Category Archives: Libertarian

Gun Violence in America? Down or Up?

The Advocates on Facebook

Since 1993, the United States has seen a drop in the rate of homicides and other violence involving guns, according to two new studies released Tuesday. Using government data, analysts saw a steep drop for violence in the 1990s, they saw more modest drops in crime rates since 2000. – NPR May 7, 2013 The Two-Way

This 2013 NPR article was part of some sponsored content on Facebook, content from the Advocates, a group I supported once upon a time. I just want to state this up front, so that the following sentiments expressed by me directly to the Advocates can be understood.

Here’s where I would start. We have to create a level playing field. We will have to lift the ban on the CDC studying weapons and their impact on US society. We have to lift the ban on gun manufacturers being sued for the harm that their products do. We will have to make sure that there are no loopholes for background checks. Make sure that any weapon that changes hands without a background check or is an illegal sale, which would be prosecutable. Initiate registration for all gun sales after this point, who bought them, etc. We need to initiate requirements for training as we do for driving a car, before someone can own a firearm.

Having done all that we then wait for the real stats to surface.  Real stats, because, without those changes we don’t know the stats on gun violence and its full effects on society. We can do all that or we could just start treating all semi-automatics like we do full automatic weapons. Reinstate the draft so that every able-bodied person in the US can be assessed for weapons proficiency before we let them loose on society to raise havoc with rapid-fire weaponry available on every street corner.  Pick one of those options, because it has to be one of them if we are to move away from the place we are in now.

Content from a Facebook post, slightly expanded.


I purposefully didn’t include a conclusion to this article because, as this podcast illustrates, we really don’t know the facts around gun violence yet. Yet.

INQUIRING MINDS, March 20, 2018, 214 John Donohue – What We Really Know About Gun Violence

If the changes I outlined above are made, we might be able to get a handle on the real facts about the nature of gun violence in this country. 

Caveat Emptor, Again

I’d accuse Jim of stealing my title, but I stole it from someone else.

Stonekettle Station on Facebook

You must hold this administration, every administration, accountable. Every Congressman. Every Senator. Every general. Every CEO who takes taxpayer money. Every political party. Every media outlet. Every journalist. Ask the questions and demand the answers. Never stop. Show up for every election, no matter how minor. Educate yourself on the candidates and the issues before the election. – StonekettleStation, Caveat Emptor

Jim Wright at Stonekettle Station was referencing the subject of the Orange Hate-Monkey‘s (OHM) military plans when he titled his piece Caveat Emptor. The OHM is selling us a military vision in his usual huckster fashion. The most glorious military you’ve ever seen. Anyone who believes this to be true is as dumb as the people wiring their account info to 419 scammers thinking they’re going to win big. Pretty much just as Jim tells the story.

When I used the title Caveat EmptorI was speaking to the selling of the OHM’s alter ego, Trump the businessman, Trump the deal-maker and fixer. Caveat Emptor, buyer beware. You are being sold a bill of goods. You are being taken. Guard your wallet. The OHM is none of those things. The OHM is a money launderer, serial philanderer, and a thief, not necessarily in that order.


When I get a quotable snippet from one of Jim’s articles, I tend to post it all over the place so as to do him a favor and drive traffic to his website. Since I can’t afford to pay him for what he writes, the least I can do is promote him where he isn’t already being promoted. I posted the above quote to Google’s idea of a social platform, Google+ as well as a few other places, but I only got replies on G+, and what I got in response came out of the anarchist/voluntaryist wings of the political spectrum, a commandment to vote harder.

I recognized the flavor of this attack almost immediately. Voting is useless. Voting doesn’t fix anything. Ah, we’re dealing with a libertarian here. I have little to no patience with libertarians, having quit that cult not so long ago. I don’t participate in government (as the snippet demands) to achieve anything specific for me personally. My personal goals are not what voting achieves. This is a core problem with libertarianism specifically and individualism generally. Voting isn’t about me and it isn’t about you or anyone else specifically. This is true of most life experience, but try explaining this fact to a libertarian or anarchist. It’ll go right over their heads.

But that isn’t to say that voting and government as a structure haven’t achieved measurable good. General goods have been achieved and the list is nearly endless. Longer even than the evils that government has created through it’s existence. It is always that way with the tools we create. The evil comes with the good.

The elderly no longer have to die penniless and alone. The sick now have places to go to be cared for. The poor have the beginnings of structure that could end their poverty if used properly. Libertarians will say these goods were achieved by use of force because they don’t understand the nature of money, the meaning of money, etc.but they insist on force being applied to them before yielding so that they can say told you so. I know because I’ve seen this done many times over the years. That is the definition of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

You libertarians and anarchists, you crazy right-wing ammosexuals, you are not any deader when the cops shoot you for armed resistance than the dead black guy who just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. What you are buying with your money is death, exactly like funding a military is buying death. The trick, just in case you are wondering, is to outlive the other guy, which means you are failing to understand what you are buying if you end up dead in the process. Caveat Emptor. There’s some good advice offered gratis. Don’t say I never gave you anything.

