Organic Foods & Rats

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader was perusing the internet and found a post from our minionly friend Norm that caught our eye. Norm writes about a study in which rats fed organically grown veggies are healthier than those fed w/non-organic veggies. Norm wondered if your Maximum Leader (or by extension the Smallholder) would be in favour of such a study. Well. Your Maximum Leader hadn’t given it much thought. Though he is generally against stronger healther rats. So, he would prefer not to support such research.

Carry on.

Taking the Bait

Methinks the Maximum Leader posted the Derbyshire piece to draw me out of my fatigue-induced silence.

First of all, perhaps Derb’s admission that homosexuality is inborn will force the Maximum Leader to stop singing “la! la! la! - Science that goes against my predispoisiton doesn’t exist!”

But, snarky comments about my host aside, I would like to take issue with two of the things Derbyshire says - one factual and one conceptual.

He writes:

The theories involving genetics all suffer from mathematical problems.
Homosexuality imposes such a huge “negative Darwinian load” on the affected
organism that it is hard to see how genes inclining to homosexuality could
persist for long in any population. Various ingenious theories have been cooked
up in attempts to finesse the issue, but nobody has been able to make the
evolutionary math work. Which is baffling, because there are persistent nagging
hints, in identical-twin studies for instance, that homosexuality does have some
genetic component.

Someone publishing his ideas in the NRO ought to do a bit more research. Plenty of people have been able to “make the evolutionary math work” and have done so for decades. An important corollary of natural selection is the principle of kinship selection. Even if an organism itself does not reproduce, it can still be a Darwinian winner if enough close relatives pass on their genes. Darwinian psychologists have used this principle to understand altruism and familial favoritism. One (I can’t remember which) joked that he wouldn’t die for a cousin, but he might die for nine. Since cousins share one eighth of their genetic material, saving the lives of nine would, mathematically speaking, be a good trade from the selfish gene’s point of view. Homosexuality, whether genetic predestination or genetic inclination (there are several genes whose influence is flipped on or off based on external stimulus).

In a period of tough times, the ability to nurture a few children to adulthood would be more advantageous than producing many children, who lacking nurture, would be less likely to survive to adulthood.

One example of genes being flipped by exernal stimuli can be found in the reproductive behavior of bluegills. There are three identified mating patterns. Type A leads to a behavior in which males jealously guard a few nests of fertilized eggs. Type B leads to a behavior in which males establish large nest territories and breed with many females. Type C leads to sneaky behavior - these bluegills sneak into the large territories and drop their sperm onto unfertilized eggs. Since males with a large territory can’t guard all of their nests all of the time, the cuckolder fish can have a successful strategy. If the big territory fish become too prevalent in the gene pool, the sneaky strategy becomes more and more successful. As the sneaky strategy starts to predominate, genetic calculus begins to shift towards the guardian fish. If the guardian fish become too numerous, the sneaks lose ground and the big territory strategy becomes valuable. Round and round we go. Genes are complex. While scientists have identified the actual genes assigning sex strategy, other genes establish chemical reactions that respond to environmental cues. Some bluegills seem to be able to adapt their strategy based on the ratio of the three main strategies in the population. This sexual fluidity is an evolutionary advantage.

A similar set of male reproductive behavior has been hypothesized - the cad vs. The dad. See Sperm Wars or The Moral Animal. The Moral Animal emphasizes the fluidity side of the argument - noting that the chemical changes causes by feelings of well-being are a good biological gauge of status and mating potential. High-status males, responding to their environmental cues, are more likely to engage in adultery or serial monogamy. Lower status males (or those with low endorphin levels) tend to focus on nurturing children within one woman. Tremendously low status males, unconsciously realizing their chances for mating are very low, may, in extreme cases, become rapists. The last bit Make Wright unpopular with feminists who claim rape is about power - Wright argues that forced sex is a natural response to powerlessness and backs up that argument with examples from several primate species.

Combine the principle of kinship selection and fluid sexual strategy. Might men who father no children of their own, but instead lavish attention on nephews and nieces have an evolutionary advantage in tough times of overcrowding? In the nomadic ancestral environment, large groups were a recipe for starvation - when the herd was going to be thinned, those who had the most parental support would be more likely to survive. If support from a mom and a dad is valuable, support from a mom, dad, uncle, and “uncle” would be even more valuable.

From the gay man’s genes’ point of view, this may be a good strategy - if he was straight and fathered two children, each of whom, in tough times, would have a 10% chance of survival, adding his nurture to his sibling’s children (who each share one quarter of his genetic material), thus raising their chance of survival to 50%, he comes out ahead in the evolutionary math.

Setting aside the kinship discussion, Derbyshire has also overlooked the new studies that link female promiscuity to male homosexuality. Danish researchers have found that women with more children are also statistically more likely to give birth to male homosexuals. They have theorized (and yes, Mike, they have not yet isolated the culprit gene) that a gene or set of genes that triggers a strong sex drive in females can also trigger homosexuality in their male offspring. So, once again, the evolutionary math can explain homosexuality - Derbyshire’s cost of the loss of one set of grandchildren is more than balanced by the prospect of gaining more grandchildren from sexually active daughters.

Derbyshire’s lack of understanding of evolutionary theoy is largely academic. What matters is his attempt to justify discrimination against homosexuals - regardless of whether homosexuality is a choice or is inborn.

Derbyshire writes:

Homosexual behavior is a social negative, suggesting as it does that normal
heterosexual pairing, the bedrock institution of all societies, is merely one of
a number of possible, and equally moral, “lifestyles,” and thereby devaluing
that pairing ? perhaps, on the evidence from Scandinavia presented by our own
Stanley Kurtz on this site, fatally.

