The Ferguson Decision & The Liberty Principle

"Hands up, Don't Shoot."

Liberty is a moral issue. This is why we speak in moral terms about issues that touch on the Liberty principle. In the afterglow, (or burning embers – take your pick),  of  The Ferguson Decision, let’s review the situation from the standpoint of the Liberty principle.

The Story: Cop shoots unarmed black teenager. Community riots. Grand jury refuses to indict. Community riots some more.

The Facts (as far as we know them): Teen had just robbed a store, cop confronted teen, teen attacked cop, cop “feared for his life”, Ferguson has an about-average crime rate but averages $321 in fines and fees, 3 warrants and 1.5 court cases per household.

The Liberty Framework: Since Liberty is a moral argument, we make no apology for casting human action in moral terms. Our moral standard is the principle of self-ownership.

  • When an individual’s self-ownership is violated, a moral wrong has occurred.
  • It is impossible to redress the consequences of a moral wrong with another moral wrong.


The Liberty Issues:

  1. The Ferguson city government committed aggression against its citizens.
    • It appears to me that “law-enforcement” in Ferguson is a racket designed to generate revenue.
  2. Michael Brown committed aggression against the cop.
    • We assume the testimonies of the Grand Jury witnesses were accurate
  3. The cop may or may not have committed aggression against Michael Brown.
    • The Grand Jury decided he was acting in self-defence; self-defence is valid and moral under the Liberty principle.
    • But maybe the witnesses lied
  4. The citizens who rioted committed aggression against their neighbors.


Virtually everyone involved in the Ferguson Decision is guilty of violating the Liberty principle. These are moral wrongs that cannot be resolved by yet more aggression against self-ownership. These wrongs can only be fixed by:

  1. Recompense for those victimized by aggression and/or
  2. Forgiveness by the victims towards the aggressors and
  3. Immediate cessation of aggression by all parties


The Liberty principle is inclusive, not exclusive: Anyone who’s paying attention will recognize the religious overtones to these solutions – recompense, forgiveness, cessation of aggression – and yet they are solutions grounded in a simple human principle – I own myself – rather than in any religious creed.  Any person – with or without religious convictions – can govern himself and expect others to govern themselves by this principle.

The Liberty principle is simple and unambiguous: Either I own myself, or I do not. There is no middle ground.

  • If I own myself, then I have the intrinsic right to use what is mine in whatever way I see fit, as long as it doesn’t violate the self-ownership of others.
  • If I do not own myself, then someone else owns me. My owner(s) have the right to use me in whatever way they see fit.

The only possibility for middle ground between these two positions is that I partially own myself and am partially owned by someone else. While this is not logically impossible, it is in practice impossible to define, let alone enforce.


11 2014

Liberty News Online for 20 November 2014

From Lew Rockwell’s blog today:

In his City of God, St. Augustine tells the story of a pirate captured by Alexander the Great. Alexander demands of him, “How dare you molest the seas?” The pirate replied, “How dare you molest the whole world? Because I do it with a small boat, I am called a thief. You, with a great fleet, molest the whole world and are called an emperor.” St. Augustine called this answer “elegant and excellent.”

The Mises Institute website has been completely redesigned and is live today.

Guess who said this:

Sanctions are already undermining the foundations of world trade, the WTO rules and the principle of inviolability of private property. They are dealing a blow to liberal model of globalisation based on markets, freedom and competition, which is a model that has primarily benefited precisely the Western countries.

You probably didn’t guess Vlad Putin, did you?

I’ve long claimed that I am against hetero-sexual marriage. This was a partly tongue-in-cheek response to the homosexual marriage argument, and partly irritation with the fact that the state is involved in people’s intimate lives to such a ridiculous extent. I’m glad to see some Christian pastors refuse to conduct state marriages, gay, straight or otherwise. Good for them.

Prosecutor sent a guy to jail for 25 years by withholding evidence. He gets a 10 day prison sentence. That seems fair.

Another mid-level banker at one of the TBTF banks turned up dead this morning. Apparently, he committed suicide by cutting his own throat. I wonder why the C-level dudes aren’t turning up dead…

The Legatum Institute in London publishes an annual report about personal freedom around the world. The good news is that the US leads most of the rest of the world in personal freedom. The bad news is that we are number 21, behind such paragons of freedom as France, Austria, Malta and Portugal.





