The Stupidest Thing I Have Ever Read (UPDATED)

On September 23, I wrote a NewsReal post about abortion and the Tea Party movement, in which I pointed out that supporting the right to life is a moral and philosophical imperative for those who claim to call themselves libertarians. Among the opposing comments was a series of remarks by one Joseph Veca, which may have been the stupidest thing I have ever read. It so perfectly encapsulates why I have so little respect for the libertarian movement – the idiocy, the insanity, the paranoia, and the arrogance – that it demands to be reproduced here for future reference, that the madness might be saved for posterity, for entertainment value, and just maybe, that it might shame a few sane libertarians into reconsidering what their movement has become.

VECA: 

I did some research on the reasons given for abortion, based on what I found, between 1%-3% of abortions reasons fall under the Rape, Incest, Medical Necessity categories.

What should be of note, at the time Roe v. Wade started, those were legal reasons to get an abortion in all 50 states.

As a Catholic and a libertarian, I am totally against abortion and don’t have any real objection moral or ethical to laws against it. However, I am also cognizant of the worry many libertarians have about banning abortions, goes under the heading of “The government that has the power to ban, has the power to mandate.” Whether or not you agree with it, it will remain with a valid concern. You would do well to remember abortion is mandated in Communist China and way to many member of the Obama administration are big fans of Chairman Mao.

ME:

I have no idea what point you just tried to make. 

VECA: 

Calvin, have you ever thought about what it would take to overturn Roe v. Wade?

Believe it or not, it is going to require a Constitutional Amendment. It took the 14th to overturn Dred Scoot. Congress did try a couple of times, but none of them could past muster of Roe v. Wade.

The point that I was making was the fact if we were talking only about the three reasons that I mentioned above, many would make exceptions for allowing an abortion on those grounds. The fact of the matter, was up until Roe v. Wade, that was the case in all 50 states. So the left’s implication those three special cases were illegal back before before Roe. v. Wade is unfounded and untrue in light of the facts.

As I stated before, ‘”I am totally against abortion and don’t have any real objection moral or ethical to laws against it. However, I am also cognizant of the worry many libertarians have about banning abortions, goes under the heading of “The government that has the power to ban, has the power to mandate.”‘

As a political science student Calvin you should know as well as I, that when you involve government, you give the complete control of both sides, pro and con. So think about this, let’s say congress passes a law that bans abortions, that can pass Roe v. Wade muster, there would be nothing stopping congress from mandating abortions if it got such a wild hair up its nether regions.

As I stated before, I believe it will take a Constitutional Amendment to overturn Roe v. Wade, which would make mandating abortions a pain, but considering the disdain many politicians (left or right) have for Constitutional protections, they just might not care. 

ME:

Of course I know it’s going to be extremely difficult to end abortion, or to reverse Roe (but while the former would require an amendment, the latter obviously wouldn’t). Nobody in the pro-life movement I’ve ever met has any misconceptions about that. We just understand that you don’t abandon worthy causes, just because the road ahead will be difficult (and contrary to the implications of some socially-left-leaning people I’ve encountered on the Right, true lasting reform to the size and scope of government will be no easier). Conservative reform is the work of generations.

“Let’s say congress passes a law that bans abortions, that can pass Roe v. Wade muster, there would be nothing stopping congress from mandating abortions if it got such a wild hair up its nether regions.”

That’s…that’s…wow. I originally said I didn’t know what point you were trying to make, because I couldn’t bring myself to believe that you were insane enough to say what it sounded like. There had to be something I was missing.

But no, you really said that we can’t ban abortion, because then Congress could FORCE PEOPLE TO HAVE ABORTIONS. Congrats, Joe, you’ve written what has to be the single most mind-blowingly stupid comment I’ve EVER read on NewsRea! I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

So explain this to me: because murder is illegal, can government now force people to murder? Does government currently have the power to mandate theft? Insurance fraud? Tampering with the mail? Under your logic, there’s nothing to keep the government from forcing the American people to do any of this, because “the government that has the power to ban, has the power to mandate.”

Clearly, this is absurd (and it shows what happens when you take a superficially-appealing, bumper-sticker quip and try to make an actual governing philosophy out of it). The protection of all human beings’ “unalienable rights” to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are why “governments are instituted among men.” Protecting Americans from injustices like abortion is a clear imperative for anyone who understands the principles of the Founding – and is honest about them. All we’d be “involving government” in is what’s already their basic duty under conservative/libertarian (http://www.l4l.org/)/classically liberal natural law & social compact principles.

