Posts tagged John McCain

Seasons’ greetings

Here’s an item which seemed appropriate and topical to me, given the occasion.

(I refer, of course, to the occasion of Guy Fawkes Eve.)

I rag on Utne, but of course the reason that I read them is that they do occasionally come through. For example, by reprinting this really excellent article by none other than Gene Healy, about the imperial power of the modern Presidency, for an audience full of comfortable professional-class Progressive Obamarchists:

I’m not a preacher, Republican presidential candidate Phil Gramm snarled to religious right activists in 1995 when they urged him to run a campaign stressing moral themes. Several months later, despite Gramm’s fund-raising prowess, the Texas conservative finished a desultory fifth place in the Iowa caucuses and quickly dropped out of the race. Since then, few candidates have made Gramm’s mistake. Serious contenders for the office recognize that the role and scope of the modern presidency cannot be so narrowly confined. Today’s candidates are running enthusiastically for national preacher—and much else besides.

In the revival tent atmosphere of Barack Obama’s campaign, the preferred hosanna of hope is Yes we can! We can, the Democratic candidate promises, not only create a new kind of politics but also transform this country, change the world, and even create a Kingdom right here on earth. With the presidency, all things are possible.

Even though Republican nominee John McCain tends to eschew rainbows and uplift in favor of the grim satisfaction that comes from serving a cause greater than self-interest, he too sees the presidency as a font of miracles and the wellspring of national redemption. A president who wants to achieve greatness, McCain suggests, should emulate Teddy Roosevelt, who liberally interpreted the constitutional authority of the office and nourished the soul of a great nation. President George W. Bush, when he was passing the GOP torch to his former rival in March, declared that the Arizona senator will bring determination to defeat an enemy and a heart big enough to love those who hurt.

The chief executive of the United States is no longer a mere constitutional officer charged with faithful execution of the laws. He is a soul nourisher, a hope giver, a living American talisman against hurricanes, terrorism, economic downturns, and spiritual malaise. He—or she—is the one who answers the phone at 3 a.m. to keep our children safe from harm. The modern president is America’s shrink, a social worker, our very own national talk show host. He’s also the Supreme Warlord of the Earth.

This messianic campaign rhetoric merely reflects what the office has evolved into after decades of public clamoring. The vision of the president as national guardian and spiritual redeemer is so ubiquitous that it goes virtually unnoticed. Americans, left, right, and other, think of the commander in chief as a superhero, responsible for swooping to the rescue when danger strikes. And with great responsibility comes great power.

It’s difficult for 21st-century Americans to imagine things any other way. The United States appears to be stuck with an imperial presidency, an office that concentrates enormous power in the hands of whichever professional politician manages to claw his way to the top. Americans appear deeply ambivalent about the results, alternately cursing the king and pining for Camelot. But executive power will continue to grow, and threats to civil liberties increase, until citizens reconsider the incentives we have given to a post that started out so humbly.

— Gene Healy, Utne Reader (September-October 2001): Supreme Warlord of the Earth

Read the whole thing. Along the way you’ll find Healy introducing Utne readers to the basics of Higgs crisis analysis and Bourne’s dictum that War is the Health of the State. The only thing to add to Healy’s analysis is to complete the thought: to stress that the progress of the Presidency from a minor administrative position to an elective dictatorship, and from an elective dictatorship to a world-spanning imperial warlord, was not just some unhappy accident, or the result merely of a a decadent culture, or of a conspiracy against the public interest by a few motivated scoundrels. It was the necessary result of an ever-expanding warfare State, and the ever-expanding warfare State was the necessary result of the whole experiment in a centralized, nationalistic limited government (where the only effective limit on the Executing branch of the government are other branches of government, mainly a legislature composed of aparatchiks from the same national political parties from which the President is drawn). The incentives we [sic] have given for the warlord Presidency are built into the structure of the Party State itself, and while massive changes in cultural attitudes towards the Presidency might check or even temporarily roll back the imperial Presidency, but no lasting or fundamental change will happen without structural change — ideally meaning anarchy and freed-market competition in self-defense and neighborhood defense. Or, at the very least, the abolition of the one-man Presidency, just as such.

