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What Social Animals Owe to Each Other

Monday, December 31, 2012

Bottom Line on the "Fiscal Cliff"

The tax increases will be real. The spending cuts will be illusions, at best, a minor slowing of the rate of increase. We may not even see that. Word is that the two division of the uniparty are discussing postponing "sequestration," the automatic so-called across-the-board cuts in domestic and military discretionary scheduled to kick in at midnight. Republicans reportedly want a three-month postponement, Democrats a two-year postponement.

Business as usual. You can't make this stuff up.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

More on Right to Work

My FFF op-ed this week is titled "The Fight Over Right-to-Work."

And if you haven't had enough on the subject, Gary Chartier and I respond to Shikha Dalmia's defense of right-to-work laws (at Reason.com) in our Center for a Stateless Society commentary, "Right-to-Work Legislation Is Not the 'Good.'"

Friday, December 21, 2012

TGIF: Intervention Begets Intervention

This week's TGIF looks at Ludwig von Mises's "critique of interventionism." Bottom line:
Is there a lesson to be drawn from Mises’s critique? I think so. Intervention tends to beget intervention. Therefore, when you see a public problem, don’t look to government intervention for a solution. Instead, look for the previous intervention that created it — and work to have the offending legislation repealed.
Read it here.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Taxpayers Aren't Stationary Targets

My latest piece at the Project to Restore America website is "Taxpayers Aren't Stationary Targets."
Actor Gérard Depardieu's decision to flee France for Belgium to avoid a 75 percent marginal tax rate on incomes above $1.3 million sends a message we here in America should heed: Those who are singled out for tax increases are not stationary targets. The means of avoiding and evading the taxman are legion.
Read it all here.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Government-Industry Revolving Door

Not that we thought it would be any different, but revolving door between government and industry spins just as fast in Obama's Washington. Read about it in my latest article at the Project to Restore America.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Shooting in Connecticut

I am deeply saddened by the shooting of children and adults at the school in Connecticut. My heart goes out to their loved ones and to the wounded.

TGIF: Right-To-Work Laws and the Modern Classical-Liberal Tradition

TGIF today ventures into the treacherous waters of "right-to-work" laws, noting that a previous generation of libertarians and Austrians opposed them, realizing full well that at least some people intended them to neutralize the Wagner Act's compulsory-union provisions.

Read it all here.

Other good reads on the subject are herehere, and here.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Individualist Collectivism

Is the free market an individualist or collectivist social arrangement? Don’t answer too quickly. It’s a trick question.
My latest TGIF is "Individualist Collectivism." Read it here.

Scott Horton and I Talk about "Individualist Collectivism"

Here's my latest interview with Scott Horton.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Romanticizing Taxation

My latest at the Project to Restore America website is titled "Romanticizing Taxation." It addresses the annoying attempt during the "fiscal cliff" controversy to portray taxation as something benign, you know, "the dues that we pay for the privileges of membership in an organized society," as FDR put it.  My take:
Far from some enlightened institution, taxation began when conquerors realized that formal and continuing appropriation of a subject population's wealth was preferable to hit-and-run pillaging. For this to work, however, the rulers needed to convince the peasants that the regime would protect them from predators in return for their regular remittances. That's right: It was a protection racket, from which the racketeers and their cronies profited handsomely. For the taxpayers, there was little choice in the matter. They weren't buying protection as people buy insurance in the market, and they weren't paying dues as they would later pay dues to mutual-aid societies. They paid or they were punished. The ideology of benevolent state protection reduced enforcement costs because the ruled outnumbered the rulers and widespread tax resistance would have doomed the regime. Things have changed little in our time.
Read it all.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

That Pesky Debt Ceiling

The central government is again getting close to its debt ceiling. Fearing another game of chicken between the White House and congressional Republicans, the risk of default, and another downgrading of the U.S. credit rating, some people want President Obama to bypass Congress and raise the ceiling by executive order. Others would dispense with the ceiling altogether. Obama vaguely says he will not go through what he had to go through with Congress last year. I hope they don't raise the debt ceiling. In fact I favor repudiation of the government debt, since it is based on the immoral power to wield aggressive force. A voluntary government creditor takes his chances.

Here's the one thing that I find amusing in this discussion: Pundits and others who favor limitless government insist that raising the debt ceiling won't permit the government to spend more money; it merely let's the government pay its current bills. If that is so, it's not very comforting. It means the government incurred obligations without knowing for sure that it would have the money to pay its bills. Why is it allowed to do that?

Oh, that's right. It's the government.

Israel's Hypocrisy Runs Thick

The Israeli leadership is about as interested in a two-state solution with the Palestinians as the U.S. leadership is in liquidating the American empire. That was clear even before the latest announced plan to build 3,000 Jewish-only homes in East Jerusalem and on the West Bank. The timing of the announcement, though surely not the plan itself, is related to the Palestinians' successful bid to upgrade their status at the UN. Israel seems to be quaking at the prospect of the Palestinians' going to the International Criminal Court with their grievances -- as well they should.

Listen carefully to what Israel's and America's leaders say. They admonish the Palestinians that their "unilateral" action undermines negotiations. What a laugh! Negotiations are supposed to be about land, but Israel insists on annexing Palestinians' land during negotiations! When the Palestinians insist that they will not talk until Israel stops building Jewish-only settlements on their land, which was seized in a war, Israel responds that there must be no preconditions to negotiations. That's as insult to everyone's intelligence. Yet Israel has gotten away with this for years.

Israel is simply doing what it has always done in its quest for the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan. It is establishing irrevocable facts on the ground. The only peace it wants is the one that will result from wearing down and demoralizing the Palestinians. In light of its spectacular failure to prevail over Hamas last month in the Gaza Strip, the Israelis must attach a new urgency to their grand strategy.

More and more observers are concluding that the two-state solution is long dead. In light of the facts on the ground, it's hard to rebut this judgment. It certainly appears that there will be only one country between the Mediterranean and the Jordan. The only question is whether it will be racist or not.

The Obama administration will bluster a bit, but in the end we know where it will stand: in "lockstep" with Israel.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

How the Rich Rule

My article by that name is now online at The American Conservative. One aspect of the article has been criticized by market monetarist Scott Sumner at his blog (and previously here and here). It has set off quite a debate over the Austrian position on "Cantillon effects" from government-created money; this is the idea that when the Fed creates money it enters at particular points in the economy and through the possession of particular individuals. It doesn't get evenly distributed throughout the economy with no real effects.

Another critic, Nick Rowe, weighs in too.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Molinari in La Jolla

I'm in La Jolla for a Liberty Fund colloquium on the thought of Gustave de Molinari. I'm honored to be participating with the likes of Roderick Long, Gary Chartier, Charles Johnson, Don Boudreaux, David Friedman, Eric Mack, David Hart, Matt Zwolinski, Shawn Wilbur, Bruce Benson, Jennifer McKitrick, Ed Stringham, Steven Wall, Elizabeth Brake, Paul Jankowski, and Peter Mentzel. The discussions have been fascinating!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Earth to Jewish Lobby: Are You There?

