Thursday, December 31, 2009

Dave Barry's Year in Review: 2009

Dave Barry gives his always hilarious year-end review:

Dave Barry It was a year of Hope -- at first in the sense of "I feel hopeful!" and later in the sense of "I hope this year ends soon!"

It was also a year of Change, especially in Washington, where the tired old hacks of yesteryear finally yielded the reins of power to a group of fresh, young, idealistic, new-idea outsiders such as Nancy Pelosi. As a result Washington, rejecting "business as usual," finally stopped trying to solve every problem by throwing billions of taxpayer dollars at it and instead started trying to solve every problem by throwing trillions of taxpayer dollars at it.

To be sure, it was a year that saw plenty of bad news. But in almost every instance, there was offsetting good news:

BAD NEWS: The economy remained critically weak, with rising unemployment, a severely depressed real-estate market, the near-collapse of the domestic automobile industry and the steep decline of the dollar.

GOOD NEWS: Windows 7 sucked less than Vista.

BAD NEWS: The downward spiral of the newspaper industry continued, resulting in the firings of thousands of experienced reporters and an apparently permanent deterioration in the quality of American journalism.

GOOD NEWS: A lot more people were tweeting.

BAD NEWS: Ominous problems loomed abroad as -- among other difficulties -- the Afghanistan war went sour, and Iran threatened to plunge the Middle East and beyond into nuclear war.

GOOD NEWS: They finally got Roman Polanski.

Read the rest

Monday, December 28, 2009

Science, Politics, and Global Warming (Wal Thornhill)

Wal Thornhill, in noting the absurdity of the global warming hysteria, makes the astute comment that "If astronomers have bestowed an invalid theory for the Sun [by ignoring its electrical nature], the source of our warmth and weather on Earth, then climate science is adrift from reality":

“In the end, science offers us the only way out of politics. And if we allow science to become politicized, then we are lost. We will enter the Internet version of the dark ages, an era of shifting fears and wild prejudices, transmitted to people who don't know any better. That's not a good future for the human race. That's our past.”

—Michael Crichton, “Environmentalism as Religion,” (A lecture at the Commonwealth Club, San Francisco, CA, September 15, 2003).

The Global Warming circus in Copenhagen was politics driven by a consensus that, by definition, has nothing to do with science. The apocalyptic nonsense that opened the meeting highlighted that fact. How many who attended or demonstrated at the meeting actually understand the (disputed) scientific grounds for the hysteria? Meanwhile, leading science journals allow skeptics of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) to be labelled “deniers” and refuse them the right of reply. It is doctrinaire denouncement, not science. It is the journal editors who are denying the scientific method by censoring debate. It is they who are peddling ideology.

Despite the glossy media image, modern science is a mess. When the fundamental concepts are false, technological progress merely provides science with a more efficient means for going backwards. At the same time, government and corporate funding promotes the rampant disease of specialism and fosters politicization of science with the inevitable warring factions and religious fervor.

Read the rest

Democracy and Faits Accomplis (Bob Higgs)

Bob Higgs wrote this terrific essay on the scourge of democracy and the religious-like fervor of its adherents:

No institution of modern life commands as much veneration as democracy. It comes closer than anything else to being the supreme object of adoration in a global religion. Anyone who denies its righteousness and desirability soon finds himself a pariah. One may get away with denouncing motherhood and apple pie, but not with speaking ill of democracy, which is now the principal icon of political and social life throughout the world. Many people are atheists, but few are antidemocrats.

Worship of this particular political arrangement has emerged relatively recently, however, and in earlier ages political philosophers were more apt to condemn democracy than to praise it. Aristotle, whose views received great weight for millennia, did not recommend democracy highly. Along with many other criticisms of this type of government, he wrote in his Politics:

1313b: 32-41: The final form of democracy has characteristics of tyranny: women dominate in the household so that they can denounce their husbands, slaves lack discipline, and flatterers — demagogues — are held in honor. The people wish to be a monarch.

1295b: 39-1296a5: It is best for citizens in a city-state to possess a moderate amount of wealth because where some have a lot and some have none the result is the ultimate democracy or unmixed oligarchy. Tyranny can result from both these extremes. It is much less likely to spring from moderate systems of government.

1276a: 12-14: Some democracies, like tyrannies, rest on force and are not directed toward the common advantage.

1312b: 35-38: Ultimate democracy, like unmixed and final oligarchy, is really a tyranny divided [among a multitude of persons].

The founders of the United States of America had mixed views about democracy. Nearly all of them seem to have feared it more than they respected it. They recognized that concessions to fairly wide participation in politics might have to be made to placate the masses — who, after all, had served as cannon fodder in the recently concluded war of secession from the British Empire — but they designed a system in which voting would be hobbled and circumscribed, so that the common people would be kept from giving direct vent to their passions by seizing control of the government and using it to plunder the rich.

Read the rest

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Ron Paul: Healthcare Reform is a Lump of Coal

Dr. Paul's latest Texas Straight Talk:

Congressman Ron PaulLast week on Christmas Eve, after many backroom deals were made, the Senate passed the healthcare reform bill with a strictly partisan vote. I was pleased that my colleagues in the GOP are on the right side of this bill. Although this vote was a major step in healthcare reform becoming reality, they still have to reconcile the Senate bill with the House-passed version in conference committee. This could prove even more difficult and costly than the Senate vote.

There was a little bit of controversy surrounding one particular Senator who was initially against the bill, but then, coincidentally, a large amount of Medicare funding specifically for his state was tucked inside and he ended up voting for it. One wonders how much more of that will have to go on to achieve final passage.

But this is how politicians in Washington deal with problems: they throw your money at them. Healthcare reform is no different. The Senate version of the bill, at last count, will cost $871 billion. The House version tops $1 trillion. But they tell us this is for the health of Americans, and how dare we count the cost?

Such is the arrogance of politicians. There seems to be no end to the problems they feel capable and duty-bound to solve through legislative proclamation and plenty of your money. To hear them talk, one might think that a few words spoken on Capitol Hill would make problems just disappear. All it takes it good intentions.

But no good can come from 2400 pages of Washington’s good intentions.

I have observed quite the opposite throughout my political career in the House of Representatives, and fear that with this immense legislation, our healthcare problems are only just beginning. Over the last few decades, I have seen healthcare subjected to more and more creeping red tape that only creates bottlenecks and increases costs as new bureaucratic hurdles are put in place.

Politicians cannot solve the problems created by ever-increasing intervention by exponentially increasing their intervention. Similarly, they cannot improve the quality of healthcare and expand access to it for all Americans simply by legislative decree. If only it were that simple! The reality is the free market, when allowed to function, naturally increases access and drives prices down through competition. The free market keeps service providers accountable by allowing people to take their business elsewhere.

This government intervention will eventually create a near monopoly of providers in health insurance as smaller companies are squeezed out and innovation comes to a grinding halt due to formidable barriers to entry. The government will determine prices and levels of service that will apply to everyone, regardless of want or individual circumstances. The true insurance model of healthcare cost management, meaning major medical coverage only, will basically become illegal. Opting out of the system will incur heavy tax penalties.

Expanding government reach so deeply into this very sensitive area of our personal lives and such a major part of our economy means more opportunities for waste, fraud and abuse of the system. One need only remember the recent bailouts for an example of how government handles systemic waste, fraud and abuse.

So while the Senate patted itself on the back last week for delivering a Christmas gift to Americans, time will prove it was instead a great big lump of coal.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

May I present Giuseppe Torelli's fabulous "Christmas Concert" (Op. 8 No. 6) for your viewing enjoyment:

Have a wonderful Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Obama's Prison Camp Economy (Bill Butler)

Bill Butler reflects on the recent announcement of a new petro-currency (the Gulfo) and its ramifications:

Bill ButlerFriends and clients who are just beginning to understand the truth that is Austrian economic theory are starting to ask me what I think the economy will look like over the next several years as the dollar inevitably declines. Whether the dollar lives and merely loses its status as the world’s reserve currency or actually dies via an “orderly” or sudden death, I think the result will be the same. For some period of time, perhaps weeks, perhaps years, dollars within the United States will resemble cigarettes in a prison camp—very valuable inside the camp, almost worthless outside the camp.

