March 25, 2006


Stupidize Me...Again

Photo by Catherine Meredith

...Morgan Spurlock impressed simpletons en masse with his dimwitted documentary Super-size Me, in which he ate nothing but McDonald’s food for a month and gained weight. His followers somehow figured that the fast food giant had forced poor Spurlock to eat the crappy food by using slick advertising and sinister tactics such as asking him if he wanted a larger order (apparently he had no choice but to say “yes”). On Friday afternoon, Spurlock increased that fan base to include the childish—literally—while simultaneously succeeding in making an ass out of himself in front of those audience members who weren’t going through puberty anymore.
...Spurlock gave a speech at the Hatboro-Horsham High School auditorium and was supposedly going to discuss healthy eating, but the result was a profanity-laden rant in which he mocked ethnic groups, insinuated that teachers smoked marijuana in the school’s balcony, and at one point made fun of the special education students, calling them the “retarded kids in the back wearing helmets.” The special needs teachers then ushered the children out to prevent them from being the butt of any more of Spurlock’s jokes.
...After the tirade, the students gave Spurlock a standing ovation and sought his autograph. The adults in the crowd, however, weren’t as pleased with his arrested development and seventh-grade locker room vocabulary. The district’s superintendent said, “If you put the whole package together, the use of the F-word and poking fun at teachers and the comments about special needs students, it just wasn’t appropriate.”
...Spurlock defended his act by saying that the kids learned a lesson in free speech and responded to the possibility of the school district withholding payment by saying, “They can keep every penny.”
...There’s not much to say about this. I’d sooner let Spurlock’s juvenile actions speak for themselves; it’s obvious that they speak volumes. When your fan base consists of children and imbecilic adults, it puts the whole thing into perspective, doesn’t it?

March 23, 2006


Last Call

...The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission is using undercover agents across the lone star state to begin arresting bar patrons for being drunk—while they’re still sitting inside the bar. A spokesperson for the commission said that sitting at a bar doesn’t exempt you from laws that would otherwise be applied to people who weren’t at the bar, and by arresting them before they leave the establishment, the inebriated people won’t have a chance to get behind the wheel when they leave the pub. It doesn’t seem to matter if you have a designated driver with you or not.
...The spokesperson, Carolyn Beck, said, “There are a lot of dangerous and stupid things people do when they’re intoxicated, other than get behind the wheel of a car.”
...Ms. Beck and her friends at the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission are showing us that people can do stupid things when they’re sober, too.
Source: KUTV