I often see conservatives make the “protect our traditional marriage” argument without ever explaining how gay marriage affects straight marriage. What Bob and Joe do in their bedroom has ZERO influence on my love for Sally and the kids. I don’t wake up in the middle of the night and say to myself, “Well, now that Bob and Joe can do the nasty with the legal blessing of the state, I’se gots to get me sum of that hot man luvin’!”

As to the Scandinavia study, much bandied by the lunatic Christian fringe: The increase of divorce rates and decline of marriage happened during the same time period in which homosexuals gained general acceptance. This does not establish causality. The burden of proof is to find the causal link. The fact that the NHL season was canceled AFTER the Red Sox won the series does not show that Bostonian triumphalism is bad for North American hockey. This study has been thoroughly debunked.

A strong link can be established between the growing economic independence of woman and an increase in the divorce rate. Children do better in two parent households. Does this mean that we ought to limit educational opportunities for women so that they will be forced to stay in heterosexual marriages?

Also particularly galling:

I don’t think that the fact of a predilection being inborn should necessarily
lead us to a morally neutral view of the acts it prompts. If you could prove to
me that pyromania is inborn, I should not feel any better disposed towards
arson.

Um, arson creates victims. Consensual sex has no victim. This is as silly an analogy as KBJ’s voting dogs.

This essay also demonstrates Derbyshire’s blindness to America’s legal protection of minority rights:

Further, homosexuality is offensive to many believers in all three of the major
Western religions, who form a large majority of the American population. I think
that while minority rights ought to be respected, civic majorities ought not be
asked to endure offense for the sake of abstract metaphysical or juridical
theories, unless dire and dramatic injustices like slavery are in play.
Majorities have rights too; and while I want to see minority rights respected, I
don’t think that every minor inconvenience consequent on being a member of a
minority should be raised to the level of an intolerable injustice requiring
drastic legislative or judicial remedy. We all have to put up with some
inconveniences arising from our particular natures.

Being denied the 1000+ legal rights granted by marriage is not an inconvenience; it is Apartheid. The state may restrict minority rights under certain circumstances. Tom Chatt, who I have linked to before, does a better job than I ever could explaining the legal issues surrounding limitation of minority rights. I’ll include a salient paragraph below:


It is useful at this juncture to outline the principles of American
jurisprudence on when it is appropriate to classify “unlike” situations. The law
may classify based on a variety of personal attributes, such as age,
citizenship, gender, and (as already noted) species. However, any classification
is by default suspect in the law because of the principle of equal rights,
treating likes alike. In considering whether some proposed classification is
legal, one considers three thigs: (1) what is being denied, (2) who is being
denied, and (3) for what purpose are some people being denied. In the first
consideration — what is being denied — we must consider how important is the
right that is being denied. Some rights, such as the right to vote or the right
to marry, are considered to be fundamental rights, essential to our life and
liberty, and thus we scrutinize more closely any infringements on these rights.
Other rights, such as the right to park one’s car overnight on a particular
street, are not fundamental, and thus the law would reasonably tolerate some
forms of discrimination in regard to such rights (e.g., only people who live on
a street might get to park their cars overnight on that street) which would be
intolerable for fundamental rights (e.g., it would be intolerable to say that
people who lived on Elm Street could vote while people who live on Poplar Street
could not). In the second consideration — who is being denied — we must
consider the kind of discrimination being made. Is it based on age or gender or
race or which street you live on? Here, certain kinds of discrimination are
considered “suspect classes” (such as race or religion), or have explicit
protections in the law (such as disabilities or veteran status). Discrimination
on such characteristics has an extremely high presumption of being illegal,
while other forms of discrimination (e.g., age or marital status) are not
scrutinized quite as closely. In the third consideration — the purpose of
classification — we examine what a proposed law is trying to accomplish by its
classification, and how well the classification serves the purpose. Where
fundamental rights are being abridged, or where suspect classes are being
discriminated against, the principle is to apply “strict scrutiny” to see if
there is a “compelling state interest” being served and whether the
classification is required and narrowly tailored to serve that interest. In
other cases, lesser scrutiny is applied to see whether there is some “rational
basis” for the law, and whether the classification is in some way reasonably
connected to the purpose. (There is always some scrutiny to be applied, since
purely arbitrary discrimination by the law is never tolerable.)

Game. Set. Match.

I know the Maximum Leader loves Derbyshire, but this particular essay impresses me not at all.

Derb On Homosexuality

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has always liked John Derbyshire’s writing. And he and Derb would find themselves in agreement on a great many things.

Now Derb has written a great many articles and columns concerning homosexuality and gay marriage. He is greatly despised in many parts of the gay community for his views. (In some respects your Maximum Leader believes he would be too if he were as widely known as Derb.) Anyway, your Maximum Leader commends to you John Derbyshire’s latest from NRO concerning the science of homosexuality.

Carry on.

Search Terms & New Sites

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader from time to time looks over his site server statistics and sees what interesting stuff he might not have known about you, his minions/visitors.

He normally doesn’t spend too much time doing this, because it is only of vauge interest to him. Well, he learned that if you do a Yahoo search on the term “what food group does the indian pyton fit into” you will find that this website is the third result in the list.

Kinda makes you feel special now doesn’t it?

Of course, it also makes your Maximum Leader a little cross. Because no one told him that there was a spelling error in one of his rotating tag lines. (It is now fixed.) But still… It is irksome.

In other news… The reason that your Maximum Leader was looking through his site server numbers is that he is considering commercializing his site. Yup. He is thinking he might put one or two blogads on the site as it is being redesigned.

He still isn’t sure. But if he could get $5-10 (or more!) a month that would be okay.

