The Spark in Nevada

Lenin and the early Bolsheviks believed the world had gotten to a point in its history that the proletariat would revolt. Like a forest full of dried timber baking in the hot sun all that was needed for the Communist Revolution they so desired was for a spark, iskra, to set the forest ablaze. The concept was so important to Lenin that he named his newspaper after it while he lived in exile. It was a continuation of Marx’s belief in the evolution of control over the means of production. Marx looked at the world around him at the height of the Industrial Revolution and saw the dehumanizing impact of life living in the crowded cities and working in the factories. To him this was a natural progression from the dawn of civilization that would inevitably lead to the rising up of the working class to take ownership of the factories they slaved in. Marx expected this revolution to occur in countries on the vanguard of the industrial revolution such as Prussia, France and Great Britain, but except for the brief interlude of the Paris Commune in 1848, socialist uprisings failed to materialize in these countries.

The United States has always had a small contingents of people who wanted nothing more than to be left alone. During the colonial period various groups came to America fleeing religious persecution in continental Europe. The expansion of America westward was led by individualists like Daniel Boone and religious heretics like the Mormons followed by vast waves of immigrants seeking better lives after escaping oppressive regimes in Ireland, Central Europe and Russia. Each individual of that time left a legacy that is written in our DNA as a people. Echoes of the suffering of each Russian Jew arriving penniless in New York City or illiterate Irish woman sleeping with her children on the deck of steamer paddling up the Mississippi from New Orleans can be heard as whispers in our collective unconscious. These unique experiences are why we so frustrate our allies and enemies alike. It is impossible for a Brit to truly understand why Americans instinctively abhor collectivism and celebrate the codified rights of the Constitution that protecting individual liberty. The divisiveness that comes with individual rights also encourages our enemies to see America as a “paper tiger” that will explode into confetti with the right spark, be that a sneak attack on the Pacific fleet while in port or twin skyscrapers in Manhattan.

This is also a lesson that the American left socialized on European collectivist thought has forgotten over the past generation. The American Left has always looked towards the Continent for inspiration but that had been tempered at least somewhat by the home-grown anarchism of Henry David Thoreau and at least found common cause with American libertarians. But sometime over the past forty years being a socialist or progressive has meant believing in the power of the State. This reflects an acceptance by the American Left of “Big Government” European-style Socialism which ironically is in decline in the Scandinavian countries, the UK and Germany. As a consequence anarchists and libertarians who once were considered extreme leftists are now viewed by the American Left as extremist members of the right wing.

Today’s American Left wing now sees the State as its salvation and protector. Unions in the private sector have almost disappeared yet the public sector unions are thriving. In 2011 the Economist reported, “government unionisation has risen from 23% in 1973 to 36% today, while private-sector unionisation has declined from 24% in 1973 to 7% today.” Challenges to state power are no longer coming from the Left as they did in the 1960, but from the Right as exemplified today by the Bundy Ranch standoff in Nevada.

In this dispute the Left stands with the federal government while the Right including the libertarians side with the Bundy family. Progressive groups have gone on the attack including calling for the silencing of Tea Partiers and other supporters of the Bundy family. In It’s Time to be Honest: The Tea Party Has Become a Terrorist Group, Allen Clifton writes,

But the longer these people are given a voice, the more they’ve moved from a political movement to a domestic terrorist organization.  In politics, they’re doing everything possible to sabotage our country for political gain while outside of politics they’re becoming even more brazenly radical than ever before.

And much like traditional terrorists, these domestic tea party terrorists have a main goal of demonizing and destroying the United States government.

Burning Man founder and liberal activist Sean Shealy plans to hold “Bundyfest” promising 30 days of anarchy across from the Bundy Ranch. In a Facebook post Shealy pokes fun at Bundy then ends, “Get a grip, folks. It’s about some cranky old dude and some cows in the middle of a barren desert. And the rule of law.” Rule of law? Coming from the organizer of the largest LSD and Ecstasy bash in the country it’s nice to know Shealy has some boundaries. The Left has come a long way from getting their heads bashed in Chicago in 1968 by the police force of Mayor Richard “The police are not here to create disorder, they’re here to preserve disorder,” Daly.

The Bundy standoff has shown the true face of the American Left. Transport the hippies of 1967 through Time to today and it’s unlikely they’d find the federal government all that groovy. The anti-establishment of that era has become the Establishment.

