Thanksgiving, Gratitude, and the Flower of Life

Today is Thanksgiving, a day on which it’s appropriate to give public thanks for the gifts we’ve received from life itself. Until recently, I had great disdain for Thanksgiving–just last year, I wrote a bitchy attack on it–mostly because until recently, bitterness and resentment were my favorite go-to emotions.

Paradoxically, I had to lose a lot in the past few months to appreciate what I have, and to grasp the true meaning of gratitude: a job, a marriage, a house, a car, tens of thousands of dollars, hundreds of hours of labor, and a large handful of illusions, for starters. I sold the house, but stand to make very little from it, so I count it as a loss. I sold the car for a ridiculously lowball figure, so I regard that as a loss. I’m in litigation, make a nominal wage at a dirty job doing hard physical labor, and lack permanent housing or the means to pay for it. I have temporary housing, but it lacks running water. So there are challenges. And yet, life has never been better. Last year, I had everything I now lack, and made sure to get up bright and early “to take a crap on Thanksgiving.” Now I’m writing a paean to gratitude. What a difference a year makes. Continue reading

Who Is Sheldon Richman, and Why Does He Hate the Constitution and American Greatness? and Why Does He Love Jihadis, French Communism, Godless Atheism, and Weird-Ass Epistemology?

In Part 1 of this 2-part interview, I chat with Sheldon Richman about his youthful enthusiasm for the Swamp Fox and his guerilla fighters; the Constitution as a betrayal of the American Revolution and the Articles of Confederation; defying YAF with Karl Hess at the March to the Arch; the positive externalities achievable by sitting next to Dave Barry; using Koch money to fight big business; Robert Bidinotto’s dark anarchist past; the perils of publishing Kevin Carson; going crazy for Thomas Szasz; the identity of Filthy Pierre; how to smoke like Gandalf; an atheist’s favourite Bishop; and which prominent Austrian economist experimented on Sheldon’s newborn infant.

In Part 2, we chat about the Israeli occupation of Palestine; u.s. intervention in the Middle East; the meaning of Jewish identity; the relation between libertarian individualism and social cooperation; the communistic theories of Frédéric Bastiat; the theologico-political merits of Spinoza; Nathaniel Branden and George H. Smith on atheism; Thomas Paine and Lysander Spooner on deism; the philosophical failings of the New Atheists; rehabilitating the cost-of-production theory of value; the uses of coherentist epistemology for both theists and atheists; reading Wittgenstein for relaxation; the advantages and disadvantages of Randian approaches to knowledge and concepts; the sordid truth behind the special effects in Roderick’s videos (and in particular, what the deal is with Roderick’s hair); Sheldon’s case against open Borders; and the shocking misuse of libertarian think tank resources to photocopy body parts (but who did it, Sheldon or Roderick? and which body parts? watch and learn!).

Pompeo and Circumstance

This morning, I made my third attempt at watching the RNC proceedings. My first was a minute-long foray into Kimberly Guilfoyle’s speech, which ended when I found it impossible to listen to a speech that described Puerto Ricans as immigrants. My second was an attempt to listen to Donald Trump, Jr., aborted about 30 seconds in, after he described a bunch of hapless virus-carrying bats as members of the Chinese Communist Party. This morning, I managed to make it all the way through Mike Pompeo’s speech from Jerusalem–a bittersweet event for me, because as an “ordinary citizen,” like Mike, I too had planned to go to Jerusalem this summer, but couldn’t, when I was mysteriously “struck” by unemployment in the best economy (with the best employment rate) the world has ever seen. Continue reading

Albert Aghazarian, RIP

Many of us are mourning the loss of the Palestinian historian Albert Aghazarian, a Jerusalem native long associated with Bir Zeit University, near Ramallah. I met him briefly but memorably in 2013, on my first trip to Palestine; he provided simultaneous translation of the three lectures I gave at Al Quds University on my first trip there in June of that year. The lectures were on Lockean political philosophy and its relevance to Palestine. Without him, there wouldn’t have been any lectures. Continue reading

Are Equal Rights Anti-Semitic?

Considering how frequently the “anti-Semitism” card is used against the campaign for equal rights for Palestinians, I thought it’d be useful to reproduce an ordinary donation letter I got the other day from the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR), an organization blacklisted by the Israeli Strategic Affairs Ministry. If these demands are your idea of “anti-Semitism” (not that I necessarily agree with them all), maybe it’s your conception of that concept that needs revision, not the demands of USCPR or its allies.  The idea of a “racist campaign for equal rights” is a contradiction in terms. The only question worth asking in this context is which party is guilty of the contradiction involved.

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Brown-Faced Man

As someone who unapologetically wears brownface every day, I find the hysterical front-page revelation of Justin Trudeau’s 2001 experiment with brownface pretty underwhelming. I also find the reaction to it on the part of various brown-faced Canadian politicians to be a transparent instance (so to speak) of grandstanding. If ever there was a case where policy ought to trump a supposed matter of character in politics, this is it–not so much because policy always trumps character in political matters, but because the supposed matter of character involved here is so morally inconsequential that just about anything trumps it. Continue reading