Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Banker's Paradox

I'm currently reading a book called "The Mind of the Market" by the always brilliant Michael Shermer. In it, he outlines the way humans think about their own personal economic interests and how that influences societal trends. It's a remarkable book, which I'd recommend strongly to anyone. But he opened with some interesting thoughts, which I'd like to expound upon, having to do with what's called the "banker's paradox."

The banker's paradox is this: Say you're a banker with a limited amount money to lend. Do you lend it to poorer people, who are greater credit risks, and take a high gamble that they won't be able to pay you back? Or do you lend to richer people, who are low credit risks, and take a safe bet that they will pay you back? If you are like most people, you'll want to take the safer investment with your money. Thus, the money loans tend to go to the rich, while the poor who need it the most can't get loans. The rich get money for start-up businesses, while the poor are denied their fair shot at opportunity. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer. Only a government program can circumvent this trend by taking on the risks banks cannot. But this is not due to any malice on the part of the banking industry towards the poor, nor is it done out of any desire to safeguard the rich. It is merely individual bankers being smart with their money, just as any of us would be with our own checkbooks.

The Banker's Paradox, writes Shermer, can be translated via evolution into a general understanding of altruism. Why should one engage in altruism: that is, why risk the reproductive success of one's genes in order to help the reproductive success of someone else's genes? If we risk our own reproductive success to help someone else's reproductive success, and they don't repay in kind later on, then we've lost our reproductive success for nothing. So here again, we see the Banker's Paradox, but in a different form. Why should I invest in my neighbor?

Analyzers of evolution have traditionally taken two paths to answer this question: One, they cite kin selection: that is, favoring those who are our children, or those closely related to us, as a means of enhancing one's own genetic success. And two, reciprocal altruism: "I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine." But this is too simplistic. We see right away that there is a sort of "altruism credit rating" where one can decide whether the person being helped is truly worthy of our support. If such a person is a "fair weather friend," who won't help us if things get rough, we might tend not to help that person. And if the person is seen to be a loyal friend, who helps us even in times of trouble, we might tend to help that person more. And so this altruism credit rating helped to develop human society as it emerged from a hunter-gatherer state into an agrarian, and later, civilized, one.

Shermer writes that evoluion "would have selected for adaptations to work around the Banker's Paradox dilemmas, including selecting us to (1) seek recognition from our fellow group members for our trustworthiness and reliability, (2) cultivate those attributes most desired by others in our group, (3) participate in social activities that recognize and reinforce such prosocial attributes, (4) avoid social activities that lead to untrustworthy actions and therefore a negative reputation, (5) notice similar attributes of trustworthiness in others, and (6) develop the ability to discriminate between true and fair-weather friends." This, taken from earlier insights from some earlier writers named Tooby and Cosmides, is how Shermer reckons that an evolved psychology comes about. If you are valuable to someone else, someone else will take a strong interest in your welfare. In turn, their interest in your well-being makes those individuals more valuable to you. "The fact that they have a stake in you means you have a stake in them," as the author cites.

And here is where my thought processes digress from Shermer's, because I can immediately see one consequence of these facts: If one wants to dramatically increase reciprocal altruism, all one has to do is wrap superstitions around them which influence people to help one's interests and not harm them. That means that any beliefs regarding the gods would be incorporated into assisting behaviors deemed desirable, and deterring behaviors considered undesirable. "Do X, Y, or Z, even if you don't feel like doing it, and the gods will be pleased. Do them not, and the gods will become angry." Eventually, the belief in an afterlife (probably already invented long before this stage of human history) gets recruited for this purpose. Do those things which please the gods, and you go to a happy afterlife. Do those things which displease them, and you will have an unhappy afterlife.

It's easy to see that those societies who developed the most successful superstitions would have the most cohesive societies. This, in turn, would increase their survival potential. At first, this might seem to be a good thing. But it has a dire consequence. Those deemed not part of the "inner circle" are considered unworthy of support, regardless of their true merit. The results are well known: Wars, pogroms, jihads, crusades, inquisitions, and other persecutions of all sorts.

But religions were not the only superstitions to try to encourage altruism. Often, we got a "winning feeling" about someone, and ended up sticking to that person, because that feeling helped reinforce mutual survival. But hundreds of thousands of years of that winning feeling being an asset have turned it into a detriment. Just as a craving for sugar was a survival trait in a sugarless environment, and today is a detriment in a sugar-saturated world, so that "winning feeling" has turned into a craving for that which is harmful to us. We hold on to stocks which we ought to sell. We continue to gamble, even though the casino always eventually wins. We buy name-brand, even though generic is cheaper. We remain in the Catholic Church, even though it abuses our children.

