The call of the new rite


"Now they designate that Paschal season by her name, calling the joys of the new rite by the time-honoured name of the old observance."
---Bede, "De temporum ratione"


Ostara (1884) by Johannes Gehrts.


Un carillon ding dong
Fait un peu de ping pong
Dans l'espace léger
Les cloches se répondent
Aux quatre coins du monde
Qu'y a-t-il de changé ?
---S. Lama/ Y.Gilbert, "Qu'y a-t-il de changé ?"


On Dec. 2, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) delivered a timely speech about Milton Friedman’s Legacies, in which he argued that Friedman’s ideology is responsible for the current Economic Crisis and "the enormous damages" it has caused to the middle class and to working families, here and throughout the world at large.

They said Libertarianism had never been tried before---until then.


The following goes to the heart of it:
Friedman earned his bread by denouncing government at virtually every turn. He, like his acolyte, former Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan, believed that a largely unregulated free market constituted the most superior form of economic organization imaginable.

Right-wing economists have argued that we can simply trust wealthy people and large corporations to do the right thing. Recent history has demonstrated what a silly idea that is.
The Senator's main point was that our country was due for a transformation:
1. We have endured years of right-wing ideology and we are eager to move in a different direction.

2. This last general election represented a repudiation of right-wing economic arguments.

3. We will see a major reordering of social and economic priorities.
It has now been barely three months since the Obama administration took office and although I understand how there are those who will find the question a little bit precocious, I think Easter makes it a propitious time to ask:

How is the transformation going?

Are we already living in a world dominated by for-profit corporate entities in which governments' political power has become so limited that no meaningful change can really take place (Jennifer Government comes to mind), or "yes" can we, still?

Yes, can we?

The world we live in remains in large part a world devastated by ongoing invisible and not so invisible economic wars in which nations are struggling for control of the markets and for their very own economic survival. The sacrifice of Human rights and social expectations is considered a necessary casualty of war and is justified in the name of competitiveness and economic efficiency, just as slave-labor was justified from 1654 until 1865 within the boundaries of much of the present United States.

A "change of direction" would be good. But direction to where? Direction, how? By what means? The international community? What international community?

If "unregulated free market" (aka "turbo-capitalism," "market fundamentalism," "casino capitalism," "cancer-stage capitalism," and "McWorld") is the disease, what is the cure? Regulations? How does one go about fostering the kind of global integration that better provides democratic representation, advancement of human rights and more egalitarian states? Do the nation-states of the world (including a Super Power such as the USA) still have any real say in the economic control of their individual destinies? How does one regulate the world?

Does Barack Obama know?

Do you?

A New Hope?

The thing about charisma is that it is infectious.

The main reason for the success of the Obama campaign is no secret. Barack Obama has been saying things that genuinely resonate with what many people are feeling these days. By the same token, Joe Biden's own popularity has had much to do with the Senator's own unique kind of unpackaged honesty that has been striking a favorable chord (on either side of the political divide) with many people, in this age of media saturation with standardized poll-tested responses and think-tank generated laundry lists of talking points.

As this election year is getting to a close, the cautionary tale of "The Man, the Boy, and the Donkey" comes with a most timely admonition: "Please all, and you will please none."

The Man, the Boy, and the Donkey

A Man and his son were once going with their Donkey to market. As they were walking along by its side a countryman passed them and said: "You fools, what is a Donkey for but to ride upon?"

So the Man put the Boy on the Donkey and they went on their way. But soon they passed a group of men, one of whom said: "See that lazy youngster, he lets his father walk while he rides."

So the Man ordered his Boy to get off, and got on himself. But they hadn't gone far when they passed two women, one of whom said to the other: "Shame on that lazy lout to let his poor little son trudge along."

Well, the Man didn't know what to do, but at last he took his Boy up before him on the Donkey. By this time they had come to the town, and the passers-by began to jeer and point at them. The Man stopped and asked what they were scoffing at. The men said: "Aren't you ashamed of yourself for overloading that poor donkey of yours and your hulking son?"

The Man and Boy got off and tried to think what to do. They thought and they thought, till at last they cut down a pole, tied the donkey's feet to it, and raised the pole and the donkey to their shoulders. They went along amid the laughter of all who met them till they came to Market Bridge, when the Donkey, getting one of his feet loose, kicked out and caused the Boy to drop his end of the pole. In the struggle the Donkey fell over the bridge, and his fore-feet being tied together he was drowned.

That will teach you," said an old man who had followed them:

"Please all, and you will please none."


