Monthly Archives: September 2007

A Timely Special Report on Healthcare

This 20/20 report by John Stossel “Sick in America: Whose Body is it Anyway” came just days before Hillary Clinton unveiled her government healthcare plan. However you feel about the healthcare issue, if you missed this episode, I urge you to watch the six part YouTube version (part 1 below). Stossel asks and answers many questions such as: “Is Canada’s healthcare system really better?”, “Who should pay for healthcare?”, and finds possible free market solutions to our own healthcare woes.

After watching this ask yourself: Do I really want to be financially responsible for everyone else’s healthcare, regardless of poor personal choices and at the expense of my own?

Hillary Clinton wants an “individual mandate” that each and every American has health insurance.

This means that individuals who make responsible lifestyle choices will also be responsible for paying for healthcare for individuals who make very poor lifestyle choices (obesity, drug abuse, unsafe sexual practices, etc.).

This means more government in our private lives.

This means that every one of us will be required to carry health insurance whether we want to or not.

This means that while healthcare might be “free,” it will be nearly impossible to access in a timely manner.

This means that the American taxpayer will pay, by her estimates, $110 billion per year to fund another wasteful and inefficient government program (and we know damn well the program will cost many times her figure).

This is absolutely unacceptable.

Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6

Monday Open Thread: Iraq Edition

So, time to bring up a touchy subject. I find myself straddling the two camps between “we broke it, and thus we must fix it” and “let’s get the hell out of there”. Basically it boils down to a hope that the surge works as expected and gives us the ability to make a pretty significant withdrawal, without appearing to be taking off with our tails between our legs, even if the situation we leave isn’t ideal. If I were in charge, I would make a withdrawal over maybe 2 1/2 years, province-by-province, all the while letting the Iraqi’s know that this is becoming their own responsibility.

I know this blog, from the contributors to the readers, spans pretty much all sides of the issue. So what are your thoughts? How and when would you like to see America leave Iraq (“never” is an acceptable option here, if you believe we need to work with the new Iraqi government to keep a presence in the region). What steps or metrics, if any, do you think need to be accomplished first?

Atlas Shrugged At 50

The New York Times has a surprisingly positive piece today marking the upcoming 50th anniversary of the publication of Ayn Rand’s magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged:

One of the most influential business books ever written is a 1,200-page novel published 50 years ago, on Oct. 12, 1957. It is still drawing readers; it ranks 388th on Amazon.com’s best-seller list. (“Winning,” by John F. Welch Jr., at a breezy 384 pages, is No. 1,431.)

The book is “Atlas Shrugged,” Ayn Rand’s glorification of the right of individuals to live entirely for their own interest.

For years, Rand’s message was attacked by intellectuals whom her circle labeled “do-gooders,” who argued that individuals should also work in the service of others. Her book was dismissed as an homage to greed. Gore Vidal described its philosophy as “nearly perfect in its immorality.”

But the book attracted a coterie of fans, some of them top corporate executives, who dared not speak of its impact except in private. When they read the book, often as college students, they now say, it gave form and substance to their inchoate thoughts, showing there is no conflict between private ambition and public benefit.

“I know from talking to a lot of Fortune 500 C.E.O.’s that ‘Atlas Shrugged’ has had a significant effect on their business decisions, even if they don’t agree with all of Ayn Rand’s ideas,” said John A. Allison, the chief executive of BB&T, one of the largest banks in the United States.

“It offers something other books don’t: the principles that apply to business and to life in general. I would call it complete,” he said.

And the CEO of BB&T Bank, who took a stand last year against financing projects built upon Kelo-like takings, isn’t the only executive who has found inspiration in a book that has never been accepted by the literary elite:

Some business leaders might be unsettled by the idea that the only thing members of the leadership class have in common is their success. James M. Kilts, who led turnarounds at Gillette, Nabisco and Kraft, said he encountered “Atlas” at “a time in college life when everybody was a nihilist, anti-establishment, and a collectivist.” He found her writing reassuring because it made success seem rational.

“Rand believed that there is right and wrong,” he said, “that excellence should be your goal.”

John P. Stack is one business executive who has taken Rand’s ideas to heart. He was chief executive of Springfield Remanufacturing Company, a retooler of tractor engines in Springfield, Mo., when its parent company, International Harvester, divested itself of the firm in the recession of 1982, the year Rand died.

