Cranston re-election effort of 1986. Imagine that.

          Tech at Night: Leftists selectively feign outrage over ghost writing        
Socialists desperate to vilify private business in favor of a totalitarian nanny state are now asking us to get outraged over Comcast’s campaign to fight back. Tell you what, guys. If ghostwriting is now disallowed, why don’t they go and look up how many industry letters, legislation, and books that Democrats have had ghost written […]
          Nanny State Madness? reported
When California’s elected officials come back from their month-long recess they face a mountain of proposed legislation (almost 900 bills are lined up and waiting), including a new law (SB432) that would require hotels to eliminate flat sheets. Not having fitted sheets on hotel beds would now be a crime in California. This is not a joke.
Has the legislature really found a solution to the many problems California has, that they are now down to dealing with non-fitted sheets.
California, the state trying to deal with a massive $26 BILLION dollar debt, is considering a law that some hospitality industry experts claim would add an estimated $15 to $30 million dollars in costs to an already hurting hotel industry. The low-end estimate of fifteen million is the projected cost to purchase new fitted sheets for the 550,000 hotel beds in the state. Of course the hospitality industry is claiming that these added costs will hurt their business and put jobs at risk.
But the fitted sheet industry probably likes it.
The fitted-sheet bill is the brainchild of State Senator Kevin De Leon (a Democrat from Los Angeles), whose mother suffered back pains while working as a hotel maid. Kevin has been quoted as saying this was “an issue close to my heart.”
And how does this help his mother's back pains? The Senator is a pain, but a little lower down.

 | I want a government, not a nanny        
I have written a number of serious articles on the dangers of SA becoming a nanny state and to the best of my knowledge no-one has taken the slightest bit of notice, says Chris Moerdyk.
          Nanny state knows best        
State regulation is necessary for safety, says Simon Capewell, professor of public health and policy at the University of Liverpool. Richard Lilford, professor of public health at the University of Warwick, argues that restricting adults’ choice can undermine such aims. Read the debate:

          Needed: Buckley        
Needed: Model. We are looking for just the cutest, tiniest little Republican out there. You should be sassy, adorable, and a firm believer in laissez-faire capitalism and the destructive properties of the welfare nanny state. Bring your velour cape-shirt and let’s have our own little Tea Party.  
          Going Undercover in the Belly of Our Beastly Food Chain        


Tracie McMillan's The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee's, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table takes us on a vivid and poignant tour of a place we don't really want to go: the mostly hidden, sometimes horrible world of the workers who form the backbone of our cheap, industrialized food chain. Sound grim? It is, at times, but McMillan's lively narrative and evident empathy for the people she encounters make her sojourn into the bowels of Big Food and Big Ag a pleasure to read.

From the fields of California's Central Valley to the produce aisle of a Michigan Walmart, and lastly, the kitchen of a Brooklyn Applebee's, McMillan gives a firsthand account of the long hours, lousy wages and difficult conditions that are par for the course in these places. This is tricky terrain for a white, relatively privileged, middle-class American woman, and McMillan navigates it with grace and humility, remaining acutely aware of the pitfalls inherent in such a project.

I sat down with McMillan recently to chat about her populist odyssey and found her to be just as down-to-earth and plucky as her prose.

Kerry Trueman: What was the hardest part of going undercover?

Tracie McMillan: This was the first time I had gone undercover to do work like that, because I believe very strongly in the importance of being upfront with people about what you're doing and who you are and I am not a good actress (laughs). So the place where I was culturally the least good of a fit, in the fields, I was really protected by the fact that I didn't speak the language. I just seemed like a kind of dumb white girl, and that was really helpful.

The first thing was getting over my anxiety over doing that kind of project and coming to terms with it. It meant that I had to be dishonest with my coworkers. I don't really care so much that I'm not honest with the companies. It's very interesting, the same year that I was working at Walmart during the holiday season, Stephanie Rosenbloom at the New York Times went and worked for a day at a Walmart with the company's permission, and she had a very different experience than I did.

And that's why you do it. Companies and supervisors do not treat you the same, and coworkers won't be as honest with you, or as open. I've come out of this very convinced that undercover work is worthwhile, but it's a complicated thing. There's a tendency to think "I can totally do this, and how else can I get this information?" but I also understand why people react badly to it sometimes.

So there was the undercover thing, and then there was finding the right balance between my narrative and talking about the people I was with. It's not supposed to be about me as a white girl having that experience; the idea is that I can only tell my story and what I observed, but I'm using that to get to the stories of the other people around me.

KT: You found that farm work in California's Central Valley was extremely demanding, sometimes dangerous, and routinely underpaid. What do you think it would take to provide the people who pick our crops with better working conditions and paychecks that don't deliberately shortchange them?

TM: I was typically working alongside undocumented immigrants. You always hear the stories about how undocumented immigrants work for very low wages and how they get treated. It's one thing to hear about it, it's another thing to see how terrified everybody is, how unwilling they are to say anything.

They complained about it outside of work, we'd talk about how bad the wages were and the women were like, "Why don't you say anything?" For me that was really awkward, because I wanted to say "That's terrible, and I will march off and I will fix everything!" Which is not something you can do as an undercover reporter.

Even if you're undocumented, you still have legal rights, but they don't necessarily know that. And even the ones that do, it's not like they have a guaranteed job, you could be hired or fired at any moment. There's no job security. So, you keep working, and at least you have the stability of knowing that you will get your eight hours of work for which you're paid $25 to $40.

How do you fix that? You enforce the existing labor laws. You don't necessarily need new ones. I think it's important not to stifle businesses' ability to do their job, but I did observe when I was working in the fields that every week I was asked to sign a piece of paper stating that I had taken food safety training that I had never taken. One of the arguments around food safety is that farmers should be allowed to self-regulate that. I saw in my work that self-regulation wasn't working.

And in terms of labor law enforcement, you need some sense that people are going to get in trouble if they cheat workers. The average fine levied under the Agricultural Worker Protection Act is about $350. During my time in the fields I was underpaid by about $500.

A farm advocate in Ohio explained to me that it's cheaper to violate the law and pay when someone complains than it is to follow the law.

KT: Can you even imagine how different conditions would have to be for it to not be an anomaly to have someone with your own background choosing that kind of work?

TM: That's called unionization and massive social change! Factory work in the early 20th century was really dangerous and it didn't pay very well, but those became really good jobs because there was unionization and legislation to protect workers. My grandfather raised my mother and her two brothers and took care of my grandmother on the salary he earned working for Ford.

So, if you could figure out a way to make farm labor a better job in terms of wages and working conditions, more people would do it. The reason why people don't do farm labor isn't because they're, like, "Oh, we're too good to be in the fields," it's because it's really hard work that often doesn't pay minimum wage. Picking up garbage is a shitty job, too, but people still go do that, because it's a decent gig.

KT: What were your most miserable moments?

TM: This belies my upwardly mobile aspirations (laughs). For me, what was the most emotionally miserable was working the night shift at Walmart. I didn't see any daylight for the most part. That's also really physical work, so I would move half a ton of sugar and a half ton of flour in a night, by myself. It's isolated work, you're in an aisle stocking by yourself, so there's no social aspect to it.

But what I found most draining about it was that most of my coworkers, many of whom were married and had families, had been there for seven, 10, 15 years. One coworker was earning $11 an hour after working there for seven years, and she talked about how if you worked at Walmart for 15 years that's actually really good because you get a lifetime discount card.

There's something really sobering when what you're aspiring to is that if you stick it out at $10, $11, $12 an hour you're going to get a lifetime 10-percent discount card.

KT: Walmart keeps touting its commitment to fresh healthy produce, but in your experience, they treated fresh fruits and vegetables just like any other non-perishable consumer good. Their blasé attitude toward the fresh produce engendered so much waste! How do you square that with their famous obsession for maximizing profit?

TM: I was really shocked to be working at Walmart and to see how inefficient the place I was working was. I have no idea if that department was just an anomaly, or if that's a broader problem.

Randy, the manager, was incredibly young, didn't really know what he was doing, and didn't particularly care. For that, I would fault the store management. It's one thing to be really bad at your job, but why did somebody give you that job?

What was really upsetting to me was that one of my colleagues, I think I call him Sam in the book, who's a black man, he had come to Walmart after the grocery store he worked at closed down. He had been working in produce for five years and knew a lot, so I could ask him anything, like "How do I tell if this is ripe?" Sam had applied for that job and they had given it to Randy instead. I have no idea who on the planet would have picked Randy over Sam, because Sam knew produce, whereas Randy had a background in electronics.

KT: You write, "When cooking instruction is paired with basic nutrition education, Americans cook more and eat more healthfully -- even when money is tight." What's your prescription for battling kitchen illiteracy?

TM: Almost everything people are eating at home involves some degree of convenience foods. That kind of thing usually tends to have a lot of salt and preservatives in it. But it's actually no more time-intensive to do a Hamburger Helper kind of thing from scratch, and it's actually cheaper.

The thing that sucks about a box isn't that it's quick -- it's that if you don't already know how to cook, you think you can't make a cake without a box. We need to start thinking about cooking as a basic life skill, not something that's optional. Incorporating that into public education to me seems like a smart idea. It can be a really great way to teach people other stuff. It's great for math, right? And for reading comprehension. Or learning to write recipes. It's an important survival skill.

I think one of the things you can support, no matter what your politics are, is that our schools should be teaching our kids how to be self-sufficient, how to take care of themselves and not to have to depend on large institutions. I would include in that not just government but also corporations.

We don't want to be raising kids who depend on corporations to tell them what to eat and how to eat. That's a really important part of American culture. People talk all the time about a nanny state, but there's the corporate nanny, too. And I don't like that either! If we want people to be self-sufficient, cooking and eating is a part of that. So, we need to include cooking as part of public school education. I also understand fully the difficulty of educational reform, but I think it's an important point to start discussing.

Originally posted on AlterNet

          Looking for the American Dream? Try Denmark        

Americans may be deeply divided about what ails our country, but there's no denying we're a nation of unhappy campers.

Danes, on the other hand, consistently rank as some of the happiest people in the world, a fact attributed at least in part to Denmark's legendary income equality and strong social safety net.

Forbes recently cited another possible factor; the Danes' "high levels of trust." They trust each other, they trust 'outsiders,' they even trust their government. 90% of Danes vote. Tea party types dismiss Denmark as a hotbed of socialism, but really, they're just practicing a more enlightened kind of capitalism.

In fact, as Richard Wilkinson, a British professor of social epidemiology, recently stated on PBS NewsHour , "if you want to live the American dream, you should move to Finland or Denmark, which have much higher social mobility."

While we debate whether climate change is real and a tax on unhealthy foods is nanny state social engineering, the Danish are actually trying to address these problems head on.

They can afford to, because they don't spend all their waking hours worrying about whether they're about to lose their job, or their house, or how they're going to pay their student loans, or their health insurance premiums.

Could Danish-style democracy catch on here at home? If the way to a nation's heart is through its stomach, there may be hope. After all, the hottest trend on the culinary horizon these days is the new Nordic Cuisine, "which seeks to turn the culinary dial back toward the natural world," as the New York Times reported a few weeks back.

One of the pioneers of this movement is the dynamic Danish chef and climate change activist Trine Hahnemann, whose latest book is The Nordic Diet. Trine has a genius for creating earthy, easy, elegant meals, but she's equally passionate about cooking up social change while she's at it. I had a chance to get her two cents on our respective cultures when she passed through NYC recently. Following is a condensed version of our conversation:

KT: The cover of your latest book declares that you can "Eat Your Way to Health and Happiness with The Nordic Diet." Americans are so stressed and depressed these days, we're more likely to Eat Our Way to Illness and Misery. And the worse we eat, the worse we feel. Any ideas on how to break out of this vicious cycle?

TH: To change the whole political system takes a long time, so, that's not my first suggestion. Cooking your own meals is essential to staying healthy, because that's the only way you can control your diet. And sharing meals with family and friends, having a sense of belonging, that's a very big part of happiness.

Your meal culture has been blown apart, it's a huge problem. I understand when people say "but I get off work at 8 o'clock and I have to shop and go home and cook," but it's a cycle that just goes around and around and nobody's breaking it. You have to start cooking your own food, and it is doable, even on a lower income.

Danes actually eat a lot of crap, a lot of frozen vegetables, but they cook at home every day and sit down and eat together. This is the main thing in our culture, because take-out and processed convenience foods are more expensive. Fruits and vegetables have to be the cheapest thing, cheaper than eating at McDonald's. It all comes down to economics.

So, we're not these 'holy people ' who can manage everything, we just have different ethics. We don't subsidize corn like you do, and also, there is a 25% VAT. And it's socially acceptable to leave work at around 4 or 5 o'clock and pick up your kids from school, go home, share a family meal. From a management point of view, if people have a nice family life, they'll be more productive.

KT: Denmark is famous for having so much less income inequality; do kitchen workers in Danish restuarants make a decent salary?

TH: Yes, a dishwasher in Denmark gets $25 an hour.

KT: Do they get sick days and benefits, too?

TH: Yes, and a pension, and health care, and maternity leave. To me, the more equal your society is, the better it is for everybody. It's not right for a country as rich as yours to have so many poor people. This thing with Americans and taxes, I don't understand it.

I make quite a lot of money, I pay 67% tax on much of it, and I don't mind. I like the idea that the girl who's sitting next to my daughter, whose mother is a cleaning lady, has exactly the same opportunity to get an education that my daughter has. I don't think that's socialism. To me, that's human decency. That girl didn't choose her parents, why shouldn't she have the same opportunities?

KT: The government of Denmark has a very ambitious agenda to eliminate your country's dependence on fossil fuels by 2050. The Danes are early adopters when it comes to conservation and renewable energy.

But Denmark's a relatively small country with a temperate climate, and a homogenous population that doesn't doubt the science on climate change. What lessons do you think the US, with all its diversity and division, could learn from your example?

TH: We can't change the world. We're only five million people, but as you say, we're homogenous. Danes trust their government. Over 90% of our population votes. Our news is not as polarized as yours. We're a good place to try out a model.

And cities around the world can draw from our experience. If we don't adapt, there's not going to be water, there's not going to be electricity, why not find solutions now?

KT: How does your role as a climate change activist influence the way you cook?

TH: I use a lot of whole grains, I cut down on meat, I eat very seasonally. In my company, Hahnemann's Køkken, we have a very seasonal profile, our food waste is really low, we use everything that gets into the kitchen.

And I'm working with some engineers to design an energy efficient professional kitchen. We hope to convince people to buy new equipment. They say, "oh no, it's so expensive," but then you show them how much they could save over ten years on their electricity bill. There are so many old fridges out there that cost a fortune to run.

We need government guaranteed loans to buy new equipment, there are some very interesting models. There's a baker in Germany who has so much leftover bread because people come in at 6 o'clock and demand the same variety he has at 1 o'clock--that's ridiculous! But he'll lose business if he doesn't cater to that, so all the bread that's left everyday goes into his energy system. He burns it, and that runs the ovens for the next day.

KT: So it's like a kind of biofuel? Does it smell like burned toast?

TH: (laughs) I don't know!

KT: In the Nordic Diet, you note that folks in Denmark bicycle everywhere, to get to work, to go shopping--entire families routinely go bicycling together, and you don't let lousy weather stop you. You quote the Danish saying, "There is no such thing as bad weather, only wrong clothing."

But even when the weather's fine, you might work up a sweat and get windblown biking around. Here in the U.S., our surgeon general got in hot water when she noted that too many American women don't exercise because they don't want to mess up their hair.

So, is it socially acceptable in Denmark to arrive at one's destination looking like a sweaty, dishevelled mess?

TH: We don't have an obsession with hair like you have over here, we don't have that hair that sits in one place; that's never been in fashion. But if you bicycle ten miles to work on a racing bike, let's say, you'll have your regular clothes in a bag and most work places in Denmark provide a shower and a changing room.

KT: And what about the time that it takes to get changed into your work clothes, are you on the clock? Is it like taking a lunch break?

TH: Yeah, but Danes are like the Swiss, we're always on time. Danes are not late--being on time is a big part of the culture.

KT: So, it's acceptable to show up with messy hair, but not to be late?

TH: Yes.

KT: How did you feel about the Copenhagen Climate Change talks, and where do you see the climate change movement heading?

TH: I was so disappointed. I was in tears. Our politicians failed us gravely. America and China came with nothing. And Saudi Arabia was working behind the scenes, I'm told, to sabotage it.

It's a shame people aren't more disappointed with the politicians. I am. I'm really disappointed that they can't step up and do the right thing. Why aren't we doing more? I'm not even satisfied with what we're doing in Denmark. I love that we have these goals and I will help to work towards them through the things I can do as a chef and a responsible citizen.

But I think it will have to get much worse before people realize how bad it is. It's potentially just as catastrophic as terrorism--or worse--but nobody's paying attention. Everybody's just hoping it will go away.

On the food side, I'm more optimistic, I see a lot of changes, a lot of goodwill, people wanting to cook and eat more ecologically.

We've got to change the way we eat, we've got to change the way we source, we've got to change the way we waste. For me, first of all, it's cutting back on the meat. Eating meat everyday has only been part of our diet since World War II. No matter what, only eat meat twice a week.

And everyone should get a composting bucket, so they can see how much they waste. You could save $2,000 a year if you stopped wasting food. Our grandmothers would never have wasted all that food.

We have to take that older mentality and new technologies and put them together for new solutions. I agree with Food, Inc. director Robert Kenner when he says, "Every time you shop, you vote." That's the best thing you can do as an individual who doesn't hold political office.

          What's Cooking, Uncle Sam?: National Archives Reveals How Our Government Influences The Way We Eat        


Poor Uncle Sam's got a lot on his plate these days: a curdled economy, an overcooked climate, a soured populace. It's enough to give a national icon a capital case of indigestion. And anti-government sentiment's running so high right now that half the country seems ready to swap his stars and stripes for tar and feathers.

Sure, Uncle Sam's always been kind of a drag, with his stern face and wagging finger. But to nanny state haters, he's a Beltway busybody in drag, democracy's Mrs. Doubtfire, a Maryland Mary Poppins. If you believe that government is always the problem, never the solution, then you have no use for, say, more stringent food safety regulations, or Michelle Obama's "Let's Move!" campaign to combat obesity.

But the new exhibit "What's Cooking, Uncle Sam? The Government's Effect on the American Diet" at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. offers an intriguing display of documents, posters, photos and other artifacts dating from the Revolutionary War to the late 1900s that serve to remind us that our government has long played a crucial role in determining how safe, nutritious, and affordable our food supply is.

So, after all this government-mandated meddling with our meals, do we eat better now than we did a hundred years ago? Curator Alice Kamps didn't set out to provide a definitive answer to that question. Her intent was simply to "add to the conversation" that we're currently having about how Americans eat.

Kamps gives us plenty of fodder for discussion, if not heated debate; the exhibit, which runs until January 3, 2012, treads gingerly around hot button topics like crop subsidies and factory farming. And it sidesteps the food stamp land mine entirely in an era when the very word "entitlements" is enough to make some folks' heads explode.

That's a shame, because there's a little-known aspect to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), aka food stamps, that encourages self sufficiency and complements the kitchen garden revival that gets a shout out in this exhibit, thanks to Michelle Obama and White House chef Sam Kass.

The 1973 Farm Bill included an amendment to the Food Stamp Act that enabled food stamp recipients to use their stamps to buy seeds or vegetable plants. As any gardener knows, a few dollars worth of seeds can yield a return of $50 or even $100 worth of food. Senator James Allen of Alabama, who proposed the amendment, noted that "the recipients of food stamps would thus be able to use their own initiative to produce fruits and vegetables needed to provide variety and nutritional value for their diets."

The program continues to this day, but remains largely unknown, so few food stamp recipients avail themselves of this chance to literally grow their benefits at no extra cost to Uncle Sam.

Missed opportunities aside, "What's Cooking, Uncle Sam?" does a fine job of documenting just how consistent our issues with our food chain have stayed even as the way we eat has changed radically over the past century. Consider the following nugget of dietary wisdom from the first federally funded nutrition research, launched in the 1890s. Wilbur Olin Atwater, Special Agent in Charge of Nutrition Investigations in the Office of Experiment Stations, concluded:

"The evils of overeating may not be felt at once, but sooner or later they are sure to appear--perhaps in an excessive amount of fatty tissue, perhaps in general debility, perhaps in actual disease."

We knew it then, we know it now. And yet, we eat more than ever, egged on by a schizophrenic USDA whose dual missions--encouraging healthier eating habits and promoting the interests of the food industry--are in eternal conflict.

Check out the USDA's 1945 Food Group Poster (a precursor to the Food Pyramid, which debuted in 1992). A pie chart lays out "The Basic 7" food groups we should eat from each day for optimal health. Below it lies the message "In addition to the basic 7, eat any other foods you want."

No wonder Uncle Sam looks so pained; he's been getting his arm twisted by lobbyists for nearly a hundred years. Take the case of the seed giveaway program that Congress created in 1839. The original purpose of the program was to expand the range of foods our farmers grew and encourage them to test rare plant varieties. By 1897, the USDA was distributing 1.1 billion free seed packets to farmers, many of them more common vegetable and flower varieties.

The program was wildly popular with farmers, but a thorn in the side of the growing commercial seed industry. So, in 1929, after intense lobbying from the American Seed Trade Association, Congress scrapped the seed giveaway.

The exhibit does, of course, highlight Uncle Sam's more laudable legacies, such as the passage in 1906 of the Pure Food and Drugs Act and Meat Inspection Act, and the establishment of the School Lunch Program in 1946, which has since become "one of the most popular social welfare programs in our nation's history," according to the exhibit catalog. Geez, if that's how we fund our most popular programs, I'd hate to see what kind of resources we allocate to the ones we like least.

"What's Cooking, Uncle Sam?" strikes a nice balance between the wonky, somber food policy and safety segments and more lighthearted elements such as White House menus featuring favorite presidential recipes and those classic wartime propaganda posters encouraging us to can, garden, and conserve. Other visual treats include the beautiful botanical illustrations commissioned by the USDA in the late 1800s to document the discoveries of the plant hunters we dispatched to far-off lands in pursuit of new fruit and vegetable varieties.

One of our more notable agricultural explorers, the intrepid, fur-hatted Frank N. Meyer, introduced us to some 2,500 new plants, including the lemon that bears his name. Meyer walked hundreds of miles through China at the turn of the century in his quest to "skim the earth in search of things good for man."

Now, we outsource the task of finding horticultural breakthroughs to corporations whose motto could be "to scorch the earth in search of things bad for man." Uncle Sam doesn't commission botanical illustrations or promote rare seeds anymore, either; for that, I have to rely on my friends at the Hudson Valley Seed Library. Kicky propaganda posters? Back to the private sector--see Joe Seppi's brilliant Victory Garden of Tomorrow posters on Etsy.

Uncle Sam hasn't got the time or the budget for such extracurricular activities these days. He's got his hands full just trying to maintain our food chain's mediocre status quo. As Mark Bittman noted recently, Republicans are on a tear to gut vital food safety and nutrition programs in the name of deficit reduction. Nevermind that the programs in question actually save us billions of dollars in health care costs in the long run. "What's Cooking, Uncle Sam?" Well, off the record, he'd probably tell you that what's cooking is our goose.

Cross-posted from AlterNet

          Fighting Obesity        
Fighting Obesity The introduction of a “sugar tax” should not be a party political issue. It should be a straightforward sensible piece of public policy to improve our national health and put a break to the obesity epidemic. Two thirds of us are now overweight or obese and its costing the NHS £5bn a year. However, the Prime Minister David Cameron ruled out a sugar tax after Cancer Research published their research and called for a tax in February 2016 despite admitting he had not read the report. Could it have something to do with the food lobby putting undue pressure on our politicians? Could it have something to do with the arrival on the scene of the European Hydration Institute (EHI) supported with £4 Million of Coke’s money. Does the EHI work as a lobby organisation for the fizzy drink industry? Is there a lobbying firm fro healthy food and drink? But a “ Sugar Tax” is not enough if it applies to sugary drinks alone then the impact will be only a 5% reduction in obesity. True it would save 3.7 million people from obesity, but we can do better. We should take this opportunity to broaden the scope of the legislation to cover sugar, fat and salt as well. The Pan American Health Organisation and the World Health Organisation have released a Nutritional Profile Standard intended to make it easier for governments to distinguish fresh food from processed food. The model classifies processed and ultra-processed foods and beverages as having “excessive” amounts of sugar, salt and fat according to the following criteria: Excessive sugar if the amount of added sugars is 10% or more of total calories Excessive fat if the calories from all fats are 30% or more of total calories Excessive saturated fat if calories from saturated fats are 10% or more of total calories Excessive trans fat if calories from trans fats are 1% or more of total calories Excessive sodium if the ratio of sodium (in milligrams) to calories (kcal) is 1:1 or higher. This provides a clear criteria for the imposition of a tax on any products that exceed these levels. The point in setting these standards is to encourage governments to: Restrict the marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to children Regulate school food environments Use front-of-package (FOP) warning labels Define taxation policies to limit consumption of unhealthy food Identify foods to be provided by social programs to vulnerable groups. Currently the level of tax muted in the UK for sugary drinks is 20%. However the National Obesity Forum would like the level set at 50%. A recent poll indicated that 64% of us would not oppose a tax on sugar, enough support to get serious about tackling obesity and set a high tax level. Some politicians regard this as a “Nanny State” intervention suggesting that people should be free to make their own choices as to what they eat and drink. But Prof Nestle, who has spent a lifetime investigating the problem at NY University, tells us “ The marketing slips below the level of critical thinking. Personal responsibility for food and drink is too simplistic. We live in an environment where we are continually bombarded with messages saying eat more, drink more, hundreds of times a day. People can’t resist these messages, carefully crafted and positioned by the advertisers.” Putting the tax in place for products we buy should also be extended to restaurants and other food and drink outlets. Regulations should also be introduced to prevent fast or unhealthy food outlet locating near to schools regardless of the level of tax on their products. There should also be a ban on TV ads for high-fat, sugar and salt foods before 9pm and finally these products should not be subject to discounted promotions in stores and supermarkets. This should not be difficult to do and besides saving people from a lot of suffering, it will free up billion of pounds a year that could be better spent. 2nd March 2016                  
          Does Second Life need a government?        

The question of government in virtual worlds is a controversial one. The Second Life forums have occasionally burned brightly with the flame wars initiated by discussion of player-run democracy. Why do some people living and working in Second Life feel the need for a government? What would it do? And who should it govern?

I was struck by one potential need for government (in the real world and in virtual worlds) the other day. On my way to an appointment I noticed that the traffic lights at a busy intersection were down. Crossing this road is tricky at the best of times but very scary with no traffic signals to say when pedestrians are safe to cross the road. Luckily I wasn’t in a hurry so I could take my time and observe what was taking place. Pedestrians didn’t get stand much of a chance! Cars, lorries and buses pushed ahead trying to keep the flow of their lane going and preventing the cross stream from cutting in. There wasn’t a great deal of turn-taking or polite behaviour in evidence, just a Hobbesian war of ‘all against all’.

It occurred to me that this form of regulation is one of the legitimate functions of government. Most motorists and pedestrians accept that traffic lights are useful to them. They allow traffic to flow safely, prevent accidents and they balance the power of the strong (lorries, cars) against the rights of more vulnerable parties (cyclists, pedestrians). That, for me, is one of the indispensable functions that government could fulfil in a virtual world too; acting as ringleader between competing interests, providing necessary regulation to allow avatars to fulfil their ambitions and balancing the power of the stronger (wealthy land barons, established residents) against the rights of those with less power in the Second Life economy and society (newbies, basic members, consumers).

In the real world government fulfils a number of other functions as well as regulating the flow of traffic. Core functions, common to all states are defence of the nation and policing to guard public safety. In addition, most wealthy modern democracies have some form of welfare state which provides a safety net for citizens in times of unemployment or ill health. Many democracies, especially in Europe, have systems of socialised healthcare in addition to the private provision of health services. In these democracies the state provides a minimum standard of publicly-funded education and access to higher education. Slightly more controversially, many states see their role as sponsoring certain industries. Even more controversially, and extending into potential ‘nanny state’ territory, many also argue that government also has a role as ‘choice editor’, saving us from our worst instincts in the face of environmental pressures, failure to save for our old age and the pervasive availability of junk food. Government in this view sets the ‘default’ options in favour of positive outcomes for individuals and for public policy.

In Second Life there is a strong bias against player-run government. There are a number of reasons for this, one of the most obvious factors being the type, and nationality, of people who have been attracted to Second Life. The vast majority, 80% or so, of SL citizens are from the United States and the US has a strong intellectual tradition that is mistrustful of government. The establishment of a democratic republic in response to monarchist tyranny and abuse of power is the generally accepted founding story that America likes to relate to itself. The notion that government can be a force for good and play a positive role in society gains much less favour in America compared to Europe for example. In addition Second Life’s demographic to date has been heavily weighted towards internet early adopters and content creators with a liberal (and libertarian) outlook. The dispute over the need for government in a virtual world is but one of many battles that have taken place over, for example, the role of commercial activity in Second Life and whether it is a game, a platform, a country, the metaverse or something else entirely.

Bias apart, many would argue that there really is no need for a government in a virtual world like Second Life. Our avatars do not require food, shelter or water, there is no need for defence against enemy nations (except where people are role-playing war games) and if you transact business without bearing in mind the maxim “Buyer beware” you only have yourself to blame, right? In Second Life there is no intrinsic need for the goods available; one can survive perfectly well without land, prims, currency, employment, new clothes or hoochie hair. If someone is harassing you through IM or stalking you using scanning and spying tools Linden Lab will step in and discipline them, right? Well that’s all true but only up to a point. For starters Linden Lab could be described as ‘the government of Second Life’ but only in the sense that a benign dictatorship exercises some of the responsibilities of government in a fairly capricious fashion. And, unlike a democratically-elected government, you can’t get rid of them except by defecting to another virtual world with the consequent loss of any virtual goods, commercial reputation or other forms of intangible capital that may have been accumulated.

This brings me to Neualtenburg, an experiment in representative democracy and collective decision-making. The Neualtenburg Projekt has been running for almost two years. Neualtenburg has a territory (the Neualtenburg sim), an elected legislature (the Representative Assembly) as well as a judiciary (the Scientific Council) and an artisan’s guild. Neualtenburg has its own Constitution and set of laws. Its citizens have opted to take collective decisions about zoning the sim into residential, commercial, mixed use and public spaces. By doing so they have agreed to abide by certain rules to preserve the unique character and appearance of the City. As the theme is largely modelled on a medieval Bavarian town there is, for example, no scope for building a floating spaceship in the residential quarter inside the city walls!

What is really interesting about Neualtenburg’s recent developments is that the City is beginning to offer goods and services that only a ‘government’ can provide including the registration and incorporation of companies and banking regulation. I think this makes Neualtenburg a potential model for others to follow, if they can get beyond an antipathy to ‘other players having power over me’ and the drama that occasionally flares up on Neualtenburg’s forums. The first barrier will be weakened by the influx of more people with more varied attitudes towards the role of government. The anarcho-libertarian hegemony in Second Life is likely to be diluted as more people, with more varied opinions and experiences, join. The drama of the forums is more of a double-edged sword. It certainly puts off a lot of people who would otherwise be attracted to Neualtenburg. My initial evaluation was that I couldn’t face spending hours in virtual meetings debating dry points of constitutional law or getting dragged into the inevitable flame wars. On the other hand it also draws in new people. I signed up after getting drawn into an interesting constitutional debate that covered the separation of powers, checks and balances between branches of government and how to balance minority rights with the democratic will of the majority. I am reliably informed that each of these forum spats has led to an increase in citizenship as people are drawn to the drama!

But most people, looking at Neualtenburg from outside, could be forgiven for concluding that the project has failed to live up to its promise. Two years on it is restricted to one sim while Anshe’s dominion covers a whole continent and even a recent land baron such as Desmond Shang can claim four sims. (Expansion to a second sim is imminent though and should be completed by the end of 2006). I think it would be a mistake to underestimate Neualtenburg’s potential though. In the real world, democracy is the most stable government formation human societies have developed so far, and is highly correlated with economic growth. If Neualtenburg’s political structures are strong enough, they should be able to outlast not only the current members of the government, but also the original founders of the project. Neualtenburg is going through a testing time at the moment after the departure of one of its founders, Ulrika Zugzwang, in January and her recent return to settle a number of disputes unresolved at the time of her departure. There are lessons to be learned here for other SL communities who want to explore democratic forms of sim management or who are engaged in collaborative work if they can see the issues underlying the drama. I am confident that Neualtenburg can get beyond its current difficulties and will emerge the stronger for it. I’ll be writing more about Neualtenburg, and the socio-political aspects of Second Life in the future.

