Category Archives: Theory and Ideas

Doug Stanhope – Liberty (Re) Defined

Brad has posted a version of this comedy routine by Doug Stanhope before. This version has been edited to include images and video by Fr33 Agent Beau Davis with a more honest than the traditional “pledge of allegiance” at the close.

I thought that since today happens to be Flag Day, this video would be an important reminder about the true meaning of liberty albeit with an (at times) crude, comedic delivery. True liberty has nothing to do with a flag*, much less worship for the government for which it stands.

WARNING: some of the material in the video will be offensive as hell to some of you. Enjoy!

Related: The Un-American Pledge of Allegiance

*Of course the flag can mean different things to different people. I think it’s one thing to show appreciation for the flag with its original intended meaning by the founders and quite another to “pledge allegiance” to its government regardless of how hostile to freedom the government becomes. I seriously doubt that Thomas Jefferson (who advocated separating political bonds with any government that becomes hostile to the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in the Declaration of Independence BTW) or other founders would have ever pledged allegiance to the flag of the federal government.

Don’t Apologize for Your Opinions

One thing that always bothers me, is when intelligent, thoughtful people; feel it is necessary to apologize for their ideas and opinions… or for even having ideas and opinions at all (much less opinions contrary to those around them, or which are unpopular).

You don’t have to apologize for your views to anyone, for any reason. They are yours (or at least, they should be… if they aren’t… if you’re just repeating things you’ve been told, or you don’t really understand or believe what you’re saying… well, you’ve got a different problem entirely).

Right or wrong, you have the right to an opinion (I don’t have to listen to you, but I can’t tell you you can’t have them); and unless you are violating others rights in doing so, you have the right to express those views openly, and to act on them appropriately.

The first freedom, is freedom of conscience. Without freedom of conscience, we are not men.

However, having and expressing views, carries an element of responsibility and duty with it.

First you must understand, you have the right to your own opinions, but not your own facts. If facts contradict your opinions, facts win, no matter what you think or what you want; and whether you recognize it or not. Reality is a harsh mistress, and it doesn’t respect your ideas, your opinions, your preferences, or your feelings… Reality respects only fact.

Before you express them publicly, you must always understand your own views as deeply and comprehensively as possible; including both the first principles which are their foundation, and the implications and consequences of them (as well as understanding that there will always be unforseen and unintended effects and consequences, to any action or decision).

You should always be prepared to defend your views; with both this understanding of them, and with examples from reality, when challenged. If you are unable to do this, you risk discrediting your views even if they are entirely and provably correct, simply because you were unable to effectively defend them (this is a very common problem unfortunately).

Finally, you must accept that your views may be wrong; and if proven (by either reasoning or reality) to be incorrect, incomplete, or improperly understood; you must be able to re-examine, and revise, or even replace them.

If you are incapable of this, emotionally or intellectually, you need not apologize for your views… but you certainly should not inflict them on others.

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

The Birther Distraction Only Benefits Obama

There it is again. That damned conspiracy theory about Barack Obama being born not in Hawaii but Kenya. An honest question for you birthers out there: even assuming that everything you believe about the birthplace of Barack Obama is true, do you really think that even if you could prove it 100% that people who would otherwise support him/undecided would choose not to or would be declared ineligible to serve as president by some court, perhaps SCOTUS?

IMO the answers to those questions are no and probably not. If the voters are not concerned enough to vote him out (or even call for his impeachment) based on his other, much more damaging assaults on the Constitution, I seriously doubt these same people are going to be upset about Obama’s audacity to be born to an American mother outside the country. As far as violating his oath to defend the Constitution goes, this would be quite a minor assault.

So if the birther issue doesn’t benefit Obama’s opponents, who would it benefit? President Obama and the Democrat Party. The Obama campaign has already released an ad critical of Mitt Romney and his ties to Donald Trump (below).

This is precisely the kind of issue President Obama wants to be a part of this campaign. If the media and the people are talking about the birther question, they are not talking about his failed economic policies, his continued assaults on free market capitalism, ObamaCare, signing extensions to the Patriot Act, signing the NDAA, Fast and Furious, his drug war hypocrisy, his foreign policy befitting that of a warlord, his very Orwellian change in the definition of the term “civilian” to make his statistics for killings of innocent people in foreign lands not look so bad to the casual news consumer, and etc. In other words, Obama’s record as president!

I hear people complain that Obama wasn’t properly vetted in 2008 (and to a certain extent I agree). The media didn’t concentrate enough on the birth certificate, his time hanging out with Marxists in college, his unwillingness to release his college transcripts, his association with Jeremiah Wright. Some of these things are reasonable questions but are distractions to the issues of the greatest importance.

It may be true that we don’t know a whole lot about Obama’s biography or what made him the person he is relative to past presidents but we have had four years to evaluate his job performance as president. In the final analysis, isn’t that all that really matters?

Quote of the Day: Penn’s Sunday School Lecture on Obama’s Drug War (Beyond) Hypocrisy Edition

What troubles me about this… I think it’s beyond hypocrisy. I think it’s something to do with class. A lot of people have accused Obama of class warfare, but in the wrong direction. I believe this is Obama chortling with Jimmy Fallon about lower class people. Do we believe, even for a second, that if Obama had been busted for marijuana — under the laws that he condones — would his life have been better? If Obama had been caught with the marijuana that he says he uses, and ‘maybe a little blow’… if he had been busted under his laws, he would have done hard fucking time. And if he had done time in prison, time in federal prison, time for his ‘weed’ and ‘a little blow,’ he would not be President of the United States of America. He would not have gone to his fancy-ass college, he would not have sold books that sold millions and millions of copies and made millions and millions of dollars, he would not have a beautiful, smart wife, he would not have a great job. He would have been in fucking prison, and it’s not a god damn joke. People who smoke marijuana must be set free. It is insane to lock people up.

