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Posted on May 9, 2008 by Philip Giraldi American Conservative Blog via Antiwar.com:

There is considerable speculation and buzz in Washington today suggesting that the National Security Council has agreed in principle to proceed with plans to attack an Iranian al-Qods-run camp that is believed to be training Iraqi militants. The camp that will be targeted is one of several located near Tehran. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was the only senior official urging delay in taking any offensive action. The decision to go ahead with plans to attack Iran is the direct result of concerns being expressed over the deteriorating situation in Lebanon, where Iranian ally Hezbollah appears to have gained the upper hand against government forces and might be able to dominate the fractious political situation. The White House contacted the Iranian government directly yesterday through a channel provided by the leadership of the Kurdish region in Iraq, which has traditionally had close ties to Tehran. The US demanded that Iran admit that it has been interfering in Iraq and also commit itself to taking steps to end the support of various militant groups. There was also a warning about interfering in Lebanon. The Iranian government reportedly responded quickly, restating its position that it would not discuss the matter until the US ceases its own meddling employing Iranian dissident groups. The perceived Iranian intransigence coupled with the Lebanese situation convinced the White House that some sort of unambiguous signal has to be sent to the Iranian leadership, presumably in the form of cruise missiles. It is to be presumed that the attack will be as “pinpoint” and limited as possible, intended to target only al-Qods and avoid civilian casualties. The decision to proceed with plans for an attack is not final. The President will still have to give the order to launch after all preparations are made.

Posted on April 26, 2008 by Dave Lindorff Op-Ed News:

There would be no melodramatic Congressional debate over the reasons for going to war against yet a third nation this time around. Thanks to the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed by Congress in October 2001 (and never subsequently rescinded) to authorize the attack on the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Iraq, which Bush and Cheney have illegally and outrageously interpreted as a declaration of a global and unending "War on Terror," the administration is claiming it has the right to attack any nation it defines as "terrorist" at any time, without authorization. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton helped promote war against Iran a few months ago by backing a Senate resolution authored by Sens. Joe Lieberman and Jon Kyle that defined the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a "global terrorist" organization. That was all Bush and Cheney needed, as Clinton, Lieberman and Kyle clearly knew.

Posted on April 26, 2008 by Ann Scott Tyson Washington Post via Truthout:

The nation's top military officer said today that the Pentagon is planning for "potential military courses of action" against Iran, criticizing what he called the Tehran government's "increasingly lethal and malign influence" in Iraq.

Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said a conflict with Iran would be "extremely stressing" but not impossible for U.S. forces, pointing specifically to reserve capabilities in the Navy and Air Force. "It would be a mistake to think that we are out of combat capability," he said at a Pentagon news conference.

Bottom line: Buy gold. More news rolling in by the hour:

ANOTHER U.S. aircraft carrier arrived in the Persian Gulf last week "as the Pentagon ordered military commanders to develop new options for attacking Iran," CBS News reported. What's going on? Vice President Dick Cheney says all options are on the table regarding Iran. What does this mean? Charleston Gazette editorial May 9

The most likely path to war with Iran is not Marines storming the beach but a strike on nuclear facilities and "regime" targets... not necessarily going to come with any warning, and the U.S. military has developed an entire system called "global strike" to implement... William M. Arkin "Secret Afghanistan Mission Prepares for War with Iran" Washington Post Early Warning Blog May 8

LONDON, May 10 (Reuters) - Oil major Royal Dutch Shell has pulled out of a planned gas project in Iran.

Edited by Wolf DeVoon
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Major Clipton, at the end of "The Bridge on the River Kwai," really said it all, with the inflections I would use.

Madness! Madness!

... You'd better watch out, Wolf — that is, if sites like this will soon matter much. I just re-read a great deal of Atlantis (I) traffic from 11 September 2001 to the end of that year.

If that is any indication — with most of that cast of speakers showing up, by now, over here — you're soon going to be branded an anti-Semite for even bringing this up. Especially any suggestion that "we" are plunging into yet another war, in part, to protect the State of Israel from the likes of Hezbollah.

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Do you have links to Atl[antis] I archives?

I have about 25 megs of the more worthwhile postings, wherein A1 participants (including you) actually had something to say, on my hard drive. Kirez Korgan and Jimbo Wales used to have the archives available in a Webbed database, but I believe that's long since defunct, as is the list.