11 2014

Faith and Rationality: Can they Co-exist?

Can faith and rationality co-exist? For most of my life, I believed – passionately – that they could. But life being what it is, I have come to view faith in God as not terribly rational. And yet, I just realized I was wrong. In the words of Ricky Ricardo, “give me a chance to ‘splain.

Hey, I’m a Believer

All my life, I have been surrounded by people of faith, and all my life, I have struggled to believe the way they believe.

My mother is a woman of great faith. From my earliest years, her words and her actions demonstrated that she trusted God. I spent 17 years watching up close as she worked out her faith, and the 31 years since I left home seeing it from a distance. Her faith has been tested in life’s arena by failures, pain, loss and disappointment. Yet still she believes.

After I left home, I spent the early years of my adulthood being mentored by a man of great faith. Again I saw up close what it looked like when someone trusted God not with mere words but with their actions. His faith has been tested by financial failure, relational rejection, disappointment, loss and pain. Yet his faith in God is steadfast.

My partner is a woman of great faith. Her trust in God is intensely practical. She is not much one for showy religion, but her trust in God is unwavering.  Her faith has been tested by loss, disappointment, failure, homelessness, rejection and pain. Yet still she believes.

I have always wanted to have that sort of faith, yet it has always been a tremendous struggle for me. Where some people see “the Hand of God”, I see perfectly rational explanations that don’t require supernatural intervention. Where other people see Divine Providence, I see simple coincidence – coincidences that don’t involve God.

What a Fool Believes

As you will see from my other writing on this site and elsewhere, I am a passionate believer in God’s Grace; I am unable to avoid the fact that I seem bent toward self-delusion and self-destruction, as is every other human being I have ever known or learned about. Any system of redemption that depends on the work of man is – in my experience – doomed to failure. I am convinced that if man is to be reconciled to God, then God is going to have to do the work. Man simply isn’t up to the task.

But beyond that – beyond this work of “pure redemption” – I just do not see God involved in day-to-day life.  I see Him as the necessary component of the Big Picture, and yet I have struggled to find Him in the details. I believe I trust myself to Him beyond the point of death, but until then – not so much.

Does God really care so much about me that he knows how many hairs are on my head? Does He really care about each individual creature in His creation so much that not a sparrow falls to the ground without His knowledge? Jesus said He does. Yet I would say that the facts argue against it.

Don’t Stop  Believin’

Face it: if God really is All-Loving, All-Powerful and Personal, then the world as it presents itself to us would look different, wouldn’t it?

My attempts at faith keep getting stuck on this issue. I cannot reconcile the pain, suffering, loss, failure and sheer evil I observe in this world with the doctrine of God the All-Powerful, All-Loving and Personal. It’s not that I don’t want to believe – I do. But believing that way seems – in a word – irrational.

Stuck. Grounded. Trapped. Caught on the horns of a dilemma.

And then one day recently, I had a little mini-epiphany, or as my dear departed friend Ken Jessup would say, an “epiphanette”. All my life I had been drawing a distinction between faith and reason, as if Faith stood on one side and Reason stood on the other and from my place in the middle I had to choose one or the other. I thought that I had not been choosing Reason and rejecting Faith; I described myself as someone to whom faith was difficult. But I was wrong. I was not choosing Reason over Faith, as I thought. Rather, I was just choosing to place my faith in reason. My mother, my mentor and my partner choose to place their faith in God, I have been choosing to place it in Reason. It is not that I had no faith, it is instead that I chose a different target for my faith.

Suddenly, that put the struggle into a different arena. I used to view my mom, mentor and partner as people who had something I didn’t have – namely, faith in God. If they had something I did not, then that means that there was little I could do about it. But when I realized that I had faith too -it’s just that my faith was in Reason rather than God – then I realized that I could simply choose to trust God rather than Reason.

Now that may seem — unreasonable. But I don’t see it that way at all.

I know enough science and have experienced enough of the vicissitudes of life to know that rationality is not rational. As Hamlet told Horatio, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”


11 2014

Cigars with YHWH

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” 

YHWH stirred a finger in his scotch, his cigar hanging from the other hand. He gazed into the distance and sighed.

“I really liked that bit when we first thought of it.”

He paused, blew a smoke ring into the air and continued.

“I liked it even better when We first said it. But they just had to go and write it down, didn’t they?”

