Category Archives: Blue Sky Thinking

How To Improve Relations Between Police and Citizens

Unless you avoid the news at all costs, you’re fully aware of the shootings by police, killing two black citizens, Alton Sterling and Philano Castile, both under highly questionable circumstances.

Alton Sterling (Left), and Philando Castile (right)
Alton Sterling (Left), and Philando Castile (right)

Then Army reservist/Afghan war veteran Micah Xavier Johnson, so enraged by such shootings, murdered several police officers in Dallas in retaliation.

There can be no doubt, that tensions between the governed and the government are at levels that are bordering the animosity that triggered us to war for independence against Great Britain 240 years ago. But how did we get here, and how do we get out?

Facts versus Headlines

It’s fair to say that the media push narratives that get ratings. But while according to the FBI in 2014, most black and white people are killed by people of their own race—89% for the black community, and 82% for the white, they often push a narrative that a young black man is more likely to be killed by a white cop.

There were a total of 444 police shootings deemed justifiable homicide, by police in 2014. Pointing out those deemed justifiable homicide is important to the story, because the concern is that police aren’t prosecuted for such shootings. So for police not to be prosecuted, it means the shooting was deemed justifiable.

The FBI didn’t break them down by race, but even if they were all white cops shooting black victims, which they certainly aren’t, that’s still four times less than the 2,205 black-on-black murders in the same year, or the 2,488 white-on-white murders.fbi-logo-404553[1]

Let’s be clear about that statistic, though. It has little to do with living in violent communities, a narrative that is often asserted. The first clue is that white-on-white murders are very similar.

It actually has to do with people being four times as likely to be killed by someone they simply knew.

See this table from the FBI, also in 2014, which shows that 43% of the time people were killed by an acquaintance or family, compared to 11.5% by strangers. The rest are unknown, but since the dataset is somewhat large, we should reasonably assume that nearly 4:1 ratio would be true for the unknowns as well.

The Attitude Adjustment

We need to change the way we interact with each other.

The police were hired to protect our rights. If one pulls you over or otherwise interacts with you, remember that this person is potentially willing to die for you—treat them accordingly. A little compassion for police who do such a dangerous job would go a long way to improve the exchange you have with that officer.

Credit: inhauscreative Vetta Getty Images
Credit: inhauscreative Vetta Getty Images

But as always, it takes two to tango.

Police are trained to fear the worst and prepare for it in each interaction they have with the public. The most innocent traffic stop could be their last.

But preparing for the worst doesn’t excuse assuming the worst, nor treating them as if they’re the worst. If police want people to respect them, they must first show citizens the same respect they expect from them. If an officer didn’t specifically witness a citizen harming someone, they are innocent until proven guilty—it’s an officer’s duty to act accordingly.

Blame Legislators Versus The Police Where Appropriate

Whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat (libertarians already generally know this), when you try to socially engineer society by passing victimless crimes, you cause police to have to enforce those crimes—requiring more police.

This puts both police and citizens in harm’s way; increasing the odds of violent interactions between the two parties.SundayAlcohol[1]

Drugs, prostitution, blue laws, and other such victimless legislation which protect no one—yet risk many, are a huge part of the problem.

If you support passing a law, then you must be comfortable with the notion of putting a gun to the offender’s head and killing them yourself if they violate it. If you’re uncomfortable with this thought, then it’s pure hypocrisy to put police in the situation where they may have to do so in your name.

For instance, if your neighbor were smoking marijuana, would you walk next door, put a gun to their head and tell them to stop or you’ll kill them? Of course not. But if that same neighbor were raping a child, I suspect you’d feel quite differently. This is bad legislation versus good in a nutshell.

If we want to reduce senseless violence, we must first elect someone looking to undo all the senseless laws we’ve passed which trigger senseless violence. Then be sure they don’t pass new ones going forward.

Respect the Constitutiongun-and-the-constitution[1]

I’m in a state where concealed carry requires a permit. So this means I open carry when walking my dog at night, because I haven’t taken the course and applied for that license. I carry in case I get accosted by a miscreant. In so doing, I often worry I might get accosted by the police.

The current scenario is that if a busy-body citizen calls police to report me walking down the street carrying a gun, the police must investigate. They do this because we’ve allowed a litigious culture where police can be held liable for not investigating.

What should happen however is that the police should respond to the caller with, “Carrying a gun is every American’s right. Does he/she appear to be committing a crime? If not, there’s nothing for us to investigate.”

This may seem wrong at first, but the police would do this if you reported someone just driving a car down the street. Driving a car and carrying a gun are both perfectly legal actions that have an intrinsic danger if done so irresponsibly or maliciously. So while at first it may seem like a horrid analogy, they are almost exactly the same.

The reason it feels wrong is simple conditioning by anti-gun people who deem gun carriers as a threat, despite the fact everyone is a threat in some way, and gun carriers aren’t any more likely to harm someone. Most are responsible citizens exercising their 2nd amendment rights just as all of us exercise our 1st.

We then need to pass serious tort reform to preventing civil action against police who don’t investigate someone carrying a gun, on the off chance that person actually harms someone.

