Thursday, May 31, 2007

Star Wars as a libertarian epic

I found this article fun to read. It posits that Star Wars is really a libertarian epic, based in part on a scene between Biggs and Luke that was cut from the beginning of the film (and stayed cut, even after the Special Edition of Star Wars IV came out in 1999).

It probably was a good artistic choice (to cut it, I mean, to allow the flow of the movie to follow the droids, introducing characters as the droids meet them), but I've always wondered about the scene. I remember when I was a little kid having this huge Star Wars movie picture book that told the story of the movie with a little bit of text per page and a huge picture or pictures on each page taken from the movie. That book actually had pictures of Luke with Biggs at the beginning, and I've always wondered about that, since I never saw the actual scene (almost no one has).

So now it is funny years later to find it had libertarian content to it. How disappointing that it apparently isn't even on the special features of the new DVDs. (At least, not that I've found, though I did not look specifically for it, I did look).

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Resume and Interview Tips

I read these three articles this morning on resume and interview tips. Yes, ok, so I was bored. I'm writing a post on them because I wanted to comment and dang-it, there was no place to comment on any of the articles. Well, ok, I really only want to comment on the last one, but I thought I'd include all three.

First, let me say that I don't dispute that the advice in them is helpful and may help you land a job. Even the last one, the one I take issue with, I don't dispute that the advice is useful.

But then I saw something (which I don't doubt is true) that I just had to say something about. In the third article it says that "Some hiring managers claim they can spot a possible candidate for a job within 30 seconds or less [based in part on how you look and in part on body language.]" No, I'm not going to comment on how attractiveness leads to job offers. I already talked about that in another post, though admittedly that was not the main thrust of the post.

No, I want to comment on interviewers who claim they can "spot someone in 30 seconds" based on ANY criteria. I speak from some experience in this area, and not just as someone who does horrible in job interviews. I also have been the interviewer and have made hiring decisions (in a former life, before I was a lawyer). So I can attest that it is all true, if you have good body language and are personable in the interview, people will want to hire you. Unfortunately, I can also attest to the fact that interview skills, at least for the job I was interviewer for, have NOTHING to do with how good a job someone will do. The best interviewee from one particular batch of interviews was a VERY good people person. But it turned out he really wasn't all that great at his job nor, in some cases, at even showing up on time.

Another, much more mediocre interviewee, who was probably hired more because of the need for warm bodies than anyone's love of her resume or interview, was one of the better, more dedicated workers we had.

Now, I imagine it can be even worse with an HR person doing the interview as opposed to someone who has some familiarity with the work and what is involved.

My point is that you really can have NO IDEA how well a worker someone will be based on their resume or the interview. None at all. Tiny things are blown out of proportion. If they are late to the interview, for instance, you might assume they'll be late to work every day. It turned out that someone late to one of my interviews was actually always early. And someone else who was on time was always late. You just can't generalize behavior from only one data point in a person's life. Of course, that's what interviewers are forced to do. You have to decide to hire someone. Really, though, I think it is a total crapshoot.

Some use shortcuts, like eliminating people based on what school they went to (which I think is particularly stupid). It makes some sense to look at achievement things like GPA, but again, doing well in school doesn't necessarily translate to doing well at a particular job, and vice-versa. There can even be an inverse relationship. Someone who is super smart might be terribly bored by a particular job. Someone who isn't as smart, but is easily self-amused, might be a maestro at that same job.

So really, in the end, the whole resume and interview routine is mostly bullshit. Sure, there are a few useful bits of information one can get. GPA, years of experience in a particular field (though even that is useless to some degree - some people spend ten years getting ten years of experience, others just get one year of experience ten times). I'm sure others simply lie on their resumes, though I never understood that - it seems like that will always bite you in the end, even if you do a good job.

The one exception is sales. If you are hiring a sales position, then the ability of the applicant to walk in and sell you on hiring them IS indicative of how good a job you can expect out of the applicant as a salesperson. But not all jobs are sales. Most are not. The jobs I've worked definitely were not. Which means it makes little sense to basically screen a non-sales job using sales criteria, which is what the normal interview process usually is, particularly with large organizations.

Ok, rant over. I feel better now.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Brief Thoughts on The De Anza Case

I've seen some mention in the blogsphere of this case, so I looked into it a bit, and decided to offer a little commentary from the legal perspective.

Most of what I've read about the case is outrage on feminist sites that there were no charges filed. One of them said basically "She said she was raped. I believe her. End of story." While that is certainly a strong sentiment of support, one I'm sure the complainant in the case appreciates, that really isn't how the legal process works, and further, it loses a bit of its punch when you consider that, unfortunately, the complainant was so intoxicated that she did not remember any details about what happened, so she isn't the one who is to be believed or not. There were three other women at the party who stated that they saw what was going on (though they were somewhat intoxicated themselves, I think) and pulled the complainant out of there, making those three women heroes.

The indignation, then, is that there were no charges filed because the DA found that there was "insufficient evidence" to proceed. Many blogs (pretty much all of them I read, but I don't claim to have combed the blogsphere or even just the feminist blogsphere about this case), seem to take that to mean that the DA concluded that no rape occurred. But this simply isn't so. "Insufficient evidence" in legal terms isn't just about whether there was a crime, but whether you can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a specific individual (or individuals) committed all elements of the crime. You could have "insufficient evidence" with regard to a murder, for instance, when there is clearly a dead body killed by homicide. It isn't about doubting that a crime happened. It is about whether you can actually convict someone of that crime.

None of the descriptions of the case from the various news accounts I've read on it indicated the names of ANY suspects. The three women who rescued the complainant did not name any names that I could find. Perhaps it was because it was dark or hard to see, perhaps because they were intoxicated, perhaps because they simply did not know any of the men involved and so did not see them long enough to accurately describe them or identify them in photo lineups later. But if it is the case that the complainant doesn't remember and her rescuers can't help with that, then already you are in trouble as far as a prosecution goes.

And further, if it truly was eight or more men and each contributed DNA, then it makes it very hard for a DNA test to match to any particular person - it is all mixed up. I don't know the exact numbers, but I imagine that after you have a certain number of contributions, DNA becomes almost useless, particularly if you can't even come up with a name of a single person to test.

So lacking any witness IDs and lacking any useful DNA evidence, really, what can the DA do? You can't prosecute a crime by simply declaring "I believe the complainant was raped" and then magically conjure up someone to convict. You have to positively identify the defendants. If you can't do that, you're done. And it isn't because you don't believe the complainant and it isn't because anyone doesn't think there was a crime, and it isn't some "patriarchal" conspiracy to let rapists get away with it (though obviously the perpetrators themselves know what they did if they were not otherwise too drunk to remember, but then no one expects any perpetrator of any crime to simply turn themselves in).

For those who wonder why the DA can't just put it before a jury and let them sort it out, I point out first, that it WAS put before a grand jury and they did not find probable cause to file charges against anyone. And further, it is UNETHICAL for a DA to file charges when there is legally insufficient evidence for a conviction. (See what happened to Nifong.) Though despite that, rarely are DAs called to task for filing charges on weak evidence. And further still, even if a DA did unethically bring charges and then had a trial and even convinced a jury to convict, if the evidence is legally insufficient for the defendant(s), a judge will simply reverse the conviction, as they are ethicially obligated to do, and because of double jeopardy (in my state at least, but probably in all), that defendant can NEVER be charged with that crime again. So if it turns out they really are the guilty one and you uncover later evidence that proves it, it is USELESS, and they get off scot free. Which is a VERY good reason not to bring any charges when you have legally insufficient evidence to support them.

Now, as to the specific facts of this case, this is all really speculation. I don't know what evidence there was beyond what was mentioned in various news reports. And neither do any of the other bloggers who have posted about this. Only the Sheriff's Department there and the DA's office knows, and they aren't releasing that information. Which brings me to something else that is a bit of a pet peeve of mine. People judging legal issues based on specific cases where they DON'T KNOW WHAT ALL OF THE FACTS ARE IN THE CASE. My favorite example of this is people who get all red in the face about lawsuit abuse and cite the infamous McDonald's Coffee case as an example, showing that they clearly have no idea what they are talking about.