Watch the segment from “Penn’s Sunday School” non-truncated rant here.


Related Posts:
Song and Open Letter to a President Who is “No Stranger to the Bong”
A Youthful Indiscretion
Reforming America’s Prison System: The Time Has Come

The rEVOLution After Paul

With Congressman Ron Paul’s third presidential run and career coming to an end, what will become of his rEVOLution he inspired? Prior to the 2012 campaign, some suggested that former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson would be the “next” Ron Paul but with Johnson running as the Libertarian Party nominee after being mistreated by the GOP establishment in the primaries, it appears to me that that bridge has been burned and will likely never be rebuilt. Johnson’s activities in furthering the liberty movement will be done outside the Republican Party.

The new heir apparent to lead the rEVOLution appears to be the congressman’s son Sen. Rand Paul. Rand Paul has been one of a handful of voices of reason in the senate voting against renewing the Patriot Act, the NDAA*, standing up to the TSA, and speaking out against President Obama’s unconstitutional “kinetic military actions” in Libya and elsewhere to name a few. For the most part**, Sen. Rand Paul has been a consistent champion of liberty much like his father. Speculation abounds that Sen. Paul will make a presidential run of his own in 2016.

The rEVOLution and the greater liberty movement must be much larger than one person***, however. According to Brian Doherty, author of his new book Ron Paul’s rEVOLution: The Man and the Movement He Inspired, Paul’s movement will continue long after Paul himself has left the political stage. Doherty summarizes the thesis of his book in the Cato forum (video below); David Boaz and Sen. Rand Paul also offer their thoughts on the future of the liberty movement after Ron Paul.

Mao Yushi: An Inspiration for All Who Yearn to be Free

Last Friday, the Cato Institute honored dissident Chinese economist Mao Yushi with the Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty. Just a week prior, Mao, a consistent critic of Chinese government policies and advocate of both individual and economic liberty faced the possibility of being detained rather than being permitted to fly to Washington D.C. to receive the award in person and deliver his acceptance speech. By Tuesday, Cato confirmed in a press release that the Chinese government kept its word and allowed Mao to leave the country.

The first video tells Mao’s inspiring story:

The second video, the 2012 Milton Friedman Prize winner himself Mao Yushi delivers his acceptance speech.

Congratulations to Mao Yushi for earning this most prestigious prize for your life’s work in the advancement of human freedom. You sir, are an inspiration to us all.

Open Thread: If I Wanted America to Fail…

FreeMarketAmerica.org has released a great video (above) called “If I Wanted America to Fail.” It’s a pretty decent list of policies one would want to implement to cause America to fail but it’s far from complete.

Here are a few suggestions of my own:

If I wanted America to fail, I would want congress to abdicate its war powers and give those powers to the president so he could commit acts of war against any country he desires for any or no reason at all.

If I wanted America to fail, I would want these undeclared wars to be open-ended with no discernable war aim. This would lead to blowback and create more enemies for America.

If I wanted America to fail, I would have troops deployed around the world to make sure the world is “safe for democracy” but would topple regimes, even those elected by the people of these countries, if the president found the new leaders not to his liking. This would create even more enemies who would try to cause America to fail.

If I wanted America to fail, I would do away with due process – even for American citizens who the president considers “enemy combatants.” I would want the president to have the ability to detain these people indefinitely, ship them to a foreign country, and even give the president the authority to kill these people anywhere in the world they are found.

If I wanted America to fail, I would have the ATF sell arms to Mexican drug cartels so they could kill innocent people on both sides of the border. I would name this operation after a lame action movie franchise and pretend to know nothing about it when details were made public (It’s not like the media would have any interest in investigating this deadly policy because this is a Democrat administration).

Now it’s your turn. What are the policies being implemented now that you would want implemented if your goal was to make America fail?

Milton Friedman on Libertarianism and Humility

On August 14, 1990, Milton Friedman gave a speech at the International Society for Individual Liberty’s 5th World Libertarian Conference on the subject of libertarianism and humility. There are many adjectives which can be ascribed to libertarians but “humble” usually isn’t one of them. Among the quotable parts of the speech, Friedman said the following:

On the one hand, I regard the basic human value that underlies my own beliefs as tolerance based on humility. I have no right to coerce someone else because I cannot be sure that I am right and he is wrong. On the other hand, some of our heros…people who have, in fact, done the most to promote libertarian ideas, who have been enormously influential, have been highly intolerant as human beings and have justified their views, with which I largely agree, in ways that I regard as promoting intolerance.

In searching for the above transcription of what I thought was very profound and wise, I found a couple of bloggers who thought this particular quotation as “an inadequate defense of liberty” or one of the “failures” of Milton Friedman.

I happen to disagree with these notions.

Maybe because I have been humbled in realizing that I had been wrong on some issues of great importance. By far the most difficult (yet ultimately liberating) post I have ever written was the post in which I declared that I was wrong about my support for the war in Iraq. I was so certain that regime change in Iraq would bring about peace in the Middle East and freedom would take hold. I thought the Ron Paul and big “L” Libertarian position on preemptive war was naïve and dangerous but now I believe the opposite to be true (for reasons I stated in the aforementioned post).

