Death Is Easy

Russell Madden

Freedom As If It Mattered

As If
It Mattered
Russell Madden

Guardian Project

The Guardian
Russell Madden


Russell Madden


(Archive #1: May 24 to June 30, 2001.)


In this space, I offer brief comments and analysis of current events. I also provide this as an opportunity for readers to ask questions on politics, philosophy, or other items of general interest. (Thanks to my wife for suggesting the title of this daily feature.)
Archive #2: July 1 to July 31, 2001.

Archive #3: August 1 to August 31, 2001.

Archive #4: September 1 to September 30, 2001.

June 30, 2001


On our recent trip to New York City, my wife and I visited the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. An interesting place and an enlightening tour.

Built in the 1860's, the tenement was closed in 1935 and essentially left boarded up until 1990. Purchased for a museum, three of the old apartments have been restored to reflect the conditions representative of different times in the history of the tenement.

When first constructed, no electricity existed to light homes. Anywhere. Entering the tenement meant walking through dark hallways -- made more so by dark paint -- and navigating dark stairways. No elevators, either.

The toilets were in outhouses on the street. The positive aspect of that was that the toilets did not have pits but were located above the sewer system. Thus, a kind of primitive flushing occurred when water ran through.

Most of the tenants of these tenements were immigrants. Not surprisingly, upon first arriving in this country with only what they could carry in their trunks and upon their persons, these hardy folks from Europe did not have a great deal of money. Their resources consisted of their determination to seek a better existence for themselves and their families, their willingness to work, and their reliance upon friends, family, and fellow immigrants for assistance.

Given that the toilets were outside and no lights illuminated the hallways, many folks used chamber pots at night. I imagine they exercised extreme caution in walking down those gloomy stairs early in the morning holding the results of a night's urges...

Enter the benevolent government of New York. First, the compassionate souls who felt it their duty or obligation to help these newly arrived residents -- always at someone else's expense, of course -- decreed that halls had to be lighted. So gas lines were run in to support the flickering jets of fire. Later, the compassion of the state watchdogs swelled even more. Electric lights became mandatory.

Then, saddened at these poor souls who had to go outside to relieve themselves (gee, my family had outhouses until I turned six...), the city leaders said that each floor had to have a toilet. Well, these structures had been constructed cheek-by-jowl to maximize usage of expensive New York real estate. Needless to say, they were also designed without thought or space for toilets. So, in order to obey the new codes, the toilets had to be shoehorned into the tiny spaces between buildings. Provision also had to be made for venting, as well. Pity the folks who lived near these "conveniences" and received the full benefit of activities occurring there.

The housing authorities also said, gee, it's still pretty dark in these apartments. (The rooms are stacked in a line from outside in; the inner rooms had no windows or outside illumination.) The landlord was instructed to provide a window for each room. The only way to achieve this was to cut a big hole in the room second from the outside so light from the outer window could filter in. The fact that this also diminished privacy, well...

The straw on the camel's back for this structure came when the folks uptown declared that each apartment had to have a toilet. This beneficence descended from on high during the early years of the Depression. The landlord decided he had had enough and that it was far easier simply to cut his losses and close down the whole building.

So, the "caring" officials who, I'm sure, believed this was for the immigrants "own good" created conditions that led to those very immigrants being ousted from their own homes! A productive building became a boarded up and deteriorating hulk. Low income families were forced to move and pay for more expensive housing. (I mean, come on, didn't those lunkheads in city hall realize that if these families could have afforded to move to more upscale digs that they would have already done so?!?) Newly arrived immigrants now had fewer possibilities of places to settle. Housing costs increased due to a decrease in supply while demand continued to grow.

As is usually the case, anytime some jerk from the State comes waltzing into your neighborhood proclaiming smugly and self-righteously that, "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help," you'd better grab your wallet and run. Better yet, send him packing and tell him to mind his own frigging business.

June 29, 2001


K-Mart, that lovable ol' fuzz ball who gave us that fount of integrity and fierce protector of liberty, Rosie O'Donnell, is at it again.

Ya gotta love 'em...

Why, that wondrous originator of blue light specials, proponent of tacky decor, and purveyor of their "K" brand products shines us on. Heck fire, folks, this time they've invented a newfangled brand of logic. Strange and glorious, it is, too. Mighty fine, mighty fine.

Good ol' K-Mart used to sell handguns back in the Dark Ages before massive, nationwide gun control made all of us so much safer and freer. Praise the Lord! They saw the light of their evil and dastardly ways and removed those vile agents of Satan from their shelves. Say it, brothers! Ee-hah! Never more would those Tools of Death darken the wide aisles of the cheap shirts and the surly clerks.

Still, they continued in their sinful ways. The Big K maintained their policy of providing vile shooters with the ammunition they required to feed their dirty habits. Decade after decade, dollars rolled in as K-Mart averted its gaze from the truth.

Now, though, they have come clean, come clean, I say! No more will they sully their shelves with that sultry seductress of destruction. Why? You ask why, brother?

"Duh, well, gee. We don't sell handguns. Uh, duh. So, uh, duh, what's the point of continuing to sell handgun ammunition? Duh...?"

I wait with baited breath until this innovative logic spreads across the country, infecting more and more retailers.

Don't sell cars? Why, shove those car accessories off the shelves! Get rid of those car tires, engine oil, wiper blades, wax, touch-up paint, light bulbs, engine sprays, and so on and so on.

Don't sell pets? Why, burn that cat and dog food, trash the treats, the collars, the flea sprays, pet toys, and kitty condos.

Don't sell people? Why, get rid of the clothes, the food, the toys, the stereos, the books... To hell with it! Get rid of everything!!!!



The Idiot Nine, aka, the U.S. Supreme Court, ruled that it's just dandy for the feds to keep "Instant" Check records for six months. So what's the big surprise in a country where the then-Prez could get away with arguing about what the meaning of "is" is? The feds now get to apply their own definition of "instant."

Attorney General John Ashcroft says the records should be held for one day. A vast improvement...if a policy change is ever actually implemented. "Saying" and "doing" are two vastly different things, as Clinton proved with such consummate skill.

'Course, an instant check (which we shouldn't have in the first place) should actually be instant. Alternatives to the de facto gun registration we have now do exist. Compile a list of prohibited felons (who shouldn't be prohibited in the first place if they've served their sentences) and see if a prospective gun buyer's name is on the list. If not, buy away. No records. No nothing. (But again, the State shouldn't be doing any of this in the first place.)

I won't be buying a fur coat for Hell any time soon, though.

