Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Coming Of Christ

This is an old article and factually in error on a few things, I think, but still great.

The Coming of Christ

John W. Robbins

Life and Death. In the ancient world abortion, the exposure of infants, infanticide, and suicide were common and legal. At the coming of Christ, the Roman governor in Judea, Herod the Great, in an attempt to murder Jesus, ordered that all the male infants in Bethlehem and the region surrounding it, from two years old and younger, be put to death.

The head of the Roman family had the power of life and death—patria potestas—over his children and slaves. At birth, the midwife would place the newborn on the ground, where he would remain unless the father took the child and raised him from the earth. If the father did not raise the child, he—or more likely she—was left to die in some public place. The pagans exposed their children because they were poor, ambitious, or concerned about their “quality of life”: “so as not to see them corrupted by a mediocre education that would leave them unfit for rank and quality,” to quote Plutarch. The first Christians rescued thousands of children discarded by the pagans. Thousands were also rescued by pagans, who would raise them to be slaves and prostitutes. If infants were born with defects, they were frequently killed, rather than exposed. Infanticide was not merely the practice of the pagans, it was their doctrine as well: Plato and Aristotle endorsed infanticide, and Seneca wrote: “What is good must be set apart from what is good for nothing.”

According to Roman law, the power of the father over his children remained as long as he lived. An adult Roman man could do nothing without his father’s consent; his father could even sentence him to death."

Continue reading.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Is It Terrorism?

Recently I was looking up some of the details of the 1916 explosion at Black Tom, New Jersey. The explosion occurred on July 30, 1916 at a warehouse/rail yard/shipping depot where ammunition was stored before being shipped. It was suspected that it was the work of German saboteurs, but it was never proven who did it, although the German government did pay reparations from a civil lawsuit over the incident.

The thing that struck me while looking at various accounts of this is that there is now a plaque at the site that reads:

"Explosion at Liberty! On July 30, 1916 the Black Tom munitions depot exploded rocking New York Harbor and sending residents tumbling from their beds. The noise of the explosion was heard as far away as Maryland and Connecticut. On Ellis Island, terrified immigrants were evacuated by ferry to the Battery. Shrapnel pierced the Statue of Liberty (the arm of the Statue was closed to visitors after this). Property damage was estimated at $20 million. It is not known how many died. Why the explosion? Was it an accident or planned? According to historians, the Germans sabotaged the Lehigh Valley munitions depot in order to stop deliveries being made to the British who had blockaded the Germans in Europe. You are walking on a site which saw one of the worst acts of terrorism in American history." (emphasis added)

According to the plaque itself it is not known:
(1) Who did it.
(2) Why they did it if it was in fact caused by a human agent.
(3) Whether anybody did it or if it was caused by some kind of self-ignition.

I am willing to believe that German agents probably were responsible, but if so, how is that terrorism? The British and Germans are engaged in a war, the British are blockading the Germans; the Germans blow up an ammunition depot in a supposedly - but not actually - neutral country to prevent their enemies from getting ammunition. What definition of terrorism would include an act such as this? Why is it that every act of violence against the US meets the definition of terrorism, but said definition never applies when we bomb countries that have not attacked or even threatened to attack us?

A friend of mine was in the Marine barracks in Lebanon when it was blown up and is always quick to correct anybody when they refer to it as a "terrorist bombing." He points out that it was a legitimate military target. The same could be said of the bombing of the USS Cole, sometimes referred to as a "terrorist bombing."

When we bomb another country, it "sends a signal," but when any country does anything to us, it's "terrorism."

The US is currently trying to extradite a guy from Canada by the name of  Faruq Khalil Muhammad ‘Isa. Mr. 'Isa is an Iraqi who had the audacity to attack military personnel of an invading army. The fact that they were US military personnel meant that his actions fit the elastic definition of "terrorism." It would be difficult to draw a distinction between Mr. 'Isa and the members of the French Resistance, who are considered heroes for fighting an invading army.

The US government has been making threats against Iran for several years because the Iranians are supposedly trying to build a nuclear weapon. The Iranians deny any such project as do the intelligence agencies of the US government, but it seems expedient to have a pretext for attacking them whenever we decide to. If our government attacks Iran for building or trying to build a bomb, how will this not be terrorism?

One of the lessons that could be learned regarding nuclear weapons is that if you want security from being attacked by the US, acquire a few nuclear weapons. We never seem to attack any country that actually has them.

Terrorism is a term that should be abandoned since it defies precise definition.

According to the FBI website:
 "There is no single, universally accepted, definition of terrorism. Terrorism is defined in the Code of Federal Regulations as “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives” (28 C.F.R. Section 0.85)." (emphasis added)

Does this mean that if the police or military act "unlawfully" in trying to disperse or control a demonstration that they are guilty of terrorism? If the police should act unlawfully - beyond the scope of their authority - in trying to disperse something like the Occupy Wherever movement or pro-life demonstrators, are they guilty of terrorism? What about the National Guardsmen at Kent State? 

If charges are ever brought in an incident like any of these it's probably going to be concluded after an "investigation" that officials acted "according to procedure."

The Senate passed a bill on Thursday (12-15-2011) allowing indefinite detention of people suspected of terrorism. Only 13 senators* voted against it. The other 86 should be voted out of office no matter how "good" they are on other questions. Traitors should not be rewarded.

* The 13 senators who voted against the bill were Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.).

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Oath Breakers

Should murder be legalized? What about speeding, reckless driving, arson, rape or gambling? No, you say? As far as I know, all of these things are legal as far as the federal government is concerned - that is to say that their regulation or prohibition is a state matter.

Ron Paul's support for "legalizing" drugs would legalize them in the same way that murder is now legal. Why should drugs be any different from murder or speeding? If a group of farmers decides to start growing opium poppies and open up an opium den associated with the farm, how is this a federal matter?

The late Congressman Larry McDonald said that he had several questions he asked himself before voting on - or maybe even reading - a bill:

(1) Is it constitutional?
(2) Can we afford it?
(3) Is it a good idea?

If a bill fails the first test you needn't proceed any further. It doesn't matter how great an idea it is if it isn't constitutional.

Government officials routinely perjure themselves by voting for, signing or upholding unconstitutional bills. Violating an oath is still perjury even if you think you have a good reason. St. Thomas Aquinas says that even if you swear to commit an evil act - e.g. murder someone - you cannot morally perform the act, but you are still a perjurer. Perjury has become so commonplace that nobody thinks anything about it.

A politician who honors his oath of office is so rare that Ron Paul is unique. There may be others, but I don't know who they are. There are quite a few who follow the constitution when it doesn't matter, but when the fat's to the fire, they will vote however they are supposed to. Thirty or so years ago, I was at a rally, and G.V. "Sonny" Montgomery, a congressman from Mississippi was speaking about something long forgotten. One thing he said that hasn't been forgotten was that politicians with ratings in the 70s or 80s by the Americans For Constitutional Action are "conservative when it doesn't matter."

Most people who constantly squawk about obeying the constitution want to make exceptions in their own cases or for other "good reasons." One constantly recurring and popular violation is the awarding of gold medals to various people in a thinly veiled feel-good vote-buying scheme.

