Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sometimes people get exactly what they deserve.


Monday, August 30, 2010

Glen Beck's Revival Meeting

Glen Beck, who has fantasies that he is on some divine mission to turn America to God (whether this is the Christian god or the Mormon god remains to be seen), conducted what amounted to a revival meeting in Washington, DC. All the reports I've read, including video film clips show him preaching religion and avoiding politics. The man clearly seems himself as a special envoy from some deity and that is always dangerous.

Here is an interesting photo from the rally. It is interesting because, like so much of the "facts" pushed by the religious Right, this quote is bogus. George Washington never said this, at least no citation can show him saying it in any verifiable source. From what I could discern many Right-wing types attribute the quote to Washington and claim it came from various documents but none of the documents cited actually contain the quote in question.

Washington is a favorite of the Religious Right when it comes to forged quotes and false claims. The famous painting of Washington praying in the snow at Valley Forge is entirely mythical. Even Washington's own minister said Washington was never known to pray and while he attended church he appears to have been a deist of some sort, not a believer in Biblical Christianity at all. This was widely known to the Religious Right of early America. Rev. James R. Wilson, in a 1832 sermon entitled Prince Messiah's Claims to Dominion Over All Governments, said of Washington:

There is no satisfactory evidence that Washington
was a professor of the Christian religion, or even a
speculative believer in its divinity, before he retired
from public life. In no state paper, in no private
letter, in no conversation, is he known to have
declared himself a believer in the Holy Scriptures, as
the word of God. ....Is it probable that he was a true
believer in Jesus Christ and his Bible, when in times
so trying, and in a Christian nation, he wrote
thousands of letters, and yet never uttered a word,
from which it can be fairly inferred that he was a
believer? Who ever questioned whether Theodosius
or Charlemagne believed the Bible? "He that is not
against us is for us." And it is as true, that he who is
not for us, is against us.

Washington did pray, it is said, in secret, on his
knees, during the battle of Brandywine. That may
be true, and yet, like Thomas Paine, who is known
to have prayed, he may have been an unbeliever. Is
it probable that he would have attended balls,
theatres; and the card table, had he been a disciple
of Christ? Rousseau, an avowed infidel, has said
more in honor of Christ, than is known to have been
uttered by Washington. He was a slave holder,
which was doing "evil in the sight of the Lord." His
Sabbaths were not spent as the "fearers of the Lord"
enjoy that holy day. His death, as recorded by Dr.
Ramsey, is much more like a Heathen
Philosopher’s, than like that of a Saint of God.

He was President of the convention, that voted the
name of the living God out of the Constitution...

While President, in Philadelphia, his habit was to
arise and leave the church, when the Sacrament of
the Supper was dispensed. After the Rev. Dr.
Abercrombie had preached a faithful sermon against
the evil example thus set by the President of the
United States; Gen. Washington remarked, that he
would not set such an example for the future; and
from that time, he did not attend church on the
Sabbath, in which the Lord’s Supper was

When the several classes of citizens, were
addressing Washington, on his retirement from
office, the clergy, who doubted his Christianity,
resolved to frame an address, so that he could not
evade, in his reply, an expression of his faith, if he
were really a believer. He did, however, evade it,
and the impression left on the mind of one of the
clergy, at least, was that he was a Deist.

Mr. Jefferson, affirms that Washington was a
Deist. To be ashamed of Christ, which no one can
reasonably doubt he was, is infidel. He did not set
an example of godliness, before the nation, over
which in the Providence of God, he was made

Labels: ,

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Coming Era of Liberaltarianism.

Lately there has been a lot of controversy over the liberaltarian moniker. It is not a term I use, nor is it one I find useful. I think I understand the reason it exists—to draw attention to the vast areas of common ground between classical liberals and progressive liberals. But when it comes to the libertarian label I just prefer using libertarian to say the same thing.

A libertarian is someone who believes in liberty and this broadly translates into three areas: civil liberties and social freedom, economic freedom and property rights, free trade and a non-interventionist foreign policy. It behooves libertarians to emphasize all three areas as they are interlinked.

Some libertarians, however, pander to the bigots on the Right in the hopes of attracting funding, or winning votes. So they truncate liberty: they amputate freedom by ignoring, or downplaying, civil liberties. Some actively try to appeal to the xenophobes by belittling immigrants and calling for measures that appeal to Tea Party types.

If a libertarian only spoke about social issues and foreign policy he would be doing a disservice to libertarianism by giving the impression that it is nothing but another version of left-wing ideology. Similarly if a libertarian ignores those issues to focus exclusively on areas of agreement with the Right he too does a disservice by giving the impression that libertarianism is just another version of right-wing ideology. Both commit the same crime.

Due to the rise of authoritarian socialism in the last century many classical liberals found themselves in alliance with conservatives. Conservatives, true to their nature of clinging to the traditional were, at that time, clinging to a tradition that was fundamentally classical liberal. So an alliance between libertarians and conservatives, in opposition to autocratic socialism made sense.

