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Skeptical Essays (2010).
May I further suggest that independent critics are better positioned for truth-telling over those employed either as academics, magazine writers, or staffers at a “think tank, ” all of whom have messages they want to get out, as they say, regardless of whether or not those messages are true or false. Libertarian-anarchists are likely to tell more truths than either Republicans or Democrats, than either liberals or conservatives, precisely because we have fewer cemeteries to defend.
Younger Critics in North America (1976)
Lands without masters have no demand for slaves.
“What Good Is Zacharis Moussaoui” (2006)
More than once in our history elements within the American government have successfully defused a threatening minority by legally prosecuting unto death advocates who may or may not have been guilty of a capital crime. Though even now some still think either Nicola Sacco or Bartolomeo Vanzetti innocent, the execution of them certainly undermined Italian anarchism in America. Similarly, the trial and execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg defused Jewish communism, even though, in my considered opinion, the ill-fated couple were wanna-be spies who had no serious atomic secrets. (Wanting to do something treasonous is not a capital crime, objectionable though it is.)
“’Conquering’ Afghanistan & Iraq” (2002-2004)
One great truth of the past decade is that I'd rather have my President make love, even lousy love, and lie about it, than make war, especially lousy war, and have his associates lie about it. Wouldn't you?
“When Will Tailgate End?” (1999)
In my Political Essays (Autonomedia, 1999) was a chapter "'Tailgate' and the America Haters," in which I spoke of the Clinton-Lewinsky-Starr affair (CLS) as exemplifying "the cultural decline of America, the sheer trashiness." Nothing since has led me to revise that opinion. Not unlike other mature adults, I can't get upset about the president or anyone else having wholesome consensual oral sex with someone old enough to vote--someone not a virgin who had probably practiced this craft on someone else. To recall a percipient slogan from the 1960s, I'd rather have my president (and even my generals) make love than war. To expect elected officials to eschew seduction (passive as well as active), whether for votes or sex, is to deny their nature.
Skeptical Essays (2010)
I've still not forgiven Al Gore for throwing in the towel, as they say in boxing, for a contest that could have been disputed in the courts for years, leaving the United States to go about its federal biz with no president at all.
FDR & Linc & Woody” (2010)
Don't 21st-century pundits among us libertarians want to conclude, finally, that the two principal mistakes FDR made in the early 1940s was getting the US into World War II and not admitting all the Jewish refugees who wanted to immigrate here? In retrospect, the latter seems less of a failure of omission than, like the former, thoughtless commission. Blessed with Tuesday-morning hindsight, can't we conclude now that Stalin would have defeated Hitler without American intervention? Japan had no designs on conquering American land, which they knew couldn't be done, because too many guns were distributed among the populace.
“Reconsidering AIDS and The Costs of Getting Governments Involved” (2006)
Government(s) didn't cure this problem either, instead authorizing the HIV hypothesis and approving deadly drugs through its “health” agencies. When will people learn that a government imprimatur is no guarantee of safety or truth? Indeed, let me raise a question for future historians of AIDS: had governments not been involved, would fewer people have died prematurely? (I pose this question recalling Hannah Arendt's provocative suggestion in her classic Eichmann in Jerusalem  that fewer Jews would have been deported to concentration camps during WWII had Jewish communities not been so well organized in rounding up their own and presenting them to their Nazi captors. Conversely, people less responsive to their self-selected leaders would not have been so obedient. To that I've always added that fewer European Jews would have died had they possessed stronger personal weapons.) Government aggravation of AIDS is a critique that only a gay Libertarian (not I) could write. Given the evidence already known, may I wager that someone will?
Skeptical Essays (2010)
Whenever the people of a country are perpetually poor, dictatorial leaders dominate.
