The Militant Libertarian

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

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Right of Secession

Got comments? Email me, dammit!
Permanent link for this article which can be used on any website:

Photos show rape and sex abuse in Iraq jails: report


LONDON (Reuters) - Photographs of Iraqi prisoner abuse which U.S. President Barack Obama does not want released include images of apparent rape and sexual abuse, Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper reported on Thursday.

The images are among photographs included in a 2004 report into prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib prison conducted by U.S. Major General Antonio Taguba.

Taguba included allegations of rape and sexual abuse in his report, and on Wednesday he confirmed to the Daily Telegraph that images supporting those allegations were also in the file.

"These pictures show torture, abuse, rape and every indecency," Taguba, who retired in January 2007, was quoted as saying in the paper.

He said he supported Obama's decision not to release them, even though Obama had previously pledged to disclose all images relating to abuses at Abu Ghraib and other U.S.-run prisons in Iraq.

"I am not sure what purpose their release would serve other than a legal one," Taguba said. "The sequence would be to imperil our troops, the only protectors of our foreign policy, when we most need them, and British troops who are trying to build security in Afghanistan.

"The mere depiction of these pictures is horrendous enough, take my word for it."

The newspaper said at least one picture showed an American soldier apparently raping a female prisoner while another is said to show a male translator raping a male detainee.

Others are said to depict sexual assaults with objects including a truncheon, wire and a phosphorescent tube.

The photographs relate to 400 alleged cases of abuse carried out at Abu Ghraib and six other prisons between 2001 and 2005.

Got comments? Email me, dammit!
Permanent link for this article which can be used on any website:

Friday, May 29, 2009

Good and Bad Government

by Michael S. Rozeff

Aggression is the act of attacking, invading, or injuring a peaceful or innocent person. Peaceful or innocent behavior is non-aggressive behavior. (Peaceful behavior does not exclude defensive behavior, which may include actions to repel aggression.)

Human government is the means of coordinating interpersonal human action.

There is good government and there is bad government. To begin with they are defined next according to the libertarian view, which is then expounded. Later, I look at good and bad government in greater generality.

The defining feature of bad government is coordination by aggression, that is, either compulsion (power, violence) or imposition (deception, fraud, trickery, cheating) against the wills of peaceful people who are not using either compulsion or imposition.

Good government is government that is not bad government.

A (political) State is an organization that employs bad government.

(General) political freedom is the (general) social condition of human action in which there is not bad government.

A particular political freedom is a variety of human action undertaken in a condition in which bad government does not coordinate that human action. For example, freedom of assembly occurs when bad government does not affect the wills of people in the act of assembling, or when neither compulsion nor imposition affect the wills of people in the act of assembling.

Since the set of human action is indefinitely large, the set of all particular political freedoms is indefinitely large. Any list of political freedoms is bound to be incomplete.

Since a State employs bad government, a State does not protect political freedom. A State destroys political freedom.

Any supposed freedom, such as freedom from starvation, that is obtained by use of the State, and thus by use of bad government, cannot be and is not a freedom, since the very use of bad government affects the wills of some peaceful persons. So-called positive freedoms, compliments of the State, are merely instances of bad government in action.

A political right is the same as a political freedom, except that it is couched in different terms. Everything that is called a right is not a right, anymore than everything that is called a freedom is a freedom, as the case of positive "freedoms" demonstrates. For example, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State." Since such an entitlement requires bad government, there is no such right and no such freedom. (This does not mean that good government cannot bring about protection of the family.)

Since rights are the same as freedoms, no complete list of rights can be made.

All of the preceding that begins with the definition of good and bad government is libertarian political philosophy, and it all follows from the definition of bad government.

While this clarifies the libertarian case, it does not solve the problem of philosophical conflicts.

Suppose that political opponents, libertarian and non-libertarian, agree on what compulsion and imposition in government mean. Then they may still disagree about what is good and bad. The libertarian argues that any compulsion and imposition is bad under most or even all circumstances, while the non-libertarian argues that some compulsion and imposition is good under some or even many circumstances.

What the libertarian thinks is bad government, the non-libertarian may think of as good government.

This argument cannot be settled because different people have different ideas of what is good and bad. In order to choose among the alternative forms of government, a person has to decide what is good and bad.

Suppose the non-libertarian succeeds in imposing his form of government on the libertarian. Then the libertarian is unhappy because he experiences what for him is compulsion and/or imposition. Now suppose the opposite. Suppose that the libertarian succeeds in imposing his form of government on the non-libertarian. Then the non-libertarian is unhappy because he thinks that the good is going unachieved and/or that things are bad without the presence of compulsion (or what the libertarian thinks of as bad government).

A solution to this conflict is available. If each man chooses his own government and allows the other man the equal freedom to choose his own government, then each can live in peace with the government of his choice. As there is freedom of worship, which is non-compulsion in the choice of religion, there can be freedom of government, which is non-compulsion in the choice of government. Each may think that the government of the other is bad, but each also thinks that his own government is good. What is required for a solution between them is abiding the other man’s government.

I believe this is a good solution. For one thing, it establishes an open competition. Each person can observe the outcomes of his own choice and learn about the outcomes of alternative choices made by others. He can switch governments, in the same way that he switches cars, churches, and pizzas. The governments that supply their clients then have to change their ways of operating toward satisfying them or else losing membership. The incentive works in the direction of greater client satisfaction.

Two things, at least, stand in the way of this outcome. One is intolerance and the other is the attempt to dominate others and gain from it. Utopia is not going to break out suddenly.

The perfect should not, however, be the enemy of the good. It is the idea of a variety of consensual governments operating on what is now the territory of a single government that matters here. It is the concept that government, which is the coordination of interpersonal human action, need not necessarily be a single government over all persons in a given region. A very great amount of interpersonal action can be coordinated in different ways for different people who are living near one another. For example, a good many people wish to sleep when it is dark, and they do not want to be disturbed by loud music and other people mowing their lawns at 3 a.m. Government coordinates this by various laws, but people also do this themselves by choices of location; and property developers who owned and leased property could do this by creating rules that satisfied lessors.

The U.S. government says that every citizen must participate in a variety of social programs. These are a major part of government today. This is like saying that there is one church in America and everybody is a member, whether they like it or not, and every person must contribute a certain amount of their income which will then be distributed according to certain rules decided by an official church body. Let those who want such rules and programs have them, and those who do not want them not have them. Open these programs to membership only upon subscription and not by compulsion. Let neither side force its views on the other. Let each side mind its own business and keep its hands off the business of others.

Some people want lots of government, others want little or none. Both cannot have their way if there is a single government. Both can have their way by choice of government. To get this, both have to give up the goal of making others conform to their own choice.

One of the main principles that Americans hold dear and have in common is freedom. Freedom involves acting without being compelled to act against one’s will. There cannot be freedom without tolerance of what other people do with their freedom. There is freedom of movement to the extent that we tolerate where other people travel; we do not interfere with their movements. There is freedom of work to the extent that we ignore what others do when they choose their work; we do not interfere with their work. There is freedom of worship because we ignore the religions of others and how they worship.

In the case of work, the U.S. has developed rules that govern every aspect of hiring and firing, hours worked, overtime, safety, liability, unionization, and so on. Freedom has been drastically reduced. In order to opt out, many businesses have moved to overseas jurisdictions. A single government backed up by a single judiciary coordinates the personal interactions of millions of employers and employees, whether they like it or not. Why can’t those who want to opt out of these arrangements be able to opt out? The only thing keeping many of them within this system is government force that is designed to favor certain interests at the expense of others. In this arena of human interaction as in many others, it is easy to conceive of multiple governments on the same territory. If one business and its employees want a government that meticulously sets the work rules, let them have it. And let those who do not want such a government coordinate their interactions in other ways. One can easily have one business operating with one set of rules in the same county or region or state as another business operating with a different set of rules. That is what goes on in the world today among countries.

