Friday, March 29, 2013

Our Homeschooling Adventure

  Yesterday I ran into a friend from high school. She and I are one of the few that are still here in town, and we see each other in passing, usually at Chik-Fil-A.  We were catching up on what was going on in each other’s lives, and she announced that she had gone back to work after a six-year hiatus.  I have Swiss Cheese for a memory these days, so I asked her what it was she did again. She is a public school teacher, and in literally the same conversation thread where she lamented the economic necessities that drove her to re-enter the work force, she lamented the fact that her children would be public school students.
  This was not somebody justifying turning their dearest possessions over to the state to be educated.   This was not somebody turning a blind eye to the evils of Leviathan. This was a mother, broken hearted on what the hardships of life had pushed her into doing.  The whole incident caused me to reflect on our homeschooling venture, and what it has cost us, and what we’ve gotten out of it.
  To start with, we are both a product of the government school system, although we have gone to great lengths to re-educate ourselves since then.  I knew no one who was home-schooled coming up, only the kids from the nearby Christian school that we made fun of.  But when I got saved in 1995 while in the  military,  there was  a family at the church that took me in, and they homeschooled all 6 ( at the time) of their children. I got to see this subculture up close and personal, and fell in love with the results.  I purposed in my heart that this would be what we would do if God ever gave me a wife.
  My wife ended her illustrious career as a real-estate appraiser in 2002 while several months pregnant, and we left the Left Coast and headed for Georgia.  The lower cost of living enabled us to live on one income, and we consigned ourselves to a couple of crucial economic steps.  One was a commitment to get out of debt, which we now are except for our house.  We drive 2 used cars, and live below our means. We save up, and I work overtime to afford the things we buy above the necessities.   I delivered pizzas 3 and 4 nights a week for a couple of years. We have an emergency fund. All of these things would have been a good idea anyway, but for us to do this grand homeschooling adventure there were a necessity.  We don’t have all the toys of some of our peers, but we also don’t have student loans and car payments and credit card bills.  After all the  Bible says “The borrower is servant to the lender”.
  We also had to make a commitment to our children.  The pressure came in from all sides as relatives who were not asked their opinion offered it anyway.  We were ridiculed and the butt of some family jokes. All of this was less important to me than our children.  We changed our ideas of what ‘normal’ was. Normal is not turning your children over to the state to be programmed, and the fact that most people do doesn’t make it any less psychotic.  Our commitment was this; no matter what happens, even if poor old dad has to work 4 or 5 jobs, we commit to you that we care enough about you to shield you from Leviathan.  God has blessed that in that I now only have one job, and I write and draw a bit on the side for extra money.
  We committed to decide for ourselves what education was, and was not.  They are after all, our children, and not the state’s, and though we do comply with the requirements for the state of Georgia, we are not doing that because we feel we need their permission or approval for what we’re doing. We had to find what worked for our family, for our kids, and that process is still going on. We got around people that were homeschooling for all sorts of reasons, with all sorts of approaches. We have over the years taken what works, and ditched what doesn’t work.  We’ve changed curriculums, and supplemented curriculums.   We received great encouragement from the work of people like John Taylor Gatto, Charlotte Mason,   No Greater Joy Ministries, Vision Forum and even my new favorite movie ,Indoctrination.
  We committed ourselves to spending the money.  Homeschooling is not cheap in that you pay for the education at least twice. The state confiscates our money to feed it’s wicked system (the facilities of which we cannot use) and I have to take what they leave me with and buy my own supplies.   We have probably spent $1000 a year on curriculum and supplies per child for every year we’ve done this. We also take field trips and have zoo passes because after all, education is not defined by sitting in a room all day and reading stuff out of a book.  For science class one day , rather than read what the science book  said about leaves and chlorophyll and photosynthesis, we went outside and found real leaves and  I explained it using real life  as opposed to a diagram. Rocket science?  Hardly. But try doing that in a government school.
  We commited ourselves to our own personal education.  My wife and I are voracious readers, and we are constantly looking for a new   perspective, and a way to break our own programming. Let me take a moment to   give recognition to the Mises Instittute and their role in my re-education.   I ask the question often “WHY are we doing it this way?” The why is way more important than the how. 
  We commited ourselves to educating the whole child.  A few years back someone gave me a large quantity of comic books and I set my two oldest up in business. They negotiated with the buyers, and they kept the money.  A year or so later, they started a slingshot making business, and we handled that a bit differently because of their ages.  I cut down a tree and gathered them the necessary materials, which I charged them for out of their profits. They set up a little booth at a craft fair and the most amazing thing happened.  They sold none of them. As the day went on, my oldest decided to drop the price. That sold a few and all day long I watched my two sons try to find the balance in the price. If they offered them to high the item wouldn’t move. If they offered it too low, the items would move but they couldn’t cover the cost of production. Now what, pray tell, is an education like that worth?
  These are just some things that we’ve done, and some commitments we’ve made, in no particular order other than the order they popped into my head.  I would like to encourage those of you with young children to do the right thing. Do the work, make the commitments, pay the price. Do not offer your wife to the highest bidder (by employment) and your children to the lowest bidder (government schools). This is literally too important.   Your toys and  your lifestyle is less important than your children.  If you are in a bad spot, and you cannot do this right now, do all you can and more to get this done.  I do hope my high school friend can fix her situation, because I know she wants to, and anybody that is trying to do right, I am in favor of, no matter how long it takes them. I will support, and pray for them, and try to be an encouragement.  This can be done. It must be.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Perfectly Harmful

