Pass the Internet tax moratorium and oppose Internet sales tax

stl-tp-logo-dark-200x200

Americans from all sectors of society use the Internet for social and economic reasons. Many use it as a means of climbing the economic ladder. That’s why every American has a vested interest in the debate in Washington over the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA) and the Internet sales tax (IST).

ITFA, a moratorium on discriminatory state and local taxes on the Internet (i.e. “email taxes”), is something Americans on both sides of the aisle and opposite ends of the political spectrum support.

Some lawmakers are trying to hold the moratorium hostage until they can attach to it a very unpopular tax on Internet sales, the so-called Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA). The MFA would allow states to require out-of-state retailers to collect and remit their sales taxes, regardless of whether they have a physical presence in the state.

Before ITFA’s passage in 1998, 10 states had imposed taxes on Internet usage. Over the past 16 years, Congress has renewed the moratorium four times, most recently in 2007, which means the moratorium is constantly under threat of not being continued should revenue-hungry lawmakers get their way. This year, the House passed a bill by unanimous voice vote extending the moratorium indefinitely, but the Senate failed to do the same, instead extending ITFA only until Dec. 11, 2014.

Tying a critical policy like ITFA to a terrible policy like an Internet sales tax bill is a massive disservice to the people. Political maneuvering to force bad policy on the American people is reprehensible.

That is especially true during a lame duck session of Congress, which is when some lawmakers intend to pull this stunt.

Conservative and liberal economists agree and have produced data demonstrating the economic harm that would result from more state Internet taxes. Businesses would face myriad new cumbersome burdens if the moratorium were to expire. And additional Internet taxes would harm the most vulnerable among us, who have to make tough decisions about how to use their discretionary spending. As popular as the moratorium is, the idea of an Internet sales tax bill is just as unpopular. Only 35 percent of Americans support it.

The IST is particularly onerous for small business owners in Delaware who sell their products on the Internet, because the state doesn’t have a sales tax. Business owners may have chosen to base their business here for that very reason. If enacted, the MFA would force Delaware-based retailers to navigate the tax policies of some 10,000 jurisdictions and 46 state tax authorities. Under the MFA, small businesses in Delaware could face audits from overzealous state and local governments in California, Illinois and New York.

The MFA is simply a political ploy to line the pockets of revenue hungry state governments that don’t want to cut spending. Worse, major retailers are playing politics to drive out competition from small, Internet-based competitors. Many big businesses have a physical nexus in several states and already collect remit sales taxes for online sales specifically because of their physical nexus in a variety of states. They are working to convince small brick-and-mortar companies that they are on the same team – a team that wants to ensure small, online businesses have to bear greater tax burdens.

Congress should not attach a terrible policy like the Internet sales tax to a vastly popular idea like the Internet tax moratorium. The federal government should not impose discriminatory taxes on Internet usage, which is such an integral part of a thriving economy and a means of upward mobility for many Americans. Doing so would only be made worse by combining it with the Internet sales tax to burden Internet-based entrepreneurs in an unprecedented way.

This piece was originally published in the Milford Beacon on October 15, 2014.

The Madison Project Endorses Glenn Grothman in WI-6

stl-tp-logo-dark-200x200

He’s the current state Senator from the 20th district in Wisconsin, having served in that capacity since 2004. In 2011, he was in the middle of the fight against the labor unions in Wisconsin and in support of Governor Scott Walker’s Act 10 bill.

Known as a fiscal hawk and strong advocate of life, he has a proven legislative record in Wisconsin that gives us the confidence that he will fight for conservatism in Washington, DC. In recent months, he has been quoted as saying, “[voters want] conservative candidates who want to stand up to Republican leadership. And that’s me.”

This is why we are excited to endorse Glenn Grothman for Congress today. As part of the conservative revolution in Wisconsin, Glenn has been a tireless champion of lower taxes, education reform and the unborn and we look forward to seeing the same from him in Washington.

The Madison Project Endorses Zach Dasher in LA-5

stl-tp-logo-dark-200x200

Many know him as nephew of Phil and Si Robertson of Duck Dynasty, but Zach Dasher is also a candidate in Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District.

A businessman who has never run for office, Zach is running on a platform of strong, comprehensive conservatism. From marriage to life to reducing the intrusion of government in our lives, Zach checks all the boxes and has an opportunity to replace a Congressman who ran on a platform of conservatism but voted with GOP leadership once he got to Washington, DC.

In a cycle that is bringing a robust group of conservatives into the House of Representatives, we believe that Zach will be a strong addition to that group and we are excited to endorse him in his run for Congress.

