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This is a crass advertisement disguised as a blog post. But I figure that’s okay because there is plenty of drivel out there disguised as political discourse. If you’re like me, you cannot even stand to watch the talking heads on cable TV anymore — the token left-winger screaming at the token right-winger is supposed to make us all believe that some serious discussion is taking place, but in reality its just noise aimed at improving ratings. We face some serious issues in this country right now, but no one is talking about them in the media. Or if they are, I certainly couldn’t find them, so I had to create my own source for these discussions.
This month marks 236 years since Thomas Paine published his pamphlet Common Sense, which went on to become the most widely circulated book in American history. In a country that had become severely divided over the biggest issues of the day, including whether or not to seek our independence from Great Britain, Paine’s eloquent but approachable writing style tipped the scales in favor of revolution, and changed the history of the world. It did what other media of the day failed to do: cut through the noise and address the issues head-on, in words that every individual could understand and appreciate.
Amidst all of our modern technology today, a medium that speaks to only one person at a time might seem quaint. But where the pamphlet triumphed in the 18th Century, being cheap and easy to produce, simple to consume, and even simpler to pass along to someone else, the modern day equivalent of the pamphlet, the podcast, is also triumphing over more traditional forms of broadcast media. A podcast represents an intimate discussion between the author and the listener, about topics of interest to both parties, free from the undue influences of advertisers and others with private agendas to promote. In its purest form, a podcast is a discussion about ideas. And as we all know from the humble pamphlet, ideas can change the world. The revolution will not be televised, but it will be podcasted.
Thomas Paine was not the first person to publish a pamphlet, and I am not the first person to embrace the podcast as a way to promote ideas that I believe are valuable. But myself and a couple of fellow political junkies have grown tired of what passes for political discourse in this country. We are tired of being told that there are only two sides to every issue. So we started our own podcast to provide our own perspectives on the issues. We call it The Midwest Peace Process, and between the three of us, we offer a unique mix of opinions from the left, right, and beyond. So, if you’re tired of the TV pundits shouting at each other (and at you), why not take the opportunity to give us a listen? We promise we won’t shout.
Earlier this year I wrote about the nascent Arab Spring and how I was hopeful that this movement, and this desire for freedom, would continue to spread. Stories like this one today continue to fuel my hope that this is true. The tangled web of government (in every country) has become so heavy, so onerous, that it has become impossible for people to continue ignoring it in the normal conduct of their daily lives. A ever-growing number are emerging from this miasma and asking (I hope), “Does it really need to be this way? Can we not find a better way of living on this planet?”
I refuse to believe this tsunami of anti-government rage is a simple coincidence of overindulgent editors around the globe looking for flashy stories because it has been a slow news year. This is the news. This is what is happening right now. This is a worldwide movement. Only a fool could deny it at this point. Further, it seems virtually no country on earth has been left untouched by it, and there are also no signs of it slowing down. Certainly, it has been exacerbated by the global economic troubles of the past few years, but that should not be allowed to overshadow the deeper philosophical meaning.
The people who are rioting in the streets, who are toppling their current regimes, are not motivated by unemployment, or the depreciation of their property values. This is not about money. It is about recognizing the basic human rights to life and liberty. It is about living one’s life with a sense of dignity, without being told how by an oppressive government. Surely, this is something to which we can all relate.
January 28, 2011 12:03 | Comments (1) | revolution, rights |
If Thomas Jefferson had used Powerpoint, the first slide of the Declaration of Independence might have looked like this:
* all men are created equal
* they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights
* among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness
* to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed
* whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness
I offer this somewhat humorous presentation lest we forget that the self-evident truths upon which this nation was founded do not end with the pursuit of Happiness. Jefferson’s words go on to emphasize not only that free men must consent to be governed by others, but that whenever our systems of government run afoul of our wishes, we have a right to modify or destroy those systems of government.