The American Dream is a dream of general freedom. It has become a nightmare of compulsion and imposition in the eyes of those Americans who have different ideas of good and bad government from the government that they are forced to live under and that routinely violates their freedom.

Let Americans through their government stop being busybodies, busily interfering with each other’s lives constantly and in minute detail. This is the opposite of freedom, done in the false name of freedom.

There is only one way out: choice of government. This does not mean a vote for one of two parties that runs a single monopoly government. It means consent over the very form and content of one’s government. This consent will lead to multiple non-territorial governments.

Got comments? Email me, dammit!
Permanent link for this article which can be used on any website:

The Bullish Case for Silver

Got comments? Email me, dammit!
Permanent link for this article which can be used on any website:

US Promises to Fully Fund Israeli Missile Defense System, While Cutting Its Own

by sakerfa,

Even as Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was being raked over the coals in Congress for the decision to cut funding to America’s missile defense systems, Israeli defense officials have revealed that Israel’s own Arrow 3 missile defense system will be “fully funded” by the United States yet again this year.

Israel has been working on the Arrow defense system for over 20 years with heavy US backing. It is reported that the costs for the upcoming year will be nearly $100 million. Israel’s system will be showcased later this year in a joint operation with the US military.

A successful test of a long-range Iranian missile today brought the issue of America’s missile defense systems in Europe into focus, though the missile’s maximum range still put it well short of the US bases in Poland and the Czech Republic, ostensibly being built for that purpose.

Secretary Gates defended the $1.2 billion in cuts to the Missile Defense Agency, despite criticism from some members of Congress. Gates said the suitability of some of the cut programs for their purposes were “highly questionable.” The newfound concern over the usefulness of US weapons programs will not, it seems, extend to foreign military aid.

Got comments? Email me, dammit!
Permanent link for this article which can be used on any website:

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Idiot Troopers Pull Over Ambulance For "Failure to Yield"

Troopers in need of not just anger management courses, but some serious slapping around and lessons in common sense, pulled over an ambulance for "failure to yield." While the ambulance was on its way to the hospital with a patient inside.

The incident happened in Oklahoma. Apparently, two State Troopers came up on an ambulance, on a possible emergency call of their own, and then took time out of their busy days to pull the ambulance over. Why?

Because the Troopers believe that whatever their "emergency" is (the one that apparently wasn't, since they had time to stop the ambulance) trumps the medical emergency inside the ambulance.

A witness to the events, the son of the woman in the back of the ambulance, caught the scene on his cell phone video camera. Troopers confront, yell at, and attempt to arrest the ambulance driver.

The Trooper in question is still out on the streets, pending "review" by the department (that's police for "we're circling the wagons and waiting for this whole thing to blow over so we can forget about it). The ambulance driver could face charges for obstruction of justice, assaulting a police officer, etc.

Public outrage over the whole thing is probably the only reason that ambulance driver/EMT isn't in jail right now.

The story is captured in three news reports, linked here:
EMT In Confrontation With Trooper Speaks Out
EMT Could Face Charges After Incident With Trooper
Witness Says Trooper May Need Anger Management

Got comments? Email me, dammit!
Permanent link for this article which can be used on any website:

A Telling Look At Maps

(Click to enlarge)

Got comments? Email me, dammit!
Permanent link for this article which can be used on any website:

Armageddon Now?

Information Clearing House

by Nadia Hijab

Of all the analysis generated by the Obama-Netanyahu meeting Robert Satloff's is the most significant. Satloff is executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, which serves as AIPAC's think tank. His piece, circulated Thursday, provides insights into what the lobby -- and Israel -- might do next. And it should ring alarm bells.

Satloff starts quietly enough. Unlike other analysts, he is relatively sanguine about the divergences between the United States president and the Israeli prime minister over the peace process.

For example, he believes that American-Israeli differences about the "natural growth" of Israel's existing (illegal) settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, though contentious, have been managed before and can be managed again.

This demonstrates confidence in AIPAC's clout in Congress as regards the peace process. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton can tell Al Jazeera, as she did Tuesday, "We want to see a stop to settlement construction, additions, natural growth - any kind of settlement activity" as often as she likes. Water off the AIPAC back.

But when it comes to Iran, Satloff is very worried indeed. He doesn't buy the New York Times' spin that Barack Obama, a master of nuance, gave Iran a clear deadline. He frets that Obama's plan to wait until year-end to reassess the position means Iran can spin its centrifuges for six more months. And even then there may still be no stomach for "crippling" sanctions in Europe or America.

Satloff sees a "stark" difference between Obama's goal of preventing Iran from having a nuclear weapon and Netanyahu's determination to prevent Iran from even acquiring a nuclear capability.

He believes there are chances of a collision between the United States and Israel potentially more damaging than the "face-off" over Suez. Great care, he concludes, should be taken to prevent the divergence over Iran from "metastasizing into the worst crisis in the six decades of U.S.-Israeli relations."

Satloff's analysis is alarming because Iran has been an Israeli -- hence AIPAC -- priority for several years. The peace process consistently takes second or third place on the AIPAC agenda behind sanctioning Iran and aid to Israel. Indeed, the lobby treats the Palestinian question as something largely dealt with, on the back burner while more urgent matters are pursued.

For example, at the 2007 conference of Christians United for Israel (CUFI) -- AIPAC's strange bedfellows on the Christian right whom Netanyahu has assiduously courted for years -- the 4,000 attendees were asked to push three issues with their Congressional representatives. The top demand: stop Iran's nuclear program and let it know military action is an option. The other two: stopping Hezbollah rearmament, and supporting aid to Israel. All three also featured prominently on the AIPAC website.

A fourth lobbying issue -- not to pressure Israel to give up land -- was only added when former president George Bush proposed an international peace conference in a speech that coincided with the CUFI conference. (See the Autumn 2007 issue of the Journal of Palestine Studies for an in-depth account.)

That addition was particularly important to the Christian Zionists, who don't want Israel to cede an inch of occupied territory. They believe the Second Coming will take place after the ingathering of Jews and the Battle of Armageddon. CUFI lobbied hard to delay a ceasefire during Israel's attack on Lebanon in June 2006 in case that was it. Netanyahu's Christian Zionist allies would eagerly support an Israeli attack on Iran.

AIPAC's top legislative priority at present is securing legislation to sanction Iran's ability to import and produce petroleum products (draft resolutions H.R. 2194 in the House and S. 908 in the Senate.) Iran imports some 40% of its needs so such sanctions would indeed be crippling.

AIPAC also wants legislation to support state and local government divestment from Iran's oil and gas sector (H.R. 1327), another longstanding Israeli desire.

So will Israel wait quietly for the next six months while centrifuges spin before its eyes? Not if Netanyahu's take-home message is that the Obama Administration is willing to live with an Iranian nuclear capability as distinct from a nuclear weapon. And not if the past is any guide: Iraq's Osirak reactor in 1981 and a suspected Syrian site in 2007 were just two pre-emptive Israeli strikes against perceived threats.

Israel often launches surprise attacks when the world is on holiday or there is a power vacuum. Most recently, it attacked Gaza just before New Year and a few weeks before Obama took office. Summer holidays are just around the corner, as is a political transition -- the Iranian presidential elections scheduled for June 12. If you'd rather not be around for Armageddon, pray for a short, cool summer.