The reason, of course, is that the dollar is just paper. Since August 15, 1971, it has been backed not by gold or silver, but by two things: (1) oil producing countries’ agreement to accept it, to the exclusion of all other paper currencies, for oil; and (2) the federal government’s power to tax. United States Treasury debt is attractive to investors, like China , only as long as both legs of this two-legged stool remain strong.

The Arab oil-producing countries announced this week that they intend to establish a new currency, called the Gulfo, that will be the new exclusive currency for buying Arab oil. I believe this represents Western central planners pulling out one leg of the two-legged stool. It is a very significant event and in a real world would have been front page news on every newspaper.

Read the rest

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Supreme Court Has Ruled: You Have No Rights (Bob Higgs)

Bob Higgs comments on a quiet but devastating (although not very surprising) recent decision by the Supreme Court:

Robert Higgs
Do you believe that the government of the United States considers itself obliged by law to respect anyone’s rights? You are wrong. Read Chris Floyd’s article on a recent Supreme Court ruling, and weep your bitterest tears. If you count yourself among those who believe that this country stands for something better than the historical norm of tyranny and savagery, consider yourself as having made a grievous mistake.

In truth, any “constitutionally protected rights” you are now exercising exist solely at the pleasure and convenience of the rulers. The minute the continuation of your life or liberty no longer pleases them, they will, as the Court’s ruling makes clear, simply declare you an unperson to be dealt with as they choose, whether they choose to torture you, confine you in a steel cage for the rest of your life, or peremptorily kill you. They recognize NO rights in anyone (except themselves, of course) that they are bound to respect.

This horror is the end to which a brave experiment has come. If the rulers can, at their pleasure, declare ANYONE THEY SELECT a legal unperson, the notion that the United States is a free country is nothing but the sickest of sick jokes.

Don’t tell me I’m hysterical because most people don’t have their doors kicked in and suffer having themselves or their relatives dragged off into legal oblivion. The USSR and Maoist China did not drag away most people, either. The government, for its own support, needs most people to continue producing goods and services. The point is the principle on which the government will act, and that principle is now plainly that the rulers will act however they wish. Those who resist may simply be “disappeared.”

Congratulations, fellow Americans. Your beloved country has now become Argentina at its worst.

Ron Paul: Iran Sanctions are Precursor to War

Dr. Paul's latest Texas Straight Talk:

Congressman Ron PaulLast week the House overwhelmingly approved a measure to put a new round of sanctions on Iran. If this measure passes the Senate, the United States could no longer do business with anyone who sold refined petroleum products to Iran or helped them develop their ability to refine their own petroleum. The sad thing is that many of my colleagues voted for this measure because they felt it would deflect a military engagement with Iran. I would put the question to them, how would Congress react if another government threatened our critical trading partners in this way? Would we not view it as asking for war?

This policy is pure isolationism. It is designed to foment war by cutting off trade and diplomacy. Too many forget that the quagmire in Iraq began with an embargo. Sanctions are not diplomacy. They are a precursor to war and an embarrassment to a country that pays lip service to free trade. It is ironic that people who decry isolationism support actions like this.

If a foreign government attempted to isolate the US economically, cut off our supply of gasoline, or starve us to death, would it cause Americans to admire that foreign entity? Or would we instead unite under the flag for the survival of our country?

We would not tolerate foreign covert operations fomenting regime change in our government. Yet our CIA has been meddling in Iran for decades. Of course Iranians resent this. In fact, many in Iran still resent the CIA’s involvement in overthrowing their democratically elected leader in 1953. The answer is not to cut off gasoline to the Iranian people. The answer is to stay out of their affairs and trade with them honestly. If our operatives were no longer in Iran, they would no longer be available as scapegoats for the regime to, rightly or wrongly, blame for every bad thing that happens. As bad as other regimes may be, it is up to their own people to deal with them so they can achieve true self-determination. When foreigners instigate regime change, the new government they institute is always perceived as serving the interest of the overthrowing country, not the people. Thus we take the blame for bad governance twice. Instead we should stay out of their affairs altogether.

With the exception of the military industrial complex, we all want a more peaceful world. Many are hysterical about the imminent threat of a nuclear Iran. Here are the facts: Iran has never been found out of compliance with the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) they signed. However, being surrounded by nuclear powers one can understand why they might want to become nuclear capable if only to defend themselves and to be treated more respectfully. After all, we don’t sanction nuclear capable countries. We take diplomatic negotiations a lot more seriously, and we frequently send money to them instead. The non-nuclear countries are the ones we bomb. If Iran was attempting to violate the non-proliferation treaty, they could hardly be blamed, since US foreign policy gives them every incentive to do so.

Worse than War Criminals: The Case for Skewering Santa's Elves

My favorite curmudgeon Fred Reed isn't a big fan (to say the least) of what Christmas has become here in America:

Fred on EverythingI’m going to kill Santa Clause—cart him to the guillotine in a tumbrel, and then carry his head through town on a pike. I mean it. That damned red-nosed reindeer will be sausage. Why is his nose red? Because he’s a drunk. His real name is O’Toole. He emigrated to the North Pole under a forged visa.

I can’t stand it. The entire United States has become on vast elevator, with lame carols raining down like a musical sewage-outflow. Barely musical. There’s no escape. Ringdingchingading, Dingdingchingaring, Santa Clause is coming to…a bad end, if I catch the rascal. I’ll hang him on fish hooks.

Why do we put up with this saccharine compulsory gaiety? I’m dreeeem-ing of a …aaagh! It would drive shellfish to wear ear plugs. But we don’t just tolerate commercial leminghood. We congratulate ourselves on it. News reports tell us excitedly how sales compare with last year’s. Television clips show people pawing at bins in low-end slop chutes, dropping half on the floor.

I want to strangle something. Bring me a duck.

All that tiresome yodeling about things that most people wouldn’t recognize if they tripped over one. Half the public couldn’t tell a reindeer from a hat rack. A one-horse open sleigh? Probably nobody alive has ever seen a sleigh, or, many of them, a horse. It’s ersatz nostalgia for a world we never knew. Buy something.

Read the rest

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ben Bernanke is Time's Person of the Year??

Ron Paul says Bernanke should have won the prize of World's Greatest Counterfeiter instead: blogger Lilburne points out that, along with wins by the economic "genius" Paul Krugman and the "peace president" Barack Obama, this completes a very unholy trinity:

"We Need a Housing Bubble" Krugman got a Nobel in Economics. "Let's Ramp Up a Murderous, Useless War" Obama got a Nobel Peace Prize. So what do we give Helicopter Ben Bernanke, who has squandered much of whatever capital we had left after the housing bubble burst by pushing interest rates down to zero, and guaranteed (just wait for it) the worst depression in American history? Make him Time Person of the Year!

This is really quite a deft move by the establishment. How could Congress have the audacity to vote to undermine the Time Person of the Year, of all people?!

As can be seen from the Time puff piece written for the occasion, the Fed has gotten cultivating a certain image down to an art. As I've written:

There is something disarming about a technocrat. While it is easy to dismiss elected officials as blustering panderers, there is something comforting in the image of the specialist civil servant toiling away with industry and equanimity. We tend to imagine such an employee of the state poring over statistics as an ancient Greek priest might examine entrails, and carefully allocating resources like an Egyptian vizier allocating slaves. The technocrat seems benign, crucially important, and above the fray.

This is certainly the image that has been cultivated by Federal Reserve chairmen. One remembers Alan Greenspan, with his prominent braincase and thick glasses, uttering technical jargon just arcane enough to assure the markets that all was well with the "Greenspan put." And we are regularly presented with Ben Bernanke, the bearded sage, comfortingly citing statistics that show how government remedies are working their way through the economy (however egregiously wrong he may be).