I may dig up some of Fall 2001's more prescient posts, showing the potency of principle in predicting politics. ... That alliteration (except the last) was entirely unconscious, but I'm keeping it {rueful smile}

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Do you have links to Atl[antis] I archives?

I have about 25 megs of the more worthwhile postings, wherein A1 participants (including you) actually had something to say, on my hard drive. Kirez Korgan and Jimbo Wales used to have the archives available in a Webbed database, but I believe that's long since defunct, as is the list.

I may dig up some of Fall 2001's more prescient posts, showing the potency of principle in predicting politics. ... That alliteration (except the last) was entirely unconscious, but I'm keeping it {rueful smile}

Somebody put up a lot of the old Atlantis on the Internet with more to come, but I lost the link. I believe it was material for its last year. It was very hard to navigate.

--Brant

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  • 13 years later...

Weird. Which laws should not be enforced? Whoa I see Jimbo is mentioned below. Now who could that be? And Frank Forman was an objectivist who had a “dark complexion.” He died unfortunately from a “suicide by cop.” I have the “tape” of the event but I don’t care to see it again.  Peter

From: Neil Goodell To: objectivism Subject: OWL: Re: Rights that Should Not Be Legally Enforced Date: Wed, 13 Jun 2001 00:33:01 -0600 I think the issue of "rights" in this thread has failed to make a critical distinction. On June 12, 2001, Frank Forman wrote: What we have here is a kind of implicit social contract, which might say that it is virtuous to go along with the law, which has the merit of being known (for a fee to the lawyers!). The social contract can include for a provision to let the legislature enact statutes to clarify and unify this “public policy." My impression is that Anglo-Saxon law has not been horrifically altruistic.

A couple of points here. First, political "rights" must be distinguished from rights derived from social policy / convention/practice/culture. Political rights follow immediately from ethics and serve to establish (1) the limitations imposed upon government's power to interfere with the actions of an individual, and (2) the restrictions against one individual forcibly interjecting themselves into the life/actions of another person.

Within the parameters delimited by political rights, rights arising from public policy are largely arbitrary -- by which I mean there is no a priori basis for having a right that states "this" rather than "that." Law per se, is an example of rights arising from public policy. For example: The UCC (Uniform Commercial Code) is the governing language for most contract law. And the UCC was written with the specific intent to keep business moving and to promote economic efficiency. To this end clarity, finality, and the near-elimination of torts was/is paramount. Contract law did not have to be this way, and in many countries it isn't, but this fact alone does not make another system "moral" or "immoral," right or wrong.

What I am referring to as public policy rights, the government should have little say in whether they are enforced or not -- this is a matter for the individuals involved to decide for themselves. I also think this is largely a specialized area and philosophy has little to say on the subject. Political rights are the proper sphere of philosophy's interest. Matters concerning the use of physical force are fairly easy to characterize. And fraud, a derivative of force, is relatively easy to define, at least in broad strokes.

Let me give an example to clarify the difference between the two categories of rights I am talking about: I am building a swimming pool. (I'm not, but let's pretend, it'll help me tolerate +100F temperatures we're having. :) The pool is wholly on my property.  The law states that a pool is an "attractive nuisance" and therefore I, as the pool owner, must take steps to prevent other people from harming themselves if they should trespass on my property. So the building code requires that I build a fence around my pool to keep neighbors' children from drowning.

As a matter of philosophy, is it wrong to force me to spend additional money to protect other people from harming themselves, who can harm themselves only if they themselves violate the law in the first place? At first blush the answer might appear to be yes, this is wrong. Yet the law was originally aimed at protecting children, who because of their age and concomitant lack of cognitive development, do not know any better.

So a neighbor's two-year-old child slips out of the house, into my yard, falls in the pool, and drowns (because I do not have a fence). Who ought to be held responsible, or legally liable, if anyone should?

As a matter of philosophy, I could make an argument either way in this instance: (a) that forcing me to build a fence violates my property rights and is therefore wrong, or (b) that my actions have created a situation  whereby people are likely to be harmed, and also attracted to it, and I therefore have a duty to protect others that might come to harm as a consequence of my actions, even if they must violate my rights first (i.e., trespass).

Philosophically, both positions are tenable, so which alternative we choose is arbitrary. Our society has opted for (b), with the proviso that my protective actions are limited by the "reasonable person" standard. (I am highly simplifying a very complex idea here so I don't want to have any debates on minutia.)