I kept my silence. I hadn’t lived with Father this long without learning His moods. When He was pensive – especially when He sat in the evening with a cigar and a scotch – I knew what role I should play: the Silent Listener.

“You know them better than I? Why do they insist on taking our Word and sucking the life from it in that way?”

Uh oh. He was really upset. I sat down next to Him and picked a cigar from His humidor on the ottoman: Ramon Allones Gigantes. Smooth and easy-drawing. That was gonna take a while to smoke. He must really need to talk.

Ramon Allones Cigar“I mean, do we not make Ourself clear? We speak, and things happen. We don’t write things down and post them on some scroll or print them in some book or post them on some bulletin board next to advertisements for lost cats and new roommates. Do they realize that it was not mere symbols on a page that created stars and planets? And can they not grasp that it is not ink on paper that keeps them spinning in space? No! It is Our Living Word!”

He banged the scotch down on the table hard enough to splash some on His hand. Without looking, He licked the amber drops from the inside of His wrist and sighed again. I waited for Him to say more, but He just stared off into the distance.

I clipped the end of my cigar and reached for the lighter. I could tell He was not really speaking to me; He was just thinking out loud. I held the lighter up to the cigar and puffed as I pressed the trigger. A beautiful aromatic smoke curled around us in the twilight. In the distance a mockingbird sounded his last song before sunset, and the frogs were just starting to warm up. It was going to be a beautiful evening, but Father was perturbed.

He hung His head for a moment and closed His eyes. I watched the evening breeze ruffle the stray brown hairs of His thick beard. He frequently adopted this particular look: the unkempt beard and bushy eyebrows of a middle-aged human lumberjack. He has an odd sense of style but an impeccable aesthetic sensibility. He’s complex. I guess We both are.

He picked up the glass and sipped again, then held the goblet in front of His eyes and addressed Himself to the smoky liquid inside.

“How is it that creatures so thick-headed and obstinate can also create something so singularly brilliant as single malt scotch and Cuban cigars? How, I ask you?  These men are idiot savants, are they not?”

Glencairn whisky glassI waited for more, but he kept His silence. I swirled the scotch in my own Glencairn and held it to my nose. Tonight we were drinking the Caol Ila 12, one of the lesser-known of the Islays. Father was right, I thought to myself. How could our creatures be so creative in one instant and so mind-numbingly idiotic in the next?

I thought back to my own time here on earth. Living with an earthly body was — odd — and felt so much smaller than my true self. Sometimes I was overwhelmed with the sensation of being so much bigger than what I was able to express through that earthen vessel. As difficult and painful as it was, I understood why Father decided I should become a man and walk as a man among them: I couldn’t truly understand and sympathize with them had I not gone through that experience. And I’d have never tried scotch and cigars.

The cigar was amazing, and provided a perfect counterpoint to the scotch. YHWH continuously surprised me with the things He chose to love: scotch, cigars, earth, mankind, beetles…

The last blazing crescent of the sun slipped below the horizon as the stars blazed to life in the firmament. I was so glad He had chosen earth as the place for us to have this discussion. As much as I loved Our heavenly home, I had grown to love this place when I was a resident here, and I missed it when I was gone.

The stars looked so different from this vantage point, and in a way I pitied my human brothers that they could not observe the stars in the fullness of their glory.

I puffed again on the cigar and watched the smoke drift away in the twilight.

But then, I pitied the stars that they could not know the simple earthly pleasure of a good scotch, a good cigar and good conversation. Stars are amazing beings, but their tastes are galactic in scale. They’re just not sensitive enough to enjoy such subtleties. Nevertheless, it is a good creation.

“It is, isn’t it?”

Father had read my mind and responded to my thoughts. It made me smile. The pleasure of having such intimate knowledge of one another never grew old.

“I love you, Father.” I spoke the words out loud.

He smiled back. “You have listened well. Tell me what you think. Why must they write things down? I want to hear your words, not just your thoughts.”

I puffed again, blew two perfect and a third not-so-perfect smoke ring. As I watched them dissipate into the darkness, I pondered my answer.

“Writing things down is a way for them to avoid death, isn’t it? When they die, they are silent. But if they write down their words, they can still speak from beyond the grave. It’s their way of grasping immortality. And when they write Our words down, it is a way for them to grasp Our immortality.”

Father nodded and blew a geometrically perfect perfect smoke ring into the now-dark evening sky. Sometimes He is such a show-off.

