Archive for the ‘Violence’ Tag

Genesis of Violence   Leave a comment

Let’s say a man kicks down the door of his ex-girlfriend’s house and she shoots him dead in her foyer.

Who is responsible for his death?

Yes, she shot him, but don’t you suppose she was terrified that he was going to kill her and that’s why she pulled the trigger?

What if she had a restraining order against him because he’d been threatening her for months? Do you think maybe she was justified in shooting him then?

What if she called the cops and they refused to come because he was friends with some of the officers and they felt he was just blowing smoke?

What if his best friends had said she was just being hysterical? He was just trying to correct her negative behaviors. If she’d only just allowed him to beat her that night, all would have been well.

Would you find her guilty of murder if you were sitting on that jury?

Or would you acquit her because he was responsible for the violence and she had no other choice than to defend her life?

And, yes, I am discussing something larger than just a dysfunctional relationship.

Posted October 30, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Common sense, Uncategorized

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Rise of the Illiberal “Liberal”   Leave a comment

How do you discuss something you’re not allowed to name? The media and academia declared the Alt-Left a myth, a product of American dialectical thinking that requires a balance to the Alt-Right, but not really something to worry about. Pay no attention to the club-wielding, masked thugs in Charlottesville, Berkley and Boston. Keep your eyes trained on the “fascists” because the Alt-Left doesn’t really exist and to use the term “Alt-Left” is a pejorative” used only by the right-leaning media and the center Left to attack a legitimate people’s movement. “Smart” people know it’s all nonsense.
Image result for image of illiberalismFor those self-identified liberals who may have been seduced by this belief system with its propaganda — I know I made you mad just now. I hope you will continue reading because this is a conversation we need to have.
I would define Alt-Left as a leftist, illiberal authoritarian ideology rooted in postmodernism and neo-Marxism that supports censorship, condones violence in response to speech, is obsessed with identity politics (much like the Alt-Right), and functions like a secular religion that gives its believers a sense of moral self-worth.

Posted September 28, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Political Philosophy, Uncategorized

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Why Can’t We Talk to One Another?   Leave a comment

When I was a kid growing up in Alaska, politics were an indoor participation sport. Even little kids were encouraged to have opinions. According to my Dad, I didn’t like “cold water”, but I thought Lyndon Johnson looked mean … I was four, so I would have voted for Barry, much to my liberal-for-the times dad’s chagrin — he’d be a moderate Republican these days, I think. Holding an opinion didn’t mean anything of course. The adults would try to dissuade us from them. That might have been for their entertainment (we had limited television) or it might have been because they thought we should learn how to defend our positions or change our minds when presented with a good argument.

Image result for image of antifaI can’t recall any of the kids I grew up with becoming mass shooters or ax murdering the family next door. Oh, wait … yeah, but he had paranoid schizophrenia, so maybe we can’t blame that on those early forays into controversy.

So, if even little children can handle hearing contradictory opinions, why are we protecting college students (10-15 years older) from them?

When I was in college, professors would tell us that they wanted us to challenge each other’s presuppositions. I was a moderate among liberals, but I had some friends who were conservatives and even libertarians. We challenged each other regularly in classes and at the student union, sometimes with professors in attendance. Conversations got a little heated occasionally, but nobody tried to kill anyone and no one went home and shot themselves in the head because their opinions were refuted.

These days, some college administrators seem to believe that hearing new points of view can be unsafe or damaging to students on some psychological level. They want certain opinions to be silenced for the “good” of certain students and then they extend that prohibition out to the rest of society. Ironically, this kind of thinking has actually put people holding whatever view is currently being demonized in real danger, as we’ve seen beatings of Trump supporters and others by college “activists” (the PC term for thug) across the nation.

In the end, there are only two possible ways of dealing with disagreement:

  1. We can talk to each other, working to peacefully persuade others to our point of view, … and then agree to disagree if we can’t come to an understanding.
  2. We can not talk to one another and allow our disagreements to devolve into violence and hurt people who hold different perspectives.

Only one of these is healthy for society. Guess which one?

Posted September 8, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in cultural divide, Uncategorized

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One Toe over the Line   Leave a comment

I’ve never really been into plays featuring political satire, but I used to be a fan of late-night comedians who poked fun at politicians and politics in general.

I don’t watch many these days. It’s just too vicious and not very funny anymore. Johnny Carson poked fun at every president, regardless of party. Jimmy Kimmel, not so much.

I am a fan of Shakespeare, however, and would love to see Julius Caesar acted live … well, except maybe not the version put on by The Public Theater for this year’s lineup of Shakespeare in the Park. In the modern retelling of the play, the theater group chose to create a clear reference to President Donald Trump as the protagonist. Some friends who live in New York saw that performance and were so shocked by the reference they left the performance.

Image result for kathy gifford trump head“I will not condone any group suggesting that we kill a sitting president,” Dorothy wrote. “I don’t support President Trump, but I won’t support treason either. Of course, they have the right to do what they want … say what they want … but I don’t have to condone it by sitting through their performance.” Dorothy and her husband, long-time devotees of theater, have decided to boycott The Public Theater, not just for this season, but for all future performances.

I’m 99% certain that Dorothy and Gene did not vote for Donald Trump. They both campaigned for Barack Obama on his first outing. I’m not sure about Dorothy, but Gene is a lifelong Democrat who ended his party affiliation when Barack Obama ran for a second term after what Gene, an accountant, thought was an economically appalling first term. He tells me he wrote-in Rand Paul on the 2016 Presidential ballot, which surprised me to no end. The man is in his 70s, changing his electoral preferences because our current system is that broken.

If this play took place in Caesar’s day, it’s likely the members of the theater group would not have lived to hear their reviews. In the weird modern-day world, the New York Times defended the play vigorously, though other media outlets have been more mixed in their response. This is part of the reason I believe we’ve reached a point, both domestically and internationally, where violence has replaced civil discourse.

Certainly the United States is no longer a society of educated (not necessarily schooled) and interested citizens willing to listen to someone else’s viewpoint without retaliating against them in violence and open displays of hatred.

I’m not fan of Milo Yiannopoulos, but I objected to the violence and suppression he faced when he traveled to Berkeley College last year. Students who took issue with Yiannopoulos’ views sought to silence him by attacking the building he was supposed to speak at along with burning objects and hurling debris. Similar behavior occurred when Ann Coulter attempted to speak there, but it also has occurred on other campuses. and even off-campus venues. I”m thinking that wearing a Trump t-shirt outside of a Trump rally is a dangerous thing to do. Universities attempting to encourage discussion of diverse perspectives now look more like totalitarian states rather than places where public discourse is encouraged.

This frightening turn of events most likely will have grave political and social ramifications. This country was founded on the principles of free speech and protection of the right of everyone to speak their minds. Is speech really free when it is designed to silence others? When does free speech become dangerous to society? And, which is more dangerous — the alternative perspectives being silenced or the speech of those trying to do the silencing?

I remember that libel and defamation lawsuits were a big deal when I was a working journalist, but I guess people have given up on countering the outrageous claims of tabloids and inflammatory speech. It appears you can effectively say anything about anyone, public or private, on any platform as long as you don’t intend to act on anything you say and so long as you don’t make someone so mad they take aggressive action against you.

Image result for berkeley riots 2017 imagesBut, hey, Kathy Griffin discovered there are a few faded lines remaining after she posted a sickening photo of President Trump’s decapitated head in her hand. The media actually did chide her for going too far. Still, 50 years ago, that sort of display would have gotten some serious attention by the Secret Service. I suspect had Ann Coulter appeared with an image of Barack Obama’s head in a similar fashion, she would have spent some time in an orange jumpsuit.

The political climate existing today is veering dangerously toward force as a means of silencing opponents rather than a culture of engagement. In an effort to enshrine toleration, a pluralistic culture has decided that the only views that should be tolerated are its own, subject to change with every alteration of their collective opinion.

Frankly, it’s a mentality seen on both the left and the right, across the media, and among voters, although there are some Trump supporters who recently showed a great deal of class. Americans increasingly see government as the means to achieve their ends and have become willing to employ its power to force others to comply.

