Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Appleseed Shoot: Former Cook, Now Becoming a Rifleman

"I went to an RWVA Appleseed Shoot.

I was there for the adventure. I was there for the rebirth . . .

Those who can't shoot, have to cook.

Former Cook now becoming a Rifleman.

It feels GOOD . . .

And my mission in life is pass on the Tradition,

the one that started on April 19, 1775.

Want to be a Rifleman? I will show you how! Just ask . . .

This past weekend, the Rasta Jew and I went to an Appleseed Shoot. The Appleseed Project is sponsored by the Revolutionary War Veterans Association, and has the goal of turning one million ordinary citizens into Riflemen, and to teach them the story of April 19, 1775--the day our nation was born in blood, founded on the skills of the American riflemen who chased the greatest army in the world from Concord back to Boston.

Picture: The flags of our founders posted and the Red Flag signifying a hot firing line at the NRA-Wittington Center, near Raton New Mexico. (Taken August 28, 2010).

The Rasta Jew and I drove up to the beautiful NRA Wittington Center, the largest and most comprehensive shooting range in the United States, on Friday after school. We took with us two borrowed 22 rifles. Our own rifles take much more expensive ammo, and we would go through 500 rounds each over the course of the Appleseed Shoot.

Picture: Bronze Memorial to former NRA President Charleton "from my cold, dead fingers" Heston as "The Scout" at the the Santa Fe Trail Marker inside Wittington Center, near the Canadian River, outside of Raton, NM (Taken August 29, 2010).

During the Shoot, our home-away-from home was firing line, which was situated 25 yards in front of the first target line. Over the course of two very full days, we learned the fundamentals of the Rifleman skills: safety, the six steps for taking a shot, the Natural Point of Aim (NPOA), and how to shoot prone, sitting, kneeling and standing. The Rasta Jew was a natural, but I improved only slowly, changing rifles twice to solve a few physical problems.

Picture: The Rasta Jew lays out the sleeping bags on the firing line. These will serve as ground cover for shooting prone, sitting and kneeling. (Taken August 28, 2010).

Shooting from the prone position is the most stable, and done right, is both relaxed and beautiful. Sitting is the next most stable, because there is still much bone in contact with the ground. Kneeling is next, and standing is least stable. However, when shooting in real situation--such as hunting--there is no bench, and one may need to shoot in a variety of positions to hit the target. Therefore, a good marksman can shoot accurately in a variety of positions.

Picture: On the second day, they brought out some bigger guns. Here the Rasta Jew shoots an M1-Garand (a classic rifle) at metal targets 200 yards away. Another participant is sighting for him, to let him know how to adjust his aim. (Taken: August 29, 2010).

Appleseed Shoots are intense: the instruction is rapid and then there are numerous drills each day on the Army Qualifying Test (AQT), during which shooters shoot from all the positions, are timed and have to make magazine changes and position transitions.

During the breaks and the lunch periods, the teachers take turns telling the story of April 19, 1775. The stories are intended to remind us that those people then thought about us now, and given the choice between slavery and the bullet box, wanted to leave us a third choice: the ballot box. They are intended to get citizens involved in that legacy.

Picture: Navy Chief Bill "don't call me sir" Black teaches the Rasta Jew to fire an AR-15 on the AQT. The Rasta Jew qualified as a Marksman, but did not earn the coveted Rifleman patch this time. (Taken: August 29, 2010).

Despite the intensity--the pace was like drinking from a firehose--Appleseed was a great deal of fun. The teachers, who are all volunteers, spent a great deal of time helping each of us one-on-one, and met us where we were at with respect to our skills. Everyone who perservered, went away as a better shot than when they started. As a novice on a rifle, I began with scores in the twenties on the AQT, but by the end I scored a 96, 14 points away from Marksman.

Picture: The teachers for this shoot. The orange hat means teacher-in-training; the red hats are teachers, and the green hat is the Shoot Boss. (Taken: August 29, 2010).

"I am a former cook, becoming a Rifleman. And it feels GOOD!"
And I brought away some insight into the minds of our forefathers who fought the Revolution as well. They were always talking about "posterity." They were always thinking about us. But we are not thinking about our posterity. And when Gill "Bluefeather" (the Shoot Boss) said this, I said out loud, "Maybe that's our problem!"
And one of the other teachers said, "I think you have the secret."
John Adams said this to us:

"Well, Posterity. You will never know what it cost us to preserve your freedom. I only hope that you will make good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in heaven that I ever took half the pains to preserve it."

The point of Appleseed is not only to make us a nation of Riflemen again, in the Spirit of April 19, 1775, the day our country was born in blood, but also to get us to remember the spirit in which our forefathers preserved our liberty, thinking always down the years to us. And to get us to think about our posterity in the far future with the same care, so that we, too, preserve our liberty. And it was their hope, and should be ours, that their third choice--the ballot box--will be sufficient to preserve it.

Shooting--the only sport endorsed by the Founders--
an American Tradition since April 19, 1775.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

More on Those E-mail Chains . . .

About a week and half ago, I posted my concerns about one of those chain e-mails that was going around, because I was concerned about what kind of message was being sent. That blog post, Ayekha, can be found by clicking the link. Today, I received another chain e-mail, this time ending with the claim that "the Marines want this to roll" on the internet.

You've got to be kidding. Which marines? I am sure that the contents, anonymous and unsourced did not come from the commander of the United States Marines. But so many people seem to reflexively re-post these things, without giving a thought to what is being said, or the fact that readers really don't know by whom it is being said. In this case, the first three quarters of the post was largely true, and the argument interesting, though unsourced. (It argued that when Islamists become a certain percentage of the population of a Western and relatively free society, they begin agitating for privileges that end up underming the core values of liberty and tolerance that the society has extended to the Islamists). And the overall sentiment of the message was one that I can agree with--that the principles and values of Islamic Totalitarianism are incompatible with those of the United States.

