There's a constitutional moment in Burma/Myanmar: the eyes of the world should be attuned to the developing story.
in universities, we have a deep and almost single-minded commitment to pursue the truth. We do not have access to the levers of power. We cannot make war or peace. We can only make minds. And to do this we must have the most full freedom of inquiry.
BBC News reports that:
The second anniversary of the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes is to be marked by a ceremony on Sunday.
The Brazilian was shot dead at Stockwell Tube station on 22 July 2005 by police who had mistakenly identified him as a suicide bomber
My immediate thought is whether or not the second anniversary of the death of Rigoberto Alpizar will be marked in a similar way.
it really does seem to me that the UK media continue to hold the UK authorities to account over the de Menezes shooting, whilst the US media have forgotten all about Alpizar. Just as i'd feared
Remember my shock at discovering that some states will jail you for participating in oral sex?
As Alex Tabarrok discovers, an alternative to that is banishment: consensual oral sex in high school is enough to put you on the sex offenders list, which in turn can prevent you from living within 1,000 feet of a school bus stop forcing you to leave the state.
But is this a problem with federalism or prudishness?
When it comes to the immediate, and the short term, security and liberty can appear to conflict. Indeed government justify their actions by claiming a trade-off exists - it's a callous attempt to scare a population into granting powers that ultimately undermine liberty and security. To think that the Iraq war has made Britain safer is absolute nonsense.
This week sees the anniversary of the death of Jean Charles de Menezes, shot by police at Stockwell tube station in London, after police thought he was a suicide-bomber. He wasn't - he was entirely innocent - and the case was deeply tragic. Although some people have responded with vindictive hatred (aimed mainly at Met chief Sir Ian Blair), and think the general sentiment is that this was a tragic accident, in difficult circumstances. I believe that it's possible to condemn this individual event, whilst maintaining confidence and support for the police's efforts to protect us.
In December 2005 a remarkably similar event occured in America, and
the point of this article is to contrast it with de Menezes. Rigoberto Alpizar was shot dead by US air marshalls at Miami airport, on suspicion of carrying a bomb.
On May 26th 2006 the shooting was declared justified, despite the fact that Alpizar was not a terrorist, was not carrying a bomb, and eye-witness accounts doubt whether he ever said that he had one. He was an innocent man, off his medication, acted erratically, and was gunned down.
Just as charges may possibly be made against the killers of de Menezes, I hope the US authorities and mainstream media calm down their instinctive thirst for excessive force and launch an independent inquiry into this event.
Looking back now I think my worries were justified and proven correct. This week's Economist (a UK newspaper) carries a leader on de Menezes and although it might not be a leader in the US edition, I suspect it is. But where's the campaign for Alpizar? Contrast a Google News search for de Menezes with Alpizar. I know that I am in the UK and therefore would expect sources to be biased, so I hope US readers will add their opinions But it really does seem to me that the UK media continue to hold the UK authorities to account over the de Menezes shooting, whilst the US media have forgotten all about Alpizar. Just as i'd feared:
Although the death of De Menezes is still a major UK news issue, i'm worried that Alpizar's death will just be swept under the carpet.
In both cases the effect on security was negligible, but due to the respective responses I worry for the erosion of American liberty caused by the War on Terror.
When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people
to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another,
and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal
station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a
decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should
declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident:
That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invaria
bly the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and, when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them, and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing, with manly firmness, his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise; the state remaining, in the mean time, exposed to all the dangers of invasions from without and convulsions within.
He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.
He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.
He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies, without the consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the military independent of, and superior to, the civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our Constitution and unacknowledged by our laws, giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:
For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us;
For protecting them, by a mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states;
For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world;
For imposing taxes on us without our consent;
For depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury;
For transporting us beyond seas, to be tried for pretended offenses;
For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries, so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these colonies;
For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments;
For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation, and tyranny already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow-citizens, taken captive on the high seas, to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.
He has excited domestic insurrection among us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes, and conditions.
In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms; our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have we been wanting in our attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them, from time to time, of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity; and we have conjured them, by the ties of our common kindred, to disavow these usurpations which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too, have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity which denounces our separation, and hold them as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends.
We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name and by the authority of the good people of these colonies solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved; and that, as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.