Glenn Grothman for Congress

stl-tp-logo-dark-200x200

For Immediate Release

October 21, 2014

Contact: [email protected]

 

Madison Project PAC Endorses Glenn Grothman for Congress in Wisconsin’s Sixth District   

  

Fort Worth, TX – The Madison Project PAC announced today that it is endorsing Glenn Grothman for Congress in Wisconsin’s Sixth District:

“Glenn Grothman is a proven legislator and principled leader who conservatives need in Washington, D.C.,” said Drew Ryun of the Madison Project. “Not only is Glenn a strong advocate of life and social values, but he is a dedicated fiscal hawk willing to take on the Labor Unions in his own state. In recent months, Glennhas been quoted as saying, ‘[voters want] conservative candidates who want to stand up to Republican leadership. And that’s me.’ Glenn Grothman is the real deal and we are proud to give him our endorsement.”

The Madison Project supports and raises money for conservative candidates that have demonstrated a commitment to full-spectrum conservatism. The Madison Project website can be found athttp://madisonproject.com/

Zach Dasher for Congress

stl-tp-logo-dark-200x200

For Immediate Release

October 21, 2014

Contact: [email protected]

 

Madison Project PAC Endorses Zach Dasher for Congress in Louisiana’s Fifth District   

  

Fort Worth, TX – The Madison Project PAC announced today that it is endorsing Zach Dasher for Congress in Louisiana’s Fifth District:

“Zach Dasher is a principled conservative who has never run for office,” said Drew Ryun of the Madison Project. “He’s a true citizen legislator who comes from a business background and knows firsthand the intrusion of government into our lives. Not only will Zach fight the special interests in Washington, D.C. but he will stand up for the conservative values of life, and marriage that Louisiana’s 5th Congressional district hold so dear. The Madison Project is proud to endorse Zach Dasher and we look forward to helping him cross the finish line in November.”

The Madison Project supports and raises money for conservative candidates that have demonstrated a commitment to full-spectrum conservatism. The Madison Project website can be found athttp://madisonproject.com/

###

The Materialist’s inversion: When power is not forced to serve Truth, truth is abandoned for Power – Progress or Regress pt.4c

stl-tp-logo-dark-200x200
Yesterday's post illustrated a few useful points of History to keep in mind: that savagery is normal, even easy, for human beings, that power over others is naturally tempting for people to seek after and to excuse using in order to maximize their political and personal security. And maybe most important of all, that neither primitive grass skirts, fashionable tweed jackets, nor their accompanying technology (or lack thereof) are reliable indicators of whether or not the people wearing those clothes are savages themselves.

We also left off noting that it would be the simplest and the most natural thing in the world to be socialized into such a society - unless you happen to experience the interference of something which somehow helps to dispel that society's illusions, rather than being drawn in to them. What that is and how to magnify it is a question that's worth asking, continually, because doing so is what leads you to steady Progress, upwards and outwards from the societal baseline. But examining that, for the most part, will have to wait for a later post; not that we won't see hints and flashes of it here and there, but as important as that certain something is, we've still got to get a clearer picture of what it is that we hope to make real progress away from. Because if you don't have a clear idea of what regressive movement would be, we're all too easily tempted to pursue what unknowingly cannot lead to real progress, and so confusing motion itself with making real Progress, and History is replete with this tragic trajectory, we become Pro-Regressive instead.

A worthwhile distinction to make is that while savagery is the historic norm for humanity, being natural, has almost nothing to do with whether it is Right or Good. And if you'll continue to question appearances, you find that the features with which a society naturally flatters itself with, being 'Modern'; having technological skills, material wealth, and a wide web of cultural habits and stylized dress; you'll find that they are not only not, in and of themselves, marks of real progress, but more often than not they are the means of suppressing worthwhile change and avoiding real progress, dressing their natural savagery up in more appealing clothes. The widespread acceptance of the significance of appearances ( from race to technology to fashion) and unquestionably meaningful and distinctive, is a sign that most people are unaware of or unconcerned about the differing directions that Progress and Regress would lead them in.

The problem of Materialism isn't in pursuing stuff, but in becoming stuff
The features of the societal baseline worth taking note of are not those features that seem so very different on their surfaces - remember from the last post that despite what appearances might lead you to expect, the anthropologist's academic brethren behaved every bit as savagely as the Yanomamö did. And so as with other appearances, from war paint to web pages, they are but variations and elaborations on the eternal theme of getting, protecting, and in one way or another, becoming, stuff - the fruits of power. And by 'stuff' I do not mean Money, or 'Property', but the mental action of reducing them to possessions; so that these very different things are easily mistaken for being one and the same. The problem of materialism isn't the quest for more material goods - antibiotics and Smart Phones can be fantastic things to have, improve on, and get more of - but the process of seeing ourselves and our ideals as little more than materials that we desire more of for utility, gain, attaining pleasures and overcoming obstacles, is. The truth is that reducing our goals to these won't differentiate them from of the goals of any other savage in any way other than that of fashion.

The action of seeing people and values as but materials for your goals, is the materialist inversion, and is a most common and time honored societal norm, and key to redirecting movement towards the societal baseline, rather than away from it, and when you seem to see all change reduced to appearances, it's a trick you'll willingly perform upon yourself - a judo flip of the soul.

