Liberty & Power: Group Blog
I had a foreboding that one of these messages might contain, shall we say, a bit of denunciation when I saw that its subject line read “You’re a fucking STUPID and VAPID.” In the body of the message, the sentence continues:
Please shoot yourself now and by chance, you haven’t bred have you?
Scum sucking maggot, get the fuck off my CSPAN channel and get out of my society.
Although this foul-mouthed lingo is not the kind of language that my mother taught me to use, I understood it well enough to file it under the rubric of “strong disapproval.”
Over the past decade or so, my popular articles on the Web have frequently elicited similar expressions of personal contempt and hatred. Had I not been a student of ideology, I might have been somewhat perplexed by such malevolent missives. After all, what do my writings endorse? As a rule, they uphold peace, voluntary cooperation, tolerance, and friendship toward all who do not proclaim themselves to be my sworn enemies. How can such inoffensive views touch a reader’s nerves so painfully that he responds by assaulting my character and demanding that I evacuate the country in which my ancestors and I were born? (Indeed, some of my forebears lived here even before the Europeans came to North America. If my information is correct, one-eighth of my ancestors were Cherokees, who, historians inform us, did not formally invite the white people to invade their long-inhabited, well-developed territory and, later, to expell them from it at bayonet point and march them, amid great suffering, to live in a wilderness known as Indian Territory.) So, I always wonder, who the hell does my correspondent think he is that HE should command ME, of all people, to leave this country? Can’t we at least flip a coin to decide which of us must go?
During the painful years of the Bush regime, we had to endure the slings and arrows of the brown shirts who compose the so-called Republican base. Now that Obama has ascended the throne, the brown shirts of the left are emerging as the more conspicuous barbarians. Thank God it is not the case, as far too many people suppose, that we must be on one of these sides or the other. We can transcend this disgusting political spectrum, placing ourselves neither on the left nor on the right — nor even in the so-called “independent” zone somewhere between them — but rather rising above the entire line and insisting that red-state savagery and blue-state savagery are equally despicable and intolerable. I daresay that the future of our civilization hinges on whether a sufficient number of us will choose this transcendence.
In the"City of God," St. Augustine tells the story of a pirate captured by Alexander the Great. The Emperor angrily demanded of him,"How dare you molest the seas?" To which the pirate replied,"How dare you molest the whole world? Because I do it with a small boat, I am called a pirate and a thief. You, with a great navy, molest the world and are called an emperor." St. Augustine thought the pirate's answer was"elegant and excellent."
In order to increase sales, he asks the advice of a visitor from Boston, Barney King.
He convinces Bill to allow his loyal customers - most of whom are unemployed alcoholics - to drink now, but pay later.
Bill keeps track of the drinks consumed on a ledger (thereby granting the customers loans).
Word gets around and as a result increasing numbers of customers flood into Bill's bar.
Taking advantage of his customers' freedom from immediate payment constraints, Bill increases his prices for wine and beer, the most-consumed beverages. His sales volume increases massively.
A young and dynamic customer service consultant at the local bank recognizes these customer debts as valuable future assets and increases Bill's borrowing limit.
He sees no reason for undue concern since he has the debts of the alcoholics as collateral.
At the bank's corporate headquarters, expert bankers transform these customer assets into DRINKBONDS, ALKBONDS and GAGBONDS. These securities are then traded on markets worldwide.
No one really understands what these abbreviations mean and how the securities are guaranteed. Nevertheless, as their prices continuously climb, the securities become top-selling items.
One day, although the prices are still climbing, a risk manager (subsequently, of course, fired due to his negativity) of the bank decides that the time has come to demand payment of the debts incurred by the drinkers at Bill's bar.
However they cannot pay back the debts.
Bill cannot fulfill his loan obligations and claims bankruptcy.
DRINKBOND and ALKBOND drop in price by 95 %. GAGBOND performs better, stabilizing in price after dropping by 80 %.
The suppliers of Bill's bar, having granted him generous payment due dates and having invested in the securities are faced with a new situation.
