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Lela on Why We Aren’t Better than That   1 comment

Last week Thom Stark gave an impassioned defense for restraint in interventinism. This week I agree with him! Sort of …

Lela Markham Davidson Ditch CorrectedYou’re right, Thom, we should be better than that. Unfortunately, we’re not … at least not anymore.This is one of those rare instances where you and I are in total agreement. I want to clean up a couple of points and then come back to the main topic.

A writer can be right on some ideas and wrong on others. Hitchens represented that truth. The art for the reader is to glean the wheat from the chaff. In this case, Hitchens is not the only writer to have noticed our entanglement with England in those years nor will he be the last. I could list about 25 academic articles on the subject, all of them pretty dry and boring. The United States and England have long historical ties to one another, obviously, but we were testy with one another from the Revolution right into the end of the 19th century. For most of our history, the US had a strict policy of neutrality. We were willing to export any product to any country and thus avoid war all around the globe. Winning the Spanish American War gave us delusions of grandeur because we suddenly found ourselves with a nascent global empire. Britain was just about the only European power that supported us in that war, by the way. We returned the favor In 1900-01 by joining England to suppress the Boxer Rebellion.

Still, we were all dressed up with nowhere to go if we didn’t assert our strength into global politics.

So, we did — first by chasing Germany out of the Caribbean (TR even threatened war) and giving preferential treatment to England in the collection of war reparations from Venezuela, and then with World War 1, which was the first time a non-European power interfered in a European war. It didn’t really matter which side the US supported. That hop across the pound served its own ends. It didn’t make Europe any safer for democracy, but it proved to the United States that we had the power to affect world politics. Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt before him believed we should take a substantial role in the world than we had previously claimed. Wilson’s stroke followed by the election of McKinley, quickly followed by Coolidge prevented us from becoming the world policeman in 1920, but that was only an intermission.

Every US president since World War 2 has largely operated on the premise that the US is boss of the world. You can’t blame any particular political party. Democratic presidents got us into World War 2, Korea, Vietnam and the Balkans. Republic presidents got us into Desert Storm and Afghanistan/Iraq. Our current Democratic president has insisted we meddle in Syria and Libya. While neocons are popularly associated with the GOP these days, they were originally Democrats who, frustrated with their historical party’s anti-war stance post-Vietnam, jumped ship to Reagan’s big tent. Neocon warmonging is a trans-partisan issue.

It might be helpful to better explain what that term “neoconservative” means. It predates the current political party platform configurations, but really the media sort of throws the term around in such a loose fashion that it’s difficult to catch a meaning.

“Neocons” believe American greatness is measured by our willingness to be a great power through use of vast and virtually unlimited global military involvement. America is the world’s top authority, so other nations’ problems invariably become our concern. When people like myself (a fiscal conservative) point out that the US cannot afford to be the world’s policeman, neoconservatives say we have no choice because “Our world needs a policeman. And whether most Americans like it or not, only their indispensable nation is fit for the job” (Jeff Jacoby, Boston Globe). This is essentially the Republican equivalent of Woodrow Wilson’s “keeping the world safe for democracy.” Wilson was a Democrat, Bush was a Republican … both danced to the neocon tune. As a non-partisan conservative, it’s been illustrative to watch our Democratic president dropping drone strikes across the globe even as many Republicans (Marco Rubio aside) began to question the old neocon foreign policy consensus that dominated Bush’s GOP. It’s not a partisan phenomena. The Democrats just justify their warmongering under humanitarian language while the Republicans point to national security.

“It is a traditional conservative position not to want the United States to be the policeman of the world,” Jimmy Duncan (R) said in 2003, promptly to be shouted down by his party because Republicans at the time didn’t see Iraq as “policing the world”, but as a legitimate matter of national defense. Hindsight being 20-20, they (or really, the “tea party” contingent that has increasingly replaced the old guard in recent years) now recognize we needlessly created another country’s civil war and destabilized an entire region.

That’s always what neocons do, by the way. They see America’s wars as valid simply because we are in them. “As long as evil exists, someone will have to protect peaceful people from predators” (Max Boot, historian). Boot snidely asked the GOP when they declined war in Syria if they wanted to be known as the “anti-military, weak-on-defense, pro-dictator party”. Oddly, that is exactly what the Republicans said about Democrats for opposing the Iraq War. John McCain famously declared Republicans who oppose intervention in Syria as “isolationists”, but really there is a difference between supporting a strong national defense and opposing policing the world in the guise of national defense. We can have a strong defense without posting our army in every country of the globe or meddling in the internal affairs of other countries.