Having lost his sole customer in a struggling Rust Belt city, Mr. Stack says, he took action like a hero out of “Atlas.” He created an “open book” company in which employees were transparently working in their own interest.

Mr. Stack says that he assigned every job a bottom line value and that every salary, including his own, was posted on a company ticker daily. Workplaces, he said, are notoriously undemocratic, emotionally charged and political.

Mr. Stack says his free market replaced all that with rational behavior. A machinist knew exactly what his working hour contributed to the bottom line, and therefore the cost of slacking off. This, Mr. Stack said, was a manifestation of the philosophy of objectivism in “Atlas”: people guided by reason and self-interest.

“There is something in your inner self that Rand draws out,” Mr. Stack said. “You want to be a hero, you want to be right, but by the same token you have to question yourself, though you must not listen to interference thrown at you by the distracters. The lawyers told me not to open the books and share equity.” He said he defied them. “ ‘Atlas’ helped me pursue this idiot dream that became SRC.”

Knowing Ayn Rand, who admittedly was not perfect herself, I think she might just be more pleased by that compliment than by whether or not the Philosophy Department takes her seriously.

Fred Thompson Is Right On The Schiavo Case

While I don’t necessarily support him as a candidate for President, I think Fred Thompson answered a question about the Terry Schiavo case exactly the way it needed to be answered:

THE VILLAGES, Fla. (AP) – Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson gave no opinion Thursday when asked about efforts by President Bush and Congress to keep Terri Schiavo alive, saying he does not remember details of the right-to-die case that stirred national debate.

Thompson was asked in an interview for Bay News 9’s “Political Connections” program whether he thought Congress’ intervention to save the life of the brain-dead woman two years ago was appropriate.

“I can’t pass judgment on it. I know that good people were doing what they thought was best,” Thompson said. “That’s going back in history. I don’t remember the details of it.”

Congress passed a bill after Schiavo’s feeding tube was removed in March 2005 to allow a federal court to review the case, and Bush returned from his Texas ranch to sign the bill into law. But a federal judge refused to order the tube reinserted, a decision upheld by a federal appeals court and the Supreme Court.

Thompson, a former Tennessee senator who left office in 2003, did say, “Local matters generally speaking should be left to the locals. I think Congress has got an awful lot to keep up with.”

Quite honestly, he’s absolutely right. Congress had no right interfering in this matter. It had no right interfering with the decisions of the judicial system in Florida, or of more than one Federal Court Judge.

The Schaivo case was, quite honestly, one of the most cravenly despicable actions that I’ve seen in American politics in my lifetime. And the fact that it was a bunch of self-righteous Republicans who were involved in it, just makes me wonder what hope there is for the GOP.

Have Republicans and Democrats Found Common Ground on the Way Forward in Iraq?

Yesterday, President Bush addressed the American people to give his assessment of both the progress and the way forward in Iraq based on General Petraeus’s report and testimony before congress. As is customary when the president gives a speech, a member of the opposing party gave a counterpoint speech. This time the Democrats selected Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed.

As one would expect, President Bush focused on the positive developments found in the report while Senator Reed focused on the negative. You could say that they each “cherry picked” the information to support his side (which is also normal). I also expected that Senator Reed would focus his criticisms on the Administration’s past failures in Iraq (and he did not disappoint). The only part of the speeches I was interested in, however, was the way forward. Surprisingly, I did not see much disagreement there. Senator Jack Reed did not call for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq but proposed a “rapid” troop withdrawal, a refocusing of the mission to counterterrorism and training of the Iraqi army, and improved diplomacy among rival factions.

I read over the transcripts from both speeches to see if I could find any significant differences in the way forward. You may notice that I used much more of the President’s speech than I did Senator Reed’s. The reason for this is because Senator Reed did not focus much of his speech on the way forward but instead focused on past mistakes (otherwise I would have posted more of Reed’s speech regardless if I agreed or not). While it is quite proper to criticize President Bush for his mistakes in Iraq, criticism is not the same as coming up with a useful solution. I think most Americans on both sides of the Iraq debate are more interested in solutions than platitudes (I hope).

Here is my side-by-side analysis of excerpts of President Bush’s speech and Senator Jack Reed’s speech on the way forward in Iraq:

President Bush and Senator Reed on troop reduction

President Bush:
General Petraeus believes we have now reached the point where we can maintain our security gains with fewer American forces. He has recommended that we not replace about 2,200 Marines scheduled to leave Anbar Province later this month. In addition, he says it will soon be possible to bring home an Army combat brigade, for a total force reduction of 5,700 troops by Christmas.

