Saturday, December 30, 2006

Cory Maye Denied

All of Radley Balco's hard work, thus far, is for nought, as Cory Maye's motion for a new trial was denied.

The facts just seem to speak for themselves. Maye was home alone with his daughter when police executed a mistaken drug warrant in the middle of the night. Maye shot and killed officer Ron Jones in what he claims was self defense (as he didn't realize that the out-of-uniform Jones was a police officer). Maye then surrendered himself to the other officers. That Maye is still on death row seems unfathomable. He has no criminal record and there is no evidence he was engaged in any illegal activity, yet we're supposed to believe he shot one officer in cold blood and then willingly surrendered himself. It just makes no sense. Maybe there's hope on appeal.

Friday, December 29, 2006

When The Economic of HOV Lanes Doesn't Make Sense

This from the local Hartford Courant: Economic Drive Local HOV Lane Use. The gist is, that people use HOV lanes more often when gas costs more- in other words, people tend to carpool when fuel costs hit them harder in the pocketbook. Duhhhhh. More evidence that like the monorail, HOV lanes are a stupid waste of time. What makes this story so bizarre is the end of the article, which quotes from an interview with Department of Transportation official Jim Andrini:

One seeming anomaly shows up in the statistics. I-91 HOV usage is highest during weekday rush hours, as would be expected. But the heaviest use of the I-84 HOV lanes comes on weekends. Average weekend traffic on I-84 westbound is 10 percent higher than weekdays, and on I-84 eastbound it is 25 percent higher.

Andrini said it has become clear that vacationers and long-distance business travelers, many of them from out-of-state, take advantage of HOV lanes on weekends, beginning with Friday evening eastbound traffic.

Even if HOV lanes emerged as a way to ease rush-hour congestion by encouraging car-pooling and mass transit, "it isn't all about commuting," Andrini said. "If we can draw in vacationers on weekends - great. It's tremendous."

Or in other words, HOV lanes really really don't work in some spots. Yet this guy is excited? I almost get the impression that he thinks the HOV lanes are drawing in tourists on the weekends- for those not from Hartford, there is no one in Hartford on the weekend and there is never any traffic getting in to the city. Maybe I'm getting the wrong impression, but that still wouldn't explain why he's so excited that HOV lanes serve no purpose whatsoever.

Ll on Healthcare

On the way home from work today I heard local liberal radio talk show host Colin McEnroe say he believed that health care was a right that society should provide.

First, many before have discussed how silly it is to describe health care (or any non-natural right) as a right in the first place. After all, if the apocalypse were to happen tomorrow, we'd still have our rights of conscience and free speech but we certainly wouldn't have a "right" to "reasonable" health care. But all that aside, I am sympathetic to the notion that people need quality health care. This, after all, is not a whole lot different from food, shelter and other necessities. If people don't have their basic needs met, there is potential for dangerous social upheaval.

The real question that is never asked is, "what is the most efficient way to provide health care for people?" And any economist will tell you that a free market is the most efficient way to provide goods and services to a disparate group of individuals. We get our food for a free market system and no one seems to be in a hurry to implement the Soviet model of food distribution. Yet somehow health care is supposed to be different. The truth is, it isn't any different in any meaningful sense.

The problem with health care today is that we don't have a free market in health care. Period. People love to get all complex when it comes to these issues, but just look at the issue simply. People have no understanding of their health care costs and no ability to make decisions based on value- therefore, there is no free market. Insurance is part of the problem, with government mandates on insurance making a convoluted system even worse.

Maybe there are some costs that people should be somewhat divorced from- take cancer treatment or the intensive care we get after an accident. But we should be so alienated from our own medical costs that we have no comprehension of what a routine visit to the doctor actually costs us? It's insane if you think about it. If everyone needs routine medical care, why don't we pay directly for that care. We pay hundreds if not thousands of dollars in insurance costs already- why not just pay the doctor and the dentist directly when you go in for your routine checkups? This would cut out the insurance middle man and eliminates all the paper pushers working at the doctors office to deal with the insurance middle man.

