Thursday, April 28, 2016

Endorsement of Austin Petersen

[This a Vlog Post in which the text is from the embedded video.]

I'm Aya Katz, and I support Austin Petersen for President of the United States. I first heard of him when he was talking about letters of marque and how we could cut down on our military budget by issuing them. Well, I... one of my favorite heroes is Jean Laffite who saved the United States during the Battle of New Orleans. And he did so by having a letter of marque not from the United States, but from the independent Republic of Cartagena. So what we need to do is to repeal the Neutrality Act so that Americans can get letters of marque from other countries in order to fight on our behalf without involving the United States in a declaration of war.

I also believe in cutting off all foreign aid to any country, and I do this with all the best intentions in my heart. Because I know that it would be so much better not to send money to Israel to bribe it not to fight its enemies, while at the same time sending money to the enemies so that they can build weapons.

And I am against U.S. Fish  Wildlife who want to confiscate the chimpanzees that belong to American citizens while sending taxpayer money to Africa.

So this is the reason I support Austin Petersen, and I hope to go to Orlando to help him get the nomination of the Libertarian Party.

Thank you.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A Voice and a Choice are Better than a Vote

The problem with democracy is not that citizens get to vote -- it's that they don't get a veto on every other citizen's vote. In the marketplace, we cannot force others to like what we like or choose what we choose, but we each have the right not to accept another's choice for us. Yes, you can have chocolate ice cream, and you can have vanilla, but I am going to have strawberry ice cream, because that's what I want. Yes, you can have a dog, and you can have a cat, but I want a chimpanzee, so that's what I'm going to have. And pay for it myself.

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The problem with democracy is that they want to choose for you. And that is why ultimately there is nothing to rejoice in at having been granted the vote, if we cannot say no. The right to say no to anything anyone else wants to decide for us is called Anarchy. Anarchy does not mean chaos. It does not even mean that there is no government. All it means is that each person gets to choose to join -- or to opt out.

In Theodosia and the Pirates, there is a small scene between Jean Laffite and Theodosia Burr that spells out exactly how much better than having the vote it is to actually have a voice -- and a choice -- in one's government. Not all of us want to be governor. Most are glad for someone else better qualified to be allowed to govern -- but each of us wants to be able to opt out, if the choice of governor is not to our liking.

An Excerpt from Theodosia and the Pirates

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

What Does April 19 Mean to You?

In the United States, April 19 used to be a day to celebrate the Battles of Lexington and Concord.  More recently it has become a day to mourn lost liberty.

19th-century depiction of Battle of Lexington
Source: Wikipedia
Today is the 23rd anniversary of the Mt, Carmel Massacre.

How many people need die to preserve liberty generation after generation? That really depends on how many people still remember what liberty is. If we all remember, then no blood need be shed. Even if only most of us remember, liberty can be defended without a single shot being fired. Sometimes all that takes is a symbolic reminder.

At Weihsien, not a single shot had to be fired, because the prisoners believed in the symbol of the American flag on the plane that brought seven men to the camp. It was not those men who freed the internees in the Courtyard of the Happy Way. It was what they stood for.

Excerpt from Our Lady of Kaifeng: Courtyard of the Happy Way
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If we all stand together, not a single one of us has to die fighting for freedom. But that is more easily said than done.

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Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Argument for Privateering Today

A Blimp of the same class as the Resolute

One of the cultural features that characterized warfare in the twentieth century was the virtual absence of privateers. Arguably, there were a few privateers, but even that has been discounted recently. The current entry on privateering in the Wikipedia says:

20th century

In December 1941 and the first months of 1942, Goodyear commercial L class blimp Resolute operating out of Moffett Field in Sunnyvale, California, flew anti-submarine patrols. As the civilian crew was armed with a rifle, many thought this made the ship a privateer, and that she and sister commercial blimps were operated under letter of marque until the Navy took over operation.[32] Without congressional authorization, the Navy would not have been able to legally issue any letters of marque.
The last time I read this entry, prior to writing my novel Theodosia and the Pirates, it was much more positively in favor of the the idea that the blimp in question was issued a letter of marque. But whether or not the United States government did issue such a document authorizing the deployment of the Resolute is not the only question we should ask. Because in point of fact, historically many well known American privateers received their letters of marque from governments other than that of the United States. For instance, Jean Laffite had a letter of marque from the Republic of Cartagena. Later, he awarded other privateers letters of marque as head of the government in Galveston, as described in Theodosia and the Pirates: The War Against Spain. 

