Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Glenn Greenwald vs. on Bradley Manning

Bradley ManningGlenn Greenwald has been one of the only voices from the Left in the mainstream media to actually make some effort to report the truth. He has been a strong advocate for WikiLeaks, as well as the alleged "leaker" Bradley Manning.

Wired first broke the story back in June on Manning's arrest and published some details of what happened. However, as Greenwald pointed out, Wired was witholding critical information and left a lot of questions unanswered.

Recently, Greenwald published a couple of reports (here and here) on the inhumane treatment of the incarcerated Bradley Manning, and these reports have resulted in some much needed publicity for his plight. And this past Monday, Greenwald published a scathing attack on and its editors for witholding vital information supposedly contained within the chat logs of Manning's online conversations with Adrian Lamo (the ex-hacker who ratted Manning out to the Feds). Wired responds here, and Greenwald follows up these terrific responses: here and here.

I say three cheers for Glenn Greenwald, a hero from the Left!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Chairman Ron Paul: Audit the Fed in 2011

Here is the latest Texas Straight Talk from Dr. Paul, who was newly appointed to chair the Domestic Monetary Policy subcommittee, which among other things is tasked to oversee the Fed (let the fun begin!):

Congressman Ron PaulSince the announcement last week that I will chair the congressional subcommittee that oversees the Federal Reserve, the media response has been overwhelming. The groundswell of opposition to Fed actions among ordinary citizens is reflected not only in the rhetoric coming out of Capitol Hill, but also in the tremendous interest shown by the financial press. The demand for transparency is growing, whether the political and financial establishment likes it or not. The Fed is losing its vaunted status as an institution that somehow is above politics and public scrutiny. Fed transparency will be the cornerstone of my efforts as subcommittee chairman.

Thanks to public pressure earlier this year, Congress did pass legislation that requires the Fed to disclose some information about its bailout of select industries and companies following the 2008 financial crisis. So two weeks ago the Fed released data concerning more than $3 trillion of assistance it offered to banks through its bailout facilities. After reviewing this data, however, we are left with many more questions about the Fed's “lending”.

In the “Term Securities Lending Facility”, the Fed was supposed to have loaned against AAA-rated securities-- yet over half of the collateral put up by banks to obtain loans had no listed credit rating. Should we assume that the Fed accepted absolute junk rated securities as collateral for loans? Presumably these securities were so bad that they wouldn’t even publicize their credit rating. So why should our central bank, backed up by your taxes, accept such collateral?

On another note, of the $1.25 trillion purchased under the Fed’s “Mortgage-Backed Securities Purchase Program,” only $877 billion in purchases have been publicized. What happened to the remaining $400 billion?

These kinds of limited disclosures by the Fed only underscore the need for a full and complete audit of the Fed’s financial books. This audit should be done by an independent third party, in the same manner that public companies are audited. The Fed should make public its balance sheet, income statement, and perhaps most importantly its cash flow statement. It also should publicize the notes explaining those financial statements.

We seem to forget sometimes that Congress created the Fed-- it is a government-created banking monopoly, and its top decision-makers are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. If the Fed does not perform satisfactorily in the eyes of these politicians and their constituents, the Chairman and Governors may not be re-nominated.

In theory, Congress could even repeal the Federal Reserve Act altogether since it has the authority to do so. Obviously Congress is within its authority to audit an organization it created by statute, and it is time to assume that responsibility.

With 320 Members of Congress cosponsoring my legislation to fully audit the Fed in the 111th Congress, my hope is that we can build on our broad bipartisan coalition in 2011 and continue the push for greater Fed transparency going forward.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Ron Paul to Congress: Don't Raise the Debt Ceiling!

Dr. Paul's latest Texas Straight Talk:

Congressman Ron PaulAs of November 7th, the total U.S. public debt outstanding reached an astonishing $13.7 trillion. This means that although Congress just raised the debt ceiling to $14.3 trillion back in February, the new Congress will face another debt ceiling vote almost immediately next year. Otherwise, the Treasury will not be able to continue issuing debt to fund government operations.

