Writing on the Double Yellow Line

Militant moderate, unwilling to concede any longer the terms of debate to the strident ideologues on the fringe. If you are a Democrat or a Republican, you're an ideologue. If you're a "moderate" who votes a nearly straight party-ticket, you're still an ideologue, but you at least have the decency to be ashamed of your ideology. ...and you're lying in the meantime.

Location: Illinois, United States

Friday, May 31, 2019

Geopolitics for Libertarian Dummies

Geopolitics for Libertarian Dummies
©2019  Ross Williams

One of the most consistent criticisms I have about libertarians is their steadfast, pacifist, hypocritical refusal to apply their stated principles to international affairs.  As soon as the subject starts dealing with something farther afield than a zoning board ruling, or a property tax referendum for their local school district and I remind them of what they claim to stand for, they scoop up their children and their pets, lock the doors behind them, and peek furtively through their kitchen curtains until the scary man with the imperialist proclivities goes away.

If I’m what they think an imperialist is, then they’re in for a rude awakening when they emerge from their mother’s basement into the real world to encounter the assholes in any number of other nations.  Assholes who, by and large, without us behaving as I advise us to occasionally behave, would do their damnedest to imperialize as much as they could, to include [if possible] the basements of many libertarian’s mothers.

Not that these libertarians would acknowledge the assholery of certain foreigners, of course.  Many libertarians respond to reality with some combination of wishful thinking and theoretics.  “Well, I don’t like the thing that’s actually happening!  This is how it’s supposed to work, so therefore it does…”.

Yeah… no.  And geopolitics is arguably the biggest academic, intellectual stumbling block for libertarians to trip over.  Just consider how they filter personal interactions versus sovereign interactions through the philosophy of their sainted Non-Aggression Principle.

The libertarian’s Holy NAP states, simply enough: It is never permissible to initiate force; force may only be used in self-defense or the defense of others.  And the phrasing here is critical.  Force may be used.  It is not required to be used.

The Holy NAP is a truly fine, fine principle.  But libertarians commonly abandon it when presented with an international reality in which the principle would be useful.  Many times, they’ll deny that the principle allows for “defense of others”.  This, despite the position many libertarians have taken on abortion, where they advocate the government prohibit it.  Think of the children!!”  Not to mention the position so very many of them took when Rand Paul was clocked by his neighbor.

Let’s walk through the libertarian geopolitical cognitive dissonance one step at a time. 

Scenario 1: A libertarian is sitting at home minding his own business, and someone breaks down his front door and ransacks the place.  The libertarian will, with 100% certainty, read the Holy NAP to permit the libertarian shooting the intruder dead.  If the intruder has cohorts out in the street, the libertarian will, with 100% certainty, read the Holy NAP to permit taking the fight to them as well.

Corollary: The libertarian’s nation is sitting at home minding its own business, when someone invades and ransacks the place.  The libertarian will usually, but not always, read the Holy NAP to permit shooting the intruder dead.  I’ve run across an odd libertarian or two who will make excuses for the invader, claiming that the invader was justified in his invasion because of something the libertarian’s nation did.  I’ve run across a significantly larger number of libertarians who will resist taking the fight to the invader’s cohorts and helpers.

For both: witness the collective libertarian responses to 9/11.  Panislamist yahoos in a shoestring paramilitary force under the sovereign protection of Afghanistan invaded the US, knocked down some really tall buildings and just generally made assholes of themselves.  A few libertarians excused this behavior, though most did not.  Many-to-most libertarians, though, denied the right of US sovereign self-defense in taking the fight to the invaders’ cohorts in the accessory nation of Afghanistan.

Scenario 2a: A libertarian is visiting the home of a friend or acquaintance across town when an intruder breaks down the door and attacks the libertarian.  The libertarian will, with 100% certainty, read the Holy NAP to permit the libertarian shooting dead the intruder of another’s home.  If the intruder has cohorts out in the street, the libertarian will, with 100% certainty, read the Holy NAP to permit taking the fight to them as well.

Corollary: The libertarian’s nation is visiting the nation of an ally or semi-friendly nation half-way around the globe when an invader barges in and attacks the libertarian’s nation.  Most libertarians, in my experience, will make excuses as to why the Holy NAP doesn’t apply, and usually culminating in “We have no business being there in the first place; it’s our fault.”

Witness the collective libertarian responses to the USS Cole and Khobar Towers.  Along with liberals and leftists, libertarians popularly decided that the US being attacked in these places at these times was the fault of the US…  in much the same way as women getting raped while in the wrong part of town was their own fault, or something.

