Sunday, May 28, 2017

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The War on Drugs is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things, North Carolina Edition

Apparently this month’s crop of stabbings, armed robberies, rapes/molestations and teacher/student sex scandals in Catawba County, North Carolina aren’t enough to keep the sheriff’s department busy. Or maybe they just have too many deputies on the payroll. Something’s obviously out of balance: They have time to go after gardeners.

“A man was arrested after deputies found nearly an acre of opium poppy in a Catawba County field,” Charlotte’s WBTV News reports. “Deputies spent the day pulling plants and loading them into their trailers.” According to the Charlotte Observer,  the uniformed bandits also stole the victim’s pets and livestock.

Our fearless flower thieves estimate the value of their haul at an insane $500 million. That’s a goody from the American drug warriors’ bag of dirty tricks: Their guess is based on the total weight of the plants, not on the tiny amount of opium that might eventually have been extracted from each flower. They also love to do this with LSD, which is measured in micrograms, including the weight of the paper the chemical is embedded in. Bigger numbers make for harsher charges and more publicity. In reality, if those poppies were destined for the street market, the take would have been closer to half a million dollars than half a billion.

A few  other numbers to put this circus into perspective:

According to Statista, approved pharmaceuticals are a $446 billion per year industry in America, a country accounting, per CNBC for about 80% of global prescriptions of opiates. Call that particular market $20 billion per year.  And its giants don’t like competition.

Then there are the tens of billions of dollars in tax money spent every year on the “war on drugs,” which has over time become a make-work program to pad the budgets and payrolls of law enforcement at every level.

Meanwhile, as I note above, there are actual criminals committing actual crimes in Catawba County. But solving those crimes and busting those criminals isn’t nearly as sexy or lucrative as trampling a guy’s garden, seizing his other property, and talking smack about it on TV.

If you’re a taxpayer in Catawba County or anywhere else, you’re paying for this “drug bust” in two ways: Higher taxes and higher crime.  Every dime and every minute spent busting pot-smokers, heroin junkies and flower farmers is a dime taken out of your pocket and a minute spent making you less, not more, safe from real crime.

Memorial Day: The Extraterrestrial’s View

Somewhere in the middle of the broad political landscape which favors laissez-faire economics is a Great Plains of pro-militarism.  Countless so-called libertarians praise the idea of limited government, but also proudly concede the absolute necessity of having at least some government.  Like the Mississippi River upon the North American landscape, a prominent question flows through the American political landscape.  It’s the ultimate question, defining the heart of American political thinking.

“But, what about national defense?”

I was reading David Friedman’s Machinery Of Freedom, and noticed him conceding that the question of how to provide for national defense was a tough one for libertarians to answer.  I suppose, given that the book was originally written in the paradigm of almost a half-century passed, I should give him credit for living along the frontier of thought which conceded that this was not an impossible question to answer.  WWII was the “good war” and the founding myth of the modern American nation.  In 1970, most WWII vets would still have been in the workforce, and their attitudes would have dominated the national mindset.  Nevertheless, taking into account that it has been nearly 50 years since 1970, and that 1970 was only 25 years after 1945, I can acknowledge that certain ideas might have been completely appropriate for 1970, and that in 2017 we are reaching a point where we can seriously question them.

Why is “doing something about national defense” so important in the national political dialogue in America?  It’s not because, literally, we have to ensure that our children won’t end up speaking German, Russian or Arabic.  Instead, it’s because the the mythological defeat of Germany-as-evil-incarnate is the subconscious justification for the whole American system of global “liberal” hegemony, as well as for our fiscal and financial regime at home

We needed a big military to defeat Hitler.  Hitler needed to be defeated because: Hitlers need to be defeated.  It’s a tautological sentiment that draws on archetypes and masks them as real-world entities.  When you argue against the national security state in America, you’re forced to argue against some ideal, not the actual entity which exists in the real world.  Achieving the psychology of this political sleight-of-hand is the existential purpose of public education, Court History, and the official media.  Good citizens know that Hitlers need to be defeated, and they won’t be unless there’s a big red, white, and blue military always on alert to do the job.