His wine supplier claims bankruptcy, his beer supplier is taken over by a competitor. The bank is saved by the Government following dramatic round-the-clock consultations by leaders from the governing political parties (and vested interests). The funds required for this purpose are obtained by a tax levied on the non-drinkers.
Barney King denies ever having been in Asheville.
Finally an explanation I trust you can explain to others..
Dear Republicans,Do you regret creating the Department of Homeland Security yet? Are you ready to apologize?
That's the first thing I thought when I read that DHS report. Like an earlier report from the Missouri Information Analysis Center report that instructed law enforcement personnel to watch for cars with Ron Paul or Libertarian Party stickers, it has the right in something of an uproar.
As you may know, the report warns law enforcement agencies that there"may" be a rebirth of right wing violence. It warns, among other things, that returning veterans could be turning violent. Another passage that has attracted unfavorable notice is this one:
Rightwing extremism in the United States can be broadly divided into those groups, movements, and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups), and those that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.
As others have said, this means there are an awful lot of potential terrorists out there. Aside from the fact that these people are casting their net way too widely, I am not as stunned by this development as many others are, for two reasons.
First, I hate to say this, but the general idea behind the report -- that there is a substantial possibility of right-wing violence in our future -- is probably true. I predicted it almost half a year ago:
Obama's party will not only control the White House but both houses of Congress. I don't expect them to be magnanimous in victory. They have suffered (how they have suffered!) eight years of not getting their way, and they won't have to take it any more. This will make a lot of others feel helpless and unrepresented by the system.
This of course is exactly how Obama's party has acted since re-taking power. In fact, they have been quite a bit more in-your-face than I thought they would be. I see no outreach there at all, and a lot of slash, burn, and trample. As I pointed out in these earlier comments, there are some people on the right who, when they feel that the political system has made them powerless, are apt to exert their power in brutal ways. The notion that violent rightwing extremists are a myth is itself a myth. Law enforcement people should indeed be on the lookout for it. I hope they are.
Second, it is true that the Democrats are probably going too far in this direction, but who gave them the opportunity to do so? When the Republicans created this new"security" apparatus, especially the DHS itself, there were plenty of us to predict that, when the Democrats eventually return, they will use it in ways that the Republicans do not approve of. This was a good reason to not make these changes in the first place.
Democrats and Republicans are both similar and different. If you give them an apparatus for snooping and spying, Republicans will sneak around looking for"Islamofascists." Democrats are also willing to sneak around -- they are similar in that way -- but they will be looking for"right wing extremists" instead of"Islamofascists." During the first Islamist attack on American soil -- the original bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 -- the attention of the Clinton Administration was completely absorbed in what they thought was the real threat to America -- those scary gun-toting Christians in Waco TX.
Now that the Republicans have given them the gift of an improved apparatus for living out one's favorite paranoid narrative, we should not be surprised if they once again pursue a narrative that is not the conservative one. We saw this coming years ago. It will not do to start sniveling and whining about it now. Instead of complaining about the people who are using the apparatus, we should look at the apparatus itself.
This article is cross-posted at my personal blog, "E pur si muove!"
David T. Beito
Bad as those are, this is what worries me the most:"Obama also planned to ask Congress to crack down on tax havens and implement a major shift in the way courts view guilt. Under Obama's proposal, Americans would have to prove they were not breaking U.S. tax laws by sending money to banks that don't cooperate with tax officials. It essentially would reverse the long-held assumption of innocence in U.S. courts."
Under the newly proposed guidelines, once you are charged--for whatever reason--with attempting to evade taxes by exploiting a"tax haven," you are presumed guilty. And you would have to prove your innocence to federal judge who, one suspects, is likely to be inclined against you already. That is a dangerous precedent indeed.
Today's Financial Times reports here and here that an investigation has shown"[t]he top 25 US originators of subprime mortgages - the risky assets that sparked the global financial crisis - spent almost $370m in Washington over the past decade on lobbying and campaign donations as they tried to ward off tighter regulation of their industry." If true, this doesn't surprise me nor, I suspect, will it astonish many of our readers who are well aware of how big business is usually, perhaps always, in bed with the state and is rarely, if ever, simply the victim of government intervention.
