Stop and think,  collected — 2005

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Reader responses

Now that President Bush has assured us all that he has the constitutional authority to spy on Americans who have committed no crimes, we have a better idea than before of just what kind of legal advice Harriet Miers has been giving him. [Ronn Neff]

Another observation: This whole business about Bush's assertion that he has authority to spy on Americans illustrates just how right Joe Sobran was when he said (November 24, 2005), "We no longer tell the state what our rights are; it tells us." [RN] (December 2005)

The TLD Award for Ham-Handed, Bone-Headed, Irony-Deaf Employment of Cliché by a Mainstream Media Outlet for this month goes to WANE-TV in Fort Wayne, Ind., whose anchorman on December 20 promoted the story on the impending deluge of civil unions between homosexuals in the United Kingdom by happily proclaiming:

"Church bells are ringing in Great Britain!" [Nicholas Strakon]

I don't know, Strakon. Your observation may be insufficiently researched. For all I know the Church of England may really be ringing its bells ... in a spirit of, er, true gaiety. [Modine Herbey] (December 2005)

A new frontier in penumbras and emanations. During a Fox News interview on Sunday, December 18, the Ministress of Foreign and Colonial Affairs, Condoleezza Rice, told Chris Wallace that in spying on Americans her boss was merely "exercising his constitutional authority."

In terms of wartime presidents, we've certainly come a long way — haven't we? — since the reign of that hidebound, unimaginative, timid, ultra-strict-constructionist ... Abraham Lincoln.

Let's get serious for a moment. The Bushites are claiming that the president's power to engage in warrantless domestic spying arises from his constitutional role as commander in chief over the military. Do I really need to expatiate on the logical import of that premise? [Nicholas Strakon]

Some "limited government" types are moaning that Congress would have hastened to make Bush's spying legal if only he'd asked. And that then everything would have been hunky-dory on the constitutional front. If that's true, it's yet another powerful argument against constitutionalism, say I. [Modine Herbey]

Necessity and possibility. Bush and the Bushites say their warrantless domestic spying is necessary for "national security." They really mean that it is necessary for the security of the Empire. For the sake of argument let's say that's true. It follows that if they and their predecessors had not built their Empire, foreign and domestic, the spying would not be necessary. For that matter, it wouldn't even be possible. [NS]

A "Stop and think" from last December that may be apposite in the circumstances:

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. [NS]

(December 2005)

"Doin' right ..." Every now and then you read something that is so transparently true that you wonder why it isn't a commonplace. Here's a good example:

"Diversity is the most insidious and pernicious of all defenses of discrimination. The other justifications assume that discrimination is a necessary evil, a temporary expedient that is needed to produce a society in which race and ethnicity are irrelevant. Diversity assumes that discrimination is an unqualified good and that it should be perpetual." — Steven Farron, The Affirmative Action Hoax (Santa Ana, Calif.: Seven Locks Press, 2005), p. 9.

Farron is, of course, referring to "reverse discrimination." Let's take it to the next step: "Diversity is our greatest strength" means — and can only mean — that discrimination against whites must be a permanent feature of what now passes for Western society. It is an application of the principle so frankly enunciated by the murderous Kansas Red Leg in the classic movie "The Outlaw Josey Wales":

"Doin' right ain't got no end." [Ronn Neff] (December 2005)

Same old same old. On the talking-head shows for Sunday, December 4, various regime-creeps evaded questions about the Empire's bribing of Iraqi journalists by saying that they didn't know enough about it yet and that they'd have to check into everything before saying much. The imperial officials didn't deny the story was true, though, and the media's unofficial regime-creeps quickly stipulated to its truth and said it sounded like an awfully good scheme.

As far as officialdom goes, it seems that one of two cases must obtain with respect to the bribery, which after all is a pretty big scandal even in a Bushite context:

1) Either they do know about it and are lying about their ignorance, or

2) They don't have much of a clue about what their munchkins in Iraq are doing in their name.

On any particular question, of course, either one could be true. Sometimes our supervisors lie, and sometimes they're just ignorant. But I'm fed up with seeing them go out of their way to appear on TV only to say, "D'oh! Jeez, we'll have to look into that!" Someone should have looked into them before they were allowed to seize power. Don't you think? [Nicholas Strakon]

How about this as a rule of thumb? — The smaller a government is and the less extensive its empire, the harder it is for its officials to hide behind ignorance. [Modine Herbey] (December 2005)

Low "Rent." The movie version of the rock opera "Rent" is coming out, and it looks as though the TV promos — at least here in flyover country — reflect yet another stealth operation by Hollywood.

Now, any normaloid with access to the Big City Newspapers since the musical opened on Broadway in 1996, or anyone, even, with a properly functioning nose, ought to be able to figure out that the people and lives depicted in "Rent" probably aren't going to be his cup of tea. But it's still interesting that although we see quite a bit of huggyface-kissyface in the promos, it all appears to be heterosexual, while in fact the original (Broadway) story involves at least two homosexual relationships, a drag-queen character, and quite a few characters who are HIV-plus. Retaining all of those elements wasn't enough for director Chris Columbus, who added a "gay" "marriage" to the stew for his movie. (The flick is rated PG-13, which rating will have the effect of assuaging parents' worries about encouraging their midteen kids to see it.)

I hate to cut the culture-engineers any breaks, but I suppose their aim isn't really to trick normal people with normal values into paying ten bucks to see their extravaganza of abnormality. Instead, in their TV promos they want to alert those who already know what's up on the homo and AIDS front that the epic is about to arrive on film, while at the same time keeping the promos nice and inoffensive so they won't ignite a firestorm of protest from the majority of telescreen victims. I just hope no innocent Midwesterners — my people! — wander into "Rent" in search of a little urban sophistication. They'll get more than they bargained for.


"Rent" is based on Puccini's "La Bohème," which premiered in 1896, its libretto being provided by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica. In our day a towering classic of the operatic repertoire, "Bohème" repelled quite a few people when it first appeared, including its first American critics, one of whom wrote that the opera was not only "futile in its music," whatever that might mean, but also "foul in subject." Very well: though I consider "Bohème" to be sublime, I suppose that if we were to take a page from Richard Weaver's book we'd probably have to argue that the degradation of Western civilization should have been halted centuries before such trash could have appeared. (Weaver, like Ayn Rand, even snorted at Beethoven.) But you know how I like mushy moderation, so I'll venture to say that we'd be enormously better off if we were degraded only to the "Bohème" level and not all the way to the "Rent" level.

A late-blooming insight: If we could convince the kids that "Bohème" is degraded and depraved, maybe we could get them to listen to some actual music for a change! [Nicholas Strakon] (December 2005)

A big sex scandal has been shaking the Jay County Sheriff's Department in east central Indiana since the media learned that the night-shift jailers had permitted male and female inmates to get together and have themselves a rollicking little fornication party. The comedy nicely illuminates a couple facets of the Zeitgeist.

First facet: Someone took a whole raft of pictures! — which naturally came to light. Shades of the heedless exhibitionists at Abu Ghraib, except that in these photos everyone is smiling, not just the jailers.

Second facet: Turns out it wasn't actually illegal to let inmates have an orgy. Nope — the only crime the jailers committed in connection with their party planning was to bring tobacco products into the jail.

Sometimes, despite all, you've just got to laugh. [Nicholas Strakon] (December 2005)

By Douglas Olson: The non-evidence of things seen every day. While I was conversing recently with a friend in the Washington, D.C., area, he raised the issue of those he called "liberals."

"It must be hard to be a liberal," he noted, "because you have to believe so many things that aren't true."

"Not only that," I replied. "You have to believe those things even when the evidence of your own eyes tells you every day that they're not true."

A case in point, I told him, were news stories about Prince George's County, Maryland, a D.C. suburb into which massive numbers of Negroes had moved over the previous twenty years. Just the night before, the local TV news had been agog over PG County's already having logged 154 murders for 2005, which was the most ever recorded there in any single year. "It's only the middle of November," the reporters moaned, "so a new record is sure to be set." All of the newspeople professed to be totally mystified over the reason for such unprecedented carnage.

"You know the reason, and I know the reason," I said. "And they know the reason, too, but they're afraid to admit it. It's because the county has gone overwhelmingly black. It's the same reason there's so much more crime of every kind in PG County and D.C. than in Arlington and Alexandria" — which are in Virginia, on the other side of the District of Columbia, and much whiter.

Not wanting to be considered "intolerant" for allowing such a blatantly "racist" statement to go unchallenged, my friend uncomfortably acknowledged: "Well, there does seem to be a correlation, but that doesn't necessarily demonstrate cause and effect."

"Yes it does," I countered, "and that's right in front of your eyes every day, too. You lived in PG County fifteen years ago [he lives in Virginia now], and the crime rate then was nothing like it is now. It has gone up steadily, just as the number of blacks has gone up — hasn't it?"

He squirmed, then acknowledged that indisputable fact. (December 2005)

The burning theater. I've always suspected that the old "no right to cry 'fire' in a crowded theater" assertion was intended to stifle free speech as such, not merely to circumscribe it.

I have now learned that it was formulated by Oliver Wendell Holmes in his opinion in a case that upheld the conviction of a man who had called for the repeal of conscription during World War I.

Sometimes I think the crowded theater in which we need to cry "Fire!" is the United State itself. [Ronn Neff] (November 2005)

The American death toll in Iraq has passed 2,000. Does anyone believe that if John Kerry had been elected last year it would not have? [Ronn Neff]

Another question. What's the American death toll in Afghanistan? Why isn't that number as well known? [RN] (October 2005)

Brit Hume said something really stupid a few weeks ago on Chris Wallace's Sunday morning panel, airing on Fox. But Hume is hardly a stupid man. During the Clintonschina, he was one of a handful of smart conservative commentators for whom I had considerable respect. Others included Ann Coulter, Bill O'Reilly, and Tom Sowell.

No, I never forgot that they were mere conservatives, awash in a sea of mixed premises and wholly in favor of much that I despised, but I respected their acumen on many subjects, notably those involving the Clintonistas, Clintonista sophistry, and Clintonista deviltry. In Hume, especially, I found an attractive gravitas.

Well, that's all over. Bush's great adventure in Mesopotamia has definitively separated the conservative pro-war sheep from the libertarian antiwar goats. (And goats we are, in sheep's eyes.) Hume, for his part, has transformed himself into a seemingly reflexive apologist for the regime, to the point that he's less willing to criticize Bush & Co. than fellow panelist and famous neocon William Kristol is.

Here's what Hume said that I found so dumb. The panel were discussing what political damage Bush was likely to suffer because of the failure of his apparat to respond Pharaonically to the Katrina disaster, and Hume brushed off the matter, claiming that it would all soon be forgotten and would play no part in besmirching Bush's record. After all, he asked, who now remembers who was president at the time of the Johnstown Flood (1889), the destruction of Galveston by a hurricane (1900), or the San Francisco Earthquake (1906)?

In truth anyone with a nodding acquaintance with American history could produce the names of Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, and Theodore Roosevelt in fairly short order; but that's not what I'm getting at. Anyone with a nodding acquaintance would also have to know that in the era 1889-1906, though the Lincolnite damage had been done and the Republic had fallen into a terminally morbid condition, the Central Government was still weak and tiny, relative to where it is now; and when an ill wind blew, no one expected it to rush in, take over, and make everything fine and dandy again. Moreover, no president was likely to suffer politically for his "failure" to make everything fine and dandy.

Does Brit Hume really not possess that nodding acquaintance?

All I can say for sure is that a bad ideology can make a smart man sound really, really stupid — and really, really ignorant. [Nicholas Strakon]

The historical reputation of George W. Bush in A.D. 2105! That is indeed something to ponder. But I'm confident that his portrait will be blood-daubed on the walls of every American cave.

Oooga-ugga-oooga-Bush! [Modine Herbey] (October 2005)

Momentary statesmen. It seems just yesterday, doesn't it, that we were hearing that John Kerry was a man of great leadership abilities. That John Kerry had a vision for the direction America should be going.

A year later, what have we heard from this visionary? Do even those who extolled his virtues and above-average qualities still hang on his every word? Those who wore funny hats and applauded wildly when his stentorian declarations arrived at their programmed pauses — do they still? Can more than ten of them tell you what he had to say yesterday about anything?

Is it not clear that men such as John Kerry are not at all what their momentary supporters say they are? That his moment in the spotlight had nothing to do with "leadership," but merely with accidents of history? Is it not clear that the same is true of hundreds upon hundreds of others in political spotlights? Is it not clear that they are nothing more than temporarily elevated nobodies? [Ronn Neff] (October 2005)

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of non-depression. Nowadays it seems that half the TV commercials you see are flogging some patent medicine or other, and there's one in particular that's caught my eye, for a nostrum called Wellbutrin XL. Its manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline, says it "effectively treats depression with a low risk of sexual side effects and a low risk of weight gain." Well, that pretty well expresses the American focus here in the two-thousand-oughts, doesn't it? True, Wellbutrin XL does carry a risk of seizure, but not many of the rap-dancing multitude are going to worry about that. [Nicholas Strakon]

Comment: How heartless and ill-informed you are, Strakon! Don't you realize that depression is a medical condition? America just happens to be going through an epidemic of it right now, for some reason. [Modine Herbey]

(October 2005)

"I saw you at the party last night ..." The other day, amid the 95 percent of my e-mail that's made up of miserable trash and spam, I received notice that the loan application I recently made had been approved. But I don't remember making any loan application. Over the past few years I've also received many notices about how well I'd paid a mortgage that I didn't remember taking out, as well as many notices that — congratulations! — I'd won a lottery that I didn't remember entering. And of course I keep getting eager billets-doux from unknown ladies referring to parties that I don't remember attending — I, who detest parties and favor solitary inebriation!

Now, in these spamessages I'm probably seeing some deeply subtle marketing techniques that I'm unable to deconstruct, but on the surface they seem perfectly adapted for reaching a population crippled by what I call Social Alzheimer's. In promoting that phrase I'm trying to describe not general historical ignorance (which is bad enough) so much as a forward-creeping ignorance of important events that occurred, and states of affairs that obtained, only a few years ago in one's own adult life.

If I were naive enough to take spam seriously, I would be offended and repelled by the suggestion that I'd applied for a loan and had then promptly forgotten about it. It may seem that all of us moderns have a hair-trigger for being offended, but in fact too few of us are ready to be offended when trashmongers, including those of the tax-paid variety, insult our intelligence and memory. In their initial testing, psychiatrists always try to determine whether the mentally troubled patient is "oriented in the three spheres." Does he know where he is? Does he know when it is? Does he know who he is? To pass that test these days I'm afraid you have to be an antediluvian reactionary, well dosed not with Wellbutrin but with well-earned grumpiness. [Nicholas Strakon] (October 2005)

People calling in to C-SPAN seem to be pretty upset about William Bennett's claim that the crime rate would be lower if all black babies were aborted.

Maybe I missed something, but so far, the callers seem to be objecting to the idea that it was evil of Bennett to suggest that there is a high correlation between blacks and crime. Which suggests to me that the callers wouldn't mind aborting all black babies if there is in fact such a correlation.

You'd think some of these liberals would find the idea of aborting all black babies objectionable. But apparently not. [Ronn Neff]

A moment of clarity. As they say, even a blind hog sometimes finds an acorn. In this case it was Bill Bennett — counterfeit scholar, employer of ghostwriters, gun-grabber, Drug Warrior, System-synthesized moneybags, Giant Government Conservative — and in his moment of clarity he rooted out not just an acorn but a big luscious truffle of truth: blacks tend to commit more crimes than members of other major racial groups in America. In so rooting Bennett afforded us, too, a moment of clarity: if we had entertained any doubt about it, we know for sure that it is now socially intolerable merely to point out the fact that blacks tend to commit more crimes. And socially intolerable to make the reasonable extrapolation that blacks will continue to do so in the future.

The clarity extends even further. It is now clear, if we had had any doubt about it, that black "spokesmen" and racially comatose whites are at no point in touch with logic and evidence. Nor are they in touch with ordinary language. Either they pretend not to grasp the simplest utterances of others or they are actually unable to grasp them. And yet more: no one who is socially respectable may recognize that such people are speaking complete nonsense. No one who is socially respectable may pull out his fingernail-clippers and snip off the disputational twig at the far end of which these goofy hebephrenic egalitarians sit, drooping and swaying and chittering about "code words."

You can detect Polite Totalitarianism efficiently functioning, it seems to me, when you see an idea — or a whole set of mental habits — as absurd as Lysenkoism dominating public discourse without a tyrant as bloody as Stalin enforcing it. [Nicholas Strakon] (October 2005)

A dynamic in microcosm. Katrina Aftermath Revisionism has already begun, with a variety of mainstream media outlets reporting that the most sensational horror stories involving Negro misbehavior have been proven false.

This matter is complicated by the fact that the MSM are now publicizing some of the horror stories, in order to explode them, more prominently than they had initially promulgated them, in order to have them believed. I'm just hearing some of the most shocking tales for the first time; and although I didn't study media accounts obsessively in the couple of weeks after the flood, I'm surprised that some of the Grandest of the Guignol had escaped my notice. As for the stories of rescue helicopters being fired on, I was skeptical of those from the beginning; and I waited ... and waited ... for someone to get to the bottom of those accounts. Nothing more was ever forthcoming.

Still, like others in the community of "racial realists," I was receptive to horror stories because of my understanding of racial differences and my awareness, shall we say, of the racial record. Assuming that the liberal media would, if anything, underplay stories of Negro-underclass misconduct, I tended to believe what they reported, insofar as it all could be understood in coherent form. But it is possible that I, along with other would-be racial realists, arrived at more extreme conclusions about this specific cluster of events than the facts warranted. In our defense I must point out that, unlike so many of our slumbering brethren, we were already familiar with a whole panoply of genuine horror stories, such as the Wichita Massacre and the knifing-out of fetuses from the wombs of pregnant mothers, not to mention the sad lack of fellowship, over there in Africa, between the Hootooes and the Tootsies; and we were familiar, too, with the considerable disproportion of black-criminal horrors vis-à-vis white-criminal horrors. What was so unbelievable about the horror stories coming out of New Orleans?

