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A Sunday ramble, from politics to picking up cedar limbs

The problem of free speech

Gab, the free-speech social network, has suffered yet another blow. Visa has yanked their merchant account, preventing people from using Visa cards to make payments to the company. Worse, the ban also extends personally to Gab founder Andrew Torba AND to any members of his household.

Gosh, can anybody think of other times and places when family members were punished for the politically incorrect deeds of others? Oh yeah … the Soviet Union, Communist China, and Nazi Germany. Fun times, fun places.

Of course, this is just Visa, a private corporation, and not the work of overbearing, discriminatory, inescapable government. Therefore it’s all a-ok in the eyes of modern libertarian theory.

Except it’s not. In modern libertarian theory, industries (including banking and Silicon Valley startups like Twitter and FB) wouldn’t be in close cahoots with government. They wouldn’t have been given favorable regulation, tax breaks, cozy cronyisms with those in power, extreme low-interest loans from the Fed, huge lobbying clout, near-monopoly status, etc. etc. So now we have the most active censorship and selective persecution ever in this country — far, far worse than in the McCarthy era or the Red Scare post WWI.

But it’s being done by “private” companies — that aren’t.

Such a good deal for those in power.

—–

I have a login at Gab but I haven’t visited there for several years. That’s partly because social media is not my thing, but also because Gab does — as its accusers and persecutors say — provide a platform for some real nasties, and the nasties can be hard, though not impossible, to avoid.

The fact that Gab, which is growing rapidly as people desert blatantly politicized networks like Twitter and F*c*b**k, also provides a platform for those who would refute, demolish, ignore, and possibly even uplift “haters” escapes their critics. Gab provides a platform for anybody, except a few limited categories, like those who advocate violence.

It’s traditional, it’s constitutional — and it’s just plain common sense to anyone who understands the principles of liberty — to understand that losers, loons, wild-eyed conspiracy theorists, political extremists, racists, idiots, opponents of political regimes, and everybody else merits protection of free speech. Why write a First Amendment if it wasn’t intended to protect controversial folk? You hardly need such a thing to protect popular speech.

So yeah, it’s a good thing that Gab even gives a platform even to the dreaded white supremacists. Someone has to. It’s not even a tattered remnant of a free country if the fringe-oids are suppressed. And as the howling left will soon find out to its shock and dismay, once you establish that it’s okay to censor or suppress people you don’t like, you’ll be next in line for being stomped on.

But the problem of free speech in the Internet world is that once the nasties know they’ll be tolerated somewhere — they immediately go there. Klanspersons, haters of Jews, preachers hoping for bloody Armageddon, and generally glassy-eyed extremists travel the ‘Net in mobs. (This is odd in a way, because they only people they hate more than Jews/blacks/Muslims/lizard-brained aliens/Mexicans/etc. is each other; but that’s a ponder for another day.)

That’s why I never, ever knowingly let a bigot comment here. Give a platform to one pathetic incel panting over his Hitlerian fantasies in his mother’s basement and the word goes out to all.

Pretty soon you have no decent people speaking up. That happened to the Western Rifle Shooters Association. Concerned American, who owns the place, commendably believes in free speech. I applaud his ideals and courage — but not his good sense. In short order, he ended up with a comment section oozing so much bile that it confirmed every terrible thing the enemies of gun rights believe about gunfolk.

As to Gab, I wish them well. So far they do seem to be thriving despite all that the angry establishment throws at them and it’s possible the ick faction isn’t as prominent or loud as it was a while ago. Andrew Torba seems to be a good man with a real commitment to principles, and he’s certainly brave and determined. Hopefully, the growing membership will drown out, or already has drowned out, the tiny, but loud, cadre of creeps. But I’m not going back any time soon to see.

Big broken systems

Right now (and for too long a time past and future) one of my friends is caught in a legal nightmare and another is a healthcare nightmare.

