After bin Laden, A Greater Enemy Remains Reply

Article by David D’Amato.
However plain it may seem, it’s worth remembering the fact that opposing — every now and then — someone or something that actually is worth opposing is no test for what we ought to support. While it’s clear that the indiscriminate murder advocated by people like Osama bin Laden is an affront to morality, there’s nothing about that fact that contradicts the causal link between United States imperialism and terrorism.

In the old banality, “two wrongs don’t make a right,” and none of this should be taken as an apology for terrorism. But there can be no doubt about the cause-and-effect relationship at issue, about the fact that consistent opposition to terrorism necessarily entails opposition to United States military exploits. The elimination of bin Laden is as good an occasion as any other to draw attention to the worldwide campaign of terrorism being carried out every day by the United States.

If bin Laden was an enemy of humanity and civil society, an agent of senseless death in the world, then the United States government is an enemy many orders of magnitude more dangerous. With its military bases scattered across the globe and its wars victimizing thousands of innocents each day, the attacks of terrorists are retaliations against the United States.

The question of whether such attacks are morally justifiably has nothing at all to do with recognition of the relationship between American Empire and the blowback it provokes. Since we object to the initiation of violence against non-aggressors, market anarchists are of course opposed to terrorism, to the arbitrary disregard of human life. What that means, though, is that we likewise stand against the foremost agency of terrorism in the world, the state — and particularly the hegemonic power of the empire that has spread across the world.

“Free Markets” Are Not “Capitalism” 3

by David Z.

The word “capitalism” was coined by the socialists, often used as a pejorative, and has historically described a system of state-granted privilege and plutocracy. This is the definition to which most people subscribe, and which I would argue prevails today. A contrary definition is one that is synonymous, or nearly synonymous with “free markets”. My best guess is that this “definition” is a the result of a revisionist attempt to hijack the term “free markets”.

Bill Wurst, the author of this post highlights these two competing definitions of “free market capitalism” and argues that the term is not an oxymoron (although strictly speaking it may not be an oxymoron, I believe that it is certainly a null program). The first definition is prevalent in particular among American libertarians:

  • In one sense, “free market capitalism” may be viewed as a system in which individuals make voluntary arrangements involving the exchange of capital.

Although Wurst does go further with this definition (every imaginable transaction) it’s silly and sloppy to put emphasis on “capital” when (and I think he’d agree here) a truly free market is a “system in which individuals make voluntary arrangements involving the exchange of goods and services (i.e., not limited to “capital” but also to include non-capital goods, labor, land, etc.). Unfortunately, this definition of the term has never been widely accepted, and to this day 99 out of 100 people would probably not even come close to approximating this elegant definition.

The second definition of the term free market capitalism, he goes on to say:

  • In another sense, “free market capitalism” may be viewed … as a phrase combining words interpreted via historical realities and implications.  In other words, “free market” implies voluntary arrangements, whereas “capitalism” has become (rightly so)  known as a system in which business and coercive state forces collude to serve whatever arbitrary interests may be lobbied for by the businesses or championed for reasons of power by the politicians.

Words have meanings! And in order to have any meaningful, relevant definition, words must be “interpreted via historical realities and implications” regardless of whether we like them.  Whereas the former definition sloppily suggests that the properties of “free markets” dominate the term and carelessly ignores the historical and popularly understood definitions of “capitalism”, the latter definition is much more precise in defining both terms separately. Additionally, Wurst admits that this definition is the one that is popularly held, and as the language belongs to the people and their common use, I see no reason to pretend that it means something else.

So why bother trying to apologize for “capitalism” when “free markets” are what you (and I) really wish to obtain? That is, if you really do believe in “free markets”, then you should probably distance yourself from the word “capitalism”.

If it’s a free market, it’s not capitalism. And if it’s capitalism, it’s not a free market.

Those of us who believe in free markets need to stop trying to save the word “capitalism”. If anything, we need to save “free markets” from “capitalism”, because the two should never have been joined.


Obama’s Broken Guantánamo Promise Reply

Article by Sheldon Richman.

The latest leaks of classified documents, which show that the U.S. government imprisoned hundreds of men at Guantánamo Bay on the most dubious “evidence,” brings to mind the question, Why hasn’t President Obama kept his promise to close the infamous prison that will forever stain America’s honor?

As the UK Guardian, one of the newspapers that disclosed the documents, reported, “The U.S. military dossiers … reveal how, alongside the so-called ‘worst of the worst’, many prisoners were flown to the Guantánamo cages and held captive for years on the flimsiest grounds, or on the basis of lurid confessions extracted by maltreatment…. More than two years after President Obama ordered the closure of the prison, 172 are still held there…. The files depict a system often focused less on containing dangerous terrorists or enemy fighters, than on extracting intelligence.”