The upcoming vote will provide an interesting litmus test for the new Republican congressional majority, especially those new members closely identified with Tea Party voters. The debt ceiling law, passed in 1917, enables Congress to place a statutory cap on the total amount of government debt rather than having to approve each individual Treasury bond offering. It also, however, forces Congress into an open and presumably somewhat shameful vote to approve more borrowing.

If the new Congress gives in to establishment pressure and media alarmism about "shutting down the government" by voting to increase the debt ceiling once again, you will know that the status quo has prevailed. You will know that Congress, despite the rhetoric of the midterm elections, is doing business as usual. You will know that the simple notion of balancing the budget, by limiting federal spending to federal revenue, remains a shallow and laughable campaign platitude.

Of course congressional leaders-- now Republicans-- will tell America that they plan on balancing the budget soon, but they just need some time. After all, we have to keep the government open, right? We can't have an "emergency" shutdown of vital government services. But somehow Congress always finds money for emergency spending, in the form of supplemental appropriations bills for TARP bailouts, troop surges, and the like. Why is there never an emergency that justifies less spending???

Surely we are facing an emergency debt spiral, as evidenced by the Federal Reserve's recent commitment to buy another round of Treasury debt. It's now quite obvious that the U.S. government plans to inflate its way out of debt, and the world is fleeing our dollar in response. Just 7 years ago Congress raised the debt ceiling to $6.4 trillion, which means the federal government had doubled its indebtedness in less than a decade. Annual deficits for 2011 and beyond are projected to be at least $1 trillion. By contrast, the entire federal debt amassed from the founding of our nation until President Reagan took office in 1981-- a period of roughly 200 years-- was $1 trillion. So it's no exaggeration to state that federal debt is growing exponentially.

I have two simple proposals when the new Congress convenes in January. First, refuse to raise the debt ceiling. Find a way, month by month, for Congress to spend only what the Treasury raises in revenue. Second, start over from scratch with the 13 appropriations bills that fund the federal government. Reject any talk of baseline budgets or discretionary spending. It is all discretionary, and members of both parties should vote against any 2012 appropriation bill that is not at least 10% smaller-- in nominal dollars-- than its 2011 counterpart.

A motivated Congress could begin to slow the tide of debt by taking the simple step of cutting federal spending by 10% across the board for the next few years. Let's hope it does not take the complete collapse of the U.S. dollar to provide this motivation.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Ron Paul: Are Air Travelers Criminal Suspects?

Dr. Paul's latest Texas Straight Talk on the TSA:

Congressman Ron PaulThe growing revolt against invasive TSA practices is encouraging to Americans who are fed up with federal government encroachment in their lives. In the case of air travelers, this encroachment is quite literally physical. But a deep-seated libertarian impulse still exists within the American people, and opposition to the new TSA full body scanner and groping searches is gathering momentum.

The growing revolt against invasive TSA practices is encouraging to Americans who are fed up with federal government encroachment in their lives. In the case of air travelers, this encroachment is quite literally physical. But a deep-seated libertarian impulse still exists within the American people, and opposition to the new TSA full body scanner and groping searches is gathering momentum.

I introduced legislation last week that is based on a very simple principle: federal agents should be subject to the same laws as ordinary citizens. If you would face criminal prosecution or a lawsuit for groping someone, exposing them to unwelcome radiation, causing them emotional distress, or violating indecency laws, then TSA agents should similarly face sanctions for their actions.

This principle goes beyond TSA agents, however. As commentator Lew Rockwell recently noted, the bill “enshrines the key lesson of the freedom philosophy: the government is not above the moral law. If it is wrong for you and me, it is wrong for people in government suits… That is true of TSA crimes too.” The revolt against TSA also serves as a refreshing reminder that we should not give in to government alarmism or be afraid to question government policies.

