Friday, July 29, 2016
Q & A with John Barrowman at MegaCon 2016. He his probably best known for his rolls in Torchwood, Doctor Who and The Arrow but has starred in a variety of other TV and theater projects. His panels are probably the most entertaining in existence.
Thursday, July 28, 2016
The new American Dream is to be found in Denmark, at least according to the American left. As the support for free markets is falling, many Americans turn to the vision of introducing democratic socialism, inspired by the Nordic countries. It was the quest of introducing a Nordic-style welfare model that propelled Bernie Sanders, an unlikely candidate, to compete with the much more well-funded and connected candidate Hillary Clinton for months in the Democrat primary. However, the aim of introducing a Nordic-style welfare model is also shared by Clinton, who will run against Trump in the coming presidential race. Ezra Klein, editor of the liberal news website Vox, has explained, “Clinton and Sanders both want to make America look a lot more like Denmark – they both want to pass generous parental leave policies, let the government bargain down drug prices, and strengthen the social safety net.”
Out with the Old
Turning towards democratic socialism is a major course change in American politics. For a long time, Americans have favored small governments and free markets over a generous welfare state. However, opinions are changing. A recent Harvard University study shows that a significant share of the American youth have lost faith in the free market system. Merely 38 percent of Americans in the age group 18-34 support capitalism. This is only slightly higher than the 33 percent who support socialism. As a contrast, amongst the middle age generation (50-64 years), fully 52 percent are in favor of capitalism while only 15 percent prefer socialism. Amongst those over 65, as few as 7 percent support socialism, while 60 percent believe in capitalism.
The same poll showed that Bernie Sanders, the self-proclaimed socialist, was by far the most favorable candidate among young Americans. A majority of 54 percent had a favorable view of Sanders, compared to 37 percent for Hillary Clinton and as few as 17 percent for Donald Trump.
Bernie Sanders, who joined the Democratic Party in 2015 after having been the longest-serving independent in US congressional history, used to be an old-fashioned socialist. His recent popularity owes to a clever shift in rhetoric, wherein Sanders explains that he doesn’t believe in socialism in general, but rather Nordic-style democratic socialism in particular.
Tried, and Failed
These days, it is difficult to generate enthusiasm about pure socialism. The system has failed, leading to human misery on a wide scale in every country in which it has been introduced. The Soviet Union, Cuba, Venezuela, and North Korea are hardly positive role models. China, the last major socialist country, has in many ways transitioned to a capitalist economy. A less radical idea that is gaining ground is democratic socialism.
Democratic socialism is becoming increasingly popular amongst the Left in the United States. An important reason is that positive role models exist. In fact, a number of countries with social democratic policies – namely, the Nordic nations – have seemingly become everything that the Left would like America to be: prosperous yet equal and with good social outcomes. Bernie Sanders himself has explained, “I think we should look to countries like Denmark, like Sweden and Norway and learn from what they have accomplished for their working people.”
Is it likely that the US will become more equal, prosperous, and better prepared to face social challenges if democratic socialism is introduced? Will the American Dream of social mobility be strengthened in such a system? Will Americans benefit from longer life spans and lower poverty if they adapt Nordic-style welfare models? According to Bernie Sanders, Democrat activists, left-of center intellectuals, and journalists, the answer seems to be yes. However, as I show in my new book Debunking Utopia – Exposing they myth of Nordic socialism, much of this is built upon misconceptions about Nordic societies:
- Yes, it is true that Nordic societies combine high living standards with large welfare states. However, numerous studies show that the high tax systems significantly impede the living standard in these countries. Nordic countries compensate for large public sectors by having strong working ethics and adapting market-friendly reforms in other fields. The lesson for America certainly isn’t that higher taxes will create more prosperity, but rather the opposite.
- Nordic societies did not become successful after introducing large welfare states. They were economically and socially uniquely successful already in the mid-20th century, when they combined low taxes and small welfare states with free-market systems.
- The root of the high levels of equality, the economic prosperity, the high levels of trust and other advantageous social features of the Nordics seem to be a unique culture rather than unique policies. After all, Spain, Italy, and France also have large welfare states, built upon the ideals of democratic socialism. Why doesn’t the American left believe that US society would evolve to resemble Southern Europe after introducing a large welfare state?
- Over time, the generous welfare states of Nordic nations have created massive welfare dependency, gradually eroding the strong norms of responsibility that undermine the region's success. This, combined with the growth-reducing effects of a large state, explains why Nordic countries have gradually, over the past decades, moved towards less-generous welfare, market reforms, and tax cuts.
- The combination of open borders, high taxes, and generous welfare systems has been anything but a success in Sweden. The open-border policies that Sweden experimented with in 2015 lead to a massive influx of new arrivals, who are finding it very difficult to integrate in the country. The result is massive social tension and increasing poverty. Countries such as the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and even the UK are much better at integrating the foreign-born in their labor markets.
In a time when the American left – and, for that matter, much of the global left – are enthusiastically pushing for a Nordic-style democratic socialism, perhaps it is worth knowing more about the strengths and shortcomings of the system?
Source: Nordic Socialism Isn't the Answer for America | Foundation for Economic Education
Wednesday, July 27, 2016
Q & A with Michelle Gomez at MegaCon 2016. She is probably best known for her role as Miss / The Master in Doctor Who but has also starred in Gotham and several other TV series.
Tuesday, July 26, 2016
This morning the Gary Johnson/William Weld ticket for the White House nabs its first endorsement from a state legislator who is running for re-election in 2016 as a Republican. Daniel Zolnikov (R-Billings), a 29-year-old two-term state representative known for his civil libertarian work on surveillance and free speech, is joining with his fellow State Rep. Nicholas Schwaderer (R-Mineral County), who had previously telegraphed his support, in backing the Libertarian. From their joint statement:
Having served on the House Taxation committee for the past two legislatures, we know that one of the most important issues facing any government is a balanced budget. We are both in our 20’s, and we know that our generation will bear the heaviest brunt of a spending-crazed federal government. Johnson has the best credentials to fight for fiscal responsibility, based on his record of standing strong against out of control spending while Governor of New Mexico. […]
The Snowden revelations of 2013 revealed yet again that we have federal agencies going far beyond their constitutional authority to surveil the private affairs of millions of Americans. This surveillance is purposely done in secret without adequate oversight by elected representation. If serious action is not taken by the next administration to curb the surveillance state, an Orwellian future awaits America. Johnson is the only candidate who has vowed to uphold our 4th Amendment rights and he is our best chance to preserve privacy in communications. […]
While we do not agree with every single policy stance expressed by Johnson, we recognize that he has by far the best record of any candidate and has the best vision for the future of our nation.