For instance, the Egyptians could calculate the area of a triangle just as Pythagoras could with his geometrical theorem - Pythagoras very likely learned how to calculate the area from them - but despite appearances, they were not doing the same thing at all. There is something in what Pythagoras added to their calculations which lifted him, Geometry, and the resultant West, far and away above what the Egyptians were doing while working their calculations. And without that certain something, which one approach has, and the other lacks, Progress, takes on two very different meanings and directions. And... again I'm going off in a different direction than we need to in this post, I'll go more into that in coming posts, but for the moment, keep in mind that what separated the Egyptians geometric skills from Pythagoras's Geometric Theorems, is what separates receiving training in vocational skills from getting an actual Education.

Geometry and higher mathematics used to be, in the Pythagorean sense, seen as the pinnacle of higher education, a mark of philosophic excellence. Now however, we see them only as useful skills for our students to pick up to get a good job and compete with the [insert threat of the moment here: Chinese, Japanese, Russian, German, etc.].

That there is the Materialist's Judo Flip of the Western soul in action.

And only an Education, meaning a Western Education, which demands that something be true in order to be accepted, can help develop within you a habit of questioning and reflecting upon what is real, once called 'the good, the beautiful and the true', and so be capable of avoiding being fooled by appearances. How else could you judge whether or not your society's' assumptions are either right or good? And why else would you? The answer is that you wouldn't, and the societal baseline knows it.

The changelessness of endless change
Lacking that higher perspective, what would there be, what could there be, to separate the idea of political position, from the desire for political power? That, not that perspective itself, but its lack, is key to recognizing the real appearance of the societal baseline we're in pursuit of. Outside of the West the answer is that power and position and value are synonymous. But within the Western tradition? The answer is no, they're not... or at the very least it raises an uncomfortable question, the asking of which makes it nearly impossible for someone to say, as Gwenyth Paltrow said aloud what so many others implicitly urge:
“It would be wonderful if we are able to give this man all the power he needs to accomplish the things he needs to.”
. More and more the Western Tradition becomes hard to find in the West, and that is because it isn't a tradition which somehow removes us from the perils of humanity, or makes us better than others, it only notices that there is a way to rise above that see if we'll but make the effort to climb. But be that as it may, promoting a political position primarily for the politics of the position, is not and cannot be Progress, as it places the pursuit of Power, over what is Right for power to be used for - Might makes Right - which is, in the most important manner, Regress.

Not surprisingly, trying to explain that to those who do not question their own point of view, who do not look beyond the things they expect it to do for them, will make you seem very strange to them. Man is after all, as Aristotle put it, a political animal, and when his political ideals come primarily from his animal nature, as they are naturally wont to do, that society will be one where those who can physically dominate others by force, will - a distinctive aspect of our 'societal baseline'. It also means that those who are primarily concerned with the Justice of a position, will seem to most people to be very strange and upside down people - and to them they are.

From the point of view of my former friend Dice, it no doubt seemed to him as if what he was doing was making progress - he was defending the political security of his tribe, and his own place within it. Actions such as that, forcing others to comply with you because you can, are actions that can be acted on very successfully, for thousands of years at a time, as the tens of centuries the dynastic struggles of the Pharaohs of Egypt can attest to. And within that limited view, such struggles and changes can very much appear to be making progress. Even though what it really means is using power to prevent change.

The truth is that through all those superficial changes, there is rarely any real change occurring, no differences are being made - for all their struggles, no Progress is made. Exchanging one tyrant or dynasty for another is what mankind spent the tens of thousands of years of pre-historic times doing - but nothing of significance ever really changed! That's why they are referred to as being Pre History! The sorts of changes they engaged in, were not the sorts of changes that could produce Progress... and so as we attempt to look closer at them, they simply fade into the mists of time. The existence of History is itself a sign that real change had finally occurred, that change was worth noting, inquiring into, and pondering, so that more real progress could be made.

Those who've flipped their souls (or perhaps it is that they've never done so) mistake appealingly shallow hopes & changes for something more, are in the habit of thinking that things control and dictate our actions, they think that more things makes for better lives, and so they cannot see, do not see, and even laugh at, the person who doesn't value those same things, as they do, over the higher values, ideals and virtues. Those people who look to power for progress, are the 'rich man' who will not only never get his camel through the eye of the needle, but will forever try to hire someone to do it for him.

And they will fiercely persist in calling you the strange one.


Look back at that snippet from Jonathan Alter, and the other headliners - what is it that they are seeking to do? Isn't their primary goal to prevent change? To keep corporations from relocating, to forcibly punish dissent and debate(that 'climate change' was the subject is almost irrelevant), to prevent the wheels of justice from turning, or considering the matter very deeply at all, Why? Because 'maximizing political and personal security was the overwhelming driving force in human, social and cultural evolution.'

