Author Archives: Michelle Shinghal

Live Free! You Might Die Anyway

CherrixSince I quit my 9-5, I am able to go to the gym during news hours. I go to one of those upscale “country club” for poor people places which have large flat screens everywhere, and it was one of those flat screens that nearly stopped my climb to the upstairs Hell of cardio and weight machines.

The Today Show (video link) ran a story on Abraham Cherrix, a sixteen year old cancer patient who has opted out of another round of chemo in favor of an alternative treatment. The young man has decided that he wishes to pursue a quality life rather than a life measured by year markers. As I watched the interview unfold, my admiration for this boy’s courage turned into horror. It seems that a social worker in this young man’s state decided that his parents were neglectful. His parents supported his alternative treatment, treatment that has not been proven efficacious, and were dragged into court to defend themselves as parents. The state was awarded a sort of joint custody. A custody which mandates the young man to submit to tests not of his choosing. To the government monster, it doesn’t matter if the kid feels better on his organic diet. It doesn’t matter that his parents support his decision. The talons have dug in, and this kid will submit to any testing which may give him unpleasant news — if only to be sure that he can continue on his alternative path.

I do not have to tell the readers here what shit this is. This young man has chosen to not merely exist — he has chosen to live. That his path is different than the Cancer Society’s “yellow brick road” should not be an issue. Not an issue for the courts, for damn sure. Sadly, government agencies continue to put themselves over free will and responsibility.

Positive news alert! I know that the tide is turning. I was not the only woman in the locker room glued to the TV. Several others, from obviously different political camps, were in lockstep. This is a private family decision. Government not needed.

Libertarians constantly look for ways to convince others that freedom works. Perhaps the Republicrats are already convincing them.

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Turn On, Tune In, Self Medicate?

What is it that makes us normal? Is it the ability to accept things at face value? Or is it the ability to change our perception? I will tell you that I had the opportunity to do both last weekend. I had the opportunity to eat some shrooms in Amsterdam last weekend, and I took it. My anti-drug (read husband) freaked. He wanted to know if it was because I was reading Tim Leary’s bio that I needed to do it. Truthfully, the bio made me nostalgic. I had not eaten a mushroom in so long, that it was necessary for me to call on a friend to help me with dosage. He suggested a couple of shrooms at a time. I was never worried because I was in a tolerant place, but coming home, I see that perhaps the tables are turning. The WSJ reports that Johns Hopkins is picking up where Leary left off. I will let you draw your own conclusions from the article, but I will say something about what I learned from the book.

1) Tim Leary was made a criminal (25 years) over a couple of joints.
2) Tim Leary said in the early eighties that Americans were enslaved by a media driven race for our minds.
3) Our government has admitted to using our application of personal freedom against us.
4) The media, in reporting Linkletter’s daughter’s death, originally blamed it on LSD. The autopsy indicated no drugs. There was a purposeful failure to correct the earlier broadcast, thus creating undo controversy.

So, Johns Hopkins now sees positive reactions to Leary’s original exercises. That’s funny. He said it would be that way. He laughed and said that the persecution over his studies would be compared to the civil rights era. Too bad he is not alive to see it. As for me, I am glad that I was able to eat some Florida produced shrooms while I was in Amsterdam. (Go chew on the idea that we grow and export that which is illegal for us to consume.) I am glad that I saw colors. I am glad that I saw truth. And I am glad that I read, just in time for the revival, Tim Leary’s work.

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NJ is Closed? Well, Sort Of

Today Governor Corzine was forced to sign an Executive Order which shuts down non-essential government services. The New Jersey Constitution requires that a balanced budget be in place before start of the fiscal year. When no agreement was reached by July 1st, the governor bit the bullet and closed up shop. The shut down includes the furlough of about 45,000 employees in “non-essential” departments and will also affect casinos which are state regulated. The casino industry is challenging the shut down in court.

Governor Corzine, in a statement, assured the people of New Jersey that essential services will not be part of the shut down:

First and foremost, let me assure residents of our great state that essential services will be provided for the duration of this emergency. We have been working on contingencies and we are prepared. The emergency powers of the Disaster Control Act convey to the Governor the authority to do just that. That includes personnel and facilities involved in providing for the health, safety, and welfare of our people, as well as for the protection of property. Agencies like the State Police, the Division of Youth and Family Services, the Department of Corrections, and substantial parts of the Department of Human Services will see only a very limited impact.

He expressed his dissatisfaction with the necessary move:

It gives me no joy, no satisfaction, no sense of empowerment to do what I am forced to do today. And there will be people who do not receive the attention that they rightfully deserve from our state government. I don’t like it. Others don’t. And we will do everything we can to bring this to a short conclusion. I am absolutely committed to signing a budget that is fair, a budget that is honest, and a budget that restores stability and integrity to New Jersey’s finances.

I do not know a thing about New Jersey’s government or politics, but what if the residents of that state decide that they no longer need those “non-essential” services? Maybe, just maybe, that state could have as their reality truly limited government.

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Rape a Country as Well as Its Women

rape
n.
The crime of forcing another person to submit to sex acts, especially sexual intercourse.
The act of seizing and carrying off by force; abduction.
Abusive or improper treatment; violation: a rape of justice.
tr.v. raped, rap·ing, rapes
To force (another person) to submit to sex acts, especially sexual intercourse; commit rape on.
To seize and carry off by force.
To plunder or pillage (www.dictionary.com)

I read earlier on Yahoo News that a soldier admitted knowledge of the rape and murder of a young Iraqi woman and her family. The most current reports seem to make light of the earlier one.

I know, from personal experience, that there are many heros in Iraq. One in a Marine uniform. I will respect his wife and children by not disclosing his identity, but I would be irresponsible if I did not admit that the actions of a few have marred his achievement. I have friends and family, ex-military, who tell me that the Iraq war is strategically sound. They tell me that it doesn’t matter that Saddam had nothing of a threatening nature. It doesn’tmatter that we invaded a country based on lies. It’s an “ends justify their means” mentality and I guess I am too stupid to get it.

But, I am a woman, living in an almost (but used to be) free country. And I know, based on the reporting, that the Iraqi woman was raped twice. And rape is the most anti-liberty action I can imagine.

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Hope Comes in Letter Form in Big D.

