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simpsons-kodos-treehouseofhorrorStupid Point/Counterpoint is a new feature in which Stag Blog columnist Joe Steigerwald counters the worst editorials on the internet with a well-written and thought out rebuttal. Also: mockery and yelling.

How do you write a critique of libertarianism without doing any research into the subject of libertarianism? Join Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer as they answer that question, and more!

AMERICA, did you know there is a shadowy group of extremists whose only goal is bringing about the destruction of the state? This cadre of radicals operates under our very noses, advocating for less government and more personal freedom. If we allow them to succeed they will plunge the country into destruction. They must be eliminated.

I for one thank God that we have Nick Hanauer and Eric Liu to expose these monsters.

Are Libertarians the new Communists? The question, authored by Michael Bloomberg under the pen name Nick Hanauer and Eric Liu, would appear to have an obvious answer: no. Or, more appropriately: hell no, are you stupid? However, that is only because you have been brainwashed by the massive libertarian juggernaut. They of the 1 percent of the popular vote in the 2012 Presidential election and zero active members in the U.S. government.

The article posits that while communism and extreme libertarianism (a word so unpopular spell check doesn’t even recognize it) appear to be “polar opposites” they are actually “mirror images,” and the adoption of either would result in unchecked human misery, poverty, and tyranny.

I’d like to think (or at least pray) that most people would laugh when they read Hanauer and Liu’s anti-libertarian polemic appearing (ever so appropriately) at Bloomberg.com. I’d love to believe that most rational humans who read the article threw up their hands, closed down their browsers, got back into their beds, and pulled up the covers; vowing never again to leave their house. Those few people who actually finished the article probably fell into one of two camps: enraged libertarians and Michael Bloomberg worshiping authoritarians.

Some articles with terrible headlines actually improve upon close reading. This isn’t one of them. It turns out the title is probably the most well thought-out part of the entire endeavor. It’s completely misleading, but it’s excellent link bait. The headline screams that juicy controversial content is inside — it begs to be clicked and shared– but the article can’t deliver upon that promise. It’s obviously unreasearched, blatantly misleading on every level, and poorly written. The writers have to strain the limits of belief to build their rather shaky case that a country run by “extremist” libertarians would develop the same problems that plague the communist-controlled China, Cuba, and North Korea.

By the second paragraph Hanauer and Liu have changed their entire premise: libertarians aren’t the problem, it’s the “extremist” or “radical” wing of the party that is the problem. Unfortunately the named are all Republicans, not libertarians, and certainly not part of the “extremist” wing of the party:

Some of the radical libertarians are Ayn Rand fans who divide their fellow citizens into makers, in the mold of John Galt, and takers, in the mold of anyone not John Galt.

Some, such as the Koch brothers, are economic royalists who repackage trickle-down economics as “libertarian populism.” Some are followers of Texas Senator Ted Cruz, whose highest aspiration is to shut down government. Some resemble the anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, who has made a career out of trying to drown, stifle or strangle government.

Yes, liberty is a core American value, and an overweening state can be unhealthy. And there are plenty of self-described libertarians who have adopted the label mainly because they support same-sex marriage or decry government surveillance. These social libertarians aren’t the problem. It is the nihilist anti-state libertarians of the Koch-Cruz-Norquist-Paul (Ron and Rand alike) school who should worry us.

Liu and Hanauer round up the usual capitalist boogey men: Ayn Rand and her ever-pulsing mass of followers, the “sinister 6,” an evil group of superlibertarians featuring: The Koch brothers, AKA the Kochtopus, Rand “Republican Senator from Tennessee” Paul, Ron “Dr. No” Paul, Grover “The Tax Slayer” Norquist, and Ted “I’m not a libertarian, why am I on this list” Cruz. This band of evil anti-statist extremists want nothing more than to destroy the government and plunge America into freedom anarchy.