However . . .you knew that a however was coming, didn't you?
However, my concern came with a bit of unreason purported to be by an American who had lived in Saudi Arabia for twenty years, that was completely contrary to the principles of individualism and liberty that we are claiming to defend. The piece called "Can Muslims be Good Americans" has passed through my in-box before, and contains ten arguments all of which contain factual errors, and all of which could be used to argue that Catholics or all Christians or Jews could not be good Americans either. In fact the first time I saw this non-argument, I set about doing exactly that by substituting the word "Christian" and then the word "Jew" into it, and constructing the particular arguments based on what I know about those religions. The one "proving" that Jews cannot be good Americans was particularly devastating, because I know a lot more about Judaism. I just did what the author of this piece did an combined ideas and laws from all over the 5,000 year history of Judaism, without rhyme, reason or qualification, and generalized them to all Jews, and viola! Jews cannot be good Americans.

I am not going to argue the particulars of this piece of badly written propaganda because the fundamental flaw is that it is overgeneralized,and each point can be simply refuted by this argument. If you wish to see the propaganda, it has been published here, and there are numerous rebuttals to each and every point all over the internet.

In this case, what we see is a well-meaning discussion of the very real dangers of Islamic Totalitarianism and its goals combined to which the unknown author appended this piece of drivel, wrote that the marines really want readers to pass it on, and then hit send to several thousand of his or her closest friends and relatives. In this case, it was BCC'ed to me, preventing me from responding to everyone that the person who sent it to me sent it to, so I responded to the person who sent it to me, and the person who sent it to her. After that, the origins are lost in cyberspace.

Here is my reply:

The first three quarters of this message is in great part correct. Islam is a complete system of life just as Christianity was in Europe in the Medieval period (the 5th to 15th Century C.E.) The danger to us is that Western individualism is in conflict with such a complete system (this is why that system ruled by the Roman Catholic Church in Europe did not survive modernity), and the modern Western way of life based on individual liberty cannot coexist with a theocracy. Further, although it is identified as a Western Religion because Mohammed was influenced by Judaism and Christianity, Islam is not at all Western in its thought. Western thought can be identified as thought that was heavily influenced by Greek logic and by the Rule of Law as understood by Greeks, Romans and Jews of the Hellenic period (500 B.C.E. - 400 C.E.). Because Islam is NOT Western, we are making a huge mistake if we believe that we can reason with the rulers of Islam, or if we believe that tolerance extended to them will cause them to be tolerant of us. The idea that we live and let live so long as no ones rights are being violated is a Western idea that took the whole of the Hellenic Period and the Medieval Period to come to full fruit in the West. It took 2000 years of religious development, philosophical development, and many religious wars to move from the concept of the Divine Right of Kings to the concept of Individual Sovereignty.

Islam, isolated in the middle east after the Battle of Vienna, bypassed a good deal of that development, and although Islam--in the form of the Caliphate of Spain--can be credited with preserving certain Greek ideas, it did nothing with them. It was, rather, the careful preservation of Greek writings by the Christian Monastics that led to the Renaissance, and the flowering of modern Western culture.

I agree with you both in that I hardly think it is our duty to allow the world to plunge into the chaos of religious war and theocracy by surrendering our values for the dross of multiculturalism and thereby honoring the barbaric values of a desert culture that wants to take over the world. And multiculturalism is not a modern Western value, it is a post-modernist fantasy. In order to prevent the destruction of the West, we must defend our principles and our values, and understand that no one has the right to destroy the rights of others, and that our Constitution cannot be used to destroy itself.

And that leads me to the last quarter of this e-mail, entitled "Why Muslims Cannot be Good Americans" . . .
I have seen this before, and I have replaced "Muslims" with "Christians" and "Jews" for each of the points and came up with similarly absurd results. Apparently neither Christians nor Jews can be good Americans! This is because the assumption in the piece is based on the collectivist notion that every Muslim, Christian or Jew is exactly the same as any other, and the equally collectivist notion that the United States was built on the principles of a Christian Theocracy. By the time of the Enlightenment, during which the values of individual rights and liberty became fully developed, theocracy had been tried by the West and found wanting.

Here is the crucial piece: Individual Muslims can be good Americans, as can individual Christians and individual Jews, so long as they accept the values of individualism as opposed to those of collectivism. In our system, rights are inherent in each human being, are therefore individual rights. There are no "group rights." Islam as individual religious expression can and should be tolerated, but any demand for collective privileges (a better term than "group rights" which is a contradiction in terms) must be repulsed at once. IOW, we ought to do as MacArthur did with Shinto during the occupation of Japan. As an individual religious expression, he told the Japanese to have at it. But any attempt by an individual or group to form an oligarchy--that is any attempt to gain privileges or power over any individuals sanctioned by government based on Shinto emperor worship--was firmly stopped. MacArthur did this with the blessings of James Byrne, from the US State Department, who wrote to the General in a telegram:

"Shintoism, insofar as it is a religion of individual Japanese, is not to be interfered with. Shintoism, however, insofar as it is directed by the Japanese government, and as a measure enforced from above by the government, is to be done away with. People would not be taxed to support National Shinto and there will be no place for Shintoism in the schools. Shintoism as a state religion—National Shinto, that is—will go . . . Our policy on this goes beyond Shinto . . . The dissemination of Japanese militaristic and ultra-nationalistic ideology in any form will be completely suppressed. And the Japanese Government will be required to cease financial and other support of Shinto establishments." (Quoted in : No Substitute for Victory: The Defeat of Islamic Totalitarianism by John David Lewis in The Objective Standard, Winter 2006-2007)

(By the way, this article is excellent intellectual ammunition for those of us concerned with preserving our values, and can be read for free at the link I put on the title).

