This is not a political site. This is an anti-political site. We agree with the goals of individual liberty, free markets, and peace, no matter who gets the credit.


Putting a Match to the Leaves We Raked in 2011

As the final leaves fall off the 2011 tree, it's time to jump into the pile and make a few observations about what we raked up here at WhatWeThinkandWhy this past year.

I'm fairly certain that almost everyone who reads this blog was irritated (at a minimum) with something I wrote or something I posted in the sidebar this year. It's not surprising since I picked on Democrats and Republicans with almost equal relish.

Okay, I picked on Democrats more, but only because they are the ones who have made the most progress in the war on freedom lately. Republicans, who regularly fail at whatever they try to do, haven't been able to accomplish that part of their agenda recently. In that regard, gridlock in 2011 was a wonderful thing.

The so called "progressives" (most of whom decided they don't want to be called "liberals" anymore after their stepchildren Fannie and Freddie were shown to be the biggest cause of the housing bust and the ensuing financial chaos) took as much of an intellectual beating on this site as my old brain could muster. But so called "conservatives" who, like their hero GWB, are not really conservatives at all, also got pounded whenever I got the chance. People like Mitt Obama were my most aimed at targets, but since there were so many of them, the accuracy wasn't as good as I would have liked.

So let's look back at some topics that were addressed:

In January we took a look at education and Obama-care.

In February it was taxes and hypocritical politicians from the Republican side.  It also was the month that I made the second most popular post this blog has ever published. It was titled I Was Not Trying to Find Paradise, I was Trying to Escape Hell.

In March I beat on Obama a few times (mostly in a lighthearted way) and praised Ike while concentrating on politicians again.

April was a pretty big month during which some of the most viewed posts were made. We poked more fun at Obama, introduced Gary Johnson and the beginning of the Ron Paul candidacy, and then got serious about budget and monetary blunders before ripping Republicans again. The most important post of the month concerned the imbecilic notion that the country can tax its way out of the debt crisis and featured a terrific video (still appearing on the sidebar) which shows graphically, even to the mathematically and philosophically challenged, exactly why that is so.

May addressed health care lunacy and the issues of social security, medicare and why socialism in general is adolescent. It also was the month when I wrote what I think was my best effort of the year. It was a piece about the childish notions the electorate has come to embrace and why grow-up time is here for sure. It was also the most widely read piece and people from all over the world continue to hit the page almost daily after finding it in a Google search.

June revisited entitlements again and a post about Gary Johnson garnered a ton of interest again as well.

July, August and September are my busiest golf months and most of the posts concerned different politicians and their ideas, good and bad.

October was a month for exposing media incompetence, exploring the goofy OWS movement, and a well read piece about an important issue concerning our rights, capital punishment and the frightening developments in unconstitutional governance. 

November featured a series of interviews with Thomas Sowell, which many of you enjoyed if  private email remarks are an accurate judge. For some reason most of the readers of this blog won't help me out by "voting" in the small polls on the sidebar concerning their enjoyment, or lack thereof, of content in the main section where the posts are found. Oh well, I guess I'll never figure that out. The month also had one of the best received posts of the year. It was titled History, Music and Redemption and people loved the story of the old hymn Amazing Grace. Perhaps it was well received because it lacked any political content.

December wrapped it all up with some videos concerning the Paul candidacy and one important post about how we just lost some of our most important rights. The right of Habeas Corpus was legislatively eliminated. I hope you were alarmed by that piece, but I suspect most people who read it have already relegated the issue to the recesses of their memories. It's hard enough to believe what happened and even harder to keep focusing on it. As a memorable line from a movie went, "Sometimes I think the shit comes down so heavy I need to wear a hat." So we just put on our hats and try to forget news like the post delivered. That's human nature I guess.

In another recent development, I was asked to write for another website on a formal basis and I agreed to do so. The site is The Left Coast Rebel and I have already written a few things for them. That makes three sites (including this one) where my "stuff" is "published."  The Humble Libertarian is the other. So for better or for worse, more people are exposed to my opinions, which are hardly unique, and my writing, which has improved but still remains dreadful on occasion.

A few companies have actually sent me money after reading some of my posts and deciding that having a few links to their sites on old posts that have related content would benefit their clients. That is the reason  for the "Tip Jar" on the sidebar that some of you might have noticed recently.

They paid me via that "Tip Jar" and it wouldn't hurt my feelings if you felt led to drop a few bucks in there as well. I'm sure most of you tip bartenders and waitresses far more for far less effort. (I know I do.) Writing and editing this content is a lot more work that it looks like. But since I do this for the love of liberty, the future of my offspring, and the enjoyment it brings to me personally, a few bucks is just an extra kiss anyway. But who doesn't like kisses? The money is just the lipstick on my editorial collar.

The year end is also another opportunity to thank all of the people who helped the site be better than it otherwise would be. Some sent the articles and pictures that ended up as ideas for some of the subject matter and others like Dan Mitchell of the Cato Institute and Wes Messamore of the Humble Libertarian  graciously allowed us to re-publish some of their work because of their love of liberty and country.

Special thanks to Jim Lakely of the Heartland Institute for giving us the heads-up on published research articles before they become old news. Cato and Heartland are two of the most important and successful organizations ever to dedicate themselves to returning this country to its original intent, partly by exposing the nonsense that passes for contemporary wisdom nowadays. I treasure whatever help I get from them. It is my hope that in some small way I have helped them too.

Lastly, I'd be remiss if I didn't thank my unpaid proofreader for keeping the secret that I can't spell worth a damn and that I make the same punctuation errors endlessly. If my stuff is even partly readable it because of her patience. It's only a part time job for her. Her real job is to be my wife, a much tougher job and one that requires even more patience.

So that's the heap of  "leaves" we raked up here last year. I hope you found value in the content. I hope it made you laugh sometimes and pissed you off sometimes. But mostly I hope you didn't get so pissed off at me that you won't feel led to keep supporting this site. I'm even crazy enough to hope you recommend it to your friends when we rake up something important.

Here's wishing you all the best for the year 2012. It's sure to be one of the most important one in our lives.


Christmas Tradition

With Christmas upon us it is time to temporarily put aside the presentations of the concepts and ideas that have inspired this blog to exist.

The last few years I have put videos on the sidebar of some of my favorite Christmas music performed by artists whose renditions I thought were top notch. And last year after a friend sent me the one below which shows a planned "flash mob" presentation of the Hallelujah Chorus performed at the food court of a shopping mall it quickly became a favorite. Many of you have seen it.

As often as I have watched it, I never tire of listening to the superb voices of the 100 or so performers. So I have decided to make it a tradition on the blog.

From my family to yours, we wish you the happiest Christmas possible and we have the highest hope that next year will bring you blessings in abundance.


