Friday, May 30, 2008

Washington's "Culture of Deception" and Scott McClellan's Role In Perpetuating It

It seems that Scott McClellan--former Minister of Information for President Bush, Jr.--has made quite a splash with his new tome, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception.

I have no intention of reading a book by a former apparatchik of the Federal government's propaganda bureaucracy desperately trying to absolve himself of the role he played in putting out blatant lies to the public for the purpose of scaring them into supporting a ruthless war against a defenseless and what was at the time an already broken country. If he's trying to save his soul, he's going to have to invest a hell of a lot more personal capital than what so far sounds to me like a self-serving apologia, not unlike Colin Powell's pointless excuses following his own departure from the presidential palace.

Had Mr. McClellan any inkling at all to verify the words he was ordered to utter from the White House podium during his tenure in that position, he could have simply meandered his fat taxpayer-funded ass to a computer with an Internet connection (I would assume the White House has one or two of those) and used that new search engine everyone's talking about--what is it called, "Google", or something?--and checked the Bush administration's claims his own self. Seriously, that's all it would have took for him--or for that matter the corporate-state news media who mindlessly parroted the lies he was parroting on behalf of his bosses--to find out the truth.

You suck, McClellan. You suck every bit as much as the privileged, parasitic fat corporate-state-capitalist cats for whom you willingly, voluntarily toiled in the fields of deception and mass murder. Your hands are every bit as soiled with the blood of hundreds of thousands of innocent dead Iraqis as those of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, et.al.

There is no way in hell you'll ever be able to write yourself to salvation.

You still suck, and you always will.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

How Governments Are Biofueling Mass Starvation

"The hundreds of millions of people who live on the border of poverty, who spend almost all their income on food, are now faced with the threat of starvation. Already, in more than seventeen countries around the world, from Mexico to Indonesia, from Argentina to Mongolia, and from Mozambique to Morocco, the hungry poor have sparked riots and civil unrest in the wake of higher food prices that they cannot afford. The anger felt by these rough but fragile people, the fruit of desperation born out of the usual mixture of poverty and oppression that characterizes the underdeveloped parts of the world, can sometimes be misguided; but in its most fundamental expression, it is just, courageous, and even commendable."
That's Bogdan C. Enache of the Romanian free market think tank CADI on "How the World's Richest Governments Starve the World's Poorest People", which they accomplish by forcibly diverting corn and other grains to feed automobiles instead of the poor. It's today's "Daily Article" at Mises.org.

I swear, if some sick and twisted commies really wanted to play a horribly cruel practical joke in some childish attempt to make a mockery of the market system, they couldn't do any better than government subsidies for ethanol and other biofuels.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Ramblin' Man

Doing some traveling with the wife and boy right now, visiting my in-laws in Michigan (just east of Ann Arbor) for the weekend. So no time for writing for the next couple of days.

The occasion for the travel is a 3-day holiday weekend...The most tragic, pointless and senseless of all state "holidays."

When I get back in action, I do want to post a reply to Adrienne's thoughtful response to my post of May 6th, "Random Thoughts On Global Warming, Pollution, and The Environment."

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Stefan Molyneux's 'Everyday Anarchy'

I've often been impressed by the writing of Stefan Molyneux. I highly recommend the podcasts at his Freedomain Radio site, and though I haven't read any of his books yet (my reading list -- so much to read, so little time!), I've frequently enjoyed his articles at Strike-The-Root ("My Son: Klan Reformer" is particularly a must-read), Lew Rockwell.com and his Freedomain blog (from which I've quoted in a previous blog post).

Molyneux now has a new book, Everyday Anarchy, which he has made available for a free download as a pdf or audio book. (Myself, I've just downloaded the pdf.)

Here's a video version of the book's introduction, which was more than enough to recommend the volume to me:

I look forward to digging in.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Memo To George Lucas

Dear Mr. Lucas:

Please stop embarrassing yourself. Really. Just...Please...In the name of all that's good...Just stop.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Presidential Candidate With Embarrassing Connection To Crazy, Whacked-Out Preacher

The ever vigilant corporate-state news media will no doubt have an absolute field day with the crazy, whacked-out rantings and ravings of the minister who has not only endorsed Republican presidential candidate John McCain, but whom McCain refers to as a "moral compass" and a "spiritual guide" (emboldening is mine for emphasis):
"During a 2005 sermon, a fundamentalist pastor whom Senator John McCain has praised and campaigned with called Islam 'the greatest religious enemy of our civilization and the world,' claiming that the historic mission of America is to see 'this false religion destroyed.' In this taped sermon, currently sold by his megachurch, the Reverend Rod Parsley reiterates and amplifies harsh and derogatory comments about Islam he made in his book, Silent No More, published the same year he delivered these remarks. Meanwhile, McCain has stuck to his stance of not criticizing Parsley, an important political ally in a crucial swing state.

