Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving - It didn't have to be this way

I've had one hell of a Thanksgiving with family, friends and co-workers. 

It didn't have to be this way.  There is little or no difference, in terms of geography, between the USA and Venezuela. 

Venezuela is now controlled by socialist idiots.  The USA, while under nominal control of a socialist idiot, has some protections in place that protect us from his worst totalitarian impulses.  We're doing ok, while Venezuela has run out of oil and coffee, despite being a major exporter of both. 

Here's why. 

In 1775, the great Thomas Paine wrote a pamphlet called "Common Sense".  In this little tract, Paine advocated complete independence from Britain.  I've probably posted the first paragraph on Facebook 50 times.  We are not the state.  The state is not society.  Enjoy. 
SOME writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness POSITIVELY by uniting our affections, the latter NEGATIVELY by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher.
I'm also a fan of the second paragraph.  Please indulge me.  I'm going somewhere with all this....
Society in every state is a blessing, but Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one: for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries BY A GOVERNMENT, which we might expect in a country WITHOUT GOVERNMENT, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer. Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise. For were the impulses of conscience clear, uniform and irresistibly obeyed, man would need no other lawgiver; but that not being the case, he finds it necessary to surrender up a part of his property to furnish means for the protection of the rest; and this he is induced to do by the same prudence which in every other case advises him, out of two evils to choose the least. Wherefore, security being the true design and end of government, it unanswerably follows that whatever form thereof appears most likely to ensure it to us, with the least expense and greatest benefit, is preferable to all others.
Yeah.  A necessary evil at best.  You get Barack/Bush/Boehner at worst. 
These are the words that started the American Revolution.  Government is NOT society, and government is a necessary evil.  That's the difference between the USA and, say, Ecuador. 

Please stay with me.  Words (and mission statements) are important. 

Here's the preliminary throat-clearing from our Declaration Of Independence, the document where we told George III that we didn't need his help to survive and prosper.  Most of what follows was written by Thomas Jefferson, with editorial help by John Adams and Benjamin Franklin.  It would be another 100 years or so before these sentiments were applied to 1) black males and 2) women.  These guys were doing the best they could with the light they had to see by:
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Ok, that's all good.  We're going to set up a government with the idea that Life, Liberty (freedom) and the Pursuit of Happiness (alcohol, the ability to make lotsa money, sex, rock and roll, and ridiculing Al Gore) are important.  We're still missing something.....

Here's the U.S. Constitution. 
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
I'm not a fan of that little flourish about promoting the "general welfare".  It's been the source of a lot of mischief on the part of our government.  Hell, Stalin, Chairman Mao and the Nazis all thought they were promoting the "general welfare". 

But let's move on....  the main point is that our organizational by-laws state that the purpose of our government is to secure "the blessings of liberty". 
End of f***ing story. 

I like it. 
I like it here in Texas. 
Every other nation is in 2nd place. 
Hell yes. 

1) Leave me the hell alone as much as possible. 
2) Leave everyone else alone as much as possible.  I really don't know what's best for you, and vice-versa. 
Put those two rules in place, and even though you might occasionally elect a Rooselvelt, Johnson, or Obama, you will probably prosper. 
Nothing else matters for the prosperity of a nation. 

I've had an awesome Thanksgiving weekend so far. 
No matter where you live, I hope you have also.  (Yeah, I hope you've been able to celebrate an American holiday.)   You have a right to it. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Libertarian Hymn

I'm probably going to do nothing but Thanksgiving and gratitude posts for the rest of this week. 
Despite Obama, despite John Boehner, despite the rise of the warrior cops, despite the next Texas goobernatorial (sic) race being about abortion and nothing else, I've got it pretty good.

Some of my well-being is because of family, some is luck, and some is because the founders of my country wanted the citizenry to be left the hell alone.  Most of us have no idea how lucky we are, and some of our neighbors are clueless enough to want to unravel the protections that have made our prosperity possible.  Go figure. 

With the exception of some Christmases and Easters, I haven't made church in several years.  Here's something I wrote about Thanksgiving waaaaaay back in 2009, when the gods and I were on better terms. 

Enjoy.  Be thankful that people aren't trying to help you.


I made it to Broadway Baptist Church for their pre-Thanksgiving dinner last Sunday night. I've been taking an extended leave of absence from BBC for about 6 months now, but when I do stick my nose back in the door, there's usually something to surprise or inspire me.
My friend Dr. Ralph, agent provocateur of this site, was also there. Go here for The Doctor's Thanksgiving post. We tried to sit and eat together, but higher authorities intervened.

