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The Decline of Left-Wing Terrorism

[ 58 ] April 15, 2013 |

Despite the violence fetish of some leftists, the reality is that left-wing terrorism has declined to almost nothing in the United States since 1980. We do face severe domestic terrorist threats, but those threats exist almost exclusively on the right, including recent white supremacist violence against law enforcement. Yet in popular media, the face of scary left-wing terrorists, usually environmentalists, dominate our images of domestic terrorism. While the 1990s saw a rise in radical environmentalists who sometimes engaged in property violence, such as certain cells of the Earth Liberation Front, the idea that “ecoterrorism” means some idiots burning SUVs is absurd.* Yet a visit to the museum at the site of the Oklahoma City bombing is all about ecoterrorism and not about right-wing terrorism at all. It’s a crazy and highly politicized disconnect.

This is a good thing considering that any left-wing violence in the United States would be met with an overwhelming state force and fail miserably. It’d be nice to beat back this damaging mythology though.

* One key lesson from the ELF group based out of Eugene that burned a science building at the University of Washington. If your cell leader is a heroin addict, you might want to reconsider your actions.

Delaware: The American Cyprus

[ 26 ] April 15, 2013 |

You might think the Cypriot banking system is little more than a corporate off-shore scam. And you’d be at least partly right. But the U.S. has some pretty special state banking laws and tax schemes as well:

Hundreds of thousands of businesses are incorporated in Delaware, where corporations take advantage of the state’s forgiving tax code and disclosure laws. In fact, the number of corporations housed in Delaware exceeds its population, and has cost other states roughly $9.5 billion tax revenue over the past decade, according to a 2012 New York Times article.

The people who have sheltered their money in Delaware include disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and Russian arms smuggler Viktor Bout.

Delaware is not the only state to function as a tax haven.

“Delaware is the biggest state provider of offshore corporate secrecy, but Nevada and Wyoming are the most opaque,” writes journalist Nick Shaxson in Treasure Islands, his book on shadow banking and tax havens. “They allow bearer shares, a vehicle of choice for mobsters and drug smugglers, and they are particularly lax on allowing company directors and other officers to be named, hiding the identities of the real owners.”

Wyoming in particular has become a locus for corporate secrecy. In 2011, Reuters reported that a single house in Cheyenne, Wyoming served as the registered address for more than 2,000 companies. The house is run by a company called Wyoming Corporate Services, which specializes in helping clients form miniature corporations.

I hoped all honest people out there enjoyed paying their taxes as much as I did on this Tax Day.

The Left’s Gun Fetish

[ 263 ] April 14, 2013 |

When I was going through my hate campaign from the NRA, there was a weird set of internet anarchists also hoping I would lose my job. Calling myself and others who were defending me “statist leftists,” they thought guns were central to their hope of fomenting their fantasy revolution and that leftists who supported gun control were delusional defenders of state oppression. As a symbol of that state oppression through opposing uncontrolled gun ownership, I was part of the oppressive machine that needed to be overthrown.

I recalled this oddity reading this Truthout essay by Arun Gupta where he tries to distance himself from the gun fetish of a certain sector of lefty.

Before you equate radical with bomb-thrower, realize Americans, with few exceptions, support state violence. Yet some support gun rights and some oppose it. Many leftists are in the former camp. To confirm this, I asked a couple thousand Facebook “friends” if they opposed gun control and their reasons why. The responses came pouring in:

“Is a state monopoly on arms in the best interests of the working class?”

“Gun laws, much like drug laws, are used to oppress the poor and people of color.”

“We can’t have a revolution without them.”

“Governments already have too much of a monopoly on violence and we will one day have to bring this one down.”

“I’ll be damned a cop can have a gun but I can’t.”

“Gun control laws … are another step down the incline to a full-fledged police state.”

“[I support] the right to bear arms – because I’m horrified that racist whites are heavily armed in areas of the country that oppose democratic rights.”

