Thursday, December 6, 2012

Jannes And Jambres

Jannes and Jambres aren't household names, but if they were they might be recognized as the patrons - sort of anti-saints - of politicians. According to Jewish tradition they were the magicians of Pharaoh who opposed Moses and Aaron. Their names are not mentioned in the Old Testament, but St. Paul mentions them in his Second Epistle to Timothy.

As arch deceivers they are a nice fit when searching antiquity for a political patron. Many of my acquaintances were upset that Barack Obama proved himself a better deceiver than Mitt Romney. It's as though they thought that Jannes would have been a great improvement over Jambres. Every Presidential election boils down to this. Decent people cannot get elected president because the whole machinery is run by blackguards.

Everybody is familiar with Lord Acton's statement to Mandell Creighton that "power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely," but the subsequent sentences, "Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it." aren't usually quoted. I think Acton is right about the tendency of power to corrupt, but the more obvious correlation is that power attracts corrupt people to begin with.

F. A. Hayek devoted a chapter of The Road To Serfdom to Why The Worst Get On Top. They get on top because the whole political organization is composed of the worst people.

Just as auto mechanics get grease on their hands, butchers get blood on their aprons, coal miners get black stains on their clothes, people in the political realm lie, steal, blackmail, bribe, threaten, kill and any other thing that is required to acquire and retain power. It's just as surely how the system works as hitting and getting hit is part of boxing.

Many good people think they're going to reform the system by voting in good people. This is impossible because good people almost never run for office and when they do they have almost no chance of winning. They have as much chance of winning as Achilles had of overtaking the Tortoise in Zeno's Paradox. None of the people in power want good people in office. It makes them look bad.

Ron Paul is a constant rebuke to the stump jumpers in D. C. and they will probably hold a celebration when his term is up and he's gone.

Reforming the system for the better by voting in good people is as likely as the victims of a protection racket banding together and bringing in better extortionists, or, as Frank Chodorov said, "... you cannot clean up a brothel and yet leave the business intact. We have been voting for one 'good government' after another, and what have we got?"

Niccolo Machiavelli didn't discover any new principles of politics when he wrote The Prince, he just described how the system works in what might be the best known handbook on politics. Wikipedia says that he is the founder of modern political science, but he is probably better described as its expositor. Ambitious con artists have always known the principles of politics just as surely as squirrels know how to climb trees or fish know how to swim.

There seems to be no remedy for a corrupt system other than getting out of it entirely. This is what Moses and the Israelites were  attempting to do when Jannes and Jambres attempted to prevent them from seceding from leaving Egypt

Maybe Honest Abe took his cue from Pharaoh when he decided to prevent secession, but at any rate governments always seem to want to dictate and to forbid self-determination if that means allowing people to leave peaceably and form their own polity.

Four years hence we'll again be offered the choice of Jannes or Jambres and there will be plenty of people shouting at the top of their lungs that Jannes is so much better than Jambres or vice versa.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Frederick Douglass And Modern Slavery

Drapetomania was a supposed mental disorder that caused slaves to run away from their masters. Anyone paying attention to the emigration of many Americans to freer countries might think that drapetomania is striking the wealthier classes.

A man who knew something about drapetomania - in fact he had it, even if undiagnosed - was Frederick Douglass. After his escape he wrote a short autobiography titled Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. His narrative is of interest not just because of its first hand account of slavery, but because of the insights he relates that are applicable to many people today.
Many people realize that the government they live under is a criminal organization, but will jump to its defense when some foreigner criticizes the actions or policies of their government.

Douglass relates how slaves would argue about whose master was greatest even though they might hate their master.  

"The same traits of character might be seen in Colonel Lloyd's slaves, as are seen in the slaves of the political parties..... Indeed, it is not uncommon for slaves even to fall out and quarrel among themselves about the relative goodness of their masters, each contending for the superior goodness of his own over that of the others. At the very same time, they mutually execrate their masters when viewed separately. It was so on our plantation. When Colonel Lloyd's slaves met the slaves of Jacob Jepson, they seldom parted without a quarrel about their masters; Colonel Lloyd's slaves contending that he was the richest, and Mr. Jepson's slaves that he was the smartest, and most of a man. Colonel Lloyd's slaves would boast his ability to buy and sell Jacob Jepson. Mr. Jepson's slaves would boast his ability to whip Colonel Lloyd. These quarrels would almost always end in a fight between the parties, and those that whipped were supposed to have gained the point at issue. They seemed to think that the greatness of their masters was transferable to themselves. It was considered as being bad enough to be a slave; but to be a poor man's slave was deemed a disgrace indeed!"

The issue of transferability is evident in people bragging about their country, school or football team as though they are bathed in some kind of reflected glory from the entity in question. 

An incident that illustrates how slave owners and governments can brook no disobedience is related in the account of the murder of a slave named Demby. Mr Gore, the overseer, shot Demby in the head for disobedience.  

"He was asked by Colonel Lloyd and my old master, why he resorted to this extraordinary expedient. His reply was, (as well as I can remember,) that Demby had become unmanageable. He was setting a dangerous example to the other slaves,-one which, if suffered to pass without some such demonstration on his part, would finally lead to the total subversion of all rule and order upon the plantation."

This is probably why dissidents such as Sophie Scholl, Cardinal Mindszenty and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn are celebrated here, but indigenous protesters or dissidents are not.

Learning to read was viewed by Douglass as the road to freedom, but government schools have blunted the efficacy of this for many people by teaching them very early lots of erroneous or incomplete information.

"Very soon after I went to live with Mr. and Mrs. Auld, she very kindly commenced to teach me the A, B, C. After I had learned this, she assisted me in learning to spell words of three or four letters. Just at this point of my progress, Mr. Auld found out what was going on, and at once forbade Mrs. Auld to instruct me further, telling her, among other things, that it was unlawful, as well as unsafe, to teach a slave to read....I now understood what had been to me a most perplexing difficulty-to wit, the white man's power to enslave the black man. It was a grand achievement, and I prized it highly. From that moment, I understood the pathway from slavery to freedom. It was just what I wanted, and I got it at a time when I the least expected it. Whilst I was saddened by the thought of losing the aid of my kind mistress, I was gladdened by the invaluable instruction which, by the merest accident, I had gained from my master. Though conscious of the difficulty of learning without a teacher, I set out with high hope, and a fixed purpose, at whatever cost of trouble, to learn how to read."

