Skip to content

Moral hazard is to BP what blowback is to Al Qaeda

June 25, 2010

There’s a parallel to be drawn between the oil spill and terrorism.

The first thing war-supporting conservatives hear when they hear one of us say that 9/11 and other terrorist activities are blowback for U.S. foreign policy is that we are somehow “justifying” their atrocious actions. They refuse to do the necessary action of putting themselves in their attackers’ shoes because they’re afraid that in so doing they will begin to sympathize with the terrorists.

This seems to be related to why Shep can’t stomach the Judge’s circumspection, planting some of the blame squarely on the shoulders of the government and its regulatory practices. That’s irrelevant at this point, says Shep — it was BP who sprung the leak, and BP should pay to clean it up.

I agree wholeheartedly. Every last cent. And Al Qaeda’s actions are reprehensible and they deserve to be wiped out wherever they’re killing people. But being militantly reactionary and fastidiously avoiding diagnosing the cause of the problem doesn’t help prevent more such incidents in the future.

One of the central problems with government intervention is its invariable influence over others, who themselves may act immorally or carelessly in response. Yes, BP’s at fault and yes, the terrorists are murderers and yes, they should all be held fully accountable. But we can’t afford to settle for identifying the proximate cause of our problems.

The U.S. government is responsible for irking the Muslim world over the past half century and helping recruit terrorists who would attack us here, and it’s responsible for the moral hazard of feeding BP’s carelessness by letting them know they’d only be liable for $73 million.

By all means, hold the actual actor responsible, but don’t fault us for peeling back the curtain to find out who’s whispering suggestions from backstage.


Why conservatives support war (and how to change their minds)

April 15, 2010

I just read an interesting blog post on the Campaign for Liberty website entitled  Understanding “Pro-War” Republicans and Conservatives and was reminded that the liberty movement has a long way to go in developing an implementing strategies to win over “pro-war” conservatives. I really find myself uncomfortable with people in the liberty movement insinuating that pro-war conservatives on the popular level (not the politicians) are that way because they adore conquest and carnage. The intent should not be, as it usually seems to be, to make them feel like immoral destruction-lovers, or as mindless sheep. As much as it inflates our egos to believe those things are true, enlightened as we think we are by liberty’s flame, those charges are not always true, and it does nothing but marginalize our important message to keep making snide and snarky remarks about it all the time.

Conservatives are pro-defense. So are we, right? It’s just that they are still sold on the idea that it’s better to allow volunteer soldiers to die honorably abroad than it is to let the Muslims come back over here and kill civilians indiscriminately. Is that flawed reasoning? Tell them why it is without demeaning their intelligence, sincerity, and morality.

I think this article referenced in the C4L post is right when it talks about how much conservatives love America. They recognize their homeland and way of life to be worth defending to the death from those who have the potential to do us and our families harm. Is that really so unthinkably wrongheaded? Inasmuch as there are dangers in this thinking, we need people who can communicate them to conservatives in a respectful way.

So they believe in national defense and love our country. Naturally, then, the young men and women who volunteer to pledge their lives to uphold freedom and national security will be held in the highest honor. They’ll demand that these troops be given the reverence due a self-sacrificial savior. Remember, too, that most conservatives are the fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, and cousins of the troops or are themselves veterans. They remember the truly despicable behavior of the hippies who hurled insults at the shell-shocked Vietnam vets, many of whom were drafted and didn’t even want to fight. My uncle and mother are still traumatized by the anti-war activists who jumped on the coffin of their childhood friend killed in Vietnam (for whom I am named) while my uncle, another drafted vet, accompanied it in grief during a solemn procession. Opposing the war, to conservatives, means telling these people — including many of their loved ones — they see as noble, self-sacrificial servants of our nation, “Thanks, but no thanks, you who are ignorant pawns at best and bloodthirsty animals at worst.” For those who have lost family or friends in this “senseless war”, how are they going to be convinced to oppose and demean the very cause that their loved ones died because they believed in it?

For this reason, by the way, I’m not in favor of the label “anti-war”. While I am technically “anti-war”, the  term has way too much baggage.

We’ve got to to understand these sentiments and address them sensitively if we want to see results. Or do we prefer to stand on our moral high horse and be persecuted for our more consistent devotion to liberty?

Not me.

Thinking soberly about the WikiLeaks video

April 6, 2010

1) We don’t know much about what preceded the video. See this article addressing the legality of what apparently transpired.

2) These guys carrying AK-47s and (possibly) an RPG (reports now suggest it was the video camera of the Reuters reporter) were probably looking for a fight, and may have already been engaged in combat with U.S. soldiers.

3) The attitudes of the soldiers are part of the evil of war, in which dehumanization of the enemy is necessary in order for killing to be carried out.

4) All that said, we shouldn’t have ever been involved with that conflict in the first place.

5) War is hell, and we’ve got to do a much better job of keeping hell on a leash by holding our government and military accountable for the wars we bring on the world.

6) The worst part is the cover-up and the undeniable distortion of the U.S. military’s response. It took WikiLeaks to break this story, but don’t imagine that the citizens of Iraq don’t learn about all such questionable events soon after they happen.

7) They don’t hate us because we’re free; they don’t just hate us because “we’re over there.” They hate us because we’re over here allowing our military to do whatever it wants over there with little accountability.

