Archive for December, 2013

Are you finally ready to admit that a constitution can’t control a state?

by David McElroy

NSA surveillance

How many times have people told us that we should put our faith in the Constitution, because it’s there to protect our rights? Originalists tell us that the document is sacred. Progressives say it’s a “living document,” whatever they think that means this week. They both claim the Constitution protects us.

But time after time, we’ve seen that the Constitution can’t do the job it’s supposed to do — that of limiting the politicians who claim power over us. The document was carefully constructed to grant very narrow power to the federal government. And if anybody missed the intent, the Ninth and Tenth Amendments were added to make is clear that the government has no powers which aren’t specifically granted in it. Those amendments make it clear that the states and the people themselves retain any powers not given to the federal government.

How much more clear could that have been?

Has that stopped politicians from controlling both states and individuals? No. Congress invents whatever law it wants, justifying those laws in ways that would have confused and angered the men who wrote the document. The people of the executive branch routinely make up their own versions of laws, claiming vague power that Congress has theoretically given to them, but which violate the text and intent of the Constitution.

And the judges of the judicial branch routinely give us rulings that ignore the text and intent of the document — and which pander to the political need of the day.

The latest example of this is the ruling by a New York federal judge Friday that the NSA is perfectly free to collect pretty much any information that it wants to collect about Americans. Even though the NSA’s snooping is a clear violation of the intent of the Constitution, the judge says it’s fine because the government needs to fight terrorism. (A different judge issued an entirely different ruling earlier this month.)

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Treating Phil Robertson seriously means slouching toward ‘Idiocracy’

by David McElroy

Idiocracy-Ow My BallsIt finally occurred to me over the weekend why I hate the responses of people on both sides of the Phil Robertson controversy. I would object to pretty much any reaction to what Robertson said — because paying attention to him at all is treating something trivial as though it’s important.

I’m no more interested in what Robertson has to say about homosexuality than I would be if he weighed in on whether McDonald’s or Burger King has better burgers — or whether Ukraine should join the European Union. He’s just a random nobody who has been elevated to being a faux “somebody” because of “reality” television. His views should matter about as much as the views of any random person from the phone book.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that my biggest objection to this entire controversy isn’t what anyone says about homosexuality or sin or free speech or anything like that. I simply object that we as a society are going down a pop-culture road that leads to becoming “Idiocracy.” Taking the theological and political views of a star of “Duck Dynasty” seriously makes no sense. When do we put “Ow! My Balls” on the air?

When Miley Cyrus made herself into a spectacle four months ago and everybody seemed to be taking her seriously, I begged the culture to quit worshiping celebrities. I’m not going to repeat what I said there, but I’ve realized that the Robertson case is more of the same. It’s a matter of taking a carnival sideshow and pretending it matters to serious discussion.

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‘Duck Dynasty’ just another skirmish in an increasingly stupid culture war

by David McElroy

Phil Robertson-Duck Dynasty

The more I try to figure out what to say about the whole “Duck Dynasty” flap, the more I wish everybody on all sides would just shut up and go away. It’s just another idiotic battle in a war between two groups of people who seem to wake up every morning looking for a reason to be offended.

If Phil Robertson is the standard-bearer for your religious faith, you might want to rethink your theology. And if the religious beliefs of this eccentric clown threaten you, then you need to get out more and discover how many other people disagree with you in more serious ways. It’s insane that this “nobody” has become a celebrity and that people are yelling profanity at each other over his views.

I’ve never seen “Duck Dynasty,” and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have seen it even if I still watched television. It’s a “reality” show on A&E centered around a strange Louisiana swamp family that makes duck calls. Or something like that. Doesn’t it sound like something worth wasting your time on?

Robertson is widely known as a social conservative and he talks openly about his religious beliefs. In an interview with GQ magazine this week, Robertson asserted that homosexuality is wrong. He didn’t advocate legal consequences for being gay or lesbian. He just expressed the belief that it’s sin and he said he thought men should be more attracted to a woman’s vagina than a man’s anus.

“It seems like, to me, a vagina — as a man — would be more desirable than a man’s anus,” Robertson said. “That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”

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Black? White? Hispanic? Santa Claus is any color you want to make him

by David McElroy

Santa Claus with Coke

Are we really arguing about what color Santa Claus is? Has anyone broken the news to the people arguing that he’s just a fictitious character?

That’s right. Santa doesn’t exist. But that hasn’t stopped culture warriors from trying to turn him into a cause. On Fox News this week, anchor Megyn Kelly started the ball rolling.