And he expects that by July, we will be able to reduce our troop levels in Iraq from 20 combat brigades to 15.

Senator Reed:
We [Democrats] have put forth a plan to responsibly and rapidly begin a reduction of our troops.

I’m sure that President Bush and Senator Reed have differing opinions on how “rapidly” troops should be reduced. The president at least offers some specific numbers; Senator Reed keeps his statement generic so that he and other Democrats can say the troops are not being withdrawn quickly enough. If the Democrats actually do have a plan in place for troop reduction, it sure would have been more helpful if Reed had given some details about this plan in his speech. To be fair though, Senator Reed did point out that most of the troop withdrawals come from the surge and that most of the 130,000 troops would remain. Still, Reed fails to say how rapidly the Democrats want to withdraw.

President Bush and Senator Reed on counter terrorism and the training of the Iraqi army

President Bush:
According to General Petraeus and a panel chaired by retired General Jim Jones, the Iraqi army is becoming more capable, although there is still a great deal of work to be done to improve the National Police…

[…]

General Petraeus also recommends that in December, we begin transitioning to the next phase of our strategy in Iraq. As terrorists are defeated, civil society takes root, and the Iraqis assume more control over their own security, our mission in Iraq will evolve. Over time, our troops will shift from leading operations, to partnering with Iraqi forces, and eventually to overwatching those forces. As this transition in our mission takes place, our troops will focus on a more limited set of tasks, including counterterrorism operations and training, equipping, and supporting Iraqi forces…

[…]

I have consulted with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, other members of my national security team, Iraqi officials, and leaders of both parties in Congress. I have benefited from their advice, and I have accepted General Petraeus’s recommendations. I have directed General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker to update their joint campaign plan for Iraq, so we can adjust our military and civilian resources accordingly.

Senator Reed:
That is why our [Democrat] plan focuses on counter-terrorism and training the Iraqi army.

While both President Bush and Senator Reed seem to agree that the Iraqi army needs to be trained and shift the focus of American troops to counterterrorism, Senator Reed’s mention of the Democrats’ plan could fit on a bumper sticker. If the Democrats are offering a different strategy, it would have been very beneficial for the senator to tell the American people what their strategy is.

President Bush and Senator Reed on Diplomacy

President Bush:
Now the Iraqi government must bring the same determination to achieving reconciliation. This is an enormous undertaking after more than three decades of tyranny and division. The government has not met its own legislative benchmarks – and in my meetings with Iraqi leaders, I have made it clear that they must.

Yet Iraq’s national leaders are getting some things done. For example, they have passed a budget. They are sharing oil revenues with the provinces. They are allowing former Ba’athists to rejoin Iraq’s military or receive government pensions. And local reconciliation is taking place. The key now is to link this progress in the provinces to progress in Baghdad. As local politics change, so will national politics.

Senator Reed:
It [the Democrat plan] engages in diplomacy to bring warring factions to the table and addresses regional issues that inflame the situation.

Once again, isn’t President proposing the same thing? Have Republicans and Democrats found common ground on the way forward in Iraq? This all depends on how future events unfold. If the troops can be withdrawn sooner than later, if the Iraqi army takes control of their country, and if the diplomacy works to where rival factions begin to work together, the Democrats will try to take credit for pushing President Bush in this “new” direction. If, however, all of these strategies fail, the Democrats will have plausible deniability. This would explain why elected Democrats continue to be vague on the way forward in Iraq.

Why Ron Paul Faces An Uphill Battle

It’s hard to win with a campaign based on liberty, when so many Americans don’t seem to really believe in it:

WASHINGTON — Sixty-five percent of Americans believe that the nation’s founders intended the U.S. to be a Christian nation and 55% believe that the Constitution establishes a Christian nation, according to the “State of the First Amendment 2007” national survey released today by the First Amendment Center.

The survey also found that 71% of Americans would limit the amount a corporation or union could contribute to a political campaign, with 64% favoring such a limit on individual contributions. Sixty-two percent would limit the amount a person could contribute to his or her own campaign. Support for such limits increased from the 2000 survey in all three areas: by nine percentage points in favor of limits on self-funding, by seven points concerning limits on individual contributions to someone else; and by three points on limits on corporations and unions.

