Tuesday Reads: Liberals, Libertarians, and Concern Trolls

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Good Morning!!

Between the Red Sox being in the World Series and having to have a root canal on Saturday, I’ve been a little bit disconnected from politics. The Sox won again last night in St. Louis, and they’ll be coming back home to Fenway Park leading the series 3 games to 2; so they could end it tomorrow night. If this post is a little late, my aching jaw and baseball are the reasons why.

We’ve been talking a lot about libertarians lately, because so-called progressives have been aligning with those Ayn Rand fans since libertarian Edward Snowden began leaking top secret documents about the NSA and libertarian Glenn Greenwald began lecturing the world about what a great hero Snowden is for defecting to Russia and revealing the most secret counterintelligence methods of the U.S. and U.K.

The latest shameful episode was Saturday’s “Stop Watching Us” rally in Washington, at which supposedly “progressive” groups joined with anti-woman right-wingers like Justin Amash and neo-confederates like Ron and Rand Paul to protest the NSA doing its job of collecting foreign intelligence.

Before the rally took place, Tom Watson wrote a heartfelt column warning “progressives” that libertarians don’t make good bedfellows. Watson wrote that while he dislikes mass surveillance,

I cannot support this coalition or the rally. It is fatally compromised by the prominent leadership and participation of the Libertarian Party and other libertarian student groups; their hardcore ideology stands in direct opposition to almost everything I believe in as a social democrat.

The Libertarian Party itself — inaccurately described by Stop Watching Us as a “public advocacy organization” — is a right-wing political party that opposes all gun control lawsand public healthcaresupported the government shutdowndismisses public education,opposes organized labor, favors the end of Social Security as we know it, and argues in its formal political manifesto that “we should eliminate the entire social welfare system” while supporting “unrestricted competition among banks and depository institutions of all types.”

Yet my progressive friends would take the stage with the representatives of this political movement? Why? The loss is much greater than the gain. Organizers trade their own good names and reputations to stand alongside — and convey legitimacy to — a party that opposes communitarian participation in liberal society, and rejects the very role of government itself. And their own argument for privacy is weakened by the pollution of an ideology that uses its few positive civil liberties positions as a predator uses candy with a child.

This is an abandonment of core principles, in my view, out of anger over Edward Snowden’s still-recent revelations about the National Security Agency and its spying activity, particularly domestic access to telephone and online networks and metadata. It represents trading long-held beliefs in social and economic justice for a current hot-button issue that — while clearly of concern to all Americans — doesn’t come close to trumping a host of other issues areas that require “the long game” of electoral politics and organizing. Going “all in” with the libertarian purists is a fatal and unnecessary compromise; reform is clearly needed, but the presence of anti-government laissez-faire wingers at the beating heart of the privacy movement will surely sour the very political actors that movement desperately needs to make actual — and not symbolic, link bait — progress in its fight.

But it was to no avail. Watson was attacked for his argument that the anti-surveillance fever is distracting from other important issues. People like Greenwald and Snowden couldn’t possibly care less about alleviating poverty, protecting women’s rights or the right to vote. They’d have no problem with Social Security and Medicare being eliminated, and as for voting, they’re anti-government anyway. Glenn Greenwald–whom some uninformed people believe is a “progressive,” saves his worst attacks for Democrats and in the past has supported Ron Paul and Gary Johnson for president. To Greenwald, sacrificing the entire legacy of FDR and the civil rights and women’s movements is no big deal. Here’s how he characterized the values of liberals who reject Ron Paul in 2011:

Yes, I’m willing to continue to have Muslim children slaughtered by covert drones and cluster bombs, and America’s minorities imprisoned by the hundreds of thousands for no good reason, and the CIA able to run rampant with no checks or transparency, and privacy eroded further by the unchecked Surveillance State, and American citizens targeted by the President for assassination with no due process, and whistleblowers threatened with life imprisonment for “espionage,” and the Fed able to dole out trillions to bankers in secret, and a substantially higher risk of war with Iran (fought by the U.S. or by Israel with U.S. support) in exchange for less severe cuts to Social Security, Medicare and other entitlement programs, the preservation of the Education and Energy Departments, more stringent environmental regulations, broader health care coverage, defense of reproductive rights for women, stronger enforcement of civil rights for America’s minorities, a President with no associations with racist views in a newsletter, and a more progressive Supreme Court.

Of course, Greenwald is admitting that he’d sacrifice the social safety net and the rights of millions of Americans in a hopeless effort to defeat the military-industrial complex and its technologies. If you can stand to read the whole piece, you’ll also learn that Greenwald thinks Matt Stoller is a “brilliant” writer. Greenwald is a libertarian purist, with no understanding of how politics actually works. This is the pied piper that many “progressives” are following these days.

