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Friday, August 30, 2013

Law vs. "Might Makes Right"

Suppose two people have a dispute and fail to reach a compromise. If there is a legal system where they live, they can go to court and let a judge decide. If the losing side fails to do what the judge orders, the police & others will see that it is enforced. This enforcement can include fines, imprisonment, and possibly injury or death depending on how vigorously the loser resists.

Take the same situation in a place that has no legal system. If two people have a dispute and fail to reach a compromise, they and their allies will fight it out until the weaker side gives up.

In both cases, might makes right. Although courts involve less bloodshed than feuding, the principle in both is the same. Courts are just a way to settle disputes with as little violence as possible. Courts aren't morally superior, just more efficient.

In a similar way, so many things get decided on the basis of popularity. Every election, Supreme Court decision, jury verdict, Nobel Prize, most wars- all were decided on the basis of which side had more supporters.

But if popularity is taken as the sole measure of what is right and wrong, this leads to the absurd idea that what is right merely depends on which side is the most popular.

This is the reason why it's important to find principles which are always true. If the principles on which the laws are based are right, the laws will be right. Otherwise, all that's left is might makes right.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Impossible Math of Reducing CO2 Emissions

Current human emissions: 30 billion tons, which corresponds 2 ppm

So, 15 billion tons corresponds to about 1ppm CO2.

Increase in atmospheric CO2 predicted by UN over the next century if no action is taken: 468 ppm

468 ppm X 15 billion tons CO2/1 ppm = about 7 trillion tons CO2 will be emitted over the next hundred years.

This added CO2 will supposedly increase the global temperature by 7°F. But suppose we only wanted to stop 1°F rise. How hard would that be? Well, assuming there's a linear correlation, it would require that people emit 1 trillion fewer tons of CO2 over the next hundred years. That means:

-No CO2 emissions for 33 years, which require the world to return to a pre-industrial standard of living

-Half as many emissions for 66 years, which means returning to the energy use levels of 1940

OK, any other ideas? Well, here are 15 ideas, 8 of which need to be implemented to prevent a doubling of atmospheric CO2.
  • Double fuel efficiency of 2 billion cars from 30 to 60 mpg.
  • Decrease the number of car miles traveled by half.
  • Use best efficiency practices in all residential and commercial buildings.
  • Produce current coal-based electricity with twice today’s efficiency.
  • Increase wind electricity capacity by 50 times relative to today, for a total of 2 million large windmills
  • Replace 1400 coal electric plants with natural gas-powered facilities.
  • Capture AND store emissions from 800 coal electric plants.
  • CO2Produce hydrogen from coal at six times today’s rate AND store the captured.
  • Capture carbon from 180 coal-to-synfuels plants AND store the CO2.
  • Add double the current global nuclear capacity to replace coal-based electricity.
  • Install 700 times the current capacity of solar electricity.
  • Use 40,000 square kilometers of solar panels (or 4 million windmills) to produce hydrogen for fuel cell cars.
  • Increase ethanol production 50 times by creating biomass plantations with area equal to 1/6th of world cropland.
  • Eliminate tropical deforestation AND double the current rate of new forest planting.
  • Adopt conservation tillage in all agricultural soils worldwide.
There isn't a chance in hell of achieving even one of those goals.

Thankfully, climate change isn't a problem:


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Will People Colonize Mars?

All the technology needed to colonize Mars already exists, more or less. It would be extremely expensive, but not impossible. I think the more interesting question is whether people will want to colonize Mars.

Suppose Mars had the same climate as San Diego (breathable air, rain, etc.) and that the price of a one-way ticket was $500. Suppose also that you could spend the trip in suspended animation. Putting all this together, a trip to Mars would be comfortable and cheap, and you wouldn't need any special equipment to live there.

Even in this case, I still think very few people would make the trip. People generally don't migrate long distances unless they are forced to. The immigrants who came to the US were fleeing poverty, persecution, war, etc. By and large, they didn't move because they were feeling adventurous or wanted a change of scenery.

Secondly, people generally like living near other people- that's why most people live in cities. A person adventurous enough to go to San Diego Mars to get away from it all would be just as happy going to Alaska or some other sparsely populated place. I think the wilderness areas of Earth will fill up long before anyone starts venturing into space. If space travel becomes exponentially cheaper, I could see people visiting Mars and the moon the way people climb Mt. Everest, but that's about it.

It would be great if people started colonizing Mars, and I might even sign up if journey is not too arduous, but it looks very unlikely for now.

I think Bruce Sterling sums up the situation well:

"I'll believe in people settling Mars at about the same time I see people settling the Gobi Desert. The Gobi Desert is about a thousand times as hospitable as Mars and five hundred times cheaper and easier to reach. Nobody ever writes "Gobi Desert Opera" because, well, it's just kind of plonkingly obvious that there's no good reason to go there and live. It's ugly, it's inhospitable and there's no way to make it pay. Mars is just the same, really. We just romanticize it because it's so hard to reach."

For more depressing info about the difficulties of space travel, Charlie Stross has an excellent article.

How Life on Earth Will End

From wiki:

"During the next four billion years, the luminosity of the Sun will steadily increase, resulting in a rise in the solar radiation reaching the Earth. This will cause a higher rate of weathering of silicate minerals, which will cause a decrease in the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. In about 600 million years, the level of CO
will fall below the level needed to sustain C3 carbon fixation photosynthesis used by trees. Some plants use the C4 carbon fixation method, allowing them to persist at CO
concentrations as low as 10 parts per million. However, the long-term trend is for plant life to die off altogether. The die off of plants will be the demise of almost all animal life, since plants are the base of the food chain on Earth."

Interesting how too little CO2 in the atmosphere is what will eventually doom life on earth.


Monday, August 26, 2013

Another Anti-Authoritarian Collage

"The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws" -Tacitus

"Laws are chains for the weak, cobwebs for the strong, and nets for the courts." - Proudhon, paraphrased


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Useful Phrases in Enu Aba: A Constructed Language Primer

Enu Aba (easy language) is a mini conlang I invented recently.  It has 100 root words and 7 grammatical suffixes. This should make the language much easier to learn than English or even another systematic conlang like Esperanto. It does contain sounds like l, r, v, w, th, h, or s which are absent in many major natural languages and are difficult for people with speech impediments.

Useful Phrases in Enu Aba

Note on pronunciation: the letter "e" can pronounced either like in the English word  "bed" or as in the Spanish word "de", whichever is easier for the speaker. Similarly, it's OK to shorten "a" to the English unstressed vowel /ə/ if that letter comes at the end of the word.

Hello/Goodbye/Thanks/Peace- abe

Please/Sorry/Excuse me- omobona enekama (lit. my bad [action])

What is your name?- Omi okobona aba?

My name is...: Omobona aba...

How do you say ... in Enu Aba?- Omi aba bo ... ni Enu Aba?

It was nice talking with you- Bokami na oko obo oke.

