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What Social Animals Owe to Each Other

Friday, May 29, 2009

TGIF: The Rule of Lore

“This is a nation of laws not of men (and women).” We will be hearing a lot about that in the coming weeks.

The rest of TGIF, "The Rule of Lore," is here.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Revisionist History Day, 2009

Tomorrow is Revisionist History Day, what others call Memorial Day. In that spirit, I again quote a passage from the great antiwar movie The Americanization of Emily. This AP photo is a perfect illustration.
I don't trust people who make bitter reflections about war, Mrs. Barham. It's always the generals with the bloodiest records who are the first to shout what a Hell it is. And it's always the widows who lead the Memorial Day parades . . . we shall never end wars, Mrs. Barham, by blaming it on ministers and generals or warmongering imperialists or all the other banal bogies. It's the rest of us who build statues to those generals and name boulevards after those ministers; the rest of us who make heroes of our dead and shrines of our battlefields. We wear our widows' weeds like nuns and perpetuate war by exalting its sacrifices....

My brother died at Anzio – an everyday soldier’s death, no special heroism involved. They buried what pieces they found of him. But my mother insists he died a brave death and pretends to be very proud. . . . [N]ow my other brother can’t wait to reach enlistment age. That’ll be in September. May be ministers and generals who blunder us into wars, but the least the rest of us can do is to resist honoring the institution. What has my mother got for pretending bravery was admirable? She’s under constant sedation and terrified she may wake up one morning and find her last son has run off to be brave. [Emphasis added.]
Enjoy the day. I'll spend some of it reading the truth about the warfare state (Chalmers Johnson's Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic) and, I hope, watching Emily. Oh, and if there's time (I have to lecture today at the first FEE seminar), I'll begin Jeff Riggenbach's new book, Why American History Is Not What They Say: An Introduction to Revisionism.

I have belatedly learned that the best scene in Emily is online:

The State Is Still the Main Evil

Christopher Preble is right. Terrorism is bad, but it can't come close to the destruction that governments have wrought. "Cures" CAN be worse than the diseases they address.

The casualties caused by international terrorist incidents since September 11, 2001, and the prospects for future casualties, pale in comparison to the death and destruction that took place between August 1914 and November 1918, and again between September 1939 and August 1945.

The violence and bloodshed that can be deployed by non-state actors is an order of magnitude smaller than what could be caused by even a medium-size modern industrial state.

Can it even be compared with the Cold War, which claimed far fewer lives but lasted nearly five times longer than the two world wars combined? Again, no.

See more.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Neocons Happy with Obama

Neocon Charles Krauthammer thinks we're witnessing "Obama in Bush Clothing." He's happy about that. Teaser:
If hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue, then the flip-flops on previously denounced anti-terror measures are the homage that Barack Obama pays to George Bush. Within 125 days, Obama has adopted with only minor modifications huge swaths of the entire, allegedly lawless Bush program.
And David Brooks points out that even Obama's better positions (Guantanamo, torture) were embraced by Bush as time wore on. It's not Bush-Cheney versus Obama. It's Bush-Obama versus Cheney.

Preventive Detention

It wouldn't be the first US preventive detention. Remember the so-called mentally ill, the forgotten victims of the (therapeutic) state.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Obama's Betrayals

It was said during the presidential campaign that one of the candidates was running for George W. Bush’s third term. Did you think it was Obama?
Read the rest of "Obama's Betrayals" at The Future of Freedom Foundation site here.

TGIF: Medical Misunderstanding

Economic illiteracy will be hazardous to your health.

The rest of TGIF is here.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

"Prolonged Detention"

Read Obama's speech carefully. He promises a regime that will allow him to hold people without charge or trial -- indefinitely. He calls it "prolonged detention." He says it won't be one man's decision, but that is not the issue. The issue is preventive detention. Scary. Think of what that means -- holding people not for what they've done (after charge and property trial) but for what they're expected to do. So much for Obama the civil libertarian.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Chris Matthews Makes a Fool of Himself Again

Chris "Nerf Ball" Matthews tonight had two politicians -- not scientists -- debate global warming. The Democrat, James Moran, says it's a catastrophe in the making and human beings are causing it. The Republican, Dana Rohrabacher, says it's a natural occurrence.

Why didn't Matthews have scientists doing the debating? Simple. If he had scientists on, it would have wrecked his contention that Republicans are skeptics about global warming for the same reason they are skeptics about evolution: Their religion makes them suspicious of science and the scientific method. For Matthews this is a culture/religion thing. Rohrabacher tried to rebut that claim by making scientific arguments and citing scientists in his defense, but Matthews was too busy laughing and patting himself on the back to hear.

