The Lefty Libertarian
Political commentary from an askew angle.
The Usual Suspects!
The Road to Surfdom
Hot Buttered Death
New World Disorder
Find the rest of us[g]
A Little Right
The Kolkata Libertarian
End The War On Freedom
Tara Sue for Congress!
And all the rest.[g]
A Little Left
Radio Free Albemuth
Way, Way Left[g]
The Aardvark Speaks
Saturday, October 12, 2002
We stand at a pivot point in history.
In some ways, we all do, in every day of our lives. But these days are special. Our world hangs in the balance, as it always does, but now it's our turn to tip it one way or the other, by action or inaction.
A big part of this is belief, faith. We only have so many facts, and the grey zone between truth and lies is 90% of our world. Are the Iraqis trying to blow us up? Is President Bush a hopelessly corrupt tool? We don't, and can't know for sure. We do not have enough data.
How you fill the gaps between your datapoints: that's the key to all simulation, to all thought.
I've spent a lot of time in the darkness. I've been reading Rummel's stuff on democide, sketching in my own mind the outlines of what would happen here if those social forces arise.
I don't like it.
Now I feel a turning. Having looked into the darkness, I want to envisage a different future. One filled with hope, light and life.
Here's how it goes: Lessig wins Eldred Vs. Ashcroft and the entire cultural content of the 1960s enters into the public domain on the spot. All of the Beatles. All of the Doors. All of LOVE. All the movies, all the art. But especially all of the music.
And it changes us.
Suddenly being reconnected to the protest against the vietnam war - to this mysterious outpouring of love which threatened all established powers with turning the world into a garden - to the vision and hope of humanity freed - to a spirituality which manifested as community, sharing and love - to the presence of god in every child, Vietnamese, Iraqi or American.
The seventies was a hangover, the 80s a bad dream, and the 90s a slow reawakening.
This is the twenty first century. It is a time of light, life and hope. Don't believe anybody who tells you differently.
Lessig's report of what happened before the supremes.
I'm so excited about this I can't say a word.
Byrd again. He's a good man. I just wish he was twenty or thirty years younger.
“There is a point at which it becomes time to accept reality. It is clear that we have lost this battle in the Senate,” he said. “The next front is the White House.
Awww, shit.... Looks like we might have managed to destabilize Pakistan (yes, they do have nuclear weapons) in our efforts to round up Mullah Omar and bin Laden (the President hasn't said bin Laden's name in public in seven months. Perhaps that's because we failed to catch him after swearing we'd have his head on a plate).
But the main surprise in Thursday's poll was a stunning performance by a grouping of firebrand Islamic parties, which tapped anger over the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan to virtually sweep the board in two conservative western provinces.Now this? This sucks. Nuclear-powered muslim fundamentalism is the VERY LAST THING IN THE WORLD WE WANT and it looks like our inept administration is well on the way to producing it.
BushCo: lousy at peace, worse at war, just say no in November.
WorldRun. Anybody remember that? Click on the link, you'll see a map of the world with current news events indicated with icons. Apparently it parses newsfeeds to prepare this thing in real time. Pure brilliance. Somebody get these guys som money to hire a graphic designer, and wire the back end to Google News!
[via Boing Boing's Guest Bloggers]
Next topic: those manic monkeys in the White House.
The National Security Strategy of the United States of America
The National Strategy For Homeland Security
Over the next few days I'm going to be reading these august documents and trying to make some sense of what's going on. I'd invite you to join me and post your thoughts on the subject. Let's try and encourage some democratic debate on the stated policies of our government.
Anybody want to join me?
Although not an official document, the ever-popular Rebuilding America's Defenses is fairly short and worth a look first, just so you can see where these guys are coming from.
It's a challenging task: these documents are long, wordy and written in Presidentialese, but I think we really owe it to ourselves to get informed enought to take part in this debate.
Let's read the official strategy of the Government together. It'll be fun. We'll learn something.
Probably a lot of things we'd rather not know, but then, that's the point of this isn't it. To be informed citizens of our Republic. Blog away.
Ok, barring anything revolutionary happening in the blogosphere, I'm done with guns. I'll be glad to continue conversations and refine my position, but I'm bored with the topic. It's pretty easy, you know? You read the democide stories, you wonder if it could happen here, and the decision tree is pretty simple:
I mean, yes, this essentially self parody and oversimplification, but that's essentially it.
