Thursday, February 26, 2015

Pulling Their Triggers

Column for week of February 16, 2015

     "What is the world coming to?"  Who hasn't heard this
lament?  I find few things surprising, leave alone shocking.  
They may be disgusting, but not surprising.  The folly of our
fellow humans is, unfortunately, to be expected.

     A couple of recent news items did surprise me.  I hope
they are anomalies, rather than the beginning of a trend.

     When I attended law school at the University of
Michigan, it seemed to be an assumption that law students
should be emotionally tough.  If they couldn't handle the stress
from taking a class for a year and having their entire grade
hang on one four-hour examination, How could they stand the
stress of handling cases with lives and fortunes hanging in the
balance?

     Stress in law school was part of a lawyer's training. 
Would you want to be represented by a lawyer who becomes
non functional under stress?  Such a lawyer would be about as
helpful as an umbrella that folds when hit by a drop of rain.

     One news item reported that law students have
requested that their examinations be postponed because they
were too stressed out to take them.  What horrible personal
trauma did they experience?  Well, actually none.   The cause
of the alleged stress was hearing news from far away about
events that had no direct impact on the students.

     The traumatic events were that two grand juries didn't
indite police officers for killing unarmed black men.  The
purpose of this column isn't to dissect and judge the actions of
the grand juries.  Plenty of other writers have been more than
willing to do that.

     My concern is the catering to the whims of people who
program their emotions to detonate at the pull of a hair trigger. 
At a minimum, for their own benefits and the benefit of others,
they should be discouraged from practicing law.  By the way,
at least one law school granted the request.  Perhaps before
hiring a lawyer you should give him an emotional trigger test. 
See if a few well chosen words cause him to melt down into a
quivering blob.

     If someone has a weak leg, it isn't particularly helpful
to aid them in avoiding using the leg and learning to live with
the weakness.   The individual would benefit far more from
encouragement to use and strengthen the leg.  The emotionally
fragile need the same kind of help.

     I did mention that there were two articles.  The second
is perhaps worse than the first.  Law students are objecting to
professors teaching about the law of rape.   Certain "trigger"
words may be disturbing to some students.  One trigger word
mentioned by a professor was "violate" as in  "Does this
conduct violate the law?"

     If law schools can't teach the law of rape, Should courts
be allowed to try rape cases?  If no one is allowed to teach
about the law of rape, Will there be any lawyers and judges
qualified to handle such cases?

     Are there any words that can't pull someone's trigger?  I
have previously written about the man who became so upset
about the possibility of his girl friend saying "New Jersey" to
him that he pulled a real trigger on her three times.  She
survived to testify against him.  Other horrible words, including
"snickers" and "Wisconsin" also could pull his trigger.

     The one way saying New Jersey might pull my trigger
is someone saying "You have to move to New Jersey."  That
would be something to get upset about.  Still, even that might
not justify shooting someone three times.  Would once be too
many?

     Instead of catering to and encouraging infantile
behavior, we should condemn such behavior and encourage
those with a trigger problem to quit blaming others and fix
their own triggers.  The last thing we should do is make it
easier for those emotional china dolls to become fragile
lawyers.

aldmccallum@gmail.com
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Copyright 2015
Albert D. McCallum

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Zero Tolerance for What?

Column for week of February 9, 2015

     Reason.com published its list of the top 10 worst
incidents of zero tolerance in schools during 2014.  Needless to
say (but I'm saying it anyway) some very worthy candidates
didn't make the cut.  Certainly there are enough left to make up
a very competitive second team.

     One incident did deserve points for creativity.  The zero
toleration for weapons, pictures of weapons, gestures with
fingers, and thoughts about imaginary weapons are growing
dull and tiresome.  A school in Minnesota spiced things up a
bit with a new wrinkle.  It tried to freeze a nearly naked, wet
student to death, all in accordance with the holy writ of policy.

     When the fire alarm rang a 14 years old girl was in the
swimming pool.  She ended up outdoors wearing only a wet
swimsuit.  There she remained for 15 minutes.  Did I forget to
mention that the temperature was minus 5 degrees?

     So, what does this have to do with policy?  The
teachers had cars parked in the area.  They could have let the
freezing, wet girl get in a car.  Unfortunately the school policy
had zero tolerance for students in teachers' cars.  Still, I'll give
someone half a point.  After 15 minutes the wet girl was
allowed to get in a car, after she got frostbitten feet.

     It is impossible to cover zero tolerance without circling
back to weapons, real or imagined.  A teacher was suspended
for demonstrating shop tools that, horror of all horrors,
included the dreaded killer screwdriver.  Of course,
screwdrivers can be used as weapons.  The more relevant
question is, What can't be used as a weapon?

