Some are referencing this Chris Matthews performance last week on Hardball regarding his defense of Michael Chertoff. Quite rigtly…It was a particularly putrid performance. But what Matthews said on his show yesterday, in his ending segment, “Let Me Finish,” is worse. It’s obscene.
The story that wasn’t a story at all: the fuss over the TSA pat downs.
Let’s compare a couple of things: How do you compare the GI who loses an arm overseas — or more — to the embarrassment someone might feel during an airport scan or even a pat down?
How do you compare those two? How do you say that one is worth the fight against terror and the other is not?
How do you compare the denial that waterboarding is torture, not that it may not be necessary (that’s another argument) but that it’s not torture? That’s what the people on the right have been swearing to on a stack of Bibles.
And then, hear from this same howling crowd that they just can’t stand the pain and human hurt of a pat down at the airport. One is not torture, the obvious torture, and one is.
I guess it depends on what your definition of “is” is.
I’ve been thinking of all this over Thanksgiving weekend, and thinking about what the Theodore Roosevelt historian Edmund Morris said on “Face the Nation” Sunday.
He was asked what Teddy Roosevelt would say about people today and instead he offered a view from an immigrant to this country: that Americans are “lazy, obese, and complacent.”
What he is actually saying? He’s saying that soldiers getting blown up in Iraq and Afghanistan obligates us to invasive security searches here at home. To deny this duty is to be “lazy, obese, and complacent.” This, quite accurately, could be labeled as Mussolini, fascist tripe. But he is not saying this directly. He is making the argument in the language of the left/right cultural war. So, in this language, he delineates the duties the political right have championed in the War on Terror and then caustically chides the right for shirking a “far less” intrusive duty of the simple pat-down in the execution of this war. In the left/right cultural war, it is only the right that now opposes the TSA.
Now Matthews is someone I used to watch pretty regularly back in the early part of the Bush Admin before the Iraq War. At that time, the running theme of Hardball was that the push for the Iraq war was underlain by a Neo-conservative ideological conspiracy. And he was right. Later, he would zealously cover the “Valerie Plame” story as it transpired on a daily basis. This was the smoking gun of the conspiracy–that the WMD rationale for the Iraq war was an outright fabrication. However, as the Democrats regained power, and particularly when Obama assumed power, this reporting slant all but faded from the show. The ideological basis for this War on Terror, or at least the execution of it, was no longer questioned. Now it was secure.
DoubleThink, of course, is where the political context determines what you think about something. In one context, you may be for A, and in another, against it. The restrictive dichotomous language/vocabulary of NewSpeak allows DoubleThink without cognitive dissonance. DoubleThink, however, is not hypocrisy. Indeed, in Orwell’s novel, the past is changed at will. There is no hypocrisy. DoubleThink is simply thought control.
Reality, however, is not quite the George Orwell novel. Politically there is a dichotomous left/right culture war that feeds a restricted vocabulary that allows DoubleThink to thrive with impunity; but, empirically, for those outside this left/right culture war, the cognitive dissonance is plain as day. Glenn Greenwald makes his living deconstructing this cognitive dissonance every day. To see how permanent war in this left/right cultural war leads to a toxic authoritarianism, simply reference Matthews’ commentary above. For those who claim left/right is a struggle between reality vs reality denial, that is fucking laughable…
An update to this previous post, Playing the Kevin Bacon Game within the Libertarian Movement.
Ames’ and Levine’s article didn’t directly call Tyner a plant, and they didn’t say that he was funded by the Koch brothers. Nonetheless, their article gave that impression–by placing Tyner in the article’s lead and by using a generally disparaging tone to refer to him. The article also used innuendo to cast doubt on Tyner’s motives, and when Tyner denied any connections to lobbyists and to Koch-funded organizations in an interview, we printed his denial–but we didn’t press hard enough to get clarity on his actions and intentions. We should have stopped and done just that, and if Tyner’s story checked out, we should have removed him from the piece.
Citizens from across the political spectrum are right to call out the TSA’s invasive procedures and the threat to civil liberties they represent. We have long opposed, and exposed, the continuing encroachments of the national security state, though we also think that those who applauded each sacrifice of liberty for security under the Bush administration should expect to be regarded with skepticism if the presence of a Democrat in the White House suddenly prompts libertarian concerns. As John Tyner pointed out, this issue “isn’t Republican and it isn’t Democratic.” It is also simply a fact that the backlash against TSA procedures has led to calls for racial profiling and for the privatization of the agency.
vanden Heuvel, however, fails to apologize to George Donnelly, Pete Eyre or Meg McLain. Each has subsequently penned a response to The Nation’s accusations of being a Koch stoogie.
vanden Heuvel is correct in pointing out it is legitimate to critically vet those “who applauded each sacrifice of liberty for security under the Bush administration should expect to be regarded with skepticism if the presence of a Democrat in the White House suddenly prompts libertarian concerns.” And it certainly is valid to point out there are those who are using the TSA outrage as a pretext to forward their own profiling or privatization schemes. However, neither hypocrisy nor opportunism characterizes the broad libertarian movement in regard to TSA or the larger context of the National Security State. But it is certainly clear that Ames and Levine, and in particular, Ames, has a crawl up his ass via vis libertarianism which has produced a stenchy egg for The Nation when it decided to publish this opinion journalism masquerading as investigative journalism.
