Thursday, December 29, 2011

2012: the year ‘conservatives’ embraced LBJ

As this year winds-down, I know my pro-Ron Paul commentary will need to wind-down as well. The Libertarian Party has multiple outstanding presidential candidates – highlighted by former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson’s recent switch in party affiliation (and God Bless him for it!).

As chair of the Allen County Libertarian Party it is my responsibility and duty to begin focusing my energy and lead the energies of my local colleagues toward our own candidates and leave the Republicans to their own.

Perhaps, more appropriately, we need to leave the Republicans to eat their own – namely Paul and his supporters.

Still, it is my intent to churn-out one more essay espousing virtues of Representative Paul before the Iowa caucus on January 3 and then observe how the chips fall. My hope is that message will go viral if nothing else I write ever does.

Take a long look at the accompanying screen shot. Then, I want you to watch the embedded video below.

Once the connection struck me between the rhetoric contained in the pictured tweet and in the embedded video, I found myself compelled to put-aside everything else I’m working-on at the moment and author this note.

I’ve read the commentary and snark about how Paul’s entry into front-runner status in the GOP field has revealed how his supporters – be they his dedicated boots on the ground or armchair advocates such as myself – are thin-skinned, etc...

But the message on display here, originating from Twitter, is fully emblematic of what has been in play all the while – and being dished in extra generous servings over the last several weeks since he began ascending in mainstream polling.

Paul and his supporters have stuck to examining the track records, platforms, and rhetoric of his opponents and doing the requisite analysis – and when applicable even making comparisons to presidents past and present. His detractors, conversely, have offered the kind of discourse displayed here.

I have commented in social media ad nauseum about the irony that drips from commentary by so-called conservatives about him. President Barack Obama’s stimulus package was decried as unconstitutional. His Affordable Health Care Act is unconstitutional. His party’s finance reform law is unconstitutional. Damn near his entire agenda has been unconstitutional since he entered the White House. However...

Now, when discussing candidates’ qualifications, faithfulness to the Constitution has steadily and amazingly descended in pertinence.

Republicans and Conservatives who vote with that party have a chance to nominate and push into the presidency a candidate who has been the most consistent and reliable constitutionalist to hold any high-profile elected office in decades, in a lifetime.

What we are witnessing instead is the Grand Ole Party channeling the spirit of Lyndon Baines Johnson as it existed in his 1964 reelection bid.

When you throw-in the fact of all his predecessors within the Republican Party, Ron Paul has been most commonly compared to the late-Senator Barry Goldwater, the parallels approach new depths of comedy.

Given that the reemergence of nuclear holocaust rhetoric is coming from within his own party, the irony is as disgusting as it is mind-boggling.

So, take a bow, Republicans! Somewhere in his special little pit in Hell, good ol’ LBJ is enjoying a break from eternal torment and relaxing with a tall, cool one on your tab.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Conservatives and their selective hearing...

Someone please explain something for me...

Why is it that Conservative talking heads and radio heads continually hammer home the arguing point that we must listen to what the Israelis are trying to tell us as well as their concerns...

...but the same Conservatives unanimously ignore this comment by Benjamin Netanyahu?

This wasn't some casual interview with Israeli media or some third-party quote in an obscure online publication. These were Netanyahu's remarks made on the floor of the U.S. Capitol Building before a joint session of Congress on May 24, 2011.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Due to budgetary concerns, the light at the end of the tunnel...

Thank God for small miracles!

Earlier today, Congressional Republicans managed to finally attach an amendment to the latest Continuing Resolution spending bill that will operate (for the time being) as a sort-of de facto repeal of the 2007 incandescent light bulb ban.

While it's about damned time this happened (the legislation's components were set to take effect the first of the coming year) there is no shortage of comedic misdirection being perpetrated by the right-wing.

Here is a sample of such posturing from the article linked above:

"'When the American people gave Republicans control of the House in January, one of the major issues involved was the Democratic ban on the 100 watt bulb,' said Rep. Michael Burgess, who fought to preserve the incandescent bulb. 'Republicans have fulfilled our promise to the American people by allowing them to continue to be able to choose what type of bulb they use at home. Consumers should drive the marketplace, not the government.'"

Burgess will make such a comment with complete disregard for the fact Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) -- who presently chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee -- was one of the ban's legislative architects and the bill was signed into law by then-President George W. Bush.

But, we're all supposed to believe this was a "Democratic ban."

My next-favorite snippet appears two paragraphs before the one quoted above:

"Stopping the bulb ban was a chief GOP priority coming into this year, with all of the candidates seeking to become chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee saying they would push through a repeal."

Be aware that I refer to the GOP's "policy rider" as a "sort-of de facto repeal" due to the fact it doesn't actually overturn the original legislation it merely places prohibitions on expenditures related to its enforcement.

And some people still wonder why I'm a Libertarian.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Potential spoiler or possible ace in the hole?

There is no denying the Republican Party has gone to great lengths in order to keep former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson out of the public eye and from presenting his vision of libertarianism to the public.

As time winds-down before the Iowa Caucus next month, Johnson could very well get a last laugh of his own at the GOP.

Discussions of him leaving the Republican field and pursuing the Libertarian Party’s presidential nomination have been America’s worst-kept secret which very, very few in the mainstream news media have mentioned.

Thank goodness for the Judge…

When Johnson made his appearance on Freedom Watch with Judge Andrew Napolitano, December 7 on Fox Business Network, he tackled that topic with a response that was noticeably noncommittal when it comes to offering a definitive “yes” or “no.”

What I noticed when watching the interview was he made a point of emphasizing that “the message” was always his goal with his campaign. As he pointed-out, his constant exclusion from GOP debates denied him any chance to spread it.

And then he hinted at something noteworthy during his interview with Napolitano: if former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney or former House Speaker Newt Gingrich land the nomination, he is likely to pursue the Libertarian Party’s ticket.

The unspoken hint is that he won’t do it if Representative Ron Paul gets the nod.

Johnson is a smart man. He wants to succeed personally yet at the same time has a genuine love of his country and his principles – principles of liberty which Paul shares. At this point it seems clear to me what Johnson’s strategy is moving forward: one way or another, libertarianism is moving to the forefront of America’s political discussion.

He also knows the GOP’s trepidations regarding how a strong third-party candidate could affect voting dynamics come November 2012. By inching ever closer to seeking the LP’s presidential nomination, Johnson may be the best thing to ever happen to Ron Paul’s candidacy.

How so? Johnson – in my view rather patriotically – is willing to serve as a bargaining chip for liberty.

If the message hasn’t already been explicitly sent (albeit behind closed doors) to the GOP establishment it will be coming soon: you need to support Ron Paul from here-on-out or face a three-way election in November.

The Republican Party’s regularly stated goal has been to unseat President Barack Obama in next year’s election. Its members have been saying this since 2009. Although Johnson has a strong track record of drawing Democratic voters in his two successful gubernatorial campaigns in New Mexico which easily debunks the worn-out notion of “stealing conservative votes,” common sense dictates the GOP is not the least bit interested in taking any chances.

If he chooses to run as a Libertarian, Johnson will be the most viable third-party presidential candidate to run in 100 years. Unlike H. Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996, Johnson has a solid track record as a government executive – which also lends him greater name recognition than Paul enjoyed in 1988 or Bob Barr in 2008.

Most importantly, unlike Theodore Roosevelt in 1912 he is not a Progressive, statist troll.

To summarize, as the Libertarian candidate Johnson would be poised to take a significant slice of the electorate pie. If he goes this route, the Republican National Committee may have to swallow its pride and accept his terms.

Still, his candidacy on the Libertarian ticket would be a dream-come-true for many party members – myself included.

Bloggers have noted in recent days that the Johnson campaign has been bombarded with correspondence by Libertarians to switch tickets. Members of our party have been reaching-out to him to make the right and honorable move – myself included.

While I will understand if he pursues the strategy laid-out above and secures the GOP nomination for Paul it will to the chagrin of many Libertarian Party members, we must remember one of our party’s most popular slogans: the party of principle. And if we believe in our core principle of maximum freedom – both economic and individual – through minimum government, we must then be willing to set aside our own partisanship and embrace this potential path toward restoration of liberty.

One key red flag being raised is time is slowly beginning to run short for Johnson to make a decision. Delegates for the Libertarian National Convention will be meeting in May to select the party’s presidential nominee.

My bet, however, is the picture for the Republican primaries ought to be fairly clear by the time Ohio holds its vote on March 6 – two months before the Libertarian convention.

In other words: fear not, my fellow Libertarians – there will be a resolution to this, one way or the other.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Amendments I'd like to see ratified

So, who’s ready to fire-up an Article V Convention?!

