Tuesday, April 29, 2014

What Libertarians Really Are

Have you ever noticed that libertarian and liberal both begin with the same five letters? Is it a coincidence, or not?

There are indeed folks who have begun to call themselves 'liberaltarians'. It is as though libertarians are seeing the light.

Somewhat, anyway. The precise nature of the change in heart isn't really important. The fact is that libertarians are a bit of a schizophrenic bunch: liberal on social issues while conservative on fiscal matters. It is fair to ask if you can have it both ways and maintain any philosophic consistency.

Can one really be fiscally responsible in public policy while essentially arguing that social responsibility is a radically different question? Why do we have the freedom to do almost anything we want personally (provided it does not violate that vague and rather self-serving platitude: so long as it doesn't harm anyone else) yet have no such similar freedom if a bureaucrat or politician? Indeed, how can one reasonably argue that financial discipline and personal discipline do not go hand in hand? If you are no good at the one it is doubtful you can be particularly effective at the other.

In short, libertarians are essentially liberals who happen to like fiscal discipline. Yet such is like getting blood from the proverbial turnip. If folks are not personally disciplined they are not likely to be publicly disciplined. After all, we reap what we sow. Sow freedom, reap freedom, with all the errors that must grow from that field. But sow justice, the idea that some things are really right and others really wrong on their own merit, and we improve society by having bettered ourselves.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Village Fails Us

The television network ABC Family has among its shows one called Baby Daddy. It's about a man who discovers he's a father after a one night stand. Hilarity ensues.

So this is what passes for family entertainment these days? It makes The Waltons and Little House on the Prairie seem downright archaic. But more than that: it marks the logical direction of a path which seeks, intentionally or not, to destroy the real and true family. When we as a society have come to the point where we accept gay marriage and sister wives as legitimate moral options, where should we expect to land except with a resounding crash where no actual parameters to personal behavior remain? Bestiality, perhaps? Of course, that won't happen. The same people who promote undisciplined human behavior can't have anyone violating animal rights.

Quite frankly, this is the trouble with an ill defined sense of personal freedom: it shoos personal discipline and personal responsibility to the side. It becomes an excuse for any old act which doesn't directly affect others. It conveniently ignores the concept of indirect affect. People say, you don't want your kids to like blank, teach them not to like it. Yet when the general society is working against what you're trying (very rightly) to teach, it affects who you're trying to teach, and not necessarily for the good of anyone.

Mrs. Clinton was right (even though she misused the analogy): it takes a village. That's why the village has responsibility to the person, up to and including recognizing and promoting good behavior while, at the least, discouraging bad behavior. When the village refuses to make judgment about even personal behaviors then it will be overrun with any and all behaviors. We will then no longer have a civil society. But we will have a jungle. And a dense and impassable one at that.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Twist of lime more expensive this year

Limes aren't particularly important to most people. If you enjoy the occasional gin and tonic, and maybe one or two folk eat them, perhaps, but after that, they're just limes. Yet there is a shortage of them this year, to the point where they're selling at around four times they sold at a year ago. And it's the government's fault. In this case, the government of Florida.

The lime trees in southern Florida became disease ridden in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew back in 2000. To prevent the disease from spreading to the orange and grapefruit groves in the north, Florida ordered quite a lot of the lime trees killed; any within 1,900 feet of an infected tree. It doesn't take any great math skills to realize that, seeing as trees in orchards tend to be quite close together, meant a significant amount of trees were destroyed. Couple that with troubles concerning the Mexican lime crop this year, and we have a lime shortage.

Sure, they're only limes. And sure, this effect wasn't to intentionally harm lime prices in 2014; no one then could have known the now extant problems with Mexican limes. But those aren't really the points. The real point is that we have a case of government probably overreacting (let's be fair and say probably, because we aren't citrus fruit disease experts) and now Florida produces almost no limes, while the limes from Mexico are said to be inferior despite this year's issues.

