Sunday, August 31, 2008

A letter to Bob Barr about "Good and Evil"

This is a letter that I wrote to Bob Barr yesterday. I decided to post it although I still very much support his campaign. If you agree with me and want to send this same message to Bob you can copy it and paste it into Word, print it and mail it to the address below, or copy the letter and send it to him on his website, although you have to register to do so. Register here

Click HERE to see the interview with GlennBeck where Bob got off track. He is asked about "good and evil" and in my opinion he answers very badly. It happens at 2:50 from the beginning

Barr 2008 Presidential Committee
P.O. Box 725007
Atlanta, GA 31139

Dear Bob,

I have just watched the first fifteen or twenty minutes of the interview that you filmed with Glenn Beck yesterday, the 29th of August. As I watched you banter with the self-avowed warmonger, the hope that I had allowed myself to feel drained out of me like the life drains out of a motor when a rock punctures its oil pan. At the beginning of the interview, when you abandoned the libertarian notion that our state needs to act only in the interests of the citizens, and instead accepted the OneParty idea that the USA should be the global judge and executioner, the motor that has driven me to promote your candidacy with great fervor seized up. Instead of looking out for our self-interest you advocate searching out “evil”. Shame on you.

Bob, I believe in freedom, I believe in individual liberty and I am certain that those goals are not possible in a state that is dominated by a large government which judges itself capable of identifying “evil” and combating it around the world. Who is going to identify “evil”? What do we do when the search for evil reveals ourselves? Let me give you an example. If you ask Americans that tune in regularly to TV if there is evil in the world that must be eliminated, most will answer, yes. If asked for an example, the most common answer will be Osama Bin Laden and the suicide hijacking attack on the World Trade Center. Was that the result of “evil”? Was it “evil” that motivated those men, or something else?

Was the attack on the Twin Towers any more evil than the firebombing of Dresden and Tokyo or the nuclear bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima? The Japanese had attacked us at Pearl Harbor and the Germans had overrun Europe. We entered into the war with a clear goal and we let the enemy, Germany and Japan, know what that goal was. That goal was the surrender of Germany and Japan, the disarming of both and regime change in both countries. Our justification for the mass killing of civilians was that the sooner we ended the war, the fewer people would die. So the Pentagon and the White House decided that killing thouands of civilians all at once might break the will of the enemy and make him accede to our demands, thereby shortening the war.

So was that different than what the Islamic radicals did on September 11th, 2001?

Who were the attackers and what was their goal? Most of the nineteen suicide hijackers were Saudis. They were led by a Saudi: bin Laden, and an Egyptian: al Zawahiri. Bin Laden and al Zawahiri had complained for years that the US military base in Saudi Arabia violated the Koranic dictate against military occupation of the Dar Al Islam. They had also complained for years that the Saudi royalty and the Egyptian President were maintained in power by the US government, thanks to American intelligence, money and weapons. They demanded that the United States stop arming and abetting Israel who has murdered and removed Palestinians from their homes. Bin Laden and al Zawahiri demanded that the United States stop the embargo and bombing of Iraq. So, just as we told the Germans and the Japanese how to avoid our retribution, so did Bin Laden also warn us. Our Bin Laden unit in the CIA, run by Michael Scheuer reported this information in detail, but the intelligence never got to decision makers. As the Islamic radicals were limited to alternative weapons, they decided to steal some jetliners and kill a mass of civilians all at once in order to break the will of the enemy and make him accede to their demands.

Now as you reflect upon the case of 911 and mass civilian bombing in WWII from a moral standpoint, please explain why one is “evil” and the other is not. That same moral problem presents itself in our behavior regards Georgia, South Osettia and Russia. Why is Russia evil to advocate the secession of South Osettia, but Serbia was evil when it opposed the secession of Kosovo? Our foreign policy should have NO considerations or judgments of “good and evil”. That is George Bush’s trademark; you should be wiser than that.

The government has no business labeling anyone or any organizations as evil. When we do we seed the problems that later come back to haunt us. Our actions need to be calculated solely on the possible risks and benefits to the USA. And as libertarians we should understand that the first and most important rule of security is to mind our own business. If we hadn’t meddled in Iran and Iraq and Israel and Palestine and Egypt and Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan, etc., then 911 wouldn’t have happened. We would not be involved in two wars and the Twin Towers would be peacefully looking across the water at New Jersey. Our self-interest is served by having dialogue with everyone, by making friends, and not by the hubris of thinking that we can identify “evil”.

