Pledging Allegiance is contrary to Freedom

Below is the text of a letter I sent to the local school district (and my state reps) in response to a notice informing me that my children would be required to recite the pledge of allegiance, and observe a minute of silent prayer.

To Whom It May Concern:

I received a flyer amongst several other pieces of documentation sent home from school with my child yesterday; a flyer informing me that Texas has taken another step down the path towards worshiping the omnipotent state (and the christian god that walks hand in hand with it here in the US) and will be requiring all students to mouth the words of the United States pledge of allegiance, as well as the newly revised Texas pledge of allegiance (HB 1034) in addition to observing a moment of silence once each day (SB 83) a practice that is obviously intended to re-introduce morning prayer into the public schools.

I don’t recall ever seeing this particular notice (even though the requirement to recite the pledges has been on the books since 2003) but having noticed it, I now feel compelled to respond to it. Dictators and cult leaders require the slaves under their rule to swear allegiance to them, because power is jealous of rivals. It is far more than mere coincidence that the author of the United States Pledge was a self-proclaimed socialist, and that most pledges currently in existence came into being at about the same time; a time before the discrediting of socialism. They are an outgrowth of socialist sentiment, the elevation of The State above the individual. In a free society, pledges of allegiance should not be required, because individuals are free of any allegiance other than to rational self interest. Additionally, pledges required of the public are contrary to the sentiments of the founders of the United States, as it reverses the role of the subservient state and places it above We The People.

Obviously, from the tone of this letter, you will be able to discern that I am hereby notifying you in writing that my children will be exempted from this practice. They will not be required to recite any pledges, nor will they be required to observe a minute of silence. This notice is given pro forma, because my children have abstained from reciting the pledges for the entire time that they have attended school; and they have done this without asking me or the omnipotent state for permission to do so. They have remained silent during pledges even in my presence, when I have recited the pledge autonomically; and I applaud them for their strength of will.

If it was possible, I would extend this exemption to any student of AISD, of any school district in Texas, or of any state in the United States, who wished to abstain from reciting the pledge, but lacks the permission that the state requires.

Finally, I’d like to add this tidbit of information. The sponsor of HB 1034, when queried on the subject of religion, had this to say (source, Capitol Annex: More HB 1034 Exchanges):

BURNAM: Are you aware that Governor Perry has recently said, “Freedom of religion should not be taken as freedom from religion.” And my question is, do you agree with that statement, Ms. Riddle?
RIDDLE: I would say, Amen.

Which pretty much sums up the intent of the modification of the pledge, and the accompanying minute of silence; a blatant attempt to force religion back into the government schools. It also shows the utter contempt the governor and the majority of the legislature has for anyone who doesn’t share their particular christian beliefs. Freedom of religion is a meaningless concept unless it includes freedom from religion; requiring someone to have a religion places constraints upon the person, negating any freedom that might be present.

Sincerely,
R. Anthony Steele


As I sit here in 2015 looking back on this letter, I wonder how the leadership of the school read this letter when they received it.  I hope they had protective face shields for the spittle-flecked rant they were about to embark on.

The sad thing is that the bogeyman of the omnipotent state has faded away, yet the insistence by the blindly religious that we should all be christian remains.  If anything the Religious Right have simply become more strident over the years, not less.  They do not appear to have learned anything from the many battles they have engaged in and lost when it comes to the subject of making the US a christian nation against the will of the majority who like it just the way it is.

Socialism is not a bad word, and socialists are not bad people as long as they aren’t state socialists.  State socialists like the ones who wanted to get children to say pledges before they understood what pledging really means.  Another bogeyman that really should be retired, since the mindset that inspired the pledges now looks as alien to us as most of the other concepts of the time do. 

Today’s Beef: Ever Heard of the Concept “Private Property”?

I’m walking out to check my mail today, like I do every day. Walk to the end of my driveway and open the mailbox. Drag out the collection of adverts for things I don’t want, and bills for things I need; and head back towards the house. As I am returning to the house, one of the delinquent mothers for the children that attend school across the street, driving alone in an 8 seater SUV, determines that she must turn around in my driveway.

She is actually in error in this assumption, in more than one way, but I’ll get to that shortly.

This is a perennial problem for those of us who have the misfortune to live across the street from a gov’t school (a gov’t school where my child would be a representative of a 2% minority. Not to mention the abysmal performance of the school when compared to others in the area. Consequently my son attends a different school. One I have to drive to. One with enough parking of it’s own) one of the many gov’t run businesses that are exempt from the more mundane architectural and site design rules. Mundane rules like providing adequate parking. Totally irrelevant requirements that private businesses of a similar nature could not build without. Requirements like traffic impact studies. After all, why would you want to study traffic impact around an area that will be covered with children due to the nature of the business? Why bother, the gov’t can just slap up another school zone, inconvenience travelers and property owners alike, and pretend to be aghast at each accident that occurs because they exempted themselves from (expensive) processes that they require of any other entity building within the city. But I digress.