Certainly, those who choose to refuse the humiliating and potentially harmful new full body scanner machines may suffer delays, inconveniences, or worse. But I still believe peaceful resistance is the most effective tool against federal encroachment on our constitutional rights, which leads me to be supportive of any kind of “opt-out” or similar popular movements.

After all, what price can we place on our dignity, personal privacy, and physical integrity? We have a right not to be treated like criminals and searched by federal agents without some reasonable evidence of criminal activity. Are we now to accept that merely wishing to travel and board an aircraft give rise to reasonable suspicion of criminality?

Also, let’s not forget that TSA was created in the aftermath of 9/11, when far too many Americans were clamoring for government protection from the specter of terrorism. Indeed it was congressional Republicans, the majority party in 2001, who must bear much of the blame for creating the Department of Homeland Security and TSA in the first place. Congressional Republicans also overwhelmingly supported the Patriot Act, which added to the atmosphere of hostility toward civil liberties in the name of state-provided “security.”

But as we’ve seen with TSA, federal “security” has more to do with humiliation and control than making us safe. It has more to do with instilling a mindset of subservience, which is why laughable policies such as removing one’s shoes continue to be enforced. What else could explain the shabby, degrading spectacle of a long line of normally upbeat Americans shuffling obediently through airport security in their stocking feet?

TSA may be merely symbolic of much bigger problems with the federal government, but it is an important symbol and we have a real chance to do something about it. We must seize this opportunity, before TSA offers some cosmetic compromise or the media spotlight fades. If you don’t live in my congressional district, please consider contacting your member of Congress and asking him or her to cosponsor HR 6416, the American Traveler Dignity Act of 2010. With enough help, we can push the bill to a vote early next year. Unless grassroots Americans take action, federal agencies like TSA will continue to bully us and ignore our basic constitutional freedoms.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ron Paul on the TSA: Enough is Enough!

Dr. Ron Paul took to the House floor last night to lambast the actions of the TSA and to announce his introduction of H.R.6416, the American Traveler Dignity Act. The text of the bill states very simply:

No law of the United States shall be construed to confer any immunity for a Federal employee or agency or any individual or entity that receives Federal funds, who subjects an individual to any physical contact (including contact with any clothing the individual is wearing), x-rays, or millimeter waves, or aids in the creation of or views a representation of any part of a individual's body covered by clothing as a condition for such individual to be in an airport or to fly in an aircraft. The preceding sentence shall apply even if the individual or the individual's parent, guardian, or any other individual gives consent.

Sounds good to me! Here's his speech:

And here's his statement:

Mr. Speaker, today I introduce legislation to protect Americans from physical and emotional abuse by federal Transportation Security Administration employees conducting screenings at the nation’s airports. We have seen the videos of terrified children being grabbed and probed by airport screeners. We have read the stories of Americans being subjected to humiliating body imaging machines and/or forced to have the most intimate parts of their bodies poked and fondled. We do not know the potentially harmful effects of the radiation emitted by the new millimeter wave machines.

In one recent well-publicized case, a TSA official is recorded during an attempted body search saying, “By buying your ticket you gave up a lot of rights.” I strongly disagree and am sure I am not alone in believing that we Americans should never give up our rights in order to travel. As our Declaration of Independence states, our rights are inalienable. This TSA version of our rights looks more like the “rights” granted in the old Soviet Constitutions, where freedoms were granted to Soviet citizens -- right up to the moment the state decided to remove those freedoms.

The incident of the so-called “underwear bomber” last Christmas is given as justification for the billions of dollars the federal government is spending on the new full-body imaging machines, but a Government Accountability Office study earlier this year concluded that had these scanners been in use they may not have detected the explosive material that was allegedly brought onto the airplane. Additionally, there have been recent press reports calling into question the accuracy and adequacy of these potentially dangerous machines.

