My goal is to focus the role of government solely on eliminating unprovoked acts of force, fraud, and theft. This means defending our citizens from physical harm, enabling individuals to defend themselves from fraud and corporate mishandling, and returning justice to the justice system.
The Tool of Government Force
The government is not in a position to solve social ills, moral dilemmas, or personal problems. The government is the hand of force, installed to protect and defend its citizens from unprovoked acts of harm.
"Government is not reason, it is not eloquence - it is force! Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master." - George Washington
We all learn in childhood that using force is wrong - you can't take Johnny's toys, because they are his toys. And we all know that fighting, or beating someone up, is no way to solve a problem, or to convince someone to change his or her ways. If you don't like how Johnny plays, and you can't convince him to play your way, then you simply don't play with Johnny. But you may not force Johnny to play your way. This is a simple fact of life: the first use of force is never the right way to solve a problem.
And yet we have now grown used to having the tool of government force to divide our belongings as it sees fit, or, in theory, as "we" see fit. And we have authorized the tool of government to invoke first use of force against a wide array of people whose habits we disagree with.
Would beating Johnny up stop him if he was eating paste? Probably not. And if so, it would undoubtedly seed a resentment in Johnny that would be unlikely to go away. Yet we as adults readily agree to the jailing and looting of those citizens who we think aren't doing smart things with their time.
And so it goes in our country today, as the government literally acts as The People's Bully, pushing us around and reassigning our money for our supposed best interests. But who in Washington knows YOUR best interests? I submit- no one. Only you know the right way to spend your time and money. Only you know the best way to act, worship, or seek your personal happiness.
People Not Government
Many would like to credit the government's many "betterment plans" with the outstanding growth, prosperity, and progress that we have seen in the past century.
The government's efforts have undoubtedly provided support and relief to many people and minority groups in the past century. And it has played a vital role in the prosperity of certain chosen industries. But the greatest responsibility for the success of the U.S.A. lies, as always, with its people. Where would our politicians be without their populace? It's a trick question. They'd be in Washington, insulated from the real world. Just like they are now.
I believe that the amazing advances in this country in the past century have come in spite of the government's involvement, not because of it. I further believe that government interference has done an unfathomable amount of damage, and has muted progress in many areas. Natural and clean fuels, natural medicines and alternative therapies, and mass transportation are but a few of the areas where governmental meddling has had a detrimental impact. The War on Drugs, institutionalized racism and religion, and the politicizing of home and family are other ways in which the government has intervened, to the point of permanently disfiguring our sense of community, and the concept of "brotherly love."
A Model of Prosperity
The Internet is a fantastic example of how the private sector is a better actor than the government in economic matters. It operates with relatively little government interference, and is a model of prosperity like none before in history.
What is irrefutably the most free community in human history, the Internet, is also the most successful, advanced, and prosperous in human history. It is no coincidence. And the prosperity only came to be when the private sector "took over" the Internet from the government. The 'Net has been around since the 60's, but it didn't get cool until Netscape, Microsoft, CompuServe, AOL, and the rest of us got online, and made it cool.
The government had it for 20 years and didn't do much of anything with it, except for advancing the military, and fostering an elite intellectual core through the universities.
More Government Means Less People
It is the people - the individuals, to be more accurate - of any community that make it great. They do so with a handicap, which is the amount of interference the government places into their lives.
The more the government runs the country, the less the people do. Government, like any institution, seeks to advance its own interests. We all do. But the government's interests are not the interests of any single one of us.
The Candidate's Offer
If you are willing to give more and more of yourself, and more and more of everybody else's self, away to the government, until we have no People, only Country and Government, then you should probably vote Democrat or Republican (it doesn't matter which) until they dissolve as parties, and our country dissolves with them.
If you would like to take a shot at saving us from ourselves and our government, and you think it might be o.k. if everybody was left to do what they want as long as they don't hurt anyone, please support my campaign for president in 2008. I believe that I have the foresight, dedication, and media savvy required to be a viable candidate. In the coming months and years, I will prove that to you.
Additionally, I believe that a very young candidate could inspire an unprecedented wave of new voters. My outsider and maverick status, which I warmly embrace, should also bring out large numbers of disgruntled voters and first time or reluctant voters. Plus my 14-year long campaign provides me with plenty of time to build up a well-coordinated and recognized campaign effort, and to prepare myself to be a candidate, and a President. I assure you, my campaign will be like none ever seen before in America. It will have to be, and I am fully devoted to making it so. I am intent on providing the people of the United States (and, by extension, the "free world") a way out - an escape hatch, if you will - from the frightening embrace of Big Brother which is already beginning to squeeze our collective ribs.
At age 30, I have already proven my ability to challenge authority effectively, to motivate and inspire a community, and to provoke a large-scale reconsidering of the dominant social paradigm in a given target area. I am an effective public speaker, organizer, and leader. And I have the spirit, charisma, and energy to inspire the country to want to choose the way out, instead of simply "the lesser of two evils".
That popular phrase, used so often when voting time comes around, tells more about the sad state of our "democracy" than anything else. A "lesser of two evils" is still an evil. What can our future hold for us when the only "serious" choices in an election are both considered evils?
I have chosen to devote my life, and my personal skills, talents, and energies toward seeking a peaceful way for Americans to escape from the chains that we have all grown up thinking are a normal part of our outfit as citizens. Wearing chains is not man's natural state; and just because the chains of today's America are often clothed in rhetoric, and plated gold, doesn't change the fact that they are chains that bind, and they are a weight that we no longer need to carry. I will die before I will give up the fight to bring justice back to the Department of Justice, to return independence to Independence Day, and to give this great country back to the people who have earned it.