The First Amendment Center has conducted the annual survey since 1997. This year’s survey, being released to mark both annual Constitution Day (Sept. 17) activities and the sixth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, also found:

  • Just 56% believe that the freedom to worship as one chooses extends to all religious groups, regardless of how extreme — down 16 points from 72% in 2000.
  • 58% of Americans would prevent protests during a funeral procession, even on public streets and sidewalks; and 74% would prevent public school students from wearing a T-shirt with a slogan that might offend others.
  • 34% (lowest since the survey first was done in 1997) think the press “has too much freedom,” but 60% of Americans disagree with the statement that the press tries to report the news without bias, and 62% believe the making up of stories is a widespread problem in the news media — down only slightly from 2006.
  • 25% said “the First Amendment goes too far in the rights it guarantees,” well below the 49% recorded in the 2002 survey that followed the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, but up from 18% in 2006.

Depressing, just utterly, utterly depressing.

H/T: Irish Trojan In Tennessee

Whose Brain Is It In That Bucket?

It looks like the nanny state is alive and well, with our federal government champing at the bit to make brain-buckets mandatory nationwide:

States should require motorcycle riders to wear proper helmets, government investigators urged as part of several recommendations that seek to stem a steady rise in motorcycle deaths.

Members of the National Transportation Safety Board unanimously approved the motorcycle safety recommendations, wading into a contentious issue that has pitted motorcycle rights’ groups against safety organizations in many states.

Iowa, Illinois and New Hampshire have no helmet laws.

“The simple act of donning that helmet can begin the process of preventing that type of fatality and serious injury,” said NTSB chairman Mark V. Rosenker.

Are the number of motorcycle fatalities rising? Yes. Would many of those deaths be prevented by the use of helmets? Well, as someone who has endured two crashes, one where I watched dirt go by 3 inches away from my eye through the faceshield of a helmet, and another which was a violent 75-mph highside on the racetrack, I can definitely say that more widespread use of helmets would make crashes less likely to result in severe brain injury or death.

But that avoids a very serious question. Who’s head is it?

There is no more blatant example of the nanny state than helmet laws. Motorcycling is, by nature, a fairly dangerous activity. All the helmet laws in the world won’t change that, but the use of helmets would go a long way to improving the situation. But the question at issue is not whether it will result in fewer deaths, but rather whether individuals have the right to set their own risk tolerance, or whether it is government’s job to do it for them.

Motorcycling, for many reasons, tends to attract the sort of people who are against heavy government intervention. But they’re shooting themselves in the foot when they offer laughable arguments like the one below, rather than a principled argument to be treated like adults:

Motorcycle groups questioned the ability of helmets to provide complete protection and prevent internal injuries in a crash. They said more rider education programs are needed.

“If a truck pulls out in front of you and runs a stop sign, how is that helmet going to prevent an accident?” asked Steve Rector, state coordinator for ABATE Iowa, a motorcycle rights’ group. He also noted that motorcycle registrations and the number of miles traveled by motorcyclists have increased in recent years.

Judith Lee Stone, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, said there was “no scientific evidence that motorcycle rider training reduces crash risk and is an adequate substitute for an all-rider helmet law.”

Rider education? Yes, that helps, but there’s a bit of a saying that many of my fellow motorcyclists have: “Dress for the crash, not for the ride.” Yes, it would be nice to simply tell each other “Don’t crash”, but that often doesn’t work as well in practice as it does in theory.

But that doesn’t give the government a legitimate power to set individuals’ risk preferences for them. Riding a motorcycle without a helmet is stupid, regardless of how much “rider education” you have, but it is not the government’s job to stop you from being stupid. If that were the case, we’d have long ago stopped a lot of people from voting.

Another Quote Of The Day

Given some of the discussions that have been taking place here lately, and what clearly seems to be an abundance of emotion and enthusiasm and seeming willful denial of reality, I thought this quote might be appropriate:

Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.
 
John Adams, ‘Argument in Defense of the Soldiers in the Boston Massacre Trials,’ December 1770
US diplomat & politician (1735 – 1826)

Or, as Ayn Rand would say, A is A.

