Anti-Libertarian Criticism Site Review

Anti-Libertarian CriticismFor some time I’ve been thinking about starting a series of articles where I discuss (review, if you will) other blogs. It comes from one of the primary things I tell people who ask me about starting a blog: come up with things you can write on a regular basis. In my case, each morning, I write a birthday post. It gives me something to do. It’s like having a baby: it demands attention and thus your blog more generally gets attention. I have another series called Odds and Ends, but it is intermittent. This one will be too. But I start today because I’ve discovered a new and fascinating blog, Anti-Libertarian Criticism.

Overview

The tag line for Anti-Libertarian Criticism is, “Keeping libertarians in check and exposing it as a bankrupt ideology.” It’s first post was on 15 May of this year, Left-Libertarianism Is Bunk Because It’s Still Libertarianism. In it, he explains that he was once a fellow traveler. And as all people who took something silly much too seriously, he is now in the best situation to critique that silliness.

I have a special interest in his insights, because my experience with libertarianism is a whole generation before his. It is also clear that his involvement in the movement was much more intense than mine, even though I was quite involved. What I thus found most interesting was an article he wrote earlier this month, Critical Map of the American Libertarian Movement. To me, there have always been, roughly speaking, three kinds of libertarians: embarrassed conservatives, reluctant liberals, and conservatives that like to associate with the name. Good examples of this last category are people like Rand Paul and even Ted Cruz. As for the the actual libertarians, my experience is that 95% of them were really conservatives.

The map that Brainpolice2 (the writer of the site) provides contains eight types. It includes Paleo-Libertarians, which is what I normally call pretend libertarians like Paul. I think that’s correct: he is part of the ecosystem. It also shows how libertarianism can be molded to anything you want to believe—as long as you deify the “free market” and capitalism. And this is really more than anything else what Anti-Libertarian Criticism discusses: the delusions of the Left-Libertarians that they are arguing for a post-capitalist utopia.

Reading through the blog, I was constantly struck with how much I agreed with Brainpolice2. But he goes into much more depth about libertarianism than I am ever willing. To me, the movement is made up of confused idealists and conservative apologists. But it is great fun to read someone who looks at the movement seriously. And the work is more and more important as libertarian (or at least pseudo-libertarian) thought becomes a bigger part of the Republican Party—especially among the Tea Party base.

Style

The site is stark. There is very little visual candy. There are only two images and a single video embedded (of The Who performing “Don’t Get Fooled Again”), and these are from the first couple of posts. It’s probably all for the best, however. The articles are more along the lines of what you expect from Noahpinion—longer, more detailed articles than one normally finds on blogs. And the style is more academic. They often sound like term papers, “How I Wasted My Youth on Libertarianism.” But there are sparks of real wit amid the deliberate prose.

Like a lot of blogs, Anti-Libertarian Criticism is anonymous. I don’t know if people realize quite how annoying this is to readers. We do really want to know who we are dealing with. All that the “About” pages says is, “I am who I am. I had my time in the libertarian movement and my continued observations of it call for criticism.” I understand the need for anonymity. In my past, I’ve published some very controversial things that have caused me no end of trouble. But in general, I think people are unnecessarily paranoid. I know liberal bloggers who never write anything you wouldn’t see on MSNBC but who are still afraid their employers will find out about them. The only reason I can think for Brainpolice2 to be anonymous is if he’s still active in the movement and if that’s the case, it ought to be stated.

The Future

My fear is that the blog will not go on very long because the subject is so limited. Thus far, Brainpolice2 seems to have found many interesting angles to look at the subject. Eventually, I think he will have to broaden the focus. For example, I’d like to hear his take on the reporting of Bleeding Heart Libertarian David Weigel. But for now, it provides a wealth of insights about the modern libertarian movement. I will definitely be checking in on it.

