There’s Something to be Said for Consistency, but…

There’s Something to be Said for Consistency, but….

It’s not the hypocrisy of (anti/pro) war (Republican/Democratic) party hacks that I mind. For at least that means they are on the right side 50% of the time, which is better than being on the wrong side 100% of the time. No, what I hate is when this hypocrisy goes unnoticed, unexposed, and unchallenged. During Obama’s first term, the hypocrisy was that of the suddenly pro-war Democrats. And for his second term, it is that of the suddenly anti-war Republicans. How hard is it to simply have a standard? One that does not depend on the context of what letter happens to be next to the name of the puppet pretending to wield power for a period of 4 to 8 years. I am personally grateful for the amount of people on both sides of the aisle who don’t think it necessary or just to waltz (whether to bombard or to occupy) into Syria on a moment’s notice. But watch most of these anti-anything-Obama-does Republicans turn on a dime when it’s Iran’s turn to face our wrath. Then watch the Democrats squirm as they try to figure out their own position.

What are your thoughts? Would it be better if people just stuck to their position, even if it was awful, or if they waffled and on occasion did something right? Both in general and as it relates to the two parties and military intervention.

To be Perfectly Frank, on Today of All Days

To be Perfectly Frank, on Today of All Days.

You listening, NSA?

Today is the twelfth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. If you are like most and fit into one or both of two categories — Patriotic Americans & Americans who have eyes and ears — you don’t need to be reminded of this by me. You either already started thinking about it on your own a week or more ago or in the last few days have been unable to avoid the subject, as reminders have sprung up everywhere, for example:

  • Your neighbor recently hoisted his colors. To only half-mast.
  • Google is doing that weird thing again with the black ribbon at the bottom of their homepage. Wait, it didn’t even merit a graphical transformation of their logo? Pffft! Those haters.
  • While surfing the cable, you can’t land on Fox News or MSNBC for more than five seconds without some vain idiot bursting a blood vessel — hold up, that’s any old time you surf the cable, so you might have to stop for more like ten seconds before someone says, “when I saw the twin towers collapse…”
  • That one obnoxious friend who likes to waste your time on the phone just casually brought it up the other day. Just like he did last year. And the year before. You talked for over an hour.
  • Your calendar says “September” and one of the little boxes says “11.”

Well, it just so happens that I think all of this is completely absurd. I mean, who cares?! Let me state that another way: This all happened 12 years ago, to people I don’t know, in a place that, practically speaking, is on the other side of the world and I don’t really care any more than I would about any other event that can be similarly described. And I think that were it not for generations of being spoon-fed American Exceptionalism and related propaganda, no one else in their right mind would care either, except, of course, those still dealing with their injuries or their losses.

What happened in New York City (and Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, PA) to 3000 random people more than a decade ago should have little more impact on my way of thinking or doing than what might have happened, say, in Western Siberia to 10 random people more than 3 millennia ago. The only important difference between these two events, in terms of how they relate to me, is that the former has been taken up as a cause for the erosion of my liberties and the destruction what’s left of my country. But I’m sure that if 9/11 didn’t happen there still would have been plenty of other means to that end, so like I said, the event itself is of no particular importance.

Please do not misunderstand and take any of this to mean that I don’t care and that no one else should care that innocent people were murdered on September 11th, 2001. It’s just that I realize that violent, cruel, wanton, unjustified murder is an every day occurrence and there was hardly anything special about it in this case. Besides perhaps the circumstances leading up to it (religious extremism, blowback, the incompetence of the intelligence community, strange coincidences, etc.) or the disgusting way in which the crisis was taken advantage of. Quoting Josef Stalin* never made me any friends, but here goes: “when one man dies it is a tragedy, when thousands die it’s statistics”. It is easy to read too much into those words, especially given who allegedly said them, but there is much truth to them, I think.

Is it a given that you are or that you should be more sad when two (or 10 or 10,000) people die than you are when it is only one? And by how much, exactly? Maybe if you personally know and love those who died it makes sense to be more devastated when they die in droves, but that has more to do with the positive impact those people had on your life when they were living and the way your life is going to be without them. It has little to do with numbers. Is a serial killer with 12 victims somehow more evil than a serial killer with 11 victims? More skilled, more insane perhaps, but more evil? How much harder is it to answer such questions in the affirmative when it involves complete strangers, perhaps thousands of miles away?

