Can We Stop Calling Them Pro-Choice Now?

Look, I consider myself pro-choice. Ish. On the one hand, I embrace the pro-life argument: From conception, the zygote/embryo/fetus is a living organism; it’s human (I don’t really buy that it’s not quite human yet or whatever the justification is); morally, we’re left with murder, or at best, self-defense.

I guess I shouldn’t say “pro-choice” but “anti-law”. ‘cause if we take the moral absolute for our baseline for law, we end up with every woman’s uterus being a potential crime-scene. The potential for government mischief is boundless.
Abortions have always been done. The strongest deterrent, however, has probably been religion. I think if abortions are to be prevented, it’s really got to be up to religion. (It sure would be nice if the government stopped paying for them, though.)
But let’s not split hairs, shall we? While I think only a very small fraction of pro-life types are actually anti-sex or anti-choice, the mouthpieces of choice are, essentially, pro-abortion. The rabid hatred of Sarah Palin over Trig was indicative. But the howling over a benign Superbowl commercial that didn’t even mention abortion?
Yeah. You guys aren’t pro-choice. You’re pro-abortion. Abortion, remarkably, survived WWII without the taint of eugenics. Margaret Sanger was all about stopping the non-whites from reproducing, yet somehow remains a hero and frequently cited hero for Planned Parenthood. (At least the FBI has the taste to be a little ashamed of Hoover.) Planned Parenthood’s holy grail is forced sterilization; Not so much with the “pro-choice”.
Now all the feminist groups have aligned with the environmental groups, and the environmental groups have never relinquished their Malthusian influences either. John Holdren advises Obama on “science” matters, and he’s a big fan of forced abortions and other means of “birth control”, too.
So, yeah. Not pro-choice. Like many other slippery moral paths, an expression of a desire for “freedom” to do something traditionally considered immoral hides a desire to force people onto that path.

So, How Radical Are You?

I was watching Stossel’s new Fox Business Channel show (“Stossel!”), and he had on the Whole Foods guy to talk about health care. This is a great plan: You can get anything on this plan. (And snake oil is expensive. I thought I should try to find a job with these guys.) Stossel had a good mix in the audience, and a communistsocialistprogressive to attack any ideas that didn’t involve the government taking over the most intimate of choices we make.

As a sidebar, the progressive version is such an easily repeated lie, it reminds me of—well, of every other progressive lie I’ve been swamped with in my life. “Single-payer is the only way to get universal coverage.” As if the government’s first move isn’t going to be to make that coverage a lot less universal to save costs. As if “medical treatment” had no metric of quality, just so long as everyone gets some.

Anyway, the lefty guy didn’t have anything in the way of substance—not his fault, there really isn’t a good case to be made, especially in light of the universal failures of the schemes at home and abroad—and so he accused the two of them of being Grover Norquist acolytes.

I, and both Stossel and Whole Foods guy John Mackey (and I hope most people) regarded this ad hominem with bemusement. The progressive wanted to equate their distaste for a state-run health system to a desire to destroy Social Security, Medicare, roads, apple pie and motherhood.

I don’t really know who Norquist is. He seems to want to cut government in half, which is something I’m cool with. He then wants to cut it in half again. I’m pretty sure I’ll be cool with that, too. He’s anti-FDA, NEA and IRS. These strike me as good things to be against.

Anyway, the reason I bring it up is that Ruth Anne commented in the Cargo Cult thread:

Could you clarify this? My husbands thinks it means you want to legalize drugs. I don’t disagree about the bad effects of the ‘War on Poverty’ and the probable bad effects of the ‘War on Health’…

In short: Yes. I’d phrase it differently. I’d like to see a whole class of laws simply go away. The same power that allows the government to regulate drugs also allows it to threaten vitamins and other supplements.

I used to believe that the Democrats were the party of civil liberties. After listening throughout the ’80s to the damage done to civil liberties by the War on Drugs, I could not help but notice the hypocrisy of not repealing it in the ’90s. In fact, as soon as a Democrat was in charge, it was like the gross expansion of government powers was a feature, not a bug.

Needless to say, I wasn’t any more surprised that the Democrats didn’t curb the Patriot Act in 2009 than I was that the Republicans didn’t curb spending.