Our generation will be most affected by the outcome of this unprecedented presidential election. Gary Johnson is the only serious presidential nominee who stands for policies that will lead to growth and opportunity for young Americans.
Democrats and Republicans have their presidential candidates, but Libertarian Gary Johnson is hoping to give Americans another option.
The third party candidate is gaining momentum and only needs two more percentage points in the polls to clinch a spot in the presidential debates. Johnson would become the first third party candidate in the debates since Ross Perot in 1992.
The latest ABC News poll shows 57 percent of voters find both Trump and Clinton unfavorable. That’s how Huntsville residents Wayne and Rebecca Ginn felt.
“When I heard about Gary Johnson and the Libertarian Party, I thought gosh, that is me,” Rebecca said.
It’s something the candidate himself likes to say- that many people are Libertarians and just don’t know it yet.
Joshua Tuttle is a regional representative for the Libertarian Party of Alabama. Here’s how he described the ideology: “We want to keep the Republicans out of your bedroom and the Democrats out of your wallet.”
Tuttle has been busy getting signatures for Gary Johnson. In Alabama a candidate needs 35,000 signatures to be listed on the ballot as a Libertarian. Candidates need just 5,000 to be listed as Independent. Tuttle believes Johnson will meet that requirement because his message resonates with so many.
In a recent interview about his new film on Edward Snowden, director Oliver Stone warned about the potential for data-mining on the part of major companies to lead to “totalitarianism.” Partly speaking about the data collected by the popular app Pokémon GO, he said, “What’s happening is a new level of invasion… They’ve invested a huge amount of money in data mining – what you are buying, what you like, your behavior. It’s what some people call surveillance capitalism.”
The implication here is nuanced, but important: while speaking about a movie which depicts a whistle-blower for unconstitutional government surveillance, Stone drew a parallel between “surveillance” by tech companies and the horrifying contents of Snowden’s leaked documents.
This notion is mistaken and dangerous, but symptomatic of a much deeper disease in American thought: the false equivalence between power leveraged by “Big Government” and “Big Business.”
This microcosm of conceptual chaos is what Ayn Rand called a “package-deal”: a fallacy in which one uses one word or phrase to group conceptually opposed or dissimilar things. Under the umbrella of “power,” for instance, our culture has paired both political and economic power – or, in other words, we consider as identical both massive economic influence and the government’s legal monopoly on the use of force.
Mr. Stone and the Package Deal
How does this apply to Mr. Stone’s words, then? In his case, he has grouped into package-deals the notions of “surveillance” and “totalitarianism,” a decision which obfuscates crucial distinctions. Google has economic power, gathered by the voluntary decision on the part of its customers to use its services. This was a deal made by mutual agreement in pursuit of mutual advantage – Google receives a certain set of profits from advertisements and the like, and I receive an effective search engine, an email service, and so on. That this deal is more complex than presented does nothing to soften this point: the long and detailed “terms of services” pages are crafted precisely for this reason.
Because any powers of “surveillance” are mutually agreed to (even if, as a consumer, I am negligent in learning just what it is I have signed), Google and Nintendo could notin any meaningful way be “totalitarian.” This is not so for the government. Because the government holds a legal monopoly on the use of force (e.g., in its use of a police force, military, binding legal code, etc.), its covert surveillance is not enforced by mutual agreement but at the proverbial point of a gun. Whether it is done for the alleged “security” or “safety” of the nation is irrelevant – intentions do not make coercion less coercive.
This danger is compounded by the fact that many of the activities unveiled by Snowden were unconstitutional – accordingly, the government was not only acting in a coercive manner, but in a way contrary to the design of its founders.
Here’s the most egregious package-deal Stone presents: Britannica defines “totalitarianism” as a “form of government that theoretically permits no individual freedom and that seeks to subordinate all aspects of the individual’s life to the authority of the government.” In other words, there is no room for the mutual exchange and voluntary association allowed by capitalism – the state becomes all-consuming, with no room for the individual to “opt out” of the provided “services.”
To define companies in such a way as to group them within this category of government coercion is to form a reckless package-deal. If one wishes for his data to be shielded from companies like Google, he can use another service. He can choose not to buy a cellphone. He can research whether there is a way to use these services while opting out of its more invasive features. Moreover, if he discovers this mid-use, he can stop using the service. He can decline his side of the agreement, leveraging his agency as a free individual. And Google won’t be using his information to detain him without rights, anyway.
When a totalitarian state is formed or a free state like the United States acts in a totalitarian manner, citizens have no ability to exercise their rights against it. This is why Snowden would be immediately arrested upon his return to the United States. This is not so with Google. Perhaps Mr. Stone should watch his own movie.Source: Pokémon GO Is Not, in Fact, Totalitarian | Foundation for Economic Education
Monday, July 25, 2016
Friday, July 22, 2016
Gary Johnson is once again showing signs that he's a very real contender in this election. Not only is Johnson rising in the polls, and garnering endorsements, it would appear that there is a voting base out there that really wants to see the Libertarian candidate succeed.
The Johnson/Weld donation page, called "The Money Comet"was started 3 days ago, during the RNC. Under the tag "The two party system is a dinosaur. You are the comet," the original goal for the donation page was $25,000.
As of right now, the "money comet" has hit $156,738, and it's not done yet.
Source: Gary Johnson's Donation Page Surges Past Intended Goal By Thousands and Is Still Rising | RedState
Pretty much everybody accuses Americans, particularly the younger generation, of being narcissists, and for good reason: we are indeed becoming more self-absorbed as a people. Even a cursory view of our culture should reveal that 21st century Americans simply do not value empathy, charity, and humility to the same extent our forebears did.
