L. Neil Smith's
Number 220, April 21, 2003


[Letters to the editor are welcome on any and all subjects. To ensure their acceptance, please try to keep them under 500 words. Sign your letter in the text body with your name and e-mail address as you wish them to appear.]

Letter from James J Odle

Letter from Caleb Paul

Letter from Todd Andrew Barnett

Letter from Ann Morgan

Letter from William Stone, III

Letter from David Maharaj

Letter from Spencer J. Hahn


Here in Phoenix, we have a talk radio Libertarian firebrand who loves to make life hell for government bureaucrats. He finds it to be great sport. If I'm not mistaken, El Neil has used him as a character in one of his books — although I don't remember just which one off hand.

Anyway he has begun to make his shows available over the internet at the following website: www.ernesthancock.com/archive/

If you'll scroll the list, you'll see many names familiar to readers of TLE:

  • L. Neil Smith
  • Vin Suprinowz
  • Claire Bloom
  • Kent Van Ceave
  • John Ross
  • and others ...

People will need Microsoft's Windows Media.

Make sure you toss a few bucks into the kitty.


James J Odle [jjo1@cox.net]


In his reply to me, Mr Compono was correct in all he said about politicians not paying attention to polls. It seems I was off the mark there.

Of course though, just as polling can be subject to manipulation, so can the people through media influence and so on. Some would argue that the whole election process itself is one big manipulation. This is nowhere more obvious than the fact that politicians from minor parties are excluded from certain televised debates.

Assuming the election process is actually fair for a moment (a big ask I know), the problem, of course, is how does a politician know what his constituents want him to vote for? I am sure in his election campaign, he can't make provision for every possible contingency. Because of the nature of the system, people tend to vote on a handful of key issues each election (education, health, tax), and get lumped with stances on the "minor" issues with which they may not agree. Finally, what if his constituency changes stance? What should be done in any of these cases? Have a referendum? If we don't, don't we just end up with a bunch of guys who say a whole lot every few years and then do what they like for the rest of the time because they're not accountable?

Yet it seems the only solution is for direct democracy to replace representative democracy, which would be the tyranny of the masses.

I don't think there's any good way of solving things in a democracy, and either way, we end up with a tyranny of the masses or a tyranny of the few. That's why I don't like democracy in any of its forms.

In Liberty,

Caleb Paul [shorbe@rocketmail.com]


Like Caleb Paul, I too have enjoyed this debate on education with him, especially when we both can concede that we don't necessarily concur with one another on every single point that we both make with regards to this issue. When I saw his letter (Re: Paul v Barnett (Round 4)), I realized that I had to respond to his missive and that I felt compelled to comment on his points, whether or not they were correct. Regardless of the differences of opinion Mr. Paul and I have, we can still universally agree that federal entanglement with and interference in education is a recipe for failure and a formula for a morally bankrupt and perverse concept of education freedom.

All the same, I do feel that, while Mr. Paul continuously makes some valid arguments, I still find myself disagreeing with him on a few of his points. As I have done before in my previous letters, I will point out which points he's right on and which points he's off the mark.

Let's begin with the first one. In the beginning of his missive, he asserts the following:

"In a way, he is right that I am oversimplistic in my assessment of the dumbing down of education and that I ignored certain other factors, but I think one has to be careful not to read too much into these. It is true that the catchcry of learning disabilities and doping of kids is a solution used to suppress those who would rebel, but these can have as much to do with influences outside the school (such as factors in the home) as anything else (or at least one needs to do a fairly thorough study of it all). Also, I believe that ultimately, they're part of the greater problem, and not necessarily distinct from it, nor are they the cause of it per se."

While I do thank him for conceding to a point I raised in my other letter prior to his latest one, I do see an innate problem with his thinking on this subject. He believes that it's a matter of "reading too much into" the specifics of the factors, with which I must respectfully disagree. I believe it's crucial to analyze the problems with government influence on and control of education from all possible angles in order to arrive at sound, logical conclusions. These conclusions can also entail devising solutions that can be employed to rectify the problems created by the public "government" school monopoly. If you don't try to arrive at these conclusions objectively and consistently, then how are you going to offer solutions that can provide steps to curb or even dramatically reduce the role of government in education? It is extremely essential that we do that; otherwise, nothing will ever be learned from the mistakes made by our society and by the system.

Choices will have to be made, and it's far better to allow parents, families, and children to make them than a statist politician, bureaucrat, or even a central planner (such as the president of a government school board or the superintendent of a government school district). That is a priority that we must focus on as soon as possible.

On top of that, there is no evidence that "reading too much into" these issues is problematic. If Mr. Paul believes that he is correct on this point, then the burden of proof is solely on his shoulders. He has a responsibility to his readers by providing evidence to support his conclusion on this point, and so far he hasn't done a good job doing that. No disrespect intended, Mr. Paul, but that portion of your argument doesn't fly.

