Liable for Compulsive Gambling?

A Pathologist is suing a drug manufacturer, and the casinos that he lost his 14 million dollar Fortune to, because the drug that he was given causes compulsive gambling. I think that not only the drug manufacturer, but the casinos could loose that lawsuit, despite the objections about “where is the justice in this” that I’ve heard.

The lawsuit has nothing to do with justice, and everything to do with philosophy. In the dominant philosophy in the US right now (Kantian Altruism) it is accepted that “we are our brothers keeper” which means that the casinos have the responsibility to tell someone who is hurting himself by loosing too much “you’ve had enough now brother, time to stop”. It doesn’t matter that this introduces a whole new mess of problems for the gambling industry. Just like the can o’ worms that bars now face (and that McDonald’s et al narrowly dodged by adding ‘healthy’ items to their menus) in having to be “brother’s keeper”, the casinos have a responsibility to do likewise.

The only way this can be corrected is to change the dominant philosophy in the world today; a daunting task.

As a Capitalist/Objectivist, I’m not going to bother trying to defend the argument that the casinos should be liable; I’m just stating for the record, that based on Altruist values and reasoning, they are.

“Mcmansions” or just a sign of the changing times…

Only in Austin would they spit on revitalizing downtown residential districts, and call the resultant housing ‘McMansions’. Everywhere else this epithet is used (and rightly, in my opinion) it is applied to the overly large, over priced, housing that springs up in the suburbs. As an architect with a family to feed, I can share the blame for a good portion of that type of housing. Most of the families who moved into houses that I helped get built were quite thankful to have them. To each his own, I live in the central city because I like the convenience of being near downtown.

Based on the complaints of disgruntled neighbors, the Austin city council took action last week and suspended all pending permits for construction in established neighborhoods, subject to review and possible further restriction by ordinance. (how is this not Ex Post Facto, is what I’d like to know, but let’s not get off on a tangent here) Anyone who thinks this isn’t about the same ‘no-growth’ issues that Austin has always been preoccupied with needs to take a crash course in the history of Austin politics.

All you have to do is see which side the usual suspects line up on. The Austin American Statesman is foursquare against the ban, as can be seen from the multiple Op-Ed columns and letters on the subject. Too bad they don’t consistently side with those interested in preserving property rights. This time the property rights (and values) argument is what is being offered by the builders, so that’s the tack that is going to be taken by those who follow the chamber of commerce side of the argument.

On the other end of the spectrum is the champion of no-growth, the Austin Chronicle. At least they are consistent in lamenting the halcyon days of Austin in the 70’s, back when the city was a town, and it was empty when UT wasn’t in session. I wish these people would wake up and smell the coffee.

That Austin has been gone for so long, it was only a memory when I moved here in the late 80’s. The no-growthers got what they wanted way back then, except they found out they didn’t want it when they saw what it was. Property values crashed, jobs went away, projects were left rotting and half completed. They got it again when they passed SOS and successfully killed development in areas outside the city.

This problem is also of their own making. The traffic congestion which is a result of blocking most of the new freeway work that had been proposed 20 years ago, makes living in the suburbs an almost intolerable commute if you work downtown now. Many people who do so would (like me) like to live close enough to avoid a long commute. This (along with other factors) produces higher demand for housing in central Austin. The resultant rise in land prices (also an offshoot of the FACT that Austin isn’t a sleepy little town anymore; but a full fledged city of more than 500,000) has lead land owners to capitalize on property investments.

Now, horror of horrors, “the growth is happening right next door to me!”, not out in the suburbs. “Gotta call my councilman, and put a stop to this.” That’s how it always starts, and it never turns out like they planned it.

If you don’t own the property in question, you don’t have any right to dictate to the current owner what gets built on it. That won’t stop most people from trying, but what usually ends up happening is the development happens anyway, it just ends up costing more. This is what comes from relying on zoning and city officials to do a job that could more reliably be done with restrictive covenants and/or architectural planners who have a clue about what makes sense land use wise.

But then the chamber of commerce types wouldn’t be able to ram through the developments they want when the tables are reversed…

A Lemmings Tale

When I get to puzzling over the quandary of how to convince people that political change is necessary, I am reminded of a computer game I used to play. “Lemmings” was its name.

Lemmings. Ah, those were the days.