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          Save the Net        

Because there exists no area of human activity that couldn't benefit from more paternalistic attention ... Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the Federal Communications Commission to your Web browser.

Congressional Democrats cannot find the votes to pass "network neutrality." No problem. Three unelected officials will impose rules on hundreds of millions of satisfied online consumers. A federal appeals court stops the FCC from employing authority over the Internet. Again, not a problem. Three out of five FCC commissioners can carve out some temporary wiggle room, because, as any crusading technocrat knows, the most important thing is getting in the door.

It's not that we don't need the FCC's meddling (or worse); it's that we don't need the FCC at all. Rather than expanding the powers—which always seem to grow—of this outdated bureaucracy, Congress should be finding ways to eliminate it.

Why would we want a prehistoric bureaucracy overseeing one of the past century's great improvements? As a bottom-up, unregulated, and "under-taxed" market in which technological innovation, free speech, and competition thrive—at affordable prices, no less—the Internet poses a crisis of ideology, not commerce, for the FCC.

It's about control and relevance. What else can explain the proactive rescue of the Web from capitalistic abuses that reside exclusively in the imaginations of a handful of progressive ideologues?

What is the FCC doing? It's complicated, and in some ways, it's irrelevant. It claims that regulatory power will ensure that consumers enjoy an "open Internet." (With more broadband providers than ever, is there anything more open than the Internet?) But the FCC can censor speech. And once the FCC can regulate Internet service providers, those providers will be more compliant and more interested in making censors happy.

The FCC also can hand out favors that hurt competition. And as Lawrence Lessig, a professor at Harvard Law School, wrote in 2008, "economic growth requires innovation. Trouble is, Washington is practically designed to resist it. Built into the DNA of the most important agencies created to protect innovation, is an almost irresistible urge to protect the most powerful instead."

Even as Chairman Julius Genachowski claims that he will employ a "light touch," the FCC leaves open the possibility that it will use the Title II docket to classify broadband as a public utility—and, as you know, nothing says progress and modernization like "utility."

The same organization that forced all consumers to buy Ma Bell-made telephones for decades, the same FCC that enforced speech codes via radio "fairness doctrines," the same FCC that took two decades after its invention to OK cellular technology for the marketplace and acted similarly sluggishly with cable and satellite innovation has no business online. It has a history of hurting consumers, not protecting them. (Unless you need protection from fleeting expletives and the once-a-decade nipple controversy.)

It is likely that a new Congress—or perhaps the courts—will undo this regulatory power play. And though "net neutrality," or "open Internet" (no one needs to worry; doublespeak is still flourishing), may not survive, it reminds us that the FCC's institutional positions conflict with the vibrancy and freedom of the Internet.

Positions that are as archaic as they are detrimental.

David Harsanyi is a columnist at The Denver Post and the author of Nanny State. Visit his website at This column first appeared at


Bonus Video: "3 Reasons the FCC Shouldn't 'Touch' the Internets"

          Obama Isn't Fooling Anyone        

President Barack Obama penned a witty Wall Street Journal op-ed this week, titled "Toward a 21st-Century Regulatory System."

In it, he extolled the virtues of a free market system. And to prove that his admiration of capitalism has nothing to do with naked political expediency, Obama signed an executive order that will "root out regulations that conflict, that are not worth the cost, or that are just plain dumb."

Sounds rather subjective, though, don't you think? How do we gauge excessive regulation in the Age of Obama? I can't recall a single federal program, piece of legislation, or proposal in the past two years that was initiated to ease the burden on consumers or businesses. (If you know of any, please send specifics to

Obama doesn't have to look far, if he's serious. Nor does he need an executive order. Right now, the Environmental Protection Agency is drafting carbon rules to force on states, even though a similarly torturous 2,000 pages on a cap-and-trade scheme intending to make power more expensive was rejected. Maybe there's something in that pile of paper to mine.

Also, the Federal Communications Commission is shoving network neutrality in the pipeline—again, bypassing Congress—so government can regulate the Internet for the first time in history, though the commissioners themselves admit that as of now, any need for rules are based on the what-ifs of their imaginations.

There exists no legislation more burdensome and expensive than the job-crushing (not "job-killing," because, naturally, we can't stand for that kind of imagery) Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, formerly known as ObamaCare and presently being symbolically repealed by House Republicans.

That's for starters.

But, of course, there will be no tangible regulatory relief. The Federal Register is a codex of moral well-being, after all. Regulatory schemes are how we make life fairer, the sick healthy, the economy recession-proof, and green energy a reality. It's how we stop the rich from acting selfishly and the weak from stuffing fat kids with Sno Balls.

Last May, a New York Times story, "With Obama, Regulations Are Back in Fashion," laid out how the administration had "pressed forward on hundreds of new mandates." In it, we have what seems like half the White House championing the pettiest of regulations as an ethical imperative.

Our bureaucratic agencies have nearly infinite power to do good via rule-making—once they are in, that is. Keep in mind that the rule allowing "end-of-life" counseling paid for by Medicare was inserted into ObamaCare after passage and only nixed after an ensuing outcry.

It, like thousands of other additions, will return.

A Small Business Administration study says total regulatory costs that businesses (and thus consumers) pay amount to about $1.75 trillion—more than all collected personal income taxes. The Competitive Enterprise Institute found in this past year that the appearance of new rules—including "major" rules that cost more than $100 million annually—had dramatically accelerated.

Which isn't surprising.

When Obama was in a place of political comfort, the free market was a place of unhinged self-interest, unfairness, and misery. Nearly all of our troubles were portrayed as a case of regulatory neglect—and nearly every dilemma was met accordingly.

Nothing's changed but the political conditions.

David Harsanyi is a columnist at The Denver Post and the author of Nanny State. Visit his website at This column first appeared at


          Leave Them Tubes Alone        

As there is no real problem with the Internet, it's not surprising that some of our top minds have been working diligently on a solution.

In a 2001 interview (one that only recently has gone viral and caused a brouhaha), Cass Sunstein, now the nation's regulatory czar, is overheard advocating for government to insist all websites offer opposing viewpoints—or, in other words, a "Fairness" Doctrine for the Web. This was necessary because, as hundreds of millions of Internet users can attest, ferreting out competing perspectives online is all but impossible. (A search for "Cass Sunstein" on Google, for instance, barely generated 303,000 results in 0.19 seconds.)

And what if websites refused to acquiesce to this intrusion on free speech? "If we could get voluntary arrangements in that direction, it would be great," Sunstein said at the time, "and if we can't get voluntary arrangements, maybe Congress should hold hearings about mandates." After all, Sunstein went on to say, "the word 'voluntary' is a little complicated. And sometimes people don't do what's best for our society." Mandates, he said, were the "ultimate weapon designed to encourage people to do better."

Actually, the word "voluntary" isn't complicated at all. And mandates do not "encourage" people to do better; mandates "force" people to do what those writing regulations happen to think is better. We're intimately familiar with the distinction.

In truth, I've enjoyed many of Sunstein's counterintuitive arguments and read his idealistic notions about "nudging" (and sometimes a bit more, apparently; I guess it's complicated) irrational people into "rational" choices. Sunstein is an intellectual who thinks aloud. Obviously, that can come back to cause you some problems.

Then again, would an impulsive intellectual who wondered aloud about coercing universities to offer more right-wing professors—or who casually entertained the idea of dispensing with the First Amendment—be tasked with the job of overseeing the health of the nation's entire regulatory system, which holds so many real-world consequences? Doubtful.

Sunstein, it must be noted, later backed off his dictatorial approach to dealing with the non-crisis of our narrow online reading habits by claiming that the Internet is "too difficult to regulate in a way that would respond to these concerns." In other words, he concluded that the Internet is too complex to allow for the types of regulatory intrusions we insist on in other areas of everyday life.

Others have not backed off, though. The Federal Communications Commission has been working diligently to find a way to act on the same control impulses that Sunstein had in mind, with something called "net neutrality."

I know it sounds wonderfully fair. But the reality of net neutrality makes as much sense as mandating that tricycle riders have the same rights and privileges as cars and trucks on our roads—highway neutrality.

The FCC promises it doesn't have any intention of controlling Internet content, only of making access fair. But empowered with the ability to regulate the flow of online traffic, it offers a semantic, not substantive, excuse for a power grab.

Like Sunstein, the FCC should acknowledge that the complexities of the Internet are beyond the ability of control. Not to mention unnecessary.

David Harsanyi is a columnist at The Denver Post and the author of Nanny State. Visit his website at This column first appeared at


          Marxist Socialism In America         

By James W. King
Albany Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) Camp Commander
Students at James Madison High School in Madison Wisconsin want the name of the school changed because Madison owned slaves. Using slavery as an excuse is a Marxist Socialist Communist ploy to change all of America's history. and it's future. Socialism and Communism hide and operate behind the cloak of humanitarianism while they stealthily work to enslave the planet. These students in Madison Wisconsin and the Democratic Hillary supporters who are rioting and demonstrating in America's cities are "useful idiots" as defined by Communist Vladimir Lenin. They don't have a clue that they are helping work to enslave their children, grandchildren and future generations. Socialism and Communism are using slavery as an excuse to erase Southern and Confederate history and the history of America's founding fathers. Also Christianity is being attacked. Next will be the U.S. flag the "Stars and Stripes" and eventually American sovereignty. The Bible predicts the coming of an evil One World Government and human misery on a scale this world has never seen.
Young Americans are very susceptible to indoctrination and many of America's schools have become indoctrination centers.  Karl Marx said "Separate people from their history so they can be easily persuaded-"The first step in liquidating a people is to erase its memory. Destroy its books, its culture, and its history. Then have somebody write new books, manufacture a new culture, invent a new history. Before long the nation will begin to forget what it is and what it was." -Karl Marx--Infamous European Socialist. Communist Vladimir Lenin is quoted "give us your child for 8 years and it will be a Bolshevik forever".
Socialist Communist Saul Alinsky wrote a book on how to create a Socialist country. Hillary Clinton and Obama studied his book. There are 8 levels of control to establish. The First and most important is HEALTH CARE-control health care and you control the people. Second-POVERTY-Increase the poverty level as high as possible. Poor people are easier to control and will not fight back if they are given all they need to live. Third-DEBT-Increase debt to an unsustainable level. This allows an increase in taxes which will produce more poverty. Fourth-GUN CONTROL-remove people's ability to fight the government and then create a police state. Fifth-WELFARE-take control of food housing and income. Sixth-EDUCATION-control the news media and what children are taught in school. Seventh-RELIGION-remove God from government and schools. Eighth-CLASS WARFARE-divide people into wealthy and poor. This will cause discontent and allow the wealthy to be taxed to support the poor. 
The three part conversion of the American Republic to Socialism began in 1861 with the Yankee "War of Northern Aggression"-the Political phase.  The Economic Phase started in 1913 with income tax, Federal Reserve and direct election of senators followed by the Cultural Phase in 1960-the Welfare and Nanny state. It is sucking America into the Marxist Quagmire. 

Contact me to receive my article"10 Causes of Southern Secession" and other articles defending Confederate history, heritage, and culture.

          CSA Memorial Day & History & Heritage Month in Georgia 2017        
By James W. King
In 1874 the Georgia Legislature created a public holiday denoting April 26 as Confederate Memorial Day and in 2009 they passed Senate Bill 27 which permanently designates  April as Confederate History and Heritage month. Governor Nathan Deal in 2015 ignorantly joined the Marxist Socialist revisionist movement which is attacking everything Southern and Confederate along with America's founding fathers. He removed the names of 2 state holidays - Robert E. Lee's Birthday and Confederate Memorial Day. They are now state holidays without names. Karl Marx is quoted "People separated from their heritage are easily persuaded".
After a long series of abuses by England the 13 American colonies declared independence on July 4, 1776 and seceded from England and were successful in achieving independence in 1783.  Likewise in 1860-1861, after years of political and criminal abuse by the Northern states, primarily New England, 11 Southern states constitutionally, legally, and honorably seceded from the United States of America and formed a new nation, The Confederate States of America (CSA). These Southern states sought Independence and peaceful separation from the increasing usurpation of unconstitutional Federal power. The Federal government of America had been taken over by radicals, fanatics, and criminals.
In 1848 the Socialist revolution in Europe led by Karl Marx had failed. In 1849-1850 about 2000 German Socialists were sent to New York City. They joined with American Socialists led by Horace Greeley owner of the New York Tribune newspaper. Prior to Southern secession 487 of Marx's articles were printed including the Communist Manifesto. The radical, fanatical, criminal, Socialist Atheist Republican Party was formed in 1854 and up until 1877 was similar to the modern Democratic Party. Abraham Lincoln was a member and 68 of 117 signed a resolution advocating terrorism against the South. The Southern states refused to be ruled by the Republican Party and seceded. After a four year war against overwhelming numbers and resources the Confederate Armed forces were forced to yield.
Lincoln's unnecessary war had claimed the lives of over 600,000 American soldiers North and South, and 50,000 Southern civilians.. It had been a culture war fought for the purpose of converting the American Republic established by America's founding fathers , who were primarily Southern gentleman from Virginia, to a Socialist Democracy. Northern soldiers were deceived by the clever "Save the Union" war cry. Socialism in America has developed in 3 stages: POLITICAL in 1865 following Southern surrender, ECONOMIC in 1913-1917-Federal Income Tax, Federal Reserve, and CULTURAL 1960 to 2017-Welfare Nanny state. Today many Northern citizens are connecting the dots back to 1848 and 1865 and are wishing their ancestors had wore Gray instead of Blue.
Recently the modern Republican globalist and big government advocate Newt Gingrich blurted out the truth "the war wasn't fought to free slaves it was fought to centralize and concentrate all power in Washington DC."  Slavery was already a dying institution and would have soon ended peacefully without a war as it did elsewhere in the Western Hemisphere. The New England colonies/states of MA., CT., RI., NH., and NY. were responsible for the development of slavery. They grew to prosperity on the nefarious slave trade and when it became unprofitable they hypocritically accused the Southern planters who had purchased slaves from them of 'Grave Moral Sin".
The Confederate flag and the Confederate States of America represent the same principles and values as the Betsy Ross Flag and the American Republic: Limited Constitutional Federal Government, States Rights, Resistance to Tyranny, and Christianity. The Confederate Battle Flag is an international symbol of Resistance to Tyranny and was chosen by the Polish Solidarity Movement in 1980 as their symbol of resistance to Russian Communism and it was flying over the Berlin Wall in 1989 as it was being torn down.
Lincoln and the Federal Government had no constitutional authority to coerce or invade a State for any reason. The States had formed the Federal Government and granted specific limited powers. The rest were reserved to the States and the people.   Lincoln, Sherman, Sheridan, Butler, Grant, Jennison, and thousands of other Yankees were war criminals. Crimes committed against Southerners included murder, torture, rape, arson, plunder, pillage, theft, vandalism, burning churches, destruction of graves, and turning women and children out in the cold.

Southerners have every right to be proud of and to remember and honor the brave men in gray who fought against the Yankee barbarians.

James W. King is commander of Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) Camp 141 Lt. Col. Thomas M. Nelson Nelson's Rangers Albany GA. He may be contacted at
          The Political Gabfest: The Conservative Nanny State Edition        
Slate's Political Gabfest, featuring Emily Bazelon, David Plotz and John Dickerson. This week: Is the GOP becoming a Party of ideas? Also, the move in Tennesse to toss out the Democratic judges on Tennessee State Supreme Court, and why people panic about Ebola even when they don't need to.
          Vote Picks for 2016 for Santa Clara County, Assembly District 28, Willow Glen (ish)        
As many of you know, I obsess about politics the way other people do about sports. This has been the most interesting election cycle of my lifetime, both good and bad. I've been pouring over the my ballot, and I get excited when I get my State Voter Guide, which is online. and below are my picks for 2016 all the way down. Feel free to start a conversation on this.

My Picks:

  • President/VP: Clinton/Kaine
  • Senator: Kamala Harris. Look, I love Loretta Sanchez as a person, and I recognize and appreciate what she's done in Garden Grove. But Harris is a serious candidate, and a historic candidate
  • Congress: Zoe Lofgren, now and forever. Proud to have her as my representative in Congress.
  • State Senator: Jim Beall.
  • Assembly: Evan Low
  • San Jose Unified School District: Pam Foley.
  • East Side Union School District. Pattie Cortese
  • City Council: Helen Chapman. Dev Davis is a Republican.
  • Open Space District: Dorsey Moore. PLO is just ballot riding.
  • Prop 51: Yes. Its the only way we can legitimately fund schools in California
  • Prop 52: Yes. Why is this not in the legislature?
  • Prop 53: No. Would make raising revenue for worthy projects harder
  • Prop 54: Yes. Seems reasonable that legislation should be public 72 hours ahead of time.
  • Prop 55: Yes. Proud to extend this, and to pay it. We have to find education somehow.
  • Prop 56: Yes. Leads to a healthier population
  • Prop 57: Yes. Part of the on-going criminal justice reform
  • Prop 58: Yes. Preserves the status quo. Common language is a unifier. I'd also like to see mandatory Spanish as well. Maybe in the future.
  • Prop 59: Yes. Allowing for proposal and ratification of an amendment to overturn Citizens United
  • Prop 60: Blank. Ummm, really? I have to vote on this?
  • Prop 61: Yes. Lowers drug prices. 
  • Prop 62: Yes. End the Death Penalty. Seamless Garment.
  • Prop 63: Yes. Background check for ammo. Guns don't kill people, bullets do.
  • Prop 64: Yes. 420 dood. Then tax it. See Aquinas: "lex humana dicitur aliqua permittere, non quasi ea approbans, sed quasi ea dirigere non potens." (ST 1-
  • Prop 65: Yes. Grudgingly. The bag ban is an example of the nanny state. Do you know how many groceries I have left in the parking lot because of this ban? But this redirects money to environmental causes.
  • Prop 66: No. Seems to me like taking away due process rights
  • Prop 67: No. See Prop 65. How much pasta sauce do I need to leave in the Safeway parking lot?
  • Measure A: Yes. We have the largest per-capita homeless population. We need to fix it.
  • Measure B: Yes. Traffic is a mess, future generations need BART. Yes to the sales tax.
  • Measure E: Yes. Be fair on offering extra hours. I have seen this abused.
  • Measure F: Yes. Its a decent compromise. Lets rebuild SJPD.
  • Measure G: Yes. Yes to Business Tax.
  • Measure X: Yes. Supports Job Training
  • Measure Y: Yes. More Property Tax to improve San Jose Schools.

My Current Senate map:

As extra credit: At this writing, my Senate Map looks like this. My current prediction is  50/50 split with VP breaking tie.

          Top 4 GOP Candidates Refuse "Moral Values" Debate        
Much as tonight's laughable GOP debate has garnered media and blogosphere attention today, it may have been easy to overlook yet another telling GOP debate story: the snubbing of a social conservative so-called "values voter" debate. This debate, scheduled for September 17th and hosted by ultra wingnutty (I refuse to provide a link), will be attended by most of the 2nd-tier contenders for the GOP nod, but will be avoided by McCain (though he's pretty much 2nd-tier now), Romney, Giuliani and Freddy.

The Murdoch-infested New York Sun has the story:

If self-styled "values voters" have felt snubbed by the Republican presidential candidates this election season, that snubbing is now official.

Mayor Giuliani, Fred Thompson, Mitt Romney, and Senator McCain are all declining to participate in a September 17 debate in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that's being hosted by an umbrella social-conservative group called Social conservatives will be upset; other conservatives might well be heartened by the waning power of the religious right.

A number of second-tier Republican candidates have confirmed attendance at the event, according to the news site, whose editor, Joseph Farah, is slated to moderate the debate. They include Rep. Duncan Hunter, Mike Huckabee, Rep. Tom Tancredo, Senator Brownback, Rep. Ron Paul, and John Cox.

Much as the top-tier GOP candidates scrambled tonight to please the Neanderthal Christianist mirror-image of the Taliban that comprises an increasingly large portion of the Republican base, their refusal to attend this event was extremely telling: several major players in the Christian Conservative movement including anti-feminist icon Phyllis Schlafly will be asking questions, and the debate will be streamed over the Internet and on satellite television. In many ways--from media coverage to political environment (strong activist base), failure to attend this debate would be similar to a Democratic candidate refusing to attend YearlyKos. It's a duck of extremely significant proportions.

Not that Rudy McRomneyson aren't stuck between a rock and a hard place:
Without any of the top-tier candidates in attendance, the debate is unlikely to garner much attention from the mainstream press. The question is whether skipping the debate will hurt the Big Four more with the base than attending it might have hurt them with the rest of the country. Given the agenda of those who will be asking the questions-- anti-abortion, anti-stem-cell-research, anti-judicial-independence, anti-immigration, and pro-censorship--it's likely the Fantastic Four made the right decision.

While they may have saved themselves from the stinging questions from these nuts, they haven't escaped the wrath of the base for evading the forum. Just look at the thread over at FreeRepublic:

Freeper Sun:

What a bunch of chickens.

Now we know that Rudy McRomney are part of the RINO establishment.

Freeper puroresu:

If social conservatives are losing power in the GOP, then the GOP is history and we’ll be a full socialist nanny state in twenty years.

Freeper jsdude1:

Lets see the Republican Party (and their liberal donors) Win without Christians..I WILL ACTIVELY PORTRAY THEM AS TRAITORS/AND CAMPAIGN FOR THE CONSTITUTIONL/LIBERTARIAN CANDIDATE-AGAINST THEM!! If they support a liberal RINO as Republican POTUS Standard Bearer-08.

Freeper Man50D:The Republican party has been incrementally replacing Conservative core values with Socialism for many decades. Conservatives are the minority RINOS because they have been pushed out of the party. Consequently the GOP and the Socialist Democrats are essentially one party. Conservatives only logical alternative is to leave the GOP and unite with the large number of unaffiliated Conservatives.

Freeper AD from Springbay:

If this: GOP Candidates Snub Social Conservatives is true in September of 2007 then this: GOP Candidates Fail to Win Election in December 2008. As a 'social conservative' I'm tired of being a Republican step-n-fetchit.

Of all the candidates to take heat from the Freepers, however, Freddy seems to have come off the worst, because he would have been expected to attend:

Freeper GhostofFreepersPast

That’s a deal breaker for me. Fred is on my won’t vote for list rigth along with Rudy McRomney. Game time is over. These are the issues I take most seriously.

Freeper puroresu:

Fred should participate. I don’t understand why he’d avoid this. The other three have good reason for being busy elsewhere that night.

Now, it is true that some have with some reason argued that the major candidates cannot attend every forum--but with base conservatives already worried that the probable do not respect them or their "values", every evasive move like this carries increased significance. Personally, I think it's extremely enjoyable to watch the "moral values" party of Vitter, Craig, and Mark Foley excoriate their head candidates as they attempt to dance on the head of a pin.

Pass the popcorn!

Also at MLW
          Federal Involvement in Public Education        
I have never been a fan of the federal government's involvement in public education. I believe that such things are best handled at the most local level possible. Actually, I believe that education should be handled privately, but since we live in a nanny state, that is not likely to happen. So given that, we should at least be nannied as locally as possible. The local community is certainly better in tune with its children's educational needs than a bunch of career bureaucrats in D.C.

Unfortunately, Uncle Sam didn't see it that way back in 1953. At that time, the country was still awash in putrid movement of the previous two decades to expand federal power beyond anything that even closely resembled constitutional restraint. Government was the answer to all that ailed you. So with such widespread sentiment, Eisenhower brought into existence the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.

Over the course of the next few decades, the guys and gals in D.C. became ever more involved in the social engineering of public schools. By 1979, that meddling became so pervasive that it was determined that it was time for the Department of Education to strike out on its own as an independent bureaucracy.

Both Democrats and Republicans alike, have continued to bloat the DoE's budget and meddling. I remember back in the 90s when many Republicans actually called for the elimination of the DoE. In fact, as this article points out, it was once even a part of the GOP platform:
The GOP platform was clear: "The Federal government has no constitutional authority to be involved in school curricula or to control jobs in the market place. This is why we will abolish the Department of Education."

Alas, that was when they had no power. Now they are "compassionate" conservatives and free spenders.
Whenever he can, President Bush touts the huge spending increases necessary to promote his No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). But it's not just NCLB funding that has increased: the entire education budget has ballooned during the president's time in office. The Department of Education's budget has grown by 82.5 percent in real terms from $34.9 billion in FY2001 to $63.7 billion in FY2005. This is the largest increase of any president since Lyndon Johnson.

And President Bush's 2006 budget asks for more of the same. Every state sees an increase in grant money, nearly 5 percent on average. The average state receives a level of grant funding that is more than 50 percent higher than when President Bush took office; no state has an increase less than 35 percent.

But don't get confused into thinking that almost doubling federal spending on education is enough. Even with such huge increases in spending, there are constant calls for more:
In spite of the GOP's extravagance, Democrats constantly criticize the Administration for not spending enough. During the presidential campaign, Kerry told voters that the President was not serious about education and promised that, if elected, he would spend an additional $27 billion.

It is as if the politicians are all the title character in Brewster's Millions. They are in a race to see who can waste the most money and the prize is re-election. It doesn't help that they are being egged on by the NEA and AFT which scarily enough have even more influence on public education than Uncle Sam.

Meanwhile, such idiotic notions as social promotion and "whole language" persist. Public education has become nothing more than a wide scale social engineering experiment conducted by so-called education experts. It is no wonder that 25% of public school teachers either homeschool or send their kids to private school. If it is not good enough for those perpetrating it, it sure isn't good enough for my child.
          Federalism in the Modern Age        

Judge Andrew Napolitano explains that, despite the Tenth Amendment’s protection of federalism, the Supreme Court has ruled that Congress can use taxpayer money any way it likes. With this loophole, the federal government is able to incentivize states to do whatever it wants, by offering juicy funding grants, or threatening to withhold them. The codification of this kind of bribery has effectively put an end to federalism in the modern age.

Judge Andrew P. Napolitano, Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst, is a graduate of Princeton University and the University of Notre Dame Law School. He is the youngest life-tenured Superior Court judge in the history of the State of New Jersey. Judge Napolitano lectures nationally on the U.S. Constitution, the rule of law, civil liberties in wartime, and human freedom. He has been published in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, and numerous other publications. His weekly newspaper column is seen by millions every week. The Judge is the author of seven books on the U.S. Constitution, two of which have been New York Times best sellers. His most recent book is Theodore and Woodrow: How Two American Presidents Destroyed Constitutional Freedom.

Sponsored by the Allied Educational Foundation

Video URL: 

          Help Us Keep America Free!        
Over the past year, we’ve been hard at work pushing back against nanny state policies. Radical vegan activists are trying to stop you from eating meat, and the food police continue to attack your right to choice and personal responsibility. Their new line of attack is claiming that … Continue reading
          It’s All about Freedom—Only Not That Way        

I generally ignore op-ed columns by Jonah Goldberg, who claims to be a conservative columnist but who appears actually to be an anti-liberal columnist—whatever liberals believe, he’s agin it. I happened to catch sight of a passage in his column in the January 8, 2014 Houston Chronicle, however, that seems to offer an instructive commentary on economism vs. progressive/liberal thinking.

Here’s what Goldberg has to say:

One of the wonderful things about America is that both the left and right are champions of freedom. The difference lies in what we mean by freedom. The left emphasizes freedom as a material good, and the right sees freedom as primarily a right rooted in individual sovereignty.

Goldberg then goes on to attack such horrible liberal folks as the Soviets and Franklin Roosevelt for assuming that freedom meant showering you with all sorts of material goodies.

Well, let’s have a look. With regard to the first part of Goldberg’s statement, I entirely agree—to the extent that I had intended to call the book that I thought about writing, as a sequel to The Golden Calf, Visions of Freedom. (I may yet get around to writing it but that’s another matter.) I completely agree that at the root of the difference between economism and progressive thought lies in alternative views of human freedom.

Predictably, however, Goldberg then immediately goes off track. Let’s take his ideas in reverse order. He suggests that for the right (i.e., economism), freedom is “a right rooted in individual sovereignty.” As I have shown both in this blog and in The Golden Calf, this is a partial truth. Economism recognizes exactly one form of “sovereignty” and “right,” which is to be a buyer and seller in the so-called “free” market, which does not in actuality exist anywhere. When push comes to shove, no other “right” is important, and all other so-called rights must give way to the all-powerful market and its high priests.  So to argue that it’s the left that has confused freedom with mere material things is at best a highly selective view of what’s really going on.

Next we come to the claim that for the left, “freedom” means one thing only, freedom from material want, the solution of which is a nanny state giving each of us stuff, and so robbing us of our (real) freedom and responsibility. Let’s look at this in two stages. First, the much-maligned FDR, in his “four freedoms” speech that included “freedom from want,” made the point that still seems valid—that a person who is in some theoretical sense free, and yet is starving, or naked, or homeless, or lacks basic medical care, is in no real sense free. This person is a slave to material deprivation. Without some basic set of the material conditions necessary for a minimal human life—not everything imaginable, not wealth, but a very basic minimum—a person cannot be “free” in any meaningful sense of the term.

That’s hardly a complete philosophical theory of what freedom might mean in a world that has broken loose from the ideology of economism. The next stage, therefore, is to ask which thinkers have taken us the farthest in recent years toward fleshing out what Roosevelt apparently had in mind, in a way that represents a defensible and justifiable framework for a decent and just society. That theory, in my view, is the capabilities approachdeveloped by philosopher-economist Amartya Sen and philosopher Martha Nussbaum. Perhaps the most accessible account is in Nussbaum’s Creating Capabilities: The Human Development Approach (2011).

On the Nussbaum-Sen account, what makes humans truly free is having certain capabilities that are consistent with a life of human dignity. Some of these capabilities, such as rights of political participation, require mostly that people leave us alone and not interfere with our free exercise of our capacities. Other capabilities require that we have at least minimal levels of material goods provided for us—such as the capabilities that require nutrition, shelter, health care, and education. On a capabilities approach, human dignity is a multi-faceted idea, and it’s arbitrary to say that the only rights worthy of the name are “negative” rights (much beloved by conservatives) merely to be left alone, or “positive” rights (presumably, much beloved by leftists) to get stuff given to you. Depending on the specific human capacity, both positive and negative rights are important.

The fleshing out of such a theory requires first that we explain what human dignity requires, and we see that material wealth, or all sorts of material goods, are hardly included; we only need a basic minimum. The next requirement is that we ask what a just, fair, and decent society is obligated to do toward providing each citizen with these basic rights and needs; and again there could be a lot of argument about what’s required, from and for whom, and why. I don’t have space here to try to develop such an account (hence the need for the book). But the bottom line, contra Goldberg, is that such an account can be given; it’s intellectually rich; and it cannot be adequately captured in caricaturish attacks on Soviet Communism or the usual bogeymen of the right. (And yes, by the way, the right to buy and sell in the market—real markets, not fake ones—to try to advance one’s own economic position, is included by Sen at least as a critical human capability, but only one of many.)

I’m quite confident that if the American public could be presented with two basic accounts of freedom—the capabilities approach suitably worked up and fleshed out, and the economism version presented honestly—the capabilities approach would win.  If I’m wrong, so be it. The whole purpose of my work on economism is to earn the alternative views a fair hearing.

