Monday, May 29, 2017

That Pesky Enlightenment

It continues to cause problems.  Let’s consider one of the bedrock principles from the Enlightenment: “equality.”  Pay attention to the evolution of the term.

From John Locke:

A state also of equality, wherein all the power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than another; there being nothing more evident, than that creatures of the same species and rank, promiscuously born to all the same advantages of nature, and the use of the same faculties, should also be equal one amongst another without subordination or subjection, unless the lord and master of them all should, by any manifest declaration of his will, set one above another, and confer on him, by an evident and clear appointment, an undoubted right to dominion and sovereignty.

According to Locke, all men are equal unless the lord makes manifest otherwise.

Man being born, as has been proved, with a title to perfect freedom, and an uncontrolled enjoyment of all the rights and privileges of the law of nature, equally with any other man, or number of men in the world, hath by nature a power, not only to preserve his property, that is, his life, liberty and estate, against the injuries and attempts of other men

Man has a right to preserve his life, liberty, and property.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…

According to Jefferson, all men are created equal no matter what the lord says.

…they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

What happened to preserving his property, his estate?

There can be no equality or opportunity, the first essential of justice in the body politic, if men and women and children be not shielded in their lives, their very vitality, from the consequences of great industrial and social processes which they can not alter, control, or singly cope with.

Men, women, and children must be shielded if they are to be equal.

For too many of us the political equality we once had won was meaningless in the face of economic inequality.

Economic equality is a precondition for political equality.

The true conservative seeks to protect the system of private property and free enterprise by correcting such injustices and inequalities as arise from it.

Locke is dead.  Justice requires eliminating the inequalities due to private property.

That will go on, and those rights will expand until the standard first forged by the Nation's founders has been reached, and all Americans enjoy equal opportunity and liberty under law.

All men must have equal opportunity.

It ought to be possible for American consumers of any color to receive equal service in places of public accommodation, such as hotels and restaurants and theaters and retail stores

And also equal service, the equal rights of the private property owner be damned.

The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities, whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated.

Equality = the golden rule.

Only an America which practices what it preaches about equal rights and social justice

Equality = social justice.

How about Lyndon Johnson?

We believe that all men are created equal. Yet many are denied equal treatment.

Equal treatment?

…those who are equal before God shall now also be equal in the polling booths, in the classrooms, in the factories, and in hotels, restaurants, movie theaters, and other places that provide service to the public.

Everyone is equal except the property owner.

We seek not just freedom but opportunity—not just legal equity but human ability—not just equality as a right and a theory, but equality as a fact and as a result.

Equality must be the result.

I find 128 uses of some version of “equal” for Barack Obama; just a few highlights, with no commentary:

A woman who is denied an education is denied equality.

…equal pay for equal work…

…if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.


Every generation expands its definition of equality.

Yes, so it seems.

Previous generations fought for the vote and civil rights. They had the New Deal and Great Society. Now it’s our time to define a new social contract for our generation.

We should explore ideas like universal basic income to give everyone a cushion to try new things.

Equality = cushion.

Clearly, Zuckerberg is considering a run for president.  He will fit in perfectly.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

America Invaded; Government Impotent in Response

Fantastic, I know.  Perhaps you are thinking, “what – is this a post about the War of 1812?”  After all, that might be the last (if not only) time that one would consider the statement in the title to be true. 

It has long helped that the United States was protected from invasion by two vast oceans.  It also helps that the United States spends more on military, intelligence, security than much of the rest of the world combined.  It also helps that the population is well armed.

To the extent one considers Pearl Harbor or 911 an invasion, the response to each was most certainly not “impotent.” 

So, who could ever invade, and if they did so why on earth would the United States be impotent in its response?

WASHINGTON — Supporters of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, including his government security forces and several armed individuals, violently charged a group of protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence here on Tuesday night in what the police characterized as “a brutal attack.”

Eleven people were injured, including a police officer, and nine were taken to a hospital, the Metropolitan Police chief, Peter Newsham, said at a news conference on Wednesday. Two Secret Service agents were also assaulted in the melee, according to a federal law enforcement official.

And the initial response?

The State Department condemned the attack as an assault on free speech and warned Turkey that the action would not be tolerated. “We are communicating our concern to the Turkish government in the strongest possible terms,” said Heather Nauert, a State Department spokeswoman.