Leno and Ron Paul on the Tonight Show - Conclusion

Here are the last three full segments of the interview we started yesterday. Please leave your "vote" on whether you found them useful in the poll on the right. It only takes a second and it's totally anonymous. I have received several comments that the information is more clear than in the debates, which relatively few people have watched.


Jay Leno Interviews Ron Paul on the Tonight Show - Part One

New poll results 12-19-11

After missing the Tonight Show appearance of Ron Paul the other night, perhaps because I haven't watched a late night talk show in a few decades, I stumbled upon these videos and it occurred to me that it was likely that many of you might have missed it too.  And also having been informed by readers that the series of interviews of Dr. Thomas Sowell that we ran here recently was well received, it seemed like a fit when I came across these YouTube videos of the interview.

We may be able to learn more about a candidate's positions in this kind of a setting than from a "gotcha contest" masquerading as a debate. Of course it has to be done correctly or it can turn into a circus or a love fest. After watching part one it seems this one is neither, so let's give it a go to see if we can learn anything of use.

Most of the Republican debates so far have been more political theater than anything else. It can be argued that on that level they have had some success. But I'm not sure that they have succeeded as well at being a device for shedding light on a candidate's positions and vision for leading the executive branch of our federal government.

Here is part one. Please let me know in the poll box on the right if you find it/them to be useful or enlightening.


Just in Time for "Bill of Rights Day", The Police State Has Arrived In America

Do you think the title to this piece is over the top? I'm sure some of you do. But I can assure you that I'm serious. And as you celebrate Bill of Rights Day today (12-15) you might want to give some thought to the irony of what is going to happen to one of those rights as things unfold on the glorious national holiday that no one has ever heard of.

There are quite a few fundamental rights that we all used to take for granted because we lived in a "free" country. Many of those rights have been watered down so much by various laws that they have effectively been taken away from us. The list is pretty long, but even if there were just one item on it, it would be too long for crazy, inflexible people like me.

The President is about to sign into law a power he has coveted for some time. You can read what others are saying,The Guardian in the UK has an excellent piece.  The vast majority of Americans are clueless about what just happened in congress and even if they did know, I'm not convinced they would care. 

Just as many were not opposed to rampant wiretapping in the past, because "if you don't do anything wrong, you have nothing to fear", many will not be alarmed by this new law because, "I'm not a terrorist, so the government won't revoke my right to a fair trial by a jury of my peers."

In case you were distracted by events in the Russian elections recently, I'll tell you what you missed here at home that might remind one of what happens routinely in Russia. The right of Habeas Corpus was just suspended.

As part of the defense authorization bill that funds the US military, the President himself can decide to detain anyone, American citizens included, indefinitely - perhaps at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba - if he suspects that they are a terrorist.  And he would use the military itself to do so. On suspicion alone, no formal arrest, no rights given, no attorney, no arraignment, no trial, no judge, no jury. 

People as diverse as Senator Rand Paul and Senator Dianne Feinstein opposed this bill, the latter saying; "Congress is essentially authorizing the indefinite imprisonment of American citizens, without charge," she went on, "We are not a nation that locks up its citizens without charge."

But those that prevailed, led by Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, argued otherwise. The latter saying; “It is not unfair to make an American citizen account for the fact that they decided to help Al Qaeda to kill us all and hold them as long as it takes to find intelligence about what may be coming next,” remarked Graham. “And when they say, ‘I want my lawyer,’ you tell them, ‘Shut up. You don’t get a lawyer.’”

Even Comedy Central got this one right when they summed it up by saying; "while the Bush administration just assumed that the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force empowered them to imprison people without charges, the Obama administration will have these provisions formally codified. Rule of law, baby!"

So, happy Bill of Rights Day. You needn't worry too much right now about whether you personally will be detained indefinately and denied your rights as an American citizen. Most likely, you will not be. What will happen in the future is anyone's guess.
But if you are as concerned about this as I am, and if someone asks you what state you live in, just answer, Police. That way you can go "over the top" with me without taking the trouble to explain it all.


You have to Balance Your Budget, the Government is not Different

As Ron Paul moves into a statistical tie for the lead in the Iowa polls a few weeks before the caucuses there, his son Rand Paul, US senator from Kentucky, rises on the floor to make a short speech about the balanced budget amendment to the constitution.

Speaking common sense (as he always does), he makes the case for fiscal sanity and the possibility of saving the country from committing monetary suicide. Absent dementia, even people who love big government programs (both on the right and the left) understand that you cannot go on borrowing money to pay for them indefinitely.

If Rand were running for President, he would be my first choice, but it isn't his time yet. So I keep hoping his father will gain the nomination and choose him as his VP candidate. It's a hope that seems far-fetched. But so did his father's chances just a few months ago.

Some would call me crazy, but I think they would win the election against Obama handily. Rand Paul connects with people on a personal level, even as his father's ideas connect in spite of his perceived grouchy demeanor.

No matter what happens in that election, before we can even think about regaining our lost freedoms, we need to avert a catastrophe that will certainly occur if the imbeciles in Washington don't seriously address the inevitable collapse of our monetary system caused by the massive, unsustainable national debt.

The budget deficits are the cause, the debt is the issue, and the spending is the actual problem. We must have balance to survive as a nation, just as your household needs balance for you to survive as a family.


Some Anecdotal Evidence That Jobless Benefits Make Things Worse

Kudos to Dan Mitchell over at International Liberty for finding this letter to the editor in the Marietta Times from an employer who was actually trying to hire people to expand his business, but has been thwarted by the state government's unemployment insurance program (which recently turned into a federal giveaway program). Dan wrote a blog post about the phenomenon this morning, and it's well worth the few moments spent reading it because it has some excellent links to information about what he describes as the "perverse impact" that unemployment "insurance"* has on actual employment. 

As I have previously explained in an earlier, well read piece titled  The Best Place to be Poor anecdotal evidence can be used to mislead people. But it always has some truth to it as well, and it's often a good way to illustrate a point. In this case, the letter describes what happened to one construction company when it tried to expand last year and hire some new workers to do so. Here are some excerpts to start you off:

"The plan was initiated, the additional contracts were signed up and then we set out to hire the employees. Little did I know that attempting to hire the employees needed, which I had thought to be the easiest part, would turn out to be a nightmare if not impossible. I'm sure that reading this you will be almost as surprised as I was directly experiencing it.
My experience: Before 2009 if our company advertised for an open position, on average we would get 20 to 30 applications, interview six to eight of the applicants, and hire one or two, based on the quality and potential of the candidates. This process has been deteriorating dramatically since 2009 and now at the end of 2011 it has completely hit bottom. Of all the applications that we have received this year, when asked why they were seeking a job with us, one out of three answered: my unemployment is running out and I have to go back to work. Earlier this year after I hired two new full-time employees, went through our company's orientation process, fitted them with our work clothing and booked them to start within a week, they both quit. One called ahead of the start date to apologize but wanted to inform us he would not be coming in because the government had just extended unemployment benefits again. The second one just did not show on his first day and when I called him he said he couldn't come in now because unemployment had been extended and he was making almost as much as we were planning to start him out with. If this is not frustrating enough to those of us that provide jobs and pay taxes let me give you my last two attempts this year." 
As you can see, no matter what you read that informs you to the opposite, common sense tells you that people would rather sit on their ass (if they are getting paid to) than answer to a boss and be held accountable for their contributions. It's just easier. And when it comes to sense, the common type is usually the best kind.
It's just one reason that government benefits, while trying to make things better, often make them worse.