This delinquent mother proceeds to do very large three point turn, utilizing my driveway, even though I happened to be walking in my driveway. Realizing something that she clearly doesn’t, that I’m standing on my own personal property, safe within the boundaries of my own castle, I stand my ground and slowly read my mail, all the while mouthing a few choice curses reserved for trespassers and door to door salesmen.

Clearly having not mastered the concept of property, much less the use of automatic windows, the errant mother opens her door and curses me for getting in her way. Can’t I see she needs to turn around and pick up her children?

I calmly replied, in a few less words, that she should exit my property forthwith; and that not doing so would prove out her questionable personal habits and upbringing. She then challenged me, opening the door again, to say that to her face. This proved impossible, since she immediately closed the door again and proceeded to back out, in a rather cramped fashion, into the public right of way; the area she should never have left in the first place if she didn’t want a confrontation with any irate property owner.

I contented myself with a simple hand gesture that could be seen as a rough equivalent of the words she had dared me to repeat, all the while wondering why she had not bothered to drive around the school, like the rest of the similarly sized vehicles did (they at least carry the appropriate number of people) She promptly picked up her one child, and vented her frustration at me as she drove off.

The person illegally parked by the fire hydrant in front of my house, who witnessed the whole thing, also expressed a dislike for me as she drove off. She should count herself lucky, I generally report vehicles that sit parked by that fire hydrant (although I usually slap a warning note on their windshield first) but was too concerned with being run over in my own driveway to notice the potential fire hazard sitting in the street.

So you pull up in my driveway and then curse me for using my own property in a manner that I see fit? What part of the concept Private Property isn’t clear here?


Strangely, since that day, I’ve noticed a distinct lack of traffic in front of my house. Perhaps they got the hint that private property rights are vociferously defended here. Chalk one up for the property owner. Now if I could get them to quit throwing their trash in my yard, I might not mind living next to the school.

If only dealing with the tax collector was that easy.

Three Generations of “America to the Rescue”

Jon Stewart on the Daily Show, referencing the predicament in Iraq.

THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART 
BILLIONS AND BILLIONS 
Season 12 Ep 110 08/22/07 

The best line from the clip?

“Oh billions of dollars… Is there no dispute you can’t settle?”

The picture of Cheney as Secretary of Defense staring over Jon’s shoulder as he discusses the wisdom of not invading Iraq during Gulf War I, using Cheney’s own words at the time (“it would be a morass”) also priceless.


Mea culpa review 2017. For the record, Comedy Central‘s handling of the transition from Jon Stewart to the current (extremely capable if simply not so widely appealing) Trevor Noah leaves a ton of things to be desired. One of the most obvious things is not being able to find the old shows featuring Jon simply for purposes of reference and historical documentation. After about an hour of searching, I discovered the title had been changed. Finally. Watch through to the next clip which is an excellent interview with an incredibly young-looking Barack Obama.

Bush’s War Now

Excerpt:

Mark it down. August 29, 2007. That’s the day the Pentagon announced it was done being responsible for Mr. Bush’s waste of lives, time, and money in Iraq. Tonight, the Defense Department has essentially told the President, “Thanks for the war, George, but it’s all you from here on out, buddy.” 

Daily Kos: Pentagon Gives Up; Hands War Over to Bush 

I’ve never been a fan of the situation over in Iraq. I’ve never even thought it should be called a war. Still, I always thought the military was in favor of it.

Oh, We’ve Got Trouble

This teaser caught my eye the other day while I was browsing over at the Daily Reckoning:

Today, reports show that foreclosures nationwide have gone up 93% when compared with July of last year. Almost every state in the country showed a significant bump in the rise of foreclosures, but California, Florida, Michigan, Ohio and Georgia take the cake.

The Daily Reckoning, Bailing Out the American Debt Business (fixed link)

The [Digg.com] article itself points to another article on Rude Awakening, which (regrettably) doesn’t actually cover the factual details of the foreclosure problem either. If, however, the numbers are accurate (and I have no reason to doubt that they are) then there is a financial disaster that dwarfs everything since the Great Depression looming on the horizon.


Editor’s note: Historically there were links to Digg.com articles in most of these blog entries. Digg was an early competitor to Reddit but never as popular. It has since been sold and repurposed as a raw aggregator and a clickbait spam source. I really don’t see the purpose in leaving these old bad links in the articles, so I’m pulling them out. Where possible I will reconstruct a link to the current home of the information, along with a label that actually communicates where it is the link sends you so that the next time the links break, at least a title search will be possible.

Major thanks to the Wayback Machine. Drop by and give them a contribution if you agree.