See also:

Strategery for the post-Bush era #2

ALLies,

First, (re-)read Shawn Wilbur’s excellent post from September, Time to free ALL the political prisoners. Also, the discussion on part Strategery for the post-Bush era part 1, and The Empire is Not American, But Washingtonian, and Beyond Blockades. Now, let’s brainstorm.

By the day after tomorrow, we will know something about what regime we’ll be facing for the next four years. Electoral politics are weird, and anything could still happen. But the chances are very good at this point that, a few months from now, (1) the Bush administration will be gone, (2) the Democratic Party will hold even larger majorities in the House and the Senate, and (3) it’s likely, although by no means certain, that there will be Democratic President and administration headed by Barack Obama. This after 6 years of trying to get by under a Republican-dominated government, and 2 years of divided government, which has largely maintained the status quo without any challenge or change. Or, less likely but certainly possible, that there will be a divided government, with both houses held by large Democratic majorities, and with the Presidency in the hands of John McCain. Whatever the case may be, the process of transition and of setting the tone will begin the day after tomorrow when the election results are finalized.

Meanwhile, among movement libertarians, there have been some significant shifts as the Bush era draws to a close. Chairman Ron’s Great Libertarian Electoral Revolution has dissolved, but there are remnant groups remaining. Most of those who have not simply dropped out of electoral politics or returned to their favorite evil of two lessers, seem to have either (re-)joined the LP or launched into an almost certainly futile crusades to take over their local Republican Party aparat. Meanwhile, in the Libertarian Party, the Barr/W.A.R. ticket has successfully marked the take-over and rebranding of the Party, with the express invitation and encouragement of an opportunistic and easily-awed leadership, by small-government conservative exiles from the fracturing Republican party. The election results (i.e., whether the LP’s inevitable miserable failure at the polls turns out to be a little less miserable or a little more miserable than its usual 0.25%-0.5% performance) will probably play some role in determining whether or not this rebranding is consolidated or not over the next few years. On the other hand, alleged political pragmatists are in leadership positions and are, as a rule, immunized against any empirical falsification of their views (if the LP does better, it’ll be taken as proof that the strategy worked; if it does worse, it’ll be taken as proof that they needed even more of the same). So, depending on the breaks, the LP may be stuck with more ridiculous conservative tools at the top of the ticket for some time to come. But if it is not, then the LP’s future may well be marked by left-sympathetic radicals like Mary Ruwart. A lot will turn on the usual weirdness of LP internal politics, and on what happens in the immediate aftermath of the election, starting, again, the day after tomorrow.

The most important point to make about the upcoming electoral coup is that, even if there is a massive change-over in the balance of power in Washington, D.C., it won’t change much of anything fundamental. There will be shifts on the margins — some for good, some for ill, and most of them neutral shifts of patronage and privileges from one set of power-brokers to another set of power-brokers. Whatever may be the case, radicals will have to go on organizing and go on fighting uphill against the warfare State, paramilitary policing, plutocratic state capitalism, government managerialism, the forced-pregnancy brigade, the War on Drugs, the border Stasi, and all the rest of it.

But also, presumably, the changing of the guard in the State citadel will mean that some of the facts on the ground are going to change, as is some of the rhetoric and some of the constituencies of Power. Presumably that means that we are going to have to make some shifts in tactics and strategy for outreach, organizing, education, evasion, resistance, etc. in the coming months. The time to start talking about this, and to start laying the groundwork for what we will be doing in the coming years, is now, if not six months ago. We need to start thinking about where should we go, who should we talk to, and what should we do from here on out.