The Gazans are penned up like animals, easy targets for the powerful IDF, and people talk of Israel's adversity!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Israeli Assault on Gaza Has No Basis in Self-Defense

From Jerome Slater's heavily documented "Just War Moral Philosophy and the 2008–09 Israeli Campaign in Gaza" (pdf):
By 2004 Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had become convinced that the economic and military costs of continuing to defend the settlements were too high—unlike the case of the West Bank and Jerusalem, Israel had little or no religious or nationalist claims on Gaza—so in August 2005 he ordered their withdrawal. Even after the withdrawal, Israel continued to wield overwhelming power over Gaza’s economy and external trade; it maintained control of Gaza’s water, electricity, and telecommunication networks; refused to allow Gaza a functioning airport, seaport, or commercial crossing on its border with Egypt, thus radically cutting Gazan trade and commerce with the outside world; restricted the movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza; prevented farmers from tending to and harvesting their fields and crops; placed severe restrictions on the importation of water for drinking as well as irrigation purposes; and re- served the “right” to launch military incursions at will, periodically bombing and shelling Gaza’s electrical generating system, roads, bridges, farms, and olive orchards. Consequently, even before Cast Lead, the Gazan economy was on the verge of collapse; nearly 95 percent of all factories operating in Gaza had closed down; unemployment ranged from 45 to 60 percent; and 80 percent of Gazans were estimated to be below international poverty lines. Outright starvation was averted by outside assistance, but malnutrition was rampant; the minimal imports of food supplies allowed by Israel were carefully calibrated to prevent a famine, but not more than that.
Read this important article to understand the background of what's going on today. Gaza has has been under Israeli oppression since 1967. One can disapprove of the Gazans' particular tactics (lobbing rockets at civilian areas) while acknowledging that resistance to occupation is legitimate both morally and in international law. When you place people in a desperate position, you can't be surprised when they use any weapons they can get their hands on. The disparity in power and casualties between the Israelis and Gazans (and Palestinians in general) is too obvious to require elaboration.

Slater's paper is also crucial to understanding Israel's long-executed policy of targeting noncombatants and civilian infrastructure, not only  Palestinians, but also Egyptians and Lebanese too. When Israel's Labor Party criticized Menachem Begin's Likud government for targeting noncombatants in Lebanon in 1981, Begin responded by documenting similar conduct by Labor governments. No one denied Begin's counterclaim.

This is what we're dealing with--and Americans are forced to pay for it.

Friday, November 16, 2012

TGIF Is Back!

Now at The Future of Freedom Foundation's new website!

What's Going On

From Jerry Haber at The Magnes Zionist:
I spoke with an expert on the Israeli military shortly after "Operation Cast Lead," and when I told him that many argued that the operation was a reaction to Hamas rocket-fire, he laughed. He said that Hamas rocket-fire was deliberately provoked when Israel broke the cease-fire so that Israel could do a little "spring cleaning," deplete Hamas's arsenal of weapons. He told me that this happens every few years, and that I should expect it to happen in another few years. Israel will assassinate a Hamas leader, Hamas will have to respond (wouldn't Israel, under those circumstances?) and Israel will perform a "clean up" operation.
Also from Haber: "And That's Why Israel Doesn't Want A Cease-Fire."

The Attack on Gaza

Two points to keep in mind as this latest Israeli aggression unfolds:

First, Hamas did not start the last flare-up in violence. See John Glaser's "Israel’s Latest Assault on Gaza: The Lie of Who Started It."

Second, the just-assassinated Hamas leader, Ahmed Jabari, was in the process of negotiating a permanent truce with Israel. See the Haaretz report "Israeli peace activist: Hamas leader Jabari killed amid talks on long-term truce." According to the daily  newspaper, "[Israeli peace activist Gershon]
Baskin told Haaretz on Thursday that senior officials in Israel knew about his contacts with Hamas and Egyptian intelligence aimed at formulating the permanent truce, but nevertheless approved the assassination."
I submit that Jabari's willingness to talk true and his assassination are no coincidence. Israel does not want to see Hamas evolve. It needs an enemy.

More things to keep in mind:

Gaza has been under an Israeli blockade for years. Needed goods are kept out.

Israel helped to make Hamas what it is today. Years ago it promoted the organization as an alternative to the secular Fatah. Why? To splinter the Palestinians. If Israel now considers Hamas a mortal threat, it has only itself to blame. This is a case of blowback.

Israel's partisans refer to Hamas's declaration of war on Jews in its charter as a reason for scoffing at the idea that real negotiations are possible with the organization. That charter may be put in perspective by noting the words of David Ben-Gurion, Israel's founding prime minister:
‎Why should the Arabs make peace? If I was an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country.... We have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that?
All Zionist leaders were aware of that fact.

Nevertheless, Hamas has distanced itself from the charter and has shown a willingness to talk, as we've seen.The Israeli response has been assassination, bombing, and ground invasion. It is not Hamas that has consistently violated cease-fires.

Finally, one need not condone the shooting of rockets into southern Israel to care about the context. In 1948 Zionist paramilitary forces drove Palestinians out of their villages in the south and pushed them into the Gaza Strip. Many Gazans are refugees or descendants of refugees of the Nakba. The violence may be inexcusable, but it is not unprovoked.

See this roundup of the violence from Mondoweiss.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Opting Out of the State

The freedom to opt out means that no one can force you to participate in any government activity that you object to.... This would not get rid of the government immediately, as we market anarchists would like. But it would sure beat the hell out of what we have now.
Read my full op-ed at the Center for a Stateless Society.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Self-Ownership and the Right to Property

"Is Property Theft?" is an updated version of Less Antman's great article on property. I urge everyone to read it. Well, what are you waiting for?

Friday, November 09, 2012

Scott Horton and Me

My latest stint on Scott Horton's great radio program is posted here. You'll also find a transcript of the conversation.

Left-Libertarians at the Mic

The wonderfully talented Stephanie Murphy managed to get Roderick Long, Charles Johnson, Gary Chartier, and me together in one place at October's Libertopia. The result was this interview.

Latest Scribbling

I take on the broken-window fallacy, which was committed many times in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, at the Project to Restore America website: "A Flood of Fallacies."

The Election

What I have to say about the presidential election I said here. So I will leave it at that.

I do wish to recognize four good outcomes: the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington, and the legalization of same-sex marriage in Maine and Maryland. Of course, these are not pure libertarian solutions--none of these things should require the voters' approval--but some people in those states will be freer as a result of the election.

Monday, November 05, 2012

A Vote Is a Terrible Thing to Waste

A vote is a terrible thing to waste, so I'm going to preserve it by staying home tomorrow

Friday, November 02, 2012

The Anniversary of an Imperialist Act that Still Plagues Us

Nabeel Shaath writing in the Telegraph (UK):
Ninety-five years ago . . . , on November 2, 1917, British imperialism in Palestine began when Lord Balfour, the then British foreign secretary and former prime minister, sent a letter to Baron Rothschild, one of the leaders of the Zionist movement. This letter became known as the “Balfour Declaration”.

In that letter, Balfour promised British support for the Zionist programme of establishing a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine. This pledge of support was made without consulting the indigenous Christian and Muslim inhabitants of Palestine, the Palestinian people. And it was made before British troops had even conquered the land.

