Friday, February 11, 2011

America just been schooled -- by Egypt.

Chris Floyd puts it well.
Mubarak is gone! Ordinary people took to the streets, in their hundreds of thousands, they stood their ground against state goons and hired thugs, they saw ordinary soldiers and many officers refuse to obey orders to repress them, and they have brought down a 30-year dictatorship supported by the full might of the American imperium.

Many, many things are still in play, many dangers abound, many uncertainties remain -- and many forms of retribution will no doubt be assayed by the powerful elites in both America and Egypt who have been humiliated by this uprising of the "rabble" against their "betters." But it is a great day, a day of rejoicing for all those who believe in the worth and dignity of individual human beings.

The Egyptians stood up, they asserted that worth, they embodied that dignity, and they have set themselves free. Long may they hold on to this liberation -- and long may it serve as an inspiration to everyone beset by the dead hand of elite domination.
I've got some serious philosophical objections to some core assumptions in Floyd's universe, but this is not one of them.  Spend some time at Empire Burlesque and you will find that he's been covering this admirably since things flared up.  (You'll also find that, with only a couple of weird exceptions, Floyd really gets it on most things of consequence.)

This is actually the first article I saw on Mubarak's resignation (hat tip to Joel at TUAK).  I immediately went to Floyd to see if he was on it (he's over in London and several hours closer than I am) and he was.

Another great take on events is Denninger's, again despite some reasonably significant disagreements.  (Vive la difference!)

Splendid.  Hopefully lots of people over here are taking notes.  I find it interesting that when I first ran across it, the latest update in the USA Today article said this:
Update at 1:35 p.m. ET: A statement on Egypt by President Obama was originally scheduled for 1:30 p.m. ET but has been delayed until later today. The White House did not indicate when it will be delivered.
Somehow this is not surprising.  This is a delicate moment for the US government, which of course put Mubarak in power and has been propping him up for most of our lifetimes now.  The Current Occupant's most immediate responsibility, of course, will be to tell us all How It Is, but only in a way that keeps his own uppity peasants from getting all the wrong ideas about what happened over in Hosni-topia.

We'll see what the teleprompter says, once the handlers figure out what it should say.  Bring popcorn, this is actually likely to be entertaining.

As for Egypt, Floyd is right that a whole lot of things could go wrong at this point.  The most common historical model is that the military will "determine" that elections cannot actually be trusted (you know, with all the corruption), so--for the best interests of everyone--they really should stick around to run things a little while longer.  Now to be fair, it seems as though the Egyptian military has been somewhat more faithful recently to The People than to their Commander-In-Chief, as explained admirably by Stewart Rhodes of Oath Keepers:
Reason: What do you make of what we've seen in Tunisia and Egypt?

Rhodes: I like it. What happend in Tunisia is an excellent example of the military doing the right thing. When Ben Ali ordered the senior military general to shoot the protesters, he refused, and the Tunisian military simply stood down and got out of the way. And without the military, the secret police were overwhelmed by the people, and the dictator was done. He fled for his life. Note that the Tunisian military did not remove the dictator in a coup, which would just lead to another dictator. But instead, they simply stood down and let the people of the nation decide their own fate. That was precisley the right thing to do, and I hope the military in Egypt does likewise. A military coup is like jumping from the frying pan into the fire, so we don’t want to see that. But we do want to see the military refuse to be tools of oppression. When the military withdraws its support, a dictator is powerless, just as happend in Romania when Ceausescu was overthrown in 1989. Mubarak is a dictator, and there is never any excuse for propping up dictators. He needs to go, and he will, so long as the Egyptian military does the right thing.
So far, Egypt seems to have mostly lived up to that hope--moreso than any historian would expect of a military, at any rate.  Thing is, that could slip back into the traditional mode very quickly, and the revolution could turn really bloody.  We'll see.

