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Nashville Feminists and the Downfall of TN State Rep. Jeremy Durham

XGR--Special Session-LawmakerLast April I covered a feminist protest in Nashville’s legislative building calling for State Rep. Jeremy Durham (R-Franklin) to resign behind allegations of sexual assault from three young female interns. In the protest’s immediate aftermath, which drew considerable media coverage, Durham attempted to grandstand his way out of the frying pan by blaming his plight on the protesters, telling the Franklin Homepage:

Although I fully support freedom of speech, I’m disappointed that these young liberals would turn a serious matter into political grandstanding and minimize the weight of this important issue for those who have truly been harassed in the workplace,” Durham said. “I realize we live in a politically correct society, but making a false accusation when there was never even a complaint filed is extremely unfair.

Durham’s insinuation was that sexual harassment and assault were somehow partisan issues. At the time I noted that, as an eyewitness to the protest, there was no “liberal” political grandstanding. The protest was rooted in issues-based activism, which seemed increasingly relevant due to April being Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Just over 24 hours after the protest ended, the state Attorney General’s probe into Durham’s behavior uncovered “inappropriate physical contact.”

House Speaker Beth Harwell banished Rep. Jeremy Durham to a new office building and limited his access to staff after a scathing Tennessee attorney general report found the Franklin Republican engaged in inappropriate physical contact and potentially poses a “continuing risk to unsuspecting women.”

“Based upon the information gathered thus far, Representative Durham’s alleged behavior may pose a continuing risk to unsuspecting women who are employed by or interact with the legislature,” Attorney General Herbert Slatery said in a letter to House officials.

In accordance with the attorney general’s findings, Harwell, R-Nashville, is limiting Durham’s access to certain legislative buildings — including moving his office across the street — and he has been barred from having contact with almost all staff or interns as the investigation continues.

Three months later, the AG released a report stating that Durham engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with 22 women. Things haven’t exactly gone well for him since. In August, federal prosecutors opened an investigation into Durham’s campaign expenditures by issuing subpoenas for records related to campaign finance and tax violations. Then days after a $191,000 discrepancy was discovered between his election finance reports and bank records, Durham (also a lawyer) shuttered his real estate title company, Battleground Title & Escrow.

But in September, Jeremy Durham made Tennessee history by being the first state representative to be expelled from the legislature for alleged sexual misconduct. In what the Tennesssean described as “an historic move by state lawmakers,” he was officially ousted as a member of the Tennessee House of Representatives during a special legislative session.

Republicans and Democrats joined together to remove the 32-year-old Franklin Republican, voting 70-2 to cast Durham out after more than an hour of discussion to approve the first legislative expulsion since 1980, and only the second since the Civil War. The House needed 66 votes to remove him.

Immediately after the vote, Durham’s name was removed from his desk on the House floor and his name was removed from the legislative website. He is no longer eligible to receive a state pension, having not served enough time in the House.

Now with his legislative career at an end, Durham found his legal career in jeopardy almost immediately thereafter. The Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility, the state agency charged with disciplining lawyers, started investigating possible “trust account violations” and the possibility of misusing client money.

Just a week later, the hits kept on coming for the ex-lawmaker. Literally.

Jeremy Durham hit a University of Florida fan in the face during the University of Tennessee’s football game Saturday, resulting in the Franklin Republican being escorted out of Neyland Stadium by law enforcement.

There are no official details about what happened, but several witnesses confirmed an officer approached Durham and asked him to leave. The recently expelled lawmaker complied and was escorted out of the stands by a Blount County sheriff’s deputy.

A Tennessee fan who saw what happened said Durham was sitting with his wife and state Sen. Brian Kelsey, a longtime friend of Durham. The Tennessee fan said a particularly boisterous Florida fan was yelling loudly, and at one point Durham responded to the yells. The Florida fan started yelling at Durham. Once the Florida fan yelled at Durham, the Tennessee fan said, Durham turned around and hit the man in the face.

It’s safe to say that September 2016 was a low point for Jeremy Durham. But he couldn’t even make it to 2017 without another anvil landing on his head.

In December, a subpoena confirmed a previous Tennessean report that federal prosecutors are pursuing wire fraud and fraud mail charges against recently ousted state lawmaker Jeremy Durham.

The subpoena also indicated the investigation involves possible bribery charges.

There are clues as to what federal investigators may be looking for: Connections between Durham, a different person who admitted to rape and child porn charges and a wealthy campaign donor; allegations from lobbyists made during the Tennessee attorney general’s investigation; and Durham’s relationship with a high-profile Republican donor.

