Currently viewing the category: "Foreign Policy"
  • eagle_circle_bigThe Washington Post‘s exclusive story on PRISM, the NSA/FBI program that allows those agencies to tap into the servers of nine of the biggest internet companies in the U.S., including Microsoft, Google, and Facebook. (Not Twitter, it seems!) The awkward NSA powerpoint leaked to WaPost can be found here.
  • Gleen Greenwald’s Guardian exclusive on how Verizon is forced to hand over its customers metadata — meaning which numbers call which numbers, for how long, and the location of the nearest cell tower. Here’s the official leaked document.
  • It’s not just Verizon, it’s also AT&T and Sprint.
  • Greenwald going on MSNBC, being a sexy patriot and telling the government to come at him, bro.
  • The New York Times had an amazing, withering editorial that used to say that the Obama “administration has lost all credibility.”
  • And then they wussed out, notes Gawker.
  • Amazing detail from the previously more-awesome editorial: Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, the author of the PATRIOT Act, is worried about the NSA. His laughable and infuriating statement can be found here.
  • Radley Balko is even a better poet than I am!
  • Ann Coulter has no principles.
  • Reminder that Thomas Drake was another (former) NSA employee who leaked information. Even the people in the scariest agencies sometimes realize that something is awry. This is a strange concept for a libertarian to comprehend.
  • In other weirdly positive government news, Sens. Mark Udall and Ron Wyden tried to tell us something was amiss. I suppose they’re inherently sell-outs for taking that job, but at least they’re pushing back.
  • On the other hand, Udall still can’t confirm anything that was leaked in the last few days.
  • Jerry Tuccille muses on the madness of internal immigration checkpoints. I still don’t understand why they’ve been upheld by the Supreme Court.
  • Man Tazered by police while he struggled to save his son from a burning house. The baby died.
  • Michael Tracey on Alex Jones, Bilderberg, and the GOP welcoming the crazies.

Memorial Day is now three days behind us. The patriotic fervor of the day has dulled to a low ebb. Citizens, more distant than ever from the military, can once again forget about the soldiers dying far away. For most Americans it’s time to go back to their daily grind until the shadow of Veterans Day reminds them to wave flags and post thank yous on social media.

As for libertarians, it’s downright antithetical to celebrate a day like Memorial Day, so it’s a relief when the day passes. The idea of memorializing soldiers, the guns in the itchy trigger fingers of the State’s hand, seems loathsome. These are the people who kill enemy and innocents alike, unquestioning, based on orders given by men who view battlefields as chessboards, soldiers as pawns, and blood as a lubricant in their geopolitical ends and means.

Over on, Lucy Steigerwald (my sister) writes in her critique of Memorial Day that “It is not morally neutral to join the military, and so it’s not morally neutral to mourn war dead.” Sheldon Richman at the Free Association blog also views Memorial Day in a negative light, (to say the least).

Richman writes:

Today is Revisionist History Day, what others call Memorial Day. Americans are supposed to remember the country’s war dead while being thankful that they protected our freedom and served our country. However, reading revisionist history … teaches that the fallen were doing no such thing. Rather they were and are today serving cynical politicians and the “private” component of the military-industrial complex in the service of the American Empire.

But this ignores the millions of soldiers killed who were drafted in the Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. They didn’t choose to join the military, they were coerced. It also ignores the fact that the world only exists in its current capacity because of the blood spilled in the American Revolution. Was that war just? What about World War II? How many civilians have to be killed before some kind of intervention becomes necessary or moral?

You don’t have to believe in the morality of war to honor those who died. But by all means parse out each individual soldier. Play St. Peter and judge them on their worthiness of being honored. Go ahead and memorialize the 53 percent that meets your criteria while making sure none of the 47 percent receive any of your well-wishes. If you want to find someone to blame, there’s a much more worthy target than soldiers — especially the dead ones.

The blame for wars lies squarely at the feet of the government. It’s easy to excoriate soldiers for being the weapons of war, but that ignores the fingers pulling the trigger. With drones replacing front line soldiers, the impetus to change the way our government operates grows exponentially. When war becomes as cold and sterile as playing a video game, it doesn’t bode well for a peaceful world.

You cannot hope to put an end to warfare by heaping blame on the soldiers. It’s counterproductive and only inflames the passions of the citizenry. To spur change, our words and efforts have to be focused on the highest halls of power. The State will try and deflect, to blame the rest of the world for forcing their hand, for coercing them into war. It will arouse patriotism through statues and songs and through co-opting days of memorial.