Given our history of democide in the last century, and the role that disarming the populace has played in those slaughters, I believe it is the right of all adults to arm themselves against this turn of affairs. Although the odds of it happening again are very, very small, nobody can say there is no chance whatsoever, and therefore the Second Amendment should be respected.
And that's it. That's all I had to say about guns.
Friday, October 11, 2002
Rep. Pete Stark:
The bottom line is I don't trust this president and his advisors.
UPDATE: If you're coming in from Instapundit, you might like this guided tour of the blog.
Tim Dunlop talks more about the Australian experience of Government and Guns. Tim lives in the DC area, so he's got a sniper wandering around in his area shooting at apparently random members of the public.
Props to Tim for being able to have a reasoned discussion about guns at a time like this
I want to bring two aspects of this discussion to the surface. Tim says:
Thus, for a whole bunch of historical reasons, we have a much more benign--I'd actually call it positive--attitude towards government. In fact, the state was often seen as a positive good, a bulwark against the uncertainty of isolation and, in the decade before federation (1890-1900), a source of order and stability in a country being damaged by a depression and the perceived threats inherent in frontier existence--attack from without and attack from within.This is really interesting to me. I can imagine that in a vast, sparsely populated nation, strongly modeled after Britain, a lof of the American experience must look totally foreign and rediculous. It's really good to see it from the outside!
I think the Australian government really is, at this point in time, considerably more benign than the American government. Your faith and trust in it may not be foolish.
We have an enormous army, huge intelligence services, a history of things like COINTELPRO (organized suppression of political debate using the intelligence services) and, as I've mentioned below, various and sundry presidential lies, schemes and evasions to drag us into wars. We have ample historical and current reasons to distrust and fear our state.
The Framers were really trying to create a country in which the individual would be free, and as they said again and again and again in different ways, they were always haunted by the spectre of the government turning against the people and did all they could to prevent it.
Yet we still ended up in a situation where people have been pulled off the street on the President's say-so and jailed indefinitely (Jose Padilla, lest we forget). Note that we may never see the evidence against Padilla and he could remain in jail for the rest of his life. Without trial.
I can certainly see your point of view, Tim: Americans are pathalogically distrustful of their government. Alas, we're finding that even this level of distrust has not been enough to keep the beast in constitutional chains.
I really want to come back to the case against Jose Padilla. We do not know what this man has or has not done. There has been no examination of evidence, no trial, nothing. He could be innocent - there may have been a mistake, a mix-up, and there is no due process of appeal to correct it. We have every reason to distrust a government that acts in this way.
Perhaps things are just better in Australia! Different government, different appropriate response.
The second point I want to address is the democide figures: 160 million people killed by their governments in the 20th century, four times more than were killed by war - giving roughly a 1% chance of any human who lived in that century would be murdered by their government [go see the figures].Now, please read the story of what happened in Turkey (just under 2 million murdered):
The government then turned to Armenians in the civilian population. First, to make their victims defenseless, the government denied Armenian citizens the right to keep and bear arms. Soldiers and police were assigned the task of confiscating weapons. Homes were ransacked, and many Armenians suspected of having weapons were tortured. In fear, some Armenians acquired weapons, just so they could have something to turn in to the authorities, thus avoiding torture.Although this kind of history is not commonly talked about in the gun rights community (most people don't have the historical breadth to talk about anything other than Constitutional Intent and perhaps the Holocaust), Rudy Rummel puts the whole thing in a new light: 160 million dead, killed by their governments, all over the world.
How do you respond to those historical factors, Tim? Are they relevant to how much trust we put in Government? Are they relevant to the gun rights discussion?
Rummel also says that democracies don't do this. In America, our question these days is "do we actually live in a (functioning) democracy?" - remember that our current President lost the popular vote, and won Florida, the state ruled by his brother and the pivot of the whole election, on a dodgy mix of ballot miscounting and striking fifty thousand black voters from the rolls.
When you live with these kinds of questions, and know the history of states slaughtering their populations, it's very hard to trust government at all.