It seems that libertarian voices are being heard in Dallas. Our local paper, the DMN, has printed at least eight libertarian letters in the last week. Today they even ran Wes Benedict’s letter first on the page.

Libertarians are worthy

Re: “Going one-on-one in a free-for-all,” Friday news story.

It appears an editor called in reporter Wayne Slater, told him to do a story on the Texas governor’s race and instructed him not to mention the Libertarian candidate, James Werner.

Is it possible that the thousands of Dallas-Fort Worth residents who will vote Libertarian are deemed not worthy to read about their candidate?

Surely a political writer for your paper knows that Libertarians have had a candidate for governor on every Texas ballot since 1990. If he is paying attention, he also will notice that Texas Libertarians are doing better than ever.

Wes Benedict, exec. director, Libertarian Party of Texas, Austin

And it is not just our state director writing to the News. Debby Barton delivers a very libertarian response to a letter writer’s desire to happily pay taxes.

Re: “I’ll happily pay to play,” by Amanda Stanton, Monday Letters.

When I bemoan excessive taxation, it’s not meanness or greed but on practical and moral grounds.

Practically, anything undertaken with tax money can be achieved more quickly, cheaply and efficiently by the private sector. Morally, each individual has the right to decide what is to be done with the fruits of his labor.

Taxation that funds redistribution of the wealth is an immoral breach of individual rights.

And, yes, the government does owe us. It owes us protection of these individual rights.

Ben Crawford, from my county, writes:

Raising the minimum wage does not help minimum-wage earners; in fact, it hurts them, because when minimum wage goes up, so does the cost of goods.

Example: When a factory employee’s minimum wage goes up, not only does the factory have to pay the worker more but, since other suppliers to the factory also had to pay their minimum-wage workers more, the cost of the product goes up more than the increased wage the worker received.

However, if you strive to make more than minimum wage, an increase in cost of goods, while frustrating, is not life altering.

Minimum-wage jobs should be a temporary stop on one’s career path, not a permanent destination.

It seems that our message is out there and that people identify with it. We just need to let them know that there is a political party that will work to make that message a reality.

I don’t know Mr. Crawford from any county meetings. I guess I have to look him up and let him know that he is not alone. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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A Libertarian Becomes (More) Free

I did something truly libertarian yesterday. I fired my old boss and became my new boss. It was strange timing to say the least. I started at XYZco, as a temp, in February, 2001. They apparently had high turnover in the past and it was almost a requirement, at the time of my hire anyway, to have a person stay through a few lunches before s/he could become an employee. For me, the lunch shift ended on June 18th, 2001. I started, quite accidentally, a home business in March ’06 and I gave notice on June 19, 2006. I was walked out the door on the 20th, my five year anniversary gift in a box packed for me, but, it does seem la mode du jour to walk an employee out rather than risk negativity in the workplace.

I would be an ass if I did not admit that the work climate had changed recently. Or that my attitude toward the politics had not changed as well. Office politics are often worse than government politics and I hear that XYZco management is under a microscope lately. But, I thought that I owned my $4.2m monthly. I was told that it was my piece of the biz, and that people were treated according to production. That idea resonated well with me. I took the vacations that I wanted, but I worked evenings, Saturdays and Sundays to pick up the slack. The report numbers would indicate that I worked efficiently. The problem with working weekends, or after hours, is that there is nobody beside the Facilities Director to see it. The problem with working efficiently is that it throws a monkey-wrench into the game.

I really thought that XYZco was a good match for me. I was seduced by employer-sponsored healthcare. Vacation. Owning my piece of the company. I am no Thoreau, but I know now that the only thing I can own is that which I produce-for me and my family. Companies change pace and direction. I may do the same and, if and when I do it, much like the company, I will have the most important people in mind. The people on my mind are those with the most stock.

I am terrified. I am exhilarated. I am blown away by how ready I am to take care of myself/ family on my terms. But, I am floored that I am a libertarian thinking person, a person regularly taking to task people afraid to stand up for themselves, but also a person who failed to realize that I was dependent too.

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When Does the Legal Age of Consent not Matter?

Libertarians wear individuality like a badge. I know that I am not exactly dropping a big news bomb on anyone here. One simply has to peruse the comment section of any given post to see that we sometimes disagree for sport. I think that most of us can agree that the government should not interfere in the sex lives of consenting adults, but when is a person mature enough to consent to sex? I personally think the age number actually changes from person to person and even then it may depend on situational context, but worldwide, culture and law actually dictate at what age a person may be mature enough to make the decision to have sex. The age varies in the US according to state, but for heterosexual relationships, the age of consent is generally 16. In Texas, where I live, the age of consent is 17.

Don’t tell that to Amy McElhenney. She was recently arrested for allegedly having sex with an 18 year old male. Ok, her 18 year old male student.

McElhenny, a 25 year old first year teacher, was a former Miss Texas contestant. Hello??? Former Miss Texas contestant? No matter how sexist this may seem, I can almost hear the high fives between the “victim” and his friends. That is, of course, if it happened. While Ms. McElhenney admittedly had an “inappropriate” relationship (read: text messages), she has denied a sexual one.

The age of consent in Texas is 17. The young man is 18. She did not break the law. Oh, wait. She did. A law, effective September 1, 2003, makes sexual relationships between educators and students illegal. My friends and I have discussed this over the last few days and some of them believe that the student/ teacher relationship ethically demands that there be no hanky-panky. They believe that the teacher is in an authority role and that the student is compelled, in a sexual situation, to comply. They do not consider, for even a minute, that nearly everyone is in some type of mentoring, or teaching role, to somebody else. They do not consider that there is a set of laws for one group and a more stringent set for another.

I think that a company is fully in its right to prohibit romantic relationships amongst staff. Romantic relationships between people in any business or educational environment can lead to a loss in productivity and Texas is a right to work state. A career working for someone else naturally implies a contract. She may have deserved to lose her job. I do not think that deviating from company rules should result in jail, trial, and possible fine or imprisonment.

BTW, The answer to the title question is:

The age of consent does not matter when people fail to realize that the true age of consent is dependent on where a person is in life’s journey.

Oops, I’m sorry. (dumping the wine) It does not matter when you are in Texas.

