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ABF Friday:  Personal freedom edition!

As residents of Steeler Nation (and denizens of the Motorcycle Municipality) are well aware, about two weeks ago Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had some car trouble.  Which is to say, his motorcycle struck a car, apparently as the car made a turn across his path, as all too many cars are wont to do, and Ben went flying.  Now, he’s kind of a mess, but reasonably all right, very lucky to be alive and in possession of his faculties:

Roethlisberger underwent seven hours of surgery after a motorcycle crash near the 10th Street Bridge on Monday morning. He remained in serious but stable condition on Tuesday morning.

According to a police source, Roethlisberger suffered a broken jaw, broke his left sinus cavity, suffered a 9-inch laceration to the back of his head, lost many teeth and has injuries to his knees from hitting the pavement.

Roethlisberger rides a Suzuki Hayabusa, which, they tell me, is a kind of powerful bike.  Actually, the fastest street bike in the world, capable of speeds around 200 mph.  And it’s not like Terry Bradshaw didn’t warn him about this last year:

As the interview ended, Bradshaw walked off, muttering, “I can’t believe he’s riding that motorcycle. Stupidest thing I ever heard of.”

Bradshaw speaks from experience. As a young quarterback, he was told by team owner Dan Rooney to keep his Corvette off the road and in the garage—and he says he obeyed.

If Roethlisberger’s willing to listen to reason, Bradshaw thinks he’ll do the same.

Well, now that he’s all banged up, Ben says he’s going to listen to reason.  Look, if I were the Steelers QB, and Terry Bradshaw told me to wait ‘til I retire before I ride my supersport bike, I’d wait ‘til I retire.

So I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that cyclists should wear helmets.  Janet (who, as many of you know, is a former R.N.) reports that she and her intensive-care colleagues used to call motorcycles “donorcycles”: that was mordant ICU-speak, referring to the fact that young men (they’re almost all men) who ride bikes helmetless wind up being organ donors.  And in general, I think it’s a good idea for people to try to prevent profound, life-changing and severely-debilitating injuries if they can.  (I say this as a hockey player whose helmet includes a full-face wire mesh, and who remembers how strenuously the players fought against the helmet rule, back in the day.)

But Roethlisberger’s crash got me thinking.  In central Pennsylvania, we have approximately elevenzillion bikers who hit the roads every spring, enjoying the beautiful, winding mountain roads, and many of them wear nothing more than bandanas.  Our mandatory-helmet law was repealed in 2003, and we’re not alone: a number of states have done likewise, construing motorcycle helmets as a matter of personal taste and personal freedom rather than as a basic safety matter.

You can just imagine how “liberals” fare in that debate.

And strange as it may sound, I think liberals have gotten an exceptionally hard time over things like this.  I mean, only the full-blown crazies really believe that liberals and progressives are objectively pro-terrorist, and certainly no one in the general public cares one way or the other what liberals have to say about Slobodan Milosevic.  But when it comes to these personal-freedom issues, well, they hit people where they live, so to speak.

In other words, in the precincts where I’ve been living for the past seventeen years (Champaign, Illinois and State College, Pennsylvania), “liberalism” is often associated not with gay marriage or with jolly Friday night American-flag bonfires but with People Who Think They Know What’s Good For You.  Smoking bans?  Pah—damn liberals.  Seat belt laws?  Fussy liberals.  Gun control?  Mother#%@&ing latte-drinking liberals!

The really difficult thing is that this perception of liberalism isn’t completely inaccurate.  When I lived in Illinois I was treated to the southernmost reaches of the upper-Midwest phenomenon I call “Lutheran Liberalism.” It’s smart, civic-minded, well-meaning, do-gooding, and by gum, it will stop your car and put you properly in your seat belt, young man, for your good and the good of your entire family.  It’s no mystery to me, for example, that the MacKinnon/Dworkin pornography ban was passed in two cities in the 1980s: in Indianapolis in 1986, with the help of the Christian right, and in Minneapolis in 1983, with the help of the Lutheran Liberals.

Now, of course most of this perception of liberals is phantasmic.  As we know, the last Democratic presidential nominee was required to shoot a goose to prove that he could be worthy of the White House, and because Kerry was actually mocked by Cheney himself for his hunting, it’s clear that the 2008 Democratic nominee will actually have to shoot someone in the face.  Still, I can’t deny that there really are some liberals out there who think it’s simply a terrible thing to own a gun, an even worse thing to shoot one, and a completely unthinkable thing to shoot another living being (especially in the face).  Don’t tell me this is a caricature, folks.  Remember, I teach at a university, I am a paid-up member of the Pinot Grigio Liberal Elite, and I know whereof I speak:  these are some of my colleagues I’m talking about.  Most liberals simply want decent gun laws that prevent felons from buying arsenals at gun shows, and that prevent gun dealers from selling automatic weapons and armor-piercing bullets.  And most liberals (myself included) don’t understand why saying so produces such paroxysms of rage on the right.  But now that I live among (and play hockey with) hunters, I realize that ordinary gun owners can sense tsk-tsking disapproval of guns even if there’s only a part per million of the stuff in the atmosphere.  As Digby would say (and has said quite compellingly), it’s a matter of cultural identity, and hunters know when people are taking a nose-pinching relation to their cultural identity.  So do bikers.

Same thing with smoking bans.  I was a smoker from 1979 to 1990, and have been smoke-free for sixteen years, but I have none of the zeal of the convert: I couldn’t care less whether people are smoking around me, and I do care when liberals are seen as people who want to flick cigarettes right out of people’s mouths.  But I gradually decided to support smoking bans in bars after hearing from some friendly bartenders and wait staff about what it’s like to breathe fumes for eight hours.  (To give the eastern half of my state its due:  please feel free to debate Philly’s new law, exempting “local taverns.” I’ve heard good arguments pro and con.)

Likewise, there are some very pure liberal precincts in which people are not permitted to eat bacon cheeseburgers within twenty feet of another person.  OK, maybe I made that one up.  But you know what I mean.

The thing that completely flummoxes me is gambling.  You’re not going to believe this, but I don’t know what I think about it.  Really!  I am in a state of perpetual epistemological crisis.  I think it’s awful that states encourage what is, for some people, a grievous addiction, and for some reason I’m skeptical that gambling revenues really go to support education and elder care.  (On philosophical grounds, all the worse if they do.) On the other hand, if people want to play the slots, or the lottery, or the horses, let ‘em!  It’s no business of mine.  Any industry that drains Charles Barkley and Bill Bennett of millions of dollars can’t be all bad.  Besides, personally, I like playing roulette in casinos.  I don’t play at the Barkley-Bennett rates—I usually play five bucks on the numbers and five on the periphery (red/black, odd/even, etc.), in the spirit of Austin Powers, who, deciding to stay with a hand of five in a game of blackjack, toothily explained, “I too like to live dangerously.” The most I’ve won is $80.  The most I’ve lost is $75, and I promise you I’m going to return to Mohegan Sun someday and win it back.

Mohegan Sun.  Ah, there’s another thorny issue right there.

My point is that for helmetless “freedom"-lovers everywhere, liberals sometimes come off as Podsnaps.  Nine times out of ten, it’s quite unfair: after all, we’re the ones who brought you the idea of workplace safety, the innovation of flame-retardant children’s pajamas, the life-saving devices known as car seats, and the radical notion of manufactured food that’s safe to eat.  (We also brought you the weekend and the eight-hour day, though those have since been taken back.) The libertarian right, by contrast, often uses the “motorcycle freedom” argument as a cover for their much larger argument that food manufacturers should be able to go ahead and make hot dogs out of severed human thumbs, and let “the market” decide whether people want to eat ‘em.  Ditto for auto manufacturers, toxic-waste producers, building contractors, bond traders, and absolutely everybody else.  There’s no reason, they say, to let a bunch of maimed or scammed or dead consumers stand in the way of dynamism and growth!

So here’s today’s Arbitrary But Fun question: which of these freedom fights is worth fighting over, and which aren’t, and why?  Me, I don’t care if people own guns.  I wish bikers would wear helmets.  They can smoke in most places, they can gamble a bit, and they can eat what they like.  But I’m in favor of unpoisoned food and safe cars and houses and workplaces and industries.  How about you?

Posted by on 06/23 at 01:14 PM
  1. What if the state gov’ts put some (or all) of the gambling proceeds to gambling addiction treatment/whatever? Or is that far too colossal a conflict of interest? That way we can argue that we’re letting people do what they want, and counteracting the encouragment of addiction with state-run treatment facilities.

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  02:42 PM
  2. I voted for the smoking ban that passed in WA state even though the “25 foot” rule is excessive:  smokers must stand at least 25 feet from a doorway.

    My folks live in Michigan; they may pass a “helmet liberation” law for donorcyclists.  My conservative dad says, Fine, as long as his medical insurance doesn’t go up to pay for the increased cost of injuries.

    I’m with you on the gun thing.  I’ve gone hunting, I enjoyed it and would like to do it again, but why do people go bananas when liberal seek to invoke the “well-regulated” portion of the 2nd Amendment?

    Seattle is perpetually debating strip club regulations.  I’ve never been to a strip club, but I understand that lots of males enjoy them, and many females find them to be depressing/oppressing though relatively well-paying places of employment—and they exist even in dem-soc countries with something approaching a guaranteed income.

    Let’s legalize drugs and prostitution while we’re at it.  Regulate & tax ‘em.  Though not excessively!  WA state’s solution to every fiscal problem:  raise cigarette and liquor taxes.  I don’t smoke, but that’s crap.

    Yeah, like legalized drugs & prostitution would be an electoral winner right now!  But since you asked . . .

    Posted by john  on  06/23  at  02:49 PM
  3. I imagine federally mandated helmet laws would probably save a lot of lives, not to mention tons of money in health care.  But then it occurs to me that there’d undoubtedly be a precipitous drop in available, usable organs in hospitals, and I think, ah let ‘em ride “free”!

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  02:53 PM
  4. Correct me if I’m wrong, john, but Washington doesn’t have a state income tax, right?  It’s just a “business and occupations tax,” the revenues from which vary greatly year to year?  And isn’t that why Washington’s every solution is to raise cigarette and liquor taxes?

    Thanks for bringing up prostitution and drugs.  Can’t believe I forgot about ‘em!  What was I (not) thinking?  Well, decriminalizing prostitution and minor drugs (like marijuana) is OK by me.  But I fear that a sudden profusion of stoners in the public squre would lead to an even greater profusion of noodling space-jam bands, and we can’t have that.

