Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Should the government filter the internet?

The Australian government is at it again, trying to clean up the wild, wild West of the Internet. They want to implement a "mandatory ban" on 1,000 URLs (the web address in our browser).

The proposed 1,000 URLs are, of course, so objectionable that no decent human being could possibly justify wanting to visit them. But that's beside the point. The question is whether individuals or the government should filter the internet - I have never visited nor ever will visit any of those 1,000 URLs. I doubt anyone else on this debate forum has or will. Within Australia, there are probably only a very small number of people who visit sites of that nature. So what's the point of banning them?

This is a wedge issue, an attempt to get a "foot in the door" on controlling the broader internet. The problem is that ISP filtering - what the AU "internet filter" attempts to implement - is not even close to enough. Any website on the blacklist can mirror itself (make another URL that accesses all the same content), or an interested Australian can use a Web anonymizer, Tor, or other proxy services, some of which will encrypt all traffic making it impossible for any 3rd party to "filter" the content.

To really filter the internet means not only blacklisting a set of wholly objectionable URLs, but constantly updating the blacklist to target any potential mirrors, blacklisting web anonymizers, banning peer-to-peer networks, banning the use of cryptography (which is itself problematic... define "cryptography"!), ad infinitum, ad nauseum. China makes it simple by simply criminalizing any attempt to effectively circumvent the intent of its filtering policy. Do we really want to implement those kind of "intent" laws here in the West? Laws whose application is purely subjective, whose extent is undefined?

We're talking about stopping a very small handful of people within Australia from accessing just 1,000 (out of millions) URLs. Who does this benefit? Who does it help? What good is it? And what cost (in dollars and freedoms) is it worth to stop those few people from accessing those few websites? How far are you willing to go? Maybe Sen. Jay Rockefeller's ruminations are right, "Would it have been better if we had never invented the internet and had to use paper and pencil?" Perhaps the Internet is just too inherently evil and the whole thing should just be scrapped.

And check out this little gem... now the internet is actually attacking national leaders! The internet must be controlled before somebody gets killed by it!

Some numerology and 9/11

I've searched high and low for numerological interpretations of 9/11/2001 but none are very satisfying. So, I've invented my own. Here it is:

Let's start with the number of the beast: 666. Many theologians interpret 666 as, in fact, a truncated representation of the fraction 2/3, representing the fraction of humanity that Satan will succeed in deceiving and bring with himself to eternal Hell. But 666 not only represents this fraction of lost souls, but it is the symbol of the Beast himself. In this sense, I interpret the three 6's as each representing one third of humanity and the grouping of all three 6's together as the false theology of universalism, that is, that all men will go to heaven. This is widely believed, even between different religions, to be the central dogma of any world religion operating under the umbrella of a Satanic world government. The 6's are all the same because all men are to go to heaven, all men are good ... all men go to heaven.

But the truth contained in the lie of 666 is that only 1/3 of humanity (the "remnant" or "elect") will obey God and the remainder will perish in eternal Hell. To expound upon this truth, the secret society of Skull & Bones uses the number 322, but with the proportion of humanity destined to heaven and hell reversed, that is, 1/3 goes to Hell and the 2/3 remainder goes to heaven. This is figured in the single digit '3' (one third of the digits) and the double digits '22'. But 3 is greater than 2 signifying that the 1/3 destined to eternal Hell are greater (on this earth) than the 2/3 majority destined to Heaven. The servants of Satan are the remnant, they are the elite, signified in the 3 being greater than the two 2's. Of course, '2' and '3' that are the composite digits of 322 can be used to form the fraction 2/3 = .666...

So, 9/11 is the superlative statement of this principle. The elite 1/3, those who are serving Satan in his quest to rebuild the lost tower of Babel (originally located in Iraq, by the way... any connection to the occultic Bushes' obsession with Iraq?), aresuperlatively greater than the remaining 2/3, just as 9 is as much greater than 1 as any single digit can be than any other single digit. 911 is a statement of class superiority. "Look what we can do, we can smash buildings and murder thousands of people right in front of your eyes on camera and you know we did it but there's not a damned thing you can do about it!" Also, the digits of 911 evenly multiply and divide 322: (3*3) (22/2).

The 7/7/5 bombings use the same numerology and the same modus operandi (military/police "exercises" of the exact nature of the real attack which occurred going on at exactly the same time and place as the real attack to confuse and delay first-responders) to leave a plausibly deniable "signature". 775 is, again, two digits and one digit. The values are reversed (7 > 5) but this is not the purpose of the date signature in this case, it is to leave the "fingerprint" or calling card, so to speak.

If you dig deeper, you find this same "one digit/two digits" calling card elsewhere. The first bombing of the WTC occured 2/26/1993... 226.

The USS Cole bombing occurred 10/12/2000. Ignoring zeros as in occult numerology... 112.
Timothy McVeigh executed: 6/11/2001 ... 611
Madrid Bombings: 5/11/2004 ... 511

WTC Bombing: 226 <---> 2/26/1993
Bill Hicks dies: 226 <---> 2/26/1994
112 <---> 11:20pm
USS Cole Bombing: 112 <---> 10/12/2000
Alex Jones born: 211 <---> 2/11/1974

John Allen Muhammed pronounced dead at 9:11PM on 11/10/2009.

The groundbreaking ceremony of the Pentagon occurred on 9/11/1941.

I love datamining. :-P

NIST discovers new property of the universe

This is a great video discussing the NIST report on WTC7. Looks like NIST has made new fundamental discoveries regarding the laws of physics... time to send Einstein et. al. back to the drawing board!!

Why monopolies are bad (with applications to education and healthcare)

I live a few blocks from two movie stores, Blockbuster and Hollywood Video. A month ago, the Blockbuster store began a Going Out of Business sale. That leaves the Hollywood Video store as the only movie store for several miles in every direction. I was surprised to find out, last night, when I stopped at Hollywood to pick up a movie at 10:55pm that the store was closing in five minutes. I was shocked... how can a movie store close at 11pm on a Friday night?? I asked the clerk when they started closing at 11pm. It's been since a few weeks ago. She claimed that it's because business is too slow after 11pm. But when she let me out of the store, locking the door behind me, two cars pulled up, and the customers walked up to the door, shocked to find it locked.

After puzzling on this for a few minutes, it struck me that the new Hollywood hours were instituted right about the same time Blockbuster put up the Going Out of Business sale signs. Why should Hollywood stay open past 11pm for the convenience of those last few late-night stragglers when Blockbuster is no longer across the street, staying open for late-night stragglers? Blockbuster had to stay open till midnight because Hollywood did and vice-versa. But now that Hollywood has a monopoly of sorts in this area, they can require their customers to plan around the store's convenience, rather than the other way around. Both Blockbuster and Hollywood were likely losing money staying open that last hour from 11pm to midnight, but they had to absorb that loss or risk losing customers to their rival.