But here's where it gets interesting. According to today's Katrina Revisionists, the two most prominent exponents of false horror stories about black atrocities were — the black mayor of New Orleans and his black police chief! Their motive, clearly, was to expedite action by the White Paternal Establishment and induce guilt among whites at not taking good enough care of their poor black chillun.

Commentators have observed many times before that liberal paternalism actually undercuts liberals' purported egalitarianism. The liberals involved are not necessarily acting in good faith, as Joe Sobran has suggested of white liberals:

Why don't they come out and say it? They don't believe blacks and Hispanics will ever achieve equality on their own in competition with whites, any more than a paraplegic will ever be able to discard his wheelchair. The Democrats thrive on racial inequality, especially while racial privileges are politically lucrative. ("White Supremacism, Liberal-Style," Sobran's, February 2003)
Liberals of all shades, and especially black "spokesmen," justify their paternalism by referring to black failure, and they blame all of that failure on oppressive white bigotry. But that tends to be a hard sell even among many deracinated whites, as they watch blacks gleefully carrying TV sets out of looted stores in a city with no electricity. Many whites may end up accepting the failure part and rejecting the blame part.

The dynamic, seen here in microcosm, is just this: black "spokesmen," in order to preserve and expand their personal power, say terrible things about their racial kinsmen; and the more racially conscious whites listen to them, rationally prepared to believe the worst.

As "racial understanding" goes, it's not a perfect state of affairs, but I suppose it's better than whites' just sleeping their lives away. [Nicholas Strakon] (October 2005)

"Diversity Is Our Strength" — a mantra for morons. Cuban immigrant Eduardo Carmenates-Zayas of Tampa, Florida, was sentenced in August to life in prison, with the possibility of parole in 25 years. He is a victim of the damnfool notion that "celebrating ethnic diversity" is anything short of societal suicide.

Carmenates's incarceration resulted from his assault on another immigrant, Ahmed Almomani, then 19, whom he stabbed and shot last year. During that spree, Carmenates was shot by police; but both men survived.

The violent outburst was triggered by an earlier incident in which Almomani had accidentally backed into a boat owned by Carmenates. Almomani provided information on his insurance, but when Carmenates checked with the company, he was informed that the policy number he'd managed to record was phony. When he next encountered the offender, his rage spilled over.

The real problem is that Carmenates speaks only Spanish, with just a little English. Almomani speaks Arabic, but little English. After the accident, a third party had endeavored to translate for the two, but a communication error resulted — with near-fatal results. It all would probably never have happened if the morons who run this country did not encourage and facilitate aliens' living here without learning English. [Douglas Olson]

Clank clank, rumble rumble — you can just about hear leviathan expanding, can't you? Two hundred billion taxpayer dollars to replace New Orleans with New New Orleans! The Wee Emperor and his handlers are going to do their best to open up a second giant black hole, on the domestic front this time, to suck in and destroy even more of our people's productive energies. My God, this man Bush makes Richard Nixon — hitherto the definitive Republican war-socialist of our time — look like Bastiat.

On the subject of previous rulers, one of my co-conspirators says he's renouncing TLD's renunciation of political activism: He's forming a committee to repeal the Twenty-second Amendment and bring back Bill Clinton. And I think he's only half-joking. [Nicholas Strakon]

Crisis of personpower. After Katrina hit, MSNBC's Chris Matthews, a Clintonista, brayed that "we often argue about states' rights and the need to reduce the size of the federal government, yet in a crisis, it's the federal government which has the resources, the money, the manpower, the personpower I should say, to do the job." Well, that's one problem that could be solved overnight, if enough "persons" would just quit and look for honest work! Seriously, do these pervs for state power understand nothing about how actual societies and economies work? Or are they just pretending to be ignorant — as the sheeple, truly ignorant, slumber on?

Where does government get all its resources, money, and "personpower"? From society, that's where: government can only destroy; it cannot create. How does it get those things? At the point of a gun, that's how.

Note that Matthews is so fatally drowned by totalitarian premises that he can envision only two ways in which people can cooperate in the face of emergencies: through provincial governments or through the Central Government. Not to be picky, but that's not really cooperation. It's compulsion. Let's at least be honest about our paradigms.

By the way, did you hear about this splendid triumph of "personpower" management by FEMA? It blocked a rescue airlift that was privately organized by doctors outside New Orleans to rush emergency assistance to the isolated Charity Hospital ... and patients died as a result. [Modine Herbey]

Oh, come on, Modine! We just need to elect enough good people, and government will work right, finally. [NS] (September 2005)

The don will have no clothes. The academic reputation of the vaunted Ivy League took a long-overdue nose dive when everyone found out that Yale was willing to grant diplomas to conscientious (and congenital) anti-scholars such as George W. Bush and John F. Kerry. Now we learn that Miss Monica Lewinsky has been admitted to the London School of Economics. Gurgle, gurgle, gurgle, goes the LSE's prestige, dissolving and draining into the Thames. (Miss Monica may be breaking new ground. It's our impression that those British profs smoke pipes.)

Omnipotent government, or, Why don't you make it all better, Daddy? The media are poring over airline schedules to see just when during the Katrina disaster the Internal Security Minister took off to attend some irrelevant conference in Atlanta, and far be it from me to discourage anyone from holding statepeople's feet to the fire. But this news-flap reinforces a suspicion I've been harboring — namely, that much of the squealing we've been hearing about the deficiencies of leviathan's "response" to the catastrophe results from the fact that so many people have swallowed leviathan's own propaganda: Government can solve our problems! In fact only government can solve our problems! Government is omnipotent! And every time the untruth of that is — so to speak — concentrated by reality, believers in omnipotent government sprawl in astonishment: and they can only think to attribute government's failure to special incompetence, special corruption, special indifference. I suppose you could say it's the result of special education, state-style.

It's also a good example of what I've called "statish thinking." To go through life thinking statishly is to be forever surprised, forever a child, and forever rained on by reality. [Nicholas Strakon]

Does anybody really believe that the recent horrors in post-Katrina New Orleans — the looting, the raping, the hijacking of rescue vehicles, the assaults on hospitals, the shooting at people attempting to help, the lazy inhabitants sitting on their hindquarters in front of TV cameras and complaining that nobody was doing enough for them — could possibly have occurred if the same disaster had taken place in North Dakota ... or Vermont ... or Idaho? That's all that needs to be said. The prosecution rests. [Douglas Olson] (September 2005)

Sic semper tyrannis. The famous TV personality Pat Robertson quickly backed away from his proposal that the United State assassinate the ruler of Venezuela; but actually he had the right idea in the first place, or at least the glimmerings of one. Now, Robertson undoubtedly meant to propose a foreign policy even riskier and more adventuristic than the one being pursued by the Bush gang. However, if it obviated the sending of entire armies hither and yon, the mass starving of children, the bombing of cities, and so forth, a system whereby rulers regularly knocked each other off would seem to offer some advantages.

True, the actual knocking would be performed by government employees, but if I may take a leaf from our "libertarian" technocrats, we don't want to make the perfect the enemy of the good, now, do we? [Nicholas Strakon] (September 2005)

This season's TLD Award for Unintended Humor, Tragedy Division, goes to the copy-editor at the socialist Fort Wayne (Ind.) Journal Gazette who wrote this subhead for an analytical piece on the New Orleans flood (September 4, p. 15A):

"How could government have failed so badly?" [Nicholas Strakon]

America's established media often receive harsh criticism hereabouts; that criticism is deserved; and I'm sure it will continue. It's remarkable, then, how good the newsies' performance looks when compared with that of the official state bureaucracy. One exasperated critic of the Central Government's emergency response to the New Orleans catastrophe, informed that days into it the Washington bureaucrats still didn't seem to know what was going on, cried out: "Why don't they just turn on the damn TV?!" And, indeed, one did get the impression that the bureaucrats were hiding, blinkered, behind their desks, waiting for just the right paperwork to arrive, with just the right boxes checked, bearing just the right signatures; and that this was the sum and total of the reality they were prepared to recognize.

I expect that many folks will suggest that under Clinton, leviathan was more "efficient." Or that under the next Emperor — Hillary or McCain or whomever — leviathan will be more "efficient." Here at TLD, though, we don't spend a lot of time idly wondering about how to get the leopard to change his spots.

A more "efficient" leviathan? One little thing we might keep in mind is that even if the leopard could change his spots, he would still be red in tooth and claw. [Modine Herbey]

Milling about, biting the hand. It's easy to make snide comments as I sit here in air-conditioned comfort, sipping decent coffee, listening to Mozart — but I can't help observing that much of what the "left behind" blacks of New Orleans were saying last week seemed all too typical. If I may boil it down, they were demanding that we come to their rescue, while at the same time leaving us in no doubt that they hate us.

I was talking about some of this with a female relative of mine the other day, and I confessed readily that I wouldn't do too well physically in such a protracted disaster; but my kinswoman proposed that both of us might do all right morally. Now, she's never gotten out front, too much, on racial questions, but even so she said she was left aghast at the chaotic scenes we were shown of the Superdome and the Convention Center. Where, for instance, were the spontaneously organized teams of survivors that people like us would expect to see moving and consolidating such of the waste as could be handled, setting it apart from the people? Or the teams surveying those most in need of immediate help and organizing what care was possible? Or separating — at least! — the quick from the dead? On the basis of what she saw (which of course is not definitive), she had the impression that most folks weren't banding together to build the semblance of a mini-society with whatever resources were at hand but instead were just sitting around, and milling around, and grousing.

She told me she saw one trapped survivor interviewed who whined that he had to accompany his wife and daughter when they went to the restroom, lest they be raped; and my relative exclaimed, as if at him: "Well, you're in a crisis! Taking care of them is your job, man!" Thus spake one soundly European-American woman.

Instead, taking care of all of them seems to be our job, everywhere and forever. But if blacks like to bite the hand that feeds them, another animal cliché seems appropriate in respect to whites who intractably confuse "us" with the state: Certain chickens are wading their way home to roost.

That's a point I make in passing. As an anarchist and anti-democrat, I make it at every opportunity. But my main point is this. We may debate what has led to the spectacle of a large black population that lacks civilization-building skills; and what part is played, respectively and proportionally, by bad culture, crushing statism, and biological inheritance. But the notion that under the epidermis "we're all just alike" — surely that's one tissue of fantasy that the raging waters have dissolved and swept away forever. [Nicholas Strakon]

P.S. If I am to be told that self-help and spontaneous cooperation were actually much in evidence at the refugee centers, then I have to observe how very shocked I am at the established media for showing us so little of it. Why, that's racism — deep-rooted, systemic racism! (September 2005)

Marks of the state. The various news media all keep telling us that there is "anarchy" in New Orleans, citing violence and looting as the marks of anarchy.

But how can this be? Violence and looting are the marks of government. Governments engage in both every day. So what we have in New Orleans is clearly not anarchy — the absence of government — but the very essence of government.

It just doesn't have all the nice buttoned-down disguises it usually hides behind. [Ronn Neff]

Now we hear screeching that the government needs to "do something" about high gasoline prices. What, pray tell, are our venal politicians supposed to do — repeal the law of supply and demand? Lost in all the media shouting about an "average price of $[fill in the blank] a gallon" is the fact that a sizable portion of that cost is not for gas at all — it's for taxes.

According to a 2002 chart kindly provided online by the American Petroleum Institute, 42 cents of the price of every gallon of gasoline, on average, is nothing but taxation by federal and state entities. The federal levy is 18.3 cents per gallon, and state taxes vary widely.

Total gas tax ranges from lows of 26.4 cents in Alaska and 30.6 cents in Georgia to highs of 53.5 cents in Hawaii and 50.4 cents in California.

Enterprising gas station owners in California should post large signs: "Gas — $2.50 a gallon — PLUS TAX." Then maybe even the sheeple could figure it out.

Nah, not really ... but it might wake up a few, and that's at least a start. [Douglas Olson]

Aide-mémoire. As the price at the pump rocketed past $3 a gallon, with no ceiling in sight, the Wee Emperor "opened up" part of the Socialist Petroleum Reserve — excuse me, Strategic Petroleum Reserve — for the use of ordinary no-account humans. And that was really nice and generous of him, in light of the chaos that he and his gang, and the previous emperors and their gangs, have fomented in the Middle Eastern oil patch. But it's my guess that the dead weight of the imperial leviathan continues to suffocate a vital part of the oil industry in this country.

In May 2004, I linked to an AP piece at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that I found unusual because its writer, Brad Foss, at one point cut through the murky, mephitic smog that seems to surround most discussions of oil prices. I'm happy to find that the article is still accessible, and I thought I ought to remind you of it: "Gasoline imports increasing / Trend leaves the nation vulnerable to supply cutoff." The long and the short of it is, the Central Government in its state-environmentalist wisdom has sabotaged oil-refining right here at home.

I would be grateful to any TLD reader who could tip me to other articles, accessible on line, that explore Foss's crucial point in depth. [Nicholas Strakon]

If we're to judge from results, it looks as though the neocons have now taken over management of the weather, too. But that raises the question: How did Hurricane Katrina benefit Israel? [Henry Gallagher Fields] (September 2005)

A preferable sort of murder. On C-Span's "Washington Journal" for August 30, Kim Holmes of the Heritage Foundation was discussing the problem Iran is posing for U.S. foreign policy and the various "diplomatic" tools at a state's command. One of the tools he mentioned was sanctions, which, he said, were to be preferred to war.

Hmmm. Let's see. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis — perhaps as many as half a million children alone — died as a result of the UN sanctions the United States enforced against Iraq between the two wars.

How many Iraqis have died as a result of the two wars? Figures are hard to come by, but you just never see numbers in the hundreds of thousands.

For all his faults, George W. Bush has (at least so far) killed a lot fewer unarmed Iraqis than Bill Clinton did.

But why are sanctions to be preferred to war? Maybe because not many Americans die as a result of sanctions. Maybe because the news isn't filled, day after day, with reports of some new carnage. Maybe because somehow there just never appears much of an anti-sanctions movement.

Or maybe they're better because ... well ... because they kill more people. Beats me. [Ronn Neff] (August 2005)

School bullying — real, imagined, and ominous. Defeated everywhere in their explicit attempts to imprison students in their indoctrination camps all year long, the State School Police are pressing ahead with their backup plan, a stealth operation that is chewing away at summer vacation from both ends. Put more succinctly: Land sakes, the school year is starting already — in mid August!

But the steady, gradual, sedulous extermination of summer freedom is only one trial facing our young school citizens. Another is the Crisis of School Bullying, and I don't mean bullying by the School Police and their military-recruiter pals who are determined to leave no child behind. No, I refer to the bullying of students by other students, which the School Police confess they are unable to control. It's being blithered and blathered about, in either educationese or psychospeak, by every goody-goody facilitator of compassion-management for the at-risk and under-served who can lurch in front of a TV camera.

I've had my eye on this particular Crisis ever since our supervisors started telling us about it several years ago, after the Columbine massacre and subsequent bloody events at other state mega-schools. I've hesitated to write anything about it, though, because I find the whole subject slippery.

Some bullying did occur at my own small-town state school when I attended it in the 1950s and 1960s. As an anti-sports, book-reading "sis" with disabling hay fever, badly fallen arches, and Mr. Magoo myopia, I even participated in it now and again — on the receiving end, naturally — but it never went much beyond a towel snap or two on my, ah, receiving end because my dad taught at the school; and he was a tough, stocky, balding veteran of World War II whose displeasure the actors-up among us didn't exactly care to provoke.

Other dweeb-kids weren't lucky enough to be personally connected to a Ranger-trained staff sergeant who'd invaded Saipan, and I can think of a few who were occasionally "picked on," as we would have put it in those days. But although my own perspective is limited, I'm sure no reign of terror was permitted by any teacher, combat vet or not, male, female, or androgynous. My dad and the other teachers aside, we never had as a principal anyone you'd have wanted to tangle with. Though I cannot, of course, testify to the extent of silent misery among my fellow learners, I can tell you for sure that none of them committed suicide. Or, need I add, murder.

However (let us all say it together), things have changed. Our culture has been radically brutalized in the course of its disintegration, and at the same time the School Police have been reduced to hand-wringing as a form of crisis management. That, and expelling kids in possession of aspirin or toenail clippers. (It's funny that they can't seem to expel the actual bullies.) I'm not in favor of state employees paddling other people's kids — don't get me wrong — but it would have been nice if the civil-liberties mavens who abolished paddling had gone all the way and eliminated the other elements of coercion in the state schools, including the schools themselves.

Another aspect of our cultural disintegration comes into play here, too, it seems to me. On the one hand you've got the grunting brutes, and on the other you've got the weepy super-wimps. OK, I was a garden-variety wimp myself, as I've hinted; but for quite a few modern kids, haveen feeleens seems to be equivalent to haveen hurt feeleens and makeen sure that everyone else knows about them, including the U.S. Attorney. I want to tell them to suck it up, but I guess that would hurt their feeleens even worse, and I don't want to get myself indicted just yet.

Part of the problem here is the plague of oddball, irresponsible exhibitionism masquerading as authentic individualism. (Self-proclaimed "gays" in junior-high school?) The whole proudly-flaunted-exhibitionism thing started in the late 1960s; I saw it happen when I was in college. Yes, indeed, sometimes a man has just got to stand up and offend others' sensibilities; but we do not expect an authentic individualist to reel backward in astonished horror when those others act offended and return the offense.

Suffice it to say that an authentic individualist can tell the difference between insults and bullying, otherwise known as physical aggression.

By now you can see why I find this to be a slippery subject. It's reasonable to suppose that actual bullying is much more common now than it was back when life was more normal. But also it is apparent that bullying has been defined up to encompass a lack of politically correct politesse. Thus do I reach the limits of analysis; and I'll merely close with two questions that I haven't heard too many people asking:

With respect to those state schools that are racially integrated, does "bullying" result to any significant degree from racial hatred and the struggle for racial supremacy?

