The Militant Libertarian

I'm pissed off and I'm a libertarian. What else you wanna know?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Governor Mark Sanford Responds to Graham

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We Are the 'Enemy of the State'

by Michael Gaddy

From its very infancy, our government has made a vital part of its existence the theft of property that belongs to others and the demonization of those who would resist, or those who see the state for what it really is. From the American Indian to the veterans who have fought the state’s illegal wars, resistance to, or speaking out against the criminality of the state will bring down the full force of the state’s wrath, up to and including elimination.

Henry Clay, whose protégé was Abraham Lincoln, said of the American Indian, " The Indians' disappearance from the human family will be no great loss to the world. I do not think them, as a race, worth preserving." Clay saw the Indian as an impediment to the desires of the state: acquisition of the lands possessed by the American Indian.

Clay’s beliefs and political goals led to the forced relocation of Cherokees from the mountains of Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia to Oklahoma during the winter of 1838. Over 20,000 Cherokees were dragged from their homes, which were then plundered and burned. They were force marched, most of them barefooted, to Oklahoma during the dead of winter. Over 4,000 Cherokees died on this march. To the Cherokees it became known as the "Trail of Tears."

Abraham Lincoln would instigate, promote, and conduct a war that would consume the lives of more than 600,000 Americans. The purpose of the war was not to abolish slavery, as is claimed by idolaters of the state, but to secure the property of citizens of the South, a confiscatory seizure of their monies known as the Morrill Tariff. Lincoln would reveal his intention to invade the South to secure these monies and his lack of concern for slavery in his First Inaugural Address.

To accomplish this seizure of assets, the citizens of the South would have to be demonized; war criminal General William Tecumseh Sherman and his wife proved most adept at this: "Extermination, not of soldiers alone, that is the least part of the trouble, but the [Southern] people." His wife Ellen wrote back that her fondest wish was for a war "of extermination and that all [Southerners] would be driven like the Swine into the sea."

Professor Tom DiLorenzo superbly documents the Sherman family’s demonization of both Southerners and Indians here.

Another Lincoln war criminal, General John Pope, said of the Santee Sioux immediately before his campaign against them, "It is my purpose to utterly exterminate the Sioux. They are to be treated as maniacs or wild beasts, and by no means as people with whom treaties or compromise can be made." Ironically, Lincoln ordered Pope to subdue the Santee Sioux when they revolted in 1862. The revolt occurred when the government refused to pay the Sioux monies promised for the sale of millions of acres of their land.

General Pope once proclaimed that his "headquarters would always be in the saddle," to which Stonewall Jackson, responded, "His headquarters are where his hindquarters ought to be." This could certainly be said of the leadership of all government projects.

After the Sioux were subdued, trials of 303 captured males were immediately held. The trials of each lasted approximately 10 minutes and all were found guilty and sentenced to be hanged.

In December of 1862, 38 Santee Sioux were hanged on the orders of President Abraham Lincoln, elsewhere known as the "Great Emancipator." This was the largest mass hanging in American History. The remaining Sioux were expelled from Minnesota. The Santee Sioux learned a brutal lesson about standing in the way of the state in its conquests of property that belongs to others, and believing the state to be honorable in its promises.

Repeatedly, throughout our history, the state has demonized, most often using its lapdogs in the media, those it intended to war against. From Red Savages; to Rebels; to Krauts; to Japs; to Slopes; to Dinks; to Towel Heads, a concentrated effort was introduced to dehumanize the state’s real or concocted opponents.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), The Missouri Militia Report and Virginia’s Homegrown Terrorism Report have unleashed an attack designed to demonize and dehumanize opponents of tyranny. The unclassified lists of those viewed as potential threats and terrorists includes opponents of abortion, groups opposed to illegal immigration, third-party political supporters, supporters of the Second Amendment, those stockpiling food, water, and ammunition, constitutionalists, veterans, critics of the United Nations and One World Government, and anyone fitting the "Right-Wing Extremist" profile.

Conspicuous in its absence in DHS’s report is any mention of Maoists, Marxists, Leninists, Stalinists, Trotskyites, or National Socialists as a terror threat. In short, our government exhibits no fear of socialism/fascism. It only fears those who would hold it accountable to the Constitution and rule of law.

What we know from the Department of Homeland Security and its Fusion Centers, now located in at least 25 states, concerning whom the state views as its enemies, is alarming indeed. What should be of even greater concern is what we don’t know that is contained in the classified section of their reports to LE agencies around the country. Information is classified to keep information from the enemy; why is the American public not allowed to see who else this government considers to be its enemy and how it intends to deal with the problem?

It is time to pay attention. We have been named as the state’s enemy. There undoubtedly is a plan in the works to deal with us. Are members of the mentioned groups already targeted for action? I have recently received information from California that some cities there have declared any member of a motorcycle club to be a gang member. What is the origin of this determination? I can assure you one of the strategies that will be employed by the state is "divide and conquer." It is absolutely imperative we unite on this issue. Note the words of Pastor Martin Niemöller are relevant today:

In Germany they first came for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.

Then they came for me –
and by that time no one was left to speak up.

Kit, a dear friend and true Patriot, said to me recently, "We are going to be forced to bunch up if we are to survive." This is sage advice.

The economic wheels are about to run off the wagon called the state. Civil unrest and chaos will ensue. Patriots and Constitutionalists have been deemed the enemy. Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.

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Audit the Fed, Then End It!

by Ron Paul

I have been very pleased with the progress of my legislation, HR 1207, which calls for a complete audit of the Federal Reserve and removes many significant barriers towards transparency of our monetary system. This bill now has nearly 170 cosponsors, with support from both Republicans and Democrats. Senator Bernie Sanders has introduced a companion bill in the Senate S 604, which will hopefully begin to gain momentum as well. I am very encouraged to see so many of my colleagues in Congress stand with me for greater transparency in government.

Some have begun to push back against this bill, and I am very happy to address their concerns.

The main argument seems to be that Congressional oversight over the Fed is government interference in the free market. This argument shows a misunderstanding of what a free market really is. Fundamentally, you cannot defend the Federal Reserve and the free market at the same time. The Fed negates the very foundation of a free market by artificially manipulating the price and supply of money – the lifeblood of the economy. In a free market, interest rates, like the price of any other consumer good, are decentralized and set by the market. The only legitimate, Constitutional role of government in monetary policy is to protect the integrity of the monetary unit and defend against counterfeiters.

Instead, Congress has abdicated this responsibility to a cabal of elite, quasi-governmental banks who, instead of stabilizing the economy, have destabilized it. It took less than two decades for the Federal Reserve to bring on the Great Depression of the 1930’s. It has also inflated away the value of our currency by over 96 percent since its inception. It has invisibly stolen from the poor and given to the rich through this controlled inflation, and now openly stolen through recent bank bailouts. It has predictably exacerbated the very problems it was meant to solve.

Detractors have also argued that the Fed must remain immune from the political process, and that that more congressional oversight would distort their very important decisions. On the contrary, the Federal Reserve is already heavily entrenched in the political process, as the Fed chairman is a political appointee. High-level officials routinely make the rounds between positions at the Fed, member banks, Treasury and back again, taking care of friends and each other along the way.

As far as the foolishness of placing complex monetary policy decisions in the hands of politicians – I couldn’t agree more. No politician or central banker, no matter how brilliant, is smart enough to know more than the market itself. The failure of central economic planning has been witnessed over and over. It is frankly beyond me why we ever agreed to try it again.

To understand how unwise it is to have the Federal Reserve, one must first understand the magnitude of the privileges they have. They have been given the power to create money, by the trillions, and to give it to their friends, under any terms they wish, with little or no meaningful oversight or accountability. Thus the loudest arguments against greater transparency are likely to come from those friends, and understandably so.

However, it is the responsibility of every member of Congress to represent the interests of the people that sent them to Washington and find out what has been happening with our money. As the branch of government with the power of the purse, we really have no other reasonable choice when the economy is in the shape it is in.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

The Reality Party

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Time To Behead The Concubines

by sakerfa,

“If the instructions are not clear, if the orders are not obeyed, it is the fault of the general. But if the instructions are clear and the soldiers still do not obey, it is the fault of their officers.” – Sun Tzu

Whether or not Sun Tzu was the greatest military mind of all time in and of himself is debatable. But he did do something very important. He took up all the lessons from those that came before him concerning how to win a war and brought them under one tent, codified them and followed them. To the casual observer and those more concerned with the feelings of their enemy or breaking a nail, Sun Tzu seems like a very cruel man. He killed a lot of people with the troops he commanded. To those that understand the deeper lessons of his work however, there is a great deal to be learned about how to reach any objective by studying what he taught.

One of the best, and I believe most fundamental, lessons of Sun Tzu is the story of the King’s concubines.

King Ho-lú wanted a demonstration of Sun Tzu’s theories in action to see their effectiveness. So the King’s concubines, some 300 women, were summoned and divided into two companies. He placed one of the King’s two favorite concubines in charge of each and gave the women armor and weapons while explaining a set of drills he wished them to perform.

After he had shown them what he wished to be done he then ordered the King’s favorite concubines to lead their companies in performing the maneuvers. This almost predictably led to laughs from the concubines who did not believe him to be serious. They were, after all, not warriors. Sun Tzu then repeated his orders but again the concubines laughed and failed to heed.