And we do need a strong national defense because there are many in this world who do not see our national behavior as friendly.The Czechs protested our troops in their country back in April, Russia is protesting our training maneuvers in Ukraine now. Islamists are currently the most active, and while they do not pose a direct threat to the American mainland at the moment, 911 should remind us that they have those aims. I don’t fear a direct military campaign, but we are so weak in so many other areas — economically, socially, ethically — that another 911-type attack will likely be used to justify a further restriction of civil rights by our own government. That is something we should fear, because we’ve seen that our government is not “better than that,” and is quite willing to ignore the Constitution under the guise of “protecting” we the people.

As for the Islamic State, it seems more interested in securing its territorial gains in the Levant currently, but both they and Al Qaeda (which controls substantial landscape as well) still have the long-term goal of a worldwide caliphate. To the extent that they would impose their ideal by regimenting society under a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, bent upon severe economic and social regimentation with forcible suppression of opposition, Islamists show a great deal of similarity to fascists. That it is motivated by religion rather than nationalism won’t really matter in our daily lives if they gain an upper hand. We will be miserable nonetheless. As long as Al Qaeda and ISIL fight among themselves, the US (if not Europe) is probably fine for the time being, but if they return to pooling their resources …. But I think that our fighting them in the Middle East only helps with their recruiting there … and here.

Thom StarkUltimately, though, our real danger comes from ourselves … from our government — both the elected tyrants an ill-informed electorate keeps putting into office and the unelected tyrants who populate the regulatory agencies, prisons, police forces and social work fields. We think our government is ourselves — what we have chosen to do collectively — but on a whole host of issues, the American people hold vastly different views from the elites who rule us, which suggests that we the people are not in control any longer. While people with short vision would like to blame GWB or Obama, the fact is that this has been in the works since at least President Wilson. Our failure to understand that is why 90% of the voters can say they oppose the US playing “policeman” around the world and yet our supposed employees in the US military still are fulfilling that role.

Yes, we should be better than that … but we aren’t, and sadly, I don’t think our government aspires to be better, though people like you and I might.

The question is — if we the people really want to be better than that — how do we make our government do what we want? I don’t think the solution will be found in partisan politics.

 

Thom Stark is the author American Sulla, an apocalyptic thriller series. Lela Markham is the author of Transformation Project, an apocalyptic dystopian series. Both these series look at America following nuclear terrorism.

Thom Responds on Interventionism   2 comments

The last couple of weeks (Here and Here), I played devil’s advocate by putting on the perspective of the countries we meddle with and asking the question “Might the US be the reason the world is such an unstable place?” This week, Thom replies to me.

Thom StarkYou have an … unusual … view of history, to say the least. I’m afraid it’s also more than a little misinformed – again, to say the least. Two weeks worth of your essays have created quite a collection of topics, so, rather than going through them point by point, I’ll try to confine myself to addressing the major ones.

Except your “sympathy for the devil” discourse on Hitler, that is. That one is simply too egregiously wrong for me to duck.

Adoph Hitler was born in 1889. Far from being a 10-year-old boy, in 1918 he was a corporal serving as an artilleryman in the German army. His experiences on the front lines inspired in him a lifelong hatred of Germany’s officer class, based on his resentment about having been repeatedly passed over for promotion, while officers he considered incompetent were awarded medals and promotions of their own. (He talks in considerable detail, and with great heat about those experiences and his contempt and anger towards the military in his autobiographical book, My Battle, btw.)

Nowhere in your imaginative portrait do you account for the future Fuhrer’s deeply irrational antipathy towards Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, communists, and intellectuals, all of whom would be targets of systematic pogroms after he became Reichschancellor. Nor do you seem to in any way acknowledge his galloping megalomania, paranoia, and determination to dominate, control, and modify to his liking every single aspect of German civil life – all of which contributed to Germany becoming a menace to world civilization as the putative Thousand-year Reich. And, again, all of that, along with his blueprint for conquest and subjugation, first of Europe, then of the entire world, I know, not because it was spoon-fed to me by rote, but because, as a teenager, I actually read Mein Kampf. About the same time, I also read Paul L. Shirer’s massive, detailed, and thoroughly-documented The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich – a book I also recommend to you.

Likewise, your portrayal of the liberal/corporate elite meeting to conspire to change the character of America seems equally cockeyed to me. Just as a single example, J. Pierpont Morgan’s U.S. Steel cartel was dismantled by Theodore Roosevelt’s trust-busters. When Morgan offered to make any changes the Justice Department required (including substantial divestments) in order to allow his steel monopoly to continue, he was informed that there were no changes he could possibly make in order to satisfy the Feds – and that they were determined to end his monopoly, and make a very public example of him in the process. That he would then conspire with Teddy’s cousin to bring about a novus ordum seculorum is risible, at best.