And see how the lead paragraph of the Time peace fits that image perfectly:

A bald man with a gray beard and tired eyes is sitting in his oversize Washington office, talking about the economy. He doesn't have a commanding presence. He isn't a mesmerizing speaker. He has none of the look-at-me swagger or listen-to-me charisma so common among men with oversize Washington offices. His arguments aren't partisan or ideological; they're methodical, grounded in data and the latest academic literature. When he doesn't know something, he doesn't bluster or bluff. He's professorial, which makes sense, because he spent most of his career as a professor.

And I see another trend. In Newsweek's profile of Paul Krugman, they wrote:

Krugman says he found himself in the science fiction of Isaac Asimov, especially the "Foundation" series". It was nerds saving civilization, quants who had a theory of society, people writing equations on a blackboard, saying, 'See, unless you follow this formula, the empire will fail and be followed by a thousand years of barbarism.'"

And now, Time writes of Bernanke:

He is not, in other words, a typical Beltway power broker. He's shy. He doesn't do the D.C. dinner-party circuit; he prefers to eat at home with his wife, who still makes him do the dishes and take out the trash. Then they do crosswords or read. Because Ben Bernanke is a nerd.

He just happens to be the most powerful nerd on the planet.

Well, as we all reap what Krugman and Bernanke has sowed for us in the coming years, it's going to give the phrase, "Revenge of the Nerds" a fresh, terrible meaning.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ron Paul Opposes Iran Sanctions

Statement of Congressman Ron Paul
United States House of Representatives

Statement Opposing the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act

December 15, 2009

Congressman Ron PaulI rise in strongest opposition to this new round of sanctions on Iran, which is another significant step toward a US war on that country. I find it shocking that legislation this serious and consequential is brought up in such a cavalier manner. Suspending the normal rules of the House to pass legislation is a process generally reserved for “non-controversial” business such as the naming of post offices. Are we to believe that this House takes matters of war and peace as lightly as naming post offices?

This legislation seeks to bar from doing business in the United States any foreign entity that sells refined petroleum to Iran or otherwise enhances Iran’s ability to import refined petroleum such as financing, brokering, underwriting, or providing ships for such. Such sanctions also apply to any entity that provides goods or services that enhance Iran’s ability to maintain or expand its domestic production of refined petroleum. This casts the sanctions net worldwide, with enormous international economic implications.

Recently, the Financial Times reported that, “[i]n recent months, Chinese companies have greatly expanded their presence in Iran's oil sector. In the coming months, Sinopec, the state-owned Chinese oil company, is scheduled to complete the expansion of the Tabriz and Shazand refineries -- adding 3.3 million gallons of gasoline per day.”

Are we to conclude, with this in mind, that China or its major state-owned corporations will be forbidden by this legislation from doing business with the United States? What of our other trading partners who currently do business in Iran’s petroleum sector or insure those who do so? Has anyone seen an estimate of how this sanctions act will affect the US economy if it is actually enforced?

As we have learned with US sanctions on Iraq, and indeed with US sanctions on Cuba and elsewhere, it is citizens rather than governments who suffer most. The purpose of these sanctions is to change the regime in Iran, but past practice has demonstrated time and again that sanctions only strengthen regimes they target and marginalize any opposition. As would be the case were we in the US targeted for regime change by a foreign government, people in Iran will tend to put aside political and other differences to oppose that threatening external force. Thus this legislation will likely serve to strengthen the popularity of the current Iranian government. Any opposition continuing to function in Iran would be seen as operating in concert with the foreign entity seeking to overthrow the regime.

This legislation seeks to bring Iran in line with international demands regarding its nuclear materials enrichment programs, but what is ironic is that Section 2 of HR 2194 itself violates the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to which both the United States and Iran are signatories. This section states that “[i]t shall be the policy of the United States…to prevent Iran from achieving the capability to make nuclear weapons, including by supporting international diplomatic efforts to halt Iran's uranium enrichment program.” Article V of the NPT states clearly that, “[n]othing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with articles I and II of this Treaty.” As Iran has never been found in violation of the NPT -- has never been found to have diverted nuclear materials for non-peaceful purposes -- this legislation seeking to deny Iran the right to enrichment even for peaceful purposes itself violates the NPT.

Mr. Speaker, I am concerned that many of my colleagues opposing war on Iran will vote in favor of this legislation, seeing it as a step short of war to bring Iran into line with US demands. I would remind them that sanctions and the blockades that are required to enforce them are themselves acts of war according to international law. I urge my colleagues to reject this saber-rattling but ultimately counterproductive legislation.

Ron Paul Co-Hosts CNBC's Squawk Box

Nice job by Dr. Paul today as he tries his hand as co-host of a major cable show! Watch below, or click here for the playlist:

Monday, December 14, 2009

Ron Paul: The Fed's Money Monopoly

Dr. Paul's latest Texas Straight Talk:

Congressman Ron PaulLast week, in the name of protecting the little guy from Wall Street, the House passed HR 4173 to increase the little guy’s false sense of security in the financial system. This mammoth piece of legislation would massively increase government regulation and oversight in the banking industry under the misguided reasoning that more government could have stopped faulty lending practices, when in actuality it caused them. This bill would also greatly increase the powers of the Federal Reserve, which too many in Congress still see as savior rather than perpetrator in this mess.

One silver lining is that the amendment to audit the Fed is still attached to the bill, and if it survives the Senate, the Fed will no longer operate in secrecy. If any version of HR 4173 becomes law, the Fed will be intervening and bailing out more rather than less, as it will gain enormous new powers in addition to those it already has. Whatever happens, the Fed and its defenders have seen that people are becoming very wary of its methods of operation, and many are downright angry at its very existence. Never again will the Fed be immune from the scrutiny of its critics. This is very positive.

Because of legal tender laws that force acceptance of the dollar, the Fed has absolute power over the currency. This absolute power is leading to the absolute corruption of our currency. The money supply has doubled in the last year or so, which is extremely dangerous. The banks seem to be hoarding liquidity now but once these dollars make their way into the economy, hyperinflation and economic chaos will be a real possibility.

Every time hyperinflation rips through an economy, the middle class gets completely wiped out. It is very alarming to watch the purchasing power of an entire life savings reduced to that of a few pennies. Those savings represent years of real labor, real time, effort and sacrifice exchanged for corruptible pieces of paper that politicians and bankers can destroy at whim.

Legal tender laws force the people to become subject to this risk for the benefit of the rulers. Artificial demand for currency allows the authorities to create arbitrary amounts of it to pay for wasteful projects, like frivolous wars and an ever-expanding public sector. This saps the private economy of jobs and purchasing power, yet the temptation proves too great for politicians, time and time again. Our government is no different. Although our dollar has taken nearly a century to lose 98% of its purchasing power, the fact that we are all obliged to participate in this slow burn of the economy on pain of imprisonment is anathema to the principles of liberty.

I introduced the Free Competition in Currency Act last week to free the people from these governmental threats. HR 4248 would repeal legal tender laws, prohibit taxation on certain coins and bullion, and repeal certain laws related to coinage. The prospect of people turning away from the dollar towards alternate currencies should provide incentive for Congress to regain control of the dollar and halt its downward spiral. Restoring soundness to the dollar will remove the government's ability and incentive to inflate the currency and keep us from launching unconstitutional wars that burden our economy to excess. With a sound currency, everyone is better off, not just those who control the monetary system.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Ron Paul: It is Time to Leave Afghanistan

It appears Dr. Paul inserted his statement into the record and did not get a chance to speak during this hearing on Afghanistan:

Statement of Congressman Ron Paul
United States House of Representatives

Statement Before Foreign Affairs Committee

December 10, 2009

Congressman Ron PaulMr. Speaker thank you for holding these important hearings on US policy in Afghanistan. I would like to welcome the witnesses, Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry and General Stanley A. McChrystal, and thank them for appearing before this Committee.