Lui and Hanauer make the usual mistake of equating anyone who wants to reduce the size of government (no matter how slight) to extremist libertarians. No self-respecting libertarian (must less a radical extremist) would ever include Rand Paul and Ted Cruz in their secret coven, even if they agree with some of their policies. This is where the authors betray their own statist ideology. Even the smallest notion of shrinking the government sends shockwaves through Lui and Hanauer’s entire being. Their reaction to a tiny faction of dedicated but hopelessly outnumbered ideologues is to go nuclear on an entire ideology. They don’t want to marginalize the radical libertarian movement, they want to annihilate anyone who dares think that government is growing too large. To them this means cobbling together a disparate group of politicians and advocates who loosely share a streak of libertarianism into a shadowy group of “extremists” and “radicals” and slandering the hell out of them.

Lui and Hanauer’s premise — which on its own is ridiculous — is quickly revealed to be merely a hit piece on Republican bigwigs and future presidential candidates  Rand Paul and Ted Cruz are almost a lock to run in 2016, and Grover Norquist and the Koch brothers receive nearly daily slandering from the left.

When you compare an ideology that has produced nearly 100 million victims to one that advocates personal freedom and extremely limited government you should probably introduce some evidence into the equation. Alas, there is little evidence to to be found in the article (though they have plenty of hearsay and conjecture. Which are “kinds of evidence.”)

We say the conditional “would” because radical libertarianism has a fatal flaw: It can’t be applied across a functioning society. What might radical libertarians do if they actually had power? A President Paul would rule by tantrum, shutting down the government in order to repeal laws already passed by Congress. A Secretary Norquist would eliminate the Internal Revenue Service and progressive taxation, so that the already wealthy could exponentially compound their advantage, as the programs that sustain a prosperous middle class are gutted. A Koch domestic policy would obliterate environmental standards for clean air and water, so that polluters could externalize all their costs onto other people.

Radical libertarians would be great at destroying. They would have little concept of creating or governing. It is in failed states such as Somalia that libertarianism finds its fullest actual expression.

First of all it would be very hard for a single, lone libertarian in the halls of Washington D.C. to do anything close to the kinds of things that Lui and Hanauer propose would happen. Apparently they have forgotten about the hundreds of Republicans and Democrats lining the aisles of Congress. Secondly, once again the authors fail to name a single libertarian. Thirdly, saying Somalia is the “fullest actual expression” of libertarianism is represents an alarming lack of knowledge about Somalia, libertarianism, world affairs, politics, war, culture, religion, federalism, constitutional law, economics, capitalism, rational arguments (etc. etc.). It’s a gross misrepresentation of libertarianism, and all too common from the statist left. (For future reference I do recommend at least wikipedia-ing “libertarian” before writing about it. Hint, hint)

Some libertarians will claim we are arguing against a straw man and that no serious adherent to their philosophy advocates the extreme positions we describe. The public record of extreme statements by the likes of Cruz, Norquist and the Pauls speaks for itself.

Citations? References? Links? A link to a Google search of “extreme statements by Ron Paul?” Something/Anything?  When you include “speaks for itself” in an article, it usually means, “I heard Ed Schulz bashing him on TV and it sounded pretty convincing.”

The rest of the article is a wan, inarticulate defense of government:  cooperation! Evolving blends of freedom! True citizenship! Buzzwords written for the Sesame Street crowd. Not even worth a copy and paste.

Even if  libertarianism isn’t your political ideology of choice it’s hard to imagine an article that does less to actually link libertarianism and communism together. If Liu and Hanauer had used the headline “radical libertarianism is bad” no one would have batted an eyelash. Even if they had written a well-reasoned, researched article about how they don’t believe libertarianism can work in this global climate, there would be little outrage. But they misrepresented their entire argument in the title, thus ensuring angry libertarians would comment/tweet/write blog rebuttals (wait a second…) and their article would go viral. However, this fails to identify this article’s raison d’etre: It’s a hit piece on the libertarian(ish) conservatives currently flexing their muscles in the House and Senate. Somehow the article paints the (slight) inclination to (possibly) reduce the size of government as a tenet of radical libertarianism. That’s not radical, that’s not even libertarian. That’s very basic conservative, small government-type views. (If you want radical libertarianism try Sheldon Richman on for size.)

