Author Archives: TomStrong

Christopher Hitchens Diagnosed With Cancer

I should honestly not be blogging right now but this required my attention. I have some bad news for those who like having an intellectually engaging political climate. Christopher Hitchens has been diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus. From Michael J. Totten:

Damn.

Christopher Hitchens has been diagnosed with cancer. According to the Washington Post, he has been “advised by my physician that I must undergo a course of chemotherapy on my esophagus. This advice seems persuasive to me.”

Some thought he published his new book Hitch-22: A Memoir a bit prematurely. I hope they’re right.

Get better, Christopher.

From getting literally beat up by thugs in Beirut after pulling down a nationalist poster to traveling to the worst troublespots of the world, Hitchens put his words to reality in a way that has set him distinctly apart from other writers and pundits. While I’m not an atheist, I distinctly appreciate the message of God is not Great, which took to task the corruption and perverse history of organized faith. From taking on the pedophilia of the Catholic Church to the oppression of Islam, Hitchens wasn’t afraid to critique those who are often taken to be untouchable.

I’m hoping that he pulls through. Without him, the discourse in this country (and globally) is going to get even dumber than it already is.

Hayek on Urban Life

It’s not by mistake that you’ll hear talk of property rights more in the country than in the city, since it’s clearer who owns what in the wide open range. I’ve thought about this a few times but the brilliant economist Frederich Hayek thought about it more intensively in his work The Constitution of Liberty:

“In many respects, the close contiguity of city life invalidates the assumptions underlying any simple division of property rights. In such conditions it is true only to a limited extent that whatever an owner does with his property will affect only him and nobody else. What economists call the ‘neighborhood effects,’ i.e., the effects of what one does to one’s property on that of others, assume major importance. The usefulness of almost any piece of property in a city will in fact depend in part on what one’s immediate neighbors do and in part on the communal services without which effective use of the land by separate owners would be nearly impossible.

The general formulas of private property or freedom of contract do not therefore provide an immediate answer to the complex problems which city life raises. It is probable that, even if there had been no authority with coercive powers, the superior advantages of larger units would have led to the development of new legal institutions—some division of the right of control between the holders of a superior right to determine the character of a large district to be developed and the owners of inferior rights to the use of smaller units, who, within the framework determined by the former, would be free to decide on particular issues. In many respects the functions which the organized municipal corporations are learning to exercise correspond to those of such a superior owner.”

North Korea’s Mysterious Soccer Team

The intelligence digest Stratfor has a really thought provoking article up about the mystery surrounding North Korea’s soccer team:

North Korea is the most mysterious of all the teams to compete in the 2010 World Cup. As in soccer, so it is in geopolitics. Before the tournament started, no one outside North Korea knew what to expect of the team. There is little reliable intelligence on what goes on inside the country whether it’s soccer or anything else. The secretive communist state keeps its doors closed tight and maintains total control of news media. Paid actors, not real North Korean fans, have made up the team’s audience in South Africa. The one reliable way to gauge the North is to expect the unexpected: last time the DPRK participated in the World Cup — in 1966 — it surprised everyone by blasting through to the quarterfinals.

The first match in 2010, against Brazil, exemplified North Korea’s geopolitical strategy and tactics. Few would have guessed that North Korea was capable of competing with Brazil, the team that has won the most World Cup championships. But for decades the same combination of uncompromising loyalty to the group and the element of surprise have enabled Pyongyang to maintain power despite being surrounded by the likes of greater powers — the United States, Russia, Japan, China and South Korea.

This is not to exaggerate North Korea’s strengths — its economy is a shambles, and despite its military’s size, its capabilities are limited. Fear of defeat by foreign competition is why the North rarely ventures abroad, earning the nickname the “Hermit Kingdom.” Pyongyang knows that public humiliation could weaken the group morale that is essential for the regime to survive. But as with its array of missile tests, it is at least able to use the team’s participation on the global stage as domestic propaganda.

North Korea’s presence in an international sporting event like the World Cup sounds very analogous to the emphasis by Saddam Hussein and his sons on the Iraqi Olympic Soccer Team, who were famously tortured by Uday Hussein when they failed to meet expectations, and the Soviet Olympic Teams, which utilized the Olympic Games as another means to try to best the west. Even if you’re not a fan of the sport, the political proxy nature of the World Cup should be fascinating enough to illicit at least nominal interest in the event.

