September 12, 2008
Over here, a YouTube clip of Craig Ferguson discusses the election. Most of his rant is spot-on (and hilarious), but he talks about American’s “duty” to vote. He goes a bit off line when he says that our American Democracy is about:
free people making free choices…
…in this case, to choose which candidate will make us less free, and how.
Americans vote like we eat. I don’t think freedom’s on that menu. It’s like going into Cracker Barrel trying to find health food, and having a choice between the country breakfast with ham, eggs, hash browns, or the flapjacks and bacon, smothered in syrup. One may be marginally better for you than the other, but neither are good*. They may both make you feel good for a short time, but the long-term effects are pretty well negative.
* PS – Yes, they’ve probably got a fruit plate (i.e. Bob Barr) on the menu, but we all know only the most disciplined will choose it. The average voter is deciding which flavor of pork they prefer.
April 24, 2008
In the rural areas of Northern California, in the shadow of beautiful Mt. Shasta, lies a sleepy small town. In that town, however, lurks a menace. The town itself elicits laughs from degenerate drug users all over the nation. In fact, the town itself is a literal advertisement for drug use.
At least that’s what the BATF would have you believe:
The federal government has said no to Weed.
Or at least to the bottle caps of beer brewed at a popular local brewery in this small Siskiyou County town, which has a name that no doubt would have kept 1970s pot-smoking duo Cheech and Chong giggling.
Weed brewer Vaune Dillmann faces possible sanctions or fines from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau if he continues to brew and sell beer with bottle caps printed with the label “Try Legal Weed.”
You see, in the world of the government, there is no room for humor. After all, in a country of 300 million people, a few of those people are going to get the wrong idea. Might they believe that a beer company is suggesting that they stop drinking beer and start smoking pot? Maybe so.
And the BATF (actually, the TTB) believes it’s their place to save those people from their own idiocy, and at the same time ruin it for the rest of us.
Now, it’s clear to me that this is nothing more than a clever marketing tactic. As a homebrewer and beer connoisseur, I often see store shelves lined with a dizzying array of six-packs, and outside of word of mouth and places like beeradvocate.com, I have very little way to tell one brewery from another. What might convince me to try something new? Perhaps if it catches my eye for some reason, I might buy it.
The use of the town’s name may elicit a chuckle from a few potheads, but it’s hardly an advertisement by a brewery for a competing (and illegal) product. It’s made even more ridiculous by the fact that a competing (and well-known) brewery has a similar double-entendre in their name and advertising, but is allowed to proceed with their own labeling and advertising.
Dillmann, who says his bottle caps both promote his beers and the community in which he brews them, has appealed the decision.
After all, he said, the labels on his beers have a picture of the Weed arch and the city’s founding father, Abner Weed, on the label. Dillmann’s bottle caps also say a “A Friend in Weed is a Friend Indeed.”
“We’re dealing with a surname that’s been used for hundreds of years,” Dillmann said Monday.
The owner of the Mount Shasta Brewing Co. said he’s also outraged that his beer is being singled out for using a possible pot play on words when Anheuser-Busch has used “Bud” — another name for marijuana — to promote their Budweiser line of beers.
“What’s the difference here?” Dillmann said. “They sell Bud — we sell Weed.”
There is no difference, Mr. Dillman. Some bureaucrat has a stick up his butt and the power of the federal government behind him. You’re bearing the brunt of it. This is the way government works.
In a letter to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau’s administrator, Siskiyou County Supervisor Michael Kobseff said California tourism officials have identified Weed as the single most recognized name along I-5.
“Surely, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau is not in the business of suppressing the ingenuity of a small business owner, (and) the community of Weed . . .,” Kobseff wrote.
Of course that’s not what they’re trying to do. They’re trying to find some way to apply their one-size-fits-all rules, which don’t allow any room for variation or common-sense, to a situation that requires variation and common sense. It’s not that they’ve got a problem with the town of Weed. It’s much simpler than that. Rules are rules, and you’re not following them.
This is government, folks. Petty, with no sense of humor and a complete inability to understand why we find them ridiculous. You either conform or you get pounded down, in a high-stakes game of bureaucratic whack-a-mole. As Washington called them “a fearful servant and a terrible master”, they’ve been spending a lot more time being the latter.