Ron Paul is sometimes portrayed as an ogre for opposing these bills. In 1997 there was a bill to award a medal to Mother Teresa, which he opposed.

From the Congressional Record, U.S. House of Representatives, May 20, 1997.
RON PAUL: Mr. Speaker, I rise today in opposition to H. R. 1650. At the same time, I rise in total support of, and with complete respect for, the work of Mother Teresa, the Missionaries of Charity organization, and each of Mother Teresa’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning humanitarian efforts. I oppose the Gold Medal for Mother Teresa Act because appropriating $30,000 of taxpayer money is neither constitutional nor, in the spirit of Mother Teresa who dedicated her entire life to voluntary, charitable work, particularly humanitarian.
Because of my continuing and uncompromising opposition to appropriations not authorized within the enumerated powers of the Constitution, several of my colleagues found it amusing to question me personally as to whether, on this issue, I would maintain my resolve and commitment of the Constitution — a Constitution which, only months ago, each Member of Congress swore to uphold. In each of these instances, I offered to do a little more than uphold my constitutional oath.
In fact, as a means of demonstrating my personal regard and enthusiasm for the work of Mother Teresa, I invited each of my colleagues to match my private, personal contribution of $100 which, if accepted by the 435 Members of the House of Representatives, would more than satisfy the $30,000 cost necessary to mint and award a gold medal to the well-deserving Mother Teresa. To me, it seemed a particularly good opportunity to demonstrate one's genuine convictions by spending one's own money rather than that of the taxpayers who remain free to contribute, at their own discretion, to the work of Mother Teresa, and have consistently done so. For the record, not a single Representative who solicited my support for spending taxpayer's money, was willing to contribute their own money to demonstrate the courage of their so-called convictions and generosity.
It is, of course, very easy to be generous with other people’s money.
In a similar vein, there is a famous incident recounted here between Davy Crockett and a constituent named Horatio Bunce, in which Bunce reprimands Crockett for appropriating tax money in a charitable cause. Crockett did have the integrity to admit that Bunce was right and pledged to not do it again.

It is easy to see why politicians have no regard for their oath of office when nothing happens to them for violating it and one who holds it sacred is called a "kook" for honoring it. Anybody who claims they want a constitutionalist for president has no options other than Ron Paul. He is the only one who is bound by the dictates of the constitution and has a 24 year record to substantiate what he claims.

The record of all others who have a voting record contradicts any claim they make of honoring their oath to uphold the constitution. We have a system of men, not laws. No system of law is possible when it can be disregarded by those sworn to uphold it.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Not Enough Government

Is there any problem for which more government is not the solution? I have noticed signs appearing everywhere warning that chubbiness is not a cute attribute in children. I think these are erected by some private group, but I have no doubt that even if this is a private "educational" campaign, pretty soon it's going to become my responsibility to remedy the "problem" or "crisis" of childhood chubbiness. After all, "we" can't have children getting fat because we're all responsible for everybody else's health.

With the passage of socialized medical care we now have an excuse to horn in on everybody's behavior. Every malady - real or imagined - becomes a collective problem, or "challenge" as they like to say nowadays.

Are you a dope addict or a drunk who has ruined your health with intemperate behavior? Don't worry, we're all responsible for your expenses and treatment. Picked up a venereal disease down at the waterfront bar? That's everybody's responsibility too, and not only is treatment a collective obligation, but we must have "education" to teach people how to avoid catching something that has been known about for thousands of years.

Knowing the way government programs always develop mission creep, pretty soon we're going to have to pay for psychological counseling for women whose looks are deteriorating or guys that are going bald. Maybe men can be issued a voucher for free treatments at the Hair Club For Men and women can get a subsidized membership in Curves. This sounds far fetched now, but pretty soon it will be a "right."

Not to suggest any pernicious ideas, but why is schooling free until you get to college at which time you have to start paying for it? I realize that no education takes place in most of these schools, but since that's the supposed reason for their existence, why should it stop at grade 12? Maybe you want to get a doctorate in Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame - shouldn't your freedom from want (one of FDRs Four Freedoms) allow you to study or "explore" this at tax-victim expense?

Whenever a new program is proposed or introduced and has the effect that the opponents predicted, the reply is always that things would be much worse if said program had not been instituted. When sex education was imposed in spite of vigorous objections, it ended up having the results that the nay-sayers predicted, but the answer from the educrats was that things would have been much worse without it.

The same was true of the financial disaster. The crash wasn't caused by know-nothings monkeying around with the economy - no-  total ruin was averted by the prudent measures taken by omnicompetent bureaucrats to right the mistakes of private parties.

The government and the news organizations are in a meretricious relationship, and it never fails that we are instructed in the proper interpretation of events. Several years ago, when the government was trying to gin up AIDS hysteria, Magic Johnson became a vehicle to use in the effort. There were pronouncements that "Now we know that anybody can get AIDS."  Probably just about everybody already knew that without being told.
The annual flu scare is starting now so you had better rush out and get a flu shot because the CDC says that you should.

With the aforementioned passage of socialized medicine the government now has an excuse to meddle in almost every conceivable activity. Diet is the most obvious area open for control since everybody has to stay healthy so we don't cause any unnecessary expenses, but what about auto maintenance? If you're driving around with bald tires or defective brakes you might wreck or cause someone else to - better have some mandatory auto inspections.

Perhaps you have unrecognized health hazards at your house - dirty air filters on your HVAC system, pathogens lurking in your carpet, bugs, rats, moldy shower curtain, combustible materials near an ignition source, improperly secured swimming pool, over-temp refrigerator, cat walking on counter tops, ad infinitum.

At the grocery, maybe they can program the scanner to calculate the fat, salt, sugar, alcohol and caffeine content of the items scanned and forbid the sale at a certain aggregate. You could be required to enter the number of people you were buying for so the machine could compensate - crazy, I know, but you can never out-crazy the government. Putting government in charge of medical services really does give it an all purpose excuse to forbid or mandate just about anything. It won't happen immediately, but it won't be at snail's pace either. When you go in for any reason, the "medical professional" (now a government agent) will be able to perform a drug test to see if you're endangering your health. Maybe every office can have a police precinct to haul violators to jail. It's all our business now. With government control of health, there is absolutely nothing that is none of its business. As the saying goes, "He that pays the piper calls the tune."

This health bill is going to be found to have all kinds of "penumbras" and "emanations" associated with it.
It really turns the keys to the Temple over to government.

Forty years ago, who would have thought that in just a few years the government would be telling you what kind of windows to put in your house, or what the picket spacing should be on your railings, the acceptable measurements for the rise and run of stairs, flow rates for toilets and shower heads, the required surface area of handrails, what kind of light bulbs are allowed, acceptable door widths, counter heights, switch heights and on and on? Some places prescribe the maximum allowable height for grass.

There is no subject about which government doesn't judge its competence superior to all others. This would be crazy even if the smartest people went into government employment, but they don't. Whenever there is a disaster of some kind there will be the usual "investigation" and the findings are always going to be a "failure" of some private person or entity.  It's never going to be found that there was too much regulation or that the existing regulations contributed to the problem.

Some children are smarter than others, at least that's the way it was when I was in school, but now it's believed that if we just have the right teachers, books, audio visual aids, class size, uniforms, school year length, metal detectors, hall marshals and on and on, we can get equal outcomes. It is never going to be admitted that some people are race horses, some plow mules, some mustangs and some jackasses.

