Friday, November 30, 2007

American Seniors Association

I just received interesting fundraising mail from the American Seniors Association (ASA). The ASA aims to offer an alternative to the left-wing extremist American Association for Retired People (AARP). I do not agree with the AARP on a host of issues, and I think that senior citizens are fools to be bamboozled by the AARP's left-wing dogma. I wish the ASA the best of luck and much success.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Melissa Morse of Roxbury, NY

My wife and I dined at a diner and pizzaria, Brio's, in Phoenicia, NY. The late Spalding Gray mentions Brio's in his HBO monologue Terror of Pleasure, which is about his purchase of a cabin in Phoenicia. Our waitress at Brio's was the extremely charming and personable Melissa Morse. Ms. Morse grew up in Roxbury, NY, the birthplace of financier Jay Gould(1836-1892) and no relation to the science writer Stephen Jay Gould, who was a Queens boy. The Wikipedia article on Gould states that Gould (of British and Scottish, not Dutch, ancestry) was famous as a financier associated with Jim Fisk and Boss Tweed. According to Wikipedia:

"Gould and James Fisk became involved with Tammany Hall. They made Boss Tweed a director of the Erie Railroad, and Tweed, in return, arranged favorable legislation for them. Tweed and Gould became the subjects of political cartoons by Thomas Nast in 1869. In October 1871, when Tweed was held on $8 million bail, Gould was the chief bondsman."

Wikipedia adds:

"In his lifetime and for a century after, Gould had a firm reputation as the most unethical of the 19th century American businessmen known as robber barons...He had no opposition to using stock manipulation and insider trading (which were then legal but frowned upon) to build capital and to execute or prevent hostile takeover attempts...Even so, John D. Rockefeller named him as the most skilled businessman he ever encountered...These biographers portrayed Gould as a parasite who extracted money from businesses and took no interest in improving them. Anti-semitism, in connection with Gould's name, motivated some of this hostility...More recent biographers, including Maury Klein and Edward Renehan, have reexamined Gould's career with more attention to primary sources. They have concluded that fiction often overwhelmed fact in previous accounts, and that despite his methods, Gould's objectives were usually constructive...At the time of his death in the 1890s, Gould, who was worth $72 million, was a benefactor in the reconstruction of the Reformed Church of Roxbury, now the Jay Gould."

Given Gould's bad reputation (possibly due to misguided anti-Semitism, according to Wikipedia) I had been, for many years, surprised that the Roxbury church was named after Gould, i.e., it is called the Jay Gould Church. I wonder if Gould funded it to prove that he was of a Protestant English rather than a Jewish background.

Melissa Morse told me that there are five large families in Roxbury, to include Morse, Gould, Hinkley and two others, and that she is related to several of them. I have met some of the Gould descendents through the years, for instance at a talk one gave in Andes, NY.

Roxbury, NY is a uniquely beautiful village. Although it is about 40 miles from my house, my wife and I frequently drive up there to Great Gorge, NY because of the striking scenery along NY 30.

Alexander S. Peak Responds to Allegations of Libertarian Anti-Semitism

I have previously blogged about anti-Semitism, the Libertarian Party and Ron Paul. My blogs on this topic responded in part to a column in the New York Sun and as well my own recollections of past events, which may not be generalizable to today. Alexander S. Peak, a Libertarian Party activist in Maryland has responded carefully and thoroughly to my concerns. His e-mail follows:

>"Allow me to apologise in advance for the somewhat rambling nature of this letter.

"I, like you, admit that I'm not an expert in Middle East issues. I like to think of myself as more familiar with what is going on there than the average American, but that isn't saying much. I'm also not an expert on European history, but I believe you are irrefutably correct that there has been a long history of anti-Semitism in Europe.

"I also can't comment on what was going on with the Free Libertarian Party seven years before I was born. I would like to think it was, as you put it, one rotten apple. I had not heard of the Liberty Lobby prior to your letter, but having skimmed over the Wikipedia entry thereon, it indeed appears that it was anti-Semitic, cloaked in a veneer of constitutionalism and fiscal conservatism. (It even states the founder created a group known for publishing books that denied the Holocaust!)

"I cannot comment on the New York affiliate party from three decades ago, but I can speak of the current Maryland affiliate. And, I can say I've never seen a hint of racism or anti-Semitism from these people.