These are not complex solutions but a variation on the theme that we should have more control over our health care- more control over the care we get and more control over the costs. And this is not to say that there aren't people out there who can't afford decent health care- there are. But why not help them in the same way we help people who don't have enough food- either through charity or (if government programs are your cup of tea) through programs specifically designed to address the needy.
Beyond the red tape, health care is expensive today because we have better technology and higher quality care. Better technology in food production leads to lower prices because, well, we're eating the same grain. But MRI's, CAT scans, and all sorts of other medical technology didn't even exist fifty years ago, so of course the costs are going to be higher.

I don't claim to offer any solutions when it comes to health care, I just think it would make a lot more sense if we pointed the argument in a saner direction. The answer is more freedom and more choice, not national programs and national mandates.

More Walter Williams

Dr. Williams also dispensed his famous advice about how to avoid poverty. It is as follows:

1- Graduate from high school
2- Don't have children until your married
3- Stay married
4- Maintain a steady job

According to Dr. Williams, the poverty rate of those who follow those four steps is somewhere around six-percent, far lower than the overall poverty rate.

Walter Williams Filling In For Rush Limbaugh

If there was such a thing as a politically incorrect conservative, Dr. Williams would be it. He's spent the last five minutes ranting how there should be no laws against organ sales, drug use, and prostitution. Ahhhh, the wonder of the free market.

Episode II: Attack Of The Clones

Now it's official: The FDA tentatively declares cloned animals to be safe.

Cue the mandatory hysteria, in this case from the Center For Food Safety. I like how the press release warns us about the lack of science, yet does not mention one piece of scientific evidence that would indicate why we should be concerned about eating cloned animals, other than one account of a sick cloned cow that would never be eaten anyways.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Ll on Drugs

As most of my regular readers know, I am opposed to the "War on Drugs" and a supporter of drug legalization. These positions are not based on any particular feelings about drugs themselves- rather they are based on strongly held beliefs about the immorality of forcing ones own views of personal morality and risk assessment on others. And more importantly, my views are based on the position that free people have the right to their own bodies.

First to comment briefly on the "War On Drugs." This is a war that has cost the nation hundreds of billions of dollars with virtually nothing to show for it. There are no statistics that show the drug war has reduced drug use or reduced the drug supply- so why spend so much money on it? Additionally, the war on drugs has militarized our police forces, made ordinary citizens criminals, and filled our prisons with non-violent drug offenders. Finally, drug laws have been an anathema to property rights- property seized in drug arrests can be kept by the state, even if no charges are ever filed.

To legalization- Legalization does not mean a stamp of moral approval. Cheating on your spouse is legal, but that doesn't make it right. The cheating example is a good one, because cheating can have just as many negative effects on families as drug abuse can. (And these secondary effects on others are often cited by prohibition supporters as reasons why drugs should remain illegal.) The point is that drug use is a personal choice and the government should have no right to interfere with that personal choice.

Legalization would mean an elimination (or at least a vast reduction in the amount) of black market drug activity. Just as there is virtually no black market for alcohol today, legalized drugs would mean no drug related crime and a drastic decrease in the amount of inner city violence as legitimate businesses would be able to safely supply drugs to consumers at lower prices.

Many of the common arguments against drug legalization full flat on their face- any argument that applies to dangerous behavior while under the influence applies equally to alcohol, a legal drug. Arguments that certain drugs are more dangerous than others fail as well. Ignoring the question of what dangerous means in the first place, there is the even larger question of why the government should protect us from ourselves in the first place.

And finally, to discuss drugs in general, there is a difference between use and abuse. It is a mistake to treat all use as abuse and it is even more of a mistake for the legal system to treat all use as abuse.

Ll on Global Warming

This is a little series I'd figured and try and put together for the new year, to allow readers, both new and old, to better understand the lonely libertarian's positions.

I figured I'd start with global warming because global warming has become the poster child for issues that should never have been politicized in the first place. My concern is in regards to the public's view of global warming on public perception about measures that should be taken. The notion of "scientific consensus" has been bandied about, but what that scientific consensus is is far more limited than the mainstream media would have you believe.

Yes, most scientists believe that the earth is currently undergoing a warming trend, and most scientists believe that theoretically, it is possible for man-made carbon emissions to cause increases in temperature. And that is the extent of "scientific consensus." There is no scientific consensus as to how much humans are responsible for the current warming trend, nor is there any consensus about what the effects of a warming trend would be.