Balfour, on behalf of Britain, promised Palestine – over which Britain had no legal right – to a people who did not even live there (of the very small community of Palestinian Jews in Palestine in 1917, very few were Zionists). And he did so with the worst of intentions: to discourage Jewish immigration to Britain. No wonder Lord Montagu, the only Jewish member of the Cabinet, opposed the declaration.
And yet, just two years earlier, Britain had committed herself to assisting the Arab nations in achieving their independence from the Ottoman Empire. [Emphasis added.]
What followed was a monstrous injustice committed against the Palestinians--the Nakba--set in motion by this British act. The Palestinians have suffered terribly at the hands of those who were intent on founding the Jewish state of Israel no matter the cost--to the Palestinians. And the rest of the world has lived with the turmoil--the constant threat of war and economic disruption--bequeathed by the British imperialists ever since.  Most of the men responsible for this crime probably died peacefully in their sleep. Justice is not guaranteed in our world.

Read the full article.

Thursday, November 01, 2012


I am honored to announce I have been named vice president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. Among other duties I will edit FFF's monthly, The Future of Freedom. I will also resume my TGIF column at the FFF website (FFF.org).

I'm thrilled with the appointment and look forward to working for liberty and peace full time with Jacob Hornberger and his great organization. I've been closely affiliated with FFF since 1993. Now we kick that up several notches.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

About that Reported Economic Growth

So GDP is growing at about 2 percent. (That's not the same as "the economy.") The rub is that it's driven by consumer and government spending. Real economic growth requires investment, and investment has not recovered. But private (real) investment requires savings--that is, deferred consumption. So increased consumption is not a path to economic growth. Increased sustainable consumer spending is an effect not a cause of economic growth.

Government of course tries to stimulate consumer spending, since policymakers are stuck in the Keynesian mindset (that is, uninterested in the time structure of production). One way it does this is by keeping interests abysmally low. Why save if you get so little for your money, perhaps less than the increase in the CPI? You're just losing purchasing power.

Recent Scribblings

"Americans Should Reject Obama-Romney Foreign Policy" -- Future of Freedom Foundation

"Contraception and the English Language" -- Project to Restore America

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Markets Not Capitalism: The Audio Book

Markets Not Capitalism is available as a free audio book, ably read by the Stephanie Murphy, who is simply excellent. Check it out!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Carson on Romney

Here's an excellent article by Kevin Carson on corporatists (i.e., Mitt Romney) in free-enterprise clothing. Do conservatives know that the Keystone pipeline relies on eminent domain?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Market, State, and Autonomy

This is the topic of my lecture tomorrow night at Hanover College in Hanover, Indiana, Horner Center 102. I'll also be lecturing at a political science class in the afternoon. If you're in the area, come to the evening lecture.

Update: Here is my essay "Market, State, and Autonomy."

Latest Op-Ed

What Took Them So Long?

Church Appeal on Israel Angers Jewish Groups - NYTimes.com

Churches finally get around to condemning the abuse of Palestinians.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Op-ed: The Glaring Contradiction in Anti-Iran Policy

President Barack Obama, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have at least one thing in common when it comes to Iran. All are guilty of flagrant self-contradiction.
Read the full op-ed at The Future of Freedom Foundation website.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Inside Iran

Watch this video and remember it the next time Obama or Romney says "all options are on the table" against Iran.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Who Threatens Internet Freedom?

Two months from now the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) will convene in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, sponsored by the UN’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Depending on whom you believe, this is either the gravest threat to the Internet to date or a justifiable effort to free the Internet from U.S. domination.
Read the full article at The Project to Restore America. My first article at the site was "What’s Next for the Audit-the-Fed Bill?"

Monday, October 01, 2012

My Case for Socializing the Means of Production

From Cato Unbound:
In a sweeping essay, Sheldon Richman explains why private property and free competition are superior to state-provided goods and services. He warns against granting "private" corporate monopolies, which are not true privatizations, but act as arms of the state. He adds that for many state activities, the best way to privatize is not to provide the service at all — as in the case of punishing victimless crimes, which no one should do. For legitimate services, he recommends a "homesteading" approach, in which stakeholders in a public service, such as a school, would receive shares in a new, independent corporation.
See the full article.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Just Another Day Under Israeli Rule

From Ynetnews
'Turning Bedouin village into Jewish settlement is racist'

Government's decision to convert Umm al-Hiran into Jewish settlement enrages Bedouin residents; 'You can’t just take an Arab and put a Jew in his place. This is Nakba of 2012,' they say
by Ilana Curiel

The continuous struggle of the Bedouin community in southern Israel has once caused a stir in a move Bedouins are calling "racist."
"We will continue fighting. We will not leave our land," residents of Umm al-Hiran, an unrecognized Bedouin village in the Negev slated for demolition, said. The government intends to build a new Jewish settlement called Hiran in place of the village.

"They say they want to evict us because of illegal construction," Salim Abu Al-Kian, 53, told Ynet. "We are ready to reach a settlement on the matter. We're willing to issue permits for homes that have yet to receive them. Unfortunately, the state does not want to help us. They want to expel us from our land. We have no value to them," he said.

After a stretched out legal battle, the National Council for Planning and Construction rejected the motion submitted by the Bimkom organization and Adala, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, and approved the government's plans to establish a new Jewish village in northern Negev.

הכפר הבדואי אום אל-חיראן. "אין לנו מקום אחר" (צילום: הרצל יוסף) 
Umm al-Hiran village in the Negev (Photo: Hertzel Yosef)

The new village will be built in place of the Bedouin village which currently houses 500 people.

Amna Abu Al-Kian said that she would be willing to die before leaving her home. "I have six children and we have nowhere else to go to."

"Instead of the state helping us, we are thrown out to the street like animals," she exclaimed.

'We can live alongside Jews'

Other residents of the Bedouin village could not understand the council's decision and offered an alternative solution. "We wouldn't mind living alongside Jews. I wouldn't object to us being neighbors," said Salim Abu Al-Kian.

"You can’t just take an Arab and put a Jew in his place. This is racism. This is the Nakba of 2012," he added.

Another Bedouin resident said "we're citizens of the state of Israel. Israel claims to be a democratic country but it has neglected its citizens for decades. Why not recognize our rights? We have been the most loyal to Israel since its establishment. They can't keep pushing us into a corner."

Attorney Suhad Bshara from the Adala Center said that the "government's decision coincides with Israel's policy to expel the Bedouin residents from their lands and destroy their homes in order to clear the land for Jewish settlements."

The authority charged with regulating Bedouin towns in the Negev said that many of the residents have already found a solution – they are to move to the nearby newly-constructed Bedouin village of Horah.

Hassan Shaalan contributed to this report

Jon Stewart on the General Assembly Speeches

Friday, September 28, 2012

Richman's Law

No matter how much the government controls the economic system, any problem will be blamed on whatever small zone of freedom that remains.

Looney Tunes Comes to the UN

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Op-ed: The Hubris of Romney and Obama

Mitt Romney, whose bid to unseat Barack Obama looks more desperate every day, senses he’s found a weakness in his rival. In a foreign-policy speech the other day, he blasted Obama over the upheaval in the Arab world, saying, “This is a time for a president who will shape events in the Middle East.”

Romney is making two claims: that Obama has failed to shape events in the Middle East and that he, Romney, will succeed.

Could the hubris of a man seeking power be plainer? Does anyone with even a minimum ability to think clearly believe that Romney could “shape events” there?
Read "The Hubris of Romney and Obama."

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Day of Atonement?

In Judaism, today is the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. Despite all that's happened over the decades, it's not too late for those responsible to atone for the continuing crimes committed against the Palestinians.

