Daily Outrage, Monday Edition

Even Internet cranks need an occasional break from examining the myriad ways human beings abuse and cause unnecessary, frequently unintentional harm to one another. For me, those breaks usually lead to the discovery of apparently parodic movements that are, in fact, completely on the up and up.

I’m sure we can all agree on our love for the Westboro Baptist Church, its political and social primitivism and the Phelps’ family’s talent for self-promotion and income generation via civil suits. If you are unfamiliar with Esquire Phelps and his odd brood, his method of putting food on the table is one that could not exist outside of a nation that combines a (relative) lack of judicial corruption with a (relative) plenitude of civil protections. His methods are simple: utter astonishingly provocative, hurtful things to individuals who are at their most vulnerable, then sue the inevitable few who violate the law in retaliation. Whether picketing Matthew Shepard’s funeral with “Fag Matt in Hell” placards, driving en masse to military funerals to harass the grieving families of dead soliders, or introducing their own children to the beauty of a lifelong siege mentality, Phelps and his lawyer children scrupulously observe the letter of the law while counting on the fact that the grieving families who suffer their abuse will not. Given that Westboro’s costs include little more than transportation, housing, food, and complete isolation from the world, it’s hard to imagine that Phelps doesn’t do pretty well for himself. It’s a smart business model and a de facto monopoly as well, as the promise of complete social isolation, endless and frequently witty ridicule, and likelihood of catching a vigilante’s bullet prevent this breed of litigious attorney from proliferating.

And then there is the lesser known Voluntary Human Extinction Movement, whose values are explained at some length by founder and human extinction advocate–I swear I am not making this up–Les U. Knight. Leaving aside Knight’s decidedly dualistic view of creation as humanity vs. everything else, a romanticized understanding of how (not to mention how long) species exist in a natural world rife with asteroids, volcanoes, and plenty of other catastrophy-inducing stuff, and his cheerful rejection of the singular goal that has led life from the humblest of origins to himself over the past few billion years, he makes a lot of sense.

Intellectual exercise of the day: Using the argumentative form provided by this article, devise as many ethical reasons as possible to avoid having children. I’ll start us out:

If you as a Cardinal fan choose to give birth to a child, and it later turns out to be a Reds fan, it renders your own personal commitment to decent haircuts and good dentistry completely invalid.

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Sunday Afternoon Injustices, Outrages, etc.

A civil liberties advocate with a concealed carry permit on his way back from Burning Man meets the TSA. Is it a classic case of opposites attracting, with the TSA standing in for Paula Abdul and Civil Liberties Lad taking on the part of MC Skat Kat? Will the parted, bickering lovers find their way into one anothers’ arms by the end of the drama’s 57-minute, audio-recorded runtime? Or will the gleeful activist simply leave the checkpoint, drive a few miles down the road, and fly out of an airport without a body scanner? Whether you are an aspiring terrorist or a fan of heart-wrenching drama, you won’t want to miss this!

More TSA guffaws: Now that taxpayers have bought $200+ million worth of body scanners for the sake of violating our moribund Fourth Amendment rights, we learn that the machines cannot tell a sweaty armpit from a chemical weapon. Only an unaccountable bureaucracy would spend eight billion dollars annually on make-work jobs and useless equipment that does nothing but hinder private enterprise, violate the right to contract, and invite scores of lawsuits. Every day I become more convinced that we’d be better off paying TSA employees to stay in bed; we might be out $8 billion a year sans benefit, but at least we could stop pretending that it’s possible to prevent dedicated terrorists from attacking civilian targets or that risk does not come part and parcel with living in a free society.

A 2006 article on government regulation and shower flow from the estimable mises.org. Includes useful DIY information on deregulating water flow for fellow water anarchists who value brief, torrential downpours of hot water.

Hilarious/Awful law of the day, state edition: Kyleigh’s Law. A mini Twix bar to anyone who can guess (without reading wiki’s “Controversy” section) why this foolish law should never have made it past the brainstorming stage. As Eugene Volokh says, laws named after crime victims and dead people are usually a bad idea.