What was done in the occupation of another country in order to pacify it, is certainly the proper policy to pursue on our own shores in order to protect the rights of Americans, which is the purpose of our government in the first place. Certainly, Islam as individual religious expression must be left alone according to our own values, but just as certainly Islam as an attempt to dominate our people must be fought according to those very same values. And we must go beyond the vague feel-good statements of the multiculturalists, as well as the diatribes of religious dominionists of the Christian persuasion, to define the difference according to the values of individual liberty enshrined in our founding documents.

Some of my readers may believe that my attempts to fight drivel on the internet are quixotic, and in general, they probably are. But, after all, my replies to to the people I know who send the stuff to me with a flick of the finger. And my goal is to get those people for whom what I say may have some influence to think before they push the "forward" icon. Undoubtedly, I will be unsuccessful in a large number of cases--especially among those who have confused religion with the Constitution. But for those who really do believe in individual liberty, I hope my arguments may cause them to consider what they are supporting when they forward this kind of stuff.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Cartoon "Road to Serfdom"

In 1944, during the war against collectivism that we call WWII, F.A. Hayek published a book in Britian. The book was called The Road to Serfdom. This book was published in the United States later the same year. Hayek was an Austrian School economist working in London at the time. He was concerned about the role of central planning in the inevitable descent of collectivism into barbarism that he had watched happen on Continental Europe. He pointed out that although such economic theory was generally begun by people of good purpose, that the Road to Serfdom is paved with such good intentions. He said:

However much we may differ when we name the culprit . . . we all are, or at least until recently, certain of one thing: that the leading ideas which in the last generation have become common to most people of good will and have determined the major changes in our social life cannot have been wrong. We are ready to accept almost any explanation of the present crisis of our civilization except one: that the present state of the world may be the result of genuine error on our part and that pursuit of our most cherished ideal have apparently produced results utterly different from those which we expected."
(F.A. Hayek (1944). The Abandoned Road. In Bruce Caldwell (Ed.). The Road to Serfdom: Text and Documents (The Definitive Edition). p. 65-66).

I first read The Road to Serfdom in college, but re-read it two years ago, and as I have often found for myself, I appreciated and understood Hayek's reasoning more fully with the passage of time. Part of the reason for this may be that my understanding of the world improved with age, and another part may indeed be that the United States has traveled further along the Road to Serfdom in the 30 years that have passed since I first read the book, and so its meaning and importance have become more immediate.

The book itself is written for the layman, and is not a text in economics. Rather, it explains the importance of economic theory to human action, particularly with respect to the problem of central planning. However, it was written in a style suited to its time, and in this age of bits, bytes, and soundbytes, where our time has become limited, those who are scrambling for a living in increasingly precarious situations may not have the time to read it.

In the early 1950's Look Magazine developed the main theme of each chapter into an illustrated pamphlet. Although the ideas are not fleshed out as carefully as Hayek did in the book, the main progression down the Road to Serfdom is well done. Here, as forshpice to actually reading the book, is a You Tube video of the Look Magazine pamphlet:

It is my hope that if you haven't yet read the book, this will whet your appetite.

CAVEAT: In the book, and even in this pamplet, the defintion of socialism that Hayek used necessarily included central planning. At that time, there was no soft, European-style socialism that had as its central focus the so-called "redistribution" of wealth via taxes and the welfare state. Hayek discusses this in his 1976 Preface to the book, which can be found in the Caldweller Edition cited above. That the work pre-dates this kind of "social democracy" does not mean that this kind of economic system is immune from the consequences of collectivism on human liberty, it only means that this way of limiting human liberty had not been invented yet.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Summer Travels with Flat Ryan

Yesterday, the Engineering Geek and I--and Flat Ryan-- got up at dark o'clock in the morning so that we could be on the road at the crack of dawn. We needed to be north of Capitan, NM by 9 AM for the Western Rally for the Constitution, which was put together very quickly at the behest of people from the Western US who did not want to travel to Guilford Courthouse National Park in Greensboro, NC.

The New Mexico Rally was to have been at the Fort Stanton State Monument, but the state government wanted much paperwork and would only give the go-ahead a few days ahead of the event, so it was held on private land north of Capitan, in the Lincoln National Forest--which is Smokey the Bear Country.

The EG and I, along with several others from NMPA, attended the all-day armed rally in order to represent our organization and to hear speakers that included constitutional sheriffs, former Congressman Steve Pierce, and others discuss Article I Sections 8-9 of the Constitution, and the current government's gross overstepping of bounds, and possible solutions including the Patrick Henry Caucus leader's concept of returning control to the states.

Here are pictures on the way down and at the rally:

We started in the dark, but shortly after sunrise, we were on NM 41 heading from Willard to Corona. Here we are very near the gEOGRAPHIC Center of New Mexico, though we didn't stop at the ranch that holds the marker. Heading east, we can see the northeastern corner of Chupadera mesa to the right, and the Gallinas Mts. to the left.

This is a one of the famous New Mexico roadside tables that marked the lonely state and US highways long before interstate rest areas became fancy. This one was build by the CCC during the depression, and you can see the trademark stone steps in the forground. The way to the bathroom at these roadside tables was a set of steps over the barbed wire fence, leading to the nearest cover.

The old trading post and drugstore in Corona, New Mexico, just inside Lincoln County, at the intersection of New Mexico 41 and US 54.
Located in the beautiful setting, Corona is the gateway to Billy the Kid country, but a sleepy little town miles from nowhere none-the-less.

Looking west toward the Gallinas Mts. that NM 41 brought us across, you'd never know that anything was once here, but . . .

This is the location of the old Greathouse Stage Station and Tavern, where in November 1880, Billy the Kid and two companions were surrounded by a Sheriff's Posse. In an attempt to arrange the famouse outlaw's surrender, Sheriff Deputy James Carlisle was accidently shot and killed. William "Billy the Kid" Bonney escaped unharmed.