Point: “State’s Rights” A Misnomer

This is a post in our continuing “Point/Counterpoint” series, where TLP contributors and/or guest posters debate a topic. In this installment, Michael Powell argues against the existence of “states’ rights”. Tomorrow, Brad Warbiany will defend states’ rights, and his post can now be found here.

During the twentieth century, there were several confrontations between federal authorities and those proclaiming “state’s rights.” The most notable were those of Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus, in 1967, who called on his state’s National Guard to block several African American youths from attending high school and Alabama Governor George Wallace, who literally stood in the way of troops sent by the Kennedy Administration to escort students Vivian Malone and James Hood (both instances being unforgivable offenses in the Deep South) in 1963. The state was blatantly violating not only individual rights of its citizens but also the legal authority of the U.S. Supreme Court and the executive branch.

The “right” for the state to discriminate against the individual in defiance of federal law (and human decency, which is another matter and not a concept that is very popular in Alabama or other deep southern states) was precisely what George Wallace cited explicitly in his speech at the University of Alabama on June 11, 1963:

The unwelcomed, unwanted, unwarranted and force-induced intrusion upon the campus of the University of Alabama today of the might of the Central Government offers frightful example of the oppression of the rights, privileges and sovereignty of this State by officers of the Federal Government. This intrusion results solely from force, or threat of force, undignified by any reasonable application of the principle of law, reason and justice. It is important that the people of this State and nation understand that this action is in violation of rights reserved to the State by the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Alabama. While some few may applaud these acts, millions of Americans will gaze in sorrow upon the situation existing at this great institution of learning.

Personally, I would not cry crocodile tears if the South had been let go during the Civil War. My ancestors fought in the Confederate Army but my personal life has been filled with people of color. The South has not simply been racist; it has been the closest region in the Western World to pre-industrial feudalism. Its ugly history of public executions, terrorism, exclusion from employment and education of massive portions of the population (including not just people of color but poor whites, women and those who stood against the Southern Christian traditionalist grain), intellectual rejection, ethno-nationalism, proud ignorance and aggressive religiosity is more reflective of the worst regimes in the Middle East than the enlightened industrial democracies of Western Europe, North America and Asia. Just as is the case with the Middle East, the rich natural resources of the South have been the primary reason for keeping the impoverished backwater area in the sphere of the United States.

If it hadn’t been for slavery, racism and the South, the “state’s rights” argument may have more standing validity. Unfortunately, for those who bring back its spectre it brings to mind Jim Crow laws, lynchings, segregation and war. Just as the swastika, which actually has a relevance to Buddhist philosophy, has been defiled by the actions of German National Socialism, “state’s rights” has been defiled by the actions of Southern political actors.

For issues in which “state’s rights” would be a logical defense, especially regarding marijuana, where states like California seek to protect the individual rights of drug users in defiance of prohibitionist federal intervention, I have to beg the question: Why is it an issue of state governance and not simply the right of the individual to do as he wishes?

This isn’t simply a historical, theoretical argument either. States are still today violating individual rights, with the federal government acting as an intervening force of justice. Arizona’s immigration law, SB 1070, which effectively legislated racial profiling and declared war on undocumented workers who are critical to the American economy, is being set upon by the Obama administration’s Justice Department.

I have worked in Latin American foreign policy, so I would like to add that, while I stand in firm opposition to SB 1070, I understand completely why it was implemented. We are in really bad economic shape, as I surely don’t have to inform anyone here. That is exacerbated by the perception by people that don’t understand economics that Hispanic immigrants are “stealing” their jobs and the horrendous mob violence that has been implemented on the border by drug cartels. I reject Kantian ethics that proclaim motivations to paramount to results, however, and a mob of fearful people hardly ever makes the right decision. In American history, “state’s rights” has been a flag that has often been waved by populist demagogues while “individual rights” has been waved by judges and executives with a better grasp of the law. “State’s rights” is a misnomer which is usually used to defend defiance of settled law. It doesn’t deserve or necessitate revival in our political discourse.

This Week In Linguistic Gymnastics

I’m not the first person to notice how important a role linguistics play in politics – George Orwell’s classic 1984 provided keen observations into the role that minimization of language plays in closing political discourse. In his essay “Politics and the English Language,” Orwell stated, “All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer. I should expect to find — this is a guess which I have not sufficient knowledge to verify — that the German, Russian and Italian languages have all deteriorated in the last ten or fifteen years, as a result of dictatorship.”