I have serious concerns, however, about the president’s decision to add some 30,000 troops and an as yet undisclosed number of civilian personnel to escalate our Afghan operation. This “surge” will bring US troop levels to approximately those of the Soviets when they occupied Afghanistan with disastrous result back in the 1980s. I fear the US military occupation of Afghanistan may end up similarly unsuccessful.

In late 1986 Soviet armed forces commander, Marshal Sergei Akhromeev, told then-Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, "Military actions in Afghanistan will soon be seven years old. There is no single piece of land in this country which has not been occupied by a Soviet soldier. Nonetheless, the majority of the territory remains in the hands of rebels.” Soon Gorbachev began the Soviet withdrawal from its Afghan misadventure. Thousands were dead on both sides, yet the occupation failed to produce a stable national Afghan government.

Eight years into our own war in Afghanistan the Soviet commander’s words ring eerily familiar. Part of the problem stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of the situation. It is our presence as occupiers that feeds the insurgency. As would be the case if we were invaded and occupied, diverse groups have put aside their disagreements to unify against foreign occupation. Adding more US troops will only assist those who recruit fighters to attack our soldiers and who use the US occupation to convince villages to side with the Taliban.

Proponents of the president’s Afghanistan escalation cite the successful “surge” in Iraq as evidence that this second surge will have similar results. I fear they might be correct about the similar result, but I dispute the success propaganda about Iraq. In fact, the violence in Iraq only temporarily subsided with the completion of the ethnic cleansing of Shi’ites from Sunni neighborhoods and vice versa – and all neighborhoods of Christians. Those Sunni fighters who remained were easily turned against the foreign al-Qaeda presence when offered US money and weapons. We are increasingly seeing this “success” breaking down: sectarian violence is flaring up and this time the various groups are better armed with US-provided weapons. Similarly, the insurgents paid by the US to stop their attacks are increasingly restive now that the Iraqi government is no longer paying bribes on a regular basis. So I am skeptical about reports on the success of the Iraqi surge.

Likewise, we are told that we have to “win” in Afghanistan so that al-Qaeda cannot use Afghan territory to plan further attacks against the US. We need to remember that the attack on the United States on September 11, 2001 was, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, largely planned in the United States (and Germany) by terrorists who were in our country legally. According to the logic of those who endorse military action against Afghanistan because al-Qaeda was physically present, one could argue in favor of US airstrikes against several US states and Germany! It makes no sense. The Taliban allowed al-Qaeda to remain in Afghanistan because both had been engaged, with US assistance, in the insurgency against the Soviet occupation.

Nevertheless, the president’s National Security Advisor, Gen. James Jones, USMC (Ret.), said in a recent interview that less than 100 al-Qaeda remain in Afghanistan and that the chance they would reconstitute a significant presence there was slim. Are we to believe that 30,000 more troops are needed to defeat 100 al-Qaeda fighters? I fear that there will be increasing pressure for the US to invade Pakistan, to where many Taliban and al-Qaeda have escaped. Already CIA drone attacks on Pakistan have destabilized that country and have killed scores of innocents, producing strong anti-American feelings and calls for revenge. I do not see how that contributes to our national security.

The president’s top advisor for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, said recently, “I would say this about defining success in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In the simplest sense, the Supreme Court test for another issue, we’ll know it when we see it.” That does not inspire much confidence.

Supporters of this surge argue that we must train an Afghan national army to take over and strengthen the rule and authority of Kabul. But experts have noted that the ranks of the Afghan national army are increasingly being filled by the Tajik minority at the expense of the Pashtun plurality. US diplomat Matthew Hoh, who resigned as Senior Civilian Representative for the U.S. Government in Zabul Province, noted in his resignation letter that he “fail[s] to see the value or the worth in continued U.S. casualties or expenditures of resources in support of the Afghan government in what is, truly, a 35-year old civil war.” Mr. Hoh went on to write that “[L]ike the Soviets, we continue to secure and bolster a failing state, while encouraging an ideology and system of government unknown and unwanted by [the Afghan] people.”

I have always opposed nation-building as unconstitutional and ineffective. Afghanistan is no different. Without a real strategy in Afghanistan, without a vision of what victory will look like, we are left with the empty rhetoric of the last administration that “when the Afghan people stand up, the US will stand down.” I am afraid the only solution to the Afghanistan quagmire is a rapid and complete US withdrawal from that country and the region. We cannot afford to maintain this empire and our occupation of these foreign lands is not making us any safer. It is time to leave Afghanistan.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Wheat and Chaff: Part II of Understanding the Code (Bill Butler)

Bill Butler continues his critical look at the "Matrix that is the federal income tax code":

“His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” ~ Matthew 3:12

So much of life is about: (1) making distinctions; and (2) making choices. Indeed, the meaning and consequence of all our lives can fairly be said to be a test of our free will choices and the rational, intellectual distinctions we make in choosing between free will courses of action. Two identically smart, identically diligent people making nearly identical choices can arrive at very different places based on the distinctions they make in choosing a course of action. For example, two very smart, productive individuals may have earned and been able to “save” $200,000 over the last decade. One smart person may have put that money into the stock market in a government-blessed peculium, like a 401(k) or IRA. The other person may have allowed that $200,000 to run through the federal tax gauntlet, paid his 30 percent tithe to the state, and used his net $140,000 to buy, as just an example, gold. Although both people are smart and may be equally honest and upstanding, each makes his decision based on different assumptions. The first assumes that the fiat paper-denominated market is safe and takes no heed or notice of government rules, regulations and fines that compel his actions. He trusts his rulers and perhaps does not understand how his actions support things that he finds morally abhorrent. When his rulers tell him that his paper is fire-proof or that they can control the unquenchable fire, he believes them. The second assumes, for perhaps a myriad of reasons, that his tangible gold (a bird in the hand) is better than paper notes or computerized digits. He knows that his rulers are fallible men just like him and so distrusts them when they tell him that their paper is fire resistant. Their attempts to coerce him to act in a certain way only heightens his suspicions.

That is life, isn’t it? Upon whom and what we place our trust and faith says everything about us. If we do not challenge basic assumptions and question everything, we risk getting burned with the chaff.

Read the rest

Ron Paul Introduces the Free Competition in Currency Act

Statement of Congressman Ron Paul
United States House of Representatives

Statement Introducing the Free Competition in Currency Act

December 9, 2009

Congressman Ron PaulMadame Speaker, I rise to introduce the Free Competition in Currency Act of 2009. Currency, or money, is what allows civilization to flourish. In the absence of money, barter is the name of the game; if the farmer needs shoes, he must trade his eggs and milk to the cobbler and hope that the cobbler needs eggs and milk. Money makes the transaction process far easier. Rather than having to search for someone with reciprocal wants, the farmer can exchange his milk and eggs for an agreed-upon medium of exchange with which he can then purchase shoes.

This medium of exchange should satisfy certain properties: it should be durable, that is to say, it does not wear out easily; it should be portable, that is, easily carried; it should be divisible into units usable for every-day transactions; it should be recognizable and uniform, so that one unit of money has the same properties as every other unit; it should be scarce, in the economic sense, so that the extant supply does not satisfy the wants of everyone demanding it; it should be stable, so that the value of its purchasing power does not fluctuate wildly; and it should be reproducible, so that enough units of money can be created to satisfy the needs of exchange.

Over millennia of human history, gold and silver have been the two metals that have most often satisfied these conditions, survived the market process, and gained the trust of billions of people. Gold and silver are difficult to counterfeit, a property which ensures they will always be accepted in commerce. It is precisely for this reason that gold and silver are anathema to governments. A supply of gold and silver that is limited in supply by nature cannot be inflated, and thus serves as a check on the growth of government. Without the ability to inflate the currency, governments find themselves constrained in their actions, unable to carry on wars of aggression or to appease their overtaxed citizens with bread and circuses.