Having experiencing this, I can’t help but think that Friedman was right to say that each of us should be open to the possibility we may be wrong. If we aren’t open to this possibility, what is the point of debating an issue? Obviously, if I argue that X is correct and my opponent says Y is correct, I’m going to do my best to convince my opponent that I am right and s/he is wrong (meanwhile, my opponent is doing the same).

But what if I realize in the course of the debate that my opponent is at least partially right about Y being correct and/or that my reasoning is flawed or the facts do not support X? As a normal human being, I might not concede right away but if I am being intellectually honest, I’ll revise my thinking based on new information or new reasoning I hadn’t considered.

If Milton Friedman was willing to be open to the possibility of being wrong, how could I, someone whose mind will never in the same league as his, be so stubborn?

One thing I notice in watching Friedman debate people who are diametrically opposed to his positions was how patient he was with them. Something that many of us libertarians seem to forget is that much of what we believe to be true is counterintuitive to at least half of the people we encounter on a daily basis because many of these people have not been exposed to our philosophy. Friedman understood this. He knew that much of what he was saying was new territory for many who would hear his lectures or read his books.

Before he could make the case about any of his ideas to others, he had to be satisfied that the facts backed up his theory. These two sentences from the NPR obituary for Friedman summed up his approach beautifully:

Friedman was an empiricist, whose theories emerged from his study of the evidence, not the other way around. He also was a champion of the free market and small government.

We are supposed to believe this to be a weakness? I find this to be so refreshing!

How far we have fallen…

Reading the point/counterpoint posts on the question of how the supreme court would decide on Obamacares constitutionality, was quite disturbing to me in several ways.

On the one hand I was heartened, because clearly both Brad and Doug are sane and rational folks with a reasonably solid background in both law and politics, and a foundational understanding of the constitution…

Of course, that only highlights how many people in this country are not.

Any reading of the constitution… of the very intent of the founding of this nation… makes it clear that our federal government is meant to be one of of limited and enumerated powers. If the government can mandate this, they can mandate anything. This is the fundamental argument about the necessity for a limiting principle to any government act.

And anyone who doesn’t want unlimited, unconstrained government can see that. Sadly, it seems that the idea of unlimited, unconstrained government is quite popular in some quarters… even with some supreme court justices.

The basic liberal/progressive/leftist argument for socialized medicine is “we should do this even if it IS illegal and unconstitutional, because it’s the right thing to do so the supreme court should uphold it”.

I.E. “It’s good because we want it, and therefore it should be legal because it is good; and we need to get rid of this whole “limited government” thing, because it gets in the way of us doing what is right and good.”

What I also find heartening is that both Brad and Doug both seem to have a good sense of all of this…

But that is also disturbing…

Because both of them seem to share the same actual opinion:

Both believe that Obamacare is ACTUALLY unconstitutional, and should be struck down…

…It’s just that Brad is cynical enough about the supreme court and the political aspects of the decision that he thinks enough justices will be able to argue themselves into ignoring the constitution and doing what they want to do, rather than what is right.

… and Doug believes that there’s a good possibility of that as well; he just has a bit more hope that they won’t.

… and if you look around the commentariat, that’s pretty much the split of positions that every other knowledgable observer has as well.

And if that isn’t disturbing to you, then you really have no idea what is going on, do you?

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

Remy: Health Care Mandates vs Pizza Toppings

I have argued that one of the reasons health insurance is so expensive, whether under ObamaCare or under the system we have now, is that some coverages are mandated whether the health care consumer wants/needs it or not. In the video below, Remy makes the same point but way more cleverly and humorously than I ever could comparing health care mandates to pizza toppings.

Wait, pizza toppings? You just have to watch.


Justice for Martin, Zimmerman is More Important than Anyone’s Damned Political Agenda

Rumor, conjecture, race, debate over the appropriateness of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” (SYG), and the debate over concealed carry among other discussions in the media and social media have taken on lives of their own in fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin. Protests have sprung up around the country demanding “justice” for the “murder”* of Martin allegedly committed by George Zimmerman who claims that he fired the fatal shot(s) in self defense. Others wonder why this story, because of the racial aspects, receive so much national media attention while cases involving white victims with black suspects do not, implying a politically correct double standard.** To inflame the debate even more, leading presidential candidates have weighed in thus (perhaps) turning this case, not only into a black vs. white issue, but also red vs. blue (or Right vs. Left if you prefer).

These all may be relevant issues for another debate, but should not determine the level of “justice” that will hopefully be determined in a court of law rather than the court of public opinion. Unfortunately, it seems that most people have taken sides without knowing all of the relevant facts of the case. Personally, I haven’t “taken sides” because there is plenty of conflicting accounts of what happened that fateful night and I don’t trust everything that is being reported***.

The real question in the case is, did George Zimmerman truly act in self defense and stand his ground as he claimed? This depends entirely on what actually happened; the factual details in this case (known and unknown) is all that really matter. Neal Boortz wrote perhaps the most balanced piece I have read so far on this case. Here he outlines three possible scenarios of the night in question.