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Abortions, Libertarians, and Law

Birth to death, the right to life is a big issue for Republicans. A woman’s right to choose brings the Democratic Party to mind. The Libertarian platform, which speaks to harming no other’s life or property, is silent (at this time) on the issue of abortion. It seems to be a topic that polarizes extremists and keeps moderates quiet. A subject which desperately needs the input of real people in real situations has the most reasonable, rational people zip-lipped. I am, for the record, a pro-choice libertarian, and I am disturbed by the fact that a woman’s choice in a private medical matter is such a divisive issue for our country.

It is not new news that South Dakota has enacted a law that makes abortion, in most cases, illegal. What is new news is Nazia of Pakistan.

Nazia, the name by which the two month old is known, died today. She died from a surgical procedure to remove two fetuses from her womb. She was apparently one of triplets in the womb. Rather than forming along with her in the mother’s womb, the sibling fetuses grew inside of her womb. The news reports that the fetuses were partially grown and at about 4 months gestation. This particular procedure would be protected in South Dakota (I assume) as the mother (sister) life was endangered and the fetuses were not “alive”.

With an occurrence rate of 1/500,000, fetus-in-fetu can not be considered common. With my non-existent medical training, I can only rely on my own uneducated review of medical cases. My reading leads me to believe that fetus-in-fetu is not necessarily a dead fetus inside the host. I found a case in which a fetus, inside its teenaged brother host, had eyes, hair and teeth. How would this be presented to SD?

I bring these things up only to question one thing. At what point can we agree that government mandating a woman (or any person) carry a fetus to term is an over-step of authority? At what point can we agree that terminating a life in-utero is acceptable? While fetus-in-fetu could (and should) be considered an extreme condition, what about a fetus in the womb of a mother who happens to have a genetically debilitating condition? What about the fetus in the womb of a mother who doesn’t desire motherhood?

I know women who have had to make hard choices. I know of a woman, an immigrant from Russia, who made a decision to terminate a pregnancy based on the practicality of the timing. She had a husband and daughter in a new land. I know a woman, a carrier of a severe genetic mutation who, after an amnio, had to make the painful choice of a “therapeutic” abortion. She tried so hard to become pregnant and her grief is something that will pierce my soul forever. And, I know me. I was in love with an ex-boyfriend who was awesome- but not the one. We weren’t irresponsible — my family tree has many branches of birth control babies — we are fertile people. I terminated the pregnancy and have lost no sleep over it. We are both with partners better suited to us. He has a child he adores. My husband and I were certain about our desire of babies and fixed permanently the issue of birth control.

Whether a woman carries to term a pregnancy should not be an issue decided by government or majority vote. Public opinion changes every election season. Hourly, if you count the news as accurate. South Dakota may be trying to right the world, but human involvement is needed to measure the cost. Unfortunately, the law leaves none of the wriggle room needed for real life situations. Sometimes we need a person with guts enough to say, “Not another freaking law!”

Where are you already? South Dakota is waiting.

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Sex, Freedom, and Raising Children

Dallas is being hammered with severe weather and my roof has sprung a leak. Right now, the Shinghal family can’t deal with anything heavier than the buckets of water collecting in my bedroom and Yahoo’s Odd News brought a much needed laugh. It also gave me something to think about.

I always knew that Europeans view sex differently than most Americans. In some European countries, soft porn is available on local networks. We hear about the acceptance of extra-marital affairs. But a 70 year old woman getting busted by police trying to have sex in a moving car? Wow! That’s some funny stuff. Italian policed noticed that a car was driving a bit erratically and pulled it over. They found Granny completely nude attempting to have sex with the driver who is just a bit younger. Police made them dress and then tested for drunk driving.

He was three times over the legal (blood-alcohol) limit,” said police commander Angelo D’Anardo in the city of Cologno al Serio, northeast of Milan. We assume they must have been drinking at lunch and then things got out of control.

When asked if the couple were married, the police commander stated that he did not think so-

Married people wouldn’t probably do anything like this.

Reading the next item, I found that Bulgarian media is going nuts over a 3 year old girl and a reality show.

Media were initially delighted to find the cast of moderately famous Bulgarians on “VIP Brother” included self-described “sex hedonists,” an ex-Playboy playmate, and former Miss Bulgaria Violeta Zdravkova.

Until, that is, they found out that the beauty queen had her daughter living there too. A letter sent to the TV station said:

We are extremely worried at the presence in the house of a three-year-old, who has become an unwitting witness of indecent acts.

The station refused to kick the woman off the show. The reason?

Only her mother can decide whether she should keep her daughter in the house,” said the station’s public relations officer Galina Dzhoreva.

A network refusing to bow down to a vocal group of moral busybodies? Some of our own networks should take a lesson. They did not pull the show or kick out the beauty queen. They publicly stated that it the job of parents to determine what is right for their families. How refreshing.

They did not describe the “indecent acts” this child may have witnessed, but as a child, I walked in on my parents having a fun night. As an adult, I went to Mom’s and walked in on her and her husband. Is it gross? Yes. Abuse? No. In the U.S. that child would probably be in the care of social services now.

I am not saying that I find the situation of this child appropriate- I would never allow my children on reality TV.

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Arrested For Public Intoxication – Inside a Bar?

Irving, TX police partnered recently with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) in an attempt to reduce drunken driving. Did they pull people over leaving the bar? No. They partied with them in clubs and after doling out field sobriety tests (in the club); they made arrests (in the club). NBC5I.com reports:

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has taken its fight against drunken driving to a new level. TABC agents, along with Irving police, targeted 36 bars and clubs Friday, arresting some allegedly intoxicated patrons before they departed the businesses.

Has something changed recently that made a private business public domain? I looked up the penal code for public intoxication and found that public is defined as:

(40) “Public place” means any place to which the public or a substantial group of the public has access and includes, but is not limited to, streets, highways, and the common areas of schools, hospitals, apartment houses, office buildings, transport facilities, and shops.

One definition of public intoxication is: A person commits the crime of public intoxication if he appears in a public place under the influence of alcohol, narcotics or other drug to the degree that he endangers himself or another person or property, or by boisterous and offensive conduct annoys another person in his vicinity.

The details of the arrests are not public at this moment, but experience tells me that clubs have bouncers to handle bad drunks. Experience tells me that some people drink a little more because they have a friend driving. The legal intoxication limit in the state of Texas is .08. That is slightly more than one drink an hour for my body type. Makes you wonder if they are trying to bring back alcohol prohibition.