I like it/I don't like it- Omo ma eku/Omo no ma eku

How many people are in your family?- Omi obe akukana ni okobona aku?

My hovercraft is full of eels- Ni omobona ebemona eke, obe akimona ebukana (lit: In my aerial boat, many aquatic snakes)

ebemona-aerial- lit: air + adjective suffix
akimona-aquatic- lit water +  adjective suffix

The suffixes when combined with the roots can make many different words:

Omo- I
Omobona- my, mine (bona is the possessive suffix)
Omokana- we, us      (kana is the plural suffix)
Omomona- private, personal (mona is the adjective suffix)
Omonanu- individualize, personalize (nanu is the noun/adj/adv-to-verb suffix)

oki- he/she
okibima- he
okibimabona- his
okiboma- she
okibomabona- her/hers

be- come
bemoka- attract (lit: to cause to come- moka is the causative suffix)
mu- learn
mumoka- to teach (lit: to cause to understand)
enu- easy, light, soften
enumoka- simplify, lighten, soften
ku- bone, death
kumoka- kill (lit: to cause death) kunanu (lit: to death, to [be] bones = to die)


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Controlling the Narrative: Trayvon Martin & Delbert Belton

All groups have a story, or narrative they tell themselves which justifies what they believe about the world. The narrative can be mostly true or mostly false, but it always serves to justify the actions of the group. The narrative is controlled by emphasizing evidence that reinforces it and ignoring evidence that does not.

The media in the US is mostly liberal and it has a narrative about racism which is not hard to spot. The biggest news story in the US in the past year was the trial of George Zimmerman. Zimmerman was acquitted of murder for shooting and killing Trayvon Martin during a fight. Almost every news story about the incident emphasized that Zimmerman was a white Hispanic and Martin was an unarmed black teen.

There was also much discussion of Zimmerman's alleged racism including possible hate crime charges. The race of Zimmerman and Martin was mentioned in nearly every story. If you do a search for "Trayon unarmed black" on the New York Times website, the phrase occurs almost 200 times in the past year.

Compare that to the coverage of the murder of Delbert Belton, a WW2 vet who was robbed and beaten to death last Wednesday. Almost every story omitted the race of the suspects, though a few showed pictures.

Isn't it strange the one story mentioned the race of those involved without fail and the other does not? When you think about the narrative most of the media is pushing, it's not strange at all.

Liberal journalists want the people to agree with them so the government will be controlled by them.
The reason they focus so much attention on white-on-black racism is because liberals are the self-styled saviors of black people. A large portion of their power is based on the principle that blacks need to be helped because of racism- an idea which is ironically racist itself. Programs and policies like public housing, Head Start, Affirmative Action, etc. are often justified on the basis of counteracting the effects of racism. In order to hold on to the political power these programs give to liberals, they must constantly harp on the problem of racism and downplay the substantial evidence that the real problem is their misguided efforts to help people. Economist Walter Williams does a great job of explaining this in his film Good Intentions:

I don't have a problem with advocacy, but I prefer it when people are up front about it. If you want to call yourself a journalist, you must be impartial and report all the facts for every story. If, on the other hand, your goal is to make converts, you should say so and state your affiliation. I think it would be great if a D or R or I appeared after every journalist's name just like politicians.

And finally, since today is the anniversary of MLK's I Have a Dream speech, I feel this video is appropriate:

Friday, August 23, 2013

My Answer to Toki Pona: Enu Aba

Enu Aba (easy language) is my first complete mini conlang. It has 100 root words and 7 grammatical suffixes.

Here are the main features:

-each root has 1 to 4 meanings
-adverbs for tense
-compounds to make other words
- vowels like Spanish: a, e, i, o, u
- consonants are b, k, m, n
- double verb to show continuous action
- double adjective/adverb to show intensity
- word order is SVO
- end yes/no questions with "yes"
- adjectives & adverbs proceed words they modify
-first syllable is stressed
-verb suffixes for various aspects

Word List

I ordered it by part of speech, but there are a couple of miscategorized entries. Use Ctrl+f to find what you want.

Conjunctions, Prepositions, etc.

1. and, with, together- na
2. in, inside, on, to- ni
3. of, from, about- e
4. out, away, outside- o
5. or, either, maybe- u
6. yes, true, correct- a
7. no, false, wrong- no


8. go, travel, move, leave- i
9. make, do, use, work- ne
10. take, eat, drink- nu
11. put, set, lay- ba
12. come, arrive, return- be
13. give, let, lose, forget - bi
14. speak, say, talk, tell- bo
15. think, believe, feel- bu
16. like, want, love, need- ma
17. can, know, hear- me
18. win, buy, get, receive- mi
19. sleep, stop, rest, sit- mo
20. learn, read, study, understand- mu


21. foot, leg, down, low- ka
22. arm, hand, five- ke
23. stomach, belly, hunger- ki
24. eye, sight, shape, color- ko
25. bone, death- ku
26. finger, toe, piece- aka
27. joint, elbow, corner, bow- ake
28. water, liquid, rain- aki
29. back, rear, behind- ako
30. person, people, group, family- aku
31. word, name, language, tongue- aba
32. peace, thanks, hello, goodbye- abe
33. skin, face, front- abi
34. hair, clothes, hat- abo
35. seed, egg, start- abu
36. root, parent, reason- ama
37. animal, meat, body- ame
38. plant, food, fruit- ami
39. tree, wood, paper, book- amo
40. house, place, building- amu
41. stone, mountain, metal- ana
42. fire, sun, star- ane
43. time, day, hour- ano
44. moon, month, night- anu
45. year, circle, sky- eba
46. air, wind, breath- ebe
47. heart, chest, center- ebi
48. worm, snake, lizard- ebu
49. land, country, ground, earth- ebo
50. bird, chicken, airplane- eka
51. fish, boat- eke
52. bug, germ, insect- eki
53. wheel, machine, tool- eko
54. thing, it- eku
55. head, top, main, up- ema
56. nose, smell, taste- eme
57. heart, emotion, power- emi
58. money, economy- emo
59. god, religion- emu
60. way, road, method- ena

Adjectives & Adverbs

61. bad, sick, evil- ene
62. big, fat, tall- eni
63. small, short, thin- eno
64. easy, light, soft- enu
65. hard, heavy, thick- iba
66. black, dark- ibe
67. red, angry- ibi
68. yellow, afraid- ibo
69. blue, cold- ibu
70. green, happy- ika
71. orange, hot- ike
72. brown, dirty- iki
73. white, clean- iko
74. strong, new, fresh- iku
75. weak, tired, old- ima
76. sharp, spicy, rough- ime
77. smooth, gentle- imi
78. long, far, wide, deep- imo
79. near, close, thin, shallow- imu
80. fast, smart- ina
81. slow, dumb- ine
82. ready, already- ini
83. complete, all, whole, full- ino
84. empty, none, nothing- inu
85. other, another- oba
86. many, a lot, very, much- obe
87. few, a little bit, rare- obi
88. ago, before, past- obo
89. next, then, after. later- obu
90. still, yet- oka
91. good, beautiful, healthy- oke