Government schooling is probably the greatest mechanism of control yet discovered. It is the modern equivalent of enforced illiteracy. Reading is fine as long as you don't read the wrong things. This is why the internet is a lethal menace to government's organized ignorance.

Almost everyone has heard the phrase "bread and circuses" to describe the method used by Rome to keep the populace pacified, but it works in almost any setting and with any people.

"This will be seen by the fact, that the slaveholders like to have their slaves spend those [holi]days just in such a manner as to make them as glad of their ending as of their beginning. Their object seems to be, to disgust their slaves with freedom, by plunging them into the lowest depths of dissipation. For instance, the slaveholders not only like to see the slave drink of his own accord, but will adopt various plans to make him drunk. One plan is, to make bets on their slaves, as to who can drink the most whisky without getting drunk; and in this way they succeed in getting whole multitudes to drink to excess. Thus, when the slave asks for virtuous freedom, the cunning slaveholder, knowing his ignorance, cheats him with a dose of vicious dissipation, artfully labelled with the name of liberty. The most of us used to drink it down, and the result was just what might be supposed; many of us were led to think that there was little to choose between liberty and slavery. We felt, and very properly too, that we had almost as well be slaves to man as to rum. So, when the holidays ended, we staggered up from the filth of our wallowing, took a long breath, and marched to the field,-feeling, upon the whole, rather glad to go, from what our master had deceived us into a belief was freedom, back to the arms of slavery."

When someone tries to keep the fruits of his labor or escape government control, he is denounced as a "tax cheat" or just an over all ungrateful traitor, the same as with a slave who tries unsuccessfully to escape. Douglass attempted an escape with some other slaves, but was thwarted because of someone reporting the plan. In typical fashion, he was the bad guy for not appreciating his station in life.

 "... Betsy Freeland, mother of William Freeland, came to the door with her hands full of biscuits, and divided them between Henry and John. She then delivered herself of a speech, to the following effect:-addressing herself to me, she said, "~You devil! You yellow devil!~ it was you that put it into the heads of Henry and John to run away. But for you, you long-legged mulatto devil! Henry nor John would never have thought of such a thing." I made no reply, and was immediately hurried off towards St. Michael's."

While still a slave, Douglass had a lesson in income taxation. He had learned the trade of caulking ships and was working in a shipyard making six to nine dollars a week. His master imposed a 99 percent tax on his wages.

"I was now getting, as I have said, one dollar and fifty cents per day. I contracted for it; I earned it; it was paid to me; it was rightfully my own; yet, upon each returning Saturday night, I was compelled to deliver every cent of that money to Master Hugh. And why? Not because he earned it,-not because he had any hand in earning it,-not because I owed it to him,-nor because he possessed the slightest shadow of a right to it; but solely because he had the power to compel me to give it up. The right of the grim-visaged pirate upon the high seas is exactly the same."

Later on he says that he was sometimes given six cents out of the six dollars, so he wasn't taxed at 100 percent. He might also have been reminded of all the services and conveniences and freedom that were being provided by his master. After his escape, he got a job and describes the satisfaction of how it felt to keep all his earnings, something modern slaves aren't allowed to do.

"It was the first work, the reward of which was to be entirely my own. There was no Master Hugh standing ready, the moment I earned the money, to rob me of it. I worked that day with a pleasure I had never before experienced."

There are lots of books and articles about how to flee the country, get your assets out and where to settle in relative peace and freedom, but one thing hard to overcome even if you have the means to leave, is family and friends.

"It is my opinion that thousands would escape from slavery, who now remain, but for the strong cords of affection that bind them to their friends. The thought of leaving my friends was decidedly the most painful thought with which I had to contend. The love of them was my tender point, and shook my decision more than all things else" 

A man writing in 1845 was obviously not writing for readers of today, but many of the same dilemmas are confronted by modern people who are trying to get from under the oppressor's boot.
A man like Douglass could not have imagined the degree of control imposed by modern governments. It's not too far-fetched to see the day when paychecks will be direct-deposited to the IRS, and producers sent the balance by the IRS. Or maybe all debits would be handled by the IRS and anything they didn't approve of would be disallowed. This would make it difficult for modern slaves to flee if they should contract drapetomania.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Civics Lesson

Back in 1973 there was a popular Paul Simon song called Kodachrome, the first few lines of which are:

"When I think back
On all the crap I learned in high school
It's a wonder
I can think at all
And though my lack of education
Hasn't hurt me none
I can read the writing on the wall"

It really is a wonder that anyone subjected to public schooling can think at all since the purpose of public indoctrination seems to be to fill the students' heads with error and carefully filtered information. It isn't so much a lack of education that hurts anyone, it's the errors that are taught as fact that do almost irremediable harm.

I don't recall learning anything useful in high school about how our system of government works. Even politically active people seem to believe the malarkey that was taught them in civics class. Some examples would be that we are a nation of laws, popular rule, a "democracy", inalienable rights, etcetera, etc.

If anyone were to publish a textbook explaining how government really works, no school system would adopt it. If it did adopt it, it would probably lose its accreditation. In the interest of assisting some would-be writer/publisher I offer the following observations on how the system works.

The first rule is that the government is not bound by the moral law. It can lie, steal, murder, blackmail, torture (as long as you don't call it torture), imprison, extort or do anything else that seems expedient for achieving its ends. It's as Rod Serling said, "... it has one iron rule: Logic is an enemy, and truth is a menace."