If so, does no one find this racial incompatibility, in circumstances of forced amalgamation, ominous for the prospects of our multicultural socialist utopia? [Nicholas Strakon] (August 2005)

In 2002, Joe Sobran wrote: "By now, if men learned from experience, they would talk about the state in the same tones in which Jews talk about Nazis."

And: "The measure of the state's success is that the word anarchy frightens people, while the word state does not." ("Anarchy without Fear," October 17, 2002) (August 2005)

In the course of his recent media encounter over "intelligent design," the Wee Emperor opined as to how schoolchildren should be "exposed to different ideas" about human origins. I wonder whether he thinks the state schools should teach, in science class, the idea of the Oneida that the Good Spirit created man out of red clay somewhere in what is now upper New York state. (Meanwhile, according to the Oneida, the Evil Spirit was making monkeys out of sea foam — a notion that may find favor with anti-evolutionists.)

If Bush's rule is applicable to cosmology in general, I wonder whether our Shaman-in-Chief would like to see kids "exposed," in science class, to the ancient theory that the world rests upon a giant elephant standing on the shell of a giant turtle. Maybe not: after all, Giant Elephant and Turtle Science isn't part of "our" tradition. It's not even part of Oneida tradition. On the other hand, perhaps Dr. Bush should consult some of the masses of Third World exotics whom he and his masters are cajoling and bribing to pour into America. For all I know they may be expecting to find Giant Elephant and Turtle Science as an integral part of the curriculum.

Jesting aside, I'm very much in favor, in principle, of exposing kids to "different ideas." I'd especially like to expose them to some "different ideas" about justice and liberty. But I have to point out that the struggle over whether to teach Creation Science or ordinary science in the state schools wouldn't exist — couldn't exist — if state and school were separated: the locus of conflict itself would not exist. As long as certain schools enjoy the imprimatur of state authority, and everyone is taxed to support them, such conflicts cannot be justly or satisfactorily solved. In fact they are bound to proliferate. (Does Heather Has Two Mommies ring a bell?)

All children cannot be exposed to all ideas; in fact let me tighten up that formulation and say that no child can be exposed to all ideas. But in a free society all children can be exposed to ideas that they, or their parents, find congenial in the context of their own traditions. At the same time, in a free society — rollicking and roistering with intellectual creativity — it seems inevitable that most kids will also be exposed to more-challenging ideas: exposed, not force-fed  by state authorities.

Whenever the state seizes control over a given aspect of society, peaceful competition, cooperation, and coexistence go out the window, and the struggle begins to control or decisively influence state administration. As a result of crucial victories by certain partisans in that struggle, the healthy-sounding notion of diversity itself has been twisted into its complete inversion: coerced uniformity.

Everywhere it goes, and in everything it invades, the state propagates war, making a tragic and oppressive joke out of ideas such as tolerance and diversity. In the case at hand, the state has propagated a bitter school-war among non-religious folk, religious folk, and, well, other kinds of religious folk. We needn't bother praying for peace in our time. [Nicholas Strakon] (August 2005)

While at Borders the other day I used the "Title Sleuth," their computer software for finding books by title, author, or subject.

I entered as keywords "Christianity Western Europe". I was trying to find books on the spread of Christianity in Western Europe.

Twenty titles came up.

Seven were shown as out of print.

The other 13 were shown as "Usually arrives 7 days or less."

Not one was listed as "In store." [Ronn Neff] (August 2005)

Congressional malfeasance — a textbook case. Here's a rude awakening for all those nice, compliant little sheeple who see (or pretend to see) no evil in the tyranny of "representative" government in the United States — who believe that our rulers are benevolent and act in the best interests of "the people." In the Clean Air Act amendments of 1990, Congress forced gasoline companies to add "oxygenates" to their product sold in locations designated as "high-pollution" areas, supposedly to reduce air pollution. There were only two oxygenates that met the act's requirements: ethanol and MTBE.

The first was not commercially feasible at the time because it was not being produced in quantity and was more expensive. Indeed, J. Bennett Johnston (D-La.), chairman of the Senate Energy Committee in 1990, admitted that "MTBE was the only commercially viable alternative at the time" — but that confession came after he was safely retired from the Senate.

As a result of leakage from gasoline storage tanks, MTBE has contaminated water supplies in a number of locales, and energy companies are now facing more than 100 separate lawsuits.

As part of a new package of energy legislation finally passed in July 2005, Republicans attempted to include provisions limiting the liability of those companies for damages caused by following their congressional mandate. While that would insulate the offenders, who were "only following orders," it would impose the cost of cleanup and mitigation on the innocent victims. Democrats threatened to filibuster if those provisions were included, because trial lawyers "contribute" incredible amounts to individual members of their party, and limiting liability would cost those vultures untold amounts in fees. Without the waiver of liability, all Americans would probably pay higher gasoline prices as a result of the injury inflicted on the industry by litigation costs and damage awards.

Always eager to "compromise," Republicans quickly caved, and eliminated the protections.

Government has the power to force anyone in this country to do anything — no matter how stupid, irresponsible, or damn foolish — and always masks its tyranny as "protecting" the environment ... or minorities ... or women ... or children ... or something. It also has the power to avoid all responsibility for the results of its actions. Government is never benevolent; it is force and tyranny personified, and it's not inclined to apologize for any of its crimes. [Douglas Olson]

Everyone's talking about where John Roberts, the would-be "justice," stands on the abortion issue, and that's fine; but almost no one seems interested in finding out where he stands on the PATRIOT Act. Or on the domestic terror war in general. Now, I'm skeptical about trying to predict how a government employee will behave once installed; but I still insist on my right to be curious in the face of systematic incuriosity. [Nicholas Strakon] (August 2005)

W. as "intelligent designer." George W. Bush didn't actually say, last week, that he believed in "intelligent design" in biology. But like all creators and managers of the mega-state he has proved over and over that he firmly believes in "intelligent design" of our economy and society.

In contrast to Bush and his fellow prophets, those who grasp the insights of the Austrian School would maintain that an economy and a society are far too complicated to be formed by a single "intelligent designer" — not to mention by a committee of them! And that if you try, you'll wind up producing monster after monster. One need not indulge in gibes about Bush's personal intelligence in order to make that point. The sweatiest labor by a cabal of geniuses could not replicate the social evolution of millions of ordinary people, freely cooperating in their own self-interest. [Nicholas Strakon] (August 2005)

I'm starting to have the creepy feeling that the current anti-culture has evolved — or been intelligently designed, if you prefer — to nurture criminal sexual psychopaths. The other day on the telescreen I caught a promo for a show featuring terrified models chained inside body bags. Yikes. Pretty disturbing. Initially I thought it must be an ad for one of the burgeoning number of TV series featuring serial killers, but nope. It was for an upcoming episode of "Fear Factor." And apparently it was not supposed to engender pity and horror but instead arouse excited anticipation. I use the word arouse advisedly.

Poor Ted Bundy: he was born just a few years too early. These days his wacky gift for mass entertainment could make him millions as a producer in "reality" television. [Modine Herbey] (August 2005)

The hazard in "Hazzard." Ben Jones, the ex-congressman who played "Cooter" in the original TV series, is protesting the new theatrical release "Dukes of Hazzard" because of its heavy reliance on profanity and "blatant sexual situations." But, really, all of that degradation seems predictable in the translation of the "Hazzard" cosmos from a 1980s network TV show to a 2005 movie. It's more interesting to juxtapose the gutter stuff, so routine and unsurprising for us now, with an aspect of the flick that is truly unroutine and surprising. In fact it has the moviemakers cringing and begging for forbearance from the sectors of the U.S. population that are twenty or thirty times more important than the "rednecks." I'm talking about the retention of the Confederate Battle Flag atop the Duke brothers' hot rod.

Lowering the tone of the Hazzard saga deeper into the sewer was just business as usual for the moviemakers; it didn't require any bravery. What required bravery was keeping the "American Nazi flag" across the roof of that car. And that's where we're at.

But this, too, is where we're at, or so I fear: Many of the "rednecks" who would have objected to the removal of the Battle Flag from the car would also have objected had the movie turned out only as risqué as the original TV show. [Nicholas Strakon]

P.S. A friend reminds me that in the TV show the hot rod itself was called the General Lee. Blimey! One wonders whether the moviemakers can have retained that name. Considering current American sensibilities, they might as well have called it the Reichsführer Himmler, eh? (August 2005)

We're not supposed to say it, but ...

Murray Friedman, an established neocon player, has recently come out with a new book titled The Neoconservative Revolution: Jewish Intellectuals and the Shaping of Public Policy, and it's being lauded by his fellow neocons.

But here's a curious thing. By bringing you the news of the book's publication, and quoting its title, and telling you that the book is winning encomia from Friedman's confreres, TLD risks being tarred with that bristly old brush of you-know-what. That's because, unlike the neocons themselves, all respectably terrified American wimps and simps are supposed to believe, or say they believe, that 1) neocons don't exist; 2) the neocons who don't exist aren't predominantly Jewish; and 3) the neocons who don't exist and aren't predominantly Jewish have no power.

I'm getting one of my headaches again. [Nicholas Strakon] (August 2005)

I like to belittle the states of the Union as having collapsed into mere provinces, but when it comes to pioneering tyranny they can still demonstrate, often enough, that entrepreneurial federalism is alive and vigorous. Comes now Oregon, whose legislature has decided that cold medicines containing an ingredient of this year's devil drug, methamphetamine, will now be available only through a doctor's prescription. (CBS News, August 1) As is plain, Oregon's lawfakers are serving up this fanatically totalitarian enactment with the usual rich and creamy dollop of fascism, awarding more privilege to the medical establishment while further hobbling the undoctored poor, who count for nothing in the eyes of our supervisors. [Nicholas Strakon] (August 2005)

An Equal Robbery Amendment — that's the ticket! We've started to hear some low-grade rumblings in the press because Big Brother has not been totally consistent in his oppression of American air travelers. It seems there's a terrible "disparity" in the fines levied on those who attempt to bring forbidden objects onto planes — scissors, pocket knives, meat cleavers, cans of whipped cream (no joke!), and at least 63 other specified no-nos, plus anything else the screeners may covet. More than 7 million items were confiscated in 2004, many of which are now being auctioned off in bulk by the government on eBay. (Talk about recycling!)

Shockingly, the "disparity" is not racial, sexual, or religious, but numerical. At the Birmingham, Alabama, airport, 123 of every million passengers passing through its metal detectors in 2004 were fined, while Seattle socked it to just 2.5 per million, with other facilities falling somewhere in between. (Actually, there is an obvious racial difference between Birmingham and Seattle, but no one else seems to have noticed, so please don't tell Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton.)

Each local airport security director has the power to levy fines, and, in typical cowardly government fashion, the victim often has no idea he is being dinged until he receives notification by mail. Guidelines issued by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA, known familiarly as "Thousands Standing Around") allow consideration of the passenger's "attitude," whether he has previously been caught with contraband, and whether the transgression appears to be deliberate or an honest mistake. In most cases, though, it likely boils down to whether the "criminal" p*ssed someone off. (It would be interesting to see a racial breakdown — for instance, the number of whites vs. blacks fined by black commissars, and vice-versa. If this writer's experience with black Customs officials in Detroit is any indication, it would be so interesting that we will certainly never see anything of the kind.)

The Wall Street Journal told of a Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice who attempted to board with a small pocket knife. After being given the opportunity to leave and dispose of the offending item, this officer of the court was nabbed trying to smuggle it in his carry-on luggage. The law should not apply to the lawgivers — or so they think, and too often they are right. If you or I had pulled a stunt like that, we'd have faced more than a fine; chances are a pair of handcuffs would have played a part in the saga. The judge, however, was fined $1,500, reduced to $750 because he paid up within thirty days.

In much the same way that Mephistopheles always "plays fair" with those who sell him their souls, Big Brother is magnanimous enough to allow victims to appeal the fines, One may appeal informally via a telephone conversation with a TSA attorney — but the supplicant must represent himself; he is not permitted to have a lawyer for that process. If the phone chat fails, the citizen can request a hearing before a administrative law "judge" employed by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Good luck! Call us from the brig! [Douglas Olson] (July 2005)

Meth-making and myth-making. I just heard on the news that my home province of Indiana has managed to claw its way into second place in production of methamphetamine. (Many people don't realize that as recently as a few years ago Indiana was rated the most-industrialized state in the Union.) All right, all right: I'm extrapolating a bit, and perhaps rashly, from what the newsies actually said. According to them, Indiana cops are running number two, nationwide, in meth seizures; and it could be that the various drug-warriors in this province are just more efficient than cop-thugs in other bailiwicks. Still, it seems certain that Indiana is near the top of the league when it comes to making meth.

Naturally all the Respectables hereabout are frowning and grumbling about the "meth crisis," and scrambling to form all kinds of furrowed-brow committees and task forces and advisory panels in order to ... help pay off their BMW, or buy another case of 18-year-old Macallan's, or something; I don't know.

What gets me, as an ordinary small-town Hoosier tugging at the grass roots, is how invisible a "crisis" this is, as long as the TV set is left off and the newspaper left folded. Compare it with other "crises," such as the zooming gas prices. Whether you blame it on Bush's War or regulation or the Ayrabs themselves, the increased dearness of gasoline is a "crisis" that you confront personally every time you go to the pump.

You probably confront the de-education crisis several times a week, all too personally, as you try to make yourself understood to some oddball shop clerk, corporate phone-answerer, or tattooed young-un in the neighborhood. The de-mentalizing crisis (closely related, obviously) hits home whenever you hear that yet another person in your area has been killed by some self-made moron who likes to ignore stop signs or drive the wrong way on the Interstate. In Indianapolis, a solidly "raisin-bread" town when I lived there in the '70s and '80s, the demographic crisis afflicting the Hoosier cosmopolis is palpable when you hear fast-food functionaries chattering in Spanish instead of true-blue American Ebonics.

And so on and so forth with the real catastrophes attaching to what passes for modern life in America. I haven't even mentioned the Rap anti-music that stabs your eardrums and rattles your skull wherever you go: talk about palpable! (I haven't mentioned the property-tax crisis, either. That one'll palpitate your pocketbook, good and hard.)

But the "meth crisis"? As far as I can tell from what I observe as I go about my daily rounds, that could be a whole-cloth invention of our local rulers and their spokes-entities in the Respectable media. Now, I'm not saying that all the events they babble about are made up; I accept many media reports as a matter of course. It is through the media, for example, that I hear about most of the homicidal heedlessness on the part of today's drivers. I believe those stories in the same way that Winston Smith believed the sporting results he read in the Oceanian papers. (It's interesting that meth "addicts" never seem to be implicated in those accidents. Drunks, yes; crankers, no.)

It's thanks to the media, too, that I heard the official news about the demographic crisis affecting not just Indianapolis but all of Indiana, to wit, that despite the continuing flight of college graduates and the worsening shortage of white babies, the province's population has actually increased by several percent over the past few years — owing to the influx of colored folk born in foreign countries. I believe that because I have a weakness for bad news.

When it comes to meth, I even believe the weekly stories in the media about dramatic paramilitary drug raids, thefts of ingredients from agricultural-supply houses, and the poisoning of children by wacked-out yeehah parents who are trying to manufacture the damn stuff in their double-wide out on Rural Route 2. But all of those events are generated by statism — by prohibition, by the drug-warriors themselves and the politicians who employ them. That entire commotion amounts to a government crisis, not a meth crisis.

If police and media propaganda about a meth crisis in "rural America" were true, whenever I left the house I'd expect to encounter a real-life version of "Night of the Living Dead," the only difference being that the Dead would be a tad more energetic. Haven't seen that, either on the street or, nota bene, reported in the Respectable media. If there are indeed tens of thousands of meth "addicts" in Indiana, their running-amuck strikes me as remarkably sedate as running-amucks go. [Nicholas Strakon] (July 2005)

By implication, at least, minarchists seem to believe that the state can supply justice and defense services more effectively than it can supply medicine, steel, and hamburgers. If empirical evidence is admissible in the minarchist-anarchist debate, we on the non-state side may wish to clip and file this New York Times story: "June Report Led Britain to Lower Its Terror Alert," by Elaine Sciolino and Don Van Natta Jr. (July 18/19).

The Timeswriters start out: "Less than a month before the London bombings, Britain's top intelligence and law enforcement officials concluded that 'at present there is not a group with both the current intent and the capability to attack the U.K.,' according to a confidential terror threat assessment report."

I don't mean to beat a dead horse, but, look, this is the stuff that the state is supposed to be good at!

At the same time, I must admit that the Joint Terrorist Analysis Center, which produced the anti-warning, is able to recognize certain obvious facts. Sciolino and Van Natta write: "The tersely worded threat assessment was particularly surprising because it stated that terrorist-related activity in Britain was a direct result of violence in Iraq."

What is not particularly surprising is that the folks actually in charge of Airstrip One can't or won't recognize those facts:

Prime Minister Tony Blair and other British government leaders have sharply criticized claims made since the attacks that the country's support for the American-led war in Iraq and the involvement of British troops in fighting the insurgency there were factors in the terrorist bombings on British soil.

On Monday, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, an influential private research organization commonly known as Chatham House, concluded that Britain's participation in the war in Iraq and as "pillion passenger" of American foreign policy had made it vulnerable to terrorist attack. A pillion is the second seat on a motorcycle.

I doubt that this news out of Britain will discourage such outlaw bikers as Charles Krauthammer, who appeared July 9 on one of the Sunday morning talk shows and proclaimed — with that air of settled assurance the neocons are so good at assuming — that the July 7 attacks would have occurred even if the Western allies had not invaded Mesopotamia. One must strain ever harder to believe that any of these cats is operating in good faith. [Nicholas Strakon] (July 2005)

George W. Bush, free-market radical. Assuming we ever had any doubts, we now know for sure what our compassionate-conservative emperor means when he yammers away about creating an "ownership society." Speaking to a Negro audience in Indianapolis on July 14, Bush promoted the "ownership society" by promising to work to make it easier for black-owned businesses to compete —

(wait for it ... take a deep breath ... ready?)

