Tom Woods, You’re My Hero

Posted July 10, 2012 by Joseph A. Fetz
Categories: Economics, Propaganda

Dr. Thomas E. Woods takes David Frum to task for his criticism of the Austrian School, and making the claim that conservatives are wrong to be listening to guys like Ludwig von Mises. The thing that I always love about Dr. Woods is that it isn’t good enough that he makes a video explaining to Frum (and other stooges) the error of his ways, he also provides a resource page to further make his case. Tom Woods: a gentleman and a scholar, indeed.

It’s funny, just a few days ago it was Josh Barro who was criticizing the Austrian School and making similar claims that conservatives are putting too much faith into guys like Mises and Hayek. Jonathan Finegold Catalán at ‘Economic Thought’ put the kibosh on such ignorant claims and showed clearly that Barro hasn’t read the relevant literature to even be able to speak as an authority on the matter. Of course, I weighed in on the comments when I said:

…Is (sic) Mises and Hayek having a big influence on Republicans and conservatives these days? I don’t think this is nearly as true as Barro is indicating. I wonder if he even knows the difference between a conservative and a (classical) liberal, or even a libertarian. I mean, I don’t find too many of your average righties reading this stuff, or *anything* dealing with theory really. I mean, maybe there are a few that will read ‘Road to Serfdom’ or ‘Atlas Strugged’, but that’s still a far stretch from the intellectual rigor needed to delve into economic and political theory.

In many of the conversations with my conservative friends it is almost as if I am entering a philosophical black hole (they aren’t even brushed up on their own philosophy, let alone others’). And the modern left… I don’t even want to open that can of worms. With both sides it is as if you have to write an entire treatise just to explain to them why you don’t like a certain policy, because they certainly aren’t up to speed on the theory side. Most of the time I just say, “screw it” and don’t even try to discuss the issue (which is REALLY hard for me to do).

I imagine that just about anybody who is marginally familiar with the Austrian School is saying to themselves, “what in the heck are these idiots talking about?!” And, rightly so.

Mush, You Dog!

Posted July 10, 2012 by Joseph A. Fetz
Categories: Uncategorized

So, my employer has me working nights this week, which usually puts me into a funk that is impossible to escape from. While I am certainly not a morning person, I am most assuredly a day person that can never quite get enough sleep or concentrate when on a night schedule. In other words, I absolutely despise it!

Anyhow, last night I was asked at lunch time if I would stay another 2-3 hours so that we could get a little further ahead on the job (the job was a little behind schedule before I even arrived). I said no for two reasons. The first is that I am already being inconvenienced and having my world turned upside down by being put on a night schedule to begin with, you would think that they would see that as being a “team player” as it is. Nope! They never see it that way.

The second, and most important reason that I said no, is that in the 5 years that I have been working for this company I have made the exact same annual salary every year (give or take $500). Mind you, I am paid by the hour, my pay rate has not always been the same (I was an apprentice for 3 of those years), and I have jumped at overtime opportunities in the past. However, none of this has had any impact on what it says on my W2 at the end of the year, it has remained the same all 5 years (and, trust me, it isn’t very high to begin with).

So, what is my incentive? Why should I inconvenience myself today, when I know that it all becomes a wash in the end? I say no incentive currently exists.

Walter Williams is Racist!

Posted July 10, 2012 by Joseph A. Fetz
Categories: Economics, Race

Gosh, you really have to love the titles of my posts, because they’re complete horse shit.  However, that same ‘horse shit’ is what often passes for logical debate in the minds of some.

Today at LRC there is a great article by Walter Williams on discrimination, and boy is it solid.  I especially loved the example he gives on employment where he completely turns the tables on equal opportunity (I’m going to have to remember to use that in the future).  Anyhow, here’s the article if you’re interested.

Of course, I should probably thank Lew Rockwell for posting it.  Thanks, Lew.

My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama!

Posted July 8, 2012 by Joseph A. Fetz
Categories: Music (listen)

Ok, not really.  But Thomas Pridgen’s high-caliber drumming skills probably will.  I swear, I don’t know how the guy does it. He doesn’t use a double-bass pedal, the heal-toe or slide technique, yet he can do 32nd notes on his kick effortlessly (something that I practice every day and still can’t do).  It’s too bad that he’s no longer with ‘The Mars Volta’, because he’s probably one of the best session drummers out there.  Here’s an example:

One Take Joe

Posted July 7, 2012 by Joseph A. Fetz
Categories: Music (parody)

I’m doing a song parody for a friend of mine.  I am notorious for not being happy with takes, and spending about 20 hours just to nail a single take.  Ok, that is somewhat of an exaggeration, but not much.  Since I’m not a fan of cutting and pasting the good parts of separate takes together, this means that I have to pound through one solid take to be completely happy.  If there is one single screwup, I delete it and start over (not exactly the most efficient method, but I’m stubborn).