    Posted by Michael  on  06/23  at  02:55 PM
  5. Libertarian Democrats are the new black. Are you on a listserv you’d like to tell us about?

    Posted by Roxanne  on  06/23  at  02:56 PM
  6. But I fear that a sudden profusion of stoners in the public squre would lead to an even greater profusion of noodling space-jam bands, and we can’t have that.

    You think we’re not already there?

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  03:25 PM
  7. No, Roxanne, he’s simply once again showing himself to be the DLC apologist that his last post revealed him to be.

    (Just kidding!)

    On a more serious note, I’ve always been in favor of legalizing privately operated gambling but opposed to state-sponsored gambling (i.e. lotteries).  Perhaps this is an incoherent ethical distinction, but somehow it makes a difference to me that lotteries basically put the state in the business of lying to its citizens ("All you need is a dollar and a dream!") in order to generate revenue.

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  03:27 PM
  8. My own pet peeve is the the state lottery business.  I remember when they were first debating the Pennsylvania lottery.  It would raise revenue, but that was not sufficient justification.  Gambling was a vice that the state should not support went the counter argument.  It was only supported when it was sold as a way to deny revenue to the mafia.  Most states used this pitch.

    Now, the damn lotteries advertise non-stop.  They are not looking to eliminate the mob’s revenue. They want to squeeze every last dollar out of the gullible that they possibly can.  There’s scratchers, pick three, pick four, lotto, power ball.  It never ends.  I’d hate to think what they’d do if the state sanctioned prostitution.

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  03:34 PM
  9. I remember a NYS Lottery official claiming that lottery playing was not in fact “gambling”. I also recall when numbers running was “immoral."I’ve known bodega owners who plan for the credit they know that they will have to extend on Saturday to the wives of hardworking husbands who had many dreams on Friday night.

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  03:44 PM
  10. liberals… brought you the idea of workplace safety, the innovation of flame-retardant children’s pajamas, the life-saving devices known as car seats, and the radical notion of manufactured food that’s safe to eat.  (We also brought you the weekend and the eight-hour day, though those have since been taken back.)

    You’re defining liberals to include socialists. radical unionists, and Ralph Nader, it would seem. Which is of course OK by me as long as it’s explicit.

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  06/23  at  03:52 PM
  11. I say make ‘em wear their helmets!!

    Ok, so maybe I am being paternalistic, but what do you expect when so many are being so childish?  Of course I’m for personal responsibility, but then, if the libertarian helmet-liberation crowd were really for personal responsibility also, what would they be doing?  They’d be wearing their *&(@# helmets, that’s what they’d be doing!!

    Of course, if we could get improvements in our health care system such that our emergency rooms weren’t constantly in crisis as part of the bargain, then I would say rock on, Easy Rider!

    (wait - did he wear a helmet?)

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  03:58 PM
  12. Right.  I should have said, more accurately, Socialists, Wobblies, Knights of Labor, and Ralph Nader (to name a few) brought you these ideas, and elected liberals were gradually persuaded that they were worth the time of day.

    I was rebutting the glibertarians, of course, but thanks for the fine-tuning, Chris.

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  04:00 PM
  13. Oh, and Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper did not wear helmets.  And look what happened to them.

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  04:01 PM
  14. If wearing a helmet really did only increase the odds of the motorcycle rider turning into an early organ donor, I’d say sure, let ‘em ride bareback as much as they like.

    Unfortunatly, it isn’t quite that simple: there are other people involved.  As anyone who’s ever rode a bike at speed can attest, even the most pristine interstate highway has—and there is no delicate way to put this—a lot of shit on the road.  Gravel, insects, cigarette butts, paper cups, half-eaten hamburgers, you name it.  (And that’s on the interstates.  On the roads that are actually fun to ride, there’s a lot more of it, especially the gravel and bugs.) And if it’s on the road, sooner or later it will end up under the wheels of the tractor-trailer in front of you, which means that:

    ...it will be launched into the air

    ...and sooner or later hit you in the face

    ...while you are travelling between 55 and 90mph.

    Oddly enough, the chances of you losing control of your motorcycle and causing a multicar accident under these circumstances are rather higher if you’re not wearing a full-face helmet.

    The road has different rules from the sidewalk because you share the road with other people, and your fuckups can kill them too.  Nevermind the issue of who pays for your ER care, I’d really just rather that you and your bike not end up embedded in my windshield.

    captcha word: called (but few are chosen)

    Posted by Doctor Memory  on  06/23  at  04:03 PM
  15. People should be able to motorcycle without a helmet, but in the event of an accident requiring medical care, the deductible on their insurance should automatically raise to ten thousand dollars.  I don’t want to pay to have these chumps sewn together.

    To paraphrase Randall Balmer, I don’t want to make recreational off-road motoring illegal; I want to make recreational off-road motoring unthinkable.  Actually, I want to stage casting calls for feature films about recreational off-road motoring to lure… nevermind.

    The pollution/exploitation issues, I think, extend beyond personal freedom, because the folks suffering the downside are often not the folks benefiting from the upside.  Pollution, for example, often moves downwind or downstream.  I believe that one of the good uses of the government is preventing this sort of unequal distribution of effects from an enterprise.

    Even in the case where a whole community benefits from a benevolent enterprise, say a lead mine with a heart of gold, in which imagined case the town or county has determined that the shared upside is worth the shared downside, it is the function of the government to ensure that the rest of the populace is not getting the shaft, so to speak.

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  04:03 PM
  16. IMHO mandatory motorcyclist helmet-ing is simply inadequate for the assigned task. I’d wild ass guess the number of cyclists helped by helmets is proportional to the number of motorists harmed by seatbelts. [Pass.]

    Mandatory seatbelts coerce rational behavior. The only survivor of the Lady Di crash was the only passenger using a seatbelt. [A good fight.]

    If public smoking bans had been in effect when I was smoking I’d probably still be using. I never had a problem not smoking where it banned (movie theaters, nearly nowhere else back then). I just couldn’t not smoke where it wasn’t banned. [Fight.]

    Posted by black dog barking  on  06/23  at  04:06 PM
  17. John: people go nuts about liberals invoking “well-regulated” because the phrase full-stop does not mean what they think it means.  “Irregulars” is the antonym of the sense the word is being used in, if that helps.

    (Me?  I’m actually pretty much in favor of European-style gun control, but I think it requires a constitional amendment to do legally.  Rotsa ruck, etc.)

    Captcha word: congress, who are specifically enjoined from making such laws (not that it’s stopped them).

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  04:07 PM
  18. I am generally of the opinion that if any of your risk-taking behavior negatively effects anyone else, then maybe that behavior should be outlawed.

    Don’t want to wear a seatbelt? Fine, whatever.
    Don’t want put a seatbelt on your child--BZZZT! You get a ticket.
    Don’t want to wear a helmet? Unless there are some studies that show your stupidity harms someone else, I don’t care.
    Want to own a gun? Sure, no problem. But you should at least have to take a class and demonstrate to a government representative that you can handle a gun responsibly (like we have to with a car).
    I don’t get why we can’t require guns to have child-resistent safeties on them, though. I can’t come up with a situation where a child-proof safety would impair your ability to use a gun. I mean, if you are carrying expecting trouble, you should already have the thing loaded, safety off, and pretty much right at hand to do you any good. If you are not expecting trouble, what difference was it make?

    Smoking bans, to me, are all about the second hand smoke. I have chronic bronchial asthma now courtesy of 8 chain-smoking co-workers and no single place in the building that was not fumigated. (I had to quit that job after about 6 months, too.) And no, it wasn’t a bar--it was a private language school for adults...which is funny because my capcha word is “training”.

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  04:48 PM
  19. Alright, here’s a reason that - callous as it will undoubtedly sound - is something that any conservative or libertarian could get behind (well, no, the libertarian is probably going to say that we should abolish the 911 system altogether with its tax-funded and thus violent Ambulances, Fire Depts, Police, EMTs and hospitals altogether and just let the weak die where they fall) regarding mandatory belt and helmet laws.

    It doesn’t matter whether or not you are impressed by the sentimental thoughts of lives cut short or think “can’t happen to me” --

    It’s bloody (pun intended) expensive to have people smear themselves all over the road, and the cost isn’t exactly made up for the organs we can harvest as a result. (They’re not called “donorcycles” by EMTs for nothing.) There’s the cost of the emergency response. There’s the ongoing cost of the psychological trauma to the police and firefighters and medics who have to scrape up (particlarly) the remains of unbelted children from the cement and grills. It’s even more expensive when people survive motorcycle accidents and require hours and hours of surgery and weeks or months of hospitalization and rehab - especially when they’re uninsured or underinsured.

    Who do the partisans of freedom think picks up the tab for all this? Guess what - we do. If I were the Staties, I’d do a commercial that was nothing but the build-up of money, tossed onto the pyre of a burning vehicle in a wreck, showing how much of *your* tax dollars are

    --I feel personally very strongly about public smoking, because a) I have asthma, b) the responsibility not to poison one’s fellows as well as one’s self gets drilled into art students at an early age, c) plus the fact that I feel that I have a right to enjoy the *food* and *drink* that I’m paying to eat in a *restaurant* or *bar* without being effing POISONED by people who could jolly well poison themselves at home and not ruin the freedom of my evening which I am paying for by their self-indulgence and/or public addictions - any more than I have the right to go and open a can of nail polish at their table and asphyxiate them, or start spraying Krylon lacquer around the pub.

    Which is, I grant, a thorougly selfish, possibly even libertarian attitude to take - but I stand on my rights to breathe through my nose without some selfish lout swinging it full of poisonous gases.

    Posted by bellatrys  on  06/23  at  05:06 PM
  20. I refuse to take a stand on the motorcycle helmet thing, as that might lead to me admitting I’ve ridden on a motorcycle, and if my mom finds out, I’m in real trouble.

    Also, if you legalize marijuana, no way are the Mexican farmers who have been screwed over (thanks to NAFTA) by a flood of subsidized U.S. corn going to have *any* chance of selling what they can grow for a price that will even come close to supporting their families.  Put that in your immigration policy and smoke it.

    People should get to eat what they want, but they should also be provided with the relevant information about their choices—what’s in it, how many resources were expended to produce it, what’s the threshold level of “allowable filth” in it, etc.  And I see no reason to outlaw the sale of bullets so long as their purchasers leave fingerprints and DNA samples and wear a lojack until the empty casings have been returned.