I am late for a dinner reservation and I do not think that I will be drinking soda with my steak. If you guys don’t hear from me, call the Dallas area jails. I may have been arrested for PI in a private business.

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Grannies, Guns, and Government

Julian VanDyke often gets under my skin. I don’t think I am alone in thinking that his combative attitude makes it tough to have true discussion. That attitude is not reserved only for the discussion posts. Recently, in our inboxes, HoT editors received this challenge:

How about it, Hammer of Truth writers. Write something about this or is the only thing you can do is bash the Iraq war and promote pornography? Let’s see some Second Amendment action. Guys like me are really interested in preserving what little freedom we have to buy, sell and own arms of all kinds and descriptions without interference from big brother. Are you interested in this issue or are you hung up on bashing soldiers and our military?

Naturally, he included a tip. February 15th was reserved for the Oversight Hearing of “The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) Part l: Gun Show Enforcement.” This site provides the testimonies of a gun show manager, a former police officer turned gunsmith and an enthusiast. The testimonies, if true, demonstrate that the BATF has completely failed- either by ignorance or irreverence- to uphold its duty as servant of the American people and the constitution we hold dear. That failure reaches past the Second Amendment and actually brings in the First and Fourth as well. see more…

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Response to Response to Response to BS

I wrote a while ago about my view (from a female vantage point) of the libertarian movement and I answered Mr. Bice’s concerns from my perspective. He, predictably, ridiculed my position on (nearly) everything. His statements start with:

The Libertarian Party’s disagreement with anti-discrimination laws is probably pretty darn popular in some areas down south. Many areas of the country probably offer niche markets for various types of whites-only establishments, where the “white race” doesn’t have to be bothered with homosexuals, blacks, Asians, Hispanics, etc. Such establishments would feed on existing racism, amplify the tendency and help foster this bigotry.

My whole point was that a person with a true mind for business success would never be a bigot. This idea works with gay/straight, smoking/anti, or even male/female. The idea is that a free open market will not tolerate what is reprehensible, and those of us finding a political home in the Libertarian Party are generally not a tribal sort of group. By nature, we are outside the comfort zone. Which brings me, quite naturally, to the Harry Brown reference

“Harry Browne, Libertarian Party candidate for president in 1996 and 2000, put it this way, ‘freedom from government – on all issues at all times.’” Why would a libertarian believe it was fine for government to restrict businesses from selling drugs. That’s so parental, and libertarians hate parental government actions. If drugs aren’t illegal, why should government have any role whatsoever? I thought the marketplace was were decisions like this were made. I’ve even heard some libertarians argue that Doctors should require licenses to practice, and that everyone should have the power to write prescriptions.

Newsflash!!!!!!(Again) Libertarians do not toe a party line. We have differences of opinion on some things. Harry Browne, who was before my L-time, does not speak for me on every issue. (And truly, I felt that this was not an issue to look up. Lazy night, but I am responding to a lazy argument.) It may seem strange to someone in the habit of regurgitating the party line word for word, but we love that we are different. And, FTR, my husband is a doc. I support standards in that field-but profession regulated standards. Truthfully, I would like to sue him for malpractice because he told me to suck up a hurt foot on a run. Turned out that I had a fracture, but I am not the normal patient- he doesn’t have to order a ton of x-rays to cover his ass with me. That is gov-reg baby. Get them doing unnecessary tests to avoid liability. CYA in today’s climate can be costly.

Katrina- the bitch that slapped the country. Hmmm. Yes, Bice. It was regulation misappropriation of designated cash that drowned NOLA. While the local gov was spending money on fountains and parties, the threat was high. I lived in NOLA from 1973 to 1995. All I ever knew was to get the hell out of town for a cat 4 or better. Go to Phuket and see how they are rebuilding the area. (Dude, I was there in November and I witnessed the (unsafe by US standard) scaffolds and 12 year olds on mopeds weighed down with lumber.) There is something to be said for personal responsibility.

Education choice is not a choice. That Bice pretends that it is- is frankly- silly. The only choice today is to pay for a sub par product- and then pay again.

Perhaps Mr. Bice should leave the party of his parents and step-maybe for the first time- into his own. The LP is not perfect, but we never did pretend to be the only deal out there. We, unlike the others, offer a choice.

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UAE to manage some US ports.

As a knee jerk reaction, I said sure; UAE is buying a British company already managing our ports. But then, I thought about it. I remembered historical war stories which declared our ports as the most strategic points of protection. US control of the ports was essential to our safety in 1776 and we fought dearly to preserve that control. Why, then, would our highest commander (2006) differ in strategy from our most esteemed commander (1776)? Why would we, in a climate of heightened security, allow any bedmate (UK or UAE) to share guard of our treasure? According to Yahoo News,

The administration did not require Dubai Ports to keep copies of business records on U.S. soil, where they would be subject to court orders. It also did not require the company to designate an American citizen to accommodate U.S. government requests. Outside legal experts said such obligations are routinely attached to U.S. approvals of foreign sales in other industries.

It seems that Big Brother only wishes to watch us free Americans. Brother George cares about our safety in the form of wire taps and surveillance, but cares nothing about the deeds of his buddies in the Middle East? Something is amiss here. I am not educated enough on these matters to determine what it is, but I do have that “Oh shit” feeling which has been described as “fight or flight.” My lack of expertise dictates that I leave this a question. My sense tells me that we are too deeply entangled in a Boleyn type quest for control. Some heads will roll, I am sure. I only wonder which heads.

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Did Curiosity Kill the 6-Year-Old Tomcat?

I complain a lot about the lack of common sense in risk evaluation. In our effort to be totally safe, it sure seems like we make some stupid decisions. In today’s news, thebostonchannel.com reports that a Brockton, MA first grader was suspended from school last month for sexual harassment. Wow, I guess first graders really do think about sex.

The six year old boy told his mother that the girl initiated the physical contact.

“My son told me that the girl touched him first, so he touched her back,” Dorinvil said. “I was shocked. I was crying. I was out of control,” Dorinvil said.

Hmmm, sounds like an old fashion game of “doctor” to me. Or is it the “I will show you mine if you show me yours” game? Having been a child, and having much experience with children, I would guess that this was not a malicious assault. I would bet that it was no more than curiosity, but I guess that cannot be left to chance in our hyper PC world. The official comment is,

“The safety and well-being of Brockton public school students and staff is of the utmost important to us, and we take all allegations of sexual harassment seriously.”

