Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Power of the Dog

A few months ago I had to put my pug to sleep. I did not expect to be so upset about it, but I was. Very upset. I was reminded of Rudyard Kipling's poem, "The Power of the Dog," which reads:

There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie--
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart for a dog to tear.

When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet's unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find--it's your own affair--'ve given your heart for a dog to tear.

When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!);
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone--wherever it goes--for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart for the dog to tear.

We've sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we've kept 'em, the more do we grieve:
For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-time loan is as bad as a long--
So why in Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?

Kipling knew of which he wrote.

My pug, Norman, made it to three-and-one-half years old. He had been born with a liver shunt, which is a vein that loops around the liver so that the blood is not totally detoxified. It can be surgically repaired, but the mortality rate is at least 20%. Many vets opt for non-surgical treatment, which is what I did.

He probably should have died before he was one, but I kept him going for a lot longer. And he was a perfect example of what Henry Ward Beecher meant when he wrote, "The dog is the God of frolic." He was unendingly amusing. Most pugs are.

By three-and-one-half, though, he was having seizures and kidney failure, and had developed a tumor pressing on his heart and lungs. He was alive -- barely -- and the quality of life was non-existent. So I made what turned out to be the hardest decision of my life.

Even now I do not understand how I could be so attached to a dog, especially one as completely stupid as he was. Pugs aren't the brightest dogs, but my God, Norman had the IQ of a turnip. But I had raised him from a ten-week-old puppy, and he slept with me every night. (I told people, women came and went, but Norman always stayed).

It's the rage today to put down America and Western culture in general. But living in it, I was allowed to have a dog, one that got treated like a baby. Which Americans generally do to their pets.

A few years ago, in China, a young girl died of rabies after being bitten by a stray dog. The police responded by killing every dog for miles around -- 50,000 of them, most of them beaten to death. Say what you will about America, but what happened in China doesn't happen here. I can't imagine it ever happening. If it ever did...then it wouldn't be America anymore.

I didn't have Norman long enough. Not nearly long enough, since pugs live to be about 14. But I'd do it again.

I wish I knew who wrote it, but I don't. It's a good way to end the article, though.

"The are your friend, your partner, your protector. You are their life, their love, their leader. They will be yours, faithful and the last beat of their heart. We owe it to them to be worthy of such devotion."

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Squawking of the Chickenhawk

A blowhard and braggart I knew for less than ten days bored us for every one of those days with lies about his non-existent military service. He was just stupid enough, just self-absorbed enough, and just self-deluded enough to think we believed him. I don't think he was really conscious of lying to us; I suspect he was not aware he deluded himself first, then apparently just assumed we swallowed his fictions. After all, he did. Why shouldn't we?

If he really thought we believed him, then he was another proof of that old observation that the stupid often think they're smarter than their brainer betters. He was not only lacking in smarts, but also the slightest clue that none of us believed his huffing and puffing. With all the posturing and bravado, he reminded me of a yappy little dog telling me that if it wasn't for that fence between us, he'd rip the gizzard right out of me.

Finally, fed up with listening to such transparent fantasies, one disgusted fellow pointed to the wall clock and asked our conjurer what it read in military time. His answer? A feeble, "We didn't use military time when I was in." I was disappointed. Was that the best he could do? It was like watching a third-rate magician have the cards fly out of his hands. Not only were his brains on the fritz, his imagination had also parted company with him.

This fantasist, to be completely accurate about it, was a loser whose job was what I will politely refer to as a "career security guard." These days, $8.50 an hour, tops. Lacking in both brains and character, he could do nothing else.

Deep inside, below all that self-deception, he must have known he was a loser, one who shored up the shaky edifice of his self with grandiose Green Beret-wannabe confabulations. Of course, like all such people, he could never admit what he was to himself, not unless he wanted to pop like a hot-air-filled balloon. I would not have been surprised if the military refused him for a psychiatric disorder. I doubt it was his IQ, which would have at least placed him in the "cannon fodder, first wave" section.

All that braggadocio was a thin veneer over a ocean of stupidity, self-deception, paranoia, envy, irresponsibility, immaturity and insecurity. He couldn't lie to us about having a Ph.D in Physics, because even he knew no one would believe it. But he could lie about being in the military, which is about as hard to get into as it is to graduate high school. It gave him, at least (in fact only) to himself, an outward image of manliness that he was utterly lacking on the inside. His fantasy gave meaning to the meaningless life of a loser.

His self-image was so inflated he had no clue at all that everyone was laughing at him behind his back. In front of it, too. In some ways he was like a stuffed bird under glass, off in a little enclosed world of his own. He never even caught on to the smiles to his face. And how in the world could he be so paranoid as to believe anyone was angling for his job? But he was.

I wondered if he would be envious, or admire (which is the benign form of envy) someone who had been a corporal and a clerk-typist? I doubt it. I suspect in his mind he saw himself as a combination of Navy Seal and ninja, even if in reality he was dressed in a security guard's robin's-egg-blue blazer. What would he think of someone who had been in the Marines, even if that someone had been pudgy, bespectacled Drew Carey, who really was a jarhead? Slobber on them? Suck up to them, hoping some of what he imagined they were would rub off on him? Or could he only admire a lean, mean fighting machine who looked like Ollie North? I didn't know. I still don't.

It's not necessary for me to look up this fantabulist to ask his opinion about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. I already know them, just as I know the opinions of every armchair-warrior chickenhawk: grr! grr! woof! woof! I'm all for the wars as long you fight and I don't!

I don't know what happened to this buffoon, but I do know that one day he disappeared, either transferred or fired. In all those neurons and synapses sputtering and misfiring in the disorganized clutter he used as a brain there must have swum up the vague thought that the jig was up, since one of the guards told me (with a little smile), that our story-teller had called him at home and yelled at him, blaming him for mistakes our fabricating fantasy-warrior had made. When one is a life-long FUBAR, I'm sure it's almost impossible to admit it. It sure is easy to blame your problems on someone else, though. Natural, in fact.

I had forgotten about this clown for years, until I read Kurt Vonnegut's novel, Mother Night. Vonnegut claims the moral of his book is "we are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be." Yet, what stayed in my mind beyond all else is the second encounter between the protagonist, Howard W. Campbell, Jr., and a former American soldier, Bernard B. O'Hare.

Their first encounter occured at the end of World War II, when Campbell, who is an American spy masquerading as a Nazi radio announcer, is captured by O'Hare. Since Campbell cannot prove his innocence, O'Hare sees him as only another Nazi. Still, Campbell is released on a technicality, and moves to America, where he lives quietly for many years.

Then, one day, 15 years after their first encounter, O'Hare is waiting for him at his apartment. His speech to Campbell is telling. He informs Campbell that instead of being a "doctor...a lawyer, a writer, an architect, an engineer, a newspaper reporter," he is instead "a dispatcher for frozen-custard trucks."

"I guess we've all had our disappointments," Campbell answers, in an ironic understatement from a man who had lost everything. O'Hare, who still didn't know that Campbell was an American spy and not a Nazi, doesn't even hear him. "His concern was only for himself," Vonnegut writes of him.

O'Hare, who has become a loser, decides the purpose of his life is to savagely beat Campbell, who, he tells him, is "pure evil." I won't spoil the plot, except to say that his attack on Campbell is aborted. As he leaves, Campbell has some parting words for him. They are the most important words in the book.

"I'm not your destiny, or the Devil, either!" Campbell says. "Look at you! Came to kill evil with your bare hands, and now you go away with no more glory than a man sideswiped by a Greyhound bus! And that's all the glory you deserve! That's all that any man at war with pure evil deserves."

Vonnegut, through Campbell, is being ironic; he obviously doesn't believe in pure evil. The reason? "There are plenty of good reasons for fighting," Campbell says, "but no good reason ever to hate without reservation, to imagine that God Almighty Himself hates with you, too. Where's evil? It's that large part in every man that wants to hate without limit, that wants to hate with God on its side. It's that part of every man that finds all kinds of ugliness so attractive...It's the part that punishes and vilifies and makes war gladly."

There is an entire book in that second encounter between the two men. O'Hare, like the lying security guard I knew, had become a loser. To give meaning to his life, to cover up his own self-hatred, he decided the purpose of his life was to destroy the Pure Evil that he mistakenly thought was Howard W. Campbell, Jr.

Self-hatred underneath, covered up with grandiosity, for both O'Hare and the story-telling security guard. Both blamed their failings on other people. The term for this is "scapegoating." It's when people take their problems and project them onto others. Once they get rid of those people, then their problems will be solved.

The psychiatrist M. Scott Peck accurately called scapegoating "the genesis of human evil." It's what the Communists and Nazis did, to the tune of 177 million people in the 20th century.

Scapegoating is why O'Hare thought that beating Campbell would solve his problems, and why the security guard tried to blame his own substantial failings on everyone else. Each had become grandiose as a defense against his own feelings of inadequacy. The greater the grandiosity shown, the greater the inadequacy it covers. You need look no further than the pillhead Rush Limbaugh.

This grandiosity on top, covering up self-hatred, makes me wonder about the typical sofa-samurai chickenhawk. Are they adults, or unfinished men with little or no meaing in life? I opt for the latter. Why? Because these losers have decided, like Bernard B. O'Hare, that their purpose in life is to eradicate Pure Evil. Their hatred gives meaning to their empty lives.

Thinking they can eradicate evil is pretty grandiose, to say the least. It's also impossible, even if one dismisses millenia of religion and instead relies on George Bush's MBA. Such delusion, such magical thinking, is for children.

These chickenhawks have decided they have good reason to hate without imagine that God Almighty Himself hates with them, too. They've decided that large part in them that wants to hate without limit, that wants to hate with God on their a good thing. Even though it's that part of them that finds all kinds of ugliness so attractive... the part that punishes and vilifies and makes war gladly...they still see it as a good thing. Self-righteousness does that to people.

Unfortunately, our opponents on the other side of the world think exactly about us as we think about them. It why the conflict we are in will not be decided on the nebulous basis of who's right and and who's wrong, but on the basis of our might is going to make only us right. Each is convinced their side is Good and the other side is Evil. The right to hate, and to murder, is therefore loosed on the world.

I don't believe in pure good or pure evil. They're fairy tales. Vonnegut obviously thinks so, too. When one decides he is pure good, like the sad Bernard B. O'Hare, such people always think they have the right to define others as pure evil, and then rub them out. Even Jesus denied he was good when a woman referred to him as "good rabbi." I no longer wonder why he answered as he did.

