On Guard on Memorial Day

By Mike Cronin

Social media is rife today with reminders about the reasons for Memorial Day.  Yet, we are ever in the presence of people who, through ignorance or malice or both, would have us worsen the wars we are in, or get into all new wars.

We have the witch hunt against the Trump administration seeking its purported ties to Russia – as if ties to Russia are a crime, instead of prudent diplomacy.  Consider: Russia has the world’s largest nuclear arsenal AND is involved in Syria in ways often antithetical to our own involvement (Russia is pro-Assad, the US is against him, but our primary fight in Syria is against ISIS). Should we cut off all relations and communications and let the fate of humanity rest on the chance US and Russian forces won’t have an “incident?”

We have the “Antifa” crowd waging its little war against what it perceives to be a Fascist “altRight” movement in general, and the Trump administration in particular. They believe Trump will turn the US into a Nationalist Socialist regime a la Hitler’s Nazi Germany (you know, an industrialized, powerful nation under the control of a charismatic dictator bent on world conquest, which scapegoats some section of its own people, rounds them up, and kills them). What would they replace it with? A Communist Socialist regime, a la Joseph Stalin’s USSR (you know, an industrialized, powerful nation under the control of a charismatic dictator bent on world conquest, which scapegoats some section of its own people, rounds them up, and kills them).

We have the people advocating for registration of females with the Selective Service, so that, if needs be, we could draft women into military service as well as men and send them both off to war against their will – as if that represents a great stride forward in the cause of gender equality, instead of a great leap backward in the cause of liberty and freedom.  Gender equality in the context of a “free country means ending Selective Service registration altogether.  This would finish the work begun in 1975 of ending the draft and give citizens far more say in when, why, and with what level of commitment this nation sends its sons and daughters off to war.

We have the engineers of envy – the race baiters, the privilege pimps, the income inequality whiners, the gender benders, the identity politicos, tearing this country apart with their ever-more divisive drive for “diversity.” They would have us fight a second Civil War over playground complaints.

We have the fakirs of finance, who wave their wands to “inject liquidity” into the money supply. In other words, they steal value from our existing money by magically making (AKA “quantitative easing”) more money pop into the accounts of the big investment banks.  The idea is to get borrowing and spending moving. If spending takes off, prices go up. Stock market bubbles, or home mortgage bubbles, or ___bubbles form, then they pop, and we get Great Recessions.  What’s a favorite way governments use to recover from economic collapse?  War.

Speaking of government: A professor lectured a class I was in that once an organization reaches a given critical mass, it starts behaving like an organism.  It does whatever it takes to, 1. Survive and, 2. Propagate. That describes our own government to a “T.” If it takes war to survive and propagate, war is what we’ll get – and we have been continuously in shooting wars since at least 1991. Even when we are not in shooting wars, the mere trappings of war feed the beast: The Cold War, The War on Poverty, The War on Drugs, The War on Obesity.  We have let our government become the most dangerous organism on the planet. Left unchecked, it will consume everything and everyone in its path – and there is nowhere on, or even near, earth that is not within its field of view.

Hate Speech and Hate Crime: Weasel Words

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By Mike Cronin

It’s been awhile since we translated any weasel-ese, but two related terms have been prominent recently, so let’s have a go.  This past week, four Chicago young adults, aged 18-24, allegedly kidnapped an 18 year-old special-needs man and tortured him (by beating him and forcing him to drink toilet water, among other things). The suspects “broadcast” at least a portion of their acts “live” on Facebook. The alleged perpetrators are black; the victim is white.  The pundit class is convulsing about whether the incident is a hate crime.

The term “hate crime,” and its close relative, “hate speech,” are weasel words.

Kidnapping is a crime. Torturing someone is a crime.  In the Chicago case, barring a revelation that the entire thing was a hoax or prank, or some other dramatic “plot twist” in the case, it will take some extremely deft legal defense to get the four suspects acquitted of the basic charges of kidnapping, assault, and aggravated assault.