Now I am not a lawyer, but you do not need to be one to see that the signatories to the document that gave birth to the United States of America all agreed that the right to revolution is inherent among our unalienable rights. If this is clear to the layman reading this document, it surely would be clear to a lawyer. Certainly no lawyer would claim otherwise. Would they?
I mean if a professor of law at, say, Roger Williams University made the claim that there’s no right of revolution in a democracy, surely he would become a laughingstock among his peers and the general public, right? Right?! Which is why I was amazed that Professor Carl Bogus was invited to post these exact sentiments in an opinion piece on CNN yesterday that would be more at home on The Onion.
To support his claim, Professor Bogus cites two insurrections early in our country’s history — Shay’s Rebellion and the Whiskey Rebellion — and asserts that since the government did not recognize the right of those actors to rebel, the right must not exist. The possibility that the government’s reaction was both tyrannical and hypocritical apparently never occurred to Professor Bogus. The government is, after all, infallible.
So, just a heads-up to anyone thinking of attending law school at Roger Williams University — you might want to avoid the Bogus Theories 101 course.
Today’s story on CNN about protests in Egypt describes them as “an unprecedented display of anti-government rage.” It further ascribes the rage to similar anti-government tumult in nearby Tunisia. I would also offer the influence of last week’s referendum in neighboring Sudan, which had roughly 99% of southern residents of that nation demanding independence from the northern half. What is going on in Northern Africa?
Couple these events with our own recent shootings, and I would say we have plenty of evidence of anti-government rage right here at home. Although the pundits continue to speculate on the motives behind the Tuscon rampage of Jared Loughner, and the shooting of four police officers in Detroit by Lamar Moore, I can think of no better way to characterize these actions. We continue to live in interesting times. The question is, are they getting more interesting? I think I can certainly make the argument that the trend has not decreased. But are these stories becoming more prevalent?
I have no empirical evidence to offer, but as I think back to stories from the past nine months or so, the incidents seem to be increasingly common to me, at least anecdotally. When you consider the sometimes violent reactions to austerity measures in place like England, Ireland, and, most dramatically, Greece, even Europe is not immune to the anti-government sentiments. Are we headed towards some kind of global crescendo? It is starting to feel like it.
[Update Feb 3, 2011] More dominoes are now wobbling, as anti-government protests have spread to Yemen, Albania, and even Moscow.
June 24, 2010 20:49 | Comments (0) | revolution |
It’s a good time to be an anarchist. It is encouraging to hear that eighty-six percent of people think the government is broken, even if they are misguided about exactly how and why. You see, saying our system of government is broken is like saying the internal combustion engine is broken. Sure it produces all sorts of deleterious effects on its environment, but it does exactly what it was designed to do, and at the time it was created there just wasn’t anything better. So you can waste a lot of time and energy trying to make the engine more efficient, less polluting, or try to make it run on used vegetable oil, but in the end, you will find you are much better off simply scrapping the whole thing and starting over.
And starting over doesn’t mean merely changing the party affiliation of the occupant of the White House. Or voting out incumbents in Congress. I think we’ve tried that. Repeatedly. It doesn’t work. But the joyful news recently is that it seems the American people are finally starting to develop some long-term memory where these things are concerned. A poll by the Wall Street Journal and NBC reveals “sixty-two percent of adults … feel the country is on the wrong track, the highest level since before the 2008 election.” Well, that didn’t take long — President Obama isn’t even half way through his term yet. But the most telling part of the data is here. Specifically, look at the party identification tab. I’m curious what the difference is between Independent and Other — they are the same thing to me — but if you combine those two categories, you find that at the beginning of this year, a full thirty percent of those polled identified themselves as neither a Democrat nor a Republican. We haven’t seen numbers like that since Ross Perot’s campaign, and this isn’t even a Presidential election year. Imagine how much farther those numbers could swing in the next two years.