PBS airs A Brief History of Disbelief

I’d like to extend a thank you to my local PBS station for airing A Brief History of Disbelief. I generally feel that I am drowning in religious programs, even on cable channels that should not have a religious view. This program was like a breath of fresh air. I look forward to seeing the next two episodes.


I managed to capture and watch all three episodes with the DVR. Very enlightening. I understand that there are 6 additional hours of programming. I would be interested in seeing these as well some time in the future.


h/t to the WaybackMachine

Starting with the teachings of Democritus, Epicurus and Lucretius, and traveling forward in time through the first appearance of truly atheist works in the writings of Baron d’Holbach, and the founding of the United States on Deist thought; to the spreading of disbelief (whether you call it atheism or not) in modern times, it is definitely a ‘rough’ history, but a thought provoking one. I recommend it to anyone who might be curious about the subject.

The Vanishing Jihad Exposés

The article contains some fine points about free speech and speaking truth to power. I don’t necessarily agree with all of the sentiments in it, but finding the truth can be a laborious exercise, one made nearly impossible by roadblocks set up by those whose power is founded in shrouding the truth.

We’ve gotten used to one-way multiculturalism: The world accepts that you can’t open an Episcopal or Congregational church in Jeddah or Riyadh, but every week the Saudis can open radical mosques and madrassahs and pro-Saudi think-tanks in London and Toronto and Dearborn, Mich., and Falls Church, Va. And their global reach extends a little further day by day, inch by inch, in the lengthening shadows, as the lights go out one by one around the world. 

Jewish World Review, The vanishing jihad exposés

The first amendment must be preserved if we are to retain our freedom.

Federal arrests in States that permit medical marijuana use must be stopped!

The will of the people should be paramount when that will affirms individual rights, as the laws in the several states allowing the use of medical marijuana have done. Federal law is in error on this matter. Additionally, federal law does not supersede state law. This fact was established in 1798, and it is still valid today. Enforcing federal law in violation of state law simply alienates the citizens of those states from the federal gov’t, leading ultimately to the dissolution of the union. This practice must be stopped. Federal law must be modified.

These states have placed the power where it belongs, in the hands of doctors and patients. But the federal government has vetoed these decisions. Federal authorities have usurped the power to make everyone, everywhere, comply with their paranoid preferences about marijuana. Never mind the Constitution. Never mind human rights. Never mind popular will. Never mind science. Never mind what doctors say. Never mind individual differences. Never mind suffering and death. 

Downsizer Dispatch: Hinchey Rohrbacher Amendment

When Does Life Begin?

Reposted here from the FTL forum.


Always, when discussing Abortion (as I have a few times) the question of whether an abortion is murder or not revolves around when life begins; after all, a civilization does not condone murder of the innocent and still remain a civilization in anything but name. So inevitably, the concerned individual asks these questions of himself. Does life begin at conception? (the typical religious answer) When the brain shows activity complex enough to signal consciousness? When the child is born? When the individual develops? (2 or 3 years of age) When does life begin?

How about the missing option? That life has no beginning point. Living tissues from the parents combine to make a living creature that grows in independence until one day it borrows the car keys and crashes the family car, moves out on it’s own and doesn’t call except when it needs something, and eventually confines you to an old-folks home. C’est la vie.

Well, if life doesn’t have a hard and fast beginning point (as the argument usually evolves) when does interrupting the process of growth constitute muder? That is a tricky question. I think we can afford limited legal protection of the fetus sometime in the third trimester, because that is when limited consciousness occurs.

A parent who kills their own child under a certain age (2 or 3) should not be guilty of murder in the normal sense. Psychologically, they are killing a part of themselves, and this changes the crime from the normal homicide to something else. Sterilization of those types of people should be a punishment option. People who kill children should not have more children that they can then also abuse.

A person is entitled to be free from aggression against his or her life.

“Free from aggression” is a dangerous phrase. What about punishment? Time-out? Every method for modifying behavior at a parents disposal can and will be seen as aggression by the child. I know that you mean aggression in a life or death sense, but the best of intentions can be perverted to the worst of uses.

Children remain emotionally and mentally attached to their parents long past the point when they can realistically be called children. (I really hate it when people refer to 16-18 year olds as ‘children’. They aren’t. In the same sense, I know plenty of 20 year olds who don’t deserve the label ‘adult’. Hence the phrase…) Young adults should be able to declare themselves emancipated when they deem that the time has arrived. Until that point they remain tied to their parents in some form, and so cannot be “Free from aggression” in the normal child rearing sense.

Although you may argue that the woman has the right to rescind her consent to carry the baby, once the fetus has reached the level of consciousness required to qualify as a person, then the child’s rights must also be considered.