The future of America is freedom -- we just need to rise up and make it so. When the time comes, I hope you'll rise up with me.
Lance Marshall Brown
Born: August 20, 1972 -- Pittsfield, Massachusetts
Hometown: Dalton, Massachusetts
Lance Brown is the CEO of PeoplesForum.com, an online debate and discussion community which he co-founded in 1998. He is also the Director of Future Solutions, a non-profit organization dedicated to finding non-coercive, non-governmental solutions to society's problems. He lives in Nevada City, California.
Lance is extremely active in political causes devoted to advancing individual liberty. He is the Chairman of the Nevada County Libertarian Party, and a co-founder of the Nevada County Bill of Rights Defense Committtee. He appears regularly as a panelist on "The Nevada County News Hour" on the local community access TV station, FCAT, and has received coverage in all of the local print and broadcast media.
Lance has also created a number of online projects and web sites, which are at various stages of development. Some of Lance's online projects include:
1987 - Junior Achievement - regional Vice President of the Year
1988 - Junior Achievement - regional President of the Year
1988 - Delegate to National Junior Achievement Conference
1989 - Attended Presidential Classroom Scholars Program
1989-90 - Attended University of Southern California
1990-91, 1992-94 - Attended University of Massachusetts at Amherst
1991-94 - President, UMass Cannabis Reform Coalition (UMACRC)/Pioneer Valley NORML
1993-94 - President, Van Meter House Council (UMass)
1994 - Launched presidential campaign
1994-95 - Public Relations Officer, UMACRC/PV NORML
1996 - Founded Future Solutions
1998 - Co-founded PeoplesForum.com, moved to California
2001-2003 - Chairman, Nevada County Libertarian Party
2002 - Co-founded Nevada County Bill of Rights Defense Committee
Regular readers know that I've been participating in an ongoing discussion about the War on Drugs over at my workplace, PeoplesForum.com. I've said it hasn't been very productive, and while that's true, it does appear that a few people have moved a couple notches on the issue, and most of the participants have somewhat elevated their tone.
The discussion turns again and again to the first Prohibition, because the parallels are stark and plentiful. In searching for evidence of the rise or fall of alcoholism during Prohibition (because our discussion had shifted to whether ending the drug war would increase or decrease addiction), I came upon this superb essay from the Cato Institute. It's a pretty extensive discussion of the numbers and trends behind Prohibition, wrapped in the broader context of measuring whther Prohibition managed to achieve any of its stated goals. Everyone pretty much universally agrees that it failed in reducing crime, increasing employment, or healing society, but some dispute remains about its impact on usage and addiction.
I've got some more comments about the drug war -- I'll probably post a thousand more entries about it in due time -- and I have some stuff that I've posted at PeoplesForum.com that I'll probably bring over here, but for now, this essay is a thorough debunking of the idea of Prohibition I as a success by any measure. Almost every trend depicted in it can be seen recurring in our Prohibition II, the War on Drugs.
Alcohol Prohibition Was A Failure
by Mark Thornton
(Mark Thornton is the O. P. Alford III Assistant Professor of Economics at Auburn University.)
National prohibition of alcohol (1920-33)--the "noble experiment"--was undertaken to reduce crime and corruption, solve social problems, reduce the tax burden created by prisons and poorhouses, and improve health and hygiene in America. The results of that experiment clearly indicate that it was a miserable failure on all counts. The evidence affirms sound economic theory, which predicts that prohibition of mutually beneficial exchanges is doomed to failure
The lessons of Prohibition remain important today. They apply not only to the debate over the war on drugs but also to the mounting efforts to drastically reduce access to alcohol and tobacco and to such issues as censorship and bans on insider trading, abortion, and gambling.
Although consumption of alcohol fell at the beginning of Prohibition, it subsequently increased. Alcohol became more dangerous to consume; crime increased and became "organized"; the court and prison systems were stretched to the breaking point; and corruption of public officials was rampant. No measurable gains were made in productivity or reduced absenteeism. Prohibition removed a significant source of tax revenue and greatly increased government spending. It led many drinkers to switch to opium, marijuana, patent medicines, cocaine, and other dangerous substances that they would have been unlikely to encounter in the absence of Prohibition. Those results are documented from a variety of sources, most of which, ironically, are the work of supporters of Prohibition--most economists and social scientists supported it. Their findings make the case against Prohibition that much stronger.
I've been wanting to post something about the dreadful state of the U.S. (TV) media vis a vis the War in Iraq (and presumably into the forseeable future), but I haven't been able to come up with a calm statement on the subject. I find myself reduced to exasperated exclamations and disgusted grunts, followed by wandering rants.
Thankfully, Stephan Richter wrote it all out for me. His commentary in Japan Today says pretty much everything I want to say, and I agree with it completely. And it's much more coherent than my frustrated mutterings would be. Excerpting it wouldn't do it justice...just check it out: U.S. media losing global respect
I recently finished reading a fantastic book called Healing Our World In an Age of Aggression, by Dr. Mary J. Ruwart. It's easily the best book I've read this year, and the best "liberal" explanation of libertarianism I've ever read. I bought 6 extra copies to give away to left-leaning people, and others who are willing to consider libertarianism but aren't yet sold on its practical viability.
The book is intensely researched (there are over 1100 references), and packed with information that you won't learn in school. The best aspect of the book, however, is its approach. The book's title, "Healing Our World" gives an indication of it. You could call it "compassionate libertarianism", I suppose. Green Liberty is the term I like to use.
Words don't exist to describe how strongly I recommend this book.