In my opinion, war with Germany was never necessary to protect the existential integrity – the sovereignty – of the American Republic.  No one was going to be speaking German.  Never mind that the victors’ history ignores completely the arrogance and aggressive posturing by the West in the final lead up to war (neither appeasement nor non-appeasement prevented war, so that’s a false line of argumentation).  Did FDR threaten Poland with losing Allied support if they negotiated with Hitler?  Why isn’t Stalin equally guilty of invading Poland (from our bird’s eye view)?  Regardless, the German Army, even after its stunning European victories, even before it’s brutal campaign against the USSR, could not nor even seriously attempted to cross the English Channel to invade England from the sea.  How the hell would they have come to North America?  Likewise, Japan’s official classified war plans specifically rejected any serious invasion of North America.  Their goal was always to keep American military forces out of East Asia so they could consolidate their anti-European hegemony there, and resist the advance of communism into the East.

Both the Nazi and Japanese Militarist regimes were awful.  Yet, both regimes had to govern real countries with real people.  The Nazis weren’t pod people.  The German Empire suffered violent upheavals and brief, but successful, socialist revolts in a few states following the tragedy and mass starvation of WWI.  The economy floundered in the late 20s, and the real threat of Soviet invasion loomed over everything.  The questions of tradition, race, and nationalism which brewed in the first decade of the 20th century had never fully been answered during a proper period of peace and calm.  The Nazis very successfully emerged from this environment.  Before long, even while facing numerous road bumps, they plunged headfirst into war.  I am very doubtful that this regime and its brutal excesses would have long endured during a period of sustained stability.

Likewise, Japanese war efforts in China can be compared strategically to the American war in Vietnam.  Both conflicts didn’t have clear end points.  How long until, relieved of the threat of war with America and the West, Japan would have sought some sort of “Vietnamization” of the war and political efforts in China?  How long until the free economies, non-interventionism, and free trade of the West greatly outpaced Japan and its backwards technological abilities?  Japan was no North Korea.  Despite its flirtation with militarism, it was a civilized nation with the ability to see some reason, and to change if necessary for its benefit.

Germany and Japan killed a lot of people in the 20th century.  But, maybe not as many as Stalin and Mao.  America killed a lot of people too (its civilian death “notch” count numbers in multiple millions of dead, not including as many more over foreign combatants killed by American wars of selection).  As for WWII, some countries, such as Poland, benefited nothing from having a prepared military.  In many senses their fate was worse than that of Czechoslovakia which surrendered peacefully.  And the salvation of the Poles from Germany came in the form of many decades of repressive communism.  In the case of countries like Brazil or Argentina, it’s hard to tell whether the war’s outcome would have mattered very much to them one way or another (unless Hitler really was Satan and built a Death Star laser ray and took over the world using the Dark Side of the Force).

I believe that an extraterrestrial visiting the Earth would take issue with the idea that the vigilance of the American Superman (the comic book character) is all that stands between the Earth and the dominion of evil.  They might even be puzzled by the idea, or find it laughable.

ET would read David Friedman, or attend a libertarian debate, and find amusement with the obsession of British and American libertarians with the question, “what about national defense”?  They might remark, “Your obsession with that question is a product of your immersion in your particular cultural milieu, and it’s hard to give it much credence from a strictly factual perspective”.

ET would find the American holiday of Memorial Day very interesting.  We’re remembering the lost.  Are we sad they’re dead, or happy?  Jesus died, to save humanity from sin, and it’s something to celebrate.  This was the cultural paradigm of America until 1942.  From 1945, the new paradigm became: Soldiers died, to save America and the World from evil, and it’s something to celebrate.

