Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Rifle on the Wall:
A Left Argument for Gun Rights

An essay in seven sections.

The Fundamental Political Principle

"That rifle on the wall of the labourer's cottage or working class flat is the symbol of democracy. It is our job to see that it stays there." -- George Orwell1

Let’s start with this: The citizen’s right to possess firearms is a fundamental political right. The political principle at stake is quite simple: to deny the state the monopoly of armed force.  This should perhaps be stated in the obverse: to empower the citizenry, to distribute the power of armed force among the citizenry as a whole. The history of arguments and struggles over this principle, throughout the world, is long and clear. Instituted in the context of a revolutionary struggle based on the most democratic concepts of its day, the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution is perhaps the clearest legal/constitutional expression of this principle, and as such, I think, is one of the most radical statutes in the world.

The question of gun rights is a political question, in the broad sense that it touches on the distribution of power in a polity.  Thus, although it incorporates all these perfectly legitimate “sub-political” activities, it is not fundamentally about hunting, or collecting, or target practice; it is about empowering the citizen relative to the state. Denying the importance of, or even refusing to understand, this fundamental point of the Second Amendment right, and sneering at people who do, symptomizes a politics of paternalist statism – not (actually the opposite of) a politics of revolutionary liberation. 

I’ll pause right here.  For me, and for most supporters of gun rights, however inartfully they may put it, this is the core issue.  To have an honest discussion of what’s at stake when we talk about “gun rights,” “gun control,” etc., everyone has to know, and acknowledge, his/her position on this fundamental political principle.  Do you hold that the right to possess firearms is a fundamental political right?

If you do, then you are ascribing it a strong positive value, you will be predisposed to favor its extension to all citizens, you will consider whatever “regulations” you think are necessary (because some might be) with the greatest circumspection (because those “regulations” are limitations on a right, and rights, though never as absolute as we may like, are to be cherished), you will never seek, overtly or surreptitiously, to eliminate that right entirely – and your discourse will reflect all of that. If you understand gun ownership as a political right, then, for you, if there weren’t a second amendment, there should be.

If, on the other hand, you do not hold that the right to possess firearms is a fundamental political right, if you think it is some kind of luxury or peculiarity or special prerogative, then, of course, you really won’t give a damn about how restricted that non-right is, or whether it is ignored or eliminated altogether.  If you reject, or don’t understand, gun ownership as a political right, then you probably think the Second Amendment should never have been.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

God Is On Their Side:
No Regrets for America's Jihad Wars

It’s a daisy chain of horrific violence, all of which can be traced directly back to a decision made by a Democratic president and his National Security Advisor to arm, train, and send out into the world a new army of radical jihadis, in order to entice the godless communists into an historic trap in Afghanistan. The actors from that drama were hired again last year by another Democratic president in Libya, and are being remobilized today in Syria – even as the blowback from their comrades in Mali becomes virtually instantaneous.

No force in the world has done more than the government of the United States to create a radical global jihad army.

It’s a blowback world.  

Some excerpts:

“Algeria’s interior minister, Daho Ould Kablia, said that the seizure of the gas field had been overseen by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, an Algerian who fought Soviet forces in Afghanistan in the 1980s and has reportedly established his own group in the Sahara after falling out with other local Qaeda leaders.”1 (New York Times)

“But this intervention is itself the consequence of another. The Libyan war is frequently touted as a success story for liberal interventionism. Yet the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi’s dictatorship had consequences that Western intelligence services probably never even bothered to imagine. Tuaregs – who traditionally hailed from northern Mali – made up a large portion of his army. When Gaddafi was ejected from power, they returned to their homeland: sometimes forcibly so as black Africans came under attack in post-Gaddafi Libya, an uncomfortable fact largely ignored by the Western media.

“But the Libyan war was seen as a success, too; and here we are now engaging with its catastrophic blowback. … The price of Western interventions may often be ignored by our media, but it is still paid nonetheless.

“It is the responsibility of all of us to scrutinise what our governments do in our name; if we cannot learn that from Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, then it is hopeless.”2 (The Independent)

The Day Before Yesterday
“Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi, the Libyan rebel leader, has said jihadists who fought against allied troops in Iraq are on the front lines of the battle against Muammar Gaddafi's regime. Mr al-Hasidi admitted he had earlier fought against ‘the foreign invasion’ in Afghanistan …

Monday, January 14, 2013

Sticks and Drones, and Company Men: The Selective Outrage of the Liberal Caste

I am from a large Irish Catholic family in New York City.  When I was in high school, at an academically-rigorous Jesuit institution, now best known as the namesake of the world’s most persistent television personality,1 my older brother became a priest.  He was ordained in Rome, and most of the family went over for the event.  While I was there my brother took me to the office of the Superior General of the Jesuit order (the “Society of Jesus”).  My brother was a student of history, and wanted me to see the desk, with the huge map of the world on the wall behind, and the modest cot off to the side, from which the Black Pope had dispatched his cadre, also known as “God’s Marines” and “The Company,” and even “the Special Forces of the Catholic Church,”2 to manipulate the fates of nations and empires for more than 400 years on behalf of the Papacy.  The analogy is irresistible: If the Vatican is the White House of the Catholic Church, the Jesuit Superior General’s office is the CIA headquarters.3

Of course, besides being the vanguard of the Counter-Reformation and Inquisition – the repressive apparatus of the Church, if you will (Torture and rendition, anyone?) – the Jebbies (as they are familiarly known) also became the Church’s ideological vanguard, manipulating the fates of empires by overseeing the education of elites. "Give me the child for seven years, and I will give you the man" is the famous aphorism traditionally attributed to the Jesuits – as my father, also an alumnus of Regis High School, reminded me constantly.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Obama's Cliff Dive

The New Year's "fiscal cliff" deal represents another Obama "victory." For whom? As pointed out in Holland's article below, the Bush tax cuts had already expired when this deal was done. This means that, after allowing the FICA tax cut to expire for all working people, Obama made a deal to give new, permanent tax cuts to the wealthy, and paved the way for Social Security and Medicare to be put on the chopping block.  As I've said a number of times before (here, here, here), "the next Obama administration, claiming to be standing on the high ground of principle, will be, and will be proud to be, the first administration to cut Social Security.  Guaranteed.  And they’ll sell it as a 'save.' Obama and the Democratic Party really think it’s the right thing to do."  

Anyone who's waiting to see whether Obama and the Democrats will finally take a stand when the Republicans hold the country hostage to the debt ceiling is showing a truly delirious capacity to ignore what has been said, done, and established before their eyes repeatedly. Obama and the Democrats will make sure this gets done. With very few, if any, principled exceptions from the left, all Democrats who need to -- including Pelosi, Reid, and, yes, Bernie Sanders, all of whom voted for this mess --  will vote to save reform undermine Social Security and Medicare, because, well, they just have to.

Can it be said, with a straight face, that there is anything left of Democratic-party welfare-state American liberalism than an ever more vacuous nostalgia?

President Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act in 1935
Gone, baby, gone.
Either they get everything they want, or they scream bloody murder.
By Joshua Holland
I thought that by this point, I was beyond the capacity to be shocked by the delusions held by the American Right. But my jaw dropped when I read that a number of high-profile conservatives are outraged  about the fiscal slope deal, and believe they have been “rolled” by Obama. The very notion is wildly delusional....{Read on}

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