Trulbert! Part III: Ten Thousand Holes In Blankford, Lancashire

 - 1AM, Monday, September 1, 2015: The Hendrickson Home, South Minneapolis

t was after midnight. Lynn was sprawled, asleep, under the covers. Hendrickson puffed an e-cig and smiled.

He thought about all the petty anxieties he usually felt on these insomniac evenings were whittled down.  Gone was the usual “what the hell is going on with this country”, or “is my job going to be here tomorrow”, or “is Charlie or is Charlie not on the right track academically”. 

No, there was only simple contentment, as Lynn lightly snored next to him – and that, mostly, kept his mind occupied and smiling as he faded off to sleep. 

Looks like tomorrow could be pretty decent, for a Monday.

Continue reading

Trulbert!, Part II – Blink

 – 9PM, Saturday, August 30 – Somewhere in South Minneapolis, MN
It had been a long, brutal day – exactly enough to make Paul Hendrickson wish he’d gone to his sister-in-law’s baby shower with his wife instead. Ten hours in the office chasing bugs, another day’s worth coming up tomorrow, and no end in sight.

And nobody at home; Lynn had taken the kids to visit their cousins up in Bemidji, and nobody would be home until Sunday night.

He drove up Hiawatha Avenue, past the desultory light rail and spotty car traffic, and saw a joint he’d never seen before - the “Invisible Hand” Bar and Grill, on Hiawatha somewhere in the forties.  One of the girls in QA had told him they made a great burger.

But they had me at beer, Hendrickson thought, as he tried to remember the last time he’d been in a bar without either his wife or his co-workers.  Since the Clinton years, for sure, he mused as he pulled into the parking lot.  He hesitated – I could just nuke some leftover beef stew, he thought – before turning off the car and walking into the bar.  He yawned loudly as he walked into the bar.  A whiteboard sign pointed an arrow labeled “Seat Yourself” to the left, and “TRU LBRT, The Gathering!” to the right.

Defininitely want “Seat  Yourself“,Hendrickson thought, absent-mindedly turning to the right.

He stepped into a large back-room, about half full of people, and grabbed a seat at a table and opened a menu.

“Welcome!”, chirped Dave Os, in a different tweed jacket, wering a different bow-tie, sitting down at Hendrickson’s table.

“Um…hello?” Hendrickson replied, looking suspiciously over the top of his menu.

“So what’s your interest in liberty?” Os asked, his fingers absendmindedly running through the impeccably-tended whiskers of his beard.

“Um – I’m strongly in favor?”  Hendrickson replied looking for a waitress.

“Good!”, said Os, as Ron Pallsacher – wearing a Gadsden flag t-shirt – sat down next to him.

“So…why are you asking me?” asked Hendrickson, looking for a waitress who seemed not to be coming at all.

“Oh, you’re at the TRU LBRT gathering!”, said Pallsacher, pronouncing it “True Liberty”.

“Huh.  I guess I’m in the wrong room”.

“Or maybe the right room”, Os said.  “I mean, do you value freedom, don’t you?”

“Well, I’m married, so clearly it’s an academic question to me…”

“So you don’t value liberty?”, Pallsacher chimed in, missing the joke.

“No, no, of course I do…although I really don’t know what you’re getting at”, Hendrickson said, giving up on the waitress for the moment.

“What we’re getting at”, said Pallsacher, “is that government takes away your liberty, and we’re going out to take it back”. Os nodded.

“Ah.  I gotcha.  Well, sort of”, Hendrickson said, leaning forward in his chair, dusting off a mental drawer that hadn’t been opened in quite a few years of not reading much about politics.  “Like what liberties have we lost?”

“Oh, like the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures”, Os said, nervously twisting a lock of his beard into a little spike, then un-twisting it.

“Oh yeah – like all those no-knock SWAT team raids.  Yeah, I’ve heard about those.  Those are bad news”.

“Or the prohibition against marijuana”, said Os.

“Bingo”, said Pallsacher.  “Why ban bud?”

“Not really my thing”, Hendrickson relied – even when he had experimented, he’d been much more into uppers…

“Or raw milk!”, Os continued.  “Why should government force me to drink pasteurized milk?”

“Or taxes!”, said Pallsacher, his fists clenched in excitement as Arnie Quist, wearing fashionably unwashed raw-denim jeans and a formal seed cap, sat down next to Hendrickson.

“Well, yeah – my taxes are mighty high”, Hendrickson nodded, casting a suspicious glance at Quist. 

“Why should you have to pay any taxes at all?”, Os asked. 

“Er…to support the government?”, Hendrickson replied gingerly, provoking chuckles from Os, Pallsacher and Quist.

“Most of our problems stem from government”, Quist said, to enthusiastic nods from Os and Pallsacher. 

“You’re telling me.  I work in healthcare software.  What a freaking nightmare”, Hendrickson said, to nods from the other men. 

“It’s so far beyond healthcare.  Most of the problems in this world are caused by government.  That’s why I’m an anarcho-capitalist”, said Os. 

“Huh”, said Hendrickson, sorting out the phrase in his head.  “Capitalism without government.  So how does that work?”

“Very well!”, said Quist. 

“Where?” asked Hendrickson.

“Well, nowhere, yet”

“OK, I figured that.  But I mean, literally – how does it work?   How do you have capitalism without some sort of court system to enforce contracts?”

“Courts can be corrupted by the banksters that control goverment”, Quist chimed in, as Oz Streachan sat next to Os. 

“Right, I get that.  But how do you enforce contracts?  I mean, I’ve had to take vendors to court for non-delivery.  How do you do that without having some sort of government?”

“Everyone observes the NAP – the Non-Aggression Principle”, said Pallsacher. 

“They have no reason not to, without government distorting the free market”, added Os. 

“OK”, said Hendrickson, “I’m going to have to think about that one.  But this “non-aggression principle” brings up the other thing – like, defending the country…”, he said, stopping when all four men started laughing.  “OK, what?”

“Well”, said Quist, “wars happen because governments exist.  In a world without governments and the interests that control them, and everyone observing the Non-Aggression Principle, there’d be no need for defense, since there’d be no government to defend against”. 

“So everyone in the world will just suddenly agree to get along?”, Hendrickson asked, looking at the four men. 

“Well, it’ll take some time to win everyone over – which is what we’re working on tonight!”, said Quist. 

“So Al Quaeda will stop trying to kill us, because…”

“Because we won’t be trying to kill them”, said Streachan. 

“Gotcha.  OK – so who builds the roads?”

The four men – now joined by Frena Marquette and Bill Durburgh – erupted laughing.

“Who’ll ‘build the roads’”, Quist chuckled. 

“Yeah, never heard that one before!” guffawed Streachan. 

Hendrickson looked among his six tablemates.   “OK, so how do roads get built – say, a road between two cities across private land, without any recourse to eminent domain?”

“The private market will settle it”, Os and Durburgh responded, as Pallsacher answered “Really, there can be no more inland cities”, while Streachan and Quist chimed in “Hover cars!”, and Marquette replied “their problem, not mine”.

Hendrickson looked at them.  “Huh.  Interesting.  So the the perfect world will become perfect through the complete lack of government?”

“Yes!”, answered all six immediately.

“Interesting”, Hendrickson replied.  “Hey – I’m supposed to meet someone across town.  Nice to meet you all.  Gotta dash”. 

Os handed Hendrickson a business card reading “Dave Os – Social De-Engineer”.  “Call me if you want to get involved!”

“Will do!”, said Hendrickson.  “Nice to meet you all”, he said, side-stepping toward the door. 

– 11AM East China Time, Sunday, August 31 – Shanghai, Peoples Republic of China

Field Marshal Li Wang H’sing groaned, half in pain, half in pleasure, as the masseuse’s fingers dug into the fleshy skin of his upper back.

