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What Social Animals Owe to Each Other

Monday, April 29, 2013

Just Wondering

I'm betting the one who radicalized the Tsarnaevs lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Has the FBI paid a visit?

Scott Horton Show

I was on the Scott Horton show last week. You can listen to the conversation here.


Joseph S. Diedrich interviewed me recently. Here are the results.

Friday, April 26, 2013

TGIF: Liberty, Security, and Terrorism

Whether U.S. foreign policy really had anything to do with the Boston Marathon bombings, there are reasons enough to scrap it and to follow strict noninterventionism, since that would cease the daily brutality against Muslims (and others) committed in the name of the American people. One bonus from ending U.S.-sponsored murder and mayhem in the Muslim world is that it would remove a potential reason for violence against Americans.
Read  TGIF: Liberty, Security, and Terrorism

Also see "What if the Tsarnaevs' Motive Was Revenge for U.S. Foreign Policy?"

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Martial Law in Massachusetts

No lover of liberty can help but be appalled at the display of naked force during the period of de facto martial law in the suburbs of Boston. Here’s a sample:

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Hypocritical Democrats

So what else is new? But in this post, Glenn Greenwald shows the hypocrisy of Democrats who are criticizing Sen. Lindsey Graham for demanding that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev not be treated like a normal criminal defendant, Miranda warnings and all. It turns out that President Obama and AG Holder essentially killed Miranda some time ago.

Slate's Emily Bazelon nails it too.

A Reminder from Thomas More

From A Man for All Seasons by Robert Boldt:
William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!

More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

Roper: Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!

More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Latest TGIF

TGIF: Government Should Stop Its Own Violence First

Stupid Criminals

Maybe not all criminals are stupid but a lot of them are. The apparent Boston Marathon bombers opened the last chapter of their criminal enterprise by robbing a 7-11. How hackneyed can you get?

UPDATE: Latest word is that the Tsarnaev brothers did not rob a convenience store at all. (Someone else did that.) What they did was hijack a Mercedes SUV and force the driver to get money out of an ATM. They then let the driver go unharmed, while taking his car.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Frog Supremacy

Frogs are superior to human beings. They do jump out of gradually heated water.

Demagogy on Manchin-Toomey

The Manchin-Toomey expansion of background checks to private gun sales was reasonable legislation, its advocates insist, because it would have forbidden the creation of a federal registry and exempted transfers of guns between family members and between friends.

Those features appear to be in the bill, but why should that matter? The champions of Manchin-Toomey would have us believe that once the bill passed, no more gun laws would ever be proposed again. That is, they’re either naïve or dishonest. I don’t think they’re naïve.

MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, a former member of the House and self-styled Second Amendment man who supported Manchin-Toomey, is an egregious example of this dishonesty. He spent weeks mocking opponents for not being mollified by the bill’s compromises. Can he be unfamiliar with the legislative tactic of gradualism? Start a program small to minimize opposition, then expand it in later years when people have become inured.

It’s not as though this tactic has never been used. The income tax started small in 1913 and applied only to the richest Americans. Those who expressed concern that the tax would expand were ridiculed as paranoid. Sen. William Borah, an Idaho Progressive Republican said, “No sane man would take from industry its just reward or rob frugality of a fair and honest return.”

As I wrote in Your Money or Your Life: Why We Must Abolish the Income Tax (1999):

The 1913 income tax was put at 1 percent on net income after a personal exemption of $3,000, some credits, and an additional $1,000 exemption for married couples living together. There was also a graduated 2 percent to 7 percent surcharge on incomes from $20,000 to $500,000….

In 1913, the average personal income was $621. Only 2 percent of the population was liable for the tax between 1913 and 1915.

In other words, the tax was introduced as a tax on the rich exclusively.

If the system were in place today, a single person making less than about $45,000 (the bottom 75 percent of filers) would pay no tax. A couple earning less than $60,000 would pay nothing. Incomes up to $300,000 would be in the 1 percent bracket. Someone would have to make $7.5 million before paying the top 7 percent rate. In 1994 dollars, the exemptions of 1913 would be worth $44,776 for a single person and $59,701 for married couples.

But it didn’t take long for the tax to become a tax on the masses. War, as usual, fueled the expansion. The anti-tax prophets were right.

The income tax is not the only example of gradualism. Social Security was also introduced as a modest program with a low tax. (The public was against it.)  Now it and Medicare take about 15 percent of a worker’s income. For details see Charlotte Twight’s Dependent on D.C.

The upshot is that you cannot judge a legislative bill in isolation. The dynamics of politics must be taken into account, especially the politicians’ ability to (in Twight’s words) “manipulate political transaction costs.” This refers to the many methods that government officials have to conceal what they’re doing and to make it costly for people to resist if they find out.

How might this idea apply to Manchin-Toomey? This isn’t rocket science. The bill may promise universal background checks (except for family members and friends), but it can’t keep that promise. Criminally minded people will always find ways to obtain guns outside the system. Theft and the black market will make that a certainty. Gun-running is as old as guns themselves, and nothing is more adaptive than the black market.