     Years ago I represented a client serving 15 to 30 years
for armed robbery.  His weapon was a chair thoughtfully
provided by the bar he robbed.  Do schools have zero tolerance
for chairs?

     What about belts, scarves and just about any article of
clothing?  Can you name any article of clothing that couldn't
be used to beat, choke, strangle or smother someone?  Those
computers many schools now provide could be used to beat
someone to death.

     The zero tolerance for weapons problem came up years
ago at insane asylums.  They addressed the problem by
confining individual inmates naked in padded cells.  Even this
extreme had its flaws.

     As martial arts enthusiasts well know, hands, feet and
other body parts can be used as weapons.  I read of a woman
who allegedly used her boobs to smother her boy friend to
death.  The article was a bit unclear as to weather the
smothering was an accident.   Weapons are still weapons even
if used accidentally.  A gun doesn't cease to be a weapon when
fired accidentally.

     The asylums refined their solution by adding
straitjackets.  The jackets didn't take away the weapons. 
They did render those weapons less effective.

     If schools are truly serious about banning all weapons
they have only one option, confine each student and each
teacher naked in individual padded cells.  I'll leave it up to the
schools to figure out how to deal with the keys to the cells.

     Would anyone be so rash as to call the collection of
cells and inmates a school?  Alas, there is the answer.  School
administrators have been plunging down the wrong road. 
There is more than one way to forever achieve zero weapons in
schools.  The simplest and only way to have zero weapons in
schools is to eliminate schools.

     Some will complain about undesirable side effects.  If
the most important thing is to achieve zero tolerance for
weapons, every side effect is less important.  So, forget about
them.

     If schools should focus on quality education rather than
obsessing about weapons, real or imagined, then fire the
administrators that are chasing the wrong goal.  The first step
toward quality education is to bury blind obsessions and go in
the right direction.

aldmccallum@gmail.com
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Copyright 2015
Albert D. McCallum

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Secure Borders?

Column for week of February 2, 2015

     Many people are concerned the U.S. borders are not
secure.  Some demand that the borders be secure before even
considering reform of immigration laws.  What is a secure
border?  How can a border be secured?

     Is a border secure only if it can't be crossed?  Does
secure only mean that people and goods must have permission
to cross?  Perhaps secure means something else.

     The biggest concerns about border crossings seem to be
terrorists, certain mind altering substances, general immigration,
and foreign made goods.  Most probably agree that keeping out
terrorists is a good idea.  Not many are likely to be too upset
about keeping out various mind altering substances.

     Opinions differ widely on immigrants and importing of
goods.  Some want to keep them all out,  Others would let
them all in.  What people want and what they can do are often
two different things.

     At the moment focus is on the border with Mexico. 
That is only a small part of the U.S. border.  There are also the
borders with Canada, two oceans, and the Gulf of Mexico. 
These make thousands of miles of borders to secure.  Decades
of effort and hundreds of millions of dollars spent have failed
to secure these borders sufficiency to create a shortage of
imported illegal drugs in this country.

     Also, there are supposedly  million foreigners in this
country illegally.  I find it interesting that the branch of
government that counts them can find them but the branch that
deports them can't.

     Supposedly one third of those illegal immigrants came
in with permission but "forgot" to go home.  Securing the
borders won't stop that.  Should we ban everyone to keep out
those who won't voluntarily go home?  Should we build and
maintain a concrete wall on the entire border to keep out the
rest?

     Should we also ban swimming and boating off the
coast?  Foreigners might mix in and come ashore.  I suppose
we could build that wall along the shore and require swimmers
and boaters to show their passports when coming ashore.

     That security will need to apply to the Great Lakes too. 
I have some experience with that one.  My first illegal border
crossing was into Canada by canoe.  My second was when I
paddled back.

     Using border security to keep out terrorists is a lost
cause.  Anyone with some resources and determination has a
good shot at making it in, even with a wall.  Forged and stolen
documents still work.  Catching 50 percent would only increase
the cost of terrorism.  Determined terrorists will spend
whatever it takes.

     Current border security is less than a bad joke.  A man
in Maine regularly went to Sunday mass in Canada.  The U.S.
then "closed" the border crossing on weekends.  The man drove
around the gate, went to mass, and drove around the gate on
his way home.  He was arrested the next day for the illegal
entry.  If he had been a terrorist, What are the chances anyone
could have found him to arrest him the next day?