Better Community Outreach via Police Training

This proposal is a bit novel and controversial, and I admit it may have unintended consequences. But I like blue skies thinking, so I’ll propose it anyway just to get some creative juices flowing.

Much like we have food stamps to help the needy eat, I think police could use confiscated weapons that are normally destroyed, and start a program with impoverished citizens in bad neighborhoods to protect themselves by donating these weapons and giving classes on how to use them properly.

Of course those citizens would be screened properly for criminal backgrounds like they would for a gun purchase. And yes, it is possible one of those guns may be used in a crime later. But it’s also highly possible that those guns may save many lives of people too poor to buy one themselves, yet absolutely may need one as a result of living in a high crime area.oc_zps62e1c21e[1]

If every good citizen were armed, and prepared to defend themselves against a would-be criminal, we’d have a lot less would-be criminals.

Criminal prey on the weak, but it’s hard to call anyone packing heat, weak. Guns are the greatest equalizer mankind has every invented, turning a feeble grandmother into a Chuck Norris level threat.

Police Need To Eschew The Brotherhood Mentality

Being a Corvette owner, we tend to recognize each other—so much so, that nearly all of us wave at another Corvette owner driving past. Motorcyclists do this too. If you were from Boston, visiting California, and overhear the person next to you say he just “Pahked the Cah,” you’ll almost certainly strike up a conversation with him.

This is because people are hard-wired to bond with those they share commonalities with—it strengthens societal bonds. The easiest way to do this, is to bond over a unique common interest or trait. I say “unique,” because if you were both in Boston, you’d pay the same person no attention whatsoever.

Police know that their work is dangerous, so they form strong bonds among one another so they can be confident they’d have the other’s back, even if they don’t personally know each other—it’s a very natural phenomenon.

But they should be taught that this is a natural emotion, and that they should avoid following it blindly. Much like the placebo effect, while it’s natural, it can do far more harm than good if all skepticism is eschewed.

Violent Crime Rate comparison between general population UCR data and law enforcement population NPMSRP data. Click image for the full article
Violent Crime Rate comparison between general population UCR data and law enforcement population NPMSRP data.
Click image for the full article

This data shows that police are just as likely to commit criminal acts as the general public.

At first, you might think this seems odd, but the police are regular people, not superheroes.

We often hear stories of good Samaritans doing wonderful things. So being a good person isn’t unique to police, nor is being a criminal unique to the general public either.

The reason I say they need to eschew the brotherhood mentality is that police often defend other police who have clearly done unconscionable things.

While at first, a police officer might think defending their “brothers” is the honorable thing to do, but it’s absolutely not in their best interests.

When an officer commits a crime, they violate their sworn oath to uphold the law of the land, dishonoring their noble profession. But it also creates animosity with the public who feel as though police can operate above the law without repercussion.

This hatred and distrust often leads enraged citizens to act violently towards the police, because they feel it the only way justice will be served—putting good cops needlessly at risk, as evidenced by the aforementioned Micah Johnson.

Instead, if an officer is arrested or put on probation for a potential felonious act, police should distance themselves from that person entirely, and make it clear that if the person is found guilty, that person is no “brother” of mine.

They should also be quick to report any criminal acts among their ranks, and clean their own house unmercifully. They will never get the trust and respect of disenfranchised citizens otherwise.

And let’s be honest, if you are a police officer, are you really OK with one of your own committing a murder or unprovoked assault?

Drew Peterson should serve as a shining example of the harm that can come from this blind loyalty. His fellow officers failed to properly address allegations of abuse against Drew when his then wife Stacy Peterson reported him a multitude of times for serious domestic abuse.

Stacy Peterson
Stacy Peterson

It is almost certain that had his fellow officers taken Stacy’s complaints seriously, and treated Drew like any other violently abusive husband—investigating Drew in earnest, Stacy could very well be alive today, with Drew safely in jail where he belonged.

By all means, police should have each other’s backs, but never at the expense of what is right. A criminal is a criminal, whether they wear a badge or a wife-beater, they should be treated with the same prosecutorial mindset.

I could write an entirely separate post on the tactics police unions use to protect police in ways that harm the general public, and destroy the public’s trust in them. They should merely assign the accused a lawyer, and refrain from professing the person’s innocence or any other public statements until that officer is cleared of any wrongdoing.

But once convicted, their sentences should be as harsh as what would be applied to the general public (in my opinion harsher, since they swore to uphold those laws). The slap on the wrist sentence for an offense that would land us regular citizens in jail is surely one of the largest factors in eroding the relationship between the governed and the government.

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Will Computers Catch Humans?

By the year 2030, famed inventor and Google futurist Ray Kurzweil predicts a singularity. The idea that because of Moore’s Law, an idea proposed by Intel’s co-founder Gordon Moore, which states that the number of transistors that can be packed into a given unit of space will roughly double every two years, that humans and machine will become one, indistinguishable being.

Ray Kurzweil
Ray Kurzweil

You may be wondering if Ray is somewhat like a modern-day Nostradamus, but that would be rather insulting to Ray.

