Jefferson, Not Jihad Reply

Will Grigg on the anti-imperialist revolution in the Middle East.

Will Grigg, blogger and author of Liberty in Eclipse, discusses the connection between Federal Reserve monetary policy and increased food prices around the world; the unprecedented scope of US empire (and the correspondingly large payroll); the Jeffersonian, rather than jihadist, nature of protests in Egypt and beyond; the future of militarist oligarchic government, previewed in Madison, Wisconsin; and why all government unions should be abolished, starting with the police.

From Morocco to Malaysia Reply

It’s 1776 in the Islamic world.

Rashid Khalidi, author and professor of Middle East history and politics, discusses the spectacle of protesters from Morocco to Malaysia echoing the leaders of the American Revolution; how genuine reformist movements in Iran are undermined by US support; the endgame of US Mideast policy, where despotic client regimes were nurtured in the name of regional stability; the bravery of Libyan protesters who knew full well their government’s willingness and ability to use violence against them; the obvious deficiencies of US mainstream media coverage when compared to other sources; and the TV talking heads – who have no real knowledge of the Mideast – dutifully ignoring the actual events and whipping up fears of Islamic global domination.

Saddam Hussein-Not Bush and Cheney-Was Telling the Truth 2

Eric Margolis on why the Iraq War critics were right from the start.

The US Congress and media bayed for action against Iraq. As war fever swept over the United States, this writer, an old Iraq hand and war correspondent, warned Powell’s claims were absurd and that Iraq had neither weapons of mass destruction nor delivery systems.

Other veteran Mideast observers were brushed aside or ignored. Journalists like me who were “not with the program” were silenced, sometimes at the direct demand of the White House Oval office. George Orwell’s famous line about how telling the truth in a time of mass lies becomes an act of sedition was never truer.

A final apogee of absurdity and lying was reached when President George W. Bush warned of Iraq’s “drones of death” based on freighters lurking in the Atlantic Ocean, ready to shower unspeakable germs on sleeping America.

Bush must have gotten this idea from watching the 1940’s serial, Flash Gordon, in which the fiendish Ming the Merciless planned to shower his lethal “Purple Death” powder on America.

I take little pleasure in being vindicated. I’d have much preferred the US had never invade Iraq, an unnecessary war that killed hundreds of thousands, ravaged Iraq, and cost US taxpayers close to $1 trillion – so far.

Ironically, it was Saddam Hussein, not Bush or Cheney, who was telling the truth. He was lynched after the 2003 US invasion in good part to prevent him from revealing the full extent of deep US-Iraqi collaboration prior to 1991.

The US media played a major role promoting the Iraq war. It trumpeted White House war propaganda, headlined false stories, and kept the American public in a state of constant fear and confusion.

Thanks to collusion between the Bush White House and the media, over 80% of Americans wrongly believed Iraq was behind the 9/11 attacks.

Is Federalism Good for Fetuses? Reply

Pro-lifer James Banks explains why the pro-choice camp has mostly won the abortion debate.

Even if certain states passed rigidly anti-abortion laws, state borders are porous; back in the 1980s, in my native state of Idaho, the drinking age was 18, while the drinking age in neighboring Washington state was 21. The lines of traffic that Washington State University students created while traveling to bars in Idaho on a Friday night are still legendary. In the same way, socially conservative Idaho could outlaw abortion today, but the laws of supply and demand dictate that abortion clinics would begin to populate the Washington-Idaho border.

It should also be noted that—in spite of the claims of many federalists—governments at the state and local level are often not much more “pro-family” or “pro-life” than governments at the federal level. I know of no social policy that has proved more incipient to social degradation than no-fault divorce, condemning millions of children to grow up in single-parent homes and live lives of poverty. But this policy was—and always has been—administered at the state level. Nor are state and local laws always representative of the communities whom they regulate. It makes sense that no-fault divorce would begin in California, but seems anachronistic that the last state to resist it would be New York, which did not liberalize its divorce laws until 2010.

Quote of the Day: "The System Makes No Sense" Reply

James Leroy Wilson explains.

There are people, Democrat and Republican alike, who believe “the system” does make sense, and is fundamentally good. They also believe it is sustainable; the only problem is sin. Democrats and Republicans differ only on what the sins happen to be.

For Democrats, the sins are . . .

  • Greed
  • Racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia
  • Being a Republican

For Republicans, the sins are . . .

