Monday, May 22, 2017

Make America Hate Again



Despicable: deserving to be despised, or regarded with distaste, disgust, or disdain; contemptible

This is the word that comes to mind when I read the speech given by Trump while in Saudi Arabia, the land with one of the most heinous human rights records on the planet.  Forgive the length of the cites; I know you know this generally – take the time to read it specifically:

·        Through 2015 Saudi authorities continued arbitrary arrests, trials, and convictions of peaceful dissidents. Dozens of human rights defenders and activists continued to serve long prison sentences for criticizing authorities or advocating political and rights reforms.
·        In 2015, over a dozen prominent activists convicted on charges arising from their peaceful activities were serving prison sentences.
·        Saudi authorities publicly lashed prominent blogger Raif Badawi 50 times on January 9, 2015, as part of his 2014 sentence for setting up a liberal website and allegedly insulting religious authorities. On June 7, Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Court upheld Badawi’s sentence of 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes.
·        Saudi Arabia does not tolerate public worship by adherents of religions other than Islam and systematically discriminates against Muslim religious minorities…
·        Detainees, including children, commonly face systematic violations of due process and fair trial rights, including arbitrary arrest. Judges routinely sentence defendants to floggings of hundreds of lashes.
·        Authorities do not always inform suspects of the crime with which they are charged, or allow them access to supporting evidence, sometimes even after trial sessions have begun.
·        Saudi Arabia dramatically increased the execution rate in 2015. According to Interior Ministry statements, Saudi Arabia executed 152 persons between January and November, mostly for murder and drug offenses. Sixty-two of those executed were convicted for non-violent drug crimes. Most executions are carried out by beheading, sometimes in public.
·        …ministerial policies and practices forbid women from obtaining a passport, marrying, travelling, or accessing higher education without the approval of a male guardian, usually a husband, father, brother, or son.
·        On March 26, a Saudi Arabia-led coalition of states began a campaign of airstrikes against Houthi forces in Yemen and instituted a naval and aerial blockade….Between March and July nearly 2,112 civilians were killed in Yemen as a result of the armed conflict, most from coalition airstrikes.
·        The coalition has used cluster munitions, banned by 117 states, in civilian-populated areas in Yemen, wounding and killing civilians.

And America’s response?

·        The United States largely did not criticize Saudi human rights violations beyond Congressionally-mandated annual reports…
·        The US provided logistics and intelligence support to Saudi-led coalition forces conducting airstrikes on Yemen…


I am honored to be received by such gracious hosts.

Gracious: pleasantly kind, benevolent, and courteous; indulgent or beneficent in a pleasantly condescending way, especially to inferiors; merciful or compassionate.

Remember the list.  Is there anything “gracious” about this host?  Well, yes; Trump’s meaning will be revealed in a few short sentences:

Now, there is even more blessed news I am pleased to share with you.

Blessed: consecrated; sacred; holy; sanctified; worthy of adoration, reverence, or worship; divinely or supremely favored.

Look at the list again – do the Trump-loving so-called Christians call anything on this list “blessed”?

Yesterday, we signed historic agreements with the Kingdom that will invest almost $400 billion in our two countries and create many thousands of jobs in America and Saudi Arabia.

There it is – bombs for oil.  Gracious and blessed. 

This agreement will help the Saudi military to take a greater role in security operations.

Because 911, backing ISIS, destroying Yemen, and using Palestinians as a pawn are considered “security operations.”  One question: “security operations” for whom?

Later today, we will make history again with the opening of a new Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology – located right here, in this central part of the Islamic World.

This would be funny if it wasn’t.  Read something of Saudi Wahhabism; it is nothing if not “extremist.”  Extremely.

Young Muslim boys and girls should be able to grow up free from fear, safe from violence, and innocent of hatred.

Not in Saudi Arabia.

I am proud to announce that the nations here today will be signing an agreement to prevent the financing of terrorism, called the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center – co-chaired by the United States and Saudi Arabia…

The two biggest state sponsors of terrorism are putting themselves in charge of targeting the financiers of terrorism.  This would be funny if it wasn’t.

If you choose the path of terror, your life will be empty, your life will be brief, and YOUR SOUL WILL BE CONDEMNED.

We can only pray.  Finally, some truth.  Look in the mirror; look to your hosts.

This is a battle between Good and Evil.

Trump makes clear which side he is on.

Conclusion

Grand strategy my ass.  Goldman bankers throughout the administration; nothing repealed, nothing implemented; raining bombs everywhere; forgiving Hillary; no China manipulation; no drain the swamp.

And now this.

