In this space, I offer brief comments and analysis of current events. I also provide this as an opportunity for readers to ask questions on politics, philosophy, or other items of general interest. (Thanks to my wife for suggesting the title of this daily feature.)
(This daily commentary is an experiment. If it generates donations or pledges from readers who value what I do, I'll continue it. If, however, after a few months, little support is offered, I'll have to cut it back to an occasional feature.) If you enjoy these columns, please tell your friends.
Commentaries are archived on a (generally) monthly basis.
Archive #1: May 24 to June 30, 2001.
Archive #2: July 1 to July 31, 2001.
Archive #3: August 1 to August 31, 2001.
I had an interesting discussion with a friend this weekend on the issue of individual citizens carrying guns aboard airplanes as a means to limit hijacking.
This friend of mine owns quite a few weapons and is supportive of the right to self-defense. But when push came to shove regarding guns on planes, he repeated many of the identical arguments anti-gunners use for individuals carrying guns on the ground and showed just how deeply these immoral arguments have permeated the national psyche.
"I don't trust the other guy."
"Someone might use his gun and hurt the rest of the people on the plane."
"Planes are different because you're in the air."
But, of course, the victim disarmament crowd says that "someone" (always the "other guy," of course) might use a weapon inappropriately. "Someone" might be hurt. "People" can't be trusted.
Here again we see the quest for a zero-risk life. This impossibility is not a principle fit to guide real human existences.
There is also the fact that preemptive laws, i.e., prior restraint, are morally wrong. They punish innocent people and assume they are guilty simply because it is conceivable they might commit a criminal act. Even if some people would try to harm others on a plane using a gun, that in no way justifies my rights being curtailed, limiting my freedom because of someone else's guilt, someone else's moral culpability.
I'm not saying all airlines would permit guns aboard. But in the present world, no one can exercise his right to self-defense. In a free society, we could have airlines that allow everyone to carry weapons and others that prohibit even tweezers. Let the market decide, which means: allow free individuals acting in voluntary interactions to determine what the preferred mode of travel would be.
What we have now with the feds dictating to supposedly private companies, i.e., airlines, how to use their property is fascism, pure and simple.
Somehow, I don't fancy fascism as the magical road to security. For anyone.
I am coming up on the end of my fourth month of doing these daily columns. As a writer, I enjoy examining the issues of the day and jotting down my thoughts. Also as a writer, I prefer to write for an audience. Words launched into the ozone accomplish little and provide little satisfaction.
To date, I have heard from only one reader of these commentaries. For his comments, I am grateful. Still, I have received no donations or other incentives to continue this labor of love. (Love is great, of course, but despite all the songs, it's not all you need...)
For other readers, I am requesting they send me an email to let me know if they find enough value in these commentaries for me to continue. Even better, request information on how to send a donation.
Tomorrow is the end of the month. Based on any replies I receive in the next couple of days, I'll decide whether or not to continue this feature on a regular basis or relegate it to only occasional forays.
Thanks for your time.
Once more we are treated to the hosannas of commentators extolling the "selflessness" and "sacrifices" of those who aided other people during the burning and collapse of the World Trade Center towers. In this case, they obviously believe that sacrifice is a good thing, an action gladly to be emulated. After all, it's a good thing to help those injured or otherwise having difficulties if you can do so without excessively endangering your own life.
Politicians and others also warn us that "sacrifices" will be necessary to deal with the threat from terrorists. In these instances, "sacrifices" are obviously not pleasant things but are, apparently, "necessary."
Which is it to be? Are sacrifices naughty or nice?
But, of course, the whole notion of sacrifices as used by most people is contradictory. Unconscious these distortions may be or not, the ploy is easily penetrated. Such pushers of "sacrifices" first want to get us to accept "good" sacrifices, i.e., paying the costs required to obtain positive ends, i.e., a net gain. After we've all acknowledged that reality, then they start talking about "sacrifices" in which the "benefits" are outweighed by the costs, i.e., we end up with a net loss.
(See most of the demands emanating from Washington and elsewhere for limiting our freedoms that will not make us any safer and will, in fact, increase our insecurity, e.g., taking away all knives and nail clippers and such.)
Ayn Rand had it right. When one group of people is asked to "sacrifice," you can be certain that there are other people pushing to the front of the line to collect those sacrifices. Your loss is their gain.
As for "selflessness": what a disgusting concept. If one has no "self," then one does not exist. What is it that is expressing courage or compassion or bravery if not a "self"?
Your "self" is all you have when push comes to shove. Don't let the altruists and the collectivists debase the honorable notion of "self." Don't accept their exploitative calls for "sacrifices." Demand an improvement in life, not a deficit.
It's a puzzler.
On the one hand, I'm infinitely glad that the Clintonistas or Clintonistas-light, aka, A. Gore, are not in charge of the government during the current crisis and its aftermath. On the other hand, I am far from infinitely glad that Bush the Younger is sitting in the hot seat.
I'm willing to grant him the benefit of the doubt that he may actually believe that he is taking the right steps in dealing with terrorists and their future threat. Nevertheless, his sincerity does nothing to mitigate the immoral and unconstitutional characteristics of his responses.
Blithefully, he issues executive orders to get with what he wants. Whether it is the freezing of the assets of "suspected" terrorist sympathizers or further federalizing the airlines or his refusal to endorse even the limited and entirely appropriate arming of pilots, he reveals his true colors as a statist and collectivist. He is unafraid to invoke nonexistent powers to further the policies he seeks to ram down our throats.
In my essay, "Attacking Freedom," I pondered the possibility that our country has embarked on the path to a true police state. In New York City, at least, apparently some officials there are already acknowledging that reality. Mandatory ID checks. Restrictions on entry into the city of single-passenger vehicles. Searches of trucks and other vehicles that cost drivers hours of their days, their lives.
Is that the vision intended for the rest of us to suffer?
Alexis De Tocqueville wrote in the Nineteenth Century in his classic, Democracy in America, of dictatorships cloaked in the mantle of freedom, using the trappings of liberty but gutting the substance of that condition. All of this is done, of course, to "protect" us, "for our own good," because our masters "care" so much for us poor serfs.
National ID cards, random searches, more violations of our right to self-defense, travel restrictions, denial of habeas corpus...we don't have much farther to do, do we?
With a majority of sheeple in this country meekly or enthusiastically endorsing this rank betrayal of freedom and justice, I shudder at what further depredations await us.
Freedom Watch #3:
Let me get this straight:
One-third of New York citizens believe that it would be proper to set up internment camps for people who were merely sympathetic to terrorists or so-called terrorists. (Don't forget that to many people in this country organizations like Gun Owners of America deserve to be included in this category.) This response is astounding. To heck with the First Amendment and your right to state the unpopular. To heck with due process and imprisonment for what amounts to a thought-crime. (Oops. I forgot. We already have thought-crime legislation, aka, "hate crimes.")
Hello? Do these "patriots" remember the concentration camps of WW II established by that paragon of idiocy, FDR, for American citizens of Japanese descent? Rank collectivism, bigotry, and unconstitutional discrimination practiced by those who swore to uphold the Constitution...
Then we have Attorney-General John Ashcroft breathlessly telling us we don't "have time" to dilly-dally in setting up his secret police and the beginnings of a totalitarian state. "Gimme, gimme, gimme. Don't take time to study the issue. Don't read what's in this bill. Don't think, just react, emotionally and irrationally. Gimme what I want, and you'll all be safe."