I guess I’m getting a little carried away here, so I’ll stop ranting and offer some pertinent links.

I’ll begin with this piece by Mark Ames on how libertarians pull the wool over liberals’ eyes. Ames opens by discussing Saturday’s “Stop Watching Us” rally and the alliance of so-called progressives and anti-government neo-confederates. And then he reveals the history of “libertarians lying to liberals.” It’s a long article, and I’m going to provide a longer than usual excerpt; but I hope you’ll go read the whole thing.

What hasn’t been revealed until now, however, is how the libertarians got so good at fooling their lefty marks. For that you have to look back 35 years, to an amazing series of articles in the Koch brothers’ REASON magazine in which prominent libertarians lay out to a new generation of followers a playbook of “tricks” to fool earnest leftists, liberals and hippies into supporting their cause.

If you really believe that these events are about promoting freedom and humanitarianism, you’re going to be even more disturbed by what libertarians had to say about conning liberals in their more unguarded moments, before their “tricks” worked and they were able to pull off these big DC “strange bedfellows” events like clockwork.

One of the most shocking strategy articles comes in a REASON article headlined “Marketing Libertarianism” written by Moshe Kroy, and published in the February 1977 issue. The article begins by acknowledging libertarians’ frustrations:

A paradox most libertarians (if not all) are acutely aware of is the gap between the self-evidence of libertarianism, on the one hand, and the difficulty of communicating it to nonlibertarians on the other hand. The fact that the free market is the only economic-political system which makes human existence possible—as human existence—seems to be very easily demonstrable.

But alas, the sheeple are too thick to grasp what a wonderfully liberating experience the free market offers to non-millionaires. Here’s where the marketing expert lays it all out on the table, reminding his libertarian followers that by its definition, libertarian politics will never catch on with a public brought up on majority rule—not unless you trick them:

This article may seem somewhat cynical and opportunistic—but if you read it closely you will see that it involves no falsity or deception. The point is that you can use tricks—and you’d better, if you really want libertarianism to have a fighting chance.

In a sense the author is right: the article is honest in assessing libertarianism as a marketing ploy rather than political idealism, and the only way to con customers into buying a product that’ll likely do them harm is the same way you sell them Florida real estate: by tricking them.

Here’s a little more insight on how Greenwald thinks about surveillance and the NSA, from an interview he did with Christiane Amampour yesterday.

Spying by America’s National Security Agency does not have “anything to do with terrorism,” Glenn Greenwald, the activist journalist who broke the story, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Monday.

“Is Angela Merkel a terrorist? Are sixty or seventy million Spanish or French citizens terrorists? Are there terrorists at Petrobras?” he asked rhetorically. “This is clearly about political power and economic espionage, and the claim that this is all about terrorism is seen around the world as what it is, which is pure deceit.”

Because in Greenwald’s one-track mind, if the NSA does other kinds of intelligence collection, that means nothing it collects is related to terrorism. I really believe ex-patriot Greenwald believes terrorism doesn’t matter because it isn’t going to affect him in Brazil where he is guarded by agents of the Brazilian government. More from yesterday’s interview:

“It is not true that every country intercepts the personal communications of their democratically elected allies,” Greenwald told Amanpour, referring to the oft-repeated criticism put forward by true believers that “everyone does it.”

“And it’s definitely not the case that every country mass, bulk collects the communications of millions of innocent people in virtually every country in the world.”

Really? I wonder how he knows that? It’s not what real ex-NSA people say. And as for Angela Merkel’s precious cell phone, it turns out that Merkel’s “real” cellphone is secure, according to John Schindler, intelligence historian and former NSA analyst. Apparently Merkel has been careless about using a non-secure personal cell phone to conduct government business. But she had an alternative.

While Merkel has indeed had a quite vulnerable cellphone, her “real” Chancellor-Phone, as the Germans call it, is quite secure from interception.

As reported in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the manufacturer of Merkel’s “real” phone, a Düsseldorf firm called Secusmart, is the provider of choice to the German government as well as some private firms who worry about data security (at a cost of 2,500 Euros per handset, there aren’t many private buyers). Secusmart supplied Merkel  with a voice encryption solution four years ago, based on software and a cryptographic chip, which was updated this year and works on all new BlackBerry handsets. Secusmart’s CEO, Hans-Christoph Quelle, maintains that Merkel’s calls using his firm’s phone are quite secure, even against NSA.

