Stop and think,  collected — 2004

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True self-government. In the wake of the Mosul massacre, Kirk Johnson of the New York Times offers a report that is doubleplusunfull of any Christmas cheer for those of us wishing for peace on Earth: "Fighting On Is the Only Option, Americans Say." Once again, the System has worked! The regime has gotten the country into another absurd, criminal war — and the sheeple are taking it from there. [Nicholas Strakon]

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(December 2004)

A loss on the Left. According to the New York Times, Seymour Melman died December 16 at age 86. Author of The Permanent War Economy and Pentagon Capitalism, as well as other works, Dr. Melman was a foe of nuclear weapons and the militarization of our economy and society. His scholarship provided us much intellectual ammunition in the struggle for peace, and if such a category may properly be considered to exist, we must honor him as a "righteous leftist." [Nicholas Strakon]

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(December 2004)

From Doug Olson's Freak Files: Big Brother rides with you. Wherever he is today, George Orwell must be forgiven for the sin of pride. More than half a century after his death, his prophecies continue to come true literally on a daily basis. Latest is the drive to have the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration mandate that all new automobiles manufactured in the United States be equipped with electronic data recorders similar to the "black boxes" of air-crash fame. The National Transportation Safety Board, at least, is hot for the scheme, according to a December 12 piece at Cato.

The excuse, as usual, is only an excuse — that the information will help to make cars and roads safer. In fact, the boxes capture information on speed, use of seatbelts, braking, "unsafe" backing and cornering, and other use of the vehicle — data that has already been used in determining guilt and liability in civil and criminal actions all over the nation. This kind of spying very soon may be as much a part of American life as the automobile itself. [Douglas Olson] (December 2004)

When do we start to detect a pattern? The regime tells us that one of the reasons "our boys" (and wymyn) are fighting a war in Iraq is to "defend our freedom."

That's nothing new. Every time the regime goes to war, it says it's to "defend our freedom."

But every time it goes to war, we become less free.

Have you reread 1984 yet this year, comrade? There's still time, at least for that. [Nicholas Strakon] (December 2004)

Dis here where we at, unh-hunh. According to a CBS report on December 16, a CD by the rap "music" performer "Ludacris" was number one on Billboard magazine's weekly chart of top-selling albums.

Now, if we all buckle down and work really hard, we can take our country back ... Ooops! — forgot. That country doesn't exist any more. [Nicholas Strakon] (December 2004)

Smokeless incarnations. The kingdom of Bhutan, a tiny (half the size of Indiana) reclusive monarchy between China and India, has just banned smoking in public and tobacco sales; the legislature of the 700,000-person country passed the measure unanimously in July of this year, and it went into effect on December 17. While Bhutanese can continue to smoke in the privacy of their own homes, they'll have to pay a 100 percent tax on tobacco imports from now on. Public use or sales will be fined, with first offenders paying the equivalent of U.S. $225, a truly punitive amount in the context of a third-world economy. Bhutan is very conservative in its approach to matters ecological, strictly controlling the entry of tourists into what is truly a breathtaking wildlife paradise. Television was first permitted into the culture in 1999. Ninety-three percent of Bhutan's industry is agricultural. The population typically supports all government action. Seventy-five percent Buddhist and 25 percent Hindu, the Bhutanese are presumably looking for more autonomy during the next incarnation and are willing to let this one go for the time being.

A poll conducted by CNN, to which 11,600 people had responded by mid afternoon on the day the ban went into effect, indicated that 56 percent of Internet users electing to respond believed that their own governments should ban smoking and tobacco sales. Makes me wish there really was something to the concept of getting what you deserve, good and hard, in future incarnations. Clearly the folks making up the repressive majority deserve to come back next time as smokers under a government that they get to pick this time. [Virginia Dare]

Comment: Those people over there have some nerve! They sell millions of Bhutan lighters to smokers all over the world, underselling the traditional Zippo lighter and reducing Zipponese craftsmen to abject poverty, and now in their own country, they ... they ... What's that? Oh. Never miiind. [Emily Litella] (December 2004)

David T. Wright has committed lèse majesté in words over and over here at TLD. Now he does so in an image, which may be the first in a series, assuming the new Minister of Love doesn't consign him to a Free Speech Zone behind the wire.

When we're gone, I hope they'll at least have the decency to turn off the electric lights. In the spring of 2004 I introduced on the TLD home page our daily commemorations of white Westerners who have contributed significantly to our civilization — or what used to be our civilization — and I noted that after a number of names and birthdays had appeared I'd be proposing a certain thought experiment. It's time.

I ask: What would our country — our civilization — our world be like if those men and women had never lived? And more generally: What would our world be like if, early on, a definitive "cure" had been found for the entire white race, which one of our racial and civilizational enemies once notoriously diagnosed as the "cancer of history"?

We know what answers our adversaries would give. Had it not been for the oppression imposed by the white West, many more non-Western geniuses would have flourished, and all manner of non-Western utopias would have arisen. The white West produced no characteristic virtue and creativity; it produced only vice and destruction. Indeed, the vice and destruction so apparent in other civilizations was purely the fault of the West — even if that suggests that the pre-Columbian Aztecs, for example, must have been masters of intercontinental telepathy.

If our adversaries could emerge from their fantasy for a moment, I would ask them to leave aside the question of virtue and vice, and only consider what it was that made the white West so strong, so all-powerful, indeed, in the face of other great civilizations (and realms of savagery, too) whose inhabitants so outnumbered white Westerners. Where did our weapons come from? It's something our enemies might ponder.

It is always possible to bog down in an interminable discussion of the influence of climate, coal supplies, the tsetse fly, the importance of navigable rivers — you know the sort of thing — but chilly Europe was no paradise, either, when our folk emerged there. That plentiful coal did not come bursting spontaneously from the ground. No doubt the political decentralization of Europe following the fall of the Roman Empire in the West was crucial for the evolution of the new civilization; but if our adversaries may speculate, we, too, have the right to do so, and we may propose that a different sort of folk may well have roiled in millennia of unproductive chaos instead of moving ahead to build something new, something that was once (in the phrase of Lawrence Brown) so achingly beautiful.

Dispensing with speculation, I have to point out that Thomas Aquinases — Johannes Gutenbergs — William Shakespeares — Galileos — Thomas Edisons actually do not grow on trees. Or live in them. [Nicholas Strakon] (December 2004)


The real human-potential movement. General Electric has long been a presence on the industrial scene in Fort Wayne, Indiana — GE's manufacturing operations during World War II helped inspire the alarmist myth that "Fort Wayne is seventh on Hitler's list" for bombing. Hitler, if he'd lived, would have revised that list quite a while ago, though: GE isn't the big dog nowadays that it used to be in Indiana's second city. And earlier this month the company announced that it would "move its Specialty Transformer Operation work to Mexico, eliminating 126 production positions, and ... discontinue its Wire Mill operation, eliminating 71 positions." ("GE to cut jobs, move others, idling 197 workers," Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, November 15)  It looks as though GE's local manufacturing workforce may fall from 800 to 300 by 2006.

Moving jobs to Mexico! Those dastards!

This is just the sort of development that is likely to provoke fiery blasts from statist-populists, paleocons, and other opponents of free trade (of both the genuine and NAFTA varieties). But hold on. It seems that the average projected wage among the successor workers in Mexico is $4 an hour — compared to the Fort Wayne workers' average wage of $33 an hour.

Pardon me while I gasp.

Now, many may regard it as a triumph of the American Dream that some ordinary folk with only modest accomplishments on the intellectual front and a willingness to devote their working lives to robotic tasks have been able to pull down $1,320 a week in gross pay (before overtime), but let's face reality. That $33 an hour was never a real wage; it was always an artificial arrangement dependent on a sinister symbiosis of U.S. mercantilism, war contracting, and government-entrenched labor unions. And it's past time to move on.

If we're moving, it would be nice if we could move all the way to an actual free economy, wherein all wages would be real, i.e., economic, wages. It may seem hard to propose that some hitherto protected classes of workers would (and should) be paid less than they're now getting, but don't forget what else would follow from economic freedom: an end to taxes, an end to inflation and "business cycles," an end to licensing and other subsidies for the politically privileged, an end to "structural" disemployment, more competition among employers, a vastly more congenial environment for self-employment, cheaper (and better) health care, and cheaper (and better) education not only for the workers themselves but also for their children. Whew! — and all of that is among other good things.

In fact, the whole quality of work in America would have to change, not only for workers in heavy industry but also for those at Wal-Mart and McDonald's — assuming they chose to remain at Wal-Mart and McDonald's.

In Anarchy in Action, the Britisher Colin Ward writes of the conventional factory set-up as a system of "enforced stupidity, 'using men to a millionth of their capacities,' as [American industrial analyst] Norbert Wiener put it." Ward was one of those old-fashioned anti-capitalist anarchists, but I think we free-market types can agree that the clear, bracing climate of freedom would prompt American workers to develop and exercise a considerably higher fraction of their native moxie.

Why, they might even be able to show those industrious Mexicans a thing or two! [Nicholas Strakon] (November 2004)

In the D.C.-area news for November 15, a local NPR station reported on a jurisdiction that will begin using cameras at intersections controlled by traffic lights. The fine for running the red light at these intersections will be $50, but no points will be added to a violator's license.

In the next story we were told that during the coming week the Alexandria police would be stepping up their enforcement of the regulations designating parking places for the handicapped — both on the streets and in private parking lots. The fine for violations would be $178.

As far as I can tell, there was no irony intended in the juxtaposition of the two stories, and the news reader seemed to notice no incongruity. [Ronn Neff] (November 2004)

"The power of a government, even the most absolute dictatorship, depends on the agreement of the governed. Why do people consent to be ruled? It isn't only fear; what have millions of people to fear from a small group of professional politicians and their paid strong-arm men? It is because they subscribe to the same values as their governors. Rulers and ruled alike believe in the principle of authority, of hierarchy, of power. They even feel themselves privileged when, as happens in a small part of the globe, they can choose between alternative labels on the ruling elites. And yet, in their ordinary lives they keep society going by voluntary association and mutual aid."

— Colin Ward, preface to Anarchy in Action, 1973.
(November 2004)

The specific things that people say they believe can tell you a lot about what they actually believe in general. Mainstreamers' belief in the seriousness of the voting comedy — a belief they demonstrate by cheerfully appearing as spear-carriers in it — tells us that they believe in the established System as a whole. (When the tent finally collapsed on the Florida circus of 2000, many mainstreamers put themselves back to sleep by murmuring, "The System worked"!)

Now it's the turn of some aggrieved leftists, who are claiming that the exit polls run by their technocratic buddies are more trustworthy than the actual, official voting results. That would suggest, of course, that the Bush Forces somehow stole the election.

Now, many elections in our Paradise of Mass Democracy have certainly been stolen. The big bad machines of yore specialized in that form of grand theft, and they got very good at it. Such a machine handed Lyndon B. Satan a stolen Senate seat, and another such machine handed Little John Kennedy a stolen presidency. But the idea that the Bush Forces — in a nationally orchestrated conspiracy — corrupted the latest Glorious Pageant of Democracy is a little zany. At least when it comes to presidential elections, our thoroughly modern ruling class has surely put a stop to the old-fashioned variety of election-stealing. (It is true that, for as long as the Electoral College survives, major corruption in a single metropolis may have an important effect nationally. On the other hand, the old, efficient Daley-type machines are long gone.)

The System's modern techniques of rulership are carefully designed to function as labor-saving devices. In presidential elections they save the voters the difficult and worrisome labor of raising up and choosing among candidates who differ on important issues of interest to the ruling class. If either Bush or Kerry had ever been a threat to the Dark Suits, it's massively unlikely that he could have been elected dog-catcher.

Our ultimate rulers also save the duopoly parties the messy and dangerous labor of committing felonies of the traditional sort. It is difficult to believe that a situation could arise whereby one of the parties — which are owned lock, stock, and barrel by the Dark Suits — was permitted to steal a national election through a big, centrally directed conspiracy. That kind of heavy lifting is unnecessary.

Though their charges are surely off-base, the leftists who are squealing right now on NPR and various Bolshevik Websites are revealing something interesting about the modern Red Guard mentality. The Guards still drone all the mandatory rhetoric about Glorious Democracy, but it's becoming ever more plain that they really don't believe in democracy or trust it. Now, that would be a fine thing — if only they didn't seek to replace democracy with a technocracy run by them.

Elections can still be, let's say, adjusted, so long as the adjusting is done with some finesse and doesn't involve bags of money changing hands between fat guys smoking cigars: that sort of thing embarrasses the Dark Suits. The Left has already been permitted to experiment with some adjusting. It has sought to jigger and rejigger election results by racial-gerrymandering, specially subsidizing and promoting voting by its captive constituencies (including "undocumented" New Americans), and suing to overturn inconvenient referenda in the courts it controls. Just think — in an earlier chapter of the Epic of the Republic, the referendum was considered a "progressive" innovation! (When the Left succeeds in any of these projects, it does so, naturally, with the approval or acquiescence of ... well, you know. Those sober chaps wearing charcoal-and-pinstripes on the 70th floor. I may have mentioned them already.)

Now our insomniac leftists are proposing that polling results are more trustworthy than the official voting results. The Dark Suits would never sign off on it — it just wouldn't look good, and, again, it's just not necessary — but the modern leftists' ideal would appear to be some supercomputer, programmed by the right (i.e., Left) people, that would just spit out the names of our replacement political rulers, saving the little people in the provinces the trouble of doing the electing and possibly making a dog's breakfast of the job.

The leftists can't actually say that, of course, as long as they continue to lurk within the Goody Two Shoes movement determined to wheedle as many people as possible into voting. But you can learn a lot by listening carefully to what people do say. Even sneaks and liars. [Nicholas Strakon]

P.S. The leftists, please note, are doing their squealing for the benefit of — John Kerry. I don't wax nostalgic for the '60s very often, but back then we did at least have some real left-wing radicals to contend with.

(November 2004)

The massive turnout for the latest big ceremony of state is distressing, and the spectacle of thousands of maniacs standing in line for hours in order to vote is just mind-numbing; but those enormities do have a bright side if only we'll see it. Ten years ago I wrote, "We are men and women who ought to be free. We must purge ourselves of illusions, lest we be children, as well as slaves." The election mania surely must strip us of any remaining illusions, as it demonstrates anew, and so plainly, the persistent loyalty of the vast majority of our countrymen to the murderous, tyrannical state. Surely now, with so many of our neighbors freely and happily endorsing their own servitude, we must understand that we will not be fomenting a revolution in the wide world any time soon.

What of secession, then? Even under the all-encompassing gaze of leviathan one form of secession is possible for us: a secession of the mind and heart. Possible, but difficult. We should not imagine that such a secession is easy. A secession from ignorance implies an accession of knowledge — perhaps even wisdom. And a secession from vice implies an accession of virtue.

I've tried to secede, but I know I still have much work to do if I want to make my secession real. How about you? [Nicholas Strakon] (November 3, 2004)

Rectification Kerrywise doubleplusinteresting. For the past several weeks, John Kerry has been warning the American people that if George Bush is re-elected, his policies will eventually compel "us" to have a draft. Bush has adamantly denied that, but Kerry persists, undergirding his charge by asserting that, in effect, a "back-door draft" is in place already.

According to David Frum, appearing on NPR's "Diane Rehm Show" (October 25), just about the time that Kerry started making the argument, some pages were removed from his Website. Those pages dealt with Kerry's support for a compulsory national "service" program for young people. [Ronn Neff]

Speaking of conscription ... On October 24, while watching one of the Sunday-morning talk shows, I heard Sen. John McCain state categorically that a draft just doesn't work: we saw its terrible weakness in Vietnam, said he. And he reiterated that it doesn't work and that it's too expensive, and that an all-volunteer army produces better-trained soldiers.

I don't disagree with McCain by any means, but I think it is interesting that he takes so categorical a position on the draft. Does he think that it would have been better to have had an all-volunteer army in 1941-1945? I'll bet he doesn't.

In which case, he doesn't really believe his own words. He just utters them. Thought and speech are completely severed from one another.

He is surely not alone among those who presume to rule us. [Ronn Neff]

Even the truth. McCain also said that the draft was fundamentally unfair, and that an all-volunteer army was fair. And he wasn't talking about the fairness of volunteering and the unfairness of coercion.

But would McCain go on to say, then, that the army that was drafted into existence to fight the 1941-1945 war was unfair in its composition?

What really gets me steaming is that these guys will use even the truth dishonestly. [Ronn Neff] (October 2004)

More crude anti-Americanism courtesy of TLD. Nescire autem quid ante quam natus sis acciderit, id est semper esse puerum.

To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be ever a child — Cicero (Orator, 120).

That darn Jimmy Kimmel. He beat us to it. During his monologue for October 25 ("Jimmy Kimmel Live," ABC), he pointed out how ironic it is that the United State has not merely failed to find Saddam's purported WMDs but has also managed to allow almost 380 tons of known explosives to go missing from a site purported to be under its control.

Naturally, the Empire fears that the explosives have fallen into the hands of freedom fighters. (See "Huge Cache of Explosives Vanished from Site in Iraq," by James Glanz, William J. Broad, and David E. Sanger, New York Times, October 25.) It was reported previously that in the course of the invasion in 2003 the imperial forces left stockpiles of their own munitions sitting along the roads unguarded — and that, mirabile dictu, those munitions soon disappeared. That is to say, they fell into the hands of the Resistance and now serve as the active ingredients for the roadside bombs that are killing imperial legionaries and disrupting imperial convoys.