And it has always been so, from our day, to Jesus's day, to Aristotle's day and on back before that. From Last book of the Nichomachaen Ethics:
"...Solon, too, was perhaps sketching well the happy man when he described him as moderately furnished with externals but as having done (as Solon thought) the noblest acts, and lived temperately; for one can with but moderate possessions do what one ought. Anaxagoras also seems to have supposed the happy man not to be rich nor a despot, when he said that he would not be surprised if the happy man were to seem to most people a strange person; for they judge by externals, since these are all they perceive..."
And in a society formed around the externals of fashion, image, power, then strange means different, and different is threatening. Translating Anaxagoras into today, is well put in this snippet from Political Philosophy Needs Revelation: A Conversation with James V. Schall
"Gradually, civil government becomes an instrument to implement these ideas fashioned by the leader who promises to lead the people to happiness against their enemies, principally those who affirm that there is an order in nature and that the liberty to do anything or live any way is rather a form of self-chosen and eventually government imposed ideology..."
The roman poet Horace said that 'Power without wisdom falls of its own weight', and the Amazon tribe of Yanomamö are in a perpetual state of free fall, an unchanging struggle for change such as Hobbes' war of all against all. When force governs, not only does nothing of significance ever change, but real change is just what is not wanted. The changing faces of power struggles are routine and pursued all around - and you can just as easily look to Soviet era East Berlin or modern North Korea, as the Yanomamö for neverending changes in the cliques and faces of those in power, but their stagnant lands, the gray souls of their people, those do not change.

But the suggestion of change that might herald higher ideals of truth and rightness than that of might makes right, the slightest hints of ideals of liberty and individual rights, or of ending slavery, those 'fools and poets' are killed off or are sent to the Gulag post haste - real change, real progress will not be tolerated.

Change, not superficial, but real, is what the savage fears most.

Primitives and the power minded, either want no change (climate change?!!! AHHH!!!), or they want a constant stream of superficial alterations which give the appearance of change, but really serve only to distract from what is not being allowed to change in that society. The only exception being changes which lessens or removes that certain something which leads to real progress, that sort of change, fundamental transformations which forces people to accept their diminishment as if nothing had changed at all - while 'maximizing their own political and personal security' - that sort of change they are all for, all night long.

The savage doesn't want what requires THEM to change, and they will gleefully change everything else, up to and including changing you into dust - living or not - to avoid that too real change, that really would be Progress. The dark little secret of the savage, whether tribalist or technologist, is that Progress is what they fear and will fight tooth and nail to avoid.

But that still undefined something which separates the Pythagorean theorem from the Egyptians calculations, is the driving force of real Progress, it is what led to the creation of History and it is feared by the exponents of regressive changes, from the Yanomamö to the Pharaohs, and from Thrasymachus on up to our modern Academics and 'intellectuals' who've never risen to the level required to recognize, let alone make true Progress. They are content with the only answer they can imagine: the rule of power for power's sake. And every step taken in that direction is truly Pro-Regressive.

Our own history shows the Pro-Regressive change in action, in going from the Founder's ideal of people living in liberty, to that of Rousseau's egalitarian ideal of people being be forced to be free, inexorably leads to the Orwellian times where 'telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act', and it is heartbreaking to see, whether in schools turning away from education to indoctrination, or hospitals established by religious orders yielding to laws which require violating their convictions... you know they're telling themselves that they must in order to remain intact, but what they retain is gone - flipped. Those who want to maintain their institutions political and personal security, rather than what it was that their institutions - be it church, media, school or govt - were created to preserve and spread, they will perform the materialist flip and willingly go along with forcing everyone else to be free.

For the greater good.

This isn't to say that power is bad - far from it - but it is to say that it must be the tool, not the workmen. Power is an important tool of the Good, and Liberty requires governmental power to enable just Laws to uphold & defend Individual Rights. But Power cannot do good, it can only serve it; to try to do good entails abandoning what is Good and True. If power is not forced to serve Truth, truth will be - in truth has already been - abandoned for power... and used to see that things remain the same.

Ok, it got too late last night as the Cardinals lost, and dinner is calling now, so we'll have to leave fully identifying our 'societal baseline' and that 'certain something' that makes Progress away from it possible... for the next post.

Whatever Happened to the Party of Ideas?

stl-tp-logo-dark-200x200

Original Post: Whatever Happened to the Party of Ideas?.

From about 1978 until the Monica Lewinsky fiasco, the GOP was called “the party of ideas.” I miss the ideas. William F. Buckley helped. Buckley liked big ideas and smart people. He liked politicians who gave legs to great ideas and governors with the guts to experiment. Governor Ronald Reagan appeared on Buckley’s Firing Line shortly after the…

The post Whatever Happened to the Party of Ideas? appeared first on Hennessy's View.

Our Brave New World

stl-tp-logo-dark-200x200

Even if you are not living in Texas, it was hard to miss the news out of Houston this week where lawyers representing the city subpoenaed all the sermons preached by pastors against the ill-named Equal Rights Ordinance. In short, the ordinance states, among other things, that it is now okay for men to use women’s bathrooms and vice versa. The gay rights crowd claimed it as a major victory and the openly gay mayor of Houston, Annise Parker, claimed it was the most important thing she would ever do as mayor.