  I have a sister who is now almost 37 years old, and I am writing this without her permission and entirely from my own perspective.  She was, while in elementary school, diagnosed as being  ‘hyperactive’ , the syndrome that preceded  A.D.D., I suppose.  Children for thousands of years have been more prone to run around and play rather than sit still and be quiet, but once someone came up with a name for it, it became a disease.   I suppose in another 20 years it will be called something else, maybe Sit Down and Be Quiet You Rambunctious Knothead Syndrome (or S.D.B.Q.Y.R.K.)  . My point is that, from my understanding, coming up with exotic names for common human conditions was very much in  vogue when we children of the late 80’s were being pushed through the  python of government schools, and my sister was an unfortunate victim.  I remember her being sent to psychiatrists and counselors and specialists. I remember her being put on Ritalin or ‘speed’ as it was called. It was explained to us that the ‘speed’ would slow her down and help her to focus.  If that logic doesn’t qualify as witch-doctorism masquerading as science, I don’t know what does.
  The Ritalin was changed to something else and then something else.  She entered her teen years as a trustee of modern chemistry, and married   very young to a great guy who felt he could tame her. He could not. Neither could the next guy.
  The medication continued throughout her life, with dosages being adjusted and medicines occasionally being swapped out for the newest potion cranked out by the pharmacological industry.  Years ago I lost track of what medicine she is on at any given moment, but to this day her life is a regiment of various uppers and downers and nerve pills and concoctions with impossible names.   My sister was, in my opinion, robbed of her childhood and numbed and zombified.  She lives, in my opinion, emotionally stunted at the age in which her brain chemistry was mucked with by modern science, falsely so called. She never learned to deal with herself and now, with almost 3 medicated decades under her belt, she still has not learned to deal with herself.   She’s been married several times.  Fidelity has always been an issue in her life.   Her emotional pendulum swings from profanity laced outbursts to chemically-induced  blank stares.   She has been  removed from my  house more than once. Whatever version of my sister you meet will depend largely on what   stage of her medicine regiment she has consumed for the day.  Every family gathering is tense, with everyone wondering whether or not she will blow her stack and cause a scene. When the outburst happens, it is dismissed as she is ‘off her meds’ or her medication is ‘being adjusted’.  We are supposed to feel sorry for her, and I do.  Physically she appears   older than me,   and her features are harsh, and withdrawn.  She sports an entire mouth of false teeth, as her original teeth were destroyed by the  cocktail of chemicals   that she slurps  down. 
 All of this experimentation on my sister’s brain was done under the supposedly wise counsel of doctors and psychiatrists and counselors who are, in my opinion, the real culprit.  Our mother was, I believe, doing what she thought was best, what these educated people told her was best. They were consultants at the government factory designed to produce little drones and when there is a problem on the assembly line, surely there is a pill or shot that can make that square peg fit a little better in that round hole.
  The real tragedy of my sister’s life is that apparently more than 25 years later, we as a society have learned absolutely nothing. The tree that they planted and watered has borne horrific fruit, and yet   the monstrous mindset that produced it sees nothing wrong with it. When my nieces were being a bit rambunctious, rather than train them, somebody recommended that my sister send them to a ‘specialist’.  I remember the sinking feeling in my chest as I saw history repeating itself. In a conversation with my sister, I laid aside my preacher hat for a second and was as blunt as I could be. “That crap cooked your brain” I said “Give your daughter the chance you never had.”  I honestly don’t know if that advice was heeded. For the emotional protection of my family, our contact with my sister is very limited.  But I remember her staring out at me from somewhere underneath the haze, and in her  eyes was a look of someone who knew I was right, but  had been  so numbed, and so beaten down by the  oppressive advice of  ‘experts’ that she felt swept along  by the tide of events.
  It’s not just her life. Every time somebody we know tells us that their special kid has been diagnosed with some set of initials or syndrome by the wizards at the government factory, my heart breaks.  The solution is usually the same; dope  ‘em to the gills so that will be  just like the  other little prisoners-er, I mean students.   I want to grab them and shake them and tell them not to do it. But what do I know, after all?  I’m not a doctor. I’m only somebody who has  watched tragedy unfold in somebody’s life for most of  mine.
  I perform publick ministry outside of a middle school in our town on Friday afternoons, and there is a sign outside the school that says ‘This School is a Drug-Free Zone’. Is the glaring hypocrisy of that statement obvious to anyone else? Is the weird self-righteous smugness of that sign  an affront to anybody else, or is it just me?
 How is it possible that so few see the results of what has happened so far? How is it that so many don’t see people like my sister and say “Oh no, what have we done?”   How is it that every school shooter was on one of these drugs, and nobody sees a pattern?  The insanity continues, the initials and syndromes continue, and the steady pumping of mood-altering drugs into developing brains continues.  What will it take?