  • Wanting higher taxes and more regulations
  • Defending people who don’t fit into the mold of the “traditional family”
  • Being a Democrat

Democrats (ignorantly) believe that Republicans supported an “unfettered free market” where, they think, businesses a) think it’s good business to kill their customers and employees and b) will get away with it. Republicans believe Democrats want to undermine the foundations of Western Civilizations and of American society. Democrats say the Republicans want a Police State with the Patriot Act as proof; Republicans say Democrats want a Leviathan state, with Obamacare’s “individual mandate” as proof.

And yet, both have a fundamental faith in The System, especially if the “right people” win elections.

Clarification Reply

by Michael Parish

Libertarians, movement “conservatives”, and other heirs to the classical liberal tradition view society through the binary opposition of “individualism” and “collectivism”; the two are reified into near-Platonic forms and pitted in a permanent opposition recalling Judeo-Christian dualism. Both are mental absracta, but in a society based on economic reductionism, they are assumed to denote rational self-interest in a free market; libertarians extend it one degree further to include pre-rational self-satisfaction. However, irrespective of their exact definition, they together comprise a false dichotomy, and as such frame a false discourse.

The root of the fallacy is not the difference between two forms of social organization, but in the nature of the terms themselves. Both are abstractions, referring not to concrete objects but to mental concepts; both are employed  by virtue of their connotative, rather than denotative value; and both are perceived by a populace unequipped to comprehend the difference. This is why discourse framed within such a perspective never rises above the level of rhetoric; it is literally incapable of it. Rather, it sinks to the same level as all other political dialogue in modern society; ignoring concrete intellectual formulation and instead remaining mired in psychologically satisfying pseudo-fantasy.

The targets of this diatribe may protest that in practice there does exist a concrete difference between the two. That, to instantiate the dualism mentioned earlier, individuals can exist either free from state control to pursue their own ends or be artificially coerced into a collective. However, this is not a rational summation of social options so much as it is an (unconscious) restatement of the levantine God vs. Satan dichotomy. The same as morality cannot be reduced to a simple matter of good and evil, civilization cannot either; the world exists not in black and white but in varying shades of grey.

Those who self-identify as “individualists” all but fetishize the term “liberty,” committing the same aforementioned error of turning an abstraction into a principle. “Liberty” is an open-ended abstraction, one whose elasticity is endlessly negotiable, producing two definitions and and the expected paradoxes. As a foundational principle, it is easily jettisoned; arguments follow from premises that correspond to empirical consideration, not abstract rationalization.

The conceptual dilemma plaguing the “individualist” fervor is the same inherent to all atomism; every cause has an effect, and every effect is preconditioned by a cause. Vacuums are the exception; causal interrelation is the rule. This necessitates the formulation of ideology on a collective level. If we are to accept (as I do) the ontological distinction between the state (artificial) and the civic (natural), and combine it with an organicist conception of society, then the “individual vs. collective” dichotomy vanishes and the correct parameters of civil versus state are revealed.

There will always exist the same quantitative issues to be solved; the question is who will solve them, and how they will do so.

The failure to recognize this reveals another blind spot in the liberal thought process; a misconception of human historical dynamics. History operates dialectically in a domino-like process of cause and effect; factors cause circumstances, which in turn precondition the emergence of yet more factors; never are social agents operating out of free will; rather, they are unconsciously fulfilling historically designated roles. The rise and entrenchment of bureaucracy in Western societies was not a conscious attack on individualism but its inevitable extension; as the individual subject and his rational self-interest was selected as the highest reality, it destroyed the social conditions allowing he and his peers to function rationally in the first place. Those conditions had to be recreated, this time top down supervision rather than bottom up construction. As to be expected of ideologues with linear thought processes, the only answer to over rationalization was yet further rationalization.

The paradox revealed here is that any principle taken to its logical conclusion  will negate itself, and in doing so will arrive full circle. And, indeed, it is the circular, rather than linear, conception of the world that we must adopt if we are to adapt.

Israeli Media Fears the "New" Egypt Reply

Neve Gordon explains why.

Dan Margalit, a well-known commentator, made this point clear when he explained that Israel does not disapprove of a democracy in the largest Arab country but simply privileges Israel’s peace agreement with Egypt over internal Arab affairs.

Israel, one should note, is not alone in this self-serving approach; most Western countries constantly lament the absence of democracy in the Arab world, while supporting the dictators and helping them remain in office. In English this kind of approach has a very clear name – it is called hypocrisy.

When Will George W. Bush Be Tried for His War Crimes? Reply

Sheldon Richman wants to know.