June 28, 2001


Here are some descriptions of comic strips I have on my refrigerator:


June 27, 2001

Support Stossel

Where do I go to throw up?

Let me explain...

John Stossel has a new special, "Tampering With Nature," airing on Friday that challenges the doomsayers who rail against scientific investigations and who embody the kind of emotionalism I discussed yesterday. Genetic engineering, cloning, global warming, and other controversial issues come under Stossel's expert scrutiny.

Fair enough. Stossel is well-known as a libertarian -- or in his words, Jeffersonian -- who has riled more than his fair share of statists and collectivists. He has exploded many myths that run rampant in this country. He supports freedom because he knows it works and because it is the proper moral framework for human interaction.

For his latest special, he is said to have interviewed some young children in California. Reportedly, he asked them if they were aware of any scientists who disagreed with the received wisdom regarding global warming. Overwhelmingly (unanimously?), they said no.

Stossel wanted to demonstrate the one-sided views on the environment entrenched in our public schools and mass media. When children progress through the government-run propaganda mills, they have instilled in them the gospel according to Gaia. Recycling, the evils of plastics, Styrofoam, "preserving" the environment, on and on, they learn the nonsensical dogma of the eco-fascists.

(Oddly enough, these self-same tots who spew forth their catechisms are among the worst litterers I have ever observed. But picking up one's one trash requires a strong sense of self-responsibility. That is the last thing inculcated in our youngsters. They learn in the state-idolatry that it's always up to "someone else" to take care of things; that the State will force those someones to be "accountable"; and that they themselves are entitled to do whatever they damned well please regardless of the consequences. Puke.)

When some yuppie parents learned (with the help of an eco-fascist group) how stupid and brainwashed their wee ones appeared, they protested to ABC, claiming that Stossel was "unfair" and asked "misleading" questions while he badgered their delicate tykes. In the finest American tradition of passing the buck, the parents threatened to sue.

And ABC-TV caved!

The stalwart executives at ABC (Anything But Conscience) agreed to pull the offending interviews.

Show me a bucket...

Write ABC and express your displeasure. Even better support Stossel by watching his program and delivering killer ratings.

And let the crybabies wallow in their own tears.

June 26, 2001


New York state bans hand-held cell phones in cars. In the "debate" on the merits of this issue we're treated to endless sob stories. Women who are rightly upset when a loved one is injured or killed by a driver distracted by talking on a cell phone are paraded (or scramble to get) in front of television cameras. They spew forth their sad tales of woe, self-righteously, arrogantly, indignantly demanding that holding a cell phone in a car be banned, made verboten, seig heil!

(See my "Presumed Guilty" for more on this issue.)

Logic and facts be damned. Let the emotions spew forth!

These folks are oblivious to argumentation based on reality. (And, no, I'm no big fan of cell phones...especially for drivers. But I don't think that all my personal dislikes and pet peeves should be formalized and enshrined into legal restrictions, either. That's sorta what freedom is all about.) Sure, some cell phone talkers end up in accidents. So do some woman who fard, slap at their unruly kids, or rummage through their purses while driving. So do some men munching on a burger, surfing channels on the stereo, or shaving while driving to work.

So what?

How many tens of millions of people who drive and use a cell phone don't get into accidents? While research is a bit unsettled at present, some studies indicate that cell phone distractions are less dangerous than others. The misdeeds of a few who are guilty are used to justify the punishment of the vast majority who are innocent of any wrongdoing. In the end, the liberties of us all are constricted more and more.

Of course, the real issue here is not driving while using a cell phone. The real problem is basing law on emotional reactions rather than on objective evidence and rational proportionality. (Appeals to emotion are fine if they are intended to reinforce logic and evidence. They become the rankest of fallacies when emotions are allowed to substitute for facts.)

Some examples:

Mothers Against Drunk Driving have abandoned rationality and now push for the total prohibition of social drinking on the part of drivers. First it was .15, then .10, now .08 blood alcohol levels. They won't be satisfied until zero levels are enforced as in our Big Brother European countries. After all, smashed cars and dead babies make for compelling emotional drama. To heck with the fact that the real dangers come from those drivers with BAC levels .15 or higher.

Eco-fascists distort, lie, and ignore reality with endless tales of death and destruction of the "environment" (and, when it suits their purposes, they show "concern" for mere humans, too). These Chicken Littles appeal to fear time and again. To heck with the fact that lifespans continue to expand despite the environmental "horrors" laid at the foot of capitalism and technology. The eco-fanatics turn a conveniently blind eye to the real environmental disasters created by those self-same governments they want to have "protect" us from ourselves.

Anti-self-defense, anti-gun nuts weep profusely over every dead child murdered by a criminal using a gun. Somehow it's always the gun's fault. These shameless jerks are curiously silent when it comes to murder committed by car or knife or baseball bat. They don't scream for bans on swimming pools, buckets, or trampolines despite the greater number of accidents suffered by children using those particular items. To heck with the fact that far more lives are saved by people using guns defensively than are killed by murderers.

Scare the seniors with visions of death in the streets or dining on dog food if we change Social Security or Medicare even a teensy bit. Frighten parents with tales of starving children if we eliminate school lunch programs. (Funny how I managed to survive my entire grade school experience on sack lunches my parents provided me...and three years of high school with no lunches [I spent my money on books instead].) Terrify citizens with images of strung out druggies if we don't wage war on our own people and eviscerate the Constitution.

It's sick, it's sad, it's disgusting, it's...

Emotion over mind, beast over human, pure and simple. The one emotion these idiots should feel is the one feeling they never do and never will experience:


June 25, 2001


The United States Supreme Court is at it again.

On the plus side, the justices ruled that a mandatory advertising campaign for agricultural products violates the First Amendment. Producers who object to paying for promotional ads should not be forced by government-sanctioned cartels to do so. This is right and proper. Hopefully, this ruling will bring a halt to other such agricultural arm-twisting.

On the down side, those self-same justices ruled that it is just fine to maintain spending limits for funds designated to support specific candidates for political offices. That would "weaken" campaign finance laws.


That's the whole point! Campaign finance laws are unconstitutional invasions of our right of free expression. (And anyone who believes that "free expression" is free has never tried to publish and distribute a piece of writing, audio, or video...) The underlying law itself is invalid. If someone is truly corrupted/bribed/bought off by a campaign contribution, then prosecute the individual who committed the wrongful act. Don't engage in prior restraint and assume everyone is automatically guilty. Someone has to actually do something wrong before he is punished for it. (See my essay, "Presumed Guilty," for more on this.)