Liu and Hanauer subscribe to the standard liberal trope: government is inherently a good and pure institution. All it takes is tinkering and fine-tuning to make it work. To all problems, the solution: more government. But the moment anyone wants to reduce or streamline the massive government bureaucracy, they are viewed as radicals. Liu and Hanauer’s piece is one published in fear and reaction to a growing  inclination amongst the plebeians that government might be growing too big and too powerful for its (or, rather, our) own good.

But all is not lost. When the radical libertarian Rand Paul is elected President in 2016 we, dedicated soldiers of libertarianism will descend on Liu, Hanauer and their ilk, and send them and all enemies of the revolution to prison camps, where they will starve and die. No wait, that’s communism. I’m sorry, I get them confused sometimes too.

If you’ve made it this far you already know; this article was written by Joe Steigerwald. Follow him on twitter @steigerwaldino. Don’t follow him on Facebook, but you can follow The Stag Blog. Look at the other stuff I’ve done: Steigerwald Post

As my esteemed older brother noted below, moderately famous actor and political wannabe Kal Penn — who should have stuck with being boring on House — recently tweeted his support of the New York City Police Department’s now-unconstitutional stop and frisk policy that disproportionately affects minorities. (People responding to Penn’s tweet seemed incredulous, at least. One suggested that Penn forgot the #snark hashtag. Penn responded with a slur against “activist judges” so clearly that’s a thing for Democrats to be mad about now.)

Joe forgot another important reason to loathe Penn — besides his inability to realize that brown people who aren’t famous actor friends of Obama may be getting the short end of the authority stick — his bullshit on the drug war. A man made famous for being the Cheech for a new generation also  acted the sniveling weasel apologist for Obama the drug war war hypocrite.

As Mike Riggs wrote at Reason.com last September:

Actor Kal Penn and President Barack Obama were both raked over the coals yesterday for their collaboration on a campaign video teasing Penn’s upcoming appearance at the Democratic National Convention. In that video, Penn reprised his role as Kumar from the Harold and Kumar movies, and takes a phone call from Obama while stoned, watching cartoons, and eating junkfood. The subtle implication is that marijuana users are easily swayed, lazy idiots.

Reason, the Marijuana Policy Project, LEAP, and several others criticized Penn and Obama for the video, as Obama has utterly failed to live up to his promise to deprioritze federal prosections of medical marijuana.

In an interview with Chris Moody of Yahoo! News, Penn said

“I think that the president’s been pretty consistent with that. He’s not in favor of legalization, we should be open about something like that. But what the president has done is take a really smart look at the Department of Justice and said, given the fact that the federal government has limited resources, we should be allocating them toward violent criminals and not towards non-violent criminals. We can see that not just in things like marijuana but in things like immigration reform where he’s going after and deporting violent criminals and making sure that if you’re a Dream Act eligible student that you know that you can apply for your deferred status. Wherever the federal government has an appropriate role, I think the president’s been very consistent in that. That’s something that I think folks should know.”

Penn should have stuck to the world of fiction, because his political views lie entirely in that realm as well.