Li’s uniform coat – hung neatly on the door to the room, whose view overlooked Shanghai harbor from the 42nd Floor of the Peoples’ Liberation Bank headquarters building – had six stars on the epaulettes. His ID card – tucked into his wallet, in his back pants pocket, also hanging from the door – identified him as as the Commander of the People’s Liberation Bank.

And the masseuse – an 18 year old girl from Sichuan – was definitely in line for a promotion to Sergeant.

The door knocked, three times, briskly.

“Enter”, Li yelled in his dense, Shanghai accent.

Colonel Wu T’ang Klan – a trim, athletic 40-something man in a Peoples’ Liberation Army officer’s daily dress uniform with a “Cybercommando” patch on the left shoulder – entered the room. Eyeing the masseuse, he smiled – the perks of command were indeed excellent, he briefly mused, pondering his own evening’s plans after getting off duty in the Operations Center. But he shook the thought off.

“What is it, Wu?” Li groaned.

“Three things, Comrade Field Marshal. First – Commissioner Fong is going to be here at eight to discuss the matter of the natural gas exports”

Li groaned. It wasn’t the first time this issue had raised its head.

Wu continued “Your wife called. Her car is on the way”.

Li’s eyes popped open wide. “That was the second item of business? Are you mad?”

Wu continued, calmly. “The third, matter – the purchase of US Government Bonds”.

But Li was already up, rustling for his clothes. “Screw the bonds”, he muttered in his thick, Shanghai accent, nearly unintelligible to speakers of other Chinese dialects. Li usually spoke a higher dialect of Mandarin to avoid trouble…

…but not this day. He blurted it out.

And to Wu – a native of Szechuan – it sounded for all the world like “Sell the Bonds”.

“By your leave, Comrade Field Marshal”, he said, executing a crisp salute and leaving as the Field Marshal frantically got dressed.

Wu walked briskly down the hall toward the elevator, returning salutes from a group of People’s Liberation Army Commerce Guards. An elevator car was waiting, and he climbed in for his ride down to the basement Operations Center.

Wu knew Li was nobody to mess with. In a thirty year career in the Peoples’ Liberation Army, Li had been at the thick of every action. His record was well-known; a platoon leader during the building of the Hong Kong casinos; a company commander during the cracking of the encryption for the Microsoft Windows source code, he was promoted quickly to command a Battalion. Tasked with leading the merger and acquisition of a Welsh fish and chips chain, he’d led their expansion into Africa and Asia, getting him a Regiment command. And there he might have stalled – but for his near-miraculous turnaround on the response to a sell-off of an overleveraged derivate, which he turned from a defensive play to a major fiscal victory, getting him division and then Field Fiscal Army command. Then, during the bidding war to supply natural gas to Korea, he jumped over thousands of other three-star generals to become PLA Mergers and Acquisitions Director, which added three and then four stars to his shoulders. This brought him to command of the Peoples Liberation Bank three years ago – just in time to lead it to victory in the war over the deferred accrual of Singaporean derivatives, which led to the epic fiscal “Victory of the Ten Swans”, as it was called in the popular song that all the school children sang to Li’s honor. Tough, smart, politically bulletproof, Li was a good wagon for a young greyhound like Wu to be hitched to.

Then Wu laughed. Who would hitch a grayhound to a wagon?

This brought Wu to the Operations Center of the People’s Liberation Bank. He swiped his ID card, and the door slid open with a briskswish. He walked through a splendid marble anteroom, dotted with tables at which senior officers sat, talking furtively, drinking tea and scotch and discussing fiscal policy. A steward offered him a cup – an exquisite porcelain demitasse, no doubt a product of Hai’nan’s finest craftspeople – of the bank’s utterly divine strain of H’ung Lang tea. Wu took a sip, then another. Then, taking a deep breath, he left it on the table, and stepped to a door guarded by two Peoples’ Liberation Bank guards. As he returned the guards’ snappy salute, the door opened, and the serene, incense-scented quiet of the anteroom was bludgeoned with the noise of the Peoples’ Liberation Bank bond trading floor.

Wu stepped out onto the marble balcony, thirty feet above the trading floor, as the duty sergeant major bellowed “Attention”. The men on the balcony – the guards, four telephone talkers, and Lieutenant Wang Hung Long, the third-shift duty officer, snapped to attention, saluting the Colonel.

“As you were. Wang!”

“Sir!”

“Comrade Marshal Li has ordered we sell all American bonds”.

Wang grabbed a white binder from a shelf along the wall way from the floor, and flipped to the “bond sale” protocol. “Sir – I acknowledge the sale of all American government bonds!” He turned to Captain Shih Pang Fung. “Captain. Initiate a sell order on all American government bonds”.

Captain Shih turned to Wa How Chung, the grizzled old sergeant major. “Initiate a sale of all American government bonds”.

Sergeant Major Wa took a microphone, and pressed the talk key. As he started speaking, the floor fell quiet.

“Now hear this. How hear this. Initiate a complete sale of all American government bonds. I repeat; Initiate a complete sale of all American government bonds. That is all”.

The floor erupted in a cataract of noise, as lieutenant-colonels ordered the companies of their floor trading battalions into action. The company captains passed frantic orders to the sergeants, who ordered squads of private on the phones to start placing “sell” orders on American bonds. Paper carriers, their sergeants cursing at them and jogging at double time, brought more sale forms to the phone-men at the front line, who ran through the forms as fast as they could. Stretcher bearers carried the casualties off the floor, as replacements – scared and just out of business school – took their places on the phones.

Wu stood impassively, giving no sign of his anxieties as the battle drill unfolded below other than his right hand clencing and unclenching.

But finally – three hours later, Sergeant Wa Jin Kang, exhausted, shuffled through the piles of paper and stepped over exhausted comrades, carrying a Chinese flag up the steps to the balcony. He wearily stepped up the stairs, to the top, saluted Wu, and reported “Sir, we have sold the last of the bonds”.

Wu executed a snappy return salute, prompting a weary but loud cheer from the floor.

“As you were”, said Wu, wondering if anything would ever really be as it was again.

Trulbert! Part I: State Of Affairs

– 7PM, Wednesday, August 29, 2014 – Longfellow Neighborhood, South Minneapolis

Myron Ilktost fumbled in his pocket for his keychain.

“Don’t forget to lock the door!” bellowed a disembodied female voice from at least two rooms away inside the house.

“I’ve got it,  honey”, Ilktost replied, straining to make his thin, reedy voice heard over the dishwasher that was clanking away in the kitchen.  As he shut the door, the woman – Iris, his wife of 32 years – bellowed “because you keep forgetting!”.

“Locking it now, honey”, he replied, shutting the door and turning the key.

He kept the keychain in his hand as he walked to his car – a green, ten year old Subaru Forester with a single “Don’t Park The Bus” sticker affixed to the back bumper.

A faint whiff of blue smoke puffed from the exhaust as Ilktost backed out of his prim driveway and out onto 42nd Avenue in South Minneapolis.  The perennials he’d labored over for so long were just starting to bloom after a hard, long winter.  Ilktost drove about six blocks, to a church building – Jehovah Methodist.  He picked the keychain up from his passenger seat, and lumbered up to the side door.

Slight, about 5’8, tidy, balding, mustachioed, gray-haired and 56 years old, wearing a gray alpaca sweater and khaki pants, Ilktost unlocked the door and turned on the lights inside the building.  He walked to the church office, sat down at a sixties-institutional desk, turned on an early-2000s vintage Gateway PC, and started rummaging through a small stack of flyers, handwritten notes and – eventually – emails.

After a few minutes, he was interrupted by a knock on the door.  He looked through the window.  It was the UPS man.  He opened the door.

“Mister Liktost?” asked the deliveryman.

“That’s I-L-K-Tost”, Ilktost said, sounding mildly worried.

