Commentary and discussion of events, trends, and ideas from a libertarian perspective.
Monday, May 26, 2008
Bob Barr selected as Libertarian Party Presidential Nominee
I got a text message last night from a friend of mine who is in Colorado at the LP National Convention. Barr has been selected as the presidential candidate. Las Vegas entreprenuer Wayne Allyn Root, who was also vying for the presidential nomination, accepted the Vice-Presidential nomination.
Certainly the LP could have done worse, and done better. But the selection of Barr is not a bad choice. He's an experienced politician, with name recognition, and will bring credibility to the LP as a candidate.
Is he ideal? Of course not. But with Barr as a choice, I may re-think my decision to sit out this election cycle.
I have a friend who works for the United Way who told me this story over dinner tonight.
Apparently, the Obama campaign hired a few dozen people to canvas the Miami Valley to in the run up to the Ohio primary. To do this, they used a "company" called ACORN. This organization told these canvassers, "On March 11, show up at the United Way building in Dayton, and you'll get paid."
ACORN wasn't located there. Never was. No one had even heard of ACORN. Never been in the building.
My friend told me that the United Way was overrun throughout the day by people "looking for their checks".
Imagine their surprise when it was revealed ACORN didn't exist. It was just an empty office suite.
Is this "change"? Or is Obama just another slimy politician grasping for power?
Blogging Through Blowback, Chapter 3 - Stealth Imperialism
One of the justifications pedaled by the advocates of empire is that U.S. hegemony over the rest of the world is needed in order to provide stability, and tame the violent impulses of otherwise natural enemies in the wilds of global politics. America, it would seem, has been crowned by destiny to inherit this “White Man’s Burden”, and it would be patently irresponsible to shirk this responsibility.
But the question needs to be asked: at what point does a policy of American hegemony, along with the bureaucratic interests and associated rent seekers that evolve there from, become a threat to the world security that is the stated mission of the empire? This is the subject of the third chapter of Chalmers Johnson’s book, Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire.
From reading the next chapter, one really gets a sense that the Pentagon, and the Defense Department overall, has grown so unimaginably large, that it has become a government unto itself. With its budget in the hundreds of billions, it has created a physical presence on the world stage that has become the metaphorical equivalent of the 900 lb gorilla sitting in the living room. With its various programs to help train elite paramilitary units for other countries (which invariably are then employed as terror and death squads for repressive, but “friendly” regimes), and its influence in helping to facilitate multi-billion dollar business deals to sell weapons to regimes, indeed, if one worries about weapons proliferation and geopolitical instability, one need look no further for the root cause than America’s own military bureaucracy.
Much of this cannot help but force one to wonder how truly unsafe these policies make American citizens. As we help to buttress various regimes under the guise of helping them to defend themselves against attack from aggression, the reality is that we turn a blind eye to the oppressive and brutal aspects of those same regimes. Case in point would be the tale of the Suharto regime of Indonesia, its rise to power, and its subsequent overthrow after years of brutal oppression of political and ethnic undesirables. Behind it all was an American presence, enabling and condoning the atrocities committed by this corrupt regime. The people of that country are aware of the American role, even if the average American is not.
In one very telling part, Johnson comments on how the secrecy of the Defense Department’s more nefarious programs are preserved: outsourcing. As former Special Forces personnel retire from active duty, they often go to work for, or start up their own, private firms, which then offer their knowledge for sale to foreign governments. This is all done with the blessing of Defense Department officials, who can avoid accountability for this because,
One reason privatization appeals to the Pentagon is that whatever these companies do becomes “proprietary information.” The Pentagon does not even have to classify it; and it becomes private property, information on the activities of such companies is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act. Given the extreme legalism of the American political culture, this is sufficient to shield such companies from public scrutiny, although it would not protect them from the new criminal court.
So there you have it. A runaway bureaucracy that enables oppression and terrorism of foreign peoples, while helping to subsidize a vast military industrial complex, and protecting the world against largely self-manufactured threats. This chapter has been the most powerful so far in demonstrating that blowback is probably the one of the most serious issues faced by America, and will continue to become even more so as we continue our pursuit of empire.