In a theoretical/legal sense, perhaps. Realistically, I have to fall back on the “How do you protect children from their own parents” point that always seems to get overlooked. Unless you are willing to separate parent and child forcefully, you really can’t. Someone else mentioned an outreach program designed to intervene in late term unwanted pregnancy cases. A program designed to reimburse the mother-to-be for agreeing to carry the child to term and then adopt it out.

…That sounds like a good solution on the surface. I would still object to labeling a woman who had a late term abortion (or the doctor who performed it) a ‘murderer’. There are plenty of medically valid reasons why a pregnancy cannot be carried full term; reasons that might not be detectable until late in the pregnancy. If you have to make a choice, better to save one life than loose both.

Who’s a Libertarian?

This is a post I circulated concerning the speaker at the 2004 Libertarian convention. This was the beginning of my dissatisfaction with sharing air with Anarchists.


The tempest in a teapot concerning Boortz speaking at the National Conference isn’t about Boortz; It isn’t even about war vs. antiwar. If you go back and read all of T.L. Knapp’s “Life of the Party” series, it becomes plainly clear that the issue goes much deeper than that. It’s why the Boot Boortz camp have the audacity to suggest that those in agreement with Boortz should …be shown the door.

The issue ladies and gentlemen is this: Is government necessary or not? Does the structure we call government serve a legitimate function in a truly libertarian society; or is each individual capable of governing themselves sufficiently to render government as we know it useless? Let me explain why this is what is being argued about.

Libertarians don’t agree on whether or not government should exist. On the one hand you have those who believe that government is not necessary, and they offer suggestions for its eventual replacement by voluntary structures. Generally those that offer these types of arguments are known as anarchists. On the other hand you have objectivists and others who believe that government serves a vital, albeit limited function, and it should be maintained in some minimal fashion so as to preserve liberty. The label that has been generally applied to these types is minarchist. Not everyone accepts the above labels, and the current LP membership includes views, like those of Constitutionalists, that don’t fit in either camp.

The anarchist/minarchist schism has existed within the party nearly since its inception. There have been various attempts to settle disputes between the factions, none of them very successful. The most successful was the Dallas Accord in which the libertarians of the time agreed that they would not discuss whether or not government was necessary, and focus on the more important issue of personal liberty. The agreement has worked until recently.

What’s changed? 9/11, that’s what has changed. The foreign policy blunders that the federal government has committed for the last hundred years have come home to roost with a vengeance. The ‘terrorists’ have declared war on us, and we are under threat. We are now faced with a situation that must be dealt with, and all of the effective options involve the use of government power. The problem is this: If you acknowledge that government has a reason to exist, then that reason will most likely include defensive measures designed to secure us from the aggressive actions of others. No matter how you slice it, 9/11 comes under “attacks against the territory of the United States”, and we have the obligation to make sure that any more threats of that type are dealt with, and the guilty parties that conspired to conduct the attacks are hunted down and exterminated.

To further extend the logic chain, one can extrapolate several strategic reasons for a large ground force in the area that the attackers called home (the Middle East) and the benefit of soundly defeating the ‘biggest bully on the block’. Whether you agree with the strategy or not, it makes sense from a military standpoint… If you acknowledge that government has a reason to exist.

However, if you don’t believe that government should exist, then any action of the government is damnable from the outset; and any action which benefits the government directly (such as a war) is the worst kind of evil imaginable, and therefore must be denounced in the strongest possible terms.

…and that ladies and gentlemen is why the disagreement over Boortz speaking has taken on a life of its own. He has had the audacity to apply logic to the situation and determine from his own perspective that the threat posed by the ‘terrorists’ is sufficient to require actions against other countries. …and to further determine that the largest most vocal segment of the antiwar movement are also anti-american. To add insult to injury he speaks his mind about his beliefs to an audience of thousands, and categorizes himself a libertarian. As others have pointed out, on every other issue other than the war, Boortz is solidly libertarian. But because of this one issue, his belief that government has a reason to exist, he can’t be a libertarian.

Now the anarchists are regretting ever letting non-anarchists into their club; and some of them would like to institute a purity test so that the membership can be limited to those who profess correct beliefs. To hell with them. This is the reason why everyone who has an interest in furthering the LP needs to go to the convention and actively participate in the sessions. The core of the party has been controlled by too few for too long. If we are going to succeed in changing the policies of the current government, we are going to have to include more people, and gain influence. You don’t do that by kicking out those you disagree with.

For my part, I wouldn’t mind if they asked Rush Limbaugh to speak at the convention. It might make for some interesting conversation. It doesn’t even offend me when Bill Maher calls himself a ‘libertarian’. He just makes himself look like a fool to those who know better. To take exception to Neal Boortz speaking at the convention is more than a waste of time; it is the equivalent of picking the scab off of a festering sore. It will only delay the time it takes for the underlying disagreements to recede into the background where they belong.

It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most
intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.

Charles Darwin