“Ah, OK.  My bad.  Please sign for this”.

Ilktost took the deliveryman’s clipboard.  “I have to get this sunday’s program together”, he muttered, as much for himself as the deliveryman’s benefit.

“Ah.  Well, I’ll get out of your way” said the UPS man, mission accomplished.

Ilktost locked the door and went back to work.  Programs don’t put themselves together.

– 5:20 PM, Thursday, August 29 – Downtown Minneapolis

“Programs don’t put themselves together”.

Joshua Nieman shook his head as he said it, as if Paul Hendrickson had never heard any of it before.

“Yeah, I know”, said Hendrickson, who at 45 was 20 years older than Nieman.  “I know the requirements were hosed.  We’re in catch-up mode.  Just trying to keep Tofte from crawling up both our asses”.

“Well, I’m not working this weekend”, said the younger man.  “I’ve got a Modern Warfare hackathon to do”.

“Yeah, keep your weekend.  We’re not curing cancer, here”, said Hendrickson.  “Just give me an estimate Monday morning, OK?”

Nieman grunted, and Hendrickson walked away down the aisle separating two of the forty rows of cubes at Claimtech.

It was 5:45 PM, he noticed as he checked his phone for messages.  There were several – mostly work-related.  A text message from Lynn telling him to bring cat food home.

And that’s just what I’m gonna do.

He picked up his jacket at his cube, walked out to the ramp, drove half an hour up 494, then Cedar, then Crosstown, over to 34th. Into the convenience store, back out with the cat food, then up 34th to 48th, then over a few blocks to the tidy little Cape Cod that’d been his family’s home since they bought it from Lynn’s parents ten years earlier.

Abby – ten years old – was playing with the dog in the back yard.   ”Hi, Daddy!” she said.  “I taught Buck to play dead!”.

She looks so much like my mom at that age, Hendrickson thought as the skinny, colt-legged blond girl put Buck, the family’s eight year old Springer Spaniel, through its paces.

“That’s awesome, honey!”, he said as Abby and Buck took a bow, both grinning from ear to ear.  “I”m gonna go in and see Mommy”.

“OK!”

Hendrickson walked in the back door, up the stairs into the kitchen.  Lynn – a pretty, auburn-haired 38 year old, Hendrickson’s wife of 16 years – was throwing cheese sandwiches onto the grill as a crock pot of stew simmered in the background.

Hendrickson tiptoed up the stairs and padded silently across the kitchen floor, wrapping his arms around Lynn from behind.  “Mmm – hello!”, she purred.  “That bean stew thing you have in the pot smells glorious”.

He kissed her on the neck.  “So where are Charlie and Dani?”

“Dani’s over at the Torstengardsens doing a science project with Vicky.  And Charlie’s at track practice.”

“Hmm.  So they’re pretty much occupied…?”

“I bought a bottle of wine for later…”

Hendrickson smiled.  “Nice.  Thank God it’s Thursday!”

His wife purred, leaning back to kiss his cheek.  “You sure you can’t come to Carrie’s for the shower?”

“Nah.  Stupid project deadline”

“And I know how much you love baby showers”.

“Half of one and six dozen of the other.  I’d much rather be there than working on this bug-stomp this weekend”, Hendrickson purred into his wife’s ear, nibbling the ear lobe ever so slightly…

“Ew”, shouted a crackly, adolescent male voice, as Charlie Hendrickson – a gangly, red-headed teen in track shorts and a school t-shirt – stomped up the back stairs three at a time.  “Gross, you two.  Stop it.  When’s dinner?”

“Ten minutes.  Take a shower first”, Lynn patiently responded as Paul slowly let go and walked to start setting the table.

“Yep.  Thank God it’s Thursday”.

– 9:00PM, Friday, August 29, 2014 – On the “TRU LBRT NOW!” Facebook Page

A sultry breeze blew from the west, sweeping across the south end of Plymouth, MN, where Dave Os, a late-20-ish man in with a carefully-tended beard, a tweed blazer, jeans and a “Doors” T-shirt, sat at a table at an outdoor bar patio.  Idly waiting for some friends to show up, he noodled through his Facebook timeline.  An article caught his attention, about a planned light rail line that would connect the northwest suburbs of the Twin Cities with downtown.

Os shared the article to “TRU LBRT NOW”, a libertarian Facebook page of which he was a member, writing “Great.  More money suck from government”.  He clicked the “Post” button as his friends arrived.

The warm breeze swept east, crossing Saint Louis Park, where Ron Pallsacher, a mildly obese 35-year-old with an acne-pocked face and a scraggly blondish beard, sat on the balcony of his apartment, working on fixing some JQuery code for one of his clients.  He saw the “Incoming Message” popup, and saw Os’s posting.  He read it, typed “another installment payment in the progressive statist dream”, clicked “Post”, and went back to work.

The breeze rolled across Highway 100, briefly juddering a Ford Econoline van driven by Arnie Quist, a dark-haired, 30-ish man with a dense black beard,wearing a seed cap, as he drove southward carrying a load of mulch for his garden.  He read Os and Pallsacher’s posts as he drove, and – ignoring the safety rules about texting and driving – clicked his “voice to text” function on his phone: “Not just progressives.  Republicans equally worthless!”.  He clicked “Post”, just before narrowly missing a Toyota Corolla that had legally merged onto the road.

The puff of wind rolled up Lake Street in Minneapolis, ruffling the hair of Oz Streachan – a 6’6  tall 40-year-old man, with a Billy Gibbons beard, an awlward gait and a voice that sounded incongruously high and light for such a tall man, who was en route to one of the rooftop bars in Uptown for a friend’s bachelor party.  He saw the notification, read it, and typed “The only way to get good governmente is no goverment”, he typed raggedly as he stood next to the light pole, before the light turned green.

An eddy of the breeze – which was becoming less sweet and more humid as it rolled across the city – swept through an open window into the Powderhorn Park-area efficiency apartment of Frena Marquette – 5’6, 25 years old, with purple hair and overly-thick eyeliner, wearing a “Ron Paul Express 2012″ t-shirt, busy folding her laundry.  She saw the notification on her IPad, and typed “No Gummint?  Oh, Noes!  Who’ll build the roadz?”.  Satisfied, she chuckled, and went back to folding.

The breeze – smelling less like west-suburban gardens than auto exhaust, by now – rolled across the Marshall-Lake Bridge and across the front of Izzy’s Ice Cream Parlor, where sat Bill Durburgh – in a white dress shirt, a bow tie, a helmet of “televangellist” that he’d been cultivating as an “ironic statement” for three yers, and a perfectly-trimmed beard.  He looked at his Android, saw the list of comments, and typed “This is why all voting is a waste.  The best thing we can do is throw off the chains of all government”, hitting “post” and then angrily swearing as a drip of ice cream plopped onto his screen.

The breeze – another part of it, a mile south of Durburgh – swept through the yard of Myron Ilktost.  Ilktost was busily weeding the flower bed in front of his house, swatting at mosquitos.

“Are you STILL doing that?”, bellowed the disembodied voice of his wife.

“No, Dear”, Ilktost yelled.  Not for long, he muttered under his breath.

Social Distortion

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Liberals don’t mind open borders because those immigrants won’t take their jobs, or their kids. And government spending doesn’t matter because government loans never have to be repaid. Half a million illegal immigrants have swarmed the border this year, all claiming to be refugees entitled to food, shelter, medical care, in-state tuition and public defenders. Oh, and interpreters, because although they don’t speak English they sure as Hell know their rights.
In completely unrelated news, .22 LR shells are still impossible to find on the shelves, as right-wing kook bitter clinging racist homophobes continue to snatch them up the instant they roll off the truck.
This cannot end well.
Joe Doakes

That which cannot be sustained, won’t be.

The Rights Bubble

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

My practice is real estate title law – what individual natural person owns this particular patch of land?