Back to the topic of libertarians who try to fool liberals, one of my favorite *fake liberal* libertarians, Conor Friedersdorf, has been at it again. Here’s his latest piece at the Atlantic: Will the Left Turn on President Obama Like the Tea Party Did on President Bush?

During President George W. Bush’s tenure, most Republicans felt that criticizing him would just help Democrats. Only the end of his presidency freed them to see its flaws clearly. Staunch conservatives who voted for him twice suddenly found themselves swept up in a Tea Party rebellion against his team’s approach to governing. They felt chagrin at the ways he had transgressed against their values, and they resolved to change the GOP so that the same mistakes would never recur.

Will some Democrats behave similarly when President Obama leaves office? Right now, most feel that criticizing the White House can only help House Republicans. But one day soon they’ll be able to look back at Obama’s two terms with clearer eyes. How many will feel chagrin at policies that transgressed against their values? How many will pressure their party’s establishment to change?

We may start finding out during the Election 2016 primaries.

Friedersdorf’s concerns are the same as Greenwald’s–drones, surveillance, “whistleblowers,” etc., and his target is the candidacy of “candidate of continuity” Hillary Clinton.

Fortunately T-Bogg is back: Concern troll is very concerned so maybe you should be too.

Rand Paul fanboy and holder of the Megan McArdle Memorial ‘Seemingly Reasonable If You Aren’t Hung Up On Facts’ Chair at The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf  is having trouble sleeping at night because he is way stressed out about Dronebama’s legacy and whether it will drone kill the shit out of Hillary Clinton’s chances to be the first woman second Clinton to be elected President….

Before we dive in, I’d like to point out that the photo accompanying Young Conor’s article is from this weekends  #StopWatchingUs rally that drew a small libertarian-heavy crowd whose size would be embarrassing for a small town Friday night high school football game but would be a  stunning haul for a Reason magazine subscription drive.

Note that T-Bogg also mentions a recent post by another libertarian (who also doesn’t live in the U.S.) angry young man, Ian Welsh, who recently explained to us “why the progressive blog movement failed.” (He might try looking in the mirror, actually.)

The actual election is three years hence, and in those three years anything can happen: a domestic terrorist attack, economic collapse, a war in Middle  East, a space alien invasion, the Cubs could make it to the World Series (hah! not that one, no way) so I’m pretty sure that something will fill the Big Policy Difference Void when the pols get to palaverin’. But it’s not going to be the topics listed above by Young Conor because we’ve already saw that movie last year and the reviews were “meh”. Going forward, Obamacare will be growing and changing thing as long as the Smart Young Things manage to calm the fuck down and quit predicting DOOMDEATHSPIRALARMAGEDDONKABLOOEY  because it doesn’t downloaded as fast as the latest Arcade Fire, so it will be in play. Gay marriage is a downhill-bound snowball picking up speed as it races through the states, so everyone will probably stay the hell out of the way, although we still have much to do when it comes to gay rights. It’s possible marijuana legalization/the failed drug war reform will be a thing (Libertarian boner time!), but the meat and potatoes of the campaign will be what they always are; jobs, the economy, the high cost of living, education, the middle class, choice, the social safety net, infrastructure and immigration reform. These are the topics that actually affect voters in their pockets and in their lives on a daily basis, not whether there is a “secret kill list for Americans” which is Sarah Palin’s “death panels” for Progressives. Yes, I know there is a list/disposition matrix which I don’t find unreasonable, but it’s not like we’re  talking about putting the Kardashians on it … even though a case could be made.

The fact of that matter is that the average American voter doesn’t spend their day on the internet reading what Matt Yglesias has to say about something that Megan McArdle wrote which Andrew Sullivan linked to after Julian Sanchez commented on it in a Twitter discussion with Dave Weigel and the entire staff at Think Progress. Sorry, you guys.

Which gets us back to Ian Welsh’s post about blogs and progressives and where I part company with him. Because when the primaries roll into town, most democrats/liberals/progressives are going to look at the candidates – if there are any besides Hillary because Democrats aren’t quite as into vanity campaigns like Republicans are – and they are going to vote for the one who is most likely to win in the general election. That’s because, while idealism is wonderful and morally bracing, it’s not going to feed your kids, keep a roof over your head, and, now, ensure access to medical care without blowing your whole world up.

And we’ll let the Bright Young Things and Internet Chin Strokers  and the Libertarian Concern Trolls keep eating moral dilemma cake…

I wish I had written that!

This is post is way too long and I don’t even know if it makes sense. But, as I said at the beginning, I’m a little discombobulated this morning.

So now it’s your turn. What are you reading and blogging about today? Please post your links on any topic in the comment thread.