Remember my 1%?  Down to 0.1%.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

They Call Us Civilized


Napalm showers
Showed the cowards
We weren't there to mess around

Through heat exhaustion
And mind distortion
A military victory mounted on innocent ground

Years and years of
Bloodshed and warfare
Our mission was only to get in and kill


Jeff Deist recently commented:

Re Jeff Bell's original point, it may make far more tactical sense to promote the spread of Christianity than liberty. One has existed for a few thousand years, and has a checkered but gainful history.

I agree, on one condition and on one basis:

The condition: it is Christianity that includes Christ (and I know Jeff means this).  It sounds silly, doesn’t it, that I would write such a thing.  Yet – as Laurence Vance has demonstrated exactly 538, 243 times – so-called Christian churches are the first to cheer on behaviors that bring a smile to the anti-Christ.

The basis: the “Christian” that includes Christ is completely consistent with the non-aggression principle, and the non-aggression principle offers the only political roadmap consistent with the Christianity that includes Christ.

The problem: Christians boo Ron Paul when he speaks in terms that Christ would understand.  The other problem: many libertarians don’t like to think in terms of morality – instead they think of efficacy and efficiency; yet morality is the only thing that differentiates the NAP from every other political system – after all, once the argument is efficacy and efficiency, well…you can have an argument.

Conclusion

I see priests, politicians
Heroes in black plastic body-bags under nations' flags
I see children pleading with outstretched hands
Drenched in napalm, this is no Vietnam

I can't take any more, should we say goodbye
How can we justify?
They call us civilized!

-          Blind Curve, Marillion

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The One Percent President


Yes, I know…they are all presidents for the one percent.  But that isn’t what I am getting at.

Donald Trump makes for an interesting president.  Whatever one hoped, feared, dreamt or desired out of his presidency, what can be said – without fear of being labeled a liar or some form of degenerate (deplorable?) – is that he makes for great theater.  Right off the bat, I would say this makes him a one percent president; most are so boring.

But even this isn’t what I am getting at. 

We have now seen enough of Trump in action to make the statement: either he is one of the biggest political flip-floppers of the last fifty years or he has a grand and effective strategy that no one on earth can understand. 

Do you have a third possibility?  Neither do I.

Now, if he has a strategy that no one on earth can understand, more power to him.  In the meantime, he is doing a great job of alienating his support one slice at a time; of course, if – in the end – he strikes the grandest national and international bargain ever seen in 6000 years of diplomacy and politics, we will all bow down to him: “The Donald, how could we ever have doubted?”

But…but…so much of what Trump claimed he wanted to get done flies in the face of the establishment.  Because of this, no matter what he does he will never receive support in congress for his actions – all of the democrats and at least half of the republicans are against him.  He will never receive support from the court system – so far, every ruling has been against him.

From where does his support come?  Well, that’s obvious…it comes from those who voted for him based on what he said he would do: drain the swamp, put Hillary in jail, repeal Obamacare, make nice with Russia.  I could go on, but you get the idea.  Trump could keep doing crazy (i.e. politically incorrect) stuff as long as he stayed focused on doing the politically incorrect stuff he said he would do during the campaign.  Because his base would support him.  And this would be enough to succeed.

Yet…one by one…he turns on those “promises.”  Little by little, he erodes his only basis for power.  And instead of his enemies seeing that Trump can be a “team player,” they only see a wounded beast, capable of nothing more than waiting for the death blow…by impeachment or losing the re-election.

Who will be left to support him when he reveals his grand plan, when all is made good?  And without any support, what chance does his “super-grand-bargain-on-every-issue-I-ever-raised-in-the-campaign” have of seeing the light of day?  I say none.

Yet herein lies the one percent.  Maybe Trump has a grand plan; maybe he is the master negotiator (I have talked to some real master negotiators – they don’t see it).

For this, I say there may be a one percent chance.  So we watch, we laugh, we grimace, we wince.  Mostly, we suggest the burden of proof is now on him: show me, don’t tell me.  Even for the most faithful of Trump supporters, this is the only reasonable standard.

And therefore, there is your one percent president.  There is a one percent chance that he is the smartest guy in every room and that he has, in a few short weeks, mastered politics to such a degree that he knows how to bring the recalcitrant lifetime crooks and swindlers (i.e. politicians and elites) to their knees while all-the-while slowly destroying the support he received from his base and in any case convincing everyone he has to deal with that he is crazy.

I leave this door open…well, one percent open.

So you’re sayin’ there’s a chance….

Conclusion

Then again, there is a ninety-nine percent chance that this isn’t the case.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Success!




I cannot claim victory, but I achieved my primary objective.  I refer to my dialogue with Walter Block regarding the intersection of homesteading and immigration.  If you have not read it, begin there.

