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Monday, May 31, 2010

Revisionist History Day, 2010

Today is Revisionist History Day, what others call Memorial Day. Americans are supposed to remember the country's war dead while being thankful that they protected our freedom and served our country. However, reading revisionist history (see a sampling at the link above) or alternative news sites (start with Antiwar.com and Antiwar Radio with Scott Horton) teaches that the fallen were doing no such thing. Rather they were and are today serving cynical politicians and the "private" component of the military-industrial complex in the service of the American Empire.

In that spirit, I again quote a passage from the great antiwar movie The Americanization of Emily. You'll find a video of the scene below. This AP photo is a perfect illustration of what "Charlie Madison" is talking about.
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 revisionist history and watching Emily.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Holy Cow!

Whether a given category of speech enjoys First Amendment protection depends upon a categorical balancing of the value of the speech against its societal costs.
--Solicitor General Elena Kagan,
Argument in U.S. v. Stevens
Obama nominee for U.S. Supreme Court.

(HT: Matt Welch)

In Our Name

From the New York Times. Of course, only the "operators" are to blame. I blame everyone involved, including the American voters. As Scott Horton of Antiwar Radio points, they had a chance to choose antiwar candidates and they didn't do it.

Operators of Drones Are Faulted in Afghan Deaths

KABUL, Afghanistan — The American military on Saturday released a scathing report on the deaths of 23 Afghan civilians, saying that “inaccurate and unprofessional” reporting by Predator drone operators helped lead to an airstrike in February on a group of innocent men, women and children.

The report said that four American officers, including a brigade and battalion commander, had been reprimanded, and that two junior officers had also been disciplined. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who apologized to President Hamid Karzai after the attack, announced a series of training measures intended to reduce the chances of similar events.

The attack, in which three vehicles were destroyed, illustrated the extraordinary sensitivity to the inadvertent killing of noncombatants by NATO forces. Since taking command here last June, General McChrystal has made protection of civilians a high priority, and has sharply restricted airstrikes.

The overwhelming majority of civilian deaths in Afghanistan are caused by insurgents, but the growing intensity of the fighting this year has sent civilian casualties to their highest levels since 2001.

General McChrystal’s concern is that NATO forces, in their ninth year of operations in Afghanistan, are rapidly wearing out their welcome. Opinion polls here appear to reflect that.

“When we make a mistake, we must be forthright,” General McChrystal said in a statement. “And we must do everything in our power to correct that mistake.”

The civilian deaths highlighted the hazards in relying on remotely piloted aircraft to track people suspected of being insurgents. In this case, as in many others where drones are employed by the military, the people steering and spotting the targets sat at a console in Creech Air Force Base in Nevada.

The attack occurred on the morning of Feb. 21, near the village of Shahidi Hassas in Oruzgan Province, a Taliban-dominated area in southern Afghanistan. An American Special Operations team was tracking a group of insurgents when a pickup truck and two sport utility vehicles began heading their way.

The Predator operators reported seeing only military-age men in the truck, the report said. The ground commander concurred, the report said, and the Special Operations team asked for an airstrike. An OH-58D Kiowa helicopter fired Hellfire missiles and rockets, destroying the vehicles and killing 23 civilians. Twelve others were wounded.

The report, signed by Maj. Gen. Timothy P. McHale, found that the Predator operators in Nevada and “poorly functioning command posts” in the area failed to provide the ground commander with evidence that there were civilians in the trucks. Because of that, General McHale wrote, the commander wrongly believed that the vehicles, then seven miles away, contained insurgents who were moving to reinforce the fighters he and his men were tracking.

“The strike occurred because the ground force commander lacked a clear understanding of who was in the vehicles, the location, direction of travel, and the likely course of action of the vehicles,” General McHale wrote.

The “tragic loss of life,” General McHale found, was compounded by the failure of the ground commander and others to report in a timely manner that they might have killed civilians.

Predator drones and similar aircraft carry powerful cameras that beam real-time images to their operators, and some are armed with missiles, as well. The C.I.A. operates its own drone operation, mostly focused on Pakistan and separate from the military’s.

In this case, the military Predator operators in Nevada tracked the convoy for three and a half hours, but failed to notice any of the women who were riding along, the report said.

According to military officials in Washington and Afghanistan, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters on the case, intelligence analysts who were monitoring the drone’s video feed sent computer messages twice, warning the drone operators and ground command posts that children were visible.

The report said that drone operators reported that the convoy contained only military-age men. “Information that the convoy was anything other than an attacking force was ignored or downplayed by the Predator crew,” General McHale wrote.

Immediately after the initial attack, the Kiowa helicopter’s crew spotted brightly colored clothing at the scene, and, suspecting that civilians might have been in the trucks, stopped firing.