Monday, March 25, 2013

What Your Recruiter Won't Tell You

   I joined the US Navy in May of 1993, the day after my 19th birthday. I was honorably discharged in April of 1999 just before I turned 25.  I am from a family with multiple generations of military service, and truth be told, I have mixed feelings about this time of my life. I’m not one that puffs out his chest and  says “I’m proud of my service” and I’m  also not one that  feels like  it was a  waste of time or that I was an ‘assassin for the state’. I am a bit uncomfortable when people feel the need to thank me for my service, as if anything I did was worth thanks   so many years later.
  I joined the military for a variety of reasons.   My career prospects were slim, and I saw it as a way to learn to do something other than farm work. I wanted to go to college, and they offered me money. As I said before, multiple generations of my family had done the same, and I felt like defending one’s country was an honorable thing to do.   I suspect that scores of people that have been in the military or are currently in the military have joined for similar reasons. In fact, the military is counting on those motivations to fill its quotas.
  But there are some things they don’t tell you, at least not up front. Some of these things are    certainties and some of them are possibilities. For someone to avoid addressing the possibilities on the grounds that they, after all, might not happen to them individually is intellectually dishonest. A person considering military service at this point in time needs all the facts. So let me throw in my two cents worth and raise some issues that you may or may not have to deal with if you choose to go down this road.
 You will most certainly spend an inordinate amount of time away from your loved ones. I was single at the time, but 80 hour work weeks were not uncommon.  While stationed on a ship, we would spend all week out to sea in preparation for our six-month deployments.  Think about this.  Think about where you work now, and think about  your co-workers. Imagine living with those people for months on end with no break.  I have stood on too many piers and watched too many men wave bye to pregnant wives or infant children who will be toddlers before they see them again. I understand the view that says that such sacrifices are an unfortunate but necessary evil in order to ensure freedom, and believe it or not, I am sympathetic to that view. Where I part company with that view will be addressed as we continue on.
  You will increase your divorce rate exponentially.  It’s a fact, and one I witnessed over and over as young marriages or even established marriages were put under the strain of repeated deployments and long hours away from home.   The military divorce rate runs somewhere between 20-30%  ahead of the civilian rate, and   from personal experience I have been there when guys I  knew got those ‘dear John’ letters that seemed an inevitable part of   military life.  I have seen strong, proud men weep under those conditions. This could happen to you, and you need to be aware of the possibility.
  You will have college money, but no time to spend it.  As somebody once told us ‘the Navy hired you to work, not to go to college’.   There is a vast body of G.I. Bill money that goes unused even though the benefits extend for years after you get out.   It’s simply hard to work   more than 40 hours a week and attend class. But   on the off chance that you are one of the lucky ones who somehow get the chance to attend college while   in the military, are you aware that you could have done the same thing without joining up? Are you aware that hundreds of millions of dollars in civilian scholarship money goes unclaimed every year because nobody applies for it?  There are whole websites dedicated to bridging that gap.  Out of all the reason why someone would join up, the college money angle is the one that falls easiest under scrutiny.  You have other options.
You will be surrounded by coarse people, and that will eventually rub off on you. The Bible says  “evil communications corrupt good manners” and  while I was a  member of the  US Navy, I met some  really  great people. I also met absolute dirtbags, perverts, guys that  were supposed to be in jail, etc. If you come out of  a good home, be prepared to learn how  to swear and  be regularly exposed to pornography. Keep that in mind next time Sean Hannity says that the military consist of ‘the best and   brightest’. How much time did he serve, after all?
  You will be the enforcement arm of whatever the foreign policy is of the moment. This really drives a lot of my other points.   Our foreign policy is a muddled mess of backroom deals and rackets, and has been for God only knows how long.  The simple fact is that we currently pay dictator A to be our friend and oppose dictator B.    The industry (and it is an industry) has to have a bad guy to stay in business. After a while it becomes necessary for dictator A to stop being the Good Guy and become the Bad Guy. When that happens, and it always does, you or people like you will be dispatched to go deal with this latest bad guy.  You will be dispatched at the cost to your family, and your good manners, and possibly your life.  When dictator A, who is promoted as the next Hitler, is dealt with, another dictator who probably   used to be on the US payroll will be found to be the new  Villain.  Think of it as professional wrestling, except with real bullets and real death.
  You will have no rights.  I have no doubts as to your noble intentions. After all, you probably didn’t join up because you have a great love for the United Nations.  You probably legitimately love America. You are probably considering the military for a host of honorable reasons, but as one of my sea-daddys told me “We’re not in that business anymore.”  But the things your civilian counterpart can do with great ease will be forbidden to you because you are property, not a person.  You will be sent places you do not want to go to do things that you are pretty certain do not need to be done.  You will have no ability to protest or refuse.  You will not necessarily do what is right, but rather what you are ordered to do by a bunch of faceless chicken hawks in Washington who will never have to kiss their wife goodbye on a pier anywhere and who will never stand a midwatch.  Those are the people who will decide your fate, not you. You signed that right away.
 You will swear to defend the constitution, then be dispatched to violate it.  The wording of the enlistment oath is  interesting, and rarely examined. The oath  I took was “I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God. “  Now it’s the second half that  ought to be  of concern to you.     It is  entirely possible, in fact, almost certain, that  you will be ordered by the President to go places where the Constitution will not send you, and   be ordered to do things that the Constitution forbids you to do, like invade and occupy Iraq ( or Libya, or Afghanistan, or Syria, or Iran) without a declaration of war.  So when it happens, do you obey the first half, or the  second half?
  Most of what you do will have nothing to do with keeping anyone free.  My   60 to 70 hour weeks  consisted of   pointless drills,  and meetings and cleaning and busywork all done in preparation for deployments in which literally days would  be spent fending off boredom.   The drills held   out at sea were, I suspect, yet another way to keep us enlisted types from getting too much sleep or complaining too loud. We held elaborate wargames in which our ship fended off a variety of threats even though the actual lifespan of one of our ships in combat is under 10 minutes.  All of this as we crossed the big blue pond to the Middle East. Once there, we proceeded to do circles in the Arabian Gulf in order to protect ‘freedom’. In reality we were enforcing UN resolutions that were a threat to American sovereignty.  Al l of this at taxpayer expense.

