Thursday, July 29, 2010

More of the bigotry of Wayne Allan Root.

The con man Wayne Allen Root is at it again, besmirching the libertarian label with conservative verbal vomit. The man is a fraud and if the Libertarian Party had an ounce of decency they would boot him out on his fat ass.

Root has a piece that is anti-private property and collectivistic to the core. And he does it while labeling himself as “one of America’s leading Libertarian thinkers.” For the record, I doubt even Root is so stupid as to think he is one of America’s leading libertarian thinkers. Actually he probably knows he not even a libertarian.

Some Muslims are building a center, which includes a mosque, in New York. It will be a couple of blocks away from the site of the Twin Towers. Root is against the idea because: “there are also rights and sensibilities of others to consider in a free society.” Of course, the rights of others are to be respected. But building a mosque doesn’t violate anyone’s rights, no matter how much it offends Mr. Root. No rights are being violated. As for violating sensibilities: what does that mean? Some people, especially the bigoted, are easily offended. Tough shit: in a free society you don’t have a right to go unoffended. And if you are a conservative, like Root, you are usually easily offended. Deal with it.

Root condemns the building of the mosque because it “does nothing to increase religious freedom. “ No it doesn’t and it isn’t obliged to. He says that a mosque instead “inspires hatred, divides our cultures and increases the odds of violence and hate crimes.” Hell, build a Baptist church and the same damn thing happens. But private property is private property and the state has no right to prevent a church, or a mosque, from being built—nor should it.

Root offers lots of bullshit, but then bullshit is his specialty. He says that building it is a sign of disrespect and means to “belittle us.” Who is “us?” I don’t feel belittled or disrespected. And like offense, you have no inherent right to respect. People are free to disrespect you if they wish; they just aren’t free to violate your life, liberty or property.

Root says this center “is to show Muslim contempt for Americans by building a monument to Islam in the shadow of their greatest triumph over America.” Give that some thought for a second. Yes, fanatical Muslims did a horrific thing in the name of their religion. But is there a universal guilt for all Muslims? To call that terrorist attack “their greatest triumph,” and to mean Muslims, is pure, raw, bigoted collectivism.

Mr. Root is a Jew. The Israeli military attacked the USS Liberty in what can only be described as a terrorist attack. Does that action by Israel, mean all Jews are somehow guilty? Obviously not. All Germans aren’t responsible for the atrocities of the Nazis. All whites are not guilty for the attacks of the Klan or Jim Crow laws. All Afrikaners are not responsible for apartheid.

There is no such thing as collective guilt. Hitler preached an anti-Semitic message that was built on the concept of collective guilt for all members of a specific religious minority. Mr. Root, by claiming that the attack of some terrorists was a triumph for Islam, is engaging in the same disgusting form of bigotry as Julius Streicher and his fellow Nazi propagandists.

I have no sympathy for Islam. Nor for that matter do I care about Judaism or Christianity, or any of the inherently intolerant sects of monotheism. It is just wrong, however, to paint all Christians with one brush, or all Jews, or all Muslims. It is a crude form of collectivism and it is irrational.

I dislike Christian theology because I think it is wrong, stupid, and potentially dangerous. I say the same for Judaism and the same for Islam. But I would never say that all Christians are dangerous; all Jews are a threat, or all Muslims are out to get us.

I do think fundamentalism, in all three sects is particularly dangerous. But most Christians are not fundamentalists. Most Muslims were not responsible for 9/11. Most Jews are not responsible for the USS Liberty attack, not even most Israelis are responsible.

As usual the big mouth, self-absorbed con man from Vegas doesn’t even bother to check out the facts. The center being built is called Cordoba House and does house a mosque along with many other things. It is the work of a Muslim cleric who wanted a community center where Muslims and people of other faiths can meet together. The name Cordoba was picked after the Spanish city where Christians, Jews and Muslims once lived together in peace. It is a repudiation of the sort of fanaticism that we saw on 9/11, and the sort of knee-jerk reactionary thinking of Right-wing bigots like Root.

Cordoba House promotes itself as place for interfaith cooperation and social interaction to help promote tolerance and friendship. It is moderate Islam at work. The intolerant fanatics are two-bit charlatans like Root.

Conservatives have been demanding that tolerant Muslims step forward and work in opposition to the fundamentalists—something conservatives themselves refuse to do when it comes to Christian intolerance. Now that such Muslims have done precisely this the Right wing, including faux libertarians like Root, are up in arms over it. Just as decent Muslims need to disassociate themselves from intolerant fanatics, as Cordoba House is doing, so too must decent libertarians repudiate the immature thinking of fake libertarians like Root.

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1 million!

I am on the road so I can't say precisely when, but within the next few hours we will have our 0ne millioneth visitor. Of course this has to happen when I have limited access to the site and can't monitor when it happens. I don't want to welcome the 1 millionet viewer since the other 999,999 are welcome as well—with a very few exceptions.

I never set a goal for visitors and didn't give it much thought. But I'm still glad that milestone was reached.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

That "Oh, shit" moment on video

Remember the photos I published here of the sail boat that a whale used as a landing spot? Well, here is video of the incident as it happened taken from another boat.

Doesn't look fake to me. And the man I hear speaking there has a very distinct South African accent.

Monday, July 26, 2010

New film attacks Darwin, evolution and Mencken.

The Religious Right is about to unleash a new drama, based loosely on the Scopes Trial. The purpose I suspect is to make Darwin and evolution look bad by weaving in a fictional story about eugenics and forced sterilization. Let us first cover the Scopes Trial.

Tennessee had passed an anti-evolution. The ACLU wanted to test the law and John T. Scopes, a teacher in Dayton, volunteered for the case. One of the great puffing baboons of that era, Williams Jennings Bryan, a man who was a socialist and a fundamentalist, rode into town like a tinhorn messiah to save the law. Clarence Darrow, a political ally of Bryan’s, but an opponent of his fundamentalism, defended Scopes.

The great libertarian writer, H.L. Mencken, came to Dayton to cover the story for the newspaper column that he wrote. A fantastic film was made of the story, Inherit the Wind, which also weaved in fictional characters but often used verbatim transcripts from the trial as script. The film, however, was clearly a dramatization of the story and not meant as history. Few people with a lick of sense take their history from such dramas. However, fundamentalists have hated the film since it first showed up on the movie screens their preachers forbade them to see. And it appears they are now getting even.

A new fictionalized account of the trial has been made. This version is written by Fred Foote, who also financed the film through a family-run foundation “which supports Christian-based artistic and educational endeavors. “

Foote says he wrote about “how the media gave the whole world the wrong story about the Scopes trial.” One paper says that Fundy Fred’s version of the story, Alleged, shows the “trial was actually a tool of the progressive elite of the time, to promote Darwinism for its own darker purpose.” The creationist web site answersingenesis says the film “reveals how the major media delivered a distorted view of the trial in an attempt to attack biblical Christianity.” Foote, shall we say, is a very right-wing character. He gave $2000 to the theocratically inclined Rick Santorum campaign. He also gave money to Keith Butler, a fundamentalist minister seeking the Republican nomination for Senator in Michigan, as well as to Rep. Dick Chrysler, one of the co-sponsors of the anti-gay “Defense of Marriage Act.”

Foote needs a villain, so he attacks the libertarian Mencken. “Mencken was the greatest reporter of the time, who almost singlehandedly shaped this story for public consumption. If he didn’t invent spin, he was an early master of the art. That became the core of my story: the kid who comes under his sway and how far he’ll go on that path if it conflicts with his own views of what’s right and wrong.”

Trailers for this film indicate that it is about dishonest bias in the media, with Mencken as the prime culprit. The fictional Charles Anderson comes under the evil influence of Mencken. As the film’s website portrays it, this is about how Anderson “is torn between his love for the more principled Rose, his fiancée, and the escalating moral compromises that he is asked to make as the eager protégé of H.L. Mencken.”

In addition to Rose and Charles, the script invents Abigail, the half-black, half-sister of Rose who is to be sterilized by the eugenicists who are the result of Darwinism, which the nasty, biased, dishonest Mencken supports. However, this could not have taken place in reality, at least not in Tennessee where Dayton is located. Many states had laws allowing forced sterilization, but Tennessee had no such law and no compulsory sterilizations were performed there.

