Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Gift of the Wicked Child

"Behold I will send you Elijah the Prophet before the coming
of the great and awesome day of the L-rd.
And he shall shall turn the hearts of the parents to their children,
and the hearts of the children to their parents;
lest I come and smite the earth with utter destruction."
--Malachi 3:23 - 24 (quoted from the Haggadah)

"Four times the Torah instructs us " and you shall tell your child on that day . . ."
From this we may infer that there are four kinds of children--
the wise, the wicked, the simple, and the one who does not know how to ask."

It's amazing that a week has passed since I last posted. Much has happened, but despite a totaled car (no one seriously hurt), cleaning for Passover, and other happenings, Pesach came and we had a beautiful Seder. It was small this year--ten people gathered around our table--and we engaged the Hagaddah (The Telling) together, having in-depth discussions at several places. This is important, for each one of us has the obligation to leave the Seder with the understanding that "in every generation each one of us must feel as if we had personally come forth from Egypt."

As always, familiar words that form the background year after year, can suddenly leap off the page as we fulfil the mitzvah to tell our children "on that day" the every absorbing story of redemption and freedom. Several passages in the Hagaddah did fair leap out at me this year, and one was the story of the Four Children and it danced in my head throughout, until late in the Seder, after the Afikomen and Birchat ha-Mazon, became linked to a passage from Malachi about the shadowly Elijah the Prophet.

"The wise child asks: 'What are the laws, precepts,
and observances that G-d has commanded us?'
In response we should explain the observances
of Passover thoroughly, the very last one of which
is after the Afikomen, we do not turn to other
kinds of entertainment."

The wise child is the easy one. This is the teacher-pleaser, the delight of every parent; the child who is interested in observing Pesach (and doing everything else) the right way the first time. This is a kid who learns from the experience of others, and so does not have to bang his head away on the hard stones of the wall of personal experience. Not much of challenge, this one!

"The wicked child asks: 'What does this service mean to you?' He says
'to you' and not 'to us', placing himself outside of the People Israel.
Therefore we should blunt his teeth, saying: 'It is because of what G-d did
for me when I went forth from Egypt'--that is for me and not for
you--for had you been there, you would not have been redeemed."

Now this child is the real challenge. For whatever reason, he is the one who does not want to be at the Seder, the one who believes that redemption from slavery does not apply to him. Which of us can say that we have never been this child? Which of us would admit that we have never thought about it in such a way? In many ways, this child is my favorite, for he has excluded himself and yet is there at the Seder nevertheless, asking questions, wanting to be part of it. This child presents us not only with a challenge, but with a gift.

To appreciate the gift of the "wicked" child, we must dig deep and realize that no one is free unless all are free--even those whose ideas and questions rock our worlds, disturbing our complacency. Liberty means that we cannot violate the rights of those who live differently and who challenge our beliefs. The "wicked" child is the one who in refusing to march to our tune, brings us to new insight into the awesome gift of freedom. The "wicked" children are those nails that stick up, begging to be hammered down. And the enslaved often do just that, destroying the precious spark of an independent mind. The 'wicked' children are already living liberty; they are outside of Mitzrayim --(the narrow places of slavery)--and are capable of teaching those who would consider their question at each year's Seder.

Many of our teachers have understood the 'wicked child' in a positive light, seeing him as the sensitive and idealistic child in search of the meaning at the core of the stories we tell. In various ways they suggest that the wicked child is really asking: Here you stand at the shores of the sea, having come through the birth waters into freedom, and yet your service is as vacuous as the slave-labor of Egypt. Where is your Kavanah (the understanding, the intention of your action)? Or is freedom really so meaningless to you that you remain enslaved in the face of miracles?

The wicked children are the challengers of slavery to unthinking routine and drugery; they insist that we open our eyes and see that with freedom, the boundaries of our world expand to the horizon and beyond, to notice that daily we walk sightless among miracles*. And that the greatest miracle of all is the human gift of freedom that challenges us to live up to our greatest abilities.

*The Jewish concept of 'miracle' does not entail the suspension of natural law. Rather, miracles are insight into the workings of natural law to further the life and happiness of those who notice them.

"The simple child asks: "What is this?"
And we say: "With a strong hand and a mighty arm,
were we redeemed from the bondage of the Egyptians."
To the person of open simplicity, give a straightforward answer."

The simple child is the young and happy child, who asks simply and trusts a simple answer. There is no need to belabor the details, nor to challenge such a child. For he did not challenge you.

"With the child unable to ask, you must begin yourself, saying:
'This is because of what G-d did for me, when I went free out of Egypt.' "

If a child does not ask, we must begin ourselves to awaken their curiousity about why we celebrate the great festival of our freedom, in order to gently lead them to wonder about why this freedom is so important.

The Four Children remind us that people deal differently with ideas, and that we all find ourselves in the four different roles during our lives, and with respect to different challenges and events. There are those who are awake and want to be told what to do; there are those who are awake and want to understand the ideas behind what we do; there are those who are just waking up and wondering what we are doing; and there are those who are still sleeping and might need to be prodded to notice what we are doing.

And still, my favorite is the "wicked" child. And maybe it's because I often find myself in the role of the wicked child. Still. At my age, I have not yet developed the desire to do what I am told simply because I am told to do it.

There is a place in the world for the wicked child.
The wicked child may not have been redeemed because he was already free.
Perhaps it is he (or she, or me) who forces the turning of the hearts of the parents, and the hearts of the child, in order to prevent utter destruction.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hoshia'na: Deliver Us!