Reading more of this series, "Blogging Through Blowback"
Here is a video clip of Carla Howell, libertarian activist and Chair of the Committee for Small Government, discussing their open letter to the Massachusetts legislature demanding they open the State's books to the public in an easy to access and understand format.
This is very similar to the bill that Representative Tom Brinkman proposed last month here in Ohio, to much acclaim. (Note, the conservative blogosphere is not among his fan base.) HB 420 requires the State to post its finances and expenditures in a very clear format online, so that ordinary citizens can see where the money goes. The only people who would oppose this are people who believe that government should work in a shroud of secrecy. (Like all those Conservatives who believe the activities of the FedGov should remain hidden.)
Also note, the Committee is sponsoring a ballot initiative to repeal that state's income tax. When they tried this 6 years ago, it got almost 45% of the vote. Imagine that, the residents of TAX-achusetts almost voted to END their income tax. What do you think if the same question was posed here in Ohio, which is theoretically more fiscally conservative?
The thing is...Activists in the Libertarian Party of Ohio will be working on a similar initiative in the coming months to kill the income tax, which they've humorously labeled the "R.I.P" (Repeal the Income tax Petition).
I wonder if Conservatives will stand in the way of this. My bet is, of course they will. Since when can you count on Republicans do actually act in a manner consistent with their stated principles?
One of my favorite libertarian writers/thinkers is Lew Rockwell. The guy is able to put our state of affairs into such stark, clear perspective, its hard to make a serious case for things like war, inflation, taxation, and such. His articles have always inspired me, and I often wish I had 1/100th of his skill at writing.
Ron Paul discusses the continued destruction of the American dollar on the Fox Business Channel.
Ron Paul knows his stuff. Yet, this is the guy who Conservatives reject on the grounds that he would jeopardize American security and continued global hegemony. The real irony is the Imperial agenda that these War-lovers advocate is what will ultimately spell the complete destruction of America. Hopefully, we can wake up before that day comes.
In a further display of how devoid our Conservative friends are of any real intellectual integrity and principle, the Weapons of Mass Discussion blog take some pot shots at one of the most principled members of the Ohio State House of Representatives, Tom Brinkman. There's an interesting exchange in the comment section, which I attempted to contribute to, but WMD is really more about creating an echo chamber for the masterbatory thoughts of the pro-war crowd, than creating a forum for real discussion.
(Man, I love to hear Conservatives whine about how Republicans have no principles. I'm going to buy them all a compact mirror for Xmas.)
I know Tom Brinkman. I've met him a couple of times, and a couple people I know used to work for him at his printing company. This is a good man whom I've always described as "Ohio's Ron Paul". He takes his job as a legislator seriously, and he is guided by his principles. Like Ron Paul, this does not make him too popular with the lobbyists.
I wish Tom Brinkman well in the upcoming primary election. If I lived in his district, I'd vote for him.
Immigrants in California are far less likely to land in prison than their U.S.-born counterparts, a finding that defies the perception that immigration and crime are connected, according to a study released Monday.
Foreign-born residents make up 35 percent of the state's overall population, but only 17 percent of the adult prison population, according to the Public Policy Institute of California, which conducted the research.
Although the article focuses on legal immigrants, it extends its findings to the incentives faced by "illegals".
And those here illegally have incentive to avoid contact with the law, which could lead to detection of their immigration status.
Certainly, there are many factors that influence such issues, and many things can be debated. But one thing is for certain – xenophobes are wrong to try to paint immigrants (legal or otherwise) as inherently prone to criminal activity. They are not a menace to society.
Conservative Co-Worker Says: Black Market Barbers Are A Menace to Society!
Here we have a video of a New Hampshire liberty activist who decided to perform a manicure...without a license! (Gasp!!)
Thankfully, the Thin Blue Line is there to apprehend this terrorist before he was able to do more cuticle damage to innocent Americans.
Seeking to get a Conservative opinion, I forwarded this video over to a co-worker of mine who is a dyed-in-the-wool, red-blooded Christian Conservative.
Yes! String the guy up! We must obey the law no matter what it says! The law is there for a reason!
Oh? And exactly what reason is that?
Apparently, that little piece of paper that you get from spending hundreds of dollars (or more) on beauty school classes and licenses will stop serial killers from opening barber shops to lure unsuspecting victims to their graves. There is also a health component involved.