Foote likes to talk about “truth” and getting at the facts, but he write a screenplay that intentionally distorts history. Foote says he decided “the best way to tell the real story is do another movie.” But, apparently the “real story” requires him to make false claims about Mencken in order to promote his own anti-Darwinian agenda.

Consider poor Mencken: he was a columnist and to say he was biased is like saying Billy Graham is theological. Mencken’s job was to write biased, one-sided takes on the issues of the day from his own libertarian viewpoint. He was not a historian. He was a columnist expressing personal opinions—opinions worth reading for the sheer amusement value alone. Of course he was biased, he was supposed to be.

From what Foote and his website say, the film portrays Mencken as pushing the fictional Anderson into making ethical compromises for the sake of Mencken’s progressive agenda. In reality there was no Anderson and Mencken did no such thing. But Mencken’s columns wounded fundamentalists and they have never forgiven him.

But Mencken was no eugenicist. His American Mercury magazine published one of the first major blasts on eugenics in an article by Raymond Pearl, entitled “The Biology of Superiority.” Conservative Jonah Goldberg notes that Clarence Darrow, the great defender in the Scopes trial, wrote “his anti-eugenics piece for HL Mencken’s American Mercury, hardly a journal that spoke authoritatively for elite progressive opinion…” The two major Darwinists in Foote’s film were both anti-eugenics with Mencken publishing articles attacking eugenics.

Melissa Hendricks wrote of Pearl’s article and Mencken in Johns Hopkins Magazine:
So when Pearl decided to expound the fallacies in eugenics, he turned to the Mercury. In 1924, he sent a letter to Mencken, proposing the critique. "It has seemed to me for a long time that there is a dreadful lot of bilge talked by the self-constituted leaders of the eugenics movement," he wrote. Mencken accepted the proposal, but first he would publish his own essay, "On Eugenics." In typical Mencken style, he uncloaked those who claimed to have inherited their superiority, informing his readers: "Beethoven was the grandson of a cook and the son of a drunkard, and Lincoln's forebears for many generations were nobodies.

Mencken was actually one of the first to ridicule the eugenics movement. He did so years before the Scopes Trial. His 1918 work Damn! A Book of Calumny ridiculed eugenicists for believing “that a physically healthy man is the best fitted to survive. This is true of rats and pediculae, but not of the higher animals… In these higher animals one looks for more subtle qualities chiefly of the spirit.” Edwin Black, who authored a major history of the eugenics movement, War Against the Weak, says that one major eugenicist, Harry Laughlin, was the subject of “a forty-seven-page lampoon written under the pseudonym Ezekiel Cheever, who in reality was either the irreverent Baltimore Sun commentator H.L. Mencken or one of his associates.”

The textbook used on evolution in the Tennessee schools did promote eugenics, but apparently Bryan didn’t find that disturbing. He never once pointed out the section on eugenics and never attacked it—just the teaching of evolution and how evolution leads to moral decay. The creationist Discovery Institute published a piece by conservative Benjamin Wiker, saying that that the text used in Tennessee was “offensively racist and blatantly eugenic” How offensive and blatant they were to Bryan we don’t know, but we know he either didn’t notice the remarks or, if he did, didn’t find them offensive.

This is not to say that people associated with the trial did not express sentiments akin to eugenics. But it wasn’t Scopes who did so, or Mencken or Darwin either. The guilty party was Bryan’s wife, Mary. Bryan’s biographer, Michael Kazin wrote that Mary called the “mountain people” who flocked to her husband “pathetic” and ridiculed how they dressed. Kazin writes: “The wife of America’s leading foe of Darwinism thought so little of the crowd, most of whom admired her husband, that she scribbled a phrase any eugenicist could applaud.” Mary Bryan wrote that ‘this mass of people… have no real part in American life” but “marry and intermarry until the stock is very much weakened.”

Bryan himself expressed sentiments not far from eugenics as well. He wrote that he was proud to be a “member of the greatest of all the races, the Caucasian race.” He called whites the “advanced race” and supported segregation and denying blacks the right to vote in areas where they lived in large numbers.

Certainly the idea that the Scopes Trial was a battle between Progressive elites with some dark agenda (eugenics) and good Christians is wrong. Bryan, not Mencken, was the progressive. Mencken, as noted “first rose to prominence as a Progressive Era dissenter.” Another writer says, “Mencken was a libertarian to the core. Nothing could be more absurd than the claim that he somehow resembled the ‘progressive’ liberals of today.”

While Mencken was an opponent of the progressive movement, the same can’t be said for Bryan, who was often the most prominent spokesman for the progressive agenda. Bryan and Darrow, another progressive, were old friends and allies who shared common political goals. They differed on the criminalization of teaching evolution. It is true that many of these progressives were racists and supported eugenics, but Bryan, not Mencken, was associated with progressivism.

Foote says his film is not a rebuttal to the classic 1960 film Inherit the Wind, with Spencer Tracy, Fredric March and Gene Kelly. That film was a fictionalized account of the Scopes Trial and not history. It invented dialogue, plot lines and created additional drama that actually didn’t exist —such as the relationship between Scopes and the daughter of a creationist minister. If Inherit the Wind could fictionalize, then why can’t Foote?

Obviously he can do it, but the question is whether he is being ethical. I think he isn’t. The major difference between the films is that Kramer’s was openly fictionalized while Foote pretends his is the “real story.” You won’t see a character named Clarence Darrow in the Kramer film. Neither will you see characters named Mencken, Bryan, or Scopes.

Foote’s fictionalized version, however, pretends to be the “real story,” not a dramatization based on a true story. Kramer’s 1960 film had the integrity to make its fictional elements clear, by given the characters fictional names. But the Foote screenplay is about Mencken, Darrow and Bryan.

The extent of hypocrisy in the Christian producers of Alleged can be seen in their using the film’s website to encourage readers to compare Kramer’s fictionalized account “with the facts of the actual Scopes trial.” But why? Kramer didn’t claim to give the “real story.” Where does the film site send people for the “truth” about the Scopes trial? Try a site called And the registration contact for that site just happens to be Frederick C. Foote—the same Fred Foote who wrote this screenplay.

Mencken wrote his scathing accounts of the fundamentalist mind set and now some adherents of the faith he ridiculed are finally getting even through a time-honored method of Christian apologetics: faking history.

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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Catholics, Protestants, Hispanics and Gays

First I wish to cover some poll numbers that are not surprising. Next I will follow with how a major Religious Right leader takes those numbers and makes an incredibly silly statement because of it, even by fundamentalist standards.

A survey of Californians was taken which showed that the Latino community was divided on the topic of marriage equality, with a small plurality of Latinos being supportive. But, it was found that Catholic Latinos were far more supportive of marriage rights than were Protestant Latinos. Among Catholics, 57% said they supported marriage equality while only 22% of Latino Protestants held that view.

I suspect the reason for this stark divide is that Latino Protestants tend to be fundamentalists, often Pentecostals. It is fundamentalist Protestantism that has most strongly infiltrated the Hispanic community. Non-fundamentalist Protestants tend to be Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses, both extremely antigay religions. According to the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, 85% of Latino Protestants are members of fundamentalist sects.

That Hispanic Catholics tend to be supportive of marriage rights for everyone upsets the Religious Right loon Bryan Fischer, of the American Family Association. (Note that fundamentalists use "family" much the way the Klan uses "race," as code for hate.) Fisher notes that a Baptist leader, Richard Land, has said he wants a way for immigrants (without permission slips) to become citizens.

Is this Southern Baptist mellowing and recognizing the common humanity of others as the source of all rights? No, not at all. His reasoning is that Hispanic values are conservative.
"Hispanics are hard-wired to be like us on sanctity of life, marriage and issues of faith," Land told CNN recently, describing political similarities between Hispanics and white Southern Baptists. "I'm concerned about being perceived as being unwelcoming to them."
Fischer says that Land thinks Hispanics "will be the natural allies of the conservative movement." In other words, Land isn't concerned about the rights of these people, just hoping to enlist them in a movement to deny other people rights and as a way of imposing "biblical" values on the country through coercive government.

But Fischer is aware of the polls showing Catholic Latinos are supportive of the rights of gay people while Protestant Latinos are the only safe enclave of bigotry that conservatives can count upon. So Fischer suggests that "perhaps Dr. Land can be persuaded to amend his recommendation and give preference to Protestant illegal aliens." But Fischer says that illegitimacy rates may show that Hispanic "pro-family values" are not "as strong... as Dr. Land wants to believe."