Evidence of Society

When was the last time you stalked prey, ran it down and then ate it? That’s not a realistic question, is it? I mean silly, right? I’ll skip over asking if you’ve crafted your own weapons with which to hunt game, I know most people have not and the creation of the most basic tools an individual can make is a skill that vanishingly few people can exhibit. When was the last time you planted seeds, watched them grow, and then harvested the crop? Well, all of us have probably tended a garden in our lifetimes. Agriculture is in just about everybody in some way. There is something real about digging in the dirt and watching plants grow. Something very zen and rewarding about the entire process. However, gardening is definitely not the same as growing everything you need to survive all by yourself year in and year out.

Why am I asking these questions? Because that is what it means to be truly self-sufficient. To be able to produce the food you require independently. To be able to create all of the tools and clothing you require to survive in any climate in any region of the world. If I were to ask you about building your own shelter, even fewer people would understand just how difficult that process and others are. They would be clueless as to just how many people are required to create the many things we take for granted. Take for granted (i.e. an entitlement) especially in the US and other developed countries.

TED, Thomas Thwaites, How I Built a Toaster from Scratch

I have heard the challenge, repeated many times over my years in libertarian circles, to prove the existence of society. It is almost a mantra to some individualists, and I know there are survivalists out there who are convinced they could live on their own indefinitely. Some of them even can do it, I’m sure, but the number of people who could do it are a vanishingly small fraction of a percentage point of the entire human population currently living on Earth.

Coming from the other direction, the number of people the Earth could support if everyone had to live a hunter-gatherer life is probably less than one billion people. I haven’t seen anyone do a back of the envelope calculation on that in several years, so my number is off I’m sure. The point is that the number of people the world can support in a primitive lifestyle is smaller than the number of people our established technology can support. The systems built and maintained over centuries by people who just want to see their children have it easier than they did, to be able to survive without having to claw their way through every day wondering if they’d make it through the next day.

The nine-to-fiver who complains about the cost of his latte has no clue, none at all, just how many people who had to labor just to get him his coffee with milk in a container that he could just throw away when he’s had enough caffeine to keep him alert. And he gets that tasty beverage in exchange for a promissory note, a debt instrument, money, that the retailer then passes back down the chain eventually to the field workers in a far away country that actually touch the soil and grow the coffee that he thinks he paid too much for.

All of this, the high numbers of people, the ease of access to goods and services, the ability to do some task divorced from producing sustenance for yourself directly and still be fed, clothed, sheltered? All of it is evidence of society. Money is evidence of society, all by itself. Money is a socialist system, a system that exists because there are others to trade with in the first place. Without the group’s agreement, you’d still be running down prey like your ancient ancestors did, and hoping that the animal didn’t injure you before you killed it.

Watching the seventh season of The Walking Dead, I was struck by the notion that the entire group still wears clothing that doesn’t visibly disintegrate when they move. Seven years on, they still aren’t spinning and weaving thread and cloth. Patching shirts and jackets. For that matter the vehicles still run after being essentially without maintenance on the side of the road for years. Gasoline still burns even though (as anyone who has experience with small engines can attest) you’re lucky if you can get a lawn mower engine to start after it’s been sitting idle through one winter. Lucky to get it started because the fuel itself is unstable and will degrade over time. Rick and Carl and the rest of the crew? They’d be walking or riding horses everywhere by now because the fuel to run modern vehicles can’t be easily created without a vast infrastructure of technology that very few people understand.

That’s television, you say? Of course it is. It’s fantasy. And so is the notion that any of us are truly self-sufficient. None of us can replicate even the most simple of machines that we rely on daily, and yet we delude ourselves into thinking that we are capable and independent. Rational actors on a vast, mathematically predictable stage. That ability to delude oneself in that fashion? That too is evidence of society. Flat Earthers are a modern invention, and absolute proof of society’s existence. You don’t question that the Earth is round when you watch the people who will bring back your dinner tonight sail over the horizon to catch fish. The curvature of the Earth is as evident as the gnawing hunger in your belly.


I first thought about writing a post like this one after listening to this episode of Freakonomics,

I was inspired by the complexity of the process of creating one of the oldest tools modern man utilizes, the simple wooden pencil. As the episode goes into, the pencil is hardly simple at all. It took generations of tinkering and tweaking to create the object that you and I think of as a pencil when we say the word “pencil”. This TED talk portrays the complexity of the subject more quickly,


TED Ed: Small Thing Big Ideas, Why the Pencil is Perfect

Unfortunately the video is hosted on Facebook only. I apologize for the cludgy video interface design that comes along with that; the parts that aren’t directly copied from YouTube, I mean. Modern technology is so much not like the pencil. Facebook’s baldly abrasive and ham-handed attempts to acquire all internet traffic for itself are a hallmark of poor design, but that is a different subject for some other day. The subject for today is how the simplest of objects that we take for granted, a toaster, a pencil, are beyond the ability of any one person to put together and have work properly. So much for the dreams of rugged individualism and self-reliance. Would you mind passing me that cup of tea, please?