Burwell v Hobby Lobby Leads Nowhere

John RobertsOne month ago, after the Supreme Court decision in Burwell v Hobby Lobby, I wrote, SCOTUS Says Not All Religions Are Equal. In that article, I discussed how the real takeaway from the decision was not that religious companies can deprive women of birth control healthcare coverage; it was that not all religions are equal. In other words, the five conservatives on the Supreme Court violated the Establishment Clause. The reason is very simple: the majority argued this case very narrowly so that they wouldn’t have to similarly apply it to Christian Scientists, for example. Doing so would have basically signaled the end of law in the United States: you can do anything God tells you to. The problem is that I don’t see any reason to think that conservative Christians who are against birth control pills have a more sincere belief than Christian Scientists who believe that any disease (Except broken bones!) can be prayed away.

As I wrote then, don’t think that the Court is going to find any religious rights that the five conservative justices don’t share. But that hasn’t stopped a lot of people from getting excited. The Satanic Temple, for example, is looking to use Burwell v Hobby Lobby to make the case against “informed consent” laws. These are laws that Republicans have passed all over the country that require women be given generally dubious and often explicitly religious information before they can get an abortion. These are extremely vile laws that in addition to everything else treat adult women as though they were children.

The Satanic Temple’s reasoning is that their beliefs about medicine are dictated by the best scientific evidence and so their religious rights are being violated by being required to hear about things that go against their beliefs. It’s a good argument. And despite what people claim, The Satanic Temple is a serious religious group that sees Satan as representing those on the margins of society—who have been, to be blunt, cast out. (I get angry especially at liberals who just dismiss it as a trolling organization.) But of course, the Court won’t even hear such a case unless it has to. The liberals already know how dangerous it is that the majority did, so they won’t be interested in hearing the case. And the conservatives won’t want to go against their conservative Christian ideology. (It is, of course, possible they would have to hear it because a lower court finds for The Satanic Temple because of Burwell v Hobby Lobby. If they happened, the conservatives would find some loophole like having to hear bad information is not the same as having to pay for drugs.)

Now, I hear from Right Wing Watch, Alabama Officials: Coal Regulations Violate God’s Will. According to the article:

And now, out of Alabama, we get a perfect example of biblical economics at work. AL.com reports on a press conference delivered by officials from the Alabama Public Service Commission and the Republican National Committee yesterday at which they argued against new EPA coal plant regulations by claiming that “coal was created in Alabama by God, and the federal government should not enact policy that runs counter to God’s plan.”

“Who has the right to take what God’s given a state?” asked commissioner-elect Chip Beeker.

Sure, why not? For over 200 years, the Supreme Court has found that religious rights do not trump government law. This is why Utah had to get rid of polygamy in order to become a state. (It was a big issue before it became a state and was only a territory.) But the Supreme Court made a major mistake in Burwell v Hobby Lobby. I don’t blame most of the conservatives, but Chief Justice Roberts really should have known better. But I suspect that he just thinks this one can be finessed like Bush v Gore. And he may be right.

The main thing is that Burwell v Hobby Lobby isn’t going to lead to any expansion of religious liberty. It was just another conservative effort to harm Obamacare. In the long term—within fifty years, I think—the Supreme Court will overturn Burwell v Hobby Lobby. And historians will wonder, “What were they thinking?” Or maybe we will all just get used to the Supreme Court being an extension of the parties. The conservatives justices will always find how ever conservatives want them to, regardless of the necessary twisted logic. But I don’t really think so. I think eventually the Supreme Court will be fixed, and John Roberts will be remembered as the Chief Justice who broke the Court.

Dinesh D’Souza Fuels Conservative Anger

Google Search: America on 29 July 2014

Right now, if you go to Google and search for “America,” you will see the results above. That’s right: Dinesh D’Souza’s newest agitprop film is the first thing that comes up on Google. I think it is funny that the normal top result is for the washed-up 70s pop-rock band and not, you know, one of the continents. But apparently, a few weeks ago, D’Souza’s stupidly titled film America was not coming up first. He even had his lawyers send a letter to Google and Republicans are considering looking into Google’s clear efforts to stifle free speech. What’s amazing is that anyone would think that if they named a film with such a generic title that Google would automatically think that someone searching for the word would be looking for the movie. This is why studios name their films thinks like The Fluffy Movie and not Fluffy, although even that is better than America.