March 18, 2008
In the South, a trend over the past few years has been for states to “pop the cap”, or vote to end their restrictions limiting beer to 6% ABV. These states allow wine above that limit, as well as distilled alcohol far above that limit, but they kept the cap for years. Often it would be prefaced as a way to stop alcoholics from getting their fix easily, or to “protect our children”, despite the fact that most of the beers in that marketspace are expensive and strongly-flavored – not suited towards teenagers looking to get hammered.
Alabama, though, is still a holdout. A local group known as Free The Hops is intent on changing that. Their bill has recently passed the state House, and will soon be coming up in the Senate. This is a watershed moment for Alabama beer connoisseurs, who quite literally would make road trips to Atlanta or Tennessee to obtain the beers unavailable in their home state.
Congratulations to Alabama’s House for coming to their senses… At least a little bit.
If you listen to the debate, what sort of impression are you left with about both the supporters and the opponents?
December 18, 2007
The government believes you should use ethanol as a fuel. They have enacted policies to incentivize ethanol production. Those policies, as I pointed out here, have unintended consequences:
But let’s look at what’s happened. First, we started hurting poor Mexicans by threatening their access to affordable corn tortillas, a staple of the diet for the impoverished in that country. Then, it was found that the high cost of feed corn for animals will end up resulting in high costs and lower supply of meat. And now, it’s spreading to milk. You know, full of calcium, the stuff we tell children will give them strong bones? Great work, Congress!
And now it’s hit me square in the gut, in my beer supply:
I’ll explain what’s happened to the price of Malt and Hops and why, what can be done about it, and why you are going to see prices jump likely between 15 and 25% on the retail end for Craft brews in a matter of weeks.
In late September I was told by another brewery that malt was going up about 40% and hops 30 to 40%. I started calling suppliers and they confirmed this was true, and also that they have no prices locked in yet. Additionally, I was informed that many farmers are not honoring their contracts to the fullest extent (don’t blame the farmers please) due to the crazy price situation that’s evolving in crop farming, with corn being twice the price it was last year.
What does corn have to do with it? Our supplier tells us that with Uncle Sam’s push and financial support for ethanol the price of corn has doubled and many farmers grew corn instead of barley this year. In the UK, where the EU has also required ethanol production, rape seed is the crop of choice and again, a lot more profitable than growing barley and wheat. Couple this with bad weather and growing conditions this year and in Europe and you have a crisis in barley supply. We were told this was coming in early summer, but we assumed our malt company might have meant a 10 to 15% increase in price, not this. When we finally got nailed down pricing last week, one malt price was up 45% and the other up 56%.
As a homebrewer, I just felt this pinch. I knew it was coming eventually, but wasn’t sure how soon or how drastic it would be. I needed to buy some malt for this weekend’s brew session, and went to my usual supplier, who usually has the best prices on just about everything. I was shocked to see that malt prices had jumped 30-50% (depending on variety) since my last order in November.
I’ve been further dealing with the effects of a worldwide shortage of hops, as supply has become inconsistent and prices have shot up, but I can at least blame that on the market. There are some very natural supply-and-demand forces that have affected that market over the last decade, and the market will respond to increase supply. And, to be fair, there are weather-related reasons that the barley crop was not as plentiful as past years. But when government steals my tax dollars and uses them to further exacerbate shortages in the things I want to buy, it’s a double-whammy, and it makes me resent them even further. Instead of having natural supply-and-demand, there is entirely unnatural and inefficient government-created demand that is taking away the incentive to supply malt.
The last thing I need is government policies creating additional cause for shortages. It may be rather “unimportant” that I homebrew beer. And after all, as a hobbyist, I’m willing to spend plenty of money on my hobby, as my constant equipment purchases show. But I look at brewing as a potential future career, and watch as struggling breweries are now forced to deal with this shortage and hope that their consumers are willing and able to afford price increases.