The Information Tollway, With Demand-Based Pricing

I could have sworn we nearly had a revolution not even two years ago because the information delivery services we’ve tied ourselves to thought they could meter our internet consumption habits. Has everyone forgot how Comcast throttled Netflix until they coughed up millions of dollars? Are American memories so short that they can’t even remember what happened in recent history? SOPAPIPA? Is the average American really that clueless they can’t remember?

Trump’s plans through his designated stooge, Ajit Pai, are for a return to the days where essential services can be withheld from the American people in the name of profit. What is next? Will they poison our water in the name of profit? Oh, wait, that’s already happened under Republican leadership and was only ferreted out when the stink of bad water got so bad the president himself got wind of it. It’s going to happen again if we don’t wise up to the threat that the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) represents.

 The FCC under the OHM’s direction intends to go against the will of the majority of the American people, and the informed technologists, on the subject of the necessity of information to the proper functioning of democratic government. I’m not sure why I’m surprised, it’s been profit over sense since day one for the OHM. He’s not going to change now just because he’s transparently defying the will of the people.


Net Neutrality: Done Deal, Open Question

Ah Nick Gillespie. A cherished source of much misinformation in my past years as a libertarian. How to explain to you Nick just how dominated by polemic you are? I’m not sure why On The Media thought that his was the voice to go to, the voice to promote the OHM’s internet agenda. Aside from the fact that he is a vocal critic of everything government, the way a proper libertarian propagandist would be, he has little to no experience doing anything aside from being an apologist for capitalism’s excesses. In all the years I’ve read his work, he solidly comes down on the side of the corporate donors who generously fund his monthly rag.

I would offer a quote from Nick Gillespie’s blog article on Reason magazine, if there was anything quote-worthy about it. That article and the interview Reason conducted with Ajit Pai seems to be the justification of having him speak for the pro-OHM policy side of the open internet argument, but I don’t accept any of his conclusions since he offers not one shred of evidence showing that Net Neutrality rules have in any way limited the internet aside from acknowledging that providing a service as essential as the internet means that the provision needs to be available everywhere in the US equally to all citizens.

If I were to hazard a counter-argument (and since you are reading this, I have) I think I would say that libertarianism as a philosophy is absent any relevance to the information delivery service that is the internet. The proof of libertarianism’s irrelevance to the subject is that the Electronic Frontier Foundation is opposed to everything that Nick Gillespie says on the subject of Net Neutrality and they are also at heart a libertarian organization.

I want to make one thing perfectly clear here. I am not shy about demanding the government secure the internet against all threats, including government oversight of internet content. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should be strapped down by regulations which prevent them from doing anything other than provide access to the information. They should not under any condition be content manufacturers, as so many of them currently are. Failure to enforce this ban on content creation by the providers leads inevitably to things like Comcast’s shakedown of Netflix, and the permanent throttling of competitors in the near future if the new rules are allowed to go through. Their promises to not throttle their competitors in the online world are worth every bit as much as the OHM’s promise that Mexico would pay for the border wall; as in, not worth a thing and probably indicative of the complete opposite in reality.

The ISP’s make and are still making bucket loads of money in the internet world. What they don’t want is to be forced to provide service to areas that are not profitable for them, something that President Obama’s FCC rules on Net Neutrality and Title 2 designation forces on the ISPs. The same kinds of rules that made telephones and electricity things that are available throughout the US. Regulations that require the provision of services to all households in the country whether provision of those services is profitable or not.

I don’t think I can put too fine a point on this argument. This is the future of democracy in the world that we are talking about. The internet is the new library, newspaper, radio and television rolled into one. It is possibly even a replacement for the postal service itself, aside from the delivery of physical goods to locations, a job capably done by other private sources. The internet has to be available to everyone everywhere all the time or it will fail to do its job. What these new proposed rules portend is that information will be made available only to the wealthy, with the rural areas of America left rotting without infrastructure they have every right to expect the government to provide.

An information tollway with demand-based pricing. That most libertarian of libertarian ideas, paying for access to work, shelter food and clothing up front by making everyone pay for the roads they are forced to use just to satisfy basic needs. It was a libertarian idea first, this lame brained scheme to make everyone pay for freeways by turning them into tollways. Here in Austin, we are saddled with several of these bullshit toll roads. There is no way to get from here to there without paying a fee if the road didn’t exist before the tollway was created. This leaves several new developments unreachable without paying a toll, a painful fact that new homeowners will discover only after they buy their houses and learn local routes to and from work. To and from the supermarket.

This is what they propose for the internet. None but the wealthy may pass. Everyone else, get in line.



Tim Berners-Lee on the current proposals from the FCC,

I want an internet where content businesses grow according to their quality, not their ability to pay to ride in the fast lane. I want an internet where ideas spread because they’re inspiring, not because they chime with the views of telecoms executives. I want an internet where consumers decide what succeeds online, and where ISPs focus on providing the best connectivity.