As I have explained on these boards in the past, the public education system creates a monopoly on low- and mid-level education by subsidizing the government schools so they can offer $0 tuition. It is impossible to compete with $0 tuition, so only private schools which cater to high-end, wealthy customers (and some religious schools) can co-exist with the subsidized state schools. But the monopoly on education is bad for customers (parents & children) in the same way that Hollywood's lucky monopoly on movie store presence in this area of town is bad for customers. The customer must adapt his life around the convenience of the monopolist. In a competitive market, the producers must cater to consumers' demands or risk losing potential repeat business to their competitors.

The clamor for universal health care (monopolization through subsidization) is like customers wishing for Blockbuster to close up shop to give Hollywood a monopoly on videos. The only beneficiaries are the monopolist and its employees (and stockholders). This can only lead to a reduction in the quality of healthcare, just like the reduction in quality of education which we have experienced under state monopolization of education and just like the reduction of quality I experienced from Hollywood Video last night.

Unfortunately, the political opposition to universal health care has not prosecuted the argument from this point of view, the root cause of the degradation in quality which can be predicted to occur as health care becomes more heavily subsidized by the state: monopolization. Instead, the argument is over whether the state budget can fit universal health care or whether "socialized medicine" can't work for mysterious, unstated reasons apparently related to its being "socialist". If government can successfully produce education, art and all the other things that it is attributed to be able to produce, there is no good reason that it cannot produce health care. The only really convincing argument against universal health care is to address how monopolization inevitably results in a degradation of quality and increase in costs... which indicts all the services which the state monopolizes.

Just as with public education, public health care will, predictably, result in a degradation of health care quality and a rise in health care costs for the same reason Hollywood Video charges a dollar more than they did a few months ago and now close an hour earlier than before.

Walter Williams applies Frederich Hayek's - Nobel Prize winner in economics - knowledge problem to the issue of health care in this brief, incisive article. I strongly recommend everyone read his remarks.

People: 0, Feds: 4

2003: George Bush invades Iraq over massive popular dissent.
2008: George Bush bails out banks over massive popular dissent.
2009: Barack Obama bails out banks a second time, over massive popular dissent.
2009: Barack Obama increases troop deployment to Afghanistan over massive popular dissent

It's 4-0, people. The elites get what they want every time and you get stuck with the bill. Keep believing in the Red, White and Blue propaganda they're shoving down your throat on both sides of the political spectrum. There is no left versus right anymore. It's just them versus us. We don't even have majority rule, anymore. That's when you know the whole political machine has become detached from reality and serious problems lie directly ahead. The US Federal government is on a crash course with the US citizenry.

The War on Kids

Looks good, I'll be looking forward to its release.

Folks, the problem with American schools is simple:

1) State subsidy of K-12 education creates a de facto monopoly of mid- to low-end education

2) All monopolies provide low and ever lower quality services at high and ever-higher prices. Parents: "Our schools are failing!" Schools: "We demand more money!"

That's it, folks. Your children's education is doomed so long as the state subsidy exists - unless you're rich and you can afford to send your kids to an elite private school. There is no surer way to destroy something than to subject it to state subsidy.

The solution is equally simple. End the state subsidy and open the market for education to free and open competition. The lush quality and variety that characterizes your local grocery store - the retail market being the closest thing we have to a free market in the US anymore - will once again characterize the education market. Rather than being dictatorially assigned to some school district - love it or hate it - you will have a wealth of choices from ethnic-, cultural- or religious-based education to classical or modern education. Schools in competition will cut administrative costs without fanfare to compete for customers and offer the lowest tuition at a given level of educational quality.

If you don't like your children's teachers, there is no need to file formal complaints or get signatures for petitions to have someone removed from the school administration. No votes or ballot measures needed. Just sign up with the friendlier, more customer-service oriented school across the street. If your local grocery store doesn't listen to your demands, you just shop at the competitor across the street. If enough people agree with you, the offending business will either change or cease doing business.

For our children's sake, we must end the state's War on Kids.

Google and the CIA

According to Alex Jones' website prisonplanet.tv and this online video, Google has clandestine ties with US intelligence agencies. It's difficult to imagine, in fact, a company the size of Google not having relations with the intelligence agencies.

While I have no evidence to support my worries, it seems to me that Google is the closest that you could come to a mechanism for controlling the Internet. Let me explain:

- Every conceivable piece of information is available on the Internet, at least, information which is not highly commercially valuable

- Much of this information is of the sort that governments would prefer to have censored, consider the "Great Firewall of China", for example

- Information on the Internet only becomes visible if it turns up in search results. That is, if a webpage containing information damning to the government is buried on page 11,000,000 of your search results or is not present at all, you'll never see it.

- Google is offering a lot of things for free that their competitors can't seem to figure out how to offer for free. If data storage is really so cheap or so easily subsidized by search results or targeted advertising, how come Yahoo or MSN can't offer similar levels of free data storage as Gmail?? Just today, Google has announced a "free, public DNS service". No other for-profit company is offering free DNS services... how can Google afford to?

Given these considerations, I can imagine the government colluding with Google in the following way. One of the clandestine services allocates a fairly significant black budget to subsidize Google. Google uses these subsidy revenues to offer "free" services to lure in users of the email, DNS and other services that yield lots of personal information. In exchange, Google provides a highly secret "back door" that allows the clandestine service to basically log in with read-only rights and peruse Google's servers at will. Additionally, Google could add in some classified code that only top-level individuals at the company can see that can suppress or manipulate specific search results for political or operational goals of the clandestine agencies. The NSA or CIA could raise sufficient budget (billions $) to do something like this.

Please note that Google has access to almost every type of data which the government could wish its intelligence agencies had access to, but which they could never get their hands on due to the political problems it would cause. So, rather than trying to gather this information "in-house", ala the "Total Information Awareness" program, they just let Google do the collecting in the course of doing ordinary business. Then, they just comb through the servers for data that they are interested in, as needed. If you're NSA and you want to find Ahmed al-Qaida, you just peruse the Gmail servers for his name or that of any of his contacts or mosques he's attended, Imams with whom he is associated. You peruse Google's search records for the same data. If you get a hit, you look up the IP address from which the search or email originated or, if you're lucky, you pull up the associated Google account information if the individual happened to be logged in. Then, you continue the investigation through other channels (digitally wiretapping the ISP or serving them with a gagging NSL, etc.)

I'm not saying this is the case due to insufficient evidence but something like this surely could be the case. Never underestimate the audacity of the state in waging war against its citizenry.

Innocent man in coma after police takedown

Video and article here. Of course, no charges or even disciplinary measures will be taken against the assaulting officer. It's always the big, fat bully slobs that do this stuff.

Tasering children

Here is an example of disproportionate use of force by a police officer. He told her to stop running and warned her that he would use a taser. Well, that makes it perfectly all right.

As bad as this is, the news story under discussion in the other thread is the tasering of a ten year old girl. Several posters have tried to make the case that even a 10-year-old can be a "threat." Well, kids younger than 10 have killed people, so I guess there should be no lower limit. Taser that 2-year-old, he might quick-draw a gun from his ankle-holster!

