Wednesday, December 13, 2017

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Libertarians: “Our Rulers Are Wearing no Clothes”

Libertarians have always said that our rulers are wearing no clothes.  Now it’s turning out that this figure of speech is the literal truth.

A day doesn’t go by without it being exposed that some ruling elite in the media or politics has exposed himself to some underling female.

This doesn’t surprise libertarians, who know that media and political power go hand in hand with such creepy behavior as standing with one’s genitals in hand in front of a female.   That’s because being an influential person in both the media and politics requires a high degree of phoniness, hypocrisy, outright lying, and overall amorality or immorality.

Take Matt Lauer.  I happened to watch the Today Show one time at a relative’s house and was struck by how much baloney he and his co-hosts were spewing.  With feigned sincerity, sensitivity and authenticity, these skilled actors followed a politically-correct script full of superficial reporting, maudlin human-interest stories, and formulaic and sophomoric treatment of race and other hot-button issues.

Lauer et al. were smart enough to know that they had to put the right spin on their comments to be successful, and they were unscrupulous enough to do so.  At the same time, their bosses demanded unscrupulousness of their stars but are now feigning surprise that the same stars behaved unscrupulously with females.

It’s even worse with politicians.  Voters want their politicians to lie and steal on their behalf and then are shocked to find that the liars and stealers are unscrupulous in other ways.

The best politicians are the best liars and stealers.  They get buildings, roads and statues erected in their honor for their ability to rob Peter to pay Paul while convincing Peter that he got something for nothing.  They also have the skill of saying contradictory things to two different groups while coming across as sincere to both groups.

On a positive note, the dishonesty of politicians is what keeps citizens from killing each other.  Like plumbers and undertakers, being a politician is a dirty job that someone has to do given the realities of human nature.

By the way, speaking of buildings named after politicians, the mayor of Phoenix wants to name a terminal at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport after John McCain, “in recognition of the senator’s public service.”

Imagine that:  A politician thinks that politicians should be honored for their public service.

I’d rather honor roofers who fix leaking roofs, as they perform a real public service.  An airport terminal should be named after Jose Gonzales, who fixed my roof in the blazing summer heat of Phoenix.

If someone thinks that McCain went into politics as a public service and not for fame and power, then that person doesn’t know McCain’s sordid history in the years following his courage as a prisoner of war.

Lowlights:  McCain abruptly divorced his ailing, faithful wife to marry an Arizona beer baroness, whose father gave McCain a no-show job at his Anheuser-Bush distributorship so he could travel the state and get to know influential people.  This would be the same father-in-law who would later be indicted for a shady deal involving horse racing.  And it would be his daughter, the beer baroness and wife of John McCain, who was later caught stealing drugs from a charity, a theft that McCain asked the Arizona Republic newspaper to withhold reporting for a day so that he could have time to craft a public statement.  The newspaper went along with charade, because a bigshot at the paper was so close to McCain that he had given McCain his own column to tout the glories of McCain. It just so happens that the bigshot claimed to be a former fighter pilot and would parade around Phoenix in his old uniform.  It was a lie—a lie that McCain, as a former fighter pilot, had to see through.  McCain’s deceitful nature (political nature) also was in evidence when he first ran for Congress.  He was living with the baroness in a different district from the one with the open congressional seat, so he lied that he was living at his father-in-law’s house, which was in the right district.  Later, among other shady behavior, he was a main character in the Keating Five scandal.

All of this is of course overlooked by those whose self-interest has been served by McCain.

It’s the same with those who overlooked Bill Clinton’s sexual crimes and harassment, as well as with those who want to overlook the depravity of Judge Roy Moore or Al Franken.

It is said that politics makes strange bedfellows.  Based on recent events, politics makes perverted fellows who try to bed your wife or daughter or show them an erection.  Then we erect statues in their honor.  Who is the sickest here?

Libertarians have always ranted about the myths, totems, fairy tales, and propaganda put out by the government about itself and by politicians about themselves.  As a result, libertarians are branded as unpatriotic cynics and fruitcakes.

The criticism is warranted, in the sense that libertarians refuse to accept that myths, totems, fairy tales, and propaganda are the glue that holds together the body politic.  Once the glue melts, the government and other institutions lose their power and influence, and the masses become libertarians.

God help us.  Imagine a nation where most people are like me.