“Perhaps, perhaps. That reminds me.” He changed the subject. “What are we going to do about this whole universal entropy thing?”

Indeed. What are we going to do about it?


11 2014

Thrown It All Away

Mama, just killed a man. Put my gun up to his head, pulled my trigger. Now he’s dead. Mama, life has just begun. But now I’ve gone and thrown it all away.

Throw it all away.

The great ones do, and they leave us richer because they don’t hold back. The great ones leave life with the last drop of fuel burned, the last bullet from the last magazine fired, and the last breath flung into the universe with great love.

That, my friends, was Freddie Mercury. May I be so courageous as to throw it all away like he did.

This documentary about Queen and Freddie Mercury from the BBC is two hours long, and it is not nearly long enough. Watch it and see one of the great ones throw everything away.

Somehow, what Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon created has survived the death of the greatest front-man in rock & roll history. I cannot help but think it is because Freddie threw it all away with great love, great kindness, great passion — and was fortunate enough to die with his boots on.

PS: Watch Freddie’s last video – These Are The Days of Our Lives and try not to feel a lump in your throat. I dare you.




08 2014

Dick Led Me to Yeats

Or perhaps it would make more sense to say that VALIS led me to The Second Coming, and who knows where I will go from there?

(Yeah, that headline might possibly be designed to troll for hits.)

I discovered this poem – The Second Coming – by W.B. Yeats whilst reading Philip K. Dick’s VALIS trilogy.

I’m a little appalled that I recognize so many lines from this poem and yet have never read the poem itself till now.) The poem was written 95 years ago, but could very well have been written 95 minutes ago.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

We’ve lost our moorings. Worse, we’ve lost control of the death-dealing tools we used to wield so expertly.

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold

We’ve become more tribal, less global, more extreme, less sensible.

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

ISIS anyone? As I write this, these animals have just beheaded an American journalist.

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

I can get pretty passionate about single malt scotch, but that’s about it. I used to be full of passionate intensity, but the fires have dimmed and the conviction has waned. Do I lack conviction because I’ve experienced to much? The answer is – naturally – I’m not sure.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.

The disorder and chaos surely mean something. Don’t they? Don’t they?

The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight:

We stumble through the darkness, not thinking, merely reacting – predictably – to whatever stimulus we experience. 9/11 leads ineluctably to the Patriot Act and Homeland Security and Ferguson and ISIS and gods know what else. Wallenstein led to Bismarck led to Hitler. Luther led to Calvin led to the massacre of the Hugenots. There is nothing new under the sun.

somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.

Have we awakened something ancient, something bigger and colder and deadlier than we can imagine? Will we even know it if we see it?

The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

What rough beast indeed?

Mister Dick was one of a kind, as was – I presume – Mister Yeats.


08 2014

DISH Network Channel Guide & Packages Matrix

Jack’s Roll-Your-Own DISH Network Channel Guide

I realized recently I was paying too much for the TV I was actually watching, (we have DISH), so I decided to downgrade my plan. The problem is that the DISH website seems designed to utterly confuse anyone attempting to do what I did, which is get an answer to the question, “what’s the cheapest way to get the channels I want from DISH?”

To start with, they don’t list ALL the channels anywhere, nor do they even have a single page that lists every package they offer. I got the distinct impression that the website was designed to confuse rather than enlighten. Since I watch only six channels, I really didn’t think it made economic sense to pay for their America’s Top 250+ package. Yep, I was paying for 244 channels which I never watch. I’m thinking their business model is similar to that of a fitness club.

Anyway, I finally gave up trying to find the info I needed in a single location on their website, and built this spreadsheet instead. It lists ALL the programs they offer in column 1, and then marks which packages carry that particular channel in the columns to the right.

Please let me know if this is helpful.



08 2014

Terry Gilberg Show 3 May: Sources for Commentary

Per my appearance on the Terry Gilberg Show on Saturday, May 3rd, I provide more detail and sources.

Connecticut Stabbing Perp Christopher Plaskton, may be show signs of psychosis.

Anti-depressants and ADHD medication are often correlated in these incidents. On Jan 7, 2011 Time Magazine reported on a study that listed the drugs most often linked with violent behavior. 8 of the top 10 drugs which are linked with violent behavior are specifically supposed to be mood-altering, and the 9th is allegedly supposed to address a sleep problem.