The average weight of a 10-year-old girl is 70.4 lbs. The average weight of an adult male is 189 lbs. That's roughly three times the weight of the child. The difference between a heavy-weight boxer and a light-heavyweight boxer is just 25lbs (12.5% mass difference). In terms of a boxing match, this would be like a 150 lb. man boxing a 450 lb. man, all-muscle. The absurdity of describing the officer's actions as being defensive or somewhere along the continuum of force (but the alternatives are worse!) does not even rise to the rank of being ludicrous. It is, in fact, disgustingly immoral and reflective of the deep moral decay of our sick culture which cheers rampant state-violence.

If you can defend the actions of this officer (and the mother's suggestion that the officer take this course of action), you are not ignorant or misguided or mistaken or just see things differently. You are deeply immoral and your stance reflects an utter lack of conscience.

Murray Rothbard on the Power Elite

Listen to the Rothmeister (right-click and download, takes about 10 minutes to download) explain the real power structure underlying American politics for the last century or so.

What is private property?

POSTED: NO TRESPASSING

When you hear the phrase "private property", you might think of those obnoxious red-and-black signs intended to evoke the image of a grumpy old hermit in a ramshackle house with a shotgun and two Dobermans ready to shoot on sight anyone who dares cross his property. In the Austrian tradition of economics, this is not what is meant by the phrase "private property".

Property is an exclusive right to use a physical resource. Some people (including some Austrian economists) hold that classes of physical objects (such as images, texts, motion pictures, inventions, blueprints, and so on) can be property but I think this is a categorical mistake and results from a fundamental failure to really grasp what property is.

Ask yourself, why is there property? Our nearest living evolutionary relatives have little or no concept of property. Somewhere between the time we parted ways on the evolutionary tree and today, humans began to engage in behavior that implied a conception of property. Property arose because it serves the purpose of conflict-avoidance by acting as a generally recognized heuristic allocating scarce physical objects to the exclusive control of one or another individual. If you pick up my camera from a seat at the airport, I will probably only need to say, “excuse me, that’s mine” to settle the matter of whether you may use it. There are many conflict-avoidance schemes in human affairs, from religious rituals to social customs. When someone says, “Pardon me” after bumping into you in a hallway, the odds of a physical conflict arising as a result of the mishap are lower than they otherwise would be. From the standpoint of biology, it should be clear to see how persons who engage in conflict-avoidance strategies have a reproductive advantage over those who do not. David Friedman approaches the problem from a game-theoretic point of view in this essay on property rights.

Property is the division of scarce resources in the physical world into regions (in both space and time) over which individual persons have exclusive control in order to avoid conflicts. There is no such thing as "common property" in this view of property. Common property is simply property in dispute, that is, property over which the boundary lines have not been settled. All disputes, in this view of property, are property disputes (conflicts over the use of scarce resources), a subject I will address in a future post.

Peter Schiff: Obama should learn economics to stop job losses

Peter Schiff discusses Obama's upcoming summit to find the root cause of job losses and come up with a "solution."

Quote:
In the private sector, all individuals have a choice to either work for themselves or someone else. Since labor is far more productive when combined with capital (office equipment, machinery, business models, and intellectual capital), those who lack these assets themselves often choose to work for others who have sacrificed to accumulate them. This increased productivity is shared between the worker and the owner of capital, and both are better off.

However, for one person or company to choose to offer a job to another, there must be an incentive to do so, and they must have the necessary capital. In the first place, employers must commit to paying wages and benefits, comply with government mandates and regulations, and subject themselves to potential lawsuits from disgruntled employees. All of these costs must be measured against the extra profits an employer hopes to earn by hiring an additional worker.

If profit opportunities exist, jobs will be created. Otherwise, they will not. Of course, anything the government does to raise the cost of employment, such as a higher minimum wage, mandated heath care, or greater regulatory burdens, not only prevents new jobs from being created but also causes many that already exist to be destroyed. [Emphasis added]
The solution is for government to stop raising the costs of employing people. Even better, the government could eliminate many of the barriers to employment it currently creates thus lowering the cost of employment. The lower the cost of employment, the more profitable it will be to employ people and the more people will be employed. It's elementary.

John Allen Muhammed (DC sniper) case is fishy

Whenever they execute them quickly, you know there's something fishy. Gore Vidal believes, and persuasively argues, that the government's "Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, acting alone and out of revenge for Waco, bombed the OK City building" story is either false or, at least, substantially different from what really happened. There's an Atlantic article that I read some time back which went over the whole thing in detail and pointed out quite a few subtle inconsistencies in the state's arguments and rather glaring loose ends in the FBI's investigation which were never pursued. McVeigh was rapidly executed (6 years from date of charges!).

Muhammad's case smells fishy in the same way to me. I remember when Ashcroft reassigned his case to Virginia. At that time, I was nearly neocon in my politics and I cheered the decision's obvious purpose to get him executed ASAP. But reflecting back, I see a lot of weirdness about the case against Muhammed.

First, both McVeigh and Muhammad were executed rapidly. If the government has something to hide or has a weak case, the ideal scenario is to eliminate the one person who knows for a fact they are lying as quickly as possible. Second, both McVeigh and Muhammad are veterans. If a sinister splinter group within government, for example, were going to frame or dupe somebody, a veteran would be the obvious choice because you have full access to their records and can select someone that fits the profile you are looking for. Second, the evidence against Muhammad are all things that would not be difficult for members of a clandestine service to fake. This is similar to the kind of evidence on which Oswald and JFK's killer (can't remember the name) were convicted. Third, Muhammad's bizarre opening statement.

My hypothesis: Muhammad was depressed from his inability to see his children very much. He may have committed a variety of crimes for which he was not caught. The rogue element that wanted to frame Muhammad wanted someone who was depressed and who they already knew was guilty of violent crimes, but which the FBI and local police had not yet pieced together. I can imagine someone saying to an FBI investigator, "the next case you solve, don't press charges, just identify the perpetrator and give us his file... and here's a non-descript briefcase... there's another one like it when you get us that file." Once they had selected Muhammad, the rogue element commenced operations. Some black ops type(s) were sent into DC with the mission to make random killings in a specific type of car and gun (matching those which Muhammad used). Once they had incited a sufficient degree of terror, they planted the key evidence which would connect Muhammad with the crimes in other states and lead to Muhammad's capture.

Muhammad was caught through the most improbable of channels, an anonymous tipster (who could possibly have known if Muhammad was running as tight a ship as the government alleges??) told a priest to look into an open case in another state. The priest then reported the tip to the cops who eventually matched Muhammad's prints found at one of the scenes to the crime in the other state and fingered Muhammad. This is far more complicated than a pulp-fiction detective mystery novel! I'm not saying it's impossible, but it is highly unlikely, dramatic and unusual. As complex as my hypothesis is, it's not any more complex than the state's hypothesis and the motives of the actors involved actually make sense.

The rogue element planted the necessary evidence then pointed the cops to Muhammad who then immediately picked him up. Muhammad may have had his hands dirty to some degree or another judging by his opening statement given in court - he never protests his innocence. He only claims no connection with the DC shootings. I haven't dug into the evidence of the other crimes, so who knows, he may be guilty as sin. Knowing his kids were his weak spot, the rogue element secretly spoke with him (posing as investigators) and let him know that his children would be safe if he just plea-bargained (i.e. accepted death sentence).