Got comments? Email me, dammit!
Permanent link for this article which can be used on any website:

Employer's gold, silver payroll standard may bring hard time


Robert Kahre, who owns numerous construction businesses in Las Vegas, is standing trial on 57 counts of income tax evasion, tax fraud and criminal conspiracy. If convicted on most counts, he could live out his life in prison.

But attorney William Cohan paints Kahre as an American "hero" who believes his payroll system helped keep the U.S. monetary system sound, and was also a form of legal tax avoidance.

A self-made entrepreneur, Kahre, 48, paid his workers in gold and silver coin, and said they could go by the coins' face value -- rather than the much higher market value of their precious metal content -- for federal tax purposes. He did not withhold taxes from their wages, and he provided the same payroll system to 35 outside clients, which were other local businesses.

Judge David Ezra is presiding over the criminal trial, which began May 19 in U.S. District Court. Joining Kahre as defendants are his longtime girlfriend, a sister who works in his businesses, and a former business assistant.

Three of the four present defendants were among the nine people tried on similar charges two years ago, but no convictions resulted. In the 2007 trial, four others of the nine defendants, including Kahre's mother, were entirely acquitted. Two individuals were only partially acquitted, but dropped from the indictment that forms the basis for the trial before Ezra.

This time around, the only new defendant is Danille Cline, Kahre's girlfriend of 19 years, and the stay-at-home mother of his four children. The government claims she obstructed the Internal Revenue Service by allowing Kahre to place several homes in her name, thus attempting to conceal his assets.

Cline's former brother-in-law, Thomas Browne, also was indicted this time, for his role as broker in some of the real estate transactions, but has since reached a plea bargain. He is expected to testify against the defendants.

"This is a case about money, greed and fraud." The line appeared on screen in court during the government's opening statement by Christopher Maietta, a trial lawyer from the Washington, D.C., office of the Department of Justice.

According to the government, Kahre and others concocted a fraudulent cash payroll "scheme" and then peddled it to other Las Vegas contractors. Defendants did not report to the IRS any payments made to workers, "either at the true amount or at the bogus amount, ... being the face value of the coin or coins," according to the indictment.

The now-suspended payroll service handled about $114 million over six years, according to court records. Between 17 and 25 percent of that went to Kahre or his workers; the rest went to the 35 client businesses to pay their workers, court records show.

The government did not indict most of the outside businesses or their personnel as co-conspirators with Kahre; although on May 6, Daniel McCartan of Action Concrete, which was one of Kahre's payroll clients, was finally sentenced in connection with a plea agreement reached in December 2006. McCartan received five months in prison and five months of home detention for one count of tax evasion.

Kahre contends his workers had agreed to be independent contractors, so he did not have to withhold taxes for them. His six businesses are in the trades of painting, drywall, tiling, plumbing, heating-cooling and electrical work.

Further, the $50 gold coins and the silver dollars Kahre used for payroll are designated by Congress as legal tender, so people are entitled to value them at their stamped denominations, he also contends. Taken at face value, each defendant's annual coin income placed him below the threshold for filing a federal tax return.

Earlier cases on the question of how to value gold or silver coins have focused on collectible coins that had been pulled from circulation but still have value as property, according to the defense. Kahre used coins minted after 1985, which are allowed to circulate.

"It's not whether what Mr. Kahre did was legal under the law," defense attorney Michael Kennedy told the jury in his opening statement. "It's whether he believed what he did was legal," in the absence of explicit instructions by the IRS -- on its Web site, in its publications or in response to written correspondence from Kahre -- on how to value post-1985 gold or silver coins.

"We're not here to determine if moneys are owed," said Kennedy on behalf of his client, Lori Kahre, who had relied on her brother's tax theory. A tax mistake is different from a tax crime, so the IRS can still use administrative channels to force the defendants to pay back taxes, Kennedy has noted in the past.

A sincere, but mistaken understanding of the tax-filing process is different from adopting a "pretextual" belief system in order to dodge taxes, Ezra acknowledged in court Wednesday.

Cohan described Kahre's payroll system as a "boycott of the Federal Reserve." But when the lawyer attempted to elaborate on Kahre's view that the nation has debased its paper currency by abandoning its former gold standard, Ezra added, "We're not here to convince the jury that the ... (U.S.) monetary system belongs to an international cabal."

Got comments? Email me, dammit!
Permanent link for this article which can be used on any website:

German firm plans gold ATMs to meet growing demand

by Peter Starck, Reuters

FRANKFURT, May 19 (Reuters) - Private investors should hold up to 15 percent of their wealth in physical gold, according to a German asset management company which plans to set up 500 "Gold-To-Go" ATMs in Germany, Switzerland and Austria this year.

A gold-dispensing automatic teller machine (ATM) was on display at Frankfurt's main railway station for a one-day marketing test on Tuesday.

A one-gram (0.0353 ounce) piece of gold, the size of a child's little fingernail and about as thin, cost 31 euros ($42.25) -- a 30 percent premium to the spot market price .

The flat rectangular piece, bearing the imprint of Belgian metals and speciality materials firm Umicore (UMI.BR: Quote, Profile, Research), came out of the cash-only ATM in a tin box, including a certificate of authenticity.

"This is more than a marketing gimmick," said Thomas Geissler, chief executive of, the company planning to set up the 500 gold ATMs at a cost of 20,000 euros apiece.

"It is an appetizer for a strategic investment in precious metals. Gold is an asset everyone should have, between 5 and 15 percent of your liquid assets in physical gold," he told Reuters in an interview.


Private investor demand for gold is on the rise in Germany and elsewhere as a result of the financial markets crisis, which has made many investors wary of holding traditional assets such as equities, bonds or mutual funds investing in such securities.

"In absolute numbers, the demand for physical gold is still tiny in Germany," Geissler said. "But in relative terms, the growth is explosive, inquiries have been doubling every six weeks," Geissler said of the trend in recent months.'s main precious metals business idea is based on online commerce.

The gold ATMs to be set up at central locations such as airports, railway stations and shopping malls are intended to gradually accustom people to the idea of investing in physical gold, Geissler said.

The ATMs will dispense 1-gram, 5-gram and 10-gram pieces of gold as well as Krugerrand gold coins. Each ATM can hold up to 1,500 pieces, he said.

The company's internet website (, through which investors can purchase units between 1 gram and 1,000 grams, is updating precious metals prices every 10 minuntes.

The ATMs will be equipped with technology ensuring that the prices charged by the ATMs keep pace with those on the website. is a subsidiary of German online investment fund company INFOS GmbH founded in 1994. INFOS now manages 170 million euros worth of assets on behalf of about 5,000 customers.

Got comments? Email me, dammit!
Permanent link for this article which can be used on any website:

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Democratic Fascism

Got comments? Email me, dammit!
Permanent link for this article which can be used on any website:

The Separation of Marriage and State

by Jerry Salcido

On March 5, 2009, the California Supreme Court heard oral argument in five consolidated lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the controversial November 2008 California ballot initiative, Proposition 8, which added an amendment to the California Constitution to limit "marriage" between one man and one woman. Lawyers who represent public interest groups, universities, official campaigns, individuals, companies, churches, and various other organizations who advocate and oppose Proposition 8 offered their best arguments to the seven justice panel regarding why Proposition 8 should or should not be overturned. Regardless of how the court ends up ruling, however, only one winner will clearly emerge from the courthouse -- the State.

Proposition 8 was a hotly contested issue during the weeks and months leading up to the November California election. Proponents warned about the negative implications that same sex marriage would have on children in public schools and society in general. Opponents argued that Proposition 8 denied gays and lesbians equal treatment under the law. Opponents even invented clever epithets such as "Don't h8" and "Let me choose my m8," all ending with the admonition to "Vote No on Prop 8."