As I have been cleaning for Pesach, I have been pondering.
Spring cleaning and turning the kitchen over--this is my pondering time.
Sometimes memories come, bittersweet.
And always, thoughts of the great story that we are still a part of.

Tonight, I was looking for an Orpah Haza song, and came upon a Hebrew version of Deliver Us! from The Prince of Egypt. I wanted to share it here. This is the theme of Zeman Cheruteinu--the Season of our Freedom.

This is so very powerful in the Hebrew,
but here also is the English.

Orpah's beautiful voice in two languages . . .

Deliver us! Somewhere where we can be free . . .

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Spring Break That Wasn't Spring

I missed Nearly Wordless Wednesday last week because I am getting tired of posting snow pictures. And I thought that surely this week, with it being the Rasta Jew's Spring Break, surely it would act like spring. Especially since the Astronomical First Day of Spring occured on the second Saturday of said Spring Break.

Sigh. Not this year. So this NWW features snow pictures once again.

Monday of the Spring Break that wasn't spring.
Umbrae loves the snow.
At least someone was happy!

And once again, Sandia Peak in snow.

The Engineering Geek walks three dogs--in the snow.

First day of Spring. Anticipating a Road Trip, I had stayed the night in town, so that a friend and I could get out and go south to the sunshine. It was a good thing I did. Here is Henry the Big Red Truck parked at the hotel where I stayed . I-40 through the canyon was closed. I would have never gotten out!

After traversing snow-packed freeways--New Mexico has never learned to plow them when it starts snowing--we finally found sunshine between Socorro and Truth or Consequences.

But here, looking east from Emory Pass, more . . . need I say it? . . .snow.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Falling for Distractors

In testing parlance, a distractor is a possible answer that is intended to distract the testee's attention away from the central idea of the question or the central goal of the task. It is intended to give information on the ability of the subject to identify the main idea or goal, and as well, to maintain focus to completion.

In a focused debate, distractors are frowned upon, and those trained well in both logic and argumentation, become skillful at identifying them in order to avoid using them, and in order to parry them in a debate. However, those of us with "different minds" (as Temple Grandin so charmingly calls Aspies, etc.), no matter how well trained in logic, usually fumble the on-your-feet thinking part of such discussion, and can be distracted in to latching onto the distractor. This is why training and practice are mandatory for us.

And it gets worse when dealing with what passes for political debate currently, which is usually driven by partisan loyalties rather than full understanding of issues, and is focused on "talking points." Here, the object of the discussion is not to get to the bottom of an idea--in fact, ideas are assiduously ignored--rather, the goal is to score fictitious points for your team.
And since many Aspies do not get that, and we continue believing that the discussion is really to get to the bottom of an idea, and some of us like to argue, we often fall for the distractors in a political argument.

A perfect example happened in a series of exchanges between three libertarians and a partisan progressive on my Facebook Wall. I had posted a link to yesterday's blog entry--The Janus Face of Tyranny--there yesterday. The first comment was by Mark--who on the blog itself used to comment as 'Anonymous'--whose comment was a distractor intended to shift the discussion toward the administration and Democratic Party's talking points about the healthcare bill. In fact, it was such a distractor from the actual ideas outlined in the blog entry that I believe that Mark never got the point of the blog, or else he didn't bother to read it, so this morning I helpfully pointed it out for him. But not before I, too, succumbed to the almost irresistable urge to distraction.

Instead of addressing the historical comparison being made in the blog entry, Mark's first comment was a demand that since I don't like the so-called "healthcare bill", what would I do to "fix the system."

There were fourteen or fifteen comments already answering his question, which took the whole discussion into the simplified and somewhat unreal realm of talking points. "Fixing the system" was not what the blog entry was even about. Rather the point of the blog was that Pelosi's gambit to pretend not to vote on the bill by "deeming" it passed would awaken the anger of even more Americans at the incipient tyranny of such an action. The tyranny is not only in the legislation--which is about far more than healthcare; it is in how the Congress Critters intend to avoid responsibility for it, and at the same time consolidate their power.

You can read the whole blog to explore the other point I introduced: That the anger of the people at this kind of corruption is not partisan, and that the division between the political elite and the ordinary people who are expected to pay for their blindness, is rapidly assuming powder-keg proportions. There is indeed tyranny afoot here, and this is not the first time in the history of the world a government has become so blind to reality with severe and lasting consequences.

In any case I foolishly courteously but briefly answered Mark's question well into the comment thread, stating mostly that I thought that the answers provided by the two other bloggers were reasonably close to what I would have said with a few exceptions that I proceeded to outline. as far as I was concerned, the discussion was over.

But then I got another demand from Mark that I should come up with a solution to "fix the system", and the assertion that "we need to" stop a race to the bottom among insurance companies. These are talking points straight off of's playlist. And I finally cottoned on to the fact that this was no discussion to get to the bottom of a problem or an idea, at least not from Mark's perspective. In fact, strictly from reading his comments it's hard for me to tell whether or not he knows much about health insurance or healthcare at all.

In any case, these demands that I should come up with a solution to "fix the system" are in fact distractors. For I have never expressed a desire to have one centralized "system" for health care, nor am I unhappy with my insurance plan, which is the proximal target of this bill.