This is because the jackasses are in charge.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Walbro Carburetor Fix For Miller Big 40 Welder

About three years ago, I had a carburetor problem with a Miller Big 40 welder. The engine is a Continental 4 cylinder flat head.

The float swelled up and wouldn't turn the fuel flow off. I checked all over the civilized world for a replacement float, but couldn't find one anywhere. The problem with finding a float was that the engine used a Walbro carburetor and it was long discontinued The float is a brown phenolic or micarta-like substance, not a brass float. I assume the new fuel (10% ethanol) was the fly in the ointment.

With nothing to lose by trying to remedy the problem in an unorthodox manner, I decided to sand the float down until it would move freely in the bowl. I compared notes with James Reeve, a friend who has been fooling around with engines forever and he said that he used to modify the float configuration on his race cars and then seal the float with epoxy.

I did this and it worked for a few months, but again swelled up. I again disassembled the carb and sanded the float as I had done previously. There was a tiny hole in the epoxy when I took the carb apart that had allowed gas to permeate the float again.

The second time I let the float "air dry" a day or two before applying the epoxy and it's still working fine. I think the problem was caused by the float out-gassing when I originally coated it with epoxy, causing it to have the tiny hole  in the epoxy and allowing it to swell again.

Keep in mind that when you sand the float it needs to have enough clearance to still work when the epoxy is added.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Those Ignorant Churchmen

Hardly a week goes by that you can't find an article somewhere on the web, the gist of which is how fortunate moderns are to be free of the superstition and ignorance of religion, especially Christian religion and Catholicism in particular. The only thing worse than Bible-thumping Fundamentalists is the Catholic Church.

Anyone reading the comments following an article on the teaching of evolution or almost any other topic centering or bordering on science will notice lots of idiotic comments about how science has disproved religion or how religion persecuted scientists, with the obligatory comment(s) about Galileo by someone who knows nothing about the actual Galileo case. Many times there are comments by people who think the "Big Bang" theory disproves religion.

I read an interview a year or so ago with a scientist who thought that Galileo was arguing that the earth is round and the churchmen were arguing that it is flat. There is an interview of David Koch here, in which he tells Suzan Mazur that "Galileo was imprisoned for years for saying the world was round. " He would be hard pressed to find any pronouncements by the church or anybody else that the earth is flat. This is a myth that was concocted by Washington Irving for his biography of Christopher Columbus.

Prior to Galileo, the German Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa had a heliocentric theory as did - as everybody knows - Copernicus, who was a cleric and a canon lawyer, which most people don't know.

If the Church is as hostile to science as it is believed to be, one would expect to find no serious scientists anywhere near it, but is that the case? If you know who Georges Lemaitre is and what he is known for raise your hand. Don't know? Monsignor Lemaitre is the Belgian priest who formulated the theory that came to be   called - pejoratively - The Big Bang. His own term for the theory was "Primeval Atom" or Day without a yesterday.

Msgr. Georges Lemaitre
Gregor Mendel, another ignoramus who was an Augustinian friar founded the science of genetics, and the Austrian Meteorological Society; the laws of Mendelian inheritance get their name from him.

The Society of Jesus (Jesuits) has long been involved in seismology and astronomy, so much so that seismology is called "The Jesuit Science."

Giovanni Battista Riccioli S.J. was the first person to accurately measure the rate of acceleration of a free falling body. He also developed extremely accurate pendulums with which to time his experiments. His mammoth book, the Almagestum Novum took up 1500 folio pages and was still being cited over 100 years after publication. In it, he discusses among other things, 126 arguments concerning the motion - or lack thereof - of the earth; 49 for motion, 77 against. A few hundred years before him, the Franciscan Roger Bacon was fooling around with philosophy, optics, gunpowder, and criticizing the Julian calendar.

If you drive a car or ride the bus, you might be indebted to Fr. Eugenio Barsanti, the probable inventor of the internal combustion engine. If you use a refrigerator, you can thank G.E. and Abbe Marcel Audiffren, a French Cistercian monk from whom G.E. bought the license to manufacture the first home refrigerator in either 1905 or 1911; that date is disputed.

In their book Hurricane Watch: Forecasting the Deadliest Storms on Earth, Bob Sheets and Jack Williams tell of Fr. Benito Viñes, S.J. and his development of hurricane forecasting.

"The [Jesuit] order's long tradition of scientific education and research had made seismology something of a specialty, but Cuba's problem was hurricanes, not earthquakes. It and all the other islands of the Caribbean and the eastern Atlantic Ocean had been periodically, tragically devastated by the great storms arriving almost unannounced on their shorelines. Within just a few years, Viñes more or less singlehandedly evened the playing field, and by the end of the [19th] century he and his fellow Jesuit Fr. Fedorico Faura, who was based in Manila, the Philippines, were the most proficient and best-known cyclone forecasters in the world."

Considering that they did this by observation, without radio reports from ships at sea, airplanes or satellites their accomplishments are astounding.

It is not just the physical sciences that the churchmen have shown an interest in. Raymond de Roover, Joseph Schumpeter, Murray Rothbard, Tom Woods, et al. have written about the school of Salamanca and the Late Scholastics, who were way ahead of Adam Smith in their economic ideas. Many of these men were moral or dogmatic theologians who had an interest in economic questions.

Luis de Molina, 1535 - 1600, One of the Late Scholastics
It was the school of Salamanca that Samuel Johnson said:

“I love the University of Salamanca, for when the Spaniards were in doubt as to the lawfulness of their conquering America, the University of Salamanca gave it as their opinion that it was not lawful.”

One of the reasons that people believe such nonsense about a supposed conflict between science and religion is because of the government school system. If you attended the government schools like I mostly did, the rest of your life is spent in an effort to overcome the induced blindness that is brought about - purposely, I think - by a constant exposure to error. The private schools are subject to the same danger through their use of the same textbooks.

In the United States we supposedly have a separation of church and state, but actually the state is the church.
Private religion is fine as long as its doctrines are not put before those of the state; the state will have no strange gods before it, hence it is necessary to denigrate those who believe in an eternal God who is greater than the state - the true Law Giver instead of a legislator.

There are plenty of Protestants who were religious men and scientists such as Sir Isaac Newton who wrote more on religion than on science, and Wernher von Braun who saw no conflict between science and religion, but Protestantism doesn't attract as great enmity as Catholicism. Protestantism also does not provide its detractors with a large single target of great antiquity, but thousands of different groups which are not hurt collectively through the injury of one or a few.  For a fairly long list of scientists who were Christian, go here, here and  here

Monday, October 10, 2011

We The People

One of the greatest myths -  if not the greatest - that Americans are taught is that the government expresses the will of the people. Is this really the case or is it a mechanism of psychological control?

I think it is obvious to anyone who drives a car that the vast majority of people think speed limits are too low, particularly on limited access highways. It appears that at least 90% of the people are speeding - at least in Georgia - but the speed limits remain artificially low. A couple of years ago some college students drove around  I-285 all abreast at the speed limit (55 MPH) causing a huge traffic jam and nearly causing multiple wrecks. Instead of raising the speed limit in response to speeding by virtually everybody, the state recently passed a "Super Speeder" law that tacks on something like 200 extra dollars to the fine for anybody exceeding 74 MPH on two lanes or 84 MPH anywhere. If the government reflected the people's will, the speed limits would all be raised.