So, with all that in mind, what changes are there likely to be in the challenges we’ll face during the post-Bush era, and under a consolidated Democratic Party-dominated regime in D.C.? What about under a McCain Presidency with a consolidated Democratic Party-dominated Congress? What changes in strategy, tactics, outreach, education, propaganda, and institutional infrastructure do you think that anti-statist liberation movements need to make, and what should they start doing now in order to be able to make those changes?

Let’s reason together and talk about it in the comments. (Or on your own blog, if you want the extra space; if so, leave a comment here with a link back to your post.)

No, seriously, I could swear the water in this pot is getting a little hotter… (#5)

… But it must just be the summer heat, right?

In Maryland, a state police Red Squad spent a year and change infiltrating anti-death penalty and anti-war groups, and put the names of nonviolent activists onto terrorist and drug-trafficking watch lists:

The ACLU released 43 pages of [Maryland] state police summaries and computer logs Thursday - some with agents’ names and paragraphs blacked out — that it obtained from the state attorney general’s office through a lawsuit based on Maryland’s Public Information Act.

The files depict a pattern of spying and surveillance over a 14-month period in 2005 and 2006. During that time, agents infiltrated the Baltimore Pledge of Resistance, a peace group; the Baltimore Coalition Against the Death Penalty; and the Committee to Save Vernon Evans, a death row inmate.

Police entered the names of activists in a law enforcement database of people suspected of being terrorists or drug traffickers, the documents show. Police officials said they did not infringe on the protesters’ freedom; the ACLU said that nothing in the documents indicated criminal activity or intent.

Many of the spies’ reports seem innocuous. In one, an agent who attended a gathering of the Evans group noted that activists discussed the stance that a candidate for Baltimore County state’s attorney might take on the death penalty.

Yesterday, [former Maryland Governor Bob] Ehrlich said on WJZ-TV that he was sympathetic to the principle that police should not spy on groups when there is no evidence of wrongdoing.

But he added, We pay state police to make decisions, and obviously they bring discretion with them to their jobs every day, so their job on a daily basis obviously is to weigh the relative value of intelligence they’ve received and to make decisions accordingly.

— Jonathan Bor and Gus G. Sentementes, Baltimore Sun (2008-07-19): State police spying decried

For example, one of the decisions that cops accordingly make is to harass, assault, restrain, and imprison innocent people who try to photograph them and document how the cops are treating the people they interact with. (Apparently this intelligence thing isn’t a two-way street.) They are, of course, happy to invent completely fictional crimes based on nonexistent laws in order to do so. Thus, in Johnson County, Tennessee:

Nearly everyone carries a cell phone and it’s hard to find one without that camera feature. It’s convenient when you want to take that impromptu photo, but a Tri-Cities area man ended up behind bars after snapping a shot of a Johnson County sheriff’s deputy during a traffic stop.

The cell phone photographer says the arrest was intimidation, but the deputy says he feared for his life.

… A Johnson County sheriff’s deputy arrested Scott Conover for unlawful photography.

He says you took a picture of me. It’s illegal to take a picture of a law enforcement officer, said Conover.

… The deputy also asked Conover to delete the picture three times.

He said if you don’t give it to me, you’re going to jail, said Conover.

Under the advice of the Johnson County attorney, the sheriff would not comment and the arresting deputy said he didn’t want to incriminate himself by talking to us.

— Darius Radzius, WJHL (2008-07-11): Man Arrested For Unlawful Photography

Carlos Miller elaborates on the same case:

Gangsters in Blue Ben May and Starling McCloud

Update: I talked to Scott Conover Wednesday morning and he said they delayed his court appearance to Sept. 3rd, which sounds familiar because they kept doing the same thing in my case. (I was arrested last year for photographing cops against their wishes). In my case, I took it as a sign that they were hoping the delay would cause the media interest to die down.

After arresting Scott Conover for unlawful photography in Mountain City, Tennessee last June, Johnson County Sheriff’s Deputy Starling McCloud threatened to arrest Conover’s 12-year-old daughter with the same charge after she snapped two photos of her father getting handcuffed.