If that’s the internet you want — act now. Not tomorrow, not next week. Now.

 The link in that snippet goes to battleforthenet.com, an online petition and protest organization designed specifically to stop these new FCC rules dead in their tracks. If you want to preserve the promise of an open internet, then I suggest you click on that link and do what you can to help them. Now is the time to act to save the internet from the OHM and his henchmen. 

How Not to Define Government

This image popped up in my Facebook news feed some years back. I can’t even find the originating image for it, it has been that long ago and had so little impact. I had several thoughts at the time which I lined out as bullet points. A rather lengthy breakdown for what is a five-minute throw-away joke image for Facebook.

Still. I know there are thousands, possibly even millions that would laugh at that joke. I in my previous libertarian persona would have probably accepted it as wryly humorous fact, which is precisely why I took the time to break down the many heuristical errors present in just thinking the observation true enough to be funny.

Not satisfied with wasting an hour or two breaking down a meaningless joke image once and filing it away, I have now spent even more time writing a lengthy post about it, proving the tagline of this blog is accurate.

As to the offered definition of government itself. You can believe any fool thing you want including that gravity doesn’t exist because it is a theory. I wouldn’t suggest jumping off buildings if you do, even though Douglas Adams describes learning to fly as throwing yourself at the ground and missing. Never mistake a joke for something that is true or actually possible. The image is a joke, it just isn’t a funny joke.

Government cannot actually defy science because government cannot change the laws of nature. That is why pi remains an irrational number most accurately described as 355/113 even though several governments have mistakenly believed they could change it. Math is always going to be math and 2+2=4 is true for every instance of reality as we know it. Do not throw the word quantum at me as a counter-argument because I will know that you are stupid if you do.

Economics really isn’t a science in much the same way and for the same reason that psychology is only vaguely a science. Both are in part human constructs held as beliefs within human minds. Therefore “laws of economics” are more rules of thumb than actual laws.

In short, even if there are laws of economics, we haven’t been observing them for long enough to know what they actually are. And given the vagaries of human behavior and the mercurial nature of states, people and institutions, the notion that there’s some grand mechanistic, master system that explains all and predicts everything is at best a comforting fiction and at worst a straitjacket that precludes creativity, forestalls innovation and destroys dynamism.

Referencing “the laws of economics” as a way to refute arguments or criticize ideas has the patina of clarity and certainty. The reality is that referencing such laws is simply another way to justify beliefs and inclinations. I may agree that the war on drugs is flawed, but not because it violates “laws of economics,” but rather because it fails in most of its basic goals. The test of whether government spending or central bank easing is good policy should be whether they succeed in ameliorating the problems of stagnant growth and high unemployment, not on what the “laws of economics” erroneously say about certain future outcomes.

The Atlantic, The Laws of Economics Don’t Exist

As an example, one can continue to print money without limit so long as the money isn’t allowed to collect anywhere in a volume large enough to break the system. People will continue to use and spend money blithely believing whatever they want to believe about the system they are part of so long as the system continues. That is the beauty of the human animal and its selective cognition machine that we call a brain. We only tend to notice structures when they fail,  and then we marvel at the complexity of the system that functioned so well we never noticed it until it was gone.

If It Bleeds, It Leads. Same as It Ever Was

For the last year and a half the media have fawned all over His Electoral Highness Donald J. Trump. They can’t stop talking about him. They can’t be kept from giving him airtime to talk about himself. Aside from Trump himself, his biggest fans are the media who think that what this lame duck of a leader says means anything at all. Because of the media’s fawning, I have been forced to spend the last two years ignoring everything Donald Trump says with their generous gift of free airtime. I ignore everything he says because listening to him is what he wants us to do. I ignore him because attempting to make sense of what he says makes me feel ill. I ignore him because listening to him demonstrably makes you dumber; the media being a prime example of people made stupid by the sound of Donald Trump’s voice.

The media’s free gift of airtime helped give him the momentum to take the electoral college if not the popular vote; and now they ask, why is America so divided? If anyone should know the answer to this question it should be the media, but I wouldn’t look to them to give you a truthful answer. Division is what they want. It sells. Conflict and violence always lead the news. The division they are trying to illustrate here is largely a matter of perception. The division is almost entirely of the media’s making, their policy of going with taglines that hype the separation, the division, the conflict,

There’s nothing new about simmering hostility between a President and the press. As Richard Nixon once stated, “The President should treat the press just as fairly as the press treats him.” 

In March of 1974, the Nixon presidency was lurching toward destruction by Watergate, and there was an ongoing tension between the President and the CBS White House correspondent:

President Nixon: “Are you running for something?”Dan Rather: “No, sir, Mr. President, are you?”

Norm Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, was then, and remains now, a student of our political system and our media:

“We would watch network news shows and we would sit there and we would have basically a common set of facts that would emerge from them,” he said. “As we’ve moved to the new media world, the more you’ve got this cacophony of voices, the more you cut through it by, basically, shock value. And that’s why people now are driven not by their own attachment to their own parties; they’re driven by a hatred for those on the other side.” 