* (quotations on the word, insurance, are mine)


The Government Has an Erection For You

As I wrote recently in an article for The Left Coast Rebel titled A Liberal Dose of Viagra , Chris Matthews may have lost that tingle up his leg for Barack Obama. But many other people on both sides of the political spectrum have not lost their "excitement" for big government even in this era of pretend austerity. For those that love the government gift-machine, the times have been very good indeed.

As to the title of this piece, you read it right. It seems the decision makers in the Medicare division of the cradle to grave government bureaucracy decided to ask our older male citizens if they were still able to "firm up" the deal. And if their medical records indicated they needed a little help, they could be provided with “Male Vacuum Erection Systems".  An "erector set" of sorts for the white hair crowd, also known as a penis pump. And just in time for Christmas!

Actually, it's been going on for many years, not just during the holiday season, but I couldn't resist. However, I did resist putting a picture of an actual penis pump on this post instead of the family friendly one you see.

It seems that over the last ten years the price of this equipment has been rising with the anatomy. (Artificial demand will do that to things.) In 2001 it only cost the taxpayers 11 million to help the geezers get it up to snuff but by 2010 the cost had risen (no pun intended) to 47 million.

And as Everett Dirkson once said, a few million here and a few million there and pretty soon you are talking about real money! The cost to taxpayers by the end of this year will surpass a whopping Quarter-Billion dollars. 

All this information came to me from our friends over at the Heartland Institute when Jim Lakely, the Director of Communications at that fine think tank gave me a heads up via email that the article by Benjamin Domenech on this subject was being published in The Heartlander today.

Unfortunately, before I could "get to press" on this piece, Matt Drudge broke the story with a link to the article this morning. It really ticks me off when a tiny site like the Drudge Report gets the drop on my huge blog, even when I have a head start.

But it got me to thinking; If the government wants one old guy to get excited, they could just talk Drudge into putting a link on his website to WhatWeThinkAndWhy and the country could save plenty on Male Vacuum Erection Systems. At least for one old blogger. And just in time for Christmas!


A Tough and Smart Kid - Thomas Sowell, Part Five

Today we take a look at the fifth and final video in our series with Thomas Sowell.

I hope you have enjoyed the series. If so please leave a comment or enter an answer in the little poll on the right so I can decide whether to run similar series in the future on other interesting and important people who are not normally covered by the main stream media. There are many who are not widely known outside of "freedom" circles.

In this final part of the interview he answers questions on a range of issues including Obama's failed presidency, who might replace him, and whether it matters. We get a good sense of who Sowell is and what shaped his life. He finishes with his advice for young people today. They would do well to heed that advice, but then again, so would we all.


History, Music and Redemption

Whether it's good ideas, interesting writing, witty humor, important information or videos which deliver some or all of those things, a great blog post is made from great content. On this site I do my best to deliver those things. Sometimes I even succeed.

I write about and post things that I see, hear or just think about. Things I think are important. Many of them concern ideas about freedom or people and events that somehow connect to freedom issues. Some might say this is a political site, but even though it's hard to escape from politics in these times of tumult, I hope it's more than that.

History is one of my loves. So is music. And like so many others, I'm fascinated by the battle between good and evil. So when all three of those things come together in one place, it's impossible to resist sharing them.

One of my favorite musical pieces is the hymn, Amazing Grace. And the history behind it's creation is an incredible story of good, evil and redemption. It's a story I only learned a few years back, long after I fell in love with the melody and power of the song.

The story of John Newton, who wrote the words, is as inspirational as they come. If you don't know the history, do yourself a favor and follow the link, you won't regret it. His fall from grace and final return to receive it again is classic. But as it now turns out, (and as is often the case) I only knew half the story.

The other half of the story concerns Negro Spirituals, the black keys on the piano, the "slave scales" and the writer of the music itself. Someone known only as "Unknown." I will never listen to the hymn the same way again. For me, it used to be special, now it is delicious.

After watching the video below, I can almost feel the pain and suffering of the groaning victims of slavery and the different kind of pain and ultimate redemption of one of those who perpetrated it upon them.

If you feel it too, then this will be better than the usual post on this blog. I hope it will be a great post because of the great content.

Many thanks to Bobbie Rendleman for posting the video link on Facebook.


It's Almost Too Late Already - Special Interests Gone Wild

The biggest special interest group in America is right on the edge of the "No Turning Back" point.

Like the city of Chicago, where almost everyone has a relative or friend who might be negatively impacted by any meaningful reform of government, the country is about to be caught in the same downward spiral.

Most people claim to want reform but are understandably unwilling to put their livelihood or that of their friends or family on the line to get it. It's the reason there is one party rule in Chicago. And now the whole country is in danger of heading down that path-of-no-return.

There is always a lot of talk about the evils of partisanship and "gridlock" in government, but in my view, there is broad agreement among those inside the Democratic/Republican combine about one thing: big government is good for both sides of this same political coin.

It only looks like gridlock. It's actually just a squabble about which group of clowns has the power to operate  the circus. And in this circus, you and I will be left to shovel up after the donkeys and elephants when the tent finally folds up.

Thanks to Dan Mitchell for this excellent video. Be sure to read his post today at International Liberty where the title is Bureaucrats Gone Wild.


Baseball Fans are Geniuses Compared to Politicians - From Babe Ruth to Marxism With Thomas Sowell

Part four in our five part video interview with Dr. Sowell explains why he remained a baseball fanatic long after he lost his interest in Marxism. This one has an analysis of the swings of Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth. Political junkies and sports enthusiasts both will enjoy this one.


Look Ma, No Teleprompter!

It's odd that one of the few places that someone can view an entire half hour of a logical presentation of what a candidate thinks and why is a you-tube provider from, of all places, Russia.

I was lucky enough to find this video on my Facebook feed by way of the Cato Institute. They posted it via a source named "Russia Today." It is a video of Presidential candidate Dr. Ron Paul's presentation recently at the 29th annual Cato Monetary Conference where he gave a speech for the National Association of Home Builders.