Somehow it doesn’t seem like much of a stretch that a supreme creep like Durham has connections to an admitted rapist. And being under yet another federal investigation was a fitting end for his 2016 and a promising start to ensure that his 2017 is just as awful. To think that all of this snowballed from the “grandstanding” actions of “young liberals” bringing attention to such “a serious matter.” I know, Mr. Durham, it’s “extremely unfair.”

 

 

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Celebrating 20 Years of Propagandhi’s “Less Talk, More Rock”

less talk more rock album coverHow do you top (or at least match) the greatest punk album ever, How To Clean Everything, that you yourself released in 1993 as your debut to the world? If you’re Propagandhi… easily! Maybe there’s something special in the water up there in Winnipeg, Canada.

Twenty years ago today, the definitive anarchist punk rock band of record released their much-anticipated sophomore follow-up, Less Talk, More Rock (Fat Wreck Chords)! I’ve already written about tunes from the record like “Nation States” (the anti-corporatist-imperialist’s anthem), “Refusing To Be A Man” (a pro-feminist anthem), and of course the title track (a lesson on how to make homophobes uncomfortable).

This album says everything I want to say, but I could never muster the eloquence to pull it off quite like them. So I’ll spare you from talking in circles about how much I love Propagandhi and just end by saying thank you with a favorite excerpt from another cut off the album, “Resisting Tyrannical Government”

Why don’t we plant a mechanic virus and erase the memory
Of the machines that maintain this capitalist dynasty?
And yes, I recognize the irony.
The system I oppose affords me the luxury of biting the hand that feeds.
That’s exactly why privileged fucks like me
Should feel obliged to whine and kick and scream.
Yeah, until everyone has everything they need.

Smash the state!

 

Propagandhi-Less_Talk,_More_Rock-CD

this is what the actual compact disc looks like

Plaques for Hacks: Robby and the SFL Soave-Suckers

“…cuz I’m doing real work!” –Leander Sydnorsouth park safe space

About five months ago I issued a warning to the so-called “liberty movement” (if you haven’t read my initial warning on the subject it might help for timeline’s sake and frame of reference) about the dangers of hitching their wagon to the likes of Robby Soave – just another clown in a litany of say-everything-do-nothing-non-profit-think-tank-no-real-world-experience-conservatarians that encompass the “liberty movement,” the real life Rand McPherson, and epitome of what Kevin Carson rightly dubbed vulgar libertarianism over a decade ago:

This school of libertarianism has inscribed on its banner the reactionary watchword: “Them pore ole bosses need all the help they can get.” For every imaginable policy issue, the good guys and bad guys can be predicted with ease, by simply inverting the slogan of Animal Farm: “Two legs good, four legs baaaad.” In every case, the good guys, the sacrificial victims of the Progressive State, are the rich and powerful. The bad guys are the consumer and the worker, acting to enrich themselves from the public treasury. As one of the most egregious examples of this tendency, consider Ayn Rand’s characterization of big business as an “oppressed minority,” and of the Military-Industrial Complex as a “myth or worse.”

The ideal “free market” society of such people, it seems, is simply actually existing capitalism, minus the regulatory and welfare state: a hyper-thyroidal version of nineteenth century robber baron capitalism, perhaps; or better yet, a society “reformed” by the likes of Pinochet, the Dionysius to whom Milton Friedman and the Chicago Boys played Aristotle.

Vulgar libertarian apologists for capitalism use the term “free market” in an equivocal sense: they seem to have trouble remembering, from one moment to the next, whether they’re defending actually existing capitalism or free market principles. So we get the standard boilerplate article arguing that the rich can’t get rich at the expense of the poor, because “that’s not how the free market works”–implicitly assuming that this is a free market. When prodded, they’ll grudgingly admit that the present system is not a free market, and that it includes a lot of state intervention on behalf of the rich. But as soon as they think they can get away with it, they go right back to defending the wealth of existing corporations on the basis of “free market principles.”

My favorite passage on vulgar libertarianism is excerpted from Carson’s year-old biting indictment of the aforementioned movement, entitled “The End of Libertarians”:

Frankly, I’m sick of libertarian outreach being sabotaged by the need to apologize for people like this. I’m sick of trying to challenge the perception of libertarianism as the movement of entitled 20-something middle-class white males who think “big business is the last oppressed minority,” and the world is going to hell in a hand-basket because of women and racial minorities — and then going to Mises.org, Lew Rockwell, Cato and Reason and seeing a bottomless cesspool of people saying that very thing.