The distal target is for the federal government to take control of healthcare in this country, and to destroy any private insurance, as well as for it to gain control over the medical and financial records of the citizenry of the United States. The structure for this is in the bill, as well as much more having to do with education, the regulation of our diets, and other such that we do not even know about. And there will be more to come, because Obama, Pelosi and Reid have also stated that by "deeming the bill passed", they will then be able to change things in the bill afterwards. (!)

So I answered the second demand that I provide a solution this way:

1) I am not sure who this WE is that you keep talking about. Please define your terms. In a free country, WE don't have to do anything. Each individual determines who she will associate with (free association) and what she will do with her life. The obligation of the individual extend only to respecting the natural rights of others. Otherwise, it is a matter of choice.

2) Are you getting yourself and your family prepared for those economic hard times? 'Cause the "government" is really the people who pay taxes, and at a certain point they won't have any more wealth for the bureaucracy to take from them and it won't be worth it for them to work hard. Then a real race to the bottom will begin.

3) I think you misunderstand my courtesy in discussing your demand to be a concession to your premise that there ought to be one healthcare system controlled by the government. So let me clarify: I do not have to present any ideas for how to "fix the system" because:

a) I do not agree that there ought to BE one system controlled politically; and

b) I believe that the bill before Congress now is a monstrosity that is being "shoved through" for other purposes--(and that is, since you missed it, the main point of my blog post).This bill will not fix anything; and

c) It is you who want to create a system. You are free to do so. Just count me and any others who have other plans for our lives out of it. This is not a democracy. There should be no mob rule. If you want to make a system, go ahead and do it, and recruit others who want to participate. And determine how you will pay for it without forcing those who do not like it to do so.

I concluded by making a demand of my own--that on my Facebook page and my blog page, Mark should respond to the ideas in my blog post or to the three statements I made above.

I find talking points to be extremely boring. As a libertarian, my preference is that everything I do is for fun or profit. Or both. Talking points are neither.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Janus Face of Tyranny

"Tyranny . . . What a Janus-faced object it is,
smirking at you on one side of its mask,
and shedding tears for you on the other."
--Patrick Henry, Speech on the Virginia Resolves
May 29, 1765

Curiouser and curiouser, as Alice would say.
In the past few days, the House Democrats, uncertain of getting even the simple majority of votes needed to get the Senate version of the so-called "Healthcare Bill" through the house, are now threatening to "deem the bill passed" without a vote.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi claims that this would be within the rules.

But the question the party leadership is not answering: "Is it right?"
They say the Republicans have done it, as if this is a partisan matter. My instinctive response is right out of my mother's mouth: "So if the Republicans jump off a bridge, would you jump off right after them?" Frankly, I think the response would be wasted. The lady doth protest too much. And she lies more than Lady Macbeth ever did. As did the Republicans in their turn.

Avarice for power and the venality required to obtain it are not partisan sins. They belong to all politicians who wish to become royalty. The purpose of the statement is try to fool you and me, gentle reader. "Deeming" the bill to pass will give many Democrats in the House an out come the election, when they can claim that they never voted for an unpopular and unholy mess of a bill, and hope and pray that we are shortsighted enough to believe them. I don't think there is enough amnesiacs in the hands of all the angels in heaven to make that happen. Not this time. Oh, how the mighty will fall.

This is what happens when a republic turns to empire, and the servants of the people wish to become their masters. It has happened before, many times, and even within the memory of our own history. The Stamp Act passed by Parliament in order to subjugate the 13 Colonies was one such time. Following the Seven Years War, Parliament turned its attention to the long neglected English Colonies in North America. Claiming that the war was fought to protect the colonials, Parliament proceeded to pass the Stamp Act, a method of internal taxation on the colonies to "pay for the war."

Many colonists perceived that this was at best a half-truth. The war itself was a war of empire between France and England, only part of which was played out in the colonies, and that part to decide who would control the wilderness empire of North America. Further, these colonists understood that Parliament's interest in them was to confined to milking them dry for the purpose of using their productivity to shore up an aristocracy that lived off of incomes they did nothing to earn. In other words, British dandies would purchase their beaver hats adorned with 'macaroni' on the backs of colonists, indentured servants and slaves.

Over against this plan of Parliament was also the matter of the English Constitution. Not gathered in one place, it was comprised of a series of laws and precedents dating back to Magna Carta and before, which guaranteed Englishmen certain rights to protect their liberty and to keep them from becoming peasants and serfs, as most of the farmers on the European Continent were. Having been left alone far away in North America, the colonists were not subject to the gradual erosion of their liberties that their English brethren were, and they were jealous of their rights and freedom. Further, although they were subject to trade practices intended to keep their colonies free of real money and dependent on England, they did have Crown charters that guaranteed that their own representative assemblies had the right to determine internal taxation.

Enter the Stamp Act of 1765, the spark that began the conflagration that sundered an Empire and created a new nation in North America. Like the so-called "Healthcare Bill", the Stamp Act was far more than it seemed. It required that every legal paper, every book and newspaper, every contract, diploma, and church document be affixed with a stamp proving that the colonists had paid a tax on it. And the tax was to be paid in 'specie'--money in coin--in this case, pounds sterling, which was very rare in the colonies due to the restrictive trade practices mentioned above. This meant that Parliament in far-off England would not only destroy initiative and control commerce in the colonies, but it would also control every aspect of the lives of the colonists.