    Posted by Dr. Free-Ride  on  06/23  at  05:06 PM
  21. black dog barking, the states where they dropped mandatory helmet laws have seen motorcycle fatalities spike…

    And a lot of motorcyclists aren’t insured at all. Tacking on a helmetless riding rider won’t help cut public health costs.

    Posted by bellatrys  on  06/23  at  05:08 PM
  22. I have now gone 25 days without a cigarette.

    I never minded indoor smoking bans.  If I wanted a cigarette I could step outsid.  That’s what I did in my own apartment. 

    OK, winters in Minnesota, and rainy times anywhere, made it a bit of a pain, but going home without my hair and my clothes REEKING after a night in the bars was rather nice, and worth stepping outside.  It also meant I smoked less when I went out, which wasn’t such a bad thing either.

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  05:18 PM
  23. These are all complicated issues--and the answer for each is different.  I tend to side with libertarians on lifestyle matters.

    Tongue slightly in cheek, I’ll suggest that perhaps there should be no regulation whatsoever of motorcycle-helmet or seatbelt-wearing, but merely a decree that people who don’t wear motorcycle helmets forefeit their right to medical treatment in the event of motorcycle- or car-related head injury.  Likewise with drug-related illness.  And smoking-related illness.  After all people can enjoy the consequences of their ill actions as long as they don’t harm anyone else, or steal their hard-earned money, right?

    Except of course we know that people have in many cases poor risk assessment “cognitive software”.  We can look at a scorpion and see “threat” right away because of how we’re hard-wired, but we’re not good at thinking statistically.  Thus people are less frightened of driving than flying on a plane, etc.  This suggests to me that social regulation, based on statistical reasoning--as unsexy and technocratic as it “feels"--is a rational and desirable thing to do.  So: Helmets and seatbelts required.  Drug use OK but regulated.  Drug sales OK but regulated on a local basis.  Smoking OK but regulated and not in places where it might harm others.  Prostitution and gambling OK but regulated on a local basis.

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  05:48 PM
  24. Bikers are an interesting subculture, anti-authority to the core and more than a little misogynist. When some associates and I tried to take over our Teamsters local ~1980, we found the local club to be a good ally, and some 25% of that club were members of the local. They liked the idea of telling the man to go fuck himself in a forthright way.

    One of my buddies was a fellow named ‘Tiny’, then the Enforcer (an important elected official in their organization), later the President. A very smart guy. We ran him for trustee and put this for a blurb on our campaign literature: “Tiny is active in the community and is a leader among younger members.” No colors at union meetings, he used to say.

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  05:48 PM
  25. What about the folk who are restricting outdoor smoking and smoking on government property and parks? Are smoke-free counties far behind?
    BTW the lottery money was not used to increase the education budget but used to replace it-with the original education money returned to the general funds category.

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  05:58 PM
  26. Oh, and Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper did not wear helmets.  And look what happened to them.
    — Michael (#13)

    One did, one didn’t. The guy who didn’t was totally into all sorts of risky libertarian behavior, like flipping off rednecks in pickup trucks, more’s the pity.

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  06:29 PM
  27. Michael,

    WA state has no income tax.  The most prominent advocate for instating one is Bill Gates’s father.  We actually have budget suprluses now because of the real estate boom, and the over-reliance on real estate taxes and transaction taxes.

    If more noodling space jam bands is the price we have to pay for freedom, I for one am willing to pay it.  (And no, I don’t use illegal drugs, but I know people who do.)

    Dr. Memory, I’m not exactly sure what you’re getting at, except that “well-regulated” modifies “militia,” and not “arms.” It’s interesting that NOBODY argues for the relevance of the Amendment’s justification—“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State,”—and everybody simply deals with the enumerated right:  “the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

    I don’t see how the NRA can exclude personal nukes from the list of constitutionally allowable arms.  The Constitution is clear.  Because we need well-regulated militias, the government can’t take away people’s armor-piercing bullets or strategic weapons.

    Posted by john  on  06/23  at  06:30 PM
  28. Another factor: seatbelts provide an additional margin of driver control when a car moves suddenly, as in being rear-ended. Your head bounces off the headrest and hits the steering column, you’ll be less likely to hit the brake before you get to where I’m standing in the crosswalk.

    I was rebutting the glibertarians, of course, but thanks for the fine-tuning, Chris.

    Oh, don’t mention it Michael. I’m always happy to distract from a person’s important main point by quibbling around the margins.

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  06/23  at  06:50 PM
  29. Fraternities cause me all kinds of problems. As with the case of motorcycle helmets, I’m uncomfortable telling adults how they should live. But at the small university where I teach we have had two drinking related deaths at off-campus fraternity houses in the last ten years. Students pledging frats flunk out or end up on academic probation at a high rate in their pledge semester. The local hospital ER deals with cases of alcohol poisoning every weekend (which apparently start on Wednesdays). The houses are unsafe and uniformly filthy. And the misogynistic behavior (including one attempted rape) inspired by perpetual stag parties is unspeakable. After investigating, I’m ready to vote to outlaw frats and for replacing them with theme housing. Why do I feel so crappy about this?

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  06:55 PM
  30. There was a bar where I used to hang out, often to closing time, and one evening one of the waitresses asked my help in dealing with a guy who was “off.” I offered to walk him home; he lived only a few blocks away, and he sensed that it was a good idea to take me up on the offer. He wasn’t too far gone to realize that he’d been scaring someone.

    The guy had serious brain damage. He told me that it was from a motorcycle accident over ten years before. He was obviously trying to make the best of it, but there wasn’t much “best” to be had, especially because he remembered what it had once been like to be able to think and speak clearly.

    There was much food for thought in our little encounter, much of it not relevant here, but there is one thing that came to me with considerable force: the guy who stepped onto the bike was not the guy that I was dealing with. People can yammer all they want about how it’s “their business” if they want to risk their lives, etc. etc. and I might be tempted to agree on principle. But it isn’t just “their business.” It’s also the business of whoever comes out the other side, the guy who isn’t them any longer, but who has a vague memory of having been them, once upon a time. And it’s the business of every waitress they’ll ever scare, and every guy who’ll ever have to walk them home.

    Posted by James Killus  on  06/23  at  07:31 PM
  31. bellatrys, shamed by those wily facts and studies …

    Dr Memory’s #15 schools me that helmets have safety value beyond skull shielding and it follows that accurate fatality stats would account for the number of bikers not losing control because an untimely debris strike. Or vice versa if the law is repealed.

    Gotta get down to the Gas’n’Shop before they sell all the lottery tickets.

    Posted by black dog barking  on  06/23  at  07:33 PM
  32. Seattle chiming here, which it should because we are a major home of socialist buddhism, the reigning religion of usa leftism.  A smoker, I didn’t vote for the smoking ban. My rationalized rationale was that the real goal was to eliminate smoking and, as such, it should have been on the ballot like that.  Six months on, I am in favor it, although I would strip out the anti-smell provision (the 25 foot rule).  The rule is not really enforced , but I think the intent, again, was disingenuous:  the anti-smoking forces wanted to ban outdoor smoking at bars.  Also, it is exactly the kind of rule that could be arbitrarily enforced to get rid of specific business.  We have not a few rules like that (such as you officially can only leave a car in one space on the street for one day).

    Our tax system is not burdensome, but it is a major obstacle to changes in higher education, transportation, and social services.  And we rely on sales taxes (nearly 10% in King Co.) as well as business and operating taxes.  Both are maxed out so, all changes in policy become changes in tax policy.  Populism of varying sorts can always trot out the we don’t need more taxes argument.  Seattle and Washington state in general love consensus, but it isn’t just the disposition that stifles changes here.

    Not requiring helmets for motorcycles seems a bow to Darwinism, but isn’t the more radical and/or libertarian gesture scoffing at a law rather not having a law at all? 

    I’d really like to severely restrict car and bus exhaust.  Seems to me if you support a smoking ban, this is the next place to go…

    I would be tempted to severely restrict skateboarding, if only to answer the bumper sticker:  Yes, skateboarding is a crime.  But finally the idea that liberalism is supposedly killjoyism is just bizarre to me.  I know it is a cliche--even repeated comically by a Praire Home Companion sketch--but it is just a wacky idea.

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  07:35 PM
  33. It’s completely different when you live in a country with universal health care (Canada). I have to pay for it when idiots hurt themselves.

    However, in the case of motorcycles, I prefer it when they don’t wear helmets. Accidents are more likely to result in death, and burial is pretty reasonably priced. Smokers are the… long painful, expensive deaths. I don’t mind hanging out with them though.

    In general, I’m more a fan of programs to help people who want help. Instead of enforcing a ban on gambling, I think it’s more rational to poor funding into programs for people trying to recover from it.

    Posted by Central Content Publisher  on  06/23  at  07:37 PM
  34. My wife used to work in a Social Security office and got to see the aftereffects of not wearing helmets. Many of the ones who didn’t die immediately became wards of the state, and their libertarian asses cost the taxpayers a bundle. I’m with the suggestion that they can opt out of medical help by simply not wearing the helmet.

    As to cigarettes and other drugs, I’d simply like to see the playing field leveled. If marijuana can be legal with reasonable social restrictions, then by all means, tobacco can be too. On the other hand, I wouldn’t mind seeing self-righteous GOP businessmen having to shiver in alleyways for their next connection and risk losing everything by trying to score a pack of Camel Straights from a narc. Simple parity (and a sort of law enforcement smokescreen). But eliminate the urine testing crap—if something doesn’t make someone a bad worker, then it’s just stupid to have to look at their pee to see if they’re using.

    (I’ve little doubt that rich bastards would still be largely unimpeded, no matter what the law says, but it’s still a step in the right direction.)

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  07:43 PM
  35. quick add, about the roethlisberger accident:  i have read that he got into accident in taking a “Pittsburgh left turn,” i.e. the first car in line at a red light is allowed to turn left before the reverse side of traffic goes.  in my time there, i do remember the practice.  it seemed very “Dutch” to me, an adaptation not cemented as rule, but practiced generally consistently.  and its this sort of improvisation or pragmatic work-around that might--might i say--be a sort of Oakeshottian conservatism.  but it seems terribly unsafe, too.  of course, in seattle, people don’t pull out into the intersection to get the left on yellow, which is probably the best illustration of our latte liberalism.

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  07:44 PM
  36. I generally lean towards an individual’s right to self-destructive behavior. I acknowledge that things get complicated when the self-destruction impinges on others, which it often does.

    However, I’m going to go against my own nature and become a meddlesome do-gooder. Michael, I’ve noticed the light and the heat are getting a little blurred around here lately. As a do-gooder I implore you to keep the lines between them crisp.