To be honest, it doesn’t matter if the part is really simple, I tend to screw it up.  In fact, simpler stuff is usually much harder, because if you get a little ahead or behind the beat it is that much more noticeable.  In truth, I am far more of a live musician than a studio musician, because I thrive off of the energy of the crowd and I love improvisation.  In a studio setting it is so sterile and boring that it is really hard to get into the mood.  And if you aren’t in the right mood, this will translate into the recording, it will sound dull and uninspired.  This is especially true for any sort of jazz or improvisational work.  If I’m not in the zone, then my solo will sound like a retarded monkey with banana fingers on the guitar (trust me, I’ve heard it).

Anyhow, long story short, I nailed this drum take on the first try.  Woohoo!  Granted, it is a simple backbeat groove, but like I said, simple beats are the ones that I have trouble with.  Now the only thing left is like 4 guitar parts (including slide and acoustic), a bass part, a lead vocal, backing vocals, a pad synth, and a tambourine during the chorus.  The only thing this tune is missing is a little cowbell (but, I can fix that).  It’s been a while since I recorded anything, so this is actually pretty therapeutic for me.  I’m diggin’ it.

Once it is finished, I’ll definitely post it here.  However, since it is for a friend, he will get first dibs on featuring it.

Welcome to My Study

Posted July 7, 2012 by Joseph A. Fetz
Categories: Uncategorized

Yeah, I’m kinda cheap.  However, you’d be surprised at how many of life’s philosophical problems get solved on this thing.  Once you get past the 5-10 mile mark, it is like your brain forms a clarity that can be found no other way.  Of course, it must be an extremely intense 5-10 miles, otherwise you just won’t get there (and you must continue for a period thereafter).

Since I only work about 6 months out of the year, I sometimes like to ride into downtown Cleveland during the busy hustle and bustle, and just observe.  Watching humanity from a distance and without their knowledge often reveals quite a bit about how truly wondrous life really is.

The Philosophers of ‘Circle Blogosphere’

Posted July 7, 2012 by Joseph A. Fetz
Categories: Government, Political Philosophy

Ok, ok.  So I am not a philosopher, I only play one of the internet.  However, some of these guys are philosophers; or, at least they are the contextual equivalents.

Here’s a little background to get everybody up to speed (so, strap in, there’s a lot of ground to cover):

Last week, after the Supreme Court decision, Daniel Kuehn over at ‘Facts and Other Stubborn Things‘ basically said, “Everybody and their brother is going to be weighing in on this, and rightly so.  But, one should be weary of bad arguments.”   I completely agreed with this, but I did so on specific grounds.  I said that if we are going to give credence to the theory of “social contract”, then surely even the lowest dullard should weigh in. Daniel sensed exactly what I was getting at and immediately replied, “But social contract theory is silly”. Yes, more agreement, but this is where it starts to get a little more interesting.

Leave it to Mattheus von Guttenberg at ‘Economic Thought‘ to see the deeper context of what I was saying. He asks, “what’s the alternative” and reasons his position thusly:

…I’d always assumed that social contract theory was held by most or all non-libertarians as the justification for a state. Some type of Hobbesian “understanding” was reached and everyone agreed it was proper for some men to have power over others. Something like that. But silly? How can Daniel reject it without simultaneously granting the argument that the state is illegitimate? Without a contract (social or not) between state and citizen, there is no “self-governance.” It is impossible to “give consent” to the state. The myth of government as an agent on behalf of the people (who ushered in its existence) must be thrown away if social contract theory is wrong.

I was also under the same impression as von Guttenberg.  In a democratic system, is social contract not the justification for the state itself?  Apparently not, because both Daniel Kuehn and Dr. Gene Callahan disagreed, as well as did Jonathan Finegold Catalán (which surprised me a bit).

While Daniel disagreed, he also never made it explicitly clear as to what his position is, and instead made a blog post that I saw as more of a phishing-for-an-answer venture than anything else. Therein I speculated as to what justifications there could be for a state other than social contract, and what I came up with is what I call the “old republican” justification: that some people are meant to rule while others are subordinate, that this is the natural order of things. Of course, I don’t agree with this (or any) justification for the state, but it does represent a compromise between the social contract (democratic) and sovereign (autocratic) forms thus it is a valid justification given the context.

Ok, now that you’re up to speed, let’s get into the nitty gritty.

Dr. Callahan mentioned that I was discounting both the classical and Christian theory regarding this topic. I must admit, I did do this regarding the theological justification, but it was more out of rejection than anything else (that’s another issue altogether). I don’t think that I discounted the classical justifications so much as I merely didn’t mention them in detail. I’ll admit, I am not the most well-read on some of the older theory. I mean, I’ve read some of the Greeks, some of the Renaissance thinkers, the Scholastics, etc; but certainly I am far better read from the Enlightenment period and onward. So, I was actually pretty happy to see Dr. Callahan post a quote from Giambattista Vico (an Enlightenment critic), that reads:

Legislation considers man as he is in order to turn him to good uses in human society. Out of ferocity, avarice, and ambition, the three vices which run throughout the human race, it creates the military, merchant, and governing classes, and thus the strength, riches, and wisdom of commonwealths. Out of these three great vices, which could certainly destroy all mankind on theface of the earth, it makes civil happiness.