L.A. Times/Bloomberg Poll Confirms: The Same Old Guys Are Winning

The Los Angeles Times and Bloomberg News conducted an extensive poll of 3,211 Republicans and Democrats in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, and the results are about the same as we’ve been seeing in every other poll:

At the beginning of the autumn dash to the primaries, a new Times/Bloomberg Poll of 3,211 Democrats and Republicans in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina shows that Hillary Clinton maintains a strong lead in all three states (28%, 35% and 45%, respectively). John Edwards is a relatively close second in Iowa (23%) with Obama at 19%, tied for second at 16% with Barack Obama in New Hampshire and trailing Obama badly (27% to 7%) in South Carolina.

Bill Richardson has 10% in Iowa, 8% in New Hampshire and 1% in South Carolina. Joe Biden, Dennis Kucinich and Chris Dodd all draw 3% to 0% in the three states.

In the Republican race, Mitt Romney holds a clear lead in Iowa (28%) to Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson tied for second at 16%. Mike Huckabee comes in third at 8%, John McCain at 7%, Tom Tancredo at 3%, Ron Paul and Sam Brownback at 2% and Duncan Hunter at 1%.

Romney maintains a slimmer lead in New Hampshire, 28% to Giuliani’s 23%, while McCain has moved up to third with 12% and Thompson at 11%, two points behind Don’t Know. In South Carolina, newcomer Thompson has surged into the lead with 26% to Giuliani’s 23%, McCain’s 15% and Romney’s 9%. Huckabee has 6%. The poll was taken Sept. 6-10 with a margin of error of +/- 4 or 5%.

What’s clear from each of these polls on the Republican side is that the guys at the top are staying at the top, and Ron Paul isn’t getting above the 2-3% level that he hit over the summer.

Distressingly, it’s looking more and more like a 2008 where libertarians will have to decide between voting for the lesser of two evils, voting for an LP candidate destined to lose, or staying home.

Penn & Teller Give al Qaeda the Finger

There has been much debate over what should be done with ground zero since the towers fell six years ago. Unfortunately, politics and political correctness has caused the WTC site to remain a giant hole in the ground. So what should be done with this hallowed ground? Build the “Freedom Tower,” turn it over to developers for retail space, or build a memorial that all the victims’ families can live with?

Penn & Teller addressed this issue on their Showtime series Bullshit! Their suggestion: if we really want to give al Qaeda the finger and honor the fallen, we should rebuild the WTC exactly the way it was before the attack. This would send the message to both our friends and foes that we Americans will continue to do what we do: live our lives, pursue our individual happiness, and not be intimidated by those who would endeavor to take that away from us.

Warning: This clip contains explicit language (but what else would you expect from a show called Bullshit!?)

UPDATE:
I should have checked the status of Ground Zero before posting; construction has already begun on the Freedom Tower. While the idea of rebuilding the WTC exactly as it was before the attack is now a moot point, Penn & Teller’s point about Americans returning to business as usual is not. We should continue to reflect on both the horrors and heroism of that fateful day but we should also move forward. The construction of the Freedom Tower might not be my preference but it is still better than leaving a giant crater in NYC.

Quote(s) Of The Day

“We don’t need a history lesson.”
-Bill O’Reilly

Said during the Ron Paul interview last night, in response to Ron Paul’s attempt to explain the principle of blowback.

But I guess when you live in the 1-hour news cycle of cable news like O’Reilly, you don’t need to worry about long-term effects or consequences, right?

“History is a guide to navigation in perilous times. History is who we are and why we are the way we are.”
-David McCullough

I think that we would all agree that right now is precisely when we could use some history lessons.

Government — Codify What’s Already Happening, Then Take Credit For It

Those who favor government intervention in the regulation of business often work with an assumption: that businesses would not self-regulate given the chance. Currently, there is a major push towards healthy eating habits, and if the pro-government crowd is correct, businesses will not go above and beyond the FDA’s labeling requirements unless they’re forced to. However, how true is that assumption?

Apparently, not very true at all:

Next month, General Mills Inc. and Kellogg Co. will begin emblazoning their breakfast cereals with symbols that summarize complex nutritional information — part of the growing use of logos to steer harried grocery shoppers toward healthier choices.

Absent federal action, food manufacturers and retailers have taken matters into their own hands. PepsiCo Inc. uses the “Smart Spot” symbol on diet Pepsi, baked Lay’s chips and other products. Hannaford Bros., a New England supermarket chain, uses a zero to three-star system to rate more than 25,000 food items it sells.

The General Mills and Kellogg’s versions will be similar, highlighting fat, sugar, salt and other nutrient levels, as well what percentage each contributes to what consumers typically require, officials said.