As for the SYG law and the Trayvon Martin case, I haven’t seen anyone else bring this up, but both Trayvon and Zimmerman had the SYG law on their side under the three possible operating scenarios here:

1. George Zimmerman. If Zimmerman was attacked by Trayvon, as he claims, he had the legal authority to use deadly force to repel the attack. BUT .. and this is a big but here .. if he was pursuing Trayvon, as he said he was, the SYG law would not protect him from prosecution. Zimmerman wasn’t standing his ground. He was in pursuit. I see no reason for repeal of SYG here because the law will not stand as a defense for what Zimmerman did. By the way …. I heard Juan Williams on Fox News Channel say – not once, but several times — that George Zimmerman had been told by the police to stop his pursuit of Trayvon. First of all, there is no evidence that the 911 dispatcher Zimmerman was talking to was was a police officer. Secondly, the dispatcher didn’t say “Don’t do that.” The dispatcher said “You don’t need to be doing that.” Telling someone that they don’t need to be doing something is quite different from telling someone NOT to do something. Williams should understand this.

2. Trayvon Martin: How would the SYG law stand to protect Trayvon? If Trayvon had noticed he was being followed, and if he elected to flee his pursuer he would have every right to do so. He would also have every right to turn and to confront his pursuer. That would be “standing your ground.” So the rumored testimony of this eyewitness who said he saw Zimmerman on the ground with Trayvon pummeling him does not necessarily implicate Trayvon. If he was standing his ground he was acting within the law.

3. Now here’s where it could get complicated. What if Zimmerman had ceased his pursuit of Trayvon and retreated to his car. What if Trayvon then pursued Zimmerman to his car and attacked him. Trayvon would then lose his protection under SYG, just as Zimmerman did when he initiated a pursuit. But if Zimmerman than became the pursued instead of the pursuer, does he then have the SYG law to rely on? That’s an interesting question, and one that I think would have to be put in front of a jury.

Obviously, the number of scenarios of what might have really happened cannot be limited to these three but I think these can serve as a useful starting point for a productive debate.

Can we all agree that if Zimmerman pursued (which by nearly all counts and by the 911 call seems to be the case at least initially) and confronted Martin, Zimmerman was not acting in self defense?

Can we also agree that IF Zimmerman was following Martin and gave reason for Martin to believe Zimmerman was meaning him harm that Martin also had every right to stand his ground and use lethal force if he believed it necessary to defend himself? Would those of you who wholeheartedly believe that Zimmerman was acting in self defense when he fired the shot(s) be defending Martin had HE shot and killed Zimmerman because Martin was in fear for his life?

The third scenario is the most difficult quandary of all but could a reasonable person conclude that maybe they were both in the wrong? Could Zimmerman’s wrongful pursuit be “canceled out” by Martin’s pursuit and attack if Zimmerman was returning to his vehicle? In the event that they both contributed to Martin’s death, what would be the appropriate verdict? In my lay opinion, convicting Zimmerman of murder would be inappropriate here; a good case could be made that he could be guilty of manslaughter though.

With all the conflicting reports in the media, it seems to me that this is hardly a cut and dry case of murder or standing one’s ground. People on all sides of this issue should resist making this about every civil rights sin ever committed by members of various races. This case is about two individuals, George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin. Not Al Sharpton, nor the New Black Panthers, nor bigoted white people racially profiling.

For those of you who are marching for “justice” for Martin, is this truly what you want or do you want revenge? Are you willing to accept the possibility that after a jury (be it grand jury or a jury deciding if Zimmerman is guilty of murder or a lesser charge) hears the evidence that they might determine that there isn’t enough evidence to prove Martin guilty of murder? Like it or not, in our system the accused is supposed to be considered innocent until proven guilty. This means that sometimes people actually do get away with murder. If the state fails to prove Zimmerman is guilty, don’t blame the jury, blame the state for failing to prove his guilt.

For those of you who are certain that Zimmerman was in the right, I pose the same above question to you. Additionally, are you willing to modify your views if the facts turn out to be opposite of your initial thoughts on the case?

It’s high time for everyone to take a deep breath and let the process work and let the chips fall where they may. Justice is more important than your damned political agenda.

» Read more

Walking Dead Economics

My wife and kids got me hooked on a series some of you may have heard of called The Walking Dead (and like the rest of the Walking Dead fans out there, I have to wait until October for the next season to begin as the characters have been left in quite a precarious situation) For those who haven’t heard of this series, basically Atlanta, GA (and as far as we know, the rest of the world) has been taken over by zombies (called “walkers” by most people who inhabit this world). While the series does have many of the elements of the zombie genre, the story and the characters in the story are quite a bit more complex.The story isn’t so much about the walkers as it is about the characters who not only have to survive this zombie apocalypse, but also manage to survive the other survivors and live with very limited resources.

One thing that becomes very clear at the beginning of this series is that many of the societal rules quickly go out the window when under constant threat of flesh eating walkers. Paper money is of no practical use (other than to start a fire perhaps). Debit cards and credit cards are even less valuable as there is no way to access your worthless money.

One other thing I noticed is that gold isn’t even a commodity that is of much use in this world.

It so happens that I have been reading Dave Ramsey’s book The Total Money Makeover as my wife and I are trying to apply his system to get our financial house in order (I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to get out of debt). In the book I ran across the following passage in which Ramsey explains why he does not believe gold is a good investment, even as a hedge against a total economic collapse:

It is important to remember that gold is not used when economies fail. History shows that when an economy completely collapses, the first thing that appears is a black-market barter system in which people trade items for other items or services. In a primitive culture, items of utility often become the medium of exchange, and the same is temporarily true in a failed economy. A skill, a pair of blue jeans, or a tank of gas becomes very valuable, but not gold coins or nuggets. Usually a new government rises from the ashes, and new paper money or coinage is established. Gold will, at best, play a minor role, and the gold investor will be left with the sick feeling that real estate, canned soup, or knowledge would have been a better hedge against a failing economy. – The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness by Dave Ramsey (Thomas Nelson, 2003, 2007) p. 55.