After the attack, the Special Operations team turned over the bodies to local Afghans. Even so, General McHale said, officers on the ground failed to report the possibility of civilian casualties in a timely way.

On receiving the results of the investigation, General McChrystal recommended a battery of additional training exercises for military personnel coming to Afghanistan, and additional training for those already here.

In addition to reprimanding the four officers and admonishing the other two, General McChrystal asked Air Force commanders to open an investigation into the Predator operators.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

"The Free Market Would Have Taken Care of It"

But it had to exist first. It didn't.

David Bernstein
If segregation and discrimination in the Jim Crow South was simply a matter of law, federal legislation that would have overturned Jim Crow laws would have sufficed. But, in fact, it involved the equivalent of a white supremacist cartel, enforced not just by overt government regulation like segregation laws, but also by the implicit threat of private violence and harassment of anyone who challenged the racist status quo.
There's a simple proof for this: In Greensboro, N.C., Nashville, Tenn., and other places, lunch counters were integrated by agreement between store managers and sit-in organizations after months of pressure. How could that have happened if segregation had been mandated by law? They would have had to lobby for repeal of the relevant Jim Crow statute.

Further, we know that some businesses, particularly those that catered to interstate traffic, wanted to desegregate (bigotry generally is bad business) but feared private/government harassment and worse.

Richard Epstein (same link):
In 1964, every major public accommodation that operated a nationwide business was in favor of being forced to admit minorities.
Wanted to be forced? Sort of. Actually, they wanted others to be forced. In that way they couldn't be singled out for doing what they wanted to do: serve blacks. It's from game theory. X wants to do something, but only if everyone else does it, because if X does it alone, X will suffer some consequence X doesn't like. So X favors everyone's being forced to do it. (Do I have to say that I am not in favor of force?)

The State is the source of many bad things. But it's not the source of all bad things.

I realize that Bernstein and Epstein use these facts to justify Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I don't follow them there, but they do make the best, most libertarian case for it.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Should Whites-Only Lunch Counters Be Allowed?

Okay, let's get right down to it. Our side is asked, incredulously, "Do you mean that someone should be allowed to have a whites-only lunch counter?"

The standard libertarian answer is, "Yes, although I don't approve of the racist policy."

I say, "No. He shouldn't be allowed."

What?! Heresy!

Chill out.

He shouldn't be allowed, but it's not the literal force of government or private parties that should disallow it. It's the metaphorical force of social pressure -- led by libertarians, of course -- that should disallow it.

There, that's cleared up. Next controversy.

TGIF: Libertarianism = Anti-racism

Rand Paul’s comments regarding the federal ban on racial discrimination in public accommodations have brought the libertarian position on civil rights to public attention.
Read TGIF here.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Civil Rights and the Libertarian Principle

My take on the Rand Paul flap is in today's Christian Science Monitor.

BTW: "They thought all along that they could call me a libertarian and hang that label around my neck like an albatross, but I'm not a libertarian."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Zora Neale Hurston

She didn't get much wrong. From Wikipedia:

John McWhorter has called Hurston "America's favorite black conservative." [16] She was a Republican who was generally sympathetic to the Old Right and a fan of Booker T. Washington's self-help politics. She disagreed with the philosophies (including Communism and the New Deal) supported by many of her colleagues in the Harlem Renaissance, such as Langston Hughes, who was in the 1930s a supporter of the Soviet Union and praised it in several of his poems. Despite much common ground with the Old Right in domestic and foreign policy, Hurston was not a social conservative. Her writings show skepticism toward traditional religion and affinity for feminist individualism. In this respect, her views were similar to two libertarian novelists who were her contemporaries, Rose Wilder Lane and Isabel Paterson.[17]

In 1952, Hurston supported the presidential campaign of Senator Robert A. Taft. Like Taft, Hurston was against Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal policies. She also shared his opposition to Roosevelt's and Truman's interventionist foreign policy. In the original draft of her autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road, Hurston compared the United States government to a "fence" in stolen goods and to a Mafia-like protection racket. Hurston thought it ironic that the same “people who claim that it is a noble thing to die for freedom and democracy ... wax frothy if anyone points out the inconsistency of their morals. ... We, too, consider machine gun bullets good laxatives for heathens who get constipated with toxic ideas about a country of their own.” Roosevelt "can call names across an ocean" for his four freedoms, but he did not have “the courage to speak even softly at home.”[clarification needed] When Truman dropped the atomic bombs on Japan, she called him “the Butcher of Asia.”[17]