          Nanny State of the Week: Chicken nannies hatch new regulations        
While it's perfectly legal to raise chickens as pets or for eggs, rules and regulations surrounding how Americans are legally allowed to do so vary wildly — and as the practice becomes more widespread, the regulations are piling up.
          Nanny State of the Week: FDA fries family’s potato chip business with new cooking oil mandates        
Jones' potato chips will take on a different flavor because the FDA has banned the kind of cooking oil the company has used for 70 years.
          Nanny State of the Week: City fines residents for chipped paint, mismatched curtains        
Meet the residents of Pagedale, Missouri, who have been fined and punished by city officials for uncut grass, mismatched curtains and chipped paint. The city could easily be called the Nanny State of the Year.
          QotD: The real danger of expanding the power of the state        
Every expansion of the state incites more people to compete – and to compete more intensely – to possess the power over others that that expansion brings. From each individual’s perspective, it’s better to be in the group that exercises power rather than in the groups against whom the power is exercised. Unlike competition in […]
          The historical origins of the nation-state        
“Samizdata Illuminatus” on the historical evolution of a bunch of armed thugs into a modern government: … I was familiar with the hypothesis that the origin of the modern state has its roots in criminal enterprise, yet it is always amusing attempting to reconcile this with the modern state’s increasingly matronly efforts to get its […]

I have heard from five people, both Malaysians and Americans and all in a position to know, that during his meeting with Najib Abdul Razak on Nov 20, US President Barack Obama called on the Malaysian prime minister to release former opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim from prison.
The request reportedly was made on humanitarian grounds, because of Anwar’s deteriorating health. But the US government position that Anwar’s trial was flawed and politically-motivated, and that Anwar is a political prisoner, is a matter of record.
One person told me that Najib’s response was that he had to follow Malaysia’s legal system. To me, it is ironic that Najib wants to hide behind Malaysia’s legal system, because he certainly has had no hesitation to use and abuse it for his own political ends.
And it’s not just against the opposition anymore. Now he’s going after critics in his own party, as well as investigators who have gotten too close to the truth.
A lot has happened since the famous golf game last December. Starting with Anwar’s conviction in February, there was that major front page expose in the New York Times, detailing all the allegations of corruption surrounding Najib and his family.
Sarawak Report started exposing more and more documents about 1MDB and the missing billions. The 1MDB reporting was all very complicated and convoluted, because the paper trails were hard to follow. But then The Wall Street Journal published an article that everyone could understand. A sum of US$700 million (RM2.6 billion) had allegedly ended up in Najib’s personal bank account, and for weeks he could not explain how it got there.
And then, just like magic, most of that money allegedly went overseas again - but no one knows where, and Najib isn’t talking. Everyone could understand that story - you don’t need an MBA in international finance. Then New York Times reported that Najib and his family were under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) under the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative. What a name!
As for human rights and democracy, Najib’s crackdown on the opposition has been reported widely in the Western press. Human Rights Watch recently put out a 151-page report on the “climate of fear” that Najib has created. Unprecedented - 151 pages! Then there was that United Nations group that recently called for Anwar’s release.
Obama is a lawyer. He now understands that the evidence is overwhelming and that Najib is not the man he thought he was. As I have said before, Obama is not the only world leader who believed Najib’s rhetoric of reform. But put it all together, and with all the news this year, it reached the point where Obama finally recognised the reality about both Malaysia and Najib.
Change in stand
Last February we launched the White House petition on ‘We, the People’, which called for making Anwar’s release from prison a priority for US foreign policy. That has now happened.
But that is not thanks to me or the petition, it is thanks to the great investigative reporting in the world press, on Malaysian websites, and on Sarawak Report. Especially, it is thanks to the courage of so many Malaysians who refuse to be intimidated by the heavy hand and threats of Malaysia’s home minister and inspector-general of police (IGP).
I agree totally with what Obama told the civil society leaders whom he just met in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday. America has many interests in Malaysia - and not just the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). It includes our longstanding trade and investment ties, military and foreign policy cooperation, and working together on so many issues like refugees, counter-narcotics, counter-terrorism, and the environment. But I am glad that human rights and democracy are once again on the list of our priorities in Malaysia.
I have been critical of Obama’s hands-off stance on human rights in Malaysia over the past few years. But now I have to say thank you. Not only did he discuss these matters with Najib, he is the first president to actually call for Anwar’s release from prison since Anwar was first jailed in 1998. Neither Bill Clinton nor George W Bush ever went that far.
I hope that this more visible and active US effort will continue, but not just to secure Anwar’s freedom. We need to be even more vocal in Malaysia and around the world in addressing human rights, political freedom, and religious and racial discrimination. Free and fair elections are essential to change. Corruption, the abuse of the legal system, and special treatment for government-linked companies (GLCs) hurt American companies trying to do business in Malaysia as much as it hurts Malaysian companies.
America needs to stand clearly on the side of those Malaysians who are seeking the changes that will lead to a brighter future for Malaysia. The current trajectory - with more and more Malaysians themselves starting to refer to their own country as a “failed” or “failing” state - should be of concern to everyone, and not just Malaysians.
This needs to be a coordinated international effort, working with the UN, human rights NGOs, and like-minded governments from around the world. It should not be just America alone, for the reasons that Obama described in his talk at Taylor’s University to the young Southeast Asian leaders. America should not be seen as the “nanny state”, lecturing others and ignoring its own shortcomings.
Malaysia, Najib, and the ruling party need the international equivalent of a “family intervention”, sort of a “Friends of Malaysia” grouping, where out of concern and love you try to break through the pattern of denial and help the person - or in this case, the country - get the “treatment” it needs before it destroys itself.
Finally, I am confident that there will always be courageous Malaysians who will continue to struggle for true democracy and political freedom, against the growing authoritarianism in their country. I hope their numbers will grow. For in the end, while the outside world can be supportive, only the Malaysian people can bring change.
As Obama said many times, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
JOHN MALOTT is a former US ambassador to Malaysia.

          Recent FDA Moves Suggests Agency Is Again Taking Its Role of "Protecting Public Health" Seriously        
As a patient with type 1 diabetes, I have found myself at odds with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on a number of things the agency has done in recent years (actually since the 1980s), and perhaps even more so in recent years.  In fact, I once joked (only halfheartedly) that the acronym "FDA" stood for Fatal Drug Administration.  Indeed, for a number of years (under the leadership of chief Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach especially, he pushed for FDA to serve what he called its "clients", meaning the companies that the FDA regulates, rather than protecting public safety).  Staff in areas for brand new drugs exploded, while the queue of unapproved applications in generics also grew, yet the FDA never asked Congress for user fee authorization in generics during that time.  However, at the end of 2013, the FDA took two very important moves that might just give me reason to reconsider my belief that the FDA was looking out more for industry than it was for patient safety.  Both relate to the "Food" responsibilities at FDA, but given that cardiovascular disease is the #1 killer of people with diabetes, the first one is especially relevant, while the second one relates to big agribusiness routine abuse of medicines and has resulted in a rise of antibiotic-resistant viruses.

Item #1: Obituary for Twinkie the Kid?

On November 16, 2012, Huffington Post featured an article entitled "Twinkie The Kid, Dead At 85" (see  The article, of course, was a parody of the then-current news that Hostess, the manufacturer of Twinkies had filed for liquidation in a bankruptcy filing.  The maker of Twinkies cakes had flirted with death several times in recent years, and in 2012, when the parent company, Hostess (which had various names over the years, including Continental Baking Company and Interstate Bakeries) had finally filed for bankruptcy after failing to reach an agreement with the company's unions.  Unlike a bankruptcy reorganization, this one was a liquidation, which meant the company and all of its brands were dismantled.  But as author Mark Twain once wrote: "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated", and so too was the reported death of the über-processed, junky snack food known as Twinkies.  Indeed, the Twinkie re-emerged to much fanfare under new ownership a year later (in 2013).  But the obituary for the Twinkie in Huffington Post may have been a premonition, only this time, it won't be finances or unions that kill it - it will be the recipe for Twinkies itself.

That's because the Twinkie (and virtually all Hostess cakes) is made primarily from hydrogenated fats.  It has a bunch of other highly-processed ingredients, some of which are mined, and an entire book entitled "Twinkie, Deconstructed" [] by Steve Ettlinger was written to try and explain the ingredients in Twinkies.  (That book, incidentally, is highly-entertaining reading!)  Indeed, the creamy filling is pure hydrogenated fat and sugar.  The cake itself also has a lot of sugar and hydrogenated fat, which explains why they seemingly never spoil.  But the new nemesis of the Twinkie may be the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and unless the company suddenly gets creative, because all of the Hostess cakes (including the namesake Twinkie, as well as Ding Dongs, Ho Hos, Chocodiles and others depicted in the commercial featured in the Huffington Post article) will cease to exist.  Nostalgia won't save them from using a banned ingredient, namely hydrogenated fat.

That's because in early November 2013, FDA did something doctors and nutritionists had been advocating for decades: it finally took steps to remove artificial trans fats (hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils) from the U.S. food supply.  See the news in the Federal Register at and a separate, more user-friendly article about the announcement from the FDA at

About Trans Fats

Trans fats are created when hydrogen is added to vegetable oils to make them more solid (vegetable shortening, a.k.a. "Crisco" is the usual result).  The result is an artificial product said to accumulate as plaque in the arteries.  If the FDA's decision is finalized, partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats) will soon be classified as food additives that can no longer be used without prior FDA approval.  A  final ruling by the FDA won't come until after a 60-day comment period, but Dr. Margaret Hamburg and the FDA's top food official, Michael Taylor, left little doubt that the agency's goal was to completely remove trans fat from the U.S. food supply.  The FDA and CDC jointly estimate that totally eliminating trans fats from the U.S. food supply could prevent 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths due to heart disease each year.

Its hard to believe it now, but once upon a time, trans fats were actually claimed by their promoters to be healthier than the lard, butter and the saturated animal fats they often replaced.  However, mountains of data since proven they are actually even worse for us than saturated fats are when it comes to heart disease, which is a major U.S. killer.  In 2006, after a campaign by public health advocates, the FDA finally started requiring food companies to add trans fats to food labels.  (On a related issue, there was news recently, see for details, that the FDA would likely be revising food labels in the near future.  The FDA won't say exactly when the changes will come, or what the new labels will include. But we're likely to see changes that make it easier to see calorie counts, more up-to-date serving sizes [right now, serving sizes are a joke] and more detailed information on added sugars including high fructose corn syrup.)  That was a good start, but the FDA's latest move may actually be the impetus to end routine use of these toxic ingredients in the U.S. industrial food supply found in your local supermarkets.  Indeed, trans fats would become an ingredient "not generally recognized as safe" and would need special permission from the FDA to be used.  The commercial food industry, especially commercial bakeries such as Nabisco (part of Kraft) will need to do some serious soul searching to find practical alternatives which are in bread, cookies and various other products including cake frosting sold in supermarkets.

Trans fats are very common in highly-processed foods, although they are also very common in commercial baked goods like biscuits, pie crusts, and frostings that aren't hand-made.  The FDA once estimated that in the late 1990s, 95% of prepared cookies, 100% of crackers, and 80% of frozen breakfast products sold in the U.S. contained trans fats.  The frying oils used in restaurants were also rich in them at that time, but the use of trans fats in frying foods (at places like McDonalds) has indeed declined significantly in recent years so that they’re relatively uncommon in fried foods sold in fast food joints today.  According more recent data from the FDA, trans fat intake among Americans declined from 4.6 grams per day in 2003 to around 1 gram in 2012.  Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, estimates that today, 75% of the trans fats is already is gone from the nation's food supply.  But, they still remain in things like Twinkies, so the FDA move is a good move.

The scientific evidence against these staples in processed foods is pretty overwhelming, namely that they provide absolutely no nutritional value at all, yet are implicated in the prevalence of heart disease (trans fats aren't the only factor, but it's a notable one).  That's why the FDA's announcement on November 7, 2013 that for the first time, it believes that trans fat can no longer be considered "generally considered as safe" drew a lot of praise from doctors.  Trans fats are made by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil (most commonly, genetically modified soybean oil) in a process that is hardly new.  In fact, in what was perhaps a great irony, Paul Sabatier won the 1912 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for discovering the hydrogenation method that activists are now fighting to remove from our food today. His research detailed the way nickel could be used as a catalyst to create chemical reactions between hydrogen molecules and other compounds, which laid the groundwork for the creation of hydrogenated oils.

Why Industrial Food Producers Loved Trans-Fats

Trans fats became very popular because of their versatility in industrialized food production which dominates U.S. supermarket shelves.  Trans fats make processed foods "shelf-stable," able to stay on supermarket shelves for months without going bad.  Fast food restaurants also liked trans fats because they could be used repeatedly in commercial deep fryers without having to be replaced, according to the American Heart Association.  As already noted, that industry largely abandoned trans fats nearly a decade ago.

Kantha Shelke, a scientist with the Institute of Food Technologists in Chicago, told NPR that the the use of trans fats in things like cookies or doughnuts means the products don't leave a ring of oil behind on a paper towel and don't start tasting rancid after a few weeks.  Also, this type of fat doesn't have a strong taste of its own so you can use lots of it without ruining the flavor.

"It's really absolutely perfect [for industrial food production], and it's also perfect for the American style of shopping: You buy boxes and boxes of crackers, put them in your pantry," says Shelke. "You open this box six months or eight months or a year later, and it would still taste and smell just as good as it was on the day you bought it!"

The use of these fats really exploded as the food system in the U.S. became increasingly industrialized, but so did the adverse the health effects.  However, since the FDA started requiring labeling of trans fats separate from other fats, much of the food industry has already started to migrate to more traditional oils, and trans fat usage has declined as food manufacturers and processors found alternatives.  In a statement, the Grocery Manufacturers of America said that since that 2005 food manufacturers have already lowered trans fats in products by more than 73%.  However, the FDA says that today, 12% of all packaged foods still contains a partially hydrogenated oil, the formal name for trans fats, which is why the FDA feels the time is right now to eliminate them completely.

U.S. Not Alone in Efforts to Get Rid of Trans-Fats, WHO Also Advances the Issue

The U.S. is hardly alone in the move to try and eliminate these industrial fats from its food supply food.  In 2004, Denmark made it illegal (see for more) for any food to have more than 2% trans fats. Offenders risk hefty fines or even prison terms.  Other countries are also working to reduce trans fat in their food supplies. Policies in Brazil, Costa Rica, the Netherlands and South Korea have proven effective over the past two decades (showing that countries from Latin America to Europe to Asia are dealing with the issue), the World Health Organization says. The WHO has also called for completely eliminating trans fat from the global food supply, though the WHO lacks any enforcement capability.

Giant food-processor Cargill Inc., which now sells partially hydrogenated shortening to commercial customers, said it will help them switch to alternatives.  Another big maker, Archer Daniels Midland Co., said it [trans fats] is a steadily declining business and that it sells low- and zero-trans-fat oils.  These big industrial food suppliers are now working with clients to find suitable alternatives.

Junk Foods That Are Ahead of the Curve?

Pepsico's Frito-Lay snack unit saw the handwriting on the wall nearly a decade ago and did take a lead in product reformulation when it began selling "zero trans fat" snacks before all packaged foods were required to list the amount of trans fat on the nutrition labels.

Nevertheless, some of the company's snacks, now cooked in corn, canola and/or sunflower oil, still fall into the 0.0 to 0.5 gram range, a spokesman said.  That's because the FDA permits them, if there's less than half a gram of trans fats per serving, to list the amount of trans fats in their products as zero.

Other food categories may require modification.  They remain staples in things like boxed cake mixes and frostings, as well as such mundane categories as breakfast cereals (for example, Post Fruity Pebbles sugary breakfast cereal relies on trans fats).

Food processors should not be surprised; the moves to eliminate trans fats in restaurants (notably, New York City banned them for use in restaurants in 2004 and other big cities including San Francisco did the same) has been growing and the industry has (for the most part) found suitable alternatives, including non-hydrogenated, genetically modified soybean or canola oil that is used for deep fat frying many foods.  Fast food chains have already eliminated trans fats from much of their menus (except for their baked goods, such as hamburger buns, which come from third-party suppliers who rely heavily on trans fats in their production and so the products will stay fresher, longer) a number of years ago, and no one's french fries or chicken nuggets suddenly disappeared as a result.

The evidence has been mounting against trans fats over the past few decades after numerous studies linked trans fat to higher LDL, or bad cholesterol, as well as to heart attacks and strokes. The Institute of Medicine said in a widely-cited 2002 report that "there is no safe level" of the ingredient (see for reference).  As I noted, the turning point really came in 2006 when the FDA mandated that processed food makers must disclose the presence of trans fat on their nutrition labels, at which point food manufacturers began (in earnest) switching to more traditional oils rather than have the negatively-perceived ingredient show up on their "Nutrition Facts" labels.

Microwave Popcorn, Commercial Baked Goods Still Loaded With Trans-Fats

Aside from the products already mentioned, certain food products are still heavily dependent on trans fats.  For example,  things like microwave popcorn, frozen pies and all kinds of mass-produced baked goods. Often, food companies use just a little bit, but the new rules would require them to reformulate their recipes.  A complete ban on trans fats would be a bigger deal for food manufacturers, according to Ms. Shelke. She says food companies can drop the trans fats, but their products won't be quite the same.

"They have to go back to re-educating consumers that cookies don't last forever," says Shelke.

Although the packaged baked goods might have a shorter shelf life, the FDA is hoping consumers' lives will be be longer as a result.

The FDA move seemed to have few opponents, even among residents of states generally opposed to big government.  One Houston resident, when asked about whether the move was too "nanny state", wasn't opposed to the FDA move.  He rationalized his response as follows:

"I think the government should have control over things that we create, just like any drug," the man said. "I don't want the government telling me I can't eat duck fat. But telling me I can't eat crude oil that's been refined and turned back into something that resembles margarine I have no problem whatsoever with. That isn't something you're getting out of an animal. You cannot make trans fats in your home kitchen. So why the hell should a company be able to sell them to you when they know it's bad for you?"

The FDA press release on the announcement can be found at and the announcement in the Federal Register with information such as the docket number and whom to send comments to can be found at  Comments to the FDA were due on January 7, 2014, although U.S. law permits public comments on any guidance at any time, even if the practical impact may result in the agency giving late comments less consideration (if any at all).  As to whether “Twinkie the Kid” can cheat this particular death round remains to be seen.

Item #2:  Routine Use of Antibiotics in U.S. Industrial Meat Production

Separately, on December 11, 2013, the FDA took steps that are within the agency's authority to crack down on widespread use of antibiotics in the nation's food supply.  See coverage in the New York Times at and the FDA’s announcement at

As the Los Angeles Times reported (see at the beginning of 2012, only 20% of the antibiotics sold in the U.S. are actually given to people who are sick with bacterial infections, such as ear and urinary tract infections or pneumonia.  In fact, most of the penicillin, tetracycline and other antibiotic drugs used in the U.S. today are given to livestock -- and to make matters even worse, most of the livestock given these antibiotics are aren't even sick.

"We feed antibiotics to sick animals, which is completely appropriate, but we also put antibiotics in their feed and in their water to help them grow faster and to compensate for unhygienic conditions. said Dr. Gail Hansen, a veterinarian and senior officer for the Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming, a project aimed at phasing out overuse of antibiotics in food production, who added "If you have to keep the animals healthy with drugs, I would argue you need to re-examine the system. You don't take antibiotics preventively when you go out into the world."

The FDA's latest move is (at this point) voluntary and will be phased in over a three year period because the FDA believes that's actually the fastest and most effective way to achieve its goal.  The FDA told Reuters that approximately 25 to 27 companies would be affected by the voluntary three-year phase-out of the use of antibiotics in the raising of animals for food production.  William Flynn, deputy director for science policy at the Center for Veterinary Medicine at the FDA, said during a call with reporters that Zoetis Inc. and Eli Lilly & Co.'s Elanco unit sell a large percentage of those products and it has already started speaking with those companies about compliance with the phase-out.

As might be expected, the big meat processors like Smithfield Farms, as well as others like Tyson Foods, Inc., Hormel Foods Corp. and others all claimed that the FDA move was a huge mistake, but don’t believe them.  Critics say they need to clean up their act, although their response (so far) has been to push for so-called “Ag-gag” bills, which is already the law in Utah, Iowa, Missouri.  Similar legislation has been appearing, and reappearing in almost a dozen other states, including Nebraska, Indiana, Wyoming, Arkansas, North Carolina, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, which basically makes it a criminal offense to even photograph industrial "farms" (see for an interesting discussion on that) that’s now routine in modern American farming.  Many of these bills are reportedly efforts to combat terrorism, eco-terrorism or otherwise (at least if one believes the bills’ sponsors in the legislature), and yet, the real outcome seems to be criminalizing information.

However, the FDA's move on antibiotic use was actually precipitated by a number of true citizen's petitions which the FDA basically ignored, followed by lawsuits which the FDA lost.  In other words, the FDA was sued and lost, hence it had to do something on the matter, and finally moved in 2013 to actually do so.  Some of the petitions and lawsuits go back to 2009 or even before.  More recently, on March 23, 2012, the FDA lost a lawsuit filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT), Public Citizen, and Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).  One Court noted the issue in its 2012 decision: "Research has shown that the use of antibiotics in livestock leads to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can be--and has been--transferred from animals to humans through direct contact, environmental exposure, and the consumption and handling of contaminated meat and poultry products."

On June 4, 2012, the courts ruled that the FDA had been dragging its feet for years and ordered the FDA to take action in order to protect public health from the overuse of antibiotics in animal feed by instructing FDA to reconsider two previous citizen petitions which urged the agency to revoke approvals for all non-therapeutic uses of antibiotics in livestock production.  For years, scientists, health care organizations, and government agencies had warned that the widespread use of antibiotics to hasten animal growth and compensate for unsanitary and over-crowded feedlots resulted in diminishing effectiveness of these essential medicines to treat infections in people.  The term antibiotic resistance has become more common in recent years.

"The Court's order pushes the agency one step closer to meaningful action to curb the dangerous overuse of antibiotics in animal feed," said Avinash Kar, NRDC health attorney. "The Court calls out FDA's protracted foot-dragging on the problem of antibiotic resistance and requires the agency do its job to protect our food, our health and our families."

In recent years, some pathogens have evolved to withstand the drugs (antibiotics) that previously was used to kill them.  The World Health Organization sees this threat as dire. "A post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries can kill, far from being an apocalyptic fantasy, is instead a very real possibility for the 21st century," the organization notes.

Urinary tract infections caused by drug-resistant E. coli are increasingly common, as are infections caused by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) — rates of which doubled at academic hospitals between 2003 and 2008.  The WHO also notes that gonorrhea, which used to respond well to common antibiotics, "may soon become untreatable as no vaccines or new drugs are in development."

However, the most recent move by the FDA was greeted more favorably by the meat industry but decidedly less so by critics.  The Natural Resources Defense Council, a non-profit environmental advocacy group that was among the organizations that sued the FDA for changes bashed the FDA's plan, saying it fails to require any change in the use of antibiotics."

FDA's policy is an early holiday gift to industry," NRDC health attorney Avinash Kar said in a statement. "It is a hollow gesture that does little to tackle a widely-recognized threat to human health. FDA has essentially followed a voluntary approach for more than 35 years, but use of these drugs to raise animals has increased."

The Center for Science in the Public Interest noted in a statement the proposal "requires the drug companies who profit from sales of their drugs to initiate the process. The good news is the agency has pledged to evaluate levels of compliance and inform the public after 90 days if the drug industry is cooperating with the relabeling effort."

Having said this, even this move (however late and toothless) is still a much-needed step in the right direction, although its one which some would say the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) kind of promoted (at least unofficially) to address downright filthy feedlots routinely used in industrial meat production.  To give you an illustration of just what this means, animals are fed antibiotic-laced food and stand in 1-2 inches of feces.  The runoff pollutes waterways around these "farms".  According to Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, a group that is trying to fight factory farming in Iowa, using data from the state's Department of Natural Resources, the number of "impaired waterways" in the state over the past decade, although all of that degradation can't be laid at the feet of livestock farms — Iowa also has massive amounts of corn farming, which also results in leaching of algae-causing nitrogen and phosphorus. However, farming hogs has scaled up over the same time frame (see for more details).  On the latter issue, I should note that the Chinese seem very eager to copy U.S. industrial food production methods to feed its billion people inexpensive meat.  China has been on a meat-eating binge, having doubled its consumption in the last two decades of economic growth.

In September 2013, Virginia-based pork producer Smithfield Foods Inc. was acquired by Shuanghui International Holdings Ltd., but the company legally changed its name on January 21, 2014 to the less-distinctively Chinese WH Group Ltd., in a $4.7 billion acquisition deal, meaning the company sold at a 31% premium.  The deal made Smithfield shareholders very happy, and also passed the Justice Department's requirements.  China itself has been plagued by routine food processing scandals at home (does anyone remember the poisoned infant formula incident that made world headlines in 2008?), so the Chinese government viewed the Smithfield acquisition as a way of helping the country produce meat more cheaply at home using methods that are now already widely-deployed in the United States.

China seems to want to emulate U.S. food industrialization, regardless of the health consequences.  I suppose its marginally better than what they have presently, but one could hardly call it an “advancement”, but they’ll have to deal with the longer-term health consequences down the road, something the U.S. has been slow to do itself.

On the issue of industrial meat production, a relatively new documentary released on December 10, 2013 in cooperation with Rolling Stone magazine (see gives a closer look at what American "farming" looks like today.  I'll give you a hint: images of animals grazing happily on open fields is a big myth.  The reality, as documented to some extent in the film I addressed a few years ago "Food, Inc." (see my post at for details), is very different.  Although the Rolling Stone film focuses more on the issue of animal cruelty which is an eye-opener by itself, the conditions (which China now wants to adopt) have certainly become a major health threat that has grown exponentially over time.

In the end, these two recent FDA moves, regardless of what prompted them, does suggest (to me, at least), that the era of the FDA serving "clients" it is tasked with regulating, is less important today than is the goal of public safety.  That certainly doesn't mean things are perfect at FDA.  There's still a revolving door between senior executives in the drug and biotech companies into the management roles at the FDA (and USDA) which is a significant conflict-of-interest that still hasn't been resolved, but it IS a step in the right direction.
          Why I Am Not A Libertarian        
As Libertarians, we seek a world of liberty; a world in which all individuals are sovereign over their own lives and no one is forced to sacrifice his or her values for the benefit of others.
We believe that respect for individual rights is the essential precondition for a free and prosperous world, that force and fraud must be banished from human relationships, and that only through freedom can peace and prosperity be realized.
Consequently, we defend each person’s right to engage in any activity that is peaceful and honest, and welcome the diversity that freedom brings. The world we seek to build is one where individuals are free to follow their own dreams in their own ways, without interference from government or any authoritarian power.
The above quote demonstrates why libertarianism can never be something a Christian can embrace. Libertarianism ignores reality. It pretends that all men are equally capable. It is literally insane. Even a cursory glance at the world demonstrates that all men are not created equal in physical ability. Some are smarter, stronger, faster, whatever, than others are. In fact, this is so obvious that every culture in history has reacted to this fact by instituting slavery: enslaving the weaker, stupider, slower, etc. members of the culture.

Christianity was weird because it considered all men equal. It did not assert physical equality - that's stupid. It asserted instead, spiritual equality. We are all equal before God because we are each made in God's image and likeness. We all have an equal shot at salvation. Because we are in God's image, we all have equal rights before God. But even Christianity never asserted that all men are physically equal because, again, that assertion is obviously stupid. Christianity is about embracing reality, it is not about rejecting reality.

The recognition that all men are NOT created equal in ability is what justifies the state. We may all be created equal in rights, but that is pretty much where our equality ends. Draw the line wherever you want, but it must be drawn. Roughly half the population has an IQ below 100 and/or has physical disabilities serious enough to require assistance (e.g., extreme youth, age, disease, etc.). The needs of the physically weak and intellectually stupid are real needs. They really need food, housing, health care, etc.

Now, it is absolutely the case that the upper half (or third or quarter or quintile) in any population has no real, substantial use for government. As one's capabilities increase, one's need for government is correspondingly reduced. But, similarly, as one's capabilities decrease, one's need for a "nanny state" increases. A five-year old cannot be left to his own devices. S/he must frequently be forced to eat vegetables, brush teeth and go to bed. So, (roughly) half the population needs a big government, while the other half needs a small government. These two needs cannot be reconciled.

The most capable half are often tempted to ignore the lower half. Should we even have to listen to the weak and stupid? Well, if we are willing to ask a five-year old what he likes (and what parent doesn't give a child the opportunity to at least make his wishes known), then we should be willing to entertain the pleas of the less capable. That is, the lower half has a right to participate in democracy. And, since all men have equal rights, the lower half even have a right to overrule the upper half. If the upper half are not taking into account the needs of the lower half, the lower half have an absolute right to overrule their "betters" in order to make sure their own needs are taken into account.

So, yes, we have to listen to the lower half and consider what they say. Sure, as with the five-year old, we may not follow their suggestions, but we have to at least listen to them occasionally. And, whether we listen to them or not, we really do have to take care of them.

But there's the snag. The moment we recognize that we have to take care of them, even if only a bit, we have ceased to be libertarians.

Average IQ scores reported in Lynn 2006 from studies done in Europe, North America and East Asia. Each point represents the average IQ score from a single study.

          By: Alan (65 Jayhawk)        
Terrific! The Nanny State Julia thing is so ridiculous!
          Should people be free to bushwalk unprepared?        

A Victorian bushwalker in NSW has been fined on charges of “lack of planning or preparation”. The 29-year-old man, name unknown, went off on a long walk last Saturday  in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney. He was leaving from Newnes and heading east across the rugged Wollemi National Park to Colo Heights. He carried a kilo of potatoes and an unknown quantity of naan bread which he estimated would last him three days.

He told friends who dropped him off he would meet them at the other end on Wednesday at 3pm. When he didn’t rendezvous at the appointed time, his friends alerted authorities who mounted a search and rescue operation. With the help of two helicopters, they found him just four hours later on the track. The first helicopter spotted him and the second winched him out of the Wolgan Valley. According to Police, the man had suffered a minor ankle injury and declined treatment. Police took him to Katoomba station for questioning before giving him a $500 infringement notice.

None of the media covering the story stated why this was an offence (they were all too obsessed with the spuds and naan) but they did quote NSW Police Force Rescue commander Brenton Charlton who said the route through remote terrain was extremely difficult to complete safely and had taken much longer than estimated. "Getting the basics right with trekking is so easy - all people have to do is notify the police or other responsible person of their trip intention and carry a personal locator beacon," Charlton said. "Making use of available technology, together with some commonsense trip preparation, could mean the difference between life or death."

Whatever about that quantity of food being sufficient for three days,  it is clear the man was underprepared. Though some people on that bushwalk forum said the walk was possible in three days, even a modicum of research would have uncovered it was likely to take much longer. According to this site devoted to walks at Newnes, the track to Upper Colo is listed as a very hard grade walk that takes seven days. The walk “ is for experienced and well prepared walkers only! Country traversed is rugged and there are no tracks beyond Annie Rowan Creek.” Its advice is “Check with your local bushwalking club before attempting this one.”

Clearly the Victorian did not take this into account. But should that be an offence? And should all bushwalkers be forced to take a “personal locator beam”?  PLBs are distress radio beacons which transmit location information about individuals directly to Search and Rescue forces letting them know that the owner is in grave and imminent danger. They retail on Gumtree for around $225 second hand though Blue Mountains police apparently do give them out for free. When Briton Jamie Neale was found alive after being missing in 2009 for 12 nights, Blue Mountains police superintendent Tony McWhirter told media they have free PLB for bushwalkers so they can locate them. However since then, the law has changed.

The NSW police media release (which was the basis for all media stories - no journalist did original research) did state why the fine was activated. It was issued under the National Parks and Wildlife Regulations of 2009 for engaging "in activity that risks the safety of self/others". The relevant clause is 22(1)(d) which reads “Sporting, recreational and other activities
(1) A person must not in a park:
(d) engage in any activity or recreational pursuit that involves risking the safety of the person or the safety of other persons or damaging the environment.
Maximum penalty: 30 penalty units.”

As a contributor to a NSW buskwalk forum said, the fine was troubling. “Guy sounds like an idiot", said colinm, “but I don't see that it necessarily warrants a fine. Since he's a Victorian, I bet he doesn't contest the charge, so is a bit of a soft target.” So should bushwalkers be forced to be prepared or should anyone have the right to go out and do what they want? Was it necessary for an expensive search and rescue operation to be mounted when the man was just four hours late? And what equipment should be compulsory on any trip? These angles were not covered by media. In their efforts to make the trekker look like a fool, the naan bread proved more alluring than the nanny state.
          Antipodean Antiphony        
South of the Himalayas
  By the three thousandth year after Christ, although that scale of reckoning had long ceased to be used in the sub-continent, Kali's blood-drunkenness had passed, Shiva's manic dance of death had slowed to its' more usual pace and India's slow and timeless cycles of life had been resumed. Allah had retired from the field gravely hurt and his remaining supporters were only numerous and influential far to the south-east, beyond the reach of Indra's remaining thunderbolts. India and Pakistan had been spared the treacherous Israeli nuclear attack which had destroyed the major cities of Western Europe and the Eastern United States, but the subsequent Islamic frenzy had locked them into their own dance of death.