And T.R. himself was a big fan of interventionism, as well. Spanish-American War, anyone? Moro Rebellion, perhaps?

Your explanation of the roots of WWI is equally flawed. The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand was merely the final act of a long-building confrontation between the Germanies and the allies of Western Europe. When Austria declared war on Serbia over the assassination, Germany was obligated by treaty to follow suit – which then, in turn, brought France and England into the war because of their treaty obligations to Serbia. By the time of the sinking of the Lusitania – the event that precipitated the U.S. entry into active conflict with Germany – it’s true enough that the English were blockading German ports. It is also true, however, that Germany was doing its best to return the favor. It was just a lot harder for them to cut off access by sea to England than it was for the British navy to shut down German ports, because of their respective geographies (England controlled Gibraltar, so it could exclude trans-Atlantic cargo from access to conquered Mediterranean ports, and the German ones were all Baltic-facing, and conveniently close to one another for blockade purposes).

Churchhill’s after-the-fact rationalization notwithstanding, the sinking of the Lusitania is what forced us into the war. It was a passenger liner, and in no sense a legitimate target for the German navy. Public outrage over its sinking left Franklin Roosevelt and Congress no choice but to formally declare war.

Speaking of which, your father knew exactly why we entered WWII – because the Japanese navy conducted a sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, in a bid to foreclose our navy from opposing their planned invasion of the Phillipines. (The fact that the Japanese ambassador had orders to present the President with a declaration of war half an hour before the scheduled attack isn’t well-known – he got caught in traffic on the way to the White House, btw – but it wouldn’t have made any difference, because Japan’s formal declaration of war would have obligated Germany to declare war on us, as well.) It was only in the wake of the allied invasion of the German homeland that the reality of the death camps had any meaningful impact on the American public’s perception of the true horrors of Nazism. Before that, they were just “the bad guys” because they had declared war on us after the Japanese surprise attack.

And I know that, because, as a child, I voraciously read my father’s collection of Yank, the armed forces newspaper, with its many first-person accounts of war in Europe and the Pacific, and its detailed portraits of life on the front lines by reporters such as the great Ernie Pyle.

Yes, our Lend-Lease program infuriated Hitler. But, nonetheless, he was never willing to unilaterally declare war on us, because he knew full well that America would add enormously to Allied power, should it become a combatant. The Japanese bombing attack on Pearl Harbor and Hickam Air Field forced his hand.

Treaty obligations, you know?

But let’s talk about American post-WWII interventionism.

If you expect me to defend the CIA’s policy of covertly destabilizing leftist regimes during the Cold War, I’m going to have to disappoint you. It’s important, though, to realize that the Agency’s geopolitical machinations were a product of the Dulles brothers dominance of foreign policymaking at the time. John Foster Dulles, Eisenhower’s Secretary of State, was a rabid anti-communist, and his brother Alan was Director of the CIA. Between them, they managed to create incredible ill-will toward this country in the name of fighting the global spread of communism – and, more importantly, they did so in the most foolishly short-sighted and counterproductive possible manner. And that same policy of destabilizing left-leaning governments and installing repressive, autocratic, often military governments in their place didn’t end with les frères Dulles, either. It continued throughout the Cold War, everywhere from Peru to Grenada.

Nor was that the worst of the CIA’s sins. The disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion was an Agency operation – and so was the Gulf of Tonkin “incident.” That was a completely manufactured causus belli. It was the pretext on which Congress authorized introducing American combat troops into the Vietnam conflict, and it was a complete fliction. Not even President Johnson knew that the CIA had simply made it up out of whole cloth, manufacturing every bit of evidence, to force us into physical conflict with North Vietnam – whose overtures for American assistance John Foster Dulles had contemptuously rejected when Ho Chi Minh approached the State Department for help in overthrowing the French colonial occupation of the North.

So I think we agree on the issue of CIA culpability for American interventionism during the Cold War.

We’re also in agreement about the calamitous invasion of Iraq in 2003. About whether we were justified in leading a coalition to eject Iraqi forces from Kuwait, maybe not as much, though. There, Iraq was, in fact, the unprovoked aggressor, overrunning the country of Kuwait in order to appropriate its oil fields. Our treaty obligations to Kuwait forced us into war with Iraq over that invasion. Yes, it’s true that we had previously supplied Saddam Hussein with weapons and financial support in his wars with Iran. Whether that was a good idea or not is arguable. It certainly kept Iranian expansionism contained at no cost in American lives. What’s inarguable is that our invasion of Iraq to topple his regime was utterly misbegotten. There was no justification for that, Judith Miller’s recent aplogism notwithstanding, because the actual intelligence community assessment was that Saddam’s Iraq posed zero direct threat to the USA. Iinstead, it was the cherry-picked intelligence that the never-to-be-sufficiently-condemned Douglas Feith (the odious Wormtongue to Dick Cheney’s Saruman the Black) dredged up from among the dissenters to the consensus view that was used to justify the invasion to the UN and the American people.