But things have changed. Both the Left and the Right have changed. The Left in most the world no longer has the same slavish dedication to dirigism that they once had. The political Left, to a large degree has shifted politically toward the center. The communist empire that attracted so many of them collapsed and so did the ideological assumptions of many on the Left. You now have former socialists like New Zealand’s Michael Moore, the former prime minister, writing in defense of globalization and free trade. This isn’t the Left of fifty years ago anymore. It isn’t even the “New Left” of the 1960s, which was just a more obnoxious version of the old Left.

Similarly the Right has changed as well. But where the Left got better the Right got worse. Gone are the Goldwater-Reagan types and what we have instead is a mishmash of theocratically inclined bigots of one type or another. Witness the Glenn Beck revival meeting appealing to Americans to return to God as one example. The Tea Partiers seemed more concerned about Mexicans than Big Government.

The Right got ugly. Goldwater and Reagan both had strong classical liberal sentiments. And these days there are a lot of people on the Left who should be bringing flowers to Ronnie’s grave. While he made some awful appointments in the judiciary he also made some brilliant ones. Judge Walker, who ruled against Proposition 8, was originally a Reagan appointee. Supreme Court Justice Kennedy, who authored the decision overturning sodomy laws, was another Reagan man.

The Right of the 1980s was not obsessed with bigotry. What did happen, however, is that the Christian fundamentalists abandoned the Democratic Party. Until the 80s the fundamentalists were Democrats, since Southern Democrats were the most consistently hatefully, bigoted politicians around. But when the national Democratic Party adopted the civil rights movement white fundamentalists abandoned their natural home for the GOP. Unfortunately they brought with them the stilted, bigoted views that they always held. They eventually, for the most part, came to accept black people as their legal equals but they still harbor a natural tendency to find scapegoats to hate. At the moment their favorite targets are gay people and immigrants.

The reasons for the old libertarian-conservative alliance simply don’t hold true anymore. Sure, the Right is attempting to revive that alliance by inflating the “Islamofascist” threat. But the Right is always searching for bogeymen with which to terrify people into supporting them. Given that the political Left is the natural home of libertarians, given that the modern Left is today more libertarian than their fathers were, given that the threat of authoritarian communism is gone, given that the Right has adopted a policy of hateful theocracy, it makes senses that libertarians would return to their first political alliance: one with the Left.

When classical liberalism arose it was the opposition to the conservatives of the day. But classical liberalism scared people and a synthesis arose, which combined the desire for liberal ends with the use of the means of conservatives, state power. That new movement was the progressive or socialist Left. They shared the goals of classical liberals but wanted to use the state power that the conservatives had held for centuries. Classical liberals and socialists worked together to end the state/church alliance, reform property rights, and enlarge the franchise. But with the rise of the Soviet Union and its totalitarian/imperialistic form of socialism that alliance ended. The conservatives of that era were now clinging to the recent classical liberal past so an alliance made sense. It no longer makes sense today.

American critics of the “liberaltarian” agenda have argued that it is an illusion and can’t exist. This is the viewpoint of conservatives who fear that libertarians would desert them for sure. But this is not the case at all. There are many examples of working political parties that have this sort of emphasis.

The Democratic Alliance in South Africa was run for years by the libertarian-leaning Tony Leon, who inherited Helen Suzman’s Houghton seat when she retired. Helen herself was rather libertarian. The Free Democrats in Germany have a gay man as their leader, are pro-market, want to reduce the size of the state, reform welfare, and pursue a pro-peace foreign policy. They are in government today. In New Zealand an atheist libertarian, Rodney Hide, leads the ACT Party. ACT MPs helped put civil unions into effect for gay couples and voted for the bill that legalized brothels. They are in government today.

The current UK government is a hybrid of Liberal Democrats and Conservatives. But the Tories are different from Tories of the past. They fully embrace equality for gay people and aren’t pushing some sort of Anglican theocratic agenda. It is not far off to call the current UK government a liberaltarian one. Alex Massie, at The Spectator, makes another important point about liberaltarianism. He says that any of the indexes of economic freedom show “there’s little to no necessary contradiction between social liberalism and economic freedom.”

He notes this is especially true if you get outside of America’s polarized politics. The Heritage Foundation’s Economic Liberty Index shows that various socially liberal nations are today considered more free market than the United States. He writes:
Heritage hammers Denmark and Sweden for high levels of government spending but both countries are ranked "freer" than the US in matters as non-trivial as business, trade and investment freedoms. Indeed, Sweden and Denmark each score better than the United States in seven of the ten areas measured. (Britain comes out 5-4 ahead of the US with the property rights fixture ending in a draw. Germany is tied 5-5 with the Americans. Canada, Australia and New Zealand also do better than America.)
Massie also points to the Free Democrats in Germany and the Lib Dems in England. He acknowledges that many hard-core libertarians would find plenty to complain about but says these groups “are much, much closer and friendlier to what I’d term real liberalism than anything on offer from either party in the US or from any of the alternatives in the UK and Germany.” I concur.