As a writer, first and foremost, the linguistic abuse that regularly metastasizes in politics is of particular note. Those who don’t share the passion for writing don’t tend to notice it, and so don’t get when they’re being duped. Hopefully this regular column, which I’ll publish each week, will shed light on the sort of verbal athletics that are regularly played.

“The Democrat Party” – I’m not a fan of either political party but I can’t help but notice this particular note of disrespect coming from the Republicans. It’s often said that you should call a group what they call themselves, and the phrase “Democrat Party” is a term no Democrat uses and which is obviously used to downgrade. In a tense interview with George Stephanopoulos, Rand Paul used the phrase with particular anger, demonstrating his ascendance into Republican partisanship.

Republican Names – It dawned on me recently – Republican politicians often seem to have either single or few syllable names: Paul Ryan, George Bush, Ron Paul, Rand Paul. While searching for the meaning of this phenomenon, I can only espouse it to a further illustration of the culture war – on one side, the Democrats, a leader with a name like Barack Hussein Obama II (whose Kenyan and Arabic names combined with American citizenship symbolize multiculturalism) and on the other, the Republicans, a leader with a name like Sarah Louise Palin, the simple charm of which matches the woman’s personality and upbringing.

“Obamacare” derogatory? – While this story is a little bit old, it’s worth bringing up simply because it will be relevant in the future. Daily Show host Jon Stewart pulled the card of saying Obamacare was “derogatory:”

Stewart immediately jumps on O’Hara’s slip, calling him out on using the “derogatory” phrase and firing back by referring to O’Hara’s book as a “tea-bagger book.” O’Hara stammers for a few seconds and tries to defend his word choice, but concedes to calling it the health-reform bill instead. (It’s a law, by the way.)

With the letter “g” used twice in the middle of “tea-bagger,” the phrase is a little too much like two very politically incorrect terms for sexual and ethnic minorities. Stewart is a comedian, of course, and such a term isn’t offensive enough to make him a bad guy. However, while not a bad guy, he is a hypocrite. How on earth is “Obamacare” derogatory while “tea-bagger” isn’t? Does Stewart prefer one sort of derogatory over another? If you go down that logical road, surely some servicemen must have found it upsetting to hear their mission in Iraq called “Mess-O-Potamia” regularly by Stewart.

Twitter – I am normally not a technophobe. I loved the Economist article critiquing Barack Obama’s rant against technology. Given that, you can’t be absolutely fundamentalist about anything, so it must be said that Twitter is not a means to a literate society. With each tweet limited to 140 letters, comments are limited in their meaning in addition to their length. A quick look at my Twitter main page found these gems of literary genius:

i wish i could just kamehameha ppl when i felt like it.

Nine-year-old boy invents better buns for bratwursts, wins admiration of world [Cool]

Shut Up You Fucking Baby! #FaveDavidCrossAlbumAndActualThoughtIAmHavingAboutMyBabyRightNow

[Jun-17]-Equities: Analysis of the Current Situation and Prospects in the Chinese CWSF Market: SHANGHAI, June 17 /… http://bit.ly/aKTMET

We already have a highly visual based reductionist talking point culture, which has enabled mental midgets like Sarah Palin to positions of influence that would have been laughable years ago. Take a look at old issues of Life Magazine and you’ll find the quality of prose more representative of today specialized digests like Lapham’s Quarterly in its quality than People magazine or Newsweek. In many ways, our society is ahead, but in terms of the average American’s language capacity, I’m afraid to say we’re falling behind.

Hayek Sales Skyrocket

Today I got this message from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation:

I hope your summer is off to a great start! If, like me, you’re a fan of free-market economist and Nobel laureate Friedrich Hayek, whose book The Road to Serfdom just hit #1 on Amazon, this has been an exciting week.

It’s true! The Cato Institute has been reporting skyrocketing sales over at their blog, providing an illuminating quote from Professor Bruce Caldwell of Duke University:

In the end, however, I think that the underlying reason for the sustained interest in Hayek’s book is that it taps into a profound dissatisfaction in the public mind with the machinations of its government. Both Presidents Bush and Obama have presided over huge growth in the size of the federal government and in the size of the federal deficit, with little obvious effect on unemployment. Things seem out of control.