 God-intoxicated with certainty that military and celestial success was now guaranteed by the establishment of the Islamic Caliphate in Jerusalem, the Pakistanis had launched their suicidal jihad against their much larger and stronger neighbor. The consequences were predictable, but their fanaticism won the Pakistanis a greater measure of success than they had a right to expect. The major cities of northern India had been incinerated by the Pakistani missiles, and almost the whole of Pakistan had been turned into a radioactive desert by the Indian response. The Pakistani forces knew they would have no homes and families to which they could return; their sole hope and burning desire was to gain admittance to Allah's heaven by death in battle after killing as many infidels as possible; and 'though they were slain, they slew'.

 Naturally, the enthusiasm for slaughter had also affected or infected the couple of hundred million Moslems who already lived in India, so the 'inter-communal violence' made that which had happened at the time of independence from Britain appear trifling by comparison. It even exceeded in extent and ferocity the destruction which had resulted from the original Moslem invasion of India in the middle ages. There was no longer any government of Pakistan, apart from the leaders of its armies whilst they lasted, and indeed there was no longer any Pakistan to be governed.

  Indian government and military organisation was seriously crippled by the nuclear strikes, the military confusion and the civilian chaos, but it was not eliminated, and a very large and very populous land remained to be governed. Equally naturally, new leaders arose based on more or less tenuous control of armed force within particular areas; and when effective government was restored - they very largely were it, behind shriveled fig leaves of lip service to 'legitimacy' and 'democracy', 'community' or 'public service'. Indian politics has never been short of glib and ruthless rogues. Henceforth the various and mutable regions were independent de facto, although they professed de jure acknowledgment of the sovereignty of a mythical but prestigious central government, in the manner of India in the last centuries of Mughal suzerainty. Of course they bickered and fought amongst themselves, and none of these local regimes could avoid internal dissension, coups and rebellions. It would have been too much to expect that local people would be left to get on with peaceful lives; of course every form of violence and extortion, misery and misrule was rampant. Even that was not the end.

 The Moslem hordes of Bangladesh, originally East Pakistan, caught the jihad disease and invaded India from the other side. The whole north of India was roiled in strife. Blood streamed, it seemed, as copiously as the Ganges and the Indus. Indeed, both these famous rivers became polluted by radioactive material as well as by the usual rubbish, and the previously unusual detritus of war and massacre. From being life giving streams, these became death dealing streams, desolating their courses and estuaries.

  Lest it be thought that southern India, apart from the Moslem Tamil area, largely escaped the turmoil, the Moslems of Indonesia ensured that this was not so. Sensing plunder and prey, and seeking to assist their fellow Moslems in jihad, large but disorganized numbers of them took all available sea-craft and invaded Ceylon and south India. Here military forces and civilian authority were still mainly intact, the population was becoming both horrified and enraged; so they were warmly received. They managed to tie down local forces and prevent assistance being sent to the north. Enough new groups of invading bandits kept arriving to join other Moslem groups to ensure that death and destruction became commonplace. Where these roamed, pestilence and famine soon followed. Trouble continued for decades, but numbers and organisation gradually told. As Moslems were killed, even though at first they may have killed more than their own numbers, Hindu forces were gradually freed to concentrate against the remaining Moslems, and to defend against renewed assaults from Indonesia. As Moslem numbers were reduced and as relative peace was restored, the birthrate increasingly swung against the Moslems, so that their absolute and relative numbers declined in successive generations. Despite the distractions of bickering between the new rulers, enough energy remained focused on the Moslems, because of continuing outrage at their continued atrocities, to eventually reduce their numbers to insignificance. Indonesia's significance was likewise reduced by India's use of a few long range nuclear missiles to destroy Jakarta and several other cities, after which the flow of jihadis to India fell to a trickle, as Indonesia fell apart and the locals fell to killing each other.

  After several centuries like this, not much but the ability to manufacture smallarms had been left of the modernity, industrial and financial development and democracy of which those who ruled India before the Catastrophe had been so proud. There were no longer international stages on which politicians could posture and preen. There were no more international conferences at which bureaucrats and academics could boast and beg. There were no more investment fora where wily businessmen could meet their foreign counterparts to wrangle and outwit each other over opportunities for profitable exploitation at home and abroad. Foreign contacts had become difficult, even had anyone on either side of them been interested.

  Geographically the nuclear devastation of Pakistan and northern India had closed the usual access route by land to large scale movement, protecting and isolating the sub-continent and reinforcing it's ignorance and indifference to the rest of the world. For some time the rusting and rotting relics of the previous era might be seen. Children played in the ruins of factories, beggars and thieves squatted in decaying office towers and apartment blocks, peasants dug up concrete runways and highways to extend their farms.The chassis of an occasional car was sometimes to be seen being pulled as a cart by patient oxen. Slowly but inexorably, like vegetation overwhelming an abandoned estate, the eternal cadences of growth and decay resumed their sway over the life of the sub-continent, which went back to what it had known before the arrival of so many waves of interfering foreigners. The traditional caste system was as strong as ever and the people performed the ancestral rites, pieties and duties of their caste. Farmers farmed and paid taxes, artisans and merchants made and sold things, warriors fought each other and ruled the rest, priests prayed, performed religious rites and provided what education was available. There were also the wandering hordes of holy beggars, seeking alms from the people and mystical experience from divinity. The area, one could hardly say 'the country' any longer, was held together in a ramshackle kind of way, spiritually by it's Hindu culture and physically by the Indian Railways. The railways remained the largest non-local organization, they were the only means of long distance transport faster and more capacious than bullock carts, they had access to enough coal, wood and metal-working skills to keep this great 19th century British achievement operating for centuries after its builders had been forgotten. Indeed, railway workers became a well established set of sub-castes whose members followed their hereditary callings as religious duties.

  This was a country whose historical memory had ignored Alexander the Great, and recalled of his Bactrian Greek successors who had briefly conquered northern India almost to the delta of the Ganges, only that one had questioned a Buddhist missionary. It was thus inevitable that accurate historical records were not kept of events after the Catastrophe, and that there remained little historical sense at all. Those who had literacy beyond the compilation of day to day business and administrative records were more concerned with old religious stories than with more recent events, so the two were conflated and it was never clear whether an account of kings and gods hurling mighty weapons of mass destruction at each other's cities was a reference to the nuclear conflict with Pakistan, or whether this had been grafted on to a much more ancient religious story, or if so whether there had been any historical basis to the original event. So tales of flying machines and great armies battling and of the destruction of great cities by disease or lightning might have had some vague historical resonance, but were only remembered and taught in a timeless religious context.

  Physical access to the majestic mountains of the Himalayas had become far more difficult than it had been.This only strengthened the religious awe and mystical reverence in which these shining peaks were held, floating in the serene distance high over the hot, dirty, crowded lands of toiling and suffering humanity, a reminder of a higher world and for some, a call beyond the babel of tongues to seek escape from the wheel of rebirth. India's symbol of the wheel might be seen in operation at several levels, the great slow turning wheels of the bullock carts, the wheel of the law and Shiva Nataraj dancing upon the corpse of ignorance within his wheel of fire.

   Eternal India resumed it's dream, briefly and rudely interrupted, and the interruption then forgotten.

  The great islands between Asia and Australia had been formed from a jumble of principalities into two countries, the mainly Christian Philippines and the mainly Moslem Indonesia. After the Catastrophe and the subsequent jihad against India, some part of which had also assaulted the shores of the Philippines like the wave of a tsunami,  which passes away after causing grievous hurt and damage; centrifugal and fissiparative forces prevailed. The islands relapsed into a confusion of quarreling states ruled by the usual colourful collection of cunning, ruthless and avaricious warlords. Overpopulation and deforestation had eliminated the original forest and it's topsoil. Although disease epidemics had reduced population and discouraged contact between islands, so that there was some regeneration of forests, most of the wildlife was long gone, and the people scratching out a living were much less happy and more impoverished than their remote ancestors had been. Piracy and every form of brigandage revived to further immiserate their neighbors and prey upon what commerce survived. These latter-day Dyaks and Boogeymen were as murderous and ferocious as their precursors had been. Their depredations spread to the international trade routes through the Straits of Malacca and between China and Australia, so they incurred retaliation from those areas. The Chinese navy escorted vessels through these waters whilst China still had significant trading links with Australia, but it was the Australians who found a more savage and effective solution.

  Australasia was not directly affected by the Catastrophe, but the effective disappearance of America and Western Europe was a nasty shock and a loss of economic and cultural contact for Australia and New Zealand. Much of their economic life was already directed towards Asia, so this persisted, although the exchange of raw materials for goods manufactured in China or Japan or the Eastern Tigers slowly lessened as world demand fell, and these countries underwent their own changes. Yet the decline was sufficiently long drawn out for this area to retain much of it's old way of life for much longer than elsewhere. They had plenty of raw materials and sufficient industrial capacity together with intellectual capital and stable productive societies to maintain their social integrity and political and military power, which although modest, was now relatively stronger.

  The Islamic Caliphate, and the Jihad it inspired around the world changed things. Although relatively minor compared to other places overrun by Islam, there were already sufficient Moslems living there to have formed a social cancer, whose attacks were greatly inflamed by the spillover from Indonesia. New Zealand was too far away to be much affected, although their evolution into a peaceful and forgotten backwater was obstructed by violence and agitation by Maoris and lefties.

  Australia was fortunate in presenting a vast expanse of desert towards Indonesia, and a long sea journey to it's fertile and populated areas. Consequently, small scale invasions and raids had little prospect of success, and large scale jihads were directed more towards India and the Philippines. The Islamic pinpricks combined with the painful shock of treachery from within as resident Moslems, infiltrators and lefty fellow-travelers took the opportunity to riot, rape, loot and slaughter in their accustomed manner, caused a strong revulsion towards them in the rest of the population, whose rage resulted in a fairly rapid extirpation of this vermin, and a determination to assist neighbors suffering from the Islamic plague.

  At first, Australian special forces launched a series of counter-raids on Islamic islands to the north. They made friends with the native tribes of New Guinea, whose ancestors had maintained a tradition of head-hunting and cannibalism, and encouraged and armed them to attempt to recover the western half of their island from the Islamic invaders of Indonesia. Successful raiding led to a revival of ancestral traditions. The longhouses of Papua soon were competitively decorated with numerous heads of Indonesians, and ceremonies seemed incomplete without a cannibal feast on the body parts of captured Moslems. The Australians soon recruited the cannibal Papuans to join them in attacking other islands. White men with blackened faces and black men with white clay patterns all over their almost naked bodies were equally terrifying symbols and manifestations of death to the local Indonesians, and the fear and awe which their ferocious raids caused soon spread far and wide. Jihadis and local forces came to oppose them, but the cannibal cooking pot proved to be an unpopular route to Paradise.

  This change in public mood went with a realization that resources were limited and that it was foolish to waste them on enemies and in promoting self destructive behavior. The lefty political media and academic establishment became shriller and more venomous as it saw it's own power and income under threat, which lessened public acceptance of it still further. The archetypal Aussie 'battler' had never had much sympathy for these people, and the changed circumstances strengthened the tough, self reliant, extrovert, anti-intellectual and physically oriented strain in the Australian national character. It's good humored mateyness was soured by a feeling of having been fooled and exploited and then attacked by people whom they had tried to help; so the man in the street became violently angry and determined to eliminate the problem. All Moslems, lefties and their favoured proteges came under threat of political and physical elimination.

  A turning point in the regeneration and re-assertion of the Aussie identity was marked by the burning of the Sydney Opera House, that well known landmark and symbol of the arty-farty lefty past. It had been the local refuge for the surviving liberal intelligentsia and their dependents, until the 'Fair-Dos-Mates' had driven the remaining scroungers, dole-bludgers, pommies, pinko-intellectuals, multi-cultis, media queers and any other un-Australian riff-raff remaining in Sydney into it and set it alight. The sight and sounds filled a spectacular night as those inside roasted and screamed, and those outside toasted them with cheap wine and screamed in delight, dancing around their 'barbies' as they consigned these blots on the physical and social landscape of fair Australia to everlasting flames. Nobody referred to the burning of the Cathars mingled with Catholics in the cathedral of Beziers in July 1209 during the Albigensian Crusade, but the attitude that God could sort them out was certainly held in common.

  A crucial factor in the development of the new Australia was the role of 'Dundee's Crocodiles'. These emerged from the special forces unit of a Colonel Dundee, and became very popular and politically influential, organising and carrying out many attacks on lefty targets at home as well as on Moslems in the islands that had been Indonesia. The old order of high taxation to support a politicised bureaucracy and nanny state replacing the family and subverting everything decent in order to impoverish the decent people and advance filth at their expense under the rubric of'political correctness', 'anti-racism' and other lefty inanities and insanities, was weakened by the economic decline and by the change of mood towards self-reliance and self-defence. The political and cultural elite, self chosen, became so detested and reviled that their grip on power began to weaken. Dundee's Crocodiles and similar groups cut their failing fingers from the levers of centralised power. A smaller bureaucracy, influenced or intimidated by other forces, was less responsive to their will, especially after some spectacular assassinations of senior officials and politicians and celebrities by those whom they had trusted to guard them. The era of large state organisations controlling the lives of their slavish subjects, was passing. 'Death from Dundee' or 'Death from the Deep' became a slogan which terrified the remaining lefties. The letters 'DFD' marked the end of many a leftist.

  The execution of evil lefties and the rectification of the crazy and perverted institutions they had created became tasks by means of which the Crocodiles gained honour and respect, and slowly undid the perversions of leftism, enabling a strong society to naturally re-grow. Slowly the institutions that had been colonised and perverted by lefties were cleared and cleansed. State bureaucrats who advanced or attempted to enforce lefty agenda were identified, intimidated or eliminated. At first the compliant and venal political class desperately tried to protect themselves and intimidate their opponents by the use of legal and illegal power. This led to more awakening, more resistance, more people finding convictions and the courage to live or die by them. Since the lefties were basically parasites on the productive labour of others, who had insinuated themselves deceptively into power, and used it to advance evil and insane ideas which corrupted the minds and morals of the people and degenerated their healthy society in the interests of anti-human parasites, they were bound to lose any remotely equal struggle in a society not yet corrupted to a terminal degree, once a large minority became organised and energised to oppose them. 

  Education, media and the arts were likewise slowly cleansed as more and more people became aware of their evil influence and eliminated the perpetrators. It was fascinating for many to see that so many of the vicious and vociferous 'anti-capitalists', 'anti-racists', 'anti-fascists', 'activists' and 'community organisers' 'evil rights against everything right brigades',and 'community leaders' turned out to be criminal trash financed by some of the richest people and assisted by sleazy lawyers, political shysters and power-hungry bureaucrats. Slowly, parallel institutions of justice,  information and assistance replaced the despised and crumbling institutions of the state. The lefty-corrupted formal legal system fell into confusion and abeyance  as lefty lawyers and judges were intimidated or eliminated, and Crocodile Courts took over the administration of their ideas of justice. Crooked financiers and industrialists and landowners who were found to have cheated the people and misused political contacts, lobbied for favourable laws and employed the power of the state to their personal advantage were not spared the wrath of the 'People', even those who had no connection with lefties. The lefties last refuges were the bureaucracies and centres of the big cities, but tax strikes, armed resistance to tax collection with increasingly compulsory substitute payments to the shadow state of the Crocodiles, the preponderance of armed force and effective fighting power shifting to the Crocodiles and the decline of urban in favour of rural populations and values left them with little hope. After the capture of these refuges and the slaughter of their 'refugees', the leaders of the Crocodiles proclaimed their victory and the substitution of their institutions for those of the deceased regime. An annual holiday was proclaimed and special celebrations were held throughout the land, at which those who with greater or lesser plausibility were accused of being leftists or beneficiaries of the old regime, were burnt alive in the manner of Guy Fawkes.

  The new or renewed Australia was an aggressively masculine culture. Shrinking violets soon withered or were blasted by it's heat. Dundee's Crocodiles and similar groups provided an organised initiation into warriorhood for many young men, teaching them endurance, comradeship, discipline, self-reliance, and how to overcome fear and weakness, as well as proficiency in the arts of killing and self-defence in the service of their people. Many proceeded to successful careers and achievements in other spheres. These Australians were not savages; although like Lawrence of Arabia, who could out-Bedu the Bedu, they could perform on equal terms with savages and win their respect. Intellect and culture were not abandoned, useful inventions continued to be made, including Tesla-type energy devices, which reduced reliance on centralised power systems. The basic institutions of society changed back from state bureaucracies and shrill lefty media to the family and mens' groups. Formal political organisations became much less important, power basically manifested through agreements within and between the mens' groups, whose leaders were in any case likely to be the formal politicians and whose younger members practically constituted the armed forces.

  Many of these men became expert at survival in the harsh Outback, with some assistance from the surviving Aborigines. Some became expert sailors voyaging afar in small boats, redeveloping the extreme sensitivity to natural conditions that Polynesian navigators had known long before. These skills were applied in the vast archipelago of Indonesia. Like their crocodile totem, these fearsome ambush predators brought death by sea and by land. They brought order also. They had little interest in looting or enslaving the locals, but they sought out and destroyed symbols and concentrations of Moslem power, wearing down by their elusive hit and run attacks, those that were too strong to be directly attacked. Garrisons were isolated, their supplies cut off, with most of the locals too terrified to do much to help them. The protection of the Crocodiles was soon besought by many villages, towns and small islands which found it more profitable and peaceable to accept a loose kind of Australian rule and hegemony in inter-island relations, and even to help them against post-Indonesian forces attempting to regain control over the territory. Attacks on those under the protection of the Crocodiles were swiftly and harshly punished. They permitted the people to more or less run their own affairs, occasionally deposing or beheading chiefs whose misrule produced too many complaints, but eschewing attempts to change local ways.

  Over time the Australian sphere of influence extended. They kept themselves honed for war by continuous interference in the squabbles of their neighbors. They attained effective control of more and more of the seas, and their reputation alone became a potent weapon. Eventually they were able to reach into the Philippines and revive what Christian resistance remained to Moslem aggression. They came to control much of the inter-island trade, and protected Australian exports there, but would not allow much in the way of commercial huckstering and deception.

   In the opposite direction they they extended their, rather more peaceful, influence, far across the Pacific. They made a practice of long voyages, for enjoyment, excitement, and to test themselves, more than for practical purposes. Many of them perished, but many survived, and the love of adventure persisted. Centuries passed and the Australians thrived. Clearly descended from the Old Time, they were no longer of it. They were much closer in attitude to a much older time, yet with less total emphasis on war. They had craft and industrial skills and literature different from those of the Heroic Age, but somewhat reminiscent. They had a tenuous contact with China. A few adventurers took the route - not just to Samarkand - through China and Russia, by rail, into mighty Germany and learned of developments in Europe and the Middle East, but few of their compatriots cared for such things. A handful of voyagers achieved round-the-world voyages, visiting all continents. Although feted as heroes, the peoples they had visited were of little interest to their public. The occasional voyagers to Central and Northern America found little to interest them. The cannibal Mexicans evoked only contempt. The ferocious Eskimo hunters were granted a wary respect, but the cold lands of the far north and their savage inhabitants held no lasting attractions. They might have been more at ease with the Republican Americans had the latter been less earnest, and had the Australians not inherited tales depicting the old Americans as the source of everything evil, so their rare encounters produced no meeting of minds.

   Some of their voyages touched South America. There, they found a thin population of sleepily superstitious savages who took no interest in them, apart from occasional efforts to murder them in the hope that their body parts would be effective ingredients in magical rites. Those people had lost even the legends of their remote forebears, which had told of Quetzalcoatl or Kukulcan and the white gods who had vanished or been driven into the western sea, and whose return they had long ceased to look for.

  By the year 3,000 A.D., and that calendrical system was still used in Australia, a new cycle of the ages was well under weigh. The old order had passed and been forgotten, but a new, more vigorous and virile age had arisen. It was as if, foretold as a riddle in the story of Samson, from the carcass of the old lion had come the honey bees.

          Review: Giselle Renarde’s Nanny State        
Except for the work of a few friends (Guy New York, Sinclair Sexsmith) I don’t find that much erotica that really turns me on. Well, not much that is being published this decade. Now, there is a lot of erotica out there, so part of that is just not being able to find erotica that … Continue reading Review: Giselle Renarde’s Nanny State
          Vintage Crouse-Hinds DT 4-way Traffic Signal (Art Deco)        
Vintage Crouse-Hinds DT 4-way Traffic Signal (Art Deco) Vintage Crouse-Hinds DT 4-way Traffic Signal (Art Deco) Vintage Crouse-Hinds DT 4-way Traffic Signal (Art Deco) Vintage Crouse-Hinds DT 4-way Traffic Signal (Art Deco)

These babies were manufactured in the late 1940s through the mid 1950s and are valued for their distinctive art deco touches. Traffic lights were a new addition to many American towns and not always welcome (nanny state!) so in addition to making them effective traffic control devices Crouse-Hinds also tried to make them graceful additions to the landscape. As the saying goes, "they don't make 'em like that anymore."

I've only just begun restoring it and I'm hamstrung by my schedule and the fact that I live in a condominium apartment with no outside space, but I'll keep this post updated with my progress and learnings.

          Sugar tax and nanny state        
Why the DOF's sugar tax bill in Congress is lousy.

1. The state is further addicted to tax-tax-tax mentality and policy.
2. This 2-tier taxation (higher tax for imported sugar) is anti-WTO rules, DFA is correct.
3. State nannyism ('protect public health' alibi) is fuelling more state interventionism. Tax alcohol, tobacco, soft drinks, juices. Soon it will tax litson baboy, litson manok. 

See this report from BusinessWorld last week.

That the state has hiked the tax on alcohol and tobacco products is generally accepted by the public. But taxing further soft drinks, powdered juice drinks, etc. is OA state nannyism. People own their body, not the state and politicians, not the health NGOs, etc. Simple joys by the poor like drinking powdered juice, the state will make these products become more expensive, and certain sectors like health NGOs, medical groups are clapping partly because they will get more tax money.

Earlier, a lady Senator wanted to file a bill banning unlimited rice ("unli-rice") in restaurants. The usual alibi is "public health concern." Trying-hard state nannyism, those politicians and state bureaucrats think they are so bright they can plan other people's lives. Next they will penalize climbing trees and climbing roofs because they might fall and it's bad for their health and it's bad for public health budget.

The silent motive here is that Dutertenomics will need lots of tax-tax-tax because it will go into endless borrow-borrow-borrow from China. Improving public infra is good and there are many big private companies, local and foreign, willing to bankroll many infra projects, but this administration intends to please China -- the communist dictatorial government, its banks and contractors.

          More depressing news for Singapore economy, heading towards total collapse.         
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Just as a reminder, Singapore island is so small, sometimes you don't see it on the map. It is just 277 square miles. An island 26 miles East to West and 16 miles north to south. It has no natural resources and most of it is just a few feet above sea level. If there is no traffic, you could drive from north to south or east to west in just 30 minutes! In this tiny place about 5 million people are packed, one on top of the other in high rise government owned pigeon hole like apartments which it rents to the people on 99 year leases. I mentioned these facts to point out how precarious the dire economic situation is on the very existence of the island. If a mere 5 large companies were to close, the island government and economy will completely collapse, that's how small it is. And by the signs we see now, it appears that it is indeed going to happen very soon. For a tiny place like this, even a small downturn in the economy, will instantly result in total shutdown of the island.

In todays Reuter report " Outlook dims for Singapore Inc as economy moonwalks", a very dim picture is shown on the island's future survival. Please see report here

The reference to "Moonwalk" is a pun on local Chinese custom of eating cakes known as mooncakes during this time of year. A local Singapore employer John Kong a building material supplier was unable to send mooncakes to his workers because he was not making any money and couldn't give any pay rise to his workers because his business is hitting rock bottom and worries on whether he could stay in business. He says his business friends are wondering what will happen to them in 3 months. Businesses are cutting marketing expenses and laying off workers.

China's slowdown, a country upon which the one party state centralized planning rulers of Singapore  have decided to depend upon almost entirely, has given a body blow to Singapore's economic survival. Singapore's business for manufactures and shippers down, commodity markets business down, oil and gas sector down, companies bad debts rise, island's money laundering business down, financial services down.

"Earning forecasts for Singapore's listed companies are falling at among fastest in the world".

"Companies are also struggling with debt burdens that have ballooned since the financial crises, even as bottom lines have shrunk"

According to Thomson Reuters "Net incomes are down almost 40% since Jan 2008, net debt has more than doubled"!

Singapore banks DBS Group Holdings and Overseas Chinese Banking Corp are suffering from losses as a result of their loans to these troubled businesses.

Singapore's money laundering scandal the 1IMDB has resulted in banks having to spend more in compliance thereby losing money with no money coming in. Indonesia's tax amnesty has resulted in almost 11 billion dollars flowing out of the island, causing a dent in the offshore banking industry. Especially since the majority of the clients of these banks were Indonesian bank fraudsters, their departure may even put an end to the money laundering business, for which these off shore banks are primarily used.

Entire floors at central shopping malls are empty and tourists are cutting spending.

Singaporeans it appears are losing hope and worried. Key factors were quality of life, regular income and employment because there is no unemployment benefits or social security. If you lose your job, you and your family starve. A person with no money cannot live off the land because there isn't any. It is a small tiny island concrete jungle.

Although Singapore has one of the world's lowest birth rate's in the world, now with these bad tidings, women are not choosing to be pregnant and no babies are born in their maternity hospital. This creates even more pressure to import foreign workers, something the government is trying to slow down since foreigners, mainly from Communist China, already outnumber locals in that tiny island.

Jessica a 39 year old said she lost her job as an audit supervisor, has cut down on her spending, and told her kids she can no longer buy things as often as before.

I mentioned the small size of the island and its tiny population without any natural resources. A large country with an independent minded people living in a democracy may find ways to save themselves. Singapore however is doomed. The collapse in such a small place would be almost instant. Once the bad news takes hold, businesses would leave, people would leave, massive unemployment, there would a run on the banks and the Singapore dollar would become worthless.

If there is any hope of survival, perhaps they should stay. But there is none. And the fault is entirely the making of the former prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. And his son who has taken over is only capable of following his father. Lee carefully created over 50 years a citizenry that is totally reliant on the state. A model citizen is one who obeys the state and merely does what he is told. No need to think. The jobs that are created so far is the result of central planning in certain economic sectors. Jobs are not created by its people as is the case in democracies around the world. In Singapore anyone who has ideas of his own is punished and persecuted against. Only those who are mindless conformists can expect to survive. Unless the government can now think of new ideas to employ their citizens in the nanny state, I think the game is lost.

Especially in a small island such as this, Lee Kuan Yew's main concentration of his efforts should be to develop a democracy, where the people have their human rights, where there is rule of law and where everyone is given an opportunity to think independently and come up with new ideas. This is not so in Singapore. What he has done is to create a citizenry that lives in fear of the government and where the best way to survive is to kow tow and blindly obey their rulers. Such a citizenry is incapable of saving themselves in this situation.

Gopalan Nair
Attorney at Law
A Singaporean in Exile
Fremont (San Francisco) USA
Tel: 510 491 8525
          Harmon Kaslow on Atlas Shrugged and the Free Market        

Harmon Kaslow Meets at FreePAC Florida meets activist Connie SmithWith the release of Atlas Shrugged Part II on DVD, we get a chance to focus again on the power of government to keep people from pursuing and achieving success. I spoke with the film's producer, Harmon Kaslow, who shared his ideas about reestablishing respect for the free market.

In the run-up to the 2012 elections, President Obama was asked about Ayn Rand and her epic novel, Atlas Shrugged, on which the film is based. 

Ayn Rand is one of those things that a lot of us, when we were 17 or 18 and feeling misunderstood, we'd pick up. Then, as we get older, we realize that a world in which we're only thinking about ourselves and not thinking about anybody else, in which we're considering the entire project of developing ourselves as more important than our relationships to other people and making sure that everybody else has opportunity – that that's a pretty narrow vision. It's not one that, I think, describes what's best in America. Unfortunately, it does seem as if sometimes that vision of a "you're on your own" society has consumed a big chunk of the Republican Party...

While the President addressed the ideas in the partisan terms that seem to be his only frame of reference, promoting the power of the free market to spread wealth to people goes beyond the partisan constraints that bind our political discussions.

"The President I think is clearly a collectivist," said Kaslow. "In some ways, given the role he’s had the government play, for instance, in the acquisition of GM and AIG, perhaps even a socialist. It isn’t about the individual with this guy. In a sense he’s creating a nanny state, and perpetuating this whole idea that just because you exist you are entitled to something from the government. This type of attitude makes the story embodied in Atlas Shrugged seem so relevant to what’s going on today, even though it’s a story written more than 50 years ago as a warning. She wasn’t writing something that was intended to be the headlines in the newspaper, but this guy literally in four years has made this book a bestseller, because the people who have read it so long ago see it being played out, almost to a ‘t’ as described in the book."

"Obama is clearly perpetuating this kind of left-leaning mainstream media concept," continued Kaslow, "this 'You owe me' agenda, that the President articulated by saying 'You didn't build that.' That's exactly what's killing the country that our founding fathers envisioned when they created our rule of law and the role that government was going to play in our lives."

Kaslow often thinks about we how can influence our culture toward individualism and away from collectivism.

"Well for me," he said, "it's just that we're not doing a good job educating -- and I think it has to start with our youth -- on economic theory: microeconomics, macroeconomics. And you especially don't see an understanding of that in Washington, DC. And here you have a guy Paul Ryan who supports Ayn Rand's theory that there is a moral basis for capitalism, and the left just attacks this guy for embracing what Ayn Rand was about. They attack him because of perhaps other things Rand said, but to me if people understood economics -- how markets worked, and the impact, the qualitative, quantitative impact that government actions have, I think that it would go a long way to changing this whole entitlement mentality, and people would see that their prosperity starts with the fact that we live in a place that was built by entrepreneurs, that had unlimited opportunity."

We see it in the Microsoft antitrust case, Kaslow said. The Department of Justice and New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer sued Microsoft in 1999 over antitrust issues.

"It's just another clear example right out of the book," Kaslow recalled. It's the government creating this issue that there is a social danger by virtue of the fact that Microsoft was putting Internet Explorer on their desktop. And you look at where we are today, and that was a totally irrelevant thing, but they decimated this company, and set it on a path that's really crippled it. It sucked the air out of these entrepreneurs, who -- no one should be afraid that they're going to become billionaires."

"I think that the government just has this fear," said Kaslow, "again, right out of the book , Henry Reardon says he's going to get too powerful because he'd come up with something that's too valuable for people."

"The education system seems to have a left-leaning bent to it, which is fine, I don't have a problem with that. My whole thing is if we could teach kids economics, they would have a better understanding of the role that government should play in their lives."

Pre-order Atlas Shrugged Part II FreedomWorks Special Edition DVD

FW Edition Atlas Shrugged Part IIAyn Rand’s epic novel has inspired countless heroes in the freedom movement over the last 56 years – and has become more popular than ever in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

Set in the near future, ATLAS SHRUGGED PART II portrays a dystopian United States with a global economy on the brink of collapse and brilliant creators, from artists to industrialists, continuing to mysteriously disappear. 