President Gerald Ford said, “We can disagree without being disagreeable,” but nobody seems to listen to him anymore.

Kathy Griffin’s photo was disagreeable. The Public Theater group’s substitution of a Trump-esque Caesar was disagreeable. Trump supporters who punch out their opposition are disagreeable. There was a time when college students used to riot over the administration refusing to allow a speaker on campus. Now, they employ reverse censorship by silencing others through civil unrest or through public displays of murder. Through these means, they exercise their ability to promote censorship of these individuals and their ideals. And that is incredibly disagreeable.

Aristotle once said, “Republics decline into democracies and democracies degenerate into despotisms.” We may be nearing despotism. When people produce public displays of ‘staged’ murder of any American citizen, we are all at risk. Anyone associating with that person has been given a message as to how they and their views are seen. 63 million people voted for Donald Trump. Surely, Kathy Griffin and The Public Theater company don’t want to see them dead too? Or do they?

This is the important question that bears asking. Leaders represent the views of the people who vote for them. We have a framework in this country for the peaceful transition of power and we have enshrined such civil rights as the right to peaceful protest and removal from office by vote. The founders knew there would be people of varying political sentiment living in America. Their design was not for open acts of violence to represent how opposing political viewpoints are viewed.

American and global civil discourse is at a crossroads. We can either accept that violence will rule how we interact with others both from behind the protection of our computer screens or openly in the public square or we can decide to rein in intolerance in the name of tolerance.

Once these types of acts become mainstream it is not long before societies devolve into chaos. Liberty-minded individuals know the power of civil public discourse and education. That is how we spread the ideals of freedom. We must start championing these values. We need to end the violence and hatred before a despot decides to end it for us.

Posted July 11, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Political Philosophy, Uncategorized

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When Was the Last Time an Actor Assassinated a President?   Leave a comment

I’m not terribly surprised by Johnny Depp suggesting “it’s been a while and maybe it’s time.” He’s never struck me as a particularly intelligent person. Celebrities don’t have to be bright or informed. That’s not their job. Their job is to be entertaining and apparently Depp thought his British audience would be entertained by a suggestion that it’s okay to kill a sitting president. It speaks a great deal about the British audience that they laughed. Seriously, people, you were laughing over the prospect of killing another human being.

It’s a great big stupid world. It’s okay to murder babies (and presidents we don’t like), but we really must save the whale … and the snail darter. (With compliments to Randy Stonehill)

Related imageI’m not worried about Depp actually attempting the murder the president, but people unaccountably listen to celebrities and people do stupid things … like whomever sent suspicious white powder to the woman who won the Georgia special election.

Remember when Jared Loughner shot Gabby Gifford? The news was focused on a campaign ad by Sarah Palin that featured what was said to be gun-sights on various election campaigns around the country. “Oh, it’s all Sarah Palin’s fault! Destroy the Tea Party. They want to assassinate politicians.” It turned out Loughner had never seen the ad and there was absolutely no evidence that his rampage was caused by an affiliation with the Tea Party (he had long rambling posts on social media about admiring the Communist Manifesto). But the stink stuck and there are still liberals who will bring it up in conversation. “The Tea Party caused what happened to Gifford.” No, it didn’t. No one in the Tea Party advocated for anyone to go out and shoot anyone … including the President. We gathered peacefully in parks and along highways to protest the socialization of the country. Mentally ill people had to act upon their own delusional systems to decide to shoot elected officials.

And that is the difference between the Tea Party and the Resistance. The Resistance seems to be actively calling for violence against Trump and anyone who doesn’t see his presidency in the same way they do. Kathy Griffin (beheading Trump), Snoop Dog (shooting president in the head), Madonna (blowing up the White House), Robert DeNiro (I’d like to punch him in the face), Joss Whedon (what he wants a rhino to do to Paul Ryan isn’t acceptable fodder for this blog), Marilyn Manson (killing Trump in music video), Larry Wilmer (suffocating Trump with Scalia’s pillow) and several others have actively engaged in violent rhetoric, sometimes veiled as humor, but all designed to invoke a response both from their own followers and from “the other side.” I find it ironic that people are so worried about hurting the feelings of Muslims by talking honestly about Islamic terrorism or the feelings of transgendered people by using standard pronouns to describe them are okay with suggesting that murdering someone for their political views is fine.

So, if some Squeaky Fromm-like person tries to kill President Trump, Johnny Depp should be put on trial right next to that person, as an accessory before the fact. There are limits to what you can say under the concept of free speech. Shouting fire in a crowded theater and suggesting someone should kill the president are examples of when you cross a line and should pay a penalty. But, hey, my guess is that this will not hurt Depp’s career in the least and should an assassination attempt occur, nobody will remember who planted the idea in the public’s mind.

 

Posted June 23, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Common sense, Uncategorized

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Cops versus Citizens   10 comments

I totally support our Constitutional system of election. If you’re seeking a partner for a coup against the Constitutionally-elected President of the United States, I’m not your gal. The day the military overthrows the sitting government is the day I will begin contemplating how much I’m willing to do to fight for the restoration of the constitutional republic of the United States. For now, I will continue trying to educate with this blog.

Image result for image cop violence against citizensThere are right and good ways to reform this country. And there are bad ways. I don’t bash Trump every day and I give him kudos when he does something right, but if he does something I disagree with, I reserve the right to criticize it.

Last Wednesday, President Trump signed three executive orders to focus federal resources on fighting drug cartels, increasing overall public safety, and preventing violence against law enforcement officers.

At a quick glance, those sound like worthy goals, but …

I’m worried about all three of them, but especially the directive to “pursue appropriate legislation…that will define new Federal crimes, and increase penalties for existing Federal crimes, in order to prevent violence against Federal, State, tribal, and local law enforcement officers.”

Don’t get me wrong. It might be easy to do on this subject. I think the police in general in America have become abusive to the citizens, but I am not in favor of shoot cops. I’m simply in favor of cops being disciplined to within an inch of their life when they shoot citizens. Yes, there are times when citizens do things that cops have to respond to and sometime that requires violence. But I think we’ve reached a point where the violence is often reflexive and unnecessary and the only solution I see to that is for any cop who shoots a citizen to be placed on trial for murder and forced to defend themselves by the same systems citizens have to rely on when they shoot a cop. Oh, wait, usually if you shoot a cop in the United States, you end up dead before you get to trial. So, let me reiterate — I don’t believe in shoot cops. I think all of this should be worked out in a trial court.

So, the reason this edict from on high bothers me is there is no evidence that local or state officials have been reluctant to capture and punish those who commit violence against police. There’s also is little empirical evidence that more punitive sentences deter crime generally. I used to believe it did, but after 30 years of this experiment, enough evidence has accumulated to convince me that I was wrong.

Constitutionally, the federal government has no business getting involved when local law enforcement is doing its job. This is essentially the same argument Republicans used when they opposed the expansion of federal hate crimes protections to individuals with alternative sexual orientation or gender identity. Federal criminal law should be used sparingly, and only in circumstances in which local or state law enforcement are unable or unwilling to enforce the appropriate law. Violence against police officers is taken seriously in every policing jurisdiction in America. This executive order is unnecessary and will probably be turned toward even more abuse of citizens by police.

Keeping law enforcement officers safe is a noble goal, but cops in this country don’t need even more power going to their heads. Let’s thing a little bit about keeping citizens safe from the cops.

Posted February 21, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Political Philosophy

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Do You Believe in Democracy?   1 comment

It’s not easy being a committed democrat when your side loses an election.

In 2009, I found myself in a curious place. Granddaughter of a suffragette, daughter of an independent woman … I was raised to vote because women before me had lived in virtual slavery without a right to make their opinions heard.

Image result for image of anti-trump riotsI believed in the democratic process, but I hadn’t voted for Barack Obama and for the first time in my voting history, I was faced with a President I really couldn’t agree with on almost every issue. I considered 90% of his policies to be immoral, destructive and tyrannical. In the past, I might disagree with a president to a lesser degree, but I would always fall back on the idea that I had voted in the election, so had given my consent for them to govern. I might protest a specific policy, but I accepted the outcome of the election.