That disastrous adventure was prompted not by the CIA – which opposed it – but by the vision of the neo-con nitwits at the Project for a New American Century. PNAC was a think tank from which emerged most of the staffers for Cheney’s Office of the Vice-President, as well as highly-placed members of the Defense and State departments under the Bush administration. Their thesis was that America should embrace its role as the world’s policeman, and impose regime change on rogue nations by force. One of their central tenents was the the USA needed a permanent military base in the heart of the Middle East from which it could with impunity project power throughout the region. That was music to Cheney’s ears, and, with the lure of all that high-grade Iraqi crude just waiting for Halliburton Corporation to exploit, it constituted the impetus for invasion and conquest of Iraq.

It was the PNAC idiots – Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz among them – who advocated and pushed through that invasion in the wake of 9/11 … which was entirely a pretext, because they’d been plotting the takeover of Iraq since the very outset of the Bush 43 era. Throughout, they remained purposefully blind to the consequences of that entirely-unprovoked aggression: the destabilization of the principal bulwark against Iran, the inevitable disintegration of Iraq as a political entity, and the inflaming of Islamic enmity towards the U.S., despite being repeatedly warned of the probability of those outcomes by CIA and State Department analysts who (unlike the ideologues of PNAC) had made careers out of studying and trying to understand the region. And, likewise, having been repeatedly cautioned that the all-volunteer military’s strength was completely inadequate for the task of occupying a hostile country the size and unruliness of Iraq (cautions that cost a number of highly-capable generals their careers under Rumsfeld, who demoted or reassigned them to dead-end postings, replacing them with bootlickers and yes-men).

So that, too, is an area on which we agree.

However, you’re way, way off base in asserting that the CIA was behind either the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, or the toppling of Viktor Yanukovich’s government. Yanukovich was the architect of his own downfall, as documented in the New York Times investigative piece titled Ukraine Leader Was Defeated Even Before He Was Ousted:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/04/world/europe/ukraine-leader-was-defeated-even-before-he-was-ousted.html

It was Yanukovich’s fateful decision to order his police to fire on peaceful, unarmed protesters that lost him the support of his own allies, including the Ukrainian military. And his ouster was not illegal under Ukrainian law, because Ukraine’s parlaiment voted to remove him from office. In other words, Ukraine’s elected government declared him unfit to be President and removed him from office, not the CIA. Only Putin and his propaganda organs insist the CIA was involved – and Putin, as you well know, has a long history of lying with his bare face hanging out whenever it’s politically convenient for him to do so.

On the other hand, I can’t blame him for taking advantage of the situation to take control of Crimea. It had always been part of Russian until Nikita Khrushchev (who, let’s note, was himself Ukranian) transferred it to Ukraine in 1954. Nor do I disagree that a partition of modern Ukraine into a rump state and a Russian province is unlikely. In fact, that’s probably been Putin’s goal all along.

Lela Markham Davidson Ditch CorrectedNone of which invalidates my central thesis that the current balance of world power, in general, is a product of the Cold War-era global American military empire. I’m not now, and never have been, an advocate of military interventionism, except as required by our treaty obligations. I’m convinced that we shoud go to war only as a last resort, and only against an active aggressor’s actual military invasion of an allied nation’s soil. However, as a lifelong student of history, I well understand that creating a power vacuum inevitably leads to armed conflict among nations that might benefit from attempting to fill that vacuum. That’s why I advocate keeping our military empire, purely as a deterrent to such would-be opportunists. If we should abandon our military presence in Europe, it would unquestionably provoke war between Germany and Russia over the historic buffer state of Poland. Likewise, if we pulled out of Japan, South Korea, and Thailand, that would precipitate a war between Japan and China for control of the Spratly Islands in the North China Sea. In both cases, treaty obligations would force us to intervene. Without the bases necessary to effectively project conventional military power in those regions, nuclear war would result.

And that would be the ultimate – and final – intervention.

Thom Stark is the author American Sulla, an apocalyptic thriller series. Lela Markham is the author ofTransformation Project, an apocalyptic dystopian series. Both these series look at America following nuclear terrorism.

The Conversation Continues   Leave a comment

Christian AnarchyYou know how it is. Sometimes your day just gets busy. Hang on for Thom Stark.

