Michael O. Powell
Recent Posts From Michael O. Powell
Below is Michael Powell’s last post at United Liberty. We think the world of him here and wish him the best as he continues writing. - Jason
United Liberty is shifting its direction, and so am I. Much of my work focusses on political economy, international relations, immigration, drug legalization, terrorism and the sociopolitical schism between the West and the Islamic world. United Liberty is becoming more focused on domestic fiscal issues, and as such a parting of ways is appropriate but not riddled with hard feelings.
If you’re interested in following me, I have just started contributing to Little Green Footballs, Charles Johnson’s incredible political blog. I also co-founded the pro-immigration website Voice of the Migrant and contribute to Gonzo Times. I also maintain a personal blog called Deschamps. Occasional contributions to local newspapers like UC Berkeley’s Oakland North can also be found with my name on them.
United Liberty helped me get my start in national political writing and I’m always going to be grateful to Brett, Jason, Martin and Shana for the break they gave me. Not only did they give me a break, they also gave me an intimate look into the complexities and peculiarities of Southern politics that my brief sojourns into Tennessee as a teenager could not possibly have given. If you are in Georgia, please come out in support of John Monds’ Libertarian Party bid, which Brett is working strenuously for.
It’s been a long time since I last interviewed Dan Carlin, host of the Hardcore History and Common Sense podcasts. That doesn’t mean that he’s stopped being interesting, however. In this installment, I asked his unique, historically based perspective on China, Iraq, the United States military and marijuana.
In your Hardcore History podcast Death Throes of the Republic, you say that there were “perverse incentives” in place that kept Rome in a state of warfare. Having worked in Washington D.C., I have to wonder if the same is true of here. What do you say?
I think that’s going to be a pretty accurate statement in any society where warmaking becomes a regular feature of the system. Once you develop a major societal infrastructure to support such a military establishment, you begin to build up a vast array of interests (both in supplying and providing for such an entity, but also for ways to employ it that would benefit someone). These interests have a way of bending and warping the nation-state’s priorities and interests. I think that is something that is one of the lessons the writers of Classical Antiquity try to pass on to us. The people who founded the United States read those authors and understood those lessons, and tried to heed the warnings of the Greek and Roman writers and keep those “perverse incentives” under control by limiting the growth of a large standing army and by counseling an avoidance of things like “ entangling alliances” that could drag you into someone else’s wars.
There was a mild joy among friends who paid attention to politics as the last of American troops left Iraq. There were a few people saying “It’s not really over. The US will be there until 2050,” like my friend Doug Mataconis, but you’d be hardpressed to find anyone who shares William Kristol’s hope for future wars.
Then there is the poll numbers. The war in Afghanistan, once the “good war,” the just war that everyone supported, has an overwhelming negative decline in support:
LAWRENCE, Mass. — A majority of Americans see no end in sight in Afghanistan, and nearly six in 10 oppose the nine-year-old war as President Barack Obama sends tens of thousands more troops to the fight, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.
With just over 10 weeks before nationwide elections that could define the remainder of Obama’s first term, only 38 percent say they support his expanded war effort in Afghanistan — a drop from 46 percent in March. Just 19 percent expect the situation to improve during the next year, while 29 percent think it will get worse. Some 49 percent think it will remain the same.
This doesn’t mean America has become pacifist, but when you’re not experiencing large scale terrorist attacks, don’t have connections to the military or family or friends of Middle East or Islamic origin, there really is no reason to pay attention or care either way beyond seeing it as a massive misuse of taxpayer dollars in the middle of a Great Recession. Even Time magazine covers with shots of Afghan women whose noses have been sliced off by the Taliban isn’t quite enough to get the unemployed gung-ho about a war that doesn’t benefit them.
While most of the posts on marijuana here tend to be United States focussed, this article from the British Daily Mail provides a glimpse into how the problem of prohibition is universal:
Criminal gangs are now producing so much cannabis in Britain’s suburban streets that there is a ‘market for export’.
Police say the gangs have taken over cinemas, houses, pubs, banks and shops left empty because of the recession.
Almost 7,000 cannabis factories were discovered last year - more than double the
number found two years ago.
Incredibly, a report by chief constables says the gangs are growing so much cannabis
that – for the first time – there is enough to start selling the drug overseas.
During a global economic crisis, what on earth is the logic of spending exorbitant amounts to squash an industry with such massive demand? Despite freeing up our prisons and cutting spend, legalization could even be the key to prosperity.
(CNN) — Former Mexican President Vicente Fox has come out in favor of legalizing drugs in an attempt to disrupt the illegal markets that have turned parts of Mexico into battlegrounds.
In a proposal published over the weekend on his website, Fox argued that drug addiction and drug-related violence should be treated as distinct and separate challenges.