I'm tempted to say that current U.S. imperial operations are the worst in terms of combined evil and incompetence that we've seen since Mussolini's — but actually Mussolini's flailings were deficient in the evil department, comparatively speaking. [Modine Herbey]

Good show, Modine! — but I have to offer a cautionary word. If regional chaos and destabilization are the Empire's real goal, looking the other way as Islamic insurgents loot munitions may not be incompetent at all, but studied and deliberate.

Nota bene: the neocon cosmopolites don't even bother to spin up an Abe Lincoln "Man of Sorrows" routine when the Midwestern and Southern cannon fodder who are fighting their glorious war get blown up. Those useful idiots from the heartland don't even qualify for crocodile tears — except of course from the Imperial Sock Puppet. [Henry Gallagher Fields]

Stop Press. According to some late-breaking accounts from the established media, the 377 tons of explosives may have been "removed" by Evildoers before the arrival of the conquerors. Sounds all too familiar, doesn't it? If it's true, it naturally leads us to wonder whether those particular explosives ever existed. [Nicholas Strakon] (October 2004)

The third way. "Friends don't let friends vote Republican." True enough.

"Friends don't let friends vote Democratic." Also true.

How about just, "Friends don't let friends vote"? [Joe Sobran]

The statesgod practices. Neocon William Kristol — on one of the Sunday talking-head shows — actually got it right: The question Kerry was supposed to be answering, during his final "debate" with Bush, was whether he believed that homosexuality was chosen or genetic. Instead of answering it, he decided to tell us what Mary Cheney would think in answer to the question. How dare he speak for her? How dare he appropriate her opinions on the matter?

I'd say it was practice: if Kerry gets elected, after all, he will assume the prerogative of speaking for "all Americans" — including even William Kristol — as a matter of course. [Ronn Neff] (October 2004)

Remember John Kerry's fable about his mother's last words? — "And she looked at me from her hospital bed and ... said: 'Remember: integrity, integrity, integrity.' Those are the three words that she left me with."

Joe Sobran tells us, "I haven't heard such weird mother-son dialogue since just before Janet Leigh stepped into the shower."

But those aren't Joe's last words on the subject. For the remainder, please consult his column for October 14, "The Dying Mother Card," now archived at the Sobran's site. (You can get Joe's columns hot off the computer by subscribing.)

The Admiral of Purple Hearts and the lesbian imperative. Kerry rubbed a lot of Republicans the wrong way by dribbling some of his oily synthetic ooze over the vice president's homosexual daughter, Mary Cheney, during the course of the last presidential "debate." Quoth Kerry: "If you were to talk to Dick Cheney's daughter, who is a lesbian, she would tell you that she's being who she was, she's being who she was born as." Well, maybe she would tell us that, but so what? I suppose it could be true, but we can't reflexively believe it because, after all, it's the party line. And we can't go around just swallowing party lines, now, can we?

I admit I'm ignorant of Miss Cheney's life story. But how much of it does the Admiral actually know? Does he know Miss Cheney to have been a tough, muscular, hormonally challenged 8-year-old boygirl? Or was he just factlessly chanting another moronic piety of the Zeitgeist, while pretending to be ignorant of the whole phenomenon of Fashionable College Lesbianism? I refer, of course, to the devolutionary procedure whereby thousands of upper-class and upper-middle-class poppets — already thoroughly poisoned by America's mutagenic mores — sashay into elite Bolshie universities and emerge four years later with lambda pendants and very short haircuts. That's not genetic, it's cultural — though the transition is made easier, let me propose (rather rashly), by women's "natural style" — all of that same-sex cuddling and kissy-face huggy-face stuff that normal men find so undo-able amongst themselves.

So far as I can see, Fashionable College Lesbianism has to go on the list with other popular, culturally derived corruptions such as bulimia, anorexia, and "cutting." We may be thankful, at least, that it's far less physically dangerous than those practices, as well as far less physically dangerous than male homosexuality. In any case, I've got to ask a question again that I've asked before: Does anyone remember that once upon a time things were different? Does anyone remember the Pre-Bizarro World Era?

I saw a wire story on the Kerry lesbian flap that quoted some useless comment by Richard Gephardt, following which the reporter was careful to explain that Gephardt, too, has a lesbian kid. Ye gods, they're everywhere. You ask me, it's about time for the daughters of power and privilege to find a new fad. [Nicholas Strakon] (October 2004)

New frontiers in Official Liberty. Last weekend C-SPAN broadcast a "debate" held October 6 among four of the "third-party" candidates. Michael Badnarik of the Libertarian Party was one of the participants. In response to a question about campaign financing, he said:

Individuals should have the right to contribute as much as they want as long as that information is recorded and published. Corporations should not be funding political campaigns because they have access to millions and millions of dollars that they provide to both parties, indicating that there isn't an ideological slant. They're simply trying to grease the skids for whichever candidate gets elected so that they can get their legislation passed to protect their particular industry.
(1) "as long as"? Does that mean that individuals have no right to make campaign donations if they don't want them published? Who's going to publish this information? Who's going to require that it be published? Is this is what the limited state looks like, after all?

(2) Can individuals not donate to multiple campaigns if they want to?

(3) What's wrong with corporations' trying to defend themselves against politicians and legislation?

(4) Suppose corporations gave incentives to employees to make donations for them. Would the Libertarians, if in power, forbid that?

(5) When did the LP stop understanding that corporations are a means by which individuals exercise their property rights? [Ronn Neff]

Comment. It is interesting to hear the Libertarian candidate join mainstream totalitarian power-seekers in using a certain irritating formulation: "Individuals should have the right ..." I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, since Badnarik is in the same business as the duopoly partyarchs; but any libertarian — even a Libertarian — who believed in natural rights would say, "Individuals have the right," period. No "should" about it, unless he was creating what we might call moral fiction. In the real world, Leviathan cannot conjure up and hand out real rights.

Some who regard themselves as libertarians are not satisfied by any of the existing derivations of natural rights, and they tend to talk in terms of "equal liberty." They might say — legitimately given their premises — "Individuals should have the freedom ..."

Badnarik, on the other hand, just sounds confused.

Confused by the temptations of Power? [Nicholas Strakon] (October 2004)

The compassion of the sociopath. John Kerry insists he's a Catholic and also insists he doesn't want to "impose" his faith on anyone. But as it turns out he's referring only to the Catholic part of his faith (assuming that such a disconnected, free-floating fragment of his total mentation can be genuine). He's willing and eager to impose certain other articles of faith on us.

Thirty years ago I tried to get a socialist pro-abortion friend of mine to see how obnoxious it was to extort money from taxpayers who thought abortion was murder and then use part of the loot to subsidize abortion. She didn't exactly deny it was obnoxious, but my point didn't seem to make any impression on her, either: a common experience for me and, no doubt, for other partisans of liberty. But I wish some cultural Bolshevik would try to show how it's not obnoxious — obnoxious, I mean, in light of his own mandatory rhetoric.

Thirty years ago the modern Red Guard rhetoric was still hardening into canonical form, but then as now the Bolshies liked to pretend that they had a monopoly on caring, sensitivity, and, especially, compassion. Nowadays, Giant Government Conservatives are always trying to horn in on the compassion deal, because, after all, Red Guard culture has pretty much become mainstream American culture, and the Leviathan Conservatives have to pander to it; but most of Minitrue's respectable commentators still assume that the Guards have a lock on true compassion.

Now, no matter what kind of statist lays claim to it — whether he considers himself a leftist, a rightist, or a "moderate" — it's always possible for us to demolish the compassion fantasy at one blow, merely by pointing out that one cannot administer caring, sensitivity, and compassion by pointing guns at one's peaceful fellow humans. But it's also useful to point out how disgustingly absurd the compassion fantasy is in specific applications: as it is when John Kerry and his elitist totalitarian comrades relentlessly press for the Robber State to subsidize abortion.

Far from demonstrating compassion toward the people from whom they would extort the abortion money, Kerry and comrades demonstrate precisely the same attitude that a sociopath demonstrates toward his victims. To the sociopath, those little people's ideas, wishes, hopes, and beliefs are only distantly hypothetical at best, and always of no account. In fact, to the sociopath, other people are naught but cardboard cutouts to be shoved around the board, or taken off the board and discarded, at the whim of the player. The common sociopath — as he breaks the backs of the little figures on his board and flips them into the wastebasket — may claim he is administering compassion; but I think maybe it takes a politician to stand up and claim it on TV.

What kind of people does it take to believe him? [Nicholas Strakon] (October 2004)

Proof that Iran is not yet ready for democracy: In the October 4, 2004, Washington Post appears an interview with Iran's foreign minister, Kamal Kharazi (p. A23). The interviewer, Lally Waymouth of Newsweek and the Post, asks whether Iran would prefer John Kerry to win the election in November.

The reply: "We cannot evaluate the future of any president by his election slogans." [Ronn Neff] (October 2004)

Boss Tweed in the Green Zone. Assume for a moment — if you can — that it is moral for the Empire to forcibly impose political systems on foreign peoples and pay for it by extorting a stupendous fortune from us tax-victims. What is the character of the system the Empire is actually imposing?

Dr. Stephen J. Sniegoski ends his spectacular investigation, "The contradictions of Kerry: Internationalism and Zionism" (September 24), with a body blow to the Empire's pretenses that I cannot resist highlighting here:

The fact that Americans determined to head for the polls in November will have no choice regarding the war in the Middle East or support for Israel is the greatest irony of all. Polls show that a majority of Americans believe the war on Iraq was a mistake. And polls also show that Americans would prefer a more even-handed foreign policy in the Middle East, as opposed to favoritism toward Israel. But the people's will in America cannot prevail; the American people are not given a choice. That is apparently what the American leadership class means when it expatiates on the beneficence of democracy. And that is the very kind of democracy it intends to spread to the "liberated" Middle East and to the rest of the world.
Exactly! Of course I think we should not fantasize about the potential of micro-parties under some notionally "perfect" republican system. But I also think we need to understand the hypocrisy and fraudulence of the current System; and we ought to recall Dr. Sniegoski's point every time we hear Democrat apparatchiki crowing about how they've kept Ralph Nader off this or that state ballot. [Nicholas Strakon]

P.S. — Don't forget Andy Nowicki's "I loathe democracy."

What are the odds of our keeping our culture? The good federally funded folks at "Catholic" "Charities" — those busy bees — are still at it, using our tax money to "resettle" to ordinary American towns the most exotic aliens they can possibly find in this particular orbit of the Solar System. According to the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, the "faith-based" social-service colossus, which derives two-thirds of its income from the Central Government welfare bureaucracy, has lately imported nearly 100 Somali Bantus into Indiana's second city. Several more are due to follow by the end of the year. ("A place to preserve culture," by Kevin Kilbane, September 16, 2004, p. 1L)

You'll be glad to learn that the demographic revolution being imposed on the heartland is an ecumenical endeavor; one of the chief busy bees in Fort Wayne is actually a Lutheran pastor, Rev. John Loum. According to Kilbane, Rev. Loum believes the Bantus' "biggest challenge has been learning the English language and American culture." At least some of the importees are currently attending an "English-language immersion class," but Rev. Loum also says, and this one's a direct quote, "We want them to keep their culture." Well, of course; that goes without saying.

Kilbane doesn't examine the probable impact, financial and otherwise, of this latest "resettlement" on the local state-school systems. Or, for that matter, on public health. The busy bees previously "resettled" at least a thousand Burmese to Fort Wayne. Tuberculosis is endemic in Burma, and not too long after several hundred of the Burmese were established in Fort Wayne, the city began experiencing a TB outbreak that really came as a surprise to the local public-health authorities — indicating, I suppose, that they had all received the benefits of a modern, progressive education.

Rev. Loum himself, by the way, is a native of Gambia. Whether he, too, winged his merry way to northern Indiana on your dime is not clear. [Nicholas Strakon]

It is a remarkable spectacle: At the very time the U.S. ruling class is exerting government power and spending taxpayer money to accelerate the demographic revolution at home, it is putting its very empire at risk — at a vast cost to U.S. taxpayers and an ultimate cost to some of its legionaries — to protect the mini-empire of Israel from its own demographic revolution.

From the standpoint of ordinary people, the two policies look contradictory. How do they look, I wonder, from the standpoint of our supervisors? [Henry Gallagher Fields] (September 2004)

When "The Passion of the Christ" was released on video, assaults on synagogues and Jewish neighborhoods were renewed with a fury formerly unknown in this country.

Now, with the assault-weapons ban expiring, shouldn't gentiles fear that Jews will arm themselves and strike back? [Ronn Neff]

No, there's no danger of that. I have to differ with my senior editor, if by "strike back" he is referring to Jews' defending themselves. Nobody could possibly defend himself with a firearm that the government had defined as an assault weapon. Assault weapons can only be used to assault people: innocent, peaceful people, I mean. Otherwise, the guns just won't fire. That's because — as all loyal citizens should know — the state has unlimited, occult power to reshape reality by means of its definitional incantations.

So it seems the pogroms must continue! [Nicholas Strakon] (September 2004)

Lapsus linguæ? On "Fox News Sunday" for September 5, Brit Hume mentioned very briefly the possibility — if you'd sneezed you might have missed it — that some policies of the Russian government might have provoked the recent terrorist attacks in Russia.

Gosh! You mean it wasn't just because terrorists mindlessly hate Russia for its secularist culture and its prosperity and democracy and freedom and stuff? [Ronn Neff] (September 2004)

Keep your powder wet. Crime Stoppers in Fort Wayne is going to hold a Crime Stoppers Expo to "help fight crime."

If you show up, Crime Stoppers will give you a free gun lock.

I understand that later this fall the Fire Stoppers organization will be holding an Expo at which it will distribute free butane lighters and Molotov cocktails. (This final paragraph is the satirical part. It's so hard to tell nowadays, isn't it?) [Nicholas Strakon] (September 2004)

Wages of fear. On August 19, the Northern Virginia Journal commented in its "Our Opinion" section on the $42.2 billion spent for federal contractors last year in the Washington metro area (p. 10). A George Mason University study was cited: "The unique relationship between the public and private sectors ... work together to make the region the healthiest metro economy in the nation." The NVJ editorial continued: "As long as the federal spigot remains on, [the local economy is] recession proof as well."

Found just below, in the "Your Opinion" section, was a thought-provoking exchange with a reader who identified herself as a teacher from Arlington.

Question: "Do you consider the Washington metro region recession-proof?"

Answer: "I think to a degree. The homeland security [money has helped]. There's been a lot of restaurants and hotels benefiting from the contracting. As long as we're in a state of fear, I think we're OK."

Sounds like a good campaign slogan — that last sentence, I mean. In fact it's so good it could be used by either Bush or Kerry! [Travis McLane] (September 2004)

Objectively anti-Semitic? One of the scholarly journals the frequent perusal of which I consider indispensable — TV Guide — ran a provocative feature on Mel Gibson in its issue for August 22-28, timed to coincide with the video release of "The Passion of the Christ." According to the article by Mary Murphy (titled "The Secret Passion of Mel Gibson"), ADL director Abe Foxman "has asserted that incidents of name-calling in school yards have risen sharply since the film's release."

Foxman is not warning that anti-Christianism in the state-school environment has newly surged in the wake of all the Jewish hysteria over Gibson's film. No, as quoted by Murphy, he offers a different assessment: "In young people [the film] has legitimized what for 2,000 years has been out there: 'You killed Christ.'"

So that's it? — name-calling in school yards? That's the most grievous atrocity Foxman can come up with? Assuming it's true (and I suppose the ADL has eagle-eyed agents everywhere), it seems to fall embarrassingly short of the outright pogroms that we were led to expect.

So embarrassingly that, if you stop and think about it, Murphy's article may qualify as objectively anti-Semitic. [Nicholas Strakon] (September 2004)

There's a new irritating question that libertarians should expect to encounter from their mainstream (i.e., socialist) friends: What do you think about the government's new rules on overtime pay? Our carefully and precisely formulated policy-wonk answer is, of course, obvious: SMASH THE STATE! But actually the issue does deserve a little more comment than that.

The Bush ministry of labor is claiming that its re-engineered regs will add a million and a half modestly paid workers to the mandatory-OT-pay category while removing only about 100,000 lavishly paid workers; at the same time, a socialist "labor expert" quoted by CBS News insists the new regs will remove OT protection from millions upon millions of oppressed proletarians. Now, according to CBS News, Democrats have traditionally resisted any revision of regulations that would "strip" overtime pay from any workers who currently enjoy it. That implies that the Demos would fight the change even if it did add more workers to the new category than it removed. And it stands to reason. The workers removed would become new clients of the Democratic style of socialism (assuming they weren't already), but those added would become new clients of the Bush regime: a net loss for the Democrats.

The Democrats have long since established an impressive record with this sort of thing. Back in the days when the Democracy was dominated by the Southern Bourbon/Tammany-machine alliance, New Deal labor legislation tended to lock in place the labor unions that had already been established, and for a long time those laws served to exclude hordes of "outsiders" — including worthy but unconnected blacks — from the unions, especially from the craft unions. (Minimum-wage laws helped the disemployment process, whenever liberals were able to raise the minimum to overcompensate for the rise in "real" wages.) Once the ship of Labor was deemed to be full up, the Democrats didn't care too much about the masses of systematically disemployed folks they left swimming in the water. The only life-preserver they threw to those unfortunates was in the form of welfare. And that, of course, created a whole new kind of state clientele.