And now, that "winning feeling" has so infested the Muslims of the East in their war against the democracy of the West, that it has many in it who will forfeit their own life in order to snuff out others. This is the Banker's Paradox turned backwards: Instead of investing genetic success to help others, it sacrifices one's genetic success permanently in order to eliminate the genetic success of as many others as possible, because those others are deemed by the superstition (wrongly, of course) to be non-altruistic. It's as if the banker decided that rather than lend his money, that he would spend it on gasoline to burn as much of other people's money as he could.

We turned to superstitions in our past to augment the altruistic behavior which was already in our best interests. We had done just fine without superstition before then, but discovered that the belief structures gave our societies an added boost, which enabled our cultures to spread far and wide. We let that "cultural conquest" go to our heads, and embraced it as sacrosanct - as unquestionable as our mother's love.

But we were wrong.

That same structure, which was once a beneficial supplement, has turned itself into a detrimental ball and chain. Capital interests will forever synergize with psychological beliefs to trick consumers into buying useless or outright fraudulent product. And not only that, but we are living in the age of post-conventional warfare. Never again will armies meet one another in battle. All-out war means total annihilation in the nuclear age. All wars will now be ones of attrition, where standing armies try in vain to put down some variation of guerrilla warfare. And that guerrilla warfare will always try to thwart democracy by frightening voters into voting their way. These modern-day enemies will target the women and children first - because they must.

Thus, the supplements of old - religion, nationalism, and credulity, are now our greatest enemies. We must defeat them, before they seize the already-present technology and defeat us.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Unemployment Benefits and Taxing of the Rich

I love being an independent political thinker.

Although most people would classify me as a liberal, and I think of myself as mostly a progressive libertarian, the truth is that I do my best to listen to both sides. Well, except Glenn Beck. That asshole pisses me off far too much.

So what I see going on right now is precious: a classic example of where both sides are right, and both sides are wrong. Conservative Republicans have declared that the national debt is a priority crisis, and have moved to block additional deficit spending for unemployment benefits. Simultaneously, they've proposed funding unemployment benefits with stimulus money, essentially cutting spending elsewhere in order to pay for the additional spending. Democrats, on the other hand, have been pushing for an extension to unemployment benefits in spite of it being an increase in deficit spending, arguing that this is an emergency measure which is needed immediately to aid our economic crisis. For now, it seems the Democrats have won, having passed their unemployment benefits bill, with Republicans swearing that they'll make them pay for it come November.

What is so very interesting is how the politicos are posturing themselves around it. Our trophy president has pointed out that a partisan minority is blocking aid to those who need it the most, and he's correct. Republicans, by contrast, are saying that our deficit and debt are simply too large, and we must prioritize doing something about it now, and they're correct. Somewhere, there's got to be room to see the merits of both sides. I believe I do.

What cracks me up about all this is how Republicans are almost right. They've got a good idea, saying that additional unemployment benefits should come by cutting spending elsewhere. They're quite correct in saying that we need to eliminate our deficit and pay down the national debt. These are good values, and need to be championed by all concerned. But somehow, conservatives think that the spending which should be cut ought to come from stimulus money. In other words, in order to increase spending to help the economy, we must cut what we're spending to help the economy! In other words, we must rob Peter to pay Peter!

What cracks me up about the opposite side of the political spectrum is how the Democrats are also almost right. Yes, it is a crisis situation, but sooner or later will come the straw that breaks the camel's back. Or, in this case, the dollar that breaks the greenback. Democrats are concerned about this, but not nearly as much as they need to be.

Now, it's been suggested on Capitol Hill already that what needs to happen, if we're to talk about cutting spending elsewhere, is for something other than stimulus money to be cut. What follows is a clusterfuck of competing suggestions, of which none emerge as winner. Fuck that! Here's my list of skull-bangingly obvious suggestions on where and how to cut money.

1. Admit that Osama Bin Laden is probably dead. Make it a public announcement, and challenge the asshole to prove us wrong. He's almost certainly dead in reality. So by doing this, and showing that Al Quaeda's leader is a ghost, we can pull out, and avoid spending that money. The Afghan war cost 55 billion last year, and will cost 72 billion this year. So, we end that war, save 35 billion, spend 34 of that billion to help the jobless, and reduce the deficit by a billion. Simple, huh?

