Monday, March 29, 2010

The Organization of No

Warren Meyer points out something which should be obvious, though I can't recall ever seeing it articulated so succinctly:

"Government bureaucracies do not exercise power by allowing activities to occur – they only have power, and thus have reason to justify their continued funding and jobs, when they say no. Every incentive that they have is to say no. When a government agency allows progress to proceed smoothly, it is doing so because some person or small group is fighting against the very nature of the organization."

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Dieticians Wrong About Fat, Ignore Processed Carbohydrates

See update below.

Anyone who has been reading about honest nutritional science will not lift an eyebrow when Radley Balko says, "What do you know, the experts may have been wrong again..." to blame saturated fat for cardiovascular disease:

Ultimately, saturated fat...may be neutral for the heart. Meanwhile, some mono-unsaturated fats...and some poly-unsaturated fats...could be good for the heart.


If saturated fat doesn't adversely affect cardiovascular health, what does? Sorry, Nabisco: We should be giving a closer look to foods with a high glycemic index—a measure that reflects a food's influence on blood sugar levels, based on how quickly it is digested and absorbed. Typically, that means carbohydrates like cereal, bread, chips, and cookies.

In a 2000 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Harvard researchers...found that the quintile of women who ate food with the highest glycemic load—a measure that incorporates portion size—had twice the risk of developing heart disease than the quintile who ate food with the lowest glycemic load. A 2008 meta-analysis of 37 studies reported a significant association between intake of high glycemic index foods and increased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, gallbladder disease, and breast cancer.

Read the full article for more details.

Meanwhile, CNN stupidly ignores the role of sugars in an article titled Fatty foods may cause cocaine-like addiction. Ironically, they call processed food "purified" and "evolve[d]" when comparing its addictive qualities to "evolved" drugs like cocaine (as compared to coca leaves).

Look at the ingredients on your box of "low-fat" whole-grain packaged food. You'll see dozens of laboratory chemicals and industrially mutilated plant byproducts. How is that more pure than a grass-fed rib-eye steak? Or a serving of vegetables, nuts, or fruit you buy in their whole, unadulterated form and prepare yourself? And, how can they use the word "evolved" without remembering how the human metabolism evolved almost entirely before agriculture (and definitely before industrial junk food and sedentary TV/Internet lifestyles)?

Eat like our paleo ancestors did, whole foods including fatty meat, fish, vegetables, nuts, and fruit. Skip the packaged stuff. Stay active as much as possible, but don't engage in unnatural aerobic or "cardio" workouts (animals don't run on treadmills--they walk around all the time and occasionally sprint).

Addendum: Mark Sisson gives the lowdown on sugar, how it is so destructive to our health. And still, the "common wisdom" is that fat is the evil.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Some Background on the Window War

A comment at the Walls of the City blog:

I, too have been following Vanderboegh in real time, before his Sipsey Street Irregulars website came into existence, via David Codrea's War on Guns website (which chronicles daily a dozen or more stories of police corruption, particularly with regards to gun laws--the sheer number of articles itself is a very bad reflection on the state of law enforcement) and the Western Rifle Shooters blog.

Vanderboegh wrote about a fictional Window War a decade or so ago, by his reckoning. It was a cautionary tale about gun control in the twilight of the Clinton administration. His repost occurred Feb 2009, just after Obama's inauguration, during the uncertainty of a gang of top administration officials who were far more leftist than anyone before in such high office, who brought with them the brazenly corrupt Chicago-style political thuggery. Couple that with the rotten, power-drunk federal law enforcement agencies, who even during the Bush years were already running amok, and anyone paying attention quickly saw the potential for more Waco and Ruby Ridge incidents (which occurred or started during Bush 41, before Clinton upped the stakes with the scary-looking gun ban).