Many colonial leaders understood that they would become slaves on an endless treadmill of regulation and taxation designed to subjugate them utterly to the special interests within Parliament, and that they were to have no say in the matter, nor would they be allowed any way to protect their own interests. And some among them began to understand that if they acquiesced to the Stamp Act without a fight, they were be subject to heavier taxation and interference at the whim of Parliament, and that the Crown they looked to for protection from such tyranny would in fact betray them. Loyal to their constitution and to the Common Law, and proudly and fiercely free Englishmen, I can imagine them singing the popular Rule Britannia:

"Thee, haughty tyrants ne'er shall tame,
All their attempts to bend thee down
Will but arouse thy generous flame;
But work their woe, and thy renown.
Rule Britannia! Rule the waves!
Britons shall never be slaves!"

And so threatened with slavery by their own government, the colonists aroused their "generous flame" in the name of English Liberty, and in the year 1765 began what became the American Revolution. From Massachussetts to Rhode Island to the Carolinas, they wrote pamplets, letters, declarations and resolves against the incipient tyranny. But none more famous than the Virginia Resolves and the oratory of the author, the fiery Patrick Henry:

"History is rife with instances of ambitious, grasping tyranny! Like many of you, I, too have read that in the past the tyrants Tarquin and Ceasar each had his Brutus, Cataline had his Cicero and Cato, and closer to our time, Charles had his Cromwell. George the Third may . . ."
(Here the speech in the House of Burgesses was interrupted by cries of "Treason! Treason!")
". . . may George the Third profit by their example! If this be treason, then make the most of it!"

From the north to the south in the English colonies of North America, chapters of the Sons of Liberty were formed, tax collectors were ridden out of town on rails and hung in effigy, and within two years not one stamp franchise remained operating in the colonies. Parliament was forced to repeal the Stamp Act, however, in further attempts to subjugate the colonies, it then passed the hated Townshend Acts that created more of a firestorm and catalyzed the Boston Massacre. Parliament ended up repealing most of those acts as well, but the Tea Act remained in place. The Boston Tea Party protest resulted in the most tyrannous Intolerable Acts which led directly to Lexington, Concord and ultimately to the Declaration of Independence.

As the Stamp Act did in the name of empire, so in the name of healthcare the bill before Congress seeks to do today. In fact the "Healthcare Bill" is worse, for not one person knows all that is in it, and the majority leadership has promised to "improve" the bill further after it passes--meaning that what is voted upon--if indeed it is voted upon--will contain further depredations on our liberty that no one now knows. Just as Parliament made its own rules, and the tore the fabric of the British Constitution, so today Congress in "far off Washington City*", does with this calummous and venal idea of "deeming" legislation to be passed.

*The world is smaller today with the speed of modern travel, but the differences between the inside-the-beltway bureaucracy and the lives of most Americans is more sharply drawn than ever, as the political class attempts to consolidate power and become an aristocracy.

Further, our wanna-be masters claim to be doing this out of pity for the poor and sick among us--they of the same "Janus face" that Patrick Henry warned of--shedding crocodile tears for us out of one side of their faces, while smirking at their own lies out of the other. Do not be fooled by their Janus tears and do not forget their Janus lies.

This Republic sits on a powder keg whose power Nancy Pelosi and her minions know nothing of. It is the righteous power of those who remember that this nation was conceived upon the natural rights of men, and brought forth to protect their liberty. That glorious sense of freedom bequeathed to us by the founders still stirs in our blood today, and we shall never, never be slaves.

Now is the time for the winter soldier and patriots of the storm to gather their courage and sharpen their wits in order to bring America through this great gate in history and return to our children their heritage of Liberty.

Our oath and our loyalty, like that of our ancestor in spirit, Patrick Henry, is to our Liberty and to our Constitution. Therefore we commit no treason in opposing with every muscle and fiber of our being the attempts of venal politicians to turn us into slaves.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The First of Nisan

Tonight when the sun set a new Hebrew day began,
and because it is Rosh Chodesh, the New Moon, a new month began as well.

It is the first day of the Hebrew month of Nisan, the month in which we celebrate Zeman Cheruteynu--the Season of Our Freedom. (The "ch" sounds the German "ch" in Bach).

This means that Passover begins two weeks from tonight and all the time I had thought I had for spring cleaning is dwindling down to nothing. It is time for the big push.

And like last year, I am experiencing some Pesach Denial. This year, we will be having a small and intimate Seder so it will be different than Seders of the past. This is probably a good thing--we have had many transitions in the past year in our lives--some personal, some familial, and some in our larger lives. We will have a few guests, but our family and the Professional Revolutionary will be the only Jews.

I still have my office to clean, and then the living room, pantry and the big job--turning the kitchen over for Pesach. And the Rasta-Jew must be nagged into cleaning his room and bathroom, and the Professional Revolutionary must clean up his room. And the Chametz (leavened stuff) and fermented stuff must be removed. This will be hard on the Professional Revolutionary especially, so I have decided to break him into it gently, by having him watch Manishchewitzville:

"I don't know the reason the Passover Season comes as a surprise every year.
One day it's Purim, the groggers are whirling, and it seems a week later Passover's here."

This song always puts a smile on my face.
It gets me in the mood for Pesach.

Although not overly schmaltzy, it brings up good memories--the Chem Geek Princess at two, falling asleep at the Seder table, her cheek pillowed in the "smashed" potatoes; the CGP at four, standing on a chair at the Hillel second night Seder in pink sailor-trimmed dress, singing the four questions in perfect Hebrew. The Rasta-Jew (aka the Boychick) at 15 months, putting his hand on my lap and beginning to sing "David Melech Yisrael" (David, King of Israel), because he wanted to join in on the four questions but didn't know the Hebrew; the same kid at 15 years singing the Reggae version of the four questions. In English and Hebrew.