The idea that only Protestant immigrants should be given a path to citizenship is astounding if you think about it but consistent with the historic values of American fundamentalism. It is no accident that the virulently anti-immigration Ku Klux Klan was heavily fundamentalist in religious make up. If there has been one trend among fundamentalists over the last century is their unique ability to always hate some identifiable group. Over the years different groups have jockeyed for their attention and often the emphasis has changed but favorite targets of organized hate campaigns have been blacks, Jews, immigrants, Mexican immigrants in particular, gays, Catholics, "liberals," and feminists.

The error that Fischer and his fellow fundies make is that they equate "pro-family" with a fundamentalist morality system. Prof. Joseph Palacios, of the Center for Latin American Studies at Georgetown University said that the pro-family attitudes of Latino Catholics is precisely the reason so many support rights for gay people.
Latino Catholics orient their social lives around the family and extended family even in the context of high Latino single-parent households (estimated 33% of all U.S. Latino households; 36% of all Latino Children in California live in single-parent households). Family solidarity is strong and even though children may not follow "traditional family values" as projected by the church and the U.S. society, parents want to keep their children within the family. It is not surprising that Catholics in general and Latino Catholics in particular, as the Public Religion Research study shows, see that parents learn about gay issues from their children. Their moral and ethical judgments are primarily made through this social reality rather than abstract pronouncements from their church leaders.
While the Vatican wouldn't approve, these Catholics see marriage as a way of binding families and they want their gay relatives bound to the family as much as their straight relatives. In truth marriage equality is the pro-family position. It is fundamentalism that pushes people to reject family members and splinter families in the name of morality. Parents in fundamentalist sects are encourage to reject and cast out family members for a variety of sins including being Catholic.

One of the great ironies of modern politics is that the pro-family movement is made up of sects that are inherently anti-family. Fundamentalism puts adherence to the faith ahead of family unity. The "you're no son of mine" mentality is rampant in such circles. Daughters who get pregnant are often pushed out to fend on their own, sons who are gay are rejected and told to leave the family. Over and over high profile fundamentalists have rejected their own children because of their perceived moral shortcomings.

Fundamentalism is not pro-family at all. It is a force that rips families apart. Latino Catholics don't necessarily follow the fundamentalist moral code but they do embrace their families. And their families include homosexuals. One indication is that Catholics are more likely to listen to the views of family members regarding this issue than are fundamentalists, who are more likely to take their views from a church leader. The family, especially for Latino Catholics tends to be source for moral values, while for Protestant Latinos (read fundamentalists for the most part) tend to take religious dogma over family.

Prof. Palacios also has an observation that is of interest to my readers in particular.
It is important to note that modern Latin Catholicism has a dual nature: it is "conservative" in the sense of family communalism and tradition that the church offers, yet it is classically "liberal" in the sense of not wanting the Catholic Church to have power in political life-- particularly after the long historical experience of the Latin American Church "meddling in politics." As Mexicans put it: "No meta en la política." A sizeable majority of U.S. Latino Catholics shares these attitudes with them. Increasingly they are joining their Latin counterparts in accepting gays and lesbians as part of the social family that is both Catholic and liberal.
This is a simple truth that fundamentalists have trouble understanding. One can be supportive of basic moral values without wanting to a church/state alliance forcing people to be moral. One can be personally conservative and classically liberal politically. Just because a moral principle is a good one to follow doesn't mean that it must be imposed at the point of the gun.

Note: For the record, Argentina has now legalized gay marriage, joining Spain and Portugal and parts of Mexico, with Uruguay next most likely to include gays in marriage laws. The photo is from Argentina.

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Thuggish cops transcend borders

This is disgusting. That it takes place in Canada at least give me a smidgen of hope that the cops will be dealt with and punished for their criminal assault on a handicapped woman.

You can see that this woman has cerebral palsy (some reports say multiple sclerosis) and has trouble walking. Three fat cops decided to take up the sidewalk by walking side-by-side expecting the peons, who they are used to ordering about, to move out of their way. This woman has trouble getting around them and tries to walk between them. So the one thug in blue reaches over and shoves her to the ground. He and his fellow "officers" then walk past without bothering to see if the woman needed any assistance.

Yes, I think the pig that did the pushing should spend some time in jail for assaulting this woman. That she was handicapped, as far as I'm concerned, ought to mean his sentence is enhanced for assaulting someone so vulnerable. In addition the other officers should be discharged immediately as well. They were present when a police officer criminally assaulting a handicapped woman merely because he thought she was in his way. That is a crime. They did not arrest the officer committing the assault nor did they report him. They are accessories after the fact to the assault and should be punished as such. I absolutely believe that police officers should have less leeway in how they act than does the public. They are supposed to represent the law and as representatives of the law they ought to be held to higher standards.

Let us look at how Officer Thug excused his monstrous behavior after he realized he was caught on tape. Constable Taylor Robinson said he was sorry and that he pushed the woman to the ground because he thought she was trying to take his gun. Sure, that's the ticket, she was going for his gun. If you buy that I've got a virgin birth to sell you.

Here is what is wrong with that puny excuse. If he thought she was going for his gun then why didn't he arrest her? The fact that he didn't arrest her, or even try to do so, is because he knew that she wasn't going for his gun. He could pretend he only realized his mistake after he pushed her to the ground and that is believable except for the fact that he then refused to help her up.

His action betray his excuses. If he thought she was truly going for his gun he should have arrested her. If he realized she wasn't going for his gun then he should have apologized and helped her to her feet. Instead he shoved her to the ground and walked away indicating no concern that she was either a gun-stealing criminal who needed arresting, or a handicapped woman who needed assistance.

The most consistent theory is that he felt she was in his way, didn't believe she was going for his gun, pushed her to the ground because he is a thug and didn't help her up because he meant to push her to the ground. But, he then discovers the whole incident is recorded on tape and he has to make fancy excuses to cover up his own criminal actions against a handicapped woman.

He only reported the incident hours after it happened, and I bet after he learned it was taped. Let's see if Vancouver does the right thing and fires the officers and brings them up on criminal charges of assault and battery.

Here is a second video to remind you that wild animals can be as dangerous as cops.

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Friday, July 23, 2010

Evangelicals Take Aim at Liberty

The Washington Post has an article entitled, "Is the Tea Party unbiblical?" My first reply is: So what if it is?

There seems to be this move by the Left to invoke the Bible to justify their big governmentalism. Now I personally think they are firmer ground than free market types who think that a book rooted in primitive tribalism can support their views. But I have to ask the Left why they are bothering. First, most of them don't take the fables and myths of the Bible seriously. Second, they are leaping onto the religious bandwagon just as the American public is, as Afrikaners would say, "gatvol" of the mixing of religion and politics. The Left rightfully ignores the screed of dead tribalists when it comes to homosexuality and a host of other issues, so why invoke this outdated morality when it comes to so-called "social justice" issues?

These types are as transparent as the Religious Right which tried to impose their biblical values on society through the use of coercive government. If it was wrong for Falwell why is it right for the socialist types in Christianity?

The second thing about the article is that by "Tea Party" while they target the gaggle of right-wing, neanderthals ranting about immigrants and taxes under the Tea Party banner, their real target is the rather unrelated creed of libertarianism. The Tea Party is not libertarian. It shares some libertarian sentiments but the views of Tea Party types is only for small government some of the time. When it comes to social issues they tend to support big government all the way.

The Post article quotes some professor of Christian ethics who is involved with a Left-wing lobby group called "New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good." The name alone is a clue that these are people are collectivists. But that is what I would expect. The Bible is a tribalistic book and tribalism is another form of collectivism. I don't deny there is a common good but that good is the protection of the equal rights of all. What the Left means is a redistributive state where some are penalized for the sake of others. By definition that is not the common good since some are sacrificed for the well-being of others. Telling the sacrificed, as they are economically raped by the state, that it is good for them is absurd. Big government always acts on behalf of some while the other are the "acted upon."

This professor, David Gushee, says: "This kind of small government libertarianism, small taxes, leave-me-alone-to-live-my-life ideology has more in common with Ayn rand than it does with the Bible." I would have to agree there. Biblical government doesn't leave people alone. Ask the "heretics" who were executed by God-fearing biblicists! Ask gay people who are on the sharp end of the biblical sword when it comes to marriage equality and basic civil rights.