"In March 2008—two weeks after McCain appeared with Parsley at a Cincinnati campaign rally, hailing him as 'one of the truly great leaders in America, a moral compass, a spiritual guide'—Mother Jones reported that Parsley had urged Christians to wage a 'war' to eradicate Islam in his 2005 book. McCain's campaign refused to respond to questions about Parsley, and the presumptive Republican presidential nominee declined to denounce Parsley's anti-Islam remarks or renounce his endorsement. At a time when Barack Obama was mired in a searing controversy involving Reverend Jeremiah Wright, McCain escaped any trouble for his political alliance with Parsley, who leads the World Harvest Church, a supersized Pentecostal institution in Columbus, Ohio. Parsley, whose sermons are broadcast around the world, has been credited with helping George W. Bush win Ohio in 2004 by registering social conservatives and encouraging them to vote. McCain certainly would like to see Parsley do the same for him—which could explain his reluctance to do any harm to his relationship with this anti-Islam extremist."

I simply cannot wait until this country's totally impartial, objective "we-report-you-decide" news media exposes this totally irrational, whacked-out lunatic, thus casting a white-hot spotlight on John McCain, forcing him to explain his association with a man who has "urged Christians to wage a 'war' to eradicate Islam," a man who claims that it is America's mission to see to it that the religion he personally deems as "false" be "destroyed." That is, Reverend Rod Parsley--John McCain's "moral compass" and "spiritual guide"--has called for the world's Christians to destroy every last Muslim man, woman and child on Earth.

Surely, the intrepid, leave-no-stone-unturned reporters and journalists of CNN, Fox News, ABC, CBS, NBC, et.al., will be all over the boob tube with this man's Goebbelsesque diatribe to promote global genocide (again, emphasis is mine):
"'I can't begin to tell you how important it is that we understand the true nature of Islam. That we see it for what it really is. In fact...I do not believe that our nation can truly fulfill its divine purpose until we understand our historical conflict with Islam…I know that this statement sounds extreme. But I am not shrinking back from its implications. The fact is that...America was founded in part with the intention of seeing this false religion destroyed. And I believe September 11, 2001, was a generational call to arms that we no longer can afford to ignore.'"
I'll admit that even though I try to avail myself of as much historical scholarship as my time allows, I'm no historian. But I don't recall any mention in any American history I've ever read of any sort of stated "divine purpose" that has to do with the complete and total destruction of the Islamic faith. I guess I could be wrong--the United States government and its assorted political lackeys have certainly enacted and executed all sorts of morally repugnant and outright destructive policies throughout its history that could lead one to believe that it was as hellbent to destroy all of the world's Muslims as it was to enslave blacks and wipe out American Indians--but Rev. Parsley doesn't cite any sources or historical scholarship to back up his claim.

Let's see what other historical analysis this highly esteemed "moral compass" and "spiritual guide" has to offer. Who knows? Perhaps there is much to be learned from his acute knowledge of history (emphasis is mine):
"Parsley approvingly quotes Christian theologian Jonathan Edwards' reference to Islam as 'Satan's Mohammedan kingdom.' He points out that the United States' first war—the battle against the Barbary Coast pirates—was 'waged against Muslim pirates who took our people captive because they believed in a Jesus crucified by the Jews.' (With that one statement, Parsley slams both Islam and Judaism.) He repeatedly refers to the United States' 'historic conflict with Islam,' and adds, 'We have no choice. The time has come. In fact, we may be already losing the battle. As I scan the world, I find that Islam at this moment is responsible for more pain, more bloodshed, more devastation than nearly any other force on Earth.'"
I don't know much about this Jonathan Edwards, but I seriously have to wonder how he came by this alleged knowledge that Islam is Satan's "Mohammedan kingdom." I mean, did Edwards see Satan hanging around the mosques of Mecca or something? Or did Edwards get Satan drunk one night and the dark prince carelessly spilled the beans on his ingenious master plan to use Muslims to achieve his nefarious ends on Earth? The good reverend will have to forgive my skepticism.

And who knew that the Barbary Coast pirates of the late 18th/early 19th centuries took Americans captive for believing "in a Jesus crucified by the Jews"?