No arrests.

Agents of a foreign government, on American soil, attacked and beat Americans.  An invasion; an impotent response.

Maybe the protestors instigated the aggression; Erdogan’s security detail was merely acting in defense?

Hardly.  The New York Times (yes, I know) has done an extensive examination of the many videos that were taken at the time of the attack.  Here is what they found:

The men kicked people lying on the ground and put a woman in a chokehold just a mile from the White House. They outnumbered the protesters nearly two to one.

Ten of the men who attacked protesters appear to be part of a formal security detail. Two of these men charged protesters and appeared to start the main part of the fight.  At one point, as many as four of the men were attacking the same protester.

Six men who attacked protesters wore outfits resembling a summer uniform worn by Turkish guards…One man knocked two women to the ground, and another man repeatedly punched Lucy Usoyan, a protester, as she lay on the ground.

Some of the attackers identified themselves as supporters of Turkey’s president…Two of these men, Alpkenan Dereci and Sinan Narin, were involved at the very beginning, when they pushed and punched protesters they met in the street.

But why call this an invasion?  Did the Turkish government have anything to do with this?

Turkey’s president, Mr. Erdogan, watched the brawl from a black Mercedes-Benz sedan parked nearby, at the Turkish ambassador’s residence. His role in the clash, if any, is unclear. But video of his entourage shows that at least one member of the security detail positioned next to him rushed into the fight and started kicking and punching protesters.

While sitting in the car, Mr. Erdogan conferred with Muhsin Kose, his head of security, who leaned into the car’s rear door. After speaking with Mr. Erdogan, Mr. Kose talked into his earpiece, and three security personnel who were guarding the president’s car hurried toward the protest.

The brawl began moments later, and one of these men, a heavy-set bald man, appeared on video punching and kicking people.

Mr. Kose talked to Mr. Erdogan throughout the brawl.

It is worth going to the article; the video examination is very thorough and telling.


Almost two weeks later and still no arrests, no sanctions, no statement from Trump, nothing.

The United States can identify the guilty for terrorist events 6000 miles from shore within 30 minutes; the United States can find a way to retaliate for such “crimes” within a few days thereafter.

Within minutes, the US government can place economic and financial sanctions on Russia, Iran, Syria, etc.  None of which have invaded the United States.

But an invasion by a foreign government on US soil?  Nothing. 


Make America Great Again?  Pass the Viagra.

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Most Libertarian President of My Lifetime

Who?  Which one?  Is bionic 225 years old?

Let’s dispatch with the last question.  Average male life expectancy is something around 80 years; feel free to assume I am average.  So, let’s consider all presidents since Franklin Roosevelt as eligible candidates.

Ivan Eland has written a book, Recarving Rushmore.  He examines all presidents up to and including George W. Bush and ranks them according to peace, prosperity and liberty – good things to consider.  Eland places John Tyler and Grover Cleveland at the top of his list; mainstream sources cited by Eland offer George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Roosevelt.  Where Woodrow Wilson is last on Eland’s list, the mainstream sources have him in the top eleven. 

“Wait a Minute!  What are you doing, bionic?  No president can be labeled ‘libertarian’!  Stay out of politics; you only encourage the crooks.”  I am most sympathetic to this view; sadly, politics doesn’t return the courtesy.  In any case, the title of this post precludes me from stopping here.  And “most” implies relative to others.

Of those in office during my “average” lifetime, Eland offers Jimmy Carter and Dwight Eisenhower at the top of the list; at the bottom: Harry Truman and George W. Bush.  As a reminder: Eland did not consider Obama (too recent at the time the book was written; now in updated edition) or (obviously) Trump.

I will offer my candidate for this honor.  I will base my choice on the value of the president toward achieving libertarian objectives.  I guess I should first explain what I mean by “libertarian objectives” – as my libertarian objectives might be different than your libertarian objectives.

My Libertarian Objectives

If you are looking for an analysis based on a president’s actions that pro-actively improved liberty, you won’t find it here; this isn’t my objective.  Eland did a thorough job of such an analysis and came up with Jimmy Carter; I find no reason to repeat his work.