As a violation both of the abortion ban itself and of basic human liberty, forcing people to have abortions would neither be authorized by the law nor follow from any semi-sane reading of any legal or constitutional principles. You could say that government might do it anyway (for…some reason). News flash, genius: GOVERNMENT ALREADY HAS THE ABILITY TO DO THINGS IT’S NOT AUTHORIZED TO DO. The Founders understood that no amount of constitutional mechanics would be able to completely prevent every single theoretical offense – and they also understood that that was no argument against protecting natural rights and human liberty.

Oh, and while we’re on the subject of what precedent pro- and anti-life policies supposedly set, let me repeat something else I said above: Once society has accepted the proposition, I may take an innocent life if it benefits me to do so, why should we think twice about taking from our countrymen anything less vital—income, personal freedom, you name it—for the sake of interest? The rights to go without health insurance or allow smoking in your restaurant is nothing compared to the right not to be deliberately killed. Surrender the right to life, and you’ve already as good as surrendered the others. 

VECA:

You state:

“But no, you really said that we can’t ban abortion, because then Congress could FORCE PEOPLE TO HAVE ABORTIONS. Congrats, Joe, you’ve written what has to be the single most mind-blowingly stupid comment I’ve EVER read on NewsRea! I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. ”

I don’t care what you do.

Calvin, you are in college, which makes you roughly half my age (I am just shy of 45). In the last 20 years I have watched the US government do things I thought and was taught impossible for it to do. In short I have had the “It Can’t Happen Here” mentality knocked out of me long ago.

Personally, I like the way John Barlow (co-founder of the EFF) put it:

“The men who drafted the [U.S.] Constitution and its first ten amendments knew something that we have largely forgotten: Government exists to limit freedom. That’s their job. And to the extent that utterly unbridled liberty seems to favor the reptile in us, a little government is not such a bad thing. But it never knows when to quit. As there is no limit to either human imagination or creativity in the wicked service of the Self, so it is always easy for our official protectors to envision new atrocities to prevent.”
[Bill O’ Rights, The Impact of Technology on Civil Rights by John Barlow]

You don’t believe it can’t happen here. Currently there is a 14 year old boy, who is a US Citizen in sitting in a Federal holding cell in Illinois because someone hacked his IP address and sent terrorist threats to the government. He is being held without bail, without legal counsel, and damn near incommunicado with his mother. His 4th, 5th, 6th and 14th Amendment rights are being violated courtesy of the Patriot Act.

You might also want to take a look at the story of Steve Jackson Games and the US Secrete Service (you can read about it in Hacker Crackdown by Bruce Sterling the .pdf can be found here http://pdf.textfiles.com/books/hackcrac.pdf [it is a legal free download])

You might want to take a look at the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997 (struck down by the US Supreme Court as unconstitutional); every provision in the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997 can be found in one form or another in the Patriot Act and then some. How the Patriot Act constitutional but the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997 isn’t?

Would you believe that of the Bill of Rights all but one of the amendments have been violated by the government.

If you take a look at case law for the last fifteen years or so, you will find that the Fourth Amendment has become more or less a dead Amendment. A lot of what remained of it was flushed down the toilet when the Rehnquist Court declared that in the presence of “probable cause”, a phrase of inviting openness, law enforcement officials could search first and obtain warrants later.

This has been stretched even further with the passing of the Patriot Act which gave federal law enforcement agencies the ability to tap our phones, read our email, without getting a warrant and use anything the government had collect against us.

With sweeping prosecutorial enablements as RICO and Zero Tolerance, the authorities could enact their own unadjudicated administrative “fines” by keeping much of what they seized for their own uses. This incentive often leads to disproportionalities between “punishment” and “crime” which even Kafka might have found a bit over the top. There is one case in which the DEA acquired a $14 million Gulfstream Bizjet from a charter operator because one of his clients left half a gram of cocaine in its washroom.

The government abolishes bail for many federal crimes, and creates huge fines and draconian punishments for minor tax, drug, and regulatory offenses. The “War on Drugs” has resulted in various mandatory punishments and fines so Draconian in nature that would make the former Soviet Union’s Communist government look downright lenient.

Our inalienable natural rights to privacy, voluntary association, free exchange of goods and services, and self-ownership are being lost to those who oppose or ignore constitutional limits to government.

This is where the Patriot Act really comes into play, the prosecutorial enablement’s of the Patriot Act, your right to privacy, who you associate with, who you trade services or goods with can all come under scrutiny if “ANY” law enforcement agency “suspects” you, or you are accused of being in league with terrorists.

Currently we are seeing an increasingly centralized federal power undermine the sovereignty of the States and their citizens through federal aid and the attendant regulation of all aspects of society and commerce.

It should be noted most of this has happened since the 1970’s. Some of the silliness is older and dates back to the Great Depression, but most of it has happened in my life time.

It isn’t the here and now we have to really worry about, it is what may happen down the road, China already has mandatory abortions, to say it can’t happen here is to be like a kitten with its head under the couch thinking it is hidden but it rump is exposed. 

