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Everything posted by Maarten

  1. My only (slight) concern with changing this, besides the fact that I don't see such a radical change happening at all today, is that changing all our taxes to what amounts to a sales tax implicitly inflates our currency significantly (by about 30%), because people will suddenly have more dollars than they previously had (whatever was paid in other income/FICA taxes), but each dollar will buy less goods due to the 30% tax on all finished goods (the 23% tax rate if I understand it correctly is arrived at by saying that 1 dollar is 77% of 1.30 (dollar plus new fairtax), so out of the new price we are now levying a 23% tax). Overall this probably evens out when looking at the entire economy, but it is important to realize what this would do to previously existing assets and liabilities. There are most likely some unintended consequences of instituting this tax, unless we do it very slowly over a long period of time so people can take it into account and alter their behavior. I don't think you can get around the fact that going from an income tax to a sales tax you get a de-facto devaluation of the currency because everyone now has more dollars to spend. Maybe over time goods will become cheaper to counteract this, but it certainly can't be ignored as a potential problem (and it would hurt anyone with significant current assets, like any type of inflation would). Mathematically speaking, let's use the following example: Say I make 100k/year, and I currently pay 35% income taxes on this for a total take-home pay of 65k (the exact numbers don't really matter, I just invented some on the spot). Under the Fairtax proposal I would instead have a take-home pay of 100k, but anything I buy would have a 30% tax on top, meaning that I only can buy about 75k worth of goods (75*1.3 is about 100k). Even though the currency hasn't explicitly been inflated, de facto every dollar I have now buys only 75 cents worth of goods, so the real value of a dollar is reduced by about 25% overnight. That's cool if I had a lot of debt, because I can pay people back with my less valuable dollars, but it's not so nice for people who have a lot of money already...
  2. Agreed. One of the biggest problems with juries is probably that both prosecution and defense tend to weed out people who actually know more about the situation so they have a more favorable jury. I'm not sure how to solve that problem (it probably exists for a reason), but it would probably be helpful if there was less jury composition manipulation going on. For example, I think one could argue that one important purpose for juries (at least historically) has been jury nullification, but in most situations nowadays the involved parties do their best to get rid of people who have problems with the laws in question that are under discussion. I think it would be a positive development if there were more people on juries that were skeptical of techniques that are commonly used by both prosecution and defense to make a case seem more watertight than it is, and in the case of bad laws I don't see the problem in someone blocking the enforcement of that law as a jury member. That probably is an entirely different topic, though.
  3. You're welcome Following a discussion I had in the chat, I'd like to add that probably the best way to handle these situations is after the fact through the judiciary system, rather than supporting a blanket ban on circumcision. Banning the practice outright (or only allowing it in some cases by law) would practically speaking involve quite a lot of government interference in private (medical) decision making, and could very well be a greater violation of rights. I see it a little like protections against child abuse. Yes, child abuse is bad and a violation of the child's rights, but preventing all cases of child abuse would entail a far greater violation of the rights of innocent parents and therefore is a bad law. It is much better to have a good judicial system where if child abuse is found to be happening, the involved parties are sued and it is dealt with in the courts, than act like every parent is a potential abuser and watch them all like a hawk and have the government involved in many everyday decisions. With regards to circumcision, I think if someone was circumcised and wishes they hadn't been, they should go ahead and sue the responsible parties in court and prove their case in that manner. That would require a lot of evidence (and I am not sure if it'd go forward), but I am willing to bet that if people started doing that more the number of circumcisions would drop fairly quickly as doctors (and parents) would be less willing to risk the chance of a potential lawsuit. At the same time, I think it is a good idea to try and convince as many people as possible that it's wrong to circumcise boys unless there is a clear case to be made that it IS medically necessary for that person. But banning it goes much too far for something like this. It is certainly not as clearly wrong as something like FGM, which serves no proper purpose whatsoever.
  4. How would this be different from a judge deciding whether someone is guilty or not? Wouldn't it be equally wrong that one person (or three or nine in the case of higher courts) gets to decide whether you are put in prison or executed? If it's the voting that is problematic you should be equally opposed to any type of judicial decision making. If instead you have a problem with the fact that juries consist of laymen, then how about a panel consisting of technocrats who have years of experience with the subject? Is a decision made by such a body suddenly superior and non-rights violating just because the people involved know better what they are talking about? That seems to be a very subjective criterion... I would suggest that whether a judicial proceeding is a violation of rights has a lot more to do with whether due process has been observed, and whether the law is objectively applied. There are many places around the world that use judges instead of juries to decide guilt and they aren't any more rights-respecting by default. It is almost entirely irrelevant. Finally, jury verdicts have to be unanimous for them to count, which sets a fairly high threshold. They are NOT majority votes, nor are they really 'public votes' either. I think I would rather be judged by a jury of my peers.