Another comment that deserves to be made — and repeated whenever possible — is that the whole fascist-socialist tangle of labor law and regulations that has grown up under the various Demlican and Republocrat regimes is one of the most powerful engines of "outsourcing" there is. The problem doesn't lie just in the artificially elevated wage rates in certain industries. It consists also in the state-constructed barriers, privileges, and complications in hiring, promoting, and firing; all the mandated leave; all the mandated benefits; and so on, ad infinitum, affecting all industries. Naturally I include in that statist mess all the race-privilege, sex-privilege, and disability-privilege laws, insofar as they affect employment. In America these days, hiring a new employee is a parlous endeavor, weighty with consequence!

Libertarians and all free-marketeers are alive to the likelihood of unintended consequences whenever leviathan thrusts its killer talons into society, but we should be alive also to the possibility that some consequences are not unintended but instead very much intended — it's just that the intentions are not shared with us wee folk.

A final observation, if you'll permit me: One reason our paleoconservative cousins aren't very enthusiastic fans of the market is that they attribute a lot of ills to the market that they should attribute to the state. Forgive me if I've pointed that out previously. [Nicholas Strakon]


Editor's note. In the spring of 2004 I wrote an S&T installment about the troubles at a nursery school at one of the mainline-Prot churches in my town. There have been a couple of developments since then, and I have added a couple of updates. This link will send you to the whole thing. [Nicholas Strakon]

His boat may have been swift, but ... By the time I was 15, in 1965, I understood that the U.S. intervention in Vietnam was an ill-advised adventure. By the time I was 18, in 1968, I understood that it was a wicked and atrocious crime. Naturally, I also had decided by that time that I didn't care to take part in it personally, either as a slave or as a volunteer. (I arrived at those conclusions having graduated from high school and having completed, at that point, one semester at Indiana University — that is to say, without the benefit of an Ivy League education.)

Now, I don't know exactly what John Kerry did or did not do in Vietnam, and I'll bet you don't, either. But there are a couple of things we know for sure; I will append a "perhaps" to each one. First, Kerry volunteered to take part in the war — perhaps for purposes of ticket-punching in preparation for his future political career. (He might have done better if he'd taken the path followed by Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.) Second, it was only after he had helped the Empire prosecute its war that Kerry realized it was a wicked and atrocious crime; and he then began proclaiming that revelation from the rooftops — perhaps also for purposes of careerist ticket-punching, slightly revised.

If we are inclined to be extravagantly generous, we may conclude that John Kerry may be a hero but, alas, a less-than-percipient one. If we are not inclined to be generous, we must conclude that Kerry is just another pol who has no principles, but only positions, which flap and flutter wildly in the passing political winds. [Nicholas Strakon]

If we're talking swiftness, let me ask this: How swift has John Kerry been in figuring out the truth of the Iraq war? [Henry Gallagher Fields] (August 2004)

Joe Sobran once wrote that if a government proposal is called a "program," it means that it's unconstitutional. By the same token, if a government commission is piously referred to as "bipartisan," it means that the fix is in. [Ralph Raico] (August 2004)

Another crisis of, by, and for leviathan. Tommy Thompson, Bush's health-care czar, has announced that Medicare will soon treat obesity as a disease, so Grandpa and Grandma can get the taxpayers to pick up the tab for their health-club memberships and Slim•Fast. Look for the government to make taxpayers pick up the tab for everybody's diet and exercise plan in the near future.

The government's "war on obesity" is a perfect example of how the state creates a crisis, then uses that crisis to justify further power grabs. One major cause of the "obesity crisis" is the government's infamous "food pyramid" of the early '90s. At the behest of the powerful grain and sugar lobbies, the pyramid encouraged an over-reliance on high-carb grains and sugar-laden foods, and an under-reliance on proteins. The result was an increase in obesity, diabetes, and other weight-related conditions.

So now, since we followed the state's advice, the state needs to assume new powers over our lives, while further enriching the medical-state-industrial complex.

By the way, isn't one's weight a matter of individual choice regarding diet and exercise? Whatever happened to George W. Bush's promise to usher in an era of personal responsibility? [Norman K. Singleton] (August 2004)

A perfect sentence — or maybe not. Leo Morris, an editorial writer for the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, is a hemi-demi-semi-libertarian, and not too long ago he penned some urgings in favor of a state-tax amnesty (an amnesty from late-payment penalties, that is). They prompted a letter from a reader, published August 3, taking Morris to task for his liberality. The letter reads in part: "If tax cheats [sic] pay now with an amnesty, it proves they could have paid earlier. So they were deliberately not paying."

I detect a wee non sequitur there, of course, but that's not the important part. For a little later comes this perfect sentence — perfect from the heuristic standpoint, I mean: "Not paying your taxes is stealing from the government which, ultimately, is you and me."

See how that elegantly concise formulation works? When you fail to surrender, at gunpoint, some of your honestly earned money to the gang calling itself "government," you're stealing from them! At the same time, one of the most grievous aspects of that "theft" is that you're really stealing from you and me, because under the democraziac ideology, somehow we are the government.

Hmmm. Perfectly heuristic it is, in succinctly demonstrating the totalitarian premises that are mother's milk to us now, but upon reflection I'm afraid it's less than perfectly logical. If it's really you and I, instead of that distant robber gang, who are the government, how in the world can we steal from ourselves? What if you kept all of what you earned and I kept all of what I earned? Where would the theft reside in that? Maybe there's some other guy, standing behind a door somewhere, who's not a part of the government; if we could just figure out who he is, maybe we could gang up on him and rob him, while warning him against theft.

This whole democracy deal turns out to be more complicated than I thought. [Nicholas Strakon] (August 2004)

And now I'm confused. You're going to have to explain to me one more time why that saintly, forthright, freshly uncloseted homosexual in Jersey had to resign. Isn't it supposed to be a great thing to be a sodomite these days? Aren't we all supposed to be sodomites now, really? "Adultery" (what a quaint, nostalgic word) shouldn't be an issue for us, either. Mainstream American culture is Clintonista culture now. [Modine Herbey]

Well, the Guv's main hairy squeeze was an Israeli who got the Guv to appoint him head of New Jersey's anti-terror bureaucracy. Is it possible there's some Mossad deviltry here that must not come to light? Certainly wouldn't be the first time. [Henry Gallagher Fields] (August 2004)

Another profile in courage from the Admiral of Massachusetts. In his speech accepting the Democratic nomination, John Kerry mentioned in passing that he had broken with his party to vote for a balanced budget.

That was in 1995, when the Republicans were voting on the promises made in their Contract with America. Since it was a constitutional-amendment proposal, it required a two-thirds vote, and the vote-counters knew it would not pass. For one thing, Mark Hatfield (R-Ore.) was planning to vote against it.

So it was safe for Democrats to vote for it. And in fact, several did. Every one of them who did was up for re-election in 1996. Every one.

Broke with his party, my eye. [Ronn Neff] (August 2004)

Old Vergil was quite the imperialist, but we freedom-lovers may want to heed one injunction he put in the mouth of Aeneas:

Durate, et vosmet rebus servate secundis.

In John Dryden's rendering:

Endure the hardships of your present state;
Live, and reserve yourselves for better fate.

Easier said than done, I realize. [Nicholas Strakon] (August 2004)

I keep marveling at the audacity of the state's lies. Do they really expect us to believe these things? On the other hand, how many people reject them? Maybe they aren't just lies but tests of our docility — reason-stunning assertions daring us to contradict them.

The state triumphs when we agree to act as if those assertions could be true. They are the axioms of life under the state: slavery is freedom, war is peace, and so on. Isn't that the point of 1984? We learn to live with what you might call "virtual truth," defying both logic and memory; Orwell's story merely concentrates a process that usually escapes our notice because it unfolds more gradually.

The slave may neither contradict his master nor point out that his master is contradicting himself. [Joe Sobran] (July 2004)

The American Dream: back on track. According to a brief report on NPR, July 21, the financial crisis among American state governments may be easing. It seems that several states, including California, are boasting bigger budgets than they had last year (owing partly to Central Government subsidies).

So some governmental entities have even more stolen and extorted money to play with, eh? Boy, that ... hmm ... yeah, that is ... uh ... good news, isn't it? [Nicholas Strakon] (July 2004)

The marriage amendment: positions of power. Political observers who understand that ideas are the last thing that ever penetrates into the halls of government must grasp that the purpose of the marriage-amendment debate was not to pass an amendment to the Constitution.

As evidence I offer the fact that Republicans knew in advance that they didn't have the votes to get that amendment passed. They may be dumb, but they (or at least their advisors) can count to 67. And if even nonprofessional, political naïfs such as I am knew they couldn't win, surely those guys (or at least their advisors) knew it. So what was the point?

We see the point by keeping our eye on the ball, which is not legislation or even ideas but power. Its purpose was to be a campaign issue, but not only for the Bush campaign. That is, lots of analysts understand that the failure of the amendment has given Bush a campaign issue. That's only part of the story. The purpose was to get Democratic senators to place themselves on the record as being against the amendment and by implication against traditional (i.e., real) marriage. [*] The Republicans (liberals and conservatives alike) think that Republicans challenging vulnerable seats held by Democrats can use the debate to tar the incumbent.

That is, the failure of the amendment has not just incidentally become a campaign issue; its purpose was to create a campaign issue. It was a tactic, and it must be understood as such.

There are, of course, the ideologues who actually hope to see the amendment pass some day, but they were merely the playthings of the men in the power business. Ideologues certainly can get their issues passed, but only when the power players see it to be in their interest. That one fact explains why some issues are successful and others are not.

As strange as it may be to contemplate — and I admit here to speculating — the mental act of believing, familiar to the bulk of mankind, does not seem to actually take place in men jockeying for power. They do not have beliefs. They have positions (a point first made, I believe, by Joe Sobran during the 2000 campaign). They are like a chess player who places his knight on a square from which it can control the center of the board. He does not do it because he believes that the square belongs to the knight or because he believes that the knight is just and true. He does it because he thinks it will be of value to him later in the game. Similarly the marriage-amendment debate was not conducted by men acting on beliefs; it was conducted by men taking and establishing positions which they expect to benefit them later on. [Ronn Neff] (July 2004)

A parable. The massive clawed Beast, lurking in the recesses of his cave, his red eyes glowing in the gloom, is always hungry. Recently a ragged band of wayfarers, seeing that other people, richer and more successful, seemed to have succeeded in turning the Beast to their purposes by feeding him, decided that they would feed him also. Unafraid, they entered the cave, bearing a dish they called "a constitutional amendment to ban homosexual marriage."

There is no doubt that the Beast would have gorged himself on the dish; he is an insatiable eater but no gourmet: to him all food is the same; and all food strengthens him. Even though the ragged band were escorted by veteran guides, fat and prosperous, who had ventured into the cave many times before, the mendicants tripped and spilled the dish at the cave's first turning, long before reaching the Beast's inner lair.

They seem not too discouraged, though; and it seems certain they will try again.

Let us imagine that one day the ragged wayfarers succeed in reaching the Beast's lair, without spilling the dish, and offer it up to him. What will they think upon turning to leave, only to find that their guides are unwilling, or unable, to show them the way out of the cave? That, in fact, their guides have vanished into the shadows?

The Beast is an insatiable eater but no gourmet: to him all food is the same; and all food strengthens him. [Nicholas Strakon] (July 2004)

Somebody help me out, here ...  Fox's Chris Wallace was interviewing a couple of ruling-party flacks on his Sunday-morning show (July 11), and I found myself puzzled by the implications of something that was said. The Republican, a chap named Matthew Dowd, needled his Democrat co-conspirator, a chap named Tad Devine, about some of the nasty things John Kerry said about his newly minted Vice-Statesgod-in-Waiting, John Edwards, when both pols were still campaigning for the Statesgod nomination. Demo Devine responded with a verbal shrug, saying, essentially: Oh, everyone knows that candidates say stuff like that when they're competing against each other. Bush the Elder said nasty things about Ronald Reagan in 1980, and Little Bush said nasty things about John McCain in 2000. (Devine went a little off point there at the end, since McCain was notably absent from the GOP ticket in the fall campaign.)

In other words it's standard operating procedure for candidates to lie to us for political advantage. Now, that's hardly news. It would have been helpful, though, had Devine explained why we're supposed to believe Kerry now if he was lying then. Earlier this year it was to Kerry's political advantage to convince us that Edwards was a goof; now it's to his political advantage to convince us that Edwards is a god (or at least plausible vice-god).

I'd be interested in knowing when we should take seriously what these pols say and when we should simply jeer. (To be on the safe side, I'd say we'd better jeer all the time.)

What I found most interesting about Devine's shrugging was that he did it on national TV and that he clearly expected his mass audience to share his cynicism about lying politicians. Well, Devine's a pro: he may be right on target. But what I don't get, then, is how — come Election Day — tens of millions of savvy cynics magically turn into hopeless naïfs and go marching off to vote for one or another of these sociopaths. [Nicholas Strakon] (July 2004)

The Fifth of July. Under the heading of grisly parodies, you've got to reserve a prominent place for this year's July Fourth fireworks and the associated "patriotic" raving about "freedom." One might well file it all alongside last month's Imperial Funeral Week. Just as the Interminable Funeral did, the grinning nonsense of the Fourth put me in mind of the footage showing a smiling Führer receiving flowers from happy children, Stalin waving genially from the top of Lenin's Tomb as his loyal soldiers marched past, and a patient Saddam Hussein being jostled by a throng of excited and delighted Iraqis.

I thought of the young Chinese girls, all tricked out in red kerchiefs, marching proudly in their massed accordion bands back in the days of the Red Guards — the original Red Guards — followed by persecuted dissenters wearing dunce caps. I thought of the Romans massed below Mussolini's balcony in 1940, cheering him as he ranted and posed and thrust out his chin and promised them a glorious war full of manly adventure. And, perhaps more to the point, I thought of the great march-past of the Union banditti in Washington following the final overthrow of the Confederacy. And of Lincoln's ordering the band to play "Dixie," to show that the Union had stolen that tune in addition to everything else.

That assertion, at least, by the Great Dictator turned out to be fruitless as well as false: and it turned out also that Nemesis was watching and listening to the man Lincoln on that day.

But perhaps some of my imaginings on July Fourth were misguided. Americans, at least modern Americans — those with no intelligently cultivated Confederate heritage — aren't as serious about imperial politics as other peoples are; certainly they are far more credulous and childish than some of the peoples who have been on the receiving end of empire rather than on the delivering end. So on July Fourth I was hoping that Americans were as infantile as, during the rest of the year, I fear they are: that they delighted in the fireworks only because of all the loud noises and pretty colors. And that the lies blathered by the Authorities and their servants had the same soporific effect as all the beers and burgers.

Now the Fifth of July has come — the rest of the year is back — and it's back to fear instead of hope. We are back to struggling and flailing in the swamp of Empire: in its corrosive consequences and in its grim prospects. In a time without bright hope I am reduced to the dark apprehension that Nemesis is watching. Listening. Biding her time. Waiting for the hour when she might best visit her vengeance on a land and a people already wasted. [Nicholas Strakon] (July 5, 2004)

A measurement of twilight. "The Baby Boom generation is the last large, well-educated population to receive a broad education where reading books was not only a necessary skill, but also a primary form of entertainment." — David Gregor, "The Changing Face of Book Collecting," First: The Book Collector's Magazine, January 2004. (June 2004)

OK, we're not really supposed to take Them seriously, right? On June 28, when the Imperials in Iraq conducted a snap "turnover of sovereignty" two days early, the established media said the object was to forestall the attacks by insurgents expected for June 30, the day originally scheduled. Apparently we were to envision the Evildoers popping up out of their holes, wide-eyed, and stammering to each other, "Oh, no! This just ruins our plans! Now we've got to cancel everything!"

The next day, when attacks continued, killing more people, the established media assured us that, of coooourse, noooo one ever expected the attacks to stop. The very idea!

The problem isn't just that They expect us to forget what They say from one day to the next. They also expect us to be morons on Monday and worldly-wise sophisticates on Tuesday. (And credulous morons again on Wednesday, of course.) [Modine Herbey] (June 2004)

Indiana's methamphetamine "crisis" has made the front page again, in the Sunday, June 27, edition of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. The focus of Laura Johnston's piece is evident from its headline: " 'Meth' addicts place children in harm's way."

To hook the reader, Johnston opens with a breathless description of a police raid on a mobile home in Wolcottville that doubled as a meth factory and family residence. Here's a bit of the drama, starring the designated hero-cop-of-the-day:

[Noble County Deputy Kirby Miller] forced his way past the woman who opened the door. The haze overcame him, burning his eyes and coating his skin.

But he had to get the kids out.

"There was just smoke rolling. It was a cloud," said ... Miller, recalling Tuesday morning's methamphetamine bust. "There were all these chemicals in the air, and there were the kids, sleeping in the next bedroom."

Later in the story, Johnston writes:

Because methamphetamine is a relatively new drug — statistics have been kept for only a dozen years in Indiana — the long-term effects, especially on children, is [sic] unknown.

But law enforcement authorities and officials from the Indiana Family and Social Services' Division of Family and Children are investigating ways to address the crisis, which is growing with the number of methamphetamine arrests.

On the basis of that, the best way to "address the crisis" and Protect the Children seems obvious: Stop the arrests! Repeal the laws against meth and let the natural operations of the free market shift control of the meth industry from low-down yeehah trailer-camp guerrillas to sober industrialists such as those at Eli Lilly and Seagram's, men who are responsible for vast aggregations of very visible and very vulnerable capital.

Unintended releases of chemicals by industry do occur (one may recall Bhopal), but utopia is out of reach no matter where we locate ourselves on the political spectrum; and in a market economy a proper recognition of full liability for torts is a most forceful prod toward careful behavior. By comparison, state regulation looks silly and hapless — as well as evil and corrupt, not least because it always awards monopoly privilege. (That's really what it's for, you know.)