As our government’s eyes look beyond our borders they should be blind to “good and evil”, just as they should be blind to “good and evil” here at home. Our government should simply adhere to the law. When the government makes judgments of good and evil, those judgments will always lead us away from strictly legal actions in the belief that we can bend the rules because what we are doing is “good”. That situational legality will always work against some group of people that are not harming anyone.

You also said that we need a strong intelligence establishment. That stance is antithetical to individual liberty. An intelligence operation requires secrecy to function. If we are to have a government that serves the people and not special interests we need to end the secrecy with which our government now operates. Intelligence organizations regularly break American law and always break international law. Intelligence organizations evolve into covert operations, where they do not only collect information, but actively try to affect other countries through illegal means, which include murder. The most startling reason to abandon our faith in secret intelligence gathering is that it is usually wrong. Look at Iraq for instance. There was some good intelligence, but there was so much bad intelligence that the good intelligence was drowned out. Who was right about Iraq? Historians, journalists with experience in Iraq, weapons inspectors who had spent years in Iraq. Who was wrong? The CIA and the NSA. Billions of dollars does not produce accurate intelligence because the historians and State Department are usually right. In order to justify their very expensive existence the CIA and NSA has to disagree with the State Department and historians, and that is when they start to decide on what they WANT TO find before they find it.

Bob, your answers alienated me from your campaign a bit. I am still going to support your campaign. I am still going to vote for you, but it will be with considerably less enthusiasm than it was last week.

Best regards,

C A Ferrell

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Why We Need To Talk About Politics

We are advised that in polite company we should refrain from talking about politics. We are warned not to talk about politics at family gatherings and we are informed that company policy does not permit conversations about politics at work. The campaign against political discourse is a result of our post-modern, non-offensive American culture. Whatever you do, don’t offend somebody.

This strikes me as dangerous. We live in a Constitutional Republic that depends on an informed and active electorate to send qualified and trustworthy politicians to the State Capitols and to Washington to represent us. If we do not talk about politics with our friends and family, if we don’t share our opinions with co-workers, then our votes will be cast without honing our ideas on the whetstone of give and take conversation. If we don’t talk about our opinions, especially with people we do not agree with, then we really won’t understand what we think.

It is not possible to know your position if you have not practiced how to defend it in a logical and amicable debate. In all probability you will simply be repeating something from the TV or a newspaper, or worse, repeating the talking points of a polished campaign speech. The fact that you cannot logically defend the idea means that you don’t understand it. You will cast your vote as one of the millions of lazy Americans who does not accept the responsibility of suffrage seriously.

Normally the average voter is trained by the mainstream media to scoff at any idea or set of opinions that does not mesh more or less perfectly with the ideas grouped into incoherent bundles by the Democratic and Republican parties. The voter that is informed exclusively by the big six media companies is taught that politics in Americas is and always should be a dualistic system where you are either a Republican “conservative” or a Democrat “liberal”. The only option to those two choices is to position yourself between them as an Independent. The implication is that all the serious solutions to the issues that need attention fall on the scale below. If an idea cannot be located on this scale then it is understood to be crazy and dangerous.

There are hundreds of topic areas in our politics that range from defense planning to the proper role of the Federal government in education to whether we should involve ourselves in all the regional conflicts around the world to whether government should support the price of certain agricultural commodities, etcetera ad infinitum. There are thousands of crucial decisions to be made, but most Americans passively accept that there are only two ways that the myriad issues can be bundled and dealt with.

There is a Democrat bundle and there is a Republican bundle. These bundles are really quite arbitrary and often leave the thinking man or woman with no good choice. For example, a Catholic Christian is taught that he must defend life before any other political considerations. What policies threaten human life?
• Legal executions
• Abortion
• Euthanasia
• War – in particular unjust war
Two of these positions generally fall in the Democrat bundle and the other two generally fall in the Republican bundle. We are led to believe that there is some sense in this distribution, but there certainly isn’t to someone who’s values and sensitivities are not aligned upon the American “liberal” – “conservative” axis. So, in this example the Catholic is forced to do a macabre mental calculation; which kills more, war or abortion? There are many obvious examples of people that do not identify with either of the bundles. Libertarians and others that are interested in individual liberties, but definitely are against the redistribution of resources are forced to make a bad decision if they vote along the Democrat-Republican axis.