Americans don’t cry over the white headstones in dozens of rows at military cemeteries.  Not at least the majority, who hardly even closely know anyone who has served in the armed forces.  Memorial day is the celebration of American Super-Jesus: red, white and blue with a golden S-shaped halo, flying in front of some B-52s, amidst clouds of smoke from fireworks and barbecue grills.  And below this formation, in the celestial stadium seating untold millions are the victims of America’s bombs, waving pennants and swinging number 1 foam fingers, thanking America for redeeming their souls from their evil governments.

The Americans who died in war suffered an unspeakable horror.  More so, those who live maimed permanently by war.  Most Americans, particularly those in the Armed Forces, possess a deeply sincere belief in the necessity and goodness of America’s military causes.  Reality doesn’t taint their intent in the slightest, and a due measure of respect and reverence is appropriate for Memorial Day.  However, the moral reality of war and history impose upon America a duty to make painful cultural changes.

How much of Memorial Day’s spirit is an expression of the real need to sacrifice for what’s most important, and how much of Memorial Day is just idolatrous ritual, serving the civic religion of government worship?

How much of the discussion within American Libertarianism is a genuine attempt to confront real problems with “statesman like” sobriety and wisdom, and how much of the discussion is no more than playful banter within the walled confines of the garden of American culture?

As a former member of the uniformed services, and as a libertarian, I will spend Memorial Day trying to think about how the meaning and importance of the issues of war and peace, and the memory of those lost, soar above the petty cultural self-satisfaction endemic to post-war American society.

The Antiwar Comic: Wanna Hear a Love Story?

I honestly can’t believe this story.  I’d like to think it was an undercover mission created by the CIA, but…

The Antiwar Comic:  Wanna Hear a Love Story?

For more comics visit The Webcomic Factory.

Class, Culture, And Libertarianism

Tom Woods likes to say that Libertarianism isn’t about this or that, such as selfishness or individualism or anything else, but rather it’s about people getting along with each other peacefully.  Voluntary social interactions.

This important observation demonstrates why Libertarianism is profoundly radical, because the principle of voluntary social interaction contains a superficial contradiction.  This contradiction is perhaps the key source of criticism from left and right against Libertarianism.  It is: if I accept the right of others to choose to do whatever they want to do in life, then what do I do when they choose things that harm my interests?

As I said, this is a superficial contradiction.  Libertarians are perfectly comfortable with the sound logic of the non-aggression principle, and non-initiation of force.  Yet, both the left and the right have decent critiques of the principle.

The right proposes that culture represents an unspoken “trust” commons.  The willingness to abide by the NAP is a product of culture, and they propose that certain policies which perhaps violate NAP are pragmatically necessary to preserve the cultural commons that makes voluntary social interaction possible.

The left’s critique is remarkably similar.  This is that people are not individually capable enough to make the sort of market choices needed to achieve the utilitarian common good.  Classes of people will form with different needs and desires, and in competing for their particular class interest, they’ll waste resources.  Therefore people need to be managed to compensate for wasteful class differences.

Both critiques fail because the solutions which come from a commitment to voluntary interaction are not intuitive from the perspective of our basic social instincts (one such instinct is conformity or submission to authority as outward signs of a willingness to seek harmony – deviants are seen as not only harmful, but willfully antagonistic).

Imagine a lower class family.  This family possesses cultural habits which might be said to contribute to their economic status.  These might be: need for instant gratification, tendency to act based on immediate emotional concerns rather than rational considerations, an embrace of leisure and hedonism to bring meaning to life, a lack of expectation of having wealth with a consequent desire to spend money as soon as it is obtained.

The left has traditionally reacted to this sort of culture – first in the form of poor rural Yankee whites, then later freed black slaves, now poor urban blacks and again rural whites – by proposing cultural revolution.  They propose puritanical reforms: schools for indoctrination, prohibition movements, cultural war against the institutions of these people (such as evangelical Christianity, or black culture) and so forth.  The idea is to use the power and wealth of the state to prevent people from living their own lives, and to impose upon them the socially responsible culture the left prefers.