The importance of these principles is emphasized by the assertion of their opposites. Truth, honor, prudence, justice, temperance, fortitude, respect for the individual are all fine until they get in the way of some State objective. Initially, the student is taught by means of ritual. Parades, patriotic music, military displays, the pledge of allegiance, wreath layings and so on form a sort of liturgy of the State. Later the student will be taught about how the State has made all good things possible by means of the sacrifices of our forefathers.

Lying is the first tool in the State's tool kit, but it is important to convey the idea that everything the government says is true. If the agents of the state were forced to tell the truth, the whole system would break down. Some countries, such as the Soviet Union had official news agencies to propagate their lies. Everybody everywhere knew that nothing reported by TASS or Pravda could be believed, but in the U.S. the private news organizations usually report uncritically what the government tells them in its press releases.

One of the things the government does over and over is to get some kind of measure - many times a tax - passed by claiming that it is going to be temporary. These things are temporary in the same way that the pyramids in Egypt are temporary. The income tax withholding during WW II was a temporary measure.

Emotional engineering is another important technique used by the State to direct the populace to identify with its goals. Osama bin Laden was a good guy when he was on our side in fighting the Russians, but then he became a bad guy. Saddam Hussein was also both a good guy and a bad guy, but Muammar Gaddafi was a bad guy who became a good guy and then a bad guy again.

If it were decided that the U.S. needed Canadian oil fields and the Canadians wouldn't agree to our terms, we would suddenly find that they were killing babies and old people, and exporting drugs to our youth. Pretty soon there would be an  incident where they attacked one of our border checkpoints or illegally seized a U.S. fishing boat. By this means a friendly people would be transformed into "the enemy."

Blackmail is also useful to keep members of the government in line. It is a good idea to never appoint someone to a high position - such as a Supreme Court Justice - who can't be blackmailed into doing the "right thing" when the need arises. It's also useful when the government wants a private entity to do something it isn't required by law to do, such as turn over phone records. The officials of the intransigent company might find that they are being audited by the IRS or that they are being investigated for SEC violations or that their bank account is being seized for wire fraud or money laundering or any number of things.

Stealing of course is the bedrock of the State. Without the ability to steal, the state could not exist. According to our system of income taxation, the State has a prior claim on all income and it will decide how much the rightful owner is allowed to keep. If the State decides it wants your property it can seize it under its power of eminent domain and pay you the supposed fair market value of it, which obviously is less than you would have sold it for or you would have already sold it. Maybe you wouldn't have sold it for 10 times fair market value, if at all.

The State likes to invoke the name of God in support of whatever it is it's doing, but God should know his place. God cannot be allowed to countermand the dictates of the State, whether it be forcing Jews to eat pork under Antiochus IV Epiphanes, compelling Christians to sacrifice to the Emperor under Domitian, Diocletian, et al., suppressing the Church under Calles, executing dissenters like Jagerstatter under Hitler, or requiring the violation of conscience under Obama. The State is God - the only true God - and will have no strange gods before it. 

The government has made itself the interpreter and arbiter of its own powers, so it should surprise no one that it usually finds for itself. It has answered the question of  "who will guard the guards themselves?" that it will guard them. You might as well appeal to the protection racket to adjudicate a complaint you have against it.

Murder isn't mentioned much in the context of civics lessons, but it is a time-honored way of dealing with troublesome or meddlesome people. It's amazing how many annoying - to politicians - people end up killing themselves or dying in plane crashes. During the Clinton administration the term "Arkancide" briefly came into the lexicon. Most Americans think that our public officials are different from the way they have been throughout recorded history. I previously wrote about this public delusion here. As a wise man once said, "There is nothing new under the sun." and we certainly have not developed a new kind of government official. They are all concerned with the acquisition and retention of power and will do anything to realize that end.

Anyone who believed that our "representatives" actually represent the people should have been enlightened by the bailout of the banks against overwhelming popular opposition to it, or the passage of Obama's socialized medicine bill against popular opposition. Sometimes writing your Congressman or Senator just doesn't seem to do any good.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Mechanics Lobby

Mendax News Service

The governing board of The American Mechanics Association proposed at its annual meeting to push for legislation to require prescriptions for certain automotive supplies. The AMA has long recognized that the average consumer lacks the competence to decide what services and remedies should be applied to his motorized vehicle.

In the present situation, anybody can buy oil, filters, anti-freeze, transmission fluid, drive belts, windshield washer cleaner and myriad other items with no authorization required. Most items such as tires, wiper blades, water, compressed air, car wax, fuses, trim items and, of course,  gasoline would remain over-the-counter items under the proposal.

It has long been a concern of many mechanics that consumers use the wrong oil or improperly dispose of anti-freeze or dump used filters in the garbage, causing untold environmental damage. The AMA stressed that this is a very real and immediate crisis and that its proposal has nothing to do with money, as some of its detractors are already alleging.

The advocates of the status quo are already dreaming up nightmare scenarios where consumers would be charged exorbitant prices for office visits to obtain a prescription for something that they knew from reading a dipstick was needed without a mechanic having to prescribe it.

The AMA counters that it can sympathize with that argument and that some people are competent to determine their own needs, but not all and that the prescription system will make the roads a safer and happier place for everybody. The AMA also argues that since every car needs oil, all cars will be periodically seen by a competent mechanic and can be removed from service if found to be unsafe.

A coalition of auto parts suppliers has agreed to support the proposal as long as the mechanic writing the prescription cannot sell the product prescribed. The coalition sees the potential for unnecessary prescriptions if the mechanic is able to circumvent the auto parts supplier.

Mendax News has been unable to discover a consensus among the oil companies, but it is thought by some that they will have no objection as long as the law does not decrease sales revenue. Others say that the whole scheme is a "conspiracy" by the AMA to force motorists to patronize mechanics, thus ensuring steady repeat business.

The AMA has countered that any intimation of a conspiracy borders on calumny, that its interest is strictly safety and proper maintenance coupled with concern for the environment. An AMA spokesman complained that some people see a pecuniary motive for everything, even when the true motivation is concern for others.