The most rabid, pro-war chickenhawks I've ever met have not only never been in combat, they've never been (like our security guard) in the military. I suppose underneath all their yapping they have doubts they are real men. Would they feel manly if an artillery shell went by their heads? Chances are they'd be too busy crying and wishing they were home to feel much of anything else. I sure wouldn't want them in a foxhole with me.

There's an old saying--and I have no idea where it's from--that the best warriors are the least war-like. I'll nod and agree with this saying, which I find to be true based on what I've learned from the grandiose, and hate-filled, squawkings of chickenhawks. They'd make lousy soldiers, but good cowards.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The State as Serial Killer

The evil man is the child grown strong. ~ Thomas Hobbes

If one person kills another, he is a murderer. If he kills 100, he is a monster. But if he kills 10,000, he is a hero. And the only way one can become this type of "hero" is through the agency of the State.

The victims of the worst serial killer in the world are but a drop in a lake compared to the political victims of Mao Tse Tung, Pol Pot, Stalin and Hitler. They are still but a drop compared to the victims of Lincoln, Wilson, and FDR. They're a drop compared to what Bush has done, and to the murders that will be committed by those who come after him. The State is the worst serial killer in the world.

How people can engage in such enormities with a clear conscience is something I understand imperfectly. But I do understand it to a degree. It has to do with our inborn narcissism, which perhaps may be a modern term for Original Sin.

To a degree, everyone is narcissistic. What psychologists call "primary narcissism" is an inescapable -- and universal -- phrase that all people go through as babies and children. We never grow out of it, a good thing in certain circumstances. But taken to an extreme, especially when politics is involved, and we have Hobbes' opening quote.

Our narcissism is what allows us to treat others as things -- to "objectify" them, to see them as objects. Perversely, the more power one person has over others, the more it is necessary to objectify them. Considering the history of the human race, power over others leading to the objectification of them appears to be inescapable. It would certainly explain the accuracy of the story of Satan, as told in the Bible, and in John Milton's Paradise Lost.

Taken far enough, this objectification is an example of the saying, "Power is the horse that evil rides." Power over others is intimately tied to doing evil to them. And power over others -- when those others can do little or nothing about it -- is the definition of political power.

"To some extent," writes Dr. Sam Vaknin, author of Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited, "leaders of all sorts -- political, military, or corporate -- [objectify people]. In a range of demanding professions -- surgeons, medical doctors, judges, law enforcement agents -- objectification efficiently fends off attendant horror and anxiety."

I don't think it's possible for a surgeon to open someone up with a scalpel and root around in his insides if he always had it in his mind that it's a living human being he's working upon. It's easier for the surgeon's peace of mind (and I'm sure for the horror-free, anxiety-free exercise of his abilities) to imagine the patient is a "thing" that has to be fixed, much like a mechanic working on a car.

Unfortunately, that "objectivity" is almost always part and parcel, in varying degrees, of grandiosity, the belief one is god-like. It explains the popular joke: "What is the difference between God and a doctor?" "God doesn't think he's a doctor."

Healthy narcissism can turn into malignant narcissism. The Greeks called malignant narcissism hubris, and the Bible calls it pride. A one-sentence definition of it is: you're a thing, and I'm a god. It's the reason why humility is considered such a virtue.

Perhaps anyone who actively seeks political power over others is already a malignant narcissist. If that is true, then Satan is a politician, the obverse being, all politicians are Satanic. I think history backs up that observation.

Vaknin's observation is also a great argument for decentralization and small government. It might be the best argument there is. The bigger the government, the more the citizens are going to be objectified. Not "probably." Always. No one has ever found a way around this problem, except to reduce the size of the government. The State always considers itself to be the chosen of God, indeed God on earth. Has there ever been an example in the history of the world when the State did not?

Let's take George Bush as an example of someone who objectifies others. What he's doing is not unique with him. Unlike others, I don't see him as an evil man, or a conscienceless psychopath. He is in over his head, as most politicians are, and is unqualified for his position. But then again, so are most politicians.

People are appalled at his lack of concern for the tens of thousands who have died because of his decisions. But no one should be surprised. No one could remain sane after what he's done, unless there are psychological defenses erected. He can't even look at the coffins of returning soldiers.

Bush has to rationalize what he's done, to distance himself from the effects of his decisions. It's not just him: it's all politicians. It is not possible for Bush, or anyone in his position, to maintain his sanity if he truly thought about the mass murder, the torture, the mutilation, the broken minds and bodies, the lies, and the theft, that wars always bring. He has to deceive himself, to rationalize, that what he has done is right.

In his case, he has decided, for one thing, that God has chosen him to be President. That's an awful big crutch, but I understand why he has to use it. He'd collapse without it. I certainly can't read his mind, but it seems to me he is thinking, "Since God chose me to be President, I don't make mistakes [grandiosity], so the deaths of all those people are irrelevant [objectification]."

Bush is part of the problem, but any President in his position might have followed the same course he did. A bigger problem is the neocons and their plans for remaking the world in their image.

Writes Vaknin: "The narcissist's pronounced lack of empathy, off-handed exploitativeness, grandiose fantasies and uncompromising sense of entitlement make him treat all people as though they were objects . . . the narcissist regards others as either useful conduits for and sources of narcissistic supply (attention, adulation, etc.) -- or as extensions of himself."

Vaknin is speaking of clinical narcissists, but what he wrote applies to everyone in some degree. It especially applies to some people more than others. One only needs to read the writings of people such as William Kristol, Norman Podhoretz and Richard Perle to realize how Vaknin's oh-so-accurate observations applies to them. I doubt they, or any of the other Would-Be World Conquerer neocons, perceive others as fully human, only chess pieces to be moved around (even if they are destroyed) to fulfill their plans to bring "freedom" and "democracy" to the benighted wogs of the world. They're trying to make the world into an extension of their very bad ideas -- of themselves.

Vaknin's statement echoes what Thomas Sowell wrote: "Most wars, however, are started by well-fed people with time on their hands to dream up half-baked ideologies or grandiose ambitions, and to nurse real or imagined grievances."

He also made the comment, "If you have ever seen a four-year-old trying to lord it over a two-year-old, then you know what the basic problem of human nature is -- and why government keeps growing larger and ever more intrusive."

Christopher Lasch, in his book, The Culture of Narcissism, had some relevant comments about narcissistic people: "He praises respect for rules and regulations in the secret belief that they do not apply to himself. Acquisitive in the sense that his cravings have no limits, he . . . demands immediate gratification and lives in a state of restless, perpetually unsatisfied desire."

Lasch's quote about praising respect for rules they don't believe apply to themselves explains the Chickenhawk ("You fight and die; I'll yell directions from the sidelines") that all neocons are. And that desire for immediate gratification and "restless, perpetually unsatisfied desire" does not bode well for the US and the world, since they plan on using the former to conquer the latter.

Some people can handle political power. The ones who don't want it. But those who seek out this power are the ones who shouldn't be allowed near it. They are invariably more childish and narcissistic than more healthy, normal people. They are the child grown strong, doing evil to others.

"In malignant narcissism," writes Vaknin, "the true self of the narcissist is replaced by a false construct, imbued with omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence. The narcissist's thinking is magical and infantile. He feels immune to the consequences of his own actions . . . the narcissist cannot afford to be rejected, spurned, insulted, hurt, resisted, criticized, or disagreed with."

Magical, infantile thinking. Is that not the thinking of anyone who truly believes the US can invade, conquer and remake entire countries in its image? "Resisted, criticized, disagreed with"? The behavior the neocons exhibit when people point out what they really are is something I need not repeat.

Ultimately, the State is childish, narcissistic, and murderous. I can't see any way around that, except to get rid of it. It's astonishing so many people see the State as a good thing. It's almost a form of insanity, if insanity is defined by that old joke: "Trying the same thing over and over and expecting a different result."

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Worst Sin of All

Satan is the worst character in the Bible, and for the best reason of all: he exhibits the one trait that is the basis of all crime. Hubris. In fact, hubris is itself a crime, although nearly everyone has forgotten this fact. The Bible calls hubris "pride," but the word the Greeks used " hubris " is a far better term.

Hubris is a grandiose self-conception that reduces other people to things. Being things, they have no rights; they can be trampled on without guilt. Out of the Seven Deadly Sins " Pride, Avarice/Greed, Envy, Wrath/Anger, Lust, Gluttony and Sloth " the first five involve devaluing the other person into a thing. The reason the last two don't involve devaluing others is because they aren't directed at them; they're directed toward the self.

A more modern term for hubris is narcissism, from the Greek myth about Narcissus, who stared at his reflection in a pool until he wasted away and died. Whatever term is used, all mean the same thing: I am self-absorbed, self-centered, grandiose and god-like, and you are nothing. I am good, and you are bad. The most extreme form of a narcissist is a psychopath, who has no conscience, no guilt, and sees everyone as a thing. When serial killers (who are psychopaths) are interviewed about killing and mutilating people, they answer, " It's like working on a doll." A doll is a thing, not a human.

The hubristic say: since I am good, I will project all problems onto you, the bad. This projection is where the term "scapegoating" comes from. I will project all problems onto you, and then make you into a scapegoat and outcast.

This scapegoating is what the Nazis and Socialists did to those they didn't like. They turned them into smoke and ashes. The psychiatrist M. Scott Peck very correctly called scapegoating "the genesis of human evil." It's why in one of the very first stories in the Bible Adam and Eve get kicked out of the Garden of Eden, bringing evil into the world: because they deny responsibility for their actions and blame others. "You made me do it...I'm not the one with the are."

Unfortunately, those who are afflicted with hubris revel in it. That's why hubris leads to nemesis. Sufferers, believing they are invincible, don't think they can be stopped. But they always are.

Every instance of hubris in fiction and life ends with nemesis, destruction. In real life, the Roman emperors Caligula (who declared himself a god) and Commodus (who ended up poisoned, then strangled, to make sure the job was done). In the 20th century, Hitler, who shot himself in a bunker as the enemy closed in on him.

In fiction, Shakespeare's Richard III. In cartoons, the Brain, of " Pinky and the Brain. " In popular fiction, any of James Bond's villains, such as Goldfinger and Dr. No. All are afflicted with hubris; all suffer the downfall of nemesis.