In any case, the insurers of Eli Lilly or Seagram's would not be happy if those companies were to surround their toxic, burbling chemical vats with kids in sleeping bags. One suspects that such arrangements wouldn't even occur to respectable industrialists and the professionals they employ, notwithstanding the Evil Lure of Filthy Profits Motivated by Greed. Arrangements that bizarre seem to occur only under gentle, humane, altruistic socialism.

People may have their reasons for preferring socialism and the black market over capitalism in the meth industry, but they'd better not tell me that "protecting the children" from wayward fumes is one of them. [Nicholas Strakon] (June 2004)

Normal life? Forget it. In his Washington Watch column for June 10, "Kerry and the Wall," Joe Sobran pens a piercing truth about our adversaries (however much we may regret the use of "conservatism"):

What defines conservatism, at its core, is a vision of normal life. This is what separates it from socialism — and from neoconservatism. The neocons have only a feeble sense of what normal society, society at peace, would be like. Chesterton spoke of "the modern and morbid habit of always sacrificing the normal to the abnormal," and his criticism of socialism was directed precisely at its attempt to treat life as an endless crisis, in which the state must always intervene. A socialist society could never subside into a peaceful normality.

(June 2004)

Statish thinking, I. Did you realize that Bill Clinton "created 22 million jobs" while he was chief magistrate? Well, he did, if we're to believe Gloria Borger of CNBC and U.S. News & World Report, appearing June 20 on one of the Sunday-morning talk shows. (One assumes she was speaking of jobs here in the United State.)

Is there any way to understand Borger's premises as other than utterly and profoundly totalitarian?

The most Clinton or any ruler could have done was lighten the dead hand of government enough to permit the people actually working in the economy to create 22 million jobs. (I cannot testify to the fact, of course.) But even if we accept the 22 million figure in arguendo, is it a net figure? How many jobs did Clinton simultaneously destroy or prevent from arising? What kinds of jobs were created? What kinds were destroyed? Which sections of the country were unjustly favored by the Clintonian largesse, and which disfavored? It is easy to jabber about "22 million" new jobs; it is not so easy to answer those questions.

And is Borger counting government jobs and jobs subsidized by the government? If so, that is plainly illegitimate. Government cannot create wealth; it can only steal it through robbery, extortion, and fraud. Every job paid for by the government reduces actual economic activity. That is because only the market can define economic activity; only the market is economic activity. At best, government sees human action through a scratched plastic glass, darkly.

Just as government establishes dystopia when it sets out to create utopia, it establishes a diseconomy when it sets out to imitate an economy.

By the way, Borger was appearing on Fox, the "conservative" network, when she delivered her "22 million" assertion. It went unchallenged. [Nicholas Strakon]

Statish thinking, II. Mike Perkins, editor of the Huntington (Ind.) Herald-Press, wrote a startling column on May 30 about his town's response to conscription during Wilson's War ("Draft day, many summers ago," p. 3A). He observed: "The draft, which became so unpopular during the Vietnam War era and has even been a political football in recent weeks amid calls to bolster troop strength in Iraq, was viewed in 1917 as a glorious opportunity for patriotic service."

Perkins quoted the story in the Huntington Press covering "draft day," July 20, 1917:

Selective conscription day in Huntington may properly be termed a patriotic holiday....

One young man who secured the first edition of The Press spied his name at the first glance. He hastened to the place of business where he is lucratively employed and securing a large sheet of paper wrote thereon: "Honor Roll — 363, [his name]." After which he proudly exhibited the extra edition to his fellow employees.

Those of us who are sensible of how far the Americans of our day have declined in their understanding must recognize how much had already been lost by 1917. If so many young men considered military service some kind of "glorious opportunity," why didn't they all choose the number 1 for their personal "Honor Roll"? That is, why did they wait to be conscripted? Why didn't they all just rush out and enlist?

Could it be that they didn't find it "patriotic" enough to assist the state in its mass slaughter as volunteers? — that in order to be complete "patriots" they had also to become slaves?

Or had they simply lost the ability to distinguish between freedom and slavery?

As for Wilson, if such impressive hordes of young men considered it so glorious to participate in his overseas adventure, why couldn't he just rely on volunteers for his cannon fodder and machine-gun meat?

Well, that question is the easy one — for anyone who understands why our rulers work to establish totalitarianism: the total state is their total paradise. What is harder to understand is how totalitarianism had already managed to cripple the minds of so many ordinary people — by 1917! [Nicholas Strakon]

Comment. I'm not sure about this, but do you reckon that Lincoln fellow could have had something to do with it? [Modine Herbey] (June 2004)

If one were to ask the partisans of Lyndon Johnson in what way Americans were freer when he left the presidency than they were when he became president, they might point to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 or to the Fair Housing Act of 1968. Free-market libertarians might question whether those measures actually made anyone freer, but at least the partisans could point to something specific. They would not have to limit themselves to saying that Johnson had enacted some policy that made people freer years later. They would not have to rely on policy-wonk proposals whose effects could be attributed to other causes. ("By withdrawing .900-silver coins from circulation and replacing them with cupro-nickel coins, Lyndon Johnson saved the photography industry.")

If one were to ask the partisans of Richard Nixon in what way Americans were freer when he left the presidency than they were when he became president, they might point to the end of the military draft. Or they might point to the legalization of gold. Free-market libertarians would certainly recognize that, in other ways, Americans were not freer, but at least in those two particulars, we would have to agree with the partisans. Notice that the partisans again are able to point to something particular. They do not have to say that by opening up China, Nixon paved the way for the salutary effects of global free trade. They are not limited to saying that his policy of detente with the Soviet Union made the world a less dangerous place.

But in fact, neither of those presidents enjoys much of a reputation for having made America a freer place during his administration.

Now let's look at a president who is enjoying that reputation: Ronald Reagan. To his partisans I ask, "Please name a specific respect in which Americans were freer when Reagan left office than they were when he assumed it, a way that is traceable to his action and support. What was illegal when he became president that was legal when he left?"

Yes? I'm waiting.

Something? Anything?

Shouldn't that strike his partisans as a little odd? [Ronn Neff] (June 2004)

Comrades! We have won the battle of welfare! On his Sunday morning program for June 13, Chris Matthews announced that it was Ronald Reagan's redefining of the political culture that allowed Bill Clinton to push "welfare reform" through ...

... so that 47 percent of all babies born in America could wind up on the WIC program. A glorious triumph, indeed, shared by the two most "effective" statesgods since Lyndon B. Satan. [Nicholas Strakon] (June 2004)

Reagan's ghost. One of Ronald Reagan's most dreadful accomplishments — and I'm afraid this one was mostly real, not fake — was his restoration of respect for the presidency, following the delightful, exciting, stomach-flipping slide kicked off by Lyndon B. Satan and zooming all the way down to Peanut Jim. Now the Bushites are trying to conscript Reagan's ghost to redecorate the presidency all over again, in their behalf. Lots of luck! Some time ago I wrote that the sheeple can't tell Bozo from Bismarck. Well, George W. Bozo makes Reagan look like Bismarck. And all war crimes aside, that may be one of W.'s most dreadful accomplishments. [Nicholas Strakon] (June 2004)

It's so obvious now, isn't it? That of all the Founders' many terrible ideas, this whole president thing was one of the worst? [Modine Herbey] (June 2004)

No special features; no alternate ending. I strongly recommend that when the DVD of the Reagan funeral is made available all lovers of liberty get a copy and watch it. Indeed, study it.

Because more mercilessly than ever I could it will unfold what we are up against. More than any handy reminder or a book of quotations, that DVD will serve to impress upon you the immensity of the task before us, the expansiveness of the battle that still lies ahead. Watch it and see there the monster strutting his unmasked glory and showing us the crushing strength of the fist by which he holds your neighbors in its thrall. See there, ladies and gentlemen, the Cult of the State.

Anyone who imagines that this monster is to be fought with the political weapons it itself grants us, who dreams that political action will unseat it, who indulges the fancy that participating in its rites will overthrow it has simply failed even to discern the outline of this great enemy.

The State is like one of those serial image, random-dot, stereogram pictures. You look at it and study it and think you have seen it. You imagine that the two-dimensional world it presents can be manipulated by two-dimensional activities. But a spectacle such as Ronald Reagan's funeral has afforded us is like that inexplicable moment when, staring at the picture, suddenly the childish drawings you were looking at disappear and another as complex as time emerges. You feel as though you have fallen into the page, and you see the three-dimensional image of the ancient, magnificent horror that was there all along, bellowing, but you did not hear. It takes your breath away.

At first you may gasp and cry out with Chief Brody, "We're gonna need a bigger boat!"

But it's not a bigger boat you need. You need to get out of the water. We swim in the water of the State all our lives; but it is not until such a display as this funeral, when we momentarily glimpse the monster, its arresting, cloacal beauty inspiring us at once to gasp with awe and to gag with nausea, that we see at last it is not armed with stingers or teeth as we had thought. We see it commands tentacles that writhe in the heart of the sea and stretch throughout it, over its floor and into it, their girth dwarfing Yggdrasil, the knots they create Gordian. Only then can we come to our senses and say, "This is no place for a man."

It dwarfs our nightmares, and our sanity will not quite allow us to believe that what we have seen is either real or humanly imaginable. Mental defense mechanisms strain to protect our violated intellects, and they tell us that it was not, could not have been, as terrible as we think we might once have remembered.

So I say: get the DVD when it comes out. Play only a little at a time: none of us is strong enough to face it full. And don't bother looking for special features: it comes with no alternate endings. [Ronn Neff] (June 2004)


"Lessons of the masters: Some of the interrogation techniques used at Abu Ghraib — such as keeping prisoners hooded for months — go beyond frat-boy humor and suggest coaching from a Reliable Ally whose agents are eager and experienced in these matters. Expect any congressional inquiry to avoid this angle, however." — Joe Sobran, on the Lagniappes page at Sobran's.

There's a feast of other delicious tidbits on the Lagniappes page; to obtain the URL, drop a line to the Sobran's Webmaster. (June 2004)

That little third paragraph. David T. Wright has alerted us to a piece by the New York Times's Robert Pear, "Stores specializing in food vouchers bill for top prices," that exposes a pretty disturbing scandal in the so-called WIC program, which feeds state clients with money robbed from us (that last part isn't considered a scandal, of course). Pear begins:

Federal and state officials are expressing alarm about the proliferation of food stores that cater to low-income people but charge more than other grocers, thus driving up the cost of a major federal nutrition program.

But the real shocker is actually to be found in Pear's third paragraph, which is just meant to establish a little background: "About 47 percent of all babies born in the United States each year participate in the program."


Forty-seven percent?!

Is it just our imagination, or don't we hear almost daily from various commentators that, for all intents and purposes, there is no more welfare in the United State?

We hope we may be forgiven for suspecting, now, that there's actually more welfare these days than ever before. Or at least that it's more widespread. [Ronn Neff and Nicholas Strakon] (June 2004)

Do Likudniks ever wear Red? On June 8, when Minister of Love Ashcroft was being battered by senators outraged (sincerely or otherwise) by the Empire's policy of torturing prisoners, he received succor from an unexpected source. According to NPR's "All Things Considered," Comrade Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) intervened to opine that torture of prisoners could sometimes be justified.

Do you suppose Schumer would have been moved to make that observation if the Empire were waging a war for the benefit of Argentina, say, or Ireland?

By the way, the New York Times's Neil A. Lewis, in his piece on the hearing, didn't see fit to mention Schumer's contribution to the proceedings. Or maybe the omission just reflects a little discretion on the part of his editors. [Nicholas Strakon] (June 2004)

Reagan as faux-Cowboy. Chris Wallace's "Fox News Sunday" show for June 6 was partly devoted to assessing the legacy of Ronald Reagan, and after Monster-Government Conservative Newt Gingrich explained that Reagan was the second-most-effective president of the 20th century — after Gingrich's hero Franklin Roosevelt — Wallace's panel went to work. Something that panel member Juan Williams said got me thinking about what Reagan's real value was in the eyes of the ruling class.

Williams noted that Reagan rebuilt the Republican party, on a new footing, after the Watergate disaster. (He might have mentioned the Vietnam disaster, too. Vietnam had been Johnson's War, but by the time it ended it had become Nixon's War.) Think about the sad state of the party after Nixon was overthrown and Little Jerry was defeated by the peanut man. What Reagan did for the ruling class, in my view, was to rebuild and secure the "two-party system," which is both a necessary mask and an indispensable tool for the Dark Suits' rulership.

Panel member Williams also said that Reagan moved the party away from the East Coast-Rockefeller-banker constellation of power, but more needs to be said about all that. It was that power constellation that engineered the coup against Nixon, and Nixon's demise allowed the Dark Suits of Wall Street to achieve an armistice in the Yankee-Cowboy War and move on to build the trilateral system of world rule. The Yankees — my Dark Suits — were substantially the victors in the Yankee-Cowboy War, but their victory wasn't absolute. Reagan the Californian had enough of a Cowboy image to qualify as a good compromise torchbearer and preserve the armistice, without really disrupting the Dark Suits' power and plans.

That's the aspect of the "Reagan legacy" that Little George, surrounded by a new kind of Cowboy, had better contemplate, if he wants to survive — and if he's capable of contemplating anything. [Nicholas Strakon] (June 2004)

Get serious, people. Various of my friends and acquaintances whom I've been unable to reach (so far) on the non-voting front say they're planning to support Nader, or the LP guy, whoever he is, or the Constitution Party chap whose name always reminds me of that ballet by Stravinsky. Zounds! Voting for anyone to fill the position of Emperor is evil if your vote is meaningful and just silly if it's not. But let's forget the top of the ticket for a moment. I'd like to ask my friends whom they're planning to support for U.S. senator, or congressman, or governor. Some of the micro-parties will be running candidates for those posts, but some won't. Move further down the ballot. What about state rep? It's likely you'll find even fewer choices there, and even if you do find micro-candidates for those slots, chances are you won't know them from a bale of hay. (And even if you think you know them, do you really think you could control them once they were in power?)

What about county council and sheriff and what not? Are you planning to vote for the same old pols and ward-heelers? The same squirmy ambitious little frogs in the same scummy little ponds?

Let's get specific, frrriennnnds. (Hope I don't sound too much like that bag of stink on the radio.) Is "your" candidate for sheriff, once elected, going to send nonviolent drug users to the Rape Gulag or not? I hate to be the one to tell you, but if he's elected and refuses to do so, the System is going to remove him forthwith.

Now if you refrain from voting for such minor-league criminals low down on the ballot, isn't that a form of conscientious non-voting? But voting for Emperor is worse — as an endorsement of the System — than voting for sheriff.

Participating in these periodic statist rituals is one addiction from which, if you really want to get clean, you've just got to go cold turkey. Anyone who's still got the voting monkey on his back ought to remember that he has a help line right here at TLD. We do our best to stay open 24 hours a day. [Nicholas Strakon]

Comment. Strakon is right about total abstinence being necessary for Total Victory over Voting. But, still, it's better for a junky to shoot up only once a day than nine times a day. Accordingly, I'm going to propose a minimalist, gradualist program of personal reform that may at least start to quieten that chittering monkey on the back of compulsive voters.

On the lower reaches of the ballot in many of its bailiwicks, the System doesn't bother putting up a candidate from both ruling parties, and none of the little wannabe parties have the horses to offer a symbolic challenger. As a result you find only one candidate for each of those posts; his nomination by his party machine is tantamount to election, assuming he gets at least one vote. According to the papers (I don't ever see an actual ballot, naturally), such uncontested races occur in every election for some of the county and township offices in the two counties I'm most familiar with here in Indiana — Huntington and Allen. (Allen includes Fort Wayne and has a population exceeding 300,000.)

When it pulls a stunt like that, the System in effect drops its absurd happy-face democraziac mask and allows you to see its underlying contemptuous smirk: We can run only one candidate and still convince the sheeple that it's a "free and fair election"! (Down in Hell, old Joe Stalin must be smiling.) What I'm proposing is that compulsive voters rediscover sufficient self-respect to refrain from participating in that part of the farce, and leave at least that part of the ballot blank. [Modine Herbey] (June 2004)

I hope you don't mind my asking this again so soon, but do you reckon our supervisors and their goons have made you safer now? [Nicholas Strakon] (May 2004)

Bringing home the boodle. On May 25 one of the local Minitrue TV outlets teased to its 11 p.m. newscast by declaring that Indiana's Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Goldman Sachs) had "blasted" the U.S. military. That kept me tuned in, for sure, since I'm always on the prowl for signs of civil war within the ruling class. Had the "moderate imperialist" Dark Suits of Wall Street definitively ended their reluctant support for the war? Had they explicitly renounced the Likudnik regime in Washington? A few weeks hence would Little Bush be standing in the hatchway of Marine One, doing a "Nixon wave" as he started that long trip back to Texas?

Uh, no. It turns out that War Liberal Bayh was campaigning in Mishawaka again, not at the Humvee plant this time but rather at the Allison Transmission plant. And what he was "blasting" the Army for was its purported failure to equip "our troops" with enough armored vehicles at the beginning of the Iraq adventure. The Allison plant produces tank transmissions, and Bayh was crowing about how he had induced the Senate Armed Services Committee, of which he is a member, to approve a $37 million contract for Allison to make even more of those devices for the Ministry of War Crimes.

The Bankers' Best Boy then beat feet to Fort Wayne to visit another war contractor, ITT, and trumpet how he had helped secure that fascist entity a new $61 million deal with the Army National Guard.