At this country's founding, there was no government controlled national currency. While the Constitution established the Congressional power of minting coins, it was not until 1792 that the US Mint was formally established. In the meantime, Americans made do with foreign silver and gold coins. Even after the Mint's operations got underway, foreign coins continued to circulate within the United States, and did so for several decades.

On the desk in my office I have a sign that says: “Don't steal – the government hates competition.” Indeed, any power a government arrogates to itself, it is loathe to give back to the people. Just as we have gone from a constitutionally-instituted national defense consisting of a limited army and navy bolstered by militias and letters of marque and reprisal, we have moved from a system of competing currencies to a government-instituted banking cartel that monopolizes the issuance of currency. In order to reintroduce a system of competing currencies, there are three steps that must be taken to produce a legal climate favorable to competition.

The first step consists of eliminating legal tender laws. Article I Section 10 of the Constitution forbids the States from making anything but gold and silver a legal tender in payment of debts. States are not required to enact legal tender laws, but should they choose to, the only acceptable legal tender is gold and silver, the two precious metals that individuals throughout history and across cultures have used as currency. However, there is nothing in the Constitution that grants the Congress the power to enact legal tender laws. We, the Congress, have the power to coin money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin, but not to declare a legal tender. Yet, there is a section of US Code, 31 USC 5103, that purports to establish US coins and currency, including Federal Reserve notes, as legal tender.

Historically, legal tender laws have been used by governments to force their citizens to accept debased and devalued currency. Gresham's Law describes this phenomenon, which can be summed up in one phrase: bad money drives out good money. An emperor, a king, or a dictator might mint coins with half an ounce of gold and force merchants, under pain of death, to accept them as though they contained one ounce of gold. Each ounce of the king's gold could now be minted into two coins instead of one, so the king now had twice as much “money” to spend on building castles and raising armies. As these legally overvalued coins circulated, the coins containing the full ounce of gold would be pulled out of circulation and hoarded. We saw this same phenomenon happen in the mid-1960s when the US government began to mint subsidiary coinage out of copper and nickel rather than silver. The copper and nickel coins were legally overvalued, the silver coins undervalued in relation, and silver coins vanished from circulation.

These actions also give rise to the most pernicious effects of inflation. Most of the merchants and peasants who received this devalued currency felt the full effects of inflation, the rise in prices and the lowered standard of living, before they received any of the new currency. By the time they received the new currency, prices had long since doubled, and the new currency they received would give them no benefit.

In the absence of legal tender laws, Gresham's Law no longer holds. If people are free to reject debased currency, and instead demand sound money, sound money will gradually return to use in society. Merchants would have been free to reject the king's coin and accept only coins containing full metal weight.

The second step to reestablishing competing currencies is to eliminate laws that prohibit the operation of private mints. One private enterprise which attempted to popularize the use of precious metal coins was Liberty Services, the creators of the Liberty Dollar. Evidently the government felt threatened, as Liberty Dollars had all their precious metal coins seized by the FBI and Secret Service in November of 2007. Of course, not all of these coins were owned by Liberty Services, as many were held in trust as backing for silver and gold certificates which Liberty Services issued. None of this matters, of course, to the government, which hates competition. The responsibility to protect contracts is of no interest to the government.

The sections of US Code which Liberty Services is accused of violating are erroneously considered to be anti-counterfeiting statutes, when in fact their purpose was to shut down private mints that had been operating in California. California was awash in gold in the aftermath of the 1849 gold rush, yet had no US Mint to mint coinage. There was not enough foreign coinage circulating in California either, so private mints stepped into the breech to provide their own coins. As was to become the case in other industries during the Progressive era, the private mints were eventually accused of circulating debased (substandard) coinage, and with the supposed aim of providing government-sanctioned regulation and a government guarantee of purity, the 1864 Coinage Act was passed, which banned private mints from producing their own coins for circulation as currency.

The final step to ensuring competing currencies is to eliminate capital gains and sales taxes on gold and silver coins. Under current federal law, coins are considered collectibles, and are liable for capital gains taxes. Short-term capital gains rates are at income tax levels, up to 35 percent, while long-term capital gains taxes are assessed at the collectibles rate of 28 percent. Furthermore, these taxes actually tax monetary debasement. As the dollar weakens, the nominal dollar value of gold increases. The purchasing power of gold may remain relatively constant, but as the nominal dollar value increases, the federal government considers this an increase in wealth, and taxes accordingly. Thus, the more the dollar is debased, the more capital gains taxes must be paid on holdings of gold and other precious metals.

Just as pernicious are the sales and use taxes which are assessed on gold and silver at the state level in many states. Imagine having to pay sales tax at the bank every time you change a $10 bill for a roll of quarters to do laundry. Inflation is a pernicious tax on the value of money, but even the official numbers, which are massaged downwards, are only on the order of 4% per year. Sales taxes in many states can take away 8% or more on every single transaction in which consumers wish to convert their Federal Reserve Notes into gold or silver.

In conclusion, Madame Speaker, allowing for competing currencies will allow market participants to choose a currency that suits their needs, rather than the needs of the government. The prospect of American citizens turning away from the dollar towards alternate currencies will provide the necessary impetus to the US government to regain control of the dollar and halt its downward spiral. Restoring soundness to the dollar will remove the government's ability and incentive to inflate the currency, and keep us from launching unconstitutional wars that burden our economy to excess. With a sound currency, everyone is better off, not just those who control the monetary system. I urge my colleagues to consider the redevelopment of a system of competing currencies and cosponsor the Free Competition in Currency Act.

Ron Paul with Beck, Cavuto, Napolitano

Ron Paul had interviews with Glenn Beck, Neil Cavuto, and Judge Napolitano today:

Glenn Beck piece:

Neil Cavuto piece:

And click here for today's Freedom Watch episode featuring Ron Paul, Peter Schiff, and Nick Gillespie. Nice job by Dr. Paul yet again today!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Ron Paul: Who Wants War?

Dr. Paul's latest Texas Straight Talk on the worsening quagmire in Afghanistan:

Congressman Ron PaulIf anyone still doubted that this administration’s foreign policy would bring any kind of change, this week’s debate on Afghanistan should remove all doubt. The President’s stated justifications for sending more troops to Afghanistan and escalating war amount to little more than recycling all the false reasons we began the conflict. It is so discouraging to see this coming from our new leadership, when the people were hoping for peace. New polls show that 49% of the people favor minding our own business on the world stage, up from 30% in 2002. Perpetual war is not solving anything. Indeed continually seeking out monsters to destroy abroad only threatens our security here at home as international resentment against us builds. The people understand this and are becoming increasingly frustrated at not being heard by the decision-makers. The leaders say some things the people want to hear, but change never comes.

One has to ask, if the people who elected these leaders so obviously do not want these wars, who does? Eisenhower warned of the increasing power and influence of the military industrial complex and it seems his worst fears have come true. He believed in a strong national defense, as do I, but warned that the building up of permanent military and weapons industries could prove dangerous if their influence got out of hand. After all, if you make your money on war, peace does you no good. With trillions of dollars at stake, there is tremendous incentive to keep the decision makers fearful of every threat in the world, real or imagined, present or future, no matter how ridiculous and far-fetched. The Bush Doctrine demonstrates how very successful the war lobby was philosophically with the last administration. And they are succeeding just as well with this one, in spite of having the so-called “peace candidate” in office.

We now find ourselves in another foreign policy quagmire with little hope of victory, and not even a definition of victory. Eisenhower said that only an alert and informed electorate could keep these war racketeering pressures at bay. He was right, and the key is for the people to ensure that their elected leaders follow the Constitution. The Constitution requires a declaration of war by Congress in order to legitimately go to war. Bypassing this critical step makes it far too easy to waste resources on nebulous and never-ending conflicts. Without clear goals, the conflicts last forever and drain the country of blood and treasure. The drafters of the Constitution gave Congress the power to declare war precisely because they feared allowing the executive unfettered discretion in military affairs. They understood that making it easy for leaders to wage foreign wars would threaten domestic liberties.