I would go so far as to argue that there have been strong cultural shifts in America toward libertarianism. The political process, however, is not showing that shift. The political process is going to be the last place where this shift will be noticed, at least in the US where bureaucratic inertia will keep the statists in power for a long time. The double-blow of hardcore authoritarians like Bush and Obama, one from the Right, the other from the Left, will hurt freedom. But the shift, at the ground level, has already taken place.

Here are the facts. Most Americans don’t like high taxes and heavy regulation. And today, most Americans want some form of legal recognition for gay couples. The hard-core statists have sifted themselves: those on the Left are Democrats while those on the Right are Republicans. But the largest group of voters say a pox on both houses and see themselves as independents. They tend to be relatively libertarian.

Long term I’m optimistic, the short term is a bitch however. Long term even the Republicans will eventually embrace social liberalism. The libertarian middle is gaining ground. The middle ground of American politics is libertarian, perhaps not consistently so, but libertarian nonetheless. Only the political system itself, which entrenches the two statist parties, hides this shift from public view. For the time being the libertarian middle shifts from Democratic to Republican. In the last election they abandoned the GOP because of Bush. This year they will flee to the Republicans in opposition to Obama. At some point one of the two major parties will discover that the libertarian middle can be attracted if they make some major concessions to freedom. They will discover that the few rabid statists they lose at the ballot box are more than compensated for and that it is worth making the change toward a freer society. The first of the two big parties that discovers that will have a long-term majority in office.

Labels: ,

A video for Objectivists who Like Beck

I have tried to stomach Glenn Beck, really I have. But I can't. It takes about two minutes of one of his rants to have me reaching for the remote. There are too many character traits I can't ignore. He seems to have a messianic complex to me and that scares me about anyone. Such people are always dangerous. Messiahs are dangerous and, in my opinion, have always done more harm than good. Second, Beck buys into too much conspiracy theory nonsense to be taken seriously.

I was surprised that Objectivist friends seemed to like Beck. Given how much Objectivism has opposed the attempt to appeal to God as the foundation for a political system I wonder what they would say of Beck's tirade about America turning to God.

An imaginary deity is not the answer to America's problems. And appeals to such entities only make it appear that there is no rational foundation for freedom. But Beck says his role is to "wake America up to the backsliding of principles and values and most of all of God." Beck's conservative principles include what he calls his second principle: "I believe in God and he is the center of my life." Ayn Rand referred to this as the "God, family, tradition swamp," so I'm baffled by Objectivists who support Beck.

Even more odd is that one has to remember that Beck is a Mormon who believes he will be a god one day and that all Mormons, through the secret temple rituals—some of which they stole from the Masons—can become a god and that there literally are millions of gods, perhaps billions.


Judge Napolitano on conservatives as socialists.


The Wesley Mouch of the Legal Profession

Here is an interesting video on the Commerce Clause and how the political classes have reinterpreted it to justify almost unlimited powers to the government: i.e., to themselves. Prof. Erwin Chemerinsky defends the broad interpretation of the commerce clause.

Over the years numerous people have ridiculed Ayn Rand for making her villians unappealing in every sense of the word. Even though William F. Buckley is dead, his vendetta against Rand continues with a new generation of conservatives. A recent issue of this conservative rag attacks Rand, among other things, because you know who is evil "by looking at them" with the physical signs of evil "being obesity, baldness, round-facedness, and soft- or watery-eyedness." Well, not quite, but lets roll with it.

That said, I couldn't help but watch this video with the distinct impression that Chemerinsky was one of Rand's villians in living form. Of course, many of her villians were in fact inspired by living people, though for obvious reasons Chemerinsky wasn't one of them. But he certainly could have been added to Rand's pantheon of evil.

Labels: , ,

Friday, August 27, 2010

More Crazy in the LP

It does the future of libertarianism no good, and much harm, when libertarians attempt to prove their own insanity through public statements of the most absurd kind. Too many of these loons are now associated with the Libertarian Party and the Party deserves the death spiral it is in as a result.

Consider the Libertarian Party of Alaska, once a party of relatively sane individuals who actually managed to win seats in the state legislature.

Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski is trailing an opponent in the vote count for the Republican primary. The Anchorage Daily News reports:

There is a possibility that Murkowski could run on the Libertarian ticket in the November general election if she loses the Republican primary. The Alaska Libertarian Party is discussing the possibility and its Senate candidate, David Haase, has said he is open to talking to Murkowski about him stepping aside.

Apparently the LP remains an option for has-been Republicans, which effectively dooms it and prevents it from taking a truly libertarian position, as it is a sanctuary for unemployed conservatives.

As bad as this may be it seems the Libertarian Party's current candidate for U.S. Senate is actually even worse. He's a conspiracist of the mentality of the Birch Society. The paper reports that LP candidate David Haase would consider stepping aside for the losing Republican but says he "would surely press Murkowski on the Federal Reserve, which is his focus. 'Let's take the Federal Reserve, nationalize it and take that income earning capacity and turn it over to the people to finance Social Security and Medicare."