More Likudnik lemons, more War Liberal lemonade. [Nicholas Strakon] (May 2004)

It's not murder. And it's not rape. Or armed robbery. Or arson, assault and battery, grand larceny, burglary — no, it's none of those things. Instead, this is the exclusive focus right now for all the police in the province of Indiana, as proclaimed on the telescreen every ten minutes:

"Fourteen thousand officers.

"580 departments.

"One mission: Make sure you're buckled up."

Your own provincial police may well have adopted the same single mission; it seems to reflect a nationwide campaign, as the various provinces jostle for that Central Government highway boodle.

In any case, some compassion and understanding is called for here. I mean, if you went around trying to fight actual crime, you could get hurt! [Nicholas Strakon] (May 2004)

Bipartisanship! — head for the hills! Those watching "Fox News Sunday" with Chris Wallace on May 23 witnessed a particularly disgusting outbreak of bipartisanship between Sen. Hillary (No Longer Rodham) Clinton, discoverer of the "Vast Right-wing Conspiracy," and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, former impeachment-prosecutor of a certain scamp named Bill Clinton. (Bipartisanship is an awfully common disaster, but it finds its most noisome and damaging expression during wartime.)

Democrat Clinton and Republican Graham chortled and beamed at each other collegially while making it clear that they're both members in good standing of the Isolated Incident Party when it comes to the Imperial atrocities in Iraq. Not only that, they both agree on the crying need for a vast extension of socialist medicine to benefit National Guardsmen and Reservists.

And even that is not all. Though the Imperial troops already in Mesopotamia have made a right filthy mess of things, both solons think that the United State should raise and send more troops over there. I never tire of repeating the old joke popularized by Woody Allen, where two men are dining together and one says, "The food in this restaurant is terrible!" — and his fellow diner says, "Yes! And such small portions!"

P.S. Partisans of Empire are seriously arguing that much of the trouble at Abu Ghraib arose from understaffing: There just weren't enough guards. Odd. On the basis of the photographic evidence, one would have to conclude that there were more than enough jeering sadistic bullies available to crowd around their tormented victims. [Nicholas Strakon] (May 2004)

Make mine Sam Adams. Since I'm an anarchist, there are any number of fights in which I am necessarily dogless. Nevertheless, every once in a while I am struck by certain out-of-context references in the popcult that reveal just how drastically the conventional political culture has changed since I was a stern little bespectacled constitutionalist festooning my dad's car with AUH20 stickers. A good example has been blaring its way around the telescreen lately.

It's a beer commercial, of all things. The Miller people are trying to make fun of the Budweiser "King of Beers" claim, and in a mock political rally they have a mock pol challenge Budweiser's supposed monarchical assumptions. The pol proclaims that Miller is the "President of Beers." In our country, he says, we don't have kings; we have presidents. After all, this is a —

Stop right there. What word would you insert? Anarchist though I may be, my reptilian brain from ca. 1964 automatically supplied "REPUBLIC!"

Of course the faux-pol says: "... DEMOCRACY!"

Not that there's anything wrong with that. If the United State is still a republic, it's of a remarkably moribund variety. And mass democracy does loom large. (Inherently fraudulent, it is perfectly compatible with totalitarian rule by an unelected ruling class.) But, technically speaking, anyone who has ever nonflunked a high-school civics class is supposed to answer "REPUBLIC!" You know, on account of that, whatchamacallit, Constitution thing.

In fact almost no one believes any longer that "REPUBLIC!" is the answer to anything, in any context.


None of that will satisfy the taxonomist, who will want to know what the political scientists at Miller Beer make of such outfits as Japan, Great Britain, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Spain. Those nations all consider themselves democracies, and the Glorious and Defining Democracy of the United State goes along with those claims. But all those states have kings or queens, not presidents.

Here's one anarchist who is glad he's not responsible for clarifying that devil's brew. [Nicholas Strakon] (May 2004)

He who fights monsters should beware lest he himself become a monster. — Nietzsche
Just look what they've made us do!  or, Heroes and monsters. CounterPunch has posted a piece by Robert Fisk of The Independent, "Racism & Torture as Entertainment: From Hollywood to Abu Ghraib," that I'm going to use as a hook for something I've been meaning to say. Fisk writes: "When the young woman involved in [the Iraqi-prisoner] torture expressed her surprise at all the fuss, I immediately understood why. Not because what she did was routine — though it clearly was — but because that is how she was told to treat these Iraqi prisoners. Hadn't they been killing American soldiers, setting off car bombs, murdering schoolchildren? Hollywood turned into reality."

Fisk has perhaps spared himself any exposure to American TV; but as TLD readers know, when I tire of translating Petrarch and Dante into Ciceronian Latin, I sometimes activate my own dusty television device. And over the past couple of years — since the late summer of 2001, in fact — I've noticed that some of the networks' "thriller" series have started to bring torture into the mass-entertainment mainstream — all in the interests of greater realism, of course. And I'm referring to torture perpetrated by the "good guys." "Threat Matrix," "24," "The Agency," and "Alias" are four such series I can name off the top of my head. I invite readers to provide other examples. In the shows, we see heroic, good-hearted characters being "forced" to torture suspects in urgent defense of the Empire. Our heroes agonize. They sweat, they grimace. Why, they often seem to be suffering as much as their victims! But you see our brave paladins have no choice. Desperate circumstances have driven them to adopt desperate measures — and abandon morality in favor of utilitarianism — even though, really, the milk of human kindness runs through their veins.

In the universe of these shows — which viewers are invited to accept as the real universe — no questionable policies on the part of the United State have provoked terrorists to attack the American homeland. The shows exist in the same fictional universe as the one inhabited by George W. Bush — where evil folks just hate good folks and do evil things to them because, well, because that's what evil folks do.

One doesn't know for sure exactly how long the U.S. Organs of State Security have practiced torture; we may be confident that they didn't abruptly start on September 12, 2001; but twenty years ago — even ten years ago — American mainstream TV series just could not have depicted "admirable" U.S. government employees torturing suspects. The audience wouldn't have stood for it, and the regime wouldn't have stood for it, either. And perhaps it would have occurred even to ordinary people channel-surfing in their recliners that if torture had become "necessary" in the context of imperial premises, then someone had better go back and check those premises.

No longer, it seems. How far we have come. [Nicholas Strakon] (May 2004)

I liked him better when he was on Hillbilly Heroin. Conservative media icon Rush Limbaugh has been among the few to actually defend the "interrogation techniques" of the Empire's forces in Iraq. According to Limbaugh, those fine men and women were simply blowing off steam, and their actions are no different from what goes on at a Skull and Bones initiation.

That raises some interesting questions:

• How does Rush blow off steam?
• How does Rush know what goes on at the super-secret Skull and Bones rituals?
• How can Rush maintain his faith in democracy if both of the candidates for president participated in homosexual S&M rituals in college? [A friend of TLD] (May 2004)

Once a barbarian ... Rush Limbaugh has come up with some lame apologetics for the Empire's most-recently revealed atrocities in Iraq, comparing them to fraternity hazing.

It's clear now. Limbaugh doesn't grasp the difference between choice and force. No wonder he doesn't know what liberty looks like!

Something else is clear, too. But it was perfectly clear already. Last year Limbaugh was one of the conservative commentators who shrugged at the reported pillaging of the Museum of Antiquities in Baghdad. After the media revised their first accounts of the incident, I wrote a little commentary about his initial reaction.

Limbaugh revealed himself to be a barbarian then, and he remains a barbarian today. [Ronn Neff] (May 2004)

Progressive unconsciousness. On a recent Sunday-morning commentary show, the panel of newsmen were chewing over the puzzling and frustrating fact that many Americans still prefer to associate with people in their own racial group — even now that they don't have to! Finally one of the commentators, a Negro fellow, handed out the anodyne I was expecting. He reported that some fine young white people he's acquainted with do have black friends; and those white kids really don't seem to know their friends are black.

Most of us have heard the latter claim before. Many of us have probably had difficulty believing it; many of us probably don't want to believe it. But there's ample evidence that it could be true.

After all, how many white kids act as if they know that they themselves are white? [Nicholas Strakon] (May 2004)

Homeland security. Do you feel safer now?

Homeland security of another kind. On May 7, Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Goldman Sachs), whom the Dark Suits recruited out of the province of Indiana, grabbed some good media coverage when he asked Hannibal Rumsfeld whether the old war criminal ought to "step down." But the real Bayh story of May 7 was his introduction of a supplemental appropriation of more than $600 million to accelerate production of the armored variety of Humvee.

That war vehicle is produced in Mishawaka ...

... Indiana.

Bayh is running for re-election this year.

Seems the old-style "moderate" imperialists are indeed able to make some nourishing lemonade out of the lemon that's been tossed to them by Bush's Likudnik wildmen. [Nicholas Strakon] (May 2004)

Basic training. I was having breakfast with David T. Wright the other day, and naturally we began talking about Abu Ghraim.

I mentioned that some of the people involved in the torture and sex abuse have objected that they received no training in interrogation techniques. That is apparently supposed to serve as a kind of defense. "But why," I asked, "does anyone have to be told that it's wrong to make men strip, to put a hood on their heads, and then to order them to masturbate?"

Wright replied, "Makes you wonder what high school is like these days, doesn't it?" [Ronn Neff] (May 2004)

War-socialist group is just too white. John Kerry's presidential campaign has come under fire for being too white, with a recent CNN report whining that he "has no one of color in the innermost circle." The highest-ranking black is Marcus Jadotte, a deputy campaign manager, who the other day emitted this spectacularly stupid statement: "If John Kerry is entrusted with the presidency, he is committed to building an administration that matches the high standards set by Bill Clinton."

CNN noted that Al Gore's "campaign manager, political director, and finance director were African-American." Shouldn't that fact, and the disastrous results of the Gore campaign, be sufficient to justify such an absence in high places? [Douglas Olson] (April 2004)

Worse than nothing. Earthlings are fast turning into Martians, but in at least one respect I myself have felt like a Martian forever: I've always been puzzled by the fact that some professional sportsmen earn millions of dollars. But it's mostly a market result, even if those millions of market decisions by sports customers are crucially conditioned by an artificially distorted and degraded popular culture. And, after all, the fact that Michael Jackson and countless other such twistees of the "entertainment" industry earn untold millions is much more offensive.

Now a fellow named Pat Tillman has been killed in action with the imperial Rangers in Afghanistan. Tillman, it turns out, is a former professional footballer for a team called the Arizona Cardinals, which is part of the National Football League. According to the New York Times, Tillman "walked away from a successful career in the National Football League in 2002 to join the Army....

"... As an unrestricted free agent in 2002, he turned down a three-year, $3.6 million contract offer from the Cardinals" in order to go to work for Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and the other criminals. ("Former N.F.L. Player Killed in Afghanistan" by Kirk Semple, April 23, 2004)

Tillman is being celebrated as a hero by all the courtiers and regime-dupes. Nowadays the System has to manufacture its heroes out of unlikely material; really all you have to do is get killed, banged up, or captured, so long as you are serving the Empire when it happens. But in fact Tillman was no hero; he was a sucker.

A man who defends his country is not a sucker. He may well be a hero — a real hero of the old-fashioned sort. But Tillman was not defending his country. He was promoting imperialism and criminal war. He had turned his fate over to evil men embarked on an evil enterprise. He threw his life away, but not for nothing. He threw it away for worse than nothing. He threw it away in the cause of imperialism and criminal war.

It would have been far better, far wiser, and far more honorable for footballer Tillman to stay home and play games all his life. Far better to let people heedlessly shower millions of dollars upon him for playing those games than to heedlessly sacrifice himself to Moloch.

Hard words. Hard truth. But until we recognize such hard truths, the human wolves who rule us will be able to sucker hundreds and thousands of other young Americans into throwing their lives away for worse than nothing. [Nicholas Strakon]

Comment. Strakon writes that Tillman threw his life away "in the cause of imperialism and criminal war." He might well have added that Tillman threw his life away also to advance the political ambitions of the men into whose hands he had placed his life.

It occurs to me that somewhere in Afghanistan or Iraq are more Bob Kerreys and John McCains and John Kerrys and Colin Powells. Men who will build a political career on their "heroism" in war. Tillman threw his life away for them, too. [Ronn Neff]

Response. Yes.

Hoosiers would add a name to Mr. Neff's list: that of Gov. Joe Kernan, who succeeded to office when his predecessor dropped dead and who is now running for election in his own right. Kernan's lavishly produced TV ads, narrated by a Roy Scheider sound-alike, make much of the fact that as a youngster Kernan was shot down over Vietnam and spent almost a year as a POW. Kernan is yet another statesgod who has managed to transmute humiliating failure and bitter defeat into "heroism." [NS] (April 2004)

Runaway moms. On April 18, Ben Stein was a guest on an NPR investment-advice show, and the host asked him a few things that were irrelevant to the subject matter, including what he thought about the staying power of Britney Spears. Stein said some nice things about Miss Spears but went on to declare that, with Mother's Day coming up, we should be more worried about whether "we" were properly taking care of the "young mother" in the military who was hunkering down in Iraq "with machine-gun fire coming over."

In response to that sentiment, one is tempted to point out that if "we" really wanted to "take care" of such young ladies, "we" sure as hell wouldn't have sent them to Iraq.

But in fact they sent themselves. They were not conscripted. And for a young woman to abandon her children in order to don the colors of the world's most powerful criminal gang, and help that gang invade and occupy a foreign country — murdering other mothers and their children along the way — well, as an act of heedlessness and immorality it just about leaves me speechless.

As is so often the case when I try to comment on today's American society, I can only fall back on profound understatement: Such a young woman is not the sort of mother whom Mother's Day was founded to honor. [Nicholas Strakon] (April 2004)

Well, I  for one "find it interesting." Quoth the Wee Emperor at his news conference of April 13:

And as the greatest power on the face of the earth, we have an obligation to help the spread of freedom. We have an obligation to help feed the hungry. I think the American people find it interesting that we're providing food for the North Korea people who starve.

We have an obligation to lead the fight on AIDS, on [sic] Africa. And we have an obligation to work toward a more free world. That's our obligation. That is what we have been called to do, as far as I'm concerned.

Since that eructation falls so far into Transparodia, I won't even attempt to parody it. I do wish Ayn Rand were still around, though. I'd like to hear the old girl ask Tiny George, in her inimitable gentle way, just how he derives those "obligations." Not to mention, Who the hell is "we"?

I'll confine myself to one observation. In view of the Likudniks who pull Bush's strings, some may want to ask, in bitter jest, how forcing the American taxpayer to subsidize North Korea — the worst Communist tyranny remaining on Earth — benefits Israel. Well, in fact it may be no joke. The Bush Likudniks may consider that keeping Pyongyang quiet does benefit Israel. Check this out: "Potential Threats to Israel: North Korea," posted at the Jewish Virtual Library. [Nicholas Strakon] (April 2004)

North American Totalitarian Solutions. The local telescreen is trumpeting the inspiring news — "Attention, Comrades!" — that the official criminals in charge of Celina, Ohio, have won a glorious victory over the Devil Weed. Teenagers conscripted to attend the state high school in Celina were trading in the forbidden herb, and the sheriff's department planted a 24-year-old spy in the school, to pose as a student. Arrests followed, resulting in a few more American kids being slandered as "criminals" by state-criminals. So far, so bad.

But it's always worse than you think. It turns out that the Water isn't Black just in Iraq. It's pretty Stygian on these shores, too. The spy wasn't actually a cop. He was an employee of a "private" firm called North American Security Solutions. (Parents in Celina were no doubt overjoyed to learn that their children had been Secured without their knowledge or consent.) Lovers of liberty and justice will want to jot this company's name down in their black book. I would use stronger language, but I don't want to be Secured myself unless it's absolutely necessary in the interests of Public Safety. [Nicholas Strakon] (April 2004)

Johnny Skull. The other day I was rereading some of the "Stop and think" entries we've posted over the past year about U.S. atrocities in Iraq (all reported by the established media) — the murdering of children; the warrantless searching of homes, during which the thugs destroy property and terrorize families; the imprisoning of entire villages within barbed wire; the taking of hostages; the machine-gunning of the homes of "suspects," where they live with their families; and so on.

I came across the quote from the American Jewish colonel, Nathan Sassaman: "With a heavy dose of fear and violence, and a lot of money for projects, I think we can convince these people that we are here to help them." And the quote from the WASPish-named private, Nick Boggs, who after machine-gunning a little boy reflected: "I think they thought we wouldn't shoot kids. But we showed them we don't care."

I've written that we don't need Americans such as those to ever come home, though they should be prevailed upon to leave Iraq, one way or another. But what if they do come home? During the Great Virus Scare of the 1990s, various writers did their best to terrify us with the image of African natives boarding 747s and directly importing the Ebola virus to New York or Los Angeles. It is apparent that we now need to be worrying about another kind of infection: the moral, spiritual, and cultural bacillus that returning U.S. troops will carry. Americans on the home front are already profoundly diseased, as shown by their almost universal indifference to U.S. war crimes abroad. But how much more brutalized, violent, and degraded will America become, when Johnny Skull comes marching home? [Nicholas Strakon] (April 2004)

The "Passion" massacres. In light of the massacres of Jews throughout Europe and Latin America in the vicinity of theaters showing Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ," I think we just have to steel ourselves for things to come:

The numbers of dead will continue to climb until some number is settled on.

Accounts will differ as to just how the dead were killed and how they were mistreated beforehand. For the facts, we will be dependent on the narratives of survivors who might not have been there, which narratives will take precedence over any physical evidence.