This is when he uttered the quote at the beginning of this article, summoned the executioner and had the King’s favorite concubines beheaded. Perhaps Sun Tzu would have lost his own head as well due to an angry King Ho-lú except for the predictable result that ensued. Sun Tzu brought forth two more concubines, placed one in charge of each company and then he again ordered the drill completed. This time the remaining concubines performed the exercise flawlessly.

Sun Tzu’s orders were clear. The fault was with those that were entrusted to carry out those commands. When that fault was remedied everything worked like it was supposed to.

There is a modern day parallel that can be drawn from all this as well and it has nothing to do with commanding a military. That is the beauty of Sun Tzu. The “Art of War” that he codified is able to be adapted to any situation with a goal.

Right now in America we have the Republican Party as it sadly exists; a chattering mass of concubines who have come to believe that they are favorites of some higher authority and they will have no harm ever come to them. The problem is that we, the people, who are the real authority behind the Party are not at all amused. We have given them power. We have given them arms. We have even given them orders. But still they sit there and giggle at us as though those orders are not at all important.

We tell them to lower taxes and they giggle. We tell them to reduce the size of government and they giggle some more. We tell them to stand up for innocent human life no matter the age and they laugh out loud. We tell them to return to within the boundaries set up for them by the Constitution and they flip us the bird while mocking us openly. So the answer is obvious to anyone that has ever read Sun Tzu. The axe needs to be sharpened. The heads of the lead concubines must be lowered onto the chopping block. And these fools need to be released from their duties and obligations. It is time to behead those giddy concubines who are in charge and who are not willing to carry out the clear orders given to them.

You would be surprised to see how quickly the rest of the concubines wise up and start to follow orders once this is done.

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Obama Eyes ‘Preventive Detention’ System

by Jason Ditz
President Seeks Legal Basis to Hold People Who Can't Be Charged With Any Crimes

During a 90 minute meeting with human rights advocates today, President Barack Obama said that he was considering coming up with some sort of “preventive detention” system which would provide him a legal basis to detain suspects as a threat without having to charge them with any crimes.

The meeting was intended to be “off the record,” but some of the participants left seriously concerned that the president, who only last week resumed the long criticized system of military tribunals for suspects at Guantanamo Bay, was now looking for ways to hold people legally without having to present any evidence of wrong-doing.

President Obama will be delivering a 35-minute national security speech tomorrow at the National Archives. He is expected to address his plan to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, though today Press Secretary Robert Gibbs lauded the effort of Senate Democrats to block funding for the closure.

Last week the president made a shocking number of moves to roll back what few positive changes he had made from the previous administration. It seems now that this was only the tip of the iceberg, and that the Obama Administration will continue on the path of using the war on terror as an excuse to take ever more liberties with, well… liberties.

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Climate Depot Banned in Louisiana! State official sought to 'shut down' climate skeptic's testimony at hearing

by Marc Morano – Climate Depot

Commissioner Foster Campbell of the Louisiana Public Service Commission is demanding to know why a witness skeptical of man-made global warming was not "shut down" during a May 13, 2009 hearing in Baton Rouge.

According to an article in The Times-Picayune on May 19, 2009, Campbell was irate that Climate Depot's executive editor Marc Morano was invited to speak at the hearing by Commissioner Eric Skrmetta. The paper reported: "Campbell criticized [Chairman] Boissiere for not shutting down Morano's presentation." [Morano note: This is eerily similar to the event that occurred in Congress on April 23, 2009. See: Democrats Refuse to Allow Skeptic to Testify Alongside Gore At Congressional Hearing ]

Campbell, a Democrat who ran for governor, attempted to verbally grill Morano during the hearing and has since publicly accused the Climate Depot editor of being a "phony" and a "hack" who is part of a "fringe group" and he accused Morano of "deception" and taking "quotes out of context." (See Times-Picayune article: Global warming presentation prompts Foster Campbell to ask for PSC testimony under oath )

Campbell, who engaged in a testy back and forth during the standing room only hearing with Morano, is now apparently demanding any future witnesses that challenge his scientific understanding of global warming be promptly “shut down.” [Morano note: Campbell's low-brow insults and impulse to cut off debate only serve to diminish his reputation.]

The Times-Picayune reported: “After a presenter at last week's Public Service Commission meeting asserted that global warming is a hoax, Commissioner Foster Campbell said Tuesday he plans to introduce a motion at the June meeting requiring most people testifying before the commission to do so under oath.” [Morano note: The paper is incorrect; I never testified that global warming is a “hoax.” ]

Campbell's call for future witnesses to be sworn-in is apparently his attempt to scare off any future skeptics of man-made global warming fears from testifying. Campbell implies "swearing" in witnesses would somehow force witnesses to change their dissenting views of climate change. [Morano note: Sadly, it seems as though Campbell actually believes that if you present scientific evidence refuting Gore's climate view, you must be a liar. I would be delighted to return to Baton Rouge to testify again under oath and allow Campbell all the time he would like to question my presentation. ]

The paper reported that Morano's testimony “upstaged” Campbell's invited witness.

“Marc Morano, a former aide to Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma who now runs an anti-global-warming website called, said there's no proof that the planet is getting hotter and called the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change a 'political gimmick.'” [Morano note: I merely quoted award-winning physicist Dr. Claude Allegre -- who reversed his view on warming to become a skeptic -- stating Gore's Nobel award was "a political gimmick.” ]

The paper continued: “Campbell maintains that [his witness] offered the commission an analysis of a proposed policy change while Morano, who once worked for Rush Limbaugh, delivered a political rant that was of no value to the commission. He criticized [Chairman] Boissiere for not shutting down Morano's presentation.”

[ Morano note: A frustrated Campbell sat through my presentation which contained extensive analysis of cap-and-trade and I cited peer-reviewed scientific studies, prominent international scientists and the latest real world developments exposing the errors in man-made climate fears. My testimony even cited left wing environmentalists and promoters of global warming fears like the UK's James Lovelock, NASA's James Hansen and Green Party candidate Ralph Nader trashing the concept of cap-and-trade as “verging on a gigantic scam.” In addition, I presented the overwhelming polling data showing the public is rejecting climate fears.]

During the question and answer portion of the testimony, Campbell accused Morano of representing "big business" and not being kind to former Vice President Al Gore. Campbell has been on a public relations war path since Morano's 35-minute testimony at the hearing. Last week, Campbell released a May 14, 2009 letter calling Morano a “political operator from Washington, D.C. and he accused him of giving a “far-right sermon on Global Warming straight out of Rush Limbaugh, complete with obscure references, quotes out of context and personal attacks on a former Vice President and winner of the Nobel Prize.” Campbell called Morano's testimony a “political circus.” He then went on to label him a “hack” who used “deception.”

[Morano note: In addition to providing comic relief, Campbell's angry rants are quite chilling. As the science behind man-made global warming fears utterly collapses, many of the biggest promoters of the theory are growing increasingly desperate.

NASA's James Hansen has called for trials of climate skeptics in 2008 for "high crimes against humanity.” Environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. lashed out at skeptics of 2007 declaring “This is treason. And we need to start treating them as traitors” In 2009, RFK, Jr. also
called coal companies "criminal enterprises" and declared CEO's 'should be in jail... for all of eternity."

In 2006, the eco-magazine Grist called for Nuremberg-Style trials for skeptics. In 2008, Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki called for government leaders skeptical of global warming to be thrown “into jail.” In 2007, The Weather Channel's climate expert called for withholding certification of skeptical meteorologists.

A 2008 report found that 'climate blasphemy' is replacing traditional religious blasphemy. In addition, a July 2007 Senate report detailed how skeptical scientists have faced threats and intimidation ]

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All the President's Newsmen

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“Little Known Military Thug Squad Still Brutalizing Prisoners at Gitmo Under Obama”

Jeremy Scahill reports the Obama administration is continuing to use a notorious military police unit at Guantanamo that regularly brutalizes unarmed prisoners, including gang-beating them, breaking their bones, gouging their eyes and dousing them with chemicals. This force, officially known as the Immediate Reaction Force, has been labeled the “Extreme Repression Force” by Guantanamo prisoners, and human rights lawyers call their actions illegal.

Watch video at his link.
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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Personal Sovereignty?

by Larry L. Beane II

A lot of folks may not be aware of it, but there are more nations in North America than the Big Three (and I don't mean the beggars of the soon-to-be nationalized American junk producers in Detroit).

For example, there are the various Indian nations. If you drive between New York and Québec, you may well enter the Mohawk nation, a place that is technically neither the U.S. nor Canada. Although it seems that this has now been changed, it was the case in the 1980s that gasoline and tobacco products were much cheaper there than in the U.S. and Canada, because there were no American or Canadian federal taxes levied in that nation. The Mohawk Nation is also free (more or less) from federal and state gambling restrictions.

There are also two small islands off the coast of Newfoundland: St. Pierre and Miquelon – which form an overseas territory of France. These Islands are in no way American or Canadian. In fact, they send representatives to the French legislature and are not part of the various North American treaty and trade organizations. Politically speaking, these islands are part of Europe, and yet, North Americans can get there by ferry.