You won't find any soaring rhetoric or a polished stump speech when you watch it. And you may notice as he speaks that he doesn't have a teleprompter or read from a prepared text. Once in a while he glances down at what must be the list of topics that he wants to cover in his talk.

I understand that the video is thirty minutes long and that now-a-days many of us do not have the time or attention span to watch it all at once, (I plead guilty myself) but so far, there is no law prohibiting you from bookmarking this page and returning as time allows. I promise that it will be worth it to know where a candidate stands even if you decide you don't agree with everything (or even anything) he says.

With the most important election in the history of the nation* less than a year away and the final selection of candidates even closer, why let the spin-masters at the big networks and/or the slanted and incompetent newspapers feed you the latest "horse race" statistics about the candidates in lieu of actual information about what they will do if they become President?

Knowing who made the latest gaffe or has the most baggage won't matter a whit if we end up choosing between two goofs again because we couldn't stand the other guy and our final choice was our "lesser of two evils" selection once more.

* Not because of who will be elected, but because it may be the last chance to change the philosophy of ever expanding government power before the final tipping point is reached. (If Romney or one of his ilk are elected it will be the same thing as picking Obama again, we will just reach the bottom at a slower pace.)


Fact Check Time as Paul Ties for the Lead in Iowa Presidential Poll

A lot of people, including much of the media, wish Ron Paul's inconvenient candidacy would just go away. But to their amazement, things don't always happen according to the way they have scripted them.

Here's a news story that points that out and examines Dr. Paul's actual positions as opposed to the nonsense being pushed by the establishment big wigs of both political parties. They are terrified that people might actually make up their own minds instead of being led through the election process by their noses in the usual manner.

It remains to be seen whether people will choose to regain some of their liberties or choose to complete the process of giving themselves over to government control and crony capitalism. But they deserve to know that they have the option.


Transparent Lunacy

As the old saying goes; "You can't make this stuff up!"

Today's story of why we should be ashamed to have elected the idiots who run this country is tragically humorous. And that so many people had to be involved in this without seeing the irony would be amazing except that it's not out of context with the whole sorry state of affairs we find ourselves mired in. Therefore, it's sadly predictable.

But we must keep on smiling to get through it all, so enjoy a little levity as you go about your daily activities.

From a Politico posting.

Spot the irony in Vice President Biden’s schedule today, from the White House’s daily guidance:

“At 1:00 PM, the Vice President will attend a meeting of the Government Accountability and Transparency Board in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. At 2:30 PM, the Vice President will meet with representatives of the National Sheriffs' Association in the Roosevelt Room. These meetings are closed to press.”

(It was only two months ago that State Department officials briefed reporters on transparency efforts but refused to have their names be printed; and in March, the White House postponed a pooled-press ceremony for President Obama to get an openness award -- it was later rescheduled and carried out in an undisclosed meeting.)


Love, Marriage and Village Idiots - Thomas Sowell Part Three

Part three of our five part series of interviews with Dr. Thomas Sowell deals in part with love, of all things. I can't remember another economist covering that topic in all the reading I have done over the years by people in that profession.

Are married people better off than unmarried domestic partners? What about STDs and sex education in schools? Let's look at the evidence with Dr. Sowell.


One Year Out From the Election of Our Lives

Making predictions about elections is a fool's errand, but I'm just fool enough to do it anyway. And there is very little downside to doing so because no one expects you to be right and whatever you predict is forgotten almost as fast as it hits the page. So you can brag to people who don't care if you turn out to be correct and no one will remember if you are wrong. So here goes;

The mid-term elections of 2010 were only the opening battles in the political war for the future of the teetering republic. The people who wanted to reject Obama-care and what they see as socialism (or the direct path toward it) won pretty handily in those elections. But for them, it is only the beginning. And for those who favor ever larger and more intrusive government, it may have just been a temporary setback on the way to what they see as a more "fair" society.

From my perspective, the coming election is probably the last chance freedom loving people have before the point of no return is reached. Unless there is a repudiation of Obama and his followers next November, Obama-care will remain, the debt crisis (an actual crisis, not to be confused with alleged global warming and other manufactured bugaboos) will lead to the destruction of the currency and most other issues will shrink to insignificance. By my reckoning, the tipping point will have been reached.

Many may think that assessment is over the top. Clearly, I do not. So where do we stand with just a tad less than a year before we get to the fateful election of 2012?

The Republican party, by default the last chance to stop the descent, is currently in shambles. Deservedly so. They have been partners with the Democrats in the decline. Differing only on details and scope, but never on the philosophy that government exists to fix societal problems, they share the blame. (There are a few exceptions, such as Ron Paul, Gary Johnson and a handful of newly elected Tea Party favorites.)

So far, none of the current crop of Presidential candidates on the Republican side have inspired a majority of those who will ultimately choose the candidate to rally behind them. In my opinion, if they nominate Mitt Romney or his ilk, even if he is ultimately elected, the Republican Party is finished. And if so, I say good riddance. That opinion will not endear me to Republicans but most of them aren't in love with people like me anyway, so, oh well.

So here are the choices. Since Obama is not getting a primary challenge, it's him against one of the following:
Romney, Gingrich or Paul.

Santorum and Huntsman never were a factor. Gary Johnson, a legitimate candidate, was never allowed by the media to be considered so he never was a factor either. Michelle Bachmann's star was burnt out in only a few short weeks, and only shone at all because she wasn't Romney. Rick Perry led the opinion polls for the briefest of moments and also because he wasn't Romney. His popularity has been on a slide that coincides almost exactly with the amount that is known about him. The more people know, the less they want him to be President.

Which leaves Herman Cain. He has already started to fade, and despite what the talking heads and political know-it-alls say, it's not because of the allegations that he made some ladies uncomfortable. It's because of the "Rick Perry syndrome", the more people see of him the more they know Cain is not ready for the biggest job in the world.

Cain continuously displays a lack of knowledge about important topics and has already used up his allotment of forgivable gaffes and backtracks. His 9-9-9 plan is a non-starter among Democrats and Republicans in legislative reality and was only useful as a debate tactic. His use of it to answer any question, no matter how unrelated, has worn itself out.

For Cain, the questions will only get tougher as the process advances and his lack of depth on the issues will only become more apparent. Only dreamers think he wouldn't be thrashed by Obama in debates and in the general election. Even the hapless Republicans aren't suicidal enough to nominate him. And that was before he all but announced yesterday that he is actually running for VP or even a cabinet position.

Therefore I make the following prediction, something only a fool like me would do with a year left before the big choice is made. Romney will not be the nominee. He has an excellent chance to win in New Hampshire early, but that will be the high water mark of his candidacy. Most Republicans don't want him as the nominee, he is too much like Obama.