To this I asked whether this means that the state is magical.  That seems like the only justification for the state that could be gleaned from this particular quote.  And while I missed the opportunity,  Hieromonk Enoch asked:

But, if these vices are in men, do not men compose government also?

Enoch essentially put into better form what I was already doubting with my statement, whether or not a state can actually restrict the vices of men when the state is merely composed of men.  This is why I asked whether the state was magical, because it seems to me that if you merely give power to those of the same vices, you aren’t correcting the problem of vices, rather you are merely concentrating them in the form of the state.  This is when Gene pulls out a very good analogy, one that puts the state into the position of referee over a game of basketball.  I’ll let Dr. Callahan explain:

Let us imagine a time when the basketball referee had not yet been thought of. Play was dirty — nasty and brutish, we might even say. The team that won was usually the team that cheated the most. Fans who wanted to see basketball played, rather than a wrestling match, grew disgusted. Players anger and greed and ambition continually got the better of them, prompting them to flout the rules. Violence and injuries were rampant.

Finally, someone hit on the idea of having referees. The idea is that they would not be part of the competition themselves, but merely enforcers of the rules of the competition. But a number of people pooh-poohed this idea: What, are referees supposed to bemagical creatures who could mysteriously rise above the conflict on the court? Aren’t the referees themselves human beings who are subject to the very vices to which the players are prone?

Of course, the usefulness of having referees does not at all depend on their being magical, or free of vice. It does not depend on them being a better person in any sense than is the average player. Rather, they are expected to act differently than the players do because they have been given a distinct role in the game: they are not (by the design of their role) interested in the outcome of the game, but only in seeing that the rules of the game are observed, or, if they are not, that the proper penalties are enforced.

I must admit, I really thought that Gene got me on this one, but I still had a sense that something just wasn’t quite right.  Then it dawned on me:  I completely agree with Dr. Callahan!

You see, I don’t disagree that referees are needed to maintain order in society, because to do so would be to take the utopian position that Rothbard might have called a “revolt against nature” (i.e. to revolt against the nature of man).  What I do take issue with is that we should have a monopoly power-center in the form of a state to serve this function of governance.

Unlike many libertarians, I do make a distinction between “government” and the “state”.  To me, government is more of a system or process, not an entity in itself.  Whereas the state is an actual entity that serves as the government (i.e. the state is a form of government).  I completely agree that government is necessary, but I disagree in how such government should be undertaken.  To attempt to use Gene’s own analogy , I don’t think that we should have a monopoly referee, nor do I think that the players of the game should be chosen by the electoral vote of the spectators every few years, as I think that this would surely make for a corrupt and unfair situation.  Rather, I believe that the referees and players should be chosen by all involved, and in real-time.  In other words, I believe that the government should be chosen by the market in what is called an “emergent governance” (a term that I borrow from Ryan Faulk).  In only this way can we have a government (or, more likely governments) that not only serves to restrict the vices of men, but it does so at all levels of society (including that of the government itself).  For without best serving society any such government would surely fail and be replaced by a more efficient and just government as the market dictates, and in an emergent order as dictated by all involved.  It also entirely decentralizes power such that no single entity can maintain a monopoly, because its legitimacy is based upon voluntary means and it must compete against other governments that may arise in the marketplace.  Dr. Callahan did hint at what he thought the libertarian response might be when he linked to Dr. Murphy’s ‘Chaos Theory’ article, but he still didn’t quite get the substance of it (I don’t think).

Now, after this long-winded explanation of events, one might notice that we are now back at square one:  what is the justification for the state?  I can identify at least three of which most others are derived:  social contract (democratic), the old republican (aristocratic), and sovereign entity (autocratic).  However, I still maintain that none of these justifications hold a candle to the justification for the stateless society, and I don’t think that any ever will.

A Post

Posted July 6, 2012 by Joseph A. Fetz
Categories: Uncategorized

I promised myself that I would write at least one post a day.  However, my employer kind of screwed me and is sending me to a job that is on a second shift schedule, so I am kind of running around like a chicken with its head cut off to get all of my errands and such done before the weekend.  So, this is going to have to count as a post.  You’ll take it and you’ll love it!