The Window War has been in the works for a long time. Personally, I believe Vanderboegh is a principled man who is not itching for a fight.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Internecine Criticisms

At Walls of the City I comment on this post, which is a roundup of criticisms of Vanderboegh's Window War:

I wrote a couple posts here and here about your article The Substance of Things, an objectivist critique of Vanderboegh's Window War. I personally think that such tactics are a miscalculation, which run the risk of "copy cats" escalating the subversive acts to things like cutting propane lines to a house (wrong address, actually) or making death threats. As Vanderboegh himself put it (in reference to a different matter), that's the Law of Unintended Consequence--you lose control over how things play out. Innocents get hurt. Bad people exploit the chaos to grab power.

My read of history is that civil disobedience--not just waving signs, but actual non-violent lawbreaking--gets much better results. It puts those in power in the position of showing who they really are, highlighting for the "fence sitters" and unaware just what is wrong with forcing people to buy health insurance, for example.

On the other hand, Roberta X's call "to regroup and plan for elections...for the states to take the matter to court" doesn't strike me as any more productive than the Window War. You can't vote yourself into freedom. Elected officials, by their very nature, will never relinquish power once attained, even if it is at the price of your rights. Trying to win a majority is a losing proposition.

Which lead me directly to your claim that "the government has never been the problem with our country." I could not disagree with you more.

Government was the problem when it ensconced slavery into the Constitution, when it interfered with the free market by imposing a government monopoly on mail delivery (something affecting us this very day), when it made Jim Crow laws, when it engaged in colonialism and foreign interventions (something affecting us this very day), when it imposed one collectivist "reform" or market "regulation" after another. No corporation or non-governmental group has the power of government to trample our rights and to behave unethically (harming the rights of others) purportedly in our name.

Spooner, Garrison, and Thoreau explicated the reasons why the government was wrong, why "its very Constitution is the evil." Government is aggressive force instead of persuasive reason, which by its very nature is immoral.

Now, while I assert that non-violent civil disobedience will likely get better results now than the Window War, the cartridge box or the ballot box...I do not agree with the notion that violence is never the answer. See this post at The Smallest Minority, or the Solzhenitsyn quote Vanderboegh cites here.

I've been reading Vanderboegh for years and I know he has not "been wishing for our backs to be against the wall" nor is he an "extremist... who pleasure[s] [himself] at the thought of another civil war." I may disagree with him about the usefulness of the Window War (and about God and the Constitution at root), but I do have respect for him as a principled individual, unlike those who cut propane lines, make death threats against legislators' family members, etc..

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Silencing the Opposition

MSNBC radio talk show host Ed Schultz, who boasts that he would cheat on elections to keep his party in power, calls for using the Fairness Doctrine to steal the resources that other people pay for to "equalize" radio talk show audience. As he put it: "If we're going to be socialist, lets be socialist across the board." (h/t Drudge)

I don't expect a cretin like him to understand the simple concept of private property--he is so far beyond the reach of reason. Why are the "right-wing" talk show hosts far more successful than "left-wing" hotheads like him or Air America? Because the audience, the consumers, freely choose to listen to what they like, which means most of them don't like his ilk. Imagine Shasta demanding to get an equal share of the cola market, by fiat. You want Coke or Pepsi? Too bad.

Of all the times I've heard assholes like Shultz, Pelosi, Durbin, Harkin, Bill Clinton, et al. (D) call for reinstating talk radio socialism, I've never heard a one of them call for applying the same rules to TV. None of them want to force CBS, MSNBC, CNN, and ABC to run stories about Tea Party protesters and all the nasty negative aspects of the bills (as opposed to the bland reporting they did on the run-up to the House vote). Though, considering how much Fox News blows them away in the ratings, I'm sure they might be willing to force Keith Olberman and Rachel Maddow on millions of people who don't want them.

Beyond the issues of private property and individual choice, I want to know why "equal time" only extends to Democrats and Republicans. Why not libertarians, anarcho-capitalists, Tea Party independents, Naderites, or Bernie Sanders? Hell, what about the Nation of Islam, the Aryan Nation, or al Qaeda? Who decides which voices are valid? Who decides what proportion and why?

I guess if they can't get their socialism across the board, they can knock down radio towers. If that fails, they can pull a Hugo Chavez and just declare the stations illegal.

Social Security Bankrupt

Jacob Sullum at Reason gives us the bad news: Social Security will go negative this year, six years earlier than predicted.