Many men were detained on the basis of hearsay after the U.S. government paid bounties for information. Some detainees had traveled to Afghanistan to fight for the Taliban in the civil war, then were declared enemies of the United States after its invasion in October 2001. After years in custody hundreds of men whom the Bush administration had branded as the monsters were released, indicating they were no threat at all. For this reason Guantánamo is an international symbol of American criminality.

In March Obama signed an executive order permitting him to hold detainees indefinitely without charge or trial. The administration wishes to keep some prisoners in custody even though the supposed evidence against them would not be admissible in a court or even in a military tribunal, which has far less protection for defendants. Some of that evidence was obtained by methods most would regard as torture.

More than a year after Guantánamo was to be closed it remains open. Why, and why has Obama largely escaped criticism for breaking such an important pledge?

Why Bin Laden's Death No Longer Really Matters Reply

Article by Tony Karon.
But where killing or capturing Bin Laden might once have been imagined to be a decisive turning point in a struggle between the U.S. and its challengers in the Muslim world, today, the death of America’s erstwhile nemesis is little more than an historical footnote — a settling of accounts for a spree of ugly crimes and the elimination of a symbol of global jihadist nihilism, perhaps, offering justice and closure for the victims of 9/11 and other atrocities. But it does little to alter the challenges facing the U.S. and its allies in Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, Iran, Pakistan or any other major country in the Muslim world. That’s because much to his chagrin, Bin Laden and his movement have achieved only marginal relevance to power struggles throughout the Muslim world. The strategy of spectacular acts of a terror had briefly allowed a band of a few hundred desperadoes to dominate America’s headlines and its nightmares, but on the ground in the Muslim world al-Qaeda had largely been a sideshow, failing miserably in its goal of rallying the Islamic world behind its banners and finding itself eclipsed by such despised rivals in the battle for Islamist leadership as Iran, Hizballah, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.


Dawn of the Idols Reply

Article by Samuel Goldman.
Perhaps it’s just a matter of time before a deity rescues us from the condition that Nietzsche described as “nihilism.” In All Things Shining, philosophers Hubert Dreyfus (of Berkeley) and Sean Dorrance Kelly (of Harvard) take up this possibility. In fact, they claim, “The gods have not withdrawn or abandoned us: we have kicked them out.” This expulsion, they say, is by no means permanent. The gods are ready to come back if only we are willing to “hear their call.”

The first thing to note about this startling claim is the plural. Dreyfus and Kelly urge us to open ourselves to the return not of the God of the Bible but of gods. And not just any gods. On their view, the revival of the Greek pantheon offers the most promising alternative to nihilism.

Unfortunately, All Things Shining is not as exciting as this sounds. Instead of promoting sacrifices, orgies, or other delightfully anti-modern practices, Dreyfus and Kelly reinterpret polytheism as a way of understanding our own experience. They’re not arguing that we should actually worship Ares or Aphrodite as independent agents. Instead, they suggest that we use these gods’ associations with war and love, respectively, as a way of expressing the powerful “attunements” that strike us when we are engaged in certain types of activity.

The thought is not absurd. All of us occasionally feel as if we were not in control of our actions but rather under the direction of an external influence. When we perform those actions well, we experience this influence as a kind of benevolent external force. That’s what athletes mean when they talk about being “in the zone”. Kelly and Dreyfus argue that the influence that places us in the zone for primal activities like battle or sex is more or less what the Greeks meant by a god. We become polytheists when we allow ourselves to be guided by the gods rather than relying on our own will and judgment. To enter the erotic zone, for example, is to give oneself over to Aphrodite.

Dreyfus and Kelly propose two major benefits of this revised polytheism. One is that it more accurately reflects experience than accounts that emphasize deliberation. How often do we actually choose a course of action and then execute it? Isn’t much of our reasoning about how to behave actually rationalization—that is, an after-the-fact explanation of why we did things that we had no conscious intention to do? By reducing the role of willed causality in human life, Dreyfus and Kelly think that they’ve diminished the abstraction that plagues academic philosophy. In this respect, they continue to pursue phenomenological approach that also inspired Heidegger

Driving Libyans Back to Qaddafi Reply

Article by Mark Almond.
After Buckingham Palace was bombed by the Luftwaffe during the Blitz, the present Queen’s mother is supposed to have said, “Now we can look the East End in the eye.” In a war any sense that the rulers are immune to the risks and privations affecting ordinary folks is damaging to their leadership. Britain’s royal family was grateful to Hitler for targeting their palace. Colonel Qaddafi must be feeling the same after NATO killed his youngest son and three grandchildren late on Saturday night.

His spokesman emphasised that the “Brother Leader” now shared the sacrifices made for forty days and forty nights by other Libyan families. By missing the Colonel and killing the kids, NATO has given the Colonel a huge boost just as trouble was growing on the Tunisian front as well as carrying on in Misrata and in the east beyond Brega. The man who outlived Reagan’s onslaught in 1986 has done it again.

