Wednesday, March 05, 2003

John Stewart Mill

Nobody has ever said it better in over 140 years. From the Introductory to On Liberty.

"The object of this Essay is to assert one very simple principle, as entitled to govern absolutely the dealings of society with the individual in the way of compulsion and control, whether the means used be physical force in the form of legal penalties, or the moral coercion of public opinion. That principle is, that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinions of others, to do so would be wise, or even right. These are good reasons for remonstrating with him, or reasoning with him, or persuading him, or entreating him, but not for compelling him, or visiting him with any evil in case he do otherwise. To justify that, the conduct from which it is desired to deter him, must be calculated to produce evil to some one else. The only part of the conduct of any one, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign."
Peace in Our Time

Below is an article I wrote the on Monday, February 17th immediately after the worldwide "peace". It's one I submitted to the Register as an Op-Ed piece.

Hundreds of thousands of people marched in major cities around the world this past weekend to show their solidarity for “peace”. The usual crowd was there, wearing Che Guevara tee shirts and carrying signs caricaturing our sitting President as a Cowboy Hitler. Amongst all of the usual confused images and juvenile anti-U.S. slogans, one sign stood out. It read simply “Peace in Our Time”. A worthy and noble goal, no? It is doubtful that the sign’s carrier knew the source of those exact words and how they reflect the protesters’ ignorance and naivety.

For those of you who were absent during the history lecture covering the events leading to World War Two, Neville Chamberlain pronounced those words, words that would later taste of bitter gall. Chamberlain was the Prime Minister of Great Britain in the late 1930’s. He, and the League of Nations (yes, we’ve tried the UN thing before) were advocates of appeasement. After the carnage of World War I, Europeans were so appalled by the possibility of war that anything seemed preferable. So, they used a policy of appeasement in an effort to control a bellicose Germany. Give Hitler the Sudetenland, (hey, it’s just a little bit of Czechoslovakia after all), and he will be appeased. He returned from a summit with Hitler in September 1938 and declared (you’ve got it), “peace in our time”. Unfortunately, it was a very short time for peace, less than a year later Germany, emboldened, not appeased invaded Poland.

Peace is not a principle that exists in isolation. It is certainly not the steady state of human existence. Peace in one respect is an ideal; a useful compass bearing that guides liberal democracies like the United States. However, when seen as an end all, be all, it becomes a destructive fetish. Without other ideals like “justice” and “liberty” to provide balance, peace is an empty vessel that is a servant for other ideas, many of them quite unsavory. You can be sure that when Mother Teresa and Teriq Assiz talk of peace, they do not mean the same thing. Peace without freedom and justice is worthless and is nothing more than slavery. Peace with freedom and justice comes at a price, and that price has always been blood.

For the organizers of these rallies, “peace” is a tool to thwart the U.S., Great Britain and their allies from using justified force to promote international security. Newsflash, we are at war. We have been at least since September 11, 2001. However, the great majority of those marching for “peace” are convinced that the United States is responsible for the World Trade Center attack. How? Our support for Israel, our troops in Saudi Arabia, our cultural hegemony (feared and hated by France just as much as by Islamic Fundamentalists), our international sins committed during the Cold War, fill in the blank. We are to blame. We are the war mongering, shoot ‘em up vigilantes that must be stopped. We do not value peace above all. All we want is cheap oil and we don’t care how many Iraqis we have to toast to get it.

This anti-U.S. farce plays itself out in the UN Security Council. The United Nations, (where the chair of the committee on human rights is Libya and the chair on the disarmament committee… this is no joke… is Iraq), uses the illusion of “peace in our time” to block the U.S. and Great Britain’s efforts to liberate Iraq. The UN only considers itself successful if it keeps countries (specifically the U.S.) from going to war. In this charade, France has the dual role of playwright and condescending schoolmaster, lecturing us on the cost of war and the supremacy of peace at any price. If millions of Iraqis must continue to live under a brutal dictatorship to block U.S. hegemony, then c’est la vie… just as long as it’s not c’est la gerre.

However there is a dirty little subplot to this drama that has gotten precious little attention in mainstream media outlets like the Register. Pssst… it’s about OIL. Specifically it’s about France’s desire for oil. Total ELF Fina, a French oil company has negotiated a sweetheart agreement with Saddam Hussein to develop oil fields in Iraq. However, as long as post Gulf War sanctions remain in effect, the contract cannot be signed. The French economy has a lot to lose if regime change takes place in Iraq nullifies this deal. This, along with speculations that French companies may be involved in illegal arms component trade with Iraq, feed skepticism regarding the purity of France’s motives in promoting “peace”.