Apparently, safety from six year old “sex offenders” is so important, the boy was not allowed to transfer schools. Sadly, as I sit here worried about the school’s lack of judgment, a young American boy fears arrest. I wonder what else he might fear later.

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A female perspective on the libertarian movement

Eureka! We can see today (thanks to a tip from Brandon Middleton) why libertarianism has not caught on. We are self-absorbed asses who care more about ourselves than the public good. Or, at least, that is what John Bice of MSU would have one believe. Although he comes to some rather “out there” conclusions, perhaps Mr. Bice’s article can be a tool for us selfish libertarians. His misinformed opinion of us is likely representative of unhappy voters in the two major camps. I think it is time to start spreading some truth.

Bice: “For example, the Libertarian Party opposes ‘any government attempts to regulate private discrimination’ in employment, housing, and privately owned businesses. The right to trade includes the right not to trade – for any reasons whatsoever. Translation: Personal liberty includes the right to create “whites only” establishments, the right to deny jobs, mortgages, apartments or services of any kind to any minority group or person.”

Me: He has us on the first point, but screws up the translation. Any business, regardless of political affiliation, which discriminates against a group based on ethnicity, is simply looking for a business loss to offset his tax liability. If you want to turn a profit, you provide a product that is desired. When I conjure the image of a bigot, I view a person without spending power-knowledge or dollars. A true businessman is concerned about two colors- black and red.

And speaking of taxation, Mr. Bice gives this example:

“David Holcberg, from the Ayn Rand Institute, demonstrated libertarian hatred of taxes in a column on tsunami aid, “The United States government should not give any money to help the tsunami victims. Every dollar the government hands out as foreign aid has to be extorted from an American taxpayer first. Pacifists are undoubtedly horrified that portions of their taxes fund military spending. Does this lack of unanimous approval mean we shouldn’t have a military? One libertarian solution to this inconsistency requires a heavily armed citizenry to provide all national defense needs, no taxes required.”

Goodie! Taxes and guns- one stone. I was a single mom for a while. I know first hand what people do not pay in, and then get out. EIC, baby. Hardly fair to the people who work their asses off and pay and pay and pay. As a single mom (many years ago), I would get every dime I paid in, plus some because I had kids. But I married someone with greater earning potential than I, so now; our tax rate is higher than Cheney’s. As for the citizen militia, libertarians have studied history-we know what it takes to keep a monarchy government- in check. It takes a people with the means to revolt. Neither Bice nor I could write our drivel without the American Revolution. (I think that one of us needs to revisit the history books. David McCullough’s 1776 is a good starting point.)

Bice: Libertarians believe “all drugs should be legalized.”

Me: Decriminalized. People are free to learn from their mistakes without some hyped up morality charge on their records.

Bice: People don’t exist in isolation; individual actions impact others in innumerable ways. For example, cheaply constructed homes are often destroyed during hurricanes, generating dangerous flying debris that threatens the lives and property of responsible homeowners. Furthermore, studies have shown that adequate building codes can prevent billions of dollars in hurricane damage.

Me: Years of regulation did not help NOLA. In fact, NOLA is flapping like a hooked fish on the floor of the boat, because of regulation.

Bice: Jefferson’s advocacy of universal and free public education, supported through taxation, demonstrated that he didn’t believe defending personal liberty required the elimination of taxes or government services. Libertarians, however, see the Jeffersonian legacy of free public education as just another government program to be eradicated.

Me: Parents want to choose where we spend our tax dollars. Whether we choose to spend in a different district, on home schooling, or private instruction, we should be the decision makers.

Bice: Libertarian freedom is a harsh mistress.

Me: Harsh mistress? Demanding is probably a better description. Maybe the best damn experience he will ever have. He should consider leaving that saggy, wrinkled ideology that he has been married to for so long. If not on moral principal, for his children.

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Get ‘em while they are young.

The U.S. Secret Service seems to want to teach that freedom of speech is not tolerated, and the youngest pupil may be a seventh grader. Yahoo News reports that a seventh grader threatened the president in a homework essay and the child is now the subject of an investigation. The unreleased essay has been described as rambling and non-specific, but school authorities found it troubling. Daniel Burns, chairman of the West Warwick School Committee said,

“anyone that writes what’s on his mind, where he wants to do away with or kill people, it’s something you’ve got to pay attention to.”

While I understand that threatening the president is a felony, I cannot understand the inability to gauge risk. We are talking about a kid- probably an eleven year old. Surely the king’s men aren’t physically threatened by a child. Reading the article, I recalled Orwell. In 1984, children were used to inform on their parents. Mr. Burns opines,

“Someone in the 7th grade just doesn’t gather this information by themselves. I was concerned where that came from.”

Hmmm, are the parents now an item of interest? Or maybe it is the neighbor. I mean, if this is a common view, surely the feds have thought of it too.

I am more than a little concerned here. SG told us recently about that little provision in the Patriot Act which would limit free speech at any “special event of national significance.” I guess junior high is an area of national significance now, and they haven’t even passed that bullshit law yet. Many of our fellow Americans accept the death of the first amendment as a necessary casualty in our “War on Whatever” but like Stephen, I don’t. And I hope that the kid, when he is done with the shock therapy I mean counseling, has enough America left in him to speak out.

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More Drug War Nonsense

Alcohol prohibition failed... so why are drugs still illegal?

Libertarians have long denounced the war on drugs. I think that we see it as an attempt to dictate morality, and because morals differ for each American citizen, we see it for what it is: an affront to our inalienable right to self ownership. Some people would have you believe that we are drug crazed loonies- that we party like Caligula or Bacchus. I know many libertarians, and our lives are not filled with drug induced orgies. In fact, our lives are filled with the same mundane happenings experienced by the right and left. You know, things like laundry, grocery shopping, soccer practice and band concerts. And, on top of all, work. Efforts on which we are taxed, some of us heavily, to fight something like a person’s choice of medicine (see Kubby) or, dare I say, recreation. I wonder, though, if the extremists of any political camp look at the cost/ benefit ratio of this ill pursued war.