So what we have is another instant of a government acting rashly. In itself, it truly is no big deal. But multiply it by how many other times many other governments on many other levels act rashly and it's easy to wonder how competent governments can be about things. It's easy to wonder how much it costs us in matters beyond taxation: how many other items cost more because of government stupidity?

At least we're willing to admit we aren't citrus fruit experts.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Recycle the Bats

Michigan is among four states which have asked the federal government to delay listing the long-eared bat as an endangered species. The four states want this so that they can devise logging regulations that would protect the flying rodent but not harm the logging industry, as they believe that federal regulations are too strict and would hurt local loggers.

It would be easy to attack the feds on this issue as being too powerful and lording that power over the states. That is certainly true to a point. Yet the bigger point here seems to be the question of why any government at any level should have any interest in protecting bats.

First and foremost, the human need for wood and wood products far outweighs a natural habitat for any given animal, let alone bats. If it's their going extinct which worries you, consider that species have gone extinct for all of human and world history and we're none the worse off for it. Scare stories about such and such carrying an important gene or that the loss of any given creature would adversely upset the ecosystem are just that: scare stories. They should be ignored.

Have you ever noticed too that there is, oddly enough, a relationship between protecting endangered species and the recycling craze? An awful lot of recycling wouldn't happen without government support, exactly as many species might not survive without it either. But notice that an interesting converse is also true. As things which are worth recycling, iron, copper, aluminum and so forth, generally get recycled without any prompt from a government, so too animals which serve a real human need are helped to survive without government protection. Chickens, cows, and hogs survive because we have use for them as food sources. Horses survive mostly for recreation, a true human need also, as do the many types of pets.

There is no need to worry about what animals to protect; human need will see to it. As to what's left after that, if you want to use your money and keep a habitat for long-eared bats, go for it. But kindly keep your hand out my taxpaying pocket for your, shall we say, pet notions.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Georgia's gun law not radical

They've gone and done it. The state of Georgia has made it legal for licensed gun owners to carry their guns almost anywhere. The NRA loves it andgun control advocates hate it.

But what real effect might it have? Only about 5% of Georgians are licensed to carry; it seems a stretch to believe that opening up the laws on where to carry a gun will induce a lot more people to do it. Surely those who do not have the permits to carry haven't been waiting for a move like this. Within reason, those who have permits are the only ones affected by the law. By all indications, they have been responsible gun owners.

We admit that we can't see any particular reason why one would want to carry a gun to church, for example, but we also note that to carry a gun in church or a school still requires the express consent of the place of worship or the school. This is good, as no one has the moral right to carry on someone else's private property anyway, and schools should have greater self regulator powers seeing as they in place of the parents for large potions of the day.

As to other supposedly offensive provisions of the law, firearms dealers no longer need to maintain records of sales and purchases, and the governor loses his authority to suspend or limit the carrying or sale of guns. But why ought these things have been mandatory anyway? The one thing which many of the anti-gun crowd never appear to admit is that registering your weapon in any form actually amounts to a presumption of guilt. Don't we live in a presumed innocent society? Why then assume that gun owners will use their guns for illegal purposes?

The Second Amendment is not the most important part of the Bill of Rights, and gun ownership really isn't a shirt sleeve issue for us. Still, the Amendment is there, and for very valid reasons. Governments however well intentioned and police officers however noble cannot offer the same degree of self protection which a person can for himself. This means that persons who want guns and are willing to learn to use them safely, that is, take on the responsibility of gun ownership and potential use, must be allowed to carry them. Georgia's actions are merely recognizing that fact. There seems little to say after that.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Earth Day: a Bogus Holiday

Today is Earth Day. Today is when we are expected to celebrate the Earth and to remind ourselves of our obligations towards her. That's okay, too, so far as it goes. Any decent conservative knows that we are called to be good stewards of what is put under our control. We are obliged to treat our planet, and all which is within it, well.