Scenario 2b: A libertarian is on a sidewalk or some other patch of public territory he is permitted to use, even if it’s in a seedy neighborhood.  A mugger jumps out of the shadows and attacks the libertarian. The libertarian will, with 100% certainty, read the Holy NAP to permit the libertarian shooting the mugger dead.  If the mugger has cohorts nearby, the libertarian will, with 100% certainty, read the Holy NAP to permit taking the fight to them as well.

Corollary: The libertarian’s nation is sailing in International Waters or flying in International Airspace, or some other portion of the planet he is being permitted to use, even if it’s in a seedy part of the globe.  Another nation attacks the military warcraft of the libertarian’s nation.  Almost all libertarians, in my experience, will deny the Holy NAP applies and deny the sovereign right of self-defense, most going so far as to assert that any self-defense action taken is, astoundingly, an unprovoked use of force by the libertarian’s nation.

Witness the overwhelming collective libertarian responses to Iraqi attacks on US fighter jets patrolling the UN-created “no-fly zones” over northern and southern Iraq between 1991 and 2002.  Witness also the common libertarian response to China downing a US spy plane flying in International Airspace off the coast of China in 2001.  Witness further the common libertarian response to Iran commandeering US patrol boats in the Persian Gulf in 2016.

Scenario 3a: A libertarian gets word that an intruder breaks down the door of his friend or acquaintance on the other side of town and attacks those residing in the home.  The libertarian will, with 100% certainty, read the Holy NAP to permit the libertarian rushing off to defend his friend or acquaintance, up to and including arming himself and chasing his attackers back to where ever it is they came from.

Corollary:  A libertarian’s nation gets word that a sovereign ally or semi-friendly nation gets attacked by another sovereign nation or a sovereign proxy.  Virtually all libertarians, in my experience, will deny the Holy NAP applies, and claim that any sovereign force used by the libertarian’s nation to defend an attacked nation would constitute a NAP-prohibited “initiation of force”.

Witness virtually every libertarian’s response to Arab State or Arab proxy attacks against Israel, ever.  Witness virtually every libertarian’s response to Iranian hegemonic militarism on the Arabian Peninsula. 

Scenario 3b: A libertarian happens across a random act of street violence against a random stranger.  The libertarian will, with 100% certainty, read the Holy NAP to permit the libertarian taking forceful action against the perpetrator of the street violence in defense of the victim, even though it is a stranger.

Corollary:  A libertarian’s nation happens across a random act of sovereign violence against a random group of dispossessed people singled out for obliteration by their own government.  Virtually all libertarians, in my experience, will deny the Holy NAP applies, and claim that any sovereign force used by the libertarian’s nation to defend the dispossessed people against their sovereign nation marking them for obliteration would constitute a NAP-prohibited “initiation of force”.

Witness virtually every libertarian’s response to Turkish, Iraqi, Iranian and Syrian treatment of their Kurdish minority populations.  Witness virtually every libertarian’s response to the socialist Venezuelan government’s treatment of their own pet-eating population.  And I’ll stop listing examples here, because to list just those occurring in the last decade would take a dozen pages.

The fact of the matter is, under the premises of liberty, each individual citizen is a cop.  It is the responsibility of the citizen in a society built upon liberty − individually and collectively − to police his own neighborhood.  That doesn’t mean we shoot the pizza delivery guy who steps on our begonias, or that we wage war on Cardinals fans who insult everyone who isn’t a Cardinals fan.  Discretion and wisdom are necessary tools.  Part of discretion and wisdom includes choosing which battles to fight yourself, which to leave to the professionals, and which − in the first place − don’t rise to the level of being fought by anyone.

It is further mandatory to guard against the impulse to gratuitous vigilantism.  But the existence of vigilantism does not obviate individual responsibility for personal and public protection.

Similarly, in a system of sovereignty that purports to have any claim to liberty, it is the responsibility of liberty-leaning nations to be a cop.  The World’s Policeman as so many spit in false, self-righteous invective.  As if it’s a bad thing.  That is our job.  Discretion and wisdom − and a substantial understanding of International Law and military doctrine − is necessary here, though, as well.  Part of that discretion and wisdom lies in knowing which battles to fight yourself, which battles to leave others to fight on their own, and which battles have no practical sovereign up-side even if they are worth fighting.

Please note, there are no separate and distinct “professionals” in sovereign libertying.  Each sovereign nation is, to the dismay of many including myself, as professional as it gets.