As has been reported, it looks like ICE, which is the principal investigative arm of DHS, has begun seizing domains under the pretext of IP infringement. But it’s actually not ICE who is executing the mechanics of the seizures. It’s a private company, immixGroup IT Solutions. Here is what is going down.
In May of this year, immixGroup IT Solutions is awarded a one year IT Services contract with DHS. The particulars of this contract:
Under this new contract, immixGroup will provide information technology operational services and support, implementation, and maintenance of DHS ICE C3′s software applications, network and CyberSecurity systems, as well as the maintenance and enhancement of applications that support law enforcement activities.
The contract includes one base year, one 12-month option period, and two six-month option periods; covers all four divisions of C3 (Child Exploitation, Cyber Crimes, Computer Forensics, and Cyber Training); and is critical to C3′s pursuit of criminal activity. immixGroup’s services in this effort include network maintenance, application development and support, forensic lab assistance, data storage maintenance, and information assurance.
On November 24th, immixGroup IT Solutions registered the domain SEIZEDSERVERS.COM, and primary and secondary nameservers, NS1.SEIZEDSERVERS.COM, NS2.SEIZEDSERVERS.COM, with Network Solutions, which is the registrar for this domain. Since the DHS contract is provisionally for one year only, the domain was only registered for one year(expires in one year).
immixGroup IT Solutions is using CaroNet to host their domain, including the authoritative name servers(NS1.SEIZEDSERVERS.COM, NS2.SEIZEDSERVERS.COM) for this domain. They have setup a simple web page, http://seizedservers.com/ or http://22.214.171.124 which is the same “Notification of Seizure” page you will get if you type in one of the seized domains in browser address bar(if you’re paranoid: yes, they are tracking using both Google analytics and piwik).
ICE is not actually “seizing” any servers or forcing hosting companies to remove web content from their servers; what they are doing is using immixGroup IT Solutions to switch the authoritative name servers for these “seized domains.” But they are not doing it at the Registrar level(by contacting the registrar for the domain and forcing them to update the authoritative name server info to point to NS1.SEIZEDSERVERS.COM, NS2.SEIZEDSERVERS.COM), but rather through the agency who controls the top level domain. In this case, all the “seized domains” appear to be .com and the agency/company who has the ICANN contract for this TLD is VeriSign(which also controls .net TLD). The changes are being made at the top-level authoritative name servers for the .com TLD, which would be the [a-m].gtld-servers.net. These are controlled by VeriSign(note: these top-level name servers are also authoritative for .net and .edu TLDs).
So, VeriSign, the owner of the .com TLD, is working in cooperation with DHS, and it appears immixGroup IT Solutions has what we might call an “IT Support Ticket system” setup with VeriSign.
That web servers are not being seized and web content not being deleted can easily be verified by clicking this link, http://126.96.36.199, which is the original IP Address of a seized domain, torrent-finder.com. It’s still up, and it appears it has registered a new domain, torrent-finder.info, that resolves to the original IP address. This site is being hosted by SoftLayer Technologies in Dallas, TX. So, it is certainly within US jurisdiction to be shut down if there was “a case to be made.”
Now the .info TLD is not controlled by VeriSign; it’s controlled by Afilias. So, an interesting little experiment would be to see if the torrent-finder.info domain remains up. As of now, we can only conclude that there is back deal between DHS and VeriSign that makes any .com or .net domain subject to seizure by the actions of immixGroup IT Solutions.
Lastly, there has been some speculation that this recent business of “domain seizure” portends the same tactics being used to seize the “wikileaks.org” domain. From a technical standpoint, understand that the .org TLD is not controlled by VeriSign; it is controlled by the Public Interest Registry. An interesting thing however: PIR has contracted out the technical operations to Afilias. So, if we were to see torrent-finder.info similarly seized, then this would mean that Afilias is also in cahoots with DHS, which could imply the .org TLD could be subject to the same type of “domain seizures.” As of now, there is no evidence of that. And, it should be clear, these type of domain seizures are completely different than the 2008 attempted shutdown of wikileaks.org by the US government. In that case, a U.S. District Court issued an injunction ordering Dynadot, which was the registrar for the domain, to remove all traces of Wikileaks from its records. That didn’t hold up.
Libertarianism, politically, can be cast as a radical liberal critique of the social contract. The libertarian position is that this so-called “social contract” doesn’t survive the class theory critique. TSA is serving as a textbook example of this libertarian critique in real time while also illustrating the absurd lengths Statists are resorting to in terms of rationalizing the TSA in some cloak of a “social contract.”