My job didn’t exist in olden times because The King owned all land (or “nobody owns the land” in aboriginal cultures).

My job still doesn’t exist in Cuba or North Korea, where the answer remains “the king, however he’s titled” or in places like Somalia where lack of a functional government to enforce a rule of law leaves the answer as “whoever can defend his occupation of the land at the moment.”

Even in many modern countries, most of the land is held by a few wealthy families (France, Germany, Russia) and everybody else lives in public housing (English council estates) or apartments (Hong Kong).

And in almost all the science fiction stories I can recall, the answer in the future is “the government” or sometimes “huge corporations.”

Mass individual home-ownership exists in Canada, Australia and the USA. It’s a uniquely Colonial thing and when these countries eventually fall (as all nations do), the concept may vanish with it.

We’re living in a bubble of rights not seen before, and not to be seen again. What an amazing privilege. What a shame that our leaders are risking it all.

Explaining to Americans “it doesn’t have to be like this” is like explaining to a spoiled teenager (or a liberal) where money comes from.  It’s a revelation to them that it could ever be different. 

(Bonus:  Explaining to self-styled “anarchists” that lack of government doesn’t mean freedom; it pretty much inevitably means a much worse form of authority will fill the gap)

Civics 090: Remedial American Civil Society For “Progressives”

This is for you progressives in the audience.  The conservatives and libertarians already know this, so you may skip down to the next post.

right is something that is endowed to you by your creator, whatever you believe that is, and can not (legitimately) be taken away by any person or government.   Life.  Liberty.  The pursuit of happiness.  Speech, religion, press, assembly, keeping and bearing arms, no illegitimate searches and seizures (ooops), and so on.  It’s a short list, but a pretty comprehensive one.

The Constitutional Convention. Are they debating whether people have a right to happy hour between 5 and 6 every weekday? I think not.

Rights have one thing in common;  they don’t infringe other peoples’ rights.  When I exercise my right to speak, it doesn’t take away your right to speak.  For that matter, when you talk about taking away my rights – like the Second Amendment – it doesn’t infringe my rights; I need to meet you with more, better speech, and convince more Americans that you’re a ninny.  And I do.

But I digress.

There is no right not to be offended – because if we tried to say you had a right not to be offended, then it’d take away someone else’s freedom of speech.   If person A makes a statue of the Virgin Mary out of cow dung, Catholic Person B isn’t getting any rights violated; they are fully entitled to show the world why Person A is a terrible artist, or make a statue of Person A out of goat dung, or whatever.

So since it’s been in the news for the past 24 hours, let’s talk about the “women’s right” to birth control.

You women (and men, ahem) have a right to your private life (NSA notwithstanding), and to live your life more or less as you want (yep, there are restrictions on snake-handling and marijuana and raw milk and machine guns and a bunch of other stuff, but work with me here).  So go ahead and buy and use birth control!

Sorry, children. Everything that displeases you isn’t bigotry. Even religion.

But you have no right to force other people to buy birth control for you if it violates their beliefs, which are a right and don’t interfere with your rights (as opposed to wants).

Idiot columnistette Jessica Valenti thinks women should have sex *in* Hobby Lobbies nationwide to protest the ruling. Which is great, with two exceptions; 1) five’ll getcha ten the “women” will look like Jessica Valenti 2) That’ll open the door to people splattering guts and gore all over Planned Parenthood clinics. Choose your pointless symbolic gestures wisely, whiny spoiled progressives!

Frankly, you should have no more “right” for you to force anyone else to buy you contraception than I should to force you to buy me ammunition, not because of my religious beliefs (which say nothing about contraception) but because it takes my money.  But that brings up an argument about taxation and government that goes way beyond this, and that we should actually have in our society (government should pay for nothing but the court system, defense, and arresting and prosecuting people who materially harm other people), but is a huge tangent from the discussion we’re actually having.

You have a right to use contraception.  You have, currently, the legal means to force most people who work for most companies, and all publicly-held companies, to pay for them.  You don’t have the right to violate the rights of privately-owned companies’ freedom of religion.

It’s pretty simple, which is of course why you all get it wrong.

Hobby Lobbyist

Hobby Lobby won its case - to not be forced to provide contraception – 5-4:

The justices’ 5-4 decision Monday is the first time that the high court has ruled that profit-seeking businesses can hold religious views under federal law. And it means the Obama administration must search for a different way of providing free contraception to women who are covered under objecting companies’ health insurance plans.

Look for an escalation of “War on Women” rhetoric in 3…2…1…

The ACLU Gets One Right

The American Civil Liberties Union is a ”civil liberties” group – defending the liberties that the political class east of the Hudson and West of the Sierra Madre value, first and foremost. 

Don’t get me wrong – in the great scheme of things, someone has to defend the First Amendment rights of Nazis to march in Skokie, or for artists to create statues of the Virgin Mary made of cow dung.  And it’s not going to be me – not beyond the intellectual plane with any great vigor, anyway. 

Of course, the ACLU has always believed the Second Amendment was a collective right – incomprehensibly believing that while rights “of the People” in the First Amendment refer to individuals, in the Second they attach to the National Guard. 

But once in a while they get one right – as in the report earlier this week on the excessive militarization of the Police.

Straw

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Naturally, I favor the dissent in the Abramski straw-buyer gun case.  This section caught my eye:

That Abramski’s reading does not render the Act’s requirements “meaningless” is further evidenced by the fact that, for decades, even ATF itself did not read the statute to criminalize conduct like Abramski’s. After Congress passed the Act in 1968, ATF’s initial position was that the Act did not prohibit the sale of a gun to an eligible buyer acting on behalf of a third party (even an ineligible one). See Hearings Before the Subcommittee To Investigate Juvenile Delinquency of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, 94th Cong., 1st Sess., pt. 1, 118 (1975).A few years later, ATF modified its position and asserted that the Act did not “prohibit a dealer from making a sale to a person who is actually purchasing the firearm for another person” unless the other person was “prohibited from receiving or possessing a firearm,” in which case the dealer could be guilty of “unlawfully aiding the prohibited person’s own violation.” ATF, Industry Circular 79–10(1979), in (Your Guide To) Federal Firearms Regulation1988–89 (1988), p. 78. The agency appears not to have adopted its current position until the early 1990’s. See United States v. Polk, 118 F. 3d 286, 295, n. 7 (CA5 1997).

The majority deems this enforcement history “not relevant” because the Government’s reading of a criminal statute is not entitled to deference. Ante, at 22. But the fact that the agency charged with enforcing the Act read it, over a period of roughly 25 years, not to apply to the type of conduct at issue here is powerful evidence that interpreting the Act in that way is natural and reasonable and does not make its requirements “meaningless.”

“Even if the statute were wrongly thought to be ambigu­ous on this point, the rule of lenity would defeat the Gov­ernment’s construction. It is a “familiar principle” that “‘ambiguity concerning the ambit of criminal statutes should be resolved in favor of lenity.’” Skilling v. United States, 561 U. S. 358, 410 (2010). That principle prevents us from giving the words of a criminal statute “a meaning that is different from [their] ordinary, accepted meaning, and that disfavors the defendant.” Burrage v.United States, 571 U. S. ___, ___ (2014) (slip op., at 12). And it means that when a criminal statute has two possible readings, we do not “‘choose the harsher alternative’” unless Congress has “‘spoken in language that is clear and definite.’” United States v. Bass, 404 U. S. 336, 347–349 (1971). For the reasons given above, it cannot be said that the statute unambiguously commands the Government’s current reading. It is especially contrary to sound practice to give this criminal statute a meaning that the Govern­ment itself rejected for years.”

I wasn’t aware the government had reversed its interpretation of the statute and I never heard of a rule of lenity.  But the dissent makes sense to me.