These cute little green headed characters would drop out of an entry point, and wander in a specific direction (Oddly enough, to the right. What is the significance of that?) until they met with certain doom. The players job was to save as many as possible from the doom they were marching towards, by converting the walkers to various other functions. In some of the later stages of the game, there just was no way to save all of them. In one specific instance, there is a cliff in front of a relentless stream of Lemmings, and you don’t have any way to stop them. You can stop enough of them to win the scenario, but only if you play it right. You, of course, would rather save them all, but it can’t be done. They walk over the cliff in spite of your best efforts.

That is where we are now, late in the game. Libertarians pointed out years ago that a 9-11 like attack was coming. It’s happened now.

The freedom ploy engaged in by the smugglers John Hancock & Samuel Adams was diverted. The empire that Lincoln was forced to create re-claiming the South for the Union reached its summit in the 50’s and now drops down into historical irrelevance again. FDR’s schemes are coming to their crisis points and must be reformed or scrapped. There is no evading the cliff in front of us, unless we take action. We have to convince enough people who can think for themselves that there is a problem, and that there is a workable solution. ‘Enough’ is a fluid number, based on what solution is used as a target. The rest will have to walk on over the cliff, in spite of us.

We all choose our own destiny, even if our choice is not to choose.

Charges in Fatal Dog Attack

When I wrote on this subject previously, this was the headline: Charges in fatal dog attack not likely, sheriff says Which was, as I said at the time, outrageous.

Apparently the Grand Jury in Milam County felt the same way:

The owner of six dogs that mauled a woman to death in November was indicted Thursday by a Milam County grand jury.
Jose Hernandez, 52, of Thorndale was arrested by Milam County authorities after being indicted for criminal negligent homicide as a result of the November 26, 2005, dog attack in which Lillian Lorraine Stiles was attacked and killed at her residence by dogs owned by Hernandez.
Authorities say the pit bull-Rottweiler mixed-breed dogs attacked and killed Lillian Stiles as she rode a lawn mower. Her husband, Jack, was inside the house watching a football game. He shot and killed one of the dogs. The other five were later euthanized.

Here’s hoping justice is done on the subject.


2017. Reading back through the early blog articles I was stunned to realize I never followed up on this story. Sadly, the jury was unwilling to convict the dog owner. I found a legal opinion on the subject here a portion of which follows. There is more information at the above link if you are interested.

Health & Safety Code §822.041 provides that a court may declare a dog “dangerous” basically if it causes injury in an unprovoked attack. It is a Class C misdemeanor if the owner violates the provisions of the dangerous dog law or the dog causes serious injury in an unprovoked attack. It is a Class A misdemeanor if the dangerous dog causes a death of a person in an unprovoked attack. A $10,000 penalty may also be imposed on the owner whose dangerous dog causes serious injury or kills someone. Texas Heath & Safety Code §§822.044, 822.045. (See generally Dangerous and Vicious Dogs for discussion of the legal meaning of “dangerous” and the issues pertaining to legal “dangerousness.”)

If a dog has not been previously declared “dangerous,” however, there is a “loophole” in the law, in that there is no law that addresses the situation. Given the savageness of this killing, prosecutors attempted to apply the general law. To make the punishment fit the crime, the grand jury indicted Jose Hernandez for criminally negligent homicide. His trial took place in March 2007.

The conviction of this dog owner depended upon overcoming the bane of dog bite victims, namely the one-bite rule. Under this ancient British legal doctrine, the owner of any domestic animal is not held responsible for the first bite, the first mauling, or the first killing by each and every one of his animals. (See The One Bite Rule.) Texas is in a minority of states that continues to salute the flag of Great Britain when it comes to dog bite laws. (For lists of states that follow or have abrogated the one bite rule, see Legal Rights of Dog Bite Victims in the USA.)

Hernandez testified that he had no idea his animals were capable of such brutality. He admitted none of his animals had ever been seen by a veterinarian and hadn’t been vaccinated. Several other witnesses for the defense testified that Hernandez’ dogs were not aggressive and were not trained to be aggressive.

The jury found Hernandez not guilty.

Kenneth M. Phillips, The Lillian Stiles case (Texas v. Hernandez)

I had never heard of the one bite rule before in my life. I’m actually horrified that this is defacto law in Texas. The legislature did update the laws after the verdict in this case, but the laws remain woefully lax when it comes to holding dog owners responsible for the behavior of their animals.  

“Accidents Happen”

That was the reported response by Harry Whittington today when questioned over the VP shooting him last weekend in Texas.