Recently, Austin Petersen, who is competing with two others for the Libertarian nomination for president of the United States, spoke at great length about the idea of issuing letters of marque and reprisal without declaring war against any nation. This way we can go after terrorists without starting a war. I am certainly in favor of that.

 Petersen mentioned the War of 1812 and American privateers, but not Jean Laffite, the most  important privateer contributor to that war on the American side. Is it because Laffite was not issued a letter of marque by the United States government? His letter of marque from the Republic of Cartagena allowed him to go after Spanish ships at a time when the United States had not declared war against Spain, even as Spain and Britain plotted together to take down the United States and return America to its status as a British colony. When Captain Lockyer approached the Baratarian privateer with an offer from the British, the letters he bore said that England had a treaty with Spain and had not an enemy in the world except the United States. He offered Laffite a chance to earn money and a position in the British Navy, but Laffite turned it down, because he wanted to be an American and an independent privateer, not a government employee. Laffite informed the United States of the British offer and of the British fleet's current location off the coast of Mobile. Instead of going after the British, the American Navy then attacked Laffite and his fleet of light privateering ships. Why? Because already privateering had gone into disrepute, and people like Commodore Daniel Patterson saw private fleets as an infringement on the career Navy officer's prerogative to a monopoly on waging war. 

Patterson did not use the ships he plundered from Laffite to fight the British. He sold them at auction to line his own pockets. But Laffite nevertheless managed to save the United States at the Battle of New Orleans by providing flints and gunpowder, which the Americans had run out of, as well as artillery and men to man it. And when his service was done, all he was granted for it was an empty pardon, and a flippant fare-thee-well. He was never compensated for his looted ships, and in the history books he has gone down as a pirate.

There are many reasons to prefer privateers over a standing army, not the least of which are these:

  • Privateers can run a fleet on a shoestring budget, and always at their own expense. It is the enemy that pays their wages, not the American people.
  • Privateers are a volunteer force, so nobody has to be drafted and nobody has to be taxed, and nobody need lose life or limb who does not get a share in the booty.
  • Privateers can take care of business while the United States maintains neutrality, but this can only work if they are allowed to use letters of marque issued by countries other than the United States.
This last point is the one under contention between those like Austin Petersen, who favors privateering, and the vast majority of the American political establishment, who are against it. Neither side is very good at articulating what the problem is, so I will spell it out for you here: We must repeal the Neutrality Act so we can go back to the state of privateering at the time when the United States came into being.

For an in depth discussion of the Neutrality Act, read the article linked above. But here is a short recap. At the time the constitution of the United States came into effect, there was nothing to keep individual US citizens from fighting on any side they wished of any war going on anywhere in the world.  Many American privateers had letters of marque from France that allowed them to wage open war against Britain on the high seas. This was legal and moral and made sense, because France had helped the United States win its war of independence against Britain.

Now the government of the United States was not at war with  Britain. In fact, they were at peace. But it was legal and lawful and right for each citizen to pursue his own foreign policy, none of them binding the United States or bringing about any breach in the peace. The constitution provides that the executive branch cannot go to war unless Congress authorizes an official declaration of war. But the constitution also provides that any powers not granted to the United States government explicitly are reserved to the States and to the people. And by "the people" the constitution does not mean "collectively" as in "People's Republic of China" where everybody has to agree in order for one person to do something. "The People" in the United States constitution refers to the individual citizens, one by one. Any of them could go to war any day they wished, so long as the US as a whole was not involved in it. And this is exactly what Americans did, until 1794 when the Neutrality Act was passed.

Who lobbied for the Neutrality Act? Why, Britain, of course! They did not want to be beset by those pesky American privateers, so they threatened the United States diplomatically, saying the peace between our two nations depended on the passage in the United States congress of a law outlawing privateering. Should we let Britain make our laws? What good was the revolutionary war, if they can dictate terms from afar?