The article goes on to say that the various labeling schemes, since they’re not uniform, are more likely to confuse customers than help them. I’m not sure I agree with that, nor do I think it’s an argument that justifies the FDA. In the absence of government, consumer demand for easily understandable and uniform standards would result in agreement among these companies rather quickly…

And quite possibly more quickly than the government would do it:

On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration took a first step toward clearing matters up, inviting food companies, trade groups, watchdog organizations, medical experts and its overseas counterparts to share how front-label symbols, like the “traffic light” system used in Britain, can improve public health.

The FDA stressed the meeting was a preliminary step as it considers whether to establish a national symbol system. Any action is likely years away — and, even then, any system is likely to be voluntary.

So, they’ll be late to the party, they’ll probably establish a voluntary code that is the minimally-effective standard possible, and they’ll make it voluntary. And then they’ll take credit for keeping you safe.

Yep… Government watches the signals in the market, codifies the regulations that are already starting to come into existence, and then takes credit for their existence.

“But wait!”, you say, “what about regulations that aren’t heavily supported by consumers? Surely the government is doing good things there!” Not really… If you watch government’s regulation of most businesses, regulations are either written or heavily influenced by lobbying groups. Those lobbying groups are bought and paid for by— you guessed it— the businesses themselves. Often those regulations take the form of giving politicians something to take credit for, while the regulations hamper entrance to the market and helps the established businesses (who can afford lobbyists) maintain duopoly or oligopoly positions.

Of course, when they say they “make you safer”, all they do is give you choices that most people (particularly those who really need to) don’t even take advantage of:

Krautheim said her Council’s own research showed taste still trumped all for consumers when choosing what to eat, with convenience, cost and nutrition all vying for second place.

I’m living proof. Like most Americans, I could stand to lose a few pounds. And I’m more than intelligent enough to determine which foods are good for me, and which are bad. Yet I still go out and purchase high-calorie, fatty meals, lots of red meat, cheese, sugary drinks, etc. I’d claim evolutionary biology as the culprit (humans are wired to eat the most calories they can, because we’ve only been “rich and abundant” for a blip in our evolutionary history), but it’s really just a matter of willpower.

So let’s review. Businesses are already responding to consumer pressure by engaging upon labeling schemes to provide more information to their customers. In the absence of government regulation, it is likely that these labeling schemes would eventually be standardized, as has happened in countless other fields (such as electronics, etc). It is also likely that those labeling schemes will be more tailored to the information consumers want than anything that government issues. Government is getting involved, but they’re doing so with a typical government pace, and even when they do issue regulations, it’s likely to be limited and voluntary anyway. And all this really only provides information to those who were already predisposed to doing the sort of research required to make healthy choices. Someone remind me what purpose they serve, and why I’m forced to give them tax dollars again?

2191 Days

September 11, 2001, 8:46am Eastern Daylight Time:
2191 days

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty. This much we pledge—and more. — John F. Kennedy

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

Margaret Thatcher Isn’t Dead Yet, But She’s Already Rolling Over In Her Grave

Because this is what the Conservative Party in Great Britain has turned into:

The Conservatives will propose banning plasma screens and other energy-guzzling electrical goods in a report to be unveiled next week.

The proposals target white goods like fridges and freezers, as well as TVs, personal computers and DVD players that use too much energy or operate on stand-by.

The ideas come from a Conservative group set up by David Cameron to develop policies to protect the environment and although the measures to make household electrical appliances more energy efficient are not binding on Mr Cameron, they are thought likely to be warmly received by the Tory leader.

The group will also suggest scrapping Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as a measure of the nation’s success in favour of a model that measures people’s happiness drawn up up by Friends of the Earth.

Under the proposals, a cap could be set on the energy use of each electrical appliance, and those exceeding limits could be banned from sale in the UK.

A new labelling requirement could be introduced to inform consumers of products’ annual energy consumption compared with other similar appliances.

And there could be a ban on electrical goods with stand-by lights which can stay on indefinitely. Some 2 per cent of Britain’s total electricity use is currently taken up by appliances left on stand-by rather than being switched off.

The proposals are set to be unveiled on Thursday in the final report of the Tories’ Quality of Life Policy Group, chaired by former Environment Secretary John Gummer and green activist Zac Goldsmith, a Conservative spokesman confirmed.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has already announced his ambition to “eliminate” the stand-by function on appliances, which was blasted by the Government’s energy review last year as a waste of electricity.