60 Comments on “Tuesday Reads: Liberals, Libertarians, and Concern Trolls”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Have a great Tuesday, everyone!!

    • RalphB says:

      This is a wonderful post and lightened my heart. We are in 100% agreement. Thanks!

      • bostonboomer says:

        Thank you!

      • Ditto…to what Ralph said. I am so glad you tackled this “stuff” BB, all I could do was get pissed off and bitch. You really got down to it awesomely.

      • Fannie says:

        Amazing how libertarians do not help us, doing more harm with their “tricks/approach”……..looking back on Milton Friedman, it somehow escapes me in regards to his adoptions of libertarian policies, and what that really met. I guess I was hitting the pipe a little much, in that moment, I dropped the economic angles and went with romancing the stone. Damn.

    • janicen says:

      Great post. All of this “activism” had Koch fingerprints all over it.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    Another quote from T-Bogg: Jerome Armstrong’s (Kos’ mentor) critique of liberal bloggers:

    They are more concerned with attacking truth-tellers like Julian Assange, Glenn Greenwald, and Edward Snowden than they are keeping anyone accountable or demanding transparency. That’s what they are really good at– justifying why the powerful should stay so and attacking the ones who challenge power. And, if needed, providing a handy social lifestyle issue to keep the division.

    That’s what these libertarian absolutists think of women’s right to control their own bodies. T-Bogg again:

    I believe that “handy social Lifestyle issue” was once dismissed by Ralph Nader as “gonadal politics“.

    Sorry ladies, next time you should be a white male. They’ve got all the answers about what your priorities should be…

    • RalphB says:

      Jerome didn’t become a rich political consultant, like he expected, with losing candidates. Boo hoo for the asshat. He should sit down and STFU!

  3. bostonboomer says:

    Josh Barro:

    Wall Street Journal Enlists Suzanne Somers To Critique Obamacare, And Of Course It’s A Disaster

    Somers warns:

    Medical care will be degraded, the costs will skyrocket, and most frightening of all, your most intimate and personal information is now up for grabs. And then there is another consideration: It’s the dark underbelly of the Affordable Care Act reminiscent of what Lenin and Churchill both said. Lenin: “Socialized medicine is the keystone to the arch of the socialist state.” Churchill: “Control your citizens’ health care and you control your citizens.”

    • Fannie says:

      Watching the republicans burn Obama’s witch on tv this morning……………and finally was so happy to hear from Congressman Jim McDermott, who spoke up about Texas, and Arkansas, and Kentucy’s exchanges…………….

      I’ll be back to read more. Shame on Suzanne Somer…………….she should never allow herself to play politics with breast cancer. I have donated for research and funding for cancer treatment, and I am now wondering what in the world do women like Somer have to gain when they add to the degrade of the disease itself. When you have breast cancer they don’t screen you for communism, or socialism, or any other ism…………….it’s get the cancer out.

    • ANonOMouse says:

      Yeah, I want lectures from Suzanne Somers on socialism. First of all, the ACA isn’t socialized medicine, I wish it was. And second, when you’ve spent a good portion of your life pushing scam products like “The Thighmaster” to unknowing women who think it may help their body, you might not want to give advice about what is and what isn’t good for people. Maybe her motto is “control your citizens’ thigh size and you control your citizens”.

      • RalphB says:

        LOL. She’s the right wing’s idea of a health care expert, a scammer.

      • Fannie says:

        I hope her funds sag in ways she never thought of……………Spot on Mouse, luv ya.

        • Beata says:

          Lol, Fannie. Love your sense of humor.

        • ANonOMouse says:

          Fannie…ROFL!!!

          I think Suzanne owns the thighmaster patent. Hell, she’s been hawking that contraption, that amounts to nothing more than a red & blue padded spring, for 20 years, And you can still buy them for the rock-bottom price of just $59.95 (does not include S&H) on Amazon, As a bonus a Suzanne Exercise video is included at no charge :-). Suzanne knows that as long as women have cellulite (which is like saying as long as the sky has clouds) and continue on that never-ending, lifelong quest to vanquish it, she will prosper. 🙂

      • Beata says:

        Perfect comment, Mouse. You said it so much better than I ever could!

  4. ANonOMouse says:

    Great post BB.

  5. dakinikat says:

    Great post BB! These folks make me want to pull my hair out! They are so obviously concerned only about things that they feel impact them and could care less about the bigger civil rights picture. I still say you cannot be a libertarian and think government can control women’s bodies, block voting access and support theocratic efforts to oppress GLBT. You mentioned nearly every dudebro I would like to banish to the local Jr. High newspaper.