James Q. Wilson, in his " Crime and Human Nature, " pointed out the average prisoner has an IQ of 93 and is much more narcissistic than a non-prisoner. This observation makes sense. Such prisoners are so stupid, and so grandiose, that it never occurs to them that sitting in a car and pointing a .22 caliber pistol through bullet-proof glass at a bank teller isn't going to work.

The system catches the stupid and the narcissistic. The smart and the narcissistic usually avoid getting caught. Sometimes they go into politics. Maybe, oftentimes.

Let's take the case of the average politician. How many suffer from pride - hubris? That they think they have the God-given right to tell everyone what to do by force of law? How many suffer from avarice, or greed, and fill their pockets with taxpayer money? How many have problems with drinking, drugs and sex - lust and gluttony? How many are so slothful they would never go near a real job? How many are wrathful and envious?

Most politicians are afflicted with all of the Seven Deadly Sins. How many ever level any criticism at themselves? Obviously, most believe, " I don't have a do."

Gambling, food, alcohol, sex. That just about sums up the average politician. I'd sure like to see the bookmarks on many politician's computers. The ones to which only they have the passwords.

I drove a taxi for five years when I was in college. I became friends with all kinds of people, including lots of criminals. I got to know them quite well, which is why I know people like William Bennett, Jesse Jackson, Charles Schumer, and both the Clintons are grifters and scam artists. They don't know what they are, because their hubris blinds them. There should be an 11th Commandment in the Bible: "Thou shalt not lie to thine own self."

Some of the people I knew were gamblers and ex-cons. Some were whores and heroin addicts. One woman was both a whore and a heroin addict. Sometimes we would go to dinner together.

Joann didn't want to be a heroin addict. She didn't want to be a whore, either, but it paid for her habit. She used to ask me to drive her to customers and be a bodyguard, since she was always scared. I wore boots with thick heels, a big bulky coat and a hat. In outline I was six-four. Four inches of it was all bluff.

Right before she went into a 30-day treatment program for her addiction, she told me, "You know, you've never treated me any different than anyone else you know. I replied, "Who's worse? You, or George P.? You want to change, and he doesn't." This made her laugh. When she got out of treatment, she always carried her Bible with her. "It helps me stay off the junk," she told me.

P. was the prosecuting attorney for the city. He was slavering mad-dog rabid about running prostitution out of the city. He was as pretentious, ignorant and obnoxious as many a politician. Then he got caught on tape, in a sting operation, with a hooker. Turns out he'd been seeing them for years. The girls he had been paying for sex were the same ones he was trying to put in prison. The right hand didn't know what the left hand was doing. Or in P's case, maybe his brain didn't know what his doodad was doing.

P. suffered from hubris. "I am good, and you are bad." To maintain his good self-image, he had to project his problems onto other people. In his case, prostitutes. Since he was too weak to change himself (or denied he had a problem) he tried to change the environment, and other people. It never works.

He didn't try to change himself from "the inside out." He tried to use force to change others from "the outside in." Changing the environment, and other people "out there" was somehow supposed to change him "in here." That's pretty screwed up. But then, he was a screwed up man, just like the average politician.

P. didn't see those girls as people. He saw them as things. Little dolls for him to work upon, instead of working on himself. On one hand, he treated them as things for his lust. On the other hand, he treated them as things for his anger and wrath.

How many politicians are the same way? How many see people as things, to be used and manipulated because they are too weak of a human being to change themselves? Joann, even though she was a whore and a junkie, wanted to change herself. Who's worse - her, or a politician? The opposite of hubris is humility. Joann was humble enough to know what she was, and to seek help.

Many politicians are scapegoaters. When they gain political power they use it to project their sicknesses onto other people. It's why politics is so destructive, since it almost always attracts the sick, who try to change others through force instead of changing themselves.

When nemesis follows a politicians' hubris, and they get caught doing what they're not supposed to do, all say they are going to quit what they were doing. The only reason they quit is because they get caught. Do they have a real change of heart and mind? No, they don't. They just get caught. Very few truly repent, unlike Joann. The only one I can think of offhand is Chuck Colson - and he was involved in Watergate. That was a long time ago.

For years I wondered why Jesus hung out with the outcasts and scapegoats in his society. Prostitutes, for one. And drunkards, I'll bet. He said they needed "a doctor." Did he think they were more liable for a real change of heart, for true repentance, than the "elites"? He mocked the "virtuous" of his time, the grandiose, self-righteous, scapegoating ones who thought they were God's Chosen and saw no need to change what they were. If the typical modern politician had been alive in those days, they'd be Pharisees. This is why I believe politicians and politics can solve nothing. It's about politicians trying to change others through force instead of changing themselves.

The desire for true change, real repentance ( which means "to turn around and go the other way" - see our Newsletter " Repent - LRU ), is why I have respect for a whore and junkie like Joann, and none for almost all politicians. And Joann sure didn't think she had the right to pass judgment on others, as most politicians think they do. "Judge not, lest you be judged."

"The first shall be last, and the last shall be first." I'm not exactly sure what the last half of that sentence means, but I know what the first part means. I'm positive most politicians don't, though.

This is 2008?

Sometimes I have a hard time believing it is the year 2008. It just doesn't feel like it. I was at least expecting levitating skateboards, like the one Michael J. Fox had in one of the Back to the Future movies. Not that I would ride it. My dog would like it, I'll bet. There are few things funnier than seeing a pug grin. I'd even buy him a little helmet, like the one moronic adults wear when they ride their bikes on a busy city street.

Instead, what I see are janitors on strike where I work. These are adults, in their 20's, 30's, 40's, 50's. They're making $7.50 an hour. After taxes and deductions for their benefits, there ain't much left. They certainly aren't going to be buying skateboards, levitating or not. I saw one of the elderly female janitors going into her apartment, located in some not-so-hot public housing. Some of the cars on the street were not only not levitating up and down, they weren't going back and forth, not unless people pushed them. It's a bit hard to keep a car running on $7.50 an hour, even if it is an 250,000-mile ex-taxi that cost $200.

These janitors should be making $30,000 a year. My grandfather, who was born in 1893, dropped out of school in the 8th grade, yet was still able to raise nine kids and live a middle-class existence. He installed and sanded wooden floors. But in those days, taxes, inflation, regulations, and the federal deficit were but a fraction of what they are now. What he did is now impossible.

My father told me that when he was a kid, his father would send him to the corner bar to bring back a big bucket of beer for the workers to drink. My father was about ten. Let a kid try that these days. And if you think that's bad, I saw a 90-year-old man carded for a pack of cigars at a Walgreens. "How old do you think I am?" he asked the clerk. "I don't know," she replied. "I'll bet you couldn't find your butt with both hands," he told her, and walked out. That's when I found that trying to stifle laughter makes you snort. She had a J-Lo "I Only Need One Hand" butt. Speaking of butts, I'll bet mine is smarter than the entire management of Walgreens.

When my grandfather was a kid, opiates were legal, so you could buy Bayer heroin at the corner drugstore. But when he was an adult, it was during Prohibition, so he was a bootlegger. Too bad he didn't become filthy rich running rum, like Joseph Kennedy. I wouldn't be driving a 2000 Chevy Cavalier. And I'd be in Congress, chasing Ted Kennedy around, saying, "Here, stupid drunken fat socialist piggie."

All people understand that when they get a tax cut, their salaries go up. Few understand that when businesses get a tax cut, they use the money to give employees raises, otherwise other businesses will use their newfound money to hire them away. (I really shouldn't say "all people." Richard Gephardt, who is as lacking in brains as he is in eyebrows, certainly doesn't understand it.)

Mean average wages haven't budged since about 1974, which is when Nixon severed the dollar from gold (who was advising him? His dog, Checkers?) In the 20th century, the dollar lost 99% of its value through the government inflating the money supply. Forty-five percent of that loss has been since 1983, nine years after the Checkers-brained Nixon allowed inflation to proceed with no brakes at all.

I believe if the unconstitutional Federal Reserve Bank hadn't been created in 1913 (thereby allowing inflation), if the IRS had never come into existence, if the federal deficit was a single-digit fraction of what it is now, and if all these asinine job-destroying regulations didn't exist, then those janitors would be making $30,000 a year. Most people don't know it, but half of what they make goes to taxes. Most of those taxes are hidden. How many people know exactly how much tax is hidden in the price of a gallon of gasoline?

Historically, people who have half of what they make taken from them are called slaves.

I grew up on The Jetsons and the original Star Trek. (I spent hours in front of the mirror, trying to raise my eyebrow like Spock. And I succeeded. Even today, I can raise my left eyebrow. But not my right.) As a little kid I watched 2001: A Space Odyssey goggle-eyed. I halfway expected 2001 to be like 2001. I expected Jetsons flying cars and those little Star Trek saltshaker thingies that Bones used to scan patients with ("You need a heart transplant." Plop. "Okay, done.")

Today ain't even close to what I expected, and I blame it on the State. (I won't blame it for my jumping off the barn roof with a blanket as a parachute. At least I learned my lesson by getting the wind knocked out of me. Seven years old, and I was smarter than the feds. I only needed to make a mistake once.)

In the past 3600 years there have been more than 14,000 wars. God knows where the human race would be if they hadn't been fought. With space stations, and with colonies on the Moon and Mars, I'm sure. Years ago I remember the writer Philip Jose' Farmer (who is now 84 years old) writing that as a teenager he hoped and prayed we'd be on Mars by 1940. I'll probably be dead before we have a colony on the Moon. The only way I'll get to visit is if I have my ashes put on a skateboard and levitated there.

I recently read an article that said it is theoretically possible to build a graser-a gamma-ray laser-in orbit. If it was powerful enough, it could be used to make the sun go nova. I just finished a novel – Joe Haldeman's Forever Peace – that postulated that within a few decades nanotechnology will be so advanced we will be able to put nanorobots next to a pile of sand and have them build a house. The people I talk to find that dubious. They're more liable to believe in an orbiting graser.

Such is what the State has done. They're always more advanced in war than peace. They've got the public believing it, too.

Now the US has turned into an Empire. I'm convinced we are going to invade Iraq, followed by Iran, Saudi Arabia, and maybe even Egypt. When that zombie Alan Greenspan inflated the money supply in the 90s, it went into the dot coms. Now his inflation is going to go into weapons manufacturers. More advances in war, but not in peace. Dubya the Tongue-and-Brain-Tied, thy name is Stupid. Not only is my butt smarter than Dubya, so is my pug's butt.