Barack Obama changed that. He was such a disaster for freedom-loving people like me that I began to doubt the efficacy of voting.

This wasn’t a new thought — though it was new to me. In 1962, philosopher Richard Wollheim published an interesting article entitled “A Paradox in the Theory of Democracy” in which he pointed out an inherent contradiction in the concept of democracy.

Wollheim postulated the following scenario:

A committed democrat who sincerely believes that social policy should be determined by a democratic process. votes on whether a particular policy should be adopted. He is expressing his personal belief on the matter. After the votes are counted, the democratic process indicates that a policy inconsistent with the one supported by that person should be adopted.

Imagine the cognitive dissonance. She must now simultaneously hold:

  • Since the policy was determined by the democratic policy, it should be adopted.
  • Since the policy conflicts with her personal belief, it should not be adopted.

 

Barack Obama campaigned on raising taxes on everyone except the poor, expanding the welfare state, and hijacking health insurance. These are all things I opposed for a long time before I ever heard Barack Obama’s name. I voted for Sarah Palin (she was a GREAT governor for Alaska, and I think she would have been at least as entertaining as Joe Biden as Vice President). She lost, but having participated in the election meant I had given my consent to be governed by Barack Obama. Because I am a registered nonpartisan, I pay no particular homage to any political party, which I feel allows me to stand against his individual policies, but I couldn’t stand against him being the president, because that was determined by the democratic process.

Image result for image of anti-trump riotsExcept …standing against 90% of his lunatic policies became  exhausting because he was the lunatic-in-chief who kept on tyrannizing every segment of the population that disagreed with him. I actually joined the Tea Party peacefully waving signs and shouting slogans in a park where we had a permit to be. I wrote a lot of letters. I blogged. I began to feel the hopelessness of changing the juggernaut of idiocy in DC and, by 2012, I had reached the place where I began to doubt the efficacy of voting. I cast a protest vote for a 3rd party at the last minute. I repeated that process in 2016 and actually spoke up for that choice, but the rest of the country still only saw two choices, so now I REALLY doubt the efficacy of voting, so much so that I might not vote in 2020.

I do understand that it’s not easy being a committed democrat when a highly unsuitable candidate wins the election. I was there with Barack Obama BOTH times. Donald Trump campaigned for President of the United States on issues like building a wall along the southern border, at least temporarily banning Muslims from the United States, and imposing tariffs on products manufactured overseas. The Democrats marching in the street now claim they firmly believe in democratic governance, but they strongly oppose all of Trump’s measures and believe that their adoption is immoral and will be disastrous for the country. They voted against him to avoid these policies. Sadly for them, the democratic process made Donald Trump President. If you believe in the democratic process, he is your president whether you voted for him or not, which means … regardless of your personal opinion against his policies, you consented to his election.

Related imageIf a committed democrat truly believes in democracy, she should support the process that made Trump president, not march in the streets, throw rocks through windows or file lawsuits against implementation of those policies. She can grumble on the Internet and/or write letters to her Congresspeople asking them not to vote for Trump’s policies, but really, she should wait until the next election and hope for a result more in line with her personal beliefs. When she cast her vote, she agreed to abide by the outcome of the election … not only when her candidate won, but if her candidate’s opponent won instead.

 

Life isn’t easy for those who truly believe in the moral legitimacy of democratic governance. It’s a little easier if you’re a committed nonpartisan. I never gave my consent to a political party to implement any broad policy agenda on my behalf. I maintain my independence that way. Still, I didn’t go out and throw rocks through windows and beat people up when I disagreed with Barack Obama, and truthfully, no one on my end of the political spectrum did.

I can imagine the cognitive dissonance experienced by the life-long advocates of democracy who are presently attacking President Trump for doing precisely what he said he was going to do during the campaign. The will of the people was expressed through the electoral process that chose Donald Trump as president. Because I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that winning more votes in a popularity contest doesn’t really give anyone the authority to express their will over the objections of others, I’m not all that concerned that “my” side didn’t win. I didn’t vote for a winning side. I voted to satisfy those women who came before me, knowing that my choice would lose and not caring. It was actually relieving in a way to have no ownership in the outcome of this election. I wonder how I would have felt if Gary Johnson had come closer to winning. I guess we would know whether my loss of commitment to the democratic process is real or just a symptom of ennui.

Still, there are all those folks who proudly shout “democracy” accusing Trump of undermining democracy by acting in accordance with the will of the people. Without irony, they proclaim the virtues of democracy, but now declare that Donald Trump is not their president.

If you voted, you agreed to accept the outcome of the election. What you are doing right now is standing against democracy, but not in a good way. If you want to join philosophical anarchists in opposing voting for a less violent system, check out Patriot’s Lament on KFAR 660 or their website. That’ll get you started. But don’t march through our streets proclaiming you’re an advocate for democracy while calling for a coup. That isn’t democracy.

Posted February 18, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Political Philosophy

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The Humanitarian with the Guillotine | Isabel Paterson   Leave a comment

Most of the harm in the world is done by good people, and not by accident, lapse, or omission. It is the result of their deliberate actions, long persevered in, which they hold to be motivated by high ideals toward virtuous ends.

Source: The Humanitarian with the Guillotine | Isabel Paterson

 

Reprinted from The God of the Machine by Isabel Paterson, published in 1943.

Most of the harm in the world is done by good people, and not by accident, lapse, or omission. It is the result of their deliberate actions, long persevered in, which they hold to be motivated by high ideals toward virtuous ends. This is demonstrably true; nor could it occur otherwise. The percentage of positively malignant, vicious, or depraved persons is necessarily small, for no species could survive if its members were habitually and consciously bent upon injuring one another. Destruction is so easy that even a minority of persistently evil intent could shortly exterminate the unsuspecting majority of well-disposed persons. Murder, theft, rapine, and destruction are easily within the power of every individual at any time. If it is presumed that they are restrained only by fear or force, what is it they fear, or who would turn the force against them if all men were of like mind? Certainly if the harm done by willful criminals were to be computed, the number of murders, the extent of damage and loss, would be found negligible in the sum total of death and devastation wrought upon human beings by their kind. Therefore it is obvious that in periods when millions are slaughtered, when torture is practiced, starvation enforced, oppression made a policy, as at present over a large part of the world, and as it has often been in the past, it must be at the behest of very many good people, and even by their direct action, for what they consider a worthy object. When they are not the immediate executants, they are on record as giving approval, elaborating justifications, or else cloaking facts with silence, and discountenancing discussion.

Obviously this could not occur without cause or reason. And it must be understood, in the above passage, that by good people we mean good people, persons who would not of their own conscious intent act to hurt their fellow men, nor procure such acts, either wantonly or for a personal benefit to themselves. Good people wish well to their fellow men, and wish to guide their own actions accordingly. Further, we do not here imply any “transvaluation of values,” confusing good and evil, or suggesting that good produces evil, or that there is no difference between good and evil, or between good and ill-disposed persons; nor is it suggested that the virtues of good people are not really virtues.

Then there must be a very grave error in the means by which they seek to attain their ends. There must even be an error in their primary axioms, to permit them to continue using such means. Something is terribly wrong in the procedure, somewhere. What is it?

Certainly the slaughter committed from time to time by barbarians invading settled regions, or the capricious cruelties of avowed tyrants, would not add up to one-tenth the horrors perpetrated by rulers with good intentions.

As the story has come down to us, the ancient Egyptians were enslaved by Pharaoh through a benevolent scheme of “ever normal granaries.” Provision was made against famine; and then the people were forced to barter property and liberty for such reserves which had previously been taken from their own production. The inhuman hardness of the ancient Spar-tans was practiced for a civic ideal of virtue.