I am not a fan of him at all, but one key aspect to Hayek’s rise in sales is Fox News host Glenn Beck. Beck had an extensive discussion of the late economist’s work on his show last week. With an audience of millions, Beck probably played no small role in helping Hayek shoot up to #1 on Amazon.

All I can say is that I am glad to see such economic education occurring. John Stossell has been revisiting Milton Freidman as well. Given that, new times deserve new thinkers and new economic thought and debates would be especially prescient now. Where are the programs like Freidman’s excellent PBS program “Free to Choose?”

For further learning, I personally recommend Christopher Hitchens’ talk with Russ Roberts on George Orwell on the show EconTalk. Roberts and Hitchens parlay through the relevance of Hayek, and Hitchens’ assessment of Hayek’s economic analysis, which is brought up in regards to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s speech that got him canned by the British electorate in 1945, fits mine pretty well.

The Absurd Attacks on Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens, the consummate polemicist and insurgent against orthodoxy and absolutism, released his memoirs. With this has come savage attacks against him that deserve to be shown for their ad hominem nature. It shows pretty supremely in an article on the man in the Guardian:

When the invasion of Iraq was first debated, one couldn’t fail to notice the preponderance of left-wing men of a certain age who came out in support of the war. Radicals as adults, but often from conservative backgrounds, now beginning to confront their own mortality, and preoccupied by masculinity and legacy, their palpable thrill about military might suggested that, deep down, they secretly feared progressive principles were for pussies. Now here was their chance, before it was too late, to prove their manhood.

In 2006, Hitchens’ wife, the American writer Carol Blue, told the New Yorker her husband was one of “those men who were never really in battle and wished they had been. There’s a whole tough-guy, ‘I am violent, I will use violence, I will take some of these people out before I die’ talk, which is key to his psychology – I don’t care what he says. I think it is partly to do with his upbringing.”

I don’t personally know Christopher Hitchens, though I admire him greatly. Perhaps his father’s military background caused him to excelerate his opposition to Islamic fanaticism to a military one. While not as hawkish as him, his opposition is not alien to all liberal thinkers. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Salman Rushdie and Richard Dawkins all share Hitchens’ disgust with the rise in fundamentalism in the Islamic world and its attempts to spread it within Europe.

As a journalist, Decca Altkenhead, the writer of this Guardian piece, should appreciate this. I greatly remember when the world went aflame after the Muslim world discovered caricatures of their Prophet in the Danish Jyllands Posten newspaper. The lopsided attack and the calls for censorship from both the apologetic Left and the religiously offended made me want to vomit. It shouldn’t even have to be explained to someone who makes their trade in words and ideas why freedom of expression is paramount and non-negotiable. That leftist activists cheered on Islamic insanity and cable news channels cheered this behavior by refusing, out of fear, to show the cartoons in question were deplorable acts of complicity.

The idea of Hitchens as a “chickenhawk,” which is subtly suggested in the article, is also absurd. Hitchens has been in the most dangerous parts of the world, from Kurdistan to the 1984 state of North Korea. He was literally beat up by Syrian Social Nationalist partisans in Beirut. In order to figure out if waterboarding was actually an act of torture, Hitchens had himself waterboarded. If that is characteristic of a chickenhawk, I would like to see a demonstration of the opposite characteristic.

Children Raised By Lesbians Better Off?

An awesome study turns social conservative thought on families completely on its head:

Contrary to what the religious right might say, children raised by lesbian parents are doing just as well as their peers, according to a new report based on a 20-year study to be published in the journal Pediatrics. In fact, they may be even better off. “When we compared the adolescents in our study to the so-called gold standard,” Dr. Nanette Gartrell, the study’s author, said, “we found the teens with lesbian mothers were actually doing better.” Researchers found that the children showed significantly fewer social problems and rated much higher academically and socially. As for why their children are faring well, Gartrell suggested that lesbian mothers “are very committed, very involved parents,” and may also be better off economically.

Such research proves two things: Gay people are actually an exceptionally well-to-do group, likely based on the fact that they are often couples of working individuals. Also, a free society must not only be politically and economically fluid but also culturally so. Every child is different, and there’s no set standard for how to raise every single one.

The Clown Prince of Islam

Reader Clown Prince (whose name I hope comes from a shared affinity for the villain of the DC Comics Universe) recommended an article from Times Online about women converting to Islam. I thought it was worth noting a few things I found prominent in the article. First:

“Our liberal, pluralistic 21st-century society means we can choose our careers, our politics – and we can pick and choose who we want to be spiritually,” explains Dr Mohammad S. Seddon, lecturer in Islamic Studies at the University of Chester. We’re in an era of the “religious supermarket”, he says.