So this is the UN laid bare, a forum for power conflicts between nation states, not a benevolent super-entity promoting world peace. Similarly, the demonstrations over the past weekend were not really pro-peace, or pro-anything for that matter. They were simply anti-U.S. The people marching in these demonstrations are the same ones who, before war came to the front burner, were protesting against the enforcement of economic sanctions on Iraq. Now they say that sanctions and “inspections” are working, just don’t invade Iraq. Inconsistent… well, not if you consider that the goal.

Tuesday, March 04, 2003


A little over a week ago, the Harvard University male crew team made a snow sculpture of an erect human penis. Now, aside from matters of taste and propriety (things not usually associated with Harvard for the last 35 years or so…), you would not think that the urbane, sophisticated student body there would not have a problem with this fun and frosty phallus. But… you’d be wrong snow blower breath.

In fact, some people were violated. Well… some women were violated. Well… at least one woman FELT violated. So, she decided to take the matter into her own hands… so to speak. She destroyed the offending member.

“It was offensive because it was pornographic.” said the Undergraduate Elena Bobbitt wannabe, “As a feminist, pornography is degrading to women and creates a violent atmosphere. Men think they have the right to force that on you,” she said. “It’s a logical extension.”

Now, I have no problem with this young lady being offended. I don’t even have a problem with her turning her offense into action by tearing down the snow pee pee. The postmodern polemic after the fact… now that I have a problem with. You can excuse her for this because of her youth and inexperience.

However, Harvard being Harvard, this is not where it ended. No… this is a job for… reverb please… WOMEN’S STUDIES! Diane L. Rosenfeld, who teaches Women, Violence and the Law, had this to say:

“The ice sculpture was erected in a public space, one that should be free from menacing reminders of women’s sexual vulnerability,”

She said the snow penis follows a long line of public phallic symbols, including the Washington Monument and missiles. “Women do not need to be reminded of the power of the symbol of the male genitalia,” Rosenfeld said. “My guess is that they are constantly reminded of it in daily messages.”

This feminist faux prudery just gets me. If you are over 18, smart enough to get into Harvard and the sight of an angry willie made of snow is enough to menace you, you have got some serious issues. You can’t really blame the girl though. You can tell by her comments that she has more than likely been fed a constant diet of the “all sex is a form of violence” femivictimist line.

This is how a boyish prank and a girlish “oh ick” reaction, turns into an example of PC gender politics. And you know, I would have had tremendous respect for the coed if she had knocked the thing down and simply said: “Yeah I did it. I found it childish and tasteless.” Now THAT’S real empowerment.

Monday, March 03, 2003

Transnational Progressivism

I've mentioned the "Tranzies" a couple of times in posts. If you want the primer, read The Ideological War Within the West. If you value the freedoms that we enjoy in this country, you may find it a little frightening. If you subscribe to the theory as I do, it may put the UN squabbling about upcoming liberation of Iraq into perspective.
I’m not heartless… No, Really…

I’ve been re-reading my two posts on the new round of welfare reform currently being promoted by the Bush Administration that requires more work from welfare recipients. I’ve realized that in those posts that I have never directly stated my biggest objection to the welfare state. I’ve also realized that, without stating my prime objection, I would appear to some to be a heartless, miserly bastard. So… here is my fundamental objection to the governmentally coerced redistribution of wealth in general, and welfare in particular.

It does not work.

If the system was effective at moving poor people off of the welfare roles and into the workforce; if the programs helped create independent, confident individuals instead of increasing the number of welfare vassals growing more and more dependent on the system; if the self-sustaining bureaucracy of “human services” workers did not act as a crippling, calcifying force that makes effective reform unattainable; in short, if the damned thing worked… I could support it.

As well intentioned as it is -- and I truly believe that welfare and most other social engineering (no matter how misguided) is truly intended to help people -- it is a failure. It is not a failure because it is under funded. It is a failure because it prejudges and underestimates the individuals caught in the system, and human beings in general. It is a failure because it objectifies the people it claims to serve, pigeonholing them into ethnic and cultural groups predefined by the system as oppressed.

First, the system presumes the inability of a poor person to accept their individual behavior as the greatest single factor keeping them in poverty. Second, the welfare culture, although it pays lip service, does not believe that the “underprivileged” can change that behavior. This is not surprising, because if welfare recipients do not bear the primary responsibility for their plight, then changing their behavior is a moot point. Third, the system is predicated on the idea that poor people are poor because someone is intentionally keeping them down.