One way or the other, though, this is exciting.  Sure, it's quite possible that the Egyptian people will settle down and simply decide on some different flavor of authoritarianism for themselves;  with a certainty of one hundred percent we can predict that other governments (from Hamas to the US and doubtless many others) will give them all kinds of "help" to reach precisely that conclusion (and just maybe benefit from such actions themselves, y'think?).  Ignore all that for now--that is a different struggle to overcome.

Instead, take a minute to marvel at what we are continually told is not possible:  a state regime has fallen to a peaceful revolution, simply because the people withdrew their consent and stood their ground.

Not possible?  Funny, we're looking at it right now:
  • Revolution.  The people caused the big, bad government (dictator) to step down.
  • Peaceful.  They did not have to go through "civil war" to overthrow the big, bad government.  Nor did they do it by voting.  They simply withdrew their consent until the dickheads went away.
  • Rapid.  When enough people decided they'd had enough, it did not take long for the big, bad government to cave in.

Wow.  Much for cogitation in there.

Might this cause more Americans to snap out of their bread and circuses and ask some serious questions?  Maybe such as:
  • Why has there been all this emphasis on "peaceful revolution is impossible;  millions will die horribly, so don't even think about it;  just vote, and all will be well"?  Who is it that this line invariably comes from, anyway, and why would that be so important for us to fixate on?
  • People have been trying to reform "within the system" for how long now?  And yet this action, distinctly "insurrectionist", distinctly "seditionist", distinctly "illegal", distinctly "outside the system", got results right away?  Boy, that's not the way I got it in Civics class.  Hmm.
  • If we choose to similarly re-assert our liberty as a people, might we want to consider a different long-term solution--maybe something other than a traditional authoritarian state?  (Let's be clear here:  the only difference between dictatorship, monarchy, oligarchy, plutocracy, and democracy* is who controls the mob.  They all have a mob that claims to own every human being within an arbitrary border.  Some may be "nice" mobs and some may be "mean" mobs, but all the mobs reserve the "right" to act like a mob--you know, "if necessary" for things like "national security".**)  My word, we might be able to learn from history and actually do something different.
On second thought, that's crazy talk.  We should just go back to working within the system.  Surely that will work!

* For those who were looking for the words "fascism", "socialism", "communism", and/or "corporate mercantilism":  those are economic systems, not "rule-by" political systems.  Each of these economic systems can exist within any of the above political systems, but they are completely dependent upon having some political system to work within, since they all need the critical ingredient of a vertical power structure for enforcement, or top-down control.  (The only economic system that could possibly function within a non-political, horizontally-structured system is "capitalism", in which Franz Oppenheimer's "economic means" is at least theoretically possible.) 

** Anyone who disagrees with this is invited to explain just how it is incorrect.  You'll need to be able to refute this, as well.  Have fun!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

JPFO continues...

...with some nice snark from Kirby Ferris.
I was thinking how terrible this whole “Project Gunwalker” is going to become for the BATFE. It appears that this sterling group of freedom loving American bureaucrats may have smuggled as many as 3,000 firearms into Mexico in an effort to catch the people who supposedly smuggle firearms into Mexico.

You do not want to know about this. So don’t go to David Codrea’s blog and find out all the details. And that wild eyed guy Mike Vanderboegh? (I mean he’s on the SPLC’s oogie boogie bad guy list!) You simply MUST NOT visit his blog site.

I’m warning you: Ignorance is bliss. Stay blissy, America. Stay Super Bowl, beer burp blissy.
I can't help but think that Mr. Zelman would smile at that.


Hat tip to Wendy McElroy.

I'll be giggling at the "undead" reference all day.

Dunno if it's kosher for me to reproduce the comic here, so I'll just send you via the link.  It's worth the outclick!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

'Project Gunwalker': now with more steam!

The tireless efforts of David Codrea and Mike Vanderboegh  in re:  Project Gunwalker are producing some steam.  Today they both posted evidence that Iowa Senator Charles Grassley might not yet let this thing drop.  Per David:
“Unfortunately,” Grassley informs Holder, his request that ATF brief his staff has been met with little more than ”delay and denial.“

Citing the Justice Department response to his inquiries denying allegations and requesting that his office not question law enforcement investigators, Grassley reconfirms to Holder “the allegations I received are supported by documentation,” and reminds the Attorney General “there is a difference between inappropriate political influence and appropriately holding officials accountable to the American people.”