Proposition 8 passed with 52.3% of the total vote, by about 600,000 more yea votes than nays. The day after Proposition 8 passed, its opponents began filing lawsuits challenging its validity and more than 40 amicus briefs (friend of the court briefs) were subsequently filed.

In addition to the lawsuits, Prop 8's foes immediately expressed their ire on the streets of Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, and even Manhattan, Chicago, and Seattle and various other venues throughout the United States. They marched in front of Mormon temples and other Christian worship centers and through city streets. City police departments were placed on riot alert, private property was defaced, and multiple arrests were made.

While Mormons bore the brunt of the No Crowd's displeasure, Prop 8's opponents also cast blame on blacks (another group that overwhelmingly voted in favor of the Proposition) and even religion in general. Notably, however, adversaries of Proposition 8, in all of their finger pointing, have blindingly passed over their primary antagonist -- the state of California.

California, like the other 49 states and most countries in the world, holds a monopoly over marriage. Who can get married and un-married is at its sole discretion, through the granting and revocation of the marriage license -- that fiat currency, if you will, whose only value derives from the powers and privileges that accompany it at the behest of the State, but which nonetheless is required to consummate human relationships.

The state's involvement with marriage is rarely questioned. Advocates and enemies of same sex marriage alike all seek the endorsement of the state, never stopping to ask why the states approval is needed at all. The reason behind this submission appears simple enough -- the philosophy ascribed by our society today which has led to the displacement of the private sector with the substitution of the state in nearly all facets concerning the rights of life, liberty, and property has taken root in the marriage issue.

Thanks to the state, marriage is no longer a covenant between two people or between two people and God. No, marriage is a state classification, which connotes state-provided benefits or detriments. Marriage is married to the state imposed tax structure and the state created probate system, and in many instances marriage defines the powers of the state over the married individuals.

This unholy union between the state and marriage has transformed marriage from an inalienable or natural right in which government's only place was as protector of that right, to a civil right in which the state became the creator of the right.

Some, including California's attorney general Jerry Brown, have even reclassified marriage into a newly created type of right -- the offspring of a marriage between a civil right and a natural right. A naturvil or civatural right perhaps?

Jerry Brown, representing California's (and his own political) interests in the Prop 8 battle argued in his legal brief and at oral argument that since the California Supreme Court (that is, the State) has determined that "the right of same sex couples to marry" is "part of fundamental human liberty," and an "'inalienable' right,'" California voters cannot amend the California Constitution to intentionally withdraw that right "from a class of persons by an initiative amendment."

Mr. Brown correctly pointed out that inalienable rights are "beyond the power of the Legislature or the Executive to abrogate" and "'antedate' the constitution as inherent in human nature. . . ," but the attorney general's understanding of natural rights stops there, because he then paradoxically asserted that "the scope of liberty interests evolves over time as determined by the Supreme Court." In other words, inalienable rights exist, but at the whim of the state.

With this tortured logic the California AG, like any good representative of the state, moved to the next logical step and suggested that the real question which the Court should address is whether Proposition 8 "sufficiently furthers the public health, safety, or welfare" of the state of California. Thus, Mr. Brown opined that the interest at issue is not that of an individual natural right, but the interest of the state.

One wonders why Mr. Brown bothered to discuss inalienable rights at all.

The state attorney general's argument is indicative of the tainted philosophy that has enveloped modern society, infected our state and federal legislatures, and permeated our judicial system. First, the State declares what are and are not rights. Second, even if the State recognizes that something is a right, the State can abrogate that right so long as the State has a sufficient interest. Gone is the day when government's role was to protect the individual's natural rights.

By transitioning away from a protector of rights to a provider of rights, the state has laid the groundwork for the problems that are so evident in the same sex marriage issue. If the government were to take its proper place as a protector of rights then a private union between a same sex couple which the couple calls "marriage" would be inconsequential to same sex marriage opponents, even though it may be morally repugnant to some and nonsensical to others. Likewise, refusal to recognize a private same sex union as "marriage" would be inconsequential to gays and lesbians, even though such refusal may personally offend the practitioners of same sex unions. In a free society any individual could "marry" whomever he wants by whatever procedure he desires, and the government's only role would be to make sure that in doing so he does not violate the natural rights of others.

Such a scenario, of course, assumes that the state would be acting in its proper role as protector of rights in all regards, which would mean that private contractual relationships would replace the state created systems of benefits. Marriage, in that situation, would be relevant only where the contracting parties made it so; and, the state's only role with regards to such contracts would be to ensure that the contract is enforced or to protect the parties against the other's fraud.

A free society based on private contractual or covenantal relationships, however, is not what either side of Proposition 8 advocates. Proposition 8's supporters have used the state to solidify what they consider to be the appropriate private relationship. Proposition 8's opponents, on the other hand, want all of the state-provided benefits that come with being "married" and with that end in mind have used the state to force everyone to accept their relationships as equal.

Until we divorce marriage from the state, the right to marry will never be protected and the problems associated with Proposition 8 will be repeated throughout the world. Both sides of the Proposition, therefore, should agree to truly protect their natural rights by removing the state from the equation. In the meantime the world will wait to see how California protects its interests in the Proposition 8 lawsuits.

The outcome of the Proposition 8 lawsuits -- which we will know by June 3 -- may result in maintaining the status quo of marriage or it could cement the earlier judicially-created civil right to same sex marriage, but in the end marriage will not be strengthened -- only California's power over what otherwise should be a private covenant will. Indeed, Proposition 8, like the current economic problems, 9/11, or any other "crisis" has unfortunately served as a medium to expand the state's power at the expense of individual liberty.

Thus, to the advocates and opponents of Proposition 8 alike, the deb8 on Prop 8 is not about h8, choosing your m8, determining your f8, or whether it has come too l8, but whether we should give in to its b8 to infl8 the control of the st8.

Got comments? Email me, dammit!
Permanent link for this article which can be used on any website:

The Disease of Permanent War

by Chris Hedges

The embrace by any society of permanent war is a parasite that devours the heart and soul of a nation. Permanent war extinguishes liberal, democratic movements. It turns culture into nationalist cant. It degrades and corrupts education and the media, and wrecks the economy. The liberal, democratic forces, tasked with maintaining an open society, become impotent. The collapse of liberalism, whether in imperial Russia, the Austro-Hungarian Empire or Weimar Germany, ushers in an age of moral nihilism. This moral nihilism comes is many colors and hues. It rants and thunders in a variety of slogans, languages and ideologies. It can manifest itself in fascist salutes, communist show trials or Christian crusades. It is, at its core, all the same. It is the crude, terrifying tirade of mediocrities who find their identities and power in the perpetuation of permanent war.

It was a decline into permanent war, not Islam, which killed the liberal, democratic movements in the Arab world, ones that held great promise in the early part of the 20th century in countries such as Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Iran. It is a state of permanent war that is finishing off the liberal traditions in Israel and the United States. The moral and intellectual trolls—the Dick Cheneys, the Avigdor Liebermans, the Mahmoud Ahmadinejads—personify the moral nihilism of perpetual war. They manipulate fear and paranoia. They abolish civil liberties in the name of national security. They crush legitimate dissent. They bilk state treasuries. They stoke racism.

“War,” Randolph Bourne commented acidly, “is the health of the state.”

In “Pentagon Capitalism” Seymour Melman described the defense industry as viral. Defense and military industries in permanent war, he wrote, trash economies. They are able to upend priorities. They redirect government expenditures toward their huge military projects and starve domestic investment in the name of national security. We produce sophisticated fighter jets, while Boeing is unable to finish its new commercial plane on schedule. Our automotive industry goes bankrupt. We sink money into research and development of weapons systems and neglect renewable energy technologies to fight global warming. Universities are flooded with defense-related cash and grants, and struggle to find money for environmental studies. This is the disease of permanent war.