Joe Doakes

Further proof that:

  • We have too many laws
  • The fact that our laws are enforced, not enforced, or overeenforced at the discretion of government according to political priorities is a sign that your government is becoming more lawless, and merely turning into the gang with the coolest guns.

Time to fix both.

Outsourced

Georgia town privatizes just about everything that’s not elected; the experiment has been a raving success.

Sandy Springs, Georgia has, for the past nine years, privatized just about every facet of government:

To grasp how unusual this is, consider what Sandy Springs does not have. It does not have a fleet of vehicles for road repair, or a yard where the fleet is parked. It does not have long-term debt. It has no pension obligations. It does not have a city hall, for that matter, if your idea of a city hall is a building owned by the city. Sandy Springs rents.

The town does have a conventional police force and fire department, in part because the insurance premiums for a private company providing those services were deemed prohibitively high. But its 911 dispatch center is operated by a private company, iXP, with headquarters in Cranbury, N.J.

“When it comes to public safety, outsourcing has always been viewed with a kind of suspicion,” says Joseph Estey, who manages the Sandy Springs 911 service in a hushed gray room a few miles from city hall. “What I think really tipped the balance here is that they were outsourcing just about everything else.”

Critics’ response, summarized?  ”Yeah, but Sandy Springs is wealthy!  And white!  And privatizing government leads to gated communities!”

Responses?

  • Sure, it’s wealthy! (And 30% minority).  And they get to keep a lot more of that wealth than if they were in a city where government was the biggest for-profit enterprise.
  • Flint and Detroit were wealthy, too, before successive waves of government and big-union rent-seeking gutted them like deer.
  • If people decide to vote with their feet and hard-earned money for “gated communities”, that’s more a verdict on government than on them.  But it’s irrelevant; Sandy Springs is not a “gated community”; it’s a city that privatized every government function that could be put into a contract.

Mention this in the Twin Cities, of course, and people will recall the Saint Paul suburb that tried to contract out its snow-plowing.  According to accounts (written by government union members), it didn’t work well.  Of course, the contract – written by those same government workers – didn’t spell out performance standards, or at least spelled them out in a form that befitted a group of unionized city workers, if you catch my drift and I think you do.

You can predict the panic in response:

The prospect of more Sandy Springs-style incorporations concerns people like Evan McKenzie, author of “Privatopia: Homeowner Associations and the Rise of Residential Private Government.” He worries that rich enclaves may decide to become gated communities writ large, walling themselves off from areas that are economically distressed.

“You could get into a ‘two Americas’ scenario here,” he says. “If we allow the more affluent to institutionally isolate themselves, then the poor are supposed to do — what? They’re supposed to have all the poverty and all the social problems and deal with them?”

Evan.  Bubbie.  Listen up.

In Chicago, the places were Rahm Emanuel and the Obama family live are as safe as a pediatric ICU.  Mere blocks away, the streets are shooting galleries.  This, in one of the most over-governed, over-bureaucratized cities in the country.

We don’t have “two Americas” now?

The S Word – Redux

Why keep political divisions, just for the sake of tradition?

Here’s a video about the proposed “State of Jefferson” – the move by rural Northern California to secede from the rest of the state:

This, and the secession movement in Colorado – and the fallout either or both could bring – could be the best thing to happen to this nation in decades.

A Libertarian Is A Conservative Who’s Been Audited

Minnesota’s property forfeiture laws – which allowed law enforcement to confiscate property they believed was involved in crimes even before anyone was convicted – started out under the Carlson Administration – during America’s last major round of drug hysteria, in the early-mid ’90s, when the national murder rate spiked over the crack trade and Minnesota was reeling from the early-decade carnage in Minneapolis where, driven by gangs, the murder rate briefly spiked to some fairly astronomical levels.

If the police grab your property – car, house, whatever – you have to file suit to get it back, proving that your property didn’t in fact commit a crime or some such other legalistic buncombe.

And for all of Jesse Ventura’s libertarian palaver, his administration never addressed the issue.  And if anyone pulled Jesse Ventura’s strings, it was Dean Barkley, moderate-DFLer turned “Independence Party” guru and Jesse Ventura’s main advisor and for two  months, US Senator after Paul Wellstone died (and Ventura passive-aggressively refused to appoint election winner Norm Coleman to fill the period between the election and the swearing-in).

So maybe events have conspired to create another small-l libertarian?

Barkley’s ordeal started in April, he told me. He had lent the vehicle for a day to a relative to haul some tires. That relative was driving the GMC SUV when he got pulled over on Interstate 394, and Golden Valley police charged him with DWI and drug possession. They also seized the vehicle.

When Barkley went down to police headquarters, he was informed that they intended to keep the vehicle permanently under forfeiture laws. Barkley, who’s an attorney, was appalled.

Barkley has one distinct advantage: lawyer friends who will take his case on pro bono. Normally, it would cost about $5,000 to hire a lawyer to fight a forfeiture, making it pointless to do so if your property is worth less than that.

One of his attorneys, Philip Villaume, said the Golden Valley police have not violated any policies by refusing to give up the car so far, but he said he expects that as an innocent owner, Barkley will win it back in court – eventually. How long will that take? About three months, he said.

What’s the old saying?  ”A Republican is a Democrat that’s been mugged; a Libertarian is a Republican who’s been audited”?

Barkley said he did not think much about forfeiture law in his political days, but he’s thinking about it now. “It goes against every constitutional concept that I studied in law school. If somebody is guilty of something, fine. This way they presume you’re guilty… I think it’s screwy. I think it’s completely backwards.”

Yes, it certainly is.

Memorial Day

As I discussed on the show on Saturday, there are really two sides to Memorial Day, to me.

The first part is the obvious part; remembering those who’ve died to keep this country free.

There are many of them; well over a million men and women have died in the service of this country, in wars big – the Civil War, World War 2 – and small (the Philippine Insurrection, Desert Storm).

And their memory – and the ones that lived, and are with us – deserve a world of thanks.

———-

A friend of this blog – a Navy veteran, as it happens – posted this on Facebook late last week:

Good morning all! It’s Memorial day weekend again.

Instead of exhorting patriotism and thankfulness from folks who don’t want to hear it I’d like to remind you that our government is keeping tabs on all of us. They are flying drones over our homes and collecting our communications. There are cameras *everywhere* taking our pictures, recording our movements. Our local police are now a military force, equipped with heavy weapons and armor. If you have made any firearm related purchases, or frequent arms related websites, your name is on a list. If you happen to belong to a conservative political group, the IRS has your number, but don’t feel left out Lefties, sooner or later they’ll get around to you too. If this situation is not OK with you, what have you done about it? Written anyone? Called anyone? Shown up in person anywhere to get in your legislators grill?

If you don’t care enough to protect the freedoms so many have died for, please don’t post a bunch of smarmy pictures & canned slogans; I don’t want to hear it.

There’s a place for the simple and the sentimental, of course…

…but the writer is correct; the real challenge facing those of us who haven’t died in the service of this country is to make sure that this country is worthy of their sacrifice.  To make sure that those who died to preserve freedom didn’t die in vain.

Those who founded this country knew perfectly well that the greatest threats to this nation’s freedom weren’t from overseas.

The writer wrote the piece in honor of a comrade…:

CWO3 Mike Sheerin; missing you today brother. Not many left around to pick up the slack you left; nobody at all to fill the shoes.

We’ve been blessed with just the right people to pick up the slack when they’ve been needed.

And these days, we all have slack to pick up.

Of Convenience, Part II

First things first.  I’ve got nothing against Hannah Nicollet.  If you go by what little she’s said in public about her political beliefs – she supported Ron Paul in 2012 – I probably agree with her 90-odd percent of the time.  Indeed, now that she’s been endorsed to run for Governor, my biggest dream is that she selects a Lieutenant Governor candidate named Lyndale, Hennepin, Franklin or Lake. 