If the justices knew which end was up, they'd declare this whole media-promoted nonsense invalid and allow individuals to put-their-money-where-their-mouths-are. People should be able to spend as much money as they want to on whomever or whatever they desire. I'm not sure I can even support disclosure laws. After all, anonymity was a mainstay of debate during the founding of this country. I see no particular reason now to alter that tradition.

The real point here, though, is not how nine men and women rule in any particular cases. The essential issue is the fact that none of these folks in black know how to think in terms of principles. Their rulings are all over the place. Sometimes they support freedom (such as their recent ruling knocking down thermal imaging of homes without a warrant); sometimes they constrict it (viz their ruling on golfer Casey Martin).

When someone operates without clear principles to guide him, he is at the mercy of concrete-bound facts that lead him one day in one direction and in another direction the next. Up and down, all-around.

Just like a yo-yo. But what would one expect from nine of them?

June 24, 2001

Waco, McVeigh, and Vidal

While I was on vacation, Timothy McVeigh was executed for his role in the Oklahoma City bombing of a federal office building. I imagine many of the liberal/statist types found themselves in a bit of a quandary: opposing the death penalty but hating even more those who attack -- either verbally or literally -- their beloved government.

Sad to say, despite McVeigh's misguided method of attack/revenge/whatever, much of what he had to complain about rang with the clarity of truth. In many ways, our government and especially certain agencies such as the BATF and FBI, have "run amuck." The cover-up of the Waco disaster continues. That disgusting female, Janet I'm-Responsible Reno, not only never faced punishment for her despicable actions there and in such subsequent events as with Elian Gonzales, but she now has the temerity to consider a run for the governorship of Florida! Worse yet, she polled in the forties against Jeb Bush.

Brother, can you spare a dime!

Her cohort in crime, Bill Stop-Me-Before-I-Sin-Again Clinton, dared claim the Davidians brought their deaths upon themselves and deserved to be murdered since, after all, they were religious wackos from Waco. His butt remains free while he collects six-figure speaking fees from brain-dead sycophants.

None of the BATF or FBI miscreants responsible for the actual destruction of the Waco compound have been brought to justice. The Danforth "investigation" was a total whitewash; the ex-Senator now dolefully laments how the FBI did not provide information very easily. Yet that somehow that did not prevent this flack from exonerating them all.

Ron I-Only-Shoot-Boys-and-Mothers Horuichi will escape prosecution. Despite a court -- finally -- clearing the way for his trial, the folks in Idaho claim there isn't sufficient evidence to take him on. I say, try him anyway. Even if he skips free, at least he would have suffered some inconvenience for his cowardly acts.

Gore Vidal agreed to attend McVeigh's execution. He agrees with many of McVeigh's points if not his violent response. Vidal is dead-on when he says the Bill of Rights is being shredded. It's dangling by mere threads from the equally battered Constitution.

And the cover-ups march-on with the botched FBI handling of evidence in the OKC bombing case. Contradictory facts are ignored, counter-witnesses are left out in the cold, and others complicit in the bombing cease to exist in order to provide the Feds with a neat and tidy package with no messy threads left unaccounted for.

To top it off, the Feds had no legitimate authority in the first place to try, convict, and execute McVeigh. Federal building or not, McVeigh committed his crime solely in Oklahoma. State officials should have had jurisdiction.

We'll probably never know the truth. It's nearly forty years since JFK was assassinated. The truth there is as far from the light now as it ever was.

'Course, we're fools if we expect those in power ever to undercut themselves in any significant way. One day, however, reality will catch up to them. When it does, I won't be weeping any tears.

June 23, 2001

Price Fixing

One could almost sing to the refrain...

"Price fixing! Gouging! Collusion!"

The latest supposed culprits, of course, are the oil and electric companies. Despite dozens of pointless investigations by Congress and other government hacks, no evidence has ever surfaced to explain increases in prices by anything other than market forces.

(Of course, in a truly free society, price fixing and collusion would be perfectly within the rights of long as they did not pretend otherwise and thus commit fraud.)

"Gouging" is an essentially meaningless term usually designating any price higher than someone wants to pay. Far too many consumers today fall prey to the fallacious notion that there is some principle or force exterior to the free market system of supply and demand for determining a "proper" price level.

Ain't no such animal.

The only avenue for deciding what something will sell for is what someone will pay for it. That's what a "price" is. You can't legitimately get under it, over it, or around it. Any other supposed way to set prices is nothing more than an example of dictatorship writ large or small.

Too many folks react as though the price of a good were determined solely by the producer. The stark reality, of course, is that a seller can ask any amount he wants. But as the old saying goes, askin' ain't gettin'.

(Reminds me of that old sitcom joke of a kid asking a million dollars for a pencil. He may not be having much luck, but after all, he needs to sell only one...)

"Price fixing" and "gouging" are always horrible things when allegedly engaged in by oil companies, electric utilities, or by suppliers of generators, food, water, or other necessities during some natural disaster. (Higher prices are the best way to ensure an adequate supply during disruptions in normal life. Governors who outlaw "gouging" are economic ignoramuses who'd rather score points with a clueless, emotion-driven public than actually solve a problem.)

Funny, though, how price fixing and gouging are transformed into something moral and wondrous when engaged in by the government and its supplicants. Dairymen, farmers, sugar producers, steel manufacturers, on and on and on, all have prices set or subsidized by the State, forcing the rest of us collectively to spend tens of billions more than we would in a free market for various goods. Nearly every politician proclaims how important and vital it is for the State to fix prices but how nasty and dastardly if a private, non-State backed company supposedly does it.

(Here in Iowa, prices for gasoline have dropped nearly 45 cents per gallon since Memorial Day. If the gas companies are so intent on screwing us, how were they so inept as to allow such a precipitous decline in their "excessive" profits?)

If the State truly gave a rat's behind about us, it would quit gouging us and let us decide for ourselves how to spend our meager incomes.

Ain't logic grand?

June 22, 2001

Patient Bill of Wrongs

It is truly heart-warming to see how much our elected officials care about our welfare and well-being. Why, Senator Ted I-Can-Swim Kennedy is so concerned that each and every one of us be welcomed into the warm bosom of his vision of a nationalized health care system that he has no compunctions crawling like a yammering monkey over the barely cooled corpses of five innocent children to push his sick agenda.

Yes, a disturbed mother drowns her five offspring yesterday -- even chasing down her seven year-old so he could join his siblings in death -- and today dear old Teddy says, see, this just proves why we need a patient bill of rights. Depression is a terrible thing...