So now it’s up to the right wing and its individualist supporters to take up the idea of “iskra.” The right wing and old-school libertarians have always had a paranoid fringe, but Edward Snowden’s  revelations of domestic spying along with the IRS persecution of conservative groups exacerbated by the government takeover of health care proves the wisdom of Henry Kissinger’s quote that even paranoids have enemies. Could Bundy be that spark that ignites the conservative base into open revolt?

Cliven Bundy is not a natural leader for everyone who distrusts the government, nor is his issue with the federal government a clear-cut case of abuse of the individual by the State. It would be nice if there was a more appealing leader than a Mormon rancher, and a more obvious case of government persecution, but the mere fact that the Bundy Ranch dispute continues making headlines on both sides of the political divide shows the there is plenty of tinder in the forest. Only time will tell if the Bundy standoff leads to the rollback of federal power.

The Council Has Spoken: April 18, 2014

Council Winners

Non-Council Winners

Council Nominations: April 16, 2014

Council Submissions

Honorable Mentions

Non-Council Submissions

One of the Pope’s Inspirations…

Every pope wants to be as cool as Father Guido Sarducci.

The Real Reason Behind the BLM Attack on the Bundy Ranch

War Is Not The Answer at the Bundy Ranch

I haven’t written much about the Bundy situation in Nevada because when I started delving into the 20 year old issue it quickly became complicated; I’m not that familiar with grazing rights and didn’t feel qualified to judge based on what I’d learned. I’m also active in wildlife conservation and actually do care about animals like turtles.

But what I can comment upon is the way the federal government has responded to the situation. I’m a firm believer in gun safety. I believe you should only point a gun at something you want to destroy. If you don’t want to harm that thing you don’t point your gun at it. Seeing pictures of federal agents pointing guns at protesters and more ominously laying in the dirt with sniper rifles pointing at the Bundy family members bothers me.

I’m also bothered by a government bureaucracy that is tone deaf to any criticism. They’ve let this situation go on for 20 years, and now seem determined to end it regardless of what happens. There are clearly some hot-heads in the BLM who seem determined to spill blood over what is a civil matter that should be resolved in the courts.

One must not forget that such acts breed extremism. For example some on both sides of the political spectrum believe that US interventions overseas breed terrorism, so it’s not a stretch to apply that logic to domestic intervention. Timothy McVeigh justified the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995 on the ATF siege of the Branch Davidian complex in Waco Texas in 1993. We’re left to wonder what would have happened had Waco been resolved without violence.

The BLM may have thought following the standard playbook of a massive display of force would work; it hasn’t. Instead it has inflamed the situation and brought armed militia members to “protect” the Bundy family from an apparently uncontrollable federal bureaucracy. The people surrounding the Bundy ranch are Americans just as those they are pointing their guns at. They have families just as the Bundy’s do. There is no reason why this cannot be settled peacefully but it’s going to require cooler heads to prevail.

The Bundy ranch is a quagmire for the federal government. It needs to resolve the stand-off diplomatically without resorting to shooting Americans. It may not get 100% of what it wants, but a military victory over the family is impossible.

Update: Dead Americans for Chinese solar panels? Looks like Sen. Reid is saving the desert tortoise only to displace them for a Chinese solar panel company. Nothing surprises me anymore.

Update: Looks like cooler heads have prevailed after all. This time.

Update: More on Dirty Harry


There Should Be A Word…

I think there should be a word for people who call others names unfairly. Years ago I was publicly shouted down as a “Nazi” for daring to speak out at a town hall meeting to oppose the expansion of a Chabad Lubavitch prayer center in a residential neighborhood. I found the experience ironic since I was probably a bigger Zionist than some of the leftist Jews in the auditorium. Just this week Mozilla’s CEO Brendan Eich was forced to step down for his donation to a group fighting gay marriage in California 8 years ago. Emily Moulder, writing in the Daily Telegraph, has publicly called Eich a “homophobe” and deserving of losing his job, even though no one has explained how opposing gay marriage makes one homophobic. Either the people throwing around the term don’t understand its weight, or the term itself means nothing. Similarly one of my childhood heroes Hank Aaron has come out and called me and others  “racist” for opposing Obama.