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Weekend Outrages, Saturday Edition

The ACLU continues the fight against phone companies who participated in warrantless wiretapping on the behalf of the federal government. Studs Terkel may be gone, but the lawsuit bearing his name lives on in appeals.

From the Whoever Heard of the Fourth Amendment Department (non-TSA Division): In May, the Supreme Court ruled that police with probable cause may conduct warrantless searches at their discretion to prevent the destruction of evidence. The lesson here being that if you’re smoking something illegal in your apartment and the police start banging on your door, do your destruction of evidence very quietly, which will certainly prevent the police from kicking in your door rather than going to the effort of calling for a warrant, waiting around until it’s granted, and then enforcing it. The good news is that, despite the worst economic downturn in two generations, door manufacturers and carpenters have seen a dramatic increase in business in the past few months.

Borrowed from Reason.tv: Some Michigan bar owners who have seen their businesses devastated by the state’s smoke-free law (which, conveniently enough, exempts big-money and high-traffic casinos) announced their intentions to refuse service to all lawmakers in protest. A particularly nice touch from the article:

“[Stephen Mace, director of the Private Property Rights group] said his group’s ban on lawmakers will have exemptions, just like the law does for casinos. He said rank-and-file lawmakers will be banned, but the head honchos — the governor, lieutenant governor and top members of the House and Senate — will still be allowed.

“In the way that the smoking ban exempted the casinos … the big guys get looked after,” Mace said.

The American Cancer Society vouches for the ban in the interests of public health, ignoring the fact that people who don’t want to patronize bars or restaurants that permit smoking don’t have to. This is why niches in the market exist–to cater to and, if they’re lucky, monopolize customers who are repulsed by cigarette smoke. Permitting public opinion to work via the market is insufficient, however, as is private industry’s tendency to cater to client preferences; instead, presumably healthier options must be the only options, regardless of how the public wants to spend its limited resources.
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Outrages of the New Month

Why, George, why? Why do you persist in tormenting the people who made you rich? I suppose I should be thankful the Ewoks aren’t speaking Ferengi yet.

Cato’s Andrew Coulson picks on poor, beleaguered President Obama and his big plans for a third stimulus of make-work jobs government spending. At this point, Obama would be better off dedicating all his time to some combination of crowing over Bin Laden, talking up the American education system as if it weren’t an ossified failure of bureaucracy, and making more campaign promises of liberty, decency, and peace that he has no intention of keeping. Worst prez since Bush Jr, no doubt about it.

Tom Palmer’s Twenty Myths about Markets (link in PDF format). An excellent jumping-off point for free-market advocates and enemies alike.

At the risk of alienating my Big L Libertarian friends and engendering a bit of love from the neo-hippies and fellow lovers of heirloom tomatoes . . . Monsanto’s Bt-corn, a hugely successful GM crop designed to kill the corn rootworms that devour just about everything, has met its match: the Western rootworm beetle had developed bt resistance. FDA’s impeccable regulatory record, Frankenstein food, Ian Malcolm, innocent farmers will suffer by losing an entire crop of “pest-resistant” corn, etc.

The Daily Funny, borrowed from http://www.coordinationproblem.org, original source unknown:

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Tuesday Outrages

http://www.futureofcapitalism.com/2011/08/egg-regulation –┬áIra Stoll examines the latest outbreak of disease in the products of factory farming (80 million cases of food poisoning a year and the government still prefers to dedicate untold resources toward harassing Rawesome Foods) and notes that “the implicit assumption of the article [referenced in link] is that more government regulation would improve the situation rather than just failing at a higher cost to taxpayers than the existing regulation. This is often the reaction to a regulatory failure, whether it involves eggs or the Securities and Exchange Commission. Rather than examine the entire approach or move toward private- or self-regulation, the press and politicians prefer to do more of the same.”