There's definitely something fishy with this DC sniper thing. On the face of it, it just doesn't make any sense. The prosecution can't even offer a coherent theory of his motive, first claiming he was shooting random people in DC to "scare" his wife back in Washington state. Then, they later claimed he was doing it to collect ransom money, based on the testimony of some agent who claims he spoke with Muhammad on the phone (!) and Muhammad made demands for money to stop the shootings. Read Muhammad's opening statement, the lights are very much on upstairs, theories of erratic or random behavior just don't hold water with me. The more I learn, the less I believe people ever act without a reason that, with effort, can be understood by anyone willing to apply critical thinking to the matter.

P.S. - For those who read my 9/11 numerology post, I just found two more! McVeigh was executed on 6/11/2001... 611, and, I realized that the USS Cole attack date, 10/12 could be "112" since, in occultic numerology, you ignore all zeros. Slowly, but surely, I'm connecting the dots!!

Gun control

I've posted on gun control in the past. Here are reproductions of those posts for your consideration.

I propose that most people reason about gun control in the following manner:

- Guns enable the more efficient production of violence, much like textile machines enable the more efficient production of clothing
- Since violence is undesirable, we should want its production to be as inefficient as possible. This is in contrast to the production of desirable things, like clothing, which we want to be as efficient as possible.
- Obviously, it's impossible for guns, once invented, to be wished out of existence entirely since someone will always produce them, and the fewer there are, the greater the incentive to do so.
- Therefore, we should desire the fewest number of owners of guns possible since this will make the production of violence less efficient for all but the few persons/organizations which do own guns. And, we can then turn our attention more fully to the oversight of these few gun holders.

However, I think that this analysis is deeply flawed in that it misidentifies what it is that guns (and other weapons) actually produce. Guns do not produce violence, per se. Rather, weapons are used in the production of security. This mistake arises as a result of thinking about guns and other weapons primarily in their offensive capacity rather than in their defensive capacity.

Security is the nullification or dissuasion of violence and violent threats to persons or property. Many technological devices are used in the production of security - locks, cameras, vaults, fences, keypads, burglar alarms, motion detectors and, of course, weapons.

Deadly force is the "last line of defense" in any security scheme because almost any passive technological measure can be defeated if the attacker has free and clear access without fear of violent assault. A properly equipped crew (thermite torches or semtex) can dispatch even the beefiest bank vault in a matter of hours. It is the imminent violent assault which would be launched against such a crew which deters them from trying it. The violent assault nullifies the attack against the bank's property by potentially rendering the attackers lifeless and, therefore, inactive.

Hence, all physical security is ultimately founded on the potential for the use of deadly force to stop an attack. A world of violence-free security is purely fictional.

If we reason about weapons (and their application, violence) as means for the production of a positive good - security - then we realize that we should not desire there to be the fewest number of producers possible. In fact, like any other good, we should desire the production of security to be as competitive as possible. This will ensure the highest quality and lowest price by forcing producers to fiercely compete with one another for customers.

Good security minimizes attacks, thereby minimizing the need to resort of violence to stop attacks. Therefore, efficient (competitive) production of security minimizes violence. This means that widespread weapon ownership and competitive production of security services (including the use of deadly force) should be expected to tend to a minimum of violence.

So:

- Gun control advocates and (thinking)* gun freedom advocates both agree that violence is undesirable
- Gun control advocates and gun freedom advocates disagree on the conditions under which violence is minimized
- Therefore, the debate should center on the reasons and evidence for the conditions under which the production of security is most efficient (i.e. the conditions under which the production of violence is minimized) and not on abstract states of affairs which are assumed to produce conditions of minimal violence

Now, let's say gun control advocates are right: guns kill people and more guns means more people getting killed. After all, this is not completely unreasonable, guns do kill things (including people) and we might surmise that the more there are, the more people will get killed. But let's assume that all the evidence is on the side of the gun-control advocate. Does it then follow that we should trust the government to control guns?

Enter critical thinking. The part of critical thinking that I did not learn in school, college, from family or friends is that of incorporating motive into understanding the things that other people say. Henry Hazlitt says in the opening paragraph of his famous book Economics in One Lesson,

Quote:
"The inherent difficulties of [economics] would be great enough in any case, but they are multiplied a thousandfold by a factor that is insignificant in, say, physics, mathematics or medicine - the special pleading of selfish interests. While every group has certain economic interests identical with those of all groups, every group has also, as we shall see, interests antagonistic to those of all other groups. While certain public policies would in the long run benefit everybody, other policies would benefit one group only at the expense of all other groups. The group that would benefit by such policies, having such a direct interest in them, will argue for them plausibly and persistently. It will hire the best buyable minds to devote their whole time to presenting its case. And it will finally either convince the general public that its case is sound, or so befuddle it that clear thinking on the subject becomes next to impossible."
And remember that the government, the police and military in particular, comprises a special interest (contrast public employees' retirement benefits with taxpayer interests, and so on).

So:

- Special interests will, predictably, argue "plausibly and persistently" the case for policies which benefit themselves even at the expense of all other social interests

- The government itself comprises a special interest

With this in mind, let's go back to the question of whether gun control is a good idea, even if advocates of gun control are correct that more guns = more deaths. One of the foremost proponents of gun control is the government itself. State police agencies spend large amounts of money in buyback programs to "get guns off the street", a lot of money is spent on the ATF and similar agencies and taskforces whose job is to investigate "gun crimes", and so on. Anti-gun education programs are paid for out of police budgets.

The state has an interest in maintaining a monopoly on the legitimate use of force. If it maintains such a monopoly, then its will cannot be opposed since it alone possesses the means to kill without consequence. Combined with a monopoly on decision making, the will of the government is nearly omnipotent. Together, these monopoly powers enable the government to maintain a system of unopposed property confiscation (taxation) with which to perpetually fund its dual monopolies on force and decision-making. A lot of you may find such a cynical view of government to be repulsive but is this emotion or reason? Does the government not have an interest in maintaining these monopoly powers? If so, on what evidence or reason do you base your argument?

Given that the state is a foremost proponent of gun control and given that the state has a vested interest in gun control (elimination of competition with its monopoly on force), we should view its arguments - whether delivered directly through officials or through political proxies - with a heavy dose of skepticism. In addition, we should view any proposal that attempts to solve the problem of "more weapons = more deaths"* by increasing government monopolization of the means of force (weapons) with skepticism.

Assuming gun control advocates are right, I don't have an alternative solution to the "more weapons = more deaths" problem, but I am skeptical that increased government control of weapons really results in less deaths. This does not mean I cannot be convinced on clear and persuasive evidence, but pointing to random statistics that show a correlation between this or that guns vs. deaths statistic doesn't make the case, in my view. Something approaching a hypothesis establishing cause and effect needs to be shown - I'm willing to grant that more weapons = more deaths for the sake of argument, but I need to see a rational hypothesis on why I should believe that more government monopolization of weapons = less deaths.