Where Nostradamus had predicted very generic events that could have been attributed to just about anything, and thus people often correlated to very specific events and called his predictions a hit, Kurzweil predicted very specific things to occur in very specific time periods, and has a success rate of about 86%.

So much so, that Google hired him as their futurist, to help guide their own corporate endeavors in the direction Ray predicts the future is going.

Ray’s singularity prediction is rather interesting, because what he’s ultimately arguing is that because of the advances in memory technology, computers will meet the human brain’s computing power in this time frame.

While I don’t profess to have the knowledge Ray has, one thing I would like to point out, is that humans are not just a product of our memory, we are also a product of our intellect. Let’s look at how we’re different from computers, as an example.

Kim Peek - Autistic savant; the man the movie Rain Man was based on.
Kim Peek – Autistic savant; the man the movie Rain Man was based on.

Imagine a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, with 1,000 rows and columns in size. Your computer remembers them flawlessly; every single character, like a mechanical Rain Man.

But ask a human to do this feat, and nearly no one can. So the argument that computers haven’t caught humans yet is somewhat misleading.

The average human brain has about 100 billion neurons, and many more glial cells. If we think of neurons as computer bits; the smallest level of computer memory, or the thing that is actually a one or a zero; then we can extrapolate how much memory a computer must have to match the human brain.

Four computer bits make a byte, 1,024 bytes make a kilobyte (KB). This 1,024 successive unit pattern then progresses as follows: megabyte (MB), gigabyte (GB), terabyte (TB), petabyte (PB)…and the list goes on.

This means, that the human brain has about 12.5 gigabytes of memory in the neurons alone. Add in the glial cells, and that number grows by at least double, since there are more of them. The above link references that opinions vary wildly about the real storage capacity of the human brain, but put it somewhere between 1 to 1,000 terabytes, the latter of which seems awfully high to me based on the number of neurons.

But the point I think that is missed in Ray’s hypothesis is that where computer memory is virtually flawless, the human brain seems to have mastered what it should and shouldn’t forget in a rather advantageous way. Where the human can’t remember the aforementioned massive spreadsheet data, it makes up for in its ability for inferring things not provided to it. This being the difference between memory (or knowledge), and computing power (intellect).

It’s this human ability to forget, that actually makes it better at processing information. For instance, you might talk to a co-worker all day, and entirely forget what color their shirt and pants are. Why? Because your brain has developed the ability to know that’s not important information, and immediately dumps it into your brain’s recycle bin.

But if your co-worker misspells a word in an email, your brain doesn’t crash and end its comprehension of the data like a computer might. Instead, you quickly understand what was inferred.

The fact is that there are computers with 1,000 terabytes, or nearly one petabyte already; they have the brains memory power. And one look at IBM’s Watson on Jeopardy, shows you that computers can already beat humans in knowledge alone quite easily.

IBM's Watson
IBM’s Watson

So how is it that a computer could beat Jeopardy’s best competitors, yet still cannot replicate human behavior?

One point to remember is that computers are digital, whereas the human brain is analog.

For instance, think of today’s modern digital cameras, which store a massive amount of mega pixels. We marvel in how much memory they can store, yet an analog camera from 50 years ago, effectively stores more, because it isn’t storing it digitally, as ones and zeros, but instead, as just one big picture on a film. Effectively, each molecule of film is one pixel, and that’s a significantly higher amount of data.

Blow up a digital picture, and eventually, you will see it displaying in its smallest constituents (pixels).

Example of a normal digital picture, when blown up, showing the individual pixels.
Example of a normal digital picture, when blown up, showing the individual pixels.

But if you blow up an analog picture, it never pixelizes, it just becomes so small of an area you can no longer make out what it is.

It’s this difference between analog and digital, that makes Ray’s prediction so uncertain for me. While he may be right, as long as computers rely on digital memory, I’m not convinced they’ll ever be on the level of humans. But instead, machines, and natural life, will always be somewhat separate.

A complete overhaul in the way computers memorize and process information will be needed, not the Moore’s Law doubling of memory in the digital realm.

But it is also worth noting, that Moore’s Law is inappropriately named. It is not in fact scientific law, nor even scientific theory, it is simply something Moore noted, and a pattern that has simply been repeated over the last 50 years, but is not by any stretch going to continue for eternity.

As the Journal of Nature reports, after fifty years, it may indeed be starting to break down. Whereas actual scientific law, such as gravity, and Isaac’s laws of motion; Moore’s “Law” almost invariably must fail at some point, once a transistor has been shrunk to its smallest level.

Speaking theoretically, a transistor, having two states (on and off), if it were shrunk down to one atom, with either one or two electrons depending on whether it’s “on” or “off;” making it smaller would likely prove impossible, and in that moment, Moore’s Law is no more.

Do I believe Kurzweil is crazy? Heck no, the man’s a genius. Do I believe he’s wrong? Not necessarily. More than anything, I would love to ask him about the things I pointed out, and just have an amazing discussion with an amazing man.

Instead, what I’m offering is that you should always be skeptical, and question everything. Whether it’s someone you respect and consider more brilliant than you, or someone you suspect is more likely to be wrong than you. It’s how you learn, and occasionally, it’s how they learn as well. Even the smartest of people can over-analyze something, and miss a simple key aspect, a lesser mind might have caught.