"In 2006, the Libertarian Party of Maryland endorsed a third-party coalition candidate who was running for the Libertarian, Green, and Populist nominations. (He got all three. Looking back, it may have been a mistake to endorse him, but I digress.) The two other candidates for Senate were Ben Cardin (D) and Michael Steele (R). The Libertarian Party of Baltimore had a table at a festival, and I was there talking to people as they walked by. One guy, whom I presume was a Republican, started talking to me about our candidate for the Senate. He said to me that he can't possibly vote for Steele (he made no mention of Cardin) because "if he gets elected, he might eventually go on to the White House." I paused, hoping that all he meant by that was that he didn't like Steele's policies. He continued, saying, "Gotta keep the White House white." At that, I turn away from the guy a walked back under the tent, wanting nothing more to do with him. (I actually gave thought to voting for Steele just to counter-balance this guy's vote. After all, the candidate we were endorsing wasn't a libertarian anyway.)

"When one of my fellow Libertarian Baltimorians, Lorenzo Gaztanaga, came back under the tent, I told him of the incident. He verbally applauded what I had done, saying, "Good for you! Good for you!" He later told me that, on his census report, he and his wife list their race as "human."

"When I think of libertarian activists with regard to tolerance, I think of this incident. I like to think that most libertarians--the vast, vast majority--are as disgusted by xenophobia as am I. Surely, I'm under no illusion that there are no people out there espousing libertarian views yet who make us look bad by holding such views on race, gender, religion, et cetera, but I believe from my experiences with fellow libertarians that such people are in an extremely small yet vocal minority.

"You ask, "Does the Libertarian Party have a position on aid or support to Israel and not aid or support to Egypt or Kuwait?"

"I'll address the question directly in a bit.

"In search for an answer, I used the following Google search:

"Nothing from this search actually answered the question you posed, so I employed the search to seek out examples of anti-Semitism.

"The closest thing I saw to what could possibly be described as anti-Semitic upon doing this search was an article from California Freedom in which an author points out that the existence of Israel may be a factor in the decision among terrorists to commit terrorist acts--the author does not, however, make the claim that this means that Israel should not exist:

"(My personal position, being the ultra-radical that I am, is that no nation-state should exist. But I know that I'm not likely to get my way, and consider the two-state solution the second-best option for the Israel/Palestine conflict.)

"I did find a link on the Libertarian Party of Delaware site to the Liberty For All blog, which has this rambling paragraph in one of its posts:

"This tells me that one ignorant atheist who has the right to believe as he does because of the blood spilled from our Christian founding, has more power than millions of Christians demanding their rights. Why does he? Because his agenda matches exactly the agenda of the US Government, its pseudo Christians - including Bush, Ash-Kraut, and the most of the officials at every level - and the Jewish controllers (does not include all the Jewish people, just the Jewish tyrants who do the controlling) who are intent on destroying Christianity in this country" ( ).

"I can't figure out what "Jewish controllers" he's talking about, but the guy obviously has issues with anyone outside of Christianity.

"Upon my search, I did find many statements made that were very positive about Jews and even Israel. One quote I found just a few minutes ago from Ron Paul was:

"Number five, an attack on Iraq will not likely be confined to Iraq alone. Spreading the war to Israel and rallying all Arab nations against her may well end up jeopardizing the very existence of Israel. The President has already likened the current international crisis more to that of World War II than the more localized Vietnam war. The law of unintended consequences applies to international affairs every bit as much as to domestic interventions, yet the consequences of such are much more dangerous."

"But none of this directly answers your question. The short answer is, I actually see nothing from the Libertarian Party stating a position on aid to Israel specifically.

"The 2006 platform states:

"Freedom of Religion:

"Issue: Government routinely invades personal privacy rights based solely on individuals’ religious beliefs. Arbitrary tax structures are designed to give aid to certain religions, and deny it to others.

"Principle: We defend the rights of individuals to engage in (or abstain from) any religious activities that do not violate the rights of others.

"Solution: In order to defend freedom, we advocate a strict separation of church and State. We oppose government actions that either aid or attack any religion. We oppose taxation of church property for the same reason that we oppose all taxation. We condemn the attempts by parents or any others -- via kidnappings or conservatorships -- to force children to conform to any religious views. Government harassment or obstruction of religious groups for their beliefs or non-violent activities must end.