Meanwhile, we start to see the really bad news regarding the consequences of Health Care Deform:

Deere & Co and Caterpillar Inc said they are expecting a combined $250 million in charges this year as a result of changes to the $2.5 trillion U.S. healthcare system that President Barack Obama signed into law this week.

Why do these Democrats act so surprised when the victims start reacting in anger, either symbolically or worse? And, is it any more surprising that the vandalism is directed at both parties?

Now, they're getting warmed up over Cap-and-Trade (i.e., Kneecap Business and Undermine Free Trade). While they're scaling back the House version, they're getting the camel's nose under the tent. In order to force Americans to limit carbon emissions, it has to hurt, and hurt bad, or people will keep doing what they're doing. All of this, of course, is based upon bad science. (If James Cameron wants to call anyone "out into the street at high noon and shoot it out", I'd suggest the weapon to be used be the scientific method of inquiry, which for centuries has necessarily included healthy skepticism in order to move beyond the flat-earth stagnation of "settled" diktats. Mr. Cameron, without any Hollywood glitz, explain feedback and runaway processes in the context of historical data.)

My daughter rolls her eyes when I say, "Want to hear something really scary?" and then proceed to tell her how Social Security will be gone when she retires. She's not interested now, but this fiscal house of cards that's starting to teeter is worse than any R-rated slasher movie I won't let her get at the video store.

Vanderboegh on Colmes

Go listen.

Castro Applauds Obamacare

Oh joy!

Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro on Thursday declared passage of American health care reform "a miracle" and a major victory for Obama's presidency, but couldn't help chide the United States for taking so long to enact what communist Cuba achieved decades ago.

That Glenn Beck sure is craaaazy! All his talk of Socialism. Where does he get that stuff?

P.S.: Some unusual news: Hollywood actors and musicians actually denounce political tyranny going on today in Cuba. Unlike other apologists for mass murder and tyranny.

Escalation at Republican Office

From Fox News:

Republican Rep. Eric Cantor's Richmond campaign office was shot at Wednesday night, Fox News has learned, the latest in a rash of apparent threats and acts of intimidation against members of Congress.

Which brings to mind:

"Hold onto your butts!" -- Ray Arnold (Samuel L. Jackson) in Jurassic Park (1993)

Propane War?

Every time I hit the web, I find more angry fallout from the Democrats' Health Care Deform atrocity--reactions which exceed the relatively weak Tea Party protests. I don't recommend doing these sorts of things--at this point I think peaceful civil disobedience would be the most effective means of getting people to face these issues rationally, with the advantage of being solidly ethical. But it's important to draw distinctions between the incidents, as the media tends to conflate them all together into one big sticky ball of racist, Timothy McVeigh scariness, which they'd like to attach to Tea Party protesters and Republicans in general.

The most prominent of late is the Window War, of which Mike Vanderboegh of Sipsey Street Irregulars takes credit for instigating, or at least inspiring .

There have also been some death threats mentioned in the news--even some cowardly threats against children of lawmakers, for example. So far, these incidents are few in number. Most, if not all, are likely hollow threats, but they do give Democrats lots of sympathy points. Committing a felony like that is just plain stupid, considering how easy it is to trace most of them.

On the Alan Colmes radio show Wednesday evening, I heard Alan speaking with Mike Troxel, who tried to weasel his way out of being held accountable for his actions. Colmes took full advantage of the situation, pressing Troxel to the point that he just sounded stupid. On Colmes' Liberaland:

On my radio show Tuesday night, Mike Troxel (pictured) of the Lynchburg, VA Tea Party defended posting what he thought was the home address of Democratic Congressman Tom Perriello. However, it was the address of Periello’s brother, Bo, that wound up on Troxel’s website. Opponents of health care reform were asked to drop by and “express their thanks” for Periello’s vote. Troxel’s defense was that the Congressman was unreachable at his office, not responding to phone calls, and refusing to explain his pro-heath care reform vote to his electorate. Now, the FBI is investigating the severing of a gas line at the home of Bo Droxel.