If the proposal becomes law it will ensure a battle over prohibiting online purchases from foreign suppliers and local black markets in auto supplies.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Rome Didn't Fall In A Day

Back in the '70s, I used to expect the government to suffer a financial collapse at which time it would have to quit doing most of the things it's doing because it would run out of money. That isn't what has happened. Instead of  cutting spending it has printed more money and tried to increase taxes on various things.

Like many things historical, there's a precedent for this. There's a proverbial saying that "Rome wasn't built in a day," but it didn't collapse in a day either. Probably most of the Romans who lived as the Empire was collapsing didn't realize that was what was happening, but plenty of them realized they weren't living in the good old days.

One such person was a man named Salvian, sometimes called Salvian the Presbyter. He wrote a treatise that is called in English The Governance Of God or De gubernatione Dei in Latin*. Its original title was On The Present Judgement and it is well worth reading to see how things played out then and probably always will. His purpose was to show that the then current problems were caused by moral collapse, excessive taxation and a greedy and conniving landed class, not an abandonment of the old pagan religion. Julian the Apostate who had made the opposite argument 70 or so years before, had tried to re-institute paganism and even tried to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem, presumably because it wasn't Christian and he liked practices such as animal sacrifice, but his efforts ended when he was killed in a war with the Persians after a short reign.

In making his case, Salvian left us a first-hand account of how things went to rot. One of the things he mentions over and over is how the peasant class was obliterated by oppressive taxation and how the small land owners indentured themselves to the large land owners who paid their taxes for them, but in return got their land and their labor, eventually leading to feudalism. Even after the small land owners had lost their land and become coloni - those who worked the land but did not own it - they still were liable for the tax, thus permanently indenturing them to the wealthy land owner who paid it for them.

The Romans had a system of permanent tax collectors called curiales. If you were born a curiale, you could not change jobs and were liable to pay any taxes you could not collect. Needless to say, this assured great diligence on the part of the curiales.

One of the many things Salvian mentions that is starting to be more common in the U.S., but was unheard of just a few years ago is people fleeing the Empire and renouncing their citizenship.

"Thus, far and wide, they migrate either to the Goths or to the Bagaudae, or to other barbarians everywhere in power; yet they do not repent of having migrated. They prefer to live as freemen under an outward form of captivity, than as captives under the appearance of liberty. Therefore, the name of Roman citizens, at one time not only greatly valued, but dearly bought, is now repudiated and fled from, and it is almost considered not only base, but even deserving of abhorrence."(pg.136)

Just as Washington refuses to rein in its excesses, the same was true of Rome around A.D. 450.

"Then, indeed, the authors of base pleasures feasted at will in most places, but all things were filled and stuffed to overflowing. Nobody thought of the State's expenses, nobody thought of the State's losses, because the cost was not felt. The State itself sought how it might squander what it was already scarcely able to acquire. The heaping up of wealth which had already exceeded its limit was overflowing even into trifling matters.
But what can be said of the present-day situation? That old abundances have gone from us. The resources of former times have gone. We are already poverty-stricken, yet we do not cease to be spendthrift." (167, 168)

It wasn't just in fiscal matters that modern times resemble the fall of Rome. Salvian laments the obsession people had with attending American Idol the games. Rome had degenerated so far that there were 175 holidays per year, each with its state-sponsored amusements. The Roman Army had boy camp-followers instead of, or perhaps in addition to female prostitutes. The shouts of people being killed in defense of the city could not be distinguished from those at the games.

"As I have said, the noise of battle outside the walls and of the games within, the voices of the dying outside and the voices of the reveling within, were mingled. Perhaps there scarcely could be distinguished the cries of the people who fell in battle and the yelling of the people who shouted in the circus." (174)

Things had declined so far that the public officials whom he classifies as robbers continued to rob the people even after they no longer held office. This has been refined in modern times to the revolving door system of going from elected office to lobbyist or CEO of some big company that conducts business with the government.

Salvian portrays the barbarians as virtuous people - much more so than his fellow countrymen - nothing like the people they are typically represented as being. Even back then, government knew best and imposed price controls which then as always caused black marketeers to provide for people's wants and needs. One difference between then and now is that the Romans could not print money. They could debase it, but not print it as virtually all modern states do. They also had no efficient way of spying on the populace or freezing assets which is now routine. This enables us to postpone, but not avert the day of collapse. As everybody seems to be fond of saying, it allows us to "kick the can down the road," but at some point we will find that the road is a dead end.

*The Governance Of God, translated by Jeremiah F. O'Sullivan, 1947, Fathers Of The Church

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Racist, Sexist, Anti-Semitic, Homophobic, Tards

John Derbyshire was informed recently that his writings would no longer be carried by National Review because he had written a column for Taki's Magazine which the hierarchy of NR considered "racist."

It seems to be the case that any time someone points out racial differences, real or perceived, that don't reflect favorably on the subject in question or coincide with current orthodoxy, he is accused of racism. Several years ago Samuel Francis was fired from the Washington Times for being, as Joseph Sobran said, "a little too frank" in what was billed as "a frank discussion on race."

Free speech seems to be okay as long as you don't say anything that offends the wrong groups. It's perfectly all right to disparage rednecks, Fundamentalists of any variety, Catholics, men (especially the white version) and it's usually acceptable to act as though all Germans were Nazis and all Southerners were Klansmen or Klan sympathizers.

What is strange about this is that the person being assailed as a - fill in the blank - doesn't have to advocate anything. All he has to do is point out something unmentionable about the offended group to earn the pejorative label.

Comment sections online are filled with comments by people who think that they have refuted an argument by calling somebody a racist or a "libtard" or some variation on the "tard" suffix. I'm beginning to think that comments like that should just be deleted in order to force the person commenting to formulate a real argument. This is the equivalent of a third grader telling somebody, "you're fat" or "your mother has buck teeth."