The following brainstorms do not necessarily need to be ratified in order. The progression presented is the result of my own cursory perspective on how best to implement the necessary steps for reining-in the federal government’s power.

Amendment XXVIII

Section 1. The seventeenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed. United States Senators shall be selected by the legislatures of the several States. No Senator shall serve more than two terms in that office.
Section 2. Members of the House of Representatives shall be elected to no more than six terms in that office.

Amendment XXIX

Section 1. In light of historical abuses by the Congress and by the President of the power to regulate commerce among the several States, as contained in Article I, Section 8, third clause, of this Constitution, a proper and expanded definition of this clause has become necessary.
Section 2. The power to regulate commerce among the several States shall refer to the authority to ensure goods, services, and any other marketable commerce be able to be offered, bought, and transported across State lines without barriers of law created by any State’s legislature or directive from any State’s executive branch.

Amendment XXX

Section 1. The Congress is hereby prohibited from abdicating or conceding its Constitutional authorities, as established in Article I, Section 8 of this Constitution, to the President.
Section 2. The establishment or chartering of a central banking authority by the Congress or President, including any which exist at the time of the ratification of this article, is hereby prohibited.

Amendment XXXI

Section 1. The sixteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.
Section 2. The Internal Revenue Service, whose establishment was made possible by the Sixteenth Amendment, is hereby abolished. The United States Tax Code as it stands at the time of ratification of this article is null and void.
Section 3. In place of the tax code, taxation shall be executed through a 10 percent flat tax on a minimum annual income threshold beyond $25,000. In the same year as determination of the enumeration for the House of Representatives, Congress shall have the authority to adjust the minimum income threshold by increments of no less than $5,000. This minimum income threshold may be reduced only upon such occasion as increases in the value of the United States currency necessitates.
Section 4. No police powers shall be exercised by any tax agency, established by the Treasury or any other Department of the United States government. Upon suspicion of noncompliance by a taxpayer, said agency may only collect delinquent taxes due to the Treasury, through confiscation, after attaining a warrant from a court upon completion of due process for that taxpayer.

Amendment XXXII

Neither the Congress through legislation nor the President through regulations from executive order shall make laws prohibiting the use, possession, cultivation, or commerce of naturally occurring intoxicants.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Top 10 questions on the application to determine if you’re qualified for Head Coach of the Detroit Lions

Don’s note: What appears to be an ongoing theme of sports actually ends with this entry. I formulated this list several weeks ago after one amusing round of Sunday gridiron action. This past weekend’s follies simply presented a renewed opportunity to let out a figurative sardonic yawn while dishing-out more cheap shots in one setting than a Michigan Wolverine…

10. Experience: Have you ever actually seen a football?

9. Experience: Have you ever picked your nose while standing along the sideline during an NFL game?

8. Technical knowledge test: Is the number of quarters in a football game more than 3 or less than 5?

7. You’re not too embarrassed to admit to loved-ones you chose to come to Detroit?

6. Do you have a concealed weapons permit?

5. Can you tolerate petulant suburbanite yuppies?

4. Are you willing to pick a fight with the opposing coach after a bad loss in which you’ve clearly been out-coached?

3. Are you OK with the owners undermining you by letting the players whine to them every time you point out when they’ve made game-changing costly blunders?

2. Are you OK with knowing a 7-9 season likely will be the highpoint of your career?

1. Have you bought a Ford F-150 lately?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sports is going to hell (a.k.a., why I still like NASCAR)

Earlier this autumn, I found myself unable to generate – what is termed in pop-cultural as – any Give-A-Damn when the news splashed across my television the NBA had to begin canceling games due to the ongoing lockout.

Millionaires quibbling with billionaires excites me not one God-forsaken bit.

The story was going to end there without much reason to actually write about the topic of sports… That is, until news recently began spilling out of State College, Pennsylvania, like a lanced infection point.

Charges of sexual abuse of young boys by retired Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, accusations of a cover-up by senior university administrators, as well as endless questions of who else knew what in now-former Head Coach Joe Paterno’s coaching staff since Sandusky’s tenure there are beyond horrific.

As an exclamation point, the alleged abuses are reported to have taken place at the youth services foundation Sandusky established in 1977 known as The Second Mile.

My intent here is not to go on a prolonged diatribe filled with disturbing details about the Penn State scandal. More than enough has already been published on the subject – and more undoubtedly is to come.

Instead, I want to explore what I see as the connection between Happy Valley and the NBA: the steadily growing entitlement mentality in sports – fueled by the celebrity worship which our society has nauseatingly embraced.

It is through our unhealthy fascination with celebrities that so many teens burst into tears at the sight of a singer or band, others go into prolonged mourning because someone famous dies, and unwarranted accolades are showered upon athletes – all taking place and increasing in intensity for generations.

When it comes to sports, today it starts in our schools. We all have either witnessed it, experienced it (meaning through bullying), or enjoyed being the beneficiary of it.

Student athletes – especially those who perform their sport(s) at the highest levels – simply are treated differently. In the vast majority of instances they are granted a far greater degree of forgiveness and leeway in their personal behavior and all too often enjoy latitude in their academic responsibilities other students do not.

This sense of behavioral entitlement is granted to them by school staffs and faculties, their peers, parents (their own and/or others), and the communities at large they “represent.” The social process originates in grade school. It expands in high school. It reaches new heights at the college level. By the time a select few lucky athletes are able to take their on-field/court performance to the next level, the absurdity of the situation is almost beyond comprehension.

When charges are filed against or word gets out of an arrest of a popular athlete, fans – without fail – begin clamoring for “second chances” or at the very a least slap-on-the-wrist consequence. Three years ago in northern Ohio, there was significant hand-wringing over the legal fate of Cleveland Browns wide receiver Donte Stallworth after he killed a man in Florida because he was driving drunk.

Other times, fans simply go into a disturbing state of denial that their beloved athlete could do any wrong.

An effective example of that is how people in Pittsburgh react to stories about Ben Rapistburger… I mean Ben Roofieburger… I mean… Aw, hell, you know who I mean.

Also, it should be noted the vast majority of coaches in sports are former athletes. So, it ought to be no surprise when we find them behaving in ways reminiscent of their less upstanding players.

We only have ourselves to blame – myself included. With all the money the average person dumps into tickets and league products – the replica jerseys, ball caps, T-shirts, posters, jackets, pins, bumper stickers, league television packages, trading cards, bobble heads, Beanie Babies, and even Christmas tree ornaments – it is no wonder so many athletes retain such senses of privilege. Personally, over the course of my lifetime I have poured my own money into these items as well as accepted them as gifts to the tune of thousands of dollars.

Liberty vs. the philosophy of sports

Much the same way my libertarianism has spilled into my approach to religion, a similar impact is taking place with my outlook on sports. Between the manner in which the NFL maintains its sense of preferred geographic dispersal via revenue sharing and how more and more professional sports franchises are demanding their localities pony-up tens- or even hundreds-of-millions of dollars to finance construction of a new stadium or arena, there is much for a libertarian to loathe about professional sports.

Simply put, when we invest significant emotional energy in a sports team, we essentially are embracing a form of collectivism. In many instances, top-performing teams actively frown upon individual-centered performances by their athletes in favor of shoehorning them into roles that typically require them to play below their full potential. Or, in a mirror of the corporatist establishment fostered by federal agencies and their bodies of regulations, we have seen more than our share of sports superstars receive preferential treatment by those who are supposed to officiate games impartially.

The states of affairs described above in large part (not entirely, I must confess) stand in contrast to what takes place in NASCAR. There, race teams operate in an environment which is the closest to a true free market setup: all race teams’ earnings from race to race are dependent upon their performances.

Additionally, race teams, even those which drive for the same ownership and must compete head-to-head, are expected to put forth their best individual performances each and every race.

And if not for NASCAR, we would not have stories such as Denny Hamlin’s, who made his Cup-level debut in the later stages of 2005.

Not long before then, Hamlin was pondering leaving stockcar racing. Wanting to see their son realize his dream, his parents took out a mortgage on their home to finance his racing endeavor in Late Model Stock Cars. It paid-off when he was able to land a driver development contract with Joe Gibbs Racing. And the rest, as the cliché goes, is history.

Hamlin reached the highest level of stockcar racing with no sense of entitlement, no expectation of unearned reward simply for showing-up. There are no participation trophies. He fought and worked to realize his dream – with a little help, love, and support of his family.

Most importantly, he had to be able to finance and then earn his own way to the top of his sport. You don’t see that anywhere else in sports.