Actor and director Tim Robbins, one of the most prominent of the Hollywood anti-war activists, gave a speech recently at the National Press Club, about speaking out, the dissing of dissent, and the overall climate of the nation since 9-11. It's quite good.
Here's the video (Real Player media format) from ConnectLive.
The audio is available here from NPR.
The text transcript appears to be pretty much everywhere -- here it is on the "progressive" site CommonDreams.org.
The Baseball Hall of Fame recently cancelled an event that was intended to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the release of the film "Bull Durham", which co-starred, among others, Tim Robbins and his now-wife Susan Sarandon. Tim's speech is inspired by that occurence, but expands into a discussion of the many ways that dissent is being harshly reprimanded. One anecdote is about his 11-year-old nephew, who was told by his school teacher that Susan Sarandon was endangering the troops by opposing the war. He had the courage to speak up in her defense, which prompted prompt backpedaling on the part of the teacher. That anecdote ties into the main point which Tim wants to drive home in his speech which is, in short, "Challenge those who would silence those who dissent."
In researching this post, I found this 1998 article on the Baseball Hall of Fame's website, applauding Tim Robbins for donating his Bull Durham uniform to the museum. Tim lavishes praise on the museum, and they lavish praise back on him. Times have changed.
Here's the letter the Hall sent to Tim un-inviting him to the recent celebration, along with Tim's response.
Here's an editorial excoriating the Hall for politicizing baseball and its own institution.
This speech by law professor Charles Whitebread is actually titled "The History of the Non-Medical Use of Drugs in the United States", but I don't think that's a very accurate title. His speech, which makes a pretty good essay, doesn't talk that much about drug use. It's really a history of the hows and whys behind the major laws that have grown into the War on Drugs. It's quite fascinating -- one of the best relatively short tellings of that story that I've read. The speech was given to the California Judges Association 1995 annual conference.
Here are some highlights:
Basically, none of the white people in these [Rocky Mountain and southwestern] states knew anything about marijuana, and I make a distinction between white people and Mexicans to reflect a distinction that any legislator in one of these states at the time would have made. And all you had to do to find out what motivated the marijuana laws in the Rocky mountain and southwestern states was to go to the legislative records themselves. Probably the best single statement was the statement of a proponent of Texas' first marijuana law. He said on the floor of the Texas Senate, and I quote, "All Mexicans are crazy, and this stuff (referring to marijuana) is what makes them crazy." Or, as the proponent of Montana's first marijuana law said, (and imagine this on the floor of the state legislature) and I quote, "Give one of these Mexican beet field workers a couple of puffs on a marijuana cigarette and he thinks he is in the bullring at Barcelona."
Well, there it was, you didn't have to look another foot as you went from state to state right on the floor of the state legislature. And so what was the genesis for the early state marijuana laws in the Rocky Mountain and southwestern areas of this country? It wasn't hostility to the drug, it was hostility to the newly arrived Mexican community that used it.
On the hearings for the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937:
The other piece of medical testimony came from a man named Dr. William C. Woodward. Dr. Woodward was both a lawyer and a doctor and he was Chief Counsel to the American Medical Association. Dr. Woodward came to testify at the behest of the American Medical Association saying, and I quote, "The American Medical Association knows of no evidence that marihuana is a dangerous drug."
What's amazing is not whether that's true or not. What's amazing is what the Congressmen then said to him. Immediately upon his saying, and I quote again, "The American Medical Association knows of no evidence that marihuana is a dangerous drug.", one of the Congressmen said, "Doctor, if you can't say something good about what we are trying to do, why don't you go home?"
That's an exact quote. The next Congressman said, "Doctor, if you haven't got something better to say than that, we are sick of hearing you."
And then on the final voting on that Act:
They were getting ready to pass this thing...without discussion and without a recorded vote when one of the few Republicans left in Congress, a guy from upstate New York, stood up and asked two questions, which constituted the entire debate on the national marijuana prohibition.
"Mr. Speaker, what is this bill about?"
To which Speaker Rayburn replied, "I don't know. It has something to do with a thing called marihuana. I think it's a narcotic of some kind."
Undaunted, the guy from Upstate New York asked a second question, which was as important to the Republicans as it was unimportant to the Democrats. "Mr. Speaker, does the American Medical Association support this bill?"
In one of the most remarkable things I have ever found in any research, a guy who was on the committee, and who later went on to become a Supreme Court Justice, stood up and -- do you remember? The AMA guy was named William C. Woodward -- a member of the committee who had supported the bill leaped to his feet and he said, "Their Doctor Wentworth came down here. They support this bill 100 percent." It wasn't true, but it was good enough for the Republicans. They sat down and the bill passed...without a recorded vote.
In the Senate there never was any debate or a recorded vote, and the bill went to President Roosevelt's desk and he signed it and we had the national marijuana prohibition.
It's a sad bunch of our country's history, but vitally important one to know about if we're ever going to finally leave it in the past.
The History of the Non-Medical Use of Drugs in the United States
(a.k.a., The History of Drug Prohibition in the U. S.)
This essay by Lawrence Reed is an on-point appraisal of the great divide in U.S. politics over the purpose of government, and the meaning of "rights". I'll let him explain. Here's an excerpt, which includes one of my favorite quotes from my favorite quote creator, Thomas Jefferson:
The most profound political and philosophical trend of our time is a serious erosion of any consensus about what government is supposed to do and what it's not supposed to do. The “instruction books” on this matter are America’s founding documents, namely the Declaration of Independence and the original U.S. Constitution with its Bill of Rights. In the spirit of those great works, most Americans once shared a common view of the proper role of government — the protection of life and property.
Jefferson himself phrased it with typical eloquence: “... Still one thing more, fellow citizens — a wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.”