Massive military spending in this country, climbing to nearly $1 trillion a year and consuming half of all discretionary spending, has a profound social cost. Bridges and levees collapse. Schools decay. Domestic manufacturing declines. Trillions in debts threaten the viability of the currency and the economy. The poor, the mentally ill, the sick and the unemployed are abandoned. Human suffering, including our own, is the price for victory.

Citizens in a state of permanent war are bombarded with the insidious militarized language of power, fear and strength that mask an increasingly brittle reality. The corporations behind the doctrine of permanent war—who have corrupted Leon Trotsky’s doctrine of permanent revolution—must keep us afraid. Fear stops us from objecting to government spending on a bloated military. Fear means we will not ask unpleasant questions of those in power. Fear means that we will be willing to give up our rights and liberties for security. Fear keeps us penned in like domesticated animals.

Melman, who coined the term permanent war economy to characterize the American economy, wrote that since the end of the Second World War, the federal government has spent more than half its tax dollars on past, current and future military operations. It is the largest single sustaining activity of the government. The military-industrial establishment is a very lucrative business. It is gilded corporate welfare. Defense systems are sold before they are produced. Military industries are permitted to charge the federal government for huge cost overruns. Massive profits are always guaranteed.

Foreign aid is given to countries such as Egypt, which receives some $3 billion in assistance and is required to buy American weapons with $1.3 billion of the money. The taxpayers fund the research, development and building of weapons systems and then buy them on behalf of foreign governments. It is a bizarre circular system. It defies the concept of a free-market economy. These weapons systems are soon in need of being updated or replaced. They are hauled, years later, into junkyards where they are left to rust. It is, in economic terms, a dead end. It sustains nothing but the permanent war economy.

Those who profit from permanent war are not restricted by the economic rules of producing goods, selling them for a profit, then using the profit for further investment and production. They operate, rather, outside of competitive markets. They erase the line between the state and the corporation. They leech away the ability of the nation to manufacture useful products and produce sustainable jobs. Melman used the example of the New York City Transit Authority and its allocation in 2003 of $3 billion to $4 billion for new subway cars. New York City asked for bids, and no American companies responded. Melman argued that the industrial base in America was no longer centered on items that maintain, improve, or are used to build the nation’s infrastructure. New York City eventually contracted with companies in Japan and Canada to build its subway cars. Melman estimated that such a contract could have generated, directly and indirectly, about 32,000 jobs in the United States. In another instance, of 100 products offered in the 2003 L.L. Bean catalogue, Melman found that 92 were imported and only eight were made in the United States.

The late Sen. J. William Fulbright described the reach of the military-industrial establishment in his 1970 book “The Pentagon Propaganda Machine.” Fulbright explained how the Pentagon influenced and shaped public opinion through multimillion-dollar public relations campaigns, Defense Department films, close ties with Hollywood producers, and use of the commercial media. The majority of the military analysts on television are former military officials, many employed as consultants to defense industries, a fact they rarely disclose to the public. Barry R. McCaffrey, a retired four-star Army general and military analyst for NBC News, was, The New York Times reported, at the same time an employee of Defense Solutions Inc., a consulting firm. He profited, the article noted, from the sale of the weapons systems and expansion of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan he championed over the airwaves.

Our permanent war economy has not been challenged by Obama and the Democratic Party. They support its destructive fury because it funds them. They validate its evil assumptions because to take them on is political suicide. They repeat the narrative of fear because it keeps us dormant. They do this because they have become weaker than the corporate forces that profit from permanent war.

The hollowness of our liberal classes, such as the Democrats, empowers the moral nihilists. A state of permanent war means the inevitable death of liberalism. Dick Cheney may be palpably evil while Obama is merely weak, but to those who seek to keep us in a state of permanent war, it does not matter. They get what they want. Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote “Notes From the Underground” to illustrate what happens to cultures when a liberal class, like ours, becomes sterile, defeated dreamers. The main character in “Notes From the Underground” carries the bankrupt ideas of liberalism to their logical extreme. He becomes the enlightenment ideal. He eschews passion and moral purpose. He is rational. He prizes realism over sanity, even in the face of self-destruction. These acts of accommodation doom the Underground Man, as it doomed imperial Russia and as it will doom us.

“I never even managed to become anything: neither wicked nor good, neither a scoundrel nor an honest man, neither a hero nor an insect,” the Underground Man wrote. “And now I am living out my life in my corner, taunting myself with the spiteful and utterly futile consolation that it is even impossible for an intelligent man seriously to become anything, and only fools become something.”

We have been drawn into the world of permanent war by these fools. We allow fools to destroy the continuity of life, to tear apart all systems—economic, social, environmental and political—that sustain us. Dostoevsky was not dismayed by evil. He was dismayed by a society that no longer had the moral fortitude to confront the fools. These fools are leading us over the precipice. What will rise up from the ruins will not be something new, but the face of the monster that has, until then, remained hidden behind the facade.

Got comments? Email me, dammit!
Permanent link for this article which can be used on any website:

Obama’s Economic Recovery ‘Advisory’ Board: Little dissent, lots of self-dealing on climate


President Obama’s so-called Economic Recovery Advisory Board held its first quarterly meeting today — it was a spectacle of the sort of self-dealing and corruption that we may rightly expect to become routine if cap-and-trade legislation passes.

After the meeting, CNBC’s Becky Quick interviewed ERAB board member John Doerr, head of the venture capital firm of Kleiner Perkins — that’s right, the very same Kleiner Perkins that has invested more than $1 billion in 40 cap-and-trade-dependent business ventures and that has Al Gore as a partner.

Doerr said that ERAB talked about the need for:

* Green technologies;
* Cap-and-trade; and
* Rewarding electric utilities for selling less electricity.

Doerr also told Quick that an EPA analysis showed that cap-and-trade would cost Americans less than $100 per year. (LOL!)

But we have no reason to believe that Doerr wouldn’t say and do absolutely anything to help ram through cap-and-trade legislation that would enable his firm to steal billions of dollars from consumers and taxpayers through bogus Al Gore-endorsed “green technologies.”

If you’re thinking that Doerr is only one voice on the ERAB and that less-biased heads will prevail, think again. Here are the other ERAB members and their interests/positions on cap-and-trade:

* Austan Goolsbee as staff director and chief economist (Obama administration);
* William H. Donaldson, SEC Chair, 2003-05 (Obama supporter who has spoken in support of climate legislation);
* Roger W. Ferguson, Jr., president and CEO, TIAA-CREF (TIAA-CREF promotes climate change legislation through shareholder activism and possibly stands to benefit from “green” investments);
* Robert Wolf, chairman and CEO, UBS (sells climate change-related financial products);
* David F. Swensen, CIO, Yale University (Yale supports climate change legislation);
* Mark T. Gallogly, founder and managing partner, Centerbridge Partners L.P. (early Obama supporter);
* Penny Pritzker, chairwoman, Pritzker Realty Group (Obama campaign finance chairman);
* Jeffrey R. Immelt, CEO, GE (parent company of NBC News) (lobbying for climate legislation through USCAP);
* John Doerr, partner at Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers (lobbying for climate legislation through Al Gore);
* Jim Owens, chairman and CEO, Caterpillar Inc. (lobbying for climate change legislation through USCAP);
* Monica C. Lozano, publisher & chief executive officer, La Opinion (her newspaper endorsed Obama);
* Charles E. Phillips, Jr., president, Oracle (wants to use Oracle technology to ration electricity to consumers through a “smart grid”);
* Anna Burger, chairwoman, Change to Win (union group that supports green jobs);
* Richard L. Trumka, secretary-treasurer, AFL-CIO (the union has joined with greens to lobby for climate legislation);
* Laura D’Andrea Tyson, dean, Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley (Obama supporter who has advocated climate change legislation);
* Martin Feldstein, professor of Economics, Harvard (opposes cap-and-trade)

So of the 16 members of Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board, only one (Feldstein) opposes cap-and-trade. At least six (Immelt, Owens, Doerr, Ferguson, Wolf, Phillips) expect direct financial benefits from cap-and-trade. The remaining members are either Obama supporters/employees or union representatives. Taxpayers, consumers and non-rent-seeking businesses have been left out in the cold.

