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What Social Animals Owe to Each Other

Monday, September 24, 2007

A Chip Off Old Big Brother's Block

Late last month the California Senate and Assembly sent Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger a bill to prohibit employers from requiring workers to have RFID (radio-frequency identification) chips implanted under their skin. North Dakota and Wisconsin already have passed similar laws. Two other states are considering bans. VeriChip (motto, appropriately: "RFID for People") already has FDA permission to sell a device suitable for human implantation. Some people find this form of ID attractive because it can't be lost or, presumably, counterfeited easily. (We'll see about that.) But others, especially organizations dedicated to protecting privacy, object to treating other people like pets. What should an advocate of liberty think of all this?
The rest of last week's TGIF, "A Chip Off Old Big Brother's Block," is at the Foundation for Economic Education website.

Cross-posted at Liberty & Power.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Showing Respect

George II was asked at his news conference this morning if he is thinking about attacking Iran. He said he respects the Iranian people and hopes the two countries can work out their differences diplomatically. (Blah, blah, blah. He speaks fluent boilerplate.) Yet he threatened further economic sanctions, which would exacerbate the hardship on the Iranians.

If he really wants to show his respect, he can formally apologize for the U.S. government's helping to overthrow an elected prime minister in 1953 and the restoration to power of the brutal Shah and his Savak secret police. Then he can promise not to bomb Iran under any circumstances. That would be a start.

On a related matter, Bush refused to comment on whether he approved of Israel's airstrike on a building in Syria allegedly holding nuclear equipment September 6. (The Syrian government says only an airspace violation occurred and no nuclear weapons were involved.) Why don't the American people have a right to know if Bush was complicit in the attack in any way, including the issuing of a green light, as U.S. presidents have done so many times in the past for Israel?

On the history of U.S. intervention in the Middle East, see this.

A Fine Example

From McClatchey news service this morning:
The Senate on Wednesday rejected legislation that would have allowed terror suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to petition federal courts claiming that they’re being held in error.

The 56-43 vote in favor of the bill fell short of the 60 votes needed under Senate rules to cut off debate, blocking the legislation.

The measure, sponsored by Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Arlen Specter, R-Pa., would have given military detainees the right of habeas corpus — the right to challenge one’s detention in court, rooted in English common law dating from before the Magna Carta of 1215 — which serves as a check on arbitrary government power.

The Bush administration opposed giving the right to terror suspects. Most Republican senators backed the administration. Besides Specter, the other Republicans who voted with the
Democrats were Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, Richard Lugar of Indiana, Gordon Smith of Oregon, Olympia Snowe of Maine and John Sununu of New Hampshire.

The change in law would have applied to the roughly 340 men held at Guantanamo. Many of them have been held for more than five years without charge. The Bush administration has said that indefinite detention of enemy combatants who threaten the United States is necessary in an age of terrorism.

Congress passed a law last year that establishes combatant status review tribunals, made up of three military officials, to review such petitions. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a military lawyer who helped write the law, said the military is best able to determine who’s an unlawful enemy combatant. [Emphasis added.]
So all an American president has to do is invade a country, round up anyone he wants, and hold him forever without charge or access to the courts.

A beacon of liberty for the rest of the world.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Constitution Day?

I know I'm a day late, but this immortal quote from Lysander Spooner must be posted:
[W]hether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain --- that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist.
It's the closing line of "No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority."

Monday, September 17, 2007

More Illumination

George II and his war cheerleaders insist that U.S. troops must remain in Iraq for as far as the eye can see if a genocidal bloodbath is to be averted. Very interesting in light of this from Sidney Blumenthal of Salon.com
Two years ago the Sunni sheiks leading the insurgency in Iraq's Anbar province approached the United States, offering to end the violence in exchange for a timetable establishing that U.S. forces would withdraw from the country, a senior official at the highest level of the British government told me. Without some sort of negotiated deal that the Sunni leaders could brandish, they explained, they would not have the essential political justification for quelling the conflict. The British believed that the Sunni offer was being made in good faith and urged that it be accepted. But according to the senior British source, President Bush rejected it out of hand, still certain that he could achieve a military victory. He saw any agreement with the Sunnis as tantamount to defeat, the British official said. And yet, even as the Sunnis were rebuffed, Bush continued to invest trust in the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government to forge a political conciliation.

Everything Is Illuminated

From John Nichols at the blog of The Nation:

[Gen. David] Petraeus has apparently been so open in expressing his "long-term interest in running for the US presidency" that Sabah Khadim, a former senior adviser at Iraq's Interior Ministry who worked closely with the general in Baghdad, recalls, "I asked him if he was planning to run in 2008 and he said, 'No, that would be too soon'."

Such are the political calculations of the man whose embrace of President Bush's war has become so complete that he and his aides have radically altered the manner in which statistics are gathered on violence in Iraq in order to foster the fantasy that the fight has taken a turn for the better....

It is Petraeus's willingness to apply the optimistic gloss that marks him as a worthy successor to George Bush, who in Thursday night speech to the nation pronounced himself well and truly pleased with his general's recitation of the administration's talking points. Based on general's testimony, Bush is claiming "success in meeting (our) objectives."