That means it's between Gingrich and Paul. And it's not the worse choice for Republicans to have. It will be a clear choice between being comfortable with a change of captains for the foundering ship of state (from Obama to Gingrich in the hope that we can get free from the reef which will surely sink us otherwise) or the choice to take the uncomfortable but necessary option of returning to a constitutional course that leads to a completely different way of governing ourselves than the current generation has ever known.  And make no mistake, the Paul choice is uncomfortable for most people.

It's usually human nature to take the comfortable option. But it's my hope that, as a nation, we still have the ability to step out of our comfort zone and do what we must do to regain our liberty. Whatever people choose, now is not the time for comfort, so if they pick Gingrich, I hope it's not for that reason.

So even as I make these predictions, I don't know what the American people will choose to do, either with the Gingrich/Paul choice or the Obama/Republican candidate choice. But I do know that we have reached decision time, not just on candidates, but on the whole governing philosophy we will move forward with. And no matter what we choose, things will never be the same as they are now.

In that regard, Obama was finally right about something when he talked about change coming. One year from now things are going to change, in the election of our lives.


Puzzling Over the Lefty Love-fest for Ron Paul

A curious phenomena has manifested itself lately as left wingers continue to fawn over Presidential candidate Ron Paul. This blog has chronicled it before.

Jon Stewart -who pretends to be a journalist on a comedy show- started the whole thing when he decided he couldn't afford to be left a block behind the parade of his fans who were defecting to the Paul way of thinking on a number of issues. And it has continued with the three liberals (two of whom also pretend to be journalists) in the video below as they fawn over him in a way usually reserved for Democrats only. It's quite amazing, to me anyway.

Perhaps they guess that they can safely pander to some of their Democratic viewers and a whole slew of anti-war and anti-federal reserve college students. Some of whom might actually vote for Paul in a one on one match-up with the totally inept failure that Barack Obama turned out to be, because they see him as unlikely to get the Republican nomination anyway. It also doesn't hurt that they know that tons of Neo-Con Republicans are outraged at anyone who gets any accolades at all from liberals like them. ( For those who want to delve deeper into these issues and if you want to learn more about politics, accredited online
colleges have information on classes

I discount the idea that they fawn over him because they actually would like to see his candidacy succeed or him actually become President so he can begin the long process of dismantling their beloved welfare state.

So I'm puzzled by it, but it's not worrisome to me since I spend most of my time in that state.


From Marx to Reagan to OWS - Thomas Sowell's Journey - Part Two

In this second in the series, Dr. Sowell explains why he was a Marxist at 19 and why he became a freedom advocate thereafter. Commentary on perceptions about Reagan and even the OWS mindset are touched on as well.


Our Marines Need Better Training

One of our trained researchers here at WHAT WE THINK AND WHY recently submitted this news article for consideration and it got me to thinking.

Trained researcher Butch will receive a big raise for submitting this fine article.
I have often cautioned people to be careful when trying to navigate those tricky curbs. Call me a meanie, but I don't feel too sorry for this guy because he was an alleged perpetrator of Shoplifting. (not the same as stealing)  And I absolutely don't understand why our US Marines don't receive better training in accident prevention. After all, their primary job is peace keeping and other humanitarian endeavors. 

This poor chap was the victim of poor choices, probably because he was destitute and came from a poor environment. And since he was undoubtedly abused by big banks and other greedy capitalists it's not entirely his fault, but he would have been better off to remain at the OWS protests instead of taking a side trip to Best Buy. 

I think the answer is better training for our troops and free laptops for everyone so victims like him won't be forced into poor decisions. His new therapist, who just got hired after being downsized by ACORN will no doubt counsel him to make better choices when he recovers from his unfortunate injuries. 

I think we need a new federal job training program so he can learn something useful, like how to become a community organizer or something else productive. That program will also serve to stimulate the economy and create jobs.  It's a great country. Who knows, a person with such a background can rise to any level here. 


From Marxist to National Treasure - A Journey With Thomas Sowell

Today's post begins the first of a series of  five videos featuring an interview with Dr. Thomas Sowell. Some of you who have a subscription to this site or are otherwise regular readers know about him to some degree or another. But even (and maybe especially) those who know quite a bit about him will be delighted with this series. For the rest of you, I hope this is an introduction to a person, his history and his ideas that you will treasure, as I have, like a photograph of a beloved member of our family, the American family.

The interviews cover a wide range of topics from politics to poetry and from Babe Ruth to Barack Obama. At eighty one years of age, he has the wit, wisdom and knowledge that men half his age aspire to. And although he has plenty to be angry about, he never seems to be.

The discussion centers around his new book, The Thomas Sowell Reader, which I will be obtaining (shameful hint to Christmas shoppers) to add to my collection of his books.

Most of you do not have the time to sit and watch all five segments at once so I'll be running them one at a time on a regular basis so you can make the enjoyment last. I liken it to a large bowl of intellectual ice cream eaten with a very small spoon. Enjoy.


Who's on the Menu?

Recently I watched a sports analyst respond to a question from a worried looking reporter concerning the NBA labor/management "crisis" that threatens to delay or cancel the professional basketball season. His comment was that he didn't get too worked up about who would prevail in an argument over money between super rich team owners and multimillionaire athletes.

So with all the recent news coverage of the OWS protests/camp outs - and the fussing over them by everyone on every side of every issue who think they can advance themselves or their cause by doing so - I thought it might be time to look at the whole thing from a so far under-explored  perspective. A world wide perspective, if you will.

Leaving aside the drunk, drug addled or otherwise mentally impaired contingent of the progressive/populist "movement", I think it's time to examine the thinking of the so called "99 percenters" who might actually be able to think about why they are there.

From the perspective of most of the world's population, it must be amusing on some level to see these people agitating to "eat the rich", since compared to the vast majority of the world the protesters are themselves relatively rich.

For most of the world, getting the next meal and staying warm and dry are the primary activities even when not engaging in protest movements. The really blessed among them spend the rest of their time trying to figure out how to save whatever piddling amount they might have left over so they can exist if they ever need a day off from those activities. To the extent that they have the time to observe the US follies, they have to be on the same page as the above mentioned sports commentator.

Among those who, via capitalism in even tiny doses, have escaped somewhat from the grinding poverty that is historically typical in the world, it must seem queer that people with i-pods, i-pads and i-phones would sleep in tents and pound drums to try to discredit or dismantle that system.

So in looking at the motives of those who have bought into the progressives' class warfare rhetoric, let's be clear that the "greed" under attack is basically the same as the "envy" of the attackers. The so called rich are greedy to keep what they have and the self proclaimed 99 percenters are greedy to get what others have.

The difference between the Tea Party and the OWS is that the former are opposed to government bailing out anyone, while the latter just want their cut of the action when it comes to student loans and the like.