— for government contracts! [Nicholas Strakon] (July 2005)

Doctor of totalitarianism? I was listening to the 11 a.m. news on July 13, and sheepish as I am about failing to hit the mute button during Dr. Phil's 60-Second Therapy Blip, I just have to report his dictum of the day: "Parenting is a privilege, not a right." That ruling should sound familiar, as applied to another activity that is thoroughly state-licensed.

True, Dr. Phil didn't explicitly mention the state, but in view of how the parenting "privilege" is managed in China, and in view also of the totalitarian premises of our own "population control" advocates, I think we're entitled to let our hackles rise. In any case, we should take Dr. Phil's ruling as a useful reminder: The dangers of state marriage-licensing aren't limited to official endorsement of perverted liaisons. [Nicholas Strakon] (July 2005)

Many of the most percipient observations about the Clinton regime apply equally well to the Bush II regime, assuming you drop sex out of the equation. Here's one from 1995 by one of our most percipient observers, Joe Sobran. Actually, it seems Joe formulated it to apply not just to the Clintonistas but to all our rulers:

The truth is that the only "enemy" the government has to keep secrets from is the American public. Its refusal to come clean is our warrant that its relations with American citizens are essentially hostile — as the Waco siege itself should have told us. The government's interest and the public interest are two different things.

I myself never dreamed that Little Bush would make Big Bubba look as virtuous as the famously honest statesmen of the past, such as Washington or Robespierre. [Nicholas Strakon] (July 2005)

In Joe Sobran's Wanderer column for July 7, he writes, "It simply makes no sense at all to suppose that the Framers of the Constitution meant to design a system of popular self-government and limited powers in which, however, one branch, whose members were not elected but appointed for life, should be unaccountable and uncontrolled even if they virtually amended the Constitution itself (or, by neglect, repealed parts of it) at their whim."

Even so, if the Framers did not foresee that the judiciary would or could become so powerful a branch of government, is it not possible, indeed likely, that they made no provision for meeting that threat, and provided no competent checks or balances against it?

They could foresee the problem of "misbehavior," whatever that might mean, but apparently they could not foresee justices' reaching flamboyantly outrageous decisions.

In short, instead of supposing that there is a remedy for justices who don't seem to know what the Constitution says or means — Sobran argues that impeachment is appropriate — should we not rather consider the possibility that the Constitution is simply a flawed document? that in the end, because of the limitations of lawmakers and the imagination of usurpers, it simply and inherently could not do what it was written to do? [Ronn Neff] (July 2005)

Yet again am I moved to observe: if we were Martians this would have our tentacles in stitches. As simple Earthlings, however, we may not be so amused. In the last "S&t" entry, on the Central Government's recent eminent-domain ruling, I wrote a sour thing or two about the editorial in the New York Times celebrating fascist robbery. Now Rob over at Strike the Root has alerted me to the fact that the land for the NYT's new tower was obtained through — eminent domain!

At least no one can accuse the Times Bandits of hypocrisy.

According to Fans for Fair Play, a politically wired developer (is there any other kind?) named Bruce Ratner "convinced the authorities to abuse eminent domain" to acquire land for the NYT tower, whereupon "small owners were paid 35 cents on the dollar for their properties."

That scandal actually feeds into another, bigger one, an exercise in vast exploitation by the Dark Suits of New York. According to the Fans site, Ratner used "$177 million in Liberty Bonds" for the project — "money that was originally earmarked for lower Manhattan's post-9/11 recovery." Last spring I posted a link on the off-site page to an eye-opening Washington Post story on that scandal, and I'm glad to find that the piece is still accessible: "Ground Zero Funds Often Drifted Uptown / Money Also Went to Luxury Apartments," by Michael Powell and Michelle Garcia. Our man Ratner features in this article as well: Powell and Garcia inform us that he shook loose great heaps of Liberty Bond money to finance two other projects in the city.

As you know, one of my favorite formulations is the one about Likudnik lemons and Dark Suit lemonade. But here we seem to have a case where the Suits of New York squeezed dry a big juicy lemon from another set of fruitmongers — al Qaeda. Egad, this sort of thing is almost enough to transform a sober ruling-class analyst into a raving conspiratorialist. [Nicholas Strakon] (July 2005)

The state as both robber and fence: the ruling in Kelo v. City of New London. On June 23, the Central Government's top court endorsed local governments' expansive use of "eminent domain" to steal property from politically unconnected owners and hand it over to well-connected fascists in the "private" sector. The NYT's Linda Greenhouse tells the story: "Justices Uphold Taking Property for Development."

Three points, if I may:

• Fans of eminent domain like to point out that governments actually do pay affected owners something in return for their property. But that only demonstrates, yet again, that champions of state power have a talent for the irrelevant.

If a mugger confronts you and demands you hand over your late mother's gold locket for two bucks — or for that matter, two thousand bucks — and you don't wish to sell it at any price, even to someone who's not waving a gun in your face, that's not a trade. It's what normal humans call robbery. The same is true in respect to eminent domain, because those of our fellow humans who call themselves "government" have no rights superior to ours. They are merely robbers who happen to have special costumes, fancy stationery, offices downtown — and an unusual amount of swag at their command.

Any time a rightful owner who has not transgressed against others is forced to transfer property against his will, at any price, theft has occurred. If that were not so, I don't know how we'd even begin to define theft. Or property, for that matter.

• It is remarkable that the court's decision seems to issue from a sound understanding of federalism. Constitutionalists may have to struggle and strain if they wish to denounce the ruling. (See the George Leef article, below.) The ruling in Kelo highlights once again the fatal conflict, in our political structure and history, between process and content. Despite what most of us (of a certain age) were taught in the state schools, the process of the American political structure (federalism) does not necessarily imply any libertarian content. (It's worth noting along the way that the Constitution itself authorizes the form of robbery called eminent domain.)

Those Americans who favor freedom to some extent but are infected with statist premises are doomed to recoil in a federalist direction when the Central Government expands its power — and then in a consolidationist direction when local governments expand their power. Such intellectual gymnastics build muscle only between the ears.

• Making matters really hopeless, for modern constitutionalists who wish to believe in both freedom and the state, is the fact that totalitarian premises are everywhere, from Washington City right down to the town board. (Not to mention the school board.) If we were watching all this from another planet — a conceit I've used before and doubtless will use again — we might find it amusing that in the court's last big decision, involving medical marijuana, the majority justices ignored federalism in order to expand state power at the national level, while now in this decision they have upheld federalism in order to expand state power at the local level.

Does anyone see a theme emerging? [Nicholas Strakon]

Other relevant articles.

In a sidebar to the NYT's main story, Avi Salzman and Laura Mansnerus offer us a peek at the weefolk who are utterly disposable when it comes to "public purposes": "For Homeowners, Frustration and Anger at Court Ruling."

The Times starts out its editorial in this wise:

The Supreme Court's ruling yesterday that the economically troubled city of New London, Conn., can use its power of eminent domain to spur development was a welcome vindication of cities' ability to act in the public interest. It also is a setback to the "property rights" movement, which is trying to block government from imposing reasonable zoning and environmental regulations.

I find especially enchanting those quote marks around "property rights." Of course the New York City government is unlikely to cancel the "property rights" attaching to the New York Times building any time soon. If you wish to explore this unsigned horror further, do so at your own risk: "The Limits of Property Rights."

Future of Freedom has posted a worthwhile piece by George C. Leef: "An End to Eminent Domain Abuse?" (Don't be misled by the title; the article first appeared in April.) Leef is a believer in the Constitution and its "just compensation" clause, and accordingly he argues that under federalism the high court could actually have some business squelching light-fingered local governments. Though that approach strikes me as naïve, among other things, Leef does offer a good tour d'horizon along with some sharp analysis. [NS] (June 2005)

Who is Cato? On June 22, during "Washington Journal," a daily C-SPAN feature, host Susan Swain referred to the Cato Institute as a "conservative think tank."

The Cato Institute has been around for almost 30 years, and it continues to be described as a conservative think tank, not a libertarian one. Could it be that there is something about being a policy think tank that would explain that? [Ronn Neff] (June 2005)

David T. Wright:  Bush thinks! On June 20 we were treated to another rare glimpse into the barren wasteland of the Bush Mind when he urged visiting European potentates to help the Empire in "completing the mission" in Iraq — an opportunity they all apparently regard with the same enthusiasm they would the prospect of being thrown into a vat filled with a mixture of broken glass and fresh pig manure.

Which, come to think of it, doesn't sound like such a bad idea. Anyway, against a backdrop of accelerating chaos in Iraq, with civil war looming, Imperial legionaries snuffing it at the rate of about two a day, legion recruitment plummeting, and car bombs wiping out scores of increasingly ambivalent Iraqi collaborators, Bush took the opportunity to assure the world that he is keeping his eye on the ball when it comes to the War on the Iraqis:

"I think about this every single day," he proclaimed. "Every ... single ... day!" ("Bush Urges European Allies to Unite Over Iraq" by Warren Vieth, Los Angeles Times)

Zounds! Every single day!

What puzzles me, however, is what exactly it is about that statement that's supposed to impress us. Is it that Bush donates valuable (and, no doubt, scarce) cerebral blood flow to the issue of Iraq itself, rain or shine? I note that he didn't reveal the actual amount of time he devotes to this doubtless exhausting activity. Perhaps he has a special time blocked out in his daily planner:

10:00 – 11:00: Cabinet meeting
11:00 – 11:15: Play with doggy
11:15 – 11:30: Think about Iraq
11:30 – 12:00: Quiet time
12:00 – 1:00: Lunch w/ Condi (Corn dogs! Yum!) [Etc., etc.]

Or is it simply that he indulges in the act of thinking itself — for its own sake, as it were?

I fear we'll have to leave it to a future generation of historians, plumbing the depths of the Bush II archives and interviewing used-up survivors of the Bush II regime, to discover the answer to this terrifying question.

The next time a Zeitgeist fan dismisses you as someone who's "just against all change," you may want to quote Joe Sobran's observation from 1998:

"America was bound to change a lot, but it didn't have to change this way." (June 2005)

No Big Macs for Wall Street. On Sunday the 12th, I watched a good chunk of the McDonald's LPGA Championship telecast from Havre de Grace, Maryland, and I have to report that my viewing kept me on pins and needles. It wasn't the golf itself that got my blood racing; watching golf on TV actually has a Zenlike effect on me. No, what agitated me was the commercials for the event's principal sponsor — as suggested by the tourney's title, that little outfit with the golden arches.

I kept waiting for a commercial plugging, how you say, hamburgers. Never saw one. Instead, these are the McD's commercials I did see, in the order they were aired:

      1) A commercial pushing the company's version of the Waldorf salad. Now, look, whenever I duck out from the Atkins and head to Mickey D's, I'm not in search of some bizarre collation featuring walnuts and apple slices that's trying to masquerade as a salad. I don't venture under the arches in search of a real salad, for that matter. I'm aiming to lay tooth on — duh! — some burgers and fries. But in the commercial cycle on this particular Sunday afternoon, that faux-salad business was as good as it got: The other commercials hardly mentioned anything as declassé as mere food!

      2) A promotion for some McDonald's program offering free dental care to Disadvantaged Colored Yutes. No mention of food here at all. It did feature scenes of a gigantic McDonald's Dental Truck, resplendent with joyous, colorful Ronald decals, rumbling through barrios and slums and other venues you'd really rather stay out of.

      3) A celebration of the Immigrant Experience in Today's America, as enlivened by McDonald's, wherein a clean-cut young Hispanic counter clerk waits on an older, well-dressed Hispanic man. (This spot was in Spanish but was compassionately subtitled for the benefit of ill-educated reactionaries.) The customer tells the clerk (perhaps still a trainee) what drawer the mustard packets are in, confessing that he got his own start working the counter at McD's. And that ain't all: it turns out that the kindly, affluent customer actually owns a McDonald's! This commercial, if that's what you want to call it, did contain a little reference to food; but that's certainly not what it was meant to advertise.

Note. Ill-educated reactionary customers may wish that the company was as compassionate at its actual restaurants, many of which, in the big cities, seem to be staffed entirely by English-spurning foreigners.
      4) Scenes from an extremely muddy women's soccer match. I never did figure out for sure what this one was in aid of, apart from suggesting that McD's is all in favor of Progressive Wymyn's Sports Not Invented in America, especially those in which the young ladies get themselves very dirty indeed. No food here at all, but that's just as well.

      5) Urgings to drink plenty of water every day, in line with the ideas of some Olympics organization. It opens with a little boy hopping about in distress at the door of a restroom that, unfortunately for him, is ocupado. Very odd. Made me want to drink less damn water, but then I'm deep into the Age of Prostate. There's no food in this one, either, unless you count water that has been, you know, processed.

Now, hoi polloi potatoing out in prime time are going to see McDonald's advertising burgers and fries, as usual. They're not going to get any of the zany high-class propaganda, and they wouldn't get it if they did get it, if you get what I'm saying. Clearly, on the Sunday afternoon golf programs the company's marketing boffins are trying to reach a radically different class of viewers: silver-haired gents relaxing in front of the TV with a glass of single malt at their elbow and a copy of Forbes magazine on their lap.

And, all right, what with the Waldorf-salad thing, and since we're talking about women's golf in the first place, I suppose the company is appealing to some ladies, too — the kind who have a monogrammed golf bag in the trunk of their personal Mercedes. In any case, the message McDonald's has for such well-heeled folk has nothing to do with whether the company is likely to make a profit by selling products people want to buy. Instead, McD's is trying to reassure its investors that it's a responsible, thoroughly modern corporate citizen doing its best to evade the left-wing trial lawyers looking to rip off big bucks with the connivance of the government courts — whether the pretext for those wolves is unsustainable, Earth-unfriendly sandwich wrappings or burny-burny-hot coffee or, as now, fat people who we're supposed to believe are forced to chow down at the company's restaurants. Why, McDonald's isn't about burgers and fries and milkshakes at all — or even coffee! Rather it's about helping the disadvantaged, and promoting diversity, and pushing exercise! And ... and ... getting people to drink more water!

This is what American capitalism and American capitalists have come to, shivering in the shadow of the ravening Red Guards. [Nicholas Strakon]

Stay tuned, comrade golfers. In a few years, in between watching Korean teenagers sink putts, you'll probably be seeing McDonald's commercials that do focus on the company's products — but only in order to urge people not to buy them, along the lines of those grisly spots that Philip Morris is forced to air right now. You know, the ones inspired by the self-criticism tenets of the Khmer Rouge? Those commercials should really send share prices soaring!

I always hate to challenge our beloved Chief's analysis, but I do think one point calls out for tweaking — about those "big bucks" the lawyer-wolves are trying to rip off. To my knowledge all the "forced obesity" lawsuits have failed in the courts, with respect to forcibly transferring wealth from the fast-food companies to the fatties and their, uh, mouthpieces. But many, maybe even most, Red Guards — as I understand them — are more interested in power and influence than wealth; and their attacks mounted through the legal system, as well as through the propaganda outlets they control, have succeeded nicely in intimidating companies such as McDonald's: thus, all that cr*p about salads, diversity, soccer, and so forth. McDonald's has also "voluntarily" abandoned its wonderful "Super-Sizing" program. And what a sad day that was for all hungry duffers. [Modine Herbey] (June 2005)

Maybe he's just boring from within? In his dissent in the medical marijuana decision, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote:

"If Congress can regulate this under the Commerce Clause, then it can regulate virtually anything — and the Federal Government is no longer one of limited and enumerated powers."

Well ... evidently Congress can in fact regulate medical marijuana under the Commerce Clause.

It follows, by Thomas's reasoning, that it is no longer a government of limited and enumerated powers.

So why hasn't he resigned? Why is he willing to be a part of this government? [Ronn Neff] (June 2005)

Let all good Party comrades applaud our Stakhanovite Chekists! Now that former FBI executive Mark Felt has revealed that he was Watergate's Deep Throat, there seems to be a whole lot of burnishing going on. Burnishing, that is, of the reputation of America's premier secret-police agency.

We're being told that Felt was motivated to leak to Bob Woodward in order to protect his "beloved FBI," which was being corrupted by its acting director, the sleazy, political L. Patrick Gray (1972-73). And we're told also that the FBI, despite Gray's interference, performed Herculean labors in order to penetrate to the truth of the Watergate scandal. Why, it conducted 1,500 interviews! (There you see plainly the traditional American focus on mass production. Not long before the FBI took to boasting about the number of people it had talked to, the U.S. military had busied itself counting bodies over in Vietnam as a measure of how well it was succeeding with that particular project.)

What few seem to understand, however, is that the FBI is much more dangerous to Americans and their liberties than the Nixon White House ever was. The Nixonians were transients; the FBI is a permanent resident in the national constellation of power. And its own power has expanded considerably since the Nixon years.

Even when he was in power, Nixon wasn't, really: at least not as much as you'd think. The established bureaucracy routinely ignored Nixon's directives, even more than it had ignored most other Presidents'. In a Watergate-era column, Nicholas von Hoffman recognized how remarkable it was that the IRS publicized Nixon's tax returns with very little prodding; and as Sherlock Holmes might have observed, the significant thing was that heads did not roll as a result. Ironically, bureaucratic treachery — specifically the incessant leaking — was what motivated the Trickman to assemble the White House "plumbers" in the first place.

