31 August 2011

What is a libertarian?

What is a libertarian?

I read the blogs of people who claim to be libertarians, and it's really hard to tell.

  1. Some sound like libertines.
  2. Some sound like liberals on steroids.
  3. Some sound as though they believe the universe has given them the right to grind the face of the poor into the dirt, forever, and they are just longing for the opportunity to do it.

And some sound like all three, switching from one to the other in as many sentences.

Hat-tip to Ron Paul Is Not a Libertarian | Clarissa's Blog -- I originally posted the above as a comment in response to Clarissa's post, but thought I would also post it separately as well.

There is a chain or restaurants here in South Africa that advertises by saying "You can't have too much of a good thing."

It is an invitation to gluttony, saying, in effect, that over-eating is not a vice.

I am a liberal, and I generally think that liberalism is a good thing.

I think that liberty, human freedom, is a good thing.

But when I read blogs by people who claim to be libertarians, I get the impression that what they are after is not so much liberty as licence. That is why I say that they are like liberals on steroids.

Liberals think that liberty is important, it is an important value, and the lack of it should be remedied as quickly as possible. Libertarians seem to believe that personal liberty is the only value, and that everything else must be subordinated to it.

Someone once asked me how, as an Orthodox Christian, I could say that I was a liberal. They thought that liberalism was the essence of everything that is evil and wrong with the world.

Yet Orthodox writers assume that freedom and love are essential characteristics of being human. For example, Christos Yannaras (1984:33) writes

Man's insistence on his individuality is an indication of his failure to realize his personal distinctiveness and freedom, of his falling away from the fulness of existence which is the life of the Trinity, personal coinherence and communion in love. This falling away is sin, amartia, which means missing the mark as to existential truth and authenticity. The patristic tradition insists on this interpretation of sin as failure and 'missing the mark,' as the loss of that 'end' or aim which for human nature is its existential self-transcendence, taking it into the limitless realm of personal distinctiveness and freedom.

But making freedom the main thing, or even the only thing, as libertarians seem to do, is to turn freedom into an idol. It turns liberty into an ideology, a kind of binding principle, so that in embracing the idea of freedom, and bowing down and worshipping it, one actually loses one's freedom. When one makes liberty a principle and a rule by which everything is judged, one loses one's freedom to live and to act; freedom as a false god is anything but free.


Yannaras, Christos. 1984. The freedom of morality. Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir's Seminary Press.

Academic publishers make Murdoch look like a socialist | George Monbiot | Comment is free | The Guardian

Academic publishers make Murdoch look like a socialist | George Monbiot | Comment is free | The Guardian: Who are the most ruthless capitalists in the western world? Whose monopolistic practices make Walmart look like a corner shop and Rupert Murdoch a socialist? You won't guess the answer in a month of Sundays. While there are plenty of candidates, my vote goes not to the banks, the oil companies or the health insurers, but – wait for it – to academic publishers. Theirs might sound like a fusty and insignificant sector. It is anything but. Of all corporate scams, the racket they run is most urgently in need of referral to the competition authorities.

26 August 2011

I know more about America than the average American

A few days ago I wrote a blog post critical of American notions of justice, of its legal system, and the attitudes of its lawyers. I had a few qualms about it, since I'm not American, and the longest time I spent in America was two weeks, back in 1995. What do I know about it?

Well, more than most Americans, it seems.

Hat-tip to A conservative blog for peace for the ISI civic-literacy quiz:

Are you more knowledgeable than the average citizen? The average score for all 2,508 Americans taking the following test was 49%; college educators scored 55%. Can you do better? Questions were drawn from past ISI surveys, as well as other nationally recognized exams.

The result?

You answered 29 out of 33 correctly — 87.88 %

In the beginning Time magazine created the heavens and the earth

The other day on Good Reads, my attention was caught by this:

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee1984 by George OrwellThe Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. TolkienThe Catcher in the Rye by J.D. SalingerThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Time Magazine's All-Time 100 Novels

I had a look at it and was slightly puzzled at some of the choices, in particular some of the books that weren't there. No Jane Austen? No Dickens? No Conrad?

Instead there were a whole lot of books I'd never heard of, which seemed odd choices for an "all-time" list.

