Explaining Impeachment

Everybody and their dog is now talking about impeachment. It’s about fucking time. Where were they three years ago? Donald Trump was impeachable from the day he lied taking his oath, and we knew he was lying when he did it. We simply lacked the political will to do the work required to set the misfire of the 2016 election aside back when it would have made a real difference.

…and the 2016 election was a misfire. The Electoral College should never have been required to vote for Donald Trump in the first place. The political gerrymandering that has made the Electoral College into the dysfunctional thing it is today should disqualify relying on the Electoral College to render a verdict on anything in the first place, never mind an election that hinged on a fraction of a percentage point in three minor US states instead of the overwhelming majority of Americans who voted for sanity instead of insanity. That’s why anyone who runs around screaming about the calamity of the Trump presidency is a #MAGA Nimrod. All of this has happened before and it will happen again.

But hey, Nancy Pelosi is on board with impeachment, so everyone thinks they have to talk about it now. Now that the bus of the US federal government is on fire, plummeting downwards at a predictable rate of V = gt, now they want to apply the brakes. Well that’s fine. I’ll have another bottle of spirits over here in the meantime. If you don’t mind.

Exhibit A

The NPR Politics Podcast – Impeachment Then & Now: Trump Vs. Nixon & Clinton – October 10, 2019

The comparative difference between Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton & Donald Trump is easy to discern. Donald Trump is a fraud, plain and simple. He has sold his Stormtrumpers (#MAGA) a bill of goods that he could never deliver, and had no intention of delivering. This is his standard of practice. Donald Trump was a fraud way, way back. All the way back to the 1970’s & 80’s when he cheated on his taxes stealing the wealth of his father’s company. When he built his first building. When he bought out and then bankrupted his casinos. He is still a fraud, a tax cheat and a money launderer. All of this will come out, eventually.

All the other guys who have faced impeachment had some good thing they hoped to achieve in the public service. The same cannot be said of Trump.

Exhibit B

Politics Podcast: How Impeachment Is Supposed To Work (Editor’s note: They added the video to the page! Nice!)

This episode of the 538 Politics podcast is the best explainer I’ve run across on the subject of impeachment. Kate Shaw even picks up on what the guest on Today Explained missed (Exhibit C) She goes point by point through the process as it will most likely progress. Since we only have three cases of presidential impeachment to measure with, it will be hard to say exactly how this will manifest itself. Stay tuned.

Unfortunately for the people who don’t (or won’t) listen to podcasts, there isn’t a transcript for 538 podcasts, and therefore no quick reference for those who just want to get to the facts of the subject directly. You’ll just have to listen. (Editor’s note: Now you can watch, too. I haven’t seen the video which isn’t available on the podcast feed. Yet)

Exhibit C

Unlike the Vox-produced Today Explained.

Which not only adds itself into WordPress articles as a playable embed, but you can find the transcript right in the embedded interface. Given what this episode is, a light brush over the subject of where the Trump impeachment goes from where we are now, it’s not too bad. If you understand the subject.

What did Laura McGann miss? The entirety of Scenario 9 is no mystery. Impeached officials, once successfully removed from office, can be barred from serving in public office again. Subject to a simple majority vote of the Senate. It’s right there in the rules. Or Wikipedia.

Exhibit D

The Daily from the New York Times is more of a cautionary tale. The Times, in its usual attempts to prove that they aren’t liberal by literally (or audibly) embracing the most insane rantings of whichever pundit they choose to give publicity to, chose to give publicity to the guy who brought us Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, et all. His name is Mike Davis.

NYT The Daily 10/10/2019

…everybody told us that he was sort of an unabashed advocate for Judge Kavanaugh and really sort of the torch-carrier politically through this process. And what he did in terms of not just managing the technicalities of the Senate investigation and the Senate process, but also waging this sort of cultural war for conservatives that was crystallized during the Kavanaugh confirmation process and is now being deployed as a defense against impeachment.

Kate Kelly, The Daily

The fact that he was sort of an unabashed advocate for Judge Kavanaugh should have been the first reason not to give the guy a microphone and several uninterrupted minutes to rant. Just flat out don’t do that. There are far, far too many people who will not understand how to dissect his rantings with a skeptical eye. Mike Davis is a poster child for motivated numeracy if not the face on the poster advertising the shortfalls of relying on the reasoning of people who cannot divorce themselves from the things that they believe.

What do I mean by that? If everything Trump is accused of doing was something Obama had been accused of doing how would Mike Davis react? If asked that question on the podcast he would prevaricate. He might even understand the hypocrisy of saying that it would be different for Obama and thereby say “it’s no big deal” but that would be a lie.

We know what would have happened because we lived through eight years of outrage directed at what could objectively be determined to be the best president since Dwight D. Eisenhower (the tan suit, anybody?) If Dwight D. Eisenhower’s portrait is on display anywhere in Washington D.C., the place in the same building that would be appropriate for Donald Trump’s portrait is wherever the garbage is stored before being hauled to the landfill. Which is where Donald Trump’s portrait should go after that. The landfill. With the rest of the garbage.

The New York Times illustrates again exactly why I don’t spend money supporting their reporting. If I had money to support investigative journalism these days I’d have to give it to Vanity Fair, Propublica, The Guardian or The Atlantic. It is a sad day for journalism today, folks.