March 22, 2006


This Space for Rent

...The Internet has once again allowed for freedom of choice, and a few people find that downright offensive.
...The community classifieds Website Craigslist has come under fire for allowing postings of renters who want roommates with a catch. In some instances, men are offering to share their rooms with women in exchange for sex. One man, as an example, offers his Coral Gables condominium for rent at a rate of $1 per month, provided that the female housemate is willing to take care of the dog, cook, and put out at least twice a week. The Miami-Dade police call it prostitution; the renters call it bartering.
...In other instances, some renters want to live with people who are similar to them, making several so-called civil rights attorneys livid. One renter, as an example, was hoping to live with a Christian female. The Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights calls that “discrimination.” Apparently it’s being mean to atheists, agnostics, and men.
Room & Headboard
...Law enforcement agents are quick to call the rooms-for-sex idea a form of prostitution. The rooms would otherwise be paid for with money, they argue, but instead are substituted with sexual favors. Therefore, they figure, the sexual favors have the monetary value of the room. That turns the exchange into prostitution, or so they say.
...My stance on real prostitution isn’t a popular one as it is, since I think that if a person chooses to rent their body for whatever reason, it’s their choice. I’ve never used the services of a hooker—hell, I don’t even like using public water fountains—but would argue that any person whose job involves agreement by all participants is one that should be allowed. Is hooking detrimental to our society in the long run? Possibly, but if we were to outlaw all things detrimental we’d have to outlaw fast food, television, spending too much time in front of the computer, pornography, violent movies, suggestive music, video games, and even using dirty words. Will those be next?
...If anything, rooms-for-sex is a form of bartering, able to work only if there’s an absence of coercion and hinging upon absolute agreement by all parties involved. If we were to see it otherwise, it would be expanding the definition of “prostitution” to the point where we might have to arrest quite a few girlfriends and wives for what might become known as solicitation. Allow me to offer a personal story as a possibility.
...I know a woman who enjoys collecting Longaberger baskets, but they’re notoriously expensive. If she finds herself craving a new basket, but happens to be low on funds, she and her husband have an agreement whereby she goes above and beyond the call of duty in the bedroom. In return, he’s more than happy to buy her the basket of her choice. (I offer my sincere apologies to the fine people at Longaberger who now know how one of their loyal customers has been able to stay loyal for so long.)
...This must be prostitution, correct? She’s doing sexual favors for something that would otherwise have a monetary value, is she not? I guess that we’ll have to call her a hooker and he a john. We’ll have to lock them up and throw away the key.
...Not to change the subject, but one other notable aspect which cropped up in the rooms-for-sex story is how it has drawn the ire of the modern women’s rights movement (I use the term “modern” because it bears little resemblance to the women’s rights movement of the late-nineteenth century and early-twentieth century). The Miami chapter of Women’s Movement Now says that this is a sign of how women continue to be marginalized and exploited. Of the advertisements, director Sophie Brion says, “They are an indicator of how much work still needs to be done to eradicate institutional inequities and harmful attitudes toward women that persist.”
...Let’s think optimistically, shall we? This creates an opportunity for women to illustrate how strong they can really be. No one is forcing any woman to respond to these rooms-for-sex advertisements. Allow me to be an even bigger optimist and suggest that advertisements such as these permit women to unite and say “no” to a bunch of chauvinist pigs; it also allows women to think for themselves and enter into the agreement if they so choose. Women making their own choices is a good thing, isn’t it, Ms. Brion?
...This is one more situation where the modern women’s rights movement confuses me. On one hand those who are involved in the movement argue that women are strong, liberated, and able to think for themselves. On the other hand they’re quick to suggest that women are easily manipulated and exploited at the whim of a cunning male.
...So which is it? Are women headstrong, confident, and in charge of themselves, or are they fragile little creatures that are easily deceived by manipulative men who are out to use them and toss them aside? If they are fragile, naïve creatures, is their survival dependent upon the “guidance” from organizations such as Women’s Movement Now?
...My personal belief is that women—as well as men—should not be generalized. There are decisive, headstrong women who know what they want and have the gumption to tell you what they think and why (my favorite kind of woman); there are other women who are fragile little creatures who do whatever they’re told by men who manipulate them, and oftentimes exploit them. Why is this? I’m guessing that it’s because people are different. I might even be so bold as to suggest that we’re diverse.
Birds of a Feather
...The diversity issue leads us nicely into the second half of this story, where we have a few people who are against free choice, but play the discrimination card to hide their intentions.
...It might be a shock to some people, but human beings are different. We look different, we smell different, we have different interests, we like different foods, we like different music, we like different books, we have different ideas when it comes to politics. In response, many of us like to group ourselves with other people who have similar interests; conversely, we often tend to avoid people whose differences are so great that we have little common ground.
...A person who enjoys conversations on politics, books, and classical music might have little interest in spending time with a person who likes country music, NASCAR, and raccoon hunting. Is that discrimination? Yes. Is it wrong, especially when it comes to living together? A group of lawyers in Chicago might think so.
...The Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights filed a lawsuit against Craigslist for allowing advertisements which seek roommates of particular persuasions. They say that renters who want to live with specific people are discriminating against others.
...I’m not sure where to begin with this, because it reeks of something. Is it condescension? Stupidity? Political correctness? Social engineering? Indeed, it makes us wonder where it will stop. What are the odds that this is a move—similar to the bartering issue above—to broaden the definition of “discrimination” in an attempt to pave the way for more litigation and more laws to help create a “fair” society, as defined by those who are doing the paving?
...Since we’ve seen absurdities thus far, we must wonder how much more absurd things can become. Do we force a forty-something woman who seeks a similar roommate to live with a twenty-something college boy because allowing her to choose is discriminatory? Do we force a twenty-something college girl to live with a middle-aged man for “fairness”?
...If renters’ advertisements foster discrimination, let’s not be surprised if personal ads are next. If a woman is seeking a man who is tall, dark, and handsome, will it then be perceived as her discriminating against men who are short, pale, and ugly? Moreover, will she be deemed homophobic for not giving other women a chance to be her significant other? If a gay Latino man is in search of a similar person as a mate, does that mean that he’s discriminating against non-Latinos, women, or heterosexuals? Actually, in both cases they are discriminating. It’s their preference, isn’t it?
...Obviously these are extremes (for now), but every day we have a new idea of discrimination and a new group of people who are offended.
...If we’re going to be a nation of free choice and free association we must be willing to admit that those choices aren’t going to be agreed upon by 100 percent of the populace. Absolute agreement is impossible because of our diversity. In turn, we must be willing to admit that diversity isn’t limited to skin color or sex. Diversity also means different likes and dislikes, which can sometimes offend people.
...Then again, maybe this entire post was a waste of time because the cause of our disagreements is what we’re otherwise proud of: Our diversity.
Source: Miami Herald