This is the hymn that the music ministry folks chose to end the service. As soon as I read the words, I stuck the text into my pocket....please pay particular attention to the second verse:

Praise God for the harvest of orchard and field,
praise God for the people who gather their yield,
the long hours of labour, the skills of a team,
patience of science, the power of machine.

Praise God for the harvest that comes from afar,
from market and harbour, the sea and the shore:
foods packed and transported, and gathered and grown
by God-given neighbours, unseen and unknown.

Praise God for
the harvest that's quarried and mined,
then sifted, and smelted, or shaped and refined:
for oil and for iron, for copper and coal,

praise God, who in love has provided them all.

Praise God for
the harvest of science and skill,
the urge to discover, create and fulfil:
for dreams and inventions that promise to gain
a future more hopeful, a world more humane

Praise God for the harvest of mercy and love
from leaders and peoples who struggle and serve
for patience and kindness, that all may be led
freedom and justice, and all may be fed.

That's the version found at , anyway. My instinct lately has been to trust the British versions of everything.
Dr. Ralph found me as we were leaving. "That was quite a libertarian hymn," he said, and I wholeheartedly agreed.
If you don't understand the point I'm trying to make, hit some of the links. I can't believe someone actually wrote a hymn that 's good enough to cause Dr Ralph to stop twirling his villain moustache and take notice.
Verse two stands alone nicely, no links required. A song in praise of Supply Chain Management.

....foods packed and transported, and gathered and grown
by God-given neighbours, unseen and unknown.

If you're still unclear on the concept, here's The Boston Globe's token libertarian, Jeff Jacoby, explaining why we should be grateful for a certain economic principle which, if you live in the U.S., allowed you to eat some turkey sometime this week:

The activities of countless people over the course of many months had to be intricately choreographed and precisely timed, so that when you showed up to buy a fresh Thanksgiving turkey, there would be one -- or more likely, a few dozen -- waiting. The level of coordination that was required to pull it off is mind-boggling. But what is even more mind-boggling is this: No one coordinated it.

No turkey czar sat in a command post somewhere, consulting a master plan and issuing orders. No one forced people to cooperate for your benefit. And yet they did cooperate. When you arrived at the supermarket, your turkey was there. You didn't have to do anything but show up to buy it. If that isn't a miracle, what should we call it?

Adam Smith called it "the invisible hand" -- the mysterious power that leads innumerable people, each working for his own gain, to promote ends that benefit many.

Out of the seeming chaos of millions of uncoordinated private transactions emerges the spontaneous order of the market. Free human beings freely interact, and the result is an array of goods and services more immense than the human mind can comprehend. No dictator, no bureaucracy, no supercomputer plans it in advance. Indeed, the more an economy is planned, the more it is plagued by shortages, dislocation, and failure.

It is commonplace to speak of seeing God's signature in the intricacy of a spider's web or the animation of a beehive. But they pale in comparison to the kaleidoscopic energy and productivity of the free market. If it is a blessing from Heaven when seeds are transformed into grain, how much more of a blessing is it when our private, voluntary exchanges are transformed - without our ever intending it - into prosperity, innovation, and growth?

Well said, Mr. Jacoby. Here's one last verse for that hymn; this one composed by Yours Truly. I don't think it's going to appear in a hymnal any time soon....

Praise God for our system of sweet Liberty,
The framework of freedom which feeds you and me.
Praise God for the scholars and writers who've shown
More people can prosper if just left alone.


Have a good Thanksgiving, folks. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thanksgiving and gratitude: Tell me I'm a good man

I've been thinking a lot about Thanksgiving and gratitude for the last few days. 
Here's one of my favorite snippets of movie dialogue ever. 
It's from the Spielberg classic "Saving Private Ryan", which ends with the following exchange between James Ryan (as an old man) and his wife. 
They're standing at the grave of one a WW2 soldier who sacrificed himself so Ryan could live. 

James Ryan: Tell me I have led a good life.
Ryan's Wife: What?
James Ryan: Tell me I'm a good man.
Ryan's Wife: You are.

Ryan knows that a squadron of soldiers sacrificed themselves to keep him alive.  He wants reassurance that he's lived a life worthy of that sacrifice. 


Tell me I'm a good man.