I initially had some modest hopes that Ashcroft might actually have some respect for the rule of law. What have we gotten instead? A modest retreat on gun registration, aka, the "instant check," rather than adherence to the letter and spirit of the law (or more appropriately, a call for its repeal); a refusal to investigate that evil woman, Janet Reno, or any other examples of the Clintons' flouting of the laws over their eight-year reign; and a power grab that tramples our rights in its hurry to provide us a nonexistent security.
And a follow-up to my commentary on nationalizing the airlines, 9-23-01: not surprisingly, the travel and tourist industry saw how neat it was for the struggling airlines to stiff the American taxpayers for $15 billion in direct and indirect theft, er, aid. Now they want their cut of the booty. "Help us, oh, help us! We can't survive without a bailout."
My heart bleeds. Now, what about the other businesses affected by this crisis? Should all of them be able to rob us? What about the $1.4 trillion in paper assets lost by investors, i.e., you and me?
Life's tough all over. If Congress really wants to help us and the "economy," they should slash spending and taxes.
Don't hold your breath.
The latest, greatest, brilliant idea from our national leaders is the "necessity" of having Americans carry national identification cards. One hears the proposal from a variety of sources. We're not talking the de facto national ID card we have now, i.e., the social security card even newborns usually have these days. Combined with your driver's license, these two cards link you to innumerable databases. Without them, you will find it practically impossible to obtain a job, get a mortgage, or a myriad of other activities once no one's business but your own.
The de jure national ID card, cum internal passport, will go far beyond this already unconstitutionally intrusive tracking device. The kind of ID card the fuhrers, er, politicians are touting will contain biometric information such as fingerprints and/or retinal scans. DNA identification will follow soon.
With such marvelous "law" enforcement tools, our "protectors" will be able to tell where you go, where you stay, how much money you make, where you spend it, what your medical history is, whether you have any outstanding warrants on your head -- even if only for a traffic ticket -- and other information the guardians will deem "essential" in ensuring our "security."
Why stop with these kinds of national ID cards? Just tattoo our arms, slap those computer chip implants into our butts, and track us like a swarm of tiny ants from the eagle-eye vantage point of global positioning satellites.
After all, what's the loss of a bit of privacy compared to your freedom?
Tom Marzullo in the 9-24-01 edition of WorldNetDaily offers the following from proposed legislation from our own Department of "Justice":
"Take for instance the extreme broadening of the definitions of terrorism. Under section 302 of the DOJ's proposed legislation, a teen-ager who throws a stone at a post office may now be sentenced to life imprisonment under Title 18 USC, section 1361 that covers destruction of government property (no matter how minor). Potential life sentences as well for defacing a sign on an office building of an unfriendly foreign power (Afghanistan or Iraq comes to mind) during demonstrations under Title 18 USC, section 956 that covers conspiracy to injure property of a foreign government."
Is this the kind of society we want to promote? Do we really want to concede that much power to the State? Do we really want to surrender that much of our freedom to men with guns who, in turn, want to see us -- the private citizens who are supposed to be their bosses -- see us disarmed and helpless?
"Oh," some people say, "only criminals have to worry about such things. If you've done nothing wrong, what do you have to worry about?"
Nothing to worry about...
How many times in history have we listened to such nonsense coming from those wearing blinders to the reality of increased State power?
If you've done nothing wrong, what do you have to worry about regarding...
...licensing and registering your guns?
...submitting to random searches?
...having to show your internal passport, i.e., your social "security" card and driver's license, to obtain a job, get a loan, rent a car?
...sitting in long lines on the highways of America being subjected to "safety" checks while police officers unconstitutionally check you for drugs or alcohol or wearing a frigging seat belt (!) without probable cause.
Nothing to worry about?
Whenever someone tells me that, that's precisely when I know I do have something to worry about. Because the person the agents of the State will be coming after is me. And right after they're done stealing my freedom...
...they'll come after that guy who so smugly and confidently had "nothing to worry about."
The continued nationalization of the airlines in this country continues.
Now the politicians are yapping about "who will pay for added security" at our airports. The statists are rubbing their hands and slavering at the mouth in anticipation of elbowing their way in closer to gaining control of American air carriers. As they always do, the politicians will mask their power-grab in the cloying cover of "helping" and "doing it for their own good."
First the "bailout" for which Congress has no constitutional authority.
Then moving in with federal security agents to "relieve" the airlines of the onerous burden of providing for passenger safety.
Next, state-funded sky "marshals" to ride the airwaves with (legally disarmed) passengers who would provide better security if allowed properly to defend themselves.
Soon, we'll have the airlines' schedules and procedures even more tightly controlled and dictated by the feds.
Bad enough that the government improperly "owns" many airports, runs an antiquated air-traffic control system, and dictates the rules for using terminals and the airspace above this nation.
Bad enough they saddle the airlines and us with draconian and unconstitutional "security" checks that make us less safe and do little to prevent real problems.
Bad enough the feds steal our money and given it to the airlines while all the other industries negatively affected by this attack on the World Trade Center are left to suffer alone.
Hey, guys. I have a secret to tell you:
LEAVE US ALONE!
Let individual companies and their customers decide what is or is not the proper level of security.
Let individual companies and their customers decide whether handguns and other weapons will or will not be permitted aboard planes.
Let individual companies and their customers decide how much tickets will cost, where planes will fly, how often they fly, and whether or not smoking will be allowed.
In other words, let us be FREE, damn it.
There's been some commentary since the World Trade Center attacks that the Constitution does not apply to "foreigners"; that our government does not have an obligation to protect or observe for those visitors the kinds of rights we, as Americans, have.
No, no, no.
Except for those technical aspects of the Constitution dealing with such issues as eligibility for office and such, the Constitution is designed to protect anyone residing here.
I think some of this error arises from the false notion promulgated in government-run schools that the State "gives" us rights; that the Bill of Rights, for example, "gives" us the right to speak freely or to defend ourselves; that without those enumerated rights, we citizens would "lose" those rights.
The Constitution merely recognizes natural rights we possess as human beings. Americans don't have the right to a fair trial because we're Americans. We have that right because we are people. What Americans have (supposedly; though it doesn't always seem like it today), is a legal document designed formally to recognize those rights and establish a government whose sole purpose is (supposed to be) to protect our ability to exercise those human rights. Even if the Constitution did not exist; even if we lapsed into the gravest of totalitarian states, we all would still possess the same rights we do today.
Another point too easily overlooked in this debate is the fact that the Constitution -- and the Bill of Rights specifically -- sets limits on the government, not on the citizens. It delegates power to our agents who are supposed to work for us. The State has no "rights" and no basic power that the citizens of that State do not possess themselves.
Of course, those facts are conveniently overlooked by statists and collectivists as they push their anti-freedom agenda.
In the current situation, the government has zero right to detain someone for no reason simply because he looks suspicious and happens to be from another country. It has zilch legitimate power to have "secret" evidence and deport people on a whim.
In other words, the United States has no right to act like the dictatorship too many authoritarians would so dearly like to establish.
To all who take it upon themselves to violate the rights and freedoms of those presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law:
Go screw yourselves.
What, precisely, does it mean to "draft" someone for military "service"?
When I was in college as an undergraduate, this was not an academic question. President Nixon used a lottery system to determine who would and who would not be drafted and sent to that tropical vacation spot, South Vietnam.