Eventually we will be hearing from Jews who lost 26, 47, even 73 close relatives in the Passion Massacres of 2004.

Accounts of just where the massacres took place will vary. Some Passion survivors will have vivid memories of attacks occurring in towns that had no movie theaters at all. Or churches. Or Christians.

And of course, alas, there will be the phony Passion survivors who will attempt to cash in on the sufferings of others by writing best-selling books. There will be prominent Passion survivors who either denounce them as predators or excuse them in view of their zeal.

Companies that distributed the film will be required to pay reparations, as will any investment firms that sold stock in those companies and investors who bought stock in them.

Commerce in "Passion" DVDs will be deemed a hate crime in The Netherlands.

Baseball-team owners who assert that "The Passion of the Christ" is a good movie will be socially marginalized and fined by League officials. German courts may issue bench warrants should those owners ever attempt to visit Oberammergau.

Thirty years from now, the director of a movie that has recently won an Academy Award will be exposed as having been a second assistant cameraman on "The Passion." His award will be revoked.

Mel Gibson III will publicly and repeatedly apologize for his grandfather's work and will make huge donations for the building of a Passion Museum in Eau Claire, Wis. Ten years later, he will be denounced as an anti-Semite anyway when he questions the justice of laws that require the licensing of Unitarian churches.

Despite all that, Passion survivors who attempt to liken their suffering to that of Holocaust victims will find themselves branded anti-Semites and accused of trivializing the Holocaust. [Ronn Neff] (April 2004)

Alas, it seems that a real civil war within the ruling class, along the lines of the Yankee-Cowboy War of the '60s and '70s, is not in the immediate offing, despite all the chaos that the new Cowboys, Bush's neocons, have ignited in Iraq. On April 7, Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Goldman Sachs) said that U.S. occupation forces must not be seen as "turning tail and running." Senior war liberal John F. Kerry is, of course, working the same street (Wall Street) as Bayh the Big Bankers' Boy Toy.

A withdrawal from Iraq now would be so humiliating that it would amount to a body blow to American imperialism worldwide, and would embarrass the traditional, multilateral imperialists of Wall Street — whom I call the Dark Suits — as well as the Likudnik radicals around Bush. Previously, only the collapse of the "special relationship" with the Israeli state in Palestine could have had the same powerful impact on the entire imperial structure.

The Wall Street Yankees still face some heavy lifting, though, if they're going to help the Likudnik Cowboys slog through the Iraq quagmire. And we haven't even gotten to this war's Tet Offensive yet.

Will the Dark Suits — who are the ultimate owners of the System — eventually figure out how to withdraw U.S. forces without seeming to turn tail? Maybe so, but I'm afraid it will require several more years of horror and atrocity. [Nicholas Strakon] (April 2004)

How likely is it that a 30-year-old National Guardsman, who joined up only to provide a little more income for his family and is now trapped in the hell of Iraq, will relish engaging in small-unit infiltration to pry insurgents out of fortified positions or urban bolt holes? You really need 18-year-old gung-ho "immortals" for that sort of thing, and it appears that the demand for such bravos is outrunning the supply. Your older family man is a lot more likely to simply call in an air strike and saunter into ground zero a few days later, after the fires die out. Trouble is, the more the occupation cannon-fodder in Mesopotamia consists of those older men, the more Iraqi civilians we're likely to see "collaterally damaged" by such strikes.

Selective Slavery wouldn't solve that PR problem for the totalitarians. Despite all their fevered cheering at the country-music war festivals, youngsters are likely to run a little short on gung-ho-ness once they're actually kidnapped and thrown into the maelstrom. [Modine Herbey] (April 2004)

That hideous strength and that hideous weakness. A mainline-Protestant church in my little northeastern Indiana town runs a nursery school on a "come one, come all" basis. No government loot is involved in funding it. According to a close relative of mine who attends the church, one or more of the parents who drop their kids off at the school are now asking the church to remove all the Christian iconography, including portraits of Christ, from the walls of the room where the school meets.

What kind of Christophobic soccerites and SUV-piloting Martians are these? What high-octane chutzpah would it take to make such a demand?

Oh, by the way, the church board — is considering it.

If they agree to do it, what do you want to bet they'll call it an act of "outreach"? [Nicholas Strakon] (April 2004)

Correction and update. Further investigation revealed that the church did not directly run the nursery school but only served as its landlord. (Also, it was the school's operator who objected to Christianity, not, so far as we know, the parents.) I am delighted to report that the church board has rebelled radically against the Zeitgeist, inviting the anti-Christian operator to find other quarters, and that the church itself is now going to open an unapologetically Christian nursery school in its facilities. To the best of my knowledge the church has not yet been punished by the Red Robes of the denominational hierarchy. [NS] (July 2004)

Further update. My sources tell me that the church's new, Christian-oriented nursery school has collapsed — while still in its organizational stage, before ever holding its first session — owing to a lack of interest among the town's parents and to a clash of personalities among the Christians involved. Meanwhile, the anti-Christian who ran the original school has found snazzy new quarters — at one of those big non-denominational churches that are so popular nowadays among the soccerites. "Non-denominational," indeed! The Zeitgeist rules. [NS] (August 30, 2004)

Back to where you (probably) came from.

Joe Sobran observes: "... There is little false comity between Republicans and Democrats.... There is something worse: real comity. These guys are all in the same racket. They are thick as thieves for the simple reason that they are all thieves." ("Seeing Double," March 30, 2004) (April 2004)

"We [Notre Dame] can't stay as strict as we are as far as the academic structure is concerned because we've got to get the black athlete," Paul Hornung told Detroit's WXYT-AM on March 30, in an interview preceding the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame Banquet. "We must get the black athlete if we're going to compete." (Hornung is an old star player for both N.D. and the Green Bay Packers.)

Naturally that remark has become the subject of much radio talk, and the papers will surely be full of observations on what a racist remark it was. The writers will be referring, of course, to the implicit presupposition of blacks' relative inability to achieve academically.

The first thing one wonders is just what on Earth led Hornung to believe that he could make a comment like that without unleashing a firestorm of criticism and denunciation against himself. Has he been living in a cave?

But perhaps he was just confused by the fact that, back in the early and mid 1990s, the NCAA's Proposition 16, which mandated certain academic standards for athletes, was repeatedly denounced for effecting racial discrimination against blacks. So, as is the way when modern American politics and race touch base with each other, if you keep high academic standards, you're a racist, and if you say that you need to lower them in order to get more blacks into your school, you're a racist — unless you are a university official defending lower standards for admitting blacks to your institution (a kind of racial profiling) in a Supreme Court hearing.

What no one seems to have noticed is the other implicit judgment about race: that teams with few blacks cannot compete against teams with many blacks; that whites cannot compete against blacks athletically.

But what storm of protest will that judgment cause? [Ronn Neff]


Stop press. Hornung has, of course, now issued the de rigueur apology for his "insensitive remarks" after "being flooded with telephone calls from friends and media." (AP)

I take that to mean that he is apologizing for his insult to blacks. He has not yet apologized for his insult to his own people. [RNN] (April 2004)

Dancing in the streets. The neocons have been proven wrong on many of their predictions, but the recent violent events in Fallujah, Iraq, seem to show that they were partly right. They claimed that the arrival of American troops would cause joyous dancing in the streets of Iraq. Well, in Fallujah on March 31 there was dancing in the streets — but the dancers were celebrating the brutal killing of American occupiers.

If they're still able to see what is in front of their nose, even the boobocrats who rely on Fox News may soon figure out that the Iraqis don't like their American "liberators." The joyful celebrators in Fallujah were Sunnis, but we also have Shiite leaders issuing fatwas against the Imperialists. In fact it's hard to find any real support for the Empire in Iraq outside of Mr. Chalabi and his associates, and to get that support the U.S. government has to subsidize them to the tune of millions.

It shouldn't surprise us to find out that occupied people don't like their occupiers. If Americans could recall their own history they might meditate upon the Boston Tea Party, the Boston Massacre, and the hated British Redcoats, who, it was alleged, were sent to the colonies to provide protection for His Majesty's loyal subjects. Turned out that those red coats made inviting targets for American farmers and villagers in arms, as they picked off the elaborately costumed dregs of the London slums while hiding behind trees and stone walls — in a spate of 18th-century terrorism that enraged the British generals who were used to lining up in the open and fighting fairly like civilized men. [Henry Gallagher Fields] (April 2004)

And the sun set in the west tonight! According to a story on NPR's "All Things Considered" earlier this month, many school authorities out in the provinces consider the Bush "No Child Left Behind" education-nationalization law to be "inflexible, intrusive, and too costly." (March 2003)

Under-minded. Vice President Cheney called the Limbaugh show the other day to claim that ex-counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke can't rightfully say the bad things he's saying about the Bush administration because when Clarke occupied his senior position in the administration he was "out of the loop."

Cheney and Limbaugh represent this as something that undermines Clarke. But — if it's true — doesn't it undermine the Bush administration instead? To have it revealed that high officials kept their chief counterterror guy out of the loop?

On a sane planet, as soon as Cheney uttered such nonsense and Limbaugh chortled in approval, everyone would immediately dismiss both men as bad and moronic clowns. That they both weren't immediately run out of Normal People Town on a rail suggests to us that they're not the only ones infected by statish thinking. Very many of their listeners must be, too. You know about statish thinking, right? It is to real thinking what government propaganda is to the truth.


The Bushites are also denigrating Clarke as a "disgruntled employee," conjuring up images of the wild-haired ex-postal worker who swings by his old post office totin' a 12-gauge and aimin' to paint the walls. But if Clarke is "disgruntled," why is that? Was he sacked in humiliating fashion for taking home a box of felt-tipped pens or for chasing his secretary around his desk? No, it seems he left the administration feeling a bit frustrated because his analysis and advice were rejected. And not simply rejected but rejected in bad faith.

We can't quite swallow the Bushites' facile assumption that Clarke's disgruntlement necessarily motivated him to lie. Isn't it more likely that it motivated him to tell the truth? Let us suppose that instead of spurning him the Bushites had elevated him to secretary of war — now there's something that might have motivated him to lie. [Stephen J. Sniegoski and Nicholas Strakon] (March 2004)

TLD Quote of the Month. "The contrast between government and business power is striking. The largest company cannot tax you; the smallest unit of government can. The most profitable corporation cannot throw you in jail; the smallest municipality can."

— Murray Weidenbaum,
"The Awesome Powers of Government,"
The Freeman, March 2004, page 13

(March 2004)

Questions — on random acts of craziness. In our country has there always existed an epidemic of young girls' practicing anorexia, bulimia, and self-mutilation ("cutting")?

With respect to some bizarre practices and crimes, partisans of the modern way often claim, "Oh, it's always been like that, but in the bad old days it was always covered up. The only difference is that, now, it's reported much better." Well, perhaps a plague of bulimia could have flourished sub rosa, for a time. But does the same possibility hold for plagues of full-blown anorexia and bloody "cutting"?

Could we derive some useful testimony on the question from physicians who have practiced for several decades? Or from paramedics? Or from honest psychiatrists? (I hope I will receive a report from some such practitioners.)

If the plagues of severe eating disorders and "cutting" among young girls are peculiar to our time, can it be the case that the girls thus afflicted have just decided to start imposing those afflictions upon themselves, as atomistic individuals simultaneously making millions of identical choices, quite uninfluenced by prevailing cultural norms? Or does culture have an effect, and has our culture changed in such a way as to make the girls' bad choices drastically more likely?

If our culture has changed in that way, who changed it? How did they succeed in changing it? I'd really like to get satisfactory answers to those particular questions. I lived through the changes and saw them happening, but I'm still struggling to understand how they were all accomplished — though I do realize that most of us little culture-bearers must accept some of the blame.

Why did they, or we, change the culture?

Are we happy with how the changes have worked out?

Or does anyone even remember that the culture used to be different? Does anyone even remember that it changed?

Does anyone care? [Nicholas Strakon]

I strongly urge those who have their own questions on these matters to look into Wendy Shalit's A Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999).

(March 2004)

The language of defeat. In the 1970s, we used to hear libertarians arguing for legalization of drugs. Somewhere along the line — perhaps with NORML's call to "tax legal marijuana" — we had to drop the word "legalize." It was too firmly associated with taxation and even licensure. We began using "decriminalize."

Now I see an essay by a NORML policy analyst describing decriminalization as "a policy whereby cannabis users face an administrative fine in lieu of a criminal arrest for possessing personal-use quantities of pot."

So what's left? Later in the essay, the writer uses "depenalize," which seems to mean that users no longer face long jail terms.

I am reminded of the day I suddenly understood that the writers objecting to corporate welfare weren't referring to subsidies or monopoly privileges. They were referring to tax exemptions. Clearly people just don't seem to have any use for words that mean that the state simply isn't involved in an activity. And when there is no word for a concept, the concept soon disappears, and people can no longer even think of that to which the concept referred.

I think we're just going to have to start using "de-statize," even though it too will eventually come to mean something that isn't liberty. [Ronn Neff] (March 2004)

Once again, the loyal opposition. Spain's new prime minister has announced that he is willing for Spanish troops to remain in Iraq if there is more UN supervision of the occupation. That suggests a couple of different questions:

(1) Is this what the Spanish people — who opposed the invasion of Iraq — really want? Is this what the great welling up of democratic sensibilities in Spain was really aiming at? Or did democracy once again produce (as it must) something rather different from what the voters had in mind?

(2) If the UN had been in charge of the invasion or occupation of Iraq from the beginning, does anyone really believe that the terrorists would have been satisfied that their demands had been met? "Oh, well, that's all right then" — can't you just hear Osama saying it now?

It's bad enough when the pro-war faction insults our intelligence; but when the anti-war side confirms the insults, one just despairs. [Ronn Neff] (March 2004)

We heard an awful lot about the stockholders whose retirement dreams were dashed by Enron's crash.

When are we going to start hearing about the stockholders whose retirement dreams were dashed because of the conviction of Martha Stewart and the collapse of the value of her company?

And who caused the latter? [Ronn Neff] (March 2004)

Smoking out the egalifans. During those interludes when they haven't been required to wear their political-science hat, researchers in the biological sciences have winkled out a plethora of significant biological differences among the races — differences that aren't immediately apparent to the casual observer, I mean. The discovery I've heard about most recently centers on the effectiveness of technology designed to help smokers quit.

According to a CNN story telecast by the Fort Wayne CBS-TV affiliate on March 16, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have found that the new nicotine nasal spray works better than the patch in helping Negro smokers kick tobacco. (The reporting was a little muddy on this point, but the clear implication is that no such differential showed up among white smokers.) Dr. Tom Glynn of the American Cancer Society proposes that "African Americans may be metabolizing nicotine a little differently than [sic] White Americans."

Yet another metabolic difference! I wish someone would help me out, here, and explain what the egalifans actually mean when they claim that there's no biological basis for ideas of race. They can't be saying what they appear to be saying, can they? Are they muttering incantations on the basis of some special gnosis? Or are they just practicing the same sort of doublethink they practice when they coercively impose uniformity in the name of "diversity"? [Nicholas Strakon] (March 2004)

Asking for it. Families of victims of the 9/11 crimes are shrieking that Bush's campaign ads exploit their losses.

Pardon me, but aren't these the same people who demanded to receive payments from the government in addition to whatever life-insurance benefits the dead were carrying? [Ronn Neff] (March 2004)

Good news for once! The Authorities are now saying that obesity is poised to take over from tobacco abuse as the nation's leading preventable cause of death. We at TLD usually focus on America's problems and shortcomings, but, really, what a wonderful, rich, bountiful country this is!

Remember, something's always got to be Reaper Number One. And it could be plague or floods or machine-gunnings or ... well, let's not forget one popular mass killer that free-marketeers know is almost always preventable: famine. [Nicholas Strakon] (March 2004)

One last question for Martha-haters. Proponents of "limited" government may argue that lying to the government can sometimes be a real crime. Let's accept that in arguendo. And then reflect on which crime is more serious: our lying to the government, or the government's lying to us.

At least when Martha Stewart lied, nobody got killed. [Modine Herbey] (March 2004)

Don't look for anybody normal. "In himself, [George W.] Bush doesn't appear to be egregiously wicked. He's merely a mediocre man in a literally superhuman job, wielding far more power over others than any man should ever have, and charged with an impossible number of responsibilities for that very reason. Given what the U.S. presidency has become, this would be true of anyone in his place. The trouble is that Bush is actually eager to exercise that power, with no sense of his unfitness for it. He suffers from delusions of adequacy.

"Megalomania might as well be part of the job description of the presidency. Nobody of normal humility would seek the office and all of what is reverently called its 'awesome power' — a regrettably apt term. This means we are doomed to be ruled by veritable madmen." (From "Doubts and Lies," by Joe Sobran, Sobran's, March 2004, page 6.) (March 2004)

That makes her a heroine in my book. A government court has convicted Martha Stewart of lying to the government. If she actually did it, good for her! And down with Them!

As a libertarian writer, I've tried to popularize the traditional distinction between a malum in se, an act that is wrong in itself; and a malum prohibitum, an act that some political authority has prohibited for reasons of its own. The latter category — consisting entirely of fake crimes — has come to dominate what passes for the American criminal-justice system.

Now I have to propose a third category of illegal acts — the bonum in se. Lying to the government is an act that is good in itself. If we all did it all the time, we'd be far down the road — at last! — to Revolution. [Nicholas Strakon]

In my book, too! Someone should pin a medal on that lady. (A very tasteful one.) [Modine Herbey]

TLD Definition of the Week. "Enforcers of Proper Thinking — those whose function ... is to stop people from thinking properly." (Andy Nowicki, "Does white plus might make right?", March 5, 2004)

(March 2004)

High-pressure system. About the only time you can figure politicians may be telling the truth is when they lambaste each other. That's the case in the current presidential campaign as John Kerry and George W. Bush trade charges that the other is influenced by "special interests" outside the official regime.