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  07:50 PM
  37. 1.  More liberal allowance of guns;

    2.  Smoking bans in most public places, though bars I remain unsure (though we’ve had smoking bans in bars for about 10 years and I’ve heard no bitching after the first few months and most workers there will now say, “Thank goodness for the ban!");

    3.  Helmets mandatory only because families of dead motorcyclists love to sue car and truck drivers (so there goes the personal freedom argument, unless motorcyclists sign a yearly waiver of letting their estate or heirs to sue for their not wearing a helmet--though that is tougher to enforce than most may imagine).

    I’m with Michael on the other stuff.  But, man, I don’t like what I continue to see with the expansion of gambling through Native American reservations.  I wish, at the national level, that we put a stop to that (talk about your unintended consequences from Senators Goldwater and Bill Bradley!).  Keep the gambling in Vegas and Atlantic City and a few other places.  We’ve got more tribes in CA, alone, with gambling establishments than you can shake a stick at.

    Posted by Mitchell Freedman  on  06/23  at  09:28 PM
  38. John: a ‘well-regulated’ militia is, in the (archaic) sense of the word being used, one that is fully staffed with competent troops: i.e. regulars, rather than (untrained) irregulars. 

    This makes a lot more sense when you remember how leery many of the founders were of the idea of any sort of standing army: the idea was that if local militias were capable of being called into service to defend the nation as needed (and then disbanded), you could avoid the corrosive effects on democracy that an army-as-political-entity seemed to always have. 

    Ironically, the rise of the full-time professional army (not to mention armored cavalry and, er, nukes) led to the demise of the idea of the local militia, so semantic drift set in and bought us all lot of and amusingly bad court rulings.

    Posted by Doctor Memory  on  06/23  at  10:35 PM
  39. It would be interesting to poll the no-helmet crowd as to their feelings about regulating abortion.  I wouldn’t be surprised if a good number of them resent the intrusion of government in their decision not to wear a helmet, but are OK with state intrusion into a far more sacred and intimate matter.

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  10:41 PM
  40. Mitchell: Really, isn’t 300 years of ignoring the soverignity of our aborignials enough?  Seriously here, it’s one thing to debate whether gambling should be legal on, say, the Philadelphia waterfront, but we have signed treaties that give the tribes legal authority over their own land.  Saying that they shouldn’t be allowed to exercise that right is more along the lines of us threatening Canada with trade sanctions for decriminalizing marijuana: somewhere between a WTO dispute and an act of war depending on who’s talking.  How precisely is that progressive, or even a good idea?

    Posted by Doctor Memory  on  06/23  at  10:42 PM
  41. Oh, don’t mention it Michael. I’m always happy to distract from a person’s important main point by quibbling around the margins.

    Well, that’s no quibble.  The school of thought I belong to believes that all the useful and human workplace regulations in the U.S.—including unemployment insurance, Social Security and the minimum wage, for that matter—were the work of further-left-than-liberal folk who fought for decades until liberal politicians finally adopted some less-than-ideal version of them.  That’s American History 101, not Quibbling.  Quibbling is down the hall, right next to Contradiction.

    Chris R., I would feel weird about banning fraternities too.  But sometimes, what can you do?  Sometimes you really do want to try to save people from their worst excesses.

    And I think we should arm all union members.  Even the ones who smoke.

    Posted by Michael  on  06/23  at  10:52 PM
  42. Noise abatement.  Obnoxious, noisy-ass Harleys.  All those opting for tail pipes louder than a Mack truck should be refused a helmet!  And while we’re at it, Mack trucks (and the like) are too gol-darn loud, too. 

    “Hello darkness, my old friend...”

    Posted by  on  06/23  at  10:55 PM
  43. My uncle is the kind of old-fashioned Western libertarian who grew up trapping wolves and would like to strip-mine Yosemite. We visited him when our oldest child was a toddler. He, and to a lesser extent my aunt, were horrified by our insistence on using the child safety seat. The poor kid! Strapped down! His freedom to roam crushed by oppressive bonds (literally) of meddling liberal big-government nanny-state laws! They could hardly imagine that we *wanted* him in the safety seat, and weren’t just reluctantly conforming to ridiculous laws.

    After all, we all grew up without wearing seatbelts, and none of us died! (Again, the weak grasp of statistics and, in this case, elementary logic—those who died aren’t here).

    So, it’s unavoidable that we, the people as a whole, have to protect individuals from dumb optimism in certain cases.

    # Let’s close the gun show loophole, but let everyone have guns who passes the background check. Every idiot who enjoys the evil things should be able to have them.
    # In an ideal world, get back to the original spirit of the 2nd Amendment by making every gun owner a member of the National Guard, but that’ll never happen.
    # Legalize drugs. Every idiot who is stupid enough to use them should go ahead, just like with alcohol and cigarettes. This is a terrible thing, but the disastrous “War on Drugs” is far worse.
    # Draconian driving-under-the-influence type laws.
    # Seat belt laws, helmet laws, safety laws of all kinds.
    # All the unpoisoned food and safe workplace laws big time. No milk-flavored-chalk-water. (The muckrakers—Michael, add them to the list with Socialists and Wobblies—figured out why urban babies were starving: it was the “milk").
    # No legal prostitution, because it’s a fantasy to think prostitutes make a free choice. It’s slavery.
    # Times what they are, I have to add, keep banning slavery.

    Posted by  on  06/24  at  12:12 AM
  44. Doctor Memory, those treaties were broken so long ago that it is now more unjust to allow gambling establishments, which bring along drugs, alcohol, and prostitution, to just go up anywhere in some place we’ve now decided is no longer the United States of America.

    Here in CA, our stupid former gov, Davis, signed away the right to regulate even health and safety, environmental or labor laws in the tribes’ lands.  Last time I checked, doc, that’s anti-progressive.

    I’m not calling for the extermination of the Native Americans.  Our nation did that already and it remains a major blot upon our nation’s heritage.  But what we have now is a sort of zombie nation built on gambling.  That, again, is anti-progressive from a good community’s sense--unless by “progressive” you meant cultural radicalism and libertines.

    One last point:  Who are now one of the biggest, if not the biggest, lobbying donors in Sacramento (CA capital)? Gambling establishments--oops, I mean Native Americans.  Stop smoking peyote, Doc.  This is big business wearing mocasins and head bands.  Or maybe put it this way:  If Jews were suddenly allowed to build back their shetls in Europe and businessmen used Jews as front men to put in a bunch of gambling joints, I’d be pissed at that, too.  And in case you missed my name, I’m Jewish.

    Posted by Mitchell Freedman  on  06/24  at  12:19 AM
  45. I’m pretty much in agreement with your list, Michael.

    Guns kill people but last I heard there were as many in the U.S. as there were people, and there’s no logical way to collect them. I’m not all that concerned about motorcyclists and helmets, except for health costs for the gomers, but does that mean no beer or ice cream for overweights? Motorcycles themselves are risky. An ex-brother-in-law took a fall, with helmet, 20 years ago and lost a testicle the hard way. He has just had a stroke that made him a vegetable and doctors believe it was the result of an undetected brain injury suffered in the motorcycle accident. Go figure. I’ve heard that you’d save a lot more lives if every auto driver wore a helmet.

    Gambling? $82 million tomorrow night, baby! I go to sleep tonight a potential millionaire.

    Posted by Bob in Pacifica  on  06/24  at  12:49 AM
  46. Mitchell: I’m not referring to treaties from the age of Lewis and Clark.  Our current law recognizes tribal territory as sovereign.  Given the history involved here (and the fact that, y’know, it’s the law), I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask that people abide by it.  If the tribes choose to use their land in a way we don’t approve of… oh well.

    Dark muttering about ‘outside businessmen’ is particularly disingenuous: hotels and resorts cost big money to build, and most of the tribes are desperately poor.  No kidding, they brought in outside investors.  When city politicians do this, they put it on their resume and trumpet it in their campaign ads, and for good reason.

    I’d ask how, precisely, it is that houses of gambling “bring” alcohol (which is already legal), and drugs and prostitution (which were widely available and popular in this country long before tribal gambling took off), but I’m pretty disinterested in your answer unless it contains verifiable numbers.

    I’d also like to see some numbers behind your contention that gambling lobbyists are the biggest money-spenders in Sacto.  I could be surprised, but the idea that they’re even in the same league as California agribusiness doesn’t pass my personal laugh test.

    RM: I know several people who have, for one reason or another, chosen to engage in prostitution either in the past or currently.  It’s a crappy job, and worldwide there certainly are people who are enslaved into prostitution, but the sets are non-overlapping.

    Posted by Doctor Memory  on  06/24  at  02:55 AM
  47. Same-sex marriage: I think it’s a disgrace this country even argues over this issue. It should be legal. Heterosexuals have already fucked up the institution of marriage beyond belief, so I am sure our homosexual brothers and sisters cannot possibly fuck it up any worse. We should at least give them the same chance.

    I don’t smoke cigarettes, but I smoke pot like a fiend. I think the public smoking of anything in an enclosed environment around others is offensive. Let’s legalize weed and ban the smoking of anything in public places. I smoke my weed in my house and nowhere else. Please do the same with your nasty cigarettes.

    Legalizing hard drugs...that’s a tough one. I’ll have to ponder that one before I decide.

    The motorcycle helmet issue is simple: if you don’t want to wear one, fine, do so at your own risk--and tough titty when your skull cracks open on the pavement.

    Prostitution should be legal. If women and men want to earn a living letting strangers fuck them, why the hell not? All the other negative issues--pimps, STDs, forced prostitution, etc--should not vanquish the idea that earning money from sex is wrong. It ain’t.

    Gambling should be legal everywhere. If people are stupid enough to think they can beat the odds, let them piss their money away.

    Abortion...I’ve been perplexed and conflicted over this issue my entire adult life. A woman has the right to choose; I have never doubted that. But abortions are so depressingly awful. But women should be able to choose. So abortions must remain legal.

    No one ever said liberty wasn’t a complex and often perplexing idea. I am a free-wheeling loser and resent the idea people should ever dictate how I live and long as I am not fucking with their airspace. In fact, I hate busybodies and snoopy know-it-all types who think they can tell me what to do. When did we become a nation of second grade teachers nagging our fellow citizens like they are children?

    So we should always side with liberty to the best of our abilities. Just don’t light that cigarette in my face, assholes.