Related (mildly) side note

Revisiting the subtopic of celebrity worship (but straying from the central theme of sports), I shall admit to feeling genuine sadness five years ago upon learning of Steve Irwin’s untimely demise. For a change and unlike the vast majority of his contemporaries in professional sports and the entertainment industry, it can be said Irwin became famous because of his genuine motivation to make his fans and viewers smarter. Additionally, he was trying to do so in a field of science – an area in which today too many people are lacking knowledge.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Beyond libertarian: an expository examination of modern anarchism

In my two previous notes I made reference to the Voluntaryist movement. Those mentions were part of a message to those participating in the Occupy Wall Street movement who identify themselves as seeking small, constitutionally-limited government (libertarian) and seeking little-to-(essentially) no government authority in society (the aforementioned Voluntaryists).

While the idea for this essay has been rolling-around in my head for a while, it has been the recurring discussion of the presence of anarchists at OWS protests which has motivated me to finally tackle authoring my examination of anarchy in today’s society.

In many instances – when addressed during media coverage and public discourse – the term “anarchy” is assigned an unfairly negative connotation. Not all such harsh assessments are unwarranted, of course. However, due to the overuse of the term it has become an inaccurate blanket-description for many who not only disapprove of governmental use of force but become actively involved in decrying it.

The overly broad use of anarchy as a descriptor is unfair due to the fact there are primarily two distinct camps in it. Although the notion of government and politics being defined in terms of left versus right was debunked decades ago by the late-great David Nolan, the two main groupings of anarchists is best illustrated using a left-right dichotomy.

Among the key components of modern anarchism is the prevailing anti-elites sentiment. On the right hand of the scale there are those who fit the description of Voluntaryists and Anarcho-capitalists. To the left, there are those who seek a redistributive form of society sans the existence of a ruling government (research the term “neo-anarchist” dubbed by Keith Preston).

Voluntaryists and anarcho-capitalists believe the free market and unrestrained free choice will derive the necessary economic freedoms that impel prosperity while determining or maintaining social norms will be up to parents and broader family structures in bringing-up their children – as well as religious institutions.

Left-wing anarchists do not share the above economic outlook.

Property rights at the core

In all honesty, given the fact anarchy involves the anti-elites approach, the left-wing camp operates under an umbrella of irony. While the outlook on social norms is – on the surface – the same, this division of anarchism spurns the concept of fundamental property rights.

Where this approach to anarchism differs from its left-wing counterpart of totalitarian statism is simple: redistribution is achieved through mob rule as opposed to the force of governmental authority.

Herein lies the irony: given that anarchism is rooted in the rejection of the authority of elites, in order for redistribution of people’s assets to take place via mob rule someone must be in a position to direct the mob’s focus toward a perceived injustice.

Someone (obviously meaning multiple individuals) must enjoy or retain enough of a degree of credibility which enables them to stir the pot so as to set the majority’s mob-rule agenda.

In essence, these pot-stirrers become de facto elites.

Furthermore, when a vocal and determined minority in such a society identifies what they view as an injustice requiring immediate confiscation and redistribution but the majority disagrees, what is likelihood the agitated minority will concede the point in those instances and let the issue be?

Now, you have a situation where the majority must act in some regard as a force of authority to deter the disgruntled pot-stirrers – creating a scenario where leaders among the majority will inevitably need to emerge and potentially create a competing class of elites.

Conversely, respect for and defense of property rights stand at the heart of Voluntaryism. The forced redistribution of one’s earnings or tangible property is the complete antithesis of Voluntaryist aims for society.

On the right-wing end of the spectrum, the individual’s right to keep what he or she either earns through employment or builds through personal industrious efforts is unalienable: so is the right to share any of it strictly of their own volition for the benefit of others, as well as dealing with the consequences for one’s choices is the responsibility of each individual.

Voluntaryists believe that a society where its citizens are allowed to live within such constructs will steadily align itself toward prosperity and generosity – based on the principle that virtue can only exist when there is free choice.

What becomes of social norms?

Social norms stand a vastly better chance of lining-up with virtuousness under Voluntaryism and Anarcho-capitalism because they are approaches which center on respect for the individual and place emphasis on respect for property rights.

In the left-wing version of anarchism, the notion of social norms becomes much more fluid. This is due to the fact those who do enjoy the prerogative to influence and steer the sentiments of the majority will at some point play to the base desires of humans for the purpose of using such motivations as incentives for pursuing their agenda: as opposed to encouraging individuals to determine their own independent agendas and examining the potential effects on others – especially society at large.

The left-wing cycle of disregard for property rights can only lead from anarchy back to the Progressive ascent of the pot-stirring elite toward statist control of the masses.

In conclusion

Undoubtedly, the left-wing vision of anarchy is every bit the nightmare it is so often portrayed. When the denial of property rights collides with the individual’s unalienable right to defend their property, the resulting clash can only leave a bloody trail of carnage in its wake.

That is not to say there is a complete absence of genuinely well-meaning participants in that movement. Among the goals of these advocates is to create a society that operates while free of what they consider the burden of money. But, embracing this concept requires overlooking a vital truth that money is the medium by which people deal with one another on civilized terms. Without that medium – which represents the value of the product of labor and resources – we will be left with a society where individuals would eventually need to deal with one another via the barrel of a gun. (See pp. 380-385, “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand)

At the same time, honesty in assessing Voluntaryism is a must. Make no mistake: it is a genuinely noble ideal that is worth pursuing. However, the likelihood of it being realized in my lifetime or that of anyone who reads this is nil.

Much of that is due to the fact it will take generations for the necessary education of the masses regarding the simple principles of self-reliance and individual responsibility. In the interim, a dramatic society-wide change in perception of government’s role in our lives must sweep over the American population while dismantling takes effect of the various entitlements and unconstitutional safety nets.

In essence, we must grow into a society where dedication to self-governance prevails.

If it were as easy to do it as it is to express the notion, by now we would be nearly on the verge of achieving it. Reality does not smile upon the Voluntaryist idealist in today’s world.

That is not to say Voluntaryism’s full-time proponents should abandon their efforts. I stand side-by-side with anyone whose two-fold goal is to vastly reduce the size and scope of government while preserving the rights of the individual.

Some amount of government, though, is necessary: to provide for the defense of the country; to pursue justice once crimes have been committed; to settle disputes involving legally binding contracts; and to safeguard the rights of citizens in the event of their violation by any of the states.

My ultimate hope is that we can return to that system of governance through participation in the democratic process and the manner in which we do commerce: via the mechanism enjoyed by our forefathers in the United States – as opposed to the alternative.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Occupy for Liberty, not the Left

Occupy Oakland protester gets testy

To all the libertarians participating in the Occupy Wall Street movement and the various springboard protests across the country: break free while you can.

Okay, for all my agreement with their unalienable right to protest as protected under the First Amendment and my belief the overall "Occupy" movement is getting a few points right, this item is a bit much to swallow: as reported by the Associated Press, out of the $435,000 raised thus far to financially support the protest efforts on Wall Street itself, approximately $350,000 of it has been donated via online credit-card transactions.

Why does this matter? This movement is founded on the notion that financial sector greed is at the root of almost all of the evils gnawing and rotting away at America. So to combat that evil, OWS protesters are funding their effort via the very financial machinery against which they claim to be locked in righteous struggle.

Next, common sense dictates that for any grassroots movement to successfully win over popular support from the public at large they need to be willing and able to interact with traditional media in addition to the new media of the digital age.

When that same common sense employed in the previous paragraph is applied toward a situation where men donning masks engage in open hostility toward a local television reporter in Oakland because she simply is trying to give them news coverage, that should lead most people who choose to use it to realize the movement's radicalization is careening down an irreversible course.

And that is a shame. Occupy Wall Street began with genuine promise for affecting something positive in America. Instead, it has been so thoroughly overtaken in sheep-like manner by the Left it makes the Right Wing's effort to co-opt the Tea Party pale in comparison.

In my final appeal to common sense, take a moment to read a Bloomberg article explaining how there now is a greater concentration of wealth in Washington, D.C., than in Silicon Valley.

But Wall Street remains the central focus for protesters… The things that make you go, "Hmmmm…"

Or, as Lew Rockwell has pointed-out, the wrong 1% in America is being protested.

So, my fellow libertarians and voluntaryists trying to co-opt this movement, the left's infernal hypocrisy in most corners and radical agenda in others are too much to overcome. Splinter off and form you own movement – "occupy" in front of the Federal Reserve, Securities & Exchange Commission, and other public and quasi-public financial entities – but don't be afraid to piggyback on the left's efforts.

If they believe so much in redistribution, they won't mind sharing some of the media attention a few of them are so eager to spurn...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Occupy Wall Street… It’s not just for leftists anymore

Establishment co-opting of a grassroots political movement is nothing new.

Just ask Ron Paul supporters their thoughts on former-Senator Trent Lott’s remarks in 2010 about the Tea Party movement.

While there has been no shortage of commentary and analysis of how various groups and limousine-comfortable celebrities – ranging from left-leaning to radical-far-left in nature – have been rabidly injecting themselves into the Occupy Wall Street movement, the coverage has been missing an important portion of this story.