When it comes to global warming, many people seem to inconveniently forget that the earth's climate is always changing- we're always going through cooling and warming cycles. If we can't completely explain the ice ages and various other climate changes, how can we be sure about what man is contributing to the current warming trend. And if all of this science is unclear, how can we possibly think there are political solutions to be had. Public policy should be based on hard science, not apocalyptic suppositions. How can we hope for rational solutions when we don't precisely know what the problem is.

And let's suppose the apocalyptic predictions are true. The real inconvenient truth about global warming is that any real solutions would adversely impact the third world poor more than anyone else. The New York Times ran a story a few weeks ago that a sulfur producing plant in China produces as much global warming pollution as all the cars in the United States. And this is common. The fact of the matter is that the cheapest technology is generally the least environmentally friendly. Strict environmental mandates can be difficult enough in the developed world- in the developing world strict mandates would not just inhibit economic growth, but condemn the third world poor to substandard living conditions.

I for one have a moral problem with dictating that the third world should remain in poverty, particularly when there is no scientific consensus when it comes to global warming solutions.

Let Them Eat Clones!

And in recent scientific news, the FDA is set to approve meat and milk from cloned animals. I can't wait to hear more reasons why we shouldn't use science and technology to feed the hungry.

Sanity In Science, Part II

More from Consumer Freedom- Environmentalists Say "Let My People Go ... Hungry."

It's just more about anti-GMO rhetoric. I'm not sure there's anything worse than encouraging policies based on not science, but pure speculation, that literally kill the poor.

Sanity In Health Care

Via Hit and Run, "Keeping New Yorkers Safe From Big Dialysis." Apparently, New York law bans large national health care chains from offering dialysis care- and the smaller operations have not provided sufficient care for patients, which is why New York is among the worst in the country when it comes to dialysis care.

Sanity In Science, Part I

This from the Center For Consumer Freedom, on the possibility of irradiating produce and the reactionary backlash. We already irradiate beef, among other foods, on order to prevent bacterial outbreaks. If effective techniques to irradiate produce could be discovered, then there would be no Taco Bell lettuce or organic spinach e.coli outbreaks.

A Dangerous Obsession

A good read from economist Thomas Sowell on the obsession with income and wealth disparities. Read also, Part II and Part III.

One of the most interesting points- Why is it that people become enraged over the salaries of executives, but rarely bat an eye when it comes to the salaries of athletes and movie stars?

And then there's this interesting factoid- There are more heads of households in the top 5% of income earners who work full time and year round then there are heads of households in the bottom 20% of income earners who work full time and year round. (In other words, the notion of the working poor may be more myth than fact.)

Come On Down To The Heart Attack Grill

I believe I mentioned this one over Christmas to my family- The story of the Heart Attack Grill in Tempe Arizona. John Stossel, quite appropriately, entitles his piece, "Is nothing to trivial for busybodies." Amen.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Ten Percent or Affirmative Action?

Also from the "I meant to blog about this weeks ago file"- Why the Ten Percent Plan is Worse Than Traditional Affirmative Action.

I've always had a bit of a soft spot in my heart for Texas's Ten Percent plan, which replaces traditional race-based affirmative action for a plan which allows anyone in the top ten percent of any high school graduating class in the state to attend any university within the Texas system. All the criticisms here focus on the potentially negative side effects. What's ignored is the fact that the program does more to solve the problems of poverty and education than affirmative action ever did.

To briefly address Ilya Somin's criticisms- First, it's not just that affirmative action admits inferior students as well, it's that admitting inferior students is the purpose of these programs in the first place. If traditional measures of achievement were fair to the poor and the disadvantaged, we'd have no need for these programs in the first place.

Secondly, I'm sure we all know plenty of students who have gamed the system and taken easier classes and easier teachers in order to advance their GPA. No system is perfect.

Thirdly, the point of the ten percent plan is not strictly racial diversity. It's about leveling the playing field for motivated students, regardless of racial or economic background.