At the Rally for the Constitution, Bob Wright, Patriot, exhorts the crowd on the meaning of a constitutional state militia, while a very good country dance band waits to play a number behind.

In the background to the east are the Capitan Mts., although Capitan itself is to the southwest of this location.

The Rally was interesting, and fomer congressman Steve Pierce seems to have become less conservative and more libertarian/ constitutionalist since his defeat last election. He is running again this election, and was the only national level candidate from New Mexico to speak. Our ranch is located in the same district, so we will have to decide whether to vote for him. It's more promising than it was in 2008 when he ran for Heather Wilson's Senate seat.

Most of the speakers didn't say a whole lot new, but a radio guy from Oregon, who was live-streaming the event on the internet, was one of the first people I have heard in the broad patriot movement get up and discuss the real issue in big-picture terms: Collectivism vs. Individualism, he announced, and proceeded to describe what that means for us philosophically and practically.

And although a spattering of rain did send away some of the New Mexicans who had gathered, the rest of us rather enjoyed the cooling effect of the afternoon monsoon rain.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Ayekha? Where Are You?

"Walking hand-in-hand upon the Mountain,
Weighted down by lumber and a knife,
Abraham remembers Sarah's laughter,
And for a moment, he fears for Isaac's life.
But then he shudders with the wind,
And fills his head with faith,
And struggles for a different point of view.
As he reaches deep inside, to find the handle to that flame--
"Abraham!" G-d screams, "Where are you?"
--Rabbi Joe Black, "Ayeka"
from Leave a Little Bit Undone, 1999

Today is the new moon, and as the sun sets, we enter Rosh Chodesh Elul, the beginning of the month preceding the Holy Days, when we stand before the Eternal and listen to the question put to us--Ayekha? Where are you?
As human beings, endowed with reason and with choice, it is our obligation to discover the principles by which our lives can be lived, and to walk in their light. And because we may make errors of knowledge and errors of choice, we are also obligated to ask ourselves: "Where are you?"
As the summer days' heat yields to the cool winds of evening at this time of year, it seems that the season provokes a dream or a thought that makes me pause, to begin to ask this question. This year there was no dream, no vision of fog and cloud, but one of those "pass this on" e-mails that go around the internet from time to time, that gave me pause. And tonight, the question is not only an individual one, but one that many of us in the Liberty Movement might ask ourselves:

After this year or more of petitioning for redress, of watching our federal government pass legislation that violates our liberty on the most basic level; a year or more of being dismissed and sneered at by the media, and ignored and disrespected by our non-representing representatives--where are we? Do we still adhere to the principles that lit the flame of liberty in our hearts, that caused us to carry signs at the tea parties, and write and make phone calls to our representatives? Or have we given way to frustration and anger because we have experienced defeat after defeat after defeat? And are we willing to turn our backs on our founding principles in order to gain the momentary satisfaction of action that rises from our anger and our pain?

In the stages of social movements, now is the place where we find ourselves at the moment of maximum danger; the place where we are tempted to give up on our principles and act out of despair or violence. But just as the night seems all the darker just before the dawn, so we are also at the time just before our Liberty movement experiences a regeneration of purpose; a renewal of hope and determination that can take us though the crisis to come and into the future beyond.

Being here now, is the time to recall our principles and act on them with determination, and to be the watchman for the morning, calling upon those with us to remember them too. And this is the spirit in which I wish to critique that chain e-mail that came to my desktop this morning.
It was sent by a leader in the local patriot movement, and I do not know the origin of it before it came to him. It was a little scenario intended to divide "us" from "them" by characterizing the "them" in the most ridiculous terms. It was also intended to create a bandwagon of very narrow dimensions in that even some of the readers would become the enemy, and one in which the jumpers-on can drink the strong brew of anger and violent ideation made acceptable with a laugh. And though it purported to be a factual story, in my estimation it is very unlikely to be true. Here is the story:

If you don't know God, don't make stupid remarks!!!!!!

A United States Marine was taking some college courses
between assignments. He had completed 20 missions in Iraq
and Afghanistan . One of the courses had a professor who
was an avowed atheist, and a member of the ACLU.
One day the professor shocked the class when he came in.
He looked to the ceiling and flatly stated, "GOD, if you are real, then
I want you to knock me off this platform... I'll give you exactly 15 min."
The lecture room fell silent. You could hear a pin drop. Ten minutes
went by and the professor proclaimed, "Here I am GOD, I'm still waiting."
It got down to the last couple of minutes when the Marine got
out of his chair, went up to the professor, and cold-cocked him;
knocking him off the platform. The professor was out cold.
The Marine went back to his seat and sat there, silently.
The other students were shocked and stunned, and sat there
looking on in silence. The professor eventually came to,
noticeably shaken, looked at the Marine and asked,
"What in the world is the matter with you? Why did you do that?"
The Marine calmly replied,
"God was too busy today protecting America 's
soldiers who are protecting your right to say stupid
stuff and act like an idiot. So He sent me."
The classroom erupted in cheers!

This story is no literary masterpiece, and I could go through it line by line, pointing out the logical fallacies, and the contemptuous assumptions within. However, there is a larger point to be made, and a bigger question to be asked: What does this piece tell us about those patriots who would agree with this action? Where are they? Where are we?
I did e-mail the patriot leader who sent this to me, and asked him if he condoned the action described above. He replied that he did. I wrote a longer e-mail back telling him why I disagree, and why the thing concerned me. I don't know what he will reply--and though I left the door open for rapproachment, I know that any reply could be defensive or even offensive, because my critique targeted some cherished falsehoods held by certain members of the Liberty movement, and further, urged a consideration of the story in the light of our bedrock principles of liberty--Individual Rights and the Non-INITIATION of Force Principle (NIP).