Most political campaigns nowadays are poll-driven, but genuine and courageous leadership is not about shifting one's public image so as to convince (or "deceive," depending on one's sincerity) specific targeted groups into believing that one shares their views, or that one is just "one of them" (whomever "them" is). Genuine and courageous leadership is about bringing one's VISION convincingly to the people.

Ronald Heifetz (Heifetz 1994) pointed out that people fail to adapt to new and unsettling situations through six avoidance mechanisms:


1. blaming others
2. finding scapegoats (to the extent that this differs from blaming)
3. externalizing the enemy
4. denying that a problem exists
5. jumping to conclusions

6. finding a distracting issue

In a prescriptive view, the leader would squarely face the problem and avoid the six surface-level solutions of the non-leader. A true leader would help a community FACE REALITY AND DEAL WITH THE ISSUES: finding solutions where none previously existed.

Many of the people who have pro-actively helped float the candidacy of Obama, whose campaign was powered overwhelmingly by small grass-root online donations, believe that the times they are a-changin'.


They genuinely believe it.

The thing about charisma is that it is infectious.

This can be a good thing, or not, depending on whether it springs from the "light side of the force" or from darker emotions such as anger and fear.


First mentioned in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, the reference to the light side and dark side of the "force" has achieved cult status and is emblematic of the Star Wars legacy. Rightly so, George Lucas's saga has been described as a modern American fairy tale, and like all fairy tales there is something about it that finds its roots in mankind's collective psyche and speaks to us of the values that exist within humans and the world in which they live. And like all fairy tales it is bearer of an intrinsic truth: The Light side and the Dark side of the force are very real, indeed. But no parable perhaps says it better than the old Cherokee tale about the two wolves:

Two Wolves

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. "A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy.

"It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil - he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego." He continued, "The other is good - he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you - and inside every other person, too."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

Rendez-vous with Gaia?

"These are extraordinary times. And we face an extraordinary challenge."
---President John F. Kennedy, May 25, 1961

"We are the only species that can destroy the Earth or take care of it and nurture all that live on this very special planet. I'm urging you to look on these things."
---Richard Errett Smalley, October 10, 2004

The above picture is a 3D artist's rendition of the interior of Rama, a self-sustainable artificial world imagined by SF writer Arthur C. Clark in his novel "Rendez-vous with Rama." Rama's rotation around its long axis creates the illusion of gravity on the inner surface of the shell, in the style of an O'Neill cylinder.

Logical Science, here, has been keeping a list of possible solutions to the energy and climate change crisis.

The list was last updated 9/26/2006.

Till Death Do Us Part


George Carlin, the Grammy-Award winning standup comedian and actor who was hailed for his irreverent social commentary, poignant observations of the absurdities of everyday life and language, died in Santa Monica, California, on Sunday, June 22, 2008. He was 71.

I will remember him fondly, many people will.

My good friend D, who sometimes share the same provocative penchant for the irreverent, posted some four years ago, a rather depressing environmental report about plastic, which she impishly introduced with a quote from one of George Carlin's routines, “The Planet is Fine.”

The Planet is Fine was also the title of her post and features in the background a RealAudio file of Franz Schubert’s Ave Maria:

Ave Maria! Ave Maria! maiden mild!
Listen to a maiden's prayer!
Thou canst hear though from the wild,
Thou canst save amid despair.
Safe may we sleep beneath thy care,
Though banish'd, outcast and reviled -
Maiden! hear a maiden's prayer;
Mother, hear a suppliant child!
Ave Maria!

Was that odd eclectic juxtaposition irreverent? Irrelevant…? I don’t know. For some reason, it works (it touches you.) And it feels like it all belongs together, somehow.

Some say that there is only one small step from the sacrilegious to the sublime---and vice-versa. Or, as any philosopher worth his/her salt will tell you, even in the Profane, there is the Sublime, and the opposite is also true (they both stem from the same all-encompassing reality.)

Carlin made no secret that he was an Atheist. And he will still tell you so today. Not in person, of course. Not anymore. But all one has to do is watch one of the re-runs of his routine, "Religion is Bulshit":




There is a definite cry for help (“Save Me”) in most religious calls---except in their more ecstatic manifestation (as found in Sufism) or when they are about surrender (as in the detachment of Buddhism or the pantheistic mysticism of Meister Eckhart.)

The Christian tradition offers many fine examples:



This is, most assuredly, one of the reasons why religion generally does best in troubled times or in Man's darkest hour. It seems pretty much to be part of the luggage that comes along with "sentiency" and the confrontation of "life made sentient" with the vastness and coldness of the universe.