My libertarian objective: to see fundamental change in the relationship between the government and the individual; this means meaningful change toward liberty and freedom, changes that are sustainable. 

In the real world, this will be manifest in political decentralization: political power returned to lower, local levels; the disbanding of supra-national government functions; a multi-polar world.

Before getting to the most libertarian president in my lifetime – the one best able to deliver progress toward my objective – let’s explore some of the paths chosen by others:

Change Through Engagement in Politics

There are many libertarians who believe this is the proper method.  Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent in this.  The beltway offers an environment for think tanks to offer libertarian (or, more specifically, make-government-more-efficient) policy prescriptions. 

There is even a political party named “Libertarian.”  Whereas at one time the party was focused on education, it has long ago transformed to standard party politics: an objective of raising money and winning votes – focused on change through engagement in politics.

Elect the right president!  That’s the plan.  Consider: had Ron Paul won in 2008 or 2012, what successes toward liberty would he have had given congress and the media?  Little to none, as Paul himself offered.  You see what they are doing to Trump; magnify that ten-fold for Ron Paul.

Beyond educating the public, nothing about this approach is of value to me.  Has the government been reduced as a result of these efforts?  Fewer regulations?  Fewer wars and military interventions?  Less active central banking?  The answers to these questions are sufficient, I believe, to explain why this method holds no value to me.

Change Through Inaction

A libertarian could offer that the president who does the least bad is the most libertarian.  With this in mind, I suspect William Henry Harrison, who survived all of 31 days in office, would easily be the winner.  For a similar reason, Jimmy Carter could make the cut (as he did on Eland’s list) – no major military actions, plenty of deregulation.

It is a good consideration, but it isn’t mine.  After all, “inaction” is only, at best, a temporary respite.  There is nothing long-lasting about inaction in office.  No fundamental change occurs.  Although I guess I shouldn’t completely discount Carter.  Where he deregulated, my liberty has increased.

Discredit the Office

Nothing that any president can do will be more beneficial toward achieving liberty than this – keep in mind, even a Ron Paul cannot accomplish much given the weight of the system against him.  The more division, divisiveness, anger, frustration, etc., the better; the bigger the laughingstock, the better.  I could write a few thousand more words about why, but I think it is better said by Etienne de la Boétie: people (foreign and domestic) will withdraw their consent. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

And the Dying Cheer

“The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.”
-        Edward Grey, Secretary for Foreign Affairs, on the eve of the Great War


Genesis 2: 9 The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

Genesis 3: Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

You know the story: they ate the fruit, their eyes were opened, God banished them from the Garden, and man has been cursed to toil and eternal damnation ever since.

Of course, I am not insisting that you believe the story. 

The Middle Ages

For us law needs only one attribute in order to give it validity; it must, directly or indirectly, be sanctioned by the State.  But in the Middle Ages, different attributes altogether were essential; mediaeval law must be “old” law and must be “good” law….If law were not old and good law, it was not law at all, even though it were formally enacted by the State.

Law was in fact custom.  Immemorial usage, testified to by the eldest and most credible people; the leges partum….

Where we moderns have erected three separate alters, to Law, to Politics, and to Conscience, and have sacrificed to each of them as sovereign godheads, for the mediaeval mind the goddess of Justice is enthroned, with only God and Faith above her, and no one beside her.

Another who has written of this time is Jacques Barzun, a phenomenal scholar of European history and culture.  His book, “From Dawn to Decadence,” is a must read for anyone interested in European history of the last 500 years.  Barzun offers, regarding the law of the Middle Ages and the Middle Ages generally:

The truth is that during the 1,000 years before 1500 a new civilization grew from beginnings that were uncommonly difficult….showing the world two renaissances before the one that has monopolized the name.

…the Germanic invaders brought a type of custom law that some later thinkers have credited with the idea of individual freedom.…no rule was held valid if not approved by those it affected.

Anglo-Saxon law…defined crime literally as breaking the peace.

Such was a nation of laws, not men; every noble vested with veto power; the king below the law, whose duty was limited to enforcing the law – not creating the law; law based on oath – sacred oath between the parties and including God.

All in a cultural milieu that fully incorporated the Church; kingly authority tempered by the competing governance structure that the Church offered. 