When a prosecutor tries to “prove beyond a reasonable doubt” to a jury that a suspect is guilty of a crime, he or she often must show that the suspect had the opportunity, capability, and intent (or motivation) to commit the crime.  Hate can certainly serve to motivate someone to commit a crime, but hatred is not a crime in itself, since it is simply an emotion.  If one commits a crime driven by hate, the crime is the crime and hate is the motivation.

By creating a special treatment category for offenses motivated by hatred, i.e. “hate crimes,” the weasels are trying to criminalize hatred itself.  (Interestingly, the tables have been turned, in that some of the opinion-aters who are usually the first to allege a hate crime are going through all manner of rhetorical gyrations to prevent that label from sticking to the Chicago case.)

Similarly, by categorizing offensive rhetoric, racial slurs, and other venomous utterances as “hate speech,” the weasels are again trying to criminalize an emotion. The concepts of banning hate speech and prosecuting hate crimes are being promoted by people who themselves hate opposition. They would repeal the First Amendment if they could, then they would make it a crime to dissent.

Think I’m off my rocker?  Observe the rise of the campus speech code and its ever-increasing (and ever-more-ludicrous) list of things one cannot say.  University campuses have become minefields for the unwary orator who opines outside the designated “free speech zone.”

In a rational academic setting, students must be exposed to schools of thought different than their own in order to learn and grow – the whole point of a “higher” education!  Sometimes different ideologies are offensive or difficult to accept…until one hears them presented and discussed in the academic setting and has a change of opinion.  Banning the mere potential giving of offense is banning the opportunity for growth and learning.

Are you a hater?  Probably not, but you have probably experienced the emotion of hatred once or twice in your life.  If the weasels who are currently trying to make hatred a crime have their way; someday in the not-too-distant future, you will be guilty of a crime merely for thinking your own thoughts.

Random Matter 2

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By Mike Cronin

The tidal wave of angst unleashed by the election of Donald Trump is not wholly explainable by his crudity, political outsider status, media and polling industry failures, hacked emails, possible election tampering, or Hillary Clinton’s campaign style.

For too long, the beltway establishment has been driving this country down a two-lane country road that ends at a cliff: tyranny. When the liberals where at the wheel, the conservatives would call the cliff “socialism” and say the Democrats were racing us towards it, while the liberals would say that conservatives were steering us headlong towards the “fascism” cliff when Republicans had the wheel.

It was always the same cliff.

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Now the liberals are howling that Trump will stomp on the accelerator, and the “Never Trump” branch of the conservative establishment isn’t sure that he won’t do just that.  Nor am I.

What I am more confident of is that for perhaps only a brief moment, by electing Trump, the passengers have made ALL of the drivers slow down and take notice of the impending danger. Even if Trump turns out to be wise at the wheel, we may be in for a period of painful adjustment.

***

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Have you ever been irritated by Pecksniffian pipsqueaks who take any statement that does not absolutely validate or corroborate what they say and allege it means exactly the opposite?

Pipsqueak: We have to raise the minimum wage for the poor. (Sips his latte.)

Host: But won’t that mean there will be fewer jobs?

Pipsqueak: Hate speech! What do you have against poor people?  Are you a one-percenter? I can’t believe we still have troglodytes like you in this country!

Host:  But I was just-

Pipsqueak: I have to go. My limo is double parked, and I’m late for therapy.

***

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Congress is now considering bills that would make it mandatory for females to register for the draft with Selective Service.  In my opinion, obligatory service of any kind is anathema to freedom.  You cannot protect freedom by taking it away. It is also not very effective to staff a high-tech, professional military with conscripts. It takes an inordinate amount of effort to train, motivate, and discipline people who are potentially there against their will…though it can, and has, been done.

It is far more efficient, effective, and easier to train qualified and self-motivated volunteers.

Wisely, the US stopped the draft in 1973…but unwisely kept the Selective Service, and is now taking a step in the wrong direction, IMO.  Instead of making females register, it should stop requiring anyone to register!

On the other hand, I would be in favor of examining the idea that we stop automatically conferring citizenship by birthright.  The idea that one should have to earn citizenship, with public service being one avenue to that end, has some interesting potential.

