29 June 2010


I was going to let Robert Byrd's death pass without comment here, but I'm sick of all the people who are apologizing for his Klan membership.

Here are some of the reasons I've been told we're supposed to overlook that when considering his life:

He recanted — Okay, that's nice.  Better than not recanting.  Maybe he even did enough good deeds to make up for the bad ones.  But that doesn't mean the bad stuff didn't happen.  We can and should forgive people their transgressions, but that doesn't mean we pretend they never transgressed in the first place.

Best I can tell Byrd himself never tried to pretend his Klan membership didn't happen.  (Though he did downplay how long he was involved when he was first running for office). I'm not sure why his eulogizers should feel compelled to ignore an issue which the deceased himself did not.

It was a long time ago — So what?  If people do bad shit and then live a long time none of their misdeeds are relevant?  Conversely if you sin and repent but die young people can talk about your problems?

It was a different time and place — Bullshit.  I'll pass this one off to Erica at Whiskey in a Teacup:
In Byrd’s case, I’ve already read some prattle about how you have to view his membership in the KKK through the lens of the time and place where he lived. That’s such a load of steaming bullshit. Throughout history, wherever evil is the norm, there are always dissenters, always good people—and in this case he wasn’t one of them, end of sentence.
It was necessary to get elected — That assumes getting elected is itself necessary. If your career requires you to do evil shit, then maybe you ought to choose a different career. Byrd didn't have to seek power; he wanted to. And he was willing to join the KKK in order to get it.

Let's not forget that even what most people consider the high points of Byrd's life I consider foul misdeeds.  He made a reputation for himself as the biggest stationary bandit in the last half century.  And he was proud of that reputation.  Excuse me if I don't applaud his skill at taking my money home to his friends and neighbors. TJIC does some back-of-the-envelope calculations of Byrd's "legacy":
Rough estimates from around the web show that Byrd stole about $500 million from the citizens of the US and funneled it back to his fiefdom in West Virginia.

The lifetime discretionary spending on a typical American is about $300k (1/4 of the average $1.2 mill lifetime earnings).

Byrd stole and destroyed the lifetime productivity of 1,666 Americans, all to buy the loyalty of sycophants and scumbags, and to plaster his name, like Ozymandias, on various government-built icons around his state.

Think of that: the entire productivity of 1,666 Americans – their entire lives – burned to placate the the personal Moloch of one man’s greed for power and glory.
Finally let's not forget what Alan Bock and Radley Balko said when the last "Giant of the Senate" died:
Alan Bock | Public service or public meddling

What most of the media call public service is all too often simply meddling with peoples' lives, using persuasion or force to make them do things or pay money they would otherwise prefer not to pay. Whether those who define public service as making others do what they want -- quit smoking, exercise more, reduce their carbon footprint -- rather than what those others would really prefer to do are more of a menace than those who simply take our money to buy votes and service their preferred constituencies is a question worth debating, to which I don't have a definitive answer. Both varieties are enemies of human freedom and therefore enemies of human prospering, defined broadly.

~ ~ ~

The Agitator | Radley Balko | Ted Kennedy

I’ve never much bought into the notion that we ought to venerate the dead simply because they’ve died. Nor do I feel the need to reflexively praise politicians for their public service. Ted Kennedy was a lifetime member of the political class. The things he’s being praised and remembered for — his half century in politics, his ability to “get things done” in Washington, his prowess as a legislator (which translates into his ability to use politics, as opposed to civil society, to solve problems), [...] — none of these things are particularly virtuous in my book.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

PS Should have posted this chunk from Balko as well:
So if I’m correctly reading the various tributes to Sen. Robert Byrd floating around the web this morning, I’m supposed to celebrate how the man atoned for his bigotry earlier in life by devoting the rest of his life to public service . . . where he used other people’s money to build monuments to himself.

That this could be considered a form of redemption says all you need to know about what the political class considers important.

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