Learning the lessons of August 15

Today, September 11, is a day of much State-sponsored solemnity in memory of the terrorist attacks that took place here seven years ago. One will read and hear much pious civic claptrap, but undoubtedly there will be little soul-searching as to what might have motivated people to come halfway across the world to kill innocent Americans who had nothing to do with the government policies which inflamed the terrorists.

The only time there seems to be any “reflection” about that azure, late summer day is when Rudy Giuliani and his Republican friends try to score political points with it. Even at this year’s convention, Giuliani pumped up McCain by saying that he “understands the lessons of 9/11.” On the contrary, we have, if anything, repeated many of the same mistakes after 9/11 which goaded the terrorists into their evil deeds in the first place.

Americans generally seem to think that September 11, 2001 was a watershed moment in the history of our country, a new “start” from zero. This view is hopelessly myopic and merely an excuse to engage in flag-waving.

So what did lead up to September 11? One could cite any number of events, from the stationing of Marines in Lebanon, to the time the H.W. Bush administration turned its back on Saddam Hussein, to our stationing of military forces in Islamic holy lands. Surely all of these are factors which aggravated the Muslim world–and we need not condone the actions of terrorists in order to see that one should not take a swing at the hornets’ nest in the first place.

But what made all this possible? Why, profligate government spending, of course! The U.S. can’t run the world without having gobs of money to dump into the military-industrial complex. “Yeah, that’s right, no wonder we have all these high taxes,” you might say. Well, not exactly. When it comes down to it, income taxes are petty theft compared to the way the government really gets its funding, which is by having the Federal Reserve print money out of thin air.

So money does grow on trees? Well, only on government trees and only for the State’s benefit. For the rest of us, this amounts to robbery. Here’s how. Imagine that you have a Mickey Mantle baseball card, one of a kind; there is no other like it. It will, based on its rarity, be worth an incredible sum of money. Let’s say, however, that someday it’s discovered that there are actually 2 million of these Mickey Mantle baseball cards. The value of yours will plummet. It will become a glorified bookmark.

The same is true with the money supply: fewer dollars in circulation means that each dollar will be worth more. When the Federal Reserve prints more dollars to pay for some State-sponsored conquest, the value of each dollar goes down. The net result of this is that your spending power, and your real savings, are greatly compromised. Inflation is not a fact of life, as many believe; rather, it is a result of the depredations of the U.S. government.

This is in fact how the government pays for its foreign policy operations, the very ones which got us mired in the Middle East in the first place, and the very ones which p*ssed off the terrorists. Tax revenue wouldn’t even come close to taking care of this.

Now, for much of the history of government inflation of money, the citizen still had something of a safety net in that he could redeem his dollars at any time in exchange for gold. On August 15, 1971, however, Richard M. Nixon severed this relationship completely. You are now stuck with these worthless pieces of paper. The government can debase the currency as much as it likes, and you are stuck paying the bill while the government goes on its bombing runs.

It seems to me, then, that we need to spend less time listening to Rudy Giuliani and his mob rehearse the supposed “lessons of 9/11″ and spend more time pondering the lessons of August 15.

Barr spokesman: principled non-voters same as fat, lazy, stupid non-voters

Thanks to Tom Woods at LRC for pointing out this ridiculous statement from the Barr campaign.

There is no difference between the wannabe political philosopher who refuses to cast a vote “out of principle” and the lazy citizen who chooses to remain ignorant of the issues, the candidates and his or her government.

Except that the principled non-voter often does a very good job of explaining to his friends and relatives the absurdities of the two-party system. The apathetic voter, on the other hand, still doesn’t know who Dick Cheney is.

This statement goes on to get personal and drops some rather serious, if unsubstantiated, accusations:

As painful as it is to state the obvious: this campaign by the man is no longer about the message, it is about the money – lots of it. Other than in his pocket and in the pocket of his paid staff, where is all the money going?

No one seems to know for sure.

The Barr campaign is asking us to support “liberty” by supporting Bob Barr. A crucial part of Ron Paul’s message, however, is against wars of foreign aggression, and Barr isn’t so solid on that point. Maybe the Barr campaign is so wild today because they thought they had a stranglehold on the “liberty” demographic. Well, tough sh*t for them. They’re going to have to earn their support. Maybe Bob Barr should “write a book and sell it to his followers.”

Go away, Bob Barr. No one needs you.

Oink, Oink: American electorate is gleefully distracted by b.s.

This little tempest in a teapot is on its second or third day already. Barack Obama, referring to Sarah Palin, said that if you put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig. An enormously over-sized media- and McCain campaign-induced uproar ensued, and the American electorate is stupid enough to be distracted by it.