  5. I don't know what the priest has to do with it unless he also happens to be a practicing medical professional, so I will ignore that part of your post because I have clearly already addressed the fact that religious reasons are not sufficient reason for circumcision in earlier posts. I doubt anyone else on this forum thinks that religion is an awesome reason for circumcising your infant, either, so let's abandon that straw man and focus on the actual discussion that's worth having. I also already talked about the fact that prevention is a bad reason for circumcising, and that there are other, less invasive ways to prevent penile cancer (or HIV or whatever STD circumcision protects against). I think really the only time you should circumcise a boy is when there is clear proof that their foreskin isn't working as intended and WILL cause problems for the child.
  6. I don't think anyone here is advocating a law that requires circumcision, so I am not sure what you are referring to when you talk about "having the state use force against an individual". It is decidedly not arbitrary whether foreskins (or any other body part) have function, because any medical decision concerning said part is a weighing of pros and cons. You can't make an informed decision as to whether any type of medical procedure on a minor is permissible without knowing what the function of that part is. It is ludicrous to put in a blanket ban on any type of initiation of force on a minor. They are minors for a reason and the guardian has to make medical decisions for them when necessary. Many things involved with raising a child properly involve acts that go against the minor's will, but that does not make them necessarily bad in and of itself. Otherwise we couldn't vaccinate or do anything with a minor until they are grown to adulthood, which is clearly not good for them.
  7. I'm definitely not a fan of Ron Paul, but the general principle at work here is somewhat worrisome. It is, as far as I know, the first time an American citizen has been deliberately killed by its own government without a prior trial, and it does set a precedent. I'm sure Awlaki deserved to die given what he did, but that is not the most important issue at stake here. The fact of the matter is that in our legal system precedents matter, and the fact that the government killed one of its own citizens through a completely intransparant procedure with no regards to due process is a bad precedent. Yes, right now we are using it on terrorists abroad, but there is no clear constitutional differentiation between a US citizen's rights in the US and abroad when it comes to these situations. Yes, our current administration may only use it to hunt down heinous terrorists who deserve to die, but establishing this method of killing as an acceptable way of doing business could very well mean that at some time in the future it will be used against US citizens who are "suspected terrorists" on our own soil. Given that DHS is already looking closely at people who have anti-government leanings, it is not completely outside my imagination that a different government at some point in the future could designate someone completely innocent of any wrongdoing besides being opposed to the then current administration as a threat that can be eliminated in the same manner. I would certainly hope that this event is followed by a series of safeguards put in place to ensure that it does not one day happen to an undeserving person. I certainly do not trust all senior government officials enough to simply expect ALL of them to never abuse a power like this.
  8. From G.K. Chesterton: This is not usually used in this context (he is talking about the man-made versus a foreskin which is more of a metaphysically given, but considering it did not appear out of nowhere it is still somewhat useful to consider), but I think it is an important reminder nonetheless about not talking too lightly about removing something that we do not currently understand the function of.
  9. Not every locale where people lived had such huge amounts of sand (and wind) that you had to worry about this issue, though. And in most cases there is the possibility of washing yourself if you really had to. Additionally, even if someone is circumcised it does not remove the need to wash, and sand can still be caught in the smaller skin folds near the base of the tip. It just makes it somewhat easier. Either way, this has no relevance on our current situation unless you're living in a remote desert without access to water for washing yourself. I did not, as I think what people did thousands of years ago has very little relevance on the practice today. Above I was making a more epistemological argument; that you can't prove a negative (i.e. that there is no medical reason people circumcised back then). Certainly nowadays, the vast majority of people who choose to circumcise their child do so for nonsensical reasons (or as a default). If someone was honestly convinced of the medical evidence on the subject I would respect their decision (even if they ended up being wrong about it), but many people choose to circumcise because of trivial reasons (tradition, religion, the father is circumcised and it avoids an awkward conversation as to why the son looks different). I am not opposed to circumcision as such, as there is definitely a time and place for it, but I think it should be given the same cautious thought as any type of surgery and should only be performed when there is a clear cut case to be made for why it is good in this particular instance. Coincidentally, I don't think anyone has so far acknowledged my earlier point about the "cancer reduction" reason for preventatively circumcising an infant. Even if today there is not yet a completely ironclad case as for why having a foreskin is important, that certainly doesn't prove there isn't one. There are many examples of biological science initially considering something useless when in fact there is a good reason for why it exists (the appendix, "junk" DNA). Obviously I am not asserting that this means there must be a good reason why we have a foreskin, just that human beings evolved having one and for the most part it provided some evolutionary advantage and that considering it is an irreversible operation, it is better to err on the side of NOT removing something you don't currently understand. The absence of proof of a foreskin's function is not proof of its absence.
  10. But the claim that there IS evidence that it was started for medical or hygienic reasons is the positive claim that needs to first be validated by providing evidence. You can't expect to find conclusive evidence that no one in the past thousands of years had ever circumcised for medical reasons; it's an impossible claim to prove. If it is so clear that it was started for medical reasons, it should be no problem to dig up an actual ancient text that talks about the medical reasons in favor of circumcision.
