Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Hands Off Iran

Okay. So Chris Hedges has declared that, should the Administration attack Iran, he will not pay his taxes. This is an issue I myself have wrestled with privately over the past couple years--what would it take for me to rebel against the Government in this fashion? Given the accelerating violations of constitutional law by the governing elite, I think we can consider ourselves at the point where the government is now fully illegitimate.

I will now declare openly what I have considered privately: if the Administration declares war on Iran, I will take the actions recommend by Chris Hedges. I modify this only slightly: if Congress can actually muster the political will to make a proper declaration of war, I will continue to pay my taxes. If, however, we have the Administration committing yet more illegal acts of war, I will join this tax revolt.

Somebody set up a pledge site. I think a message needs to be sent.

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Republican Unity?

One thing that kept coming back to me today was the fact that the existing party structure here in Fresno seemed anxious to bring the Ron Paul supporters into the fold. The last of the speakers, speaking on behalf of... was it Mitt Romney?... took some of his time to congratulate the Ron Paul supporters for their strong showing (this was before the vote count) and to express his pleasure at seeing so many excited activists. He also tried to make the point that the honorable thing for us to do is to support whomever the Republican nominee turns out to be, whether or not it's Ron Paul. A lady who came to sit at the table I was sitting at reiterated the point. I'm fairly certain some Hillary doom-and-gloom was mentioned, as well.

I can see their point. Indeed, I am at the point where I have officially participated in a Republican event. I am participating in the primaries, and I am beginning to believe that perhaps supporting the eventual nominee, regardless of whom it turns out to be, could well be the honorable thing to do. I am also aware, however, that many, if not most, Ron Paul supporters are not susceptible to this sort of thing. For many of us, what we are doing is not participation; it is an invasion. They are in now, but if Ron loses the nomination, they will be gone just as quickly, many of them supporting a third-party or write-in campaign whether Ron likes it or not.

And I can definitely sympathize. I do have respect for the non-voter, and my usual practice of voting for a third-party candidate serves a similar purpose. There is nothing wrong with making an exception for Ron Paul. And given the fact that our laws fairly firmly establish a two party system, there is nothing wrong with joining an established party and attempting to enact change from within, any more than there is anything wrong with a Soviet-era Russian joining the Communist party, lacking other options, or an Iraqi joining the Baath party, lacking options. Indeed, if the "core" of the Big Two really want to keep their parties to themselves, they're going to have to establish voting methods that provide what can only be described as the disenfranchised portion of the population opportunities for representation, such as approval voting, or, better yet, range voting. So if more established Republicans don't like the Ron Paul Revolution invading "their" party, they really only have themselves to blame.

However, I tend toward seeing what I am doing as participation, not invasion. Partially this is because I don't like invading, and partially this is because I strongly believe that acting like an invader will only end up stirring up more active resistance to our attempts to get Ron Paul nominated. Is that not the very same principle behind much of our opposition to the Iraq War--that there are other ways of getting at the terrorists that do not generate yet more sympathy for the terrorists among their potential recruiting and fundraising base? The principle looks the same to me, thus I shall endeavor to treat my newfound Republican colleagues with due respect. I may only be around for this election cycle, but I'm not going to act like an asshole while I'm here. (For anyone who thinks I am calling them an asshole, please re-read the previous paragraph.)

However, even if the Republican party does manage to keep a few Ron Paul votes, I can tell you for sure: they will not get our energy or our enthusiasm. This isn't because we will withhold it in a miserly fashion; it simply will not exist to be given. If the Republicans want us to cut a single check (figuratively speaking) in favor of their candidate, it had better be Ron Paul. If they want awesome videos on YouTube for their candidate, it can be no candidate other than Ron Paul. If they want us on street corners, waving signs and cheering their candidate's name, it has to be Ron Paul--and no other. I just might vote for whomever the Republican nominee turns out to be, but the Revolution is for Ron Paul alone.

And so that's the score. So what do you Republicans, those of you primarily concerned with beating the Democrats (and not primarily concerned with beating any particular potential Republican nominee), want behind our candidate? Big big corporatist and/or military/industrial money, money that comes with corrupt strings attached? Or do you want the Revolution's money? Do you want slick campaign ads that at least 60% of the population will regard with only the most contemptuous cynicism? Or do you want a labor of love? As I said in my previous entry, it really looks like it's going to come down to Giuliani vs. Paul. For those of you who have your candidates being left in the dust, what is it you want not only in a candidate, but the campaign that will come with him?