Probably the most encouraging thing from Grassley's latest letter is this:
The Justice Department’s reply asked that Committee staff stop speaking to law enforcement personnel about these matters. However, if not for the bravery and patriotism of law enforcement personnel who were willing to put their careers on the line, this Committee would have been forced to rely on nothing more than rumors in the blogosphere and a Justice Department denial to resolve these allegations. We need more than that. To be an effective check on Executive Branch power, we need cold, hard facts. We will seek them from whatever source is necessary.

That's pretty good talk, from inside the dementia-inducing Beltway.  We'll see how it goes from there.  As I've noted before, I remain highly skeptical that we'll solve the real problem by appealing to the Beast whut brung it to us, but despite that I'm still rooting for Mike and David's efforts* to bear further fruit--in the form of a gelded or even scuttled ATF.

Couldn't happen to a more deserving bunch.  Really.

* These two are the real deal, and my philosophical objection to working within the system in no way is meant to diminish the incredibly valuable work they do.  Every one of us--every human being currently living in this country--whether we acknowledge it or not, benefits from what they do.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Egypt: the power of withdrawing consent

...on display now.  Lew Rockwell explains (and the irony of the source is duly noted, isn't it? :-)
Those of the young generation, people too young to remember the collapse of Soviet-bloc and other socialist states in 1989 and 1990, are fortunate to be living through another thrilling example of a seemingly impenetrable state edifice reduced to impotence when faced with crowds demanding freedom, peace, and justice.

There is surely no greater event than this. To see it instills in us a sense of hope that the longing for freedom that beats in the heart of every human being can be realised in our time.

This is why all young people should pay close attention to what is happening in Egypt, to the protests against the regime of Hosni Mubarak as well as the pathetic response coming from his imperial partner, the US, which has given him $60 billion in military and secret police aid to keep him in power.

The US is in much the same situation today as the Soviet Union was in 1989, as a series of socialist dominoes toppled. Poland, Romania, Hungary, East Germany, Bulgaria, and Czechoslovakia all experienced dramatic meltdowns, while the Soviet regime, supportive of these systems since the end of the Second World War, sat by helplessly and watched. Leaders made vague statements about the need for peaceful transitions and elections, while the people on the ground completely ignored them.
It is hard to overstate how encouraging these developments are.

Observe.  As Rockwell notes, this has happened before, it is happening now--and it can happen again.  The oppressive State (but I repeat myself) is a house of cards, that is only propped up by our consent.

How to fix that?  There are three basic options available to us:
  • "Work within the system?"  That is the definition of consent.  They own the system;  they are the system.  No good there.
  •  Violent revolt?  That's playing to their strength and strategy;  they're ready for that.  (Aggression is the only thing the State understands.)  Sure, history says that it might work--but only for a time.  (For anyone that doubts that:  please to explain how Americans are here, at this point, now.)  Only acceptable if forced upon us;  the choice of last resort.
  • Withdraw consent?  Well now.  It's possible.  It's effective.  (See above article, for starters.)  And it's inherently more peaceful than either of the previous options:  #1 is "use the State to force the People";  #2 is "use the People to force the State".  #3 is "the People ignore the State until it stops being a dickhead, or (better) goes away entirely".
In the absence of any other options, the bettin' man's choice seems pretty clear, doesn't it?

Take notes.  Then pass 'em on to everyone you know!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Stewart Rhodes interview with Radley Balko


Anyone familiar with my writing would understand that I've got serious philosophical objections with Oath Keepers (for reasons having nothing to do with the standard paranoia about the group), but if there must be a state, I am all for keeping it well-saturated with the basic OK attitude.  And I continue to be impressed with founder Stewart Rhodes;  it is obvious to anyone who actually listens to what he says that he is to "warmongering neocons" rather as Edward Abbey would be to PETA.