And there's the rub. We're not all that sure that such is the real intent of Earth Day. We harbor this fear that the original purveyors of the idea did not have true stewardship in mind. This fear is not allayed when we read such statements from peace activist John McConnell who proposed 'a day to honor the Earth and the concept of peace'. Does he mean that the Earth as the Earth merits honor, a specious idea on its face? And to honor the 'concept' of peace, indeed. Peace is hardly honorable when war is required, as, sadly, it sometimes is.

Then's there's this gem, from Earth Day 1970 organizer Denis Hayes: "(Earth Day is now) the largest secular holiday in the world, celebrated by more than a billion people every year.' This is dangerously close to seeming religious, and there are no more wrongheaded types of religious beliefs than those based on popular will. All this comes before calls for recycling and climate change/global warming/nuclear winter fears being raised, or the hypocrisy of Al Gore buying his way towards environmental responsibility. Further, we can almost hear the specter of Malthus in the crowd, given that awful Earth Day Anthem someone named Abhay K has penned rather insultingly to the tune of Ode to Joy. It appears that Earth Day supporters are, knowingly or not, proposing a modern, godless religion based solely on an inanimate object.

It's as though we're here for the Earth, and not the other way around. And that's the problem with the whole idea. We need to be good stewards of the Earth because it's here for us, for our benefit, and not as an entity of its own which commands our praise. To the degree our world has merit, is as a creation of God given us for the purpose of our (we will say it) exploiting it reverently for our own good.

The Earth is ours; we are not the world. And that is why we have little regard for the day.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter 2014

On this Easter morning, we are reminded that this great Holy Day seems to play second fiddle to the other greatest Christian feast, Christmas. Not that Christmas is a lowly event, either; far from it! Yet we cannot help but conclude, in reconciling the levels of attention paid to each, that we ought to focus more of our efforts, if even only slightly, on Easter.

We do not pretend to be theologians, but as wonderful as December 25th is, it is something of a precursor to our salvation: Christ comes into the world as all the rest of us have, as a child. His is the promise: for God so loved the world that He sent His only Son for our redemption. Christmas is hope. The celebration of it demonstrates trust in the future which Our Lord has set before us.

Easter fulfills that hope and promise. Though we grieve so deeply and so rightly at the misery and death which Christ took upon Himself for us, it is not His Death but His glorious Resurrection which redeems us. Who else has come back from the dead? Who else has defeated that last obstacle to secure the possibility of our everlasting joy?

So while we tread lightly in making such comparisons we have to believe that Easter should be felt more profoundly than any other Christian celebration. He is Risen. Our Heavenly destiny is opened to us should we accept. Let us rise with Him to the level for which we were created, made possible by His love for us. Made possible through the Resurrection.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Life, the Universe, and Everything.

The most inhabitable planet ever has been discovered! This news will be important until the next most inhabitable planet has been discovered. That should be in about a week.

Kepler-186f circles a red dwarf (and not the BBC series, you idiot) star 500 light years from Earth, and it's rocky. Very rocky. But it's in the Goldilocks zone (the area far enough away from a star that a planet won't be too hot year near enough for it to be warm enough to possibly support life) and might possibly maybe have water. Yet it's quite cool and 'probably basks in an orange-red glow'.

Yep. So have many of our cousins. And we similarly have glown (glown?) on far too many occasions ourselves.

Will ya stop already about finding life on other planets? From 500 light years away (the distance light would travel in 500 years at 186,000 miles per second; Second, we add for dramatic emphasis) Kepler-186f is one hell of a long way away. We'll never actually see nor interact with it.

But it might house life. Some kind of life anyway.

Ah, life. Spoken as though any kind of life equals human, sentient, self aware life. You're a bacteria? You're life! We're equals! You're like us. So tell me, what is the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything?

Well, it's not merely finding any old kind of life on any old kinda planet. Our own world is teeming with life; we know this. It is not conjecture. It is not wishful thinking. There's no reason to be particularly excited that such life might exist somewhere else in the universe. It would be on the same moral plane as we find ourselves, especially if such life is sentient. It simply is not critical to our own scientific or philosophic, nay even to our theological, knowledge that other planets might have life.