The report is expected to focus on plasma-screen TVs as particularly wasteful of electricity, and it is thought that many models would fall foul of proposed energy cap unless dramatically more efficient technology is developed.

Householders are also expected to be offered tax cuts potentially worth thousands of pounds to make their homes more energy-efficient.

Mr Gummer warned: “We live in a joined-up world and yet we organise our lives in silos. The imperative of global warming demands that we change that approach utterly – not just governments, but businesses, groups and individuals.”

Joining Lady Thatcher in mourning the death of British individualism are John Locke, John Stuart Mill, and Winston Churchill.

Services to be private.

Ron Paul On 60 Minutes ?

Free Market News is reporting that CBS’s 60 Minutes is working on a profile of Ron Paul for an upcoming episode:

Though Ron Paul campaign officials will not admit it, or even breathe a word about it, media sources confirm that CBS’ 60 Minutes expects to negotiate or film a segment at presidential candidate’s Ron Paul’s Washington office. The producers, and perhaps cameras, arrived there Monday morning, sources said. Ron Paul officials remain mum.

If this is true, it could be a pretty big free media gig for the Paul campaign, and, quite honestly, would probably generate alot more positive reaction than what I think was a pretty pointless and slightly embarressing appearance on The O’Reilly Factor.

Bill O’Reilly vs Ron Paul

Ron Paul and Bill O’Reilly had a lively debate about foreign policy. I think that O’Reilly, while granted he kept interrupting Paul, got the best of him in this debate. In the final minute or so, while O’Reilly did falsely accuse Ron Paul of opposing the Afghan war from the beginning, Paul did come back and call for the withdrawal of American soldiers from Afghanistan. O’Reilly also got Paul when O’Reilly made the basic distinction between Saudi and Iranian policy toward terrorism. While it is true that Al-Qaeda consists largely of Saudis, the Saudi government does not sponsor terrorism, unlike Iran. Also around 3 minutes or so left, didn’t Ron Paul condone the killing of American soldiers in Iraq by Iranian surrogates as “logical and defensive”?

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at IJ Review.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

Thompson Up, Romney And Ron Paul Down In Latest Gallup Poll

The latest Gallup Poll is out and it shows a small surge for Fred Thompson, while Mitt Romney falls, and Ron Paul falls along with him:

WASHINGTON — Former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson has gotten a modest bump in support after finally announcing he’s running for the Republican presidential nomination, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds. And Arizona Sen. John McCain may have started to turn around his beleaguered campaign.

McCain, who bottomed out in a USA TODAY poll in mid-August after financial woes and a staff shake-up, has rebounded by 4 percentage points, to 15%. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has slipped 4 points from August, to 10%.

At 34%, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani leads the field, as he has all year.

The poll, taken Friday and Saturday, shows Republican voters a bit more satisfied with their choice of candidates than they were in April, while Democratic voters are a bit less satisfied. The Democratic edge on that measure of enthusiasm is now negligible.

The full poll results are here, and also show that Ron Paul dropped back down to 1% after being at 3% last month, this the lowest Paul has polled in the Gallup poll since the beginning of June.

This is disappointing because it seemed like Paul had started to gather at least some support that was being registered in the national polls over the summer. I’m not sure where it went, or if the down tick is just an indication of a fickle electorate.

12 Steps to Mind Rape

The ninth circuit court has recently ruled that you can’t force someone to go to a 12 step program against their will, as a condition of their release; because it is in effect forcing someone into religious indoctrination under the color of governmental authority.

For those of you who have been living in a cave since the late 60s, the 12 step idea is that addicts should admit they are out of control and surrender themselves to a higher power, asking that higher power to help them control their addiction through spiritual awakening.

These are the steps:

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol–that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Though AA (and other 12 step programs) will say they are not religious; they do specifically refer to the “higher power” and “god, as we understand him” etc… Also, it is an explicitly proselytizing philosophy as described in step 12.

Many will even say that the “higher power” can be anything or anyone, and doesn’t have to mean god; though given the content of the steps, such an assertion is ridiculous on its face.

I am a catholic man, raised in the church, gone from it for 15 years and returned by choice, because of my faith in god, and my personal experience with christ. I know the power of faith; but I also know that faith comes from within, it cannot be forced on someone. Attempting to do so is both ineffective, and I believe offensive to god (and man).

