Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Sometimes, Violence is the Answer and a Weapon may be the Punctuation



As long as more than one person exists, there will exist the potential for conflict.  Most can resolve conflicts without drastic measures; however, some will resort to using violence.  It is for these times that violence may be morally called for in response.  It must be clarified, violence is not to be a tool used to initiate a means to an end – not as a whip upon a slave.  The violence I am referring to is in the preservation of life and liberty.  This is not oxymoronic, and to falsely equate the immoral and moral uses of violence as the same because they are violent is moronic.  It would be to equate and castigate the slave who pulled the whip from the slavemaster’s hands in order to fight back, as morally equal as the slavemaster’s whips upon the slave.

The whipped slave is not a scenario that people can relate to, so a different and unfortunate all-too-common scenario will be used: domestic violence.  Lisa Skinner in Alabama had a protective order against her [estranged] husband, but being only a piece of paper, that did not stop him being armed with a gun and a knife, and coming after her; she shot back and defended herself.  When a physical conflict emerges and there is a power differential, might has a strong advantage.  If a 6ft and physically powerful man wants to rape and murder a 5ft petite woman, she is at a disadvantage. 

Boko Haram kills and enslaves many, even kidnapping hundreds of schoolgirls at a time.  Hundreds of girls have been released after assaults and raids against Boko Haram.  Two attackers shot at people during a Draw Muhammad contest in Texas, and armed men killed the first shooters.  A man who tried to shoot up a mall in Oregon was stopped by Nick Meli – who didn’t even shoot – but his armed presence was enough to stop the one plotting the mass shooting.  Each situation, violence (or the threat thereof) was used against those who initiated violent action. 

When someone holds a religious conviction denying your humanity, calling you an enemy and the best way he can show his devotion is by attacking and killing you – how would you reason with him to change?  When someone holds a feeling of hostility against you and no law, or restriction printed upon a piece of paper will dissuade him from trying to rape and murder you, what will you do?

Decry violence and ban guns?

James Holmes went into a movie theater that banned firearms, but he still brought guns to murder movie-goers.  Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical paper had multiple employees murdered by those who didn’t appreciate the satire; France has strong gun control laws.  According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, most violent crimes don’t even use weapons – of those that remain, firearms are just one type of weapon.  Mr. Skinner was also carrying a knife when he came after his estranged wife.

Weapons are equalizers of force for when there was an initial imbalance.  As the saying goes ‘God made man; Sam Colt made them equal’.

To remove by law is to use legal force making the law-abiders hamstrung in the face of one who is already intent on breaking the law.  Adam Lanza, Eric Harris & Dylan Klebold, Nidal Hasan and many others were already set to break the law by committing acts of murder.  Was a piece of paper telling them they couldn’t use a certain type of firearm, or ammo going to stop them?  If we let our ability to defend be contextual in how, when and where we can carry we make ourselves vulnerable, and become Suzanna Hupp who to obey the law left her gun in her car and there it remained when George Hennard killed many in Luby’s Cafeteria, including Hupp’s parents.

Whether it is in individual defense, or group – Nick Meli against a single shooter, or a military force against Boko Harem – it is violence used as a counteraction against those who initiated the use of violence.  Weapons are not ‘evil’ or killers themselves, but are tools and it is up to the wielder on how they are used.  To say violence or that weapons should not be used – including guns – is to say that the suffering of the victim is a higher moral value than self-assertion and self-defense.  To those who cannot be reasoned with, and you cannot defend yourself against, you can only be moral by being their victim, and letting others be victimized.

Lastly, it is hypocritical to say that weapons and violence are not needed and that we need laws to enforce these decrees.  When seconds count, the police may be minutes away and when they arrive – they will be armed and ready to use violence to enforce the laws stating you are not to use violence and weapons to defend yourself.  With a weapon a rapist may try and take a victim – he is already violating the law; disarm the victim and there is less of a chance of defense by obeying the law.  The woman who shoots her would-be rapist, the shopkeepers holding a marauding mob at bay, the one carrying concealed who stops a robbery each use violence (or the threat) by using a weapon.  To take away their defense would be to send others (police) with weapons to use violence – either way, the victims would be victims, but one would leave them as legal victims as a state of existence instead of situational.