A more personal example is when I've worked on appeals cases. Reading the briefs from each party, briefs that actually cite to the record and are far more detailed about what is going on in a case than a typical press report about a case would ever be, you still get a slant one way or the other that can make a case seem completley different depending on which brief you read. Only by reading through the whole record yourself, all of it, can you really see what is really going on, and sometimes I've found that neither party has given a very accurate picture, either on the facts or on the law. In other words, until YOU read a case with that much detail, odds are you really don't know what you are talking about, so perhaps the best course of action is to reserve judgment, or at the very least, couch any conclusions you draw as being limited in quality to the information available.

That's what I suggest about this case. Take a deep breath. Realize that you don't really have all of the relevant facts. And realize that there are severe problems if there is insufficient evidence to identify any perpetrators, as I indicated above. Sure, it sucks that a crime goes unpunished. But calling for the heads of unspecified people, perhaps skipping the legal process, is the way of anarchy, and that only creates more crimes and more victims.

So while I can appreciate the emotions this can bring, I think this has been an example of a misunderstanding about the legal process. I don't know what happened; I wasn't there. I don't know why the DA did what she did. But I do know that those who are pounding on this as if they did know what happened really don't know and therefore don't know what they are talking about, and it is disturbing to me to see so many dire conclusions drawn from such scant evidence. Dire conclusions from scant evidence is what leads to lynchings and other things that represent the baser instincts of humanity. I hope cooler heads prevail. I also hope that they do find out exactly what happened and who did what and then those who broke the law are brought to justice.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Churches should be taxed

Really, what is the rationale for not taxing Churches? Or religious places in general? I know it started out as a concern that government would use the power of taxation to discriminate against a sect or shut it down. That's because it was done widely in Europe. But that really is an argument against uneven or unfair taxation, not any taxation at all.

Now, being a libertarian, I'm not exactly a huge fan of taxes. But being an atheist, I'm an even smaller fan of all of the privileges given to religion in this nation. Real privileges, like freedom from taxes, being the primary one, though there are some other perks, like not being allowed to say bad things about someone who has the name 'reverend' or other nonsense titles, or even worse, those with the title are allowed to say all sorts of hateful things without being held to account (like Jerry Falwell).

But really, what would be so bad about making a church pay taxes the same as all other property owners in a community? If they don't, well, then they get a benefit over all other property owners - they get all the services of the community without having to pay the admission price. They are, in fact, a drain on a communities' resources. I know the howls of protest that come with such a suggestion. Probably the first protest is that a church would not be able to survive in a community because the taxes would be more than the income from the members. But then, I think that in itself says something - after all, if the members of a church can't afford to pay for its existence, why should it exist based on the subsidy of MY tax money? Thus, only the churches that TRULY have community support (in the form of tithing members) will surivive. I know the next howl of protest. What about poor neighborhood churches? But economics takes care of that as well. Poor areas have relatively poor property values and so would pay much less in taxes. Thus, it would be progressive, in a sense. A rich neighborhood would have really rich property taxes, but then, the members of the church would also be rich, so they could afford to support the church there.

So I say, tax the churches. It isn't discrimination to make churches pay the same taxes every other good citizen has to pay (and usually does). It is the price of admission for our communities. And hey, if the taxes are too much, well, perhaps that shows the community really doesn't support the church (since there aren't enough members to support it). Or you could really think outside the box and slash taxes across the board for everyone to make the churches more affordable that way. Just don't have my tax dollars subsidizing all sorts of strange religions that I have no interest in and want no part of. At the very least, one would hope religious freedom would mean freedom from having your money support religions you do not.

The Dems, unsurprisingly, totally cave in to Bush on War Funding

This just pisses me off so much. I guess I'm really not surprised, but when it happened, I was pissed just the same. What the hell did they think the 2006 election was about?

It makes me so mad I'm not sure I can say anything useful about it right now. I'll leave that for Keith Olbermann.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

I hope the answer is 'Yes'

I hope the answer is 'yes' to the question asked by this article.

I should note that, while I really despise what the GOP has become and think it deserves to die a slow, painful death, I'm not exactly a Democrat, either. Democrats have the advantage over the GOP in that they are not authoritarian lemmings, so there is room for disagreement and you won't get reflexive support for whatever a Democratic President might do, which is very healthy in a democracy.

I'd say the GOP has pretty much proven it cannot be trusted to act as a check at all on the power of the presidency when the president is also GOP. Not that the Democrats did much better, but at least most of them resisted. The GOP pretty much all lined up behind the leader and marched the whole country right off a cliff, calling anyone who tried to even voice a protest traitors. Well, I hope they enjoy the ride down off the cliff onto the rocks. I'll be eating popcorn and watching the impact from my lawn chair set up on the edge of the cliff.

UPDATE: I've decided that any time I talk about the GOP, I'm going to reference this on-line book (also on my left sidebar), because I think that is always the underlying explanation for everything the GOP does and is, and it is helpful to remind people of that.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Yet another article on why Gonzales should be impeached

Here is yet another article on why Gonzales should be impeached (and possibly jailed). What is most striking is that there are so many reasons, for reasons of space, the writer of the article had to limit his discussion to just one reason.

Oh, and the Gonzo meter has slowly gone back up to 57%, even though the meter-keepers are sounding like they doubt he'll ever resign.

What I just don't get about opponents of Gay Marriage

In all the sound and fury spewed forth about the 'evils' of gay marriage and how it will 'weaken and destroy' 'regular' marriage, is how, exactly, would that work?

I want to ask every married heterosexual person who opposes gay marriage if they will love their spouse one iota less if Bob and Steve down the street are also married. I want to ask them if their marriage is so weak and based on so little that it would break apart if Lisa and Anna up the block got married. Beacuse I simply don't understand. If you are married to someone and committed to them, how is that committment affected AT ALL by what someone else in some other marriage is doing?

Even further, how is allowing more marriages to happen going to weaken marriage?

I really don't care who else is married or what they are doing. Such things have zero effect on my marriage. So that makes me think that those people loudly protesting are just doing so out of hatred and nothing else. But I'd like to ask all of the questions above to those who oppose gay marriage - and I think those questions should be brought up every time the topic is discussed. I think those critics need to be challened, point blank: Will your marriage break up as a result of allowing gay marriage, and if so, is your spouse aware of how little you value your committment to him or her that you'd allow such a thing to come between you?

Toddler TV

I was all set to get to the taxation issue, then just ran out of time this weekend. But maybe tonight. In the meanwhile, I want to comment on something else. Toddler TV. Or rather, having one's toddler watch TV.

I've seen studies recommending that children under two watch ZERO hours of TV. Like that's ever going to happen in this society. But there is a difference between TV a toddler would watch and TV a toddler would ignore.

My wife loves to put in DVDs for our daughter to watch. And she loves to watch them. We started with Baby Einstien. Which leads to an aside. I don't think you need to put in special DVDs to make your kid "smart." I think it is mostly just a marketing gimmick. At that age, just exploring a room or playing with blocks is probably more intellectually stimulating than just watching animals and puppets set to classical music. But one thing the DVDs do deliver on is that they hit their target audience. Even when my daughter was very young and could barely focus on anything, she liked to look at the Baby Einstien videos. Later, we discovered she also liked Little Einstiens on Disney (which we now have DVRd almost 30 episodes, so she can watch any time). Those are really aimed at older children than 21 months, but she loves watching them anyway. I think she has picked up some vocabulary from it, at least in understanding, if not in voice. But then the same would be true of anything she watches.

And finally, there's Monsters, Inc., Shrek, and a new favorite, Happy Feet. Oh, and Finding Nemo. She loves watching those. Over and over. I probably have Monsters, Inc. and Shrek memorized by now I've seen it so many times. Which is part of the problem. My wife whenever she's watching my daughter pretty much always puts in the DVD. It doesn't help that my daughter will walk up to her, DVD in hand, and ask her to put it on. What is truly scary is watching my 21 month old daughter open the DVD player, put a disk in, press play, and turn on the TV, all by herself. And she's been doing that for a while. Sometimes she hits the wrong buttons and doesn't quite succeed, but it is still fascinating to watch her saavy with such equipment at a young age.

Now, as I stated above, some say you should not let anyone under two watch TV. And I am concerned with how much TV my wife has our daughter watch. Usually the first thing I do when I take over watching our daughter so my wife can do something else is I turn off the DVD and TV. Usually one of the first things she does when she takes over for me is turn both of those on. It is one reason I'm actually glad we have day care, because there is no TV at day care.