And the last verse ends with: "But somehow the Seder always seems to turn out fine."
Hey, even after 24 years of throwing my own Seders, that's reassuring.

And this year, we added When Do We Eat? (the movie). Our Seder could never be this dysfunctional. Could it?

Passover: It's what Jews do.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Virtuous Care of Ideas and Maintaining Good Will

"Two percent of the people think,
Three percent think they think,
and 95 percent would rather die than think."
--attributed widely

There appears to be an ongoing problem among patriots. It is a problem that eats away at the movement, fostering disunity and preventing us from enjoying our successes in the past and our union for the purpose of achieving the goal of the restoration of Constitutional governance among the United States. This problem is the propensity of factions among us to use smears and innuendo to destroy others among us. There may be many reasons for this, but the excuse that it is due to "independent thinking" is not supported by the tactics used.

There is hardly a day that goes by where I do not receive some e-mail or message that indulges in a smear against another patriot, or generalizes as a threat some group of people or another pose against us. There is hardly a day that goes by when I do not hear some general and mean-spirited statement made against someone based on a two-minute You Tube video clip, as if that was evidence of the sum of the target's thought.

For example, on Tuesday I received a Facebook message from a person I do not know and who has not "friended" me, making it impossible for me to form any judgement about her credibility. She titled the conversation "Your Friend, Adam Kokesh" and she wrote:

" It pays to know who your friends really are. His history is against the freedoms of Americans . . . and he is running for congress in the 2nd district of NM. Could there be 2 with the same name?"

Aside from the factual error present (Adam Kokesh is running in the 3rd Congressional District of New Mexico), I am expected to believe that Adam has a history "against the freedoms of Americans" based on what exactly? That this unknown commentor says so? There is no way to even know what prompted this woman to write this message, and there is certainly no persuasive argument present in the statement. I therefore responded:

"You made a pretty broad accusation against Adam Kokesh and provided no evidence. I don't know who you are and who your associates are. I do have that information for Adam. So you need to back up your accusations with hard evidence. Otherwise you will get no respect from me."

I had a hypothesis about the origins of her animosity towards Adam Kokesh, but there was no way to tell from her actual statement how accurate I was, although I did base my hypothesis on some previous encounters with Kokesh's attackers in the Republican Party. So I was conducting a fishing expedition in my reply for two reasons. The first is that it is possible that this woman has some evidence that might shape or alter my current support for Adam's campaign, and if so, it would good to have that evidence. The second is that it might be possible to educate this person, to demonstrate that it pays to gather some evidence before jumping to a conclusion based on the thoughtless assertions of others. In other words, it pays to actually think independently rather than mindlessly pass on nasty rumors and innuendo that could harm another person, and more, that can and will needlessly focus attention away from the basic goals we share.

The communication I received in response confirmed my hypothesis. She replied (in part):

"Listen to Adam's speeches on You Tube. His words are carefully worded, as a psychology major. He served under the Bush era. My husband served under the Carter and Nixon era.

"When Mr. Kokesh joined the Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) in February 2007, at which time he was 25 years old, he joined what the group stands for. He talks about how he bought into their BS in his video's (sic) and so he volunteered. None the less (sic), the Oath was the same. His words are not in support of patriots. I would not support the founder of IVAW. Would you support it's (sic) founder, John Kerry's ideas?"

I want to first make a factual correction here: John Kerry is not the founder of IVAW, as this writer seems to be saying. John Kerry was one of the founders of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and entirely different organization founded in response to a different unconstitutional war.

But more to the point, although this commentor did supply the reason for sending this message to me (she dislike's Adam's stand against the war in Iraq) thus confirming my hypothesis, she provided no evidence nor did she make any persuasive argument. As she said herself later in the message, she has not thought her stand through, rather she based her ideas soley on "the words of others." This is not independent thinking.

Before I deal with the issue of independent thinking (or lack thereof), however, I want to point out the nature of what is passed off as an argument in this statement. The first sentence is an instruction, and is fine as far it goes. It is a general thesis statement that leads the reader to believe that evidence will be forthcoming--perhaps an analysis of some of Adam's speeches on YouTube. But rather than being the starting point of a point being made, it is follwed by a non-sequiter: "His words are carefully worded, as a psychology major." The statement left me scratching my head. Is this writer telling me that she is a psychology major? Or is she claiming that Kokesh is a psychology major? And what in heaven's name does being a psychology major have to do with what Adam Kokesh said on YouTube? Since this woman did not provide a link, at this point I was hoping she'd clarify in her next sentence. But she did not, leaving me to believe that she might think that being a psychology major makes one an enemy to patriots everywhere. Or is she saying that I should pay attention to Adam's words as a psychology major might? And if so, what kind of psychology?

The "paragraph" is finished off with another possible thesis about when Adam Kokesh served in the military (Bush era) and when this writer's husband served (Nixon-Carter eras). Again, I am left wondering what this has to do with the price of potatoes. The statements become generalities (they don't even glimmer, let alone glitter) because they are not related back to the overall thesis that Adam Kokesh is an enemy to freedom loving Americans.

Pressing onward, the next paragraph begins thusly:
"When Mr. Kokesh joined the Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) in 2007, at which time he was 25 years old, he joined what the group stands for."