Thom Stark Responds to a Reader   1 comment

LELA: Thom and I have been going back and forth about private enterprise and the role of government in utilities like broadband. Nicholas asked Thom this question:

Nicholas:  How about the general welfare? I don’t see how my tax money is properly used with grants for Chattanooga for something the government should not even be involved in.

Thom StarkTHOM:  Nicolas, that Chattanooga’s MAN was partially funded by Federal tax money is really beside the point. Congress set aside money for stimulus grants. Because of the way government fund-based accounting works, that money could ONLY be used for stimulus grants. Alaska (which is to say Sarah Palin) chose not to apply for such grants. Chattannooga, however, did so, so they got that money.t

It’s clear that we disagree on whether it’s proper and appropriate for “the government” (in this case, Chattanooga’s government) to provide Internet service. That’s been the central point at issue in the last couple of these exchanges. Lela agrees with you. I do not.

Let’s be clear here. It’s just as valid to ask why Tennessee taxpayers should be asked to pay $320 million for the Gravina Island Bridge in Alaska (yes, the 2008 earmark was deleted from the highway bill – but only because conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation called it “a national disgrace). The short answer is Congress appropriated money to pay for maintenance and construction of highways. That money was parceled out to each state according to an arcane formula that Congress uses for that purpose. Don Young and Ted Stevens “earmarked” a portion of Alaska’s share for the bridge – and then the screaming started.

That’s the way the system works. You can complain that it shouldn’t be that way, but IT IS. There’s a pot of Federal money set aside for a particular set of purposes. A state can decline to accept its share of that pot – as Palin did with the stimulus funds – but the money in the post still HAS to be spent for those purposes, because THAT’S WHAT THE LAW REQUIRES.

I’m not about to explain the logic behind fund-based accounting here, but it has to do with (believe it or not) accountability.

 

Thom Stark is the author of the American Sulla trilogy and blogs at starkrealities.com.

Thom and I come from different political philsophies, but we both agree that listening to other perspectives is an important and currently neglected American tradition.

Allure of Power with Becky Akers   5 comments

Christian AnarchyLELA: Becky Akers has returned for more discussion on how Christianity aligns with anarchism, which is not a mainstream notion among Christians, although you will find elements of it in anabaptist traditions. Welcome back, Becky.

BECKY: Thanks, Lela. Last time we closed on a note that should utterly damn the State for every Christian: our arch-enemy, the one who mocks our Lord and gloated over His agony on the cross, who accuses us to God while seeking our destruction and eternal damnation, is the driving force behind political government. Satan owns the State. And he not only brags about that, but our merciful God recorded the conversation for us. Clearly, He wishes us to understand the State’s true nature lest political slavery ensnare us, as it has so many Christians over the centuries.

LELA: I think I know where you’re headed with this.

BECKY [smiles]: And here I consider myself a woman of mystery.

Political power is very, very alluring. Any power is, of course: strength, influence, the ability to get things done—all immensely flatter our fallen natures. “Look what I can do!” we say, whether it’s bench-pressing 500 pounds, chairing a meeting, or forcing people to do things our way. That last is particularly intoxicating, and I think it explains the State’s appeal, not only for politicians and bureaucrats but for their multitudes of victims who admire and, worse yet, cheer their depravity.

The Biblical prescription for changing the world relies on persuasion, reasoning, setting a Christian example, and, above all, waiting on the Holy Spirit to work, one heart at a time. This is slow, tedious effort. It’s often overlooked, usually unappreciated, and hardly glamorous. We don’t make headlines when we tell the cashier, “Here, you gave me back a dollar too much in change.” We don’t earn a Nobel Prize for remaining faithful to our spouse. Visiting shut-ins and prisoners, caring for widows and orphans, doesn’t make for scintillating press conferences. And the results of such patient example-setting, persuading, etc., are frequently obscure or, when noticed, disappointing. You teach boys in Sunday School for 15 years; you don’t know that one of them would have died of AIDS, three would not have attended seminary, and another 14 would have divorced but for the Scriptural precepts they studied with you. But you do learn that the kid who mouthed off in class any time his family bothered attending church becomes a serial killer when his mug-shot stares at you from Newsmax.

LELA: Christian work is a slow, labor-intensive process of loving rather than forcing. And it is a very voluntary process, with all the difficulties associated with a volunteer process.

BECKY: Exactly. Contrast that dissatisfying, boring method with the dramatic results that government—i.e., organized, physical force—achieves. Politicians pass a law, and bingo, behavior changes overnight. Bureaucrats begin regulating a new industry and entrepreneurs ten times cleverer than they must now obey them. A cop stops you at a checkpoint; you smile nervously and kowtow because the consequences of his displeasure can ruin your day or even your life.