Returning to Kern:

For us, the actually valid or positive law is not immoral but amoral; its origin is not in conscience, God, nature, ideals, ideas, equity or the like, but simply in the will of the State, and its sanction is the coercive power of the State.  On the other hand, the State for us is something holier than for mediaeval people….

Such is our lot: legislation and regulation by men wiser than us and wiser than God.  I know many readers don’t like the “God” part of this; just stick to customary law as it was known in the Middle Ages: the old and good law, with crime defined as breaking the peace.  I can live with this if you can.

Law must come from somewhere.  Which of these two models is more predictable, less arbitrary, more libertarian?  To ask the question is to answer it; yet, many libertarians (and most everyone else) avoid (or even fight against the logical answer to) this question.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Enemies List

The only U.S. president to make Saudi Arabia his first foreign visit…

Trump signed a mega-deal with Saudi Arabia:

Running parallel to Trump's summit with Saudi King Salman on Saturday is a business forum that will include senior executives from about 45 U.S. companies. Defense contractors Lockheed Martin (LMT) and Raytheon (RTN) are due to attend. Also on the list: Boeing (BA), ExxonMobil (XOM), Dow Chemical (DOW), GE (GEK), Citigroup (C), Morgan Stanley (MS), oil services firms and investment groups.

Lockheed Martin President Marillyn Hewson praised the deal.  "At Lockheed Martin, we are proud to be part of this historic announcement that will strengthen the relationship between the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia," Hewson said in a statement.

Saudi Arabia's state oil giant Saudi Aramco signed $50 billion of deals with 11 U.S. oil companies, including Haliburton, Jacob's, Schlumberger, Emerson, Honeywell and McDermott International.

And to disabuse you of the notion that this is about jobs in the USA:

In the deal, Saudi Arabia agrees to buy military equipment from the United States and to hire American companies to build them in Saudi Arabia…

Enough of the enemies; let’s turn to the warmer side of the visit.  The family:

Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner called the president of Lockheed Martin, a major supplier of U.S. military equipment, for a lower price for the radar system as part of the deal…

Spirits were high, with Kushner greeting national security adviser H.R. McMaster with a high-five…

And what is a presidential visit without a little humor thrown in?

On Sunday, Melania Trump will make some cultural visits, while Ivanka Trump plans to hold a roundtable session on “women’s economic empowerment.”

In Saudi Arabia!  Get the joke?

You are known by the company you keep:

During a ceremony, Salman placed the King Abdulaziz al Saud Collar -- Saudi Arabia's highest civilian honor -- around Trump's neck.  The gold medallion previously had been bestowed on Russian President Vladimir Putin, British Prime Minister Theresa May and Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama.

They say every president soon has you longing for the return of the last president:

What emerged as a veritable love fest between the two governments was a marked contrast to years of growing estrangement under President Barack Obama.

Obama, who sold about $115 billion in U.S. weapons to Saudi Arabia during his eight years as president, had slowed military cooperation with the kingdom in large part because of what it considered Saudi Arabia’s indiscriminate bombing of civilians in Yemen.

Ahhhh.  The good old days.  “Growing estrangement” would be a good policy in this case.

Can we send a few hundred thousand snowflakes to the kingdom?

American country star Toby Keith performed at a men’s-only concert in Riyadh on Saturday night, coinciding with Trump’s visit.

And I bet they were all white men.  Well, very, very light brown.

And now we know what Trump meant by “drain the swamp”:

The minister went on to borrow one of Trump’s favorite campaign slogans, saying that a new relationship between the United States and the Arab world could “drain the swamps from which extremism and terrorism emanates.”

Does this mean Saudi Arabia and the CIA will be flushed down the toilet?  I doubt it.

Not when there are hundreds of billions of dollars of huuuuge deals at stake.  In this case, silence is golden…literally:

…there was public silence from the U.S. delegation on the issue of human rights in Saudi Arabia…


Tillerson said the two nations have "like-minded" goals in the security and economic spheres.

“Like-minded”?  Yes; criminals, one and all.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Make America Hate Again

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

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

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

And America’s response?

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

I am honored to be received by such gracious hosts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not in Saudi Arabia.

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

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

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

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

This is a battle between Good and Evil.

Trump makes clear which side he is on.


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

And now this.

Remember my 1%?  Down to 0.1%.