Only the perverted predatory mentality of NATO’s target-selectors could locate a harmless son of Qaddafi as well as his children, and then think it was a smart move to kill them. It would be bad enough if this blunder was simply what some Nevada-based geek-in-uniform assumed would make a neat kill, but it is obvious that frustration with the failure of Qaddafi to fall after a few cruise missile strikes six weeks ago has led the NATO leaders to think that de-capitation is the way out of the war which they launched with gay abandon.

Until 30th April, the logic of NATO’s air campaign was to concentrate its fire on Qaddafi’s foot soldiers while endlessly repeating the demand that the Colonel and his sons leave Libya. This seemed a crude ploy to get ordinary Libyans to ask why their boys were dying while the Qaddafi clan were unharmed. Splitting your enemy is a time-honoured tactic in warfare. Instead of wearing down Libyan morale and undermining the regime’s legitimacy by leaving the Qaddafi clan free to chat to Western channels, while ordinary soldiers died, NATO has given Qaddafi’s clan a blood bond with its supporters.

Generals are often accused of fighting the last war. The humanitarian bombers are repeating the propaganda from their Kosovo intervention in 1999. Mass murder, government organised rape camps with mercenaries fired up on Viagra, and so on are the staples of Washington’s increasingly hysterical denunciations of Qaddafi as it turns out that his family has more support than the glib proponents of hellfire missiles as humanity’s preferred way to protect civilians would have had us believe.

The Most Successful Terrorist Organization in History Reply

Article by Patrick Cockburn.
Al Qaeda is the most successful terrorist organization in history. By destroying the World Trade Centre in New York on 9/11 it provoked the US into launching wars damaging to itself in Afghanistan and Iraq. Al Qaeda aimed to destroy the status quo in the Middle East and it succeeded beyond its wildest dreams.

Its success has not been all its own doing. Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s number two and chief strategist, wrote at the time of 9/11 that the aim of the group was to lure the US into an over-reaction in which it would “wage battle against the Muslims.” Once the US was committed to a ground war, and no longer exercised its power primarily through local surrogates, the way would be open for Muslims to launch a jihad against America. By over-reacting, President Bush, aided by Tony Blair, responded to 9/11 very much as al-Qaeda would have wished.

In the decade since the attack on the Twin Towers “terrorist experts” and governments have frequently portrayed al-Qaeda as a tightly organized group located in north-west Pakistan. From some secret headquarters its tentacles reach out across the world, feeding recruits, expertise and money to different battlefronts.

Al-Qaeda has never operated like that. The closest it ever came to being a sort of Islamic Comintern was when it had several hundred militants based in the Tora Bora mountains of Afghanistan in 1996-2001. Even at that time, when it could operate more or less freely in the Afghan mountains, its numbers were so small that it would hire local tribesmen by the day to be filmed for al-Qaeda propaganda videos, showing its men marching and training.

Many of the most important al-Qaeda leaders from that era have since been detained or killed. But al-Qaeda has proved so hard to eradicate because it exists primarily as a set of ideas and methods for fighting holy war. Osama bin Laden’s target was primarily the US and its western allies, though this has not always been true of local franchises. Civilians were fair game because they had chosen or tolerated evil rulers. In its fundamentalist religious beliefs al-Qaeda is little different from Wahhabism, the puritanical and intolerant version of Sunni Islam that is dominant in Saudi Arabia.

Suicide bombing became the preferred method for al-Qaeda to wage war. It was tactically effective because it meant that untrained but fanatical recruits willing to die could be deployed as a lethal weapon capable of killing many enemies. Moreover, the public-self sacrifice of the bomber as a demonstration of Islamic faith was an important part of a successful operation.

A Libertarian Case for Monarchy Reply

Article by Leland B. Yeager. Another contribution to our discussion. This one is somewhat more interesting, given that it’s written from the perspective of a self-identified libertarian. Hat tip to David Heleniak.
Clear thought and discussion suffer when all sorts of good things, like liberty, equality, fraternity, rights, majority rule, and general welfare–some in tension with others–are marketed together under the portmanteau label “democracy”. Democracy’s core meaning is a particular method of choosing, replacing, and influencing government officials (Schumpeter 1950/1962). It is not a doctrine of what government should and should not do. Nor is it the same thing as personal freedom or a free society or an egalitarian social ethos. True enough, some classical liberals, like Thomas Paine (1791-1792/1989) and Ludwig von Mises (1919/1983), did scorn hereditary monarchy and did express touching faith that representative democracy would choose excellent leaders and adopt policies truly serving the common interest. Experience has taught us better, as the American Founders already knew when constructing a government of separated and limited powers and of only filtered democracy.

As an exercise, and without claiming that my arguments are decisive, I’ll contend that constitutional monarchy can better preserve people’s freedom and opportunities than democracy as it has turned out in practice.1 My case holds only for countries where maintaining or restoring (or conceivably installing) monarchy is a live option.2 We Americans have sounder hope of reviving respect for the philosophy of our Founders. Our traditions could serve some of the functions of monarchy in other countries.