I understand why my wife does it - it is easier to watch our daughter if she's sitting in one place or even if while moving around, she is entertained. But I get concerned that this has her neglect doing other things she should be doing. Like interacting with us or playing with her toys. And she is quite a lot of fun to play with right now. As her parents, we are her whole world at this age and she is very funny, she laughs, she babbles, she likes to take us to things, she shares her toys with us, and it is just a joy to be with her.

I confess that when I get home from work and pick her up from day care, I usually put on the TV myself, but I don't put on anything she's interested in - I put on news and such, so she then ignores the TV and plays or she pays more attention to what I'm doing.

I get worried she watches too much TV. I don't want her to grow up to be a couch potato. Particularly given that I can be so much of one, though less so with her, since it is hard for me and my wife to really sit down and watch anything most of the time because our daughter demands our constant attention. News you can sort of put on in the background and don't have to listen to all the time.

Anyway, I don't quite know if there's a point to this post beyond my observations and concerns about TV and my toddler. And my concerns about my wife's quick-trigger when it comes to putting in the toddler DVD.

Further thoughts on Feminism

I thought about this some more last night (I had to hastily finish my post as I needed to help first get some medicine into my daughter then get her to sleep last night).

Something I want to make clear:

  • I do not think feminism has achieved all of its goals.
  • I do think women now have all the rights they need, as do men, when it comes to gender (but have concerns about rights in general for everyone - see Attorney General scandal, PATRIOT act, etc.)
  • I do think the best way (and perhaps only way) for feminism to achieve its remaining goals is not under feminism at all, but under a gender transition movement (for lack of a better name) - because that would be inclusive of men and women and would therefore be welcoming of men and women, as well as being much less likely to devolve into an 'us' versus 'them' mentality.
  • When I speak of feminism not being needed anymore (and doing more harm than help to gender issues) I am speaking of the United States only (though it probably applies to other developed nations as well). I can only speak for the U.S. because that is the only society I live immersed in, the only one I could speak with any authority about. I do realize that something like feminism is needed in other nations, particularly third-world nations, but to me, that is a separate issue. A nation that has outlawed slavery does not need an abolitionist movement, even if slavery exists elsewhere in the world.
I also want to state that while I agree generally with most of the goals of feminism, past and present, there are also some things within it that I disagree with (and apparently some feminists do as well, as indicated by what I've read on the subject). I could try to list everything I disagree with, but I'll leave it with this for now. I have noted that many feminists are anti-capitalist and equate capitalism with the ever omnipresent "Patriarchy" or just with keeping women down in general. But I find that totally absurd. Capitalism is gender neutral. Moreover, all those feminists who advocate socialism or communism, aside from not understanding economics, are also entirely ignoring the fact that there have been plenty of socialist and communist nations that have treated women far worse than our capitalist nation does. But economics is a whole discussion in itself, so I'll leave it at that.

ADDENDUM: I want to reiterate. I see now as one of the main problems with feminism as a movement as far as what I think impedes its progress and also keeps even women today reluctant to say they are feminists is an 'us' versus 'them' mentality. I expect to see that attitude in particular rear its head in response to my posts on feminism. Which I think will just prove my point. Those who are inclined to do this, ask yourself, why would you be so wedded to a name - 'Feminist' - as opposed to 'Gender Transition Movement' (ok, stupid name, but you get the idea). Why does the name matter so much if the goals are the same (or even expanded?) Why should the name matter at all? Why should one be so wedded to a name that is, by its nature, gender exclusive? Food for thought.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

My thoughts on Feminism (as I now head for cover)

This post is probably guaranteed to annoy some people, though hopefully not so much that it would prevent discussion. I'm not posting this to be provocative. I'm posting this because it is what I think on the subject and I find now, after thinking about this for several months as I've read many blogs across the whole feminist spectrum, that I want to try and synthesize it all into a post reflecting my current views on the subject.

I hope no one takes offense, though one thing I have gleaned is that this is guaranteed to offend a certain subset of people. And with that in mind, I want to say first, just to get it out of the way, that, while I certainly am 100% for total equality, I don't find feminism to be particularly useful today, at least not in the United States. But before I get into why, I want to give some background on myself to illustrate where I'm coming from before I give my observations, thoughts, and reasoning that led me to that conclusion. Hopefully those who are terribly offended will bear with me through this and hopefully they will be considerably less offended by the time they finish reading. I don't expect to really change anyone's mind, especially on a topic like this that can be so volatile, but perhaps this will lead to further discussion and some degree of understanding between those with opposing points of view.

First, my background.

To fully explain where I came from, I first need to talk a bit about where my parents came from. In particular, my mother. My mother is one of four sisters. Apparently there was a brother, but he died in childbirth or infancy, I am not sure which at this point (and it doesn't really matter now). My mother was the oldest sister. Not having any boys, my grandfather apparently did a lot of things with her he otherwise would have done with a son because, well, he did not have one. I'm not entirely sure what all this entailed, but the one thing I do know is that my mother has always been a huge sports fan (when it comes to college football and basketball). Far more of a fan, in fact, than my father, who as far as I can see really doesn't pay attention to sports at all. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I also have really no interest in watching sports, and this is probably why.

My mother is also five years older than my father, something that is also rather unusual, though I'm sure not unheard of, in their day. They have been married now almost 44 years. I have an older sister and she is the jock in the family. She always has been. I, as my blog indicates, am quite the nerd. I've never been all that active, I generally stayed inside and read books (and did other things). When I was little, if I was threatened, it was my sister who threatened to beat up whomever was bothering me, and she could certainly back that up, though she never actually did. But knowing that she could and would certainly made me feel better.

I grew up in an extremely liberal town, also, so growing up, from my point of view, women seemed like they were pretty well equal to men, better than some men in a physical sense, and so you could say that I grew up with a very skewed point of view on that. It certainly colored how I thought about dating and such. To a certain degree, that led to later disillusionment, as I discovered that despite my egalitarian notions, women still apparently did not do much asking out and did not apparently generally find men who were not strong and aggressive and successful in some sense very attractive. Of course, this is just a generalization. I went through a "nice guy" phase, which many in my shoes do, where I was resentful about that, but I came to realize that just because the world wasn't exactly as I thought it was was no reason to sulk. And really, you just have to deal with the world and the people in it as they are, so I adjusted, I did eventually do some asking out, and so I got to enjoy (or not) the various ups and downs of dating, though at an age later than most.

This brings me to something else about myself that I want to mention. This also goes back to why I'm a libertarian as well. I am very practical. I have little use for flowery theories in such things as philosophy that are not grounded in reality or not grounded in practicality. My basic question with things is, "Well, can you build a bridge out of it?" and if not, then what use is it. (I'm speaking somewhat metaphorically here. I do recognize there are plenty of practical things that do not involve the tangible, such as what might be involved in rational project management for IT projects (This book is an excellent resource on that)).

In sum, my background with regards to how I viewed women was built on a rather non-standard model, in a very liberal community, so I grew up generally thinking total equality was a done deal and it never even occurred to me that it wasn't quite the case in all areas at that time. I certainly would never think there was a profession or role that someone would not be allowed to do just based on gender. The very notion of it was alien to my thinking, probably to the same degree a medieval person would find the notion of, say, a female pope. I certainly saw nothing limiting my sister or my mother from doing what they wanted to do just because they were women. It would not have even occurred to me.

Let me be clear. This isn't a case of me thinking there's no problems for women because I haven't experienced life as a woman. I'm talking about my first-hand impressions of the women closest to me growing up, my mother and my sister. I'm talking about my personal view growing up that women were absolutely equal and capable of doing anything men could do. I took that as a given.

My observations of Feminism online

Fast forward to now. The web. Blogs. Lots of hours online reading. I stumbled across many different blogs. Some of these blogs are labled 'Feminist' some are labeled 'Radical Feminist' some only talk about Feminist issues. The blogs I have read the most of include those blogs mentioned in my blogroll as well as some others. I've also seen discussions on feminism elsewhere. There is even a blog of feminist critics.

Of course, the easiest observation to make is that not all those who label themselves as "Feminists" agree on everything. Hardly surprising. But it isn't just that there is disagreement, there is disagreement to the point where some of the feminsts apparently attack other feminists as not being feminist at all. Generally the biggest targets of this are women who are what is known as "sex-positive" or women who are in what is known as the 'sex worker' trade - strippers, prostitutes, porn actors. I suppose this should not be too surprising, since some feminists have said that all sex between men and women is rape (because apparently women are incapable of offering consent). Therefore any women showing enjoyment of sex or her sexuality with men is immediately suspect as being apparently brainwashed or duped by the omnipresent Patriarchy (more on that later).