  You may be ordered to kill a stranger who has done nothing to you personally and probably isn’t a threat to your country in any way.  On the other side of the imaginary lines that we call borders is a guy just like you who joined up with his countries military for reasons possibly quite similar to yours. And in his government, a bunch of faceless bureaucrats have dispatched him to kill you when all he really wants to do is go home to his wife.  Then there’s you, for the promise of college money and ideas of service, you have obligated yourself as a bondservant to Obama or whoever   comes in after him, and your job is to kill this poor fellow.  The both of you are jostled around the battlefield like chess pieces while the power hungry bureaucrats sit back safely at their headquarters. This is the reality of war, and as our foreign policy becomes more and more muddled, and the   lines of war become fuzzier and fuzzier, you have to entertain the very real notion of what you may be asked, actually ordered, to do.  What sort of person will you be on the other side?
  There are, in my acquaintance, a number of very dedicated individuals who stay in the military for a variety of quite noble reasons, and I don’t want them to feel I am slighting them or their profession in anyway.  One of my last mentors in the  Navy finished his 20 plus years very discouraged, and told me  in a moment of confidence that   he had  rationalized his  multiple re-enlistments  by telling himself that  his presence there would help  save the lives of his men if things very went bad. I, as one of those men, think he was probably right.  He was a leader in the true sense of the word, and was very dedicated to his men even at the expense of the mission. But even he saw that the civilian leadership  didn’t think that way, and that’s who was calling the shots for us, not brave noble men, but   bean counters in expensive suits half a world away.
  These are all things that you need to know, and these are all things that your recruiter will not tell you.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Food Underground

  It had all the trappings of an illiicit operation. My wife, tired of the Frankenfood options  being offered at our local chain grocery store,  and looking to supplement what we grow on our own land,had somehow made an arrangement to purchase  organic  fruits and vegetables from a local farm. Now when I say local, I mean, an hour or so down the road, in another state.  We know the owners of this farm because of a homeschooling event they host every year. Apparently, somehow, someway my  wife had let it be known to the right people that we were in the market for some (wink wink  nudge nudge) real  produce.
  My wife was sick, as well as the youngest so I was dispatched to pick up our produce at the regular rendezvous point.  My wife gave me explicit  instructions.  “Go down the highway, cross the state line, go under the overpass and there is an abandoned  building off to one side. Pull into the parking lot  in the back  between this time and this time and here’s the list.  Give them my name. They only take cash.”
  I ‘m not sure what I expected, but what I saw looked for all the world like we were  breaking the law. The farmer and his wife had pulled into the parking lot in an unmarked truck with the license plate facing away from the road. Parked at various distances away from the truck were vehicles ranging from BMW’s to minivans, all patiently waiting their turn. The farmer stood there with mirrored sunglasses on as one by one, people came up and gave  their names to his wife who would  hand them a plain  brown bag full of pre-arranged produce. The person paid her in cash, and walked back to their car, driving away.  The farmer  looked a bit  confused when I came up, although it was hard to tell through the sunglasses.  We knew each other peripherally , but he was expecting my  wife.  I  gave her name,  waved my cash , received my  bag (ok technically it was a box) and  exited the  parking lot.
  Part of me thought this was hilarious.   I mean, these are vegetables for crying out loud. It sort of reminds me of  the lady not too far from the  farm that will sell you raw milk.  She labels it ‘for Animal Consumption Only’, because if she doesn’t she has one less thing to keep her from going to jail.  That is her ‘I tried to tell them’ defense.  From what I understand, she only takes cash.  Not that  I would know because of course, raw milk in illegal in my state.
  Illegal!  Am I  the only one that thinks we live in Crazy Land in which people buying milk and vegetables have to sneak aroud like they are  buying crystal meth?  That’s almost as crazy as putting a man in a jail cell for possession of a plant. Oh wait, never mind.  Now there is that other plant that people smoke, which is  not only legal, but surprisingly profitable from what I gather.  Especially to  government thugs  who don’t  plant it,  pick it, dry  it, bundle it, or ship it, but who   tax it.   Hmmm.  One kind of milk is protected, while another is outlawed.  One type of  smokeable plant is  criminal while the other is fine.  Part of me doesn’t think this is  so hilarious anymore.
  Its obvious to me that the milk laws in my state are a result of crony capitalism in which the Big Boys have used the power of the state to  limit the choices of consumers. As far produce goes, in our experience it has been worth it to   either grow our own or buy from somebody we know. The  produce even smells different.
  What does give me hope is the  slow and steady  emergence of  what I will call the  ‘Food Underground’.  It spreads by word of mouth ( for example, while I was picking up the  veggies, my wife had  told 2 or 3  of her friends and they will now be traveling down to the  parking lot to  get their illicit avocados) and seems  a little more established each week. We  have chickens and we have traded all sorts of things for eggs.  Cash or barter,  not completely untraceable, but enough  below the radar screen that  it gets missed.  This Food Underground ( a term I intend on taking full credit for)  actually strengthens communities in that it runs off on face to face contact, and recommendations, sort of like things used to be.  Strangers are treated with a certain amount of reservation, just short of suspicion.  I think things like this, below the radar things, are  actually quite healthy. People who would  buck the corporate grocery chains to get real  veggies or people who would buck the milk mafia to get  raw milk  might be willing, if push comes to shove , to buck all kinds of other things, don’t you think?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Lawbreaker or Criminal?