          481: How Do We Empower Parents Against the Expanding Nanny State?        
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David DeLugas has 35 years of experience practicing family law. During that time he has observed some disturbing trends in state intrusions into the parent-child relationship. Today he serves as Executive Director and General Counsel for the National Association of Parents, a 501(c)(3) member charitable association. David DeLugas and I discuss: the problems created by divorce + family court - school attendance: how schools create criminals out of parents - is there an anti-family ideology at work? - CPS intrusions - the public's assumption of benevolence when it comes to bureaucracies - zero tolerance - Lenore Skenazy and free-range kids - helicopter parenting enforced by law - the long-term costs of over-parenting by government From The Voice for Parents in the USA. Relying only on the U.S. Constitution, the National Association of Parents preserves and supports the parent-child relationship and the right of parents to raise their own child as they see fit, so long as the child is not harmed through strategic litigation and through education and lobbying to shape public policy. As our membership grows, so, too, will our economic clout and ability to support parents and children fighting and coping with serious medical issues, to fund child abuse prevention and children’s medical research, particularly the rare illnesses and diseases that are severely underfunded, and to secure benefits and discounts for our member parents. How to Join - Related Shows: [PODCAST] #190: Lenore Skenazy – Free Range Kids [PODCAST] #380: Visible Children (with Laurette Lynn) [SUPPLEMENTAL] #372: Real Learning vs. Getting Schooled – with Kevin Geary and Darrell Becker

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          QotD: The new Whitney Museum in New York City        
On a recent visit to New York City, I had the opportunity to walk around the exterior of the new Whitney Museum, built at a cost of $442 million. It is a monument of a kind: to the vanity, egotism, and aesthetic incompetence of celebrity architects such as Renzo Piano, and to the complete loss […]
          New York City through the eyes of a young German visitor        
The anonymous author visited New York City recently, having visited many other US cities, and recorded the disappointment of seeing the Big Apple in real life: I expected NYC to be at least somewhat of a modern and shiny skyscraper city. The secret capital of the US – and – maybe the world. I expected […]
          Fairytale of New York        
Time: “Fairytale of New York,” The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl This song came into being after Elvis Costello bet The Pogues’ lead singer Shane MacGowan that he couldn’t write a decent Christmas duet. The outcome: a call-and-response between a bickering couple that’s just as sweet as it is salty.
          â€œIt’s the slippery slope consciously deployed as a policy strategy”        
Shikha Dalmia on Bloomberg’s nanny complex and the underlying cause of it: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposed ban on big sodas in the Big Apple is generating accusations that he is a Nanny Statist. But that’s not quite accurate. A nanny forces others to do things for their own good. Bloomberg is a […]
          QotD: New York City, the capital city of Nanny State        
The lowest blow in City Hall’s war on wicked food is its recurring efforts to ban the buying of fizzy pop with food stamps. In an initiative that could easily be titled ‘No Coke for poor black folk’, the Bloombergers have sought federal permission to prevent welfare recipients from using government cash to purchase fizzy […]
          Comment on Dear Nanny State… by jeffstanger        
New blog post: Dear Nanny State
          Comment on You won’t need a meal plan in the nanny state by Diana        
Thanks Dana. You're so right that this is the epitome of cognitive dissonance.
          Comment on You won’t need a meal plan in the nanny state by Dena Gershkovich        
Spot on, as always! I agree with you, and I think people have to realize that these types of controls really are for their own health benefits. I think it comes down to people just not liking the idea of someone else "controlling" them. Meaning: it's okay if they go to you for a diet plan because they're choosing, on their own account, to seek nutritional guidance, but if it's "imposed," the same intention of wanting to eat healthfully suddenly becomes seen as a forced, overstepping governmental construct. I wish more people would realize the parallel and notice it's for the best. This is literally the definition of cognitive dissonance.
          â€œNanny State”        
  With so many parents both working these days, there has been a proliferation of mother’s helpers, nannies, and live-ins to help with the kids. If you are at a fancy cocktail party the term, of course, is “au pair” to refer to these employees. Yes, they are employees if they are “regularly” working for [...]
          Nanny State of the Week: A state license for breast-feeding advice?        
While some states take a hard look at the cost of occupational license laws, Minnesota might mandate more government-issued permission slips.
          Nanny State of the Week: Feds send LSD Ale on a long, strange trip        
Minneapolis-based Indeed Brewing is renaming its popular LSD Ale after getting in trouble with the federal government.
          Nanny State of the Week: Minnesota men facing felony charges for selling beer        
Long after Prohibition has ended, Minnesota might send two men to jail for selling beer.
          Nanny State of the Week: Town inspection checks whether you cleaned your toilet        
A Minnesota town wants to make sure their residents are keeping a tidy home. Those who don’t submit to mandatory home inspections are being taken to court.
          ã€æœ€æ–°ç™¼è¡Œ/搶先聽】 Live and Learn        
【專輯】 Live and Learn
【藝人】 Mickey Harte
【音樂類型】 西洋歌曲,流行樂
【發行日期】 2006-09-08
... (更多專輯資訊)
1. To See You Smile Again | 04:16
2. Nine Lives | 04:02
3. I wish You well | 04:07
4. Can't Let Go | 03:40
5. Leave It All Behind | 03:48
6. Live Forever | 04:16
7. Skellig Song | 04:12
8. Bring Me Down | 03:40
9. Live And Learn | 05:01
10. Sound Of The Summer | 03:34
11. Nanny State | 04:10
12. I Won't Wait | 04:40

          Alcohol, Drugs, Nanny State, and the Plight of the Maori People.        
As a Libertarian Maori who has been fighting Socialism and Nanny State for two decades, I have been Labeled an uncaring fool because I reject all the so-called ‘Government assistance programs and prohibitions’… all the social engineering of the ‘Paternal/Maternal … Continue reading
          "Mad Men"        
I just finished a "Mad Men" binge. I had never seen the show before last week. Now I've seen seasons 1-5 and the first two hours of season 6. I caught up.

The show is well written, directed and acted. It is interesting, although I completely disagree with the show's point of view. The theme -- if I may be so bold as to state a theme when the naturalist writers of the show would maintain there is none -- is the conflict between the New Leftist culture and the older, less egalitarian culture it replaced. It's squares vs. hippies, and the show assumes that the hippies were on history's side. In a way, they are right: the squares are dead and political correctness reigns unchallenged in the present age. Whether history will show this to be a good thing remains to be seen.

The decade of the '60s is great for drama because it is so different, and yet so familiar. You get both worlds -- the other, as in science fiction, fantasy and historical; and the realism of contemporary life. I believe much of the show's appeal is a guilty fascination with life before the New Leftist/egalitarian cultural revolution. The clothing fashions, the attitudes and the furniture are appealing and deliciously non-PC. But even as the show uses the smoking, drinking and male-dominated office culture to keep viewers interested, it looks down on these ways with irony and sneers. The implication is that the nanny state was justified in outlawing tobacco smoke from the workplace, and of course all the isms of the New Left -- multiculturalism, environmentalism, feminism, PC -- are assumed to be positive advances.

There is a broader theme about man's nature that is shown mostly in the lead character, Don Draper, played perfectly by Jon Hamm. Draper is a man who lives a lie. To avoid spoilers, I won't go into his backstory. In the tradition of noir crime fiction, the character made a stupid decision and he struggles to live with it. Moreover, he lies to his wife and screws just about anything in a skirt. By one count he has sex with 13 different women.

The show asks if Don has a choice and if he can change. He is a tormented soul who struggles with these questions. The answer so far is unknown. Maybe the show will decide one way or another as to whether Don has free will. Jon Hamm says the underlying message about right and wrong is,
"There ain't none of us on the planet that are perfect. And I think that people recognize human frailties and foibles and f***-ups and identify with it, honestly. Superman is a cartoon character. He's not a real person. And no one is without sin, without mistakes."

Don is neither black nor white, but very gray -- and exasperatingly stupid, in my opinion. So the show is naturalism, which Ayn Rand defined as literature based on the premise that man does not have volition. If the show's creator, Matthew Weiner, reforms Don in the next two seasons, it will be interesting to see if he can pull it off believably.

As with most serious dramatic writing today, all ideas are delivered in subtext, but sometimes they are buried so deep that I wonder if I'm missing the point. (Subtext itself is a naturalistic technique; it makes characters inarticulate and incapable of consciously stating and pursuing their goals. It makes all characters ironic in Northrop Frye's meaning of the word: we look down on them, rather than admire them. Subtext is held as the the highest kind of writing today.)

The show is too slow for my taste. To have a good plot, you need more purposeful action. Not only are there no heroes in this show, there are no villains -- although in season 5 Betty Draper, Don's ex-wife, gets a little twisted by envy. I fear I might get bored in season 6.

There is one character who is supposed to be a fan of Ayn Rand, and who pushes Atlas Shrugged on his employees. This is hardly worth mentioning, because the writers show no understanding of how an Objectivist thinks. Nothing in this character sounds right. He comes off as an eccentric who liked Rand but didn't think about her philosophy for two minutes. (A typical conservative! No wonder he makes no sense.)

Anyway, it's nice to live for a while in a world where people smoke at the office, men wear hats and women wear dresses. Sadly, this world has disappeared from America and can only be experienced now in costume dramas.

UPDATE: Watched the third episode of season 6. Something snapped in me and I became bored and disgusted with the show. Those characters for whom I feel no contempt I am indifferent to. I have especially lost patience with Don Draper. Who cares about that weak, lying bastard? Same with Peter Campbell. Weiner has said he does not want to repeat himself, but men cheating on their wives gets old fast. I think they made a mistake trying to push the series into a sixth season.

          Hillary - plans to build on Obama successes.         

Barack: Only “president” to preside over seven straight years of GDP growth of less than 3%.
Longest previous streak was four years during the depths of Great Depression. Obama’s average: A MISERABLE 1.2%

Hillary promises to continue the failed agenda.

 * First time in American history that more businesses are being destroyed than being created.
Barack built that, Hillary vows to continue the failed agenda.

* More Americans now receive entitlements than work full time.
Barack built that, Hillary promises to continue the destruction.

* 40% of American workers now earn less, adjusted for inflation, than a full time minimum wage worker in 1968.

Barack built those part time, low paying jobs. Hillary vows to continue the failures.

* 20% of U.S. families now don’t have a single member employed.

Barack built that, Hillary says she’ll continue with the failed agenda.

* A record number of Americans are not in the workforce – over 94 million, WORKING AGE people.

Barack built that, Hillary promises to continue with the damage.
* More young Americans now live with their parents than at any time since the Great Depression.

Barack built that, Hillary vows to continue with the failed agenda.

* 43% of 22 million student loans aren’t being repaid.

* 2/3rds of Americans don’t have $500 for an emergency.

Barack built that Hillary vows to continue the Nanny State agenda
* Food stamp use is up by 43% and number of food stamp recipients is three times higher than number of new job recipients. 
Barack built that. Hillary vows to add to it.

* First time America’s credit rating has been lowered.

Barack built that, Hillary vows to continue the damage.

* Welfare & poverty have SKYROCKETED.

Barack built that, Hillary promises to continue the failed agenda
I dislike Mayor Bloomberg telling me I can't smoke a cigar in Central Park, nudge stuff, and nanny states. And yet I find myself liking the fact that they are going to outlaw 640z sodas in NYC. I am impaled on the horns of a dilemma.
          Comment on The Ron Paul Responsibility Paradox by ericf        
Not so incidently I think your observation of the Paul Responsibility Paradox is spot-on and well named. Paradox is just the right word. The concept is key to understanding the Ron Paul mentality. It involves double think. Visit his campaign web site and you'll find other contraditions, but that's part of the mindset. Regarding healthcare principles there are two ideas: -- Reduced roll for the "Nanny State" will reduce moral hazard. -- Reduced size of the "Nanny State" will provide an economic environment in which private philantropy can thrive. The problem with this pairing is that if thriving philanthropy provides the safety net no longer provided by the state then we haven't really reduced moral hazard. We've just diplaced it. Paul might regard that displacement would be a good thing if he got that far, but he doesn't need to. Paul's plan for healthcare implementation relies heavily on income tax deductions and credits. However, his policy on taxation calls for eliminating the income tax entirely so what would we be deducting from? . Poke around a bit and you'll probably find more of these. You don't have look to far. An Anti-Abortion Liberterian? AFAICT the Ron Paul mindset requires either the ability to in effect hold two contradictory thoughts on one's head at the same time, It's a bit like quantum mechanics: The kind of answer you get on a particlar subject depends on the kind of quesion you ask. Ask how to get folks to buy healtcare plans without a mandate and you';; probably get an anser involving fear of getting sick without coverage. Ask whether sick folks without coverage should be left to die you'll probably get an answer about philantropies caring for the indigent. The answers may contradict each other, but they will both be completely sincere. It is THAT rather than cruelty or hypocricy that I see as the problem, and it may be a more serious problem.
          What Happens When You Take A Firearm To NYC In Your Luggage? Fines And Jail Time        
New York is determined to persecute gun owners, and if you have a firearm, you're an easy mark for the nanny state justice system in that city.
          Welcome to Dystopia Episode 8: Currency Wars w/ More Bombs Still to Fall!        

Jason Burack of Wall St for Main St and independent financial journalist and managing editor of The News Doctors, Eric Dubin are back for Episode #8 of Welcome to Dystopia!

During today's episode, Jason and Eric discuss whether the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates (they didn't) but the odds were low they would.

Jason and Eric talk about the empty promise the G20 just pledged to not engage in another currency war

Next, Jason and Eric discuss Brazil and emerging markets and how their currencies and economies are in free fall because of US Dollar denominated debt and falling oil and base metal prices.

After this, Jason and Eric discuss China dumping US Treasuries so quickly and what this means.

Jason and Eric discuss the 200+:1 paper to metal ratio on the COMEX and what that means.

After that, they discuss how dire things really are for the gold and silver miners.

To wrap up the show, Jason and Eric talk about this week's Scumbags of the Week Nominees.

This week's nominees are:

1) Venezuelan government for arresting someone for speaking out about the corruption and stupidity in their government and for Venezuelan citizens having to smuggle powdered milk into the country

2) The Malaysian prime minister for having $700 million of public money now in his personal accounts

3) US Government for even considering using Al Quaeda to fight ISIS/ISIL

4) The nanny state of Maryland and local government in Maryland for charging a teenage boy with a 2nd degree assault charge for kissing a teenage girl at school

          States raise tobacco buying age to 21        

The movement to raise the tobacco buying age to 21 has caught fire, with recent victories in three states as anti-smoking advocates blow past critics who see the measures as another dubious undertaking of the nanny state.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, signed legislation Wednesday making her state the ...

          Last circle line party!        
I attended the last circle line party today on the London tube. Due to the stupidly of Boris Johnson legislating for a problem that doesn't exist (I thought the idiot Conservatives didn't want a nanny state) this was the last night you could legally drink on the tube, bus or DLR. I must say that some people were taking it a little too far (smashed bottles and ripping the carrages up), the atmostphere was quite fun.
          Nanny State'll Getcha        
          Reply #209        
Another lesson in the chase! I did catch the 121 double as predicted - after the lenghty mid-day double drought ended with 696 but I'm still behind after throwing money away chasing the doubles after they han't been drawn for 15 mid-days so I'll need a few more to drop just to break even on this latest campaign... Fortunately it looks likely that we should have a few more since they will have to make up for that latest Nanny State statistical anomaly

Bring on some more mid-day doubles
          Reply #148        
Good call on the X04 Kap... I hit 904 the last time it came out straight but not today... I've been chasing doubles for the past 3 mid-days and nothing. Can you believe it has now been 21 mid-day draws since the last double in mid-day? Crazy. A trip must be near by because they are definitely up to something with this latest odds defying maneuver... I'm going to wait until they hit and then play for multiple doubles to drop and probably a trip as well... Gotta love to hate the Nanny State...
          QotD: The dangers of expanding the government’s power        
Urging vague and unconstrained government power is not how responsible citizens of a free society ought to act. It’s a bad habit and it’s dangerous and irresponsible to promote it. This is not an abstract or hypothetical point. We live in a country in which arbitrary power is routinely abused, usually to the detriment of […]
          Comment on Civil, Charitable Communities Get Crowded Out by Big Nanny State by Scott        
Brooke, Please save your intellectual dishonesty for your articles. It's wasted on me. I made many points specific to the article above. You neither can nor will answer any of them. I like the way you cheer lead with Pinto though. Meaningless banter for your comrade. Thank You
          Comment on Civil, Charitable Communities Get Crowded Out by Big Nanny State by brookemedina        
Scott, You've made a number of claims, but don't seem to have substantiated any of them. It's difficult to adequately respond to your criticisms when they run the gamut. I'll do my best to respond to any substantive criticism of the content of my article, but cannot presently address the many offshoots. Thank you.
          Comment on Civil, Charitable Communities Get Crowded Out by Big Nanny State by Scott        
I'm an American and citizen of North Carolina Pinto. I expose the lies of the Democratic Party as much as the Lies from NC Civitas (a Marketing Arm of the NCGOP). You are the shameful Partisan supporting the Corrupt 2 Party Duopoly, not me. I bet you were a Democrat once like Art Pope, Donald Trump, Jesse Helms...the list is endless and your lies and hypocrisy truly know no bounds.
          Comment on Civil, Charitable Communities Get Crowded Out by Big Nanny State by Pinto        
Shorter Scott: "Blah blah blah blah let's pretend I'm not a far-left partisan Democrat mindlessly spewing far-left propaganda and other empty noise blah blah blah blah I hate you because you don't write in favor of my far-left pet causes."
          The American Nanny State is Nigh        
Liberty is dying, if not dead, when the government tells you what's good for you and what isn't.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Friday defended his controversial proposal to limit the soda size in restaurants, quipping that extra large drinks aren't what "the Founding Fathers fought for."

"We're not banning you from getting the stuff. It's just if you want 32 ounces, the restaurant has to serve it in two glasses. That is not exactly taking away your freedoms. It is not something the Founding Fathers fought for," Bloomberg said on NBC's "Today Show."

Bloomberg drew a parallel between smoking bans and his new initiative, which would cap the size of soft drinks at movie theaters and food service establishments at 16 ounces, by suggesting that he is leading a movement.

"Where did I hear this before? Wasn't it [the] smoking [ban] wasn't going to work? Today it's one of the best things we've ever done. Deaths from smoking dramatically coming down across the country, virtually every major city has adopted smoking ordinances," he said.

The mayor and businessman tried to defend his proposal by citing studies that indicate smaller plates or cups will lead to less eating or drinking.

Didn't the American founding fathers found America so that their people would have freedom to decide what to do and have in their own lives, without governmental busy-bodies like Hizzoner (i.e. Mayor Bloomberg) telling you what to do? Or, in this case, drink?

          Farewell Paradise        
Every escape from reality has to end, and so it was with our Hawaii trip.  We spent one last day in and around Kilauea and then caught the flight back to Oahu and then to the US.  But before we left, we again saw some amazing wonders of the world.

At night, the caldera glows with the heat of the very essence of earth's beginnings.  This is a lousy photo, but the best we could get given the distance and dark and our equipment.

There is also a lava tube (in a very stable area) that one can walk to and through. It's like a cave and the ancient Hawaiians used it as such. This was my least favorite volcano "must-see" because it is so easily accessible, it was very crowded with boorish people.  Ah well ...

Heading in -- just like a cave!

Looking to the exit, but trying to give a sense of the inside.

We also saw steam vents and sulfur beds. They look quite similar. These are the sulfur beds. Eerie.

One of my very favorite things about Hawaii was that we were so far from Washington, DC that the "Nanny State" was quite remote. What I mean is that when I'm in Washington, and I visit a museum or natural feature, there's a carefully constructed path I am to follow and the descriptions and words on the exhibit are designed to make me FEEL a certain way. Very manipulative, and if the least bit dangerous, there's a barrier that says I cannot proceed.

Contrast with Hawaii. Out on the lava fields, there is an area of petroglyphs. Carved by native Hawaiians between 400-700 years ago (they've dated the lava flow), this whole area was sacred to them. They carved shallow depressions into the volcanic rock, and placed their child's umbilical cord (they called it "piki") in the depression. This was designed to tie the child to the land of Hawaii.  Beautiful, yes?

Well, there's a hike to get there. It's only 3/4 mile each way, but it's over rough terrain and a mostly unimproved trail. The warnings go like this: "Minimal cell phone service, take water, wear a hat, walk carefully, you're on your own -- we're not coming to get you."  Then you are left to see that from cairn to cairn, the path is arduous, but doable. I'm afraid that in DC, the exhibit would have been closed due to a) fear for the exhibit and b) fear of lawsuits. At any rate, we did the hike, and were rewarded with amazing carvings.  In addition to the piki, the Hawaiians celebrated with drawings/carvings of their world.

And my totally unexpected view in Hawaii is this carving.

Do you think the ancients were secret cyclists?

Thank you for staying with this to the end. There were many more sights we enjoyed, but rather than becoming that annoying uncle or cousin with the 5000 vacation photos, this should give you a taste of why people love Hawaii.  Even Mark Twain wrote eloquently about his visit there!


          re: Mortal Kombat Banned In Australia        

Nanny State heading to the U.S. soon

          De betutteling in de EU neemt toe        
Nederland staat op plek 24 van de 28 EU landen De positie van Nederland op de zogeheten Nanny State Index 2017 (NSI), de ranglijst met betuttelende overheden gepubliceerd door EPICENTER in samenwerking met de LP (Libertarische Partij) is verslechterd. De NSI is de enige allesomvattende ranglijst van levensstijl reguleringen en laat zien dat de EU door overregulering een steeds slechtere plek wordt om te eten, drinken, vapen en roken. Nederland is daar geen uitzondering op. Het afgelopen jaar zijn de meeste EU-landen meer betuttelend en minder vrij geworden. Slechts zes EU-landen scoren niet slechter op de NSI
          New Legislation Could Make Illinois The First State With A Sugar Tax        
Part of a potential compromise at the statehouse would make Illinois the first state with a tax on sugary drinks, like soda. It’s among new legislation that’s meant to end the budget stalemate and bring in more tax dollars. Just a few cities in the U.S., and Cook County have such a tax on the books. In past debates, opponents said a soda tax means a nanny state where the government tells people what’s bad for them. But studies show the taxes have brought down sugary drink consumption by as much as 20 percent, which is a big win for anti-obesity and public health advocates. Jennifer Falbe, an author of one study on a tax in Berkeley, California, says the effect also has to do with how the revenue is spent. “Two million dollars were raised by the tax, have been allocated by the local city government back into programs for promoting community health,” she said. That may be one big distinction from the Illinois version. As the legislation stands, revenue from the penny per ounce tax would
          â€‹ The French Aren't Litigious They Just Take Responsibility        
Salon International de l'Agriculture
​On Sunday Charlotte, the children and myself visited Salon International de l'Agriculture in Paris. Yes in Paris not in the countryside.

Salon International de l'Agriculture
​It was HUGE. Live sheep, goats, cattle, pigs and anything else edible all inside and accessible to all and amazingly it was all spotless. Fresh hay replaced any soiled hay in seconds. I have no idea how they do it but it bloody works.

Salon International de l'Agriculture
​I have never seen so many different breeds of animals in my life. Most were massive. In fact it was more like a Mr Universe competition.

Salon International de l'Agriculture

Salon International de l'Agriculture
​The food halls were separated into French Regions and the fresh foods on sale and the ready to eat versions were to die for. We had a Normandy Duck Sausage Sandwich each which we could have fed an army with. A glass of regional wine was €2.

Salon International de l'Agriculture

Salon International de l'Agriculture
​The children are only 6 and 18 months but they had a ball. Tiana did a blindfold tasting test and was rewarded with a kid's cookery book and some goodies. Josh was just happy to run around and look at the animals. 
Salon International de l'Agriculture

Salon International de l'Agriculture
​The children were allowed to touch the animals but it was left up to the adults to keep them safe. After all isn't that what adults are supposed to do? To be honest the children seemed to instinctively respect the animals which I suppose comes from being allowed to be free around them.

Salon International de l'Agriculture

Salon International de l'Agriculture

Salon International de l'Agriculture
​We British are too quick to blame the EU for our Nanny State, this proved to me that it's not the EU it's the crazy litigious society we have created. Too quick to sue someone instead of taking responsibility. We have stolen our children's childhoods from them for money and for that I feel very ashamed.

          Valerie Weiss - Transgressions        

Valerie Weiss, filmmaker and BioPhysics PhD, discusses her AFI Women’s Fellowship, the Dudley Film program she created at Harvard, and her film projects Dance by Design, Transgressions, Losing Control, and more.

Transgressions has been described as A Clockwork Orange meets Pleasantville.  It takes place in the not-so-distant future, in a society combining the worst elements of the nanny state and reality TV.    Domestic strife with a darkly ironic twist. 

          There Goes a Car        
In case you missed the tweet last week, here's the video:

It looks all cute and fun, and everyone is saying what an awesome dad and all, until the kill-joy bureaucratic liberal nanny state goons comes in to confiscate the car and fines the father for reckless endangerment.

          Only following orders        

You've probably read about the five year old lemonade criminal of Tower Hamlets. She was selling lemonade outside her house on a sunny day, as children do, when four 'enforcement officers' charged her with trading without a licence and issued a £150 fine.

Tower Hamlets council have since cancelled the fine and apologised to the family, saying:

"We are very sorry that this has happened. We expect our enforcement officers to show common sense and to use their powers sensibly. This clearly did not happen."

The incident has been almost universally recognised as an extreme example of jobsworths mindlessly applying the letter of the law when they could use their discretion.

But there's always one...

You may call me a monster – but I'm glad that girl's lemonade stall got shut down

This article comes from the keyboard of one Duncan Hothersall who is the editor of Labour Hame (sic). Mr Hothersall seems to be a real person and his article does not appear to be a spoof. His argument is, in essence, that rulez is rulez and if you don't like them you should move to Somalia.

There are half a million cases of food poisoning each year in the UK, and one of the reasons we have stringent controls on who can sell food and drink, especially in unsealed containers, is to try to cut those figures down. And street stalls in general are regulated because we have a system of taxation, rights and responsibilities in this country which underpins our functioning society. Regulation is a social and economic good.

How many cases of food poisoning are caused by juvenile lemonade vendors - or sugary drinks in general - Mr Hothersall omits to mention. How much VAT is lost to the treasury as a result of five year old entrepreneurs is also left to our imagination, but we can safely assume that these numbers are very small indeed.

Nevertheless, it is not disputed that this infant was breaking the law. The question is whether the law is right and whether it was appropriately applied in this instance. The sweeping claim that 'regulation is a social and economic good' implies that a regulation must be good because it is a regulation. Presumably, then, Hothersall can think of no law that should be amended, repealed or applied with discretion.   

It’s also pretty unfair to criticise the hard-working public servants who acted in this case for doing the job they are no doubt underpaid to do. For the council to say “we expect our enforcement officers to show common sense” as they cancelled the fine is all very well, but I’m willing to bet they are given precious little leeway in their training when it comes to who gets fined and who doesn’t.

On what basis are we to assume that the enforcers are 'hard-working' and 'underpaid'? They may be, but we have no way of knowing. We do not even know who they are. What is an 'enforcement officer' anyway? As Josie Appleton says in her fantastic book Officious, the law used to be enforced by the police and we knew who they were. Today, we have an army of wardens, support officers, compliance officers and co-ordinators with varying degrees of authority (or none) whose only unifying feature is a high-vis jacket.

Whether you regard these people as underpaid depends on what value you think they bring to society, but there can be no assumption that they are all hard-working. Clearly they were not sleeping on the job in this instance, but if it took four of them to close down a child's lemonade stand we might question whether they were working at maximum efficiency.

For Hothersall, however, we do not need to know anything about the individuals. They work in the public sector and therefore must be hard-working and underpaid. It is unthinkable that anyone who works for the council could be paid too much.

“But these are decent folk being persecuted by a nanny state,” I hear you cry. And I stand impervious, I’m afraid. Because I’ve heard that line a lot recently and it’s beginning to grate.

I have not heard anybody claim that this is an example of the nanny state. The nanny state is about protecting adults from themselves. This case is not about that. There was no paternalistic intent in either the law or the application of the law. If it requires a label, it is the busybody state. 

If Mr Hothersall has been hearing a lot of complaints about the nanny state recently, it is because there is a sense that the state has become ever more intrusive. The complaint is not wrong just because it is 'beginning to grate' on him. A more enquiring mind might ask whether his fellow citizens have a point, but instead he changes the subject...

It’s the same argument used against speed cameras and parking fines. 

No, it isn't. These are not nanny state issues either and the complaint that Hothersall identifies (which is essentially 'bloody nanny state') is not actually an argument. If it were, he would have to find a counter-argument and that would be too much effort. Much easier to create a false equivalence between a motorist who moans about being fined and a five year old being punished for selling lemonade.

How often have you heard those caught out proclaim themselves as “law-abiding citizens” and bemoan the infringement of their freedom? 

Laws do infringe on freedom and they are intended to do so. The question is whether the infringement is justified by the wider benefits to others. A motorist might legitimately complain that a speed limit of, say, 20mph is unreasonable and is therefore an unnecessary infringement on freedom.

Just as Hothersall believes that the salaries of council workers can never be too high, he may also believe that speed limits can never be too low. Who knows what he thinks? It is possible that he gives these questions no thought at all since, despite writing for a political website, he seems to think that the nature of laws is not a matter for public comment. Regulation is good per se and every law in the land is perfect.

I have news for you: if you break the speed limit, or park illegally, or indeed break health and safety or trading regulations, you are not a law-abiding citizen. You’re actually the one who’s in the wrong.

If you break the law, you are not a law-abiding citizen by definition. That is undeniable. But whether you are in the wrong depends on whether the law is right. What if the law is an ass? What if agents of the state do not 'use their powers sensibly', as Tower Hamlets council put it?

Even if Hothersall cannot think of any laws he would like to change in Britain today, surely he can think of historical examples of good people breaking bad laws? Surely he can think of instances in which the letter of the law, rather than the spirit of the law, has been applied, thereby causing harm?

Most people - including the council - think that that is what happened in this case. Hothersall's insistence that we unquestioningly follow orders when the consequences are so farcically at odds with the intentions of the lawmakers and deviate so far from public opinion is slightly sinister.

A culture of entitlement, and a belief that rules are for other people but not us, is a disease gripping middle Britain.  

A culture of entitlement, he says. This is a five year old girl he's talking about. As they say on Merseyside, Mr Hothersall, give your head a wobble.
          The Mark Larson Show - HR. 3 - 10/30/14        
HIGHLIGHT of the hour - Kate Obenshain has MORE on the left and the over-reach of the nanny state! Guest this hour - James Hirsen (Newsmax). -Mark tells us that the CDC is warning us about sneezing, droplets, and Ebola. -James Hirsen on Hollywood meshes with Mark's political mind to share with us Woody Harrelson yelling at climate change opposition. And John Coleman gets 9,000 scientists to sign a petition clearing the human species! LIVE, LOCAL - news and comment with Mark Larson and The Mark Larson Show!
          Seven Changes Needed in Baltimore and Ferguson Right Now        

Communities like Baltimore and Ferguson have been crippled by government regulations and the American nanny state. Now is the time to allow local residents to break free of government wage controls, government schooling, and government prohibitions, writes Mark Thornton.

This audio Mises Daily is narrated by Robert Hale.

          Local Control or Abdication of Individual Rights? 9-17-2016        

Second Annual Texas Chapters Conference

A growing number of Texas municipalities are passing so-called "nanny state" restrictions and regulations that may interfere with Texans’ personal liberties, property rights, and livelihood. Advocates of these types of regulations defend them by citing a theory of “local control,” which posits that government works best when it is closest to the people. Our republic is founded upon the notion that all powers not granted to the federal government are reserved to the states or to the people. Some say the notion of local control being anything other than a specific grant of authority from the state government is a misunderstanding of federalism. This could lead to "grassroots tyranny" in which individual liberties of Texans are encroached by local government. Should the Legislature enforce strict limits on municipalities or should it defer to the will of a geographical majority? How can the Legislature reassert its primacy as the state’s lawgiver and defender of individual liberty if existing statutes are overlooked by the courts?  In short, this panel will discuss a theory of local control and determine whether the Texas Legislature has abdicated too much lawmaking authority to political subdivisions throughout the state.

This panel took place on September 17, 2016, during the Second Annual Texas Chapters Conference in Austin, Texas. The theme for the conference was "The Separation of Powers in the Administrative State".

Panel Two: Local Control or Abdication of Individual Rights?
1:15 p.m. - 2: 45 p.m.