“So, drug consumption is the responsibility of the person who consumes; of the family who is responsible for educating; and of the education system and the socioeconomic context,” wrote Fox, who was president from 2000 to 2006. “What we have to do is legalize the production, the sale and the distribution.”
For those who have watched the policy consequences unfold, the need for legalization cannot seem any more precient.
When I eventually do my trip to the Muslim world, I hope to then be a more reliable and legitimate voice on foreign affairs. Until then, in addition to the piece I did about Iran being emboldened by the Iraq war, I thought it prudent to present who the war has benefited (and, no, it’s not Halliburton):
Since the fall of Hussein’s government, Kurdistan has seized its own destiny. Landing at the international airport in Erbil, the capital of Kurdistan, one is immediately struck by the high level of economic activity that pervades all parts of the city. New highways, high-rises, and construction cranes punctuate the city’s skyline, which now includes modern office towers and the frame of a Kempinski luxury hotel. Traffic fills the streets, which bustle with pedestrians shopping for new cell phones and imported designer clothing. The city has a large amusement park, replete with roller coasters, bumper cars, and a large Ferris wheel. A nearby go-kart racing facility—recently built by an American fromGalveston, Texas—attracts a steady stream of young adventure-seekers, while the bookish crowd can take refuge in a brand-new, multi-level public library. Sulaimaniyah and Dohuk, respectively the second and third largest cities in Kurdistan, have seen a similar flurry of economic development.
There’s nothing wrong with advertising to children. In fact, it’s a good thing.
When I think back to my childhood, it’s usually a big blur of harassment. Other kids saw that I was a weak, meek little boy and tried to make my life hell. Teachers too often saw the same flaws and responded in kind.
What was the salvation to the daily hell of public schooling? It was the X-Men, trading cards and comic books. Products designed specifically for children, as an opiate to the hybrid Lord of the Flies-1984 world of public schooling in which children are humiliated and abused at the cost of taxpayers.
Apparently this marketing is urking paternalists something awful, and artificial arguments are being coined up by psychologists in a letter to the APA (American Psychological Association) to make marketing to children appear “exploitative” and those who take part in it unethical:
Urging APA to challenge what it calls an “abuse of psychological knowledge,” the letter asks APA to:
Issue a formal, public statement denouncing the use of psychological principles in marketing to children.
Amend APA’s Ethics Code to limit psychologists’ use of their knowledge and skills to observe, study, mislead or exploit children for commercial purposes.
Launch an ongoing campaign to investigate the use of psychological research in marketing to children, publish an evaluation of the ethics of such use, and promote strategies to protect children against commercial exploitation by psychologists and others using psychological principles.
There’s one big, primary reason why we should have had doubts about the Bush administration’s Iraq policy from the start and that is Iran. Iran’s increasingly belligerent and aggressive disposition (from pursuing nuclear weapons to shutting out diplomatic requests by Brazillian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to release a woman sentenced to death for adultery) shows a sense of confidence on the part of the state that reflects a sense of purpose. Surely to have such a powerful regional player so intensely confident reflects a flaw in our strategy.
One student also pursuing a Political Science degree with me here in California was originally from Iran. An obvious Iranian Nationalist, he would make wild claims about the capabilities of the Iranian government that often got shot down by other students from the area. (I haven’t been, so I can’t attest, though I hope to visit much of the Muslim world soon.)
One thing he did loudly shout often was his support for Bush’s Iraq policy. “I love George W. Bush! He got rid of Saddam for us!” I literally heard him say. With Iran seemingly aiming to turn Iraq into a proxy of their regional empire, with the United States preparing to leave, one can’t help but wonder the wisdom of our policies.
Iran’s resurgence seems born out by the news eminating from the region:
BAGHDAD — Iran more than any other foreign state is meddling to fill a void in Iraqi politics five months after a general election left the war-wracked nation without a new government, a poll said Saturday.
Calderon said he has taken note of the idea of legally regulating drugs in the past.
“It’s a fundamental debate in which I think, first of all, you must allow a democratic plurality (of opinions),” he said. “You have to analyze carefully the pros and cons and the key arguments on both sides.”
If anyone has read any of my writing here, at The Liberty Papers, at my own personal blog or elsewhere, they should know by now that I am a huge fan of Christopher Hitchens. Not only do I share his general ideological disposition - a contradictory opposition to authoritarianism and all forms of tyranny, racism and religious fundamentalism and support for moral justice, political freedom and economic egalitarianism - I also share his fondness for the English language and its complex quirks and spasms.
I had a ticket to a July 15 talk in Berkeley, which was cancelled when his cancer diagnosis became clear. It may very well be possible that I will never see my literary hero in the flesh, a factor which pains me greatly.
If he must leave this earth, however, as all of us do eventually, I’m satisfied that he is parting ways with eloquence and verbosity of the sort we knew him for so well.