In other news. He noticed a fe blogs he’d never seen before who have Nakedvillainy on their blogroll. They are:

http://blog.speljamr.com/

http://commonsenserunswild.typepad.com/

http://inaneasylum.blogspot.com/

http://silliussoddus.blogspot.com/

Your Maximum Leader will check them out and perhaps blogroll them as well.

Carry on.

It Is Finished.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader reads over the wire and on ESPN that the NHL has officially canceled the 2004-2005 season.

Your Maximum Leader doesn’t have much to say that hasn’t already been said. He thinks the best thing for pro-hockey right now is contraction and rebuild what you can. And just accept that the NHL is going to be a distant fourth behind football, baseball, and basketball.

Carry on.

It Is Done

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader reads over the wire and on ESPN that the NHL has officially canceled the 2004-2005 season.

Your Maximum Leader doesn’t have much to say that hasn’t already been said. He thinks the best thing for pro-hockey right now is contraction and rebuild what you can. And just accept that the NHL is going to be a distant fourth behind football, baseball, and basketball.

Carry on.

Babe Machines

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is a regular participant in only one poll in the blogosphere. It is JohnL’s weekly SciFi babes poll. this week JohnL has given us a great poll: SF Babes - I For One Welcome Our New Cyborg Overlordsladies

The contestants are: Tricia Helfer’s Number 6 from the new Battlestar Galactica; Kristanna Loken’s T-X from Terminator 3; and Jeri Ryan’s 7 of 9 from Voyager.

Whew! What choices. Now your Maximum Leader would have liked to see Grace Park’s “Boomer” from the new Battlestar Galactica too, but hey, it is JohnL’s poll.

Now your Maximum Leader hasn’t issued an endorsement in a SciFi Babes poll in quite a while. He just hasn’t felt strongly enough to do so. But this week is a little different.

It seems as though one of our a href=”http://llamabutchers.mu.nu/archives/2005_02.php#067724″>Llamabutcher buddies (Robbo - we’re talking about you) has gone and endorsed Jeri Ryan.

Come now! We can all see that Jeri Ryan is easy on the eye and is naturally blessed with the assets of a winner in this category. But she’s a prude. Really! She wouldn’t go to a swinger club with her (now ex) husband. Is that the type of woman we want winning a poll that is all about objectification and hormonal impulses? No! Surely Not!

The obvious choice here (and hotter babe) is Tricia Helfer. She was a Victoria’s Secret model for Pete’s sake! She is 5 foot 10 inches of 34C-24-34 burning love! She used to walk down a catwalk in little lacy frilly thingies. (”Grrr Baby! Very grrr!) If that doesn’t make her a winner in this poll, your Maximum Leader isn’t sure what will.

Anyho…

Loyal minions! Go to TexasBestGrok. Vote Tricia! Vote often! And may the hot blonde Cylon babe win the day!

Carry on.

Woo Hoo! A Reader!

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader wondered to himself last night (in between battles in fuedal Japan between Tokaguwa Ieyasu and Toyatomi Hideyoshi - Maximum Leader being Ieyasu) if he hadn’t gone a little long in his “Answering Skippy” post. He wondered if people’s eyes glazed over early on and then decided to surf to read something else.

Well at least one other blogger has read the post. The good Col. Blimp read it. And he even liked it enough to commend it to his readers. Here is the link: Blimpish: More about libertarians.

Thanks. And in the MWO the good Col. Blimp will surely be promoted to Brigadier Blimp. (Which has a nice alliterative sound to it.)

Carry on.

Happy Birthday

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is particluarly bad when it comes to remembering birthdays. Indeed, the only ones he actually can recall without a moment of hestiation are the birthdays of his three children. Everyone else (including himself) requires reflection and thought.

So, when it comes to your Maximum Leader wishing that anyone in particular have a happy birthday it is generally a result of that person reminding him that the birthday is upon us.

All that said… Go on over to Gut Rumbles and wish Rob a Happy Birthday. He is one of my all-time favourite bloggers out there. And your Maximum Leader hopes to make it down to Georgia one day to meet him. (Alas, he will not be able to attend the “Georgia Writers Workshop” this year, as he’s been informed there is a family event at which his attendance is strongly requested.)

Happy Birthday Rob. And many happy returns.

Carry on.

Answering Skippy

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader enjoys reading Skippy’s blog, Enjoy Every Sandwich, very much. (Indeed, he recently learned the origin of the blog’s name, and was both amused and saddened by it. But that is a story for another day.) He visits Skippy’s page daily, and he reads (and sometimes re-reads) everything Skippy writes. He highly recommends it.

Skippy takes very thoughtful exception with some of the things that your Maximum Leader wrote, or implied, in a recent post entitled “Annoyances.” Your Maximum Leader would be remiss if he didn’t state something up front.

“Annoyances,” like other things your Maximum Leader commits to blog, was sloppily done. As he has explained privately to others, he’s chosen to use his blog as an outlet for a quick opinion or comment on some issue or another. This style of blogging gives your Maximum Leader the maximum possible enjoyment of the medium.

If you got to know your Maximum Leader personally, you would know that unlike his blog entries, his speech and thought tend to be long, sometimes meandering, and - almost without exception - anything but brief.

So, in light of this your Maximum Leader will have to spend a few moments clarifying his own positions before addressing Skippy’s (as always) well-put-together entry criticizing some of what your Maximum Leader wrote in “Annoyances.”