The Neutrality Act does not outlaw privateering if the United States picks a side in a foreign war and grants letters of marque to Americans to go to war against declared enemies. But it makes it illegal for an individual American to go to war against a country with which the United States is at peace.

Jefferson initially opposed the Neutrality Act. It was Adams who wanted it, so he could pursue an undeclared Quasi-War against  France. Jefferson and Burr came to power after Adams' one single term in office, on a platform of repealing all those laws that the Federalists had put into effect in order to quash anyone who opposed Britain. But... Jefferson forgot all about that when Aaron Burr set out to conquer Mexico as a private citizen, acting at his own expense. Did you know that Burr was found not guilty of treason, but guilty of violating the Neutrality Act? When it served Jefferson's purposes, the law passed at the behest of Britain was allowed to stand.

Privateering came more and more under attack after the War of 1812, largely due to international accords that went contrary to the United States constitution. Today, most people do not know the difference between a pirate and a privateer. This situation will not be remedied unless we deal with the Neutrality Act head on. It is unconstitutional, as it abrogates the rights reserved to the people in that document. But you can be sure that no Supreme Court Justice, conservative or liberal, is going to rule it unconstitutional, because they are all Statists, right wing or left. So it is up to Congress to repeal it, once the Libertarian Party takes over.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Running on the Sabbath

Eric Liddell is famous as the Olympic gold medalist who refused to run on the Sabbath, due to his Christian convictions. He is heroic in the sense that he stood up for his beliefs, when there was a great deal of pressure on him to do otherwise. That kind of stubbornness is always to be applauded.

Eric Liddell

But did you know that later on, he acted in a different way? Twenty years after winning the Olympic Gold Medal, Liddell found himself in an internment camp for enemy aliens in China.

Except from Our Lady of Kaifeng: Courtyard of the Happy Way

 And when Liddell had the choice of holding running meets for the children under his charge in that camp on a Sunday or not at all, he chose to award prizes for running on a Sunday.

What brought about that change? And what exactly is the Biblical basis for prohibiting running on a Sunday?

Old Testament Provisions Concerning the Sabbath

Here below is the text from the ten commandments, concerning the Sabbath:.

זָכוֹר אֶת יוֹם הַשַׁבָּת לְקַדְּשׁוֹשֵׁשֶׁת יָמִים תַּעֲבֹד וְעָשִׂיתָ כָּל מְלַאכְתֶּךָוְיוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי שַׁבָּת לַיהוה אֱלֹהֶיךָ לֹא תַעֲשֶׂה כָל מְלָאכָה אַתָּה וּבִנְךָ וּבִתֶּךָ עַבְדְּךָ וַאֲמָתְךָ וּבְהֶמְתֶּךָ וְגֵרְךָ אֲשֶׁר בִּשְׁעָרֶיךָכִּי שֵׁשֶׁת יָמִים עָשָׂה  יהוה אֶת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֶת הָאָרֶץ אֶת הַיָּם וְאֶת כָּל אֲשֶׁר בָּם וַיָּנַח בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי עַל כֵּן בֵּרַךְ יהוה אֶת יוֹם הַשַּׁבָּת וַיְקַדְּשֵׁהוּ
Remember the Day Off to keep it holy. Six days shall you work and do all your tasks. And on the seventh day, it is a Day Off to Jehovah your god. Do not do any work, you, and your son and your daughter, your slave and slave girl, and your animal and your alien resident who lives in your city gate. Because six days Jehovah made the sky and the earth and the sea and all that is in them and he rested on the seventh day. That's why he made the Day Off and blessed it.

The translation above is my own.  I translated the word "Sabbath" as "Day Off", because that is essentially what it is, and once we take the veneer of sophistication that comes with the borrowing from Hebrew into English, then we can see exactly what is really going on here. This is a provision for a weekend, back in ancient times. It is there to make sure that people who are forced to work for other people have a day off.

The Sabbath is not for the benefit of the free man (or woman) who is commanded to keep it. It is for the son and daughter, who have to obey their parents and do everything they say. It is for the slave man and the slave woman, who otherwise might not have any time off at all. It is for the guest workers who live in the city, but get no vote, because they are aliens. It is for all the working animals, the beasts of burden, the oxen who have to help plow the field, to make sure that they, too, get a day off.  The one commanded to keep the Sabbath is the owner and employer of all those who are to be let off work. They are not commanded to keep the Sabbath. He is!