CBS News, The great divide: Politics in the Age of Trump

Much like Nixon ushered in the end of the Republican party that elected him, Trump signals the ultimate end of Reaganism and Reaganomics. There will be no possibility of doubt remaining as to the bankruptcy of Reagan’s policies by the time Trump is drummed out of office; policies which have held sway since Reagan was president. The question the media should be asking is, will the Democrats find themselves and their new direction, or will they waste their resurgence as they did with the Carter years? Let me unpack these observations for you.

The eight years of Clinton were not liberal years. The most damning thing to be said about Clinton is that he was and is Republican lite, conservative-ish. He ended welfare in the US because the conservatives demanded that he do it. Because it was something that Reagan promised and compromising with Reagan Democrats was how Bill Clinton got into office. Over and over again he proved that he wasn’t liberal in any real sense of the word. He was a conservative from the old Southern wing of Democratic conservatives who just happened to have married well. Without Hillary’s influence I am convinced he would have been even harder on the poor, even more militaristic than he was. Weirdly, I doubt that would have kept Republicans from manufacturing a scandal in their attempts to remove him.

Barack Obama was pretty close to liberal but still enacted conservative policies because conservative policies were the only ones that the conservatives in the congress he was saddled with would vaguely go for. Obamacare was and is Romneycare. That is why Romney had such a hard time dissing the ACA, because it was his idea offered by a Democratic president and he knew it. Obama was the deporter-in-Chief because, again, that is what conservatives wanted him to do. He was tough on immigration because he hoped it would win points with the other side of the aisle. Only in his last two years did he realize that Republicans would never work with him and so he spent those years ruling by executive order. The Republicans didn’t refuse to work for him because he was black if we are to take them at their word. they didn’t refuse because he was liberal because his policies prove otherwise. They refused to work with him because he was a Democrat.

The sin that Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are all guilty of is the sin of being members of the Democratic party. If they had been Republicans they would have been deemed typical centrists willing to make deals in order to get the government’s work done. It is deal making that the new conservatives hate. They are convinced that there is a true conservative ideology and all they have to do is adhere to it. Never mind that no two conservatives can agree on what conservatism is aside from prosperity gospel Jesus, a completely different kind of Jesus than that socialist hippy Jesus of the seventies. That is religion masquerading as ideology which is all conservatism has left to appeal to, the shadow of religion that Reagan rode to power on.

None of this has anything to do with real ideology beyond the ghost of Reagan that even Reaganite priests can’t quote because Reagan was more liberal than the country is now. The ghost of Reagan and his trickle-down Reaganomics is why the tax rates on the wealthiest people in the US remain low. Anyone making more than a million dollars a year should be taxed at the confiscatory rate of 99% just as the progressive tax rates did during the post-war era. During the times when the middle class grew and the poor were not quite so desperate. Back when Jesus was a socialist hippy. They should be taxed at this extreme rate because they don’t spend more when they have more, so it benefits society not one bit to allow them to keep their incredible wealth.

The subject of monetary policy is too lengthy to get into here, but in the end upper income tax rates were lowered because the increased wealth was supposed to generate more benefits for the rest of us, and the reality we live in has demonstrably proven that the opposite is true. Ergo, some form of income cap has to be reinstituted. Either a scale requiring all boats be raised when the wealthy get paid more, or confiscatory taxes on pay greater than the scale would dictate.

So here we are at the tail-end of the Reagan era, just waiting for the Reagan Democrats to bleep their last heartbeat on the heart monitor they are strapped to before we can get on with progress. It has to be those people because they are the only ones left watching TV, getting their news from TV and from radio. Those are the people who went out and voted for Trump. Those are the people who in their political ignorance voted Republican not realizing that Republicans and conservatives ran everything in the country aside from the presidency already. Politically ignorant people who don’t understand that the president’s job isn’t to fix the country, that is the job of the congress. A job the congress is supposed to achieve through legislation and funding and programs to keep the myriad systems this country depends on running.

Unfortunately for the rest of us, conservatives have swallowed the anarchist notion that government doesn’t work. Republicans have echoed this falsehood because their base believes it, never questioning why they want to elect people to do jobs that they believe don’t need to be done. So it falls to the Democrats to make proposals for government that will work. It falls to them to prove that the poor can get a fair shake in this new America, that the wealthy don’t always get their way. Falls to the Democrats to propose the kinds of changes that populists on both sides of the aisle wanted and would get behind, because the Republicans and conservatives are too scared of socialism to even go someplace where government just might work. If the Democrats can do this, it will be the end of the Republicans for at least a generation.

What I don’t understand is how the media can’t see this happening? Why do they see fractiousness and faction rather than seeing what is really going on? The politically informed vs. the politically ignorant that gave us the current administration? Why can’t they see that they are Donald Trump’s biggest fans? Perhaps they can’t see it because they too are caught in a previous age. The age of the gate keeper and the top-down adminstrator. The feudal society of corporate America, what is fast becoming a corporate globalism. The history of dictators and their five year plans that never worked out. They are soon to be as irrelevant as the Reagan Democrats who will be cashing their last Social Security checks soon. Checking out as movers and shakers and left behind as the world starts dancing to a different beat.