I have to wonder: Did the Barbary pirates take a poll of American merchant sailors to see which ones believed in a "Jesus crucified by the Jews" and abduct those who answered in the affirmative? Promoting certain historic fallacies is a bad thing, but to kill and enslave people for believing that Jesus was killed by "The Jews" rather than Roman government authorities and soldiers--whom, according to the New Testament, the central text of Rev. Parsley's religion, were the ones who actually did crucify Jesus, who, you know, did the actual sentencing, flogging and nailing--is indeed quite excessive. But why would Muslim pirates be so upset by this perception of collective Jewish guilt for the crucifixion of Jesus, as misguided as it is, that they would go so far as to commit violence against people who held such beliefs?

Rev. Parsley may want to avail himself of certain facts pertaining to the Barbary pirates, such as the fact that the United States government actually paid out up to 20% of the Federal treasury to satiate the pirates' demands, much of it in the form of gunpowder, gunboats, and cannon (rather than simply requiring that American merchants bear their own costs of doing business in what had long been a risky and dangerous part of the world). He may want to consider that the U.S. government's policy actively encouraged the pirates to storm even more American merchant ships and hold their personnel captive for the ransom of even more loot and even more gunpowder, gunboats and cannon--the base tools of piracy.

In other words, contra Rev. Edwards, the historical evidence suggests that the Barbary pirates were motivated much more by base material desires and a lust for sheer power than religious convictions.

Regardless of whatever religious tinge officials of the Barbary States' governments brushed on the pirates' terrorism at the time, there doesn't appear to be any documentation of any particular animus specifically against those who believed in a Jesus crucified by Jews, Romans, Orcs, leprechauns, fairies, or anyone else. And even if those particular individual Muslims of over 200 years ago were motivated by such a grudge to commit their crimes, what in the world has that got to do with the more than 1 billion individual Muslims alive in the here and now who Rev. Parsley dreams of totally eradicating from the face of the Earth?

What of Rev. Parsley's claim that "Islam" "is responsible for more pain, more bloodshed, more devastation than nearly any other force on Earth"?

The "Islam" to which he's referring is not a "force," like a tornado or a hurricane, but is instead over 1 billion individual human beings, each with their own distinct and uniquely individual talents, flaws, dreams, struggles, achievements, thoughts, ideas, likes, dislikes, loves, hatreds, etc. But to Rev. Parsley, because they all practice a religion to which they give the same name, those 1 billion-plus individuals are but a colony or hive of faceless creatures conveniently labeled "Islam" and to be exterminated like so many ants and cockroaches due to the actions of several thousand individuals over whom the rest have absolutely no control.

As only individuals--not religions--can act, a "force" called "Islam" is not incurring pain, bloodshed and devastation--several thousand individuals who practice and promote a particularly violent interpretation of the Islamic religion are incurring pain, bloodshed and devastation, many of whom were once armed and financed by the United States government for the purpose of driving out occupying Soviet troops from Afghanistan. Perhaps the good reverend recalls that back in the late 20th century, it was communism that allegedly threatened to devour the whole world, not Islam. The very government that his good friend John McCain wants to run once aided and abetted the very Islamist radicals that Parsley now says comprise the most destructive "force" in the whole world.

These particular terrorists have very specific grievances with the United States, grievances that not coincidentally culminated in a century during which the United States government traipsed about the globe and bombed hundreds of thousands of civilians in foreign lands in order to perpetuate and effect its own civic religion, U.S.-style social democracy.

It was during that same century that the United States government established a military presence in Saudi Arabia to protect oil reserves conceded to American oil companies by the Saudi royal family; fully supported Zionists who murdered Arabs to steal their land; and supported various repressive Arab governments that cracked down particularly hard on Islamic fundamentalists. By that century's end, Muslims saw the U.S. intervening in border disputes between Arab countries, bombing a medicine factory, vastly expanding its military presence in the Middle East and leading enforcement of trade sanctions that would leave hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead for lack of nutrition and medical care because a tyrant most of them never chose to govern their country fell out of favor with his former benefactors in Washington, D.C.

If violent radical Islam is indeed a "force," it doesn't exist in a vacuum totally unrelated and disconnected from everything else. There is an impetus that drives it, and anyone who gives enough of a damn to pull his head out of his own ancient religious fairy tales can see what that impetus is, and it's a violently aggressive foreign policy practiced by the United States government and other allied governments throughout the world.