Today, there is no longer any common view of the proper role of government or, if there is one, it is light years from Jefferson’s. Far too many people think that government exists to do anything for anybody any time they ask for it, from day care for their children to handouts for artists.
His introduction uses a simple but very effective analogy:
Imagine for a moment what the world would be like if the art of political governance were treated like a game — baseball, cards, “Monopoly” or whatever — in which there was only one rule: anything goes.
What if you could discard the “instruction book” from the start and make things up as you go? If it “works,” do it. If it “feels good,” why not? If opposing players have a disagreement (an obvious inevitability) — well, you can just figure that out later.
What kind of a game would this be? Chaotic, frustrating, unpredictable, impossible. Sooner or later, the whole thing would degenerate into a mad free-for-all. Somebody would have to knock heads together and bring order to the mess.
OK, now that I've given away half of it, go read the whole thing.
The folks at Free-Market.net are back up and unning, and they're having their monthly free drawings again. This month the prize is $250 of cool international products from WorldStock.com. It's being offered by AWorldConnected.org, which is promoting their Globalization Essay Contest.
If you're a student under 25, and you want to write an essay about the effect of globalization on poverty around the world, you could win $5,000, which is no small change.
Also, sign up at Free-Market.net and you can enter the monthly drawing for free. Free-Market.net is a great resource anyway, so signing up with them will do you good.
I'm sorry I haven't been posting as often, but I've been putting a lot of time into building PNAC.info. That site has had over 8,000 visits (and over 16,000 pageviews) since I launched it on April 1st, and around 300 or more places have linked to it already, with hardly any promotion on my part. Which is to say, there's a huge amount of interest in the Project for the New American Century.
The bulk of my time has been split between that and participating in a number of ongoing discussions at PeoplesForum.com -- about the war, and about the Drug War. I keep trying to walk away -- particularly from the Drug War discussion, which hasn't been terribly productive -- but it's hard for me to resist a chance to spout off about things I feel strongly about.
I came up with an idea for a new project -- not that I really need more projects, but when I think of a good one that no one's doing, which is relativelly easy with a low entry cost...well, I can't act on them all, but I have to act on some of them.
The working title of this new idea would be "No Drug War in Iraq". The goal would be to mount an effort to persuade the new government of Iraq to not start out with a Drug War like we have here. I have no doubt that U.S. government lobbyists a' plenty will be urging them to get right into replicating our failed "drug control" model. My plan would be to draw up a letter signed by tons of experts and dignitaries explaining how damaging the War on Drugs has been here, and urging Iraq to constitutionally forbid itself from having one. I'm only 1 or 2 degrees of separation away from most of the big names in the anti-Drug War movement, so it wouldn't be hard at all to reach out to that network of folks, which includes mayors, sheriffs, doctors, professors, and other experts. The letter would be sent to all the relevant incoming Iraqi officials, and maybe published in newspapers there, and made into a TV ad.
I haven't decided if it's a "go" or not, but I'm seriously thinking about it. I'll post some more thoughts on it soon, once I make a decision. It would mostly just involve a bunch of phone calls and e-mails, a pretty simple website, and some fundraising for the reprinting and/or promotion. I think a lot of people would hop on board if the plan looked sound.
Adapted from a recent post of mine at PeoplesForum.com...
I don't look at lost lives as a numbers game. I think as soon as you start talking about dead folks in the thousands, or whatever type of abstract that takes it away from one dead person who had a real life and a story, then you're not getting any kind of useful sense of what the impact of those dead lives were. I used a rough calculus lately to compute how many people might be feeling distinctly un-liberated by this war: total number of dead Iraqis x 5 or so (probably more). It's obviously simplistic, but it does touch a little upon the point I'm making here, which is that the loss of each life there has real, in-person, on the ground effects in the lives of many others. It's not some statistical thing...it's thousands of individual situations, each with a unique impact and consequence. The loss of a cleric, or a teacher, or a community leader or inspiration, for example, has profound rippling effects.
Think of 100 7-year-old Iraqi kids who had a really great teacher that inspired them and was a big part of their daily lives. If that teacher got killed by a stray bomb -- or worse, was one of those poor folks in that shot-up van -- each of those 100 kids is impacted with a hardcore tragic shift in their lives, one that will ultimately probably impact everything that comes after for them. And any person who added value in one area probably added it everywhere they went -- with their family, their friends, their barber, etc.. And all of those folks will have a personal, individual reaction to their loss.
The starkest way to look at it is to think of any of the people from history who have made huge and crucial differences -- MLK, Ben Franklin, Hellen Keller, Mother Jones, Tom Edison, whoever -- and imagine that they were one of some anonymous civilian death count, 20 years before they did their thang.. No one would ever connect "5 people were killed in a suicide bombing" with the fact that electric lighting was delayed ten years, or the non-triumph of the civil rights movement, or of millions of people not being helped by Ben's autobio or Poor Richard's Almanac...but that's the reality that would have been behind such a statistic if it had occured. It's practically a cliche, but it's also true, that one of the 1000+ Iraqi civilians who have been killed might have been the person who would have found the cure for AIDS.
This isn't meant to argue that 100,000 deaths isn't worse than 10,000 or whatever, and of course the same is true for all the folks Saddam is responsible for killing or ruining...I guess this is just a bit of a rant against the de-personalizing (and thus distorting) effect of talking about
casualties dead people in terms of numbers. It's not about the numbers, it's about each of the lives.
One simply cannot begin to calculate the real impact of 10,000 deaths, or even 1,000 deaths. Or even one death, when you get right down to it.
