Monday, October 31, 2011

Government-Created Black Markets and Violence

HARBESON: Who are the real offenders here?

SELLERSBURG — District Attorney Joseph Hogsett has completed his second publicity tour of our local area promoting his Violent Crime Initiative. The catalyst for this initiativecomes from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who became alarmed after noticing a spike in violent gun deaths of law enforcement officers.

Hogsett’s initiative intends to get the “worst of the worst” off the streets by charging and prosecuting suspects through the federal court system, which enables tougher sentencing. I’m trying to build a case that this initiative makes sense, but I’m seeing clues and evidence that just don’t line up with that conclusion.

With Clark County Sheriff Danny Rodden and New Albany Police Chief Todd Bailey by his side, Hogsett reported on the initiative’s progress in his district. It has resulted in higher numbers of felony gun possession charges and drug indictments, in addition to seizing five times more assets from drug traffickers compared to 2010.

Hogsett places great emphasis on drugs. This is why I’m skeptical. It’s not clear to me that increased federal spending and involvement through this initiative is truly centered on the problem.

Hogsett points out that more federal involvement helps because the tougher sentencing gets the worst offenders off the streets for a longer period of time and the location of federal prisons makes it difficult for the prisoner to stay connected to local contacts.

However, the government-created black market for drugs still exists. The demand for drugs and the incentive for desperate and/or vile people to make money buying and selling drugs do not change at all when one person sits in jail longer. This merely gives competitors a chance to come in and gain control. So how much can this initiative help?

We’ve been through this already. Government employees just like Hogsett expressed the same concerns about gun violence and made the same points about the need for tougher enforcement as the solution for removing violent traffickers from the streets. It didn’t work.

But we no longer have those violent alcohol traffickers killing law enforcement. Now if someone would like to drink a gin and tonic, they are free to go buy it from someone in the business of serving the people who would like to drink a gin and tonic.

Why do they refuse to acknowledge drug prohibition as a large part of the problem? These people are trained to gather evidence so why does it seem like they don’t have a clue?

It’s not hard to see how twisted this is — the government prohibits the sale of a product people want, the people ignore this prohibition and some profit from it, the government prosecutes as many of the lawbreakers — and sometimes even innocent people — they can catch, seizing the assets of those who profit when the government prohibits the sale of a product people want ...

Maybe they’re just dizzy — I had to put one hand on the wall to stay balanced just to write that sentence.

These folks either see the evidence, which means they are choosing to ignore it for reasons I don’t even want to imagine, or they don’t see the evidence, which means we should question whether they are even competent to hold the jobs in the first place.

Yes, there may be an immediate need to get the violent criminals the government helped to create off the streets. It’s certainly valid to say that people working inside such a crazy system have to deal with the reality of the system as it is and need to focus on the violent acts that are happening right now.

But when are more people, inside the system and out, going to face the fact that the government plays a significant part in the very problem they are spending money, and human lives, trying to solve?

— Clark County resident Debbie Harbeson is looking for evidence of people who have a clue.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

It's Sick to Depend on War for Economic Health

HARBESON: At war with state’s business philosophy

SELLERSBURG — During World War I, Randolph Bourne wrote, “War is the health of the state.” Bourne was referring to nation-states of course, but considering what I’ve learned recently, it seems appropriate to say “war is the health of the state of Indiana.”

According to a 2011 Indiana University report, back in 2001, Indiana received $1.8 billion from the federal government in the form of defense contracts. This number grew to more than $4 billion over the next decade. We all know why the growth occurred: War.

This report, titled “Building National Security: The Economic Impact of Indiana’s Defense Industry,” explains that the ability to attract federal defense spending is of great benefit to Indiana. The introductory letter signed by the lieutenant governor and the IU president says, “... it is critical to the state of Indiana and its work force that the defense industry continues to flourish here.”

I don’t agree. It’s extremely unwise to develop an economy based not only on government spending, which requires taxation and/or debt, but which also depends on death and destruction for growth.

As a result of their desire for continued and increased federal defense spending, a private-public partnership firm, Conexus Indiana, and the Indiana Economic Development Corp. have created the Indiana Aerospace and Defense Council for the specific purpose of promoting Indiana as a great place for the federal government to spend its defense budget.

It’s bad enough that state government uses the euphemism “economic development” in an attempt to centrally plan an economy by spending tax money in ways that favor some industries and businesses over others, but using funds to lobby for increased federal spending that supports war attacks the sensibilities of all peace-loving individuals.