Impeachment is dangerous. And that danger – that very danger right there, the very nature of it — is why it must be done. And it is in the crucible of crisis, facing the greatest of dangers, when true, authentic greatness is forged.

Stonekettle Station

Starting the second week in October, 2019, there are now three podcasts that I’ve found that deal specifically with the subject of impeachment and only that subject. The first one is Impeachment, Explained from the same people who bring you the podcast Today, Explained linked above. This is the first episode. It will come out weekly on Spotify.

The 4 words that will decide impeachment

Then there is the daily podcast from WNYC, called simply Impeachment. I like titles that just say what they are about. This podcast is compiled from content that is aired on the Brian Lehrer show.

Impeachment – ‘A Perfect Slice of Emolument Pie’ – October 21, 2019

…was the episode that followed up the voicemail I left two days previously asking why Trump hasn’t been impeached already based on his emoluments violations. I’m sure I’m not the only one asking that question. The Trump Doral debacle is, as the title suggests, a perfect slice of the subject.

The third podcast is Article II from MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki. Of the three, this one is the one I have the least hope for. I’m not sure why, it just seems that MSNBC manages to shoot themselves in the foot about every other time they try to do something. Since Bagman was such a hit and The Oath is making waves, I’m betting that Article II is doomed to failure. But I’ll give it a few weeks to see what Steve manages to pull out of the hat.

Article II: Inside Impeachment – Star Witness

In testimony on Tuesday, Bill Taylor, the top US diplomat in Ukraine, described what he saw as a high-stakes decision by President Trump to withhold $391 million in aid to Ukraine. Dan De Luce, national security and global affairs reporter for the NBC News investigative unit, recounts Taylor’s opening statement and whether it support the theory of a “quid pro quo.” 

Then Wednesday the Republicans in the House of Representatives proved themselves unfit for office by staging a juvenile stunt during the hearings. Such is life in the US in 2019. I sent #ImeachTrump? #ExpelMcConnell! to the show as a comment.

Hypocrisy in the Ingroup? Unheard of!

Frankly I expected this to not be a thing in 24 hours. The Twitters and the Facespaces and Instamessengers are all aflame, still. I think it has been more than 24 hours now. I’m not sure. I don’t care. Yesterday the conservative trolls started up with the what about Samantha Bee? questions on liberal groups everywhere. Here’s one example image. Conservatives think they’ve got a point, and that the point isn’t on the top of their heads. A point they’re willing to flog endlessly. As I said on that thread,

The finer point that is never made is that if you are offended by comedy sketch artists and think they should be punished for it (aside from losing their jobs. For not being funny enough) then you have completely missed the POINT of comedy. Get a sense of humor, everyone.

The in-group can do no wrong. This is a common problem in politics, liberals defending Samantha Bee when even she admits she crossed a line is just the most recent example of ingroup/outgroup bias. Something I’ve tried hard never to fall prey to.

I roundly criticized Bill Clinton in the 90’s because of his excesses with women, a fact that gets me in trouble with Democrats to this day. He had no business taxing that ass when that ass worked for him in the White House let alone at the governor’s mansion. That is simply not the way you relate to people from a position of authority. When Stormtrumpers throw what about Bill? at me I have always pointed to my own history of not putting up with crap from him, so I have no compunction with holding the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) accountable now.

The motivated numeracy that afflicts political groups is truly troubling. Conservatives do not see the degree of crimes that the OHM is guilty of as being any worse, and probably less detrimental, than what they believe Bill and Hillary Clinton are guilty of. Never mind that Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton are demonstrably different people and are not interchangeable characters (no matter how much they sold us on the two for one special we got when we put them in the White House) or that the Clinton murder list that they frequently cite is complete bullshit as are all the other dismissed charges that have been raised over the last twenty-five years.

I’ve started in the middle of the story again. Fuck. I hate it when I do that. Starting from the beginning:

Roseanne Barr set Twitter aflame with a racist tweet that she has since deleted and she was canned for the tweet by the network that airs her show. As I said on a friend’s wall on Facebook three days ago,

I hated Roseanne in its final years in its previous incarnation, I hated the new show from the beginning. What I would like is some honesty from the people who talk about how honest Trump is. The fakery in the new show was so transparent as to make the acting cringe-worthy. …having said that, if only it were this easy to fire a president over embarrassing tweets.

Why did I hate the last few years of Roseanne? Because she had become a fake. She had money by that point. She had plastic surgery and mental health counseling and a marriage failing over creative differences and too much money. She was no longer convincing as the domestic goddess that she was in the beginning. I remember her stand up routines. She has great timing and she is quick and clever. But she doesn’t pull punches and that isn’t becoming in someone who literally has the money to get her way pretty much all the time. Her brand of comedy doesn’t fit coming from someone with money and sense. Maybe she should grow a little sense and she could keep a job.

But then not saying whatever thing comes into your head that sounds funny to you is not how you become famous as a stand up comic. So perhaps she’s still on the comedy track and I simply can’t appreciate her comedy anymore. That is entirely possible.