What am I getting at? Well, the scourge of drugs is a problem; probably one of the worst we face today. (I’m so anti-drug, I extend this to a great many prescription drugs. See the latest reports on how anti-depressants are largely less effective than placebos.) It’s right up there with—well, with a massive, intrusive, all-consuming government.

Let me tell you, if I had to choose between our current monstrous government or a country without drug abuse, I would probably take the latter. (Maybe partly because I think the stupidity of drug abuse feeds into the stupidity of big government. But still.) But that’s not the choice.

Our monstrous government is particularly inept at social engineering. There have been successful wars on drugs in the past. They were won by rounding up all the suspected drug dealers and killing them. That’s not something we can do, even if we wanted to.

So, if I want the government out of drugs—and sex, and health, and safety—does that mean I want a country full of drugs (and diseased helmet-free whores)?

Shockingly, no.

And this is sort of a problem. We used to have a church and society that enforced relatively homogeneous ideas of normalcy, decency, morality and other things that do the actual work of holding society together.

The whole question of what to do about that is a whole ‘nother post at least. But it’s also actually tangential to the question of government control. Because the War on Drugs hasn’t appreciably reduced the amount of drug use, as far as I can tell. And government has a particular talent for both undermining traditional morality and destroying civil liberties in a draconian and semi-random manner.
So, yeah, in short, if you have a question about whether I think the government—particularly the federal government—should be involved in, well, just about anything, my answer’s probably going to be no.

Cargo Cult Christmas

The great visionary Alan Kay once compared the dot-Com goldrush (while it was still going on) to a cargo cult. This was one of those big “a-ha” moments in this moron’s life. I’d heard of cargo cults but had just thought of it as an amusing story. If you follow that Wikipedia link, you can see a sort of apologetic tone about how “an isolated society’s first contact with the outside world…can be a shock”.

But what the dot-Com mania showed was that there’s nothing about the mentality that’s exclusive to primitive societies. People figured if they bought a clever domain name, wealth would follow. Some had worked out an extra step, of course:

1. Buy Domain Name
2. Attract Investor Dollars
3. ???
4. Profit!

And, of course, some of them never thought past step 2. After all, once investors give you lots of money, you’re done, right?

In short, the fundamental issue is a lack of understanding of relationship between cause and effect. Hell, forget about airplanes, a small island culture would probably have a harder time imagining the logistics—the massive industrial and social machinery—behind a military supply drop. You’d first have to get them to grasp the concept of millions of people.

While the dot-Com bubble was doubtless motivated by the same burning desire for unearned material wealth as the island chief’s, the dot-Com guys had no comparable excuse. Regardless of the medium, the basics of trade don’t change: You have to offer people something they want before they give you money; and if it’s something they can already get, you have to offer more, like a lower price, higher quality, greater convenience or better service.

These are not mysterious things, yet if you were watching the madness ten years ago, you saw a 10-year-old company whose increasingly commoditized product was losing market share hand-over-fist buy out a media powerhouse that made its 75-year fortune on essentially unique product—and you also saw this hailed as a great move for the media powerhouse.

Once my eyes were opened to this parallel, I began seeing cargo cults everywhere. Because they are everywhere. And we’re probably all guilty of cause-effect confusion to some degree, in some areas of our lives.

As a rather bizarre example, in our culture you can see cargo cult religions (of all denominations), where people mimic the practices of religion while eschewing anything not immediately gratifying, anything that requires sacrifice, or anything that would actually bind people together, as religion is supposed to do. (Then they’re surprised when there’s nothing there in their time of need.)

But sometimes it’s harmless and even kind of cute, when done with awareness. Sports fans, for example, will be very superstitious when rooting for their teams, wearing same clothes or eating the same food or performing some ritual because that’s what happened the last time the team made a big score. This is more a knowing game of pretending to have a power (in a situation where you really can’t) than a genuine cargo cult mentality. Or so one hopes. (Athletes themselves will have such superstitions, but they don’t forgo training for them.)

Oftentimes it’s pernicious and destructive, and completely backwards. The idea, for example, of focusing on building self-esteem by giving a child the rewards associated with self-esteem. This creates a sense of entitlement combined with a very fragile ego—a less functional combination hard to imagine.

You can probably see where I’m headed with this.

We have before us this Christmas the most astounding example of a cargo cult I can recall in my lifetime: We have a government that doesn’t even understand their own flawed philosophy, mimicking the destructive actions (which had observably bad ends) without even grasping the logic behind them.