Roderick Long wrote an open letter to the peace movement which I think makes a really great point. The point he makes is, in short, that all the liberals who decried the use of force applied from above in Iraq should extend their newfound belief in non-intervention to the domestic sphere.
Here's a snippet of him making his case:
Much has been said, and eloquently so, about the need, in dealings between nation and nation, to choose persuasion over violence whenever possible. Hear, hear!
But why this qualification: between nation and nation?
If persuasion is preferable to violence between nations, must it not also be preferable to violence within nations?
Suppose my neighbour runs a business out of his home, and I’d rather he didn’t. If I call the zoning board and ask them to shut his business down by force, am I acting like a peace activist? Or am I acting like George Bush?
If you consider yourself a liberal, not a libertarian, please read this artcile. And if you're a libertarian, read it to learn a useful way to approach liberal anti-war folks with one of the central ideas of liberty: non-intervention.
Once again, I let loose with an unintended essay at PeoplesForum.com. The subject, I guess, was the moral degradation of society. It took place in a thread about the War on Drugs, when someone there said this:
A friend of mine was telling me that a 13 year old girl in his sons class was pregnant. 8th friggen grade. Not saying it never happened years ago but it seems all too common now. Something has changed. The ages of girls getting pregnant is younger and younger.
I think that's partly because the change in society on the personal level has outpaced the changes in society on the structural level. We still have all sorts of taboos, both official and unofficial, which prevent open discussion and education, and even activity. We make big issues where there aren't any, and we have all sorts of contradictions, and we're still hanging on to shame and stigma and force as a way to shape the behavior of our peers, and it skews things.
That, and too much reliance on schools to raise kids (which is really just one part of the above).
and he replied:
I agree and partially disagree with this:
I think that's partly because the change in society on the personal level has outpaced the changes in society on the structural level. We still have all sorts of taboos, both official and unofficial, which prevent open discussion and education, and even activity.
Let me preface this by saying that I agree it all comes down to the parents and your assertions that some parents rely too much on the schools raising their kids is right on. But as far as taboos or stigmas and education I think it's the exact reverse. In education sex ed is taught at younger and younger ages. We teach it, we tell the kids, don't have sex, but here's some trojans for you. I think the taboos have been removed through that and media.
How so, please explain how those taboos and stigmas on sex are still here today ? What's left ?
There's more to his post, but that's the part I responded to. My reponse is pretty lengthy, and it's quite rough. I've fixed it a bit since I posted it there. I will probably polish it up more some day, but it will be a while if I do. So I'm posting it now, with the disclaimer that it's written very casually, and represents a rough draft at best. I think it might be worth reading as is though.
And the real disclaimer is that this message deals with taboos and "forbidden" topics. There are a number of harsh swears in it -- particularly in the section about swear words. ;-) That said, here you go:
But as far as taboos or stigmas and education I think it's the exact reverse. In education sex ed is taught at younger and younger ages. We teach it, we tell the kids, don't have sex, but here's some trojans for you. I think the taboos have been removed through that and media.
I was probably raised on the cusp of this de-taboozation to which you refer -- at least the modern version. When I was in first (and second, and third, and fourth) grade, I learned sex-ed through a program called (I kid you not) L.A.M.O. (pronounced "lammo", not "lame-o"...how they got that past us, I don't know). "Learning About Myself and Others". Right around that time, MTV came into being, and shortly thereafter, Madonna. That was the context of my life as a child and a pre-teen.
Sounds pretty racy and touchy-feely liberal and sexually open and overt, and on many levels it was. However, I can list a dozen related taboos and stigmas and contradictions that thrived during that time, either in my "society" (peers), or in the greater society. Most of them (the stigmas and taboos) are still out there, and thriving pretty well.
masturbation -- It's slowly losing its shame and stigma for adults, but unless school has turned into bizarro world since 1990, it's still rife with that baggage for kids, re: their peers, re: adults and parents, and re: themselves. It's probably one of the most enjoyable activities that most kids engage in, and still loaded with shame, stigma, and fear.
teen pregnancy -- One time a spiteful friend started a rumor that one of my sisters was pregnant, in high school. It was emotionally devastating -- just the rumor was. It was a giant scandal (and shame and stigma for her) until it was debunked. To say nothing of the shame and rejection facing girls who actually are pregnant.
"slut" -- A scarlet letter of sorts for teen girls and women; inapplicable to men.
open discussion about sexual organs or "private parts" -- I learned when I was a little kid what my penis was, but even now over 20 years later, saying "my penis" even on this message board carries some shame and 'tee-hee' baggage. My arm, my leg, my lungs, my head -- all no problem. 90+% of my body parts are just fine to talk about. The others still carry long-standing baggage as being private - embarrassing, secret, even dirty. (What are "dirty pictures" pictures of?)
homosexuality -- When I was in school, "fag" was the most popular put-down by a long shot. It was seldom a real accusation, it was just as I said, a put-down. "Fag" = lame. "Fag" = weak. "Fag" = bad, jerk, asshole, uncool. And for the few folks who were actually suspected of being gay, it was whispers and jeers and shunning, and probably more aggressive stuff that I didn't see. Most kids who were gay in my school probably wisely kept their mouth shut and their feelings inside. On the adult side, gay people in the military have to keep their mouths shut and adapt their behavior by law -- not to mention sodomy laws, and all the legal barricades keeping gay partners from being recognized by the law. Our society is beginning to cope with homosexuality, but it's got a long way to go. And much (most?) of the change that has yet to come about in that arena is institutional as opposed to personal. The blockades are imposed more from on high than from individuals. Society will never be able to fully accept gays while the laws relegate them to second-class citizen status. In a very real way, society is forbidden from settling this issue on a person-to-person level. (The parallels to our treatment of blacks and women are very strong.) On the most basic analysis level -- gay people still have to walk around with a justifiable fear that they could get the shit beat out of them for being gay. Gay cop? Bam! Gay high school football player? Bam! Gay couple? Bam!