But those who directly benefit don’t see it this way. The groups involved — the politicians, the state universities and the corporations — all benefit from the business that results when the nation-state participates in war. No one wants to acknowledge the horrible truth embedded in the fact that pushing the defense industry encourages the development of businesses that are healthiest during wartime — in other words, peace makes them sick.

This council also wants to increase the number of companies involved, but any business owner should be cautious about such a move. Besides the more obvious concerns when businesses get involved in war, there can also be plenty of unanticipated costs.

For example, as I was browsing around the website of CACI, the newest business to locate in New Albany’s Purdue Research Park, I was amazed at how much time, money and energy this company is spending as it works to disassociate itself from the abuse and torture controversy at Abu-Ghraib prison in Iraq. I wonder if they think the contract was worth it.

Indiana is already receiving fewer defense dollars as the federal government’s involvement in the current wars change. However, instead of seeing this as a warning, signaling a need to gain freedom from such dependency, officials are making decisions that will only suck Indiana in even deeper.

Should the businesses in this state increase their dependency on an “industry” that experiences its best growth when the federal government gets involved in nasty wars far from the actual soil they claim to be defending?

Or would it be better to spend energy working to create products and services that enrich lives, thereby encouraging mutually beneficial peaceful trade and friendly relationships?

I am concerned, and even mourning, this realization of where human energy and resources have been focused, because I do not want war to be the health of the state of Indiana.

— Clark County resident Debbie Harbeson is sick of government interference.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

TSA Must Really Love Me

So yeah, it happened again. Returning home from Libertopia 2011 , I was “randomly” selected to go through a TSA body scanner at the San Diego airport. (Actually, as I watched, it looked like almost everyone was chosen to go through the scanner and the “random selection” was for a few people who for some unknown reason just had to go through the metal detector.)

Husband says I bring it on myself, expecting I’ll be selected. Okay if there is anything to this “attraction” stuff, maybe I did attract it last time.

But this time was different. Really. I was relaxed, smiling and singing to myself. (It wasn’t until later that I realized maybe my song choice created an “attraction.” I was mentally enjoying the Temptations’ Get Ready....“Get ready cause here I come!”

Anyway, same as last time, we were both “selected” and once again I opted out. They took me to the side for a “pat down.” But unlike last time, my husband had the camera and recorded the interaction.

At the beginning of the video below, she’s telling me what she’s going to do, "blah, blah, blah, okay?”

I say, "No it’s not okay; I’m only doing this under duress because I want to complete my transaction with the airline company.”

At about :52, she notices John taking video and tells me he has to turn it off. I said he’s perfectly within his right to capture video on this. So she calls her supervisor over and continues to explain what she’s going to do with him witnessing.

She says nothing about the video, but at 1:23 someone off camera says “Hey they’re videotaping…in case you’re wondering.”

The supervisor says “Sir, can you step out of the checkpoint area please?” This is where John thought he was being told told to stop videotaping and he turns it off.

So here’s that first video:

After he turns it off, I tell him he can continue to take video so he turns it back on and the supervisor tells my husband he needs to move “outside of MY checkpoint area,” so he doesn’t interfere.

Now in the second video below, watch where the supervisor positions himself.

They ask me if I want a private screening and say “No, I want everyone to see what you people do.” The rest of the video shows you a “pat down,” done on randomly selected people, guilty until proven innocent with the rubber gloves.

Maybe capturing video of this means nothing. Maybe it’s just spitting in the wind, but at least there was one instance in that particular day when they knew someone was watching THEM for a change.

Yeah, yeah, I know. I “chose” to fly. Yeah, I could have taken days to drive more than 2100 miles to get to the event. However, I would not have made it because that would have added even more travel days than my husband and I wanted to take for this trip. Would not going have made me feel any more free?

If I didn't go, then I couldn't have talked about unschooling to Libertopia attendees who were interested. I couldn't have connected with others who are looking for encouragement, inspiration and camaraderie as they try to get their kids far, far away from the government education system.

And I would not have spent several fascinating and enjoyable days learning along with others who feel the same way I do. So I'm certainly glad I jumped on those airplanes to get there and back.

The real question now about driving is how long will that be a preferred method? How much longer do we even have that choice before we have to endure random searches on the highways?