     Getting even close to controlling all border crossings is
as much a fantasy as eradication of cold viruses and
mosquitoes.  Rather than throwing resources at the impossible
dream, we will be far better off if we use those resources
wisely in a realistic way.

     If we allow people who want to come and work to do
it, we would have more resources left to spend solving real
problems.  This could also eliminate another serious problem,
the creation of a gray zone culture of illegal immigrants.  We
already have those 11 million illegal immigrants.  The political
and economic realities are that most of them aren't going back,
no matter how much some may wish.

     Immigrants who work also consume.  They don't reduce
the number of jobs available for citizens.  Someone has to
produce what immigrants consume.  Government, not
immigrants, reduces the number of productive jobs.  That is
one thing government is good at.

aldmccallum@gmail.com
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Copyright 2015
Albert D. McCallum

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Where Does Wealth Come From?

Column for week of January 26, 2015

     President Obama wants to take one-third of a trillion or
so dollars from the wealthy and spend it.  This may be good
politics even if it is bad economics.  Many voters believe that
wealthy people have too much wealth.  Taking wealth from the
wealthy can win votes.

     Before jumping on the "tax the rich" bandwagon we
should consider, What is wealth?  Where does wealth come
from?  What do the wealthy do with their wealth?

     Wealth includes everything that anyone finds useful in
the pursuit of satisfaction.  Even the poorest have some wealth. 
They would soon die without it.  Among other things, food is
wealth.

     There are two sources of wealth -- natural resources and
human effort.  Some wealth literally grows on trees -- apples
for example.  Most of our wealth is produced with human
effort.  Even apples do better when humans give nature a
boost.  That is why we have apple orchards instead of relying
on wild apples.  Even wild apples are useless unless someone
picks them and transports them to where people want to use
them.

     The availability of human effort limits our ability to
produce wealth.  There are only two ways to increase the
production of wealth -- use more effort, or use our efforts more
efficiently.

     For most of history humans were very slow to increase
the efficiency of the use of human effort.  Thus, for generation
after generation workers produced little more than their
ancestors had.  Each generation inherited the jobs and the
lifestyles of the previous generation.  The standard of living
didn't increase much.  Sometimes it decreased.

     Only 300 or so years ago that all started to change. 
Productivity started rapidly increasing in some parts of the
world.  We call it the Industrial Revolution.  Productivity didn't
increase itself.  It wasn't magic, or an accident.

     Humans discovered new, more efficient ways to make
things.  They also discovered new things to make.  This
enabled individual workers to produce more with the same, or
even less, effort.  The "secret" to this increased productivity
was more and better tools and equipment.

     Some workers had to take time out from producing their
immediate needs of food, clothing and shelter to make the tools
and equipment.  Poor people living hand to mouth existences
couldn't do that, unless someone else fed them.

     People with surplus wealth fueled the Industrial
Revolution.  Among other things, the wealthy hired workers to
make tools and equipment.  Even before the new tools and
equipment were ready to use the wealthy provided productive,
paying jobs.

     The wealthy put wings on the Industrial Revolution
rather than leaving it to at best crawl.  Without the
accumulated wealth of the wealthy, the Industrial Revolution
might still be science fiction, if even that.

     I'm not saying that much of the wealth accumulated by
the rich prior to the Industrial Revolution wasn't ill gotten gain. 
It probably was.  Neither am I saying that the investment by
the wealthy didn't earn them even greater wealth.  Obviously it
did.  In the process that investment so increased the
productivity of workers that it created the middle class and
lifted the poor.  No one in the U.S. today is poor as poor was
defined prior to the Industrial Revolution.

     Maintaining and increasing our investment in tools,
equipment, etc. from generation to generation is the only way
to sustain and increase our standard of living.  Taxing away
and spending the investment capital of anyone, whether we call
them rich or some other name, can only make everyone,
including the poor, poorer.  Just like stealing farmers' seed
corn, it starves everyone.

     We all benefit from wise investments, regardless of who
makes those investments.  Free people investing their own
wealth almost always make wiser investments than do
politicians spending other people's money.  Those private
investors have skin in the game.  When they make bad choices
they lose.  Politicians pass the losses on to taxpayers.

aldmccallum@gmail.com
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Copyright 2015
Albert D. McCallum

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Horrors of Thigh Gap

Column for week of January 19, 2015

     I didn't mean to do it.  Perhaps I was distracted. 
Nevertheless, I did it again.  I neglected the British.  So, it
must be my fault that they had to throw another tantrum to get
my attention.  I don't know why my attention is so important to
them.