At the end came the explanation:

Full List - ALL TIME 100 Novels - TIME: ALL TIME 100 Novels

TIME critics Lev Grossman and Richard Lacayo pick the 100 best English-Language novels from 1923 to the present

Clearly, in the beginning Time magazine created the heavens and the earth, and time itself. Anything before 1923 was outside time and so did not count.

That must be an all-time record for hubris.

23 August 2011

Do Americans have any concept of "justice"?

I begin to wonder if the American legal system has any concept of justice at all.

In the course of a discussion about everyday words used as trademarks, someone referred to this:

Seattle woman fights lawsuit for selling Coach purses on eBay | KING5.com Seattle
A Seattle woman is fighting a trendy handbag designer who accused her of trademark infringement for selling her used purses online.

Gina Kim is a former Coach Inc. employee and planned to sell several of her used Coach bags online. But soon after posting them on eBay, she received a threatening cease-and-desist letter from a New York law firm representing Coach.

In the letter, Kim was accused of trademark infringement and threatened with a $2 million lawsuit. The letter also demanded Kim surrender all her merchandise, never sell any of it again, admit guilt and send a $300 check to Coach.

The problem is, such bullying tactics do not seem to be at all unusual. In other countries there are usually Law Societies that discipline lawyers who engage in unethical practices. But American lawyers seem to do it with impunity.

If this were just an isolated incident, one could say that it was an aberration. You always find a couple of bad apples in the sack. But then I recalled the case of the Brewer brothers and their takeover of the SPCK Bookshops in the UK, and their use of lawyers to bully and intimidate anyone who questioned their unethical (and illegal) business practices. Well, they may have been legal in Texas, but they certainly weren't in Britain. Cease and Desist: One Year On | SPCK/SSG: News, Notes & Info
Whilst I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a date permanently etched in my memory, it’s a date I certainly won’t forget in a hurry: it’s the date J Mark ‘Bully Boy’ Brewer (shown right, screen grab from Fox News), Principal of Texas law firm, attorneys and counselors, Brewer and Pritchard PC, issued the first of his now notorious ‘Cease and Desist’ messages, threatening me, my friends and my colleagues with legal action if we didn’t stop reporting on his abuse of his staff and his mismanagement of the former SPCK bookshops.

If that weren't bad enough, I caught part of an interview of a British judge on Sky News. They were asking him about whether Gaddafi, if captured, should face trial locally in Libya or before the International Criminal Court (ICC). The judge said that an ICC trial would be better, because Libya has no independent judiciary and it would take some time to establish one, and so Gaddafi would not face a fair trial in Libya.

He said that there had been the same problem in Iraq eight years ago, where he had been one of those who had taken part in training Iraqi judges in the basic principles of justice.

When it came to the trial of Saddam Hussein, however, the biggest problem was the Americans, who did not want Saddam Hussein tried before the ICC because they would not impose a death sentence. And so he was tried by Iraqi courts, but when the British-trained judges questioned unjust legal practices, they were sacked.

There seems to be quite a big cultural gap, at least, between British and American conceptions of justice. Things that Americans seem to regard as normal inspire anger and revulsion in British people. That is not to say that there are no miscarriages of justice in Britain. There are. But they are not recognised as a normal part of the legal process.

And then comes the last straw: Libya: Scottish Officials Try To Contact Al-Megrahi In Tripoli As Unrest Spreads | UK News | Sky News:
Scottish officials are continuing urgent efforts to contact the Lockerbie bomber, amid the changing situation in Tripoli.

Under the terms of his compassionate release from Greenock Prison two years ago, Abdel Basset al Megrahi has been routinely checked upon by officials from East Renfrewshire Council...

Jim Swire, who lost his daughter Flora in the Lockerbie bombing, believes Megrahi was wrongly convicted and is concerned he could come to harm.

He told Sky News: "I think he might well be assassinated by whoever takes over the part of Tripoli he's in.

"I believe he could also be handed over to the Americans, or abducted by them."

And it appears that US politicians are already demanding that al Megrahi be handed over to them. But should anyone be handed over to a nation that has such a corrupt legal system and no conception of civilised justice, but only of tribal vengeance and the blood feud, as is shown by the bullying tactics routinely adopted by its lawyers?