For me, this is an annoyance. For some craft brewers, this might be the difference between being able to stay afloat in business and shutting their doors. It may just be beer, but as I pointed out when discussing the milk, tortilla, and meat price increases:
Simply put, look at how the cost of government is affecting your food. In addition to all the farm subsidies, price supports, and all the other nonsense, they decided to make a completely separate mandate regarding ethanol in the energy supply. What happens? Your cost of living goes up, and your standard of living goes down.
They’ve made some lobbyists and farmers very rich with these policies. And being politicians, they’ve been using your money– not theirs– to do it. They take your taxes, use them to create incentives which make what you want to buy more expensive, and then (especially in the example of beer) tax the hell out of the end product anyway.
I realize some of our readers are in favor of government. So please, can you even attempt to justify this? Why should I be paying three different ways for the government to make some farmers very rich?
November 21, 2007
It almost passed by without me realizing it, but The Liberty Papers is now two years old. It’s come a long way in the last two years, from a third-rate blog that nobody has ever heard of, to a second-tier blog pulling in thousands of visitors each day. I’ve had a lot of fun over there, including having the chance to meet several of the contributors in person while traveling. Head on over and give some congrats.
Oh, and it did pass by without me realizing it, but The Unrepentant Individual has now passed 3 years! I do pretty much neglect the blog these days, as I find I have little to write about other than personal news, and keep all of my political writing over at TLP. As I adjust to parenthood and get more free time, though, I hope to find some clearer focus for the blog, and keep it to write about things I’m truly interested in.
Until then, you can always stop by for baby pictures!
Wyatt and I out for a stroll:
Wyatt getting ready for his baptism:
October 5, 2007
Like many other common pieces of glassware, Erlenmeyer flasks could potentially be used in the production of illegal narcotics. In an effort to restrict such production, some U.S. states (including Texas) have begun requiring permits to purchase such glassware, including Erlenmeyer flasks, as well as chemicals identified as common starting materials.
When I make beer, often neighbors will come by and inquire about what’s going on… As a jest, I often will reply “meth lab”, just to see how they react, before explaining far more about the processes of brewing beer than they ever wanted to know. It really is like a chemistry set, with flasks, burners, glass fermentation vessels, yeast which comes in containers resembling test tubes, etc. I personally have a very nice 2L Erlenmeyer flask, and often find myself having to drive from my house to my brother-in-law’s place for brew day with the flask full of a yeast starter. Thankfully, I’ve never been stopped by the cops; I have to think that would be tough to explain!
Not long ago, I was at a tradeshow with a coworker visiting from Taiwan. We got on the subject of beer, and he asked me “do you need a permit to brew beer?” Of course not, I told him, as long as you’re not trying to sell it you don’t need any permit at all. I guess in Texas, you don’t need a permit to brew beer, just to buy some of the equipment used in brewing beer. I guess we’ve officially kissed the whole presumption of innocence thing goodbye.
Of course, some of you will say that this is just a silly law, and that in the long run won’t hurt anyone. But as he often does, Radley Balko will prove you wrong:
Ariel Alonso and Jonathan Conrad were two lonely men who developed an interest in alchemy. After meeting on the Internet, the two men shared a home in Henry, Virginia, where they practiced amateur chemistry, producing various elixirs that they then sold on their website. Cooky? Sure. But not criminal. Conrad, in his 50s, was into alternative medicine, and generated most of the income from the venture. Alonso, in his 70s, was bit more eccentric — he dabbled in metallurgy. The two had invested thousands of dollars in the lab, but were able to make a decent living from their web business.
On October 13, 2003, local authorities paid a visit to the home, where they saw the men’s chemistry equipment, and (naturally) immediately suspected a methamphetamine lab. For reasons still unclear, a “field test” tested positve (there seem to be lots of false positives with these narcotics field tests). The DEA would later admit that test was only “equivocally” positive.
So later the same day, DEA agents raided the men’s home. The raiding officers devastated the lab, shattering thousands of dollars in equipment, and arrested the men on charges of manufacturing methamphetamine. The two spent 18 days in jail.
Unfortunately for the drug cops, more extensive lab tests later revealed no sign of methamphetamine, nor of any of the chemicals used to make it. In fact, there were no signs of any illicit substances at all. The two men were released.