(My draft number was, if I remember correctly, 46. Only luck and family friends prevented me from being drafted.)
To "draft" someone in this context means to force him, under penalty of law, i.e., imprisonment, to enter the military. Once under the tender wings of a drill sergeant, the new soldier will be required to cut his hair, dress and rise and eat and exercise at the whims of his new masters. Once basic training is done, the lucky "recruit" will get the wonderful opportunity to get his @$$ shot at -- and maybe, off -- at the behest of the white-haired political "leaders" who sit safely in their warm homes ordering unwilling young men to fight and die to satisfy whatever odd desires happen to move the bigwigs in Washington.
Once again, those who do not learn from the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them. Unfortunately, if the eagerly drooling militarists who probe for a renewal of the draft get their way, they will not be the ones paying the price.
I have great admiration for the men and women who volunteer to risk their lives in defense of their freedoms and ours. But -- and this is a huge "but" -- it is one thing to choose to face the weapons of our enemies. It is quite another to be yanked from your life, thrown into a situation you deplore, and be forced at gunpoint -- figuratively or literally -- to shoot at other likely draftees and kill them before they can kill you.
The draft is an abomination to freedom, to our rights, to the control we implicitly have over our own lives.
As Ayn Rand pointed out in "The Wreckage of the Consensus":
"Of all the statist violations of individual rights in a mixed economy, the draft is the worst. It is an abrogation of rights. It negates man's fundamental right -- the right to life -- and establishes the fundamental principle of statism: that a man's life belongs to the state, and the state may claim it by compelling him to sacrifice it in battle. Once that principle is accepted, the rest is only a mater of time.
"If the state may force a man to risk death or hideous maiming and crippling, in a war declared at the state's discretion, for a cause he may neither approve of nor even understand, if his consent is not required to send him into unspeakable martyrdom -- then, in principle, all rights are negated in that state, and its government is not man's protector any longer. What else is there to protect?...
"Politically, the draft is clearly unconstitutional. No amount of rationalization, neither by the Supreme Court nor by private individuals, can alter the fact that it represents 'involuntary servitude.'"
For me, supporting the draft is the same kind of "benchmark" belief as opposing the right to choose an abortion was for Rand. Anyone -- for whatever purported reasons -- who advocates this denial of a person's most basic right does not deserve to call himself a libertarian.
A leopard cannot change its spots. So, too -- unfortunately -- our national political "leaders" apparently cannot alter their statist and collectivist ways.
The stock market -- i.e., investors; let us never forget that fact -- has taken a significant hit. Down nearly 700 points on Monday when it reopened, the Dow continues riding the sinking waves. Eventually, of course, this downward trend will reverse. The Great Depression, World War II, and the plethora of large and small crises this nation has endured during the past century have seen stock prices rebound sooner or later.
Given the obstinate, evasive ignorance and criminal stupidity of the politicians, however, you can be assured it will be "later" rather than "sooner."
Forty billion in your money going to "rebuild" New York City. State-imposed but unconstitutional restrictions and interference in the airline industry that may see a hundred-thousand more unemployed citizens before all is done. Increased military spending. Millions of man-hours lost to ineffective but feel-good "security" checks.
Though I oppose any taxation, given the reality of the chains we already have, at a minimum, the feds should eliminate capital gains taxes, i.e., taxing the basic results of increased productivity. The second action they should take is to cut spending. Coupled with that, they should slash regulations that do nothing but harm people.
Diminishing the deadweight of government would do more than anything else to help the "economy," i.e., individual citizens. Freedom works, but those idiot thugs in suits in Washington seem incapable of giving that option a try. Instead, they prefer to meddle, interfere, and constrict our liberty.
I may be concerned about the depredations of terrorists. I am far more worried, though, about the depredations of those in my own country who profess to "protect" me and my freedom by destroying what the latter truly means.
In the immediate wake of the World Trade Center attacks, a scattered few gas stations around the country jacked the price of their gas to stratospheric levels. Four, five, even seven dollar per gallon gas was reported. A few foolish or desperate folks actually paid those outlandish prices. Immediately on the heels of those doubled or tripled gas prices, do-gooder, interventionist attorneys-general of some states took up their righteous swords.
In Illinois, the attorney-general is suing one chain, threatening them with $40,000 per incident of "excessively" high prices. Here in Iowa, the smug attorney-general set up a "snitch" line for citizens to rat out gas stations they believed were "gouging" consumers (i.e., charging more than the consumers thought they should). The self-righteousness of the news talking-heads as they proudly displayed the snitch-line numbers turned my stomach.
Now, don't misunderstand me. I don't want to pay sky-high prices for gasoline. I don't think political or economic conditions were accurately reflected in prices that zoomed to unheard of levels. Nevertheless...
...a property owner has the right to do anything (peaceful) he wants with his property.
A gas station owner has the moral right to charge a thousand, a million dollars for a gallon of gas if he wants to. Consumers can decide not to pay that price. They can threaten never to buy anything from that station ever again. What consumers do not have the right to do is bring down the heavy arm of the State and dictate (as in "dictatorship") to a property owner what he can do with his property. If property rights -- and make no mistake about it: without property rights, there are no other rights; no freedom -- are not respected for one group of individuals, eventually your property rights will vanish into the mists of history, as well.
People have the right to do the wrong thing (as long as those choices/behavior do not violate the rights of others). Moral autonomy means nothing if someone is forced to do what someone else decides is "right." I doubt any of those snitching to the State would care to have their economic decisions micromanaged for them by agents of the State.
The only "right" level of prices for a product is what consumers are willing to pay (even if they don't particularly want to pay that amount). Voluntary interactions must be voluntary for both parties -- both buyers and sellers -- or there is nothing voluntary about it.
Rather than obsessing over minor instances of price "gouging," people would be far better to be concerned with the widespread gouging of freedom that is spreading in the wake of recent events.
The airlines have taken a big hit. After Wall Street reopened yesterday, stock prices for some of the air carriers dropped forty to fifty percent. This blow came atop recent drops in passenger numbers combined with increased fuel prices. The airlines were already on the razor edge. Indeed, one bargain airline is already defunct and other airlines are facing layoffs of thousands of employees.
Airlines face even more tough times given the "unfunded mandates" of the federal government to beef up security...mandates that do not even fall within the purview of the federal government's enumerated powers. Let's not forget, either, the significant costs entailed in adding hundreds of millions of person-hours to the time required to check-in for flights.
In response to these difficulties, there is considerable talk and support for "bailing out" the airlines. Politicians want to give the airlines tens of billions of dollars to help them in their struggles to survive.
On one hand, I can see some justice in this given the arguably unconstitutional acts of the feds in halting all air traffic. The airlines suffered from those orders.
I think a far more productive approach to aiding the airlines, though, rather than giving them the tax money taken from other hurting citizens would be simply to suspend all taxes they have to pay. This would give the airlines incentive to work harder since they could keep all they earned. No stealing from other citizens. No inflationary pressure from more government spending.
Which is precisely why this approach won't be followed. Heaven forfend for the politicians to yield any of their power.
That fount of intelligence, Sonny Bono's wife, who rode into Congress on the "coattails' of her dead husband, is babbling on in favor of a national ID card, fingerprinting, and whatever else Big Brother desires to "keep us safe." Puke.
Amidst calls for unity and a strong response to the World Trade Center destruction, I am sad to see how little respect for the Constitution animates many of the immediate suggestions and responses that are flooding the airwaves.