High-level bureaucrats probably figured out which way the wind was blowing and decided it was fairly safe to defy Nixon. He had started to offend his ruling-class sponsors as early as 1971, when he introduced his New Economic Policy, imposing a surcharge on imports and closing the "gold window," thereby devaluing the dollar. As I write in Dark Suits and Red Guards, "this act of economic nationalism disrupted Wall Street internationalists' plans to control and manage the world economy in senior partnership with the Dark Suits of Europe and Japan." (p. 20)

No doubt the System decided to allow Nixon to be re-elected in 1972 only in view of the fact that the Democrats had fallen into an especially acute state of disarray, nominating George McGovern, whom the Insiders did not consider preferable to Nixon. In any case, it is difficult to arrest the party-political machinery in mid-career, once it has developed its full momentum. And it can be embarrassing for the ruling class to intervene in elections too openly and too strenuously. The Watergate coup was embarrassing for various men and institutions — but not so much, I think, for the ruling class. (One of its sniffy mandarins, Attorney General Elliot Richardson, he of the righteously locked jaw, actually became a media hero when he was purged in the Saturday Night Massacre.)

But Nixon lives on in popular myth as the would-be Hitler who was foiled — thank God! — first by a diligent night-watchman at the Watergate and then by the brave, unflagging Woodstein and the Honest Government Employees who helped them: including, as we now learn, at least one highly placed employee of the FBI.

Thanks to Felt's self-unmasking, all that hero-mongering is reaching a new pitch: and it is happening at the very time the heroic FBI is mounting a new effort to secure "administrative subpoena" authority, in order to protect us better from Evildoers who would, you know, terrorize us and tyrannize over us. Felt is on the front page; the "administrative subpoena" is not.

Where are all those "investigative reporters" now that we really need them? [Nicholas Strakon]

You may wish to consult a page I found on the history of the FBI at the Almanac of Policy Issues. Especially interesting in this account is the connection between "federal" law enforcement and "Progressivism." As you'll see, there's a bit of Bonapartism in the FBI's history as well. (By the way, Ronn Neff would like to point out for the benefit of any constitutionalists who may read TLD that the Constitution makes no provision for an outfit like the FBI.) [NS] (June 2005)

One and a half cheers: A temporary setback for the European centralizers. As you've heard by now, French voters on May 29 rejected the European constitution being promoted by the apparat in Brussels and by those in control of the individual nation-states themselves. And the scapegoating has already begun: as expected, Chirac sacked his premier today.

Dr. Michael A. Weinstein offers us a typically thoughtful assessment at Power and Interest News Report: "Intelligence Brief: European Constitution." The characterization of this as only a temporary setback is mine, by the way; Weinstein isn't so bold in his predictions.

According to Weinstein, one powerful bloc of voters opposed to ratification was made up of those who feared that the French welfare state might be disrupted by the continental system of "free trade" favored by the Brussels conspirators. That sort of thing is what keeps me from awarding more than one and a half cheers to this elite defeat. Even if we grant that the European consolidationists really do intend to impose genuine free trade, the European peoples would still be hagridden by the Hobson's choice between process and content that we "federalist" Americans are all too familiar with. Well: I do use the word impose advisedly.

The "process" forces on these shores are the decentralists and small-"r" republicans — the true federalists — with the "content" forces being the Central Government consolidationists. Here in America, the consolidationists long ago seized the moral and technocratic high ground in terms of content, as they restrained the individual states from imposing their own tariffs, lynching the more obstreperous among their colored minorities, categorically banning abortions, handing their science classrooms over to the Rev. Joe Bob Jeter, and so forth. In fact the consolidationists have now succeeded, pretty much, in turning the states into provinces. And all in the name of progressive "content" — republican "process" be damned.

In their long march to unitary power the consolidationists necessarily pulverized the old "process" — the Constitution as it was once understood and the republic it was supposed to support — leaving us with a centralized imperial power that continues to insist, as it has long insisted, that it is wiser, more efficient, and more humanitarian than any local authorities could ever be.*

Now, as our Augustan Age proceeds, it seems that only a remnant of us Old Americans can still manage to detect the leering skull behind the Central Government's mask of sagacity and kindness. If you doubt that, let me remind you of all those "conservatives" who petition the Central Government to ban abortion, prevent people from killing their disabled relatives, and curtail immigration. (Anyone still able to find a copy of the Constitution will fail to discover in that document any authority whatever for the Central Government to control or curtail immigration. Naturalization, yes; immigration, no.) The best thing that can be said of such people is that they have made their Hobson's choice — they have given up a useless fight — though it is puzzling that so many of them continue to describe themselves as constitutionalists.

My only advice to liberty-minded folk who don't wish to throw themselves on the mercy of their enemies is — cease this endless tinkering with government! Stop flirting with it! Quit empowering it! Break free — for God's sake, break free at last! [Nicholas Strakon]

* Please don't take me to be a sentimentalist about the old Constitution, though. It was designed to erect a powerful Central Government, and it succeeded all too well; we may of course debate just how much of that success would please, and how much would horrify, James Madison and his fellow Dr. Frankensteins.
(May 2005)

Grinning cannibals, or, Those punctiliously objective TV newscasts just keep on coming.

Grimly determined to serve you better, I force myself to monitor the telescreen for the latest news about the progress of our multicultural socialist empire, and the other night I caught a story on WANE-TV, the Fort Wayne CBS affiliate, about how northeast Indiana leads the country in recruitment for the National Guard.

According to the newsies, most of the new recruits are juniors and seniors in high school.

To illustrate something or other, WANE-TV aired tape of their attractive female Hispanic reporter venturing out upon the Guard training ground to engage in a padded-baton duel with a female recruit. Naturally the munchkinette journalista got herself slammed to the ground toot sweet — and, boy, was she ever happy about that! In fact, she was happy about everything.

All of the On-Air Personalities back at the studio were happy, too.

The chirping happyface newsreaders wound up their story by displaying the phone number for Guard recruitment.

And once again I had to run to the medicine cabinet for that bottle of Emetrol. [Nicholas Strakon]

I don't know whether TLD's bailiwick lags behind the national average in employment, but I do know that military recruiters are not meeting their quotas in most of the country. And one factor they cite is the good economy.

How inconvenient for those corrupters of youth.

Wouldn't it follow that if our overlords need to increase the recruitment figures it would be in their interest, ceteris paribus, for unemployment to increase? [Ronn Neff] (May 2005)

Strakon's neutron-bomb option. I don't hold with this sort of political activism, but if I believed that members of Congress were ordinary humans engaged in a defensible human enterprise, and that there was any point in communicating with them, I might offer U.S. senators on both sides of the aisle a truly nuclear option.

It wouldn't prevent filibusters; far from it; it would lead to more and better filibusters. Under my proposal, when any President submitted any nomination for the Central Government bench, senators of the opposite political party would do everything they could to delay, undermine, and — if all went well — kill it. And it wouldn't make any difference if Solomon himself had been proposed for a judgeship.

A fraction of statutory law purports to reflect the natural law — I'm thinking of laws against robbery, rape, murder, arson, and so on — but most statutory law is just positive law, which is to say fake law. Your typical statute is merely a legislative edict seeking to punish the commission not of a malum in se but of a malum prohibitum — i.e., an act unpopular with politicians, at least when ordinary sheepizens commit it. And that is especially true of the "law" that the "federal" court system is charged with helping to enforce.

Of course that isn't the half of it. Over the past fifty years "federal" judges-for-life have taken to issuing edicts of their own, and I trust I needn't belabor that point.

But the "federal" court system has long been overburdened, and for decades U.S. Attorneys have been forced to be extremely selective in the prosecutions they initiate. Unremitting filibusters and other disruptive maneuvers in the Senate would prevent the replacement of dying or retiring social engineers masquerading as judges, worsen the logjam on the court calendars, and eventually, just maybe, bring the whole tyrannical machine to a grinding halt.

Well, I'd like to see it. But I'm not actually going to be calling up any senators, you understand. I've got better things to do than ask tyrants to fight tyranny. [Nicholas Strakon] (May 2005)

But not too limited. George Reisman was an associate of Ayn Rand and a "name" in the Objectivist movement "back in the day." He is also an economist and an advocate of limited government.

In the May 2005 issue of The Free Market, published by the Ludwig von Mises Institute, Reisman has an interesting proposal for gradually ending Social Security. It's not a terrible proposal, and unlike the Cato proposal for reform, it actually ends the horrible plan ... well, eventually.

A key to his proposal is an income-tax exemption, an exemption that he notes should be "progressively increased from year to year to keep pace with rising prices and rising wage rates."

I consider all income-tax exemptions fine things. The more, the better. But then we read this: "States with income taxes of their own should be required to adopt the same tax exemption."

Required? By whom? This doesn't sound like the sort of language one would use if what he means is, "Voters in states with income taxes of their own should require their legislatures to adopt the same tax exemption."

So just who is supposed to be doing this requiring? If you are at all like me, in vain will you search the Constitution that is supposed to limit government for any provision permitting any federal authority to dictate tax policy to a state.

Has the libertarian movement really become so degraded that it takes anarchists to notice that a proposal is unconstitutional? Are limited-government libertarians so myopic that they don't know what a usurpation even looks like anymore?

I have asked it before, and I'll ask it again: Does it ever occur to defenders of limited government that the reason they make no headway in their policy forums is that they don't seem to take their own principles seriously? [Ronn Neff] (May 2005)

All cheer the perp walk.. An Army Reserve support company recently returned to Fort Wayne from deployment Over There, and for about a week the local telescreen outlets were aflutter with daily stories. All the coverage I saw was designed to hammer home the same point; it came out most explicitly in the stories about a downtown war rally where the returning legionaries were the honored guests. (Too bad no aerial photo was taken; it would have shown a converging web of slime tracks leading to the rally, deposited by the area's pols and ward-heelers.)

The big important point the electronic newsies were determined to make was that the soldiers and soldierettes are all heroes who deserve praise and gratitude for "defending our freedom" or "fighting to keep us free." (My quote marks are to be taken literally.) It's a safe estimate that, for most proles and members of the Outer Party, two minutes of an "objective" TV news story declaring that Bush's War is about "defending our freedom" has a more powerful effect than the publishing of two hundred detailed analytical pieces by Seymour Hersh, Robert Fisk, or Steve Sniegoski.

Let me be ultra-clear: those "defending-our-freedom" evaluations were not editorial comments supplied by the station managers in separate segments; they were embedded in what were represented as news stories, chirped at us by newsreaders and accompanied by the compulsive head-nodding that seems to reflect a rather split-minded species of sincerity: See? I agree with myself!

As I've observed before, sheeple-stroking sentimentalist propaganda is apparently the natural result of today's faddish "community-oriented reporting." This specific propaganda, of course, falls under the rubric of "supporting our troops," which the telefolk don't see as controversial. They don't consider it an editorial issue at all: I don't just agree with myself — nod, nod — I cannot even conceive of any disagreement on your part!

Some may argue that it is possible, in principle, to "support our troops" without supporting their war. A few antiwar leftists have essayed such verbal trickery, but they've had a hard time selling it. I don't buy it, and the RPG-Fodder Replacement System and Weepy Gratitude Brigade here on the home front don't buy it, either.

I've seen horses counting ... dogs walking on their hind legs ... chimps holding news conferences ... but supporting the troops without supporting their war? — that's one thing I've never seen.

Have you? [Nicholas Strakon] (May 2005

A related writing
by Strakon.

Call for papers: Did any TLD reader hear any news broadcast about the Soviet-style celebration of the end of World War II (European theater) that so much as mentioned that the Soviet Union had been in on starting the war in the first place?

Once a Bolshie, always a Bolshie: During the coverage by "All Things Considered" of the celebration in Red Square, the NPR newsreader mentioned that the Soviet Union had lost 20 million people "in the four years of war."

"Four years"?

I wonder how many more the Soviets lost in the other two years when they were attacking Poland, Finland, and the Baltic nations as the Nazis' allies. [Ronn Neff]

Victory in Europe. While parading through the wreck of the old Soviet Empire the other day, the Wee Emperor said some things that Minitrue is interpreting as a rebuke to the strategic policy of his own father, Bush I. The secession of the various Soviet republics, including the Baltic states, distressed the first Bush because the disintegration of the Soviet Empire threatened to send temblors shooting throughout the entire world imperial system. It's messy cutting up the world's pie if your partners are a contemptible rubbish of small states, as Mr. Hitler memorably put it; and in Bush I's time, who dared dream of unilateralism? Not even those sage and percipient gentleman in the employ of Israel, it seems.

Even more remarkably, Bush II's recent utterances are seen as a rebuke to the 20th century's ultimate statesgod, Franklin Roosevelt: Yalta was a mistake! It was terrible, just terrible, for the West to suddenly and unexpectedly abandon all those little countries, which quickly became captive nations under Stalin! (Stalin ... he certainly wasn't the same fellow as that twinkle-eyed, pipe-smoking Uncle Joe, was he? Our heroic, peaceloving, fraternal, democratic ally?) Alas and alack — cue those great wet crocodile tears, now — great states, in managing great events, sometimes neglect the injustices they're accidentally inflicting on miniature peoples. Thus spake our Leader.

None of this will come as a surprise to those on the Left who believe that Bush II — that dastardly laissez-faire extremist, more extreme even than Bush I — is trashing and overturning Roosevelt's legacy on the domestic front, too.

We are no more surprised than the leftists, but our lack of surprise is better grounded. Wiping away Little Bush's rhetorical ketchup about justice and injustice, we may observe that imperial strategies evolve in response to changing circumstances. In the time of Roosevelt, the United State was angling to destroy two of its imperial rivals — Germany and Japan — and angling also to inherit the status of senior world empire from the reeling, bankrupt British. In pursuit of that, the Soviets had to be tolerated; in fact, after the war the former Great Ally served usefully as a Great Enemy, providing a rationale for the garrison state at home and imperial entanglements abroad. Now, however, after the fatal failure of the Soviets' obsolete style of totalitarianism, the American Empire has marched to supplant the Soviet Empire and keep the successor Russians tractable, driving the frontier of NATO right up against the old Soviet border.

Roosevelt himself was assigned to direct an evolving, and expanding, empire in a rapidly changing world. It's easy to think of him as little more than a Soviet dupe, but he would have understood what the Chimp-in-Chief and his trainers are doing (even if Poppy Bush doesn't).

No doubt Bush II's great and good friend Vladimir Putin understands, too. It will be interesting to see whether he can do anything with that understanding. [Nicholas Strakon]

It wasn't Yalta; it was Spam and Studebaker. If the Bush II people succeed in keeping the focus narrowed to "Yalta revisionism," they will have done a pretty good job of ideological damage control: by the time of Yalta, Roosevelt was sick, you understand; sick and helpless and really not to be blamed for anything ...

In fact, however, Yalta was little more than a formal recognition of the new power structure in Central and Eastern Europe, emerging inevitably from the enormously expensive four-year operation to rescue Stalin, an operation that the Roosevelt regime had doggedly pursued in sickness and in health. To dig any deeper than Yalta would risk revising our whole understanding of the Last Good War. [Henry Gallagher Fields] (May 2005)

Scribo quia absurdum. Both have produced their share of corpses, but as leviathan's current crimes go, I do understand that its war on methamphetamine fades in comparison with its war on the Iraqis. I'm drawn to keep writing about Indiana's pseudoephedrine enactments, though, partly because it shows to what absurd lengths our supervisors, and the ward-heelers they own, will go to prosecute their drug war. I write also to show — call it Exhibit #3,529,016 — that in response to the predictable failure of their purported aims, our rulers will always move further toward tyranny and further away from freedom. Sooner or later, some of the bolder among us may risk generalizing that that's just what government people do.

And, finally, I write of the pseudoephedrine pseudocrisis because it demonstrates with renewed force the extent to which this poor country has become just unrecognizable to those of us who grew up in the '50s and even the '60s, as degraded as those eras were: there is now no tiny aspect of our lives that our masters do not feel free to invade and control. For us Old Americans, life itself has become absurd as we stumble through the ruins of this country that once was ours.

It's taken me a few days to discover the fate of the pseudoephedrine bill that was pending in the Indiana General Assembly, and what I've found may seem to contradict what I've just written about our heroic tribunes' bent toward ever greater tyranny: for the Indianapolis Star has been authorized to report that the lawfakers agreed on a "compromise" bill that would permit businesses without pharmacies to continue to sell cold medicines containing the wicked nasal decongestant pseudoephedrine. ("Legislators agree on meth bill / Vote expected today on more flexible proposal," by Michele McNeil, April 29, 2005)

Shades of Lexington and Concord — for us small-town rhinovirus sufferers, it's the sneeze heard 'round the world!

The Star was further permitted to reveal that "under the compromise on Senate Bill 444, which is expected to be voted on today [April 29], consumers would be limited to 3 grams (about 100 tablets) per transaction per week. To buy cold medicine, shoppers would have to be 18, show a state or federal ID and sign a logbook."

Digression. Here's a detail I find interesting. A few hours after posting the original "Stop and think" installment on this subject Friday night, April 29, I was surprised to hear on the evening news that the legislature had up and adjourned sine die. I quickly embedded, in the "S&t" installment, a little "Stop press" comment reflecting that fact. I wondered whether the adjournment meant "that the lawfaking has really been suspended," noting that "parliamentary legerdemain is rife."

Now comes a Chicago media outlet,, to report in a story dated May 2 — Monday! — that the bill in question passed both houses of the legislature "tonight." Indeed I understand that there may be some confusion here, but, look, I didn't start it.

If you're a betting man, this part of the Star's coverage is sure to get your attention: "The ID and logbook requirement would end in 2008, which gives the State Police time to evaluate how that provision is working, legislators said." Now, on which possibility would you put your money? — that the State Police will find that the provisions are working; that they aren't working and need to be repealed; or that they aren't working and need to be toughened. Wonder what odds they'd lay in Las Vegas.

According to the Star, the big dispute over which version of the bill would make it through didn't actually center on the pharmacy/non-pharmacy question, at least in the eyes of the bill's original author, Sen. Mitchel Young (R-Indianapolis). Instead, he "refused to consider putting cold medicine behind a counter or in a locked case." However, our Paladin of Liberty, Suitably Regulated, agreed at last to compromise, so that under the bill as passed, the cold medicine — uh, will be put behind a counter or in a locked case.

Well, you know, politics is the art of the possible. That is made clear by Rep. Trent Van Haaften, D-Mount Vernon and a "legislative negotiator," who "called the compromise meaningful: 'We're not going halfway here.'" If you thought a workable definition of "compromise" involved going halfway, you may need to take an updated civics class.