Walter has now replied by email on the specific point: the NAP does not offer an objective answer to how much labor must be mixed with the land to determine “ownership.”  From these, I conclude: given that even the so-called vacant stretches of desert and the mountaintops have “some” labor mixed into them by government employees – whom I have paid for; therefore the government controlled land is owned by me – and every other individual who has been forced to pay for the associated government labor.

From Walter’s email:

This is brilliant on your part, brilliant. I never thought of that counter argument to my position, and I thank you for it. I never even realized there could be any counter argument to my position, so sure was I in its favor

Like I said, the earlier piece will give context to this one.

But, I don’t think it suffices.

But it does suffice for my purposes, certainly my primary purpose.

No, I of course cannot give you any exact criteria for successful homesteading, such as two months per acre, or anything like that. In Murray’s view, to which I fully subscribe, it all depends upon context, history, past practices.

This was my primary purpose.  The answer cannot be derived objectively from the NAP; therefore any answer – like the answer to every question regarding definitions of “aggression” and “property” – requires “context, history, past practices.”  In other words, custom.  One cannot speak of the non-aggression principle without also considering custom.

But, I think you let a good thing, for your side of this debate, get the better of you. You take a reasonable principle, and run too far with it.

So, my principle is sound….

Nice try, but I don’t think your position is correct.

…I just took it too far.

Just keep in mind: my first objective was to get Walter off of his mark.  Why is this important?  In the context of immigration, it is not as simple to say (as Walter has said) that immigrants are free to homestead government controlled land. 

Speaking of taking something too far:

Suppose there were no Indians when Columbus came along to the New World. He then plants a Spanish flag somewhere in what is now the US. He builds a few roads nearby. Etc. According to your argument, this would be legitimate homesteading over the entire country.

The US lands an astronaut on Mars or the Moon. He plants a US flag there. He builds a few roads, etc, claims the entire heavenly body as the private property of the US govt, and stands ready to protect this claim by force. According to your argument, he’d be in the right.

But I am making neither of those arguments.  I refer to Walter’s statement earlier:

In Murray’s view, to which I fully subscribe, it all depends upon context, history, past practices.

I am not speaking to the context of Columbus; I am not speaking regarding the man on the moon or Mars.  These can be debates for another day.  I am speaking of land-ownership within the context, history and past practices of the United States specifically.

So, it is possible that I took a sound principle and went too far with it…or not.  In theory, I could agree with Walter…or disagree.  My point is that I do so – either way – on principles other than the non-aggression principle.  And so does Walter.

Let’s Examine This Further

So what of the “context, history, past practices.”  Again, from Walter’s email:

The idea that because the govt builds a few roads 1000 miles away from an uninhabited part of Alaska, claims ownership over it, it willing to fight to protect it, seems to me so far away from legitimate homesteading as to be totally unrelated to it.

Let’s not speak of a thousand miles between roads; let’s look at something bite-sized – private landholdings, in some cases larger than some states.  Each of the following individuals own land larger than Rhode Island and in some cases larger than Delaware.  In total, the top 25 private owners of land hold over 19.5 million acres – more land than each of eleven states of the fifty, and more than the six smallest combined.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

How Much Mixing of Labor with Land?


I recently had an email exchange with Walter Block; the conversation began on the topic of culture as raised in this essay of mine – with which Walter approved: “Another magnificent essay of yours….”

I have asked Walter’s permission to use our email exchange publicly, to which he agreed.

----------------------------------

I began by expressing some confusion regarding Walter’s positive comments to the referenced post:

I have been thinking about your initial email to me, at the beginning of this chain.  I must admit, I am confused - and I am sure this is on me and not on you. 

You are an advocate of open borders - or something resembling this.  Yet my post is not strictly about culture, as it also describes the risks to liberty associated with open borders.

What am I missing – at minimum, certainly misunderstanding?

----------------------------------

Walter responded with a clarification, breaking the issue into two component parts:

In my analysis, we can have our cake and eat it too. We can adhere, rigidly, to libertarian principle (open borders is the ONLY view compatible with libertiaranism, since the outsider who starts homesteading virgin land, or govt claimed land, violates no rights, and anyone who stops him is acting incompatibly with libertarianism), and, also, keep hordes of undesirables from our borders (by privatizing every single square inch of territory.) See below. Thus, you, Murray, Hans, most scholars associated with the MI are wrong. You, they are satisfied with the second of these desiderata, but give up on the first. I argue we’ve got to keep BOTH (I applauded your recent excellent defense of the second of these; but what about the first???)