Drug Testing For Government Checks? How About Work For Government Checks?

For nearly as long as we’ve had government entitlements, we’ve had people wanting government to drug test the people receiving them. The purpose being that if I have to take a drug test to get a job to pay into this system, they should have to take a drug test to get the money out of it.

Aside from that, many would like to know that their hard-earned tax dollars are not going towards buying drugs instead of food, water, and shelter—the things these programs are supposed to be for. It’s a fair point that I used to agree with it. However, as I see the issue, this is frankly a red herring.failed-drug-test[1]

If our concern is about misspent monies, then why give them money at all? With food stamps for instance, they would just get actual food, not cash to buy food. While that still doesn’t prevent trading food for drugs, it would at least make it significantly more difficult since most drug dealers are usually not apt to take two steaks for a dime bag.

What about the people who use the money for new Air Jordans, wheels for their car, fur coats, or other frivolous items. These are no more what that money was intended for than drugs, but no drug test will sniff out other frivolous waste like this. Not to mention, alcohol is equally wasteful, equally mind-numbing, and very commonly where money from government entitlements ends up.

Getting away from those who rightfully qualify for these programs, what about the fraudsters? Many people do side work under the table, easily make enough to support themselves, but because there’s no W-2 to rat them out, they get a government check because it appears they qualify for assistance.

These people could be people doing illegal work like selling drugs or prostitution (which should be legal in my opinion), or these could be people who are doing legal work, but just getting paid under the table for it tax-free.prostitution-car[1]

The system, no matter how you work it, is always highly corruptible, and thus the reason most limited government advocates like myself feel government should not be in the business of salvaging the lives of those who have chosen a path that doesn’t afford them their basic food, drink, and shelter needs.

If we move off of the corrupt things people might do with government entitlement monies, does someone failing a drug test mean that they used taxpayer money to buy drugs? Not necessarily.

For instance, pot smokers in general are usually rather friendly in my experience. While I’ve never used marijuana myself (no joke), I’ve been offered it more times than I can count. Maybe this person who might fail a dug test was just at a friend’s house Friday night and benefitted from some “puff-puff-pass.”

Insuring that government money is used for the purpose intended is nearly impossible, and as such, a fool’s mission. This is why libertarian-minded people like me would simply argue that you can’t corrupt what doesn’t exist in the first place, and end all such programs. As heartless as it may seem, we honestly believe charities would do a better job, and people would be more charitable if given those tax dollars back.

But there is another way. While most libertarians want to quash entitlements altogether, there may be a more capitalistic way we all benefit from them doing it, and the answer is in community service.

Instead of offering money for doing nothing, why not offer government on-the-spot labor? Instead of having to apply for government handouts, you simply go to a government office, and say, “what can I do?”help-wanted-marijuana-legalized-jobs[1]

In any town around the country, there can be litter and trash lying around, infrastructure that could use improvement, graffiti that needs cleaned off walls, schools that could use adults standing guard, or any other myriad of things we’d like to do, but we don’t often have the money to do it.

Local citizens might contact their government office with needs that these people could fill such as help mowing a lawn or shoveling a driveway even. Or companies could broker deals to get on-the-spot labor through local government assistance office. Local businesses often need an extra person due to employee illnesses, random promotional events that may require extra help, etc. The citizens or companies would pay the people directly, the welfare office would simply connect the two parties.

No one has a right to get paid for doing nothing, and government is a guarantor of rights, not a charity.community-service-trash

The jobs they’d be assigned would be menial, difficult, unrewarding tasks that no one else wants to do, thus  ensuring that people will seek gainful employment elsewhere, doing community service for no longer than is necessary to bridge the gap between jobs.

It has never been, nor ever will be government’s business to know what you put in your body, and suggesting we should drug test people to get government assistance is a violation of their rights after my rights were violated by stealing from me to assist them, despite my objections to it.

Under my proposal, I frankly don’t care what they do with that money. If they provided a valuable service, they earned it, and like me, should be able to spend it however they see fit. They win, the taxpayers win, and nobody got something for nothing.

 

 

Dream Theater Better The Beatles? A Lesson In Art vs. Science.

I have a confession to make. I cannot endure country, Top 40, or hip-hop music for any lengthy period of time. You might as well waterboard me before subjecting me to their overly repetitive and simple riffs.

When I was younger, I would rail against these genres mercilessly, ridiculing the artists and their fans alike for being musically ignorant amoebas who can hardly count to four, nevertheless keep a 4/4 beat.

But as I got older, became a skeptic, and embraced the idea of critical thought, it dawned on me that I was wrong for doing this.

Aside from the fact I was just being a jerk, one must first understand that claims are generally broken in to two groups: quantifiable or subjective, and I believe they are essentially, mutually exclusive.

Quantifiable claims are things that can be proven to be true—a scientific claim of fact. But subjective claims have no right or wrong answer, they are merely opinion.

The reason I was such a music snob, is largely due to the influence of my former high school band director. A charismatic man who taught us the value of striving to be greater tomorrow than you are today, no matter how good you may already be.  Think of Dr. Lee played by Orlando Jones in Drumline, and you’re really close.