“Contemporaneous Notes on the World Trade Center Provocation” (2001)
In the wake of the killings at the 1972 Munich Olympics, Israeli intelligence initiated a “back-alley war,” to so speak, against antagonists who could not be immediately located. Everyone involved eventually disappeared just as everyone who needed to know what happened knew. Though this is the sort of no-headlines retaliation favored by Davids responding to Goliaths, don't forget that murderous enemies were removed without losing disinterested sympathizers or directly causing additional casualties at home. Especially because the suicide bombers come from an enemy that cannot be conveniently located in one place, finding them requires strategies appropriate for smart Davids, not clumsy Goliaths.
Favoring retaliation but fearing military aggression, let me suggest that now is the time for the President to declare, say in his weekly weekend speech, "a moratorium until further notice on all arrests for the use, possession, or selling of cocaine and heroin." Not only would the price of these drugs plummet here, as drug entrepreneurs compete with one another to unload inventories that would lose their black-market inflated value, but it would pull an economic floor out from under Afghanistan, reducing its drug merchants, as well as Al-Qaeda toughies, to selling bags of powder along with trinkets for "one dollar, one dollar, one dollar." Remember that Afghanistan is customarily identified as a principal source of poppies that go into heroin.
Secondary benefits of this moratorium might include undermining the corrupt economies of Colombia, among other problematic countries, and easing the courthouse logjam in imprisoning real criminals at home. Let other Western nations decide on their own, without any coercion from U.S., whether they want to go along with this concerted effort at nonviolent economic counter-terrorism. Since this is a period of emergency, as everyone says, consider an emergency solution that is first of all less costly than military attacks and likely to be more effective than over-killing retaliation. If alcohol prohibition was an “experiment” that failed, consider drug decriminalization to be an experiment offering immediate advantages that might be considered acceptable in the long run as well, making the moratorium permanent. Though heroin and cocaine ravage American lives (including people I've known), so does war. One difference is that war kills the strong and the best while drugs take those who are not so strong and less than best. Consider as well that at a time of impending economic crisis a drug moratorium would also cost less money than military forays.
“Israel & Palestine & America” (2003, 2004)
One question that seems to escape the world's pundits is why the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) keeps Yasser Arafat alive? They could have taken him out in his current bunker, to which he is confined, or any one of a hundred other places. The common explanation is that his death would prompt protests in the West. So what? The Sharon administration couldn't care less.
They keep him alive, let me suggest, to be a lousy leader—a dictatorial pooper, so dependent upon "donations" rather than earned income; who tolerates corruption from which he might incidentally benefit; who had millions of dollars, if not a billion, stashed away in perhaps more accounts than he remembers around the world; who jeopardizes the economy of his people to keep his complaint machine going; who rejects the previous Israeli administration's generous peace plans; who falls for [Ariel's] Sharon's provocations to sway the Israeli electorate; who cuts an unattractive figure, especially in contrast to some of his western-educated colleagues; who leaves behind evidence of public lying as in denying his financial support of the suicide bombers; who looks unkempt on camera. The key quip in understanding Arafat is that he never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity to better the circumstances of Palestinians.
Though Israelis have no doubt inflicted suffering on Palestinians, the latter have suffered far more from exploitation and mistreatment by their own “leaders,” who must be condemned yet more, unless someone assumes that Palestinians are inferior human beings not responsible for their own fate. Any group of people accepting lousy leaders always looks stupid to skeptical outsiders. (If that is assumed, why pick on Israelis for continuing Palestinian failure? Need I suggest that people critical only of Israel, that those failing to acknowledge Arab complicity in their own failure, have an ulterior agenda that is unacceptable?) Infantilizing insufficient people does them no favor and also makes the infantilizer look stupid.
Keeping Arafat alive is a cynical Israeli strategy, to be sure, and one that is costly in lives on both sides; but it forbids the emergence among Palestinians of anyone who might be more effective, less corrupt, less dishonest. What the IDF chiefs know for sure is that he'll screw his people at the same time that he cons them and his supporters in the west. If you were running a successful corporation, wouldn't you want your principal competitor to be dominated by a screw-up who couldn't be easily replaced?
Needless to say perhaps, nothing makes the Palestinian people look more insufficient than their inability to do what the IDF denies--depose of Arafat.