Drugs are another example of the government thwarting the will of a large proportion of the population. Ron Paul has been criticized for wanting to "legalize" drugs when actually all he has advocated is obeying the constitution and abolishing federal laws against drug prohibition in various forms. States can make any laws they please, but the federal government has no enumerated power to make such laws. Obviously there is a huge demand for recreational drugs, but in this instance the will of the people doesn't matter.

What about low-flow shower heads and toilets? Was there a popular clamor to outlaw the old (better) higher flow varieties? I never heard a single person say, "Gee, I sure wish they would reduce the flow of these shower heads." Once again the will of the controllers is imposed on "The People."

The same thing applies to light bulbs. If the people preferred fluorescent bulbs to incandescent they would buy them and there would be no need to force them on the people.

Was there a groundswell of opposition anywhere to unpasteurized milk? Your omniscient Uncle Sam in DC thinks it's naughty for his subjects to have it and will send out hordes of armed stooges to prevent you from getting it and hurting yourself.

Everywhere there are those in government who think they know best. There are movements in various places to outlaw too much salt, fat or sugar in foods regardless of what the citizens want. Many places outlaw smoking in restaurants whether the proprietor thinks it desirable or not.

There was overwhelming opposition to Bush's Billionaire Bailout, but the will of the pols trumped the will of the people. The same was true - and still is - about Obamacare, but the obedient servants of Mammon imposed it against the people's will.

Was there any popular movement to outlaw gold ownership in 1933?  Was there popular support for Mr. Lincoln's draft? The New York Times of August 25, 1864 had this to say about the draft:

"To the alarmist[sic] who are concerned lest the draft cannot be enforced without resistance and insurrection, his reply is that, if it has come to this, the quicker the Government proves its power to maintain its laws, the better....It is not a question whether the draft is an evil. No sane man denies it. The only question is, whether it is or is not a less evil than national ruin, which can be prevented by it alone."

It appears from this editorial that the draft might not have been pushed through by the people.

Most states - maybe all - have laws requiring the wearing of seat belts even though there was no demand for such laws. They've even come up with really clever slogans such as "Click It Or Ticket" to remind you to fasten your seat belt.

The nature of the law makes no difference. Regardless of how stupid, evil, onerous or intrusive the edict, a sufficient number of people can be found to enforce it. If it were decreed that no one shall breathe through his left nostril and a visible plug shall be worn in it, there would be no trouble finding police to enforce the new "law."

Many people like to prattle on about how "we" are the government, but relish turning in their neighbor for building a deck - or any imaginary crime - without a permit. It isn't the deck that they object to, it's that the neighbor had the audacity to proceed without government approval.

Convincing the populace that they are the government is somewhat analogous to a voluntary fast vis a vis an imposed fast or any voluntary mortification. If you decide to fast for health or spiritual or any other reason it is much different from being told by someone else that you may not eat, talk, read or watch TV. Anything done voluntarily is more bearable than having it imposed. This is the genius of convincing people that "we did it to ourselves."

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Reality Dawning

Many years ago, a group of disgruntled patriots, nationalists or terrorists - depending on your perspective - went into the Capitol building in D.C. and shot five congressmen. The assailants were four Puerto Rican nationalists who unfurled a flag of Puerto Rico and then fired thirty shots into the floor of the chamber. This incident happened on March 1, 1954.

As far as I know, nobody tried to claim that these people committed this act for anything other than political reasons or that "they hate us for our freedom."  One of the shooters supposedly shouted "Free Puerto Rico."
There was no talk of "3/1 changed everything." Everybody probably understood that the shooters wanted the US out of Puerto Rico. If someone had inquired as to why the assailants shot the congressmen, they wouldn't have been accused of "trying to justify the terrorists," it would have been recognized as a simple inquiry as to motive.

The same thing is true of the World Trade Center/Pentagon caper, but the public is discouraged from believing the perpetrators. Soon after the attack, Osama Bin Laden appeared in a video tape wearing his US issued Goretex camouflage jacket saying that he had nothing to do with the attack, but that he approved of it and congratulated the ones who pulled it off. He said (paraphrasing) that if the US continued to aid Israel and occupy "Holy lands,"  "I swear to God" it will happen again. After this the government made sure that the people weren't going to hear any more grievances from Mr. Bin Laden by prohibiting the showing of any more videos from him with the excuse that he "might be sending coded messages."

The video is probably on YouTube if it hasn't gone down the memory hole.

Immediately there was a propaganda campaign to assure the public that the attacks had nothing to do with American actions in the Middle East. All of a sudden it was discovered that these people hate us because we are good or because we are free. Has there ever been another case in history of one group being so resentful of another group that has not harmed them in any way that they are willing to kill themselves to inflict harm on the objects of their resentment? Would it be rational for someone to say to himself, "I'm barely eking out a living and my neighbor has millions of dollars and lives in a mansion. I think I'll crash a plane into his house to kill myself and perhaps kill him too?" The question answers itself.

If this were motivated by the Islamic religion, it would seem that all the disgruntled practitioners would not be concentrated in one area as I wrote about here.

Fortunately, there is a slow movement toward reality and now 43% of Americans believe that the attacks might have been motivated by something the US government did, according to this article about a poll by Pew Research Centre. According to the article:

"The shift, however, was mainly confined to self-described Democrats and independents, half of whom now believe US policies may have motivated Al Qaeda.

Republicans, on the other hand, remained steadfast, as on a number of other key issues, in their view that the attacks were not motivated by anything the US had done.

The survey also found major differences between age groups on this question. More than half (52 percent) of respondents under 30 said US actions may have motivated the attacks, while only 20 percent of respondents 65 and older were open to that explanation."

This might help explain why Rick Santorum and Rudy Giuliani claim to believe the party line. It's doubtful that anybody who has spent time in government would believe the "official" story. If these two are regular church-goers, they would have recited thousands of times the part of the Confiteor that says "...I have sinned through my own fault,... in what I have done and what I have failed to do..." i.e. taking responsibility for one's own actions. Why would governments be any different from individuals since people in the upper echelons of government are many times some of the worst people? The principle seems to be that whatever "we" do is fine and everybody had better like it.

Imposing sanctions and no-fly zones, supporting dictators, occupying territory, aiding one's enemies, toppling elected officials, etc, generates ill will from the victims of such actions. This is probably a universal rule.

When little Johnny keeps poking the rattlesnake with a smoldering stick we shouldn't be too perplexed as to why the rattlesnake bites little Johnny. It isn't because of Johnny's freedom or because he is good or any other kooky explanation. Sending out hordes of people to fight the rattlesnakes over there so we don't have to fight them over here is not the solution. The solution is to leave them alone and reprimand Johnny, although the latter would probably not be necessary since he has learned a valuable lesson on his own,

Trying to impose your will on another people is a sure-fire way to make enemies. Even if you have a benevolent intention - rarely the case - sending lots of armed men (usually boys) into another country is sure to cause trouble. Boys will be boys, and when they start drinking and fighting and whoring, the locals take a disliking to them and all who sent them.