In my mind, all of us should be angry with anyone who games the system. That includes bankers and brokers and agribusiness and any other businesses who get rich from associations with politicians and government programs. But it also includes favored solar businesses, double dipping union "teacher for a day" pensioners, recipients of government largesse in the form of student loan subsidies, "affordable housing" loans to people who never could or will not repay as well as bailed out auto unionists. But to be angry with those who game the system without being angry at the system itself is ludicrous. 

So when the OWS crowd demands that the not so rich eat the relatively rich they better hope the whole world doesn't show up for the banquet.  They should keep in mind, if the whole world decides to eat the rich, the vast majority of the OWS people are on the menu too.


Why the Cain Ascendancy is Good News for Ron Paul

The manner of coverage of Presidential elections by the so called news media usually focuses on the "horse race" aspects of the campaigns. And for someone who reads as much political crapola as I do, I try to ignore that nonsense as much as is possible. But it is fascinating, even if it should be irrelevant, so I plead guilty to some bottom feeding here. I'm never as far above the fray as I'd like to be, indeed I fail more often than I succeed. So let's descend together and take a look at the horse race for a bit.

The current President seems to have decided on his strategy for trying to be the worst President to ever be re-elected. It's nothing novel in politics, but rather an old tried and true plan. You just give stuff away as fast as you can and see how many of the simple minded or morally corruptible electorate you can attract in an attempt to turn your re-election chuck wagon into a bandwagon.

In the last few days Obama has circumvented the constitutional process once again as he announced that he intends to change the rules for underwater home owners so they can re-finance their mortgages with taxpayer's money if they were fortunate enough to have had their obligations purchased by the fascist* entities Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

And today it was announced that he would exercise executive authority to jigger the system for student loans so that he buy the student vote that he enjoyed for free the last time out. He figures these younger voters can be bought for a few dollars a month as long as they were dim witted enough to have not learned a thing in college during the time since he was elected and this cynical move was made.

It remains to be seen if it's that easy but he has history on his side since they fell for all that nonsense about hope and change last time. So we shall see, but it didn't work out so well for the Illinois Governor (Blaggo) Obama so enthusiastically endorsed because that guy is on his way to a stretch in the federal pen despite having employed the exact same strategy.

But as long as we're talking about campaign strategy and such instead of addressing concepts and ideas, (which is what I usually at least try to aspire to) let's take a look at what has happened to the early front runners in the Republican primary race as they rise and fall faster than the stock market.

No one of sound mind who actually wants real change from the disastrous course we are on is a true Mitt Romney supporter, but he has a lot of votes from the "anybody who can beat Obama" crowd. So even though he can be found as "Obama lite" on your presidential beer menu, he has seen some amount of steady, if unenthusiastic, support in the polls. He is first choice of the left leaning media for certain.

But among rational people the game plan has been to find an "anybody who can beat Romney" candidate to take Obama on. So let's look at those who have occupied that spot and what has happened to them since they were "scrootened" by the media when they reached the top.

First there was Michelle Bachmann who dropped like a rock in the polls after a few gaffes and a little more scrutiny. She is currently at about 1% support.

Then there was Rick Perry who zoomed to the front of the race as soon as he announced his candidacy but before he was scrootened in the debates. He has dropped to  fifth place as he tries to figure out if he can regain some sparkle with a fresh look at Obama's birth certificate, a strategy meeting with nut job Donald Trump, and a new stab at the flat tax proposal that Steve Forbes championed way back when.

Leaving aside all those who were hopeful they could be the "Anybody but Romney" candidate when their candles flickered out before they could be seen, (Tim Pawlenty, Huntsman , Santorum, etal.) we have next "flame out" candidate Herman Cain as the front runner.

Herman is a nice guy (as I have written about) who is clearly in over his head in his first at bat against political major league pitching. Realistically, his 9-9-9 plan is a non-starter after being scrutinized by both the left and the right and his early gaffes (mostly forgiven so far), bizarre new TV ad, and lack of funding and professional staff even in the early primary states tell me that he will be an easy target and I predict he will not make the final cut when all is said and done and the actual voting starts.

If I am correct and he fades, what will the final four look like? Assuming Romney doesn't totally flop (one can only hope) in New Hampshire and Iowa, that leaves Perry, Paul and old standby Newt Gingrich to oppose him.

Many pundits have dismissed Gingrich and Paul long ago and might have a hard time backtracking, but one thing is for sure, Paul is in it for the long haul because he has tons of money coming in from tens of thousands of small donors in the so called "money bombs", has extensive organisations on the ground in almost all the states, and he has the most enthusiastic supporters of anyone left in that group. He also has the track record of consistency and willingness to take on the media from both sides of political spectrum. Additionally, he is a known quantity. No surprises are coming because everyone already knows who he is, what he stands for and that he won't be flip flopping, because he never has before. So there is no "flash in the pan" dimension to his candidacy that would allow a fade away like the others.

Paul also has the advantage of being the most different from Obama and his ideology of any other candidate. His campaign against Obama will provide America with a choice of directions that will be more stark than any in modern history. A chance to choose between big government socialism or constitutional Americanism. 

Predicting elections and political trends is a fools errand. So even though I have been called a fool on more than one occasion, sometimes correctly, I won't prove it this time by doing that. But I will tell you what I think might happen now that things are starting to get closer to actual elections. My fools errand scenario goes like this;

After Cain proves only to be  the "leader du jour", and the voting starts, Paul will benefit from lower expectations by the media as Romney fades away after disappointing the higher expectations he never deserved. Perry never shows broad enough support in (or at) the polls except from donors and people start to look at Newt as a possible resurrected savior. Could it end up to be Paul vs Gingrich on "Super Tuesday?"

Politics is strange. Maybe not as strange as this scenario, but strange nevertheless. A Paul win would provide clarity in the general election. And clarity is something I think the country is ready for.

Potential employers and the stock market love clarity. But personally, I for one would just love to know whether it's time to rebuild the country or start stocking up on shelter supplies and hoarding precious metals.

*One good definition for the word fascism is ; an economic system where property is privately owned but government controlled.


OK, I Finally Know What the OWS Protesters Want

It had been so unfocused before, but after this lady explained it, I finally understand.

Hat tip to Captain Miller for finding this gem. We are giving him a 50% pay raise.


No Citizen Should be Left Behind on This Education Law

Rand Paul isn't running for President, but in my opinion he should be. We need some straight talk and some rational non-Washington thought before perpetuating this arrogant law. Common sense is becoming a lost art.

Regaining Our Rights by Blacking Out the News Media

News media bias has been debated for a very long time and much of the debate has centered on whether bias exists in the first place. Of course, the people in the media have either denied it or said that only the amount that can be attributed to individual human frailty existed and in any case was balanced out by the sheer numbers of contributors.