As I wrote before, Gov. Daniels had preferred the utterly Stalinist version of the bill — which was also utterly fascist, since it would have handed official pharmacies a monopoly on dispensing the cold meds. The bill as passed, though, permits convenience stores to sell up to four tablets at a time to a customer! Despite that lavish liberality, the Star quotes one of the governor's mouthpieces describing the new law as "very strong legislation that responds to the meth problem." The fact that General Secretary Daniels is happy only serves to deepen our understanding of the glories of "compromise" under our current political system.

A final lesson for us wide-eyed students of representative government: reports that, after all the sober debate and impressive parliamentary bustling, the bill passed both houses unanimously.

That's right — unanimously.

If we were watching all this from another planet, it'd be hilarious. [Nicholas Strakon] (May 2005)

Glorious mysteries of majority rule.  I've been reading about that prescription-drug bill that passed the U.S. House in February. It was narrowly approved only after debate was extended to 6 a.m. and then only after two Republicans changed their "nay" votes to "yea."

As is now known, the bill is going to be much more expensive than everyone was told it would be when all the arm-twisting and campaigning for it was going on. And plenty of people — not least, the Republicans who changed their votes — are just mad enough to spit.

But how come — really, now — if there were so many who opposed it in the first place and so many who voted for it who now wish they hadn't ... how come someone doesn't just introduce a bill repealing it?

It would probably pass.

Or is that the reason? [Ronn Neff]

Pseudoephedrine and pseudofreedom. The Indiana legislature still hasn't passed the bill controlling the sale of cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine, and time is running out in the session. Lately — praise Chronos! — the lawfakers have been stemwinding over daylight-saving time. But they've done that deed now, and it seems likely that some cold-med bill will indeed pass. According to the Indianapolis Star, the chief source of congestion is a disagreement between the bill's Senate sponsor, who apparently is only a moderate totalitarian, and Gov. Mitch Daniels, who is turning into a right proper dictator-governor along the lines of the Lincolnite thug-Governor Oliver Morton. That is to say, the Senate bill as currently written isn't harsh enough for Daniels; he prefers the House version, which would transform — hey, presto! — cold meds containing this year's devil chemical into controlled substances, dispensable only by pharmacists upon presentation of a "proper" photo ID.

Michele McNeil, writing in the Indianapolis Star, reports that "a legislative committee is negotiating over Senate Bill 444 and how far to go to fight the escalating methamphetamine problem, which is fueled by the active ingredient in many popular cold medicines." ("Daniels may not like meth bill," April 22, 2005. This link will not stay active for long.)

If the hard-line version passes, it will be impossible to legally buy cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine in my little town — there's no pharmacy here. The suspect cold-relievers are sold only at the town grocery and the convenience store/gas station. Now, there are big, official, state-approved pharmacies within ten miles in either of two directions along the four-lane highway that runs by Roanoke, and that's a good deal for us; but Mom-and-Pop pharmacies in small towns are close to being an extinct species, and I'm sure there are plenty of Indiana towns with no pharmacy that are considerably more isolated than Roanoke is.

I have to wonder what other common products will be yanked from small-town shelves over the next few years in order to advance the great state-building project and (not incidentally) award special privilege to the pharmacy industry. I hope some demented subculturals don't start stuffing toilet paper up their nose, lest we villagers be forced to hit the highway in search of a licensed druggist from whom we might score a few rolls of Charmin.

Naturally all of that is of exceedingly minor importance. No one cares about us hamlet-dwellers; I grasp that. However, I have another, bigger development to report, one that will be of special interest to students of Polite Totalitarianism. Two nationwide retail chains — Target and Wal-Mart — have already taken the cold meds off their shelves and hidden them back with the pharmacist. And they've done it "voluntarily," don't you know, quite independently of local legal requirements.

The Pharaonic rule used to be, "So it shall be written; so it shall be done." But we seem to be getting to the point where the scribes don't actually have to write down and formally publish Pharaoh's decrees. Nowadays it's enough if Pharaoh just waves his hand: and before the scribes ever put pen to papyrus, it is already done. [Nicholas Strakon] (April 2005)

New frontiers in "Libertarian" radicalism. Every April 15 you can expect to see TV coverage of tax victims driving up to the main post office in the evening hours to mail their returns. But it's pretty boring, and in order to add a spoonful of spice, sometimes the newsies will tape a few seconds of a sidewalk demonstration by Libertarian Party members. I'd always considered such demos — however brief and, well, cartoonish in terms of communicating ideas — to be vastly preferable to the efforts of the Party to win "legitimacy" as a player within the System, persuade people to endorse leviathan by voting, and get access to Power. The street action certainly had the edge in terms of morality.

Foiled again! by my congenital Pollyannish optimism: at least with respect to what the Party is doing in Fort Wayne, Ind. This April 15, the LP's sidewalk soldiers in front of the main p.o. were displaying the usual placards — "It's Your Money!" and "Honk If You Hate Taxes" and so on — but the Party official interviewed by the telescreen undermined all that, so completely that it fell with a thundering echo into a bottomless black cavern. Mike Sylvester, chairman of the Allen County LP, informed us that what the Party was really proposing was tax simplification. A stipulation dreadful enough, one would think, but once again we were to be spared nothing. Sylvester also told viewers: "You need to pay your taxes."

It's not that I expected Sylvester to tell people, on camera, that "you need to refuse to pay your taxes." That would have been pretty presumptuous, and in any case the Secret Police would have persecuted him for saying it. But what was Sylvester up to, in going out of his way to proclaim the very opposite, as some sort of imperative?

Sylvester's proclamation makes the "It's Your Money!" claim on those placards sound about as sincere as it sounds when George W. Bush the Campaigner says it. Whatever happened to "Taxation Is Robbery"? Just another casualty of "Libertarian" party-building, I suppose. [Nicholas Strakon]

I'll get the file ready, Strakon — ready for those letters to the editor we're sure to get from LP members protesting that Sylvester isn't representative of LP thinking, and promising renewed efforts to elect good people to Party offices. [Modine Herbey] (April 2005)

The "PDT." If the scriptwriters of a Cop Propaganda Show that I saw a few nights ago are reporting accurately, the Tax Police have come up with an interesting bit of in-house jargon: "PDT." It stands for "potentially dangerous taxpayer."

Now, as you know, I myself advocate nothing that our glorious, mighty, and sacred rulers might find inconvenient — nothing, in fact, but bending the knee and tugging the forelock in instant acknowledgement of their slightest whim — and I trust the eternally vigilant NSA satellites orbiting over us will detect and record that stipulation. I must observe, however, that the Patriot-Criminals of the First American Revolution were PDTs; and that if the kind but hungry wolves now among us should ever come to look upon even a sizable minority of us sheep as PDTs — why, the new Revolution would be here at last. [Nicholas Strakon]

I want to be a Good and Careful Citizen just as much as Strakon does, but I'm wondering whether we the sheeple may be permitted, at least, to coin our own jargon. I'm thinking in terms of "ADG" — "actually dangerous government." [Modine Herbey]

Success in the search for silver linings! I've derived one small mercy from this spring's soaring gasoline prices: at least they've put the quietus on that inane talk from the more naive sectors of the Left about a "war for oil." Now during Tax Robbery Season I've identified another consolation: we're no longer hearing the old statist saw that "taxes are the price we pay for civilization." Who can repeat that with a straight face these days, as all about us the primates caper, screeching and yowling? [Nicholas Strakon] (April 2005)

During John Paul II's final illness, one commentator on the telescreen lamented the fact that the Pope's indictments of "capitalism" never received as much attention as his indictments of communism. It was a complaint I'd heard before.

Now, while it's likely that the Pope hadn't as sophisticated a grasp of market economics as Mises or Rothbard, there's still plenty of room for disagreement about what JPII was really indicting. For instance, some market-friendly Christians would insist that his principal target wasn't freedom at all but rather soul-hollowed materialism, which we can find at least as readily in old-style totalitarian societies as in freer societies.

I say "freer," not "free." That's because "capitalist societies" don't actually exist, and that's something else to keep in mind. At best what we have are state-capitalist societies, with all the distortions, stagnation, and injustice inherent therein. That fact blurs any attack on "capitalism" that fails to make the crucial distinction between freedom and fascism.

But I wonder whether there's another reason that the Pope's criticisms, as they were received, fell relatively flat. Can it be that some vestigial historical memory survives, among some part of the thinking population? So that people remember that it wasn't capitalist or even state-capitalist societies that engineered famines designed to kill tens of millions of Christians and others? That it was, instead, communist societies that committed those crimes? That it was communists who liquidated millions by more direct means and sent still others, in their millions, to suffer and die in Arctic labor camps? If people don't have substantial historical knowledge at their command — which seems likely — perhaps they retain images, indelibly colorful images, of the Red Terror. Call it soulless materialism if you want, but informed by those images most people would much rather saunter into McDonald's than be bundled into a bread van and carted off to the Gulag.

The technocratic elites of the state-capitalist system have indeed started persecuting Christians, usually employing the indirect techniques of Polite Totalitarianism that they have long honed; but they haven't actually boarded up seminaries or turned churches into museums of atheism. And they haven't started torturing and shooting dissident Christian clerics. Not yet, at least.

I'm not trying to exonerate the Polite Totalitarians of any of the crimes they have committed; in fact I believe that their modernized rulership, while less overtly bloody, is ultimately a much more thorough and effective form of tyranny than that practiced by the old jackbooted gorillas carrying tommy guns. What interests me is how eagerly the anti-Christian Red Guards exploited the Pope's critique. What interests me is the intelligentsia's insistence on putting "capitalism" and communism on the same moral level. You see, it's not the statist part of state-capitalism that they hate; it's the capitalist part. [Nicholas Strakon] (April 2005)

Gumshoes in pursuit of the wicked heart. I've suspended my researches into the influence of Linear B on the evolution of Etruscan — it looks as though TLD's annual 19-day seminar in Florence will have to be postponed this year — in order to catch up with John Sandford's "Prey" series of crime novels. (I do plan eventually to translate Sandford's œuvre into Albanian and Mediæval Manchurian.) As I read, I'm beginning to see that in addition to being a master of plot, pacing, setting, and character, and the owner of a wry and lively style, Sandford has some things of sense to say about how people are evil. He has some things to say, too, about how they become evil, but I think he's at his best in showing how they are in their evil.

The series, which Sandford launched about 15 years ago, stars homicide detective Lucas Davenport of the Minneapolis PD; and in addition to being a genius multimillionaire, Davenport is, well, more than a little wolfish, and in a couple different ways. A lapsed Catholic who draws blood when he cuts corners, he's the sort of character whom mainstream critics would delight in calling "morally ambiguous" — such eggheads relish any and all ambiguity — and since I've brought up that notion it's just as well to hit it head on, as it applies to Sandford's criminal villains. Some of them, too, may appear "morally ambiguous" to reckless readers.

In the trashier movies and TV shows, and even in many crime novels, villains are left opaque to us. They're just evil — that's all we need to know. But Sandford lets us inside his villains' heads. Typically his villains are recognizable as people; they are neither cardboard nor cartoon; they are evil people who do evil things. Sometimes they understand that what they are doing is evil, but they rarely consider themselves evil.

It is interesting that some of them commit their worst crimes after their initial, ambitious crimes — aimed at self-enrichment — have gone awry; and the justification they adduce for their final, most terrible acts is a natural one, which they consider absolute: self-preservation.

Now, to recognize villains as human is not to fall into "moral ambiguity," though it is sometimes mistaken for it.

Many of Sandford's villains are moral monsters whom you wouldn't mind having a beer with, assuming you didn't think you were next on the hit list. In one "Prey" novel I read recently, Davenport opportunistically has a dance or two with a very fetching Wichita bar owner, and falls into an evanescent infatuation with her, without having any idea that she's the professional killer he's trying to identify. Though she knows all too well who Davenport is, she speculates on what it would be like to have a fling with him — while at the same time trying to figure out whether she's going to have to murder him.

In another of the Sandford books, the principal villain is a stone-cold multiple killer and wannabe rapist (he doesn't get the latter deed done), who near the end delivers to the woman he's abducted a passionate little speech, informed by militia ideology, about how ordinary Middle Americans are manipulated and tyrannized by distant, alien, contemptuous elites. Sandford did not write that speech the way a left-wing metrosexual propagandist would have, nudging us to sneer; he wrote it straight; and it almost brought me up out of my chair cheering. When the police sniper finally blew up our man's skull with a .30-caliber bullet, I exclaimed, "Finally! Good!" — and felt melancholic about it.

That's an ambivalent response, and I think it's here that a lot of people go wrong, diagnosing moral ambiguity. The character's evil deeds were unambiguously so; and he had walked far down an evil path; and he paid. But in view of the fact that not everything he thought and felt was yet evil, the reader could fairly conclude that he was not yet wholly evil. And the reader could look back, meditating on this villain's wrong turning — and perhaps speculating about the redemption of other, real-life villains. That's actually the moralizing element in Sandford's fiction, at least for me: moralizing and admonitory. (Yes, yes, I understand that mine is a thoroughly banal and petit-bourgeois approach to fiction.)

True moral ambiguity in literature, I think, makes some people happy; it lets them off the hook in their own lives and allows them to relax in a warm slimy bath of worldly wisdom; but the ambivalence I feel about Sandford's (non-psychopath) villains, as they proceed relentlessly toward their chosen fate, is painful. It should be; I trust it is meant to be. "What might have been" — "if only" — "what a waste" — that's good pain, at least when it's fictional; it may help us avoid bad pain for real. [Nicholas Strakon] (April 2005)

Calm as a turnip, peaceful as a carrot. On March 29, Michael Schiavo's lawyer, George Felos, reported that he'd just seen the dying Terri Schiavo, and she looked "very calm, relaxed, and peaceful."

Sure is funny how they describe vegetables these days, isn't it?

I'd already had some reason to suspect that this "persistent vegetative state" category the docs came up with some time ago is yet another misleading term of art, in a society already hagridden with them. Lawyer Felos seems to agree — but it is odd to hear him, of all people, admit it. [Nicholas Strakon] (March 30, 2005)

Terri Schiavo passed away on March 31, 2005.

The enemy husband. Joe Sobran writes of the Terri Schiavo case in his column for March 24, "Legal Fiction," observing that the adulterer "Michael Schiavo wants his wife to die. He invokes the sanctity of marriage to justify not only starving and dehydrating her, but causing her parents the cruelest agony parents can suffer."

And Joe asks: "How has it come about that Terri Schiavo's life is at the mercy of the very man who wants her dead? The law presumes that a husband has the best interests of his wife at heart. But the interests of spouses may not be identical, but opposed. No woman's life should depend on the good will of her enemy. After all, nobody who stands to gain by an accused murderer's execution would be allowed to sit on his jury."

The usual two-week embargo has been lifted from this column, and it has been posted to the Sobran's site. (March 2005)

The "fiery libertarian." In Newsweek's issue of March 21, reporters Michael Hirsh and Richard Wolffe assess John Bolton's nomination as the new U.S. proconsul at the United Nations, and they point out that Bolton "has spent most of his career blasting the United Nations in public, calling it an example of global government gone wild." ("Ruffling Feathers: An undiplomatic diplomat may tip the balance on Iran," p. 32) Elsewhere I've seen Bolton described as an "anti-diplomat."

A foe of the UN! An "anti-diplomat"! Well, the Birchers will be overjoyed. And not only they: libertarians, too — for Hirsh and Wolffe go on to tell us that the old apparatchik is a "fiery libertarian." Now, they do, strangely enough, name former UN proconsul Jeane Kirkpatrick as one of Bolton's "fans" — Kirkpatrick, whom I've always considered a fiery authoritarian — but doubtless this is just another case of imperialism making strange bedfellows, and not to be worried over.

Enough comedy. If the imperial regime has named a fierce UN critic as its proconsul on Turtle Bay, it must have one of two aims. Either it is seeking to tighten the empire's reins on the UN, which it created for imperial purposes in 1945 but which often behaves in a less than ideally puppetlike manner; or it is seeking to further marginalize the outfit, seeing it as a fatally outmoded instrument of world management.

Whichever is the case, the imperials certainly wish to avoid, in the future, the sort of inconvenience they suffered in early 2003 when the UN failed to fall to the floor worshipfully in the face of the planned U.S. invasion and conquest of Iraq. And that may serve as a hint that the Likudniks currently in control of the Empire aren't finished with their invasions and conquests. Or at least with their brutish intimidation of other countries: keep in mind that business about tipping the balance on Iran. I ought to mention that in addition to describing Bolton as a "libertarian," the Newsweek scribes also label him a "superhawk."

Hirsh and Wolffe aren't exactly helping us understand what's going on, in setting Bolton up as a libertarian. But immediately I have to take that back. They have helped me understand one thing only too well, and you may take this as a P.S. to my previous comments on our strategic linguistic defeats: the word libertarian is gone, just gone. [Nicholas Strakon, ANARCHIST] (March 2005)

Well, they've got one boot on the ground, anyway. Have you caught any of Minitrue's recent stories about maimed legionaries being semi-repaired and sent back into combat? Including amputees? The Ministry is representing it as a joint breakthrough in military medicine and humanitarianism. It strikes me, though, as a fairly desperate resort for an imperial military that is fast running out of warriors who still have all their original parts. Something's got to give. [Nicholas Strakon] (March 2005)

Could the Central Committee please straighten out the party line? On March 11, WANE-TV, the Fort Wayne CBS affiliate, ran a feature by CNN reporter Gary Tuchman on the question of whether men and women find different things funny, and if so, why. Sorority sisters were paired up with fraternity brothers to watch a variety of comic material, and in terms of responding to humor, Tuchman observed that "more often than not, our couples looked like they were watching different programs."