Activia is for Losers

Posted July 5, 2012 by Joseph A. Fetz
Categories: Food

I went shopping today after work and was searching through the dairy aisle for a full-fat greek-style yogurt, but there was none to be found.  Granted, it is true that most people don’t typically purchase items looking solely for the highest fat content, but that’s just how I roll (I’ll write a post about this at some other time).  Anyhow, there was your standard Oikos and Chobani, which are nice and creamy, but I am not even sure if they even make a fatty version, let alone a full-fat version.  I thought that I might have to take an extra trip over to ‘Trader Joe’s’ to fulfill my needs when something caught my eye:  Sheep’s Milk Yogurt.

I pulled the tub from the shelf and checked the label.  Not only was it made from full-fat sheep’s milk, but it had more fat and protein per oz than comparable cow’s milk yogurts (greek or otherwise), as well as being lower in carbohydrates.  Not only that, but it also had almost twice the amount of calcium and vitamin D as cow’s milk yogurt.  I personally don’t eat much dairy and often have to do shots of homemade bone stock to get my calcium fix, so this was an awesome discovery.  I actually did a “yes” arm pump right there in the aisle and immediately grabbed two tubs.  The only uncertainty I had was whether or not it would taste any good.

Not only did it taste awesome, but it tasted almost exactly like greek-style yogurt even though it wasn’t strained.  It was creamy and tangy, just the way I like it.  Sure, I wish it had a slightly thicker texture, but that is a small price to pay for the niche in my overall diet that such a find will fill.  Additional research revealed that sheep’s milk is about 3 times higher in whey proteins than cow’s milk, so the fact that this is the unstrained variety (i.e. the whey is kept) means that the higher total protein content is more easily digestible than that of a comparable cow’s milk yogurt.  Obviously, it is also rich in probiotics.

If you’re ever in the store and see sheep’s milk yogurt, I highly recommend that you give it a try.

Mitt, Where Are You?

Posted July 5, 2012 by Joseph A. Fetz
Categories: Election 2012

This has been noted before in other places, but it really deserves repeating.  I have not seen a single Mitt Romney sticker, pin, sign, card, banner, pamphlet, etc.  I have seen nil, nothing, noda.  Conservatives are often called the silent majority, could it be that they are really this damned silent?  I really don’t know.

Anything Goes

Posted July 4, 2012 by Joseph A. Fetz
Categories: Constitution, SCOTUS

I have been thinking more about the recent Supreme Court decision and its implications for the future of liberty in this country.  Let me just say that I don’t think the future looks good.

Essentially, what I got out of the decision is that the Congress does not have the enumerated power to force you into a particular action.  However, according to the interpretation, Congress does have the power to tax.  So, while the Congress cannot force you into action, it can tax you for non-action.  Therefor, I can only conclude that the recent SCOTUS decision reads something like this:  “we cannot force you to murder your first-born child (or whatever other action we do not have the power to enforce), however we can tax you for failure to do so.”

Since there is no check upon the level of taxation that the Congress can levy, and it can now tax you for any non-action it deems fit, what limits or checks to power remain?  I say, “None”.  Apparently, we now live in a world where anything goes.

My Time in the US Navy: ‘Service’ to Whom?

Posted June 29, 2011 by Joseph A. Fetz
Categories: Uncategorized

Update: This blog post has now been published at Free Advice Blog, Tom Wood’s Blog, Lew Rockwell.com, Hawaii Political Info, and many other websites. Yes, I added a few quotes, but the story is the same. Not too shabby for a first effort!

I never in my life would have thought that I would I enlisted in the military. Sure, there are a great many reasons that people do enlist, some want money for college, others want a change of pace, yet others had dreamed of it since they were a kid, none of these reason explain why I joined. In many ways it would dictate my fate.

I grew up in a middle-class Ohio town, went to college for a year, quickly realized that it just wasn’t for me, and began working for a records management service as a delivery/pickup driver pulling in about $27,000 a year. Sure, that isn’t much to some people, but it was pretty good back then for a 21 year old with no education. I certainly didn’t love my job, but it paid the bills.

On September 11, 2001 all of that changed. I remember where I was when the planes hit, and I remember seeing those scenes of the towers falling, crying and hugging complete strangers in order to console each other in the devastation and horror that that event brought with it. It was at this time that I began talking to talk a Marine recruiter, but I had not yet made a commitment. When I lost my job that following January, I no longer had anything to prevent my choice. I called my father and told him about my plans. He agreed that it would probably be a good thing, but he had warned against joining the Marines, instead recommending that I join the Navy. That is just what I did.

Anchors Away

I left for Navy Bootcamp in the afternoon of February 26, 2002 and arrived at Great Lakes Recruit Training Center later on that night. There is no describing how much of a change of pace one experiences in bootcamp, and there really is no amount of preparation to really make you ready for it. While it is indeed physically demanding for many, the bulk of bootcamp is entirely mental, it is their job to “train the individual out of you” and to prepare you for service with your Navy’s combat team, to follow orders without hesitation, and to put the needs of your nation ahead of any notion of self. In short, it is 8 weeks of brainwashing and it is quite effective.