It would have been bad enough to torture people actually suspected of wrongdoing, but the Bush administration went well beyond that. Many people subjected to hideous treatment were picked up on the flimsiest of “evidence.” People were offered bounties to turn others in; naturally, some saw that as a chance to settle old scores having nothing to do with terrorism. Absence of evidence (as former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld might say) was not considered evidence of absence. In at least one case, a man was tortured — by the U.S. government’s helper in Egypt, Omar Suleiman — to get the prisoner to say that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had trained al-Qaeda agents. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney badly wanted to justify their preexisting wish to effect regime change in Iraq by tying Saddam to 9/11. But there was never any evidence of Iraqi complicity.

That reminds us that torture was not the only crime committed by the Bush administration. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars were also (and still are) outrages because, among other reasons, they were based on lies. Bush officials, such as Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell, now acknowledge “misstatements,” but that can hardly be taken seriously. We know that back then grave doubts were expressed over the quality of the so-called intelligence about Saddam’s alleged weapons of mass destruction. Rumsfeld’s excuses are pathetic. When he beat the drums for war, he said he knew where Saddam’s WMDs were. Now he says he meant he knew the location of “suspected sites.” Did he step out of Orwell’s 1984?

A Eulogy for the First Vermont Republic Reply

Thomas Naylor describes a sad day in Vermont history.

Is it possible that out of the ashes of the First Vermont Republic a Second Vermont Republic might emerge?  Might not Vermont experience a kind of resurrection from the dead, or at least from its two-century long slumber, resulting in a new state of consciousness opposed to the tyranny of Corporate America and the U.S. government and committed to once again becoming an independent republic?  Might such a republic embrace these principles:  political independence, human scale, sustainability, economic solidarity, power sharing, equal opportunity, tension reduction, and community?

What if tiny Vermont, the second smallest state in the Union, were to become an example for other states to follow leading to the peaceful dissolution of the largest, most powerful empire of all time—the United States of America?  Literally every reason why Vermont might want to opt out of the Union is equally applicable to every other state.  Vermont’s paradigm for secession could easily be adapted to any other state.

Revolution in the Middle East: They're Doing It Without the U.S Reply

Andrew Bacevich offers his analysis in the Los Angeles Times.

When first conceived in the wake of 9/11, two convictions underpinned that war. According to the first, precluding further attacks on the United States meant that the Islamic world needed to change. According to the second, because Muslims were manifestly unable to change on their own, the United States needed to engineer the process, with American military might serving as catalyst. Freedom (or at least submission) would issue from the barrel of a GI’s assault rifle.

In Afghanistan, then Iraq and now, of course, AfPak, U.S. efforts to promote change have achieved — at best — mixed results. Meanwhile, the costs incurred have proved painfully high. In terms of treasure expended, lives lost and moral authority squandered, Americans have paid a lot and gotten precious little in return.

It now turns out that those exertions were unnecessary or, at the very least, superfluous. For nine years, the U.S. has been pushing in on a door that opens outward. More amazing still, that door swings open of its own volition. Events of the last several weeks have made it abundantly clear not only that important parts of the Islamic world are ripe for change but that the impetus for change comes from within. Transformation is not something that outsiders can induce or impose or control. The process is organic, spontaneous and self-sustaining.

So poor Muslims tired of living in squalor, and the not-so-poor fed up with suffering under the boot of corrupt authoritarian regimes (not infrequently allied with the United States), don’t need Washington’s coaching. They don’t need us to “liberate” them. They are perfectly capable of liberating themselves. And their doing so basically doesn’t cost the American taxpayer a nickel.

The Arab Awakening Reply

Article by Justin Raimondo.

As events in Libya continue to race forward, I think my initial analysis is roughly accurate: while the Eastern provinces have rid themselves of Gadhafi, in Tripoli pro-government mobs are taking to the streets, and the dictator and his equally daffy son seem to be digging in for a protracted conflict. I see the son is taking his clues from Glenn Beck and David Horowitz, babbling about how the rebels are trying to restore the “Caliphate” or “Emirate.” I didn’t know they got Fox News in Libya, but I guess being the son of a dictator affords one certain privileges.

George W. Bush, War Criminal, Is Not Welcome in Europe Reply

Article by Andy Worthington.

It was, however, a third piece of news that particularly brightened up my last few days in Poland, when I was able to tell audiences that George W. Bush had just cancelled a proposed trip to Switzerland on February 12 because two former victims of his torture program — the al-Jazeera cameraman Sami El-Hajj (who was released from Guantánamo in May 2008) and Majid Khan, a “high-value detainee” who was moved to Guantánamo in September 2006, after years in secret CIA prisons — had filed criminal complaints against Bush for his involvement in their torture, prepared by the Center for Constitutional Rights and the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, with support from the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).