March 21, 2006


The Student Body

...After having the charges against her dropped, teacher-turned-temptress Debra LaFave held a news conference in which she remarked that her face has been plastered on every Website across the Internet. I quickly realized that I had yet to plaster her face—or breasts or legs, for that matter—here, and didn’t want to let any of my loyal readers down.
...Actually it was because I haven’t posted in a few days and felt like publishing something.
...Now begins the waiting game to see what comes first: a Debra LaFave movie? A book deal? Another bikini calendar? A spread for Playboy? A manual for bipolar teachers with X-rated curves?
...I can’t help but think that in the next few years we’ll see more people use the bipolar defense in court cases.
Source: WTSP

March 17, 2006


Reading, Writing, and Virology

...When I was in kindergarten—many eons ago—my teacher and her aide spent the vast majority of their time teaching us the foundations for our years of education that would follow. We started with letters and numbers, ever so carefully as to make sure that we wouldn’t be overwhelmed; the alphabet was presented with patience, numbers were introduced 10 at a time, and after we understood the basics of those we were told how to apply them so that we could create the most basic sentence structures. In between that we learned our colors, the five senses, shapes, and the names of animals that so many of us thought were cute and cuddly. During recess we would race to the monkey bars and swing-set to see who would use it that day; those who didn’t get there in time would ultimately end up playing tag or using the sliding board.
...Oh, how times have changed.
...Starting next week, in accordance with state law, New York’s public school kindergarteners will begin to learn about HIV and AIDS, and how it’s difficult to “get well” from them. Some parents and teachers alike are questioning the curriculum, which is designed to introduce the disease to the five-year-olds with instruction that “contains positive messages about staying healthy,” according to the spokeswoman for the state’s education department. It’s said that the kids won’t hear about sex until they’re in fourth grade—is that the average age when sexual activity begins in New York?—and if any parents wish for their children to opt out of the class, they must write to the principal. I’m guessing that any kids who opt out would be sent to another room where they would learn more of the alphabet so that they can actually get to the letters H, I, and V.
...Teachers who have expressed concern over the curriculum have done so not on the basis of prudishness, but out of concern over the comprehension and cognitive abilities of children that age. One teacher said, “You can tell a second-grader there are different illnesses, colds and viruses, and they’ll understand. But they don’t understand the difference between cancer and HIV.” Another teacher remarked, “They might understand to some extent, but in kindergarten and first grade, it’s impossible.”
...Curriculum such as this, for children this age, should not be implemented for three distinct reasons.
...First, and possibly most important, is the comprehension ability of children as young as this due to their natural cognitive development. Kindergarten-age children fall into the stage of adolescence which Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget called the “preoperational stage.” According to Piaget’s research, children this age acquire language and figure out how to use symbols that represent the world around them. Children this age can deal with the world in a symbolic manner, but can’t think logically.
...In fact, Piaget’s next step in cognitive development, the “concrete operational stage” (ages seven to 11), doesn’t allow for complete logical reasoning, either; children at this level are able to apply logical reasoning only to things which they’ve experienced. It isn’t until children reach approximately 11 years of age—the “formal operational stage”—when they can finally think in fully-logical, abstract terms. Piaget’s work supports the comments that were made by the teacher who expressed concerns over her students’ inability to understand the difference between cancer and HIV. To state it bluntly, children are children—they’re not little adults.
...The second reason that the HIV/AIDS curriculum for kindergarten is difficult to defend is the nature of the disease. The state says that kindergarten children won’t be instructed on the sexual aspects of HIV and AIDS until fourth grade. If that’s the case, why even have the course in the first place? HIV and AIDS has a track record of being spread via unprotected sex, intravenous drug use (with contaminated needles being shared), and blood transfusions. The Centers for Disease Control Website offers five sections for HIV/AIDS prevention, and two of them deal with sexual topics. So, if we eliminate the sexual topics from the discussion, we’re left with mother-to-child transmission, occupational transmission for healthcare workers, and clinical trials of antiretroviral drugs as prevention. In terms of transmission, we’re left with bad blood transfusions (which are decreasing due to better screening) and intravenous drug use. Unless New York has an epidemic of smack-shooting five-year-olds who share their needles, it doesn’t seem as if any of these topics are worth discussing with a demographic whose two most important times of the day are snack time and nap time.
...My third complaint is for the people whose job it is to defend the teachers. Where is the opposition to this law from the New York teachers’ union(s)? If anything, this is ammunition for people who are critical of public education; now they can say that teachers aren’t spending enough time teaching the children the basics (i.e., the alphabet, numbers, shapes, colors, etc.). Instead, it can be argued, they’re spending time discussing viruses and diseases to an audience which isn’t completely sure of what a virus or disease is. With the implementation of this curriculum, the anti-public school crowd can now say, “These kids can’t count to 100 because more time is being spent showing them information on viruses—viruses which they can’t yet spell properly.” Is this what the New York teachers’ association wants?
...Politicians in New York should be more concerned with kindergarteners knowing their alphabet, their numbers, their colors, and their shapes; save human immunodeficiency viruses for later. On the other hand, New York voters—many of whom are parents—have elected the politicians in question. Perhaps this is simply what the parents want.