Now, for some history. We speak of "gun control" today, but that's only because firearms are the "state of the art" in personal combat and defense. In times past, it was swords, bows, knives and other personal combat weapons that the government sought to control. Some locales are more serious than others about controlling non-firearms weapons but, today, we largely regard such weapons with a measure of amusement more than anything. Not so 1500 years ago when - as discussed in this LRC article - Byzantine Emperor Justinian I imposed severe weapons controls:

Quote:
It was January 13, 532 AD when the anger of Justinian’s subjects reached a fevered pitch in what is known as the Nika riots. When it was all over Justinian was still in power but some 30,000 who had opposed him were dead; leaving Justinian free to enforce his brand of law.

Among Justinian’s laws, is Title XIV, Concerning Arms, Eighty-Fifth New Constitution (P.313) in which we find the following:

Chapter I

"Therefore, desiring to prevent men from killing each other, We have thought it proper to decree that no private person shall engage in the manufacture of weapons, and that only those shall be authorized to do so who are employed in the public arsenals, or are called armorers; and also that manufacturers of arms should not sell them to any private individual…"

Chapter III

"Therefore, God directing Our thoughts, We decree by the present law that no private individual, or anyone else whosoever shall, in any province or city of Our Empire, have the right to make or sell arms, or deal in them in any way, but only such as are authorized to manufacture them can do so, and deposit them in Our armory…"

Chapter IV

"But in order that what has been forbidden by Us to private persons and all others may become clear, We have taken pains to enumerate in this law the different kinds of weapons whose manufacture is forbidden. Therefore We prohibit private individuals from either making or buying bows, arrows, double-edged swords, ordinary swords, weapons usually called hunting knives, those styled zabes, breast-plates, javelins, lances and spears of every shape whatever, arms called by the Isaurians monocopia, others called sitinnes, or missiles, shields, and helmets; for We do not permit anything of this kind to be manufactured, except by those who are appointed for that purpose in Our arsenals, and only small knives which no one uses in fighting shall be allowed to be made and sold by private persons…"
Sound familiar? Why does anyone need anything other than .22 rifles for target practice or sports competition? Or maybe farmers can have some .223s for rodent control. Or maybe sportsmen can have same rifles for hunting deer or ducks. "... only small knives which no one uses in fighting shall be allowed to be made and sold by private persons." Only weapons which no one uses for fighting... Assault Weapons Ban. I find the prohibition on the private manufacture and sale of breastplates particularly striking in its resemblance to the regulations on the manufacture and sale of body-armor. How are breast-plates (or body armor) a danger to anyone? Why does the state have an interest in not only disarming us, but leaving us unable to protect ourselves - even by purely defensive means - from armed criminals (including itself)?

The state is always seeking to solidify its monopoly on force. When viewed through this lens, it is clear that gun control has nothing to do with saving lives, unless you accept the very dubious hypothesis that "government monopoly on guns = saving lives". The horrific stories of berserk individuals shooting up malls or places of employment with guns are truly heart-breaking, but does solidifying the state monopoly on force actually prevent or reduce the occurrence of such incidents while not increasing the occurrence of other incidents (such as police shootings of innocents, etc.)?

The question of whether gun control is a net benefit to society is a difficult one to answer and the gun control advocate had better do due diligence to demonstrate it. Just citing some random statistics that purport to show a correlation between availability of firearms and firearms-related deaths doesn't cut the mustard. You need to explain to us why we should look past the obvious self-interest of the government in monopolizing the means of force (weapons) and how exactly the long-term effects of gun control laws on all groups results in a reduction of the incidence of violence and/or death.

A curious bit of flag history ... and some flippant speculations

So, it turns out that the US flag is actually an adaptation of the flag of the East India Company, a private corporation granted monopoly license under the British Crown. Originally, rebels were turning the flag on its side and affixing some stars as an emblem of the rebellion. George Washington later introduced a version of the flag that put it back in its correct orientation, with the cross of St. George redacted.



Have you ever asked yourself why Washington, D.C. is not part of the 50 states? The answer is simple: It is actually the property of a corporation granted monopoly privileges by the British Crown... the US Federal Government is actually a sister corporation of the British East India Company! We have been a British colony all along and only a small number of people on the inner circle of Washington (and London) have known about this... the first to know would have been our first President, Mr. Freemason himself, George Washington. When King George could not hold onto the colonies any longer by force, he decided to hold onto them through subtlety. He sent agents from London to buy out and corrupt the so-called "Founding Fathers" on the condition that they consolidate the 13 colonies under the umbrella of a more easily controlled Federal government. By controlling this puppet government, the British Crown could keep all the American colonies in line and all without the active resistance of the Americans themselves, with the hand of the monarch now hidden behind a Constitution, Congress, Bill of Rights and so on.

The war of 1812, then, should be interpreted as an attempt at a silent secession by the Federal government, which it ultimately lost. The Crown retained control over Washington and it continued to do the Crown's bidding. All the hand-wringing by Lincoln about the possibility of British recognition of the Confederacy was just disinformation. As CEO of the Federal Government holding corporation created in 1789, he was the Crown's handservant and the Crown would not tolerate the loss of its colonies.

There are just a handful of wholly private, sovereign patches of land throughout the globe: the City of London - a 1 sq. mi. wholly private block with port access carved out from London, England - Washington, D.C. (also with port access) and the Vatican, that I know of. Is London the handservant of the Pope, just as Washington is of the Crown? Bear in mind the Vatican actually maintains embassies in most countries in the world and has its own intelligence (i.e. "spy") service. The Pope looks like an impotent old man. He is a lot more powerful than he looks.

Let's ban declawing! No, let's ban bans on declawing!

Only in California.

I posted this story because it beautifully illustrates the dynamics of how political power, special interests and pet peeves (pun intended) interact to create the ramshackle hodge-podge of statutory laws, layers of (often contradictory) regulations and bureacracies we call "government".

Here's the long and short of the story. A local city councilman is horrified when he learns what declawing actually is (amputation from the last knuckle down), only learning after having had his cat declawed. So, he decides - "lefty" that he is - that he should do his best to ban declawing in the city.

This idea begins spreading around to other cities and veterinarians grow concerned. So, to head off the locals, the state veterinary association petitions the state government to pass a law banning bans of declawing! And now, local governments are scrambling to implement their bans before the ban of bans (try not to get confused) is passed.

The one person who was not consulted in all of this is the consumer. The veterinary association has acted, as all merchant associations do, to wield its concentrated political power to keep the business interests of its members from being interfered with. What is unique about this case, and what makes it a great object lesson on the true nature of political power, is that this all stems from the personal outrage of one, lone lawmaker who failed to do his homework before bringing his cat to the vet for declawing. The lawmaker's agenda is blatantly fascistic, imposing his private dictatorial will on the community by banning provision of a service that people demand (we know they demand it because they are willing to pay for it).