Of course, this total non sequitur doesn't slow down the slavering statist that is the senior senator from Massachusetts. Never mind that the woman's husband is gainfully employed by NASA and no doubt has government-financed medical coverage. Never mind that having a patient bill of rights in place now would in no way have altered this tragic outcome. Never mind that she demonstrated symptoms long ago and was under active treatment.

No. Teddy doesn't care. Anything to promote more slavery and less freedom. Anything to place his cherubic cheeks in front of the national cameras. Anything to advance a "cure" to a "problem" that he helped create. Heck, doesn't bother him that he voted to set up HMO's and to shield them from certain kinds of litigation. Doesn't bother him that HMO's were yet another twisted attempt to correct difficulties in our health care system that were put in place by hundreds of prior government inspired "fixes." Doesn't bother him that his bill, co-sponsored by that other well-known statist, John McCain, will worsen the insurance landscape and induce thousands of employers to drop millions of employees' health-care coverage.

That's precisely what they want.

Statists don't want to solve problems. Victim-disarmament laws merely make the situation worse. Welfare "reform" shifts many on the dole to government make-work jobs. Campaign finance "reform" leads to bigger and more widespread abuses. The Drug War creates tragedies far worse than the drugs it is meant to combat. Social Security and Medicare changes delay the consequences until they grow to tidal wave size.

No. Statists thrive on problems. They relish them. Wallow in them. Drink them in as the finest elixir.

Give them power, admiration, control, the limelight, and they're happy. To solve a problem would be to diminish the essence of what they require for their second-hand lives.

They're willing to try any solution except the one that will work:


June 21, 2001

Oaths of Office

First of all: Happy Summer Solstice!


Alan Dershowitz hasn't got a clue.

He's making the television rounds promoting a new book he's written. He's "analyzed" the Supreme Court ruling regarding last year's Florida vote-count fiasco. He contends the Supremes erred in interfering with the Florida Supreme Court. He argues that the conservatives on the court so feared that Bush would lose and Gore would win that they panicked and called a premature halt to the whole process.

I don't know enough of the particulars to decide if the Supreme Court "justices" overstepped their bounds or not. States rights issues suggest they did. Yet the Florida Supreme Court clearly ignored Florida law and ruled based on purely political considerations. Hard to get too worked up when one rogue court is reined in by another. The rule of law, after all, is a dying idea in this country. We long ago ceased to be a nation that holds such a notion in reverence. (Witness Clintonistas, special interest legislation, arbitrary decisions and laws, etc.)

What I found truly egregious, however, in Dershowitz's case was his self-righteous horror and amazement that the Supreme Court justices...

...broke their oath to uphold the Constitution!

Don't get me started...!

Nearly every single Representative, Senator, President, justices at all levels, mayors, council members, sheriffs, police officers, and every other stripe of political animal routinely and blithefully violates the United States Constitution, oath taken or not. An oath from these folks means as much as a promise from a snake not to bite you.

I don't see Dershowitz getting his knickers in a bunch when the politicos pass welfare legislation, promote the Drug War, pass more victim-disarmament laws, implement more regulations, or attempt to take over the health care system. All those acts violate the enumerated powers of the Constitution. Congress, the Prez, and the Supremes have zero authority, legal or moral, for 99% of what they do. Hasn't stopped them in a long while. Won't stop them any time soon.

Even a law passed some while ago requiring Congress to point out the Congressional authority for their bills is meaningless. All the bozos do is point to the much-abused and deliberately-misunderstood "general welfare" clause. If it "affects" someone, somewhere, somehow, then all is hunky-dory.

If Dershowitz cared a whit for true Constitutional powers, he'd write a book attacking abuses far more important and significant than a circus-atmosphere Court ruling that kept out a bigger Statist in favor of a smaller one.

June 20, 2001

Tyrants, Good and Bad

The German government and some of the largest of Germany's businesses have agreed to provide reparations to some survivors of the Nazi regime. Thousands of these victims will receive reparation checks of about $6,600. Hardly a munificent sum for years of suffering but of symbolic importance, at least. Unlike the insulting movement to provide "reparations" to descendants of American slaves (see my essay, "Shakedown"), in this instance it is possible to identify specific individuals who still live and should receive compensation.

(As an aside, it is hard to determine just how far such practices should be extended. After all, virtually every single person in every single country has had his rights violated by his own or other governments. The sad reality is that any government payments must perforce be seized from the very victims who are getting reparations. A far better solution [though admittedly a fanciful one at this stage in history] would be to say, "Let's begin fresh and establish now as the new zero point. Everyone keeps the money they earn and we'll simply move on from here.)

What is interesting to contemplate in this situation, however, is less the issue of reparations and more who the politicians and public seek reparations from. The Nazis and the Italian Fascists are the preferred villains in these morality plays. The Nazis, especially, are raised as quintessential examples whenever tyranny, abuse, and intolerance are discussed. Not many folks care to defend anything about that particular regime.

Yet objectively, the Nazis and Hitler rank below other dictatorships and despots. Joseph Stalin -- that good friend of another fan of fascism, Franklin Delano Roosevelt -- brutally suppressed and murdered upwards of 30 to 40 million of his own citizens. Mao clocked in with a respectful 20 million or so for his own body the repressive regime he established continues lumbering along enslaving its people.

For some odd reason, the Communists have always enjoyed better press than the Nazis...despite the latter being socialist, as well. Apologists excused from the beginning the excesses of Lenin and his cohorts. Mao's Red Book graced bookstores as chic reading material during the Sixties. In academia, professors in plenty either explicitly or implicitly hold these thugs in high regard.

No one with a wide audience dares -- or bothers -- to identify the fundamentals linking these disgusting deviants. The press, politicians, educators, and entertainers today focus on nonessentials as they try to keep these murderers in separate mental boxes.

As a good example of this, I recently watched a TV movie detailing Anne Frank's life up through her capture and along to her death in a concentration camp. The lesson we are told to learn from this tragedy? Not that government power is the power to destroy. Not that we should be free from State restrictions on our lives. Not that corruption is inherent in a system based on groups rather than individuals.

No. Someone might make the logical connection between such abuses in the past and the mire we struggle against today.

The lesson? Don't discriminate! Don't be intolerant!

No context provided. No distinction between objects of discrimination and intolerance. No application of principles to discreet cases.

The same nonsense as attacks against "extremism." The same silliness as calls for "multiculturalism." The same floating abstractions that created and sustain the PC movement.

Will people ever learn from the mistakes of the past or are we doomed to repeat them forever?

Don't hold your breath.