I don’t like either Roseanne Barr or Samantha Bee. I figured out who Samantha Bee was on The Daily Show. I rarely found her funny then, and I’m still not finding her funny often enough to take the time to watch Full Frontal now. I follow comics, it’s something I do for the occasional laugh. I stop following the comics when they stop making me laugh. I certainly don’t pay to see their shows if I’m not laughing. Most conservatives forget that they were pissed off at Roseanne a decade and more ago when she butchered the Star Spangled Banner at a baseball game, an event that was brought to mind by someone with a question about it on Snopes two days ago,

I remember this well. I remember that I thought it was an overreaction at the time. She was a stand-up comic. Her act (and most comedy acts) include ethnic slurs. If you can’t accept the humor, don’t watch it, read it or listen to it. That doesn’t mean that she shouldn’t get in trouble for her jokes told in bad taste, or for comedy routines (like the OP) that bombed.

What is telling is how many comics who pride themselves with doing mostly ethnic slurs end up supporting people like Trump. Very instructive.

Why are people listening to comics that don’t make them laugh? There isn’t a Rush Limbaugh fan who has laughed at him in a decade or more. Why is that?

Yesterday the creator of the G+ group Conservative Union a man with twenty-six thousand followers decided to troll the members of the G+ group Being Liberal. I’m not one to question the motivations of people who clearly have way more attention than most of us should be comfortable with, especially when their actions are bound to create more distraction and attention for themselves that isn’t of a positive nature. But he decided he’d demand answers of the membership of that group, a group demonstrably populated with more trolls than liberals. Perhaps what Being Liberal needs is a moderator that can make sure that conservative trolls don’t get into the group to stir up ugliness on a regular basis. Moderators that control content like Dan Lewis does for his Conservative Union group. But I’m getting ahead of myself again,

I mean, you post this bullshit here,just JAQ’ing off, as if you are asking something weighty. As if people who don’t follow shock jocks and outrageous comedians are offended by a lot of what passes for public discourse these days (take a number after “grab ’em by the pussy”) and simply adjusts their filters accordingly, and at the same time you demand that we all pay attention because you think this is important.

Well, it isn’t important. Roseanne hasn’t been important in twenty years and Samantha Bee’s fifteen minutes are about up. Nobody cares except for white nationalists and anarchists who want to see America made white again. People who support Trump and won’t admit that they are racists for supporting him. Those are the people who need to wake the fuck up.

Paul Sizer

He invokes ad hominems. Antifa. As if I should think that punching Nazis like Antifa does is somehow unAmerican. I can’t figure out why you shouldn’t punch Nazis, unless it’s some kind of official rally and cops would arrest you for punching them. That I get. Otherwise it seems like the most American thing to do, if you know the person at the other end of your fist is a Nazis. I’m thinking Inglourious Basterds here. Maybe punching isn’t a strong enough response? When I suggest that content control is something everyone profits from he alludes to Antifa. When I suggest I might block him for being a troll (demonstrated) and probably an anarcho-capitalist (suspected) I mean, he doesn’t let just anyone into his groups. Or as I put the rhetorical question to him,

How exactly do you intend to listen to the input of 8 billion people when they all try to speak at once? When every single one of them must be given the attention they demand? Take as long as you need to answer, since I know there isn’t an answer you will admit to.

And when he feigned incomprehension,

It’s a simple question. All 8 billion people on the planet will have something to say and according to the rules you have set up, all of them must be heard. How will you achieve this when all of them will want all of the time you have remaining on earth?

A little FYI is warranted here. I block people I determine that I cannot reason with. I do this on every platform and in every social interaction. If I start talking about the weather in a face to face conversation, you should know that I am blocking you right to your face. I have determined that you are not someone I can reason with. This fact is established over several encounters, so if I see you for the first time and I mention the weather, understand that I don’t say how are you? as a greeting, the most common form of blowing someone off while pretending to care. I simply don’t have time for a lengthy conversation on my journey from here to there. I do not exclude people for reasons other than the ones relevant to the conversation in question at any given time. For what it’s worth, those people are found everywhere, on all sides of every issue. It’s why several hundred people on any given platform cannot see what I write. It’s better for my sanity and health and it is better for their sanity, too. I would say their health as well, but I don’t want anyone to think I’m threatening them, so hot outside today, isn’t it?

The troll and the defenders of Samantha Bee then proceeded to conduct their rolling orgy in a cesspool after I posed the content control question, because that’s what these trolls and the people who feed them do. I didn’t care less then and I still couldn’t care less now. Roseanne should have been fired because she has no intention to conform to some kind of societal norms. Maybe there is a return to decent stand-up routines in her future, I’m not the one to ask on that score. Samantha Bee deserved to be dealt with harshly if she hadn’t apologized. She has. It’s up to her network now, just as it was with Roseanne, when it comes to what happens next.

The thing I’m left with is the hypocrisy. The hypocrisy on all sides when it comes to these issues. Anyone who objects to Samantha Bee using the word cunt in reference to someone in a position of authority in our government (elected or not) should be outraged by this t-shirt proudly worn by Stormtrumpers during the 2016 election that gave us the OHM. Anyone surprised by racism coming from people who support the OHM were not paying attention during the election and have not been paying attention since he took office. Am I surprised by the hypocrisy? I’m surprised that anyone notices hypocrisy since the OHM descended the golden escalator in 2015 and started the shitshow we are in today. 1 year, 132 days, 6 hours, 46 minutes and 44 seconds. That’s how long the OHM had been president when I wrote this. Is he still President? Then the hypocrisy continues. Wake me up when the impeachment hearings start.