2. I hate to keep harping on this (actually, check that -- no I don't!), but something like 15 billion is uselessly spent on a pointless drug war, trying to stop what cannot be stopped. Let's turn that 15 billion going out into money coming in. I'd argue that this would increase tax revenue by half a trillion or more -- enough to pay for healthcare, jobless benefits, and an elimination of the deficit, all at a single stroke. Shit, what are we waiting for?!

3. Let the Bush tax cuts expire.

Okay, regarding that last one, I'm not one of these "stick it to the rich" people. Hell, I think Republicans are damn well right to insist on lower taxes. But the best way to ensure that you, the average American, have low taxes is to make sure that the wealthiest 1% don't shirk their taxpaying responsibilities! Because if they do, the only one to make up the difference is YOU! Yes, the rich pay most of the tax revenue regardless, but we're not talking about percentage of tax revenue -- we're talking about their percentage of non-earned income. Anything else is bullshit and noise. But let's not do so in order to "put the screws" on those who are successful financially. Taxes are a duty, not a punishment, and the only reason we ask them to pull more weight is because they are stronger.

A delicate balance needs to be struck here. And this balance is better decided by economists than by legislatures. But it goes like this: Tax the rich too much, and they tend not to hire as many people. Or worse, take their employment interests away to other countries. The wealthy individuals, as well as corporations, are the primary job-makers (for better or worse), and we have to act in a way that ensures the maximum number of jobs get created by them. But tax the rich too little, and then too much of the money supply gets sucked away from the lower and middle class, resulting in depression. This is because the government, for all it's ills, is the primary means of siphoning the money supply away from the wealthiest people and getting it to the poorest. Whatever else a government may be there for, it needs to be there at least for equality of opportunity. So we need to be Goldilocks when it comes to taxing the rich. Not too much, not too little, but just right.

And in case you didn't get where I was going with all that, the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest of Americans made it so that we were taxing too little. Even Alan Greenspan agrees that the Bush tax cuts should expire.

It's been said that our government has no cause for denying unemployment benefits after it spent so much money bailing out giant mega-banks and large corporations. It was argued then that these businesses were "too big to fail." But when the working stiff who can't find a job is on the line, suddenly, that's not as important? No, the American people are "too big to fail" every bit as much as a mega-bank or a giant corporation. Let's bail them out!

But let's not get too ahead of ourselves in blaming certain legislators, mostly Republicans, for the big corporate bailouts. Most of the TARP money given to the big banks has been paid back, with interest. Meaning the government actually made money on the deal. Since the government was asserting control over paying of salaries and dividends, these entities were more willing to pony up the cash than hand over the reins. (Maybe that's the real secret to taxation of the ultra-rich.) But there's still blame to go around for turning a no-deficit, debt-paying-down government budget into a trillion-dollar runaway stagecoach. That's primarily a Republican fault, especially given that party's approach to fighting terror, which is to throw money at the problem. After fighting to prevent Bush's tax-cuts for the wealthy from expiring, and endeavoring to make them permanent, these clowns have some nerve getting in the way of helping the poor and the unemployed on the grounds of lessening the deficit!

Yet the cause is still noble, in spite of the knife wound inserted firmly into our backs. The deficit is a ticking time-bomb, and the debt an increasingly large ball-and-chain. We simply must find a way to deal with it. And if Republicans have finally taken up this cause, good for them. Granted, they should have done so during the Bush years, but we can welcome home the prodigal son, and forgive the penitent sinner. I give them a clean slate. (Not my vote, though.)

And for Democrats, it's time to stop being so damned timid with what needs to be done. All the momentum that had been built up by conservatives leading up to the midterm elections has now been blown on the worst possible tactical error, as those of us fellow Americans who needed help the most were instead made into a political football for nearly two months. It's time to end the wars in nations where we've already done all we can. It's time to make the tax code fair again, and pay off the national credit card. It's time to put all energies towards rebuilding our economy, and attracting more industry. It's time to make our nation free, and put an end to useless, anti-American prohibitions. Do that, and do it now! And if you lose your majority after November, then at least you seized your opportunity!


Global Warming E-Mailers Are Cleared!

Oh, is this news story ever under-reported! Remember the big hullabaloo last winter over the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit, and the e-mails that a hacker was able to find and publish to the world? At the time, this seemed to indicate that the climate change researchers were trying to cover up or fudge their data in a way which showed global warming was happening, when in fact it wasn't. Not long afterward, "Snowpocalypse" hit the East Coast, and conservative pundits were calling global warming a hoax more loudly than ever before.

