Archive for April, 2012

NEWS LINKS: Congressman bans cameras to avoid embarrassing video

by Staff Monkeys

An Ohio GOP congressman wanted to make sure he wasn’t caught on video saying anything embarrassing, so he banned cameras from his public town hall meeting. Media people had cameras and recorded whatever they wanted, but he had police confiscate a video camera and an iPhone. The police taking the iPhone can be heard saying it’s “to protect the constituents.” The sign outside the event said cameras were banned “for security purposes.” The congressman’s career is the only thing being secured, it seems.

  • What is it about Kennedy assassinations that attract conspiracy theories? After years of conflicting stories and evidence about the death of John F. Kennedy, we now have some potential controversy about the assassination of his brother Robert Kennedy five years later. A witness now claims that there was a second shooter in addition to Sirhan Sirhan, who was convicted of the murder.
  • If you suspect that some people are inconsistent about when they believe judges should show “restraint” and when they should be “activist,” you’re not alone. This piece is Reason magazine’s blog shows that the New York Times editorial philosophy can be stated as, “We like restraint when the subject is a law we like, but we like activism when the subject is a law we don’t like.”

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Moral priorities: ‘If we free slaves, who will pick cotton in the fields?’

by David McElroy

If you were a slave owner in the United States in the 19th century, you probably owed your wealth and continued income to the continuation of slavery. If someone made the case to you that slavery was morally wrong, your first thought probably would have been, “But if we free the slaves, who will pick the cotton?”

The idea of ending slavery was a scary thing to many people in Europe and North America in the 18th and 19th centuries. Many people owned human beings who had been brought from Africa in chains. Those people worked in their fields and did all sorts of manual labor for them. The idea was deeply ingrained in society and it was accepted by many people as right and moral.

The abolition movement was a challenge to all of that. The abolitionists didn’t try to explain to plantation owners how they could earn a living after the slaves were freed. They couldn’t offer completely pragmatic plans for how society was going to go through the transition from slavery to universal equality of rights among races.

They simply made the case that slavery was a moral abomination. Some of them used gentle persuasion. Some of them preached fiery sermons, but still advocated peaceful change. And some, such as John Brown, tried to spark slave rebellions through violent means.

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NEWS LINKS: Nutella health claims win $3 million for idiot woman

by Staff Monkeys

The makers of a popular chocolate-hazelnut spread are going to pay more than $3 million in a lawsuit brought by a woman who claims that the company’s advertising made her believe that Nutella was healthy for her children. We’re not sure whether the woman or the judge is the bigger idiot in this case. Nobody who believes that a sugary chocolate spread is healthy isn’t the least bit bright.

  • The founder of the well-known anti-bullying campaign called “It Gets Better” used his speech to a national student journalism group to attack Christians. When some of the students started walking out instead of listening to his attack, he started heckling the teens who were leaving.
  • Did you read the crazy story about a new law in Egypt that will allow husbands to have sex with their dead wives’ bodies for up to six hours after death? The sensational stories has been flying around the Internet for the last day or so, but the only problem is that it’s complete bunk at this point. The story seems to have originated with an opinion piece in an Egyptian government newspaper trying to make the local Islamist parties look even worse than they already do.

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Police mistakenly attack innocent man while hunting graffiti tagger

by David McElroy

When armed men attacked Dan Halsted in the dark of night as he walked home in a safe neighborhood of Portland, Ore., he ran screaming for someone to call police. What he didn’t know is that his attackers were police officers — who tased him in the back five times and beat him.

Police were in the area looking for someone who had spray-painted graffiti on a nearby building. Halsted just happened to be walking by, so police attacked him instead.

“I was walking home and all of a sudden a flashlight came on in my eyes and I stopped, and I heard a voice say, ‘Get him!'” Halsted told Portland television station KATU. “And I heard footsteps coming at me, so I turned and I ran. I didn’t know what was going on. I was screaming to call the police the whole time, and I didn’t realize this was the police because they never identified themselves at all.”

In the arrest report, the officer made up a story about Halsted running down the street with a couple of other people. In reality, he had been in a restaurant with other people. He was never charged with any crime, but the city didn’t want to compensate him for the attack. So after four years, he finally sued.

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NEWS LINKS: Administration wants to ban phone calls while driving

by Staff Monkeys

The Obama administration is calling for a nationwide ban on talking on phones while driving. The ban would also cover texting, but most states already ban texting. The secretary of transportation says there is an “epidemic” of distracted driving, but he didn’t offer any reason why talking on the phone should be treated any differently than all the other potential distractions that wouldn’t be banned.