I saw one woman, Renegade Evolution, harrased and threatened to the point where she has now agreed to never speak on feminist issues again. I found this somewhat alarming, and also somewhat hypocrtical of those who did this to her. I've seen other women as a result of that decide they no longer want to be identified as feminist, in part because of episodes like that. And I can understand why. It seems like Feminism, to some, requires a conformance of the level that they apparently accuse the "Patriarchy" of forcing on women, all without any apparent irony or self-awareness of the hypocrisy in so doing.

I found one posting to be particularly compelling critique on the whole topic of feminism and discussion of it with people online, though it was specifically an answer to one particular feminist. I don't necessarily agree with everything in that one post (certainly not everything on that site as a whole), but I thought it was an interesting take on the issue.

Another thing I've found often on Feminism blogs is the notion that 'this blog is not feminism 101' and accompanying FAQ. Now, there's nothing wrong with wanting to keep discussions going forward without having to explain the jargon and so forth, though one would hope an effective FAQ could do that. But I wonder if implicit in that statement to 'go somewhere else' if you don't understand Feminism 101 (whatever that may be), is that you really need to not only know about the premises, but AGREE with them or you aren't welcome in the discussion. Now that may be true to a certain degree with any discussion - if you cannot agree on ANY basic premises, it is hard to carry on a conversation. But if you take that too far, I think you take it to the point where the only people you have a discussion with are people who already agree with you, and that is just preaching to the choir. That is where ideas stagnate and die.

Another feeling I get is one of arrogance - that if one doesn't accept all of what 'Feminism 101' is, one is somehow inferior or just behind or not mature in the discussion. Again, there is a kernal of truth to that - one should not engage in a conversation on a topic without being familiar with it to some degree. It does not pay to argue from ignorance. That said, when the owners of such blogs respond to a well thought-out post with disdainful dismissals that don't really respond to the arguments and which really aren't answered in any Feminism 101 blogs either, that brings me back to what I said above - ideas stagnate and die.

Something not unique to Feminism discussions, but that I have experienced in discussions on feminist blogs, is the piling on one gets when you challenge a dearly-held premise in a discussion. I got the feeling of piling on in this thread, though I did enjoy the discussion. Though now it seems to have fizzled out, disappointingly (well for me, anyway - perhaps those reading the thread are relieved...) I have a few things I want to say about that as well, but I'll save that for another post since that is more about a few specific discussions than about feminism in general.

Ok, now I've meandered enough. This is more stream of consciousness than well planned post, but I wanted to indicate where I've been coming from and where I've been.
Now, here's the really basic reason why I think there isn't a need for feminism and why I think it is ultimately counter-productive as a movement, at least under that name.

1) I think feminism is not needed because I think there really does not need to be any more women's right's movement. I think women have all of the rights they need. When I say that, that does NOT mean that I think all women's issues are solved nor do I think that women have equal power and influence in all areas of our society, nor do I think we have successfully allowed all women to escape traditional gender roles. But those issues are separate from rights. Women can vote now. They can own property. They are CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. They have run for every elected office in this country. And maybe soon, one will even be elected president. The only jobs women are completely barred from are the heavy combat roles in the military, and given the nature of modern warfare, they are still ending up in the front lines and in combat anyway.

Note that I also do not think we need any special rights for men, either. I discovered on the Feminist blogs something called MRAs - Men's Rights Activists. Men who apparently think men need rights to make things even with women, perhaps in areas like child custody and dating. (I'm not exactly an expert on MRAs - I only know about them secondhand). I can say that I don't think men need any special gender rights. Men have all that they need.

(And as an aside, this is not to say that there are some rights I'm concerned about that have nothing to do with gender, particularly with our authoritarian president, but those are civil rights issues that are of equal concern for everyone and so I leave that out of this discussion).

2) I think because rights have been won for women (the right to vote, the right not to be discriminated against in the workplace, the right not to be assaulted or harrassed, etc) - well, what is a movement to do when its primary goals in the realm of rights have been met? Those who have defined their lives around a right's movement - it can be hard for them to let go. Perhaps then they go looking for a new cause to keep on going. But with all the big things taken care of, you'll end up going after the nit-picking things. Pretty soon, the movement is seen more as a hindrance than a help because when you complain about EVERYTHING you are seen as a whiner. Note, I'm just speaking in general terms here, not necessarily about feminism or any group in particular. I'm talking about the dangers of being too successful. Where you have solutions in search of problems. I think this, to some limited degree, has infected the feminist movement.

3) I think because of the more radical elements of feminism, in part related to 2) above, that it has gotten a bad reputation with mainstream America. Not every feminist is a man-hating womyn who wants revenge on all men and sees all men as rapists. But those who do feel that way are a very vocal minority. And because of 2), with fewer women feeling the need to be in the movement because the big rights have already been achieved, that leaves proportionately more of the "active" feminists as the more radical ones, so their voice becomes even more associated with feminism in general. I've seen radical feminist Twisty seriously suggest that rape laws should be changed so that consent is removed from the equation, thereby making all sex between men and a woman rape - it is just a quesiton of whether or not the woman presses charges or not. The idea, apparently, is that this will cause men to treat women with great respect for fear of being charged with rape after the fact. She says this shouldn't be a problem for all those men who treat their women well enough that they'd never do this. I won't waste any words pointing out how ridiculous such law would be, but I mention it to illustrate the thinking in the radical feminist blogsphere.

4) Finally, the main reason I think feminism isn't useful is that I think what we really need is a 'Gender Roles Transition Movement' - or something better named than that. Because really, what women have done with feminism is freed women from traditional gender roles. But what has NOT happened is any freedom for men from their traditional gender roles. Women now have two choices - work or stay home with the kids. Men generally have two choices too. Work or work. I know there are some exceptions (for six months, I was one - I stayed home with my daughter), but generally, a man looking to marry a woman who tells her he wants to stay home with the kids is going to see skid marks in the parking lot as she runs away.

I've seen some feminists voice agreement with this general concept, but then say it is still within the province of feminism. But I find this unconvincing. Sure, you can talk about feminism being about changing roles for men as well as women, but the name of the movement belies this - feminism is a word and a movement that is really all about women. As such, it will never completely be embraced by men - from the outset, they are set as outsiders to the movement. And many men who do bring up such gender role issues in feminist discussions get shot down and labeled as MRAs even though they are not, at least not by how MRAs are traditionally defined.

I think moving forward, to have real equality for everyone, in a movement that welcomes everyone and is not limited just to looking at women (or at men) we need to have a gender neutral gender transition movement. That is something that, at its core, includes everyone. You would not have an 'us' versus ' them', another pitfall of feminsim. No matter how well intentioned, a movement named after one gender and only one gender is bound to attract those of that gender who hate the opposite gender and want to use the movement to gain advantage over them. That is how feminists view MRAs - men trying to get advantages over women. And they are probably right.

Why not have a human rights movement, one that includes both genders, that focuses on neither, but instead focuses on questioning traditional gender roles for either gender? That would be useful. That would take us to the next step. That's what I'm talking about when I say I don't think feminism is useful anymore. That would be an inclusive movement, without all the divisiveness of feminism and without any of its baggage, either.

Those who still want to hate men and support only women, well, they'll be free to do so. They can even call themselves feminists - and that will clearly distinguish them from those who support full equality and freedom from traditional gender roles for both genders.
I don't claim that all issues with gender roles are solved today. Clearly, they are not. But I think today, women are far ahead of men when it comes to breaking the traditional gender mold. Their experiences in doing so can only help men who are trying to break free from their own gender roles. Why not have men and women work together on this in a new movement that is about breaking traditional roles rather than about just advancing one gender only?

Some would call this anti-feminist, but really, I am not against the general goals of feminism - I'm strongly for them. I see women as fully equal to men in all ways. I always have. For me, this isn't being anti-anything. This is about moving beyond feminism to something that does everything feminism would hope for and then adding on top of that even more.