Orlando Jones as Dr. Lee from the movie Drumline (left)
Orlando Jones as Dr. Lee from the movie Drumline (left)

It’s not that he taught us to be music snobs, it’s that he taught us the incredibly complex challenges advanced music can offer, the science of music—or what’s known as music theory.

Along the way, I learned about great musicians like Steve Morse, a guitarist and jazz major from Texas A&M, so talented, that from 1988-1993, he was voted Guitar Player Magazine’s Best Overall Guitarist. After winning it five straight years, including 1993, a year  he didn’t even release an album, he was removed from the competition.

Let’s be clear, that was not best rock, jazz, classical, or country guitarist, that was “overall” guitarist. The things he can do with six strings and a block of wood are scary. See just a smidgen of his prowess in this video.

The more I learned about great musicians like this, the more it upset me that people like Eddie Van Halen were hailed as the best guitarist ever. He’s good, but not “Steve Morse” good, and I believe Eddie himself would agree. But where Van Halen sold millions of albums, someone like Steve Morse was hardly known outside the music community. The idea that the most technically proficient musicians are rarely the most famous is a travesty of justice to me, so how could this be?

larry-bird-dribble300400[1]
Larry Bird
For instance, if we look at sports, Larry Bird was one of the greatest NBA shooters of all time. He was also one of the most popular. His raw talent, just like Michael Jordan after him, garnered him the recognition he deserved. So why is this often not true of musicians?

It boils down to understanding the difference between quantitative versus subjective claims.

For instance, here’s a claim I would happily make that would garner a lot of opposition. Dream Theater, a band who met and studied at the Berklee School of Music, who now employ a keyboardist (Jordan Rudess) who was accepted and studied at Julliard at the tender age of 9, and who have won several Guitar Player Magazine, Modern Drummer Magazine, etc., awards are a better band than the Beatles will ever be, and I can essentially prove it.

Dream Theater
Dream Theater

First things first though, if we’re making a quantitative claim, the word “better” has to be defined—the word is quite ambiguous. In my claim, it refers to more technically proficient.

We would quantify that Larry Bird was better than other NBA stars by using his career statistics. But how can we quantify one musician as more technically proficient than another?

It’s simple. I could choose any Beatles song (and I do mean any), and challenge Dream Theater to play it. Knowing both band’s works as I do, I can all but guarantee that Dream Theater could easily perform the chosen piece within an hour or two, playing it note for note at the same tempo or faster than the Beatles recorded it at, without breaking a sweat.

Now if we flip the tables and ask the Beatles to replicate a Dream Theater song, the Fab Four would be hard pressed to replicate more than 1-2% of them, even if they were given months or even years to achieve said goal. This song should illustrate my point.

I’m not being overly mean to the Beatles, nor overly generous to Dream Theater. Any knowledgeable musician, if familiar with both bands, knows I’m being very fair and accurate here. It’s not that Dream Theater are superhuman (although it seems like it at times), or that the Beatles are incompetent, it has everything to do with the amount of hours both bands put in to mastering their instruments.

The Beatles, like many other famous bands, made catchy songs, sold a lot of albums, and did all they needed to do to make a damn good living as musicians. They likely never felt the need to go further.

Aside from Dream Theater’s Julliard and Berklee educations, something the Beatles did not do, having met Dream Theater on a couple of occasions, I can tell you that they are driven to challenge themselves technically and musically; there is clearly less focus on just selling records.

So why was I wrong for calling Dream Theater “better,” and behaving like such a music snob? While I defined “better” as more talented, I could just as easily have defined it as most record sales—then the Beatles obviously win in a landslide. I began to understand that the whole concept of “better” in relation to art, is innately flawed. If you’re going to use that word, you cannot use it for subjective things.

This was the impetus for my understanding of the difference between art and science.

While sports statistics are quantitative, music is an art form, and therefore largely subjective. It can be quantified to some extent as I did above, but unlike sports, technical prowess is no guarantor of success in music because art as a whole is not about achieving a measurable goal, but merely satisfying the artistic thirst of the user. This is something the Beatles must assuredly be declared the winners of, much to my dismay.

The Beatles
The Beatles

This knowledge began the transition of my love for music into my love for science, as the latter began to seem infinitely more attractive and important.

Art is like science without the burden of having to be correct and accurate. So in my mind, unlike science, art can never truly be important.

When lives are at stake and problems need solved, we don’t call painters, musicians, poets, or philosophers, we call doctors, engineers, and physicists. A 911 call will never yield the work of an artist.

So then I asked myself if science is “better” than art. Are art and science at odds with one another?

Actually, many scientific endeavors started with arts like philosophy or movies. A person simply dreamed without limits, and those dreams posed challenges that science brought to reality. Many scientists were inspired by the arts as children, such as scientists inventing things they saw in sci-fi movies as a child.

So how does this all affect me? My love for complex music is still great, but I no longer insult those who love the simpler stuff. My preference for the conservative-biased Fox News doesn’t prompt me to insult MSNBC watchers. My passion for Ferraris and Corvettes no longer prompts me to insult people who drive Porsches and Lamborghinis.