  • ob2Obama (via the CIA?) to send ‘small arms, ammo’ to Syria. Guess that “red line” counts after all? Or is it a super distraction from the various scandals plaguing the White House? Not saying they wouldn’t have done it anyway, just saying now seems like a terrific time for a distraction.
  • Edward Snowden seems to not have had security clearance access to the files he snagged; he also used a USB drive, which is a big NSA no-no. That’s some safe-sounding data, y’all.
  • Obama ’80 percent worse than Bush on medical marijuana’
  • More on that bullshit from LA Weekly
  • Somebody tell Bill Maher and Rolling Stone, okay?
  • Fascinating Telegraph UK piece on what happens when you disown conspiracy theories and Trutherism [h/t: Austin Petersen]
  • And for more on paranoia and conspiracies, check out Reason’s Jesse Walker being interviewed by VICE’s Harry Cheadle. These two awesome writers discuss Walker’s forthcoming United States of Paranoia, which I have been looking forward to for like two years.
  • Oathkeepers founder Steward Rhodes supports Edward Snowden
  • But libertarian 101 staple John Stossel writes a baffling piece on how we have bigger things to worry over than NSA spying.
  • And Cato’s Roger Pilon and Richad A. Epstein wrote an appalling editorial that waves away the spying while managing to ipply that everything about USA PATRIOT was open and above board.
  • But thankfully there’s Red Eye‘s true-Scotsman Andy Levy, who gave a great response to David Brooks’ “oh noes, cynicism! Wah!” column on Snowden. Watch.

Today’s video:

The great North Carolina fiddler Tommy Jarrell playing my favorite murder balled of the moment, “Poor Ellen Smith.” Rumor has it that Jarrell learned the song from his father, who in turn learned it from the killer of Ellen Smith himself. I hope that’s a true story, I don’t care if it isn’t.

potThe latest Rolling Stone is “The Weed issue,” a celebration of how the war on drugs was won by…weed, I guess. I haven’t yet explored the full magazine, however, because I was too distracted by Bill Maher’s contribution, headlined inside as “The New Stoned America.” Within his allotted page, Maher blames the drug war — without delving into the human rights debacle that remains an integral part of it — on Republicans, period:

Legalization is another one of those issues, like gay marriage, that drives the Tea Bag people crazy. That Leave It to Beaver black-and-white 1950s image that Mitt Romney fit into so well is going away, and one big reason is marijuana. Bill Clinton once said, “If you look back on the Sixties and think there was more good than harm, you’re probably a Democrat. If you think there was more harm than good, you’re probably a Republican.” Well, for those people who loved the Fifties, pot played a huge role in the cultural revolution that they detest.

Republicans have always been an uneasy alliance of Jesus freaks, gun nuts, generic obese suburbanites and the super-rich, but what binds them is this idea that life was perfect in Appleton, Wisconsin, in 1958. As soon as President Obama was elected, this visual of a black guy who liked smoking pot walking into the White House was too much. Whenever you hear them say, “I want my country back” – from what? Did Blackmanistan invade us? They may want it back, but that America is gone forever.

The Mitt Romney-style clueless white guy-ism of much of the GOP is real, and it’s both an easy and a legitimate target of scorn for political critique. But Maher’s complete side-step of the culpability of our current, black guy, Democrat president in the not-yet-over-in-the-slightest drug war is astoundingly purposeful bullshit — even from a man with a long history of partisan hackery. Maher did donate 1 million dollars to Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign. He also managed to admit that the president has been “a liar” on marijuana policy, during an an interview last August.”

Can we at least have that Maher in Rolling Stone?

Apparently it needs to be said again: to people pleading Republican obstructionism, there are lots of things Obama could do to alleviate the misery of the drug war. He hasn’t done them, and has even lied about his ability to do so. Any and all shifts on drug policy have been purely rhetorical.

For example, in Michigan, where medical marijuana is legal:

American taxpayers could spend upwards of $1.2 million over the next decade imprisoning Jerry Duval, a Michigan medical marijuana patient who was convicted of distributing the drug.Duval has a kidney and pancreas transplant, as well as glaucoma and neuropathy. His family grew marijuana on his Michigan farm in part to treat his ailments. But when the Department of Justice prosecuted him in federal court, Duval was barred from presenting evidence of his compliance with Michigan’s medical marijuana law. He will report to prison on June 11.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons initially told Duval he would have to serve out his 10-year sentence in a prison that lacked specialized medical facilities but then relented after an outcry from marijuana reform advocates. He will now serve his time at the Federal Medical Center in Devens, Mass. — the same facility where Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is being held because of injuries he sustained during his apprehension.