And finally, I have little sympathy for programs that don't benefit "high achieving minority students." The New York Times article cites to a black student who attended a competitive engineering magnet school in Houston. Although he took several Advanced Placement classes, this student did not manage to finish in the top 10 percent of his class. Again, I cite back to my other points. And clearly, seeing as this kid made it into the Texas University system on his own, he didn't need any special programs to help him.

The other point I'd mention is the statistic that the University of Texas at Austin is 70 percent "ten percenters." Of course, what isn't mentioned is how many of those- probably a very large percentage- would have been accepted even without the program. After all, kids that do well in good schools generally tend to get into colleges of their choice. To beat the same drum again, the point of these programs is not racial diversity (which can be a nice side effect), but equalizing access for the poor.

Anti Drug Propaganda

I meant to blog about this anti drug spot weeks ago, but just never got the chance. (View the actual spot here- just click on the one labelled "the conversation."

I don't get it - I mean, I do get it, but I suppose I'm just irritated with more anti-drug propaganda that equates use with abuse. I find this "Above the Influence" campaign particularly irritating. It's not just about drugs, but about sex, and anything else that might be fun. The campaign casts itself as being about choosing your own path, but somehow your own choices can never involve having sex or smoking pot.

Then there's this page here, devoted to "comebacks." When I was in 6th grade, we called this the "suggest another activity" strategy. So when a peer asked you to smoke pot you could say, "nah, let's not do that- why don't we go to the opera with my mom instead." In reality, this is all just a variation on Nancy Regan's much maligned "Just Say No!" campaign.

This all just drives me nuts because it insults the intelligence of everyone, adults and kids. It just seems insane to me that as sophisticated as we are today, we still can't separate drug use from drug abuse and we still can't figure out that more often than not real drug abuse is a symptom of other personal problems, not the cause of personal problems in the first place.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

SWAT Christmas Edition

From Radley Balco, yet another SWAT raid gone wrong, this one a raid with flash grenades on the home of a 73 year-old man with Alzheimers. Police did not find the burglary suspect they were looking for, but insist this is not a botched raid. Oh and by the way - they burned the house down. Merry fucking Christmas.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Free To Choose

Well worth your time for all lonely libertarian readers: Free streaming video of Milton Friedman's PBS series Free To Choose at

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Last Straw

Something about this story just got to me going this morning: Former U.S. Detainee In Iraq Recalls Torment.

Since 9-11, I have been more than willing to let things slide when it comes to the prosecution of terrorism. It wasn't so much apathy as it was a recognition that we needed a major change in our foreign policy. In all likelihood it was also a reaction to those with their heads in the sand. I've overlooked abuses because it's difficult to implement new programs and because some supposed abuses weren't really abuses at all. But reading this story it just sort of hit home to me that our makeshift policy is not working. This isn't a repudiation of the war, or a vicious criticism of the Bush administration- just a recognition that if we're going to fight terrorism in the way we need to, we need to do it right.

Exams Suck

Maybe the worst part of exams is not having the time to blog. Sure, there's time to carouse the internet, but I feel as though I've left dozens of interesting blog items in the dust over the past several weeks.

Exams end Thursday- hopefully back to regular blogging soon.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Sound Of The World's Smallest Violin

This just in: Ski Resorts in the Alps Hit Hardest By Global Warming. I suppose now it's really time to do something, huh.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Just Weird

I've got the O'Reilly Factor on in the background and they're playing a clip of Bill O'Reilly interviewing former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke.

Duke is defending Ward Churchill and lecturing O'Reilly on freedom of speech. Only in America.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

It's Not Just The Trans Fats

I must have this part of the story: As part of the law in New York banning trans fats, New York is also set to require calorie content on menus.

What's interesting from the Times story is the number of people who say they eat fast food when they're in a hurry and don't bother to look at the caloric content because they already know it's bad for them. Also interesting are the doctors and health experts who think we're a nation of calorie dunces. And perhaps the funniest part is Starbucks trying to figure out how to display nutritional information for 87,000 possible beverage combinations.