As my friend Adam told me at the time, there is plenty of real anti-Semitism around so making it up isn’t necessary, and the same is true about racism and homophobia. I live among African-Americans, and I also happen to know there are more than a few white supremacists around these parts. Ask me which ones I’d rather hang out with or have my son marry. Similarly I have more gay friends than the average Southerner, and it pisses me off to no end when I hear about the hassles they still have to put up with at the hands of true homophobes. Yet while I support gay marriage, I deplore the attacks on Mozilla’s Eich that led to his resignation. As for racism, I still think Barack Obama is the worst president this country has had since Nixon. Hammerin’ Hank thinks I’m a klansman for believing that. Hank, you disappoint me.

The people who resort to name calling for anyone who disagrees with them deserve their own special derogatory name. They need to be called out and shamed for their behavior just as the true bigots need to be for their action. Anyone who is truly a racist would be proud to be called one. True Nazis aren’t upset about being called Nazi after all. But those who are slandered by your name calling deserve to fight back with their own special word that shames people who attack them unfairly.

I’ll let you know if I come up with something beyond “flaming asshat.”

The Council Has Spoken: April 11, 2014

Council Winners

  • Sixth place t with 1/3 vote – The Glittering Eye -The Distraction

  • Sixth place t with 1/3 vote –The RazorObamacare Tax Is Here for Individuals Too
  • Non-Council Winners

  • Third place with 1 2/3 votes -Victor Davis Hanson-America’s New Anti-Strategy submitted by Bookworm Room

  • Inside Barack Obama’s Mind

    Council Nominations: April 9, 2014

    Council Submissions

    Honorable Mentions

    Non-Council Submissions

    A Concise Review of Flash Boys by Michael Lewis

    Wall Street is rigged more than you thought and at lightning speed.

    Technological Progress: The Hardback Replaces the E-Book

    I did something the other day that I hadn’t done in 2 years: I bought a book. Like many I’d taken to reading books on e-readers, in my case the Amazon Kindle Fire, and after purchasing the Kindle I had thought my book buying days were over. But over time I noticed something: what I read on the Kindle didn’t seem to stick with me as long. I’d even sampled books I had already downloaded and read. Something wasn’t right.

    I began investigating whether there was a link between poor reading comprehension and e-readers. This article, originally published in Scientific American, suggests there is.

    At least a few studies suggest that by limiting the way people navigate texts, screens impair comprehension. In a study published in January 2013 Anne Mangen of the University of Stavanger in Norway and her colleagues asked 72 10th-grade students of similar reading ability to study one narrative and one expository text, each about 1,500 words in length. Half the students read the texts on paper and half read them in pdf files on computers with 15-inch liquid-crystal display (LCD) monitors. Afterward, students completed reading-comprehension tests consisting of multiple-choice and short-answer questions, during which they had access to the texts. Students who read the texts on computers performed a little worse than students who read on paper. (source)

    Around the same time I bought the Kindle, I was having a carpenter install bookshelves in what was going to be our library, and I remember feeling almost nostalgic about the books that were boxed and ready to be placed on the shelves. I’d always taken the measure of a man by the books he read, and the library struck me as a place that told more about him than he perhaps wanted known. It wasn’t just their subjects that gave away their owner’s secrets. Were they paperbacks that were tattered from being carried around backpacks and the backseat floors of cars, dog-eared and marked up with various inks? Or were they pristine collectors edition hardbacks whose spines had never been broken, likely owned and cherished for their spines and little else? If one looked carefully one could even glimpse the reader’s evolution, from paperback science fiction novels of her early teens, to the paperback Tolkien sagas of her college years, followed by the physical science pre-med and medical school textbooks bursting with margin notes and photocopied hand-outs, to the growing number of travel books reflecting a restless soul who needs to wander to exotically named places like Marrakesh and Zanzibar.

    I had to delay my gratification for two days until the hardback arrived in the mailbox, and its cost was approximately double that of the electronic version. But the feel of the book in my hands was like the handclasp, and the smell of the pages was like the old familiar perfume of an old friend. Three days after its reception, it’s due to join the rest of my old friends in the library in the center of our home. The copy of PJ O’Rourke’s Holidays in Hell that has holidayed with me in Africa and Asia. The Stephen Jay Gould collection. The Feynman books. Like all devoured and at my finger tips to be referenced at a moment’s notice.

    The Council Has Spoken: April 4, 2014

    Council Winners

    Non-Council Winners

    Council Nominations: April 2, 2014

    Council Submissions

    Honorable Mentions

    Non-Council Submissions

    The Council Has Spoken: March 28, 2014

    Council Winners

    Non-Council Winners