March 12, 2006


Going to the Dogs

...Pennsylvania is already notorious for having essentially put all of its barbers out of business due to excessive regulations, licensing requirements, and registration fees. From requiring 1,250 hours of barber class to $845 worth of various licensing fees, it’s not hard to see why barbers are an endangered species in the commonwealth. The next profession that they’ve targeted is pet groomers.
...Legislators are mulling over a bill that was proposed by Representative Bernard O’Neill which would have a striking resemblance to the laws of haircutting. A pet bather/brusher would need 80 hours of training (it takes an equivalent of eight hours a day for two weeks to learn how to bathe and brush a pet?), an all-breed groomer would need 300 hours of training, and an all-breed master teacher/groomer (is this like the Mr. Miyagi of pet care?) would need 600 hours of training—not to mention the ability to wax on and wax off. If the bill passes, Pennsylvania will be the first in the nation to require licensing of pet groomers.
...The essence of this bill is one with which it would be difficult to disagree. As of now, there aren’t any requirements on groomers, and as such anyone and their brother would be able to open shop and call themselves a pet groomer. Such a situation increases the possibility of accidents and, for lack of a better term, malpractice.
...If this bill passes in its current form, however, Pennsylvania legislators—many of whom are the same corrupt legislators that voted themselves illegal pay raises in a late-night session last summer by calling the raises “unvouchered expenses”—will regulate a profession that goes from having no requirements to excessive requirements virtually overnight. It’s estimated that the schooling for such classes might cost a groomer over $100,000, no doubt causing severe economic hardship for a profession that can have an average salary around $25,000.
...An even bigger concern is that the lawmakers have proposed establishing a nine-member industry regulation board that would be comprised of five groomers, two politicians, and two members of the public at large. Call me whacky, but if these politicians are proposing this bill under the guise of safety, how safe is it to have a board of overseers on which almost 50 percent has little, if any, knowledge of the field which is being regulated?
...One of the bill’s co-sponsors, Representative Doug Reichley, was happy to see the possibility of more state supervision of something, saying, “The time may have come that this may be one more field that we may want to bring under this scope of review,” but a more appropriate view would be one that supports reasonable requirements and input from more people who actually know something about the field which they’re regulating.