I couldn’t agree more with Dr. Seddon. The beauty of our society is that people can choose where they want to live, who they want to associate with and what faith (or no faith) they want to subscribe to. The problem is that there is an extreme element in Islam, and Christianity to a less violent degree, that can’t handle many elements of this pluralism. Many Muslims think criticism of their religion should be outlawed because their faith doesn’t permit it, putting their own faith over the laws of the countries they’ve immigrated to. Many Christians, because they believe homosexuality is a crime, want their views of homosexuality enforced on the rest of society.

The rest of the article documents several women who lived lives of drunken chaos, nihilism and other youthful decadence. It pretty seems like the same story of those who convert to evangelical Christianity:

“At university, I lived the typical student existence, drinking and going clubbing, but I’d always wake up the next morning with a hangover and think, what’s the point?

“It wasn’t until my second year that I met Hussein. I knew he was a Muslim, but we were falling in love, so I brushed the whole issue of religion under the carpet. But six months into our relationship, he told me that being with me was ‘against his faith’.

“I was so confused. That night I sat up all night reading two books on Islam that Hussein had given me. I remember bursting into tears because I was so overwhelmed. I thought, ‘This could be the whole meaning of life.’ But I had a lot of questions: why should I cover my head? Why can’t I eat what I like?

Some people are apparently unable to live a stable, independent life on their own and need to have the constant validation of orthodoxy to keep them in line. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it would be good if religious people were to realize that not everyone has this problem. Many of us are moral and refrain from doing drugs and drinking every day simply because it’s self-evidently necessary.

“When people see a white girl wearing a niqab they assume I’ve stuck my fingers up at my own culture to ‘follow a bunch of Asians’. I’ve even had teenage boys shout at me in the street, ‘Get that s*** off your head, you white bastard.’ After the London bombings, I was scared to walk about in the streets for fear of retaliation.

That’s the sort of ignorance and stupidity that needs to be stomped out. A recent roommate of me remarked about the Jihad Jane story that it was surprising that she was white. Islam is and has always been a global religion since its inception.

“For the most part, I have a very happy life. I married Hussein and now we have a one-year-old son, Zakir. We try to follow the traditional Muslim roles: I’m foremost a housewife and mother, while he goes out to work. I used to dream of having a successful career as a psychologist, but now it’s not something I desire.

“Becoming a Muslim certainly wasn’t an easy way out. This life can sometimes feel like a prison, with so many rules and restrictions, but we believe that we will be rewarded in the afterlife.”

Here Aqeela Lindsay Wheeler validates the arguments of Ali and myself. Organized religion makes oppression based on stupid differences like race and gender sustainable because it leaves the believer in acceptance of their lowly status. I’m a little surprised Clown Prince sent me an article where a Muslim convert essentially validates the anti-feminist nature of the faith.

Islamic orthodoxy is antithetical to liberal enlightenment. Islam must remain one faith among many, separate from the state and policy, if we want to remain free and secular. This is a fine line to walk, because the skepticism of Hitchens, Ali, Dawkins or Harris could turn into the conservative racism and xenophobia of Mark Steyn (who actually used Arabs being elected to political positions as an argument for a European downfall in his screed America Alone).

Anyways, I recommend everyone read Clown Prince’s article and educate themselves about Islam. Westerners are far too ignorant about it.

Nicholas Kristof Betrays Liberalism

In a recent column, Nicholas Kristof criticized strongly Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the unbelievably brave Somali intellectual who has dedicated her career to pursuit of an Enlightenment in the Islamic world. Kristof apparently sees Ali as fomenting bigotry towards Muslims, casting aside the very legitimate and pressing criticism of the fastest growing religion that Ali posits.

Kristof has shown himself before to be more dedicated to political correctness than pointing out evil in the world. He may be more consistent in his P.C. attitude than the average liberal, as evidenced by an article from May called “More to Catholic Church than Vatican’s old boys club.” In it, he puts in full effort to be touchy-feely and offend absolutely no one:

Yet if the top of the church has strayed from its roots, much of its base is still deeply inspiring. I came here to impoverished southern Sudan to write about Sudanese problems, not the Catholic Church’s. Yet, once again, I am awed that so many of the selfless people serving the world’s neediest are lowly nuns and priests — notable not for the grandeur of their vestments, but for the grandness of their compassion.