So no – nothing against Hannah Nicollet.

IndyParty Gubernatorial candidate Hannah Nicollet

But I do have something against the Independence Party.

The party – which started as the Minnesota unit of Ross Perot’s “Reform Party”, and gained major party status with Minnesota’s great collective self-prank, the election of Jesse Ventura, and has held onto it by the skin of its teeth ever since – has been the traditional refuge of people who like their government big, but “good”.  Moderate Democrats like Tim Penny, liberal Republicans like Tom Horner, and lots of well-meaning moderates who like thinking big thoughts and playing responsibly with the gears and levers of government have flocked to the IP, if only briefly. 

It’s always been the party of the moderate wonk class. 

I – like most actual libertarians – have very little in common with the moderate wonk class. 

And since 2002, the party has been accused of existing primarily as a spoiler.  In the 2002 governor’s race, there’s a legitimate case to be made that the presence of former moderate Democrat Tim Penny siphoned center-left votes away from Roger Moe.  There’s an even better case to be made that left-of-center-left education policy wonk Peter Hutchinson may have cinched Tim Pawlenty’s razor-thin re-election over Mike Hatch in 2006.

Of course, the strongest case of all is that Tom Horner slurped up the traditional “Indepedent Republican” voter, all nostalgic for Arne Carlson and Dave Durenberger and pre-conversion Judi Dutcher, just enough to tip the scales for Governor Messinger Dayton.

And now, in 2014, when the headlines are jiggling with tales of fractiousness between the Ron Paul faction (not to mention the Tea Party) and the “establishment” of the GOP, into the midst of a race against a vulnerable DFL governor, comes Hannah Nicollet - who makes libertarian-sounding noises, and is being marketed directly at the “Ron Paul” libertarian faction in the GOP. 

Do I believe there’s some Democrat monkey-wrenching money from the likes of the unions or Alita Messinger involved?  Absolutely.  I can’t prove it, but I wouldn’t be in the least  surprised if it comes out at some point.  There’s a precedent for it.  It worked. 

But that’s not really the point of this post.  Not yet.

No – I’d actually like to ask (or have someone ask) Ms. Nicollet what she, personally and as a candidate being marketed to Libertarian Republicans, thinks of these bits and pieces of the “Independence Party of Minnesota” platform.

From the “Elections” section, the IP platform says…:

We support Instant Runoff Voting or another runoff process that allows us to vote our conscience and ensure that winners are supported by a majority.

So does Ms. Nicollet support a voting process that leaves ballots uncounted and, worse still for a “Ron Paul supporter”, makes the vote-counting process utterly opaque to regular voters? 

Or this:

We support partial public funding of elections to reduce candidate dependence on fundraising, thereby making politicians more independent and responsible to voters.

So the “Ron Paul supporter” would force taxpayers to pay for elections with the implicit threat of violence? 

We support the establishment of an independent nonpartisan commission to implement legislative redistricting.

Hiding more of government in more committee rooms promotes “liberty” exactly how?

And here’s the big kahuna:

Resolved that the IP support an amendment to the Minnesota State Constitution stipulating that candidates for public office can only receive financial donations from eligible voters who reside within the jurisdiction of the office they seek.

This violates the First Amendment in so many ways it’s hard to count them all.  Minneapolis gun owners and Benton county pro-marijuana activists would be cut off from campaigning with support from groups from out of district?  (While any government or trade union can filter money anywhere they want via any variety of subterfuges)? 

Not only does this not support liberty, it is actively hostile to it. 

In the “Prosperity and Quality of Life” section, the IP says…:

We are dedicated to fiscal responsibility and insist that our tax dollars be spent with restraint and care, but our goal is also for a bright future, and so we are committed to: supporting economic growth, excellence in education, access for all to quality and affordable health care, investing in an efficient transportation infrastructure, protecting the environment, and providing efficient energy resources.

The IP, in other words, sees a vital role for government in economic intervention, education, healthcare, transit, environmentalism and green energy. 

Which was a big part of of the “don’t”s section on any Libertarian policy checklist. 

Along the same vein, under the “Supporting Economic Growth” section:

An important role of government should be to support commerce and invite corporate investment in the state by assuring reasonable taxes, a well-educated and productive workforce, good transportation infrastructure, and an excellent health care system.

OK, that one is open to interpretation; hypothetically, that could be interpreted as “by getting out of the free market’s way”. 

Anyone wanna place bets on that? 

Or this one here:

We believe that many rural economies are challenged by a lack of access to the highest quality telecommunications, technology and transportation. We support policies that will allow rural businesses to compete effectively in the global economy and we also support government initiatives to assure that affordable and state-of-the-art internet connections are readily available to all citizens.

Government intervention in the telecom industry is, at the very least, a matter of picking winners and losers (anathema to the liberty-minded), and a big boondoggle waiting to happen. 

Not to mention the nanny-statish subsidies inherent in this…

We believe in funding the research, development, and promotion of new value-added products and processes using Minnesota farm products.

Next, we move to “Education”:

We support government funding, standards and incentives that also reward advanced achievement, improving the education of our “average” students, and realizing the full potential of all students..

So not only is the IP – the banner under which “Libertarian” Hannah Nicollet is campaigning – a full supporter of the current, one-size-fits-all, nanny-state factory education model, but it supports starting the indoctrination bright and early:

We believe early childhood programs will generate excellent returns on investment by reducing future, more expensive educational needs and developing better-educated and more productive citizens.

Even the GOP “Establishment” is smarter than that. 

Onward to “Transportation”:

We support further development of a fully integrated, multimodal transportation system that could include automobiles, light and high speed rail, personal rapid transit (PRT), and High Occupancy Vehicle, high-speed bus lanes.

Even given the context of a state that has not only embraced but french-kissed Big Government for the past seventy years, Transportation policy may be the issue where Minnesota has gone to third base with complete nannystatism.  The Met Council has near-dictatorial authority over local jurisdictions, and is, and has been, run by a bipartisan assortment of people utterly friendly to the idea of using transportation to take “urban planning” out of the hands of the market and give it to the bureaucrat. 

And the IP – Hannah Nicollet’s party – enshrines this noxious statist ideal in its platform. 

In the “Environment” section, the platform is vague enough…

We support strong enforcement of environmental protection laws.

…to mean anything to anyone; it covers everything from preventing oil spills to stifling mining in perpetuity. 

What would “Doctor Paul” think?

And finally – the “Liberty, Justice and Security” section of the IndyParty platform says…

…well, stuff about legalizing pot (whatever), separation of church and state (natch) and…

…nothing.

Silence on government’s recent attacks on the First, Second, Fourth, Fifth and Tenth Amendments. 

Why?

Because while constitutional Libertarians live and breathe these issues, they’re issues on which the IndyParty as a vested interest in strategic silence. 

So the question is, Ms. Hannah Nicollet (or anyone who deighns to answer for her, the endorsed candidate of a major Minnesota political party), how does she square her endorsing party’s positions on these platform issues with her erstwhile Libertarian beliefs, and with the fact that she is being marketed to Libertarians? 

And to you Libertarian-leaning GOP (and Libertarian) voters at whom Ms. Nicollet is currently targeted; you folks gotta admit, you’re long on talk about “principles”.  So do your “principles” tell you that having a “libertarian” candidate marketed to you by a rankly statist party might be ever-so-slightly…

…cynical?  Unprincipled? 

Calculated?

More to come.

Continue reading

Success Breeds Success

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

A buddy writes, regarding citizen journalist Andrew Henderson’s acquittal:

So one year and thousands of dollars in lawyer’s fees later, he is acquitted of all charges. But where is the apology, the admission of wrong doing by the cops? Or the assessment of defense costs and fees?