The media and Reagan Democrats will be as baffled by the next election as they were by the last one, because they think the narrative is one they set, and not one that we the people decide.

Killing in Cold Blood

The state of Arkansas plans to put to death eight inmates over a span of 10 days next month, a pace of executions unequaled in recent American history and brought about by a looming expiration date for a drug used by the state for lethal injections. 

New York Times, Arkansas Rushes to Execute 8 Men in the Space of 10 Days

This strikes me as a really stupid reason to schedule a massive number of executions. Perhaps the stupidest reason I’ve ever run across since realizing that the death penalty is a holdover from the barbarity of our past that we should really leave in the past. The numbers of businesses who don’t want to sell you drugs to kill your inmates with should be your first and last clue that the thing you want to do isn’t something you should be doing.

I want it over and done. I do. I’m tired, boss. Tired of bein’ on the road, lonely as a sparrow in the rain. Tired of not ever having me a buddy to be with, or tell me where we’s coming from or going to, or why. Mostly I’m tired of people being ugly to each other. I’m tired of all the pain I feel and hear in the world everyday. There’s too much of it. It’s like pieces of glass in my head all the time. Can you understand? – Stephen King, Frank Darabont The Green Mile

I believed in the death penalty when I was a child. I took the pro death penalty side in our high school debate team. We patted ourselves on the back for discovering the notion that beyond a shadow of a doubt meant the convicted were guilty. As a child, everything I knew was certain knowledge. What a comfort it was then, absolute certainty of truth.

When I was a child, I spake as a child,
I understood as a child, I thought as a child:
but when I became a man, I put away
childish things. For now we see through a
glass, darkly; but then face to face: now
I know in part; but then shall I know even
as also I am known. – 
1 Corinthians 13:11

I know so little now, it is a wonder that I find the certainty to set words to paper. I do know this; The Innocence Project has tracked the number of exonerations in the United States since DNA evidence was allowed. As of this writing, 349 people have been exonerated. They couldn’t have committed the crime they were convicted of, because evidence from the crime does not match their DNA. Twenty of those 349 people were serving time on death row. Thirty-seven of the 349 plead guilty even though they could not have committed the crime.

When I realized that people were fallible, that government was frequently in error, that majority opinion had no more connection to reality than the flipping of a coin, I backed away from believing that we were ever going to be smart enough to know who really needs killing. I have a challenge for those who hold fast to the belief that the death penalty is right and good. Listen to this podcast, a portion of the radio documentary Witness to an Execution which aired in 2000, and then imagine yourself in their shoes, if you can.

For my part, I recognize hell when I hear it described. I can hear eternal torment in every voice that speaks, especially the ones that say how much they believe in the death penalty still. I would not willingly stand in any of their shoes even for one execution.

The government should not be allowed to do anything that individuals within the society are not allowed to do. In the heat of the moment, in the crisis of real time, certain actions are valid that wouldn’t be valid in other cases. When no other option presents itself, it is permissible to kill. Cops and prison guards should be armed and forgiven for actions taken in legitimate self defense of themselves and society, just like any other member of society would be forgiven in their place.

An unarmed prisoner strapped to a gurney or a chair is not a threat. Killing that person is killing in cold blood. It can only be counted as murder, making us no better than the murderer that we have exacted justice upon. Life imprisonment without the possibility of parole is preferable to making myself a party to murder, even if the man that we are killing “needed it”.


(based in part on this post

On Hawks vs. Pacifists

How do you explain away Hillary Clinton’s assumed hawkishness?

Like this.

Everyone voted to invade Iraq. I remember, I was active in politics that year. I mentioned this fact in the article Libertarian hostility for Hillary Clinton. Either you were with Bush II or you were against him.  Painting a target on your back is not how you get things done in a political sphere.  It is how you get eliminated.  She was a savvy operator then, and she is one now.  A survivor.  Someone who gets shit done. Someone who will make a good leader.

Obama let France take out Muammar Gaddafi like they wanted to do, and I don’t shed tears for dead dictators. They get what is coming to them. The same fate is waiting for Assad in Syria.  You don’t destroy your country the way he has done over the last five years and walk away from that. Justice is waiting for him when this conflict ends.

If Hillary Clinton was a war hawk, she wouldn’t have worked to get a deal with Iran. Pacifists dismiss this fact because it destroys their narrative. However, all of these are the president’s policies; Barack Obama, not Hillary Clinton. The President calls the shots, not the Secretary of State. That I happen to agree with them is beside the point. Those policies are his policies, not hers.

