Our eloquent and historic Caesar.
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Our eloquent and historic Caesar.
In the ongoing struggle for a free and peaceful society, one of the biggest roadblocks is the conflation of society with government that affects both progressive and conservative arguments in favor of state solutions to (real or actual) problems in society.
Opposing state involvement in say, education, defense of property, law and order, or food production unfortunately is associated with not supporting these essential aspects of civilizations at all. But as classical liberals and libertarian anarchists have been arguing for centuries, these things are far too important to be left up to a centralized, coercive body of men with guns and instead argue that voluntary mechanisms are not only moral, but also more efficient.
Same goes for regulation. I oppose state regulation of the economy not because I oppose regulation, but because the state by its very nature is incapable of properly regulating and harmonizing human behavior.
But the sensationilist media jumps all over anyone who argues against the government provision of x, y, or z. Oppose state welfare, Social Security, and Medicare? You must want poor people and the elderly to starve! Oppose the Pentagon and perpetual war? You are with the terrorists, and hate America. Left-wing statism vs. right-wing statism, my system of institutionalized violence is better than yours. Yawn.
So when Caesar goes in front of the US Chamber of Commerce praising coercive government "regulation" for its supposed benefit to us all, no one bats an eye. Government is always portrayed riding in on a white horse saving the little guy from evil capitalists and Islam ragheads.
Thankfully, there are the Jeffrey Tuckers of the world to explain why Obama could not be more wrong. Tucker debunks Obama's claim the government regulation of refrigerators "benefited consumers" and "stimulated economic growth," and showing how self-interest actors in the horizontally-structured, decentralized feedback mechanisms of the free market - society, not government- provides the real regulation and economic growth.
In President Obama's recent State of the Union Speech - when he wasn't lavishing praise on the U.S. Empire - he laid out his plans for increased "public works" spending, including infrastructure improvements and $53 billion for mass transit systems. He even has a "25-year plan" (even the Soviets only had 5 year plans!).
Now the President is correct to insist that our bridges, roads, and other infrastructure need a lot of patching up. Just take a look at what happened in New Orleans a few years ago, or the section of I-35W that pancaked. At the same that the U.S. government is spending billions bombing and then re-building infrastructure in Afghanistan and Iraq, here at home, they are crumbling.
I sympathize with the President shining light on the need for domestic improvements, but his plans to increase federal spending in order to do this is terribly misguided.
The U.S. government is over $14 trillion in debt and borrows nearly half of every dollar it spends, which would seem to make the idea of adding to that deficit a bit foolhardy. Although promising to make cuts to the Pentagon, Obama just signed the largest “defense” spending bill in world history at a time when this money could be far better spent here at home.
Or, better yet, sending the money back to its rightful owners: the people it was stolen from through the federal government's tornado of taxation, inflationary money printing, and crippling debt.
My opposition to Obama's (or any) "public" works programs is fundamentally philosophical. It is not whether we need improvements in our infrastructure, but who and what will do the improving.
Obama's answer: initiate government force on the citizenry to acquire the revenue, then after this money has changed many, many bureaucratic hands, hire companies to do the job and pay them with the loot.
This is the classic example of the "broken window fallacy" that was put forth by French economist Frederic Bastiat and later expanded on by Henry Hazlitt. Whenever the state confiscates private citizens' income and spends it on something, anything (whether it be a dam or a B-1 bomber), the results of this spending can be easily seen.
What is unseen, however, are the unintended consequences, not only the potential products and services the citizenry would have voluntarily spent their money on in the marketplace but the inherent sluggishness and inefficiency of government programs. Taxation is equivalent to a thief stealing your money, then promising you that it will be spent prudently and wisely.
The idea that bridges and roads need to be funded through the coercive, top-down mechanisms of taxation and state power not only ignore the "broken window fallacy" but ignore the free market infrastructure that already exists. Hundreds of homeowners associations build and maintain their own roads, the Dulles Greenway is a huge private road in DC, and in North Oaks, Minnesota, not only does the city not own the roads, it does not own any property! Take away government’s initiation of violence through taxation, and the spontaneous order of the market blooms.
The free market benefits not only from the pricing and profit/loss mechanisms (without government socializing the costs), but also because it is driven by voluntary and mutually-beneficial exchange.
Instead of re-investing tax money into projects that have ultimately failed due to them having been funded by tax money, why not pay off some of you and your predecessors' debt by selling government buildings off to private companies that actually know how to provide a service and make a profit?
