Monday, May 29, 2006

Politicians And Lawyers Like Lists- Musicians Don't

This list by John J. Miller of the top 50 conservative rock songs was in the news before the lonely libertarian's hiatus, but I figured I'd finish what I started commenting on and give my two cents.

My first thought after reading the list was not to criticize, but to wonder what the list of the top 50 liberal rock songs would look like. How many similar artists, and in fact similar themes would there be? According to Miller, "skepticism of government" is a conservative value, but I'm not sure if I'd want to lump virtually every single Rage Against the Machine song into the category of conservative.

The fact of the matter is, individualist themes are part of what rock music is all about, and individualism in its many forms may be reflected in various conservative and liberal positions, but individualism itself is not necessarily a political value.

Take away the songs on the list with strong individualist or anti-authoritarian themes, and you're basically left with a couple of songs against taxes and abortion. And I guess that's my problem with the list. It's just plain stupid. Musicians don't write songs to support a political agenda, they write songs about topics they feel strongly about.

If there's some issue, or some ideal you're passionate about, the political label other people put upon it doesn't really matter. That's what’s so beautiful, so pure about music (even commercial rock and roll). Just look at some of the songs included from my own generation, Ben Folds Five "Brick" and Blink 182's "Stay Together For The Kids" .... There’s nothing remotely political about either of these songs. They're painful recollections relating to personal experiences.

And that's really the point of music; it's personal, not political. There was the time, only several weeks after the start of the Iraq war when I was at a Papa Roach concert. Lead singer Jacoby Shaddix gave a heart-felt statement protesting the war, based on his experiences after his father came back from Vietnam. Even if one were to consider anti-war feelings to be liberal sentiments, it seems odd to classify such an obviously personal statement as political.

Not that there aren't any overtly political songs. The thing is, most of them suck.
Take for instance, the recent song by punk grey beards NOFX, "You're Wrong." Why does it suck? Because it's not passionate and it doesn't really say anything, other than that conservatives are wrong:

You're wrong about virtues of Christianity
And you're wrong if you agree with Sean Hannity
If you think that pride is about nationality, you're wrong

You're wrong when you imprison people turning tricks
And you're wrong about trickle down economics
If you think that punk rock doesn't mix with politics, you're wrong

You're wrong for hating queers and eating steers
If you kill for the thrill of the hunt
You're wrong 'bout wearing fur and not hating Ann Coulter
Cause she's a cunted cunt

You're wrong if you celebrate Columbus Day
And You're wrong if you think there will be a Judgment Day
If you're a charter member of the NRA, you're wrong

You're wrong if you support capital punishment
And you're wrong if you don't question your government
If you think her reproductive rights are inconsequent, you're wrong

You're wrong fighting Jihad, your blind faith in God
Your religions are all flawed,
You're wrong about drug use, when its not abuse
I hope you never reproduce

You're getting high on the downlow
A victim of Cointelpro
You're wrong and will probably never know

The lonely libertarian's vote for the greatest political song ever? System of a Down's Prison Song,a scathing critique of the war on drugs. Is this a conservative, liberal, or libertarian song? I couldn't tell you. And that's just what makes a good political song. Good political songs don't want to fit on to anyone's political lists.

They’re trying to build a prison
They’re trying to build a prison
Following the rights movement
You clamped on with your iron fists
Drugs became conveniently
Available for all the kids
Following the rights movement
You clamped on with your iron fists
Drugs became conveniently
Available for all the kids
I buy my crack, I smack my bitch
Right here in Hollywood
(nearly 2 million Americans are
Incarcerated in the prison system
Prison system of the us)
They’re trying to build a prison
They’re trying to build a prison
They’re trying to build a prison
(for you and me to live in)
Another prison system
Another prison system
Another prison system
(for you and me to live in)
Minor drug offenders fill your prisons
You don’t even flinch
All our taxes paying for your wars
Against the new non-rich
Minor drug offenders fill your prisons
You don’t even flinch
All our taxes paying for your wars
Against the new non-rich
I buy my crack, I smack my bitch
Right here in Hollywood
The percentage of Americans in the prison system
Prison system, has doubled since 1985
They’re trying to build a prison
They’re trying to build a prison
They’re trying to build a prison
(for you and me to live in)
Another prison system
Another prison system
Another prison system
For you and i, for you and i, for you and i.
They’re trying to build a prison
They’re trying to build a prison
They’re trying to build a prison
For you and me
Oh baby, you and me.
All research and successful drug policy show
That treatment should be increased
And law enforcement decreased
While abolishing mandatory minimum sentences
All research and successful drug policy show
That treatment should be increased
And law enforcement decreased
While abolishing mandatory minimum sentences
Utilizing drugs to pay for secret wars around the world
Drugs are now your global policy now you police the globe
I buy my crack, I smack my bitch
Right here in Hollywood
Drug money is used to rig elections
And train brutal corporate sponsored dictators
Around the world
They’re trying to build a prison
They’re trying to build a prison
They’re trying to build a prison
(for you and me to live in)
Another prison system
Another prison system
Another prison system
(for you and me to live in)
For you and i, for you and i, for you and i
For you and i
They’re trying to build a prison
They’re trying to build a prison
They’re trying to build a prison
For you and me
Oh baby, you and me

Friday, May 26, 2006

Climate Change Happens

Just a brief thought as to a bumper sticker or tee-shirt I'd like to have: "Climate Change Happens" - Maybe it could have a little smiley face at the end.

Football Falls Prey To The Nanny State

Local sports news, with an interesting twist: Connecticut cracks down on high school football blowouts. (Apparently this was the subject of much discussion on ESPN radio's national programming yesterday.)

Put simply, the rule proposed by the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) football committee would suspend a high school coach for his game the following week should his team win by more than 50 points. The rule has been making the rounds here in Connecticut as the Cochran rule, named for current New London head coach Jack Cochran, whose teams have been known to ring up huge deficits on opponents. (I know this from personal experience. In 1997, Cochran's Bloomfield team, which featured current NFL All-Pro Dwight Freeney, defeated my team of Conard-West Hartford 53-0.)

As an ex-high school football player, I can think of innumerable reasons that such a rule is not just stupid but threatens the very integrity of the game.

As the lonely libertarian, I can see this rule quite clearly as part of the nanny state mentality that demands "fairness" and doesn't want kids to have their feelings hurt.

What's the real issue here? Obviously, no one likes a bully, and there's a whole realm of sports ethics which tell us it's wrong to run up a score on an opponent. But just because something is wrong, doesn't mean we need to have a rule for it. Certain aspects of sportsmanship (like running up a score) are not amenable to rules. This is the same problem we see in our everyday lives, where our political leaders look to pass laws for every problem they can think of.