More about the incident here. Troxel, if you're going to be putting up addresses, not only should you make sure you've got the one you intend, but you should be man enough to take responsibility for it, instead of offering pathetic explanations like a child who gets caught with cookie crumbs all over his face.

Whoever cut the gas line at that house took it to another level. That could have easily ended up causing casualties. As with McVeigh and Andrew Stack (who flew the plane into the IRS building in Austin), such a blind act makes no effort to avoid harming innocents. I find it utterly despicable.

So, while some people like the window warriors may be trying to act ethically, with measured restraint, they're going to need to work very hard to distinguish themselves from the cowardly idiots. As I a commented at SSI:

Window warriors need to keep in mind a few things: When you're on someone else's property with a brick, you are putting yourself in danger of retaliation to your person (arrest, assault, deadly force). If you're not prepared for such an eventuality, don't pick up the brick in the first place. And, now that the "Window War" has started, don't whine that "...[a]nything they can think of to say is OK. But if you disagree with them you are the scum of the earth." (emphasis mine) Vandalism is not mere words of disagreement. Telling people to commit vandalism is not just words, but a call to action. I think I get why Vanderboegh is citing the threats here, and I don't see him acting like a victim here. I don't think it serves him for anyone else to pretend this is just about words of disagreement at this point.

Vanderboegh has repeatedly stated that he wants the window war to be enough of a warning to stave off a shooting war, like a rattlesnake shaking its tail wants to save its venom and avoid being hurt. I have my doubts, and I think that Billy Beck may very well be right when he wrote, "All politics in this country now is just dress rehearsal for civil war." I think it either comes to that or the once free American individualist becomes an endangered species as this country devolves into just another European-style socialist mess.

P.S.: When reading the comment sections at SSI and elsewhere, be wary of the presence of agents provocateurs, who could be working for law enforcement, Democratic Underground, Daily Kos, etc.. I've seen plenty of remarks purportedly posted by those sympathetic to the window warriors or Tea Party "movement", yammering about courage and whatnot--often from anonymous comments, hilariously enough--that I've no doubt some of them want to see someone else escalate. Vanderboegh has written at length about handling plants in his former militia group, such as those who pretended to have a racist agenda. He reported them forthwith to the authorities whom he suspected of sending the plant in the first place.

Remember, the Democrats just grabbed immense power and they're going to be ruthless about keeping it and shutting down anyone who would dare threaten them. The usual warnings about The Reichstag Fire and Ft. Sumter apply.

"This business will get out of control. It will get out of control and we'll be lucky to live through it." -- Admiral Josh Painter (Fred Thompson) in The Hunt for Red October (1990)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Property Rights Work Both Ways

In the comments section of Vanderboegh's reaction to an objectivist's objections to his "Window War", a few commenters made an obvious point which I wish I'd seen in my previous post:

B Woodman says, "He forgets ... who started stealing from whom first."

An anonymous commenter writes:

Had they applied the same logic to my own property rights (including the money I work so hard to earn) I would not have to resort to using a louder form of persuasion to get their attention. Hello?! Anyone out there? If you take something that belongs to me without my consent then I will do the same to you. Get it yet?

Roger wrote:

...the feral government has taken my personal property by force with the threat of violence for three decades of my life. My hard earned money represents my direct time, my blood, sweat and tears. It is stolen, never to be reclaimed, never to be recovered, and something I can never replace.

Unfortunately, Roger, like many others in the comments, goes on to repeat the bullshit Broken Window Fallacy when he says, "At least with a broken window, it creates jobs. Jobs that are needed." With that sort of inane thinking, we could evacuate a few towns and carpet bomb them to cure unemployment. Destruction of value is destruction of value. It is always a net loss to the owners. The benefit to others (new jobs) comes at a cost to the owners. (Which, in the case of the "Window War" is the point.)

Another anonymous commenter writes:

So by that logic, when the government begins to wage war on our property, they are waging war on our person. I'll accept his premise which would conclude with John Locke's premise on the rights of the people over the government.