Well, guess what? The third and final independent investigation into that matter by Muir Russell found that the conduct of the CRU scientists were solid in their conclusions. Although the scientists were sometimes lax in being open with their documents (they argue, quite rightly, that this was due to the excessively large number of frivolous requests for information), the investigation found that the conclusions drawn were still fundamentally sound. Global warming is real.

Now, with massive heat wave after massive heat wave covering the nation, it seems clear that all those claiming global warming was a hoax only a few months ago clearly had a premature brain ejaculation.

Here's where we get to see just how truly "fair and balanced" Fox News is. Let's see how frequently this news item gets covered. True fairness and balance dictates that this news item should be broadcast with the same intensity as the former one, along with an abject apology for making it appear that this news story was anything other than a big misunderstanding. So far, I not only don't see Fox News retracting or apologizing, I don't even see MSNBC taking the opportunity to rub this one in their face -- a sure sign that Fox isn't talking about it, since they tend to dictate the talking points Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann discuss on their shows.

There's a great cartoon that illustrates global warming best. A scientist is talking about the need for green energy and an end to fossil fuels, and a detractor stands up and says, "Yeah, but what if global warming ends up being a big hoax, and we make a better society, free ourselves of foreign oil, and stabilize our economy for nothing?"

That just says it all, doesn't it? If it's a win-win, we ought to do it regardless.

Ah, well. Let's hope more bloggers like me refuse to let this story die. The climate scientists' e-mails are exonerated! Spread the word!


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Lack of Abortion as Plot Element

Well, nice to see that my posts are appearing on both Blogger and Facebook again. Let's see how long it takes this one to post, since I'm talking about Abortion.

I just watched the movie, Legion. Or tried to. You see, 3/4ths into the movie, I couldn't stand it anymore, and had to turn it off. I got sick of ridiculous attacks which back off from our handful of heroes for no apparent reason, other than to give the thriller enough time for character expose. The thought of God exterminating the entire human race unless one child born to a cigarette-smoking gas-station waitress is repugnant, even to an atheist like me. The plot is so bad that even Gabriel, the protagonist warrior-angel of the film, couldn't stand it, and had to revolt against Heaven. The demons are not demons, they're angels, which gua And, of course, we just needed to see a cute, little kid turn into a monster right before our eyes, as if that's somehow supposed to make us feel good about parenthood. But that's kind of my point, because once again, we see Hollywood trying to make a plot out of an unwed mother.

In Legion, she contemplated abortion, and changed her mind. The child then turns out to be the game-changer of the film, and that theme has been played over and over again recently. From Waitress, to Juno, to Knocked Up, and now Legion, screen writers are repeatedly putting forth poor girls who have unwanted pregnancies, but something stops them from terminating it. Then, naturally, the birth comes along, and we have our happily ever after. What on earth is behind this theme?

I find the trend mildly bothersome, but only mildly. After all, it's tricky to make a movie that can adequately describe the truth of a developing fetal brain being paramount to the ethics of an abortion -- without putting an audience to sleep, that is. It's far easier to put a heroine in a situation where her pregnancy is late, the decision to keep it has been made, and the birth is imminent to another disaster looming somewhere around her. It makes for exciting drama, and so I can forgive writers for taking that particular short cut.

Sure, I'd like to see a female character have an unwanted pregnancy, get an early-term abortion, finish high school, go on to college, and have a successful career. That would be refreshing.

But fuck, what a boring film that would be!


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Facebook Takes Forever. Sometimes.

Well, I've just posted two rather brilliant blogs lately. Both of them play off of rather recent events, and so are best viewed right away. But, no. Facebook has apparently decided that it wants to drag it's lazy ass in posting these blogs.

As it currently sits, the vast majority of the people who view my blog do so after I write it up on Blogger.com, and it then posts automatically onto my Facebook page. Often, as when I posted my blog entry regarding Wisconsin's smoking ban, the relay onto Facebook is immediate. Yet, for some inexplicable reason, Facebook suddenly decided it's not in the mood to post my blog entries right away. Or indeed at all. It probably will, but why the hell did this have to go and happen when I had two blogs with short shelf lives?