On another note, I was listening to Rush Limbaugh (whom I have lovingly referred to as a “Modern age Joseph Goebbels” for about as long as he’s been on the air) defending Cheney against the conspiracy theorists that are calling the show and spinning their theories concerning the accident yesterday. He kept referring to them as ‘idiots’.

Sorry there Joey, but from where I’m sitting there is plenty of idiocy to go around. Granted it was an accident, but only an idiot fires blind in the direction that your hunting partners are in. Only an idiot pulls the trigger when there is a guy wearing safety orange visible in your sight.

The local authorities have been using this incident, and the airtime concerning guns, to lament on the number of people who go hunting and don’t take gun safety courses. Maybe Mr. Cheney should look into them. Of course, I took the class; although the curriculum was a little different when I took it. It’s called dad smacking me on the head when I did something stupid while carrying a loaded weapon. I don’t think I’d volunteer to instruct the VP though. He’s liable to mistake me for a bird as well.

THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART HEADLINES – CHENEY’S GOT A GUN – 2/13/2006

“Yes, as you’ve just heard, a near-tragedy over the weekend in south Texas. Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot a man during a quail hunt at a political supporter’s ranch. Making 78-year-old Harry Whittington the first person shot by a sitting VP since Alexander Hamilton.

“Hamilton, of course, shot in a duel with Aaron Burr over issues of honor, integrity and political maneuvering. Whittington? Mistaken for a bird.

The Daily Show with Jon StewartCheney’s Got a Gun

Standard American Mutt

Every time I take a survey, I get pissed off.

Why? Because in every survey, the bean counters in charge of it want to nail down exactly what group I’m a part of, so that they can massage their numbers to get the answers they want. Amongst the male or female, married or single, how much money do I make type questions, they inevitably ask “what is your race?”

Hell if I know, I’ve never done a genealogy on my family history. The subject is about as interesting as watching paint dry. My skin’s white, sure enough. But that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Ancestry determines what type of blood runs in your veins; and only working with the surnames of my grandparents, I can claim German, French and English blood (Caucasoid? WTF is that?) Who knows what else has been thrown in there over the last couple of hundred years? In my estimation that makes me a Standard American Mutt.

‘Race’ is an illusion anyway. The behavior attributed to ‘race’ is nothing more than ethnic culture; the absorbed societal norms which influence the thinking of an individual, and culture changes from generation to generation (and the people who wish to preserve their ethnicity are fighting an losing battle on a constantly shifting slope) The genetic differences between the ‘races’ are no greater than the genetic differences between individuals of the same race. So what does it mean to claim membership in a particular race? Bragging rights?

Beats me. I’m proud to proclaim myself a ‘mutt’. Now if I can just get the people printing forms and writing surveys to include Standard American Mutt as one of the choices…

Fiat Money

I was not surprised to hear that Ben S. Bernanke advanced to head of the Federal Reserve Board, with little fanfare earlier this week. Dubbed the “Prince of Paper” because of his suggestion that the the US could simply print it’s way out of economic troubles (a frightening idea to anybody who understands money) I expect that he will continue in the footsteps of those who have lead the Fed before him. This might come as a surprise to most people out there, but this won’t be good for the country.

With the national debt now over 8 trillion dollars, 4 trillion of it being held in private hands (which means we pay interest on that portion of the debt) The question really becomes “why are we paying others to carry debt that we owe ourselves?”

I was listening to a local talk show host, Patrick Timpone, recently; and heard excellent idea from the guest. Didn’t catch who he was (don’t think I heard his name) but his argument amounted to “…if we are going to endorse the fiat money system as ‘the way’ to do money in the modern age, then we need to make sure that the citizens of the US are the ones who profit from the use of our money, not the banks and individuals who ‘own’ the debt.” The treasury should take back the ability to ‘print money’ (this will actually require a constitutional amendment, for those who remember we have one) and simply print the money it needs itself. Any subsequent ‘benefit’ to the debt’s existence would accrue to the Americans to whom the debt is owed.

Maybe the way to make money more ‘elastic’ (without engaging in inflationary money printing ventures like “The Prince” will embark on) is to adopt a system like the Ripple or Cyclos monetary systems, allowing us to privately monetize ourselves what we currently have to go to the banks for.

Something to think about, but I’d still prefer to have the silver in my hand, rather than any IOU; even if that IOU is backed by “the full faith and credit”…

Downward Spiral Continues

Mentioned Steve Kubby the other day; I also blogged about the Downward Spiral that the system seems to be caught in.