My legislation is simple. It establishes that airport security screeners are not immune from any US law regarding physical contact with another person, making images of another person, or causing physical harm through the use of radiation-emitting machinery on another person. It means they are subject to the same laws as the rest of us.

Imagine if the political elites in our country were forced to endure the same conditions at the airport as business travelers, families, senior citizens, and the rest of us. Perhaps this problem could be quickly resolved if every cabinet secretary, every member of Congress, and every department head in the Obama administration were forced to submit to the same degrading screening process as the people who pay their salaries.

I warned at the time of the creation of the TSA that an unaccountable government entity in control of airport security would provide neither security nor defend our basic freedom to travel. Yet the vast majority of both Republicans and Democrats then in Congress willingly voted to create another unaccountable, bullying agency-- in a simple-minded and unprincipled attempt to appease public passion in the wake of 9-11. Sadly, as we see with the steady TSA encroachment on our freedom and dignity, my fears in 2001 were justified.

The solution to the need for security at US airports is not a government bureaucracy. The solution is to allow the private sector, preferably the airlines themselves, to provide for the security of their property. As a recent article in Forbes magazine eloquently stated, “The airlines have enormous sums of money riding on passenger safety, and the notion that a government bureaucracy has better incentives to provide safe travels than airlines with billions of dollars worth of capital and goodwill on the line strains credibility.” In the meantime, I hope we can pass this legislation and protect Americans from harm and humiliation when they choose to travel.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Ron Paul: The World Shorts the Dollar

Dr. Paul's latest Texas Straight Talk:

Congressman Ron PaulA remarkable confluence of recent events has brought unprecedented but very welcome attention to both U.S. monetary policy and the global political economy in general.

First, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke recently announced that the Fed would embark upon another round of monetary easing by purchasing $600 billion worth of U.S. Treasury debt. This amounts to an admission that markets have run out of patience with our profligacy, and therefore our own central bank literally must serve as the buyer of last resort for Treasury debt.

Second, World Bank president Robert Zoellick openly suggested that gold could play a helpful role in the global monetary system by serving as reference against more volatile fiat currencies. This is almost heresy coming from a neoconservative globalist like Mr. Zoellick. It hints at an obvious but unspoken truth that is anathema to politicians and central bankers alike: namely, that gold could be viewed as…. money!

Finally, Mr. Obama attended the G20 summit in South Korea last week and found a very chilly reception for his vision of American economic policy. Mr. Obama argued for continued worldwide stimulus, via continued debasing of the U.S. dollar, to bolster American exports. Several powerful European and Asian finance ministers, however, rejected this approach out of hand as nothing short of a currency war. They are committed to austerity measures at home, and don’t want to let the U.S. simply monetize its past sins at their expense.

All of these events culminated in a tremendous amount of political and media scrutiny aimed the Fed. Ordinary Americans are demanding answers and accountability, and they are putting heat on their political representatives in Washington to end the cozy “independence” from congressional oversight the Fed has enjoyed for so long.

In the 35 years I have been studying, speaking, and writing about monetary policy I have never before seen Congress or the financial press pay much attention to the Fed. Monetary policy has always been considered boring on Capitol Hill, something left to remote policy wonks far away from the din of presidential or congressional politics. Congress always has been eager to leave Fed governors well alone, with no oversight or accountability, as long as they played along and papered over the growing budget deficits.

But it’s amazing what a global economic meltdown will do to the political and media landscape. In just two short years, the Fed has become the hot topic and a lightning rod for criticism. While it is gratifying to see so many formerly uninterested politicians, economists, talk show hosts, and pundits suddenly rally to attack the Fed, one can only wonder whether they truly understand that central banking is inherently incompatible with our Constitution and a free market economy.