And then there are other "micronations," such as the Republic of Molossia, which is completely surrounded by the State of Nevada. Molossia is a tongue-in-cheek self-described "third-world country" that claims sovereignty under international law. Since 1977, Molossia has had its own currency, stamps, system of weights and measures, and flag. The good-humored and photogenic president will even stamp the passports of tourists. Molossian currency (the valora) is pegged to Pillsbury cookie dough (which, of course, gives it more commodity backing than the free-floating and free-falling U.S. dollar).

However, regarding this claim to sovereignty, there is no hysteria over "extremism," no fears of an "armed compound," or charges of treason levied against the president of the Republic of Molossia. Nor is this a scheme to avoid paying U.S. taxes (though in fact, President Kevin Baugh (depicted above) explains that he actually doesn't pay U.S. taxes, but rather sends voluntary "foreign aid" of the equivalent amount to the U.S. out of pity for the state of our roads – and he has a very good point there!).

It goes without saying that Molossia, which started off as a boyhood lark, is a joke. And yet, at the same time, it isn't.

In a real way, our homes are true micronations. We used to hear the expression: "A man's home is his castle" more often than we do today, but even in the current paradigm, there is a sense of sovereignty (however weakened in these days of state-worship) that every person exercises in his own home. And yes, I know the state can send in thugs and goons for pretty much any reason to harass us, and of course, all of the products we use in our homes are heavily regulated, taxed, and monitored by government at various levels – but there is still an undeniable vestige of freedom and sovereignty in our homes.

As a kid, I remember shooting "plinkers" out of 22-rifles and handguns with my dad in the basement of our suburban home. My father was teaching me to shoot and to do so safely. It was fun, and I'm quite sure it was also technically illegal (discharging a firearm in city limits), but we were in our basement, none of our neighbors could hear, and we weren't bothering anyone. In that sense, my dad's home was his castle. And as long as he minded his own business and didn't hurt anyone, what went on inside his castle was his business. He made and enforced the laws in his house – not the city, county, state, or federal government.

For people who see their homes as their castles, their rules often supersede all other laws. In fact, this understanding of "home rule" often takes the form of nullification at the most local level of all.

By way of example, the United States federal government has not only sanctioned and legalized infanticide, but by virtue of an over-extended judiciary and a milquetoast legislative branch that refuses to do its constitutional duty to rein in the judiaciary, it also compels the states to legalize abortion on demand in the form of for-profit "clinics" in every state. Although my house may be "in" a state of the American union, it "isn't" a state in the American union. And in my house, my rules apply. Under my roof, the law is "no abortions." Under no circumstances are abortions legal in my home, no exceptions. And it makes no difference what the Supreme Court or the U.N. have to say about it. This is an expression of personal sovereignty. In this sense, my home is my castle.

If I wanted to, I could outlaw guns in my house (which essentially means that on my property, the second amendment does not apply to those under my authority). Of course, such personal disarmament would be stupid – but if people want to be stupid, that's a matter of personal sovereignty as well.

Within the walls of my house, I can fly any flag, say anything I want, associate with anyone I like, regulate speech, and even hold political views that Janet Napolitano thinks are "radical." I can mandate an official religion, make rules regarding what is to be read in my home, and I can even investigate and punish offenses apart from the American system of jurisprudence. Parents do it all the time. At least they used to.

And, as a bonus, we don't have to suppress pictures of prisoners being abused for the sake of our international reputation, since in my house, waterboarding and other forms of torture are strictly prohibited. I hope there are some really smart people in the American government who might be able to follow that logic and learn from it.

If I choose, I can mandate that U.S. paper money is no good under the roof of my house (legal tender laws notwithstanding), that only gold and silver (and bamboo chopsticks, if I so decide) are acceptable for monetary transactions. And, I can even declare that my Republican Congressman who gave President Obama an "A" grade no longer represents my household, declare him to be "fired" and replaced by a certain Congressman from Texas who more accurately represents my household's views with his Congressional votes – all by nothing more than my decree.

So, if you think about it, everyone who exercises personal liberty already lives in a kind of micronation. And the founders of the American government certainly respected the ancient common law right of a man to rule and govern his own property as he saw fit. Republics are based on the premise that a man's home is his castle. Tyranny rests on the opposite premise.

It is only when two or more different property owners have a dispute that there is any reason at all to involve government – and even then, if the neighbors simply address the issue themselves, they can circumvent government altogether – something Jesus advocates that we do, by the way (Luke 12:57-59). This is not to say that government can't (or shouldn't) ever intrude into the private home, such as if a person is being harmed or someone's inalienable rights are being denied. But apart from that, there is no level of government that has a whole lot of say about what goes on under my roof.

Of course, this is not to say that they don't want to. They are always plotting and sceming, to be sure. Nor does it mean that Big Government isn't stifling, and even in some cases dangerous and deadly. But our homes can be refuges of liberty over and against the encroachment of the state.

We Americans need to reconnect with this sense of self-ownership and self-government. I think if we all treated our homes and property as micronations, we would have a much greater sense of responsibility and autonomy, not to mention a greater vigilance for protecting our liberty and freedom from government intrusion at all levels. We might begin to see the state as our servant once again, and stop treating it as a nightmarish nanny to be obeyed. If our homes are not to be run by the state, then it follows that our states ought not be bullied by the federal government.

Although it isn't directly related to the concept of "home and castle" or micronations, I can't help but reflect on an enlightening weekend I had many years back dog sledding in a tiny village in Québec. The nearest police were 200 miles away. Many of the people there didn't bother to put license plates on their cars and trucks, and unlicensed snowmobiles were seen everywhere. The village had some 200 residents, and everyone knew everyone else – which is the real deterrent to crime. Even pot smoking was completely tolerated, and was de facto legal in this village. Not that I'm advocating getting stoned, but it has become painfully obvious, even among some leading conservatives, that often the "cure" (prohibition, a.k.a. the "war on drugs") is more damaging than the "disease" (recreational drug use). Also, the village was evenly split between Anglophones and Francophones, and the notorious Québec "language police" were nowhere to be found. Somehow, the people managed to run their businesses, educate their children, and negotiate their social coexistence without draconian language laws and enforcers. In a free society, people just work these things out for themselves based on common sense without brutish laws, burdensome bureaucracies, and prisons.

I don't know if this village in Québec still has this kind of delightful, relaxed anarchy or not, but I sure hope so.

Of course, we Americans – especially those of a conservative bent – more often than not take the opposite tack.

We have the highest percentage of our population in prison of any developed country. We put people in jail for driving without license plates or for smoking marijuana. People routinely get "tazed" for non-compliance with officers who in no way feel constrained by the Constitution. We even have people serving years and years of imprisonment for non-violent "crimes" involving the IRS. And yet, I suspect that just about any "law and order" American city has more violent crime per capita in a single day than the above-mentioned small-government Québecois village has in a decade (if not a century). And yes, I realize that there is a world of difference between an urban center and a rural environment – but nevertheless, I'd like to see Americans revert back to the philosophy that "a man's home is his castle." From this understanding, it follows that government needs to be limited to enforcing contracts and providing an open and fair criminal justice system that conforms to the Constitution, only stepping in when someone's rights are violated – and even then, only within its narrow jurisdiction. Other than that, the best thing it can do is leave us the heck alone.

The people and legislature of Montana have courageously made the same point by passing a law nullifying federal firearms laws for guns and ammunition that don't leave the state. They are telling our nosy and imperious Uncle Sam that he has no business getting involved in Montana's internal business. Of course, that's what federalism and the Tenth Amendment are all about.

And if the legislature of Montana understands the principle of limited delegated authority in matters pertaining to the federal government, one could at least hope those same legislators would respect the rights of individuals to be free from Montana's laws within their own homes.

We Americans generally see sovereignty as a top-down affair, in which the White House dictates to the State Houses, which in turn command our houses. However, upon reflection, I think it makes more sense to view sovereignty, like charity, as something that best begins at home. In any case, I know my wife can run our household's "national" treasury better than Timothy Geithner can run his, and I can manage the affairs of my "castle" more suitably than any elected or appointed bureaucrat at any level of government, and can do so without handlers, a private jet, and a teleprompter.

More "nations" means more freedom. Maybe we can get people rethinking sovereignty issues by returning to thinking of their homes as their castles. It's worth a shot, anyway. After all, as the national motto of Molossia says: "Nothing ventured, nothing gained."

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Buying Brand Obama

by Chris Hedges

Barack Obama is a brand. And the Obama brand is designed to make us feel good about our government while corporate overlords loot the Treasury, our elected officials continue to have their palms greased by armies of corporate lobbyists, our corporate media diverts us with gossip and trivia and our imperial wars expand in the Middle East. Brand Obama is about being happy consumers. We are entertained. We feel hopeful. We like our president. We believe he is like us. But like all branded products spun out from the manipulative world of corporate advertising, we are being duped into doing and supporting a lot of things that are not in our interest.