When Crime Pays

Photo by Pete Shaheen

...Kyle Kehler is a high school drop-out who has been arrested on previous occasions for burglary and for his connection to house fire that was later ruled arson. In turn, his mom did what any hip 21st century mother would do: She bought him a new car.
...That turned out to be a big mistake, though, because Kehler (allegedly) killed his two passengers in an automobile crash using his mom’s gift. Blood tests showed that the 18-year-old’s blood-alcohol level was 0.12 percent, while a urine test tested positive for an unspecified opiate. For some reason I doubt that it was from a poppy-seed bagel.
...This kid’s actions are heinous alone; his mother’s aren’t much better.
...Why on Earth would she purchase a new car for a kid who not only is a high school drop-out, but has also been arrested for burglary and arson? Has America reached a point where we’re more than happy to reward our children for committing crime? Apparently so.
...Stories such as this only confirm my suspicion that a huge segment of our society likes crime and criminals, but it’s nothing new. Consider how popular Jesse James (the outlaw—not the motorcycle builder) was in the 1880s; consider how many people are on the waiting list to be buried as close to John Dillinger’s grave as possible; consider how many women wanted to get their hands on the murderous brothers Menendez and Scott Peterson.
...Why is this? I’m not certain, but I’d be willing to bet that it’s a combination of the “bad boy” image and level of popularity that comes with it. After all, you’re more likely to get your name in the news if you kill a few dozen people than if you discover a new planet or cure a wasting disease.
Source: The Morning Call

March 10, 2006


Viva Free Expression

...The World Baseball Classic hasn’t gone as smoothly as originally planned. At first there was controversy over whether or not to include Cuba in the competition; then, before any games were even played, several high-profile players opted out of the games so that they could concentrate on spring training for their own Major League teams; now—again thanks to Cuba—an international hullabaloo has erupted over that nasty little thing that we call “free speech.”
...During a Cuba-Netherlands game that was being played in Puerto Rico, a fan behind home plate raised a sign that read “Down with Fidel” when translated to English. The game was televised to different countries, so the authoritarian Cuban officials who were attending the event felt it necessary to apprehend the sign-holder and silence him as soon as possible.
...That’s when Puerto Rican police intervened and reminded Castro’s cronies that they weren’t in Cuba and couldn’t enforce Cuban law on foreign soil. In fact, the Puerto Rican police took the vice president of Cuba’s National Institute of Sports to the police station and told him the rules of free speech, given that it’s a foreign concept to him.
...Not surprisingly, Cuba’s national newspaper later called such a blatant act of free expression “a cowardly incident” and said that Puerto Rico and the United States are engaging in “cynical counterrevolutionary provocations.”
...What about the people who defect, Mr. Castro? Are they engaging in these cynical counterrevolutionary provocations, too? I’d also rhetorically ask about the people who are still in Cuba and have spoken out against the state, but they’re probably not engaging in much of anything if they’re in prison or dead.
Source: ABC News

