Libertarians embrace a worldview trending towards anarchism (or at least government minimalism), a position with which, as a Neo-Gramscian Marxist, I have an abundance of affinity. In fact, on a long enough timeline (where units are measured in centuries anyway), I’ve little doubt that this is where the human condition will trend – presuming we manage not to destroy ourselves in the process. For those of us in the present tense, however, Libertarianism, like Marxism, gets a bad rap for the fact that some of its most visible proponents are either vacuous, dangerous opportunists (Palin being the most obvious example) or else otherwise intelligent individuals who are transparently inconsistent and self-serving.
Case in point of the latter is Dr. Rand Paul, the movement’s latest media darling, who was elected to the Kentucky Senate seat last week. The news outlets and blogosphere are in an unusual flaming accord this week over his recent example of government overreach in the Civil Rights Act of 1964: (WSJ: Paul's Civil-Rights Remarks Ignite Row, Wash Post: Rand Paul comments about civil rights stir controversy, Eugene Robinson: GOP's Tea Party invite might still be in the mail, The Hill: Rand Paul causes Civil Rights Act controversy with desegregation remarks, AP: Rand Paul Is 'Kentucky Fried Candidate' Over Civil Rights Comments, Lexington Herald-Leader: Paul's statements on discrimination stir controversy, NYT: Tea Party Pick Causes Uproar on Civil Rights, Salon: More historic legislation Rand Paul wouldn't have supported, PoliticsDaily: Rand Paul: An Anti-Government Conspiracy Theorist? (h/t Americablog).
If you’ve been asleep at the wheel on this one, Paul’s position is that the act, which covers a wide range of civil rights issues on interstate commerce, is but a single an example of federal intrusion in the individual liberties of business owners to determine the nature of their clientele. In the context of this example, Rand concedes that this would naturally expand to the right refuse service to people of color, gays, Jews, etc. Paul’s continued inability to staunch the blood flow on this kicked the GOP spin machine into overdrive and lead Paul to cancel his appearance on Meet the Press – only the third person in 62 years to do so.
I care far less to what degree Paul may personally be racist than I do in the fact that this degenerative myopia is completely consistent with the Libertarian platform. However persuasive I may find this mode of thought in the abstract, it presumes a fundamental faith in humanity to do the right thing without the force of law. Individual liberty is not an absolute - it comes with the caveat that one person't liberty cannot infringe on anothers. With regards to the Civil Rights Act, we state that you are free to operate a business in our country, but you are not free to restrict your operations based on the color of someone's skin.
Indeed, the universe may trend towards global justice, but it has a long, long way to go. The restaurant owner who hangs a no-blacks sign up in his window will, in the 21st century, probably get run out of (most, though not all) towns by a combination of enlightened objectors and those too embarrassed to wear racism on their sleeve by frequenting a regressive patron. But what about no-gay, no-Democrat, no-punk, no-Catholic policies or the every-more-likely no-Arab policies? Sometimes our laws exist to compel American ideals even when our citizens find them offensive for the simple reason that we share our national identity and don’t want bigots forming an outward part of our cultural landscape.
For the time being, I still manage to disconnect my emotional processes from the issues enough to understand the difference between personaility and ideology, but herein lies the problem – this may be a particularly egregious example of Libertarianism carried to its logical conclusion, but it is nevertheless conssistent with the overall platform. Where the movement’s present incarnation really breaks down is in its outward hypocrisy in preferencing the liberty of commerce over individual or collective liberties. Indeed, lost somewhat in the row over lunch-counter segregation is the fact that Paul also had harsh words for Obama's supposedly ‘un-American’ stance in blaming the oil spill on, well … the company actually responsible for it. In Paul’s universe, the same liberty that allows corporations to escape the regulatory oversight of those who would be affected by disaster should likewise extend to absolving such entities of blame when their self-policing predictably breaks down. As Robert Slayton points out:
Advocates like Dr. Paul claim that they are speaking on behalf of the little guy, against the steam-roller of a large institution like big government. The problem with this claim is that there is another big institution that harms the ordinary citizen in our world, and that is big business. And in that case, libertarians have little to condemn, and thus show their true colors. … So their dirty little secret is out. Libertarians are not really for the little guy, against structures that would grind down our individuality. They're really just right-wingers, pro-business and anti government, the only institution with the power to limit large corporations when they commit abuses. Rand Paul is sincere, but in his blindness and dogmatism, he becomes a shill for big business, not the champion of citizen's rights he claims to be.