After I graduated from Great Lakes RTC I immediately flew to San Diego, California to learn my job as a Sonar Technician at Fleet Anti-Submarine Warfare Training Center. While the daily routine is not as strict as that found in bootcamp, the daily life at a military training center is certainly very strict by any civilian standard. Most of your day is planned out for you and the training schedule is one of the most mentally challenging that the Navy offers for an enlisted rating. To put it another way, those that washout of the Navy’s ‘Nuclear Power Field’ tend to be put into the next most challenging field, the Navy Sonar program.

I did very well while at FLEASWTRACEN, and was first in my class in my “A” School. Being the “honor-man”, I was given the choice of either a meritorious advancement to E3, or an opportunity to sign on for the Navy’s ‘Advanced Electronics Field’, I got both thanks to a First Class Petty Officer who saw my potential.

I was once again first in my class in my ‘Sonar Operations’ course, and received the ‘Admiral Sides Award’ for academic excellence. I came in second place in the ‘Digital Electronics Training’ part of my training pipeline, narrowly getting beat out by a former NUC program student and electrical engineer; he and I were always running neck and neck in our courses up to this point, but we had to split ways in our training pipeline after this class. I went on to Towed Array Sonar AN/SQR-19/OBT/LAMPS Mk III training, and he went onto Mk-116 Fire Control training.

In the final leg of my sonar training pipeline I choked on my first test of this 10 month course, leaving the two top spots to a former Naval Veteran (who reenlisted) and a computer scientist; I was in last place. Throughout those 10 months I went from 14th place to 3rd place, thus allowing me to have 3rd choice of available orders. Since I loved San Diego, I chose orders to the USS John Paul Jones DDG-53 stationed in San Diego. By all measures and accounts I was one well squared-away sailor, and I was ready to go to the fleet.

To The Fleet

I arrived for duty on the USS John Paul Jones in August of 2003 as an E4 and attended further tactical oceanography and system-level training with my newly acquired shipmates. Though I was new, it became apparent that I was quite good at my job and that I was surrounded by some truly outstanding sailors, so much so that we had in fact come in second place to the prior best score in that training scenario. Not only that, but I was getting along quite well with the men in my division, and it seemed that everything was coming into place.

My ship’s crew was to go on deployment in October of 2003, but this was not to be any normal deployment, rather we were to be a part of an experimental program call “SeaSwap”. In this program there were three ships and their respective crews, the USS Higgins, the USS Benfold, and my ship, the USS John Paul Jones. The idea is that the USS Higgins would sail to the Persian Gulf, and instead of another ship taking the journey across the Pacific to relieve it, that the crews would merely be swapped. The crew of the USS John Paul Jones was to be the third and last crew to take over the reins of the USS Higgins, and after that deployment was over, the USS Higgins would become our ship and we would sail it home.

Seeing that we were going to be leaving our ship the USS JPJ to another crew, it was extremely important that we gave them a fantastic ship to work with. We repainted the entire interior/exterior, we ensured that all systems were fully operational, and we compiled turnover logs of any information that we could think of to better prepare the Higgins crew of the subtleties of the ‘John Paul Jones” systems. We left nothing out, and did our best to ensure an effortless transition. During all of this hubbub, I also found time to study for my advancement exam for E5. Not only was I painting, doing maintenance, and coordinating with a small contingent of the Higgins turnover crew during the day, but I was spending my nights digging through the classified “Secret” safe in order to be better prepared for the exam. I took the exam in September, just a few weeks before we were to take a 24 hour flight to Dubai to take the USS Higgins as our ship.

Anchors Away

We arrived in Dubai, UAE in October of 2003 and sat along the luggage turnstiles to pick up our belongings. All of the other travelers’ luggage in the airport consisted of a few grocery bags tied together with some string or twine and were marked with permanent marker, then came our big green “seabags” rolling on the conveyor; I can only imagine how those people felt.

We were to stay in 5-star resort hotels while the USS JPJ crew did their turnover with the USS Higgins crew, but some confusion came as a young Seaman decided to hang himself in the Aft-IC space. We were all told that he did it because he didn’t want to leave “his” ship, but I knew better than that, this explanation stunk of propaganda. Our turnover only ended up lasting half the time that we were told, and we ultimately took responsibility of the USS Higgins with only a small fraction of the information needed to be up to speed, and we were “underway’ with almost no knowledge of the status of the shipboard systems. All in all, our turnover was entirely cut in half, and the information needed was nil, we were on our own.

Our first tactical mission was to sail out of the Persian Gulf (or, the Arabian Gulf as the Navy fittingly likes to call it) and guard the mouth of the Straits of Hormuz and monitor all entering/exiting ship traffic. As soon as we got underway, each and every one of us was on a ship that was entirely foreign to us, one that we had no intimate familiarity with, and one that was so disheveled that it is amazing that we were able to get it up and running. We were now the crew of this ship that was ridden hard and cast aside like an old pair of underwear; but she was now our home.