Yes, this is couched in religious terms, but there is a very simple reason for the Sabbath. It's to give people -- even animals --  who have no control over their own time a break from working for somebody else. It is to make sure that forced labor does not go on forever without a day of rest. This does not mean that those granted the day of rest  have to sit perfectly still while on that break. For some, it would be torture to do so.

When is the Sabbath?

Under the Hebrew calendar, the Sabbath is the seventh day, and the first day of the week is Sunday. So the Sabbath is Saturday, and that's what Saturday is called in Hebrew -- שבת. Seventh Day Adventists follow the Hebrew calendar, and they have Saturday as their Sabbath, too. But most Christians celebrate Sunday as the Sabbath, because they start counting the days of the week on Monday.

For all intents and purposes, it does not matter which day you use, as long as one in seven is your Day Off.

What is Work?

The Sabbath is a time to cease from work. But what exactly is work? Is breathing work? Is walking work? Is changing a baby's diaper work? Is preparing a meal for you and your family to eat work?

We all think we know what work is. It's a very simple concept, after all. But the definition of work changes depending on whether we are talking in terms of physics, employment law, taxation regulations or some other specialized field. Is anything we do when we are not at rest work? Or does it have to be paid for by others? What if you are a landlord? If your income is not considered "earned income" as defined by the tax code, does that mean you are not working to earn it? Or what if you are an amateur runner in the Olympics and have no professional standing? If you don't get paid, is that not work? Does it have to be something you dislike in order to be real work? If you are doing it just for fun, is it not work then? What if instead of being paid to do it, you have to pay somebody else for the privilege? When people take a music lesson, is that work? If they practice the piano, is it work? If they sing in the Church choir, is it work? What if you are the pastor and get paid to preach on Sunday? Is that work?

I wrote about this subject in great depth here:

The bottom line is that for purposes of working on the Sabbath, "work" means  being employed by somebody else with strict orders about what you must do and when you must do it.

Whom Does This Commandment Protect?

A mother's work is never done. No matter how religiously observant, no mother has ever said: "I won't feed my baby today, because it's my Day Off." No owner of a small farm ever said: "I won't milk the cow or feed the animals. because it's my Day Off." No one who is in business for himself has ever said: "I won't deal with this urgent order, because it is my Day Off." It would be as self-destructive as deciding not to breathe because it's the Sabbath.

The prohibition is only against the employer, owner, or master forcing a dependent to work non-stop, seven days a week. The reason behind the Sabbath prohibition was to spare the forced worker. It was not to keep the self-employed person from feeding himself or the joyous amateur from being happy on his day off.

But over time, tradition obscures the reasons for almost every religious or government-decreed commandment. So by the time they were in the diaspora, many observant Jews interpreted the Sabbath prohibition to be something that applied to them, but not to foreigners. They felt they could not prepare a meal for themselves on the Sabbath, but they could employ a "Shabbes goy" (a gentile of the Sabbath) to do work for them, on the holy Day Off. This went exactly contrary to the words of the commandment about the alien in your gate. Except that by now, they were the aliens in somebody else's gate. But these people were still the employer and the outsider was still their employee.

The United States government has also issued many rules to keep people from working every day of the week. These rules are supposed to spare helpless, dependent servants and employees from being exploited seven days a week, but do not apply to owners of businesses. If you have ever owned a business, you know that like a mother's work, it's never done. You work every day, all day long, till  the task is accomplished. Yet when employers petition for an employer identification number, so they can withhold wages and give them to the IRS, the government's website keeps them from filing an application after work hours. This is not to spare the would-be employer, of course. It's to keep the clerks who work nine-to-five hours at the employer's expense from having too much work to do after the long weekend.

What Does the New Testament Say About the Sabbath?

The original prohibition against working on the Sabbath was written at a time when every task  in any household was performed by a person or an animal, not a machine. Your drawer-of-water was a person, not an electric pump. Your tiller, operated by a man, was powered by an ox or a horse. Boiling water meant cutting wood and starting a fire. You could not just turn a switch. Driving a car - or chariot -- involved using horses, not just horsepower.