As with individual defense of liberty, it is mandatory to guard against sovereign vigilantism.  But wariness of vigilantism does not negate the reality that self-defense and defense of others takes place among and within sovereign states, and thus triggers the Holy NAP just as surely as a home invader does.  Pretending otherwise is outright craven pacifism, and is not principled use of force.  It is Grade-A hypocrisy.

…and that, as usual, when this topic is broached, seems to be where we came in.  Libertarians, practice what you preach.

Friday, May 24, 2019

The Left Can’t Meme

The Left Can’t Meme
©2019  Ross Williams

The political cartoon officially dates back to the early 18th century England, and is associated with the satirical artwork of William Hogarth.  I’d be willing to bet a bottle of my home-made mead, though, that archeologists will eventually turn up a caricature of Akhenaton on some obelisk mocking him for his Ethiopian policies.

Most early political cartoons were self-published.  They were cut from wood or, more commonly, wax, rolled with ink, and pressed onto leaflets ready for distribution among the hoi polloi.  They were slid under the windshield wipers of the day.  The better of these satirists were published in newspapers.

Then the Interwebs happened.  With it came a new form of artwork called the meme, a picture or short video clip over which is superimposed captioning or other images.  The internet meme is, by its nature, self-published.  Like political cartoons, their purpose is to satirize and otherwise mock something or someone, and usually has a political bent.  The internet meme is the 21st century incarnation of the political cartoon.

Because of the nature of the internet, and the self-involvement of those who play on it, there are − almost literally − a zillion memes.  I don’t meme, myself.  I’m willing to allow the millions of Pepe’s in the Kekistani Army to pull the weight; they’re much better at it.  Though of the half-zillion memes I’ve seen, most are somewhat amusing.  Thousands are actually clever.  A few hundred are profound.

As with political cartoons, to be effective, to sway an audience, a meme must be at least amusing.  Their purpose is to mock.  Mockery requires some form of humor to convey the message.  Without humor, the message is indistinguishable from self-righteous pontification.  Sanctimonious sermonizing alienates the audience targeted for swaying, and annoys all but the acolytes already swayed.  In short, it preaches to an ever-dwindling choir.  Witness late-night “comedy” and its ratings.

But − and this is critical − virtually all of the memes that are minimally humorous derive from what is often, and somewhat disingenuously, described as “the right” side of America’s political spectrum.  This means, as it’s commonly reduced: The Left can’t meme.

There’s a very good reason for that: they don’t have the intellectual tools.

Political satire must use some form of humor.  Doesn’t matter if it’s a hand-carved wax stamp of English Parliamentary foolishness, or a thirty-second video clip of Trump taking out CNN in WWE fashion.  Humor, in order to actually be humor, must be offensive.  Because the Left − with all the piety of a Borgia Pope − views anything offensive as morally out-of-bounds, they are effectively humorless.  They wouldn’t know a joke if it bit them on the ass − and that frequently happens.

And because they live in this sour, frowsy, self-imposed intellectual Elba, they cannot meme.  They come across as whiny and bitchy almost every time they try.  If you can’t take a joke, you can’t give a joke [again, witness late-night “comedy”].  And if you can’t give a joke, you can’t meme.

Being unable to take a joke led CNN to shooting itself in both feet and several other, and far more vital, body parts in the middle of 2017.  How dare someone politically mock the media giant as being taken down by Orangeman?!   Rather than simply acknowledging − ha ha, grrrr − that they and Donnie Combover have been engaging in a Clash of  Narcissistic Titans for the hearts and souls of the American Voter and that President Cheeto was currently winning with his Fake News troll, CNN got its butt firmly up on its shoulders and decided to ‘out’ the creator of the clever video clip.  As extortion by a multi-billion dollar player in the [ahem] neutral press is always seen as good sportsmanship, Kekistan revolted and CNN − to the degree it was still possible − lost even more credibility.

Even when the Left tries to meme, they fail − utterly and pathetically.  Their attempts to meme usually blow up in their own faces.  They couldn’t be mocked better or more effectively had “the right” done it to them.  Citing Poe’s Law, many actually believe that the book at the link just above actually is a “right wing” roast of the morose Left.

Be that as it may, and it truly may, we have a presidential election coming up.  In this election, there will be two camps of the Usual Suspects hectoring and haranguing on behalf of their team.  Both teams will attempt to sway the Undecided, to conquer, as it were, the vast Middle Earth battlefield.  Among the weapons at their respective disposal is political satire.  The solipsistic left has late-night “comedy” with its boring, tautological choir-preaching.  The Right − and everyone else − has the internet.