Among the rest of the comments, there are the lame attacks on the objectivist author, concocting all sorts of fantasies and straw man arguments. A few collectivist interlopers come in to share their stupidity. But, curiously, a comment I posted early Tuesday never seemed to make it into the bunch. [Update: I resubmitted and it's there now, slightly edited.] See my previous post for the full text.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Shattered Glass

I felt hung over on Monday because I was foolish enough to watch the news all Sunday, holding out hope that the Health Care Deform would be voted down. It's about like watching a train wreck about to happen, holding out hope that the school bus will somehow go 0-80 in 5 seconds to clear the tracks. Or, like watching election returns in 2008, just in case the tracking polls were way off. I at least saved myself some stress by changing the channels whenever a Democrat started spewing ridiculous horse shit. When Pelosi got up, I had to switch over to a Kung Fu movie for awhile, just to clear my brain of that ghoul's smiling visage and grating voice.

Over a decade ago, when I read others predicting impending tyrannies like this, I paid attention, though the vast majority dismissed them in Cassandra-like fashion. I took occasional opportunities here and elsewhere to echo such sentiments.

A few people recognize (for different reasons) that it is useless to hold out hope for a GOP majority in November 2010 and 2012 as a means to reverse this atrocity. For all the clamoring of Tea Partiers, media pundits, and innumerable bloggers, you can't vote your way to freedom. By the nature of democracy, that strategy is ultimately doomed to failure, but if ever there was a chance to put off this disaster for a generation or two, it's long since passed.

Many pragmatists recoil in horror at my decision not to vote. I read babbling about coming up with a better system, the ever-inane "love it or leave it", and, of course, charges that I don't really believe in the principles I espouse because I'm not shooting it out over every violation of my rights.

While I reserve the right to protect my rights and the rights of my family (and perhaps those of my neighbors), I see no value in getting myself or others destroyed for no real gain. Frankly, I would prefer civil disobedience on a massive scale to any sort of violence. As history shows, most civil wars or rebellions come at a heavy cost to innocents, and are almost always exploited by the less principled. "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss." Starving the beast is the best option--if you can avoid its fangs.

At Sipsey Street Irregulars, Mike Vanderboegh is calling for a "Window War" in response to the audacious power grab by the Democrats. It's certainly more provocative than the mostly weak Tea Party demonstrations, though I've yet to see it gathering momentum. Without that momentum, it's a dud, which puts Mike and others in danger of losing their freedom (or worse), for what I consider to be insufficient gain. I recognize that it's their choices to make and I don't expect them to take council from someone like me, who prefers non-violent civil disobedience (whether en masse or on an individual, under-the-radar level).

In response to a post at "Walls of the City", Vanderboegh and a fellow irregular take exception to this so-called pragmatist, whose article contains the very opposite of pragmatism. A response from me:

I didn't see the word "sacred" in his remarks. That seems to be your word, not his. I would use a more common phrase: property rights are inalienable, like the rights to life and liberty.

But inalienable doesn't mean "in all circumstances" nor do I glean from his words that he makes such an argument. Again, those appear to be your words alone.

In addition, I don't see the objectivist argument as "pragmat[ic]" at all. It's the opposite: taking principles to their logical conclusion, instead of abandoning them when convenient (the hallmark of the pragmatist). Don't misconstrue what I just said. I'm not accusing you or brick throwers of abandoning principles, per se. I'd need more information to make such a judgment. The same applies to the objectivist author who, from what I'm seeing, has made some assumptions about intent.

Furthermore, unless the objectivist author has elsewhere expressed a desire "to shoot people for resisting in a way with which he disagrees," it's dishonest to put those words in his mouth.

I want to address some particulars, like the difference between "inalienable" and "in all circumstances."

If some crack head breaks into my house, he is violating my rights, thus his rights are superseded. That's one "circumstance" in which that man's rights don't apply--as a direct consequence of his choice.

It's all about context.

As for violence against property and violence against a person, I think he is correct that it is wrong to draw a moral distinction between the two. Suppose some arsonist burns down the house of an old lady. Take insurance and charity away. The consequence of violence on mere property is that she will die of starvation or exposure. That is effectively violence against her.