It certainly makes sense for society to collectively hate greater amounts of death and destruction more than it does lesser amounts. However, this is not because greater amounts are somehow objectively more evil, but simply because society is made up of individuals who are each more likely to be harmed in these greater tragedies than they are in the lesser ones. The state and the media know this well enough and so are able to play to the fears and emotions of the people all the more easily. Throw into this volatile mix some patriotic fervor and an opportunistic president (the very last person on earth I would ever give a bullhorn to), and you can begin to understand why this awful tragedy, this mere statistic, became cause for war and the many evils that accompanied it. And continue, even to this day.

Some people maintain that we should be particularly mindful of the 9/11 attacks because they were an act of war by Islamic Terrorists against the United States. This is debatable (no, laughable), but even if it wasn’t it has no bearing on whether I should have a quarrel or an alliance with one side or the other. These two imaginary entities are mere labels for establishing collective guilt and responsibility. Everyone is expected to pick a side or have it chosen for them, even though it does not follow that an attack on “the United States” is necessarily an attack on them, or that they have some duty to aid, to sympathize or empathize with the victim (which, again, is only a figment).

If anything, 9/11 was an attack on a very specific set of targets. The World Trade Center, the Pentagon, the Capitol Building. These may have represented “America” to the planners and perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks, but none of them have anything to do with the vast majority of self-styled Americans. I’d even go so far as to say that the latter two targets had it coming. And they’re just going to keep on making the same mistakes and expect a different outcome. There went Iraq. There go Afghanistan and Libya. Here comes Syria. Next up Iran. What other hornets’ nests can we lob some rocks at and not expect to get stung? Do not those who live by the sword also tend to die by the sword?

*Likely misattributed, as are most of the good ones, it seems.

The Little Girl Who Cried Jihad

The Little Girl Who Cried Jihad.

In the coffee shop. Just looked over at the television for a second and had to do a double take. It was Tea Party favorite Michelle “I don’t hate Muslims” Bachmann! Long time, no see.

The volume was off so I read the transcript in order to figure out what was going on.

Here is the part I caught: “This is Islamic Jihad!”

My initial reaction: “Get out your prayer rug.” Eye roll. “Which way’s Mecca again?”

Okay, to be fair, when I looked over again just now she was condemning US intervention in the form of arming rebels in Syria. Good for her!

Too bad it is hard to take her seriously anymore. Last time we heard her cry “Jihad” it was a call for intervening in Iran. And before that, it was about staying the course in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Unexpected Delays

Unexpected Delays.

I’ve been promising posts left and right and I assure my readers that they are still on their merry way. In the future I’ll be a little more vague about dates and times, because, well, because Murphy’s Law. My main problems have been that I am busy and I have underestimated the scope of some of my projects. No more self-imposed deadlines! On top of this I was forced to sit idle for two days by a temporary (whew!) deactivation of my blog because some old post back from October contained a link to a commenter’s website, which apparently is on WordPress.com’s banned list. Not a heinous or obscene site, mind you, but spam nonetheless. I had to send in a report with my objections to the deactivation and explained that I was unaware of any policy violations. I was polite about it and received a response explaining the situation and got reactivated in next to no time. It was a bummer at first but it gave me a much-needed chance to tackle a few other things. But I reckon now it’s time to shift things back into high gear.

Some Great Finds

Some Great Finds.

Went to the public library yesterday. They were giving away books (there were some for sale as well, but most of them were free). There were several thousand books, and when I was there, easily more than 100 people in there. Still, I made some impressive discoveries (including a number of left-wing classics).

Looking Backward: 2000-1887 by Edward Bellamy (Francis Bellamy‘s utopian socialist brother) (1887, 1995)

A work of fiction.

On the Front Burner: Issues in U.S. Foreign Policy by Seyom Brown (1984)

Haven’t cracked it yet, probably Cold War pragmatism type stuff.

Champions of Freedom: Great Economists of the Twentieth Century (2006)

Volume 34 of the Ludwig von Mises Lecture Series from Hillsdale College, several contributors, Steve Forbes, Bruce Caldwell, Richard Ebeling, Robert Skidelsky, Mark Skousen, Lee Coppock, Robert Barro, Donald Devine, and Gary Wolfram. Features recommended reading section with a few short essays from Ludwig von Mises. Front cover has Hayek, Mises, Keynes, Knight, Buchanan, and Friedman.