Haze Grey and Underway

Once we got underway it soon became apparent that all of our combat systems had major casualties which required the flying in of equipment and civilian contractors to repair (my equipment wouldn’t be 100% until 10 months later), and that we were extremely unprepared to defend ourselves against any comparable foe; the ship even had a huge dent in its hull caused by a supposed “rogue wave”. We transited the Straits of Hormuz with the only primary defense being our .50 caliber machines guns mounted on the fore and aft. This is quite a scary scenario when you are being told that you will be traveling in an Iranian missile envelope while you are so close to Iran’s shores that you can literally see the buildings and people with a pair of bonoculars.

Our primary mission at this early stage of the deployment was to board and inspect all ships coming in and our of the Persian Gulf, this is done using VBSS (vessel board search and seizure) teams who use a RHIB (rigid-hulled inflatable boat) to pull alongside a vessel and board it. We had 4 teams on our ship, and these teams were operation 24 hours a day, and would perform this duty throughout the entire length of our time in the Persian Gulf.

It really is quite odd that the United States does not see the complete disregard for property and feel that they can board any boat or ship in international waters, take control of the vessel, search through all of its contents, and seize any property that they deem “contraband”, but every destroyer and cruiser of the US Navy does this on a regular basis. Our ship even ran into some trouble during that deployment and caused an international incident when 2 of my shipmates decided to steal jewelry, electronics, and other personal effects from the sailors of a Philippine merchant vessel. While this is most certainly a horrible crime, how is this any worse than taking control of a man’s vessel and holding his crew hostage while you rifle through everything on-board?

After a few weeks of guarding the Straits of Hormuz and delaying shipping traffic to one of the worlds busiest waterways, we were relieved by another ship. Our next duty was to guard the Iraqi oil terminal called ABOT (Al Basrah Oil Terminal).

We were all told that the purpose of our mission was to prevent “terrorists” from destroying ABOT and disrupting the flow of oil, the oil that was supposedly meant to help rebuild Iraq and keep the Iraqi people sustained through the war. Hmm, I wonder why the “terrorists” might want to destroy their own oil terminal. Only later did I find out that Iraq had no control over the oil flow, did not receive all of the income from the sale of this oil, and that the flow of this oil was brokered between the US and other nations such as Russia. So, in hindsight it is no surprise that as I sat there on my .50 caliber machine gun mount that every single ship that pulled alongside ABOT to fill their storage holds had US, Japanese, Australian, and Russian flags on their masts. When people say that “Iraq was all about oil”, this scene that I witnessed everyday for 3 months only lends support to that claim, as does the fact that billions of the dollars that were transacted cannot be accounted for.

There was also something very peculiar happening to the sailors on my ship, they were beginning to refer to the Arabs as “Hadjis”, a derogatory word very reminiscent of those used in the wars of the past. It seemed that the mission to ensure Iraqi freedom was being confused in the minds of the military, that any and all people in this area are “Hadjis” and are thus the enemy. We would watch footage of bombs and missiles destroying Iraqi targets, and everybody would clap and cheer without regard to who was actually being killed. You could show them footage of an elementary school blowing up, and they would still hoot and holler that they “fucked them ragheads up”, or that “those Hadjis don’t know who they’re fucking with”. Never mind that the people dying often had no ill-intent toward us, they were now all the same, they were now less than human.

This deployment will be forever etched into my mind as one of the hardest things that I have ever had to do in my life. With the equipment casualties, the 6 month backlog of maintenance, standing .50 cal watch every 10 hours, and the fact that some people in my division being taken for other duties, most of us were averaging only 2-3 hours of sleep per night for 4 months straight, only catching up when pulling into Bahrain or the UAE every couple of weeks. The only good thing that I had to take from this deployment is that I had made E5 in only 1 year and 10 months from my time of enlistment, something that usually takes 4-6 years, but there wasn’t much to celebrate. When we finally left 5th Fleet, we all gave a deep sigh of relief as we spent some much needed liberty in Fiji and Australia on our way back to California.

Back Home

We got back to San Diego in April of 2004 and all of us were looking forward to spending two weeks of leave with our family and friends. We had just spent 6 months on one of the roughest deployments that anybody could remember. While this my first deployment, even the old salts were saying that they couldn’t remember a deployment being this difficult and arduous. So, it was like a slap in the face when our Captain declared SeaSwap to be a gleaming success. It seems that he was only speaking in terms of money, because when it came to morale and operational readiness, this deployment was an abject failure. Guys who were “short” couldn’t wait to get the hell out, guys that were “long” were beginning to question just what in the hell they had gotten themselves into, and those that had spent many years in Naval service were beginning to question whether putting in their 20 years was worth the retirement. This crew was broken down and weary, they had all lost a bit of their heart for the Navy.