Then came this year’s International Students For Liberty Conference (ISFLC) and their award for alum of the year. Cue the bullshit, aptly called out by Ryan Calhoun:

This week, Lyn Ulbricht attended the International Students For Liberty Conference and graced attendees with a presentation on the appeal of her son Ross Ulbricht’s sentencing in the Silk Road trial. Lyn’s presence and tireless advocacy for her son and for the preservation of our rights is a blessing in the face of our unaccountable justice system. Her speech was concise and moving; her demeanor was what you would expect from a strong mother whose son has been sentenced to a double life sentence.

Unfortunately at the same event, on the same day as Lyn’s presentation, there was an unforgivable snub by the Students For Liberty Alumni. Ross was up for an award as an SFL alum himself. However, those responsible for nominating the winner ultimately chose a libertarian writer with a significant social media presence. This was a devastating moment in my weekend activities, and was all I really wanted to talk about the rest of the night. Most people simply shrugged their shoulders — they chalked it up to typical organization culture and politics. But what does it say about the movement when such behavior is glossed over and forgotten about? It is a sign of seriously misplaced priorities.

The winner of the SFL award in question was none other than Robby Soave himself, who’s alleged “excellent work” has helped… nobody. Which brings me back to my opening quote from HBO’s The Wire pertaining to “real” work. Back to Calhoun’s truth to power on the matter:

Ross Ulbricht has taken a stand against the leviathan state. His actions represented the greatest opposition to the Drug War in its history, and they have provided millions with the motivation and incentive for a new and subversive kind of radicalism that captures individuals’ interests directly. It engages rather than explains. Rather than lecturing it meets people face to face as equal partners and as equal opponents to an oppressive government regime. What an insult it is to Ross and to Lyn to ignore this most spontaneous form of activism.

Since Ross’s arrest, Lyn has shown us just how important this kind of imminent spreading of libertarian ideas is. Lyn does not come from a background of political agitation. She is one of many mothers who has had her child taken from her by the U.S government. She is one of many people who has sat helplessly in court proceedings as a judge condemns a man to isolation in order to silence and shudder them away from the rest of the world. Much like the participants of the Silk Road project, Lyn is not interested in political gamesmanship, but in the freeing of unfree people, the liberation of an oppressed populous. She comes to advocate for libertarian positions not because of ideological bias, but because she has seen up close just how easily the system can squash people and file them away without consequence. While we write about agorist theory and its possible implementation, Ross built a multi-million dollar black market that turned theory into a reality. While we snipe at ideological adversaries, Lyn Ulbricht is fighting to her last breath to see her son freed and the unjust conditions of the criminal justice system smashed.

The hypocrisy on display at ISFLC must be confronted. These are the people this movement needs. Ross’s and Lyn’s work deserves better than to be overlooked like it was. We must understand that our ideas really are grounded in the interests of everyday people. This isn’t a chess match or a Twitter argument. It is a real and bloody battle between the people, fighting for their liberty against a system that seeks to destroy it. The snub of Ross and Lyn is of course just over a meaningless award, but it’s symbolic of an illness that plagues large swathes of the libertarian movement.*

There is great understanding among many young libertarians of just how important Ross’s actions, trial, and his mother’s dedication are. Ross himself was involved with Students For Liberty, and he should be honored as one of its most significant alums. We need to foster the spirit of Lyn’s and Ross’s activism. We need to take our philosophy into the streets as they have. Let’s stop honoring popular authors for the numbers of shares their articles get and start focusing on the “boots on the ground” like Ross and Lyn who risk their lives through concrete action. In her speech to conference-goers, Lyn recommended visiting a prison to see what our government in action. That’s where people live out the full experience of state control. What good are words if we don’t recognize the significance of the people who live them?

This is, in a nutshell, why people who would otherwise identify very well with the school of thought that is classical liberalism (including anarchists like myself) actually feel repulsed by about 90% of so-called “libertarians.” As I stated in my initial Soave-smash:

And people wonder why libertarians are despised amongst the general body politic. I avoid using the word libertarian at all costs in public. The term has too much stink on it. I’m not sure if this gets through to everybody inside the bubble in DC or the online libertarian bubble, but liberty is now synonymous with Republican in the eyes of everyone but themselves. That’s a big problem.

Perhaps the most disgraceful part of the ISFLC debacle, after SFL doling out the award to not Ross Ulbricht, is that Soave actually accepted it instead of flexing some intellectual humility and saying something to the tune of, “Thanks, but I cannot in good conscience accept this award and instead would like to present it to Lyn Ulbricht on Ross’s behalf while he suffers unjust incarceration at the hands of the state.” Although I wasn’t actually there (I was paid to attend ISFLC 2014 as a performing artist), something tells me it didn’t exactly play out that way.