Judging from the breadth of the satire available to each side, and the popularity it garners, the Right has air superiority.  In modern warfare, that’s just about all it takes.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The Awful Second Amendment

The Awful Second Amendment
©2019  Ross Williams

Calm down, libertarians.  You get so easily riled.

The English language owes 50% [or thereabouts] of its dictionary to the German language.  Its grammar and syntax is descended wholly from German.  English and Germans 500 years ago, roughly at the time of Shakespeare, could converse with each other in their native languages with only modest stoppages in play − similar to what Italians and Spaniards can do today.  English, and particularly American English, evolved away from strict German syntax over the last 500 years, and mostly in the last 250.

But our Constitution was written 240 years ago when English, written properly, leaned heavily on its German roots.  As little as a hundred years after our Constitution was written, Americans, even those who were professional writers, were largely unpracticed in what was considered proper English grammar in the prior century.

Libertarians: please follow that link.  You'll learn something; if you’re smarter than a doorknob you’ll laugh. And frankly, most of you need desperately to do both.

In my conversations with those of our countrymen who intensely dislike the prospect of their fellow Americans being armed to the teeth, I’ve discovered that most of the problem with their misreading of the right to keep and bear arms lies in their being illiterate.  They cannot read and, having read, comprehend what was written.  This is particularly true of American historical documents, and most especially that awful Second Amendment.

Which astounds me, as they have zero problems, generally, understanding Yoda.  Yoda talks in the same way as the Second Amendment was written.  Which is to say: backwards.  Yoda is, for all intents and purposes, German.

Americans had no difficulty understanding German − the words or the grammar − 240 years ago.  Indeed, it was a toss-up whether English or German was to be our official language.  For better or worse, we settled on neither.  But for better or worse [and “worse” is, to libertarians, the usual conclusion], the Second Amendment was written using backward German syntax.

The Second Amendment is, as written:
A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

The Second Amendment would be written, today, as:
The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed because a well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free State.

Modern English is syntaxed as subject/verb/object; who/does what/to whom. 

German is syntaxed as object/subject/verb; whom/by who/is done.

We would say All you need is loveYoda
 − and a German − would say Love is all you need.

The first thing anti-gun nuts see in the Second Amendment is a well-regulated militia, and they conclude this phrase to be the subject of the thing.  They further conclude that the object − the thing dependent on the subject − is the right of the people to keep and bear arms.  Because they are illiterate and cannot navigate antiquated sentence structure, they conclude that only those people in the well-regulated militia are allowed to have guns.  They don’t even bother deciphering the verb portion of the sentence [shall not be infringed] and indeed ignore all points regarding it, because they’ve arrived at the conclusion that satisfies their political desires: only the military and police can have guns. …a recipe for a police-state dictatorship if ever there was one.

But because the Second Amendment is written backwards, in German syntax, the subject is the right of the people to keep and bear arms.  The verb-phrase is shall not be infringed.  The object is a well regulated militia.  Which means that the populace is rightfully presumed to be heavily armed, and the well-regulated militia − the military and the police − are chosen from among them.

Of course, anti-gun nuts will deny that the modern sentence structure I gave is the rhetorical equivalent of the Second Amendment as written.  Which is why I’ve periodically trotted out a corollary statement without the emotional bias inherent to gun-totin’ rowdies:
Well-rested students, being necessary to a successful education, the obligation of parents to insist upon an early bed-time shall be required.

And then I ask them a series of multiple choice questions, similar to those I was given in the late 60s and early 70s when I and my classmates were actually taught variant sentence structure in primary school.  This was so we could read English poets of the romantic era and understand why they were gibbering on about Greek vases and all.  Such instruction, sadly but understandably, no longer takes place.  The questions I would ask were like:

Which of the following statements properly rephrases the statement above?
a. Schools must send parents to bed early so the students will learn.
b. Parents need to get their kids in bed early so they’ll do better in school.
c. Getting good grades makes students go to bed early.
d. To get parents to do better in class, the teacher must be asleep.

The correct answer is, naturally, b.  If we were talking about the Second Amendment, though, anti-gun nuts would answer everything but b, with a heavy emphasis on c − good grades cause early bed-times.  All that learning just wears out their poor, frazzled brains.  Or something.

If I were a conspiracy theorist, I might conclude that public schools no longer taught variant sentence structure in 4th grade as a means to deliberately inspire misinterpretation of the Second Amendment.  Along with no longer teaching cursive handwriting so as to be unable to read the original American historical documents in the first place.  Et cetera.

But I’ll leave that for the other libertarians.  They’re much better at it.