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Zombie statists ask, ‘But if there’s no government, who will build roads?!’

by David McElroy

It’s a bad movie that you might have seen before. It tends to show up whenever an advocate of voluntary cooperation explains how society could operate without state coercion. Right on cue, the zombies from “Night of the Living Statists” rear their heads and mindlessly intone, “But if there’s no government, who will build the roads?!”

The zombies can’t hear your response, so it’s useless to try to give them facts and explain how things could be done in a way that’s better for everyone if roads and other such things were provided as private services rather than as coercive government monopolies. For those who are open to the facts, though, is there any evidence that people can actually cooperate voluntarily for their own interests?

As a matter of fact, there’s quite a bit of evidence of that.

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FRIDAY FUNNIES

by David McElroy

It’s just polite to keep your animals out of other people’s yards, whether there’s a leash law where you live or not.

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NEWS LINKS: County forgot about 298 brand new cars for 5 years

by Staff Monkeys

The Miami-Dade County government bought 298 new cars — mostly Toyota Prius hybrids — about five years ago and they’ve been sitting their unused ever since. It wasn’t until a Spanish-language newspaper discovered them and did a report about them that the county started rushing to put some of them into service. You can tell how closely they’re watching tax expenditures down in south Florida.

  • A 95-year-old man and his 85-year-old wife say they were treated like terrorists by TSA agents in San Diego when they traveled recently, but things got even worse when $300 in cash disappeared after agents required the wheelchair-bound man to send it through a scanner. After reporting the money to police, he was told that video of the are was too blurry to know what went on. Yeah. Right.
  • A U.S. Army surgeon in Texas believes he’s come up with a vaccine to prevent cancer. The vaccine is about to enter clinical trials with 700 breast cancer patients.

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With NASA getting out of the way, free market heads to outer space

by David McElroy

Cleaning out the notebook again…

Is private industry ready to head into space to save humanity? It’s very possible. Less than a week after I wrote that I’m happy to see the space shuttle program go away, a group of impressive investors has announced a company called Planetary Resources, which plans to mine asteroids and finally bring real commerce to space.

This is the sort of venture that NASA would never have attempted. Although the comparison isn’t perfect, I’d say it’s reminiscent of the European trading companies that were set up to colonize and trade in the New World. It’s the brainchild of Peter Diamandis, the guy who created the X Prize Foundation.  The star-studded list of investors includes both of Google’s founders, an early Google investor, a key early Microsoft employee and Ross Perot Jr. Their previous success doesn’t guarantee anything, but I wouldn’t bet against them.

The best things about the venture are that taxpayers aren’t footing the bill and that anyone else can choose to compete on a level playing field if he wants to. It’s great to see people step up to blast off into space with a motivation to make money.

The truth about George Zimmerman is a lot more complicated and nuanced than some people wanted us to see. Many people have already convicted him of murder and are convinced that it was nothing but a racially motivated killing. Reuter’s has a long and detailed story that paints a far more interesting picture of how we got to this point.

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NEWS LINKS: Pistol-packing granny wounds would-be robber in shoot-out

by Staff Monkeys

A Georgia grandmother who says she carries a gun all the time was prepared Saturday night when a couple of thieves tried to rob her. She pulled out her gun and engaged in a shoot-out with the perps, wounding one of them. Two suspects are still on the loose.

  • From the Department of Extreme Hypocrisy comes this story about green activists and last weekend’s Earth Day gathering in San Francisco. The green activists trashed the local parks where events were held.
  • Those who are worried about immigrants from Latin America should be happy with the lousy economy, it seems. Immigration from Mexico is actually reversing itself. The economy is so bad here that immigrants can’t do any better for themselves here than they can back home. So if you hate immigrants, just work for a lousy economy.

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When this site launched in 2011, it was intended as a way to find others who were sick of partisan politics and wanted to connect with like-minded people who were ready to go beyond politics and find ways of escaping. It has shifted focus in ways that reflect my own shifting thinking. I’m less interested in politics and more interested in looking at the things that make life worth living, such as love, creation, self-understanding and connecting with others. Every article I have posted since 2011 is still in my archives, but everything I write is a reflection of my current thinking. Sometimes I’m wrong — and that’s fine with me — and I don’t always end up agreeing with what I wrote five years ago. For now, you can still read what I wrote about the site’s purpose in 2011, but I should rewrite this. Read more.

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