Corvette ZR1
Corvette ZR1

While I still maintain my preferences, I understand the difference between what I can quantify, and what is truly subjective. Not only am I more accurate in my perception, I’m no longer compelled to insult people for their varied tastes, but instead, often ask them why they appreciate something I do not.

Their answer may not sway me, but many times, it opens my mind to new and interesting things, some of which, allow me to grow my own creative mind by pointing me in a direction I would have never discovered on my own. If there’s anything a scientifically oriented person likes most, it’s learning new things.

So if you find yourself being a snob, calling one artistic endeavor better than another—stop! More often than not, claiming something is “better” is an inherently flawed thing to do. It is an ambiguous word, that without being clearly defined, and applying only to a quantitative bit of data, should never be used to compare one thing to another.

Coke isn’t better than Pepsi, but Coke’s sales are. Know the difference.

Consenting Adults Amendment: How Columbus City Council Screwed The Little Guy

Gary Nolan (and THE Scrappy Doo)
Gary Nolan (and THE Scrappy Doo)

Like many internet writers, I’m an amateur—I do this for the joy of spreading the liberty and rational thought message to any who will listen. If you’ve ever gotten the impression I’m rich, your hypothesis regarding my financial status, is indeed quite flawed.

Many on the left champion more regulation because they say such things protect and/or help the little guy, the underprivileged guy, the poor guy—that’s me!

So let’s see how this is working out for me so far.

In order to help lift myself out of financial distress, I ultimately need to either get promoted, find a new job, or obtain a second job—I’m ruling out the lottery due to statistical improbability. Of the three choices, the latter is the easiest and least risk-involved, so I endeavored to find additional ways to pad my pocketbook.

As I was watching an episode of The Independents on Fox Business, host Kennedy did a segment on Lyft, the peer-2-peer app based car service. It’s a very novel, yet simple, idea.Pinkout81-640x426[1]

  • You have a car and want to earn some extra cash.
  • You download the Lyft app and apply to be a driver
  • They do a quick background check to ensure you’re not one of Charles Manson’s kids.
  • Then a Lyft mentor comes out, shows you the ropes, inspects your vehicle, then gives you a big pink mustache to put on the front of your car signifying you’re a Lyft driver for users to easily identify
  • Once you’re ready, you launch the app, then signify you’re a driver awaiting a rider
  • Any riders needing a lift would launch the app and select a driver who is available and closest to them
  • You meet up, a ride is given, and upon completion, money is exchanged
  • The driver and rider then both rate each other on the experience. If either rates the other below three stars, they’ll never get matched again

Immediately I thought, this was for me. I have a very clean, well-maintained, low-mileage 2002 Honda Accord sedan that would be ideal.

2002 Honda Accord: According to Columbus City Council—death trap
2002 Honda Accord: According to Columbus City Council—death trap

So I installed the Lyft app, went on to the website, and signed up. I’m a personable guy, I love to talk to people, I can work when I want, and I don’t mind driving. Plus, I get to be self-employed again (I’m a previous small business owner), no jerk boss to deal with—it couldn’t be any more perfect, right? I was genuinely excited!

So Lyft contacted me, set me up with my mentor, but then an overreaching government hit me like a ton of bricks.

My 2002 Honda Accord is two years older than the 10-year-old or newer requirement a recently passed law by Columbus Ohio City Council requires, which meant that legally, I could not be a Lyft driver with my car; I’d need to buy a newer one. Generally speaking, if we had the money to buy newer cars, we likely wouldn’t be looking to drive for Lyft, right?

So these bureaucratic do-gooders, either guided by ignorant benevolence, or pressure from much-richer-than-I taxi company lobbyists (or both), who claim to be out for the little guy like me, took away this little guy’s right to go into business for myself in this manner.

Columbus City Council: AKA People Who Violated My Right To Earn A Living
Columbus City Council: AKA People Who Violated My Right To Earn A Living

I’m sure the Columbus City Council patted themselves on the back for their chicanery, touting out how they have protected would-be victims from someone with an unsafe automobile. But this assumes many things which cannot be deemed true with any certainty.

  • It assumes any car 10 years old or newer is safe. (False)
  • It assumes any car 11 years old or older is unsafe (False)
  • It assumes a would-be adult rider cannot make a reasonably intelligent decision about whether to get into a car and accept a ride from someone (Typically false)
  • It assumes that people who want to earn some extra money have the money to buy a newer car (Typically false)
  • It assumes Lyft mentors safety inspections aren’t good enough (Typically false). Remember, unlike Lyft,  government isn’t even inspecting your vehicle. Their regulation’s assumptions are solely based on the age of your car.

As I ponder the idea that I live in a free country where government exists solely to protect my rights, I am appalled that my city council, in a misguided effort to protect others, have harmed me with no legitimate justification—both me, and my car, are quite safe.

While I generally believe our Constitution’s framers did a pretty good job, if you’ve read my previous posts, you’ll recall I’m not afraid to propose constitutional amendments that I think would advance their principles of limited government, and deny power-hungry rights-infringers that which pleases them most.