----------------------------------

My reply:

As to government controlled land...I own it.  I know you disagree, and I suspect we will forever remain stuck with this chasm between us.

----------------------------------

Walter:

Ok, forget about government parks, streets, stuff like that. How about totally virgin land, never touched by humans, like in the middle of Wyoming, Alaska. This land is govt controlled, to be sure. But, according to Locke, Rothbard, Hoppe, on homesteading, no one owns it. How can you, or anyone else, own this land?

----------------------------------

And this entire preamble was for the benefit of background for my answer to Walter, focused on homesteading: 

Let’s expand the definition, from an expert; here, I found one:

Block: In the latter, correct homesteading view, you own only that which you mix your labor with.

So, I think I can safely say that homesteading is the mixing of labor with virgin land, land never before touched by human hands.  Is this a fair definition?

Monday, May 8, 2017

No True Scotsman



Person A: "No Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge."
Person B: "But my uncle Angus likes sugar with his porridge."
Person A: "Ah yes, but no true Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge."


Excerpts from a dialogue:

Jack: The God of the Bible authorized lots of barbarism and land theft.
bionic: Regarding God, well…being God I guess He can do what He wants.
Jack: That’s why principled libertarians are usually non-religious.
bionic: For this and other reasons, I have decided some time ago that I will leave theology to others, on a different website. I don't engage in debate on these matters.

In this post, I am not going to debate theology; instead I want to explore the idea of a principled libertarian, ultimately to include a specific examination of Jack’s statement regarding religion.

Now I know Jack included the qualifier “usually.”  I know this makes my title and analogy a fallacy.  Call it poetic license, and just humor me.

First, some definitions:

Principled: imbued with or having moral principles

Principle: an accepted or professed rule of action or conduct; a fundamental, primary, or general law or truth from which others are derived; a fundamental doctrine or tenet; a distinctive ruling opinion.

Libertarian: I will use Rothbard’s statement from the subject post:

“The libertarian creed rests upon one central axiom: that no man or group of men may aggress against the person or property of anyone else. This may be called the "nonaggression axiom." "Aggression" is defined as the initiation of the use or threat of physical violence against the person or property of anyone else. Aggression is therefore synonymous with invasion.”

As I wrote that God, being God, can pretty much do whatever He wants…well, a libertarian can’t believe in this kind of God, apparently. 

The Principled Libertarian

Matthew 7: 3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”

I have yet to meet a true principled libertarian.  Not one.  If there is a true principled libertarian, he would be living the hermit’s life on a mountaintop somewhere; I haven’t been to that mountaintop.

Drive on the street?  Walk on the sidewalk?  Ever attend a public school or university?  You are using resources that I have paid for.  Have you received my permission?

Are you collecting social security?  You are receiving my money, not yours; the money they took from you has long ago been spent.  Medicare?  Same problem.  Receiving a tax refund?  Sorry, Charlie – that was money taken from you last year – already spent; you are receiving someone else’s money this year.

Have you ever voted for a politician?  What gives you the right to choose someone to violate my person and property?

John 8: 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Don’t say that you have no choice regarding such things; you are free to live a hermit’s life on a mountaintop.  In this non-libertarian world – off of the mountaintop – we are all swimming in pig slop.

Trip: Yeah, It stinks bad. And we all covered up in it too. Ain't nobody clean. Be nice to get clean, though.

Even Trip knows better: there ain’t no true principled libertarians; we all covered up in it.  And it stinks.

ABR (Anything But Religion)

Principled libertarians are allowed to believe and support many things and remain true principled libertarians.  Instead of going through the effort of coming up with my own list, I offer the chapter headings from Walter Block’s “Defending the Undefendable”:

Sunday, May 7, 2017

NY Times Sunday Funnies



From the New York Times online:

PARIS — Emmanuel Macron, a youthful former investment banker with little political experience, was well ahead in France’s presidential election on Sunday…

If he wins, Mr. Macron, 39, will become the youngest president in the 59-year history of France’s Fifth Republic, after leading an improbable campaign that amounted to a stinging rebuke of the country’s long-dominant political establishment.

Emphasis added, in case you missed the funny part.

Look, I understand the “Anyone but Le Pen” issue.  But Macron is a “stinging rebuke”?  Not to many in the French political establishment – most of them backed Macron.  Not to many outside of the French political establishment either. 

Let’s check some of the reaction:

Investors across the globe got what they expected — and what many of them hoped for — after centrist Emmanuel Macron defeated far-right candidate Marine Le Pen in the second round of the French election.

"Despite the low turnout, Macron's victory is an unambiguous win for the French center, for Europe, and consequently for global markets," said Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial…

No stinging rebuke here.