But certainly, Reverend Parsley's insanely militaristic, collectivist, virulently anti-Semitic conspiracy theory-driven rantings to his fellow Christians that they "eradicate" all Muslims--the inhabitants of "Satan's Mohammedan kingdom"--that they see to it that every Muslim man, woman and child on Earth is "destroyed," will be all over the television news on a near nightly basis until the man who has called him a "moral compass" and a "spiritual guide," Sen. John McCain, who is also depending upon Parsley to motivate millions of potential voters on his behalf, is finally embarrassed into explaining his association with such a crazy, wild-eyed fanatic. Keep in mind that the above quotes of Parsley are but the tip of the iceberg. You should read the entire article from which they were excerpted to get the full flavor of Reverend Parsley's particular brand of mass homicidal insanity.

I should add here lest anyone infer from this post otherwise, I am in no way any kind of fan, admirer or supporter of Sen. Barack Obama. I am an anarchist and therefore support absolutely nobody to tax, bully and regulate me and my neighbors and mercilessly slaughter foreigners in the name of our so-called "national defense." And unlike many of the more deluded neoliberal statist-left social democrats, I harbor no illusions that Obama is some kind of anti-war candidate.

But it is nonetheless interesting to note whom the ruling establishment and its corporate news media deem to be beyond the pale and who gets comparatively little critical scrutiny. That is, it is revealing to see how those who dare question the fundamental premises of Uncle Sam's foreign policy to any extent at all are publicly flogged and demonized, while those who say the only question Americans can correctly ask is "Which country should we bomb next?" are barely subjected to a single iota of critical examination.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Random Thoughts On Global Warming, Pollution, and The Environment

There are some in the libertarian universe who seem to think that there is some merit to global warming theory, while it appears that a great number of other libertarians don't buy it. I tend to be one of the skeptics, as I simply don't think that global warming theorists have met the burden of proof.

But this doesn't mean that there aren't any legitimate issues of concern when it comes to that which we have a tendency to ubiquitously refer to as "the environment," that is, conservation of natural resources, the pollution of air and water, etc.

Pollution is a very real problem. This is quite obvious here in Chicago. All I have to do is walk a block or so to the west of my apartment and take a gander at the Chicago River. It's usually filled with all sorts of trash and other manner of floating debris, with the odd film of oil glistening on the surface. But these days, with all the concern for alleged global warming, it seems as though concerns for local environmental degradation have been overridden by a crusade to achieve some vaguely defined goal of "saving" the whole planet.

It seems to me that libertarians have the right approach to environmental issues when they promote the concept of private ownership in natural resources. If I or my business owns a forest, then I have every incentive to maintain its trees and keep up its capital value. I'll tend to charge the consumers of those trees a relatively low price when they're abundant, but then raise the price as they become more scarce. I'd invest a large portion of the profits into replacing those trees. After all, if I run out of trees, I'm out of business! Thus, free markets offer a means of rationally allocating natural resources to where they're most in demand while simultaneously preserving those resources.

Likewise if I or my business owned the Chicago River, or say, a certain stretch of it. I would have every incentive to maintain its capital value, i.e., to keep it clean for those who want to use it or consume its water. If someone dumps toxic chemicals or garbage into my river, then they would be liable to clean it up and make restitution to me for having despoiled my private property, much the same way that someone who dumps a bunch of garbage into someone else's front yard is liable to clean it up and make restitution to the owner.

The problem for libertarians when they put forth environmental ideas grounded in private property rights, however, is that when most people hear of such ideas they seem to be suddenly stricken with horrific visions of Exxon-Mobil running amok across the entire width and breadth of the Alaskan wilderness, or some large logging corporation razing entire forests until there are virtually no trees left. In this day and age, anyone who reflexively imagines such scenarios can hardly be blamed, considering the means by which many corporations appropriate property in the first place.

But I'm willing to bet that these same people would probably be equally horrified by the idea of a world without any government, which is the linchpin to the whole corporate paradigm of artificial privilege that (rightly, I think) sticks in their craw.

For example, there was quite a bit of controversy several months ago over British Petroleum dumping various chemicals and other pollutants into Lake Michigan. Many in these parts were understandably up in arms. But it begs pointing out, however, that BP was politically privileged to dump those toxins into Lake Michigan, that is, government regulators, exercising the same prerogatives of control as though they were the private owners of the lake themselves, explicitly granted BP permission to dump its industrial waste into the vast freshwater lake. The rationale offered was that BP was in the midst of a vast expansion of its oil refinery, which would create some 80 new jobs. The bureaucrats seemed to believe that simply allowing BP to bear the full cost of its own waste disposal would have dampened such employment prospects. This, I think, should expose the whole crux of the matter.