Case in Point: Ruth Marcus in her Washington Post article,Don’t touch my junk? Grow up, America, informs us by fiat that there is a “modern social contract” afoot. Of course, one might ask whence this “modern social contract”? Who deliberated it? Who signed it? What are the terms?
It’s not difficult to establish a class theory analysis behind TSA and the expansion of the TSA security procedures. However, it’s pretty comical reading the ex post justification of this vis a vis “social contract theory.” Ruth Marcus informs us that the new modern social contract is that information asymmetry regarding your body and health with medical experts(you don’t know if that lump on your body is cancerous, but they do) justifies a public interest in resolving any information asymmetry regarding security(you know that lump under your clothes is not a bomb, but they don’t know). I suppose you can read this as ObamaCare justifying TSA.
Ruth Marcus’ modern social contract, in essence, boils down to an argument that making an appointment with a proctologist thusly opens you up to an anal cavity search by security experts in any type of “public space.” Marcus claim is that the public has no more ability to question the rational basis of security protocols devised by security experts than it has of questioning the rational basis of medical experts telling it that males should have annual prostate examinations after 50 or females should have regular breast examinations. The public doesn’t question the latter; it shouldn’t question the former. So grow up…
My defense of the new procedures assumes that there is some rational basis for the screening madness: that the techniques work and that there is not a less intrusive alternative.
So much for the Progressive contention that Hayek was a crank…
Anytime anyone says anything libertarian, spit on them. Libertarians are by definition enemies of the state: they are against promoting American citizens’ general welfare and against policies that create a perfect union. Like Communists before them, they are actively subverting the Constitution and the American Dream, and replacing it with a Kleptocratic Nightmare.
Mark Ames The Rally to Restore Vanity: Generation X Celebrates it’s Homeric Struggle Against Lameness
In a previous post, TSA and the Political Left Authority Tards, I included this article, TSAstroturf: The Washington Lobbyists and Koch-Funded Libertarians Behind the TSA Scandal, from “The Nation” in my compiled list. However, in the interim, that Nation article created a backlash that was lead by the likes of Glenn Greenwald and Jane Hamsher among others. Other journalists, including one that works for The Nation, would follow suit in their condemnation.
Now anyone familiar with the libertarian movement would laugh at the two-bit conspiratorial hackery of The Nation hit piece as just a bad and lazy McCarthyite version of the Kevin Bacon game. It’s pretty easy in the Kevin Bacon game to connect almost anyone in the libertarian movement in two or less moves to Charles and David Koch. Myself: I’m a lapsed member of the LP. David Koch is a former vice-presidential candidate of the LP. Therefore, I’m a Koch plant. I’m a card-carrying member of the ACLU. The Koch brothers donated twenty million dollars to the ACLU a few years ago. The ACLU is thus a Koch-funded organization, and I’m once again a Koch plant(It should be noted that Greenwald, who is also a member of the ACLU and who conducted a Cato-commissioned study on Portugal Decriminalization, would likewise be an example of another Koch Plant).
Because Jason Sorens is an Affiliated Scholar at the Mercatus Center, it’s a given that any libertarian or libertarian activist in New Hampshire is a Koch plant. Meg McLain(who The Nation claimed made up her story about the TSA despite the fact that video evidence pretty much corroborates much of her story, although not all of it; absence of full corroboration, though, hardly implies any type of hoax) lives in New Hampshire. Thus, she is automatically a Koch plant to begin with. That she met with Pete Eyre on his “Liberty Tour” only confirms that she is a Koch secret agent. George Donnelly knows McLain; therefore George is a secret Koch plant. This little exercise in the Kevin Bacon game is thus used to cast suspicion of a Koch Astroturf conspiracy over any disobedience to the TSA. The Nation invites other journalists to join them in their little Kevin Bacon game.
In the case of John Tyner, who, from his blog postings, apparently holds radical libertarian views, it appears he might be an example of someone who has had no formal association with anything libertarian. Thus the Kevin Bacon game would be a bit harder to apply in his case. So Ames and Levine merely resorted to establishing the case he was a “right-winger” by the fact he went to private Christian High School and lived in the vicinity of a military base. Plus he has skeptical views on voting. This was enough for them to eagerly invite other journalists to dig around. There’s a Kevin Bacon game to be played here; one just needed to look harder…
Quite rightly, there was journalistic backlash of sorts against this piece. It was that bad. Ames and Levine penned a response. The gist: Their little Kevin Bacon game was not in the service of partisan politics; rather was in the service of some class theory critique that corporate privatization and profiling were the casus belli against TSA. The “Kevin Baconization” of John Tyner was merely peripheral to the main argument.