Click here for the Quick-Doerr interview. Don’t miss Green Hell endorser Larry Kudlow’s anti-green fusillade at the end.

Got comments? Email me, dammit!
Permanent link for this article which can be used on any website:

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Hot Potato

From the Bipolar Freak

As hope and change work their way through our economy, many people wonder what is the best investment to make with their hard earned dollars. I could invest in the stock market and pray the government doesn’t nationalize the industries in which I have invested. I may buy low-interest government bonds and watch inflation gobble up my savings. There are also commodity options such as gold or even non-hybrid seeds. Until some respectable economist presents an outline as to how the U.S. economy recovers without spurring hyperinflation, I will spend every dollar I earn as fast as I can.

With the government printing money faster than Al Gore can burn jet fuel, an inflationary spiral cannot be long in coming. Once the inevitable inflation monster begins, consumers will dispose of their dollars as quickly as they can. This will exacerbate the inflation problem and the last person left holding the dollar bills is the biggest loser. I intend to convert my dollars into tangible goods before the game of hot potato begins.

Many would suggest an investment in gold as a way to protect against inflation. This would be a decent strategy when a society is peaceful and stable. The principle breaks down if you factor in roaming bands of violent thieves who walk into your home and take your gold and your life. It will also not turn out so well if the government outlaws possession of any form of gold. After an initial investment of several solid firearms, the wise individual would concentrate on purchasing large quantities of ammunition.

Financial collapse will immediately bring the worst out of drug addicted pantywaists. Fortunately, a few well armed citizens will easily eradicate this scourge, because druggies can’t shoot straight. More difficulty will come with the next wave of individuals. These are the multitude of able bodied Americans who have been conditioned to expect food and comfort without having to do a stitch of work. Only communities comprised of large numbers of responsible gun owners can expect to survive the hungry mobs.

One can only speculate as to the Federal Government’s final solution to an economic meltdown. Hopefully, our country’s leaders will realize the stabilizing effect of the moral citizens’ strength. Then we may unite and figure out what to do when China comes to lay claim to property which they believe is rightfully theirs.

Got comments? Email me, dammit!
Permanent link for this article which can be used on any website:

The Medicare Ponzi Scheme

by John Stossel

Isn't it high time America did less for the elderly? A politically incorrect question for sure. But Medicare has an astounding $34-trillion unfunded liability. And because of rising unemployment, its hospital-stay program will go broke two years earlier than previously predicted.

For my recent ABC special "You Can't Even Talk About It", I spoke with residents of La Posada, a development in Florida that made Forbes's list of top 10 "ritzy" retirement communities. These folks are well off. And they get a bonus: You pay for most of their health care under Medicare.

The retirees love it. Everyone likes getting free stuff. And Medicare often makes going to the doctor just about free.

Why is this a good thing?

"What about those young people [who pick up the tab]? What kind of legacy are we leaving for them?" asks Harvard Business School Professor Regina Herzlinger. "We're really stealing from them."

Some high-school students are alarmed about the scam. "20/20" interviewed a group that is willing to help needy seniors -- they volunteer at a food bank -- but they are angry that Medicare forces them to pay for even wealthy seniors.

"This program, Medicare, is essentially ripping my generation off," Zach Hadaway said.

Policy experts say the kids are right.

"The government spends around $6 on seniors for every dollar it spends on children, and yet the poverty rate among children is far higher," said Andrew Biggs of the American Enterprise Institute (

The federal government stiffs the young in favor of the old.

So I told the La Posada seniors that the kids called them "greedy geezers." They said, "We've paid our dues." Money was taken from every paycheck they earned.

But, in fact, the average Medicare beneficiary today collects two to three times more money than he paid in.

"I would argue that this is not only unfair, it's downright immoral," says billionaire Pete Peterson.

Peterson is a rarity: a senior who decided he cannot in good conscience accept Medicare. He and his foundation ( worry about the looming fiscal disaster. When Medicare began in 1965, six working-aged people paid for each Medicare recipient. Now the figure is four. It will get worse as baby boomers like me retire.

Medicare is unsustainable.

"There is $34 trillion sitting off the balance sheet, waiting for future generations to pay," Herzlinger said.

Read the rest at this link.

Got comments? Email me, dammit!
Permanent link for this article which can be used on any website:

Senator Praises Inquisition as Proof that Torture Works

Washington's Blog

George W. Bush and a key general in Iraq both called the Iraq war a "crusade". Many other high-level civilian and military leaders also believe in fighting a religious war against Islam.

Troops are actively being indoctrinated to fight a religious crusade in the Middle East. The U.S. military has just been busted trying to convert Afghanis and Iraqis to Christianity.

Rumsfeld delivered Iraq war intel reports with prominent biblical passages, to buck up the crusader-in-chief.

Prisoners were tortured as part of a crusading inquisition.

And this week, prominent Senator Lindsey Graham basically defended the Spanish Inquisition, saying:

“One of the reasons these techniques have been used for about 500 years is that they work”.

Hmmm ... sounds familiar. And see this.

Got comments? Email me, dammit!
Permanent link for this article which can be used on any website:

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

Lo there do I see my father
Lo there do I see my mother
Lo there do I see my sisters and my brothers
Lo there do I see the line of my people
Back to the beginning
Lo they beckon to me to join them
In great Valhalla
Where the brave may live forever

Got comments? Email me, dammit!
Permanent link for this article which can be used on any website:

Sunday, May 24, 2009

They still don't get it.

The Silent Majority

I have been milking the MSNBC cow heavily this week but with headlines like these it’s hard to pass up. This has got to be the biggest understatement of the year:

Meltdown will leave vastly changed economy

Duh. Where the author truly misses the mark is in his failure to grasp the true significance of this change and its source. The economy was the dry tinder, liberalism the lit cigarette that touched off the conflagration and Obama the lunatic who is throwing gas on the whole thing.

The author begins the article by posing a germane question:

With the economy showing early signs of stabilizing, it's time to start wondering: What is the 'new normal' economy going to look like?

A lot people are wondering what the “new” normal will look like once the worst of the financial crisis and recession have passed. Even the most optimistic scenarios see only very gradual improvement in economic growth, with unemployment remaining high for the next several years. The only honest answer is that no one really knows.

His answer seems appropriate, no one really does know where this roller coaster ride will end or if our lunch will still be in our stomach or in our laps when we get there. But one thing is certain our maniacal carnie (aka Obama) has his own plans and it doesn’t bode well for us.

Even beyond the specific forecasts for growth, it’s pretty clear that the economic collapse of the last year will bring profound changes in the global economy and financial system. We’re still in early innings, though, so much depends on how we respond from this point forward.

Given the impotent excuses for a response thus far, the bailouts, the stimulus plan and a morbidly obese budget, I say our future prospects are less then encouraging. But with the mad rush to socialize the nation change is a guaranteed certainty.