The leftists are not the only ones active in this expanding scene of protests.

A steadily growing contingent of libertarian protesters has been present all the while. You’re just not hearing about them.

The only ones making mention of them have been libertarian news media figures such as John Stossel and Andrew Napolitano as well as entities led by the Reason Foundation.

With Occupy Wall Street, much like the Tea Party, the libertarians are being widely disregarded by those who blindly seek to disagree with that movement – zeroing-in on the co-opters and making them their focus.

Amidst a sea of so-called 99%-ers holding signs decrying their mounting student-loan debt stand pockets of legitimate activists holding “End the Fed” signs and other displays along that thread. The principle misstep being made by these libertarian and voluntaryist “occupiers” is they’re allowing themselves to blend-in with the kooks.

I appreciate the desire to highlight what ought to be the common thread shared with the left-wing so-called anti-establishment types: the understanding that the unholy marriage of major corporate interests with government regulatory authority is destroying our free market way of life by driving small local competitors out of business through oppressive, ungodly complex rules of operation.

That message is a far cry from the self-described 99%-ers who simply want to exact their pound of flesh from Corporate America. But, messengers for liberty are being largely ignored… unfortunately.

My advice for those who are part of the voluntaryist and libertarian camps in this movement is if you really want to get your views noticed while making a few sphincters tighten in the process, then depart from the corporate offices and march in front of the public institutions that are at the heart of the problem. Migrate away from Wall Street and begin protesting in front of the New York Federal Reserve and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

For those in Ohio who are looking to participate locally, don’t bother converging on Columbus. Instead, occupy Cleveland – in front of the city’s branch of the Federal Reserve Bank there (by the way, the Cleveland Fed is located at 1455 E. 6th Street).

Forget about Wall Street: Occupy for Liberty.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Thank you, Barack Hussein Obama

Recently, it struck me that I have reason to be thankful Barack Obama is the 44th President of the United States.

Many conservatives have argued at length over the last 35 months that Americans elected the wrong candidate back in November of 2008.

I am not so sure about that.

That statement, however, is made for very different reasons than our more illustrious right-wing mouthpieces would have their viewers or listeners believe.

I am diametrically opposed to the vast majority of his party’s initiatives as well as his core ideology of redistribution as well as philosophy of social justice. Obama’s pace of spending in 2 3/4 years of governance has alarmingly accelerated the United States’ advance toward fiscal insolvency beyond anything perpetrated by George W. Bush and congressional Republicans.

On the other hand, there is no denying that if Senator John McCain had been elected, instead of recklessly hitting the gas pedal on irresponsible spending he would have sought to maintain what was then the status quo: the incremental march toward an all-encompassing, all-consuming federal government that swells to unsustainable proportions.

Most likely, if we had President McCain instead of President Obama, government’s bloat would have continued its creep toward the brink of fiscal collapse just slowly enough so that when Americans finally awoke to the need to reverse course it – in all probability – would be too late to do so.

Personally, there are additional reasons I am thankful events went the way they did three years ago.

If McCain were our president I’d likely still be in my Republican partisan intellectual slumber.

I’d still be embracing intellectually lazy talking points instead of researching constitutional arguments.

I would not have been motivated to research the Libertarian Party.

The idea of making a run for Congress two years ago would have been utterly ridiculous to me.

And, I wouldn’t be chair of a newly-formed county-level political party.

For society as a whole, in addition to the continuation of the incremental advance toward total statism (and being met with only token resistance), renewed interest in understanding the Constitution wouldn’t have arisen.

The Tea Party movement would not be the prominent force it is today.

We would not be discussing Progressivism and contrasting it against Free Market Liberalism (reference F.A. Hayek’s The Road To Serfdom).

So, thank you again, President Obama.

Thank you for beating Senator John McCain by employing a hokey, ill-defined campaign slogan. Thank you for setting the stage for millions of people to realize how positively ludicrous it is to vote for a candidate based on nothing more than an artfully meaningless catch-phrase such as “Hope & Change.”

Thank you for being so arrogant in your pursuit of redistributive legislation.

Thank you for being so disingenuous in your arguments and dismissive of those who disagree with you.

Thank you for buying into the “Astroturf” rhetoric by your fellow leftists and then being so smug toward the Tea Party during its early days.

Thank you – for awakening again the Sleeping Giant.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Don’s Debates – a new chapter

As I have posted before, sometimes my most earnest work as a "self-styled, self-employed pundit" takes shape while engaged in social media banter on various topics (almost all of which has to do with politics and government).

This one is no different.

A fellow Libertarian was seeking feedback on a pair of issues when the topic landed on agricultural subsidies in the United States. One of his acquaintances kept insisting the elimination of farm subsidies would cause the price of food to go up. That is when I made the courageous decision to dive in via the comfort and safety of my keyboard.

Below is my contribution (lengthy as always) to the thread – cleaned-up a bit and made ready for primetime…

Actually, eliminating farm subsidies would steadily drive down the price of food.

Genuine farmers who receive the subsidies typically are urged by the USDA to do so for two purposes: either to literally grow less produce (typically grains) or in exchange for opting to grow particular kinds of produce.

The reason this is done is to control and moderate the price of food within our own borders. By offsetting the difference in potential revenue farmers would/could make if they were to grow the amount of crops they see fit, the federal government enjoys a much higher rate of participation in the endeavor to control food pricing.

The theory is that if food production were left to true free market forces, the price of food would potentially go up and down too dramatically for people in lower income brackets to keep up.

What this theory ignores, though, is the fact the United States overall now is producing much less food than what its true capacity for it is. This means we are exporting less food than we otherwise could and should be. That is important because by having less overall food to enter into the marketplace farmers are missing-out on foreign markets for additional revenue sources.

It's Economics 101: if farmers did not have subsidies nudging and steering them into various government-ordained agricultural endeavors, they would do what any entrepreneur would do – generate as much product as is within their capability and try to command the best market share possible.

If their overall output increases but domestic demand/consumption does not, then they need to adjust their prices lower to make their wares more competitive and appealing to consumers. This is how the price of food would go down in the abolition of agricultural subsidies. It also would in turn make food more affordable for all (and, yes, especially for poor/lower income Americans).

The farmer, on the other hand, does not take the financially crippling hit that most people would assume happens in this instance because even though the price per unit may go down the increase in total units harvested compensates for the price adjustment and balances it all out.

Next, my contention is that by encouraging lower agriculture output the way the federal government does (based on all the arguments laid-out above) this has a grotesquely negative impact on international famine relief and the worldwide fight against hunger.

Remember, if farmers are left alone to produce what they have the capacity to do, the overall supply of food increases and the price of food decreases. Not only can the average person here in the U.S. better afford food, so can those non-profit organizations which are dedicated to feeding the disadvantaged across the globe (and, of course, here at home).

Instead, we have the Nanny State in high gear manipulating our food supply and meddling with what once was the single-purest sector of the free market mankind has ever known.

Related side note
Earlier, I used the phrase "genuine farmers." This is because there are a growing number of subsidies being offered at the federal, state, and local levels for activities that go well beyond what people typically envision as traditional farming.

In other words, government at all levels is torturing the very definition of agriculture.

For example, one item which made the news earlier this year was the State of New Jersey's agriculture subsidy for honey bee farmers. The subsidy consists of a generous discount on one's property taxes for those who engage in this form of agriculture.

The problem, however, is the fact that equally as generous is New Jersey's definition of the minimum capacity to qualify for a subsidy.

It turns out that of all the people residing in rural New Jersey and taking advantage of this program, no one is making out as handsomely as multimillionaire recording artist Jon Bon Jovi – who opted to setup such a honey bee operation that meets the state minimum standards on his property.

So now, despite owning a home and plot of land worth millions of dollars Mr. Bon Jovi pays a fraction of property taxes than that of any of his surrounding neighbors – whose properties are valued much less than his.

That all sounds fair, doesn't it?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Vintage 1787...

Today is Constitution Day. It was this day in 1787 when the delegates appointed by the Several States to attend the Constitutional Convention signed the Constitution and the resolution to submit it to the states for ratification.

Some have called it -- even those who support constitutionally limited government -- "just a piece of paper."

But it is far more than that. It is the embodiment of the principles of self-governance, shared authority and responsibility, distribution of powers, and accountability to the people.

It also represents the culmination of centuries of humanity's growth in understanding how to move ourselves forward as a society. The Constitution and its construct of a democratic republic designed to safeguard human liberty stand as the pinnacle of intellectual achievement.

The vast majority of the major philosophical and intellectual developments since the Constitution's drafting and ratification have been aimed at eroding or tearing down the institutions it was written to preserve. Yet, despite the tortured interpretations of its language in the 224 years since it was signed, the Constitution -- and its intended principles -- has endured as the centerpiece of our nation. This is a testament to the wisdom which went into the drafting of it.