But the response doesn’t hold up to a more contextual examination. Let us reference an earlier article written by Mr. Ames, the one that contains the quote referenced at the beginning of this post. In that article, Ames juxtaposes a letter by EA Hanks against the backdrop of the Jon Stewart Rally. The intent was to criticize the cultural lameness of the Gen X/Gen Y, but the underlying thesis is that culture and politics have been corrupted by libertarianism. Writes Ames:
Here’s where something much more sinister about what passes for “Liberal” in my generation is revealed: the totally-selfish Ayn Rand activist, the petulant Libertarian protagonist who has a brand manager’s understanding of what it means to be “Liberal” or “Left”. It is this brand manager’s disillusionment with the brand that is fuelling the Jon Stewart rally—by identifying herself so closely with something that turned out to be not nearly as cool as the buzz claimed, she made herself vulnerable, and mockable. Which may seem frivolous to you old folks out there, but for her and for Gen-X/Yers, exposing yourself like that is the equivalent of a decade of marching for Civil Rights and against the war, getting arrested, beaten, jailed, negotiating with authorities, teaching, etc….here is the Gen-X/Y equivalent of “laying it all on the line.”
Ames has been complaining that the New Yorker plagiarized his journalism regarding the Koch brothers, but I would suggest that Ames’ journalism regarding the critique of the “libertarian culture” of Gen X/Gen Y is plagiarizing Mark Lilla. Ames sees this cultural libertarianism as creating political lameness characterized by a (liberal) political culture replete with self-absorbed, window dressing poseurs. Ames excoriates EA Hanks (the daughter of Tom Hanks) as symptom of a culture that equates vulnerability with undressing yourself in a blog or in front of a Oprah Winfrey television audience rather than with the old-school version of it–which would be making yourself vulnerable by marching for civil rights or getting arrested, beaten, jailed, or negotiating with authorities.
Ames blames this on libertarianism and you can see why now how libertarian “Direct Action” would put a monkey wrench is his world view. Therefore, any libertarian direct action has to be deconstructed as Koch astro-turfing by playing the Kevin Bacon Game. In the case of John Tyner, however, Ames and Levine failed to connect him to the game. No matter, they just smeared him anyway. It was this smear that raised the ire of some in the journalistic community. Ames and Levine responded by claiming he was just a peripheral figure in their argument. But they are lying. He would actually be the unexplainable anomaly in their worldview. The one that couldn’t be connected to Koch and the one who wasn’t interested in undressing himself before a media audience.
John Tyner made himself vulnerable by taking on the power of the TSA. For this he was smeared by Ames and Levine, demonstrating that Ames critique of political lameness is nothing but a sham. Indeed, Ames critique of liberalism, as he defines it, is vacuous because he is in no way a liberal. Writes Ames in the conclusion of his Political Lameness article about what it means to be a “non-lame” leftist:
What does the Left stand for? Let me suggest a few things in people’s own personal interests in these decaying times that the Left should stand for: first, people need money. Then if they have money, they need Life. Then they might be interested in “ideals” set out in the contract that this country is founded on. Ever read the preamble to the Constitution? There’s nothing about private property there and self-interest. Nothing at all about that. It’s a contract whose purpose is clearly spelled out, and it’s a purpose that’s the very opposite of the purpose driving Stewart’s rally, or the purpose driving the libertarian ideology so dominant over the past few generations. This country, by contract, was founded in order to strive for a “more Perfect Union”—that’s “union,” as in the pairing of the words “perfect” and “union”—not sovereign, not states, not local, not selfish, but “union.” And that other purpose at the end of the Constitution’s contractual obligations: promote the “General Welfare.” That means “welfare.” Not “everyone for himself” but “General Welfare.” That’s what it is to be American: to strive to form the most perfect union with each other, and to promote everyone’s general betterment. That’s it. The definition of an American patriot is anyone promoting the General Welfare of every single American, and anyone helping to form the most perfect Union—that’s “union”, repeat, “Union” you dumb fucks. Now, our problem is that there are a lot of people in this country who have dedicated their entire lives to subverting the stated purpose of this country. We must be prepared to identify those who disrupt and sabotage our national purpose of creating this “more perfect union” identifying those who sabotage our national goal of “promoting the General Welfare”—and calling them by their name: traitors. You who strive to form this Perfect Union and promote General Welfare—You are Patriots.
That ain’t liberalism. Indeed it smells like the same communitarian, authoritarian claptrap that has underwritten the left authoritarian horrors of the 20th century. And you can’t try to dress it up in the language of “Social Democracy” when you write things like: “We must be prepared to identify the traitors.” And you can’t pretend to equivocate on your authoritarianism when you so clearly embrace organs of the National Security State in your Nation Hit Piece:
As Media Matters pointed out recently, the whole reason why the TSA was formed was because private contractors paying airport security minimum wages were considered a big part of the reason why the 9/11 terror attacks were allowed to happen. Since the formation of the TSA, not a single terror attack originating from an American airport has taken place. But apparently that’s not nearly as relevant as the complaints of a few libertarians.