The early Christians were persecuted for reasons of state, the collective welfare; and they resisted for the right of personality, each because he had a soul of his own. Those killed by Nero for sport were few compared to those put to death by later emperors for strictly “moral” reasons. Gilles de Retz, who murdered children to gratify a beastly perversion, killed no more than fifty or sixty in all. Cromwell ordered the massacre of thirty thousand people at once, including infants in arms, in the name of righteousness. Even the brutalities of Peter the Great had the pretext of a design to benefit his subjects.

The present war, begun with a perjured treaty made by two powerful nations (Russia and Germany), that they might crush their smaller neighbors with impunity, the treaty being broken by a surprise attack on the fellow conspirator, would have been impossible without the internal political power which in both cases was seized on the excuse of doing good to the nation. The lies, the violence, the wholesale killings, were practiced first on the people of both nations by their own respective governments. It may be said, and it may be true, that in both cases the wielders of power are vicious hypocrites; that their conscious objective was evil from the beginning; none the less, they could not have come by the power at all except with the consent and assistance of good people. The Communist regime in Russia gained control by promising the peasants land, in terms the promisers knew to be a lie as understood. Having gained power, the Communists took from the peasants the land they already owned; and exterminated those who resisted. This was done by plan and intention; and the lie was praised as “social engineering,” by socialist admirers in America. If that is engineering, then the sale of fake mining stock is engineering. The whole population of Russia was put under duress and terror; thousands were murdered without trial; millions were worked to death and starved to death in captivity. Likewise the whole population of Germany was put under duress and terror, by the same means. With the war, Russians in German prison camps, Germans in Russian prison camps, are enduring no worse and no other fate than that their compatriots in as great numbers have endured and are enduring from their own governments in their own countries. If there is any slight difference, they suffer rather less from the vengeance of avowed enemies than from the proclaimed benevolence of their compatriots. The conquered nations of Europe, under the Russian or German heel, are merely experiencing what Russians and Germans have been through for years, under their own national regimes.

Further, the principal political figures now wielding power in Europe, including those who have sold their countries to the invader, are socialists, ex-socialists, or communists; men whose creed was the collective good.

With all this demonstrated to the hilt, we have the peculiar spectacle of the man who condemned millions of his own people to starvation, admired by philanthropists whose declared aim is to see to it that everyone in the world has a quart of milk. A graduate professional charity worker has flown half around the world to seek an interview with this master of his trade, and to write rhapsodies on being granted such a privilege. To keep themselves in office, for the professed purpose of doing good, similar idealists welcome the political support of grafters, convicted pimps, and professional thugs. This affinity of these types invariably reveals itself, when the occasion arises. But what is the occasion?

Why did the humanitarian philosophy of eighteenth century Europe usher in the Reign of Terror? It did not happen by chance; it followed from the original premise, objective and means pro posed. The objective is to do good to others as a primary justification of existence; the means is the power of the collective; and the premise is that “good” is collective.

The root of the matter is ethical, philosophical, and religious, involving the relation of man to the universe, of man’s creative faculty to his Creator. The fatal divergence occurs in failing to recognize the norm of human life. Obviously there is a great deal of pain and distress incidental to existence. Poverty, illness, and accident are possibilities which may be reduced to a minimum, but cannot be altogether eliminated from the hazards mankind must encounter. But these are not desirable conditions, to be brought about or perpetuated. Naturally children have parents, while most adults are in fair health most of their lives, and are engaged in useful activity which brings them a livelihood. That is the norm and the natural order. Ills are marginal. They can be alleviated from the marginal surplus of production; otherwise nothing at all could be done. Therefore it cannot be supposed that the producer exists only for the sake of the non-producer, the well for the sake of the ill, the competent for the sake of the incompetent; nor any person merely for the sake of another. (The logical procedure, if it is held that any person exists only for the sake of another, was carried out in semi-barbarous societies, when the widow or followers of a dead man were buried alive in his grave.)

The great religions, which are also great intellectual systems, have always recognized the conditions of the natural order. They enjoin charity, benevolence, as a moral obligation, to be met out of the producer’s surplus. That is, they make it secondary to production, for the inescapable reason that without production there could be nothing to give. Consequently they prescribe the most severe rule, to be embraced only voluntarily, for those who wish to devote their lives wholly to works of charity, from contributions. Always this is regarded as a special vocation, because it could not be a general way of life. Since the almoner must obtain the funds or goods he distributes from the producers, he has no authority to command; he must ask. When he subtracts his own livelihood from such alms, he must take no more than bare subsistence. In proof of his vocation, he must even forego the happiness of family life, if he were to receive the formal religious sanction. Never was he to derive comfort for himself from the misery of others.

The religious orders maintained hospitals, reared orphans, distributed food. Part of such alms was given unconditionally, that there might be no compulsion under the cloak of charity. It is not decent to make a man strip his soul in return for bread. This is the real difference when charity is enjoined in the name of God, and not on humanitarian or philanthropic principles. If the sick were cured, the hungry fed, orphans cared for until they grew up, it was certainly good, and the good cannot be computed in merely physical terms; but such actions were intended to tide the beneficiaries over a period of distress and restore them to the norm if possible. If the distressed could partly help themselves, so much the better. If they could not, that fact was recognized. But most of the religious orders made a concurrent effort to be productive, that they might give of their own surplus, as well as distributing donations. When they performed productive work, such as building, teaching for a reasonable fee, farming, or incidental industries and arts, the results were lasting, not only in the particular products, but in enlargement of knowledge and advanced methods, so that in the long run they raised the norm of welfare. And it should be noted that these enduring results derived from self-improvement.

What can one human being actually do for another? He can give from his own funds and his own time whatever he can spare. But he cannot bestow faculties which nature has denied; nor give away his own subsistence without becoming dependent himself. If he earns what he gives away, he must earn it first. Surely he has a right to domestic life if he can support a wife and children. He must therefore reserve enough for himself and his family to continue production. No one person, though his income be ten million dollars a year, can take care of every case of need in the world. But supposing he has no means of his own, and still imagines that he can make “helping others” at once his primary purpose and the normal way of life, which is the central doctrine of the humanitarian creed, how is he to go about it? Lists have been published of the Neediest Cases, certified by secular charitable foundations which pay their own officers handsomely. The needy have been investigated, but not relieved. Out of donations received, the officials pay themselves first. This is embarrassing even to the rhinoceros hide of the professional philanthropist. But how is the confession to be evaded? If the philanthropist could command the means of the producer, instead of asking for a portion, he could claim credit for production, being in a position to give orders to the producer. Then he can blame the producer for not carrying out orders to produce more.

If the primary objective of the philanthropist, his justification for living, is to help others, his ultimate good requires that others shall be in want. His happiness is the obverse of their misery. If he wishes to help “humanity,” the whole of humanity must be in need. The humanitarian wishes to be a prime mover in the lives of others. He cannot admit either the divine or the natural order, by which men have the power to help themselves. The humanitarian puts himself in the place of God.

But he is confronted by two awkward facts; first, that the competent do not need his assistance; and second, that the majority of people, if unperverted, positively do not want to be “done good” by the humanitarian. When it is said that everyone should live primarily for others, what is the specific course to be pursued? Is each person to do exactly what any other person wants him to do, without limits or reservations? and only what others want him to do? What if various persons make conflicting demands? The scheme is impracticable. Perhaps then he is to do only what is actually “good” for others. But will those others know what is good for them? No, that is ruled out by the same difficulty. Then shall A do what he thinks is good for B, and B do what he thinks is good for A? Or shall A accept only what he thinks is good for B, and vice versa? But that is absurd. Of course what the humanitarian actually proposes is that he shall do what he thinks is good for everybody. It is at this point that the humanitarian sets up the guillotine.

What kind of world does the humanitarian contemplate as affording him full scope? It could only be a world filled with bread-lines and hospitals, in which nobody retained the natural power of a human being to help himself or to resist having things done to him. And that is precisely the world that the humanitarian arranges when he gets his way. When a humanitarian wishes to see to it that everyone has a quart of milk, it is evident that he hasn’t got the milk, and cannot produce it himself, or why should he be merely wishing? Further, if he did have a sufficient quantity of milk to bestow a quart on everyone, as long as his proposed beneficiaries can and do produce milk for themselves, they would say no, thank you. Then how is the humanitarian to contrive that he shall have all the milk to distribute, and that everyone else shall be in want of milk?