It is the work of the mendacious to claim allegiance to a past that we all share, all the while excluding those who don’t fit the mold they create with spurious data. Everyone who lives in America is an American. This fact is demonstrable. Conservatives cannot abide this kind of judgment because exclusion is how they secure the zero sum game they have created.


1 year, 290 days, 6 hours, 30 minutes into the Trump presidency. Yesterday I listened to an episode of Stay Tuned with Preet Bharara that featured Samantha Bee. I may have to revise my opinion of her. She is actually pretty funny in the episode.

I’m doing my best not to pay attention to the midterm elections going on right now as I type this. I’d like to think Americans are smart enough to know when they’ve been had by a shyster like the OHM is. It’s just a little more than disheartening to realize that Americans historically have been even more clueless than they were in 2016 when they voted for the OHM in the first place. So, I’d like to hope, but I have been burned before when trying to hope. So I’ll plan for the zombie apocalypse instead. At least that isn’t likely to happen. I hope.

The Reason for the Season, 2016

The solstice approaches.

I know this because my self-diagnosed Seasonal Affective Disorder is kicking in. I want to stay in bed all day. I can’t be bothered to go out to do routine shopping.

Well, the latter isn’t just the SAD.  No, that comes from my cumulative experience with this time of year, which is why a self-diagnosis for SAD may just be my hypochondria (also self-diagnosed. Well, self-diagnosed if the wife calling you a hypochondriac for 30 years constitutes self-diagnosis) kicking in, reinforcing my disgust with the crass commercialism which denotes this slowly expanding season.

There was a time in my youth when we waited until after Thanksgiving to start hyping all things Christmas. I remember going out in the yard after Thanksgiving to admire the life-size nativity scene that my grandfather always put up (complete with genuine hay bales borrowed from farming relatives) in the front yard across the street from the Methodist church in Leoti where he sang in the choir regularly. Setting up the tree and decorating it was generally a part of the Thanksgiving celebration.

These days if you are into labor-saving you put up “Halloween lights” which can be color-changed to “Christmas lights” or just put up the Christmas decorations early. In this household you will find Christmas decorations that stay up all year, the ultimate in labor-saving.

Holiday shopping madness hits just about the time that November rolls around; consequently I refuse to go out amidst the press of people who are willing to knife total strangers in order to get the last dublafluwhitchy that is the thing to have this year. I won’t go shopping between Thanksgiving and New Years unless I run completely out of an essential food item (eggs, oatmeal, tea) and even then I won’t go gladly. I won’t go gladly because I hate Christmas music and it is played non-stop in most retail businesses between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.

Basically I turn into the Grinch promptly following Halloween, and stay that way until Christmas Eve, when I put on my best face in order to not spoil the holiday for the family. Christmas and the solstice holiday it supplanted are celebrated when they are because of the effect that shortened days have on the human psyche; and it would be pointless to attend a celebration as the Grinch when it is thrown specifically to drive the Grinch away.

But the real reason I know the solstice is approaching is that even in my current boycott of the news cycle the War on Christmas, the incessant whining of the christian majority of the US that they are in fact an oppressed minority, has made its way into my information stream despite my best efforts.

The Winter solstice is a pagan holiday. This year it will occur on December 21st for the Northern hemisphere of planet Earth. The pagan holiday (which went by several names) spanned across the current date of Christmas, traditionally for about two weeks, until a few days after the current New Year’s day.

Retconning Christmas: David Kyle Johnson on the Real Reason for the Season

This task that I set myself periodically, this attempt to push back against the wilful ignorance of the average American, this attempt to enlighten the masses as to the true breadth and depth of the history that is expressed in the secular holiday we call Christmas seems hopeless. Even the simple idea that facts when presented without bias can change minds seems hopeless in light of current psychological studies into things like Motivated Numeracy or the Dunning-Kruger Effect especially when polls conducted by the Pew Research Center show,

…that most Americans believe that the biblical Christmas story reflects historical events that actually occurred. About three-quarters of Americans believe that Jesus Christ was born to a virgin, that an angel of the Lord appeared to shepherds to announce the birth of Jesus, and that wise men, guided by a star, brought Jesus gold, frankincense and myrrh. And eight-in-ten U.S. adults believe the newborn baby Jesus was laid in a manger.

In total, 65% of U.S. adults believe that all of these aspects of the Christmas story – the virgin birth, the journey of the magi, the angel’s announcement to the shepherds and the manger story – reflect events that actually happened. Among U.S. Christians, fully eight-in-ten (81%) believe in all four elements of the Christmas story. Even among people who are not affiliated with any religion, 21% believe all these events took place, and 37% believe at least one (but not all) of them occurred.

But still I soldier on, year after year, attempting to point out the silliness that surrounds us.