If you assert your moral right to do violence against the property of others, you thus assert the right to do violence against their person. For one obvious reason, the property owner may use deadly force against you if he sees you on his property with a brick. By your choice to do violence against his property, you have opened the door to the possibility that you will need to do violence to his person as a consequence of your choice.

Thus I would argue that you don't have cause to do harm to someone's property unless you have cause to do harm to him. That you draw a distinction between the two and decide that you'll do one and not the other, is a tactical decision, a personal value judgment. In effect, you decide to risk your life or liberty to inflict property damage, because you calculate that escalating would do harm to the message you want to send.

In other words, if you assert the right to do harm to the people who have done harm to you and your neighbors (via intolerable acts), but choose to limit your response to property as a tactic and a personal value judgment, you have not abandoned the principle of private property, assuming that your assertion is well-founded. If you consider what the Dems have done to be an initiation of force (by threat and by proxy), then your window breaking would be a reaction, not the initiation of force.

My ancestors fought in the American Revolution, with far less provocation. Personally, I think the Rubicon was crossed long ago and that only the strength of American individualism has proverbially kept Caesar's army from taking Rome until recent years.

Here is my take on the time of death.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Idol Season 9, Female Semi-Finals Week 3

In the top 8 women, there were so many great performances I'm wondering if any men are going to show the sort of talent that will make the Top 12 have any sort of balance. Based upon what I've seen, I'd make the final six contestants include five females and one male, though none of the men stand out as a clear leader over the rest, so it's possible I'm being too generous. A few more weeks will separate the wheat from the chaff.

Of the top four I picked from Tuesday's show, I was hard pressed to decide how to order them. I watched them several times, each time getting goosebumps. I was drawn into each of these four performances. I'd be happy with any of them winning this season. But only one gets the prize, so here's my take:

  1. Crystal Bowersox ("Give Me One Reason" by Tracy Chapman) - One chord gave away the song and her fingers hit every blue note with masterful skill. Even better, her voice. Her rendition surpassed the original. I like Tracy Chapman's music (minus the socialist crap in the song "Talkin' 'bout a Revolution"), but Bowersox showed how to do it even better tonight. From what I've seen, she is the most talented on instruments and the most polished performer. In interviews, she's a bit reserved. I don't have a problem with that, but it may hurt her in the voting.
  2. Didi Benami ("Rhiannon" by Fleetwood Mac) - Like the judges, I was leery of her taking on Stevie Nicks, but her sweet and haunting voice gave the song something new and wonderful. She's not just another pretty face. I previously compared her to Megan Joy (at Megan's best), but this week she moved beyond that comparison. I was reminded a bit of Brooke White from Season 7, whose "Let it Be" was similarly captivating.
  3. Lacey Brown ("The Story" by Brandy Carlile) - Close third. Another sweet and endearing performance. She made it seem effortless to pull off that melody. Even better, she gave it all the right emotions, making great use of the camera. I loved the lyrics to that song and, other than the lack of lines on her face alluded to in the song, she made it believable. If I could make one small change, I'd work on the final crescendo, which didn't quite match the quality of the rest of the song.
  4. Siobhan Magnus ("House of the Rising Sun" by The Animals) - Very close fourth. The other performers did a little better this week due to song choice. But Magnus did a great job with what she chose. Her personality shines through in her interviews and she backs it up with consistent talent. At this point, I'm leaning towards her as my favorite to win this season, though I can't pinpoint why I feel that way. She hasn't played an instrument like most of the others, and that may be a weakness which could change my opinion down the road.
  5. Lilly Scott ("I Fall to Pieces" by Patsy Cline) - Another very unique and charismatic performer. I liked how she changed up the song a bit, but not enough to lose some of the best qualities of the original. She doesn't have the clear, piercing voice of Patsy Cline, but she used what she had to great effect. Her quirky style, including her facial expressions, may be a bit distracting in this competition, as the other performers appear to be more adaptable. But competition aside, she'd stand up just fine on her own in her niche. Based upon tonight's song, she fell behind the leaders, but taking all three weeks of the Semi-Finals together, I'd put her above fifth overall.
  6. Katelyn Epperly ("I Feel the Earth Move" by Carole King) - Good performance, though it suffered by comparison to the original. I agreed with the judge who said it was too copycat, especially her look. She should squeak by this week, but she'll have to bring more to rise to the level of the top five women I chose.