Paging Dr. House

The excellent television program "House" has recently explored a subplot in which Dr. House- the vicadin popping hero of the show- has been persecuted by an over zealous federal prosecutor with a personal grudge. For the majority of the show, House has been the archetype "functional addict." He believed he needed the drugs because he was in pain, and every week he continued to save lives. Dr. House finally hit a wall last night's episode, in which the prosecutors actions against him (freezing the assets of Dr. House and his friends, and cutting of all of House's avenues to pain medication) sent the good doctor first into an unwanted detox and then a self induced drug binge when he managed to come across more pills. The message was clear. This is the cost of the aggressive war on drugs.

In a similar vein is this piece from Jacob Sullum. Sullum writes about a wheel-chair bound father who's been thrown in jail for his use of pain killers.

What's the point of throwing functioning members of society in jail for using pain killers? Why do we continue to put up with a system that harasses and threatens the friends and families of those who attempt to deal with their pain with non-mainstream means? And why should the government tell individuals that certain sorts of pain killers are outside the realm of possibility?

A Simple Theory For Why We Are What We Are

David Bernstein at the Volokh Conspiracy on how people's experiences with government determine their political leanings.

The point is, if you know government from your grandmother's social security check, you may have a positive view of government. But if you know government- as I do- from having to deal with inflexible and uncaring bureaucracy on a daily basis, you begin to question whether government is capable of doing more good than bad.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Conservatives Losing Faith In The Free Market

With columns like this: Magazine concedes globalism is a problem, I can see why many libertarians in the blogosphere have seriously considered a libertarian alliance with the left. After all, if Republicans can't be counted on to support the free market, then I'm not sure if there are many reasons left for libertarians to consider voting for a Republican.

What's interesting here is the way electoral politics are worked into the argument. Apparently, Republicans should embrace the left's notion of "Fair Trade," not because it's a coherent theory but because Democrats won on the idea in the mid-term elections.

And then there are the multitude of examples that supposedly make the case against free trade. Case-in-point would be the issue raised in the comments about the poorest countries in the world not benefiting from free trade. It doesn't take an economist to explain that one. Poorest countries don't benefit from free trade because we don't have a true system of global free trade. Agricultural tariffs and subsidies distort the market for the very goods that poor countries would otherwise be capable of selling to the rest of the world.

Odd isn't it, how many of the arguments against free trade use examples in which laws are actually preventing people from receiving the benefits of the free market.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Damn It Jim, I'm A Doctor, Not A Political Philosopher

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Australian doctor tells us about freedom. (Courtesy of Hit and Run)

Sunday, December 10, 2006

... And They Were Mad No One Knew What The Patriot Act Was All About

From yesterdays New York Times: E.Coli fears inspire call for oversight, and the accompanying editorial, which calls for national regulation.

Everyone can agree that we don't want to eat produce that's been contaminated with e.coli. But read both the article and the editorial, and tell me what the New York Times' proposed solution is. "Regulation" is not a solution, it's just a knee-jerk leftist response to anything that seems to be a problem. Go ahead, read the Times again. You're still not going to find any ideas that would have saved the American public from bad onions and bad spinach.

As usual, I blog about this not to place blame, but only to point out a "government can do anything" mindset that is all to prevalent in this country. There are some problems that government just can't solve- and there are some problems that we're better off not having government solve in the first place. I don't want to give the impression that I'm opposed to all health regulations because I'm not. I just feel that a great deal of such regulations are misguided, unnecessary, and unduly burdensome. And when you call for new regulations- as the New York Times does- you should have some sort of idea what sort of regulations you're actually calling for. Blindly seeking to impose new laws just hurts producers, consumers, and taxpayers- that's right, everyone.

More On Trans Fats In New York

From Stephen Milloy of, New York City Bans Science.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

More Sendoffs For A Great Mind

Walter Williams has a nice sendoff to Milton Friedman over at

I Just Want My Kids Back!

In completely unimportant news, Will Smith stars in the upcoming film Homeless Dad. OK, maybe it's called The Pursuit of Happiness, but, well .... same damn thing.