Millennials feel as though “the System” is rigged against them. And to an extent, they are correct.
It could be, however, that I am simply perpetuating the old and insipid tendency of man to lament the direction of his society while looking to the past with rose-colored glasses. Alas, there is scientific research to back up my assertion that Americans today are indeed more egotistical than in the past.
Self-Absorbed but Not Self-Reliant
Writing at Psychology Today, Dr. Peter Gray notes that according to questionnaires given to college students, “70 percent of students today score higher on narcissism and lower on empathy than did the average student thirty years ago.” Other research seems to corroborate these findings.
But if these findings are correct and millennials are in fact a narcissistic generation, then why are we so intent on expanding government welfare to take care of us? The typical answer is this: narcissists feel that they are entitled to more than they actually are; therefore, they demand more free stuff. It’s a persuasive argument, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. After all, if people have an inflated sense of their own self-worth, would it not also be plausible for them to be more independent? To take fewer hand-outs and trust themselves to make their own way?
If I may make a modest proposal, I believe that while many young people may be narcissists in their personal lives, they play the poor helpless victim when it comes to politics. It is an all-too-common occurrence to see a young college student boast of his or her own intellectual and moral superiority, yet turn right around and decry their inability to carry on their lives without direct government aid. Be it free tuition, health care, or protection from scary ideas they disagree with, there is surprisingly little today’s typical millennial “egotist” can actually do on his or her own. Even the simplest of adult activities like going to a job interview are daunting to some millennials.
Victimology is Debilitating, but Not Baseless
In politics too, millennials are becoming more independent.
I don’t mean to pile on to the already over-criticized millennial generation. I myself am a millennial and I would be remiss if I did not mention that part of my generation’s cultural degradation is partly due to the policies imposed upon us.
More than ever, millennials feel as though “the System” is rigged against them. And to an extent, they are correct. They have been victims of progressive policies, like the minimum wage, which makes it harder for them to find jobs. And they have been victims of a culture which tells them they must go to college if they are to be valuable members of society. But unfortunately, millennials have sought salvation in precisely those who have oppressed them. They flock to support socialists like Bernie Sanders in droves, hoping that he, by the mighty power of federal coercion, will make their problems disappear.
But there are signs of hope. Many millennials are breaking out of their victimized, progressive molds and charting a new course for our generation – and without government mandates and regulations to guide them. A 2014 survey found that an astounding 67% of millennials would like to start their own business. In politics too, millennials are becoming more independent. Though most millennials tend to fall in line with progressive policies, they identify themselves as “moderate” and “independent” more than any other political label.
Perhaps as millennials realize that they don’t need a college degree to be successful, or their parents to pay their bills, they will soon understand that they don’t need a government nanny-state either. If they realize that they are fully capable of steering their own ships, far from being the narcissistic parasites they are believed to be, they will become the harbingers of a glorious revival of liberty.
Source: Must Our Generation Be Narcissists for the Nanny State? | Foundation for Economic Education
Thursday, July 21, 2016
Q&A with Jason Isaacs, best known for his role as Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies but also known for a number of other roles including The Inquisitor in Star Wars Rebels, Col. William Tavington in The Patriot and many others.
Wednesday, July 20, 2016
Like many Americans, I've voted for different political parties over the years. I voted for George W. Bush in 2000. I voted for Barack Obama in 2008.
In this election, I cannot in good conscience cast a vote for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. Neither of them has the character, the experience or the principles that commend themselves to the American electorate.
They are each an archetypical model of the type of candidate that a responsible and self-governing citizenry needs to reject.
Fortunately, we have another choice: Gov. Gary Johnson of New Mexico and Gov. Bill Weld of Massachusetts, the presidential and vice presidential nominees of the Libertarian Party.
I consider myself a conservative because I am skeptical of government power. I have a deep love of the Constitution and its checks and balances. And I believe that our national unity depends upon civility and a certain sort of refinement.
Johnson and Weld both have those traits. As the Republican governors of their respective states, they wouldn't both have been overwhelmingly re-elected if they hadn't reached out and worked well with Democrats.
And yet they governed with fiscal responsibility, earning the highest grades possible for cutting budgets and lowering taxes.
I've written before about the promise that the Johnson-Weld candidacy has to disrupt the two-party system. After going to the party's nominating convention to meet and see Gov. Johnson and Gov. Weld myself, Iemerged convinced that if more Americans and Utahns were to get to know this ticket, they would consider supporting Johnson-Weld.
For good reasons, Utahns are deeply skeptical of both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Both lost badly during the primary campaign here. Note that former Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush have insisted that they, too, will vote for neither Donald nor Hillary.
But do Johnson and Weld, running as a third party, have a real shot at the White House?
Yes, they do — starting with the campaign here in Utah.
Our state can make a real difference in refusing the racial appeals of Donald Trump and the collectivism of Hillary Clinton. We can cast our electoral votes for Johnson and Weld. Remember that in 1992, Utah was the only state in which Bill Clinton came in third place, after George H.W. Bush and Ross Perot.
These are among the issues in which the Johnson-Weld campaign put forth positions starkly different from those of their rivals:
- They have a real appreciation that the Constitution imposes limits upon the powers of the executive.
- They support policies that welcome immigrants instead of deporting them.
- They support term limits for all elected leaders.
- They believe that free trade is the engine of the free market, and that our economy will suffer from 35 percent tariffs or from managed trade.
- They want to cut the federal budget by at least 20 percent. They will do this by turning a skeptical eye toward any proposal spending your tax dollars.
Gov. Johnson believes that each state should have the right to legalize and regulate marijuana, just as is currently the case with alcohol. As governor of New Mexico, Johnson supported legalization of marijuana in 1999, and a majority of the country now supports this position. As with alcohol today, our nation is better served if this decision is left to the states.
A central premise of libertarianism is that individuals should be free to live their lives without coercion from the state.
Source: Drew Clark: The conservative case for Gary Johnson and Bill Weld, not Donald Trump and Mike Pence | Deseret News
According to a new poll conducted by the Harvard Institute of Politics, millennials and social minorities are increasingly rejecting Donald Trump in favor of libertarian alternative Gary Johnson.