Almost 2000 years ago, the Jews were preparing to celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread in Jerusalem when a smart-alecky Roman soldier mooned them and uttered some insulting remark which resulted in a riot. Soon after the "mooning" episode, another soldier tore up the Jewish Books Of The Law and threw them in the fire. As everybody knows, things went down hill from there with the Temple eventually being destroyed.

The lesson from this - or one of the lessons - is that people don't like foreigners coming into their country and pushing them around. This is something that Rick and Rudy and all others "in denial" should ponder.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

SWAT Team Raids: Overkill Fit Only for a Police State

"Back in the heyday of Stalin’s USSR, the very hallmark of its totalitarianism was the dreaded “midnight knock on the door,” in which the police simply hauled people away, sometimes never to be seen again and often for reasons unrevealed to relatives and acquaintances of the person abducted. To this terrifying scenario, the American state has added the excitement of flash grenades, broken windows, battered doors, and often unnecessary gunfire."

Read full article.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Walking Into Tyranny

Lawmakers in West Dakota are floating a trial balloon to license travel by foot. Senator Joseph Ambulabis (D 84) came up with the idea after a constituent complained to him about having to obtain a driver's license to operate a vehicle on the public roads.  Ambulabis said he was unaware that anyone could drive a car without a license in most states until the 1940's.

The idea came to him almost as an inspiration he told Mendax News Service. If the states could turn what had theretofore been a right into a privilege, why not license walking also? One would not need a license to walk on his own property or any privately owned property (such as shopping centers) as long as they had the owner's consent. Ambulabis has received an avalanche of outraged calls about his proposal, but he has also garnered substantial support.

Briefly his proposal is this:

1. All people, regardless of age would have to obtain a license to walk or operate a wheel chair on any publicly owned property.

2. A minimal fee would be charged for the license ($10.00 proposed) which would be good for five years.

3. All money from the licenses would go toward installing sidewalks where there are none and maintaining those that currently exist.

4. Any surplus funds from the licenses would be allocated to hiring more police and street sweepers.

5. In order to obtain the license, applicants would provide their name, social security number,
date of birth, height, weight etc. and fingerprint or retina scan (to prevent fraud) and submit to
a drug test.

6. Anyone caught walking without a license would be subject to fine and/or imprisonment and have their walking privileges revoked for 6 months on first offense, five years on the second offense.

7. The license would be a waiver of rights as regards search, sobriety and drug testing.

Police officials hailed the idea as a way to catch criminals and terrorists. Police could set up license check points and catch public drunks and drug-crazed criminals much the same as they do at driver's license check points. 

"We've needed a law like this for a long time," said Keith David of the Elkhead Coalition. Mr. David has lobbied hard to get speed breakers and stop signs installed throughout the Elkhead area and says he's delighted that someone has finally realized that neighborhoods need a revenue source to maintain their sidewalks and streets. "Non-drivers have been given a free ride as far as infrastructure maintenance, this makes them pay their fair share, it only makes sense," said David.

Civil libertarians have protested the proposal as a police state idea, and sarcastically called it a "your papers please" proposal. Ambulabis is not deterred however, and believes that if his bill doesn't pass this session, it will in the next one or the one after that. He says many of his constituents are tired of not having sidewalks and having to roll their children's strollers in the street, creating a hazard for them and motorists. He also argues that it would give police a way of identifying people who walk their dogs and let them tear up other people's property. As the situation now stands, there is no way to identify the offenders since they can refuse to give their names and claim that they have no driver's license or none with them.

Ambulabis is encouraged that the governor and many mayors back his proposal. He sees it as a way to protect a free society while maintaining order. Ambulabis says his proposal is an idea whose time has come.

Representative Arnold Benedict (R 42) of the Conservative Republicans Against Paternalism has proposed a compromise. His bill would require a license only for those walking more than one mile from home. "Most of my constituents don't travel by foot for more than a mile anyway so they won't be affected," Benedict told critics of his bill. Benedict told cheering supporters at the capitol that the Republican party would continue to be "the most vigilant of watchdogs against government encroachment of liberty."

Meanwhile, George Mason of the Libertarian party, a perennial candidate for office has denounced Benedict's proposal as an abandonment of principle. "Once you admit the principle that pedestrians can be licensed by the state you have given up your right to walk" thundered Mason to a handful of supporters at a downtown motel. Benedict, when questioned about Mason's opposition told Mendax News that he "didn't want to get bogged down in an argument over principle. We have been elected to make government work for the people; that's what I'm trying to do; we've got to work out some kind of reasonable compromise" said Benedict.

Critics say that once a right has been turned into a privilege the state can raise the price of exercising the privilege so high as to be unaffordable. Ambulabis counters by pointing out that no one would be forced to obtain a license as long as they stayed off of public property and asks how his proposal differs from licensing drivers.

Whatever the outcome, this promises to liven up this legislative session.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Jona's Job

Seventy-five years ago, Albert Jay Nock wrote a column called Isaiah's Job that was published in The Atlantic Monthly. It advanced the idea that there is in any society a "Remnant" of people who are interested in the truth and in doing the right thing by their fellow man, but who are pretty much isolated from each other and go about their business without ever knowing how many others there are like themselves, if any.

The people of the Remnant can spot a phony immediately and will pay them no mind, but they can spot the purveyor of the genuine article or "true faith" just as easily. Isaiah is preaching to this Remnant and to everybody else that wants to listen, but he has no way of knowing who they are and they have no way of identifying each other.

I have thought about this essay many times over the years in relation to some of the modern Isaiahs such as Nock himself, but also people like Leonard Read, Frank Chodorov, Lew Rockwell, Murray Rothbard, Joseph Sobran, Jacob Hornberger and Ron Paul. These people disseminated their ideas, but had no effective way to reach a mass audience. You almost had to be in a clique to find out about The Freeman, The Rothbard Rockwell Report, analysis or Sobran's. Most of the publications were preaching to the choir for the simple reason that you had to be in the choir to even find out about them.

Ron Paul is probably the most visible Isaiah of modern times, at least in the political realm because he had a little bit of a forum by virtue of his congressional office.

The efforts of the Remnant have always been unorganized or disjointed because it had no effective way of recognizing and communicating with its members over a large area until the last fifteen years or so.

In Nock's day, if you wanted to make others aware of his Isaiah article, you would have to read it to them, buy multiple copies of the magazine or perhaps mimeograph copies of it, since nobody had copying machines or FAX machines or computers, and most people didn't own a newspaper.

This has all changed with the advent of the internet. Now anybody can alert all their friends in Botswana, Lichtenstein or the Azores about anything they wish. This allows the message to get out quickly and without a middle man "filtering" or censoring it, which of course leads me to Jonah.

For most of his congressional career, Ron Paul has been an Isaiah, but now he seems to be turning into a Jonah. When Jonah told the people of Nineveh that in forty days the city would be destroyed, they repented and took remedial action, thus averting disaster. Paul has been saying the same thing for years, but now it is becoming obvious that what he was saying is true, and the people - still a small percentage - are ready to put on sackcloth and ashes. Much of this is because of his unrelenting fidelity to the message, but a greater part is probably because the message can't be suppressed like in the recent old days.