The right generally takes a more organic approach to the issue, but it seeks the same outcome: removal of the cultures seen as socially harmful.  Instead of reform, the right seeks segregation, extradition, imprisonment, and so forth.  Groups that possess approved cultural traits are left alone, but other groups are forced to live apart.

Libertarianism’s probable “solution” is radically different from both left and right in that it doesn’t propose to change or eliminate cultural habits that might make voluntary interaction difficult, but rather to accommodate them.

For example: I personally know many poor people who struggle with managing all the complicated and bureaucratic institutions of modern life.  Credit card payments, collections agencies, interest rates, healthcare regulations, safety regulations, arriving exactly on time to work, legal proceedings, family life and divorce issues, and so forth.  Even calling the cable company to cancel service is profoundly time consuming and often confusing.  Much of the legal infrastructure surrounding these things is structured to accomodate the habits of the highly competent, and if it’s dumbed down it’s nevertheless for the benefit of a conscientious middle class.  When you get home, don’t pop that beer can Cletus, check your credit statement first!

Imagine cultural habits that produce economic waste (legal services industry dealing with persistent petty domestic abuse, for example).  The left wants to waste even more money trying to force people to change.  The right wants to keep everyone they don’t like locked up.  Libertarianism sees: profit potential.

Tired of dealing with collectors?  We’ll manage your credit and deal with the bureaucracy and legalese for you – we know how to cancel your cable in minutes, and we won’t argue with you about it.

Got in trouble for domestic abuse?  We serve victims and perpetrators alike.  We’ll take care of your family and keep them safe, help you manage your anger if you want, but most importantly convince a judge that you don’t need to be imprisoned.  For a small fee.

To the irresponsible the message is: party all you want, but pay us a little and we can manage the worst consequences for you and for everyone else.

That’s how voluntary interaction works.  You have to live with uncomfortableness.  But, as you accomodate it the division of labor enables both cultures you like and don’t like to make progress.  Life can get better for both at the same time.

News Roundup 5/26/17

  • Trump tells the leaders of NATO countries they are not spending enough on defense. 23 of the 28 countries in NATO do not meet the expectation to spend 2% of GDP on defense. [Link]
  • A high school junior kills himself after he was threatened by police and school administration of being charged with possessing and sharing child pornography. The young man had an audio recording of a sexual encounter on his phone. The police never intended to charge the young man and the goal of the threat was to scare him straight. Hours after being threatened he jump off a building. [Link]
  • The DEA lied about their role in a shooting that left two pregnant woman and two other civilians dead in Honduras. A new report found that the DEA and Honduras police fired on the civilians without being provoked. [Link]
  • The US defense spending totals $1.1 trillion a year. [Link]
  • The Army’s request for funds 2018 asks for $6.4 million to build a forward operating base in Turkey. The base could be a site for THAAD missiles. [Link]
  • This article looks at the US increasing use of special forces. [Link]
  • Senators Jeff Flake and Tim Kaine introduce a bill that will be a new AUMF. The new AUMF will give the authorization to fight ISIS, al-Qaeda, and the Taliban. [Link]
  • The UK has condemned the leaks coming from the US related to the Manchester terror attack. [Link]
  • Four Egyptian security force members were killed in the Sinai. [Link]
  • An estimated 23 people were killed during an attack on an Egyptian church. [Link]
  • At least 13 Afghan fighters were killed while fighting militants in the Kandahar Province. [Link]
  • A video shows Iraqi special forces torturing and killing suspected members of ISIS. [Link]
  • The US now admits to killing over 100 people in the March 17th attack in Mosul that killed up to 278 civilians. Before this admission, the Pentagon only admitted to killing 14 civilians in the attack. [Link]
  • Between April 23rd and May 23rd, the US coalition in Syria killed at least 225 civilians and only 122 suspected ISIS fighters. May will be the 5th straight month that the US coalition has killed more civilians than Russia. [Link]
  • Syria and Jordan trade threats because of international war games that were played out in Jordan. [Link]
  • The US killed 35 civilians in East Syria with airstrikes. This brings the two-day total of civilians killed in US airstrikes to over 50. [Link]