As it turns out, she is a better photographer than her father because she actually managed to photograph the camera shy deputy.

… It won’t be the first time [Scott Conover has] faced off against the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office in court.

A couple of years ago, we had problems with the sheriff, so we sued them and settled out of court for an undisclosed sum, he said.

But the problems started even before that, after he witnessed deputies beating a man in front of the restaurant/bar he owns.

They beat the shit out of him, he said. The guy’s lawyer came back and took witness statements. When the statements made it back to the sheriff’s department, they came by and asked me why I was getting involved.

Not long after that, deputies started staking out his business, Jammers Rocking Road House, which he said is modeled after the Tiki Bar in Key Largo.

They were wolf-packing my customers, he said. They would lie and wait for them to leave and then pull them over to see if they had been drinking.

Conover struck back by suing them.

… On the night of his arrest, Conover and his family had left the Last Chance Saloon after picking up the nightly earnings and were on their way back to Jammers. His wife was sitting in the passenger’s seat. His son and daughter were in the back seat.

Up ahead were a group of customers who had just left the bar. A Johnson County Sheriff’s deputy, who was parked along side of the road, pulled over the car with the customers.

The lady who was driving doesn’t drink, he said. Her husband, who does drink, was sitting in the passenger’s seat.

Conover pulled up to the scene and stopped his Hummer in front of the traffic stop. He asked his son for his IPhone, then rolled the window down and said:

Hey fellas, I’m just getting your picture.

Then he snapped the photo. Deputy McCloud — who has been on the force only 18 months — told him that photographing him was illegal.

I asked, what planet are you from?, Conover said.

McCloud started threatening to arrest him if he did not delete the photo, which as it turned out, did not even capture the deputy.

Conover’s wife even asked her husband to just hand the deputy the IPhone, but he refused. The deputy kept threatening him with arrest if he didn’t delete the photo.

The deputy then ordered Conover out of his car.

I threw the phone back to my daughter and told her to keep taking photos.

By then, two Mountain City police officers had pulled up to the scene, including Kenneth Lane and Ben May, who is in the dark uniform in the above photos. McCloud placed two sets of handcuffs on Conover, who is six-feet tall and weighs 270 pounds, and apparently looked as if he could break out of a single pair of handcuffs.

Conover’s daughter snapped two photos before McCloud threatened her with arrest.

He started trying to get in my Hummer and get to the back seat where my kids were. I told him, You better not go back there or else we’re going to have some real problems, he said.

McCloud decided against arresting the daughter.

At the jail, Conover asked McCloud if had ever heard of the First Amendment.

He then turned to me and said, I’m charging you with disorderly conduct.

Thirty minutes later, after McCloud had left the jail — and had time to think of what other charges he could come up with — he called the jailer and added another charge against Conover; pointing a laser at an officer.

— Carlos Miller, Photography is Not a Crime (2008-08-05): Deputy threatened to arrest 12-year-old daughter for unlawful photography

Meanwhile, in Ohio, posturing macho paramilitary cops gunned down an unarmed woman holding nothing other than her baby boy. They fired high-powered rifles, blindly into a room they couldn’t see, because they saw a shadow on the wall during their cock-swinging commando SWAT raid. Please remember that cops are hired and trained to keep you and me safe, so obviously no matter how many unarmed women these heavily armed, trained professionals mow down in a wild attempt to save their own skins, the warrior mindset means never having to say you’re sorry.

A Lima, Ohio jury has acquitted police officer Joseph Chavalia of involuntary manslaughter in the death of 26-year-old Tarika Wilson. Chavalia shot and killed Wilson and wounded her infant son during a drug raid last January. Wilson was unarmed.

During the raid, one of Chavalia’s fellow officers shot and killed the two dogs owned by Wilson’s boyfriend and the target of the raid, Anthony Terry. Chavalia testified that he mistook his fellow officer’s shots at the dogs for hostile gunfire coming from the bedroom where Wilson was standing with her child. Chavalia then fired blindly into the bedroom.