I don’t know that I fully agree with Ramsey here though I’m by no means an expert on the history of gold or monetary policy. It seems to me that as a new civilization emerges from economic collapse, gold (and other commodities) would play a much greater role before people would accept any new fiat money. He seems to have a legitimate point, however; with regard to a collapsing or fully collapsed economy.

This is certainly the case in The Walking Dead. The resources most necessary to survive in this world are water, food, shelter, firearms, ammunition, medicine, fuel, spare parts, etc. Without these items, you aren’t going to survive for very long. Under these circumstances, who would trade a shotgun and ammunition for a bar of gold? I sure wouldn’t. I might trade a shotgun, assuming I already have enough firearms to hold the flesh eaters at bay, for some food and water. Better yet, I might offer to provide security for a few nights in exchange for food, water, and a temporary place to stay. This arrangement would continue as long as both parties agree.

In the course of the series, these are the kinds of arrangements that are worked out. Security is a major concern because, despite apparent efforts by the federal government to impose martial law, the government failed* and the law of the jungle is now in full effect. Many resources such as firearms, water, auto parts, food, fuel, etc. are scavenged from those who were either killed or simply abandoned their property (finders’ keepers).

Earlier in this season, the main characters find themselves at a dead end on the interstate as thousands of abandoned cars litter the road. Though on one hand this is very bad news, on the other, it’s an opportunity to scavenge whatever resources were left behind. At another point, a couple of the survivors make their way into an abandoned small town where they hit the jackpot in finding an abandoned pharmacy with a decent supply of prescription drugs. At the very end of this last season, the camera pans out to a prison near where the remaining surviving characters are camped out. What, if anything, can these refugees benefit from the prison? (I’m very interested to see where the story goes from here with the prison).

“What about silver bullets, do they have any value?” you ask. Silver bullets are needed to kill ware wolves, not walkers. Ware wolves? Seriously, ware wolves? Now that would be ridiculous.

*Or did it? Perhaps all the “important” people have been relocated to a secret and secure location while the citizens are left to fend for themselves.

Signs of Intelligent Life in the Colorado Senate

Several members of the Colorado Senate introduced a bill yesterday that would reduce drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor, favoring drug treatment programs over incarceration in state prisons.

Lynn Bartels reporting for The Denver Post writes:

Senate Bill 2012-163 deals with drug offenders who primarily are users and addicts rather than dealers, and enhances their access to treatment.

“We have so many people throughout this country who are the casualties of a failed war on drugs,” said Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder. “And in one sense, when you get a felony, not only do you get a criminal penalty, but what you have is a sentence to life without employment.”
During a news conference at the Capitol, Levy presented the bill with Sens. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield, and Pat Steadman, D-Denver, and Rep. Don Beezley, R-Broomfield.

[…]

“Let’s be clear. This is not legalization. This is not decriminalization,” Mitchell said. “This is simply a smarter approach to fighting the evils of drug abuse in our society.”

While this bill doesn’t go as far as I would like, this is certainly a step in the right direction. I’m not a big fan of forced drug treatment programs but it’s a far better alternative than a felony conviction that never goes away. In addition to this proposed legislation, Coloradans will have an opportunity to legalize marijuana (with the same regulations as alcohol) in November. If both of these become Colorado law, this would be a pretty significant blow to the war on (some) drugs and the prison industrial complex IMO.

Will either of these reforms pass? It’s hard for me to say but I’m a little skeptical. Still, the fact that these sorts of reforms are being proposed outside of libertarian debate societies by people who can actually change the criminal code is quite exciting and quite encouraging.

Happiness Is A Choice

I’m not an old or wise man. I’m assuredly not qualified to dole out advice — particularly to people I’ve never met. I was raised in a family where one didn’t readily admit the existence of ones feelings much less talk about them. For everything I’ve learned, I’m still filled with more dysfunctions than I can count. But in my limited 33 years on this planet, I feel like I’ve learned more than my fair share about human emotion, and more than a few times through the painful prism of experience. So the post I’m writing is something that’s been germinating in the nether reaches of my brain for several years, and something that I’m only writing in the hopes that some people out there — a few in particular — might find something useful in my experience that they can apply to their own existence.

This post was brought to the surface by a couple of events. First, an acquaintance of mine revealed that he’s suffering from depression. The tone of the reveal suggested almost that diagnosing his own depression was itself a revelation — he could finally explain that maybe his life wasn’t causing depression, but rather his depression would be his response to anything that happened in life. It was time to treat the depression, rather than the supposed “causes” thereof. Second, in the span of about 5 weeks, both of my remaining grandmothers passed away. Now, both were already in their mid-nineties, so their passings were neither unexpected nor particularly [in the grand scheme of death] tragic. So, rather than the passing itself, it was my own response to it that suggested I might want to finally write this post.

Like my acquaintance, I’ve dealt with depression in my life. Sadly, I think that statement is likely true of anyone that grew up a nerd in teenage America. My story isn’t one of physical bullying — being bigger than most of the other kids, that wasn’t as common an option as it might have been for other kids. Nor was it, like many kids, due to actual shortcomings — I was smart, moderately athletic, lacked glasses, etc. Rather, it was borne of the father of most bullying — poor self-confidence and an inability to properly understand how to deal with the social rules of childhood. I didn’t learn it until later, but kids are cruel, and they’ll pick at weakness and demean others in a screwy attempt to make themselves feel worth. And I didn’t understand until much later that adults will do the exact same crap.