At all times in history the Bible has been mostly invoked to oppress not to liberate. The orthodox Christians in the South had plenty of Scripture to back up their slave-owning practices. Individuals who opposed equality of rights for women had no shortage of biblical references at that call. In his dissection of socialism Mises wrote that "no movement against private property which has arisen in the Christian world has failed to seek authority in Jesus, the Apostles, and the Christian Fathers, not to mention those who, like Tolstoy, made the Gospel resentment against the rich the very heart and soul of their teaching." Mises said, and I concur, that the Christian church "has prepared the soil for the destructive resentment of modern socialist thought." Mises claimed that: "Any would-be destroyers of the modern social order could count on finding a champion in Christianity."

The Post does quote some Tea Party officials who claim "Jesus was not for socialism," and these people are right as well. How can this be the case?

The point Mises makes is not that the New Testament advocated socialism because it didn't. It didn't advocate any kind of economic order at all. Certainly the church in The Book of Acts practiced a form of collective ownership where each contributed their worldly goods into a common pool for redistribution. But it was not a common ownership of the means of production, which is what socialism really is. Redistribution of wealth is just part of the socialist gospel, not the entire thing. Prof. Anthony Waterman wrote that early Christianity "had no recognizable body of social thought" whatsoever.

What it had, however, was utter contempt for material existence and wealth. These believers accepted the promise of Jesus that he would return to earth before the last of them died and establish his kingdom. He told them to not worry about production at all but to wait in anticipation for the end of the world. There was no emphasis on economics because there was no need for an economy—the world was coming to an end. Mises wrote:
It is only in this way that we can understand why, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus recommended his own people to take no thought for food, drink, and clothing; why he exhorts them not to sow or reap or gather in barns, not to labor or spin. It is the only explanation, too, of his and his disciples’ ‘communism.’ This ‘communism’ is not Socialism; it is not production with means of production belonging to the community. It is nothing more than a distribution of consumption goods among the members of the community—’unto each, according as any one had need.’ It is a communism of consumption goods, not of the means of production, a community of consumers, not of producers. The primitive Christians do not produce, labor, or gather anything at all. The newly converted realize their possessions and divide the proceeds with the brethren and sisters. Such a way of living is untenable in the long run. It can be looked upon only as a temporary order which is what it was in fact intended to be. Christ’s disciples lived in daily expectation of Salvation.
Church father Tertullian put it this way: "I have no concern in this life except to depart from it as speedily as possible." Edward Gibbon, whose work The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, showed the detrimental impact of Christianity, wrote:
The ancient Christians were animated by a contempt
for their present existence, and by a just confidence of
immortality, of which the doubtful and imperfect faith of
modern ages cannot give us any adequate notion. In the
primitive church, the influence of truth was very
powerfully motivated by an opinion which, however, it
may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity, has
not been found agreeable to experience. It was
universally believed that the end of the world and the
kingdom of Heaven were at hand.
What the socialists found useful in the New Testament was contempt it expressed for this world and material possessions, which often expresses itself in the oddest of places. When Mary is told that she is with child, supposedly through some miracle, she exalts God and denounces the rich, saying that God "hath filled the hungry with good things: and the rich he hath sent empty away." Jesus said that it was the poor who were blessed. His brother James warned: "Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted and your garments are moth eaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. In the story of the rich man and Lazarus we learn that poverty-stricken Lazarus dies to awake in Abraham's bosom, while the rich man burns in hell. The only crime mentioned appears to be his wealth.

Paul, the real founder of Christianity, said that the poor aren't tempted to abandon God but that the rich "fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil, which some coveted after, they have erred from the faith." Jesus was more direct. He said that you "cannot serve God and mammon" and told his followers to avoid work, toil or wealth-building. He urged them to "seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take things of itself."

This contempt for wealth and the wealthy energizes much of the resentment behind socialism. As the pro-market theologian Michale Novak admits: "The gospel accounts amply supply the liberation (socialist) theologians of our day with a rhetoric to be employed against riches and the rich." Barbara Ward, in her work Faith and Freedom, wrote: "Communism owes its immense vitality more to its biblical vision of the mighty put down and the poor raised up than to its theories of value or its interpretation of history."

Conservative sociologist Peter Berger says that the roots of western socialism "are undoubtedly in the communitarian tradition of Western Christianity." And pro-capitalist Catholic Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn said that "the ethical content of Christianity" fosters and promotes "the temptation toward socialism." He wrote: "Along the path of the socialist utopia lies a day of judgement when the humble will be exalted and the rich and mighty brutally dispossessed. And from the Socialist-Communist utopia itself can be gleaned the picture of paradise lost—and regained; a new age of innocence, of peace and brotherly love, with envy, crime and hatred banished forever."

So both the Christian Left and Christian Right are correct to a limited degree. Christianity, as the Right says, didn't exactly preach socialism. But, as the Left notes, it was contemptuous of wealth and the wealthy. It had disdain for material existence and preached an apocalyptic judgement against the mighty and wealthy in favor of the poor and dispossessed. Marxism leaned on Christian mythology to make its points. After centuries of the Gospel, the soil was well prepared for Marx's secular version of the same thing. Unlike Jesus, however, Marx didn't promise revenge and paradise in the future, but in the here and now.

If one must pick which of these two odious arms of religious statism is more correct, as far as which way the New Testament leans politically, I would have to go with the Left-wing Christians. And that is how most Christianity, over the ages, has leaned.

Eventually the Christians realized that Jesus wasn't coming back when he said he would. Eventually they needed a system of ethics in regards to production and distribution. And when that ethic was formed it was rooted in the envious attitudes of the New Testament with its contemptuous views of material existence and wealth. That pushed the Church in a statist direction economically.

The Religious Right is correct in that neither Jesus, nor the New Testament, had a particularly socialist economic policy. It had no policy whatsoever. But it did have the attitudes that the socialists have used for a couple of centuries now to inspire contempt for depoliticized markets, private property, and free exchange.

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

An "oh shit" moment

Here are the before and after shots of a yacht outside Cape Town. A whale apparently tried to beach on the boat. It wasn't hurt by the attempt but the yacht is the worst for the encounter. No doubt the chubby nanny Jamie Oliver rushed down to Cape Town to give the whale lectures on eating habits. I classify this posting as "humor" but then it isn't my yacht. I would love to see how the insurance claim describes this.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The rest of the Storey

I just started reading M.A. DeWolfe Howe's book, Portrait of an Independent: Moorfield Storey 1845-1929. Storey was a fascinating man and ought to be a major hero to libertarians. Let us start with the fact that he was a Grover Cleveland Democrat, a defender of depoliticized markets, an opponent of protectionism and an advocate of gold. He was a leader in the New Democratic Party which opposed the policies of William Jennings Bryan. What makes Storey interesting is the rest of the storey, or in this case, the rest of the Storey.

Storey was also a major opponent to U.S. interventionism during the birth of American empire building: The Spanish-American War. Storey, a Boston lawyer, became the president of the The Anti-Imperialist League. In addition to that role he was the first president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the NAACP. Storey was a defender of individual rights particularly the rights of minorities. He defended immigrants as well during the wave of anti-immigration hysteria that gripped the US in Storey's time.

I recently saw a signed statement by Storey, one I wish I could afford to buy, where he wrote:
"Between the principle of freedom, that all men are entitled to equal political rights, and the dogma of tyranny, that might makes right, there is no middle ground."
It was signed Moorfield Storey, March 2, 1920.

There are a few minor flaws in the statement but I like the intentions and spirit of it.