     It isn't like I totally ignore the Brits.  I covered their
requiring small chested police women to wear fluorescent vests. 
Their requiring a business owner to hire an industrial waste
hauler to dispose of the sandwich wrap from his lunch was
dully honored in this space.  I devoted an entire column to the
law requiring British farmers to provide toys for their pigs.  I
also noted their making it a crime to sell anything by the pound
or ounce.  Imagine that.  The English system of measures
banned in the land of its birth.

     Still, I can't justify ignoring the thigh gap tantrum.  The
Brits have an agency devoted to reviewing advertising.   All
improper adds must be banned.  I'm not sure how they decide
what is improper.  I'm not about to ask.

     Whatever the standard, thigh gaps violate it.   For the
unenlightened on this side of the pond,  perhaps I should
explain "thigh gap" the best I can.

     The ever diligent nannies who devote their lives to
scanning adds for crimes against humanity discovered the
horrible photo of an underwear model with too much space
between her thighs.  No one has explained to me how much is
too much, or who decides.  Maybe it is another one of those "I
know it when I see it" things.

     Actually, I don't believe the thigh gap was the real
problem.  It was only a proxy for the real problem.  The
model's thighs weren't big enough.  Those who haven't borne
the affliction of living with undersized thighs probably won't
appreciate the seriousness of the problem.  Fortunately the
censors were on the job to nip the problem in the bud before it
spread across the land.

     The photo could have destroyed the health of an entire
generation.  Young women seeing the thigh gap photo would
have instantly concluded that a large thigh gap was an essential
part of an ideal figure.  They would have destroyed their health
in pursuit of that glamorous and elusive thigh gap.  I'm sure
every woman who ever sought to shrink her thighs can testify
to how difficult it is to stop before those thighs vanish.

     No one mentioned that the model was also afflicted
with knee gap.  The photo didn't show her lower legs.   This
leaves open the possibility that her real affliction was bow legs.

     Fortunately the USA took action to protect underwear
models suffering from thigh gap.  In fact we are so far ahead
of the Brits that we banned discrimination against those
afflicted with thigh gap long before the first case was
diagnosed.  All we need now is a few more rules to cover the
details.  I'm sure Barack can handle that between holes on the
golf course.

     The British have already shown that thigh gap is a
disability.  Thus, our laws that ban discrimination against the
disabled will kick in.  No one will dare discriminate against
models suffering with the dreaded thigh gap.

     Statisticians will quickly calculate the percent of models
who suffer from thigh gap.  Let us assume that number turns to
be 10 percent.  Any employer who can't prove that at least 10
percent of its models are afflicted with thigh gap will be
presumed guilty of discrimination.

     All thigh gap sufferers will bring a class action lawsuit
and be awarded millions of dollars in compensation that will
make their lawyers very rich.  The suffering models will each
get a coupon for a 10 percent discount on a set of thigh pads. 
All is well that ends well.  Thank you Brits.

aldmccallum@gmail.com
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Copyright 2015
Albert D. McCallum

Thursday, January 22, 2015

What Big Government Has to Offer

Column for week of January 12, 2015

     This column is the final installment of a 13-part series. 
Last time we considered that in freedom we must serve others
to gain satisfaction for ourselves.  The better an individual
serves others, the more those others will give in return for the
service.

     Today we will consider the alternative to freedom --
coercion.  When individuals aren't free to act peaceably in
whatever manner they choose, they are subject to the force,
violence and threats of others.  Those who resort to force,
violence and threats can gain satisfaction from others without
giving satisfaction to others.  Thus, the only options we have
are freedom and exploitation.

     Whether we live in an environment of freedom or one
of exploitation, all individuals have the same goal -- increase
their satisfaction.  The two environments provide entirely
different motivations about how to seek satisfaction.

     A person with the power to take and exploit can seek
satisfaction by threatening and intimidating others.  The others
are compelled to give up their satisfaction and serve the
exploiter.  Outright slavery is an example of exploitation.  Such
slavery is far from being the only way to exploit.  If the
exploitation of slavery is destructive and evil, How can diluted
forms of exploitation be good and beneficial?

     The only institution we have that is legally authorized to
use force, violence and threats to gain advantage over others is
government.  Government has one big advantage.  It writes and
enforces the rules.  Government often uses its force, violence
and threats on behalf of private special interests.  In return
politicians receive votes and expand their power to use force,
violence and threats.

     Only those in government and those empowered by
government can lawfully pursue their satisfaction at the
expense of others, rather than by better serving others.  Those
in government are as motivated as anyone else to seek their
own satisfaction.  They seek to gain, not to serve.  Unlike free
people they can gain without serving their victims.