Even though they do their best to paint those who claim a left leaning bias as loony conspiracy theorists, many of us are not buying that line. We have seen first hand that it exists in many forms, from the recent crazily slanted coverage of the two separate political movements known as the "Tea Party rallies" and the "Occupy everywhere camp outs" to the way the Republican presidential candidates must debate the "moderators" before they can debate each other. It's so obvious it pains me to watch as some folks twist themselves into pretzels to claim otherwise.

I wouldn't classify the problem as much more than an annoyance for the most part. After all, there are still enough alternate sources for the news that people (if so inclined) can figure things out without too much trouble. The Internet has broken the monopoly the networks had on national news. Even relatively small blogs like this one have an impact because there are so many of them.

Having said that, the most insidious type of bias is the kind that is used to decide what is and what isn't news and then use that tactic to decide for us things we need to decide for ourselves. The news blackouts are the most dangerous bias the "news" media uses to usurp our liberties.

It's not some grand conspiracy, it's the natural result of the wishes of people who really desire to shape events rather than report on them. And why not just ignore people and events that do not fit our narrative? It's human nature. But whatever the reason, and whether or not you excuse the people who practice the deceit as "absent malice", the effect on your rights is the same.

What liberties am I talking about? The one I have in mind is the right to choose our own candidates for office.

Back in the now defunct USSR, elections for office were held on a regular basis. But since there were only approved and selected candidates on the ballot, (often only one) very few bothered to vote. People knew it was a sham. And in this country, the turnout for elections is abysmal for similar if not exact reasons.

People simply don't turn out for elections when they hold candidates of both parties in equal contempt. The candidates are selected in a process that is so convoluted that the most common practice when casting one's ballot is to select the lesser of two evils. Having to choose between Barack Obama and John McCain in the last Presidential election is all the evidence you need to convict the current system.

But even the crazy order of primaries that give out of proportion power to some states at the expense of the rest of us is becoming less of a hazard than the news media blackout of certain non-approved candidates. We are allowing a few networks and pollsters to dictate to us who our choices will be and we do so at our own peril.

If we continue to allow this to happen we might be dumber than those in the "Occupy Wall Street" protests who cannot explain what their beef is or what they want to be done about it. And that number seems huge.

One well credentialed candidate (Gov. Gary Johnson of New Mexico) is excluded from the polls and then denied access to the Republican debates because he isn't polling high enough. It's a purposeful blackout. Another candidate who wins most of the straw polls and consistently polls in third place (Ron Paul) is systematically ignored in the vast majority of "news" stories that follow such debates. Also a purposeful blackout.

These tactics are designed to deny us the choices which we are entitled to and turn them over to the kingmakers who would be the target of the OWS protests if they were sober. It's all legal of course, and should be. But that doesn't mean we ought to stand for it. It seems as though the left leaning media has reconciled itself to their chosen one, Barack Obama, losing the White House in 2012 and now is turning it's attention to cutting their losses by choosing his replacement.

Empowering ourselves by blacking out the media itself, at least intellectually, may be what we need to do as a first step toward turning the country around and heading back toward the place it used to be. It was never perfect, but it slowly has become dreadful.

It's our country. No matter whom we choose to lead us, let's choose them ourselves.


A Fair Share of Greed

Having lit the fuse of the class warfare bomb only to see it fizzle out any number of times since he hit the world stage a few years back, President Obama seems to have finally got it to spark up at least a little bit recently.

The incoherent "Occupy" demonstrations that have sprung up among the intellectually challenged and morally bankrupt crowd have given the country's leftists some of  the Obama promised  "hope" they have been pining for since some political slickster came up with that slogan to lure the useful idiots * into electing him in 2008. But it seems their hope will be dashed once again even though the dominant media refuses to interview the demonstrators in (or show the video results of) any depth about what precisely they are trying to accomplish.

Thankfully, now-a-days we have the internet where some semblance of the truth can be sorted out from the nonsense if one gives it some time and thought. It's a darn sight better than letting the main media filter it for us like they used to before they had some good old fashioned competition.

The main theme of the demonstrators, if there is one, is that rich people are greedy because they have more money than some other people and something should be done about it. It's not entirely clear what they think that should be, but since they appear to be supporters of the Democratic party, it's safe to speculate that they think more big government laws and regulations are one answer.

It all brings up some interesting questions about greed. Who is greedy anyway? Milton Friedman summed it up succinctly when he said, "It's only the other fellow who is greedy."

Are the wealthy greedy because they already have enough (however one defines "enough") but want more? Or are those who already get money and benefits provided by the wealthy greedy because what they get is never "enough" and they want more? In a country where the more well to do pay all the taxes and about 50% of the rest of the people pay nothing, what is the the latter's "fair share" as Barack Obama is fond of terming it?

The above cartoon explains that concept better than I could ever do it, but still there are many who don't (or refuse to) "get it."   The Merriam Webster dictionary definition of greed is: a selfish and excessive desire for more of something (as money) than is needed. 

So the question remains, who is greedy? Those who have their own money and desire to keep it? (perish the thought of actually desiring more) Those who have some OPM (other people's money) but want more because it's "fair"? Or politicians at every level of government who are flush with taxpayer money but never have enough to buy even more votes with? One thing is certain, all of those groups will define "needed" in a different way.

The video below was sent to me by one of my unpaid researchers and it shows a young greedy man at one of the demonstrations complaining that other men not in attendance are greedy because they won't forgive his student loans so he can spend his money on other things he wants but no one will give him. (So far you can't buy an i-Pad with food stamps)

The reason I don't pay my researchers is that this blog has no advertising and therefore no one makes any money from it, least of all me. And since I'm not starving, I don't really "need" the revenue, but if I ever put ads on here or ask for donations, you can assume I am greedy. And I'm okay with that.

* Not everyone who voted for Obama was an idiot. But the people who did so because they believed in the political rhetoric of "Hope and Change" and class warfare certainly qualify.


The Passing of a True American Patriot

The word "patriot" gets used a lot nowadays. In my mind it may be overused. But I think I know a real one when I see one. Dave Padden was a real one.

I first met Dave back in the early 80s when I joined the Beverly Country Club and ended up on his team in a four man event. He was our "Captain" and he lived up to it. Even though whatever that team didn't achieve has long since slipped from my memory, I will never forget an incident that happened on the ninth green.

Dave had a putt to tap in which would have kept our team at par for that hole. The putt was literally less than an inch long. One of those that "hung on the lip" for birdie and caused groans as the rest of us turned and left the green while Dave was left the task of pushing the par putt the last few millimeters into the hole as a formality.

But as I slowed down to let Dave catch up so we could walk together through the tunnel under eighty seventh street and past the clubhouse to the tenth tee, I caught a look on his face that seemed odd to me. Dave said, "I missed it." At first I didn't grasp what he meant, thinking he was talking about the birdie putt. Then Dave said, "we made five, I got careless and I whiffed the tap in."