Of course it didn’t, these are “liberty movement” people we’re talking about here, almost all of whom are insecure children playing keyboard commando and seeking validation from the self congratulatory how-dare-anybody-piss-inside-the-echo-chambered-circle-jerk bubble that is the insignificantly small and significantly sycophantic makeup of DC/online libertarianism.

This is further personified by Soave’s Reason colleague Elizabeth Nolan Brown, who I previously praised for doing “real work” on her feminism beat in my initial Robby-rant. I once saw a tweet of hers criticizing a John Stossel column published at Reason. I can’t remember exactly which column (because they’re all so fucking awful), but the point is when I went back to the tweet to grab it’s link for my brother, the tweet had already been deleted.

I have no idea if Brown did this on her own or had her arm twisted by any of her superiors at Reason. But since we’re dealing with a movement more concerned with “plaques for hacks” than anything real, it seems a bit suspect. Reason and people like Soave love them some free speech until it threatens their fragile pseudo-reality. Which brings me to Brown’s tweet during Soave’s big-win-acceptance-speech:

If you go to her actual tweet on Twitter, there is NO pushback whatsoever from anybody. The likes and retweets are visible without going to Twitter. By any objective measurement, journalists like Brown should have done what friends do: deliver the brutally honest truth when they need it most, even at the risk of an open breach. Unfortunately, reality is the enemy of the safe space. The irony is libertarians can’t stand the notion of a safe space, yet prefer living in a bubble that perfectly encapsulates their hypocrisy.

Would something like this have been so horrible from Brown, “Even though Robby Soave is my friend & colleague, Ross Ulbricbht should have won SFL’s 2016 “Alumni for Liberty” award. #ISFLC16″?

But this, ladies and gentlemen, exemplifies your “liberty movement” (sounds more like a bathroom code, which is appropriate given how much shit they flush) whether you like it or not, and I want absolutely zero part of it. Nor should any other self-respecting radical.

The glorification of John Stossel is repugnant enough on it’s own. Never mind the incessant apologists for corporate dominance and the free-market capitalism oxymoron, blanket alliance with conservatives, whitewashing Antonin Scalia’s record into that of a “brilliant” jurist instead of a glorified Tarot Card reading hypocrite, clamoring that Ted Cruz would be better for liberty than Bernie Sanders like it’s some sort of personal vendetta, and the fact that people aspire to be “professional libertarians.” Whatever the fuck that even means. How hard would you laugh if somebody said they wanted to be a professional liberal or conservative?

Instead of disengaging from the futility of electoral politics, focusing on ad hoc coalitions built on an issue-by-issue basis, and true intellectual honesty, you’re left with a scenario best described by my favorite asshole, The Wire’s Detective Jimmy McNulty: “Everybody stays friends, everybody gets paid, and everybody’s got a fucking future!” (Of accomplishing nothing)

*bold emphasis mine

 

Nashville Feminists Call for TN State Rep. Jeremy Durham to Resign

image1-4In January three female interns revealed to the Tennessean that then-House Majority Whip Jeremy Durham (Franklin) sent them inappropriate and harassing text messages, even asking for photos in some instances. Fearing retribution, his accusers came forward on condition of anonymity, and the Tennessean verified that the text messages in question were in fact sent by Durham’s phone.

However, House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick already knew.

A woman approached House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick about inappropriate text messages and phone calls she said she had received from then-House Majority Whip Jeremy Durham during the summer, McCormick confirmed Thursday.

The meeting, acknowledged publicly by McCormick for the first time this week, happened months before The Tennessean published an investigation focused on three women who said Durham sent them inappropriate text messages.

She was the second of two women to discuss with McCormick behavior by Durham that they considered inappropriate. Although McCormick said he advised the women to take that information to a human resources official, he said he never asked to see the text messages.

Breaking the story in the press prompted House Speaker Beth Harwell to form a special legislative committee, and Attorney General Herbert Slatery continues to investigate. Unfortunately, the investigation still remains unclear. Durham stated that he’s done nothing wrong, doesn’t remember sending the texts, has no intention of resigning, and is seeking reelection.

In an even stranger turn of events, the State Senate recently passed a bill that forces people who sue state employees to pay their legal fees if the plaintiff doesn’t win. Attorney General Slatery issued a statement to the Tennessean following its passage.

The bill ‘levels the playing field’ and says there are consequences when you sue a State employee in his or her individual capacity for leverage, knowing you will be able to recover damages from the State. This seems only fair.

The important distinction here is State employees acting in an official capacity, as opposed to the State itself. However, it’s your right as a citizen to seek redress without fear of retaliation – such as being taxed for losing your lawsuit. Apparently the political class thinks it more important to stoop to intimidation in favor of protectionism.