Judging from these comments, many leftists agree with the right that the biggest threat to society is not mentally ill shooters like Adam Lanza. It’s the state. The implication is that the solution to a society with too many guns is more guns. That’s why leftists tend to shrug off gun control. They see it as impinging on their freedom, or at least as something that doesn’t affect them.

We’ve all known these people, wearing their Che shirts, talking a big game about revolution and the need for violence, even though they’ve probably never held a gun themselves. There’s a romanticization of violence among many on the far left, a line that starts with Lenin, goes to Castro and Che, the PLO and Mao, and then back to the United States through Malcolm X, the Black Panthers, and the American Indian Movement.

Although a lot of these leftists would claim (perhaps rightfully) a commitment to gender equality, there’s a strongly masculine ideology behind the leftist using violence to overthrow a state. Che’s sexiness and Malcolm’s rhetoric reinforce highly masculine cultures of the left, a gendered division of revolutionary labor that most certainly flowed through the movements themselves at the time.

The left’s embrace of violence today is largely held by its anarchist side, which unfortunately makes up a large percentage of younger activist leftists. Here, the individual has the right to engage in violent behavior outside of a chain of authority and can not be concerned about the consequences. We’ve this in real time, both in the WTO protests in Seattle and Occupy protests in New York and Oakland.

The moral case for using violence in complex and contingent upon the situation. We can all think of cases where violent resistance was not only justified and necessary. There is some history of success against a colonial power whose real interests and will to fight to death in a place far from the home country may be limited. Within the United States however, it’s a total disaster. We might make an argument that the Black Panthers were justified in embracing violent self-defense. Urban African-Americans in the 1960s were completely ignored by the state, received almost no social services, and most importantly suffered from massive and sustained police violence. The same goes for Native Americans in the cities; AIM began in Minneapolis as a reaction to police brutality.

But the reality was that threatening violence was a complete disaster. It not only led to the state suppression of these movements. It led to a tremendous amount of violence and death from intra-movement conflicts. Resisting violence “by any means necessary” might have meant the white state, but Malcolm also came out of a movement more than happy to use any means necessary to eliminate dissenters in its own ranks, including Malcolm himself. The Weather Underground was a complete failure. In Germany, the Baader-Meinhof gang were sociopaths who did nothing good for society.

Ultimately, the problem with violent tactics within the United States today is fairly simple (outside of the rather obvious point that while the US might be messed up in very real ways, it’s hardly bad enough to convince any more than an extreme fringe to use violence). You will lose. Leftists might point to Castro in 1958 as an example of a romantic violent revolution overthrowing a corrupt state, but the US in 2013 is a very different place than Batista’s Cuba. Surveillance technologies are far superior to any time in the past. So are ways of co-opting a population. Who is really going to commit to revolution if they can afford cable television? Even if you managed to gain enough weapons and not have your movement infiltrated before you managed to do something, the federal government has something called air power. You don’t.

There’s simply no good strategic argument for using violence. Who knows what the future holds. But supporting gun control in 2013 is not going to stop your fantasy revolution from coming true. Largely because if you use your gun against the state, you are going to die very quickly or be put in a deep dark hole for the rest of your life. If we really believe in emancipating people from the shackles of oppression, one really good way to do that is to help keep them alive. Another is to help make them not scared of being shot.

That Gaffney Magic

[ 65 ] April 13, 2013 |

Frank Gaffney is working his racist magic in Oklahoma, convincing the Oklahoma legislature (a willing group no doubt) to pass an anti-Sharia law by enormous margins, thus protecting the good people from Oklahoma from the impending horrors of global islamofascism or something.

When Historians Provide Bad Policy Ideas

[ 186 ] April 13, 2013 |

I’m all for historians entering public debates. I am less enthused when they advocate utterly terrible ideas in major publications, such as University of Texas historian Jeremi Suri, who calls for the United States to bomb North Korea.