That’s intoxicating stuff. Who doesn’t want results from his effort? Who doesn’t want all and sundry acknowledging his authority, even cringing at it? Compulsion achieves, and quickly. It succeeds where persuasion, reason and prayer fail, or seem to.

LELA: Which explains the rise of the Religious Right in the 1980s and onward … feeling like they were failing to influence society sufficiently by voluntary means, they sought the aid of government to achieve their goals.

BECKY: Yep. Like so many otherwise devout Christians, they fell into Satan’s trap of statism. Such believers tragically, inexplicably ignore the devil’s clear announcement of ownership in Matthew 4.

We’ve all heard or read this passage hundreds of times. Satan appears to a Jesus weary and weak from forty days of fasting in the wilderness. He famously tempts Him with three different ploys; let’s consider the final one:

 (Verse 8) Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; (9) And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.

Lela, when you offer to give me something, you must own it first, correct? Now of course, you could proffer your neighbor’s cat or his boat—but I’d certainly protest, “Hey, wait a minute, you can’t give me that! It isn’t yours!”

LELA: The old saw that the Brooklyn Bridge is for sale? Yeah, you would hope people wouldn’t fall for that … at least nobody rich enough to afford it.

BECKY: Ah, but notice that our Lord doesn’t contest Satan’s ability to “give” him the “kingdoms of the world” (and the word “kingdom” in the original Greek is the same one for “government” that was so conspicuously missing from the passage in Romans 13. Its root is “basileus,” meaning “king” alone, unlike our use of “kingdom” for a whole country, including the people over whom a king rules. Our vernacular would better translate it as “politicians” or “government.” Satan is referring here specifically to the various political rulers over the terrain he and the Creator are surveying).

LELA: Strong’s says it’s the authority to rule not the kingdom itself.

BECKY: Exactly. Christ here tacitly agrees that Satan reigns in and through the world’s governments when He refuses to buy them by worshipping the devil.

This isn’t our only proof of government’s Satanic overseer. Let me ask, Lela: who tortured our Lord to death?

LELA: We did.

BECKY: That’s right: our sins nailed Him to that cross. But what was the actual agency of His death? The Roman government. Indeed, the Gospels emphasize that only government had the requisite force and legal authority to commit this murder. The religious establishment, much as they hate Christ and crave His death, is impotent: it takes the State to torture and impale an innocent Man.

And as it does so, its utterly demonic, hellishly brutal nature is highlighted for anyone with eyes to see. Pilate admits that Jesus is entirely innocent—yet he condemns Him to flogging. The kangaroo trial, the ridicule and degradation, the unconscionable cruelty of forcing the condemned to carry his own cross: these reveal the State in its true form, stripped of the fancy rhetoric, the flag-waving and appeals to “patriotism,” that usually cloak its horror. (I further explore the Crucifixion’s testimony of the State’s Satanic possession here.)

Christians ought to despise political government solely for crucifying our Lord. My gracious, if the State falsely accused our child, our parent, or our spouse and then electrocuted him (a quick and merciful death, compared to crucifixion), we would loathe the politicians and bureaucrats responsible, would we not? Would we ever trust government again, let alone pledge it our allegiance? Yet we prattle about God’s “ordaining” government and our “Christian” duty to “honor” the State when it fiendishly tortured our Savior to death. Where is our loyalty? Where is our decency? Where is the love, let alone worship, we owe our God? What unspeakable ingrates most Christians are as they cede the adoration and obedience due Christ to the very entity that crucified Him.

Lela, the State violates the Golden Rule, flouts the Ten Commandments, and infuriates our Lord by preying on the poor. It savagely murdered the Son of God while its owner laughed; it is the devil’s dominion. We should long ago have declared eternal, relentless war against it. Instead, Christians venerate the satanic State. They justify their idolatry with faulty translations of two Scriptural passages while deliberately ignoring a host of others, preaching and practicing subservience despite “the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free.” Why?

LELA: Honestly, I think Christians like the idea of liberty, but we’re afraid of too much liberty. We know human nature is not a lovely thing since the Fall, so we believe that government is necessary to prevent human nature from riding society off the rails. It’s what James Madison said about “if men were angels, government would not be necessary.” I think we also realize that while many Christians could live under the authority of Jesus Christ and get along without government rules, many of our neighbors live outside the law of God and we fear they would take advantage of freedom to oppress those around them, including us. I admire anarchism for the message of liberty, but I hesitate to fully embrace it because I’ve seen the hearts of human beings. So I invite you to come back for more discussion on the subject.

 

Becky Akers is a free-lance writer and historian who has written two novels about the American Revolution, Halestorm and Abducting Arnold.