Weapons exist, and sometimes violence is needed.  When a fire starts, you can put it out with an extinguisher or call and wait for the fire department to arrive, while the fire consumes your property.  In a worst-case scenario, such as any of the aforementioned examples – or worse, [e.g. your children being victimized] – will you take a fake moral high ground as you and yours are victimized, or fight back using what is necessary to not be victims?

It is that simple. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Common Good, Common Need and a Common Cost [healthcare costs, a brief review]



Healthcare is an important issue – also a misnomer as it is referring to medical care – that justifiably gets much attention.  Politicians offer various plans that are supposed to fix the system – that was broken by earlier politicians – to varying degrees of the same principle: that the State can fix the problems in the system.  Whether it is Romneycare or Obamacare, only degree differs, and both Republicans and Democrats want to get your support for their respective plans.

Healthcare is a good, and as everyone living is going to have some kind of a medical issue at some point, some say that healthcare is a right of the individual.  As a right, it is something everyone should have and that making people pay according to various life factors is problematic.  (In general) That women use more healthcare (child birth and longer life spans), that some are born with a predisposition or have a disease/sickness that was outside their control, or are making poor life choices that negatively affects their health are not to be considered.  After all, it’s ‘sexism’ to say that women should pay more for what they use more, not the fault of those who rolled ‘snake eyes’ with Nature’s dice, or society’s failing those who didn’t learn to make better decisions.

An analogy, if you will, to something that is more important and pressing than healthcare: food.  For we may not become greatly ill or ever get injured so our healthcare costs may be minimal, but there is no way that anyone can live long without eating regularly.  Then we shall see how costs look.

Let us take a look at two people: a woman who is 5’1”, around 110lbs, eats healthy with an occasional unhealthy treat and is fairly fit, though not working out every day, she does make it a point to exercise at least three times a week for at least 30 minutes each workout; a man who is 6’1”, around 220lbs and working out six days a week, primarily lifting weights for at least one hour each day.  Or, we can contrast the aforementioned woman who has a desk job against another man who builds houses, or we can contrast the first woman again against another who may not be obese, but is large as in 6’10”. 

Shall we make food a common good, as it is a common need and therefore a common cost?  Shall we make it so that each person has to pay the same amount, even though there will be a great variation in how much each individual consumes based upon the context of his or her life?  How much more should the 5’1” 110lbs woman who has the desk job pay for the 6’1” 220lbs man who spends extra time to increase his muscle mass?-or for the man to build houses?-or for the giant just for being big? 

If there is to be a different amount paid by each individual based upon their life situations (activity and genetics), shall the condemnations of sexism (man-hating) or cruelty for not considering their situations (genetic ‘snake eyes’ or social system that ‘led’ to seeing being muscular as good) be used?  Food is more important than healthcare, for though one may eventually ‘walk it off’ or a cold may pass, there is no way to get around the necessity of eating and replenishing nourishment – an aspect of true healthcare instead of just medical care.  If people should pay based upon their life context for food, the same goes for healthcare – need to use it more, it costs more.  Any political act, as has been the case ever since it was injected into the system, will serve to exacerbate the issue, not fix.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Killing Democracy... Or How I Learned To Stop Falling For Statism And Love Liberty




America is erroneously often called a democracy; erroneously as it is a Constitutional Republic.  There is a reason why it was not made, and why the founders had a general contempt for democracy.  Ben Franklin quipped that democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on dinner.  The base of democracy is composed of 2 parts: 1st, the etymology of the word being demos and kratia, meaning ‘power to the people’; 2nd, majority rule.  Though, today it heralded as a proper form of government and something that should be ‘spread’, we will see that it is at best a poor base from which to have a system of government.  In its purest form democracy itself is not just a poor base of government it is actually - true to its name - tyranny of the majority. 

What must be done first is a review of the components of democracy.  If it is truly ‘power to the people’, who are the people?  What is this power that is supposed to be wielded by ‘the people’?  What falls under and out of the purview of democratic power?  What means of ensuring obedience can the majority place upon the minority?  A State/government being a democracy includes its – whatever was decreed – infiltration into law, so what is ‘willed by the people’ comes with legal force.