It's not just comment sections where this is the mode of argument, it's found in articles too, but not as frequently. There is a never-ending battle between the pro and anti-Lincoln forces over whether he was a racist. The tyrant's detractors will point out statements  he made regarding his belief that blacks should not be able to serve on juries or intermarry with whites and so on. His defenders claim that he didn't really believe these things, he just had to say things like that to get elected. What both sides ignore is that his views were almost universally held at the time and were no more racist or open-minded than anybody else's. Regardless of his views on race, Lincoln was a horrible person and a tyrannical president.

The Romans had a saying, "chalk is the pen of fools, walls their paper" that could be applied to the electronic version of chalk. There is probably much more foolish talk than reasoned argument on most comment forums.

If an article appears contending that women should not be in the military, there probably will be far more people denouncing the author as "sexist" than people presenting a counter argument as to why women should be in the military. The debate becomes about the attitude of the author rather than the accuracy of his argument.

There's also what somebody once called the argumentum ad Hitlerum, which is defined as a contention that a position is discredited by virtue of the fact that Hitler might have held a similar view. It works something like this: you think that trains should operate on a precise time schedule, Hitler also thought this, therefore you are like Hitler and your position is ipso facto invalid.

It's common to see news articles (written for adults) that refer to the "N" word - the word having been expunged from the lexicon. Maybe it would be a good thing if equal diligence were exercised in expunging the aforementioned epithets. If you have to call somebody an anti-Semite or homophobe, you probably ought to refrain from commenting until you can come up with a coherent argument. Things have only gotten worse since Alexis de Tocqueville wrote, "I know of no country in which there is so little independence of mind and real freedom of discussion as in America."

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Who's Doing the Spying?

Mendax News Service

John Bull lives in an upscale gated community. A week or so ago, his neighbor Tommy Atkins who is also head of the Home Owners Association told him of a proposal by some members of the HOA to attach GPS tracking devices to the vehicles of the residents of the community.

Mr. Atkins said that they also thought it would be a good idea to put cameras on everybody's car so they could see everywhere the car went. It was also suggested by some of the board members that everybody in the association have his phone tapped, email intercepted and browser history monitored.

Mr Bull was not receptive to the idea and even expressed opposition to it, threatening to stir up opinion against it. Atkins tried to reason with Bull by explaining that it was all for the good of the members and if he had nothing to hide, he should have no objection. Atkins also pointed out that there were already cameras everywhere he went and that the government was probably reading and storing his electronic communications anyway, so it was no big deal. Bull was not mollified and pointed out that it was different when the government did it because they had a good reason and the HOA was just being a bunch of busybodies. Atkins asked how it was "different" when the government did it, but Bull said he didn't know, it was just different.

Atkins pointed out that there would be safeguards on the information collected so that it wouldn't fall into the wrong hands and that the HOA had no power to jail him or confiscate his property. Bull remained his bull-headed self, arguing that it would be an invasion of privacy even though he didn't have anything to hide and that it was none of the HOA's business where he went, who he talked to or what sites he visited.

Atkins could see that he was getting nowhere, so he tried to reason with Bull by pointing out that if his wife broke down at night in the middle of nowhere the GPS would be a lifesaver (maybe literally) in locating her whereabouts. "And just think how it might benefit your children if a sharp-eyed board member notices that they're fraternizing online with murderers and child molesters" Atkins said.

Bull was getting madder by the minute, so Atkins tried to calm him down by telling him that the proposal was going to be voluntary anyway and all a member had to do to opt out was fill out a few forms and pay a nominal  fee of twelve-hundred pounds a month over and above the usual HOA dues. If a resident wanted to opt out of having pole mounted cameras facing his house there would be an additional charge for that.

Bull starting ranting and raving about "invasions of privacy," "peeping Toms" and a "police-state atmosphere" to the point that Atkins could see that he was paranoid. He was about to go home and let Bull cool down when Bull asked, "Why do you want this information?" Atkins explained that it would make the community more secure and provide a sense of well-being, solidarity and help in the fight against terrorism.

Atkins also took pains to point out to the thick-headed Mr. Bull that the HOA couldn't charge him with a crime although they could report him for criminal or suspicious activity, but that would never happen. He reminded Bull that, "This isn't Spain, this is England!" and that there was nothing to worry about.

Atkins' condescending attitude only succeeded in inflaming Bull's temper. Bull accused Atkins of being a busybody, a spy and a voyeur and shouting that where he went, who he talked to or what websites he visited were "none of his damn business." Atkins saw that Bull was clearly crazy, but he had never seen this before because they had always talked about sports, the weather, or maybe the war against foreign terrorists. In the past, Bull had even expressed approval of illegal wiretaps, illegal and quasi-legal activities to catch criminals, traitors and terrorists, so his reaction was doubly surprising.

Bull, now that his privacy was being compromised, had suddenly become some kind of civil libertarian. Atkins decided to go back home and talk to Bull in a day or two after he had come to his senses and to ponder why Bull objected to his neighbors spying, but not the government.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Out of Palestine Solidarity with a displaced people

"Indigenous Christians have lived in Palestine since the origins of Christianity about 2,000 years ago. Over the centuries other Christians immigrated to Palestine. Palestinian Christians comprised at least 15 percent of the Palestinian population in the late 19th century, under Ottoman Muslim rule, and about 7.5 percent by 1944, in the final years of the British Mandate. During the 1948 war, which resulted in the establishment of the State of Israel in much of historic Palestine, more than a third of Palestinian Christians were among the 750,000 to 800,000 refugees forced to flee their homes in Palestine. The Israeli historian Ilan PappĂ© has described Israel’s “war of independence,” which Palestinians call the nakba (catastrophe), as “the ethnic cleansing of Palestine” in his book by that title published in 2006."

Read more

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Questions For Voters

Several months ago I wrote a series of questions that I would like to see asked of Presidential candidates. In the subsequent months I have encountered people who support their candidate for no definite reason other than something like he's the most likely of the four remaining candidates to "beat Obama"  - as if that's all that matters.

With that in mind I decided that I would like to ask the supporters of all the candidates a series of questions to ascertain why they support whomever it is they support. Most or all of these have no "right" answer since they are largely concerned with future conduct.