  Let’s say you were living your life, and your local town council or county commissioner board or zoning board or some other random gathering of self-important people penned an ordinance that decreed that all houses should have low-flow eco-friendly toilets.   Laying aside the fact that somebody on the committee probably has a brother in law that makes low-flow toilets, hence the real reason for it, you don’t hear about this.  There are a number of reasons why you might not hear about it. Most of those reasons have to do with the fact that you are quite busy doing things that really matter rather than passing obscure legislation regulating other people’s toilets. Whatever the reason, you have just become, by your non-compliance, a criminal. Or have you?
  I maintain that there is a world of difference between a lawbreaker and a criminal. While it is virtually impossible to not be a ‘lawbreaker’ given the complex   jungle of silly paperwork that entangles our every move, it is possible to live your entire life and not be a criminal.  And the difference is so elementary, to wit; criminals have victims.
  If I accost you in a dark alley and relieve you of your wallet, I have violated your right to your own property.  That right exists independent of any legislation. In fact, I don’t think it’s coincidental that   the term ‘right’ also means ‘correct’ or ‘true’, for all true rights have their basis in morality. It’s wrong to steal, everyone knows this.  Even little children will claim with vehemence when someone tries to take their favorite toy, “Mine!”.  Even children understand that a person naturally has exclusive rights to certain physical objects, and that to rob someone is a great affront to these natural rights. What’s yours is yours simply because it is. By being yours, it is, after all, not mine.  If I take it, I am a thief.  By my thievery, I have committed a crime and, whether I am ever caught or not, am now a criminal. Would anyone even try to make the case that low-flow toilets are a moral issue?  If you fail to swap out your toilet, you have broken a law, but not committed a crime.
  Laws may also cover crimes, but crimes exist whether or not there are any laws against them.  Most laws however extend beyond the boundaries of delineating criminal behavior and sail right past common sense into pure silliness. Laws, by and large exist to grant power to the ruling elite, and not only are divorced from morality, but appear to be divorced from reality.  A great many things that aren’t immoral are illegal, and a great many things that are legal are, as a matter of course, immoral. If no one’s rights have been violated, then it isn’t a crime, and shouldn’t even be a law.
  There is of course, a great  body of thought on this, and the great American experiment has deep roots in this. After all, in our Declaration of Independence, Mr. Jefferson  wrote that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --.” So government, according to the founding documents of our country, exists to protect rights, not to enforce laws. The Bible also draws the line on proper governmental powers in the oft-misapplied Romans 13For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid ; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.  A man doing right ought not fear the government. The fact that so many do can be taken as a sign that something has gone horribly wrong.

 I will of course make some applications here by way of examples, some of which  may be disagreeable to some, but I  stand by my  standard on this;  and by applying  this standard that I came to rethink a lot of my positions on  different issues, and I invite the reader to examine themselves in a like manner.
  I have the right to apply my talents and skills and seek compensation for those talents and skills via employment. Along with that comes the right to enjoy the fruit of my labor.  But there is a law that says the state can remove  a portion of that fruit ( a portion decided by them) before I get it and that same body of law dictates that I can be  fined or imprisoned for withholding  that portion from them.  It seems obvious to me that their law has caused a crime to be committed against me, that crime being thievery.  It matters not that a body of legislation somewhere has decreed it; nobody can make plunder a moral activity simply by decree.

   I have the right to associate with whoever I want.  It is, literally, nobody’s business but mine. I have the right to associate with that person in public, or in private. If I want them on my property, then that is within my jurisdiction, and not anyone else’s.  But what if that person violated a law that didn’t even exist 100 years ago, and crossed an arbitrary geographical line to come and associate with me?  Proponents of tougher immigration laws would say that their law trumps my right to associate and that my ‘illegal alien’ friend cannot visit with me. Why? Because there’s a law after all, and no other reason need be offered.
  By extension, my ‘illegal alien’ friend offers to sell me his labor to me for a rate agreeable to both of us. The labor is his to sell, and mine to buy if I so choose, but their precious law feels the need to step in between the peaceful transaction and decree that it shall not be so. By what logic or rational is this intervention justified?  There is a law, after all, and people in costumes with guns will make sure the law is enforced, no matter how silly.
  I have the right to dispense my property in the manner that I see fit. That is the very foundational idea of property.  The idea of rights and property are so interlinked as to be inseparable.  Let’s say you have a cow, and you need to sell the milk. I want the milk, so I exchange my money (which is mine) for your milk (which is yours). We both get what we want, and nobody’s rights have been violated, hence no crime. Oh, but what manifold of laws we have broken! Our rights predate the law, and in a moral   universe, trump the law, but you will make that case from a jail cell because even if no crime has been committed, the powers that be must enforce the law.
  By extension,  I have the right to  purchase a piece of cloth and write on it, shred it, cut it into hearts, do whatever  I choose to, because  after all, it’s mine.  It is nobody’s business but mine.  Most people wouldn’t argue that point unless the piece of cloth has thirteen strips and fifty stars on it.  Then, for some unfathomable reason, what happens to that particular piece of property becomes everybody’s business.
  I have the right to my own life. That right doesn’t suddenly materialize when I’m 18, or 12 or 5. It extends back as far as my humanity, but under current law, it is not illegal to take that life from me, as long as you meet certain conditions, also dictated by law. Some laws say it can be taken from me before I exit my mother’s womb, some laws say that it can be taken from me when a man in a White House somewhere north of me decrees so.  Legal? Sure. But moral?  God forbid.
  The law can be a terrible tyrant. Unhitched from any sense of morality it will always become overreaching and oppressive and will cast its power-hungry gaze in all directions.  Arbitrary issues become matters of life and death under the law, and morality is cast aside in pursuit of compliance to senseless decrees. If you cannot associate with whom you want, if you cannot do what you wish with what you own,  if you cannot enter into peaceful voluntary transactions of whatever nature, if you exist under the threat of legalized murder at any point in your humanity, then your freedom is simply an illusion and you exist under the worst sort of criminality;  crimes  committed against you by the ones entrusted  with their protection.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