We're not saying not to look. We're not saying that it wouldn't be interesting to talk to someone from 'out there' if that someone exists. But it would not be the most stunning event in our history. We would reserve that for something like curing cancer, thank you very much. All else would be no different than finding another organism right here at home, or when people of our own Earth came across other humans they did not previously know existed. We need to stop talking as though life, the universe, and everything would really be any different should we be able to converse with a Keplerian.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Religion and the Voting Booth

The left does not understand religion. It cries for the separation of Church and State on the one hand yet demands that religion do its job on the other. Well, you can't have it both ways.

When it comes to feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, and providing medical care, liberals very easily remind Christians of their Christian duty. It's almost droll: when these issues are raised, you know you're supposed to be doing this and that, aren't you, Christians? Yet mention the right to life or the sanctity of marriage, and Christians are scaling that false wall of separation.

It simply cannot be both ways. If you're going to insist that the Church live up to Its call then you cannot also tell Her that She cannot preach the entire call. If feeding the hungry is a moral good despite, perhaps, being a duty in which religious practice is steeped, then so too is defending the unborn. If housing the homeless is a moral good based to a great degree on religious sentiment, then so to is the recognition of marriage as between one man and one woman.

Likewise, you cannot demand that Christians leave their duty to their creed at the voting booth curtain. If you expect them to vote for government solutions when the question of worldly poverty arises, then you must expect them to vote their religious duty towards ending abortion. We simply aren't talking about wholly religious issues on things such as poverty and life. We're talking about basic moral questions the answers to which define ourselves as a society. And as moral persons.

Yes, and define ourselves as Christians. If we are expected to be whole Christians then we must live up to that. And society must allow it if it is to be just, civil, and moral.

What those do when they demand we not vote our creed in practical application is nothing short of effrontery. It is insulting and immoral in itself. The left doesn't get that. That's why it's so critical that, come any election, we vote our creed.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tax Day 2014

Much gets said about what's wrong with our government, but little gets said about concrete ways to fix it. To be sure, everyone seems appropriately concerned with the acts and laws of government being constitutional. Yet rarely does anyone actually address the document itself. There are things within it which could be changed or altered to better direct the workings of Washington.

We could start by getting rid of the Fourteenth Amendment. Say what you will about how it has protected the rights of the citizenry, it has nonetheless been used to allow the Federal Government to dip too far into what originally had been considered the realm of the States, and the citizens as well. We forget that in 'championing' the citizens' rights we have seen great abuses of their rights as well. We might just be better off to leave basic human rights to the several states.

The Sixteenth Amendment ought to be trashed as well. In letting the feds dip directly into the pocketbooks of individuals we have expanded their power far beyond the intention of the framers. It must be remembered, as the great Chief Justice John Marshall said, "The power to tax implies the power to destroy." Let the feds get money from the states and from various fees for only their necessary functions.

Let's trash the Seventeenth Amendment while we're at it. If senators were elected by state legislatures as they once were, then they could get back to their true job: representing the states as states. We are a federal system after all: it isn't as though the state governments should have no direct say in federal antics.

This is only for a start, to perhaps begin discussion. Sure, nothing will come of it as the special interests hold too much sway and federal power has become too entrenched. But you got to have a dream: if you don't have a dream, how you gonna make your dreams come true?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Race and the GOP

Wow. 'Not all' Republicans are racist. So says Representative Steve Israel of New York. Thank you for being so magnanimous. Those of is Republicans who are not racist appreciate your being so considerate of us.

This is the new Democratic party line, apparently. Nancy Pelosi has gotten into the act as well, insinuating that the GOP is racist. This demonstrates quite well the panic which is spreading through Democratic ranks as the 2014 by elections loom, and the 2016 Presidential race inches closer to the spotlight. It is an old leftist trick: when you're losing, call the right racist.

This is an insult; this is effrontery, especially coming from a power mad group which uses every obscure parliamentary trick in the book to get its way. We wonder what the response might have been had a Republican remarked that 'not all' Democrats are stupid. Yet even we'll admit that the trouble with such a remark is that they aren't really stupid. They're playing the political smear game, the game they believe will keep them in power.