So there you have it. Because the government has committed violations of the Constitution and civil liberties in the past (temporarily assuming for the sake of argument that everything Veca describes is accurate, or even happened at all, for that matter), the only thing keeping the government from being able to force you to have an abortion is…keeping abortion legal.

I wonder why I didn’t see it before…oh, that’s right: because I’m not a lunatic. (I highlighted part of my response above, since it still stands as an unrefuted refutation of Veca’s delusions.) Skepticism and vigilance of government power, and defensiveness toward individual liberty are essential, but all too often with libertarians they devolve into wild-eyed paranoia that sees virtually any exercise of government power as a harbinger of totalitarianism. If taken to its logical conclusion, such paranoia can only lead to anarchy.

(Of course, there could be a different excuse entirely: that Veca simply wants to keep abortion legal, but doesn’t want to take responsibility for defending such a heinous practice on the merits…)

UPDATE: In the comments section here, we have another contender for the title, courtesy of Bob Madden:

I am both pro-life, and pro-choice. I abhor the whole idea of abortion, but in the final analysis I put more trust in the prospective mother to make the right decision than I do the government. To me that means I respect the right of individuals to make their own decisions, and at a point where the unborn has no ability to make that choice for themselves I will trust the individual mother.

My situation is kind of unique in this regard. My mother was given a 50-50 chance of living through her pregnancy. Everyone (clergy included) recommended that she abort me. It was her choice to make, and had that decision been left up to anyone else I would NOT be here today. 

I went at it with this moron for a few comments after that gem. It just went downhill form there.

Bad Argument of the Day

Whenever somebody wants to argue for keeping or making something legal, but doesn’t want to be seen as liking that something (like abortion or drugs), you can be sure he’ll deploy the argument that, well, that might be all well and good theoretically, but it just wouldn’t work in the real world, because people would still find ways to do it anyway.

Of course, laws are rarely enacted with the expectation that they’ll reduce something’s occurrence to zero or near-zero. Legal prohibitions are meant to identify what society finds intolerable, prevent as much of it as can reasonably be expected in a free, imperfect society, and punish those who do it anyway. The argument against prohibiting abortion or drugs because people will still obtain abortions and drugs is no more logical than it would be to argue that it’s pointless to prohibit murder, rape or robbery because in 2008 we had 16,272 murders, 89,000 rapes, and 441,855 robberies, despite long-standing laws firmly punishing all three.

Just Once

Just once in life, I’d like to see a liberal admit he’s wrong when he loses an argument—especially on an issue on which the truth and the humane position are not ambiguous.

Although, I suppose it’s not as atrocious as
ignoring the issue altogether.
UPDATE: Yup, if you’re looking for integrity from Scott, you’ve come to the wrong place. He’ll preen all day long demanding others distance themselves from their candidate’s lies. His guy? Not so much. Just another day in the life of a cheap shill, I guess.

Religion Battle Royale

Click here for the full video of a recent three-way debate between Dinesh D’Souza, Dennis Prager, and Christopher Hitchens, representing Christianity, Judaism, and atheism, respectively. It’s an excellent, stimulating, wide-ranging discussion on faith, reason, God, and morality, with three tremendously formidable debaters—even if Hitchens tends to be a snide, boorish ass.

Hypocrisy, Thy Name Is "Ethicist"

Alonzo Fyfe recently devoted an entire post to condemning misleading, context-free attack ads, and in another, chastised a reader for taking his own words out of context:

Words get their meaning from their context and it is impossible for a person to write anything or to carry on any discussion that will not contain elements whose meaning changes in a different context. For this reason, there is no option but for the burden of the responsibility to be on the reader to understand a statement in that context.

Isn’t that remarkable? It seems the Atheist Ethicist understands and values the importance of context
more than he let on…

D’Souza on "An Absentee God?"

During this debate, Christopher Hitchens actually raised an intriguing challenge to God’s existence (good points from atheists are so hard to find these days). Now, Dinesh D’Souza has an answer:

What happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas. On Friday July 11 the libertarian conference FreedomFest will have, as its featured event, a debate on “Christianity, Islam and the War on Terror” between Christopher Hitchens and me. The media will be there, and the organizers also expect to have the debate up on the web. (Just in case Richard Dawkins is listening, I’ll have to remember
not to use Hitler-style shrieks and yells.)

In thinking about this debate, I’m reminded of an argument that Hitchens made in our New York debate last October. At that time I did not know how to answer his point. So I employed an old debating strategy: I ignored it and answered other issues. But Hitchens’ argument bothered me.