So far, so muddled. I get that Kokesh joined IVAW in 2007, but I wonder what his age has to do with that decision? (At this point my Aspie-brain calculates that Adam is now 28 years and 38 days old given that he was born on February 2).That he joined what the group stands for makes sense, and the question that pops into my mind is what does this writer think the group stands for? It's pretty clear that the group is against the war in Iraq, but I am hoping the writer will clarify if the group is united in why they are all against the war, or if they have diverse reasons for being against it. Both are possible.

Alas, no such luck. The writer then informs me that Adam volunteered (for what? the war or IVAW?) because he believed "their BS" .(Whose BS? IVAW or the ubiquitous "they" that runs our lives while we are sleeping?) Clear as mud. I can guess that she means that Adam volunteered for the Marines and that he believed the B.S. put out by the military-industrial-educational complex, but I can't be sure. It's unspecified. So far, I have more questions than answers.

She goes on to say that nevertheless, ". . . the Oath was the same." I am guessing that she is talking about the Oath taken by all military members, and by all other public servants. The Oath to "protect and defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies foreign and domestic." I know the Oath hasn't changed, but at this point I am confused about why this woman is bringing it up. Is she saying that Adam has not kept the Oath? And if so, what exactly has he done to make her believe that? She doesn't say. From the next sentence, I get that whatever she thinks, she is relating the Oath to her assertion that Adam is an enemy of patriots. But--frustratingly--she does not say why I should believe her belief.

The woman then ends with another set of non-sequiters: "I would not support the founder of IVAW. Would you support it's (sic) founder, John Kerry's words?"

The first statement is clear as far as it goes. She doesn't support the founder of the group. I don't know who she thinks that person is, but fine. It's a free country. She then asks if I would support John Kerry's words, but in such a way that I cannot tell if she thinks he started IVAW. (He did not). Or does she think that the founder--whoever that might be--also supports John Kerry's words? And if so, which words? Or worse, is she implying that if I support Adam Kokesh's run for congress, I am also supporting John Kerry's unspecified words? Or worse still, is she implying that if one agrees with John Kerrry that the Vietnam War was NOT A GOOD WAR, does that mean that she believes one agrees with every word John Kerry ever said?
This last is a fatal error of logic.

At this point I gave up trying to figure out what this woman might be trying to say to me because there are too many possiblities. (Aspie-brain interpolation II: Why did that guy in the Glass Cathedral ever think possibility thinking was a good thing!)

The point of it all is that this reply that purports to provide me evidence for Adam Kokesh's hatred of American freedoms does nothing of the kind. It is, once again, a series of assertions that are as unclear as they are unsupported. And this brings me the long way 'round to my point. This is not independent thinking. In fact, it is not thinking at all. It is simply a mish-mash of the ideas this woman has been fed by others, and it was certainly not carefully considered by her, and the muddle probably started with baseless accusations by others. In fact, the woman admitted as much, saying: "If my information is incorrect, I apologize for believing the written word of others."

What she does not apologize for is the baseless smearing of Adam Kokesh which she argues from the muddled assertions of faceless "others." Who are they and do they have any credibility? What are their arguments?
Further, no information is given in this series of assertions and non-sequiters. There is no way to know from what she saying why she believes her assertions are true, and there is no way to judge their quality. Well, actually there is. The assertions as presented twice, are baseless and thoughtless and should not be accepted or passed on.

The larger point is that way too often such glib smears are accepted as if handed down from Sinai and passed on uncritically through many nodes of internet chatter. This damages our efforts to unite many diverse groups of patriots under the banner of the Constitution.

Therefore, I wrote this in my reply to this woman:

"IMHO it is this idea (that if one agrees with one statement by a person, it is both necessary and sufficient to say that one agrees with everything that person is or believes) that is responsible for much of the propaganda and smear campaigns indulged in by both major parties, and has contributed significantly to the polarization of political thought in the United States . . .

"Clear thinking is needed for the various groups in the patriot movement to cease from destroying one other, and focus on restoring our Constitution and our liberties. . .
[Your arguments as presented] are merely unfounded speculation and innuendo, taken from the baseless opinions of others, formed by the emotions of various kinds (jealousy comes to mind), which serve only to destroy and divide rather than to build up and create.

"Liberty can only be preserved among people who are virtuous in the care of ideas, and who maintain a basic good will towards those who labor in other parts of the vineyard . . ."

If we wish to succeed in our goal of the Restoration of the Republic, then it is to our benefit to argue ideas and not personalities, and to take care that the words and ideas (they are not necessarily the same), are carefully considered and well-founded upon hard evidence. Further, we need to practice the maintenance of a certain good-will toward one other in the absence of contradicting evidence, considering that different opinions are created from different experiences even if the underlying values are the same; and further, that they lead us to spend our energies in different parts of the battle at hand. No one person has the whole answer, but it takes the hands of many, laboring in different parts of the proverbial vineyard, in order to take us together to the place of living liberty.

Monday, March 8, 2010

From Every Direction We Cry R3volution . . .

In the fall of 2008, as I contemplated the crisis that was approaching this country--a crisis brought on by bad legislation and partisan politics, and by a sense of entitlement to the property of others -- I also felt the sense of isolation and fear among patriots, and I felt very alone.

I had followed and supported Ron Paul's R3volution, I had silently cheered the R3volution sign that appeared overnight on the fence outside of Del Norte High School--and smiled inwardly at the young people's refusal to allow the administration to remove it. But over at New Mexico's Flagship University, I talked about my concerns only with the young R3volutionaries in tricorn hats who manned the Ron Paul R3volution Booth.

