I Hope I Am Wrong


It’s been years since I last set down to write anything long form that’s remotely political, in fact 2008, if my search is correct.  In some ways, I can hardly recognize that passionately pedantic punk that felt the urge to scream into the void in the hope of persuasion by shouting (though my friends might argue about that on the occasions when I have more than a couple of gins in me).  I realized around that time that no one was really interested in what I was selling and that I could spend my life in a happier place by worrying about the things that I know I could change which is myself and to focus my time on those around me that I love. I know I’ve been better off for it.

However, I can’t pretend that last night wasn’t historic or momentous.  I am feeling the urge to write something not in the hope of being persuasive or to change the world, but because last night was tragic in a personal and long-term way.  It brought back memories and beliefs of my younger days that I don’t think I will be able to restore from this day forth and I want memorialize them somewhere.

At just before midnight last night when it was apparent what was going to happen, I had a sudden and vivid flashback to a time almost 15 years ago.  One night my dear friend Iva and I got into a heated and hours long debate about the idea that the US was headed towards nationalism.  As the child of citizens of the former Yugoslavia, she brought both logic and personal experience to her argument.  And yet, I could not be persuaded.

I argued fervently that America was different, not because we were special as a people but that we were special in situation.  A country founded purely on a set of enlightenment philosophical ideals, populated by immigrants of almost every country and religion and with a fundamental belief in pluralism couldn’t really be nationalist.  Yes, I wasn’t naïve enough to ignore our history of racial hatred and apartheid.  Nor was I naïve enough to say that we hadn’t had a certain segment of the population that subscribed to nativist and ethnic nationalist ideals; I was already quite familiar with Pat Buchanan.  However, I was unable to believe that as a young country with a complete lack of common ethnic, religious and cultural history that we could really ever become nationalists.  On that, I was wrong.

Last night I watched my country subscribe to a political philosophy that has destroyed the entirety of Europe twice in the 20th century.  Last night I watched my country subscribe to a political philosophy that has left piles of corpses, broken bodies and weeping widows around the entire globe.  Last night I watched my country subscribe to a political philosophy that throws away the enlightenment in pursuit of a philosophy that bestows rights and privileges upon its subjects on the basis of their religion, ethnicity and the coincidence of the geography of their birth.  Last night I watched my country scream an incoherent cry of rage at people who are now to be labeled as the other, as the not-quite-human, as the enemy. Last night I saw the ideals that has made me love my country abandoned, maybe forever.  Last night I saw no better angels of our nature.  But I hope that I am wrong.

Now I am left to put my trust in our political machinery to temper and restrain the normal products of the adoption of nationalism.  As a life long libertarian, that trust isn’t very sturdy in my mind.  I don’t see how a party unified in its abhorrence of intellectualism can be trusted to uphold the abstract ideals of classical liberalism.  I don’t see how a state equipped with an entire legion of well armed militarized police can be trusted to defend the people against authoritarianism.  I don’t see how a country divided at a moment of incredible prosperity and peace can heal itself under the strain of the chaos in front of us. But I hope I am wrong.

Now, I must go back to my quiet life.  I can’t go back to screaming into the void.  I can’t see the point and I don’t have the strength or will to do it.  I must go back to trying to see the best in everyone I meet.  I must go believing that people are fundamentally good both as individuals and in society.  I must start hoping I’m wrong.

Global Warming Sense in The New York Times?

An editor must have fallen asleep because this gem of an article appeared in yesterday’s New York Times:

You’re in for very bad weather. In 2008, your television will bring you image after frightening image of natural havoc linked to global warming. You will be told that such bizarre weather must be a sign of dangerous climate change — and that these images are a mere preview of what’s in store unless we act quickly to cool the planet.

Unfortunately, I can’t be more specific. I don’t know if disaster will come by flood or drought, hurricane or blizzard, fire or ice. Nor do I have any idea how much the planet will warm this year or what that means for your local forecast. Long-term climate models cannot explain short-term weather.

But there’s bound to be some weird weather somewhere, and we will react like the sailors in the Book of Jonah. When a storm hit their ship, they didn’t ascribe it to a seasonal weather pattern. They quickly identified the cause (Jonah’s sinfulness) and agreed to an appropriate policy response (throw Jonah overboard).

Predictions for 2008 – Climate Change – Global Warming – John Tierney – New York Times

Atlas Shrugged Turns 50

 Ayn Rand’s massive work Atlas Shrugged turns 50 this year and the editorials are starting the flow in.  The best so far has been from, ironically, the former editor of National Review, Maggie Gallagher.  Included in the editorial is one of the best descriptions of why Rand continues to appeal after all of these years:  

The key to Ayn Rand is that she pictured America largely from early films from Hollywood. As a young girl growing up in the grim world of communist Russia, she saw America as we dreamed ourselves to be, and she longed her whole life with a child’s intensity to make this vision real, to live in it. We respond to her novels because they offer us one deep strand of American self-identity — as individualists, yes, but individualists who together dream big dreams, conquer wild frontiers, invent the future, remake our very selves.


The Scope of Contract

God And GunsThere is an interesting case in Ohio working it’s way through the courts.  An employee was fired by UPS when he was discovered to have a dissembled firearm in his car which was parked in a public parking lot shared by both employees and non-employees.  The court has ruled that the company’s action was a violation of Ohio’s policy allowing citizens to bear arms.  (You can read more details about the case at The Volokh Conspiracy.)

All thoughts about busybody employers aside, the case has me wondering about the signing of contracts with terms that are intrusions on an individual’s rights.  I can understand laws preventing employers from punishing whistle-blowers who report criminal wrongdoing.  Such an action would be a direct attempt to subvert justice.  However, should an employer have the right to execute contracts with employees that curtail the personal rights of an employee outside of his work?  Can an employer hire on the condition that the employee not own firearms or that he submit to personal search without any evidence of wrongdoing?  I think the question comes down to a matter of mutual consent.  As odious as such requirements are, there is certainly no coercion going on, just a mutual agreement for mutual benefit. 

If a person has a right to personal sovereignty, then they must possess the right to voluntarily surrender it.  Unfortunately, while I certainly believe that a person should have the right to possess the means to protect himself against force, the judges in this case have now pulled their guns on the unarmed, namely UPS.  Ironically, the courts are now using force to protect the armed from the disarmed.

Peace Through Bribes

Well, I actually sat through the President’s speech tonight.  I didn’t find much interesting in the speech due to the constant leaks of the details.   There were no changes in the rules of engagement, no direct strategies to demoralize the enemy, etc.  However, one thing really caught my ear:

To establish its authority, the Iraqi government plans to take responsibility for security in all of Iraq’s provinces by November. To give every Iraqi citizen a stake in the country’s economy, Iraq will pass legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis. To show that it is committed to delivering a better life, the Iraqi government will spend $10 billion of its own money on reconstruction and infrastructure projects that will create new jobs.

Source: Full Transcript Of Bush’s Iraq Speech, President Pledges To Hold Iraqi Government Accountable For Progress Toward Peace And Security – CBS News

So apparently, the way to solve the issues of radicalism and violence is bribery.  Just hand out money and patronage jobs.  What an insult!  I find it so amusing that with solemn tone and moral conviction, the President proposes Richard J. Daley style machine politics as a means to help democratic stability.  Boy, I can sure say that I feel confident in this new plan!