The sad thing is, it just might.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Utash Attackers committed no hate crime

The accused attackers of Steve Utash have been charged with attempted murder and assault. And ethnic intimidation. Police are looking into whether the attack on Mr. Utash was racially motivated.

What to think, what to think.

One might argue that having extra laws involved with what is essentially a single act could lead to greater justice. If a felon can't be caught through one law he might be hanged by another, or when one action involves several laws then we might pile on the justice as a punitive measure. Yet that reeks too much of vengeance, and revenge is not a good motivator for justice. So that point is easily dismissed.

It is easy to say that this is good in the sense that at least the laws are being applied equally. Anyone now can be charged with a hate crime, which is worth something on a certain level. What's good for the goose, as they say. Yet the unasked question seems rather obvious: is it good for the goose?

Hate crimes after all are bad policy. Being based on thoughts and not actions, and being that names never actually hurt, it is a very dangerous, ahem, thought that what we merely think should be held illegal. Our thoughts may well be sins, things evil in themselves, yes. But such are also theological issues between God and man. Real crimes are between man and man and must be addressed, for the sake of having as civil of a society as human ability may create.

That our society may now being applying the idea of hate crimes across the board does not justify them. If the alleged attackers are guilty of attempted murder and assault, then that ought to serve justice. And that ought to be all we need think about.

Friday, April 11, 2014

We should abolish withholding taxes

Tax Day, April 15, is approaching very quickly now. People are looking forward to their refunds; isn't it nice of the government to take some of our hard earned cash at no interest before our taxes are due, then graciously return a bit of it on or around the actual due date?

You want to know what would make people conservative or libertarian in one hell of a hurry? If we rid ourselves of that system. If the average taxpayer had to come up with their entire tax payment on April 15 of each year there would be a lot more hootin' and hollerin' over how much Washington and the states and localities take. Then there would be real pressure to hold down spending and lower taxes.

But the government is entitled to their money. Yet even if you accept that argument, why is it entitled to the cash before it is due? To make sure they get it, perhaps. That still begs the actual question, while adding insult to injury. Don't we live in a nation where we are presumed innocent? By what right should a government presume we won't pay a debt? And we haven't broached the issue of entitlement yet; surely there is a standard for what a government should tax. If 10% is good enough for Jesus...

This is a government power which has been so thoroughly accepted that few any longer question it. Yet it is a form of tyranny just the same. We should repeal the withholding tax. We have the moral right to our money until a debt is due, and not until. Our government insults our rights and our integrity through the use of withholding taxes.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Free Markets are flawed too

We conservatives like the free market; that declaration ought to surprise no one. But we also know that it is not and never will be truly free. Why is that?

Human imperfection, for starters. We aren't perfect, and it is silly to believe that a perfect system can come out of less than perfect people. Every human construct will be flawed and there's no getting around that. Markets, being human constructs, will not always lead to the right or best result. Of course, we think that free markets are the best there is at getting beyond error. Yet that doesn't mean they always will. As one of chief arguments against government interference in the economy is that too much is going on for governments to efficiently regulate, it applies as well that in free markets too many people and too many decisions are involved for every single effort to work out well. Yes, markets will organize themselves to a certain degree. But not exactly right and not necessarily in everyone's best interest in every single instance.

Then there's that pesky fact that not every economy in the world is free. True, that is not the fault of free market economics. Yet is another reflection on that pesky idea that people aren't perfect. Simply telling folks that they need freer markets won't lead to them. Government interference alone will see to that, and the simple assertion that open markets are better won't convince everyone that they are. It may be honest disagreement, stupidity, power, or just plain obstinacy which prevents accepting the free market rationale. The markets will never overcome all such obstacles. As such, completely free markets will never exist. There's no point to pretending they will. There will always be interference in them; about the best we will ever have is to limit that through the political process the best we can.