Here, he is interviewed by the indispensable Radley Balko, and Rhodes continues to impress.  Consider this exchange:
Reason: There's one criticism of your group that's similar to those directed at the Tea Party. You've said that Bush was just as hostile to the Constitution as Obama has been, indeed that most of the worst executive power grabs began under Bush. So why did Oath Keepers spring up only after Obama took office?

Rhodes: I just hadn't gotten the idea yet. I got the idea during the 2008 election campaign. I worked for Ron Paul during the primary, and when it became clear that he wasn't going to get the nomination, I started to think about what I wanted to do next. And that's when the idea came to me that I wanted to do something involving the military and the police. And that was no matter who became president. At the time we didn't know if it would be McCain, Obama, or Hillary Clinton.

But it's true. All of this began or really started to get worse under Bush. That's when you had this wave of unconstitutional federal power. In particular, I was worried about this claim that the president could detain American citizens as unlawful enemy combatants. A president who would make that claim assumes powers that could be used in so many other ways too. I wrote a paper on that issue while I was at Yale Law School, during the Bush administration, which actually won the Yale Prize for best paper on the Bill of Rights. I was an outspoken critic of Bush then. I had a blog at the time that was very critical of Bush and his assumption of unconstitutional powers. I called the neocons in the Bush administration "national security New Dealers." They expanded the power of the federal government at least as much as the New Deal did, but they did it through the lens of national security. The warrantless spying was unconstitutional. The detention of Jose Padilla was unconstitutional. The detentions without trial were unconstitutional. Most of the new powers Bush claimed were unconstitutional.

But now you have Obama, who has not only not renounced those powers but has expanded them. He also now claims the power to assassinate American citizens his administration deems enemy combatants with no oversight. That's just frightening.

At this point I do really wish I had started Oath Keepers during the Bush administration. It would have been a good test. My guess is that I'd have started with a lot of liberals joining up, and you'd have seen conservatives and neocons howling that I'm a traitor. I think it's just human nature and the cycle of politics. When the left is in power, they forget about the Constitution because it limits what they can do. So they characterize people who stand by the Constitution as reactionary or dangerous. But when they were out of power, they were citing the Constitution all of the time. They were quoting Ben Franklin about sacrificing liberty for security.

And it's the same for the right. The Republicans clamoring for the Constitution now had no respect for it when Bush was in power. They thought he could do no wrong.

And the following neatly sums up the whole attitude--the "what's the point of all this?" question:
Reason: What do you make of what we've seen in Tunisia and Egypt?

Rhodes: I like it. What happend in Tunisia is an excellent example of the military doing the right thing. When Ben Ali ordered the senior military general to shoot the protesters, he refused, and the Tunisian military simply stood down and got out of the way. And without the military, the secret police were overwhelmed by the people, and the dictator was done. He fled for his life. Note that the Tunisian military did not remove the dictator in a coup, which would just lead to another dictator. But instead, they simply stood down and let the people of the nation decide their own fate. That was precisley the right thing to do, and I hope the military in Egypt does likewise. A military coup is like jumping from the frying pan into the fire, so we don’t want to see that. But we do want to see the military refuse to be tools of oppression. When the military withdraws its support, a dictator is powerless, just as happend in Romania when Ceausescu was overthrown in 1989. Mubarak is a dictator, and there is never any excuse for propping up dictators. He needs to go, and he will, so long as the Egyptian military does the right thing.
Yes, the whole interview is like that.  Again, Rhodes ain't no warmed-over neocon.

If there must be a state, and if it must have a military to impose its will by force, then this would seem to be the most effective way to keep the descent into tyranny in check--the withdrawal of consent, voluntarily, by the very arm of the state that the puppet masters expect to use as their personal broadsword, at the moment that an appropriate line is crossed.  It's rather ironic that this is essentially the same attitude as "what if they held a war and nobody came?"