The first is the target of a lawsuit that’s not only frivolous, but probably illegal. It’s been bleeding him dry for more than a year, and for a long time the fraudulent nature of the action has been visible. Yet because of the way legal procedures grind along, there’s no way to go immediately to a judge and say, “Look at this evidence, then please dismiss this suit and slap the plaintiff upside the head, thank you.” He will have to pay tens of thousands more FRNs and surrender much more of his life — for nothing.

My other friend is making decisions for a 90-something mother who is rapidly (yet agonizingly slowly) going down hill. Although the individuals involved in the situation have all been doing the best they can, the system itself is … well, exactly as you expect it to be, only worse. The latest? Mom fractured her neck in a fall and ended up in a nursing home. After just a few weeks in the home, she fell out of bed and re-fractured the same vertebra.

How can an old lady with a broken neck fall out of a nursing home bed? “Don’t they have rails?” I asked.

Turns out that, in Mom’s state, bedrails are forbidden by government regulation because that’s too much like imprisonment. So Mom was injured — and probably sent into her final decline — buy a policy designed to “protect” her.

These aren’t unusual stories. You know that. Every one of us probably has five or ten such examples, all out of the legal, medical, or general government/government-controled systems.

How do we tolerate the extreme brokenness of the most important organized systems within our society? It’s not hard to see how such bureaucratic, self-interested, dinosaurish systems develop and sustain themselves. But when you stop and think about how deeply, catastrophically broken the basic mechanisms of our society are, and how many lives and fortunes they so casually destroy, it’s stunning — even to those of us who already know how bad matters are.

Virtue Signaling Arena

Did you hear that Amazon has purchased the naming rights to Seattle’s (former) KeyArena (after some bank, formerly the Seattle Center Coliseum, formerly the Washington State Coliseum)? And here’s the good part. Instead of naming it after their corporate self, they’re calling it Climate Pledge Arena.

This is for the usual virtue signaling reasons. But also because Amazon’s operational carbon footprint keeps going up and up and up and up, so, being good “progressives,” they need to create and promote some eco-wonder to counteract their own habits, which the rebuilt arena is intended to do.

Now I have opined before that the whole business of selling naming rights to public sports facilities is obnoxious. If you can’t just call something [Insert Locale] Arena or [Insert Sports Team] Park, then the only other proper name for such a facility would be somewhere on this list:

  • Taxpayer Stadium
  • Joe and Josie Average Park
  • Extortion Arena
  • Tax Slavery Field
  • Poor Sucker Dome
  • No Account Peasants Stadium
  • Your Tax Dollars at Work Sports Complex
  • Whether You Wanted It Or Not, You Paid For It Arena
  • Your Pain Our Gain Civic Status Symbol

Sure, if you’re name’s Weeghman and you want to build — and more importantly pay for — your own baseball stadium, call it Weeghman Park. Your game, your name. And if your name’s Wrigley, as in chewing gum, you have every right to rename the place Wrigley Field after you buy it and its team out.

The practice of governments selling naming rights to some corporation that provides only a small share of the overall cost is insulting to all the poorer folk who actually paid for the thing, and whose dollars are sucked from them to fund bread and circuses against their will.

But Climate Pledge Arena??? That takes matters to an entire new level of political creepiness. OMG do we really live some bizarrely capitalismized version of a 20th-Century People’s Republic where everyone is constantly reminded to praise the current Five-Year Plan? Or what? Can you even remotely picture making your way through horrendous traffic and spending hundreds of dollars on pricey tickets, merchandise, and food to have any sort of fun at a place named Climate Pledge Arena?

Nah. Watch sports fans stay away in droves. That is, bigger droves than are already staying away.

Picking up cedar limbs

And now I’m going to go back out in the early afternoon sunshine and continue giving the backyard its first good cleanup since fall.

I’m expecting company this summer and although I’ve been enjoying many of the getting-ready chores, outdoor work (and especially outdoor work on the dank, dark, damp, mossy, spidery north side of the house) fills me with dread. I’ve really let things go back there, and have even moved construction rubble out of the house and let it sit on the back patio getting rained on, which is worse.