However, I will give him credit though. There are factors outside of the schools that do create problems. Kids brought up in an abusive family environment (and this is in reference to middle and lower-class families where such abuse is commonplace) do contribute to the violent, morally devoid environment often found in the schools. He is absolutely right when he says that one would have to do a thorough study on that factor, and unfortunately studies have been incomplete on this so far.

He is also right when he says this factor, along with the factors I had previously pointed out, are not the cause of the problems, but do contribute to them. Quite frankly they are the result of the sustaining socialist paradigm of a system that has inhibited innovation, fostered dependency and stagnation, and helped shape the pop culture that we all know in modern American society. Thus Mr. Paul earns credit for this, although I must respectfully point out that I only give credit where it is due.

Then Mr. Paul asserts:

"I also take Mr Barnett's points about ethics. I don't think the state should be responsible for instilling ethics as such (and I thank him for pointing that out to me again), but I do think that ethics in the context of philosophy courses (such as one comparing, Aristotle, Mill, Locke, Kant, etc.), or perhaps in a broader context of critical thinking should be a part of learning. It's hard to argue this at all, since I don't think the state should be responsible for any education. However, if it were, I think critical thinking should be a part of education."

First, once again he keeps implying that I believe that the state should be in charge of instilling ethics. As I said in my previous missive, I believe that responsibility falls into the hands of parents and families. I would like to add though that, if parents fail in their job to instill those values and ethics in their children, then a legal guardian (such as a friend of the family) or a relative should take the responsibility of instilling values and ethics in them.

Second, Mr. Paul offers a dangerous proposition here. To say that the state should be in the business of involving itself in the instruction of a brand of ethics that is the central basis in philosophy courses and in critical thinking invites a brand of morality that may go against the wishes of parents who want their morals and values to be a part of their children's educational evolution. Cognitive, analytical, and social developments are areas in which parents have a responsibility and role in providing for their children. The fact that they are working full-time jobs notwithstanding, still the goal of parents is to decide what educational vehicle will suit their kids' mental, cognitive, and auditory development. If anything that brand of ethics and critical thinking should be utilized in the private sector, especially where religious and secular parents can opt their children out of the government schools and send their children to religious and secular private schools that do what they are supposed to be doing — providing an education for our kids. Of course not all parents can afford to do this in every state because of the current tax code and property tax code (depending on where you live). But there is an easy solution to this. If parents want education to improve, then they need to push for lower school taxes, less regulations on private schools (religious and secular), the repeal of compulsory attendance and truancy laws, the privatization of certification standards, less taxes and school taxes for teachers who work for the public "government" school system, private teacher and student testing standards at the local level, universal education tax credits, private vouchers, and any other lucrative alternative to reduce the state's role in our schools. The closer we are to this goal, the better off we as a society will be in the long run.

I do agree that critical thinking should be a part of a child's education. But the state should stay out of it, and leave it in the hands of the private sector. Since the free market produces the best of everything, that concept also applies to education and the state should not do anything to subvert it.

And finally, Mr. Paul offers his latest contention:

"I think the whole claim put forward that parents don't have time to raise their kids because they are too busy working is rubbish. I'm not absolving the government here, but I think that's another point entirely. I think it's a big copout from a lot of parents who just don't put the time in with their kids because they are simply self-indulgent. I'm not ready to have kids any time soon. Aside from the minor detail of a lack of a partner, they would put a serious curb on my current lifestyle. If and when I do have them though, I will want to make sure that I'm committed. I think people need to weigh that up before they have kids. If you can't put 110% into your kids, don't have them. Don't blame others for your shortcomings though."

Mr. Paul is both right and wrong on this point. It is true that there are some parents who don't make an effort to raise their kids because "they are too busy working." It is also true that there are some bad parents out there who should have never had them if they weren't willing to be responsible for their kids' psychological, emotional, physical, and educational well-being. Thus some of them are "simply self-indulgent." But there is a fundamental problem with this thinking: it merely assumes that all parents at the middle and lower class levels simply want to be "simply self-indulgent" or conspire to indulge in that lifestyle. This is nonsense. Where is the evidence which supports this conclusion? Obviously he hasn't met any parents who want a better life for their children, and would give anything to send them to a better school, or to homeschool them. In fact, many parents do homeschool their children and the studies done on homeschooled families have been both astonishing and positive, not to mention encouraging.

But this thinking is only the tip of the iceberg. While Mr. Paul does rightfully point fingers at some of those parents who do make those bad choices, he also points fingers at other parents who are concerned about the mediocrity promulgated and endorsed by the public schools. If you're going to point fingers, blame the root of the problem — not at the surface of it.