News Roundup 11/30/17

  • The US estimates the economy grew at 3.3% in the third quarter. [Link]
  • Philando Castile’s girlfriend settles a lawsuit with two cities for $800,000. [Link]
  • Hawaii orders medical marijuana users to voluntarily surrender their firearms. [Link]
  • The FBI attempted to manipulate a depressed young man into becoming a terrorist by posing as young women. [Link]
  • Peter Van Buren on the state of the US State Department. [Link]
  • Medhi Hasan on Trump march to war with Iran. [Link]
  • The US has sold $42 billion in weapons overseas in 2017. The 2017 totals are $10 billion more than in 2016. [Link]
  • Rex Tillerson criticized Russia in a speech given in Europe. [Link]
  • Opposing forces in Ukraine Civil War agree to release captives. [Link]
  • The Daily Beast details the US involved massacre of Somali civilians. [Link]
  • The Daily Caller lists the times the US has been wrongfully optimistic about the Afghanistan War. [Link]
  • Turkey claims to have killed PKK fighters in Northern Iraq. [Link]

News Roundup 11/29/17

  • Trump’s pick for FED Chair, Jerome Powell, pledges to continue to intervene in the US economy. [Link]
  • Harry Blain on the huge cost of US nuclear weapons. [Link]
  • Russian and US planes have a close encounter over the Black Sea. [Link]
  • North Korea tested a new ballistic missile. The missile landed in waters outside of Japan. Trump says we “will take care of it.” [Link]
  • French President Marcon says not enough being done to combat Islamists groups in West Africa. [Link]
  • Uhuru Kenyatta has been sworn in as Kenya’s new president. Police fired on protesters of the inauguration killing three. [Link]
  • Saudi Prince Miteb bin Abdullah has been freed from his imprisonment at the Ritz Carlton. The Prince agreed to a $1 billion settlement. [Link]
  • The US is attempting to alter the terrain of Afghanistan with bombs. [Link]
  • General Nicholson says the Pakistani are not doing enough to fight Taliban in Pakistan. [Link] Nicholson also said more US troops will be in combat. [Link]
  • Turkey announces plans to invade Syria and attack Syrian Kurds. [Link] Some fire was exchanged between Turkish and Kurdish troops. [Link]
  • Lebanon’s Prime Minister says he will resign unless Hezbollah accepts a new power-sharing agreement. [Link]
  • Daniel Larison on the starvation of the Yemeni people. [Link]
  • UK Prime Minister tells Saudi Arabia to end the blockade of Yemen. [Link]

Liberty is like a Healthy Marriage

There is a view in some circles that one system of social organization or another will be self-perpetuating. That if we arrive at libertarian paradise, it will exist forever. This is an absurd notion.

As long as there is social organization, there is the potential that the use of political means be resorted to as a basis to organize it. There is no such thing as a self perpetuating anarchy anymore than a self-perpetuating minarchism. Liberty is a like a healthy marriage. It has to be nurtured, devoted to, respected and loved. It isn’t some goal. You don’t get there.

News Roundup 11/28/17

  • Rep. Conyers steps down as ranking Democrat of House Judiciary Committee. [Link]
  • The Pentagon is trying to make a report on sex abuse in Afghanistan classified. [Link]
  • US reverses decision to close PLO office in DC. [Link]
  • Protests have started in Pakistan. The Pakistani military attempted to use force to end the protests leaving 250 injured. The Pakistani military announced they would not use force to end protests. [Link]
  • Pakistan’s Law Minister has resigned. Protest leaders are now calling for an end to protests. [Link]
  • Israel is attempting to block a UN report condemning Israel’s settlements. [Link]
  • Israel looks to pass a law to protect Prime Minister Netanyahu from corruption charges. [Link]
  • The US admits to having 9,000 troops in Iraq. That number could be higher as the US has 29,000 troops deployed around the world without listing their location. [Link]
  • Saudi Arabia allows some humanitarian aid to enter Yemen. Many ships continue to be blocked by Saudi Arabia from providing aid to Yemen. [Link]

News Roundup 11/27/17

  • Google admits to de-ranking sites like RT. [Link] Moon of Alabama analysis. [Link]
  • A man received a $15 million settlement form Baltimore City. He was wrongfully imprisoned for 20 years. [Link]
  • Amazon is providing the US intelligence community with a web service to host classified documents for $600 million. [Link]
  • Thomas Freidman writes pro Saudi propaganda. [Link] Zerohedge responds. [Link]
  • Saudi Arabi agrees to buy $7 billion in precision-guided bombs from the US. [Link]
  • A US plane crashed near the USS Ronald Regan near Japan. Eight sailors were rescued and three are still missing. The search for the remaining three sailors has been called off. [Link]
  • Catalonia’s ruling political party drops the independence push and looks for talks with Spain. [Link]
  • Putin signs a new law to allow Russia to require US-backed media register as a foreign agent. [Link]
  • Separatists in Ukraine have a new leader. [Link]
  • Myanmar and Bangladesh agree to a UN deal to allow Rohingya refugees return to Myanmar. 600,000 Rohingya refugees fled Myanmar for Bangladesh when Myanmar started an ethnic cleansing campaign against the Rohingya. [Link] The US declared the Myanmar campaign against the Rohingya to be ethnic cleansing. [Link]
  • Emmerson Mnangagwa has been sworn in as the new president of Zimbabwe. Robert Mugabe will not face any charges for crimes he committed as president. [Link]
  • The US claims to have killed 100 militants in Somalia. [Link]
  • Over 300 people were killed in an attack on a mosque in the Sinai. 25-30 militants attacked the Sufi mosque. A group has not claimed responsibility for the attack. [Link]
  • Israel plans to deport 40,000 African migrants. [Link]
  • Israel moves to block a UN report criticizing Israel for building settlements. [Link]
  • Lebanon’s Prime Minister returns to Lebanon. He announced he no longer plans to resign as president. [Link]
  • Trump told Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan that the US will end weapon transfers to the Syrian Kurds. [Link] Moon of Alabama reacts. [Link]
  • The Pentagon is expected to admit the US has 2,000 troops in Syria. [Link]
  • Airwars reports on October casualties from the war against ISIS. Airwars also looks at the results from the Raqqa liberation. [Link]

Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992

This is your security force.

Freedom Through Memedom

Success!

The great meme artist Mance Rayder has a new book out: Freedom Through Memedom: The 31-Day Guide to Waking Up to Liberty, featuring all of his best anarchist memes.

And he was nice enough to ask me to write the forward too.

Go buy it right now!

 

The Antiwar Comic: The Vietnam Fluke

So much came out of the Vietnam War.  It just seems to never end.

The Antiwar Comic:  The Vietnam Fluke

For more comics, visit The Webcomic Factory.

The Most Ignorant College Teacher of All Time

Benjamin Fong is on the faculty of the Barrett Honors College at Arizona State University (ASU), which means that this Arizonan helps to pay him through my state taxes.  But I’m more embarrassed than chagrined—embarrassed that such a dim bulb teaches at a public university.

Fong’s ignorance is on full display in his commentary pasted below this article, a commentary that was republished by the New York Times, which apparently likes dim bulbs.

Fong’s premise is that global warming is a worldwide crisis that can only be solved by doing away with capitalism and its profit motive.

Devoid of observational skills, Fong can’t see from his campus office the huge amount of energy wasted everyday by the nonprofit ASU.  Immense buildings are heated and cooled 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, but are occupied only a fraction of this time, unlike many 24/7 operations in the private sector.  Apparently, it hasn’t dawned on Fong and other faculty geniuses that the way to lower energy usage and reduce the cost of college is to offer classes year-round and around the clock.

Then there is the burning of fossil fuels for money-losing college sports, especially football and basketball, with their powerful floodlights, humongous TV screens, and chartered buses and airplanes.

Coincidentally I’m reading Red Famine, by Anne Applebaum, who details in this scholarly work of history the mass starvation inflicted on the Ukraine by Stalin and other Bolsheviks, who replaced the profit motive in agriculture with collectivization.  Today, Venezuelans are facing starvation at the hands of dictators who share Fong’s dislike of capitalism and enthusiasm for a centrally-planned economy.

If Fong would ever stroll over to the Economics department at ASU, he might learn about negative externalities.  A negative externality is created when businesses and other organizations shift costs to third parties or society as a whole.  Pollution generated by manufacturing companies becomes a negative externality if there are no consequences or costs incurred by the companies for fouling the environment.

As this former head of an environmental group knows, the most effective way of stopping the negative externality of pollution is to levy a stiff fine or tax on pollution.  That way, pollution costs are built into the cost of goods sold, which in turn reduces the demand for the goods and makes polluting firms less competitive.  By contrast, ending capitalism and the profit motive results in discarding the very economic system that excels at allocating scarce resources.

If global warming is indeed a crisis caused by the burning of fossil fuels, then a steep tax should be levied on fossil fuels.  But for heaven’s sake, don’t send any of the tax revenue to Fong and other polluters at ASU.

 

The Climate Crisis? It’s Capitalism, Stupid

Benjamin Y. Fong

THE STONE NOV. 20, 2017

Republished in the Nov. 22 New York Times

 

Even casual readers of the news know that the earth is probably going to look very different in 2100, and not in a good way.

A recent Times opinion piece included this quotation from the paleoclimatologist Lee Kump: “The rate at which we’re injecting CO2 into the atmosphere today, according to our best estimates, is 10 times faster than it was during the End-Permian.”

The End-Permian is a pre-dinosaurs era of mass extinction that killed 90 percent of the life in the ocean and 75 percent of it on land. It is also called the Great Dying. Although those who write about environmental change like to add notes of false personalization around this point — “My children will be x years old when catastrophe y happens” — there is really no good way of acclimating the mind to facts of this magnitude.