As I’ve noted before, there seem to be two Catholic Churches, the old boys’ club of the Vatican and the grass-roots network of humble priests, nuns and laity in places like Sudan. The Vatican certainly supports many charitable efforts, and some bishops and cardinals are exemplary, but overwhelmingly it’s at the grass roots that I find the great soul of the Catholic Church.

Reading that, I’m left thinking of the open-ended question, left largely unanswered, by Christopher Hitchens about religion – What act of philanthropy has been made by a religious organization that couldn’t have been done by a secular organization? If both the Catholic Church and Islam are corrupt and oppressive at their very core, which there seems to be quite a bit of evidence for, the fact that many very wonderful people identify with those religions is fairly meaningless, especially considering that religions are more often part of someone’s heritage and not something they sought out independently.

In his review of Ali’s book Nomad, Kristof accuses Ali of “religious bigotry” that leaves him “uncomfortable and exasperated.” Bigotry is certainly something I am not a fan of, but a quick definition of bigotry from Wikipedia shows a bigot to be “person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices.” Seeing as Ali spent much of her life as a Muslim, escaped from an arranged marriage and cannot speak with any of her family members without having them clamoring for her to return to Islam, it is the height of confusion to label Ali a bigot and then call for some sort of enlightened condescension to a religion whose holy book provides chunks of feminist wisdom such as “I looked into Paradise and I saw that the majority of its people were the poor. And I looked into Hell and I saw that the majority of its people are women.”

In his criticism of Ali, Kristof disgustingly says “she never quite outgrew her rebellious teenager phase.” This is beyond reprehensible. To be a rebellious teenager in an environment of religious orthodoxy takes a courage that Kristof appears to be a stranger to. Kristof is a well traveled man, certainly more than myself, but seems to have a naivety about the close-minded nature of the extremely religiously dedicated (and, being a faith that requires you to pray five times a day, travel from any destination in the world to Mecca in order for pilgrimage and potentially give up your life, Islam makes Christianity look like a part time gig).

Kristof either never really looked inquisitively into Islam or is in denial. I once dated a beautiful woman from Saudi Arabia. Though she no longer wore the hijab, the mystic parochialism of her home country still haunted her. She had been sexually terrorized in her past and still carried with her a depth of depression over not being able to be with a past lover who had been a member of a different clan. (She said quite frankly of her experience, “our culture sucked.”) Though we spent a lot of time together, she would make efforts not to be seen with me in areas where there were a good deal of Muslims (though there are many white Muslims, it would be really hard to claim me as anything but kafir).

While it is disappointing that the rigidness of political correctness has caused Kristof to suspend reality, there are heartening laments from other liberals in the media. Bill Maher has been very welcoming to Ali, calling her a “hero” and was unrelenting in the absolutely ridiculous response by radical Muslims to an episode of South Park portraying the Prophet Mohammed in a bear suit.

Liberals would be wise to realize that Islam being a religion primarily of third world people of color doesn’t endow it with some nobility not afforded the Christian faith of midwestern and southern white Americans. This soft racism may sound a whole lot better than the hard racism that still pops up in all cultures, but in the long run is just as destructive and a threat toward liberalism.

Racial Tensions Explode in CA

Racial clashes have sprung up in Northern California, and without the expected suspects:

At least four high-profile attacks involving blacks and Asians have occurred since January in San Francisco and Oakland, including the beating death of Tian Sheng Yu, 59, last month. Two 18-year-old men have been charged with the murder.

Rongshi Chen, 64, was assaulted last fall in San Francisco’s Visitacion Valley by a pair of men Chen could only identify as “young and black”. They kicked his ribs, broke his collarbone and made off with $200, credit cards and Chen’s identification. No one caught the attackers.

When I lived in Berkeley a while back, I moved in to a sublet where my roommates were predominantly Asian. Growing up a good liberal in Seattle, I didn’t have any stereotypes and was very open to them. In return, I got treated like a second-class citizen with all of them giving me stares and ignoring me. The landlord even refused to take my rent money and wouldn’t answer my requests to see my mail. He evicted me with a bunch of made-up claims, saying that I had failed to pay rent and literally threatening me with violence if I didn’t leave.

Once I got out of that scary situation, I told the police. They said they’d keep tabs on it but said I didn’t have enough for an arrest or anything like that.

