Monthly Archives: May 2008

More News From The Police Watch Front

This time, it’s the Philadelphia Police Department that’s under scrutiny:

PHILADELPHIA — A half-dozen police officers kicked and beat three suspects pulled from a car during a traffic stop as a TV helicopter taped the confrontation, and the city’s police commissioner said “it certainly does not look good.”

The video, shot by WTXF-TV, shows three police cars stopping a car on a city street on Monday, two days after a city officer responding to a bank robbery was fatally shot.

The tape shows about a dozen officers gathering around the vehicle and pulling three men out. About a half-dozen officers hold two of the men on the ground. Both are kicked repeatedly, while one is seen being punched; one also appears to be struck with a baton.

The third man is also kicked and ends up on the ground.

“On the surface it certainly does not look good in terms of the amount of force that was used,” Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said. “But we don’t want to rush to judgment.”

Yea, cause you know there are so many ways that something like this can be interpreted:

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Help Reduce Child Abuse: Legalize Polygamy Now!

A great deal of attention is focused on the recent raids on the FLDS compound in Texas. The behavior of the state has rightly been condemned, most effectively by Les Jones who wrote:

Imagine that some parents in a school district were accused of child abuse. Now imagine that the authorities took every child from the elementary, junior high, and high school away from their parents and put them in foster care. That’s a rough analogy of what’s happening in Texas.

There is no question that that the people in charge of the FDLS abuse their members. The church leaders will evict dissidents, break up families, particualrly by ordering women to leave their husbands.

Why do church members allow the abuse to happen?

The interesting question in this matter is why do the members of the church tolerate the mistreatment? Why do fathers who presumably love their daughters permit them to be given to men as trophies? Why do mothers who love their sons permit them to be sent to slave away in coal mines at a young age? The members of the FLDS are human beings, with all the emotional attachment to their children that is inherent in humanity. Why are people making these horrible choices?

When people are stay in a hostile environment, it is generally for one of three reasons:

1) They are too lazy to leave/change.

2) They are afraid to leave, because leaving would be jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.

3) They are afraid to leave, because they will be forced to abandon something so precious that leaving is more unbearable than staying.

The Sources of Fear:

It is readily apparent that people are afraid to leave for both sets of reasons:

1) Children who leave find themselves cut off from family. Poorly educated, they lack the ability to support themselves and live a mean, impoverished lifestyle. They are literally ‘foreigners in their own country’.

2) The church owns most of the property. Thus a person who wishes to leave usually owns only the clothes on their back and little more. People are not paid; rather their salaries are held in common in a bank owned by the church leaders. They are not permitted to bank elsewhere or to withdraw their money without permission. Church leaders have been known to arbitrarily reduce the balances credited to dissidents.

3) The members of the church are afraid of the outside world. They fear that they face persecution by outsiders. they are terrified of law enforcement.

Predator Pressure and Feudalism:

But why is the church so powerful? Why can it make such demands of its members? The sad fact is, the people who are members of the church have little choice; their fears of persecution are well justified – Mormons have faced persecution throughout their history. Joseph Smith was murdered by a mob who was outraged by his advocacy of polygamy. In the mid 19th century, there were anti-Mormon pogroms. The Federal Government insisted that the Mormon leaders repudiate polygamy before permitting Utah to become a state. The raids in the 1950’s solidified hatred and distrust of the outside world. The fear of persecution exists because polygamists are persecuted in the U.S.

Furthermore, because of the persecution, devout church members faced a difficulty in finding business partners and naturally banded together and did business largely with other church members. This lack of trade allowed church leaders to gradually take over the community’s wealth. In effect the fear of persecution recreated feudalism. The church leaders became the noblemen, and the common church members became the peasants.

As the church gained a totalitarian control of their members’ economic activities, the church was able to isolate their members from being able to function in outside society. The church could exert a totalitarian control of how the young are educated. It could make or ruin men.

Furthermore, the members of the church are denied access to the court system; after all if a man is vulnerable to prison-time for bigamy he is hardly likely to sue the church for ripping him off.

Ending the Dark Ages

By criminalizing their deepest religious beliefs, the state in effect empowers church leaders to abuse the members of the church at will. If the malignant power or the church elders were an arch, the laws banning polygamy would be its keystone. Legalizing polygamy would doom the feudal system.