Perhaps he should remember that we are the ones who create the rules. When the rules are working favorably on the side of the bureaucrats, the teacher unions, and the state, in return they work against the parents, the families, the teachers, and the kids whom the state claims that they are protecting. We made the rules; thus we can change them.

And while he can express his cynicism by criticizing the parents, what about the education bureaucrats? Why aren't they being held accountable for any wrongdoing on their part? If we're going to hold some bad parents accountable for their failures, then we might as well hold the bureaucrats in charge accountable as well. After all, what is the role of a government school bureaucrat? Well, that's simple to answer. The role involves expanding the school's budget, to expand control of the state in the school district, to expand the government's ability to decide which curriculum should be imposed on the children, etc. Considering the fact that bureaucrats just simply don't care about what happens to our children once they are on school grounds, they can do whatever they wish. It's that simple.

Was it the fault of Denessa Smith that her late 12-year-old daughter Tempest Smith committed suicide on February 20th, 2001 after she was brutally and incessantly teased by her peers at Lincoln Park Middle School (a government school) in my home state of Michigan? No of course not. Is she guilty of being "simply self-indulgent?" Of course not. Why did young Tempest commit suicide? She did it because she couldn't take the mental and psychological abuse anymore — abuse imposed by her peers who were ganging up on her because of the fact that she was a Wiccan, and not a Christian. And what did the bureaucrats do for Tempest? Nothing. What did they do to put a stop to this? Nothing. What did they do for others in other schools who have experiencing the same torment from which she suffered? Nothing. As of now, Denessa has long filed a federal lawsuit against the school district for a sum of $10 million. I hope she succeeds in her efforts.

How about the parents of 16-year-old Dearborn High School student Brett Barber who was suspended recently for wearing a t-shirt that had a picture of President Bush with the words "international terrorist" as a caption under it? Are they guilty of being "simply self-indulgent?" Nope, not that I know of. Considering the fact that this kid's First Amendment rights were violated, was he really a danger to his peers when this happened? Is he a menace to society, simply because he spoke out against our war with Iraq on public "government" school grounds?

How can we as a society continue to support a perverse, morally bankrupt cesspool of violence, complacency, and apathy which continues to thrive and expand as we speak? Since the high school drop out and suicide rates are also common elements in these schools, we can't tolerate this aberrant way of life. We need to fight it. We need to speak out against it.

Overall, I was impressed with Mr. Paul's ability to counter my arguments and agree with some of my points. The spiel of his childhood and his parents notwithstanding, I enjoyed his letter. Nevertheless I hope we all learned something from this debate.

Yours in Liberty,

Todd Andrew Barnett [libertarianman@comcast.net]


Dear Editor:

Well, it seems that the war between the red ants and the black ants (The US and Iraq) is mainly over except the shouting. I find it comical that so many people support this war against Iraq for reasons that would justify war against the US as well.

According to the media, we are in Iraq in order to 'liberate' them, because they exist under an oppresive regime that has established a religious dicatorship, and tortures and kills it's own citizens for no good reason.

But let us take a thoughtful look at our own government. By Libertarian standards, a government that takes 7/8 of everyone's earnings (or even 1/8, or 1/800th) could be considered oppressive. At least half the people in our jails are there for violating drug laws, which are all religious laws; there is no other reason for banning them, since the sale and use of drugs does not harm any non-consenting third party to the practice. And our government has increasingly made a practice of torturing and killing people for trivial reasons ranging from their un-approved religious beliefs to owning a peice of metal 1/4 of an inch too short. The claims by certain parties in the government that they 'take full responsibility' for these atrocities are laughable. Verbally taking 'responsibility' for some wrongful action is a meaningless sound bite unless it is accompanied by restitution for the victims of that action, punishment for the guilty parties, and steps are taken to prevent future wrongful actions of the same sort.

Or in other words, we ought to remove the beam from our own eye before attempting to remove similiar beams from the eyes of other nations.

I can't help but wonder what the reaction of the patriotic flag wavers who are so in favor of this war with Iraq would be if some aliens from the Andromeda galaxy, who had a society organized on more Libertarian type principles than ours is invaded the US tomorrow and proceeded to destroy the pentagon, whitehouse, the capitols of all 50 states, and hunt down every government official above the level of sewer commisioner, in order to 'Liberate' us. A few people would applaud this action, yet I can't help but think that the majority of the same people who approve of what we are doing in Iraq would denounce such a thing being done to us as an 'atrocity'. And after the aliens left they would probably do their best to rebuild an even more oppresive regime than we had before. Too many people like wearing chains, so long as they are their chains, and they are used to them.

