Aug 252014
 

The Devil Went Down to Georgia

Sinclair Lewis once opined that if fascism ever comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross. I was reminded of that comment when a good friend of mine recently wrote a letter to her local newspaper in Augusta Georgia decrying the killing of nearly two thousand Palestinian civilians in Gaza, describing the deaths as part of “the systemic erosion of the rule of law in our nation and across the globe” since 9/11. A devout Christian, she concluded how from her perspective “The world, it seems, has lost its moral compass.”

Unlike many letter writers, my friend has the life experience to back up her opinion, having served twenty-seven years as a United States Army lawyer, retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel. Much of her most recent work has involved the cases of Guantanamo detainees.

It would have been reasonable to assume that my friend’s letter would elicit a variety of responses, and one might have expected that there would be at least some agreement that a world in which killing and wars have become the norm is an unwelcome aberration. But it was not so. Out of the more than one hundred comments the vast majority were violently and caustically opposed to the principle that Israel and the United States have not exactly been role models for a peaceful world. Many of the comments were both personally insulting and, frequently, highly offensive. Some of the remarks clearly came from military veterans while others had a Christian context.

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Mar 242014
 

Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus, who lived from October 27, 1466, to July 12, 1536, faced censorship in his day, and has never been as popular among the rich and powerful as has his contemporary Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli. But at a distance of half a millennium, we ought to be able to judge work on its merit — and we ought to have regular celebrations of Erasmus around the world. Some of his ideas are catching on. His name is familiar in Europe as that of the EU’s student exchange program, named in his honor. We ought perhaps to wonder what oddball ideas these days might catch on in the 2500s — if humanity is around then.

In 1517, Erasmus wrote The Complaint of Peace, in which Peace, speaking in the first-person, complains about how humanity treats her. She claims to offer “the source of all human blessings” and to be scorned by people who “go in quest of evils infinite in number.”

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Dec 092013
 

Libertarians can offer a positive, optimistic alternative vision of society

I have always found it quaint and rather touching that there is a movement [Libertarians] in the U.S. that thinks Americans are not yet selfish enough.
—Christopher Hitchens

Quite a few of my friends have forwarded me this quote. They consider it funny, but also insightful. In their view, the libertarian movement has no positive program, no specific goals or values of any kind. All libertarians do is oppose things and praise greed.

Given the general perception of libertarians, this seems to be a fair point: Other than greed, what are libertarians for?

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Mar 202013
 

As a young man, I voraciously read George Orwell’s “1984”,  Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” and Alvin Toffler’s trilogy which included “Future Shock”‘, “The Third Wave” and “Power Shift”. During the era of the Vietnam War, I wondered seriously about the future and how it was destined to unfold. Now being considerably older, I have the vantage point to reflect back on my early ruminations and expectations. Unfortunately, I am too old to alter the lessons that are now so painfully obvious. Instead, I pass the gauntlet to those who can understand and take action on what I have unavoidably come to expect for America.

A FRAMEWORK OF UNDERSTANDING

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Mar 112013
 

Editorial note: The following is the second and final part of a speech to the Republican Liberty Caucus of California, delivered March 2, 2013. The first part appeared on Monday, and can be seen here.

In the summer of 1983, there was a major split in the Libertarian Party. I had been a member since 1977. The split took out a good portion of the Party’s leading activists, and most of the money: although at the time the internal conflict looked to be over organizational and even personal issues, the split went much deeper than that – but it took time for the differences to play out. However, that’s another story: the story I want to tell you now is how an intrepid band of libertarians left the LP, and founded the first serious attempt to create an explicitly libertarian Republican organization.

In the wake of what was a debilitating split, two problems with the LP appeared insuperable: 1) it was clear to me, and a few others, that the LP had peaked. After a few years of seemingly unstoppable growth – we got 5.5 percent for governor [of California, in 1978], and the same candidate – Ed Clark – had polled nearly a million votes [for President] in 1980, although John Anderson’s third party campaign stole much of the media spotlight from the LP that year. Beyond that, however, we saw no opportunities for further growth, which led to the second big problem with the LP: ballot access laws. More than half the Party’s resources were spent just getting on the ballot: after that, there wasn’t much left to put into actually campaigning.

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Nov 132012
 

Yesterday, I saw a political yard sign that said “Keep Us Free. Elect Romney.” It exemplifies perfectly one of the major problems we face in this country: the fact that so many Americans honestly believe they live in a free society.

During our recent College Civil Liberties Tour, the issue of public schooling came up during the question and answer session. I said that libertarians favor abolishing public schooling in part because of the indoctrination that takes place there in the quest to mold the “good little citizen.” A student came up to me after one of our programs and said to me, “I can’t believe that you really want to abolish public schooling. How would people be educated? Are you saying that I’ve been indoctrinated?”

I hated to hurt her feelings but I responded truthfully, “Yes. And there is no doubt that people would be much better educated in an entirely free market in education.”