An unelected absolute ruler could conceivably be a thoroughgoing classical liberal. Although a wise, benevolent, and liberal-minded dictatorship would not be a contradiction in terms, no way is actually available to assure such a regime and its continuity, including frictionless succession.

Some element of democracy is therefore necessary; totally replacing it would be dangerous. Democracy allows people some influence on who their rulers are and what policies they pursue. Elections, if not subverted, can oust bad rulers peacefully. Citizens who care about such things can enjoy a sense of participation in public affairs.

Anyone who believes in limiting government power for the sake of personal freedom should value also having some nondemocratic element of government besides courts respectful of their own narrow authority. While some monarchists are reactionaries or mystics, others (like Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn and Sean Gabb, cited below) do come across as a genuine classical liberals.

It Still Wasn’t Worth It, and Is More War Coming? Reply

Article by Anthony Gregory.
The U.S. has finally killed Osama bin Laden, the press and the administration report. Many will say this vindicates the war on terrorism, but it doesn’t.

The Wall Street Journal says, “The development capped a manhunt of more than a decade for the architect of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that left 3,000 people dead and dramatically altered U.S. foreign policy and the nation’s sense of security.”

“Manhunt”? In fact, the U.S. response to 9/11 has been a minor revolution in American statecraft toward the principles of aggressive war, nationalism and centralized executive power. Hundreds of thousands have died. Trillions have been spent. Key civil liberties have been undermined. And will the war now end? All of it? What domestic impositions and foreign occupations will remain?

Obama is absolutely right about the horrific loss that visited so many people on 9/11, including the unseen communities, families and loved ones touched by the tragedy, and we shouldn’t forget this. But even more neglected are the many who have been devastated by the U.S. government in its wars, before and after 9/11. Al-Qaeda, as Obama notes, has killed scores of Muslims throughout the world. This makes bin Laden a mass murderer of Muslims, the president correctly says. What of the scores of thousands of Muslims killed by the U.S.? What does that make our government?

Notably, Obama describes the operation that killed Osama as involving some degree of precision – at least compared to the drone attacks and all out wars that typify U.S. foreign policy, although the president didn’t say this. Had a very limited operation been all the U.S. was doing for ten years — if this was indeed something resembling a “manhunt” — there would be much less to protest, as well as less of a budget problem.

Now that Osama’s dead, if Obama does bring the troops home and end the ramping up of the national security state at home, he will deserve some credit, although that still doesn’t legitimize everything that’s happened since 9/11 – including, for example, the war with Libya, as divorced from the goal of killing bin Laden as was Bush’s adventure in Iraq. But Obama says the task of defending U.S. security is “not complete.” That would mean more war, I fear. Indeed, Senate hawks are pushing for a war in Syria, and it is unclear that Osama’s death will deter the War Party from calling for more military interventions, all under this rubric of the war on terror. But if the war on terror doesn’t end now that the main villain implicated in 9/11 is dead, does that not bring into question the war on terror’s rationale? For how can it be that this war has been worth it for killing Osama, yet the war must continue now that he’s dead? What in fact will mean the end of the war on terrorism?

Osama Won 2

Article by Radley Balko.
In The Looming Tower, the Pulitzer-winning history of al-Qaeda and the road to 9/11, author Lawrence Wright lays out how Osama bin Laden’s motivation for the attacks that he planned in the 1990s, and then the September 11 attacks, was to draw the U.S. and the West into a prolonged war—an actual war in Afghanistan, and a broader global war with Islam.

Osama got both. And we gave him a prolonged war in Iraq to boot. By the end of Obama’s first term, we’ll probably top 6,000 dead U.S. troops in those two wars, along with hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans. The cost for both wars is also now well over $1 trillion.

We have also fundamentally altered who we are. A partial, off-the-top-of-my-head list of how we’ve changed since September 11 . . .