There is only one way, and that is by the use of the political power in its fullest extension. Hence the humanitarian feels the utmost gratification when he visits or hears of a country in which everyone is restricted to ration cards. Where subsistence is doled out, the desideratum has been achieved, of general want and a superior power to “relieve” it. The humanitarian in theory is the terrorist in action.

The good people give him the power he demands because they have accepted his false premise. The advance of science lent it a specious plausibility, with the increase in production. Since there is enough for everybody, why cannot the “needy” be provided for first, and the question thus disposed of permanently?

At this point it is asked, how are you to define the “needy,” and from what source and by what power is provision to be made for them, kind-hearted persons may exclaim indignantly: “This is quibbling; narrow the definition to the very limit, but at the irreducible minimum you cannot deny that a man who is hungry, ill-clad, and without shelter is needy. The source of relief can only be the means of those who are not in such need. The power already exists; if there can be a right to tax people for armies, navies, local police, road-making, or any other imaginable purpose, surely there must be a prior right to tax people for the preservation of life itself.”

Very well; take a specific case. In the hard times of the Nineties, a young journalist in Chicago was troubled by the appalling hardships of the unemployed. He tried to believe that any man honestly willing to work could find employment; but to make sure, he investigated a few cases. Here was one, a youth from a farm, where the family maybe got enough to eat but was short of everything else; the farm boy had come to Chicago looking for a job, and would certainly have taken any kind of work, but there was none. Let it be supposed he might have begged his way home; there were others who were half a continent and an ocean from their homes. They couldn’t get back, by any possible effort of their own; and there is no quibbling about that. They couldn’t. They slept in alleyways, waited for meager rations at soup-kitchens; and suffered bitterly. There is another thing; among these unemployed were some persons, it is impossible to say how many, who were exceptionally enterprising, gifted, or competent; and that is what got them into their immediate plight. They had cut loose from dependence at a peculiarly hazardous time; they had taken a long chance. Extremes met among the unemployed; the extremes of courageous enterprise, of sheer ill-luck and of downright improvidence and incompetence. A blacksmith working near Brooklyn Bridge who gave a penniless wanderer ten cents to pay the bridge toll couldn’t know he was making that advance to immortality in the person of a future Poet Laureate of England. But John Masefield was the wanderer. So it is not implied that the needy are necessarily “undeserving.” There were also people in the country, in drought or insect-plagued areas, who were in dire want, and must have literally starved if relief had not been sent them. They didn’t get much either, and that in haphazard, ragbag sort. But everyone struggled through to an amazing recovery of the whole country.

Incidentally, there would have been much more severe distress instead of simple poverty at the subsistence line, but for neighborly giving which was not called charity. People always give away a good deal, if they have it; it is a human impulse, which the humanitarian plays on for his own purpose. What is wrong with institutionalizing that natural impulse in a political agency?

Very well again; had the farm boy done anything wrong in leaving the farm, where he did have enough to eat, and going to Chicago on the chance of getting a job?

If the answer is yes, then there must be a rightful power which shall prevent him leaving the farm without permission. The feudal power did that. It couldn’t prevent people from starving; it merely compelled them to starve right where they were born.

But if the answer is no, the farm boy didn’t do wrong, he had a right to take that chance, then exactly what is to be done to make certain he will not be in hard luck when he gets to his chosen destination? Must a job be provided for any person at any place he chooses to go? That is absurd. It can’t be done. Is he entitled to relief anyhow, when he gets there, as long as he chooses to stay; or at least to a return ticket home? That is equally absurd. The demand would be unlimited; no abundance of production could meet it.

Then what of the people who were impoverished by drought; could they not be given political relief? But there must be conditions. Are they to receive it just as long as they are in need, while they stay where they are? (They cannot be financed for indefinite travel.) That is just what has been done in recent years; and it kept relief recipients for seven years together in squalid surroundings, wasting time, work, and seed-grain in the desert.

The truth is that if any proposed method of caring for the marginal want and distress incident to human life by establishing a permanent fixed charge upon production would be adopted most gladly by those who now oppose it, if it were practicable. They oppose it because it is impracticable in the nature of things. They are the people who have already devised all the partial expedients possible, in the way of private insurance; and they know exactly what the catch is, because they come up against it when they try to make secure provision for their own dependents.

The insuperable obstacle is that it is absolutely impossible to get anything out of production ahead of maintenance.

If it were a fact that the producers generally, the industrial managers and others, had hearts of chilled steel, and cared nothing whatever about human suffering, still it would be most convenient for them if the question of relief for all kinds of distress, whether unemployment, illness or old age, could be settled once for all, so they need hear no more of it. They are always under attack on this point; and it doubles their trouble whenever industry hits a depression. The politicians can get votes out of distress; the humanitarians land lucrative white collar jobs for themselves distributing relief funds; only the producers, both capitalists and workingmen, have to take the abuse and pay the shot.

The difficulty is best shown in a concrete instance. Suppose a man owning a profitable business in sound condition with a long record of good management wishes to arrange that his family shall have their support from it indefinitely. He might as owner be in a position to give first lien bonds yielding a certain amount; say it was only $5,000 a year on a business which was paying $100,000 a year net profit. That is the very best he could do; and if ever the business failed to produce $5,000 net profit, his family wouldn’t get the money, and that’s all there is to it. They might put the concern through bankruptcy and take the assets, and the assets after bankruptcy might be worth nothing at all. You can’t get anything out of production ahead of maintenance.

Aside from that, of course his family might hypothecate the bonds, hand them over to the “management” of some “benevolent” friend—a thing which has been known to happen—and then they wouldn’t get the money anyhow. That is about what occurs with organized charities having endowments. They support a lot of kind friends in cushy jobs.

But what if the business man, through the warmth of his generous affection, fixed it irrevocably so that his wife and family had an open checking account on the company’s funds, to draw just what they pleased. He might feel innocently sure they would not take more than a small percentage, for their reasonable needs. But the day might come when the cashier must tell the happy wife there was no money to honor her check; and with such an arrangement it is certain that the day would come rather soon. In either case, just when the family needed money most, the business would yield least.

But the procedure would be completely insane if the business man gave to a third party an irrevocable power to draw as much as he pleased from the company’s funds, with only an unenforceable understanding that the third party would support the owner’s family. And that is what the proposal to care for the needy by the political means comes to. It gives the power to the politicians to tax without limit; and there is absolutely no way to ensure that the money shall go where it was intended to go. In any case, the business will not stand any such unlimited drain.

Why do kind-hearted persons call in the political power? They cannot deny that the means for relief must come from production. But they say there is enough and to spare. Then they must assume that the producers are not willing to give what is “right.” Further they assume that there is a collective right to impose taxes, for any purpose the collective shall determine. They localize that right in “the government,” as if it were self-existent, forgetting the American axiom that government itself is not self-existent, but is instituted by men for limited purposes. The taxpayer himself hopes for protection from the army or navy or police; he uses the roads; hence his right to insist on limiting taxation is self-evident. The government has no “rights” in the matter, but only a delegated authority.

But if taxes are to be imposed for relief, who is the judge of what is possible or beneficial? It must be either the producers, the needy, or some third group. To say it shall be all three together is no answer; the verdict must swing upon majority or plurality drawn from one or other group. Are the needy to vote themselves whatever they want? Are the humanitarians, the third group, to vote themselves control of both the producers and the needy? (That is what they have done.) The government is thus supposed to be empowered to give “security” to the needy. It cannot. What it does is to seize the provision made by private persons for their own security, thus depriving everyone of every hope or chance of security. It can do nothing else, if it acts at all. Those who do not understand the nature of the action are like savages who might cut down a tree to get the fruit; they do not think over time and space, as civilized men must think.