Storey fought a case before the Supreme Court in 1917 that overturned a segregation law in Louisville, Kentucky, on the basis of property rights. In Buchanan v. Warley, Storey argued that the law violated the rights of property owners to sell their homes to whomever they wished. The Supreme Court states Storey's argument well in their ruling. He said the law:
...violates the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, in that it abridges the privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States to acquire and enjoy property, takes property without due process of law, and denies equal protection of the laws.
The Court also described well the views of the segregationists:
This drastic measure is sought to be justified under the authority of the State in the exercise of the police power. It is said such legislation tends to promote the public peace by preventing racial conflicts; that it tends to maintain [p74] racial purity; that it prevents the deterioration of property owned and occupied by white people, which deterioration, it is contended, is sure to follow the occupancy of adjacent premises by persons of color.
Disgusting, but this was 1917. However, Storey prevailed and the law was overturned. This was a victory for individual rights, property rights and for one libertarian lawyer, Moorfield Storey. The ruling was the first exception to state segregation laws and is now seen as a precursor to the Brown v. Board of Education ruling of 1954. Law Professor David Bernstein calls the case "one of the most significant civil rights cases decided before the modern civil rights era." Bernstein notes that the ruling impeded the attempts of whites to prevent blacks from moving to urban areas. He says that the "African-American urban population in the United States almost doubled between 1910 and 1929..." By coincidence 1929 is the year of Storey's death.

And it is possible that this relatively unknown libertarian lawyer, unknown in our modern age that is, may have turned the tide for the civil rights movement. Bernstein finds that between 1868 and 1910 the Supreme Court heard 28 cases regarding the rights of African Americans but that blacks lost 22 of those cases. From 1920 and 1943, after Storey's success, the court hear 27 such cases and African Americans won 25 of them.

Storey is someone I can admire, admire greatly. Here is an excerpt from Howe's introduction which eloquently describes Storey, but one that applies to any true libertarian.
The Independent in American life and politics is frequently a minority man. When the majority come over to his way of thinking, his instinct for unpopular causes, his habit of a Voice crying in the Wilderness, often induces something akin to loneliness in him—the well-know loneliness of the crowd—and off he goes to the espousal of a new minority cause. The great majority, to which, in the very nature of the case, most of us belong, regards this species of knight-errantry as a foolish, futile, and often troublesome thing. Why disturb the comfortable existing order? The last election , says the great majority, settled all that. If the country at large had not wanted to raise the tariff, to hold the Phillip pines, to keep out of the League of Nations, to endorse and enforce the Eighteenth Amendment—indeed, to adopt any of the courses approved by congressional majorities, it would not have chosen the legislators and executives who now control our national policies. Of course there must be an opposition—a conflict between the 'ins' who naturally want to remain where they are and the 'outs' who naturally want to take their place. This is to be expected. But the foolish, futile, troublesome Independent, never committed for more than a single campaign to any party, caring more for a cause than for a candidate and a label—what a nuisance he is! Out upon him!

This is not far from the popular view of the congenital Mugwump. Yet there is another view, and, with the considerable erasure of party lines which has taken place in recent years, others besides congenital Mugwumps have come to admit that there is something to be said for it. This is the view that the Independent, whether in the minority or for the moment in the majority, serves a substantially valuable purpose in present-day affairs. It is he who keeps raising awkward questions, who is not satisfied with leaving a second-rate well enough alone, whose conscience insists upon talking out loud instead of whispering the confidences that so many of us keep locked in our bosoms. He is doomed to many disappointments and disillusions. He is tempted, and, being no less human than mankind in general, sometimes yields to the bitterness against contemporaries who could accomplish many things that seem good in his eyes and in reality accomplish so few. Through the very fact of his frequent association with minorities, he forgoes the larger opportunities that fall to consistent members of the majority in giving the forms of finality to public policies. But it is through him that these forms, when they fall short of their highest possibilities, fall short also of finality. He is the man who embodies the idea that nothing can be settles until it is settled right. He is often a remarkably uncomfortable fellow to have about, but when you look at his activities in the large, at the tendency they represent, rather than at their frequently irritating details, you are bound to admit, not merely that the community would be much poorer and weaker without him, but that he embodies a positive element of its richness and strength.

Of the type of Independent to which Moorfield Storey belonged, there is at least one more thing to be said—a thing peculiarly applicable to him. It is the glory of the Independent, perhaps not least in his own eyes, that partianship is foreign to him, that he is free to detach himself from bonds that restrain others, to ally himself with any interest that seems at a given time entitled to his respect and support. He is inclined to look down upon the partisan, the man who clings through thick and think to any organization, especially in the field of politics. He would scorn the attribution of partianship, and reject indignantly the name of partisan. Yet often—and hardly ever more clearly than in the case of Moorfield Storey—he is a Partisan of Ideas. Allegiance to a political party may mean little or nothing to him. He may even look upon it as a sort of distillation of chauvinism from which his whole nature revolts. But an idea, like that of abstract justice of the defense and rescue of the under dog, may hold him for a lifetime, may sustain him in his adherence to any number of righteous causes, and make him so eminently, so victoriously, just such a Partisan of Ideas, as Storey was.
Great! I concur completely and confess that I too am a Partisan of Ideas

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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Small signs of a big change.

I went out for some salad for lunch today and passed the corner gas station. It is a rather busy intersection of two well-traveled streets and some of the young people from the local high school were doing a fund-raising car wash there.

What made me think was how it was being promoted. Three high school boys in very skimpy Speedo-style swim suits, and nothing else, were waving signs at passing cars. This is actually the second time I've seen that taking place here.

Consider some other facts, this is a very conservative area. There are a huge number of Mormons in the area and most the non-Mormon churches are made up of evangelicals and fundamentalists. The elected officials are all pretty much Republicans. But there, on the street corner was the prime of their young males flashing bulging and brief swimsuits at passing drivers to entice them to get their car washed. It isn't like there is even much of a gay presence here. The city has one of the highest percentages in the country of households made up of male-female couples with children/

And I doubt the young men were consciously flouting their family jewels in order to attract gay drivers. They were just doing for the attention and really thought nothing of the display of flesh—which, perhaps, is how it should be.

I believe that we are in the midst of a new sexual revolution, one that is almost as radical as what we witnessed in the 60s and one I suspect will be more permanent. To a degree this is exhibited by body image.

Let me describe the 60s, at least in regards to body image. Jeans were tight, very tight, displaying every curve and bulge. Shirts were tight. Come summer there were cut-off jeans, cut off only centimeters below illegality, meaning that even a slight breeze could set things a swinging. Skirts were short as well, very short.

Women starting wearing bikinis that were barely sufficient to keep them from being arrested. Of course, as topless sunbathing became somewhat popular many of them were arrested. For the men Speedos became popular—just remember the famous Mark Spitz photo from the Olympics, gold medals dangling on a bare chested Spitz clad only in a Speedo. At my single-sex school they didn't even bother with swimsuits at all. There was a more relaxed attitude toward sexuality and nudity across the board.

Then came the backlash, the return to conservatism. Those scanty cut-off jeans disappeared and shorts barely qualified as shorts at all, often going from the waist to a a few inches above the ankle. And the fashion became loose, baggy clothes that destroyed any view of bodily shapes. Swim suits went from Speedos to something more akin to what Buster Keaton wore in the silent films. And I dare say that if a school had nude swimming the officials would have been arrested as sex offenders and a lynch mob would have been awaiting them at the trial.

While there were aspects of the sexual revolution of the 60s that were wrong much of it was actually good, in my opinion. My complaint wasn't the change in attitudes but the almost recklessness that seemed to accompany it. Had all the basic values changed, but individuals had a more realistic attitude toward risks and responsibility and it would clearly have entirely postive.

Interestingly these fashion indicators of inner sexual values seemed worldwide. The shift took place everywhere though not to the same degree as in the US. I was reading reports that indicated kids in school gym classes refused to disrobe at all to change into gym gear. They would wear it under their street clothes and then put their clothes on over the sweaty gear at the end. The few who did shower tended to do so with the gym gear still on. In some ways the 50s were more sexually liberated. Oddly there was a certain hypocrisy. Attitudes about the body became negative but teen pregnancy, VD rates, etc., were up. The conservative backlash was only in appearance and not so much in behaviour.

Then the new sexual revolution comes along. Values start to shift back toward a positive body image while behaviour became more conservative—or to be precise, more risk aversive.

I first started wondering if this was happening on a visit to Zagreb. For the first time, in a very long time, I saw young people in tight jeans and tight shirts, proud to show off their bodies. I wondered if this was some time-wrap anomoly with Croatia just leaping into the 60s before joing the rest of the world. But apparently it was the first crest of a series of waves that changed fashion.

So-called skinny jeans made a come back. Now I regularly see teens in tight jeans and tight shirts once again. Teenage fashion became rather explicitly sexual. The more adrogenous look of the 60s also reappeared with the rise of "emo" youth culture.