Pronouns & Demonstatives

92. he/she- oki
93. you- oko
94. this, here- oku
95. that, there- oma
96. but, however- ome
97. what, which, than- omi
98. I- omo
99. one, single, alone, different- omu
100. two, pair, same, like- ona

Grammatical Suffixes

plural- kana
make verb/adj/adv into noun- kami
make noun into adj/adv- mona
make noun/adj/adv into verb- nanu
possessive- bona
masculine/feminine- bima/boma
causative (verbs- -ize, -ify)- moka

My quick test for a conlang is to see how easy it is to write the Lord's Prayer:

Lord's Prayer

Emubona Bokami

omokanabona emu omi ni eba
okobona aba emumona
okobona ema ebo be
okobona emi mi
ni emu ona ni eba
bi ni omokana omokanabona anomona ami
na bi omokanabona ene nekana
ona omokana bi ene nekana e oba akukana
na no imoka omokana ni ene makama
ome ba omokana o e enekami
omi ama oko ema ebo, ikumona, na okekami
omi ino ano



I-pl-poss God who in sky
you-poss name god-like
you-poss good country come
you-poss power win
on earth and in sky
give to I-pl I-pl-poss day-ly food
and forget I-pl-poss bad do-ing
like I-pl forget bad do-ings of other person-pl
and not go-caus I-pl to bad want-pl
but set I-pl away from bad-ness
for reason you up country, strong-ness, and good-ness
for all time



Thursday, August 22, 2013

Law & Order: Team Blue Propaganda Unit

In a ham-fisted Team Blue morality play, the characters are represented by two separate yet equally insipid groups: the Team Blue Mary Sue good guys, and their preposterous right-wing strawman adversaries. These are their fantasies.

No thanks. If I wanted a lesson, I'd watch this version of Law & Order instead. It's less condescending.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Welfare ATMs

Milton Friedman once suggested that the welfare bureaucracy should be scrapped and the government should just mail checks directly to the poor. It would be cheaper and so the poor would get more money for the same program cost.

I believe I have come up with a similar alternative. I suggest that the welfare bureaucracy and related programs be scrapped and replaced with a system of free ATMs set up around the country. Anyone could use one as often as they wanted, no questions asked. The catch is that it would only dispense $1 at a time. Push the button, wait a minute, get a dollar. Repeat as needed.

Presto- no more beggars. Additionally, the system trains impulsive people to be patient. If they want a lot of money, they will have to stand there and diligently push the button to get what they want.

It is possible that an enterprising person will figure out that they can make $60 per hour if the push the button diligently or hire someone to do so. I think such farming is unlikely to occur as the kind of people attracted to free money tend to have short attention spans.

But suppose some gang decided to claim the ATM and stake it out. What is the harm? The gang would have to pay people to push the button and people to guard them. Presto, instant entry-level jobs for just about anyone. No doubt an entire economy and marketplace would spring up around such places.   


Great Scott! My wifebeater is inside out!

I went the whole day without noticing.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Introduction to Derpetology- The Derp "Rosetta Stone"

Welcome. Please take a syllabus and be seated.

Today I'll be discussing some excerpts from the so-called Derp Rosetta Stone. This tablet was used in ancient times to facilitate communication between people and Derps.

DERP- It's not fair.
ENGLISH- I don't like it

DERP- I'm a centrist; you're an extremist.
ENGLISH- I'm right; you're wrong.

DERP- Trust me, I have more experience.
ENGLISH- I can't explain why you're wrong, but you are.

DERP- To be the most successful computer company in the world at delivering the best customer experience in markets we serve
ENGLISH- To stay in business by not selling shitty computers

DERP- Undisputed Marketplace Leadership
ENGLISH- We're #1! We're #1!

DERP- We're taking the company in the new direction.
ENGLISH- Clean out your desk and get out of my sight.

DERP- This will go on your permanent record.
ENGLISH- I am too lazy to give you a real punishment.

DERP- Thank you for you application.
ENGLISH- You lose.

DERP- There are those who say...
ENGLISH- My strawman opponents say....

As you can see, although Derp is quite different from English, the are rules of thumb to aid in translation.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Two Great Essays: The Myth of the Rule of Law & America's Earliest Terrorists

The Myth of the Rule of Law

This essay explains how the existence of contradictory laws allows for valid but contradictory legal interpretations.

America's Earliest Terrorists

This essay details America's war against Muslim pirates in North Africa during the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

An Anti-Authoritarian Collage

Catholic schools teach that Catholicism is best. Jewish schools teach that Judaism is best. Government schools teach that government is best.

Laws are chains for the week, cobwebs for the strong, and nets for the courts.
-Proudhon paraphrased

"Every nation imposes its own system as far as its army can reach."

"The first lesson of economics is scarcity: there is never enough of anything to fully satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics."
-Thomas Sowell

"Politicians promise to build bridges- even when there is no river."

How can an action which is forbidden when done individually be acceptable when done collectively?
Is morality just a popularity contest?

Waco: The Rules of Engagement

As the compound was burning, the government thugs raised the ATF flag as though they had scored a great military victory:
"If the President does it, that means that it is not illegal."


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Club Awesome- A Parable

Suppose there is a group called Club Awesome. Club Awesome has chapters all over the world and anyone can join CA by simply saying "Yabba dabba doo" in the presence of another club member.

Like any club, CA members have many rules. The have a book which lists all 138 of them. CA members who break the rules are punished by being forced to hop on one foot for extended periods of time. However, those who leave CA are hunted down and bludgeoned to death with a ceremonial mallet. Non-CA members too face violence for criticizing the eccentric practices of CA.

CA rules require that members adhere to a strict diet which forbids all food except pears and bacon cheeseburgers. CA members in prison and other public places demand to be served according to their laws. Establishments which wish to cater to CA members must receive a blessing from CA elders, who must spend and afternoon doing cartwheels through the place while wearing tinfoil hats.

Once a year, all CA members must spend a week walking backwards. CA women must walk backwards whenever they leave their homes unless they are with a male CA member. Employers and the government, of course, are pressed to accommodate these customs.

All this sounds pretty silly, doesn't it? Would you fault people for refusing to deal with CA members and laughing at them? Or even pushing for laws against their customs? How much tolerance would other people extend to a group like this?

Now imagine that CA is also a religion with a holy book, its own language, millions of members, and a hierarchy of leaders. Would those things make CA less silly? Would it oblige people to respect them?

I think the answer is clear.


Friday, August 16, 2013

What Sam Harris Doesn't Get About Abortion and Stem Cell Research

I have enjoyed Sam Harris' works greatly over the years. He has a gift for giving the facts with a comic flair. I am an atheist and it is always refreshing to see someone call out obnoxious superstitious nonsense for what it is. Nonetheless, I have a bone or two to pick with him.