For me, probably the worst thing was the fact that we were coming home to an entirely changed America. We had spent that 6 months being almost entirely shielded from the outside world, with only our Chain of Command and the Armed Forces Network to supply us with information. When we got home people were talking about the lack of WMD evidence, that the intelligence was wrong, and that our leaders just may have lied us into a war with Iraq. While I had never supported the idea of pre-emptive war, this was only putting the icing on the cake. Also, documents starting coming to light that the plan for regime change in Iraq was already put together as early as 1998, and that many of those in the White House’s administration were part of those plans. Further, it was becoming abundantly clear that getting Osama Bin Laden, the guy that many of us had joined the military to help capture, was no longer a top priority.

We also came home from that deployment to find that the government, and most especially the executive branch, was beginning to wield more and more power. I could not tell you how deeply troubling it is to learn that while you are “fighting for American freedom” that those freedoms are becoming fewer and fewer. We all took the oath to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic, only to find that those who are giving you those orders are disregarding entire portions of that document and calling is “just a piece of paper”; this represents quite a problem. Just what exactly was this whole thing all about?

Dead Stick

I remember that when we would pull into port in Bahrain, Jebel Ali, or spend time in Dubai, it was my habit of talking to the local people. Shoot, I even read the Qur’an in order to better understand the Muslim religion (I am an atheist). I would often get into discussions to more fully understand the Arab people, as well as the Muslim faith. In these talks, the subject of the conflict between Americans and Arabs would often arise, and I was very interested its cause. It came as quite a surprise to me that this history goes back about 60 years to the forming of the State of Israel. The Arabs see Israel as illegitimate, because it was formed by annexing the Palestinian lands for a Zionist State, I can understand the anger of for Palestinians. But, that still did not explain the “Jihad” against America from the Arab community. What I did not know is that America was part of the forming of Israel, and that America continues to support the Israeli State through arms, material, and financial support. The picture was beginning to become a little clearer.

In my talks with the Arab peoples and my study of history it became clear that America has been imposing its will upon the people of the Middle East for a long time, has been propping up tyrannical dictators, and has more or less been stirring up a rage amongst the Muslim peoples. It is no wonder that they refer to us as “the Crusaders”, because from their point of view that is exactly what it appears to be; a crusade. Even the fatwas of Osama Bin Laden explains this quite clearly, they don’t hate us for no reason, they hate us because we have been THERE, and we have made their lives a living hell. Every time their overlords gain more power, it is done with the blessing of the United States and its dollars. Every time a bomb drops or a bullet flies, it has “made in the USA” stamped on it. The Arab people only want what everybody else in this world wants, to live a prosperous life, to raise their children, and to enjoy their time here on this Earth. Coming to the realization that you are part of the reason that they cannot do that, or that you are enabling the murder of innocent people, is one of the most horrible things that one could ever come to understand.

It is one thing to come to these realizations while being an American civilian, it is quite another to do so when you are a Second Class Petty Officer in the United States Navy. The military is not like any other job in the world, you can’t just quit without some real consequences. The military always tells you that if you get kicked out that you will never be able to get a job (e.g. “you won’t even be able to work at McDonald’s”), that you will never be able to own a home, that your family will forever be disappointed in you, or that you will regret it for the rest of your life; there is a lot of pressure to stay in. But, a person has to have a conscience about what they are doing, and to believe that what they are doing is right. I began to lose that belief in late 2004 and decided to go UA (unauthorized absence). But, as I drove eastward toward my hometown, the words of warning that the military gave me began to fester in my brain and I turned back. I went before the Captain where he punished me with restriction to the ship and extra duty, but the realization that what America was doing is wrong never left my mind.

I was not the only Sailor on my ship that felt that maybe we were on the wrong side of things, many were beginning to see the light but could not voice their opinion. People handle stress in many different ways, and the way I handled it was by questioning every single thing in an outspoken way and refusing certain orders. My immediate Chain of Command understood that I was having a conflict of conscience, so they would often insulate me from the higher ups. Trust me, it is a very odd thing for your superiors to take that kind of action, and probably the only reason that they did so was because they liked me, that I was good at my job, and that they had some of the same problems with the state of things as I did. Unfortunately, when you’re on 500 feet of steel floating in the ocean, you can only hide for so long, and during my second deployment I once again had to face the Captain and take my punishment of more restriction and extra duty. This time, however, the “old man” also restricted my liberty. I was told that if I went in front of the Captain again that I would be kicked out of the Navy. When we got back from my second deployment, the conflict in my mind came to a head, and I finally decided that I was not going to follow any orders. We were doing a weapons offload in Seal Beach when I decided that I was going to go out and have fun some friends, come in late, and then sleep the day away. That is exactly what I did, and the very next day I was told that I was no longer needed by the Navy. A few weeks later in April of 2006 I was demoted to E4 and was separated from the Navy with a ‘General (Under Honorable Conditions)’ discharge. I was free.