The poll, which surveyed groups of individuals aged 18-29 who are likely to vote, found that Hillary Clinton’s lead over Donald Trump has diminished by more than 10 percentage points in the past few months. In addition, the poll revealed that Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson is neck-and-neck with Donald Trump among millennials, which is either a testament to the increasing desire for a third-party alternative or a sign of Trump’s overwhelming weaknesses as a major party candidate.
According to the polls, Johnson trails Trump by merely two percentage points with all millennial voters, and just three points with women. The poll also suggests that Johnson holds a significant advantage over Trump with blacks and Hispanics. “Johnson is only two points behind Trump among both all millennial voters and men (15 percent), and just three points behind among women (11 percent). He’s out-polling Trump among blacks (9 percent to 2 percent) and Hispanics (14 percent to 5 percent).”
Libertarian-leaning millennials are likely wary of Trump due to his 1999 proposal for the largest tax increase in American history. The proposal, which was made by a then 53-year-old Donald Trump, consisted of a one-time tax of 14.25 percent on already-taxed wealth which aimed to raise $5.7 trillion and wipe out the debt. Although politicians often evolve in their positions, libertarians, always skeptical of politicians and candidates, are likely to feel uneasy about a tenured businessman who has supported both the largest tax increase in American history, and the vastly different tax cuts he’s proposed during this campaign.
Because Trump is not politically or philosophically opposed to expanding the size of government, he naturally isolates those interested in taking power away from the state and returning it to the individual. Most of his behaviors and statements, such as his continued endorsement of universal health care, suggest he shares his view on the role of government primarily with the authoritarian left. To young libertarians, Donald Trump appears to be the type of leader who would expand state power if it also means increasing his own. And according to Trump’s ghostwriter, Tony Schwartz, they are not wrong. In a recent piecefrom The New Yorker, Trump’s ghostwriter Tony Schwartz expressed his belief that, if he could, Trump would run for “emperor of the world.”
Progressive and libertarian-minded individuals alike are likely to be weary of Trump’s lack of commitment to the protection of civil liberties. To many millennials, Trump’s decision to revoke The Washington Post‘s press credentials was an assault on the First Amendment right to Freedom of the Press. Because existing libel laws protect against the publication of knowingly false information, this effort was likely an attack on less than flattering editorials about him, his businesses or his campaign.
More importantly, when asked about measures he would take to prevent the threat of terrorism, Trump refused to rule out the legislation that would require all American Muslims to wear an identification badge. According to isidewith.com, Gary Johnson believes that any form of Muslim surveillance is “unconstitutional, racist, and incendiary.” Polls conducted by the Pew Research center concluded that millennials agree with Johnson over Trump and are twice as likely as senior citizens “to be bothered by their belief that Muslims are singled out for increased government surveillance and monitoring,” and “are less supportive of extra airport checks on people who appear to be of Middle Eastern descent.”
Source: Poll: Millenials Rejecting Trump in Favor of Gary Johnson - Breitbart
Tuesday, July 19, 2016
Monday, July 18, 2016
As Americans celebrated their freedom this Fourth of July, headlines graphically proved how diminished that liberty is. Hannah Cohen, 18 years old and severely disabled from a brain tumor, sued the TSA and local cops for beating her bloody. Hannah’s “crime”? She had neither understood nor complied with their orders when trying to board a flight the year before.
In June 2015, Hannah and her mother, Shirley, were returning home from St Jude’s Medical Center. Hannah’s tumor and the radiation treating it have left her “partially deaf, blind in one eye, paralyzed, and easily confused….” Not surprisingly, such “substantial limitation[s are] obvious on sight.” No one could have mistaken Hannah for a healthy passenger as the Cohens approached the Transportation Security Administration’s checkpoint in Memphis, TN.
Hannah wore a shirt with sequins on it. Those metallic bits triggered the TSA's scanner. “‘You could see on the screen what it was pointing out,’ Shirley said. …Agents told Hannah they needed to take her to a ‘sterile area’ where they could search her further. She was afraid, Shirley said, and offered to take off the sequined shirt as she was wearing another underneath, but a female agent laughed at her. … Shirley … [explained to] a supervisor standing nearby. ‘She is a St Jude’s patient, and she can get confused…’” In response, the TSA summoned “’armed guards.’”
Those “guards” grabbed Hannah’s arms, further scaring her. “’I tried to push away,’she said. ‘I tried to get away.’”
But “…in the next instant,” Shirley recalled, “one of them had her down on the ground and hit her head on the floor. There was blood everywhere…” The heartrending picture Mrs. Cohen snapped of her daughter documents that ubiquitous blood as well as Hannah’s terror and anguish.
Tragically, this incident was neither isolated nor a misunderstanding. Far too many sick, elderly, and otherwise vulnerable victims have endured similar horrors at American airports. Worse, not all of them have lived to tell about it.
In 2005,the TSA’s air marshals killed a 44-year-old Christian missionary suffering from manic depression. Rigoberto Alpizar, jittery and upset, had tried to disembark from a flight preparing to leave Miami, FL. Two marshals followed him off the plane and shot him in the jetway. They claimed he was shouting about a bomb. Other passengers denied that, insisting they heard the word “bomb” only from the police who later questioned them.
To be fair, most of the TSA’s prey doesn’t wind up bloodied or dead. They deal instead with crushing and very public humiliation. Just ask Thomas Sawyer. A bout with cancer of the bladder pushed him into the TSA’s hands—literally. “’Evidently the scanner picked up on my urostomy bag, because I was chosen for a pat-down procedure. … [E]very time I tried to tell them about my medical condition, they said they didn’t need to know … One agent watched as the other used his flat hand to go slowly down my chest. I tried to warn him that he would hit the bag and break the seal … but he ignored me. Sure enough, the seal was broken and urine started dribbling down my shirt and my leg and into my pants.’” No wonder Mr. Sawyer was so “absolutely humiliated” he “couldn’t even speak … They never apologized. They never offered to help …”
Comply Or Else
The TSA’s ferocity extends even to children, including sick or disabled ones. Four-year-old Ryan Thomas was “born 16 weeks prematurely. His ankles are malformed and his legs have low muscle tone.” He required braces to walk. When his parents tried to fly with him, the TSA insisted that they not only remove his braces after the metal detector beeped but that he walk through the machine without them. Nor did his father’s protests avail ("I told [the TSA’s supervisor], 'This is overkill. He's 4 years old. I don't think he's a terrorist'").
