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.