In other words, it’s not enough to show outrage at the latest Fed action or argue about the relative merits of Mr. Bernanke compared to his predecessors. To reclaim our dollar and our economy, Americans must oppose central banking per se. Fiat currencies cannot be “reformed” or “managed”. They are fundamentally subject to ruinous debasement courtesy of the political and economic ruling class. History shows that this is true in all nations at all times.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Ron Paul: Reject the Welfare/Warfare State

Dr. Paul's latest Texas Straight Talk:

Congressman Ron PaulLast week’s midterm elections have been characterized as a victory for grassroots Americans who are fed up with Washington and the political status quo. In particular, the elections are being touted as a clear indicator that voters demand reductions in federal spending, deficits, and debt.

If the new Congress hopes to live up to the expectations of Tea Party voters, however, it faces some daunting choices. For all the talk about pork and waste, the truth is that Congress cannot fix the budget and get our national debt under control by trimming fat and eliminating earmarks for “Bridges to Nowhere.”

Real reductions in federal spending can be achieved only by getting to the meat of the federal budget, meaning expenditures in all areas. The annual budget soon will be $5 trillion unless Congress takes serious steps to reduce spending for entitlements, military, and debt service. Yet how many Tea Party candidates who campaigned on a platform of spending cuts talked about Social Security, Medicare, foreign wars, or bond debt?

With regard to entitlements, the 2010 Social Security and Medicare Trustees report tells it all. It paints a stark picture of two entitlement programs that cannot be sustained under even the rosiest scenarios of economic growth. No one, regardless of political stripe, can deny the fundamental problem of unfunded future liabilities in both programs.

We should understand that Social Security was intended primarily to prevent old widows from becoming destitute. Life expectancy in 1935 was only about 65, when there were several workers for each Social Security recipient. The program was never intended to be a general transfer payment from young workers to older retirees, regardless of those retirees’ financial need. Yet today Social Security faces an unfunded liability of approximately $18 trillion.

First, Congress needs to stop using payroll taxes for purposes not related to Social Security, which was a trick the Clinton administration used to claim balanced budgets. Second, Congress should eliminate unconstitutional spending - including unnecessary overseas commitments - and use the saved funds to help transition to a Social Security system that is completely voluntary. At some point in the near future Congress must allow taxpayers to opt out of federal payroll taxes in exchange for never receiving Social Security benefits.

Medicare similarly faces a shortfall of $30.8 trillion in unfunded future benefits. The Part D prescription drug benefit accounts for approximately $15.5 trillion, or half of the unfunded Medicare liability. Congress should immediately repeal the disastrous drug benefit passed in 2003 by President Bush and a Republican Congress.

Fiscal conservatives should not be afraid to attack entitlements philosophically. We should reject the phony narrative that entitlement programs are inherently noble or required by “progressive” western values. Why exactly should Americans be required, by force of taxation, to fund retirement or medical care for senior citizens, especially senior citizens who are comfortable financially? And if taxpayers provide retirement and health care benefits to some older Americans who are less well off, can’t we just call it welfare instead of maintaining the charade about “insurance” and “trust funds”?

Military spending and interest on the national debt similarly represent large federal expenditures that Congress must address by rethinking our foreign policy and exercising far greater oversight over the Federal Reserve and the Treasury department.

I have for a long time criticized our interventionist foreign policy and the Fed, and I will continue to do so. It’s time for Congress to face the fundamental problems that affect Social Security and Medicare, and show the courage necessary to make real changes to both programs by rejecting the welfare/warfare state.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Ron Paul talks ending the Fed with help from Senator Rand Paul on Fox Business

Thanks to the Liberty Maven for the heads up on this terrific interview of Ron Paul on Fox Business:

Well, to be quite fair Ron Paul said they talked about introducing a bill to end or audit the Fed on their first day in office together. Here is the entire long and excellent interview with David Asman on Fox Business channel.

Ron Paul also talks about becoming the new Chairman of the Financial Services Subcommittee on Domestic Monetary Policy with the GOP taking control of the House.