June 19, 2001

Swimming Pools and Guns

In the past few weeks, the network news outlets have reported two stories on children falling into swimming pools. One concerned the offspring of a woman television actor, the second the child of a rock star. In the former case, the child lived, in the latter, he died. The actress said she left her toddler alone for only a brief time. The rock star reportedly had nannies watching his son during a party he was giving.

The news types focused on these incidents to warn parents to be extra careful when small tykes are near a swimming pool. The parents were afforded sympathy for their problems or outright support for their "courageous" stands in going public with this issue. After all, the "reporters" said, these accidents could all too easily happen to anyone.

My, my. How compassionate of them. How caring.

How hypocritical.

Imagine the same scenarios yet substitute a gun for the swimming pool. Imagine a gun simply laying in the open, perhaps on a deck chair or table. Imagine the parent or nanny momentarily walking away or becoming distracted by a phone call, boiling pot, or doorbell. Imagine the wee one picking up the handgun, pointing it at himself, and pulling the trigger.

Then watch the doo-doo hit the fan.

The parents would be in jail, not lauded for their efforts to promote gun safety (after the fact). No one would be describing this scenario in terms of an innocent accident, but as an example of reckless and rash indifference deserving criminal prosecution. No one would avoid calling for gun licensing, gun locks, or outright bans and confiscation.

Yet the underlying principles are the same in both cases. Water can kill. An inch of water, let alone a whole pool of it can suffice to drown a toddler. Oddly enough, no one screams for pool control or pool banning. No one self-righteously, indignantly demands the parents be locked away while they suffer from the loss of their child. No one calls for more government controls and regulations.

No, just more education, more understanding, more caution.

Of course, actual risks are irrelevant to the media moguls. Don't bother them with the facts. Gun control, aka victim disarmament -- as with "environmentalism" -- has become a religion for them in which wishes replace evidence, emotions supplant thought.

But anyone who seeks balance and objectivity in most of today's media might as well try to find silk in a sow's ear.

June 18, 2001

The Big Apple

I've just returned from a vacation that included a week in New York City. This visit was my first to the "Big Apple." While I've previously visited such large urban areas as Chicago and London, New York City has a feel to it that is distinct from those other cities.

Over the next couple of weeks, I will dip into my experiences there and see what cultural, political, and philosophical lessons Gotham has to offer. While what my wife and I saw and did in that week hardly digs deeply into the soul of Manhattan, those travels have, I think, provided me with a good first taste of those environs.


One of the first things we did in our trip to the city that Ayn Rand loved was to venture to the Empire State Building. Like a lone sentinel, this skyscraper stands apart from the other massive structures dominating the skyline. A failed experiment to shift the center of commerce and construction, the Empire State Building now enjoys even more celebrity because of its very solitude. The other behemoths of concrete, steel, and glass that house the homes for countless businesses compete for attention in their crowded neighborhoods.

The Empire State, however, is sui generis. Constructed at a feverish pace at the beginning of the State-induced "Great Depression," the building symbolizes in the strength of its metal bones and the beat of its mechanical components the willingness -- and ability -- of people who are unafraid to defy the sky.

Taking one of the first elevators of the day up to the 86th floor, we drank in the rarefied atmosphere of a walkway open to the air. Unlike the glass-enclosed observation deck of the Sears Tower in Chicago, this arena for gaping visitors places no constricting barriers between you and the world stretching before you.

Impressive vistas surrounded us as we moved from vantage point to vantage point, enjoying our eagle-eyed perspective. Buildings, streets, cars, and people crowded the landscape below. From here, the green spaces of various parks acted as accent points to the man-made, not the dominating fact of existence as they are in so many other regions of the country. As much as I enjoy the "great outdoors," nothing compares to the kind of power and control evident in the vibrant world of an organized but essentially unplanned (in the Marxist sense of that word) world.

Somehow those millions of men, women, and children manage to exist (generally) peacefully with one another, living their lives within the parameters of their urban world, working, playing, and loving as each of them best sees fit.

To witness this wonder of human genius, ingenuity, and hard work and then to listen to local "urban planners" who seek to micro-manage your life -- by force -- reveals how easily what our ancestors achieved can be lost. It is up to each of us to remember how we reached the heights we have and to beat back the constricted souls of those who would consign us to the dirt.


A sad footnote: the upper observation deck on the 102nd floor is now closed, ostensibly because of "crowding." A more likely explanation is the shooting that occurred in the Empire State Building some years ago. So, because of the actions of a criminal, innocent others are punished. Again.

June 2, 2001


President Bush's daughter, Jenna Bush, is once again in trouble for trying to purchase alcohol as a nineteen-year-old. The legal drinking age in Texas (as in most states) is 21.

Horrors (and not because she attempted to break the law).

Horrors...because the federal government blackmailed the citizens of this country into changing the drinking age back to 21 after most locales lowered it to 18 in the 1970's. If states failed to comply with the national bullies, they would lose highway funds.

Horrors...because the money the feds used to strike fear in the heart of state legislators came from the citizens of those very states. Nothing like being threatened by legally protected thugs with denial of your own money stolen from you by those self-same blackmailers.

Horrors...because the spineless states caved in to yet another unconstitutional law promulgated by politicians who simply love to "discipline" their

Horrors...because individual citizens put up with this crap and continue to elect well-dressed hoodlums who then proceed to stick it to those who placed them in office.

Horrors....because we have to fight the same stupid battle again. Those of us of a certain age went through all this before. The same arguments apply. You can get married, have children, sign contracts, get drafted, carry a weapon (at least in the armed forces), and a host of other things, yet you can't buy a beer.

Horrors...because MADD continues to get good press on this issue despite the fact that they moved from a proper position of punishing real threats to public safety, i.e., drunk drivers, to a prohibitionist organization, totally ignoring facts and logic in their newly-found zealotry to punish social drinkers who have violated no one's rights. open rebellion against a stupid, unenforceable law that the nannies and do-gooders have imposed on our country in an eerie echo of Prohibition.


June 1, 2001

The More the Merrier?

Utah officials have succeeded in convicting a man, Tom Green, who dared advertise his polygamous lifestyle too widely. While many similar Mormon family relationships continue underground, the people involved do not commit the political error of actually standing up for their rights.

(The only legitimate issue I see in this particular case is the fact that one of Green's wives was thirteen when they married. But after multiple children together and her apparent satisfaction as a now-adult woman, the ship for statutory rape charges sailed long ago.)

The wider issue, of course, is that the State has neither the Constitutional nor the moral authority to determine what peaceful and consenting adults will or will not do with one another. The nature of their relationship(s) is solely up to them to decide (barring actions, of course, that fundamentally violate rights such as torture, slavery, or homicide).

