Archive for January, 2011

What Happened to the Anti-War Movement?

The deterioration of the anti-war movement under the Obama administration clearly illustrates what happens when collectivist identity trumps principle.  To Democrats, what is far less important than a President who is anti-war is a President who is—a Democrat.

NPR and The Federal Reserve

NPR’s This American Life has produced an excellent piece on the origin of money and the Federal Reserve.

In the prologue they illustrate that money is an elaborate illusion (The Onion has seized upon this reality satirically—or perhaps not so satirically?)  Listen through 10 minutes.  Very interesting.

In act one (starting at 10:05) we learn that the Brazilian government, as all governments do, printed money to pay for their programs, and in the process destroyed all faith in the currency by devaluing it to the point of worthlessness.  To overcome this, they essentially rebranded the currency and convinced the population that this currency wouldn’t be so radically inflated.  And it wasn’t.

Act two, at 29:12, is the most fascinating part.  Listen to this if nothing else. They sum up all of the key facts about the Federal Reserve: that it is not a wing of the government, that it actually creates money from nothing, and that it operates in secret and basically under the radar.  They speak in terms of “magical” and “dangerous”.  Throughout the piece, a healthy tone of skepticism prevails regarding the wisdom of all of this.

After listening, I would highly suggest a visit to The Slideshow on the Federal Reserve and the economy, which this pieces leads into directly.

Religious Fanaticism vs. Hypocrisy—An OkCupid Message

So I use OkCupid to find cool women with whom to speak.  I do.  I figured that if I’m going to apply the brainpower to craft messages, I might as well share with the world.  No?

If you aren’t already familiar with OkCupid, it is a system that revolves around questions and answers.  You answer hundreds, or even thousands, of questions and then the system matches you up with other people who answered in compatible ways.  It works pretty well for nerds like me.

One woman’s profile caught my attention.  She prefers reason over fantasy.  And coffee.  I commented on one of our “disagree” questions:

I share your enthusiasm for reason over mythology. We don’t make a lot of progress in understanding anything if we’re content to say, “God did it.”

But one thing about that!

A question on which we disagreed was: What of the following is most offensive to you? Religious fanaticism or general hypocrisy?

A lot of atheists immediately respond with the “fanaticism”, but I suspect that the underlying offense is with hypocrisy, not personal adherence to zany beliefs. I mean, people believe in all kinds of nonsensical things: astrology, healing crystals, etc. Those are obnoxious, but not particularly offensive. Religion is offensive because of the religious people who want to forcefully impose on the non-religious. And they want to forcefully impose their beliefs while at the same time arguing for their right to be free of forceful imposition on the part of those with whom THEY disagree. And so it is the hypocrisy with which they operate that makes what they believe so offensive. It’s when they actually become a threat that they become offensive and even scary.

Nonsensical beliefs are a mild annoyance until people hypocritically and forcefully prioritize their belief-system over everyone else’s. I think that if people were content to stay at home and do their voodoo in private, it would be no big thing.


And I like coffee too. I just ground some beans, pressed a pot, and am indulging in a bit of funky caffeine-induced nirvana. ahhhh.

I’m Matt. Nice to meet you.

I doubt she’ll respond.  Oh well.   🙂

Take a look at my essay on the danger of forceful imposition.

State-Business Cooperation: Then and Now

The critically important idea that the law applies to the king, enshrined in the Magna Carta was, until very recently, enforced by American courts.  Consider the case of one, Ms. Roberts, whose safe deposit box was robbed by the police:
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The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure: One of the Most Evil Books in Print by Roger Roots

When you realize that even the justice system—arguably the most basic function of government—does not work for the people, but for the government itself, you begin to wonder, “Which parts of the government are working for me?

Roget Roots explains:

Today, most federal crimes are felonies, and conviction brings more or less automatic prison time.

Altering or removing motor vehicle identification numbers? Up to 5 years in Federal prison. Using the telephone to incite or to “organize, promote,” or even encourage a riot? Up to 5 years. Attempting to coerce any federal employee into “any political activity”? Up to 3 years. Removing or affixing a U.S. Customs seal on any merchandise without government permission? Up to 10 years in prison. Transporting “terrorists” on your boat? Up to life in prison. Engaging in “street gang” activity? An additional 10 years may be added to your sentence. Knowingly using a misleading domain name on the Internet in order to attract viewers to online porn? Up to two years in prison. Sending a letter in the mail urging insurrection? Up to 10 years. Trading with known pirates on the high seas? Up to 3 years.

The book seems to provide dozens of separate laws exposing unwary Americans to federal prison for simply filling out paperwork wrong. (Note that these provisions are almost never applied to people in government, who regularly fill out paperwork incorrectly.) There are provisions subjecting Americans to life in prison for cocaine possession. There are open-ended provisions which may (or may not) criminalize pouring a cup of coffee on the ground (and thus violating the Clean Water Act) or accidentally catching certain breeds of fish from the oceans. It remains only for a savvy prosecutor to fill in the blanks and add to the list of crimes that Congress may (or may not) have created.

Few people are aware that the Federal Rules (not just of criminal procedure but of civil procedure, appellate procedure, bankruptcy procedure and Supreme Court procedure) are riddled with provisions that grant more time to the government to file and respond to pleadings and briefs, greater privileges of appearance, and greater ease of prosecuting and defending litigation than individuals in the private sector. The governing advisory committees that produce these rules of procedure have offered no explanation for these filing requirement disparities.

How Why What?

Here is a mental exercise.  Consider any assertion that you believe is true.  It doesn’t matter what you pick.  Now form a “how”, “why”, or “what” question from this assertion that essentially asks “How did you come to this conclusion?”  And from the answer you present yourself, ask another “how” or “why” question.  And from that response do the same.  Keep doing it until you get stuck.  Here is an example:
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“Right vs. Left” Misses the Point

People are conditioned to believe that either the left or the right is their enemy.  Maybe this is confusion.

The left sees in the right advocacy of corporate exploitation, oppression of those who opt for alternative lifestyles, and the enforcement of correct religion in our country and throughout the world.  The right sees in the left the exploitation of the productive for the benefit of the unproductive, oppression of those who opt for traditional or religious lifestyles, and the enforcement of particular behaviors deemed to be healthy and/or sustainable.
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