The Defense of Gracchus Babeuf by Gracchus Babeuf (1796, 1972)

If you don’t know who the guy is (I’m proud to say I already did), feel free to click here. A very interesting character, the “first” communist. Book features essay by Herbert Marcuse of the Frankfurt School (in my opinion, the Marxists with the most class).

An Autumn of War by Victor Davis Hanson (2002)

Interventionist fear mongering, no doubt. War on Terror, blah, blah, blah. But since I do respect Mr. Hanson (Greek history buff here), I am trying to collect all his works.

International Organizations and Ethnic Conflict by Milton Esman and Shibley Telhami (1995)

Lebanon, Rwanda, Somalia, Yugoslavia. Need I say more? Okay, how about Libya, Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistn? Wrong decade? Sorry. Just look the other way.

The Communist Manifesto and other Revolutionary Writings: Marx, Marat, Paine, Mao, Gandhi, and others (2003)

Laugh Out Loud!

The Unforgettable Winston Churchill: Giant of the Century (1965)

One of those old neat Life Magazine specials. Might find some dirt on him in there.

So those are the paperbacks.

European Economic History: The Economic Development of Western Civilization by Shepard Clough (1968)

This should be good. I might not read it, but as a reference at least.

Not one, but two copies of Imperial Hubris by Anonymous (2004).

Blowback. He knows it. Do you?

Volumes 1-5 of Thomas MacAulay’s History of England and volumes 1-4 of the same (no dates in either set, which means they’re old)

I was amazed I got these for free! 9 books, older than dirt, classic works of history. Why did I buy two separate sets, one incomplete? Because I am a collector of everything MacAulay. Do I even need a reason? I already had yet another incomplete set, Volumes 1, 2, and 4, as well as a few other books by or about him. That includes the Lays of Ancient Rome, which was the book Tom Cruise picked up in the cave in Oblivion (saw it in theaters, that same friend I was drinking beer with that one time bought my ticket, what a guy).

Moving on to the stuff I actually bought:

Mid-Century Alaska: the United States Department of the Interior Office of Territories (1958)

Note the date. Pre-statehood. Got it for $1.50. Interesting book in itself but I bought it because it looks like the front and back cover might be gold leaf. It certainly could be metal/have metal in it, judging by the way it creases and it’s weight. Maybe I struck it rich. Book sold for a dollar in 1958, when an ounce of gold was $35.10. If an ounce of gold can be flattened into a 160 square foot sheet, couldn’t less than a 35th of an ounce be flattened to the size of a book cover approximately 144 square inches? You do the math. The gold could be 16oth of an ounce (worth 22¢ in 1958 but $8.75 or so today) and still fit this cover. That is when it is so thin light can shine through it.

And last but not least, Biblia Hebraica edited by Rudolf Kittel (1966)

Essentially an Old Testamment (Tanakh) written in the Hebrew (modern, I presume) language and alphabet. Read it from right to left.

Memorials and Idols

Memorials and Idols.

In the spirit of last weekend’s observances, I want to announce (again) my upcoming series on the standing army in the United States. It bothers me somewhat that I haven’t finished this project yet, but I would rather it be good and take forever to complete than mediocre because it was on time. The stakes are too high for anything other than that to be the case. If I’m going to risk alienating people, I better give them the full treatment and hopefully leave them no good reason, save for their emotions and irrational fears, to feel obligated to defend the status quo. Perhaps that is too bold of a goal to set, but I think it is worthwhile. If we are going to debate the role on the United States military, not just in today’s messed-up world, but across history, throughout the supposedly simpler, more black-and-white eras that have preceded the present one, then let us really have it out. It would be nice to have the series done by the Fourth of July, another patriotic holiday (that I enjoy very much, by the way, in spite of the idolatrous pageantry that sometimes takes place), but if I am delayed again, perhaps Veteran’s Day (AKA Armistice Day) or the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor would be more realistic (if unfortunate).

In the meantime, I will tantalize you with the promise of a piece that will rip into the memory of that last, great bastion of hubristic faux-conservatism, by whom I mean Britain’s wartime Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. A “great man” to be sure. But then so were, for example, Nebuchadnezzar, Attila, and Tamerlane.

I’ve done some preliminary fact-checking already and hope to get it up some time within the next week. Hopefully it won’t be anything too fancy, just the basics. I promise not to lay the vitriol on too thick.