Monday, September 24, 2012

My Interview with Thomas Szasz

In the summer of 2005 I traveled to Thomas Szasz's home in Manlius, New York, and videoed an interview with the great critic of coercive psychiatry and the "therapeutic state."

Iraqi Jews Tell Israel to Stop "Tampering with Our History"

A group of Iraqi Jews living in Israel have demanded that the Israeli government stop "tampering with, exploiting, and deleting our history" as a way to negate the rights of Palestinians. "The way the Israeli establishment uses our history from the 1950s, is not in order to give us our rights back, but in order to get rid of the rights of the Palestinians, and avoiding a peace agreement with them,” Almog Behar, founder of Committee of Baghdadi Jews in Ramat-Gan, wrote to the website The Electronic Intifada.

The Iraqi Jews are trying to recover the property they left behind in Iraq, but they object to the Israeli government's attempt to have that property cancel out Palestinian claims to the property they lost during the Nakba, or catastrophe associated with the founding of the state of Israel. The Committee states:
We are seeking to demand compensation for our lost property and assets from the Iraqi government--NOT from the Palestinian Authority--and we will not agree with the option that compensation for our property be offset by compensation for the lost property of others (meaning, Palestinian refugees) or that said compensation be transferred to bodies that do not represent us (meaning, the Israeli government).
The article at the site also discusses long-disclosed information that Jews left Iraq not because of pressure from the Iraqi government but because of false-flag operations by the Israeli Mossad. The Committee stated:
We demand the establishment of an investigative committee to examine:
1) If and by what means negotiations were carried out in 1950 between Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri as-Said, and if Ben-Gurion informed as-Said that he is authorized to take possession of the property and assets of Iraqi Jewry if he agreed to send them to Israel;
2) who ordered the bombing of the Masouda Shem-Tov synagogue in Baghdad, and if the Israeli Mossad and/or its operatives were involved. If it is determined that Ben-Gurion did, in fact, carry out negotiations over the fate of Iraqi Jewish property and assets in 1950, and directed the Mossad to bomb the community’s synagogue in order to hasten our flight from Iraq, we will file a suit in an international court demanding half of the sum total of compensation for our refugee status from the Iraqi government and half from the Israeli government.
The Electronic Intifada site features a video interview with the late Naeim Giladi, "an Iraqi Jew who joined the Zionist underground as a young man in Iraq and later came to regret his role in fostering the departure of some 125,000 Jews from Iraq."

Romney and the Palestinians

Mitt Romney couldn't have done a better job of showing his utter ignorance about the Palestinians if he had tried. On his recent visit to Israel he explained the economic disparity between Israel and the Palestinians territories by saying "culture makes all the difference." (Occupation? What occupation?) And in a follow-up, undoubtedly ghost-written article in National Review, "Culture Does Matter," he elaborated, "[W]hat exactly accounts for prosperity if not culture?"

 But then--incoherently--he added on Fox News, "I'm not speaking about, did not speak about, the Palestinian culture [!!!], or the decisions made in their economy. That's an interesting topic that deserves scholarly analysis, but I actually didn't address that [!!!]. I certainly don't plan to address that during my campaign. Instead, I will point out, the choices a society makes have a profound impact on the economy and the vitality of that society."

What about a society under occupation and oppression by a foreign power, where every aspect of life--including trade--is under the heel of the Israeli military? Where a fortified wall snakes through the victimized people's land, separating their homes from their farms and cutting their towns off from each other? As the Christian Science Monitor put it, "No mention from the would-be US president of the trade and mobility restrictions that Israel maintains over the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza–restrictions that both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have said for years are key factors in hampering Palestinian economic growth."

Never mind that when they have the chance, Palestinians engage in entrepreneurship and open universities. Can't mention that, though. It would destroy the narrative in which the Palestinians are The Other, alien creatures undeserving of rights and basic dignity--subhuman.

 As if that didn't show enough ignorance, the notorious clandestinely videoed May speech to donors surfaced, in which Romney said, "[T]he Palestinians have no interest whatsoever in establishing peace."

How ignorant can one man be? Or maybe it isn't ignorance at all.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Origins of Middle East Conflict

I highly recommend this video as an excellent introduction to the conflict in the Middle East. (For some reason, the embed code goes to the wrong video.)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Romney and the 47 Percent

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. . . . These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn't connect. . . . And so my job is not to worry about those people—I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.
This quote is from the infamous surreptitious video made of Mitt Romney's speech at a fundraiser last spring. What are we to make of it?

The first thing to note is that Romney is typical of the right wing of the ruling elite, which often portrays lower income beneficiaries of the welfare state as a threat to the established order. In this view, they are dependent on government; they wish to remain that way; and they see themselves as victims.

Of course many people who qualify for welfare-state benefits take advantage of them, but it doesn't follow that they want to remain in that postion. Katherine S. Newman, author of Chutes and Ladders: Navigating the Low-Wage Labor Market and No Shame in My Game: The Working Poor in the Inner City, maintains that low-income people are far more industrious and ambitious, as well as determined to achieve independence, than the public generally believes. (Listen to her EconTalk conversation with Russ Roberts.)

Far less interested in independence from government are the large corporations, banks and otherwise, that exist by virtue of government contracts, guarantees, bailouts, and intellectual "property." The government's security establishment provides untold opportunities for companies to live off the taxpayers, which is much more secure than attempting to achieve market share among consenting consumers. (See Nick Turse's The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives.)

Strangely, Romney's speech had nothing to say about that sort of corrupting dependence.

As for feeling like victims, the working poor didn't seem to display this attitude to Newman during her extensive field research. Yet why wouldn't they be justified in regarding themselves as such? The corporate state, with its myriad barriers to competitive economic activity, including self-employment, blocks many routes to prosperity.

By the way, while many lower income people pay no income tax, they do get hit with the regressive payroll (FICA) tax, which until recently helped fund the government's general operations. While formally, employers pay one half of that tax, in fact most or all of the employer's share comes out of workers' pay.

Romney is trying to distract attention with a 14-year-old audio of then-State Senator Barack Obama endorsing a mild form of income "redistribution." Government distribution of wealth, of course, is objectionable, just as government itself is. But Romney to date has had nothing to say about the systematic upward transfer of wealth that the corporate state effects in a variety of way. To offer just two examples: Intellectual "property" law prohibits free competition, creates artificial scarcities and thus extra-market profits, and privatizes value that would have naturally been "socialized" in a freed market. Second, barriers to competition (again, including self-employment) reduce the bidding for labor and hence workers' bargaining power, resulting in lower wages than would otherwise be seen in a freed market. (See these articles by Charles W. Johnson and Gary Chartier.)

It is certainly true that no one is entitled to other people's stuff. That is just as true of the powerful and well-connected business interests that through government intervention amass great wealth at the expense of the rest of us.

When Romney begins talking about that sort of "redistribution of wealth" I will start to take him seriously.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Alex Cockburn: The Anti-Statist

This is my contribution to the CounterPunch memorial issue for Alexander Cockburn, the left iconoclast who died recently.

A libertarian--a radical, decentralist, pro-market, but anti-capitalist left-libertarian, at any rate--could tell that Alex Cockburn was exceptional when even his eulogy for a departed Marxist compelled interest.

After the Marxist economist Paul Sweezy died, Alex wrote that Sweezy "trenchantly detected and explained: the reasons for the New Deal's failure, until World War II bailed out the system; military Keynesianism and the Korean war as the factors in US recovery after that war; underdevelopment in the Third World, consequence of dependency that was created by imperialism . . . ; the increasing role of finance in the operations of capitalism. . . ."