Parents who felt that telling a church elder to go to hell would not leave them poor would be far less likely to permit their children to be sexually abused or kicked out of their community. Church elders who were aware that their flock could leave at any time would have a great deal of incentive to treat their followers kindly rather than abusively.

There is nothing inherently evil in polygamy itself. Most people would not choose to be part of a polygamous marriage. Some though, for a variety of reasons, do. Absent the violence and fear that is caused by prohibition, there is no reason why their experiences should not match that of Janet Averett who writes:

I was raised in a polygamous home. My dad had two wives, and each wife had her own house and kids. As kids we wore blue jeans, listened to rock ‘n’ roll music and watched TV. We went to public school and many attended college. We fell in love and married whoever we wanted, at or above the legal age.

We now work and live all over the country. I am no longer in a polygamous group, and neither are most of my brothers and sisters.

The laws against polygamy are holdovers from a dark ages where homosexuality and interracial marriages were similarly outlawed. The proponents of outlawing homosexuality and interracial marriage could point to many problems associated with those practice when they were outlawed. However, upon close inspection, all of the violence, degradation, social harms, and psychological problems associated with these former illegal activities were in fact caused by their prohibition. The same is true of polygamy.

Legalization would go a long way to ending the culture of subjugation and child abuse that is alleged to exist within the FDLS community.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

From My Cold, Dead Lap

California trying to say pets can’t ride on driver’s lap:

A California lawmaker wants to ban motorists from holding pets on their laps while driving. Getting caught could net a $35 fine.

The bill passed the California Assembly on a 44-11 vote Monday and now heads to the Senate.

Assemblyman Bill Maze said his legislation has nothing to do with pet-loving celebrities who are photographed driving around Los Angeles with their small dogs.

Maze said he introduced the bill after seeing a woman driving with three dogs on her lap.

He said unrestrained pets are a distraction that put motorists and their passengers at risk.

My dog (the one whose Indian name is “cat who barks”) hates riding in the car. Can’t stand it. The only he’ll ride is if he can just jump on my lap, lay down and do nothing. He’s neither a distraction nor does he put me at risk.

As Radley Balko says, “If this were causing people to drive recklessly, you’d think it would be covered by laws against . . . reckless driving.”

This is just one more superfluous law created by a nanny-stater with too much time on his hands.

Rational Voters?

Over at Cafe Hayek, Don Boudreaux linked to his article discussing Bryan Caplan’s book, The Myth of the Rational Voter.

In the always-wonderful comments section, a commenter named Bret made this point:

So let me get this straight.

If I vote in a way that makes me feel fantastic and wonderful about myself and I really couldn’t care less if I’m poorer because of that vote, then that’s irrational? It would somehow be more rational to vote in a way that makes me feel miserable yet be a bit richer?

This sounds like rationalism run amuck to me.

What is missing here is that he’s not making a point about rationalism, he’s actually pointing out the flaw in democracy. Perhaps at the same time he’s pointing out a flaw in Caplan’s thesis, but when I read it I had to respond:

Bret,

You implicitly make a great point, but I think you’re drawing the wrong parallel here.

Rationalism could be defined as following the proper course of action to achieve your goals. The course of action which is most likely to achieve your goals is the most rational, the course of action least likely is the least rational.

So let’s say that the average voter’s stated reason for voting is to make things better. In that case, voting for a socialist policy is likely not to achieve his goals, despite the fact that he believes it will. In that case, his vote would be irrational.

In another case, let’s say the average voter’s true (revealed preference) goal is to feel good about himself and feel like he’s a part of the system. In that case, the vote which makes him FEEL best is the most rational, regardless of the outcome.

Note the difference. In the first case, the voter values outcome. In the second, the voter values feeling good. Your implied point is likely that most voters fall into the latter category, not the former.

And if anything, that’s an indication of the flaws inherent to democracy, not of irrationality. Because most voters care more about how they FEEL about their vote (despite professing to care about outcomes), democratic politics tends towards satisfying voters’ emotional needs, rather than realizing the most economically efficient outcomes.