1. Which candidate do you think is most likely to appoint judges who will follow the constitution's original intent?

2. Which candidate do you think will be most vigilant in protecting individual rights?

3. Which candidate do you think is most likely to respect the powers of the states?

4. Which candidate do you think is most likely to veto unconstitutional legislation?

5. Which candidate do you think is most likely to say what he actually thinks?

6. Which candidate do you think is least likely to support inflationary policies?

7. Which candidate do you think is least likely to approve rendition and torture?

8. Rank the four candidates, Gingrich, Paul, Romney and Santorum as most likely to act from pecuniary motives - most likely to least likely.

9. Which candidate do you think is most likely to obtain a declaration of war from congress before going to war?

10.Which candidate is most likely to reduce spending?

11.Which candidate is least likely to support detention without charge or trial?

12.Which candidate is least likely to append signing statements to bills?

13.Rank the four candidates from biggest liar to most truthful.

14.Which candidate is most likely to honor the separation of powers between the branches?

15.Which candidate has the greatest grasp of economics?

16.Which candidate seems to attach the greatest importance to oaths?

17.Which candidate is most likely to put American interests before those of other countries?

18.Which candidate is most likely to observe the civil liberties of both people and companies?

19.Which candidate is most likely to eliminate federal departments?

20.Which candidate is most likely to attempt elimination of income tax?

21.Which candidate is least likely to compel a seceding state to remain in the union?

22.Which candidate is least likely to approve censoring the internet?

23.Is it important for a president to be honest?

24.Which candidate is most likely to eliminate the TSA?

25.Which candidate is most likely to remove trade and travel restrictions?

26.Which candidate is least likely to bail out failed banks and other companies?

27.Which candidate is most likely to support an individual right to keep and bear arms?

28.Which candidate is most likely to eliminate immewing protesters in "free speech zones"?

29.Which candidate is most likely to support "money freedom," i.e., competing currencies?

30.Which candidate - if any have read it - has the best understanding of the Constitution?

31.Who do think would be the most conscientious steward of government funds?

32.Who do you consider to have been most consistent in his positions and votes?

33.Which candidate seems to have changed his position most often?

34.Have you read any books by any of the candidates?

35.If your preferred candidate isn't the nominee, will you vote, stay home, or write in?

36 Is it more important to beat Obama or to prevent the Republican hierarchy from rigging things?

37.Would it be better to suffer four more years of Obama or to vote in a Republican almost as bad for eight years?

38.What is more important, beating Obama or putting decent people in the Congress and Senate?

39.Is it likely that a Republican Congress will oppose bad policy from a Republican president?

40.Do you think the Republicans would overturn Roe v. Wade if they could?

41.Which candidate is least likely to bomb another country on his own initiative?

42.Which candidate seems to have the biggest ego?

43.Which candidate do you think the GOP hierarchy least wants?

44.Do you think it's possible that the Republicans are using pro-lifers as political pawns?

45.Do you think that the commerce clause has anything to do with mandating health insurance?

46.Many people talk of "taking back America" or "throwing the bums out," etc. Who is most likely to accomplish this objective?

47.What is the greater threat, an external enemy or an ever-expanding government?

48.What is a bigger threat, debasing the currency or global warming?

49.What is more important for a president, being bound by the Constitution or having the "correct" views on various disputed questions?

50.Has the country been going in the right direction for the past one hundred years?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Sacraments and the State

Here's an interesting and timely article in PDF format.

Sacraments and the State: Lessons from the Mexican Reforma
by David Gilbert (full text) 

(in case the link doesn't work)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Harvesting The Whirlwind

Several years ago, a bishop got into trouble for his intransigence and was transported to the capital city to be punished as an example to all the others who thought they need not obey the law of the land. As he was on his way he wrote seven letters, one to another bishop and six to various churches. The letters mainly consist of exhortations to keep the faith and describe what the faith is. In at least one, he asks the citizens not to interfere with his punishment since he is hoping to be killed by the State. He is much more concerned with speaking the truth in season and out than currying favor with anybody. He is a model of what a bishop -or any clergyman - should be.

Courage has always been the exception rather than the rule. If we try to think of clergy that have spoken the truth to their great peril or death a few might come to mind, but not many; Mindszenty in Hungary; von Galen in Germany, Fisher or Becket in England, Wyszynski in Poland, Athanasius in Africa, or in the example above, Ignatius of Antioch in Rome. Ignatius eventually got to Rome and was thrown to the lions under the Emperor Trajan. Most of these early controversies concerned doctrinal disputes, not opposition to existing social evils such as the slave trade or oppression of women, but as the Church gained influence in secular society social evils came under scrutiny. After the Edict of Milan, proclaimed by Emperors Licinius and Constantine in 313, Romans were free to practice any religion they pleased and the official persecutions largely came to an end. Looking back on this era, it is hard to see how bishops ever had that kind of courage.

After most of the official persecutions had ceased there were still problems (as there will always be) to be dealt with. St. Patrick, the former slave wrote a Letter to Coroticus condemning the enslavement of baptized Christians. Pope John VIII, in 875 forbade the owning of slaves by any Catholic and Bishop Bartolome de las Casas was known as "Protector of the Indians" for his condemnation of their treatment in New Spain.

Today the American bishops are faced with government trying to force its will on the Church and the populace. The Obama administration along with congress (which is equally culpable) are trying to force everyone to provide health insurance that provides services that are considered by some - not just Catholics - to be morally objectionable.

This is largely a problem of the bishops' own making. The bishops and many other clergymen of various religions never met a social program they didn't like and support. The National Conference of Catholic Bishops seemed to be a political action committee for the Democrats most of the time. Church and Church-affiliated institutions willingly took money extorted from the citizenry in order to do good things such as feeding people or running hospitals and schools. Schools, hospitals, shelters and so on are worthy endeavors, but they should be funded with contributions, not exactions.