What, for all our faith and hope, has the Obama brand given us? His administration has spent, lent or guaranteed $12.8 trillion in taxpayer dollars to Wall Street and insolvent banks in a doomed effort to reinflate the bubble economy, a tactic that at best forestalls catastrophe and will leave us broke in a time of profound crisis. Brand Obama has allocated nearly $1 trillion in defense-related spending and the continuation of our doomed imperial projects in Iraq, where military planners now estimate that 70,000 troops will remain for the next 15 to 20 years. Brand Obama has expanded the war in Afghanistan, including the use of drones sent on cross-border bombing runs into Pakistan that have doubled the number of civilians killed over the past three months. Brand Obama has refused to ease restrictions so workers can organize and will not consider single-payer, not-for-profit health care for all Americans. And Brand Obama will not prosecute the Bush administration for war crimes, including the use of torture, and has refused to dismantle Bush’s secrecy laws or restore habeas corpus.

Brand Obama offers us an image that appears radically individualistic and new. It inoculates us from seeing that the old engines of corporate power and the vast military-industrial complex continue to plunder the country. Corporations, which control our politics, no longer produce products that are essentially different, but brands that are different. Brand Obama does not threaten the core of the corporate state any more than did Brand George W. Bush. The Bush brand collapsed. We became immune to its studied folksiness. We saw through its artifice. This is a common deflation in the world of advertising. So we have been given a new Obama brand with an exciting and faintly erotic appeal. Benetton and Calvin Klein were the precursors to the Obama brand, using ads to associate themselves with risqué art and progressive politics. It gave their products an edge. But the goal, as with all brands, was to make passive consumers mistake a brand with an experience.

“The abandonment of the radical economic foundations of the women’s and civil-rights movements by the conflation of causes that came to be called political correctness successfully trained a generation of activists in the politics of image, not action,” Naomi Klein wrote in “No Logo.”

Obama, who has become a global celebrity, was molded easily into a brand. He had almost no experience, other than two years in the Senate, lacked any moral core and could be painted as all things to all people. His brief Senate voting record was a miserable surrender to corporate interests. He was happy to promote nuclear power as “green” energy. He voted to continue the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He reauthorized the Patriot Act. He would not back a bill designed to cap predatory credit card interest rates. He opposed a bill that would have reformed the notorious Mining Law of 1872. He refused to support the single-payer health care bill HR676, sponsored by Reps. Dennis Kucinich and John Conyers. He supported the death penalty. And he backed a class-action “reform” bill that was part of a large lobbying effort by financial firms. The law, known as the Class Action Fairness Act, would effectively shut down state courts as a venue to hear most class-action lawsuits and deny redress in many of the courts where these cases have a chance of defying powerful corporate challenges.

While Gaza was being bombarded and hit with airstrikes in the weeks before Obama took office, “the Obama team let it be known that it would not object to the planned resupply of ‘smart bombs’ and other hi-tech ordnance that was already flowing to Israel,” according to Seymour Hersh. Even his one vaunted anti-war speech as a state senator, perhaps his single real act of defiance, was swiftly reversed. He told the Chicago Tribune on July 27, 2004, that “there’s not that much difference between my position and George Bush’s position at this stage. The difference, in my mind, is who’s in a position to execute.” And unlike anti-war stalwarts like Kucinich, who gave hundreds of speeches against the war, Obama then dutifully stood silent until the Iraq war became unpopular.

Obama’s campaign won the vote of hundreds of marketers, agency heads and marketing-services vendors gathered at the Association of National Advertisers’ annual conference in October. The Obama campaign was named Advertising Age’s marketer of the year for 2008 and edged out runners-up Apple and Take it from the professionals. Brand Obama is a marketer’s dream. President Obama does one thing and Brand Obama gets you to believe another. This is the essence of successful advertising. You buy or do what the advertiser wants because of how they can make you feel.

Celebrity culture has leeched into every aspect of our culture, including politics, to bequeath to us what Benjamin DeMott called “junk politics.” Junk politics does not demand justice or the reparation of rights. Junk politics personalizes and moralizes issues rather than clarifying them. “It’s impatient with articulated conflict, enthusiastic about America’s optimism and moral character, and heavily dependent on feel-your-pain language and gesture,” DeMott noted. The result of junk politics is that nothing changes – “meaning zero interruption in the processes and practices that strengthen existing, interlocking systems of socioeconomic advantage.” It redefines traditional values, tilting “courage toward braggadocio, sympathy toward mawkishness, humility toward self-disrespect, identification with ordinary citizens toward distrust of brains.” Junk politics “miniaturizes large, complex problems at home while maximizing threats from abroad. It’s also given to abrupt unexplained reversals of its own public stances, often spectacularly bloating problems previously miniaturized.” And finally, it “seeks at every turn to obliterate voters’ consciousness of socioeconomic and other differences in their midst.”

An image-based culture, one dominated by junk politics, communicates through narratives, pictures and carefully orchestrated spectacle and manufactured pseudo-drama. Scandalous affairs, hurricanes, earthquakes, untimely deaths, lethal new viruses, train wrecks—these events play well on computer screens and television. International diplomacy, labor union negotiations and convoluted bailout packages do not yield exciting personal narratives or stimulating images. A governor who patronizes call girls becomes a huge news story. A politician who proposes serious regulatory reform, universal health care or advocates curbing wasteful spending is boring. Kings, queens and emperors once used their court conspiracies to divert their subjects. Today cinematic, political and journalistic celebrities distract us with their personal foibles and scandals. They create our public mythology. Acting, politics and sports have become, as they were during the reign of Nero, interchangeable.

In an age of images and entertainment, in an age of instant emotional gratification, we do not seek reality. Reality is complicated. Reality is boring. We are incapable or unwilling to handle its confusion. We ask to be indulged and comforted by clichés, stereotypes and inspirational messages that tell us we can be whoever we seek to be, that we live in the greatest country on Earth, that we are endowed with superior moral and physical qualities, and that our future will always be glorious and prosperous, either because of our own attributes, or our national character, or because we are blessed by God. Reality is not accepted as an impediment to our desires. Reality does not make us feel good.

In his book “Public Opinion,” Walter Lippmann distinguished between “the world outside and the pictures in our heads.” He defined a “stereotype” as an oversimplified pattern that helps us find meaning in the world. Lippmann cited examples of the crude “stereotypes we carry about in our heads” of whole groups of people such as “Germans,” “South Europeans,” “Negroes,” “Harvard men,” “agitators” and others. These stereotypes, Lippmann noted, give a reassuring and false consistency to the chaos of existence. They offer easily grasped explanations of reality and are closer to propaganda because they simplify rather than complicate.

Pseudo-events—dramatic productions orchestrated by publicists, political machines, television, Hollywood or advertisers—however, are very different. They have, as Daniel Boorstin wrote in “The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America,” the capacity to appear real even though we know they are staged. They are capable, because they can evoke a powerful emotional response, of overwhelming reality and replacing reality with a fictional narrative that often becomes accepted truth. The unmasking of a stereotype damages and often destroys its credibility. But pseudo-events, whether they show the president in an auto plant or a soup kitchen or addressing troops in Iraq, are immune to this deflation. The exposure of the elaborate mechanisms behind the pseudo-event only adds to its fascination and its power. This is the basis of the convoluted television reporting on how effectively political campaigns and politicians have been stage-managed. Reporters, especially those on television, no longer ask if the message is true but if the pseudo-event worked or did not work as political theater. Pseudo-events are judged on how effectively we have been manipulated by illusion. Those events that appear real are relished and lauded. Those that fail to create a believable illusion are deemed failures. Truth is irrelevant. Those who succeed in politics, as in most of the culture, are those who create the brands and pseudo-events that offer the most convincing fantasies. And this is the art Obama has mastered.

A public that can no longer distinguish between truth and fiction is left to interpret reality through illusion. Random facts or obscure bits of data and trivia are used to bolster illusion and give it credibility or are discarded if they interfere with the message. The worse reality becomes—the more, for example, foreclosures and unemployment skyrocket—the more people seek refuge and comfort in illusions. When opinions cannot be distinguished from facts, when there is no universal standard to determine truth in law, in science, in scholarship, or in reporting the events of the day, when the most valued skill is the ability to entertain, the world becomes a place where lies become true, where people can believe what they want to believe. This is the real danger of pseudo-events and why pseudo-events are far more pernicious than stereotypes. They do not explain reality, as stereotypes attempt to, but replace reality. Pseudo-events redefine reality by the parameters set by their creators. These creators, who make massive profits peddling these illusions, have a vested interest in maintaining the power structures they control.

The old production-oriented culture demanded what the historian Warren Susman termed character. The new consumption-oriented culture demands what he called personality. The shift in values is a shift from a fixed morality to the artifice of presentation. The old cultural values of thrift and moderation honored hard work, integrity and courage. The consumption-oriented culture honors charm, fascination and likability. “The social role demanded of all in the new culture of personality was that of a performer,” Susman wrote. “Every American was to become a performing self.”

The junk politics practiced by Obama is a consumer fraud. It is about performance. It is about lies. It is about keeping us in a perpetual state of childishness. But the longer we live in illusion, the worse reality will be when it finally shatters our fantasies. Those who do not understand what is happening around them and who are overwhelmed by a brutal reality they did not expect or foresee search desperately for saviors. They beg demagogues to come to their rescue. This is the ultimate danger of the Obama Brand. It effectively masks the wanton internal destruction and theft being carried out by our corporate state. These corporations, once they have stolen trillions in taxpayer wealth, will leave tens of millions of Americans bereft, bewildered and yearning for even more potent and deadly illusions, ones that could swiftly snuff out what is left of our diminished open society.