This has happened before. When I wrote up my blog entry regarding Mount Rushmore, I didn't get any posting on Facebook for it. So, sick and damned tired of waiting for it to appear, I copied and pasted it by hand, convinced that Facebook had stopped this service. And wouldn't you know it, no sooner had I done so than Facebook decided to wake from its stupor, and post from the actual blog. So, for about half a day, my Facebook page had TWO postings with exactly the same thing about Mount Rushmore.

Do I have to cut and paste again to get this damned thing to work?

Mount Rushmore was a rant against nationalism. It didn't post. My tirade about the smoking ban in Wisconsin supported a new law. It posted right away. Now, I'm not yet convinced that there's any political reason behind why certain blog posts suddenly appear on Facebook, and others don't, but it certainly seems fishy to me.

Perhaps freedom of speech doesn't entirely apply to social networking sites.

So, with that having been said, here's what you're missing out on: My brilliant juxtaposition of the recent 100-degree temperatures along the East Coast with the "Snowpocalypse" event of last February, and the ridiculousness of certain so-called conservatives using the snowier of the two events to argue against global warming. This was followed by another blog post which reported that NASA satellite-tracking has observed satellite-launch space debris (left over from multi-stage launch vehicles) isn't returning to earth. Why? Because the same CO2 which is warming the near-surface of our planet is responsible for blocking the heat from returning to space, causing the cooling, and thinning, of the highest stratospheric layers. Result: space junk is remaining in orbit - a measurable proof of global warming, every bit as eye-opening as the disappearing ice caps.

So go back and read those. They're too good to miss. And if Facebook decides to block this particular post, I'm calling bullshit!


Sunday, July 11, 2010

NASA finds yet another confirmation of global warming.

So you want more proof that global warming is happening? NASA has recently found some.

It seems that the various bits that get discarded by launch vehicles during the process of putting satellites up into orbit are staying up there. What normally should happen is that these discarded stage-rocket pieces encounter trace gasses in the upper stratosphere, decelerate due to the drag, and then return to earth, burning up in the lower atmosphere.

Well, wouldn't you know it, the increased CO2 is retaining more long-wave radiation near our planet's surface. That means that while it makes the lower-most layers of the Troposphere (below the clouds, where we are) warmer, less long-wave radiation can reach the upper stratosphere to make it warmer. Since this reflected long-wave radiation makes up a significant warming factor in these highest layers, we are seeing, paradoxically, that the uppermost stratospheric layers are growing cooler. That's right, global warming is heating the surface, while cooling the upper stratosphere. The result of this cooling is that these high-altitude layers are thinning out as they cool, with the air molecules growing closer to the planetary surface.

NASA noticed this cooling trend in an interesting way. While tracking the discarded stage-rocket pieces, they noticed they were staying in orbit, and not returning to Earth. This got a few heads busy, and they began to research why. When they found the cooling trend in the upper stratosphere, they knew they'd found the culprit, since fewer air molecules could decelerate these bits of space debris. But they also knew they'd found a problem. If those extra pieces of space junk end up staying in orbit for far longer, it drastically increases the odds of another rocket or satellite crashing into one of those pieces.

So, now global warming now threatens everyone's cable TV reception. Maybe that will finally get people off their gas-guzzling lazy asses!

Notice how this directly contradicts the right-wing media machine, which consistently tries to tell people that global warming isn't happening because the upper stratospheric layers are growing warmer. No, not according to NASA, they aren't! Talk about yet another blatent Fox-News lie! And if you want confirmation on this, check it out on Planetary Radio, as podcasted on the Planetary Society's website, www.planetary.org. None other than Bill Nye himself reported NASA's findings.

I think Senator Al Franken said it best: You're entitled to your own opinions. You're not entitled to your own facts.


Thursday, July 8, 2010

It's Hot, Hot, Hot!

Have you seen the temperatures along the East Coast yesterday? From D.C., to Philly, to New York and everywhere else along the Colonial Corridor, temperatures soared over 100 degrees.

Yet just last winter, the Eastern seaboard was socked with so much snow that the media was giving it special names. "Snowmageddon" and "Snowpocalypse" were terms thrown about. And with them, were all the conservative pundits jumping on the news story as an opportunity to attack global warming. Right-wing hack after right-wing hack got on the air and said things like, "Does anyone even take global warming seriously anymore?" or, "This global warming stuff really sounds ridiculous right about now, doesn't it?"

Yeah? How'dya like me now?