* We’ve sent terrorist suspects to “black sites” to be detained without trial and tortured.
* We’ve turned terrorist suspects over to other regimes, knowing that they’d be tortured.
* In those cases when our government later learned it got the wrong guy, federal officials not only refused to apologize or compensate him, they went to court to argue he should be barred from using our courts to seek justice, and that the details of his abduction, torture, and detainment should be kept secret.
* We’ve abducted and imprisoned dozens, perhaps hundreds of men in Guantanamo who turned out to have been innocent. Again, the government felt no obligation to do right by them.
* The government launched a multimillion dollar ad campaign implying that people who smoke marijuana are implicit in the murder of nearly 3,000 of their fellow citizens.
* The government illegally spied and eavesdropped on thousands of American citizens.
* Presidents from both of the two major political parties have claimed the power to detain suspected terrorists and hold them indefinitely without trial, based solely on the president’s designation of them as an “enemy combatant,” essentially making the president prosecutor, judge, and jury. (I’d also argue that the treatment of someone like Bradley Manning wouldn’t have been tolerated before September 11.)
* The current president has also claimed the power to execute U.S. citizens, off the battlefield, without a trial, and to prevent anyone from knowing about it after the fact.
* The Congress approved, the president signed, and the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a broadly written law making it a crime to advocate for any organization the government deems sympathetic to terrorism. This includes challenging the “terrorist” designation in the first place.
* Flying in America now means enduring a humiliating and hassling ritual that does little if anything to actually make flying any safer. Every time the government fails to catch an attempt at terrorism, it punishes the public for its failure by adding to the ritual.
* American Muslims, a heartening story of success and assimilation, are now harassed and denigrated for merely trying to build houses of worship.
* Without a warrant, the government can search and seize indefinitely the laptops and other personal electronic devices of anyone entering the country.
* The Department of Homeland Security now gives terrorism-fighting grants for local police departments across the country to purchase military equipment, such as armored personnel carriers, which is then used against U.S. citizens, mostly to serve drug warrants.

I’m relieved that bin Laden is dead. And the Navy SEALs who carried out the harrowing raid that ended his life have my respect and admiration. And for all the massive waste and abuse our government has perpetrated in the name of fighting terrorism over the last decade, there’s something satisfying in knowing that he was killed in a limited, targeted operation based on specific intelligence.

But because of the actions of one guy, we allowed all the bullet points above to happen. That we managed to kill him a decade after the September 11 attacks is symbolically important, but hardly seems worth the celebrations we saw across the country last night. There was something unsettling about watching giddy crowds bounce around beach balls and climb telephone polls last night, as if they were in the lawn seats at a rock festival. Solemn and somber appreciation that an evil man is gone seemed like the more appropriate reaction.

Yes, bin Laden the man is dead. But he achieved all he set out to achieve, and a hell of a lot more. He forever changed who we are as a country, and for the worse. Mostly because we let him. That isn’t something a special ops team can fix.

Osama bin Laden’s Second Death 1

Article by Paul Craig Roberts.
If today were April 1 and not May 2, we could dismiss as an April fool’s joke this morning’s headline that Osama bin Laden was killed in a firefight in Pakistan and quickly buried at sea. As it is, we must take it as more evidence that the US government has unlimited belief in the gullibility of Americans.

Think about it. What are the chances that a person allegedly suffering from kidney disease and requiring dialysis and, in addition, afflicted with diabetes and low blood pressure, survived in mountain hideaways for a decade? If bin Laden was able to acquire dialysis equipment and medical care that his condition required, would not the shipment of dialysis equipment point to his location? Why did it take ten years to find him?

Consider also the claims, repeated by a triumphalist US media celebrating bin Laden’s death, that “bin Laden used his millions to bankroll terrorist training camps in Sudan, the Philippines, and Afghanistan, sending ‘holy warriors’ to foment revolution and fight with fundamentalist Muslim forces across North Africa, in Chechnya, Tajikistan and Bosnia.” That’s a lot of activity for mere millions to bankroll (perhaps the US should have put him in charge of the Pentagon), but the main question is: how was bin Laden able to move his money about? What banking system was helping him? The US government succeeds in seizing the assets of people and of entire countries, Libya being the most recent. Why not bin Laden’s? Was he carrying around with him $100 million dollars in gold coins and sending emissaries to distribute payments to his far-flung operations?

This morning’s headline has the odor of a staged event. The smell reeks from the triumphalist news reports loaded with exaggerations, from celebrants waving flags and chanting “USA USA.” Could something else be going on?

Why bin Laden’s Ghost Is Smiling Reply

Article by Eric Margolis.

The assassination of Osama bin Laden by US Special Forces in Abbotabad, Pakistan will likely assure Barack Obama’s victory in the 2012 presidential race. Republican hawks will have a hard time pressing their claims that Obama is “soft on terrorism.”

Details about the killing of bin Laden remain obscure. The mission, a joint operation between CIA and Special Forces, appeared to have been mounted from a US-controlled air base in Pakistan – without the advance knowledge of Pakistan’s government. US sources say Osama was shot twice in the head; his son was also killed.

Bin Laden’s body was photographed and then apparently dumped into the sea from a US aircraft. Washington claims this was done to observe Muslim funeral rites calling for almost immediate burial. This sounds preposterous.

The real reason was more likely to prevent bin Laden’s burial site from becoming a shrine and, some cynics will assert, getting rid of the evidence. Expect endless claims that a bin Laden double was killed while the real McCoy still haunts Pakistan’s badlands. Various fakes videotapes used to depict bin Laden as the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks used doubles.