March 07, 2006


Controversy 101

...After the Jay Bennish story broke last week I figured that I would pass on making a post dedicated to the story, but would opine if the topic came up in a discussion. I’ve changed my mind, however, because this topic is one that has more than one aspect to it.
...In the wake of Mr. Bennish’s digitally-recorded lecture we’ve found ourselves with two major topics that merit consideration. First, what is a teacher’s role in the classroom? Second, what kind of reaction would we have seen had Mr. Bennish’s viewpoints been from the far-right instead of the far-left?
Teaching Strategies
...Mr. Bennish’s ordeal has brought to the forefront a discussion on what a teacher’s role and responsibility is in his/her effort to educate and foster intellectual development. It has also helped to illustrate a philosophical gap that exists not only between the American public at large, but more specifically within the ranks of those of us who work in the public education system as educators.
...Is the instructor supposed to facilitate analysis and critical thinking, or are they supposed to tell students what they’re supposed to think? Should they encourage interaction to understand why a student came to a conclusion, or are they supposed to tell the student what the conclusion is right from the outset? I’m not ashamed to say that I support the former in each of these questions. Standing in front of a classroom of 10th graders and preaching for half an hour has never been conducive to learning. Many professionals seem to agree.
...Thus far, some of us who are in public education and have been critical of Mr. Bennish have expressed concern over his approach of teacher-centered instruction—in lay terms, lecturing—of this particular lesson. While taking my Methods of Education class as an undergraduate, I became accustomed to hearing my professor explain the importance of understanding that instruction for 15- and 16-year-olds who are stuck in an uncomfortable chair for seven to eight hours a day is far different than 22- or 23-year-olds listening to a college professor for an hour and twenty minutes.
...Indeed, we were informed that students will quickly lose interest in the learning process if the teacher spends most of the time talking, or if he/she takes the opposite approach and has students do the majority of the work on their own, offering little input. Essentially, there must be a happy medium.
...The Social Science Education Consortium seems to agree. In their Teaching the Social Sciences and History in Secondary Schools: A Methods Book (Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland, 1996), they cite the following as three characteristics that are, in their words, “especially important” for teaching strategies:
1.) Learning is not a process of transmission but a process of construction. This view, based on research in cognitive psychology, holds that people, as learners, “construct our own understandings of the world in which we live…by synthesizing new experiences into what we have previously come to understand” (Brooks and Brooks, In Search of Understanding: The Case for Constructivist Classrooms, 1993, 4).
2.) Classroom learning is a “social process that the teacher works to facilitate by helping students make sense of their experiences and further their understanding of the world” (Powell, “The Constructivist Approach to Teaching in Action,” Teaching About the History and Nature of Science and Technology: Teacher’s Resource Guide, 1994, 34).
3.) Individuals learn most effectively in different ways. They have learning styles—“characteristic cognitive, affective, and physiological behaviors that serve as relatively stable indicators of how learners perceive, interact, and respond to the learning environment” (O’Neill, “Making Sense of Style,” Educational Leadership, 1990, 5).
...Given these “especially important” characteristics for teaching, would we not have justification for our questioning the effectiveness of a rather lengthy speech (by Mr. Bennish or any other teacher)? Apparently not, if we were to consider the staunch support for his approach.
...On the other hand, is there another issue here? Is the majority of criticism directed at Mr. Bennish across the country based upon his lecture itself instead of his giving a lecture? Is the substance of what he said—not how he said it—the real reason that so many people’s ears have perked up over this story? Even more, is the substance of what he said the real inspiration of those who are currently supporting him?
The Message
...For a moment—for the sake of argument—let us suppose that Bennish’s viewpoints were on the opposite side of the aisle. Let us suppose that he was preaching the gospel of capitalism, preaching against socialism or communism, and telling his students that anyone who doesn’t like George W. Bush might be “unpatriotic” or “un-American.” Similar to what has happened in real life, let us suppose that a student grew tired of listening to such right-wing rants and decided to record the lecture.
...I dare say that we might have a similar situation to what we have now, only on opposite sides of the fence. Liberals would be crying for Bennish’s head on a silver platter; conservatives would be yelling, “We need more teachers like this!”
...I say this because we’ve seen such a situation occur up to this point; the only exception is that the ideological perspective is vice-versa. Conservatives are outraged because Bennish used his position to tell students that Bush and Hitler were similar and that capitalism has been a scourge on humanity; liberals are happy to see an instructor tell his students that a Republican president has similarities to a genocidal maniac and that their least favorite economic system is detrimental to humanity.
...To put it bluntly, one side heard what they hate and one side heard what they love.
...The only thing for which Bennish should be officially reprimanded is his questionable presentation procedure. Standing in front of a high school classroom for an extended period of time and giving a speech on your views is frowned upon by both principals and education professors who evaluate future teachers. Had it not been for this situation finding its way into the national spotlight, Bennish would have otherwise been asked by either his department chair or his principal to re-evaluate his teaching strategies.
...This situation doesn’t merit Bennish’s dismissal, even though he should have, indeed, used a different approach to discussing these topics. It obviously doesn’t merit some of the irresponsible and asinine threats made by people who didn’t like what he had said (some news reports mentioned that Bennish has received death threats over this; the student who taped the lecture has also received death threats).
...On the other side of the coin, those people who are supporting Bennish simply because he said things that they like to hear are no better than the people who want him fired over what he said. Would they be coming to the aid of a high school teacher if he/she suggested that the Earth Liberation Front had similarities to the KKK or if he/she discussed the 7,000,000 Ukrainians who starved to death during Joseph Stalin’s forced famine of the 1930s? I’m thinking no.
...I stand by what I said on another blog in reference to this story: Good teachers do have opinions on subjects and feel strongly about them; they can bring those opinions out at times in the classroom, too. They don’t, however, allow those opinions to guide the lesson, no matter if they’re conservative, liberal, libertarian, or anything else.
...When it comes time to vent on issues, they need to do so in another forum—not to a room of kids who have nothing to do but stare and take an occasional note.