The jury concluded that Chavalia reasonably feared for his life when he heard the gunshots. I guess they were then willing to overlook Chavalia’s mistaking an unarmed woman holding a baby for an armed drug dealer, and the fact that he fired blindly into a room without first identifying what he was shooting at. It’s too bad that that same sort of deference isn’t given to the people on the receiving end of these raids when they too understandably confuse the police officers who wake them from sleep and invade their homes for criminal intruders.

— Radley Balko, Hit and Run (2008-08-05): Lima, Ohio SWAT Officer Acquitted in the Killing of Tarika Wilson

Over in Chicago, the arbitrary governor over the state of Illinois has declared that what Chicago needs is yet another elite tactical team to patrol inner city neighborhoods, complete with state troopers and military helicopters.

Calling violence in Chicago out of control, Gov. Blagojevich on Wednesday offered to lend state troopers and National Guard helicopters to the city to augment the Chicago Police.

The governor is considering forming an elite tactical team to help the Chicago Police fight gang problems, a source said, adding that the unit could later be sent across the state to deal with gang problems at any city’s request.

— Chicago Sun-Times (2008-07-17): Gov. says Chicago out of control

Meanwhile, the Fighting Uruk-Hai of Arizona proposes that we ought to combat inner city crime using the strategic hamlet surge tactics that have made for such a brilliant success in the occupation of Iraq.

We might look at what Rudy Giuliani did in New York City, when he became mayor of that city. … And some of those tactics, very frankly — you mention the war in Iraq — are like that we use in the military. You go into neighborhoods, you clamp down, you provide a secure environment for the people that live there, and you make sure that the known criminals are kept under control. And you provide them with a stable environment and then they cooperate with law enforcement, etc, etc.

Do you feel safer now?

(Stories via Darian Worden (2008-07-18): Martial Law 2008, Manuel Lora @ LewRockwell.com Blog (2008-08-02): The Fascist McCain On Solving Neighborhood Crimes, Ali @ ThinkProgress (2008-08-01): McCain suggests military-style invasion modeled on the surge to control inner city crime, etc.)

See also:

International sensitivity

So the Fighting Uruk-Hai of Arizona would like to inform us all that today we are all Georgians.

Maybe so, but the problem, asshole, is that today not quite everybody wants to be.

See also:

N.B. Meanwhile, McCain is also shocked! shocked! to discover that putatively humanitarian invasions of Near East countries in the name of regime change often turn out to have brutal consequences for lots innocent people. Of course, he’s right that Russian soldiers should be immediately and completely withdrawn from Georgia, and also that the punitive country-wide bombing campaign has been an inexcusable act of brutality. But I’m not sure how he goes on talking about this without the cognitive dissonance causing his head to explode.

Disclaimer

I’ve been putting in some tweaks to the page layout, as you may have noticed, and, while I was at it, the appearance of one too many animated ads for the Fighting Uruk-Hai of Arizona in my sidebar finally inspired me to revise and expand my ad disclaimer. As you can see, if you scan over to the right, it now reads: Views inscribed in the Rad Geek People’s Daily are mine, and may not be those of sponsors. Google ads are served algorithmically, without individual review, so contrariwise, an ad’s appearance does not imply my endorsement of the sponsor.

To be fair, the Adsense management interface does have a provision for screening out future appearances of particular ads, after-the-fact, if you catch one that you don’t want them to appear on your page. On the other hand, I should hope that most of my readership is not about to vote for Gothmog. And if I let the ads appear, then, should anyone happen to click on a McCain ad, that means a little more money is taken away from the McCain 2008 Presidential campaign, and given to me instead. Which seems like a particularly sweet sort of revenge.

Yes, yes. I know that, if you go by the depiction in the Peter Jackson movie, Gothmog is not one of the Uruk-Hai, but rather an Orc of Minas Morgul. I’m taking some liberties. If you don’t like it, take me to Nerd Court.