I will be observing Constitution Day in my own, quiet manner, by finishing the book "The Road To Serfdom" and if time permits starting "Atlas Shrugged" -- two books written during a time when the push to subvert constitutionally limited government and the Rule of Law was picking-up steam and which warned heavily against doing so.

It is through the Constitution we remain free to read and discuss such literature.

It is through the Constitution we are free to dance in celebration of America's greatest philosopher, Thomas Jefferson.

It is through the Constitution we are free to challenge those who hold seats of power as well as thwart their attempts to enjoy them in perpetuity.

And, it is because of the Constitution that America remains unique on the world's stage.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Are my eyes going bad or are we seeing a bait-and-switch?

Here's a brainteaser for you:

What's the difference between an Ohio Republican and an Illinois Democrat?

Well, once congressional redistricting is done, the honest answer will be, "Not a heck of a lot!"

As we get a sneak-peak at the proposed new districts for Ohio's U.S. representatives, we see a map displaying odd shapes and districts growing tendrils -- reminiscent typically of Illinois' Blue State tradition of shameless gerrymandering. It's drawn in a manner that would make Salvador Dali whistle in appreciation.

It looks downright ridiculous. For those who agree, let us remember which party holds four out of the five seats on the state's 2011 apportionment board. Curiously enough, it's the same party which pledged last year a departure from business as usual.

What should be especially alarming to Allen County voters is that our two General Assemblymen, Rep. Matt Huffman and Sen. Keith Faber, were major players in the process. Announcing his promise to fast-track the new map to a vote on the Ohio House floor is Speaker William Batchelder.

I'll go out on a limb and surmise these three gentleman were not very good at Geometry in high school.

Some of you are probably lamenting this is no joking matter. You are most likely staunch Democrats.

Some of you have taken offense to my observations. You are most likely staunch Republicans.

For the rest of you, there are 14 months left to decide how best to alert the two major parties you have had enough of the games.

You have 14 months to ponder how best to do the right thing on Election Day. I am more than happy to help.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

10 years later...

Milestone anniversaries – no matter what the event – invariably lead to greater than usual reflection as to why we remember those dates on the calendar.

For me, September 11 is a day which drives home the inevitability of our mortality.

Ten years ago, it was a day that stunned me into silence.

It was a day of ominous signs such as cable television channels preempting their entire day’s schedule to display a screen with the message, “In light of today’s events, all programming has been cancelled so staff may be with family.”

It was a day I sought the company of friends I hadn’t seen in a few months.

It was a day when I had one of the longest phone conversations with my mom we have ever shared.

It was a day I prayed for people I had never known – especially those whom I would never have the opportunity to know.

It was a day I feared not for my country necessarily but for the price that would be paid by our men and women in uniform.

While the vast majority of you who read my essays, columns, rants, and rare short notes have come to know me principally as one of a growing hoard of politicos, I find myself thoroughly unwilling to politicize 9-11.

There have been no lack of posts and discussions surrounding what has and what has not been included in various 9-11 commemoration ceremonies.

If you believe you can do better, then do it.

I went to the prayer sessions and candlelight vigils that were held that evening. People didn’t stand around waiting for someone to organize anything: they just came together.

If the ceremony plans of public officials don’t sit well with you, ignore them in favor of your own…

…And witness the power of the individual.

The brave men on United Flight 93 showed us that.

What will you show America?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Federal judge rules in favor of LPO in ballot access fight

Below is a press release authored by Libertarian Party of Ohio Deputy Communication Director Kalin Stipe.

In addition to the comments offered by Michael Johnston, LPO Vice Chair and director of the party's Political Division, I would like to state that this development — first and foremost — is welcome news and speaks volumes of the Libertarian Party's comprehension of the Constitution of the United States. As I have been telling our members and supporters locally, how can we expect the public to believe we are prepared to fight for their constitutional rights if we are unable or unwilling to fight for our own?

Given the LPO's track record of successful litigation when this issue arose both in 2006 and 2008, the likelihood of prevailing in court never was in doubt. Unfortunately, Ohio lawmakers were fully aware of this but moved forward with the contested components contained in the bill despite knowing it would incur legal expenses on the taxpayers' dime.

With the Ohio Republican Party in control of the Governor's Mansion as well as enjoying substantial majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly, this was undeniably a partisan attempt to perpetuate the ongoing disenfranchisement of Ohio's registered voters — who have grown increasingly weary of the failed manner in which government at all levels has operated over the years.

Furthermore, that our state legislators would bury the key clauses designed to deny ballot access for minor political parties within a routine housekeeping bill (the update to Ohio's election laws) demonstrates a clear intent by the ORP to obstruct competition within the political system. As LPO Chair Kevin Knedler rightly pointed-out during a statewide party function in June, if what Ohio Republicans attempted with ballot access laws was perpetrated in private industry those companies would face federal investigation for violating U.S. antitrust laws.

While this plays-out in court, we in the Allen County Libertarian Party look forward to providing area voters with fresh options in the political arena as well as the opportunity to pursue a government that respects the individual and is less intrusive in our economic and personal concerns.

Together in Liberty,

Don Kissick
Allen County Libertarian Party Chair


Read the text of Judge Marbley's injunction.


Federal judge rules in favor of LPO in ballot access fight

COLUMBUS — A U.S. District Court judge ruled Wednesday against the state of Ohio in a lawsuit brought by the Libertarian Party of Ohio to preserve its right to be on the ballot.

Judge Algenon Marbley granted the Libertarian Party of Ohio’s request for a preliminary injunction that protects ballot access for the party through 2012, including for Libertarian candidates already on the November 2011 ballot in Akron and Troy.

The ruling is part of ongoing litigation, LPO v. Husted, which the LPO filed in response to the passage of HB 194 by the General Assembly earlier this year, a measure that made several changes to Ohio’s voting system.

“This ruling is not just a victory for the Libertarian Party of Ohio, but for the majority of Ohioans, including Republicans and Democrats, who are looking for a viable alternative to our current, dysfunctional two-party system,” said Michael Johnston, LPO vice chair. “With this ruling, Judge Marbley has guaranteed that our soldiers returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan will be able to participate in an open electoral process, not unlike the one they laid their lives down to create in the Middle East. We look forward to engaging all political opponents in a vibrant debate in the upcoming Presidential election cycle.”

Marbley noted that the General Assembly had “failed to respond” to previous federal court rulings in favor of the LPO’s ballot access rights in 2006 and 2008. Marbley’s decision recaps LPO v. Brunner, noting that the court found that the requirements set forth by then-Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner were a “severe, unconstitutional burden.” The decision also agreed with the LPO that the new requirements contained in HB 194 limit the ability of the LPO to participate in the democratic process, a fundamental requirement for a group such as the Libertarian Party that seeks to govern.

“Women fought for the right to vote 100 years ago, minorities fought the same fight 50 years ago, and here we are in the 21st century doing the same thing,” said LPO Chair Kevin Knedler. “At a time when the United States is trying to spread freedom and liberty around the world, it is unfortunate that we have to fight in courtrooms, right here in Ohio, for a basic freedom: the right to have more than just one or two choices on a ballot and the right to privately express ourselves when voting. The fight for our freedoms is not over, but after three federal court wins in five years, we are much closer.”

Several recent public opinion polls have demonstrated growing interest in political alternatives to the two major parties that routinely drive our nation and state to the brink of disaster. The Libertarian Party is that alternative, supporting balanced budgets, common sense laws, and promoting candidates who recognize that the United States Constitution is our nation’s primary source of law.

The Libertarian Party is the third largest political party in Ohio. Founded in 1971, the LP supports fiscal responsibility and social acceptance. LPO candidates espousing common-sense, middle class values in 2010 collectively earned enough voter trust to garner more than 1,000,000 votes statewide and earned an average of more than five percent for their respective races. The LPO was the only minor party to run a full statewide executive slate in 2010 — the first minor party to do so since 1934 — and had the only gubernatorial candidate bold and honest enough to release a budget plan for Ohio before the General Election.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Mr. Jordan, if one door closes, another will open

Here’s what ought to be a fairly simple, straightforward question: does principle matter anymore in America?

There has been much discussion in recent weeks regarding the report by the Columbus Dispatch in which “two Republican sources deeply involved in configuring new Ohio congressional districts” asserted 4th District Representative Jim Jordan may find his territory unfavorably redrawn for next year’s election.

This, according to every media report covering the situation, would be in retribution for Jordan’s “open defiance of” House Speaker John Boehner during the process of negotiating a deal revolving around raising the national debt ceiling.