What we have here is bad thinking squared. Haase holds several viewpoints simultaneousl—all of them wrong. He has been reading the bullshit from books like The Creature from Jeykl Island or perhaps even worse, the rantings of Eustace Mullins. Haase manages to combine the insanity of Birch Society conspiracy theory about the fed, with Marxist sounding rhetoric about nationalizing what is fundamentally a national institution already.

There are member banks to the Fed but the politicial powers in Washington ultimately control the Fed. As for this "earning power" where does he think the "profits" are going today? The Fed doesn't make much in the way of profits and what profits there are go to the federal government already.

Member banks simply have no control over monetary policy, which is the major function of the Fed. What member banks do is manage the day-to-day workings of the system at the local level. Policy is determined by the Board of Governors of the Fed all of whom are political appointees.

As for the crazy that the Fed could fund Medicare and Social Security consider the "profits" of the Fed. The Fed buys government bonds which pay interest. So the government pays interest to the Fed, as it would to anyone who owns the bonds. A substantial portion of the interest paid the Fed on those bonds is then given back to the government already. What is paid out to member banks is a relatively small portion of Fed income and well below what would be necessary to fund a highway expansion, let alone fund Social Security and Medicare together, or alone.

Then consider this "libertarian" solution to "nationalize" the Fed. Even if the Fed were private nationalization is a socialist viewpoint not a libertarian one. Nationalization likek this tends to be the view of Marxists and conspiracy cranks. The "free banking" alternative has historically been what libertarians prefer. Of course, I contend that what is happening to the LP is that is serving as a retirement center for disaffected conservatives, John Birchers and Tea Party crazies. It is no longer a home for libertarians but a refuge for every Right-wing crank in America. A lot of the bad thinking about the Fed comes from them.

Haase manages to combine numerous false premises into one sentence. Consider them:

1. The Fed is, for all practical purposes, already nationalized.
2. Even if the Fed were truly private, nationalization is not a libertarian solution.
3. Even if the Fed were private, and if nationalization were a libertarian option, then the "profits" would NOT fund Social Security or Medicare.

The talking points used by Haase are pure right-wing crank theory, they are not factually accurate, historically accurate, or even libertarian.

Here is an excellent talk on the Federal Reserve by Steve Horwitz. Steve explains the real problems with the Fed, which have little to do with the Bircher type thinking that is being promoted by the Right. In fact, I would argue that the conspiracist theories about the Fed actually insulate the Fed from valid criticism. If people focus on non-existent problems they do so to the exclusion of real problems. The conspiracist theories of the Fed are relatively easy to debunk which makes it appear that the Fed is actually a good idea. The focus ought to be on the real problems with the Fed, not the fantasies of the Right. Steve's video lecture is about 90 minutes but well worth watching.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

An unexpected Rand citation.

Steve Hofmeyr is not well known in the United States, except perhaps with the South African expat community. He did tour New Zealand recently with large crowds but then I think half of South Africa has fled to New Zealand in recent years.

Hofmeyer was a singer/song-writer but he moved into television, film and even authoring books. He was a mainstay in the local major soap TV show Egoli.

I had a couple of businesses in a particular neighborhood there, actually the area where I lived at the time. And, I guess because it was close to the main television studios in the country, a lot of entertainers lived in the area. I can't say I was ever fan of his singing and didn't give much thought to his television appearance either. But he attracted a certain amount of attention and living in the area meant he would appear now and then at one of the businesses I owned. Having had several "celebrity" customers meant respecting their privacy to me. But his appearance did get a staff member rather excited.

What I did realize was that some of the ideas I was promoting seemed to take root with him, not that I'm saying he got them from me, but there is a good chance that he picked up some of the material we had on display. Recently he wrote a letter to The Sunday Times, the larger paper in South Africa where he made some points not popular with the Left.
"The only sane outcome of an open society is rich and poor people."

"If keeping what you earn is what a fair capitalist society is, ours is well doomed."

"Poverty will prevail for as long as we keep in power a government defined by nepotism, media and judiciary containment, golden handshakes, silent diplomacy, BEE charters, quotas, unprecedented unemployment, unethical grants, land grabs and tenderpreneurs.
I basically agree and his description of South African politics is spot on. What then suprised me more was that he qouted Atlas Shrugged.
One man's ability should never be a threat to another. This is what an open society is, sir. As Ayn Rand once said of Robin Hood: "He is held to be the first man who assumed a halo of virtue by practising a charity with wealth which he did not own, by giving away goods he had not produced, by making others pay for the luxury of his pity.

"He is the man that became the symbol of the idea that need, not achievement, is the source of rights, that we don't have to produce - only to want - that the earned does not belong to us, but the unearned does." (from Atlas Shrugged, 1957).

The colonised individual is an envious individual, isn't he?

Your merry Marxist ideals have been tried thoroughly and found untrue and somewhat devastating.
That surprised me, and pleased me a bit. Alas, it doesn't mean I like his singing any better. I still prefer my old friend Andre Schwartz instead. Since I prefer Andre's singing it is his video below. Last I heard he had the lead as Phantom of the Opera. Good on him.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


While so many rabidly condemn an Islamic cultural center being built a few blocks from "ground zero" in New York City is anyone noticing what Israel is doing in Jerusalem.