Apparently not. According to the DOJ, meth is our country’s biggest drug worry. According to the speech prepared for our esteemed AG, current meth users are numbered at 583 thousand. (User means that a person has used one time in the last thirty days.) The same speech tells us that more than 1.4 million people tried meth last year. I wanted to know how these numbers looked compared to population. According to the US Census report, we have 293 million people within our borders. My sub par math ability indicates that current meth users represent less than .002% 0.2% (woops, forgot to percentagize) of the US population. This is our epidemic? Obesity is a bigger killer, and according to Nemours Foundation, it affects more than 97 million American adults. I guess that gluttony is not a sin anyone cares about anymore.

Reading further into the words prepared for our illustrious AG, one finds a smoke and mirror anecdote regarding a little four year old named Romeo. It has been shown that a kid can sell the Drug War like Oprah sells James Frey’s foma.

see more…

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TSA and Reality

first class ticketStories of mothers forced to drink the breast milk out of their babies’ bottles are not new. Neither are stories of the elderly persons subjected to humiliating strip searches. Stories like those solidified my belief that the TSA was an inefficient agency, but this month, my fourteen year old daughter was “randomly” selected for an additional security search- on each leg of our ski trip. Thankfully, the little SSSS marking on the ticket gave us a big flashing clue, so we checked the skis under her name to avoid being detained to watch TSA sift through smelly ski socks and underwear. It saved us some time, but I found out when we arrived home, that they had sifted though that stuff anyway.

My family talked about the futility of the searches that day. The boarding card alerts you with that SSSS mark well before you clear security. Does that make the search “voluntary” and akin to the NYC subway searches? If you are carrying a prohibited item, what would stop you from just walking out of the terminal? I guess that TSA supporters would say that they stopped a crime and inconvenience be damned. After all, it doesn’t matter if you are searched like a criminal- if you are not a criminal, it should not bother you. It is the price of security. But after being detained for additional search on four occasions (during 5 flights), my daughter and I wondered how far our fellow Americans would let our government go in the name of security. (We try to do our part here at home.) How much would people allow this administration take from them? And then, something of a biblical nature happened. David loaded his sling, and focused on Goliath.

People started fighting back. At Georgetown, there was the most effective protest that America has seen of late. Librarian, Kathy Glick-Weil, thwarted the FBI and her local police in their attempt to gain information without a warrant. And, one of our country’s financial institutions has pledged to act in a manner consistent with American freedom with regard to property rights.

They said, in the aftermath of 9/11, that Al Qaeda had awakened the sleeping giant. I think that they were right. But the sleeping giant was our very own government- and we can choose to be David or dinner.

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J’aime fumer en France !

Anti-smoking activists in the US have had great success limiting the freedoms of smokers. California seems to have led the way for many other states and cities looking to just save one person from the dangers of second hand smoke. HoT commented about the latest ban in New Jersey here and here, and I read the articles thinking, well it is at least not Paris, Spain and Italy. The day that smoking in public is illegal in those places will truly mean the end, right?

Tonight as I sat finishing laundry, I caught up on some reading. My favorite place to start in the paper is the Op/Ed section. I think that if you want to know what’s going on in the world, there is no better place to start. Most people don’t develop their own opinions anymore- they just borrow from whomever they believe to be “smart” and parrot the “news.” You can always find tomorrow’s buzzword in today’s opinion page. Well, as I stubbed out (what I thought was) my last cigarette of the night, I found this article in the NYT and had to cross Spain off my list. Spain has joined the anti-smoking crusade. The article was translated from spanish, so I am sure some really funny nuances were missed, but I really enjoyed it. Javier Marias really hit home in a few places.

Consideration for one’s fellow man was addressed:

Many of my friends are smokers too; many are not. But we have always managed to come to terms by asking if anyone minds our smoking – without the government’s intervention.

Government hypocrisy was addressed:

But the government’s argument that it is seeking to improve public health is hypocritical. The Spanish Treasury takes in colossal revenues, direct and indirect, thanks to this pernicious habit. Every time the government needs to find a way to finance some exceptional expense, a new cigarette tax is levied. The implicit message to Spanish citizens is this: “Smoke! Smoke more – so we can balance our budget.”

And the ridiculous nature of the argument was addressed:

Nowhere have I ever heard, for example, that cars are obliged to carry, just above the driver’s-side door, a warning, like those on cigarette boxes, that “Driving a car may cause death, grisly amputations, quadriplegia and involuntary manslaughter.” I have also never seen anyone lay blame on sunbathers who go to the beach and almost drown, or mountain climbers who get lost and fall off cliffs, and whose rescue incurs a tremendous expense and endangers the lives of others. Nobody is forcing anyone to swim in the ocean or climb mountains, just as nobody is forcing smokers to smoke, and yet the latter are regarded practically as criminals.

In the end, Spain has a little more sense than we do. According to Senor Marias, its ban is not absolute:

…after tremendous protests and battles over the law, that is – in establishments of less than 1,100 square feet (spaces that are too small to be divided into smoking and nonsmoking areas), the owner can decide if the place will be smoke-free or not.

I wish that Dallas had decided it that way.

My city is also a no bar/restaurant smoking city, and while I am not a closet smoker, I only smoke in the evenings. The evenings are when I spend my money. Before the ban in Dallas, I might have been smoking in a local bar, paying way too much for a drink while playing a spirited game of Golden Tee. Now, I don’t bother. I stay home knowing that they cannot stop me from lighting up here. (Unless my employer goes Weyco on me) Sorry, I got a little personal there and a lot off topic.

Back to Spain: The writer summed up the point rather nicely with words that could address any topic.

A totalitarian state is one that sticks its nose where it doesn’t belong and attempts to intervene in every aspect of its citizens’ private lives, and many governments today, whether left, right or center, have developed this practice of behaving like busybodies. The old notion that only dictatorships can be totalitarian seems terribly naïve nowadays. And that is the worst thing about this antismoking law and others of the same ilk: they unfortunately prove that totalitarianism is no longer incompatible with the democratic systems that once guaranteed our freedoms

Oh well, France is left, right?

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Education in the post 9/11 world

How do you thank an educator for success? You might give her $25,000.00. Or, you can kick her in the teeth for demonstrating good judgment. If you are New York’s Department of Education, you can do both. According to The New York Times, Curtis High School’s award winning principal, Aurelia Curtis, was transferred from her Staten Island school and reassigned to regional headquarters. Her error? On October 31st, a 16 year old junior, during debate, made a comment which referenced blowing up the school. She did not report it to police.