Just reflect on that opening paragraph for a few minutes and ask yourself – what world you are living in?

However, as hard as it is to believe, this is not the most concerning part of this story. After the ordinance passed, opponents to it had 30 days to acquire just over 17,000 signed petitions to appeal the decision. They collected 50,000 and the city of Houston responded by throwing out the petitions over “irregularities.” If you ask us, there are a lot of irregularities if you only needed 17,000 and collected 50,000.

In response to these shenanigans, the opponents to the bathroom ordinance filed a lawsuit against the city. Houston doubled down and subpoenaed all the sermons preached by pastors inside the 400 church coalition against the bathroom ordinance. In the subpoenas, pastors were asked to hand over all sermons that mentioned Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality and gender identity.

An often overlooked fact in this is that the churches and pastors were not part of the lawsuit against the city of Houston, yet the city and its lawyers felt compelled to intimidate them (because really, that’s all this is).

In the brave new world that we live in, it is apparent that while freedom of speech is promoted by the Left and tolerance is encouraged, there is a line in the sand: You may have your tolerance and your freedom of speech as long as you don’t disagree with them.

Which begs the questions-how tolerant are they and how much do they value freedom of speech, even when someone disagrees with them?

What is taking place in Houston right now is borderline fascism by the homosexual Left. After ramming a controversial ordinance through, the momentum and public opinion are now clearly against them. Instead of winning in the public arena, they are resorting to the thuggery of government intimidation as they breach the separation of church and state, a line the Founders clearly put in place so that the church may influence the state, but the state may not intimidate or crush the church.

Our hope is that the pastors in Houston follow in the footsteps of their ancestors and refuse to turn over their sermons with a simple statement:

“Come and take them.”

Savagery has a History in the past and the present – Progress or Regress pt.4b

Stressed Schoolboy with Head in Hands
In yesterday's post I proposed taking a trip into the not so distant past, for two reasons. The second reason was the more traditional of the two, to more clearly see the troubles of our present. Has anyone ever fed you that line before? How is that supposed to help? Has anyone ever sat up in History Class (or the 'social studies' that passes for it), and asked
"Why? Why do I need to know what so & so did x hundred years ago?!"
If the answer they give you is only that it's for you to learn 'important and and useful cultural references', you might want to consider leaving. If their answer is 'to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past', you should probably go ahead and get up and start for the door. If their answer is 'to get an appreciation for diverse points of view', I suggest burning rubber to get out of there.

Not that those points, even the last one, aren't useful, and even necessary results of 'inquiry, knowledge acquired by investigation' (the original Greek definition of History), they are, but they are not, in and of themselves, separately or combined, worth your wasting hours of your life every week to 'learn'. The purpose, the benefit, the value of studying history, aside from it being just plain interesting (and if yours isn't, then you are probably studying it from a... let me guess... 'textbook'? RUN!) is to gain a better understanding of yourself and your position in your life, and how to better your life, here and now. History enables you to identify and familiarize yourself with the tendencies that are common to men in society everywhere, meaning common not only to those of the past, present & future - but to that space between your own two ears as well,

History isn't for learning about dead people, but about the living, about yourself, so that you can understand something of, and develop the habit of reflecting upon, how people end up doing what they do - that is after all, what History is made of. If you aren't trying to put yourself in the minds of those you are reading about, if you aren't managing to, in some way, identify with the thinking of the slave holder as well as the slave, then you aren't learning any lessons worth the time you're spending on learning them.

Seriously. And if that isn't what you get out of history, or if it seems that those teaching it to you are intent on your not getting those valuables out of their lessons, then you should either figure out how to do it yourself, or get the heck out of there, or if that's not possible, at least do some serious daydreaming.

But I digress. Back to why we're here.

The first reason I'd given was a fairly tangible one: to begin to identify a 'societal baseline', a recognizable point which any sound claims of progress should be clearly moving your society away from, rather than back towards.

Make sense?

And again, what's past isn't the point of studying history, escaping it is - and that requires, as best as you are able, ignoring the differences between your world today, and theirs then, and even whether or not you even live in different times from that being studied. There is nothing preventing, and much to recommend, looking at your own world from an historical perspective.

History provides many examples of this baseline, and by inquiring into the history of societies as separated in time and space as those whose beginnings can be traced from Sumer, Babylon, ancient Egypt, to the modern primitive stone age tribes of the Amazon or New Guinea, as well as the haunts of modernity, they will provide you with plenty of examples of men descending to our sought after zero point on the progress meter. The hope I have here, is that by identifying our baseline Progress point – whether measuring against our past, present or future - we'll have a point to begin measuring real progress, and regress, from.

Without that, how can claims of progress have any real meaning?