But beginning last spring, with the melting of the snow came Bob Schulz and We the People Foundation's drive to commit concerned citizens to the restoration of Constitutional governance. And the Oathkeepers Rally on the green at Concord. And a meeting of patriots at a small restaurant in Edgewood. And the Tax Day Teaparty Protests. And I ran into Dave Batcheller again and again. He was
handing out a flyer, trying to bring disparate patriot groups and individuals together. As I sipped coffee at Chile Hills--it was Pesach and I couldn't eat anything--I told him of my passion for the Constitution and my conviction that we needed Bob Schulz's Continental Congress. And so, right then and there, we set a date and met the next week, and began to work on it. And at the same time, I was drawn into the nascent New Mexico Patriot Alliance, and quickly became a member of the core leadership group.

Through all of the work we did with the Tea Parties, the 9-12 groups, the R3volution, and the Libertarians, I met many of the people that I now share my passion with today. They include the New Mexico staff of the Kokesh for Congress campaign. I met Michael Moresco, who rode his bike across the country for Ron Paul, and Jordan Page, a musician who is the Bob Dylan of the R3volution. And most especially, I met Dave Batcheller and Michael Lunnon, my fellow CC2009 delegates from New Mexico, and the Professional R3volutionary and founder of the R3volution March, R3volution Broadcasting, and my business partner in Common Sense Inc.

The things we are doing together now, are the things that I imagined we must do back in that very strange and sad fall of 2008, but could not imagine with whom and how. And last night as I sat at table at the Independence Grill, chairing an NMPA Sons and Daughters of Liberty Committee meeting (a.k.a. Kids of Liberty), I realized how far we had all come.

I was talking about the
original Sons of Liberty, who were the activists that sparked the flame of the American Revolution. I was telling the group about their protests of Writs of Assistance (the 18th century British version of the Patriot Act), and the taxes levied without representation to pay for empire-building wars, and the Intolerable Acts that closed the Port of Boston and put the city under martial law. As I described the Sons of Liberty then, one of my Kids of Liberty members said, "Doesn't sound much different than now. . ." And at that moment, sitting under an antique flag dating back to the American Revolution, I realized that we are the children of those Sons of Liberty, and like them we are facing the same age-old threats to our Liberty. And moreover, like them we are no longer alone. The spirit of Sam Adams was among us, literally from the tap and figuratively as we talked about a kinder, gentler approach to showing our displeasure than that of tarring and feathering tax collectors, although some of us would still like to ride them out of town on rails--or at least on the Rail-Runner.

And as we talked about the R3volution, seriously and with black humor, I realized that I'm no longer alone.

As Jordan Page sings in his new song, Liberty:

"As arrogant men tear up our Constitution-
From every direction we cry "R3volution"!
Standing together and without permission,
Soldiers for truth in the war of attrition

The love of our country as our ammunition . . .

"I'm going to change all the things I find strange,
For I know that I'm not alone . . ."

From every direction, patriots are crying: R3VOLUTION!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Eighteen months in the R3volution

Today the last entries posted from a blog that used to follow appeared mysteriously on the reading list of my Blogger Dashboard. Since I hadn't seen items for this blog, I quickly clicked through to it, excited to find out what was happening with that particular homeschool blogger. Since I had been fooling with the blogs I follow on that list, I thought I had fixed my reading list. Then, as I clicked on links on that blog, I realized that I fallen into a time warp to February of last year. I have no idea why those blog entries from that blog appeared on my list today, and labeled that they had been posted one day ago.

After sending her an e-mail, I suddenly noticed the time warp and realized that my blogging friend appears to have given up blogging last year at this time for reasons unknown. Usually, it seems that those reasons are related to major life changes, that alter the rationale for a blog or that interfere with one's ability to blog. In my admittedly unscientific survey of blogs that have ended, I see very few blogs that have successfully changed the theme or purpose for blogging and continued blogging on the same blog site.

Ragamuffin Studies has changed focus as my life has changed over the past eighteen months to two years. Started as a homeschooling blog, I am still blogging even though the Boychick has made the transition to high school, and even though my focus has changed from his schooling--and my university research, to other topics. I am not sure how successful those changes have been, since I do not meter my blog, but I do know that the number of comments has decreased over this year.

One of the most interesting results of clicking through some of the links to this particular blog, and on to the blogs of other blogs I frequented, was the experience of reading my own comments on those other blogs and realizing how thoroughly my life has changed over the last 18 - 24 months. It is an amazing transformation that grew out of seeds planted long ago; seeds that lay dormant for many years, but began the process of generation through the homeschooling process itself.

In one of my first overtly political posts, called Creeping Fascism, I wrote:

My son is not the servant of the State. He does not owe allegiance to a specific government, office or person. He owes allegiance to an idea. The idea that "governments are instituted among (human beings) at the consent of the governed." If he chooses to run for office or serve in the military--and himself becomes a servant of the citizens, then he will take an oath of fealty. Not to a flag, government, office or person. Rather, he will take an oath to "protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." To protect and defend an idea. The idea of Liberty.