  11. Again, actually reading that penile cancer paper seems to suggest that most of this increased risk can be attributed to certain types of high-risk Human Papilloma Viruses, and we have a very effective vaccine for now that is already recommended for most girls. If we're really that worried about the cancer risk, it makes a lot more sense to vaccinate against the causal agent rather than circumcise for this reason. There are certainly medical reasons for circumcising that are valid; my brother's foreskin was so small that there was literally no way it could be retracted. I think in that case it makes sense to circumcise because of hygienic issues; but that is certainly not so common that it makes sense to preemptively circumcise any infant boy.
  12. Of note, they are talking about HPV in that study cited on the last page (causing cancer); something we now have an excellent vaccine for. If you're really that concerned about cancer risks, why not give your child a series of Gardasil shots instead? That way they also end up protecting any future female partners from HPV caused cancers...
  13. I agree with that. But what about non crime-related cases? Would it be a violation of an individual's rights for the government to charge them for, say, recognizing certain contracts (marriage, for example)? That's one potential source of revenue, because I think you can argue that you're not violating a person's rights per se by not automatically recognizing voluntarily entered contracts. Similarly with voting or holding office. I'm just not sure how much of a revenue stream these kinds of things could realistically provide the government. You'd probably have to charge quite a lot in order to raise a sufficient amount of revenue to fund the proper gov't functions... but then, it's also a lot cheaper with a properly limited government and without taxes and the like people would have much more money available.
  14. What about procuring funding by charging fees for certain more optional "services" the government (legitimately) provides? One that comes to mind is a suggestion also made by John in his constitution write up, charge people a fee when they vote. The same can be done for other things, such as applying for public office, and possibly for recognizing certain legal contracts? That brings me to a related question: should the legitimate functions of government necessarily be free of charge? Is there something wrong with, for example, charging a person after the fact (or even before) for making use of the courts, or in cases where the police intervenes? Would that fee, representing an economic barrier of sorts, necessarily impair a person's rights? I don't think that the government should refuse to enforce the laws in the case where someone may not be able to pay a fee, but is there anything wrong with charging the actors involved with the costs of said action, in some way?
  15. Yeah, but Obama doesn't have the authority to sign any binding agreements, and I doubt it would be affirmed. Sure, he can do some stuff through regulation but that really would be locked down in courts for years. If the environmentalists can play that game, so can businesses. Senator Inhofe is in Copenhagen I think primarily to rain on their parade and make clear that the President really cannot commit to anything; he's not allowed to negotiate treaties himself.
  16. Is it inflationary, though? The value of the dollar remained roughly constant between the founding of the US and 1913, yet I am fairly sure that FRB was already in use by that time. That doesn't fit with your claim. If it really was inflationary, then why didn't we have any inflation while we still had a private banking system that used FRB to a certain degree? And banks can take out insurance policies or something like that as well to cover against a higher than expected number of people withdrawing at once. There is no need to fear that, either.
  17. The Primary is about 9 months away, though, so that's a lot of time to convince people who currently don't know him yet.
  18. Article This is from when he just started running, though, so the numbers have probably shifted a lot. I think the last Rasmussen poll said he was basically even with Dodd, but I don't know how much that is just due to people not voting for Dodd rather than voting FOR Schiff. That doesn't help him against more well-known Republicans in the primary.
  19. The last poll I saw he was also leading Dodd (which isn't hard because he is deeply unpopular). I think Schiff's hardest challenge will be to win the republican primary...
  20. Judged by what you said about it, I don't see how it would be immoral to take it. Especially given how hard it is to stay away from these kinds of drugs, this has to make your life better because you don't have to worry about the addiction as much. If something furthers your life, it's moral, and that's what I would say this is.
  21. Woodhead, juxtys and I all have 1 vote currently. If others can also vote that'd be great =)
  22. In fact, we just went over the NIH policy that anyone who gets funding has to share their work and materials with other groups in order to advance scientific knowledge. The propriety of government funding aside, why isn't that the case with other programs? I can see keeping things silent if you get private funding, but with taxpayer grants? They should be required to make it completely transparent so that it's reviewable and open. That cannot possibly be bad for the science that's going on in the field. It's bizarre that the US government (and the UK) is giving away so much money with apparently no strings attached.
  23. Haha, I saw that. It's also nice that all the pro-GW scientists are hoping that climate change starts again soon. If their scenarios are true, that would be a catastrophe. That either implies that a) they don't believe their own data, and aren't really worried about global warming but just want the control, or b ) they want to see misery happening. It's sad and disgusting.
  24. Even CBS news is reporting on it now, and not in a positive light. This thing has gotten way out of the realm where the MSM can contain it effectively. =) Good article
  25. Thales, it looks to me like the first sentence you quoted is the common misunderstanding, and then he explains what she really said.
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