“For all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white,” Kelly told viewers. “Santa is what he is…. I wanted to get that straight.”

Other people have struck back, arguing that to claim Santa is white is “oppressive.” In the Los Angeles Times, there was a piece about why “we deserve a Santa for the people, not just white folks.” Over at the progressive left website Think Progress, they were writing about “Megyn Kelly’s fear of a black Santa.” And a blogger at the conservative Washington Times was defending Kelly and writing about “why Santa Claus’ skin color matters.”

One of my friends reports that a very intelligent friend of his believes that “having a white Santa is just cultural dominance over a disenfranchised and unempowered race and we might want to consider transitioning to a less-white Santa and for me to insist that a character keep his image just because said character is and always has been depicted as a white male is oppressive in nature.”

That’s right. Our culture has been reduced to arguing about whether a fictitious character’s ethnicity is “cultural dominance” over “disenfranchised” people and what kind of Santa “we deserve.”

To all of the combatants, I simply say, “Who cares?”

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Beth’s husband loves alcohol more than he loves her, so he walked out

by David McElroy

Alcohol abuse

When I first saw Beth Wednesday, she looked like a woman who had just won the lottery. She was grinning from ear to ear and looked as though she might start bouncing off of walls at any moment.

“I passed! I passed! I made it!” she told me, as though she assumed I knew what that meant.

I was in an office on a college campus and Beth had just come out of a computer lab where she had checked her final grades for the semester. She had passed all of her finals and she had excellent grades. She had successfully completed her first semester of nursing school.

She explained all this to me and told me that she was so excited that she had to tell someone — and I was the first random stranger she saw. It made me happy to see her so jubilant, so I asked her to step in and tell me more.

Beth is about 40. On this day, she seemed on top of the world. But she kept telling me that she had been afraid she would “blow it.” I kidded her about whether she has a history of negative self-talk.

“Have you been talking to my therapist?” she asked jokingly. “Seriously, that’s what she’s always telling me, that I’m always expecting the worst and saying bad things to myself, but that’s the way it’s felt since my husband left in the middle of the semester.”

All of a sudden, this happy story sounded much more interesting to me — and more complicated.

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My books are time machines that tell you where (and who) I’ve been

by David McElroy

My bookshelf

I have very few pictures from my past. I save few mementos, at least not in an organized fashion. I have boxes of junk that I’ve pulled out of desk drawers when I’ve moved in the past, but only because I haven’t gotten around to discarding the 99 percent of it that’s junk.

When I talk to others about their past, they frequently pull out photo albums or scrapbooks. I have very little like that to show. If you want to travel through my past, my bookshelves are the place to start.

I spent an hour Monday night idly looking through my books. I wasn’t looking for something to read. I wasn’t even opening them. But spending time looking through books I haven’t read in years — just touching them and reading the titles — is a bit like time travel. Even if I never read a book again, it seems to carry a bit of me in it — whatever I was like when I experienced the book the first time.

This German history book takes me back to when I was a 19-year-old sophomore at the University of Alabama. I was taking a class covering the development of modern Germany starting in the 19th century and looking at how Hitler eventually came to power. Each Monday afternoon, I spent three hours listening to Dr. David McElroy lecture in a dry but informative voice on the third floor of ten Hoor Hall. (We shared more than our names. Oddly, Dr. McElroy and I also drove identical cars.)

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Archived audio of my Alaska radio interview available for download

by David McElroy

KFARIf you missed my  appearance Saturday on local talk radio in Fairbanks, Alaska, I now have links to the archive of the broadcast. The first hour is here and the second hour is here. Both files are MP3s, so they’re suitable for listening to in your browser or downloading to save for posterity.

Hosts Josh Bennett and Steve Floyd were gracious enough to keep me around for both hours, and we had a very wide-ranging and laid-back conversation about why the coercive state is a bad idea. We also touched on issues related to what those of us who oppose the state should be doing in the meantime. (Spoiler: My answer is that we have to simply get ourselves prepared and wait for the right opportunity when it comes along. I wish I had a magic bullet.)

I just got around to listening to the entire thing Monday afternoon and it reminds me that I need to do more of this for practice. I can hear times when my mental gears are grinding and I’m thinking, “What in the world did I intend to say when I started this answer 15 seconds ago?”

Overall, it was a lot of fun for me. It’s long, but if you’re interested, please take a listen.