We have seen the worst that can happen when there is only private relief and improvised municipal doles of a temporary character. Unorganized private giving is random and sporadic; it has never been able to prevent suffering completely. But neither does it perpetuate the dependence of its beneficiaries. It is the method of capitalism and liberty. It involves extraordinary downswings and upswings, but the upswings were always higher each time, and of longer duration than the downswings. And in the most distressful periods, there was no real famine, no black despair, but a queer kind of angry, active optimism and an unfaltering belief in better times ahead, which the outcome justified. Unofficial, sporadic private donations did actually serve the purpose. It worked, however imperfectly.

On the other hand, what can the political power do? One of the alleged “abuses” of capitalism was the sweatshop. Immigrants came to America, penniless and ignorant of the language and with no skilled trade; they were hired for very low wages, worked long hours in slum surroundings, and were said to be exploited. Yet mysteriously in time they improved their condition; the great majority attained comfort, and some gained wealth. Could the political power have provided lucrative jobs for everyone who wished to come? Of course it could not and cannot. Nevertheless, the good people called in the political power to alleviate the hard lot of these newcomers. What did it do? Its first requirement was that each immigrant should bring with him a certain sum of money. That is to say, it cut off the most needy abroad from their sole hope. Later, when the political power in Europe had reduced life to a gloomy hell, but a large number of persons might still have scraped together the requisite sum for admittance to America, the political power here simply cut down admission to a quota. The more desperate the need, the less chance could the political power allow them. Would not many millions in Europe be glad and grateful if they could have even the poorest chance the old system afforded, instead of convict camps, torture cellars, vile humiliations, and violent death?

The sweatshop employer hadn’t much capital. He risked the little he had in hiring people. He was accused of doing them a horrible wrong, and his business cited as revealing the intrinsic brutality of capitalism.

The political official is tolerably well-paid, in a permanent job. Risking nothing himself, he gets his pay for thrusting desperate people back from the borders, as drowning men might be beaten back from the sides of a well-provisioned ship. What else can he do? Nothing. Capitalism did what it could; the political power does what it can. Incidentally, the ship was built and stored by capitalism.

As between the private philanthropist and the private capitalist acting as such, take the case of the truly needy man, who is not incapacitated, and suppose that the philanthropist gives him food and clothes and shelter—when he has used them up, he is just where he was before, except that he may have acquired the habit of dependence. But suppose someone with no benevolent motive whatever, simply wanting work done for his own reasons, should hire the needy man for a wage. The employer has not done a good deed. Yet the condition of the employed man has actually been changed. What is the vital difference between the two actions?

It is that the unphilanthropic employer has brought the man he employed back, into the production line, on the great circuit of energy; whereas the philanthropist can only divert energy in such manner that there can be no return into production, and therefore less likelihood of the object of his benefaction finding employment.

This is the profound, rational reason why human beings shrink from relief, and hate the very word. It is also the reason why those who perform works of charity under a true vocation do their best to keep it marginal, and gladly yield the opportunity to “do good” in favor of any chance for the beneficiary to work on any half-tolerable terms. Those who cannot avoid going on relief feel and exhibit the results in their physical being; they are cut off from the living springs of self-renewing energy, and their vitality sinks.

The result, if they are kept on relief long enough by the determined philanthropists and politicians in concert, has been described by a relief agent. At first, the “clients” applied reluctantly. “In a few months all that changes. We find that the fellow who wanted just enough to tide him over has settled back to living on relief as a matter of course.” The relief agent who said that was himself “living on relief as a matter of course”; but he was a long step lower than his client, in that he did not even recognize his own condition. Why was he able to evade the truth? Because he could hide himself behind the philanthropic motive. “We help to prevent starvation, and we see to it that these people have some sort of shelter and bedding.” If the agent were asked, do you grow the food, do you build the shelter, or do you give the money out of your own earnings to pay for them, he would not see that that made any difference. He has been taught that it is right to “live for others,” for “social aims” and “social gains.” As long as he can believe he is doing that, he will not ask himself what he is necessarily doing to those others, nor where the means must come from to support him.

If the full roll of sincere philanthropists were called, from the beginning of time, it would be found that all of them together by their strictly philanthropic activities have never conferred upon humanity one-tenth of the benefit derived from the normally self-interested efforts of Thomas Alva Edison, to say nothing of the greater minds who worked out the scientific principles which Edison applied. Innumerable speculative thinkers, inventors, and organizers, have contributed to the comfort, health, and happiness of their fellow men-because that was not their objective. When Robert Owen tried to run a factory for efficient production, the process incidentally improved some very unpromising characters among his employees, who had been on relief, and were therefore sadly degraded; Owen made money for himself; and while so engaged, it occurred to him that if better wages were paid, production could be increased, having made its own market. That was sensible and true. But then Owen became inspired with a humanitarian ambition, to do good to everybody. He collected a lot of humanitarians, in an experimental colony; they were all so intent upon doing good to others that nobody did a lick of work; the colony dissolved acrimoniously; Owen went broke and died mildly crazy. So the important principle he had glimpsed had to wait a century to be rediscovered.

The philanthropist, the politician, and the pimp are inevitably found in alliance because they have the same motives, they seek the same ends, to exist for, through, and by others. And the good people cannot be exonerated for supporting them. Neither can it be believed that the good people are wholly unaware of what actually happens. But when the good people do know, as they certainly do, that three million persons (at the least estimate) were starved to death in one year by the methods they approve, why do they still fraternize with the murderers and support the measures? Because they have been told that the lingering death of the three millions might ultimately benefit a greater number. The argument applies equally well to cannibalism. []


The Ideal University

Some day, possibly, we shall see State-owned education disappear as we have seen a State-owned Church disappear. The relations between the State and education are as immoral and monstrous as those between the State and religion; and some day they will be so seen. In the Middle Ages, some man of learning and ability, with a gift for teaching, like Peter Abelard or William of Champeaux or John of Scotland, emerged into repute; and people went to him from here and there, camped down on him and made him talk about such subjects as they wanted to hear discussed—and this was the university. The university was, as we say, “run” by the students. If they got what they wanted, they remained; if not, they moved on. Meanwhile, they lived as they pleased and as they could, quite on their own responsibility.

The nearer we revert to that notion, the nearer we will come to establishing in this country some “serious higher education.” A university run by the students, with only the loosest and most informal organization, with little property, no examinations, no arbitrary gradations, no president, nof o trustees! A university that would not hold out the slightest inducement to any but those who really wanted to be put in the way learning something, and who knew what they wanted to learn; a university that imposed no condition but absolute freedom—freedom of thought, of expression and of discussion!

Albert Jay Nock. Extracted from his editorial,
“The Vanishing University,” in “The Freeman Book.”
New York: B. W. Huebsch, Inc., 1924. pp. 58-59.


The only really educated men are self-educated.

Jessie Lee Bennett

Posted December 2, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Political Philosophy

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False Protest   Leave a comment

Since August, my social media timeline has been fairly well-inundated by updates on the Dakota Access Pipeline protest near Cannon Ball, North Dakota.

I have family in North Dakota. My mom grew up in Dickey County. My grandfather used to work roundups in the area we’re discussing. A cousin owns land up in the Bakkans and has expanded his business to a town in the area. So, of course, I discussed the situation with him and he sent me some information about it.

At the same time, my cousins on the Res — the other side of my mom’s family who live in Oklahoma — have been sending me posts where the builders of the Dakota Access are the default villains in this whole situation. Add to that all the people who have jumped on the bandwagon of the “poor beleaguered Indians who are having their land stolen” and my irritation meter is starting to tick over into the red.

Protests always get the media attention. People are drawn to civil disobedience that seem to pit David against Goliath. It’s an American tradition to accomplish great social good by waving signs and refusing to move. Idealistic sacrifice for a grand cause is a powerful narrative.

Big corporations, like the one building the pipeline, cannot count on media or public support, especially not in a day when the public is weary of crony deals amid powerful elites crushing the rights of others. “Why should anyone take the side of wealthy entitled bullies?” is how the narrative plays out.