With respect to these principles, this story is one of failing.

The Marine--a member of a uniformed service who has taken an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States--initiated force against a civilian who was exercising his freedom of speech. If this story had been true we would have seen it trumpeted in the media, because the marine would have been arrested, handed over to the CO of his duty station, and made an example of at Captain's Mast. For a military member in uniform to violate the rights of a civilian is not only a dishonor to the uniform, it is a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). When a person becomes a member of the military, he signs away certain of his civil rights for the duration of the time he wears the uniform. This includes his right to freedom of speech, his liberty (he must obey lawful orders), and his right to a civilian jury trial. IMHO, not only would a marine with such an extensive service record be unlikely to be stupid enough to take the action described in the story, but the person with whom this story originated is ignorant of the role and the honor of our men and women in uniform.

But of ultimate concern to me is what this story is intended to teach those who agree with it. It encourages the idea that it is a good thing to violate the rights of another person, to initiate force against him, because you disagree with his ideas. IOW, it encourages the violation of the rights of those who think differently, who have a different political point of view, and who are exercising their freedom of speech and the freedom of religion. This story encourages the sympathetic reader to deny the principle of Individual Rights, and subtly suggests that if you disagree with that, you are not a member of the club.

If one is defend to Constitution of the United States, one must accept and defend the Principle of Individual Rights upon which that document is based. This means that every person is endowed with the right to life, liberty and property, including atheists and members of the ACLU, and all others with whom one might disagree. The Constitution is a compact by which we agree to not only refuse to initiate force against other individuals, but by which we agree to cede the right to retaliate against one who initiates force against us to the courts unless self-defense is immediately required.

Unlike progressives--for whom the end justifies the means--defenders of liberty cannot use the Alinsky tactics of Rules for Radicals. Liberty cannot be gained by the violation of it; we cannot force people to be free. We cannot violate individual rights in order to restore them.
Further, anyone who has read the MIAC report, or studied the methods of the marxists and progressives currently in power know that they need us to violate our principles, to initiate force, and to give them an excuse to take what little of our liberty is left. They may fabricate such an incident (this is a false-flag), but we should not hand it to them. Surely any one of us is free to tell and distribute such a story as this, but given it's obvious appeal to anger and chauvinism, is it wise to do so? How does it encourage those in the liberty movement who have not been educated in the Principles of Liberty to think about our bedrock principles--Individual Rights and the Non-Initiation of Force Principle?
Where are we? What are we encouraging people to think about and do?
These questions are paramount, especially for those who would be leaders in the Cause of Liberty. We cannot afford to encourage disrespect of our principles within our own movement, and at the same time fight that disrespect from without. We must cling to our principles with the utmost integrity, and be just in our evaluation of those with whom we disagree, and even those who have made themselves the opponents of Liberty.

Every time I receive and e-mail that says: "This is good. Keep it going," it is important that I ask myself: Where am I on this? What principles does this e-mail support? Which of my principles does it violate? What kind of behavior does it encourage? Does it encourage justice and honor? What about respect for the rights of others, even those with whom I disagree? Or does it encourage injustice and the use of force?

I submit that we must be absolutely unyielding in upholding these principles of Liberty, and we must stand firm in encouraging those with whom we work to do so as well. This means respect for the individual rights of every person, in every circumstance, no matter how much we disagree with his ideas or the way he expresses them. And we must not suffer fools who encourage the violation of these principles gladly. We cannot associate ourselves with them, or encourage them lest we lose our stand. In this way we will be worthy of the name "Patriot", and we will uphold the heritage of those great men who pledged to each other their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

When Conservatives Fail to Defend Individual Rights

"Man's rights may not be left at the unilateral decision, the arbitrary
choice, the irrationality, the whim of another man."
-- Ayn Rand, "The Nature of Government", in

Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal

There is a certain segment of the US population that wants to have its cake and eat it, too.
No, I am not talking about progressives, and no, I am not talking about economics. I am talking about Conservatives, and I am talking about their ceaseless mission to make us all Christian, even if that means limiting our liberty.

I have not been paying much attention to politics lately--just a bit of my time here or there--because we are closing on the ranch we are investing in, and that is of greater value to me than fruitless arguing over which criminals ought to replace the current criminals in Washington City.

However, I am not so tied up with contracts, settlement statements, and amendments that I failed to notice that a California Federal Appeals Court struck down Proposition 8--a California referendum that banned civil marriage for gay and lesbian couples.

Though I had ignored this decision on Facebook and in blogs, it was discussed briefly at the Bernalillo County Libertarian Party social hour the other night, and I saw news items about it as well. Today though, I received two different links on my Facebook Wall, both of which surprised me in their absolute religious certainty and fundamental ignorance of the concept of rights. One, by the fiery Danny Gonzales is so typically over the top, that it practically begged a response. I did not give him one, because it would have been "pearls before swine", to quote the wrong testament.

Much of the commentary by the defense of marriage people focuses on the fact that the California Proposition 8 was approved by a majority of voters.

Yes, a majority of Californians did vote to deprive a certain class of people of their unalienable right to contract. And so what? The operative word here is "vote". A right is not granted by any state, constitution or court. It cannot be voted into place or voted away. A right is inherent in the nature of the individual, and must therefore apply to any individual in any situation. If only certain individuals can exercise a particular action freely, that action becomes a privilege--it is no longer being treated as a right. The American philosophy on rights, derived from the English Enlightenment, was clearly stated by Jefferson at the inception of the United States, the only nation in the world that was established on the foundation of the natural rights of man. In the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson wrote:

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.

Although the United States Constitution does not mention these rights in its body, it was written to create a government that was limited in scope to the protection of them, and the anti-Federalists also insisted upon adding the Bill of Rights, the first ten Amendments, in order to make sure that the federal government did not overstep its bounds and begin to violate the life, liberty and property of individual Americans.