The bishops never seemed to oppose coercion when it benefited them, but now that they are the victims of it, they are suddenly discovering the Constitution and its First Amendment. Every day they should meditate on the line from the Epistle to the Galatians that advises, "...for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap."
They have sown coercion - or at least not opposed it - and now they are reaping its harvest. Even now they don't object to the government forcing everyone to buy insurance, they only object to certain procedures that must be provided.

It is not just in the financial realm that they have approved coercion. Many religious people supported laws that embraced what Frederic Bastiat called "forced fraternity." This is the brother of "philanthropic tyranny." It never seemed to occur to supporters of forced fraternity that the admonition to love one another did not mean "love and associate with one another or go to jail."

The solution to this problem is actually very simple, but difficult to implement. It was outlined about 450 years ago in a small treatise by Etienne De La Boetie called The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude. In it he counsels his readers to overthrow a tyrant by withholding obedience.

“It is therefore the inhabitants themselves who permit, or rather, bring about, their own subjection, since by ceasing to submit they would put an end to their servitude. A people enslaves itself, cuts its own throat, when, having a choice between being vassals and being free men, it deserts its liberties and takes on the yoke, gives consent to its own misery, or rather, apparently welcomes it.....What could he do to you if you yourselves did not connive with the thief who plunders you, if you were not accomplices of the murderer who kills you, if you were not traitors to yourselves?....From all these indignities, such as the very beasts of the field would not endure, you can deliver yourselves if you try, not by taking action, but merely by willing to be free.
Resolve to serve no more, and you are at once freed. I do not ask that you place hands upon the tyrant to topple him over, but simply that you support him no longer; then you will behold him, like a great Colossus whose pedestal has been pulled away, fall of his own weight and break into pieces."

Stealing money through the agency of government has resulted in an odd situation in which the parasite is actually invigorating the thief and thereby endangering itself. Now the host has turned on the parasite which is actually a good thing, although it might not appear so yet. The first step in the return to self-determination is to refuse funds from the government. Money from the government is like free dope from the drug dealer. There will come a time when it will cost a great deal.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Unfit Parents?

Mendax News Service

Reports have surfaced that the Department of Child Protection is looking into the details of a couple that lost their pre-teen son for three days without reporting it. The boy attended some kind of religious festival with his parents and relatives when he somehow got separated from them. It wasn't discovered that he was missing until the group had already been traveling home for a full day.

Mendax has not been able to get the full details, as they are sketchy, but the boy was found safe and sound after three days. It is thought that Child Protection officials are gathering details of the incident and will act to remove the child from his parents and place him in foster care.

How he got separated from the group and why his parents did not notify authorities have not been determined. It has been rumored that the parents thought that he was with friends or relatives in the group and did not check on his whereabouts for a full day.

The festival had something to do with Old Testament religious beliefs and apparently the entire group adheres to Mosaic and Levitical Law. Child Protective officials generally look with disfavor on religious groups that separate themselves from mainstream society.

Some witnesses who know the boy say that he seems extremely smart, respectful and polite, but attends a non-public school with no accreditation that has no electricity or central heating and air conditioning. If it is found that the parents were negligent, they could be sentenced to jail or ordered to perform community service.

Officials are being tight-lipped about details, but it is believed that they found out about the incident from a letter written to someone named Theophilus by a physician named Luke, last name unknown. The letter became public, thus disclosing the incident.

The mother of the boy is a housewife and the father - foster father, actually - is believed to be a carpenter or blacksmith. Shortly after the boy was born the parents fled the country, believing that somebody was out to kill him. The father claimed that he had a dream in which he was told it was safe to return.

Child advocates demand that the boy be taken away from his parents because of their negligence, but some people argue that losing track of a child can happen to the best of parents and that the state has no authority to intervene in the affair even if proven true.

If the boy is taken away from his parents, it has been suggested that he could be placed with his cousin Elizabeth and her husband Zachary who live in a nearby town and have a son about the same age named John.

Officials don't have any vehicle description or tag number as the couple doesn't have a car, but they have notified town authorities in Nazareth to be on the lookout for the parents. The mother's name is Mary and the father's name is Joseph Ben Heli

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Crocodiles And Government

John "Pondoro" Taylor was an Irishman who went to Africa to become a big-game hunter and ivory poacher.
He wrote several books on his exploits. In one of them he mentions how it used to puzzle him why the natives would go down to the river after having seen a crocodile erupt from the water the previous day or hour and drag one of their fellow villagers under.

Finally, it was explained to him that the natives believed that the crocodile was an incarnate soul of someone who had been wronged by the victim- sort of an avenging angel. They reasoned that since they hadn't cheated or killed or otherwise wronged anybody they had nothing to worry about.

To most Westerners this seems like an obvious superstition, but many people entertain a similar idea about government. Any time someone expresses apprehension about some government program he can be sure that somebody will accuse him of being "paranoid." Fifteen or so years ago I coined the term (which strangely has not been adopted by the Psychology profession) "sanguinoid" to describe a mental disorder that renders the sufferer subject to delusions that everybody is out to help him. It seems that many people entertain this notion vis a vis government.

Many people in totalitarian societies had no fear of the secret police because they knew they hadn't done anything wrong. They didn't worry about the submerged saurian because they were innocent of any crime, real or imagined.

Every day there are stories about some TSA outrage; cops bursting into the wrong house and killing an occupant or two;  feds raiding a farm selling raw milk, or seizing the computers of a guitar maker. Anybody who reads news stories has heard of at least a few of these, but most think that the victims "must have done something or they wouldn't be after them."

I have had someone tell me personally that he "hadn't had a problem" with the TSA even though he is aware of the agency's antics such as groping six-year-old girls or making eighty-something year-old women in wheel chairs remove their diapers. This is the American equivalent of going to the river after a croc attack.

"I'm from the government and I'm here to help"
It seems as though the average person has an infinite capacity to think that government abuses are never going to be directed at them. From drone attacks to planting drugs to detention without charges to roughing up demonstrators of various persuasions, it's never going to affect them. Besides that, "We" are the government, so there's another reason we have nothing to fear.