Responses to attacks on our soil should be swift and brief. Wars we fight should always be defensive, clearly defined and Constitutional. The Bush Doctrine of targeting potential enemies before they do anything to us is dangerously vague and easily abused. There is nothing left to win in Afghanistan and everything to lose. Today’s military actions are yet another futile exercise in nation building and have nothing to do with our nation’s security, or with 9/11. Most experts agree that Bin Laden and anyone remotely connected to 9/11 left Afghanistan long ago, but our troops remain. The pressures of the war racketeers need to be put in check before we are brought to our knees by them. Unfortunately, it will require a mighty effort by the people to get the leadership to finally listen.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

DeMint and Bunning vs. Bernanke

While Ron Paul had his big media day, some of his buddies in the Senate were giving Ben Bernanke a hard time during his confirmation hearing in the Senate:

Jim DeMint:

Jim Bunning:

UPDATE: Also see how Campaign for Liberty is working with Jim DeMint to advance the Senate's Audit the Fed bill, S.604, as well as how Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul would like to follow in the footsteps of Sen. Bunning after his blistering critique today.

HUGE Media Day for Ron Paul!

Today's media blitz by Ron Paul is unprecedented! I'll try posting them all here for your viewing pleasure:

Ron Paul on CSPAN's Washington Journal:

Ron Paul on MSNBC:

Ron Paul on

Ron Paul with Judge Napolitano on Glenn Beck program:

Ron Paul on The Ed Show (MSNBC):

Dr. Paul was also scheduled to be on the Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, but apparently they only showed a clip. All in all, though, not a bad day's work for a "pariah" congressman!

Monday, November 30, 2009

A Reader’s Guide to Bernanke’s Preemptive Attack (Bob Higgs)

Bob Higgs obliterates Ben Bernanke and his ridiculous Washington Post op-ed:

Robert HiggsBen Bernanke is taking no chances. With his confirmation hearing for continuation as chairman of the Federal Reserve System only days away, he has written an op-ed for publication in Sunday’s Washington Post. We may interpret this article as a preemptive attack on his congressional critics, some of whom will no doubt take the opportunity afforded by next Thursday’s hearing to attack his management of the Fed and, indeed, the Fed itself.

Monetary-policy propaganda is a high art, and lay readers of Bernanke’s article may well be taken in by its artful formulation. Therefore, as a public service, I offer the following brief commentary, interweaved with CNN’s Saturday report on Bernanke’s Sunday op-ed.

NEW YORK ( — Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, just days ahead of his confirmation hearing, is warning Congress that actions limiting the central bank’s independence could prove detrimental to the causes of financial reform and economic recovery.

Such a warning seizes the high ground by creating the presumption that Bernanke and the present Fed have proved themselves to be beneficial to the causes of financial reform and economic recovery. In the circumstances, that’s a highly questionable presumption. Some of us are inclined to believe that, all in all, the Fed and its glorious leaders, especially Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke, got us into our present troubles in the first place and that they have done nothing wise of late to repair the damage they brought on us, acting instead to create enormous risks for our future well-being and, in particular, great risks for the future purchasing power of the U.S. dollar.

Read the rest

Ron Paul: Healthcare Freedom or Healthcare Bureaucracy?

Dr. Paul's latest Texas Straight Talk:

Congressman Ron PaulThe U.S. Preventive Task Force caused quite a stir recently when they revised their recommendations on the frequency and age for women to get mammograms. Many have speculated on the timing for this government-funded report, with the Senate vote on health care looming, and cost estimates being watched closely. Just the hint that the government would risk women’s health to cut costs is causing outrage on both sides of the aisle.

Even the administration is alarmed at its own panel’s recommendation. One official, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius told women to ignore the new guidelines, keep doing what they are doing and make the best decisions for themselves after consulting with their doctors.

This sounds like an excellent idea to me. As a physician myself, I understand the importance of ensuring that patients are able to consult their doctors and make their own decisions without interference from government bureaucrats or government-favored corporations.

However, I am confused by the administration’s reasoning and apparent change of heart. Have they reversed their position on healthcare reform and now decided that patients and doctors should be in control of individual healthcare decisions? Or are they still in the healthcare central planning business? The healthcare reform plans currently aim to empower Congress to dictate to insurers minimal standards of coverage. Those government standards will ultimately be determined by politicians and bureaucrats, not individual patients and doctors.

It is naive to think that recommendations by an authoritative government panel will never be used to deny services to people that want them. It is sad to think that people will be forced to spend their hard-earned money for a one-size fits all, government mandated healthcare delivery model, but then have to scrape together additional funds to pay out of pocket for healthcare they really want or need – that is, if the government allows them to at all. After all, the federal government currently forbids Medicare beneficiaries from spending their own money on services covered by Medicare, if for whatever reason they need to. Why wouldn’t the government eventually apply these kinds of restrictions to everyone, if they are successful with this takeover? Beware of the supposed gifts offered to you by government, for when it gives you things with one hand, the other hand takes away your liberty and independence.

It remains to be seen what provisions will be in the final bill. We do know we have no funds to pay for it except for debt and money printed out of thin air. We know that the nation’s creditors are getting very nervous about the government’s continuous spending sprees and bailouts. We know this healthcare bill, like all government programs, will be expensive.

There will be a day of reckoning when the credit stops and the bills for all this spending come due. When that day comes and politicians and bureaucrats have to deal with reality, it will be very uncomfortable to find yourself in their liability column, which is where healthcare reform will put many more Americans.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Wasted Time and Energy on Politics (B.R. Merrick)

B.R. Merrick argues that it's time to stop trying to make government "better":

Thus, the lesson: when you choose to be a critical part of a system that has become this corrupt . . . you will not ameliorate or "save" it. The system will necessarily and inevitably corrupt you.Arthur Silber

I understand the arguments for getting involved politically. They are multitudinous. Some of them are almost entirely persuasive. (Think Ron Paul.) Some of them are downright frightening. (Think about the threat of communism.) Some of them I actually contribute money to. Not because I think they’ll get anywhere with actually changing the system, but because I hope that they might be able to use the funds to get more publicity, and perhaps get the government’s “private” media outlets to respond a little. Ron Paul did that. That’s good. Not great, but good. It was better than nothing. But in the end, belief in minarchism is nothing more than belief in the containable and non-threatening nature of a tiger cub. Small government conservatives and libertarians want a tiger cub. Well, who doesn’t? They’re cute. I would love to play with a tiger cub.

What minarchists don’t understand is that tiger cubs grow big, and grown tigers are never tame. You can’t domesticate a tiger like a house cat. You can always play with a grown house cat. For the five percent of the day that it’s awake. You cannot play with a tiger cub when it grows up. Tigers are wild and always will be. Government, because it is predicated on force and violence, will always be what it is: forceful and violent. Its fangs ain’t cute anymore.

Read the rest

Monday, November 23, 2009

Ron Paul: Audit the Fed Attached as an Amendment

In his latest Texas Straight Talk, Dr. Paul celebrates a major victory in his quest to audit the Federal Reserve, but cautions that the bill the amendment is tied to is actually quite bad overall:

Congressman Ron PaulI was pleased last week when we won a vote in the Financial Services Committee to include language from the Audit the Fed bill HR1207 in the upcoming financial regulatory reform bill. As it stands now, if HR 3996 passes, because of this action, the Federal Reserve’s entire balance sheet will be opened up to a GAO audit. We will at last have a chance to find out what happened to the trillions of dollars the Fed has been giving out.

Finally, the blanket restrictions on GAO audits of the Fed that have existed since 1978 will be removed. All items on the Fed’s balance sheet will be auditable, including all credit facilities, all securities purchase programs, and all agreements with foreign central banks. To calm fears that we might be trying to substitute congressional action for Fed mischief in tinkering with monetary policy, we agreed to a 180 day lag time before details of the Fed’s market actions are released and included language to state explicitly that nothing in the amendment should be construed as interference in or dictation of monetary policy by Congress or the GAO. This left no reasonable objections standing and the amendment passed with a vote of 43 to 26.