The problem with this narrative is that it doesn’t apply to this particular situation. The real story is a contest between a commercial enterprise that is respecting the property rights of the Standing Rock Sioux in its effort to vastly improve the energy infrastructure of the Bakkans and bring new prosperity to the area and a coalition of interest groups that couldn’t give a care about the Standing Rock Sioux.

Amy Goodman of the protest group Democracy Now broke into a construction site on private land and, apparently unaware of the 5th Amendment, conveniently filmed the crime for our enlightenment. The film with commentary and other related videos is available to view here.

If you follow all the videos, you’ll see how Goodman captured Sioux trespassers walking in formation, beating security dogs with sticks, which resulted in injury to at least one dog. These dogs were not “set lose” on the protesters. The dogs’ job is to protect the equipment when humans are not available to do so. The dogs were responding to trespassers as they have been trained to do … as my yellow Lab would attempt to do if you broke into my house when I wasn’t around. Back in August, this breakin was reported as the trespassers being the ones attacked while passively strolling along, but the film shows them being active and aggressive.

Related imageHere we are, two months later and the civil unrest in Cannon Ball is escalating to dangerous levels as the protesters increasing work to damage infrastructure and possibly harm themselves in the process. The destruction has grown from cutting a wire fence to break into the construction side to setting trucks on fire and rendering the bridge the trucks were on unusable and unstable. The aggression has heighted from sticks and flag poles to guns, Molotov cocktails and improved explosive devices made of propane cylinders.A woman lost her arm and the protesters claimed the police somehow did it while deploying beanbag loads for crowd-control, but there’s reason to believe it was actually a homemade bomb created by the protesters. The FBI is investigating.

I would note that there’s about 300 protesters and about 20 cops to contain them, so it’s a fraught situation.

So, what about the claims that police are using water cannons on the protesters. I suppose you could consider it partially true. When police used fire hoses to douse the burning trucks, the 400 or so protesters who started the trucks on fire and gathered around them did get wet. There are many photos and videos available on line (including a heavily-edited Standing Rock protest site photo that crops out the blazing fire in the background) that show protesters atop piles of burning rubble, dancing in the water stream.

My North Dakota cousin says the hope is that with winter coming, this protest will die off.

It’s important to understand that the Army Corps of Engineers granted a permit for this pipeline, which runs in parallel with existing pipelines. In other words, this is not pristine wilderness where cultural artifacts (if any exist) have been undisturbed. This is a major infrastructure corridor. The Army Corps of Engineers proposed a December 5 2016 deadline for protesters to remove themselves from a rancher’s leased land.

Most people really don’t know what to believe, but find the professionally edited campaign videos by the environmental groups driving the protest to be very moving. After all, they have music and dramatic imagery and imaginative location names like “Red Warrior Camp.”

 

 

Please understand that its no longer just the Standing Rock Sioux involved in this thing. Similar to how Wounded Knee started with a small group, this has drawn support from very far away and there is some large money circulating.

Related imageMany of the Standing Rock Sioux who are involved in protest say their tribal administration did not adequately inform them of the project. That’s kind of hard to believe because according to the Army Corps of Engineers, project leaders participated in 559 meetings in communities along the pipeline route. There were 43 regulatory hearings, public meetings and open houses where people could share their concerns with public officials. Regarding specific tribal concerns, the Army Corps of Engineers participated in 389 meetings with 55 tribes. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe itself had nearly a dozen meetings with the Corps — they refused or did not show up to several others.

I work in a field where public meetings are required for every project we do and they are well advertised because the law specifies what is required. We work in Alaska Native villages a lot and they show up … so long as we bring pizza and soda (sorry, that is a truth that makes me snicker).

In the case of Standing Rock Sioux Chairman, Dave Archambault, who failed to show up seven times to scheduled meetings, it is possible he did the common Native American thing of thinking he could wait until sometime in the future to protest. Sorry, that’s another observation from a fringe-insider. Reservation Indians always seem to think they have decades to deal with a situation. It is possible the DAPL project moved too fast for him. On the other hand, as I suggested in an earlier blog post, this might have been willful obstruction in hopes of a more profitable outcome. Tribal government is often quite lucrative for the tribal administration.

Archambault proved completely derelict in identifying sacred sites for the planners. Why would he do that? I don’t know the man, but his sister worked for the Obama administration until May 2016 and there is this photo of Archambault with the Obamas back in June 2014 … right about the time the public meeting process was going on. You don’t need a tinfoil hat to think promises might have been made … as they were when President Obama visited Western Alaska, a mess we’ll be dealing with for a decade or more.

Other protesters include white, middle-class, urban singles seeking adventure … rebels without a cause who are turning this into something like a Burning Man party.

“Just wanna note some white people – just showed up to Standing Rock – who want to spend donations on fluoride free water instead of tap.” — Nihiixoohoothitho (@teeteeseiht) November 13, 2016

In other words, they don’t know what they’re protesting, but if there’s some good ganga involved, they’re there!

Not all the Standing Rock Sioux agree with the protesters. Native communities have much to be concerned about today. Jobs would be nice and so would better education for their kids. The pipeline is part of a complex of pipelines that cross the Missouri River in that basic area. This pipeline poses no different threat than any of the others. It will provide a safe, efficient way to get Bakkan oil to the refinery without using trucks and tank cars, which are demonstratively less safe.

Putting on my tinfoil hat for just a moment, I think this was all planned back in 2014. Obama told Archambault to ignore the Corps meetings and promised to do exactly what he is doing now. Why? Because commercial enterprises like the construction company building the DAPL have bottom lines and they can’t afford to wait forever to build this thing. Their financing goes away if they do that. The regulatory system that pipelines require is lengthy, complex and expensive, but companies like this know how to shepherd their application to permit. Had the Standing Rock Sioux showed up at the public meetings to voice their concerns, they would have had their concerns addressed. The burial sites would have been protected, there would have been excessive and unnecessary safety protocols put in place to assure the construction did not contaminate the water. And, ultimately, the pipeline would have been built … just like the other pipelines in the area.

But violent protests … that has a propaganda cache that the environmentalists can use. President Obama knows that. And he knew that whoever  the President-elect was come this fall, he would still be president and he could make his last months in office memorable. And, in the meantime, the pipeline company is slowly being bled dry by these protests, so that it is entirely possible that a perfectly legal pipeline, planned with great care to avoid conflict with stakeholders, won’t be built because the company won’t be able to sustain financing.

Yeah, it’s the unethical world that we live in.

 

Posted December 1, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Environmentalism

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Never Let a Crisis Go to Waste   Leave a comment

“Those who tell you of trade-unions bent on raising wages by moral suasion alone are like people who tell you of tigers that live on oranges.”

– Henry George, 1891
Union organization had been around since colonial times and various forms had been tried. In the United States, the workers themselves had rejected the radical ideologies often associated with unions in Europe, so the unions had joined the Progressive Movement to work toward incremental change. All through that era, the government had bolstered unions with helpful legislation and even wartime nationalization of industries that resisted. But during the 1920s, a healthy vibrant economy had convinced most workers that they didn’t need an outside nanny organization to tell them what was best for them.
Image result for image of great depression union violenceIt would be an interesting alternative history to see what might have happened to the labor movement and society in general if the Depression of 1929 had not been meddled with to the point of becoming the Great Depression. That’s the novelist in my wondering about it.
During the Great Depression, Congress enacted a sequence of six major pieces of labor legislation favored by unionists, virtually revolutionizing labor markets:
This avalanche of legislation to entrench unions part and parcel with the prevailing doctrine of 1920s business leaders that “high and rising wages were necessary to a full flow of purchasing power and, therefore, to good business,” and its corollary “‘reducing the income of labor is not a remedy for business depression, it is a direct and contributory cause.'”
Understand that the people who actually study economic history say this was ignorant blather that ignores the reality that high wages are an effect of high productivity and prosperity, not a cause of them. If it were otherwise, rather than producing themselves rich, nations could simply declare all good things cheap and all wages high, and thus abolish poverty by fiat.