For example, the current administration has reduced Keynesian theory (which Keynes himself didn’t fully accept) to “throw money all over the place, especially to our friends and good things will happen.”

Same with health care: “Pass some laws—any laws—and health care will be ‘solved’.” The very passage of the laws themselves seems to have been backwards “Let’s talk about how we’ve won and celebrate the passing of these laws, then we’ll work on getting them passed. ” (Consider the number of times Harry Reid proclaimed he had reached a consensus.)

Even the compromises emerged not from the idea of giving-and-taking on substance so that ultimately everyone could vote for something that was good enough, but by cajoling the “yeas” through any means necessary, no matter how bad a bill was created.

There’s no grasp of cause-and-effect.

The frosting on this Christmas cookie being the philosophies that are being aped were never very successful either. FDR’s “stimulus” may have been neutral, but the regulatory atmosphere—the atmosphere of wild experimentation, was demonstrably harmful. And even as real job creators today say they’re reluctant to hire in such an unpredictable environment, it’s not enough to spread money around, the administration has to show that it’s willing to stick its fingers everywhere.

You don’t need a litany of what the tax, regulate, redistribute process has done to the American economy. The War on Poverty created a permanent underclass, and the War on Drugs created a massive criminal class. The current War on Health (as I suggest we christen it) will have similarly dubious effects. (Even if the current mess doesn’t pass, would you, as a young person, be eager to go into medicine in this environment?)

At some point, one has to wonder if the actual cause-and-effect of freedom and stability leading to prosperity isn’t very well understood by a lot of those working to undermine it.

At least that’s what I’m wondering as I sit under my Christmas tree, singing carols, waiting for presents to appear.

Blog Wars

Hello, everyone!

Sorry for the long absence. I’ve been hard at work looking for work to be hard at work at. I’m going to be part-time at the current job (which didn’t stop them from giving me two new, huge projects to do) which is a mixed bag. On the one hand, if I get another PT job or consulting gig, that’s a kind of security and potentially more money. On the other hand, if I get a FT gig, that can mean things like going into an office and wearing clothes and stuff. (Shudder.)

I’ve got two other projects with potential going, so I’m working on those as well. It’s just busy.

Which is my whiny excuse for not posting reviews on An Education and Everybody’s Fine yet. I will, though, soon. Promise.

Meanwhile, I’ve been watching the Goldstein/Patterico wars, which I hate. I actually unfollowed Patterico on Twitter because his attacks strike me as both petty and strident.

To summarize, Patterico said that Stacy McCain had made a racist statement (over ten years ago!) but may or may not be actually racist himself. Goldstein, on a pretty straightforward point of logic says, no, there cannot be racism without intent. You can’t say someone made a racist comment but may or may not be racist. Patterico then talks about “unconscious” racism, etc. etc. etc.

I feel for Patterico because he’s parroting what we’ve all learned, isn’t he? We’ve all learned over the years that white people, in particular, are racist (even if only unconsciously so) and their willingness to use words that others deem racist is proof of that. I mean, we’ve all lived through the kabuki of constantly changing names/titles/designations to prove the purity of our intentions. And we’ve all lived through (and accepted) the gradual loss of our freedoms to do the same.

Volokh himself talks about this in the terms of the First Amendment here. Like Volokh, I want people to be free to express their prejudices. I don’t want them cloaked in PC talk. I don’t want a ritual that is used to demonstrate the right thinking; I want what people think to be right out there in their speech and associations. Then I can choose whom I want to associate with. (And you know what? A lot of racism and other faulty -isms actually do yield to logic, but you never learn that when people just know it’s taboo to discuss certain things.)

But despite the simple truth of Goldstein’s argument—I mean, really, to argue that racism doesn’t need to be intended by the racist is to argue that it’s an actual substance with physical properties that can be identified by climate scientistsproperly annointed clergyright thinking people—Patterico has instead doubled-down, defending the most heinous corruption of our ability to communicate.

It’s not the first time he’s done this, and it’s a shame, because he does really good work calling out the L.A. Times on their biases, errors and general buffoonery. But as Goldstein points out (again and again): if you accede the ability to decide what you meant to another agency, you lose if ever you decide to go against that agency. (Said agencies, not remarkably, are always statists, and these days, they’re on the left. It wasn’t so long ago they were establishment Christians and other social conservatives who wanted the state to interfere on behalf of their causes—the whole problem with the old order, when you think of it.)