Frank also wrote: I don't think that ethics can be reduced to virtue and that there are three irreducible aspects of ethics:

 > 1. Do the right thing (deontology, and with it lots of rules)

 > 2. Do good (utilitarianism)

 > 3. Be a good man (virtue ethics)

The problems with these formulations are that they omit who the beneficiary of the actions is, and what the standard for deciding "good" or "right" is. When Rand discussed her core virtues, I believe she also asked the question whether a person would need that virtue if they were alone on a deserted island. If the answer was No, she rejected it as a primary virtue.

As Frank has described them here, these aspects seem to intimate the existence of a society within which the ethics exist. If that is the case, I would reject all three.

And Frank also wrote: I can't give a good concrete example, still less decide where the line should be drawn, but the foundation of Objectivist ethics and politics, as I have argued many times, rests on virtue. In other words, you have an *enforceable* right when my violation of it harms my character (stealing undermines my sense of self-efficacy) *and* when *your* calling the cops does not harm *your* character. (Even so, disproportionate punishment must be ruled out, since it harms the punishers. Ever notice the tough-guy stance of the Peikoffer bullies?)

An unstated assumption in this argument (an argument also used by Peikoff) is that Objectivism is taken as the standard by which another person's character is to be judged, whether they are Objectivist or not. For your own personal use, this is fine, but it is not adequate when it comes to legal matters. A professional robber will not have his or her own sense of self-efficacy undermined according to his or her own standards. At least so long as they continue without being caught. It is only when they are captured that their self-efficacy might be affected.

Of course from an Objectivist's point of view the robber only hurts him/herself by stealing. But this makes life-according-to-Objectivism the gold standard for how other people ought to live their lives, and I'm not sure whether I am arrogant enough to make that presumption.

To sum up: The subject line "Rights that should not be legally enforced" is a misnomer. First decide whether the right is what I have termed political, or arises from public policy. If it is political in nature, and only one alternative is reasonable in the particular circumstances, then it ought to be enforced. If on the other hand the right is cultural/public policy based, then the individuals involved should decide.

There is a parallel in the distinction between criminal and civil law. In criminal law, the government is the prosecutor because the wrong committed is deemed to be against society. Civil matters are conducted between the parties as the harm is seen to be against an individual -- the government does not usually take an active role on one side or the other. (Regulatory agencies and the like mess this up a bit, but they are another matter entirely....) Neil Goodell

From: Steve Reed To: Atlantis Subject: ATL: Superb legal self-help Date: Wed, 13 Jun 2001 21:52:02 -0500 Kyle Varner got excellent responses about insurance matters and moral propriety. I'd like to suggest a reference, to everyone, that has been immensely helpful.

> (And, where can I find a website on small-claims court laws?)

www.Nolo.com ... it's the best "real-world" legal information site on the Net, bar none. And especially for any matter that you intend to take up yourself, with making a case in small-claims court being one of them. (It's required of you, in fact.)

Nolo's viewpoint, though, is that a host of other actions involving the law can be handled without a lawyer. They've published scores of books, most being frequently updated, on everything from landlord/tenant relations to using credit to shopping for an attorney to bankruptcy to almost anything you can imagine.

Book excerpts, well-planned Webbed guides about these topics, and links to purchase their books and guides are available on their site.

The biggest Nolo time-and-money-saver is their phenomenal WillMaker software, which generates valid wills for 49 states (Louisiana is too arcane), along with health-care powers of attorney and "living wills." It's saved me several hundred dollars, and a probate attorney praised what it generated for me. * SteveReed@earthling.net *

"The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it." -- George Bernard Shaw

From: "George H. Smith" To: "*Atlantis" Subject: ATL: Re: Blacks and women and Jimbo Date: Mon, 23 Sep 2002 22:26:46 -0500 Russell Madden wrote: "As for treating "'freedom' in past eras of massive tyranny" "lightly," what a joke of an accusation. I've written often about such issues (e.g., Lincoln). I don't want a return to the "good ol' days." I'm for returning to the kind of freedom we had in areas where we were freer in the past and for correcting abuses where we were not free in the past. What's so hard -- or "unproductive" -- about acknowledging both the good and bad of the past, wanting to return to the former and repudiating the latter? Another straw man of what I stated and what I believe. Jimbo seems to want to claim that _in no areas_ was the 19th century freer than today. Such blindness to the facts is hardly helpful."

This controversy raises the interesting question of what standard we should use when "measuring" the amount of freedom in a country during a given period.