Little girls fare no better. Lucy Forck’s parents hoped to introduce their 3-year-old daughter to Mickey Mouse. But Lucy’s spina bifida confines her to a wheelchair. That allowed the TSA to traumatize her until, “weeping uncontrollably,” she finally screamed, “I don’t want to go to Disney World!” Adding insult to injury, the TSA also “confiscated Lucy’s stuffed toy, ‘Lamby’ … ‘She was crying for her stuffed animal which they wouldn’t let her have for the longest time,’ [Lucy’s father] said. ‘It’s only about a half foot long … but she loves it.’”
What has happened to Americans that we tolerate such savagery against the weakest among us? Does terrorism so menace aviation that children in wheelchairs must forfeit Lamby while manic-depressive passengers are gunned down in jetways?
The officials responsible for the TSA continually assure us that it does; other sources dispute that. But even if the threat were as perilous as self-interested bureaucrats contend, does that excuse the TSA’s mortification of patients with urostomy bags and its brutalizing half-blind, half-deaf teens? Does fear of terrorism—or of anything else—justify gross inhumanity?
The Pat Down
The TSA’s cruelty towards sick, injured or elderly passengers is only one of its sins; its ordinary policies and practices are every bit as immoral. Consider the agency’s notorious “pat downs.”
As the TSA itself admits that it “has used pat downs since … 2002.” But it never concedes that they are indistinguishable from sexual assault, though neither the TSA’s employees nor passengers can tell the difference. Last year, when “two … screeners at Denver International Airport … were discovered manipulating passenger screening systems to allow a male TSA employee to fondle the genital areas of attractive male passengers,” the District Attorney couldn’t pursue charges because none of the eleven victims had complained.
Test after test demonstrates that the TSA can’t find the weapons and explosives on passengers that supposedly justify its existence. And independent experts in security condemn not only “pat downs” but the agency’s entire rigmarole as hopelessly ineffective: “Most of the layers of security are little more than illusions reinforced by a government agency that feeds off the paranoia and fear of the masses. Doing away with them would make America’s transportation systems no less safe.”
And far more humane. If we haven’t abolished the TSA for its incompetence, let’s do so for its immorality.
Source: The TSA Descends from Incompetence to Inhumanity | Foundation for Economic Education
Whether it is Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump who takes the oath of office on January 20, 2017, all public opinion polls suggest that the next president will have among the highest unfavorable ratings for anyone beginning their time in the White House.
According to an Associated Press poll taken in early July 2016, 57 percent view Clinton unfavorably and only 37 percent favorably. Sixty-three percent hold an unfavorable view of Trump, and only 31 percent are favorable. Of those planning to vote for either Clinton or Trump, only 26 percent, respectively, said they would be positively “excited” if their candidate wins. Plus, three quarters of prospective voters in the poll declared that they were making their decision based on whom they wanted to vote against.
If there was an option on the ballot that allowed voters to choose “None of the Above,” for president this election year, that option might very well receive a plurality or maybe even a majority. Possibly for this reason, Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson will likely receive more votes that any LP presidential candidate in history: not because a large number of voters either understand or agree with libertarianism, but as a protest against the alternatives.
Clinton and Trump are Really Cut from the Same Political Cloth
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump represent variations on the same political theme: the interventionist-welfare state, with each pandering to different coalitions of special interests and ideological groups.
Both are promising their constituents different varieties of something-for-nothing: for instance, free or heavily subsidized college tuition in Clinton’s case and a “beautiful,” “huge” wall on the Mexican border in Trump’s case. Both promise jobs that are well-paying and secure from the realities of an ever-changing global economy. In their own ways, both promise to make America safe and “great” again.
Even where they seem to differ, their basic tools are the same. Trump will use governmental power to keep “scary” people out of the country. Clinton will use governmental power to force people to interact, perhaps against their wills. The common denominator is the use of political coercion to micro-manage patterns of human association.
Both will penalize market choices through fiscal and regulatory powers. Clinton will try to change the tax code so as to bring about her idea of greater economic equality for designated groups. At the same time, she’ll avoid rocking the financial boat of the Wall Street crony capitalists who love to pay her hundreds of thousands of dollars for lunchtime chitchats.
Trump promises to use fiscal and regulatory powers to bludgeon U.S. companies that attempt to do more of their business in other parts of the world, and to force American enterprises with manufacturing activities already in foreign countries to bring those activities “back home.”
Clinton and Trump are Both Global Interventionists
Both are interventionist foreign policy activists. Clinton has worked hard to assure the foreign affairs “establishment” that nothing will change under her watch in the White House. America will remain a “socially conscious” policeman of the world, intervening when called for, with the appropriate mix of political, economic, and military involvement in the affairs of other countries in the world, and in partnership with U.S. allies.
Critics of Trump have attempted to paint him as an “isolationist” over his “America First” rhetoric. But in fact he has made it clear that he will maintain America’s ubiquitous presence around the globe. He just wants better “deals” concerning who pays for American meddling and for its military umbrella.
Both have made it clear that they have no hesitancy about bringing American military force to bear, whenever they deem it necessary to thwart “threats” or to effect regime changes that are in the “national interest.”
Voters Horrified by a Political Paternalist Not of their Liking
What frightens different portions of the American electorate is the direction each promises to point the weapon of state power. A large majority of American voters, however, clearly accept the idea of government intervening in domestic social and economic affairs, and of sticking America’s military and political nose in other countries’ affairs, as long as it serves the “right” interests.
And while many in the American electorate find the personalities of both Clinton and Trump highly unattractive, they find the persona of one far more repulsive than the other. Many say they will pull the lever in the voting booth for the one whose stench is less obnoxious than the other.
The Entitlement Society versus a Free Society
What is lost in this contest of personalities and promised uses of power is the more fundamental issue of whether such political interventionism should be the role of government in a free society in the first place.