The U.S. government has zero, zilch, nada Constitutional authority to ban knives, nail clippers, or any other personal "weapons" from commercial airliners. They had no right to ban weapons -- especially for pilots and flight crew -- in the first place. As one commentator said (source lost in the blur of all I've read lately), the State traded the prospect of a small number of minor tragedies for one big one, making us all less safe in the process.
When will people understand that you do not make victims safer by disarming them!
The U.S. government has no authority to tap willy-nilly into our Internet messages, our phones, or otherwise pry into our private lives. Yet Congress seems far too willing to roll over on its collective back, expose its pink belly, and wag its tail to satisfy long pent-up desires by certain elements of law enforcement to tear away at the fringes of our rights.
The U.S. government has no authority to define for airlines the nature of their security measures. Banning curbside check-ins, pushing parking spaces farther from terminals, racial profiling of "suspects" without probable cause, requiring photo ID's, prohibiting electronic tickets, and mandating random stops, and interrogations, and searches will do little to increase security and much to create an atmosphere reminiscent of a police state.
The U.S. government has no authority to draft people -- or even to require them to register for a draft -- as some statists have suggested it do. If my life does not belong to me, then liberty is a joke.
The U.S. government has no authority to spend billions of our dollars on "peacekeeping" missions that contribute to the destruction of millions of innocent lives. We should not be in Bosnia or the Balkans or Macedonia or Korea. We should not pay for the defense of Europe via NATO. We should not even be in NATO.
The U.S. government has no authority to intervene militarily in other countries, especially when it fails to perform its primary function: defending its own citizens from attack. It has zero authority to wage war without a formal declaration of war from Congress.
The U.S. government has no authority to spend billions in "foreign aid" that props up dictators, finances our own future enemies (e.g., Saddam Hussein and Bin Laden), and lines the pockets of thugs while the citizens of those countries starve.
Let's not "win" this "war" by losing what we fight to keep.
While I have written more than once that many Americans are simultaneously victims and victimizers, i.e., their money is stolen in taxes even as they steal others' money; have their freedoms limited in one area while they advocate limiting the freedom of others in different areas; and continue to vote for statists, collectivists, and altruists. To the extent that they knowingly and willingly support anti-rights policies, they are guilty. Deserving of death, though....? That's a biggie.
It's a question relevant to all the discussion going on as to whether it is proper to "obliterate" various countries without regard to any "collateral" damage, i.e., the deaths of innocent civilians.
But...how do I/we determine how many of these people (however small that percentage might be) how many of such folks hold such views through an "Error of Ignorance" for which they are not morally culpable?
And...what about people like me and other freedom-lovers who directly and actively oppose and fight such policies, i.e., the government, as much as possible? (I write constantly on such issues; ran for Congress; inject freedom-related thoughts into my classes; and have formed Objectivist groups, for example.)
Are the people in either of these latter groups supposed to be considered "responsible" and thus "guilty" solely because they reside under the power of that government? Do they thus deserve anonymous death, i.e., being collateral damage, if the government of the United States, for example, slips into complete dictatorship and some group of people/nation decides to try to bring it down and restore freedom?
Personally, I would hate to have someone else use the depradations of a State I actively oppose to use those very abuses of my rights as a rationale for freely -- without even attempting to minimize such "accidents" -- for freely and blithefully killing/murdering me, an innocent.
While I might "understand" if a freedom-loving country's liberation of the U.S. led to my death, and in the abstract I might "accept" it as a necessary act, I sincerely doubt I would be so accommodating if they simply said, "You're a citizen of this country whose government is evil. Therefore, we are not even going to try to avoid killing you. Let God sort it out."
It is wrong to go too far in using the term "people" or "citizens" and collectively equating all the members of that group. Groups are nothing but individual people. Only individuals -- not groups -- can be morally responsible for anything.
(In corresponding online with a friend in a discussion of whether the United States had acted "cowardly" in Vietnam in bombing the North and killing so many civilians, I developed more points related to yesterday's commentary.)
I agree that the U.S. has acted "cowardly" as I used the term. I have written yards of material specifically criticizing what I view as the failings of our government; I made those same points on the radio and TV when I ran for Congress. I mean, how long have we been flying over and bombing Iraq, the very nation we helped arm, a nation that has used poison gas against its own people? A great way to win friends and influence people, for sure, and highly ironic. (As is the fact that Bin Laden used to be our "friend.")
Actually adhering to the Constitutional requirement for a Congressional declaration of war before undertaking extended military action might well prevent many such unjustified "police actions" or at least make them more difficult to conduct. But it's been close to sixty years since this legal requirement was followed. How many undeclared wars have we conducted since WW II?
(Responding to a point regarding the "success" of such "cowardly" behavior:)
In the philosophical meaning of the term, I don't believe in "pragmatism," i.e., that the ends justify the means. (And as you point out, the bombing of North Vietnam worked so very well in helping us win that war...) While I wasn't drafted -- though it was close, draft # 46 -- I in no way supported us being in Vietnam; we shouldn't have been there in the first place. I view the bombing of Dresden to be "cowardly" in this sense, also, a la Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse 5. More controversially, perhaps, I disagree w/ our bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshoma. I disagree w/ Sherman's March to the Sea and his scorched earth policy. I disagree with the propriety of "total war" regardless of who conducts it and no matter how successful that strategy is in obliterating the enemy. (The Romans certainly practiced it with great finality against Carthage.) Whether such attacks are specifically directed against a single person, a small group of people (Wounded Knee, Waco), or a nation, I don't believe it is an honorable or moral approach. (I'm reminded here of Gwynne Dyer's 1985 book and TV series, War. He catalogs many such abuses of armed might wielded against civilian populations.)
While I can conceive of exigencies that require the deaths of innocent civilians (e.g., if I were on one of those planes and the Air Force had to choose to shoot us down or allow the plane to hit the WTC, then I could accept the necessity of dying as "collateral damage."), I find the deliberate targeting of helpless civilians -- especially of people who may actively oppose their government's policies, foreign or otherwise -- to be abhorrent and "cowardly" (again in the sense that I use that word).
(Regarding the money we send to other countries to influence their policies:)
I agree that foreign aid has pretty much always had a political rationale behind it. Maybe some of it can be justified, though I'm skeptical. But since much of that aid ends up propping up and lining the pockets of corrupt leaders and dictators, I generally oppose such government aid and think humanitarian help should primarily be left to charitable organizations and private citizens.
(Comparing the death of the airline passengers, the people in the WTC and Pentagon, and starving children dying because of politics and religion:)
I agree. Religious fanaticism and exaltation of the "group" over the individual fuels conflict in the Mideast and Ireland and elsewhere in the world. As you say, politics also lead to starving children. If you examine the stats, the only places in the world that have widespread starvation are those countries in which freedom is practically nonexistent. (Combined with such bad political policies is what I mentioned above, i.e., foreign aid swelling the individual bank accounts of the pols who control the flow of the money and the goods we send them.) If all the politicians who profess to "care" so much for others left them alone so they could live their lives in peace and keep the money they earn, we would all be better off.
In his book, Death By Government, R. J. Rummel tells us that Stalin killed up to 60 million people; Mao up to 35 million; Hitler, 20 million, and so on, up to170 million people killed by governments last century; maybe 130 million pre-20th Century. (Info from this book and others available on http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/ A truly sobering site.) Politics and religion have, indeed, killed millions of innocent men, women, and children. Sadly, I don't see this ending any time soon.
