I have much to say about Brin’s attacks on “dogmatic libertarians,” by which he means followers of Murray Rothbard and Ayn Rand who worship property too much, but watch the video first and then continue on below for my commentary.1
“Assassinations, Spying and The Constitution: ACLU President Susan Herman Talks Big Government Taking Liberties,” Reason.tv (see video below) (“All of our elected representatives have to hear from a broad cross section of liberals, libertarians, conservatives–people who just say, ‘This is too much big government. We want our government back,” says American Civil Liberties Union President Susan Herman, author of the new book Taking Liberties: The War on Terror and the Erosion of American Democracy. … How much has the police state expanded since 9/11, and is there any way to stop it? Herman sat down with Reason.tv Editor-in-Chief Nick Gillespie to discuss the this and other questions surrounding the state of liberty in America. Herman notes that while there have been a few minor changes in policy, for the most part there’s been a remarkable continuity between the Bush and Obama administrations in terms of their disregard for civil liberties. She also discusses the recent assassination of American citizen Anwar Al-Awlaki and the ACLU’s role in representing Al-Awlaki’s father in court.Interview by Nick Gillespie”).
In their discussion, Herman mentions the expanded use of National Security Letters (NSLs) since the war on terror began. A NSL may be used to seek customer and consumer transaction information in national security investigations from communications providers, “financial institutions” and credit agencies. Previously NSLs could be used only against people who were reasonably suspected of espionage, but the Patriot Act now allows the Attorney General to issue NSLs even against people who are not suspected of criminal activity or of acting on behalf of a foreign power. And the letter can require the recipient to keep it secret. So we don’t even know how many of these are out there are when they are issued. Thus NSLs have become a far more invasive procedure the police state can use against citizens.
And in 2004, Congress expanded the definition of “financial institution” eligible to receive NSLs to include not only banks and credit unions, but also car dealers, jewelers, travel agencies, and real estate agents, among others.1 This is a good illustration of the state’s practice of “classificationism.”
Van Gogh: The Life, KERA Think, November 14, 2011 (“He’s famous for both his incredible art and his notorious instability, but what was life really like for one of the greatest artists in history? We’ll spend this hour with Pulitzer prize-winning author Steven Naifeh. His new book, co-written with Gregory White Smith is Van Gogh: The Life“);
I’ll admit I was leery of the current iteration of the project, but I am somewhat reassured to hear that Atlas Shrugged will be made into three movies, not one, which is more doable. I’m also reassured that the director and the actor playing Henry Rearden seem to have a decent handle on Ayn Rand’s vision and characters, though I was a bit disquieted by the director mispronouncing Rand’s first name.
Matt Ridley on The Rational Optimist & “Ideas Having Sex,”Reason.tv (June 16, 2010): “Best-selling science writer Matt Ridley’s latest book is The Rational Optimist, which explains why the author is upbeat on the prospects of a planet and a civilization that seems to lurch from one pending political, economic, or environmental catastrophe to another. … Doomsayers have it all wrong, writes Ridley, who argues that prosperity and innovation have outraced even the visions of Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill.”
Interestingly, Ridley argues that one cause of the current modern rate of progress is energy provided by fossil fuels since about 1800.