As Radley goes on to point out, the two men were never compensated for the equipment that was destroyed, and both were financially ruined by the encounter. And all they’ve done was use some equipment specialized to their profession, but a bit too uncommon for a normal household.
So a note to all the authorities. I make beer, not meth. If you come to my house and see strange equipment that you don’t understand, I’ll spend all day (and night) talking your ear off about beer until you’re quite convinced that I’m telling the truth. And my wife will probably thank you, because that will mean I’m not talking to her about beer.
August 2, 2007
Wow… So today, I decided to meet my wife at the in-laws, where parking is always at a premium. I arrive, unload the truck, and right as I’m about to start searching for a parking space, a guy asks if I mind giving his car a jumpstart. No problem, of course, and it’s especially nice because he was parked in a prime location, and he was about to leave.
So I drive over there, park nose-to-nose with him (he’s parallel parked at the front of a line of cars), and we get his car started. He pulls out, I pull in, and all is well. Of course, now I’m facing the “wrong” direction in my parking space.
I get into the house, and the wife & family ask why I’m parked the wrong way… “Oh, I gave that guy a jump, and I was already facing that way, so I pulled in.” We head off for dinner, and get back, and they tell me “You need to move your truck, or you’re gonna get a ticket!”
A ticket? For parking on the “wrong” side of the street? On a dead-end street where the only real traffic is people driving around at 3 mph looking for parking spots?!
Yep, it’s illegal. It hurts nobody, and in the grand scheme of things, it’s absolutely meaningless and pointless to make it a law that you park one direction or another. Yet my whole family is looking like me as if I’m crazy for not “getting it”. Because it’s the “law”, and that’s what you’re “supposed” to do. The nice man in the blue uniform has a gun, and if you don’t snap to attention and follow orders, he’s going to reach into your wallet and take your stuff.
Ridiculous. Luckily, I went over to my truck, and didn’t find a ticket there. But can anyone find a justification for this other than revenue enhancement? Is Newport Beach so crime-free that cops really have time to devote to this?
July 23, 2007
Cross-posted at The Liberty Papers…
From The Agitator, taken directly from Hit & Run:
July 13, 2007
Now, as most of you know, I don’t think pot should be illegal. I personally don’t care for it, but on the list of dangerous drugs, I think it’s clearly less destructive to families and individuals than even alcohol. So the fact that he made himself some special brownies doesn’t bother me in the slightest, even though he’s a cop.
But to call 911 like this?! Anybody stupid enough to do that really shouldn’t be entrusted with the protection of others.
June 20, 2007
This morning, driving in to work, I was treated to a royal charlie-foxtrot unlike I’ve seen in a while. In Orange County (for those of you familiar with the area), the traffic signal at the corner of Moulton & El Toro malfunctioned. This is a big intersection, 3 lanes of traffic in all 4 directions, but you’d think that rational adults, entrusted with the responsibility of piloting multi-ton vehicles, would be able to navigate a situation like this.
But not really. It was bedlam. Cars determining which when and how to proceed based more on gut instinct than any sense of order. Nobody having any idea when it was even correct for them to proceed, so the tentative drivers crawling across an intersection and slowing everyone down. The whole process was completely unorganized, and ended up taking us far more time than it should.
Now, some of you would suggest that this scene is an indictment of anarchy or small government. After all, without the order imposed by traffic signals, wouldn’t this be occurring every day?
But the answer is no. I’ve seen other parts of the country where traffic signals aren’t as reliable, where there are more stop signs in general, and where things like a protected left-turn-lane don’t all have their own individual signals. Basically, these are places where drivers are not only trusted with the responsibility of piloting a vehicle, but they are given some additional ability to choose when it is and is not safe to proceed at a light.
Order doesn’t have to be imposed by a traffic light. Order can emerge from patterns of behavior, and eventually become so ingrained that if someone proceeds at a 4-way stop at the “wrong” time, people wonder why he’s such an idiot. In fact, most of society works this way, not as a result of top-down government-imposed order. However, when you have hand-held your citizens through every intersection in the metro area, and suddenly that order breaks down, they haven’t built up their own order and their own patterns of behavior, so it becomes every man for himself. You treat drivers like children, and then wonder why they fall over when the training wheels break.