Although there is no evidence to suggest any correlation between the bill (which is supposed to be aimed at combatting frivolous lawsuits, according to legislators and the AG) and the investigation into Rep. Durham, the timing is extremely poor, if not suspect. Only three State Senators appealed to Governor Bill Haslam to veto the bill.

Dangerous legislative overreaches at all levels of government should be a cause for concern for all citizens. It transcends partisan politics, ideology, and philosophy when basic rights like seeking redress without fear of reprisals are impinged. Citizens aren’t supposed to fear their government; the government should fear its citizens. Who works for whom?

Moreover, the lack of any conclusive investigation into Dunham only contributes to a climate of intimidation by implying that the onus of stopping harassment is solely on the women who were already harassed. In lieu of these events, as well as it being Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a team of community activists including the Nashville Riot Grrrls, Nashville Feminist Collective, and Fisk University students decided to stage a protest at the legislature calling for Rep. Durham’s resignation from office.

Yesterday, at approximately eleven in the morning, a dozen activists descended on the legislative offices with Tennessean coverage in real time.

The group of 12 silently marched the halls, dropping off “Jeremy Durham Resign” signs at his office, stopping at the members of the committee members tasked with investigating Durham’s behavior and finally standing hand-in-hand outside the door of House Speaker Beth Harwell.

“We are not sure why he hasn’t been held accountable,” said Ashley Dixon, 32, one of the protesters.

The women said they were from throughout Davidson County and felt it was an issue important to them after a Tennessean investigation reported on allegations of inappropriate text messages sent by Durham.

Nashville’s local ABC News affiliate WKRN-TV was also on the scene and spoke with the group’s media spokesperson Whitney Washington, who affirmed their position that the entire chain of events “is making this an unsafe work environment for women.” They want Durham to be held accountable for his actions.

Speaking with Whitney Washington myself, she reiterated the need for direct action. “We’re not circulating petitions but encouraging people to call, email, and tweet.” NRG member Lauren Strange posted all of the aforementioned details for members of Durham’s investigative committee in the event’s Facebook page and fired off some tweets of her own.

Rep. Durham was actually on the floor introducing a bill during the protest, but spoke to the Franklin Homepage in its aftermath.

Although I fully support freedom of speech, I’m disappointed that these young liberals would turn a serious matter into political grandstanding and minimize the weight of this important issue for those who have truly been harassed in the workplace,” Durham said. “I realize we live in a politically correct society, but making a false accusation when there was never even a complaint filed is extremely unfair.

Rep. Durham might need a reminder that he’s currently under investigation for verified texts sent to three “young” female interns from his own phone, even if that investigation doesn’t inspire confidence. And as an eyewitness to the protest, there was no “liberal” political grandstanding or partisanship of any kind. The protest was rooted in issues-based activism, unless harassment and intimidation are now partisan issues.

Even if we assume Durham will suddenly buckle under the pressure and resign, it’s highly unlikely that Williamson County appoints a liberal in his stead. So who’s really engaging in political grandstanding? Smart money is always on the embattled politician running for reelection.

The age-old right of crusty white male politicians to harass their female subordinates is under attack. I know. It’s “extremely unfair.”

UPDATE: This afternoon, just over 24 hours after the protest ended, the Tennessean is reporting that the Attorney General’s probe into Durham’s behavior found “inappropriate physical contact.”

House Speaker Beth Harwell banished Rep. Jeremy Durham to a new office building and limited his access to staff after a scathing Tennessee attorney general report found the Franklin Republican engaged in inappropriate physical contact and potentially poses a “continuing risk to unsuspecting women.”

“Based upon the information gathered thus far, Representative Durham’s alleged behavior may pose a continuing risk to unsuspecting women who are employed by or interact with the legislature,” Attorney General Herbert Slatery said in a letter to House officials.

In accordance with the attorney general’s findings, Harwell, R-Nashville, is limiting Durham’s access to certain legislative buildings — including moving his office across the street — and he has been barred from having contact with almost all staff or interns as the investigation continues.

Rad Geek on The Self-Confidence Argument for Philosophical Anarchism

RadGeekPointsTheWay

 

Charles W. Johnson via Rad Geek

 

I’m usually stoked when I see Rad Geek in my reader. Charles W. Johnson does’t blog too often, but he’s one of my favorite anarchist intellectuals around.

You might know him from the book Markets Not Capitalism, which was co-autored with Gary Chartier (The Conscience of An Anarchist, Anarchy and Legal Order), Roderick Long (Anarchism and Minarchism: Is a Government Part of a Free Country?), Kevin Carson (Studies in Mutualist Political EconomyOrganization Theory), and others.

Anyway, here’s the post in its entirety.