There has been much discussion back and forth as to whether it is appropriate to characterize the terrorists who attacked the WTC as "cowards" or not. Certainly, most ordinary people would shy from such willful self-destruction. I have used that term in regard to these murderers, and I will continue to do so.
To me, a brave person is one who acts in the face of his/her own fear. I realize that this does not match the dictionary definition, but I don't consider myself "brave," for example, for doing those things I do not fear. (There is, of course, the neutral middle between those two terms, neither brave nor cowardly; I have the impression, though, that most commentators opposing the use of the word "cowards" are suggesting the terrorists were brave for being willing to die, etc.) I would, however, wager that these terrorists were not afraid of their fate. These true fanatics probably believed they were headed for glory and eternal joy at the feet of Allah. I would guess they experienced exultation and rapture as they rammed those jets into the buildings.
The terrorists were and are definitely crafty and cunning, running to live and fight another day (the supporters, anyway). To me, though, to attack those who cannot fight back, who are not the direct source of your anger/fear/rage is an example of "cowardice," i.e., failing to confront the actual source of your frustrations and grievances. To offer a simplistic example, it's like the guy who yells at his wife and kicks his dog and instills fear in them because he's too afraid to confront the boss who chewed him out and threatened to fire him that day.
Attacking the Pentagon or other government agencies, okay, I can understand such actions, if not approve; a source/symbol of the military that has bombed their people. A weak group of people obviously cannot directly confront and survive an overwhelmingly more powerful enemy. Vietnam; the U.S. Revolution; Afghanistan; and other conflicts testify to that. I imagine the terrorists could justify, in their own minds, at least, the WTC attack because American citizens act as surrogates or whatever for what our government does and are therefore "responsible." But I consider that a pretty tenuous argument; I certainly would not want to be blamed/killed because of things our government does, much of which I oppose.
Attacking and murdering helpless and unsuspecting men and women in the Towers? Killing defenseless women, cutting their throats, with knives (on the plane)? To me, sorry, that is cowardly as well as all the other adjectives I used in my essay, "Attacking Freedom"; the acts of bullies, not brave men, even if, in their own eyes, they are entirely moral and honorable. (I don't believe in moral or cultural relativism and so do not accept their self-judgments as valid. If I did accept the former, I could not condemn terrorist acts or slavery in Sudan or anything any other culture did that its inhabitants believed was "right.")
To me, true heroes -- the men who demonstrated true bravery, who were not cowardly -- are such as those three men who rushed the terrorists and brought the plane down near Pennsylvania despite the near-certainty that they would die.
As an addendum, I think the best strategy to follow regarding terrorism -- for the future -- is to adhere to George Washington's advice regarding trade and entangling alliances: stop meddling by force in other people's and in other countries' lives.
I want to go on record that I do not support -- in any fashion -- indiscriminate "retaliation" for the sake of "doing something" about terrorists. We should seek to the greatest extent possible to punish those and only those directly or indirectly responsible for what was done in New York City and Washington, D.C. We should be as objective as possible in evaluating evidence and deciding on a course of action. But this dedication to reason in no way diminishes the horror and anger I feel at what has happened.
I have written innumerable times about forgotten victims of State aggression here in the U.S. My anger regarding such violations and my opinions of the aggressors residing in our own governments are known to anyone who has read my work.
Perhaps events such as this most recent atrocity stand out, however, because the evil is so concentrated. Hitler, Stalin, and Mao fundamentally violated the same moral principle as a robber who whacks a convenience store clerk. After all, all violations of rights are committed against individuals, not groups.
But given the moral equivalence of all murders on a basic level, there are still degrees of evil. This evil perpetrated by individuals who doubtless thought they acted from the highest source of "morality" themselves is palpable, immediate, massive, and in-your-face. As a human being with the values I hold, I cannot help but feel moved by what I have witnessed via television.
That in no way implies I am unconcerned with other acts of murder regardless of who commits them or how many victims there are. Indeed, I am far more worried by atrocities committed by States. (See, for instance, R. J. Rummel's book Death by Government.) Despite the billions in monetary damages resulting from these terrorist acts and the thousands or tens of thousands of deaths caused by these people, States in the last century murdered tens of millions of innocent civilians and wreaked physical havoc on a global scale. Nothing -- nothing -- than any group of individuals can do can possibly compare with these evil acts. As horrific as the World Trade Center tragedy is, it pales in comparison to the millions killed by Stalin, Mao, and Hitler, to the destruction of Dresden and other civilian targets by the Allies, to the senseless waste of life of hundreds of thousands of soldiers in the insanity of two world wars and countless smaller conflicts and "police actions."
I will fight as best I can for as long as I can against any violations of rights and freedom...whether perpetrated by private individuals or by agents of the State. But never forget that only governments can murder people on a systemic and widespread basis.
Even with those caveats, however, I cannot be aware of all murders by all murderers. I am painfully aware, though, of this event. Plus, the WTC attack is more than an assault on specific individuals. It is a psychological and cultural attack on all Americans and all civilized individuals. In an indirect but real fashion, this attack was an attack against me. I take such assaults personally. I can only react more powerfully here given the obvious intent of these evil people.
(And, yes, I know that in their minds, these killers believed themselves to be acting righteously and morally. One commentator I read remarked that we cannot apply our rules to them. But as Objectivists, we know we know we can...and should...make such judgments. But that fact does not obviate the reality that to themselves, the terrorists are "freedom fighters" who will be honored for eternity by Allah in heaven.)
Finally, there are reports detailing cell phone calls from aboard the flight that crashed near Pittsburgh. The details indicate that one man told his wife that "we are all going to die anyway" but that 3 of the passengers were "going to do something." We know now they succeeded. These men -- whoever they were -- are true heroes who deserve to be honored for their bravery and willingness to act like men, not sheeple, to fight against evil rather than to die without a struggle. As long as people such as these men exist in this nation and this world, freedom will not die. For that source of hope, I am profoundly grateful.
People are grappling with the aftermath of the suicide attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. In New York City, another building in the WTC complex collapsed last night. This morning, the World Financial Center -- home to American Express and other large companies -- is on fire. Evidence suggests that the plane crash near Pittsburgh resulted when passengers or crew struggled with the hijackers, leading to the auguring in of the aircraft. If so, those people are truly heroes.
I watch the newly released videos of fresh angles depicting both the first and second planes slamming directly into the towers and can barely wrap my mind around the reality of those images. The rescue efforts and clean up continues. Some firefighters and police have been found in pockets of clear space. How many more survivors will be found is anyone's guess.
I'm encouraged by the reports of considerable numbers of people escaping the towers in the hour or so between the initial attacks and the subsequent collapses of the buildings. Even so, there is a high probability that thousands -- maybe tens of thousands -- of bodies will be found. The grisly task of recovery will occupy the national psyche for a long time to come.
The lower end of Manhattan remains essentially shut down. The normally busy avenues of the city are essentially vacant as people stay home dealing with their own shock and grief.
The terrorists apparently were well trained and prepared. No one believes an American pilot would -- even with a gun pointed at his head -- that he would plow his craft into a building. Flight manuals discovered in vehicles in Boston imply that the terrorists themselves piloted the planes into their unsuspecting targets. While we cannot punish these individuals, we can -- and should -- track down those who supported them and punish them to the fullest extent of the law. Whether we should seek a formal declaration of war...perhaps. That remains to be seen. Maybe as Jefferson did with the Barbary pirates, Congress should declare war against these terrorists.