The Omnipresent Patriarchy

One final thought here on the whole 'Patriarchy' concept. I could have a full post on this. Let me just say this: I think this is a word that needs to be retired, for the same reasons I think 'feminism' needs to be retired - it is about an 'us' versus 'them'. By calling the problems with traditional gender roles in our society by this name, one is implicitly making all men culprits, all men the enemy, when the reality is, 99.99% of men have no real power and are in charge of basically nothing. The coincidence that those who DO have power are mostly of the same gender as me gives me no special power myself. I'll still never be president. I'll never likely hold ANY elective office. I'll never be CEO of any major corporation. Because I have no power and no connections and likely never will. Sharing a 'Y' chromosome with those who do hold power doesn't give me any special powers any more than I would have special power if the current ruler was named 'Frank' and my name was 'Frank'. Calling then our whole power structure the 'Franktriarchy' wouldn't make sense if at the same time there were also two million other 'Franks' who had no power and never likely would. And it would be terribly silly to tell those two million 'Franks' who have no power that they can't complain because those in power share the same name so obviously that gives them power, too. Clearly, sharing a name does not grant power any more than sharing a chromosome does. It just gives the illusion of shared power.

In closing, I would think that if the most powerful nation on Earth elects to be its leader a woman - that would put to rest forever the notion of the 'Patriarchy' - after all, how can it be all about men if a woman is in charge? And if it could still be 'Patriarchy' even with a woman in charge, then maybe it really isn't about gender after all, in which case, the name is even more a misnomer.

Saturday, May 19, 2007


I have two things I want to write about, and hopefully I'll get to them this weekend. One is regarding the utter nonsense that tax cuts pay for themselves. That will take a bit of time because I want to link to some places I need to dig up.

The other issue is one that will take some time, and that is my thoughts on feminism, which have been slowly percolating up after several months of reading and sometimes interacting on various blogs, including those of radical feminists, and those of feminists whom are apparently the target of attacks from radical feminists. Included with that will be my own ideas about gender and equality, which includes some of my personal history and how I think it has shaped my thoughts on the subject.

And of course, as always, I'm going to post about whetever else comes to mind. (I still want Gonzales out - it has gone beyond the pale now with the latest information - you know when John Ashcroft puts the brakes on and threatens to resign that someone has gone WAY over the line).

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

What bothers me about flying?? had one of those lovely, unscientific polls up, asking "what bothers you the most about flying?" I went to the site, eager to fill in my first choice, only to discover it wasn't even in the list!

What was missing that I wanted to answer? Stupid, pointless, feel-good, inefficient, useless, degrading, and authoritarian "security" measures, such as making people take off shoes, forbidding toothpaste and mouthwash, and otherwise giving dicatorial powers to petty bureaucrats who can strip-search you and then throw you in prison just for not being so meek as to bend over and take it without complaining.

Pretty much since they've instituted those measures, I have not flown on an airplane. And I will not fly. I think the measures are retarded and it saddens me to see people meekly subject themselves to it like sheep because of the threat of armed guards and the force of the government over it all. I don't feel any safer with those measures in place. I just feel like it wastes time. It is something the authorities do to make it seem like they are doing something. Meanwhile, real terrorists bypass such things with ease or just attack somewhere else. The simple fact is, NO security measure is foolproof. The best security you can have is to give no one any reason to want to breach your security in the first place.

Moreover, where real damage can be done, in our ports, at our borders, we have basically zero security. So it is all just a sick joke. And I refuse to participate. If the government is going to institute b.s. policies like "no toothpaste over 3 oz" then I'm simply not going to participate and all of my flying dollars will be lost to the industry. All of my tourist dollars will be lost to every destination that is further away from me than a reasonable drive. I'll take my savings and invest it in foreign stocks or anything else that will make sure the money does not somehow get back to the bureaucrats and authoritarian power mongers who made the stupid policies in the first place.

Ok, rant over. Maybe later I can post about the b.s. claim that "tax cuts pay for themselves."

Oh, one more thing - it is interesting that despite all of the reasons to hate flying related to the b.s. security measures that that was NOT a choice in the survey. Is that a subtle clue that we aren't really allowed to complain about that? Is that an indication that the creaters of the survey unconsciously are trained so as not to question the government on anything? It is fascinating to me that it was omitted. I read a lot into that.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Romney sows what the GOP has reaped

I saw an article on Andrew Sullivan, and then I saw this post by Armagh, and just had to comment on both.

Basically, both talk about how Romney is having trouble with the Christianist base of the GOP because he is a Mormon. Armagh laments the fact that his religion is even an issue, and on that basic point I agree, it is sad that one has to pass through some sort of religious test to get elected. An atheist certainly wouldn't stand a chance in hell of getting elected president in this country.

That said, I find it to be rather like poetic justice that Romney is being hurt by the religiousity of the GOP. They have set themselves up for this in that party. And it is difficult to have sympathy for him about it when those religious right voters are exactly the people he's trying to exploit to get the nomination from the GOP. I think Andrew Sullivan sums it up rather succinctly:

The ironies are obviously deep. The elite forces behind Romney are the elite forces behind Christianism. They have ridden the bigotry horse for a long time, and now it's trampling their favored candidate. One word: heh.

Heh indeed.

Gonzales Update

There are so many things I'd like to do a post on today, I'll be lucky to finish this one (gotta go get baby and then there's no chance for posting after that, usually...)

But I wanted to post about my least favorite Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales. He should be gone by now. I predicted he would be gone by the end of April. Sad to say that even me, with my low regard for Bush and friends, overestimated Bush's grasp of reality.

Gonzales is still in place and is saying he will never leave. I suppose even though he has zero credibility, he does act as a shield for Rove, of sorts. Still, it is sickening to see him clinging to power like this when any decent human being would have resigned in shame by now.

We should know by now, Bushies have no shame. They are shameless in their pursuit of power. Shameless in their hypocrisy. Shameless in their cynical lies about basically everything. It is so sickening to me, it makes me just want to stop even paying attention to them because it is just so depressing. But that would be letting them get away with it. And if I have anything to say about it, they will NOT get away with it. (Too bad I'm not supreme dictator of the world. Oh well. As it stands, the only thing I have complete control over is this blog.) Even the Gonzo-meter is down to only 55% chance of departure. Grrr.

Thus, I'll end this with a quote from the article I quoted above:

The decent thing is for Gonzales to resign. But expecting that a man who is a principal author of the nation’s torture policy, who authorized illegal wiretapping and extraordinary renditions will do the decent thing is almost laughable. It rests therefore with Congress to do the decent thing in his stead.

As far as Congress goes - well, I'm not holding my breath.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Co-sleeping with toddler

As the title suggests, my wife and I share our bed with our daughter, who is currently almost 21 months old.

First, just to clear the concerns, no, we did not do this from birth. We are well aware that newborns are in great danger of crib death or suffocation if they are in bed with you, and in fact, know that you are supposed to not only put them in their own space, but without blankets, sleeping on their back, until they are old enough and mobile enough to turn themselves over if they need to. So our daughter stayed in a basinet next to our bed for her first three or four months. Then we moved her to her crib. And she was fine there until about six months. Then grandma (my wife's mother) came to visit and help out for a month when I went back to work as part of the transition to day care. She would help with the baby at night, but it turned out that our daughter would refuse to cooperate, and so grandma would take her to bed with her and then just let her fall asleep there. So by the time she left, she absolutely refused to go to sleep by herself in the crib. And my wife absolutely refused to let her cry for even one minute, much less the hours that would be required (at first) for her to settle into the whole sleeping alone routine. Not wishing to fight over this, and rather just wanting to sleep so I could get up and go to work, we had her sleep with us. It was very easy, because she would just fall asleep without much effort at all when she was with us, and she was also extremely happy to have both mommy and daddy with her. She'd wake up at night and check to make sure we were still there. I'd sometimes feel her hand on my shoulder checking, or see her cute little eyes in the dark looking at me before closing again.

Now we are well used to it, since it has been this way for over a year. Moreover, ultimately, I don't think there is any real problem with it, beyond the logistics of fitting three in a queen-sized bed. For the first 200,000 years of our existence as a species, co-sleeping was the norm. You don't leave a toddler alone to sleep - they might get eaten by a lion or something. The phenomenon of sleeping alone at such a young age is a very very very recent one, and as such, I wonder if it is even a particularly good idea.

Of course, at times my wife would like her out of the bed, but at the same time, worries that she'll roll out of her own bed and she's worried she'll climb out of her crib. So we are sort of where we are by default, perhaps buying a King-sized bed soon to at least make more room. We've also put the bed off of the frame so it isn't quite so far for our daughter to fall, as she decided to do last week, twice.