    Posted by Alex von Waldenberg III  on  06/24  at  05:48 AM
  48. Call me whatever you want, I have no sympathy for folks whose selfish behavior harms others and who then whine about their freedom. When Gary Busey cracked up on a motorcycle without a helmet, I remember reading that he had a wife and kids. It’s not just the rider who is affected. Over and beyond the cost to the state, people who engage in this kind of risky behavior don’t harm only themselves.
    I would never let my daughter ride a bike of any kind without a helmet. I don’t rollerblade without a helmet. I don’t want my child to grow up with a dead or brain damaged mom if some nudnick knocks me down, or I skid on a patch of gravel.
    Same with smoking in enclosed spaces. It has demonstrably harmful consequences for those forced to inhale their second-hand smoke (co-workers, etc).  My parents both smoked two packs a day, and my brother has asthma. How many trips to the emergency room could have been avoided if they had refrained from smoking around us? I think forcing kids to inhale second-hand smoke is a form of neglect. I sympathize with how hard it is to quit, but as other have said, you can step outside.

    Posted by  on  06/24  at  09:16 AM
  49. I don’t care if other people want to mash their brains on the hood of someone else’s car. I don’t care what they eat, whether or not they buckle up, or how they choose to lose their money.

    I grew up in a house full of guns, but I don’t own one and feel kinda squeamish about them. So don’t point that thing at me. Ditto the cigarettes. I don’t care if you want to poison yourself. Knock yourself out. But keep that smelly deathstick away from me. Everywhere.

    Posted by KathyR  on  06/24  at  09:34 AM
  50. On guns.  I drove a taxi cab in Chicago for five years.  I sure as hell worried about who carried guns. Having one pointed at the back of your head is not an experience you want to experience every day.

    I find the argument about the social costs of not wearing a helmet very compelling.  We are not going to let people die because they opted out of care when they did not wear a helmet.

    I wish I had the freedom of not worrying about health insurance. We need to join the rest of the advanced world and have a single-payer national health system.

    Posted by  on  06/24  at  10:55 AM
  51. man, i hate the way what i’m about to write is gonna make me sound like a u of chicago cost/benefit type, but it does seem that some behaviors carry very steep social costs and that since those costs are borne by the society at large, the society at large should be able to regulate those behaviors. a big chunk of my tax payments go to pay costs incurred by the behavior of others: when uninsured motorcycle riders don’t get quite killed, i’m kicking in for their medical care. when smokers get the diseases they know full well they’re increasing their likelihood of getting during all those years of lighting up (to say nothing of the poor second-handers who breathed all those carcinogens against their will), i’m kicking in for their care too. when gamblers go broke, they’re gonna cost us something too. now, i’m happy to contribute to the general welfare (i’d much rather contribute via a single-payer health system and a stronger all-round safety net, but i’m a tax-and-spend liberal of the first order), but as a contributor i’d like for us to be able to say to people, look, you’ve got to take some fairly simple steps to minimize the likelihood that you’re going to cost us a lot of money.

    so it makes sense to me to regulate when the costs suffered by those whose behavior is regulated are fairly low but the costs incurred by their behavior is fairly high. and it’s worth remembering that the guv’mint doing the regulating is just us (we the people). requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets imposes a reasonably small cost to riders (hell, let’s provide helmets for free), as does requiring motorists to wear seatbelts. requiring gun-owners/operators to pass tests and obtain and maintain licenses (and to forfeit their rights to ownership and operation if they repeatedly misuse guns) doesn’t cost much (we regulate cars and drivers, and not just by requiring licenses but also by mandating safety inspections, demanding certain safety equipment, etc). needless to say, i’m all for regulation of the workplace (for workers’ safety and security, for environmental impacts, for the safety of products, to say nothing of the late, lamented weekend and eight-hour day).

    smoking and gambling are tougher calls because the costs and benefits are harder to disentangle. while it’s the actual, active smoker whose health costs are going to really have an impact, prohibiting smoking curtails liberty in ways i’m not prepared to support. banning smoking from public spaces (maybe even outdoor ones) is reasonable (and easy and effective; i went to ireland shortly after the imposition of a smoking ban in pubs thinking there’s no way this can work, i’ve never seen the ceiling of a pub in ireland for the thick cloud of smoke hanging just beneath it, etc, and lo and behold, within a month of the ban’s passage, habits had changed. i saw the ceilings; they weren’t much to look at. the biggest change was that the half-dozen guys playing music over by the peat fire stopped every forty minutes or so and stepped outside).

    gambling in casinos, i guess, ok. but lotteries, for the reasons ben alpers lists in #7, among others, seem untenable. while part of me wants to just shrug them off as a tax on the mathematically illiterate ("innumerate"?), the people who can’t calculate a probability and act accordingly, the state-sponorship, the state dependence upon the revenues thus generated, and long history now of broken promises about how the money will be spent (remember how many state lotteries were supposed to fund education? how’s that going now?) make me think this is a problem. how about this: keep the lottery machinery in place (everyone can buy tickets at the corner shop, sometimes someone wins something), but funnel ALL the revenue generated by ticket sales into a mandatory math curriculum for the public schools, a curriculum that focuses on probability on the one hand and compound interest on the other. maybe in a generation or two, lotteries will shrivel and die from lack of interest, while the personal savings rate will climb out of the basement.

    Posted by  on  06/24  at  10:57 AM
  52. And I think we should arm all union members.
    Is there a word for “laughing while totally agreeing”?

    Require children to be buckled in, of course. Require children to wear helmets when riding any two-wheeled vehicle on public roads, and fine them or their parents if the helmet’s strap isn’t buckled. I see this all the time—people wearing bike helmets without buckling the strap. What do they think is gonna happen if they fall?

    No indoor smoking. Not because of the long-term health effects of second-hand smoke, but because of the smell and the short-term health effects—sneezing, coughing, watery eyes. My desire to regulate indoor smoking is partly a rebellion against mom, who smoked like a chimney when I was an asthmatic kid.

    The aforementioned loud motorcycles. Some of these folks live in my hood. Require a muffler. And ban extremely loud music from cars.

    Decriminalize the shooting of people who talk loudly on cellphones in public. I’m fine with cellphone gabbers talking in a normal tone of voice—“normal” meaning “the goddam phone is an inch from your lips, so the person you’re talking to is an inch from your lips, so pipe down, asshole.” People who bellow into their cellphones while I’m trying to enjoy a fine repast at McDonalds? Kill them. Kill them dead.

    Posted by  on  06/24  at  10:59 AM
  53. Especially those walkie-talkie cellphones. Every grand jury should no-bill killers of the people who use them.

    Posted by  on  06/24  at  11:02 AM
  54. oh, two things i forgot:

    gay marriage—no cost, great benefit (tho no guarantees), so no reason for the government to interfere. in general, the more we position marriage as a contractual legal and financial arrangement and make the religious aspects optional for those who see it as also a spiritual commitment or sacrament, the better. and we the people have generally decided that all sorts of people have an equal right to enter into contracts.

    fraternities—no benefit, huge costs, but hard to see how to do much about them given a constitutional right to free association that i’m loathe to mess with. but colleges and universities should sever relations with these organizations, should cut any and all subsidies to them beyond whatever minimum they can demand as registered student organizations, should evict them from college-owned property as soon as leases expire, and should to the extent legally possible regulate their advertising on campus. i am sure fraternities will do just fine in the “market” without the various protections and supports they currently receive from institutions whose business really has nothing to do with their means and ends. how happy i am to be employed at a college with no greek system!

    Posted by  on  06/24  at  11:29 AM
  55. An important and undervoiced concern when discussing public safety / public morality is the enforcement mechanism. We assume it is the police, an assumption with consequences. Maybe these aren’t problems with criminal justice solutions. Banning public smoking from the pulpit makes compliance feel grudgingly voluntary. From the mayor’s office over the police station it feels coerced.

    In my lifetime the pulpit has lost too much community status to be effective. We could use a secular Dept of Institutional Nagging to pick up the slack. Save law enforcement for criminal behavior — like flying passenger jets into buildings.

    It’s quiet, it’s Sat morning, it’s that rare June day.

    Captcha: reason. Once upon a time an Age.

    Posted by black dog barking  on  06/24  at  12:21 PM
  56. The social costs of irresponsible sex (illegitimate births, stds, etc) greatly exceed the social costs of not wearing motorcycle helmets, but I don’t see anyone clambering to legislate “responsible” sex behavior ("A Norplant in every teen girl!").

    The problem with paternalism is the paternalists pick and choose the social pathologies they wish to defeat with some rather squirrelly logic that reeks of what Michael called “a nose-pinching relation” to another’s cultural identity.

    You worry about motorcycle helmets? What about all the unbridled fucking out there? Just think about all those teen girls, still in high school, tending to their illegitimate babies. Talk about social costs! If I had my way I’d hand out birth control pills in every high school cafeteria. And the social costs of sexually transmitted diseases are staggering. Do you want to pass no fucking laws to prevent these immense costs?

    I’d also tax the living fuck out of divorces. The social costs of divorce are immense and dwarf those from gambling, not wearing motorcycle helmets, and so forth.

    Libertarians are hypocritical gasbags, but they are correct when they assert our neurotic need to “fix” everything with social engineering can go too far.

    Posted by Alex von Waldenberg III  on  06/24  at  12:37 PM
  57. 1)Gun control.
    Extend waiting period.
    No automatic weapons and “specialty” ammo.
    Absolutely NO “conceal carry”. I you want to pack, fine. Just let it be in the open. No paranoia induced wondering. If you love your gun so much, wear it proudly. Accessorize around it. Gem studded holsters, stuff like that.

    2)Smoking bans:
    No problem in well-ventilated areas or out-doors.
    However, no coverage under public or private systems to cover individual issues. I don’t why my premiums or tax dollars going to pay for the results of your chosen addiction.

    I do know of people who have lost everything because they can’t stop.
    I also feel we have crapped on the American native for so long, that they deserve a big pay-off.
    Here’s a thought, let the gambler sign over his/her deeds to the respective nation that owns the casino.

    Helmets AND leathers.
    No helmet, no leather, NO INSURANCE COVERAGE

    4)Safe etc?
    No rules arbitrarily applied across the board, but each situation evaluated on it’s own merits or lack thereof.

    1)If it can’t eat you, eat it.
    2)If it can eat you, disable and proceed according to rule one.

    Posted by Neil Belsky  on  06/24  at  12:51 PM
  58. I’d also tax the living fuck out of divorces.

    And those working-class women who’re getting the shit beaten out of them by their husbands, or watching their daughters get raped, can just go hang.

    captcha: sense

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  06/24  at  01:28 PM
  59. And those working-class women who’re getting the shit beaten out of them by their husbands, or watching their daughters get raped, can just go hang.

    That’s the squirrelly logic I’m talking about. Most divorces (not even in the “working class”; do you mean we need not pay attention to the “rich bitches” getting smacked around by their hubbies?) do not happen because of physical abuse or incest. But you’ve jumped to the logical extreme to make some point...say, what is your point?

    My point (and I was being ironic, of course, in saying we should “tax the living fuck out of divorce") was that paternalism can become hyperventilatingly extremist in its need to social engineer away all our social pathologies.

    Posted by Alex von Waldenberg III  on  06/24  at  01:58 PM
  60. Um, you do know there’s no “gun show loophole”, right?  There are *no* special rules applying to sales at gun shows; they must follow *exactly* the same rules as sales *anywhere else*.

    In most states, including Minnesota, it’s legal for private individuals to sell guns to each other with no paperwork.  If you do it too often, you’ll be prosecuted by the feds for being an unlicensed dealer, which *you do not want to happen*.  But if you sell three guns out of your collection or something, it’s not a problem. 

    What “closing the gun show loophole” means is passing special laws to make sales illegal at gun shows that are legal anywhere else.

    (I’m the weird libertarian liberal who likes guns; not too many of me around.  I grew up in a college town, my father was a professor, and took mostly liberal policies totally for granted for a long time.  I’m still mostly in favor of measuring a society largely by how well the worst-off members are treated.)

    Posted by David Dyer-Bennet  on  06/24  at  02:10 PM
  61. The helmet debate got really stupid in Austin because when they tried to pass a helmet ordinance for motorcyclists, they defined it so that bicycles were included.  That pissed everyone off and it got repealed.  Classic example of how overreach shoots you in the foot.

    Posted by Amanda Marcotte  on  06/24  at  02:12 PM
  62. Should motorcycle rider be required to come to a complete halt at a stop light, late at night, when no other vehicles are in sight, and the red light won’t change because the cycle wheel missed the sensor, or there is no sensor. We live in a perilous world. And, we are responsible for our decisions. Being responsible is not easy.

    Posted by Bobby Corcoran  on  06/24  at  02:22 PM
  63. That’s the squirrelly logic I’m talking about. Most divorces (not even in the “working class”; do you mean we need not pay attention to the “rich bitches” getting smacked around by their hubbies?)

    Very slowly now:
    No, Alex III, but rich women could more easily afford to pay the tax.

    do not happen because of physical abuse or incest.

    So what? Most people in the US are not African-American, but we insist on laws to protect people against discrimination on the basis of being African-American. Most people in the US do not wear children’s pajamas, but there are laws to ensure that children’s pajamas are moderately fire-resistant. Protection of the minority is one of the most important potential roles of law — including tax law.

    In 2003, there were 920,600 US divorces reported to the National Vitall Statistics services of the Centers for Disease Control. This is certainly significantly lower than the total: sveeral large states do not report divorce statistics to the CDC, But let’s take the number. Assume a mere ten percent of those divorces related to physical abuse. (The number is almost certainly higher: In the UK, the figure has been charted at around 17 percent of divorces, and the UK is a significantly less violent society than the US.) Let’s further assume that just ten percent of spousal abuse divorces involve women of lower economic standing. (Again, certainly a significant underestimate.) That’s 9,000 people, more or less, whose physical safety would be significantly impaired by “taxing the fuck out of divorce.”

    But you’ve jumped to the logical extreme to make some point

    To term my concern “a logical extreme” indicates a certain amount of isolation from social realities. Nonetheless, even granting yoour allegation, I seem to recall that there’s some fancy Latin phrase for reducing an argument to an absurd logical extreme. Damned if I can remember what it is, though. 

    say, what is your point?

    Oh, pretty much that people who pontificate about government having become a hyperventilatingly extreme source of social engineering have no clue about what most people actually go through in their lives, and that when they’re called on it, they often hide behind claims of rhetorical irony.

    captcha: white

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  06/24  at  02:33 PM
  64. of course there are social costs associated with various sexual behaviors (unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, etc). one doesn’t have to resort to extreme solutions to prevent (or reduce the frequency of) these. education helps (frank, realistic education, not the abstinence-only faith-based stuff the current administration peddles), as do readily available birth-control, condoms, etc. there’s an analogy to motorcycle helmets here. we recognize, as a society, dangers inherent in some behavior but rather than prohibit the behavior outright, we educate about the dangers, provide and encourage protection against the dangers, etc. this is reasonable.

    regarding divorce, it’s already taxed (i’m paying more tax on my income after the resulting change in filing status), but the taxes certainly aren’t going to remedy the social costs. look, individuals enter into contracts all the time. contractual relationships are dissolved all the time. i don’t see what’s reasonable or productive about forcing individuals to maintain contractual relationships when they become untenable. what you want to do is minimize the damage that results from the dissolution of a relationship, and what that requires is sensible procedures for dissolution (let me plug mediation over litigation here—made all the difference in the world for me, my ex, and our children), education about likely emotional consequences of the dissolution and strategies for handling them, and social support for people going through the experience. divorce does not have to be incredibly damaging; we might go a long way toward making it less so by being a little more realistic about the institution of marriage.

    Posted by  on  06/24  at  03:20 PM
  65. The R.N.s in my family think that the continued use of motorcycles is an object lesson in the failure of social darwinism.

    The line we (in this comment thread) seem to want to draw with gov’t involvement is a very fine one that negotiates protecting individuals from themselves (intrusive & usually not desirable) versus protecting the larger social body from its potentially cancerous cells (more acceptable). I tend not to think there’s any principled way to answer this question unless we can call utilitarianism a principle; and I would say historically such utilitarianism is mad bourgie. For example, w/r/t/ prostitution, it was legal in England in the mid 19th century, but its legalization was intended to empower the government & to protect the privileged white heterosexual male body & was put to use to police women’s bodies (they were taken from the street into custody, subjected to medicalization, etc). If we were to assume that prostitution is a professional choice, and legalize it to make sure that choice is available to women who need it (though with rm in #43, I’m skeptical about this), I would insist that it be structured in such a way that women be empowered to make that choice by protecting them from employers and prospective clients. In other words, place medical and licensing burdens on johns and pimps (to use the technical legal and medical jargon).

    Captcha: labor, as in my brothel’s slogan, “Prostitution: A Labor of Love”

    Posted by  on  06/24  at  03:43 PM
  66. I seem to recall that there’s some fancy Latin phrase for reducing an argument to an absurd logical extreme

    “Reductio ad absurdum”.  See Wikipedia.

    Posted by David Dyer-Bennet  on  06/24  at  04:21 PM
  67. Hey, Chris, there’s a fancy English word for your failing to see the distinction between what I said and what you *think* I said; it’s called selective perception.

    For instance, I said:

    My point (and I was being ironic, of course, in saying we should “tax the living fuck out of divorce") was that paternalism can become hyperventilatingly extremist in its need to social engineer away all our social pathologies.

    I say “paternalism can become hyperventilatingly extremist.”

    To which you reply:

    Oh, pretty much that people who pontificate about government having become a hyperventilatingly extreme source of social engineering have no clue about what most people actually go through in their lives, and that when they’re called on it, they often hide behind claims of rhetorical irony.

    You say I said, “the government having become a hyperventilatingly extremist source of social engineering.”

    The distinction between the two isn’t that subtle, Chris, which leads me to ask you what else I have written has gotten twisted and mixed around in your mind like that? I mean, do you always cut and paste and change people’s words to meet your argumentative needs?

    Now, I am sure you’re very clever and I’d love to have a long-winded discussion with you about anything and everything, but it’s rather difficult doing so when so you so obviously misrepresent and twist what I say to make it fit whatever bias you have against me.

    Frankly, life is too short for this kind of weird banter, and I am sure Prof. Berube doesn’t want his comments section mired in such silliness. But thanks for this lesson in selective perception and how silly and pointless it can become.

    Posted by Alex von Waldenberg III  on  06/24  at  04:34 PM
  68. LOL..."selective perception” is a fancy English term, not word.

    Posted by Alex von Waldenberg III  on  06/24  at  04:38 PM
  69. there’s an analogy to motorcycle helmets here. we recognize, as a society, dangers inherent in some behavior but rather than prohibit the behavior outright, we educate about the dangers, provide and encourage protection against the dangers, etc. this is reasonable.

    Thanks, mtt. That’s what I was trying to say, more or less, but obviously not as clearly as I thought. It would be impossible to “regulate” all behaviors that cost society.

    But when we do regulate behavior, we need to be aware of the dangers of going too far in our need to “fix” things.

    And, obviously, I don’t mean I really want to tax divorce. I was responding to this above comment by you and using (what I thought) was a silly and absurd logical conclusion that could be derived from it:

    man, i hate the way what i’m about to write is gonna make me sound like a u of chicago cost/benefit type, but it does seem that some behaviors carry very steep social costs and that since those costs are borne by the society at large, the society at large should be able to regulate those behaviors.

    I think, in the wrong hands, such an idea could become dangerous. My examples might have sounded absurd (although, in certain cases, not terrible ideas, just unworkable), but I assure you such attitudes do exist out there.

    For instance, one of the most prevalent arguments against same-sex marriage uses the “slippery slope” idea that gay marriage will lead to dog-man (or woman) marriages, polygamy, adult-child unions, and so forth, and banning same-sex marriage will “protect” society from these social pathologies that could “possibly” (so the detractors say) arise from it. So to me, the banning of same sex marriage reeks of paternalism and social engineering gone awry.

    The idea of liberty clearly leads us to think a same-sex couple should be afforded the same marriage rights as heterosexual unions. But religious paternalism wishes to regulate that behavior to “protect” to society from this libertine behavior.

    I guess I spent too much time in the Netherlands and it has skewed my thinking. wink

    Posted by Alex von Waldenberg III  on  06/24  at  05:04 PM
  70. I can’t believe that Lutherans would have voted en masse for McDworkin’s law even if they were Minnesota liberals. I’d like to see a breakdown in terms of who voted for that law.  It sounds anecdotal at best.  Have you got statistics?

    As the churches have secularized the notion that what is between one and God is now between one and the Other (Africa, the guy without a job, etc.), is fairly pervasive I suppose, but I’d still want to see statistics that prove that Lutherans had a big hand in helping to get that dumb law passed (the vagueness of it was typical of McDworkin’s thought—just anything that constituted discomfort on the part of just any woman for just any reason could have qualified as a crime, and the penalties were just as vague, just anything from having to make extra green jello for the Lutheran Sunday picnic to ten years hard time).

    That said, I do feel you should wear your seatbelt.  It keeps insurance rates lower for everyone when your head stays on your shoulders.

    Posted by Kirby Olson  on  06/24  at  06:08 PM
  71. Unapologetically, I support gun bans and antismoking ordinances (which don’t go far enough, IMO—I don’t care for that darned outdoor smoking I keep encountering when I venture outside). Legalize pot, but restrict its use to the same private spaces where tobacco can be smoked.

    In my personal calculus, my risk of being injured as a result of a crashing motorcyclist is far outweighed by my interest in more healthy donor organs, so I’ll overlook my maternal/paternalistic instincts to require helmets. Let ‘em crash—but maybe mandate thicker protective jackets to help cushion the non-brain vital organs.

    captcha, most aptly: cannot

    Posted by Orange  on  06/24  at  08:21 PM
  72. I know several people who have, for one reason or another, chosen to engage in prostitution either in the past or currently.  It’s a crappy job, and worldwide there certainly are people who are enslaved into prostitution, but the sets are non-overlapping.

    Dr. Memory, I figured someone—actually, I figured a whole chorus of people—would take the opposite view when I called prostitution slavery. I can imagine a model of society and human nature where it’s a free choice, and one where it’s always a coerced choice taken by less-than-free agents. Really this is an epistemological question. How do you know the choice is free? How do I know it’s not? My common sense and experience of human nature inclines me to see it as coerced in general, institutionally, regardless of individual anecdotes that might be exceptions. I could agree that the sets of sex slaves and prostitutes are only partially overlapping, but not non-overlapping. I suspect the overlap is far larger than the non.

    Posted by  on  06/24  at  09:48 PM
  73. If you love your gun so much, wear it proudly. Accessorize around it. Gem studded holsters, stuff like that.

    That’s the solution right there!  Neil Belsky has it!  All guns carried by non-union members must be accessorized. They must be out in the open, they must be color-coordinated with belts, ties, and earrings, and they must sparkle

    Um, you do know there’s no “gun show loophole”, right?

    Yes!  I’m even aware that the definition of “assault weapon” in the now-lapsed “assault weapon ban” was kinda shoddy.  It’s the felon-purchasing-arsenal thing I was really on about.  Sorry to muddy the waters.

    I can’t believe that Lutherans would have voted en masse for McDworkin’s law even if they were Minnesota liberals. I’d like to see a breakdown in terms of who voted for that law.  It sounds anecdotal at best.  Have you got statistics?

    Statistics?  We don’t need no stinkin’ statistics!  This is a blog.

    Seriously, “Lutheran Liberal” is my facetious name for that chirpy Lake Wobegon civic spirit.  Don’t get me wrong—I have great affection for it, on the whole.  It so beats the crazed survivalist Wyomontadaho far-rightism, for one thing. 

    And I can see that Orange here would ban smoking among the homeless (just wait—that’ll be next in San Francisco), while my old friend mtt has become a full-blown Richard Epstein groupie.  Fascinating, fascinating.  At least Chris Clarke still makes me laugh!  Alex, welcome.  Meet Chris.  He’s a wonderful human being.  Now be friends.

    Oh, and I’m OK with banning slavery.  I take back what I said about decriminalizing prostitution in comment 4, having had time to imagine all the billboards Njorl subtly evoked in comment 8.  But definitely ixnay on the averyslay.

    Posted by Michael  on  06/24  at  10:28 PM
  74. I’d also support the elimination of homelessness. Safe and affordable housing for all, regardless of smoking status!

    Posted by Orange  on  06/24  at  10:35 PM
  75. If you’re against poison food, you should be for a smoking ban in public places--cancer-causing poisons are no less lethal for being carried by the air than in your hot dog.

    Would you be impressed if someone insisted on their right to eat cancer-causing hot dogs, but “Oh by the way, I have no oral control so I’ll be spitting the cancer-causing poison in your mouth and forcing you to swallow it while I eat next to you, I hope you don’t mind!?”

    What kind of country is this when I no longer have the personal freedom to put carcinogens in your air and force you to breathe it if you want to leave your house!?

    Posted by Mark Anderson  on  06/24  at  11:21 PM
  76. RM: the people I know who engaged in prostitution were free actors in the simple sense that they were beholden to no pimps and thus could (and in several cases did) move on to other types of employment without suffering any consequences other than having to change their cell phone numbers.  I guess that’s freedom with a small “f”.  With regard to the big-F question, of whether one can ever make such a decision “freely” inside a capitalist system, well, that’s another kettle of fish entirely, but it’s not a problem that is in any way unique to prostitution: you can make the same argument about coal mining, sewer maintenance and probably fast-food workers if you’re clever enough.  You gotta do something to put food on the table; I’m pretty dubious that prostitution is so uniquely and consistently damaging that it should be always beyond the pale.

    Keeping prostitution illegal also has some weird and ugly side-effects: for instance, since a woman who was at any point a prostitute is a felon, she’s usually denied access to any job with a background check.  Assuming that it’s a policy goal to have fewer women engaging in prostitution, don’t we want to make it easier for them to get other jobs?  (And then there’s the issue of what happens if you end up in a custody battle with a prostitution conviction on your record...)

    Personally, I’m in favor of state-mandated chain-whipping for pimps, but think that <style</a> decriminalized self-employed prostitution would not lead to any increase in human trafficking, and might even decrease it a bit.  I’m definitely sure that our current approach isn’t doing a damn bit of good.

    Captcha word: corner.  No, it’s too easy.

    Posted by Doctor Memory  on  06/25  at  02:02 AM
  77. And to wrap up a few sadly disparate threads here: prostitutes should be unionized… and armed. smile

    Posted by Doctor Memory  on  06/25  at  02:03 AM
  78. Good god, what is that huge yellow thing in my last comment?

    If this is a subtle way of convincing people not to use emoticons in comments here… my god, consider it a complete success.  Never again, on my honor.

    Posted by Doctor Memory  on  06/25  at  02:05 AM
  79. (And, sigh, that should have read: “german-style decriminalized” etc etc, and should have been a link to http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/3900361.stm)

    4 posts in a row?  Time for sleep, obviously.

    Posted by Doctor Memory  on  06/25  at  02:08 AM
  80. le weekend chez bérubé!

    Yikes. Mr. B, open a window in this place. the eau de sanctimony in the comments is overwhelming.

    An Immodest Proposal:

    we should have police stationed at every church supper ready to snatch away slices of cakes and pies whenever a fat person tries to eat one...the health costs of diabetes and heart disease, etc. etc...you know.

    and far more americans are fat than are gamblers or bikers.

    we might want to consider forced marches to make ppl exercise.

    we should also do away with sports. they might encourage ppl to engage in violence toward others, and someone might get hurt while participating. not only that, the mass psychosis that is the life of the fan is something that is surely treatable with the right combination of medication and isolation.

    let’s get rid of tv, too. couch potatoes, “reality” shows that offer celebrity as the highest form of honor ...and that reminds me...forced marches…

    speaking of those churches again...since most extant mainstream religions are based upon some version of “thank you, god, that I was not born a woman,”—well, they have to go, too. they’re bad for my health...and we’ve seen how nutso they can make themselves (not to mention the wider world.)

    Oh, and since poor ppl can’t afford to have kids, we should sterilize them.

    Also ppl with IQs below...100...120...140?

    Shulamith Firestone was ahead of her time when she said that women will not have parity until childbearing functions take place in non-human uterui. To achieve this worthwhile goal, maybe all women AND men should be sterilized. or, hmmm…

    (please take a moment to imagine Dworkin in an after dinner tableau of Liberty Leading the People)

    Only when manhood is dead - and it will perish when ravaged femininity no longer sustains it - only then will we know what it is to be free.

    (you all know where I’m going with that one so I’ll just let ms dworkin’s quote stand on its own.)

    I don’t know what a libertarian democrat is, but I do know how annoying it is have the left or right hum the white noise fear of mortality in my ear. Not to mention the hubris of commidifying “the other’s” weaknesses.

    If only we could do away with tragedy, with the human condition in all its frailities! then everything would be perfect.

    I won’t hold my breath or double down.

    choice, rather than legislation, based upon information, seems like a good way to deal with adults. kids are a different matter b/c they are not in a position to make choices. a living wage, affordable heath care...those things might lead to higher forms of actualization—or maybe not.

    then again, if people did not discriminate randomly with this prohibition or another, I guess we wouldn’t have the arts. so, on second thought—to the gulag with everyone!

    ...obviously I don’t have answers. only snark. I don’t gamble; I’m not a biker or a gun owner, among other things. Yet I can live and let live (or die) in order to uphold as much personal freedom as possible. Is this such a ridiculous position?

    Posted by  on  06/25  at  03:47 AM
  81. The amount and degree of violence committed against female sex industry workers is something of which most Americans remain blissfully unaware. Besides, who cares? They’re just whores, right? 

    Having worked in public health and social services all of my adult life, and specifically with female sex industry workers much of that time, I can tell you that the continued criminalization of prostitution does nothing but perpetuate that violence.  I’m not talking about Hollywood movie style “bitch-slapping” violence either.  I mean near-death (and death) emergency room trauma that would make Quentin Tarantino blanch.

    Anyway, all jokes aside, I’m sure most of us would agree that some really tacky billboards would be more than a fair exchange toward greatly decreasing this horrific violence against women.  So Michael, might you consider taking back your “take back” in #73?


    Posted by  on  06/25  at  09:36 AM
  82. One of the many ironies is that it is “collectivism” and the propaganda campaigns that gow ith it that enables people to challenge public safety laws. The NRA find out that a liberal suburb of Chicago has banned handguns andit becomes a call to action to everyone who gullible enough to think anyone should have a bazooka in their garage. Ditto abortion--it’s as old as pregnancy, yet to talk with some of these people, it never happened until after Roe v. Wade.

    If “Chicago School” economics really drove libertarian, Republican, or some other kind of policy, we’d have adeqaute sex education in the schools, helmet laws, etc.

    As pointed out upstream, all it takes is a serious injury to turn some yammering libertarian into a willing consumer of government services.

    Posted by  on  06/25  at  10:31 AM
  83. BTW, a “Pittsburgh left” is common throughout New England, even Connecticut (whose membership in the region is often question by those in other states).

    Posted by  on  06/25  at  10:33 AM
  84. I don’t understand this “Pittsburgh left” thing. It sounds wussy. In Chicago, two cars turn left after the light changes—three, if the third driver’s ballsy.

    Posted by Orange  on  06/25  at  10:55 AM
  85. Michael, might you consider taking back your “take back” in #73?

    OK.  But no billboards.

    Posted by Michael  on  06/25  at  10:59 AM
  86. OK.  But no billboards.

    But...but when prostition gets legalized, how are the Ralph Reed types supposed to get money for their campaigns from the Jack Abramoff types if there’s no big-money lobbying interests for/against billboards advertising prostition? Why, the very idea is anti-American. Shame on you, Michael!

    Posted by  on  06/25  at  12:02 PM
  87. It’s deeply arrogant to imagine we can speak for prostitutes. Many of my friends have been prostitutes at one time or another, and not one of them was forced into it, or has every even heard of anyone who was forced into it. For some, the money is so good, they can’t bring themselves to do anything else. Some even liked it. How else does someone with no education make $1000 a day?

    Slavery indeed.

    This is the kind of foolishness that decided only women can be the victims of domestic violence.

    Posted by Central Content publisher  on  06/25  at  01:56 PM
  88. You know, Michael, now that hockey season is over, you might want to reconsider your plan not to watch and write about “soccer.” After all, had you been watching / reporting on the Portugal v. Netherlands game, you might have found it to be an awful lot LIKE hockey. Sure, it was hot in Germany, but the checking was intense.

    Posted by Isis  on  06/25  at  05:10 PM
  89. Orange: I think there’s confusion here. The light in question turns from red to green, not green to red--i.e., Pittsburgh doesn’t have any arrows and a has a lot of two lane roads--and so if there’s a car waiting to turn, oncoming ca)rs will wait for one, sometimes two cars to go ahead and turn left. I think the practice developed to keep traffic moving as conditions crowded back when Pittsburgh was more heavily populated (but that’s just my own theory; I need to have a discernible logic. Fights sometimes break out if the person with the left turn signal does not go. It’s less wussy than really really confusing for newcomers.

    I also find your (Orange’s) argument for leaving the helmet laws--or lack of em--in place to be the most compelling.

    Michael: great to see you on Fri.

    Posted by dhawhee  on  06/25  at  05:42 PM
  90. So, I’m “deeply arrogant.” Not just plainly, but deeply.

    CCPub, I never fell down that slippery slope you invoke. I also never said that prostitutes were women. I am absolutely sure that Oaktown Girl could tell us about abuse of both male and female prostitutes. In the spirit of the original question, I thought aloud about a liberty issue. It seemed better to err on the side of protecting people in an industry that is notoriously full of abuse, where it’s not a free choice for at least many, if not all. Since I’m not convinced we can draw the boundary between the free and the coerced, I made the blanket generalization. I still think anecdotes don’t disprove the rule.

    However, I changed my thinking once in response to Doctor Memory—I could be wrong that it’s “fantasy” (my hyperbolic word choice) to think that prostitutes can be free. Anecdotes do at least prove that no generalization is adequate to real cases.

    And I am changing in further in response to Oaktown Girl, who brings the informed perspective you were asking for. I’m willing to go along with OG’s position in the same way I’d support legalizing the drugs which aren’t already legal—better to acknowledge and regulate a bad thing than to create a space for crime and stigmatize victims.

    I’m now open to legalization, but I hold back some skepticism, because the details of implementing such a thing are tricky. The BBC link Dr. M gives in #79 demonstrates some difficulties—even when the legal space is created, there will be non-sanctioned criminal operations, and there will be trouble making the protections actually work.

    And I think that if you do enter freely into an industry—drugs, prostitution—that is traditionally the province of organized crime, you can only remain free as long as you are so small, or so separate from the criminals’ social networks, that they do not notice you. So, that’s why I used the word “fantasy”—I hear libertarians romanticizing freedom in these areas, as if they are engaged in outside the networks of power. I’m convinced to change my mind by OG because she proposes replacing criminal power with legitimate power. If that were done successfully, one’s “freedom” would still be limited, but in the form of buying a license rather than being controlled by thugs.

    But whatever I think, I’m sure I could be wrong.

    Posted by  on  06/25  at  08:21 PM
  91. Oops—I forgot this was Arbitrary But Fun Friday. Just ignore all of that above. Anyone want to talk about chalk-milk or a toddler’s freedom to clamber around on the back seat?

    Posted by  on  06/25  at  08:26 PM
  92. Thank you, rm. Yes, as Doctor Memory’s link points out, there is no “perfect” solution to the current system of illegal prostitution. There’s never going to be a situation where everybody is free, safe, healthy, and happy. All I am saying is that if there is a way to greatly improve the situation, why should we not pursue it just because it won’t solve all the problems? Clearly, the folks who don’t advocate harm reduction are not the ones being harmed.

    Oops—I forgot this was Arbitrary But Fun Friday

    Hey, if you think this was fun, check out the June 2, 2006 edition of ABBF: the “Nancy Fraser edition”.  That Friday was so much fun, I was only sorry that I do not live in snow country.  If I did, I probably would own an ice pick and I could have used it to relieve the pressure in my head from all the…fun.  Why, I’ll bet someday that thread gets its own Wikipedia page as Most Fun Thread Ever.

    Posted by  on  06/25  at  11:36 PM
  93. But definitely ixnay on the averyslay.

    Don’t worry about that one. Wisconsin doesn’t have the death penalty, so the fact that Steven Avery brutally tortured raped and murdered that young woman doesn’t imply he’ll be slain.

    Or maybe you’re trying to say x-nay on Avery slaying people. Wisconsin applauds you for your highly ethical stance! Still, don’t worry, life without parole should be sufficient arrangements.

    Oops—I forgot this was Arbitrary But Fun Friday.

    Neil Belsky effectively closed that one:

    1)If it can’t eat you, eat it.
    2)If it can eat you, disable and proceed according to rule one.

    As good a way to end an ABF Friday as any.

    Posted by previously pre  on  06/26  at  12:13 AM
  94. I never fell down that slippery slope you invoke. I also never said that prostitutes were women. - rm

    I didn’t say you had, and either did I. I was gender neutral.

    Posted by Central Content Publisher  on  06/26  at  02:28 AM
  95. Neither the arbitrariness(?)nor the fun will be truly over until our host signals us by creating a sentence that includes both Noam Chomsky and Tie Domi.

    Posted by  on  06/26  at  02:52 AM
  96. CCPub -
    Reviewing the comments, unless I missed something, I fail to see where anyone presumed to “speak for prostitutes”.  Quite the contrary, if you browse through the link I posted, you will see it is for the Sex Workers Outreach Project, which is all about sex industry workers coming together and empowering themselves. Here’s another page on that same link:


    Sex industry workers, who would never entertain the notion of being a victim, acknowledge the reality of victimization at the hands of the government. Clients and profiteers benefit from the marginal, stigmatized or illegal nature of sex work by enabling them to use the threat of state intervention to prevent workers from accessing or exercising our rights.

    Decriminalize me. Decriminalize my community and bring an end to the darkness and dangers that only an underground economy can reap. Heretofore, the only thing that this prohibition has given rise to is violence and death to the despised, dispossessed, disinherited, degraded and deplorable souls who boldly chose to have sex for money.

    However, not all sex industry workers are in positions to advocate for themselves, nor do they even wish to be sex industry workers. These are the people who are desperately in need of access to a wide range of services, and just because you do not see them does not mean they don’t exist.

    Here’s a link I found to a program in Canada, which I believe is where you are.  It services an almost identical population as the programs I’ve worked at here in the United States.


    Most of the youth, (aged 16 - 24) are homeless and unemployed and resort to prostitution as a way of survival. The majority of these young people have histories of serious sexual abuse and alienation and have fled to the ‘big city’ hoping to find jobs, homes and a new life.

    Posted by  on  06/26  at  08:27 AM
  97. I bet that many of those who have experienced horrible head trauma in helmet-lawless states now wish that there had been a reasonably well-enforced law that they could have enjoyed grumbling about. Some probably become helmet law lobbyists, even. I don’t think there’s any comparable experience that would change a pro-helmet law person’s position.

    Say that someone has been riding a motorcycle for years, conscientiously donning a way fun helmet decorated with Monet’s water lilies in accordance with a state law every time she gets on the bike, and then one day she chucks the clamshell and feels free, free, gloriously free. Even if that rider then makes the calculation that the wind in her hair feels so great that she’s personally willing to scoff at the law (which might even add to the pleasure), I doubt she’ll take the position that existing helmet laws should be repealed or that the manufacture of motorcycle helmets should be outlawed.

    So I’m all for helmet laws. There might even be some transferable principle here for judging policy positions based on their degree of revocability in the event of personal experience. Have to think about it.

    Posted by  on  06/26  at  01:17 PM
  98. I fail to see where anyone presumed to “speak for prostitutes”. - Oaktown Girl

    rm said that all prostitution is slavery. When someone doesn’t think they’re a slave, it’s a little presumptuous to say that they are.

    I’m also very aware that there are a portion of sex trade workers who would really love to be doing something else. Putting aside the ones who stay, not because they have no choice, but because they don’t have a choice with the same earning potential (which I think is a perfectly good reason); the problem is clearly an issue of wealth distribution (poverty), and the gross crimminalization of whole segments of our populations.

    Maybe I should be clearer about where I stand. Depriving citizens of the means to make life happen (money) is a severe breach of social contract. Such a breach forfeits the right to govern. If someone is working as a prostitute (or mugging, or selling drugs, or any number of social naughtinesses) because it’s the only way they can provide themselves with the necessities of life, the body they are in care of (their government) is the party at fault. Said another way, it’s our fault, not theirs.

    Mind you; some people just have a pension for mis-adventure.rasberry

    Posted by Central Content Publisher  on  06/26  at  01:50 PM
  99. So you had some friends who did not like breathing smoke all the work day long. Nor would I. So I don’t work in a bar. Hard to figure.
    What else can we do. Could it not be possible for the owner to ban smoking in his bar? Maybe get some workers who smoke or don’t mind breathing smoke at work? NO. WE NEED THE GOVERNMENT to solve this easily solvable problem. God save the quee.......BIG BROTHER.

    Posted by  on  06/30  at  06:51 PM
  100. Vsem spasibo posu vsex pozdrsvit s nastupauchem novim godom. Ura tovarishe. Vsex s nastupausheme prathnikami.

    Posted by Mohegan Sun  on  12/11  at  08:07 AM





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