By its nature, the deciding factor of democracy is amorphous: the people.  The Classic Greeks who devised democracy did not grant to all individuals a right to vote, as it was only to males, and not just males but a certain class thereof.  Practically every culture and religion has given men a superior position in moral and legal standing as compared to women.  Additionally, various cultures have qualifications regarding race/ethnicity/religion, whereby some individuals are more morally and legally than others.  Definitions are important, for though each may be an organism, there is a great difference between a wolf, a sheep, a tick and a man.  The question remains: who is to be considered ‘the people’?

For sake of argument in this, the fullest granting of ‘the people’ will skip superficial distinctions and will be given to include all adults who have attained majority: male/female, regardless of race, religion or socioeconomic status (SES), as long as the member of society is at least 18yrs of age.  Granting this, in any practical manner, what difference does it make?  Whether one was born with a different skin color, genitalia, adheres to a different or no God, or is in a different income bracket, the issue remains a larger group decides for all.  Whether the dividing line is based upon a superficial characteristic, or a behavioral, it is the will of the masses pressing upon the will of the minority.  Ayn Rand remarked that the smallest minority is the individual.  By definition, there is not a whole unit that is less than 1.

Moreso during election years, but also outside of them, we see the results of polls regarding public opinion on a given topic whether it is abortion, legalization of drugs, gun control, prostitution, gambling, along with numerous other issues where individual liberty is placed against government control.  Those who follow democratic principles and agree with the majority want to have their preferences made law, for ‘it's the will of the people’ and after an election ‘to the victor go the spoils’.   The minority of any number, especially the 1 be damned.

Let us briefly combine these points and see how ridiculous they are as a basis for governmental action.  From what basis is public opinion to be used for what should be legal?  Of this public opinion, how representative of the whole population is it who cast the vote? – the last election had the lowest turnout in decades, not even being 40% of the voting population.  Of those who did vote, how many of them were knowledgeable of that which they were voting?  Of those who thought they were being knowledgeable, how many were actually fooled by the promises of politicians who in trying to get elected said ‘no new taxes’, ‘if you like your plan, you can keep your plan’ and ‘we have to pass it for you to find out what is in it’?   Regardless of mass manipulation or ignorance, all are to follow those results.

Politicians lie to get votes, and disregard those who gave them once received.  George Carlin’s quip is appropriate “Think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of them are stupider than that.”

Opinions change, especially when people come to a better understanding.  There are also other ways the majority may change through immigration and emigration (national and state borders), as well as birth and death rates.  In addition, regardless of how a topic may be defined, if the precedent has been set it can be changed; a sword once forged can be handed to (or be taken away by) another.  Which brings us to the next point: we don’t really vote on much as we elect members to government and they are supposedly our ‘representatives’.  The same issues happen at the lower level (local as well as national) of electing representatives: only so many voted for each representative and of that only so many knowingly voted for what the representative truly represented.

Furthermore, at both levels, to go beyond those who vote against those who do not vote or vote unknowingly there are the special interests – those who have the ability to sway the vote or representative to push for specific legislation.  These special interests can be through individuals, companies, corporations, unions or politicians themselves; these categories are not mutually exclusive.  Kelo ruling, Uber being pushed out of areas, The PATRIOT Act, Affordable Care Act (ACA, AKA Obamacare) and any of the supposed ‘Wars on’ [Drugs, Poverty, Terror] are prime examples of public opinion, vague definitions and changing aspects around the precedent, to result in bad law that can get worse depending upon who is wielding it. 