Without doubt, we exist in an era where power is increasingly consolidated into the hands of a few multi-national corporations which, unlike government, have no responsibility for social welfare. In the U.S., capitalist malfeasance has been kept in check through a strong judiciary whereas in Europe there is strong regulation. Yet if we are to judge the Libertarian movement by it’s leaders, then we must conclude that it is a facade for what right-wingers have always pushed for – a system of commerce in which neither mode of enforcement remains available to protect citizens from the dark side of the profit motive – a conservative nanny state where the government is expected to stay out of the way - expect when necessary to ensure that capitalist movements are free from civilian oversight. In this manner, it is a disease masquerading as a solution, spouting the ideals of liberty while covertly working to dismatle the very freedoms it's adherents espouse.
The newest installment of Tom the Dancing Bug reminds me of a recent discussion I was having about supply and demand in the (illegal) immigration debate. At its base, this is an issue of supply (what the U.S. has to offer) and demand (who stands to gain from the risk) and I reject the notion that demand side efforts, such as increased border control and deportation controls, can ever do much to address the problem. Such 'solutions', much like the war on drugs, play well with the electorate because they have the appearance of being proactive while diverting attention away from the ruling class and keeping people from questioning the obvious - that if there were no jobs for illegal immigrants, then there would be no illegal immigrants.
It would be cheaper and more effective to crack down on the supply-side (employers) but that would be targeting our economic drivers (if I'm feeling gracious) or white people (for when I'm feeling a bit more cynical). Employers in the U.S.are already numbered, tagged and monitored - they are finite in number and easy to regulate. The same cannot be said about immigrants who the U.S. will never, ever be able to stop until the costs of illegality outweigh the benefits.
I'm surprised how many people I would ordinarily consider sane are finding creative ways to rationalize the rancor driving Klu Klux Klarizona's new immigration policy (yeah, you know who you are). With a straight face, some have even chastised me as though I should be accustomed to carrying paperwork as a guest in a foreign country (btw - no paperwork needed) and then have the audacity to act as though I am hyperbolic in suggesting that the law dismantles the fourth amendment in deference to criminalizing skin color. Millions of lawful residents - and yes, born and bred American citizens - are being targeted to assuage the xenophobia stoked by the election of a black president. But hey, who cares – it’s not about you, right? I thought Robert Greenwald highlighted the hypocrisy best:
Image: Ku Klux Klan, a Creative Commons Attribution No-Derivative-Works (2.0) image from arete13's photostream
Exactly. Let's be honest here - if we were having a problem with illegal Canadian workers, this law would never have passed because nobody wants to profile white people. So after decades of being either ignored or used as a political football by mainstream politicians, it's great to see Latinos starting to get organized, but screw boycotting Arizona. Does anyone honestly believe that the state would miss any of the kind of people that would bother?
No, Arizona's government has crossed the line and doesn’t need a spanking – it needs to be broken. Here's a good start. If you have brown skin or even if you can just speak with a plausible accent - grab some summer vacation time, hop on a plane, train, or automobile and head down to Arizona. Spend the day at the park, in the mall, or driving up and down main street. Make yourself seen. Get pulled over. If you want to lop this atrocity off at the knees then you gotta take it to the only thing these people understand. Money. Make this law too expensive to enforce and it goes away. Yeah ... it's that easy. Oh, and note for the Democratic party: You want a winner for 2010? The hop on board here before the GOP wises up. You may have done next to nothing to woo Latinos over the past decades ever but now's your chance. The only reason not to is if you're worried about pissing off the racist right and guess what - they ain't votin' for y’all anyways.
Image: 9-12 March in DC-58, a Creative Commons Attribution No-Derivative-Works (2.0) image from andrewaliferis's photostream
Frustrated by recent political setbacks, tea party leaders and some conservative members of the Oklahoma Legislature say they would like to create a new volunteer militia to help defend against what they believe are improper federal infringements on state sovereignty. … But the militia talks reflect the frustration of some grass roots groups seeking new ways of fighting recent federal initiatives, such as the health reform plan, which requires all citizens to have health insurance. Over the last year, tea party groups across the country have staged rallies and pressured politicians to protest big government and demand reduced public spending.