Rudy Giuliani is pro-choice, but likely to nominate so-called "strict constructionist" judges. Ron Paul is straight-up pro-life--he outflanks the Democrats on the Right. However, his goal at the Federal level is simply to remove it from the jurisdiction of Federal Courts, making him non-threatening to pro-choicers in pro-choice majority states who also have localist sympathies... and yes, they do exist. This makes Dr. Paul more palatable to staunchly pro-life voters than Rudy Giuliani, while at the same time making him less frightening to pro-choice voters than Mike Huckabee, for example.

It is pretty well demonstrated that a majority are opposed to continuing the Iraq War. Rudy advocates an even more warlike foreign policy than the current Administration. Ron is against the Iraq War... but unlike most of the Democrats, he is also staunchly in favor of a strong national defense, and has also stated repeatedly that he DOES want to go after the terrorist threat, but using different (and more precise) tools than are currently being used. Believe the Democrats don't know what they're talking about regarding foreign policy if you want (and I tend to do the same), but Ron Paul is an expert. Thus, he outflanks the Democrats on the LEFT... while at the same time being sensible enough to keep us safe, making him far less frightening to voters on the Right than any Democrat.

On these two issues alone, we see how Ron Paul outflanks any Democratic candidate on both the right AND the left, while Rudy has issues which make him at least vaguely unpalatable on both sides of the spectrum. Many on the Religious Right are underwhelmed by Rudy's stance on abortion, while lefties of all stripes would support Hillary over Rudy, perhaps begrudgingly, but support her all the same.

And wouldn't you want to see the Income Tax gone? From what I've read, the federal budget has grown at such a rate that we only have to go back to year 2000 spending levels to account for the loss of revenues from the personal income tax. And the benefits of ending the Income Tax only begin with the amount of money people would be allowed to keep. In my opinion, the primary benefit is the removal of the tax code compliance burden that currently limits economic creativity, and thus limits the population's ability to create new wealth.

Finally, I want to ask a question: when are rank-and-file Republicans going to hold their own representatives accountable for broken promises? My primary example is the Department of Education. From what I understand, Republicans once held the position that if they controlled the government, they would abolish the federal Department of Education. However, with Republican majorities in both the House and Congress, as well as a Republican in the Oval Office, we didn't get the Department of Education abolished. What we got was No Child Left Behind, an expansion of federal power over education unprecedented even in Democratic years. Why? I really want an answer to this question.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Honestly, I wish I had more to report on this event. I just got back from the straw poll, held by the Fresno County Republican Party. Ron Paul took first place, edging out Rudy Giuliani by two votes (good thing my brother and I showed up!). Ron had something like 35% of the vote. Mitt Romney was third, I think, at 17%. The only other number I remember is that Fred Thompson has 7%. I think Huckabee might have taken 2% or something like that.

Honestly, at least so far as I can see, it's looking like the Republican primary is shaping up to be a contest primarily between Rudy Giuliani and Ron Paul. So for all you Ron Paul supporters out there, don't forget to sign up at http://www.teaparty07.com/. I fully expect that the Tea Party will be an even bigger success than Guy Fawkes Day was, with all the coverage that got him, and all the new supporters that's likely to generate.

I think we may have even won a new convert tonight, an undecided fellow who came to sit at our table, and went away carrying Ron Paul yard signs. Oh, how I wish I had a yard to put a sign in!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Fed Has Wrecked the Stock Market

"America is finished, washed up, kaput. Foreign investors and central banks around the world have lost confidence in US markets and are headed for the exits. The dollar is sinking, the country is insolvent, and its leaders are barking mad. Investors are voting with their feet. They've had enough."

So says Mike Whitney "and many others" at Lewrockwell.com. I feel the need to be contrary to the alarmism. Yes, the dollar is on the way down, down to the bottom... of the market (not the ocean). However, it is entirely possible that the bottom is NOT at flat zero value. I've been concerned in the past that the deliberate attempts to artificially raise foreign demand for the dollar (such as the constant maneuvering, both diplomatic and warlike, to ensure that the middle eastern oil market continues to do business in US Dollars) was unsustainable. The dollar was strong, but brittle. The current rejection of the dollar as "worldwide reserve currency" was bound to happen at some point, and is now dropping relative to foreign currencies not because the physical part of the US economy has anything wrong with it now that it did not have before, but because the foreign dollar speculation "bubble" has burst.