How Ron Paul Changed My Mind

 In my book SWINDLED I mention that  Congressman Paul remains the only politician to ever change my mind on anything, but I  declined to mention in the  book what exactly the issue was.   The issue  was foreign policy, and I'll let you in on how it happened.  but first a little background.
  I was a teenager in the late 80's and  came to political awareness listening to Rush Limbaugh in his early days.  I grew up in a  lower middle class family  with a strong history of Democratic support, and  Rush's   promotion of individual  liberty fascinated me.  I was probably a  mainstream conservative by the time I joined the military. As a member of the military I made  multiple trips to the Middle East to enforce one UN resolution or another even though I  disliked the UN and felt  our military was being mis-used, I believed that our overseas intervention was an unfortunate, but a necessity.
  I voted for  George W. Bush in 2000, and although I  always felt there was something  fishy about the Sept 11 attacks, I accepted the idea of a pre-emptive war on terror.   Even while accepting it it, I saw that it could be used as an excuse for all sorts of villainy.  Unfortunately over the next few years, I was more than right. The attacks were used as an excuse for the  greatest  expansion of the police state in my lifetime, all  pushed by a president who claimed to believe in limited government. I watched family members  who were still in the military do   4 and 5  tours of duty in Iraq or Afghanistan , with no end in sight.  And to make things worse, nobody seemed to have a solution except more of the same.  Well, not exactly nobody.....
    In 2008, while running for President,  Congressman Paul  was part of a debate in South Carolina.  I  remember watching this debate  specifically because of the exchange between Dr. Paul and Mayor Giuliani.  Dr. Paul made the  case that  American foreign policy was making things worse and that the  9/11 attacks were an inevitable result of  misguided American foreign policy. The crowd at the debate were silent, maybe even a little  hostile, and when Giuliani wrapped himself in the flag of 9/11 and demanded that Dr. Paul withdraw the remark, the crowd went wild. It was interesting theater in that the highly lauded "Mr 9/11"  seemed to have scored a decisive blow against the lesser known Congressman from Texas. But what happened next was the most amazing moment of the campaign; Ron Paul did not back down.  To a hostile crowd he continued to patiently, politely explain himself.  He was , like so many other times in his career, alone in  a crowd.  I thought to myself, the old guys got guts.
   But the larger question was,what if he's right?  I had  a President  in whom I had lost all confidence who   repeatedly had said 'they hate us because we're free'.  Surely, I thought, this would be an easy thing to research. All I have to do is find  some self-proclaimed  enemy terrorist type citing our freedom as a reason for his hatred.  As far as I can tell, gentle reader, no such proclamation exists. Over and  over again, those hostile to  US interventionism  say the same thing. They cite our meddling in their internal politics, or our occupation of their sacred lands, or our financing and arming of their enemies.  As a military man, I  had been  taught the concept of 'asymmetrical  warfare',  a  technique by which a  small force can outmaneuver and score  symbolic victories over a  larger military opponent. It occurred to me that was exactly what was going on. The 'irrational politics of the Middle East' might not so irrational after all.
  The other thing  that Dr. Paul said that night was he asked  how would we react if  another country did to us what we were doing to them. What if China  was  doing patrols in the Gulf of Mexico, or building  military bases in Kansas?   Extending that out, we could include drone warfare, or toppling of regimes or manipulation of currencies or trade sanctions. To  apply one set of standards to ourselves and another set to every other nation on earth is worse than incompetent; it's the morality of a bully. Its the morality of a government that thinks, whether it says it out loud or not, that might really does make right, and that we do these things because after all, we can. A  government who will do this to  nameless, faceless people abroad will eventually turn that  mindset towards its own  citizens which is exactly what we are seeing now, and will continue to see for the foreseeable future.
   I go public with this because  the other night  Mayor Giuliani  was on some news channel being asked his opinion about some terrorism related issue.  This vexed me greatly.This mayor , who had misread the reasons for  overseas hostility to America, was still being treated as an genius while the  man who had predicted  this and others to follow was a media pariah on this issue. Its almost as ludicrous as Giuliani being asked his opinion on Paul supporters  right before the 2012 convention. As "America's Mayor" criticized people like myself I couldn't help but think that Mayor Giuliani had managed to win NO delegates in his run for the White House, yet he was  an expert on what  Dr, Paul should do. His campaign had ended with a mountain of debt, but he was an expert on  how the well-funded Congressman from Texas should handle himself. Along a similar line,  Mr. Giuliani  could never hope to amass the sort of young enthusiastic crowds that appeared everywhere Ron Paul went, but his opinion was the one being sought.  Is the world a crazy place or what?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Bee Story, Part 2