Meanwhile, under the leadership of Ron Paul, a number of the third party candidates met this morning at the national press club to express their agreement on four very important issues: the Iraq war, privacy rights, the national debt, and the Federal Reserve. But I wouldn’t exactly look for this to show up on the MSM.  [Correction:  Apparently it was streamed on CNN's website. Was it broadcast on TV??]

Bob Barr, by the way, bailed on Paul, showing himself to be the fraud that many of us suspected he is. He may be running for the LP, but he’s still to the Left of Reagan.

The recordings of Glenn Gould: my refuge, my strength, my fountain of inspiration

We’re coming upon the end of the Glenn Gould year, which marks the 75th anniversary of his birth and the 25th anniversary of his death.  This Canadian pianist was in a certain respect the H.L. Mencken of the music world, cavalierly displaying his healthy irreverence for the more fossilized aspects of the classical music scene.  It was Gould’s recordings that cured me of that insidious infection known as artistic authenticity, and I shall be grateful to him forever for this.

Perhaps his signature piece was the Goldberg Variations of J.S. Bach. Here he is playing the Aria from that piece.

Ron Paul to call for rejection of two party system

Word has begun to leak on just what exactly tomorrow’s press conference is about.  Lew Rockwell has the goods.  Paul will ask voters to reject the two Establishment Party candidates and consider one of the third party candidates.

We’ve also been told to expect “something of an endorsement” from Paul.  It’s likely that he’d back Chuck Baldwin of the Constitution Party, whom he has said before most closely represents his own views.  Humbug.  I’m still not sold.  I’m very worried about certain little details in the CP platform, particularly those concerning the war on drugs.

Miscellany…

…lest you think I crawled in a hole and died…

Speaking of dying in holes, late Saturday night I noticed a strange sound that I couldn’t quite locate. I thought perhaps it was the wind, then I thought maybe it was my refrigerator trying to run unsuccessfully. Finally, I located the sound between the walls of my apartment. An animal. Perfect.

The first thing you do in such a situation, of course, is to Google. This usually brings up the worst-scenario results first, so I got to read a lot about the malodorous effects of decaying flesh on the domestic environment. Sounds like this is going to be lots of fun.

The next morning, the sound was gone, and so also, I hoped, my uninvited hotel guest. Never mind: Sunday night it was back, so I made a point yesterday of calling the guy in charge of upkeep, and he surmised that my new friend is a squirrel who has found a way in and a way out. He bases this on past experience with this building. I hope he’s right; then I won’t have to worry about carcasses on the other side of dry wall.

This situation has yet to be resolved. I will be sure to fill you in on all the details.

—-

Last night I dropped by the taxpayer-funded library (hey, I know, none of us is completely consistent, right???) and picked up Murray N. Rothbard’s Ethics of Liberty. If you don’t know about Murray Rothbard, you should try to get to know as much about him as you can, ASAP. Go to mises.org.

Meanwhile, here’s a taste:

—-

Something big is going down tomorrow at the National Press Club. Ron Paul has indicated that he intends to make a “major announcement.” [Update:  I'm being advised presently by a contact in Washington that this is being overblown and that it is "nothing."] No one is really sure what that means, but at this point, it appears as though most or even all of the third party candidates for president will be there. Many are dreaming the impossible dream that Paul will spearhead some kind of “unity” (anti-establishment) ticket, but I’m not sure how well election laws would allow for that.

One thing is certain: if the third parties, particularly the right-wing ones, find a way to pool their resources, they’ll be sued all the way to the moon by the JackSss McCain campaign, which would surely suffer from the busting of the two-party monopoly.

Only time will tell on this, but imagine if the third parties are successful at something as modest as getting into the prime time TV debates. Think of what this could do for the political discourse in this country. I can just hear it now, McBama wastes time talking about tax policy, and then someone like Barr or Baldwin jumps in and talks about the depredations of the Federal Reserve.

Is Barack Obama a Muslim?

Apparently Obama slipped recently and made reference to his “Muslim faith.” Indeed it looks to be less a slip and more a case of Christianists ripping the phrase out of context. Drudge, with his inimitable sense for the irrelevant news story, still has it near the top of the page.

For a moment, let’s leave aside the fact that Obama clearly mis-spoke. Let’s entertain the possibility that he is indeed a Muslim–not a prospect which I take seriously, but we’ll treat it with more respect than it deserves for the purpose of an argument. My question would then be: What’s the big deal? Many people who are utterly opposed to Obama have insisted these past eight years that Islam is a religion of peace, that terrorism is a product of distorted Islam, not authentic Islam. Their fear, then, is inconsistent with everything else they say.