Americans love to criticise Sharia law as being barbarous -- but can they demonstrate that their own legal system is any better?

21 August 2011

Opinionated Vicar: Boring vs Dangerous

Opinionated Vicar: Boring vs Dangerous:
A person with a sense of history and no sense of destiny is no doubt a very boring fellow; a person with a sense of destiny and no sense of history is a very dangerous fellow.

... now why did that make me immediately think of Julius Malema?

Casbah Roadhouse

On the way home from Vespers last night we stopped at the local Casbah Roadhouse to buy supper, to save the schlepp of having to cook so late.

I took this photo on my cell phone to record part of our way of life.

I was interested to see that in their main sign they managed to get "Pizzas" right, but they could not resist the greengrocer's apostrophe (pea's, carrot's. cabbage's) in the smaller signs advertising "Coke combo's".

There is a chain of Casbah roadhouses all over the country, and this one opened in about 1998. It wasn't on a main road, so we wondered how long it would survive, but it still seems to attract a fair number of customers.

When they opened in 1998 their medium curry and rice cost R14.00, but now it is nearer R50.00. The quality seems to have remained consistent. The same can't be said of their hamburgers, though. When they opened their hamburgers were excellent, and good value for money. At some point they seem to have switched from making their own to buying mass-produced hamburger patties from a central supplier, and probably frozen. They have a rubbery texture, and have far too much salt, which makes them not only unhealthy , but almost inedible. Their other stuff is still fairly good.

I looked to see if they had a web site, but though two other branches in Pretoria did, at Gezina and Annlin, there didn't seem to be one for the Kilner Park branch. But they did tell the story of how it started.
On the 29th of January 1955, Smittys Teapot, in Brakpan, was taken over and transformed into Casbah Roadhouse by Sylvia Kongos and her brother Peter Theologo. The other brothers, Evangelo (Ponch), Russel (Lucky), Costa and Johnny soon joined them. The name "Casbah" was taken from the show Casablanca.

After gaining experience in that first family venture, the brothers went their separate ways and opened their own roadhouses.

Evangelo, or Ponch as he was known, started his roadhouse career in Brakpan, but then went on to open roadhouses in Alberton, Wemmer Pan, Johannesburg, Malvern, Benoni, Vereeniging, Krugersdorp and Port Elizabeth.

Ponch always believed in VFM. Value for money. Everything that you made for a customer you had to make as if you were making it for a friend.

Evangelo(Ponch) Theologo is known as the "King of Roadhouses".

15 August 2011

Has Christian anarchism become a "brand"

A Christian anarchist blogger reported seeing a shopping bag with what looked like a Christian anarchist symbol A Pinch of Salt: I guess it was bound to happen one day:
Yesterday, Sunday afternoon, I saw a young lady, obviously going to the city centre here in Amsterdam, carrying a black linen shopping bag with an encircled A on it. That, unfortunately, may be part of the modern marketing mix of rebellion (think of Levi's advertising a riot just in the days of the #ukriots).

This A within an O was different however. It had an extra vertical line through the horizontal line of the A, making it a cross symbol.

After doing some research, afraid that there might be a growing link between Christian anarchism and the consumer society, it appears that that is indeed the case. See here: Christian Anarchy Cross : Christian Anarchy Crucifix

14 August 2011

Kakangelism on steroids: the Byzantine Catholic Patriarchate

I first heard of the Byzantine Catholic Patriarchate only about half an hour ago, after reading about a fellow blogger, an Anglican priest in England, who had received a denunciatory spam message from them Nouslife: With 'friends' like this, who needs other faiths?.

I'd never heard of it before, so did a Google search for them, and discovered that they were a brand-new denomination or sect (they broke away from the Roman Catholic Church) founded last April, and that their main activity seems to be denouncing everyone they don't like, which seems to be, well, everyone (except themselves, of course).

I came across someone else who had received their spam, who seemed to assume, erroneously, that this particular sect somehow represented Orthodoxy: Not Healing the East-West Schism | Sinaiticus:
Like many pastors and churches in the Presbyterian Church (USA), I recently received (7/15/2011) an e-mail from the Byzantine Catholic Patriarchate, condemning our denomination’s loosening sexual ethics for church leaders. It is apparent that they culled the Internet for e-mail addresses related to Presbyterian congregations and sent out a massive spam.