Individual acts of bravery and integrity and endurance continue to spark pride in the hearts of those appalled by these dastardly acts. No decent human being, however, can help but be outraged by the glee and celebration shown on television by Palestinians learning of this heinous crime.
We need objective judgments in this tremulous time. But neither should we forget the cold anger that we will vent on those who have murdered thousands of our countrymen and disrupted the peace of this -- despite all its faults -- this, the greatest nation in the history of the world.
A much expanded version of my thoughts from yesterday, "Attacking Freedom," can be found on my website.
Today the United States may have entered the future of a true police state.
Just a couple of hours ago, I watched a live feed of a jet plane crashing into the World Trade Center in New York City. A short while later, first one, then the other tower collapsed into the streets of lower Manhattan. No doubt thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of people are dead or injured.
Simultaneously, the Pentagon was attacked, again apparently by a plane crashing deliberately into it. Unconfirmed reports suggest a car bomb near the State Department.
The entire United States airline system has been shut down. Buildings and businesses all over are being shut down and people evacuated.
These events echo eerily with the events of a novel I am reading. In Transfer of Power by Vince Flynn, terrorists attack the White House. There are also unfortunate similarities to Tom Clancy's book, Debt of Honor, in which a jet crashes into the U.S. Capitol and essentially wipes out the United States government.
As tragic and sickening as the loss of life is and will be from today's events, what I truly fear is what response our government will make to these cowardly depredations. Given the limits on our freedom imposed by the Feds after merely suspected attacks on jet planes and after the Oklahoma City bombing, today's attacks may lead to further clamping down on the citizens of this country. How those restrictions will be imposed, I cannot say. Explicit internal ID cards. More citizen tracking via cameras and phone monitoring. Travel restrictions. Who knows? In any event, past history strongly suggests that we will not come out of this with more freedom than we went into it.
That, of course, is no doubt part of what the terrorists want. They want revenge against what they see as the unjust actions of U.S. foreign policy. When our country retreats closer and closer into the iron grip of a burgeoning police state, the terrorists will truly have won.
I weep for our future.
I've written before on the Anti-Smoking Fascists who seek to tell private business owners how they can or cannot use their property. Besides distorting the dangers of secondhand smoke and forgetting that no one has a right to any particular job, these tin-dictators exude an arrogance that is astounding to observe.
But regardless of how much such statists seek to enslave the rest of us, human ingenuity can often find ways around their strangling nooses. In the realm of computers, for instance, powerful encryption techniques offer us a tool to maintain our privacy. In health care, some providers offer drastic cuts in fees if you will agree not to use your insurance to cover their care.
Well, by golly, here in good ol' Ioway, someone has decided that he won't meekly submit to the anti-freedom crowd.
The benighted leaders in Ames, Iowa, recently passed a law prohibiting smoking in restaurants. Oh, they are so compassionate... Well, Peter Sherman, owner of Boheme Bistro Internationale, decided he would have no part of such nonsense. Exploiting a "loophole" (i.e., sliver of freedom) in the ordinance, he charges a monthly "membership" fee of two bucks, thus making his restaurant a "private" club not subject to the ordinance. As he says, "It's all about the right to choose."
And, of course, it is.
In Santa Ana, CA, the customers at Lucky John's four bars have given over $20,000 to owner John Johnson to pay for fines he is given for exercising his freedom to set the conditions for use of his property. Smokers appreciate the choice. While Johnson doesn't smoke, he recognizes the ridiculous nature of such State intrusion.
Cheers to all such people who either subvert or defy the collectivists of the world.
Light one up for me.
On the heels of the recent United Nations conference in Africa on slavery and reparations, the Sunday CBS morning show rebroadcast a story they did on folks here in the states who support the farcical idea that you can compensate people long dead for the injustices they suffered in life.
The spectacle was truly astounding to watch. Blacks seated in a circle arguing that "they" had suffered from slavery; that "they" knew the pain of their ancestors' abuse; they "they" should be the ones to receive reparations. The orgy of collectivism cavorting across the airwaves reflected the same mindset of those who have long pushed for mandated "affirmative action" programs.
Tell me: when precisely were these activists "enslaved"?
These calls are especially egregious given the racism the proponents exhibit: only white people are "guilty," of course. Same with the circus the U.N. put on. None of these people seemed inclined to face the reality that blacks and Africans (Arabs) captured and sold blacks into slavery. The slave trade would unlikely have existed but for the profits these Africans made from selling the citizens of their own continent. Also, the biggest offenders today against prohibitions on slavery are Africans.
The fact that justice applies only to individuals and not to groups also escapes these yahoos. No "group" can have its "rights" violated. A group has no rights. Only individuals have rights. At best, an immediate ancestor might make a claim, but even then only against the actual slave holders, not their descendants. Sorry, but I am not responsible for anything my father, grandfather, or great-great back to Adam great-grandfather did. Injustices do not place an eternal lien on the future. The statute of limitations died with the slavers.
The reparations pushers point to money paid to Americans of Japanese descent who were imprisoned during WWII. But that example merely proves my point: the money went to those who actually suffered.
Of course, some of these whiners claim they don't want individual payments. No. They want to collectivize reparations, too. More money for education or other welfare programs. What do these greedy SOB's think the trillions we've spent on "welfare" amount to already? Chicken feed??
Even some of the opponents of reparations are not of much use. They are against them, but primarily because it is "impractical" to separate out guilty from harmed parties. Still, they're all for more tax money, i.e., your money, for more programs for blacks.
Reparations pushers need to quit advocating anti-freedom babble and start working to be successful despite any racism that still exists. Racism will exist as long as there is an ounce of difference among people. These grabbing leeches should focus more on improving themselves and less on ripping off the rest of us.
Or maybe the Egyptians will soon be demanding reparations because of what those old pharaohs did.
The gnashing of teeth and the rending of garments continues in our nation's capitol. Seems the folks who are supposed to be so adroit at "running" our country can't get it right. The Dems decry the "shrinking" surplus. The Republicans complain they are misunderstood.
All such poseurs are big, fat liars.
This latest tempest reminds of similar contradictions to be found in the positions of those supporting state-run education. On the one hand, they complain mightily that they need more money -- always more money -- to fix the problems facing the students of this nation. Just a little bit more dough, and everything will be right as rain.
While they've been singing that sad song for decades and nothing substantive changes for the better, they apparently have zippo else to offer. What is incredibly disheartening and infuriating is that this nonsense continues to sell with the voters! More and more of my money and your money flows to that bottomless pit that is the educational monster straddling our land. People are so ignorant, so gullible that they never fail to support the incompetents who decide the course of government education. In nearly any other area of life -- and especially if dealing with any private company -- massive failure for decades on end would swiftly lead to termination of any relationship with the loser. In state-run education, however, people seem incapable of lifting the wool covering their eyes.
What's worse in this freak show is that while simultaneously decrying the sorry state of an educational system they've dominated and run for nearly a century -- none of which deteriorating condition, of course, is any of their fault and none of their responsibility -- they also dare to claim that "public" education is so wonderful that we dare not threaten its very existence with such "risky" schemes as vouchers or tax credits for education. This discordant pair of images clashes with yet another: if state-run education is so wonderful, why would any parents pull their precious little tykes from those supreme schools and place them in worse, private environments?