Can anyone seriously imagine a private owner (or owners)--someone who stands to either profit by Lake Michigan or lose any investment they have in it--actually permitting anyone to dump large amounts of chemicals and industrial sludge into their property?

Here we have this entity, the "corporation", that was called into being by a mystical incantation of government. The owners of the corporation's assets have no control over those assets, and those who do control the assets do not own them. The corporation's liability, that is, the liability of the individual owners and operators of the corporation, is limited. This is all secured and enforced by that vast territorial monopoly of force and coercion, the state. Methinks this has created some moral hazards, such as not giving a damn where to dump pollutants and chemical waste since the dumpers in the current corporate-statist system are largely not held to full account for the costs they incur by their pollution.

I find it difficult to believe that corporations could even exist in a world without governments. I therefore find it not too difficult to believe that private ownership of natural resources in a stateless society would involve many, many small units of ownership. After all, without the big subsidies and big guns of big government, no entity would be able to lay legitimate claim to property of any size greater than that with which said entity could mix its/their labor. So it seems to me that the structure of each of these many ownership units could vary widely, from "mom-and-pop" type business operations, to relatively small joint-stock companies, to local voluntary co-ops.

In this anarchist, decentralized system of private ownership, natural resources could be kept abundant, protected and clean for human use even as they're utilized and allocated according to highest demand.

Perhaps some more elaborate thoughts on this at a future date.

ADDENDUM/CORRECTIONS: Looking back over this post, I realize that I made some glaring errors that bear pointing out and amending.

For one thing, in regards to the corporate form, I wrote that "The corporation's liability, that is, the liability of the individual owners and operators of the corporation, is limited." That is not the case. It is only the liability of the owners/shareholders of the corporation's assets that is limited; the operators, obviously, are fully liable for their actions. (Though they are not necessarily held to account on a consistent basis under the current statist system.)

And I think I should have made it clear that it is not just limited liability of the owners/shareholders and their separation from control of corporate assets that may lead to those assets being utilized in ethically questionable ways. It is those factors coupled with the previously mentioned assumption of government bureaucrats to exercise the prerogatives of control of unowned resources--such as cited in the BP case--that may lead to those assets being utilized in ethically questionable ways.

The left hand can't make do without the cooperation of the right.

Friday, May 2, 2008

May Day

As Rad Geek reminds us, today is May Day, or International Workers' Day. Or rather, yesterday was May Day, seeing as how I'm typing this rather late at night, right on the cusp of May 2nd.

As Wikipedia explains, observance of May Day is greatly influenced by a general strike held in early May of 1886, which was called by American labor unions to agitate for the eight-hour work day. Tens of thousands of working people marched and held rallies in some of America's largest cities. Here in Chicago, as many as 80,000 laborers marched down Michigan Avenue on May 1st.

Workers held a rally at Haymarket Square in Chicago, where anarchist labor activist August Spies and several other labor activists spoke from an open wagon with a group of off-duty police officers observing the proceedings. Witnesses later attested to the peacefulness of the event. (Wikipedia reports that the meeting was so calm that Mayor Carter Harrison walked home early on.)

After the last speaker made his speech, local government police began to march toward the wagon and ordered the crowd to disperse. Then someone produced a bomb from somewhere and tossed it at the cops. One of the officers, Mathias J. Degan, was killed. Police gunfire ensued, with a large number of people laying dead by the time the dust settled, including several police officers.

Eight anarchists would be tried for murder as a result, prosecuted with absolutely no evidence that they had any connection to the bomb-throwing whatsoever. The prosecution's case was that these anarchists had somehow compelled or incited someone in the crowd to throw a bomb at the police with their speeches, obviously a load of nonsense that nonetheless resulted in the executions of four of the activists. Another killed himself in prison. It is this chain of events that influenced the observance of May Day each year by labor unions all over the world.

I have to say I am woefully undereducated when it comes to the history of the labor movement, which now seems rather ironic to me after having recently learned that I'm very likely a distant relative of the 19th century labor anarchist Joseph Labadie, a contemporary of the individualist anarchist Benjamin Tucker. I also come from a very blue collar background.

Note to self: Add labor movement history to that endless reading list that never seems to get any shorter, and compare findings to those of such pro-labor movement libertarians as Kevin Carson.