Considering the WikiLeaks video

April 5, 2010

This video has converted me from merely opposing the war to being anti-war. Not pacifist, but no longer content with being passive about my opposition to this war and what it does to our country and human beings.

Worst of all, it corroborates observations I’ve been reluctant to acknowledge about what conflicts like this do to young men who train to become soldiers and find that it’s sometimes necessary to dehumanize their opponents, and hence compromise their own humanity for causes their “superiors” insist are unquestionably noble. I’ve winced when hearing otherwise decent military friends pass around their jokes and thought, ‘Whatever is necessary to do their jobs — I sure couldn’t.’ Is this dehumanization sometimes necessary? Perhaps. But we’d better be darned sure that American lives hinge upon it before giving our support and consent; surely I don’t need to tell you that our national security was not at all helped by the soldiers in that video, and hardly more by any of our military’s actions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It is already being said, no doubt, that incidents like this are few and far between, and that they are the cost of freedom and American safety. Even granting the former (and I truly regret that I cannot confidently do so), the latter is tantamount to consent for such barbarous acts that we selectively recognize as “terror” when perpetrated by Arabs.

God have mercy on us. How can we remain silent?

Is a spoonful of sugar helping healthcare go down?

March 5, 2010

Here’s the letter I just wrote my congressman and senators.


Americans of all political stripes fought hard enough against the attempts at “reform” (=meddling) last year, and yet now it’s back in the picture again. How can this be?

Both liberals and neoconservatives in Congress have apparently concluded that the lesson learned is that Congress can’t forget to provide a spoonful of sugar when shoving their intervention into healthcare down our throats, ignoring the glaring fact that the states that ratified the Constitution didn’t create the federal government to be our “doctors” in any societal, financial, or medical sense.

The American people do seem to be getting tired of fighting their politicians on the issue of whether Government has any role in shaping healthcare. Don’t read this as growing support, but as fatigued acquiescence: I’m sure you’d also notice diminishing resistance the longer you held the pillow over someone’s face.

I insist upon the withdrawal of federal meddling into any business, including healthcare, especially since this is what has caused and exacerbated our current problems. Even “incentives” for this and that not so subtly influence our economy in deleterious ways for which it has no right.

Don’t bother sending me a form letter response that tells why “healthcare reform is important” and why you’re going to support “market based” reform.

Please, the government can only help insofar as it unilaterally withdraws its heavy hand, which even when extended to offer assistance can’t help but restrain the market forces that are the hallmark and birthright of liberty.

For liberty above all,


As via Liberty Maven pleads, “We know you must be tired of this issue, but you must not relent. Temporary fatigue can lead to a permanent bad outcome. Please send Congress another letter using our quick and easy Educate the Powerful system.

— .

A cult of ideas

February 25, 2010

Until I began to actually listen to what he was saying, I used to think that Ron Paul supporters were a cult of personality. This piece by Paul Mulshine (H/T Liberty Maven) points out why I discovered this is not so: he has very little personality! And that’s a good thing:

The U.S. Constitution is a dry, unemotional document. And Paul, as its leading proponent in Congress, is a dry, unemotional guy.

He’s an old guy who shows little charisma, but instead keeps saying the same common sense, constitutional things over and over tirelessly. He decried profligate spending and irresponsible use of our military under Bush; he decries profligate spending and irresponsible use of our military under Obama. This a cult of ideas, and I hope it’s a cult that continues to spread among young people with sense.

Yeah, but WHY does Al Qaeda fight?

January 9, 2010

Helen Thomas finally asks a great question:

…and gets the same stupid answer we’ve always gotten.

Helen Thomas asked what they’ve been able to uncover (really? is it that secret?) about the motivation for the Christmas Eve attacks.

John Brennan, former chairman of the National Counterterrorism Center, basically ignores the question: “Al Qaeda is an organization that is dedicated to murder and slaughter of innocents…” blah blah blah…hijacked Islam, blah blah blah… All this is what they did, not why they do it.

Thomas: “So you’re saying it’s because of religion?”

Beat. Brennan is dumbfounded. Why, because they just want to kill us, obviously. “I’m saying it’s because Al Qaeda is an organization that uses the banner of religion in a very perverse and corrupt way.”

Thomas: “Why?” Why, oh expert on counterterrorism, do they do that?

Brennan: “This, uh, this is a, a long issue, but Al Qaeda is just determined to carry out attacks here against the homeland.”

No duh, slick. But you didn’t answer WHY they were determined.

There were two at least semi-reasonable answers he could have given, but both of them were avoided because of inviolable taboo.

1.Yes, Helen, it’s because of their religion. Islam is just all about killing everyone that’s not Muslim.

Now, I happen to think this is sheer nonsense. Muslims somehow practiced their religion for centuries without terrorizing the wealthy and powerful nations of the world. Sure, their religion (like Christianity) can be radicalized, but Islam is no more essentially characterized by terrorism than Christianity is by blowing up abortion clinics — or by staying in a perpetual war against the Muslim infidels. So yeah, I think this answer would have been wrong, but at least it’s an answer.

2. Because foreign nations (one in particular) with starkly differing cultures have been sitting there in their backyards and dictating their political and economic reality for decades upon decades.

Bingo. The imperialism of the West and our persistent determination (this administration is no exception) to keep our hands in their affairs has radicalized them. The religion merely gives them added fervor and moral justification to fight for the reversal of this injustice.

Can you imagine anyone associated with an active administration actually saying that?