But I went out earlier today and surprised myself. In just two hours, I had half of the worst stuff done. So back out I go now to pick up cedar limbs. And alder branches. And cut back blackberry vines. And unwind morning glories from poor strangled ferns. And contemplate all the landscaping yet to be done.

Even with the slippery moss, the pill bugs, the spiders, the soggy damp, and all, it’s a more wholesome place than the rest of the world seems to be today.

18 Comments

  1. Myself
    Myself June 28, 2020 1:40 pm

    When I first read “Climate Pledge Arena” just now, I thought of the furniture polish, which would make sense, on the other hand, I notice that Bezos doesn’t say what his climate pledge actually is, perhaps he’s playing a joke, and his pledge is to pollute as much as he can, perhaps building a coal fired power plant just for his data centers.

    If I was ever in your friend’s mother’s state, I would rather a quick exit

  2. Jorge
    Jorge June 28, 2020 2:46 pm

    I hope both your friends resolve their respective issues quickly and with as little pain as possible. I hope your summer is wonderful and the madness of the world does not intrude upon you.

  3. Pat
    Pat June 28, 2020 4:22 pm

    (Rhetorical question, not asking for actual location) —
    Where on earth does a medical facility NOT put up rails for an incapacitated patient?!
    What kind of perverse reasoning is that!

    Re picking up limbs and debris: Do you have snakes around there, Claire? Stay alert.

  4. The Real Kurt
    The Real Kurt June 28, 2020 4:47 pm

    A “good” libertarian doesn’t approve of corporations – they are artificial creations of governments. Partnerships are whizbang, but getting special dispensation to protect individuals from liability (LLP, Subchapter S, and all the rest) can only be viewed as artificial constraints which grant special privileges to some at the expense of others.

    The Real Kurt

  5. Chase
    Chase June 28, 2020 5:14 pm

    In fact corporations were rare before the Santa Clara decision

  6. Claire
    Claire June 28, 2020 6:24 pm

    Pat — Yes, we’ve gone from “bedrails are needed for safety” to two new positions: “bedrails can be dangerous” and “bedrails are too often used for punishment or restraint.”

    Apparently about 15 years ago there were some highly publicized incidents of nursing home patients getting trapped between bedrails and mattresses or trying to climb over the rails, only to break limbs or get stuck, panic, and die. It seems that most of these injuries and deaths were due not to rails in and of themselves, but factors like assembling beds with parts from different manufacturers or failure to supervise patients known to be “houdinis.” Also, there were sometimes problems with rails being used (or perceived as being used) to punish or restrain “misbehaving” Alzheimer’s victims.

    So while guidelines for or against rails come from the federal government, some states have their own take on them, and after those reports, they leaned toward bans (or using rails only if next-of-kin sign special permission for them or a doctor actually prescribes them).

    Now the pendulum seems to be swinging back to recognizing that rails are usually safer, but they just need to be designed and used properly. But that swing is too late for my friend’s mom. She’s now lying abed with her twice-broken neck, surrounded by an army of bolster pillows.

    Oh, and as to snakes … nope. Fortunately we have only garter snakes here. Startling occasionally, but no harm. OTOH, we have some giant spiders that, while also mostly harmless, could send the unwary right through the roof with surprise.

  7. Anonymous
    Anonymous June 28, 2020 11:48 pm

    Visa has yanked their merchant account, preventing people from using Visa cards to make payments to the company. Worse, the ban also extends personally to Gab founder Andrew Torba AND to any members of his household.

    Banned use of the enemy’s payment monitoring system, but no legal problem with inventing an alternative and continuing to operate? Gosh, throw a bunch of outspoken people into that briar patch, I’m sure they will never be motivated to invent an alternative which is harder to invade and monitor.