The government should not be licensing marriages or declaring what is or is not appropriate in such unions. Polygamy, polyandry, gay marriages -- whatever -- are none of the State's business. Indeed, the current arrangement of State-sanctioned marriages can be viewed as harmful. People abandon their responsibilities as adults and place far too much power and discretion in the hands of faceless bureaucrats and politicians.

If adults had to form their own marriage contracts, they would be forced actually to think about what they wanted in a marriage; about the behaviors they desired from their mates; about how to deal with the issue of children; and about what would happen in the event of a dissolution of their marriage. Too often today, those in love plunge blindly into a union for which neither party is truly suited. Immaturity, personal shortcomings, and incompatibilities are not erased merely because the State issues a license officially permitting and recognizing a marriage.

Perhaps this helps to account for the fact that nearly one-in-two first-time marriages end in divorce.

Indeed, if couples (or whatever number of individuals are involved) had explicitly to set up a contract that came complete with penalties for noncompliance and an expiration/renewal date, they might not act so casually or cavalierly in setting up a household or so quickly take for granted their mate(s). They might actually work more diligently at their marriage and be more conscious of what they are doing and the effects their actions are having on their loved one(s).

The only role of the State should be to enforce such contracts. It should not be prosecuting (or persecuting?) people who love one another merely because they want to be married. Indeed, if Tom Green had merely fathered his children and never claimed more than one woman as his wife, he would face no penalties from the State.

Amazing what a simple declarative sentence can lead to.

While I personally think the vast majority of people are better suited to a single spouse at a time (sustaining such a marriage can be tough enough as it is), for those so inclined, adults should be free to marry as many others (of either sex) as they want.

For better or for worse.

May 31, 2001

California Dreamin'

California once stood as a place to seek one's fortune, a state friendly to opportunity and hard work.

No more.

A schizophrenic land, for certain, some of the worst social experimentation emanates from the Left Coast. Rabidly anti-self-defense, the "leaders" in California push towards their relentless goal of complete victim disarmament. Banning "assault" weapons, pushing for registration of gun owners, denying permits, the politicians creep inexorably towards confiscation and outright prohibition.

Despite a state referendum allowing medical marijuana, prosecutors continue their heartless hounding of ill citizens seeking mild relief from their debilitating conditions.

Eco-fascists worship Gaia while detesting human beings. Rabidly anti-"sprawl" (i.e., anti-growth and expansion), these "watermelons" (green on the outside, red within) squash development of housing and businesses via ludicrous regulations and zoning. Outlandish home prices that penalize the average person and drive people and industries from the the state do not deter their "compassion" for plants and animals. Such outrageous costs must be due solely to the "greed" of landlords and such. "Rent control!" they cry, ensuring more of the same.

Likewise ignoring the laws of economics, these oh-so-concerned citizens oppose every attempt at building adequate supplies of energy then pass Orwellian-named "deregulation" complete with draconian conditions and price-caps. (Anyone remember what happened when Richard Nixon imposed price controls in this country?) When supplies dry up and prices eventually rise to balance supply and demand, that can only be due, of course, to "price gouging" and evil, profiteering big business.

Governor Gray Davis (how appropriate is his first name...?) claims they have a "right" to low prices! How about their real right to lower (or, properly, zero) taxes?

If it were not for that percentage of the populace there who oppose the fantasies of those in control, I'd say, "Serves you right." The chickens are flocking in to roost. About time reality smacked these people up side the head. Sadly, I doubt they'll learn very quickly the lesson they're being taught. Far easier to blame someone else than to accept blame for their own mistakes and lack of foresight.

Too many Californians want to have their cake and still be able to eat it. As long as they cling to such irrational wishes, the only California dream they'll have will be a nightmare.

May 31, 2001

California Dreamin'

California once stood as a place to seek one's fortune, a state friendly to opportunity and hard work.

No more.

A schizophrenic land, for certain, some of the worst social experimentation emanates from the Left Coast. Rabidly anti-self-defense, the "leaders" in California push towards their relentless goal of complete victim disarmament. Banning "assault" weapons, pushing for registration of gun owners, denying permits, the politicians creep inexorably towards confiscation and outright prohibition.

Despite a state referendum allowing medical marijuana, prosecutors continue their heartless hounding of ill citizens seeking mild relief from their debilitating conditions.

Eco-fascists worship Gaia while detesting human beings. Rabidly anti-"sprawl" (i.e., anti-growth and expansion), these "watermelons" (green on the outside, red within) squash development of housing and businesses via ludicrous regulations and zoning. Outlandish home prices that penalize the average person and drive people and industries from the the state do not deter their "compassion" for plants and animals. Such outrageous costs must be due solely to the "greed" of landlords and such. "Rent control!" they cry, ensuring more of the same.

Likewise ignoring the laws of economics, these oh-so-concerned citizens oppose every attempt at building adequate supplies of energy then pass Orwellian-named "deregulation" complete with draconian conditions and price-caps. (Anyone remember what happened when Richard Nixon imposed price controls in this country?) When supplies dry up and prices eventually rise to balance supply and demand, that can only be due, of course, to "price gouging" and evil, profiteering big business.

Governor Gray Davis (how appropriate is his first name...?) claims they have a "right" to low prices! How about their real right to lower (or, properly, zero) taxes?

If it were not for that percentage of the populace there who oppose the fantasies of those in control, I'd say, "Serves you right." The chickens are flocking in to roost. About time reality smacked these people up side the head. Sadly, I doubt they'll learn very quickly the lesson they're being taught. Far easier to blame someone else than to accept blame for their own mistakes and lack of foresight.

Too many Californians want to have their cake and still be able to eat it. As long as they cling to such irrational wishes, the only California dream they'll have will be a nightmare.

May 30, 2001

A Right to Work

As noted in my essay, "The Right to Discriminate," the Supreme Court upholding Casey Martin's lawsuit against the Professional Golfers' Association is a travesty of justice. There are a couple points I did not address in that article, however.

Listening to some people who have defended Martin, I heard a number of them argue that he had a career as a golfer and, thus, had to be allowed to ride a golf cart. It wouldn't be "fair" to deny him the "right" to practice his career.

A second line of discussion was that Martin is disabled. Q.E.D.

In other words, because he is disabled, that trumps all else. He automatically wins. He gets anything he "needs."

What a crock.

The Supreme Court's decision is a crock. It violates freedom of association and property rights.

The Americans with Disabilities Act is a crock. Ditto above. It violates the moral autonomy of business owners to decide for themselves how they will conduct their businesses.