“Beginning the Silly Season” (2007)
One result of popular neglect [of presidential campaigns] should be a reconsideration of the traditional myth about voting percentages. If nearly 100% of the people voted in totalitarian countries whose governments were feared, shouldn't a low turnout assume a contentment that reflects the absence of government intimidation? If that's true, wouldn't an indisputably successful country would be one where voluntarily no one bothers to vote at all?
If public uninterest in the 2008 campaigns persists past the primaries next year, will the media “forget to cover” the final run-up (or is it a run-down?) to the Presidential election next summer and fall? If 4 November 2008 becomes nothing more than another shopping holiday, will the US, confronted with having no President at all, begin splitting ourselves apart?
“Unlicensing Marriage” (2005)
Remembering Paul Goodman's declaration that the State should not be in the business of licensing sex (aka “marriage”), let me suggest that it also shouldn't be in the business of unlicensing sex, which is to say divorce, where the State can function far more dangerously. Marriage should strictly be a religious vow or a contractual arrangement done, as well as undone, by holy people and/or professional negotiators.
Were state-sanctioned divorce abolished, then people would be able to “marry” as often as they wished, elevating their relationships, even if they no longer co-habited with their previous spouses.
Need I add that we should also abolish all those stupid laws that become false incentives to marriage, beginning with tax advantages and visitation rights in a hospital?
Skeptical Essays (2010)
In most pre-election surveys, one general option commonly omitted is Third Party, in principle any third party, even marijuana or monarchist, should you wish. If you reside in a state whose electoral college results are uncontested, where the two most prominent presidential candidates don't bother to advertise, as I do (NY), your vote for either major candidate is unnecessary and thus wasted. By contrast, a third-party vote counts to keep that option on the ballot and thus to publicize the alternatives it presents. A lot of third-party votes would keep either behemoth from attaining a majority. Thus, even when I don't much like the candidate, I customarily vote Libertarian.
“Brown University, Fifty Years Later” (2010)
Later in the 1960s I recall hearing about a Pembroker whom I knew, whose name I can't now remember, dammit. When she applied for a secretarial position at the CIA, she was asked what she was doing at a meeting around 1961 entirely of students that arranged to have the anti-left film Operation Abolition come to Brown, when the Fulton Lewis III, a right-wing commentator, debated our chaplain Charlie Baldwin over its subject—the prophetic student protests at Berkeley in 1960. What upset me then and now was not just that the CIA must have had an informant on campus but that the informant must have been a student, whom most of us would think less reliable at providing information about his or her classmates than an adult. Indeed, I still object not only to CIA spying at Brown but to any government “intelligence” agency bestowing on someone so young a license to abuse classmates behind their backs, as perhaps this Pembroker was, say, by a guy whose sexual advances were refused.
“A Sea-Change in New York City” (2002-2003)
I've never smoked cigarettes and tend to dislike the practice, much as I dislike certain notions of homosexual sex; but many of my best friends appear to do both, dangers to their health notwithstanding. And though they remain my friends, I have no more sympathy for smokers who die of lung cancer than butt-fuckers who die of AIDS or race-drivers who die in car crashes. Sympathetic though I might be to attempts to eradicate behaviors I dislike, I also know they are doomed to fail. Mayor Ed Koch, always verbally sharp, once joked that advising homosexuals to refuse sex is like telling the ocean to stop rolling, creating in my mind an ultimate image of vain activity. Though attempts to legislate the end of smoking are not likely to be any more successful, our current mayor, fresh from great corporate success in the English-language investment info biz, believes he can. I doubt it.
“The War on Overweight” (2005)
Since the costly "war on drugs" has not been won, while that in Iraq has stalled at great continuing expense, why not focus government energies on the War on Overweight, which obviously takes more lives prematurely than either recreational drugs or war (not to mention automobiles). Though victory here might be similarly elusive, two charms of the War on Overweight are that it would be as lot less costly (unless those laid off at the DEA become the ObesePolice) and that failure here might discourage our government from declaring further wars, all wars.