nudity -- The idea that a supposedly highly-developed society still has insecurities about the nude body at all is quizzical and amusing to me. Bouncing blurry dots on the TV is a great example of the whole thing I'm talking about...how the institutional structure is having a skew effect on society. Laws and TV norms have decided that a 1 to 2-inch area of reddened or darkened skin on the top half of a woman is something that people (I suppose, "the children") should not see. We can see the nipples of every other living thing on earth...but not the nipples that we would all probably most want to see (compared to those of other things on earth). Do nipples offend men? Do they offend women? Should they offend children, and if so, why? Is it really healthier to have girls gone wild bouncing their boobies behind computer-generated stars and sales pitches? Another example: Topless men -- fine. Topless women? Taboo. Why? It's not due to logic, it's due to mad-old traditions -- the same type of traditions that have Arab women covering up all but their faces, and often their faces too. 'Cause they don't want men thinking those thoughts about them. And it's codified in law -- there, and here as well, just to a lesser degree. And thongs and bikinis and speedos and the word "boobies" and a zillion other things which tiptoe around the issue are OK, but unless it's babies or little kids in the bathtub, nudity is still taboo.
swear words -- It's one thing for society to develop standards (which are organic, and created through the back-and-forth of everyone's individual standards and preferences, and which are enforced by freedom of association and social pressure) about what is inappropriate to say, or rude, or offensive, or dirty or whatever...it's quite another thing for the government and extra-governmental institutions to write up a list of "obscene" and/or "profane" words or subject matter, and enforce them through law. It produces the skew I mentioned originally, and creates a suspended reality in our culture. Beeping out the word "fuck" or "shit" on a TV show or movie doesn't fool anyone -- not kids, not anyone. It doesn't hide the word or prevent its use or produce any sort of notable palliative effect on our culture. The words "fuck" and "shit" are out of the bag...any 7-year-old who hasn't lived in a cave knows them, and probably "motherfucker", "cocksucker", "son of a bitch", "pussy", "dick" and a host of others. It only takes one parent in the village to let a word like those out of the bag, and kids are very good about passing around newfound "off-limits" knowledge -- at least in terms of coverage. Accuracy, context, and meaning don't usually don't get passed around with them, though, precisely because of the off-limits thing. One of the results of that mentality -- which is handed down to kids from above...it's not of their making -- is that words like "motherfucker" (a truly perverse curse) and "cocksucker" (an overtly homo-based slam, like "fag") are still widely used. They can't be banished like "darkie" and "coon" were, because they've been hidden behind the curtain. Beeped, muddled, muted, ignored. The word "fuck" itself has some pretty wack origins -- variously, to beat, to screw (literally), to stab, etc. Almost all the etymological roots of the word "fuck" are violent in nature. But can we explain that to our kids? We could -- but the country's structure is such that for most people, language is taught in school, and most of that in public school. And in public school, an open discussion about the word "fuck" does not fly. (I can just imagine the wave of firings and resignations and lawsuits that would come from that.) Ditto for on TV, and in most of society's institutions. It's kept behind the beep half the time (the institutional level), while being largely accepted usage the other half of the time (the person-to-person level). And the whole time, it's never just dealt with like a normal fucking word. If it was, I bet it would get faded out of our culture voluntarily over time, as its origins and vulgarity were discussed more openly. Instead, under the off-limits/"beep" effect, the usage of it spreads widely. It sorta gets back to the mentality [another poster] expressed by saying that the drug laws are a way of saying drug use is wrong. Saying motherfucker and cocksucker is declared wrong -- it's been branded into society as that institutionally -- literally branded ("R", "MA", "L", "AS", etc.). So society takes a break on actually dealing with the words and their usage. Not entirely, but largely. And they (the words) hang around in a skewed limbo state -- institutionally labeled "wrong", but used on the individual level plenty. (The similarity to illegal drug use is not coincidental.)
I could go on about this for a long time. I was going to do a dozen, but I can't do the in-depth thing with that many due to time. Prostitution, stripping, drug use, porn, condoms, abortion, premarital sex, BDSM, sex toys -- each of those issues is tangled in layers of institutional netting and taboo, and in each case the result is a reduction in the ability of non-coercive society to effectively deal with the situations tied to those issues. There are literally a zillion different skewing influences applied on society from above.
Here's three specific examples of the institutional screwing with the personal in a bad way:
--Sex education: Parents and other citizens, many of whom disapprove of sex education, condom distribution and the like, and who believe abstinence is the birth control method of choice, are forced to pay, year after year, for thousands of kids to be given condoms (and taught how, why, and when to use them), etc. Forced to pay to promote and encourage something they find morally repugnant. The personal society is denied its ability to pursue its will in an organic fashion (through individual choice), by the institutional will of society, such as it is expressed through government.
--Parent-kid anti-drug ads: There are currently ads on TV that put pressure on parents to engage in a specific regimen of discipline and control with their kids -- insisting that they track their every move and bug the hell out of them, essentially. The ads use kids to tell the parents of America, "We will lie to you." Not "we might", but "we will". Taxpayers are paying to train parents to assume (or to "know") that their kids are lying to them about drugs. The modes of deceit, suspicion, and distrust are officially sanctioned as proper parenting. Kids who see the ad are reassured that all kids lie about drug use -- that "we will hide it, we will sneak around, we will try drugs". Cat-and-mouse is nationally publicized as the way our nation's parents should handle the drug problem vis a vis their kids. It's paid for by straight-edge working teens who've never lied or tried drugs, it's paid for by open and permissive parents who don't mind if their kids experiment a bit, it's paid for by millions of functioning alcoholics and millions of harmless pot smokers, and by tens of millions of people who tried drugs when they were young and did just fine with their lives.