What's ignored is the law of unintended consequences. In this case, what may well happen with such a football rule is that younger players and backups wouldn't really get a chance to play, as any late game scores could get their coach suspended. Obviously, this is the antithesis of what sports are all about. Just imagine if when Rudy finally got in the game, he was told not to do anything because the game needed to be winded down.

The point is, we don't need rules for everything, and just because a rule is well-intentioned does not mean that it's a practical rule. Just keep in mind- something can be wrong without the force of a law or a rule behind it.

Follow Up On William Jefferson and the Saturday Night Raid

A follow up to the other day's post on William Jefferson and the inane separation of powers argument:

Following the news the past few days has helped me to understand the story a bit better. Eugene Volokh makes the point that this is an issue akin to that of an evidentiary privilege. It does make sense that certain documents relating to legislation and the legislative process should not be subject to executive branch scrutiny. Similar to a search of an attorney's office, impartial screeners need to be used in order to protect confidential information.

The real issue here seems to be that even though the screeners were independent of the prosecutors, they were still part of the executive branch. So all the fuss Congress is making is because they believe the screeners should have been from the legislative branch.

In my humble opinion, this seems to be a rather technical point, not a blatant abuse of power. As usual, reality doesn't quite match the outrage. Raising the separation of powers argument is still unbelievably dumb. Separation of powers applies to the functioning of the branches, and the sort of activities they are allowed to engage in, not to the privileges unique to each branch.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Party Of Compassion?

I thought the Democrats were supposed to be the party of compassion, the party that cared about poverty and the plight of the poor.

If that's the case, then why is it that not one person in this long list of comments on a Democratic Underground (home of the uber-leftists) posting on immigration even mentions the tremendous incentives immigrants have to come here and work illegally.

The simple fact is that the mainstream media, the left, and the right don't want to talk about the tremendous benefits immigrants reap by coming to America illegally. Think about it. Millions of Mexicans chose to come to the United States illegally, and work under the radar without the benefit of minimum wage laws, or any laws protecting workers. Millions choose to do this rather than work legally in Mexico. Says a lot for the free market and the pull of freedom, doesn't it?

I get my lawn mowed cheaply, and some Mexican a better living then he ever did in Mexico. The only losers are the (phantom) jobs being lost.

Congressmen Who Need To Take A Class In Basic Principles of Government

Repeat after me: Separation of powers does not mean immunity.

How preposterous can Congress get? This time, the hubub is about Democratic Representative William Jefferson, whose House office was raided on warrant executed by FBI agents this past weekend. According to the New York Times (among other sources), various Congressional Representatives of both parties have raised the specter of the doctrine of "separation of powers," claiming that the FBI's execution of a valid warrant issued by a federal judge was somehow a Constitutional violation.

Separation of powers does not imply immunity of any sort. To put separation of powers as simply as possible, the doctrine refers to the notion that the three branches of government all have separate spheres of authority. The legislature passes laws, the executive branch enforces and implements the law, and the judicial branch adjudicates questions of law. As any student of administrative law can tell you, these distinctions are not absolute.

Once again, what we have here is the FBI executing a valid judicial warrant as part of a bribery investigation. Maybe this issue would be simpler if this was a murder investigation. Say for instance, a murder victim was found in a Congressional office- would the executive branch be barred from investigating the murder because it occurred in a Congressional office building? Obviously not. The difficult part of all of this is to understand why the executive branch (in this case the FBI) should be barred from performing its traditional investigative function, especially when they were granted a warrant by the judicial branch!

If you are one of those who believe this is motivated by partisan concerns, so be it, but don't raise a quite obviously inapplicable doctrine.

On a side note, Democrats have been very vocal about the culture of corruption in the Republican Party. The real culture of corruption is not one that fits in to partisan boundaries, but an overall culture of Congressional corruption. Why else do you think that members of both parties are making such a big deal of this?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

My Layman Is Smarter Than Your Layman

Since when did Amnesty International become experts in conducting the foreign policy of nations of hundreds of millions? At least, that was my thought when I saw this piece on Amnesty International's latest report at According to the piece,

In releasing its 2006 annual report, the human rights watchdog [Amnesty International] condemned countries such as the United States, China and Russia for focusing on narrowly defined interests, diluting efforts to solve conflicts elsewhere -- such as Sudan's Darfur region.

This is not meant to start a political firestorm about Amnesty International, only to point out that crafting foreign policy is a far different endeavor than cataloguing human rights abuses. Every nation of the world has limited resources for dealing with human rights issues abroad, and the members of those governments, with their specialized knowledge and expertise in the global political arena are probably best equipped at allocating those resources. Or at the very least are more equipped than members of Amnesty International, who even accounting for political expertise, will not have the specific knowledge of the resources at a nation's disposal.

More importantly- unless resources are allocated in some specifically anti-human rights sort of way, how is the allocation of resources a human right issue to begin with? After all, we can all agree that torture and murder are wrong, but the town council in my hometown of West Hartford can't agree on how money should be spent- if a small town can't agree, then there is certainly no global consensus, and we're no longer talking about a global human right, but a contentious political issue. There may be hundreds or thousands of major human rights issues in the world, but the United States does not have enough resources to deal with all of them. Deciding what issues to address, and how to address them don't seem like quintessential human rights type questions.

Actually, this is the same problem we face in regards to global warming. Scientists can tell you, with all their scientific expertise, if global warming is occurring, how much it is occurring, and what might be the results of various responses to global warming. This is all in accordance with the scientific method. But if you want to know the economic and societal impact of changes made in response to global warming, you don't ask a climate scientist, you ask an economist. Maybe scientists supported the Kyoto accords, but what scientists thought wasn't really the issue. Economists told us that Kyoto would cost the American economy hundreds of billions of dollars.

But in the end, the question was the same as that raised by Amnesty International above- a divisive political question with moral and economic implications. And sure we can all have our say, be we leave the specifics of these questions to our elected officials and their experts for a reason.

The point isn't that Amnesty International shouldn't come out and make these sorts of statements (or that climate scientists shouldn't speak out about solutions to global warming.) The point is, as an organization, stick to what you know and what you do best. When Amnesty International tells me the number of people wrongfully locked away in Cuba, I'm in no position to argue, and I'm happy to accept their expertise. The problem with these sorts of reports is that they are taken at face value and seem as somehow insightful, where in reality, you're opinion and my opinion may be just as valuable.

This isn't so much about Amnesty International as it is about the media, and about the dissemination of information. One should take their role as an expert seriously, and should not confuse the public by intermingling expert opinion and laymen opinion. An organization like Amnesty International should try and respect that distinction. Individual members should be free to comment and hold whatever opinions they like, but those should be kept separate from the organization. In the same vein, climate scientists should feel free to speak up on global warming- however, if they are being interviewed, they should be careful to distinguish their expert views on the scientific facts of global warming, from the political questions of what should be done over global warming. And the media should have the same responsibility when it utilizes expert analysis.