(Inside Joke For Arrested Development Fans)

Michael Medved Wants Special Rights For Heterosexuals

I can understand the impulse behind wanting to protect the traditional institution of marriage, even though I may disagree with those arguments. What I can't understand is the utter foolishness and complete lack of logic behind this Michael Medved rant against gay marriage at

But the advocates of same-sex matrimony fail to explain why the institutions and practices which they believe will work so well in solidifying relationships in their community have failed to function with similar effectiveness for heterosexuals. Gay rights advocates find themselves in the odd position of arguing that legally sanctioned marriage will work better at improving and enhancing homosexual intimacy than it has in strengthening the straight partnerships for which it was designed. In fact, champions of marital redefinition love citing the baleful example of Britney Spears, asking why the pop star should be entitled to two brief, failed, ill-considered marriages, while more responsible and mature gay people can’t win approval for even one. Critics of the status quo also deride those of us who say we’re trying to defend traditional marriage –pointing out that the high divorce and infidelity rate makes it questionable whether this old concept of matrimony is even worth defending.

Yet these same gay rights activists continue to claim that the same institution that has failed to uplift or preserve the relationships of so many heterosexuals, will work magically to enrich the lives of gays. The assumption behind these contradictory arguments seems to be that homosexual relationships are somehow inherently more worthy, conscious, generous, mature and capable of refinement by marital institutions than their unthinking, straight equivalents.

The argument about "special rights" for gay people has always struck me as facetious. I think there's a lot to be said on both sides of the debate about whether we should treat sexual orientation the same way we treat race, but even if we were to treat sexual orientation the same way we treat race, this is not an argument for "special rights." Medved completely misses the point behind two entirely separate arguments. The "failed celebrity marriage" argument is made to point out the hypocrisy of a system that allows heterosexuals to marry for flippant reasons and prevents those in committed homosexual relationships from being married. The other argument, that marriage would foster greater commitment and responsibility in homosexual relationships is basically a conservative argument for gay marriage.

The two points are not contradictory. Marriage can be an institution that fosters greater commitment on the part of some people while being an institution that is abused by other people. No one is trying to say that gay relationships are better than straight relationships, or visa versa- oh wait, some people are. Michael Medved and his ilk constantly pontificate that straight relationships are superior to gay relationships. Maybe Michael Medved should think about who he really wants to leave in the position of "special rights."

Attack Of The Killer Vegetables, Part II

Apparently they've found the source of the E.coli outbreaks connected with Taco Bell's in New Jersey and Long Island: It was the green onions! After the spinach scare earlier this year I'm wondering whether I want to eat any more raw vegetables. My advice: Stick to Twinkies.

More Innocent Victims In The War On Drugs

Via who else- Radley Balco- on the Reason blog comes this story about DEA agents complicit in the murder of innocent people. See more here. And actually, make sure you read the original Guardian piece.

A man who was a victim of mistaken identity was brutally murdered in what the Guardian story calls a "House of Death" over the border in Mexico. An informant on the U.S. government payroll was apparently involved in this death, the deaths of several Mexican citizens, and the cover up of all the murders.

Once again, just look at the horrible costs of the War on Drugs- it creates this violence and now we are complicit in it.

South Park Libertarians

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Latest Sign of the Apocolypse

New York City Health Board Votes To Ban Trans Fats.

Of course I have a huge problem with this as a libertarian, but the most disturbing thing about laws like this is the arogance behind them. The arrogance of the government dictating what we should and shouldn't eat, as if we need them to tell us what's best for us, and the arrogance of anyone who thinks that at this moment in history we know precisely what foods are healthy and what foods are just too unhealthy to allow. Just look at how drastically views on nutrition have continually changed over the past fifty years.

Just Another Good Read

Thomas Sowell on Hollywood Economics.

Science Law/Science Policy

From today's New York Times: When Questions of Science Come to the Courtroom, Truth Has Many Faces.

It's a somewhat interesting piece, but a stupid title. After all, potentially, aren't there multiple facets of the truth in every case that goes to court? That is why cases end up in court in the first place. Judges and juries may make decisions but who really knows the truth?

The piece skirts the problems of reconciling science and the law, but misses the point. It's not just that science and law use different standards of proof and require different modes of thinking- While science is a never-ending process of intellectual inquiry, the law requires us to make decisions. Take global warming for instance. While scientific inquiry into global warming can continue for years down the road, a lawsuit will necessitate that some decision be made. Perhaps 10 years ago there wasn't enough evidence for global warming- maybe there's enough today. But how to decide? "Scientific consensus" is a nice little phrase, but it has no precise legal or scientific meaning.