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Obama 'Bitterly Clinging' to His Fake Gun Numbers

by Vin Suprynowicz

American gun-owners, en masse, are “casting their ballots” on how much they believe Barack Obama’s campaign-trail promise to “not take away your guns.”

They’re driving the price of ammo through the roof, swarming gun shows and leaving the pallets and floors of the ammo suppliers’ booths as naked as a wheat field after the locusts pass through.

My friend Glen Parshall, at Bargain Pawn in North Las Vegas, recently put up a single round of .380 (a most unimpressive handgun caliber) for sale online at AuctionArms, selling it for $17 to another dealer back East.

It was mostly a joke, of course. Glen says he’s sending the round in a little red velvet jewelry case; the buyer wanted a receipt that he could frame and hang on the wall to show his customers “How much this stuff costs these days.”

Handgun ammo isn’t really $17 a round … yet. But it’s a joke with a point.

The gun-grabbers and hoplophobes – now nearing a veto-proof majority in Congress with the defection of Arlen “Magic Bullet” Specter to the Democrats and the likely success of the Democratic lawyers in “recounting till it works” to seat professional comedian Al Franken from Minnesota – don’t have to “take away our guns” if they can sign some kind of international treaty (bypassing and overruling U.S. statute) that bans ammunition reloading as “manufacturing without a license,” and then drives the price of both firearms and ammunition through the roof by requiring every bullet and brass cartridge to bear some kind of “matching but unique identifying number,” supposedly for the use of police in tracking “weapons used in crimes.”

(Naw, no bad guy will ever file off the numbers or simply use stolen rounds, the way they use stolen cars with stolen license plates as getaway cars. Why would they do THAT?)

Larry Pratt, head of Gun Owners of America, has words of warning about the Inter-American Convention Against Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, and Other Related Materials.

“Remember candidate Barack Obama? The guy who ‘wasn’t going to take away our guns?’” Pratt’s GOA asked in a recent release.

“Well, guess what? Less than 100 days into his administration, he’s never met a gun he didn’t hate.

“A week ago, Obama went to Mexico, whined about the United States, and bemoaned (before the whole world) the fact that he didn’t have the political power to take away our semi-automatics. Nevertheless, that didn’t keep him from pushing additional restrictions on American gun owners.

“It’s called the Inter-American Convention Against Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms. … To be sure, this imponderable title masks a really nasty piece of work.

“First of all, when the treaty purports to ban the ‘illicit manufacture of firearms,’ what does that mean?

“1. ‘Illicit manufacturing’ of firearms is defined as ‘assembly of firearms [or] ammunition… without a license….’

“Hence, reloading ammunition – or putting together a lawful firearm from a kit – is clearly ‘illicit manufacturing.’

“Modifying a firearm in any way would surely be ‘illicit manufacturing,’ GOA concludes.

“If these provisions (and others) become the law of the land, the Obama administration could have a heyday in enforcing them. Consider some of the other provisions in the treaty:

“* Banning Reloading. In Article IV of the treaty, countries commit to adopting ‘necessary legislative or other measures’ to criminalize illicit manufacturing and trafficking in firearms.

“Remember that ‘illicit manufacturing’ includes reloading and modifying or assembling a firearm in any way. This would mean that the Obama administration could promulgate regulations banning reloading on the basis of this treaty – just as it is currently circumventing Congress to write legislation taxing greenhouse gases. …

“* Micro-stamping. Article VI requires ‘appropriate markings’ on firearms. And it is not inconceivable that this provision could be used to require micro-stamping of firearms and/or ammunition – a requirement which is clearly intended to impose specifications which are not technologically possible or which are possible only at a prohibitively expensive cost.

“* Gun Registration. Article XI requires the maintenance of any records, for a ‘reasonable time,’ that the government determines to be necessary to trace firearms. This provision would almost certainly repeal portions of McClure-Volkmer and could arguably be used to require a national registry or database.”

Meantime, the Libertarian Party points out even the statistics used by Mr. Obama to supposedly justify his “emergency need” to “block the flow of arms to Mexico” are bogus.

First off, let’s stipulate that if Mexico and the United States want to end the violence stemming from the trade in marijuana and cocaine, the answer is the same as when we wanted to end the bootleggers’ alcohol-related violence in 1933: legalize marijuana and cocaine.

Distributors of competing brands of whiskey – a much more socially and medically destructive drug than marijuana, cocaine, or the opiates – don’t have to resort to shooting it out in the streets to settle their contractual disputes, because their trade is LEGAL.

But the LP says Obama’s numbers are purposely faked to create the impression Mexico’s drug war would run out of arms if we could simply disarm all us gringos.

“Is Barack Obama ‘bitterly clinging to falsified numbers’ in his bid to push his anti-gun treaty?” asked the Libertarian Party in an April press release.

“This war is being waged with guns purchased not here, but in the United States. More than 90 percent of the guns recovered in Mexico come from the United States,” said Mr. Obama in a face-to-face April meeting with Mexican President Felipe Calderon in Mexico City.

But that claim, the LP points out, “is blatantly false. According to information supplied by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) the real number is closer to only 17 percent.

“There is a reason Obama is intentionally spreading false information about American firearm businesses,” says Donny Ferguson, Libertarian National Committee Communications Director. “He … promised anti-gun groups he would enact gun bans and is hoping to scare people into voting away their own rights. …

“Not only does Obama want to renew failed gun bans here in the United States and register all gun owners, he’s hoping to literally scare up enough support for an international anti-gun treaty the Senate has been rejected for over a decade.

The Inter-American Convention against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives and Other Related Materials (CIFTA), requiring all guns to be marked and tracked by the government, was signed by then-President Bill Clinton in 1997, but never ratified, Ferguson of the LP points out.

But Obama’s ‘90 percent’ talking point has absolutely no factual basis, the LP proceeds to demonstrate.

“ATF Special Agent William Newell tells Fox News that between 2007 and 2008, around 11,000 guns used in Mexican crimes appeared to come from the United States and were submitted to the ATF for tracing. Of those, only 6,000 could be successfully traced. Of those, only 5,114, according to testimony in Congress by William Hoover, were found to have come from the U.S.

“Obama’s ‘90 percent’ number refers, not to the percentage of ‘guns recovered in Mexico,’ as Obama claims, but to the ‘percent of the traced firearms’ according to a BATFE spokeswoman.

“But Mexican authorities report that in those two years, a total of 29,000 guns were recovered at ‘crime scenes.’ That means 68 percent of the guns recovered by Mexican police did not even appear to come from the United States. That means only 5,114 out of 29,000 guns used in Mexican ‘crimes’ were found to have come from the United States,” the Libertarians conclude. “That figure would be 17 percent, not the 90 percent repeated by Obama.

Further weakening Obama’s case is the fact firearms manufacturers such as Colt legally shipped some of those United States-originated guns into Mexico for permitted uses, such as by the Mexican military.

“Research finds most of the guns used by Mexican criminals come from overseas black markets, Russian crime organizations, South America, Asia, Guatemala and even the Mexican army.”

Deserters sell their rifles, or simply go to work for the drug barons, bringing their service weapons with them.

During his term in the Senate, Obama earned an “F” rating from Gun Owners of America, as well as from the National Rifle Association. In an April 11, 2008 campaign speech in San Francisco, Obama claimed gun owners are simply “bitter,” racist people who “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them.”

“Obama is ‘bitterly clinging’ to falsified numbers, hoping he can take away the constitutional rights of ‘people who aren’t like’ him,” the Libertarian Party concludes.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Reason # 999999999 that the Fed needs to be Audited and then Abolished

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Roxana Saberi's Plight and American Media Propaganda

by Glenn Greenwald

An Iranian appeals court this morning announced that it was reducing the sentence and ordering the immediate release of Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi, who was convicted by an Iranian court last month of spying for the U.S. and sentenced to eight years in prison. Saberi's imprisonment in January became a cause célèbre among American journalists, who – along with the U.S. Government – rallied to demand her release. Within minutes of the announcement, several of them – including ABC News' Jake Tapper, Time's Karen Tumulty, The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder – posted celebratory notices of Saberi's release.

Saberi's release is good news, as her conviction occurred as part of extremely dubious charges and unreliable judicial procedures in Iran. And, as Ambinder suggested, her release most likely is a positive by-product of the commendable (though far from perfect) change in tone towards Iran specifically and the Muslim world generally from the Obama administration. But imprisoning journalists – without charges or trials of any kind – was and continues to be a staple of America's "war on terror," and that has provoked virtually no objections from America's journalists who, notably, instead seized on Saberi's plight in Iran to demonstrate their claimed commitment to defending persecuted journalists.