Anyway, Goldstein absolutely skewers him with a two part demonstration on exactly how Frey’s logic can be used against him. But Patterico seems to have a hard time with being wrong. Either that, or far worse, he doesn’t want to let intention get in the way of his own ability to exercise power over others by misconstruing their speech.

Nah, he’s probably just being pigheaded.

Meanwhile, I’m going to get back to reviewing stuff.

In Which I Suspect The Free Market Of Not Being Entirely Free

Interesting anecdote from Reason on how Canadian health care treated one woman, or rather failed to treat her, along with a doctor who puts up a price list on his website about what things cost. I tracked the website down and noted an interesting thing.

Some of you know that my dad was in the hospital a month ago. As it turns out, they gave him angioplasty (through the femoral artery, yeow!). If you go to that site, you’ll see angioplasty costs $12,500.

That’s expensive, but not unmanageable. Presumably, one wouldn’t need a lot of angioplasty. And catastrophic coverage well, wouldn’t need to be all that huge to cover it.

Now, my dad’s two days in the hospital cost $140,000.

Frankly, that seems unpossible to me. Who could possibly afford that? How can something exist in a market that nobody could afford?

I suspect there may be market distortions at work.

If one wanted to fix the health care market, one might start by locating the distortions and removing them.

Just a thought.

The Financial Crisis Explained?

“In short, on April 2, 2009, the President signed a communiqué that essentially turns over financial control of the country, and the planet, to a handful of central bankers, who, besides dictating policy covering everything from your retirement income to shareholder rights, will additionally have access to your health and education records.”

–Bruce Wiseman, “Hitler’s Bank Goes Global”

My dad sent me a link to this guy (of whom I’ve never heard) who lays out the banking crisis as a plan to unseat the U.S. dollar as the basic unit of international money. It’s not a long read, and interesting as it maps how what might be considered typical banking and political shenanigans were exploited.

The quote above comes from the second article in the series and is of particular interest to me (and I’d think to anyone who values our Constitutional Republic). The President basically gave the keys to the country to a foreign bank. (And this is not a political issue; Bush would doubtless have done the same thing.)

Much like socialism, it’s come to pass that having a group of ultra-powerful private bankers run a country’s economy is just the norm for the world today. Politicians, of course, just want to spend money, not think about it, so they just let someone else do the thinking for them.

The question of whether or not the President’s actions are legal and binding is a separate one, and the crucial one for all of us: Wiseman issues a call to action for everyone to make sure their representatives know that what the President signs is essentially a treaty and needs to be ratified by Congress.

Anyone have Glenn Beck’s number?

Inappropriate Advertising

Far from being intrusive, I’ve actually found that I enjoy Google Mail’s targeted ads. (And yeah, I know they’re evil. A company who’s first motto is “don’t be evil” virtually had to turn out that way, didn’t it?)

I’ve written about the spam, for example, and it’s sort of interesting trying to figure out what the targets in this so-called targeted advertising is. But now Gmail has presented this ad for the Baader-Meinhoff movie with the tag, “The revolution is reborn!” Er, maybe it was “reignited”. (I don’t know what caused Gmail to put that ad up, but it changed and I can’t get it back now.)

Wait, what? Nooooo. I hope the point of that movie was that revolutionaries were dumb thugs using political ideology as an excuse for bad behavior.

I mean, even if you’re an ideological fellow traveler, I would hope this movie served more as an embarrassment than a rallying cry.

“The Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.” -V.I. Lenin

I tend to agree of late that the very term “Capitalism” is Marx’s socialist framing of what is, in essence, freedom, and that we’re poorer for using the term to describe free markets.

By the way, it was Marx who infected economics—by all rights a hard science with immutable laws—with politics and turned it into the morass it is today.

Jerky jerk-face.

The Race Against Time

As the struggle to increase state control over health care continues, it occurs to me that this is a race against time.

Sure, this is often been framed as a race against time, in the sense that Obama needs to spend his political capital as fast as he can before the impact of his actual actions (or inaction) start to deplete it.

But there’s another race against time: The more time passes, the harder and harder it gets to pretend that “Well, Europe does this, and they’re all just swell as can be!”