As to the lonely libertarian, he's not an expert on anything, nor does he claim to be. My opinion is simply that, just an opinion, as good or as bad as anyone else's.

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Problem With The Legal/Illegal Distinction

Perhaps the biggest of the arguments in the immigration debate is the distinction between legal and illegal immigration, and that the issue here is only about those who break our laws. The problem with this argument (and with current immigration law) is that they are totally divorced from reality.

Put yourself in the following situation: You are a Mexican, and your family is suffering because the best job you can find to support them pays only 2 dollars a day, which isn't even enough to feed everyone sufficiently. You've had little education, you can't read or write, and you've grown up in poverty. You've heard that to the north, in the United States, you can make not just 2 dollars a day, but 2 dollars an hour, just by picking vegetables and doing other similar jobs. Maybe you know the "legal method" for going north and getting a job, or maybe you don't. But you know that there are plenty of ways you can get across the border, and start working for your family now. Regardless of what you know, coming here "illegally" is far simpler then having to wade through the American bureaucracy and come through "official channels." What would you do?

The problem with this legal/illegal distinction is that it assumes our laws are morally right and efficient. For those who support immigration quotas at their current levels, you need to defend why it would not be efficient and morally right to greatly expand the number of legal immigrants we allow into the country. If securing our borders and national security are the most important issues in this immigration debate, why should we not solve the problem in the most efficient manner possible- letting more people in. Clearly, with at least 12 million illegal immigrants in the country already we can handle a lot more than we're taking in through legal routes.

And more importantly, what is the moral problem with opening our borders to foreigners, when the businesses, consumers, and the immigrants themselves are all the better because of their move to America?

Conservatives Take Aim In The War On MySpace

See story here, courtesy of Nathan Tabor at The gag-me, overreaction quote of the day-

But now they’ve [parents] come to realize that no teen is immune to the lure of a clever predator in cyberspace.

Ooooo! Danger is only a click away, ooooooo!

One would think conservatives would offer, well, conservative solutions. To put myself into the role of Mr. Conservative, I would say that parents who teach their children good morals and good values don't have to worry about their kids running off to have sex with older men. And parents who teach their kids the basics of personal safety don't have to worry about "predators." Tabor's solution is to "unplug the computer once in awhile." In today's day and age this is the literal equivalent of locking a child in the basement to keep them from going outside. You don't keep teenagers safe by shielding them from all the possible dangers of the outside world. If teenagers don't learn to deal with MySpace at age 14 or 15, how are they possibly going to know how to handle themselves when they're 18, legal adults, and off on their own at college.

The real lesson here is one conservatives should know very well. Good kids who stay out of trouble are still good kids, and are still staying out of trouble in the MySpace era. Troubled kids in need of parenting and discipline got themselves into trouble in the past, and now have another outlet (in the form of MySpace) to get themselves into trouble.

Global Warming Is Totally Serial People

Maybe Andrew Revkin doesn't watch South Park. Today's New York Times has a piece on Al Gore's new global warming movie "An Inconvenient Truth." Southpark (of course) beat the Times to the story, and beat the movie to the theater.

This is from the episode "Manbearpig" courtesy of the South Park Scriptorium:

[South Park Elementary school gym, day. The student body is gathered there to hear from a guest speaker. Mr. Mackey is presiding]

Mr. Mackey: M'kay, students, we have a very special guest speaker today. Who can tell me the name of our country's last vice-president?

Kyle: Dick Cheney?

Mr. Mackey: No, the last one.

Butters: Bill Clinton.

Mr. Mackey: No, Clinton's vice-president. [no one has an answer] He is here today to talk to you students about some very serious issues. Please welcome Al Gore. [some applause. Al Gore arrives and Mr. Mackey steps away to one side]

Stan: Who?

Al Gore: Thank you, Mr. Mackey, students of South Park Elementary.. I'm here to educate you about the single biggest threat to our planet. You see, there is something out there which threatens our very existence and may be the end of the human race as we know it. I'm talking of course about... [a projector comes on and a picture of a monster appears] Manbearpig. [a beast with the legs and tail of a pig, the body and arms of a bear, and the face and upper-body posture of a man]

Kyle: [softly, to Stan] Manbearpig? [Stan just turns his hands up and shrugs]

Al Gore: It is a creature which roams the earth alone. It is half man, half bear, and half pig. Some people say that Manbearpig isn't real. Well, I'm here to tell you know, Manbearpig is very real, and he most certainly exists. I'm serial. Manbearpig doesn't care who you are or what you've done. Manbearpig simply wants to get you! I'm super-serial. [Mr. Mackey and Mrs. Garrison just look at each other.] But have no fear, because I am here to save you! And someday, when the world is rid of Manbearpig, everyone will say "Thank you, Al Gore. You're super awesome." The end.

And from the New York Times article,

He [Al Gore] laments being unable so far to awaken the public to what he calls a "planetary emergency" despite evidence that heat-trapping smokestack and tailpipe gases are warming the earth, and even after Hurricane Katrina and Europe's deadly 2003 heat wave, which he calls a foretaste of much worse to come.

"I've been trying to tell this story for a long time, and I feel as if I've failed to get the message across," Mr. Gore muses.

Maybe people just don't like to be scared to death. And maybe people have trouble believing what amount to prophecies of doom. Oh yeah- and Al Gore is the Millhouse of politicians. Nobody likes Millhouse.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Everything I Know I Learned From South Park

From Season Three's "Rainforest Schmainforest" :

(While driving through San Jose, Costa Rica)

Cartman: Oh my God, it smells like ass out here.

Miss Stevens (played by Jennifer Aniston): Alright, that does it. Eric Cartman, you respect other cultures this instant.

Cartman: I wasn't saying anything about their culture, I was just saying their city smells like ass.

Miss Stevens: You may think that making fun of third-world countries is funny but let me...

Cartman: I don't think it's funny. This place is overcrowded, smelly and poor. That's not funny, that sucks.

Thank God University Policies Aren't Laws

As a law student, I tend to have an eye for the technical- When someone mentions that a rule or a policy was broken, I wonder what that rule or policy actually says.

So when the local news of hazing at the undergrad campus of my law school (Quinnipiac University) broke, my initial reaction was not one of shock, but one of technical curiosity. After all, adult diapers and whip cream bikinis don't seem particularly tasteful, but they also don't seem to rise to the level of physical abuse.

According to the Hartford Courant, Quinnipiac's anti-hazing policy, it is a violation to "wear conspicuous apparel publicly that is not normally in good taste" or to participate in "degrading or humiliating games."