NB: Your Maximum Leader will also point out a few stylistic items. 1st, for some reason he insists on maintaining his oft-ridiculous third-person writing. He doesn’t know why except to say that it is a habit now. He can’t seem to (or perhaps doesn’t want to) break the habit. 2nd, he’s had to correct a number of spelling and grammar errors. This was not due to some pedantic streak. It is simply because your Maximum Leader is compulsive about a great many things. One of them is that damnable red line that appears under misspelled words in most word processing applications. He can’t stand looking at it. So, he HAD to go and make the corrections. They were just too distracting otherwise. Normally your Maximum Leader is quite forgiving of grammar and spelling errors in blogs. This is a result of knowing that many of his own posts are miserable when judged by any sort of grammar or spelling standard. (Like proper English.) It is not meant in any way to be a reflection of what Skippy wrote. Please think of it more as a reflection of the lesser angels of your Maximum Leader’s nature. 3rd, he apologizes to Skippy (and everyone else) for having the one blog template in the whole world that doesn’t seem to allow cutting and pasting. That is one of the many changes that he hopes to address in an upcoming site redesign. 4th, throughout this essay your Maximum Leader will use the term “man” to denote all humanity. It is old fashioned he knows. He knows the Modern Language Association would have fits reading it. But trust him on this one. To write gender neutral language AND keep up the third person narration is too much of a chore. 5th and lastly, this post is really long. So go to the bathroom now and get comfy. It might take a while.

Your Maximum Leader was taking exception with a particular brand of “libertarian;” specifically, those “libertarians” who describe themselves as “socially liberal and economically conservative.” Sometimes those “libertarians” advocate repeal of narcotics laws, but decry cutting social welfare programs. The people are what your aximum Leader calls “convenience libertarians.”

The convenient libertarian is one who’s only claim to libertarianism is one based on selfish desire. And while selfish desire is a perfectly legitimate basis upon which to run one’s life; it does bespeak a particular intellectual sloppiness. (NB: With one noteworthy exception, mentioned later.) An intellectual sloppiness that is very close to a naïve hedonism in fact. The basis of their thinking is, “This is what I want. I declare it good for me. Thus it must be good for everyone.” This is the primary characteristic to which your Maximum Leader was objecting.

These convenience libertarians have, in your Maximum Leader’s opinion, a completely untenable Rousseauian faith in both the nature and motivation of other men. This optimism is unusual because the basis of their beliefs (selfishness) should naturally lend itself to a predilection towards suspicion of others. After all, if you are selfish wouldn’t you anticipate that others would be as well? But somehow it doesn’t. This is probably because convenience libertarians seem to be generally incapable of thoughtful reflection on most of their own political beliefs.

That said, your Maximum Leader wondered if there was a “socially conservative” libertarian. That is to say someone who, for example, adhered to a strict observance of his chosen religion, but also desired a political system that didn’t interfere in his lifestyle or those of others. This is just an observation your Maximum Leader has made over the years. He’s never met someone who was, let us say, a devout Roman Catholic; but also was against the state doing anything more than providing basic protections for citizens. Indeed, your Maximum Leader doubts that such a creature exists at all.

Now, before moving on to Skippy’s post your Maximum Leader wanted to take a moment more to observe that he is sure that there are many thoughtful libertarians out there. Libertarians who do not fit the description he’s just given in the preceding paragraphs. Indeed, your Maximum Leader has read their blogs, or read the various libertarian classics. (Like Robert Nozick’s “Anarchy, State, and Utopia” or any number of writings by Ayn Rand.) But alas, your Maximum Leader doesn’t know them personally.

Now on to address Skippy’s post… Skippy gets to what your Maximum Leader believes is a key point in this passage:

Modern conservatives claim to support personal freedom. They do no such thing. What they encourage is economic freedom and there is a significant difference. One need only look to the difference between the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China to understand that difference.

As I noted above, I do recognize the need for government. Roads will not pave themselves and foreigners do not tend to commit suicide in [sufficient] numbers to maintain an effective foreign policy. However, my view is that government should only be involved in areas that private citizens cannot govern themselves. And this is where conservatives leave the reservation of freedom.

What Skippy has struck on here is the how the conservative movement is defined. Your Maximum Leader feels he needs to discourse a little on this topic.

Every ten or so years there is some sort of convulsion of “movement definition”that seems to overcome “conservatives.” Generally this convulsion is good for a few very high-brow essays in National Review, The New Criterion, or a similar opinion magazine. Your Maximum Leader was trying to remember the last time there were a series of such articles in National Review. (To which your Maximum Leader has subscribed since 1986.) He seems to think that NR devoted the better part of 3-4 issues towards defining “conservatives” and their various subsets back around 1993. He tried to find the pieces on-line, but the archives don’t go that far back. (And, alas, Mrs. Villain threw away nearly 10 years of back issues of NR about a year ago. Your Maximum Leader was only able to save a few issues.) If memory srves, the various contributors to National Review identified no fewer than five different categories of conservatives. The three major breakdowns seemed to be the “Paleoconservative,” the “Neoconservative,” and the “Religious Conservative.”

Thus, modern Conservatism, like modern Liberalism, is not a monolithic movement. Your Maximum Leader doesn’t believe that he’s ever meant to seriously imply that either group is homogeneous. (Excursus - but he will admit that he has sometimes oversimplified and lumped together people who generally shouldn’t be lumped together for the sake of a snarky comment or pithy point.)

There are plenty of conservatives who believe in both personal and economic freedom. In the case of Skippy’s comments, your Maximum Leader feels that Skippy is really describing the dreaded “Religious Conservatives.” This is the group that is easiest to characterize simply and broadly. But this one segment is not the whole conservative movement.

Without meaning to fall into an overused canard of an argument, but skirting it none the less; Skippy’s point is an expanded version of the simplified-for-the-evening-news definition of the conservative movement used by most media outlets. Your Maximum Leader believes that while the “religious conservatives” make up a very significant and outspoken portion of the greater conservative movement they are not, generally speaking, its intellectual leaders. This is not an attempt to in any way minimize the political influence of the religious right. It is just a starting point for saying that there are lots of different conservatives out there.