I think stories like  mine and the one above go to show that racism is a recurring facet of human society, not caused by whites in the south, reclusive Asians or angry blacks but what I believe is our shared tribal nature with primates.

Howard Zinn was the Worst the Left has to offer

Howard Zinn passed at the beginning of this year, and I will admit part of me was saddened at his passing. My mother owned his People’s History of the United States, and my fellow students at college seemed to adore his work. My best friend is a Zinn fanatic, bringing him up nearly every time politics comes up.

Now that months have passed since he died, the second-hand positive notions are gone and the real nature of Zinn’s career can be assessed. Reason wrote an appropriate article following his passing, concluding that Zinn was “a master of agitprop, not history.”

The absolute worst of Zinn came on his deplorable misinformation regarding the totalitarian state in Cuba and the rise of political Islam, both of which placed Zinn on the wrong side of history. That Zinn’s nonsense is regularly repeated by fairly intelligent people is sad phenomenon, indeed. From Reason:

Just how poor is Zinn’s history? After hearing of his death, I opened one of his books to a random page (Failure to Quit, p. 118) and was informed that there was “no evidence” that Muammar Qaddafi’s Libya was behind the 1986 bombing of La Belle Discotheque in Berlin. Whatever one thinks of the Reagan administration’s response, it is flat wrong, bordering on dishonest, to argue that the plot wasn’t masterminded in Tripoli. Nor is it correct to write that the American government, which funded the Afghan mujahadeen in the 1980s, “train[ed] Osama bin Laden,” a myth conclusively debunked by Washington Post correspondent Steve Coll in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book Ghost Wars.

Of Cuba, the reader of A People’s History is told that upon taking power, “Castro moved to set up a nationwide system of education, of housing, of land distribution to landless peasants.” Castro’s vast network of gulags and the spasm of “revolutionary justice” that sent thousands to prison or the executioners wall is left unmentioned. This is unsurprising, I suppose, when one considers that Zinn recently told an interviewer “you have to admire Cuba for being undaunted by this colossus of the North and holding fast to its ideals and to Socialism….Cuba is one of those places in the world where we can see hope for the future. With its very meager resources Cuba gives free health care and free education to everybody. Cuba supports culture, supports dance and music and theatre.”

Zinn’s movement leftism never gained nuance, even on his deathbed. His very last interview was with Playboy, in which he talked about America’s economy:

PLAYBOY: So what can the average American do?

ZINN: Not much alone, individually. The only time citizens can do anything is if they organize, if they create a movement, if they act collectively, if they join their strengths. The trade union movement, of course, is an example of that. The trade union movement is weak, and the trade union movement needs to become stronger. Citizens need to organize in such a way that they can present the members of Congress with demands and say, “We are going to vote for you if you listen to us,” or “We’re not going to vote for you if you don’t listen to us.” In other words, people have to organize to create a citizens movement. We have to think about the 1930s as a model; people organized in the face of economic crisis—organized into tenants’ movements and unemployment councils and of course they organized a new trade union movement, the CIO. So we need people to organize. Of course, this is not easy, and it won’t happen overnight. Because it’s not easy the tendency is to throw up your hands and not do anything, but we have to start at some point, and the starting point is people getting together with other people and creating organizations. For instance, people can get together to stop evictions. Neighbors can get together. This is something that can be done at a local level. This was done in the 1930s when neighbors got together to stop the evictions of people who weren’t able to pay their rent and the 1930s were full of such incidents. Tenants’ councils had been formed and when people were evicted from their tenements, their neighbors gathered and put their furniture back in the house.

That sort of nonsense about collective action being the only means of change is just that: nonsense. George Orwell alienated many of his friends on the left, who he made in his criticism of colonialism and fascism, by taking on Stalinism in Animal Farm and 1984. Malcolm X was murdered by his former friends at the Nation of Islam when he revealed the hypocrisy of its leader, Elijah Mohammed, and renounced extremism in favor of racial reconciliation. Oskar Schindler saved 1200 Jews by employing within his own factories. The list goes on, as does the list of those who were manipulated due to their unwavering allegiance to a collective of any kind. Fresh-behind-the-ears college students who take Zinn’s words to be the truth run the risk of becoming exactly what Zinn was: a tool of propaganda.

French Burqua Ban: Liberating or Tyrannical?