This is a microcosm of what we see in society. When an area without much government interference undergoes a natural disaster, people step up and step in to help each other. People are used to having societal systems in parallel to those provided by the government, so when a disaster comes that is beyond the scope of the government to handle, they don’t fall apart. Yet when you look at a place with heavy-handed government interference (such as New Orleans), the failure of government and the evacuation of people who might otherwise step in to help cause society itself to break down.
Yet people use the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in order to argue for more government and against anarchy. They’re arguing that adult-age children, kept in dependence by the government, should suddenly start acting like responsible adults when government breaks down. It just doesn’t work that way. The problem with government today is that it encourages dependence from cradle to grave. That might be fine, if the government were able to deliver on their promises. But government is unreliable, and when you encourage dependence, you shouldn’t act surprised when your subjects can’t act independently.
May 4, 2007
“Unintended consequences.” This is a phrase that needs to be drilled into the heads of every Joe Six-Pack in this country. When government tries to fix something, they routinely create unintended consequences that end up making everyone else worse off. Often (as in any complex system) these things are difficult to see and even more difficult to trace back causally.
But we’ve got a winner. And it’s perfect to teach Average Joe Six-Pack, because government regulation is raising the cost of that six-pack…
We witnessed the tens of thousands of demonstrators decrying the rapidly (and exorbitantly) rising price of corn in the “tortilla protests” in Mexico City earlier this year. The protests came about as a result of the growing demand for corn-based ethanol, the Bush administration’s biofuel of choice. But now there appears to be a new dietary staple under threat from the rising demand for ethanol: German beer.
Der Spiegel Online reports that a 2006 barley shortage will raise the wholesale price of German beer this May. Many brewing industry lobbyists attribute the price rise to farmers forgoing barley for corn in order to satisfy the global demand for biofuels, especially from the United States. In the past year, the price of barley has doubled on the German market, from â‚¬200 to â‚¬400 per ton.
But it’s not just Germany that is set to see soaring beer prices. The chief executive of Heineken (the Dutch brewer) warned in February that the expanding biofuel sector was starting to cause a “structural shift” in European and U.S. agricultural markets, which could precipitate a long-term upward shift in the price of beer. Already, futures prices for European malting barley have risen since last May by 85 percent to more than â‚¬230 a ton, and barley production in the United States has fallen to 180.05 million bushels (in 2006)â€”the lowest level since 1936. Global stockpiles of barley have shrunk by a third in the last two years. All of this augurs ill for beer drinkers, who may soon be paying significantly more for their pints.
So let’s lay this one out here:
1. Bush demands that we replace a certain percentage of our fuel with ethanol.
2. Because of American sugar tariffs, that ethanol is made with corn.
3. The price of corn shoots through the roof (creating consequences like increasing dairy, meat, and Mexican tortilla prices).
4. Because of rising prices, more farmers stop farming their other crops and focus their land on corn.
5. More corn means less barley, and thus the price of barley goes up as supply dwindles.
6. Beer prices rise.
Government intervention in fuel costs just happens to distort all sorts of other markets, including the market for beer. And when we start talking about beer, this isn’t academic for me: this is personal.
I think there is only one answer I have for this… Homebrewing, and to get the full cost savings of brewing my own, I need a Crankandstein so that I can buy my barley in bulk and crush it as needed. I’ll be brewing 2.5 cases of beer for less money than one case of Miller Lite!
Hat Tip: Doug @ The Liberty Papers
April 14, 2007
Some of you have probably notice me link the Scott Stein a few times in the past. I found him a while back, when he was looking for examples of humorous writing for a class he was teaching. In fact, I even got him to give me a literary critique of The Search For The Beast, which was quite helpful, and I hope to incorporate into future writing.
So I decided to pick up his new book, Mean Martin Manning. I actually paid for it, because his publisher apparently doesn’t give review copies to unknown bloggers with limited readership, but that’s alright, it was worth it (partly because it comes with little “extras” in the package, which is nice).