Even more fun was when the story broke nationally on ESPN. According to ESPN,

Quinnipiac has an anti-hazing policy that prohibits "any action taken or situation, on or off campus, intended to create mental or physical discomfort, embarrassment, harassment, ridicule or possible mental or physical injury."

The policy also bans paddling; covering a person with things like water, paint or food; forcing any members to drink alcoholic beverages or use illegal substances; depriving people of sleep; unplanned road trips or kidnappings; assigning "pranks," such as stealing, painting objects, panty raids or harassing another organization; or any physical or psychological shock to a student.

I'm glad to know that if I created a club at the law school, I can't force initiates into my club to wear clothing in bad taste. I also can't embarrass, harass, or ridicule anyone. (Does that mean know talking about Justice Scalia opinions?) And finally, no depriving people of sleep. (I better plan on ending my meetings by 8:00 PM in case anyone needs to go to bed early.)

Like everything else in the media this seems like a lot of hype about nothing. Not every form of "hazing" is a cause for concern. The only reason this has become national news was because the website found the pictures on a public photo site. Hmmmm .... Does that seem like a website concerned with promoting good sportsmanship, or a website concerned with trashing jocks?

We should leave the concern for cases of real abuse, and cases where there are actual complaints raised. Let kids be stupid and let them be kids. Let's not worry about every single instance of unusual outfits, adult diapers and all.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

More Immigration Blow Back

A Fan For All Seasons commented a while back on immigration:

It's true that there are similarities between the Mexican immigrants today and immigrants of the past but one simple fact remains; America is not the same country as it was over a century ago. When immigrants flocked from over seas back in the 1800s, the nation was still growing. There were jobs to be had and the nation's borders were expanding. We cannot say the same about the America we live in. America may be the home of the free and the land of oppurtunity, but that doesn't mean that anyone and everyone should be able to waltz right in, not anymore at least. The country is established now, and therefore the standards we once had must be rewritten. Send us your tired, poor and huddled masses you say? I say send 'em back.

To respond, no, America is not the same country it was a century ago. But don't forget, the nation's "second wave" of immigration occurred began late in the 19th century, and continued through World War I into the 1920's. Those of us of Southern or Eastern European descent probably had ancestors come to America at this time. And the complaints then were the same as the complaints today, and the same as those heard about the Irish generations earlier. If immigrants really do steal jobs and drag down the economy, why is it that the United States remains an economic powerhouse and maintains the world's highest consumer standard of living when immigration here, both legal and illegal is vastly greater than immigration to the rest of the western world. As for jobs, unemployment is at record lows.

We are not France, thank God, and we need not get frightened about threats to our language and our culture. Immigrants will come here, they'll learn from us, we'll learn from them, and we'll all be better for it.

I say send us your tired, poor, and huddled masses today, just as you did a century ago. It's one of the reasons why we're the greatest nation in the world.

Immigration Blow Back

Rush Limbaugh mentioned today that in 1986, there were approximately 3.9 million illegal immigrants in the country. And according to Limbaugh, those numbers today are between 12 million and 20 million.

Of course, as any good Limbaugh conservative will tell you, this nation is making continual economic progress, and things today are better then they were in the past. So if things are better, clearly this country can stand to have a more than a few more legal immigrants. Yet not only do conservatives raise the specter of illegality, they also raise the red flag of vast hordes of foreigners who don't speak English and will take American jobs.

But with a healthy economy, and record unemployment, it's just hard to give these "reasonable explanations" very much weight. I'll make the point I've made time and time again. When foreigners want to come here to work, and when employers are willing to hire them- when this all occurs in the world's strongest economy- who is it that's really losing out?

I'm just tired of the xenophobic retreads of the No-Nothings, and I'm even more tired of those who would to stick their noses and impose their values in free market exchanges in which both sides are benefiting.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Sex, Kids, and the Internet: Myths and Misconceptions

Like a number of people, the lonely libertarian has been drawn in to Dateline NBC’s “To Catch a Predator Series.” It’s the sort of apolitical show that defies political boundaries- No one likes child predators, no one is in any hurry to defend them, and everyone can celebrate them getting busted.

Some of the men caught by Dateline seemed to be your stereotypical predators- 40 and 50 year old men looking for 12 and 13 year old girls and boys, the sort we’re all happy to have in jail. But then there were the other men. There was the one guy in his twenties who seemed more than a little bit slow. Of course he shouldn’t have been showing up to meet a 15 year-old, but I just wondered if he’d have been equally happy showing up to meet an 18 year-old, or 21 year-old who was equally as willing. Then there was the 20 year-old marine reserve that showed up to meet a 14 year old. Yeah, he most certainly needed a good smacking, but to call him a predator seemed to be a bit of a stretch. If a 19 year-old high school senior showed up at the house of a 14 year-old high school freshman would we- and should we- be as quick to brand him a sex offender for life?

Then you read the articles: Reading this MSNBC piece, you get the idea that this is all somehow connected; Child molesters and child pornographers who deal with children as young as infants are thrown together with statutory rapists, older men who solicit teenage girls, and the all-encompassing statistic of 1 in 5 children online being subject to sexual solicitation. For the uninitiated, as many parents often are, the picture seems to be that MySpace, Chat Rooms, and Instant Messenger are the dark alleyways of the internet, and your children enter at their own peril.

This picture is inaccurate. On one hand these inaccuracies must be taken with a grain of salt- this is the mainstream media, which tends to report almost everything with a “sky is falling” mentality. And the media warning us of yet another danger at our doorstep is hardly cause for alarm. The problem here is that these misconceptions and over generalizations can actually have tragic consequences, as the story perpetuated in the media is taken as unquestioned fact. There are issues regarding kids and the internet, and yes, predators. But without the complete picture, and without the appropriate context, the supposed solutions we’ve been offered vary from unhelpful to downright dangerous.

These issues will be examined in three parts. The first part will deal with the nature of sex offenses themselves, and why it is imperative to distinguish various sex offenses rather than lumping every offender into the category of sexual predator. The second part will examine the media (and parents) lack of understanding of the real issues of sex and the internet. And the final part will offer actual, realistic solutions for parents and children.

Part I : Who Are Sex Offenders Anyway?

Fans of Bill O’Reilly know that the television and radio host’s favorite subject is child sex offenders; capturing them, punishing them, and bashing the judges and media figures who let them off too lightly. And most Americans are familiar with their local sex offender registries- the ones where you can go and find all the sex offenders living in your neighborhood. Despite MSNBC’s casual interchange of terms, most of us can recognize that there are vast differences between some of the individuals lumped together as sex offenders. At least, most of us can recognize these differences if they are shown to us. This of course can be difficult when sex offender registries list offenders only by reference to the law they violated, with no explanation of what that law actually was. And the media tends to exasperates these difficulties.