"Transitional Action: We call for an end to the harassment of churches by the Internal Revenue Service through threats to deny tax-exempt status to churches that refuse to disclose massive amounts of information about themselves.

"The platform actually mentions nothing about foreign aid currently. But, it's worth noting that the platform was gutted in 2006 thanks to the efforts of the Libertarian Reform Caucus. 80% of the platform was deleted, and I strongly believe that there will be an effort in 2008 to bring back the 2004 platform.

"The 2004 platform stated, in its short answer on foreign aid, "We support the elimination of tax-supported military, economic, technical, and scientific aid to foreign governments or other organizations." It also stated, in its short answer on foreign intervention, "We would end the current U.S. government policy of foreign intervention, including military and economic aid, guarantees, and diplomatic meddling. We make no exceptions."

"The actual 2004 plank on foreign aid stated:

"The Issue: The federal government has used foreign aid as a tool of influencing the policy of other sovereign nations under the guise of aiding needy people in those nations. This forces American taxpayers to subsidize governments and policies of which they may not approve.

"The Principle: Individuals should not be coerced via taxes into funding a foreign nation or group.

"Solutions: All foreign aid should be voluntarily funded by individuals or private organizations.

"Transitional Action: Eliminate all tax-supported military, economic, technical and scientific aid to foreign governments or other organizations. Abolish government underwriting of arms sales. Abolish all federal agencies that make American taxpayers guarantors of export-related loans, such as the Export-Import Bank and the Commodity Credit Corporation. End the participation of the U.S. government in international commodity circles that restrict production, limit technological innovation and raise prices. Repeal all prohibitions on individuals or firms contributing or selling goods and services to any foreign country or organization, unless such provision constitutes a direct threat to the people of the United States.

"The actual 2004 plank on foreign intervention stated:

"The Issue: Intervention in the affairs of other countries has provoked resentment and hatred of the United States among many groups and nations throughout the world. In addition, legal barriers to private and personal aid (both military and economic) have fostered internal discord.

"The Principle: The United States should not inject itself into the internal matters of other nations, unless they have declared war upon or attacked the United States, or the U.S. is already in a constitutionally declared war with them.

"Solutions: End the current U.S. government policy of foreign intervention, including military and economic aid, guarantees, and diplomatic meddling. Individuals should be free to provide any aid they wish that does not directly threaten the United States.

"Transitional Action: Voluntary cooperation with any economic boycott should not be treated as a crime. End all limitation of private foreign aid, both military and economic. Repeal the Neutrality Act of 1794, and all other U.S. neutrality laws, which restrict the efforts of Americans to aid overseas organizations fighting to overthrow or change governments. End the incorporation of foreign nations into the U.S. defense perimeter. Cease the creation and maintenance of U.S. bases and sites for the pre-positioning of military material in other countries. End the practice of stationing American military troops overseas. We make no exceptions to the above.

"I also checked the first official Libertarian Party platform. The 1972 platform had a much shorter foreign aid plank. It read simply, "We support an end to the Federal foreign aid program."

"So, in answer to your question, no, the Libertarian Party does not have a position on foreign aid that deals only with Israel. It has no position dealing with foreign aid, and when it did, it's only position on foreign aid was one that applies to all countries, including Egypt and Kuwait; not merely Israel.

"You also ask, "Has Ron Paul made public statements about the 'Muslim' or 'Arab' lobby as he has with respect to the 'Jewish lobby'?"

"To my knowledge, he has not.

"But then, I have never heard Dr. Paul refer to a Jewish lobby, either. I see no mention of such a lobby on his congressional website:

"I also see no such reference on

"Perhaps you meant "Israel lobby" or "Israeli lobby." I can't say whether or not he's made reference in public to such a lobby. Nor do I see any mention of an Israeli lobby or Israel lobby on either of those sites mentioned above. But I'll defer to you and assume he indeed make such a reference in a public speech.

"I really can't say what sort of lobbying Congresspersons deal with, or if there are people who actually go to Washington so as to lobby for aid for Israel. If such lobbying efforts actually exist, then I would argue there's nothing offensive about addressing it. If no such lobbying efforts exist, then I would definitely have to question his intent with that statement.