Also, I admit, I rather like having her there with us. I can keep an eye on her, see that she's breathing (though not as fanatically as I did for those first months - any parent can tell you about that), see that she's safe, and enjoy when she cozys up. Plus, she is just so darn cute. Another bonus is that when she loses her binky, which she still needs most of the time to fall asleep, we can quickly help her locate it if she can't find it, as opposed to hearing her scream from across the house, have to get up, go to her room, find it, then go back to bed and try to get back to sleep after such a trek.

I figure when she is old enough to carry on some semblance of a conversation, we can have the discussion with her about her sleeping in her own bed. I also figure that she'll eventually want to assert her independence and sleep on her own. I'm not sure when that would be, and that would be a great milestone. I certainly don't want her there forever. She needs to grow up eventually. But for now, I admit, I enjoy having her there and it always brings a smile to my face to wake up in the morning and see her there, usually totally out, her mouth open, her arms above her head, sleeping like she's dead to the world, and looking darn cute while she's at it. And some mornings she'll wake up and then see me and my wife and have this huge smile and she'll start talking with us (who knows what she's saying) and that is just so pleasant as well, though it only happens on the weekends, since we usually have to get our little zombie up ourselves on weekdays when we get up rather early. Then, we have fun dressing her while she's trying to stay sleeping on the bed.

I'm sure some will have comments pro- and con- about co-sleeping. For us right now, it just sort of "is."

Friday, May 11, 2007

Corporate Crime

This is the sort of Corporate crime that sickens me - and it sickens me even more that they got away with it. Blatently so. Something no ordinary bank robber would EVER get off on allows banks to skate. Ugh. This makes me so mad.

When I say corporations need to be held to higher standards and need more transparency, this is what I'm talking about and why.

The $138,095 Question Lingers...

Well, this post of mine led to this post by Thinking Girl, which has now led to quite a discussion back and forth over there. Just mentioning it in case anyone missed it, since a lot of discussion seems to have migrated over there. I'll save further comments for that so as to avoid repeating myself.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

This was the Senate Vote that made me DBB

Glenn Greenwald talks about it in today's post. I sure hope the Dems show some spine and put this back. This was the vote that made me take the moniker, as discussed previously, of Disgusted Beyond Belief.

Gasoline for the Fire - Virtual Rape

Here's some gasoline for the virtual fire of online discussion: Virtual rape. What first struck me about this was that this is a form of assault where strength, size, gender are all irrelevant and it is only about someone using superior intellectual skill in a narrow area (computer use / programming) to "assault" someone else. So a four foot tall twelve year old girl could potentially "virtually rape" a six foot six three hundred pound linebacker.

As far as criminalizing it as if it were rape, well, I think that makes about as much sense as criminalizing killing someone's character in an online game like it was murder. And since it is a virtual world, not the real world, it lends itself to a business solution - if stuff like that happens and people don't like it, they can opt out of the world and spend their money elsewhere, so the owners of the site have an interest in making their customers happy or else they'll lose them.

I played an online game years ago, Ultima Online. There were lots of problems there with issues of murder and theft - i.e. players killing you when you left the "safe" towns and taking all of your stuff, to the point where it just wasn't worth it to leave town anymore. That was a big reason I just stopped playing it. Newer online games have things in place to prevent that sort of thing from happening and they are prospering.

Why I am a libertarian (small-l)


I probably will not be as comprehensive with this as I would like, but I wanted to at least briefly explain why I am a libertarian. First, it would be helpful for anyone reading this to actually read the wikipedia entry for a brief overview of libertarianism, so I don't have to go over all of it here and reinvent the wheel.

Astute observers of this blog may have noticed a link for Lew Rockwell's site, which is a libertarian site. I usually take a look there each day, though I don't read all the links and I don't necessarily agree with all of them, either. I should say I don't necessarily agree with any one particular camp of libertarian, either. Nor am I a supporter of the Libertarian political party, but then perhaps that is just because I see it as a lost cause, given our two-party political system.

So, to get back to the title of this post, Why am I a libertarian? To put it most simply, I'm a libertarian because I see the basic ecnomics underlying that to be the only economic system that actually works and that appeals to me in the practical sense. It also appeals to me because of it inherent underlying fairness of a system based on a mutually agreed, consensual exchange between parties. (There are also the civil liberties aspects of it).

If I go out and by my own labor produce something and then you want to buy it from me, the only fair price is the price we can both agree on. If we can't agree on a price, well, I can always try and find someone else to sell it to, and if no one wants to buy it for my price, then I am forced to lower it until it reaches a point where there is someone who would mutually agree with me on that price, and then we have an exchange. How else could you set the price on something without the use of force or coercion?

Note that I don't think that the US is a fully capitalist economy, and it certainly isn't libertarian. There are far too many subsidies, both in the form of tax breaks and outright patronage, of people (with things like welfare) right up to entire industries (corporate welfare). I'd get rid of ALL of it if I could. Also, the way corporations themselves are set up is also anti-capitalist - often the owners (i.e. stockholders) have very little idea what the governing boards are doing, executives often ignore the shareholders, and boards and CEOs are not independent of each other, so you have lots of backscratching going on, leading to things like the utterly ridiculous CEO pay we have now. Corporations need a lot more transparency, shareholder control, and accounting rules in order for them to really function, from my perspective. As it is, large corporations are as bad as big government in their inefficiency and in their patronage (where business is determined often not by what is the best deal, but with who your CEO golfing buddies are).

Some libertarians equate taxation with theft or confiscation, and I am sympathetic to that characterization for the simple fact that it is an accurate representation of what most taxation is. It is the government (a bunch of people with guns) telling you to give up your money or else they will come at you (guns drawn) and put you in prison and then take it anyway. Democracy doesn't change this. It is like if you went into a room with 100 people, and you happened to have on a nice pearl necklace worth $100,000, and the other people in the room decided they want it, so they just say, 'let's make it fair, we'll vote to see if you have to give up your necklace and share the proceeds with everyone in the room' and unsurprisingly, the vote is 99-1, and so the 99 advance on you, fists out, so you lose the necklace, but hey, you get a check for $1,000, and so does everyone else. Is that fair? Not really, particularly if you spent your whole life saving money, working hard, and finally scraped up the money to buy it, only to have people who did not work to earn it take it away from you with nothing more than a vote and a threat to enforce it.

Of course, not all taxes are like that. Toll roads, court filing fees, even sales taxes, are all based on taxing an activity, not the person, and so you can avoid the tax by avoiding the activity, though some are rather hard to avoid. At the very least you can control how much you are taxed by some of the choices you make. And those taxes actually pay for something you are getting - the use of the road, the use of the courts. With sales taxes, it is much more general, which is perhaps why some advocate using those over income taxes.

I don't have a problem with some level of taxation. I also would like to see it be progressive. I'd favor a flat income tax, for instance, with say an exemption of $50,000 for each person. That way no one pays any income tax on the first $50,000 of their income. It probably wouldn't work numbers wise given our bloated government (but that could be reduced as well...), but it is a good place to start the discussion.

And I just want to point out that libertarianism and capitalism (for me) isn't about greed and loving money, nor is it about exploiting the poor or living off of them. It is about fair and voluntary exchange. It is about living in a society where, if you want to increase your resources (money) then you figure out what it is people want (what is in demand) and then you try and provide it (like getting a degree, or becoming a Vet, or making the better mousetrap) and get your just compensation for doing so. In other words, you earn your way. If what you are currently doing isn't enough, you change and do something else. It is about choices. You could also chose to make less money but do something you enjoy, and then as part of that you chose to live a cheaper lifestyle.

I think this works because it is about self-motivation and providing for yourself. If you just give someone something, not only is it not as appreciated, it is a demotivator. Why should you work hard if you can just sit on your ass and have things handed to you? Why should those who do work hard have the fruits of their labor confiscated and given to people who chose not to work?

Now, this is not to generalize that everyone who has a lot of money worked hard to get it or that those who have little do not work hard. People are born into both camps. But with hard work, one can make a living. My parents were both born dirt poor. They clawed their way to the middle class, getting degrees, working hard. Now they are solidly middle class. I was born middle class. But then I had to work hard to stay there, going to school (on scholarships), working while doing so. I had the advantage of my parents helping me, so that I graduated undergrad with no debt (though also no money), and I paid for law school entirely myself (with a generous scholarship I earned).