The implied debunking of the standard left-right fairy tale that constitutes most people's notion of American history, is--or should be--of great interest to libertarians, who ought to understand that capitalism equals, not radically decentralized freed markets, but exploitative corporatism.That insight and attitude are what drew me and my left-libertarian comrades to Alex. My last contact with him was to ask that he blurb a book to which I contributed, Markets Not Capitalism, edited by Gary Chartier and Charles W. Johnson. He delivered the blurb: "We on the left need a good shake to get us thinking, and these arguments for market anarchism do the job in lively and thoughtful fashion."

Unfortunately, I only met Alex once, in 2008. We both spoke at an extraordinary conference put on by the Future of Freedom Foundation in Reston, Virginia titled "Restoring the Republic: Foreign Policy and Civil Liberties." What was extraordinary was that this well-attended anti-empire, pro-Bill of Rights gathering featured the most prominent conservatives, progressives, leftists, and libertarians who were alarmed about imperial war and domestic tyranny. They included: Glenn Greenwald, Bruce Fein, Stephen Kinzer, Robert Higgs, Justin Raimondo, and Ron Paul.

I knew of Alex's work long before that, and followed his writings in The Village Voice, The Nation, even The War Street Journal. Now, finally, I would have my chance to talk to him. (He had already published me at CounterPunch.) He did not disappoint; he was funny and charming, and interested in what subversion I was up to. I'd like to think we hit it off.

In his wonderfully wide-ranging talk, he discussed the prospect of an alliance between the libertarians and his kind of left. "There has to be more utopianism, and there has to be more straightforward spirit of mutiny, which I think you libertarians are good at offering. If the left would offer a little bit of utopia-some of the utopia may differ-then I think we can continue to have an enjoyable and hopefully a creative association."

When I asked him to elaborate in the Q&A, he referred to an earlier attempted alliance, namely, the old Inquiry magazine (which I helped edit, 1982-1984), which assembled the best anti-statists no matter where they placed themselves on the political spectrum. Acknowledging that there are "some big issues [between libertarians and him] that . . . have to be sorted through," he continued, "I think a battle of the ideas, maybe one a year, would be a lot of fun. We should talk about it. I hope we do." Alas, we never got to do it.

Israel's Crimes Against Humanity

Israel's drive to rid the West Bank of as many Palestinians as possible while cowing the rest into submission has been especially hard on the children. Between 500 and 700 children are arrested every year and many suffer lasting psychological damage as a result. Children are also traumatized when their home is raided by the army. In a typical raid, masked Israeli soldiers in full combat gear break into a home after midnight with their guns pointed, often accompanied by dogs. As the terrified children look on, they ransack the house and, if they are bored, vandalize it. The army carried out 63 raids in the West Bank during the first 10 days of July alone.
Rachelle Marshall, "Romney Goes All Out for the Israel Lobby"

The Constitution or Liberty

Someone excerpted the last four minutes of a lecture I gave at a FEE seminar a few summers ago. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

About that Video

Perhaps if the West, and especially the United States since World War II, hadn't subjected the Arab and Muslim world to nonstop brutality -- if the US hadn't sponsored repressive dictators and monarchs -- if it hadn't enabled Israel's savage treatment of the Palestinians, the occupation of their land, and the invasion of its neighbors -- if US troops hadn't peed on Afghan corpses -- and then if Americans hadn't burned Qurans in Afghanistan -- maybe, just maybe that ridiculous anti-Muslim video would not have been noticed.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Obama and the Iraqi Withdrawal: Credit Where Credit's Not Due

I'm tired of Obama's supporters boasting--falsely--that he kept his promise to end the war in Iraq. First, the war isn't over. Sectarian violence is still commonplace. The millions of refugees created by the U.S invasion in 2003 still have not returned home.

Second, Obama withdrew the last U.S. troops only because George W. Bush was forced by the Iraqi government, which is allied with Iran, to sign a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) dictating a full withdrawal at the end of 2011. Bush wanted dozens of permanent bases but Prime Minister Maliki said no.

As 2011 wore on, Obama sent War Secretary Panetta to beg Maliki to "ask" that U.S. troops remain in Iraq. Maliki refused, especially after Muqtada al Sadr, the influential Shi'ite leader, threatened to resume his Mahdi Army's resistance to U.S. occupation. Maliki also told Panetta there would be no U.S. bases.

Obama withdrew the troops because--despite his best efforts--he was ordered to do so under terms reluctantly agreed to by his predecessor.

Obama's supporters should stop lying about how the U.S. occupation in Iraq ended.

Roy Childs's Anarchism and Justice Released

Exciting news from the Cato Institute: It has just issued its first ebook: Anarchism and Justice by Roy A. Childs Jr., a collection of writings by the great libertarian author and editor. Childs (1949-1992) was the long-time editor of Libertarian Review and the Lassez Faire Books catalog. He persuaded many young libertarians of market anarchism in the 1970s (me included) with his open letter to Ayn Rand, included in the volume. Also included is Roy’s refutation of Robert Nozick’s “invisible hand” theory of the emergence of the minimal state. George H. Smith contributed an introduction.

“We must start out as anarchists,” Roy writes, “and have the advocates of the state make out their case.”

Here is the table of contents:
  • Anarchism and Justice 
  • Objectivism and the State: An Open Letter to Ayn Rand 
  • The Epistemological Basis of Anarchism: An Open Letter to Objectivists and Libertarians 
  • The Invisible Hand Strikes Back 
  • Anarchist Illusions

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Take Me to Your Leader

Meet the Press host David Gregory probably raised a few eyebrows when he told Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, "You are the leader of the Jewish People."

I have searched my memory and cannot remember ever hearing the PM of Israel called the leader of the Jewish people. I realize that Israel holds itself out--controversially--as the state of the Jewish People (not merely of its citizens), but does it follow that the PM is therefore the leader of the Jewish People? How many Jews outside Israel consider Netanyahu their leader in a religious or any other sense? How many inside Israel?

And what exactly is the Jewish People? Is it a race, an ethnic group, a religious community that comprises people of all races and ethnicities? I think the answer is to be found in Shlomo Sand's book.

What's with David Gregory? All he wanted to talk about with Netanyahu was Iran. As Philip Weiss reminds me, Gregory never mentioned the continued oppression of the Palestinians and the occupation of their land.

Some investigative reporter.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Bibi's Contradiction

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu told Meet the Press host David Gregory today that Iran's leadership is so fanatical that once it acquired a nuclear weapon, it could not be contained the way the Soviet Union and China were. But he contradicted himself by also saying that drawing bright red lines for Iran would avert a military conflict.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Why would the regime be rational before it acquired a nuclear weapon but irrational afterward? Iran's leaders are surely aware that attacking Israel with a nuke would be regime suicide, something they have shown no inclination toward to date.

Of course, US and Israeli intelligence say Iran has not decided to build a weapon, and the International Atomic Energy Agency says Iran is converting its enriched uranium into plates that are unsuitable for weaponization but suitable for the production of medical isotopes.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Blowback in Libya

Reporter Pepe Escobar provides good perspective on the violence in Libya: "Mr Blowback rising in Benghazi."

Who's Responsible for American Ignorance on the Middle East

If we are to believe NBC (and the others in the mainstream media), Arabs hate Americans because their dictators tell them lies about us.