In his book Letter to a Christian Nation, Harris made two points I thought were a bit shaky. One was about stem cell research and the other was about abortion. He claimed that opposition to both was rooted in irrational Christian beliefs.

To support that claim, he said that swatting a fly should bother Christians more than the destruction of an embryo which has no nervous system and no ability to feel pain. A fly's brain has many times the number of cells as a days-old human embryo, and so if opposition to abortion is based on causing pain, the death of a fly should bother Christians more than the death of an embryo. In the first place, Christians and others who oppose abortion do not do so because they are against pain. Christians and others (myself included) believe that human life is different from other kinds of life and therefore falls under different moral standards. I'm sure even Sam Harris agrees with this up to a point. I could be going out on a limb here, but I think Sam Harris does not want people to kill each other for sport or food or because they are a nuisance, which is what we do to animals. If Harris agrees with that, it must be because he too judges human life by a different standard.

Harris says that the potential medical advances from stem cell research are so great that opposition to it is immoral. In his view, alleviating the pain of sick people outweighs the destruction of unaware embryos. In other words, the embryos don't count as people because they are not aware. Sam compares the harvesting of stem cells from embryos to the harvesting of organs from comatose people. There are some problems with this analogy. If being aware is what makes you human, do people become nonhuman when they fall asleep? Obviously not. If a serial killer drugs his victims and kills them when they fall asleep, he is still guilty of murder even though the victim was not conscious at the time. Awareness and/or the ability to feel pain is not what obliges people to refrain from murder. Another problem with his analogy is that organ donors usually give permission while they are alive. Taking organs from a person who was once alive but is now beyond hope of recovery is a much different scenario that destroying a potential person.

The other argument I found troublesome was about abortion. Harris said we should not be disturbed by it because a large percentage of pregnancies miscarry naturally anyway. To me, this is like saying we should not be bothered by murder because people die all the time. There is an enormous difference between an accidental death and a homicide when it comes to morality. I think abortion should remain legal but pretending like it doesn't involve the destruction of a human life is dishonest.

On a side note, it is dishonest for pro-choice people immediately jump to rape and incest as justifications for abortion. Rape and incest account for less than 1% of abortions in the US, while over 90% are for personal and financial reasons.

Harris demonstrates excellent reasoning most of the time, but I believe he did a lot of hand waving and sloppy thinking on these two points.



Thursday, August 15, 2013

Obama the Rodeo Clown

A rodeo clown who wore an Obama mask for a skit is sending the nation's Right-Thinking People scrambling for their smelling salts and fainting couches. We'll get to that in a moment. The skit is pretty simple- the clown poses as Obama and then everybody laughs as he runs from the angry bull. The rodeo has been doing this skit for decades for every president in that time. Making fun of politicians is as American as apple pie. Who could possibly be offended by this?

A professional clown, that's who. Enter Judy Quest, past president of Clowns of America, International. She wrote an opinion column for CNN in which she weighs forth on this controversial matter in her capacity as an experienced and influential clown. I'm not making this up.

Partway through the column, we learn that clowns are highly-trained and bound to a strict and solemn code of ethics. And what is the most important rule for these rainbow-wigged and red-nosed Jedi Knights? According to Quest, the butt of the joke must always be the clown and never someone else.
As such, the Obama clown was totally out of line and brought dishonor upon all "real" clowns. Judy, whatever you do, do not look up Steven King's It on YouTube.

As the piece crescendos into total absurdity, Quest asks:
"The individual who took on the role of a clown in Missouri might have made some people laugh, but it was at the expense of so many others.
What of the children who were in the audience and being taught to respect our president and government? What of every person in the audience who hates racism? What of the officials of the state of Missouri who are now the focus of national attention in this negative light?"
Hold on. I think I have the right picture for this. Ah, here it is:

Ladies and gentlemen, here is a self-professed clown who thinks that children 1) have political views and 2) get them at rodeos. This clown also thinks that a skit done about many presidents is somehow racist when the target is Obama. I think I speak for many when I say that there is no one in America who is more suitable to be portrayed as a rodeo clown. The man is a master at distraction.

Judy Quest's introductory blurb states that she has written for many clown journals. I guess she can now add CNN to that list.



Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Why Objective Morality Does Not Exist

In various debates about atheism, I have heard religious apologists argue that there can be no objective morality and hence no law & order without religion. This claim is spurious because objective morality does not exist.

Asking whether objective morality exists is like asking whether objective language exists. Is there a language that can be proven through logic and measurement alone to be superior to all others? Of course not. People can communicate in Japanese just as easily as in English or Cherokee. Morality, like language and money, are nothing more than tools which make it easier to live together.

However, just because these tools are arbitrary does not mean that it is impossible to say something is objectively better than another. You can say something is objectively better as long as there is a measurable difference. It doesn't matter what standard you use as long as you use the same one for all the things you compare. For example, it's easy to objectively say that an elephant weighs more than a person because the difference can be measured, and it doesn't matter whether you use pounds, kilograms, tons, or stones. The fact that there are different standards for measuring weight does not mean that it is impossible to objectively say something is heavier than something else.

Likewise with morality, just because there is no objective morality does not mean it is impossible to objectively say one action is good or bad. If the question is rephrased as something with a measurable difference, the mystery vanishes. For example, the question "is the death penalty moral?" has no objective answer. However, the question "do states with the death penalty have lower murder rates?" has a definite numerical answer:

Murder Rates in Death Penalty States and Non-Death Penalty States (click to enlarge)

In similar way, it is impossible to objectively say that the moral and legal system of the Taliban is bad, but is possible say whether their system is correlated with literacy, health, or per capita income.
There is no great mystery here. Objective answers to moral questions exist. It's just at matter of asking the right kind of question.

Addendum: There may be other reasons to objectively argue the death penalty is good, but deterrence is not one of them.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Guest Column: How to Succeed in Politics by Barack Obama

Let me be clear: the first thing you need in politics is an identity that can be aligned with a constituency. In my case, I decided that my best option was to sell myself as a professional black man. This is the reason why I began my political career in Illinois's 1st congressional district, which has the highest concentration of black voters in the country. Does it matter that I'm only half-white, was educated in various private schools, and was raised mainly by my white grandparents in a middle-class suburb? Of course not! All I had to do to prove I was one of them was change my name from Barry to Barack, go to a wacky black church, and give a couple speeches in Ebonics to black audiences. Quicker than you can wink, I was in the State Senate.

Make no mistake: to succeed in politics, you must be a chameleon. A chameleon with a best-selling memoir. Heck, I wrote two just to be on the safe side, and one of them was before I had even been elected to anything! Does it matter that they were chock full of platitudes and whitewashed personal history? Who cares? The important thing was to distract people from questions like: how did a self-admitted mediocre student like me get into Harvard and Chicago Law? Why were all my mentors far left loons and radicals? Let's face it- my background was less than ideal. My dad was a drunken, womanizing, 3rd-world bureaucrat and my mom was a flighty, irresponsible perma-student. See why I swept them under the rug?