Interestingly, however, what these Republicans people don’t realize is that, while there are indeed moderate Muslims, indeed many, many of them, militant Islam stems from a loophole that runs through much or maybe even all of Islamic theology. This loophole is called voluntarism–the belief that God himself is not bound by reason. In other words, God’s will is willy-nilly: He can do whatever he wants, even if it contradicts His own first principles. Before you think that I’m about to engage in Muslim-hating, note this: voluntarism got its start with Christian theologians such as Duns Scotus, who lived in the 13th-14th centuries. (It should be noted in passing that some subscribers to voluntarism, including Duns Scotus, did put limits on it, which is something of a source of comfort, however convoluted it may be.)

One of the more sinister results of a voluntarist outlook is that it makes it difficult to dispute someone who says that this or that despicable act is in accord with God’s law; all the transgressor need do is claim that God “told him” to do it–kind of like the way George W. Bush claims that he was called by God to be president. So, if this voluntarism runs through Islam as much as the material I’ve read on this subject claims, the moderate cleric is taking a great risk in calling people out, and not just in terms of risking his life.

Let me hasten to add this: I know Muslims, and the ones I know are wonderful people. Indeed, they still know how to carry on a real conversation, a skill which many Westerners lost long ago. This post is NOT about Muslim-bashing.

A far more relevant question for Barack Obama would be this: Do you agree with the tenets of voluntarism? Do you think that God is not bound by the laws of “right and wrong,” for lack of a better term? THAT is the answer I would be interested in, and it is the matter that I would find to be an important starting point in dialogue with Muslims. Building a democracy at gunpoint in a faraway land will not get rid of the problem of voluntarism, just as building a democracy here, sadly, did not rid us of the problems of Calvinism and Puritanism. Only religious dialogue can take care of a strictly religious problem. Pope Benedict XVI was getting after this in his controversial Regensburg lecture, the outcome of which, by the way, was that a goodly number of Islamic clerics petitioned him to begin a conversation. How about that?

Situations such as we’ve seen this weekend with the Obamahaters show forth the utter illogic in neoconservative thinking. They will insist that there are no problems in “real” Islam (ha! like there are no problems in “real” Christianity!), and therefore that Islamic societies can best be improved at gunpoint. In a word: cultural and religious egalitarianism got us into the Iraq mess. And yet, even after they insist that there are no problems in “real” Islam, they react with utter horror that a reasonable person might actually be a member of that religion.

I prefer a better approach: treating Muslims like the good, intelligent people that they are, and confronting them point blank with the problems in their religion which must be addressed (and allowing them to confront us with ours). It’s uncomfortable, yes, but so is all productive dialogue, right down to one-on-one relationships. It would, however, lead to more understanding, mutual improvement and respect, and, ultimately, fewer dead people.

For more on this subject, see James V. Schall’s book, The Regensburg Lecture.

Bob Novak writes about his brain tumor

Surely, this has to be a hellish experience.  I wish him all the best.

Notre Dame football looking for Rosary bead donations

Many, many years ago, there was a local showdown between two high-powered high school football teams, one Catholic, the other public. The game came down to a last minute 27 yard field goal attempt by the Catholic team. They missed. The public high school went 11-0 and into the playoffs.

“What happened? How did you win?” I asked one of the coaches from the public school. “They dropped their beads,” he answered.

I just watched Notre Dame drop their beads. After a fantastic punt return, a Notre Dame receiver ran the wrong route in the end zone, and, despite the fact that he was wide open, could therefore get nowhere close enough to the ball to score a touchdown. The snap of the ensuing chip shot field goal attempt was fumbled.

Here we go again. Ten more games of this.  Notre Dame needs your Rosary bead donations.

Oh…..but now they got the ball back and scored. Maybe kvetching will be the magic formula for this year.

In any case, I have to stick with Notre Dame. They might have a cheesy mascot, but at least they don’t take any State funding.

Female teen pro-life demonstrators publicly strip-searched by Maryland police

So what? They needed a stupid permit. Big freakin’ deal. Hell, they even tried to comply by moving their demonstration. They were rewarded by being strip-searched by perverts.

But, of course, the last thing we should ever expect is for a cop to be reasonable. The State is not eloquence, it is force. Nor is the State introspective. The prosecutor dropped all charges, but I have seen no evidence of an apology. If a private entity wrongs you, they must make proper restitution, but if the State wrongs you, they just try to brush it off. People observe this and then say that we need the State to guard our rights. Phoooey!

I hope the lawsuit of the pro-lifers is not only successful, I hope that they win a judgment that bankrupts the entities that pounced all over their basic human dignity.

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