--anti-pot ads: There are a series of ads on now, paid for by taxpayers, which all end with the line, "Marijuana -- it's more harmful than we all thought." That statement is false right on its face. All it takes is for there to be one person for whom marijuana is equal or less harmful than they thought. It's basically a statement that is by its very construction guaranteed to be false. You could put almost any noun in place of "marijuana" and that statement would be false too. And yet our government is telling us it, over and over again -- stating it as fact. And some people actually rely on what the government says for some sort of compass of truth or good behavior. The guidance behind those ads is, "Take however harmful you thought pot was, and ratchet it up an undisclosed amount. It is more harmful than you thought (no matter how harmful you thought it was)." Maybe that will calibrate a few people correctly, just by chance, but it's not logical, and it's not sound, and it's definitely not organic in the societal sense. What it is, is skewing from above.
Most of my spare energy lately has been devoted to getting my two new websites up and running. They're pretty much fully functional now, though they'll be growing and developing with each passing day. I've got to do some more promoting of them, though word is starting to spread. I'm getting the feeling that the PNAC.info site is going to become a major attraction as time goes on. And though it may be too late to bring a halt to this particular unnecessary and atrocious war, I have a sneaking suspicion that there are other U.S.-led wars coming up just over the horizon. And HowToStopTheWar.org will be there, compiling and rating ideas for the anti-war movement.
I'm never one to lose hope -- if George Bush has proven nothing else, he's proven that in this day and age, there no limit to the outrageousness that can be achieved through modern media politics -- and there are still at least a couple billion people on the globe who want this war to stop right now, so HowToStopTheWar.org isn't giving up just yet, even on the Iraq War. There's talk of a special "Uniting for Peace" session at the UN, which could override the U.S. veto power and push through a resolution demanding a cease-fire or some other form of restraint. Obviously that wouldn't phase Bush much, but it would make an vivid statement, for the sake of history if nothing else. And it's important that the world continues to stand in firm opposition to Bush's plans for expansive aggression. Hopefully the folks here in this country will catch on eventually. It's certainly not a fight that can be given up on.
In today's daily Central Command Briefing, Brigadier General Vincent Brooks referred to the overpowering nature of the coalition's military actions (in this case, the battle for the Baghdad airport, and the hundreds of Iraqi troops that were killed). He said, "We don't ever seek a fight on fair terms. We will always seek an advantage."
How does that fit in with their constant complaints that the Iraqis are cheating by using guerrilla tactics?
General Brooks just said that the newest car bombing of soldiers (regardless of whether it was voluntarily done or not) was a "terrorist act. It was not a military act."
Can anyone explain to me how an act which is not directed at civilians -- either at hurting them or at causing them fear -- and which is instead directed at invading military forces, is a terrorist act? The car bombers aren't trying to send a political message by ripping the populace a new one -- the terrorist modus operandi -- they are trying to kill an enemy which is attempting to take over their country. To brand those acts with that label is Orwellian doublespeak at its most eloquent.
In response to a question about the numbers of civilian casualties, General Brooks said (after explaining how we've all seen clearly that they focus on precision and minimizing potential loss of civilian life, and after hinting that Iraq was doing most of the civilian killing), "I can't say for absolutely sure that there haven't been any civilians killed by coalition actions. I suspect that there may have been some."
In other words, he wouldn't even go so far as to admit that they've killed even one civilian Iraqi.
From scanning most of the relevant media, the researchers at Iraq Body Count have come up with a minimum of 574 confirmed civilian casualties. General Brooks apparently seems to maintain that there's a possibility that every single one of those people were either forced to be human shields, killed for not fighting by Saddam's people, or are terrorists.
One final thought: You know how we keep getting visions of welcoming Iraqis, smiling and waving? I'm willing to bet that they used to smile and wave when Saddam's troops drove by too. After all, if you had no weapon or defense and were faced with threatening amounts of military force, what would you do?
Me, I'd either hide...or smile and wave.
This article in Forbes discusses how the priorities in the justifications list for this war have been shifting to suit the moods and nuances of the war as it plays out. The principle shift is from finding WOMD to "freeing the Iraqi people", though other shifts include the ratcheting up of "terrorism" talk, tying into the extreme tactics the Iraqis have resorted to in defending themselves.
I've certainly noticed a relentless refrain of pointing out how horrible the things that the Iraqi soldiers are doing are...while at the same time we hear little to nothing about how horrible the things the U.S. is doing are. Like we're the Lords of Mercy and they're the vicious savages. But which side has killed more innocent people in this war? Is suicide bombing invading U.S. soldiers markedly worse than gunning down women and children in a van? Or worse than what happened to these people?
From that last article:
Razzaq Kazem al-Khafaji said he lost his wife, six children, his father, his mother, his three brothers and their wives late Monday when their pickup truck was blown up by a rocket from a US Apache helicopter.
[That's 15 family members, in case you lost count.]
They were fleeing fierce fighting further south in the city of Nassariyah.
“Should I cry over my children? Should I cry over my wife? Should I cry over my father? Should I cry over my mother?” he repeated as he went from one coffin to another.
He lifted a sheet on one of the coffins and saw the mutilated bodies of his young children and then unveiled another coffin to find a dead child lying next to the remains of an infant, a pacifier still in her mouth.