But as you see, it does show up as number one now, so Google apparently folded. The company released a statement:

Our systems have unfortunately confused the title of the movie ‘America,’ because it’s a common term and appears in many movie titles. We’ve updated the Knowledge Graph, our database that stores this type of information, but it will take some time to display showtimes and other details for this movie. We’re always working on improving our systems, and we appreciate the feedback.

Whatever.

What really bugs me about this is that it is typical of conservatives to go whining about how unfair everyone is to them when they create their own problems. The truth is that everyone who was going to see this film, saw this film. The reviews on it are terrible. It was made for the kind of people who are still interested in anything said by a man who became engaged while still married and who recently pleaded guilt to a felony involving illegal campaign contributions. America wasn’t going to be the surprise hit of 2014.

Dinesh D'SouzaBut in 2012, D’Souza put out 2016: Obama’s America where he made an incredibly tired argument (mostly, although not entirely, used by conservatives) that after winning re-election, Obama would show who he really was turning America into the Soviet Union. Of course, it is two years later and there is no sign of the anti-colonialist who wants to destroy America. You would think that even if this didn’t cause D’Souza to rethink things, it might make some of the people who saw his last film to think that he really doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

The new film supposedly takes on five arguments that people like Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn have made against the United States. But as David Ehrlich at A V Club noted, America “is astonishingly facile, a film comprised entirely of straw man arguments.” But that’s just a pretext. The real purpose of it is to say, that while Obama may not have turned out to be quite the America destroy president that D’Souza claimed, Hillary Clinton surely will be.

How long can Dinesh D’Souza go on making money with the same tired and quickly refuted arguments? Probably a long time. The conservative publishing industry has gone on for decades with the same arguments made again and again. The truth is that there is a big group of mostly old white men who are certain that America is just going down the drain. About a year ago, I wrote, Don’t Let Merle Haggard Deceive You. And just yesterday, I got the following comment from “Len,” who perfectly reflects the kind of person who makes uncreative frauds like D’Souza rich:

Frank, you truly are as my dad used to say,”an educated idiot.” Your questions of the lyrics in these songs show me without doubt you have no idea of when and what the good times in America were. In my opinion you should stick to science and physics as you don’t seem to have any common sense at all which is a very contagious disease in the U.S. at this time. Seemingly as Merle sang in one of his songs you appear to be one of those who keep rolling the snowball toward hell. If your were alive and around in the 50’s and 60’s and gave a crap you would know exactly what the songs were referencing and see the bottom of the pit that America has fallen into although I am pretty sure it has by no means reached the bottom at this time. Stick around smarty the worst is definitely yet to come.

There is no talking to such people. They are angry and they will do anything and pay any price to fuel their anger. And fifteen bucks to watch Dinesh D’Souza talk about how it’s not Obama but really Clinton who is going to destroy America is a small price to pay.

Don’t Cry for the Export-Import Bank

US Export-Import BankWe have been living through a very interesting economic time. A good example came last year with the Fiscal Cliff deal. I was for it. In fact, I was unhappy that Obama cut a worse deal than he could have—allowing rich people to keep more money than should have been. But as I also wrote at the time: in the long term, it was good policy; but in the short term, it was bad policy. We wanted the people to have as much money as possible. In this case, it didn’t matter that much because only the rich saw their income taxes go back up to the normal level, and they already have more money than they can spend. (A much bigger issue was an end to the payroll tax holiday, which was just peachy to the Republicans because, let’s fact it, they only care about the taxes of the rich.)

We have the same thing going on with re-authorization of the Export-Import Bank. The truth is that it’s a bad thing: welfare for the rich, masquerading as some great big jobs program. So we ought to get rid of it. But not now. It is a good example of why economic growth has been so anemic. It is economic death by a thousand cuts. If the Republican Party were any kind of reasonable, things would be much better by now. You can see this by looking at federal government spending after every other recession since World War II. Just check out this graph by Ezra Klein from last year. What it shows that is that when Reagan and Bush the Younger where in the White House, federal spending really helped the economy. But under Obama, federal spending has been cut so much that it has actually hurt the economy. That’s not really on Obama but rather the Republicans. And despite this, the Republicans continue to claim that federal spending is out of hand. (And they will only stop saying that when a Republican is in the White House.)