Some of you know that I am a philosophical anarchist. This conclusion is controversial: most people think that states can in principle have legitimate political authority over the people in them, and that some states really do. So no state can have legitimate political authority is a conclusion in need of some argument to justify it. I’ve tried looking at the issue a couple of ways in a couple of different places. But those are both arguments that start from within a pretty specific, narrow dialectical context. They’re intended to address a couple of fairly specific claims for state legitimacy (specifically, individualist defenses of minimal state authority, and defenses of state authority based on a claim of explicit or tacit consent from the governed). Maybe a more general argument would be desirable. So here is a new one. It is a general deductive argument with only five premises. All of its inferences are self-evidently valid, and most of the premises are either extremely uncontroversial logical principles, or else simple empirical observations that are easily verified by any competent reader. I call it The Self-Confidence Argument for Philosophical Anarchism.[1] Here is how it goes:

  1. This argument is a valid deductive argument. (Premise.)
  2. If this argument is a valid deductive argument and all of its premises are true, then its conclusion is true. (Premise.)
  3. Its conclusion is No state could possibly have legitimate political authority. (Premise.)
  4. If No state could possibly have legitimate political authority is true, then no state could possibly have legitimate political authority. (Premise.)
  5. All of this argument’s premises are true. (Premise.)
  6. This is a valid deductive argument and all of its premises are true. (Conj. 1, 5)
  7. Its conclusion is true. (MP 2, 6)
  8. No state could possibly have legitimate political authority is true. (Subst. 3, 7)
  9. ∴ No state could possibly have legitimate political authority. (MP 5, 8)

Q.E.D., and smash the state.

Now, of course, just about every interesting philosophical argument comes along with some bullets that you have to bite. The awkward thing about the Self-Confidence Argument is that if it is sound, then it also seems that you can go through the same steps to show that this argument, The Self-Confidence Argument For The State, is also sound:

  1. This argument is a valid deductive argument. (Premise.)
  2. If this argument is a valid deductive argument and all of its premises are true, then its conclusion is true. (Premise.)
  3. Its conclusion is Some states have legitimate political authority. (Premise.)
  4. If Some states have legitimate political authority is true, then some states have legitimate political authority. (Premise.)
  5. All of this argument’s premises are true. (Premise.)
  6. This is a valid deductive argument and all of its premises are true. (Conj. 1, 5)
  7. Its conclusion is true. (MP 2, 6)
  8. Some states have legitimate political authority is true. (Subst. 3, 7)
  9. ∴ Some states have legitimate political authority. (MP 5, 8)

… which admittedly seems a bit awkward.

It’s easy enough to figure out that there has to be something wrong with at least one of these arguments. Their conclusions directly contradict each other, and so couldn’t both be true. But they are formally completely identical; so presumably whatever is wrong with one argument would also be wrong with the other one. But if so, what’s wrong with them? Are they invalid? If so, how? Whichever argument you choose to look at, the argument has only four inferential steps, and all of them use elementary valid rules of inference or rules of replacement. Since each inferential step in the argument is valid, the argument as a whole must be valid. This also, incidentally, provides us with a reason to conclude that premise 1 is true. Premise 2 is a concrete application of a basic logical principle, justified by the concept of deductive validity itself. Sound arguments must have true conclusions; validity just means that, if all the premises of an argument are true, the conclusion cannot possibly be false. Premise 3 is a simple empirical observation; if you’re not sure whether or not it’s true, just check down on line 9 and see. Premise 4 is a completely uncontroversial application of disquotation rules for true sentences. And premise 5 may seem over-confident, perhaps even boastful. But if it’s false, then whichpremise of the argument are you willing to deny? Whichever one you pick, what is it that makes that premise false? On what (non-question-begging) grounds would you say that it is false?

See also.

—Rad Geek

Robby Soave, Reason Magazine, White Privilege, and PCU

November 10, 2015 9 comments

“Yeah, that’s what you say. But it’s how you carry yourself.” –Felicia ‘Snoop’ Pearson

In 1994 an underrated movie called “PCU” was released. PCU is an acronym for both Port Chester University and Politically Correct University. The movie stars (gag reflex trigger warning) pre-he-magically-grew-new-hair-before-Entourage Jeremy Piven. Easily his best role outside of Guy Ritchie’s 2009 masterpiece film “RocknRolla”. I suppose even Guy Ritchie can polish a turd.

But PCU also has some now-classic comedy heavies like Jon Favreau, David Spade, Jessica Walter (aka Lucile Bluth), and Jake Busey (aka crazy Gary Busey’s kid). Shit, it even co-stars Alex Désert from the band Hepcat (he also co-starred alongside Vince Vaughn and Favreau in Fav’s classic “Swingers”). There’s even a cameo from George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic (if you don’t know what that is, than I’m not sorry to say you’re a chump, so audit yourself!).