Davis-Bacon: Passed in 1931 following a sharp decline in construction activity at the beginning of the Great Depression. Construction expenditures went from $11 billion annually to $3 billion, with over half of the reduced activity financed by government. Competition for contracts and jobs was fierce and mobile contractors using migrant labor entered the market to underbid some local contractors. Many contractors and building trade unions welcomed the law to protect themselves from the competition of what one congressman called “carpetbagging sharpie contractors.”

The law requires that workers on federally financed construction be paid wages at “local prevailing rates” for comparable construction work. The clearly stated intent was to protect local workers and contractors from the competition of outsiders. The ambiguity of prevailing wages gave the United States Department of Labor scope to set minimum wage rates at union wages in about half of its wage determinations. Estimates are that has cost taxpayers at least a billion dollars per year in higher construction and administrative costs ever since.

Since 1931, Congress has extended the prevailing wage provision to include most federally assisted construction, whether state, local, or national government is the direct purchaser. Additional amendments in 1964 added fringe benefits to prevailing wage calculations. The effect of the Labor Department’s administration of the law is not to protect local contractors from competitors but to dish out government work to high-cost contractors and the building-trades unions. Davis-Bacon regulates about 20% of all construction. Construction workers are among the highest paid in America, earning twice the hourly rate of employees in retail trade. Most states passed “little Davis-Bacon” Acts to further unionize the construction industry, driving up costs for most construction.

Norris-LaGuardia Anti-Injunction Act: Signed by President Herbert Hoover on March 23, 1932, this bill passed the House 363-13 and the Senate 75-5. It was the culmination of a 50-year union campaign against “government by injunction.”

The threefold purpose of the act was to

The overriding object of the act was to free organized labor from the constraints that bind businessmen and ordinary citizens, essentially giving them immunity from prosecution when they use aggressive and violent tactics in organizing. The number of strikes suddenly doubled between 1932 and 1933 to 1,695 and then continued climbing to a 1930s peak of 4,740 in 1937. This outburst of strikes occurred during a period of deep depression and massive unemployment, while previous business downturns had always diminished strike activity and caused many unions to disappear.

“We have now reached a state where [unions] have become uniquely privileged institutions to which the general rules of law do not apply.” Frederick Hayek

NIRA: The National Industrial Recovery Act was among the many Roosevelt interventions to boost prices and wage rates on the mistaken theory that falling wages and prices were causing the depression rather than being market-driven adjustments to re-coordinate the economy and restore production and employment. The NIRA — the New Deal fascist system of codes to cartelize both industry and labor markets and push up prices throughout the economy — was struck down by the Supreme Court in the famous Schechter Poultry case of 1935 on the grounds that the act delegated virtually unlimited legislative power to the president. Section 7(a) of the NIRA promoted unions and the practices of collective bargaining. Congress then re-packaged similar labor regulations and new interventions piece by piece in surviving legislation like the Wagner, Walsh-Healey, and Fair Labor Standards Acts.

National Labor Relations Act (NLRA): Otherwise known as the Wagner Act, the NLRA was a rewrite of the NIRA’s section 7a. The act passed the Senate 63-12 and an unrecorded voice vote in the House, and Roosevelt signed it July 5, 1935.

The NLRA remains the overall labor framework in the United States to this day. It declares that the labor policy of the federal government is encouragement of the practice and procedure of collective bargaining, as well as protection of worker designation of representatives to negotiate terms and conditions of employment. It uses federal coercion to make it easier to unionize enterprises and employees in the private sector who otherwise would not participate in unionization and collective bargaining. The main regulatory features of the act were as follows.

A lot of Congress had voted for the legislation in fear of Roosevelt (the destroyer of political careers), and hoped that the Supreme Court would overturn the law as unconstitutional (as it clearly was) as they had done with the NIRA, but in April 1937, contrary to expectations, the court declared the Wagner Act constitutional by a 5-4 vote possibly motivated by Roosevelt’s famous threat to pack the court. The Wagner decision marked the judiciary’s general abandonment of constitutional protection against federal encroachment on economic rights and due process.

Years later, public disgust with adversarial unionism and underworld corruption produced federal legislation to modify the Wagner Act — principally the Labor-Management Relations (Taft-Hartley) Act in 1947 and theLabor-Management Reporting and Disclosure (Landrum-Griffin) Act in 1959 — that has been marginally less favorable to unions. Neither law tampered with the basic privileges and immunities previously granted to organized labor. Taft-Hartley was a partial union victory because it maintained the original structure of the statutes, making it more difficult to return to common law. Ah, yes, the power of precedent.

Section 602A)in Landrum-Griffin, although intended to rein in union officials’ abuse of members’ rights, highlights the immunities the state grants to unions:

It shall be unlawful to carry on picketing on or about the premises of any employer for the purpose of, or as part of any conspiracy or in furtherance of any plan or purpose for, the personal profit or enrichment of any individual (except a bona fide increase in wages or other employee benefits) by taking or obtaining any money or other thing of value from such employer against his will or without his consent. [Emphasis added.]

The exclusion in parentheses is remarkable, because such open exceptions (privileges and immunities) for labor unions are necessary to free an organized labor movement from the ordinary constraints of civilization to extract money from employers against their will with the proviso that the loot be mostly paid to union members in wages and benefits.

Public Contract (Walsh-Healey) Act: Passed in 1936, this act tried to accomplish for all unions what Davis-Bacon did for the building-trades unions, but it turned out to be relatively ineffective. Walsh-Healey targeted bureaucratic administration of employment conditions for all government contracts over $10,000. The law allowed the Secretary of Labor to fix minimum wage scales among nearly all businesses contracting with the government. “Responsible” businesses (defined as previously unionized employers) urged that standards be imposed in order to discipline “unscrupulous” (low-cost, nonunion) competitors. The Department of Labor never could settle on a consistent method of determining the “prevailing wage” for such a bewildering array of jobs, individual skills, and pay systems. Thus, you’ve never heard of Walsh-Healey but every business in America knows all about Davis-Bacon.

The Fair Labor Standards Act: Passed in Congress in 1938, this act set a national minimum wage rate of 25 cents per hour. It applied to an estimated 43% of employees in private, non-agricultural work and gradually grew to cover nearly 90%.

Family story here – my mother worked as a dishwasher after school, getting paid $3 a week. When FLSA was passed, she would have been paid $9 a week instead. The diner she worked for closed because they typically only brought in about $30 a day and this new law meant they couldn’t make payroll and buy food to sell to their customers who couldn’t afford a tripling of the cost of eating out. Mom got another job taking care of an old lady for room and board and worked late into the night repairing harnesses for local farmers to pay for high school (no, public high school wasn’t paid for by the taxpayers in those days; students or their families paid tuition).

Image result for image of minimum wage destroying employmentState minimum wage laws today cover most remaining employees. Effective July 24, 2008, the federal minimum was $6.55 per hour and became $7.25 per hour effective July 24, 2009, a 29-fold increase over the first minimum wage in 1938. A 90-day beginners’ minimum of $4.25 per hour applies to workers under age 20. Covered “nonexempt” employees must be paid overtime rates of 150% the regular pay rate for any hours over 40 in a 7-day period. Generally, the minimum wage has fluctuated between 35 and 50% of the average hourly wage in manufacturing.

How does the minimum wage help unions since less than 10% of all wage and salary employees have wage rates low enough to be directly impacted by the minimum wage? Unions benefit by pricing competitors and potential non-union entrants out of business. Many low-skilled young people, women, older people, and members of minority groups such as inner-city blacks find it more difficult to find beginners’ jobs because minimum-wage and union wage rates price them out of the market. Yet accepting a low-paying job for its on-the-job training is no different in principle from paying to go to school. Economic studies show that about half of the training in the US economy occurs on the job rather than in school.Shrunken work opportunities caused by the minimum-wage law have ruined uncounted careers and essentially created the tragedy of our inner cities, impacting blacks to a far greater degree than whites. Instead of being an antipoverty device, the minimum wage is the greatest driver of unemployment in the economy.

Posted September 10, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in History

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