Think I’m just being paranoid? Think that’s just silly? Think that’s just crazy?

Well, it’s already started in Tennessee:

Tennessee Becomes First State To Fight Terrorism Statewide

One politician seems concerned. But I wonder if he’s just sitting out there in the middle of a long, dark, lonely stretch of road.

Edit: Here's another report on the VIPR issue from Wendy McElroy.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Going To The Candidates' Debate

HARBESON: There’s some debating it

SELLERSBURG — When I heard that Leadership Southern Indiana and the News and Tribune planned to host debates for the three local mayoral races, I decided I would attend the entire series.

Yes, considering my aversion to politics and government in general, I know it seems strange to put myself in such a position but my reasoning is sound — I was looking for a challenge, a truly physically draining endurance event to test my fortitude.

What could be better than putting myself through several hours of listening to politicians make promises while simultaneously breathing in the stifling authoritarian air inside compulsory funded government schools?

The first debate was in New Albany, where four candidates were running, but no incumbent. As I meandered into the auditorium, I felt like I was entering a church — the lights were dimmed and the audience was strangely quiet.

Maybe it was the church-like atmosphere but the entire debate seemed equally subdued. After a while, the candidates blended together and I couldn’t differentiate one dark suit from the next. I lost attention and must confess I slipped out early.

I realized this was going to be harder than I thought and I would need to train harder if I was going to build up enough endurance for two more debates. So I stepped up my training, chaining myself to a chair and listening to every political debate I could find online.

The second debate in Jeffersonville was much easier, but I’m not sure it had anything to do with my training. There was a definite energy in the air, as if people were gathering for a big fight. I attribute this to the “throw the bum out” element that is usually present in any race that includes an incumbent.

Another difference in this debate may have been that the LSI host forgot to mention the “no applause” rule in his opening remarks which gave some audience members an excuse to forget they weren’t supposed to applaud. Even so, most of the time audience members respected the no applause request.

But the audience still needed a way to expend energy and they found it in the head bob. Sitting in the back of the auditorium, I could easily observe which candidate individual audience members supported by watching them aggressively nod in agreement. There was so much vigorous head bobbing during this debate that I bet Jeffersonville’s chiropractors experienced a boost in business the next day.

So thanks to incumbency and the head bobbers, I successfully made it through this entire debate. Since the challenge was now two-thirds complete and knowing the Charlestown mayoral race also had an incumbent, I didn’t bother to do any further training.

As expected, when I entered the auditorium in Charlestown I could feel a serious energy level. But it wasn’t just the incumbency factor — this race was also the only two-candidate race, which increases the “us” versus “them” energy.

The host remembered to request no applause and the audience respected that request at first. But as the debate wore on, I could tell that head bobbing alone was not going to handle the pent-up energy in that room and by the time the last couple of questions were asked, the audience finally erupted.

The most rabid applauders seemed to not really be supporting a candidate’s position as much as they were angrily smacking their hands together against the opponent, a strange act that I can only describe as applause assault.

I came out of this experience with two insights. First, I now know I can do anything I set my mind to and second, most debate attendees are not undecided voters gathering information — they are supporters providing cheerleading services for their candidate.

— Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson noticed how well the debate timekeeper’s paddle fan worked to get politicians to stop talking and now wants one of her own.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Perusing the News

HARBESON: Which is Which?
> SOUTHERN INDIANA — I need to be more careful when I peruse the news. I used to be able to skim the stories, confident that I had the essence after a few paragraphs which meant I could reliably guess the rest.

But after an experience last week, I realized I might not be as good at guessing as I thought.

During a recent session of news skimming, I noticed separate stories about Cuba and the United States. They seemed quite predictable and I thought I had them figured out, but I was completely wrong.

The first set of news reports told the story of a country whose leader had previously authorized the killing of one of his fellow countrymen. The reports announced the successful completion of this government execution.

I wasn’t very surprised to hear this news; I had heard many stories over the years about Cuba’s Castro having fellow countrymen executed after he determined they were enemies of the state.

I guessed wrong though. It wasn’t about Cuba. It wasn’t about Castro. The story was about the United States and President Obama. The story described the successful government authorized assassination of an American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, who was on a government hit list because he was accused of being a terrorist.

I mistakenly guessed that this story was about the Cuban government’s flagrant denial of human rights. Instead it was about the United States’ denial of due process to one of its own citizens accused of a crime.