There are very good ideas that do not fall on the linear axis of mainstream American politics. The linear axis is the American status quo and all of the power elites like our national discussion to stay on that line. The bankers and stock brokers, the bureaucrats and reporters and corporate executives and marketing professionals and the two big political parties want things to stay just as they are because they are all doing just fine. Either of the two bundles is fine with the ruling elites, either of the political parties are on the same program. No mainstream Democrats or Republicans are going to advocate that we close the Federal Reserve Bank or that we legalize marijuana and other drugs. The mainstream Dems and Republicans know that they have to stick to the script if they want committee positions and lobbyist money to finance their re-elections.

But, there are other political parties. Three have survived marginalization: the Libertarians, the Green Party and the Constitution Party. These parties don’t bundle different policies and ideas like the two mainstream policies. They are located off the linear axis and therefore expand our options exponentially. But if we do not talk about politics we will not hear about the ideas that threaten the status quo. They will be feared or scoffed at by the average American because when the big six media conglomerates mention the smaller parties there are trivialized or made to look dangerous. It is only by conversation that the ideas of the real left and the ideas of the greens and the ideas of the libertarians will propagate from the Internet into the mainstream culture. The people who take the time to learn from alternative sources should talk about it.

How different are the positions of the Republicans and the Democrats? They both supported the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They both supported FISA and the Patriot Act. They both pass legislation allowing the deficit to grow to unpayable amounts. They both support Federal oversight of education. They both believe in income tax and they both want to run the economy, the world and your life. The linear axis of American political dialogue is like reducing the scope of music to one piano that is limited to the scale of C major from middle to high C. No sharps or flats, no high notes, no low notes. No other instruments. It doesn’t matter who plays the piano, its range is so limited that it will always come out about the same. If we want a vibrant government that gives us real options, then we need to get the whole orchestra to play. Lets hear all the instruments, lets thrill to high notes and new sounds.


In order to debate politics we need to learn how to do so in a positive and amicable manner. I am a libertarian; many of my friends are socialists and Greens. We disagree about much more than the Democrats and Republicans disagree about, but we have enlightening, lively and friendly debates. I learn much from them and have changed a number of my opinions after these talks.

But as Americans we are taught that we must always win at any cost. That leads us to view a political discussion as a competition in which we exert ourselves to “win” against our “opponent”. We want the other guy to back down and concede that his argument has been overwhelmed. We all want the confused sot that disagrees with us to learn that he is wrong, but we certainly do not enter into a debate in order to learn something from that fellow. Political discussions start and end as competitions, and that is why most people fervently avoid them. Many discussions descend into shouting and name-calling, or worse. This happens when we feel that our argument is taking on water and we may end up “losing” or looking stupid. So we just raise the volume and try to win the debate by virtue of more decibels.

That is not the way to discuss politics and we’ll never extricate the national debate from the quicksand of the linear scale of ideas if we don’t learn to speak about politics often and to do so with intelligence, patience and humility. So I suggest that to talk politics to an American, do so with as much peace and restraint as you can muster. When he shouts you down, just wait till he runs out of steam. Try to find something worthwhile in his bluster and start again from there. Reason will convince in the end if you have patience and humility. It is also important not to make people feel stupid, even if it is sometimes hard to avoid.

Try to get people to see that there are valid ideas that are not on the D-R Linear Scale. Try to get them to see that the arbitrary bundling of ideas by the two parties forces us all into bad choices. Try to show them how to easily and quickly access alternative news sources. Don’t be too radical or too intense. Let them see that there really are other ideas that are accepted around the world; like that the Palestinians are actually human beings. Show them how to find news on digg and reddit, give them a link to the Guardian and Antiwar and Haaretz and the BBC and Firedoglake and And tell them to talk about politics and help more people get unhooked from the D-R Linear Scale.