For this reason, the federal government cannot establish any law, procedure or regulation that deprives any individual of his rights for any reason. Like all states that entered the Union after the ratification of the Constitution and as a condition of entry, California had to agree to uphold the Bill of Rights for its citizens, and in fact the California State Constitution has a rather elaborate Declaration of Rights, which is Article I of its Constitution, in which the state promises to uphold the equal protection clause from the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution. Therefore, no state can establish a law that violates the rights of any individual citizen.

In all states of the Union, the rights of every person must be upheld, and are unalienable. That is they cannot be violated by a majority, and neither can any individual willingly give up those rights. And the Bill of Rights, in Amendments 9 & 10, makes it clear that the rights of the individual are unenummerated, whereas the duties of the government are limited.

These are the reasons that the judgment rendered by the US Court of Appeals with respect to the California Proposition 8 is correct. Californians cannot vote away the rights of any individual to life, liberty and property (which includes the right to contract) as a matter of civil law.

The conservatives will and do argue that gays contracting a marriage is a violation of their religious law. That may very well be, but certain Californians may not impose their religious law upon others, any more than any other American may do so. The Bill of Rights is quite clear that government "shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Californians whose religions forbid gay marriages are certainly within their rights to morally condemn it, and their churches cannot be forced to conduct such marriage ceremonies, but neither can they interfere with the contractual rights of others who disagree and wish to establish such a relationship civilly or within another church.

For a state to forbid a certain individuals as a class to a contract that is sanctioned for others is discrimination, and establishes that contract as a privilege for some, and violates the liberty of everyone else. It cannot stand. There are two solutions: that the state sanctions that contract for all, or that the state does not sanction the contract for anyone.

Historically, the interference of the state into marriage began following the emancipation of slaves, and the requirement that couples seek the permission of the state to contract a marriage was established in order to prevent interracial marriages. Prior to that, marriage was the province of religion, and especially in the south, many poor people established common-law marriages without benefit of clergy. Although there were social costs to this kind of arrangement, there were no tax costs or benefits applied to marriage.

Free people should not accept the requirement to ask permission of the state to marry, any more than we should expect the state to interfere in any portion of our lives. Liberty means the ability to live our own lives and pursue our own happiness without interference from anybody, so long as we do not violate the life, liberty or property rights of another person.

As I said above, there are two possible solutions to this problem: that the state treat all contracts of marriage or partnership equally, or that the state stays out of marriage entirely. In order to protect everyone's liberty, I believe that the second proposition is far better. Hand marriage over to the religious congregations or to secular marriage establishments, each of which could establish it's own rules as to who may or may not marry together in that particular establishment. Some religions and/or secular establishments would require membership for a marriage to take place under its auspices, some would not. Some would refuse to marry people based on lifestyle, and others based on sexual orientation. Some would require pre-marital counseling, and others would require compatibility tests. All such establishments would be free to make their own rules; and all individuals who did not like their rules would be free to find or create an establishment that would accept them. Everyone would have an equal right to contract in the eyes of the law.

Conservatives who claim to support liberty, but at the same time insist on depriving others of their liberty for religious reasons are either confused about what liberty is, or they believe that they can have liberty while depriving others of its blessings. In religious terms, holiness cannot be achieved by force; an individual must choose it or it is meaningless.

It is time to recognize that the United States is not a Christian nation, that there is a difference between the fact that Christianity is the religion of a majority of Americans, and the establishment of the religion Christianity as the state-approved religion that is incumbent on all citizens to follow. The United States has no established religion and all Americans are free to practice their own religion, or none at all, without government sanction or preferment. But free exercise of one's religion can in no way be interpeted as using force against another person. One does not exercise a right by violating it.

Therefore, I believe the latest ruling from California is a good one. Not because it is popular. Not because a majority of people want it to be that way. But because it upholds the right of every individual to equal justice under the law.

In speaking of conservatives, Ayn Rand said this:

". . .if one wishes to gauge the relationship of freedom to the goals of today’s intellectuals, one may gauge it by the fact that the concept of individual rights is evaded, distorted, perverted and seldom discussed, most conspicuously seldom by the so-called “conservatives." --Ayn Rand, "Man's Rights", in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.

Conservatives want to have their liberty and eat it, too. They tend to promote their own right to economic freedom but wish to deprive others of personal liberty even in such intimate parts of their lives as whom they love and wish to marry. This is hypocrisy of the tallest order. It is neither holy nor good. Everyone must be free to choose or no one is, and in such a state of slavery, no one's actions can be moral.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Ayn Rand Refuses a Sanction: Truth, Tolerance and the Level of Discourse

The manner in which discourse is conducted in the media and in public speeches and statements made by politicians today is beyond apalling. The insinuations, excuses, lack of respect for the listeners--or in the case of interviews--the person being interviewed, has become the norm rather than the exception, and is expected and even approved of by members of the media, the intellectuals, political hacks, politicians and even some members of the general public. I have discussed this before, even back to the beginning of this blog, and I have wondered about how we had come to this pass, and what values we have learned and taught that would have allowed such a deterioration of discourse, turning it into a kind of anti-discourse in which ideas are never exchanged.

Today, I as I was catching up on my blogging reading list, I came upon a post that featured a segment of Milton Friedman on Phil Donahue in 1979. I had forgotten what a sharp man he was, and how he used humor to his advantage. So I watched the whole show--which can be found in 5 segments starting here. From there I found the whole of a Phil Donahue show that featured Ayn Rand in the same year. Oddly, though I had seen the Milton Friedman episode when it was broadcast, I had missed the Ayn Rand episode of Donahue. My boyfriend at the time told me about it, knowing how much I admired her. I remembered what he said, and it pertains to my topic as well shall see.