Gleeful Americans are rejoicing that the man credited with the monstrous crime of 9/11 has been killed after a ten year search. More thoughtful ones may stop to ponder the remarkable Quixotic drama of a single man who set out to overturn the mighty American Imperium.

Careerism and Psychopathy in the US Military Reply

Geez, who would’ve thought? Article by G. I. Wilson, USMC Ret.

This essay attempts to make it easier for you to identify the quality and character of military officers and civilian bureaucrats, to increase your awareness and recognition of careerism and its consequences. As Americans, we all must exercise more care and caution in our appraisal of our senior military officers and the Washington “suits” that exert dominating influence on the cost of defense and the conduct of American national security policy.

The Department of Defense (DOD) that I have observed all too closely for over three decades is an overgrown bureaucracy committed to standing still for, if not actively promoting, poorly conceived policy agendas and hardware programs funded and supported by Congress. Coupled to that is the task of attracting the blind loyalty of senior military and civilian actors on the Washington, D.C. stage. For the careerists in America’s national security apparatus, it is all about awarding contracts and personal advancement, not winning wars.

Careerists serve for all the wrong reasons. They weaken national defense, rob the military of its warrior ethos and drive away the very highly principled mavericks that we need to reverse the decay. This can only be remedied by rekindling the time honored principles of military service (i.e. duty, honor, country) among both officers and civilians.

What Is Careerism?

In the DOD today, standard bureaucratic behavior is focused on conniving with politically focused congressional advocates and their counterparts in industry and think tanks to advance selected hardware and policy agendas. Once the careerist generals, admirals, colonels and captains exit active military service, they perpetuate their inside baseball by re-materializing as government appointees, political candidates, DOD contractor shills, so-called Pentagon “mentors,” and network talking heads. All are raking in money, peddling influence, exerting pressure for vested interests, all the while collecting retired pay, healthcare, commissary privileges and more at taxpayer expense.

For example, Gen. Jim Jones, U.S. Marine Corps, ret., occupied a big chair in the White House as the president’s national security advisor. Adm. Joe Sestak, U.S. Navy, ret., went to Congress as a member of the House of Representatives seeking promotion to the U.S. Senate. Lt. Gen. Karl W. Eikenberry, U.S. Army, ret., is the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan. Many others dot the boards of the big defense contractors. As author Bob Woodward points out in The War Within, many of the uniform-to-suits careerists made themselves cozy with political circles in Washington, D.C. in ways and to a degree that did not exist before 2001. As for the senior careerists in the ranks of the civilian bureaucracy, there is a similar variation of take-this-job-and-flip-it among public, academic and private sector positions. While it’s distasteful observing this in civilian quarters, it is the “self-fixation” of our top military leadership that this author finds most disturbing.

What is wrong with retired officers populating civilian government offices, industry and politics?

Economic Terror Wins the Day: We're in a Depression Reply

Article by Mike Whitney.

On Thursday, Gallup reported that “More than half of Americans say the U.S. economy is in a recession or a depression despite official data that show a moderate recovery…..The April 20-23 Gallup survey… found that only 27 percent said the economy is growing. 29 per cent said the economy is in a depression and 26 per cent said it is in a recession, with another 16 per cent saying it is “slowing down,” Gallup said.”

55 percent of Americans believe we are in a depression or a recession a full 5 years after the housing bubble burst (2006) and 3 years after Lehman Brothers collapsed. (2008)  Gallup’s findings jibe with other surveys that indicate growing desperation among the public. For example,  Globescan found that a large number of Americans have given up on free-market capitalism altogether, while other polls show dwindling confidence in government institutions, the Federal Reserve, the Congress, the judicial system and the media.

This is from the New York Times:

“Americans are more pessimistic about the nation’s economic outlook and overall direction than they have been at any time since President Obama’s first two months in office, when the country was still officially ensnared in the Great Recession, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll….

Capturing what appears to be an abrupt change in attitude, the survey shows that the number of Americans who think the economy is getting worse has jumped 13 percentage points in just one month…..

Frustration with the pace of economic growth has grown since, with 28 percent of respondents in a New York Times/CBS poll in late October saying the economy was getting worse, and 39 percent saying so in the latest poll.  (“Nation’s Mood at Lowest Level in Two Years”, Poll Shows, New York Times)

No amount of “Sunny Jim” propaganda has been able to change the public’s belief that things are getting worse. And things are getting worse, although not if one happens to be a hedge fund manager or one the lucky few at Goldman Sachs. Then, things have never been better. The Fed has flooded the market with low interest jet-fuel and All’s Well in Wall Street’s Bubbleworld. But if you’re one of the 3 million  less fortunate working slobs; you’re probably hanging on by your fingernails hoping like hell that you  haven’t hit your credit card limit when you reach the checkstand at the grocery store or you’ll have to slither red-faced for the exit.