In the “response article,” Ames actually celebrates charges of being called an authoritarian, indeed wears such charges as a badge of honor, because some Clinton flunkie once called him a communist. Apparently, for Ames, that badge is a license to return the favor, by calling those who disagree politically with him, particularly the libertarians, “traitors” and “Enemies of the State.” For Yasha Levine, who appeals to his Soviet Russian experience to deflect charges of authoritarianism, I will give that the same amount of consideration he gives to Ayn Rand’s similar experience of Jewish persecution in Communist Russia, in terms of evaluating a political philosophy. At least in the case of Rand, I can understand how experiencing horrible persecution underlain by DoubleThink would propel her to formulate a philosophical doctrine of Objectivism. In the case of Levine, I fail to see how his own personal experiences with Soviet Russia gives him license to engage in his own brand of DoubleThink.
For “The Nation,” whose website is graced by imagery and advertisements for the Civil Rights movement, I would only remind you that the Civil Rights movement, an institution that is so revered now, but at one time was a movement that was not so revered, was subject to a similar Kevin Bacon game that it was connected to a foreign communist plot. I would also remind you that the methods of the civil rights, civil disobedience, were borrowed from the libertarian tradition, not the corporate liberal tradition. Defending TSA demonstrates the utter depths of corporate liberal dementia…
What a miserable comedown this is for the Democratic merit class. Reduced to the peckerwood perversions of the Republican Party…
Stop Me Before I Vote Again
Last week, I blogged about the relative silence of the Political Left regarding the new TSA security procedures. Since then, the crickets,to a certain extent, have stopped chirping. A near-unanimous noise that now emanates: Status Quo, bitch.
Here’s a brief rundown.
The protests are nothing more than a Koch-funded libertarian plot. Polls show that 4 out of 5 Americans approve of the new procedures. Move along. Nothing more here to see.
Apparently, John Tyner reminds William Saletan of the underwear bomber. Writes Saletan:
Those words could just as easily have been written by the underwear bomber. Research the airports, look for the weak link, and pray that you don’t have to go through a scanner that can see what’s between your legs. So, yes, Mr. Tyner. Before you board my plane, I want the guys from TSA to look at your junk. And if you refuse, I want them to touch it.
In Kinsely’s opinion, the TSA customer service experience puts the Post Office to shame. Stop your bitchin people, it could be worse…
But in my experience, the TSA people are unfailingly polite. I don’t mean almost always: I mean 100 percent of the time. Compare this with, say, the Postal Service. In five years, I’ve never had anything but a pleasant experience. (Well, you can’t honestly call the whole experience pleasant, but the TSA people have always — always, without exception — been pleasant and usually a bit apologetic.) And think of what they have to do and put up with all day: people’s smelly feet when they take off their shoes, repeating and repeating the same information about putting your cell phone in your carry-on and taking your laptop out, and then watching people get this simple instruction wrong, again and again.
Same talking points as “The Nation,” just substitute Matt Drudge for the Koch brothers.
Left Authoritarian Porn.
Yes, I hate some of these TSA security procedures, but because Obama is in charge, I now feel compelled to compose an anti- anti-TSA rant. The gist of this rant: Republicans are hypocrites.
Kos can never pass up a good opportunity to exercise his cultural war bona fides. Yes groping is bad, but remember, the GOP is against abortion. And, we can’t forget, most of the noise is coming from white privileged males. Of course, Kos, being a white privileged male himself, pontificates that NSA wiretapping is actually far worse for white privileged males than groping. I’m not sure where that leaves females, children, people with disabilities, and non-white dudes, but I’m fairly certain he will grace us with a clarification at some point.
The TSA promises with right hand over bible and left-hand over dead mother’s grave to reform itself. Meanwhile, there is a sinister GOP plot afoot to introduce profiling. No other greater authority than Michael Chertoff debunks the danger of getting rid of these scanners.
Matt Welch at Reason has a scorecard on the TSA ass-kissing from our nation’s prestigious newspaper editorial boards. Damn, if only the radical center could figure out a way to subsidize these ass-kissers, sanity would surely follow.
Radley Balko digs up some historical dirt indicating that the LA Times is copying and pasting a way old editorial in favor of Japanese Interment with just a few modifications applicable to the current context.