Empires always fall. I don't understand why the deluded people in the government, and their foolish lackeys in the media – the Rush Limbaughs and the Bill O'Reillys – don't know this (O'Reilly reminds me of Alan Dershowitz: a big mouth almost completely unhinged from his brain). There are, fortunately, people who do understand what is going on. Unfortunately, they are a very small minority.

This very small minority is going to be the one that saves civilization. They're the ones who are going to be a candle in the dark. The ones who Albert Jay Nock called "The Saving Remnant," the minority who understands the truth, and passes it on to the future.

Who knows? Maybe one day the human race will get it right. Maybe we'll somehow end up with government that protects life, liberty and property, like it's supposed to do. Maybe economists will give up the crackpot Keynesianism and its belief in inflation, taxation and deficits. Maybe we'll give up the Welfare/Warfare Empire. And if that day comes, then janitors will make $30,000 a year. And, possibly, my pug might just fly.

The Irresponsibility of Nerf World

When I was four years old my parents took my sister and me to see my aunt and uncle. They had the coolest house in the world. It was set sideways in a hill. It was two stories high; you entered the second-story from the backyard! The backyard was one story higher than the front yard! To walk up to the backyard from the side, there was an old stone staircase.

One day I saw a rope hanging down from the top of that staircase. Since a rope is irresistible to a four-year-old, I pulled on it. It came loose, all right, as did a board at the top of the stairs. It sailed down and landed on my left foot, breaking my little toe. I don't remember the pain, but it must have been excruciating, because I sat down and screamed. I was unable to walk. A trip to the doctor confirmed a cracked toe-bone.

Never again did I do anything like that. I learned my lesson; you don't stand there and watch boards sail down from the sky without getting out of the way. I found the world wasn't made of Nerf, and I wasn't invincible. And I learned it at four.

One of the main problems with the Mommy State today is that it wants to make the world out of Nerf, to remove all danger, and make everything completely safe. This, obviously, is impossible.

I don't think it's a very good idea to make the world too safe for children. It's possible they don't gain the experience in life that they should. Then they grow up more irresponsible than they should. "I'm immortal!" they seem to think. "I can't be hurt!"

I see teenagers today doing things we never did when I was their age. I hear of them getting killed all the time while driving. This never happened when I was a teenager. Sure, we went out on old country roads and floored the pedal. But we did it on a straightaway. No one ever got killed. None of us ever had a wreck, and we used to hit 120 mph.

We never had any drunken drivers. And we started drinking when we were fifteen. That's the age some of the bars would let us sit and drink. Yet nobody drove while drunk. It was an unheard of thing.

We didn't have helmets when we rode bikes. We fell off and skinned ourselves up. No one ever cracked his head. Well, Vicki Marcus did, when she fell off and split her chin open. I remember that because she came to my door with her hand over her chin, blood just pouring out. I had the chickenpox and couldn't go outside, so instead I ended up dealing with a seven-year-old girl dripping blood all over the front porch.

Yet today I see adults riding bikes in the streets. And downtown! Do they think they're going to win a contest with a car? Didn't they ever learn the First Rule of Bikes in kiddom? You don't ride your bike in the street when there are cars around. What were these morons like as children?

When I was a kid we used to ride in the backs of our fathers' pick-up trucks. No one ever flew out. We didn't sit on the wheel well. We sat on the floor and grabbed the side. It was scary, but it was fun.

When I was ten I had a chemistry set (try to find a chemistry set in a store today). Some of the bottles were marked POISON. I didn't even open them. I contented myself with making things foam, bubble, and overflow. I didn't poison myself, the dog, the cat, the bird or any people. Or even my sister, who I doubted was human.

We had BB guns. We never shot anyone's eye out. I did once accidentally shoot George Todd in the leg with my pistol, but when he raised his RIFLE to shoot me back, I yelled it was an accident, so he didn't plug me.

Only one stupid kid shot himself in the lip with his own BB gun, and I only knew that because he came to the door so my mother could try to dig it out. He was stupid in all other ways; he was on our property without permission, because it was fun to shoot behind the barn behind our farmhouse. Years later, he died one night when he drank an entire bottle of hard liquor. Apparently he didn't know that booze is poison, and if you drink too much too fast, it'll kill you. But even as a kid, he showed, over and over, that he was stupid and irresponsible.

When we were 12 and 13 we got minibikes. We didn't wear helmets and we didn't get hurt. Well, I did, once, when I was riding down a levee near the river when the throttle came off in my hand. I flew over the bars and when I got up I had cut my knee open. Four stitches.

We used to have dirt-clod fights. Whenever there was a new house being built, all the neighborhood boys would gather there and throw dirt-clods at each other. There were unwritten rules: use only big soft clods. We barely could hit each other because it was so easy to get out of the way. One kid, Dennis Brown, got hurt, and that was because one mean kid threw a clod with a rock inside. It went through Dennis' cheek. It was impressive to look in his mouth, until the wound healed.

Once, when the aforementioned George and I were ten and nine, one Saturday we rode our bikes to a lake about six miles away. We just took off for the day. Our parents never found out about it. We rode on the side of the road, not on it. No one ran us over. No serial killers or child molesters tried to snatch us. If any had tried, I would have stabbed them with the stiletto I ordered through the mail.

When I was a teenager some of my friends lived on a lake. Seven or eight of us would go out on it in a big, inflated tractor-tire inner-tube, stand up on it, then rock back and forth until the tube tipped over. None of us drowned. The worst thing that ever happened to me was when everyone fell on top of me once. I looked up and saw all these guys coming at me, full auto, and then the next thing I know I about ten feet down trying to fight my way back up through a tangle of feet and legs. I broke the surface, whoosh, just like Prince Namor, to find everyone looking concerned. "God, you were down a long time," one said. "Someone kept kicking me in the head," I answered.

When my nephew Daniel was about four his father and I got in the backyard pool with him. I stood on one side of the pool and his father on the other. He let Daniel try to swim to me. He sputtered and thrashed and kicked and made his way over to me. He had a huge grin on his face, like he was having the time of his life. When he got to me, I grabbed him and asked, "You okay?" "Yeah, yeah," he answered, out of breath and spitting water. "Okay, ready to go back," he said, and thrashed and sputtered and kicked his way back to his dad. Pretty good, for a kid who didn't know how to swim. But he learned. He also learned if you weren't responsible, you could drown. At four.

When I was 16 I got a .22 single-shot rifle with a telescopic site. John Hummel and I used to go down by the railroad tracks and blow up gallon jugs of water. We didn't shoot anyone, and we certainly didn't go stalking people through the high school.

The only "sport" I was good at in jr. high and high school was dodge ball and bombardment. In fact, I was great at it. The more vicious and brutal it was, the better I liked it. No one could ever hit me, and if he could, I almost always could catch the ball. Oh, yeah! Bring it on! We'll see who wins! It was great for my self-esteem.

Our parents didn't try to kill us. But they let us go outside and learn to be responsible at an early age. And we did it, naturally, by playing, by being kids. That's what play often is. Learning, and rehearsing to be an adult. Play is how all animals learn. We picked up, at a very early age, what worked, and what didn't work in having fun while staying safe.

Nowadays, the State, interfering in what is none of its business, is trying to remove from children the natural education that comes with being a kid. It's trying to deny children their childhood and instead treat them as infants. And once they become adults, will they act as adults, or will they finally start acting like children?

That's what the Mommy State wants – for everyone to be children. It's trying to Nerfize the entire country. Tag, bombardment, dodgeball? God forbid! Bad for the self-esteem, and you might get hurt!

BB guns? Sweet Baby Jesus! Are you serious?! Those things lead to kids doing drive-bys or shooting up high schools! And teenagers with .22 rifles? Yikes! Are you completely insane? They commit suicide or shoot their whoois off! Dirt-clod fights? You could put someone's eye out! King of the Hill? You're looking at a broken neck there, bud!

Yet, somehow, things haven't gotten safer for kids, just a lot less fun. And we seem to have a lot more irresponsible adults, too.

Keeping and Tending the Garden

In the story of the Garden of Eden, Adam (which means "Man") is told to "tend and keep" the Garden. The word "keep" (shamar) also means "guard."

This one sentence tells humanity how to treat the world: we are to keep and tend it – guard it – as if it is a garden. There are a few simple rules that can be deduced from that sentence.

The first is that we are to turn the world into a garden. The second is that a garden is private property; it is something that is owned by a person. Since all people are enjoined to treat their property as a garden, then they should legally prohibited from polluting someone else’s garden. Those two things – private property and the enforcement of property rights – would plunge pollution to the bare minimum. Since "Adam" means "Man" and not "State," we can deduce Man is to own everything, and the State, nothing.

This millennia-old sentence about people "keeping and tending" the Garden, and not the State, would not have lasted all these years unless there is universal truth to it. History has shown that when the State owns property, it’s really owned by a large group of people, always distant from the property, always at odds with each other, each trying to use political force to coerce others into doing what they want, no matter how asinine and illogical it is. Then we end up with the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing. Possibly even worse, those who believe in the State are almost always leftists, who believe humans are a blight on the Earth and shouldn’t touch it. This is impossible, unless the human race was to disappear from the Earth.

A perfect example of this not-knowing were the forest fires out west last summer. They were caused by logging companies not being allowed to clear out decades of underbrush, since liberal environmentalists thought this cleaning – which in reality is tending and keeping the garden – would damage the environment. Since the companies couldn’t do this cleaning, nature took the course it always does: it burned everything up, including all the animals which couldn’t escape.

If those forests had been privately owned, they would have been kept and tended much better. Private property always gets better care than property owned by the State. If people don’t take care of it, they can’t make a profit from it, and have to sell it to others with more sense. The free market, coupled with private property and legally enforced property rights, puts property into the most competent hands.

This stand in opposition to "democracy" and the State, which invariably puts the worst and most poorly-educated people into office. Then they look puzzled and scratch their heads when their ill-advised policies cause entire forests to burn down.

Another problem with all property not being privately owned is what is called "the tragedy of the commons." This is what has happened with the oceans. Since no one owns them, everyone tries to exploit them. It’s the attitude, "If I don’t get my share first, then someone else will beat me to it, and I will get nothing." This is just human nature, and all the laws in the world will not change it.