It seems that the honors student, while debating capitalism with fellow members of the Curtis High School debate team, said something about planting a bomb in the school to protest capitalism. Not a little thing in our post 9/11 climate. And in our knee jerk, damn anyone who says something controversial society, I think the principal acted prudently. Upon hearing the news from the debate team faculty advisor, Ms. Aurelia met with the student and his mother, searched his belongings and found nothing that would be considered a threat. She then, according to the article, met with the school’s crisis intervention team and they jointly decided on a four day suspension and psychiatric evaluation as appropriate precaution. Days later, the police learned of the “threat” and arrested the student- he was charged with making a terroristic threat. He is now suspended until February 1st. But the principal was not transferred at that point. It seems that the principal, whose own children attend Curtis, had the support of other parents.

Fast forward to December 14th. Ms. Curtis was watching a school basketball game when police attempted to arrest three male students for robbery. Ms. Curtis vouched for their whereabouts and refused to allow the boys questioned until their parents were present. She was reassigned the next day. Many parents are upset. Maurice Royster, parent of a student who, partly by Ms. Curtis’s involvement, received a scholarship offered,

“You knuckleheads up there don’t know nothing. I made myself get off the bus after work tonight and come here, and I don’t even like PTA meetings.” A moment later he concluded, “Let the woman come back.”

A comment at inside schools.org states,

Principal Aurelia Curtis has been temporarily removed from the school for mishandling a bomb threat made by a student, the Staten Island Advance reported. The boy was arrested for “naming the school as a hypothetical target during a political debate,” the newspaper reported. “Quite honestly, she’s wonderful,” PTA President Mary Ellen Brown said about Principal Curtis in the article. “She’s very good with the kids and it seems like all the teachers are very happy with her.” A follow-up article reported that teachers and parents planned to stage a rally to call for Curtis’s immediate reinstatement.(December 2005)

Public schools are usually easy targets, ripe for one joke after another. It seems that in this case, the principal cared. She cared about student performance and received not only accolades but financial reward. And she cared about a student enough to suspend the hyper-vigilant tendencies of our post 9/11 America. She evaluated a comment, and acted responsibly. How refreshing her action and how sad the board’s reaction.

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Marketing Booze, Sex and Drugs? Call Oprah

How do you get middle class suburban women to go crazy for depraved sex, booze and drugs? Oh, wait a minute, they already are. I meant to ask, how do you get them talking about it comfortably? If you are James Frey, you write your memoir and get Oprah to endorse it. For those of you crawling from under your rocks, real or crack, I am talking about the book, A Million Little Pieces.

Two months ago I would have had nothing to say about this book. But then, a girlfriend turned me on to it. I resisted as it is not my normal genre-I may smoke some cigs and drink some scotch, but I don’t do the hard stuff or want to read about it. But, with a family vacation in the works, I succumbed to ever powerful peer pressure and purchased the item from B&N. After finishing State of Fear and In Cold Blood, I was in desperate need of a fix. I opened the book. I was not hooked.

You see, the book is the author’s story of drug addiction and the real life accounts are, today, being called lies. According to thesmokinggun.com, Oprah has been had.

…a six-week investigation by The Smoking Gun reveals that there may be a lot less to love about Frey’s runaway hit, which has sold more than 3.5 million copies and, thanks to Winfrey, has sat atop The New York Times nonfiction paperback best seller list for the past 15 weeks. Next to the latest Harry Potter title, Nielsen BookScan reported Friday, Frey’s book sold more copies in the U.S. in 2005–1.77 million–than any other title, with the majority of that total coming after Winfrey’s selection.

Damn, I knew that Oprah influenced popular opinion, but I did not even begin to imagine the scope of that influence. Here we have the book flying off shelves, and it is not even good. I struggled to get through it- my husband, through eye watering laughter, told me to just say no, and stop. But he knows that I am fighting my own demon- that I am addicted to finishing bad books because I don’t want to feel that I wasted my time. (Bad rationalization, but is that not the cause of most addiction?) Never mind that I can cut my losses- I have to see it through. In this case, I am glad I did.

Nowhere in this book did Mr. Frey ever describe addiction as a “disease.” As far as his drug use, real or fictitious, he never claimed to “find ‘anything’” before “quitting.” In fact, he adamantly spoke of personal responsibility for his choices. There is a chapter in which he talks about his rehab love being forced to leave the facility. Co-ed relationships were forbidden and they had been caught playing around. He left to find her, confronted a pimp/dealer in a bus station restroom and learned that his sweet Lilly was with an old man and some rock. He tracked her to an abandoned building filled with crack heads and found her high, and sucking a pipe of a different sort. His love for her and his determination to just stop using allowed him to rescue her and escape without using. He had faced his demon, and, according to the memoir, he never used again.

Is his story a crock of shit? Who knows? If he is a liar, he played it well. If false, society- by offering the medical term “disease”- helped him along. (As am I by offering that excuse.) Society now deems most lapses of good judgement a medical affliction and therefore worthy of mainstream attention. If the story is true, kudos to him for taking responsibility for his life. Whether memoir or fiction, I have to applaud the marketing. Oprah can sell anything from Coach handbags to Fords. Why aren’t we talking to her?

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Jimmy Choos or Electronic Passport?

Tonight, at the Peninsula Hotel, Bangkok, (at the bar) I had the chance to overhear a fellow American talk to a gentleman of unknown origin. She regaled him with stories describing why Vegas is better than New York. She lives in an affluent Scottsdale neighborhood. She abhors Chicago, but Boston is ok. I meant to hear none of this, but she is one of “those” Americans. You know, one of the ones that speak too loudly about things they know nothing about. And, I could not help but listen. I listened as she talked about the necessity of a “pass” to scoot through security. She said she would gladly give her personal 411 to not have to take off her shoes at the airport. I am sure she pre-ordered her national ID card.

The last words were actually written at the end of November. My family went to Thailand for the Thanksgiving holiday seeking sun, shopping and adventure. I wrote those words a little tipsy- the Peninsula had offered free mini bar service in the room and if you know me at all, you know that they are surely rethinking that “special package” today. Thailand was the last place I used my almost expired passport. I renewed my passport last week- a bit early because of visa requirements for my next destination- and was shocked to see what I had to agree to for permission to travel. The application had a whole section describing how an applicant’s personal information could be used and shared.