Beginning in 2001, the U.S. held Al Jazeera cameraman Sami al-Haj for six years in Guantanamo with no trial of any kind, and spent most of that time interrogating him not about Terrorism, but about Al Jazeera. For virtually the entire time, the due-process-less, six-year-long imprisonment of this journalist by the U.S. produced almost no coverage – let alone any outcry – from America's establishment media, other than some columns by Nicholas Kristof (though, for years, al-Haj's imprisonment was a major media story in the Muslim world). As Kristof noted when al-Haj was finally released in 2007: "there was never any real evidence that Sami was anything but a journalist"; "the interrogators quickly gave up on asking him substantive questions" and "instead, they asked him to spy on Al-Jazeera if he was released;" and "American officials, by imprisoning an Al-Jazeera journalist without charges or meaningful evidence, have done far more to damage American interests in the Muslim world than anything Sami could ever have done."

In Iraq, we imprisoned Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein – part of AP's Pulitzer Prize-winning war coverage – for almost two years with no charges of any kind, after Hussein's photographs from the Anbar province directly contradicted Bush administration claims about the state of affairs there. And that behavior was far from aberrational for the U.S., as the Committee to Protect Journalists – which led the effort to free Saberi – documented:

Hussein's detention is not an isolated incident. Over the last three years, dozens of journalists—mostly Iraqis—have been detained by U.S. troops, according to CPJ research. While most have been released after short periods, in at least eight cases documented by CPJ Iraqi journalists have been held by U.S. forces for weeks or months without charge or conviction. In one highly publicized case, Abdul Ameer Younis Hussein, a freelance cameraman working for CBS, was detained after being wounded by U.S. military fire as he filmed clashes in Mosul in northern Iraq on April 5, 2005. U.S. military officials claimed footage in his camera led them to suspect Hussein had prior knowledge of attacks on coalition forces. In April 2006, a year after his arrest, Hussein was freed after an Iraqi criminal court, citing a lack of evidence, acquitted him of collaborating with insurgents.

Right now – as the American press corps celebrates itself for demanding Saberi's release in Iran – the U.S. continues to imprison Ibrahim Jassam, a freelance photographer for Reuters, even though an Iraqi court last December – more than five months ago – found that there was no evidence to justify his detention and ordered him released. The U.S. – over the objections of the CPJ, Reporters Without Borders and Reuters – refused to recognize the validity of that Iraqi court order and announced it would continue to keep him imprisoned.

One finds only a tiny fraction of news coverage in the U.S. regarding the treatment of al-Haj, Hussein, Jassam and these other imprisoned journalists as has been devoted to Saberi. It ought to be exactly the reverse: the American media should be far more interested in, and opposed to, infringements of press freedoms by the U.S. Government than by governments of other countries. Yet the former merits hardly a peep, while the latter provokes all sorts of smug and self-righteous protests from American journalists who suddenly discover their brave commitment to press freedoms when all that requires is pointing to a demonized, hated foreign government and complaining.

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FBI "Going Dark." Budget Request for High-Tech Surveillance Capabilities Soar

Antifascist Calling

The Federal Bureau of Investigation's budget request for Fiscal Year 2010 reveals that America's political police intend to greatly expand their high-tech surveillance capabilities.

According to ABC News, the FBI is seeking additional funds for the development of "a new 'Advanced Electronic Surveillance' program which is being funded at $233.9 million for 2010. The program has 133 employees, 15 of whom are agents."

Known as "Going Dark," the program is designed to beef up the Bureau's already formidable electronic surveillance, intelligence collection and evidence gathering capabilities "as well as those of the greater Intelligence Community," ABC reports. An FBI spokesperson told the network:

"The term 'Going Dark' does not refer to a specific capability, but is a program name for the part of the FBI, Operational Technology Division's (OTD) lawful interception program which is shared with other law enforcement agencies."

"The term applies to the research and development of new tools, technical support and training initiatives." (Jason Ryan, "DOJ Budget Details High-Tech Crime Fighting Tools," ABC News, May 9, 2009)

Led by Assistant Director Marcus C. Thomas, OTD describes the office as supporting "the FBI’s investigative and intelligence-gathering efforts--and those of our federal, state, and local law enforcement/intelligence partners--with a wide range of sophisticated technological equipment, examination tools and capabilities, training, and specialized experience. You won’t hear about our work on the evening news because of its highly sensitive nature, but you will continue to hear about the fruits of our labor..."

According to OTD's website, the Division possesses "seven core capabilities": Digital Forensics; Electronic Surveillance; Physical Surveillance; Special Technology and Applications; Tactical Communications; Tactical Operations and finally, Technical Support/Coordination.

Under the heading "Electronic Surveillance," OTD deploys "tools and techniques for performing lawfully-authorized intercepts of wired and wireless telecommunications and data network communications technologies; enhancing unintelligible audio; and working with the communications industry as well as regulatory and legislative bodies to ensure that our continuing ability to conduct electronic surveillance will not be impaired as technology evolves."

But as we have seen throughout the entire course of the so-called "war on terror," systemic constitutional breeches by the FBI--from their abuse of National Security Letters, the proliferation of corporate-dominated Fusion Centers to the infiltration of provocateurs into antiwar and other dissident groups--the only thing "impaired" by an out-of-control domestic spy agency have been the civil liberties of Americans.

Read the rest here.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Drug War Clock

Go to this link and see the War on Drugs clock and how much it's cost us so far and so far this year. You might be surprised...

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Universal Healthcare, the Citizen, and Nomenklatura

by Jeffrey Braddock

Among the many goals of President Obama is the pursuit of "universal healthcare." In the following, I shall show the concerned citizen the impracticality of universal healthcare coverage as proposed by Mr. Obama by highlighting its cost and quality inconsistencies. I shall then highlight an alternative approach. Let us begin with a definition. The definition of universal healthcare is "the government funding of complete expenditure coverage for all Americans, including medical, dental, and mental healthcare."

Let us now briefly examine the current system. If an uninsured patient is to receive non-emergency medical attention, the patient first must provide proof of insurance or pay a fee associated with healthcare. If the patient lacks either insurance or the funds, the doctor must make a decision to administer healthcare without guarantee of monetary reimbursement, or, refuse to care for the patient. In choosing the latter, the doctor repudiates the tenants of the Hippocratic Oath, "to keep the good of the patient as the highest priority." We may note that the doctor himself does not make a decision to refuse care -- often the process is "sterilized" by a formal or informal policy, administered by the non-medical staff of the medical facility.[1] Those lacking sufficient funds or medical insurance find their medical needs ignored. The current system, rightly so, provokes outcry as being unethical and immoral. In response to this outcry, President Obama has proposed plan to equitably distribute the costs and benefits of the healthcare system for the American people.

The Obama-Biden plan claims to overhaul the healthcare system within the framework of the existing healthcare system -- the details of which are condensed into allowing those who pay for health insurance to continue paying into their existing plans, while those who do not have healthcare find other extremely affordable options -- others benefit from subsidies and tax credits in order to offset the costs of healthcare. The plan is extremely vague and amorphous, much like all ideologically based policies, but is concrete on three details: Americans save $2500 in healthcare-related expenditures, healthcare facilities must report healthcare data and quality control to a federal government oversight body, and Mr. Obama pays for the US$50-65 healthcare reforms by rolling back tax breaks on Americans earning over USD $250,000 per year.

Now, consider Mr. Obama's plan in economic terms. In order to do this, let us draw a common price/quantity graph, with supply and demand curves. Let us assume that the demand for healthcare insurance is generally elastic (that is to say, demand reacts strongly to price). I assume this because healthcare premiums play an extremely large role in determining whether or not Americans purchase a policy. Let us then assume that supply is generally inelastic. I assume the supply curve is generally inelastic as insurers would supply policies to the entire healthy population of the United States, regardless of price. According to the assumptions of Mr Obama's economists, the healthcare subsidy reacts much as any basic economic textbook predicts, with the supply curve shifting from S^0 to S^1, lowering the equilibrium price to the intersections of the demand curve (D^0) and S^1. The quantity supplied is equal to the horizontal distance traveled by the supply curve. The total cost of the subsidy is the shaded area, which Mr Obama estimates at US$50-65 billion. To simplify this, I have prepared the graph below.

Below I have prepared a graph which I feel more accurately depicts Mr. Obama's plan. Recall that S^1 shifts to the right, leading Mr. Obama to assume a significant price decrease. However, at the same time as the supply curve shifts to the right, the demand curve undergoes a radical shift to the right to account for the increased coverage[2], expectations of individuals for healthcare services, and the price of the subsidized healthcare compared to the price of unsubsidized healthcare. The demand curve becomes more inelastic, based on the assumption that the citizens' preference for healthcare policies is less responsive to policy premiums, given the expectation of a subsidy. The amount of the government subsidy, far from the relatively modest expectations of Mr. Obama and his economists, is now the shaded area plus the entire crosshatched area. I have drawn the graph below to assist you.