If you haven’t seen PCU, spoiler alert without going into too much detail (a very stoned Favs appears before the very real real Senate Judiciary Committee), the most offensive crew on campus wins over the entire student body in the end by appealing to solidarity for students against the administrators, rather than being pitted against each other. If you’re interested, here’s an amazing trailer/featurette:

It seems even more relevant now, especially with this thus-far-unreal season of South Park. And if you’re not up to speed with PC Principal, you better ask somebody!

But the point is this, offensive speech and even acts – violent and non – have been happening, and will continue to happen on college campuses. The questions, of course, are how to deal with this. The answers are even more elusive. Problems abound. Longstanding, systemic, institutional problems. Which brings us to Reason and Robby Soave.

And let’s be generous for a moment, Robby’s not 100% at fault here. The so-called “libertarian” nonprofit foundation and publication Reason didn’t have to hire him from The Daily Tucker Callerson (which is, at best, a home for conservatarianism). We know from the comments that it’s a total haven for pissed off, xenophobic, thinly veiled imperialists that want low taxes. Then again, so is Reason. Perhaps not the imperialist part, but white people that primarily call themselves libertarians because they want lower taxes. And lower taxes. Still, curious.

Now, of course, the Reasonbots and conservatarian apologists will argue their “Free Minds, Free Markets” slogan. No doubt.

However, the overwhelming majority of the content they publish is either making vulgar arguments (like cheering on the Keystone pipeline) based on an oxymoron they call “free market capitalism,” uninformed arguments due to think tank libertarians generally saying everything yet knowing nothing due to lacking any real world experience (like their coverage of the George Zimmerman trial and criminal justice policy in general), giving good play to The Conservatarian Manifesto and the likes of jokers named Rand Paul, John Stossel, Greg Gutfeld, Instapundit, Ted Cruz, and others, or employing the Robby Soave’s of the world to make vulgar arguments in “favor” of social justice. In other words, they’re an extension of right wing politics masquerading as classical liberalism.

And people wonder why libertarians are despised amongst the general body politic. I avoid using the word libertarian at all costs in public. The term has too much stink on it. I’m not sure if this gets through to everybody inside the bubble in DC or the online libertarian bubble, but liberty is now synonymous with Republican in the eyes of everyone but themselves. That’s a big problem.

I feel it’s also important to note that there are exceptions to the Reason norm, both past (Radley Balko) and present (Elizabeth Nolan Brown). And I’m sure there will be in the future. But that’s largely due to Balko and Brown picking their respective, critically important beats and covering them to the point of mastery (you know, actual research and expert sources) and difference making. They also just happen to be libertarianish types.

But Robby, with his “platform” at Reason (let’s be real, institutional libertarianism is generally a self congratulatory echo chamber) from which to help spread the ideas of freedom and liberty chooses to cover the beat he covers, which is quite irrelevant considering the state-sanctioned atrocities committed daily. Although I’m sure he’ll claim it has something to do with free speech and rights on college campuses or something of the sort, he spends most of his time speaking with the tone and attitude of a hegemonic white male – much like David Spade’s character in PCU, Rand McPherson. Shit, there’s even a resemblance.

rand mcphersonrobertsoave-1630136872
In the film, McPherson leads the stereotypical upper crusty privileged white boy frat. One of his classic quotes from the movie is:

This school used to be a bastion of rich, white elitism. And now, they let homosexuals on the football team, whining minorities run the student government, and you can’t even coerce a woman into having sex without being brought up on charges. What is this world coming to, really?!?

That is, in essence, the perceived disposition of Robby Soave. Not personally. I know neither him nor what he truly thinks about political philosophy, just the fact that he comes from actual bastions of rich white elitism: University of Michigan, The Daily Tucker, and now Reason. Soave actually has this to say in his latest walk-back apology piece, which typically follows the predictable, initial rabble-rabble-let–the-white-man-talk post:

I was not suggesting that racial slurs are a trivial matter—they are incredibly evil, hateful, and sometimes genuinely traumatizing for persons of color. Nor was I suggesting that black people need to “just get over it.” They have every right to publicize their emotional turmoil and demand action. I wish we lived in a world where no one aspired to demean them.

But I suspect the people who shout despicable things at black people on the street have much in common with schoolyard bullies: they are looking for a reaction. And one way to deprive bullies of their power to inflict pain—not just on people of color, but on everyone—is to ignore them.