Obfuscating Truth By Inverting It In Korea

I read the following in a recent CNBC article:

“South Korean leaders have supported unification of the peninsula but have been ineffective — the North has strongly been against it.” (http://www.cnbc.com/2017/04/26/north-korean-elites-increasingly-think-kim-jong-un-is-a-weak-leader-new-study-says.html)

This is interesting because many would say that efforts towards reintegration and deescalation between the two Koreas was progressing relatively well until the George W. Bush administration took a sudden and unilateral aggressive posture against North Korea.  Here’s a blast from the past discussing this issue: http://progressive.org/op-eds/bush-s-policies-set-back-relations-north-korea/

The path forward for Korea had been a slow economic liberalization through Chinese style “Special Economic Zones”, and a deescalation of military tension, leading eventually to Korean led reunification.

After a quick internet search, I see articles like this one: https://www.rand.org/news/press/2017/04/27.html.  Here again is the suggestion that reunification is good, but it’s North Korea who opposes it.  The stakes have become clear.

I would guess that US policy now seems to be leaning towards a US proctored and policed, South Korea administrated “reunification” (otherwise known as conquest) of North Korea.

As always, we have the narrative that the US is completely well-intentioned and innocent, while some “crazy madman” can’t help himself but be unreasonable in every possible way.  Of course, as always, the US is acting with unilateral aggression and its inability to compromise on its hegemonic prerogatives is leading headfirst into brutal war.

 

Manchester Bomber Motivated by “Revenge” not Religion

A new Wall Street Journal profile of the suspected Manchester, UK terrorist Salman Abedi offers our first clues into the motive for the deadly attack. And while we still don’t have all the details, it appears that the motivation was not religion.

News Roundup 5/25/17

  • A grand jury finds that a police officer who killed a man after a high-speed car chase had committed no wrongdoing. [Link]
  • At least 31 people were killed after falling off a boat trying to flee Africa for Europe. [Link]
  • The UK has positioned 1,000 heavily armed soldier around high profile sites. [Link]
  • The UN reports that 400,000 children in the Democratic Republic of Congo are facing severe malnutrition. [Link]
  • The US carried out 460 airstrikes in Afghanistan in April. This seven times more than the amount in April 2016. This is the highest number of airstrikes in a single month since August 2012. [Link]
  • NATO has agreed to join the anti-ISIS coalition. [Link]
  • Russia and US agree to improve communications to avoid conflict in Syria. [Link]
  • At least 16 civilians were killed in a US-led coalition airstrike in Syria. [Link]
  • Yemeni civilians give their account of an April 23rd airstrike that the US claims killed seven members of al-Qaeda Arabian Peninsula. The Yemeni civilians claim that the strike killed civilians and not members of AQAP. [Link]
  • Yemeni civilians give their account of a recent raid by US special forces. The US government reported that the raid resulted in seven dead members of AQAP. Civilians report that the special forces shot a man who went to welcome them to the town. The special forces then shot four other civilians, including a 69-year-old man. The US special forces then engaged with AQAP fighters and killed two. [Link]
  • 329 people have died of cholera in Yemen since April 27th. Most of the deaths are in the country’s capital Saana. [Link]
  • 100 ISIS fighters stormed a town in the Southern Philippines and killed 13 soldiers. The ISIS fighters were also able to take several hostages. [Link]
  • UNICEF reports that 24 million children in the Middle East and North Africa are threatened by conflict. [Link]

On Foreign Policy Focus #44, I discuss the terror attack in Manchester. The man who carried out the attack was of Libyan descent. Libya has been turned into Hell since a US-led NATO war destroyed the country. Libya is now a failed state with slavery and warring governments. The US-backed government is committing war crimes and huge numbers of refugees reporting being raped or sexually assaulted. The Manchester Terror Attack was an example of blowback. Politicians like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama created the situation that led to this terror attack. LISTEN HERE!!