If you see the glass as half full, the "new normal" could bring long-overdue positive changes. When lenders make bad loans, they lose money. This time they lost big piles of it, which means they’re going to be a lot more careful in the future. That's a good thing, unless they're too careful and make it too hard to get a loan.

The problem is that they have not suffered the consequences of their actions. They have not lost money, at least not in any real sense of the phrase. The losses have all been ours, the tax payers. Those who held stock in these companies lost money, we lost again when our government fed them money by the dump truck load and we will all lose again when the inflation caused by all this spending finally catches up with us. Where is the impetus to be careful when good ole Uncle Sam is waiting to bail you out when you act recklessly? This is where the author breaks with reality and barrels full throttle into fantasy land.

Other changes are long overdue. For government, cutting taxes without cutting spending turned out to be a multitrillion-dollar mistake. Consumers who thought that a credit card was a savings account and a home was a piggy bank have learned the hard way that neither of those things are true.

You see Obama will not make this mistake for two reasons. First he will never cut taxes, at least not in any substantive way and second he will never cut spending. You see he clearly avoids that pitfall altogether.

The only ones who have learned a lesson is consumers. At least I hope they have. Don’t live beyond your means even if your government is leading you to do so by its own terrible example.

Those lessons are pretty hard to unlearn. (Though you could argue that, three generations after the Great Depression, that’s exactly what we did.)

Consumers weren’t the only ones to forget those lessons. Obama is careening down the same fruitless path as FDR and will likely reap the same reward; an extended recession.

The "new normal" could also bring some unpleasant changes. To stop the downward spiral, the government has flooded the economy and financial system with more than $1 trillion in loans from the Federal Reserve and roughly the same in new spending from Congress. That may put the fire out, but there’s going to be a major mess to clean up.

Adding $1 trillion to the money supply in a matter of months, for example, creates a major risk of inflation down the road. Successfully sopping up that much money from the economy without tipping it back into recession is a feat the Fed has never tried before.

The author seems to have had a moment of clarity here. Inflation is coming and there is not much we can do to stop it. Spending has not slowed even in the face of what is to come. It is likely that inflation will rear its ugly head just in time to crush any recovery that may have been brewing in the wings.

If Congress and the White House try to balance the budget too quickly with spending cuts, tax increases or both, that could also send the economy back into a downward slide. But over the longer term, if they can't figure out how to whittle away at the massive pile of government debt, investors could lose faith in the dollar. That would drive up interest rates and put a major lid on economic growth.

Well we already know that spending cuts are a pipe dream. Nothing this administration has done thus far would indicate even a modicum of fiscal responsibility. We already know that tax increases are a sure bet, although they will be called things like cap and trade and health care.

As far as racking up massive federal debt, been there done that. Bush would have gone down in history as the biggest spender if not for Obama. Thank God for small favors right?

In any case, the events of the past few years will have a lasting psychological impact. No matter how well they’re still paying themselves, most financial industry professionals have been humbled by the disastrous effects of the financial alchemy they unleashed on the rest of us. If nothing else, it’s in their own self-interest to avoid another rogue wave of risk-taking.

It may have humbled the CEOs but it has done nothing less than embolden politicians who were at the root of this fiasco to begin with. They have usurped unprecedented power all the while asking us to forget it was the political push to make loans to those who were not creditworthy that precipitated this mess to begin with. Until we humble our politicians the problem will not go away, it will just change shapes. Who wants to guess what the next bubble will be?

The financial meltdown has also created a broad consensus that the system of regulating the financial markets is badly broken. The debate over how to fix that system will have a major impact on what the “new normal” looks like.

The system was not broken, it was never enforced. Adding a laundry list of new regulations will have no effect if they are enforced in the same lax manner as the existing laws. Oversight took on a new meaning under the likes of Barney Franks and Chris Dodd. Thus far the “new normal” seems to be taking shape in the form of government control of private industry. I am not so fond of this new look.

Finally, the impact on consumers, investors, savers, workers and homeowners can’t be understated. For the past 30 years, we have lived with the mistaken belief that we can buy stocks and houses without any real risk of losing money over the long run. Lesson learned.

Lesson learned by everyone except Washington where spending and borrowing continues unchecked and at an accelerating rate. It would be nice to see our leaders do just that, lead and lead by example. You and I cannot write checks for money we do not have and we cannot borrow indefinitely on our good name. Washington needs to abide by the same laws that govern the rest of us.

It’s also becoming clear that we can either expect less services and benefits from our government or pay more in taxes. Borrowing the difference isn’t a sustainable plan.

I will leave on that note as the author seems to have once again experienced a fleeting moment of lucidity. I only hope that our exalted leaders get it.

For more of this protracted trip into fantasy you can find the original MSNBC article here:

Got comments? Email me, dammit!
Permanent link for this article which can be used on any website:

Ventura Explains Why Torture is a Crime

Got comments? Email me, dammit!
Permanent link for this article which can be used on any website:

The Myth of the Laissez Faire President

by Tom Mullen

It is generally accepted that one must wait several decades before looking back at an event or an era with sufficient "historical perspective." Only from that vantage point can the significance and long-term effects of any piece of history be objectively observed, quantified, and analyzed. However, there is a dilemma inherent in this long-standing tradition. It is that there are always interested parties who wish to characterize significant events or eras in history in a way that suits their own agenda. As a result, by the time sufficient time has passed to satisfy the need for "historical perspective," these interested parties have created an official story regarding the events in question and have had time to convince the majority of people that this official story is the truth. By the time a generation has passed, the official story has become both accepted history for academia and "conventional wisdom" for average citizens. Regardless of facts, reason, or any perspective whatsoever, the official story now is the truth.

Such has been the case countless time throughout American history. It is universally accepted that America's Civil War started over slavery, and credits Abraham Lincoln with "freeing the slaves." History and conventional also wisdom tells us that the quality of life of the working class in America declined during the industrial revolution, and credits the "progressive movement" for instituting needed reforms that saved the working class from capitalism. Most relevant to our situation in America today, history blames the Great Depression of the 1930's on Herbert Hoover's "laissez faire capitalism" and "unregulated free markets," and credits FDR's New Deal with ending the Depression and restoring prosperity.

When presented in the textbooks of high school history or college survey courses, there is a certain logic and reasonableness to these versions of historical events that makes them very easy to understand and accept. There is only one problem: none of them are true.

Americans are already familiar with the official story of our present crisis. Too much laissez faire capitalism" has resulted in an unprecedented crisis caused by predatory lenders, irresponsible borrowers, speculators, and other market participants acting in an environment with too little regulation. Without oversight, "unregulated free markets" naturally resulted in market players choosing short term profits over long-term prudence. This process was fueled during the past decade by George W. Bush's "laissez faire policies."

There is only one problem with this story - none of it is true, either. None of the problems we face today were caused by unregulated free markets and the policies of George W. Bush were in no way "laissez faire." This is much more than an academic argument. The premise that unregulated capitalism is to blame for our present economic crisis is the basis for every action that our government is taking right now. If that premise is incorrect, then the results of action taken based upon it could be disastrous.

It is probably a good idea at this point to define some terms. Assuming that "laissez faire capitalism" and "free markets" mean the same thing, what I mean when I use those terms is this: a market economy where all exchanges of property are made with the mutual, voluntary consent of all parties to those transactions. While government's role is limited in such a system, it is nevertheless crucial: to ensure that all transactions are made with the mutual, voluntary consent of all parties. To put it most succinctly, government's role in a free market is to protect the property rights of each individual.

Is this what George W. Bush did or at least attempted to do? Let us examine the Bush economic policies and see for ourselves.