The notion that the "needs" of the sick, weak, young, or old outweigh the rights and freedom of the able and productive in our society is a crock. "Needs" are not a claim on either wealth or another's liberty. At best, the needy can ask for help. To demand it is the worst kind of overweening arrogance.

The belief that anyone has a right to a job is a crock. If an employee has a "right to work" at a particular career, then does an employer have a "right to have you work" for him? Of course not. But then equity and logic are never the goal of collectivists and statists.

You can feel sympathy for Martin's unfortunate condition. For him to use his problems to enslave others, however, fills me only with contempt.

He deserves condemnation as an enemy of freedom, morality, and justice. That he's treated by so many Americans as some kind of "hero" is disgusting.

May 29, 2001

Lying For Fun and Profit

Every person must decide for himself what path he will seek in life. Some will take the line of least resistance. Others appear determined to choose the hardest road imaginable.

Unless they are masochists, most individuals do not enjoy difficulties in and of themselves. Studying for that test. Asking your boss for a raise. Screwing up your courage to date that special someone who sets your heart racing.

Standing against the seemingly irresistible current of the crowd in order to honor your convictions.

No one could be faulted for having doubts as to the wisdom of taking such potentially hazardous actions.

Yet risk is an inherent aspect of existence, of life. The only time you will be risk-free is when you are dead.

Not an appealing option for most of us.

Whether you are a writer, an actor, an entrepreneur, an educator, or a thousand other possibilities, your life might flow much more smoothly if you simply shut your mouth, hid your beliefs, squashed your feelings, and adopted the latest happy-face mottoes of the intellectually brain-dead in our society.

Anti-gun? Pro-government "compassion"? Anti-big-business? Pro-environment? Anti-individualism? Pro-"community"? On and on and on, the "accepted" view handed down from on high strangles free-expression, stultifies free-thought, suffocates true diversity.

Go-along-to-get-along is the mantra many folks dun into your ears. They literally cannot fathom why you are so desperately stubborn, why you care so passionately for abstract nonsense, why you would select a lifestyle that almost guarantees you a smaller salary, more conflict, fewer friends.

The "second-handers," as Ayn Rand demonstrated so ably in her novels, are much more likely to glide along (at least in the short run). They are unafraid to say or do whatever is required to get what they want; they're oh-so "practical." They go for the government grants, tout "public service" as the highest form of virtue rather than the parasitism it has become, relish all the "free" goodies Uncle Sam provides from the goodness of his heart.

They care nothing for the source of that wealth. They care nothing for principles or honor. They care nothing for independence, integrity, justice, or honesty.

The fact that they can "succeed" -- at least materially -- in our world perhaps speaks more loudly than does any other fact about the depths to which the "mainstream" has sunk.

Yes, you can still break through to prominence while preserving your ideals. But for every John Stossel (who might well not have made it if he'd begun his career as a libertarian rather than a "consumer" reporter), for every Drew Carey, for every T. J. Rodgers of Cypress Semiconductor, there are a thousand Ross Perots, Bill Clintons, and Barbara Streisands.

So, am I advocating burying your candle under a basket?

No. But I am stating the obvious fact that you won't make many friends today believing in liberty, objectivity, reason, and free enterprise. You aren't alone, but you aren't popular, either.

It's true that there's no nobility per se in losing. Yet there's none, at all, in selling your soul to the devil for a few pieces of silver.

May 28, 2001

Remembering War

For me, Memorial Day evokes conflicting emotions.

On the one hand are the soldiers who fought under miserable conditions far from home. Abandoning family and loved ones, they traversed the world battling other men from countries deemed to be our enemies. Their bravery, their suffering, their endurance under the harshest of conditions are worthy of commemoration.

On the other hand, most of the wars fought by the men (and sometimes women) of our country should never have been waged in the first place.

Another libertarian writer discussing this same issue recently heaped praise on such wars as Korea, Vietnam, and Bosnia as exemplars of endeavors checking dictators and statists from expanding their spheres of influence.

I must disagree with his assessments, however. Only a small number of wars fought by this nation could be morally justified. Fewer still could be reconciled with the explicit parameters outlined in our Constitution.

Despite certain excesses perhaps inevitable in any wide-ranging armed conflict, our Revolutionary War ultimately served to establish relative freedom for most of the peoples of this country and thus merits praise. Ours was (and still is) the first and only nation founded upon the explicit and still radical notion that a government is and ought to be subordinate to the individuals who created it. For most of history -- and, unfortunately, again today in this country -- citizens are seen as subjects of the State, their property, their actions, and their lives to be directed and, if deemed necessary, taken at the behest of their leaders.

The fallacious conceit that we enjoy "representative" government and thus "do this to ourselves" is the sheerest of nonsense. When a State has the power -- even if not exercised -- to take 100% of your income; to force you into involuntary servitude; and to dictate every smallest detail of your life, liberty no longer exists in any fundamental sense of the term.

The Civil War cost us hundreds of thousands of lives, devastated civilian life and property with the introduction by Lincoln of "total war," assaulted the provisions of our Constitution, and trashed the rights of individuals to secede from a state they formed. Its sole claim to merit is the ultimate abolition of slavery.

The Spanish-American War turned us into the worst of tyrants as we suppressed and killed the citizens of the Philippines.

World War I -- the "war to end all wars" -- gave us the insanity of mass murder as fat generals and politicians on both sides sent innocent men into the meat-grinders of trench warfare and crazy charges into the teeth of trained machine guns. Woodrow Wilson limited our rights while pushing for more statism.

The conditions for its occurrence seeded in the Armistice following WWI, World War II set tyrant against tyrant. In exchange for "saving" Europe from Hitler, we delivered the ravaged populaces into a fifty-year bondage to the Soviet empire. FDR lied and maneuvered us into a war we did not want, condemning our troops at Pearl Harbor to a massacre in order to further his plans of State-power. An admirer of Mussolini and Stalin, FDR deserves to be trashed rather than honored.

Korea, Vietnam, Kuwait, Bosnia and countless other wars thumbed their noses at the Constitution's demands that a war actually be declared by Congress. For many of the wars in our history, the ultimate degradation of the draft stole young men's lives to expand the ambitions of "leaders" safe and secure in their fancy homes. If the State has the "right" to take your life, any- and everything else is window-dressing for the unlimited power now exercised by most "civilized" nations.

So, yes, remember the men and women who fought to defend their friends and their lives, for those who struggled to create and preserve our freedom.

Also remember, however, that war is the health of the State and the death of a thousand cuts to free men and women.

That we need to remember -- or learn for the first time -- if all those who perished are not to have died in vain.