However, the cause of the disaster that, by all indications, we are already living through should be clearer. It is not the result of the failure of individuals to adopt the moralizing strictures of “green” consciousness, and it is a sign of just how far we have to go that some still believe reusable shopping bags and composting (perfectly fine in their own right) are ways out of this mess.

It is also not the deceit of specific immoral companies that is to blame: We like to pick out Volkswagen’s diesel scandal, but it is only one of many carmakers that “deliberately exploit lax emissions tests.” Nor does the onus fall on the foundering of Social Democratic reforms and international cooperation: Even before the United States backed out of the Paris Accord, we were well on our way to a 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit temperature rise by 2100, “a temperature that at times in the past has meant no ice at either pole.”

 

The real culprit of the climate crisis is not any particular form of consumption, production or regulation but rather the very way in which we globally produce, which is for profit rather than for sustainability. So long as this order is in place, the crisis will continue and, given its progressive nature, worsen. This is a hard fact to confront. But averting our eyes from a seemingly intractable problem does not make it any less a problem. It should be stated plainly: It’s capitalism that is at fault.

As an increasing number of environmental groups are emphasizing, it’s systemic change or bust. From a political standpoint, something interesting has occurred here: Climate change has made anticapitalist struggle, for the first time in history, a non-class-based issue.

Every weekday, get thought-provoking commentary from Op-Ed columnists, the Times editorial board and contributing writers from around the world.

There are many reasons we do not typically talk about climate change in this way. The wealthy are holding fast to theirs. Bought politicians and state violence are on their side. Eco-apartheid is not yet seen as full-on apartheid. Everyday people have plenty to keep up with, and they don’t want to devote their precious time off work to often tedious political meetings. The inertia, it is sad to say, makes enough sense.

Perhaps the most common belief about this problem is that it is caused by widespread ignorance — even outright “stupidity” — and that its solution lies in its opposite, intelligence. This belief is neatly expressed in progressive opposition to Donald Trump and his administration. Trump voters are often criticized for being unintelligent, for voting against their objective interests. Trump himself is regularly portrayed as unintelligent.

The basic idea is that if voters were intelligent, they would vote for an intelligent person who listened to intelligent people and all would be well. It is a staple of the liberal imaginary. Reflected here is the obtuse belief that the populist tide is simply mistaken, that it has gotten something wrong, which has the effect of veiling the real and justified dissatisfaction with the past 40 years of neoliberalism. Also reflected is the common view, which is not confined to one end of the political spectrum, that our biggest problems are essentially technical ones, and that the solution to them lies in the empowerment of intelligent people. The aura around Elon Musk is an extreme example of this kind of thinking.

The problem with the general view that intelligence will save us is that it involves pinning the failures of capitalist society on supposedly dumb people (them), who, so the logic goes, need to be replaced with supposedly smart ones (us). This is a spectacular delusion.

When a company makes a decision that is destructive to the environment, for instance, it is not because there are bad or unintelligent people in charge: Directors typically have a fiduciary responsibility that makes the bottom line their only priority. They serve a function, and if they don’t, others can take their place. If something goes wrong — which is to say, if something endangers profit making — they can serve as convenient scapegoats, but any stupid or dangerous decisions they make result from being personifications of capital.

The claim here is not that unintelligent people do not do unintelligent things, but rather that the overwhelming unintelligence involved in keeping the engines of production roaring when they are making the planet increasingly uninhabitable cannot be pinned on specific people. It is the system as a whole that is at issue, and every time we pick out bumbling morons to lament or fresh-faced geniuses to praise is a missed opportunity to see plainly the necessity of structural change.

Put differently, the hope that we can empower intelligent people to positions where they can design the perfect set of regulations, or that we can rely on scientists to take the carbon out of the atmosphere and engineer sources of renewable energy, serves to cover over the simple fact that the work of saving the planet is political, not technical. We have a much better chance of making it past the 22nd century if environmental regulations are designed by a team of people with no formal education in a democratic socialist society than we do if they are made by a team of the most esteemed scientific luminaries in a capitalist society. The intelligence of the brightest people around is no match for the rampant stupidity of capitalism.

On the defensive for centuries, socialists have become quite adept at responding to objections from people for whom the basic functions of life seem difficult to reproduce without the motive power of capital. There are real issues here, issues that point to the opacity of sociability, as Bini Adamczak’s recent book, “Communism for Kids,” playfully explores. But the burden of justification should not fall on the shoulders of those putting forward an alternative. For anyone who has really thought about the climate crisis, it is capitalism, and not its transcendence, that is in need of justification. And don’t be surprised, or fooled, when its defenders point to the tireless work of intelligent people.

______________

Benjamin Y. Fong is a faculty fellow at Barrett, the Honors College at Arizona State University, the author of “Death and Mastery: Psychoanalytic Drive Theory and the Subject of Late Capitalism,” and an editor at Damage Magazine.

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