From Stephen Walt:
I hardly ever watch network news, but I happened to stumble across this appalling report on NBC's "Rock Center" last night. In this clip, reporter Richard Engel blames this week's anti-American violence on "conspiracy theories" that Arab populations have been fed over the years by their rulers, including the idea that the United States and Israel are colluding to control the Middle East.
It's no secret there are conspiracy theories circulating in the Middle East (as there are here in the good old USA: Remember the "birthers?") I've heard them every time I've lectured in the region and done my best to debunk them. But by attributing Arab and Muslim anger solely to these ideas, Engel's report paints a picture of the United States (and by implication, Israel) as wholly blameless. In his telling, the U.S. has had nothing but good intentions for the past century, but the intended beneficiaries of our generosity don't get it solely because they've been misled by their leaders.
In short, Operation Cast Lead never happened, Lebanon wasn't invaded in 1982 or bombed relentlessly for a month in 2006, the United States has never turned a blind eye towards repeated human rights violations by every single one of its Middle Eastern allies, drones either don't exist or never killed an innocent victim, the occupation of Iraq in 2003 was just a little misunderstanding, and the Palestinians ought to be grateful to us for what they've been left after forty-plus years of occupation. To say this in no way absolves governments in the region for responsibility for many of their current difficulties, but Americans do themselves no favors by ignoring our own contribution to the region's ills.
In short, you want to get some idea of why most Americans have no idea why we are unpopular in the region, this example of sanitized "analysis" is illuminating, though not in the way that Engel and NBC intended.

The US Is the Aggrieved Party in the Middle East?

Glenn Greenwald says it all.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Idiotic Right-Wing

The right-wing claim that Obama has mishandled the Arab Spring is based on the idiotic idea that any president could have "handled" it.

Indefinite Detention Struck Down

"Judge Rules Against Law on Indefinite Detention," the New York Times reported, in a sadly overlooked story, Wednesday:
A federal judge on Wednesday blocked the government from enforcing a controversial statute about the indefinite detention without trial of terrorism suspects. Congress enacted the measure last year as part of the National Defense Authorization Act.
The ruling came as the House voted to extend for five years a different statute, the FISA Amendments Act, that expanded the government’s power to conduct surveillance without warrants. Together, the developments made clear that the debate over the balance between national security and civil liberties is still unfolding 11 years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.
The first part is, obviously, great news, though we must assume it will be appealed. We can't celebrate quite yet.

The second part is, again obviously, horrendous. The Fourth Amendment remains a dead letter.

Read all about it.

The New York Times' Lie and Truths about Iran

Today's New York Times report "Obama Rebuffs Netanyahu on Setting Limits on Iran’s Nuclear Program" contains one outright lie and a couple of true statements that don't get nearly enough attention in the media. 

The lie:
Israeli officials, however, say this guarantee [that the Obama administration will prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon] may not be enough for Israel, which Iranian leaders have repeatedly threatened with annihilation.
No Iranian leader has threatened Israel with annihilation.

The truths that require more attention (emphasis added):
Basing a military judgment on Iran’s stockpile of medium-enriched uranium could be tricky, however, because while the overall amount of this material has increased, the amount that can be readily used to fuel a bomb has declined since Iran converted some of it into plates to be used in a research reactor in Tehran. . . .
Administration officials contend that the United States will still be able to detect, and prevent, Iran from passing that point. Nor does the administration have evidence that Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has even made a decision to build a bomb.

Roderick Long on Anarchism and Objective Law

I enthusiastically recommend Roderick T. Long's "Why Objective Law Requires Anarchy," which responds to one of the most common libertarian (and Objectivist) challenges to market anarchism. Here are a few highlights intended to entice:
. . . I see anarchism as the logical conclusion of the checks-and-balances approach. The point of checks and balances is to put a brake on the tendency of political institutions to aggrandize power by arranging it so that a power grab by one part of the system will trigger opposition by other parts of the system. This was the idea behind the U. S. Constitution, with its federalism and division of powers. Unfortunately, it failed, as the supposedly antagonistic parts learned the benefits of working together to oppress the people. From an anarchist perspective, the problem with the minarchist version of checks and balances is that it does not go far enough; the opposing parts are too few in number, and too closely linked together in a single overarching institution.
I once opposed anarchism precisely because I was so convinced (largely as a result of reading Isabel Paterson’s The God of the Machine) of the importance of constitutional structure. I assumed (as Paterson had) that there is no constitutional structure under anarchy. But it now seems to me that precisely the opposite is true: the competitive market provides a much more sophisticated and complex constitutional structure than any state monopoly. . . . 
The fundamental question is this: under which system—market competition or government monopoly—is abuse of power more likely?
But the problem is not one of evil motivations alone. Even a state run by saints would face an informational problem. Just as the most well-intentioned central planner would be unable to make objective decisions about economic production, consumption, and distribution, because the information generated by the spontaneous market order would be inaccessible to him, so without the competitive, evolutionary process through which law originated and developed before the state, a centralized legislature would be unable to make objective decisions about which legal rules and procedures work best.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

"As We Search for Monsters, We Create Them"

When a country conducts foreign policy like the United States, you really can't be shocked when violence is directed toward its officials.

As former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia Charles W. Freeman Jr. said recently:
‎Ironically, as we "search abroad for monsters to destroy," we are creating them – transforming our foreign detractors into terrorists, multiplying their numbers, intensifying their militancy, and fortifying their hatred of us. The sons and brothers of those we have slain know where we are. They do not forget. No quarter is given in wars of religion. We are generating the very menace that entered our imaginations on 9/11.
Moon of Alabama has it right:
Those lovable rebels that heroically dragged Gaddhafi's body through the streets of Libya's are now "thugs" for doing the same to the U.S. ambassador. This is obviously a self inflicted wound. . . .
The killing of the U.S. ambassador in Libya will make further U.S. support for the insurgency in Syria, which is also supported by Al Qaeda and by Libyan Salafist fighters, more unlikely. One might even hope that this incident will lead to a complete turn around of current U.S. policies towards Syria. Hillary Clinton's and the other state department furies who had urged the U.S. to attack Libya and who are also behind the drive against Syria are now confronted with the ruins of their policies. They carry at least some blame for yesterday's deaths.
I'm reminded of the great line from the movie War Games:
The only winning move is not to play.

And guess who else got it right . . . again?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Tom Szasz: Dialectical Libertarian

Tom Szasz was what Chris Sciabarra would call a dialectical libertarian. Here's an example. Many years ago the city of Berkeley, California, (if I remember correctly) had a public referendum on whether to outlaw all electroshock, or "electro-convulsive therapy [sic]." Tom endorsed the ban. But he was a libertarian, so how could he possibly support a ban on even voluntary electroshock?

Simple. He knew that electroshock was far more likely to be used on people against their will. In the unlikely case that someone wanted it, he or she could go to a neighboring community. The net result of a ban would be that no one could be subjected to that barbaric procedure against his or her will within the borders of Berkeley. Hence it was a clear-cut victory for freedom.

Mainstream Media Manipulation on Iran

The mainstream media across the spectrum fuel the drive to war with Iran simply by packing lies about its alleged nuclear weapons program into their questions and never presenting anyone to challenge those lies. When's the last time you saw an Iranian or an Iranian-American interviewed?