There are those who say I spin like a well-oiled weather vane in the shifting winds of political favor. Well, obviously! How else does anyone get elected? 90% of politics is telling people what they want to hear and then doing whatever keeps you in power. For example, I harshly criticized Bush for racking up huge deficits and engaging in reckless wars. When I got in, I doubled down on all that crap and then gave speeches to distract from it. Politics is a game of emotions, appearances, and intentions. Facts, logic, and consistency count for little if anything. For example, I've made no secret of my past use of drugs to win the support of young people. At the same time, I ordered the DEA to crack down on medical marijuana clinics in states where it's legal. Do I have balls or what?

Above all else, you must learn how to capitalize on good news and distract from bad news. Remember how I basked in the glow of public approval when bin Laden was killed? It didn't matter that it was the result over a decade of work by hundreds of intelligence agents because I was the one in charge when it happened. On the flip side, Benghazi, IRS, NSA, Fast & Furious scandals? Hey! Look over there! A black teenager got killed in Florida! A bunch of kids got shot in Connecticut! Some guy made a anti-Islam movie!

Barack Obama is the current President of the US. If you don't like him, you're probably racist.


Monday, August 12, 2013

Rickshaws- The Future of American Transportation?

Imagine if there was a way to simultaneously reduce carbon emissions, obesity, unemployment, and dependence on foreign oil. Well friends, there is a way. The Japanese discovered it centuries ago. Their human-powered carts are even today clattering through the dank and pungent alleys of the Orient. Yes, the rickshaw should be adopted by our noble Republic at once.

Rickshaws require no fuel and are easy to construct, maintain, and operate. Their fleet-footed drivers not only receive a means of employment but also ample fresh air and exercise. Just think of all the flabby, shabby blubberputts who could be transformed into lean, productive citizens through the magic of the rickshaw.

Adoption of a rickshaw-based infrastructure would have a ripple effect through out the economy. Just think of the stimulus to the footwear and wheelwright industries alone!

Some readers, doubtless, are still skeptical- and rightly so. "How can we trust an invention from heathen sandal-wearing goldfish tenders?" some may be asking. Why, just look at the myriad of wonders borne from that land! Whether it be cheap electronics, fast-cooking noodles, violent cartoons, or innovations in transpecies erotica, the Japanese have always led from the front.

Imagine whisking through busy streets at upwards of 6 miles per hour and walking only a few steps to hire another rested rickshaw driver and repeating that process as needed until you reach your final destination.

But don't take my word for it! Just look at this fellow and his happy passenger.


Sunday, August 11, 2013

6 Idiotic Arguments Used Against Libertarians

1. If libertarians had their way, there'd be no roads/fire department/schools, etc.

All those services are provided almost entirely by local governments. In contrast, libertarians in the US focus most of their criticism on the Federal government. Their main complaints are the income tax, the War on Drugs, excessive spending, the proliferation of laws, the Federal Reserve, and the idea of the US as the "world's policeman".

This is a classic strawman argument- pretend that libertarians would do away with roads and schools, then point and laugh.

Most libertarians want nothing more than for the Federal government to return to the limited role it played for most of US history. Did the US have roads, schools, and so on back in those days? Why, yes it did.

2. Move to Somalia if you want no government!

Ah, the "love it or leave it" argument coupled again with the strawman that libertarians oppose all government and the false dichotomy of either accepting the status quo or fleeing. Three, count 'em, three fallacies crammed into an 8-word sentence!

Could I just as easily flip this around and tell the social conservatives to move to an Amish town and tell the liberals to go to Sweden? I prefer limited government, thank you very much, so you assholes can take a hike to any one of the many authoritarian shit holes covering the planet.

It's also fun to point out that Somalia under the warlords has a better quality of life than many of the countries in Africa with central governments.

3. Butbutbut slavery!

Pray tell:

Who passed laws allowing people to own slaves?
Which groups throughout history have used the most slaves?
Didn't the Supreme Court rule in 1857 that slaves had no rights?
Didn't Congress authorize law enforcement to hunt down and capture escaped slaves?


Pray tell:

Weren't most of those children doing dangerous, back-breaking farm work for no pay before the factory jobs existed?

When modern day so-called sweat-shops are shut down, don't many of the former child workers end up destitute or in prostitution?

Should children who do odd jobs for cash be punished for breaking labor and minimum wage laws?


Pray tell:

Don't government programs often have destructive, unintended consequences?

Doesn't the Coase theorem provide an adequate solution to this problem?

Spoiler: to prevent the tragedy of the commons, let them be someone's property. Price the externalities, and they diminish to something acceptable to all.


There have been many memorable and eloquent proponents of liberty: Bastiat, Mill, Spooner, Sowell, Friedman to name but a few. But for some reason, Ayn Rand is the only one who ever comes up. I guess there was a meeting where Rand was declared the Empress of Libertarians.

The probability of Rand being mentioned in any argument about libertarian politics approaches 100% as the argument progresses. For my own part, I do not care for her novels because they violate the Twain rule of dialogue:

They require that when the personages of a tale deal in conversation, the talk shall sound like human talk, and be talk such as human beings would be likely to talk in the given circumstances, and have a discoverable meaning, also a discoverable purpose, and a show of relevancy, and remain in the neighborhood of the subject at hand, and be interesting to the reader, and help out the tale, and stop when the people cannot think of anything more to say. But this requirement has been ignored from the beginning of  [Atlas Shrugged] to the end of it.

Indeed, the characters in that novel do not talk; they give sermons and speeches to each other. The book ends with a speech that would last about 3 hours if read out loud. Generally speaking, people do not listen to speeches that long unless they are held at gun-point.

I accept the criticism that her novels are ham-fisted and melodramatic. So what? A work of fiction cannot prove or disprove an idea.

It would be a refreshing bit of intellectual honesty if critics would bother to read up on the works of other pro-liberty thinkers. That might spare the embarrassment of having their feeble arguments demolished as Mr. Molyneux does so handily in the video below.


Saturday, August 10, 2013

4 Idiotic Pro Gun Control Arguments Debunked

1. The 2nd amendment only applies to people in a "well-regulated militia" like the National Guard.

Bull. First, the phrase "well-regulated" does not mean "government-controlled". The phrase at that time referred to things or groups which were in good condition or working correctly. Second, the first part of the 2nd amendment does not say WHO may keep and bear arms; it gives the reason WHY people should be allowed to keep and bear arms.

Third, in case the Constitution is not clear enough, most state constitutions explicitly grant the right to keep and bear arms for self-defense:

Connecticut 1818: Every citizen has a right to bear arms in defense of himself and the state.

Kentucky 1792: [T]he right of the citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and the State shall not be questioned.

Massachusetts 1780: The people have a right to keep and to bear arms for the common defence.

North Carolina 1776: [T]he people have a right to bear arms, for the defence of the State; and, as standing armies, in time of peace, are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up; and that the military should be kept under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.