And from the van shooting article:
[Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace]
"Our soldiers on the ground have an absolute right to defend themselves. They will always, if they can, find a way to stop a vehicle like that without having to actually to fire at it. But in the final analysis, when their lives are threatened, and of course they thought they were, they will shoot."
Note the little rhetorical hop-skip there at the end: "when their lives are threatened, and of course they thought they were..." Lots of people have tried to use the same hop-skip to justify the van shooting. "They were defending themselves." No -- they weren't. Those women and children did not pose a danger. To put the burden of fault on them -- to even suggest it or hint at it -- is both logically and ethically flawed. It does a disservice to the cause of justice. To say the troops "absolutely did the right thing" is repulsive. I don't blame the troops themselves...they were following an established rule and orders, and I don't doubt that they felt threat. But that situation was created by the U.S. government. Those women are innocent victims of the U.S. military action, and to imply anything other than that is dishonest, and simply adds more shame to their shameful deaths.
Dan Shafer works with me at PeoplesForum.com -- he's the CEO. My boss, when you get right down to it, but it's not so much like that. I've got my thing to do (running the community), and he's got his thing (running the company), and he mostly leaves me to my own devices, as I do him. Don't get me wrong, we get along great, and talk regularly, it's just not a command-and-control thing.
(What it really is is that I was CEO for a long time before we brought Dan on board, and my brain still rejects the idea that I have a "boss". ;-))
Dan's got a blog, as a long-time web guru would be expected to have, and he made mention of HowToStopTheWar.org. His blog's called Eclecticity, which is a cool name. He links a ways down to this piece in the New Yorker, which I ran into in my search for PNAC-related links too. It's about how Donald Rumsfeld took control (and some say, messed up) the military planning for going into Iraq. The PNAC connection, if there is one (and I think there is), is here in this sentence:
Several senior war planners complained to me in interviews that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his inner circle of civilian advisers, who had been chiefly responsible for persuading President Bush to lead the country into war, had insisted on micromanaging the war’s operational details.
John Mellencamp, one of my all-time favorite musical artists, has released a protest song called "To Washington". It's more than just a war protest song -- it's protesting the whole chain of events that led Bush and us to this point.
I've been a Mellencamp fan since before anyone knew his name was Mellencamp -- since I was a little kid, really. In many ways, he could be said to be my first favorite artist. I had older sisters, so in the early 80's, the music I heard was Meatloaf, John Cougar, Bob Seger, AC/DC, and KISS. John, Bob, and 'Loaf were my favorites back then, probably in that order.
Eight years of peace and prosperity
Scandal in the White House
An election is what we need
From coast-to-coast to Washington
So America voted on a president
No one kept count
On how the election went
From Florida to Washington
Goddamn, said one side
And the other said the same
Both looked pretty guilty
But no one took the blame
From coast-to-coast to Washington
So a new man in the White House
With a familiar name
Said he had some fresh ideas
But it's worse now since he came
From Texas to Washington
And he wants to fight with many
And he says it's not for oil
He sent out the National Guard
To police the world
From Baghdad to Washington
What is the thought process
To take a humans life
What would be the reason
To think that this is right
From heaven to Washington
From Jesus Christ to Washington
I've been beating the PNAC drum in a couple recent posts, and with good reason. It's part of my larger plan to bring an end to this travesty of a war. I've been worried that the actions since the war started -- the "no business as usual" nonviolent actions -- were not having the desired effect, and in fact were alienating people who might otherwise agree with their message.
For "no business as usual" to work, it would have to get really extreme -- like shutting down all of the major cities in the country for several days in a row. And that would be a big mess -- even if it did drive Bush to reverse his stance (which is unlikely), it would mess up life in America a lot, and cause a lot of resentment. Although by that point, the protestors would represent a truly significant portion of the population -- it would take millions of people (tens of millions probably) to accomplish the level of shut-down necessary to bring about a change in policy -- it would still be hugely divisive and confrontational. A big mess, as I said. And the fact remains that the protests, due to their nature, repel more people than they attract, so the movement won't grow without some major change in public sentiment on the war (unless people find cause to get as pissed off about the war as the protestors).
So the mental search began for a new angle. I've set up HowToStopTheWar.org, which I hope will function as a clearinghouse of ideas for the anti-war movement, where ideas can be rated and commented on. In addition to that, I've come up with one tactic which I think could actually work, albeit slowly but surely. Which brings me back to the PNAC and their plan for global domination.
I think bringing that plan (of which the war in Iraq is but one piece) to the attention of the American public is the best way to turn public sentiment against the war, potentially enough to bring about a cease-fire and withdrawal. I'm thinking this war could drag out for a long time, and could get muckier and muckier. If it goes for months, impatience will start to brew, and people will begin to reconsider their support for it. Exposing the PNAC plan could provide the perfect seed of doubt from which majority oppostion to this war could spout.
My other new project has just begun to flap its wings as well: PNAC.info is sparingly up and running. It's part of my two-pronged mega-effort to direct the efforts of the anti-war movement toward something that will actually build support for the movement and/or stop the war.
My latest project HowToStopTheWar.org is up...just barely. Got any good ideas about peace actions that will actually help bring an end to the war? Post them there!
9-10 Correct: Excellent. Contact United for Peace and Justice, http://www.unitedforpeace.org/, and work to fight the war and the system that produced it.
Which is funny, because that's exactly what I plan to do. :-) More soon...I'm setting up two websites as I type this. Not to mention preparing for a big Board of Supervisors meeting here tomorrow, where the Supes will be considering three different resolutions in support of the troops and the President. It's gonna be a major heated hoedown, I suspect. Filled to the proverbial rafters. I'm printing out copies of the PNAC's Rebuilding America's Defenses plan.