News stories in the old-time news organs still try to ignore or minimize his accomplishments, but they are becoming less relevant by the day. With email, blogs, YouTube, world-wide access to unfiltered news and opinion sites, social networking etc., it's as though a hydra-headed genie has escaped the bottle.

Four years ago, many of the comments about news articles concerning Ron Paul would refer to him as "moonbat," "wingnut," "kook," "lunatic," or some other derisive term. Now almost all the comments are in support of his ideas. It's as though the people have heard the modern Jonah and are ready to put on the sackcloth - figuratively - and ashes.

There is something about truth that makes it recognized when heard - not always, but more often than not. When somebody has demonstrably been speaking the truth his entire public life without apology and can finally be heard, he will eventually be believed over the equivocators and apostles of mendacity.

Here is a man who said that the housing market is a bubble, we shouldn't go to war with Iraq, and the Fed is an engine of inflation. Is he a kook or a modern Jonah? Many people are starting to see him as the latter.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

David Hume and the Republican Tradition of Human Scale

This is a fairly long essay, but well worth reading.

"Third, with the collapse of the landed gentry and nobility, a traditional order rooted in land and place would collapse in favor of rule by a new rootless class of stockjobbers and paper money men. “These men,” Hume writes, having “no connections with the state...can enjoy their revenue in any part of the globe in which they chuse to reside, who will naturally bury themselves in the capital or great cities, and who will sink into the lethargy of a stupid and pampered luxury, without spirit, ambition, or enjoyment. Adieu to all ideas of nobility, gentry, and family” (E, 353). Hume’s criticism of public credit mirrors exactly Jefferson’s criticism of the public debt system proposed by Alexander Hamilton...."

"And elsewhere he describes them as a “middle power between King and people” (E, 358).With their elimination, a pure Hobbesian state would emerge with a centralized authority ruling directly over an aggregate of millions of individuals. In this condition, “every man in authority derives his influence from the commission alone of the sovereign.” And “the whole income of every individual in the state must lie entirely at the mercy of the sovereign” (E, 358-59). Hume thinks this form of despotism intimated in eighteenth century centralized states, if realized, would be “a degree of despotism, which no oriental monarchy has ever yet attained” (E, 359). What Hume considered despotism is viewed as normal today. A European monarch in Hume’s day could not order military conscription nor impose an income tax, which would have been viewed as a form of forced labor."

Read the full essay here

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Coming Tree Explosion

  Mendax News Service

Are there too many trees? That is a question that is causing great concern among many scientists worldwide. The problem of exponential increase in the tree population is one that few people outside the discipline of dendrology (the study of trees) are aware of. In order to explain the magnitude of the problem we consulted many noted experts in the field for this report.

One of the explanations for the rapid increase in the tree population was attributed to climatic changes. Dr. F. X. Molesky, world renowned climatologist has advanced the theory that underwater volcanic eruptions have caused a worldwide temperature and humidity increase. Molesky says that the eruptions have caused a water temperature increase of .02 degrees Kelvin at the polar regions causing changes in temperature and water salination conditions. This in turn has caused increased rainfall facilitating more rapid tree growth.

Other causes are more easily understood by the ordinary non-specialist.

Dr. Harmod Wysong of the Longleaf Institute of Dendrology had explanations that attributed the ominous trend more to economic causes. " The problem", he said, "has been increasing ever since Detroit stopped making wood-sided cars and trucks, ships quit using wood in their construction and people went to gas and electric heat sources."

This is not the only reason, however. The powerful tree lobby has been gobbling up land for years to plant its rapid-growth trees and the petroleum producers have been trying to get people to use plastic instead of paper bags at the supermarket, thereby reducing demand for pulpwood at the very time its supply is increasing geometrically.

Political efforts to help save resources and endangered species such as the spotted owl and the stump-jumper have only exacerbated the problem. As forest land is placed off-limits to timber companies, the price of lumber goes up because of the supposedly diminishing supply. This in turn causes more tree planting by the greedy lumber producers to reap the potentially greater profits.

Not surprisingly, governments have been a major cause of the tree over-population problem. In many areas, every new building has to have a certain number of trees planted on its property after completion and if a tree is chopped down, even on private property, a new tree has to be planted. Even an unwanted tree cannot be summarily killed, just because it happens to be in the wrong place.

It is estimated that there are five times as many trees in the Americas than there were when Columbus came here. If the tree lobby is not exposed and stopped, pretty soon there will be no place for houses, farms, stores or offices. Experts estimate that at the present rate of increase, there will be no place for people to live by the year 2015.

What are some of the remedies suggested by the experts? Dr. Molesky suggests that you purchase only wooden furniture and buy no products containing recycled paper; insist on virgin paper. Heat your house with a wood stove or fireplace. Stop extinguishing forest fires; let them burn out of control. Outlaw the use of steel or any artificial materials in home construction.

Dr. Wysong suggests that ships be made out of wood unless they are for military use. Fire all boilers with wood instead of coal or oil. Require railroads to retire their diesel-electric locomotives and return to wood-fired steam locomotives. Return to wood for bridge construction and use more wooden airplanes. The wooden airplane is an idea whose time has surely come. In the event of an airplane crash, the wreckage would completely deteriorate within a few years thus not causing permanent harm to the environment.

During the administration of Franklin Roosevelt, many roads were made out of logs laid perpendicular to the line of travel. These were referred to as corduroy roads. They were ecologically sound and prevented drivers from falling asleep at the wheel. They should be brought back.

Professor James Parks of the Smyrna chapter of Treat Responsibly the Environment and Ecology (TREE) agreed that the tree problem is very real, but he denounced as "alarmist" the idea that trees will be a problem as early as 2015. Parks says that he doesn't see the over-population of trees as causing serious problems for 'humans and non-silvicolous animals for at least thirty years.
He did agree, however, that the trend of rapid forestation is disturbing. "The time to seek solutions is now, not when we have been finally walled in by trees", he said.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Lesser Evil

Mendax News Service

Suppose it were possible for anybody who ever lived to be president of the United States.

At every election, we're always told that if we don't vote for Tweedle Dum, Tweedle Dumber will be elected and the Supreme Court will be filled with activist judges or some terrible UN treaty will be pushed through or what's left of our rights will be further eroded. That's probably true in either case, but may be worse in the case of Tweedle Dumber. But what if there is a third or fourth or any number of other candidates who have no chance of winning, but are decent people with a zeal to protect individual rights - sort of a Clark Kent of politics. Should you stick to principle and vote for them or "hold your nose and vote for Tweedle Dum"?

Since this is all theoretical, lets say that Lucifer has the nomination wrapped up for the Evil Party and is polling something like 46% of the vote against any nominee of the Stupid Party.

The Stupid Party has a hard-fought three way race with Hitler, Stalin and Lincoln eviscerating each other in a political gladiatorial game. As the votes are counted at the convention, the great state of Erehwon casts the winning votes for Stalin and the crowd is jubilant. Ten thousand balloons are released as fourteen tons of confetti are dropped on the delirious crowd. All the delegates agree that Stalin is the electable candidate even though some are less than convinced he can defeat Lucifer since Stalin only polls 40% in a match up against Lucifer.