So I dealt with depression in the way most teenagers do: listening to Nine Inch Nails and Rammstein, thoughts of suicide, and being full of such rage that it ate away at my very soul. I vacillating between the fear that something was seriously wrong with me and the certain knowledge that everyone else was horrible and depraved. It was a miserable existence.

But I was lucky.

During those teenage years, I was involved in martial arts. Now, before my fellow nerds get too excited, I should point out that this story doesn’t end with me mercilessly pummeling a tormentor, on behalf of myself or others. But it involved two very important things: teaching and public demonstration. The school at which I studied had a policy that at brown belt, students were expected to be assistant instructors in classes for the lower ranks. At black belt, one was expected to be capable of mostly leading a class. And as much as it might be meaningless to most people to be referred to as “Mr. Warbiany” at the age of 16 by ones temporal elders, at the time and place I was at in my life, that little show of respect helped me build a bit of self-worth. The demonstration team was a group that went out to public events to put on martial arts demonstrations, and I was lucky enough to play a prominent role. As a very large individual, I played a good “fall guy” — everyone likes to see the big guy lose. But again, it helped me develop a sense of self-worth that I might not have otherwise had. Those experiences gave me a level of confidence in public speaking opportunities that helps me in my career to this day.

The second formative experience that changed my understanding of the world occurred in college. I chose to join a fraternity, and a house full of 50 college males is not exactly a bastion of sympathy and concern for others’ feelings. I fell back into a state of low confidence, and the more cruel of the brothers there [as I mentioned, these personality traits don’t always disappear with age] were more than willing to engage in the same sort of bullying behavior that schoolkids will engage in. My first year or so living in the house was torture. But at some point in there I learned to accept the normal slights and criticism inherent in fraternity life, roll with it with a smile on my face, and occasionally dish it right back rather than sulking in offense. And I learned a critical fact: the people who had previously been busting my chops stopped, because they knew I couldn’t handle it before and now I could. And the people who hadn’t busted my chops started, because they realized that I could take it in stride and wouldn’t be offended. The cruel ones had nothing to feed on, and the non-cruel ones realized that I could start having fun. But the biggest thing I learned from that experience was this:

We can define our selves not by what happens to us, but by how we respond to it.

At that point, a lot changed. A life spent in opposition to most of normal society lends itself to introspection. A newfound understanding of mastery over ones own mental state gives one the tools to apply that introspection. I’ve used the intervening years to better understand myself, my happiness, and how I can work to improve both. And it led to realization #2:

Happiness is a choice.

I realize I have a lot in life to be happy about. The advantage of growing up a nerd is that it often leads to careers that the “normals” aren’t interested in. For me, I went down the engineering path, and my particular career path makes use of the public speaking and presentation skills I picked up. I managed to meet a wonderful woman who — although she doesn’t understand me as a nerd — is social enough to ensure our children are far more socially well-adjusted than I ever was. The conscious decision to respond positively to situations I face both personally and professionally not only makes me happier, but people around me respond to it as well.

But there’s a lot in life that’s difficult as well. As I revealed not long ago, one of my sons was diagnosed with autism back in October. And as I’m not one to “talk about my feelings”, it’s gone into the well inside where such things fester. Likewise with the passing of my grandmother 5 weeks ago. I had to tell my boss and coworkers, of course, since I needed to fly to Chicago to attend the funeral. With all my dysfunctions, I found myself unable to accept peoples’ condolences, not wanting anyone to worry about me and pointing out that she was 93, had Parkinson’s, and was deteriorating, so it was expected. I’ve never understood why I must deflect someone’s polite concern in such a way. Then, to lose my other grandmother 5 weeks later, and not even be able to fly back to attend the funeral (due to cost, my own nasty cold, etc) to say goodbye and spend time letting it set in with my family. And while I am always appreciative of my job, it’s a particularly defeating kind of stress to be working closely with a customer testing and qualifying a new product, and then to find out 3 weeks before release that the product has been cancelled. Even worse when the replacement then gets delayed by 5 months. Watching your hard work be made irrelevant by forces outside your control will really take the wind out of your sails.

But as I said, how we define ourselves is not in what happens around us, but how we respond to it. I’m not much of a Kenny Chesney fan, but one song of late has somewhat seemed to fit the mood:

The first half of the song is about responding to the negative. The second half is about recognizing and enjoying the positive. Both are equally important.

Life throws curves at all of us. We deal with them. Some rely on God — I can’t as I don’t believe. Some people choose to wallow in the negative. I don’t have time for that. Only I can control my happiness, I’m not going to let it be defined by what life throws at me.