The word christmas is a bastardization of Christ’s Mass, which is specifically a Catholic celebration. The Catholics, being the earliest example of admen on the planet, realized that they could more easily sell their religion if they simply adopted the holidays in the areas that they wished to convert. When they moved into Northern Europe, they took on the holiday known as Yule and incorporated it into their religion as the day of Christ’s birth (even though it’s considered most likely that the date would have been in spring) and it is even more likely that the celebrations of Saturnalia spread around the Roman Empire, influencing the the celebrations held informally long after Rome had ceased to be a power in the region. Whereby Roman celebrations influenced Yule which in turn influenced celebrations in the later christian eras.

Christ’s Mass (Mass being what a protestant refers to as a ‘sermon’) was thereby invented, placing a holiday that directly coincided with celebrations already being held on the shortest day of the year, accurate calculations of which could be made (and were and still are essential for agriculture) with the crude technologies of the time.

What I’m getting at is this; if you are calling the solstice holiday Christmas and you aren’t a Catholic, then you are referring to the secularized solstice holiday officially celebrated in the US, which doesn’t observe holidays for any recognized religion including christianity. There is no need to further secularize your solstice celebration by calling it a Holiday.

This sort of silliness knows no bounds. The Son attended a charter school that was hosted at a Catholic Church for a few years while he was in grade school and they used the phrase Holiday Party to describe their Christmas Party. If there is one group that should be using the word Christmas it’s the Catholics.  They certainly didn’t hesitate to tell him all about god in that school, which was the main reason his attendance there was brief. I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t just say Christmas.

Christmas being Yule modernized isn’t nearly the earth shattering revelation that FOX and their devotees might think.  A good number of the names for things that we use daily, even the names of the days themselves, are derived from Germanic/Northern European traditions, whose gods were not the gods the Romans worshipped (Remember to think of Odin on Wednesday next time it rolls around) nor the later god of the christians that Rome would officially adopt. Our traditions in the US are a literal smorgasbord of celebrations cobbled together from every major culture on the face of the planet.

If you hear me wish you a Merry Christmas, it is because May your feast of the Winter Solstice be Enjoyable is too cumbersome to say repeatedly. It certainly isn’t because I revere Jesus, or self-identify as a christian.

“Jesus is the reason for the season!”

Axis tilt (22.5 degrees) is the reason for the season. Lack of sunlight causing depression is the reason for the celebration. Christmas has as much to do with Odin as it does with Jesus, and has even more in common with Coca-Cola ads from the early 20th century than it does with any god; Coca-Cola having created the figure of Santa Claus that most of us recognize today.

the Coca-Cola Company

Jesus was not a capitalist. Jesus does not want you to buy gifts to give away on the winter solstice; not only because he wasn’t born then, but because you should give gifts every day of your life. If you really want to know WWJD? Then I’ll tell you, that is what Jesus would do as well as washing the feet of the poor and feeding hosts with loaves and fishes. Give gifts every day to the people around you who need them. Be thankful you have them near you every day that you can, because those days are finite like the number of days remaining in our lives.

If you remain unfazed by these facts; if you are still determined to insist that Christmas is a christian holiday, I’ll go a few steps further to illustrate my point. The Puritans that the average US citizen credits as founding the American colonies specifically targeted Christmas as being a pagan influence introduced by the Catholic church. They exorcised it’s celebration from their religious practices, even punishing celebrants caught loafing during the early years of the colony.

The US is not a christian nation. The authors of the Constitution had little evident love of religion. Having just escaped religious persecution in Britain and the rest of Europe, and being besieged by the mandatory religious practices written into several state charters, they consciously kept all mention of religion out of the document aside from the proscription against religious tests. If you go beyond their ranks you are faced with the fact that there were French colonies as well as Spanish colonies, and if you want a contrast with the straight-laced Puritans it’s hard to find one more glaring than the types of celebrations held in New Orleans down through the years.

The United States exists as a celebration of reason not religion. Reason is the basis for Humanism and the Enlightenment, this country’s real foundations.

I apologize for ruining Christmas for you, I’m sorry.

The world isn’t as simple as any of us want it to be, wish it would be. It won’t change just because you or I think it should; and like those toys you bought for the children, it won’t go back in the !@#$%^&*! box so you can return it. Next time buy the pre-assembled one that has all the pieces in the right place. The child will be happy for the gift anyway, they probably won’t notice the missing parts, and the world will continue to spin on its (tilted) axis whether we will it or not.

Just relax, sit back, and have some more eggnog (or whatever your beverage of choice is) it’s just a few more weeks and then we’ll have a whole new year of problems to deal with. Now isn’t that a refreshing outlook?

…Oh, and Merry Christmas!

(abridged and enhanced from this post)

EPHN: Not Natural Rights

Part 2 of a series of posts defining the Emergent Principles of Human Nature. This effort is an outgrowth of a challenge issued to me ages ago by a fellow libertarian that I explain inalienable rights without including god. Like most challenges of this type, the work is larger than the speaker or hearer understands at the time.


The title of this piece was chosen consciously and deliberately. There are many philosophers who have written over the years of natural rights and inalienable rights. Inalienable rights as Emergent Principles of Human Nature was addressed in the first piece, and will be addressed in a series of pieces that follow this one.

This piece (hopes to) explain the difference between natural rights and human rights.

I hemmed and hawed about writing this section at all.  I almost went back and re-edited the first section just to take the reference to this one out. Having written that section I was immediately faced with this problem;  Emergent Principles of Human Nature are by definition natural.  How can they not be the same thing?