Stalin is the clear favorite among religious people since he is clearly not as bad as Lucifer and has pledged not to appoint any mass murderers or child molesters to the Supreme Court.

Things start looking better for Uncle Joe after focus groups find that emphasizing his WW II alliance with the U.S. against Hitler plays well and old pictures are brought out showing him kissing babies. Stalin, after reinventing himself and hiring the best public relations consultants has now closed the gap to 42 - 47% against Lucifer.

Just as Stalin starts to look like he might have a chance to catch Lucifer, disaster strikes. The Truth Party, a small splinter group of what most people would classify as extremists nominates Jesus Christ as its candidate.To make matters worse for Stalin, the Truth Party is on the ballot in 42 states, in some of which he has his greatest strength.

The Stupid Party establishment tries to persuade the officers of the Truth Party to withdraw Jesus' nomination and throw their support to Stalin, but the Truth Party people won't hear of it. The Stupids launch an advertising campaign through a political front group advising people not to waste their vote on Jesus. Bumper stickers are printed with the slogan, "A Vote For Jesus Is A Vote For Lucifer."

The anti-Jesus campaign back-fires and causes his numbers to go up and Stalin's to go down. Now the situation appears desperate, so the Stupids promise to balance the ticket and put Jesus on as Vice President.The Truth Party extremists remain intransigent and will not take the deal.

Just as the nimbus clouds appear to be gathering over the Stalin campaign, Pastor Jack Agee gives it a boost by reminding his followers that Uncle Joe set up Birobidzhan as a Jewish autonomous region in the Soviet Union and has pledged increased support for Israel. Pastor Agee seems miffed that he can't get any assurance that Jesus will support Israel; in fact, he's been unable to find out Jesus' position on anything.

Jesus seems uninterested in  winning the campaign and has not made any speeches or gone to any political rallies. When located by a reporter for Mendax News Service and asked about his program, he says something about his kingdom not being of this world and also something about bearing witness to the truth; nothing very good for a soundbite.

As the campaign is in the closing days, Stalin and Lucifer are polling within the margin of error with each other and with Jesus as a spoiler. Should good people vote for the good or for the lesser evil?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Questions For Presidential "Debate" Participants

Below are fifty questions that I would like to see asked of the panel of candidates at the so-called "debates."
There could be many more, but this is a start.

1 (a.)All of you who use an income tax preparer, raise your hand.
(b.) If you (who raised hands) can not prepare your own taxes, how do you propose to run the country?

2. If you can not prepare your own tax returns, is it reasonable to hold the average citizen criminally liable for errors?

3. How do you expect to understand bills sent to you for your signature if you can't fill out a tax return?

4. At what point will the national debt be "too high"?

5. What is the case law giving the federal government power to prohibit the possession of drugs?

6. Assuming all of you are against waste, fraud and abuse; what specific programs and agencies do you propose to eliminate?

7. Should any federal departments or programs ever be eliminated, if so, which ones?

8. How many military bases does the U.S. maintain in foreign countries?

9. How many do you propose to close?

10. How much does it cost to keep the above-mentioned bases in operation?

11. If a state chooses to nullify a federal law, what action would you take?

12. If a state were to secede from the union. what action would you take?

13. Do you support repeal of laws compelling acceptance of government-issued money [legal tender laws]?

14. Has the US ever fought an enemy who was honorable? Which ones?

15. Were the attacks on the Marine barracks in Beirut, or the USS Cole, terrorist attacks or attacks on a legitimate military target?

16. What is the maximum amount - not percentage - that anyone should have to pay in taxes?

17. Do you support abolition of the income tax?

18. Why is discrimination prohibited, but is the basis for a progressive tax?

19. Is simulated drowning, or, "waterboarding" torture? If not, define the word torture.

20. Do you support transferring federal lands to the states in which they are located?

21. Hawaii has a large secessionist movement. Do you support Hawaii's right to self-determination?

22. Do you support and would you continue the War On Drugs?

23.(a.) Can you explain the difference between a war, conflict, police action, and kinetic military action?
(b.) Are there other types of military actions other than these?

24. Do you support government control of schooling?

25. In your opinion, who was the worst president, and why?

26. In your opinion, who was the best president, and why?

27. In your opinion, what was the worst decision by the Supreme Court?

28. Do you support government control of the internet?

29. Do you support turning airline security over to the airlines?

30. How can anyone be said to be free when the government has a prior claim on all he earns?

31. Is it possible to maintain  good government when politicians lie regularly?

32. Will you pledge to resign from office if it can be shown that you lied to the people?

33. If you are elected, will you pledge to release all secret information regarding government crimes or unexecuted planned crimes against citizens, such as MK ULTRA, Tuskegee Experiments, Operation Northwoods, Guatemalan Syphilis Experiments, CDC Measles Experiment, etc.?

34. When a person's moral beliefs are in conflict with a legislative edict, what should he do?

35. Do you favor compelling citizens to violate their conscience?

36. How does compelling someone to violate his conscience differ when we do it, from when the Communists, Nazis or Fascists did it?

37. If the federal debt ceiling can be raised, what is it for?

38. Does the Constitution give the President exclusive power over foreign policy? (No)

39. Do you consider people such as Daniel Ellsberg, Bradley Manning and Mark Felt, heroes or traitors?

40. If elected, would you pledge to return to the practice of reporting to congress the state of the union by letter instead of speech?

41. On your second day in office, what agencies and programs do you intend to propose for elimination?

42. What would you do if China, Iran, Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, Libya or other countries turned isolationist?

43. Should the US work to reduce its stockpile of weapons of mass destruction? If not, what countries should possess such weapons?

44. Is it immoral to take money by intimidation from one person and give it to another? What if a law says it's OK?

45. Explain the difference between law and legislation.

46. Should people be free to ingest substances without the approval of government? If not, why is government approval needed and how does it change the act?

47. How small does a business have to be before it can't expect a government bailout in bad economic times?

48. Would you support the abolition of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and leave the Indians alone?

49. Would you seek the endorsement of the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service and perhaps have ads featuring this person or campaigning with him?

50, Given the choice of two evils, should a person abstain from voting or vote for the lesser evil?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Do TSA Scanners Cause Cancer?

Do TSA Scanners Cause Cancer?

"The Electronic Privacy Information Center has obtained documents under the Freedom of Information Act showing that TSA workers in Boston have reported elevated rates of cancer, and that TSA workers’ requests to wear radiation-detecting badges have been denied. According to this account, TSA workers in Portland and Puerto Rico have also reported higher incidences of cancer."


Saturday, July 9, 2011

Ellis Arnall's Train Wreck

Old-time native Southerners frequently attribute the ruin of the south to air conditioning. Undoubtedly air conditioning had a huge effect on the  influx of population to the southern states, but I think another event - not an invention - is the main reason or at least a major contributing reason.

Ellis Arnall was elected Governor of Georgia at thirty-five years old, winning him the title of "Boy Governor" He was what would have been called a "Progressive" or "Reformer" or some such other title that bespoke his unorthodox views. He pushed through the law making Georgia the first state to allow 18 year-olds the vote and made the operation of the prisons independent of the Governor.