Further though, this is a greater issue than whether AA is religious or not. This is an issue of self determination and freedom of conscience; and honestly an issue of efficacy as well.

Let’s address that efficacy issue first.

You can’t coerce someone into any kind of therapy (which is what rehab programs are, as opposed to de-tox) and expect it to be effective.

I come from a family of alcoholics and drug addicts; and the most important things about addicts to understand are:

1. They are ALWAYS an addict, even if they get it under control

2. Their addiction is ALWAYS going to control them, for the rest of their lives. It is only when they are strong enough to fight back that they will be able to maintain control.

3. They have to WANT to maintain control for it to work, and for it to keep working. They have to want it, more than they want their addiction.

That goes for any addiction; be it alcohol, drugs, sex, or self hatred (perhaps the strongest, easiest to acquire, and hardest to kick addiction).

Now, some might make the argument that we have a duty to protect society from these peoples behavior, and that they are better off in treatment than in jail… and to some extent there is a valid point there (assuming we are in fact punishing and preventing BEHAVIOR, not morality), but it presumes that treatment is an effective means of accomplishing this goal.

I wont say that treatment doesn’t work. I have friends and family members whose lives have been saved with the help of treatment programs; and I’m convinced without that help, they would be dead. It can work for some, IF THEY ARE READY AND WILLING.

The best estimates (and they are very sketchy estimates indeed; complied by epidemiologists, and addiction psychologists from public patient records and sample interviews) on the success of ALL treatment programs, be they secular, non-secular, inpatient, outpatient, whatever; is about 10% on the first try.

Yes, there is a 90% relapse rate; and I’m not talking about slipping and having a drink or a toke. 90% of addicts who enter a recovery program return to an addict lifestyle for an extended period of time.

It’s about 50% on the second try. Generally speaking, if someone collapses back, and then manages the will to go again, they mean it this time; and they do well.

The relapse rate climbs back to about 65% by the third try, and if they haven’t got it by then, the numbers fall off dramatically, to the point where someone in their 4th or 5th visit to rehab has nearly a 100% relapse rate.

The funny thing is, these numbers also hold true for people who try to quit on their own without treatment. About 90% fail the first time, 50% the second time, and returns diminish from there.

This isn’t to say that treatment is completely ineffective, or no more effective than recovery without treatment. Most addicts don’t have the will to do it by themselves, without the support structure of treatment; and even the very strong have weak moments, where that support can help them avoid relapse.

Also, often people come to treatment and succeed in it, after trying and failing on their own several times; because the structure of treatment helped them as above.

That means that though the percentages are the same, the absolute numbers of successful treatment from a program vs self guided, are much higher.

What’s most telling though, is that these numbers seem to hold true, no matter what the treatment technique, no matter who’s doing the treatment; because treatment isn’t about the program, it’s about the addict.

Let me say that one more time: success in controlling addiction isn’t about the program, it’s about the addict.

Now, back to the more important question,the morality of forced treatment.

I will make a blunt and harsh statement here that may offend some: Coercing someone into changing their very thoughts, is one step away from rape; and I mean no hyperbole in that.

If one must successfully complete a treatment program (or in fact any kind of therapy, indoctrination, or “thought modification” program) to remain free; and a part of the program forces you to do, say, or support that which you do not believe in; that is simply wrong. The state should not be in the business of policing thought. We MUST have freedom of conscience, as free people.

That said, if someone is given a sobriety order (which I think is very rarely justified, but that’s another argument entirely) and they violate it; back in jail they go. I have no problem with that. That is a behavioral remedy, and requiring people modify their behavior to avoid harming those around them (presuming that is the true purpose, rather than the belief that substance abuse is immoral) is a fundamental part of civilized society.

The remedies of our justice system MUST only be behavioral; once law dictates conscience, we are nothing but slaves. One must hope that through behavioral remedies we can aid people in coming to a less harmful thought pattern and lifestyle, but we cannot force them to think or feel as we wish.

So, I have no problem with a court ordered de-tox, or court ordered and enforced sobriety (including returning them to prison as a penalty) under appropriate circumstances; and if someone VOLUNTARILY wishes to enter treatment to prevent that from happening, I’m all for it. Ordering someone into therapy though, is both ineffective, and a violation of the fundamental human right of freedom of conscience.

We may want people to change, we may even require them to change their behavior, or be punished; but we cant force them to change their thoughts and feelings. It is, at it’s core, mind rape; any way you care to justify it.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

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