Now, let us assume that the National Healthcare Bureau (hereafter NHB), created by executive order, has exclusive authority to allocate healthcare subsidies and ensure healthcare quality. The director of the NHB, in conjunction with healthcare industry insiders and economists set the level of subsidies at Mr. Obama's estimated level. However, the preliminary estimate is so unrealistic that soon thereafter the director of the NHB must request subsidies in excess of the current price of insurance.[3] The political prominence of the program and the need for success at any price compels Mr. Obama and the Congress to grant an emergency allocation to the NHB. The NHB, much like other federal programs in the long run, is prone to extreme fiscal incompetence, and grow in size beyond the estimates of even the harshest critics. As the size of the NHB grows, the healthcare insurers under Mr. Obama's plan have no incentive to control the burgeoning costs of healthcare (because there is no drop in consumer demand despite the increases in price), but rather, apt to inflate the cost in order to improve corporate profits.[4] As the subsidies continue to increase, they far exceed the marginal costs imposed on the health insurers. The monies allocated for health insurance then become a direct government subsidy to the insurance companies from the taxpayers. Since there is no independent pricing mechanism (or, a consumer willingness to pay) to curb healthcare provider enthusiasm for price increases, and no political willpower to see the program fail on the part of the President or the Congress, the profits of the healthcare industry can increase infinitely. It follows then that any claim by Mr. Obama to provide comprehensive coverage in the range of US$ 50-65 billion is at best a grave misrepresentation of reality.

At this point, I feel that the cost-minimizing claims have been sufficiently disproven. I feel it necessary to add some further considerations, however. Under Mr. Obama's plan, there is no incentive for private businesses to maintain comprehensive healthcare coverage for the private citizen. Mr Obama's attempt to force equitable distribution of healthcare costs on large employers is impossible, since these companies must conduct restructuring operations in order to qualify for Mr. Obama's benefits.[5] Indeed, businesses might improve profitability by shifting the costs of healthcare coverage from their balance sheets to the federal government.[6] In light of the restructuring of businesses following the change in healthcare policy, we must consider Mr Obama's plan to be a de facto nationalization of healthcare insurance providers.

In the wake of this revelation, the question of quality is greatly simplified. Healthcare facilities become dependent on federal recognition for their existence. Thus, in accordance with Mr. Obama's plan, healthcare facilities must report healthcare data and quality control to a federal government oversight body, the aforementioned (and fictional) NHB. I do not doubt for an instant that healthcare data and quality control will be reported, lest facilities loose access to federal funds. However, control and compliance oversight of thousands of healthcare facilities is largely impracticable.[7] Facilities will compete for federal funds based on patient turnover -- the falsification of patient quotas and medical reports becomes a near certainty. Thus we run into the familiar problem of shortage and oversupply.

We pause here to define quality as the amount of personable knowledge and personable interaction between the provider and patient. That is to say, the total amount of time a healthcare provider spends on each individual patient. To better understand how quality decreases under Mr. Obama's plan, we examine the economic equation of the marginal product of labor. The marginal product of labor equals the change in quantity divided by the change in labor. Let us assume that 40 million Americans are added by Mr Obama's plan, the change in quantity demanded. However, there is a significantly smaller increase in the number of healthcare professionals (and subsequently hours) available to administer such services. Thus, the ratio of quantity demanded to labor available sees a dramatic increase resulting in a substantial decrease in the quality of service. Why precisely is this so? A federal decree may allocate a mobile factor of production (money), but it cannot readily allocate an immobile factor of production (i.e. change a plumber into a trained doctor). Overall quality declines because the change in the number of available hours per healthcare professional per patient shrinks considerably.[8]

In the wake of the reduction in quality, a new, unforeseen issue arises -- that of nomenklatura. Nomenklatura is a Russian word describing the variance in quality of person, place, or object. Contrary to its equitable intentions, Mr. Obama's plan succeeds in creating healthcare nomenklatura. Healthcare facilities that succeed in advocating for its patients to the NHB succeed in receiving federal allocations. Thus, we may see that a hospital in inner-city Detroit receives substantially less attention from the federal government than a similar facility in Arlington, Virginia, in part due to the differences in expectations of the two populations. Many of the inner-city Detroit dwellers lack access to healthcare providers and believe that any access, regardless of the quality, is a major advance, whereas the population of Arlington, Virginia, with access to cutting edge healthcare, finds their expectations are not met and complain. The NHB bureaucrat organizes extensive databases extolling the equity of the system. Indeed, the resident of inner-city Detroit, satisfied by ignorance, cannot receive an appointment with a doctor, nor can he/she access a machine to save his/her life. To placate the influx of complaints, the NHB bureaucrat allocates a disproportionate amount of funds relative to population for the salaries of healthcare professionals and medical equipment in Arlington. Equitable distribution comes to rely on the preconceptions of the risk-adverse, unelected bureaucrat armed with a few reports and a blanket policy. Mr. Obama's policy does not succeed in equitably redistributing healthcare; rather, in rewarding certain interests and not others, it succeeds in exacerbating ethnic, social, and economic tensions already present in the United States. The policy is rewritten to account for other interests, but nomenklatura is not eradicated -- precisely because any government allocation granted to one group necessitates the exclusion of another.[9]

In this critical analysis of our current healthcare system, I have been largely critical of Mr Obama's plan without presenting an alternative. My alternative is simple: revert to the free market. Consider this example: Instead of using the insurance or government as a middleman to negotiate on my behalf, I call a doctor's office and request the rates for primary care. The doctor's administrative assistant would state the individual fee, or he might suggest a monthly pricing plan similar to a spa membership. If the price exceeds my expectations, I can call another doctor, or I can attempt to negotiate directly with the doctor, explaining my exceptional needs. The doctor might either accept my offer, or refer me to another doctor who is within my budget. Healthcare would never exceed my cost because there is always a doctor willing to accept my transaction. In the event of healthcare needs beyond primary care, citizens might consider purchasing health insurance. I would suggest a system modeled on Health-Status Insurance as proposed by John H. Cochrane, the Myron S. Scholes Professor of Finance at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Dr. Cochrane's health status insurance allows the citizen to obtain health insurance at any time, at a price determined by market-based risk assessment.[10] The free market, lacking intervention, provides a solution which provides healthcare for all, in that it imposes no barriers to ending the distasteful and unethical practices associated with the current healthcare insurance system, while avoiding the crippling debt burdens associated with Mr Obama's plan.

I applaud Mr. Obama's initiative. Mr. Obama's plan is an extremely well-intentioned, altruistic attempt at the equitable distribution of healthcare costs. It is most unfortunate, then, that the implementation of his plan fails to meet his broadly outlined goals. According to Mr Obama's plan, the cost shifts from a primary actor (the independent citizen or business) to a third party (the taxpayer at large). While this may minimize the costs to some actors, the real economic effect of Mr. Obama's plan represents a transfer of wealth from the taxpayer to a special-interest group, the insurance providers. The level of planning and money required to execute Mr. Obama's plan necessitates a high degree of oversight at the federal level. Oversight, the failures of federal fiscal planning, and business flight from private insurance policies, fosters a de facto nationalization of the health insurance companies. Nationalization ushers in the advent of nomenklatura and decreased quality overall. In the end, Mr. Obama spends political capital and taxpayer wealth for a healthcare policy whose very means provide ends contrary to his altruistic expectations. Yet there is another way. Free, unrestricted markets can provide for all of America's healthcare needs. To work, free markets do not need government intervention -- they only require Americans take back the freedom of choice, and its counterpart, responsibility. It requires that doctors exercise moral and ethical judgment in their treatment of patients. It requires patients to exercise good judgment. Outstanding judgment must override the idealistic impulse. Mr Obama and his healthcare allies would do well to heed the adage of the great F.A. Hayek, the Nobel prizewinning economist, "That no single purpose must be allowed in peace to have absolute preference over all others applies even to the one aim which everybody now agrees comes in the front rank -- [the creation of universal healthcare]. There can be no doubt that this must be the goal of our greatest endeavor, even so, it does not mean that such an aim should be allowed to dominate us to the exclusion of everything else, that, as the glib phrase runs, it must be accomplished at any price. It is, in fact, in this field that the fascination of vague but popular phrases like ['universal healthcare'] may well lead to extremely shortsighted measures, and where the categorical and irresponsible "it must be done at all cost" of the single-minded idealist is likely to do the greatest harm."[11]

[1] A well known case of this is seen in Micheal Moore's film, Sicko, in which doctors, aided by taxi drivers and an administrative policy, refused service to homeless patients.
[2] A relatively large amount, whether based upon a conservative estimate (in the tens or twenties of millions) to the highest estimates of 40-60 million.
[3] For this assumption I rely both on F.A. Hayek's "The Road to Serfdom", and a historical observation on the incompetence of government planners in fiscal policy. I encourage the concerned citizen to consider Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and their respective budgetary overruns.
[4] If one needs further evidence of this, I encourage the concerned citizen to consider educational costs and the costs imposed by the prison system.
[5] Few, if any large corporations will accept an additional healthcare burden. Corporations are profit-seeking; they will exploit any loophole to minimize costs. This is seen both in terms of taxes as well as in labor costs.
[6] While this may temporarily benefit businesses, these benefits will be offset by the increase in taxes to support the healthcare system.
[7] I encourage the citizen to consider oversight as evidenced in the No Child Left Behind Act.
[8] Marginal product of labor=change in quantity/change in labor=change in the number of patients/change in the number of doctors=change in the number of patients/change in the number of billable hours.
[9] An assumption which stems from the premise of resource scarcity.
[10] A link to Dr. Cochrane's work is available online.
[11] F.A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom

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California's Day of Reckoning: May 19

by Gary North

On May 19, Californians will go to the polls to decide the fate of six propositions. These propositions all deal with the tax code. Passage of all five of them is required to ratify the compromise that was hammered out by Governor Schwarzenegger and the legislature. That compromise was facilitated by the vote of one Republican, who switched sides after weeks of deadlock. A two-thirds vote is required by law in each house. Three Republicans in each house voted for it – the bare necessity. The last man to switch was Abel Maldonado, a businessman.