Sex positive attitudes were rampant but not flaunted. It was a quiet revolution, one barely noticed by the conservatie older generations. These were kids who saw nothing wrong with nudity, nothing wrong with sex, were perfectly fine with gay friends. Even as the number of teenage pregnancies declined, usually an indication of conservative trends, attitudes toward premarital sex and homosexuality liberalized considerably.

Then we started learning about teen sexual subcultures. Raised in the era of the internet many teens were postponing sexual intimacy but not sexuality. Social networking sites became sexual meeting places where young people would show their budding sexuality to one another in very explicit ways without ever meeting. Sexting suddenly was in the news and what was horrifying to conservatives was that sexting was relatively common among the young. CBS said it "is not unusual" for teens to sext and that "20 percent admit to participating in sexting." One report I read said that among younger teens 30 percent did this and close to 40 percent of all teens say they posted sexually explicit messages.

Apparently the shift in teen sexual values was toward liberal attitudes but risk-aversive behaviour. The paranoid conservative backlash of the 80s, however, created a minefield for these young people. Much of their sexual activity has been criminalized and most young people don't know it. So teens are now routinely caught up in the inconsistent, often irrational web of sex offender laws. It isn't quite right to say teens were acting conservative. While they would avoid risky sex they many were putting sex shows on over the internet for other teens to watch and enjoy.

So what happened? I can only give a theory: the internet happened. And I'm not at all convinced that what happened wasn't mostly good. Previous generations attempted to control teenage sexuality by denying them access to information and to one another. But the internet gives access to anything anyone wants at the push of a button.

Teens today consume sexual explicit material at higher rates than anytime in history and mostly without spending a dime on it. They don't even have economic restraints. As the Trekkie Monster puppet in the hit show Avenue Q sings: the internet is for porn. And many young people think so.

The easy of on-line sexuality is precisely one reason so many teens feel comfortable sexting. Many know that these images are not easily constrained once set free in the winds of the world wide web—but they don't parrticularly care either. For them the main negative results are those inflicted on them by horrified adults not by the actions themselves.

So we have young people performing masturbatory shows, for free or for pay, on the internet who are bragging about being virgins. It all seems so normal for them, rampant sexual liberalization mixed with certain rather conservative values: relishing their new found sexuality while admiting they are virgins. None of this seems out of place to young people today.

They have come to enjoy their own sexuality, whatever it is. We are witnessing gay teens coming out of the closet at increasingly younger ages. It is not even unheard of for grade school students to be dating students of the same sex. In the high schools there are thousands of gay/straight culbs for students. And numerous reports have been published of the higher percentage of young straight men who see nothing wrong with having gay sex on film to earn cash. One woman went to an adult video award show for gay erotica where she found herself being hit on by one performer from gay porn. She lamented:

I found myself shocked at a gay-porn event—no minor thing, that—by being on the receiving end of classic, aggressive, straight-male predatory behavior. "A womanizer at the GayVN's!" I thought. How crass, how inappropriate—how interesting for my first encounter with a gay-for-pay performer.

The performer not only had a girlfriend who was perfectly fine with his occupation but was a father as well. This is not considered uncommon these days. It may be only my imagination but more and more I see teens describing themselves as bisexual than gay or straight.

Teens today are sexualy liberal and sexually conservative all at the same time—that is the sort of supposed paradox that sets my heart atwitter. One study found that today's teens are quite casual about oral sex, while older generations thought it more intimate. So for many teens there is a technical virginity. They have not had vaginal sex, they may have oral sex, they may have sex with both genders, they may masturbate over the internet for public viewing and send sexual photos of themselves around but they are holding off on vaginal sex, avoiding the risk of pregnancy. One-fourth of teens, who have not had intercourse, have had oral sex. And they consider themselves virgins. They are saving intercourse for serious relationships but they are far from abstaining along the way.

I am fairly confident that the Internet caused this trend. Teens simply could find information about sex quite easily and they went looking for it. I am sure the number of teens who look for porn online is much greater than the percentage who admit it. Many will pretend they accidentally stumbled on it. But in truth, many axiously looked for it and were thrilled to find.

They have fewer questions about their sexual orientation because they know precisely what turns them on, even if they are still virgins. Boys who regularly masturbate to all-male erotica may not be sexual experienced but they know their own orientation fairly well. And many teens, who are predominantly straight still find gay porn erotic enough to call themselves "bicurious." At one time you could ask: How do you know you are gay if you never had sex? Today the kids can answer. No, they never had actual sex, but they have beein in video chats exploring their bodies with other males. Similarly many straight teens are doing the same, having plenty of sexual experience yet never actually losing their virginity. And many of the straight boys doing this announce they don't mind if other males watch, but they only want to verbally interact with females. Surely these are attitudes that would baffle most their elders.

And, since they have seen all of this online, fairly regularly, for just about as long as they can remember, none of it particuarly bothers them. The result is a sexually liberal attitude. Yet, they have also learned about risk and the result is a more sexual conservative behaviour when it comes to high risk intercourse. But lower risk oral sex and online sex is perfectly fine with them. If you think about it dispassionately you will see it is really a rather sensible position. I suspect there is a lot of sexual laissez faire among teens but with an emphasis on responsibility and risk aversion.

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Atheists and something from nothing.

I am not just a recovering Christian, I am cured and immune. Mormons had a go at me and fled in anger when I asked a few questions. Jehovah's Witnesses tried to grill me with their practiced questioning and stopped after three replies they weren't sure how to answer. One fundamentalist Baptist, faced with a biblical contradiction simply denied it was a contradiction. Asked how this could be he responded: "Because."

I am what some would call a staunch atheist, a non-believer, a skeptic. I am an atheist in the proper sense of the word. I lack any belief in a god. That is the whole summation of my theology. I have no reason to accept that such an entity exists so I do ot hold a positive belief in this alleged being. I don't say there is no god, as I can't possible know every kind of god that could be invented and haven't been able to check every location where one of these creatures could hide out. I just think the odds are rather minuscule for it's existence and that there is no evidence for making a positive profession of belief. I could imagine a deity who hides out on some remote planet and hides all evidence of his existence, but that would seem rather silly for a deity, very ungodlike actually, almost petty.

I say this to assert my atheist credentials before proceeding.

Slate ran an article which says:
Faced with the fundamental question: “Why is there something rather than nothing?” atheists have faith that science will tell us eventually. Most seem never to consider that it may well be a philosophic, logical impossibility for something to create itself from nothing.
My first thought on reading that is: No they don't. It's my second thought as well.

I don't see any reason to assume that "science will tell us eventually" why there is something as opposed to nothing. Maybe it will, maybe it won't. I have no idea. Perhaps the best answer we will every have to that questions is: The reason there is something instead of nothing is because there is something.

I don't happen to think that every question we can conceive of asking will be one that humans will eventually answer. Nor do I think we have to answer them. It's cool when we do, but not inevitable. Existence exists, that seems pretty obvious. If it didn't exist we couldn't be asking the question. Our asking about existence indicates that it exists. Is it possible for existence to cease to exist? I have my doubts, but if it did then no one would be worrying about the answer anyway.

I can't say I've heard anyone ever indicate that they had "faith" that this question could be answered. No doubt someone has, I just haven't heard it.

But I suggest that if it is answered then it will be answered through the use of evidence, using reason and logic. If it is answered I tend to think the answer will come from science, not from theology, but I have no reason to assume that it must be answered. I accept the idea that some questions have no answers.

I also accept the idea that there are some questions which have answers which we, for various reasons, will never discover. Let us assume that the question being considered does have an answer. That it has an answer is no guarantee that we will find it. There may be a cure for cancer but we can't be assured we will discover it.

We have to remember that those seeking answers are fallible humans who make errors. That we may lack the skill to answer specific questions doesn't mean that the answers don't exist, just that we are incapable of finding them. I have confidence in the scientific method, it is pretty damn good. What I lack is confidence that we fallible humans will necessarily find answers to every question we ask.

I actually think we won't do that. Questions expand in direct proportion to the amount of answers discovered. Every answer creates new questions but not every question creates new answers.

New knowledge increases the number of questions that we are able to ask. The act of asking questions itself requires existing knowledge. If your mind were truly blank—lacking any knowledge of any kind gained through your senses—then you would be unable to ask the most basic of questions. Consider the question that was asked by Slate: Why does something exist instead of nothing? That question requires you to know that something exists already. You have to start out with something in order to ask the question.