The subcommittee’s jurisdiction includes domestic monetary policy, and agencies which directly or indirectly affect domestic monetary policy, multilateral development lending institutions such as the World Bank, coins and currency including operations of the Bureau of the Mint and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, and international trade and finance including all matters pertaining to the International Monetary Fund and the Export-Import Bank.

I don’t think there could be a more perfect subcommittee for Ron Paul.

Later in the interview Judge Napolitano joins the discussion. Check it out below:

Monday, November 1, 2010

Ron Paul: Saudi Arms Deal is About Iran

Dr. Paul's latest Texas Straight Talk:

Congressman Ron PaulThis month the US Administration notified Congress that it intends to complete one of the largest arms sales in US history to one of the most repressive regimes on earth. Saudi Arabia has been given the green light by the administration to spend $60 billion on some 84 new F-15 aircraft, dozens of the latest helicopters, and other missiles, bombs, and high-tech military products from the US weapons industry.

Saudi Arabia, from where 15 of the 19 September 11 hijackers came, is a family-run dictatorship, where there are no political parties, no independent press, and where any form of political dissent is met with the most severe punishment. We are told that we must occupy Afghanistan to encourage more rights for women, an issue on which the Saudi regime makes the Taliban look rather liberal by comparison. We are told that our increasingly aggressive policies toward Iran are justified by that country’s rigid Islamic laws and human-rights violations, while the even more repressive Islamic rule in Saudi Arabia is never mentioned.

So why would the US government, which spends hundreds of billions of dollars yearly and maintains hundreds of bases overseas to push global democracy, approve a deal like this with such a regime? As Stockholm Institute scholar Pieter Wezeman told the Washington Post, "Of course it's against Iran. Of course it's against Yemen. You can read between the lines ... but there are not any official statements about it." Although the deal must be approved by Congress, there is little chance of any significant Congressional opposition for the above reason.

Imagine if China had armed an aggressive, anti-American Mexico to the teeth. How would we feel? Threatened? That is likely how Iran feels with this massive arms sale to Saudi Arabia. To underscore this message, the US quietly announced early this month that it was selling 20 F-35 Stealth fighters to Israel. As Israeli military purchases are paid for with US foreign aid, we must realize that the weapons pointed at Iran in the Middle East are American made and largely paid for with American tax dollars. Certainly Iran understands this. Will such a provocative move, arming two anti-Iranian powers in the region to the teeth, lead to a trigger event to bring about a full invasion of Iran? The economic tsunami that would result from such a horrific turn of events would only be eclipsed by the death and destruction in the region -- and likely beyond.

Some will argue that these arms deals are international trade which we should encourage and applaud. Sadly, the United States does not build much that we can export these days. But the fact is that the US weapons industry is underwritten by the American taxpayer. From research and development to acquisition by the US military, the costs of the US arms industry are borne by American citizens. But, as so-called “private” companies, the enormous profits they make selling weapons to countries like Saudi Arabia are of course privatized. So the costs are socialized and the profits are privatized. There is a word for this arrangement and it is not “capitalism.”

Monday, October 25, 2010

Ron Paul: Government and Job Creation

Dr. Paul's latest Texas Straight Talk:

Ron PaulAs the current economic downturn shows no signs of lifting, we hear quite a lot of rhetoric from current and potential office-holders about what government can and will do to create more jobs. This is especially disconcerting to those who understand that the best thing government can do for job creation is to simply get out of the way.

Jobs are properly created by businesses. Government-created jobs are either fueled by fiat money and manipulated market conditions or directly funded by taxes paid by businesses and individuals who then have less to hire people for real wealth creation. Government-created jobs destroy wealth and sap potential from the economy. The several stimulus bills passed by Congress have done much to expand government but not much to keep money in the hands of real job creators – the entrepreneurs.

Keynesian economists don’t see things this way. They see government spending as a stop gap measure that tides us over through rough economic patches. But is this really the case?