Public schooling, or more accurately, government schooling, is where Americans are indoctrinated as children into believing that the welfare-warfare state way of life constitutes freedom. From the first grade on up, the notion is drilled into their heads that they live in a free country and should be grateful for that. By the time that a person graduates high school, the indoctrination is almost always complete: Most high-school graduates have no doubts that Americans are free. And they carry that mindset all the way into adulthood and possibly even to the day they die.

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Aug 162012
 

The law locks up both man and woman Who steals the goose from off the common, But lets the greater felon loose Who steals the common from the goose.

~ Anonymous

In the aftermath of the murders at the Sikh temple in suburban Milwaukee, a lot of counterfeit hand-wringing was expressed by members of the media, politicians, and men and women who could be counted on to appear on television, covering all the bases of politically correct opinion. Once again, we are treated to the spectacle of people engaging in that deadly practice of psychological “projection” (i.e., the effort to rid oneself of undesired “dark side” influences by presuming such traits to reside in others). Institutional deflectors of causal inquiries find the explanation for undesirable events in superficialities such as guns, rock music, lifestyles, alcohol or illegal drugs, clothing styles, or any other behavior that does not negatively implicate corporate-state interests.

Is the availability of guns the underlying cause of such seemingly random violence against strangers? In my youth – in the late 1940s – it was commonplace for teenage boys to own a rifle – usually .22 caliber in nature. While I did not own such a weapon, I learned how to use one at a Boy Scout camp. Many – perhaps most – of my friends owned a rifle or shotgun, and I do not recall any mass killings resulting therefrom.

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Jul 132012
 

Manners are the lubricant of civilization and so are incentives. Incentives, whether good or bad, make the world go ‘round.

When drugs are illegal such as the wide variety of illicit hallucinogens proscribed by the rulers in America, they don’t go away. Prices rise in the black market attracting guerrilla entrepreneurs who emulate government in their use of violence to deliver goods and services. After all, the government delivers its goods and service at the point of a gun. Behind the smiling and beneficent face of Uncle Sam is a violent psychopath who will stop at nothing, even your death, to enlist your compliance and obedience. He cannot brook opting out or refusing because most sane human beings would do the cost-benefit analysis and discover that the goods and services offered by the government are shabby, ineffective or just plain bad for their health.

So the state puts the economic and behavioral permutations of incentives on their head. If one is a small firm owner, you go out of your way to develop customer relationships that speak to repeat business and a growing clientele of loyal customers. One tries not to treat family members poorly as an incentive to continue to receive their love and comfort.

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Jun 012012
 

We’re supposed to believe that the main reason for reelecting Obama is to NOT return us to the policies of his predecessor, George W. Bush.

This argument presupposes that Bush’s policies were dramatically different from Obama’s.

Is that true?

George W. Bush increased government regulation. He manipulated the mortgage and banking industries, and provided huge subsidies for them when his government interventions failed. He worked to keep income taxes at a level higher than the Reagan era but lower than the Clinton era. He expanded the role of government in medical care by introducing the Medicare prescription drug program. He sent soldiers overseas to fight in wars without any specific purpose, for which no clear definition of victory was ever provided. Bush expanded domestic spending, especially for education and social services. Under his watch the deficit and the national debt expanded significantly, at historically high levels.

Barack Obama increased government regulation. He supported legislation to manipulate the mortgage and banking industries. He also supported manipulation of the auto industry through subsidies and buyouts. He kept income taxes at a level higher than the Reagan era but lower than the Clinton era. He expanded the role of government in medical care by fighting for the passage of ObamaCare, which extends Medicaid and Medicare to most of the population. He sends soldiers overseas to fight in wars without any specific purpose, for which no clear definition of victory is ever provided. Obama expanded domestic spending, especially for education and social services. Under his watch the deficit and the national debt expanded significantly, more than ever in history.

I don’t see a difference here. Do you?

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May 162012
 

Dave Lawrence (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Dave Lawrence (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has become the inevitable Republican Party presidential nominee. Despite the weak economy, he faces an uphill race. It’s never easy to defeat an incumbent president. Moreover, Romney can’t rely on the GOP’s traditional foreign-policy advantage.

Throughout the Cold War Republicans posed as the party of national defense. That stance served the GOP well until the wreck of George W. Bush’s presidency. The public rallied around President Bush when he ordered the invasion of Iraq but soured when it became clear that the war was an unnecessary disaster begun on a lie.

Republican politicians continue to beat the war drums. All of this cycle’s GOP presidential contenders, save Rep. Ron Paul, charged President Barack Obama with weakness, indeed, almost treason. But the public isn’t convinced. The president who increased military spending, twice upped troop levels in Afghanistan, started his own war with Libya, talked tough to North Korea, loudly threatened Iran and Syria, and oversaw the hit on Osama bin Laden just doesn’t look like a wimp.

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