Average Government Spending

The point is that in general, we should be doing anything we can to help the economy, even stupid things like supporting the Export-Import Bank. But this morning, Dean Baker made an excellent point, More Fun and Games With Export-Import Bank. It’s in response to an article by William Brock who argued that this is all going to cost jobs. Well, that’s not especially true. It will cost profits among those favored, politically connected companies. But okay, lost profits is money that doesn’t cycle in our economy and thus jobs will be lost. But just how big would this hit be?

Dean BakerBaker noted that these cheap loans would not result in a decrease of exports equal to the loans, so we are looking at something like $4 to $11 billion per year, and not the $37 billion that Brock would have us believe. Compare this to the estimated $15 billion per year in exports that we lose each year because we refuse to do business with Iran. In that context, the loss of the Export-Import Bank doesn’t look that bad. We are willing to forego two to three times as much in exports because we still haven’t gotten over the hostage crisis from 35 years ago. And that’s just one example.

In another article this morning, Baker asked, Will Protection of Microsoft in China Cost the Jobs of Manufacturing Workers? The point is one that Bakes makes a lot. Our government only has so much leverage over China. And we seem to be using it to get stronger intellectual property protections, which help already rich software and movie companies. Instead, we should be pressing China to increase the value of its currency so that our exports to them would be more competitive and their exports to us, less competitive. That’s the sort of thing that would really create jobs, but instead the government (as usual) is looking out for the interests of the super rich rent seekers.

What we have in the United States is a media system that pays a whole lot of attention to things that will hurt the super rich (eg the Export-Import Bank, copyright in China) and very little attention to much bigger things that hurt the working class (eg trade with Iran, the strong dollar policy). So while it’s true that the elimination of the Export-Import Bank would be bad in the short term, it wouldn’t be that big a deal. But given that it is a welfare program for the super rich, chances are that the Export-Import Bank will be reauthorized. This is American, damn it: the rich can never be harmed!

Don Marquis and the Cockroach Poet

Don MarquisOn this day in 1878, the writer Don Marquis was born. Even though he was a prolific writer, most people have never heard of him. The only reason I know about him is that I have a habit of roaming libraries. When I had first gone to college, I was looking over the music section and came upon the score of an operetta called Archy and Mehitabel. I read the introduction and found out that it was about Archy, a poetry writing cockroach, and his alley cat chum, Mehitabel. The gag was that after all the reporters had left the office, Archy would jump around on the keys of the keyboard. Because of his limited abilities, he only typed in lowercase, except for that one time when he typed in all uppercase.

Marquis wrote far more than just cockroach poetry, however. In fact, “Archy and Mehitabel” was apparently created as a space filler, because he was writing a newspaper column six days per week. In the old days, this was considered quite the feat. Now in the internet age, it seems to be the norm. But actually, there is a lot of repetition and a lot of stuff that just isn’t worth writing. But Marquis’ output was prodigious. He wrote five novels, five plays, numerous short stories and essays, and lots and lots of poetry.

People seemed to die around Marquis. His son died at the age of six; his daughter died at 13; his first wife died after 14 years of marriage; his second wife died after ten years of marriage; and then he died at the age of 59 of a stroke, although it wasn’t his first one. He still managed to work almost to the end.

Here is a little bit of “certain maxims of archy”:

every cloud
has its silver
lining but it is
sometimes a little
difficult to get it to
the mint

an optimist is a guy
that has never had
much experience

don t cuss the climate
it probably doesn t like you
any better
than you like it

many a man spanks his
children for
things his own
father should have
spanked out of him

prohibition makes you
want to cry
into your beer and
denies you the beer
to cry into

And speaking of Prohibition, check out “a roach of the taverns” about the communal aspects of drink. Archy was a wise cockroach.

Happy birthday Don Marquis!