The Revenge of Rothbard and Hess 1

by John Payne

The most famous battle in the long, internecine war on the right between libertarians and traditionalists was fought over Labor Day weekend, 1969 at the Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) convention in Saint Louis. The two groups argued semi-peacefully over a number of proposed planks for YAF’s platform–the legalization of marijuana, withdrawal from Vietnam, etc.–but when a libertarian delegate stepped to the podium, declared the right of every individual to resist state violence, and lit his draft card on fire, the convention was ripped apart. The libertarians cried “Sock it to the state!” while the traditionalists chanted “Sock it to the left!”  and mocked the libertarians as “lazy fairies” (get it?).

Many people consider that moment the birth of the modern libertarian movement as a separate entity from the conservative movement. The old alliance between the two groups never completely dissolved, but the rift between them has never fully closed either. When the libertarians struck out on their own over forty years ago, there was no question which group was dominant: the conservatives were more numerous, better funded, and far better represented in the halls of power. Now, despite being united in opposition to the Obama Administration, that rift appears to be widening again, but it’s less clear who is winning this time.

The events of the 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) read almost like a bizarro version of the 1969 YAF convention. Instead of the libertarians being driven from the group, it is the traditionalists who sidelined themselves because of the presence of the self-proclaimed gay conservative organization GOProud. Instead of libertarians being attacked by angry pro-war conservatives, the libertarians heckled a Vice President and Secretary of Defense who launched a war of choice. Most notably, the libertarians were a clear plurality (but not a majority) of the attendees who bothered to vote in the straw poll as Ron Paul won with 30% of the vote and former Governor of New Mexico Gary Johnson took third with an additional 6%. In short, the libertarians have taken control of a decades old conservative institution.

Of course, this has led to much gnashing of teeth among the traditionalists–most comically in this poorly written piece by radio host Kevin McCullough. (Seriously, it seems like it was written by an overeager college freshman playing political Mad Libs.) The most common complaint is that the conference did not represent conservatism, and I must admit that the critics are right. Conservatives still far outnumber libertarians, and in most cases, they wouldn’t vote Ron Paul  or Gary Johnson for president. However, CPAC has never been representative of conservatism as a whole–it’s a conference for conservative activists, intelligentsia, and college students, who are by far the largest group. So while CPAC does not perfectly reflect conservatism at the moment, it does give us a glimpse at its future. Libertarians are clearly ascendant among activists on the right, and that will probably translate into a far more libertarian conservatism ten or twenty years down the road.

Although at the 1969 YAF convention, the losers would be later to win, in this bizarro version, the losers are really the losers–forever. There will always be “traditionalists,” but it’s unlikely that conservatives will still be getting worked up over homosexuality or even gay marriage in twenty years time as support for gay marriage steadily rises, even among conservatives, as the demographic gets younger. From a broader view, the traditionalists have been losing all along, given that gay marriage is even under consideration, and their luck is not likely to turn around.

Libertarians are not on the verge of sweeping into power in Washington or even becoming the dominant  force on the right. Middle-aged (and older) conservatives are still the ones running the show, by and large, but libertarianism is the animating spirit of the young people on the right, and the other members of the so-called “conservative coalition” ignore that fact at their own peril.

An Interview with Richard Spencer Reply

Conducted by Alex Kurtagic.

This is an interesting quote:

To return to your provocative question, in my fantasyland, there would still be a Left and a Right—and granolas and libertarians and animal rights activists and Mormons, et al.—but they would operate within Western unity and natural hierarchy.

Some, no doubt, might counter that you can’t have a “non-egalitarian Left.” But I don’t agree with this at all. Jack London was a collectivist; HL Mencken, an anarchist; both were “leftists,” of sorts, and both rejected egalitarianism. And they both operated on a different planet than the whole spectrum of contemporary Leftists and Rightists, from Glenn Beck to Cornell West.

Rothbard vs The Unions 2

Unions: heroes or villains? Murray Rothbard thought it was the latter. What do you think?

Back during my serious leftist-anarchist days, I used to do strike support work for unions including the Greyhound strike Rothbard discusses. My experience was that most strikers couldn’t be bothered to even show up for picket duty. Instead, they would just sit at home and collected their strike pay and unemployment. Being a rather devout anarcho-syndicalist at the time, I used to think, “These guys are the revolution?”