"You ask, "Is there a Libertarian position about the treatment of Jews in Iran?"

"There is a small-L libertarian position, namely that the government in Iran is corrupt, abusive, and oppressive to Jews, homosexuals, women, etc.; and that its powers must be dramatically limited or eliminated.

"But there is no big-L Libertarian position on the matter, just as there is no big-L Libertarian position on what's going on in Darfur or elsewhere.

"Prior to the platform purge in 2006, the Libertarian Party platform had a position on human rights, which read as follows:

"The Issue: We condemn the violations of human rights in all nations around the world. We particularly abhor the widespread and increasing use of torture for interrogation and punishment. The violation of rights and liberty by other governments can never justify foreign intervention by the United States government. Today, no government is innocent of violating human rights and liberty, and none can approach the issue with clean hands.

"The Principle: We recognize the right of all people to resist tyranny and defend themselves and their rights. We condemn the use of force, and especially the use of terrorism, against the innocent, regardless of whether such acts are committed by governments or by political or revolutionary groups. Only private individuals and organizations have any place speaking out on this issue.

"Solutions: We call upon all the world's governments to fully implement the principles and prescriptions contained in this platform and thereby usher in a new age of international harmony based upon the universal reign of liberty.

"Transition: Until a global triumph for liberty has been achieved, we support both political and revolutionary actions by individuals and groups against governments that violate rights. In keeping with our goal of peaceful international relations, we call upon the United States government to cease its hypocrisy and its sullying of the good name of human rights.

"Once again, allow me to apologise for what I fear will sound like rambling. I hope I've also answered your questions satisfactorily.

"I hope I've presented a balanced picture with my reply. The only other instance I recall of libertarianism being in any way associated with anti-Semitism was in a very misleading and skewed book review from the New York Times. Although, David Boaz points out why the author was wrong to make that implication here:

"Thanks for your questions. If you have any more, I'll again be happy to answer them.

Yours sincerely,
Alex Peak wrote:
If I may, I'll post your thoughts on my website.

I appreciate your thoughts. There has been a tinge in the Libertarian movement. When I belonged to the Free Libertarian Party (the NY Libertarian Party) in 1978 I began receiving mailings from the anti-Semitic Liberty Lobby and as well recall seeing anti-Semitic literature in the offices. Whether that's due to one rotten apple in the office or not I can't prove. But the Libertarian Party seems to have been more eager to criticize aid to Israel than to other countries, such as Egypt.

My questions for you: (1) Does the Libertarian Party have a position on aid or support to Israel and not aid or support to Egypt or Kuwait? (2) Has Ron Paul made public statements about the "Muslim" or "Arab" lobby as he has with respect to the "Jewish lobby"?

I am well aware that many libertarians were Jews, to include Rothbard and von Mises (and Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman) but that doesn't change the dynamic. Nor does it prove that Rothbard wasn't anti-Semitic. There are many left-wing Jewish anti-Semites. Karl Marx's "On the Jewish Question" is anti-Semitic (Marx's closing argument that the real Jew is the capitalist does not change the article's anti-Semitism). Of course, Marx was ethnically Jewish.

I'm not so much criticizing the anti-Israel-support (I oppose all foreign aid myself) but rather that Israel is is singled out when Egypt gets a similar amount of support as did Kuwait get much more in terms of military spending, etc. Also, the exodus of almost every Jew from the Arab countries, the treatment of Jews in Iran, the absence of Jews (as well as any other religion) from Saudi Arabia, the discrimination, intolerance and oppression throughout Arabia of other religions gets no attention. Is there a Libertarian position about the treatment of Jews in Iran? At the same time, is there one about religious intolerance in Arabia that led to the exodus of nearly half the Israeli population to Israel?

To pretend that there isn't a very long history of anti-Semitism in Europe and the Muslim world and in populist movements in the US is disingenuous. To pretend that the focus of state violence in much of European history beginning with the Crusades was not against Jews, and that the Jews had nowhere to turn during the 1930s because of the American Populist movement is also disingenuous. I'm not overly expert in Middle East issues but I do not believe that anything Israel has done, especially given that it is a country of 2 million people that one billion Muslims want to destroy, entitles it to be singled out the way that the Libertarians have. As well, references to the "Israel lobby" are reminiscent of the Populism of Father Coughlin that led to the refusal to permit Jewish immigration in the 1930s, hence the holocaust.