‘cause, of course, they’re not. Right now, Americans (on the whole) would not tolerate the sort of care that Canadians and British receive. The French system is supposedly top notch, but of course it’s in the red to the tune about 10% of its total budget, can’t be decreased, and so of course will only increase.

On top of that, you have the constant double-digit unemployment and the sometimes staggering poverty levels of western Europe.

Even the middle-class in, say, Scandinavian countries, which are often heralded as blissful blonde paradises, can’t (for example) go to lunch routinely. It’s a significant expense. Not surprising, when you consider how much a Big Mac costs. Not surprisingly, Sweden, Norway and Denmark are in the top 5 of the Big Mac Index.

I haven’t been able to validate the $8.99 footlong sub at Subway, talked about in that PJTV video, but most things are taxed to death. I once sent a Dutch pal a $20 computer game because it was $70 in his country.

Last time we voted down government medicine was 15 years ago. And it was tabled for all that time, and all that time the countries that had government medicine have only gotten more in debt. 15 from now, some of them (at least) will be bankrupt, and that will be the least of their problems, one suspects.

So, if we can win this battle, that might end the argument for the century.

It’ll come back, of course. Tyranny always comes back in one form or another. All we can do is fight it off every single time.

Eternal vigilance.

Two Kinds of Government?

This guy may be crazy—he’s written extensively about the Federal Reserve system, vitamin B-17 as a cure for cancer, and Noah’s Ark—but he’s close to the mark about government.

He argues that systems are either favoring individual freedom or favoring collectivism. He also argues that collectivism is a lie—there are no groups, only individuals. (No forests, only trees.) This is true in the sense that policies that favor groups tend to harm the individuals of those groups, but not true in the sense that we (humans) do have a very real desire to promote the survival of our tribe and species. (Unless you’re PETA.)

Also, it’s not really true that systems ever favor individualism. I mean, sure, they do in writing. But the system favors itself, and that favor transcends anything written or stated about the system. Almost as if systems were themselves organic.

Basically, you can draw a line, like this:

On the left, you have the ultimate totalitarianism, something along the lines of 1984. On the right, you have complete anarchy.

Now, the thing is, you can’t have complete anarchy. I mean, it’s theoretically possible, and if men were free in spirit (say, free of sin?) it would probably be an optimal set-up. But, under such circumstances, Communism could also work.

But nature abhors a vacuum, and anarchy (white) leads to the void being filled by black—the first strong-armed dictator who sees easy prey. And it’s far from the absolute end where trouble occurs. Our Founding Fathers felt the need to override the Articles of Confederation to create the Constitution. (Which area of history I need to study more. How weak was the Confederacy? How much of the Constitution was a power play?)

“But Blake,” you say, “you’re always advocating pushing to the right as far as possible.”

Why, that’s very astute of you. Yes. Yes, I am. That’s because the state—any state, at any given time—will move to the left, toward more power and less freedom. And we’re in about as much chance of getting anywhere near anarchy as we are of getting pizza raining from the sky.

So, yeah, I push toward ever smaller government. I’ve long maintained there only need to be two parties at any given time: One arguing that the government should handle a particular issue, and one arguing that they shouldn’t. The ones arguing that government shouldn’t should usually be in power.

And forever banished should be the argument that just because one doesn’t want the government to handle something, one doesn’t want the situations handled. If anything, the reverse should be argued, as there is a lot more evidence to support it.

Conversations From The Living Room, Part 25: 2nd Grade Poli Sci

The Boy: “You’re a racist!
The Flower: “I am not! My best friend is black!”
The Boy: “Yes, but you oppose a black President.”
The Flower: “I oppose the black President.”
The Boy: “That makes you racist!”
[The Flower rolls her eyes.]

The Boy was teasing The Flower, as he often does, and she was tolerating it, as she often does, but I have to admit, I was not expecting her response to “you oppose a black President”. I expected her to say she didn’t oppose him. (At eight, I can’t imagine being too opposed to any politician but then, my children are unlike me in many ways.) I was also mightily impressed by her distinction between the articles “a” and “the”.

I think she really liked Sarah Palin. (Actually, she was a little concerned that Palin would take her spot as first female President.)

But I think from now on I’m adopting the “eye roll” rebuttal to any accusations of racism.