It was about a unilateral decision determining that an individual’s actions justified execution without trial — a decision that endangers all citizens who may be faced with criminal accusations made by their own government.

I thought that only happened in Cuba. How could such a story be about America, the land of the free? I would have never predicted that Americans would quietly accept the assassination of a fellow citizen simply because the government declared him to be a terrorist.

How could such a story be happening in a country that is led by a Nobel Peace Prize winner? Maybe I’ve been inaccurately skimming over Peace Prize news too. I need to check and see if the prize produces magical powers, giving the winner some kind of special ability to gain peace by authorizing violent death without due process.

The other set of news reports were about the economic benefits of the free-market. The stories discussed a country that was in economic distress. They made the point that reducing government interference and allowing individuals the freedom to trade with each other would lead to economic growth.

I guessed wrong here too. The stories weren’t about increasing individual freedom in America. They were about increasing individual freedom in Cuba.

Fidel Castro’s brother, Raul, has been in the process of instituting economic reforms into Cuba, as a way of stimulating the economy. This particular story was about how the Cuban people are now free to buy and sell any cars available. Previously, the average Cuban resident could only legally buy and sell cars made prior to 1959.

The stories also reported that the government planned to enact a sales tax as a way to increase government revenue and I knew that was the real reason behind the reform. The government acted as if taxation was a natural, necessary and valid part of the free-market, so you can see why I mistakenly guessed at first that this story was about the United States.

I’ve learned my lesson. From now on, I’m going to read the news very carefully; particularly when the concepts of government and peace or free-market and taxes are mentioned in the same story.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

I'm Just High On Life

HARBESON: Picture this
I’ve been wondering how long it would take before someone noticed that there’s something about me that’s kind of odd. I’m finally forced to address it because a reader, who goes by the name of Juan, has been regularly pointing it out in the online comments section of this paper.

It has to do with my current column photo.

From the start, I never liked the original photo taken of me at the newspaper’s office. It wasn’t the photographer’s fault though. He tried his best but every time he turned the camera to show me the shot, I winced. Finally I saw that look all photographers eventually give me that says “Listen lady, that’s what you look like, deal with it.”

So, after using the photo for a year or so, I decided it was time for a change and sent the paper an informal photo I liked. And that’s where my comment stalker, Juan, comes in. Juan has noticed something odd about this photo which he has shared several times.

Here’s the first comment he made: “Harbeson looks higher than Snoop Dogg in her column photo. Good for her. Smoke a blunt for me Deb.” Although it was easy to understand what Juan meant, I did have to look up the word blunt.

Then he wrote this: “I used to shovel snow and rake leaves to make a buck all the time. Thanks for the memories Deb. And man, I need to find some smoke like Harbeson’s toking. She looks higher than Cheech and Chong.”

And finally, “I'm not homeless but I will take some cash for beer Deb. Ha. Stoner.”

So Juan seems to think I really scored some stuff when this photo was taken. He’s right, I do look high. But my brain was completely clear of cannabis. I can see why he thinks I was stoned though — my eyelids do have that mellow droopy look.

I wish I could say it was because I was tired. After all, this picture was taken after I had to stand in line in the hot sun on a concrete parking lot next to a concrete wall so I could grab front and center seats at a Joan Jett concert.

It was one of those days where you could see the heat rise from the ground. Yes, Juan I swear that’s really why the ground appeared wavy to me.

I actually sent the paper two photos to choose from and the other photo was taken at a ZZ Top concert, another outdoor event held on a scorching hot day. My eyelids are drooping in that photo, too. But no Juan, I wasn’t high then either. You can ask my mom. She was there.

I had a third photo ready to send if needed. This one was taken at a Jimmy Buffet concert and although my eyelids were drooping in that photo as well, anyone who’s ever been to a Buffett concert knows that I could not have been high. No one ever gets high at a Jimmy Buffett concert.

As I looked at these photos, I started to wonder why I liked them so much, even though they highlight my odd droopy eyes. Could it be that I like these particular photos because of something only I can see: the memories of good times spent with people I care about? Could it be that, for me, a formal posed photo is merely a meaningless image, unanchored by memory?

Nah, I just like photos taken of me at concerts because it’s one place where my natural droopy eyelids look like everyone else’s for a while.

— Clark County resident Debbie Harbeson always has a smoking good time at concerts.