The Neanderthal man, deemed to have lived 50,000 years ago, is thought to have buried his dead with ceremonies that suggest a belief in a life after death. This need for “something above or within” is common not only to Christianity and most religions in general, but it is also a dominant quality of western socio-religious New Age "feel-goodism."

The following quote by Carl Braaten (“Christian Dogmatics”) sums it up and would not be out of place had it been uttered by any number of New Age gurus.
"All the world we see, hear, and touch does indeed pass away. If there is the divine, it must therefore be above or behind or beneath or within the experienced world. It must be the bed of time's river, the foundation of the world's otherwise unstable structure, the track of heaven's hastening lights."

But Carlin's cynicism and Job's despair share some sobering thoughts in common;
From the city the dying groan,
And the throat of the wounded cries for help;
Yet God pays no attention to their prayer.
(Job 24:12)

Nonetheless, there is power in Faith.

It does all come in the end in what beliefs we put our faith into...

I think that Death of Terry Pratchett's Discword got it best:

Death: HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO *BE* HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.

Susan: With tooth fairies? Hogfathers?

Death:
YES. AS PRACTICE, YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.

Susan: So we can believe the big ones?

Death:
YES. JUSTICE, MERCY, DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.

Susan: They're not the same at all.

Death:
YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER, AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE, AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET, YOU TRY TO ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD. AS IF THERE IS SOME, SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE, BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.

Susan: But people have got to believe that, or what's the point?

Death:
YOU NEED TO BELIEVE IN THINGS THAT AREN'T TRUE. HOW ELSE CAN THEY BECOME?

H.J.Res. 114 - Why did they do it?


The 2002 resolution for which Hillary Clinton and a majority of her congressional colleagues voted gave the president the authority to go to war in Iraq.


It was not, as it has often disingenuously been misrepresented, a congressional declaration of war or a directive to the president to launch an invasion. But, seriously now folks, who are we kidding here?

Hillary Clinton should have known better; the majority of her congressional colleagues who voted along with her to support the resolution should have known better.

As a matter of fact, they all did know better. Yet, they did it anyway.

Although acknowledging that the vote for the resolution could "lead to war," Hillary Clinton insisted that vote for the resolution was not a vote "for" the war, and said that she expected the White House to push for "complete, unlimited inspections" and that she did not view her support for the measure as "a vote for any new doctrine of pre-emption or for unilateralism."

Right! And she also still believed, are we to suppose, that it is the Tooth Fairy who leaves money under children's pillows in exchange of their baby teeth.

Hillary knew better (link), yet, out of domestic political calculation perhaps (what she thought was better politically for herself - not for the country), she still did the wrong thing! At least the members of the GOP who voted for the resolution voted in favor of something they sincerely believed in (some of them did). That's the problem with politicians: Hillary, no doubt, like many of her colleagues, was afraid of how a vote against the resolution would be exploited by her political opponents. Also, she thought maybe that she could have it both ways. Be for it and against it. Or, like, senator Kerry lamely put it during his 2004 presidential campaign (on a different unrelated matter) "vote for it before voting against it."

Voting for that resolution, under the political climate of the time, could only mean one thing and one thing only. Many, many good people in America knew what it meant at the time and what it would lead to. The congressmen and women who voted for it KNEW what they were really voting for. How could they not? And what if they didn’t; is that really the kind of clueless men and women we want representing us in congress?

Where was the hurry? Where was the need for that resolution? There was certainly no clear and imminent danger justifying the need for such a resolution. The response of the Democrats should have been clear-cut. Missouri Representative Willard Van Diver's simple common sense in his self-deprecating 1899 speech comes to mind: "I come from a country that raises corn and cotton, cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I'm from Missouri, and you have got to show me." Just two simple words: SHOW ME! Allow for the continuation of "complete, unlimited inspections." Show me "probable cause." What happened instead is that U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan was forced to order all U.N. inspectors to evacuate Iraq, after George W. Bush, using his new powers given to him by congress, eventually issued a final ultimatum for Saddam Hussein to step down or face war. (Clearly not what the resolution was supposed to be about.)

Not only was it a mistake for this country and for the world, but it was also a political mistake for those who voted for it -- a mistake for which they have paid direly. (Remember Kerry's disastrous campaign, as his political opponents gleefully pointed out, again and again, at how he and his fellow Democrats "had the same information" they had and how they had voted just as they did "in support of the war.")

While in the Senate, all Republicans (except Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island) voted for the passage of the resolution. The vote was sharply divided among Democrats, with 29 voting for the measure and 21 against.

(In the House, six Republicans, among which, Ron Paul of Texas, joined 126 Democrats in voting against the resolution.)