Savages are every bit as savage in tweed jackets, as they are in grass skirts
I know of one example that is especially well suited to quickly tying together Cave Men, Philosophers, modernity and academics, and doing so quickly. In 1964, an anthropologist went looking to study a primitive, technologically undeveloped society, where he, shocker, found their society to be one that had not developed civilized behaviors. That anthropologist, Napoleon Chagnon, prior to his expedition, seemingly put little or no thought into the thoughts that went into (or never did) those behaviors he thought of as civilized, and so it took their absence to finally begin to make an impression upon him.

As noted by Professor Backflap (H/T Gagdad Bob):
"Napoleon Chagnon’s Noble Savages is the remarkable memoir of a life dedicated to science—and a revealing account of the clash between science and political activism.

When Napoleon Chagnon arrived in Venezuela’s Amazon region in 1964 to study the Yanomamö Indians, he expected to find Rousseau’s “noble savage.” Instead he found a shockingly violent society. He spent years living among the Yanomamö, observing their often tyrannical headmen, learning to survive under primitive and dangerous conditions. When he published his observations, a firestorm of controversy swept through anthropology departments. Chagnon was vilified by other anthropologists, condemned by his professional association (which subsequently rescinded its reprimand), and ultimately forced to give up his fieldwork. Throughout his ordeal, he never wavered in his defense of science. In 2012 he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences."
He expected to find a Noble Savage? Really? In a place he thought of as not having a developed civilization, he expected to find one of the finest fruits of civilization? Would you?

My first question on reading this was how much thought he could have given to the concepts of either nobility or savagery, much less the requirements of either?

My second question was, how prepared was he by his own education and study of History, for the reception his studies received back home in Academia?

Well if he studied the sort of 'History' in college, that was similar to the sort I mentioned in an earlier post, and coming from an anthropology department that was almost certainly the case, then the answer to both of my questions is: little or nothing at all.
[Hey kids, what is the value of an education that tells you so little about your fellow man or even about your own self? Same answer: little or nothing at all.]
More evidence of this can be found in what it was that Chagnon considered to be such a noteworthy discovery: finding that in his observations of the stone age Yanomamö, and soon afterwards with the technologically advanced tribes of Academia, that,
“I discovered that maximizing political and personal security was the overwhelming driving force in human, social and cultural evolution. My observation is based not only on what we have thus far learned from political science and anthropological field reports, but also on a lifetime of experience living with native Amazonian tribesmen who chronically live in what Hobbes called in his major treatise, Leviathan (1651), a condition of war. He likened war to foul weather - not just a shower or two, but a persistent condition for extended periods of time, something chronic. The Yanomamo among whom I lived were constantly worried about attacks from their neighbors and constantly live in fear of this possibility.

Neither Hobbes nor Rousseau ever saw people like Yanomamo tribesmen living in a "state of nature." Their philosophical positions about Man in a state of nature were derived entirely from speculation. It is therefore astonishing that some cultural anthropologists cling to the Nobel Savage view of human nature when ours is the profession that collected almost all of the empirical data on tribesmen and what social life was like under "pristine" or "Stone Age" conditions. Thus anthropologists should be the most likely people to arrive at a highly informed, empirically defensible view of human nature using the evidence from generations of anthropological research. ”
While it's good that he realized that Hobbes missed a few points and Rousseau was whacked, he shouldn't have needed to take such a long, dangerous expedition to discover what he could have, should have, learned from a basic study of Herodotus, Thucydides, Livy & Tacitus in the comforts of a classroom under a teacher who already understood both them and the common errors students make, before ever having graduated from college. That he didn't, that should tell you something of the historical wasteland of wacademia, and that was from back before the storm of the 1960's broke upon us.

Not too surprisingly, at least for those who aren't delusional enough to expect to find a 'Noble Savage' in a society where the rulers rule because they're strong and others follow because they have to, the strong become the emblems of political security, and personal security depends upon your not being seen as threats to the strong. Savagery without nobility is going to be the norm in such a place.

But also note that his own tribe of anthropologists, although not only thoroughly exposed, in many cases first hand, to the evidence of savagery without nobility, they still refused to acknowledge the evidence of their own experience. Instead they abide by, unquestioningly, parroting, chanting, that which the tribe identifies its security with, and as 'the strong' always do, they say it is for 'the greater good'.

Translation: In the absence of any higher aspirations, maximizing political and personal security is the overwhelming driving force in human affairs.

Question: Where do those higher aspirations come from?

Both of Chagnon's tribes, in the Amazon and Academe, IMHO, demonstrated many of the essentials of the societal baseline we're looking for, and whatever the superficial appearances might be, if understood, then we can use it to identify a life which bears more than a passing resemblance to Hobbes' image of life living red in tooth and claw, and in one way or another, of being nasty, brutish and short.