When my son was diagnosed with autism, I said that while it certainly isn’t something we wanted to hear, the very diagnosis gives us a roadmap. We know he’s going to develop differently than neurotypical children, but we can anticipate the troubles he’ll face and prepare him for them. Many parents have to deal with issues that they can’t diagnose or define. When my grandmother passed away, I looked on the bright side — it resulted in the first time that I’d be in the same room with all of my siblings at once in over 3 years. It was my first opportunity to meet two of my newly-born nieces, one who was 14 months old at the time. And while it was sad to see my grandmother go, I know that she’d been in terrible pain for a long time, and the fact that she was freed from that pain was itself a blessing. As a nonbeliever I don’t think she had some “better place” to go, but I can be consoled in the fact that she’d managed to spend 93 years on this rock; many of us won’t be so lucky. Some of what I learned simply from hearing others speak of her younger days reminded me of her not as a feebled old woman with Parkinson’s but as a young and vibrant woman with a zest for life. When my other grandmother passed, it was terrible to know that I couldn’t make it back to Chicago for a funeral, but I was lucky enough that I’d been able to see her and spend several hours with her at the previous funeral. While I couldn’t mourn her with my family, I at least got to see her before she went. Setbacks at work are no fun for anyone, but they happen. I can focus on the positive lessons learned through those setbacks — there are always lessons to be learned. I can focus on how those lessons will help us improve practices and products going forward.

Happiness is a choice. It’s a choice that resides inside you. You can’t control the world around you. Sometimes it’s going to treat you well, and sometimes it’s going to deal you a shit sandwich. If you respond negatively to the world, I honestly believe that you’re going to have trouble even enjoying your success. Dwelling on failure makes you difficult to be around and creates the self-fulfilling prophecy for failure. If you respond positively, setbacks become minor. You set yourself up to maximize profit from the positive events you encounter, and you start to focus turning crisis into opportunity rather than a pity party.

Happiness is a choice. Own your choice.

Jon Stewart as a Voice of Sanity on Iran

The war drums for war with Iran on behalf of Israel are getting louder by the day. I wouldn’t have ever imagined that after experiencing the failure to find WMD in Iraq following the invasion along with the tremendous sacrifices of blood and treasure we would be having an almost identical conversation concerning Iran years later. I thought that as a country we learned the hard lessons about the folly of preemptive war.

Apparently, I was wrong.

The prospects of a nuclear Iran has been an issue I’ve been intending on writing about. What does it mean for the security of the world if Iran gets the bomb? Is war with Iran even avoidable given all the heated rhetoric on all sides?

Now enter a voice of reason: comedian Jon Stewart. One thing that Stewart points out in the first clip is that this is an election year, not only for the U.S. but also Israel and Iran! Could it be that the rhetoric is so over the top because politicians in all three countries want to talk tough to curry favor with voters?

In the second clip, Stewart plays even more rhetoric from the 2012 campaign. The leading G.O.P. candidates would have us believe that President Obama has said and done nothing whatsoever to help Israel stop Iran from getting the bomb. As Stewart demonstrates here, Obama’s rhetoric doesn’t differ that much from the G.O.P. field (sans Ron Paul, of course). President Obama’s rhetoric is much more hawkish than I am comfortable with to be sure.

While Stewart’s comic relief on this issue is very much needed, hopefully he gets his very serious message across.

Quote Of The Day

From Don Boudreaux. He’s addressing the Cato/Koch lawsuit*, but more specifically addressing the question of ideas-based ideological battles vs. the more common political election-based battles:

At the end of the day in any society, political office holders largely reflect the culture and climate of ideas that prevail in that society. The overwhelming effects of culture and the climate of opinion on actual, day-to-day policies over the long run are unseen. This unseen influence of culture and ideas is, I believe, as the underwater bulk of the iceberg is to the seen tip that looms above the water’s surface.

The seen tip of electoral politics and its current personalities are real; by all means deal with them as best as you can. But don’t ignore the larger, more hulking, ultimately far-more significant and determinative unseen bulk of ideas, prejudices, values, historical narratives, and other cultural elements that lie beneath the surface of electoral politics. Chop off today’s seen tip, and watch some other part of that ‘idea-berg’ rotate upward into view. Unless the ideas, broadly defined, that make up a nation’s political reality are changed, affecting the outcome of today’s election will do vanishingly little to change political reality over the long haul. The new part of the idea-berg that emerges above the surface to replace the lopped-off part will be just as anti-liberty as its predecessor.

This is why I don’t get too involved in the horse race. Sure, there might be a marginal difference in government policy if we replace Obama with Romney, Santorum, or Gingrich. But none of it is really going to move the needle. For as much as Santorum might be an extremist on SoCon issues, every one of the “mainstream” Republicans are likely to govern a lot more “centrist” than firebrand. Romney is a big-business moderate, Santorum is a pro-union “compassionate conservative”, and Gingrich wants big government, but wants it to be run in a lean Six Sigma efficient manner. And for a much of a hardcore socialist the Right has believed Obama was going to be, he’s largely deferred to let Congress craft the proposals put in place over his term, not played FDR power games.

Is there an answer that can change the iceberg? Maybe, but it’s a long game. Ron Paul is working on moving the needle, but he can’t get elected until the needle moves a lot farther than it has today. If the movement he’s started can continue to find new champions after the 2012 election, we might see meaningful change. But none of it will make any difference in November of this year.

» Read more

Ron Paul at His Very Best Confronting Ben Bernake

If Rep. Ron Paul has accomplished anything in his 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns it would be the way he has educated the American public about monetary policy and the Federal Reserve. I’ve listened to on line lectures from the Cato Institute and read about monetary policy but more often than not its either over my head or bores me to tears. Paul manages translate the Fed’s policy and put into language people like me can understand and keep it interesting.

Today’s hearing where Paul questioned Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernake is a case-in-point. My favorite part is when he asks Bernake if he does his own grocery shopping driving home the point about how his inflationary policies impact average people where it matters most (cost of groceries and fuel doesn’t go into determining the rate of inflation).