This was a major triumph for transparency and accountability in government. With unprecedented turmoil in the financial markets, the people are demanding to know and understand the extent of the Federal Reserve’s involvement in the creation of out-of-control business cycles, who they are helping, and how. We need information. The excuses for not giving out this information are flimsy at best, and the passage of this amendment is a major step to finally getting at the truth.

Of course I could not have done this without the help and support of many other members who have been strong allies in this fight. Having over 300 cosponsors was obviously helpful.

However, as great as this victory is, we have to remember that this amendment is attached to a bill that would give sweeping new powers to the Federal Reserve. The Fed has taken its mandate to maintain stable prices and full employment and used its immense power to help elite friends at the great expense of everyone else. The answer is not to increase their powers and ability to interfere in the economy, but that is what the legislation will do. It is a disaster waiting to happen, and unfortunately it looks as if it will pass.

At least with the Audit the Fed amendment attached to the bill, the Fed will not be able to do its destructive work in secret. The people will know exactly who the beneficiaries are of this immoral system of money management.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Highlights of Ron Paul’s big day: Full Federal Reserve audit passes committee

Hooray! Ron Paul's original language of a full audit of the Federal Reserve, as written in H.R.1207, was inserted in a bill as a replacement amendment [PDF] during a markup of the House Financial Services Committee and passed a roll call vote! [PDF]

Marc over at the Liberty Maven was nice enough to provide a nice writeup of events and also recorded and edited several key sections of today's hearing, which he has posted here and is embedded below:

UPDATE: Here is Ron Paul's official press release on today's victory:

Paul-Grayson Amendment Passes Committee

Washington, D.C. - Congressman Ron Paul (TX-14) is pleased to announce that his and Congressman Grayson’s amendment based on HR 1207 has passed in the Financial Services Committee by a vote of 43-26 and will be included in major banking reform legislation.

The Paul/Grayson amendment:
  • Removes the blanket restrictions on GAO audits of the Fed
  • Allows audit of every item on the Fed's balance sheet, all credit facilities, all securities purchase programs, etc.
  • Retains limited audit exemption on unreleased transcripts and minutes
  • Sets 180-day time lag before details of Fed's market actions may be released
  • States that nothing in the amendment shall be construed as interference in or dictation of monetary policy by Congress or the GAO

“While HR 3996, if passed, will grant sweeping new powers to the Federal Reserve, at least with this amendment attached, it won’t be acting in secret anymore. This is a major victory for Federal Reserve transparency and government accountability. I am very grateful to Congressman Bachus and all the other Members who were so supportive and helpful in this effort," stated Congressman Paul.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Handouts (Jim Davies)

Should those of us who oppose the state accept their handouts? Jim Davies makes a compelling case that we should and not lose sleep over it:

Jim DaviesOne of the debates among liberty seekers is about the extent to which it's morally right to accept or reject government handouts. In my opinion, it's one of a rather small number of issues still open to valid debate, and for sure there are good, sincere people on both sides of it and I respect all of them. Although these remarks come down clearly on one side, that respect remains very much intact, for over some years my own mind has changed quite a lot. I've no wish to try to hurry anyone to change his without careful thought.

On the other hand, if anyone reading this is still wondering about the question, perhaps it will help him decide. Perhaps it will even stimulate other writers to enliven the debate by offering an opposing view.

I've seen nobody put the "reject them" viewpoint more eloquently than Carl Watner, and warmly recommend a read of his masterly book I Must Speak Out before coming down on either side of the debate. I can't do that viewpoint justice with words of my own, so do be sure to read it; his reasoning centers on the fact that before government can provide any benefit of any kind to any person, it must first steal at gunpoint from someone else the resources required, and so to accept the handout is to be complicit in that aggression. I cannot deny any of that; he's correct, and that's why there's an ethical debate. Even so, I now take the opposite view, and here present six reasons:

(1) To reject all government goodies is literally impossible; (2) to do so even partially is enormously costly; (3) it is wholly irrelevant to our main objective (to rid humanity of the monstrous scourge of government, which puts us in this moral dilemma in the first place); (4) it leaves money in the hands of a gang of thugs who will certainly use it to do harm; (5) it throws away a chance to recover stolen property; and (6) it allows government supporters to escape the consequences of their malfeasance.

Read the rest

Roger Young's Images and Quotes of the Week

Once again, Roger Young has published excellent editions of his Image Review of the Week and Quotes of the Week. I highly encourage everyone to follow or subscribe to Roger's excellent blog!

Ron Paul: Competition With the Government?

Dr. Paul's latest Texas Straight Talk:

Congressman Ron PaulLast Saturday many concerned Americans watched in horror as the House passed the healthcare reform bill. If this bill makes it through the Senate, it would massively overhaul the way healthcare is delivered in this country. Today, obviously, we don’t have a perfect system, but this legislation takes all the mistakes we are making with healthcare and makes them worse. Most of what is wrong with healthcare stems from decades of government intervention and the resulting unintended consequences.

But the government’s prescription for the ills caused by intervention is always more intervention. We see this not only in healthcare policy, but also in foreign policy, in economic policy, and in monetary policy - basically, in all areas of public policy. It was even claimed that the House bill would increase competition in healthcare, and thereby improve the private sector’s business model for insurance.

It is fascinating that politicians would use the language of the free market in this way to justify more corporatism. This demonstrates a couple of things. One, that politicians truly do not understand the very basic tenets of a free market. By definition, a free market is free from government intervention. But once a little intervention is accepted as legitimate, politicians will blame the problems created by their intervention on the free market and present themselves as saviors that must intervene even more.

It also demonstrates that politicians know that Americans still believe the free market is a good thing. People know and understand that competition among businesses is better for the consumer than a monopoly. However, competition between a private business and a government or government-favored entity is not real competition.

In real competition, your competitor can go bankrupt if they do a bad job. Everyone knows a government program is forever, no matter how poorly it performs. In real competition, efficiency is necessary for survival. In government programs, waste is rewarded as budgets are often determined by how much money a department is able to consume in a year. In real competition, one business does not have regulatory or taxation authority over its competitors. In real competition, businesses get sued and punished for breaking contracts and defrauding people, and are kept accountable in this way. But just try to sue the government when you are unjustly harmed by it!

The reason real competition is a good thing is because good businesses get bad ones out of the consumer’s way. Can the government put someone out of business? Most certainly! But it will have the opposite effect: an otherwise good business will be replaced by a poorly performing government agency, or a government-favored monolithic business that behaves almost like a government agency.

If Washington really wanted to give consumers more choices they would remove legislative and regulatory barriers to competition across state lines for health insurers. They would remove barriers for new and innovative models of healthcare and tort reform. They wouldn’t have run so many church and charitable hospitals out of business. Washington is keenly interested in healthcare reform, but it is certainly not going to increase competition or to expand your options for healthcare.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Income Tax: Bearing False Witness (Bill Butler)

Bill Butler, in the spirit of Irwin Schiff (father of Peter Schiff) and Larken Rose, attacks the legality of the "voluntary" income tax:

Ever wonder how politicians like Harry Reid can say, with a straight face, that the United States income tax is a “voluntary” tax? Here is a video of Mr. Reid explaining how the US tax system is voluntary. Mr. Reid is no dummy. He knows what he is talking about. He is speaking the truth. He is just not telling the whole truth. The whole truth, which Mr. Reid will not share with us plebes, is there that the US income tax system is a voluntary system, but it begins with employers “voluntarily,” under the threat of draconian federal fines and imprisonment, saying false things about their employees. If you are an employer and refuse to lie about your employee to the IRS , you could be imprisoned. That is how voluntary it is.

To truly understand Mr. Reid’s voluntary system, it is important to first recognize that the Internal Revenue Code is a statute. Statutes are positive, man-made, law. In evaluating the rights and obligations of individuals under positive, man-made statutes, words and definitions are vitally important.