PURPOSE: The primary purpose for soliciting the information is to establish citizenship, identity, and entitlement to
issuance of a U.S. passport.
ROUTINE USES: The information solicited on this form may be made available as a routine use to other government agencies to assist the U.S. Department of State in adjudicating passport applications and requests for related services, and for law enforcement and administration purposes. The information may be made available to foreign government agencies to fulfill passport control and immigration duties. The information may also be provided to foreign government agencies, international organizations and, in limited cases, private persons and organizations to investigate, prosecute, or otherwise address potential violations of law or to further the Secretary’s responsibility for the protection of U.S. citizens and non-citizen nationals abroad. The information may be made available to private U.S. citizen ‘wardens’ designated by the U.S. embassies and consulates. For a more detailed listing of the routine uses to which this information may be put, see the Prefatory Statement of Routine Uses and the listing of routine users set forth in the system descriptions for Overseas Citizen Services Records (State-05) and Passport Records (State-26) published in the Federal Register.
CONSEQUENCES OF FAILURE TO PROVIDE INFORMATION: With the exception of your Social Security Number (see Federal Tax Law statement on Instruction Page 3), you are not legally required to provide the information requested on this form. However, failure to do so may result in Passport Services’ refusal to accept your application or result in the denial of a U.S. passport.

In today’s climate, I wonder how they will “limit” private persons and organizations from my personal information. If I go back to Amsterdam and visit a coffee shop, will my local police know it? Perhaps I am being hypersensitive. Maybe all that was included on the last passport application I signed. But I was 23 then and did not give a shit enough to read the fine print. But there is one thing on this passport application that I am sure was not ten years ago- notification of an electronic chip to be placed in the passport.

ELECTRONIC PASSPORT STATEMENT
The U.S. Department of State will begin issuing a new type of passport containing an embedded electronic chip and called an “Electronic Passport”. The new passport will continue to be proof of the bearer’s United States citizenship and identity, and will look and function in the same way as a passport without a chip. The addition of an electronic chip in the back cover will enable the new passport to carry a duplicate electronic copy of all information from the data page. The new passport will be usable at all ports-of-entry, including those that do not yet have electronic chip readers.
Use of the electronic format will provide the traveler the additional security protections inherent in chip technology. Moreover, when used at ports-of-entry equipped with electronic chip readers, the new passport will provide for faster clearance through some of the port-of-entry processes.
Issuance of this new passport will be phased in during an 18-month period. It is expected that by late 2006 nearly all U.S. passports will be issued in this new format. The new passport will not require special handling or treatment, but like previous versions should be protected from extreme bending and from immersion in water. The electronic chip must be read using specially formatted readers, and is not susceptible to unauthorized reading. The cover of the new passport will be printed with a special symbol representing the embedded chip. The symbol will appear in port-of-entry areas where the electronic passport can be read.

I am not anyone who would be mistaken as an electronics whiz. I still don’t know how to upload a photo for this blog. But I am smart enough to know that I laughed too soon at that loud woman in Bangkok. It seems that I may be getting a version of the national ID card before her. As a woman, I usually like having something first. A new Louis handbag, an Hermes scarf, or the latest Jimmy Choo shoes are fun for women. You show your friends and strike deals regarding future trades. My new electronic, “limited case” file sharing passport is not something I am proud of, even if expedited service cost as much as Jimmy Choo pumps during an end of season sale.

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And the pot said, “Kettle, you are black.”

Recently, Stephen Gordon posted an article poking a little fun at a piece written by James Atticus Bowden. Ok, he didn’t poke fun at the entire piece, only the choice of a label used. Mr. Bowden’s article at michnews.com mistakenly referred to Bill O’Reilly as a Libertarian. Stephen’s view, and I am certain the view of many libertarians, is:

What a colossal mistake. I’m not talking about O’Reilly, although he is a colossal mistake, as well. I’m taking about the word Bowden used to describe O’Reilly.

Stephen asked for an apology, surely in jest, and received an email from Mr. Bowden indicating that it would be fixed on his end. This info was updated at HoT and after some comments, the matter was dropped. On our end anyway.

In a new post today, Mr. Bowden decided to poke fun at us poor, weak Libertarians. His opening sentences are great.

O’Reilly may not know you called him a Libertarian. He even may not care. But, the Libertarians care a lot. They are very serious about who gets to wear their club label. When I gave O’Reilly an “attaboy” in my last piece about Christians pushing back for CHRISTmas, I called him a Libertarian because I know he isn’t a Conservative.

He labels someone clearly in the Republican camp a Libertarian, because he knows “he isn’t a Conservative.” Seems like Mr. Bowden is the one here who cares so much about his club’s label. It is obvious that he cared more about his club’s label than accuracy. And for calling him on the inaccuracy, Libertarians get an apology served with a backhanded slap.

Now for the apology. I’m sorry if I wounded any American citizen who is so weak that when some dufus is given their political label, they are hurt personally. We should “love others as you would have them love yourself.”

This brings to mind a couple of old adages. You know the ones, “The pot calling the kettle black,” and “Practice what you preach.”

To his credit, Mr. Bowden attempts to cite a few parallels between our parties.

The common ground for Conservatives and Libertarians is important. We both agree that the power to tax is the power to rule. Opportunity and freedom are twins. We believe in Constitutional Federal system of limited governments. We share a passion for individual liberties.

There is another accuracy problem here. Considering the current conservative Republican positions on “limited government” and “individual liberties” we probably couldn’t be farther apart. That the current administration has been expanding at a mind-blowing rate and their attempts to limit individual freedoms for people they view as morally reprehensible (read homosexual) pit them squarely opposite the libertarian platform. But in his closing, he makes it all clear.

Conservatives know our rights are endowed by our Creator God, the Judeo-Christian God.

I wonder, does he think that individual freedom is something only the Judeo-Christian God worshipers deserve? And if so, why then would the Judeo-Christian God offer free will to humanity? Free will to decide whether or not to worship Him and free will to act in accordance with the scripture?

According to his bio, Mr. Bowden is an educated man. Sadly, his latest piece only shows the maturity level of a sixth grader in a playground fight.

Oops: As a result of a minor technical error caused by a site enhancement under test, Michelle Shinghal was led to believe that Rick Ratjer wrote the article in question, when it was actually written by Stephen Gordon. We’ve edited the article to reflect the original author.

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3 / 4 pages of common sense1234