In a cut to the de rigueur academic snippet, psychologist Ed Dunkleblau, an "expert on humor," proposed that "genetically, the thing that allows people [males] to like the Three Stooges is the same thing that requires them to hold the [TV] remote." Discounting the routine and gratuitous male-bashing, meditate on that word "genetically." In certain very similar contexts, it's almost as unspeakable as the "n" word.

CNNster Tuchman said that "culture, of course, is a major determinant of what males and females laugh at, but some in the medical field believe the way our brains are wired may have something to do with it, too." Cut to another academic snippet, this time featuring Dr. Ruben Gur of the University of Pennsylvania, who said: "It appears that men and women have very different, not just cognitive styles, but perhaps more importantly, emotional styles."

Neither Dunkleblau nor Gur was represented as a wild-haired thoughtcriminal.

What actually spurred me to write this observation more than anything else was the black female newsreader's intro to Tuchman's story: "We all know men and women think differently." Ah, yes: "We all know."

But in Minitrue's coverage of the latest Lawrence Summers Scandal at Harvard, it was not casually presumed that "we all know." Quite the contrary! As you may recall, the Harvard prexy broached the possibility that inborn differences in men's and women's brains — genetically based differences — naturally give rise to different cognitive styles when it comes to the study of math and science. The Red harpy-academics at Harvard erupted in a firestorm. And Minitrue dutifully reported Summers's ideas as incandescently controversial — not as something that "we all know."

That "we all know" bit really gets me. In a country and in a climate where a wide range of opinion was encouraged and welcomed, the radically different import of the CNN story and the Harvard harpy firestorm would be unremarkable. But we don't enjoy such a climate here in the birthplace of the First Amendment, where the ruling class controls Big Academia and Big Media, and all the respectable Little People immediately hop into the tall grass and shiver like rabbits in the presence of dissident opinion. Thus my puzzlement. How can this CNN "deviationism," which is so obvious to me, be so invisible to almost everyone else? What's going on?

It's my guess that what we see here isn't really a crooked party line so much as something I've diagnosed before: the result of epistemological chaos, strenuously and relentlessly promoted among the people. It's bad enough that Americans have been rendered incapable of recognizing radically different contexts, leading them — for instance — to believe that failing to pay one's "fair share" in taxes amounts to Theft from the People, and that unprovoked attacks on foreign countries are a form of self-defense. But even worse, Americans have been rendered incapable of recognizing similar contexts: that is, rendered incapable of generalizing. In this particular case, they are expected to recognize a superficial difference in context — a humorous story about humor versus a serious story about serious human traits — while at the same time remaining oblivious to a substantial similarity of context.

Now as intellectual ducking-and-diving goes, that's pretty intricate, and don't ask me exactly how it is accomplished. I'm still trying to figure all of that out — how we are educated to be exquisitely sensitive to precisely where thoughtcrime resides, and how we are trained to unreflectively and automatically blank out potentially dangerous mental connections before they reach the level of full consciousness. Unquestionably it is a great triumph on the part of the Polite Totalitarians. Now that most media consumers and schooling-victims have been rendered incapable of coherent thought, our supervisors don't have to keep tabs on every little deviation and squash it, all too publicly. Our masters can celebrate the simulacrum of free expression without being skewered by the real thing. [*] [Nicholas Strakon] (March 2005)

Another strategic theft, another strategic defeat. In his recent essay "George Washington: The dark side," Henry Gallagher Fields writes of how thieving consolidationists obliged true federalists to resort to the term "Anti-Federalist," and he goes on to describe "the dismal American tradition whereby Lincoln could orate about defending self-determination while pulverizing its remnants in the Southern States; socialists could steal the term 'liberal'; and technocratic tinkerers could steal the term 'libertarian.'" That type of strategic thievery isn't committed only by Americans. The theft of "liberal" by socialists, for example, actually began in England and Germany.

Now I've come across a passage in James Billington's Fire in the Minds of Men that reminds me of something I started to recognize in my college days when I was a left-libertarian: "socialism" and "socialist" themselves represent an important act of — well, I'll say misappropriation instead of theft, because no one else previously "owned" the terms. Billington writes:

[Saint Simon's] followers in the 1830s first gave widespread use not only to the word "socialism" but also — in the course of 1831 alone — to "socialize," "socialization," and socializing the instruments of labor. These usages were at times only an extension of older Saint-Simonian terms like organization and association, but they carried new suggestions of social control and of challenge to liberal individualism. (p. 216)
We suffered an important early defeat when the liberals of the time — especially the French laissez-fairists — failed to "homestead" and secure the term "socialist," and use it to emphasize the fundamental distinction between society and the state. No doubt the chances for that were ruined by the developing democratic ideology, which claims that the state rightfully emerges as the free choice of society. But by all rights, "socialized" medicine — for instance — should be understood as a profession and industry altogether separated from the state and stripped of all state control and influence. Instead, 170 years ago, "socializing" an activity came to mean "statizing" it and removing it from the control of men acting freely and spontaneously: that is to say, acting socially.

Early American individualist-anarchists such as Benjamin Tucker opposed "capitalism" as it was developing in the 19th century (i.e., state-capitalism), and they even misguidedly attacked some elements of real capitalism, such as interest and rent. But as I recall from my reading of Tucker (in my college days), he associated himself with the label "socialist" not only because of his critique of capitalism but also because he saw plainly, and insisted upon, the distinction between society and the state. I myself, owing to Tucker's influence, began sometimes describing myself as a "socialist," proclaiming that "socialist," rightly understood, was synonymous with "anarchist."

Some other young libertarians of the day were on the same wavelength. At the big antiwar demo in Washington in April 1971, the Radical Libertarian Alliance comrades with whom I marched described themselves to the surrounding statist-leftists as "people's market socialists." Now you may detect, in that, a bit of sucking up to the Left (also known as creative "outreach"), but I think the RLA guys were sincere. The actual leftists (and drugged-out hippies) around us, though, just scratched their hairy heads. Some probably assumed we were spies for John Mitchell who hadn't quite got the lingo down pat — along the lines of undercover cops trying to infiltrate the Yippies while wearing buzz-cuts and white socks.

What lesson did I learn from that, comrades? The lesson that important linguistic defeats are irreversible. They are permanent, out in the great world, or at least as permanent as any social phenomenon can be. What, then, is to be done? As I see it, we ought to continue to protect our own language and talk plainly among ourselves — and try to do it without becoming utterly unintelligible to the people around us. A tall order, I admit, in our era of epistemological chaos. (What edition of the Newspeak Dictionary are we on now?) Here's a taller order. Though we won't able to stop further Orwellian thefts and reversals in popular language, we can try getting something across to the few who may heed us: Our rulers distribute, to the ruled, subsidies and welfare "benefits," and we know what those things really are; but the language distributed by the ruling intelligentsia is often stolen property, too. And stolen property of the most profoundly corrupting kind: the kind that actually prevents thought.

Yes, you'll probably just be rewarded with more head-scratching. But you never know — enough massaging of the scalp, and a fellow may eventually jostle some brain cells into waking up. [Nicholas Strakon]

James H. Billington, Fire in the Minds of Men: Origins of the Revolutionary Faith (New York: Basic Books, 1980)

(March 2005)

Once again, it's even worse ... At a time when most folks would think you'd have to be just nuts to sign up for the National Guard and be sent to Iraq for God knows how long, we find this story breaking in the Indianapolis Star:  "National Guard recruiter charged in sexual assaults:  Westfield man indicted by Hamilton County authorities for allegedly assaulting six young women he enlisted,"  by James A. Gillaspy (February 28). Here's a slice:

"These were very young women who were being recruited out of high school classes," said Hamilton County Prosecutor Sonia Leerkamp. "Most of these activities took place either before they signed up as an actual recruit for the National Guard or just after their recruitment had been established but before they left for basic training."
Apparently this is the Guard's way of making "service" in Iraq look good. And it seems to have worked with these poor girls. [Nicholas Strakon]

•  Follow-up story in the Star (March 1).

Meditate a moment on the import of the reporters' lead sentence. And also on the irony of those No Child Left Behind provisions. [NS, March 5]

Do these people hear what they're saying? On March 1, the last day for bills originating in the Indiana House to be approved and sent to the Senate, all the House Democrats walked out and stayed out, forestalling a quorum and derailing 132 bills, including the hotly debated Daylight Saving Time proposal. (The Republicans did the same thing a year ago when they were in the minority and were blocked in trying to pass some anti-homosexualist legislation.)

On March 2, in the course of reporting the story, a newsreader for the Fort Wayne CBS-TV affiliate declared that "Republicans control both the House and the Senate."

Uh, no. The most salient implication of the very story the poor fellow was trying to report is that Republicans do not control the House. Right? All they have is a majority there, which clearly they have been unable (or unwilling) to translate into control. I've seen the same moronic error many times in news coverage of the U.S. Congress. It must originate from assumptions about democracy and "majority rule" that have failed to evolve beyond the kindergarten level.

Now, I'm not asking for political analysis of a Machiavellian subtlety. I'll settle for ordinary logic and the ordinary use of ordinary words on the part of those journalistas, and other adults, who managed to graduate from kindergarten. But I'm being a little subtle here myself: Imagine the upheaval that would result if, in thinking about politics and government, people did rely on ordinary habits of mind! [Nicholas Strakon]

P.S. Naturally, in refusing to do their job as lawfakers the Democrats struck a blow for liberty. Here's one example. Among the bills derailed was one that would have denied work permits and driver's licenses to those leaving school before age 18. Actually these bills are as hard to kill as a vampire, but if we're lucky, this forced-schooling measure is one little blood-sucker that will not rise from the grave. (Yes, I know: work permits and driver's licenses are pretty noxious to begin with. Ihre Papiere, bitte!) [NS] (March 2005)

A Best Picture worse than we could have imagined. My first warning about "Million Dollar Baby" centered on the insidiousness of the moviemakers' exploiting the heroic-struggle-for-success-against-all-odds theme to promote the creepy and nasty "sport" of female boxing. On the surface "Baby" looked like a cinematic example of what Ayn Rand called romantic realism — a portrayal of life as it can be and ought to be — and people nowadays are just starved for that sort of thing. If people are starving they can be more easily tricked into consuming good-looking garbage.

Thanks to a couple of brave and honest critics, even those who swore a blood oath never to see "Baby" now know the "secret" of the film, and know also that, as usual, the truth is even worse than they could have imagined.

Two-thirds of the way through, the heroic female-boxer character, played by Hilary Swank, takes a bad hit while fighting, and falls and bangs her head — and she spends the rest of the movie paralyzed from the neck down. She has to have a leg amputated. She begs the Clint Eastwood character to murder her, and he finally does.

So much for romantic realism. Imagine an alternate Atlas Shrugged in which, two-thirds of the way through, the minions of Mr. Thompson turned John Galt into a C-4 quad, and Galt spent the rest of the book pleading with Dagny Taggart to murder him. Imagine also that neither the reviews nor the blurb on the book's cover mentioned that odd little plot turn, which abruptly cut every bit of ground out from under the book's apparent theme. Do you suppose one or two readers yearning for a story of human efficacy and achievement might have felt betrayed?

Enraged, even?

In "Million Dollar Baby" Hollywood has managed to give us a Best Picture that is execrable in the sight of both Christians and Randians. Quite an accomplishment. What a stinkfest. It's past time for Eastwood to retire; he's betrayed everything he once stood for. [Nicholas Strakon]

One might think that "Baby" could have at least one wholesome and beneficent effect: discouraging young female viewers from participating in such an insane and degraded "sport," in view of the catastrophe that befalls the Swank character. But what do you want to bet we'll soon see some wire story or TV report proclaiming the good news that "Million Dollar Baby" has provoked a wild upsurge of interest in boxing among young girls, who are simply flooding into the gyms ...? I don't put money on the fights, but I'd be willing to put money on that. [Modine Herbey]

Unfilm vaporized doubleplusquick. The System doesn't mess around. In a wrap-up on the Oscars that was distributed to CBS affiliates February 28, reporter Manuel Gallegos declared that 2004 was a year "with no really big box-office blockbuster." Whoosh goes "The Passion"! — right down the memory hole. [NS] (February 2005)

Transportation is one of those "commanding heights" that any good totalitarian regime will want to keep its boots firmly planted on, and our own American totalitarians, grimacing at us from behind their goo-goo smiley masks, have long since proved the usefulness of state-managed transportation for exerting social control.

That includes transportation of children, as we all saw during the forced-integration busing crisis. (Forced-integration busing continues, of course, but it's no longer a crisis because no one has enough energy left to protest it, and familiarity has not bred contempt but instead extinguished it.) A suburban Fort Wayne school district — Southwest Allen County Schools — now steps forward, stomping its boots and rattling its armor, to remind us how commanding this particular commanding height can be.

On January 19 (the birthday of Robert E. Lee and Lysander Spooner, as it happens) the suburban district adopted a program of random drug testing for students who participate in extracurricular activities or who enjoy the "privilege" of driving themselves to and from school. Students who decline to surrender to this atrocious invasion of their person will lose their driving "privilege." (See "SACS Approves Drug Testing Policy," WANE-TV News, January 19, 2005.)

As I always say Ronn Neff always says, it's always worse than you think. These jumped-up Stalinists have the power to induce most children to attend their schools, by robbing the children's parents of the money they could otherwise use to buy proper education on the market. Now it turns out they also have the power to regulate how their captive customers get themselves to school. You don't want your kid riding the school bus? So you supply him a car and pay for the gas? Well, don't expect anyone to thank you for freeing up a seat on the old kid-hack. No, they'll thank you for something else — you've just driven your kid even farther under the School Stalinist heel.

How did these smelly little tyrants get this power? When did they get it? How deeply were we sleeping when they got it?

One poor girl quoted by WANE-TV — she's a senior at Homestead High School — sees nothing wrong with the program, saying, "I have nothing to hide. The people who don't have anything to hide aren't really worried about it."

The education of America's youth proceeds apace. [Nicholas Strakon]

Comment. Since most state schools in the suburbs have isolated themselves on their own sprawling compound — oops, I mean campus — these Stalinists must actually be talking about parking privileges, since there's probably no legal street parking within blocks or even miles of their drone-factory. I guess you could say that control of parking can be a commanding height of a commanding height. [Modine Herbey] (February 2005)

The symbols that are fashionable among the trendy, cool, and celebrated can clue us in to what's happening in the culture at large. Twenty years ago no one who was trendy, cool, and celebrated would dare wear any Christian iconography. Ankhs, yes; crucifixes or rosaries, yecch! In those days, the overall cultural atmosphere was still sufficiently Christian that someone might actually have blundered and accused a Beautiful Person of being a Christian! Or at least of being Christian-tolerant. That would have been excruciatingly embarrassing at best, and if the trend-worshipping masses had believed the accusation, why, the Beautiful Person would have risked being demoted to Ugly Personhood, if not Unpersonhood.

You've come a long way, Damien. The Beautiful People aren't worried any longer, if we're to believe a little item I saw in my local paper's features section, based on wire reports:

Before, it was Madonna with her Kabbalah yarn bracelets. Now it's Britney and Becks [soccer star David Beckham] with their rosaries.

When they and other trendy celebs started wearing rosaries as necklaces last fall, sales of the beads boomed in Europe.

"Rosaries are the new pearls," declared one fashionable blog. ("Glorious mystery," Fort Wayne [Ind.] News-Sentinel, February 4, p. 1F)

Catholic clergy are unimpressed.

I am impressed, though. In 2005 the overall de-Christianization of the West has apparently progressed far enough that the Beautiful People are no longer afraid of being taken for Christians — because none of their admirers, however moronic, is likely to make that mistake any longer. In the metropolitan mind, Christian symbols are receding into the realm of mere fashion, becoming trivial trinkets and baubles signifying nothing beyond themselves. [Nicholas Strakon]

There may be more to it, Strakon. Some of the Beautifolk may not actually be indifferent to Christianity. They may be flaunting those rosaries in order to show contempt for Christianity. [Modine Herbey] (February 2005)

The war against drug users  is a war against everyone. We see that demonstrated anew in the latest proposals from our little totalitarian lawfakers. Being considered in both the Indiana General Assembly and the U.S. Senate are bills that would remove common OTC cold medicines from the shelves and hide them away, back in the pharmacist's fortress. The Senate bill is being sponsored by none other than Evan Bayh (D-Goldman Sachs), who was re-anointed by freedom-indifferent Indiana voters in November.

Some leading cold meds, you see, contain pseudoephedrine, a chemical that is used in making methamphetamine, which is the latest Demon Drug that the Authorities are all upset about. If the bills pass, you'll have to queue up and request the meds from your pharmacist, showing whatever "proper" ID the state may permit you to have, and letting the state-drone behind the counter take it down and send it in to the Drug Police.

One area pharmacist was interviewed about the scheme, and he said there would be no problem in implementing it. That's because all the high-tech gear for communicating with the Drug Police and sending them information about customers is already in place at drugstores.

Good to know they're looking after us this way. (Better stock up on Vitamin C while it's still legal.)

By the way, since Bayh the bankers' and war-contractors' tool is involved in the Senate bill, it won't surprise you to learn that there is a fascist element to this totalitarianism. It would award special privilege to pharmacies, by leaving convenience stores that sell common cold meds ... well, out in the cold. They're not wedded intimately enough, electronically or otherwise, to the Central Authorities. [Nicholas Strakon]

Follow-up. According to an Associated Press story February 20, bills controlling cold medicines are pending in at least 26 states; and the controls are already law in Oklahoma. An important provision of the "model bill" that I originally neglected to mention is its restriction on the quantity of cold meds any one customer could buy at a time. [NS] (February 2005)

In the "debate" over Social Security, we hear the Democrats say over and over that Social Security is not an investment plan, but an insurance plan; nevertheless they voice their support for expanding the opportunities for Americans to invest. At the same time they explain that there would be no problems with Social Security (until 2074 or so) if the president's tax cuts would just be reversed.

It doesn't seem to occur to them that expanding opportunities for investment might have something to do with reducing taxes.

As for the Republicans, no matter how much they talk about "ownership," the one suggestion they will not be giving any consideration whatever to — neither, for that matter, will any of the libertarian policy wonks who take part — is to make participation in Social Security voluntary.