U.S. and Israeli intelligence says Iran has not decided to make a weapon. Twice U.S. intelligence concluded that whatever program Iran had was scrapped in 2003. The U.S. says Iran is putting its enriched uranium in a form unsuitable for weapons (also see Gareth Porter), but perfectly suitable to produce medical isotopes. Iran's Supreme Leader long ago issued a fatwa against nuclear weapons--and repeated it recently.

If the blood flows (let's hope it never does), everyone who is now pushing for war should be held accountable.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Szasz on Mind

Some years ago, when Tom Szasz told me he was writing a book on "the mind," I asked him to sum it up in one sentence. 

"Mind," he said, "is a verb not a noun."

Thomas Szasz and the Nature of Myth

Thomas Szasz's best-known book is The Myth of Mental Illness, which is widely misunderstood. That's because few people know what a myth is. Szasz approved of this quote from Gilbert Ryle (The Concept of Mind):
A myth is, of course, not a fairy story. It is the presentation of facts belonging to one category in the idioms belonging to another. To explode a myth is accordingly not to deny the facts but to re-allocate them. 
Tom spent his life patiently trying to explain that he was not denying facts, just re-allocating them. Most people stared bewildered.

Thomas Szasz, RIP

As if we haven't had enough bad news recently, I just learned that Thomas Szasz, my friend and mentor, died the other day. He was 92. I will have more to say in coming days. I am truly devastated by this news.

For now, see my "Szasz in One Lesson."
Also see Jacob Sullum's Reason interview.

James Sadowsky, Ronald Hamowy, RIP

I note sadly the recent passing of two gentlemen and intellectual giants I had the good fortune to know, James Sadowsky and Ronald Hamowy. I met both through Murray Rothbard, who beginning more than 60 years ago attracted a unique group of libertarian thinkers who became the catalysts for the emergence of the modern libertarian movement. Sadowsky, a Jesuit priest and retired professor of logic at Fordham University, and Hamowy, a retired professor of intellectual history at the University Alberta, Canada, were not the highest profile libertarians intellectuals in the movement. But each in his own way influenced many people through personal contact and their important writings.

We will be poorer without them.

For details of their lives and accomplishments, see Brian Doherty's, Steve Cox's, and David Boaz's notices about Hamowy and David Gordon's recollection of his dear friend Jim Sadowsky.

Eleven Years Later . . .

. . . the combination of national self-pity, vaunting jingoism, and resolute blindness remains unbecoming.

Ten Lessons Plus

Ten Lessons, Plus One, We Should Learn from 9/11:

1. Killing one or many innocents, regardless of one's grievances, is monstrous. This elementary principle would seem to apply to George Bush, and now Barack Obama, as much as to Osama bin Laden. Can someone say why it doesn't?

2. Despite all its guarantees -- contrary to its ideological justification for existing -- the state can't protect us -- even from a ragtag group of hijackers. Trillions of dollars spent over many years built a "national security apparatus" that could not stop attacks on the two most prominent buildings in the most prominent city in the country -- or its own headquarters. That says a lot. No. That says it all. The state is a fraud. We have been duped.

3. The shameless state will stop at nothing to keep people's support by scaring the hell out of them. (Robert Higgs writes about this.) That people have taken its claims about "why they hate us" seriously after 9/11 shows what the public schools and the mass media are capable of doing to people. But the people are not absolved of responsibility: They could think their way out of this if they cared to make the effort.

4. Blowback is real. Foreign-policy-makers never think how their decisions will harm Americans, much less others. They never wonder how their actions will look to their targets. That's because they are state employees.

5. As Randolph Bourne said, getting into a war is like riding a wild elephant. You may think you are in control -- you may believe your objectives and only your objectives are what count. If so, you are deluded. Consider the tens of thousands of dead and maimed Iraqi and Afghanis (and dead Pakistanis and Yemenis and Somalis and Libyans). What did they have to do with 9/11?

6. No one likes an occupying power.

7. Victims of foreign intervention don't forget, even if the perpetrators and their subjects do.

8. Terrorism is not an enemy. It's a tactic, one used by many different kinds of people in causes of varying moral hues, often against far stronger imperial powers. Declaring all those people one's enemy is criminally reckless. But it's a damn good way for a government to achieve potentially total power over its subjects.

9. They say the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Maybe, maybe not. But it seems abundantly clear that the enemy of my friend is also likely to be my enemy. See the U.S.-Israel relationship for details.

10. Assume "your" government is lying.

11. Politicians will stop at nothing to shamelessly exploit the memory of the American victims of blowback if it will aggrandize their power. No amount of national self-pity, self-congratulation, and vaunting is ever enough.

(Adapted and re-posted from 2006.)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Incoherent Romney

Mitt Romney says he wouldn't repeal all of Obamacare. He'll keep the rule forbidding exclusion for preexisting conditions, i.e., he'll maintain guaranteed issue. But he is going to find that he can't do just that. If all that's mandated is guaranteed issue, what's to stop insurers from charging premiums to already-sick clients that amount simply to prepayment for the medical expenses they are certain to incur (plus administrative overhead)? At that point the coverage is no longer insurance. Also, that won't fly politically, which is why guaranteed issue is always coupled with community rating--the requirement that insurers charge people in the same area the same premiums regardless of their health. That requirement raises premiums for younger healthy people so they will cross-subsidize older and sicker people.

But that leads to a new problem. (See Mises's Critique of Interventionism.) Younger and healthier people will leave the insurance market: Why pay inflated premiums when you can put off buying coverage until you are sick?

There's only one solution to this problem if the other interventions are to be maintained: an individual insurance mandate, the centerpiece of Obamacare, which Republicans and conservatives say they hate. Except that they don't really. Romney enacted a mandate in Massachusetts, and the conservative Heritage Foundation proposed one in the 1990s after the Clintons proposed their health care overhaul.

Is this Romney capitulation to Obamacare enough to keep the GOP base home and assure Obama the election?

Sunday, September 09, 2012

The Dog That's Not Barking

If the Iranian government were persecuting the ancient Jewish community in Iran, you know darn well we'd be hearing about it every day.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

In Denial

Politicians and pundits reveal their pre-Enlightenment mentality whenever they deny--explicitly or implicitly--that there are economic laws which impose strict limits on what rulers can accomplish.

Scott Horton & I Discuss Israel, Jerusalem, and More

Listen here.

Afghan Insurgent Group Put on State Department Terrorist List

Hillary Clinton has designed the Haqqani network a terrorist organization. If she had been a British official in the 1770s, she would have designated the Sons of Liberty a terrorist organization too. It also opposed an occupation.

Friday, September 07, 2012

AIPAC and the Undemocratic Party

Update below.

We rarely get to see what we saw the other night at the Democratic National Convention. The party platform had been revised from previous years to remove an endorsement of an undivided Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. I haven't seen an explanation of how that could have happened. AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the leading organization of the pro-Israel Lobby) must have let down its guard, thinking all was safe and sound in the platform committee. Then it dawned on everyone that this bipartisan concession to Israel and the Lobby was nowhere to be seen in the party's official statement of principles. Oh horror! Something had to be done.

And something was done--something not exactly kosher.

An amendment to reinsert the Jerusalem language was proposed, requiring a two-thirds' vote of the delegates on the floor. It stated:
Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel. The parties have agreed that Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations. It should remain an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths.
Convention chairman (and LA mayor) Antonio Villaraigosa called for a voice vote. It sounded even--there certainly were not two-thirds for the change. Villaraigosa said: "In the opinion of the--let me do that again." He clearly looked embarrassed.