This is a link to Ron Paul speech on the floor of the house on 8 October 2002: link

And here is Representative Dennis Kucinich statement before the House on October 3, 2002: link

Famously, among those who were against the resolution was Senator Robert Byrd, D-West Virginia, who attempted to mount a filibuster but was cut off on a 75 to 25 vote.

Senator Byrd argued that the resolution - AS EVERYBODY KNEW - amounted to a "blank check" for the White House.

"This is the Tonkin Gulf resolution all over again," the senator said. "Let us stop, look and listen. Let us not give this president or any president unchecked power. Remember the Constitution."

After the election in 2004, former Senator John Edwards wrote an op-ed piece for The Washington Post in which he acknowledged his vote for the resolution and called it a mistake; the first sentence was: "I was wrong."

Senator Barack Obama, was not in the Senate yet in 2002, but as an Illinois state legislator, he is among those who spoke out publicly against the invasion of Iraq before it even began. This is part of a speech he delivered on 26 October 2002 at an anti-war rally in Chicago:

... I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military a fraction of its former strength, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.

I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.

I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars.

So for those of us who seek a more just and secure world for our children, let us send a clear message to the president today. You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s finish the fight with Bin Laden and al-Qaeda, through effective, coordinated intelligence, and a shutting down of the financial networks that support terrorism, and a homeland security program that involves more than color-coded warnings.

You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s fight to make sure that the UN inspectors can do their work, and that we vigorously enforce a non-proliferation treaty, and that former enemies and current allies like Russia safeguard and ultimately eliminate their stores of nuclear material, and that nations like Pakistan and India never use the terrible weapons already in their possession, and that the arms merchants in our own country stop feeding the countless wars that rage across the globe.

You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s fight to make sure our so-called allies in the Middle East, the Saudis and the Egyptians, stop oppressing their own people, and suppressing dissent, and tolerating corruption and inequality, and mismanaging their economies so that their youth grow up without education, without prospects, without hope, the ready recruits of terrorist cells.

You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s fight to wean ourselves off Middle East oil, through an energy policy that doesn’t simply serve the interests of Exxon and Mobil.

Those are the battles that we need to fight. Those are the battles that we willingly join. The battles against ignorance and intolerance. Corruption and greed. Poverty and despair.

Now, Hillary Clinton's rationale for her vote in 2002 authorizing the use of force against Iraq (a pleasant Newspeak euphemism for "go to war with Iraq") is that she was misled by President Bush, that he lied about WMD but that she believed him.

I am not so sure.

Her speech on the floor of the Senate on October 10, 2002 (link), make it clear that she had a much better understanding of what was really going on, and that she understood that "some people favor[ed] attacking" Iraq because, I quote, "deposing Saddam...would create the possibility of a secular democratic state in the Middle East, one which could perhaps move the entire region toward democratic reform."

One may agree with such kind of interventionism in a sovereign nation’s internal affairs. Or not. Personally, I don’t.

There is a name for this. It's called regime change. Or "nation building."

This is the kind of ambitions promoted by the Project for the New American Century (PNAC).

On September 20, 2001, (nine days after the September 11, 2001 attacks) the PNAC had sent a letter to President George W. Bush, advocating "a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq" "...even if evidence [did] not link Iraq directly to the attack".

In September 2000, the PNAC had released a report titled "Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategy, Forces, and Resources for a New Century." Specifically citing the Persian Gulf, the report notes that "the United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein. Over the long term, Iran may well prove as large a threat to U.S. interests in the Gulf as Iraq has."

What's wrong about this picture, what's so terribly wrong about it, is not whether or not conducting regime changes throughout the globe is the right thing (ethically or geopolitically) to do for the US, it's not the exhortations of the PNAC or the recommendations of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq - a more recent group staffed entirely by PNAC members (this is a free country, anyone is entitled to their own opinion), and it is not what people are saying now about "the flaws in the conception and horrendously bad execution" of the "liberation" of Iraq, or the "incompetence of the Bush administration," or whether or not the "surge" is working.

What's wrong with this picture is that, for better or for worse, what Hillary Clinton alluded to in her speech (the creation of "the possibility of a secular democratic state in the Middle East"), what the PNAC envisioned (regime change, or "a substantial American force presence in the Gulf"), are NOT what H.J.Res. 114 spoke of: This is not the mandate this president was given to execute. It is not what congress was told. It is not what the American people were told at the onset of the invasion. What America was told was that Saddam Hussein's possession or imminent development of nuclear and biological weapons and his purported ties to al-Qaeda made his regime a "grave and growing" threat to the United States and the world community.