I’ve posted previously that liberty is an end, democracy is a means, and I am only in favor of democracy in as much as it meets the end of liberty.

I think this is the flaw in Caplan’s thesis. He assumes that people are truly interested in using their vote to improve outcomes. I think most (like myself) have become so fatalistic about our inability to affect policy that we rarely believe our vote will change outcomes. Thus, we vote to make ourselves feel better, like we’re doing the right thing. If Caplan assumes that we rationally desire to influence outcomes, of course many people vote irrationally— meaning the policies they vote for won’t achieve the outcome they desire. If Caplan changes his assumption, though, to the same assumption I make— they vote the way they’ll FEEL best about— the votes are no longer irrational. The votes may not achieve the outcome they profess to desire, but the votes do improve their personal happiness, which is likely the true goal.

Cuba — Perhaps I Spoke Too Soon

About a month ago, I blasted an article by a tongue-in-cheek reporter who wanted to use Raul Castro’s easing of restrictions on cell phone ownership as an excuse to criticize cell phones (suggesting– implicitly– that oppression and no phones is better than freedom and phones).

I stand by that post, but I stepped over the line in another regard. I suggested that while I didn’t expect much of Raul Castro, that he should be applauded for easing some of these restrictions. Instead, I’ve now heard reports that he may be using this freedom as a honey pot to catch those with “illicit” monies:

A Cuban dissident I met in Havana last year sent me today an article he wrote about the real motive behind relaxing these bans. It has been reported in the state-controlled media that people purchasing these goods are later being investigated by the authorities who want to know the real sources of their income. As it’s widely known, the average Cuban salary is less than $20 a month, while the cost of most of these goods ranges in the hundreds of dollars. Many Cubans get their extra money from relatives in the United States, but many others run independent (and illicit) small businesses.

My friend tells the story of the first person to purchase an electric bicycle, which cost the equivalent of $1,070. This man had a small butter factory that apparently was very profitable, since he was selling the butter at a lower price than the government. After buying his electric bicycle, the authorities investigated him and discovered his factory. They proceeded to confiscate everything they found in his home, including the bike.

It’s still possible that these reforms may be a bit too addictive for the Cuban people, and actually may help them to break the stranglehold that the regime has on the island. In particular, personal computers and cell phones open doors of communication that will not be easily shut.

But I must apologize. I too quickly defended Raul Castro, assuming that perhaps he was doing this merely as a PR move to soften the image of his regime to the world. I didn’t catch the implications above. It appears that very little has changed down there.

Hillary Clinton: Second Amendment Defender?

The Hillary Clinton campaign has sent out mailers criticizing Barack Obama for trying to have it both ways on the Second Amendment. The mailer reads as follows:

These are all valid criticisms of Barack Obama; I have made some of these very criticisms myself (here, and here). But the source of these criticisms (Hillary Clinton) seems very strange to me. Barack Obama could very easily ask the same question: What does Hillary Clinton really believe?

Correct me if I am wrong, but didn’t Hillary Clinton’s husband Bill Clinton sign the Brady Bill into law? Maybe this is another example of her disagreeing with the policies of her husband’s administration, such as with NAFTA (if you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you).

Apparently, I’m not the only one who is skeptical of Hillary Clinton’s sudden bid to become the NRA’s next president (she might as well, she doesn’t have any realistic chance of winning the Democrat nomination for president). Ben Smith writes:

The piece [the mailer as shown above] is particularly striking coming from Clinton, who has been seen for most of her career as a firm advocate of gun control, but more recently has emerged — without dramatically shifting her stance on specific issues — as a defender of the Second Amendment who fondly recalled being taught to shoot by her grandfather in Scranton.

Hillary Clinton: Second Amendment Defender? How stupid does she really think we are?

The Next Phase of the Kathryn Johnston Saga Begins

(WSB Radio) Opening arguments begin today in the trial of an Atlanta police officer charged in connection with killing of Kathryn Johnston.

Arthur Tesler is the only cop to go on trial for the shooting of the 92 year old woman in her Atlanta home.

Tesler did not fire a shot during the November 2006 incident. But prosecutors say he assisted in the cover up that followed. Officers have admitted to planting drugs to justify breaking into her home.