Lela Markham on Monopolies   Leave a comment

Lela Markham Davidson Ditch Corrected

Thom Stark last week made the case for a government monopoly in high-speed Internet and this week, I respond

Thom, you actually think the Senate is less dysfunctional than the House? In 2014, the House passed over 350 bills that went to the Senate and simply were never taken up. Many of these bills were not bills Democrats would have voted for, but they weren’t even allowed to come up for a vote, which leaves constituents wondering where their elected representatives stand. And it doesn’t look like the Senate is doing any better in 2015, judging by how they dealt with the TSA authorization and its entanglement with the Obama immigration edict.

Alaska does have two Senators, which is equal to any other state, but just because a Senator claims to represent a state doesn’t mean that they do. ObamaCare was overwhelmingly unpopular in Alaska – instate pollsters found upwards of 70% opposition. Lisa Murkowski was the ranking minority member on the HELP committee during the writing of this thing (which is why she lost the GOP nomination for Senator in 2010; we weren’t fooled by her “no” vote on the Senate floor)) and Mark Begich was the 60th vote for passage (which is why he lost his 2014 reelection bid). Clearly they were not representing their constituents in their actions. The problem is that we’re stuck with them for six years if they go rogue. There is no accountability for Senators for six years between elections since they are no longer selected by state legislatures. You can impeach a President, you can recall a governor, but there is no mechanism to get rid of a Senator whose constituents realize they’ve made a grave mistake. Alaska really tried to recall Begich. The petition for recall had 100,000 signatures (1/8 of the population of the state) and nowhere to go. House members are much more sensitive to the opinion of the voters who put them in office because they face election every two years. Yes, people should be smarter about voting for elected representatives and not just vote for the sock puppets the two major political parties put forth as our only choices. Changes in ballot access laws to allow more third party and independent candidates would probably help there. Again, Alaska is not the only state with this problem. Other states have similar issues and largely for the same reasons.

Now for the main issue —

Access to the Internet is important and wrapped up in concepts of freedom of speech and association, but that does not require government involvement to protect it. Steve Jobs did a great job of creating a “build it and they will come” industry with his own money or the money of willing investors. I have no objections to private individuals innovating great ideas that open people’s eyes to new ways of living and making money from it. I object to government forcing innovation by edict and expecting the taxpayer (or the ratepayer in the EPB case) to foot the bill for services they have not chosen for themselves. If I’m a EPB ratepayer who does not choose to indulge in the Gig, I should not have to subsidize the ratepayer who believes it’s necessary for him to have it. If I’m a taxpayer in Alaska, I should not have to pay for someone who lives 5000 miles away from me to have a clear Netflix picture.

I reject the whole concept of “human rights”, by the way. Words have meaning that cannot change without consequences. Human “rights” are a made-up concept using a vocabulary that obligates the productive members of society to provide for the wants of the less-productive members of society in an arbitrary system determined by the zeitgeist of the contemporary era. I espouse natural rights, which are part and parcel with being a human being because they are constant throughout time and easily discoverable, but they also do not obligate anyone to provide them for me. I have a right to take care of my own needs, to the produce of my own labor and to the property that I claim through the exercise of my own production. I think, therefore I can express an opinion; therefore, I have a right to free speech. Each and every one of us has natural rights; they are the same for each one of us and we may not infringe upon the natural rights of others in the exercise of our own natural rights. Natural rights are those areas of our lives that only belong to us as individuals. They are so personal that nobody can violate them without also violating our humanity and therefore treating us as less-than human. We don’t have rights because the government decided to grant them to us. Our rights are inherent in our nature as human beings.

So, is Internet access a basic human right? Is it somehow sub-human for a person to live without access to the Internet? I think it would be degrading to deny someone access to such a powerful information and entertainment tool, but nobody is doing that. Access to the Internet is ubiquitous in the United States, a state of affairs largely created by tech companies that wanted to make money off the desire of Americans to have access to the Internet almost everywhere we go. What we’re discussing is Internet speed and whether government needs to provide greater and greater speed. And that’s where you and I don’t agree.

Yes, Europe has higher Internet speeds because the governments of Europe mandated them and coerced money from the more productive members of their society to build the networks. But as I noted in my last post on this subject, American companies are building those networks without government funding. It’s not happening as fast as a mandated build-outmight, but it’s also funded by users and what they will pay rather than by government and what they can steal from my pocket.