First, when it comes to children, there is no gray area, and all sex crimes are crimes of violence. Period.

But when it comes to teenagers, there clearly is a moral grey area. We do have the concept of the age of consent, but this is ultimately a legal creation, not a strict moral absolute. Obviously, this is where the term “statutory rape” comes from. Of course, there is no problem with creating ages of consent, and states should go about creating such ages that reflect the general values of their citizens. The problem with these grey areas is in regards to the labels we use and the stigmas we create. Whether it’s legal or not, a 40 something year old man meeting a high school student on the internet for a sexual liaison is creepy. But something is not quite right where in one instance that 40 something year old man is just a creep, but the same situation with the same girl, only a year or two prior results in the man being labeled a sex offender and a menace to society for the remainder of his life.

Pedophiles look to children and only to children, and should be locked away as violent sex offenders. But those who look to teenagers do so for a variety of reasons. Some of these reasons may be utterly evil, but other reasons may be less concerning. And more importantly, when you’re talking about teenagers, you’re talking about a group of people who are quite capable of giving consent, whatever the law may say. We all may have a serious problem with a 40 something year old man meeting a 15 year old girl for sex, but we can also recognize that situation as completely different from anything involving an 8 year-old.

This distinction becomes even more important when it comes to the internet because there is a major distinction between protecting teenagers from their own stupid choices and protecting kids from predators and child molesters.

All of the men caught on Dateline deserve the national shaming they’ve received- I’m unsure whether or not they all deserve jail time, although some of them clearly do. So long as Dateline skirts about in these grey areas, they will continue to attract statutory rapists, and continue to garner big ratings. The truth is, there is probably no shortage of men out there who would show up to have sex with teenage girls. Given how often these sorts of things probably happen without the TV, and without the arrests, it’s sort of easy to understand why people wouldn’t be deterred. The real issue when it comes to teenagers having sex- with anyone- is not anything about these supposed predators, but rather the teenagers themselves, and the decisions they make.

Part II: Just What Are These Internet Problems Anyhow?

One thing everyone seems to forget about the internet is that it is not a specific place, like a park or a dark alley. The internet is a reflection of the real world, almost a sort of mirror. And no evidence has ever been given that the internet is somehow more dangerous than the real world. In fact, given that the internet involves no physical contact, one could argue that the internet is in fact safer than the real world. Regardless, the point is that the internet is just another medium, and it needs to be understood as such. Demonizing the internet as a whole, or demonizing vast social networks such as MySpace makes little sense. Once again, the internet doesn’t create society; it only reflects what already exists.

MSNBC's survey of attitudes and feelings about the internet is revealing. The following is question four of their survey: “Have you ever had a scary online experience, or an online experience that has made you feel uncomfortable in any way?”

Now before you think about the question, replace the word “online” with “high school.” Have you ever had a scary high school experience, or a high school experience that has made you feel uncomfortable in any way? Or to think about it another way, have you ever gone through what every teenager goes through? The inane nature of the question boggles the mind. Just as stupid is the question about hiding internet activity from your parents. Once again, apply that question to everyday teenage life outside the internet. The entire survey demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of what the internet actually is, and translates general teenage anxiety (the subject of popular music for over half a century) into some sort of new “internet problem.”

Perhaps the worst of the war on the internet come from the misuse and abuse of statistics. Almost everyone has heard the following statistic by now: 1 in 5 children are sexually solicited on the internet. Of course, few have looked into what this actually means, and that 1 in 5 number is bandied about to support the theory that the internet is a dangerous place. The number actually comes from a June 2000 study by the National Center For Missing and Exploited Children about online victimization.

The 1 in 5 number is correct (actually, 19%), but that number in and of itself is not a complete story. First, 77% of those solicited in the survey were of high school age (14-17). 48% of these solicitations came from other children under the age of 18. Only 4% of solicitations could be determined to have come from adults over the age of 25. (20% came from those ages 18-25 and 27% were undetermined.)

Of these sexual solicitations, respondents reported having little or no reaction in 75% of them. In other words, only 4.75% (25% of the original 19% who were solicited) of all the children surveyed reported they were bothered by a sexual solicitation. When it is taken into account that over half (54%) of the sexual solicitations that caused distress came from other children under the age of 18, the picture becomes even clearer. The largest concern for kids on the internet is not adult predators, but other kids.

Yes, the internet is not like the real world, in that sexual solicitations are far more easily made via the internet. And yes, it is much more likely for a youth to be sexually solicited via the internet, than through some sort of real world interaction. But given that this stems from the nature of the internet as an impersonal communicative medium, the real question is whether or not there actually is a problem.

Pre-teenagers being sexually solicited on the internet is a cause for concern, but the answer to that concern is more parental control and involvement. Most parents do not let their 10 year olds go gallivanting around town at night, and it makes little sense to give them that same freedom to gallivanting about the internet. For teenagers, the question becomes at what age they are to be given unfettered internet access. If you have a responsible 15 year old, who is the sort who doesn’t need a curfew, unfettered internet access is probably not a problem. For the less responsible teenagers, you may have more thinking to do. The point is, you may be sexually solicited if you use the internet, and the issue for parents is to determine at what age their child is capable of dealing with this.

Although this study, and the 1 in 5 statistic, have become almost common knowledge, the conclusions at the end of the report spell out one of the most important facts: The myth of the internet predator. Yes children and teenagers need to take precautions, and yes there can be harassment over the internet. However, the notion that child molesters have moved from the playground to the computer has little basis in reality.

Part III: What To Do (And What Not To Do) About the Sex, Kids, and the Internet

Between the War on MySpace and “To Catch a Predator” it’s not surprising that parents fear for their children’s safety. And while overreaction does no good, that doesn’t mean parents shouldn’t take the appropriate steps to, well, parent their children.

First let’s be clear. No new laws are needed. Regardless of any parenting decisions, tragedy can always occur- Someone could abduct your child off the street- Or your child could be hit by a car or struck by lightning. Parents need to realize first and foremost that there is a limit to how much they can do to protect their children. Just because some kids get hit by cars doesn’t mean you need to keep your children locked in the house, and just because a very small number of kids have suffered because of the internet does not mean that you need to keep your kids off the internet. (And in the same vein, if you know your kid runs in the road without looking, don’t let him out of your site when he’s playing in the front yard- or if your 12 year-old daughter is irresponsible, don’t give her complete access to the internet without your supervision or guidance- or if your 16 year old daughter is a bad judge of character, don’t let her meet her 20 year old friend over the internet unless your there with her.)