Weasel Words: Ethics and Morality

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By Mike Cronin

I was raised and educated to believe that the basis  of moral conduct was dictated to man by God through the Ten Commandments, the teachings of Jesus, and the precepts of the Catholic Church.  I was also given to understand that “ethics” were more about the rules humans applied to themselves. Regardless of what religious or secular tradition you were raised under, chances are the distinction between morality and ethics has not always been made clear.

What if that is on purpose?  What if politicians, philosophers, spiritual leaders and other demagogues have twisted the meaning of these words?

Richard Maybury, author of 22 books and monographs and the Early Warning Report newsletter and website, focuses on economics, law and history. According to him:

“Ethics is from the Greek word ethos, which means the essential nature or character of something. Four legs, a head and a tail are part of the essential nature of a cat. The cat cannot change this.

Morals is from the Latin word mos, meaning mores, customs, habits. These can and do change. Rosie the Riveter in World War II made it okay for women to work outside the home in jobs that formerly went only to men.

Ethics refers to a higher law than any human law. To be ethical is to be in sync with the principles of right and wrong built in to human nature.

Morals are not built in. They are the result of opinion, which can change with the wind.

We are born with limits based on ethics. If we choose to be ethical, life gets better, and if we don’t, life gets worse; it’s automatic.

Morals, again, are just opinions.

Ethics is doing what is right even if every other person on earth is doing what is wrong.

To be moral, on the other hand, is to behave in ways that are popular, customary or in sync with the behavior of the majority. If most others do it, it’s okay.”

What insights can we glean by applying these original meanings to ethics and morals?  For a start, is it ethical for a lawmaker to ban conditions, possessions, or behavior just because some constituents find it immoral (e.g. mixed–race or same-sex marriage, drug use, pornography, prostitution)?

To borrow from an internet meme: Knowledge accepts that a cherry tomato is a red fruit similar in size, shape, and color to a cherry, but one demonstrates wisdom by not putting a cherry tomato on top of an ice-cream sundae.  Similarly, it is one thing to know the meaning of ethics and morality, it is another to apply those meanings wisely.

For example: if knowledge tells us it is unethical for the government to ban pornography merely because some sector of society finds it immoral, is it not also unethical for the government to ban child-pornography for the same reason? Don’t child pornographers have as much right under the First Amendment as adult pornographers?

No. We have to apply wisdom: children, especially young children, are not capable of providing informed consent, so they cannot reasonably permit themselves to be the subject of pornographic materials; ergo such materials are unethical to produce in addition to (or despite) being immoral to possess. The rights of the would-be child pornographer end where the rights of the child begins – he (or she) has no right to employ the child in such a manner, whether the child might have seemed to agree to it or not, because the child is not competent to make such a decision yet.

How can we get this wisdom ourselves?  It helps to simplify, or reduce things to a principle, then apply it.  To my way of thinking, virtually every unethical act reduces, in principle, to some form of theft:

Murder (as opposed to killing in self-defense) is the unethical taking (i.e. theft) of someone else’s life.

Rape, assault, and enslavement are unethically taking a large portion, but perhaps not all, of someone else’s life.

So-called “white collar” crime, fraud, lying, and other unethical forms of misleading conduct are attempts to hide reality from those entitled to it.  They are the theft of the truth.

By the same token, many so-called immoral acts are ethically neutral: e.g. eating meat on Friday, not going to church on the Sabbath, using foul language, wearing provocative clothing, or having homosexual or premarital sex.

So: Is it ethical for a lawmaker to enact, obligate, or promote acts that take property from citizens without due process (e.g. confiscatory income taxation, eminent domain, or civil asset forfeiture)?

The Founders established that the only valid purpose of government is to protect citizens’ rights. Government cannot succeed in that purpose if it is routinely, systematically, and unethically violating the rights of those very citizens!

To paraphrase Maybury: Life continuously gets better in civilizations that make the correct distinction between ethics and morality and enforce ethical conduct; civilization itself fails in places where ethics and morality have been twisted into weasel-words.

Kipling’s Own Filter

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Long before Filter the Feed came to be, the famous poet Rudyard Kipling captured some lightning  in a bottle with his poem “If.” I can only hope my scribbles might one day provide such clarity:

If—

BY RUDYARD KIPLING 

(accessed from  http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/175772)

If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!