Both Clinton and Trump are voices for the “entitlement” society. Selected and designated groups are “entitled” to redistribution of wealth, to jobs of certain types that pay “good wages,” and to particular social statuses and protections against the non-coercive actions of others.
In the original American tradition, as expressed in the Declaration of Independence, the prime duty of government is to secure and protect the rights of each and every individual to their life, liberty and honestly acquired property. Every individual, as a human being, should be viewed as a self-governing person at liberty to decide what gives meaning, purpose, and happiness to their own lives. They are not to be lowly servants forced to serve the ends of others, whether of a king and his entourage, or of a voting majority.
Each of us has only one life to live and should be free to live it as we decide, even with all the inescapable regrets and disappointments we meet along the way. Who among us really wants to be a perpetual child taken by the hand and told what to do by a political parent, by a pretender to authority over our decisions and destinies, great and small?
But that is what we implicitly tolerate when a Hillary Clinton or a Donald Trump declares what they will do for us, because government cannot do anything for us that does not at the same time involve having power to do things to us.
This is what is really behind the intensity of the hatred and revulsion against Clinton and/or Trump. It is unbearable to think that one such as them might win the powers of the presidency: to face the prospect of living in a society molded by such fiends.
But this choice is confronting the American people because they take it for granted that the role of government is to bestow privileges and favors – “entitlements” – on some, and to finance those entitlements by imposing burdens on others.
Saturday, July 16, 2016
Gary Johnson, Libertarian nominee for president, at a reception at the 2016 Libertarian Party National Convention.
Friday, July 15, 2016
For those who can’t stomach the idea of voting for Donald Trump OR Hillary Clinton, the prospect of voting for a Libertarian candidate was the only option that didn’t look like selling your soul.
The rush to the Libertarian party was somewhat noticeable. Spikes in membership saw the Libertarian party gaining 100 new members a month, and somewhere around $400,000 in donations…and that was reported back in May.
Apparently, approval for Gary Johnson has seen something of an uptick since then, as the Libertarian candidate has seen a 2% growth in approval, bringing him up to 12%, according to a NYT/CBS poll. While Republicans sit at 9%, and Democrats sit at 5%, Independents support Johnson at 21%.
There could be several factors leading to this bump for Johnson, such as Bernie Sanders dropping out and throwing his weight behind Clinton, and of course, Clinton escaping any kind of punishment for her very obvious crimes surrounding her private email servers.
Regardless of the reason, this is exciting news for those would like to see Johnson at least make a showing on the debate stage alongside Clinton and Trump. Johnson needs a total of 15% to appear next to the Democrat, and other Democrat.
Thursday, July 14, 2016
"Here's a Health to the Company" at the end of the pub sing of the final day of the inaugural Brevard Renaissance Fair in Melbourne, Florida.
Wednesday, July 13, 2016
Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson has recorded his most support among registered voters in recent memory and could land a spot on the debate stages this fall, a new poll finds.
A national Morning Consult survey conducted July 8-10 has Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton narrowly leading her Republican counterpart Donald Trump 39 percent to 37 percent, within the survey’s margin of error of 2 percent.
Johnson, meanwhile, receives 12 percent, up from 10 percent in mid-June. Thirteen percent don’t know or have no opinion.
Without Johnson in the mix, Clinton leads Trump 42 percent to 41 percent, while 18 percent don’t know or have no opinion.
Morning Consult polled 2,001 voters.
If Johnson continues on this trajectory, he could be on the presidential debate stages alongside Clinton and Trump.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) provisions for employee wellness programs give employers the power to reward or penalize their employees based on whether they complete health screenings and participate in fitness programs. While wellness programs are often welcomed, they put most employees in a bind: give your employer access to extensive, private health data, or give up potentially thousands of dollars a year.
Sadly, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) new regulations, which go into effect in January 2017, rubber stamp the ACA’s wellness programs with insufficient privacy safeguards. Because of these misguided regulations, employers can still ask for private health information if it is part of a loosely defined wellness program with large incentives for employees.
As EFF’s Employee Experience Manager, I had hoped the EEOC’s final ruling would protect employees from having to give up their privacy in order to participate in wellness programs. Upon reading the new rules, I was shocked at how little the EEOC has limited the programs’ scope. Without strict rules around how massive amounts of health information can be bought from employees and used, this system is ripe for abuse.
Employers are already using wellness programs in disturbing ways:
- The city of Houston requires municipal employees to tell an online wellness company about their disease history, drug use, blood pressure, and other delicate information or pay a $300 fine. The wellness company can give the data to “third party vendors acting on our behalf,” according to an authorization form. The information could be posted in areas “that are reviewable to the public.” It might also be “subject to re-disclosure” and “no longer protected by privacy law.”
- Plastics maker Flambeau terminated an employee’s insurance coverage when he chose not to take his work-sponsored health assessment and biometric screening.
- A CVS employee claimed she was fined $600 for not submitting to a wellness exam that asked whether she was sexually active.
- The Wall Street Journal reported in February that “third party vendors who are hired to administer wellness programs at companies mine data about the prescription drugs workers use, how they shop and even whether they vote, to predict their individual health needs and recommend treatments.”
- Castlight (a wellness firm contracted by Walmart) has a product that scans insurance claims to find women who have stopped filling their birth-control prescriptions or made fertility related searches on their health app. They match this data with a woman’s age and calculate the likelihood of pregnancy. This individual would then receive targeted emails and in-app messages about prenatal care.
What's New in the EEOC RulesThe EEOC now provides guidance on the extent to which employers may offer incentives to employees to participate in wellness programs that ask them to answer disability-related questions or undergo medical examinations. The maximum allowable “incentive” or penalty an employer can offer is 30% of the total cost for self-only coverage of the plan in which the employee is enrolled. This can add up to thousands of dollars for an employee per year.
According to the new rule, employers may only receive information collected by a wellness program in aggregate form that does not disclose, and is not reasonably likely to disclose, the identity of specific individuals—except as necessary to administer the plan. This “as necessary to administer the plan” exception is alarming given that employers are permitted to base incentives and penalties on health outcomes and not just participation. Measuring outcomes typically involves gathering information on specific individuals over time.