In strongly conservative states like Oklahoma, some legislators have also discussed further action to fight federal policies, such as state legislation and lawsuits.
Excuse me - ‘some’ legislators are talking about fighting back with the law?
Image: 9-12 March in DC-71, a Creative Commons Attribution No-Derivative-Works (2.0) image from andrewaliferis's photostream
As the Republican gubernatorial candidate points out, such militias are indeed permitted by the second amendment (though check out his statement for an accidental denunciation of the gun lobby’s overreach), though it is unprecedented for a state to legislatively enlist a private military to fight against the federal government. Moreover, it is entirely unclear on what kinds of military actions would be able to repel the evil onslaught of health care.
But during the 15th anniversary week of the OKC bombing, the money quote comes from J.W. Berry, a Tea Party leader in Tulsa, who argues that since it’s done with the full cooperation of the legislature, that “it's not a far-right crazy plan or anything like that.” Berry began soliciting support for the movement through his newsletter article, “Buy more guns, more bullets.”
Welcome to the growing pains of that hopey-changy thing.
Slavery, said Franks, "is a crushing mark on America's soul, yet today half of all black children are aborted. Half of all black children are aborted. Far more black children, far more of the African American community is being devastated by the policies of today than were being devastated by the policies of slavery."
As Ryan Grim notes, “One hundred percent of African Americans born into slavery, however, were born into slavery.”
Besides, when you start a sentence disparaging something abhorrent, there is no room for a ‘yet’ in the second half. Try these on for size:
Racism is really bad, yet …,
The European genocide of native Americans was truly awful, yet …
I sure am sorry I raped and disemboweled your 11 year-old daughter, yet …
Here’s the video – clip starts about 6 minutes in:
On a side note – and I can’t believe I’m even taking the bait on this ridiculous spew – but Franks is likely referring to this study on the abortion rate, though the study itself highlighted lack of contraceptive access over policy. Moreover, the comparison is unfair anyway as we have no real data on abortion policy during either slavery or medical prohibition. How many slaves were forcefully aborted by landowners not wanting to sacrifice their free labor in the name of childrearing? How many more slaves underwent amateur abortions so as not to incur their master’s wrath? Just because it is no longer underground and undocumented does not mean it didn’t exist.
We're Racists for McCain and we APPROVE this message!
In related news, investigative reporters from Fafblog! have uncovered some pretty damning facts about Obama. Seriously, this could be the October surprise that the Palin/Old Man ticket have been waiting for. For example:
FACT! Barack Obama has been friends with Rashid Khalidi, an openly Arab Arab who is so Arab he writes about other Arabs. Is Barack Obama part of the international Arab conspiracy to trick white people into thinking about Arabs? Answer: also maybe.
FACT! Barack Obama talks about his white mother and his white grandparents and the white half of his family that is white, but did you know that half of his family is also black? In fact, half his family is so black that Obama keeps them hidden away on a whole other continent where they speak in a strange, otherworldly code which is not even English. What is Obama trying to hide? Possibly something black. BONUS FACT! Barack Obama may be half-white and half-black, but he married a woman who is completely black. In a way, doesn't that make him three-quarters black? Math doesn't lie, people!
Fallacious yet widespread and documented beliefs courtesy of Wikipedia.
The historical Buddha was not obese. The "chubby Buddha" or "laughing Buddha" is a tenth century Chinese folk hero by the name of Budai. In Chinese Buddhist culture, Budai came to be revered as an incarnation of Maitreya, the Bodhisattva who will become a Buddha to restore Buddhism after the teachings of the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, have passed away.
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Conflict and Conciliation: Faith and Politics in an Age of Global Dissonance
Despite the peaceful foundations of global monotheistic religions, the broad diversity of interpretations can lead to a sharp paradox regarding the use of force. Inevitably, we must ask ourselves: How can those who ascribe to peaceful beliefs suspend their own moral foundation to beat the drums of war? ... read more
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A self-indulgent blog for people just like me - PhD, author, photographer, entrepreneur, husband, father, music-lover, and uber-geek. More about Jay