March 06, 2006


Libertarians Anonymous

...When I began writing this response, it was originally intended to be a follow-up to Amy’s comment on my last post. Her inquiry was short but thought-provoking: “After all, you are a Libertarian, right?” As I was reviewing the writing, I realized its length and wondered if it might be a worthy subject for a completely new post. The more that I considered it, the easier that it was to come to that conclusion.
...For quite some time my motto for life has been, “Live your life in the manner that makes you happiest so long as you’re not inflicting physical, emotional, or economic harm on others—unless they consent to do otherwise.” Likewise, it’s no secret that I’ve voted Libertarian in the last two presidential elections (mostly in agreement, partially as protest), but over the last few months I’ve turned into what might best be called a “rehabilitated libertarian.” This is simply because the more that I think about it, the more that I view libertarianism as a wonderful ideal that will never come to fruition.
...That might sound like a defeatist attitude, but it might also be a pragmatic concession. How realistic would it be to think that the majority of people would adopt a view that counters the basis of the two dominant ideologies? By “basis” I mean the concept that people need to be “guided” in some way throughout life with respect to something.
...My conservative friends want people to be “guided” in the “proper” direction in terms of their personal lives (gay marriage, drug use, gambling, and prostitution, for example); my liberal friends want people to be “guided” in the “proper” direction in terms of their finances (Social Security, graduated income tax, and public funding for numerous institutions, for example). Both sides ultimately defend their views as being “for the good of society,” and both sides ultimately disagree with the opposing view.
...Using the aforementioned examples, we can see that each has aspects which create a balance (or possibly a dilemma, depending upon how you view it): Drug use is unhealthy, but people should have the right to poison themselves; gambling increases your chance of losing vast amounts of money (sometimes money that the gambler doesn’t have in the first place), but a person should have the right to take such a risk; prostitution facilitates emotional distress and increases the chance for the spread of STDs, but a person should have the right to rent their body; Social Security (in theory) ensures that we’ll be able to pay off a few bills once a month when we reach a certain age, but it’s based on forcibly removing money from our paychecks “for our own good”; a graduated income tax allows for the country’s expenses to be met by those who have the money to do it, but it creates a mindset that wanting to earn more money makes a person bad and essentially punishes wage-earners; public funding for things like schools and libraries has helped to cut down on the illiteracy rate, but it requires that people have no choice of where their tax dollars go.
...To me, libertarian views will always be nearly impossible to challenge on an intellectual level when compared to those found in conservatism and liberalism, simply because they’re not rooted in coercion. At the same time I’m willing to recognize that libertarianism requires the absence of dishonesty and corruption to work properly. That, I’m afraid, is something that we’ll never see.
...The second situation that will keep such an ideology from gaining momentum is that most Americans fall into two categories: Those who like to “guide” others and those who like to be “guided.” Even if we ignore the dishonesty/corruption aspect of our culture, this desire for “guidance” is reason alone why libertarianism will never become a popular ideology.