    Western Rifle Shooters Association […] a comment section oozing so much bile

    Suppose you might want to someday violate an EPA regulation by what you discard in a dumpster. Which situation makes that safer for you? A dumpster you pressure wash every month which contains only your trash? Or a dumpster the slumlords are continually illegally dumping into? Sorry officer, that’s not /my/ trash bag of plastic bottles of plastic types mandated for recycling but which aren’t actually reused by industry. Likewise, if you were trying to teach freedom fighters, wouldn’t you delight in being concealed behind the chaff and pyrotechnics from people who believe the yellow fringe on flags in courtrooms was placed there by space aliens?

    that it confirmed every terrible thing the enemies of gun rights believe about gunfolk

    The only fact universally true for all gun owners, is that they own a gun. Gun owners are not clones, and thinking any large group of humans is identical is the thinking mistake of collectivism; the flag-fringe people represent only themselves. Furthermore, who cares what people think about gun owners? That’s doing electoral politics, which we already know doesn’t work.

  8. silver
    silver June 29, 2020 8:09 am

    Real Kurt,

    I’m a “bad” libertarian, because I will certainly not pass your purity test, nor many others. Where I see freedom of association and the need for informed choices by consumers, libertarian absolutists see some sort of imaginary protection – provided by government!

    Freedom of association is similar to freedom of speech. There’s no need for a constitutional protection when the people who choose to associate are people you happen to like, or at least approve of. But if a group of evil investors pool their ill-gotten capital (because there is no other way to obtain capital) and organize themselves in a manner that consumers can accept, or not, that can’t be tolerated.

    If you want to treat personal liberty like a restaurant menu, picking only the items you like, don’t be surprised when someone changes the offerings and takes away your favorites.

    It’s always amazed and amused me that people who understand the governments and police most emphatically do not protect them can reverse course on a silver dime to blast a small business that dares to incorporate.

    We are all witnessing what happens when absolutism and intolerance are given free reign. Freedom-minded folks are few in number, the list of our allies is short. We risk going from endangered to extinct when we begin further dividing people into good and bad reasons for wanting to live free.

  9. Claire
    Claire June 29, 2020 9:01 am

    “Banned use of the enemy’s payment monitoring system, but no legal problem with inventing an alternative …”

    And how does that nice bit of theory help Gab survive and thrive in the near term, or help Andrew Torba and his family right now?

    And if you truly believe there’s “no legal problem” with inventing an alternative payment system that’s harder to invade and monitor, you’ve been so high up in your ivory tower for so long you haven’t observed the modern history and sad reality of would-be private alternative payment systems.

  10. kentmcmanigal
    kentmcmanigal June 29, 2020 3:11 pm

    Incorporate or don’t, but if you do it’s no longer strictly a private business. Either way, if you do something nasty to people, claiming you have a right to do it on your private property, I’m still going to see you as a bad guy.

  11. The Real Kurt
    The Real Kurt June 29, 2020 5:30 pm

    @silver – I believe (hope) you misapprehend my meaning. It’s the corporations who hide behind government protections, and who deny individuals their liberties. Corporations deny individuals (that is, real human beings) their liberties, by allowing both the employees (especially the officers) and the stockholders to be shielded from liability for the wrongs perpetrated by people who act on behalf of, or in the employ of, the corporation.

    Perhaps we’re merely in violent agreement, and I’ve not communicated well.

    Capitalism isn’t about (or shouldn’t be about, anyway) corporatisim. It’s about the free exchange of goods, to the benefit of all parties to transactions. All too often corporations use their gains (ill-gotten or not) to “persuade” lawmakers at all levels to shield them from competition – c.f. “antitrust legislation” and “unfair practices” regulations, which usually amount to no more than barriers to smaller firms out-competing the larger firms.

    I like the little guys – I think you do too.

    If I’ve misinterpreted your words, my apologies.

    The Real Kurt

  12. Anonymous
    Anonymous June 30, 2020 12:12 am

    And how does that nice bit of theory help Gab survive and thrive in the near term, or help Andrew Torba and his family right now?