Question for you, Tim: do you see why I'm less trustful of Government? If so, can you think of anything people should do beyond:
I'd really like to hear your thoughts,
In all of Bush's 30 minutes of anti-Iraq war talk yesterday – pleasantly leavened with just two minutes of how "I hope this will not require military action" – there wasn't a single reference to the fact that Iraq may hold oil reserves larger than those of Saudi Arabia, that American oil companies stand to gain billions of dollars in the event of a US invasion, that, once out of power, Bush and his friends could become multi-billionaires on the spoils of this war. We must ignore all this before we go to war. We must forget.
The bottom-line question that will not go away, and which was left unanswered in Cincinnati, is what is driving Mr Bush down this path? Is it a desire to draw attention away from his poor to chronic domestic policy record? Is it an attempted diversion from the stock market collapse, America's rising unemployment and its corporate malfeasance scandals? Is it all about oil? Or the mid-term elections? Or his own re-election bid in 2004? Or is it a personal, Bush family vendetta against Saddam?
US Plans to Occupy Iraq. OIL OIL OIL OIL FNORD.
Yawn. Rebuilding America's Defences. The National Defense Review. The American Empire. Blah blah blah. Congress and the Senate say "Sure, Mr. Bush. We've read all about your plans for an American Empire, and we approve!".
Hell, they even bought off Jimmy Carter with the peace prize.
For the humor impaired, that's a joke. Just like our Government.
Thursday, October 10, 2002
Concentrated political power is the most dangerous thing on earth.
Among Rummel's more startling findings is that the death toll from government mass murder is far greater than the death toll from war. After studying some 8,193 reports of government killing, Rummel estimates that there have been 169,198,000 victims of democide in the last century, as against some 38,000,000 killed in war. Four times as many people have been murdered in cold blood by people working for governments than have died in battle.Rudolph Rummel is the guy who coined the term Democide.
I'm only slowly integrating what I've learned from reading about his work.
Democide in the Soviet Union: 62 million people killed
The Soviet Union exemplifies the dictum that government is a mechanism by which depraved people legitimize their depravity. As an all-powerful state, the Soviet government attracted the most depraved people who then unleashed the worst depravity. Stalin is unique only in surpassing all others in this regard.
The Soviet death toll- those murdered in cold blood by people working for the Soviet government- exceeds, nearly doubles, the combined total of people killed in all of the 20th century's wars.
You know? Right-to-bear-arms == right-to-die-fighting. If this shit really is in our nature.......
I don't know. I just don't know. Reall, I mean... go, read. The turks. The germans. The poles. The chinese. The japanese. The cambodians. It really is fucking endless. Anybody got a brilliant idea? We could sure use one.
More on arms and liberty.
I'm pretty close to calling this topic done. If you're just joining the thread now, here's the basics:
Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot et. al. killed something like one hundred million of their own citizens, not counting those expended fighting foreign wars.
Presidents Roosevelt was warned that the Japanese were going to attack Pearl Harbor and allowed it to happen so that the USA would join World War II.
President Johnson knew that the so-called Gulf of Tonkin incident never happened, but still used it as an excuse to start the Vietnam War.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff asked the President allow them to murder Americans in terrorist attacks and pin the blame on Cuba to justify an invasion.
Our Official National Security Strategy is, more or less, Total World Domination - to be the only remaining military power of consequence, and to do as we like.
All of this is simple historical fact. I've seen some push-back on my stance about guns in relation to these facts, but so far nobody has queried the facts themselves.
I've also argued that a population armed with rifles could make a significant difference to the progress of any democidal (democide: Government killing it's population) regime. I've also argued that the right to bear arms is part of our system of checks and balances, just like an independent judiciary, and should be viewed as similarly sacred.
Now, I want to briefly outline how I think the presence of an armed population might affect the rise of fascism in America: or in any other country.
This is, in essence, why I think the right to bear arms is politically significant.
I could not give two hoots about rights to self defense against criminals and the like. I think the evidence one way or the other is marginal and offset by tragedy of all kinds. I could be convinced to think differently pretty easilly, but to me it's small potatoes compared to the democide story. I view the effect of guns on crime, and the tragedies of armed psychos and accidental shootings to be small beer compared to the hundred plus million dead.
You may say that it could never come here - just remember this: Jewish veterans of World War One lived in Germany and thought they were safe because they were decorated war heros, integral parts of an integrated society. They died in the camps like everybody else.
President Bush has LEGALLY locked away American citizens without charges, without trials and without legal consultation, flouting ever constitutional principle we have. Are you so very, very certain that it could never come here?