Here is a little excerpt that perfectly, although I’m sure accidentally, portrays the abuse of process and authority of this whole thing:

Deputy Jacqueline Muellner, now retired, told the court that she confiscated the camera, stored it in her squad overnight and then in her work mailbox in an unsecure location for a day or two instead of the secure property locker.

Norgaard and Muellner said they were concerned about the patient’s privacy because it was a medical call.

They were so concerned about the patient’s privacy that she stole the camera and arrested the citizen, but then left the camera in sundry unsecured locations over the coming days while she worried about the invasion of privacy that the footage on the camera contained, and later discovered that the footage was somehow magically wiped. I’m not surprised it took the jury less than an hour to vindicate Henderson, her story has no credibility at all.

The larger issue is what to do about a law enforcement culture that sees itself as above the law. The officer violated Henderson’s First Amendment rights, using her authority as a government agent, then destroyed the evidence against her. What is it about Minnesota’s union-DFL-Big-Brother government that made her think she could get away with that?

Joe Doakes

The fact that they always do get away with it?

The Founding Fathers Were Worried

The founding fathers were worried, more than just about anything, about the threat a standing military would provide a free people.

Their worries were answered for the first 140 years of our nation’s history with a national military that was the absolute bare minimum needed to secure an isolated nation’s peacetime borders – the US Army in the 1870s included ten regiments of cavalry, 20 of infantry, and about eight of artillery, which was a tiny fraction of the army of any continental power – augmented in times of national emergency by troops raised by the states and lent do (and paid for by) the Feds for the duration of the emergency (which was where units like the “First Minnesota” and “67th Massachusetts” came from).

And between the strictures built into the system – the Posse Comitatus rule – and a generally well-directed sense of duty , the military has been generally good at staying out of internal business pretty much as long as there’s been a military.

But one thing the founding fathers never predicted in the 1780s – when “local law enforcement” meant a constable and whose main job was to watch for out-of-control fires – the power and scope of local and federal law enforcement today.

Whether it’s local police turning their SWAT teams into Panzergrenadier units, departments turning “law enforcement” into a stream of cash flow, cops turning crime scenes into free-fire zones and civilians into collateral damage stats, or even the most innocuous corners of the Federal Government coming up with the budget to have paramilitary units with full battle rattle, it’s fairly clear to me that the dynamic the Founders were worried about is alive and well…

…and turning the local and federal police into the “standing army” they were worried about in the first place.

Why I’m No Longer A Libertarian

My old friend Gary Miller is giving a speech to a Young Republican group tomorrow.  Or maybe a College Republican group.  And it might have already happened, for all I know.

But the particulars aren’t as important as the theme of his talk; “Why I’m No Longer a Republican”.

Gary was of course the proprietor of “Truth Vs. The Machine”, one of the great paleocon GOP blogs of the mid-2000s.  Over the past year or two, he’s left the GOP and become a Libertarian; at times, he’s even described himself as an “Anarcho-Libertarian”, one of the small crowd of Libertarians who believe that the only good government is a non-existent government.

And, I suspect, he’s going to describe the genesis of his disenchantment with the GOP, and his eventual move into the Libertarian sphere of things.

I’m sure it’ll be worth attending.  Although I’d probably get carded and 86ed.

But for the benefit of those YRs that might be interested, I thought I’d describe a full circle.  Because where Gary is now, I was, close to 20 years ago.  The details were different, but the disenchantment was the same.  As to the final results?  Well, we won’t know that for quite a while.

Underwhelmed:  I’ve told the story on this blog, and on my show, many times; in 1994, disgusted with Republican support for the 1994 Crime Bill (the last great successful push for gun control in this country), I quit and joined the Libertarians.

I called myself a Libertarian with a big L for four years.  I ran for State Treasurer, and won a moral victory in the 1998 election; my only platform plank was to abolish the office of State Treasurer.  That election, the people of Minnesota voted in a Constitutional initiative to abolish the office, proving they didn’t need pols to do their abolishing for them – and you can’t get more Libertarian than that).

And then I left.  There were really two reasons.

Screaming Into The Void:  If a Libertarian proposes a policy in the woods, and nobody hears them, do they really exist?

Judging by how American government has morphed over the past two decades, the answer is obviously “no”.

I left the Libertarian Party because it’s a party of great, brilliant ideas, declaimed with authority to rooms full of people who vigorously agree, and who remain magnificently above the fray, neither having to try to implement any of those ideas as policy nor, in many cases, claiming to want to try.  To some, the fact that politics is about compromise – battling to a consensus with people who disagree with you – is an invitation to perdition; one might need to compromise ones’ core principles!

So while they think their big thoughts in their salon full of other big thinkers, the non-Libertarian do-ers, unworried about sullying their principles because “getting power for ourselves” was their guiding principle, would be out on the street actually convincing the unconvinced to give them more of it.

And the more I tried to discuss this, the more I realized that while Libertarians paid lip service to the idea of actually winning elections and affecting policy, to way too many Libertarians the goal seemed to be able to say “I told you so” to the rest of society as it slowly turned away from the light.

And that struck me as completely pointless.

So I thought “where can I go where I can work on pushing more Liberty into actual policy that affects real people?”  I went back to the GOP more or less by default; I figured it was a more hospitable party to the idea of “liberty” (and I was right – there is not and can never be a Tea Party, or any Pauls, Rand or Ron, in the Democrat Party).

Quixotic?  Sure.  No moreso than trying to change society from within an echo chamber, though.

Reality Bites:  The other reason?  Libertarians – collectively and singly – are right about just about everything.  Freedom is better.  Government largely is the worst possible solution to every issue.  Decentralized is better than centralized.  Markets are better than regulations.

But there are threeissues about which Libertarians – individually, rather than as a Party – are dead wrong:

  • People are social
  • Human nature is not a construct.
  • Evil exists.

The classic Ayn-Randian Libertrian vision – and to some extent, our founding fathers had it as well – is that society is a mass of autonomous, disconnected equals, whose fate is governed entirely by their own merits and talent in navigating The Market. 

But humans are social animals.  We gather instinctively into groups – marriages, families, clans, tribes, villages, congregations, religions.  Some of them are voluntary, some aren’t.  All of them have rules.  Those rules sometimes take the form of “laws”, and laws are by their nature enforced by something, whether it’s Don Knotts or Catholic Guilt or a SWAT team. 

Of course, those rules – “laws” – exist for a bunch of reasons, the most useful and justifiable of which trace back to our evolutionary imperative to make sure our next generation grows up healthy and able to take care of us and able to raise yet another generation.  Rules like “if you have a kid, take care of it, dont’ run off, don’t kill it”.  Then ” don’t kill other peoples’ kids”.  Then “Don’t kill the people that take care of those kids”.  Then “don’t steal the means by which people feed and care for the next generation – food, land, property, means of production”.   And finally, “don’t go taking the land and killing the people that are the who and where our next generation gets raised”. 

Put another way – thou shalt not kill, steal, lie, cheat, covet other peoples’ stuff or piddle on whatever order we do have. 

And in a nearly perfect world, those rules have to be arrived at by consensus – so we, the people, end up with the bare minimum of “government by consent of the governed”, meaning me.  I want my government to be my employee, not my self-appointed master.

And I want that government to exist for, and deal with, a strictly limited list of things; enforce our contracts, impart consequences on those who do violate the bare minimum of rules we do have (mostly related to using force and violence against others)…

…but, most importantly, when I find my property crawling with Methodists with guns and bombs and knives, to respond with snipers and paratroopers and tanks, to drive the Methodists from all of our property as we sing “Constitutional Capitalist Collective, F**k Yeah!”, and “we’ll put a boot in your ass, it’s the Strictly Limited Government way…”.

Those are really the only three reasons why anyone should have to interact with anyone else on a non-social basis.  And as it happens, they are the only three that matter…

…and are the ones on which libertarian purists are the  most lost in the philosophical clouds.