He’s charged with making a false statement to an investigator, violating his oath of office and unlawful imprisonment.

Tesler’s lawyer, William McKenney, says his client was in the backyard when the shooting took place and was not involved in the cover-up.

Two former officers, Gregg Junnier and Jason Smith, have pleaded guilty to a state charge of voluntary manslaughter and a federal charge of violating Johnston’s constitutional rights.

The very fact that possession of drugs could be used as justification to break into an elderly woman’s home in itself is very disturbing but such is the state of the war on (some) drugs. What is even more disturbing is that in this case, the police admitted to planting drugs to cover up their mistake of killing an innocent person; how often does this happen where the police get away with such cover ups?

Related: Two Officers Surrender in Johnston Death

Why Energy Independence Is a Futile Way to End Middle-East Terrorism

In an earlier post, I discussed the economic damage that “energy independence” would cause to U.S. consumers. In a recent conversation in meatspace, I ran into someone who acknowledged this problem, but argued that the price is “worth it” because when we trade with people who make oil, those people use the wealth to do all sort of bad things, like funding Al Queda. This argument has some merit; I certainly wouldn’t buy bread from a guy who would use the money to fund attacks on his neighbors.

Let’s examine this problem using the infamous Your Black Muslim Bakery in Oakland California as an example. This bakery is the cash cow for a gang that is involved in all sorts of criminal activity, ranging from auto-theft to destroying the stocks of alcohol stores since the bakers religiously disapprove of drinking.

If we take the proponents of energy independence’s approach to this matter, we would be calling for the city of Oakland, through a web of subsidies and taxes, to encourage the development of industries providing alternatives to bread. We would demand that they subsidize spaghetti shops, encourage people to bake their own bread, and tax bread use. We would seek to make bread more expensive for all so that people will consume less bread and stop buying bread from the bakery.

Instead of focusing on this particular bakery, instead of calling for a boycott of that particular bakery, we would seek to deprive all bakers of their livelihoods, make food more expensive for all including those who are desperately poor and have difficulty affording food. This is taking a sledgehammer to swat a fly and very immoral to boot!

But by trying to use violence to change the behavior of their countrymen, especially in a manner so ineffective to achieving their stated goals, the politicians calling for energy independence are crossing the line. People would rightly laugh if the Mayor of Oakland tried to eliminate bread from the city of Oakland as a means of ending the Your Black Muslim Bakery’s rein of terror. People should do the same to politicians calling for “energy independence” as a means of depriving Al Queda of its operating funds.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

Hey, At Least They’re Honest!

I found this little gem on reason.tv. On April 16, 2008 a group called Ad Hoc National Network to Stop Evictions and Foreclosures held a protest in Washington D.C.

What were they protesting? As the name of the organization suggests, Ad Hoc was advocating a freeze on all evictions in the U.S. Many of the Ad Hoc supporters wanted to go well beyond this, however. Some called for cancelling of all student loan debt, others called for “free” electricity, “free” healthcare, and “free” education. Still others ranted and raved about every real and imagined sin of the U.S. government (I half expected to see Rev. Wright in the video somewhere).

But don’t bother labeling these people as Marxists or Socialists; at least a few of the protesters who were interviewed readily embraced these philosophies and described themselves as such.

Why is this important? Isn’t this just a small group of extremists?

I wish that were the case. While most people we run into in our daily lives don’t call themselves Marxists or Socialists (they are probably clueless about these philosophies), many of them are calling for some of these very things. Supporters of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Ralph Nader (who’s policy proposals are unsafe at any speed), and Mike Gravel (the faux libertarian) each support the Ad Hoc agenda, at least to some extent because their candidates support this agenda to some extent.

John McCain isn’t exactly someone who comes to my mind as a staunch defender of Capitalism either. McCain embraces this so-called “national greatness” philosophy where the individual should be willing to sacrifice himself for the “common good” of the country. McCain also criticized the Bush tax cuts as a tax cut for the rich* and pointed out that Mitt Romney’s background in business “chasing profits” was not as honorable as his lifetime service to his country.

One thing I can say about the Ad Hoc people, as insanely naïve as they are; at least they are honest about who they are. The same cannot be said about the top three candidates running for president.

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