As two years of Obama's welfare-warfare state has demonstrated, Obama appears to honestly believe that government's institutionalized force can solve the incredibly complex problems of millions of people and their infinitely changing tastes, preferences, and actions.
I understand that power is the ultimate aphrodisiac, Mr. President, but your central planning stimulus can not fix our infrastructure problem. A society based on individual liberty -- exemplified in the free market, private property, and sound money -- will build all the bridges, roads, and transportation we will ever need.
Watch this video about the largest wealth-confiscating, liberty-destroying government program in the history of the world: the US Empire. It truly is a monster, turning boys into killers, countries into mountains of skulls, and sucking out the soul of the last vestiges of true American liberty. War, as Randolph Bourne famously said, truly is the health of the state.
In his recent piece concerning the first two years of Barack Obama's presidency, Samuel Hamilton argues that President Obama should be praised for his legislative victories and his ability to compromise on important issues. Obama's accomplishments or failures can be (and have been) debated ferociously, and Hamilton makes some excellent points about how much criticism of Obama has been unfair and partisan.
Halfway through his first term, what the Obama presidency is accomplishing has less to do with the utility of his proposed policies, but more to do with the fact these policies are bringing a welcome and radical ideological shift.
When former presidential candidate Ralph Nader appeared on Andrew Napolitano's "Freedom Watch" last week and lavishly praised Republican Congressman Ron Paul and the "conservative/libertarian wing of the Tea Party," there emerged the silver lining of the Obama administration: the possibility of a Left/Right coalition that could shake up American political discourse for years to come.
Despite Obama's sobering rhetoric, his insistence on fulfilling President George W. Bush's third term is warping the traditional partisan divide. Obama, the "liberal Democrat," has extended the PATRIOT Act, expanded the war in Afghanistan and spread it into Pakistan, is launching unmanned drone strikes in multiple countries, and has drastically increased cartelizing state intervention into the marketplace.
As dangerous and counterproductive as these policies are, they are having the unintentional consequence of disrupting the outdated liberal/conservative divide.
When it comes to policy, liberals and conservatives in power vary little, and every few years they swap control of the federal government and reward the political interests that helped get them elected. This "divide-and-conquer" strategy has been used for centuries, where citizens bicker and quarrel with one another while ignoring those in power that tax, loot, spend, and bury them in debt.
Thanks to the spread of the Internet and the availability of nearly instantaneous information, issues are beginning to be framed not in Left or Right, but in terms of individual liberty vs. government control.
For example, in a poll taken last December, a significant majority of Americans supported auditing the counterfeiters at the Federal Reserve. Coincidentally, a bill (HR 1207) proposed on the House floor by Congressman Paul (R-TX) that aimed to audit the Fed received support from arch-conservative Senator Jim Demint (R-SC) and admitted socialist Bernie Sanders (I-VT). HR 1207 currently has over 320 co-sponsors in the House, which also means that there a lot of Congressmen who love having their own printing presses in order to sell F-22s and bailout crooked banks.
What do Left and Right exactly mean when Noam Chomsky and Naomi Wolf are criticizing the Obama administration for it's economic corporatism and expansion of Bush's "war on terror" and conservatives are supporting gay marriage and the financial costs of military empire?
Since 21st century America resembles the Soviet Empire more than the peaceful, commercial Republic Thomas Jefferson envisioned, Left and Right are recognizing that it is coercive state power that lies at the heart of the mess we're in. It is radical, yes, but a system of government that imprisons millions, takes half of your income, and wages perpetual war deserves a radical opposition.
Restoring the Bill of Rights, stopping corporate welfare, sound money, starving the Pentagon; these are things Americans (especially younger generations) are getting behind now that they are refusing to be boxed into labels of Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative.
So thank you Mr. Obama (and you neocons too) for digging us into an even deeper mess. You have bankrupted our grandchildren and left foreign cities in ashes, and we're fed up. You have shown the American people that Democrat bombs maim just like Republican bombs, that deficits and violations of personal liberty grow no matter who is in charge.
In other words, there is no such thing as "abusing power;" power itself is the abuse. And with every new war and corporatist law, a Left/Right coalition with this axiom as its flag will only grow.