Naturally they understate the situation, and radically. To say that a duopoly-party candidate is influenced by special interests is like saying that, during 1992's Hurricane Andrew, certain neighborhoods in South Florida were influenced by gentle showers and soft breezes. [Nicholas Strakon] (March 2004)

Several recent reviews of Mel Gibson's "Passion of the Christ" by Jews avoid blatant charges of anti-Semitism but use the words "sadistic" and "masochistic" (inaccurately). When intellectuals get really upset, they regress to primitive Freudian lingo.

I'm waiting for an actual avowed sadist or masochist to say, "Hey, I really dug that flick!" [Joe Sobran]

I wonder how much violence the old Passion plays really incited. Nobody seems to question the broad charge that countless Jews were persecuted. I suppose playgoers were handed fliers that said, "After the performance there will be a brief pogrom. Please bring your own rocks and staves."

You might say these people have a habit of crying "Wolf!" at the Lamb. [Joe Sobran]

(March 2004)

"They owe me!" The American military has been described as the country's largest social-service agency, in light of the panoply of benefits accruing to military members and their dependents. But the garrison state promotes the welfare-rights mentality in a more-insidious way, and you can see evidence of that from time to time when Minitrue does an ordinary-folk interview as part of a "news" story promoting socialism. I saw it again just the other day, when a woman was complaining into the microphone that her aged mother couldn't afford prescription drugs, which was an outrage, she said, because the interviewee's late father had participated in one of the big 20th-century wars (I forget which one).

See how the contagion spreads?

Now in fact someone does owe something to military conscripts or their heirs. But those victims of tyranny are not going to get it from the estates of Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, or Richard Nixon. And they're not going to get it, either, from the estate of Lewis Hershey, longtime Boss Slaver for the regime, or any of his minions. They can only get it from their fellow taxpayers, in the form of loot distributed by the Robber State. One point worth making along the way is that even if conscripts could sue their enslavers, much or most of what they'd get would also be stolen property. Government depredations cause a net loss; no redress is possible (except on the Day of the Rope).

In the present context, my other point is more pointed (if you will). It's one that I've made before on the basis of other evidence, and one that I expect to make again in the future:

Empire abroad means leviathan at home. [Nicholas Strakon] (February 2004)

The Gibsonites are fomenting! The Gibsonites are fomenting! Are Jews arming themselves as they did in the book of Esther when they saw trouble coming? Has Abe Foxman hired new bodyguards? [Ronn Neff]

"Anti-Semitism"? Not yet. Now let me get this straight. Mel Gibson's Bible flick is going to fuel an outbreak of mass anti-Semitism among ordinary Americans? When such cats as Alan Dershowitz, Howard Stern, and Roseanne Barr have worked hard at the same project for years and years, and failed miserably? [Nicholas Strakon]

You'll know the pogrom's started when you see spectators at athletic contests holding up signs reading "Matt. 27:25." [Ronn Neff]

(February 2004)

One cheer for homo marriage. These days we have to take our satisfactions where we find them, and I've found a silver lining in the lavender cloud that's suffocating so many of us: it has brought the Indiana House of Representatives to a complete standstill. Even though there's already a law on the books banning homo marriage in this province, House Republicans want to put a ban into the state constitution. But the Democrats, who hold a 51-49 majority in the House, won't let the thing out of committee. In response, all the Republicans have walked out, forestalling a quorum for any other business. S'wonderful! Let's hope this paralysis spreads to lawfakers all across the country. [Nicholas Strakon]

It's still sticking in my craw, so I'm going to write about it some more. In a previous "Stop and think" entry I related the travails that resulted from my misguided attempt to purchase a few cigars at a nearby Walgreen's drugstore. But as I banged away at the keyboard I found myself drifting unreachably far from the point I originally wanted to make, namely, that in displaying my outrage I had seized the opportunity to conduct a Daily Subversion. I want to veer back to that point here.

After he read my blast against Walgreen's in January, one of my correspondents explained to me that the clerks "were just doing their job" and that the chain "had no choice" but to impose onerous, invasive inconveniences on its tobacco customers. Now, judging from the variety of ways individual stores are enforcing the chain's cowering over tobacco, I'm sure the Walgreen's on North Jefferson in Huntington, Ind., actually could have mitigated the insanity somewhat. (That's where I fought my bitter little skirmish over two four-packs of Antonio & Cleopatra Coronas with Natural Dark Wrapper.) But I grant my correspondent's point in general. And I go right on to insist that the Daily Subversion is still very much worth doing.

The full-scale Subversion is not always worth doing, of course. If your 4-year-old is tugging at your sleeve or you've got an appointment with your parole officer ten blocks away in ten minutes, you'll probably want to choke back your ire and walk away. Even in those cases, though, you've always got time for a wordless Daily Subversion. That is, you've always got time simply to slam your intended purchases down on the counter and stalk out, with superheated steam billowing from your ears.

That's all just tactical. But here's the substance of the strategy, and here's my reply to my correspondent. When a clerk mindlessly enforces some totalitarian regulation, and especially when he quacks some nonsensical non-explanation to justify it, I think we should do all we can to make his life a living hell. With all the compassion at our command. Call it Tough Love, libertarian-style.

I'm not anybody's meek little serf, and I'm under no obligation to act like one in the presence of meek little serfs. Rather I feel an obligation to show the serfs I encounter how a free man reacts in the face of tyrannous insult. Of course I don't always satisfy that obligation. I'm no martyr or hero, and I'm certainly not so forthcoming in the presence of armed glowering thugs. But, look, such gorillas are rarely found at the checkout counter.

When we display our genuine outrage and indignation, we throw a tiny bit of sand into the gears of the System. We impose an additional cost, tiny but meaningful, on those who "have to" enforce totalitarian regulations. We show those who "have no choice" that we, for one, do have some choice — in what we think, what we say, and where we shop. Remember, our masters are aiming at a fully perfected form of Polite Totalitarianism that essentially runs by itself: a regime where everyone concludes on his own — with no gorilla intervention required — that he "has no choice" but to serve his masters' whims.

Who knows? — the outbreak of a little libertarian Tough Love just may knock a few flakes of rust off our serf-clerk's mental machinery. By standing up and denouncing tyranny — by ridiculing it, even — we make it just a little more difficult for such regulation-enforcers to enjoy peace and quiet on the job. If we knock off enough flakes of rust, maybe we'll motivate them to look for a job involving less-serflike behavior. Maybe they'll suddenly realize that, even in the totalitarian miasma that's strangling all of us, they, too, still have a few choices — that they, too, in fact, can practice the Daily Subversion!

All right: probably not. But as I've suggested before, doing the Daily Subversion sure beats trooping out every November and voting for the System. [Nicholas Strakon]

Strakon, I tried a Daily Subversion ...

General comment?

(February 2004)

The thoughtless canard about "atomistic individualism" is still making the rounds after all these years. (I first encountered it in the mid 1960s.) Such absurdities enjoy a Methuselahian life span because those responsible for disseminating them don't bother to find out what their intellectual adversaries actually believe, relying instead (I guess) on some sort of blurry mental cartoon. But for what it's worth, here's a brilliant rejoinder by the brilliant Sheldon Richman:

Why an atomistic individualist would laud the marketplace has never been explained. What is more solidly rooted in cooperation — a benign dependence on others — than the market's division of labor and voluntary exchange? We can achieve far higher living standards and far more satisfying lives by availing ourselves of the variety of associations possible in a free society. That's a dependency no libertarian ever objected to. Call it "molecular individualism." What advocates of the freedom philosophy object to is the reliance on physical force, either directly or indirectly through the welfare state, to achieve one's ends.

That's from a Perspective piece in The Freeman (March 1998) titled "Molecular Individualism." I urge you to read and digest Richman's entire analysis, and make his "molecules" your own. [Nicholas Strakon] (February 2004)

Lives of the martyrs. New Mexico governor Bill Richardson (formerly a disaster-prone energy minister for the Clintonistas) calls Ralph Nader's entry into the presidential race a "total act of ego." Maybe so, but then what are we to make of John Kerry's lunge for supreme Power? A total act of self-immolation? Gimme a break. [Nicholas Strakon]

"Don't run, Ralph!" was the cry of some of Nader's erstwhile supporters, demonstrating on February 22 outside the TV studio where the veteran leftwinger was broadcasting his announcement. The idea was that adherence to principle — leftist principle, in this case — would undermine the overall attempt to sack the Squirrel-Monkey-in-Chief and the Bad Clowns responsible for handling him. In effect, the "Don't run!" leftists were proclaiming that the most they could hope for, given the current System, was the elevation to power of the least of several evils.

But in light of that — or in stench of it — wouldn't a reasonable man have to reassess his attachment to the current System? Especially if he saw himself as a radical? [Modine Herbey]

(February 2004)

In 1987, when Little George and his band of thugs were only an ugly speck on the horizon, Robert Higgs wound up his great book Crisis and Leviathan by writing, in part:

... Assuming that our luck holds and our society survives, we do know something — at least abstractly — about the future. We know that other great crises will come. Whether they will be occasioned by foreign wars, economic collapse, or rampant terrorism, no one can predict with assurance. Yet in one form or another, great crises will surely come again.... When they do, governments almost certainly will gain new powers over economic and social affairs. Everything that I have argued and documented in the preceding chapters points toward this conclusion. For those who cherish individual liberty and a free society, the prospect is deeply disheartening.

Can such an outcome be avoided? I think not, but I hope I am wrong. (p. 262)

Higgs was, of course, right. I suppose the pain of being a libertarian prophet in our time is assuaged somewhat by the proof that one's analysis is sound. [Nicholas Strakon]
Robert Higgs, Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987)

Finally, some good advice from the U.S. government! Washington is urging U.S. citizens to get out of Haiti now. True, that advice has been overdue for quite a few decades. And there's another problem with it — it doesn't seem to apply to the U.S. citizen-soldiers who are heading in the opposite direction. [Nicholas Strakon]

It's all relative, comrades. You've heard about the far-leftist Gavin Newsom, San Francisco's homosexual-marriage mayor. Well, on February 20 a news analyst on NPR's "All Things Considered" pointed out that, of the two major contenders in the mayoral race that landed him in office, Newsom was the conservative! The city on the Bay is clearly pointing the way toward ultimate "diversity," leftly understood. [Nicholas Strakon]

(February 2004)

A famous passage from the Epistle of St. James tells us, "We put bits into the mouths of horses that they may obey us, and we turn about their whole body. Behold also ships, whereas they are great and are driven by strong winds, yet are they turned about with a small helm whithersoever the force of the governor willeth. So the tongue also is, indeed, a little member and boasteth great things."

This is normally used to instruct Christians that they must learn to curb their tongues. But it occurs to me that it could just as easily have been written in a Machiavellian tract instructing tyrants on the importance of controlling what people say and print. If you can control that little thing, the greater thing can be "turned whithersoever the force of the governor willeth." [Ronn Neff] (February 2004)

Georgie and Jessica. A few weeks ago the popcult couple Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson guest-hosted NBC's "Saturday Night Live." Given the fact that Jessica is advertised as one of the country's two Most Stupid Celebrities, I was astounded at the acting chops she displayed in the SNL skits. Unlike some lackadaisical goofs in the regular cast, Jessica knew her lines and refrained from mugging into the camera and laughing at her own jokes. She displayed a strong — and organized — comic talent, and that's hard to fake when you're live "on the ice."

How could such a thing be? It occurred to me that maybe Jessica's cranial computer, the actual wetware, I mean, is actually up to speed — and just doesn't contain much in the way of data. That, along with some flabby mental muscles and a lifelong practice of incuriosity, may account for her day-to-day dizziness (assuming it's not a media confection) but still allow her to perform, at least for a few minutes, in the crunch.

It set me to wondering about the country's second Most Stupid Celebrity, George W. Bush. Many onlookers at the scene of his repeated mental car crashes, even including some of us super-alienated types here in The Ditch, cannot bring themselves to believe that the ruling class would really have risked installing an actual, literal moron in the chief magistracy. At the risk of evoking a yelp of dismay from Steve Sniegoski, I'm willing to bet that George W. has an IQ of 100 — maybe even 105!

True, this line of analysis takes one only so far. For purposes of performing in the crunch, Jessica still seems to have more wattage on call than poor Little George. [Nicholas Strakon] (February 2004)

The ever-changing indictment. In his February 4 commentary at Future of Freedom, Sheldon Richman reports that Paul Craig Roberts and Sen. Charles Schumer are now asserting that modern communications have repealed the law of comparative advantage. But Richman insists to the contrary that "the premium from the division of labor is universal. It is inherent in human action. That information can move at the speed of light from Manhattan to New Delhi and back does not change that." ("We Need Real Free Trade Now")

The virtually instantaneous transmission of information comes close to the mixed-economists' "ideal" of "perfect competition," which all the gray little regime-servants pounded into our heads when we were in college. Back then, the "perfect competition" dweebs used to tell us that the absence of that kind of instantaneous knowledge was one of the reasons that the free market wouldn't work properly.

But now we are told (and not only by Roberts and Schumer) that the achievement of the "perfect competition" ideal means that the free market will no longer work properly!

Once again, any stick to beat the dog. Or as Joseph Schumpeter wrote: "Capitalism stands its trial before judges who have the sentence of death in their pockets. They are going to pass it, whatever the defense they may hear; the only success a victorious defense can possibly produce is a change in the indictment." (Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy [New York: Harper and Bros., 1942], p. 144) [Ronn Neff and Nicholas Strakon] (February 2004)

Don't be a sucker. Here's some good advice from Gary North: "... Whenever [Alan] Greenspan deals the cards, watch his hands. Pay less attention to his patter. His patter is designed mostly to keep the other players' eyes off his hands." (Reality Check, Issue 314, January 30, 2004)

One application I see here is to elections: the speeches and the media coverage are the patter. Sometimes the patter is helpful — and some dissident writers, here and elsewhere, perform a good service in deciphering it for us. But what the hands are doing must also be taken into account. [Ronn Neff]

Fascism Watch. This is something else we need to keep our eyes on. According to news reports February 11, the cable-TV giant Comcast is making a play to take over Disney, owner of ABC. Michael Eisner is resisting, so Comcast is taking its bid to the Disney board. The most disturbing thing about this development is that Comcast's rise has depended on official monopoly privilege, which it has wheedled (or purchased) from a whole slew of local government authorities across the country. Comcast is privately owned, to be sure, but otherwise it's only nominally a private company. ABC itself is hardly the product of a pure free market, but if it were taken over by an outright fascist entity the gigantic pyramid of Minitrue would just get taller. [Nicholas Strakon] (February 2004)

The Great Breast Sighting of 2004. As telescreen viewers may be aware, during a musical interlude in a recent football match a young white boy performing as "Justin Timberlake" (surely a made-up name) momentarily declothed part of the upper body of a black female singer who is apparently related, in some way, to the beloved celebrity Michael Jackson. In response, Authorities within Minitrue and also within the official regime are jostling and elbowing one another in order to be the first to swoon upon the divan, lace hankie fluttering. Indeed, a Federal Investigation looms, and the department of Minitrue that aired the atrocity — CBS — is being threatened with multimillion-dollar fines by the regime's official censorship bureau. Moreover, the Michael Jackson kinswoman has bared her breast all over again, albeit metaphorically, taping a sorrowful, abject apology that is being broadcast universally.

If the established media are to be believed — always a parlous proposition — the Great Breast Sighting has offended not only officialdom but also "the public," or large parts of it, at least. Now, one cannot help comparing the current outcry with the total lack of any such thing when the telescreen aired footage of Iraqi women and children maimed and slaughtered by the American military. But of course that is mere War Crime; perhaps I would do better here to focus on what is usually considered Indecency.

During a commercial interval in the same football match, CBS aired a beer promotion centering on the flatulence of horses. It was supposed to be amusing — and in fact it seems to have amused a large proportion of the same viewing public that is purported to have been outraged by the momentary mammarian display. But of course that is only to tug at a corner of the cultural bustier. The same public has also made tycoons of "gangsta" rappers, and princesses of semi-nude singer-whores. It has reveled in such presentations as "Sex in the City," "Queer as Folk," and "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy." It has indulged its children in hellish video games designed to promote and reward psychopathological impulses.

American popular culture squirms reeking in the mud — and now its creators and consumers suddenly attempt to impersonate their straight-laced great-grandparents! This goes beyond hypocrisy. Can an entire culture suffer from multiple-personality disorder? [Nicholas Strakon] (February 2004)

It's so rewarding, working months and months ahead! TLD writers Henry Gallagher Fields, Stephen J. Sniegoski, and David T. Wright have been on record for months doubting the regime's weapons-of-mass-destruction claims. In fact Mr. Fields made wicked fun of Rev. Colin Powell's UN sermon on the subject in February 2003, before the war even started! And Dr. Sniegoski added serious weight to the discussion with his classic "The WMD lies" in August. Ronn Neff and I have hinted that we were a tiny bit skeptical on the subject, too.

Now, finally, senior figures in the regime are starting to stipulate, substantially, to much of what TLD has been saying all along. And the established media, for their part, are pumping out breathless "exposés" about all the "intelligence failures" involved, as the search for scapegoats gets rolling.