Of course, the two stories are by no means mutually exclusive. Nonetheless, if today's study by the Center for Public Integrity is accurate, it suggests that the narrative free market commentators like to tell fails to provide a full explanation of the subprime mess.
"The Congress shall have Power ... To regulate Commerce ... among the several States....
I know it's been interpreted that way since about 1808 (not 1789), but why? Does the text actually support that interpretation and no other? Not according to William Crosskey's detailed study of word usage in the late eighteenth century (Politics and the Constitution in the History of the Unites States).
It's not as if the framers of the Constitution were unable to write, "between Citizens of different States." They used that phrase in defining the jurisdiction of the federal courts. Maybe the Antifederalists were right. Maybe the Constitution did grant the national government plenary power over commerce and much else.
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this essay is the numerous mentions of Obama’s new commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, as the high ranking officer who sanctioned and even encouraged the repugnant activities described.
Hat tip to Scott Horton
The most interesting part for me was how Niven's experiences during World War II haunted him for the rest of his life.
"There was a policy of keeping famous film star soldiers away from the action. In August 1942, Niven's unit fought in the disastrous allied attack on the French port of Dieppe. It has always been assumed he didn't take part, but he told me he disobeyed orders and went, risking court martial. 'Yes, I was there,' he'. I can't bear to remember Dieppe. The loss of life was unpardonable.'
"Of 6,000 men taking part, 1,027 were killed and 2,340 captured. David had to write letters to the wives and girlfriends of the men lost in his unit. He told me: 'The mental scars of war stay with you. My mental scars are more than I can handle. I leave them alone when I can. The horror of actual battle is more than I can stand.'"
Niven's second wife Hjördis explains how"Jack Kennedy wanted a quickie, and I gave him a quickie. He gave me a disease. Chlamydia." I guess this disease was an occupational hazard of being intimate with this particular president. The sorry affair happened, apparently, when the Nivens went to the White House for President Kennedy’s 46th birthday celebrations in May 1963. Then six months later Lee Harvey Oswald's (or was it someone else's?) prophylactic put paid to this particular epidemic at its source.
The story of the Nivens' marriage is in fact very sad, as you would learn if you read Munn's account.
"To fight this recession the Fed needs more than a snapback; it needs soaring household spending to offset moribund business investment. And to do that, as Paul McCulley of Pimco put it, Alan Greenspan needs to create a housing bubble to replace the Nasdaq bubble."
(Paul Krugman, NY Times, August 2, 2002)
Paul Bremer (our first viceroy in Baghdad) gets a “Medal of Freedom” for his disaster, FEMA gets a huge budget raise after letting New Orleans drown, and now this arrogant, poorly educated fool is given a Nobel Prize after cheerleading the very policy that led us to our current disaster?
A fish rots from the head, and America’s appears all rotted out.
David T. Beito
Naturally, this vague hint at fiscal prudence has NASA bureaucrats scrambling to come up with a reason, any reason, plausible enough to get their hands on the loot that W's promise had dazzled them with.
Former NASA chief Michael Griffin pulled the first rabbit out of NASA's hat, claiming, "In the long run, human populations must diversify if it wishes to survive."
Well, if that's the case, here's my paycheck...
Aeon J. Skoble
Does anyone really believe the U.S. and its allies will succeed in achieving their stated goals in Afghanistan?
David T. Beito
With the average American displaying the attention span of a two year old (a recent poll discovered that 87% of Americans could not name the second American Idol winner) it will be a few weeks, at most, before opinion polls, under relentless 20/20 specials entitled “Climate Change: America’s Peril…And Opportunity”, will show the needle has swung back to credulous, and climate change legislation will come oozing out of the Potomac.
It’s an age-old tactic, to change people perceptions about something they find odious or preposterous, just change the words you use to describe it. But it doesn’t always work, as Bill Clinton’s “revenue enhancements” kept morphing right back into “taxes”. So there’s some hope, I suppose.