According to BBC News a Canadian study suggests that male homosexuality is determined by genetic factors (what they call "maternal memory") rather than sociological ones. In other words, "rearing" doesn't make you gay:
"If rearing or social factors associated with older male siblings underlies the fraternal birth-order effect [the link between the number of older brothers and male homosexuality], then the number of non-biological older brothers should predict men's sexual orientation, but they do not.
"These results support a prenatal origin to sexual orientation development in men."
What I find disappointing is how a gay rights group have responded to this evidence:
Andy Forrest, a spokesman for gay rights group Stonewall, said: "Increasingly, credible evidence appears to indicate that being gay is genetically determined rather than being a so-called lifestyle choice.
"It adds further weight to the argument that lesbian and gay people should be treated equally in society and not discriminated against for something that's just as inherent as skin colour."
Why should the nature/nurture argument affect homosexual discrimination? It's as if he's saying "We don't want to be gay so don't hold us against it - there's nothing we can do!". I'd have hoped that a gay rights group would be more concerned with saying "We're humans and are free to choose and live our lives however we wish". It seems awfully defeatist and apologetic.
Whilst we're on the subject of nature/nurture check out Bryan Caplan's: An Economist's Guide to Happier Parenting. Also, whilst we're at it (are we?) Radio 4 had two wonderfully complimentary stories about individualism yesterday:
Summerhill School is 85 years old this year, yet its philosophy - a free school where the pupils are equal in status to the teachers and lessons are optional - is yet to catch on. It's one of only two such schools in the UK and ZOË NEILL READHEAD, the daughter of the school's founder, is the current Principal. She discusses the theories behind the educational example that the school is still trying to promote. Summerhill and A S Neill is edited by Mark Vaughan and published by Open University Press.
Asked to describe the archetypal artist, we would probably think of a bohemian type, quirkily dressed, with unusual ideas about life and a tendency to be a bit different. But where did this characterisation come from? A new exhibition at the National Gallery looks into the roots of the image of the Artist. LOIS OLIVER is one of the curators of the new exhibition, Rebels and Martyrs, which shows how the image we know today began with Romanticism. Rebels and Martyrs: The Image of the Artist in the Nineteenth Century is at the National Gallery from 28 June to 28 August.
The Guardian report that:
Unmarried couples will have the right to make the same financial claims after a break-up as those who have gone through a marriage or civil partnership ceremony, under proposals to be unveiled today.
This proposal is horrible, and worrying too because as Tim Worstall points out this comes from the Law Commission and therefore (according to the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act) would become law without debate or votes in Parliament. The reason I say it's horrible is very simple: it's bad and unecessary.
It's bad because (Tim again):
By insisting that those who wish to shag and share a bathroom with another person on a long term basis also share their worldly goods with them, this is a reduction in the opportunities and possibilites available to free people
I cohabit and am not married, and the issue of common law marriage arose a few years ago (which I wrote up in this article on Ideal Government). In my experience people cohabit for a wide number of reasons, sometimes instead of marriage, sometimes as a prelude. Sometimes financial reasons play a part, others it's for the sheer thrill of a blissfull domesticity. The problem is if you legislate to help a certain type of cohabiters, you inevitably harm those others who are just exercising their (supposed) freedom to live how they choose. It is abhorent to think that if someone tries to do their partner a favour by letting them move in with them, they become financially liable should the relationship end.
It's unecessary because the current problem - cohabiters who make an active choice not to be married but desire the recognition of their relationship in front of the courts of law - already has a solution. We become too absorbed in the religious connotations of marriage, because after all it's just a contract. A will is another contract, and can be used to ensure that whoever you want to recieve your possessions will do so.
The solution is not to force people unwillingly into a deeper commitment than they desire, but to support free individuals to use contractual relationships that are applicable to their own wishes.
"You and I are told we must choose between a left or right, but I suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down. Up to man's age-old dream -- the maximum of individual freedom consistent with order -- or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism. Regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would sacrifice freedom for security have embarked on this downward path. Plutarch warned, 'The real destroyer of the liberties of the people is he who spreads among them bounties, donations and benefits.' "If you put Labour (either New or old); Conservative (either Thatcher or Cameron); and radical Liberal in a room, who'd form the majority coalition?
-- Ronald Reagan, October 27, 1964