Here’s what Hitchens said. Homo sapiens has been on the planet for a long time, let’s say 100,000 years. Apparently for 95,000 years God sat idly by, watching and perhaps enjoying man’s horrible condition. After all, cave-man’s plight was a miserable one: infant mortality, brutal massacres, horrible toothaches, and an early death. Evidently God didn’t really care.

Then, a few thousand years ago, God said, “It’s time to get involved.” Even so God did not intervene in one of the civilized parts of the world. He didn’t bother with China or India or Persia or Egypt. Rather, he decided to get his message to a group of nomadic people in the middle of nowhere. It took another thousand years or more for this message to get to places like India and China.

Here is the thrust of Hitchens’ point: God seems to have been napping for 98 percent of human history, finally getting his act together only for the most recent 2 percent? What kind of a bizarre God acts like this?

I’m going to answer this argument in two ways. First, in this blog I’m going to show that Hitchens has his math precisely inverted. Second, in a future blog I’ll reveal how Hitchens’ argument backfires completely on atheism. For today’s argument I’m indebted to Erik Kreps of the Survey Research Center of the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research.

An adept numbers guy, Kreps noters that it is not the number of years but the levels of human population that are the issue here. The Population Reference Bureau estimates that the number of people who have ever been born is approximately 105 billion. Of this number, about 2 percent were born before Christ came to earth.

“So in a sense,” Kreps notes, “God’s timing couldn’t have been more perfect. If He’d come earlier in human history, how reliable would the records of his relationship with man be? But He showed up just before the exponential explosion in the world’s population, so even though 98 percent of humanity’s timeline had passed, only 2 percent of humanity had previously been born, so 98 percent of us have walked the earth since the Redemption.”

I have to agree with Kreps’s conclusion: “Sorry Hitchens. And Hallelujah.”
Part 2 of his response:

Here I want to show how Hitchens’ argument completely backfires on atheism. Let’s apply an entirely secular analysis and go with Hitchens’ premise that there is no God and man is an evolved primate. Well, biology tells us that man’s basic frame and brain size haven’t substantially changed throughout his terrestrial existence.

So here is the problem.
Homo sapiens has been on the planet for 100,000 years, but apparently for more than 95,000 of those years he accomplished virtually nothing. No real art, no writing, no inventions, no culture, no civilization. How is this possible? Were our ancestors, otherwise physically and mentally undistinguishable from us, such blithering idiots that they couldn’t figure out anything other than the arts of primitive warfare?

Then, a few thousand years ago, everything changes. Suddenly savage man gives way to historical man. Suddenly the naked ape gets his act together. We see civilizations sprouting in Egypt, Mesopotamia, India, China, and elsewhere. Suddenly there are wheels and agriculture and art and culture. Soon we have dramatic plays and philosophy and an explosion of inventions and novel forms of government and social organization.

So how did
Homo sapiens, heretofore such a slacker, suddenly get so smart? Scholars have made strenuous efforts to account for this but no one has offered a persuasive account. If we compare man’s trajectory on earth to an airplane, we see a long, long stretch of the airplane faltering on the ground, and then suddenly, a few thousand years ago, takeoff!

Well, there is one obvious way to account for this historical miracle. It seems as if some transcendent being or force reached down and breathed some kind of a spirit or soul into man, because after accomplishing virtually nothing for 98 percent of our existence, we have in the past 2 percent of human history produced everything from the pyramids to Proust, from Socrates to computer software.

So paradoxically Hitchens’ argument becomes a boomerang. Hitchens has raised a problem that atheism cannot easily explain and one that seems better accounted for by the Book of Genesis.
UPDATE: A reader posed a few challenges to D’Souza’s argument (if he wants to know why I’m not publishing his comments, he’s free to ask here). I want to address them, though, since they strike me as common areas of misunderstanding.

Humanity’s “takeoff” provides no evidence that God was involved. It could have been coincidence, or the invention of something like the written alphabet or mathematics or several such developments at once.

But this is precisely the issue: mankind had a whopping 95,000 years in which none of it happened. Then “several such developments at once”? Granted, it’s not material evidence, and it’s not proof, but you’ve gotta admit, it’s certainly intriguing circumstantial evidence.

It also provides no evidence that it was Christ or Christianity specifically that is the answer. Advancements took place before Christ…maybe the Greek Gods get credit for Ancient Greece?

This complaint gets the two arguments mixed up. D’Souza does not tie human advancement to the coming of Christ at all, but to the endowment of man with a soul. The only point Christ pertains to is the percentage of the human race that lived before Him as opposed to after.

It’s also interesting that technology has advanced exponentially in recent history, despite no known input from Allah or God or Zeus.

That’s because the input we’re talking about—the soul transforming an animal called human into a man, giving him a true mind rather than a brain—already happened. According to D’Souza’s theory, human reason and creativity flow from this singular change.