Far from it. The reality is instead of sustaining us until the economy can catch up, government spending perpetuates the problems the bureaucrats and the politicians created. Maintaining a high level of employment is one of the main objectives of the Federal Reserve, which is just one reason it is ill-conceived at its very core: it legitimizes economic intervention which is always destructive. When unemployment rises after the bust of a Fed-created bubble, you can be sure Congress will attempt to rescue the economy through various policies that will always prolong the agony and expand the downturn.

In the late 90’s, it was thought that encouraging home ownership would have a stimulative effect that would ripple throughout the rest of the economy and create jobs. Various government policies favorable to home ownership were enacted and the Fed kept interest rates artificially low so everyone would be able to buy a home, whether or not they could really afford it. For awhile, it worked. The housing boom increased demand for realtors, mortgage lenders, and construction workers. However, as reality sank in, not only are we back to where we were when the bubble began, but we are actually worse off. For example, not only have we lost all of the one million extra construction jobs the bubble created, but we lost another one million on top of that! So not only did the artificial wealth evaporate, but real wealth has been destroyed as well.

Even more sinister are jobs created by war. Recent reports highlight the increasing dependence on contractors to support our war efforts in Afghanistan. Massive corruption is endemic to these highly lucrative positions. Almost half of the contracting companies we use are Afghan owned and include such business models as recruiting away the very same Afghan police force we are training at great expense to the American taxpayer. Meanwhile we have pledged not to leave until the police force reaches a certain level. We also bribe many Afghans to simply not attack us. We are in a proverbial hole in Afghanistan. Our leaders need to just stop digging.

Neither a Keynesian big spending program, nor the military-industrial complex can create long-lasting employment or economic prosperity for our country. The only way to restore both peace and prosperity is to draw down our overseas commitments, along with unconstitutional spending at home and return to the founders’ vision of a limited republic that neither straddles the globe, nor micromanages the domestic economy.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Ron Paul: More Inflation Fears

Dr. Paul's latest Texas Straight Talk:

Ron PaulInflation fears are heating up this week as Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke gave a speech in Boston on Friday, causing further frantic flight into gold by those fearful of the coming “quantitative easing” the Fed is set to deliver in November. Others who view gold as a short term investment engaged in immediate profit-taking after Bernanke's speech.

Gold is more correctly viewed as insurance against bad monetary policy decisions that erode the value of savings. Those bad decisions keep coming at an ever faster clip these days and we hear more and more talk of currency wars especially between the dollar, the Chinese yuan, the Japanese yen, the Australian dollar, and the Euro. As the economies of the world continue to stagnate or contract, monetary policy decisions become more relevant to people who once thought this topic arcane. We have several examples this week of major fumbles on the part of the US Central Bank:

· The Federal Reserve continues to insist that inflation is too low, even while the monetary base remains at record levels, and food and gas prices continue to climb.

· As the Fed continues to drive down the value of the dollar, the government accuses China of deliberately devaluing its currency, and the House has passed legislation aimed at punishing China for this alleged devaluation.

· Low returns on US bonds are driving investors into higher-performing foreign bonds. Some of these countries are responding by reinstituting capital controls to guard against hot money and the carry trade.

· The spat with China and reemergence of capital controls have led some to fear that we are in the first stages of an all-out currency war.

· The instability in the international monetary system, the decreasing value of the dollar, and the large amounts of new US debt could lead the IMF and countries such as China, Japan, Russia, India, and Brazil to abandon the dollar and adopt a new multinational currency.

While the big players in these currency games sort everything out, the people hurt the most are the savers, the workers, and those on fixed incomes as their money buys less and less. Make no mistake – the Fed and the Treasury Department are playing games with our money, especially in how they report statistics like unemployment and inflation. These games erode our standard of living and hide just how much damage their inflationary policies are doing.