We can go back to Columbine 15 years ago for a chilling list that illustrates the problem. Eric Harris was taking the antidepressant Luvox. Klebold was witnessed taking the antidepressants Paxil and Zoloft.  (Officially, Klebold’s medical records remain sealed. Why?)

But there’s plenty more.

Mexican Army May Be Crossing US Border

Documentation of over 300 incursions over 18 years, but apparently not enough to get anyone riled up about Mexico actually invading the US militarily. Residents of the border actually have more complaints about the Border Patrol. Shades of the fall of Rome where the citizens welcomed the invaders because the tax code they lived under was so onerous. Perhaps the border residents think that Mexican government can’t be much worse than our own?

The number of BP agents has almost tripled since 1999, while the number of apprehensions has fallen to a third of what it was 15 years ago. So we have government employees accomplishing approximately 11% as much as they did 15 years ago. That sounds about right. (Since the raison d’etre of the Border Patrol is to secure the border, the fact that three times as many agents are doing one third as much work means that either (a) the need for BP has dramatically fallen or else (b) they’re way less effective than they were 15 years ago. Either way, it just demonstrates the complete utter incompetence of government.

Toronto mayor rob ford goes to rehab.  can he redeem himself and get reelected again?

Can you say “Marion Barry”? Twice elected mayor and once elected councilman. 1990 – caught smoking crack. 1994, re-elected mayor of DC.  2002 arrested for marijuana and cocaine possession. 2004 elected councilman. 2005 put on probation for not filing taxes for several years. 2011, probation extended because he didn’t file yet again.

I think Toronto has the mayor it wants. The real story here is not that Rob Ford has a vacuum hose for a nose. The real story is that a majority of Toronto voters don’t care.  The culture of Washington DC is one where using drugs does not disqualify a person from public office. Apparently the culture of Toronto is the same. In Arizona, our culture is a little different. I say “live and let live”. Just don’t make me responsible for paying for someone else’s addiction treatment.

Sexual Assault Investigation at Schools



05 2014

Church, State and Net Neutrality

When the US Constitution was written and approved in 1789, the Christian churches exercised a power over the culture that was at least equal – if not superior to – the power of the central government. For that reason, the culture in which the Constitution was created must be considered when interpreting the Constitution. Net neutrality today plays a role similar to that played by the christian church back then.


American culture in the late 18th century was deeply Christian. This is not to say that every person was a Christian, or that every person believed or practiced Christianity. It is merely to say that the prevailing, publicly accepted ethic was traditional Judeo-Christian morality. Anyone who publicly violated those ethics would incur the opprobrium of the majority.

(Please note my repeated use of the words “public” and “publicly”. It is intentional.)

The Founders could implicitly rely on public morality to provide a counter-balance to any unbalanced behavior on the part of the government – at least insofar as that unbalanced behavior violated public morality and ethics. There was nothing written into the Constitution about balancing the power of the government against some external power because that external power was as common as dirt and as prevalent as air.

The situation today is greatly changed. The First Amendment to the Constitution clearly defines the most significant limit to the power of the government:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

To summarize: Congress is prohibited from:

  • Providing any governmental backing to any religion.
  • Prohibiting the exercise of any religion
  • Making it illegal to say some things
  • Abridging the freedom of the press

The powers prohibited to Congress by the First Amendment are powers that act as a counter-balance to the government. Those powers were – in 1789 – the church and the press. The power of the church is no longer a counter-balance to the power of the government, and the Olde Media press, (newspapers and broadcasters) have little more than the Public Relations arm of Government. In other words, the traditional counter-balances to government are no more.


…the Internet is the great Counter-weight.

It allows the common man a voice that can be heard around the world, bypassing corporate and government gate-keepers and making public those things which governmental minions (governminions?) would prefer be kept secret.

So even though the Church is impotent and the Old Media press is co-opted, the bloggers, new media reporters and internet investigators stand today as the last line of defense against an ever-encroaching state.

“Net Neutrality” is a vital component of this counter-balancing power of the internet. If the corporate behemoths that own the “pipes” of the internet also are given power to censor the content, (by way of charging different rates for different types of data), then the balance of power is once again weighted disproportionately in favor of the rich and powerful and against the poor and powerless.


04 2014

Something Beautiful

Awesome video to make Monday beautiful.


03 2014