Well, Steve isn’t getting any better, he’s getting worse. A quick scan of articles on the subject should make that quite obvious. The people responsible for holding him in prison are getting cold feet, made him sign a waiver of liability in case he should die in their prison. I imagine that they want us all to think that locking a man up and keeping him from taking what he believes will save his life, which will most likely cause his death, shouldn’t be held against the prison system. Like prison guards anywhere, they should understand that ‘just doing their jobs’ isn’t a good enough excuse.

Which brings me to Cory Maye. Cory Maye did what that friend of mine had a nightmare of doing. The nightmare continues for him. I don’t see why this man should sit on death row for something that any of us should not be afraid to do; shoot unidentified intruders who break into our houses in the middle of the night. It’s a point in the favor of the policemen involved that Cory Maye isn’t dead; most of the people who resist the police in these types of situations end up with several bullets in them.

If those backing ‘total law enforcement’ don’t like that Cory Maye can shoot a policeman and not be killed in return; I suggest that in the future, the police avoid being mistaken for petty criminals involved in smash and grab burglaries, not prosecute the average citizen for defending himself.

Writing without Reason?

I generally have two or three books I’m working on reading at any given time. Currently my non-fiction book of choice is Stephen Hick‘s Explaining Postmodernism. So far it’s been an excellent read for anyone wanting to understand some of the broad philosophical trends of the last few centuries. Currently I’m working through chapter 4 – “The Climate of Collectivism”. I’m marveling over the impact that someone like Rousseau seems to have had over philosophy in recent history.

Whatever else he may have said aside, anyone who writes theses about reason being the root of mankind’s unhappiness, and that we must abandon it in order to be happy, really ought to look to his own house first. As someone who has written volumes over the years, I think I can honestly say that one cannot write a sentence without applying reason, much less an entire treatise on any given subject.

I’ll give him one thing, mankind would have been much happier if he had followed his own advice. 

A Downward Spiral

A friend of mine tried to make a call to me the other day. Seems he was picked up on an old warrant issued on a citation that he had thought had been dismissed. I didn’t actually get to talk to him because Correctional Billing Services refused to allow him to speak to anyone on the phone unless they were willing to pay 50 dollars in advance for the ‘privilege’ while he was being detained at Travis County.

With no other visitation options, they are, there is no other word for it, extorting money from friends and family members of anyone unfortunate enough to get arrested in Travis County. They stole personal information from us under false pretense (asked for address and billing information and then claimed to “not have a contract” with our phone provider. Strangely, they didn’t have a contract with one of the largest mobile phone providers in the country either) and then demanded 50 dollars in advance to be allowed to talk to this friend of ours who has clearly had a hard enough time today.

They then proceeded to tie up our phone line for several minutes after we declined to pay them their usurious fee. The supervisor that we demanded to speak to (none of them would give names) called back after we hung up and proceed to lay the phone down in order to tie up the line on purpose.

[Bad as Travis County is, Williamson County is magnitudes worse, so don’t get me wrong here. I’d sure like to see the contracts for this company pulled. I’d rather see them inhabiting the same cells they currently provide service to, and see how well they like it. But I’ll settle for simply putting them out of business]

It’s been 4 years (and more) of purgatory for this friend of mine, all because he was caught speeding and then agreed to a search of his vehicle by the officer that pulled him over (which I would never agree to, myself) who then found something to arrest him for inside the vehicle. This time they stopped him for a broken headlight, and when they ran his license number came up with the warrant that failed to get dismissed due to some petty little clerk’s vengeful attitude. And off to jail he goes again.

Some would say “well that’s what you get, should have kept his nose clean”; but to me it’s the opposite lesson that should be taken from this. Always assume that you are guilty, and that you will end up in jail. With all the new laws on the books, there’s bound to be something that you can go to jail for if they decide they want you. Learn to ‘bah’ convincingly like a sheep, for as long as it profits you; but don’t bother worrying about whether your nose is clean. They’ll dirty it for you if it’s deemed necessary. Just keep the number of a good lawyer handy, you’ll probably need it.

At lunch the other day, another friend of mine related a story concerning how he was nearly shot for being a drug dealer, just because he had the same name as someone who was fingered by a felon looking to lower his jail time. It was only due to a panicked call to 911 because there were strangers in his yard, that the warrentless invasion of his property was avoided. The vision flashed before his eyes, so he said. His house on the 6 o’clock news, and how they would describe him as one of those ‘kooky gun nuts’ that dared to resist police who were just ‘doing their jobs’.

The downward spiral is in the system, not in the morals of today’s population.