So what will happen after the next atrocity occurs with a firearm? The advocates of universal background checks will surely say, “We tried this modest approach, and it failed to keep guns out of the hands of bad people. We must do more.”

“More” could well include national registration. It’s a matter of logic. If I own a gun, how can the government assure that I haven’t sold it without running a background check on the buyer? One way the government might find out is to establish a gun registry and periodically do spot checks to see if people still possess the guns that are registered to them. If people are serious about outlawing sales without backgrounds checks, wouldn’t they be driven to such a proposal? As the ACLU has pointed out, the civil-liberties implications are ominous. Registration makes confiscation feasible.

This is not paranoia. It’s a recognition of the dynamics of demagogic politics. If, as polls purport to show, 90 percent of people favor universal background checks and they prove futile in stopping gun atrocities, what will people favor next? Which way are they likely to go: toward full deregulation of gun ownership or toward more draconian measures?

I know where my money is.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Interview on Tracesofreality.com

Guillermo Jimenez interviewed me for Tracesofreality.com. Here's the video:

Time to Bring Bush & Co. before the International Criminal Court

From the New York Times:
A nonpartisan, independent review of interrogation and detention programs in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks concludes that “it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture” and that the nation’s highest officials bore ultimate responsibility for it.
The sweeping, 577-page report says that while brutality has occurred in every American war, there never before had been “the kind of considered and detailed discussions that occurred after 9/11 directly involving a president and his top advisers on the wisdom, propriety and legality of inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in our custody.” The study, by an 11-member panel convened by the Constitution Project, a legal research and advocacy group, is to be released on Tuesday morning.
Read more.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

What We Know about the Boston Marathon Bombings

They were crimes, not acts of war.

The Boston Marathon Bombings

My heart goes out to the loved ones of those who were murdered, the injured, and all others who were affected--the people of Boston.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Libertarian Angle

The latest edition of FFF's The Libertarian Angle is now online. Issues discussed: gun control and Melissa Harris-Perry's view that children belong to the "community."

Friday, April 12, 2013

TGIF: The Market Is a Beautiful Thing

Market advocates tend to respect the intellect of their fellow human beings. You can tell by their reliance on philosophical, moral, economic, and historical arguments when trying to persuade others. But what if most people’s aversion to the market isn’t founded in philosophy, morality, economics, or history? What if their objection is aesthetic?
Read TGIF: "The Market Is a Beautiful Thing"

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

The Deir Yassin Massacre, April 9, 1948

Today is the 65th anniversary of the slaughter of the Arab inhabitants of the Palestinian village Deir Yassin (population about 600), west of Jerusalem, at the hands of Zionist militias, Irgun and Lehi, or Stern Gang. About a hundred residents, including 30 infants. (Irgun was led by future prime minister Menachem Begin. Another future prime minister, Yitzhak Shamir, was a Lehi commander.) By any standard, these were terrorist organizations. Indeed, conservative historian Paul Johnson writes that the Zionist militias created the terrorist model in the Middle East.

Dein Yassin was just one of the many atrocities that comprise the Nakba, or the catastrophe that befell the Palestinians in the founding of Israel. In fact, residents of other Arab villages fled their homes as the Zionist paramilitary forces spread the word about Deir Yassin. Historian Ilan Pappe writes, "At the time, the Jewish leadership proudly announced a high number of victims so as to make Deir Yassin the epicentre of the catastrophe--a warning to all Palestinians that a similar fate awaited them if they refused to abandon their homes and take flight." In his memoir, Begin wrote that panicked Arabs fled their homes in great number at the "wild tales of 'Irgun butchery.'"

Here is a moving account by Dina Elmuti at Electronic Intifada.

According to Wikipedia:
In 1949, despite protests, the Jerusalem neighborhood of Givat Shaul Bet was built on what had been Deir Yassin's land, now considered part of Har Nof, an Orthodox area. Four Jewish scholars, Martin Buber, Ernst Simon, Werner Senator, and Cecil Roth, wrote to Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, asking that Deir Yassin be left uninhabited, or that its settlement be postponed. They wrote that it had become "infamous throughout the Jewish world, the Arab world and the whole world." Settling the land so soon after the killings would amount to an endorsement of them. Ben-Gurion failed to respond, though the correspondents sent him copy after copy. Eventually his secretary replied that he had been too busy to read their letter.
In 1951, construction of the Kfar Shaul Mental Health Center began, using some of the village's houses, now hidden behind the hospital's fence, with entry closely restricted. Har HaMenuchot, a Jewish cemetery, lies to the north. To the south is a valley containing part of the Jerusalem Forest, and on the other side of the valley, a mile and a half away, lie Mount Herzl and the Holocaust memorial museum, Yad Vashem.
For more, see Jeremy Hammond's The Rejection of Palestinian Self-Determination and Ilan Pappe's The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine.

Friday, April 05, 2013

TGIF: The Myth of Market Failure

When I say that market failure is a myth, I don’t mean to deny that ... regrettable situations can occur. I only mean to deny that they are peculiar to the market.
Read: "The Myth of Market Failure."