The problem with natural rights as a concept is this; if rights are natural, a part of an individual, then that individual should be able to determine what those rights are. Unfortunately, human nature conspires to prevent this, making the common notion of natural rights almost unfathomable from the outset.  The limitations we face are a part of us and are consequently almost invisible to the individual. They are obvious when pointed out, but even then most people will deny that they are limited by them, never mind that there is no escaping these limitations while remaining human.

The first of these constraints is confirmation bias. If an individual believes something, that individual is going to work to confirm those beliefs, no matter what mountains of evidence to the contrary have to be climbed.  If you believe you have a right to a firearm, you’re going to find every reason you can lay your hands on to justify having that weapon.  No amount of basic logic to the contrary; say, the simple observation of how will you get it if no one can make it? will dissuade you from that belief.

If you are one of those people you are crafting counters right now, if you were even able to finish reading that sentence. However, the parameters of the argument are contained in that simple sentence. There really isn’t an argument beyond I’ll make it myself, which leads to the next constraint.

This is the fact that limitations in areas of understanding renders an individual blind to their own limitations. Also known as the Dunning-Kruger effect, I wondered for years why someone I knew was incompetent in a particular area couldn’t understand why they really shouldn’t be doing whatever it was they were incompetent at.

I myself vaguely discern an echoing gulf of misunderstanding around me when I attempt to communicate with the average mundane (normal person) I simply cannot communicate in any form other than the written word, apparently.  The connections aren’t there in the brain, I can’t read faces, I have no idea what anyone is feeling at any given moment.  I have to blunder along hoping that person I’m talking too is willing to be as dead honest with me as I am forced to be with them.

The one makes essential the licensing practices we’ve come to establish over the last hundred years; and the other convinces us that we don’t need anyone to tell us what we can or can’t do.  Even though, to an external observer, it’s obvious that you (me, everybody) really do need supervision.

It is these limitations that render impotent the common sense notion of natural rights.  It is these limitations that render the individual incapable of determining for themselves what their own aptitudes are. That necessitate the requirement for testing and licensing, so that others can know without having to become experts in all fields themselves (a technical impossibility) what proficiencies someone else is trained in.

These two related constraints are hardly an exhaustive list of the limitations we flawed humans face. The briefest investigation into the subject of priming should give you pause; especially when you understand that simply mentioning firearms earlier in the article, just their reading of that word, means that a significant portion of readers have formed opinions about my goals with this manuscript. Goals that I frankly haven’t even worked out for myself.

Then we could discuss motivated numeracy and how that leads individuals to question science itself when it produces results they don’t like.  I expect that this list of an individuals potential failings will move steadily towards infinite length, the more we understand the limitations of the human animal.

Our knowledge of ourselves is flawed by our very nature; making self-doubt not just a necessity, but a virtue.  Every time that our certainties are challenged we should be willing to step back and question our most cherished beliefs. Capable of not only defending them, but of logically justifying them to the harshest critic.  It is this ability, this willingness to admit the possibility of fault, that embraces our humanity.

This was the need that motivated me to finally admit that the subject of natural rights had to be addressed. The need to point out that our nature allows for a definition of human rights, while at the same time in no way authorizes individual demands.  Yes,  Emergent Principles of Human Nature are natural.  But that does not mean that individuals are born with a right to a firearm. With the right to demand actions, services and material goods of unrelated others.

We are born with an ability to make our own way, to build upon the works of those who came before us and improve on that foundation; but we are beholden to those who contributed to establishing that foundation. We are indebted to those whose blood, sweat and tears are mixed into the knowledge that is preserved for us to utilize.  Every single individual who ever existed before you had to exist in order for you to be here, now, in this place and time with the knowledge you have at your disposal.  If you can grasp it, that is a daunting perspective to behold. The thousands of generations of creatures who had to exist just so that you could be here, now.

Every person longs to be part of something greater than themselves; it is through this longing that so many paths are forged. A wise man once said “No man is an island” and this is demonstrably true.  Those who perceive themselves as islands simply fail to grasp the necessity of all the people who came before him who supported him, educated him and elevated him until his head broke the surface to appear as an island.

All of those people who preceded that individual human being, who contributed to the vast database of knowledge made available to him, had to exist in order for that individual to exist. If this was not so then all of us could claim perfect understanding of the universe at birth, which is demonstrably untrue.

This is the nature of the flaw in individualist philosophies. Objectivism, Libertarianism, Anarchism. All of them carry the same flaw. Rothbard, Rand and all their ideas are flawed from the precept stage of development. They assume that there is just one natural law governing man, and that that law makes itself apparent to all men.   This is also demonstrably not the case. The vast majority of the world’s population simply don’t understand the notion of taxes as theft, or that socializing the healthcare system (or the school system, or whatever) interferes with the contract rights of every man, and consequently determines the paths of those caught within the system.

And yet Rothbard, Rand and those who follow their reasoning simply gloss these facts over, and continue asserting that what they see as the ultimate truth is the only apparent truth.