  6. Sweet Sue says:

    I don’t want to hear from Suzanne Somers about healthcare and I don’t want to hear about womens rights from T. Bogg.
    Wasn’t he one of the unofficial leaders of the Why Won’t The Stupid Bitch Just Quit brigade in 08?

    • dakinikat says:

      TBogg and I really got into it at FDL back in the day. He basically told me to go hang out at Taylor Marsh’s with the rest of the Clinton Deadenders which is how I got connected with all of you eventually! He and I used to go back and forth all the time. I’ve decided to live and let live now since he is more with my issues than against them.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I know he’s a jerk, but he has his moments.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        In the end I decided if Hillary was able to stay in the political arena and to continue her work while navigating the waters of those who had been hostile to her, then who was I not to get over it? If we’re not going to get past it, who benefits in 2016? President Cruz???? President Santorum???? President Paul???? Really, I’m all about leaving those battles behind.

  7. RalphB says:

    Into the court meat grinder they go …

    Two couples in Texas sue to lift ban on gay marriage

    The suit claims provisions of the Texas constitution and other state laws barring same-sex marriage violate protections of the U.S. constitution, such as the right to equal protection under the law.

  8. dakinikat says:

    https://www.ansa.it/ansamed/en/news/sections/generalnews/2013/10/24/Turkey-Italians-discover-Gate-Hell-Cerberus-guarding_9514495.html

    Few doubts remain that a cave discovered by a team of Italian archeologists led by Professor Francesco D’Adria in the ancient city of Hierapolis in classical Phrygia is indeed the mythical ‘Gate to Hell’ of Greek antiquity.

    Celebrated as the portal to the underworld in Greco-Roman mythology and tradition, the cave called Plutonium or Pluto’s Gate was a destination for the VIPs of antiquity, such as the philosopher Cicero and the great Greek geographer Strabo.

  9. dakinikat says:

    http://publicreligion.org/research/2013/10/2013-american-values-survey/

    American Values Survey
    print
    Survey | 2013 American Values Survey: In Search of Libertarians in America

    Libertarians are composed of a disproportionately high number of white mainline Protestants (27%) and religiously unaffiliated Americans (27%). Only about 1-in-10 (11%) libertarians identify as Catholic, and no libertarians identify as black Protestant.

    • RalphB says:

      Compared to the general population, libertarians are significantly more likely to be non-Hispanic white, male, and young. Nearly all libertarians are non-Hispanic whites (94%), more than two-thirds (68%) are men, and more than 6-in-10 (62%) are under the age of 50.

      Well, duh.

  10. bostonboomer says:

    Guess what? The latest Snowden/Greenwald report on NSA spying in Europe was a pack of lies.

    WSJ: U.S. says France, Spain aided NSA spying

    Widespread electronic spying that ignited a political firestorm in France and Spain recently was carried out by their own intelligence services and not by the National Security Agency, U.S. officials say.

    The phone records collected by the Europeans—in war zones and other areas outside their borders—then were shared with the NSA, U.S. officials said, as part of efforts to help protect American and allied troops and civilians.

    The new disclosure upends the version of events as reported in Europe in recent days, and puts a spotlight on the role of European intelligence services that work closely with the NSA, suggesting a greater level of European involvement in global surveillance.

    The U.S. has so far been silent about the role of European partners in these collection efforts so as to protect relationships.

    This is separate from the Merkel eavesdropping.

  11. Haven’t read this post yet, but jut a reminder:

  12. Prolix says:

    At least it was easy telling the supposed progressives from the libertarians at the rally. The progressives were the ones getting henna tattoos of Neville Chamberlain and reading David Stockman’s new book.

  13. bostonboomer says:

    Max Fisher at WaPo: Why America spies on its allies (and probably should)

    The international system is, and always has been, inherently adversarial, even among allies. To paraphrase the 19th-century British statesman Lord Palmerston, countries don’t have friends, they have interests. Spying on friendly foreign nations does not actually violate the standard practices of international relations and in many ways is consistent with those norms. The close U.S. allies France and Israel are particularly known for it. Still, something as explicit as tapping Merkel’s cellphone is a big and legitimately surprising step, one that may well go too far. Here is an evaluation of the pros and cons involved that may help clarify why the United States would decide to take such a step.

    The simplest case for spying might be that the United States and Germany, despite being allies, still compete with one another, sometimes on quite substantive issues. If spying can give them a leg up on those issues, then aren’t their leaders obligated to sanction it? President Obama’s job, after all, is to further American interests, Merkel’s to further German interests. Those conflict more than you might think; when they do, both leaders are potentially better served if they spy on the other.