And the response of the veterinary association is a picture perfect illustration of how mercantile special interests operate hand-in-hand with big government. The bigger government is more immune to local sentiments and more in tune with money. So, special interests are able to ram through measures that some, or even most, local jurisdictions do not want but which will be profitable for the special interest (most Federal commercial regulations fit this description). In fact, what other motivation is there for passing a law at a certain jurisdiction level except to override the distributed judgment of smaller, local jurisdictions?

It's obviously absurd to ban declawing. But it's equally absurd to ban bans of declawing. The solution to this mess could not be more simple: If you think declawing is cruel don't get your animal declawed. But you have no business forcing those who want to get their cat declawed to drive 250 miles or ship their animal to get it done (which is what would actually happen). But even if you (like me) think local jurisdictions should not ban declawing, the state has no business banning such bans. The inevitable result is that, yes, there will be some quirky jurisdictions that do ban it. So what? As veterinarians relocate, those quirky jurisdictions will bear the full weight of their own quirky decisions. While the declawing-banning cat-loving city councilman who started this whole thing in California is a petty fascist, it can never be an improvement of the state of affairs to remove the decision-making yet further away from those who are affected by the decision-making. The veterinary association has made things even worse by going over the heads of the local governments to ban bans of declawing at the state level. We should prefer that decisions be made as close to the region and the persons by whom the costs and benefits of such decisions will be felt. Otherwise, human nature creates fascist ban frenzy (Caution: some language).

The question the media won't ask about Ft. Hood incident

"What is the US government doing in Iraq and Afghanistan that is driving men like Hasan and, earlier, Akbar to kill their fellow soldiers out of rage against the US government and its military?" The official line, "they went nuts" just isn't reasonable. Neither is the Israeli-esque suggestion that they were brainwashed by clerics. Maybe you can believe that, in one case, someone just went nuts and started shooting people up for no reason. But this is now a pattern. This has happened on more than one occasion. A (presumably) Muslim member of the US Armed Forces starts shooting/blowing up fellow soldiers in what can only be interpreted as an act of one-man-war* against the US military in retaliation for its actions in Iraq and Afghanistan. What are these men seeing that our media is not showing us?

Please don't get me wrong, I'm not expressing anything other than moral outrage and condemnation of this man's actions. Murder is murder. But events so terrible as to drive someone to commit murder-suicide to get the attention of the public should be investigated by the media. Instead, our so-called mainstream media will blank this question out as they do any meaningful question that might get to the root of problems within the government-media complex. It's time that we Americans start holding the media responsible. Shut your television off, stop surfing the big name media sites. Read overseas news. Watch YouTube clips from Russia Times or even the BBC. The US media has zero credibility. They think you are all idiots, even if you are well educated, you're an idiot because you can't think outside the invisible box they put you in. It's all a game to them. But when a dozen people are murdered and dozens more wounded, PTSD doesn't cut it, asymptomatic schizophrenia doesn't cut it, clerical brainwashing doesn't cut it. Stop eating up the garbage the MSM feeds you and start thinking for yourself.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are imperialist wars and the behavior of the US government directly reflects its imperialist aims. This has nothing to do with saving Iraqis or exporting freedom, democracy and all that jazz - we've killed roughly 100,000Iraqi civilians in 6 years. If that's not a genocide, I don't know what is. Yes, I said it. Your government is committing genocide all the while strutting about the world stage as if it has some kind of moral authority. It's high time that Americans started introspecting a bit about throwing support behind wars against countries they can't even find on the globe.

On a closing note, my support for the Afghanistan and, later, Iraq war extended clear up through 2007. I am not being sanctimonious. My process of introspection started from a completely unrelated study of economics which resulted in a transformation in my view of human affairs. Most people will not take the route to understanding the evil of this war that I took but no matter which route you take, it will not happen overnight. If you consider yourself a "conservative", I recommend you go back and take a look at the conservative principles of the Founding Fathers, many of whom were strict non-interventionists. We've allowed our government to become involved in the politics of empire. In the process, our political system has been corrupted. The only way out is a general shift in the attitudes of Americans about the imperial globe-strutting of the US government. Until there is a shift in attitudes, our Presidents will continue trying to play Caesar and America (the people, not the government) will be bankrupted and parceled out to foreign creditors.

This is how fascism works

Found this little gem linked on lewrockwell.com. The author of the article describes in breathless language, "a bedroom door bangs open and two men in black bulletproof vests storm shouting into the kitchen. 'Broward Sheriff's Office!'" as swat-clad officers take down a major menace to society... (dun, dun, DUNNNN): the unlicensed contractor.

Here's the reason that deploying paramilitary cops against people who perform construction work without a license from government is justified: ""We try to stick to people doing work that could cause safety issues. If you improperly install exterior doors, they could blow in during a hurricane," said Det. Daniel Belyeu, of BSO's economic crimes unit." That is very serious. Why are we relying on the local sheriff to take care of this problem? We should really bring in the national guard, or even better, the 20,000 US soldiers permanently deployed within the US, or even better yet, we should call in Delta force or one of the other black-ops units whose names none of us know. People could die, this is serious stuff... and there's been lots of complaints:

"Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach county residents filed 603 complaints with the state about unlicensed construction professionals last year, and 141 complaints about electrical professionals. Regulators expect more as South Florida's slumping economy leaves more construction workers unemployed and looking for odd jobs - and more homeowners looking for cut-rate work." Now wait a minute, who is doing this complaining? I'm sure customers also register complaints for licensed contractors... why is there any reason to believe the complaints about unlicensed contractors constitute a greater proportion of the jobs performed by unlicensed contractors than the proportion of jobs performed by licensed contractors which result in complaints? And, even if it is higher, what's the big deal, they hired the cheaper guy in order to save money, if he doesn't do as good a job, what were you expecting??

Obviously, it's not the customers who are doing the complaining. It's the other licensed contractors who went through all the expense of obtaining and maintaining that state license. "Belyeu, also a certified electrical contractor, played the father and was wired to record his conversations with the contractors." The guy running the sting is a licensed contractor! Surprise! Welcome to fascism, people. This is what fascism is: "Get permission to do anything - just like the rest of us did - or expect paramilitary psychos wielding fully automatic weapons to kick down your door, hog-tie you and drag you to jail."

Think about this: While every action you take, as a member of society, must be justifiable, not every action must be justified. That is, while it is true that you should be able to defend your actions in a court of law if someone brings a complaint against you, that doesn't imply that you must always seek permission before acting. We have become a permit/license society where you must beg the state's permission to engage in any economic production on the grounds that you could engage in shoddy business practices. Well, so do licensed people (where else do the majority of civil cases come from?)... seeking permission does not guarantee justifiable behavior, nor does it increase the likelihood that someone will not do shoddy work. The very concept of begging someone's permission to be allowed to engage in production of a good or service that a customer is willing to pay you to produce is an offense against reason. And the logic of permits and licenses, which seems on the surface to be innocuous, leads straight to the situation described in Florida, with the State kicking in people's doors and hauling them to jail for what? For trying to do things people need done at a lower price by avoiding the State's red tape games. How dare they! Lock them up and throw away the key!!

Carl Sagan on the futility of empire

Carl Sagan, on the event of the Voyager probe's distant image of Earth, called the "Pale Blue Dot", said the following (excerpt):

"Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds."