Anarcho-Monarchism 2

Article by David B. Hart.
This is relevant to our recent discussion of monarchism here at ATS. It’s an odd point of view, obviously, but I think it’s one that deserves to be heard.
The only thing I know that J.R.R. Tolkien and Salvador Dalí had in common—or rather, I suppose I should say, the only significant or unexpected thing, since they obviously had all sorts of other things in common: they were male, bipedal, human, rough contemporaries, celebrities, and so on—was that each man on at least one occasion said he was drawn simultaneously towards anarchism and monarchism.

In the case of Dalí it was probably a meaningless remark, since almost everything he ever said was; whenever he got past the point of “Please pass the butter” or “That will cost you a great deal of money,” he generally gave up any pretense of trying to communicate with other people.

But Tolkien was, in his choleric way, giving voice to his deepest convictions regarding the ideal form of human society—albeit fleeting voice. The text of his sole anarcho-monarchist manifesto, such as it is, comes from a letter he wrote to his son Christopher in 1943 (forgive me for quoting at such length):

My political opinions lean more and more to Anarchy (philosophically understood, meaning the abolition of control not whiskered men with bombs)—or to ‘unconstitutional’ Monarchy. I would arrest anybody who uses the word State (in any sense other than the inanimate real of England and its inhabitants, a thing that has neither power, rights nor mind); and after a chance of recantation, execute them if they remained obstinate! If we could go back to personal names, it would do a lot of good. Government is an abstract noun meaning the art and process of governing and it should be an offence to write it with a capital G or so to refer to people. . . .

And anyway, he continues, “the proper study of Man is anything but Man; and the most improper job of any man, even saints (who at any rate were at least unwilling to take it on), is bossing other men”:

Not one in a million is fit for it, and least of all those who seek the opportunity. At least it is done only to a small group of men who know who their master is. The mediaevals were only too right in taking nolo episcopari as the best reason a man could give to others for making him a bishop. Grant me a king whose chief interest in life is stamps, railways, or race-horses; and who has the power to sack his Vizier (or whatever you dare call him) if he does not like the cut of his trousers. And so on down the line. But, of course, the fatal weakness of all that—after all only the fatal weakness of all good natural things in a bad corrupt unnatural world—is that it works and has only worked when all the world is messing along in the same good old inefficient human way. . . . There is only one bright spot and that is the growing habit of disgruntled men of dynamiting factories and power-stations; I hope that, encouraged now as ‘patriotism’, may remain a habit! But it won’t do any good, if it is not universal.

Last week, as I watched the waves of the Republican electoral counterinsurgency washing across the heartland, and falling back only at the high littoral shelves of the Pacific coast and the Northeast, I found myself reflecting on what a devil’s bargain electoral democracy is. These occasional bloodless bloodbaths are deeply satisfying at some emotional level, whatever one’s party affiliations, because they remind us of what a rare luxury it is to have the right and the power periodically to evict politicians from office.

Prison Reply

One man shares his experiences.
Forget everything you’ve ever heard about prison. Forget about the stories of tennis courts on one extreme, and dropping soap on the other. How these myths, among others, began is beyond me. I suppose that the subject of prison is ripe for exploitation, in that nobody really knows anything about it without physically going there and experiencing it – and that’s something nearly everyone in right mind avoids at all costs. As a consequence it is open to distortion by politicians, victim’s rights advocates, and anyone else who exploits it for personal gain. Those who experience prison distort it, too, for selfish reasons. Many of them want to exaggerate it in order to seem tougher to family and friends – or the old ‘take pity on me’ agenda.

I’ve spend nearly six years in prison, most of that within federal facilities, over the course of eleven years. I did my time in installments – three of them. My crimes against society have ranged from failure to pay taxes on firearms, to violating my probation by marrying my fiancée without permission, and ending (so far) with the misrepresentation of the source of my income on an automobile loan application. I could point out how in every case I set new precedents in criminal law; that nobody had ever been charged with any of those crimes alone before I was; that the law was manipulated by forces in government that were taking aim at my religious identity. All true – but that’s not the focus of this story.

I’d been at the Federal Correctional Institution at Elkton, Ohio for only a week. I’d arrived there from a jail in Michigan with a good friend of mine that I’d met while there; while be both attempted to beat our cases, lost, and now were acclimating to our new home.

Home. That’s how I was told I’d have to think of it, many years before at the start of my first federal sentence in Colorado. If I didn’t think of it as “home,” I’d slowly drive myself insane. It was a form of psychological acceptance, and I found it to be true in practice.

Obama Says U.S. Killed Osama bin Laden, but Questions Remain 1

Article by Alex Newman.
Reputed terrorist mastermind and former U.S. government ally Osama bin Laden has been killed by a military operation in Pakistan, President Barack Obama and other American officials claimed on the night of May 1. Bin Laden’s body was subsequently dumped at sea, according to news reports. But not everybody is convinced that officials are telling the truth.