In fact, if it were not for issues like abortion, (illegal) drugs, and the ever popular but oh-so-hard-to-define issue of “patriotism,” most (at least many) religious conservatives wouldn’t be “conservative” at all. They would be liberals (and likely Democrats - to go ahead and slap an arbitrary political label on people). Take the devout Roman Catholic that your Maximum Leader alluded to a few paragraphs ago. Were it not (mainly) for the abortion issue, most Roman Catholics would continue to reside in the “Liberals” camp. This is where a truly devout (and adherent to the social dogma of the Church) Catholic would naturally find himself. In fact, as many readers of Skippy’s and your Maximum Leader’s site would be able to tell you; Catholics were a reliable voting block for the “Liberal” Democratic Party until the late 1970s.

In very many ways the conservative movement is more fragmented than the liberal movement. The primary difference being that the things that bind together conservatives are generally “stronger glue” than those things that hold together liberals. (That thing is, broadly speaking, “economic freedom” of the sort that Skippy was mentioning.)

Let him say that your Maximum Leader and Skippy are in agreement that outside of the arena of economic freedom, many religious conservatives DO indeed want to limit personal freedom. And a great many conservatives (religious and otherwise) would, if questioned, agree that there are many right and proper roles for government.

Indeed, you would find that we are in agreement (Skippy and your Maximum Leader) on the need of government to do a great many things. Things like conduct foreign policy, pave roads, exercise police powers in criminal matters, protect personal property, uphold the enforceability of contracts, etc.

And just so he is clear on this point, your Maximum Leader is speaking about “government” broadly here. So broadly as to include everything from your local Sheriff all the way up to the President of the United States (or RCMP officer up to Prime Minister/Governor-General if you happen to be Canadian and care to choose between your Head of Government or Ceremonial Head of State). There is another whole discussion worth of material on what the role of different levels of government should be. But that is for another post…

So where your Maximum Leader thinks Skippy is going here is to broadly paint all conservatives as religious conservatves. And indeed, the next topics we hit are the hot-button social issues that are always good wedge issues in elections. Skippy writes:

One need only look at the things conservatives oppose to know that they oppose personal freedom itself. Drug legalization, same sex marriage, prostitution, gambling (when the state isn’t the direct beneficiary), abortion and, in some cases, even contraception, the right to die and reading material that they find seditious or merely offensive.

None of these practices [affect] anyone other than those who engage in them. To argue otherwise is silly. In fact, in several of them the damage is done because the activities are illegal and therefore provided by criminals. The [criminalization] of the activity harms more people than the activity itself.

Mike seems to feel that these freedoms are trivial. However, one should think that any conservative would support the right of the individual to do with his person and property what he wishes. As it happens, investing in Enron (which conservatives supported) turned out to do greater social harm that shooting heroin (which conservatives do not.) That conservatives support one means of self-destruction and not another is intellectually inconsistent, if not actually dishonest.

Your Maximum Leader wants to be quite clear here, the freedom to do what you want to/with/for yourself is anything but trivial. He is afraid that his sloppy initial post gave the impression that freedom is an issue about which he thinks in rather cavalier terms. It is not. Here is where your Maximum Leader will try to clarify his personal position. In this, he is not attempting to speak on behalf of any particular conservative group. He will just make some broad statements with which many people of a similar conservative ilk would agree.

He agrees with Skippy in that many religious conservatives want to do exactly what Skippy says they want to do.

But while your Maximum Leader wouldn’t describe himself as a Religious Conservative, he too is against some of the items that Skippy is listing here. He’ll address a few of them. And in addressing some of them directly we can, perhaps, move on to the bigger issues behind what ideas motivate an objections to or the support of limitations of freedom.

To get one of the biggies out of the way first, let us talk about abortion. Your Maximum Leader freely admits that this is an area where he believes it is impossible to separate his personal beliefs from his political beliefs. This is a point about which your Maximum Leader and the Smallholder have blogged in the past.

The issue pretty much comes down to how you choose to view a fertilized egg. This view is almost always influenced by moral/ethical/religious thinking. If you believe a fertilized human egg is a tissue mass that will grow under proper circumstances to become a viable human being (after it is discharged from the mother); then your views on abortion can be made according to what you think is best for the only real individual in the equation - the mother.

Your Maximum Leader, personally, feels that it is illogical to call a fertilized human egg anything other than human. And as a human being (albeit one that is completely dependent on another for life itself - a condition that continues well after birth), that human being is entitled to the protection of the State against murder. It is that simple. If you care to argue you are welcome to try. But really, this topic has been gone over so many many times that your Maximum Leader seriously doubts you could add something new. (Go ahead, try if you like. Just don’t be surprised if you don’t illicit a response.)

And while we’re on the subject… No, your Maximum Leader doesn’t support abortions in case of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother. He understands why many would consider these items legitimate exceptions to a blanket objection to abortion, but he still believes that the human being in the womb is not the guilty party (in the case of rape or incest nor any more or less important than the mother (where the mother’s life is at risk). He personally doesn’t approve of abortions in these cases, but recognizes that this is at best a gray area in this discussion.

To your Maximum Leader, restricting abortion isn’t a simple restriction on the right of a woman to do what she wants to her body. It is a way of protecting one individual against the intentional act of another person. He has made a value judgment on this issue. In his eyes, the rights of the child are no less worthy of protection than the life of the mother. This is no more a limitation of personal freedom than the commonly accepted prohibition against murder. Thus, unlike Skippy, your Maximum Leader believes that abortion does in fact affect another person and is rightly in the purview of government interference in one’s right to do what they please.

(Oh, your Maximum Leader doesn’t object - by the way - to contraception.)