A lot of pollution in the US was originally caused by the fact that courts did not enforce property rights. People did sue companies for fouling their property, and were told by the courts, "Sorry, but this company is creating jobs, and those jobs are more important than your property being damaged." Had the courts originally enforced property rights, pollution would have been a fraction of what it turned into. Even though this sentence isn’t in the Bible, it should be: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

There are, obviously, different kinds of gardens. Some are more tame, some are more wild. I am originally from Illinois, which is quite correctly called "The Prairie State." I’ve been all over it and most of it is as flat as the top of Frankenstein’s head. About the only good thing I can say about it is that it’s not as bad as Kansas.

Because of this flatness, most of Illinois has been turned into farmland. It’s been turned into a tame garden. On the other hand, Kansas turns into eastern Colorado, and eastern Colorado turns into the Rockies. And the Rockies are a wild garden. This is not much Man can do with these kinds of wild gardens. And people need both tame and wild gardens. It’d be a boring country if all of it looked like Illinois. It’d be nearly unlivable if all it looked like the Rockies.

What we have today is a mishmash of conflicting laws. And to paraphrase Theodore Sturgeon’s most famous saying, 90% of them are nonsense, which means we can just throw them out. They’re not helping, only hindering. We’d all be better off if people – and the law – just paid attention to that one little sentence about Gardens.

The Evil (But Incompetent) Geniuses

Of all the characters in the Austin Powers movies, Dr. Evil is my favorite. He's not evil. He only appears that way. In reality he's stupid and incompetent. God knows how he got into his position. In many ways he is an illustration of the saying, (which I had heard attributed to both Robert Heinlein and Spider Robinson): "Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by stupidity."

Because of the human race's inborn narcissism, we have an unconscious tendency to split everything into "all-good" versus "all-bad." For a while there was a religion based on this – Manichaeism. St. Augustine was originally a Manichee, until he realized it was a heresy.

Manichaeism was based on the belief that Good and Evil were two exactly equal principles in the universe. Manichee believed they would have remained at peace with each other except the Evil principle decided to invade the Good. Even though he never realized it, this is exactly the archetype of the horror story: Evil invading Good, or Chaos intruding onto Order.

Even today, many of us are unconsciously Manichees. We tend to see Good and Evil as equal. Worse, we tend to see Evil as smarter than Good. You can easily see this archetype in cartoon characters such as Lex Luther, the Brain (of Pinky and the Brain), and Simon Bar Sinister of the old Underdog Show. Or, Dr. Evil.

These concepts that we project onto reality – either Good or Evil (with nothing in between), and Evil as smarter than Good – explain some things happening today. I have lost track of the articles I've read that suggested: the planes that flew into the WTC were remote-controlled; Dubya and his administration set up the attacks on the WTC; or, Israel set up the attacks to draw the US into destroying its enemies.

Of course, the people who believe in these theories have to see the perpetrators not only as Evil, but Evil Geniuses. The world is being run by a shadowy cabal of Evil Geniuses! Dubya an Evil Genius? BWAHAHAHA! Here I go on the floor! An ex-drunk, possibly brain-damaged, party animal, who often can't put together a coherent sentence, and he's so brilliant, and yes, EVIL, that he and the other EVIL GENIUSES in his administration pulled off the attack on the WTC, covered it up completely, and blamed it on Osama bin Laden!

I tell you, I'm impressed!

For that matter, look at how many people saw Osama bin Laden as an Evil Genius.

In reality, these people are neither Geniuses nor Evil. They're stupid and incompetent. Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda simply had no clue how weak the Islamic world is and how strong the US is. They thought they could draw the US into a guerilla war, like Vietnam, and defeat us that way. Those days are over. Like everyone else, he underestimated the US. The man's not Evil; he's Stupid. Let's put it this way: here's a man living in a cave who thinks Islam can take over the world.

Yet, at the same time, the people in the US administration fell into bin Laden's trap. Now we are going to spend a decade fighting a guerilla war in every country they conquer. It won't be anything like Vietnam, though. After spending hundreds of billions of dollars, and losing a few thousand soldiers, in the long run we'll withdraw, the Islamic world will fall back into the totalitarianism that is its birthright, and nothing will have changed. The people in the administration aren't Evil...they're just Stupid.

It all reminds me of a funny little film called Spaced Invaders. In it, a bunch of midget Martians try to invade the earth. They make friends with a little girl who defends them by saying, "They're not really evil. They're just...stupid."

Scratch someone who's "evil," and underneath you'll always find stupidity, ignorance, blindness, stubbornness and hubris.

The Good, the Not-So-Good, and the Really, Really Ugly

Far be it from me to hush my mouth concerning just about anything. So, I'll mention the fact I hardly watch TV anymore, especially the news. Dan Rather's a twitchy mental case, and Peter Jennings used to wear an earring. What did he think he was, a pirate? I don't need to absorb such things into my brain. I'd rather watch South Park, a much more effective news source. The last time I watched the news was 9-11. I don't waste my money on newspapers, either. I can get my Dilbert off of the Internet.

Instead, I get just about everything from the Web. Since there are close to four-and-one-half-billion Web pages, I've had to narrow the choices available. I've got it down to about ten sites, which I refer to as the Good, the Not-So-Good, and the Really, Really Ugly.

The Good sites are the ones that are almost always right, say about 99% of the time. These are, overwhelmingly and not surprisingly, the libertarian/conservative ones. These are the truly patriotic sites, the heroic ones that want to save America from the hubris of its neocon, neo-Jacobin enemies. The Not-So-Good sites are ones that have potential, but need work. The Really, Really Ugly sites are the ones that worship Satan. I have this image of the people running them falling on their knees and waving their arms up and down, like Wayne and Garth did toward Alice Cooper, saying, "We're not worthy! We're not worthy!" They're trying as best they can to emulate their Master, though.

In alphabetical order (so that no one can accuse me of playing favorites), the good sites are:

The American Conservative. While I don't agree with Pat Buchanan's protectionism, he's exactly right on the destructiveness of the American Empire to itself and the world. The magazine features one of my favorite writers on the Internet, the always funny Fred Reed, runs the always interesting, if aristocratic and tipsy, Taki, and has some of the best movie reviews around, by Steve Sailer. It is a true conservative magazine (meaning it's not Politically Correct at all), unlike pious frauds like National Review, which has become a shambling zombie of its former self. is the best site on the Internet for antiwar material. Basically run by two men, Justin Raimondo and Eric Garris, it also features regular columns by Alan Bock, Nebojsa Malic, Matthew Barganier, and Joseph Stromberg. It was this site that pretty much introduced me to the machinations of – ugh – the villains Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz, two of the main incompetent architects/war criminals of the clumsy and counter-productive wars the US is now involved in. If I had my way, I'd give each a last cigarette and then slap the horses' rumps. describes itself as a newsletter. It takes what it considers the best of many other sites – from all over the world – and runs their articles. One fan said of it, "Freedom News cuts through the clutter...It's become an indispensable part of my daily routine." I'd have to agree. Bah, who needs college? I went to college. I graduated college. I prefer this site, which, if you read it for a year, is equal to a MS in Political Science. Running Monday through Saturday, it gives you Sunday off so you can sleep all day and start all over. The War Street Journal – I mean Wall Street Journal – referred to its writers as "denizens." I'm more proud of that than William Bennett trashing it. That was before he got his pudgy hand caught in a slot machine, hee hee.

The Price of Liberty is a fairly new site run by Susan Calloway, who was for years "Mama Sierra" over at the Sierra Times. Now this is a site after my own heart; the first paragraph of their mission statement reads, "The price of liberty is far more than simple vigilance. The price includes the integrity to accept complete personal responsibility for our lives, safety, property and welfare. The price that so many find hardest to pay, however, is the integrity to leave everyone else alone to do the same." That last sentence reminds me of the fact early American coins had "Mind your business" on them. We need those coins in circulation today.

Strike the Root is a thorough-going anarcho-capitalist site which takes it name from the comment by Henry David Thoreau: "There are a thousand people hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root." And the root of that evil? Why, the ever-growing Blob known as "the government." Strike the Root merrily hacks away at the Blob seven days a week.

Now we move to the Not-So-Good sites, ones that have a lot of potential but need a lot of work. It cheers me to write there is only one major site in this category – WorldNetDaily.

Originally WorldnetDaily started its life as a very interesting and very funny libertarian/conservative site. Then came 9-11, and they went nuts and became warmongers. Recently, though, the place has started to realize its mistake and come out against the staggering incompetence of the intellectually challenged George Bush.

Big pluses for WorldnetDaily: they run Vox Day, Gordon Prather, Paul Sperry, and Col. David Hackworth.

Big, big, big minuses – Jerry "the False Prophet" Falwell, who writes articles about how "God is Pro-war." Sure, Jerry. It's ain't God talking to you; it's the Other Guy. And if Jesus does return, you're in big trouble, along with the rest of the crackpot Armageddonites who want Him to come back and rub out a lot of the world.

The talentless David Limbaugh, who as everyone knows, would be reduced to writing letters to the editor except for the fact he is riding on the coattails off his drug-addled, chickenhawk brother.

Ben Sharpiro, a little chickenhawk sofa samurai who appears to live in his parents' basement. There's a big, wide world out there, son, so quit practicing by kissing the inside of your forearm and find a real girl. This doofus isn't paid for what he writes, is he?

Now we move to the sites that now dwell in the Nether Regions.

Even though I don't think anyone takes it seriously anymore, I'll still include National Review. What a pitiful slide to irrelevance, straight from the Right to the Left (although I'm sure it still thinks it's Right). I used to have a subscription to this magazine, which ran articles by greats like Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn and Russell Kirk. Now, they run Jonah Goldberg, David Frum and Rich Lowry, all of whom appear not only ill-educated, but uneducated.

Has William F. Buckley gone senile? It appears so, considering all those awful novels he's written. The man should be ashamed of himself about how he's allowed his magazine to slide into almost complete incompetence. Does he not understand the irony of his magazine becoming that which he once despised? Is he now as blind as Mr. Magoo?

It is true The Weekly Standard is run weekly. As for being a "standard," that's misleading. People think a "standard" is for something good, a quality sadly lacking in this war-mongering, chickenhawk magazine. The place is so miserable it can't survive on subscriptions; it's supported by Rupert Murdoch, who in his early years of newspaper ownership made his money by running soft-core porn in his publications. Considering the quality of The Weekly Standard, he hasn't changed.