You can take a purist argument and oppose aid to Israel, which is fine with me. In fact, I agree that foreign aid is a mistake. But then take an equal position in opposition to Egypt, Pakistan, Kuwait, etc. But again, my questions for you: (1) Does the Libertarian Party have a formal, officially stated position on one and not the other? (2) Has Ron Paul made public statements about the "Muslim" or "Arab" lobby?

----- Original Message -----
From: "Alexander S. Peak"
Date: Wednesday, November 28, 2007 5:53 am
Subject: Regarding Rothbard, Paul, anti-Semitism, and the LP

> Mr. Langbert:
> Sorry to be emailing you, but I was unable to post a reply on
> your blog, so I figured I would email you directly. This email is
> in reply to this post, titled In Praise of NOTA:
> none-of-above.html
> Indeed Paul was a student of Rothbardian economics, and agreed
> with probably 90% of Rothbard's political agenda; but that would
> hardly imply any anti-Semitism on the part of Paul. I'm fairly
> sure that Rothbard, an agnostic Jew, was not anti-Semitic. And
> how can I be sure he wasn't simply a self-hating Jew? Because his
> teacher and mentor, Ludwig von Mises, was also Jewish.
> As for Paul, true, he's not also Jewish. But, he is a
> libertarian and, as such, an opponent of collectivism. He has
> specifically called racism collectivist, reflecting a similar
> opinion presented by Rand in her great essay, "Racism."
> (You can read that essay here:
> )
> As for Israel, infering that one's opposition to the Israeli
> government (which receives a tremendous amount of welfare from the
> U.S. taxpayer, more than any other government) somehow amounts to
> anti-Semitism is no different than infering that opposition to the
> minimum wage (which creates unemployement, raises costs for
> consumers, and lowers the general standard of living) is somehow
> anti-poor.
> Finally, just because some nut started sending you anti-Semitic
> literature while you were in the LP doesn't make the LP anti-
> Semitic, nor does it prove that the sender even knew that you were
> in the LP, and moreover doesn't prove that the sender had any real
> clue about libertarianism even if he/she/they did know you were in
> the LP. After all, if someone starts sending communist literature
> to Smith while Smith is on the Robinson diet, that doesn't mean
> Robinson is a communist.
> Perhaps your perspective is different from mine. I'll be happy
> to listen to your argument if you believe there is any anti-
> Semitism in the LP or the broader libertarian movement.
> Respectfully yours,
> Alex Peak
> P.S. I grant you permission to publish this letter, or any
> portion thereof (so long as no quote is taken out of context, of
> course), if you wish.

Republicans Talk the Talk

I am watching the Republican presidential debate and am favorably impressed. I was especially impressed with Mike Huckabee's thoughts on the Bible and his claim that he favors abolition of the Internal Revenue Service. I continue to be frustrated with Ron Paul's inability to distance himself from the Populist fringe of the Libertarian movement and his views on Iraq. I support him because of his position on the Fed, but he has not introduced the monetary issue into the debate, which is a major loss. Instead, Giuliani mentioned a nonsensical claim that budget cuts would strengthen the dollar. This dumb remark is a mark against him. The dollar is a monetary issue, not a government spending issue. Nevertheless, Giuliani is a convincing candidate as is Mitt Romney. I am also impressed with John McCain's thoughts on waterboarding and on militay strategy. As well, I liked Romney's remarks about "one America" in reference to the American flag.

Overall the quality of the Republicans is above the quality of the Democratic candidates (whom I insist are space aliens).

One of my favorite moments of the debate was when McCain mentioned that Hillary wants to spend $1 million on a Woodstock Concert museum. I live about 15 miles from where the concert was (down Ulster County 42/Peekamoose, turn left on NY 42 toward Monticello).

The most telling moment was when the young man in California asked whether the candidates would oppose farm subsidies. While they all said that they favored lower taxes and Huckabee said that he wanted to abolish the IRS, none of the candidates seemed enthusiastic about eliminating farm subsidies.

Republicans talk the talk, but I'm not exactly convinced that, besides Ron Paul, they walk the walk.