And since his already talked about life, let’s talk about death. As for euthanasia and capital punishment (two favourite counter-balances to the religious conservative’s view on abortion) allow your Maximum Leader to state his beliefs. He is personally opposed to euthanasia in so much as another individual is involved in the process; either as an facilitator or primary agent. If you want to go and kill yourself, go right ahead. You’ll find your Maximum Leader will not attempt to stop you. (He will think less of you, but why would you care? He couldn’t think any less of you than you already think of yourself.) But if you want to get the State to sanction someone else doing the killing when you aren’t capable of doing it yourself; then we will part company. He doesn’t object to the withholding of life-saving treatment in a circumstance where a person has a legally executed document expressing their desire to have such treatment withheld. But that is not euthanasia…

As for capital punishment, your Maximum Leader is on record many times before as being pro-capital punishment. Why? Because through the commission of some criminal act an individual forfeited his right to protection from unnatural death by the State. That is the simplest statement of his beliefs that he could think of.

Moving on…

A great many conservatives believe in the legalization of many narcotic drugs that are currently illegal. William F. Buckley, Jr. is perhaps the premier example of this. While he is only on record as being willing to legalize marijuana, one gets the feeling from his writings on the subject that he could be convinced that other illicit drugs might also be legalized. Indeed, your Maximum Leader is also of the opinion that marijuana should be legalized. He will disagree with Skippy on his assertion that heroin is not as harmful as certain legal drugs; the science on that issue is - in your Maximum Leader’s estimation - quite sketchy to say the least.

But before going on there is another bit of salient thought from Skippy. He writes:

Mike goes on to question the value of what libertarians support. He also questions the ramifications of such freedoms. The answer is simple. Other than to the individuals who enjoy these freedoms, there are no consequences. As a matter of fact, the criminalization of these activities causes more societal damage than their legalization would.

Mike goes on to ask what a libertarian society would look like. I posit that it would be a society where people mind their own business. It would be a society where the government does not compound the damage that individuals may or may not inflict solely on themselves.

What Mike does not come out and say, but seems to imply, that such freedom cannot be allowed due to popular opinion. This leads to the larger point about both liberals and conservatives. Neither is particularly interested in freedom or “limited government.” To say that they seek a “nanny state” is simplistic. What they seek is a “Gladys Kravitz” state, where the government not only knows about, but places the seal of moal approval on the activities of the citizenry.

Mike questions what the “core beliefs” of people like me are. I’d like to this opportunity to respond. They are simple, all I stand for is the freedom of the individual, as opposed to the freedom of the individual’s stock portfolio, which conservatives seek, or the freedom of the government, which liberals do.

The freedoms which I support are freedoms that hurt no one other than the people that engage in them. The limitations on those freedoms have caused far more demonstrable damage to society than the [freedoms] themselves ever could.

First off, allow your Maximum Leader to say publicly that he certainly didn’t mean (or intend) to lump Skippy in with his “convenience libertarians.” He wouldn’t imagine doing that. Nor would he want to disparage more thoughtful libertarians. At the time your Maximum Leader was spouting off about a particular type of person. This isn’t to say that it won’t happen again. Just know that if you are a thoughtful libertarian, your Maximum Leader probably isn’t disparaging you. Your Maximum Leader knows there are a great many thoughtful libertarians out there.

Your Maximum Leader will try to state succinctly why he is not a libertarian, and why he does not believe that, ultimately, libertarianism in most popular forms is possible.

The main problem that most libertarians can’t overcome in eyes of your Maximum Leader is the problem of man himself. His very nature does not lend itself towards the libertarian ideal. You see, man is in eternal conflict with himself and other men. This conflict renders a broad libertarian vision of the world a practical impossibility.

The heart of the conflict within all men is the conflict between the individual and others. On the one hand, man desires to be free and independent of the fetters that would bind him. He desires to do what he will, as he will, when he will. On the other hand, man desires to procreate, he desires the company of other men; and he knows that the desire to live free and independently can have unpleasant repercussions that are best sublimated by living in the company of others. So in our very nature there is a bipolarity that is hard to overcome. On the one pole is individualism. On the other pole is the need for community.

When faced with the cruel reality that would be living independently most men will choose to associate themselves with other men. We are all familiar with Hobbes’ description of the live of man in a state of nature. In case you’ve forgotten here it is:

In such condition there is no place for Industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain; and consequently no Culture of the Earth; no Navigation, nor use of commodities that may be imported by Sea; no commodious Building; no instruments of moving; and removing such things as require much force; no Knowledge of the face of the Earth; no account of Time, no Arts, no Letters, no Society; and which is worst of all, the continuall feare, and danger of violent death; And the life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short.

When faced with the possibility that other men will attempt to enforce their will upon you by force, most will choose some sort of protective association in order to secure their persons against the will of other men.

Now, you may be saying, “Oh Maximum Leader! You pull out the ole state of nature argument when you really know that no such condition exists now, or is likely to exist in the future.” Your Maximum Leader will disagree. One could say that a state of nature is caused to exist by the dissolution, overthrow, or negligence of an established authority. You have only to look to some of the worst neighborhoods in many major US/European cities to see illustrations of this point.

Take some of the Muslim neighborhoods of Paris, or parts of Southeast Washington DC, or parts of Los Angeles. These neighborhoods are now ruled, effectively, by street gangs, thugs, or organized crime groups. The traditional authorities f the established state, through neglect, have caused a state of nature to be created, and then replaced by a de facto authority/state - which takes the form of the criminal element.

The same situation could be said to exist in Fallujah, Iraq. The regime of Saddam Hussein disappears, the US doesn’t step in fast enough; then the insurgent gangs take over the city.