Miss Rand had much to say in this interview, and as I watched, I was struck by two things. The first was how much time Phil Donahue spent actually listening to the answers to questions he posed, and how, in his discussion, he endeavored to be fair to the guest, even when it was clear that he disagreed with the ideas presented. This used to be the norm, and now I never experience it--not even with respect to some talk radio hosts that I believe have a point. The other was the very serious way Miss Rand listened to Donahue, often hearing and repeating verbatum his words in order to illustrate her own ideas as well as his. This was a hallmark of Miss Rand's interactions. She was serious about ideas, and would underscore a questioner's words in such a way that he--and everyone else listening--had to realize what he had actually said and what it meant. Often, she would look at the speaker with a shrug, a smile and an intense look that said that she had heard what the speaker was actually saying, but did the speaker hear it?

On this level alone, the episode was refreshing--a blast from a kinder, more focused past, but at the end of the third segment something occurred that got me thinking once again about the nature of discourse, and I got it, finally; the "it" being the value that has been lost in order to allow the ugly sniping that has replaced discourse in the present.

What happened is that a young woman got up to ask a question. But rather than simply ask a question, she added a preamble in which she said:

Questioner: Fifteen years ago I was impressed with your books and I sort of felt that your philosophy was proper. Today, however, I am more educated and I find that if a company . . ."
Rand: This is what I don't answer--
Donahue: Well, wait a minute, you haven't heard the question yet.
(Audience chatter, laughter)
Rand: She's already estimated her position, in my work, incidently displaying the quality of her brain. If today she says she is more educated--
Questioner (interrupting): No, no, no! I am more educated now than I was 15 years ago when I was in high school, before I went to college--
Rand (talking over Questioner): --then, uh, I'm not interested in your biography (unintelligible) wrong context.
Questioner (over Rand):--and read the newspapers.
Donahue: Let her make her point! Let her make her point!
(Audience murmers, talking).
Rand: (gestures and bows, gives floor to Questioner)
Questioner: It's very basic. When a company is allowed to do what it wants to do like ITT, you wind up with Nazi Germany and ITT doing whatever it well please, and any other company in the United States doing the same damn thing! Conglomerates are not monopolies--they can do whatever they want. ITT owns everything from baking companies to telephone companies to munition plants. I mean, I really think that's wrong! And I really think--
Donahue (getting between Rand and Questioner): Miss Rand thinks it's wrong, too. But she thinks it's not a government force that's going to correct the problem.
Questioner: I don't think government force is going to correct the problem either, but she's not--
Donahue: But she says that if we just back away and let the invisible hand to work, and let competition and free enterprise happen according to it's own inclinations--
Questioner: I understand that--
Donahue: We're not going to have abuse--and abuse and evil will fall of its own weight.
Questioner: I don't believe that.

The above can be seen here, starting at 9:53. Watch Rand's expressions and body language closely.

The encounter continues at the beginning of segment 4:

Questioner: I can't believe that because money is power--
(Audience applause, whistles, clapping)
Questioner: --the more power you have.
Donahue: Can we encourage you to make a contribution to this expression.
Rand: I will not answer anyone who is impolite. But, to show you --
(Audience expresses disapproval)
Donahue: She wasn't impolite--
Rand: I do not sanction impoliteness and I am not the victim of hippies. But--
Donahue: Hippies?
(Audience laughing, talking).
Rand:--that's where it started. That the--in the dropping of politeness and the manners.
Donahue: You're equating someone who disagrees with you with impoliteness. That's not fair.
Rand: No, no. If you didn't--
(Audience laughter, calls and applause)
Rand: If you didn't interrupt me, I would have demonstrated what I mean. I will assure you that I am not evading the question. If anyone else wants to ask the same question politely, I'll be delighted to answer.
Donahue: There was nothing impolite! . . . This is the kind of woman we are trying to attract to our television audience.
Rand: Fine. Teach her some manners--I--
Donahue: But Miss Rand--
Rand: I will now repeat what she said: "I used to agree with you, but now that I'm more educated. . ." What does that mean.
Donahue: Well that means that she now has a different view. There's nothing personal about that observation. Don't be so sensitive!"
Rand: I am going to be. I intend to be!
Rand (after answering another question): --But I want to answer the preceding question. Doesn't anybody want to ask it politely?
Donahue: Uh, well yes.. Ah, sure... ah--your question. . . your question wants this audience to agree with your assessment of the questioner, and I don't think they will. That's the problem.
(Audience applause)
Rand: All of them? Uh--then why do they want to listen to me at all?
Donahue: Alright, does anybody want to. . .? Alright . . . over here. Could you please stand?
Commentor: I' suprised that somebody with the intelligence of Miss Rand could so emotional in her approach.
(Audience applause).
Rand (pointing): I can answer you. I didn't come here to be judged. I came here to answer questions. A question asked in the following form: "I used to agree with you but now that I'm more educated, I don't." It is an insult--
Donahue: All right--
Rand:--which I cannot sanction.
Donahue: All right.
Rand: I am not interested in the woman's history. She didn't have to begin it that way--
Donahue: All right.
Rand:--and that's what I want to register my protest--
Donahue: How do we keep ITT from developing too much . . .
(Here Donahue goes on to ask, and Rand answers the question)

Here is the next half, on segment four--from the beginning to about 4:05.

Here is Ayn Rand's point: that the woman was impolite and that she (Rand) would not therefore sanction the question. That is, Rand refused to ignore the context in which the question was asked, and the assumption that the woman was making, in order to ask the question.

Donahue here misunderstands Rand's intent, and interprets it to mean that Rand will not answer because she disagrees with the Questioner.