    The answer to that question is a viable business plan, which I can’t just pull out of my sleeve fully formed. But in the meantime Gab could accept checks and cash delivered in the mail, or several kinds of electronic bank transfers which are not credit card transactions.

    And if you truly believe there’s “no legal problem” with inventing an alternative payment system that’s harder to invade and monitor, you’ve been so high up in your ivory tower for so long you haven’t observed the modern history and sad reality of would-be private alternative payment systems.

    Funny how organized criminals don’t seem to have much problem moving hundreds of millions of dollars around. You can buy illegal drugs all over the place. The ineffective alternative payment systems you’re talking about all try to be i-dotting-t-crossingly legal, because their most important business principle is government worship.

  13. Silver
    Silver June 30, 2020 7:33 am

    I didn’t misapprehend your meaning, I responded to your words. “LLP, Subchapter S, and all the rest” doesn’t leave any wiggle room. That’s the problem with broad generalizations and purity tests – they can’t be defended when challenged.

  14. Comrade X
    Comrade X June 30, 2020 10:13 am

    When it comes to making a profit many companies have not had a problem with fascism, a good example is how industries and businesses supported Mussolini.

    IMHO but as it was once said they are buying the rope in which they will be hung with in the end.

  15. larryarnold
    larryarnold June 30, 2020 1:10 pm

    A “good” libertarian doesn’t approve of corporations

    Then I’m a bad libertarian.

    Corporations, over at least 15 centuries*, are about the only way individuals get together and accomplish more by cooperating than they ever could individually. The corporation can:
    1. Own property;
    2. Outlast its founders;
    3. Protect the stockholders from catastrophic lawsuits as long as they are not individually at fault.
    (Yeah, that’s a feature, not a bug.)

    Can they be co-opted by government or gain undue influence? Yes. But so can individuals. No system is perfect.

    But imagine an individual, or a partnership of individuals (which only lasts until any one individual leaves, and cannot independently own property), that could manufacture enough cell phones to be affordable for everyone, and set up a world-wide system of cell towers that allows them to work.

    * There’s a list of old corporations on Wikipedia at:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_oldest_companies
    Kongō Gumi Co., Ltd. is a Japanese construction company founded in 578 a.d.

  16. Silver
    Silver July 1, 2020 7:34 am

    LarryArnold,

    Nice to see a fellow bad libertarian. I suspect we outnumber the pure ones, but really don’t care.

    Corporations are one expression of freedom of association. Yes, it’s too bad that government has interfered, but what aspect of our lives remains free of that particular taint? Are we bad libertarians because we carry driver’s licenses?

    I’ve always enjoyed these discussions. The delicious irony of being lectured about the evils of corporations, the lecture crafted and delivered using technology and infrastructure that is literally impossible to produce by individual craftsman. The economic chain of investment and capital facilities that is required to produce a microprocessor is literally incomprehensibly long and complex. No individual or partnership could possible do it. Leonard Reed’s famous essay I, Pencil makes a strong argument that no single person could possibly manufacture a simple lead pencil.

    Big corporations colluding with and enabling big government is a real problem, but also a complex one. Simplistic answers won’t work. Most corporations are owned and operated by honest, productive, and hardworking small businessfolk. They contribute to both the economy and civil society. Damning the many for the sins of the few that grow large and evil contributes nothing.

  17. Daylan
    Daylan July 3, 2020 8:51 pm

    Cant decide if “buy a policy designed to “protect” her.” was a slip or intentional. There is no doubt that policies are bought.

  18. The Real Kurt
    The Real Kurt July 3, 2020 9:19 pm

    @Silver and @larryarnold,

    It seems as if you’re OK with using government protections to shield your assets (or with others doing the same) from those who are owed money if/when you commit a tortious act (which is fundamentally theft), or from many criminal prosecutions – e.g. Dow in India with Bhopal, PG&E in CA with several incidents.

    Good to know, but I thought libertarians were all about personal/individual responsibility.

    The Real Kurt

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