It's interesting, though. The high-and-mighty figures who rule us, including one very prominent "intelligence failure" who lives in a pale-colored palace in the center of Washington, still enjoy their bowing-and-scraping platoons of servants, their multitudinous "advisors" and "assistants," their ghostwriters, their personal chefs, their private fortunes (many of them artificially arranged), and their motorcycle escorts. They also enjoy automatic access to the established media. We, however, continue to struggle in poverty and obscurity.

Sounds about right. We wouldn't have any use for ghostwriters, anyway, since we know how to write. And speaking just for myself, I've never wanted a motorcycle escort. [Nicholas Strakon] (January 2004)

Figures don't lie, but apparently socialists do. Little Bush signed the "$395 billion" Medicare bill December 8, and now only seven weeks later he's saying, Oh, by the way, didn't want to bother you with this earlier, but we're actually planning to soak you for $534 billion. That's an upward "revision" of 35 percent.

According to the AP, "While muscling the Medicare package through Congress in November, Bush and Republican leaders won pivotal votes by reassuring conservatives that the cost over that period would track the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office's estimate of $395 billion." But "the new figures represent the first time the White House has released its projections of the bill's costs." ["Bush Sees Medicare Overhaul Cost Up by a Third, $520 Billion Budget Deficit" by Alan Fram, January 29, 2004]

And the sheeple placidly graze on, graze on, graze on ...

This isn't immigration — it's importation. And it's being done by government, at one remove. According to a story in the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, Catholic Charities is enabling the "resettlement" in St. Petersburg of an "estimated 300 Bantu refugees slated to come to the Tampa Bay area this year and next as part of 12,000 Bantus being relocated to 50 cities across the United States." ["Refugee family to resettle in St. Petersburg" by Kristie A. Martinez, January 28, 2004]

The first Bantu family, Martinez reports, was due to arrive January 27. Jessica Cabness, "refugee mentors" coordinator at the parish working with Catholic Charities, noted that "the transition is going to be huge" for the family, which consists of "a couple and their five children, ages 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9." In fact, the Bantus have no English. Worse, they don't even have a written language! According to Mary Ann Smelter, another busy bee in the "refugee mentors" program, "In the beginning, we may just communicate with hand signals and pointing." But don't despair — Martinez reports that "the Pinellas County school system is preparing to help the Bantu children in programs for non-English speakers. Various social agencies are ready to help the adults learn English, Cabness said."

A word to the wise: "Tampa Bay was chosen as a resettlement area because it has many agencies that can address refugees' needs, said Jose Fernandez, director of immigration and refugee services at Catholic Charities in St. Petersburg."

Chief refugee mentor Cabness said, "We will try to help [the Bantus] become self-sufficient beginning in the fourth month." Self-sufficient. Right. In this context, what can that possibly mean other than that, sometime in late May, if all goes well, the Bantus will be fully plugged into the entire tax-funded social-service universe? Taxpayers, head for the hills!


Really, though, it's too late for taxpayers to make for higher ground even if they could figure out where those lovely uplands were. Catholic Charities (I would love to put separate quotation marks around each word of that name) is mostly an arm of the welfare state — as I have written previously and probably am doomed to write again in the future. According to CC's own Website,

in 2000, about 67 percent of funding for Catholic Charities agencies programs comes from state, local, and federal government grants and contracts to provide services such as day care or welfare-to-work programs. Another 14 percent of Catholic Charities funding comes from private support — the church, donors, United Way, and CFC funds.

Even that "private" 14 percent gets a little crumbly when you look at it closely. The Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) is the charitable-giving program that everyone who has ever worked for leviathan is all too aware of. All of its money comes out of federal salaries — now there's money from the private sector, all right. As for the United Way, much of the money it gets from ordinary people would otherwise have gone straight to the IRS, as the sodomist forces at People for the American Way are eager to remind us.


The "resettlement" of radically alien, preliterate, dirt-poor African natives isn't immigration. It's importation, and it's being done by an overwhelmingly government-funded entity. It is, of course, government policy.

With respect to this part of the demographic revolution, at least, I hope paleos can see that the problem isn't freedom — it's their beloved government. [Nicholas Strakon] (January 2004)

Smoking increases blood flow to the brain, you know. According to what I've been told in the course of several Cigar-related Encounters, the Walgreen's drugstore chain has implemented carding policies (which vary widely from store to store, as it turns out) for those attempting to buy tobacco products. It's in response to "consent decrees," the "tobacco settlement," the edicts of various state attorneys general, badda boop, badda bip, badda bing.

As I reported previously, one Walgreen's carded my 85-year-old father when he tried to buy a pack of cigars for me. The rule for tobacco sales at that store was, We card everybody. That was highly offensive, and it constituted a customer-relations disaster, for sure, but it wasn't actually maddening.

Another Walgreen's within reach of TLD Global Headquarters, however, has contrived a policy that provokes me to reassess the virtue of electroshock therapy. When I presented my cigars for purchase there, the clerk — a twentysomething trainee — asked to see my driver's license, and when I played dumb her fiftysomething supervisor interceded to inform me that the clerks have to card every tobacco purchaser who is (or seems?) younger than 40. (I'm 54.) She said, "We don't want to get into the business of guessing your age." And she invited me to think she was complimenting me by suspecting that I just might be younger than 40.

The next part is personally embarrassing, because it was only after I had stomped out of the store — huffing and grumbling — that it struck me. Waaaaait a minute! The legal age for buying tobacco in Indiana isn't 40 — duh — it's 18! The only rational question for Walgreen's wasn't whether I looked 40. It was whether I looked 18! They'd imposed a 22-year safety buffer — and then forgotten it was a buffer.

Leviathan makes its rule-enforcers crazy, and it makes them stupid. And watch out, it all seems to be catching. [Nicholas Strakon] (January 2004)

Fatheads. Look out, Hoosiers. The Indiana General Assembly is in session (good enough reason right there to beware), and it's joining the sudden frenzy over "childhood obesity." One state rep has introduced a bill requiring that half the offerings in school vending machines consist of healthy stuff. The other half could continue to consist of salty carbohydrate snacks, candy, and carbonated sugar drinks. The distinguished lawfaker, a Democrat from Gary, defends his proposal on the grounds that the obesity "crisis" is a case for "government intervention" if ever there was one.

Think of it! "Government intervention" in government schools! The very idea!

Are these pols dumb as a bag of hammers, or do they just think we are? (It's probably a combination of both.) I don't expect that Gary pol or any of his ilk ever to admit the obvious, namely, that the introduction of vending machines into state schools was itself an act of government intervention.

Vending machines in school were, of course, unheard of when I was a lad. And I can't say I ever missed them. When do today's "students" have all this time to suck back Cokes and munch Doritos, anyway? Do they spend half their time wandering the halls and lounging by their locker? Hmmm. OK, considering what's taught in the classroom, maybe it's just as well if they do.

But all that aside, the vending-machine crisis looks to me like just another unrecognized triumph of government planning. Speaking of government planning, obesity among Americans both young and old was aggravated for decades by the USDA's absurd "food pyramid," which the pols and bureaucrats in Washington artificially weighted in favor of carbs as a propaganda subsidy for grain farmers, whose political wiring was apparently superior to that of meat producers. [Nicholas Strakon]

Comment. We'll know they're serious when they pass a bill requiring that half the products purchased be healthy stuff. [Ronn Neff]

(January 2004)

Bad faith. According to an AP story of January 11, the Catholic bishop of LaCrosse, Wis., Raymond Burke, has ruled that "lawmakers who support abortion rights can no longer receive Holy Communion," and his ruling has set off yet another tiresome and bogus controversy over the separation of church and state. Bishop Burke, nota bene, is about to become archbishop of St. Louis. (The story appeared in the Huntington, Ind., Herald-Press under the headline, "Communion denied to abortion supporters.")

"The problem with [the ruling]," said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, "is that elected officials have to represent people of all faiths and none, and not adhere to one religious demand like the bishop's." Now, twenty years ago or so, Barry Lynn — who for a while conducted his press conferences as "Rev. Barry Lynn" — was a self-proclaimed libertarian. Not any longer, though, which is all to the good. I trust that nobody who still considers himself a libertarian agrees with Mr. Lynn.

The trouble with liberals is, they don't really believe that their opponents really believe. But whatever one's own position on abortion rights, anyone who's thinking straight has got to admit that Catholics really believe abortion is murder. So how can so-called Catholics who support abortion rights as public officials expect to receive Communion from a Church that considers them unrepentant accessories to murder or proponents of murder? What does it matter whom they may claim to represent? Maybe the pols had better focus on what the Church they've chosen represents.

If while pretending to be a libertarian I promoted state socialism and, moreover, "represented" others who promoted state socialism, on what grounds could I be offended if real libertarians recoiled from welcoming me into their councils? How could I protest if libertarians declined to permit me to commune with them until I repented? Freedom of association includes the freedom to exclude. C'mon, left-wingers — play fair for once. [Nicholas Strakon] (January 2004)

Exciting. We are watching history in the making, you know.

Kerry or Edwards or Dean — one of these guys, two years from now, could be the subject of editorials that assure us that he has "moral clarity" or that he is a great leader, the equal of the second Roosevelt. And the one of the seven Dems who gets the nomination will, just eight months from now, appear to have been the inevitable victor.

We're watching inevitability in the works, and we don't even know it.

Betting would be so much easier if you knew who the inevitable winner would be. What good is inevitability if you can't recognize it when it's right in front of you? [Ronn Neff] (January 2004)

Ringing a bell with supermarket shoppers. In his State of the Union address, Little George claimed that the "Kay Report" has identified "dozens of weapons of mass destruction-related program activities." I just need to know one thing, fellow Safeway shoppers. Do "weapons of mass destruction-related program activities" bear the same relation to actual weapons of mass destruction that "imitation processed cheesefood substitutes" bear to actual cheese? [Nicholas Strakon]

The War against the Robojocks. Most of the Wee Emperor's oration may not have been too inspiring, but there was one crucial element of it that is going to rescue me from many sleepless nights. Yes, comrades, the time is coming when we won't have to fret and worry and chew our fingernails any longer over the Great and Terrifying Steroids Crisis! [Modine Herbey]

(January 2004)

But what a cruel thing is war; to separate and destroy families and friends, and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors, and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world. I pray that, on this day when only peace and good-will are preached to mankind, better thoughts may fill the hearts of our enemies and turn them to peace.

Robert E. Lee
Camp Fredericksburg
letter to Mary Custis Lee
Christmas Day, 1862

WWSMS, or, What would Saint Martin say? Writing in the Washington Post, Michael Dobbs reports:

Half a century after the Supreme Court ordered the desegregation of American education, schools are almost as segregated as they were when the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, according to a report released today by Harvard University researchers.

The study by the Harvard Civil Rights Project shows that progress toward school desegregation peaked in the late 1980s as courts concluded that the goals of the landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education had largely been achieved. Over the past 15 years, the trend has been in the opposite direction, and most white students now have "little contact" with minority students in many areas of the country, according to the report. ["U.S. School Segregation Now at '69 Level," January 18]

Let's see. Dictatorial powers have been seized by federal judges, including taxing and funding powers, displacing local authorities; the tradition of the neighborhood school, by virtue of which the inherent viciousness of state-schooling was somewhat blunted, has been uprooted; millions of children have been sentenced to ride school buses for hours so that they may be delivered to dangerous, alien environments; many thousands of people have been provoked to fly at each other's throat; whole neighborhoods have suffered disintegration thanks to an epidemic of white flight; millions (billions?) of dollars have been spent to build and run a deafening propaganda machine — and this is the result. In fact, the figures reported by Dobbs understate the result, for they do not reflect the spontaneous intramural segregation that occurs within formally integrated schools.

Surely it is possible now to suggest that the long collapse of state-school integration has something to do with the natural desire of most ordinary people — white, black, and brown — to live and go to school among people who have a certain "family resemblance" to themselves. Just think how powerful that desire must be, to succeed in frustrating the Hideous Strength that all the tireless, brilliant social engineers can bring to bear! [Nicholas Strakon]

What would the neocons say? Martin L. King, Jr. was a harsh critic of the Vietnam War. If he were still alive, would he spurn the overwhelming sentiments of his own people and support the neocons' Iraq War? And if he opposed it, would the neocons be droning the same pieties about him that they are droning today? [Henry Gallagher Fields]

(January 19, 2004)

Special on subs! Buy two, pay for three! As the arctic cold soaked the Northeast, one electric-utility spokesman in the region told NPR that his company was imploring its customers to turn down their thermostats, put off showering and doing the laundry, and, in general, use as little of the company's product as possible. Now imagine the Subway sandwich chain mounting a similar "customer awareness" campaign for Super Bowl Sunday: "We can't handle the demand! Please buy fewer subs! And if you were planning to buy a foot-long, please consider a six-incher instead!"

Madness, eh? Exactly, and every time you hear such madness you know you're listening to an officially privileged but heavily regulated local monopoly that can't go out of business unless the state lets it go out of business. Companies actually dependent on customer sovereignty in the market don't talk like that.

Actual capitalists are allowed to provide us with submarine sandwiches. I don't mean to slight those tasty Atkins Wraps, but I sure wish capitalists were allowed to provide us with all of the really important stuff, too. [Nicholas Strakon] (January 2004)

Not a dime's worth. Bill Bradley has endorsed Howard Dean.

That means that both the Democrats' candidate for president in 2000 and his primary challenger in 2000 have endorsed the same man to be the Democrats' candidate in 2004.

Does that mean that there were no real differences between Bradley and Gore after all?

Makes you wonder whom all the current pack of Democrats will unanimously endorse in 2008, doesn't it? [Ronn Neff] (January 2004)

Unmentionable whiteness. In a televised debate in Iowa among the Democrat presidential hopefuls, Al Sharpton made Howard Dean look defensive and evasive by demanding to know how many "senior officials" of the colored persuasion Dean had had in his Vermont gubernatorial cabinet. After reluctantly admitting that he had had none, Dean did manage to mutter, almost inaudibly, that his cabinet had contained only six members. What he was unable to say, as a white liberal with zero testosterone on racial matters, was that Vermont is 97 percent white. (I am ignoring the question of why the colored percentage of a total population should be artificially replicated within any occupational cohort of that population.)

No matter how cogent Dean's response might have been, the Reverend Al would have been unperturbed. Sharpton isn't running for president of the United State; he's running for president of the Negroes. And that constituency includes a large proportion of folks who are, shall I say, differently abled in terms of numeracy. I don't know what other conclusion we can draw, given the widespread belief among blacks that during the "400 years" of the slave trade, slave ships dumped "200 million" corpses into the Atlantic Ocean, raising its level by hundreds of feet. The Reverend Louis Farrakhan canonized the popular 200 million figure in a speech at his "Million Man" March in 1995 — after which he initiated an interesting little spat with the Clintonista bureaucracy. The bureaucracy estimated the turnout at 400,000; Farrakhan insisted the correct figure was 2 million. [Nicholas Strakon] (January 2004)

Man alive, you need a Sovietologist to read between the lines. NBC is airing a new installment in its series of preachy PSAs, narrated this time by an earnest young fellow whom I don't recognize. He's probably a wildly popular telescreen actor, if past installments are any guide. Of those installments, the one I remember best, from 2002, had Bradley Whitford of "The West Wing" instructing parents, categorically, that HATE is a four-letter word that they should never teach their children. In the new PSA, young Mr. Earnest instructs everyone that unless we're in a courtroom holding a gavel, we "shouldn't judge."

Now, I doubt that that rule proceeds from a study (or mis-study) of Matthew 7:1. But what does it proceed from? And what does it mean? Is the previous installment with Bradley Whitford now, er, ahem, judged to be inaccurate? That is, are we no longer to judge that HATE is bad?

Perhaps we're really being instructed not to judge any of the outrages performed by the partisans of the anti-culture who crowd around us, grimacing and capering. If so, I wonder how many viewers immediately understand that. Is it, perhaps, crystal clear to anyone younger than 40? — those, that is, who came up through a state-schooling system that was mostly under the sway of grimacing and capering Red Guards? Or can it be that no one is really supposed to understand it? — and NBC is just broadcasting random gibberish to satisfy some public-service requirement laid down by the Authorities?

As I enter my mid 50s I feel ever more in need of a translator to help me understand what I'm being told by the people in charge of my native land. And, remarkably enough, it has nothing to do with all those new folk speaking Spanish or Urdu. [Nicholas Strakon] (January 2004)

More "suspicious activity" for you to report. According to the AP, "The FBI is warning police nationwide to be alert for people carrying almanacs, cautioning that the popular reference books covering everything from abbreviations to weather trends could be used for terrorist planning.

"In a bulletin sent Christmas Eve to about 18,000 police organizations, the FBI said terrorists may use almanacs 'to assist with target selection and pre-operational planning.'

"It urged officers to watch during searches, traffic stops and other investigations for anyone carrying almanacs, especially if the books are annotated in suspicious ways." ("Almanacs Put on FBI Watch List," December 30, 2003, found at The Los Angeles Times.)

According to the dumbed-down version I heard on the telescreen, folks are supposed to watch out for anyone carrying almanacs anywhere under any circumstances. The Boob Tube version, of course, is the one most people will hear. (The solemn, sober, deadpan expression on the newsreader's face had to be seen to be believed.)

In any case, it was to describe zany stunts like this on the part of our supervisors that I coined the word "transparodistic." Given the particular context, however, maybe I should refine that to "trans-duct-tape-ish."

You'd think it would be a welcome, constructive thing whenever our supervisors revealed themselves to be clowns. Trouble is, the sheeple can't tell Bozo from Bismarck. [Nicholas Strakon] (January 2004)


Published 2004 by WTM Enterprises.