The EEOC rejected a suggestion that would have allowed individuals to avoid disclosing medical information to employers if they could produce certification from a medical professional that they are under the care of a physician and that identified medical risks are under treatment. The EEOC’s stated reason was that this could undermine the effectiveness of wellness programs as a means of collecting data and was unnecessary.
Why This MattersA statement by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) expressed the organization's deep disappointment with the workplace wellness program final rules:
By financially coercing employees into surrendering their personal health information, these rules will weaken medical privacy and civil rights protections.The American Society of Human Genetics also issued a statement opposing the EEOC final ruling for weakening genetic privacy:
The new EEOC rules mean that Americans could be forced to choose between access to affordable healthcare and keeping their health information private… Employers now have the green light to coerce employees into providing their health information and that of their spouse, which in turn reveals genetic information about their children.The ACA was touted as a campaign to put consumers back in charge of their health care. EEOC rules do anything but. Employees should have the right to refuse invasive health surveys without fear of being punished with higher healthcare costs. Incentivizing Americans to be proactive about our health is smart, but putting loads of unnecessary private information into employers’ hands is bad policy.
Tuesday, July 12, 2016
Q&A with Christopher Lloyd, best known for his role in the Back to the Future movies, at MegaCon 2016.
The Washing Well Wenches at the closing pub sing of the inaugural Brevard Renaissance Fair in Melbourne, Florida.
Monday, July 11, 2016
18 years before World of Warcraft, 19 years before Second Life, 13 years beforeEverQuest, heck even a year before making a name for themselves with Maniac Mansion, LucasArts (then Lucasfilm Games) opened a beta for a game called Habitat, which ran from 1986 to 1988. Highly unusual for its time, Habitat allowed Commodore 64 users to chat with strangers, explore new worlds, dress like total idiots and act like a-holes decades before that became the norm. Thanks to a restoration initiative from The Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment (MADE), you will soon be able to play the ancestor to many video games being released today. If you’re skeptical, the MADE has declared Habitat to be an open source project, dumping a whack of Habitat’s files on Github.
Habitat did not have any goals or missions structures, simply areas and various cosmetics for players to mess with. Features like robbing, even killing other users were added in gradually, but a large part of the pitch was that the game would be defined by the users’ shenanigans. This sounds a lot like a Second Life for the ’80s, and before you go snarking “yeah but with a lot less cyber-porking,” this promo video from 1986 suggests their head might’ve already been in the gutter because let’s face it every generation assumes theirs is the horniest.
Despite being a predecessor to incredibly influential games, Habitat was not a huge success itself. Using Q-Link, a service for Commodore 64 that would later become AOL, Habitat could not maintain more than 10,000 users at a time. Q-Link also only ran on evenings and weekdays, meaning you could either play the game or do things with, I don’t know, friends.
When Habitat did leave its beta, it was rebranded as Club Caribe which actually removed a lot of the high-genre sci-fi aesthetics like monsters and robots.
EFF has joined with partners including MoveOn, CREDO, Daily Kos, and Demand Progress to call on Democratic Party Leader Nancy Pelosi to stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) from going to a vote during the "lame duck" session of Congress following the November election.
As we explained in a press conference yesterday, the TPP is simply bad for tech users and innovators: it exports the most onerous parts of U.S. copyright law and prevents the U.S. from improving them in the future, while failing to include the balancing provisions that work for users and innovators, such as fair use. Outside of these copyright provisions, it does nothing to safeguard the free and open Internet, by including phony provisions on net neutrality and encryption, trade secrets provisions that carry no exceptions for journalism or whistleblowing, and a simplistic ban on data localization that enabled the USTR to buy off big tech.
The participants at the press conference, who covered a wide range of other impacted sectors aside from those represented by EFF, presented a petition to Leader Pelosi with an incredible 210,000 signatures that we had collected together, stating:
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is an unprecedented threat to many of the goals we share and for which we appreciate your leadership: good jobs, higher wages, strong climate policies and a livable environment, affordable medicines, safe food, human rights and an open Internet.If you didn't sign that letter, it's not too late. EFF will be following up with Leader Pelosi's District Office in San Francisco on July 21, when we present hard copies of the petition and ask for her response. We're hoping that she will heed the concerns of the thousands of Americans who have spoken up about their concerns about the TPP, and you can add your name to theirs if you act within the next two weeks.
Given the broad public opposition on display this election cycle to trade agreements that expand corporate power to the detriment of most of us, holding a vote during the lame-duck session—when members of Congress are the least accountable—would be unfair and undemocratic. Yet that is precisely what GOP congressional leaders are suggesting.
Please join presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, and publicly oppose any lame duck vote on the TPP. We are counting on you to lead the fight against a TPP lame duck vote and deliver this message loud & clear to all House Democrats.
Source: Hundreds of Thousands Call on Leader Pelosi to Block the Undemocratic TPP | Electronic Frontier Foundation
Despite strong opposition in Congress and from the grassroots, the FBI is still pushing to expand its National Security Letter (NSL) authority. The proposed amendments would allow the FBI to serve companies with NSLs and obtain a wide range of Internet records, known as Electronic Communication Transactional Records (ECTRs), including browsing history.
In addition to a well-documented history of NSL abuse over the last 15 years, the FBI routinely exceeded its authority, claiming for years that it had the power to demand ECTRs with an NSL. It took an intervention [.pdf] by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel in 2008 to definitively establish that the law did not support those claims. Unfortunately, an amendment, sponsored by Senators John McCain and John Cornyn and vigorously promoted by FBI Director James Comey, would grant the FBI the power to access ECTRs, including information like a users’ browsing history as well as other online records.
As Senators Ron Wyden and Martin Heinrich explained in Slate, this information reveals a lot about people; it’s “almost like spying on their thoughts.” Giving the FBI power to obtain these sensitive records with an NSL is especially dangerous, because NSLs operate without prior judicial approval and come with a gag order in nearly all cases. In other words, the FBI would be able to secretly demand this revealing information from Internet companies about their users and gag the companies from notifying policymakers, the press, or users themselves.