Absolutely no one in the world except Dave knew that. It was then that I knew I had just met a man of true integrity. He wasn't the world's first honest man and he won't be the last, but no matter what the temptation to keep quiet might have been for some people, I could tell it never occurred to Dave for even a millisecond. It just wasn't in his nature.

I later learned that it was his whole philosophy of life to take the consequences of life and move on. He believed in individual liberty and personal responsibility in all things, big and small, everywhere and always. I admired him greatly and even though as the years rolled by and I moved along from that club and only saw him occasionally at events held by the Cato Institute (where he was an original board member) and the Heartland Institute (where he was the founder), I never forgot that incident or his example of leadership.

I don't know much about the rest of his personal life except what I read or what was told to me about him, but that one personal snapshot was all I actually needed to know.

As far as his public life was concerned, I believe that more people have have been converted (or restored) to the ideals of liberty and freedom by his individual efforts than any other person I have been personally acquainted with.  As a true American patriot, the man was a giant. And as a fellow human being, he should be a role model to us all.

A memorial to Dave's life from the Heartland Institute follows.

David H. Padden, Rest in Peace

David H. Padden, founder and chairman emeritus of The Heartland Institute, died of a heart attack while at his Chicago home on Sunday, October 2. He was 84.

Padden was a pioneer of the libertarian movement in the United States, serving as a founding member of the boards of numerous libertarian think tanks and advocacy groups and continuing to serve on Heartland’s board until his death.

Organizations that benefitted from his leadership and financial generosity include the Acton Institute, Bionomics Institute, Cato Institute, Center for Libertarian Studies, Citizens for a Sound Economy, Council for a Competitive Economy, FreedomWorks, Free To Choose Media, Foundation for Economic Education, the Libertarian Party, and Loop Libertarian League.

Padden was a lifelong resident of Chicago. He received his B.A. from Loyola University Chicago in 1949 and an MBA from the Harvard Business School in 1951. After 15 years running businesses that performed heavy construction work for various state, county, and municipal governments, in 1963 he purchased a bond firm specializing in financing local municipal improvements, renamed it Padden & Company, and was president and CEO for many years. He also launched an equipment leasing company, Padco.

Scott Hodge, now president of the Tax Foundation, proposed the creation of The Heartland Institute during a monthly meeting of Padden’s Loop Libertarian League. Hodge soon departed to attend college in Minnesota, but Padden liked the idea, recruited donors and a board of directors, and tapped Joseph Bast to be the new organization’s first executive director. Padden served as chairman of the board from 1984 to 1994, at which time he became director and chairman emeritus.

“For nearly 30 years, Dave Padden was my teacher, mentor, best critic, strongest backer, and closest friend,” said Bast, who was named president and CEO of Heartland in 1994. “Dave and I had lunch once a week for 10 years, and frequently after that. Everything I know about running a business, about character and dedication to a cause, and about the freedom philosophy I owe to him.

“Dave Padden was one of those rare individuals who truly changed the world,” Bast said. “The organizations he helped create and financed have changed public policies on subjects as diverse as environmental protection, ethics, health care, and taxes, in every case expanding individual liberty and limiting the power of government. Without Dave Padden, America today would be less prosperous and less free.”

“Dave Padden was one
of those rare individuals who truly changed the
world. The organizations he helped create and financed have changed
public policies on subjects as diverse as environmental protection, ethics, health care, and taxes, in every case expanding individual liberty and limiting the power of government. Without Dave Padden, America today would be less prosperous and less free."

- Joseph Bast, president, The Heartland Institute


Did the Capital Punishment Debate Just Take a Strange Twist? Thoughts on Criminal Justice

For as long as I can remember, a debate has raged in America about whether the state should be about the task of executing people who have committed heinous crimes. On this issue, frequently studied in criminal justice degree courses, people from varied political and religious backgrounds have found themselves aligned with other people with whom they normally have little or nothing else to agree upon. Conversely, they have found their position opposed by others who usually agree with them.

People who are aligned with so called liberals on most issues can be found defending the death penalty in large numbers even though liberals are the group usually thought to be opposed to it most adamantly. And conservatives are usually depicted as bloodthirsty knuckle draggers by elitist lefties at tony cocktail parties because they are perceived to be universally in favor of quick and sure execution of certain criminals. Personally, I know large numbers of anti-death penalty people who are usually identified as on the political right.

It's a touchy and emotional issue with political and moral ramifications. Many people avoid the issue altogether when discussing things with their friends. I don't blame them. Rational arguments can made by both sides.

There is fairly universal agreement on an important point however, so let's look at a few different scenarios to see what it is and what seems to have changed in the last few days.

Imagine the most heinous criminal you can think of. One who the authorities and the general public are truly convinced has committed a capital punishment crime. Before he is even formally accused, and before an arrest is made, much less a trial held or other due process pursued, an order is given to assassinate him. And the order is carried out. Let's further assume for the purposes of this scenario that it's a sure thing that the thug is guilty and that people are overwhelmingly joyous (or at least relieved) that he is dead.

In the America where I grew up, this situation would be unacceptable, even given that most people feel that justice has been served. In that time, and hopefully now, people knew that this was not the way we want things done in our country. The missing ingredient is due process, as guaranteed by our constitution.

It's a given that many times in our past due process has been circumvented, but usually it was with a nod and a wink that the thug was killed while being apprehended or while trying to escape. The John Dillinger case comes to mind, as one example. People will swallow that, mostly because they want to. But I think that an overtly planned and executed operation to kill such a person would be rejected by most after a rational, thoughtful and unemotional analysis.

If the fairly recently executed mass murderer John Mohammad - who shot dozens of innocent citizens with a high powered rifle from the safety of his car trunk in a "terrorist for profit" scheme - had escaped to Europe before being caught and was purposely assassinated by government agents without arrest or trial, I hope that people would have immediately recognized that their own rights were being trod upon and that the act was a political game changer. It would have made history for sure.

So now, the largely extra-constitutional government that has emerged since 9-11, and covers two administrations, has done precisely the same thing to an alleged Al Qaeda leader (but US citizen) Anwar al-Awlaki by killing him, not accidentally as part of another operation, but purposely with forethought.

You will not find me mourning the death of this low life anti-American scum. I dare say I'm glad he is gone. I further add that he certainly did not deserve the rights he owned as an American citizen. And I'm aware that by bringing up the uncomfortable questions about his death I risk the derision of many of my peers. But that  goes with the territory when speaking one's mind in a public forum.

But the questions aren't about the terrorist's rights, they are about ours, and nothing is more fundamental to our way of life than the concept of due process. So did our debate over capital punishment just take a strange twist? You can decide for yourself what you think about the issue, just as long as you do think about it.

While I don't mourn his death, I only pray that I won't be mourning the death of our rights and our republic because we didn't speak up. The debate should continue, whatever your side of it is, but this time even louder, because The inference of silence is assent.