Nathan Hale, a soldier in the Continental Army during the American Revolution, volunteered for a spying mission.  He was captured by the British, and hanged.  His last words were:  "I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country."

Tell me I'm a good man.

William Tyndale dared to translate the bible from Greek and Hebrew into English.  His work revolutionized theology, education, and the English language, and was probably instrumental in toppling the concept of the "Divine Right Of Kings".  He lived most his adult life hunted like an animal all over Europe.  After being convicted of heresy, he was strangled, and his body was burned at the stake. 

Tell me I'm a good man

In 2012, CIA employee, NSA specialist, and computer programmer Edward Snowden became one of the nation's most notorious whistleblowers, leaking over 200,000 classified documents to journalist Glenn Greenwald, among others.  His disclosures revealed an out-of-control government conducting warrantless surveillance of emails and phone calls.  He will probably live out the rest of his life as a political refugee in the Soviet Union. 

Tell me I'm a good man

Fannie Lou Hamer grew up picking cotton near Ruleville, Mississippi.  She helped found the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, and organized the Mississippi Freedom Summer.  After being arrested on false charges near Winona, Mississippi, police officers almost beat her to death.  Shortly afterwards, she got under Lyndon Johnson's skin on national TV with a speech that included the following line:  "All of this is on account we want to register, to become first-class citizens, and if the Freedom Democratic Party is not seated now, I question America. Is this America, the land of the free and the home of the brave where we have to sleep with our telephones off the hooks because our lives be threatened daily because we want to live as decent human beings - in America?"

 Tell me I'm a good man. 

In 2010, U.S. Army Intelligence Analyst Bradley Manning downloaded more than 400,000 military documents to Wikileaks, including video of airstrikes killing Iraqi civilians and journalists.  His whistleblowing activity was met with a conviction for treason.  Manning will probably spend the rest of his life in a cage. 

Tell me I'm a good man.  Tell me that I'm living a life worthy of this kind of sacrifice. 

On November 9, 2012, Malala Yousafzai, a 15-year old Pakistani girl, was shot in the head by the Taliban.  She had been an advocate of education for girls and women. 

Tell me I'm a good man. 

Irwin Schiff, father of investment guru Peter Schiff, repeatedly and eloquently made the claim that the U.S. tax code is unjust and unconstitutional.  In 2005, he was convicted of willfully failing to pay income tax, and will be in a Fort Worth, TX federal prison until sometime in 2017. 

Tell me I'm a good man.  Tell me that I don't ever take any of these sacrifices for granted.  Remind me that there will always be evil men who want to use political power and force for their own advantage.  Tell me that I'm the kind of person who will stand up to the bullies of the state.  Tell me that I'm living a life that would make these people proud. 

Tell me I'm a good man. 

How To Behave At A Climate Change Conference

Thank God for Australia....

For this year’s UN climatefest in Warsaw, Poland, Tony Abbott’s government didn’t even bother to send the environment minister, much less the Prime Minister and his pre-teen fan mail. (Hit the link above.)
Instead we sent some delegates who quite properly treated the whole exercise as a lark, much to the consternation of Gaia’s little Gracies. “They wore T-shirts and gorged on snacks throughout the negotiation,” fumed Ria Voorhaar, a spokeswoman for the Climate Action Network. “That gives some indication of the manner they are behaving in.”

Back in 2009, Rudd negotiated pointlessly for 40 hours, grabbing just one hour of sleep. This year’s Australian delegates don’t go for that sort of nonsense. “They made an intervention that late-night negotiations were bad for health and should be stopped,” complained Voorhaar.

And the meetings were indeed halted, with many blaming the snack-chomping Aussies and their t-shirts. “Their behaviour caused over 130 developing nations to abandon discussions on the controversial issue of climate compensation at 4am,” seethed Sophie Yeo of the activist group Responding to Climate Change. “It is one thing to be tired in a negotiation meeting, another to turn up in pyjamas,” huffed EU negotiator Paul Watkinson on Twitter. “Respect matters.”

With all due respect, the EU and the UN can shove it

Well played, Australia.  Well played. 


Sunday, November 24, 2013

50 Years After JFK, Crazy People Can Still Get Guns

We got past the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination with a minimal amount of fake emotion, chin-stroking, and blame-shifting.

The day's worst cartoon was probably this one, lamenting that crazy people can still get guns. 

Yeah, they can.  And that's why I'm keeping mine.