The editor of The Weekly Standard is one William Kristol, who, every time I see his picture, I can't help but imagine the mutated little mouse, Brain, superimposed over him. Both Kristol and Brain seem to be animated by the same philosophy: "What are we going to do tomorrow, Brain?" "The same thing we do every day, Pinky . . .try and conquer the world." Brain always conks his head, as does Kristol.

Now for the lowest of the low – the Fascists-R-Us site known as Free Republic. The site is a perfect example of Pareto's Law: 20% of the people have the brains and the other 80% are idgits who couldn't find their butts with both hands and someone directing them with a pointer.

The 80% idgits believe Americans torturing Iraqis is okay because it wasn't as bad as what Saddam Hussein did. They also think Hussein mulched hundreds of thousands of people in shredders, and that he was behind 9-11 and the Oklahoma bombings.

As for Iraqis fighting back, the typical Freeper thinks we should level any town that opposes us, including using nuclear weapons. Of course – need I say it? – none of the posters at the site have any intention of making their way to the front lines. Isn't that the perfect definition of a chickenhawk? "You play; I'll stay on the sidelines and tell you were to throw the ball"?

I used to wonder about the psychology of someone who became a Nazi, or a Communist, or a Fascist. Now I understand. Read Free Republic, and you will, too.

All of the people at the Really, Really Ugly sites have two things in common: they are chickenhawks, and they don't understand what "hubris" means. Concerning the first, they remind me of Sam Spade's comment to the gunsel Wilmer in The Maltese Falcon: "The cheaper the punk, the gaudier the patter." Concerning the second, it's obvious they have no understanding of the Bible or the Greeks, the two main influences on Western civilization.

They also remind me of the line from Yeats' poem, "The Second Coming" about the worst being full of "passionate intensity." I know all of them believe they are marching toward Bethlehem; in reality they are slouching towards Alley Oop.

There is an old saying (Chinese, I suppose, as all these sayings seem to be): "The least warlike are the best warriors." The opposite side of that coin is: "The most warlike are the worst warriors." In other words, all mouth, no cojones. Chickenhawks.

I know I missed a lot of good sites. I wish I could read them all, but if I did, I wouldn't have any time to work. Who knows? Maybe someday I'll win the lottery. Even if I don't, I still have the consolation of reading sites that know the difference between right and wrong . . . unlike some.

A Nifty Pocket Guide to World Domination

I doubt it takes more than a quarter-page of instructions to conquer the world. Heck, if the Ten Commandments (technically, "Ten Words" or "Ten Utterances" are pretty much the basis for a free and prosperous society, why should it takes a book/books to learn how to conquer the planet? Aren't they are just really several easily-memorized rules?

So here they are:

First Rule: The leaders count, the masses are expendable.

Second Rule: War is Good!

Third Rule: See Rules One and Two.

Shoot, that wasn't even a quarter-page.

Okay, how about a movie that illustrates my point? Fight Club will do nicely. Even though it came out in '99, I didn't see it until recently. Got to love those DVD players!

If nothing else, the movie has generated a line that nearly everyone knows: "The first rule of Fight Club is, you don't talk about Fight Club."

That's a very interesting line, and one that contains truth. Right now we have two groups in the US which are causing a hell of a lot of trouble: Christian Zionists and Zionists/neocons. While it is acceptable to talk about the first (crackpot) group, it's not acceptable to talk about the second (crackpot) group, if you point out they're overwhelmingly Jewish.

The obvious is not supposed to be pointed out, or you'll get accusations of anti-Semitism. The first rule is, "You don't talk about the truth." What's that old saying, "Truth is the first casualty of war"?

Fight Club is not a great film. It's a very good one, and certainly a very bizarre one that requires a suspension of disbelief that is rare even for a cult movie. But it has a lot of truth in it, and truth is always applicable.

It points out how emotionally dead people seek violence and thrills to make them feel alive. That path is, unfortunately, the shortest one for the human race to get some kicks. Chris Hedges wrote about it in his book, War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning.

"The enduring attraction of war is this: Even with its destruction and carnage it can give us what we long for in life," he wrote. "It can give us purpose, meaning, a reason for living. Only when we are in the midst of conflict does the shallowness and vapidness of much of our lives become apparent."

Yep, that's Fight Club all right: a bunch of bored, emotionally dead people seeking meaning in violence. At least in the movie, the guys fought; in real life they won't, instead vicariously cheering on those who do.

Critics have claimed the movie is pro-fascist. No, it's not. It's anti-fascist. It does illustrate how the quest for community -- the very human desire to belong to a group -- is the basis for fascism, and how it can degenerate into it, especially when coupled with the love of violence.

The movie is not truly anti-capitalist, either. It just points out you'll never get any true meaning to your life by collecting things, by being strictly materialistic. In fact, the ending of the movie points out one of the few worthwhile things in life is love.

Then we have the problem with leaders. In the movie, and in real life, one of the main problems is the ubiquitous tendency for groups to worship leaders. I was astonished to find Americans referring to Bush as "my President." What exactly is the difference between someone like that and someone who 60 years ago said, "Mein Fuhrer"? For all practical purposes, there isn't any.

The movie, however, is leftist-anarchist: destroy everything and a better world will arise from the ashes. In that sense, it is anti-capitalist. But then, there are a lot of leftist-libertarians who really are nothing more than leftists masquerading as libertarians, and who want to destroy society, thinking something better will automatically rise to take its place. Hardly.

The problem, ultimately, is alienation. In the movie, the unnamed protagonist was alienated from his work, his society, and most of all, himself. The same problem exists in life, and that meaningless and alienation and boredom is why too many people cheer war. Do happy people support war? I really can't imagine it.

So, in several nutshells, here is now you conquer the world: You take the natural desire for community and turn it into fascism. You get people to worship a leader. You teach them war is life-affirming. You'll invariably end up with what Iris Chang wrote about in The Rape of Nanking: the group is everything, the individual nothing, especially individuals outside our group, who are less than nothing, and who should be annihilated.

Of course, no one has ever conquered the world, and neither will America . We'll just expend huge amounts of blood and treasure, then withdraw. About the best I can ask is that those responsible for this mess are held accountable.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Ow! Leave My Brains Alone!

Wait, hold on, let me get my Tinfoil Hat! (And if you want to understand the theory behind Tinfoil Hats, and how to construct one, cast an eyeball upon Lyle Zapato's book, Aluminum Foil Deflector Beanie: Practical Mind Control Protection for Paranoids).

Conspiracy theories have been around since, well, the beginning of the human race. They are a constant with people, so they must fulfill a deep-seated need. If you need proof of the imperfection of humanity, there it is.

One of the funniest I've heard recently is that George Bush was behind 9-11. That one makes me chuckle. Here's a guy who's failed at every job given to him (on a silver platter yet), who spent his college career as a drunken fratboy, but deep inside is an Evil Genius who planned and executed 9-11? So he and his oil buddies could get to all that Black Gold in the Mideast ? Naw, I don't think so.

The latest one I've encountered was that the US was behind the tsunami. A nuclear blast, I believe. This is great stuff, I tell you! I read a lot of science fiction, and by golly, sometimes reality completely trumps it!

I especially like the one about how the planes on 9-11 were remote-controlled by satellites. Hey, the pilots wouldn't radio in? Oh--the radios were turned off by the satellites! Okay, what about all the cell phones on the planes? All of them were turned off? Except, of course, except for the fact everyone with a cell phone immediately started calling when the hijackers took over the planes.

I've met exactly three truly paranoid people in my life. The first one was some religious zealot who thought that he, and he only, understood what the Bible meant. He told us he had discovered the truth behind the Catholic's Church plans to Take Over the World, and that the Pope had sent Holy Hitmen to assassinate him. He was totally serious about this; he really believed it.

The last time I saw him, he was down by the lake behind my sister's house twirling some numchucks around, I assume to protect himself against those godly gunsels sent to rub him out. He ended up hitting himself in the forehead and drawing blood. To staunch the flow, he put some leaves on the wound. Maybe he thought he was a Master Herbalist, too. By this time, my sister and I were laughing so hard, I had to leave in case he came in. To this day, I still have this image of him with a leaf stuck on his forehead.

The second fellow was one who was convinced the government had trucks following him, in which were hidden machines that beamed rays at his brain, making him do things he didn't want to do. This one was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. Personally, I think the first guy was one, too.

Myself, I believe in Occam's Razor: "Entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily." It's a way of saying the simplest explanation is usually the best. If I hear footsteps outside my door, I can explain them by saying a portal to an alternate universe has opened up and one of H.P. Lovecraft's Elder Gods has come through and is going to crash bash down my door and drag me away as a human sacrifice.

Or, maybe it's a friend of mine coming to visit.

Maybe a bunch of Muslims fanatics were really the ones behind 9-11. Maybe it really was blowback, retaliation for the US 's interference for the last 50 years in the Mideast . Maybe it partly for revenge, and because of envy. And maybe it was to draw us into a war over there, to bleed us dry of blood and treasure, so we would finally leave.

They've even admitted they did it, and it certainly is a lot easier to believe than four airplanes being remote-controlled by satellites like those little cars kids play with on the street.

Why do people believe in conspiracies? For one thing--and it's probably the main thing--people don't want to admit responsibility for their problems. So, they blame them on other people. That’s one of the first things kids do, and for some people, it certainly lasts even into adulthood.

The people who said Bush did it aren't pro-Bush. Indeed, they want him out of office because they think he is responsible for so many problems. They blame all their problems on him. Most of the people who claim Israel was behind 9-11 are Muslim. They certainly aren't pro-Israel, and indeed have spend the last several decades trying to get rid of the place, believing that once it’s gone, all the problems in the Mideast will evaporate. Har har.

Then we have the people who say, I discovered the conspiracy, so that makes me smart! It's vanity. What we've got is, as the old saying goes, vanity, vanity, all is vanity. And people blaming their problems on others.

I suppose those who believe in conspiracies have this tendency to look at everything as either black or white. We're the Good Guys, you're the Bad Guys out to get us, and now we're on to you, so we've turned the tables! We win; you lose. Maybe this "winning" exists only in their heads, but it's better than nothing.

It does seem that for paranoia and the belief in conspiracies to work properly, people have to believe there is an unbridgeable gulf between "good" and "evil." The evil's out to get me! I'm not paranoid! It really is a conspiracy!

Perhaps this is the purpose of the Tinfoil Hat: I've outsmarted you! I've foiled your nefarious plans and exposed you to the world for what you are!