Despite the problems with class mobility, I still don't see how you could do it any other way. Because again, if you give people something without them working for it, then you destroy and demotivate. I worked with some great people over the years who told me all sorts of interesting things about growing up poor. One woman I worked with grew up in a neighborhood (and still lives in it) where there were a lot of people on welfare. She had nothing but contempt for them and the way she described how they acted was horrible. They did nothing, they contributed nothing. They got paid for their children, but then did not really watch them and let them run wild in the street, trashing other's property, including this woman's home. She grew up in that but decided to get out of it, went to school, and then she got a job doing the same thing I was doing at the time, IT work. Welfare simply doesn't work. If I got a paycheck for sitting on my ass at home, why should I bother working? I like spending time at home. If I could do that and get paid while I do basically whatever I wanted, sounds like a good deal to me.

So as part of this, I think no one should have children unless they are both financially and emotionally ready for it. To do otherwise is irresponsible. If you can't afford kids, I don't think you should have any, and if you do, I'm not going to pay for them. That is your responsibility. If I did pay for them, why would you stop at just one? Why not have ten? I know I'd love to have ten kids, but I know that I could not reasonably care for them, even if I had the money, because that's just too many to keep track of and give the proper attention to. So I plan on having only two or three kids, at most.

I do think people deserve to be paid, at a minimum, a living wage. I think the reason employers get away with paying less is because of things like welfare. In a closed system, you would have no choice but to pay a living wage because if you didn't, well, then by definition, your workers would die, decreasing the supply of workers (thus increasing their price) until you reached a point where the cost of workers, due to their rarity, also pays a living wage, and then the supply stops going down. Of course, if society subsidizes the poor with food stamps and welfare, then you can pay below a living wage and the workers won't die off as a result, so in essence, you get to make a much larger profit by exploiting society's spending on welfare and food stamps and such. But if that welfare wasn't there, then wages would have to be higher - employers would have no choice. And those higher wages would not necessarily make things more expensive, because more money in more people's pockets means more spending, which means more profits, which can then pay for more wages.

Ok, this is a long and rambling post on a bunch of things regarding my thoughts about libertarianism and economics. I haven't even gotten to the civil liberties aspect of it, though that is also a big part of it. I guess I'll leave that for another post.

UPDATED: Ok, so I didn't wait. I wanted to add a few things. First, to show how I live in conformance to my economic view. I used to be in IT. I did that for years. But then jobs started drying up as they were sent to China and India and Brazil. I dispute the merits of outsourcing for many reasons. But the simple fact is, it is happening and IT jobs in America were drying up. I could have just sat there and watched my job evaporate around me, called for some form of protectionism, and so on. But then that wouldn't have been particularly helpful. When the world switches from horses to cars, buggy-whip makers better adapt or die. So instead of just sitting and whining, I retooled myself. I went back to school and got my law degree. I made myself a marketable commodity in a profession that is much harder to outsource for various reasons. Now, the market for lawyers in many places also isn't great, but it is better than IT. I will still have to compete and work hard for a good job. I have one now, but it won't be forever. I'll have to look again soon. Sure, it sucks when a job you spent a lot of time on goes away for reasons that are not your fault, but that is just a fact of life. You need to be flexible and adapt. We can't all just make a living making simple stone tools forever. You have to move on when the world moves on or be left behind.

I also want to talk about civil liberties. That is another HUGE reason I'm a libertarian. And I'm consistent across the board on that. I favor strong enforcement of ALL of the bill of rights, not just the parts of it that support left or right. That means I'm strongly for freedom of the press and freedom of religion (and FROM religion) and I'm also strongly for citizens being free to own guns (as opposed to it being a government monopoly). I favor strong fourth amendment enforcement, where not only should illegal searches be excluded, but I'd favor the police being prosecuted for executing an illegal search (absent innocent mistake). I'm for funding public defenders at the same level as prosecutors. I'm for eliminating plea deals with witnesses and overcharging by prosecutors. As far as I'm concerned, offering someone a lesser sentence for testifying is nothing but bribery, which incidentally, is illegal.

I'm a strong believer in the notion that so long as you don't hurt me or my property, I won't hurt you or your property. Live and let live. So I'm against laws against any sort of adult consensual behavior. Such laws tend to just corrupt the police and clog our justice system. Read this book (conveniently available in its entirety online) for an excellent treatise on why this is so. We have far too many laws on the books as it is, to the point where probably a police officer could find some excuse to arrest just about anyone at any time - a power I'd rather the police not have.

I'm in favor of small, limited government, of limited powers. I do recognize that there is a place for the government, I just think it is gone way beyond where it should be. I'm in favor of federalism, in the sense that there are a lot of things the Federal government is involved with that it simply should not be if we actually follow the Constitution. Though I am in favor of federal involvement in one area - forcing the States to respect our civil rights and enforcing the bill of rights. My mistrust of government and power extends to all levels, right down to the local.

Ok, now I've rambled a bit more.

Oh, and ONE FURTHER NOTE: I hope no one takes my talk about a living wage above to mean I favor letting poor people starve to death or die of exposure to increase wages. My point is that without subsidies, pay would have to be higher, because employers couldn't benefit from society picking up the tab.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

I Hate Sports


Ok, maybe that is a tad strong, but that is the general sentiment I've had for most of my life. And though I've never been particularly good at sports, that isn't the reason I felt this way. Which makes sense, because I'm sure there are millions of men who are not particularly good at sports who are, nonetheless, rabid sports fanatics.

No, for me, what I have always hated is watching sports, and not so much that, but the huge emphasis placed on sports starting from a very young age. I hated seeing so much time and effort put into sports and sporting events, making small celebrities out of the athletes while at the same time, those who were in school for the actual purpose of school - to be educated, were sidelined. I hated seeing all those letter jackets for the sports people when there were no equivalent letter jackets for scholastic achievement or even for those who excelled on the debate team or other intellectual teams for the school. (And again, this isn't because I wanted such recognition - I was never on any of the scholastic teams.) It seemed to me to be sending the wrong message - a focus on the wrong priority. You are told to do well in school, but then those who do so are ignored and sidelined as nerds while those who do poorly but can throw a ball are heroes.

Now, this has probably handicapped me for life socially, because apparently all men are supposed to be able to relate to each other through talking about sports. But I have no interest in sports and know nothing about any teams or players and never watch any games. This might be perhaps why I don't make many male friends, at least, fewer than average. And why with women friends I have I never seem to connect much with their husbands or boyfriends. I don't know the code words, I don't seem to have anything in common - and if there is something in common buried beneath the surface - well, men aren't generally very good at finding such things, which is probably why the default topic between men who don't know each other well is sports.

I remember going on an interview for a summer associate position with a large, prestigious firm when I was in law school. I had made it through round one, but then came round two with a parade of lawyers asking me things, and then the interview lunch with several of the younger associates. The whole topic through lunch was sports and I had nothing to say. They did bring up something about another season of "Survivor" coming on, and that, at least, I was familiar with -I like that show. But all I got in response to mentioning that was a dismissive disdain for it as now no longer being "novel" so not worth watching. Only later did I realize that such a statement was ridiculous from people talking only about sports - sports are no different than survivor. All sports are reality TV, playing the same game over and over. That's all Survivor is. It is just a game of intellectual skill and manipulation, not athletics (though athletics obviously play a role). In any case, I knew after that lunch I would probably not get the position, and I didn't. If I were a woman and a feminist, I might blame the ever elusive, mythical "patriarchy" that allegedly controls all. But I am a man. I can't say for sure that was the reason I did not get the position, but I'm sure it certainly played a role. And it had nothing to do with gender.

If I were nakedly ambitious, I might just fake it, learn about sports, force myself to pay attention to it, and then talk about it in such situations, but I'm not very good at faking interest in something. I've also since determined that I'd probably never want to work for a large firm anyway, though it isn't just large firms where sports interest would be useful. Hopefully it won't handicap me too much in my profession in the future.

Now if anyone wants to talk about gaming (Dungeons and Dragons!), or politics, or religion - well, I can get into all sorts of trouble there, but I won't have to fake any interest.