Ann Morgan [septithol@yahoo.com]


Dear Members of the Academy [ampas@oscars.com]:

At the 75th Academy Awards, the award for Best Documentary was given to Bowling for Columbine. Unfortunately, it appears that Bowling for Columbine does not meet the definition of "documentary" as defined by the Academy's rules. Specifically, Rule 12.1 reads:

"An eligible documentary film is defined as a theatrically released non-fiction motion picture ... "

Substantial parts of Bowling are indeed fiction. Specifically:

  • The Charlton Heston speech supposedly given at Denver is edited from two different speeches, one a year later and a thousand miles away. The audio is edited, with the cuts hidden by visual and pans of crowds, so as to create a misleading impression that Heston's remarks were one contiguous speech. Nor were both speeches entirely of the same general content: in fact, at least two sentences from each speech have been spliced together to form a brand new one.

  • The sequence in the bank is staged, again to create a false impression.

  • The "missile manufacturing plant" actually builds civilian rockets, and converts former military missiles to carry out civilian launches.

  • Historical fact is misstated or often completely falsified throughout the film.

Under the circumstances, it is reasonable to conclude that Mr. Moore has intentionally falsified the information in his motion picture, creating a work of fiction in a category intended to honor documentary of factual events.

While an emotionally effective motion picture, it does so by violating the standards of the category in which it was entered. It is deeply unfair to the other competitors of the category, who no doubt did not misrepresent or invent events.

Additionally, the awarding of this Academy Award to a fictional work sets a precedent for future competitors. Having observed that one can win an Academy Award in the Documentary category for a work of fiction, future directors will no doubt be inclined to falsify events in favor of producing a more emotionally-impactive film.

Indeed, bestowing an Acadamy Award in the Documentary category for what amounts to a work of fiction will encourage future documentaries to become become docu-dramas: entertainment with only a tangential basis in objective reality.

It's certainly understandable that the Academy cannot perform a "cite check" for all the entrants in the Documentary class. It's generally reasonable to assume that the director is describing facts and not inventing them. However, when substantial doubt arises as to whether a documentary is largely fictionalized, it is incumbent upon the Academy to act, if only to safeguard the reputation of the competition, fairness to the entrants, and the security of its rules.

Naturally, the Academy should not act rashly, nor upon mere accusation. I do urge that the Academy initiate a fair investigation of charges made by, among others, the Wall Street Journal, the Cincinnati Enquirer and the Toronto Star. Internet web links to some of these accusations are:

The investigation would not be difficult. An examination of the raw footage should quickly show, for instance, whether the Heston Denver speech was edited, or whether the spokesman for the missile plant informed Moore that the plant made only civilian missiles. A telephonic interview of the bank personnel should give background into whether the event as depicted departed from reality, and whether the bank was asked to arrange the departures. Mr. Moore should be able to give the sources from which he obtained his claims about American history, and perhaps the instructions which he gave for the animated depiction of it.

Freedom, Immortality, and the Stars!

William Stone, III [wrs@0ap.org]


Dear Mr. Taylor

The SARS epidemic here in Toronto has left the government-operated health care bleeding. Hospitals have been forced to shut its doors, and staff are being asked (forced) to work extremely long hours.

It's interesting to note that with 13 dead — as of this writing — our Marxist-structured medical system (we have the exact health care model as North Korea and Cuba — yikes!), is currently being drained of tax dollars by statists at the Toronto Board of Health for such "critical" policies as enforcing a newly proposed ban on smoking in bars and restaurants. (Smoking cops.) A team is also being put together to ensure that citizens will be obeying a restriction on the use of pesticides on their lawns. (Pesticide police.)

I have to take my leave; I sprayed my lawn while smoking a cigarette last night. I'm officially a fugitive.

David Maharaj [cougar@echo-on.net]



I have just stumbled upon TLE and am thoroughly enjoying it (only 200+ issues left to read before I catch up). One minor correction regarding William Stone, III's excellent article, "The Emperor Has No Clothes" (TLE, Number 217, March 31, 2003). Mr. Stone wrote that House Speaker Dennis Hastert "declared that the Constitution was 'no longer relevant to modern society.'"

It was actually Representative Henry Hyde who made the declaration. The first part of his remarks regarding Representative Ron Paul's introduction of a declaration of war against Iraq are as follow:

"It is fascinating to go back in history and see how our Constitution was drafted and what it means. There are things in the Constitution that have been overtaken by events, by time. Declaration of war is one. Letters of mark and reprisal are others. There are things no longer relevant to a modern society."

These totally absurd and offensive remarks were made during a hearing of the International Relations Committee (which Mr. Hyde chairs) on October 3, 2003, while marking up H.J. Res. 114 ( "Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq"). These remarks are particularly offensive considering that Mr. Hyde was the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee from 1995-2001.

Spencer J. Hahn [bbachtung@aol.com]


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