He thinks this is good news programing?

The CIA Wouldn't Lie!

I find it hilarious that the right-wing of the War Party is so up in arms over the suggestion that the CIA might lie to a member of Congress. Seriously, does this even need a comment? (Not that Nancy Pelosi can't be lying this round.)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Murder in Afghanistan

Read eyewitness accounts of U.S. airstrikes in Granai, Afghanistan, last week. Imagine yourself in that village. This is what the U.S. government does in our name. Who isn't sickened by what's going on? What now, Obama? He withholds torture pictures for fear of inflaming anti-American sentiment, yet he does this. (See Glenn Greenwald.) Whom does this protect? How long will the "progressives" stick with him?

I'm sure we can count on some "libertarians" and Objectivists to say, "But the Taliban fight among the civilian population. They use human shields. They are responsible for the deaths of innocents."

Or maybe they can no longer say those things without embarrassment. Let's hope so.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Paine on War and Taxes

War is the common harvest of all those who participate in the division and expenditure of public money, in all countries. It is the art of conquering at home; the object of it is an increase of revenue; and as revenue cannot be increased without taxes, a pretence must be made for expenditure. In reviewing the history of the English Government, its wars and its taxes, a bystander, not blinded by prejudice nor warped by interest, would declare that taxes were not raised to carry on wars, but that wars were raised to carry on taxes.

--Thomas Paines, The Rights of Man

Saturday, May 09, 2009

"Among the Several States"

Just to report a bit further on my reading of William Crosskey: he presents overwhelming evidence that "among the several states," a key phrase in the Constitution's Commerce Clause, meant "among the people of the several states" and that an exclusively interstate meaning was almost certainly not intended. For example, he provides quotations from literate people at the time who referred to the duty of government to promote peace or tranquility or happiness "among the several states." The contexts of these quotations indicate that these could not have been meant to exclude intrastate peace or tranquility or happiness. In fact, in one example a delegate to the Constitutional Convention lamented that although Congress in the Confederation period "was intended to be a body to preserve peace among the states," it was not authorized to suppress Shays' Rebellion, an entirely intrastate affair.

Moreover, Crosskey provides countless quotations showing that the word "state" itself more often than not meant the people of a state. This was apparently the default meaning; other senses of the word seemed to require specification. Thus "among the several states" would have meant "among the people of the several states." This, again, is inconsistent with a strictly interstate reading of the Commerce Clause.

The upshot is that the Commerce Clause was not likely to have been intended as a limit on the power of Congress to regulate commerce. It's unfortunate, but the facts are the facts. Hiding from them does us no good.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Today's Offerings

FEE TGIF -- "The Bankers' Bank": the origins and ruling-class nature of the Fed.

FFF Op-ed -- "Liberty Creates Order": demolishing David Brooks's false alternative.

Shame on You, Jon Stewart

Shame on Jon Stewart, host of "The Daily Show," for his cowardly apology for calling Harry Truman a war criminal. If dropping atomic bombs on two militarily irrelevant cities, killing hundreds of thousands of innocent and defenseless men, women, and children doesn't earn the perpetrator the label "war criminal," I don't see how Bush, Cheney, et al. deserve the label. Shame on you, Jon Stewart. Some edgy, renegade social critic you turned out to be.

See the appalling display here. And read Justin Raimondo's appropriate denunciation here.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Constitutional Question of the Day

(Full disclosure: I probably won't be able to do this everyday.)
Articles of Confederation, Article II. Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.

Constitution, Amendment X: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
Are these significantly different? If so, why?

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Constitutional Question of the Day

Where in these words does it state that the national government may regulate only interstate commerce?
The Congress shall have Power ... To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;
I know it's been interpreted that way since about 1808 (not 1789), but why? Does the text actually support that interpretation and no other?

Monday, May 04, 2009

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Calling a Spade a Spade

War: the ultimate shovel-ready project.

Friday, May 01, 2009

TGIF: Of, By, and For the Elite

The New York Times pulled back the curtain this week to give readers a rare glimpse at the workings of a political-economy essentially run by a ruling elite. Anyone who thinks representative democracy can’t coexist with rule by a political class is in for a surprise. The clique need not control everything. The pervasive money and banking industries are more than enough.

The rest of this week's TGIF, "Of, By, and For the Elite," is here.

Systemically Risky

I have more to say about government as a systemic risk here at the Future of Freedom Foundation website. A teaser:

The Obama administration and congressional leaders assure us that the government can protect us from the “systemic risk” posed by big banks, insurance companies, and hedge funds.

But who will protect us from the government?