So, to that thirty percent out there I say stay focused. Don’t let the shiny objects of the two-party system distract you. Whatever it was that caused you to feel disenfranchised, trust me, it’s not going away. You want change? Don’t delude yourself into thinking you can fix it by working within the system. It can’t be fixed by a simple tune-up or an alternative fuel blend. It’s time to take this old engine to the junkyard and start designing a new one.
Thought to be a curse of ancient Chinese origin, the title of this essay is appropriate for life in America today. A new report by the Pew Research Center is in the news today — just the latest data showing that most believe our government is broken, echoing results from a similar CNN poll conducted in February. But you don’t need poll numbers to notice the downward spiral we find ourselves in — simply watch the news. I’m not sure that the frequency of these incidents is increasing (although it seems like it to me), but they are certainly becoming better documented (thanks to the internet) and more widely known.
A decade ago, one could point to a handful of hard-core anti-government episodes (Ruby Ridge, Waco, Oklahoma City bombing) that were so conspicuous, each had become iconic in its own right. Now they seem to happen so often, that no single incident has enough time to etch itself in our collective consciousness before the next media frenzy begins:
- Feb 18, 2010 – Andrew Joseph Stack flies his Piper Dakota airplane into an Austin, Texas office building housing the Internal Revenue Service, killing himself and one IRS worker inside. Stack left behind a manifesto expressing his anger towards the IRS and the government in general.
- Mar 4, 2010 – Two police officers were shot and wounded inside the Pentagon subway station in Washington, DC by John Patrick Bedell. Bedell had a history of mental health problems, but also a healthy dislike of government.
- Mar 27, 2010 – Members of a self-described “christian warrior” group called Hutaree were arrested in Michigan for plotting to kill police officers. The group has been known to advocate anti-government doctrines.
- Apr 2, 2010 – More than 30 state governors received letters from a group called Guardians of the Free Republics demanding that they resign from office, or be removed. The Guardians are devoted to dismantling goverment.
- Apr 6-7, 2010 – Within a day of each other, two men, Charles Wilson and Gregory Giusti, were arrested for issuing threats against their respective members of Congress.
- Apr 15, 2010 – And of course the most vocal and omnipresent anti-government group is the burgeoning Tea Party movement, which concluded a coast-to-coast bus tour last week on Tax Day with a rally in Washington, DC to protest government oppression, in general, and taxation in particular.
Now these are just the stories that made national headlines. The assumption is that there are many, many more similar stories at the local level that go unnoticed. On February 7, 2008, for example, the St. Louis suburb of Kirkwood was rocked by a shooting spree during a city council meeting. The gunman, Charles Lee “Cookie” Thornton, finally had enough of what he considered harrassment by local government officals and killed several of them. There is also the tale of Jerry Andres, who recently invoked the memory of the Kirkwood shooting when he made his own angry visit to another St. Louis area city hall. Author and columnist Vin Suprynowicz devoted an entire book, called The Ballad of Carl Drega, to documenting a number of these same kinds of local stories across the country.
It is easy to dismiss all of the actors in these stories as “wingnuts” with mental disorders. But that simply isn’t the case. Every person has a breaking point, and the tragedy is that the rest of us cannot relate to these stories because we have never been pushed to our own breaking points — but these individuals have. Now whether the oppression or harrassment is real or imagined is left for history to record, but it brings to mind the quote by a former Secretary of State:
The evils of tyranny are rarely seen but by him who resists it.
— John Hay, 1872
What all of these people have in common is their desire and their willingness to resist what they perceive as tyranny. Their courage to take a stand should be respected, even if they are misguided, or their methods are despicable. So does the increase in the frequency of these stories mean that more and more people are saying “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!” or is it simply a trend that the mainstream media is temporarily willing to indulge? Needless to say, my hope is that it is the former.
June 28, 2008 18:41 | Comments (1) | revolution |
[This is the third article in a series.]