March 05, 2006


Idiots, Start Your Engines

...From where do some people get their driver’s license? Do they order them on the Home Shopping Network? Do they buy them from back-alley fake ID dealers? Do they offer blow jobs to the managers at the DMV office? I’m not sure, but in the northeastern United States we have some of the worst drivers in the nation. Without a doubt there are more assholes on the highways from Maine to Maryland than there are in the offices of every American proctologist combined.
...I like to find silver linings, though, and one thing that has been occurring more often is that many of these moronic drivers are willing to advertise their businesses on the sides of their vehicles. For that, I—and others drivers with common sense—say, “Thanks. Now we know who to avoid when we need a product or service from your field.”
...Within the last two weeks I’ve had a chance to add two more companies to my list of businesses to avoid: One is a bakery based in York, Pennsylvania, and the other is an ATV business in Washington, New Jersey.
...With regard to the bakery truck driver, you’ve helped me realize that not only does the bread made by your company taste like dog excrement, but your employer doesn’t really care much about the safety of other drivers (nor do you). The person who calls himself/herself the “supervisor” with this particular company might want to re-evaluate the driving guidelines as well as the drivers. After that they might want to re-evaluate their ingredients and baking methods.
...With regard to the moron behind the wheel of the gold Ford pick-up who was more than happy to let me know the name of his ATV business, all that I can say is this: There’s a difference between driving on a highway and riding an ATV on a circular dirt track. It’s bad enough that you haven’t figured that out yet; it’s even worse when you cut other drivers off when you have children in your vehicle as passengers. It’s also humorous to see that your Website boasts of how one of the company associates has a law background and is willing to “put just about anything in it’s (sic) place.” Is there a reason that you need to resort to legal threats right from the start?
...Oh well. These incompetent people are just more reasons to drive between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m. They’re also what my friends in law enforcement like to call “job security.”

March 01, 2006


The Privileged Many

...It’s amazing to see how many “privileges” that we’re afforded by our glorious government officials. The most recent privilege has occurred in Virginia, where, starting in 2007, owning a car will be considered a privilege and a tax will be collected so that automobile owners can show their appreciation. It used to be that driving a car was considered a privilege; now owning it is the privilege. What’s next? A “maintenance privilege tax” when you need to buy new tires or a muffler?
...This isn’t anything new, however, nor is it something that is occurring in only certain areas. For instance, Arizona citizens must contend with a “transaction privilege tax” which is imposed on all sellers and vendors. The Arizona state government thinks that its citizens are afforded a “privilege” by them to engage in purchasing goods and services with their neighbors.
...Pennsylvanians must deal with a local tax known as the “occupational privilege tax.” Municipalities which use it say that workers should consider themselves lucky to be permitted to work within their borders. Anyone employed in that particular jurisdiction must pay the tax, whether they live in the municipality or not. Denver, Colorado, has a similar tax.
...Tennessee implements a different take on the occupational privilege tax, calling theirs a “professional privilege tax.” Tennesseans who might be accountants, architects, attorneys, pharmacists, and veterinarians are subject to forking over $400 a year as a way of saying “thanks” to the Tennessee government for permitting them to work in their field.
...Alabama levies a “business privilege tax” for, as quoted directly from their Website, “the privilege of being organized under the laws of Alabama or doing business in Alabama.”
...Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has devised an “institution and service privilege tax” which is levied upon any organization operating under a non-profit charter or established as a non-profit organization providing services to the public. Apparently the officials in the steel city see charitable organizations as their own form of charity.
...There are more privilege taxes throughout the nation, to be sure, but we don’t need many more examples to see two distinct problems. The first, and most obvious, is that when non-governmental entities force people or businesses to pay a fee in order to continue their legal acts it’s called extortion, punishable by time behind bars. When municipalities do it, it’s a privilege tax.
...The second problem is that the governments which use such taxes have adopted measures that resemble the worship requirements of organized religion. By slapping the “privilege” label on things and charging a fee for acts that were otherwise thought to be part of everyday life (i.e., selling a product or holding an occupation to put bread on the table), it appears that government officials have determined that they’re benevolent overseers who have granted us these “rights.” Having attended church on a regular basis as a child, I’m reminded of the part of the service where the congregation says in unison, “God is good. Praise be to God.”
...Perhaps I shouldn’t complain since I’m willing to live with our representative republican form of government; the officials that are imposing the privilege taxes were elected to their posts by voters, so the constituents must be happy.
...Then again, maybe I shouldn’t have worded it that way because it opens the door for someone to legally bring back poll taxes. All that they would have to do is call it a “voting privilege tax.”