Amphitheater 204

  • Hon. Phil King, Texas House of Representatives, District 61
  • Dean Andrew P. Morriss, Dean and Anthony G. Buzbee Dean’s Endowed Chair, Texas A&M University School of Law
  • Hon. Don Zimmerman, Council Member, District 6, Austin
  • Moderator: Hon. Michael Massengale, First Court of Appeals, Texas
  • Introduction: Mr. Roger Borgelt, Principal and CEO, Borgelt Law
  • Introduction: Mr. Leonard A. Leo, Executive Vice President, The Federalist Society

AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center
University of Texas at Austin
Austin, TX

          New York City’s exemplifying war on poverty        
Poverty rates in America’s largest cities; such as Indianapolis, Charlotte, and Detroit; have risen in the last decade. New York City however, stands out as an exception, as its poverty rate has conversely declined. Continue Reading...
          Comment on What’s the Dead Weight Loss of a Consumption Tax When Externalities Are Present? by Steven Kopits        
As I listen to Philly NPR, I can attest that health considerations were discussed, but dismissed as a basis for the tax, just as the very article you link states: "After years of attempts, passing of Philadelphia's "soda tax" came down to appealing to people's purse strings, not their health, according to a new Drexel University study." I am inclined to see the issue in both racial and ideological terms. Philly mayor Jim Kenny came to office in late 2015 on a left populist platform very similar to that of NY's Bill DeBlasio. He wanted to extend the nanny state, including free pre-K and no doubt a soda tax. Behind all this, however, is the racial politics of big cities. Since 1970, cities like Philly, Detroit, and Baltimore have seen white flight due to elevated crime rates and high taxes. Tax rates in these cities are no longer competitive as it is, and therefore governments are hard pressed to raise property tax and other rates for new spending programs. As a consequence, incremental taxes may be increasingly foisting onto typically lower income black populations. That's exactly what the soda tax does. It hurts those who consumer the most packaged beverages and lack a vehicle to drive 15 minutes to suburban super stores and lack the cash to buy in bulk. The affected will be disproportionately poor blacks.
          The Nanny State Can’t Last | Homeland Stupidity        
Ron Paul comments on last week's "budget crisis" - definitely worth the read. The Nanny State Can’t Last | Homeland Stupidity
          Comment on Civil, Charitable Communities Get Crowded Out by Big Nanny State by Pinto        
Shorter Scott: "Blah blah blah blah how dare you treat me like the blatant liar and contemptible loser and Democrat shill I am!"
          Survive Global Collapse: City or Country?        
Like that of several other industrialized countries, the population of Canada has tripled since 1950, mainly due to immigration. Canada can thank Pierre Trudeau for that. As a result, getting away from it all is harder than it used to be. Every lump of Canadian Shield granite that used to be topped with one log cabin now has three. Or, conversely, every lump of granite now costs three times as much.

It's getting to be a tight squeeze.

I: The Paradox of Heading for the Hills

All of humanity is now involved in a global collapse, which is happening on two levels: the material (fossil fuels, metals, food, etc.) and the economic (unemployment, inflation, debt crises, etc.). Basically it's the first causing the second, as in ancient Rome, but the causality is complicated, now as it was then. By the year 2020 or 2030, if there is any real solution it would be to move away from the cities, because ultimately that is the only way to provide independence from the cataclysm.

This would be a move on the part of the individual person. Collective decisions, on the national or even municipal level, would be largely impossible, because most people are indecisive on such issues, and politicians prefer less troublesome questions. Escaping from the city would be the ultimate do-it-yourself project.

But buying rural property at the moment, at least in the more-industrialized countries, involves a bizarre irony: in spite of our ingrained ideas about going back to nature, the reality is that it's very expensive. Thoreau's Walden is a wonderful book, but in the present century there's more to country living than hoeing beans.

"Elegant country living," to use the term of the glossy magazines, isn't available on demand. Those who most need to get out of the city are those who have the least money, while those who find it easiest to get out of the city are those who are rich enough to be hauling huge motorboats behind them as they travel. That's the irony -- or so it seemed to me one morning as I watched such a boat going down the road.

The rich can live well in the city, because endless goods and services are available with money. They can also live well in the country, for exactly the same reason. The non-rich -- i.e. the majority of the population -- cannot live as well in the city. It's the non-rich, therefore, who have the greater need to escape. But the fact is that the non-rich are, in many ways, locked into the city. For them, the city is habitable; the countryside is not.

In the city, even if you cannot live in great luxury without money, you can at least "get by" there. You can survive in the city with little or no money because there is public transportation, or you can use a bicycle, or you can walk. There is cheap housing, even if only at the level of the boarding house or lower, and maybe you can find a nice landlord. And there are always sources of food, to the extent that with no money at all you could go to a food bank or elsewhere. The nanny state will keep you alive, at least if you are willing to obey your nanny.

On the other hand, in order to move to the country, during these earlier days of collapse, you would need money for the purchase of property, and while property in the country is not as expensive as in the city it is still not cheap. If you intend to grow vegetables, perhaps raise animals, and cut firewood, you'll need several hectares of land as well as a house. For plant food, a garden of as much as a quarter-hectare per person might be needed. It's commonly believed that less land than that is necessary for food-production, but that's only if we delude ourselves into thinking we don't eat grains of any sort, when in fact they make up a large part of our daily diet. It's easy to delude ourselves as long as flour and other grain products are cheap enough to buy, but the prices of grains are going up swiftly. Raising animals takes even more land, perhaps not much for chickens but certainly a good deal for larger animals that necessitate areas for grazing and for hay-production. Access to firewood might require another 2 to 4 hectares of land.

The quality of the land is important. To grow crops, you need fertile soil, arable land, not bare rock or swamp. Here in the province of Ontario, for example, the arable land is only 5 percent of the total land mass. It's mostly just a small stretch of land around the southern Great Lakes. But that same piece of land also holds 90 percent of Ontario's population. The same ratio is roughly true of the rest of the country. Arable land here in Canada is nearly always expensive. If you find a place where arable land is cheap, a closer look may reveal unemployment, poverty, alcoholism, and petty crime -- not a good trade-off for anyone intending to find a permanent place to live.

If you're a physically-fit 20-year-old without much money, you could move north, get a gun and an axe, and head for the bush. On the other hand, if you're no longer young, you might think the idea of spending the winter in a log cabin is not a terribly practical one. Although I've built one or two log cabins myself over the years, I'm somewhat hesitant about going back to that life, especially since I'm already past 60. In nice weather I often get Daniel-Boone fantasies, but when the Arctic wind starts whistling down the street I sometimes think I would die without central heating. So it's hard to say.

Here in Canada, for less than about $60,000 you would not even get a "fixer-upper" out in the country, you would only get a "tearer-downer," i.e. something that should not have been regarded financially as an element of the purchase agreement you signed. And after enough 16-hour days of doing repairs on rotting timbers, your spouse is going to decide that marital vows are not non-negotiable.

There are other things that cost money. Because there is usually no public transportation out in the country, you would probably need a car, and on top of that the distance from home to job -- if you actually have such a source of money -- may be considerable. Some things are actually more expensive in the country than in the city, including electricity, gasoline, and telephones, mainly because of the greater distance between one point and another, resulting in longer stretches of road, more utility poles, and so on.

At least in pre-collapse times, you would probably need a job. But jobs in the countryside are rare; they usually go to somebody's cousin, and bitching about nepotism is going to get you nowhere, even if you manage to explain the word. Such jobs also pay less than comparable jobs in the city, partly because the rural economy is even more depressed than that of the city, and partly because you don't need as much money in the country -- or so you'll be told.

Owning an average house in Canada or the US will mean spending at least $10,000 a year to maintain it. That figure might include a mortgage, insurance, property tax, renovations (or repairs), heating (or air conditioning), electricity, telephone, and water, among other things. A house in the UK might mean spending five times that much.

There are other aspects to the downside of owning a house nowadays, although some of these are matters that hold true irrespective of whether the house is in the town or in the country. It's less practical for a single person to buy or occupy a house than for a couple, and couples are rarer in this age of quick divorces. The money you pay for a house might not be recouped if you resell, since real-estate bubbles may be less common in less-optimistic times -- and the ongoing bills for a house cannot all be cheerfully ascribed to "equity" if they include insurance, taxes, and repairs.

In the nineteenth century, the division between urban and rural was not so pronounced; Thoreau's town of Concord was almost part of the forest, or so it seems as we read his accounts. But rural living has been transformed since those days: the property is now expensive, crowded, and just not readily available. I know people who are living in the country with fair success, but they are exceptions for various reasons: for example, they might have moved there when property was cheap or their bank accounts were adequate, or both. The "locals," of course, have the advantage of occupying houses that their families have owned for generations, although perhaps nothing in such dwellings would meet any by-law entitled Residential Living Standards; in any case, the "locals" are a vanishing breed. I lived in the country myself from 2000 to 2008, but I can't say it was either cheap or easy.

Fortunately, after the total collapse the money economy will vanish, both from urban and from rural areas. Even in industrialized countries, the use of money is already starting to disappear because of the underground ("gray") economy. But it might be a fairly long wait before such a collapse that completely eradicates the use of money.

Perhaps the best thing is some sort of compromise, some happy medium between civilization and wilderness, between town and country. It may be that the best place to live, now and for the next few years, would be a small town, and the maximum population would be about 80,000, but much smaller might be better. That community should be small enough that you can get out of town easily. In other words, you should be living roughly on the border between urban and rural. That way you can take advantage of both worlds, or rather you would have a choice of two, if there was a danger that required making such a decision.

The other major criterion seems to be that one should be living in a country with a relatively normal, healthy form of government. I suspect people who already live in such countries are rather puzzled by such words as "corruption," since they may have seen such a thing on only a rather mild scale, e.g., an occasional politician handing out a contract to a crony, and not realized what it is like to live in a world where every minute of one's life is infested with dishonesty and unfairness.

Those two criteria, a smaller community within a country with a fairly healthy form of government, have other implications. I think many people live in big cities, not because of the restaurants and theaters, but because that's where the money is concentrated. But the downside is considerable. Big cities are expensive. The traffic and parking are terrible, yet public transport is usually dismal and hence not much of an alternative. And there is never a balance between urban and rural: food, clothing, and shelter are entirely dependent on how fast you can whip out a credit card or a debit card, so any concept of self-sufficiency is purely a fantasy. Don't try growing potatoes on a high-rise balcony --- although, yes, I confess I've done it myself.

As our familiar sources of energy start to vanish, we'll be entering a strange world. So the longer we can stretch out any "plateau" in fossil-fuel production with exotic, non-conventional hydrocarbons, and the longer we can hold off any dramatic decline curve, the better it is for people such as I, who are past their youthful days. If we can keep turning every bit of turf into automobile fuel, then we may be able to enjoy our pensions and whatever. After that, who cares? Besides, the young people of today are too busy with their iPhones to notice anything in the real world.

On the other hand, if we reach 70 or 80 years of age, and it's also at that point that we reach the big cliff of petroleum production, so that we suddenly find the supermarkets empty, the lights going out permanently, and the police taking early retirement to protect their families, then we might be in trouble. Hitchhiking along the Alaska Highway at that age might not be so much fun.

And what if we're wrong about that gentle "plateau" of oil production? What if we find that the curve is much sharper than we had expected? And what if "urban survival" is just not an option, for me or for anyone else, and we really do have to head for the hills? To make the countryside inhabitable again, all the realities would have to be dealt with, including some that weren't there in the 1970s, the heyday of the back-to-the-land movement: the countryside now has much greater population density, property is much more expensive, and the economy is such that you can't just change your mind and go back to being a guitar flunky in the big city. What it would take is a far greater sense of community, one that was based on an understanding of such essential matters as science and engineering, one that approached the countryside with the attention to detail of a good accountant.

Even when money ceases to have any meaning, there will still be the enormous question of who is going to have access to any of the arable land that exists on this planet. Let's even assume that the human population stays at a "plateau" (like the one said to be true of oil production) of about 7 billion, more or less, for the next few decades, with famine preventing any upward swing. The CIA and the FAO give slightly different figures, but they both say there are about 15 million square kilometers of arable land on this planet, which is pretty close to 10 percent of the world's total land surface. That means there are about 470 people per square kilometer of arable land -- which would perhaps be "do-able" in post-petroleum times, but it would be one hell of a squeeze.

II: A Room of One's Own

There is so much confusing information about real estate these days. But it seems that one cannot buy a liveable or usable house with a few acres of land in the rural parts of Canada for much under $60,000 plus annual property tax, repairs, and so on. It would actually cost less per year to rent an apartment in town.

However, it also seems that a careful search of the Internet will reveal large "acreages" -- land without houses -- that are cheap because they are described as having only a "right of way" or merely "deeded access (easement)," both of which really mean no proper road, perhaps just a trail, or perhaps just the legal right to walk in a certain direction to get to that property. (I'm not talking about "landlocked property," property listed as having absolutely "no access." Something listed as having "no road access" might be slightly better than something described simply as having "no access.") The line that appears on the map, however, might not match what you encounter on the ground. As I know from experience, the imaginary line might lead you right into a beaver swamp, with too much many water for wading and too many alders for canoeing.

But a mere trail -- or something even less visible -- might be fine, since it would actually keep strangers away better than a road. A road is only necessary if you're thinking of bringing in building materials for a house. My plan at the moment is to forget about a house of the usual design, and the 5-figure cost of building it, and to go back to my plan of much earlier years and put up a log cabin. I've built a few simple ones over the years, and I'm now very tempted to do it again.

In particular, I like the idea of having no road because I don't want building inspectors showing up and telling me that my house doesn't meet the standards of the Canada Building Code. Sod, birch bark, and straw aren't listed in the Code as roofing materials, I regret to say, even if they were used in Europe for centuries. Yes, all of Canada is subject to the Canada Building Code or a provincial variation thereof, and that means modern plumbing and modern electrical wiring, all very expensive. Speaking again from experience, though, I can say that building inspectors don't like walking miles through the bush in search of a log cabin that may or may not exist. It's also true that the further you are from the more settled parts of Canada, the less likely you are to find building inspectors even if you went looking for them.

I would also like to have land that would support a garden -- arable land. That's where it gets far more expensive. Most of Canada is rock, sand, or swamp, and the arable land is therefore not readily available. In this country, the first step would be to look at the maps of the Canada Land Inventory, the series called "Land Capability for Agriculture." They're no longer being published, but it might be possible to find copies in a government office or a big library, and they tend to come and go on the Internet. Other countries have similar maps.

I think if I can't find cheap arable land, I'd like to try living on deer, fish, and blueberries. The question there is whether there would be too many other people with the same idea. I've known a few people who've spent their lives more-or-less off in the bush, and their favorite techniques for bringing a dead deer home aren't something you'd read about in a glossy magazine. A desk jockey with his first rifle could hardly compete with such people.

It seems that land on the East Coast is cheaper than in Ontario, after all my efforts to get back here to Ontario. But the catch to the East Coast, besides the remarkable storms, is the terrible unemployment, poverty, depopulation, etc., which have had the result that most people who now live there are like the legendary wreckers, people who supposedly lit fires on the beaches to lure ships off their right course and then took whatever they found in the resulting wrecks. The East Coast is evidence of the fact that as times get harder, the problem won't be crime exactly, but a matter of dealing with people who have what is called "an uneasy relationship with the law." Well, okay, I still have my socks and underwear, so I shouldn't complain about the year I spent in Nova Scotia. Nevertheless, I'd rather stay in Ontario, the Land That Time Forgot, the land that will only get devastated by systemic collapse a few decades after most other parts of the world -- perhaps.

III: The Tighter-Grid Option

Whether you believe it would be better to live "off-the-grid" or to live "tighter grid" -- raising chickens in the country vs. finding a room in a downtown core -- depends on your view of the collapse. If you believe the collapse won't even come, that it's just a case of putting solar panels here, there, and everywhere, and then you can focus on "sustainability" and forget about mass famine and so on. Which means, yes, go for the high-rise apartment and the monthly subway pass. If, on the other hand, you believe that the Dark Ages will begin tomorrow, then you have to accept the fact that there will be no heating fuel and no electricity to keep those high-rise apartments going. (Dmitry Orlov once mentioned such problems with regard to the collapse of the Soviet Union, since Moscow is mostly apartment buildings.)

The same sort of dichotomy can be seen chronologically. Even if you believe that the collapse is coming, if you feel that there is a probable waiting period of a few years, then again it might make sense to go for the tighter-grid -- staying put in the center of a city. The reality is that tighter-grid -- at the moment, at least -- is cheaper than off-the-grid. The fact that it's cheaper reflects the fact that it has a smaller ecological footprint. It's easier to pack 500 people into a high-rise than to pack 500 people into several hundred houses. I've tried various modes of living, and I've found that it costs much more to live off-the-grid than to live tighter-grid, contrary to popular belief. (Out in the country, even if you have a small house, the costs of the well, the septic system, and the land itself might kill you. And consider the amount you pay for gasoline when driving in the country.) Of course the figures depend on all sorts of variables. A lakeside cottage an hour north of a city isn't as cheap as a log cabin built with an axe up in the Yukon. But the brief "waiting period" of living tighter-grid is still a dangerous one. Nothing will change the fact that in a genuine collapse, with fossil fuels, metals, and electricity all gone kaput, the center of any city will be a death trap.

The contrasts can be extended. I won't dwell on the fact that living tighter-grid might also mean listening to Elvis Presley at 3 a.m. and getting used to having plastic flowers on the chest of drawers. Personally, I like a bit of elbow room. A telephone-company employee once said to me in black-fly season, as he and I poked around to see if I could plant a row of cedars near some underground cables: "Bugs are good. Bugs keep people away." I was inclined to agree.

IV: Woodlanders

A master plan might be somewhat as follows:

Don't buy a house with land. Just buy land. That will save some money.

Don't live in a modern house, build a log cabin. Modern houses will soon become anachronisms. A much smaller dwelling is much easier to heat. Electricity will not be available, so the wiring and plumbing of a modern house would be useless. A log cabin also requires far less money to build. (There are other dwellings that might also be suitable, from plywood sheds to small mobile homes.) Just hope the economy collapses quickly enough that all the building inspectors get laid off before they discover where you're living.

Gardening is a good idea, but try at least to supplement your diet with hunting and fishing. Land that's good enough for gardening is very expensive and very crowded, and competition for such land will only get worse. In any case, if you grow food there's a good chance people will try to steal it.

Instead of buying a huge acreage of your own land, buy a slightly smaller property that's on the edge of government land -- but don't buy a property so small that you can see or hear any neighbors. By living next to government land you'll have countless acres of hunting and fishing land for which you won't have to pay a penny. If you have a criminal mind, it might even occur to you to take firewood off that government land, rather than paying a great deal of money for a private wood lot -- and as government collapses, the word "illegal" will be less meaningful anyway.

Don't forget that with any sort of property you'll need water. Some sort of stream, at least, would be necessary, or perhaps a well. A small river would be even better than a stream, especially if the river is too shallow for motorboats but suitable for canoes. A lake is no good, though, because lake property is both crowded and expensive.

Obviously if you already have a modern house, with all the trimmings, out in the country, then there's no point in getting rid of it. But if I'm a typical case, then I'd say that for people who have yet to build their survival bunkers the real bind in the next few years will be the shortage of cash, so any plan would have to have a reasonable price-tag.

And finally, unless you're so far from the rest of the human race that the question is irrelevant, try to make friends. The locals will always regard you as an extraterrestrial, but try to ensure that they consider you a harmless and possibly useful one. And if you have anyone coming to live with you or near you, it's generally best for them to be people with whom you are related by ties of blood or marriage.

Peter Goodchild

Author of Tumbling Tide: Population, Petroleum, and Systemic Collapse(London, Ontario: Insomniac Press, 2014)

          Washington Bureaucrats Invade The Family Farm And Ban Its Character-Building Traditions         
For centuries, children have played an indispensable role in family farms. Their efforts have been and still are often essential to survival. But the nanny state wants to outlaw their contributions. What do the Labor Department bureaucrats in urban, el
          Reactie op Je eigen B&B beginnen? Hier moet je op letten. door low income auto insurance dmv Paso Robles CA        
i wonder why BI reports this kind of blogsIf you haven’t realized that yetonly LOSERS vote democrat they need the nanny state because they can’t do it on their own.for proof look at who votes democratmostly special interest groups, bought and paid for with the taxes imposed on people who create REAL value added in the economy
          Reply #3396        
MzDB - They sure know what they are doing. That same biz used to happen to me in the Nanny State all the time. I have to say it's never happened to me in Lone Star.

Today MoLot dropped 8161
          Mostly me ranting about various stuff        
Diary: Month of January: TV, Clubbing, Interviews, etc

Start of a new year and we get a new Doctor in Doctor Who! :oP I have to admit that I wasn't too impressed by the the last Doctor Who Special (End of Time). There were lots of interesting things going on but not all of them seemed well executed and the pacing seemed very off in places, especially with the regeneration. I do have high hopes for the new Doctor though, very reassuring first scene. And, for a mild spoiler, the whole 'Master Race' seemed to work much more smoothly than I would have appreciated... a planet full of Masters and they all just accept their new roles? At first I wondered if there was some telepathic link making them work as one but that didn't seem to be the case... making it seem strange that the new race of Masters wouldn't start vying for control.

Also watched the two animated Doctor Whos ('The Infinite Quest' and 'Dreamland') which were okay but not a patch on the live-action stuff. Watched 'The Five Doctors', which was also okay if you can get past all the problems that tend to come with cheap shows of that era :o) After that I read through a fairly long comic called 'The Ten Doctors', wherein the author manages to throw in most things from the Dr. Who universe :oP It was okay, although I was hoping for a revelation about the Time War that the author seemed to decide not to go for (or at least not make explicit) and the ending dragged on a little (not worse than the last Christmas Special though...) :oP

A couple of days after the New Year was the first Dungeon of the year (and decade), with both thepussykat and ophelia_machina in attendance, which was very good. Only problem is that littlecyberalex's games 'night' started earlier than normal the next day and I hadn't quite recovered. I still made it there, dragging Tony in tow, in time to have one large six-player game of Settlers of Catan before everyone left and then we had a couple of smaller games after most people disappeared, I even won one :oD

Finished reading a fantasy novel called 'Master of Whitestorm' by Janny Wurts, which my father had recommended to me and seemed to have good reviews on Amazon. I thought it was okay. I read through the first half in one evening but the rest dragged as it just didn't seem to go anywhere. The stories themselves are basically a series of short stories held together by a fairly simple metaplot that itself isn't that interesting. The individual stories can be quite interesting but somehow always seem more built up than they manage to live up to (all the quests the main character go on end up having mostly banal solutions despite how legendary they're made out to be). Unfortunately, the characters aren't particularly deep so they don't lend much either (the main character almost seems made to be two-dimensional and uninteresting; a tragic backstory does not instantly make an interesting character!). Ahh well, was okay to keep my occupied anyway :oP

Did also have an attempt to play more Risk with my brother and his girlfriend on the Friday but wanted to do something a bit different, so played Godstorm. Unfortunately they felt it was too random and confusing so I'll have to find other people to play who will spend more time with the rulebook first :oP Played various games of 'Buzz' afterwards (a trivia game on the computer that I now know I'm rubbish at).

I ended up not going to Dungeon during the week due to the ice; made it tricky to get there and I wasn't sure if anyone else would bother for similar reasons. ophelia_machina was down on the Saturday though, as was littlecyberalex and Bert, so was worth making the effort then. I'd originally planned to get a taxi back with Bert but he disappeared almost as soon as I was through the door at Edge so I ended up staying with ophelia_machina at fraggleonspeed's, which was very cold. Fortunately I had a big coat and gloves and thepussykat and littlecyberalex's place is just around the corner, so I made it in time to play and win my first ever game of Carcassonne and then ophelia_machina arrived to beat us all at her first ever game. I stayed over at littlecyberalex's to realise that beginners luck had deserted me and I could no longer win :o/

lacuna_raze came to visit on the Tuesday, which was nice. We watched Ricky Gervais' 'The Invention of Lying' during the week. The premise (explained on outset) is that it's a world where no one lies nor knows that it means to tell a falsehood and Ricky Gervais' character learns to lie (and thus everyone believes everything he says). I was a bit worried how much it would turn into a 'male fantasy' film based on trailer, with him misusing his new ability from the outset. Fortunately, it avoids the gross excesses that would have been off-putting if explored. Instead, it attempts to be quite thoughtful and explore the ways in which we can use lies to bring people comfort, create the foundations of friendship and console others about the future. If that sounds cynical then that's quite fair, Gervais' imagining of a world without lies is basically ours but with people being brutally rude to each other all the time; there no radical gain in this world. I guess I have to forgive the fact that it's not a rigorously believable account of the potentially radical ways in which our world might be different without lying given that it's a comedy film and not a philosophical enquiry but the cynicism of what Gervais' paints people as 'being really like' is a bit sad even if things do pull back a bit more as the film goes on.

During the week I caught up with Dollhouse, which I'm really starting to be quite keen on. Does occasionally feel like the flash-forward of last season doesn't sit entirely comfortable with the continued plot lines of this season but is still good stuff. I like how they've managed to be critical of the Dollhouse without resorting to a black-and-white picture and I really like how the characters are being fleshed out.

Went down Dungeon on the Saturday, which was fun as plenty of people made it out. Got a lift back with _phoenixrising so saved myself some cab fare :oD Made an effort to try to get up early the next day for gaming on Sunday and failed but turned out that the time had reverted back to the evening anyway, so was all good. Lost a game of Risk: Godstorm (which littlecyberalex seems to quite like, although perhaps only because he won), lost a game of Battle of the Bands (which I must get around to finding a copy of to buy) and lost a game of Carcosonne. Oh well! :oP

Me, lacuna_raze, littlecyberalex, thepussykat, Bert, _phoenixrising, nematri and heartsick_666 all went to see Rocky Horror at the Mayflower on Monday, which was lots of fun. I shied away from dressing particularly in theme (I was under the impression no one else I was going with) although I did make a more-than-usual attempt at dressing up to look good anyway. They'd changed a bit more than usual this time, with some of the lines I would have predicted never coming but it worked well. The bed scenes were a lot more explicit and daring than usual I think. The actor for Rocky was very good (I think littlecyberalex was particularly impressed in a different way). Normally the character fits the look but doesn't do much to show it but they'd gotten in someone who not only looked the part but was also was managing to do somersaults and flips whilst still managing to perform vocally, was quite impressive.

I had an Interview on Friday morning for the University of Southampton but I don't think it was my best. I'm not giving myself a hard time over it though, I've found that my confidence after leaving an Interview varies a lot, even if it always feels a little awkward and uncomfortable (which I think is natural). Also, how people feel about interviews doesn't seem to have any necessary relation to how well they did, so probably best not to think about too much :oP Still didn't get the job though!

I was hoping to make it up to Possession in Bournemouth later that day but didn't manage to organise transport quickly enough. Next time I might consider going by train. I did go to Industrial Fallout the next day though.

It was the first Industrial Fallout of the year was proceeded by the same dismal advertising as before only with added reason for offence. Last time we we're treated to a 'PROLAPSE HOUR!' and a tagline that read 'DANCE UNTIL YOU PISS BLOOD, POUR IT INTO A PINT GLASS AND DRINK IT' and this time we get '3 WEEKS TO GO UNTIL THE CYBERNETIC HOLOCAUST'S 1ST ANNIVERSARY!!!', because nonsensical comparisons between your event and the slaughter of millions of Jews makes it look cool! :o/ The fact that all the advertisements for the event are completely written in capitals makes it look stupid enough without that sort of rubbish. Then again, this is the same DJ who advertised his last event with a myspace page full of porn.

Still the event was okay. It was a bit crowded inside, which made it a little hard to move around and very hard to hear people and actually socialise but that's mostly the fault of the cold weather making standing outside not much of a viable option. Shame, it will probably get nicer when it gets warmer again. Still a lot nicer than the advertising suggests anyway.

Spent the next day in with lacuna_raze watching Doctor Who. Baked her a cake for her birthday on the Monday and went to visit her on the Tuesday at hers where we lazed about all day in bed. Was good :o)

Quite a bit of an empty week after that though, ended up watching through the entirity of the Daria series. I didn't think I'd caught that much of it as a teenager but I'd seen more than I thought, enough to be a little nostalgic about it anyway :o)

I registered with a new agency on Friday morning. They gave me a data input test that involved being given five minutes to type data into a form from a rather intimidating pile of sheets; I barely made a dent in the amount of work they gave me! :oP I finished the test feeling like I must have not done well but I was told that I'd been the quickest of this year afterwards (would mean more if we weren't just finishing our first month but still). They seemed to like my work experience, etc, so they've got me on their list to call as soon as more admin work pops up. :o) The woman interviewing me also gave me some advice on my CV too, which was great :o)

I watched the last episode of Dollhouse on Saturday morning. Really worked out well and a third season would have been brilliant. Once again, I'm left with the feeling that there was more that Whedon wanted to write but got cut off to early (Firefly all over again). Quite annoying. I read that the ratings were very low though, which is a fair enough reason to cancel the show from a corporate standpoint. It seems a shame that commercial merit inevitably trumps artistic merit.

lacuna_raze was down London on Saturday to go to Magic Theatre but I'm conserving some of my funds until I get my next job so I was just down Dungeon. Was a shame that a lot of people didn't make it but was okay anyway. Enjoyed Sunday over littlecyberalex's playing Settlers of Catan with Bert, Sarah and _phoenixrising although I didn't win :oP I did play through Portal on littlecyberalex's computer though :oD

Thoughts: Physical Vs Verbal Abuse

I'm probably retreading a topic I've already written on but I saw a post that reminded me of it.

In it was a poll that asked if 'physical' or 'verbal/mental' abuse is worse. The phrasing alone indicated to me that this person has likely never experienced any sustained physical abuse. I've had this discussion before about school bullying, only that time it was between 'physical abuse' or 'emotional/verbal abuse', which contains the same error.

Framed that way, it sounds like verbal abuse is worse because it has an emotional affect and I do agree that mental scares can be worse than physical ones. However, that entirely ignores the fact that physical abuse can be emotionally traumatic as well. To dismiss physical abuse as just some pain and a few bruises is like dismissing verbal abuse as 'just words'.

When I was at school, I experienced both. Being insulted and ridiculed constantly can be very disheartening and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. Still. the upshot for me is that I managed to overcome it and develop a thick skin so that insults mean very little to me now. If someone is verbally abusive to me then it's usually easy for me to dismiss them as an idiot and not care. Getting under my skin has to be more subtle than that now.

Of course, that doesn't help with physical abuse. Someone shouts an insult at me I can just think 'idiot' and dismiss them. Someone throws a punch at me then that's not something I can avoid just by ignoring it.

And let's not be mistaken that being punched is just about the physical act any more than being insulted is about the sound of the word. It's not.

Being physically beaten up is about power and control; it's about them trying to demonstrate that they have the power over you to do what they want and you can't do anything about it. It's about a group of friends deciding to make themselves feel good and have fun by using you for entertainment. It's about them all laughing the next day because you have visible bruises or a black eye. It's about the sense of embarrassment that stays with you that you let other people treat you that way.

It's not about the physical pain so much as it is about feeling helpless. It needn't even involve pain; someone grabbing you, pushing and pulling you or holding you down until submit may not inflict a great deal of pain and may not leave a single bruise but it's still not an emotionally pleasant thing to go through.

I went to an all-boys school and what bullying was about was really hierarchy. Most actual fights happen in the first year, whilst people were still having to 'prove their place' and make people scared of them. Of course, it wouldn't jump straight to fights; they'd start with verbal bullying to see whether that would be enough and if that wasn't enough to break you then that's when the physical stuff comes in.

I once managed to anger another kid at school because he was looking around at people in the room and he looked at me and I looked back rather than dropping my eyes. That's what physical bullying is really about, not the bruises but the attempt to make you live in fear.

For me, it meant learning to walk the line between having pride and avoiding being beaten. There's been a lot of situations where I knew that submitting and giving into fear would probably have been the easiest way to avoid physical pain but where pride had not let me make it that easy because I wasn't prepared to let them win.

I had to think very carefully about whether I wanted to post this. I prefer talking about things in the abstract and this implies more about my personal experience than I'm normally comfortable with. It's not even that I regard myself as having gone through an especially large amount of physical abuse in my life; I'd certainly say that my experiences are mild compared to what some people have had to live through. That being said, the sometimes blase attitude towards physical abuse I sometimes see was enough for me to want to write something at least.

Thoughts: Body Image: Genitalia

I doubt there are many people who read my journal who don't think that western society has some very unhealthy issues with body image. Whilst I suspect some level of awkwardness and insecurity may be natural to anyone young who isn't completely over-filled with ego, I think we can all agree that the way our culture, especially the media, takes advantage of this causes many problems, some of which are life-long (indeed, some of which are fatal).

I was in a discussion on facebook recently about body image issues and how messed up our culture can be sometimes.