Pennsylvania 1776: That the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves and the state; and as standing armies in the time of peace are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up; And that the military should be kept under strict subordination, to, and governed by, the civil power.

So there it is- in black and white, clear as crystal, & plain as day.

2. A gun owner is more likely to shoot themselves or a family member than an intruder.

This figure comes from a guy named Kellerman whose study contained numerous flaws. Among these were that his sample included a large number of criminals who were more likely to be armed and more likely to be victims of homicide.

But suppose for the sake of argument we accept the study's conclusion. If this is really true, why do politicians, celebrities, & police hire guards and/or arm themselves and keep weapons in their homes?
It's clear they feel much safer with guns than without them. Makes sense to me. How many times have read about someone trying to mug a uniformed police officer? Or a politician?

Look at Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Here, he walks through a crime-ridden neighborhood to prove it's safe- and he only took 5 armed guards with him.

3. Without gun laws, anyone could by a machine gun/rpg/evil-murder-death-assault-rifle-hyper- cannon!!!!111!!!eleventy!

Almost all gun crime is committed with handguns. Criminals like them because they are cheap and easy to hide. So even if machine guns were easy to get, crooks would still be using handguns because you can't hide a tommy gun in your waistband. The reason criminals don't use military weapons for crime is the same reason they don't use catapults and trebuchets.

4. There's no point in owning guns to defend against the government because they have all the firepower.

Oh really? The people who won the war for independence were poorly-trained and lightly-armed. Ditto for the North Vietnamese and mujahideen. It is impossible to tyrannize an armed population. This is why all tyrants seek to disarm the people. The Tokugawa shoguns did it, the Nazis did it, the various Communist regimes did it, and just about every other authoritarian hellhole is trying to do it.

If guns aren't useful for resisting the government, why do tyrants always try to get rid of them?


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Why English Has So Many Words

I tutor English as a foreign language from time to time. One question I get asked a lot is why English has so many words that mean the same thing. I asked myself the same question when I was in school. 90% of what is spoken and written in English comes from a list of 1,000 words and 99% comes from a list of about 6,000 words. Yet a person whose first language is English knows at least 20,000 words.

One reason the English language has so many words is because England was invaded by 4 main groups and each group added some words English. The Romans added Latin, the Saxons added German, the Vikings added Norse, and the Normans added French. As a result, many times in English there are often 4 or more words that mean the same thing. Words like "big", "great", "large", and "magnum" all mean the same thing, but they came from different languages. Later, when English traders began traveling the world, they brought back words from the different countries they visited. About the same time, scientists began adding many new words from Latin and Greek to English. So English took words from many languages and they piled on top of the old ones.

Another reason the English language has so many words is that writers like to invent words for poems and stories.  All these words stayed in the language because knowing them became a way to show education. Since it takes a long time to learn all these words, people who know them are seen as smart.

What makes things even harder is that English also has many words that have 3 or more meanings. The word "get" is and example. By itself, it can mean: receive, arrive, understand, reach, kill, and catch. And then there are compounds like: get up, get down, get on, get off, get in, get bent, get lucky and so on.

My advice to learners is to focus on learning the most common words and idioms and don't worry about all the others. Use a dictionary to look up words you don't know or use a thesaurus to find a simple word that means the same thing.


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Way To Defeat Islamic Terrorism So Crazy It Just Might Work

The Muslim terrorists the US has been fighting are very stubborn enemies. They know the game of guerrilla warfare well and the war has been much more costly to the US than it has been to them. That means a traditional strategy of attrition will fail because the US will run out of money and willpower before they do.

The terrorists are much like the Japanese in during the Second World War. They continued to fight even after they had been beaten back to their homeland and many of their cities lay in ruins. They only gave up after being struck twice by a bomb powerful enough to destroy a whole city by itself. Those attacks were no worse than the many attacks with conventional bombs the Japanese had been hit with. It was the shock value of the atomic bomb which showed them that they were totally outmatched and that victory was impossible.

I think a similar show of force might work against militant Islam. The US military should invade Saudi Arabia and occupy Mecca to stop the Hajj. Then, the US should announce that Mecca will remain closed until all the Islamic terror groups everywhere surrender and that the city will be destroyed if there are any other terrorist attacks anywhere or any attempt to recapture the city.

Of course, this will anger the Muslim world, but the whole point of war is to make it so painful that enemy will agree to anything to make it stop. Occupying one city would also be far easier and less bloody than occupying a country filled with guerrilla fighters. The terrorists and their supporters will not give up until they are shown that there is no hope for them to win.


Why Not Spell However You Like?

Here are a few samples of English before it had a standard orthography:

"I am of this opinion that our own tung should be written cleane and pure, unmixt and unmangeled with borowing of other tunges; wherein if we take not heed by tiim, ever borowing and never paying, she shall be fain to keep her house as bankrupt."

-John Cheke, 1561

"Certaynly our langage now vsed varyeth ferre from that which was vsed and spoken whan I was borne."

- William Caxton, Prologue to Eneydos (1490).

"This translatour hath applied himselfe as much as he can to find out the most plain and vsed wordes that be in England, that men of all shyres of England maye the more easly perceiue the meaneing of the boke. Summe noweadayes, more sekynge their owne glorye then the profite of the readers, writ so French Englishe and so Latine that no man, except he be both a Latin man, a French man, and also an Englishe man, shal be able to vnderstande their writinge – whose example I would disswade all men to folowe. For the people, if they should haue any profite by such mennes laboures, had nede of two dictionaries euer by them, one in French and another in Englishe; which thing, because it is so tedious, it would pluck back all men from the redynge of such good and Christen bokes as they
do translate."

William Turner, 1543 
All about 500 years old and still readable even with all the odd spellings. Why spend so much effort trying to get everyone to spell the same? If there's room in English for variation in pronunciation and accent, why not spelling?

"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wheel of Detroit, Spin, Spin, Spin: Tell us How Deep is the Shit They Are In

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

PANDA & Soviet-Style Dissent Suppression

In the early days of the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc, dissenters were often accused of outrageous crimes like espionage or sabotage to discredit them. Later, the secret police found that it was easier and more plausible to plant drugs on people, stage photographs of them with prostitutes, or accuse them of pedophilia.

I often wonder if similar things have happened or will happen in the US. The other day, I was talking with my father who is a member of a group called PANDA - People Against the National Defense Authorization Act. The president of that group, Dan Johnson, recently received a suspicious email:

On Tuesday, July 23rd, PANDA and Oathkeepers came under direct assault. I was sent an email claiming to be from Stewart Rhodes, claiming he had new anti-NDAA resolutions for me, and directing me to download, view, and send the resolutions out to other activists. 
I was suspicious, and gave our PANDA Security Tech access to the email so he could view the files. Instead of resolutions, they contained graphic child pornography.  
The files had Stewart's name and Organization embedded in them, and were set up with keywords like "kids" to falsely convict me if my computer were searched. These files took extreme technical expertise to put together, and were crafted to convict, to set up, and take down, two of the most prominent liberty organizations fighting the NDAA. 