This statement, written almost casually, reveals certain assumptions that I have about the nature of government and the importance of the individual, assumptions that were sown as I was brought up libertarian, hearing discussions at Papa's Kitchen Table University that regularly referred to Murray Rothbard and Ayn Rand, among others. And although in my young adult years I chose to either ignore political thought and philosophy altogether, or I experimented with various political ideas that took me far from them, the roots of my upbringing and a certain sense of personal independence remained with me, formed as they were in my childhood.

Even when I was not overtly an individualist or a libertarian, the way I conducted my life remained individual and libertarian. I chose to practice my religion, but maintained an idiosyncratic rational approach to its beliefs and stories. I gave birth to my daughter at home, after carefully researching the subject. When certain questions were raised with respect to my views and their impact to my husband's security clearance, I pointed out that my political views were protected under the First Amendment to the Constitution. I used to regularly assert my fourth and fifth amendment rights when passing through the odious INS checkpoints fifty miles inside the borders of the United States. I taught my children to know their rights are and how to assert them in the face of the growing police state within the United States.

During all the years that I voted, I never voted for a single major-party candidate in a presidential election. I tended toward voting Libertarian, although I also voted Green or independent, depending on the candidates. I was outspoken about the bankruptcy of the two-party system.

And in doing these things, I was never afraid. I think that is the way of Americans raised when I was raised. We had a certain, somewhat naive optimism that our government respected our rights and our sovereignty. An optimism that I now know that my own children do not share.

After 9-11, I became aware that certain political ideas that I had been flirting with were neither rational nor idealistic. That event, and the Patriot Act that too swiftly followed, were the dawning of an adult awareness (in my 40's, no less!) that I did not live in the same United States that I was born into, and that my country as I was educated to understand it had not existed in my own lifetime. I had heard these very things said as I listened in on Libertarian meetings during my childhood, but in my very Aspie way, I focused on the United States of the Founders, and thought of the present in the same idealistic way.

In the years following 9-11, when I began to enjoy the fruits of my remarriage and newfound financial security, I took time off from politics and thinking about the implications thereof. I was able instead to focus on making a home for our quirky family and living the life of middle class security. Except. . .

Except that the Boychick was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome, and as we entered the special education maze, I realized that we would not be the preppily dressed, straight arrow family of my imagination. (Alas, I would never fit into the Country Club Judaism of our synagogue). And in order to meet my son's needs--and my own, as it dawned on me that I am more than a little bit Aspie--we decided to homeschool him. Which brought me squarely into conflict with the growing notion in this country that our children belong to the state or that they exist to benefit that faceless entity we call "society." And as I observed the growing statism reflected through the legislation and political system of the United States through the lenses of homeschooling, those seeds planted back in my childhood began to germinate and sprout.

Thus, in May 2009, two years after the first political blog entry, I wrote in The Wrong Side of A Do-Gooding Law that:

I was a more than slightly crunchy mom, and my awakening and my return to my libertarian roots . . . was catalyzed by 9-11 and home education. As I began to realize that . . . statists and do-gooders wanted to control what I teach my children and how I raise them, I understood that the only thing that stands between me and absolute tyranny is the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

And during the past 18 months, I see what profound changes in my life were brought about as I went through the stages of awakening to the peril to our liberty; and through the sense of grief and aloneness that waking up caused; and finally into the fullness of awareness that my historical and philosophical explorations have created. I now understand that this is not merely a political crisis--it is a crisis brought on by irrational ideas about what is goodness, and how human beings can best achieve it in order to live their lives in liberty. This mature understanding of ideals that I learned during my libertarian childhood has now brought me full circle and more, to a confidence in living Liberty that enables me to take action and assume leadership through the public espousal of unpopular ideas without fear.

This is the idea of R3volution--action taken to secure for ourselves and our posterity the blessings of liberty--done out of love and firm resolve, rather than out of fear and mindless violence. Thomas Jefferson understood that the revolution is a turning in the minds of individuals--a change wrought through ideas, and only after such a revolution could a rebellion against tyranny be successful. That if a revolution is to be brought about, it cannot be begun by the initiation of force against others, but rather as forceful defense of the natural rights inherent in individual human beings.

The R3voltion is the process of sparking the idea of liberty in the mind. And only then will the fires of liberty be ignited in the heart, and principled action taken to secure a future in which liberty can be lived.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Spring Doesn't Quite Begin in March . . .


. . . Or at least, March does not begin with spring. The Purim Full moon happened Sunday night to Monday morning, and with it came another round of snow. This time, light and fluffy.

The full moonset from the bedroom patio, while it was still fair dark . . .

Later, I am barely in time to take a picture of the Adar Moon as it begins to slip behind the snow covered Pinyon and Juniper on Los Pecos Loop during the early morning dog walk.

Although it had snowed, the clouds hiding most of South Mountain in the pre-dawn twilight look like the rain-filled clouds of spring and summer. The snow covering the road is soft and slippery. It is barely below freezing and destined to be gone soon.

A February fog fills the Mountain Valley, even though March has just (barely) begun. The evidence of the changing season is subtly there for us, as we walk the meadow in the early morn.

Clouds lit by the sun that is still below the horizon have the look of spring rains rather than the late winter snow they had brought us.

It has been a long, snowy winter. The snow that came to cover the ground on December 7th melted back, but did not depart and we have had many a storm since then.

We have now had at least partial snow-cover for three months.
But on the new calendar, spring does begin in March. And today it is 50 degrees and the sky is blue, even though there is still a good 4-5 inches on the ground under the trees and in the north lee of the hills. The solar angle is perceptibly higher. Winter's grip must loosen at last, and the warmth will come again.