You see, people on welfare are victims. Hey, it’s easy to justify taking care of people you see as victims. It’s much more difficult to envision ever getting them to take care of themselves. Unless, of course if society changes first… and there it is… these people cannot pull themselves up. Even without all of the hobbling, Byzantine, bureaucratic paralysis endemic in public sector programs, the current culture of vicimhood, so prevalent in the mindset of people on the left, would doom welfare as a ticket up and out of failure.

WE are the ones keeping these people down. WE are the ones that are responsible for this poverty in the midst of prosperity. It’s because of our bigotry… or our resistance to cultural diversity… or simply our “insensitivity”. It’s because of the cultural bias of standardized testing. It’s because of white conspiracies surrounding AIDS or drugs. It’s because, due in large part to our conversion to a service economy, businesses prefering to hire people who can speak Standard English. It’s because, (since the average business owner does not understand the righteous anger caused by struggle against oppression) employers want employees to show up to work without a chip on their shoulder.

Because those on welfare are victims, it is not truly necessary for them to change their behavior. They shouldn’t HAVE to change. The blame is externalized to the “other” and his (I choose the gender of this pronoun intentionally…) attitude. And who is the “other”. That would be white, straight, male, moneyed, powerful oppressors.

Hey, man, it’s someone else’s fault. I may have made bad decisions, but it wasn’t my fault. The system (or the “man”, or racism, or… whatever other external deceased pale penis person force) was to blame. I’m trying to be good. I’m trying really hard. Yeah, I stopped going to that typing class, but it was really hard and boring. And I could tell that the teacher didn’t respect me because I’m black… or a woman… or… you get the idea.

What galled me most about yesterday’s Rekha Basu column was that very lack of faith she has in ability of human beings (particularly women) to take charge of their lives. That is the very attitude that enables girls and young women on welfare to rationalize that having a baby is their only source of power and control. By subscribing to this postmodern, determinist view of human nature, Rekha and the rest of the crypto-Marxists help doom the very people she claims to champion to a life of despair and poverty. She and her culture of victimization, enable the kind of self righteous, self defeating behavior that helps to keep people out of the market and in “the system”.

No, liberals are not the optimists they claim to be. They share with the Religious Right an almost Calvinist belief in a kind of societal original sin. Granted, it’s original sin with a twist; the American Puritanical tradition turned at a 45 degree oblique. In the neo-Marxist view of original sin, the “natural” state of mankind divides humans into two camps: a small, oppressive, hegemonic minority and the great masses of the oppressed. But the belief that the individual cannot free him or herself without the assistance of some “divine” intervention (be it Jesus Christ or Karl Marx) is common to both.

Here’s the true irony. The perennial underclass that is riding the turbulent tide of welfare reform really ARE victims. However, they are not the victims of Capitalist oppressors and free market profiteers. Rather, they are victimized by the Left and its intransigence in abandoning the notion that society can be engineered into their mythical Marxist Utopia. These people are the walking wounded of the culture war.

Until around the turn of the last century, there was a concept of “the deserving poor”. The idea was that there were people who, despite a true effort to take care of their own lives and the lives of their families, ran into terrible circumstances. Yes, there are times when an individual or family, despite doing everything right, ends up in financial straights. We should help these people. I would submit, however that private relief and charities can do the job more effectively than state sponsored welfare.

However, I am not a proponent of pure Libertarianism. I think that there is a place for public relief such as unemployment insurance and short-term supplemental benefits. Working people can fall on to hard times. I also believe that we owe it to the people who are entrapped in the welfare system need our help to get them out. They are the result of a failed social experiment. If in the short term, it costs more money to lift them out… so be it. We must be responsible for cleaning up our own mess. But the final goal must be to end the system as it exists today.

What frustrates and angers me most about victim feminists such as Rickie Solinger and her acolytes like Rekha is that, when it comes to the individual human spirit, they are pessimists and defeatists. I am, even in the depths of middle age, an optimist. I really believe in the possibilities and the power of the individual life well lived. Rekha is perpetually in Selma, Alabama in 1964, trapped in amber and viewing the world through the yellow, jaundiced lens of victim-based politics. Sometimes I think I should not be so hard on her. It must be a bummer for her to wake up and get out of bed every morning.