I'm not sure I have anything else to say on the topic. You either see the history, say "yes, it is possible that within the span of my life, or the life of my children, or their children, that we could see a US Fascism and have to fight for our lives against it!" or you say "no, everything is fine, even if the Presidents lie to us, the Army wanted to bomb us and blame Cuba and the Black Budget is the size of Mt. Fuji. We'll always be safe, and the Government will protect us".
Do some background reading. Verify the stories of government betrayal, and learn more about what happened all over the world in the last century.
Then decide: do I want the right to be armed, or do I want to be defenseless?
Wednesday, October 09, 2002
The Guardian on Bush distorting information to justify the war on Iraq
Officials in the CIA, FBI and energy department are being put under intense pressure to produce reports which back the administration's line, the Guardian has learned. In response, some are complying, some are resisting and some are choosing to remain silent.Let's be clear here, shall we?
The Administration is pulling a Gulf of Tonkin here: fabricating the evidence to justify a war.I don't know what to do about this other than to speak out; to try and inform my few-dozen readers that, "Hey, this is going on. It's happened, with President Johnson and President Roosevelt for Vietnam and WW2. I don't know how we stop it, but the first part of any action is informing people that we have a problem".
We have a problem: the President is lying to us to try and start a war. Pass it on.
Libertarian Party press release on the dangers of war propaganda
"As Bush continues to build the case for invading Iraq, it's important to remember that politicians itching for war often have been less than candid with the public," Getz said.You know, at times like this, I really like the Party.
Nathan Lott on reparations[via the Armed Liberal]
Some libertarian or other (can't find who on a cursory search) suggested that we pay reparations to black people who got a second rate education during the period that government funded schools were segragated.
This makes (some) sense to me - if we're to have reparations, let's start here. This instance has some great advantages over other forms of reparations:
Is it a priority? I don't know. But I think that the reparations movement should start here, and deal with more complex cases later, if at all. It avoids the near-metaphysical questions about corporate responsibility and the debt to the descendents of slaves - all of which is likely to become so bogged down as to help nobody, or to open such a can of worms as to feed all the lawyers America can train for two or three generations.
Question: does anybody know who had this idea? Browne? I can't find a reference, but if you know, please email me at the address on the top left. Thanks!
The Nazis killed hundreds as punishment for the assassination of SS chief Reinhard "the Hangman" Heydrich, whom Hitler replaced with an equally evil overlord.
Scott Wickstein is taking me to task about guns. grin.
This is one of the more ludicrous things I have ever read to be perfectly honest. The notion that armed civillions can adequately resist a tyrannical government is one of the more precious myths of the gun loving types (To be fair, The Lefty Libertarian favours gun ownership for ideological reasons, not because he's a gun hugger).Ok. This is, on the surface, a pretty good argument.
As long as you don't know very much about war.
I'm not a military historian. I'm not an expert. But let's take a quick look at a few recent conflicts and see how a poorly armed population did against a large, well prepared army:There's a lot of history. It usually agrees. Intereting just how much of our history is about way. Anyway!
Guerrilla tactics work, but you need the basic materials. Do you think that if every Jew and Homosexual and Gypsy and Freemason in Germany had owned a rifle, the Holocaust would have been possible? No. As I said below, enough people armed with rifles make it simply impossible: rather than an oppressed populace, you get a populist uprising or a civil war. I don't think you've even begun to answer that point.
Think about it this way: assume a force of 1000 troops. How large a city can that number of men control if the populace is disarmed.
I'm going to suggest the number is upwards of 50,000. Two soliders at every intersection, and a couple of hundred in reserve to handle any uprising.
Now rethink that: arm one citizen in ten. That city of 50,000 people out-guns the soldiers by five-to-one. Occupation is impossible. What part of this is hard to understand?
An armed populace means that oppression is difficult and expensive, both in men and materials and morale. A disarmed populace makes oppression easy: you point your guns at people, and tell them to go.
Yes, an outright war may still be lost: if a government is willing to bomb it's people from the air, or gas them, or use tanks, small arms make much less of a difference. On the other hand, Armys in the field require huge civilian support to keep them supplied with ammunition and food. If those civilians require armed guards to make them work, and those guards keep getting picked off by partisans??? I'm sure you get the general idea.