Rivers of blood, indeed.

Rights versus social engineering

In another thread about a video discussing the International Planned Parenthood Foundation (IPPF), the issue of rights has come under discussion.

Taken separately, most of the statements excerpted from the IPPF's declaration on sexual rights are relatively innocuous and I don't understand the outrage directed towards them. However, the general unease of evangelical conservatives towards the IPPF's agenda is not completely unfounded because the IPPF (and, locally, Planned Parenthood) really is not a human rights organization. Founded by big-mouthed eugenicist Margaret Sanger, Planned Parenthood's agenda was originally to reduce the birth rate of undesirable populations (Google "Negro Project") by making birth control readily available (preferably free) and educating (indoctrinating) on its use.

Eugenics is one of the most egregious failure of social engineering. Social engineering is the attempt to use government to bring about a certain outcome within the social order. Most social engineering projects are motivated by the desire to achieve ends that are, prima facie, desirable. Three-strike laws, hate-crime laws and firearms sentencing kickers, for example, are social engineering laws whose intent is to bring about a crime-free society. Any decent person would like society to be crime-free. In fact, we might state this a little more strongly, that every person has a right to live in a crime-free society. So, it's imperative for a moral government to implement laws which will eradicate crime.

But the problem with defining rights in accordance to the aims of social engineering is that it always results in half-hearted rights. For example, reproductive rights organizations are generally opposed to polygamy and often prostitution, in line with the belief that polygamous society and societies with prostitution result in reduced rights for women. But this is obviously inconsistent - if individuals ought to be free to have sexual relations as they see fit, so long as they are not being coerced directly or indirectly, then any sexual arrangement which people choose to form is by right. This half-heartedness can be found in all forms of "rights" that originate from social-engineering projects.

While the horror of evangelicals at the idea of sexual/reproductive freedom is unfounded, the general apprehension about the sincerity of IPPF and similar organizations who claim to favor "sexual rights" is justified. Any organization whose purpose is to engineer a "better" society will inevitably run amok of individual rights.

Democracy is immoral

In this article, Bob Higgs indicts the moral deficiency of democracy - it is no different than the moral deficiency of any form of government. The root problem is a double-standard where one set of moral rules governs one class of people and another set of moral rules governs everybody else.

As I explained recently in another post, the root problem lies in a grave misunderstanding of law. Law is a system for non-violent resolution of real disputes. Real disputes (not just academic disputes) can only occur where there is scarcity (Hoppe). You and I cannot have a real dispute over air or salt-water (or religious ideas or logical beliefs) because there is a super-abundance of each of these, in nature. Real disputes concern who has the exclusive right to control (use, dispose of) a particular scarce resource.

There are two possible ways to resolve a dispute. First, is by martial contest: the winner takes the spoils. This is how scarce resource disputes are decided in the rest of the animal kingdom. For humans, there is a second alternative, and that is by verbal debate, or non-violent resolution of the dispute. The terms of verbal debate, in turn, rely upon the linguistic capabilities of humans... our ability to make deductions, our ability to form analogies and make metaphors, our ability to recall the past, and so on. The impetus for resolving disputes non-violently is to avoid the costs and risks associated with violence. "Rights" exist as a concept within the realm of non-violent dispute resolution, that is, law.

Right and wrong, morality, as it pertains to interpersonal disputes (not personal beliefs about how one should act under any circumstances) must, by definition, reject any argument which rests on force. In logic, this is called the "argument ad baculum" fallacy or "argument by force" fallacy. But, in law, it's not merely a fallacy, it's actually a departure from the realm of law (non-violent dispute resolution) into martial contest (violent dispute resolution).

Democracy ultimately rests, like any government system, on a two-tiered morality that derives its justification from the appeal to force (the majority is more powerful than any minority). Democracy, like any form of government, is immoral and ultimately lawless. Law is that which applies to the behavior of all men, without exception or distinction. No one would willingly agree to resolve their disputes non-violently in a court which did not acknowledge the principle of universalizability (Golden Rule), so any system of governance which employs a moral double-standard (rejects universalizability) is ultimately founded on the simple calculation that those in power could defeat those who object to present policy in any martial contest.

What's wrong with the world? Women trying to get to the World Series

Oh boy, I'm sure glad the cops are keeping us all safe from this predator. With the American economy crashing down around our knees, a collapse unwittingly engineered by the "genuises" on Wall St. (while the Marie Antoinettes in Washington extend the Bush spending frenzy into the Obama era like there's no tomorrow, crying "let them eat cake!"), with a prison population of 1% of the entire US population, with growing social ills and tensions, with cops that are deploying paramilitary weapons and tactics against civilian protesters (Pittsburgh G20)... Susan Finkelstein's desperation to get to the World Series and how she intended to go about getting there is what is wrong with the world.

Let's not lose sight of what's really important, what's really wrong with the world and that is Susan Finkelstein. May she rot in prison and never be let out!

Walter Williams: distrust of government is what made America unique

Walter Williams, in this article, pillories the power grabbing American government and critiques the debates surrounding bailouts (and, I would add, war) as never going above the political tactical question of whether Congress and the President can maneuver toward the desired objective without losing too much popularity. Politics in America has gone from distrust of government's ability to respect the rights of individuals to a moral nihilism whereby the only check on government power is the potential for popular revolt or civil war.

Government is a dangerous servant and a terrible master. Liberals should be careful what they wish for in government interventions into the economy. Conservatives should be careful what they wish for in government interventions into foreign affairs. Both prongs of government action empower the permanent bureaucracy and increase the control government has not only over our mercantile but our hedonic activities.

Even though he didn't practice what he preached, Reagan spoke the truth when he said that government is not the solution to our problems, government is the problem. It doesn't need to be reformed, it needs to be ruthlessly beaten back like overgrown weeds in a garden. If you value personal liberty to think and speak as you see fit without government telling you what to do or if you value personal liberty to do business and engage in private exchange of property as you see fit without government telling you what you can and cannot do (and taking their cut), then you need to join the revival of old-fashioned American skepticism towards government. As many people on this forum know, I am not merely skeptical of government, I believe it is evil and must be abolished. But I understand most people find that to be absurd. But even if you find complete abolition of the state apparatus to be absurd, you should at least be able to exercise critical thinking and skeptical analysis of the government's actions. It's what made our country great. Start doing it; our country could be great again.

H1N1 vaccines: the real failure

As always, the failure is government. This should never be surprising yet people never fail to be amazed when the government fails and, incredulous that government failures can be indicative of a deeper problem with government qua government, turn to blame everything in the world except government.

Despite the conspiracy theories on this forum, the reality is that the demand for flu vaccines is real and, in particular, the demand for H1N1 vaccines is real. I see lines of co-workers in the cafeteria getting the jab. I forgo the flu vaccines each year and suffer for it. This is because I believe it's good for my immune system to get a full-body workout once in a while but those flu shots are looking better and better each year. Now that my kids are entering school this year, I'm really re-thinking the flu shot.