I'm sure everyone has read about that epidemic of disease that swept the country last year, which was traced back to black market barbers...right?
Hahaha... I shit you not. I swear on my grandmother's urn, those were his actual words.
Of course, I got the sense that he was pulling my leg. (He had to be. Who in their right mind believes crap like this??) So after ridiculing him (as he properly deserved) for being, well...insane...I approached him and asked him to be serious and tell me if, in his Conservative view, the proper role of the state was to control and regulate the ability of people to ply a trade, even one so innocuous as performing manicures.
In his view, yes, it absolutely was. The State should and properly has the power to erect barriers on an individual's freedom of enterprise. No person should be able to start a business or perform labor for someone else without State approval. When I accused him of being a protectionist, his response was that it's nothing more than "political malcontentism". He rejected the thought that this was the real economic analysis of the issue.
Licensing creates special interest groups who can extract higher than normal market prices from legal restrictions on competitive commerce. That is economic fact, as indisputable as the sky is blue and the grass is green.
So then I asked him...what if his wife decided to pick up a pair of scissors and give his son a little trim behind the ears. If an unlicensed barber is such a menace to society that government needs to jail people who have not jumped through bureaucratic hoops to enter the Barber's Guild, then what is it that magically transforms this unlicensed mom from a risk to the very life of her offspring into a model of safety and integrity?
There's no money involved, said he.
Well, actually there is. If you don't pay someone else to cut your hair, you are essentially paying yourself to do the service.
Oh, well, a mom cares about her kid, so that's ok.
Apparently, this paragon of capitalism thinks that business people hate their customers, and plot ways to harm, maim, and kill the people who come to them for goods and services. Thank God for the State and its magical documents!
Does anyone really believe conservatives know what the hell they are talking about when it comes to economics and liberty?
Its amazing how so many people recognize that central planning doesn't work, but still embrace central planning of the monetary system. We know why Conservatives reject this kind of argument, because without a central bank, they couldn't wage their wars.
And as we've established, Conservatives do love their war. Yum!
The funny thing is, the conversations I seem to have always seem to work in themes. I'll converse with people who don't know each other about similar topics or issues. It's really weird how that happens to work.
Perhaps, there is a conspiracy afoot. Hmm.
Anyway, a theme of some conversations recently were on the original construction of the republic, the Constitution, and "states rights". We are so far removed from what our framers created, I doubt that they would recognize the nation they founded. The warnings of anti-federalists like Patrick Henry seem awfully prescient.
These conversations brought to mind a couple of podcasts that I've enjoyed, which helped guide my understanding of such matters. The first one is a lecture by Tom Woods, author of the best selling "The Politically Incorrect Guide to History", entitled, The Principles of '98, and discusses the Jeffersonian origins of the States' Rights tradition, beginning with the infamous Kentucky Resolutions.
These are awesome lectures on the history of the decentralized power structure that was the intent of the Founding Fathers. They run counter to our modern policies of central authority, empire, and hegemony.
The CIA agent, founder of the modern conservative movement, enforcer of warfare-state discipline on the right, brilliant writer and editor, transoceanic sailor, harpsichordist, TV star, charming aristocrat, founder of National Review and Young Americans for Freedom, enabler of neoconservatism, expeller of heretics from Birchers to Rothbardians, and thoroughly bad ideological influence in general, is dead at 82. Here is the NY Times obit. David Gordon and others will have more to say about him and his movement in LRC.
"Under the pressure of fanaticism, and with the mob complacently applauding the show, democratic law tends more and more to be grounded upon the maxim that every citizen is, by nature, a traitor, a libertine, and a scoundrel. In order to dissuade him from his evil-doing the police power is extended until it surpasses anything ever heard of in the oriental monarchies of antiquity." - HL Mencken
I tell you, when I go out to the bars, some of the most outrageous drunks are cops. They know they can get all liquored up and then have a free pass if they get pulled over on the way home, since no cop is going to bust a fellow cop.
This guy apparently thinks the leeway he gets from being a lawman extends to stomping on a chick less than half his size.
Nice, huh? And this is a guy we trust to wear a badge and carry a gun.