As Justice Kennedy asked during oral arguments on the Mass. v. EPA case, how is the court supposed to rule on issues surrounding global warming without deciding whether or not man-made global warming exists in the first place?

As much as I hate to say it, the democratic process actually provides a much more efficient mechanism for dealing with controversial scientific questions. Let the people decide, not judges and lawyers- sort of a scientific autocracy the people are all we have to make these decisions. And for those who say we might make the wrong decisions about science, my response would be, "well, we make wrong decisions about everything else, so might not science too?"

From the standpoint of Constitutional law I have a simple solution. When decisions are based on science (whether by Congress or an administrative agency), use a typical rational basis review to judge the decision. In other words, as long as there is some science and research out there supporting a decision, it shouldn't be the job of the courts to question that decision.

Unlike the global warming case before the Supreme Court, the tort cases mentioned in the piece are much more difficult, because when it comes to tort liability you have complicated scientific issues melded with notions of risk before a jury who must make a decision one way or the other. I won't get into that here because I have no good answers- nor do I think anyone has any good answers. At least some of us, however, can distinguish between the relatively straight forward issues of science policy and the more complex issues of tort liability.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Just A Bit More On Battlestar

Just when I thought I was finished with the Battlestar Galactica blogging comes my discovery of the Battlestar Galctica Blog. As regular readers know, I'm an avid fan of the new show and I think it's one of the most thought provoking things ever put on television.And to have to read all this ... nonsense. Well, it just plain hurts my feelings.

My blogging buddy's opinion of the new show seems to be more than a bit biased by his love of the original Battlestar Galactica and his polarized political views. His primary complaints seem to be that the show supposedly bludgeons us with leftist politics every week and that the characters (and I guess the show's vision of humanity) are not worthy of redemption. See here: Why Season Three Sucks, and here: The politics of Battlestar Galactica.

First, as I've mentioned before, the show doesn't have a political axe to grind. If you're finding blatant partisan politics in the new Battlestar, their coming from your own worldview, not the show. The Cylons are Muslims- no wait, the humans have suicide bombers so they must be Muslims! My point has always been that the show is complex, filled with moral ambiguities, and provides no easy answers. From watching the show early this season, I didn't get the impression that the show was condoning suicide bombing- I just was able to understand where Duck (the character who blows up a graduation ceremony of the New Caprica police) was coming from. Of course, at the same time, I could understand where Jammer- who joins the New Caprica police- was coming from as well.

My blogging buddy Michael loved the original Battlestar because humanity was worthy of redemption- humanity was good and the Cylons were evil. I bet he loved Star Wars and Lord of the Rings too. Good versus evil is a classic theme, but that's just not what the new Battlestar is about. In the new Battlestar humanity is flawed, just as it is in the real world, but at least in my mind, those flaws don't make humanity any less worthy of redemption. People make bad choices, people do stupid things, and sometimes there are just no right answers. But just because a show deals with complex moral and political issues does not mean that there needs be parallels (either one way or the other) to the world today. Ultimately, Battlestar is about people, not about politics. Just ask Duck or Jammer.

Finally, case-in-point is this posting on Can Cylons be tortured? Without blinking, Michael says no. "I say the fact that they were genetically engineered to destroy humanity removes any “rights” that they might have." Of course, this ignores the fact that the human models that we know are unique individuals. Caprica Sharon and Caprica Six changed the course of Cylon policy in regards to humans at the end of season two. Without them, there would have been no occupation, only more genocide. And of course, Helo's Sharon rejected her allegiance to Cylons out of her love for Helo. Given that, and given what we've seen from the Cylon characters, is torture really okay? Would the genocide of the Cylons be an appropriate response for the Cylon's attack on humanity. I can't bring myself to say yes.

It's just troublesome to have my favorite show get such a bad rap. If you don't like the complex themes or the fact the show provides no easy answers and a more realistic view of humanity, that's fine, but don't accuse the show of biases that aren't there. And don't accuse the show of not making any sense when you just don't like the direction the show is taking.