However, the picture of 'living red in tooth and claw' which Hobbes painted (and Rousseau romanticized and painted over), makes it appear that such societies must be a place where people are wandering about in loin clothes or grass skirts in solitary brutishness, lone wolves hunting a kill in nature; but the fact is that the people of the baseline, more than any other, tend to congregate together with the like minded, as the good political animals they are, within the societies that have developed around them. The only real relevance Rousseau's idea of a 'Noble Savage' still has, is the near talismanic powers it assumes in the hands of the wacademic left. There it's useful primarily for defending the security of those political structures they've built within their academic departments, for utilizing their own hunter-gatherer approach to reaping govt grants of non-taxable income from our public colleges. And you'd better believe that they'll defend their tribal gains every bit as savagely - though without visible bloodshed - as the Yanomamö would.

At this point we should be getting a better picture of what the absence of progress looks like, but little yet about what makes Progress possible. Patience, we'll get there within a few more posts.

The lesson to take away from this post is NOT that undeveloped societies behave savagely, but that,
  • Firstly, that savagery is normal - or at least easy - for human beings,
  • Secondly, that it is not only natural, but deeply tempting for people seek to use, and to excuse, the use of power to maximize their political and personal security,
  • Thirdly, that neither primitive mud huts, modern campuses nor royal palaces are reliable indicators of whether or not the people living within them are savages themselves. 
  • and Fourth, that there is something which some societies do develop, which lifts them above that baseline; What that is should be a constant question for anyone who doesn't wish to remain a savage
Just because a society develops more efficient technologies and stylized habits of dress, shelter and customs, that does not prevent them from behaving just as savagely as the Yanomamö; technology, social norms and a modern fashion sense, aren't key to what makes the difference between nobility and savagery, and if you do make the mistake of thinking that tweed jackets & mahogany libraries either make someone noble or rid one them of their savagery, then you too will be in for a surprise every bit as large as Chagnon's was, when he found the behaviors of the Yanomamö reflected in his fellows of Academe.

The other lesson to learn from this, is that that surprise Chagnon received, is the sort of surprise which is the very thing that a decent Education - which you should have had by High School, let alone by College - is supposed to inure you against.

His didn't. Has yours? Will the education your children are, or will likely receive, prepare them better than Chagnon's did? Does that education even recognize the Fourth point, let alone focus upon it? If your education installs illusions, rather than strives to rid you of them, you might want to question what value it really has.

We'll begin to take a closer look at what separates the appearances of, from the reality of, Progress, in the next post, tomorrow.

Gwyneth Paltrow & Moral Mondays: The Recognition of Progress begins with its absence – Progress or Regress pt.4a

stl-tp-logo-dark-200x200
Movement is only progress if it moves in the right direction. That's a fairly non-controversial remark to make, right? I can't imagine that there'd be too many who would argue with that, saying "Nah, it doesn't matter which way you move, forwards or backwards, it's all progress, right?!" Right?
Vis consili expers mole ruit sua.
Power without wisdom falls by its own weight:

Horace - Odes Book III, ode iv, line 65.

Yet many people blithely, even enthusiastically, promote those political actions they find superficially pleasing, without bothering to consider whether or not those actions are good, or even can be good. And forgive me if my bias is showing, but yes Gwenyth Paltrow, I'm looking at you, for saying this:
“It would be wonderful if we are able to give this man all the power he needs to accomplish the things he needs to,”
, because I do take it as uncontroversial - I pray that it is - that wanting to give an already powerful head of state even more power, and with fewer restraints upon that power to do as they please, is an exceedingly poorly thought out... thought.

Any arguments with that? No? Good.

Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but if you don’t know whether or not the actions you are taking are good, if you haven’t carefully considered what those actions mean, what premises they rely upon, and what they are likely to lead to, and yet you advocate for them because of the fond feelings you have for them (whether Left, Right or Center matters not), can you really be said to be for ‘Progress’? You might be Pro-Furthering your personal agenda of the Left, Right or Center, but that cannot legitimately be called Pro-> Progress. True?

Can any of you tell me how taking any action at all, differs from taking an action you find pleasing but don't understand? Anyone? Personally I find it difficult to see the difference between the two. And unfortunately many of our leaders, intellectuals, business leaders, reporters, legal counsels, members of congress and legislators, are more of Paltrow's mind, than mine.

How could such a thing possibly be Progress? And the answer of course, is that it can't. A further answer is that when people speak of Progress... they don't know what they are talking about - and worse - they don't know that they don't know what Progress is, or what it could not be.

That's a problem. Especially since everyone is running around urging us to make progress, could anything come of that but Regress? No. Which means that what such people are actually advocating for is Pro-Regressive. That's disturbing. Isn't it?

This is not simply a political matter, it is far greater than that, and I'm continually amazed that the question of Progress vs Pro-Regress is not seen as a bi-partisan, tri-partisan, if not entirely non-partisan affair. But too many otherwise intelligent people that I know are oblivious to the fact that the positions they are advancing, have far more to do with ideas that are entirely regressive, rather than progressive - and it is their ignorance which has enabled the dangerous state of foolishness we have today, where people laugh at 'brainless' starlets, yet nod at 'deep thinkers' who say the very same things, but with more words.

