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!