Duval has written a letter to President Obama — the man whose Department of Justice per sued and prosecuted the case against him — in which he questions the harshness of his decade-long sentence. Why, asks Duval, is his life being ruined when Obama once suggested that he was willing to talk about marijuana reform (and certainly enjoyed the stuff in his younger days — which must be why Republicans hate him so much!)?

Maher is free to support the president with as many millions of his own money as he chooses. He may write what he likes in any magazine, now matter how dishonest, lazy, or partisan the resulting article. Hell, Maher is right about, and right to be overjoyed over, the inevitability of pot freedom (as in, it will happen in the future), but that doesn’t excuse his willful ignorance of Obama’s part in the current debacle. Maher doesn’t even appear to understand that there’s a Democrat making executive decisions right now. Why bother facing your side’s bad decisions, when you can keep trashing the uncool, other party instead?

Odds are Duval and the hundreds of thousands of people imprisoned for drug crimes will not be celebrating pot freedom along with Maher and Rolling Stone. At least not yet.

Should we blame Rolling Stone itself  for this bullshit piece? The elder statesman of rock magazines has a long history of  being good on the drug war. But maybe their more recent history of soft-ball interviews with the President and Vice President is coloring their celebration of this mythical drug war ceasefire. The rest of the issue’s pot coverage looks more informative and accurate, but that doesn’t mean the magazine’s choice of Maher to write up “How We Won the War on Pot” (the cover headline) isn’t baffling. We won the war, swears Maher, yet he doesn’t mention a single casualty of that ongoing conflict. We won the war, Maher? Not yet we didn’t. But when we do, it will be no thanks to you, your million bucks, or your president.

This is a new weekly feature by Steigerwald Post creator, and snappy dresser, Joseph Steigerwald, chronicling the best 3 and bottom 2 movers and shakers of whatever category I see fit — plus one bonus subject that is, at best, barely related to the current subject.

Today’s topic: Edward Snowden and his magic Power Point presentation. In the last week, details of both the National Security Agency’s (NSA) PRISM program, and Verizon’s (and other telecoms’) collusion with the NSA-led government spying program were leaked by former CIA anylist Edward Snowden. These cast an ugly light on the Obama administration, and the government in general. Here are three heroes, and three villains of this story, plus one wildcard.

3-up.

#3: Bipartisanship:

For once bipartisanship is working in America. Pundits on the left and the right are flocking to Edward Snowden’s defense. In The New Yorker, John Cassidy writes a brilliant piece praising Snowden. Glenn Beck and Michael Moore agree that he’s a “hero”. Sen. Rand Paul is seeking to launch a class action lawsuit against the NSA programs. Lefty magazine The Nation leads off its website with a story devoted to the “passion of Edward Snowden.” Even Al Gore:

and John Cusack!

#2. Glenn Greenwald:

Leave it to those limey Brits to do the dirty work the American press doesn’t want to. The Washington Post may have broken the PRISM story shortly before The Guardian got their version up, but it seems the mastermind behind the entire press operation was Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald. According to Greenwald, an anonymous source first contacted him back in February, months before The Washington Post got their information. It was Greenwald and documentary film maker Laura Poitras who directed Snowden, with his leak of the PRISM program to former Washington Post writer Barton Gellman. Because the Post was dragging its feet on publishing the story, Snowden decided to share the PRISM story with Greenwald as he had already broken the Verizon story, which was derived from a different leak of Snowden’s. Greenwald, already a hero in the libertarian community for his tireless work attacking the Obama administration’s drone program, scores again with this monumental scoop. 