Let’s look at the facts: I can think of no reported cases in which a child or teenager was abducted based upon information posted on the internet. And while arranging a meeting via the internet can be a cause for concern, the actual problem there is, is not the internet, but the actions of the teenager in arranging that meeting. Maintaining some control and some knowledge over what your kids do and where they go is a part of parenting that has nothing to do with the internet. And when it comes to sexual solicitations via the internet ... well, given that half of these come from fellow teenagers, and that very few of these solicitations have any effect upon their recipient, the issues here seems to be 1) teaching everyone appropriate standards of behavior for the internet, and 2) limiting internet access for children of the age where a sexual solicitation in and of itself is disturbing.

So where do we go from here? First, the unhelpful advice. MSNBC offers a "Where's Waldo" of whats wrong with this MySpace profile. The idea for parents is to point out all the instances of TMI (too much information) that may be putting their children in danger. This is a waste of time. The most overblown aspect of the protecting your kids on the internet is the notion that you should not post personal information on the web. Once again, there are no reported cases of children or teenagers being abducted via information found on the internet. Posting AIM names, cell phone numbers, school activities, jobs, and hobbies is not going to get anyone abducted. Of course, there are plenty of common sense rules to follow. You probably don’t want your teenagers posting when they are going to be home alone. And there may be other personal information that you as a parent may want to keep off the internet.

The other stupid advice is that regarding photographs. Kids love pictures, and kids love their digital cameras, and in and of itself, there’s nothing wrong with posting pictures on the web. Of course, you may want to monitor what your child is posting. Pictures of your daughter and her 14 year old friends are okay. Pictures of your daughter and her 14 year old friends in their underwear are probably not a good idea. Once again, this is all about parenting, and all about the examples and the rules you set for your children.

More bad advice is absolute rules when it comes to the internet. Given the opportunity, most kids will likely defy those absolute rules. Don’t set a “no MySpace” policy for your teenagers. I don’t think anyone was ever hurt after just getting a MySpace account. And don’t set a “no meeting people via the internet” rule. The massive success of internet dating sites has given legitimacy to the notion of the internet as a medium for finding love, romance, or friendship. Kids meeting via the internet is not a concern. Kids meeting over the internet with no boundaries and no parental involvement could well be a concern.

Teenagers should know the basic rules of meeting people over the internet: Tell someone where you’re going and who your meeting. Meet in a public place. And most importantly, use good judgment. If you’re a parent, maybe you want to meet whomever it is your child is meeting.

What is most important to remember is that the internet itself is a lot safer than the real world. The chances of your child being hurt while sitting at home on their computer are slim to none. As for exposure to unwanted and explicit material, this is a question for parents themselves to decide. There is no one correct formula for determining how much access and how much privacy your child and teenager should have when it comes to the internet. Parents have different moral standards, and kids themselves can very different. The one rule of thumb should be that internet rules should reflect rules in the real world. What movies, what television, and what books do you let your child read? How much freedom are they given in their social lives? The internet rules parents lay down should reflect these other rules. And these same sorts of rules should apply when it comes to internet meetings.

Whether it’s “To Catch a Predator” or the MySpace scares, the biggest internet problem seems to be 13-14-15 year olds making stupid decisions. The thing is, stupid decisions in one small part of life are usually reflective of numerous other stupid decisions. If you’re a parent today, the internet should be the least of your worries. If you can’t say for certain what you’re 14 or 15 year-old does every weekend, then your teenagers mysterious MySpace profile may well be the least of your concerns. The real problem here is parenting, and the decisions made by parents. (And how these decisions impact on their children.) No, you can’t control your kids’ life, or keep them locked away. But you can raise kids to make smart decisions and not to put themselves in danger. The world may be different, and the internet scare may have intensified, but the real issue is the same issue of parenting that human society has grappled with for centuries.

The other issue may be one that sits well with social conservatives and one that liberals may be loathe to address- the general coarsening of culture and a society which has become more sexually permissive. Maybe you agree with this, maybe you don’t, but it’s hard to fault the internet for exposing younger generations to a certain degree of sexual explicitness without faulting society itself for becoming more sexually permissive. Personally, the lonely libertarian is not all that worried, or all that concerned. Sex in and of itself is not a cause for concern, and parents play a far more important role in children’s lives than the media ever will. But there is a certain logic in the notion that when everything is sexually acceptable for an 18-year old, there is going to be a certain amount of spillover to younger age groups, particularly in an internet age in which age itself has been rendered less and less relevant.

Update, 5/18/06 @ 3:15 PM: Last night's "To Catch a Predator" invoked less of the lonely libertarian's sympathy than past week's episodes. Last night there was a 23 year-old and a 22 year-old meeting a 15 year-old and a 14 year-old. To reiterate, they deserve a good smack upside the head, and the national shaming they recieved on dateline. But to label these guys as sex offenders for life ... I'm just not so sure. The real kicker came at the end of the night, when we were told that the reason for these shows was a warning for parents about the dangers for children lurking on the internet. What was amazing was that for all the advice given, no one mentioned that these "predators" would have no where to go if young teenagers didn't invite them over! The best advice, "If you're 14 years old, don't invite older men over for sex!" was not even mentioned.

Monday, May 15, 2006

ABC's Phone Calls

This is what seems to be the buzz of the blogosphere today: The Feds Know Who ABC News Is Calling.

I would hope so, given the numerous leaks from confidential sources that the government is currently investigating. It makes perfect sense to look into the phone records of the individuals who received confidential information as a means of finding out where the leaks came from. Forgetting that simple phone records generally don't require a warrant, this is precisely the sort of situation where an investigator would have no problem obtaining a warrant in the first place.

So why the fuss? As usual, I have no idea.

Civil Liberties Are What Now?

The lonely libertarian’s anti-war mother wanted help printing brochures for a civil liberties talk co-sponsored by her group, West Hartford Citizens For Peace And Justice. The talk is by John C. Brittain Chief Counsel and Senior Deputy of the Lawyers’ Committee For Civil Rights Under Law, and takes place Saturday June 17th at 3:00 PM at the Central Baptist Church at 457 Main Street in Hartford Connecticut. The title of the talk? “Civil Liberties Under Attack: Why The Assault On Immigrants, Enemy Combatants, and Jose Padilla Matters To You.”

Why am I blogging? Because the talk seems to be about three very different issues, and this just seems very typical of the anti-war left. The peace movement should be about peace, and need not be inclusive. And civil liberty concerns should be about civil liberties. Attempts to link all these sorts of issues together only results in confusion and a dilution of your message. All of three of these topics matter, but that doesn’t mean they need to be connected. Jose Padilla is an American citizen, and what to do with American citizens captured on American soil and accused of conspiring with terrorists is a question that need be addressed. But that question is a very different one from what to do with terrorists who are not members of any national army which is party to the Geneva Accords and are captured in military engagements in Afghanistan.