As I see it answers, or knowledge, must exist prior to questions. And I think that each new bit of knowledge, or each new answer, raises more questions than was answered. As knowledge accumulation accelerates I would think that question asking would accelerate even faster. The paradox in all this is that while not every question may have an answer—which we will discover—every answer has a question, or multiple questions. The more we know the more we are capable of asking.

As the number of unanswered questions accumulate we may feel relatively more ignorant, but in fact it is the accumulation of knowledge that makes question-asking possible. And people tend to specialize more and more as knowledge increases. Specialists know more about their topic than previous generations did, but know increasingly smaller shares of the total amount of knowledge in existence.

There was a time when any physician could master all medical knowledge that had been discovered. With time, existing knowledge raised new questions, new questions expanded the base of knowledge, expanded knowledge expands questions and on and on it went. Each question produced answers which only raised more questions. If I am righ,t the number of unanswered questions will grow faster than the body of knowledge grows. The chances are good that the human race will end its existence with more questions than ever.

Lewis Carroll puts some words in the mouth of the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland that expresses the matter well:

"It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place."


Bat-crazy Christians hold public bitchfest

One year ago, June 28, police in Fort Worth "inspected" a newly opened gay bar. Wearing full uniform they rushed in and started knocking people around accusing them of being drunk, without doing any testing. Witness after witness recounted belligerent police officers who were unnecessarily violent. In just seconds the thugs in blue had arrested 16 people and injured several, including one seriously.

A full investigation was launched and the results showed the police had violated multiple procedures, did rough people up needlessly, and then lied about the incident in an attempt to cover-up the facts.

Agents of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission were involved and had also been found to have violated policy in regards to raid. Three TABC agents were fired and two were disciplined.

The Fort Worth city council decided that the time had arrived to have a police liaison officer who works with the gay community to prevent these sorts of abusive actions. It seemed as if everyone was happy until the bat-shit crazed fundamentalist Christians started protesting.

One minister, Richard Clough, claimed that the the media and gays conspired and "distorted the facts of what happened the night of the Rainbow Lounge to promote the homosexual agenda." Ah, those clever gays. See how they get police to come in, beat them up, and then use that to promote their devious agenda. That is a really bizarre theory but one befitting the man's theology. Consider that he believes Jesus was god, that he planned to come to earth and die, and that he got some nasty people (Jews and/or Romans depending on who you believe) to torture and kill him, so that he could forgive the sins of the world. Similar in a way as both theories contend the victim had an ulterior motive and manipulated the attack to their own ends. I just never figured out why a god, who is all powerful, didn't have the power to forgive sins without all that torture and killing going on.

One news account says the fundamentalists claimed the city "didn't take their Christian beliefs into account."

Wrap your mind around that for a minute? The police aggressively and unnecessarily raid a gay bar and start hurting people in the process. To help prevent such future incidents a police officer is assigned as a liaison to the gay and lesbian community. And this somehow violates the "Christian beliefs" of these bat-shit crazed fundamentalists. What beliefs were ignored here?

Are they saying that their belief is that gay people should be beaten by police officers? Are they saying that basic civil rights of gay people should be ignored simply because they are gay? What are they saying?

What Christian doctrine is at stake here? When it comes to Christian doctrine I think of things like the virgin birth, atonement, resurrection, the trinity, etc. Apparently there is a Christian doctrine that applies to police pushing around gay people. And since these fundamentalists are complaining about measures to stop such activities I have to assume that the doctrine they think exists is one requiring violence against gay people.

About 100 of these people turned out to protest measures to end violence against gay people.

Let me state something quite clearly, as if my views are ever in doubt: fundamentalist Christians HATE gay people. They want gay people hurt. They want gay people stripped of rights. They want gay people to disappear from public view. They don't want a shred of evidence to exist which indicates that gay people exist. When they say they oppose "special rights" they mean equal rights. I sat in their meetings and heard them screaming for state executions of gay people.

Over the years I've met these lunatics. I met Jerry Falwell several times. I knew Moral Majority founder Robert Billings. I met Pat Robertson, Moral Majority bigwig Rev. Greg Dixon, and anti-gay leader Rev. Richard Angwin. I even met Phyllis Schlafly and then later met her gay son.

I went to their schools and attended one of their seminaries. I heard them when no "outsiders" were listening in. These people would do everything in their power to destroy all records that gay people even exist, if it were in their power to do so.

Rev. Dixon is a good example. He told his congregation that he is asked if gay people should have civil rights. His reply: "Absolutely not! Criminals do not have their civil rights." In another sermon he said: "I don't know how in the world you can get a society that won't even put their murderers to death, I don't know how you can ever get them to put these homosexuals to death but God's word would uphold that. They which commit such things are worthy of death." I had a go at Dixon once and he said, on tape, "Homosexuality is a perversion and should be a felony... From a practical standpoint you're never going to get capital punishing for homosexuality but the Bible would certainly stand by a society that would be willing to do that."

Yes, these people can smile and seem pleasant and even friendly. But deep inside they hold a hate that, if ever unleashed by the removal of social sanctions, would lash out violently.

People often argue that Christian fundamentalists are not as bad as Muslim fundamentalists. What they ignore is the different social contexts. In the Muslim world the fundamentalists dominate and thus their hatred and violence is unleashed. Christian fundamentalists live in Western, predominantly secular society where social sanctions are brought to bear instantly when clear cut hatred is demonstrated. All one has to do is witness what happens every time the nutters from Westboro Baptist Church show up with their hate signs against gays and Jews. Thousands of people instantly respond in a counter-protest.

But the real test of the tolerance of individuals is not how they behave when they are restrained by the culture and law that surrounds them, but how they behave when they have the freedom to act inhumanely. Historically fundamentalist Christians were easily and openly violent and cruel to others, when they dominated the culture. These people murdered other Christians, such as Quakers, simply for not being of their church. These people tortured innocent people into confessing that they were witches. They burned theologians at the stake, whipped people, imprisoned them and tortured them. And they did it without batting an eye.

But that was when they controlled the culture around them. Now they don't. But we should not delude ourselves into thinking that this lack of ability to harm others means that they don't have the desire.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010


I was at an Imax cinema with a friend from Europe who was over for a visit. She was hanging around the lobby area where there was a gift shop. I went and stood in line, not liking to take sloppy seconds when it comes to seating.

Three people were in front of me. Two women and a young man around 18 years of age. I assume that one of the women was his mother (perhaps both these days).

There isn't much to do in line except eavesdrop on others and listen to their conversations. The young man was speaking to the one woman and told her that he didn't want to see Paris but he did want to see Rome, "but not with you along," he emphasized, not in a mean way, more in a "I-don't-want-my-mother-tagging-along" way.

What he said next interested me. It interested me because it was more profound than I think the young man realized. And what he said resonated within me as well.

He told her: "I don't much care for natural art. I prefer man-made art."

Given that the Imax was just outside the gates of the Grand Canyon it was obvious what he was talking about. And I totally agreed.

I don't want to say that the Grand Canyon isn't particularly unusual and visually stimulating. It is. But as I surveyed the vast canyon stretched out before me I could see it a colorful mural more than I could a natural feature.

I don't dislike natural beauty. I actually like it very much. And while I can enjoy certain natural beauties I too prefer the man-made.

I could sit at the end of an airport runway for hours and watch the majesty of planes take-off. I assume Homeland Security would quickly put a stop to that in their paranoid fits of bureaucratic harassment however.

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010


For some years now the book Liberalism, by Ludwig von Mises, has been available in various formats. It is in print and has been in print for some time. I've never had trouble finding copies.

Yet the conservative-leaning Mises Institute (which Mises had nothing to do with) has published a new edition of the book claiming: "How marvelous that is finally available to English audiences again!" They say: "The world has waited for a reprint, and it is here...."

What? Available again?

Liberty Fund has had an edition of this book in print for the last five years. So why is the Mises Institute pretending to be bringing "back" a book that has been widely available for some time?

That seems a tad bit dishonest to me.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Mel Gibson: top-notch scum.

Mel Gibson recently had his talent agent drop him as a client. Mel, previously thought of as a A-list actor, would normally be the last one dropped by a talent agency. But Gibson is pure poison.