Let me frame the question of who Hillary Clinton really is with her own history.  Her history as related in this piece contrasting her past with the past of the Orange Hate-Monkey;

Consider, for a moment, two people. One, as a young woman at the beginning of a promising legal career, went door to door searching for ways to guarantee an education to the countless disabled and disadvantaged children who had fallen through the cracks. The other, as a young millionaire, exacted revenge on his recently deceased brother’s family by cutting off the medical insurance desperately needed by his nephew’s newborn son, who at eighteen months of age was suffering from violent seizures brought on by a rare neurological disorder.

Now let’s talk about the future.

Daesh has to be destroyed. Daesh in all it’s forms, all across the world. no amount of wishing will make them go away. It is going to take killing. Also, we have an uppity Russian dictator who needs to be treated with a firm, sure hand. Those tiny hands the Orange Hate-Monkey has will not do the trick. It’s going to take someone who knows the ins and outs of diplomacy.  Someone who has been on the scene for the last thirty years or so would be good.

Much as I don’t like it, and I don’t. I’ve protested every war that has occurred while I was breathing. But we need someone who can credibly hold the keys to the largest military machine in the world and be trusted not to blink. We need someone who is going to be able to do the job in front of her. That someone is Hillary Clinton. If we’re lucky.

Ideologues should stick to theorizing and stay out of real politics. They just screw up the real world for the rest of us.  There is no panacea that will fix the world.  War isn’t the answer.  Peace isn’t the answer. Walking the path before us is going to take hard decisions.  It requires someone who isn’t constrained by an ideology that keeps them from doing what they have to do. Whether that thing is taking the fight to a credible threat, or walking away from an unwinnable conflict.

It takes someone willing to occupy the middle space. Like most things in life, it requires compromise.

“Violence … is the last refuge of the incompetent.” Isaac Asimov

Why Would a Liberal Vote for Gary Johnson?

This is actually a very good question, one that echos why I don’t identify as libertarian anymore, and why I don’t support most of the candidates that the LP fields. The LP is GOP lite these days. Or if you believe him (which you’re a fool if you do) Donald Trump, whose website is a laundry-list of libertarian wish-fulfillment. Just don’t listen to the words coming out of the Orange Hate-Monkey‘s mouth. If you do you’ll notice a jarring disconnect between what he says and what his website says.

Here is the Mother Jones Article the title comes from.  Here is the list as a quote;

  • He supports TPP.
  • He supports fracking.
  • He opposes any federal policies that would make college more affordable or reduce student debt. In fact, he wants to abolish student loans entirely.
  • He thinks Citizens United is great.
  • He doesn’t want to raise the minimum wage. At all.
  • He favors a balanced-budget amendment and has previously suggested that he would slash federal spending 43 percent in order to balance the budget. This would require massive cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and social welfare programs of all kinds.
  • He opposes net neutrality.
  • He wants to increase the Social Security retirement age to 75 and he’s open to privatization.
  • He opposes any kind of national health care and wants to repeal Obamacare.
  • He opposes practically all forms of gun control.
  • He opposes any kind of paid maternity or medical leave.
  • He supported the Keystone XL pipeline.
  • He opposes any government action to address climate change.
  • He wants to cut the corporate tax rate to zero.
  • He appears to believe that we should reduce financial regulation. All we need to do is allow big banks to fail and everything will be OK.
  • He wants to remove the Fed’s mandate to maximize employment and has spoken favorably of returning to the gold standard.
  • He wants to block-grant Medicare and turn it over to the states.
  • He wants to repeal the 16th Amendment and eliminate the income tax, the payroll tax, and the estate tax. He would replace it with a 28 percent FairTax that exempts the poor. This is equivalent to a 39 percent sales tax, and it would almost certainly represent a large tax cut for the rich.

It is an excellent reference list of things that the average liberal disagrees with the Libertarians about. I could add more things that I quibble about, but we can start with this list and work from there. 

Libertarian Hostility for Hillary Clinton

Yesterday a friend of mine published this video from Reason on Facebook. It struck a cord with me. A negative cord.  Did I laugh? I’ll let you be the judge of the humor content;

This was my initial response.

Yes, let’s piss on the one good thing that is occurring in this election. Surely that won’t piss off the other 80% of the population.

 “Nice shooting, Tex.

What the video represents is precisely the kind of miscue that first started alienating me from the LP and libertarians. They just can’t see the kinds of emotions their attempts at humor generate.  That their principled stands generate.  They are, as most of us are, their own worst enemy.

What this reminds me of is the LP precinct meeting I attended immediately following the attacks on 9-11.  I’m going somewhere with this.  Let me take you there.

Try if you can to imagine that time, even if you were there.  Shell shocked.  In denial that we could be targeted by a foreign group, in the heart of one of the greatest cities on Earth.  The entire world in mourning over the senseless loss of life and destruction.  The first rumors of retaliation were circulating, and a meeting was convened at the precinct level of the Libertarian party with the specific purpose of passing a resolution condemning retaliation and war.