Watch the video for more details:


 Ladies and gentlemen, the mask has been thrown off.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Social Security is Not a Savings, Insurance, or Pension Program

Is Social Security a savings program? No, because the money which is collected goes directly from the people being taxed to the people getting  benefits. For many years, Social Security collected more money than it spent, and some of the money was used to buy special US bonds. The program now has about $2.5 trillion worth of those bonds. They are stored in a filing cabinet in Martinsburg, WV.
Until relatively recently, these bonds only existed as entries in a record book. However, now when a new bond is issued, it is printed on a laser printer located at the Bureau of the Public Debt's Martinsburg, WV office. The bond is then carried across the room and put in a fireproof filing cabinet. That filing cabinet is the Social Security trust fund.
At some point in the future, Social Security will need to spend more than it receives in payroll taxes. At that point, it will begin to cash in the bonds in the trust fund. Where will the money come from?
According to the OMB, there are only four sources that money can be drawn from. Congress could repay the money by raising other taxes. It could also authorize the Treasury to just borrow the needed funds. Another alternative would be for Congress to reduce other federal programs and to use the money that was to have been spent for them to redeem Social Security bonds. Finally, Congress could reduce Social Security benefits.

 Is Social Security an insurance program? No, because in an insurance program, the benefit is tied to how much you pay in. With Social Security, there is little connection between how much you pay in and what you get. If you work your whole life, you get nothing.

Is Social Security a pension program? No, because a pension's benefits are tied to how many years you work and what your final salary was. With Social Security, it is tied to your average annual earnings. The more money you earned, the bigger the benefit. 

So what is Social Security then? It is a program which transfers money from one group to another, and then promises to pay back the first group with money taken from a second group, and to pay the second group with many taken from a third group, and so on.

Social Security IS a Ponzi Scheme.


Sunday, August 4, 2013

Why There Will Never Be an Islamic Reformation, Enlightenment, etc

Islam already had a reformation- the fundamentalist Wahhabi movement of the 18th century. It's also worth pointing out that the Reformation in Christianity was not peaceful. The Protestant sects that sprang up were often just as violent and dogmatic as the Catholic Church. One of the first official acts of the Church of England was to seize the land and wealth of Catholic monks and Martin Luther wrote many anti-Semitic pamphlets and books.

Islam already had an Enlightenment too. It wasn't until around 1600 that Europe finally began to pull ahead of the Islamic world in terms of wealth, technology, and military power. The Muslims had gunpowder, advanced mathematics, astronomy, etc. long before the Europeans but did not develop them.

The problem, I think, is that Islam from the beginning was more than a religion. The Quran is legal, economic, and political blueprint in addition to a holy book. It is impossible for Muslims to adopt alternative economic, political, or legal ideas without violating the clear commands of the Quran. For example, the Quran and the hadith (sayings of Mohamed) clearly state that people who leave Islam should be killed. Any Muslim who disagrees with command is guilty of criticizing the Quran which is also forbidden and punishable by death. This general hostility to new ideas prevented Muslim thinkers from advancing knowledge. Muslim scientists were prevented from considering ideas that contradicted Islam.

With the Bible, on the other hand, Christian theologians have been ignoring and reinterpreting it since it was written. For example, the Bible in the old Jewish part commands not to eat pork or shellfish, but these rules are repealed after the part about Jesus. In fact, Jesus basically said that it doesn't matter what you eat (Mathew 15, verses 16 -20). This is the reason most Christians ignore other commands from the old part that say witches and homosexuals should be killed. A religion which allows criticism and debate makes it easy to criticize and debate all kinds of ideas.

The bottom line is Christians and others have a flexibility in belief which is not allowed in Islam and is not a tradition in it. A religion that teaches that the ideal society was that of 7th century Arabia is always going to lag behind. Asking if Islam can modernize is like asking if the Amish can start driving cars. It's not possible without radically changing it.


Saturday, August 3, 2013

Repeat after me: They Both Suck

The national debt has gone up every year for the past 30 years. It has gone up with Democrat presidents and Republican presidents. It has gone up when the Democrats control Congress, when the Republicans control congress, and when neither controls Congress. It goes up because politicians who cut tax and increase spending win elections and those who do the opposite lose.


Friday, August 2, 2013

6 Shocking (But True) Facts About the History of Illegal Drugs in America

1. There were no illegal drugs before 1906

Every American alive today takes drug laws for granted, but the first law regulating drugs, the Pure Food & Drug Act of 1906, was written a little over a hundred years ago. Even that law was focused on protecting people from patent medicines containing poisonous chemicals, not on banning drugs because of addiction. For most of America's history, recreational drug use was perfectly legal. The first federal law which banned the non-medical use of a drug was the Smoking Opium Exclusion Act of 1909.
A History of Opiate Laws in the United States

Prior to 1890, laws concerning opiates were strictly imposed on a local city or state-by-state basis. One of the first was in San Francisco in 1875 where it became illegal to smoke opium only in opium dens. It did not ban the sale, import or use otherwise. In the next 25 years different states enacted opium laws ranging from outlawing opium dens altogether to making possession of opium, morphine and heroin without a physician’s prescription illegal.

The first Congressional Act took place in 1890 that levied taxes on morphine and opium. From that time on the Federal Government has had a series of laws and acts directly aimed at opiate use, abuse and control. These are outlined below:

1906 – Pure Food and Drug Act
Preventing the manufacture, sale, or transportation of adulterated or misbranded or poisonous or deleterious foods, drugs, medicines, and liquors, and for regulating traffic therein, and for other purposes. Punishment included fines and prison time.

1909 – Smoking Opium Exclusion Act
Banned the importation, possession and use of "smoking opium". Did not regulate opium-based "medications". First Federal law banning the non-medical use of a substance.

2. Opium, heroin, and cocaine were once available in over-the-counter medicines

Heroin and cocaine are often used as examples of drugs so dangerous they must be banned. But for decades beginning in the late 19th century, both were freely available in over-the-counter medicines. And yet somehow, society did not self-destruct.
The use of opiates became widespread in the US in the latter part of the 19th Century. Morphine became widely available with its use during the Civil War and heroin became available in 1894. Opiates were sold widely in the form of patent medicines, and were freely available to anyone who wanted to buy them, children included. Many patent medicines were fifty percent morphine, and morphine, cocaine, and heroin were even included in things such as baby colic remedies and toothache drops.