The South Goes Green: South Carolina Just Legalized Growing Hemp

 

Very quietly, South Carolina has just legalized the growth of industrial hemp. House Bill 3559, mixed in among a pile of legislation before the General Assembly, was signed into law in mid-May.

Lawmakers approved the pilot program to determine what kind of value famers will get from their crops. After passing a State Law Enforcement Division background check, growers will be issued licenses that will allow them to cultivate the plant in-state.

Hemp growers must have a contracted buyer before they can proceed, and they also must work with a research university to help develop the South Carolina hemp market. This initial phase of the program — 20 licenses at 20 acres apiece — will expand to 50 at 50 after a year.

At that point, the program’s fate will be determined by the state’s agricultural department and the research universities working with the growers. David Verdin, a state senator, says South Carolina should have been allowing hemp cultivation a long time ago.

“We’re a little late into the game,” he told local media outlet The State.

Currently, 31 states allow for hemp production, either through their own legislation or under the provisions of the 2014 Farm Bill. Hemp, contrary to a prevalent opinion, is not marijuana and has myriad industrial uses.

“Any agricultural crop we can cultivate here and make a profit for our farmers, we should try,” state senator Greg Hembree said.

Senator Verdin seems to agree. Highlighting his state’s rich history in the textile industry — one that was crushed by the federal government’s campaign against marijuana — he asked South Carolinians to try to envision a similar future ahead:

“It might just be a niche. But I believe there is a demonstrated marketplace globally. This very slow and heavy regulated approach will quickly evolve into a valuable industry. Imagine if we could actually make textiles in our textile mills again.”

 

This post originally appeared at Anti-Media. 

Five Civilians Killed in Yemen Raid Carried Out By US Navy SEALs: Report

 

In a shocking report released Tuesday, international human rights group Reprieve is claiming five of the seven “militants” killed in Yemen in an overnight raid by U.S. Navy SEALs were actually civilians — and that one of the victims was a partially blind elderly man.

In a statement released by U.S. Central Command, the military said the raid in eastern Yemen — confirmed by the Pentagon to be the “deepest” that U.S. special forces have penetrated into the country — took the lives of seven al-Qaeda fighters.

But Reprieve, which says it’s “spoken to sources from the village” where the raid occurred in the Marib province, is reporting that these witnesses were able to confirm the identities of the five villagers killed and say none of the dead had ties to terrorist groups.

One of the men killed, Nasser al-Adhal, was around 70 and partially blind, witnesses say. These sources say al-Adhal mistakenly took the Navy SEALs for visiting guests and went out to greet them — and that’s when the shooting started.

Reprieve describes what witnesses claim happened next:

“The four other villagers were killed when they started to argue with the Navy Seals after the shooting of Nasser al-Adhal. Six villagers were seriously injured, including another elderly man who was around 69-years-old.

“Al-Qaeda fighters gathering nearby, who are thought to have been the original target of the raid, were alerted by the gunshots in the village and firefight ensued in which at least two of them were killed. The Navy SEALs then left with the help of air support from a helicopter.”

Kate Higham, head of Reprieve’s Assassinations Programme, commented on the revelation:

“This new flawed raid by President Trump shows the US is not capable of distinguishing a terrorist from an innocent civilian. When a 70-year-old is shot dead, it is clear these attacks are not targeted or precise. President Trump must order an immediate investigation into what went wrong and halt all raids and drone strikes before more innocent Yeminis are killed.”

The news comes as it’s being reported that U.S.-led coalition airstrikes in Syria have killed 225 civilians since April 23, including 36 women and 44 children. This is highest one-month total of civilian casualties since the U.S. campaign against ISIS began in 2014.

 

This post originally appeared at Anti-Media.