However, we all know that we don’t get to vote upon the issues that really affect us most.  Was there any vote offered to the people regarding going to war in Vietnam, Korea, Afghanistan, Iraq, about the drone programs, the NSA spying upon everyone, the militarization of the police, the general wars on ‘terror’, ‘poverty’ or ‘drugs’?  Was there a vote for the citizens to decide which firearms are allowable, what ammo and how much ammo is allowable, or about abortion being legal and at what point a fetus is deemed too developed to be aborted?  Though there may have been polls asking about whether a change in healthcare was desirable, was there any vote that specifically Obamacare (ACA) should be made law? - though fear made it so The PATRIOT Act was something in a vague symbol that should be passed, how many voted for the components such as ‘roving wiretaps’, ‘sneak and peak’ warrants, an extension from giving material support to giving advice/assistance to those deemed terrorists – a definition made by those who have power, not those who vote.  It is by design that those who will be chained to the law are not the ones who vote for it, or have the full costs revealed to them.  Remember, the bills are thousands of pages and to be voted upon in a couple days… so we can ‘find out what’s in it.’

For all the bluster about power to the people, the people actually don’t make the decisions; we have elected representatives, and from being elected they are to be the extension of the will of the people.  However, whether it is for a program or for a representative the issue remains that there is to be a legal standard whereby those who do not want or agree with the results are to abide by them.  We shall use a tool quite favored by politicians for the next point: polls.  Even if we granted that our elected representatives do represent our interests – a literal impossibility for ‘we the people’ have diverging if not mutually exclusive interests – in the highest offices, those with the most power [congress and the president], have approval ratings where strongly approve and approve combine to be only around 40%.  There have been times where strongly approve has remained in single digits. 

A colloquialism which is quite apt in politics is: you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours.  Who gets to scratch what for who?  Those who have something to trade, and in politics it is those who have legal influence and power to trade for gains of another type – not limited to, but most especially – contributions, trading amongst each other.  Those who are not elected use non-election means to influence elections or skip them altogether by buying elected representatives.  This can be done by corporations, companies and unions.  Uber becoming a problematic competitor?-taxi companies try and get politicians to pass licensing requirements to eliminate Uber.  Don’t want your child to go to public school for education, the teacher’s union tries to limit the availability of charter schools.  For all its bluster about trying to give everyone lower-cost healthcare, Obamacare (ACA) doesn’t actually control costs (for costs have increased), as it just covers those costs through State funding, all with the biggest supporters of the program being insurance companies who now have guaranteed clientele, and got them by contributions using lobbyists.

We’re not done looking at the representatives yet.  What is another thing these representatives have done with their power that is supposed to represent the people?-created various programs and organizations with appointed members who have been given legal authority.  Though the agency wasn’t created by a vote of the people, the EPA has the legal authority to prevent people from building on their own property, and fine them heavily if they do build without permission.  Pick any agency, and the same pattern will follow – non-elected members of non-elected group holding legal authority over the lives of the people in some way.  One of the biggest – and most damaging – examples is The Federal Reserve, as it follows the pattern of non-elected members of a non-elected group, however, its power is over monetary policy, and it presided during every great recession/depression in US history, as the value of the dollar decreased by more than 90%.  Vote for the value of your money decreasing?

These issues are not limited to the present time.  By what standard can one generation place debts and rules upon another generation?  The very nature of the national debt is in one generation accruing expenses that the next will have to pay.  Some level of debt has existed since the beginning of the country [US], and while the first century went to pay for the formation (war for independence, land purchases, etc), the national debt now is mostly going toward what is called ‘national defense’, including keeping thousands of troops on hundreds of bases across the planet, none of which was voted on in original set up or keeping there, and toward entitlements (individual e.g. taking out much more in social security than was paid in and corporate e.g. ‘too big to fail’ bailouts), and of course ‘spreading democracy’.  The national debt currently being passed down is more than $18 Trillion; include unfunded liabilities, and that skyrockets to more than $100 Trillion.  Don't worry, the youth will clean it up... as designed.  The thought is, as it has been, to ‘kick the can down the road’; however, the road has to be built but the funds are out and the road will end.