Now, to be fair, the noise coming from the political left is not entirely unanimous1. FireDogLake, for example, has been highly critical of TSA and Obama. Crooks and Liars published a piece that blasted Chris Matthews of Hardball for his faux outrage over any insinuation that Michael Chertoff is operating in anything but the public interest. Digby seems to have taken a break from the cultural war on this issue and writes something that resembles empirical sanity. ED Klain, it looks like, survived the attempted purge at Balloon Juice, to to try to beat some sense in the yokels over there. Roderick Long commented in my previous post that Keith Olbermann has been pretty good on this issue. So Keith is just a Partisan Tard and not an Authority Tard. Well, I suppose that’s saying something…
Now, with respect to the Political Right, there is no doubt that quite a bit of this recent bandwagon jumping over the TSA is in part motivated to crack Dem skulls over profiling. And the GOP stench of hypocrisy on this matter is certainly nauseating, just as the current partisan Dem hypocritical stench is nauseating; just as the left over stench of Dem hypocrisy from the Bush years when when they pretended to oppose Bush authoritarianism is nauseating; just as the left over stench of GOP hypocrisy from the 90s when they pretended to oppose Clinton Authoritarianism is still nauseating. And I would be remiss not to point out that quite a bit of the current federal security apparati that came into being after 9-11 had their genesis in the wet dreams of Clinton and Reno and in Dem Authority Tards like Biden and Lieberman.
As a final note, one can probably use this post as a part III, and the final part, of a little series I’ve been posting on “What happened to Liberaltarianism.” The final conclusion seems to be that actual liberals are about as rare of breed as libertarians. I’m not one of those who demand liberal mean “classical liberal,” but “liberalism” sure as hell isn’t a synonym for Paternalism. What happened to Liberals answers the question of what happened to Liberaltarianism.
1 There is, of course, of sphere of the non-aligned left out there that is not libertarian and ranges from anti-authoritarian to highly political, that has been and remains fierce critics of Obama and the Dems. Think the writers over at Stop me before I vote again, Chris Floyd, Chris Hedges, Glen Ford, etc. By Political Left, I mean the “left” that is aligned with the Dems or institutions that are by and large subservient to the Dems.
This article was originally published at Freedom Democrats.
Regarding this post that expressed some discomfort with the my use of the term “communitarianism” in discussing a return of radical politics, I would like to clarify a few points. First, Communitarianism, just as, say, the term libertarianism, can mean different things to different people, so let me take this time to state that by communitarianism, I’m generally not referring to non-propertarian forms of voluntary governance. The disputes between individualist and communitarian anarchists are another thing entirely, totally divorced from any context of political discussions. For the record, however, I will state that I’m a bit of centrist when it comes to these type of intellectual debates; although I take an obvious individualist approach, I nonetheless believe that social orders that have a rich concept of public property(i.e., the commons) better serve the cause of liberty. Now, of course, by public property, I do not mean “collective property,” by which it is meant property that some ruling class defines the limits,duties, etc for access. But my criticisms of, say, noted communitarian Michael Taylor’s Community, Anarchy, and Liberty, is another post for another day, and frankly, that mode of communitarianism, that is, stateless communities, has never been the ire of my keyboard on this site.
The form of communitarianism that does raise my ire is “the community as the State.” Specifically:
I’m referring to (1) the influence of an academic movment that gained prominence in countering the academic treatment of liberal justice by John Rawls, and to a lesser extent, the more radical ideas against any distributive justice by the likes of Robert Nozick (2) the denial of any univeralism, particularly the denial of any negative rights, and that rights, instead, are positive derivations of duties or commitments (3) these duties and commitments are impersonally grounded in cultural institutions (4) legislatures should be accurate reflections of these cultural institutions.
In a sense, communitarianism, in political terms, is a form of “republicanism,” with a heavy reliance on cultural institutions to define the regime of duties, commitments, obligations, from which then flow a regime of rights. Consider this old post from last year, Sign the Divorce Papers, where I criticize Open Left’s 3rd rate pop-communitarian rhetoric regarding liberalism being a “central component of a dominant racial ideology;” in essence, liberalism is just a white man’s construct for social dominance. Now, Steven Kelts, who was fresh off of proclaiming the “Death of Libertarianism” at the time over at The Monkey Cage, took time to comment on my post. Kelts, unlike the 3rd-rate pontificators at Open Left, is actually a 1st rate intellect. Read his comment to my post. He didn’t think much of left-wing libertarianism or counter-culture. Of course, for a communitarian like Kelts, counter-culture is a real problem. Counter-culture represents counter-institutions that fall outside the politically-sanctioned institutions from which our duties, and as a corollary, our rights are supposed to flow. Thus the problem, and hence, the frosty attitude the likes of Kelts may express toward such, even though Kelts is supposed to be, and would consider himself, a “lefty.”
In my post regarding Radical Politics, my reference to politics becoming “more communitarian” as a result of 60s radicalism was not a reference to corporatism per se. Corporatism is the granting of market privedge or monopoly by the State. By communitarian, I meant something different, specifically, the birth of cultural identity politics in the aftermath of Big Government Corporate Liberalism failure and the resultant political fight over the shaping of cultural institutions, which, in large part, superceded the class politics that had originally spawned corporate liberalism. Politics became much more of a cultural war. In the aftermath of 60s radicalism and counter-culture was it now the function of the State to “preserve and protect Christianity as the so-called moral foundation of western civilization” or to instead promote gender and ethnic institutional diversity?