Now try to imagine me in this situation. It’s hard. I know.  I’ve been told enough times. Here I am, a guy who roundly condemned Bush I for being a warmonger. It was how I became a libertarian. Hung images up in my cubicle at work that made my employers livid.  I was a radical advocate for staying the hell out of the Middle East, slipping flyers into free magazines and newspapers in the area condemning the First Gulf War. Celebrated joyously when the conflict was over in weeks.

And I know that this resolution proposed by my peers in the Libertarian party was completely the wrong move.  I know it, in my gut.  It is going to alienate people who rightly think we have to strike back at whoever attacked us. It ignored the real possibility of continued violence on the part of the group that we had just started hearing about, Al Qaeda and their leader Osama Bin Laden. It was the wrong thing, politically, morally, strategically.

So I went to the meeting specifically to scuttle the motion, prodded by a few members who agreed with me that sometimes it is best to let sleeping dogs lie. We were on a surge in popularity in Texas at the time, needing to get recognizable percentages of votes to stay on the ballot, and negative press about the pacifist Libertarian party was not going to play well in gun-toting Texas.

I had been looking into how to postpone a motion and had stumbled across the idea (or it had been whispered to me, I can’t remember) of motion to table.  So I made that motion and it was promptly seconded by my allies and the purpose of the meeting was defeated.  Some of my more pacifist friends were livid with anger.  Why?  Why would you do that?

I tried to explain to them that the trends that had been set in motion were bigger than a personal stand against war and violence.  That standing in the way of the juggernaut that was about to be unleashed was suicidal at best. In the end, several of them never forgave me for that sneaky tactic, and that is understandable. The discomfort I felt after that event lead me to study Robert’s Rules and in so doing I realized that I had broken the tabling rule as it is currently spelled out.  But we got what we wanted and the Texas LP was one of the few branches of the LP that didn’t denounce the retaliation that occurred in Afghanistan.

I questioned my own wisdom when Bush II decided to go to war in Iraq on what I just as firmly believed was a contrivance, a method to establish a firm beachhead in the Middle East from which to advance throughout the area, subjecting it to American rule through proxies.  And for awhile it looked like he might actually succeed in that operation.  Until the resistance started, and the costs mounted and the housing bubble collapsed in 2007.

The financial bubble bursting is what made it possible to hope again, politically. Which is a weird way to look at it, but it was the culmination of nearly 30 years of Reaganomics and it was bound to happen eventually given that trickle-down economics just doesn’t work.

So it wasn’t just coincidence that Obama’s campaign tag was “Hope & Change” and I really wished him luck on that course. In hindsight it looks like he’s been a very good  president, possibly the best one to serve in my lifetime.  But now his 8 years are at an end, and we need to decide where to go next.

Which brings us to that video, and my sense of where we are now.

There is a wisdom in large groups. Large groups of people will generally come to a better estimate of value, quantity, etc. than any one member of the group can achieve.  We have known Hillary Clinton for a very long time. I hated on her along with most of my fellow Texans through her husband’s entire presidency.  Still cringe remembering how I had to explain sex to my children because of something the president was caught doing.  Was outraged by the parsing of is in lawyer speak like so many others.

But Hillary Clinton happened to be right.  Which is also weird to admit now. Right on a number of things. We rejected her as not having enough experience in 2008, and she wisely went back to the drawing board, was appointed Secretary of State and managed to do a passing good job at a very difficult task. Perhaps one of the most difficult times to be a Secretary of State for the United States.

And now she is the presumptive nominee of the Democratic party, a feat that no woman in history has achieved.  She has proven herself to be a consummate politician, outmaneuvering many of her peers so that she was the presumed candidate for the Democrats long before she even officially threw her hat into the ring.

But another way to look at the primary is that Clinton employed a less masculine strategy to win. She won the Democratic primary by spending years slowly, assiduously, building relationships with the entire Democratic Party. She relied on a more traditionally female approach to leadership: creating coalitions, finding common ground, and winning over allies. Today, 208 members of Congress have endorsed Clinton; only eight have endorsed Sanders.  Ezra Klein on Vox.com

The fact that a woman has finally run the gauntlet and will likely receive her parties nomination is well worth celebrating; and if she wins, it is more likely to be because she is perceived to be a better leader by the average person, than it is that she’s a woman.

Deriding her because of the imperfections (near fatal flaws, worst case) of the government she will take control of is not only unfair or unjust, but puts the lie forward as the truth; that we cannot change government with her in charge.   If that is true then nobody in that chair or in any chair in government can make changes to government by their participation, and that is obviously false on its face.

h/t to On Point

The bully pulpit has limited power. There are a whole host of ways to make changes in government without taking control of the presidency. Ways that are better, more reliable and possibly welcomed by her government if she is elected.  What she will bring with her is the most progressive slate of Democrats to be seen since at least LBJ’s time in office, and if we support them we may actually see the change that Obama promised eight years ago.

I’m not supporting Hillary Clinton because she is a woman.  I’m not supporting her because I think she will win. This is the first time in my life where I actually think one of the candidates for the two major parties is a decent choice before they were elected to office. Weirdly that happens to be Hillary Clinton. No one is more surprised by this than I am.