Additionally, the force of will required to mount a full scale war against the people is much, much harder to find that that required to circumscribe their liberties to the point where they are obedient servants of the government, and nothing else.
Bottom line: do you believe that Hitler, Stalin or Mao could have existed, could have done what they did to their nations, if a goodly percentage of the people had been armed?
Bertelsmann totally supported the Nazis. A lot of my Jewish friends won't buy products from corporations which had strong Nazi ties. I can't remember the entire list, but it's pretty large and rather scary. Guess this adds another one to the list. [via Metafilter]
"And what we are dealing with right now in this country is whether we are having a kind of bloodless, silent coup or not," McDermott said at a town-hall meeting at the Jefferson Park Community Center on Beacon Hill. The event was sponsored by local Democrats and other groups in his congressional district.I kiss you, Rep. McDermott!
Tuesday, October 08, 2002
Tenet (of the CIA) says "hrm, Hussain may do nothing unless we corner and provoke him". Seems like common sense.
The Armed Liberal talks about his position on self-defense firearms. Good post. I'm with it qualitatively, but quantitively, in terms of absolute conservation of life, I'm still unconvinced about self defense firearms. Of course, absolute conservation of life is a LOUSY way of making decisions.
But that, as they say, is a post for another day.
One open question in my mind is: are gun arguments about self-defense relevant? I, personally, am very ambivalent about the self defense arguement. I'm sure about the anti-tyranny properties, but when we start talking about self defense alone, I'm not sure that the balance of life swings towards the gun lobby: I think readilly available handguns probably kill more than they save, all in all.
Britain really is safer than the USA. Tim Dunlop explains the Australian experience, which I haven't extensively researched, but from his data looks pretty clear cut - cutting gun availability reduced all kinds of undesireable effects.
From a pragmatic, rather than a constitutional view, I could support a ruling that people can own any kind of firearm, but they may not be used except at ranges or on private property. Things like concealed carry are for self defense, not for defense against tyranny, and I'd be very willing to trade that in for the restoration of the gun rights of the populations of New York and Chicago, who are currently, blatantly illegally, disarmed.
I think that Israel and Switzerland are both worth bringing up in this context, particularly Switzerland, where army reservists (most of the population!) have rifles. I need to do some reading on the subject, so that's a topic for another day.
In the meantime, all constitutional factors aside (hey, it works for the Government!) - I think that from a pragmatic viewpoint, I'd be happy enough banning handguns and only allowing rifles. It's not constitutionally kosher, but I'd be willing to settle for that. Either approach could cut gun violence massively, without leaving the populace defenseless against state oppression.
I'm willing to compromise right up to the point where people cannot defend themselves against tyranny. But no further. I'm scared that in the aftermath of the sniper incident, the facts I've outlined belowabout Presidential and Military betrayals of the American people will be forgotten, brushed aside - and we'll continue the rampant dismantling of our constitutional democracy.
Looks like there's a general karass forming up here to debate the middle ground on guns and liberties: William Burton (and more), Tim Dunlop, and the Armed Liberal.
We all seem to be, broadly speaking, reasonable chaps. I'm probably the least reasonable of the bunch.
This is really becoming a critical issue for us in our society. We've fudged around the Second Amendment for years, never really deciding what it means, tied up in argument over which definition of Militia is relevant and so on.
I think the time has come for us, as a culture, to really take another look at this: the times have changed - military, rather than criminal, violence on American soil is now a reality, and we don't know which way to turn. Let's re-examine this from a position of principle, rather than grasping at loose straws.
I'd like to ask everybody involved in this debate to try, as we hash this out, to make the principles from which their suggestions emerge explicit. Try expecially to flesh out your chain of thought, and to highlight questionable assumptions. Not just in an "ass covering" way, but to really try and speed up and improve the quality of the discourse here.
I'm going to try and follow my own advice here, and in the next couple of days, write up my "chapter and verse" on the subject. Hope I get to read some more great arguments before then.
Monday, October 07, 2002
Ok. It looks like this is going to heat up a little, so I'm pulling this from the body of my post to the top:
Roosevelt let Americans be killed to get us into World War II.
I'm suggesting that, given these historical facts, gun ownership is an important. I'm not blind to the problems gun ownership causes, and I'm not going to suggest anybody is wrong to hate and fear firearms.