Rule of Thumb: If it Makes Santorum Sick, it’s Probably Good for Liberty

One of the more distressing things for me concerning this 2012 campaign is the religious test being imposed on some of the candidates by the voters and encouraged by other candidates. There are at least some voters who will not support Mitt Romney under any circumstances because he is a Mormon. Once upon a time, the idea of a Catholic being president was just as much of a scandal but today very few non-Catholics would consider this a deal breaker.

Ironically devout Catholic Rick Santorum, one candidate who benefits from fellow Catholic JFK’s election 52 years ago, says that when he heard JFK’s famous separation of church and state speech he “almost threw up.”

Here’s an excerpt from the speech that made Santorum almost hurl:

But because I am a Catholic, and no Catholic has ever been elected President, the real issues in this campaign have been obscured–perhaps deliberately, in some quarters less responsible than this. So it is apparently necessary for me to state once again–not what kind of church I believe in, for that should be important only to me–but what kind of America I believe in.

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute–where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishoners [sic] for whom to vote–where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference–and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.

I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish–where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source–where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials–and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.

For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been, and may someday be again, a Jew–or a Quaker–or a Unitarian–or a Baptist. It was Virginia’s harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that helped lead to Jefferson’s statute of religious freedom. Today I may be the victim- -but tomorrow it may be you–until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped at a time of great national peril.

IMO this is JFK at his very best. This speech could just as easily apply to Mitt Romney; all he would have to do is replace the Catholic references with Mormon ones and it would have the same exact meaning. Kennedy had to give this speech because of the fear that he would impose his dogma on the country or bow to the Vatican. Now, 52 years later, we have another Catholic in Rick Santorum who has a very different attitude concerning his Catholic faith and how it relates to how he would govern.

It seems to me that if Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith is fair game, so is Rick Santorum’s Catholic faith. Does Santorum approve of how the Vatican has handled the pedophile priests? I think that’s a very fair question. Another good question might be why he apparently doesn’t agree with the Just War Theory (couldn’t it be argued that he’s just another cafeteria Catholic?).

I really couldn’t care less about the personal faiths for Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, or Barack Obama. They can believe in many gods or no gods if they neither pick my pocket* nor break my leg nor infringe on my freedoms by imposing his values on me. I do not get why this is so hard for some people to understand.

*A very real concern.

Katy Bar the Door: Social Conservatives Want in Your Bedroom Too

Last week, I wrote a post about how the Left wants in the bedrooms of the people by mandating health insurance coverage for contraceptives. On the other extreme, we have Rick “every sperm is sacred” Santorum talking about the “dangers of contraceptives” and how non-procreative sex is somehow bad for society (as if concerns about “society” should trump the rights of the individual). I intended to write a full post devoted to making the opposite point (Does anyone really think that millions more unplanned births would actually be good for society?) and referencing a very interesting conclusion Steven Levitt made in a chapter his book Freakonomics called “It’s not Always a Wonderful Life.”

But I’m not going to do that. Santorum and his supporters’ antipathy for individuals making their own value judgments about sex has been documented on other blogs and I don’t know that I can really add much that hasn’t already been written. Having said that, I think Rick Moran at PJ Media nearly perfectly captures my concerns about Santorum and Social Conservatives more generally in his post: “The GOP’s Problem with Sex Could Cost Them in November.”

[Social Conservatives’] outdated, even primitive, critique of human sexuality that denies both the science and the cultural importance of sex and the sex act. Their main target appears to be women, and women’s sex lives, although the act of love itself is also to be placed in a strait jacket. No doubt the right will argue that their criticisms are only meant to help women, and nurture “healthy” attitudes toward sex. Nonsense. First of all, women don’t need that kind of help. They are capable of making their own choices without a bunch of ignorant busybodies telling them how to govern the most intimate and personal aspects of their lives.

Secondly, there is inherent in this critique a 19th century — or earlier — view of sex that seeks to keep the act of love within the confines of the marriage bed, and believes that physical intimacy should be primarily for one reason, and one reason only: procreation. At the very least, sex outside of marriage should be severely proscribed and limited to those who plan a long term relationship or eventual matrimony. Having sex because it’s fun, or because you’re bored, or because you crave physical intimacy, or for any other reason beyond traditional notions of “love” is grounds for disapprobation.

Certainly religion has much to do with this assault on sex. And if the extent of their critique stayed in the pews and pulpits of conservative churches, there would be no problem whatsoever. Christian denominations can tell their adherents how to live their lives, citing chapter and verse from the Bible, and nobody would care.

But when Republican politicians, and others associated with conservatism or the Republican Party, start echoing the various criticisms of contraception, of casual sex, of sex outside of marriage, the perception cannot be dismissed that the imprimatur of the entire party — and consequently, the government if they ever came to power — has been granted and that somebody, somewhere, might want to do something about it. As a voter making a political calculus on how to mark one’s ballot, the GOP is kidding itself if they don’t think this affects the decisions of millions of citizens.

Where do these people get off? Apparently they don’t…unless it’s for the purpose of procreation. No wonder they are so uptight!

Judge Andrew Napolitano’s Final Installment of “The Plain Truth”

As most of you are aware, Judge Andrew Napolitano’s final episode of “Freedom Watch” on Fox Business Channel aired earlier this week. The segment I will miss the most is the judge’s closing monologue he called “The Plain Truth.” Here is the final installment:

1 3 4 5 6 7 39