What about here?

US senator Bernie Sanders and former president Bill Clinton are the latest big names to congratulate President-Elect Macron.

Or here?

Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission congratulated Mr Macron, acknowledging a "difficult" campaign in which "diametrically opposed" views of the future had clashed.

"For my part, I rejoice in the idea for a strong and progressive Europe that you have defended," Mr Juncker wrote, adding that he looked forward to Mr Macron carrying this forward into the debate on the future of Europe during his presidency.

Donald Tusk, another senior EU chief, praised Mr Macron for beating "fake news."

Conclusion

Some stinging rebuke.  Very funny, NY Times.

NAP Time



I have had a continuing dialogue in the comments section of my post Libert√© sans Fraternit√©?  The conversation begins here: The NAPster May 6, 2017 at 5:03 AM.  I have decided to continue the conversation via this new post.

------------------------------

BM: You continue to avoid the fact that I own the state-controlled property.  Why?

NAP: If one is to take a deontological as opposed to a consequentialist position, shouldn't a libertarian just concern himself with advocating for policies that move us towards greater respect for private property rights?

BM: Who says my position is not deontological?  I did advocate for such policies that move us toward a greater respect for private property rights and a significantly lesser role for the state, as you note later in your comment.  Keeping in mind that we are dealing with a subject that has both libertarian and unlibertarian arguments on both sides, what makes your policy position more libertarian than mine? 

My prescriptions come with almost none of the negative consequences that yours do.  You might find this irrelevant; many of your fellow travelers in the western world do not.  And then there goes your libertarian idea, as your fellow travelers call for ever-greater state solutions – which, we see, consequently, that they in fact are.

NAP: If so, how can we reconcile that with worrying about what might happen if we reject the state's legitimacy in every sphere, including border control?

BM: What might happen regarding border control?  You can write these words as a comment to my 2500 word post that started this conversation?  Bold, I say.  If France isn’t enough of an example, what of Germany?  Merkel gave open-borders advocates their wet-dream experiment; how is that working out for everyone’s freedom in Germany? 

Merkel said: “Everyone is welcome.  We will not stop you or even check you at the border.”  It doesn’t get more open borders than that.  In the middle of Merkel’s grand experiment in Germany with immigrants and refugees streaming in by the hundreds of thousands, two summers ago as I recall, I regularly challenged open-borders advocates to use the opportunity as a case study for their dream put into action.  None took me up on it.  But I knew they wouldn’t, because they couldn’t.

Putting my libertarian and private-property respecting prescriptions into practice comes with virtually none of the risks that putting yours into practice does; so why press for yours?  Theories that don’t take account of reality are useless theories.  So why not start with mine? 

Your theory aligns perfectly with the desires of George Soros, along with other elite who want to destroy western culture.  Your theory aligns perfectly with Gramsci’s theory of how the communists will take over the west – by destroying the culture.  Why would communists and Soros want to destroy the culture?  Why do many libertarians tacitly or actively agree with this notion? 

Doesn’t this give you even a moment’s pause? 

Certainly, by the most miraculous and stunning case of good fortune, Soros and Gramsci might unknowingly be libertarians on this issue – maybe open borders libertarians are smarter than these two guys.  But is it more likely that they are just smarter than you and that they understand the ramifications of these policies better than you do? 

I say yes.

NAP: If one is to argue from a consequentialist position, aren't you making some very broad generalizations when you talk about "common culture"?

BM: The “broad generalizations” are there for us to witness in real time, playing out in many countries of Europe.  Shall we ignore these and just deontologically chant “NAP, NAP, NAP”?

Saturday, May 6, 2017

“Because I am a Libertarian…”?????



We find, at Bleeding Heart Libertarians: Free Markets & Social Justice (try to wrap your mind around that combination), a critique of the bill to replace Obamacare.

Don’t get your hopes up.

I propose that the federal government establish a national health care budget in the amount of seven percent of GDP (based on the preceding year’s economic statistics), the sum to be expended in accord with the priorities of a governmental agency – let’s call it the National Health Commission (NHC) – whose sole task is to decide which services will be covered and which excluded.

The National Health Commission?  Pray you never have a bleeding heart!

Why seven percent?  That amount actually is close to the proportion of GDP devoted to health care by the governments of Canada and the United Kingdom, both devotees of single payer delivery systems offering very high standards of care. 

Certainly a libertarian can come up with a better reason than this.

Of course the seven percent stipulation is somewhat arbitrary.  Because I am a libertarian I would prefer a ceiling of five percent, the remainder to be consigned to private arrangements. 

Conclusion