The rest is history:

No such weapons were found. In January 2005, the Iraq Survey Group concluded that Iraq had ended its WMD programs in 1991 and had no WMD at the time of the invasion; although some misplaced or abandoned remnants of pre-1991 production were found, U.S. government spokespeople confirmed that these were not the weapons for which the U.S. "went to war".

Similarly, alleged links between Iraq and al-Qaeda were called into question during the lead up to the war, and were largely discredited by an October 21, 2004 report from U.S. Senator Carl Levin, which was later corroborated by an April 2006 report from the Defense Department’s inspector general. These reports further alleged that Bush Administration officials, particularly former undersecretary of defense Douglas J. Feith, manipulated evidence to support links between al-Qaeda and Iraq.

No weapons were found, but the harm is done, or – depending on one’s viewpoint - it is a “mission accomplished”: Part A of the PNAC’s grand vision for the Persian Gulf is now realized! The occupation of Iraq is a fait accompli. On March 2007, Hillary Clinton stated in an interview with the New York Times that if elected president, she would keep a reduced military force in Iraq to fight Al Qaeda, deter Iranian aggression, protect the Kurds and support the Iraqi military.

Hillary Clinton and her fellow democrats, who voted with her in support of H.J.Res. 114, claimed that they were duped.

Perhaps it was so. Everyone makes mistakes.

A bigger question, then, might be who has been duping whom, here, and to what degree were people really duped?

And what about all those who voted against the war?

How did they find the wherewithal to avoid being duped when Hillary didn’t?

Flip-Flop Christianity



An inconvenient question:

Tyler Overman: Hi. This is Tyler Overman from Memphis, Tennessee. And I have a quick question for those of you who would call yourselves Christian conservatives. The death penalty, what would Jesus do?

The question came up during the November 28, 2007, Republican YouTube debate on CNN.

Not too surprisingly, the question was handled like one would a hot potato by Governor Huckabee. Like any well-groomed politician is now trained to do, the Candidate eventually spun the query into another question he felt more comfortable with:

There are those who say, "How can you be pro-life and believe in the death penalty?"

Which, while not answering the question, had, at least, the clarity of defining Governor Huckabee as an unapologetic supporter of the Death Penalty:

Because there's a real difference between the process of adjudication, where a person is deemed guilty after a thorough judicial process and is put to death by all of us, as citizens, under a law, as opposed to an individual making a decision to terminate a life that has never been deemed guilty because the life never was given a chance to even exist.

But Governor Huckabee did dodge the original question, a fact that didn’t escape the notice of the moderator, Anderson Cooper, who tossed the original question back to the Governor:

Cooper: I do have to though press the question, which -- the question was, from the viewer was: What would Jesus do? Would Jesus support the death penalty?

Huckabee: Jesus was too smart to ever run for public office, Anderson. That's what Jesus would do.


???!!!

How disappointing!

This posting from The Fix (the Washington Post's main political blog) says it all:

"Sadly, the press marveled at yet another non-answer to a question about a serious issue. The question was intended to be a request for a Christianity-based stance on the morality of the death penalty, not a set-up for a one-liner."



One or more of those three forms of execution depicted on the above images is or are deemed unchristian. Which one(s), dear reader? The first one? The second? The third? All of the above? None of the above?

Yes, Governor, Jesus never ran for public office. That’s the whole point; Jesus never ran for public office, but, YOU, Governor, have been, and are presently, running for public office (the highest public office of them all), and therefore, that question from Tyler Overman from Memphis, Tennessee, was addressed to YOU, Governor.

Very relevantly so.

How do you, Governor Huckabee, reconcile your political stand with regard to the death penalty with your Christian faith? And how, by extension, does, for that matter, the religious right – which has been very active politically in this country – reconcile its political stand with regard to the death penalty with what Jesus is preaching in the New Testament.

This was what that inconvenient question from Tyler Overman from Memphis, Tennessee, was about, Governor. But you knew that, of course.

The religious right, who brought the Bush administration to power, likes to preach from the Bible (mostly the old Testament) where and when it finds it politically convenient, and, yet, it becomes oddly silent on some of those very issues about which Jesus is the most vocal in the New Testament, and in particular in his Sermon on the Mount.

You’re right, Governor, Jesus would not have run for office, but, you know, Governor, I don’t believe that Jesus would have dodged that question either. But, then, as you rightly pointed out, Jesus was not a politician – unlike you, Mr. Huckabee.

But to be fair to the governor, he is not running for President as a pastor, of course, but as a politician…

Or is he, now?