Mind you, General Assembly members Matt Huffman and Keith Faber – who represent Allen County in the House and Senate respectively and serve on the redistricting subcommittees – have gone on record saying they oppose such a move. They are joined by Ohio House Speaker William Batchelder in publicly expressing such sentiment.

Even Boehner has spoken words designed to create some amount of separation between himself and the story.

However, in light of the assertion that the sentiments expressed above were offered by two Republicans “deeply involved” with reapportionment process, one must wonder how many others in the party share that perspective.

A key barometer indication would be what has Ohio Republican Party Chair Kevin DeWine been saying on the subject?

All this builds-up to a return to the question posed above. Does principle matter anymore?

When it would have been easy to go with the flow and join his fellow Republicans in their verve for compromise Jordan held fast to a decidedly libertarian stance that raising the debt ceiling is only going to push the long-term prospects for U.S. fiscal stability that much closer to impossible.

The only caveat where he was willing to compromise and vote in favor of a debt ceiling increase was if it was accompanied by spending cuts and budgetary constraints which went beyond those proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and common sense dictates would never be supported by his mainstream GOP counterparts, who lack the backbone to embrace such measures.

And, kudos are warranted for Jordan that an aide for the Republican Studies Committee (which Jordan chairs) felt comfortable enough to send “emails to conservative groups urging them to push undecided Republicans to vote against Boehner’s plan.”

One of my key talking points during last year’s election was that it is not enough to simply maintain one’s voting record but have the courage of conviction to openly oppose even fellow party members who are clearly wrong on policy and legislative initiatives.

Admittedly, the two anonymous Republicans cited by the Dispatch raise a somewhat (at best) valid point regarding Jordan’s comfort in representing a district where he is able to rely on such an enormous voting base. In 2008 he won reelection with 65 percent of the vote and last year took home 72 percent of the 4th District vote (and that was in a three-way race!).

And, sure, based on that it is easy for Jordan to spurn many of the typical trappings of politics and rely on an adherence to principles. He’s highly unlikely to be without an elected seat of some kind under any circumstances other than his own choosing.

Then again, perhaps the ORP ought to stop and consider the reason he is so popular within his present district is because of his consistently conservative record.

But, we need to stop and consider what I believe is the most likely explanation for all this manufactured controversy. This has been pure subterfuge.

While it would appear easy for Ohio’s Republican establishment to single-out Jordan who is going to be tremendously popular no matter where he runs for office, the real agenda was to send the message to all other registered ORP members: “We have no qualms going after someone like Jordan – your seat us much less secure.”

On the odd chance, however remote, that the Republican Party here in the Buckeye State actually intends to target Jordan in that manner I would like to conclude with an open letter.

Representative Jordan, should the ORP manage to succeed in squeezing you out of your seat and spurn you in future election endeavors, I will make it my mission in life to make room for you in the Libertarian Party of Ohio.

While I disagree with your perspectives regarding use of legislation to control personal behavior and limit individuals’ choices in life (not to mention the fact $700 billion in defense spending clearly is unsustainable), you deserve recognition for consistently championing for generally smaller government.

If the ORP won’t have you anymore, I will see to it the LPO will.

You have my word on that.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Default is a lie!

The soundbytes have been flying across the airwaves like missiles over Baghdad in 1991.

A succinct sampling of the news over the past several weeks would read something like this:

“We have bipartisan support.”

“We’re working on a deal to get this done.”

“No deal!”

“You’re not willing to compromise.”

“We have been in talks with the President to reach a deal.”

“No deal!”

“Why would you hold America hostage?!”

“You said the same things five years ago!”

“No deal!”

But, there is one soundbyte, one phrase, that inexplicably is being uttered and rehashed by the left, the right, and even some libertarians.

“We will default if the debt ceiling isn’t raised.”

Out of all components of the latest political circus on display inside the Beltway, that last non-stop, three-ring performance over the debt ceiling has been equally as nauseating as the doomsday rhetoric flowing out of the White House.

Ballyhooed by the party’s ringleader in chief, House Speaker John Boehner, congressional Republicans (and even a number of their talking heads) have also been prattling-on as though they believe the “default” hype.

But, there is one cold, hard truth being deliberately ignored.

Default is a lie.

As so many others have pointed-out already, given the fact the federal government is projected to bring-in $2.2 trillion for Fiscal Year 2011, payments on existing debt will run about $200 billion, Social Security is expected to exceed $700 billion, and the combination of Medicare and Medicaid will run almost $800 billion there will be enough in tax receipts to cover the $1.7 trillion in entitlements.

That leaves roughly half-a-trillion dollars to do the remaining federal business.

What does this mean?

The second-most-obvious answer is someone in the White House is going to (finally) have to understand how to prioritize spending.

Every other entity and operation in America has to learn to live within their means in similar situations… Although, they must do so since they don’t enjoy access to their own monetary printing presses while the federal government is immune from its own counterfeiting laws…

…But, as usual, I digress…

And then there is that pesky most-obvious answer I almost distracted myself from addressing.

The federal government has the money it needs to make all its mandatory expenditures. All the rhetoric, all the hype, and all the hysteria are predicated on lies.

Is default possible? Certainly.

But here is the ultimate truth in the discussion of such an event: should a debt ceiling agreement not be reached, the only way American debt payments, social security checks, and other domestic benefits won’t get paid-out would have to be as a result of a deliberate choice by the President.

So, no matter what chatter gets shot across the airwaves or splashed onto the front pages of all the periodicals about either the Tea Party “hijacking the process” or whatever other narrative gets manufactured, any withholding of payments which the government is legally (not to mention constitutionally) obligated to pay still boils down to a conscious decision within the White House.

And if the President makes that choice, all the “Impeach Obama” rallying cries which have rang predictably hollow so far just might unexpectedly get some teeth to them.

Related side notes

The single most nauseating talking point raised by Republicans so far has been the notion that forcing this administration to begin choosing where to drop the axe on federal spending means leaving all the discretion up to the Democrat-held White House.

The leading minstrel on this argument has been – surprise, surprise – Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

This is the same Mitch McConnell who practically broke into tears over mentions of reducing discretionary spending a year ago.

The Bluegrass State’s senior Senator continues to let his priorities shine like a beacon of patheticness.

Once again the tenuousness of Social Security has worked its way to the forefront political discussions. Every Libertarian across America ought to be beating this drum relentlessly in light of the opportunity presented.

For the first time last year, the Social Security Administration found itself having to dip into the so-called lockboxes and…

…Figure out what to do with stacks of worthless IOU’s.

And that has come to pass because of decades of borrowing against the Social Security Fund that was supposed to be funded by all the FICA taxes collected since the Roosevelt era.

Things were running smoothly until we finally reached that point – which had been predicted for years – when the amount owed in Social Security obligations exceed the amount of FICA taxes being collected to ensure the checks continue to go out in the mail.

There should be trillions of dollars in reserve to permit the seamless continuance of payments in transition from entitlement surplus to entitlement deficit without any hiccups. However, both parties kept dipping their digits into that cookie jar for years: now all we’re left with is the most extravagant Ponzi scheme ever fathomed – with 30-something sessions of Congress making Bernie Madoff look like a pocket change pilferer.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Losing my religion, saving my faith

“Awakening” and “enlightenment” – they are terms which describe intersecting periods in American history.

In our nation we find ourselves in need of them again now more than ever. We stand at the cusp of either turning an amazing corner if we can wake-up as a society or becoming bonded into servitude of the whims of other nations which have been able to maintain greater clarity in seeing the consequences of nations’ choices: theirs and ours.

To save our country, we need a second “Age of Enlightenment.” With history as our road map, it then should become obvious we first need to enter a second “Age of Awakening.”

The original Age of Awakening was a stretch of the middle of the 18th century when a new ministry nearly exclusively the domain of Colonial America began to arise. It empowered the Enlightenment which had emerged in Great Britain in the late 17th century – which began slowly inspiring America’s greatest minds over the course of the century that followed.

We have gotten away from the ministry of that time, unfortunately. In truth, we have strayed terribly from it. The operative inquiry becomes, “How do we get back to it?”

One hope that I hold lies in my own personal awakening in my faith this year – and I pray it can take hold across our society.

In my previous note, I belabored the point that the Laws of God and the laws of man were never meant to be one and the same. I firmly believe the failure to acknowledge this truth is one of the key blunders of the American Right. When you vest that much broad-sweeping power into the bureaucracy of the state you allow much too dangerously great of an opportunity for those who hate Christianity to engage in destructive mischief upon stepping into that power.

But, this spring the truth to be found on the other side of that coin finally got through.

I was born into the Catholic Church. I attended Shrine of the Little Flower Catholic School for grades 1 through 8. I was raised Catholic.