When I think of natural law, I see several possibilities for defining codes within the parameters of nature. The parasites’ code. The predators’ ethic. These are, of course, not correct codes, as people raised with a mid-western work ethic would conceive of them. And yet, like the misguided people who took the phrase right-to-life and perverted it into a belief system that takes away a woman’s right to her own life; so too the phrase natural rights or natural law lends itself to many different interpretations.

Interpretations that become equally as valid as Rothbard’s real intent when he crafted the ideas behind Anarcho-capitalism, or Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism, because there is no central authority to determine what is or isn’t right in the natural sense beyond might makes right. Because all of us are incapable of objective certainty at any particular point in time, try as we might to maintain a sense of objectivity.  It simply can’t be done and remain human at the same time.

Our nature defines the principles that we live under, but by that same nature no one individual can say with certainty exactly what rights he should be permitted to exercise.

Godwin’s law, the Rand Version

Do you know that my personal crusade in life (in the philosophical sense) is not merely to fight collectivism, nor to fight altruism? These are only consequences, effects, not causes. I am out after the real cause, the real root of evil on earth — the irrational.

Ayn Rand
Wikiquote

So this image showed up on my Facebook feed today. What followed the image in the comments was the predictable feeding frenzy that you witness when your throw bloody meat to sharks. Today’s cleaner, nicer internet breed of human doesn’t seem to understand the dirty nature of real life as it was before the internet made it possible to live and never leave your house.

For the record, she said these words, at least according to Wikiquote (couldn’t find it in the Lexicon, but I remember reading them) although I prefer the quote that follows it, the one I started this post with.  There you have it, Rand gives us all permission to steal from native peoples. That is, if you just blindly do what someone who lived before you and wrote influential works tells you to do.

Blaming Ayn Rand for the plight of native peoples around the world is no different than ending every observation of fascistic tendencies with the phrase “like Hitler”.  In reading her works it’s easy to see how her ideas can be turned to evil, how they could be seen as evil when they are brought up out of context in an image like this. It’s no mystery why people like Paul Ryan and others cite her writings when they want to punish the poor and reward the rich. I myself, as someone who still (provisionally) self-identifies as objectivist, cringe at the words above, and wondered at Rand’s blindness to the fascistic applications her ideas could give credence to.

But then we’ve moved a very long way along the knowledge curve since Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum immigrated to the US in 1926.  Rand herself didn’t even understand what it meant to be “objective”, or rather, the barriers to objectivity that stand in the way of even the most clear-headed observer, something we’ve discovered and proven in the last score of years or so. Motivated numeracy alone can lead one to deny proven science if it conflicts with your political views, so consequently most of the people who adhere to Ayn Rand’s labels and words have even less of a clue about the pitfalls of thinking oneself perfectly objective on a subject.

What she was trying to express about primitives and their rights to continue the nomadic lives they had lead, can’t be illustrated simplistically with concepts like property and profit; it makes her look mean and cheap, which may or may not be an accurate description of Rand the person. You certainly can’t explain the process of national expansion to people who accept the natural fallacy without question, even if you really, really try.

It pays to reflect that the followers of the dominant philosophical ideal of the time, state socialists, had no problem taking life and land from anybody for any reason that they deemed suited the cause of the people (which in state socialist terms meant the body politic) the defense that Rand is offering is at least logical, if bereft of emotion.

Better to ask the people encroaching on tribal lands without negotiating in good faith with the natives what their goals were beyond profiting themselves. Too bad none of them are around to ask anymore.

You might well ask well how should I interpret those words, then? As I’ve done previously when people ask about Ayn Rand (unlike other Objectivists) I point them towards The Passion of Ayn Rand; Book or The Passion of Ayn Rand; Movie (Helen Mirren is great in the latter) because that is what someone who knew her but was kicked out of the inner circle really thought about her and her life.  If you want to see what the most negative parts of her life look like from outside, there is no starker image than these.

On The Other Hand, if you really want to understand what she was trying for with her work, I recommend the documentary Sense of Life rather than her fictional works themselves. You can’t get an overview from them. You certainly can’t get a feel for her at all, from either the detractors who have always hated her, or the mindless randroids who take her name in vain these days.

It is worth observing (hindsight being 20/20) that without people like Rand, people willing to state that it was OK to not sacrifice yourself for the good of the many, that you could lead a worthy life without being poverty stricken and suffering, that we wouldn’t be living in a world that is rapidly seeing the decline of dictatorships as vehicles of social change; that dictatorship is now almost a quaint historical artifact, like feudalism. Social change is once again in the hands of the people.  Right or wrong, where it belongs; with individuals willing to work for change.

Portions of this were cribbed from an earlier work of mine

Non-Libertarian Politics

Been going back and forth with a self-identified libertarian ever since posting this entry to the blog. Going back and forth enough that I think I could write a novel on the subject of misguided libertarianism alone.

If you want to follow the thread, go here: www.privacyfinance.com/forum

I just can’t wrap my head around why, as a libertarian, you would want to claim kinship to proposals that have failed so miserably. And yet, this particular libertarian does so, repeatedly.

So, I’ll run through the argument again, see if I can make a dent.

None of the proposals were made by Libertarians. All of them were proposed by average politicians, most of whom had an agenda at odds with the notions of ‘freedom’. Ergo, libertarian only in name, and that name applied by a man intent on wielding a hatchet.

