Tag Archives | Terror

Good Riddance to Rumsfeld

Rumsfeld trying to use Force lightningJust saw this. Well! So the Democratic victory has had at least one good result already. Amazing to see this administration responding for once to a reality external to their own minds.

President Bush warns against misinterpreting his long-overdue decision to boot Von Rumsfeld: “To our enemies: Do not be joyful. Do not confuse the workings of our democracy with a lack of will.”

Sorry, Mr. President; but as one of the enemies of your lawless regime I can’t help being a little joyful. I wish it had happened sooner; I wish you were accompanying your grinning, murderous lackey out the door; but it’s a start.


Hitchens, Left and Right

[cross-posted at Liberty & Power]

Since Christopher Hitchens gave up socialism, I’ve ironically enough gone from disagreeing with him 40% of the time to disagreeing with him 80% of the time. I used to look forward to his mordant skewerings of the mighty, but lately he seems to have morphed into a mean-spirited shill for the establishment.

Christopher Hitchens But at last comes a Hitchens editorial I can happily endorse; despite his having fallen to the neocon/prowar dark side, he makes a good case against executing Saddam Hussein. (Conical hat tip to Christopher Morris.) I share Hitchens’ misgivings both about the death penalty in general, and about the legitimacy of the vanquished being tried by the victors rather than by a neutral court.

While I’m on the subject of Hitchens, though, I also want to comment on something he said about libertarianism in his Reason interview a few years back. While this was after the beginning of his rightward shift, it’s basically a left-wing criticism, and like most left-wing criticisms of libertarianism it’s partly right and partly wrong:

I threw in my lot with the left because on all manner of pressing topics – the Vietnam atrocity, nuclear weapons, racism, oligarchy – there didn’t seem to be any distinctive libertarian view. I must say that this still seems to me to be the case, at least where issues of internationalism are concerned. What is the libertarian take, for example, on Bosnia or Palestine?

There’s also something faintly ahistorical about the libertarian worldview. When I became a socialist it was largely the outcome of a study of history, taking sides, so to speak, in the battles over industrialism and war and empire. I can’t – and this may be a limit on my own imagination or education – picture a libertarian analysis of 1848 or 1914. I look forward to further discussions on this, but for the moment I guess I’d say that libertarianism often feels like an optional philosophy for citizens in societies or cultures that are already developed or prosperous or stable. I find libertarians more worried about the over-mighty state than the unaccountable corporation. The great thing about the present state of affairs is the way it combines the worst of bureaucracy with the worst of the insurance companies.

Part of being a left-libertarian is that on the one hand you’re constantly trying to prod fellow libertarians into moving farther left, while on the other hand you’re constantly trying to show fellow leftists that libertarianism is already farther left than they realise. This is certainly an occasion for both responses.

Hitchens is certainly right to say that libertarians have often been less concerned about issues like racism, oligarchy, and corporate power than they should be – that they have stressed the evils of state oppression but often turned a blind eye to nonstate forms of oppression. On this general topic see this recent post of mine and this recent post of Wally Conger’s.

But at the same time Hitchens is certainly mistaken in supposing that libertarians have neglected these issues entirely. I need hardly point out to the readers of this blog that there exists, for example, an enormous libertarian literature both on war and on corporate power, and indeed on issues of class generally; in fact libertarians pioneered modern class analysis. (One suspects Hitchens hasn’t spent much time poring through Left & Right, Libertarian Forum, New Libertarian, or the JLS.) And he is also right to worry that his inability to “picture a libertarian analysis of 1848 or 1914” or other such historical events may stem from “a limit on [his] own imagination or education,” since here too there is plenty of such analysis available.

Thus I close with the ringing slogan, proudly inscribed on the streaming banners of the left-libertarian vanguard: Libertarianism: Less Left Than It Should Be, But Lefter Than You Think.


Meet the New Boss ….

[cross-posted at Liberty & Power]

Let a smile be your umbrellaYesterday’s election brought high points and low. It was a relief to see the unbearable Rick Santorum go down to defeat in Pennsylvania, but not so delightful to see the despicable Elliot Spitzer gain the governorship in New York. On the whole, though, I’m glad to see the Republicans get trounced as they deserve. And divided government is one step closer to no government.

The real question now is whether the newly empowered Democrats will stand up to Bush on questions of war and civil liberties, or whether they will merely take the opportunity to indulge in their usual programs of job destruction (a.k.a. “minimum wage laws”), victim disarmament (a.k.a. “gun control”), etc.