May 27, 2001

Hitler Won

Plans are in flux for a World War II memorial to be constructed on the Mall in Washington, D.C. While no one objects to the propriety of building such a memorial, there are strong disagreements regarding the appropriate location for this site.

Many veterans -- seeing the end of their lives approaching with stark speed -- simply want the memorial done and finished before they die so they can enjoy it. Others believe the proposed memorial -- which has already been reduced in size by a third -- will disrupt the open spaces that have long been a signature of the Mall. In that space, Americans have gathered to protest wars and celebrate achievements.

Opponents of the location sued to stop construction, citing improprieties in the procedure for site selection and violations of anti-"clutter" laws. Congress finally decided enough was enough. The process of developing this memorial had already taken twice as long as the war itself. Our representatives voted to prohibit any more lawsuits regarding this issue.

There are lessons to be learned here. An obvious one is the glacial pace of decisions made via bureaucracies. Congress is more than a tad hypocritical in criticizing the unwieldy federal machinery it created.

Second is involving the State in what could just as well have been a totally private endeavor. Actor Tom Hanks helped raise funds for the memorial. Much of this brouhaha could have been prevented if he and others and recognized what happens once you move from the private to the "public" sector. Decisions by committee result, not only in a kind of "tragedy of the commons," but in a diffusion of decision-making unlikely to occur where property rights are observed.

Another, more subtle issue is having the State raise memorials of any kind. A proper memorial to the men and women who have died to preserve our country's freedom would be a country that was actually free.

As one aging veteran said in a news conference regarding this controversy, given how Congress and others have acted in "resolving" the problem, it seems that Hitler actually won World War II.

Unfortunately, he was more right than he knew.


(Tomorrow I will have some thoughts on veterans, wars, and freedom as we observe Memorial Day.)

May 26, 2001

There Is No Fate

In contrast to yesterday's sad ruminations over the intellectual state of some of today's young people, other news this week reminds me that everyday Atlases still exist in the world.

On the roof of the world, a trio of records were set by men whose discipline, hard work, and dedication to reality stand in sharp relief to the pettiness of many modern citizens, both young and old. The youngest man (at sixteen), the oldest man (at 64), and the first blind man all persevered to reach the top of Mt. Everest.

The blind man did not listen to those who declared the foolishness of attempting to scale the largest peak in the world sans sight. He did not let his disability become an insurmountable handicap. Listening to the bells worn by his fellow climbers, he reached his goal. He decided what he wanted to do. He decided what needed to be done to achieve that objective. He decided to follow through on those requirements and not let self-imposed -- or, worse, other-imposed -- limitations prevent him from achieving his dream.

Oddly enough, two old movies I re-watched this week reinforced this vision of individuals worthy of admiration. Disparate though they are in intent, tone, and execution, Clint Eastwood's "Bronco Billy" and James Cameron's "Terminator 2" express similar themes.

In this first film, a band of misfits help one another to overcome past mistakes as they strive slowly to improve their lives. A pair of drunks, an army deserter, and a shoe salesman from New Jersey purposefully and consciously decide to change their lives. Leaving behind the dead-end ruts chaining them to unhappiness, they embark upon the unlikely adventure of presenting a Wild West show in modern America. A corrupt sheriff, small crowds, and a devastating tent fire fail to quench the intense desire that keeps them plowing ahead in their quest for a satisfying existence.

The explicit theme of "T2" is summarized in the words of a future savior of mankind: There is no fate but the one we make. The future is not set in stone.

For too many of us, the chains holding us back are primarily of our own construction. While it is obviously true that events and conditions occur that we cannot control, it is equally true that we often fail to progress through self-fulfilling prophecies.

Achieve an education? Change jobs? Find a suitable mate? Break free from bad habits?

Often we declare defeat before we have fairly engaged the enemy. This week, a trio of real-life heroes and a set of fictional ones reinforce the idea that the fundamental driving force in our lives

May 25, 2001

I Are a College Student

As a college instructor, I have talked with and read a number of others who have dealt with students in today's academia. While there is always a core of bright, understanding, and inquisitive students in any class, the same traits can hardly be found in many of them.

While no one expects an eighteen-year-old to have it all together, a semblance of maturity would be refreshing. The bulk of students today are hypersensitive, surly, anti-intellectual, arrogant, and self-indulgent. Incredulously, they believe that simply having an opinion on a topic is sufficient. Evidence, logic, reason...? Ehn! They literally believe it is impossible -- or, at best, wrong -- to judge one opinion as better than another, an evaluation as correct or incorrect. They resent being challenged, resent being treated as responsible adults, resent anyone and anything that dares question their unquestioned beliefs.

The inmates are truly running the asylum.

Such developments are hardly surprising given the near-monopoly State-run, tax-supported indoctrination propaganda educational institutions enjoy. A dozen years of politically-corrupt nonsense, eco-fascism, indiscriminate "tolerance," subjectivism, and collectivism have produced narrow-minded, judgmental (in the don't-confuse-me-with-the-facts sense), and vindictive babies who reflect the destructive, immoral "entitlement" mentality that permeates all of society.

As disgusting as this situation is -- and the students themselves bear no small responsibility for their inane attitudes and actions -- administrators who condone this inversion of common-sense deserve as much or more of the blame than do the students for the continuation of a trend that promotes the ignorant "opinions" of spoiled brats to gospel.

The result is far from pleasant to observe.

A special happy anniversary wish to my wife, Chris, on our fifth year together. Here's to fifty more.

May 24, 2001

Deadly Kitchen Utensil!

In Florida, a girl about to graduate from high school with honors was arrested on a felony charge of having a "deadly weapon" on school property. The "deadly weapon"? A steak knife she had in her car! Because of her horribly dangerous behavior, she faces the possibility of criminal charges and is forbidden from attending her graduation. In his infinite "compassion," the principal will allow her to take her final exams.

How nice.

The stupidity of zero tolerance policies is legendary. They alleviate school officials of the necessity of thinking or exercising any semblance of common sense. Heck, a sharpened pencil can be a "deadly weapon" if you drive it through someone's eye and into his brain. Shall we forbid pencils, as well?

Such inane policies also violate a basic principle of justice: you must actually violate someone's rights, i.e., commit a crime, before you are treated as a criminal. Zero tolerance laws ignore context, place the burden of proof on the defendant, and punish what is otherwise peaceful behavior.

Unfortunately, violations of that principle underpin a vast majority of the laws clogging our legal system. From anti-self-defense laws to banning cigarettes, the real issue is not justice or safety. It's power...power for the politicians.

For that particular crime, we should have no tolerance, at all.

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