The 1st Amendment
The 1st Amendment

That said, as a result of this incident, it got me thinking about a new amendment I wish legislators would adopt which would solve this problem and many like it—I’ll call it the “Consenting Adults” amendment.

The right for adults to engage in any agreement among themselves, barring any affected and unwitting third party, shall not be infringed.

It’s simple, and quite consistent with the Constitution’s intent as a limit on the how the government may deny your right to pursue happiness. Whether it be me providing a ride to someone for money; two or more people wanting to get married, regardless of their sex or preference; or any other act wherein consenting adults wish to engage. “We The People” should be able to do whatever we want to do, so long as we’re not hurting anyone else doing it. Libertarianism 101: No victim-no crime.

To be fair, I do understand our government usually acts with the best of intentions when they pass these laws. But sadly, many politicians neither have the intellectually capacity or knowledge to understand the ramifications of their actions to their full extent. Nor do they have the honor to admit when their actions have failed or had detrimental unintended consequences. Such instances should prompt them to repeal these regulations, but they rarely do.

They’re also sorely lacking in the understanding that everything they do, is ultimately done so, at the point of a gun. If such proposals were thought of in this manner, they would often be rejected.

Would you support cops showing up, guns drawn on me, screaming “Don’t you dare give that person a ride in your twelve-year-old death trap, or we’ll shoot!”? I sure hope not. But ultimately, if I defied this regulation long enough, that is precisely what would happen.

SWAT team: AKA People I'd eventually see if I used my 12 year old death trap to give people rides via Lyft
SWAT team: AKA People I’d eventually see if I used my 12-year-old death trap to give people rides via Lyft

Politicians should honestly understand that much of what people ask them to do is simply none of their business. Most of the time, when people say, “there ought to be a law,” they’re wrong. These days, our country is sadly free-ish at best thanks to such people. But if you vote for libertarian-minded politicians, we can correct that.

How to stop Big Brother – A Constitutional Amendment

Gary Nolan (and THE Scrappy Doo)
Gary Nolan (and THE Scrappy Doo)

We’ve all seen them; and we may have gotten a friendly letter in the mail from our local government as a result of them as well. Those infernal speed and/or traffic light cameras.red-light-camera-springfield-ohio[1]

The people who advocate for them say that they are a deterrent to dangerous driving and therefore reduce accidents, but when scientists actually tabulated the results, it turns out those making the “deterrent” argument are often mistaken. big_brother_obama_parody_poster-p228489253510086489tdcp_400[1]

I’m not completely ignorant of the potential benefit of these devices. During the investigation of an accident, all that is truly desired is the truth; these cameras can provide that. If for instance, an accident occurs, and in an attempt to determine who was at fault, the police wish to review footage from a camera, then this is a very good and fair use of such devices.

But when these devices trigger legal action, this is what changes such machines from a technology advancement in investigation towards the ominous Big Brother. George Orwell’s 1984 was not a heart warming story where Big Brother was a robotic June Cleaver after all, I suspect people from almost all political sides were bothered by it.

The reason this is wrong is that it defies the purpose of our government, which by design, exists solely to protect our rights. As such, the point of traffic laws is to ensure people drive safely so as not to harm other motorists, violating their right to life and/or property. The financial penalties should be to help pay for the people to do the work of enforcing traffic laws and to serve as an incentive not to do it again. The government is not a business intended to make a profit, so revenue generation outside the tax structure violates the core of our nation.

So how is a real police officer doing a traffic stop any different from one of these cameras? There are two very important distinctions.

Every day, people manage to drive safely along the highway using the unwritten rule of 5-10 m.p.h. above the speed limit, and they often do so in front of police who rightly determine that as long as people are driving safely, they don’t need to be hassled. But machines cannot make such judgment calls, they are purely indiscriminate.

The second issue is that if an officer on duty sees someone driving unsafely, they will pull them over in an effort to stop them before they harm someone; something I think is often abused, but is necessary nonetheless. There’s never any way to know of course, but it likely saves lives.

A camera doesn’t stop anything however, the motorist continues on their merry way until days later when they receive a letter with their picture on it, if they were driving so dangerous as to likely kill someone, the deed was already done.

So if we understand from the study mentioned above that they are not an effective deterrent, and we know they don’t physically prevent someone from driving unsafely, then their only purpose left in life is investigation, and revenue generation—only one of which should be acceptable.yourspeed[1]

My idea? A “No Big Brother” constitutional amendment. The verbiage would go something like this:

The right of the people to not be policed, fined, or governed by an inanimate object shall not be infringed. Inanimate devices either owned and/or operated by government may not be used as an impetus for legal action.

Governments have already spent millions of taxpayer dollars on these devices, so I’m not suggesting they be scrapped altogether; that would be wasteful. But while 1984 may be fictional, that doesn’t change the fact that these devices are a fairly accurate representation of how something like Big Brother would start if left unfettered. If we endeavor to remain a free country versus a policed-state, that means at some point a line must be drawn.

Our forefathers couldn’t have accounted for this, 1984 was not written or even imagined back then, electricity wasn’t even understood. But this is why they left open the amendment process so that in the future, new restraints on government could be added to fit the times and protect our liberties from an oppressive government, which is the underlying point of the U.S. Constitution.