This whole "argument" is so riddled with holes as to rival the interior of a Swiss cheese.
In the same vein, the very people who have attempted to "control" our economy and continuously promise to save us all from economic ruin claim "more money" will fix everything. But if their stewardship is responsible for the messes we face, how can they claim competence to correct what they screwed up?
And still, none of it is any of their fault!
These kinds of shell games are shameless, yes, in their intellectual vacuity. What is even more vacuous, however, is the American mindset that sanctions this BS and never demands an accounting.
But then none of these citizens belief that "A is A," anyway. The mishmash of self-contradictions emanating from Congress and the White House never worries them, never even reaches the level of conscious awareness.
Until it does, we'll fight these same stupid battles over and over and over again.
Happy Birthday to me...
Last night, I saw actor Clint Eastwood on television discussing a lawsuit he had won. Eastwood owns a small hotel in California. A handicapped person discovered some minor violations there of the Americans with Disabilities Act and sued Eastwood for noncompliance.
Unlike most small entrepreneurs who cannot afford extended court battles, Eastwood resisted the suit against him. He maintained the complaints dealt with issues that did not substantially "harm" handicapped customers. Also, he disliked the fact that he was not permitted an opportunity to fix whatever problem there was; that there was no "grace" period for correcting an issue that was brought to his attention. Instead, he was immediately sued.
Eastwood's business insurance was canceled, and he faced substantial lawyer bills dealing with this issue. No doubt partly to his fame as well as his financial resources, he won the case. Sadly, though, while winning the battle, he also conceded the war.
As Ayn Rand pointed out many times, sometimes the greatest enemies of freedom are those who supposedly defend it. Eastwood made the point during the interview that he did not fundamentally disagree with the ADA. Indeed, he defended it but merely wanted it to be "fair."
Oh, man. How can a law that violates the sanctity of private property ever be warped into "fairness"?
No handicapped person has any "right to access" to private property. It may be inconvenient to such a person to face steps rather than a ramp or whatever condition thwarts his desire. The property owner may be a jerk. The handicapped person may be inconvenienced. He may have to go to a different store or business that caters to his special needs and suffer delay or additional costs.
That's too bad. It's unfortunate. It's also a case of "big deal." Those problems in no way gives him carte blanche to run roughshod over the rights of other people.
The purpose of government is not to provide "justice" or to force us to "do the right thing." Its purpose is solely to defend the rights of everyone.
There are no "disabled" rights any more than there are gay rights or women's rights or short people's rights. If a private business or person does not do what you want him to do, you can go elsewhere, try to convince him he is wrong, organize a boycott, or go suck your thumb. What you cannot morally do is use the club of government to force others to pander to your needs or desires.
Eastwood has been characterized as a "libertarian." If he's a libertarian, I'm a panda bear.
Lord, save us from our "friends."
When we visited New York City this summer, one place my wife and I visited was the Morris-Jumel Mansion in Washington Heights, a section of the city near Harlem. This house is the oldest building on the island and stands on about a square block of land. If you didn't look past the fence, you could almost believe you were in a suburban area. If you're ever on Long Island, the trip is worth the effort.
George Washington made this house his headquarters when he fought the British at the battle of Harlem Heights early in the war. Unfortunately, the Americans did not comport themselves very well in this period. Running before the British troops, the American troops eventually lost New York. While Washington and his soldiers were relatively safe, many years would pass before he would again be able to walk safely through the streets of New York.
I wonder what George would think if he could walk those streets today. I'm sure he would be happily amazed at the flurry of activity that characterizes New York City. The businesses occupying towering buildings that seem to defy gravity; millions of men, women, and children living their lives peacefully; the myriad cultural opportunities available to everyone; a dynamic environment that reinvents itself daily.
Politically, however, I imagine he would be sick at heart at the loss of so much he and his countrymen fought and struggled and died to achieve.
The effective abandonment of the right to keep and bear arms would astound a soldier and president who knew only too well that without personal weapons, this country would never have survived long enough to provide fertile ground for one of the premiere cities of the world. Licenses and permits almost impossible to obtain in NYC except for the well-connected leave most individuals helpless in the face of crime.
He would be appalled at the heavy burden of regulations that weigh down businessmen and private citizens. Zoning laws and building codes lead to "slum lords" unable to keep up with the insane demands of the politicians. Rent control supposedly intended to help poor people benefits the rich who can live in cheap apartments far below the market-based price. Poor people are even worse off as fewer housing units are constructed.
Undoubtedly, he would shake his head that a marvel of technology such a cell phone in a car is outlawed despite little evidence that is causes any substantive harm.
The massive welfare that plagues New York; the loss of personal freedoms; the push of politicians for ever greater control over the lives of honest citizens all stand in stark contrast to the liberty that formed the foundation for all that is good in our society.
Maybe one day before I'm too old to enjoy it I'll be able to revisit the Morris-Jumel Mansion and celebrate Washington's legacy as it should be, fully and without reservation.
I admit to being out of the trendy loop. Fashionable fads and such never appealed much to me. Indeed, I usually waited until after a fad faded to evaluate the object of adoration. I didn't become a Beatles fan until after they broke up; didn't grow my hair long until after I graduated college in the early '70's. If the masses clamor for X, my individualistic orneriness activates my skepticism. As someone once said, no one ever lost money underestimating the taste of the American public.
That's a stereotype, of course. (Humor, anyone?) Plenty of popular things are good. Some are not.
One event that has garnered some headlines of late are "rave parties." I've never attended one; never even heard of one in the neighborhood. (I do live in Iowa, after all...though I did see one portrayed on "CSI" once.) My understanding is that at these parties, music and glow sticks and the drug ecstasy are among the ingredients mingled to increase intimacy and pleasure.
Not my idea of a good time but hardly anything worse than folks of my generation did in the '60's and '70's. I've known people who shot up heroin, snorted cocaine, smoked hash and dope, dropped LSD, sped on amphetamines, and drank alcohol to excess. While these are hardly great habits to cultivate, the people I knew who did this stuff are, for the most part, now successful, middle-aged, and productive citizens. Unlike current WAD (War on Drugs) propaganda, the issue is not one of either abstinence or misuse. Most people can (and did and do) experiment with drugs and such but did not and do not become addicted or stoned out of their minds. While not my choice, recreational drug use can be done responsibly...ditto for alcohol use.
Seems, though, that some of the powers-that-be think that these "raves" are corrupting our youth. (Hmm. Where have we heard that particular canard before...?) They want to outlaw the parties themselves but also the glow sticks that the kids apparently like to wave around.
Drug paraphernalia, don't ya know.
This is the same silliness that in some jurisdictions has led to banning bongs and certain pipes and anything else that "might" be used in conjunction with drugs.
Once again, the inexorable "logic" following the creation an unconstitutional law leads to more and more violations of our rights as the drug thugs attempt to plug all the "holes" (i.e., freedom) they failed to anticipate when first crafting their craziness.
What have these people been smoking, anyway?
Oh, Lord. What did we do to deserve this?
Janet Reno -- that sterling exemplar of responsibility who accepts the blame for everything while never having to deal with any of the consequences -- is seriously considering running for governor of Florida.
Jeez, don't Floridians have enough shame to deal with given the ineptitude of adults who can't punch a silly rectangle from a card? Who claim it's too complicated for them to line up arrows and names? Egads. I'd hide my head from public view.