It doesn't seem to occur to them that if the people who wanted out were allowed to get out Republicans would have fewer difficulties finessing those so-called transition costs. [Ronn Neff] (February 2005)

OK, we're not even going to try unpacking this one. As we've noted previously, there's a move afoot in the Indiana General Assembly for a constitutional amendment to keep state officials from licensing the live-in liaisons of homosexual couples ("gay marriage"). On February 8, while testifying against the proposed ban, an advocate of homosexualism asserted that Hoosier "gays and lesbians" were over in Mesopotamia "fighting for our freedom" and asked, rhetorically, what kind of "freedom" those heroes and heroines were going to find back here at home.

Sorry if that makes your head swim. (February 2005)

The other night I was stopped by one of the larger and more dangerous gangs in Fairfax County, Va. They have been in existence for a long time and most of my neighbors don't mind them. What I'm saying is that I had to pass through a police checkpoint to get home. The peace officer who required me to stop without charging me with having committed a crime and who demanded (politely, to his way of thinking) to see my state-issued permission to operate the vehicle I purchased without his help was a youngish man. He explained that there had been a fair amount of gang violence in the neighborhood recently. What that had to do with me he never said. But it is true that there has been a fair amount of gang violence nearby lately — in an adjacent neighborhood made up of rental units occupied mostly by Salvadorans. And I am told that some of the younger boys in my neighborship may be members, which I guess is a crime.

I remarked that with all the bright lights that were set up in the middle of the street and with all the police cars flashing their rack lights, it seemed to me unlikely that the police would catch many gang members; they'd just intercept a bunch of old farts like me. The peace officer smiled, lowered his voice, and said, "We have a saying: we only catch the dumb ones."

He returned my permission to operate my vehicle and wished me a good night.

I was not in the least bothered by any of this. I understood perfectly:

Here were a bunch of cops — about 10 — who were working a completely safe detail. They were all armed. They were many. And they weren't likely to actually have to deal with any gang members. Those "dumb ones" who did stray into their net would be likely to be docile and compliant. The peace officers themselves were probably safer at this checkpoint than any of them would have been if they'd been out stopping speeders or drivers who coasted through stop signs.

So here you have these guys hanging out with their buds for a few hours, more than half a mile from where the violence actually was taking place. They get to shoot the breeze with the guys they hang out with anyway. Many of them were probably collecting overtime pay. Heck, they could even have had a few pizzas delivered. ("What's that address, sir?" "Never mind. You can't miss us.") Assuming the delivery guy didn't look like a gang member. In the end, they took down all their equipment and went home. Or out for a couple of beers. And the people in my neighborhood will all breathe a sigh of relief at this display of power and protection. "At least the police are doing something," they will say. How often do peace officers get patted on the back for doing virtually nothing?

What's not to like? [Ronn Neff] (February 2005)

Republicans have across-the-board majorities in the new Indiana General Assembly, and they've reintroduced a measure to place a ban on homo marriage into the state constitution. There's already a statutory ban in place, but the Republicans are insisting a constitutional amendment is necessary, on the theory, it appears, that a constitutional provision is less vulnerable to being chewed up in court by the homo lobby. (Ha, ha. Grownups have their little fantasies, too.)

Naturally the homo lobby is being heard from. On February 1 the CBS affiliate in Fort Wayne, WANE-TV, quoted a spokesman for the Indiana Civil Liberties Union to the effect that there are 1,300 "federal benefits" available to state-licensed normal couples but not available to homosexuals, because their liaisons are currently unlicensable. Naturally the homos want their share of the more-lucrative variety of "civil liberties."

Really, it all comes down to the swag these days, doesn't it? [Nicholas Strakon] (February 2005)

From Doug Olson's Freak Files: It's not the hate, it's the honkies. A bizarre series of events at Wooster College, an 1,800-student liberal-arts institution 60 miles south of Cleveland, provides an important glimpse at the truth about "hate crimes": it's not "hate" that the anti-haters hate, it's white people.

Last fall, two dormitories fell victim to graffiti. Most of it was embarrassingly inane, such as crude drawings of penises, references to "eel semen" and "F*ck the hippie bullsh*t," but a Jewish and black roommate combo received a swastika and an "I hate minorities" in dry-erase marker on their message board. That made it a "hate crime."

The campus was in an immediate uproar. The college president pronounced himself "dismayed and angered," and wrote that "we cannot and will not tolerate actions ... that are intended to intimidate." The student paper demanded that the hate-criminals be expelled. At a forum, students cried and told how "p*ssed" and scared they were.

Who did it? "A typical white male," tolerant, non-judgmental freshman Kamilla Fellah recalls thinking. "Those bastards!"

Then, nearly two months later, the perps themselves called a meeting to unmask themselves. There were six, described by Cleveland Scene as "men and women, gay and straight, women's studies and philosophy majors. One of them was Jewish. They were all sorry."

They included Stephanie Wedryl, ethnically unidentified, and Megan Mitchell, a senior double-majoring in philosophy and black studies. (Note the pointed absence of "black and white" in the Scene's description, as well as the omission of the black-studies reference.)

The students claimed that they had been promised leniency for confessing. They had been drunk, were trying to be funny, and hadn't realized that one of their victims was Jewish.

How odd it was, then, that running randomly amuck they managed to place the swastika with a Jewish student! But how convenient that they happened to do their work with dry-erase markers on message boards, avoiding any messy charges of actual property damage. In that respect, at least, some Higher Power really must look after drunks.

Following their confessions, the vengeful crowd melted. "If I were in your position, it would take a lot of courage," said one onlooker. "I'm pretty sure that you are good people," gushed another.

The wrathful student paper quickly withdrew its demand for expulsion: "Even though this is a very serious crime, it is important to address it through education, rather than through just outcasting [sic] these people." The president suddenly became "tolerant," and he suspended, rather than expelled, the miscreants, who can return in 2006.

It goes without saying that a gang of white males who made precisely the same confession, in the same forum, under the same circumstances, would have been lucky to escape with their disgusting pale skins intact. The only difference was the ethnicity, religion, (homo)sexuality, and leftist politics of the perps — which was enough to turn all the useful idiots' fears and tears into empathy and compassion. "White bad, nonwhite good" is the inexorable lesson — even when the nonwhites are demonstrably not good, and the whites are demonstrably innocent.

Like nearly all phony "hate crimes" these days — and especially those on campuses — the truth about the perpetrators will be buried deeper and more completely than any Egyptian pharaoh. You read it here — but just try to find it anywhere else outside north-central Ohio! [Douglas Olson]

Comment. Didn't it strike anyone as suspicious that the supposed "hate message" was expressed in politically correct language? What sort of racist would actually say "I hate minorities" when there are plenty of pungent ethnic, racial, and religious insults within the vastness of the English language? [Malcolm Reynolds] (February 2005)

Strength through Joy. If you have any doubt that the Washington Times is nothing more or less than the Völkischer Beobachter of our times (the New York Post is Der Stürmer), get a load of the print-edition headline for January 31, in about 90-point bold, no less:


Nothing biased there! On the other hand, one might find the use of the word "explode" an unfortunate choice, considering the context. [David T. Wright]

$80 billion more in stolen money. That's what they want to spend over there now. $80 billion more. $80 billion more. $80 billion more.

$80 billion more.

Dispassion. In deciding on the latest Oscar nominations, the Academy has denied "The Passion of the Christ" recognition in any major category, tossing Gibson's blockbuster two minor noms and one middling nom (for musical score). Maybe Christians and Christian-friendlies shouldn't get too indignant over this snub. Sometimes it's better — cleaner, at least — to go unrecognized by one's enemies. As a compulsive moviegoer (movie-renter, actually), I'm not yet ready to "secede" from Hollywood, but maybe we ought to thank the Hollywood Establishment for reminding us how definitively they have seceded from us. [Nicholas Strakon]

Boots off the ground. In preparing the "Died-in-Vain Watch" for the week of January 16-22, I was struck by the ratio of U.S. legionaries wounded to those killed. It was about 17 to 1. (120 WIA vs. 7 KIA.) I believe that in World War II the ratio was only about 2 to 1.

It's very difficult to kill an imperial legionary these days. Most observers are satisfied to celebrate the sophistication of the military's modern medical service, pointing out that unless a soldier is killed outright, immediate evacuation from the front and 21st-century trauma techniques are highly likely to ensure his survival, in one condition or another. (Body armor and other such space-age equipment play a part, too.) But those concerned to assess the success or failure of the Iraqi and Afghani insurgencies may want to look through the other end of the telescope. In college I knew an Army veteran who had been a company armorer for a time and seemed to possess an impressive breadth and depth of knowledge about military small arms, especially pistols. He claimed that in choosing a pistol caliber the European militaries operated under a philosophy different from that of the U.S. military. At the time, the U.S. military still issued the Colt Model 1911 in .45 ACP, while European militaries (including those of the Warsaw Pact) preferred pistols firing the 9mm Parabellum.

According to my friend, the U.S. military — after its nasty experience with hopped-up Filipino guerrillas bursting out of the bush swinging bolos — chose the .45 for its immediate stopping power: the big, heavy, rather slow bullet struck with tremendous shock, and one result was that a good body shot tended to kill the insurgent.

The Europeans, expecting conventional forces in line of battle to be the more exigent threat, went with the 9mm, a higher-velocity round with greater penetrating power that tended to wound more often than kill. My friend claimed that the Europeans actually preferred that result, because wounding a soldier placed a heavier burden on the enemy — on its transport and medical services — than simply killing him would have.

Now, I recognize that part of this story, as it concerns the Europeans' ratiocination, has to be bogus. Pistols have a negligible tactical effect; at least that is so in modern warfare, whether conventional or counterinsurgency. Usually pistols are issued exclusively to officers, and mostly just as morale-sustainers. What I'm focusing on is the burdensome effect of "merely" wounding enemy soldiers rather than killing them. That sounds true.

At least it is true enough that we shouldn't neglect, as many seem to be doing, the mounting totals of WIA in the Likudniks' Mesopotamian adventure. 120 in a single week! Those soldiers were removed as effectives, and in addition to the financial cost of transporting and caring for them, some proportion of them won't ever be returning to battle. The loss of those, in terms of operations, is just as absolute as if they had been killed. Amid all the praise for the Empire's ultra-modern trauma care and next-generation Kevlar, we'd better not forget the financial and tactical costs of a legionary's "merely" being wounded. Our imperial supervisors would be happy if we did forget them; in this as in so much else, they depend on our forgetfulness. [Nicholas Strakon] (January 2005)

The accountability moment. Who could have thought that George W. Bush, renowned for his inability to speak in coherent sentences, could actually come up with a Clintonism that was better than many uttered by the notorious Bill Clinton himself?

Remember how Clinton's facile explanations and twinkle-toed dodging used to have the right-wingers tearing their hair out in frustration? Well, now Bush seems to have gotten the knack for that kind of thing as well. It's true that he'll never be as slick as Clinton (or slick at all, for that matter), and, since he's capable only of a kind of painful-looking smirk, he can't hope to duplicate Billy-Boy's patented coprophagous grin. But Clinton himself must have shaken his head with admiration at Bush's latest response to a hard (well, semi-hard) question.

In an interview with the Washington Post published January 16, Bush declared that there was no need to hold anyone accountable for the massive, burgeoning disaster of the U.S. war against the Iraqis. "We had an accountability moment, and that's called the 2004 elections," he said. "The American people listened to different assessments made about what was taking place in Iraq, and they looked at the two candidates, and chose me."

There you go. Bush won the election, therefore anything that was an issue before the election is settled. He doesn't have to answer to anybody. If Richard Nixon were still alive, he'd be slapping his forehead and muttering, "Why didn't I think of that?"

But that's not all. In response to a question on why the Empire has been unable to run the Evildoing Fiend Osama bin Laden to ground, despite the fact that the United State invaded and occupied an entire country in a purported effort to do just that, Bush's response was clear, concise, and irrefutable:

"Because he's hiding."

Zowie! And Sniegoski says he's stupid! [David T. Wright]

The Washington Post will ask you
to register before accessing the story.

Our Great Teacher and Philosopher of Democracy. I'll go further than the esteemed Mr. Wright and declare that Little Bush has proved himself a truthteller and sage, far more percipient and profound in his understanding than the intellectual flyweights of the media who proclaimed, after the late election, that Bush voters had meant to vote only for "moral values" or only for two SUVs in every garage — for anything, that is, but the war. Professor Doctor Bush knows that a voter's compunctions and complicated motives don't matter; however half-hearted a voter may be with respect to one or another aspect of a candidate, his vote cannot be. It's all or nothing. A winning pol has a perfect right to claim that the voters have endorsed his policies across the board, during that pitiful "accountability moment" the System permits them, and that's doubly so when the pol has established a record on the basis of those policies.

Democracy is Glorious, isn't it? [Nicholas Strakon]

Nonfalsifiability, here we come.  According to CBS News on January 18, the Empire is now saying that if some Iraqis vote on January 30, The System Will Have Worked. The Wee Emperor himself was even bolder, saying that even if Iraqis are too scared to dodge the explosions on the way to the polls, and decide to stay home, "They wanna vote, and that's important." [Henry Gallagher Fields] (January 2005)

David T. Wright has once again confected an image that our imperial masters may or may not appreciate. We're pretty sure you will, though. (January 2005)

Million-dollar poison. The movie "Million Dollar Baby," just released, is garnering universal praise from the consensus world for its portrayal of a low-class — "trailer-park trash" — young woman's heroic struggle to achieve self-fulfillment. It stars the brilliant and appealing Oscar-winner Hilary Swank, and it is directed by the brilliant and appealing Oscar-winner Clint Eastwood, who also plays the male lead. Perennial Oscar nominee Morgan Freeman is in it, too. I probably won't catch the flick in the theater, but I doubt I'll be able to resist renting it when it comes out on video.

I should resist, though. The movie deals with female boxing.

For those of us who have kept a wary eye on the explosion of female athletics over the past couple of decades, "Million Dollar Baby" represents another ugly milestone on the highway to the post-Western dystopia. For many years, visitors to New Orleans have been able to sample "nude female mud-wrestling," but lately a somewhat cleaned-up, semi-nude form of female wrestling has achieved enormous popularity on the mass-mind telescreen. Can coed wrestling or boxing be far behind? Already we hear of a schoolgirl's feministically demanding to be allowed to play football with the boys.

Given the collapse of chivalry and decency among American males, and the decline of simple normality in so many men's sexual thinking, I fear we may be seeing a convergence of female athletics with an especially vile form of violent, sadistic pornography. In particular, I fear that "Million Dollar Baby," represented as an inspiring drama of heroic endeavor, will fertilize certain awful impulses among many male viewers.

The anti-culture practiced by Hollywood already puts real-life young ladies in danger when it shows little 120-pound women flipping through the air, strutting about with karate kicks, and pounding 250-pound musclemen — also expert in karate — into the pavement. May God forbid that girls who consume those movies and TV shows ever come to believe that such cartoonish nonsense depicts reality. And may God forbid that boys who consume the same crud ever come to assume that girls may be freely manhandled and slapped around, because, after all, They can take it. They fight, don't they? (And play coed football?)

You've come a long way, baby, since "The Perils of Pauline."

Those of us determined to revive our Westernness have no difficulty smelling, and spurning, garbage movies starring Adam Sandler or Pam Anderson. More tempting, and insidious, are movies that are exquisitely crafted, heroically themed, brilliantly acted — and equally poisonous to our mores. [Nicholas Strakon]

Roger Ebert says "Baby" is "the best film of the year."

Comment. The ultra-violence of our time is in itself one clear sign of our collapse, but a sad corollary is the fact that many young women feel the need to learn karate or other martial arts, or adopt the .45-caliber alternative (my own resort). I'll always enjoy shooting (paper targets), but I do have to ask: Where are our male champions? [Modine Herbey] (January 2005)

I get tired of it, too, but these days we dissidents have to point out the obvious over and over and over again. The obvious point this time is that U.S. government aid to the victims of the South Asian tsunami is not charitable and is not benevolent; its only moral import derives from the fact that it is made possible by robbery, extortion, and fraud. It is nothing more than the distribution of stolen property. Charity and benevolence are inherently voluntary; they do not survive at the point of a gun.

Those unimpressed by moral arguments may wish to reflect on the fact that fake government "charity" literally has the effect of suppressing real charity: less wealth is available to the truly charitable among the productive members of society. And when approached for donations the productive may be forgiven for saying, "No, sorry, I gave at the IRS." [Nicholas Strakon]

Let's at least be adults about this and recognize that, whatever Washington is pretending to do on the "charitable" front, it's actually doing it for reasons of state. [Modine Herbey] (January 2005)

I've been waiting patiently for someone to mount a major new production of The Merchant of Venice so I could pass along a little historical tidbit I stumbled across a year or so ago. It's time: a movie version starring Al Pacino as Shylock has just come out, and once again we're hearing the mandatory characterizations of Merchant as an inherently anti-Semitic play.

In his nonfiction book If Britain Had Fallen (1972), Norman Longmate includes a lengthy account of the German occupation of the British Channel Islands, and he tells what happened when an amateur theatrical group on Jersey innocently decided to put on a production of Merchant (p. 160). The local German propaganda chief became "very angry and literally foamed at the mouth," according to the actor playing Shylock. Longmate says the official saw the production as "an attack on German policy." The actor told Longmate that "it never entered our heads that The Merchant was any different to [sic] any other Shakespeare play."

Part of the Germans' reaction seems to have been provoked by what they saw as this particular actor's "sympathetic" portrayal of Shylock — but doesn't that in itself contradict the idea that the play is "inherently" anti-Semitic?

In any case, aren't the Nazis the expert practitioners when it comes to anti-Semitism? Establishmentarians might want to read a little history before issuing their facile defamations. (Sorry if I've proposed something like that before.) [Nicholas Strakon] (January 2005)


Published 2005 by WTM Enterprises.