So long as the response in the US is not panic, but rather acceptance of our new place in the international order, it's entirely possible that this situation can pass, that the bottom for the dollar will not be total collapse, but rather a settling to a lower, more sustainable level. The US can, as a result of its lowered currency, go back to being an exporter and a lender, rather than relying upon artificial foreign demand for our currency for our standard of living. The other thing that has to happen, of course, is for the political and economic elites to realize they can no longer borrow and inflate at the rate they once did.

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

RE: Salon’s Psychoanalysis of Libertarians

Lewrockwell.com's Gene Callahan and Bob Murphy had some things to say about some things Andrew Sullivan had to say about the Nov 5th Moneybomb for Ron Paul's Campaign. Sullivan seems to think (or at least wants his readers to think) that geeks, being computer programmers, believe in the power of sets of rules to produce an ideal society. Somehow, governing society by rules seems to equal the libertarian position for Sullivan... however that works. Callahan and Murphy have already dealt adequately with the absurdities of Sullivan's arguments; I am going to propose a different explanation for why the Internet is such a hotbed of libertarianism.

First off, consider Sullivan's "computer programming nerds." If there is any kind of person who understands that rules and people do not interact in the fashion a rule maker imagines, it is a computer programmer. A computer programmer has, at his disposal, a machine that will follow his instructions exactly. A computer never disobeys, never argues, it just does exactly what it is told... and all to often, the result of that is counter to what the programmer is trying to accomplish. You write, run, debug, run again, debug, cycle through that process repeatedly until the program is finally judged ready for the end user, and STILL the program will have problems. Try to govern human beings by sets of instructions (that is to say, legislation) and the imperfection of sets of instructions is compounded further by the self-directed nature of human beings.

Other than "computer nerds," there's also those of us who have been on the Internet for a long time. The seed of the physical medium may have been established by a government program, and may currently be under the ownership of a small set of big corporations, but the society that has evolved within this medium was, and to a large extent still is, unregulated by government. There are, of course, rules everywhere, but these rules are developed and enforced by the mutual consent of the participants. Nobody has a monopoly on communication, on any particular subject, on anything at all. If you don't like the rules of one community, there are others to join, as well as the option of creating one's own. And there is no "police power" involved in the enforcement of these rules. The moderator of an individual community has no more or less power than that of the host of a party: the authority to exclude. Sure, people get mad at trolls and spammers sometimes, but the existing methods of dealing with problem people are fine.

Even when conflicts do get physical, when hackers and virus creaters cause damage to other people's data, the solution is nearly always technological in nature, and government rarely has any help to offer. By the time government is aware there is a problem, the locals are already fixing it. By the time the government has figured out a "solution," people have already moved on. It's as if, in the real world, somebody was robbed, the thief was surrounded by a group of neighborhood toughs as well as a few older people, testimony was offered, a verdict rendered, the property returned, the people dispersed... and right about then the cops are finally rolling up.

Simply put, we've seen how much can be accomplished without the "help" of government, and don't really see a need for it, in the online realm. How hard is it to imagine that the offline realm might work just as well if people, rather than sitting around waiting for the government to act, just got in and solved their problems without having to ask for permission first?

That's my take on this whole "Internet libertarianism" thing, anyway. This is a very rough draft of it, and I'll probably have to take some stuff back and elaborate on other points later on. I'm also sure there are others who have said it much better.

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Saturday, November 03, 2007

9/11 Changed Everything

I've long been one to deny that 9/11 actually changed anything. Sure, the towers are gone, a lot of people died, but the fact is, terrorists have been attacking US targets for years. They'd already had successful operations against targets on foreign soil, and it wasn't even the first time someone attempted to blow up the World Trade Center. 9/11 did not change state of the world in a way that required a sudden upstep in US efforts to bring eternal peace via eternal war. However, I am starting to recognize that it did, truly, change the content of the public foreign policy debate.

Before, "9/11 changed everything" meant nothing more to me than "We win, you don't matter because people are too scared to listen to anyone that won't blow up anything that moves for their sake, so instead of actually attempting to refute your arguments, I'm just going to ignore you. Because of 9/11, it is safe for me to do so." I saw it this way because, for me, 9/11 really didn't change anything. I already knew there were Islamic extremists that wanted to blow up, and already had blown up, US targets. I also knew that much of their motivation was political in nature, the result of CIA operations that placed dictators, no better than Joseph Stalin himself in regard to the lives and rights of the people over whom they ruled, in a position of near total control. The Shah of Iran is a good example, but there is also the government of Egypt, the House of Saud, and many others. People in that part of the world have had to fear for their lives on a daily basis, and the perpetrator of those wrongs nearly universally have the label "Made in the USA" stamped on them. Islamicism is just the flavor of the movement to redress those grievances. It is the grievances themselves that lends the movements their power. For me, 9/11 changed nothing.

However, I am coming to realize just how in the dark most people were about the rest of the world. Most people never thought about it. Those that did, simply thought of them as problems "over there," and that between the moral rightness of our way of life, and the awesome power of the US Military, nobody could, or would, ever touch us. The Soviets had once been a threat, but we "beat" them, and now we could afford to just assume the rest of the world didn't exist.

9/11 changed that. Suddenly, the aura of invincibility has been shattered... and I really had no idea just how much most people depended upon that aura for their mental stability. I've never assumed this, but it seems there are those who do: being hated, being in mortal danger is the norm, and only the threat of overwhelming force keeps people from being constantly at one another's throats. For such people, 9/11 changed everything. To them, we cannot allow "them" (whoever "they" are) to get away with it, lest we invite more, and more, and more... and the armored shell which is necessary for every human being's survival be broken.

Honestly, it boggles my mind, how much people fear each other. I'm shy, but that's just because I fear rejection... not because I fear that if I step out of my bubble world I'm likely to be murdered by the first guy I see! But then, I remember the mutual fear between different areas of the city in which I live. There are folks on the west side that won't go to Clovis because they fear the evil racist cops. There are folks in Clovis that won't go to the west side (and thought I was crazy for attending a west-side magnet school) for fear of the evil, ubiquitously aggressive and murderous gangsters. Personally, I'll go into the very heart of "The U" if someone there calls for pest control.

I could ramble on about irrational fear forever, but then I'd bore you before I got to the second group of people for whom 9/11 changed everything. There are more people than ever before that realize that the same people who set domestic policy also set foreign policy, and with the same motivations: for the benefit of politically connected interest groups, to the detriment of the remainder of the people. People on both sides of this issue are seeing the other side's way. I've personally met a few people who traditionally argue for a more interventionist domestic policy and decry an interventionist foreign policy, who are suddenly willing to consider major shrinkage in the federal government, and pursue their domestic ends at the state level. Sadly, I haven't seen many examples of the reverse conversion: those who traditionally want a minimal domestic policy and yet want a strong, active foreign policy seem much more willing to compromise on domestic issues for the sake of maintaining an aggressive, militant posture on the world stage. Still, I have heard of people going the other way, people who are willing to support Ron Paul because, despite the fact that they disagree with him on the War, they agree with him on just about everything else.

The forces of empire haven't acted so overtly since the Spanish-American war. There probably haven't been so many people aware of the true nature of the foreign policy establishment since the end of World War 1.

9/11 scared some people. It woke some other people up, and as a result we are seeing the most exciting election cycle ever. When was the last time we saw a presidential front runner talk about ending the IRS? When was the last time we saw a presidential front runner talk about ending the Federal Reserve? When was the last time we saw a presidential front runner talk very, very specifically about how the government is the cause of various ills people traditionally run to the government to solve (over and over again, despite repeated, highly predictable failures)? It isn't so much that someone is saying this: Ron is but one among many who have been talking about these things for years. It is, however, the first time we've seen someone garner so much public support (the proof is in the money), to the point where the establishment could not ignore him.

It isn't him. He hasn't discovered some magic political formula that, at long last, makes this all possible. It's 9/11. 9/11 changed everything. 9/11 caused people to wonder about other places in the world. 9/11 emboldened the proponents of empire and conquest to show their hands. And many people, who are now actually paying attention to what is, and has been, going on, are coming to realize who the real enemy of liberty is.