The topic varied from body size and shape, through tanning booths and to skin bleaching. We came to the fairly obvious conclusion (that I doubt many people would disagree with) that society would be better off if it was widely acknowledged and accepted that (a) there are multiple ways of being attractive rather than one ideal to live up to and (b) that attraction is personal and subjective, hence there is no perfect form that is attractive to everyone anyway, so variation is a good thing and not something to be ashamed of.

In a later discussion I touched on a different body image issue, that of penis size. The topic was penis size jokes aimed at depictions of ancient Greek male gods. The ancient Greeks didn't have the same ideas about the ideal penis length as we do in contemporary western society; in actual fact, they found the sorts of uncommonly large penis sizes seen commonly in porn today as being a bit comical and a bit too bestial (Pan being one of the few Gods to be depicted this way). This meant that their idea of a flattering depiction of male genitalia looks small by modern standards.

In a similar way, ancient Greek society doesn't have the same body size standards that we've devoloped fairly recently in western culture, hence their depictions of Goddesses are also large compared to what we'd expect in an image of a woman designed to be flattering today. This essentially means that mocking a statue of a Greek God for having a small penis commits the same error as mocking a statue of a Greek Goddess for 'being a bit of a porker'. Both are applying modern 'body fascim' to a culture that had a different set of beauty values.

There are still some differences between beauty norms as they apply to body size and as they apply to penis size however, one issue is that it's not on display like a lot of the other issues. This means that people with penises smaller than the culturally approved standard can't be singled out for personal abuse but also means that it's even easier for unrealistic standards to arise. In a wider sense, this clearly does not apply only to boys, as shown in increasing use of vaginoplasty by women to achieve a 'nicer looking vagina'.

I remember having some interesting discussions on VF a long time ago about penis length. It's not surprising that the self-reporting of males on those forums were so far above average as to be ridiculous but less extreme but still skewed and unrealistic reports came from women talking about their partners. In all cases, the average was significantly above the 6" that seems to be commonly taken as 'a cultural standard'. According to studies, it seems that the average is actually below 6" linky (these studies will likely underestimate the average if anything)

I suspect the reasons why even women overestimate the size of their partners penis is because of a mix of (a) women with partners with a small penis being less likely to post about it and (b) most of them never really having been in a position to get an accurate idea of the size. I guess that if you assume the average is 6" then guesses as to size will likely be relative to that. I also suspect that small differences from the norm are often exaggerated when described in terms of cm.

All of this can presumably only be having a negative effect on young boys (or grown men for that matter) who are insecure about this issue. I also found an interesting article discussing how the idea is actually quite patriarchal as well: linky; basically, the idea that a penis is needed at all, let alone a particularly large one, would seem obviously faulty if we recognise that lesbian sex can be worthwhile and fulfilling.

Yet it's one that feels odd to challenge all the same.

I quite often hear 'fat-shaming' comments and jokes. My exact reaction varies depending on context and my mood, so it generally varies from me being generally unamused to voicing some kind of criticism. I imagine the latter to be very important in challenging fat-phobic attitudes. One advantage of addressing this issue is that whether I fall in the mocked group is evident just by looking at me: I either fall into someone's idea of 'fat' or I don't. If I am outside their notion then I can approach it in a non-personal manner, which is easiest, if not then at least there's no ambiguity.

A man's penis size, however, is likely to be private with only people very close to him being aware of it. Even if he's inclined to brag (which is not only a bit tasteless but also reinforces the problem) there's no way of proving it outside of an intimate situation. This creates the interesting situation of not really ever knowing who in a group that a penis size joke might be insulting. Indeed, especially with younger males, individual males in the group may not be entirely sure whether the joke applies to them or not. The stigma around this issue obviously means that few men are willing to be open about such an issue and I'm sure many might laugh along to preserve face whilst inwardly being hurt and/or worried by such a joke. I can imagine some deliberately telling such jokes as a smokescreen (in a similar manner to closeted gays being homophobic).

The result of such stigma and shame is presumably that most men with small penises feel unable to express offence for fear of revealing something embarrassing. Even people with average or greater than average sized penises who simply find the jokes offensive on more general grounds of principle risk being thought to be part of the shamed group and mocked anyway, which for some may be decentive enough. All of that on top of the normal 'not wanting to cause a fuss' type impulses.

Personally, the idea of staying quiet to avoid potentially being mocked via a prejudice that I don't agree with isn't enough motivation but then I'm a fairly contrary sort anyway; the notion of not putting on make-up or cross-dressing for fear of being mocked has never stopped me either, yet there's clearly a lot of closeted transvestites out there. I wonder how many men are out there who find such jokes hurtful and/or offensive but don't feel comfortable voicing that opinion.

I have, however, experienced that it's hard to argue this case without the assumption being that I'm doing so because I'm insecure about my own genitalia rather than because I genuinely believe it to be a valid argument. Presumably this is similar to how larger people making fat-positive arguments might be assumed to be doing so out of shame rather than genuine conviction. Of course, my penis size is as irrelevant to my argument here as my sexual orientation is when I discuss gay rights. The fact that I criticise homophobic jokes clearly doesn't mean that I am not straight yet that's the assumption. Similarly, it's not always an assumption I feel comfortable challenging. If I preface every discussion of the topic with 'I'm not gay myself but...' it ends up feeling like I'm overly concerned about the supposedly scary potential of being thought to be gay, which would seem to reinforce the problem in the same way as 'I don't have a small penis but...' would. By supplying the information, it also seems to suggest that the validity of my arguments is different depending on whether they apply to me personally; as if being 'fat' makes fat-positive arguments less persuasive or being a woman makes feminist arguments less persuasive.

Presumably, the fact that a person might raise or at least think such a thing just establishes this as being the significant issue I think it is; there's an assumed shame to having a small penis and so much as not denying the possibility is enough to encourage derision.

I wrote about this on facebook as well for anyone who wants to take a look: linky

Thoughts: Prejudice; perpetuating the problem

It's an unfortunate reality that most of the people who fight a particular prejudice are victims of it. The problem is obvious; those who are victims of it are most aware of it and most motivated to do something about it.

For us non-victims, there are a few hurdles that have to be overcome in order to do anything meaningful to help.

First, we have to care.

I'd like to think that wasn't that much of a problem but I guess I'm just too much of a cynic. We've all probably known people who are okay with requesting help for their own problems but not willing to make the effort when it's someone else's. Of course, this is very unfortunate given that it's our own prejudices, rather than other people, that we have the most control over. If we spend all our time challenging other people's prejudices without taking the time to honestly examine our own prejudices then we're simply not putting in the effort that we're calling other people to perform.

Secondly, we have to be aware there is a problem.

Sometimes we become aware by direct observation but more often that's about being prepared to listen. A lot of prejudice happens without our knowledge because we're not part of a victimised group. Even when we hear about it, we can still forget because we're not constantly reminded. A lot of men don't seem to appreciate the sheer amount of harassment women go through in western society for example, and of course they don't, they're not subjected to it. I suspect I'm harassed at least if not more than most men yet when I've been in the situation of directly observing these things then I tend to be very surprised; the desire is to dismiss them as 'one-offs' is strong even when that's clearly not the case.

Then we need to acknowledge our part in the problem.

For people who like to think of themselves as 'good people' this can be hard; we don't want to admit, to others or ourselves, that we are part of the problem. Many of us have been raised to think of prejudice as bad and thus prejudiced people as bad, so we'll go to lengths to disassociate ourselves with the problem. This is probably why 'You're being over-sensitive' or 'You're looking for something to be angry about' are such common responses to people calling out prejudice. No one wants to admit to being part of the problem so it's easier to tell ourselves that it's not us who is wrong, it's those supposed victims.

And it is hard but I think it's necessary. You don't have to proclaim yourself a completely prejudiced person, just acknowledge the effect of living in a prejudiced society and the ways you might contribute to it. I wrote about this more in a previous entry: linky. I'm not comfortable calling myself 'a sexist' for example, but I do think it's important that I'm honest with myself about the ways in which I've internalised sexist culture despite my best intentions.

Ideally, we need to then work to change ourselves, which often will involve trying to not only acknowledge the problem but understand it too. In doing so, we might even unearth other problems we're a part of and get to examining them before going through the awkward process of being called out about them. A lot of this is still not relying on yourself to work out what those problems are but listening to others talk about prejudice and think seriously about how it applies to you. I don't mean to be mindless and accept everything someone complains about in all regards but to listen carefully, always try to be respectful and struggle to be honest with yourself and be open to admitting that they are write and you are the problem, not the people who have complaints.

All this means being open to being called out. It's not always easy, I doubt I've always reacted the best way myself, but it can be done. There have been plenty of times when I've had to fight impulses of either 'that's not true, that's complaining about nothing' or 'I'm not prejudiced, I'm a good person' but it is a necessary struggle if we want to be those good people we claim to be.

Some of my earliest interests in prejudice were regarding the ways in which they affect me; I've been particularly interested in the way gender norms restrict male gender expression for instance because that affects me personally. I've been very interested in class prejudice against working class people, mostly people of my own class status specifically.

And there's nothing wrong with that but if I want my concerns to be taken seriously then I have to take other people's concerns seriously too. It's no good me taking sexism that affects me seriously yet ignoring the multitude of variable ways it affects women. It's no good me complaining about beauty norms not valuing feminine men if I'm not going to take seriously the way that beauty norms affect a wide range of people outside their scope, whether that be me not caring about larger people because I'm about average sized or the way society disparages small-breasted women or below average penis sizes just because I'm comfortable with the way I'm shaped. There's no point me complaining about classism as it affects me without sparing a thought to the way I might be classist against people of a yet lower class status than my own or the ways in which it intersects with racism. Even when a prejudice has no obvious connect with my own, such as disablism, it still seems fair that I should spare a thought for that problem if I expect others to spare a thought for my own.

I don't mean we have to all become super-enlightened beings before it's okay for us to complain or call out prejudice, I'm just saying that if we're going to complain and call out prejudice then we have to offer the same time and respect we want for our complaints to the people who are calling us out for prejudice. Fair is fair.

Thoughts: Are we giving too much money to Haiti?

Someone put a status message remarking that the UK has spent £50 million on relief to Haiti and that this is a very large amount of money for a nation that has it's own problems.

That got me intrigued because it sounds like it may be a case of 'that sounds a very big number so it's an important amount' type thinking that fails to remember that we're talking about spending on a national scale. After all, I've also read that we've spent at least £4.5 -billion- on the Iraq War. Wikipedia tells me we spend about £100 billion on the NHS for England alone, which means we spend 2000 times as much providing free health care for English citizens per year then we've given in this one-off gift to Haiti.

So I thought I'd try doing a bit of maths to work out how much would be the equivalent amount to give to charity on an individual level to match what we've given on a national level. I guessed that it would be equivalent to giving a pound to a homeless person.

Wikipedia suggests that the government takes in about £600 billion a year in tax money, so that's what we've got to spend. £50 million is 0.01 percent of that amount, or one hundredth of one percent of the total amount of tax money the government has to spend.

If we now take an average income of about £20,000 pounds annually, to spend an equivalent amount on charity that person would have to spend £2 on charitable causes.

So I was off slightly. It's not the equivalent of giving a pound to a homeless person... it's giving two pounds...

I double-checked my maths so hopefully that's right... it's a small amount anyway :P In fairness, the numbers I'm using are probably a little off but it shouldn't make a significant difference I think.

Anyone better at this stuff than me want to check whether that's correct or whether I'm just talking nonsense? :oP

Thoughts: Summary of my political positions -

Just a round-up of my political views, turned out longer than I expected

Despite being ethically utilitarian (I believe 'happiness' is the central moral value), I'm politically 'liberal' in that I think 'liberty' is a better founding value for the state. Amongst other reasons, I don't trust the state to decide what is best for our 'happiness' (i.e. 'nanny state' politics). I very strongly believe that the state should not be connected with religious values or values based on people's personal moral systems (including my own).

I'm not 'economically liberal'/libertarian. I think that the state exists to allow us to live, as much as possible, the lives we want to live and that necessarily involves us all giving up the right to abuse whatever power we have access to, whether that be physical power (e.g. bludgeoning someone) or economic power (e.g. abusing the economic pressures on the less fortunate). I believe both a regulated economy and a welfare state can help to increase personal liberty.

I do not consider immigration to be a particularly significant economic problem, if it is one at all. I suspect that the media's attention on immigration, along with welfare cheats etc, is more based in prejudice and scape-goating than any genuine interest in economics.

I do believe in global warming and I think that the state needs to pay attention to the environmental impact of industry. However, I'm generally disappointed by Green parties due to the general anti-science sentiments common in their manifestos. I think any decent solution will likely require the use of advanced science rather than any return to old methods. I suspect that GM crops may be necessary to address world food shortages and nuclear energy may be necessary to avoid the oil crisis.

I'm pro civil rights and think it's important to have a set of fundamental freedoms available to all even if under specific instances it might seem better (in the short-term) to make an exception. I basically don't trust the state to decide when such 'exceptions' should happen. I believe that people should have the right to die and that Euthanasia should be legal. I believe that everyone ought to have the same marital rights, including the right to marry either sex, and I would find it preferable if all legal marriage was referred to as 'civil union' and individuals were allowed to decide what the term 'marriage' meant to them personally.

I am okay with devolution where the local populace prefer it and am in favour of the right to opt for mutually agreed arbitration courts instead of going through the standard courts (all criminal matters must be processed through standard courts as well). I have no objection to arbitration courts that are based around religious principles (such as Islamic Sharia Law Courts or Jewish Beth Din Courts). Obviously I would not approve of such courts becoming non-optional for anyone; no one should be forced to attend such a court against their will.

I believe the state should be bound by law and what powers it has and when it can use them carefully regulated, although I'm less concerned with the states ability to find out things about us (e.g. CCTV cameras and phone tapping) and more concerned about it's ability to control us (e.g. routinely armed police, stop-and-search rights, censorship, etc). On balance, I'm against the death penalty.

I'm not anti-war in principle; I think there are times when war may be justified. I am not convinced that our 'wars on terrorism' are entirely justified, although I think they have had some positive effects (as well as some negative ones). I do not approve at all of the falsehoods and spin that were used to try to justify this war or that it began without wide support from the British public.

I'm a democrat and I believe the UK could do with further democratic reform; I suspect the best step forward would be for the House of Lords to become elected by Proportional Representation and the House of Commons to be elected by Single Transferable Vote (or similar). I'm sympathetic to republican arguments in principle but in practice I am unsure of how much benifet there is to removing the monarchy. I'm vaguely pro-Europe in principle although I acknowledge that there are complexities that I am not intimately familiar with.

I personally have no ethical objection to abortion and think it can be the best and proper choice in certain situations. However, I recognise that other people have different beliefs (typically spiritual) that may lead them to other conclusions. For this reason, I think that the state should defer the decision to pregnant people themselves rather than make that decision for them (no prohibiting abortion, no forcing it).

I'm pro-feminist in that I believe that we (British/Western peoples) live under a culture of sexism that is both outdated and that can be harmful to both sexes, although more so to women. I believe there are both legal and cultural changes that need to happen in order to address this.

I'm personally 'gender-queer' and think that the vast majority, if not all, of what we call 'Gender' (as opposed to 'sex' in the biological sense) is culturally fabricated. Whilst I think it's okay for people to have a gender identity, I don't think people should feel obliged to internalise and live up to the various norms, values and roles that go with particular gender identities.

I'm more sympathetic with pro-sex feminism than anti-porn feminism. I recognise that a lot of the British/Western/global sex trade is extremely troubling and can be very exploitive and I think that needs to change but I do not think it is necessarily or universally true. I think that legalisation and careful regulation of the sex trade is the first step forward in improving conditions for sex workers.

I believe that consent should be essential for legal sexual activity and that severe intoxication removes a person's ability to consent. Anyone proven to be taking advantage of a severely drunk person should be charged with rape. I do not believe that people should touch others without invitation (verbal or non-verbal) and, if done in a sexual manner, I believe this should be prosecuted as sexual assault.

I'm 'politically correct' in that I prefer to try to avoid using offensive language when polite alternatives are available. For instance, I don't use the term 'gay' as an insult, I don't use racial slurs (e.g. N*gger and similar), I don't use sex-negative terms (e.g. slut), I don't like to use gendered insults (bitch and similar) etc. I also do not feel entirely comfortable with disablist insults like 'lame' or 'moronic' but am not so good at avoiding them. Whilst I think it's possible to joke about prejudice, I do not like jokes that are themselves prejudiced or reinforce prejudiced ideas. Two other issues that concern me are transphobia, classism and sizism/'body fascism'.

I believe that western media has had a very unhealthy affect on promoting the idea that there is one ideal form of beauty that everyone must attain. I think it's healthier for people to adopt the view that there are multiple ways to appear beautiful that may be very different from one another. I also think it's best if people recognise that attraction is personal and subjective and that's it's not possible or important to be beautiful to everyone. I don't like it when people that insult or mock people for their appearance, especially about aspects they can't change.

Link: Ariel Burdett on X-Factor

Quite a few people have probably watched Ariel Burdett (real name Amy) on X Factor - linky.

Of course she comes off as extremely obnoxious. I remember cringing when I saw it because it was so awful as well as how bad an impression is probably made about 'alt' peeps to those not familiar with them.

Of course, the question is the same with X-Factor as with all 'reality television' is how real really is it.

So I found her myspace page and it appears that it was indeed entirely fake - linky (listen to the BBC Radio Leeds Interview at the top).

There's also this one that seems to be of a later date after she's more aware of the reaction to her appearance: linky

One of the more interesting things in general is how they select people for the show.

It's tempting to have no sympathy for people because they're so bad and deluded that it feels like someone telling them that they're not good is actually doing them a service.

Of course, the reality is more like a ton of people turn up and all the average ones are turned away with the ones that are either especially good or embarrassingly bad are told that they're through to the judges; basically, they're given false hope before being torn down.

Which, when you look at auditions like this or this, it all seems rather cruel.

Link: Sarah Haskins' commentary on adverts targeted at women - linky

Link: How male gaze silences women - linky

Link: A women's lib view of politics - linky

Link: 'The only moral abortion is my abortion' - linky
          Civil, Charitable Communities Get Crowded Out by Big Nanny State        
Our social conscience is not dead. However, it is capable of atrophying if we consistently mandate giving, instead of allowing caring individuals to help the needy from their own free will...
          Should Libertarians Support the GOP or the Tea Party?        
In a word, "No!" The conservative movement has been subverted by the Religious Right. No self-respecting Libertarian should ever embrace the homophobic, anti-choice, and anti-individual liberty positions inherent today in both the Republican and Tea parties. Libertarians should instead make it clear that their position on all of these social issues is "Our bodies, our choices" and that the social moderates in the Republican party need to get up off their backsides and muzzle the “social nanny state” pretenders that are currently running their parties, before we will join with them.

I would rather see Obama win again than to elect someone who thinks that what I put in my body, how I choose to end my life, how my daughter, wife or friend deals with an unwanted pregnancy, or who my friend Jim wants to get married to is any of their goddamned business, or is anywhere near the proper place of government to determine or to interfere with in any way.

Libertarians used to be up in arms about "men with guns" dictating how you live your life, but somewhere along with the discussion about charter schools, we became infected with some of the rhetoric of the Religious Right. I say "Bullshit!"

You can't be pro-prohibition and be Libertarian! You can't be against assisted suicide and be Libertarian! You can't be anti-choice and be a Libertarian! You can't be against same-sex marriage and be Libertarian!
          The Elephant in the Room        
As the Republican Party sinks ever further out of power, it is disheartening to listen to explanations from the party regulars: the war, the economy, George Bush, John McCain, "Obama's use of technologyto organize and energize his base", yada yada.

What no one seems to want to talk about is the problematic coalition which makes up the GOP power base - a coalition which conflates conservative social values, conservative fiscal values, and conservativegovernance values. Out of good intentions, they have created a three-headed monster!

I'm fed up with being told I have to choose between a "tax and spend"socialist nanny state (Democrats) and a "fiscally conservative"theocratic nanny state (Republicans). Republicans need to get "family values" out of their policy statements and leave them to families, focusing their policies on fiscal conservatism and limited government!

They are failing to accomplish these latter goals because they are losing too many liberty-minded voters on the so-called "family values" issues. "Family values" don't come from a political party, they come from families. A political party needs policies based on the instruments of democracy,not on the dogma of theocracy!
          First thoughts on news of the Lorna Pardy- Guy Earle- Zesty's decision from the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal        
The decision on the Lorna Pardy, Guy Earle, Zesty's restaurant case before the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal has just come down.  For links to early reactions and a copy of the decision see Blazing Cat Fur: Comic Guy Earle Fined 15K For Offending Heckling Dyke By BCHRT

Lorna Pardy has been awarded over 22 thousand dollars from Earle and the owner of Zesty's/Zawa restaurant. I have not yet had time to read the decision, but I will have more to say about this attack on all Canadians' freedom later. For now, just a few preliminary thoughts, based on my attendance at the hearing (as reported here - see reports in our March and April 2010 archives in this blog's sidebar. Yes, it has taken a whole year for the "human rights" tribunal to present its "justice").

My overall impression of the trial was that Lorna Pardy was genuinely hurt by the Earle-Pardy event, but that she and the culture in which she thinks of herself as a victim is much to blame for this injury.

Since I ultimately see this as an instance of human sacrifice, in which a "victim" has willingly (though with much instititutional encouragement) hurt herself for the cause of her society, let's begin with a few quick thoughts on the the human nature of events and sacrifice.

All human reality stems from events. It is how we act in, try to shape, and remember events that allows us to construct our shared cultural reality.  When an event happens, at the very moment it begins (though it's always carrying baggage from previous events) its meaning is up for grabs: it is not  a given in the nature of things that we must see any event one way or another. This is because what makes an event, what makes it stand out as noticeable in the flow of time, is its inherent unpredictability, its creation of some difference that we can't fully explain in terms of previous experience.  Because humans have freedom, we have events.

This uncertainty in all human experience of events is a humbling mystery, at least it should be for us. But most of us do not have the good faith to remain humbled. We generally want some guarantee that event X means what we might like it to mean.  (It's cold this year, that means the theory of global warming is.... he insulted me because he is an...)  All religion, ritual, and secular institutions try to provide some such guarantee.

In hunter-gatherer societies, people made animal offerings to the gods or spirit world in attempts to guarantee some meaning or outcome (the outcome was important not simply for pragmatic reasons but as a sign that would either sustain or threaten the group's shared understanding of the human and spirit worlds, and this understanding was the bond that kept one's group together).  When human societies moved beyond hunter-gatherer subsistence and developed, usually through agriculture, the potential for some bankable surplus of wealth, they became hierarchical as "big men" evolved to develop the capacity to control the ritual or institutional means by which this (potential) surplus could be accumulated, stored, and divided.  One aspect of the new ritual order witnessed in many places around the world was the proliferation of cults of human sacrifice. Often it was the big men themselves, the most esteemed figures, who ended up as the sacrificial victims.  Not only was the king the most obvious one to blame when things went wrong, when the gods were not smiling on the human community,  but over time resentment of his social difference, the big man's break with the primitive and more equalitarian world, and the inability of the big man, sooner or later, to mediate all the of the group's collected resentments, made him the most obvious figure for scapegoating.  This tendency to make victims of our most "worthy" has been well-documented at least since James George Frazer's groundbreaking ethnographic work, The Golden Bough.
Perhaps we still do it today.

But once a culture discovers the arts of human sacrifice and discovers that, in the context of a simple agrarian society that knows no other way, human sacrifice really does have some positive benefits in mediating (often irrational) resentments, in reducing group tensions, and sometimes controlling population growth that cannot be sustained by the prevailing economic methods, all kinds of people can become targeted as scapegoats.  And sometimes, or so I think we must conclude from the ability of some cultures, like the Aztecs, to organize regular festivals with thousands of victims, these were at least somewhat willing victims who went along with the ideas of their culture.

The West would come to renounce its pagan cults of human sacrifice under the influence of Judeo-Chritian religion and the secular "enlightened" modernity to which it later gave rise.

And, all too quickly, this brings us to the postmodern "human rights" worlview, now insititutionalized in Canada in various "Human Rights" Comissions and Tribunals.  To the proponents of the "human rights" worldview,  the postmodern culture continues in the tradition of redeeming victims and denouncing human sacrificial violence.  The vulgar "comedy" act of a Guy Earle thus becomes the target of a Human Rights Tribunal acting in the name of countering "homophobia" and redeeming one particular victim of Earle's verbal abuse.

However, those of us who have come to think that the postmodern "victimary" world view is not a genuine continuation of our most liberal traditions, do so because we have come to see that our present-day cult of "redeeming" victimhood  is actually one that positively needs to create victims and harms lives to do so, so that it will always have a "victim" to wave about as a guarantee of its own righteousness and institutional justification. In the victimary world view, every human relationship must ideally (at least in the thinking of today's academy)  be "deconstructed" to find the unequal or oppressive relationship inherent within.  This becomes an impossibly Utopian project of never accepting human reality, with all its asymmetries and differences, as anything other than the conpsiracy du jour of the supposedly powerful against the supposedly weak (I say supposedly, because we are already, in having this Utopian thought, beginning to turn the tables and letting the "victim" get something back from the "oppressor").

In the postmodern world, the differences by which any human order or society might be constructed - and social differences are always necessary to any conceivable society - are put under permanent suspicion.  Anyone who takes a historical lead in creating a difference is suspect. At its logical extreme, this means the left devolves into antisemitism and anti-Americanism and mindless apologetics for the violence of the supposedly "oppressed" third world, especially when that violence is targeted against the (once) historically exceptional West and its Judeo-Christian exemplars.  If you are a psychotic Hamashole intent on killing Jews, the Western left will hear your pain and rail against my unsympathetic language; if you are an Egyptian Copt, facing murder and assault form the local Islamic mob, probably not.

In the case of Guy Earle and Lorna Pardy, we must ask whether our culture and "human rights" institutions have positively encouraged Lorna Pardy to publicly present herself as a "victim" of Earle.  We can argue over the event - just what happened at Zesty restaurant's comedy night - all we want. But we are naive if we don't understand that even before the two parties went into the restaurant that evening their minds and conduct were already shaped by, and attempting to shape the next of, a countless series of events battling over the meaning of our postmodern "human rights" worldview.  It may be worth noting at this point that the hallways of the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal featured (at the time of the hearing last year) a feminist poster championing a series of "great women" in the narrative of a certain redemptive "human rights" worldview.  This was not an institution trying to appear neutral but one that positively wanted Pardy to present herself as a victim, which she did in what I took to be a rather pitiable manner. 

I think Pardy hurt herself (however many thousands of dollars she may receive in compensation will not be sufficient compensation) by publicly presenting herself, in the way she did, as a great victim of some idiot's bad words, as a victim who could not simply pay back Earle in his own currency. She has been widely belittled on the internet and in the media for seeking out the arms of the nanny state. And so I think that in the end she did, by her own actions, and with the help of our legal system, become a victim.  I think she is evidence for the argument that the "human rights" world view positively encourages and creates victims, and truly scars them. I think our "human rights" tribunals are often engaged in a cult of human sacrifice, having forgotten the best means to mediate the human desire for sacrificial violence lies in the codes of personal responsibility, and more decentralized mediation of differences, that once were central to Western culture.

Guy Earle's atrocious "humour" is itself, in my mind, a reaction to "political correctness". In a youth culture today where kids at school are taught to think in terms of identifying themselves or others as real or potential victims of power, and are taught little else in the way of human self-knowledge - everything is now reduced to victim/oppressor revelations -  it is not uncommon to see young people taunting each other with incredibly vulgar but puerile language, taunting to see who is willing or able to play "the victim".  And you're a "douchebag", etc. etc., if you disagree.

Now, before further comment, it's time to digest the decision that on its face seems outrageous, a chill on the freedom of our comedy scene and our freedom and financial ability to operate small businesses. I will be interested to see if it confirms my first impression is that this is the "human rights" regime just paying off a woman who served herself up as a very public victim to give the "human rights" institutions fodder for their suppression of freedom in the name of some impossibly Utopian project of deconstructing and redeeming each and every unequal human relationship.  It's time for the Canadian people to give back to the regime, the truly victimizing power, some of its own medicine.

          In the care of a nanny state        
GOVERNMENT seems to be entering areas that should be left to individual choice.
          An Object Lesson In Snobbery        
A couple of repulsive snobs have been whining in The Times about the government's obesity strategy. It is probably the most draconian in the world, but that's still not enough for these two interfering weasels.
Theresa May dropped crucial features of the childhood obesity strategy because she does not have children, a leading female restaurateur has suggested. 
Thomasina Miers, 41, claimed that if the prime minister had had children she would not have allowed measures such as banning junk food advertising and preventing supermarkets pushing sugary foods at children to be dropped.
Rudely bringing May's childless status into the debate has led to condemnation from some quarters, but this is far more offensive in your host's humble opinion.
“Part of me felt that if you had had children you would not have done that, because it is so important that our children eat [healthy food],” she told an audience at the Hay Festival.
Erm, there is absolutely nothing stopping you from feeding your children healthy food, Thomasina. Oh, but you don't mean your children, do you? You mean other people's children, isn't that right you meddling fuck?

Here's a plan, Thomasina, why don't you look after your children, and we will look after ours. OK?

She's not alone in being a tedious, pinch-lipped prodnose though, there's this rancid curtain-twitcher as well.
Rosie Boycott, who works with various food organisations and advised Boris Johnson on food strategy when he was mayor of London, said that the prime minister appeared to have “kicked out the bits about children”. 
Ms Boycott added: “She [Mrs May] would say that she doesn’t want to be part of the Nanny State but I think that if you can’t be a nanny to your children . . . It should be the same as saying ‘do not run across the road.’ ”
Rosie, Rosie, Rosie. You can be a nanny to your children as much as you like, there is no law against it. But when you say "our children" you're being an intrusive snooper just like Thomasina, aren't you?

Rosie, you nanny your children, and leave the decision whether we want to nanny ours up to us, eh? When you start providing for my kids' food and paying for their upbringing you can decide how they live. Until then, have a Coke and a smile and go fuck yourself.

The double act ended on a flourish as the piece came back to Thomasina adding some stunning ignorance to her obnoxious prying into the lives of others.
Ms Miers said that while she did not believe in “big government” she thought it “has got to have more balls” adding: “I feel that this stranglehold that the big supermarkets have on our food system is not helping. People have to have access to fresh fruit and vegetables; it is mad that they don’t.
Have you ever seen a supermarket which isn't packed to the gunwales with fresh fruit and veg? Where does this preposterous woman shop? Venezuela?

It is astonishing that these vacuous pecksniffs believe they have the right to dictate how others live their lives, but it beggars belief that governments tend to indulge their vile snobbery. The only problem this Times article highlights is the one of legions of people like Thomasina and Rosie poking their unwanted noses into everyone else's business.

Far from being condemned, Theresa may should be congratulated for not caving in to shrill, pompous, loathsome shitehawks such as these two. 

          Around world, gun rules, and results, vary wildly        

Jan. 27, 2013 Associated Press

OOI, Japan  — After a tragedy like the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the statistic is always trotted out. Compared to just about anywhere else with a stable, developed government — and many countries without even that — the more than 11,000 gun-related killings each year in the United States are simply off the charts.

To be sure, there are nations that are worse. But others see fewer gun homicide deaths in one year than the 27 people killed Dec. 14 in Newtown, Connecticut.

As Americans debate gun laws, people on both sides point to the experiences of other countries to support their arguments. Here's a look at two success stories — with two very different ways of thinking about gun ownership — and one cautionary tale.



Gunfire rings through the hills at a shooting range at the foot of Mount Fuji. There are few other places in Japan where you'll hear it.

In this country, guns are few and far between. And so is gun violence. Guns were used in only seven murders in Japan — a nation of about 130 million — in all of 2011, the most recent year for official statistics. According to police, more people — nine — were murdered with scissors.

Though its gun ownership rates are tiny compared to the United States, Japan has more than 120,000 registered gun owners and more than 400,000 registered firearms. So why is there so little gun violence?

"We have a very different way of looking at guns in Japan than people in the United States," said Tsutomu Uchida, who runs the Kanagawa Ohi Shooting Range, an Olympic-style training center for rifle enthusiasts. "In the U.S., people believe they have a right to own a gun. In Japan, we don't have that right. So our point of departure is completely different."

Treating gun ownership as a privilege and not a right leads to some important policy differences.