Now we come to those pesky social issues which drive the more rabid free market enthusiasts mad. Not every human trade ought to be in the open market. An easy example is slavery, but it goes beyond that. Prostitution comes to mind, and of course the entire abortion industry is simply wrong. What we're leading up is this: merely because people could do something doesn't mean that they should. Some activities must be banned simply because they're so wrong that an enlightened society must not tolerate them. We can argue where the line should be drawn: that there is a line is another question. There is, and we must find (or at least get as close as we can) and adhere to any legitimate market parameters which exist.

Finally, and this comes directly from our third point, free markets are not the end all be all of human existence. Right and wrong are; doing what's right and avoiding what's wrong the best we can should be our goal. Even the concept of free markets itself recognizes this. Proponents essentially say that markets ought to be free because justice demands it. Yet once we say that, we are effectively arguing not for free markets but for justice. It appears that free markets are a subset, albeit a very important subset, of justice. That also makes it appear that justice can make demands of markets, and that markets not only cannot but should not be totally free.

The freest market possible market is the best market because it allows for the most possible good for the most people. Yet it would still be flawed, it would still commit error, and we need to realize that if we are ever to improve upon it.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The GOP doesn't get it

Republicans. They don't get it. Despite having a higher rate of two parent households, they don't get it. Despite having a higher rate of Church attendance, they don't it. Despite being in more stable family relationships, they don't get it. Despite having better paying jobs under bosses who give them leeway, they don't get it. Despite knowing the well from the ill yet choosing the well, they don't get it. They don't get it. Wish the rest of American society got it.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Utash beating brought on by Detroit Pastors

In the wake of a group of Detroiters savagely beating a man who had stopped to check on a child he had inadvertently hit with his truck, we are hearing all kinds of lamentations. Yesterday Detroit pastor Larry Simmons asked during his Sunday sermon, “What’s wrong with us?”

He might want to be more careful of the questions he asks, because he might not like the real, honest answers.

He might not like hearing that it's, to a degree, the fault of Detroit pastors who preach the Bible and 'doing the right thing' yet vote for and openly support politics and politicians who hear no such preaching and for whom doing the right thing means merely getting elected and reelected.

He might not like hearing that, in encouraging his parishioners to vote for candidates who, we will say it, are of the liberal Democratic persuasion, he has brought on exactly this kind of hatred, this lack of respect for life and doing the right thing. He may not like hearing that the destruction of the family, brought on by the policies of the people he and his Churches tend to support, has led to acts like these.

He might not like hearing that, when you support policies which do not respect life from the very start, policies generally put in place and driven by the folks too many Detroiters vote for (when they bother to vote), then you will get beatings such as the one Steve Utash suffered. You vote for people who support abortion and euthanasia, who do not support life at its weakest, then you get a generation which does not really support life at all, at any stage.

What's wrong with us, Reverend Simmons? With the slightest bit of introspection, you might well answer your own question.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Detroit Deserves its Image

These are the things which make Detroit seem so bad: a driver who apparently stopped to check on an 11 year boy (at least one report claims the youngster was 9, for what that's worth) he hit was beaten by a crowd and now lies in a hospital in serious condition. A bystander said 'he got his'.

That's more than we know. What we do know is that he stopped, which is what he should have done, and is now severely injured because of it. Knowing now that this could be the reaction one could face if unfortunate or irresponsible enough to strike someone with their motor vehicle, what type of behavior are Detroiters encouraging?

We fully realize the driver may have been negligent. But we don't know that; kids have been known to run into streets for years. Yet even then, when he attempts to follow up properly, should he become subject to vigilante justice?

Of course not. But our advice now to anyone who strikes a pedestrian in Detroit is to drive off, leave the scene, and go to the nearest police station and report the incident, while using their cell to explain what happened and alert an ambulance. Turn yourself over to authorities first; the neighbors may well have no sense of justice.

This cannot be blamed on the Emergency Manager. The fault lies right at the feet of Detroit residents too lost in their own pity and self righteousness to actually try to do the right thing. Look in the mirror, Detroit, before you blame everyone else for your troubles.