So that’s why I’m no longer a Libertarian.

I’m a libertarian-conservative who votes to prevent as much damage to liberty as possible, election by election.

To some, the distinction is meaningless.  To others, it’s meaninglessly precise.  Either way, that’s me, and that’s why.

For Those Of You…

…who’ve wondered “whatever happened to Landen Beard…”

Well, we don’t have any indication whatsoever that he was the BATF agent who flashed a gun at someone in rush-hour traffic yesterday, shutting down traffic in I94 while cops chased him down…

…and then released him.  Because the law apparently allows “undercover” plainclothes cops to threaten people with lethal force when they’re one cup of coffee short for the morning.

“Police powers” have gone way, way too far.

The No-Brainer

A majority of Minnesotans support Sunday liquor sales.  And every year, as another generation of Minnesotans runs out of beer for a Sunday cookout for the first time, that support rises.

And yet the Minnesota Senate killed an amendment to an omnibus booze bill that would have legalized Sunday liquor sales for the first time.

In a state where taxes are booming and small business is being strangled, it seems like a minor issue – and it is.  But it’s also a no-brainer if you claim to support limited government and scaling back on pointless, mindless regulation – which are things Republicans talk about a lot.

Walter Hudson goes over the reasons,and finds them wanting:

While liquor stores near the border may clamor to compete with stores in surrounding states who enjoy a surge of business from exiled Minnesotans each Sunday, most of the liquor industry likes their state-mandated day off. Union contracts would have to be renegotiated if Sunday sales were legal. Routines would have to be adjusted. Staff might need to be hired and trained. Things would change, and change is icky.

Other special interests include moralizing theocrats who believe the state should force others to conform to their religious preferences, along with mother hens concerned that a seventh day of drinking invites untold carnage…Can you smell the nanny-statism? Do you see the cronyism at work? This is why rank-and-file activists and average everyday Minnesotans find this issue so provocative. There’s no plainer case of special interests wielding undue and wholly illegitimate influence over the rights of individuals.

And you’d think this’d be a no-brainer for Republicans.

And for a little over half the Senate GOP caucus, you’d be wrong.  While the DFL voted overwhelmingly to kill the Amendment, at the behest of their union benefactors and one of the state’s main booze-retail lobbies, the Senate GOP also voted 14-12 to kill the amendment.    Here are the votes.    And the s

And while it is a minor issue – to me more than most, since I go to liquor stores maybe once or twice a year – Hudson explains as capably as any I’ve read why that makes it, in some ways, even more important:

Why does this issue matter? Because if we can’t conjure the political will to overcome special interests in defense of individual rights when it barely matters at all, how are we going to champion rights when the stakes are huge?

If we can’t achieve consensus on the political Right that people should be free to open their businesses when they please, how are we going to win the argument that parents should educate as they please, or that individuals should own their healthcare, or that any of us own our life in any meaningful way? If the legislature can cite some social benefit to banning Sunday sales, why can’t they cite a social benefit to banning anything imaginable?

While 12 of the GOP caucus supported the Amendment (proposed by Branden Petersen, who is fast turning into the Rand Paul of the MN State Senate, and I mean that as a good thing), we need to have a word with Bruce Anderson, Gary Dahms, Michelle Fischbach, Paul Gazelka, Dan Hall (to whom I give a partial pass at voting for a higher principle as a Catholic lay priest, but it’s only a partial pass), Bill Ingebrigtsen,  Mary Kiffmeyer,  Warren Limmer,  Carla Nelson,  John C. Pederson,  Eric Pratt,  Julie A. Rosen,  Bill Weber and the normally-excellent Torrey Westrom.

The S Word, Part V: Realigned

 In the previous installment of this series, we discussed the idea that the word “no”, in hands of a free consumer, is the most powerful idea in the world

With a simple “no”, free people have brought monopolies that defied government’s gnarliest efforts to their knees. 

With a series of simple “nos”, free people with free choice have forced business to get faster, more nimble and responsive and…

…not necessarily “smaller”, but much less ponderous.  In a world full of companies who are trying to get a world full of people to “yes”, the Eldorado goes to first place; second place is the set of steak knives.  We all know who gets third.

Politics, of course, is the one area where people’s ability to say “no” is subsumed to the will of not so much the “majority” as “the minority that best accretes the monopoly on power to itself”.  Which is, of course, why government is so big, slow and stupid. 

Now, as we established in the first part of this series, if Americans could say “no” to each other, many of them would.  If US citizens could “spin off” fellow citizens who don’t match our long-term strategy the way a company CEO spins off a division that isn’t fitting in with the enterprise’s long-term strategy, many of us would do exactly that.

The Creatively Destroyed Union:  The rest of the world – everything from Microsoft to the USSR is breaking into smaller, more sustainable pieces.  It works because existing business models have become obsolete – where “obsolescence” is defiend as “people are saying no to them, and “yes” to other things”

 Why not same for nations?

The Best And Worst That Can Happen:  What might make sense?

Viewed from a high level the “United” States of America seems to have broken into five different nations in all but name and tax code.

The various parts, for my purposes, will use the names I give them.  Call ‘em “working titles”. 

 

 

The United States of Krugmania (Blue):  The northeast part of the country would likely gravitate, socially and economically, toward the European social democracies that it’s been aping – and getting the rest of the country to ape – for the past 100 years or so.  The new country’s main exports – unemployable grad students, grievances and mainstream media – will provide an excellent income for the few people who will be able afford to be citizens. 

The South (Red): Pro-law-and-order, not above using big government to enact policy (usually social, sometimes economic),but otherwise generally pro-business, The South is already well-placed to be the part of the country to which the Northeast and the  United Dudes (see below) outsource their manufacturing. 

The United States of the Great Lakes (Brown):  Rust-belt states with, frequently, rust-belt policies (Scott Walker’s Wisconsin notwithstanding), the USGL may be politically schizophenic – but it makes sense economically.  Provided they don’t mind paying for Detroit and Chicago. 

Real America (Gray):  Rolling in energy wealth, blessed by its libertarian leanings with little government overhead, RA will be an export powerhouse. 

The United Dudes Of Existence (Yellow): With an economy focused on entertainment, water resale and alternative therapeutics, the UDE’s tax rates may approach 100% – but how about that weather?

———-

Well?  Would it be any worse than what we have?

 

Freedom Of Choice

I don’t oppose unions.

Unlike the vast majority of Democrats, I’ve actually belonged to a union.

Unions can be - can be - a vital part of a free labor market.

But they usually aren’t.  And when people encounter a product or service that’s of no worth to them in the free market, they can say no – provided the political process hasn’t removed that option.

In Michigan, which just passed a “right to work” law granting workers the option to say “no” to unions, 80% of healthcare workers have done just that:

That means some 44,000 workers did not wish to be part of the SEIU, when given the choice.

Ted O’Neil, media relations manager for the Mackinac Center, said plummeting SEIU membership is a clear sign that the forced unionization of home healthcare workers was never something those people wanted.

“All 44,000 of those caregivers who were originally forced into the union are free to go back and join,” he told The Daily Caller. “It’s very telling of what worker freedom means to people.”

Drop the word “worker”.  When people have the freedom to say “no” to things that don’t work for them, real change happens.

I bring this up because it’s an issue that should resonate with Minnesotans, where the DFL is trying to force healthcare and childcare workers into AFSCME and the SEIU, respectively.  They’re doing it for exactly the same reason as they did it in Michigan – to skim dues for their management and the Democrat party that gives them all the goodies:

The dues-skimming scheme was set up in 2006, after the SEIU identified home-based healthcare workers as a potential revenue source. Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm helped facilitate the process by setting up a by-mail election for union representation for home-based caregivers. Some said they never received ballots and were unaware of what had happened.

The Minnesota plan – which is currently under a court injunction – would be exactly the same scam.