Of Liberty and Peace

Shortly after I was discharged from the Navy I soon learned that everything that they told me was a lie. There were no limits to my employment, and in fact my time in the military only served to increase my job prospects even with a General discharge; employers can care less what it says on your discharge papers. There are no limits to my getting credit, and if fact, I am still a veteran and am eligible for the VA Loan, as well as all veterans benefits. As far as the opinions of my friends and family, they were all extremely happy that I was out, because they also believed that what we are doing is wrong. I cannot tell you how happy it made me that when I told my father the full story, that I stood with my conscience, that he turned to me and told me, “I have never been more proud to call you my son”. My father is not a man to hand out compliments, so to have him say this to me is one of my happiest memories in life.

About a year after my discharge the presidential campaigns began to get into swing. Never before had I paid any attention to political candidates or their platforms, but this time I was all ear and one candidate immediately caught my attention- this candidate was Ron Paul. Everything this man was saying made complete sense to me and I knew that he was correct about our foreign policy. But, what also caught my attention was the fact that the man did not care if other people agreed with him, he stood with his conscience and principles, and that was all there was to it. He was talking about liberty, he was talking about blowback from our foreign policy, and he was talking about the Constitution and the rule of law. It is no surprise that he got more support from veterans and active duty military than all of the other candidates combined, because he was saying the same thing that they knew to be right and just. He always maintained that he never had any real hopes of winning, that he was merely trying to spread ideas and stand on principle. I don’t know if he will ever know how successful his campaign really was, how many people he influenced and how he began a movement that may just be an historic event in American history. One thing that I will always remember him for is the fact that he introduced me to libertarianism and Austrian theory.

I began to read the articles on LewRockwell.com and Mises.org, I began to buy books written by Mises, Rothbard, Hayek, Menger, Hoppe, Hazlitt, etc, and I began to come to a fuller understanding of the world around me as I never had before. There simply is nothing like having all of the questions that you have been asking yourself being answered and explained to you in such a logical way. Aside from studying economics and political philosophy, I began to study history and began to see that what we are experiencing today is inherent to the State, that it is not something new or unknown, that they State acts in the interests of those who control it and will lie, and will even kill, to get what it wants. I also learned that the business cycle is not something inherent to a capitalist economy, but is rather caused by the effects of inflation and artificially low interest rates on the capital structure. Even the simple libertarian principles of private property and non-aggression show how certain actions of the State cause disruptions in both the economy, as well as society. I could now see how collectivist ideas could result in the nationalism that brought us into war, the racism that pits group against group, and the false worship of the state apparatus. Simply put, finding libertarian philosophy and Austrian theory was probably the biggest “aha” moment in my entire life, and I owe a great deal of gratitude to one lone Congressman from Texas for introducing it to me, I just wish that I and other Americans didn’t have to pay such a hefty price to find it.

The Battle Begins

Today we are mired in probably the worst economic depression that the world has ever faced (it is not over) and we are war-weary after having been the occupiers of 2 nations for the past 10 years. The time for the American people to come to grips with reality and realize that there is a better way is now upon us. As more and more people see our accelerating imperialist policies spreading to nations like Pakistan, Yemen, Libya and beyond the more that people will open their eyes and minds to a policy of liberty and freedom. However, this realization does not come without its hardships. As things progressively worsen and people question their government’s actions more and more, assert their power as the people of America, the more that the government will clamp down on its citizens. We are seeing this already when we go to the airport, when we watch the videos of police brutality, when we see our natural rights being stripped away, and as “we the people” become the target of the “war on terror”. If anybody thinks for a single moment that the horrendous actions of governments in places like Bahrain could never happen here, then you are completely ignoring the history of governments throughout all time: governments have only one goal, to increase and retain their power over the people. Once they start to lose that power the people become the enemy.

I look back on my time in the Navy and ask myself, “what was it all for?” Today, veterans are the number one target for possible “domestic terrorism” while at the same time being praised as “heros” by those looking to further their own political career. Many of these veterans will have to deal with nightmares and mental disorders for the rest of their lives, while still others are missing limbs or are living on the streets, all due to the self-interest of those who control the levers of power in Washington. Meanwhile, there is no shortage of “new meat” to be pushed through the military system because of our wrecked economy. Do these kids know what they are getting themselves into? No, they don’t. Will they come to learn that they are being used for the benefit of a few? Maybe a few will.

The only benefit that I can find from my military service is that it made me open my eyes to the real world around me. It showed me that we are all looked upon as pawns to further the interests of our overlords, that there is no limit to the lies and distortions that they will create in order to benefit themselves, and that they will pit the pawns against each other to further those aims. It’s funny, when people find out that I am a US Navy veteran, they often say to me, “thank you for your service”. My reply is always, “service to whom?” Some people give me an odd look when I say that, but more often, many people are today beginning to understand exactly what I mean. This gives me hope.