So Republicans, in running for national office, would have to placate evangelical groups(get their approval) before running and the same, likewise, when it came to the Dems, who would have to secure approval from women’s groups, african-american leaders, gay organizations, etc.
So, this is what I mean by left-wing or right-wing communitarianism. However, communitarian politics is largely behind what has steadily spurned a long term trend of voter independence from either party. The term “moving to the center” really refers to politicians from either party distancing themselves from the very cultural idendity groups that they had to secure approval from in the first place to be a viable party candidate.
From a libertarian class analysis perspective, communitarian politics, whether left-wing or right-wing, is a red-herring concerning the public choice incentives that actually drive governance and legislation. That is, the never-ending incentives to create Tullock Auction artificial rents for bidding. That’s why I called the choice between the Dems and the Repubs a Morton’s Fork of sorts.
It’s interesting to actually review the end results of communitarian politics 40 years later. Prayer breakfasts are now a staple of the political class, but popular culture today, nonetheless, makes 60s popular look quaint and conservative. The Nixon Drug War, intended as enforcement against hippie counter-culture “poisoning” the suburban teenage middle class, back fired in the end, sowing the seeds of a black hip-hop counter-culture, born out of that drug war, that influenced white middle class teenage suburban culture 20 years later to an extent that would have horrified Nixon and probably would make his brain implode. Counter-culture, and even pop culture, took on aspects of prison chic.
For the left-wing communitarians, they got their diversified political and cultural institutions, including a prison system, of course, that greatly expanded it’s institutional population and minority ethnic representation, therein.
To anyone not emotionally tied to partisan politics, communitarian politics has run it’s course. Frankly, it’s become a bad joke. It was bad enough having to witness so-called conservatives who viewed the Reno-Clinton “War on Terror” proposed legislative paradigm in the 90s as a means for gun-grabbing, then, suddenly expropriate it in the aftermath of 9-11 as means to beat up on Democrats as unpatriotic. Now, we have to watch Barack Obama expropriate a Republican Health Care plan and turn Democrats and so-called liberals into ardent defenders of an IRS enforced mandate to buy corporate health insurance and to smear anyone who opposes it as racist or sympathizers of Jim Crow. In case anyone has forgotten, choice was a major campaign issue between Obama and Clinton, with Obama even running a “Harry and Louise” ads against HillaryCare at the time. But now, choice is not even a “right-wing talking point;” now it’s all of a sudden a “Jim Crow” talking point.
I would emphasize not to pay much attention to the tripe of the mainstream political pundit class. It’s wrong, it’s been wrong. Let me clue you in: when an extremist like David Frum, the speech architect of “the Axis of Evil” is being protrayed as some rejected voice of moderation by the Beltway elite, I just have to laugh. I wouldn’t put much stock either in what Ed Kilgore has to say, or what the New Republic has to say, recalling the nitwits at the New Republic were shilling for a values voter embrace of Terri Schiavo by the Dem Party back in 2005.
Listen, the Beltway wisdom called the anti-war movement “moonbat,” and proclaimed that if it was perceived as partisan, it would make the Dems unelectable. Well, the visible anti-war movement was in fact, more or less partisan, but it also foreshadowed an independent anti-war trend underneath. The Tea Parties can be called partisan, which they are, but they also likewise underly a legitimate disgust with American politics.
I read the Obama Coalition at the Atlantic. Thomas Edsall’s thesis, similar to mine, is that communitarian politics, that is, the politics that supplanted the FDR coalition, has run it’s course as well. Edsall essentially maintains that a Public Choice economy, one characterized by systemic unemployment, increasing disparity between haves and have nots, opulent benefits of a bureaucratic class, etc is going to revitalize the “FDR coalition.” Essentially, you have an economy where many won’t be able to afford anything without being subsidized, hence the dependency that will force the new FDR realignment along economic class interests.
Now my thesis is that a Public Choice economy is going to shake things up as well, but, contra Edsall, it might be more along the lines of this. While I’m not predicting the return of the guillotine, the radical politics that will emerge will be rooted in the old french class political analysis. Whereas Edsall views the corporatist caste economy signaling a return to 1939, I see it as signaling a return back to 1889. A flaw in Edsall’s prediction is that 21st century is not going to be the American Century. Post WWII Bretton Woods is long dead and gone. The center of Finance Capitalism is moving to Asia. “Financial Reform,” which is really just preserving a capital caste system that will increasingly lose it’s international sphere of influence, actually is the final death knell of the FDR legacy. Historians will look back at TARP, the bailouts, and this “reform” as the end of the American Century. Without the primacy of American Finance Capitalism, there is no FDR legacy to resurrect. Under caste corporatism that loses such a privilege, these “subsidies” to manufacture political coalitions aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. The talk of “immigration reform” today is going to be supplanted by the talk of “American brain drain” in the future. In time, we will see who is right…
Rachel Maddow recently devoted a lengthy segment on her show chirping about how the GM IPO demonstrated the “success” of the GM bailout. She invited, Ron Bloom who directs Obama’s Task Force on the Automotive Industry, to pop the champaign bottle with her as they gloated over GOP politicos failed predictions of GM’s fate. Hallelujah, political bailouts work. The IPO proves it. Of course, I would expect Maddow, in order to be consistent, to likewise invite Henry Paulson and Timothy Geithner on her show to celebrate the great success of TARP and the improved stock prices of Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup and Bank of America. In fact, the TARP bailouts have been such a magnificent and glorious success, the beneficiary firms have figured out how to consistently beat the market with zero risk and no losses. Really, how can any fool, unless he/she wants to be a reality denier, argue with the obvious, empirical benefits of political intervention?