Look, back then I pointed out how climate has a saw-tooth pattern, and that extremes in temperature or weather at any one given point should not be taken as representative of an overall trend. I reminded everyone how vacuous an argument it was to discount global warming base on a single weather pattern. So it would be equally invalid of me to say that global warming is confirmed by this current heat-wave which is making New York feel like the Big Baked Apple.

But, the conservatives started this line of reasoning. So, now that their own argument has backfired on them, I have prepared a statement which I would like to make on behalf of every climatologist and science-minded citizen who knew what they were talking about the whole time when they raised the alarm over global warming. My statement follows:

Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, NYAH!!!

Okay, so I'm being facetious. But it's hard not to be. When conservatives like Sean Hannity,Rush Limbaugh, and especially Michael Savage embarrass themselves this badly, how can one not take advantage? Seriously, we just have to rub it in their faces! There's being stupid, there's imbacilic, there's moronic, there's being a straight-up dumbass, and somewhere beneath that is the knuckle-dragging, gorilla-brained idiocy that conservatives displayed during the snowstorm of 2010, dubbed, "Snowmageddon."

So what do we call this heatwave? It should have a snazzy name too, shouldn't it? How about, "The Heat Bowl" or "The Great Eastern Bake Off"? "The World's Largest Sweat-Lodge?" I'm open to ideas.

Enjoy the hot-seat, you myopic neocon liars, out there. You earned it!


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Smoking Ban

So, it seems Wisconsin now has a new smoking ban, effective this past Monday, the day past independence day. No longer will people be able to light their own miniature firework in commemoration of American freedom in a bar, restaurant, or hotel. Could this be that this violates the very spirit of freedom which America stands for? Are we becoming the nanny state that McCarthyists feared?

I've brought my non-nicotine-addicted brain cells to bear on this issue, and I'm forced to conclude that the answer is clearly no. We, the People, have not lost the right to smoke. We can still buy, sell, and use tobacco products. We can smoke at home. We can smoke outdoors. We can smoke in designated locations.

What we have lost the right to do is blow smoke in other people's faces in public locations, and bravo to that. After all, if one chooses to inhale smoke into one's lungs, that's one thing. Making other people inhale your smoke afterward is quite another. And although the data on second hand smoke isn't statistically significant, it's still damned annoying. The right to swing one's fists ends with someone else's nose. The right to inhale smoke ends with forcing someone else to breathe it.

Ah, but according to the Journal-Sentinel, many are protesting the smoking ban because it removes the ambiance of certain establishments. One band is quoted as saying that there's just something to the smoky atmosphere of a live gig in a bar. It's part of the mystique of being a rocker.

I say, that's what fog machines are for.

The owner of Landmark Lanes claims that the lack of smoky atmosphere will rob him not only of ambiance, but of customers, and that it will cost him his business.

I say, he'll recoup his losses by not having to clean off the nicotine stains from the brightwork.

Actually, Landmark will begin putting out tables and chairs for those who wish to smoke outside on the sidewalk. This should prove interesting, since that's the central avenue for the biggest annoyance on Milwaukee's East Side. No, not cigarette smoke -- hobos. They're thick along Farwell, and they'll target everyone who's smoking outside. Not just outside Landmark, but all the bars and taverns which now must have smoking outdoors on the sidewalks where the bums regularly patrol.

This could get interesting!

Either the hobos will finally get cleaned off the streets as thousands of pissed off smokers force Milwaukee police to finally do something about them, or thousands of smokers will finally quit.

Yeah, fat chance on either of those.

What makes this interesting for me, as a non-smoker, is that this happened so soon after an increase in cigarette taxes which was supposed to pay for so many things in the State budget. Either this hasn't generated the revenues expected, or the State Legislature expects to raise taxes some other way. Or both. Get ready for it. We'll face another huge budget shortfall, and since it's always easier to raise a limited tax than it is to cut an entrenched entitlement, something else will get taxed. And (speaking of taking away American freedoms after the 4th of July) it won't be legalized marijuana, unfortunately for us all.

Yet those who say their freedom is being violated by this ban will continue to whine, completely ignoring the fact that our more important freedoms are being raped by government far more regularly. I've said it before, and it bears repeating, that nicotine really does nothing for you, except get you addicted. It has no redeeming value. It doesn't ease nausea. It doesn't help the symptoms of glaucoma. It doesn't even get you high. So why bother defending it? Why not campaign for that which should be legal anyway instead of fighting over a reasonable limitation of something already legal?

Nah, that would make too much sense!

So, let freedom ring, all you nicotine addicts! You may smoke all you want -- at home.