Back in college I worked in a nursing home for a year. At that time, most of the mental institutions had been closed down and the inmates dumped on the street or transferred to nursing homes. So I actually got to meet a guy who wore a Tinfoil Hat. He was fine as long as he wore his hat, although he was never fine enough to live outside the home. He's the third true paranoid I've met, and he was by far the worst; he was incapable of living in the real world.

Here's some advice when dealing with nuts: Never ask them if they're crazy. They'll invariably deny it. Of course I'm not! Other people may be crazy, but not them! Not as long as they feel nice and secure wearing their Tinfoil Hats!

It is from dealing with true nuts that I realized the traits in mental illness are traits we all have, only they're taken to extremes for them. Everyone is a little bit paranoid at times. If people pass you on the street, then start laughing, aren't you going to wonder if they're laughing at you, even if it has nothing to do with you and is instead about a joke one just told? Unfortunately, some people are paranoid all the time. Imagine if you can never shake the feeling or the thoughts.

You think if you tell Jesse Jackson the problem isn't white racism, what do you think he's going to say? You already know the answer: It's all white racism. Or tell some radical feminist maybe the problem isn't men. Ask those kinds of people, and the answer you will get is that it is always someone else who is the problem. Racism, classism, sexism, ageism, whateverism, it's someone else who is the problem! All of these people are in some degree paranoid, all live in a fantasy world, and all are wearers of Tinfoil Hats. All think: those people are out to get me! I've discovered who they are, and what the problem is! Now if I can just get rid of them! Then the problems will be gone!

I don't expect humanity to give up its belief in conspiracies, ever. It's just too easy to blame your problems on others, and too comforting and satisfying to believe you've won by claiming you've discovered and exposed the Bad Buys. The day people stop pointing fingers at others is the day the belief in conspiracies will end. That day, unfortunately, will never come.

Until then, I plan on making a lot of money by investing in Reynold's Aluminum Wrap. It's one of those businesses that will never go under.

Learning From the Insane

"Great men are almost always bad men," wrote Lord Acton. From their badness you can learn much about the flaws inherent in the mass of people. Disease is as instructive as health, since it tells people to flee the former and seek the latter. Unfortunately, when it comes to politics, many people can't tell the difference between the two, and in fact see disease as health, unholiness as holiness, war as peace, ignorance as strength.

One of those great but bad men was Adolf Hitler, who has been described as "half genius, half insane." He clearly had a profound understanding of human nature, and the cesspool known as politics, in order to get to the position he did. Knowing what he said, and how he achieved what he did, warns people to be on guard against other amoral, power-crazed individuals like him.

One thing Hitler said was, "To be a leader means to be able to move masses." This is not a good thing, contrary to those who think it might be. There is nothing good about it at all. It means one charismatic man, or a very small group of calculating but reasonable-sounding people, can move millions of gullible people. ("The worst crimes were dared by a few, willed by more and tolerated by all." ~ Tacitus)

Such naiveté' can lead to catastrophes such as the battle of Stalingrad , in which one million to two million people died. (How in the world can one million dead people be replaced?) How could essentially two men -- Stalin and Hitler -- con so many people into dying for them? They had to have been charismatic and charming on the surface, but underneath they were something out of an Aesop's fable about ruthless wolves and dim-witted sheep.

Thomas Sowell, understanding all of this, wrote, "Most wars are started by well-fed people with time on their hands to dream up half-baked ideologies or grandiose ambitions, and to nurse real or imagined grievances."

Americans are just as gullible and prone to being conned as everyone else in the world. You'd think a country founded on liberty and distrust of the government wouldn't make a cult out of such statists as Lincoln or FDR or Kennedy, or currently, Bush and his flight-suit, but it has happened. Much of the creation of these cults has been done by people who should know better -- historians and the clergy, both of whom should know how foolish the mass of people are, and how one bad man can move them, usually right over a cliff.

"Only force rules. Force is the first law" is something else Hitler wrote. There are only two ways to get what you want: honestly (the Economic Means of the free market) or dishonestly (the Political Means of force and fraud). Hitler is talking strictly about the Political Means -- lying and murder and theft and war. Only a consummate and completely amoral politician could make such a statement, and only somebody completely deluded could think that any society that is based on force and fraud can survive.

Richard Maybury, author of such books as Whatever Happened to Justice? and Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? points out that no society can survive unless it follow what he calls the Two Laws: "Do all that you have agreed to do" and "Do not encroach on other persons or their property." In a nutshell, do not engage in fraud or force. Do not engage in the Political Means.

While most people understand individuals cannot engage in force and fraud, they believe governments can engage in the Political Means with no untoward effects. They lack even the acumen of the pirate in St. Augustine 's City of God : "Because I do it with one small ship, I am called a terrorist. You do it with a whole fleet and are called an emperor."

The end result of the Political Means, when practiced by governments, is war, and as Ludwig von Mises noticed, "Economically considered, war and revolution are always bad business." That's an understatement. A bit more vivid is something else he wrote: "The worst evils which mankind has ever had to endure were inflicted by bad governments."

Everything that Hitler wrote showed an understanding of the gullibility and imperfection of human nature, of peoples' desire to belong to a group (the basis of fascism), their equally strong desire to find a (supposedly hostile and insane) enemy on which to blame their problems, and the belief in force and fraud as the final arbiters: "The victor will never be asked if he told the truth"; "How fortunate for leaders that men do not think"; "Always before God and the world, the stronger has the right to carry through what he wills."

In a sense, these great but bad men are practitioners of Black Magic, who cast spells, through the use of words, to charm the susceptible masses into believing Bad is Good -- into believing it is acceptable, indeed necessary, for governments to eternally engage in force and fraud, otherwise evil will overwhelm them. Their evil, as evil almost always does, especially politically, disguises itself as good; Black Magic masquerades as White Magic. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn understood this when he wrote, "Violence can only be concealed by a lie, and the lie can only be maintained by violence."

The neocon cancers currently infesting the US administration have apparently taken a few pages out of Hitler's writings, and are trying to put them into effect. They are a vanishing small group of amoral and power-mad people, using words as charms, attempting to con the mass of unthinking people into believing they have an insane, evil, and implacable enemy who is out to utterly destroy them. The torrent of words they pour out boils down to basically one thing: might makes right.

"Might makes right." No society has ever survived believing that. It may be the year 2005 AD, but with their belief in magic and their susceptibility to being ensorcelled by charms and spells, people might as well be stuck in 2005 BC.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Satan the Politician

[5] The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. [6] And he said to him, "I will give you all their authority and splendor, it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours."

[8] Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.'"

Luke 4:5-8

Now that's an interesting little story. Satan offers Jesus political power over all the kingdoms of the world, and He refuses. What's offered is something that Satan already has, that's his to give as he pleases. Satan doesn't want political power; he already has it.

The only conclusion I can draw from this story is that political power is Satanic, as are politicians. Satan, then, is quite obviously a politician. So, no good can come from politics. That's been the history of the world, and certainly of the 20th century, in which up to 200 million people lost their lives at the hands of various States.

It's obvious from this story that on one side you have Satan and politics, and on the other God, and never shall the twain meet. Oops! That's something Jerry Falwell and the rest of his ilk should pay attention to.

The story of Lucifer that we are familiar with is actually a combination of two stories: the one in the Bible about his trying to overthrow God, and the one John Milton wrote about in Paradise Lost.

Milton clearly states that Satan's problem is "pride." That's in the Bible, too: "Pride goes before a fall, and a haughty spirit before destruction."

"Pride" is what the Greeks called "hubris." In their view, hubris was followed by nemesis. It's the same story as pride going before a fall. The Greeks saw the sequence as koros (stability) to hubris (an overweening grandiosity) to ate (a madness is which wrong appeared as right) to nemesis (destruction).

What we are dealing with here are three things: the lust for power over others, the lust for attention, and the lust to destroy. And if those three traits don't describe Satan, politicians, and the State, I can't think of anything else that does.

John Jackley, in his book, Hill Rat: Blowing the Lid Off Congress, wrote about Congressmen and their aides wandering the halls with their eyes "glazed with power." Hmm. Sounds like they were tempted, didn't refuse what was offered, and are now in the hands of the Evil One.

Most are familiar with Lord Acton's comment, "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." I think a better saying is, "Power intoxicates, and immunity corrupts."

Dostoevsky, in his, The House of the Dead, put it this way, "Tyranny...finally develops into a disease. The habit can...coarsen the very best man to the level of a beast. Blood and power intoxicate...the return to human dignity, to repentance, to regeneration, becomes almost impossible."

I don't believe in any Satan "out there." There certainly is one "in here," in every human heart. That's all we need to explain evil. It's inside us. People have always made the mistake of thinking of Satan as some guy with horns and a forked tail, instead of a screw-up.

The Greeks didn't have a Satan. The closest they had was their god of war, Ares. What's significant about Ares was that he was incompetent. Satan, for that matter, would have to be incompetent. You can infer that from his belief he could overthrow God, and also from Milton's accurate assessment of his hubris, always to be followed by nemesis.

The human versions of Satan, such as Hitler and Stalin, were also incompetent, except when they gained control of the State. Even then, they were only competent at slaughter and destruction. None could make it through liberty and the free market. That's what I mean by Satan being a screw-up.

Hitler, for example, was at one time in his life, a lice-ridden bum who made his living by begging passengers at a train station into letting him carry their luggage. Lenin was an ugly little Russian who was exiled by the authorities from Russia, and whom the local peasants wanted to lynch. Ho Chi Minh was a not-very-good pastry chef. And these are the incompetent human Satans who caused such slaughter in the 20th century, because they couldn't make it in the free market, and so instead made their lives in that monster known as the State.

Most politicians are the bottom of the barrel, with that that "last chicken in the shop" quality about them. The worst ones can't make it at all in the free market. That might be the clearest warning sign about them. Currently, we need look no farther than George Bush, who has failed at every business endeavor in his life, and now as a politician has invaded two countries and is in the process of starting World War III.

One meaning of the word "monster" is "a warning." It's related to the word, "demonstrate." When you have someone who is utterly incompetent in the free market, and instead becomes a politician, that's about the best warning there is about what they really are.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Those Who Are Deceived, Are Enchanted

In Plato's Republic, Socrates and Glacon, in conversation, decide that "to be deceived to be enchanted." They didn't mean it in the good, J.R.R. Tolkien/C.S. Lewis sense of wonder and awe, but in the bad H.P. Lovecraft sense of monsters out to get you.