We drove the rest of the way home in relative quiet while I hatched A Plan.  There was a local fellow from whom we had been buying our honey, and his phone number was printed on the label, so  we pulled our truck up close to the hive and I gave him a call, explaining to him  my situation.
   “Ok” he said  “ At the top of the bee box there should be a little piece of metal  nailed to the wood. Do you see it?”
  “Oh sure”
  “Well the queen is in a little box on the other side of that. So get a screwdriver or hammer and peel that of and pull the queen out. Put the queen in the hive, between a couple of the frames and shake the rest of the bees into the hive.”
   “I’m sorry Travis you’re breaking up, what did you say?”
  “Take the top off the hive, and shake the bee box. The bees will fall out and land in the hive.”
  “You’ve got to be kidding me. Shake the box?”
  “Shake it, slap it, whatever. Just get the bees out of the box and into the hive.”
    I hung up the phone and stared at the hive through the windshield. I told my wife what he had said, and she also just sort of straight ahead for a moment. Then she said “Come on children, let’s go in the house. Your father has decided to kill himself.”  It’s really moments of trust and confidence like this that are so touching.
  I waited for them to go in the house, and opened the top of the hive. I peeled back the little metal circle, and the bees started to crawl out. So now the trick was to reach in amongst the crowd of bees and pull out this little queen box.  The queen box, for the uninitiated contains a queen and a little piece of candy. The queen eats her way through the candy in order to get out and during the 3 or 4 days that it takes, the bees can get used to her. Without that period, they will treat the queen as an invader. Pretty neat, huh?
  I removed the queen, who was still clustered over with workers and gently inserted her between the frames. I then took a deep breath and picked up the box, which was swarming with escaping bees. I lifted it up and proceeded to shake the box full of thousands of stinging insects. They fell out in clumps and landed in the hive, and then proceeded to fly around me by the thousands. They crawled up my arms, into my hair, and under my glasses. I shook and shook and shook and shook. When the box was mostly empty, I set it down and walked my way through the crowd of bees until I was several yards distant. The bees   left me as I walked and seemed content to buzz around the hive.  I called Travis back.
  “So far so good.”
  “Good. Hey, how big is your hive?”
  “I don’t  know its about  so many 3 feet by 3 feet maybe.”
  “No, how many supers?”
  My silence must not have been very reassuring, because he explained to me that the supers were the levels of the bee hive.  I told him I had (now that I was learning the lingo) that I had one hive with one super.
  “That‘s not enough.  You need another super and a feeder.”
  “Ok, well, next payday I can..”
  “No, you don’t understand. You need to do this right now or your bees will leave. I can loan you some stuff till you can get your own. How soon can you be here?”
  Travis   set me up out of the kindness of his heart, overlooked my tragic ignorance, and by the time I got home, the bees had settled in, so I tried to install the new equipment with a minimum of damage to me or them. For the next few months I learned a lot, and can look back at that time and shake my head at my own stupidity.   The hive became a family affair (although my wife declined much participation) and it was educational for everyone, particularly me. Eventually we lost that colony, and we are getting prepared to replace them and start this experiment all over again. The beekeeper community has been ridiculously kind to me through it all, and I cannot say enough   nice things about them.  They will forgive ignorance every time (so far) if it’s coupled with an earnest desire to learn
  We also videotaped some of our bee experience, which you can see here and here

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Bee Story, Part 1 (I Swear This is True)

  It had all started out so innocently.  I had been given an empty hive by a friend as a gift, and he had told me about the wonders of beekeeping.  It sounded like an absolute blast and I thought since I have survivalist leanings anyway, we would be able to make our own honey, and after all, how cool is that?
  So I got on ye old internet and found a place about two hours up the road that would sell me some bees to put in my hive. I ordered 8 lbs of bees and a queen and finally the magical day came in which I was going to pick up my bees and become a beekeeper!  I took off work early that day so that I could make the drive and make it back before dark. The plan was for me to make the trip by myself, but my wife , realizing that  her  beloved husband has no  sense of direction and often gets lost in the drive thru, volunteered to  ride with me and  ‘naviguess’.
  Now for  my wife to come along, my 4 kids have to come along, so the  six of us loaded up in the SUV and headed out  on our glorious beekeeping adventure.  I expected some sort of farm or something but the place where I was to pick up the bees resembled a 1980’s office building constructed in the center of a field. I told the wife and kids to stay put and I would go get the lay of the land. I strolled through the front door and told the nice lady behind the desk that Mr. Alford was here to pick up his bees. She led me through the back door where there was quite the production going on. There were thousands of bee boxes, and millions of loose bees zipping around while a group of men loaded bee boxes onto trucks. The nice lady gestured to a nearby bee box and said “Those are yours.”
  Allow me to interrupt my own narrative here. I am, under normal conditions, a voracious researcher, but for some reason, other than my head filling with my imagined success in this endeavor, I had done almost no research.   In fact, my wife’s calm demeanor was really resting upon the fact that I am a voracious researcher and it was inconceivable that I would consider getting into a enclosed space with several pounds of stinging insects without having a fairly good idea of what was involved in it.  All I can say is that I was having an off day.
 What the nice lady directed me towards were two wooden and wire boxes fastened together filled to the brim on the inside with bees and with hundreds of bees clinging to the outside.  Nobody else seemed alarmed by this, and I certainly didn’t want to look like I didn’t know what I was doing ( though I didn’t) so I simply said “Where do I sign?”.

  The sight that greeted my   ever-patient bride through the windshield was of me strolling around the side of the building toting this bee box with hundreds of bees not only on the outside, but swarming around me.  I was trying my best to look nonchalant, as if this was a regular activity for me. She rolled own the window just a bit and said “What is that?”
  “These are the bees. I’m going to put them in the back seat.”
  “No, youre not.”
“Sweetheart, we came up her to get bees. These are bees. The only way for them to get home is to go in the backseat.”
“We came here to get bees in some sort of container. Those are not.  You won’t be putting all those loose bees in my car with my babies. Sorry. Aint happening.” She rolled up the window.
I stood there with my box of bees and pondered my next move. I set the box of bees down on the ground and motioned to my wife. Together we went into the building.  The staff there was super nice as my wife relayed her concerns. The lady behind the desk explained that the bees were driven by scent, and they clustered to the outside of the box because they could smell the queen in there. She told us “They are not interested in you and your kids at all”.  But Dianne couldn’t get past the idea of bees loose in her car, so an older gentleman who was sort of standing off to the side had an idea.
  We walked outside as my wife got back in the car. He picked up my box of bees and a long brush and beckoned me to follow him. The plan, he explained was that he would  take the brush and sweep off the bees from the outside of the box, then hand the box to me and I was to  run and get  the box inside my vehicle. Dear reader, at the time this sounded like absolute brilliance.  Looking back, well…not so much. The gentleman got to brushing and the bees would get evicted, fly up and land right back on the box. He brushed faster and suddenly handed me a mostly bee free box and said “Go!”
  I took off running swinging an eight pound box full of stinging insects with a cloud of bees following me.  I got to our vehicle, opened the door, threw the box in and closed the door. “There!” I found myself talking to the cloud of bees. “Take that!”
  I  got into the car awash in my own glory about what an elegant solution this turned out to be.  My bride however noticed the incompleteness of my victory in that a handful of bees still were on the outside of the box. “No problem, dear.” I told her. “Once we get out on the road we’ll roll all the windows down and drive as fast as we can. It’ll suck the bees right out. " Surprisingly, amazingly, it worked, and so were on our way back to our little corner of Georgia with 8 pounds of bees.
 Dianne , when we were almost home, looked back at the box and asked “ So how do you get them out of the box?”
  Ummm….well, how hard could it be?”