I’m under no illusions about the telecom corporations and their “altruism”. In Atlas Shrugged, the companies fighting against the government are trying to keep from becoming what the American telecom companies are – crony capitalists. Remember what I said about monopolies in my last post? All monopolies are bad for the consumer, but monopolies are virtually impossible to maintain without government intervention. The monopoly of cable companies is not a natural phenomenon and it is the epitome of a government monopoly. First, I can get Internet from three channels right now – telephone wire, satellite and cable and there are five companies competing for my business. That is because of an Alaska Supreme Court case that broke a federally applied monopoly over phone and cable lines in Alaska. The FCC ruled in the 1980s that ACS could do all the phones and GCI could do all the cable and not overlap, citing a natural monopoly because of geographic isolation (common administrative ruling in Alaska, btw). When an Alaska court ruled otherwise in the early 2000s, the FCC didn’t assert that prior regulation and so now we have competition for Internet in Fairbanks and Anchorage and networks built by them rather than the government. We don’t have fiber optic, but it’s coming — not that I think I need it.

EPB, on the other hand, got a $112 million porkulus grant, but according to this Washington Times article, EPB electric customers are footing the bill for more than $390 million in bond payments to cover construction costs related to the fiber network. That’s a lot of money essentially hidden in the electric bills of people who may not have opted for the Gig. Why should they? A gig a second is about 50 times faster than the national average for Internet. The average user in a home does not currently need that sort of speed for what is largely a news and entertainment venue, so the residential customers are not going to pay for the Gig. There’s going to be handful of individuals willin to to pay for it and probably some companies (who actually may benefit from those speeds), but all the ratepayers will see their electric rates go up to subsidize the system. Worse, the City of Chattanooga owns EPB, so when EPB billed the City of Chattanooga for installing the fiber optic cable, it was actually billing itself and guess how the City of Chattanooga will pay for that build-out? Taxes. Not only are the residents of Chattanooga paying more for their electricity to subsidize the ulta-high-speed Internet of a handful of users, they will also be paying more in taxes for the same system.

It’s the rotten beauty of a government monopoly.

Thom StarkI have no problem with Google choosing to bring fiber optic cable to neighborhoods in Kansas City, etc., and to temporarily forego profits as a long-term investment. I’m willing to bet that Google already has a plan in place for making phenomenal profits from this investment within three years (which is how long the IRS will let them charge off a loss in a local market). If they don’t turn it around that quickly, I’ll be surprised, but I won’t really care, because Google is a private company making a decision for the long-haul rather than the short term. Good for them.

The City of Chattanooga and EPB (which is owned by the City) is not a private company. It has no investors willingly providing financial capital in expectation of an eventual dividend. It’s financed by the ratepayers and taxpayers of Chattanooga, who will never see a return on their stolen money. They’ll bitch about their taxes and their electric rates and may not even realize these costs are so high because the City wanted to build a luxury for the few thousand users who can afford the monthly fee.

Telecom and cable companies have, by FCC and local regulations, generally been required to blanket entire cities, offering connections to every home. There’s a 1934 law that requires nationwide “wire and radio services” to every household at a “reasonable charges”. In exchange for wiring a community, telecommunications providers were often granted a monopoly to assure they could make money. Cable television companies made similar deals with cities and the FCC in the 1960s. There’s been some liberalization (uh, deregulation) of that system since the emergence of the Internet. Cities have opted for a more selective approach because the more competitive companies like Google argued that universal coverage was too risky and the returns were too low. My understanding is that Google is building its high-speed network as it finds demand, neighborhood by neighborhood. In neighborhoods in Kansas City, they asked residents to pay $10 to preregister for a gig of service which now costs $70 a month below a certain limit. It skipped certain areas entirely because they were too thinly populated or because of construction challenges. Google conducted preregistraton in 364 neighborhoods in KC; all but 16 met Google’s threshhold for connection. The brokerage firm Bernstein Research found that the potential customer base would be very profitable for Google.

Ah, but what about the poor neighborhoods? Well, yeah, rich people can afford things poor people can’t. Trying to make high speed Internet coverage universal will only slow down development of high speed Internet. That’s already happening. Los Angeles solicited plans for universal gigabit fiber networks and Google decided not to participate. Verizon was required by cities and some state laws to offer its FiOS services universally and it stopped expanding to new cities in 2010, citing the need to recoup its cost of capital. Yes, government could force it to be done as they did with EPB, but again, I object to people being forced to pay for a service they are not using and do not want. If someone wants the Gig, they should have to pay the full costs for it, not be subsidized by someone who would rather spend his money financing his retirement or sailing the Bahamas.

For me, it’s all about the liberty to choose what to do with my own resources.

Thom Stark is the author of the American Sulla trilogy, a political thriller. Lela Markham is the author of The Willow Branch, an epic fantasy. We also have opinions about the real world and thought we would share our conversation with readers.

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