Instead, Reno is a mere fifteen percentage points behind Governor Jeb Bush. Are there really that many blind fools in Florida?
This butcherous woman gave the okay for conducting the monstrous assault on freedom and decency that was the disaster at Waco, Texas, that led to the deaths of those very children she shamelessly used as excuses for this unconstitutional intrusion of the federal government into a solely local affair (that was still unjustified even on that level). This shill for the overweening State sold out a little boy and sent him back into the worse slavery of Cuba and Castro's loving arms. This disgusting excuse for a human being should be tried, convicted, and sent to the death chamber.
Instead, she is being fawned over by the major press outlets. Excuses are being made for her Parkinson's as being unimportant to her ability to perform the duties of governor.
Who gives a frick about her Parkinson's? It's her corrupt "character" and stonewalling to protect that thug in a suit, the ex-prez, that disqualifies her from civilized company.
At the very least, she should have done as she promised and row her stupid little boat round and round in circles and leave the rest of us in peace.
Instead, we're "treated" to more pictures of her ugly face on the evening news.
Janet Reno: GO AWAY!
Singer and sometimes actor, Jennifer Lopez, recently got into trouble for using the word "nigger" in one of her songs. (And, no, in this forum, at least, I refuse to use that weaselly "n-word" dodge.) Some blacks are outraged. Others could care less.
Maybe there's hope for us yet.
Older blacks remember the Jim Crow years (brought to you, remember, not by private citizens but by the state governments) and are rightly angered to hear what to them is the ultimate derogatory label. Younger blacks, however, have escaped the sting of those oppressive decades and don't have the same connotations arise when someone says, "nigger."
(Doesn't that fact say something about the claims of those who decry the U.S. as inherently racist and in no way improved over past centuries?)
Young blacks call each other "nigger" frequently and listen to songs containing the word on a regular basis. Part of the background to them; almost a badge of honor.
This tempest reminds me of a couple items from the black hole of the past.
One is from the founding of this country. "Yankee" was an appellation applied to Americans as an insult by the British. Rather than allow the Brits to set the terms of the debate, as it were, they adopted it as a self-descriptor and did so proudly. The term has stuck for over two centuries.
The second item is from the archives of Lenny Bruce.
Too bad Lenny is largely forgotten by today's young folks. He had -- and has -- a lot to say about cultural issues related to freedom. This comedian was repeatedly harassed and arrested for saying what is common in movies and cable television shows today. A pioneer, indeed, especially given the sad retroversion represented by Political Correctness.
One "bit" he did was called, "Are there any niggers here tonight?" (If you're fortunate enough to be able to find it, this bit is in The Essential Lenny Bruce, edited by John Cohen, 1967, Ballantine Books.) In this bit, he asks the forbidden question. He also inquires as to kikes, spics, hicks, guineas, greaseball, Yids, and Polacks.
Oooo, the outrage is dripping from the air as he continues. He marches on in this vein for awhile. I'll let Lenny finish this:
"The point? That the word's suppression gives it the power, the violence, the viciousness. If President Kennedy got on television and said, 'Tonight I'd like to introduce the niggers in my cabinet,' and he yelled 'niggerniggerniggerniggerniggerniggernigger' at every nigger he saw, 'boogeyboogeyboogeyboogeyboogey, niggerniggerniggernigger' till nigger didn't mean anything any more, till nigger lost its meaning -- you'd never make any four-year-old nigger cry when he came home from school."
I have to calm down. I really do.
I was watching the CBS morning show hosted by Charles Osgood when the rather lengthy story started. The "living wage" controversy leaped out at me like a rabid dog. Tied with the infamous and economically dunderheaded "minimum wage," this cancerous outgrowth of that Depression-era monstrosity is morphing into law in dozens of statist cities around the country.
(I've even heard it brought up in that collectivist haven south of where I live. Iowa City has long been renowned for its leftism. Unfortunately, the goofy ideas promulgated in that university town are now crawling like something out of a Hitchcock film towards my home here in Cedar Rapids. Shiver.)
As per usual in these incredibly biased and one-sided reports, we had maybe two brief clips of sanity: one from Alan Greenspan and one from a restaurant association leader in New Orleans, both of whom got it half right. They correctly pointed out that artificially elevated minimum wages mandated by law simply lead to more unemployment of those least skilled and least able to find jobs. With rising prices for wages, employers cut back services, find more efficient and less labor-intensive ways of doing business, or close altogether.
(And how convenient it is that the proponents never bring up the true costs of hiring someone: social security taxes, unemployment taxes, and a slew of regulations. The wage someone receives is always considerably less than the cost to the employer.)
The rest of this snow job of a story concerned those poor unfortunates who have to work two or three jobs to make ends meet. Of course, it never occurs to these statists to suggest cutting taxes and regulations to allow poor people to keep more of their money and to have greater opportunities to start their own businesses.
Heaven forfend. That would diminish the power of the collectivists and statists swallowing our nation like a giant python.
One woman they interviewed complained about her life. Her dwelling looked the pits. Guess she was too poor to clean or paint the walls. Poor woman was also on welfare, but I guess that extorted wealth she uses doesn't count or mean anything to her. She's certainly not thanking the rest of us for her ill-gotten gains. This fat woman probably weighted 250 pounds. Guess she's not so poor she's depriving herself of any food as I did when I was broke. Nor did the reporter ask her why in hell she had five or six kids when she can't afford to pay for the expected expenses or upkeep. No, no. Personal choices and responsibility are always off-limits to these leftist "journalists."
Sadly, neither Greenspan nor the other opponent of exorbitant "living wages" (and how much is enough to "live" on...and who gets to decide?) addressed the moral issues involved. No one -- let me repeat that: no one has a right to a job. No one has the duty to support you or hire you or give you anything they haven't voluntarily agreed to. Practically and morally speaking, the minimum wage and its gangly offspring the "living wage" are abominations against common sense and common decency.
First: free these poor folks from the yolk of government chains.
Second: hold them responsible for their own bad choices.
Third: refuse to accept responsibility for other people's lives.
Those ideas, I can live with.
The leaders of Colombia are doing the unpardonable: they are considering sparing themselves a bit of self-torture and legalizing cocaine (at least for small farmers).
The United States government, of course, is horrified that such heresy is being granted official consideration in our next site for jungle warfare. (And it has been so terribly long since Vietnam, hasn't it? Guess some of those military types are downright waxing nostalgic over the good ol' days...) The U.S. politicians are doing their best to discourage any reduction in the War Against Drugs (WAD). Shooting their WAD is all some of these eager beavers appear capable of doing. Why, if Colombia will return to the fold and be good drug thugs, I'm sure Uncle Sam can scrounge up a few more hundred million or billion dollars to ravage the country with.
The smalltime farmers of Colombia aren't on the receiving end of that bountiful largesse, of course -- supplied courtesy of you, the American taxpayer. (You didn't really need that money, now did you?) With the U.S. spraying herbicides to destroy coca plants, they sometimes also obliterate other veggies...or leave the countryside devastated and dead, even if they are right on target.
The Colombians rightly complain that such tactics merely push the average citizens of their country into the hands of communists and terrorists. After all, if scorched earth policies represent the side of the angels, I'm sure they'll all clamor for the company of the devil.
More and more countries are regretting being drafted into the WAD. That's a positive sign. I fear, though, that we'll see more body bags of Americans ferried home in the coming years as the American drug thugs try harder and harder to save Colombia by destroying it.