Bush campaigned on and did follow through upon a promise to cut taxes. He did this by reducing the income tax on the highest income earners and by sending each American family a "refund" of several hundred dollars. One might be tempted to argue that this was a move in the direction of free markets, as the returned money represented reductions of a government that had grown far beyond its role of defending life, liberty, and property. Thus, the tax money collected for these illegitimate functions was a violation of the property rights government was supposed to protect and the tax cuts were a partial remedy for those violations. This is what any self-respecting Republican would have you believe.

There is only one problem: there were no reductions in government. In fact, Bush greatly increased the size of the government with military and new entitlement spending. As a result, he ran huge deficits and doubled the national debt. Looked at objectively, there was a tenuous relationship at best between the money taxpayers had previously paid in taxes and the checks sent out by the government after all of that tax money was already spent. Furthermore, millions of Americans who hadn't even paid taxes received "refund" checks anyway. Seen for what it was, this "tax refund" was merely a ploy to buy votes with other people's money dressed up in Republican rhetoric, as well as a way to perpetuate debt-fueled consumerism for the benefit of President Bush's friends in corporate America. Handing out money to people to whom it doesn't belong has nothing to do with free markets, whether that money is borrowed from other nations or printed out of thin air. It represents complete distortion of the markets by government, along with a fundamental violation of the property rights of present and future generations.

Amidst this confusion we seem to have forgotten one major contributor to the aforementioned deficits: the Medicare drug plan. The Medicare drug plan was the Bush administration's program from start to finish, and it was rammed through the legislature despite its dubious administrative plan and complete lack of funding. While it was rightly criticized for both of these faults, no media outlet seems to have recognized its complete antagonism toward free markets. In addition to violating property rights by forcing one group of individuals to pay for the healthcare services of others, Medicare and other government health care programs completely distort the health care market, creating artificial demand that inflates prices and suspends market forces. Here we have another major component of President Bush's policy that is the complete antithesis of laissez faire capitalism.

The mass illusion about this president's policies doesn't stop there. The American public also seems to think that major deregulation occurred under President Bush, but actually the exact opposite is true. It was the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (repealing the Glass-Steagall Act) that lead to the massive expansion of derivates in the stock and real estate markets that helped fuel the housing bubble. However, this legislation was actually passed when President Clinton was still in office. In fact, Bush's only significant effect on the regulatory structure was to increase regulation, not decrease it.

Due to the political fallout from the accounting scandals during the early years of Bush's presidency, especially the Enron scandal, Bush championed new, completely unnecessary, and profoundly destructive regulations under the Sarbanes-Oxley act. Despite the fact that the accounting scandals were clear cases of fraud, which was already illegal and which could be prosecuted without a single new regulation, President Bush had a political need to show that he was "doing something" about corporate crime.

So, again in complete opposition to "free markets," Bush signed Sarbanes-Oxley into law, saying as he did so that the bill represented "the most far-reaching reforms of American business practices since the time of Franklin Delano Roosevelt."[1] Invoking FDR should have been enough on its own to erase any perception of Bush as a champion of free markets, but the hated "laissez faire" moniker seems to be a tough one to shake. As we now know, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act has been terribly destructive to American markets and has contributed to a migration of new investment away from America and to more business-friendly countries. Chalk up another victory for Bush against free markets.

Finally, there is Bush's role in the housing bubble, the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back regarding America's borrow and spend economy of the past several decades. Here it should be noted that the lion's share of the blame for this debacle should go to the Federal Reserve System, which kept interest rates artificially low and expanded money and credit to counter what would have been two recessions in the late 1990's and early 2000's. Remember, the private Federal Reserve System does not answer to any branch of the federal government. One could certainly argue that both Clinton and Bush merely happened to be in office while the Federal Reserve blew up two massive bubbles during their presidencies (the NASDAQ bubble and the housing bubble).

However, it was not just low interest rates or the expansion of money and credit that caused the housing bubble to inflate. There was also the role of government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which guaranteed mortgages that would not have been written in a free market. Starting with Clinton and continuing with Bush, the executive branch played cheerleader to the "ownership" society whereby every American was entitled to own their own home, whether they could afford the mortgage that went with it or not.

The mortgage debacle is often cited as an example of the "unregulated free market" producing negative results. Since both the "predatory lenders" and the "irresponsible borrowers" were acting voluntarily, the millions of subsequent defaults are characterized as the result of too little regulation on the market, allowing these freely-acting participants to eschew prudence for short-term profits. However, this analysis omits one very important fact: there were not two parties to most of these mortgage transactions, but three.

The forgotten third party was, of course, the taxpayer. It was the taxpayers' money that was put up as collateral for the loans guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and the taxpayer was not acting freely. The taxpayer was forced by government to back these loans without his consent and against his best interests. Had the government not committed this crime against property rights to serve its goal of an "ownership society," none of the defaulting loans would have been made.

In a truly free market, the desire for profit is balanced by the presence of risk. When one is lending one's own money, the possibility that the borrower will default forces the lender to adhere to high lending standards to avoid making a bad loan. This is not done out of some civic duty or professional integrity (not that many lenders don't possess both of these qualities), but out of recognized necessity for economic survival. The balance between desire for profit and risk is a naturally occurring market force when all participants are acting voluntarily in their rational self interest. However, by allowing lenders and borrowers to use other people's money as collateral, this natural market force was suspended. To go on to call the resulting disaster the result of "unregulated free markets" is nonsense in the first degree.

Ironically, Clinton and Bush each pursued the exact same policy regarding the housing market for very different reasons. Clinton pressured Fannie Mae to take more and more risk in order to play to his base: low-income Americans who would not qualify for a mortgage in a truly free market. Bush went right on encouraging the process in order to appease his base: Wall Street investment houses that were making a killing securitizing mortgages. Regardless of the motivation, what is important to realize is that this policy is completely antithetical to the concept of free markets or laissez faire capitalism.

Of course, once the crisis began, most people recognize that nothing President Bush did could be characterized as "laissez faire." Bush himself admitted that he was abandoning free market principles because "the market is not functioning properly," a bizarre statement from one who supposedly believes in free markets in the first place. His massive intervention into the economy and egregious redistribution of wealth are characterized by the media as a departure from his previous "laissez faire approach." Yet, anyone can see that this "laissez faire approach" was complete fiction. So why do all but a few contrarians keep saying it anyway?

There is an answer to that question. Characterizing Bush's policies as "laissez faire" does serve a very useful purpose for politicians. It provides them with justification to loot more property and seize more power. The all-out war on free enterprise presently being waged by President Obama and his cohorts in Congress would not be possible if most Americans did not believe the official story that Bush's presidency was an era of "laissez faire capitalism" or "unregulated free markets" and that these policies caused the economic crisis. Only the continued willingness by the majority of Americans to swallow this economic gibberish allows the destruction of our liberty to march forward.

To my fellow Americans, I say this: No politician (save perhaps one) is going to come forward and tell you the truth. Most of them don't know the truth, and those that do have figured out that this official nonsense serves their own ambitions, just as saying that the world was flat once served the ambitions of medieval rulers. It is up to you to rub your eyes and look at the world as it really is. Two plus two does not equal five and you know that. Similarly, people voluntarily exchanging their own goods and services with one another can never cause anyone harm and deep down you must know that, too. It is time to reject the idiotic history that is being written about our present difficulties and demand that the evil incursions into our liberty cease immediately. You have enormous power when you know what to demand. It all starts with recognizing the obvious despite the well-funded efforts of those who wish to deceive you. As the good book saith, the truth shall set you free.

Got comments? Email me, dammit!
Permanent link for this article which can be used on any website: