Common Sense 119 – A Delegate Conspiracy and the Establishment Clause

Podcast link. [Broken]

Excellent first half of the show, Exposing the Super Delegates. How many Democrat voters realize how their party is structured?

I’ve talked to dozens of people over the years who have whined (yes, I mean you, whiner) about the theft of the 2000 elections by George W. Bush, because the popular vote wasn’t for Bush, it went to Gore.


Never mind that the election was a statistical tie (as was the 2004 election) in most locations around the country. Never mind that the legislatures of most states (including Florida) are empowered to choose who their electors should vote for in the event of no clear victor in a national election. Never mind that the method of selection for national representatives (other than the Senate) is left up to the states to determine, and that includes the President. I’m no friend of election in the first place, so maybe I’m biased. Still, one has to wonder what limitations on majority rule can be maintained when everything becomes a popularity contest, a beauty pageant, first and foremost.


Several people have made a point to tell me that the thing that most needs fixing in our government is the electoral college, because of this outrage. How outraged will they be when their own party takes the popular vote and renders it meaningless by using the super delegates to select Hillary Clinton to compete against John McCain instead of Barack Obama?

Think it can’t happen? Then you don’t understand your own party. From the Wikipedia:

Superdelegates to the 2008 Democratic National Convention include all Democratic members of the United States Congress, Democratic governors, various additional elected officials, members of the Democratic National Committee, as well as “all former Democratic Presidents, all former Democratic Vice Presidents, all former Democratic Leaders of the U.S. Senate, all former Democratic Speakers of the U.S. House of Representatives and Democratic Minority Leaders, as applicable, and all former Chairs of the Democratic National Committee.”

The 2008 Democratic National Convention will have approximately 796 superdelegates. Delegates from state caucuses and primaries will number 3,253, resulting in a total number of delegate votes of 4,049. A candidate needs a majority of that total, or 2,025, to win the nomination. Superdelegates account for approximately one fifth (19.6%) of all votes at the convention.

This has been done before, as Dan pointed out. The truly pointless candidacy of Walter Mondale can be wholly laid at the feet of the super delegates.

What I want to know is how will Bill spin it afterwards? After he uses party muscle (and bribery; er, contributions to super delegates) to get what he wants?

I don’t think it will happen, though (sorry Dan) The representative for the district I reside in, Lloyd Doggett, is a long time leader of the Texas Democrat party, and he announced Texas’ intention to throw the Clintons under the bus by publicly declaring his support for Barack Obama before the recent debates here in Austin.

So I guess I’ll have to revise my prediction of a Clinton victory.


The second half of the show dealt with smaller government. Smaller government as in most government power being in the hands of local and state governments (as the founders intended) rather than in the hands of large federal bureaucracies (as the US government is currently structured) This is a trend that is occurring now, with California and several other states being willing to go head to head with the feds over things like pollution controls and the drug war.

What we are seeing is not new, this is the way that an out of control Washington D.C. is reigned in. The states simply ignore what the federal government tells them to do, or actively thwarts it (as in the case of Medical Marijuana) It was known as the Principles of ’98 (1798, to be exact) the first time it was tried, and Jefferson was it’s architect. My only question is, why this has taken so long to take root?

In a general sense I have no problem with this. I fly the Gadsden flag for a reason. It hearkens back to the times before the Constitution, when individual land owners within the several states decided to act to secure their rights as free men. Individual freedom first and foremost. State power should be subservient to this. Which is where I draw the line.

The bill of rights for the US Constitution should continue to (and currently do) apply to all governments constituted within the federal boundaries of the United States. Which means there will be no establishment of religion (as Dan calls it, a “god-abama”) or various other governmental permutations that would violate the basic rights of the individuals who reside in those areas. If different states really want to secede (like Vermont for example) more power to them. If they want to stay members of the United States, they need to conform to the requirements of the constitution.

I’ve often wondered why we don’t invite other countries into the US as states, rather than drafting these ridiculously convoluted trade treaties. I can understand why other countries might decline, considering the vampiric nature of our current government; but if we could get back to the kind of government we started with, before the cause of individual rights was lost in the political subterfuge of states rights and slavery, what population wouldn’t want to join?


March 2nd addition – I completely missed the solution to Dan’s God-abama conundrum. The solution goes like this:

If you’re homeschooling, teach whatever you like. I’m betting parents that homeschool aren’t going to teach ID [intelligent design] Even if they do, the percentage will be so low as to be insignificant.

Private schools will not teach ID, because they survive on the prestige of their alumni. If the alumni are flipping burgers because they can’t fathom critical thinking (all that is required to understand the evolution vs. ID argument) chances are the school won’t be in business too long.

Government schools are the only chance for ID to take hold, and that is why it must be resisted without compromise in that arena. If there were no government schools, there would be no widespread issue concerning what science is or isn’t, because the blindly religious would maintain their own failing schools or home school, and the rest of the population would rally around verifiable results.

I’ve often thought that the way to get what we want out of the schools, if we have to pay for them with taxes, is to issue vouchers to the parents directly and let them hire the teachers and maintain the schools. We hand the job of crafting tests and developing standards that verify real educational results to the businesses that demand an educated workforce. And then let the market determine the outcome.

But that wasn’t the question asked at the beginning of this thread. The question was about ID in relation to Dan’s assertion that we could let the religious have segments of the US as their own playgrounds so that they would leave the rest of us alone.

And in that framework the answer is NO to ID.

A market solution is the only counter to Dan’s original conundrum. And it only occurred to me today, even though I’ve frequented http://www.schoolandstate.org for a few years now.

Separating school and state is the only workable solution short of standing on the establishment clause and allowing the states to secede, because schooling is the major point of contention between the religious and the secular.


March 4, 2019. So much crazy here. I wish I had access to the original audio for the Common Sense episode this was about. Sortition was a thing I was into. I remember that. Sortition is itself not a problem so long as the incapable are barred from serving. This measure should also be taken on the subject of election. President Trump proves this. Election itself is not a problem so long as everyone within the country is mobilized to vote and required to vote. This removes the popularity contest that is the problem with the current system. Everyone voting means that popularity of the candidates is irrelevant. Issues will rule the day again. But sortition works in a pinch, too.

FFrF Radio: Matthew Chapman & Matthew LaClair

Podcast Link.

February 9, 2008Matthew Chapman, Darwin’s Great-Great Grandson

February 12th is Charles Darwin’s birthday. More American’s believe in the devil (62%) than accept Darwin’s theory of evolution (42%) as revealed in a recent Harris poll. The good news is that the people in the US who do not believe in a god has gone up to 18%. Here’s hoping for that trend to continue. The episode also mentions Darwin’s restored autobiography and quotes from Inherit the Wind. (I really need to watch that film)

Matthew Chapman discussed his books Trials of the Monkey and 40 Days and 40 Nights: Darwin, Intelligent Design, God, OxyContin, and Other Oddities on Trial in Pennsylvania. I was quite moved by Chapman’s frank ability to get past the contentiousness of the issue, and to strike up friendships with people on both sides of the trial, and then discuss his insights in the interview.

It’s that kind of level-headed ability that I see in others that I most admire, because I’m probably never going to have a moment of it myself. Being able to have a discussion with William Jennings Bryan College students about how Charles Darwin is only slightly less hated than the devil. Nope, I don’t think I would be capable of keeping my temper in that sort of climate.

He finished up with a discussion of the need to inject more reason into seeking the next President of the United States, to which I heartily agree.


“No Gods, no masters.” Margaret Sanger

2007 Archive episode.

February 10, 2007Matthew LaClair: Exposing Teacher-Preacher

Theocracy alert discussion of Mary Cheney and her pregnancy; and how the religious right friends of her father all roundly denounced her for her actions.

Matthew LeClair is the student who recorded his American History teacher proselytizing during classtime. His interview is a rather enlightening journey into how a story morphs from the events that create it, to the time it breaks onto the news. This would not have been in the news at all if the teacher in question had simply admitted to his errors when confronted with them. Instead he denied it, and Matthew was forced to produce the recordings in order to defend himself. Luckily he was in the habit of carrying a recorder for the purpose of clear note taking, and had the forethought to turn the machine on when the preaching continued over several days.

National news stories reported on how this was an incident of baiting or entrapment, or how Matthew set out to get the christian teacher. None of which is true.

The sad footnote to the story? They banned the use of recording devices in classrooms, not disciplining the teacher. Matthew did eventually win his case.

A lengthy Freethinker’s Almanac finishes up this episode, including a mention of local Texas celebrity Molly Ivins, Who had died the week before.

FFrF Radio: Ellery Schempp & Robert Sapolsky

Podcast Link.

February 2, 2008Champion of the First Amendment

Parsing Bush’s state of the union address. “There was a notion that somehow there needed to be a clear separation of church and state.” as an example. (this mans lack of knowledge concerning proper government, AFTER 8 YEARS AS PRESIDENT, is shocking. Where is his brain?) Here’s hoping that congress stands firm and allows the Office of Faith Based Initiatives to die with the retirement of the sitting president.

Ellery Schempp was instrumental in getting bible readings and prayers stopped in public schools (he sent a letter and a $10 dollar bill to the ACLU, asking for their help, while a Junior in high school) Ellery’s Protest chronicles these events. The government is still trying to sneak prayer into the schools via as many different back doors as it can find, but I’d like to extend a word of thanks to Mr. Schempp for his brave stand. This is his second appearance on the show.

This is the first episode in which the name Madalyn Murray O’Hair has been mentioned, which I find odd, because the average American probably thinks the name and the word Atheist are synonymous; although they aren’t. I credit her antisocial behavior with the stunning lack of freethinkers in the otherwise ‘liberal’ city of Austin.


2007 Archive episode.

February 3, 2007Robert Sapolsky – “Hellbound Atheist” & Scientist

One of the more entertaining interviews, Robert Sapolsky discussed in a lively fashion everything from evolution, to the impact of testosterone on violence, to secretly wishing he could anestha-dart his colleagues at the university in order to study them.

The most interesting portion of the interview was the discussion concerning Schizotypal people, and the linkage to magical thinking; leading to the hypothesis that the ability to turn what would normally be a disabling mental problem into a leadership quality has lead a genetic mental problem (Schizophrenia) to be more predominant than statistics says it ought to be.

Evolutionism vs. Creationism

When I posted the rant on Evolution, I never expected this guy would have an objection to the content (I’ll quote him three times in this post, like this):


See my article Evolutionism vs. Creationism


So I read it. Like so many things friends tell me I should read because I’ll agree with it, I didn’t get past the opening without finding something to quibble with. Here’s the quote:

…whether a “creation” model deserves at least equal billing as an alternative theory to evolution. It does, but not in a way that would please the religious advocates of a biblical form of such a model.

I could not disagree with that opening statement more.

Occam’s razor (as he rightly point out later in the article) rules out external actors (like gods or George) because of the impact that such a thing would have on other theories or models.

People can believe pretty much anything they like, but the physical universe behaves in scientifically predictable ways. Creationism is a belief system, not to be mistaken for science; and therefore has no place in a science class, at all.

Contamination and alien invasion, or even “God did it” can have a place at the science table when they can come up with testable theories. Until then, I’m siding with the Pastafarians and insisting that it is the blessings of his noodly appendages that should be taught alongside other forms of creationism, if we are going to be teaching creationism.

…which doesn’t even come close to real science.


The cover article in the Dec. 2007 issue of Scientific American, Are Aliens among Us?, [abstracted here] discusses some of the alternatives to a single descent tree, including one I discussed in my article, “mirror” organisms. Any neutral scientific approach must always consider the possibility of contamination. All we need is evidence of organisms that can’t be placed in a single descent tree. So far no one has found any, but the subject will become more important as as explore space and begin to inadvertently cause biological contamination incidents.


…And without evidence, that pretty much covers classroom discussion. I’m not arguing against teaching critical thought, I’m arguing against teaching mythology as science.

Whether the molecules are right or left handed, natural selection will still occur, if more complex organisms occur.


Such questions also arise in the examination of paleoarchaeological evidence from the last one or two million years when variants of homo began to modify other species in their environment. If one finds some wheat or corn seeds, are they naturally evolved or human bred? Is that stone with a sharpened edge an early tool of hominids, or just an accident? Is that invasive species just something brought in from another place, or something manmade? E.g. Caulerpa taxifolia. For that matter, are those hominid specimens naturally evolved or the result of social selection within the hominids?


All of which speaks more to the fallacy of excluding the actions of the human population at large from the group of events deemed ‘natural’, than it does to errors in evolutionary theory. We aren’t the only species on the planet to use tools; and we aren’t the only species on the planet to modify other species to suit our needs.

As a species we are as natural a phenomenon on this planet as any of the others who came before us. It shows our own inflated sense of self to think otherwise.

It’s an important datum to note where the influence comes from; but it doesn’t make the effect any less natural, or any less evolutionary.


I will never understand the problem with Americans and Evolution. How so many people can doubt a science that is so easily demonstrable is beyond me.

[How do you explain dogs? Other domesticated species who have evolved a dependence on humans? Is the human species a stand in for god? Then how are we able to manipulate other species?]

I don’t know that the friend I quoted above has a problem with evolution so much that he doesn’t want to exclude other theories, but I have yet to see any other theory produce a single shred of evidence, whereas the evidence for evolution can be stumbled over as easily as the dog that lays down behind your feet.

Intelligent Design Battle Resurfaces, Bad News for Texas

This should be a wake up call for any Texan with children in the government school system:

[T]he Texas Education Agency’s Director of Science has been forced out of her job for allegedly not “remaining neutral” over the teaching of evolution in schools. Christine Comer, a former science teacher, had her nine-year stint as Director of Science ended as a result of an e-mail she sent to colleagues, notifying them of an upcoming talk being given by Barbara Forrest. Forrest is the author of Inside Creationism’s Trojan Horse, a book that details the movement to have ID taught as science in America’s Schools.

…creationists are readying themselves for another confrontation in the coming year, when Texas reviews its scientific curriculum. Although the state has taught evolution as fact for the past decade, the new chair of the State Board of Education is a self-proclaimed proponent of ID and it is widely believed that this will be reflected in the upcoming curriculum.

Arstechnica

This is what comes of blindly supporting Republicans for the last who knows how many years. Eventually you get government officials whose goals aren’t even recognizable from the perspective of the general population.

Intelligent Design is no more and no less than the latest attempt to re-introduce god into ‘public’ school curriculum; and it must not be allowed to gain a foothold.

Whether or not you subscribe to all things Darwin; evolution, natural selection, does explain how the living organisms we see today came to be. Intelligent Design does not.

Intelligent Design proposes a “god of the gaps” inserting a creator being where there is no clear evolutionary path from one organism to the next. However, reliance on a creator, a designer, to produce the life we see today, automatically begs the question “who created the creator?”

If complex life requires a more complex organism to create it, then the creator must have his own creator; etc, etc, ad infinitum.

The only other viable solution to this conundrum is natural selection, evolution. Something that the average biology student can replicate on a test basis using fruit flies. That is science.

“God did it” is not.

There is no room for creationism at the science table when it comes to teaching children. Leave it at church where it belongs. Send a message to the powers that be this year, tell the TEA hands off our science curriculum, send the fundamentalists packing.

Who’s a Libertarian?

This is a post I circulated concerning the speaker at the 2004 Libertarian convention. This was the beginning of my dissatisfaction with sharing air with Anarchists.


The tempest in a teapot concerning Boortz speaking at the National Conference isn’t about Boortz; It isn’t even about war vs. antiwar. If you go back and read all of T.L. Knapp’s “Life of the Party” series, it becomes plainly clear that the issue goes much deeper than that. It’s why the Boot Boortz camp have the audacity to suggest that those in agreement with Boortz should …be shown the door.

The issue ladies and gentlemen is this: Is government necessary or not? Does the structure we call government serve a legitimate function in a truly libertarian society; or is each individual capable of governing themselves sufficiently to render government as we know it useless? Let me explain why this is what is being argued about.

Libertarians don’t agree on whether or not government should exist. On the one hand you have those who believe that government is not necessary, and they offer suggestions for its eventual replacement by voluntary structures. Generally those that offer these types of arguments are known as anarchists. On the other hand you have objectivists and others who believe that government serves a vital, albeit limited function, and it should be maintained in some minimal fashion so as to preserve liberty. The label that has been generally applied to these types is minarchist. Not everyone accepts the above labels, and the current LP membership includes views, like those of Constitutionalists, that don’t fit in either camp.

The anarchist/minarchist schism has existed within the party nearly since its inception. There have been various attempts to settle disputes between the factions, none of them very successful. The most successful was the Dallas Accord in which the libertarians of the time agreed that they would not discuss whether or not government was necessary, and focus on the more important issue of personal liberty. The agreement has worked until recently.

What’s changed? 9/11, that’s what has changed. The foreign policy blunders that the federal government has committed for the last hundred years have come home to roost with a vengeance. The ‘terrorists’ have declared war on us, and we are under threat. We are now faced with a situation that must be dealt with, and all of the effective options involve the use of government power. The problem is this: If you acknowledge that government has a reason to exist, then that reason will most likely include defensive measures designed to secure us from the aggressive actions of others. No matter how you slice it, 9/11 comes under “attacks against the territory of the United States”, and we have the obligation to make sure that any more threats of that type are dealt with, and the guilty parties that conspired to conduct the attacks are hunted down and exterminated.

To further extend the logic chain, one can extrapolate several strategic reasons for a large ground force in the area that the attackers called home (the Middle East) and the benefit of soundly defeating the ‘biggest bully on the block’. Whether you agree with the strategy or not, it makes sense from a military standpoint… If you acknowledge that government has a reason to exist.

However, if you don’t believe that government should exist, then any action of the government is damnable from the outset; and any action which benefits the government directly (such as a war) is the worst kind of evil imaginable, and therefore must be denounced in the strongest possible terms.

…and that ladies and gentlemen is why the disagreement over Boortz speaking has taken on a life of its own. He has had the audacity to apply logic to the situation and determine from his own perspective that the threat posed by the ‘terrorists’ is sufficient to require actions against other countries. …and to further determine that the largest most vocal segment of the antiwar movement are also anti-american. To add insult to injury he speaks his mind about his beliefs to an audience of thousands, and categorizes himself a libertarian. As others have pointed out, on every other issue other than the war, Boortz is solidly libertarian. But because of this one issue, his belief that government has a reason to exist, he can’t be a libertarian.

Now the anarchists are regretting ever letting non-anarchists into their club; and some of them would like to institute a purity test so that the membership can be limited to those who profess correct beliefs. To hell with them. This is the reason why everyone who has an interest in furthering the LP needs to go to the convention and actively participate in the sessions. The core of the party has been controlled by too few for too long. If we are going to succeed in changing the policies of the current government, we are going to have to include more people, and gain influence. You don’t do that by kicking out those you disagree with.

For my part, I wouldn’t mind if they asked Rush Limbaugh to speak at the convention. It might make for some interesting conversation. It doesn’t even offend me when Bill Maher calls himself a ‘libertarian’. He just makes himself look like a fool to those who know better. To take exception to Neal Boortz speaking at the convention is more than a waste of time; it is the equivalent of picking the scab off of a festering sore. It will only delay the time it takes for the underlying disagreements to recede into the background where they belong.

It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most
intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.

Charles Darwin

Smokin’, smokin’; I feel alright, mamma, I’m not jokin’

Another historical argument from the file. Austin passed several smoking bans. Passed and overturned and passed again. Anyway, it lead to some interesting thoughts on mine and other’s parts. This is some of it. The rest may still be in the archive over at the Liberty List and TCLPactive.


First round: Just Say NO! to Compromise


[The city of Austin proposed a smoking ordinance in 2003 that would have banned smoking in public places. It passed. They then went on to offer to sell “smoking permits” to businesses that wanted to allow smoking (pay to get a permit to do something that you should be able to do anyway, but have to pay for because the city government felt pressured to act by all the do-gooders out there, and then realized they’d created a massive cash cow that they could suck funds out of. It’s a beautiful world, isn’t it?) There was a chance that other alternatives to the original ban might be entertained alongside the permits idea, so…]

[Rock Howard proposed the following in response to the suggestion that any form of compromise would be an abandonment of our principles as libertarians (I reprint it because I agreed with it completely at the time; and in fact still do) as an example of how a compromise on a smoking ordinance would simply clarify business practices that already exist, allowing the customer to then make an informed choice]

To me an example of a workable compromise would be:

  • If they wish, an establishment can sign up on a city maintained smoking registry, but doing so is not necessary if the owner puts up a sign near the entrance(s) of the establishment detailing their smoking policy. (Minimal signage would be: “Smoking Permitted”.)
  • If they wish, an establishment can sign up on a city maintained “smoke free” registry, but doing so is not necessary if the owner puts up a sign near the entrance(s) of the establishment to the effect detailing their smoking policy. (Minimal signage would be: “No Smoking” or “Smoke Free”.)

(Knowing the city, they would probably require Spanish language too.)

This “compromise” would hopefully placate those who consider cigarette smoke as an assault on their personages. (For some people it actually is.) As far as abridging rights goes, it is simply coupling the right of the property owner to the equal and legitimate responsibility to make their smoking policy clear to prospective patrons either through signage or by the public process of signing up on a registry.

As far as the “permit” idea goes, let’s see if we can dig up actual examples where a permitting process for smoking turned into a ban. If we can do that, then that would be helpful as it might give the business owners more intestinal fortitude about defending their rights. At this point many are seeing this as a life and death issue for their businesses and that makes more susceptible to a slippery slope compromise.

[When further objections were offered, he then posted the following:]

It is possible to stay with our principle but also get involved with the current process too. If we refuse to get involved for the sake of principle, then we abandon our constituents to their fate (which likely entails a slippery slope compromise that dooms them in the future.) The only other avenue is the courts, but we have no friends or power their either.

I have seen this fight in other cities and with the current political mindset of the voters, as long as it remains a political battle, we are doomed. If we can be smart and lucky we might be able to help craft a compromise that staves off the rights-snatchers for a while and, more importantly, helps preserve the livelihoods of our core constituents for the time being. If we do, then we will have bought ourselves some time as well as additional support for the long term project of opening up the minds of the people to the larger issue (i.e., the critical importance of personal property rights.) This will take time and money and, without it, we are just kidding ourselves about our ability to win this battle.

The only reason that I used the word “compromise” in the first place is that there are only two possibilities right now: 1) no compromise happens and the current harsh Smoking Ordinance goes into effect; or 2) a compromise occurs to stave off the most harsh effects of the ordinance for some time. I do not accept that there is a third option (as much as we would all prefer it) in the near future. I suggest that to get to the preferred outcome that we all want, it makes sense to be involved in the current process as the outcome of “no compromise” will simply kill off many of the small businesses that we are supposedly trying to support.

In point of fact, if the local [LP] works against some sort of compromise, then we are, in effect, working to enact the Smoking Ordinance. Go ahead and do so if that is what you want, but in my considered opinion that approach is counterproductive in the short, medium and long run.


A Smoker wrote:
If we try to mediate a compromise in this case, we are saying that government taking away just some of our rights is ok verses taking all of them. If we need to take this to court to fight this injustice we should, it would really make a name for ourselves. We should stand up for what’s right, not for what we feel is acceptable for the moment.

What about the rights of the non-smokers to do business in a smoke-free environment? What about the (real) health issues involved in breathing smoky air? I assure you that the solid majority of Austinites are 4-square behind an outright ban based on those two arguments alone.

I don’t agree with them, but they are our audience.

A requirement to sign the exterior of your business is no different than putting ingredients on the outside of packages, or spelling out the details of a contract in advance. It’s not a compromise, it’s collaboration; an acknowledgement that there are telling arguments for those who support a ban, but that a ban is not necessary or even desirable.

IMO, signing the exterior of your business IS what is right. Some of us would prefer to do without the smoke. Thank you, Rock, for the level headed suggestion.

[The outcome of the vote on the smoking permits ? Landslide in favor of it, the council couldn’t resist that cash cow. The local LP candidates (except for the exceptional Rock Howard) opposed all compromises and sunk any chance of sidestepping what happened then, and what happened next.]

[at the suggestion of the moderator at TCLPactive, I moved the discussion to my Liberty List]


Second round: Smoke lies are 50



[Can’t find a link for the original article that this references, ACSH reformatted the site recently, and a good portion of the old articles were lost. The copy in the Archive at LL is representative of it, however]

A Smoker wrote:
Getting in your car and driving will lead to serious health consequences, to the same degree that lighting a single cigarette will lead to serious health consequences.

It has nothing to do with the number of trips. I can get in my car right now and drive, and while I stand a statistical chance of harm, the mere act of driving the car does not increase the chance in and of itself.

My wife and I were test car drivers for quite awhile. She has driven more than a million miles. She’s still breathing.

A relative of mine has smoked 3 packs of filterless cigarettes a day for 30 years. He’s had cancer twice, (thankfully not lung cancer) cancer that is statistically related to smoking, and he still insists that the smoking isn’t the problem, all the while smoking like a chimney. He may still be breathing now, the latest radiation treatments won’t start for a few more weeks. The man could have lived in good health to the age of 100 or more, without the cigarettes. I personally don’t think he’ll see 70 because of them.

There are three kinds of men.
The one that learns by reading.
The few who learn by observation.
The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.

Will Rogers, The Wisdom of Will Rogers


A Smoker wrote:
Your rights are not being transgressed when someone smokes in your presence, because you are free to leave, or not to breathe the smoke, or to wear a mask. Your rights are being transgressed when someone forces you to do something that harms you or others, or when they harm you directly.

When I am engaged in commerce, dining out for instance, I and the parties I am doing business with have entered into an informal contract. Part of that contract involves a smoke-free environment if you are doing business with me. During the process of commerce, while I’m eating for example, someone decides to engage in their particular form of self-destruction and lights a cigarette.

How am I ‘free to leave’? I daresay that the owner of the establishment would take exception to my departure before contracts are satisfied, before I paid in this example. As someone who is known to demand a smoke-free environment, why should I be ‘expected’ to leave? Since non-smoking is something that I demand up front, should not the smoker be ejected if he refuses to leave?

  • “wear a mask”. Why doesn’t the reverse apply? Since smoking carries no negative impacts, let the smokers wear a mask and not waste a single breath of their precious nicotine.
  • “not to breathe the smoke”. Not breathing as a choice. No, I don’t think so.
  • The truth is, when someone lights up in my presence, they are in fact forcing me to engage in their habits. It’s a cop-out for libertarians to say “you’re free to leave” or “it’s a (property) rights issue”, because that is just the surface. The reality is much more complex than that.


    A Smoker wrote:
    Your usage of “informal” is as a euphemism for implied. A contract not discussed and not agreed to is a contract which does not exist.

    Informal does not equal implied. The words have different meanings. Walk on a check at a restaurant and see if the restaurateur doesn’t think you have a contract. That you are expected to pay for services rendered and food consumed is an informal contract; informal because you did not agree to the contract in writing, in advance.


    A Smoker wrote:
    When people complain about an aspect of free-wheeling liberty (such as people lighting up whenever they please whenever the owner of the property they’re standing on doesn’t mind), it is my reflexive assumption that the person making the argument would turn a blind eye toward government force should it be stamping down on that aspect of liberty…

    I have the right to object to harm; and I will exercise that right vehemently.

    OTOH, do you put tags on your car, carry a drivers license, pay income taxes? If you answer ‘yes’ to any of those questions, then by your definition you can apply the label to yourself, because gov’t force is used to mandate things which are infringements on our liberty.

    Austin banned smoking recently, and no, I’m not going to spend time fighting that battle now. The alternative wording (signage in lieu of a ban; I would have liked to expand it to allow air quality controls and multiple uses – essentially the status quo prior to the first smoking ordinance, with a nod toward the health issues of accumulated smoke in a confined space) that I agreed with was deemed a compromise by the local activists, and they decided to ‘stand on principle’ and go down with the ship. Well, the property rights ship sank, and smoking is banned here now, unless the business owner agrees to pay the city for the ‘privilege’ of allowing smoking. As Austin is “the liberal island in the conservative sea of Texas”, this is probably the way it’s going to be for awhile.

    The net effect is positive for me personally, since health issues are deemed too touchy-feely to be taken seriously by hard-core types. My choices were reduced to either choke on the smoke of the free-wheeling, or breath the socialist air. So my fellow libertarians (who love to talk about choice) forced me to pick the lesser of two weevils. Not a position I relish, I assure you.


    [When pressed for evidence on the subject of the harmfulness of second hand smoke, I suggested this publication http://www.acsh.org/publications/booklets/ets.html ]

    A Smoker wrote:
    That’s also an assertion. I don’t know what study it’s based on but I’ve enough smoking and second hand smoking studies demolished by examining their statistical methods that I don’t put any stock in them. Cato has plenty of these. The claim that 400,000 Americans die every year from tobacco is an outright fabrication from the American Cancer Society, for example.

    Back to the original question, the only acceptable smoking ordinance IMO is having establishments clearly post their smoking policy at the entrance so you can make your decision before entering, as was suggested by Rock Howard previously

    Back at the beginning I endorsed Rock Howards proposal, so I think we’ve come full circle here. As another aside, The CATO Regulation article that is being alluded to was addressed in the ACSH article located here: http://www.acsh.org/publications/pubID.498/pub_detail.asp Needless to say that I think the scientists at ACSH are pretty sure of their numbers.


    Third round: A non-smoker clears the air on smokers’ rights



    [Can’t find a link for the original article that this references either, the site that it was on has either pulled it down or it doesn’t exist anymore. The copy in the Archive at LL is representative of it, however]

    About the only thing that the writer got right was that it’s not an issue of ‘smoker’s rights’.

    What most of the ‘average Joe’s’ who aren’t in the architecture field don’t realize is just how controlled building standards are in EVERY OTHER AREA except indoor air quality. The establishment of building codes that spell out minimum standards would go a long way toward addressing the problems of smoking vs. non-smoking; giving more choice to people in the long run rather than a strict smoking/smoke-free establishment.

    Back in the ‘good ol’ days’ the upper class spent the money to have ‘smoking rooms’, because it was ill-mannered to smoke in front of the ladies. Now we’re all slaving in a socialist paradise, chucking the niceties of proper etiquette and the class structure, dragging the unwilling along with us kicking and screaming in whichever direction the whim of the majority takes us. Soon we will all be trailer trash (what in math is referred to as a Lowest Common Denominator) and not even the trailer trash will be allowed to smoke. Ah, democracy.

    Business owners want one thing over all others: profit. I say fine; but let’s get to the real ‘cost’ and benefit of the systems that we create. restaurateur’s and Club Owner’s will not take a hard stand for property rights. It doesn’t sell food and drink; oh, they’ll cheer us on, but they’ll toe whatever line that a) causes the least trouble, and b) makes them the most cash in the system. …and the system does not take long-term health effects into account.

    So, you had business owners who were more than happy to crowd everyone together with sub-standard ventilation, breathing each others exhaust fumes, because it was cheap and the majority of the population smoked. Now the majority are non-smokers, don’t want to smell smoke, and are willing to subvert property rights (Just as it’s been done since the beginning of time) in order not to have to. Guess what? The business owners will make the just-enough-to-prove-a-point noise about it, and then roll over and comply. That’s how they ‘work the system’ to their advantage. They get to appear sympathetic to the ‘poor smoker’, but they can follow the majority and their dollars into a non-smoking paradise; best of all they get to keep their poorly ventilated, overly crowded buildings just the way they are, and look good in the process.

    Best bang for the buck that there is.

    This has been my point all along. Ya’ll can stay on the high horse of property rights, and loose; and you will loose, mark my words. If it’s a choice of defending this myth that business ownership is some kind of grandiose last stand for property, or defending my desire to breath
    cleaner air, then I’m going to breath easier. 🙂

    or…

    We could establish that the ‘system’ should take account of air quality, just as it does minimum structural standards, minimum exiting standards, minimum bathroom sizes, etc, etc, ad infinitum; call it signage, call it minimum codes, call it defending my property, my body, from the negative health effects of your bad habits; even when I’m not physically on land that I own. I don’t care what you call it, but it’s better than establishing smoking bans all over the nation, which is where we are headed right now. Then we can add Tobacco to the list of black market drugs; how about ‘smoke-easy’ establishments? Probably already exist in New York.

    Do you know what I would love to see? Smokers wearing ‘space helmets’ to smoke in. With a HEPA filtration system on the helmet, no smoke would escape to annoy the non-smokers. Can you arrest him for smoking in his own private space? Would anyone bother? That would be an argument involving the rights of the smoker, and no one else. Do you think we’d find a volunteer to test the theory? Or does even the most devout smoker balk at being cooped up in small space with too much smoke in it? If you really believe that it’s not a health hazard to smoke, then why would you not be willing to?

    “There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power government has is the power to crack down on criminals. When there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.”
    -Ayn Rand


    I’m sure some of you out there dismissed my ‘solution’ out of hand “Bah, more minimum standards. Just another there-oughta-be-a-law solution for problems that are none of the gov’ts business.”

    Now, if I were talking about ‘law’, then I would agree with you.

    However, that wasn’t the subject. Building codes are not laws. Yes, I know, in most places they are adopted and enforced as laws; but they start out as guidelines drawn up by groups concerned about public safety. They are ‘minimum standards’ for safe building, and are as necessary in the scheme of things as any written manual. Anyone interested in limiting their liability (and most businesses are) will attempt to follow some acceptable standard of practice; so the creation of minimum standards for building was inevitable and actually desirable.

    The problem with building codes is that they become bound up in the bureaucracy of gov’t. Wander down to the building dept. in nearly any city in the U.S., and you will see the stellar results we get from this approach. In Austin, the indecipherable rat’s maze of overlapping authorities has lead to the need to create an office – the ‘Development Assistance Center’ – just to tell the newcomers where they should start in the maze. One size fits all – and you will comply with the standards.

    Tying the codes to gov’t has several other undesirable side effects. I want to focus on one of them: The negative effects that rigid standards imposes on innovation. Many of the new technologies face impediments placed in their way by codes that were drawn up before they existed. IMHO, minimum standards for indoor air quality is one of the areas that has been affected by this; which has lead to the panic over the negative effects of second hand smoke.

    The solution to making the codes more responsive is to divorce the creation and enforcement of building codes from the gov’t altogether. Much like the independent UL (Underwriters Laboratories) creates minimum standards and tests assemblies and devices based on those standards, building codes should be based on logical, definable standards that can be tested, inspected and approved by any sufficiently educated third party. Allow the property owners and the professionals who design the facilities to decide what standards they wish to meet; and then hold them accountable for failures in design.

    …and the solution to the smoking issue in the built environment is to create a minimum standard for indoor air quality that addresses the publics concern.

    “It is not the strongest of the species that survive,
    nor the most intelligent,
    but the one most responsive to change.”

    – Charles Darwin


    There were arguments along the way that suggested something to the effect that “the average person doesn’t care about smoking, and so the smoking ban will never pass if put to a vote”. Not too long after the Round 3 discussion, a referendom on banning smoking indoors in Austin was put before the voters, and it passed by a slim majority. Essentially putting “Case Closed” on the subject of smoking here, and reversing the council’s transparent attempt to milk cash out of business owners who wanted to cater to smoking clientele.

    The battle goes on in court over the new ban, but it doesn’t look good. Personally, I don’t think the courts want to reverse a ban instituted by referendum, there is such a fear of the will of the majority these days that minority rights (those of individuals and groups comprising 10 percent of the population or less) are totally ignored when the majority deems it ‘necessary’.

    So the dust up over the ‘property rights’ of business owners comes to naught, except for those business owners who see a serious dent in their profit margin in complying with the new ordinance. Which is pretty much how I saw it shaping up in the beginning. I’m still waiting for the ‘smoke easys’ to appear. For all I know they already have.