And as a strong proponent of open borders and immigration, I wonder what the civil liberty issues are here in regards to immigrants. Summary deportation of immigrants here “illegally” raises moral concerns in my mind, but summary deportation is not summary detention. The issue with terror suspects is the lack of procedure- with immigrants the issue is changing the procedures we already have. So why connect these three very different issues? I have no earthly idea. Which is probably why I’ll be there in June.

Those Who Make Fun Of Fundamentalist Christians, But Have Faith In The Evil That Is George Bush

Found this discussion posting on Democratic Underground to be both funny and disturbing.

What do I believe but cannot prove? Searching my thoughts, I decided to take a look at recent headlines and take a leap that, while something I cannot now prove, I'm confident will soon be seen as fact.

I believe, but cannot prove, that the Bush administration is not only tracking international calls and mining phone records, but is also actively listening to purely domestic calls. What's more, that, at the behest of the highest authorities, the administration is actively spying on its political opponents, from massive, nationwide groups to everyday individuals.

Generally, believing what we can not prove is called faith, and usually faith is reserved for things like, you know, God. What does it say about people who faithfully believe, without any facts, that bad and evil things are happening?

In a way, it's amazing how much this NSA program has been blown out of proportion. I suppose if you believe everything above, then we do have a problem. Of course, if anything so nefarious was going on, I have trouble believing that such activities would be limited to any one political party. And more importantly, as bad as spying is, it can only get you so far. I'm more concerned about the control government actually exerts over our lives.

The reaction to the news that broke in USA Today last week about the NSA's databases of phone records was almost amusing. These are phone company records! These are the sorts of records that arouse our anger on the numerous occasions where such records are sold to advertising agencies and other businesses. Maybe it's a nuisance, and maybe it's some sort of violation of contract. But it's hardly a blatant abuse of our civil liberties in the same way that say, the War on Drugs is.

And to return to the old issue of NSA wiretapping. Someone once asked me whether I’d be happy if I found out the government was listening in on my phone calls. My response was that I'd be pretty damn upset. Why waste time and money on me when you should be hunting down terrorists. Once again, if the government accidentally listens in on your conversations, is this really a violation on the same level as being locked away for years in prison for a marijuana violation.

The story changes if we start talking about government actions in response to domestic spying. The moment I hear of a drug offender locked away because his calls were monitored without a warrant, you'll hear me change my tune. But for now I'll stick with the facts, and leave faith for love, God, and the good in life.

Richard Blumenthal vs. The Free Market

I meant to comment on this last week: Four Connecticut gas stations pay 27,000 in price-gouging settlements.

This is not about price gouging, or about the consumer, this is about the slimiest attorney general in the business, Richard Blumenthal, who is more concerned with playing politics than doing his job. (And this isn't the lonely libertarian playing politics - politicians will be politicians, but an attorney general should be held to a higher standard. And Richard Blumenthal has routinely opted for photo ops over substance. And for matters of full disclosure, there is some personal bias here. Blumenthal's office attempted to shut down a perfectly legal operation within the lonely libertarian's family business conducting testing for anthrax and other dangerous substances. All the procedures and regulations had been met, we were just the only private laboratory in the state to attempt to conduct such testing. Despite this, will still received a cease and desist order from Blumenthal's office, reinforcing my opinions about him.)

But back to price gouging. Let's say for instance that I want to start a hot dog stand. My first day in business, I charge $1.00 per hot dog. After my meager returns on day one, I decide that I could make a lot more money by charging $100.00 per hot dog. Am I guilty of price gouging? Should Richard Blumenthal come after me with all the force of the law?

The obvious response is, "no one would pay $100.00 for a hot dog." Probably in the very same way that no one would pay for gasoline from these stations if these same owners have marked their prices up to $100.00 per gallon. In all likelihood, if you charge prices that deviate that much from market value, no one is going to buy from you, both because people can't afford it, and because people know they can find the same product somewhere else for a far cheaper price.

So then what is price gouging? If the above scenario is not price gouging, then price gouging is dependant upon the actions of consumers. In other words, you're only price gouging if people actually agree to buy a product at the price you're selling it. (Of course, our legal system is full of exchanges between consenting parties which are prohibited by law.)

The argument that gasoline or oil is somehow different than hot dogs or other consumer goods just doesn't fly, unless you buy the argument that there is a more effective mechanism than the free market for distributing goods and services. (And the problem with that is, if there is a more efficient mechanism than the free market, than why not use that mechanism for everything?)

If all this is true, then why would these stations settle? Not because they were guilty of anything, but simply to avoid further legal fees. This isn’t about anything but placing blame, and more photo ops for Richard Blumenthal. I don’t buy it.

Friday, May 12, 2006

More of the War on MySpace

Via the Agitator - Congress May Clamp Down On MySpace.

Once again, the cluelessness of our elected leaders:

"As the father of six children, I hear about these Web sites on a daily basis," [Representative Michael] Fitzpatrick [R-PA] said. "However, the majority of these networking sites lack proper controls to protect their younger users. Also, many parents lack the resources to protect their children from online predators. My legislation seeks to change that."

According to Fitzpatrick, the law would "require schools and libraries to implement security systems to prevent students from being exposed to obscene and objectionable material."

Beyond the utter preposterousness of the war on MySpace in general, this law doesn't even deal with the perceived problems of the website. It doesn't prevent kids from accessing anything at home, and it doesn't even prevent predators from soliciting kids if they use the sites in libraries or schools- it just bans objectionable materials. In all Lakewood, the few predators there are among the millions of MySpace users are not the ones posting objectionable content. A predator would likely want to trick young people into thinking they were normal- an objectionable profile is much more likely to be posted by a stupid college kid.

As always, the same mantra applies: This isn't about MySpace and this isn't about the internet- This is about parenting, common sense, and yes, morality.

And don’t forget the mindless overreaction of what the older generation doesn’t understand.

Tell That To The Native Americans

Just the sort of headline that's always funny: New Zealand Not For Sale.

Makes me wonder- how long before one of those really tiny island countries actually is sold on e-bay.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Brief Thoughts on Administrative Law

As I completed my Administrative Law exam today, a disturbing thought occurred to me.

Under Goldberg v. Kelly (1970), the right to welfare was recognized as a property interest, requiring a full due process hearing before the termination of benefits. While Goldberg has been limited today, the principle of individual consideration and some sort of hearing process and procedure applies for the deprivation of any government entitlement.

Contrast that with concepts of administrative rulemaking. Administrative agencies can impose environmental and health regulations which cost businesses thousands if not millions of dollars. And the process for passing these regulations involve no individual consideration at all. If fact, typical notice and comment rulemaking only require agencies to consider opposition to proposed rules. This means they are free to impose whatever regulatory burden they want.