The compromise mandates $14 billion in tax hikes. Some compromise!

The state is facing a deficit of $42 billion. That is not the total budget. That is the deficit. One nonpartisan website summarizes:

The California state budget, according to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on January 16, is in a "state of crisis." He said that the $42 billion deficit the state faces "is a rock upon our chest and we cannot breathe until we get it off." As recently as October 2008, the state was projecting a much smaller deficit in the range of $8 billion. Even with the smaller deficit the state was marked as a state "that couldn't pay for itself" by BusinessWeek for having the highest percentage budget gap in America, with 22 percent.

If any of the five fail, the budget package must go back to the legislature. The fiscal year begins on July 1. There is not much time to come up with a solution.

The polls indicate that five of the six will fail. Only one is assured of passage. That one specifies that if the state runs a deficit, there will be no pay raises for legislators in that fiscal year. That proposition is on the ballot only because the vote-switching Republican made it a condition of his vote to raise taxes. Their pay is $116,000 a year, plus $170 a day for expenses. Frozen? The horror!

The governor has been on the road across the state promoting yes votes on these propositions. Yet, back in 1990, he sat in front of the cameras and did a promotional for Milton Friedman's PBS TV series, "Free to Choose." His rhetoric was libertarian. You can view his promotional on YouTube.

Decades ago, my friend M. Stanton Evans came up with a law, comparable to Murphy's Law. I came across it in a delightful compilation of these laws, a book titled "The Official Rules." It is designated as Evans' Law of Political Perfidy. "When our friends are elected, they aren't our friends any more."

Anyone who imagines that electing someone governor in a high-tax welfare state like California is going to make a difference is suffering from political delusion. The governor could have killed this monstrosity with a veto. Instead, he is campaigning for it.

His public opinion rating is down to 33%. That makes him a winner. The legislature's favorable rating is at 14% (Field Poll). Critics are likely to vote no on the Big 5.

Within days, it will be panic time in Sacramento. The governor and the legislature will have to come up with another compromise. The last one almost did not materialize.

Republicans are in a position to kill this spending monstrosity. Their votes can keep the two-thirds majority from occurring.

If California adheres to the state constitution, a no vote on May 19 will de-rail the state's finances. The state will have to survive with whatever revenues the existing tax code will generate. The recession is cutting revenues rapidly and across the board.

Then the credit-rating agencies will go to work. There is a high probability that California's credit rating will be lowered within a few weeks. This will also take down the bonds of municipalities, for cities that depend on state funding.

If California's credit rating falls, the state will have to pay more interest to generate lenders who will buy its bonds. But who wants to lend to a state whose legislature is paralyzed and whose governor cannot persuade voters to agree to a budget deal? What likelihood is there that California will go bankrupt within a few months? Unless the Federal government bails out the state, the likelihood of bankruptcy is high.

This is why I think Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) will attempt to push a bailout bill through the House of Representatives when California's voters turn down the budget. If she is successful, then a new precedent is set. The U.S. government becomes the lender of last resort to state governments that are faced with a taxpayer revolt.

That will mean that all American taxpayers will be 6n the hook. The lender of last resort is the taxpayer, who must fund the Federal government.


There are high-income Americans who invest in municipal bonds. They don't have to pay Federal taxes on income from these bonds. This is a Federal subsidy to municipal debt. But municipal bonds rest on the ability of cities to generate sufficient revenues to pay off the bonds.

It should be clear by now that the bankruptcy of California will raise doubts about the solvency of the muni bond market. The Federal government will be pressured to use revenues from national taxpayers to subsidize bonds that exempt their holders from taxation. Talk about a redistribution of wealth!

The endless subsidies of the current tax system are so numerous and so complex that no one can sort them out. The system rests on the assumption that municipalities will not go bankrupt. But they can.

The ultimate guarantor of state bonds would then be the Federal government by way of the Federal Reserve System. This means monetary inflation: funding the Federal government. But price inflation raises long-term interest rates (bonds), which lowers the market value of existing bonds.

The economy is dependent on the Federal Reserve System to fund any shortfall in the Federal government that results when private investors and foreign central banks fail to buy Treasury debt. That raises the issue of the long-term viability of the bond market.


California's crisis will escalate on May 20. It will be clear to everyone that there is a tax revolt in progress. Californians have this wonderful advantage: they must approve every tax hike. The state constitution mandates this. This means that they can veto the spending plans of state politicians. This threatens the unions.

The trade union movement is on its last legs in the United States. The collapse of the Big Three auto manufacturers has put the United Auto Workers on the defensive. The UAW pension fund now owns 55% of Chrysler. That means it owns 55% of a turkey. Industrial unions are barely visible today.

Unions still have large memberships in government bureaucracies. The teachers' union is the largest in the country. But a budgetary crisis in California points to what is coming nationally. Taxpayers are going to revolt. The revolt has begun.

California is a high-tax, high-spending state. It is now facing the end result of a political system that believes that the state can always collect more money from the public. The public is about to issue a veto.

The amazing fact is that mainstream media pundits see this veto as a big mistake on the part of voters. Somehow, voters do not perceive that higher taxes are a good thing. They are going to vote down tax hikes that are needed to fund "vital services."

The pundits cannot come to grips with the concept of vital services purchased by taxpayers with their after-tax income. The pundits are ready to accept a $14 billion tax hike, despite the fact that this will reduce the number of vital services that taxpaying citizens can afford to purchase for themselves. For the pundits, vital services are those services supplied by the state, which has either a monopoly over the supply of these services or else provides subsidies for them.

The threat of a tax revolt to the union movement is very great. If union members can no longer extract wealth by way of the ballot box – "yes" on debt and taxes – then they will face either unemployment or wage cuts. They will lose their competitive advantage, which rests on their ability to force government agencies to deal with them. The agencies are not allowed to hire non-union workers.

I did a Google search for the following:

vital services
May 19, 2009

Here are the hits. You can click on some links. See how many lead to sites run by state employees, unions, local governments, and Democratic Party politicians.

California leads the nation in trends, both good and bad. This is one of the good ones. Politicians around the nation will be aware of the outcome of this election. They will see that they cannot rely on taxpayers to foot the bill for every pork-laden budget.

The economy is in recession. The tax base is falling. Revenues are falling. State expenditures are rising because of unemployment insurance expenses. When the voters get through with five of the six propositions, California's yes-vote legislators will find that their yes votes not only did them no good, they exposed the state's government to a crisis. They will have to pay for "vital services" with revenues generated in a recession.

The state's deficit will move up like a rocket. There will be no way to raise added money through taxes. The state will have to borrow. It will find that it must pay much higher interest to secure the loans.

All eyes will turn to Washington and Mrs. Pelosi. Like Mecca to Muslims is Washington to state politicians. Politicians do not bow in prayer facing Washington five times a day, but they surely make phone calls to Congressmen and Senators.

The faster the dominoes fall at the state level, the more pressure there will be on Washington to run a larger deficit. Politicians cannot bring themselves to live within a budget. They see vital services – and vital votes – on all sides. They refuse to cut vital services. They always hope for another deferral of the day of reckoning.

Politicians believe in something for nothing. Washington is going to be asked to supply lots and lots of something for nothing. California's politicians want to be able to go before their constituents and assure them that vital services will still be available at below-market prices. Uncle Sugar has come up with the money.


Politicians believe in the bottomless pit of tax revenues. They are like investors who think the same thing about corporate bailouts. Washington is seen by all as a bottomless pit of wealth to fund vital services. All services are vital, although some are more vital than others. Which are the most vital ones? Those that are supplied by union members. Unions vote as blocs.

The bottomless pit is the taxpayer. He is called on to fork over the money. But he is now using a knife rather than a fork. In California, voters have knives. They will use them on May 19.

The Federal Reserve System is the bottomless pit during recessions. It will soon face a new source of demand: state governments that cannot balance their budgets or sell their bonds.

If the Federal government bails out California's government in order to overcome a veto by voters, then voters can forget about reining in state governments. They can veto spending, but they will wind up paying for Federal bailouts of busted state governments.

If Congress does not hold the line in this issue, the precedent will be set in concrete. Governors from now on will say: "You bailed out Arnold. Why not bail out me?"

The political centralization process will escalate. When the Federal government is seen as the escape hatch for state government spenders, it will pay to spend, run up a huge deficit, and threaten to default.

California voters will send Sacramento a message on May 19. The question will then be this: What message will Congress send to state legislatures around the nation?


I suggest that you pay attention to the results of the special election of May 19. Be prepared to see a bailout of the state government by Congress. Here are the political questions that will face Congress on May 20.

If AIG is too big to fail, what about California's government?

If Chrysler is entitled to almost $8 billion in Federal funding just to go bankrupt, how much should Congress pay to keep California from going bankrupt?

I expect an emergency bailout package to be signed, sealed, and delivered within weeks. The faster the bond market responds, the faster Congress will act.

Let us see whose budget gets cut: California's or ours. Probably ours.

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