Now that politicians are being forced to deal with the realization that the U.S. government is nearly $14 trillion in debt, they are scrambling to find ways to tighten their belts. Congress is debating on whether or not to increase the debt ceiling and incoming Republicans have suggested trimming $100 billion from the budget.
Any substantial policy moves to address this debt will likely leave no one happy, especially if drastic reductions are made to social welfare programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has a suggestion, and is patting himself on the back for vowing to cut $78 billion from the Pentagon budget. In reality, however, what these "cuts" mean is that Gates will stop increasing the Pentagon's already bloated $500 billion a year budget for the next few years. Gates' supposed "cuts" also will not decrease the amount currently being spent on U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Only in DC, Orwellian double-speak could a Pentagon "cut" that ignores hundreds of billions of dollars and multiple wars be considered progress. This immediately begs the question, considering 43% of every dollar Washington spends is borrowed: why not cut funding for the war in Afghanistan that is costing us $100 million a day?
The Afghan war is now in its tenth year, making it the longest war in U.S. history, and there is very little to show for the billions that have been spent. The justifications for staying are also becoming murkier.
According to the Obama Administration, most members of Congress, and the media, the U.S. military must stay in Afghanistan in order to prevent Al Qaeda from establishing a "safe haven" with which they can launch attacks against the U.S. But as CIA Director Leon Panetta has admitted, "only 50 to 100, maybe less" Al Qaeda remain in Afghanistan. Plus, the 9/11 attacks were planned in Hamburg, Germany and Florida, which were the only "safe havens" Al Qaeda ever needed.
Not only is the Pentagon spending billions bombing an enemy that isn't there, U.S. intervention has been terribly counterprodutive. Former Afghan General Stanley McChrystal, in an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, remarked "for every innocent person you kill, you create ten new enemies." Insurgent math, he calls it, and this can only lead to blowback and harm to U.S. troops.
What about the justification, held by loyal Obama-ites like Code Pink, that "women's rights" are being secured in Afghanistan by the U.S. military presence? The Revolutionary Association of the Women in Afghanistan (RAWA) would definitely object, and in a 2010 report detailed how the U.S. occupation has been absolutely detrimental for women's rights.
Even prominent conservatives, who have been staunch supporters of the war, are beginning to question it.
When held under a microscope, the reasons for staying wither under the pressure of logic and common sense. Corruption and waste are an integral part of the Afghan war, from it's pathetic justifications to the millions made by merchants of death, all of which are hitched to the backs of the American taxpayer.
Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security suffer similar problems; they are, after all, government programs, Ponzi schemes of debt and waste that make Bernie Madoff look like a frugal and honest businessman.
But before we cut programs that ocassionally help people, it's time to take a machete, not a scalpel, to the main source of our financial crisis: the war in Afghanistan, the Pentagon's military socialism, and the institutional structures of our unsustainable empire.
Next week, the U.S. House of Representatives will be voting on an historic repeal of the Obamacare law. While there are many reasons to oppose this flawed government health insurance law, it is important to remember that Obamacare is also one of the largest tax increases in American history. Below is a comprehensive list of the two dozen new or higher taxes that pay for Obamcare’s expansion of government spending and interference between doctors and patients.
Individual Mandate Excise Tax(Jan 2014): Starting in 2014, anyone not buying “qualifying” health insurance must pay an income surtax according to the higher of the following
Exemptions for religious objectors, undocumented immigrants, prisoners, those earning less than the poverty line, members of Indian tribes, and hardship cases (determined by HHS)
Employer Mandate Tax(Jan 2014): If an employer does not offer health coverage, and at least one employee qualifies for a health tax credit, the employer must pay an additional non-deductible tax of $2000 for all full-time employees. This provision applies to all employers with 50 or more employees. If any employee actually receives coverage through the exchange, the penalty on the employer for that employee rises to $3000. If the employer requires a waiting period to enroll in coverage of 30-60 days, there is a $400 tax per employee ($600 if the period is 60 days or longer).
Combined score of individual and employer mandate tax penalty: $65 billion/10 years
Surtax on Investment Income ($123 billion/Jan. 2013): This increase involves the creation of a new, 3.8 percent surtax on investment income earned in households making at least $250,000 ($200,000 single). This would result in the following top tax rates on investment income
2011-2012 (current law)
2011-2012 (Obama budget)
2013+ (current law)
2013+ (Obama budget)
43.4%*Other unearned income includes (for surtax purposes) gross income from interest, annuities, royalties, net rents, and passive income in partnerships and Subchapter-S corporations. It does not include municipal bond interest or life insurance proceeds, since those do not add to gross income. It does not include active trade or business income, fair market value sales of ownership in pass-through entities, or distributions from retirement plans. The 3.8% surtax does not apply to non-resident aliens.
Excise Tax on Comprehensive Health Insurance Plans($32 bil/Jan 2018): Starting in 2018, new 40 percent excise tax on “Cadillac” health insurance plans ($10,200 single/$27,500 family). For early retirees and high-risk professions exists a higher threshold ($11,500 single/$29,450 family). CPI +1 percentage point indexed.
Hike in Medicare Payroll Tax($86.8 bil/Jan 2013): Current law and changes:
All Remaining Wages
Obamacare Tax Hike
Medicine Cabinet Tax($5 bil/Jan 2011): Americans no longer able to use health savings account (HSA), flexible spending account (FSA), or health reimbursement (HRA) pre-tax dollars to purchase non-prescription, over-the-counter medicines (except insulin)
HSA Withdrawal Tax Hike($1.4 bil/Jan 2011): Increases additional tax on non-medical early withdrawals from an HSA from 10 to 20 percent, disadvantaging them relative to IRAs and other tax-advantaged accounts, which remain at 10 percent.
Flexible Spending Account Cap – aka“Special Needs Kids Tax”($13 bil/Jan 2013): Imposes cap of $2500 (Indexed to inflation after 2013) on FSAs (now unlimited). . There is one group of FSA owners for whom this new cap will be particularly cruel and onerous: parents of special needs children. There are thousands of families with special needs children in the United States, and many of them use FSAs to pay for special needs education. Tuition rates at one leading school that teaches special needs children in Washington, D.C. (National Child Research Center) can easily exceed $14,000 per year. Under tax rules, FSA dollars can be used to pay for this type of special needs education.
Tax on Medical Device Manufacturers($20 bil/Jan 2013): Medical device manufacturers employ 360,000 people in 6000 plants across the country. This law imposes a new 2.3% excise tax. Exemptions include items retailing for less than $100.
Raise "Haircut" for Medical Itemized Deduction from 7.5% to 10% of AGI($15.2 bil/Jan 2013): Currently, those facing high medical expenses are allowed a deduction for medical expenses to the extent that those expenses exceed 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income (AGI). The new provision imposes a threshold of 10 percent of AGI; it is waived for 65+ taxpayers in 2013-2016 only.
Tax on Indoor Tanning Services($2.7 billion/July 1, 2010): New 10 percent excise tax on Americans using indoor tanning salons
Elimination of tax deduction for employer-provided retirement Rx drug coverage in coordination with Medicare Part D($4.5 bil/Jan 2013)
Blue Cross/Blue Shield Tax Hike($0.4 bil/Jan 2010): The special tax deduction in current law for Blue Cross/Blue Shield companies would only be allowed if 85 percent or more of premium revenues are spent on clinical services
Excise Tax on Charitable Hospitals(Min$/immediate): $50,000 per hospital if they fail to meet new "community health assessment needs," "financial assistance," and "billing and collection" rules set by HHS
Tax on Innovator Drug Companies($22.2 bil/Jan 2010): $2.3 billion annual tax on the industry imposed relative to share of sales made that year.
Tax on Health Insurers($60.1 bil/Jan 2014): Annual tax on the industry imposed relative to health insurance premiums collected that year. The stipulation phases in gradually until 2018, and is fully-imposed on firms with $50 million in profits.
$500,000 Annual Executive Compensation Limit for Health Insurance Executives($0.6 bil/Jan 2013)
Employer Reporting of Insurance on W-2(Min$/Jan 2011): Preamble to taxing health benefits on individual tax returns.
Corporate 1099-MISC Information Reporting($17.1 bil/Jan 2012): Requires businesses to send 1099-MISC information tax forms to corporations (currently limited to individuals), a huge compliance burden for small employers
“Black liquor” tax hike(Tax hike of $23.6 billion). This is a tax increase on a type of bio-fuel.
Codification of the “economic substance doctrine”(Tax hike of $4.5 billion). This provision allows the IRS to disallow completely-legal tax deductions and other legal tax-minimizing plans just because the IRS deems that the action lacks “substance” and is merely intended to reduce taxes owed.
In empire, occupation, and self promotion, says Tom Engelhardt and William Astore:
Words matter, as candidate Barack Obama said in the 2008 election campaign. What to make, then, of President Obama’s pep talk last month to U.S. troops in Afghanistan in which he lauded them as “the finest fighting force that the world has ever known”? Certainly, he knew that those words would resonate with the troops as well as with the folks back home.
In fact, this sort of description of the U.S. military has become something of a must for American presidents. Obama’s predecessor George W. Bush, for example, boasted of that military as alternately “the greatest force for freedom in the history of the world” and “the greatest force for human liberation the world has ever known.” Hyperbolic and self-promoting statements, to be sure, but undoubtedly sincere, reflecting as they do an American sense of exceptionalism that sits poorly with the increasingly interconnected world of the twenty-first century.
I’m a retired U.S. Air Force officer and a historian who teaches military history. The retired officer in me warms to the sentiment of our troops as both unparalleled fighters and selfless liberators, but the historian in me begs to differ.
Let’s start with the fighting part of the equation. Are we truly the world’s greatest fighting force, not only at this moment, but as measured against all militaries across history? If so, on what basis is this claim made? And what does such triumphalist rhetoric suggest not just about our national narcissism, but Washington’s priorities? Consider that no leading U.S. politician thinks to boast that we have the finest educational system or health-care system or environmental policies “that the world has ever known.”
Measured in terms of sheer destructive power, and our ability to project that power across the globe, the U.S. military is indeed the world’s “finest” fighting force. Our nuclear arsenal remains second to none. Our air forces (including the Navy’s carrier task forces, the Army’s armada of helicopter gunships, and the CIA’s fleet of unmanned aerial drones prosecuting a “secret” war in Pakistan) dominate the heavens. Our Navy (“a global force for good,” according to its new motto) rules the waves -- even more so than old Britannia did a century ago. And well should we rule the skies and seas, given the roughly one trillion dollars a year we spend on achieving our vision of “full spectrum dominance.”
A message for the Predator-in-Chief, from Peacerally.org:
The top ten myths keeping the liberty-and-wealth destroying war machine rolling in Afghanistan, from University of Michigan Professor Juan Cole's indispensable blog Informed Comment:
10. “There has been significant progress in tamping down the insurgency in Afghanistan.”
- Fact: A recent National Intelligence Estimate by 16 intelligence agencies found no progress. It warned that large swathes of the country were at risk of falling to the Taliban and that they still had safe havens in Pakistan, with the Pakistani government complicit. The UN says there were over 6000 civilian casualties of war in Afghanistan in the first 10 months of 2010, a 20% increase over the same period in 2009. Also, 701 US and NATO troops have been killed this year, compared to 521 last year, a 25% increase. There were typically over 1000 insurgent attacks per month in Afghanistan this year, often twice as many per month as in 2009, recalling the guerrilla war in Iraq in 2005.
9. Afghans want the US and NATO troops to stay in their country because they feel protected by them.
- Fact: In a recent [pdf] poll, only 36% of Afghans said they were confident that US troops could provide security. Only 32% of Afghans now have a favorable view of the United States’ aid efforts in their country over-all.
8. The “surge” and precision air strikes are forcing the Taliban to the negotiating table.
- Fact: The only truly high-ranking Taliban leader thought to have engaged in parleys with the US, Mulla Omar’s number 2, turns out to have been a fraud and a con man.
7. The US presence in Afghanistan is justified by the September 11 attacks.
- Fact: In Helmand and Qandahar Provinces, a poll found that 92% of male residents had never heard of 9/11.
6. Afghans still want US troops in their country, despite their discontents.
- Fact: one poll found that 55% of Afghans want the US out of their country. And, the percentage of Afghans who support Taliban attacks on NATO has grown from 9% in 2009 to 27% this year!
5. The presidential elections of 2009 and the recent parliamentary elections were credible and added to the legitimacy of Afghanistan’s government.
- Fact: Karzai stole his presidential election and the parliamentary elections were riddled with fraud. One fourth of the votes for parliament this fall had to be thrown out because of suspected ballot fraud, and 10 percent of victors were unseated for serious irregularities.
4. President Hamid Karzai is “a key ally” of the United States.
- Fact: Karzai has repeatedly threatened to join the Taliban. He has also admitted to being on a $2 million a year retainer from Iran. All he has to do is cozy up to North Korea for a trifecta!
3. Shiite Iran is arming the hyper-Sunni, Shiite-hating Taliban in Afghanistan.
- Fact: Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates told Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini last February “that intelligence indicated there was little lethal material crossing the Afghanistan-Iran border.” This according to a wikileaks cable.
2. Foreigners are responsible for much of Afghanistan’s fabled corruption.
- The trail of big corruption usually leads back to people around President Karzai. Karzai insiders bankrupted a major Kabul bank with their shenanigans, forcing the government to bail it out. A significant portion of the $42 million in medicine given by the US for Afghan soldiers this year has disappeared and the Karzai-appointed official concerned has just been fired. US officials have alleged that Karzai’s brother in Qandahar has run interference for illegal businesses and the drug trade.
1. The US is in Afghanistan to fight al-Qaeda.
- Fact: CIA director Leon Panetta admitted that there are only 50-100 al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan! The US is mainly fighting two former allies among the Mujahidin whom Ronald Reagan dubbed “freedom fighters” and the “equivalent of America’s founding fathers:” Gulbaddin Hikmatyar and his Hizb-i Islami, and Jalaluddin Haqqani and his Haqqani Network. These two organizations, which received billions from the US congress to fight the Soviets in the 1980s, are more deadly and important now than the ‘Old Taliban’ of Mulla Omar. The point is that they are just manifestations of Pashtun Muslim nationalism, and not eternal enemies of the United States (being former allies and clients and all). Hikmatyar has roundly denounced al-Qaeda.
Via Aletho News:
Based on constant 2010 dollars, Carl Conetta [co-director of the Project on Defense Alternatives] further details that the Ronald Reagan administration spent $4.1 trillion on the Defense Department, the George W. Bush administration spent $4.65 trillion and “Barack Obama plans to spend more than $5 trillion."
Read the whole story for the full extent of the implications of Obama's socialist-military spending spree.
In the most recent piece of irony coming out of the Imperial City, Representative John Hall (D-NY) told the New York Observer that America "is at risk of fascism."
"I learned when I was in social studies class in school that corporate ownership or corporate control of government is called Fascism," [Hall] told the New York Observer. "So that's really the question-- is that the destination if this court decision goes unchecked?"
The court decision he is referring to is Citizens United, the controversial Supreme Court ruling that led to greater corporate spending in the midterm elections, much of it anonymous. In the wake of the decision, Democrats tried to pass the DISCLOSE Act, which would have mandated that corporate donors identify themselves in their advertising, but the measure failed amid GOP opposition. Ads from groups with anonymous donors were particularly prone to false or misleading claims.
Hall said the influx of corporate money in the wake of Citizens United handed the House of Representatives to Republicans.
"The country was bought," he told The Observer. "The extremist, most recent two appointees to the Supreme Court, who claimed in their confirmation hearings before the Senate that they would not be activist judges, made a very activist decision in that it overturned more than a century of precedent. And as a result there were millions of extra dollars thrown into this race."
Congressman Hall is right, of course, but for the wrong reasons.
First of all, to claim that America is "at risk of fascism" is to say that a cancer patient is at risk of having some terrible health complications. America is fascist, Mr. Hall, and has been for decades.
Hall defines fascism as the merging of corporate and state power, and even if we use this soft and mealy-mouthed definition, all one needs to do is open up the Federal Register to see that this fascist phenomenon is not new.
Nearly every federal regulation that exists today is the result of large corporate interests using the coercive power of the state to restrict competitors. This is where licensing, tariffs, subsidies, eminent domain, and most taxation stems from.
But a more accurate and thorough definition of fascism makes Hall's comments look very unprincipled to say the least.
Fascism is more than just private-public partnerships. It is the doctrine that the citizenry be allowed to own a certain amount of property and have relative freedom to act with that property, but that every transaction, exchange, and use of that property be subject to intense state regulation and monitoring. Freedom with chains, and not very long ones either.
Using this definition, Congressman Hall is guilty of the same fascism that he hilariously decries.
Just take a look at his "legislative achievements" in the House.
He has voted to increase the minimum wage law and voted in favor of state-funded stem-cell research. Both of these propositions are fascistic at their very core: in the former, the government is violently interfering with the voluntary negotiations of individuals in the marketplace. In the latter, the government is restricting the liberty of citizens by forcing them to hand over a portion of the wealth in order to fund something they may or may not agree with.
And in Hall's most ironic act of fascism, he voted for Obama's "healthcare reform bill," a bill that was lobbied for and monetarily supported by large healthcare, insurance, and pharmaceutical companies. It's as close to both definitions of fascism as you can possibly get.
So Congressman Hall, I have a suggestion. Before you pout like a little girl that you're party got pummelled in the last election because of the same dirty tricks that you and your party have employed for decades, look in the mirror.
The irony and parody that comes out of DC truly knows no bounds. It's almost like having a President who criticizes his predecessor's reckless spending while running up kajillion dollar deficits. Oh wait...
In the last three months, the Predator-in-Chief has launched 58 drone strikes in Pakistan. 58! That's more than one every 2 days. And these drones, firing missiles at "suspected militants," have about a 2% success rate. This means that 98% of these robots in the sky are killing innocent civilians.
Will there be any accountability? Anyone tried for war crimes, since these drone strikes are illegal? Any hard-hitting questions from the fawning White House Press Corps?
Of course not. Obama's reckless and bloodthirsty foreign policy just rolls on and on, his "antiwar left-wing" supporters cheering on his every move.
You ever heard of the "SDN list?" Me neither, until I stumbled upon an article at the Cuba blog about it. The SDN list (Specially Designated Nationals) is basically the "US version of Iran and China's state censorship machine."
Initially created with good intent to inform the world (and US entities, persons) of Terrorists, Rogue regimes and other wrongdoers. It slowly converted into a censorship list to block free speech on the Internet. You see, by adding a website to the list the U.S authorities could then evoke a closure order on the registrar where the domain is registered.
This, the article claims, is how the US government could possibly shut down Wikileaks.
I am still skeptical that the US government or any government could effectively stop organizations like Wikileaks entirely, but it's not for a lack of trying.
Senator Joe Lieberman has been one of the most ardent supporters of an "Internet kill switch (like China!!!!!)" and has bullied retailers like Amazon to try to starve or wound Wikileaks' access to leak information. Here is the crooked, warmongering Senator in his words advocating censoring the web:
And here is our Vice Emperor Joe Biden calling Julian Assange a "high-tech" terrorist.
Other members of the Imperial Court in DC and the Beltway media have also called for Julian Assange's capture, to be tried for treason, and even his execution.
Weaved into these calls for Julian Assange to be tortured in one of the US's many, many gulags are the calls for "net neutrality" that many in DC are supporting. Net neutrality? Who could be against that? Our government is simply just looking out for the safety and interest of all, and should be applauded for serving the public interest in this way.
But they're in good company, as the AP reports:
Chavez defends plan for Internet regulations
CARACAS, Venezuela -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez defended plans for a law that would impose broadcast-type regulations on the Internet, saying Sunday that his government should protect citizens against online crimes.
Chavez's congressional allies are considering extending the "Social Responsibility Law" for broadcast media to the Internet, banning messages that "disrespect public authorities," "incite or promote hatred" or crimes, or are aimed at creating "anxiety" in the population.
Government opponents and press freedom groups have been critical of the plan, saying it is one of several measures being considered that could restrict freedoms in Venezuela.
Ah, yes. The United States of Venezuela. It has a nice to ring to it, doesn't it?
UPDATE: The Chinese and the Saudi governments are calling on the U.N. to establish a world government body to "police" the Internet. There is some resistance at least, but it's good to know the US is on the side of these wonderful bastions of freedom and openness. (Via Antiwar.com)
Before the recent mid-term elections, I blogged about the futility of voting and how the political process is not the way to achieve the values that classical liberals hold dear: individual liberty, peace, sound money, property rights, and cooperation without coercion.
And this recent Politico story gives some credence to this position. Apparently, former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton is eyeing a Republican 2012 presidential run.
He would be the "national-security candidate," as the story reports, and Bolton says that Americans are looking for someone to provide "leadership, judgement, and vision." In other words, a strongman.
But let's take a look what John Bolton brings to the table, presuming he is running in opposition to President Obama's bid for re-election. He has previously worked in the Reagan Administration, and in the State Department for both President Bushes.
In other words, he's the prototypical right-wing militarist strongman and a lifetime bureaucRAT. He's even got the perfect Stalin moustache!
And this is Obama's opposition? Obama undoubtedly deserves to not be re-elected for the damage that he has done (and will continue to do) as he cartelizes the economy and wages war in five countries that we know about (Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia). This is possibly the alternative we have to choose against Obama's welfare-warfare state, Bolton's warfare-welfare state?
What does a libertarian do? Or not just libertarians, but anyone who recognizes how counterproductive and murderous our foreign policy of preventive war and empire is?
As I recommended before the elections, withdraw consent. It's neither romantic nor grandiose, but it is truly revolutionary in the best essence of the word: saying NO! to either Caesar the establishment picks for us.
Earlier today, President Obama --with a straight face-- told the American people that great progress is being made in Afghanistan against Al Qaeda. We're "on track," he says.
But as Jason Ditz reports:
The vague claims of “progress” came with a five-page summary which made even more vague claims of progress, and both carefully ignored the grim Pentagon report to Congress just three weeks ago, as well as the equally grim, but classified, CIA report on the war.
Likewise no mention was made of the very public reports from groups like the Red Cross reporting the situation at its worst in decades, nor the open letter from top experts calling for the US to settle with the Taliban and leave as soon as possible.
No, today was the day for the administration to try to convince the American public that the continuation of the war is anything but what it really is, a disastrous commitment to a disastrous policy. Facts, clearly, have no place in such an attempt.
Exactly. Obama's comments today are an attempt to put a positive spin on a terrible situation that keeps getting worse and worse. Public relations at its finest.
But this PR isn't working, and the iron fist is beginning to be used against any vocal and public opposition to this god awful imperial war.
Last September, the FBI served warrants on the homes of anti-war activists in Minnesota and Chicago. Senator Dianna Feinstein --whose husband makes millions as a contractor for the Pentagon and the wars Feinstein supports-- has called for the Espionage Act of 1917 to be used against "threats to national security."
And a little after Obama's Orwellian word play this afternoon, came this gem:
Police arrest 100-plus anti-war demonstrators at White House fence
Washington (CNN) -- Police arrested more than a hundred protesters during an anti-war demonstration outside the White House fence Thursday.
The event was part of a rally that also was in support of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, whose website has revealed secret U.S. documents about Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries.
"This lynch mob mentality is America at its lowest," said Daniel Ellsberg [!!!!!], a former military analyst who, a generation ago, leaked the "Pentagon Papers" to The New York Times.
And Ellsberg's right. The lynch mob mentality that tends to sweep over a country, over decent, hard-working people who should know better is but one more tragic consequence of war and empire.
Whenever a politician mixes the word "war," "traitor," and "national security" together, out comes the rope to choke dissent, liberty, and any threats to the state's parasitic, top-down order.
I am not sure which side I stand on in the current issue of whether or not to boycott the companies that have recently began --due to government pressure-- to withdraw support and/or funding for Wikileaks.
Amazon, a company I am a big supporter and fan of, recently dropped Wikileaks from using its servers. PayPal then began refusing to allow people to send money to Wikileaks or Julian Assange. Ditto Mastercard and Visa.
The folks over at lewrockwell.com have mostly been in favor of ignoring any form of a boycott (insisting on a "buycott" instead), while antiwar.com, who relies heavily on Amazon for a source of funding, has stopped doing business with them.
I think there are legitimate arguments to be made in favor of both opinions, and as a relatively poor, but principled, libertarian, I am stuck between a rock and a hard place. I think that Amazon and the others have behaved a bit cowardly and have shyed away from taking a principled stand, but are acting in a predictable manner when someone places a gun to your head as the federal government is doing.
But what I will comment on is the hypocrisy of the US government and the media for the justification given for the bullying of these businesses (and its hunt for Assange in general). They claim, with a straight face, that Julian Assange and Wikileaks "broke the law."
Which, is well....absolute bullshit. The Australian is reporting today that a high-powered legal team had effectively convinced the Australian government that Assange is innocent.
Of course Assange isn't guilty of any real crime, unless you count embarrassing members of the Imperial Court and making their secret deals and mischief public a crime.
Meanwhile, as the US government is continuously working to bring Assange into custody, it is simultaneously launching Predator Drone strikes in multiple countries, breaking practically every international law, occupying Iraq and Afghanistan, and littering the globe with disgusting and expensive military bases.
So, in summary, I'm glad to see the boycott/not-boycott debate occur; it is the peaceful exchange of ideas. But there's one thing I think we can all agree on: boycott the American Empire.