To ascribe to the government an over-arching conspiracy to engineer and release H1N1 and then brainwash us through the media to go get the shots is to give them far too much credit for competency. In reality, government bungles everything it touches. The only real competency government has is war and, in the last five decades or so, even that it cannot get right.

We should not discount the possibility of the commission of biological crimes. From what I have read, it does not require a great deal of capital to culture and manufacture deadly biological agents, such as Anthrax. I think it is good that we have detailed epidemiological investigation into new strains of flus and other bugs. Medical manufacturing corporations have a real interest in releasing infections for which they have the exclusive cure, so long as they can be sure not to get caught in the act. And, as always, we cannot rule out the government itself as a suspect in these cases. Western governments possess the largest biological weapons knowledge capital. The US Army's Anthrax is what was used in the 2001 Anthrax scare, one month after 9/11. Whether a co-conspiracy with the 9/11 attacks or the act of a copy-cat, the potential for misuse of the biological weapons cache and know-how within the US and other Western governments is an ever-present danger, especially given the large revenue boost that the public gives the government in the wake of catastrophic attacks.

Wisconsin bans text messaging: an object lesson in pre-crime

This article exemplifies many of the processes by which bad laws are rationalized:

Quote:
MADISON, Wis. — All Wisconsin drivers, not just teenagers, would be banned from sending text messages while driving under a bill that passed the state Senate on Tuesday.

Lawmakers approved a bill 27-5 that would prohibit drivers from using a text message device such as a cell phone, I-Phone, or Blackberry. The penalties would be between $20 and $400, the same as disorderly driving.

The ban passed after lawmakers balked at the initial proposal affecting only drivers under age 18. Some senators said if texting were dangerous for young drivers, it was dangerous for all motorists.
Because there is no correlation between inexperience and probability of collision.

Here, there is a false appeal to equality, that is, by reasoning that unequal things (more experience and less experienced drivers) are equal. Driving at freeway speeds may not be safe for many 17 year olds but is safe for most 37 year olds who drive. Hence, it clearly follows that we should ban all speeds above 35 mph.

Quote:
"Why are we resistant to protect all of the population regardless of their age?" asked Sen. Mike Ellis, R-Neenah.
Here's the age-old "protection" argument - how can anyone be opposed to saving life? Since it is obvious that this bill saves lives (it is?), anyone who opposes it is opposing the saving of lives. And who can be against saving lives?

Quote:
A similar proposal in the Assembly has been introduced but not yet heard in committee.

Opponents argued that texting, just like putting on makeup or searching for loose change, is already covered under the state's disorderly driving law.
We are going to make it doubly illegal! It's like those catch-all charges like "obstruction of justice", "resisting arrest," "interfering with a police officer in the performance of his duties" that can be tacked onto any charge just to add more jail time or increase fines or both.

Quote:
It will also be nearly impossible for a police officer to determine if someone is texting, said Sen. Neal Kedzie, R-Elkhorn.
All he has to do is give his "professional judgment".

Quote:
"There's a limit as to how many laws you need before we have laws on the books that are unenforceable," he said.
Who cares about enforceability? Next on the agenda... outlawing poverty! Enforcement of laws is immaterial to the question of showing properly proscriptive gusto.

Quote:
Supporters said a law would get the public's attention.
Exactly, since that is the purpose of laws... to get the public's attention. Of course, the public doesn't pay attention to laws that they don't get ticketed or fined under. So, this is a clear threat that they intend to issue plenty of tickets under this law.

Quote:
"We all know that texting while driving is dangerous behavior," said Sen. Mark Miller, D-Monona.
Maybe for pampered lawmakers whose driving experience amounts to the trip to the nearby 7/11 at midnight when their paid driver isn't available.

Quote:
"But if it's illegal, most of us will change our behavior."
Yes, because people predictably stop doing whatever the government outlaws. *AHEM*pot*AHEM*

Quote:
The Senate's vote comes as momentum increases nationwide to address the problem of distracted driving.

The first laws banning text messaging while driving passed in New Jersey and Washington in 2007. Since then, nine states have passed laws banning texting for young drivers and 19 states have banned it for everyone, regardless of age, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

States may be feeling pressure from Congress to act as well. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and other Democrats are pushing legislation that would require states to ban texting or e-mailing while operating a moving vehicle — or lose 25 percent of their annual federal highway funding.
And here's where inflation is so important - the Federal government is able to impose a government mono-culture because it can always threaten to cut off Federal grants, which are greater than state revenues exactly because the Federal government has the Federal Reserve to print up the extra money, whereas the state governments have to live only off what they can tax directly from their people.

Quote:
Those who are pushing the laws say it's all about safety.

Nearly 6,000 people were killed and a half-million were injured last year in vehicle crashes connected to driver distraction, including texting, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
0.002% of the US population. Not that these 6,000 lives don't matter, I just fail to see how a) texting is what killed them and b) a law prohibiting texting will save them. Certainly, there must be rules on the road, especially high speed roadways, but methinks this has more to do with empowering cops to tack on an extra $100 fine for having your cell phone in hand when pulled over for whatever. It's just a revenue generator.

Quote:
In July, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that when drivers of heavy trucks texted, their collision risk was 23 times greater. Dialing a cell phone and using or reaching for an electronic device increased risk of collision about six times in cars and trucks, according to the university research.
This is bogus - people who choke on their soda are also many times more likely to be involved in a collision, so I suppose we should outlaw choking on sodas? The point is not that texting while driving is not a risky behavior, of course it is. But so is driving at all. Or drinking water. The point is whether individual drivers or the Federal government is best suited to determine when and to what extent the risk should be engaged in. Perhaps I'm rushing my pregnant wife to the hospital and text her OB. This could contribute to saving a life. The Federal government has no idea whether I made a good choice in texting or not texting. But they do know what generates ticket revenues.

Quote:
The sponsor of the Wisconsin bill, Sen. Alan Lasee, R-DePere, said he was motivated to introduce his proposal after a 2006 car crash in New York that killed five recent high school graduates. Police didn't blame cell phone use for the wreck, but records showed a succession of calls and text messages on the driver's phone minutes before the crash.
"I think this will certainly go a long way to saving innocent lives," Lasee said.
Anecdotal evidence is, always, the most powerful tool of persuasion in the politician's arsenal. The actual, social importance of some policy is irrelevant if you have a heart-wrenching story to tell.

Quote:
Emergency responders, as well as licensed amateur radio operators and those texting to report an emergency, would be exempt.
So, how does the police officer determine whether someone is "texting to report an emergency" - like he's going to peer through the driver window, go "oh, he's handling an emergency, I don't need to pull him over." Sure.

This is just so childish.

Quote:
This is the second time in as many years that the state Senate has passed a texting ban. Last year, the Senate passed a ban for all drivers but it died in the Assembly.

This year's bill has broad support including the Wisconsin State Telecommunications Association, which represents some wireless networks in the state, AAA Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Insurance Alliance and the Wisconsin Sheriffs and Deputy Sheriffs Association.

No one was registered in opposition.
Once something becomes politically unopposable (the opposition can be made to look to be opposed to "saving lives"), there will be no opposition.