It is far too easy to get caught up in celebrating Memorial Day the way the government wants us to. They want us to forget the endless wars, the needless interventions. But that’s not the point. Memorial Day wasn’t started by the government as a way to stoke patriotism. It was a simple day of remembering those who died in battle, no matter who or why.

Memorial Day isn’t a once a year quote thanking the military for their service. It’s not an excuse to wave a flag and proclaim our country the greatest in the world. It’s not an excuse to hate anti-war activists and those who would dare speak out against our foreign policy. The State has equated the day with patriotism to dull the senses of the masses. To cow those who would speak out against the heroic American solider serving selflessly overseas to protect our freedoms, Democracy; whatever the buzz words of the day are. But that’s not what Memorial Day is for.

It is a day to honor American soldiers who have died in battle. That’s all.

It’s really that simple. There’s nothing pro-war or pro-government about it. If anything, the concept of remembering the hundreds of thousands of dead American soldiers is decidedly anti-war. If more people remember the cost of war in human terms then it becomes harder for the government to abuse its powers.

The government may have stolen Memorial Day for their own means, but that doesn’t mean remembering the fallen should make us uncomfortable. Remember that as long as government has the power of life and death, there will be more and more soldiers who die and become merely statistics in a book. So celebrate Memorial Day, and remember the soldiers — maybe more than once a year — but do more than that; fight for a world in which they no longer have to be memorialized.

Airplanes have been used to rain death down onto hundreds of thousands of people in their 100-odd years of existence. They also changed the way that people travel. A six month wagon trip turned into a three day train trip turns into a six hour plane flight. That’s airplanes, a morally neutral technology that is both mankind’s greatest dream (flying! like the birds!) and a great tool for his stupidest God damn habit (killing people).

Drones are not as obviously useful as airplanes, since they are not for ferrying humans across countries, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have real purpose. Their defenders are right — drones can be used for film-making, search and rescue, crop-dusting, perhaps even war journalism. But people who confuse the technology with the dead Pakistani children, or with a lying government are forgiven for being unable or unwilling to remember that it’s not the drones themselves that are the problem (mostly, the tech is new…).  The killing, the surveillance  the lobbyists (yep), and the uneven application in the law is and will remain the bigger problem with drones. But they will not be un-invented, so what now?

The rest here.


  • Some more people were droned in Pakistan today, including the alleged Pakistani Taliban number 2, the man supposedly somewhat responsible for the 2009 suicide attack on a Afghanistan CIA compound (as seen in Zero Dark Thirty). He also had a big old bounty on his head.
  • The American Conservative is okay with Rand Paul’s cautiousness about liberty.
  • Jury selection to start in the trial of the officer who allegedly shot and killed seven-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones during a SWAT raid three years ago. Good that the cop is being tried, but the amount of passive voice in the first few grafs of this story is alarming. For example: “[Officer Joseph] Weekley, charged with involuntary manslaughter, is accused of acting with gross negligence when he didn’t prevent his gun from firing during the chaos that followed the use of a “flash-bang” device.” Guns are sneaky the way they just go off if you don’t prevent them.
  • VICE’s Harry Cheadle on Rich Paul, the staggeringly principled man sentenced to 81 years for selling pot.
  • Larry King moving to RT, RT to become less credible.
  • Man who was overweight and asthmatic dies after police taze him at least twice during a drug raid. Police found no cocaine in the house, but at least they killed someone!
  • If you missed it, here’s the Memorial Day piece I wrote for Antiwar.
  • And here’s the radio interview I did with Traces of Reality: we talked about MOVE, Waco, drones, Rand Paul, and other stuff.
  • The Daily Caller offers up the “Top 10 Hottest Civil War Reenactors” and you know what, if they’re going to be trashy and inane, this is the way to do it.
  • Patriotic fauxrage and Adam Levine: two things I don’t care about, together at last.
  • The Daily Kos is the stupidest fucking website in the entire world.
  • My former office nook-mate (that doesn’t sound right, the point is that he sat next to me) Mike Riggs will be on Red Eye tomorrow night (not this 3 a.m., but the one that comes after that — technically Friday). I am excited about this prospect, you should be as well.

Today’s video: Currently listening to a lot of Pokey LaFarge, who didn’t click (in spite of many of my Old Crow fan buddies suggesting him) until I saw him and his band kill it last New Year’s Eve while opening for Old Crow at the Ryman. They almost overshadowed Old Crow, and only Shovels and Rope were a more impressive opening band whose songs I didn’t know.

Also, I have to wonder, could anybody who looks like Pokey not become an old timey musician? Dude does not look of this era.