The little-used word, "ensorcelled" springs to mind. It means "to cast a spell." And "spell" means "by the use of words." To ensorcel someone, to cast a spell on them, to deceive them, is always done by the use of words.

The problem, as always, is how is decided if you've been ensorcelled or not. Socrates had something to say about that: "this ignorance in the soul of him who is deceived may be called the true lie." It means that no one can deceive you unless you first deceive yourself. It's also why Socrates spoke of his "enchantment" being done by fraud.

I have given this a lot of thought, and have come to several conclusions about how to cast a spell upon people, and how to tell if you've been deceived.

The first thing you do is speak of Good and Evil, and only Good and Evil. It doesn't matter what you use it for: it can be politics or religion. But to ensorcel people you must always say you are the Good Guys and your opponents are the Bad Guys. You have to say you are "the greatest force for good in the world today" and those you define as your opponents are "the axis of evil." You must claim God is on your side and the Other Guy is on the your opponent's.

I do not believe the idea of people being Pure Good and Pure Evil can be considered Christian, considering the horrendous problems that flow from the concepts. I am reminded of the answer Jesus gave to a woman who called him "Good Rabbi": "Why do you call me good? There is no one truly good except—that is, God." But people as purely good or bad? No.

The second thing you do is say the Bad Guys, being bad, are insane, homicidal maniacs looking to do the Good Guys in. As Orwell wrote, "Every war when it comes, or before it comes, is represented not as a war but as an act of self-defense against a homicidal maniac."

Herman Goering, at the Nuremberg trials, spoke of Orwell's point, although not by name: "Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger."

The third thing you do is exaggerate the threat, something that leads straight to paranoia. You talk about "drones of death" being flown across the Atlantic by a country with a GNP less than that of North Carolina, as an example that would be funny if it wasn't so tragic. About this, Socrates said, "the enchanted are those who change their minds. . .under. . .the influence of fear."

That's an important word: fear. How clearly can we perceive a threat when our minds are under the influence of fear and paranoia? Not too clearly, I'd say. It reminds me of a quote from Frank Herbert's wonderful novel, Dune: "Fear is the mind-killer."

It's actually pretty simple to ensorcel people: speak in simple-minded terms of Good and Evil, scare people by claiming the Evil is going to gobble them up like the Blob, grossly exaggerate the threat, and denounce those who may question the whole thing, claiming they're the ones who are deluded. That one sentence is the essence of propaganda. It'll work every time.

So, then, people who are not ensorcelled do not divide people into neat and mutally exclusive groups of Good and Evil; they never believe the State when it speaks of homicidal maniacs lusting to conquer the world, and they certainly do not believe in exaggerated threats about teacup Chihuahuas taking on a pack of Rottweilers. And they are not afraid. Neither do they hate or lust after war.

The most powerful forces in the world are not nuclear weapons, or earthquakes, or volcanic eruptions. They are words, which can be used for great good or great evil. As Richard Weaver wrote in his book of the same title, Ideas Have Consequences.

One of those ideas that has had terrible consequences is that of all-good heroes fighting the all-bad monsters who wish to devour the kingdom. It's the stuff of children's fairy tales and pop horror stories. In fiction, it's a pleasant diversion. In reality, though, the idea really is a horror, one of the worst there is.

The Lust for War

Back in the '80s I was watching an episode of The New Twilight Zone, in which Tony Franciosa, who was playing a demon, made the comment, "Ennui fills my days." Hmm, I thought, that's interesting, because ennui (or accidia) is a sin. It means a life of boredom, without meaning or purpose. It's not surprising, I thought, that a demon's life would be filled with ennui. And some other bad things, too, like envy, and sloth, and cowardice, and murder, and the lust for destruction. . .hmm I could swear C.S. Lewis noticed this in The Screwtape Letters.

I suppose the aforementioned traits are the reason why some men lust after war. I don't mean the kind of men who are born warriors, like the mythical Hercules (who, like all mythical characters, must have been based on real people). There are never many of these natural-born warriors in every generation. I mean Chickenhawks, who lust for war as long as they don't have to go. In fact, the last thing on their minds is going. They not only don't want to be at the front, they don't want to be at the rear, peeling potatoes. But they certainly will cheer for war, as long as they are several thousand miles away from it.

There always seems to be a lot of Chickenhawks in nearly every country. I guess there always has been, throughout history. Are there any Chickenhawks in the Bible? I should look. There is certainly a lot of other practical information in that book about human nature.

God knows there's enough Chickenhawks in the United States. There's a popular one on the radio, who always seems to avoid answering if he really skipped out on military service during Vietnam because of a cyst on his heinie. Or was it because he he hurt his knee playing football in high school? Personally, I'd rather say I hurt my knee rather than I had something wrong with my butt.

I suppose having a nice, peaceful life isn't good enough for Chickenhawks. Well, actually it is. They want peace for themselves. They just don't want it for other people, on the other side of the world. They want the vicarious thrill of war, while they sit like Pug-like inert lumps safely watching the TV.

Sheesh, talk about the imperfections of humanity. Better yet, the imperfectability. There's certainly something wrong with some people when peace isn't good enough for them, and it takes a war to get them revved up and make them feel there's a meaning to their lives. Otherwise, like my friendly TV demon, ennui fills their days.

I don't think the phrase "the lust for war" means much of anything by itself. It comprises a multitude of sins. It only makes sense when it's analyzed. If you want to understand something, the first step is to name it, and then take it apart. Things are much more dangerous otherwise.

The first sin of Chickenhawks, obviously, is cowardice. Chickenhawks are composed of the greatest cheerleaders for war you will ever see, as long as they are completely insulated from fighting it themselves. Observing Chickenhawks is how I finally decided on the definition of a true coward: you fight while I stay on the sidelines and give directions. Of course, I will simultaneously proclaim my bravery and curse everyone who mentions they're hearing a "buk buk buk" come from my direction.

The second sin of Chickenhawks is the ennui of which I just wrote. This one is pretty scary. Apparently there are some people out there whose lives are so lacking in any kind of purpose that they only feel fulfilled when there is a war. A war giving meaning to life? If there's a Satan out there somewhere, isn't that exactly what he would say? On the other hand, there certainly is a devil inside all of us, and that is all we need.

How in the world can war give meaning to some people's lives? Maybe Erich Fromm, author of such books as Escape from Freedom, and the political scientist Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, who wrote Leftism Revisited, were on to something when they suggested people want to be part of a group, so they can merge themselves in it to lose their anxiety and loneliness. They can lose their ego, their "self," in a group.

Chris Hedges, in his book, War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, writes this: "The enduring attraction of war is this: Even with its destruction and carnage it can give us what we long for in life. It can give us purpose, meaning, a reason for living. Only when we are in the midst of conflict does the shallowness and vapidness of much of our lives become apparent. Trivia dominates our conversations and increasingly our airwaves. And war is an enticing elixir. It gives us resolve, a cause. It allows us to be noble."

People are social creatures, and very few can live as disconnected atoms wandering around by themselves. But there are problems with mobs. When people suffer from ennui, merging themselves into a group lessens it. When there is a war, the energizing effects of it gives a meaning to those ennui-filled lives. Watch Triumph of the Will, where a crowd of hundreds of thousands of people part to let Hitler walk through, and you'll see the Dionysian frenzy of a mob of people. There's no ennui or lack of meaning there. It's a destructive meaning, but a destructive meaning is better than no meaning at all.

Robert Nisbet, in his The Quest for Community, also suggested people like to be in a group because it allows them to exalt themselves. It allows them to become part of something they consider greater than they are, even if it isn't, even if it is something very dangerous. The sin of ennui can lead people to become part of a group which exalts itself and finds a meaning in war. Watching war and planning it is excitingto the Chickenhawk. I suppose it's just like a little kid playing video games on the TV.

There's ennui and cowardice. What else? Well, now, there's sloth, specifically intellectual sloth. Those who lose themselves in a group often don't think things through. Maybe, most of the time. Why they heck should they? There's that warm herd feeling. Why spoil it with analyzing it and coming to the conclusion that maybe it's not such a good thing? Did any member of the Borg ever say, "You know, maybe I don't want to be a Borg anymore"?

Chickenhawks tend to idolize their leaders, sometimes following them right over a cliff. If you're going to be part of a group, you have to have a head, someone who's the leader. These groupthink people are the ones I've heard say, "My President." They would of course be outraged if anyone suggested that 65 years ago in another part of the world, someone just like them was saying, "Mein Fuhrer." (By the way, I'm not comparing Bush to Hitler. I'm comparing the one who says "My President" to the one who says, "Mein Fuhrer." I knew I'd have to repeat that.)

That word, "idolize," is an important one. It's related to the word, "ideal," which is the opposite of "devalue." Human nature makes those words opposite sides of the same coin. To some people, things are either idealized or devalued, good or bad with nothing in-between. To devalue someone is to dehumanize them, which is the first step to murdering them.

I've never heard it specifically listed as a sin, but to dehumanize someone is one of the greatest sins there is. It's the reason innocent people killed in war get called "collateral damage." Dehumanization is the basis of all propaganda. You tell people the enemy spits babies on bayonets, and some of them will believe it. When the enemy is devalued like that, the prohibition, "You will not murder" (the closest to a specific sin describing dehumanization), becomes much easier to break.

Almost as bad as devaluing is idealizing. As opponents are devalued, allied soldiers are idealized. They are praised for "making the ultimate sacrifice," then forgotten when they come back permanently maimed. It's hard for Chickenhawks to idealize someone in a wheelchair. Such a sight will always burst the fantasy bubble in which they live.

People will idealize their ethnic group, their country, and their cause. They will claim God supports them, in every way. That is the sin of idealization, or making something into an idol. It's worshiping false gods. And worshiping your country, and your government, and your leaders, is certainly worshiping idols. All of which have feet of clay (and feet of clay comes from a a Biblical story about an idol).

It is the same thing, over and over, throughout history: people make themselves and their own into false idols, then worship them and don't know it. And don't believe it if it is pointed out. Then they always make their opponents into a devil. And all the while, the enemy is doing the same thing to them.

Cowardice, ennui, sloth, dehumanization and murder, the worshiping of the idols of self and State. . .those are the sins of the Chickenhawks who lust for war. And one of the strangest things about it is to them, those vices, in some kind of Bizarro World upending, are instead patriotic virtues.