Hard to tell, as just only a few weeks ago (10/20/07), speaking at the Family Research Council's Washington Values Voter Summit, Huckabee compared himself to "the prophets of old, the ones who spoke truth to power."

"Don't ever let expediency or electability replace our principles," Huckabee urged the crowd.

Governor Huckabee also expressed his concern that "some of the evangelical leaders seem to be less committed to the principles that got them involved in politics in the first place, and more into the politics than the principles." He observed that "when you cease becoming clear about who you are, and what you're about, you really just become another Republican interest group."

I couldn’t agree more, Governor.

Speaking of Liberty


Libertarianism gone bad

Warning: Some ideologies on the Net are smaller than they appear.
—Seth Finkelstein

Wasn't Ayn Rand a pseudonym of L. Ron Hubbard?
—Mike Huben


Starship Troopers was published in 1959, seven years before the publication of The Moon is a harsh Mistress in which Robert Heinlein introduces the character of Professor Bernardo de La Paz, a self-proclaimed "Rational Anarchist" who wants no taxes, no standing armies, and a minimum of government interference in the lives of its citizens.

Starship Troopers was made into a major motion picture by Paul Verhoeven in 1997---and also in 2004 (picture above) with the direct-to-video post-911 sequel, Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation. (Robert Heinlein is rolling in his grave.)

The following dialogue is from the 1997 movie feature:

RASCZAK : Here in History and Moral Philosophy we've explored the decline of Democracy when social scientists brought the world to the brink of chaos, and how the veterans took control and imposed a stability that has lasted for generations since...
When you vote, you're exercising political authority. You're using force. And force, my friends, is violence, the supreme authority from which all other authority derives.

DIZZY : My mother always says that violence never solves anything.

RASCZAK : Really? I wonder what the city fathers of Hiroshima would have to say about that. You...
[Rasczak points at Carmen.]

CARMEN : They probably wouldn't say anything. Hiroshima was destroyed.

RASCZAK : Correct. Naked force has settled more issues in history than any other factor. The contrary opinion 'violence never solves anything' is wishful thinking at its worst. People who forget that always pay... They pay with their lives and their freedom.

The original quotes from which the above scene in the film version was derived originate from the following exchanges in the novel:
"My mother said violence never solves anything." "So?" Mr. Dubois looked at her bleakly. "I'm sure the city fathers of Carthage would be glad to know that."
—Lt. Col. Jean V. Dubois (Ret.), Chapter 2

"Anyone who clings to the historically untrue — and thoroughly immoral — doctrine that 'violence never solves anything' I would advise to conjure up the ghosts of Napoleon Bonaparte and of the Duke of Wellington and let them debate it. The ghost of Hitler could referee, and the jury might well be the Dodo, the Great Auk, and the Passenger Pigeon. Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst. Breeds that forget this basic truth have always paid for it with their lives and freedoms."
— Lt. Col. Jean V. Dubois (Ret.), Chapter 2

Starship Troopers is on the reading lists of all four US military academies, as well as the official reading lists of the US Army and the US Marine Corps!!!

Rightly or wrongly so, Heinlein has been described by his detractors as an elitist, concerned with the "UberMensch,” and, rightly or wrongly so, there are those, among his admirers, who look up to him as an icon of Libertarianism (on par with Ayn Rand — philosophically speaking that is, as literately, few will disagree that he was a better writer than she was). I, for one, do find it hard to reconcile the author of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (or, even more famously, Stranger in a Strange Land), with the author of Starship Troopers, a simplistic late-juvenile coming-of-age military SF novel. But maybe the contradiction is at the heart of the incongruities inherent in Libertarianism as a Political ideology. Or maybe it is just part of the divide within the Libertarian movement itself and ultimately of its recuperation and eventual takeover by the GOP.

The Moon is a Harsch Mistress received at the time (1967) the Hugo Award for best science fiction novel. There is that delightful scene, in Book 2, in which one of the characters advocates the formation of a Monarchy – out of all things – under the rulership of another character, Professor Bernardo de La Paz, a self-described "Rational-Anarchist" — out of all people — and Mannie, one of the professor’s students, as his adopted heir, on the rationale that this would be the only institution that could save the people from — I quote — "the worst of all tyrants, themselves" — LOL. Ah, the mechanics of Kings, or is it, King the mechanic 101? This is the kind of irony that, for me, sets Heinlein apart from people like Ayn Rand (or any of her Libertarian disciples) — the man never takes himself so seriously that he loses sight of the shortcomings of political ideologies — any ideology — be it anarchism, or libertarianism with a big ISM. To that regard this is one of the redeeming values that makes Heinlein a sincere anarchist to my own heart.