Now those who know me know that this is the part where I point out that it is the withdrawal of consent part that makes the OK attitude effective and admirable...and suggest that maybe the idea is so potentially powerful that it just might work on up the line too.  If the executioner can stay the execution by refusing to carry it out, can a little more withdrawal of consent cause us to start questioning other sacred cows too?

If the OK attitude does nothing more than that--lets more and more people consider the alternative choice of refusing to comply when a request or demand is simply so wrong that they will not participate--then I am happy that they are around.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Protectin' and servin', one victim at a time.

We don't get television reception where we live.  Just don't get it.  Not even with "Fox viewing positions" a la Married...With Children.  Basic cable packages available to us have been in the $100/month range (not kidding) and so are laughably absurd on a budgetary basis alone.  And the only reason we really turn a television on any more is for either a) a hockey game or b) a football game. 

So, we stream what little we watch.

On the (rare) occasions when we want to see a Simpsons or South Park episode, we can stream them directly from an official website.  If we suddenly had a hankering for pretty much any other television "show" currently available (not likely, but still), it appears that we could do precisely the same.  And on some occasions a network will stream a select sporting event/game (e.g., NBC has streamed its Sunday Night Football games for a couple of years now) just like all their other offerings.

For the remainder, the intertubes meet our meager need with relatively little fuss.  We have used a site called, which essentially streams someone else watching their television.  Functionally, it's really not all that different from going down to the local tavern and watching a game on their big screens--well, except that the stream tends to have glitches, hitches, reconnects, and a much smaller viewing area, and it's of course at home instead of somewhere else.

Enter the protectin' and servin' warriors at the Department of Homeland Security.  (Seriously, you knew that was coming, didn't you?  Be honest, you knew it all along!  Homeland Security...streaming television...why, of course!  It's so obvious!)

Sometime in the last couple of days, has now begun serving this output:

Once you get through choking on the sheer arrogance of the logos ("Protection is our trademark!") you can draw the obvious conclusion that the Feds have shut down ("seized") that Internet domain because--get this--they (the Feds, now) feel that taking someone else's property and using it without consent, is--here it comes--wrong.

Ya wipin' vomit off your chin yet?  (Ooo, ya missed a little there.)

Yeah, wrong.  So wrong that they're gonna threaten the perpetrators with criminal fines and imprisonment, and of course violence if they resist.  Always with the violence if they resist.  And always with the sanctimonious smugitude of the morally unblemished.

(Let's be clear.  I'm not trying to advocate, here, the use of someone else's property without consent.  I've come to a peace with this, personally, because I have no viable "legitimate" options and because I fail to see, by the "watch the game at the public tavern" example, how anyone is harmed by my viewing a live event that would be broadcast to me freely anyway, if I were simply located in another town that picked up the signal.  My point here, rather, is the limitless irony in being lectured by the FedGov on any matter regarding ethics.)

Shall we review?
  • Prosecute wildly unpopular foreign wars with forcibly extracted tax dollars, over any and all objections both procedural and moral?  No problem, it's the FedGov.
  • Prosecute wildly destructive domestic wars (drugs, guns, "hate speech", fatty foods, etc.) with forcibly stolen tax dollars, over any and all objections both procedural and moral?  No problem, it's the FedGov.
  • Continue and expand wildly unpopular domestic social engineering programs with forcibly stolen tax dollars, over any and all objections both procedural and moral?  No problem, it's the FedGov!
  • Repeatedly devalue the forcibly-standardized, fiat-style currency by monetizing both current operational costs and the accumulated debt from all the above spending of forcibly stolen tax dollars, over any and all objections both procedural and moral?  Nope, no problem here, it's the FedGov!
  • Make available streaming rebroadcasts of live events and shows, many of which are already freely available over network airwaves?  Private party?  Lock and load, soldiers!  The security of the Fatherland is in grave and imminent jeopardy!   Break out the lawyers, and the fines, and of course the ninja!
Don't think I missed anything major there--looks about right.  Oh, I'm sorry, we don't use "Fatherland" any more--a little too recent, perhaps--now it's "Homeland", which is totally different.