3. Opium was banned because of anti-Chinese prejudice

Opium was freely available and widely used by many Americans during the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was later banned, but not because it was destroying society, but because of prejudice against Chinese immigrants. Many Americans feared Chinese labor would drive down wages and so the anti-opium laws were written as an excuse to deport the Chinese and discourage immigration.
The ordinance was aimed specifically at Chinese smoking opium, not at the medicinal opium regularly consumed by whites. The Chinese had brought smoking opium with them in the earliest days of the gold rush. The habit caused little offense at first, until anti-Chinese sentiment swept the state in the mid-1870s.
The roots of this ordinance were racist rather than health-oriented, and were concerned with what today is known as "life-style." Opium smoking was introduced into the United States by tens of thousands of Chinese men and boys imported during the l850s and 1880s to build the great Western railroads.* The Chinese laborers then drifted into San Francisco and other cities, and accepted employment of various kinds at low wages --- giving rise to waves of anti-Chinese hostility. Soon white men and even women were smoking opium side by side with the Chinese, a life-style which was widely disapproved. The San Francisco authorities, we are told learned upon investigation that "many women and young girls, as well as young men of respectable family, were being induced to visit the [Chinese] opium-smoking dens, where they were ruined morally and otherwise ** 4 The 1875 ordinance followed, "forbidding the practice under penalty of a heavy fine or imprisonment or both. Many arrests were made, and the punishment was prompt and thorough. 6

4. Marijuana was banned because of anti-Mexican prejudice

The first state to ban marijuana was Utah in 1914. This was because Mormon polygamists who had been living in Mexico brought marijuana back with them and the Mormon Church wanted to ban this practice in accordance with Mormon principles. By 1930, 30 more states had banned marijuana, and in 1937, the first federal law against marijuana was enacted. Included in the congressional are many revealing gems like:

-Two weeks ago a sex-mad degenerate, named Lee Fernandez, brutally attacked a young Alamosa girl. He was convicted of assault with intent to rape and sentenced to 10 to 14 years in the state penitentiary. Police officers here know definitely that Fernandez was under the influence of marihuana. But this case is one in hundreds of murders, rapes, petty crimes, insanity that has occurred in southern Colorado in recent years.

-I wish I could show you what a small marihuana cigaret can do to one of our degenerate Spanish-speaking residents. That's why our problem is so great; the greatest percentage of our population is composed of Spanish-speaking persons, most of who are low mentally, because of social and racial conditions.

-Did you read of the Drain murder case in Pueblo recently? Marihuana is believed to have been used by one of the bloody murderers.

Other revealing comments include a Texas state legislator who remarked that "All Mexicans are crazy, and this stuff is what makes them crazy" during a debate to ban marijuana and a Montana state legislator who said "Give one of these Mexican beet field workers a couple of puffs on a marijuana cigarette and he thinks he is in the bullring at Barcelona."

It makes sense- marijuana was virtually unknown in the US until Mexican migrant workers introduced it in the early 20th century. Like many immigrant groups, the Mexicans were distrusted and the marijuana laws were an indirect attempt to control them.
The idea of prohibition first took hold around the time of the 1910 Mexican Revolution, which drove waves of poor immigrants north into the Western United States. Along with their willingness to pick beets and cotton for pitifully low wages, the newcomers brought a penchant for smoking a peculiar sort of cigarette. At the time, cannabis was virtually unknown as an intoxicant among the Anglo-American population, writes Dale Gieringer, the California state director of the National Campaign for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Aside from a few accounts of hash houses in New York and travelers who had visited the hashish-loving regions of the Middle East, there is next to no record of pot's recreational use in America before the 20th century.

Criminalizing marijuana, then, was a way of criminalizing Mexicans: a kind of stoner's Jim Crow. And state lawmakers who favored the policy weren't exactly shy about their agenda. "All Mexicans are crazy," said one Texas legislator during the floor debate over marijuana criminalization in his state, "and this stuff is what makes them crazy." Or as an advocate of Montana's first anti-marijuana law said in his state legislature: "Give one of these Mexican beet field workers a couple of puffs on a marijuana cigarette and he thinks he is in the bullring at Barcelona." California's 1913 law against pot—one of the first such statutes in the nation—banned "preparations of hemp, or loco-weed."

5. Cocaine was banned because of anti-black prejudice

Cocaine was a common ingredient in many patent medicines in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Another thing that was common in that era was racism. When the New York Times published an article in 1914 about "Negro Cocaine Fiends", Congress was swift to act and later that year banned cocaine.

link to original NYT article
The advertisements went away. By 1903, there was no more cocaine in Coca-Cola. By 1914, the drug was often seen as something for undesirables -- and often, mixed up in ugly stereotypes.

An infamous article in The New York Times, by the physician Edward Huntington Williams, warned of a new danger: "Negro cocaine 'fiends.' " Williams described a North Carolina police chief who claimed his regular ammunition had little effect on these drug users, and had switched to larger bullets.

Later in 1914, Congress passed the Harrison Narcotics Act, banning the nonmedical use of cocaine, as well as other drugs, like marijuana. Cocaine's long career as an outlaw had begun.

6. The CIA tested LSD on unsuspecting Americans during the Cold War

During the 1950s and 1960s, the CIA ran a program called MK-ULTRA, whose goal was to explore the mind-control properties of LSD. Basically, it was a real-life version of The Manchurian Candidate. No one knows how many Americans were tested because most of the files on the program were destroyed in the early 70s. When a congressional investigation was launched in 1975, the only remaining information concerned the exploits of Dr. Sidney Gottlieb & his associates, who had given LSD to hundreds Americans without their knowledge.
The CIA was fascinated by LSD, and thought it a wonder drug that could be used not only to create zombie-like armies, but to drive enemy leaders like Fidel Castro insane. There were few willing subjects in the research — often, LSD was secretly given to a range of people, from CIA employees to prostitutes and the mentally ill. Sometimes, agents even posed as prostitutes and secretly drugged their clients, while fellow agents watched in two-way mirrors.

The goals of MK-ULTRA included investigating the following:
•Materials which will render the induction of hypnosis easier or otherwise enhance its usefulness.
•Substances which will enhance the ability of individuals to withstand privation, torture and coercion during interrogation and so-called "brain-washing".
•Materials and physical methods which will produce amnesia for events preceding and during their use.
•Physical methods of producing shock and confusion over extended periods of time and capable of surreptitious use.
•A knockout pill which could surreptitiously be administered in drinks, food, cigarettes, as an aerosol, etc., which will be safe to use, provide a maximum of amnesia, and be suitable for use by agent types on an ad hoc basis.
At first it was White who carried out Gottlieb's tests. White and his ostensibly informed wife held parties at their New York apartment wherein White furnished his guests with LSD-laced martinis. As the drug took hold, he observed its effects on the unwitting participants, making notes on their reactions. In some instances, the effects included giddiness and euphoria; others were darker, with the subjects realizing something was terribly wrong and reacting badly. White noted this type of reaction as "the horrors" [source: Valentine].

Eventually, the experiments were moved from White's apartment in New York to a CIA-funded safe house in San Francisco dubbed "the pad" [source: Stratton]. It was here that White recruited Ike Feldman. In his guise as pimp, the cop collected prostitutes and paid them to bring back customers to the pad and surreptitiously administer LSD into their drinks. Throughout, George White sat quietly behind a two-way mirror, drinking martinis, watching the ignorant test subjects trip and taking notes on their reactions.