Supposedly it is insensitive to have an Islamic center any where within the vicinity of the Twin Towers site -- I assume because it is believe all Muslims are alike.

If that is insensitive what would you call Israel taking bulldozers into the oldest Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem and destroying over 100 graves? Ironically Israel is destroying the cemetery to build a so-called Museum of Tolerance.

Israel sent bulldozers into the cemetery during the dark of night in the hopes of being undetected and when news crews filmed the destruction they were removed by police.

There is no doubt this was a cemetery and had been for centuries. Israel declared the cemetery to be state porperty and says that when tombstones were destroyed, if they were rebuilt, they were not "fake" tombstones. Israel says this is the seizure of "state land."

Real graves have been destroyed, whether the tombstones that replaced them are "fake" is irrelevant. Why do I suspect that those harping about the insensitivity of having a Muslim center anywhere near ground zero will have nothing to say about the insensitivity of destroying a graveyard?

He died a married man

Nestor Berchot had wanted to marry his partner Adrian Garcia, but like so many places it was illegal for gay couples to marry. But just recently Argentina legalized same-sex marriages. He and his partner were the first same-sex couple to marry in Mar del Plata.

Following the happy event friends and family of the couple gathered for a reception and celebration, where Nestor collapsed, suffering from high blood pressure. Taken to the hospital he died a few hours latter.

While no doubt Nestor, like all of us, has contemplated his own death, there was one thing he may never have considered before—that he would die while married to the love of his life. I hope his partner takes some comfort in that. It is the sort of comforting fact that straight couples take for granted, many without ever thinking what it means to those denied that option.

Similarly I think of Phyllis Lyons, who I met when I took some courses that the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, where she worked. It was Phyllis who had to approve my application to take the courses and we sat in her office chatting about various things. Phyllis was a brave, early pioneer of the fight for gay equality. She and her partner Del Martin met in 1950. When gay marriage was legalized in San Francisco the two were the first couple to wed in San Francisco on June 16, 2008, more than half a century after they began their life together -- they were finally able to make it "legit." Only a few weeks later, on August 27 Dell died at the age of 83.

So many people just take it for granted that they will marry and one die they will depart this life after spending their life as the married partner of the person they love. Imagine thinking you would never have that right. Imagine that you watched all those around you being allowed that choice, but it was denied you.

For Del and Phyllis, they shared a few short weeks, out of more than half a century of love, together as a married couple. But they had it. Nester Berchot only enjoyed marriage for a few short hours before his life ended. But he was married. Yet the cemeteries are filled with loving gay men and lesbians who died never allowed to marry the person they love. That is a tragedy we can never undo, but it is one we can prevent from happening ever again.


Friday, August 13, 2010

Hitchens on his death and deities

It saddens me to see this video, not because of anything Christopher Hitchens says, but because he is dying. As he points out, so are we all, he just a bit faster and in a more certain way.

Mr. Hitchens is a fascinating writer, albeit one with whom I have some strong disagreements. But I found him to be a friendly man when we meet a bit over a year ago. And he most kindly inscribed one of his books for me with some kind remarks, remarks I would share with you except I have the book packed away for a move that I must make.

Your blogger is going through quite a rough and difficult patch at this time requiring some medication and lots of rest. But as so often is the case I am reminded that, no matter how dark my horizon may look, I can see others vanishing into the darkness.

The last time I had a very, very difficult time in my life I was deeply depressed and worried. At that time I learned that my good friend Libby Husemeyer was dying of brain cancer and the injustice of this cruel, godless world angered me. I remember wishing it was me instead. I felt then I had little reason to continue living and she had so many, that I would have happily traded places. But I also recognized that, as bad as things were for me, they were far worse for her. I took little comfort in that because I had lost the will to live, but lacked the courage to do anything about it, and she was fighting for every minute of life left to her.

As I sit here, partially in drug-induced relaxation——all with a legal prescription I might point out——I again think that the world would be a better place if I could somehow trade places with Hitch. I can understand the situation I face, it is the result of something that simply strikes me as vicious and intentional cruelty. But for Hitch, there is no such reasonable explanation.

And when there is no reasonable explanation for why something happens, we turn to the god of the gaps. It is simply the will of some deity, certainly those praying his death would like to think so. But, I doubt that is how the world works, and Hitch certainly doubts it as well.

When I wrote of Libby's death I said the following:
The natural processes of life lack justice. I can not conceive of there being intelligent design when good people suffer needlessly. Cruel and vicious people survive far too long and good people go far too early. We are all willing to acknowledge the great achievements but we ignore simple goodness. It saddens me deeply when a genuinely good person dies. I know she loved her family and was glad they could be with her till the end. My heart goes out to them. I know that many, many people who knew Libby will be saddened today. I know I am.

I will insist that Hitch is wrong on some things, right on some things, but regardless he struck me as a decent and good man. I wish there were some cosmic justice death exchange system in place——somewhere where we could swap a good person facing death with some cruel, vengeful type who seems in good health. Certainly if that were possible I know who would be carrying Hitch's cancer in his place. His life is valuable to me, this other person's life, perhaps of no value at all, at least not to me.