The president's "return on success" is an empty promise that a small number of troops already scheduled for withdrawal from Iraq may, in fact, be withdrawn. At the same time, however, Bush acknowledges that this "success will require U.S. political, economic, and security engagement that extends beyond my Presidency."

Translation: For all the window-dressing talk about drawing down troop levels, Bush continues to peddle the " stay-the-course" message that has been his theme since the occupation of oil-rich Iraq went awry more than four years ago. And, once more, the president is asking Congress to provide him with more money for more war....

For their own reasons, the president and Petraeus feel they can afford to maintain the war until they figure out how to rearrange the letters of the word "quagmire" to spell "victory."

That will not happen. Bush's will be a failed presidency. And Petraeus's will be not be a presidency at all.

Unfortunately, on the way to their shared fate, the commander-in-chief and his general will preside over thousands of additional American deaths, tens of thousands of additional Iraqi deaths, the continued collapse of this country's global reputation and the emptying from our treasury of the resources that might have made America and the world more secure, more functional and more humane.

As Nichols points out, whatever illusions he may harbor, Petraeus is no Eisenhower.

Hat tip: Robert Higgs

Friday, September 14, 2007

Do They Really Think We're Morons?

This past week, with General Petraeus's appearances in Congress and George II's televised remarks, has been one shameless PR campaign to get us to trust the administration when it insists that what it is doing in Iraq is in the best interests of the American people as well as the Iraqis. Is there anyone around who still believes anything these con men say? How many times do they have to lie before we catch on to the game? They are contradicted by studies coming from various agencies and the administration itself. And the so-called drawdown could leave the troop level higher than the pre-surge level. At any rate, the troops have to be taken out regardless of what's going on Iraq, as explained here by Alex Koppelman at Salon.com.

These arrogant militarists think we're too stupid to notice. They assume the American people will hear the words "troop reduction" and figure everything is fine now.

When will we say a resounding "Enough" to these mis-leaders and public self-servants? Before they attack Iran, I hope.

Force Fetishists

Why is it that every few years some prominent newspaper or magazine publishes a critical article about the freedom philosophy (libertarianism) that rests on the same confusion over two key but simple concepts? Such confusion should have been dispelled by 1875 when Lysander Spooner, the colorful individualist anarchist and abolitionist, wrote his great essay "Vices Are Not Crimes: A Vindication of Moral Liberty." In that essay Spooner took pains to distinguish actions that harm the actor (vices) and actions that harm others by invading their persons or property (crimes).
Read the rest of this week's TGIF, "Force Fetishists," at the Foundation for Economic Education website.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Libertarianism: Left or Right?

Is libertarianism of the Left or of the Right? We often avoid this question with a resounding “Neither!” Given how these terms are used today, this response is understandable. But it is unsatisfying when viewed historically.

In fact, libertarianism is planted squarely on the Left, as I will try to demonstrate here.

The rest of my article "Libertarianism: Left or Right?" is at The Future of Freedom Foundation website.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A Moment of Reflection

The official position apparently is that we should all take time to think about 9/11 today. But what should the content of that thinking be? No contest: we should be thinking about how for more than 50 years U.S. presidents and their foreign-policy advisers created the conditions in which 9/11 would eventually happen. We should be reflecting on foreign intervention and its inevitable consequences. All empires are targets of terrorists. What's the surprise?

Here's something else we can think about. In this day of relatively easy, free-lance terrorism, the state is exposed as useless as a means of security. No lumbering, bureaucratic, centralized government can hope to have the flexibility, innovation, and entrepreneurship required to produce security under the current circumstances. Replacing the state with a stateless free-market society is more practical and important than ever. (See more here.)

Friday, September 07, 2007

The Nation as an Object of Service

Today's TGIF, "The Nation as an Object of Service," is at the Foundation for Economic Education website here.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Sunday, September 02, 2007

I Wasn't Kidding

Photo credit: Cheryl Richman. See more of her photos here.

Are We to Be Spared Nothing?

The New York Times reports that George II told the author of a forthcoming book that after his presidency,
"We’ll have a nice place in Dallas," where he will be running what he called "a fantastic Freedom Institute" promoting democracy around the world.
Some things just require no comment.

Recent Writings

If you were reading with only one eye open or only two hours' sleep you might have thought Paul Krugman had finally stumbled onto the truth. In his Monday New York Times op-ed, "A Socialist Plot," he wrote: "[L]et's end this un-American system and make education what it should be -- a matter of individual responsibility and private enterprise. Oh, and we shouldn't have any government mandates that force children to get educated, either.... The truth is that there's no difference in principle between saying that every American child is entitled to an education and saying that every American child is entitled to adequate health care."
The rest of last week's TGIF, "Counterfeit Rights, Cold Bureaucracies," is at the Foundation for Economic Education website. By the way, some people missed the point of this column, thinking it is primarily an attack on Krugman. Let me know what you think.
President Bush, one of the two most famous pro-Vietnam War members of his generation to avoid fighting in that war, has finally accepted what he previously rejected: that there are parallels between the war he ducked out of and his violent occupation of Iraq. (The other best-known famous pro-war war avoider is Vice President Dick “I had other priorities in the ’60s than military service” Cheney.) Unfortunately, Bush has learned a far different lesson from Vietnam than many others have.
The rest of my op-ed, "Iraq and Vietnam," is at The Future of Freedom Foundation website.