The line I’m drawing is fairly simple. If  an occurrence needs investigated, use all the technology available to do so. However, if there has been no crime or incident reported, these devices should just be recording information that will be forever ignored.

Our forefathers may not have been able to anticipate a surveillance state, but every ounce of recorded history shows that they certainly didn’t expect nor want the government to be making the king’s ransom.

I never tell a lie, and I’m never wrong. Let’s have some legal reform!

Gary Nolan (and THE Scrappy Doo)
Gary Nolan (and THE Scrappy Doo)

As we all know, politicians are often known for two things: lying and the inability to admit when they are wrong. If you want to see a prime example of both in one instance, look no further than this example from the chairperson of the DNCDebbie Wasserman-Shultz (DWS).

Lying and the inability to admit fault are traits that are generally considered immoral, and are upsetting to the populace these people are elected to serve, but what’s the real reason behind it?

Let’s first discuss the lying which can be either malicious or altruistic.

I’ll give you examples:

  • Malicious: I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Monica Lewinsky ~ Bill Clinton
  • Altruistic: No honey, that dress does not make you look fat ~ Every husband in history

An easy way to tell the difference is to understand who is being protected by the lie. If it’s the liar, then there’s a good chance it’s malicious.

So are all lies that roll off a politicians tongue malicious? Of course not. But, we all understand how malicious lies come about and agree they are wrong, so let’s focus on the altruistic ones instead.

What’s the one type of altruistic lie that’s good? Every time someone called the government because they saw a UFO and were told, “We’ll look into it” when in reality they knew it was the latest super-secret plane the government was testing and weren’t at liberty to discuss—I’m OK with that. The B-2 Stealth Bomber alone is estimated to be responsible for hundreds of reported UFO sightings before the curtain was lifted on it.

B-2 Stealth Bomber
B-2 Stealth Bomber

There is no way for the government to tell Americans their secrets without telling our enemies too. So some things simply must be kept out of the public knowledge base.

With politicians however, most of their altruistic lies are born out of arrogance. Many think voters can’t understand their superior knowledge or intellect well enough to support their ideas. So they lie to get elected, then proceed with their original agenda because “they know better.”

For instance, many on the left lie about the origins of their proposed social engineering policies, calling them anything but socialism, because they know people in America aren’t very fond of the socialist doctrine, even though these politicians honestly believe socialism can be good.

Many on the right lie about their intent to cut government assistance because they know telling people they intend on putting the kibosh to their government aid will be seen as cruel and heartless, when they truly believe it will help promote self-reliance and actually help those it’s expected to hurt.

I would argue that if these policies are good, they will stand on their merits. An intelligent person should be able to explain their position in such a way that reasonably smart people will understand. If socialism or capitalism are good, just make the best case as to why, and let us decide.

It’s hard to paint politicians as completely immoral here, they legitimately think they are doing what is best. But I find the hubris for them to assume they are more intelligent than me, the person they are nominated to serve, distinctly offensive.

Moving on from the lies, let’s discuss the inability to admit wrongdoing.

Although DWS has a degree in political science, not law, she does serve in Congress with a few hundred other law makers, many of whom do have a legal background; our president too.

I’m not attempting to disparage lawyers, it’s a noble profession. But it is common practice for them to vehemently avoid any admission of wrongdoing or offer any apology for a wrongful act. This practice has sadly become part of our fabric, and it affects all of us morally and financially.

Scales of Justice
Scales of Justice

In our current legal system, an apology is admissible evidence against you, so we have been conditioned to never admit wrong-doing. Lack of personal responsibility is everywhere these days, and I think it’s in no small part to our legal system’s exploitation of apologies.

As you saw DSW pirouette around the issue like she was on Dancing With The Stars (They do share the same initials after all), it became clear she knew she had lied, but was adamant about not admitting it.

What can we do about these two issues? While we will never be able to stop people from lying, we can do something about the admission of guilt issue by changing our current legal system.

If we look at health care, many doctors who know they erred when giving treatment will often refuse to give an apology at the insistence of their legal team, due to its evidential liability. Interestingly enough though, a 2001 University of Michigan program showed that while the liability may increase, the number of actual lawsuits decrease as patients are far more apt to accept an apology as restitution than most lawyers give them credit for.

This study shows that we humans care more about personal responsibility than money, and we are capable of forgiveness if it’s simply asked for. So, I have a simple proposal to make a meaningful reform to our legal system.

Introduce legislation that provides certain indemnities to a person when they accept fault. If a person admits their error, apologizes, and/or makes a sincere attempt at restitution prior to legal action being taken against them, (ruling out criminal activity), they should be immune from additional punitive damages in civil court over and above their actual fiscal liability for the damages inflicted.

This one simple change to our legal system could not only introduce a better moral code in our society by encouraging people to accept responsibility, but imagine the dramatic lowering in prices of goods and services, as insurance premiums and general business operating costs drop due to a lower or complete lack of settlement costs.

There you have it, I have improved our sense of morality and helped our economy with a few strokes of my keyboard, and that’s no lie!