The book is a novel describing an exciting episode the normally uneventful life of Martin Manning, an elderly man who has spent 30 years shut off from the world. Surviving on cold-cuts, television, a collection of clocks and porcelain frogs, and ordering everything he needs from the internet, he’s quite happy to live without any human interaction whatsoever. But one day, in order to comply with a new government “Life Improvement” program, social worker Alice Pitney shows up. And all hell breaks loose.
Armed with the full force and power of the state government, Pitney is determined to help a man who wants no help. He’s forced into the improvement program, where he’s expected to eat healthy foods, interact with all sorts of crazy characters, and the self-sufficient shut-in is treated like a child to be trained in how to be a better person. In his first group therapy session, Manning says it best:
“You poor saps can go for Pitney’s bullshit if you like— I won’t hold it against you. I just want to give you fair warning. It might not look like it, but as we speak, I’m in an epic struggle with Caseworker Pitney for my very soul.”
Immovable force meets a nanny-statist who won’t take no for an answer, and all sorts of hilarity ensues. Oh, did I mention that Stein is funny? This book doesn’t read like Atlas Shrugged, it pops with it’s collection of smart-assed narration and just-cartoonish-enough characters. The book has an air of the fantastic about it, but then again, when you hear about some of the things going on in Britain, it almost seems like it will be here shortly.
As for the politics, I can’t see many libertarians not liking the book, or not cheering on Martin Manning as he fights against those who want to control him for his own good. It gives a face and a name to the insidious nature of the nanny state. It reminds you that you should stand extra guard when they try to come after you for your own good, as C.S. Lewis once said:
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
Overall, the book gets a hearty recommendation. It clicks in at just over 200 pages, so it’s a quick read, but long enough to develop the characters, put together a cohesive plot, and make it all interesting. As for distribution, I think you may need to go to the publisher directly on this one, though, unfortunately it’s not up on Amazon. Either way, check it out.
the Scott Stein linked with A few good men ... and women
the Scott Stein linked with Response to a review
Atlas Blogged linked with Mean Martin Manning
April 11, 2007
I know a couple of my readers have regular poker games they attend. Watch out next time, you might have black-clad, heavily-armed men busting down your door.
And people actually wonder why I am a libertarian…
April 9, 2007
I’m a radical (surprise, surprise):
You Are 68% Politically Radical
You’re political views are just plain weird. A little far left, a little far right, and a whole lot of radical.
And for all of you who think I’m a right-wing radical, I was only 32% Republican:
You Are 32% Republican
You’re a bit Republican, and probably more conservative than you realize.
If you’re still voting Democrat, maybe it’s time that you stop.
But the fact that I’m 96% Capitalist should help clue you in to what questions I did and didn’t agree with on the Republican quiz:
You Are 96% Capitalist, 4% Socialist
You’re a capitalist pig – and proud of it.
You believe that business makes the world great…
And you’d never be ashamed of being rich!
April 8, 2007
As many of you know, I’m a former smoker. It’s now been nearly three and a half years since I’ve had a cigarette. After the weekend I’ve just had, though, I feel like I smoked a pack.
One of my fraternity brothers just moved to Huntsville, AL. So we decided to get together, people drove in from Charlotte, Indianapolis, and we chose to hang out at a friend’s house in Chattanooga for the weekend. Good times were had by all, beverages were consumed, bars were visited, etc.
But I had to get the hell out. The house, bars, and restaurants were full of cigarette smoke. With the weather, there wasn’t even a chance to be outside. So in the span of two days, I got to the point where my lungs and throat hurt.
I’m not a fan of smoking bans in any sense. But if the choice comes to do anything like that again, I won’t be going back to Chattanooga for it. I’ll be pushing hard to make sure it happens down here in Atlanta, where I control my house (and can make people smoke outside), and where the bars are largely smoke-free.
I have never wanted to be one of those self-righteous ex-smokers, the type who are so proud that they quit that they’ve got to make everyone else around them quit. And for the most part, I’m pretty tolerant of smoke. But enough is enough, there’s a point at which it gets in the way of enjoying myself. I’ll never argue to make it illegal, but eventually I have to choose to remove myself from that situation.
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