I don't expect cosmic justice; I hope for it. But I don't count on it. Existence has no conscience, it has no sense of right or wrong, of decency or cruelty. It just strikes randomly and without any intelligence behind it. While men like Hitchens, who bless the world with their talents, face their deaths, there are petty, cruel people seeking to harm others over some slight they imagine, or merely out of spite.

This utter and complete lack of justice in the way that the universe behaves is a strong indication that there is no deity behind it. That is the most comforting thought one can derive from the existence of such things. For if there is a master designer behind this systemm he is capricious, cruel, vindictive and malicious. Bad things, often very bad things happen to good people, while real bitches seem to thrive. The idea that such injustice is some "higher" form of justice, devised by a deity, is utterly offensive.

What deity could take pleasure in imposing cancer, or unleashing floods and tornadoes? Cruelty, however, is a very human trait. It is a sign that we are far from divine. The lack of a sense of justice in reality implies that any designer who created the system would, of necessity, be lacking a sense of justice as well. Hume once speculated that the flaws of our universe might suggest, not intelligent design but "the first rude essay of some infant deity, who afterwards abandoned it, ashamed of his lame performance" or perhaps the effort of a "dependent inferior deity," or even the production "of old age and dotage in some superannuated deity."

Some substandard, inferior deity might well wind up a world such as the one we live in. But it is not the work of some all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful entity. Everyday we witness too many injustices to know this is the case. In intelligent design the cruel would consistently face the consequences of the pain they intentionally inflict on others. And while there are often such moments they are as random as many other things in life. Cruelty often does thrive and that it does indicates to me that any deity in charge of this universe would have to be as cruel and capricious as the viciousness he allows — or perhaps, as I suspect, he simply is not there.

Note: The medication I was given pretty much knocked me out for six hours. And now, rested and awake again, I have gone through this piece and cleaned up some pretty awful typos. Given the medication involved I'm pleased that the main problems were minor typos and not entirely incoherent sentences—though I do suspect my religious readers may well accuse me of that crime out of principle. I am on this course of medication for the next 15 to 30 days and it may knock me out each time, and it does play games with the mind. I will post when I can and then try to clean it up when the effects wear off. My apologies.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Think about it, for just one second.

Today I had to drop off some money as a deposit. It was a modest about, $500. As is often the case they say they want money orders or certified checks. I didn't have time for that so I took in some cash.

I told the woman it was the deposit I had to drop off and what it was for. She repeated the request for money or certified checks and I said I had cash, I had, of course, confirmed with someone earlier that I could do that.

When I said cash the woman looked baffled. She turned to the other receptionist and asked: "Will the bank accept cash?"

I kid you not.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

All true


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Judge Napolitano on courts and gay marriage.


Saturday, August 07, 2010

Passing Hearts: a short film

No politics here, just a short film that I found enjoyable. It is slow at the beginning, I warn you. And it is not immediately clear what it is about. But it is worth about 14 minutes of your time.


Friday, August 06, 2010

Maggie: The Revolution is Behind You.

It's just a song, but it is also a marker of the social evolution that inherently takes place in dynamic, free societies. Schumpeter discussed "creative destruction" in regards to markets, but the same process takes place within the social realm as well. This is especially true in depoliticized markets, where the political power structure isn't used to impede change.

In the debate on gay marriage something is too easily ignored and the conservatives get away with a lie. They claim state power is being used to force change. That is a lie. State power is being used to prevent change. The private sector already welcomes and accepts same-sex relationships to a degree that far surpasses that done by the governmental sector. Civil society accepts gay couples but the legal system rejects them. The change is over. I am reminded of something Garet Garrett wrote. While Garrett was speaking of something else the words apply here: "There are those who still think they are holding the pass against a revolution that may be coming up the road. But they are gazing in the wrong direction. The revolution is behind them."

The National Organization on Marriage thinks they are holding the pass against a social revolution that is coming up the road. But they too are gazing in the wrong direction. The revolution is behind them. It has already transformed the social arena and all that is happening now is that government is slowly catching up with the change.

Private actions are inherently dynamic and quick to change and adjust according to various signals. Government is slow, ignores such changes, fights the signals or tries to distort them intentionally. And the marriage debate is just another example of this tendency.

But, just as it slaps down the conservative reliance on state power to prevent change in social arenas so does this theory slap down the progressive's dependency on state power to prevent economic dynamism. State power is inclined toward a static society. Power is inherently conservative and resistant to change.

The rotund bigot, Maggie Gallagher, doesn't understand that the revolution is behind her. Her NOM rallies may be funded by the Mormons but the public isn't showing up. The battle is over, Maggie. All that remains is for the state to catch up with society and there is little that will prevent that from happening.