“Tonight I can report to the American people and to the world, that the United States has conducted an operation that has killed Osama bin Laden — the leader of al Qaeda and a terrorist who is responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children,” Obama claimed during a press conference from the White House, followed by colorful language about a “cloudless September sky” and “black smoke” billowing from the Pentagon almost a decade ago.

Huge crowds gathered outside to wave flags and celebrate the news. And across the Internet, the story sparked a tidal wave of reactions and reports.

But numerous inconsistencies have already become apparent. China’s official press agency, for example, is reporting that — contrary to Obama’s asssertions — bin Laden was actually killed in an operation by Pakistani security forces. U.S. personnel, according to the Xinhua wire report, only arrived later to pick up the body.

Other analysts are claiming — citing obituaries and official statements published around the world — that bin Laden has actually been dead for years. Countless Internet postings appeared following Obama’s announcement calling the news a “lie” or “hoax.”

Radio host Michael Rivero, for example, ridiculed the President’s claims — essentially calling them lies with a hidden agenda. Rivero has maintained for years that bin Laden was dead and that there are still questions surrounding the September 11 terror attacks and al Qaeda that need to be addressed. “Obama’s announcement of Bin Laden’s death is a desperation ploy either to start WW3, distract from the crashing economy, or simply to revive his failing chances at a second term,” wrote Rivero on his a popular news-aggregating service. “In any event, Obama is full of crap claiming credit for ‘getting’ Bin Laden when he has in fact been dead for almost ten years.”

Appeals Court: No Hacking Required to Be Prosecuted as a Hacker Reply

Article by David Kravets. Corporate policy is now law. Hayek once remarked that the hallmark of totalitarian law was not necessarily its brutality (concentration camps, gulags, and all that) as much as its arbitrariness and inconsistency. Here it is.

Employees may be prosecuted under a federal antihacking statute for taking computer files that they were authorized to access and using them in a manner prohibited by the company, a federal appeals court has ruled.

The case decided 2-1 Thursday by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concerned the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Congress adopted the CFAA in 1986 to enhance the government’s ability to prosecute hackers who accessed computers to steal information or to disrupt or destroy computer functionality.

“As long as the employee has knowledge of the employer’s limitations on that authorization, the employee ‘exceeds authorized access’ when the employee violates those limitations. It is as simple as that,” Judge Stephen Trott wrote in an opinion (.pdf) joined by Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain.

In dissent, Judge Tena Campbell wrote that, under the majority’s ruling, “any person who obtains information from any computer connected to the internet, in violation of her employer’s computer-use restrictions, is guilty of a federal crime.”

The majority’s decision, which mirrors rulings in two other federal appellate circuits, bolsters an interpretation of the CFAA that’s playing a role in the government’s grand jury probe of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. A grand jury subpoena recently issued in the case (first reported by, and confirmed by the Washington Post) was accompanied by a letter indicating that one of the charges the government is considering is conspiracy to violate the CFAA by “exceeding authorized access” to a computer system — the same language at issue in the new decision.

The act makes it a federal offense if one “knowingly and with intent to defraud, accesses a protected computer without authorization, or exceeds authorized access, and by means of such conduct furthers the intended fraud and obtains anything of value, unless the object of the fraud and the thing obtained consists only of the use of the computer and the value of such use is not more than $5,000 in any 1-year period.”

The 9th Circuit’s decision, which reverses a lower court judge, came 18 months after the same San Francisco-based circuit ruled the opposite way in a nearly identical case concerning those same three words.

Pub singer arrested for racism after Chinese passers-by hear him perform Kung Fu Fighting 2

From the Daily Mail. Yet another example of why totalitarian humanism is to be taken seriously, rather than dismissed as an inconsequential amusement.

A pub singer has been arrested on suspicion of racism for singing the classic chart hit Kung Fu Fighting.

The song, performed by Simon Ledger, 34, is said to have offended two Chinese people as they walked past the bar where he was singing.

The entertainer regularly performs the 1974 number one hit, originally by disco star Carl Douglas, at the Driftwood Beach Bar in Sandown, on the Isle of Wight.

But after one of the passers-by reported his routine on Sunday afternoon, Mr Ledger was arrested on suspicion of racially aggravated harassment.

‘We were performing Kung Fu Fighting, as we do during all our sets,’ he said.

‘People of all races were loving it.  Chinese people have never been offended by it before.

‘But this lad walking past with his mum started swearing at us and making obscene hand gestures before taking a picture on his mobile phone.

‘We hadn’t even seen them when we started the song. He must have phoned the police.’

Officers later called Mr Ledger while he was eating in a Chinese restaurant to arrange a meeting.

The singer assumed it was a prank – but he was later arrested and is still under investigation.

‘They seemed pretty amazed but said the law is the law and it was their duty,’ he is reported to have said.

‘It’s political correctness gone potty. There are plenty of Welsh people at our shows – does it mean I can’t play any Tom Jones?’