Recently, though, I found myself struggling to return to faithful attendance of Mass on the Sabbath. I have been very delinquent in recent years with keeping my end of the bargain on the Third Commandment – so I understood my obligation to seek the sacrament of Reconciliation in order to be able to receive Communion again.

Even after forcing myself to not be lazy to that end for a few weekends, I still experienced significant angst over this matter.

Nevertheless, I have consistently longed to return to that path in life since I allowed myself to lapse in attending Mass.

Then it finally hit me. I don’t disagree with the Church on its Catechism. I disagree with its dogma that in order to be one with the Church you must rigidly meet points A, B, and C through X, Y, and Z.

With such an unwavering system of rules to be able to stay in the Church, in a mirror image of what the Evangelical Right Wing in America has been pursuing for decades the Vatican has been for centuries attempting to pigeonhole the laws of man into and amongst the Laws of God.

If structuring government so as to make the laws of man reflect the Laws of God is destined to be a failed concept in our society, then it stands to reason the pursuit of the other direction ultimately cannot succeed for any church.

My apprehension also stems from the massive bureaucratic framework the Church has built over the last 1700 to 1800 years.

Now, all the major denominations of Christianity have engaged in this practice. The Catholic Church, though, stands out as the leading example. (Quixotic as it may appear, I still believe in the Catholic Church’s Apostolic origins as well as the holy authority of the Pope)

This is where my libertarianism has bled into my religious province. My question now becomes, “Is it necessary for the ministry of spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be so heavily contingent on the existence of a massive, complex administrative hierarchy?

Much the same way I believe society will function just fine with minimal government and reliance on our ability to engage in self-governance, so too I believe the future of Christianity would be just as promising with significant scaling-back of church organizational apparatus.

Just consider the fact that as our government has gotten ever larger and more centralized so has the omnipresence of politics grown to nauseating proportions.

As our churches become more reliant on central authorities which operate with ever-expanding dogmatic networks, it is inevitable that the risk of politics creeping into these machineries will become more prevalent.

And when politics come into play, would not the need assuredly arise for a set of rules, or laws, to keep the political side of things in check? Would not some form of framework of laws be needed to keep the internal politics from overtaking the church affairs?

Ultimately, does that not also mean you then end-up with the laws of man taking precedent over ministering to parishioners the Laws of God?

Much like with the United States government, the bureaucratic nature of organized religion has become unsustainable.

What history has taught us

As we came to learn in America, during the Age of Enlightenment which preceded the Revolution, our relationships with God and Christ were always meant to be a personal one. The opposite of this outlook is known as collective salvation.

Collective salvation was what the churches in Europe had begun implementing as a means of maintaining control of the masses: if an orderly adherence to the official sermons was not maintained, no single person could hope to be saved in the absence of blessings for the whole of society.

However, here in the American colonies during the 18th and 19th centuries, ministers and preachers began sermonizing a more individual approach toward belief in God and Christ.

Thanks to a man named George Whitefield, who began a barnstorming tour across the colonies in the mid-1700s preaching his new – and (dare I say) revolutionary – outlook on finding God, the people in the New World would slowly but surely come to understand that when we as individuals are good and more virtuous then the parishes and congregations (and ultimately the communities) are stronger and greater.

What Whitefield would end-up not only teaching but inspiring in our American ancestors during that period in history was when we are more enabled as individuals to better ourselves and fortify the spiritual health of our families, our society as a whole gradually becomes a healthier and more vibrant place.

Naturally, humanity at that time 260 years ago had a long way to go in terms of realizing civilized living and overcoming many of the superstitions which still dominated the culture. But, during that period people in the New World were more focused on self-betterment than at any time before and since – paving the way for a societal rise to world greatness that the world had scarcely seen before.

And all the while, the collective gains were being made because the spirit of the individual had been unleashed – an individual who understood the vital importance of loyalty to country yet at the same time was free to seek salvation one-on-one with God and Christ.

So, what does this mean?

One of the most important components of the spread of Whitefield’s message and the rise it gave to the American Enlightenment was the fact the individual churches retained a great deal more autonomy across the Colonies than their counterparts back in Europe and Western Asia.

Of course, much of that was due to the existence of such an enormous geographical separation from the various councils and authorities for each Christian sect as well as the lack of modern transmittal of ideas as we know it today. Still, the overall conditions of the time – not just in terms of the absence of technology but the evolving sense of the American identity – led to an amazing awakening not just of Christianity but for Christian values.

Arguably the key messages being spread across the colonies during this particular junction in history was the importance of virtue among the people: that without Americans being a virtuous people the prospects for not only achieving independence but also for lasting as a sovereign nation would be rather dim.

But, it was the more independent nature of the congregations (particularly in the more remote, frontier reaches of the original colonies), outside of the reach of church bureaucracies, that helped cultivate the sense of American Individualism: the person who sought the optimum cross-section of self-sufficiency and Christian virtuousness.

Perhaps most importantly, the conditions of living in and maintaining a community in the more untamed, frontier portions of 18th century America also led people of differing faiths to work and worship together as a result of the necessity of unity just to survive, let alone prosper – bolstering the nation’s identity as a land of religious freedom.

Where should this lead us?

It has become a growing rallying cry – among those of us who wish to see the ship of America sail true again – “Where is our George Washington among us?” that person whom we need to step forward (no doubt reluctantly as the Father of Our Nation did) and inspire us as a nation to modestly and graciously seek the path toward Restoration: that individual who can do so having earned their place as “First in the hearts of America.”

What many of us (myself included) have forgotten from our history lessons is that even George Washington needed to be preceded by others in the greater scheme of things who would set the stage for him to become our nation’s most beloved leader.

Before Washington took his place in the annals of American history there needed to be the likes of Thomas Paine, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin.

Before them, there was George Whitefield.

Before we can find our modern-day Washington, we must find our modern-day Paine, Adams, Jefferson, and Franklin.

Before we can find them, we must find our modern-day Whitefield.

In the end…

If nothing else, my aim with this essay is to point-out that we are doing ourselves a disfavor by clinging tightly to our identities as Catholic, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, and so on.

Do we not all believe in the Immaculate Conception, birth, life, ministry, crucifixion, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ?

And that leads me back to that juncture I reached this spring: that tightly-held notion of being a Catholic was nothing more than a label – and we have become entirely too preoccupied anymore as a society with finding a comfortable label for ourselves.

As a result, in the modern quest for labels we allowed ourselves to forget our identity as Christians.

Christ called upon His apostles James and John to become “fishers of men.” His call to us through the ages hasn’t changed: to be disciples of Him. He has never called upon us to fit neatly into an arbitrary category.

For Christianity to survive another 2,000 years, we must learn to focus on discovering Christian Unity. Ultimately, these labels of church identity serve as much to divide us as any other factor working against Christianity today. With so much stacked against us anymore when it comes to living by the Gospel, what sense does it make to actively pursue and erect additional barriers to unity as Christians?

Even if we are unable to arrive at the kind of ecumenical Christian faith I pray can be achieved, a united Christian faith will become a movement for good the likes of which the world has not previously witnessed.

I believe in Christ and I believe the Bible is the Holy Word of God.

I make those proclamations in the complete absence of shame or embarrassment. Of course, there will be those who try to peg a different set of labels on me – such as Jesus freak, bible thumper, and other, similarly derisive (if not blasphemous) markers.

Just know this: they only label me – they cannot define me.

My faith in God and Christ will accomplish that.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

An Evangelical case for Libertarianism

Important note: if material of an overtly religious nature and that actively examines Judeo-Christian theology and its role in guiding us ideologically is not of interest to you, this is a good point to stop reading and go about other leisure pursuits. I am a firm believer in the notions that America is a Christian nation, to remain in keeping with Christian doctrine means defending and preserving the rights of others to hold differing religious and spiritual beliefs, and that America is great because America is good. If any of these principles do not hold well with you, you will simply be laughed-at for keying-in on the various professions of faith contained in this essay as opposed to the connections between Christianity and libertarianism I assert exist.

It has been argued on many occasions through the generations that to preserve our country’s Christian heritage and identity we must use the force of government power to remove those components of society which exist in opposition to Christian moral values. Some arguments have not contained such an overtly worded premise while others have been uttered with even stronger language toward those ends.

I disagree with this concept entirely and have come to better understand why we need to steer clear of such legislative or constitutional endeavors in recent years.

In exploring what the true meaning of liberty is in America, what has dawned on me through this period of reflection has become a crucial facet to my conclusions: the importance of God’s second-greatest gift to us.

Obviously, our Lord’s greatest gift to his people on Earth has been His only Son, Jesus Christ: His birth, life, teachings, death, and resurrection. His second-greatest gift is the one which has made us uniquely human among all His creations: our free will.

And, it is our free will that serves as the focal point of this discussion. It leads us to one of our most important spiritual questions we must answer as Christians.