What I noticed is that, despite what has been said about Rand by those who hate her, she is completely genuine in her verbal and facial expressions. She lets anyone watching know that she is being direct, but that she is not angry. She is refusing to answer this woman on principle. Twice, this woman begins her statements by talking down to Rand, a context that Rand then refuses to ignore. The first time the woman speaks, she implies that uneducated, naive people are the only ones who would consider Rand's ideas proper. The second time, she says: "It's very basic . . ." Both of these statements essentially talk down to Rand and her ideas. Despite what Donahue says, they are personal, and change the tone of the conversation. If Rand had ignored the insult and answered the question, she would have given her sanction to the lack of good manners--and good rhetorical skills--of her questioner. Rand would not do that. Had she had the desire, Rand would have made an excellent teacher for young people. She would not have let them get away with such attempts at one-upmanship, however unconscious or subtle, and the kids would have respected her for it.

To understand what Rand was doing in the above interview, I believe that one must understand that Ayn Rand was far more concerned with truth than she was with tolerance. That she was not prepared to allow a lie or an evasion (and this was more likely the latter on the part of the Questioner) for the sake of being nice, or appearing to turn the other cheek. Ayn Rand believed that sacrifice--the act of ignoring or destroying something or someone of greater value to oneself for the sake of a lesser value--is evil. She was a very consistent practitioner of justice, which is the opposite of such sacrifice. Ayn Rand was also consistent in that she would not suffer fools gladly. She understood that tolerance of the bad is destruction of the good; that tolerance of foolishness means ignorance of wisdom; that tolerance of evasion is the destruction of truth. It was her contention that sanctioning a non-value drives out value, and that this is what is evil about such tolerance. Ayn Rand was definitely not PC.

And this brings me to the issue of how reasonable discourse has been driven out in favor of empty rhetoric, lies and insults. As I watched these YouTube segments, I saw that the value that underlies political correctness is unlimited tolerance. People have many rationales for tolerating being lied to and being continuously insulted by those who wish to replace argument with empty words. One that the collectivists have much exploited, is the desire people have to appear to be tolerant. The leftists use this through continual accusations of racism and other calumny applied to anyone who is not tolerant of the course state of discourse today. And the reluctance people have to being labeled as intolerant--whether it is true or not--makes such labeling an easy way to control people who desire the good opinion of others, no matter who they are and what they believe. You may have noticed that Rand does not care about the good opinion of others unless she respects them.

Tolerance has been treated as a primary virtue: that is a virtue that must be practiced without limits. And among people of good will, a certain amount of tolerance for differences in beliefs and practices is necessary, as well as is tolerance for differences in taste and preferences. It is also important to have some tolerance for the errors of knowlege that people of good will can make, so that we can get along with one another. But tolerance cannot be a primary virtue.

In engineering, tolerance is defined as: "the leeway for deviation from a standard"; and more precisely as "the permissible deviation from a specified value of a structural dimension." These definitions imply that there are limits to tolerance, and indeed an engineer is very careful to calculate the limits to a deviation, because beyond those limits a structure could not stand.

And so it is within the values that we place on behavior and interactions among human beings. To tolerate benign errors of knowlege, differences in beliefs and practices that do not affect the rights of another is within the limits. But should we tolerate destruction of property? The enslavement of women? Murder? Genocide? Is it virtuous to tolerate the culture and beliefs of those who wish to destroy our life, liberty and property? Many of us would respond viscerally with a resounding "NO!"

And yet, what is it we do when we believe that it is proper to treat with murderers and psychopathic and genocidal leaders such as the president of Iran? When we allow such a man to speak to our Congress and to students in our unversities? When we applaud him because it is "nice" to do so? It is wrong to do so because tolerance of evil does mean the destruction of the good. We cannot have it both ways. By tolerating evil, we destroy the good. This is the opposite of justice, no matter how often the leftists speak of justice in social terms.

So it is with the issue of discourse. By giving our sanction to liars, tyrants and murderers, we participate in the decline of polite and reasoned discourse and the discussion of ideas over personalities. This may not seem like a huge concession when compared to murder and genocide. But discourse strikes at the heart of all political interactions, and by driving out truth and justice tbrough tolerance of lies and deceit, we are helping to build the on-ramp to the destruction of our Constitution and our liberty.

Many of us, present company included, have often given our sanction to to the undeserving because we wanted to appear to be tolerant, to be considered "nice". And we have to stop it right now. Being nice is not the equivalent of being good. Tolerance is not a primary virtue, and it is meaningless without limits. What should our children say to us if we allow their freedom and liberty to be destroyed because we wished to appear to be tolerant and nice?

G-d forbid that I should ever need to have that conversation with my kids.

Ayn Rand understood this, and that is why she refused to sanction the woman's question. For the late '60's and '70's saw the resurgence of the loss of justice, the loss of truth in argument, and the beginning of unlimited tolerance practiced out of fear of the bad opinions of others and a desire to appear "nice."

Ayn Rand understood what was happening--did you catch her comment about hippies?--and that is why she stood her ground, firmly. By refusing to tolerate the young woman's question, and persistently pursuing the issue, she taught that audience--and all of us--that tolerance is no substitute for truth and justice.

Justice cannot survive when we bow down to unlimited tolerance.

Watching this episode has brought me an understanding of how we have come to a place where we are afraid to assert the goodness of our values, and why we tolerate behavior that seeks to destroy them. It has made me reflect on my premises and reject those that have brought me to self-censorship for the sake of not offending the indefensible. I have learned something about what to listen for, and how to respond. Certainly, I am not Ayn Rand. My expression of the same ideas will be different, but the goal will be the same: To practice the refusal to sanction an unreasonable assertion by providing a reasonable response and to call attention to the context of such a substitute for discourse, and to the purpose behind the speaker's strategy, which is usually to shift the ground of the conversation away from reason. (In the case of the Questioner above, I believe it was unconscious. Rand reminds me of some of the older European Jewish women I know, who practice both the straighforwardness and manners of a different time). This will require a more conscious attention to not only what is being said, but to the context in which it is presented.

Thank you, Ayn Rand.