But the second voice vote had the same outcome! "I, um, I guess--" Villaraigosa stammered. At which point a woman official walked over to him and said, "You gotta let them do what they're gonna do."

So Villaraigosa said, "I'll do that one more time." If anything, the no's outnumbered the yeas this time. Nevertheless, Villaraigosa declared, "In the opinion of the chair, two-thirds voted in the affirmative. The motion is adopted, and the platform has been amended...."

The final image on this sorry episode was of two angry and disappointed Arab-American delegates.

The mainstream media--MSNBC and Fox included--clearly did not want to talk about this. Whenever someone tried to discuss the trashing of the sacred democratic principle at the behest of the Lobby, someone else jumped in to change the subject.

See a roundup of comment at Mondonweiss.

The 1947 UN partition of Palestine declared Jerusalem Corpus separatum, that is, a separated body--a shared, international city because of its importance to Muslims and Jews. It was divided during the 1948 war, during which the new state of Israel colluded with Transjordan (now Jordan) to deprive the Palestinians of their portion of partitioned Palestine. In the 1967 war Israel conquered east Jerusalem along with the West Bank and Gaza Strip (also the Sinai and the Golan Heights). Israel proceeded to annex east Jerusalem, expel Palestinians residents, and build Jewish-only settlements. Under international law the annexation of land obtained through conquest is illegal. Israel's annexation of east Jerusalem is regarded as outlawry by most of the world and has been condemned as such by the United Nations. UN Security Council Resolution 478 (Aug. 20, 1980) called on "Those States that have established diplomatic missions at Jerusalem to withdraw such missions from the Holy City."

(I'm pleased to report that Counterpunch posted this article today.)

UPDATE: Jon Stewart points out that Villaraigosa read his announcement that the amendment had passed from the teleprompter. It was all scripted, and the vote was a sham. As Stewart notes, this is the first evidence of the voter fraud the Republicans always complain about.

Here's Stewart's commentary.

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Postscript: I've been reminded that declaring Jerusalem to be Israel's capital is not the same as vowing to move the U.S. embassy there. Both parties for years have held Jerusalem to be the capital, but for political reasons (maintaining the pretense of the U.S. government's being an "honest broker" in the "peace process"), no American administration--Democratic or Republican--has moved the embassy.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Is an Attack on Iran Less Likely Now?

Updated below.

Top reporters Gareth Porter and Jim Lobe write:
President Barack Obama’s explicit warning that he will not accept a unilateral Israeli attack against Iran may force Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to step back from his ostensible threat of war.
Netanyahu had hoped that the Obama administration could be put under domestic political pressure during the election campaign to shift its policy on Iran to the much more confrontational stance that Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have been demanding.
But that political pressure has not materialized, and Obama has gone further than ever before in warning Netanyahu not to expect U.S. backing in any war with Iran. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey told reporters in Britain Aug. 30 that an Israeli strike would be ineffective and then said, “I don’t want to be complicit if they [the Israelis] choose to do it.”
It was the first time that a senior U.S. official had made such an explicit public statement indicating the administration’s unwillingness to be a party to a war provoked by a unilateral Israeli attack.
Read the rest at Antiwar.com.

As they note, it is significant that Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic's Israel apologist who often channels the thoughts of the Jewish State's leaders, has enumerated "7 Reasons Why Israel Should Not Attack Iran's Nuclear Facilities."

Here's #6:
A strike could be a disaster for the U.S.-Israel relationship. It might not be -- there is no sympathy for the Iranian regime among Americans (except on the left-most, and right-most margins) and there is plenty of sympathy for Israel. But an attack could trigger an armed Iranian response against American targets. (Such a response would not be rational on the part of Iran, but I don't count on regime rationality.) Americans are tired of the Middle East, and I'm not sure how they would feel if they believed that Israeli action brought harm to Americans. Remember, American soldiers have died in the defense of Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia, but they've never died defending Israel. I doubt Israel wants to put Americans in harm's way now. And it certainly isn't healthy for Israel to get on the wrong side of an American president. [Emphasis added.]
It's not time to relax yet, but these are indeed good signs.

UPDATE: Phil Giraldi has come along to spoil my relaxation.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Gig Is Up

My 15-year gig editing The Freeman will end September 30. I'm looking for a full-time editorial position with an online or paper publication.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Israeli Troops Abuse Palestinian Children in Occupied Territories


From Philip Weiss and Annie Robbins of Mondoweiss comes the following upsetting story:

The Israeli veterans' organization Breaking the Silence released a shocking new report this morning on the abuse of Palestinian children in the occupied territories.

The report, in pdf format, is “Breaking the Silence: Children and Youth, Soldiers’ Testimonies 2005-2011. BTS also posted a series of video testimonies in which former Israeli soldiers describe the abuse of Palestinian children.

BTS is an extraordinary organization and website. In its own words:

“Breaking the Silence” is an organization of Israeli veterans who served during the Second Intifada, beginning in 2000. The organization aims to make public the everyday life routine as it exists in the Occupied Territories, a reality that remains voiceless in the media, and to serve as an alternative information conduit for the public at large about the goings-on in the State of Israel’s ‘backyard’. The organization was founded in 2004, and since then has received unique public and media standing, bearing the voice of soldiers who have previously kept silent. Since its inception, over 800 male and female soldiers have given testimony about their experiences in the military. They described the reality of military rule in the Occupied Territories for the past twelve years, as reflected by the soldiers’ point of view.

The main purpose of “Breaking the Silence” is to arouse public discussion of the moral price that Israeli society pays for a reality in which young soldiers face a civilian population and dominate it on a daily basis. Every testimony published by the organization undergoes careful research. This includes verification of the facts and crossing-checking them with other testimonies and archive materials of human rights organizations active on the ground. Our journalistic mode of operation requires the
identity of testifiers to remain confidential.

Weiss and Robbins note that this story is being reported in the UK, by the Guardian and the Independent. Can we expect coverage from the mainstream US media?

Weiss adds:

The most grotesque incidents in the report involve the oppression of entire villages and cities. Soldiers are so bored in Hebron that they provoke riots. They stop people’s movements entirely for hours on end till someone at last lashes out and then the soldiers retaliate and soon there is a full-fledged riot. The soldiers and commanders seem to regard this as a form of entertainment. Shocking.

In coming days I hope to reproduce some of the testimonies here, thanks to the permission of BTS.

Friday, August 24, 2012

U.S. Encourages Israel’s War Aims

While Israel—cheered on by its American boosters led by AIPAC and Mitt Romney—beats the drums ever louder for a war of aggression against Iran, President Obama in late July signed the United States-Israel Enhanced Cooperation Act. This was hardly a signal that Obama would like to defuse the explosive situation building in the Middle East. The Rose Garden signing, attended by AIPCA representatives, came on top of the latest in a series of harsh economic sanctions approved by AIPAC-dominated Congress and Obama against the Iranian people. This intensifying economic warfare is predictably creating hardship for average Iranians, including shortages of life-saving medicines. (Sanctions come on top of covert warfare and assassination of Iranian scientists by Israel and cyber warfare by the United States, and an increasing U.S. presence in the Persian Gulf and surrounding area. Iran is nearly ringed by U.S. military installations.)