UPDATE: One thing I forgot to mention was where my lack of interest in sports originated. I think it is basically because my dad seems to have no interest in sports. Which just goes to show you that alot of what we are is shaped by our environment. My mother, on the other hand, is a rabid College Basketball and Football fan - but only for her school. And so, not too unsurprisingly, my sister is also much more interested in sports, and she was the jock in the family. She taught Physical Education in high school and she's a black belt in Tai Quon Do. As you might imagine, this also gave me a different perspective on men and women growing up, one that took years for me to figure out wasn't the general case. I will probably post about my different perspective at another time.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Stay at home [parent] worth $138,095!

As the article breathlessly states, "If the typical stay-at-home mother in the United States were paid for her work as a housekeeper, cook and psychologist among other roles, she would earn $138,095 a year, according to research released Wednesday."

Uh, yeah, right. These articles always annoy me. I'm sorry, stay at home parents are not worth that much money. That's not how the market works. You don't just add up all of the various tasks you do, cross reference them to some generic job field, like 'psychologist' and then add it all up. You find out how much you are worth salary-wise by finding, in the free market, someone willing to pay you for those services. Since probably NO ONE pays someone $138,095 to fulfill the duties involved with child care, particularly when it is your OWN child, then this study is ridiculous.

On top of that, it is ridiculous to equate to a profession like pschologist, something you need multiple degrees and many many years of hard work before you could earn money as one. I'm sorry, having a functional reproductive system does not automatically qualify you to get paid market rates as a psychologist. Even the 'cook' title is silly, because it compares to professional chefs, again, people who dedicate considerable time and effort perfecting the craft of cooking. And it probably doesn't even factor in the fact that if you cook for your children, odds are you are cooking for yourself at the same time, and presumably you won't be hired to feed yourself.

I think the only way to get a "realistic" estimate on a silly notion such as this is to look at what the people who actually fulfill this sort of role are paid. E.g. Nannies. Last I checked, even nannies to the rich don't make $138,095 per year. But then I don't have much contact with those folks, so what do I know. I do know that friends who have had nannies paid them around seven dollars an hour, which would equate to $14,000 per year, call it $25,000 with generous hours of overtime, up to 60 hours per week. That's rather short of $138,095. And it shows the true economic value, if you want to reduce it to that, of stay-at-home parenting.

Incidentally, I was a stay-at-home parent for my daughter for the first six months of her life, so I am intimately familiar with everything that is involved in that and I know it isn't easy. Of course, it was also very rewarding and I'd not trade those days for any amount of money. But then, that is a personal thing. The fact is, we do NOT get paid to take care of our own. We can't even tax deduct the cost of raising a child. Child support does not reduce your tax obligation. And for good reason. We are expected to take care of our own. If you want to have a child, you need to make sure you can economically support that child. That is the proper, responsible thing to do. It is ridiculous to expect to get paid for doing that, but that is what is behind the mindset of setting a monetary value on staying at home as a parent. Does it have value personally? Yes. Is that something you can quantify with money in the form of a salary? No, it really is not. So surveys like that just plain annoy me. They aren't based in any sort of economic reality.

The choice whether to stay home or not is a personal one that depends on many factors, some of which you don't have much control over. You may feel underappreciated for doing it. I know I did at times. But that doesn't mean it was worth $138,095 per year for me to do it. (A sum that, incidentally, probably vastly exceeds the maximum salary for almost every profession).

So please, no more of these stupid articles.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Denialism - A New Blog of Interest

I discovered a new blog called denialism.

Here's the first paragraph of their first post (note, due to a formatting issue on this post, you'll need to scroll down quite a bit to read the text):

Here at denialism blog, we're very interested in what makes people cranks. Not only how one defines crankish behavior, but literally how people develop unreasonable attitudes about the world in the face of evidence to the contrary. Our definition of a crank, loosely, is a person who has unreasonable ideas about established science or facts that will not relent in defending their own, often laughable, version of the truth. Central to the crank is the "overvalued idea". That is some idea they've incorporated into their world view that they will not relinquish for any reason. Common overvalued ideas that are a source of crankery range from bigotry, antisemitism(holocaust deniers), biblical literalism (creationists - especially YEC's), egotism (as it relates to the complete unwillingness to ever be proven wrong) or an indiscriminant obsession with possessing "controversial" or iconoclastic ideas. Some people just love believing in things that no one in their right mind does, out of some obscure idea that it makes them seem smart or different.

It looks to be an interesting read and it will provide a useful resource against all of what I call the "anti-information" or "disinformation" that is out there, as well as the tactics used to shut down or avoid cognent debate. I highly recommend it.

The Rule of Law

In our nation, the rule of law is supposed to be supreme. There is supposed to be no one who is above the law, not even the president. And yet, the primary governing philosophy of the faction that has taken over the GOP has abandoned this principle, and it is downright scary that they have gotten this far with it.

Instead, as Glenn Greenwald discusses today, a prominent neocon published an article in the WSJ (that paragon of democracy - NOT) titled The Case for the Strong Executive -- Under some circumstances, the Rule of Law must yield to the need for Energy. And it is all about how the president is above the law in any time of emergency. Truly scary, and yet to him, it is as natural as breathing. There is a word that describes a nation whose leader can ignore the law and act as he pleases in an "emergency" (funny how emergencies seem to go on and on in those cases...) - Fascism. The federalist papers explicitly warned about executive power being grown in an emergency. Funny how those who fill the ranks of the Federalist Society conveniently ignore that major part of federalism these days.

We need the rule of law restored. We need this badly, urgently. I think the only way this will ever happen is if we get a Democratic president in 2009, and not for the obvious reason. I think this is necessary because the GOP is filled with hypocrites and because the GOP is far far far far better at PR and politics than the Democratic party will EVER be. They control the framing of pretty much all discussion on the MSM. See this article and this article by Glenn for further discussion on that. (Yes, I know, you have to look at an ad to read them - it is worth it). So basically, the GOP has a huge advantage, one that is only being offset now because PR can only cover up the stink of incompetence and scandal for so long before the whole termite-ridden apparatus must give in to the laws of physics and collapse. Thus, once there is a Democrat in the White House, that whole PR apparatus will then work AGAINST executive power, because all of a sudden, the hypocritical GOP will rediscover the Constitution and checks and balances, not because they actually believe in it, but because they will see it as a bludgeon to use against the new Democratic executive. And with that bludgeon, they'll tear down much of the support they've put out there for power for the president.

If the MSM actually did its job, such a thing would never be necessary. Unfortuantely, the MSM serves power and gets its talking points from the GOP, so I've given up on them. If not for the blogsphere and people like Glenn Greenwald, we'd be in far deeper trouble than we are already.

One shining light of hope - the NYT apparently is not going to participate in the White House Correspondents Dinner anymore. I hope that is true. They are supposed to be checking those in power, not rubbing elbows with them and exchanging war stories.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007


I'm still sick as a dog. You know what else is sick? Our justice system. (See, isn't that oh so clever of me?)

I've been wanting for some time to write about Prosecutors. In general. Not that I've ever been one or had to deal with one across the aisle directly. I have lots of links I want to put on this too, but right now I'm coughing enough that this will be short.

My main pet peeve with prosecutors is that they often seem to put the whole adversarial process and trying to nail someone ahead of this thing called justice, something which they are supposed to zealously pursue. It is not like when you have a civil suit, where you expect the hired gun for each side to be relentless in representation. Prosecutors are supposed to represent justice, not just getting convictions. They are supposed to only file charges where appropriate - not overcharge or charge where the evidence is thin, hoping a jury will sort it out. They are not supposed to argue legally suspect positions just to sustain a conviction. Again, the interests of justice require them to advocate for the correct rule of law, not just for whatever rule is convenient for them to win a motion or an appeal.

I've seen far too many do all sorts of shitty things, legally suspect things, at trial, and then make shady arguments on appeal. Arguments that they, as ministers of justice, have no business making. If there is an error in the law, they are sworn to recognize it. Sure, on appeal, they could argue the error was harmless, but they should never argue there was no error at all if the law is clear. That is not looking out for the interests of justice. Oh, and those shitty things done at trial - in my experience, they don't ever result in reversal on appeal. It is not like on TV where you see defendants getting off left and right on technicalities. If anything, it is the prosecutors who get off on technicalities, doing ethically suspect things at trial and then winning on appeal because they argue the errors were "harmless" to the result. One has to wonder if such errors really are "harmless" why prosecutors persist in using them against defendants.

I know this may sound vague. It is. I can't be specific for confidentiality reasons. But I will have more to say about this later. With links and everything.

(Boy, I hate being sick).