These issues are not limited to the national level.  By what standard can your state, county or city place restrictions upon you, or you place upon others based upon passing a legally recognized line of demarcation?  Where at least in time, all currently existing should be affected by the law the same, this other type of groupthink does not mean all are affected the same.  This ranges from the aforementioned categories to be pitted against each other in ‘tax free zones’ in New York State, where they are trying to get businesses to come; for those who are approved, they get the benefit, but for those who do not qualify (get approval from members of government) or for those already there, they have to pay full price; want to smoke pot, or even cigarettes, don't cross state lines for you can get arrested for the pot and be seen as selling black market if moving what has been deemed sufficient cigarettes from a low-tax area to a high-tax area; even supposedly nationally recognized rights (e.g. 2nd Amendment) have been made piecemeal, such as Shaneen Allen (legally owning a pistol in PA) volunteered that she carried a gun when pulled over for a traffic issue in NJ, and she was charged and faced up to three years in prison - Gordon van Gilder faced up to 10 years for having a flintlock pistol in his glovebox when he crossed NJ state lines.

Finally, the nature of democracy is that, in some form, might of numbers makes right.  Whether it is from direct vote, or from the elected officials [often bought with lobbyists] who are to be the representatives, it makes no difference.  The result is the same, as is the base: rights are granted by the State and those who make it, so rights can be taken away.  Rights are not deemed inherent.  We need look no farther than homosexuality, firearms and abortion (among countless other topics) - regardless of where one has a personal preference on these issues, does that preference change because a new numeric change tilted which side has the majority?  Even if not outlawed outright, but nudging people to a behavior by having a ‘sin’ tax, the issue remains of others dictating your behavior, as Daniel Webster opined “The power to tax is the power to destroy”.  New York has more than $4 in taxes added to each pack of cigarettes - Eric Garner was assaulted in an arrest for selling untaxed cigarettes, for people wanted to smoke, but have trouble paying the tax; Eric Garner died from the assault.

Some more examples of laws that exist that you can get punished in one area, but not another (proposed, existing, or existed at one point): in MT if someone has any clothing that is too revealing they can get a fine and be imprisoned up to five years for repeat offenses; in CA it was illegal to play football or throw Frisbees on county beaches; in NY it is illegal for a group of two or more to wear masks or face coverings; in NJ you cannot pump your own gas.  These examples touch on the principles set earlier.  For the last one regarding pumping gas... who does that help and harm?-it makes sure that residents have to pay more for gas to pay for wages for employment as going back to 1949 a station who was charging less for people to pump their own gas angered full-service stations who lobbied the state to pass the law.  Unions pushed for similar laws to ensure labor was paid even though it wasn’t needed: an orchestra to be paid when a record was needed, a local driver to ride along with a driver who was coming into the city, etc.

Though the other examples seem innocuous, it is the same principle set that people can be treated differently legally, some behavior is legally acceptable, while others are not (when there is no victim) and the State can punish.  Carry this principle over and it becomes what is acceptable speech, what is a ‘sin’ and how can we tax it, who can defend themselves and with what?  More than a century ago Annette Kellerman was arrested for violating decency laws for wearing a form-fitting one-piece swimsuit - the same style laws that are coming back in MT; marijuana is legal at the state level in CO, but there are politicians trying to make sugar and transfat illegal in NY and elsewhere.  With the principle set, it will include worse examples: telling everyone to turn in their gold, slavery and Japanese/German internment, just more examples of some people not being a sufficient majority to hold onto their rights.  Again, the individual is the smallest minority. 

The answer for us is simple: stop the ‘laboratories of democracy’ for what basis is there that by crossing some line of demarcation not related to private property, that one falls under new legal system and punishments?  Additionally, stop following the idea that someone, anyone or any number can have a legal right to dictate, direct or restrict the right of an individual.  Democracy is not the only [governmental] system that does this - any form of Statism follows the pattern that someone can make your decisions for you... at the barrel of a gun.  In actuality, if the execution of a monarchy was that of the king following individual rights of the people as contrasted to a democracy that voted to confiscate or eliminate trouble-makers (see Socrates), who is living under a better system?  If you desire and follow the majority because you happen to benefit now from the majority opinion, beware when that changes for the victims of old may have a grudge.  The greatest evil is in assigning others the role that they are mere means to one’s ends.  Democracy enshrines this system.  If we are to be free people, to be self-directed, it is first by recognizing the social ailment that we have and from that proceed with the proper course of action to kill that disease.  If we do not, the disease will kill us.