Another way, I suppose, is to identify the bullies and run them out of town with pitchforks. But when we live in fear of bad words, we give agency to the people who use them.  That’s something for everyone to keep in mind, especially now that Mizzou cops have announced their intention to literally police speech on campus.

My post began with a Snoop quote from HBO’s The Wire. In response to Soave’s tired, excerpted quote, here it is again. “Yeah, that’s what you say. But it’s how you carry yourself.” Point being, if Soave approached the same subject matter and drew the same conclusions in a much more charitable manner, as opposed to being Rand McPherson, the pushback against his bullshit probably wouldn’t be so strong and the stench of libertarianism may subside some.

The only way I can properly relate to Soave in this manner is by proxy. Libertarians are supposed to exercise humility when outside their discipline because of that whole knowledge problem thing they supposedly love and hold so dear. How often they seem to forget. As for myself, being in the performing and recording arts and not exactly an expert at much else, I must summon philosopher Roderick Long’s four-year-old BHL post entitled The Libertarian Three-Step Program.

In short, it’s for libertarians who don’t know how to make a non-vulgar, off-putting argument to the everyday voter (specifically it was about Ron Paul answering a health care question from Wolf Blitzer in “depressingly predictable order,” according to Long, at a CNN GOP debate back in September 2011). And your everyday voter is not even close to being in the GOP or even being GOP-sympathetic. There are more independents and registered Democrats, respectively, than registered Republicans. I think even Reason’s own polling shows that trend.

The parallel here for Soave to Long’s three steps is: demonize the victim, identify potential voluntary solutions, and then finally address the systemic, structural problems. As Long himself notes in his piece, “When you lead with stage one, that’s what people will remember; adding stage three as an afterthought will leave far less trace in people’s thoughts,” and that Paul’s answer “was a highly visible instance of a widespread libertarian problem.” It’s something to seriously consider.

Unfortunately this problem has not been improved upon. It is by and large indicative of the general arrogance that emanates from Reason’s content-Keynesianism (a content-Keynesian is more interested in publishing high quantity than high quality content for the simple, cynical purpose of generating attention and web traffic). Which is to say, the approach that Long opines against of ‘I’m a libertarian so I know it all even though I’m supposed to be operating under a dispersed knowledge problem which implies that I don’t know it all’ being the pervasive attitude.

Pick a discipline in life and become an expert. You’ll end up doing more for liberty than the entire swarm of epistemically closed off libertarian dilettantes and navel gazers, especially since nobody outside of that tiny bubble of insignificance cares. Then again, if your intention truly is to create a pseudo reality designed to self soothe and pull the wool over your own eyes to the extent that you think you’re actually making a dent in the world or being a “very objective, non-nonsense, just-the-facts kind of guy/writer” by posting confirmation bias seeking drivel on the internet… let’s just say ignorance is bliss. And I’m not just talking to Robby Soave & Reason here.

It also sounds dangerously close to one of those safe spaces Soave spends so much time railing against. Irony’s a bitch.

Maybe you become like my younger brother and literally fight the state every day in court, depose and cross examine crooked cops, and get unjustly shackled arms and legs of falsely accused indigent brown and black faces freed from their statist coils. Much respect to the knuckleheads at Popehat for the same reasons.

But whatever is going on within institutionalized libertarianism doesn’t even come close to fighting the state. It’s actually more of an exercise in frivilous vanity and self validation. In fact, those who work at such institutions unknowingly, or perhaps knowingly in some instances, act as agents for the political right. I’d call that aiding and abetting the state, but hey.

Perhaps Kevin Carson said it best in, potentially his greatest, C4SS piece The End of Libertarians:

Frankly, I’m sick of libertarian outreach being sabotaged by the need to apologize for people like this. I’m sick of trying to challenge the perception of libertarianism as the movement of entitled 20-something middle-class white males who think “big business is the last oppressed minority,” and the world is going to hell in a hand-basket because of women and racial minorities — and then going to Mises.org, Lew Rockwell, Cato and Reason and seeing a bottomless cesspool of people saying that very thing.

The Drone Papers at The Intercept

Drone DrainThe Intercept has obtained a cache of secret documents detailing the inner workings of the U.S. military’s assassination program in Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia. The documents, provided by a whistleblower, offer an unprecedented glimpse into Obama’s drone wars.

You should at least read the first piece in the series, The Assassination Complex. Here’s a taste:

From his first days as commander in chief, the drone has been President Barack Obama’s weapon of choice, used by the military and the CIA to hunt down and kill the people his administration has deemed — through secretive processes, without indictment or trial — worthy of execution. There has been intense focus on the technology of remote killing, but that often serves as a surrogate for what should be a broader examination of the state’s power over life and death.

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