Read the rest

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Happy Armistice Day

Thanks to Butler Schaffer for this reminder on the true significance of November 11th:

It’s time for my annual reminder about the significance of November 11th. In my youth, it was known as “Armistice Day,” and I remember asking my teacher what that was all about. She told me it was a holiday to celebrate the date that ended World War I. It was, in other words, a celebration of the end of war (do you remember it was a “war to end all wars”?) A few years later – during the same period in which the more honestly-named “War Department” was retitled “Defense Department,” Armistice Day, itself, was transformed into a day to celebrate war veterans and, hence, war itself. Who knows, with war and entertainment having merged to keep Boobus waving his flags of support and sending his children to the slaughter, we may soon see the day renamed the “John Wayne Film Festival Day,” with classes dismissed to allow the youngsters to stay home and view Wayne’s bravery in fighting the battle to protect the back-lot of Republic Pictures!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

His Holiness the President (Lew Rockwell)

Lew Rockwell blogs on the idiotic notion that the president is somehow our Healer-in-Chief:

The Roman empire, with a ruler who was also the chief priest of the state religion, and a semi-god himself, had nothing on the American empire. Catch this widely reprinted piece: “Only a president can offer the condolences of a nation. In a moment of crisis and sorrow and anger, only a president can soothe raw emotions, allay fears, elevate a senseless act into a call to action, and offer the assurance that — as his aides put it Monday — no stone will be left unturned. This is by far the biggest test of Obama’s ability to fulfill the role of consoler in chief.”

Of course, government employees have a far higher status than taxpayers, let alone ragheads, so the shooting of soldiers, allegedly by a federal shrink, is “the worst single tragedy on his watch.” Not his bombing of Afghan civilians, nor his ethnically cleansing parts of Pakistan, nor his occupying Iraq, nor his incessant predator droning. For this worst tragedy of his reign, only the president can stand “before a sea of grieving Americans, acknowledging communal pain,” and heal us. And get us ready for the action we’re always called to: kill more gooks.

UPDATE from Mike Knox:

Notice in the article you linked to that the only tragedies that are mentioned are military related. No mention of the tragic deaths caused by natural disasters, transportation accidents, etc. The only really tragic deaths are when some government employee dies in a manner that was not intended. If they die in action they “made the ultimate sacrifice”. If they die at the hands of a deranged brother in arms it’s tragic. Church this Sunday seemed like any other Sunday until they started the military worship for the Ft. Hood incident/Veterans Day. It really saddens me to see how we as Christians claim to follow the Prince of Peace and then preach death and hellfire to all enemies (enemies of the US, that is). We don’t care about Mexico’s enemies, or Poland’s enemies, or anyone else’s. I’m not a Catholic but I have to tell you that Father Emmanuel McCarthy’s lectures and essays have taught me more about what being a Christian means than the 41 years of Baptist teaching I have received. Thanks for all you do. LRC has made a difference in this world.

Ron Paul Opposes National School Psychology Week


Mr. Speaker, I voted against H. Res. 700, designating the week of November 9 as National School Psychology Week to draw attention to the threat to liberty posed by proposals that school physiologists perform mandatory mental evaluations of all school children without parental consent.

The New Freedom Commission on Mental Health has recommended that the federal and state governments work toward the implementation of a comprehensive system of mental-health screening for all Americans. The commission recommends that universal or mandatory mental-health screening first be implemented in public schools as a prelude to expanding it to the general public. However, neither the commission's report nor any related mental-health screening proposal requires parental consent before a child is subjected to mental-health screening. Federally funded universal or mandatory mental-health screening in schools without parental consent could lead to labeling more children as "ADD" or "hyperactive" and thus force more children to take psychotropic drugs, such as Ritalin, against their parents' wishes.

Too many children are suffering from being prescribed psychotropic drugs for nothing more than children's typical rambunctious behavior. According to Medco Health Solutions, more than 2.2 million children are receiving more than one psychotropic drug at one time. In fact, according to Medico Trends, in 2003, total spending on psychiatric drugs for children exceeded spending on antibiotics or asthma medication.

Many children have suffered harmful side effects from using psychotropic drugs. Some of the possible side effects include mania, violence, dependence, and weight gain. Yet, parents are already being threatened with child abuse charges if they resist efforts to drug their children. Imagine how much easier it will be to drug children against their parents' wishes if a federally funded mental-health screener makes the recommendation.

Universal or mandatory mental-health screening could also provide a justification for stigmatizing children from families that support traditional values. Even the authors of mental-health diagnosis manuals admit that mental-health diagnoses are subjective and based on social constructions. Therefore, it is all too easy for a psychiatrist to label a person's disagreement with the psychiatrist's political beliefs a mental disorder. For example, a federally funded school violence prevention program lists "intolerance" as a mental problem that may lead to school violence. Because "intolerance" is often a code word for believing in traditional values, children who share their parents' values could be labeled as having mental problems and a risk of causing violence. If the mandatory mental-health screening program applies to adults, everyone who believes in traditional values could have his or her beliefs stigmatized as a sign of a mental disorder. Taxpayer dollars should not support programs that may label those who adhere to traditional values as having a "mental disorder."

In order to protect our nation's children from mandatory mental health screening, I have introduced introduce the Parental Consent Act (H.R. 2218). This bill forbids Federal funds from being used for any universal or mandatory mental-health screening of students without the express, written, voluntary, informed consent of their parents or legal guardians. This bill protects the fundamental right of parents to direct and control the upbringing and education of their children. I hope all my colleagues will cosponser H.R. 2218.

Monday, November 9, 2009

November 9, 2009: 20th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall

In honor of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, I'm posting a video of my favorite song that commemorates the event, Wind of Change by the Scorpions:

Ron Paul: Healthcare Reform is Economic Malpractice

Dr. Paul's latest Texas Straight Talk:

Congressman Ron PaulAs Washington continues debating healthcare reform the rest of the country is primarily concerned about jobs and the economy. It is still uncertain what policies will be implemented, but I am certain about one thing: It will only further devastate our economy and our dollar.

The leadership has come up with a proposal they are confident will be what they consider fiscally responsible, only to have it scored as nearly twice as expensive by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Estimates of past healthcare spending programs have been off by as much as 100 percent so there is no telling what the actual cost will be.

The past century should have taught us one thing: that government intervention is expensive. Government programs lend themselves so easily to waste, fraud and abuse. Combine that with overall inefficiency and it all adds up to a hefty price tag for the taxpayer, with not much leftover for actual services. An outright takeover of an entire sector of the economy, especially one as important as healthcare, is something that we just cannot afford for the government to do right now. Not to mention the fact that it is completely unconstitutional. But Washington insists on torturing the numbers and tinkering around the edges rather than facing this truth.

If healthcare reform does indeed pass, we should not be under the illusion that it will be free. The money to pay for it will have to come from somewhere. They say they will get the money from cutting waste, fraud and abuse, but all of that is seemingly intrinsic to government programs. Since they want to expand the government’s reach we have to assume we will be trading waste, fraud and abuse for waste, fraud and abuse with a bigger budget. The powers that be have insisted the money won’t come from higher taxes, it won’t come from rationing of care, and it won’t come from higher premiums. This can only then put more pressure on the Fed to print the money out of thin air. We already have a weakening dollar. They are accelerating everything that weakened it in the past. Adding this new, monumental pressure could very well be the straw that will break the dollar’s back.

Foreign creditors are already nervous about continuing to invest in the US because of our skyrocketing debt. The explosion of debt that is certain to accompany the enactment of this national health care bill can only add to that nervousness.

Ironically, enactment of the health care bill could help the cause of liberty by hastening the day when Congress is forced by economic circumstances to stop increasing the welfare-warfare state and return to the Constitution.

There are many problems with our current healthcare system, to be sure. There are many tragic stories to be told. However, we need to look at the root of our problems in order to address them properly. More government intervention and bureaucracy injected into healthcare will take a flawed system and make immeasurably worse.