This mindset is common even among proletariat folk like my family, a population whose political contributions and awareness don’t stretch far beyond their social security taxes (excuse me, “contributions”) and “benefits.” Even those with some political awareness rarely understand just how incestuous the regulator/regulated relationship becomes once lobbying is factored in. Whereas regulation might begin with the good intentions of Ralph Nader and his Vanguard of the Public Interest, it doesn’t take long before it becomes another corporate tool used to stifle competition. See the FDA and Monsanto under the leadership of Blessed Leader Obama or, if you’d like to make your Tuesday especially gloomy, check out the effect of regulation on hyper-artisanal, local-friendly, organic-only Nice Cream.

http://townhall.com/tipsheet/katiepavlich/2011/08/30/gibson_guitar_ceo_feds_are_out_to_get_us – From the Continuing Tales of the Bizarre: the Feds ramp up their two-year investigation/persecution of Gibson Guitar Corp. over the possibility (one that remains speculative) that Gibson could be importing illegal wood to make fret boards. The Justice Dept. being the Justice Dept., it shuts down the company via armed raid not once but twice, confiscates Gibson’s property, then sits on a cache of valuable commodities for nearly two years without filing charges or, you know, returning the guitars. As you can imagine, Gibson and its attorneys are howling mad. If they weren’t donating to the Democrats before, something tells me that systematic harassment is unlikely to change their minds.

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Ayn Rand meets Playboy

Rand is too Manichean, but this part of her 1964 Playboy interview moved me:

PLAYBOY: In Atlas Shrugged, one of your leading characters is asked, “What’s the most depraved type of human being?” His reply is surprising: He doesn’t say a sadist or a murderer or a sex maniac or a dictator; he says, “The man without a purpose.” Yet most people seem to go through their lives without a clearly defined purpose. Do you regard them as depraved?

RAND: Yes, to a certain extent.

PLAYBOY: Why?

RAND: Because that aspect of their character lies at the root of and causes all the evils which you mentioned in your question. Sadism, dictatorship, any form of evil, is the consequence of a man’s evasion of reality. A consequence of his failure to think. The man without a purpose is a man who drifts at the mercy of random feelings or unidentified urges and is capable of any evil, because he is totally out of control of his own life. In order to be in control of your life, you have to have a purpose — a productive purpose.

PLAYBOY: Weren’t Hitler and Stalin, to name two tyrants, in control of their own lives, and didn’t they have a clear purpose?

RAND: Certainly not. Observe that both of them ended as literal psychotics. They were men who lacked self-esteem and, therefore, hated all of existence. Their psychology, in effect, is summarized in Atlas Shrugged by the character of James Taggart. The man who has no purpose, but has to act, acts to destroy others. That is not the same thing as a productive or creative purpose.

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Daily Briefings

http://motherjones.com/politics/2011/05/does-michele-bachmann-think-world-ending – Everyone knows that god-talk is only acceptable when it’s coming from Cornell West. But in all seriousness, Michele Bachmann’s candidacy as a semi-serious presidential candidate both frightens and amuses me. I’m not sure when the Tea Party stopped being libertarian-leaning Republicans and became Republican-leaning Republicans, but I’m pretty certain the transformation became complete when Bachmann and Palin blundered onto the scene.

 

http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=v2lkAAAAIBAJ&sjid=vnwNAAAAIBAJ&pg=5284,5897154&dq=tennessee+law&hl=en – Google News is the greatest thing to happen to the world since private property and globalization hooked up to birth the iphone. Be sure to check out the druggist hatchet murder story on the same page.

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2006/02/06TELAVIV480.html – found via Reason.com

http://volokh.com/2011/08/27/federal-government-prosecuting-man-for-writing-many-insulting-tweets-and-blog-posts-about-religious-leader/ – Buddhist tweet-fights, a surprising federal law that I break at least twice a day on various sports forums, and the First Amendment, courtesy of Eugene Volokh

http://www.economist.com/node/21524698 – Kindness to strangers, altruism, no mention of Ayn Rand, the Economist. Discuss.

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