Sometimes we should ignore idiots who yell about non-existent racism

by David McElroy

CW cartoon

Charging someone with racism has become the ultimate trump card for almost anyone in modern American society. So what do we do when the person playing the race card is simply a moron who’s seeing something that isn’t there?

In the case of the University of Alabama’s student newspaper, the answer was to apologize anyway and promise to be even more un-racist. In doing so, the paper is bowing to idiots and promising to self-censor in an effort to make it harder for morons to misunderstand what they’re looking at.

Let me back up.

After Alabama’s last-second loss to hated arch-rival Auburn in a football game nine days ago, the Crimson-White ran an editorial cartoon that satirizes the current tendency by many to blame the president for anything that goes wrong. The cartoon shows an Alabama player tripping while an Auburn player races by to score the winning touchdown. The caption says, “This is what happens in Obama’s America.” It’s clearly a parody of the graphic memes that say, “Thanks, Obama,” any time something goes wrong in the country.

I don’t think it’s an especially funny cartoon, but it’s probably no worse than what many college-level cartoonists produce. (When I was on staff at the CW many years ago, we had a couple of really excellent cartoonists, so the current work looks amateurish and lazy to me, but that’s a different issue.) Even though I don’t find the cartoon funny, it’s impossible to find racism in the art unless you’re determined to see something that isn’t there.

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Join me Saturday for radio interview on KFAR-AM in Fairbanks, Alaska

by David McElroy

Patriot's Lament

If you’re in Fairbanks, Alaska, you can hear me on KFAR-AM Saturday morning at 9 a.m. Alaska time. For those elsewhere, you can listen live online and an archive will be online later if you miss it live. If you’re in the central time zone, as I am, air time is noon Saturday.

I’ll be interviewed on a show called Patriot’s Lament, which specializes in topics of interest to libertarians and anarchists, so this is a rare opportunity to appear on radio with people already family with my political belief system.

In preparation for the show, I’ve been listening to its archives. They’ve recently interviewed some of the real rock stars of the libertarian/anarchist community, people such as Lew Rockwell, Jeffrey Tucker, Tom DiLorenzo, Larkin Rose, Scott Horton and Ben Stone.

It’s a very laid-back show and I’m looking forward to a great conversation. I hope you can join us.

Nelson Mandela overcame anger at oppression to become a wise hero

by David McElroy

Nelson Mandela - First Treason TrialWinners get to write history books. Nelson Mandela was on the right side of history and he also won his struggle. When he died Thursday, he died as a hero to most people.

I don’t know of a soul who’s all sinner or all saint, but history likes to paint with a broad brush. We don’t like to let people be human and see them as a mixture of good and bad. We want to glorify or vilify them. Current history has passed its verdict on Mandela, though. He’s a saint.

I think Mandela was more complicated than that. He was a leader in the movement to free black South Africans from a government that treated them as little better than slaves. He evolved over time into a sophisticated spokesman for his movement. And he was part of negotiating a deal which changed South Africa without the bloodshed that comes so often with struggles such as this.

But some people claim he was a terrorist and a communist, as his detractors said more than 5o years ago. A British historian claimed last year that he had unearthed evidence confirming Mandela’s membership in the communist party in South Africa. And the Soviet Union was widely believed to supply money and other support to further the rebellion in its early years.

Almost anyone who has led a rebellion has been guilty of atrocities or at least allowing terrible things to be done. The British considered the American revolutionaries to be terrorists, although they had slightly different language two centuries ago. (And some of the American revolutionaries certainly adopted terrorist tactics. Read about the man who history remembers as “the Swamp Fox” sometime.)

Your irregular fighter is a terrorist. Mine is a freedom fighter.

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Start over here

When this site launched in 2011, it was intended as a way to find others who were sick of partisan politics and wanted to connect with like-minded people who were ready to go beyond politics and find ways of escaping. It has shifted focus in ways that reflect my own shifting thinking. I’m less interested in politics and more interested in looking at the things that make life worth living, such as love, creation, self-understanding and connecting with others. Every article I have posted since 2011 is still in my archives, but everything I write is a reflection of my current thinking. Sometimes I’m wrong — and that’s fine with me — and I don’t always end up agreeing with what I wrote five years ago. For now, you can still read what I wrote about the site’s purpose in 2011, but I should rewrite this. Read more.

Contact David

David likes email, but can’t reply to every message. I get a surprisingly large number of requests for relationship advice — seriously — but I rarely have the time to respond. (Sorry.) Besides, with my own romantic track record, maybe my advice isn’t worth taking. I’d like to find a wife one of these days, so maybe I should add an “application.”

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