It was heartbreaking for me to see the other two stumble this week, especially Page Miles. She did so much better the previous week. Katie Stevens was my favorite the first week, but she peaked early and has done worse each subsequent week. Considering the talent of the remaining male performers, I'd much rather keep these two and get rid of four of the men.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Idol Season 9, Semi-Finals Week 2

I'm going to combine the Tuesday and Wednesday show. As with the first week, the men are sucking wind trying to catch up to the women.

My top picks, in terms of goodness for this particular performance:

  1. TIE Crystal Bowersox ("Long As I Can See The Light" by CCR) and Lilly Scott ("A Change Is Gonna Come" by Sam Cooke)
  2. - Both gave sterling performances. I would turn up the volume in my car if I heard those performances on the radio. They'll go far in the finals
  3. Siobhan Magnus ("Think" by Aretha) - That note! That freakin' note! Wow! Parts of the song strayed a little from greatness. If she redid it in a recording studio, it would be a hit. Loved the mohawk from her earlier days.
  4. Lee Dewyze ("Lips of an Angel" by Hinder) - Only guy worthy of competing with the women this week.
  5. Katelyn Epperly ("The Scientist" by Coldplay) - It's supposed to be slow, judges. That made it sweet.
  6. Page Miles ("Walk Away" by Kelly Clarkson) - Not my sort of song, but she did it well. Close call between here and Katelyn.
  7. Tim Urban ("Come On Get Higher" by Matt Nathanson) - Surprising comeback. Song was good from start to finish.
  8. Aaron Kelly ("My Girl" by The Temptations) - Another surprising improvement. Nice voice control.

Honorable mentions: Did Benami (didn't deserve the harsh criticism), Katie Stevens (sounds so much better than you'd expect looking at her), and Michael Lynche (not as good as previous week, though).

Disappointments: John Park (I thought he was better than given credit the first week, but he blew it this week), Andrew Garcia (getting weaker), and Haley Vaughn (whose song last week wasn't horrible like this week, despite the critics).

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Police Arrogance and Callousness over SWAT Raids

Radley Balko tears apart a letter to the Baltimore Sun from former police officer, Lawrence Schweinsburg. Point by point he refutes the disinformation of that letter, citing the overwhelmingly damning evidence against the overuse and misuse of SWAT teams. These raids are creating more death and danger, even among non-violent offenders and innocent people.

It takes a stout heart and a strong stomach to read all the stories of law enforcement abuse reported throughout the blogosphere each day. Whether it's people's dogs being shot by police for no reason or cops and prosecutors routinely getting a free pass after brutalizing innocents, I have to wonder what goes on in the minds of the men and women in blue, who must realize that the ugly devolution of law enforcement over a period of decades has, in the eyes of more and more Americans, turned them into mindless paramilitary thugs who consider themselves above the law and just about everyone else a second-class citizen. Our hopes and dreams, our suffering, our very lives are all too often disregarded to protect a cop's pension or, even worse, merely a cop's pride.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Neal Boortz Advises Caller How to Snitch to IRS

On Monday, March 1, 2010 at approximately 11:25 a.m. EST, a caller to Neal Boortz's nationally syndicated radio show complained about reporting people she knew who didn't file tax returns. I didn't hear the full context of how she knew these people didn't file, but she was bothered that the IRS purportedly didn't accept her attempts at snitching over the phone.

Neal Boortz spends much of his air time blasting the tax code as unfair. His book, The Fair Tax Book has, on its cover, a red circle and line over the letters "IRS". He has encouraged listeners of his national audience to engage in tax protests and has appeared at Tea Party gatherings.

Appallingly, this self-proclaimed libertarian helpfully instructed the caller how to accomplish her goal of snitching. Mr. Boortz told the caller she needed to fill out a form on paper (which she could download from the internet) and mail it to an IRS office in California. Neal was very smug and excited that he could help this caller to unleash the power of the federal government to make these scofflaws pay their "fair share".