The author of that blog is concerned about their role in healing the East-West schism. I feel I can safely say that they are as relevant to healing the East-West schism as the Westboro Baptist Church, which they seem to most closely resemble.

I'm not sure what the "Byzantine Catholic Patriarchate" stands for, but it reminds me of the Pogo comics of 50 years ago, when Pogo was accosted by the founders of the newly formed Jack Acid Society, who were going around recruiting members, and also, more important, denouncing enemies.

Pogo asked, "What does the Jack Acid Society stand for?"

"We won't stand for much, believe me."

10 August 2011

London's Burning: A Riot of Goodness

Yesterday news of the London riots prompted some negative thoughts about the British media, in me at least. But just to show that the the media are far from the real spirit of real people, here's a different side of the picture.

Opinionated Vicar: A Riot of Goodness:
Todays mass cleanups - whose turnout probably exceeds those of the riots by a large margin - have been inspiring. The #riotcleanup and @riotcleanup tags on Twitter have been humming, and when the BBC interviewed a vicar in Ealing earlier today she said that many of the would-be-cleaners had been sent home because there was nothing left for them to do, such was the volume of help.

So London, the city that is host to the 2012 Olympic Games, can show us a thing or two about ubuntu too.

09 August 2011

London's burning - remember 2010?

In London (the city that is to host the 2012 Olympics) groups of young people rampaged for the third straight night.

It is difficult to resist the temptation to schadenfreude when one recalls the way the Brit media behaved over the football World Cup in South Africa in 2010, where every petty crime that occurred in South Africa was gleefully and prominently reported with the reminder that South Africa was to hold the World Cup in 2010.

So when I read stories like this, I recall those days.

Market Inline - British riots spread through more cities on the third night of violence:
In London, groups of young people rampaged for a third straight night, setting buildings, vehicles and garbage dumps alight, looting stores and pelting police officers with bottles and fireworks. The spreading disorder was an unwelcome view of London’s volatility for leaders organizing the 2012 Summer Olympics in less than a year.

In 2010, the Daily Mail was particularly bad in this respect. See, for example Notes from underground: Legends from a small country: 'Kill a Tourist Day'. But other papers joined in, sometimes even making up completely bogus stories and headlines for the purpose.

So as London (the city that is to host the 2012 Olympic Games) burns, many South Africans might be tempted to think "serves them right."

We'll probably resist the temptation, but watch the South African tabloids to see if you can catch a glimmer of Schadenfreude. You never know.

07 August 2011

Yahoo hacked - warning

Yesterday I uploaded a family history file to one of our groups on Yahoogroups, and today my wife wanted to have a look at it and her antivirus software chirped a warning.

I investigated and found it that the Yahoogroups site had been hacked, and all the filenames pointed to a malware site. A quick look at some other forums showed the same thing - the filenames had been hacked.

I've tried to report this to Yahoo! They don't make it easy. They tell you they only accept reports of technical vulnerabilities (which this is) from "the online security community" (whatever that may be). It's a bit like being mugged and wanting to report it to the police station and being told that you can only report it at the police station where you live, and then being told that you can only report it at the police station where you were mugged, and then being told, no, you must go to the police station where the mugger lives, and generally being given the run-around. Well my Yahoogroups files have been mugged, and so, I think, have a lot of other people's.

To check, hover your cursor over the link to the file you want to download from Yahoohroups. Look at the bottom left of your screen (in Firefox, I don't know about other browsers) and see the URL it shows you. If it says "yahoofs", back off. Wait for Yahoo! to fix it.

02 August 2011

Golf tour, or tournament?

Going home from church on Sunday in Mamelodi we turned into this road and saw that there was a Golf convention, or could one say a Golf tournament.

I'm reminded of Louis Macneice's poem Sunday Morning
Down the road someone is practising scales,
The notes like little fishes vanish with a wink of tails,
Man's heart expands to tinker with his car
For this is Sunday morning, Fate's great bazaar;
Regard these means as ends, concentrate on this Now,


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