Sunday, March 02, 2003

Victims All

Poor misguided President Bush. He thinks that welfare mothers are poor “because they’re single and mothers – and not working enough”. Yes, you would THINK that was true, if you analyzed the facts. But, we’re not in the land of rational thought, analysis or personal responsibility. No, you’ve left the region of thought, analysis, and natural consequences and entered, the realm of feelings -- “The Victim Zone”.

It seems that Rekha attended a presentation by Rickie Solinger last week. Ms Solinger is a “victim feminist” of the first order. She is one of the post modernist denizens of “Women’s Studies”, a place where every transaction, emotional and financial is based on victims and oppressors. She has the distinction of being quoted on the Maoist International Movement’s web site. In this world view, it is natural to believe that these women have no other choice but to have sex, have babies and go on welfare.

In their view it’s really the economy that causes illegitimate birth and more single mothers on the welfare roles. And this theory makes sense to them because they subscribe to the “blank slate”, nurture over nature view of human behavior. To them, all individual human beings start with the same potential. It’s only their environment that makes them succeed or fail. Your genetic inheritance has nothing to do with who and what you are. And we dare not talk about character. Character, the 0.5% of a human being’s condition that accounts for most of what differentiates them from any other person, is not even in the equation.

The core of Rekha’s argument is an attempted refutation of the:

…assumption that most welfare recipients’ behavior is to blame for their poverty status.

There it is writ large -- the utter denial of for the vital role that personal responsibility must play in a healthy and balanced society.

The problem with the pre-reform welfare system was that it provided a reasonable and tenable option to have children and live on welfare. If not, the welfare rolls would not have swelled with intergenerational welfare “families” for thirty-five years. The goal of welfare reform is to make welfare less and less of a reasonable option. And it’s working.

Rekha’s piece is simply another example of feminism based on victim hood. More money is needed. More support is needed. After all, these poor (in every sense of the word) women have no choice.

Think about this: You were born into poverty, raised by a single parent who didn’t graduate from high school.

That’s exactly the problem, but Rekha doesn’t see it. It’s time to break the cycle. And if you make the breaking the cycle all carrot and no stick… well, we’ll be waiting a LONG time for any cycle breaking.

…and had no network of contacts to help you land decent work.

That’s it. Yep, it’s all about contacts. No one can get a good job without some back room deal. It’s not like some major company would take a risk on a young black woman with talent and drive… especially if she comes from a background of poverty. Give me a break. I’m currently doing consultant work at a major financial institution in town and they have “Diversity” posters on every wall. The HR folks would love nothing better than to fill positions with qualified minority applicants.

You can’t afford college.

My God, she has GOT to be kidding. There is a phenomenal amount of financial aid out there for kids from low income families. Add to that being a member of a minority group and you are in baby. But… you have to do relatively well in and graduate from high school. And having a baby will almost certainly put the kibosh on that.

As a woman, you’ll earn less than a man, and if you’re a black woman, you can expect to make 65 cents on the dollar compared to what a white man makes.

This old chestnut again… please. For the same job…? Look, if you have no high school diploma, you can’t (or choose not to) speak Standard English and you can’t perform sustained, hard manual labor (which is valuable because not everyone can do it), you are screwed. It is just logical.

Now, do not take this to mean that I approve of the Religious Right’s influence in this welfare bill in terms of demonizing pre-marital sex. I have absolutely no problem with consenting adults (regardless of income level) having sex. I just have a huge problem with supporting the children they have because they choose to have them before they are ready to support them.

This consequence however is the natural result of the Welfare State. When “mommy” government is supporting you, “daddy” government has a vested interest in monitoring and modifying your behavior, because he’s paying the bills. When you give up a responsibility (supporting yourself and your dependents), you give up a right (choosing how you live your life). You can’t have it both ways. But that’s not what Rickie and Rekha think.

There ARE natural outcomes, based on behavior and choice. But no, not in Rekha’s world. The only way out is to have a baby. Your fertility is your only weapon.

Which leads to Solinger’s central argument: Poverty itself causes and sustains single parenthood; not the other way around.

For almost forty years we created, expanded and refined a system that separated human beings from the natural consequences of their behavior. Should we be surprised that people chose welfare when it was easier than working at a crappy job? Should we be shocked that women had additional children while on welfare when for each child their welfare check got larger?

What the government has been doing with welfare reform has nothing to do with making better lives for welfare recipients WHILE they are on the dole. The purpose of the reform is to get people OFF OF WELFARE, break the cycle of dependency and bring them back into the real world. The real world is a place in which character, discipline, and perseverance are rewarded, not by the government, but by a natural system of the real world. It’s called the marketplace.