One obvious method, namely, to examine the amount and nature of legislation and administrative regulations, can be historically misleading, since the fact that a given law or regulation was on the books does not necessarily mean that it was widely enforced. We may be looking at a "dead-letter law," i.e., one that popular opinion, enlightened leadership, or the effects of time had rendered obsolete. We find this sort of thing with statutes against blasphemy, which though technically in force in England of the late 18th century, were rarely enforced, largely thanks to the influence of Enlightenment ideas.

A classic example of unenforced laws occurred in the American colonies for many decades until the 1760s, during a period that Edmund Burke dubbed the era of "salutary neglect." Robert Walpole, who was prime minister (in effect) during the 1720s, favored free trade, but he also understood the political impossibility of repealing the many mercantilist regulations that had been on the books for many years, some of them since Elizabethan times. Walpole therefore instituted his preferred policy ("Let sleeping dogs lie") of appointing relatives and political favorites as custom officials in America, where they routinely accepted bribes from smugglers which amounted to a fraction of the legally required duties. This policy of salutary neglect assured that trade was essentially free in fact, if not in theory.

Hence the amount of freedom actually enjoyed by Americans was considerably greater during the period of salutary neglect than would be indicated if we merely examined the laws that were officially on the books. We sometimes see a similar phenomenon even under early despotic regimes, such as that of the "Sun King," Louis XIV in 17th century France. The problem here, from the ruler's perspective, is that effective enforcement requires an efficient bureaucracy and police force, and these institutional mechanisms tended to be highly inadequate until well into the 19th century. In some respects (though by no means all) the average Frenchman during the 17th century enjoyed more de facto freedom than the average America of today. (This is especially true in regard to the rate of taxation.)

Although Thoreau protested a small poll tax, he noted that the average American citizen would rarely encounter a government official in his entire life, and then it was usually a mail carrier. When Lysander Spooner decided to become a lawyer, he did not require a diploma from a certified law school, nor did he have to pass a government-sanctioned exam. He merely became an assistant to an established attorney, studied law on his own in this environment, and then set out on his own when he felt qualified to practice and when clients were willing to enlist his services. This ability to practice a trade without jumping through the hoops of certification, licensing, and other government regulations that inhibit market entry is one significant example of greater freedom in 19th century America.

I am not suggesting that we should downplay discriminatory legislation in 19th century America against blacks, women, etc., but we should not rely entirely on enacted legislation when assessing the severity of enforcement, which typically varied from one locale to another. (For example, the citizens and officials of Boston often made it difficult to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act.) One thing you don't find in 19th century America is millions of Americans imprisoned for victimless crimes, and this speaks volumes. True, such injustices did occur, but not nearly on the scale we see today. The "spirit of the law" (to use Montesquieu's term) was far more individualistic than it is now, even if this spirit did not always manifest itself in practice. (Of course, this depends on which part of the 19th century we are discussing. The ideology of Jeffersonian individualism suffered a steady decline after the Civil War.)

The legal disparity between men and women, which was quite real, is not a sufficient indicator of the degree of overall freedom in 19th century America. A disparity of freedom is still better, even for women, than an equality of oppression. I doubt if many American women of that time would have been willing to change places with women in a communistic regime like the Soviet Union, where men and women had legal equality (at least in theory).  Equal rights don't mean much when you have virtually no rights to begin with. Ghs

From: "John Enright" To: <objectivism Subject: OWL: ask ten Objectivists Date: Mon, 23 Sep 2002 20:30:03 -0500 Jennifer Baker (9/21) suggested the results of asking ten people about moral law.  What if we quiz ten Objectivists about the basis and workings of moral law?

The ten Objectivists at least won't bring in divine commands. But when pressed further, disagreements will emerge. The survivalists will maintain that the moral law, at least as it enforces individual rights,  is suspended during emergencies, allowing the trampling of rights for the sake of staying alive, since staying alive is the primary ethical value.

The flourishers will maintain that following the moral law is a constituent ingredient of living well, and that emergencies are a bad excuse for violating rights, since living in a manner befitting to human beings is really the primary ethical value.

The strict teleologists will be unhappy that a code of morality, freely chosen by the self, should be metaphorically compared to law, which suggests commands from outside the self.  Morality is a guide to successful living, they will say, not a law which must be obeyed.

Others will maintain that moral law is no different than logical law, and that just as the laws of logic must be obeyed at all times, so must the laws of morality. Rationality demands consistency, and nothing less will do. John Enright

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