The thing he did that probably had the greatest effect on the whole country was to win a lawsuit against the railroads. Before Arnall's victory against the railroads, the south was maintained as an agricultural colony of the north by means of discriminatory freight rates. If a planter wanted to ship peanut butter to the north, it cost him more than if a northern company shipped the same peanut butter to the south. If the planter wanted to ship unprocessed peanuts to the north, it was cheaper, thereby protecting northern manufacturing - and unions - by means of higher freight rates on finished goods.

If a manufacturer wanted to move to the south to escape union control of his company, it would make him uncompetitive with his northern competition unless he could manufacture his product considerably cheaper in the south.

The railroads claimed that they had higher costs of road-bed maintenance in the south than in the north and other economic reasons for the higher rates from south to north traffic, but Arnall showed that that wasn't true.
Some other southern states refused to join the suit because they feared that it would be unsuccessful and the railroads would retaliate. As the saying goes, "No guts, no glory."

I have not done a study of this (and don't intend to), but I wonder how much of the Rust Belt would still be churning out manufactured goods if Arnall had not broken the freight rate disparity. Soon after Arnall's victory many companies started fleeing the north and union control.

Demographic shifts probably always have many unseen causes - people are still debating what caused the fall of the Roman Empire - , but when companies can move from a higher-cost to a lower-cost area, they will probably do so, all other factors being equal or more favorable.

The next time somebody is complaining about how the south is going to hell in a hand basket, they can lay at least part of the blame on Ellis Arnall.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Summer Reading, Or Fall....

If a young whippersnapper came to me and asked what books would be useful to read - none has, nor is it likely - before entering college or even while in high-school, I would probably come up with a list that would assure the inquirer of being an academic outcast.

The first book I would recommend would be The Law by Frederic Bastiat, because it is both profound and simple. This little seventy-five page book has probably influenced more people's thinking than just about any other book on the subject in the 160 or so years since its first publication. This would be the first in order, with the others in no particular order.

Another book I really like for its simplicity and lucidity is Fugitive Essays by Frank Chodorov.  Anything by Chodorov is excellent, but Fugitive Essays gives a nice overview in one book. After my imaginary understudy has read that, he will probably want to read The Rise and Fall of Society; the income tax: the root of all evil; One Is A Crowd; and Out of Step.

Albert Jay Nock's Our Enemy The State is a good follow-up to Chodorov since they were friends and co-conspirators against our common enemy. Nock should be studied for his writing ability if for no other reason. He makes a distinction between "government," which is a negative concept that protects life and property, and "The State," which is an all-controlling paternalistic abomination such as we now have.

A book that I have never seen on "book lists" is The Intellectual Life: Its Spirit, Conditions, Methods by A. G. Sertillanges, O.P. I have lent this book to several people and all thought it was brilliant. The author could have easily been writing about Nock or Chodorov when he wrote in his preface:

"When the world does not like you it takes its revenge on you; if it happens to like you, it takes its revenge still by corrupting you. Your only resource is to work far from the world, as indifferent to its judgments as you are ready to serve it. It is perhaps best if it rejects you and thus obliges you to fall back on yourself, to grow interiorly, to watch yourself, to deepen yourself."

Elsewhere: "To get something without paying for it is the universal desire; but it is the desire of cowardly hearts and weak brains."

In a chapter on virtue, Sertillanges puts his finger on why smart people aren't necessarily the solution to our problems: "The qualities of character have a preponderant role in everything. The intellect is only a tool; the handling of it determines the nature of its effects."

Someone commented in a review on AMAZON that The Machiavellians: Defenders Of Freedom is "...the best primer on political science ever written." I don't know if that's true, but I think the book has great merit.
It was a follow-up of sorts to James Burnham's earlier book The Managerial Revolution. It is out of print now, but available on audio and can be found at used book sites, but is usually pricey.

Burnham goes to great lengths to explain how politics works; not how people think it works. As an example: "In any case, whatever may be the desires of most men, it is most certainly against the interests of the powerful that the truth should be known about political behavior. If the political truths stated or approximated by Machiavelli were widely known by men, the success of tyranny and all the other forms of oppressive political rule would become much less likely. . . .Machiavelli says that rulers lie and break faith: this proves, they say, that he libels human nature. Machiavelli says that ambitious men struggle for power: he is apologizing for the opposition, the enemy, and trying to confuse you about us, who wish to lead you for your own good and welfare. Machiavelli says that you must keep strict watch over officials and subordinate them to the law: he is encouraging subversion and the loss of national unity. Machiavelli says that no man with power is to be trusted: you see that his aim is to smash all your faith and ideals.
Small wonder that the powerful – in public - denounce Machiavelli. The powerful have long practice and much skill in sizing up their opponents. They can recognize an enemy who will never compromise, even when that enemy is so abstract as a body of ideas.”  

After my understudy has completed these, it might be time for a little light reading, such as Flannery O'Connor's letters collected by Sally Fitzgerald under the title The Habit of Being. I have never found anybody who didn't find them highly entertaining. If you have read any of her short stories or novels and found them bizarre you can forget about that - this is everyday correspondence filled with profound insights, sound advice and hilarious anecdotes. They are probably funnier and more interesting to a southerner since they recall things that would be familiar to southerners living at that time, but just about anybody would find them interesting.

If my imaginary friend is thinking of joining the military to "get money for college,"  "see the world"  or "defend our freedom," I would suggest that he read Paul Fussell's book Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War. The subtitle makes it sound like it's some kind of psychology text book, which it isn't.
It is a highly readable account of the way things really are in the military - not what you might be told by the recruiter.

Two books that might be useful in gaining a grasp of American History around the War of Southern Secession are When in the Course of Human Events by Charles Adams and The Real Lincoln by Thomas DiLorenzo. These two sort of overlap, but DiLorenzo's book is the better written, I think.

Charles Adams wrote another book called For Good And Evil: The Impact of Taxes on the Course of Civilization which has all kinds of interesting stuff from the message on the Rosetta Stone to why newspapers were printed on broadsheets.

Is Davis a Traitor? Well, no, but that's the title of a book by Albert Taylor Bledsoe, with the subtitle, Was Secession a Constitutional Right Previous to the War of 1861? The book makes it clear that secession definitely was a right. This was later reprinted under the title The War between the States and Bledsoe answers the question from every angle.

A book that points to many other books is Another Sort of Learning - Selected Contrary Essays on the Completion of Our Knowing or How Finally to Acquire an Education While Still in College, or Anywhere Else: Containing Some Belated Advice about How to Employ Your Leisure Time When Ultimate Questions Remain Perplexing in Spite of Your Highest Earned Academic Degree, Together with Sundry Book Lists Nowhere Else in captivity to Be Found. The subtitle pretty much explains what it's about. It's what might be called a book about truth or the "permanent things." It is a useful book by James V. Schall who is, or was a professor at Georgetown. Some of the books he recommends don't coincide with my tastes, but others do.

The Revolution: A Manifesto by Ron Paul is a very good introduction to what is frequently referred to as "The Freedom Philosophy." It is written in a very simple style and is probably persuasive to those who are going to be persuaded. The back has a pretty good reading list for further reading. This is not a typical book written by a politician about "How I overcame adversity by keeping my nose to the grindstone and  judiciously employing my time and money to pull myself up by my own bootstraps." It's a book by a guy who has a grasp of immutable principles.

This list should keep my young friend busy for a week or two.