In order for the proposals that are being referred to as ‘libertarian’, to actually be libertarian, they would have had to produce some net gain of liberty and freedom. Let’s look at the failed programs in question. Assess the amount of libertarian thought that goes into them.

Gov’t retained control of Bush’s ‘privatized’ social security accounts. So you could ‘invest’ a part of your portion of the Ponzi scheme however you wanted, but you still had to go through the same bureaucrats to gain access to it, and I dare say that your benefits would not have been changed just because your portion of the fund did better than the next guys.

Calling it ‘privatization’ was a complete misnomer anyway. No control of current payroll deductions was offered in the plan. The proposal amounted to no more than a gov’t controlled 401K plan. All funds for these 401K’s would come from additional voluntary deductions from the employee’s paycheck (check the facts) additional funds that would go into gov’t coffers, be subjected to bureaucratic control at outlay, and yeild not one iota of freedom or liberty over the long haul.

That isn’t privatizing social security; it’s a meaningless little shell game with no net benefit to the individual. What would have been most likely to occur was the further takeover of the stock markets, inflating already overpriced stocks, yielding a net windfall in taxes for the gov’t to fund further adventures in empire building by the sitting president.

Other than the label, no obvious libertarian content.

Reagan used the bubble created by the Savings and Loan shell game to pay for his increased military budget, and to stave off the recession that eventually did occur during Bush the first. None of his talk about reducing gov’t ever amounted to action. Gov’t increased in size during his term in office, just as it has for every other president in the modern era. No net gain for the individual, no real libertarian content, in spite of the fact that the administration at that time gave credit to CATO’s plan to deregulate Savings and Loans.

But what about voucher systems. Surely vouchers and their defeat is a blow to the libertarian cause? The problem here is, the record doesn’t actually show that vouchers have been defeated in all cases. While the privatization of schools (complete laugh there. Tax funded schooling, even when those funds are handed to the parents of students, isn’t privatization) was fought at the local and state political level; the teachers unions and other groups that rely on gov’t school money are national organizations, with vast resources at their disposal. The wonder is that even with the brute force of the NEA opposed to every change in the gov’t school system, the public school facade has crumbled a bit in the last 10 years. There are charter schools that are excused from most of the controls applied to gov’t schools, and in some places real voucher systems working. There are more and more private school options, and home schooling is in vogue.

Some of the voucher programs deserved to go down to defeat. The structure of these systems contained no benefit to the average person in terms of liberty and freedom, either because of restrictions placed upon use of the tax money, or because of the use of tax money in and of itself. I spoke to several owners of private schools in past years about this subject. Most of them would not have taken vouchers even if they had been offered. The cost of taking them would have far exceeded the benefit of access to a larger student body.

A similar fate lay in wait for medical savings accounts. The insurance lobby dealt with the threat to their profits quite handily. They did this by making themselves the arbiters of what is or isn’t a tax deductible medical savings account, and structuring those programs that offer them in such a way that there is no cost benefit to the individual to participate in one. Hardly a libertarian defeat.

But surely foreign policy is…? Don’t even get me started on that subject. I’ve had a message from a friend concerning this issue sitting in my inbox for over a year now. I’m still working up the rant on the subject. I think it will be a novel when I’m done. Calling the gov’ts continued infatuation with armies and things that go ‘boom’ a failure of libertarianism is about the lamest excuse for journalism I’ve seen in a long time. Libertarians are far from being “of one mind” on the subject; we are neither isolationist nor pacifist. To make these assumptions is to purposefully mislead the reader into thinking libertarians cannot cope with the challenges facing us today.

The conquest of the Middle East that Bush has embarked on has only just begun. How that’s going to turn out is anyone’s guess. Libertarians were warning people for years that something like 9/11 was bound to occur if we kept meddling in the affairs of other countries. Now that it has occurred, we have every right to eliminate the threat to us. I don’t know when (or if) the gov’t will ever get around to that.

The big picture, like the forest lost in the trees, looks very different from the portrait being offered. Some idiot with a hatchet and penchant for word play writes a book and an article and talks about how libertarian politics has failed; don’t just shrug and go along with it.

It was nearly a hundred years from Marx and his manifesto to popular support for socialism; and that being based on the juxtaposition of altruist principles in agreement with socialist principles. Objectivism and Libertarianism emerged, what, 50 years ago? Throwing in the towel already, are we? I’m not willing to call the game ‘over’. It continues as long as I draw breath.

If your response to all this is still “Uh huh, what you’re saying is: it is not libertarian enough for you to call it libertarian.” Then I’d like to suggest the following; “put your paper hat back on and stop bothering the customers”. Leave the thinking to those of us more suited to the task.


Mea culpa review 2019. I have eaten a Big Bowl of Crow since publishing this and other thoughts on many subjects. This entire post was a trip to the No True Scotsman fallacy theme park. Every single objection I listed proves that libertarianism fails at solving the world’s problems. Now that I am no longer hitched to that label as anything other than a delusion I still cling to, it all seems so clear to me. Motivated numeracy on parade.

Put your paper hat back on and stop bothering the customers. I remember when I thought that line was clever. Waited breathlessly for a chance to use it. It’s just another clever line that was never clever, looking at it now.