#1. Edward Snowden:

Our new libertarian hero. Anyone with the guts to give up his entire life, and hundreds of thousands of dollars to expose the inner workings of our mostly-evil government deserves our applause.  Maybe he is a narcissist (Jeffery Toobin and Richard Simon think so), and he only leaked the information because he knew it would get him his 15 minutes of infamy. WHO CARES?! His reasons are irrelevant and as the great Conor Friedersdorf points out at The Atlantic, ¨The 29-year-old’s law-breaking undermines the American system far less than what Barack Obama and Congress have done.¨ If Snowden had leaked the information because Satan himself appeared to him in a dream and told him to do it, I would be okay with it.  Anything that exposes secret government information is fine by me. And if it embarrasses the entire Obama administration, and makes the U.S. government look stupid in the eyes of the citizenry, that´s a double bonus. Now if only the citizenry could remember all this next election day.

2-down.

#2. The Statists:

Leaks of secret government files are usually very revealing in the way that they bring out passions on all sides of the debate. This particular leak allows us to shine a light on the big government cheerleaders, the ¨statists.¨

Conservative statists:

Speaker of the House John Boehner: ¨NSA leaker a traitor¨.

Ralph Peters, Fox News contributor and former Army Lt. Col., wants the death penalty for Snowden.

Liberal statists:

David Simon, creator of The Wirerah-rah-ing the police state:

Sam ¨The terrorists are gonna get us¨Harris (and Glenn Greenwald foil,) eagerly handing over an indeterminate percentage of freedoms for an imaginary reduction in the likelihood of a terrorist attack:

Andrew Sullivan is not impressed:

Sen. Diane Feinstein: “I don’t look at this as being a whistleblower. I think it’s an act of treason,”

And finally, David Brooks trying to write something more intelligent than he has the intelligence to write.

#1. Bu-Oba-Sh-Ma

Now, I´m not specifically comparing George W. Bush to the alien life form in John Carpenter´s The Thing, nor am I saying that there’s a good chance that said life form has somehow taken over the body of Barrack Obama, but if someone wants to take a small amount of Obama´s blood and hold a heated piece of copper wire to it to see if it is actually alive, I wouldn´’t object.

Obama promised transparency if elected, he even wrote a memorandum that states, with tongue not even close to cheek that:

¨My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government.  We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.¨

Of course he probably wrote that before he became Bu-Oba-Sh-Ma.

1 wild.

#1. Snowden and Catch-22:

Coincidentally, (but not ironically, at least not yet,) Edward Snowden shares the same name as the doomed gunner in Joseph Heller´s influential anti-war novel Catch-22. If Edward Snowden somehow disappears or gets killed by the government, the irony meter will go off the page, (figuratively).

When the government becomes so large that there are no longer checks on its power, we are all Yossarian.


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Yesterday’s piece, in which I speculate, probably too soon, over whether Snowden is more sympathetic to certain folks than was Manning.

Today Edward Snowden, a former computer analyst for the CIA recently employed at the defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, voluntarily revealed his identity as the source of The Guardian and The Washington Post‘s massive scoops about the NSA’s PRISM program, as well as its system of logging the metadata from every single call made from Verizon phones (and Sprint and AT&T, turns out).

Snowden fled to Hong Kong on May 30, and was interviewed there on June 6 by Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald. In the interview he is amazingly well-spoken about the principles surrounding his decision to leak top-secret documents.Until late last month, the 29-year-old seems to have had a comfy life in Hawaii with a girlfriend and a $200,000 a year job with Booz Allen. But the reported Ron Paul supporter who voted for “a third party candidate” in 2008, wasn’t interested in keeping that level of coziness while possessing information that he believed the public has a right to know.

“I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things … I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under,” Snowden told Greenwald.

Snowden also seems eerily resigned to the likely consequences of his actions — namely that he may never see his home country again, and that government officials may come for him at any time.

The rest over at Antiwar.