     Even those in government must serve those who keep
them in power.  Thus, government will always serve the
powerful special interests at the expense of everyone else.   To
call those in the one and only branch of society that can legally
exploit for their own satisfaction "public servants" is a travesty.

     Government can, and to some extent does, provide a
valuable service in attempting to limit the private use of
aggressive force, violence and threats.  Once government steps
beyond this limited role, it becomes the exploiter.  It becomes
the problem, not the solution.

     A government with the power to protect will have the
power to exploit.  People being what they are, it is inevitable
that some in government will turn to the use of force, violence
and threats to increase their own satisfaction.

     If the exploiters prosper, many more will seek to join
them.  Government will grow to be one vast exploitive
enterprise.  Government exploitation by so called "public
servants" has been prospering and growing since long before
any of us were born.  It is our way of life.  Unfortunately most
people have failed to recognize and oppose the destructive
exploitation by government.

     Now we face national bankruptcy and destruction of our
productive economy, all as a result of allowing legions of
"public servants" to take rather than serve.  As freedom totters
on its dying legs, we face the loss of everything.  I don't know
if it is too late to save freedom.  If we don't at least try, all we
have to look forward to it strife, destruction, misery and death.

     If we fail to contain and roll back government we can
only look forward to returning to the Hobbesian world where
the life of man is "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short."

aldmccallum@gmail.com
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Albert D. McCallum

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Why Serve Others?

Column for week of January 5, 2015

     We have considered how everyone endlessly seeks to
increase their satisfaction.  There is no such thing as altruism,
selflessness or self sacrifice.  People do have radically different
views about what will satisfy them.  Some gain satisfaction
saving lives, others from killing.  Some gain more satisfaction
from giving than from taking.

     None will ever choose the less satisfying of two
choices.  Some may choose less satisfaction now to gain more
satisfaction later.

     The environment in which an individual lives will
greatly affect what he finds to be satisfying.  In cold climates
building houses and storing food is important for satisfaction.  
In warm climates such endeavors are less satisfying.

     We need material things to satisfy us.  The conduct of
others also affects our satisfaction.  Some don't like to hear
loud music and see pink houses with purple polka dots.  To
increase our satisfaction, we seek to gain things from others
and to change their conduct.

     People seek to increase satisfaction by giving up lesser
satisfactions to gain greater ones.  Thus, we all seek to give up
as little satisfaction as possible to gain the greatest satisfaction
possible.  The environment in which we live and act greatly
affects the methods we use to gain satisfaction.

     In freedom we find only one way to gain satisfaction
from others.  We must peaceably influence them to act in ways
that will satisfy us.  People who have the option of using force,
violence and threats can pursue satisfaction by coercing and
intimidating others.  In freedom we are limited to persuasion
and rewards to motivate others to provide us satisfaction.

     In the short term at least coercion can be the easier road
to satisfaction for those whose consciences don't punish them
for exploiting others.  Thus, there are many people who will
eagerly resort to use of force and threats, if they expect they
can get away with it.

     In an environment of true freedom those who resort to
use of force and intimidation, other than for defense, face
punishment.  This can greatly discourage the initiation of force. 
We all must pursue satisfaction by working, producing, and
persuading others.

     With freedom, and the free markets that are the product
of freedom, we pursue satisfaction by producing and trading
with others.  The better our productive efforts serve others, the
better others will serve us.  The more value we produce for
them, the more value they will give us in exchange.

     In freedom the customer is king.  Everyone seeks to
gain more for themselves by providing more for others.  We all
have customers.  Employers are the customers for workers time
and efforts.  Those employees are the customers for the
employer's products.  This gives us an endless circle of people
all seeking to better serve both their customers and their
suppliers.

     The employer must serve his employees by providing
them more satisfaction that other employers do.  Merchants and
customers must serve each other.  All of our voluntary
relationships, from dating to banking, are based on each party
to the relationship providing value to the other.  Much of that
value may be intangible.

     When a relationship ceases to be beneficial for one of
the participants, he ends the relationship in favor of another. 
Everyone is endlessly motivated to serve all of those with
whom they have relationships.  This pushes us endlessly
toward more production and more satisfaction for everyone. 
Each individual has the final say in what he believes will
satisfy him.

     We don't need legions of professional enforcers to
assure that we produce for the satisfaction of others.  King
consumer provides the enforcement.  Everyone is a consumer. 
The consumer enforcers are on the job 24/7/365.  None of us
can escape those consumer enforcers.  We all must act for the
satisfaction of others if we are to gain satisfaction for
ourselves.

     Next time: The alternative to freedom.

aldmccallum@gmail.com
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Copyright 2015
Albert D. McCallum