Japanese and Italian Americans found out just how much "We" are the government when the government concentrated them in internment camps during WW II.

Americans have forgotten - or never been taught - that government is a very dangerous tool. It is organized, monopolized force and should be kept on a short, securely anchored chain. St. Augustine wrote that the devil is a chained dog. He cannot hurt you unless you go within the radius of his operation. Government was set up to be something like that, but it keeps increasing the length of its own chain until its radius of operation encompasses all human activity.

Those who don't see the government for what it actually is are like the woman in the children's song who thought she could ride the crocodile:

She sailed away on a sunny summer day on the back of a crocodile,
"You see," said she, "he's as tame as tame can be;
I'll ride him down the Nile,"
The croc winked his eye as she bade them all goodbye, wearing a happy smile,
At the end of the ride the lady was inside, and the smile was on the crocodile!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

2011: A Civil Liberties Year in Review

From The Rutherford Institute

"More powers for the FBI. As detailed in the FBI’s operations manual, rules were relaxed in order to permit the agency’s 14,000 agents to search law enforcement and private databases, go through household trash, and deploy surveillance teams, with even fewer checks against abuse. FBI agents were also given the go-ahead to investigate individuals using highly intrusive monitoring techniques, including infiltrating suspect organizations with confidential informants and photographing and tailing suspect individuals, without having any factual basis for suspecting them of wrongdoing. These new powers extend the agency’s reach into the lives of average Americans and effectively transform the citizenry into a nation of suspects, reversing the burden of proof so that we are now all guilty until proven innocent. Thus, no longer do agents need evidence of possible criminal or terrorist activity in order to launch an investigation. Now, they can “proactively” look into people and groups, searching databases without making a record about it, conducting lie detector tests and searching people’s trash."

Read more

Sunday, January 1, 2012

What's Old Is New Again

"My Lord, I can touch a bell on my right hand and order the arrest of a citizen of Ohio; I can touch a bell again, and order the imprisonment of a citizen of New York; and no power on earth, except that of the President, can release them. Can the Queen of England do so much?"

So saith William Seward to Lord Lyons, but it could have just as easily been Hillary Clinton or Eric Holder to some foreign official.

The corps of sappers in the legislative branch have been busy undermining the Constitution while the populace has been focused on important things like Kim Kardashian's divorce or Donald Trump's hair. Two retired Marine Generals, Charles C. Krulak and Joseph P. Hoar wrote an Op-Ed in the December 12, 2011, NY Times opposing the provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act, saying:

"One provision would authorize the military to indefinitely detain without charge people suspected of involvement with terrorism, including United States citizens apprehended on American soil. Due process would be a thing of the past....A second provision would mandate military custody for most terrorism suspects. It would force on the military responsibilities it hasn’t sought. This would violate not only the spirit of the post-Reconstruction act limiting the use of the armed forces for domestic law enforcement but also our trust with service members, who enlist believing that they will never be asked to turn their weapons on fellow Americans."

As retired military men, they know that "service members" aren't going to be asked to do anything; they are going to be ordered upon pain of incarceration or death to do as they're told. Many people express the opinion that Americans would never fire on their countrymen. Where this idea comes from is a mystery. George Washington led any army of about 15,000 men to suppress the Whiskey Rebellion. This is the only time that a sitting American president led troops in battle, even though only two or three people were killed.

Reconstruction is conclusive evidence that the army will perpetrate barbarous acts against Americans over a long period. Whether you think the Bonus Marchers were rabble or deserving veterans, the fact is that the army attacked and dispersed them when told to do so. For a more recent - and deadly- example, the Kent State Shootings illustrate that troops will fire on unarmed civilians. In the Kent State incident, the person killed who was closest to the Guardsmen was 265 feet away. This was Jeffrey Miller, the person lying dead in the famous photograph from the shooting.

Police routinely beat, club, gas, "taze" or shoot people when told to and they are not a different species from military personnel. John Marshall chronicled many of the outrages perpetrated against citizens in his 1869 book American Bastile. If you are in doubt about how the military will act, his book is a good place to start your research.

When there is a legal challenge - as there almost certainly will be - to the provisions in the NDAA allowing indefinite detention of citizens by the military, it will become apparent that present-day citizens owe an eternal debt of gratitude to Colonel Lambdin P. Milligan. Milligan was imprisoned by the Union for several months and had been sentenced to death by hanging. He sued demanding a writ of habeas corpus, his suit reaching the Supreme Court.

Several people tried to get the steel-spined Milligan to withdraw the suit, assuring him of a pardon if he would drop it. He refused.

The Supreme Court heard the case and rendered a verdict in 1866. Some of the relevant parts from a syllabus of the case (here) are:
7. Military commissions organized during the late civil war, in a State not invaded and not engaged in rebellion, in which the Federal courts were open, and in the proper and unobstructed exercise of their judicial functions, had no jurisdiction to try, convict, or sentence for any criminal offence, a citizen who was neither a resident of a rebellious State nor a prisoner of war, nor a person in the military or naval service. And Congress could not invest them with any such power. (emphasis added)

8. The guaranty of trial by jury contained in the Constitution was intended for a state of war, as well as a state of peace, and is equally binding upon rulers and people at all times and under all circumstances.

9. The Federal authority having been unopposed in the State of Indiana, and the Federal courts open for the trial of offences and the redress of grievances, the usages of war could not, under the Constitution, afford any sanction for the trial there of a citizen in civil life not connected with the military or naval service, by a military tribunal, for any offence whatever.

Congress of course pays even less attention to the Constitution now than it did then, but it will be interesting to see how this is decided. Congress not only doesn't have any such authority, but is specifically forbidden by the 4th, 5th, 6th and probably the 10th Amendments from delegating this non-existent authority.

When it comes to enforcing this, it cannot be hoped that many soldiers will refuse to follow whatever orders they are given. There are a lot more like Charles Graner than Antonio Taguba or Hugh Thompson.