First, anyone who wants to get a gun must demonstrate a valid reason why they should be allowed to do so. Under longstanding Japanese policy, there is no good reason why any civilian should have a handgun, so — aside from a few dozen accomplished competitive shooters — they are completely banned.

Virtually all handgun-related crime is attributable to gangsters, who obtain them on the black market. But such crime is extremely rare and when it does occur, police crack down hard on whatever gang is involved, so even gangsters see it as a last-ditch option.

Rifle ownership is allowed for the general public, but tightly controlled.

Applicants first must go to their local police station and declare their intent. After a lecture and a written test comes range training, then a background check. Police likely will even talk to the applicant's neighbors to see if he or she is known to have a temper, financial troubles or an unstable household. A doctor must sign a form saying the applicant has not been institutionalized and is not epileptic, depressed, schizophrenic, alcoholic or addicted to drugs.

Gun owners must tell the police where in the home the gun will be stored. It must be kept under lock and key, must be kept separate from ammunition, and preferably chained down. It's legal to transport a gun in the trunk of a car to get to one of the country's few shooting ranges, but if the driver steps away from the vehicle and gets caught, that's a violation.

Uchida said Japan's gun laws are frustrating, overly complicated and can seem capricious.

"It would be great if we had an organization like the National Rifle Association to stand up for us," he said, though he acknowledged that there is no significant movement in Japan to ease gun restrictions.

Even so, dedicated shooters like Uchida say they do not want the kind of freedoms Americans have and do not think Japan's system would work in the United States, citing the tendency for Japanese to defer to authority and place a very high premium on an ordered, low-crime society.

"We have our way of doing things, and Americans have theirs," said Yasuharu Watabe, 67, who has owned a gun for 40 years. "But there need to be regulations. Put a gun in the wrong hands, and it's a weapon."



Gun-rights advocates in the United States often cite Switzerland as an example of relatively liberal regulation going hand-in-hand with low gun crime.

The country's 8 million people own about 2.3 million firearms. But firearms were used in just 24 Swiss homicides in 2009, a rate of about 0.3 per 100,000 inhabitants. The U.S. rate that year was about 11 times higher.

Unlike in the United States, where guns are used in the majority of murders, in Switzerland only a quarter of murders involve firearms. The most high-profile case in recent years occurred when a disgruntled petitioner shot dead 14 people at a city council meeting in 2001.

Experts say Switzerland's low gun-crime figures are influenced by the fact that most firearms are military rifles issued to men when they join the country's conscript army . Criminologist Martin Killias at the University of Zurich notes that as Switzerland cut the size of its army in recent decades, gun violence — particularly domestic killings and suicides — dropped too.

The key issue is how many people have access to a weapon, not the total number of weapons owned in a country, Killias said. "Switzerland's criminals, for example, aren't very well armed compared with street criminals in the United States."

Critics of gun ownership in Switzerland have pointed out that the country's rate of firearms suicide is higher than anywhere else in Europe. But efforts to tighten the law further and force conscripts to give their guns back after training have failed at the ballot box — most recently in a 2012 referendum.

Gun enthusiasts — many of whom are members of Switzerland's 3,000 gun clubs — argue that limiting the right to bear arms in the home of William Tell would destroy a cherished tradition and undermine the militia army's preparedness against possible invasion.



So how about a country that actually bans guns?

Since 2003, Brazil has come close to fitting that description. Only police, people in high-risk professions and those who can prove their lives are threatened are eligible to receive gun permits. Anyone caught carrying a weapon without a permit faces up to four years on prison.

But Brazil also tops the global list for gun murders.

According to a 2011 study by the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, 34,678 people were murdered by firearms in Brazil in 2008, compared to 34,147 in 2007. The numbers for both years represent a homicide-by-firearm rate of 18 per 100,000 inhabitants — more than five times higher than the U.S. rate.

Violence is so endemic in Brazil that few civilians would even consider trying to arm themselves for self-defense. Vast swaths of cities like Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are slums dominated by powerful drug gangs, who are often better armed than the police. Brazilian officials admit guns flow easily over the nation's long, porous Amazon jungle border.

Still, Guaracy Mingardi, a crime and public safety expert and researcher at Brazil's top think tank, Fundacao Getulio Vargas, said the 2003 law helped make a dent in homicides by firearms in some areas.

According to the Sao Paulo State Public Safety Department, the homicide rate there was 28.29 per 100,000 in 2003 and dropped to 10.02 per 100,000 in 2011.

Brazil wants more powerful guns in the hands of police. This month, the army authorized law enforcement officers to carry heavy caliber weapons for personal use.

Ligia Rechenberg, coordinator of the Sou da Paz, or "I am for Peace," violence prevention group, thinks that could make things worse. She said police will buy weapons that "they don't know how to handle, and that puts them and the population at risk."

          Nanny State of the Week: Bad science guides Novato nannies        
Anti-smoking nannies have pushed their crusade further and further, and in California they’re increasingly reaching into peoples’ lives. Next up? They’re trying to prohibit smoking inside your own home.
          Nanny State of the Week: Pesticide regulation full of bugs        
Overeager California nannies pushed pesticide regs into place to avoid public outcry that might have defeated them.
          Nanny State of the Week: No more taco trucks on Santa Ana corners?        
Part 115 of 121 in the series Nanny State of the Week If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. And then try a fourth time. That’s the ethos for the Santa Ana, Calif., City Council, which is now going for a fourth attempt to regulate out of existence the horrible scourge of food […]
          Nanny State of the Week: California slow-pedals autonomous cars        
Part 113 of 121 in the series Nanny State of the Week Self-driving cars are the next frontier for the autonomous revolution, coming after cars that automatically brake and parallel park. They’re still in initial stages of testing, but over-cautious nanny regulators in California are forcing their roll-out to more forward-thinking states. State regulations are […]
          Environmental nannies can’t regulate cow farts — yet        
Part 99 of 121 in the series Nanny State of the Week First off, let’s clear the air:  California’s latest climate change law doesn’t limit cow farts, exactly.  Not yet, anyway. What it does do is throw another heaping pile of regulations and oversight at industries that are already regulated six ways to Sunday. Signed […]
          Nanny State of the Week: OK, everybody’s foam toys, out of the pool        
San Francisco passed the nation’s most extensive ban on foam products, which means no more take-out trays, disposable coffee cups or pool noodles.
          Nanny State of the Week: In time for Opening Day, cities ban chewing tobacco at ballparks        
America’s three biggest cities have recently passed bans on chewing tobacco in baseball stadiums, even though it remains completely legal everywhere else.
          Comment on In Europe, America Is The Nanny State! by obat        
<strong>Pengobatan Infeksi Saluran Kencing Pada Pria</strong> gejala
          Nanny State of the Week: Chicago tries again with plastic bag tax        
Part 105 of 121 in the series Nanny State of the Week Some of the biggest cities in the United States have taken it upon themselves to wage a war on plastic bags under the guise of environmentalism. But, as many have continued to discover, plastic bags are not the scourge they imagine, and their […]
          Salt Controversy Caused by the Nanny State        
Because the government has taken over our minds, a book causes an intense sugar v. salt controversy. If it wasn’t for the government, the salt controversy started by a new book wouldn’t be such a big deal. People would simply argue their point of view and let people decide how to eat. But because there […]
          PRANK: Regulating What People Eat (nanny state)        

          Flashback: Black Friday Anniversary - 4/15/11        
Editor's Note: This originally appeared on Tao of Poker on 4/27/11. I hate repeating myself, so it's just easier (and better) to re-post this original piece.

* * *

Black Friday, Vampire Squids, and 100 Masturbating Monkeys in Washington

By Pauly
Lima, Peru

"Is it true? No Gringos can play online poker?"

Roberto Brenes, also known as Robertito among his fellow Costa Ricans, is the youngest son of Humberto Brenes, a.k.a. the Godfather of Poker in Latin America. The shark shtick might have worn out its welcome north of the border, but in Central and South America, Humberto commands the respect and reverence of Doyle Brunson with the added cult-like following of Johnny Cash. Robertito is regular on the LAPT and unfortunately, he was the bubble boy at the LAPT Lima. He was still shaking off a bit of tilt from a the hand that busted him, but was morbidly curious about the validity of Viernes Negro and the news that rocked the entire poker industry on April 15th -- "a day that will live in infamy" for many Americans associated with the online poker industry.

Citizens of Latin America have an extremely polarizing view of Anglo-American hegemony, so many of them weren't surprised with the DOJ indictments, which essentially decimated the postmodern online poker landscape. Latin Americans have been getting screwed over by American politicians, Wall Street bankers, and corporate interests for the better part of a century, so they chalked up the DOJ indictments of Absolute, Ultimate Bet, Full Tilt and PokerStars as another bad beat -- but just one of thousands they've witnessed.

"Los gringos estan con el dedo metido en el culo!" said one my Costa Rican colleagues.

"Si. We the Gringos are properly fucked," I responded. "Online poker is not rigged... America is rigged."

* * *

I sat in press row at the LAPT Lima, covering the tournament for PokerStars Blog with Short-Stacked Shamus, one of my personal heroes. These days, I'm semi-retired from covering tournaments, instead focusing on fear mongering, trading silver futures, and writing fiction. I reduced my 2011 workload to exclusively covering the World Series of Poker for Tao of Poker, but accepted assignments in exotic locations on the international circuit for the opportunity to visit a new country. I was excited to shake off a little rust and treated the LAPT Lima as Spring Training for the upcoming WSOP. Visiting Peru for the first time was an exhilarating experience, especially a side trip to Machu Picchu, one of the Top 5 locations on my bucket list.

Shamus noted we should have known that the Lima trip was doomed when we spotted a dead body along Circuito de Playas on our way from the airport to Miraflores. The ocean and beach is separated by a highway with 300-foot cliffs looming overhead. I saw a bunch of military guys in berets and combat boots from a distance who stood on the cliff side of the road, where a huge crowd had gathered. My immediate reaction -- workers were on a strike and the military police were there to keep things in order -- but as we got closer and the cab slowed down, a film crew and thirty or so pedestrian rubberneckers gathered around a limp body curled up on the ground.

"Two bodies," said the driver in English.


"They jumped."

I was dubious. Smelled like a hit to me -- maybe they got involved with the wrong guys and were tossed off the side of the cliff? Failure to pay back a loan shark? Drug deal gone bad? Although I only saw one body, I was slightly surprised that the cops did not cover up the carcass. Instead, a news camera guy straddled the body and filmed what appeared to be a close up.

Ten minutes later, the cab made its way up a winding path of cobblestones to reach the top of the cliffs and the affluent Marifores section of Lima, but the image of a desensitized cameraman hovering over a bloodied body still prevailed.

* * *

In January 2007, I was in Melbourne, Australia when the Neteller fiasco went down. It took me two days to sort stuff out with Neteller's customer service in order for them to allow me to access my account (to cash out) while I was in a foreign country, but that crucial lost time screwed me and I got five figures stuck in Neteller. I eventually got my money back ten months later, but I was flagged for an audit the next year. To this day, I don't see that as a coincidence.

I was in London and Amsterdam in September 2008 at the peak of the subprime mortgage fiasco and financial meltdown of Bear Sterns and Lehman Brothers. So, to keep up with my string of being abroad when the shit hits the fan, I was out of the country once again -- this time in Lima, Peru for Black Friday. It was truly a surreal experience being out of America when Shamus, F-Train and I got the news that American online poker was nevermore. Vanished. Nada.

The only comparison I can come up with was how my friend Senor explained to me what it was like to watch the 9/11 attacks in a bar in Vietnam while he was on vacation. You get a hopeless and helpless feeling on the inside, meanwhile everyone around you is sort of thinking, "You had it coming."

Fortunately, my CrackBerry service failed for an unknown reason in Lima. As a result, my phone was not blowing up with calls and text messages from my friends, many of whom were running around like chickens with their heads cut off. The bad beat from my international phone provider was a blessing in disguise because it enabled me to ignore the crisis and focus on the task at hand -- covering a poker tournament -- which very well could have been the last tournament I covered for PokerStars or anyone else for that matter. I wasn't naive about the source of the money that funded the majority of poker media. I worked directly with Full Tilt and PokerStars in different capacities as a freelancer, but the rest of my clients (various magazines and websites) derived a significant amount of their operating revenue from Full Tilt, PokerStars, and UB. Unless they could adapt quickly, this was definitely "last call."

I finally understood what it felt like to be in the band on the Titanic, as they bravely playing on as the ship sunk into the frigid North Atlantic.

* * *

The LAPT is four seasons old, but like most international tours, the LAPT had its growing pains and rough patches. I was in the room when the LAPT Mexico was shut down by the federales, who impounded the tables, chips, and millions of dollars worth of film gear belonging to 441 Productions.

I hope that you never have to hear... "Pack up your computer, grab all your things, and get the fuck out of the room ASAP!"... but that's what I heard the last time I was in Mexico. I vaguely recall that moment, trying to be super slick and removing my press badge as I rushed out of the tournament room right behind Otis and my girlfriend, thinking that not having a press badge around my neck would save me from incarceration, or worse, ending up in a mass grave with all of the other troublemakers in the media that happen to cross Los Zetas.

But that was in December of 2008 when El Presidente Bush Dos was a lame duck. This was 2011 -- in a new era, basking in the warm glow of El Presidente Obama's hope and change. Life, liberty and the pursuit of online poker was supposed to be different, right? Little did we know, it was Obama's cronies on Wall Street that would ambush us -- in more ways than one.

In the race for supreme domination of the poker world, Full Tilt and PokerStars were ensconced in a cold war with an ongoing arms race to determine which one would bow down to the other. I always saw Full Tilt as post-World War II America -- a bunch of G.I. Joes, real American heroes -- an emerging super power, fresh off a tremendous victory crushing fascism, while spreading freedom and commerce across the globe. PokerStars always reminded me of the United Kingdom of the 19th Century -- driven by imperial colonialism, where the sun never set on the Empire -- especially after Stars rapidly expanded into markets propelled by their international tours (EPT, APPT, LAPT, NAPT) and regionally-branded circuits (ANZPT, UKIPT, etc). At times it seemed the Stars empire was stretched too thin, hence why I got the call as a hired gun to cover the LAPT Lima, mainly because their blogging A-team of Otis, Change100, and Howard were covering the NAPT Mohegan Sun.

Even with the news of Black Friday and the subsequent disintegration of the NAPT, I knew that outposts like the Latin America were going to get a marketing boost. Job security never seemed more prevalent for my friends on the LAPT. Looking around the tournament room at the Atlantic City casino in Lima, Peru, the poker world continued on with the all the ordinary sights and sounds of poker in Latin America... one guy in shorts, flip flops, tank top, and a brimmed Panama hat was all-in and slammed his open hand on the table three times as his opponent in an Argentinean soccer jersey cruelly slow-rolled him, and while the dealer dealt out the flop, the guy in the hat continuously banged his hand on the table and begged for a low card by screaming "Chiquitita! Chiquitita! Chiquitita!" at the top of his lungs.

Business as usual.

* * *

When Spanish conquistadores led by Pizzaro first arrived in South America, the Incas did not fight them and instead welcomed them. The Incans viewed the Spanish visitors as gods from their lore because of their unusual white skin and bushy beards. That critical error became costly for the Incans.

In the 1530s, the Inca Empire was torn apart by its own civil war, which gave Pizzaro an edge in conquering the region, thereby pilfering Peru of its natural resources including gold and silver. Some Incan leaders were dubious from the moment the Spanish arrived and wanted to kill them by setting fire to their barracks when they slept, but those opinions were opposed by their king, Atahualpa, who walked blindly right into a trap.

In this analogy, I can't decide if the politicians or the PPA are the sleeping Spanish conquistadores. We all know the elected jackals in DC are used-car salesmen by day and pimps by night, willing to whore out your grandmother for $14 if they could get away with it.

And don't get me started with the PPA. They lost me at hello, when they couldn't even figure out a simple mission statement. I've never seen an opening strategy so poorly executed since Greedo shot first in the Cantina Bar on Tatooine.

What was the point of even sending the PPA to Washington? Instead, we should have sent a hundred masturbating chimpanzees to lobby for online poker -- they would have accomplished the same fucking thing as the PPA, but at least we'd have some cool YouTube videos of monkeys jerking off on the steps of the Capitol.

* * *

"You don't elect politicians to commit crimes;
you elect politicians to make your crimes legal." - Matt Taibbi

Something was rotten in Denmark and it wasn't the batch of used condoms rotting underneath Gus Hansen's bed. It was the foul stench of the UIGEA as it got queefed out of the collective arses on Capitol Hill. Sure, we all knew that Arizona Senator Jon L. Kyl was a genuine teetoller and well-known opponent to all forms of gambling, but Jim Leach (R-Iowa) was a virtual unknown at the time. In 2007, I didn't do my due diligence, otherwise I would have discovered that Leach served for six years as the head of the powerful House Committee on Banking and Financial Services. It was during that reign when Leach drafted an act that eventually led to the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis.

In 1999, Jim Leach sponsored the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (a.k.a. the Financial Modernization Act), which repealed provisions of the the Glass-Steagall Act (a piece of legislation put forth in 1932 the wake of the stock market crash of 1929 which created the FDIC in addition to other safeguards to prevent future Ponzi schemes). Leach's bill essentially eliminated a provision from Glass-Steagall that made it illegal for a bank to also own financial firm.

At the time, everyone on the street knew that the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act was created to allow Travelers (insurance company that owned investment house Salomon Smith Barney) to merge with Citigroup to create Citicorp -- the largest financial services company in the history of banking. When President Bill Clinton signed the Act in 1999, no one anticipated that the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which allowed banks to own financial firms, would eventually lead to the creation of complex derivatives, which nearly imploded the entire financial system. Warren Buffet called those derivatives "financial weapons of mass destruction."

In the parlance of our times, those degen donks on Wall Street took advantage of their bitch Jim Leach, and orchestrated the largest smash-and-grab job since Danny Ocean and his misfits knocked over the Bellagio.

I overlooked Leach's connection to Wall Street banks when he introduced the UIGEA. At the time, most of the ire was directed at Senator Jon Kyl and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. If there was ever a man that was more hated in poker than Russ Hamilton, it was Bill Frist. To this day, one of the funniest pieces of vernacular to come out of the UIGEA was the term "Frist Fucked," because after he attached the UIGEA to the Safe Port Security Bill, he gave online poker players deep, penetrating, fist fucking... wrist watch and all.

With spotty internet in Peru, I asked my girlfriend to assist me with a little research about campaign contributions. All of the information she gathered is public knowledge available on She posted some of her findings over at Pot Committed in Follow the Money: Online Poker and Political Contributions.

Check out Bill Frist for yourself and take special note to the #1 contributor to his combined Campaign Committee and Leadership PAC in 2004 and 2006...
Bill Frist (R-TN) - Top Campaign CMT & PAC Contributors:
2004 - Goldman Sachs ($109,999)
2006 - Goldman Sachs ($142,249)
From the years 2004-06, Goldman Sachs dumped a quarter of a million dollars into Senator Frist's PAC. No need to hide those marionette strings... they lead right to CEO Henry Paulson and his den of thieves at Goldman Sachs.

What's so bad about Goldman Sachs? Matt Taibbi explains in The Great American Bubble Machine...
The first thing you need to know about Goldman Sachs is that it's everywhere. The world's most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.
I'm sure the tin foil hat-wearing, silver hoarding, Max Keiser disciples are going to love this, but I'm sharing this thought that has been bugging me ever since I dropped acid at the top of Machu Picchu....

A cabal of Wall Street bankers including the Federal Reserve colluded behind our backs to sink the online poker industry by paying off politicians to push forth the UIGEA.

It's pretty fucking obvious. The Big Banks control everything, which is why I don't understand why the majority of the poker community is misdirecting their anger at politicians. It's like a flashback to my Catholic school days when Sister Mary Margaret got pissed off at one of the special ed kids because he took a shit in the urinal. All the Hail Marys and Our Fathers in the world weren't going to change his mental capacity.

Yes, Virginia, I just said politicians are retards who can't figure out where to shit. They've always been corporate shills, so transforming into self-righteous twits (a la Michael Moore) and hounding politicians is futile because their power is limited to what their corporate overlords will allow them. In essence, the more powerful the politician, the shorter the leash.

You really should be pissed off at the Big Banks. They pwn Obama, and in essence, they also pwn your ass.

Before the FBI hauls me off to a FEMA camp the moment I set foot back on American Soil, please watch this short documentary film titled The American Dream...

And if you're not a documentary film type of person, don't worry because The American Dream is actually a 30-minute quick tutorial (in a snazzy, snarky cartoon format) on the shadow banking industry and the long, powerful reach of the Federal Reserve.

* * *

Why are the Fed and the Big Banks on Wall Street the bad guys?

Well, have you looked into Ben Bernanke's eyes? He's evil personified and makes Alan Greenspan look like St. Francis of Assisi. Bernanke has been printing so much money with his magical printing press that a $100 bill is really worth less than a sheet of toilet paper. Single ply.

The philosophical main directive of Big Banks has always been to control the flow of money. That's the key to understanding Black Friday -- it's not a political issue -- it's a money issue disguised as a political issue. Those suits are clever motherfuckers and implemented a classic divide and conquer strategy. While we were too busy arguing about politics and personal freedoms, they were pushing the DOJ to snoop around. But then they got lucky -- they might have been snooping around for another four or five years if a tip about Daniel Tzvetkoff's whereabouts didn't fall into their laps, and then the scared rat quickly rolled on the online sites.

By the way, anyone want to set over/unders as to when Tzvetkoff dies in a mysterious car crash? Or perhaps he has an unexpected heart attack? As Fat Tony would say... "Accidents happen."

Besides controlling the flow of money, think about all those potential transactions (and more importantly transaction fees) that the Big Banks are missing out on. Remember that parody commercial from Saturday Night Live about the bank that gives change? At the end of the clip, the banker says, "How do we make money? Volume."

Thanks to Chris Moneymaker, hole card lipstick cameras, and a disenfranchised computer-savvy populous, the online poker industry in America practically blew up overnight and to its own detriment, the industry grew too big, too fast. Millions, no wait, billions of dollars were being passed around, back and forth, between players in countries all over the world.

But when it comes to controlling the flow of U.S. dollars, well, that's the Big Banks' racket, and just like in mafia movies, the online poker industry never payed homage to the Godfather and his crew. They should have cut them in, because if and when the heat closed in, the online poker industry would have had the protection of the Godfather.

Sure the DOJ might be sniffing around Wall Street about some of the fraud and shennigans perpetrated during the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis, but have they indicted any of the major players? Will they? Doubt it.

The problem I have with the indictments was not that the DOJ went after the online poker sites for committing fraud, but rather that nearly every company operating in the financial services industry has committed fraud and gotten away with it. It's impossible to police the entire financial sector, but selective enforcement of the financial fraud is absurd.

I'm reminded of an NFL Films clip from the 1980s of former Tampa Bay Bucs coach Sam Wyche. He pulled a young offensive lineman aside and chewed him out for getting a couple of holding penalties during their last possession. The player pleaded, "But Coach, I'm holding on EVERY play." Wyche deadpanned, "Then keep doing what you're doing, son!"

That sums up Wall Street, or rather the rampant financial fraud that occurs every single day without being policed.

If the DOJ and the feds are going to turn off online poker because of fraud committed by the parties involved, then shouldn't they shut down the entire derivatives market until it can be regulated and monitored? Shouldn't the top cops investigate the biggest incident of fraud in history and the subsequent fleecing of American people?

* * *

In the poker world, when Bobby Bellande, David Benyamine, or Eskimo Clark goes busto, the entire community doesn't bail them out. But in the modern financial world, if one of the big boys runs up gambling debts they can't pay, well, they get billions of dollars in bailouts from the Federal government, which in theory comes out of your pocket.

I refuse to pay for TJ Cloutier's losses at the craps table, but to put things in perspective, what if Phil Ivey, Durrrr, and Phil Galfond lost all of their bankrolls betting on Jai Alai? And Howard Lederer decided to take out 50% of everyone's Full Tilt bankroll, without your consent, to get Ivey and Durrr back in the game against crazy Scandis? You'd be pretty pissed, right?

Luckily, those sorts of practices don't happen in poker. Capitalism is applicable every day in poker because we allow those undesirables to fail. Those with money continue to play another day, but those without funds get stuck on the rail until someone is stupid enough to give them a stake. Alas, the end of the day, the money should get distributed to the better players. Although the player with the most short-term luck might get the money that day, over the long haul the money should flow upward to the best of the best. Should flow -- and that's the beauty of poker because at any given time the wealth can be redistributed from the haves to the have nots. It frequently happens in tournaments when the donk du jour comes out of nowhere to win. You would like to think that that money will flow back into the poker community and return to the coffers of the poker haves, but it's going to take them a little time and effort to regain those initial losses. That's what is supposed to happen on a level playing field.

We've seen different aspects of the financial markets manipulated or rigged in favor of the plutocrats, so the money flows out of the hands of the have nots and right back into the grubby hands of America's oligarchs. In some instances, like with ARM mortgage loans, the have nots never had a chance against the modern day robber barons.

Proponents of the Nanny State claim its up to the government to save our souls from the evil clutches of poker, because if you didn't know... online poker is rigged. For fuck's sake, are we that stupid? Lotteries are the biggest sham since taking insurance in blackjack, yet brokedick dreamers line up around the corner to blow a day's wages on a "dollar and a dream."

Then again, these are the same sheeple who bought Snooki's book. Try explaining to the orange spray-tanned Jerseylicious crowd exactly how Moodys and other ratings agencies rated bundles of CDOs as AAA (the highest rating indicating the lowest risk), and then the Wall Street brokerage houses sold those toxic derivatives to clients (from Arkansas to Dusseldorf) and at the same time, the suits turned around and bet against the same investments they were selling in the form of credit default swaps.

The more I think about it, the redistribution of wealth is something that the richest families in the world have been fighting against since the dawn of calculated wealth. Hence, why it's always been a primary motive for the banking elite to control the flow of money, but more importantly, to control the flow of money away from the have nots.

Poker, especially online poker, posed a threat to the banking elite and kleptoocrats in charge because the community itself would determine (through cash games and tournaments) how the wealth would be distributed. At the same time, online poker created an alternative currency. How many times have you swapped T$ or traded money on one site for another? For my March Madness pool, friends paid for their sheets with online poker transfers. I've paid prop bets with Full Tilt transfers and a high percentage of my freelance clients often paid me with online poker transfers.

Ever since the Bretton Woods gathering during WWII, when the U.S. dollar became the world's reserve currency (abandoning gold), it's always been crucial for the Big Banks to control the flow of money. Nixon took the U.S. dollar off the gold standard and since then our currency has been backed by the U.S. military. To further keep tabs on the oil-rich nations, any crude oil purchases had to be made into U.S dollars. As a result, Petrodollars flowed out of the Middle East and flooded Wall Street banks. These days, Narcobucks (laundered money acquired from the sale of illegal drugs) and Petrodollars are the only real deposits keeping the banking industry humming (don't get me started about Ben Bernanke's printing press and his quantitative easing policies that have juiced up the stock market like Barry Bonds on the Clear). A few years ago, two of the biggest banks in the U.S. (Wachovia and Bank of America) and HSBC in London were laundering billions of Narcobucks for the Mexican drug cartels. Did any of those suits go to jail? Nope, they got a few slaps on the wrist and paid paltry fines that paled in comparison to the billions of Narcobucks that flowed through the banks.

You've all seen The Wire, so you know how the hustle works.

But what about PokerStars dollars or Full Tilt dollars? What about the alternative online poker currency that the industry created out of thin air? That's a no-no. Only Ben Bernanke and the Fed have the power to create and distribute wealth. The Big Banks want to wrap their slimy tentacles around your T$ and online bankrolls. Narcobucks and Petrodollars aren't enough. Their hubris is our downfall. Unfortunately, Stars and Tilt failed to cut the Big Banks in for whatever reason, and that didn't make the Godfather and the rest of the shylocks very happy.

So who is the Godfather? In 2006 it certainly wasn't the head of the Fed, Alan Greenspan, because he was a Randian, name-dropping, social-climbing muppet for the banking elite. He's no better than the current Fed chairman, Ben Bernanke. The head of the Five Families was Henry Paulson, former CEO of Goldman Sachs before El Presidente Bush Dos nominated him as the Treasury Secretary in 2006. Since then, the big cheese has been Lloyd Blankfein, the current Goldman Sachs CEO.

Yes, Blankfein has the juice and the online rooms never paid the Godfather his cut, so he mercilessly castrated the entire industry.

To sum up... Jim Leach had been a trustworthy puppet after he allowed Big Banks to degen it up once he helped repeal provisions of the Glass-Stegall Act, which eventually nearly crippled the entire financial system with the catastrophic fallout from the subprime mortgage crisis in 2008. And with another more innocuous bill, Leach stemmed the money flow in and out of online poker sites. Instead of putting a severed horse's head in his bed, the boys at Goldman paid off Senator Frist to guarantee that the passage of the UIGEA. At that point, it was a matter of time before the vampires at the Fed and the Sack sucked the blood out of the poker economy.

* * *

So what's next?

If the current principals (Stars and Tilt) and former (Party Poker) want a shot at obtaining the smallest percentage of action in the market when the federal government (or individual states) eventually legalizes online poker, then they need to partner up with the banking elite like Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan. That's where PokerStars and Tilt screwed up by dumping money into the pockets of lobbyists and politicians, and then teaming up with land-based casinos. The online rooms should have wired their bribe money directly to Jamie Dimon at JP Morgan and Lloyd Blankfein at Goldman Sachs. Those two are the Phil Iveys of financial deception and fraud.

JP Morgan is the OG aka the original gansta. My favorite JP Morgan story? During the Civil War, he bought defective surplus rifles for $3.50 from the government and then turned around and sold the same defective rifles back to the Union Army for $22 a pop. That's huge fucking balls and an indication of the type of highly-trained professional criminals we're dealing with here. The bloodsuckers on Wall Street are the type of criminals that the online rooms should've allied themselves with the entire time or at the very least, hired as consultants to pick their brains about how to commit fraud and never get caught.

The online rooms grossly miscalculated and jumped into bed with the snake oil salesmen in Washington, who crudely took turns cornholing them until they all bled out.

It could have been a beautiful union -- online poker rooms and Wall Street, where Goldman Sachs joined forces with PokerStars and continued their imperialist quest for global dominance. It could have been very simple if online poker was legitimized and PokerStars got taken public by Goldman in one of the biggest IPOs since the dotcom bubble. Instead of a laughable union with Station Casinos, Full Tilt could have teamed up with JP Morgan to create, meanwhile the shylocks at Goldman would have partnered with PokerStars to create where if you win the Sunday Million, then Goldman opens up an IRA for you at no charge.

That's where Stars fucked up. Steve Wynn was never going to be their savior, but Lloyd Blankfein could've been their sugar daddy.

* * *

Black Friday was a sobering reminder that the poker industry fell for the ruse that politicians were the linchpins who controlled the future of online poker, but in the end, the banking elite continues to tug at the strings of the muppets in DC. Writing your local politician does nothing except stroke their ego because they know with every email and letter, they are treacherous criminals who found another sucker who thinks they wield any power.

Unfortunately, it's rather difficult to get an audience with the Jamie Dimons and Lloyd Blankfeins of the world. Alas, your only way at inciting a revolution is to bring down the banks from the inside. I know a fringe group of financial anarchists who want to crash JP Morgan by gobbling up physical silver. I can't say for sure if that tactic will work, but silver (and precious metals) is a wise investment as a hedge against inflation and a devalued dollar. In the end, if hoarding silver helps bring down a major Wall Street bank, especially the ones responsible for tweaking the livelihood of my friends -- then so be it -- off with their heads.

Believe me when I tell you that you're not the first group of people to get fucked by the banking junta. Look around on forums for Anonymous operations, read, follow @TaoFear on Twitter, watch videos created by Truth Never Told (especially Your Indoctrination and The Rigged Game [see video below]) , and talk to friends outside of poker -- because you'll discover that there's thousands if not millions of people with similar bad beat stories.

If somehow, someday, we can all figure out how to come together and incite true revolutionary change, then we can overthrow the La República del Plátano that Wall Street installed in Washington. Our first order of business would be the dismantling of the Fed and wrestle free of the suffocating death grip of the banking elite. Maybe then, and only then, can we finally begin to live in truly free society.

Online poker isn't rigged. America is rigged. What are you going to do to fix it?

* * *