Just sort of interesting- take away someone's welfare check, and you have to give them a trial-type hearing. Pass a regulation which might shut down a small business, and you have no recourse.

Bad News On The Freedom Front: Our Reps Say Choice Is A Bad Thing

Just caught this on the news today: Democrats Oppose GOP Health Coverage Bill and Federal Law May Kill State Health Regs.

As I heard Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.),

[The bill is] a retreat from our commitment to cancer. It's a retreat for our commitment to diabetes. It's a retreat from our commitment to mental health parity.

and Chris Dodd (D-CT.),

[Who is worried that] the insurance industry would offer plans that exclude childhood immunizations and other important services.

I realized that the real issue is government control over our lives. Look at the language Chris Dodd uses; he fears the insurance industry will "offer" plans. What a horrible word, offer. As if somehow, giving people and businesses a variety of choices is detrimental. The problem with health insurance today, in fact the real problem with healthcare costs, is government regulation. Mandating what insurance should and shouldn't cover drives up costs. And more importantly, such mandates amount to the government telling you what types of health expenditures are important, and what types of expenditures are not.

Why not give people some choice? Is the real problem that health insurance industry might offer plans that the elite don't find acceptable? Or is the real problem that some of us without a lot of money might take such a plan?

Sex Part II: This Just In - Kids Lie About Sex!

File this in the "Duhhhhh" Folder: Patterns of Deceit Raise Concerns About Teenage Sex Surveys. Who would have ever thoughts kids might lie about this stuff?

The lonely libertarian doesn't remember any sex surveys, but he does remember the drug surveys. In 7th grade, at 12 years old, it seems pretty funny to put that you're a heroin addict who uses 10 times per week or more on your anonymous survey. Actually, it's still funny.

Even funnier (from the article):

I think all of this has public health implications, particularly with respect to S.T.D.'s, insofar as we are not getting a clear picture from teens' own report of their sexual activity," said Cynthia Dailard, a public policy analyst at the Guttmacher Institute, a research and advocacy group that studies reproductive rights.

Public health implications? I thought reproductive rights groups wanted privacy in the bedroom- but that’s right, privacy doesn't mean actual privacy, just the freedom to do what you want. And it's not privacy if it's a public health survey? But it is privacy if George Bush is listening in on your telephone calls? .... Ah, nevermind, I can't figure it out either.

Sex Part I : How Not To Fight The Culture War

This past weekend's edition of the New York Times Magazine greeted readers with a picture of a big red condom wrapper. Cleverly written on the condom wrapper was the following headline: The War on Contaception. However, if you were expecting an article about condoms, you were sadly dissapointed. In fact, the article wasn't about traditional forms of birth control at all. Rather, it was about Plan B and emergency contraception.

Let me be clear. By no means do I found much common ground with the religious right that would push their moral values on the rest of the United States. But that being the case, I also feel no common ground with the propaganda and outright deceit of the sort perpetuated by the New York Times Magazine. The debate over emergency contracpetion is relatively new, as it is unclear whether emergency contaception belongs in the cattegory of abortion, contraception, or somewhere in between. And there are bound to be disputes, paticularly in the over-regulated world in which we live today.

Starting with the big red condom wrapper, the Times Magazine article attempts to place this Plan B-backlash in the context of a larger war on contraception. The problem is, I'm not really sure such a war really exists. The article mentions groups who would like to take away the Constitutional protections afforded to contraception set out in 1964 in Griswald v. Connecticut, but then fails to describe these groups and fails to describe just how widespread they are. Some religious groups may have strict moral views about sex, but no evidence is given that there is any sort of large scale movement to impose these views on all Americans. Rather the real debate seems to be an extension of the abortion issue, which is not really about sex at all- the rest of the article focuses on sex education and young people.

Everything about the article attempts to invoke the feeling that the religious right is out to take contraception away- while the real story is about emergency contraception and teenage sex. The culture war must be fought, and will always be fought. But that being said, you invoke no sympathy for your point of view when you villinize the opposing side, and insiniuate them of engaging in the war you'd like them to fight, rather than the war they are fighting. A large majority of people favor contraceptive rights, but when you bring sex education and abortion in to the mix, the issues become dicier, and the public becomes more divided. The point is, don't be manipulative and just tell your side of the story. No wonder people don't trust the mainstream media.

Friday, May 05, 2006

How The Hell Should I Know?

The general public expects those of us in the legal world to have an opinion on every sensational criminal case thrust into the public eye, be it O.J., Michael Jackson, or now the Duke lacrosse case. As if somehow we have more insight into factual guilt or innocence of those accused of crimes.

And the lonely libertarian is more than tired of it. I don't know all that much about the Duke lacrosse case, nor do I care to. There are thousands of criminal prosecutions every day in the United States, and just because the media has found a story to sensationalize does not mean the story has any real legal significance. It's not that the Duke case doesn't raise any controversial issues- it's just that those of us in the legal world are no more qualified to discuss these issues than anyone else.

As to guilt or innocence, that's precisely what a jury is for. Our system has non-legal jurors decide these factual questions, not legal experts. And even so, why try to make any guesses at this point. If you really feel we should try people in the court of public opinion, why not just do away with juries altogether, and let everyone vote on the internet or their cell phones. Of course this is ridiculous. As is most of the discussion about the Duke lacrosse case.

We're Supposed To Be Worried Because?

The lonely libertarian has trouble beleiving economic doom and gloomers: This CNN report screams that job growth in April was the weakest since Katrina. The little graph shows it wasn't all that bad, just not quite what the "experts" had predicted.

More importantly, wages rose 0.9% in April, marking a 3.8% increase in wages over the past year. And the unemployment rate has held steady at 4.7%. Yet people insist on talking about economic problems, and the media delights in reporting "the bad news." If our economic situation in the United States right now is bad, when was it ever good?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

More Random Thoughts On Immigration

A thought occurred to me as the news poured in yesterday from the immigration rallies around the country. On one brief report on the radio news, a Latino woman gave her reasons for attending a rally: She and her son were both citizens, but her boyfriend- the boy's father- was not. She was rallying to keep her family together.

So what was my thought? Well, I thought back to when there was slavery in this country, and it was routine for families to be ripped apart by arbitrary and unfair laws. Not that immigration laws are even remotely similar to slavery. It's just that the law and order crowd make the same argument that the law is the law- ignoring any moral implications- that slavery apologists made 150 years ago.

Maybe it is the law, but what sort of law willingly tears a family apart? Just because something is the law doesn't make it right.

Maybe We Should Listen To The Economists

Good read from Thomas Sowell" Oily Politicians part I and part II. Much more eloquent than I could put it.