Having lost a recent vote on the amendment as part of the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, the amendment’s sponsors are trying to simply bring it up for a vote again. (Similar proposals have also been attached to the 2017 Intelligence Authorization Act and the Email Privacy Act [.pdf].) Obscuring the significance of these proposals—which would effectively overwrite parts of the Justice Department’s 2008 memo—the FBI Director has described it as a “typo fix.”
Take a moment now to tell your Senators to vote against expanding NSL powers by opposing McCain amendment 4787. On Monday, July 11, as part of a day of action, Senators Wyden and Heinrich will host a Q&A on Twitter and Facebook to share their concerns. Join them to learn more and hear the latest updates on when the amendment might come up for a vote.
Source: Senate Still Considering Giving FBI More Power to Spy on Browser History | Electronic Frontier Foundation
The recent vote within the United Kingdom to withdraw from the European Union has implicitly once again raised the issue of the right of self-determination through secession. In other words, do individuals have a right to determine under which political authority they shall live and have representation?
This is, of course, an almost taboo subject in the United States because of its linkage with the Southern Confederacy and the attempted preservation of slavery in the 1860s. While defenders of Southern secession often argue that there were other issues besides slavery that motivated the Southern states to leave the Union following the election of Abraham Lincoln to the presidency in 1860, including tariffs and government spending, the fact is slavery was the most important catalyst for Southern secession.
Southern Secession in the 1860s vs. Self-Determination Today
Anyone who reads the proclamations of secession issued, for example, by South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, or Texas, soon finds that at the core of their decisions to withdraw from the Union was the desire to preserve slavery as the fundamental institution of their societies from perceived anti-slavery threats from the North.
The proponents of Southern secession declared theirs to be a “democratic” choice reflecting the will of the people in these Southern states. But as the nineteenth century British political philosopher, John Stuart Mill, pointed out in 1863, “Secession, may be laudable, and so may any other kind of insurrection, but it may also be an enormous crime” when its purpose is the preservation of holding a portion of the population in perpetual bondage. If secession was meant to be an expression of the will of the people, Mill asked, “Have the slaves been consulted? Has their will been counted as any part in the estimate of collective volition? They are a part of the population . . . Remember, we consider them to be human beings, entitled to human rights.”
However, in the context of Europe or the United States today, for instance, this type of challenge to self-determination and secession no longer applies. Personal freedom and a general equality for all citizens under the rule of law are taken for granted on both sides of the Atlantic, even if rarely perfectly practiced. There is no longer a call for secession for the purpose of maintaining a slave system in place. It has far more to do with the distinct principle of the right of people to decide on the political regime under which they wish to live, especially if they consider the existing one to be harmful to the preservation or restoration of a greater degree of liberty in society.
Government Control versus Individual Freedom to Choose
The most guarded prerogative of every government is its legitimized monopoly over the use of force within its territorial jurisdiction. The second most important prerogative is its exclusive control over all its territory. By implication, governments therefore claim an exclusive right over the political, economic, and cultural destinies of the people under their control. If people may not voluntarily and peacefully separate from the state in which they live, then it is tacitly claiming ownership over them.
Of course, the most fundamental right of self-determination is the individual’s right to live his life as he chooses, as long as he does not violate any other person’s right to life, liberty, and honestly acquired property. In other words, the core principle underlying any free society is the right of self-ownership. The individual is not the property of the state, any collective group, or any other individual. Without this principle, freedom is unsustainable in the long run.
The classical liberals of the nineteenth century believed that individuals should be free to determine their own lives. It is why they advocated private property, voluntary exchange, and constitutionally limited government. They also believed that people should be free to reside and work in any country they wish. In general, therefore, they advocated freedom of movement. Governments should not compel people to stay within their political boundaries, nor should any government prohibit them from entering its territory for peaceful purposes.
Individual Self-Determination and Secession
An extension of this principle was that individuals should be free to determine through plebiscite what political authority would exist where they lived. It should be kept in mind that this is distinctly different from the collectivists’ notion of “national self-determination,” the alleged necessity for all members of an ethnic, racial, linguistic, or cultural group to be incorporated within a single political entity, regardless of their wishes. Thus, for instance, the Nazis demanded that all members of the “Aryan race” be forcefully united within a Greater Germany under National Socialist leadership.
Classical liberalism implies “individual self-determination.” Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises argued in his book on Liberalism (1927) that the liberal ideal would allow individuals within towns, districts, and regions to vote on which state they would live under; they could remain part of the existing state, join another state, or form a new one.
Mises stated that in principle this choice should be left to each individual, not majorities, since a minority (including a minority of one) might find itself within the jurisdiction of a government not of its own choosing. But because it was difficult to imagine how competing police and judicial systems could function on the same street corner, Mises viewed the majoritarian solution to be a workable second best.
Or as Mises expressed it:
“The right of self-determination in regard to the question of membership in a state thus means: whenever the inhabitants of a particular territory, whether it be a single village, a whole district, or a series of adjacent districts, make it known, by a freely conducted plebiscite, that they no longer wish to remain united to the state to which they belong at the time, but wish either to an independent state or to attach themselves to some other state, their wishes are to be respected and complied with . . .” “However, the right of self-determination of which we speak is not the right of self-determination of nations, but rather the right of self-determination of the inhabitants of every territory large enough to form an independent administrative unit. If it were in any way possible to grant this right of self-determination to every individual person, it would have to be done. This is impracticable only because of compelling technical considerations, which make it necessary that a region be governed as a single administrative unit and the right of self-determination be restricted to the will of the majority of the inhabitants or areas large enough to count as territorial units in the administration of the country.”
Precisely because it could turn out that an individual found himself still living under a political regime not of his choosing even with this territorial conception of individual self-determination through plebiscite, the classical liberals argued that the best way to assure that the state did not abuse him through the use of state power on behalf of some others should be that every government be limited to only protecting the life, liberty, and honestly acquired property of its citizens in a social order based on voluntary association and free-market exchange.
In such a world the use of political power to benefit some at the coerced expense of others would be eliminated or at least reduced to the smallest amount humanly possible. Government, then, would be only a “night-watchman” responsible for guarding each individual from force and fraud under the equal protection of law within its monopoly jurisdiction.