I can almost guarantee that the overwhelming swap of Liberty Papers readers were sympathetic to the creators of South Park in the recent controversy. In fact, I’m sure some of you are planning on participating in Everybody Draw Mohammed Day.

Given that, I have to request reader thoughts on the French ban of the burqa (a Muslim face-covering for women). My first intuition is a firm “no” against the ban, simply based on my strong emotional attachment to the tenets of freedom of religion as expressed in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Christopher Hitchens makes the case over at Slate that the ban isn’t a ban at all, but actually a sort of state-mandated liberation of women from the tyranny of Islamic theology:

The French legislators who seek to repudiate the wearing of the veil or the burqa—whether the garment covers “only” the face or the entire female body—are often described as seeking to impose a “ban.” To the contrary, they are attempting to lift a ban: a ban on the right of women to choose their own dress, a ban on the right of women to disagree with male and clerical authority, and a ban on the right of all citizens to look one another in the face. The proposed law is in the best traditions of the French republic, which declares all citizens equal before the law and—no less important—equal in the face of one another.

After reading the article, I’m not sure what to think. Hitchens makes a strong case, but he is a master manipulator of words and verbal gymnastics are on full display in “In Your Face.” What do you think?

Nation’s Drug Czar Laments Drug War Failure

Here’s the direct quote:

“In the grand scheme, it has not been successful,” drug czar Gil Kerlikowske told the AP. “Forty years later, the concern about drugs and drug problems is, if anything, magnified, intensified.”

That’s certainly good to hear, but here’s the chief problem:

This week President Obama backed up that rhetoric by announcing a new national policy that treats drug use as much as a public health concern as a criminal issue.

That seems like Obama is just heightening the drug war while not militarizing it. If he were to take slow steps to rescinding the whole failed enterprise, he would be treating drugs as a public health concern and less as a criminal issue.

Robin Hood – Tea Partier?

A review for Robin Hood from the Seattle Weekly poses some unexpected accusations:

An old-fashioned adventure epic weighed down by overly simplistic, quasi-populist dialogue,Ridley Scott‘s Robin Hood plays like a rousing love letter to the Tea Party movement. Instead of robbing from the rich to give to the poor, this Robin Hood (Russell Crowe) preaches about “liberty” and the rights of the individual as he wanders a countryside populated chiefly by Englishpersons bled dry by government greed. Stumbling across King Richard the Lionheart’s corpse and the King’s dying sidekick, Robert Loxley, Robin agrees to take the Loxley family sword back to papa Walter Loxley (Max Von Sydow) in Nottingham, only to discover that Walter lives with Marian (Cate Blanchett), the headstrong woman Robert married on the eve of decamping for war a decade earlier. The film’s second act is largely taken up with the budding relationship between Robin and Marian. Just as this union is on the verge of consummation, the landowners threaten to rise up against the royals, the French army storms…something, and the English king has to make political concessions to his people so that they’ll march for him instead of against him in a great, partially underwater battle. Robin Hoodseemingly seeks to wow through assault—the soundtrack is loud and extraordinarily dense, the pace is relentless, the battle scenes choreographed for total sensory disorientation, and the war of the story is too convoluted to keep track of without the aid of press notes.

If Hollywood is trying to tap into Tea Party sentiment, that’s really interesting. A horde of leftist films came out during the Bush years, but those were typically cast aside as purely ideological. Perhaps Hollywood executives are more business conscious than political.

A New Introduction

I am honored to join The Liberty Papers.

Brad Warbiany and Doug Mataconis have been very welcoming, and my new realm into libertarian thought should be fulfilling and rich.

I’ve been at United Liberty for two years, starting with the 2008 election and running all the way up to coverage of Arizona’s discriminatory immigration law. My work goes back even further, back to the San Francisco Examiner and the neighborhood newspapers North Seattle Herald Outlook and Madison Park Times in Seattle, Washington.

In the times we live in, there seems to be a political shift going on. The United States is becoming more ethnically diverse, the economy continues to stagnate, and government is making short term maneuvers without foreseeing long-term effects. On the other side of the coin, the Right, who talk a lot of jive about freedom, are parading their own twisted form of nationalism. In these times, it’s important to try to solidify and distinguish the libertarian movement as a separate alternative to the forms of authoritarianism so far proposed to us. I hope my work at The Liberty Papers will help to do that.

I am also currently working on a book on the future of race in politics. It should be finished within the year and published subsequently.

1 2 3