This duet by John Barrowman and Daniel Boys is just another indication of how much society has changed. The fact that two well known British male entertainers sang a love song to one another, and that both are openly gay, just didn't seem to cause a ripple any more. Twenty years ago there would have been lynch mobs clamoring at the door. Yes, Maggie, the revolution is behind you. Get used to it, because you will be gone before it is.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Stone Age Minds: A conversation with evolutionary psychologists Leda Cos...

Some important insights regarding evolutionary psychology and markets. The discussion about socialism is particularly interesting.

Labels: ,

Eminent Domain by the Backdoor

Earlier today I was talking with my friend Prof. David Beito, a good libertarian and the chair of the Alabama Advisory Board of the US Commission on Civil Rights. David has been investigating the use of "blight" ordinances to seize property in Montgomery, Alabama. The properties are declared "blights" by the city which then comes in, often very quickly, and destroys the home.

They then bill the home owners for the service provided by the city, and sells the property to highest bidder, often wealthy land developers. The homeowner not only loses their home but may end up having to pay the city for the services it provided.

Beito said: "We have good evidence that these homes are not in fact blighted, that is the pretext that they are blighted and that is why they are being demolished. Property owners are losing their land and I think there is good reason to believe it often ends up in the hands of wealthy developers. It's eminent domain on steroids."

Beito's commission has recommend that the U.S. Civil Rights Commission investigate the matter thoroughly. Of course this confiscation of private property is being conducted by the Republican administration of the mayor. So we have Republicans stealing private property, chucking people out of their homes and destroying their property and transferring title to wealthy land developers. I guess we should be glad the Republicans are the party of "limited government" otherwise think how they would be acting.

I did know that David was involved in this issue, defending the property rights of people who tend to be poorer and less powerful against the use of government power by the wealthy and powerful. As I have said repeatedly, this is the nature of government power. It tends to benefit the rich and powerful, rarely the poor and powerless. I didn't know this issue had broken into the news in the last couple of days when I called him. I was pleased to hear of his efforts. He is doing precisely the sort of thing I believe libertarians ought to be doing——defending the rights of the most vulnerable people in society.

It is not that I don't think the talented and wealthy are without rights. Quite the contrary, I want a society where talent is rewarded and those who earn the rewards keep them, as such a system benefits us all. What I don't want is a society where those with political pull can manipulate a web of regulations as a means of redistribution the rights and wealth of others to themselves. And while my friends on the Left assume that such redistribution can be easily, and usually, used to benefit the poor and powerless, I feel that history shows that to be a fiction. Quite the contrary, I believe the historical record shows that those with political influence, who tend to be rich and powerful, almost always are the real beneficiaries of such concentrations of state power. Montgomery today is just another example of that.


Prop 8 overturned

By now you know that the federal court judge in the Prop 8 case has ruled that the Proposition violates fundamental rights. I believe he is right. His ruling goes into great detail about the evidence offered and the conclusions he drew and why he drew them.

The ruling is 136 pages, which is not a quick read. I want to focus on one aspect of the decision: is there a compelling reason for the state to restrict marriage to opposite sex couples? Judge Walker wrote:
Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite- sex couples are superior to same-sex couples. Because California has no interest in discriminating against gay men and lesbians, and because Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis, the court concludes that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.
Now, I come at this as a libertarian, as someone who passionately believes in freedom of choice. What restricts choice in libertarian theory? The answer is anything that violates the equal rights of others to life, liberty and their property. In a perfectly privatized, stateless world, what would restrict marriage? Nothing. Marriage would be a private matter and outside the influence or control of any body of people.

This is how marriage was seen historically. Marriage predates the church so it was NOT a religious institution. And marriage predates the nation state as well. Marriage became a state institution at the explicit demand of Protestant Christians. Contrary to the false claims of Religious Right, the state didn't take marriage away from the church, but Christian Protestants demanded the state take the function of marriage in order to directly challenge Catholic claims that marriage was only valid if performed within the Catholic faith.

In the absence of state control would there be any real limitation on whether or not same-sex couples could marry? Clearly not. Civil society has been recognizing same-sex couples as "married" in everything but name only, but not so the State.

In a state of natural liberty same-sex couples would be free to form marriages. Under the demands of the Christian Right of the day (Calvin and his followers) the state took control of recognizing marriages and began doling out liberties and rights on the basis of ones marital status.

As long as that is the state of affairs, under US constitutional theory, then the state must justify its restriction on the freedom of same-sex couples to marry. Over the centuries the courts have outlined what would, or would not, legally justify a restriction of individual rights. And we must be clear that marriage laws restricted the rights of same-sex couples to marry, while granting the same right to opposite-sex couples.

Judge Walker asked whether there was some compelling state interest that justified this restriction on the rights of same-sex couples. He said that the proponents of Prop 8 were unable to justify such restrictions. As such he ruled that the State may not restrict the freedom of same-sex couples to legally marry. Walker wrote: "Proposition 8 cannot withstand any level of scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause. Excluding same-sex couples from marriage is simply not rationally related to a legitimate state interest."

In other words same-sex couples ought to have more freedom of choice than the law allowed. This ruling does not expand State power but says that the State can no longer restrict the rights of same-sex couples. This ruling limits State power and expands individual choice and freedom. That is something every libertarian ought to applaud.


Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Prop 8 Trial Ruling Expected

As many of my readers know there was an amazing trial about the constitutionality of the anti-marriage Prop 8 ballot measure, sponsored by the Mormon Church through various front groups.

By coincidence I was reading transcripts of the trial when I heard that the judge in the case is expected to issue his ruling today (August 4th).

Whatever he rules it is not going to be over, the losing side will appeal. Of course, the plan was to take this to the Supreme Court from the start, so this is only early innings in this political game.

That said, I still hope the Judge stands up for marriage equality and disappoints the Mormons and their antigay allies. I will try to blog on the ruling the moment I hear something.


Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Stossel goes where most fear to tread.

John Stossel, the libertarian reporter at Fox, tackles sex and the law—that one area where faux "limited government" types become raving banshees for Big Brother. In this first clip he discusses the case of Ricky, who I have discussed on this blog several time. Appearing with Ricky is his mother Mary Duval, who has commented here several times.

Similarly this blog has regularly challenged the absurd and counter-productive sex registry laws. Radley Balko, from Reason, tackles the hysteria. People on the Left, who worry about these sorts of absurd laws, should be applauding Stossel for doing this.

Labels: , ,

Monday, August 02, 2010

Father: Forgive Yourself, You Need It.

Now and then curiosity gets the best of me. I go to Google news to see which priests got arrested for what in the last 30 days. Given how the Vatican state likes to pontificate to the world about what is or isn't moral I like to see how they are practicing morality themselves.

According to a Google news search the following are a sampling of what Catholic priests have been up to recently. I have choosen to only report on US cases and not go international with this report.

Father Kevin Gray was arrested in Connecticut for stealing $1.3 million dollars from his parish, over the last seven years, in order to pay for male escorts and hotels. Maybe he needed his luggage lifted? But $1.3 million? That's $185,000 per year or $3,571 per week. Exactly how many rent boys was Father hiring at a time? Either this priest was hiring another "escort" every night of the week, along with an expensive hotel room, or he isn't being entirely truthful about his spending habits. And that raises an interesting question: What else could he be doing with the money if claiming he spent it all on male prostitutes is the preferred excuse?

In West Virginia, Father Felix Owino was arrested for aggravated sexual battery against an 11-year-old girl.

Father Patrick Umberger apparently was ejected from a waterpark last year because he kept following small boys into the toilets. A police report was filed against him at the time. He said he had prostrate problems. Now he has legal problems as he was arrested for child porn.

Father William Casey, in Tennessee, pled guilty to "crimes against nature." (An absurd phrase if ever there was one. Apparently this has something to do with molestation charges against the priest.

Parents in North Carolina say that a church choirmaster was molesting their daughter. When this accusation was made known to the local priest, Father John Schneider he went to the apartment of the choirmaster to delete photographic evidence of the assaults from the man's computer. The priest was called when the man was arrested and left a school board meeting in order to destroy the evidence.

Mark Campobello was a priest, now he is a former inmate. This priest was released from prison a few days ago, no doubt to make room for other priests. Campobello served his sentence for sexually assualting two teenage girls.

Father James Grady was sentenced to prison for possession of child porn of underage females. He supposedly came to the attention of police when he responded to an undercover operation offering children for commercial sex.

In an ecumenical spirit I feel I should discuss the actions of Protestant ministers as well. Rev. Lawrence Brown, of Louisiana, was arrested for "indecent behavior with a juvenile and soliciting for prostitution" regarding a 15-year-old girl. In Middletown, NY, Rev. Robert Burke was arrested for third-degree rape. Steven Breed was a graduate of a Baptist seminary and briefly served as a youth minister before becoming a teacher. He was arrested for getting real estate agents to show him homes, where he would steal valuables on an inspection.

Pastor Kenneth Kleckner, in West Ocala, FL, was arrested for soliciting a police offer online. He thought the officer was an underaged girl. Baptist pastor Christopher Daniels was arrested again, after he escaped a jail work team. He was previously found guilty of arson and fraud charges. In South Carolina, Pastor Grady Ponds and his wife, Rhonda, were both arrested on child porn charges.

In Indiana Pastor Christian Johnson was arrested for possession of meth and his wife was arrested for possession of a stolen vehicle. Also in Indiana a minister, Wayne Harris, Jr., was arrested. He borrowed funds from a charity that helps orphans, supposedly to build a church. He bought a Mercedes and a mink coat instead and never paid back the money. In Louisiana a Baptist minister was arrested for sending threatening emails and text messages. Rev. Bill Vandergraph was arrested for sexual penetration of minor under the age of 13.

Baptist pastor Christopher Settlemoir was arrested for sexually attacking teenaged boys. Pastor Thurman Leonard was arrested for assault and battery and felony abduction. Gerald Laneaux, a youth minister, was arrested for sexually molesting a 4-year-old.

I think I've had enough—there's more but one can only spend so much time in sewer. What I love is that these people are in the forefront of the fight against gay people committing to each other for life, because they deem that to be immoral.

Labels: ,