Hurston opposed the Supreme Court ruling in the Brown v. Board of Education case of 1954. She felt that if separate schools were truly equal (and she believed that they were rapidly becoming so) educating black students in physical proximity to white students would not result in better education. In addition, she worried about the demise of black schools and black teachers as a way to pass on cultural tradition to future generations of African-Americans. She voiced this opposition in a letter, "Court Order Can't Make the Races Mix", that was published in the Orlando Sentinel in August 1955. Hurston had not reversed her long-time opposition to segregation. Rather, she feared that the Court's ruling could become a precedent for an all-powerful federal government to undermine individual liberty on a broad range of issues in the future
(HT: David Beito [pdf])

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Center for a Stateless Society

New logo

The Welfare State

Despite what you may read at other libertarian sites, the welfare state is not the result of efforts by lazy poor people to enslave and live off the productive classes. Rather, it is the result of efforts by the political-social-corporate elite to subordinate and control the poor for a variety reasons -- the same elite, by the way, that seeks to loot the productive classes. Missing or ignoring this distinction leads to a slew of fallacies, misstatements, and attitudes.

Oh No!

Conservatives won't want to hear it, but the libertarian alternative to antidiscrimination laws is: COMMUNITY ORGANIZING!


Wisdom from the New York Times editorial board:

It was only government power that ended slavery and abolished Jim Crow, neither of which would have been eliminated by a purely free market.

Did an intelligent, educated person actually type those words? Did an editor actually approve them for publication? Can anyone in that place think straight?

It was only government power that created and sustained the institutions of slavery and Jim Crow, um, LAWS. They were preemptions of the free market, so how could it have abolished them?

Why? Why? Why?

Why is it not enough to oppose racial discrimination and support peaceful social movements against it? Why must one also endorse using government force against what is, after all, nonviolent behavior? (Not all loathsome behavior is violent.) Is endorsement of State force necessary to show one's bona fides as a humane person? If so, that is very strange, indeed.

Friday, May 21, 2010

TGIF: Anti-Federalists Vindicated

If the Antifederalists were still on the scene today, they might be saying — as they would have been saying right along — “Told you so.”
The full TGIF is here.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Freeman, June 2010

The latest issue of The Freeman is now online. Authors include: Max Borders, James Bovard, Warren Gibson, Wendy McElroy, Bruce Yandle, James Payne, and more.

Crimes Governments Commit

From the BBC:

A judge in Malawi has sentenced a gay couple to 14 years in prison with hard labour after they were convicted of gross indecency and unnatural acts.

The judge said he wanted to protect the public "from people like you".

Steven Monjeza, 26, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, have been in jail since they were arrested in December after holding an engagement ceremony....

"I will give you a scaring sentence so that the public be protected from people like you, so that we are not tempted to emulate this horrendous example," said Judge Nyakwawa Usiwa-Usiwa in the commercial capital, Blantyre.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

For the Record

I don't want the government back. I just don't want anyone else to have it.

Friday, May 14, 2010

TGIF: Self-Regulation in the Corporate State: The BP Spill

With some 7,000 barrels of oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico each day from BP’s exploded Deepwater Horizon well, offshore drilling and oil-industry regulation have returned to the front pages.

The familiar old trap is set: Do you want unfettered markets and oil spills or government regulation and safety?
Read the full TGIF.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

This Partnership Will Endure

My letter to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette appeared Sunday:

Paul Greenberg’s recent column on the government vs. Goldman Sachs was excellent. But he missed one important point.

He writes: “It happens with partners. So long as the business is growing, the money’s rolling in, and everything’s coming up green, they’re the best of friends. But when business sours and profits wither, the other partner becomes the cause of it all, a total incompetent and maybe a thief to boot.”

Very true. But the key partnership in this matter is Washington and Wall Street, which have always been cozy despite their differences. They’re fighting now only because things have gone sour. But the partnership will go on -- to the detriment of the American people. It’s state capitalism, not the free market, folks.


Saturday, May 08, 2010

Happy Birthday, F. A. Hayek

F. A. Hayek, Austrian economist, social philosopher, and champion of liberty, was born on this day in 1899. Read Mario Rizzo's appreciation.

Friday, May 07, 2010

TGIF: Subjugating Ourselves

In The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude, the sixteenth-century French poet, judge, and political philosopher Étienne de La Boétie wondered "how it happens that so many men, so many villages, so many cities, so many nations, sometimes suffer under a single tyrant who has no other power than the power they give him; who is able to harm them only to the extent to which they have the willingness to bear with him; who could do them absolutely no injury unless they preferred to put up with him rather than contradict him. Surely a striking situation!"Read the full TGIF here.

What Anarchists Are

"The Anarchists are simply unterrified Jeffersonian Democrats."

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Lucky for Us

I'm sure glad Faisal Shahzad, the alleged would-be Times Square car-bomber, didn't have access to a Predator drone. Now if we could only get them away from Obama.