One of the points Heinlein argues in the novel, via the Professor, is seldom new: self-government is an illusion caused by failure to understand reality.

And what is reality?

It's a dog-eat-dog world out there (homo homini lupus, man is wolf to man). Franz de Waal, a Dutch psychologist, primatologist and ethologist, calls this "Veneer Theory." In this view, human morality is a thin layer barely disguising less noble tendencies.

Yet, one of De Waal's points is also that there is more to the world than this; sympathy, empathy, right and wrong are feelings that are part of the common evolutionary heritage we share with other species.


Did we human beings invent our feeling for justice, or is it part of the package of primal emotions that we inherited from our ancestors? In other words: Did morality evolve? Dutch-born psychologist, ethologist and primatologist Frans de Waal has spent his career watching the behavior of apes and monkeys, mostly captive troupes in zoos. As a young student, he sat on a wooden stool day after day for six years, observing a colony of chimpanzees at the Arnhem Zoo. Today he watches chimpanzees from an observation post at Emory University’s Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta and at other zoos and primate centers. His work, along with primatologist Jane Goodall’s, has helped lift Darwin’s conjectures about the evolution of morality to a new level. He has documented tens of thousands of instances of chimpanzee behavior that among ourselves we would call Machiavellian and about as many moments that we would call altruistic, even noble. In his scientific papers and popular books (including Chimpanzee Politics, Our Inner Ape and Good Natured), he argues that Darwin was correct from that first glimpse of Jenny at the zoo. Sympathy, empathy, right and wrong are feelings that we share with other animals; even the best part of human nature, the part that cares about ethics and justice, is also part of nature.
—The Scientific American
And what is governance?

Governance is an attempt to solve conflicts between actors and adopt decision (legality); it is also about the proper functioning of institutions and their acceptance by the people (legitimacy).

Our fragile Republic, as well as a few other forms of governments in the world are attempt at governance through consensus by democratic means (participation).

And what is the reality of government?



Power corrupts – this is hardly an earthshaking revelation. But this is not a reality endemic to government per se, this is simply the reality of one of the manifestations of human nature.

There is no denying that at this point in time, "self-government" is an illusion (an ever elusive goal) – it has been so, for as long as the concept has been in existence.

And so is Libertarianism.
I believe in the Free Market Fairy and the Tort Sprite too. They'll keep our power cheap and our air and water clean. All you have to do is close your eyes and tap your money clip three times.
—Gen. JC Christian, Patriot
At some point in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, the Professor calls Thomas Jefferson the "first of the rational anarchists."

Yet, Thomas Jefferson's views with regard to government and taxation were clear:
"... legislators cannot invent too many devices for subdividing property... Another means of silently lessening the inequality of property is to exempt all from taxation below a certain point, and to tax the higher portions or property in geometrical progression as they rise. Whenever there are in any country uncultivated lands and unemployed poor, it is clear that the laws of property have been so far extended as to violate natural right."
—Thomas Jefferson (in a letter to James Madison), 1785

Amazingly, Murray N. Rothbard, the author of "For a New Liberty,” the book that helped launch the modern libertarian movement in the US, described what he presented as a "1994 revolution" in America against the Democratic party, as follows:
"...a massive and unprecedented public repudiation of President Clinton, his person, his personnel, his ideologies and programs, and all of his works; plus a repudiation of Clinton's Democrat Party; and, most fundamentally, a rejection of the designs, current and proposed, of the Leviathan he heads..."

I am not making any of this up. (Quoting quite literally, here.)

According to the author what was being rejected was – I quote – "big government in general (its taxing, mandating, regulating, gun grabbing, and even its spending) and, in particular, its arrogant ambition to control the entire society from the political center. Voters and taxpayers are no longer persuaded of a supposed rationale for American-style central planning..."

It goes on, and the following, I think, lies at the heart of Murray Rothbard's pink-colored Libertarian glasses:

"On the positive side, the public is vigorously and fervently affirming its desire to re-limit and de-centralize government; to increase individual and community liberty; to reduce taxes, mandates, and government intrusion; to return to the cultural and social mores of pre-1960s America, and perhaps much earlier than that."

First of all, and briefly stated, how much "on the positive side" of things exactly would a "return to the cultural and social mores of pre-1960s America" be, seems a highly contentious point to me, to say the least.