Since I don’t I want to be a reality denier, I would certainly concur that those on the receiving end of favorable political intervention benefit. And we can find plenty of empirical evidence to prove this. I would expect photo-ops at the NYSE, higher stock prices, human interest media stories about the plant worker whose job was saved. I would never predict that a Goldman Sachs or a GM couldn’t benefit from political intervention. Simply, if political intervention was impotent vis a vis creating advantages, then there would be no politics; there would be no rent-seeking. However, because I’m particularly sensitive to this reality denial business, I must scientifically point out that while political intervention or rent-seeking benefits the beneficiaries, it, nonetheless, has negative overall welfare consequences. It reduces overall welfare.
Articles like, say, Selling our GM Stock miss the bigger point. Simply analyzing the necessary “break-even” price for GM stock assumes that rent-seeking political intervention is just a mere wealth transfer, a re-shuffling of wealth. No it’s not. Public Choice scholarship(which,in a sense, is just a rediscovery of the old French Laissez-Faire analysis that had been buried by 20th century Neoclassical Welfare economics) demonstrates in peer-reviewed scientific fashion that political interventions can have significant deleterious impact on overall welfare.
Here’s a easy thought experiment. Imagine firms A,B,C,D,E,F,… in market competition. Now imagine the State enacts punitive tariffs on every firm except C. It gives C a great advantage. It could certainly, in addition, invest “public money” in C and get back a nice rate of return. This “profit” to the taxpayers could be trumpeted as empirical proof of the success of the political intervention.But this doesn’t stand up to scientific scrutiny, particularly in the public choice literature that has examined the welfare effects of such things as trade tariffs. A few benefit, but there are significant welfare costs imposed for the monopoly special privilege enjoyed by such a few.
Another easy example is copyright enforcement in the digital age. You essentially have to erect a police state to enforce it. So you end up with a steady stream of rent-seeking legislation to do just that. And what you end up with is one “political entrepreneurial group” seeking special privileges, another group that wastes much of it’s productive time trying to figure out ways to evade the rules imposed by special privilege, and an enforcement police arm, subject to it’s own rules of public choice, that ends up seeking it’s own special privileges and continued growth of itself just for the sake of itself. Now do you see how incredibly wasteful this is? And technology, which should be a liberating thing, ends up becoming a prison. Trust me, the last thing you want is a technology society underlain by an insider/outsider political rent-seeking economy.
Regarding Rachel Maddow, it’s apparent that Oxford doesn’t teach political economy. And I wouldn’t put much stock in her political punditry. Progressives the last two years have been arguing that the bailouts(crises) would engender some grand new political realignment built on the back of “Stimulus Spending” that would serve as a new baseline for a Social democratic State. Libertarians such as myself have argued that these bailouts would portend an insider/outsider economy that would create a backlash and lead to a re-emergence of “class conflict” into the political lexicon. Who has been the better prognosticator? You know, I click on the Washington Post these days and I’m not seeing editorials celebrating the coronation of Barack Obama as FDR 2.0. Rather, I’m seeing editorials by formerly staunch Democrats bitching and moaning about the Public Choice Rent-seeking Political Economy and the need for an “Entrepreneurs Party.”
Brush up on your French…
The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.
H. L. Mencken
I left my throne a million miles away
I drink from your tit
I sing your blues every day
Now give me the strength
To split the world in two, yeah
I ate all the rest and now I’ve gotta eat you
The Obama Admin’s response to the growing criticism of TSA’s new security procedures: Double Down with a big Fuck You. If you buy an airline ticket and show up at the airport, you must submit and obey. Once you enter the airport security, you must subject yourself to the body scanners or the invasive search. If you decline to fly and try to leave, you are subject to possible arrest and a 11,000 fine. Further, in terms of Direct Action protests, it looks the TSA is enlisting the aid of local police departments to aid in the possible arrests.
This isn’t “proto” Police State stuff. This is a Police State. Note, I haven’t flown since the TSA was created and will not fly. At this point, if I had the money, I would seriously consider leaving this country(the only and last time I would fly within the US). No one should have to put up with this shit. And it’s only going to get worse. If you can’t see what permanent war, “War on Terror” leads to, you are fucking blind…