The thing is, I have never in my life encountered anyone in the media (newspaper, TV, radio) instruct people how they can send a form to an IRS office to snitch on their neighbors. In over two decades of participating in on-line political debates, which often rage into massive "flame wars" that ocassionally escalated into posting home addresses and making threats, I never once saw anyone mention any such thing, even in reaction to participants who freely admitted that they chose, on principle, not to pay income taxes. I had to hear it from a "libertarian" leader, a featured speaker at Tea Party gatherings.

How utterly sickening.

How Soviet.

I know that Neal Boortz gets gas whenever anyone uses terms like "socialist" or "fascist", even when they are accurate, because he spinelessly fears being called "nutty" or a "McCarthyite" by anti-rational opponents. I use the word "Soviet" with exacting purpose. I do not literally think that when Boortz or his listeners report alleged law breakers to the federal government, the victims are going to be shipped off to arctic work camps. But I do recognize the parallels in the mindset of these IRS snitches to that of those Soviet citizens who turned in their neighbors, friends, and even family members to the Chekists. Some of these Russians did so out of fear or malice. But many, like Boortz and the caller, were offended that someone could get away with breaking the rules that everyone else followed, no matter how oppressive the system. In a "bussel basket of live crabs...the ones in the bottom keep dragging the ones who try [to escape] back in to their level."

Put aside the tragic cases where the victims of mistaken or malicious IRS levies have not actually violated the law, who paid what the law dictated in good faith, but who had their lives turned upside down because of a mistake or vendetta. It's possible that Boortz-type narcs could trigger some of these, but I'll assume, for the sake of argument that the victims of these tattlers are not following the law.

I'll dispense with people who come up with imaginative arguments that the 16th amendment isn't valid or that the tax laws don't actually impose an obligation. Such machinations are, from what I've read, futile and misleading. It's like someone who helped free a runaway slave in the 1800s offering a specious legal argument, rather than simply standing on the principle that slavery is morally wrong.

I pay my taxes, because I know what it would cost me and my family if I didn't. But there are a number of people who refuse to comply with tax laws for principled moral reasons. I'm referring to people who follow libertarian principles (video) to their logical conclusion. When respondents like Neal Boortz bleat about "the rule of law" or even more thoughtful ones wave the US Constitution about like a talisman, these principled tax evaders deftly cite Thoreau, Spooner, and Garrison (individualists and abolitionists) to knock down such weak arguments.

I have absolutely no problem with someone who rejects government as a whole, choosing to live his life on his own terms, handling business in a free market manner (as much as possible, considering the multitude of government monopolies one cannot easily avoid). Such people risk being dispossesed and prosecuted, and may have to forgo career opportunities so they can work "under the table." They have to live without bank accounts, credit cards, and property deeds. It sickens me that such people must face such high risks and sacrifices to be free, even though they have done nothing wrong nor tried to take advantage of anyone else.

There are also people who don't want their money being used to fund things they abhor, such as anti-war types who object to their hard work being exploited to build bombs which are dropped in foreign lands. These are also valid arguments, even if some of these people are hypocritical. (For example, no taxes for military spending, but taxes for schools and welfare. Or, no taxes for abortion, but taxes for unprovoked invasions.) However, the fact that some of them may be hypocrites in no way negates their assertion that it is fundamentally wrong to force them to pay for something they morally abhor. Rather, they ought to be consistent by applying the principle universally.

Mr. Boortz has also called for an end to the War on Drugs. I wonder if he encourages his listeners to report neighbors to the DEA or other law enforcement organizations. To be consistent with his angry insistence that everyone follow law on taxes or be turned in, he should have his callers inform federal law enforcement if they know of someone smoking marijuana for a medical condition, to name one example. After all, they are breaking federal laws. Even if Neal hates those laws and wants them repealed, wouldn't he want violators of existing laws to face the consequences so long as they are in place? Wouldn't he want them to be punished like anyone else who gets caught? Drag the crab back in the basket!