The point that your Maximum Leader is making here is that in the absence of some sort of established authority acting as the sole agent of legitimate use of force against others men will come together and form their own authority. It is self-interest and self-protection (to the extent that they can be separated) at work.

Now once people start coming together to legitimize the use of force, you get states (or in places like Fallujah - quasi-states). And once you get a group of people living together, there are going to be rules.

Here is where most libertarians start to go wrong. They go wrong when trying to determine the degree to which the number of rules/laws will be constrained. They want the benefits of our modern, technological society, with as few rules as possible.

Allow your Maximum Leader to say this, the goal to live with a minimal number of laws as well as living in harmony with your fellow man is a praiseworthy goal. He would love to aspire towards this goal. But to the extent that most libertarians want minimal laws and minimalist governments the goal is a utopian fantasy.

The larger a society it, the more rules it will have. The number of laws is related to the population of that society. The bigger it is, the more rules, regulations, and laws it will have. This is mainly a factor of the fact that as a society grows larger and larger the degree to which it is a homogenous mass decreases. As the homogeneity of a society decreases, the greater the pressure from various groups within society to see to impose rules on the whole society that benefit them and their beliefs.

In many respects, your Maximum Leader would love to live in a Minimalist State described by Robert Nozick in “Anarchy, State, and Utopia.” In Nozick’s vision, the only feasible libertarian state is a small, homogeneous group of like-minded people who have banded together and given consent to their established form of government. These states would tend to be small geographically and demographically. Because once you started to grow, the ability to maintain a minimal state drops off sharply. Thus the vision of a minimalist state (or at least Nozick’s formulation of one) becomes a Utopian fantasy.

Now, your Maximum Leader is a Conservative. As such he believes that the social systems that have grown up over time need to be preserved, unless compelling explanations of why they should be changed can be presented and gain widespread support. This is almost more of a disposition than an ideology. He, like Skippy - and probably most sensible people, would prefer to live in a state where there is minimal interference from political authority in your life. He wants to maximize personal freedom and minimize the obligations to obey the law where it might conflict with how one would want to live their life. But he also recognizes that existing social systems have enabled us to get to where we are socially, politically, culturally; and those systems have an stabilizing influence which is worthy of preservation.

But, as a member of society (and a large one at that) there are responsibilities incumbent on your Maximum Leader. He is obliged to respect the established authorities and laws, pay taxes, and forgo the right to be truly free (in the Hobbesian sense). He recognizes that there are a great many laws that he would like to see removed, but realizes that there is a political system in place to do that. He understands the role of the state and his place in it. He does not seek, or desire, and indeed believes that the whole concept of a “nanny state” is anathema to the American Ideal.

But he also doesn’t believe that men are capable of living togetherand “minding their own business.” Men just can’t do it. It has never ever happened in all of recorded history, and is unlikely to start happening. Sure you can ignore the person in the apartment next to you. Or the people down the hall. Or the families down the street. But perhaps they can’t ignore you. Eventually even the person who most desires to be left alone to his own devices will want to come into contact with some other person.

Those other people, alas - just like the person who wants to be left alone, have rights too. And under the current established political authorities of almost all the western world that other person’s rights carry no more weight than yours. If the other person wants to make sure you don’t inject yourself with substances to which they object and the laws of your particular political state don’t explicitly say that you can inject yourself with whatever substance you like; it is likely that the other person can try to get a law passed to keep you from injecting. And if that law passes you are outta luck.

Skippy says that the state shouldn’t prohibit activities from which spring no societal harms. What are those activities exactly? There can be societal costs for any of the activities he listed. If you carelessly OD drugs (legal or otherwise) and are uninsured - can the local authorities refuse to transport you to a hospital or the hospital refuse to treat you? If you get an STD from the hooker you paid for a little fun last weekend aren’t you now a carrier of that STD and something of a social risk? If you choose to smoke cigarettes and contract cancer, shouldn’t the state be able to refuse to treat that avoidable cancer?

The point here is that if you look hard enough there is always a societal cost to behavior that takes place within society. In the instances listed above we as a society have decided that there is a social cost to those sorts of behavior and as a result those behaviors can be curtailed or completely restricted.

Now your Maximum Leader agrees with Skippy that the cost of the drug war is excessive and that our national policy towards drugs should be seriously reevaluated. And he believes (more or less) that prostitution should be legalized. But he also believes that there are necessary rules that have legitimate roles in society. Some of those rules have a moral foundation - and that is not a bad thing. Morality and Civility in civil society (that is society outside the political sphere) is critical to have. It is the glue that (aside from use of force) holds society together. You might have a beef with how the morality of some seeps into society, but that is an unavoidable consequence of living among others. It is also why we have a political process. The political process exists to address the concerns of citizens in society.

Your Maximum Leader would like to see a great many laws (with which he disagrees) eliminated. And he isn’t too keen on new laws to replace them. But on the other hand, he does think that the existing way of doing things on the balance needs to be protected. So he doesn’t object to some legislating to preserve the society we have.

It is often said that what differentiates the west of other cultures is the rule of law. Your Maximum Leader agrees with that sentiment, but he fears that inability of our political representatives to make law effectively puts our society in jeopardy. He sees that meek politicians more worried about their own reelection than the common weal allow judges to more broadly interpret the law than they should. As it stands now, the politicians spend more time trying to figure out how to undo what the judges have done (often without direction from the politicians) than make clearer laws.

Your Maximum Leader realizes that he’s speaking very broadly here and that there are lots of details that ought to be discussed… But really after 5400 words he’s going to have to get to a closing point…

So to wrap things up and finally post this entry (and thereby give Skippy his long-awaited response), yor Maximum Leader and Skippy probably agree on more than either of their posts might let on. (Just like your Maximum Leader and the Smallholder agree on much more than they disagree upon.) But there are fundamental disagreements between the two of us that we’re happy to put out there for the benefit of our readers.