"Top men" at work, lookin' out for those they serve.

Turmoil in Egypt. Eyes. Ears.

A couple items of note in re the unrest in Egypt.

First, Denninger:
The protesters calling for the removal of Mubarak were largely peaceful.

The government goon squad has now been reported to be the ones using both live weapons and Molotov cocktails, tearing up roads and buildings to get rocks to use as weapons, along with looting and burning things.

This is what a government that has lost the consent of the consent of the people, but refuses to leave power peacefully, does. It has an alleged monopoly on the use of force and it exercises it.
Then, Chris Floyd:
What is happening seems clear: Mubarak, backed by Obama, has decided to foment a storm of bloodshed, chaos and fear in order to provide a justification for “restoring order” – i.e., crushing the uprising by force. This course could not have been adopted without the support of the Cairo regime’s patrons and paymasters in Washington. None of this should come as a surprise. From the very beginning, the administration of Barack Obama, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has been killing people – most of them defenseless civilians – all over the world to advance a brutal agenda of militarist domination and the enrichment of corrupt elites.

For decades, a pliant regime in Egypt has been a linchpin of this thoroughly bipartisan agenda. Obama’s task now is to preserve this arrangement if at all possible. Mubarak himself doesn’t matter; he’s now become a liability to the operation of business as usual. But the power structures in Washington and Cairo can’t afford to have him simply forced from office by popular will; what kind of example would that set? Instead they will seek to use the months until Mubarak’s envisaged retirement in September to beat down the uprising by overt means – as we are seeing on the streets of Egypt’s cities today – and covert means, with the piecemeal arrest of various dissident leaders and other crackdowns on activities that might “threaten public order.”

Boy, it's a good thing to know that things like that don't, can't, won't, happen here.

Codrea: A journalist's guide to 'Project Gunwalker'

In the exceedingly unlikely event that a professional journalist finds this post:

Go here.  Read.
The following is a summary and time line of articles appearing on the Sipsey Street Irregulars blog and Gun Rights Examiner, reflecting original reporting on the developing "Project Gunwalker" story by Mike Vanderboegh and myself. That's the purposely ironic name I assigned it, a parody of the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive's "Project Gunrunner," and it refers to allegations by whistleblowing ATF insiders that:
  • ATF management was allowing potentially hundreds of semiautomatic firearms to be walked across the Mexican border in order to pad statistics used to further budget and power objectives.
  • Mexican authorities were kept in the dark, and protests that they should be informed were overridden, first by the Phoenix ATF office, and ultimately by higher-ups in Washington, DC.
  • A gun used in this operation was involved in a December 2010 incident in which a Border Patrol agent was killed.
The original allegations were posted on Vanderboegh and I, who have a history going back years of documenting allegations posted there, and pressing for congressional hearings to investigate the claims, were both contacted independently by various ATF insiders claiming to have corroborating information and documentation. Mike vetted his sources and I used my contacts to help validate that my informant was who he represented himself to be. Mike and I did what we could throughout our separate and coordinated investigations to test and corroborate what was being told. We also had a small circle of behind-the-scenes consultants, including firearms designer Len Savage, and a few other knowledgeable advisors, all with contacts and informed insights of their own, and all of whom have earned our trust over the years.

What follows is a gift-wrapped timeline going back to the end of December.

Observe, learn, and make amends for not noticing a screamingly easy story for over a month.  You should be doing this shit, not a couple of gun rights bloggers.  The joke is starting to go around that if we had today's quality of reporting back at the time of Watergate, Nixon would never have hopped on the helicopter.

Take your pick.  Are you a journalist, or a urinealist?

From The Cliffs of InsaniTV: Don't Take Me Alive

Necessary viewing from Alvie at The Cliffs of Insanity:

Extra props for using early Steely Dan.  :-)