The timing of the Supreme Court’s decision this week is fortuitous, because it serves to underscore the crucial point of Phase III, and that is that keeping and bearing arms is in individual right because personal safety is an individual responsibility. A person’s unalienable right to self-defense (using whatever arms they should happen to choose), as acknowledged by the Second Amendment, may be voluntarily delegated to others, however, it is important that every citizen understand that the responsibility for their own safety and security is not automatically assumed by any other party.
If you want to be safe walking down the street, you must take the proper precautions. If you want your home to be safe from invasion you must take steps to ensure that security. If you want your family and loved ones to be safe from harm, you must be prepared to defend them in any situation. These points will be hammered home to everyone throughout Phases I and II, but they cannot be emphasized enough. Our population has become not only complacent, allowing the responsibility for their safety to be assumed by others (police), but taught to be afraid of the very means they must be use to defend themselves and their liberties (guns).
When Mel Gibson’s movie The Patriot was released in 2000, there was some furor in the press over the scenes depicting Gibson’s young children in the movie using their muskets to fight the British Army. The argument being that this is not the proper message to be sending to our children. That we, as a society, do not want our kids to be learning at an early age how to handle and use weaponry. Futhermore, it was hard for some to believe that these scenes were based on reality — they cannot fathom a world in which 10-year-olds were capable marksmen, taught to not only accurately place a shot in the center of mass of their enemies, but also taught to safely handle their weapons to prevent the accidental injury or death of their kin. How could children be this responsible? Children are capable of many amazing things when we set our expectations of them sufficiently high. And, most importantly, responsible children grow into responsible adults.
It is this defect that education campaigns during Phases I and II will strive to correct — multiple generations of people who were never taught to use or respect guns, so they’ve grown into adults who fear guns, or disrespect their destructive power. These hoplophobes have convinced everyone else that guns are dangerous and unnecessary, when the exact opposite is true, and once this brainwashing has been reversed in a large enough number of people, the task of dismantling the government’s defense infrastructure will not seem as daunting.
During Phase III, all property of the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security will be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Private protection agencies will have been gearing up for Phase III for forty years at this point. They will be in best position to bid on all of armaments and other hardware of the Armed Forces and other federal law enforcement agencies. All of it will be gradually sold and the responsibilities for security, both personal security and that of our borders, will be gradually transitioned to the private sector during this phase.
Revolution complete – 2076
Americans will, for the first time in centuries, celebrate their freedom from oppressive government during our nation’s tricentennial. The federal government will no longer exist and the process can be expected to repeat for state and local governments, as needed.
June 23, 2008 18:40 | Comments (2) | revolution |
[This is the second article in a series.]
Public property is a paradox. How can something be owned simultaneously by everyone and no one? In order to avoid this logical inconsistency, as well as the Tragedy of the Commons, and the staggering costs of the endless bureaucracies needed to administer it, public property must be eliminated.
During this phase, all land and property currently “owned” by the federal government will be auctioned off to the highest bidder (or returned to its rightful owner). This includes all interstate highways, Post Offices, National Parks, and all land currently held by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in the western States. It also includes federal territories such as Guam, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. It does not include military bases and the District of Columbia – these will be sold at auction in Phase III.
All public schools (from kindergarten to universities) receiving federal funding will be closed, dismantled and/or sold at auction during this phase. This includes the Department of Education and all of its employees. The People will once again have to take direct responsibility for the education of themselves and their children.
Private companies will be the most likely customer to buy schools. In most cases, schools will be converted in place to private schools, with the free market determining the cost of tuition. Teachers currently employed by the government-run schools that meet the minimum requirements of the private schools will likely not lose their jobs.
Post offices will most likely be sold to private delivery companies (FedEx, UPS, DHL, etc.), but may be sold to anyone with the means to purchase them.
National parks could be sold to private environmental organizations whose focus is conservation, such as the World Wildlife Fund or the Sierra Club. Admission to these parks would no longer be free, but any fees charged for maintenance and upkeep would be subject to free market forces (and therefore kept low) and could also be subsidized by the charitable donations already collected by these organizations.