But when those tasks became automated, and therefore did not involve anybody sentient working at all, the ritualized observers of the letter but not the spirit of the law continued to believe that driving a car is work, and that's why religious zealots in Jerusalem today will stone you for driving a car on Saturday. Apparently throwing stones on Saturday is not considered work.

Even by the time of Jesus of Nazareth, there were a lot of people who had turned the law into a ritual that went contrary to the original meaning. What did Jesus have to say about this?

"The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath."

So is it okay that Eric Liddell changed his mind about running on the Sabbath when he was interned at Weihsien? I think it's more than okay. It's a step in the right direction.

The Monument to Erc Liddell at Weihsien (Weifang)

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Friday, April 1, 2016

Money as Quality Control

Have you ever noticed that the food in the cafeterias of our public schools is not all that different from prison food? Nominally nutritious, it does not taste very good. The same is also true for food in other institutional settings, where people have very little choice. This is why food in hospitals is not very tasty, though it can be quite expensive, and why the food in concentration camps is also pretty bad. And don't even get me started on what they feed chimpanzees in zoos and sanctuaries!

A Bowl of Oatmeal Can Be Had At Home

Now, before you stop me and say: "Well, of course, the food in concentration camps isn't very good! It's not supposed to be!" -- Let me tell you, not every concentration camp is intended by the people who run it to be a death camp. Some Camp Commandants really do want to provide their inmates with humane and even happy circumstances. But there is something about the concentration camp setting that makes it impossible, even when the inmates themselves are preparing the food they will eat. And while we might be tempted to say that this is just the nature of cafeterias, that is demonstrably not true.

Contrast your average institutional cafeteria -- school, hospital, geriatric nursing home -- with your favorite cafeteria-style restaurant. Why is it that the food is bad in the former and good in the latter? It's not so much the price, but the fact that diners have a choice. We vote with our money, rather than in some other way, and every vote is a veto. The votes are not averaged out. There is no majority rule. We do not collectively decide which restaurant we are all going to patronize. Each of us takes our small wad of cash and decides for himself. And that makes a huge difference!

Each of us gets to decide whether we eat out or not, when we eat out, how often we eat out, and where we choose to eat. The money that we use on our dining choices does not merely pay for the food and the service -- it also serves as quality control. Take away the right to say no, to decide not to eat there, and while there still will be food on the table at first, it will not be as good -- nor will the service be adequate.

Excerpt from Our Lady of Kaifeng: Courtyard of the Happy Way

The problem with public as opposed to private cafeterias is not redistribution of resources. It is that  marketplace voting is no longer operating as quality control. At Weihsien, people could still vote who the head cook would be, but they made that decision collectively. Individuals had lost their veto. They could no longer decide to take their business elsewhere, because to allow them to do so might cause somebody who is not as smart or farsighted to go without food altogether. Even when the choices are more varied than that, the fewer choices people have, the less likely their choices are to function as quality control.

Of course, it's not always clear what has happened. For instance, in the average American school cafeteria, people can still bring food from home and turn down the cafeteria food. But did you know that once most of the children are eating cafeteria food, some entirely subsidized by the government while others still paying a fee for their share, the votes of the children who do not like the cafeteria food count for considerably less than in an open market? It is this kind of creeping change that has reduced the quality of the food in the American supermarket, as well. When free market-style choice is coupled with forced choices that are legally introduced into the system, we don't always see clearly how we have been robbed of our veto. Many food choices that we might like to make today, such as buying unpasteurized milk, have been driven underground, where people must pay cash. Yet the people on public assistance with food stamps are becoming a bigger and bigger market share in the supermarket. When producers of valuable food are forced to sell it not on the open market, and a large percentage of consumers are forced to buy only in the supermarket, the food in the supermarket no longer represents our free choice. In those areas where a majority of shoppers are not there by choice, the quality of the food in the store is considerably reduced. Even liberals have noticed that food in poor neighborhood supermarkets is not as good. But do they understand why? It is because the free market has been disrupted there.

When people have no choice, they cannot exercise a veto on bad food. And that's why a lot of food available in the store today isn't as good as it used to be. This is not a failure of the free market, but rather evidence that the market is not free.

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