For those who may be riled up by that, can you explain why? Can you base your explanation upon anything other than a reference to what some party, politician or other such person said or did? And can you explain in your own words, why? If you can, please do, I've been waiting a very long time to hear from you. Otherwise, I'll continue.

Looking for a marker to mark Progress from
To help with clarifying where we are, to be able to recognize Progress when we see it, we need to know what its absence looks like. And to do that, it seems to me that we need to define a marker for recognizing where the lowest societal baseline is. We need to be able to see that point which, if not lifted up from, societies (and the individuals who comprise them) will naturally fall back down to, and even below, perhaps without even knowing it. The benefit of this of course, being that once identified, that marker can be seen in relation to your own life, giving you the conscious opportunity to transform yourself from being yet another useful cog in the efficient error repeating machinery of history, into being someone who is able to help with writing and righting history.

With that power in hand, we can begin to calibrate the zero point on our Progress meter, we can begin to see whether or not those movements that a society, any society, has made, or is making, have even a hope of making real progress - or not.

One of the reasons I see this as being so important to do now, is because of statements such as the following, which show just how badly we need to be aware of where we are in relation to just such a baseline, so that we might avoid becoming yet another set of useful cogs in history's machinery.

First there's this bit from Jonathan Alter, is calling for 'Loyalty Oaths' to support President Obama's 'Economic Patriotism',
"...Even if comprehensive tax reform miraculously passes, it wouldn't reduce the corporate tax rate enough to stop the desertions. That’s because other countries have slashed their corporate taxes or eliminated them altogether.

So it’s time for red-blooded Americans to take matters into our own hands. My answer is to make every corporation sign something.

Sign what? If Republicans cared about this issue, which most don’t, they would revive McCarthy-era loyalty oaths, where people were forced to swear that they weren’t communists....."
[emphasis mine]
There's another fine example of those who know best, deciding what others will, or won't, be permitted to think, RFK jr. on those who have not been convinced of Al Gore's wisdom:
""I think it's treason. Do I think the Koch Brothers are treasonous, yes I do," Kennedy explained.

"They are enjoying making themselves billionaires by impoverishing the rest of us. Do I think they should be in jail, I think they should be enjoying three hots and a cot at the Hague with all the other war criminals," Kennedy declared."
, and then there's the 'No Justice, no peace!" crowd, where one of the many wannabe spokesgroups for the rioters, calling themselves 'Ferguson October', is promoting something it calls "Moral Monday",.. and to help with that they invited Cornell West to attend, and while attending, he said "I didn't come to speak, I came to get arrested!". Also on hand, was a key organizer of the 1999 Seattle WTO Riots, Lisa Fithian, and large numbers of other like-minded protesters (aka:rioters) who spent 'Moral Monday', and the days leading up to it, busily marching about, breaking things, burning stolen flags, threatening police, testing the limits of sedition and treason and shutting down Quik Trip stores, upscale malls and WalMarts. Some even engaged in some cheerful rounds of chanting:
"Who do you want? #DarrenWilson ! How do you want him? Dead!"
Doesn't that sound Moral to you? Can't you just feel the reverence for Justice in that? I heard on NPR the next morning the comments of one exuberant student, who, I kid you not, after attending a seminar on race relations, said:
"I feel very empowered! There's an overall sense that this movement is too big to fail!"
Does that sound to you as if the 'Progress' such activities might lead to, will be a place that any sane person would want to bother progressing to? But that is where it is leading to. Are you going to follow?

Do none of these people detect even the nose of a contradiction peaking out from under the big tent of their good intentions?

No, they do not. One reason why, is because whatever it is that they are using to measure their progress from, has no existence in the real world that either they, or we, could point to or agree upon. One way we can know this, is that they aren't bothering to make any reasoned arguments, they are making demands instead, which means that they do not intend to get what they want by reasoning, but by exerting power. Upon you.

We don't need to examine their premises too deeply at the moment - we will in later posts - but for now, just mull it over yourself. Have things such as these worked in the past?
  • Demanding loyalty oaths?
  • Imprisoning people within their own country?
  • Punishing ideas that don't comport with what is politically popular?
  • Threatening mob violence?
  • Letting the passions of the mob supersede the wheels of Justice?
  • Promoting an ungrounded youthful zeal for political change?
Have such things ever turned out well? Have they ever failed? More than once? Do you care? If not, then you've already transformed yourself into one of history’s many and oh so useful cogs, helping us to repeat the errors of the past. Ten years from now, is that a memory you'll want to look back upon?

So what I'm proposing here, is taking a trip into the not so distant past, to more clearly see the troubles of our present, and by examining what it looks like when Progress is entirely absent, enabling us to recognize Progress when it is proposed to us, or perhaps even present. Keep in mind that what we inquire into the past for, is not to find the particular origins of one society or another, or to measure the efficiency of their social & political structures and technologies, but to identify and familiarize ourselves with the tendencies that are common to men in society everywhere, past, present and future, so that we really can distinguish between Regress and Progress.

Continued tomorrow....