What is it about faith in Christ that leads us to salvation?

My answer is that in addition to accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we must also prove that faith through the opportunity to rise above sin.

Which individual is more likely to be a true follower of Christ? Is it the person who lived a life of virtue only as a result of an overreaching central authority, due to their options in life having been legislated away to protect them from temptation?

Or, is it the person who – given the opportunity to hear the Word of God and know Jesus’ teachings – opened their heart to the Son of God of their own volition and sought the rocky, gravel road as their path toward following Him; the person who has every opportunity to give-in to temptation but willfully rejects the false promises which accompany it in pursuit of Christ’s Favor at their eventual time of judgment?

At this point, we need to remember two more undeniable and vitally important truths: first, that our God, Creator of Heaven and Earth, is ultimately a forgiving God; also, that belief in – and acceptance of – Christ as our Lord and Savior is the most important Way into God’s kingdom.

As one who seeks greater understanding of Evangelical Christianity, I enter into this pursuit with an unwavering belief in the loving forgiveness of God.

A vital truth Evangelical Republicans disregard

There is one component of a free people such as Americans which the right wing among love to celebrate when it comes to history – our rebelliousness.

Peculiarly though, such high regard for America’s rebellious nature fizzles in silently rapid fashion when it comes to modern society. And so, many conservatives press forward on social issues in politics, legislation, and governance while deliberately ignoring one key reality.

Rebellion is mankind’s natural social state.

We see this throughout American history and we are witnessing it today.

Look at the ongoing fight against the implementation of the so-called Affordable Health Care Act (whose nickname lately has morphed into “Obamneycare”). Through the peaceful exercise of our First Amendment rights, Americans have been engaged in a rebellion of rhetoric against a socialist legislative maneuver that was enacted despite the fact it was clear the majority of voters in the country did not want it.

We also see it in youth whose parents attempt to take the authoritarian approach further than necessary.

That second example best illustrates my point as it relates to this discussion. With rebellion being humanity’s natural social state, to some degree it is because the Evangelical element among Conservative Republicans have sought so fervently to thrust the Gospel of Jesus Christ into our laws that there has been such a rise in atheism as well as a wider disinterest in Christian values and principles among those who identify themselves as Christians.

It is the inevitable pushback against what amounts to right-wing big government: the thrust to deny us through the law our right to exercise our free will.

It happens with each Republican congressional majority and Republican-controlled White House. And, there is bound to be another round of it when the grand pendulum of voter sentiment finishes swinging back to the GOP’s way.

The conservative contradiction

Of late, much has been made about messages entailing so-called collective salvation. This idea is based on the notion that the individual cannot be saved if the community is not first saved.

This is a concept being gradually promoted by the Establishment Left to further distance us from the truth that salvation is on an individual basis. However, the Left’s approach to this is being made via economic-centered legislation and executive decree.

Conservative commentators have taken some note of this rhetoric and have been rightfully critical of it.

But, there is one problem.

The American Right’s social agenda is operating under the same premises as the Left’s economic agenda: that we cannot be trusted to make decisions and choices for the best interests of society – or rather we cannot be trusted to make the correct decisions and choices.

Among the Republican Party’s Evangelical base, there is a mindset that our laws must be written so as to “protect family values.” This perception of the role of government in our society’s system of values ignores one vital truth:

The laws of God and the laws of man were never meant to be one and the same.

In order to achieve the ends that Evangelical Conservatives insist are what are best for us, it would require Congress to author laws either so broadly written and wide-ranging they bestow to federal authorities frightening leeway to interpret which of our actions would be too immoral under the law or produce a behemoth of legislation that must tackle and specify so many possible personal activities that no one could possibly know whether or not what they’re doing is illegal – that is until one of those statutes was selectively applied to them after the fact.

All in all, what conservatives fail to recognize is that working to use man’s law to steer us all toward following God’s law is merely right-wing collective salvation.

And, if our society is to become one engineered for collective salvation then what need is there for us to seek God’s forgiveness on our own – to seek salvation through the Word of God?

Much like left wing economic safety nets and entitlements kill the motivation to be self-sufficient in our day-to-day lives, right wing morality safety nets will have the unintended consequence of killing the motivation to seek salvation on our own. Why worry about what the Word of God tells us when we have a ready-made authority here on Earth to take care of our moral spiritual needs?

The best path to Christ is the one which is freely chosen – a Free Will Evangelical path.

Where liberty and morality collide: resolving libertarianism and the sacrament of matrimony

While the temptation is compelling (pardon the ironic pun) when writing this essay to devote time to analyze each and every plank regarding individual liberties in the Libertarian platform, for the sake of some measure of concision it makes the most sense to focus on the single most controversial issue which has leapt to the forefront recently.

One of the key arguments against libertarianism in America involves the issue of marriage. The purest of libertarian platforms is that government has no place in overseeing, regulating, or having any kind of hand in the institution of marriage: this is because it is of the most personal nature between two individuals and its origins in society trace directly back to the churches (or other religious places of congregation).

As a result, it can be argued that the requirement to obtain a state-issued marriage license is unconstitutional on the grounds of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Since the “wall of separation between Church and State” as described by Thomas Jefferson meant the true original intent of the First Amendment’s verbiage was to protect the Church and its functions from encroachment by government, the continued practice by the states today to mandate acquisition of a license in order for two individuals to be “legally” married rightfully is beyond their reasonable, constitutional authority.

This leads us to the simple truth that what government defines as a “marriage” in all actuality is a civil union as it entails the signing of a legally binding contract between the two spouses. What makes such a union a Marriage is the understanding they have willingly come together as one life and one unified soul in the presence of God.

Returning to the question of morality, many who oppose the notion of the right of nuptials being opened to couples of the same gender insist this development will put our society on a path toward polygamy and other such marital arrangements.

There lies in this assertion a glaring problem of argumentation, not of spirituality. Any logical argument must follow the pattern that if “A” is connected to “B” and “B” is connected to “C,” then it is true that “A” must lead eventually to “C.”

But, those who insist that same-sex civil unions will lead to polygamy are missing the vital “B” component in their arguments. They’re making the case that “A” (gay marriage) will take us toward “C” (polygamy or worse) – but they’re omitting the all-important “B” connector in their reasoning: what happens after the initial allowance of same-sex unions that precipitates polygamous arrangements?

Still, some libertarian ideological purists would insist if three people willingly agree to an interconnecting marital arrangement that should be their right as well as their private business – and theirs alone.

To set the minds of my fellow Evangelical Christians at ease, I would contend psychological findings through the years have proven such relationship dynamics are doomed to fail in the vast majority of instances when and where they are pursued and will not see proliferation as a result of that alone – even if a legal or constitutional argument for polygamy could be successfully made.

And in all practicality, if we assume multi-spousal marriages remain prohibited, can anyone explain how a situation where a husband and wife simply invite a non-marital third partner into their relationship becomes less immoral or less potentially damaging to the sacrament of matrimony than if they were to engage in a three-way civil union?


Above and beyond the points raised above, right-wing Evangelicals have been deliberately ignoring the most important libertarian point which relates to their system of values and beliefs: that it is your right not only to disagree with the choices made by others but also to express it!

Even more importantly, you enjoy the right and freedom to raise your children to embrace the values and beliefs you (and I) hold so dearly and encourage them to advocate those values to others. That right and authority as parents must never be abridged under any circumstances if we are to remain a truly free society.

You have the right (especially if you are an ordained clergy) to assume the duty and responsibility to preach before those who will lend you their ear what steps necessitate the path toward personal salvation through Christ. We are all free to engage in either the ordained ministry or personal ministry (should entry into the seminary be beyond your means) for the sake of saving others’ souls.

But, they (we) must be allowed to choose to have their (our) souls saved.

By insisting that government assume any semblance of that role in society, are you not advocating that the State serve as a surrogate parent or minister? Is that a role we could ever reasonably or reliably trust any level of government to assume without the potential for grave unintended consequences?

Do you believe humanity is so corruptible and we are all so unable to grasp the need for redemption that we must be insulated from ourselves and our free will through the force of government?

One of our greatest Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson, spoke of the preservation of individual economic freedom when he issued this well-known warning: “A government big enough to give you everything you want is powerful enough to take away everything you have.”

This same, undeniable principle also applies to our nation’s moral fabric. Does it not stand to reason that a government which enjoys the power to mandate we all live by a particular system of values is powerful enough to shift gears on us, turn that set of values on its ear, and thrust upon us a moral approach which operates in contradiction to Christianity?

As I’ve written before about this topic, those who would be in a position to set, influence, and shape social values policy – and have been holding many key offices and positions in the Executive Branch – fit that very mold.

Take a long, honest look at those who presently sit atop our institutions of power and ask yourself, “Are they people I trust with my salvation?”