Your Maximum Leader is happy to clarify his points to anyone who would like to ask for clarification. He also will state up front, that many of the criticisms you are working through in your mind right now are just wrong. Save your energy and just agree with your Maximum Leader. You’ll be a lot better off in the long run.

Carry on.

Non-itchy Kilts?

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader owns a kilt. It was handmade for him by Hector Russell of Princes Street, Edinburgh, Scotland. (At the time they had a Royal Warrant from the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Edinburgh.) He wears it on special occasions. It is heavy. It is wool. And sometimes it itches.

So now your Maximum Leader sees a clever blog ad on Wizbang for the Sport Kilt and he decides to click through.

Now, your Maximum Leader isn’t sure he really needs another kilt. But if he was going to wear one around with any regularity, he might just consider getting a cotton-poly blend with a elcro waistband. Alas, they don’t seem to have the tartan that your Maximum Leader would want to buy…

Carry on.

Happy Valentines Day

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader despises Valentine’s Day. This is to say, he despises the Hallmark Valentine’s Day faux-holiday. He has no problems with Saint Valentine’s Day, a former holy day of obligation for Catholics and High Anglicans.

Excursus: Which Saint Valentine is it really? There are a few. Your Maximum Leader knows that the Saint Valentine we’re supposedly celebrating is this Saint Valentine. Who was clubbed and then beheaded to become the Patron Saint of Love. But why not the Saint Valentine of Trier - who was beheaded by Diocletian? Or Saint Valentine who was martryed at Ravenna in 305? Or Saint Valentine the Bishop of Genoa who helped expand the monasteries in the 3rd Century? Or Saint Valentine Berrio-Ocha of Vietnam? They all seem to have equal claim on becoming the Patron Saint of Love…

Anyho…

Your Maximum Leader has gone ahead and succumbed to the pressures of Mrs. Villain to celebrate in some way. So, to that end, your Maximum Leader bought a small bouquet of flowers for Mrs. Villain and each of the Villainettes. He also purchased cards for each (Mrs. Villain’s is funny and filled with innuendo; and the Villainettes contain stickers they can use to decorate something). He also purchased some chocolates for Mrs. Villain and Villainette #1 - who both like chocolate a lot.

In return for these gifts, your Maximum Leader expects the Villainettes to clean up the Villainschloss without cajoling tonight. And he expects Mrs. Villain to satisfy your Maximum Leader’s manly needs after the children have gone to bed.

In other Valentine’s Day news around the world… Who says love between a 43 year old former teacher and her 22 year old former student (with whom she’s had two children) can’t last? Even after Mary Kay Letourneau has spent 7 years in prison, she still loves her little Villi. And it seems that in April they will wed. Let’s hear it now… Awwww… How nice.

Your Maximum Leader will not send a gift. He will, instead, hope that they make it for longer than J-Lo or Brittney Spears in the wedded bliss department.

Carry on.

More Gay Marriage Spanking o Analphilospher

A wonderful legal takedown of KBJ’s poor canine voting analogy can be found here.

Link found via Analphilospher. Kudos to KBJ for being willing to link to an article that destroys his argument. Hurrah for fair play. Bad argument Keith, but good form.

Valentine’s Day

I have great students.

The choral ensemble sold singing valentines. For a few dollars, you could hire the choir to go to someone’s class and sing a love song to them.

My AP students sent me one. It was signed: “Love, Frederick Jacson Turner and Edmund Morgan.”

Ha!

What? Supplemental?

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader was speaking on the phone the other day to the good Smallholder. We chatted about the ususal stuff and before too long, we were off talking politics. Notwithstanding the comment the Smallholder made concerning your Maximum Leader being an apologist for the Bush Administration (a claim your Maximum Leader denies by the way) we were in agreement on one issue. The President’s budget is waaaaay too big.

Indeed, when you Maximum Leader heard that the Administration was pushing to cut or eliminate 150 programs your Maximum Leader thought to himself, “What? They could only come up with 150?” Needless to say, your Maximum Leader isn’t too pleased in this department. There is much more that could be cut or eliminated.

Now your Maximum Leader learns that the Administration is requesting $82 billion more for Iraq, Afghanistan, and Tsunami relief. Here is the story on the wire. This is even more irksome than the regular budget. First off, why is this a supplemental? It couldn’t have been a surprise that the US was going to spend money in Iraq, Afghanistan, and on Tsunami relief. (Okay, your Maximum Leader will withdraw the Tsunami relief bit… That is a legitimate use of the Supplemental spending request.) Surely people preparing the budget would have a notion that we’d still be in Iraq and Afghanistan this year. They could have ballparked a number.

The real reason this was done was political. In a purely Machiavellian sense your Maximum Leader does approve and appaud what the Administration is doing. Sending the request as a supplemental budget item and require that it be voted on separately from the rest of the budget. This way you have an issue to use (as they did against Senator Kerry in the late election) against opponents. And linking the Iraq and Afghanistan money to Tsunami relief is an added plus in the politics department.

But it is all so transparent as to lose points too. The Administration’s Strategery on this one is too clear for it to be diabolical. The Administration will hem and haw and say that “we don’t know how much stuff will cost so that is why we are doing it this way.” That is a load. Plenty of other programs operate by budgeting their best guess and then asking for more (in a supplemental spending request) if they start to go over. That is the way it should be done.

Of course, your Maximum Leader doesn’t understand why he is getting worked up about this. Because the Congressional Republicans haven’t proven themselves to be fiscally conservative. They spend money like drunken sailors.

Then again, Congressional Democrats spend money like drunken sailors with credit cards in hand.

Carry on.

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