BLM land will be given, free of charge, to any rancher/farmer who can show compelling evidence to a jury that their continuous use and stewardship of a given parcel of land should reasonably confer ownership. All other land will be auctioned to the highest bidder, while residents of all Federal Territories will be given their independence and granted full rights and title to their homelands.
June 13, 2008 21:11 | Comments (1) | revolution |
[This is the first article in a series.]
A bloodless revolution is not without pain. Any time you take something away that people have grown accustomed to they will suffer as a result. Just how much will be determined by each individual’s ability to adapt to change. But, assuming that a revolution can be achieved peacefully, the goal should be to gradually transition systems from old to new to minimize the suffering as much as possible. During this phase, this goal will be paramount, as it is well understood that treating people humanely is more likely to result in success.
All so-called “entitlement” spending by the federal government will be halted at the end of this phase. Families on welfare, or using food stamps, AFDC, etc. will have roughly one generation to ween themselves and their children from the government teat, and find jobs for themselves. Those people within 20 years of death (generally, anyone over the age of 60) need do nothing as their benefits will continue until the end of this period, but those who are just beginning a life of dependency would do well to find other sources of income during this period. Government employees who have made a career of administering this wealth redistribution will also need to seek employment elsewhere. Their jobs will disappear at the end of this period.
Much of this phase will also be devoted to educating the people about the upcoming changes in Phases II and III. Private schools and home-schooling organizations will start preparing the public for closing of all public schools in Phase II. Private organizations such as JPFO would begin a massive campaign to inform and convince Americans that they are responsible for their own safety and security, in preparation for Phase III. This education is necessary to couteract the effects of decades of indoctrination that most people have received as part of the standard public education curriculum.
June 12, 2008 14:25 | Comments (7) | revolution |
In 1776, one of the self-evident truths that Thomas Jefferson included in the unanimous Declaration was “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” Friends and neighbors, the time has come for the Second American Revolution.
It should be obvious to anyone paying attention that the train that is our government left the tracks a long time ago. For those who have not been paying attention, God bless you. We will allow you to go on living your lives blissfully unaware of the travesty of self-governance all around you. All we ask in return is please, for your own safety, do not get in our way as we begin this important work, for who among us could read Jefferson’s long list of usurpations and not find in today’s government a parallel for virtually every one of them?
Some will read these words and think them folly. For you I have only the words of Samuel Adams: “If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animated contest of freedom — go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen!”
Others will hear the truth of these words ringing in their ears, but despair at the daunting task of slaughtering a 230-year-old beast, with a litter of millions suckling at her grotesque teats, and believe themselves unequal to the task. For you I have only Jefferson’s words: “It behooves our citizens to be on their guard, to be firm in their principles, and full of confidence in themselves. We are able to preserve our self-government if we will but think so.”
Still others are ready to join the fray, but cannot see a path forward that will assure success. For even if we were to succeed at abolishing the current government, we might not achieve our ultimate goal if in instituting a new government we fail to make things better than they are now. A revolution without a plan for new government is a hollow victory indeed.
Furthermore, a revolution that sacrifices lives is of little value if the same ends could have been achieved without the spilling of blood. So a worthy plan should assume that it can be executed within the constraints of the current government, resulting in bloodshed only as a means of last resort, when all lesser means have failed. However, Jefferson understood that “the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants,” so there is certainly a time for bloodshed. Let us all pray that we have not yet surpassed that point of no return.
In short, overthrowing a government is easy. Replacing it with something better is the hard part. In honor of Flag Day this weekend, and all of the things that our flag used to stand for, this is the first in a series of essays outlining a modest plan for accomplishing the latter.
Phase I – Dismantling the Welfare State (2008-2025)
Phase II – The End of Public Property (2025 – 2045)
Phase III – Homeland Security (2045 – 2075)
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