In a nutshell the man is a vicious bigot, who holds a series of prejudices that cloud his judgment entirely.

We all know of the drunker outburst of hateful remarks he made about Jews. And Gibson has publicly expressed vicious anti-gay sentiments as well.

Now he was caught on tape screaming at former mistress about how she will be raped by a "pack of niggers." Charming, Gibson, charming.

Gibson is a right-wing moralist, who was an ultra-orthodox Catholic who funded his own church. So, like moralists in general, he cheated on his wife, had affairs, fathered children out of marriage and generally acted like a piece of low-class scum.

Long ago I made the decision to avoid all Mel Gibson films because I knew the man to be a bigot. He was raised by a neo-Nazi with blatant bigoted views and he adopted his father's viewpoints.

There is little to say about Gibson that is pleasant. He is a drunk, he has a violent history, and he is a bigot in more ways than one.

Mel Gibson's racist rant, caught on tape, is rather disgusting. I've heard the tape and shut it off before getting to the end—it was obvious he is a very hateful man.

Gibson illustrates well a maxim I have held about bigots: a bigot against one group of people is usually a bigot against many.

People who rant about "niggers" often hate others as well. Gibson's bigotries have been documented to include Jews and gays as well. A paradox of bigotry is that bigots tend to be indiscriminate about whom they hate. Look at the Republican Party, that organized party of hate, which rails against immigrants and gays. Look at the Klan that hates Jews, blacks, gays, and Mexicans. A man who harbors hateful views about one group of people tends to entertain similar views about many groups of people. Bigotry breeds more bigotry.

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Thursday, July 08, 2010

Conservatives in disguise?

There is a religious publication for conservatives who try to take the same views as the Moral Majoritarians without sounding completely unhinged and rabid. They advocate the same sort of moralistic, big government policies of the fanatical fundamentalists but try to do so without sounding like fundamentalists. One of their publications is First Things. They assume that their fantasies about being in communication with some supernatural being gives them a right, even a duty, to use the state to violate the rights of peaceful individuals who act in ways disapproved of by their imaginary friend.

Since they want to trample on the rights of "immoral" people in the name of their religion they know that libertarians are their enemy. They are right, libertarians are their enemies for the same reason libertarians are the enemy of socialism. Conservatives are just socialists of the soul. Just as the socialist want to regulate your material life, the conservatives want to regulate your "spiritual" or moral life.

First Things is thus upset when individuals present "conservative" cases for social liberty. For instance, they are upset that years ago the eternally pompous Andrew Sullivan wrote a conservative case for gay marriage. They misstate Sullivan's views by saying his entire case was that "it will help homosexuals connect sex with love and commitment." Sullivan's case is much more than that but they aren't trying to tell the truth. It seems that even the so-called rational Christian conservatives simply can't help lying about what others believe, a trait they share with their rabid brothers in Christ.

First Things believes there is a concerted attempt by libertarians to infiltrate the conservative movement. In my view that is like a bottle of perfume infiltrating a dung heap. It can be done but seems completely counterproductive.

Along with distorting Sullivan's book on marriage equality they discuss another evil "infiltration" entitled "The Conservative Case for Immigration." That is another libertarian plot as well. Interesting that the first two issues that come to mind about evil libertarians uses the examples of marriage equality and immigration. I have argued the Republicans, particularly conservative religious Republicans, are motivated by hatred; in particular hatred for gays and immigrants.

So here is a "sensible" religious conservative group immediately using precisely those same two groups for their libertarian-bashing article.

Oddly, I do think there are reasons some rational conservatives would want both immigration and marriage equality. Religiously motivated conservatives however, are allergic to rational reasons and rely on alleged supernatural revelation for their public policies. God is their trump card, every prejudice they entertain is supported by the claim that "God said it, I believe it, that settles it." In this sense they are precisely the same as the Islamists that they fear; fear perhaps because they are so similar to one another, at least in their rationality for wanting to deprive others of their rights.

Conservative Republican, Mitch Daniels, was attacked for saying his five favorite books were The Road to Serfdom, Free to Choose, What It Means to Be a Libertarian, The Rise and Decline of Nations and The Future and Its Enemies. I have read and endorse, to one degree or another, all of those books with the exception of the fourth, which I have not read. What has First Things upset is that these books "were written by libertarians advocating libertarian positions."

Conservatives, at one time shared some common values with libertarians—I'm not sure that is true any longer. But one of the funny things about the conservative movement is that they have had to rely on libertarians to do their thinking for them. Since the Bible says bugger-all about markets, spontaneous order, individual rights, etc., conservatives have to find others who actually think about such things. So they borrow and steal ideas from libertarians on a regular basis. When they want to sound like intellectual advocates of freedom they will quote Milton Friedman, FA Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, Ayn Rand and other authors of a more libertarian bent.

Conservatism itself is intellectually sterile and so they have had to take what libertarians have been writing. Left to their own devices they produce the likes of Anne Coulter or Rush Limbaugh, intellectual midgets who think sneer and smear is a form of intellectual argumentation.

First Things laments the intellectual wasteland that is modern conservatism and admit that libertarians "hold an outsized influence" on the "right-leaning intellectual elite." They write: "Disagree? Quick: Think of a prominent economist on the right that isn't a libertarian or that is an outspoken social conservative." If by "on the right" they mean supporting a free, depoliticized market, then they are pretty much right. Conservatives aren't intellectuals. Economics is an intellectual pursuit. Conservatives are faith-driven, economics is reality-bound. They steal from libertarians because religion is intellectual sterile when it comes to matters like economics.

I once tried to read all the major defenses of religion and capitalism. Poor Ed Optiz spent more time quoting Mises than Jesus—and for good reason. I found individual Christians trying to defend free markets but using secular sources for their arguments. They can't rely on their theology for this, they must rely on secular sources.

The reality is that NO major free market economist that I can think of, was a professed orthodox Christian. They were mostly secular, atheists or deists, often non-practicing Jews. First Things find this disturbing and thinks that these libertarians were involved in some plot to infiltrate conservatives. They say: "By shifting the terminology—call themselves conservative while supporting libertarian ideas—they will eventually reshape the conservative movement into their own image." Milton Friedman said he was a classical liberal, or a modern libertarian, not a conservative. I've heard him say it and emphasis his actual views. FA Hayek wrote an excellent essay attacking the foundations of conservatism in Why I Am Not a Conservative. Mises wrote an entire book on his political philosophy called Liberalism.

This is hardly deceptive infiltration by libertarians into the dung heap of conservatism. Conservatives, in their attempt to pay lip-service to free markets, borrowed intellectual arguments on markets from libertarians because they are unable to produce their own.

They argued that "libertarians are trying to pass themselves off as conservatives," while I argue the opposite is happening. Ron Paul has pushed a conservative agenda on social issues, claimed separation of church and state is a "myth," voted to keep sodomy a crime in Washington, D.C., wants to nationalize every uterus in the country calls himself a "true conservative" right up until he says something stupid and then pretends he is a libertarian as a cover-up. We saw conservatives like Wayne Root and Bob Barr infiltrate the libertarian movement.

George Bush so discredited the Religious Right that there was an influx of conservatives using the libertarian label to describe themselves. But it is rare for real libertarians to label themselves conservative. For a libertarian that would make as much sense as saying one is a Marxist-Leninist.

First Things is correct to note that conservatives and libertarians are not similar groups. Libertarians believe in individual rights; conservatives DO NOT. Libertarians believe in equality before the law; conservatives do not. Libertarians believe in separation of church and state; conservatives do not. Libertarians believe in limiting government to protecting the rights of individuals; conservatives want expansive state powers in the name of morality. The original enemies of the early libertarian movement were the conservatives who defend the feudal order of the day. Socialists saw themselves as proponents of many liberal ideas, so much so that they eventually claimed the name for themselves. But conservatives were everything that the classical liberals opposed.

That the socialist/progressive movement became so extreme in their worship of state power, something they adopted from the conservatives of their day, was the reason for a temporary alliance, in opposition to Marxism, between true liberals and conservatives. But that temporary alliance didn't mean conservatives and libertarians shared any real values, just a common opposition to Marxist authoritarianism. The enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend. Conservatives are not now, never have been, and never will be the allies of classical liberalism, libertarianism or individual rights.