Hard to see what could go wrong in that scenario!! Love this paragraph as well:

China’s role in a potential war on the Korean Peninsula is hard to predict. Beijing will continue to worry about the United States extending its influence up to the Chinese border. If armed hostilities erupt, President Obama should be prepared for direct and close consultations with Chinese leaders to negotiate a postwar settlement, in a larger multinational framework, that respects Beijing’s legitimate security interests in North Korea. The United States has no interest in occupying North Korea. The Chinese are unlikely to pursue an occupation of their own.

China’s role in a potential war on the Korean Peninsula is hard to predict. Well then. Might as well just bomb North Korea and see what happens!

Jeremi Suri is the kind of historian that Don Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney could love.


[ 28 ] April 12, 2013 |

In discussing one legend, Jackie Robinson, the writer Roger Angell reminds us what a legend he is as well, whether writing about baseball or his life.

Jonathan Winters, RIP

[ 23 ] April 12, 2013 |

A funny one.

Administrative Bloat

[ 115 ] April 10, 2013 |

Good short summary on the ridiculous administrative bloat at universities. While it’s arguable the extent to which administrative bloat is leading to spiraling tuition costs (although it is not arguable that it is a factor), it is incontrovertible that administrative bloat is replacing tenure-track faculty. What school doesn’t need another assistant vice-president making $180,000 a year? Sure you could hire 3 tenure-track faculty for that, but we are just employees and are unimportant.

Everyone talks about how we need to run our higher education like a business. Well, this is actually what running higher education like a business looks like. Profit-taking at the top, squeezing the middle and bottom levels. Just like evangelical capitalism.

Republican Reverse Court-Packing

[ 9 ] April 10, 2013 |

I’m sure Chuck Grassley will support adding more court seats as soon as a Republican becomes president:

I would like to spend a couple minutes discussing the D.C. Circuit. As most of my colleagues know, the D.C. Circuit is the least busy circuit in the country. In fact, it ranks last or almost last in nearly every category that measures workload.

Based on the 2012 statistics from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, the D.C. Circuit has the fewest number of appeals filed per authorized judgeship, with 108. By way of comparison, the 11th Circuit ranks first with over 5 times as many appeals filed per authorized judgeship, with 583. . . . Given this imbalance in workload, today I am introducing the Court Efficiency Act. A number of my colleagues are co-sponsoring the legislation, including Senators Hatch, Sessions, Graham, Cornyn, Lee, Cruz and Flake.

This legislation is straightforward. It would add a seat to the Second and the Eleventh Circuits. At the same time, it would reduce the number of authorized judgeships for the D.C. Circuit from 11 to 8.

Max Baucus: Most Annoying Democratic Senator

[ 30 ] April 10, 2013 |

The worst Democratic senator is almost certainly Joe Manchin. And the most disappointing in regard to where their politics vis-a-vis the political leanings of their state is Dianne Feinstein. But the most annoying and most damaging Democratic senator is Max Baucus. You may remember Baucus from his wankery during the health care debate. As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, the good senator from Montana is back, calling for revenue-neutral tax reform, which would be a big loss for Democrats.

It’s not that I would expect Brian Schweitzer to be that much better than Baucus on the issues. But I would totally support a Schweitzer primary campaign against Baucus just to toss him out this powerful post. If Baucus were out, his likely replacement as chairman would be Ron Wyden. Wyden may have issues of his own, but he’d be far superior in that post than Baucus.

The Bad Politics of Obama’s Grand Bargain Fetish

[ 138 ] April 10, 2013 |

Obama’s caving on chained CPI and allowing reductions to Medicare so he can achieve his long-desired grand bargain is a terrible idea, not only on the merits but on the politics. It isn’t going to convince Republican fireeaters to bargain in good faith because their ultimate goal is to destroy his presidency, not run the country. It also opens Obama up to attacks from Republicans that he is hurting seniors. Greg Walden, chair of the House GOP reelection committee, is already doing just that, attacks that may well hurt Democratic candidates in 2014. Those attacks might be disingenuous from people want to do away with Social Security entirely (or privatize it, which is pretty much the same thing), but truth is not the name of the game here.

Bad policy, bad politics.

Paolo Soleri, RIP

[ 16 ] April 9, 2013 |

The legendary architect is no more.

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