Second--and, here again, just stating the obvious--we have there a clear and highly misleading juxtaposition in the way the author is presenting things: "to increase individual and community liberty" (a laudable endeavor in and for itself) and "to reduce taxes, mandates, and government" (the ideology of laissez-faire advocates) are not necessarily the same thing, and the latter is by no means a guarantee of the former. Funds provided by taxes are used to carry out many functions, some of which have been instrumental in the promotion and protection of "individual and community liberty."

Don't get me wrong; I am all for a decentralization of power and individual liberties — and nobody loves a Leviathan government.

But, as a younger Rothbard — 1965 — had said himself (and I must say here, once again, that, in this instance, just as in the case of Robert Heinlein further above, it is an endless object of fascination to me how people's minds all exist on multiple levels, sometimes in parallel and contradictory consciousness):

"The doctrine of liberty contains elements corresponding with both contemporary left and right. This means in no sense that we are middle-of-the-roaders, eclectically trying to combine, or step between, both poles; but rather that a consistent view of liberty includes concepts that have also become part of the rhetoric or program of right and of left. Hence a creative approach to liberty must transcend the confines of contemporary political shibboleths."

What has happened instead in this country is that Libertarianism has been serving as the ideological basis for the marketing of the Gingrich/Bush revolution. Or as Zompist.com puts it, the GOP has taken the libertarian "Government is Bad" horse and ridden far with it:
- Dole's 1996 campaign, advancing the notion that taxes were "Your Money" being taken from you.

- Gingrich's Contract with America (welfare cuts, tax cuts, limitations on corporations' responsibility and on the government's ability to regulate them)

- Dick Armey's comment that Medicare (medical aid for the elderly) is "a program I would have no part of in a free world"

- Bush's tax cuts, intended not only to reward the rich but to "starve the beast", in Grover Norquist's words: to create a permanent deficit as a dangerous ploy to reduce social spending

- Jeb Bush's hope that the Florida state government buildings would one day be empty

- Intellectual support for attacks on the quality of working life in this county and for undoing the New Deal
And now, Blackwater...

In all fairness, now, maybe this use of their ideas is appalling to "Real Libertarians"... well, as Zompist.com put it on their side of the Metaverse, "hold your nose then," but it is no longer possible for Libertarians to pretend to innocence when the political bond of citizens with their governments is undermined while the country is handed over to unaccountable corporate thugs:

I quote:

Despite the intelligence of many of its supporters, libertarianism is an instance of the simplest (and therefore silliest) type of politics: the single-villain ideology. Everything is blamed on the government.

Not being a libertarian doesn't mean loving the state; it means accepting complexity. The real world is a monstrously complicated place; there's not just one thing wrong with it, nor just one thing that can be changed to fix it. Things like prosperity and freedom don't have one cause; they're a balancing act.

Here's an alternative theory for you: original sin. People will mess things up, whether by stupidity or by active malice. There is no magical class of people (e.g. "government") who can be removed to produce utopia. Any institution is liable to failure, or active criminality. Put anyone in power-- whether it's communists or engineers or businessmen-- and they will abuse it.

Does this mean things are hopeless? Of course not; it just means that we have to let all institutions balance each other. Government, opposition parties, business, the media, unions, churches, universities, non-government organizations, all watch over each other. Power is distributed as widely as possible to prevent any one institution from monopolizing and abusing it. It's not always a pretty solution, and it can be frustratingly slow and inefficient, but it works better than any alternative I know of.

Markets are very good at some things, like deciding what to produce and distributing it. But unrestricted markets don't produce general prosperity, and lawless business can and will abuse its power.

- Since natural resources are accounted as free gains and pollution isn't counted against the bottom line, business on its own will grab resources and pollute till an environment is destroyed.

- The food business, on its own, will put filth in our food and lie about what it's made of. The few industries which are exceptions to food and drug laws (e.g. providers of alcohol and supplements) fight hard to stay that way. The food industry resists even providing information to consumers.

- Business will lock minorities out of jobs and refuse to serve them, or serve them only in degrading ways.

- Business will create unsafe goods, endanger workers, profiteer in times of crisis, use violence to prevent unionization-- and spend millions on politicians who will remove the people's right to limit these abuses.

- Businesses create monopolies and cartels when they can manage it; and the first thing monopolies do is raise prices.

- Businesses can create bureaucracies as impenetrable and money-wasting as any government. (The worst I've ever had to deal with are health insurers. And no, it's not "government regulation" that makes them that way; insurers have an interest in making the claims process as difficult as possible.)

- State-controlled media are vile; but business-controlled media are hardly better, especially given the consolidation of major media. Democracy needs a diversity of voices, and we're moving instead toward domination of the airwaves by a few conglomerates.