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

This Young Lady Deserves All the Publicity She Can Get

I wish I did anything as well as Julie Borowski aka 'Token Libertarian Girl' does videos

Christianity and Libertarianism

  I find myself in an interesting position sometimes.  To actually stop and think about what you believe and why you believe is, by all indications, outside of most people’s comfort zone. Most people believe what somebody else told them to believe, and it pretty much stops there. They tend to surround themselves with like-minded people and live in an echo chamber of opinion.  Then there are those of us, admittedly the minority, who don’t have an ‘off’ button on our brains, and we question EVERYTHING, including why nobody else questions anything.  We are not that way because we enjoy awkward silences at Thanksgiving dinner, and we are not that way because we choose to be. More than once I have wished that I had the capacity to ‘go along to get along’, but alas I don’t.  I have learned, as I’ve gotten older, when to talk and when to be quiet and  I have learned that  not every hill is worth dying on, but just because my mouth  stops moving doesn’t mean my brain has turned off.  Most people come to the truth by degrees and while some truths are so urgent that the whole story must be presented at once, some things can be introduced by degrees.
  I am a Bible-believing Christian, and an honest-to-goodness hellfire-and-damnation preacher. As such, I believe Scripture speaks expressly against certain things. As a Christian, and a minister of the gospel I must stand opposed to the things opposed in Scripture. But being opposed to those things, and being willing to lift up my voice against those things, isn’t the same thing as thinking they ought to be illegal.  That is a huge philosophical divide between libertarian philosophy and social conservatism.  Most people, including people whom I dearly love and respect, take the position that it is rational to get the state to stop people from doing things that they personally disapprove of. They think this simply because (at least I hope this is the reason) they haven’t taken their logic to its inevitable conclusion. I’ll  give you some examples.
  I believe a person ought to go to church.  Worship , even corporate worship is an important part of every believer’s life , and if done in accordance with God’s word, an invaluable asset in a person’s growth. Now, does that mean I think the police ought to prowl the streets, rounding up people on Sunday morning and either forcing them to attend somewhere or jailing them until Monday morning? Of course not, and neither does any halfway rational person. We understand inherently that such things are a matter of conscience and a man has the right to obey or disobey his conscience as he sees fit. It may be wrong, but it is not the state’s business to interfere in God’s business.
  I am opposed to alcohol. I think it’s vile, and reprehensible and destroys lives. I preach against it as often as the Spirit leads me to, without apology. But it’s a far different thing to say that my opposition to it justifies putting a man in a cage for having some.  My opposition to it doesn’t justify the state tinkering with people’s right to their own property just to placate my conviction. My hatred of it doesn’t justify the state dictating when you can and cannot sell your property (as they do in Georgia). I don’t want the state telling anybody what they cannot and cannot do with their own bodies or their own property because I understand that just because they are picking on somebody I oppose doesn’t mean they will stop there.  But it assumed among the brethren sometimes that an opposition to something precludes a belief in the illegality of it.  The truth is , Billy Sunday rescued more drunks with his preaching than he did with his support of Prohibition.
  I support Israel. But there is a difference between supporting the historical and scriptural rights of Abram’s descendants to their homeland and being willing to write checks in the blood of other people’s children to defend every whim of the Israeli government.  The Israeli government is populated by  unregenerate power-hungry men just like every other nation on earth, and we have to be careful  that we don’t let our sympathies be manipulated into needless pre-emptive bloodshed.
  I am opposed to drug use, and if they became legal tomorrow I still wouldn’t do drugs. But do I think it makes any sense at all to put a man in a cage for possessing a plant? Or selling a plant? Meanwhile tobacco (which probably really is bad for you) remains legal.
  I find that most people if you talk to them and explain to them how you arrived at what you believe, they will at least be sympathetic. More than once they have gone “Wow, I never looked at it that way.” The question I ask is “Would you be willing to let the government put a man in a cage for doing this?”  Sometimes they say  “yes” and then I just  change the subject lest I waste my time with an irrational person. And expressing my opinion has probably caused some of the brethren to think less of me, but hopefully they understand that just as there is a difference between something being  ‘illegal’ and something being  a ‘crime’ there is no incongruity between thinking something is immoral and still thinking it ought to be  legal.
  What I’ve found though in my brief time in libertarian circles in that these conversations don’t happen as often as they should.  Some libertarians are openly hostile towards Christians, calling them statists and other such names. A lot of Christians assume that libertarians are a bunch of hedonistic pot-heads. Though both statements may be occasionally true, neither statement typifies either camp.  The liberty movement doesn’t have to agree on everything, liberty itself allows that we live our lives in accordance with our own conscience, keeping in mind our ultimate accountability to our Creator.  With so much in common, I think the evangelical crowd can be persuaded towards liberty, in fact I think its vital that they are persuaded, but it’s going to take education, and a lot less hostility.