One reason for pessimism is the way the Democrats abjectly rolled over for Bush in the wake of 9/11. Another is the way they’ve been endlessly coy about whether they want to end the war or just fight it better. Still another is this observation that “[m]any of the newly elected Democrats come from the moderate to conservative wing of the party. They are national security hawks in the main and most do not favour a quick withdrawal from Iraq. Many of them are social conservatives and protectionists ….” Oh, goody.

On the other hand, one reason for optimism is that antiwar sentiment nonetheless clearly played a central role in bringing about yesterday’s Democratic victories. Thus the Democrats may have to throw some sort of antiwar bone to their constituents. We’ll see.

In longer-term electoral politics, what I’d really like to see is a Green/Libertarian coalition. The Greens’ ten values are perfectly consistent with libertarianism, though the means chosen to achieve them may not always be. I’m largely in agreement with this piece by Dan Sullivan, though I favour a different solution to the land question – and I also think making agreement on any one solution to the land question a precondition for Green/Libertarian cooperation is strategically self-defeating. (In practical terms the best solution for disagreements over land policy is decentralisation. Kick the disagreement downstairs and tussle over it at the local level; that way no one solution gets imposed on everybody else.) For some other Green/Libertarian proposals see here, here, here, and here. (One approach to Green/Libertarian cooperation that I don’t favour is this one, which I initially thought was a joke – but apparently not.)


From New Caprica to the Negative Zone

The Bush administration has been getting a tough beating (not as tough as it deserves, of course – but still gratifying) in the sf world. Revenge of the Sith and V for Vendetta made some pointed references to Bush policies, while Battlestar Galactica’s first two seasons commented on Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.

Spider-man and a Cylon Now Galactica’s third season begins with a situation analogous to the Iraq crisis, as the Cylons who’ve come to impose their conception of order on the human colonists face insurgents and suicide bombers, and joke bitterly about their earlier expectations of being greeted as liberators. (Leoben’s attempt to brainwash Starbuck into loving him recreates the same dynamic on an individual level.) Neither side is presented monolithically: we see the humans disagreeing with one another about the legitimacy of terrorist tactics, while the Cylons likewise disagree with each other about what’s permissible in combating such tactics. But the Bush approach is clearly presented as a disaster – and a predictable disaster.

Equally topical references are to be found in “Civil War,” the event currently engulfing the universe of Marvel Comics, as superheroes fight it out over whether to comply with, help enforce, or disobey the Superhuman Registration Act – a conflict that has set Iron Man against Captain America, Spider-man against Daredevil, and members of the Fantastic Four against one another. (I’ve referred to Captain America’s role in all this in a previous post.) Now come two of the best contributions to this series: the latest issues of Amazing Spider-man and Fantastic Four (issues 535 and 540, respectively – and both, not coincidentally, written by Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski). Speaking of the special prison that’s been built to incarcerate recalcitrant superheroes (and supervillains too, of course), one character explains:

She [the prisoners’ lawyer] can make all the motions she wants. This is outside the jurisdiction of local and federal courts. This is an act of Congress, signed by the President. Only the Supreme Court can intervene, and I happen to know they won’t.

This place is not on American soil. American laws don’t touch here. American lawyers don’t come here. Once non-registrants come here, they’re legal nonentities. Occupants. Prisoners.

The old quarrel between Hobbesians and Lockeans continues as well. One character argues:

Take away the law and what are we? Savages, up to our necks in blood. That’s why we give the law the authority to take everything away from us if we break it by murdering or kidnapping or – or simply telling powerful men, “Go to hell.”

The law is the law …. I support it because I honestly believe we have to support it, no matter what. [If the law is wrong] then eventually it’ll be changed, in an orderly, lawful way. We can’t just obey the laws we like, or –

While another character counters:

Sometimes the law is wrong. Sometimes the government is wrong. When that happens, you have to stand up and speak out. Even if you’re alone. Especially if you’re alone.

The question you have to ask is not what you have to do to protect me, or your position, or us. The question is – what are the rights and freedoms we say we cherish worth? Because I think they’re worth dying for if necessary.

These two issues are well worth picking up, even if you haven’t been following the series.

Here’s hoping that material like this sets readers and viewers thinking – and not just about the Bush administration, but about government in general.

 

P.S. Outside the sf realm, here’s another great rant from Olbermann.


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