Official core inflation for the US is only 1.14%, but that excludes such crucial day-to-day goods such as food and energy. Real inflation certainly is higher, maybe much higher. John Williams of Shadow Government Statistics calculates true inflation at a whopping 8.48%! But manipulated inflation statistics give the government cover when they again deny seniors a cost of living increase in their social security checks. They also serve to convince the public that further expansion of the money supply will boost the economy without causing any real pain, which has essentially been the core argument of Greenspan-Bernanke fed policy for the last 20 years.

Of course, the United States is not alone in its disastrous monetary policy decisions. These pressures are inherent in any fiat monetary system where money is created at will, for the benefit of the special interests. As all these currencies race to the bottom of the inflationary barrel, the only security to be had will be in honest money like gold as the system falls apart. My hope is that we can return to the wisdom of the Constitution and get back to sound, commodity-backed money before our dollar suffers a wholesale collapse.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Ron Paul's Texas Straight Talk 10/11/10: A Spooked Economy in October

Dr. Paul's latest Texas Straight Talk:

Ron PaulLast week we received worse than expected unemployment numbers, challenging recent claims that the recession has come and gone. Also, as the economy continues to suffer the after effects of the Federal Reserve-created bubbles of the last decade, there is renewed interest in gold. Fears that the Federal Reserve will pump even more money into the system had caused the price of gold to reach new highs. Also contributing to enthusiasm for gold is continued instability in the banking industry, symbolized this week by fraud allegations that have caused many banks to halt foreclosure proceedings, thus further destabilizing the housing market. Yes, October has a reputation for being a scary month economically and this month is shaping up to be frightening, as well.

The Fed has been wreaking havoc and devaluing our monetary unit steadily since 1913, and greatly accelerating it since the collapse of the Bretton Woods agreement in the 1970s. This severing of the dollar’s last tenuous link with gold allowed the Fed to create as much new money as it pleased, and it has taken full advantage of this opportunity.

In 1971, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was $1.29 trillion. Today it is $14.6 trillion, nominally. But adjusted for all the inflating the Fed has been doing, it is only $2.73 trillion, which constitutes only a 1% real increase per year! So with all this extra money going around, we may appear nominally wealthier, but the reality is, we have barely moved at all. This is unfortunate especially for the prudent, conscientious savers, whose nest eggs are constantly being devalued. Unless of course, they have saved in something out of the Fed’s reach, like gold. While the economy has basically been in a holding pattern against the leeching of wealth by the Fed for 39 years, gold has seen an inflation adjusted increase in value of over 5% per year, if measured in 1971 dollars. This is due to the Fed’s ability to make dollars plentiful. And yet, this is the only tactic the Fed can come up with to rescue an economy already devastated by “quantitative easing”, as they call it.

The turmoil in the housing market demonstrates how disastrous it is to flood the economy with fiat money. Latest events with foreclosures are good examples of mistakes made in the market, in this case, by the banks, in the rush to soak up manipulated currency. This is why the truly free market depends on sound, honest money, free from false signals of artificially low interest rates.

The government finds ways to spend money even faster than the Fed can create it, bringing our national debt well past the point of the taxpayers ever being able to pay it off. Other nations who, in the past, have eagerly bought up any amount of debt we produced are now starting to resist. We are reaching a crucial point at which the dollar will no longer function, and in the absence of a functioning dollar, restoring sound money will be the only alternative.

The truly scary notion is that those in power might allow our system to collapse so chaotically to the detriment of so many people rather than simply obey the Constitution.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Joe Sobran, The Reluctant Anarchist (1946-2010)

Joseph Sobran, one of the greatest and most eloquent conservative (and later libertarian) writers of our generation, died on September 30 at the young age of 64 from complications of diabetes. I credit his writings in the late 1990s for having a large part in my own conversion to conservatism and, eventually, libertarianism. In this article from 2002, Mr. Sobran talks about his own journey to a radical Rothbardian libertarianism:

My arrival (very recently) at philosophical anarchism has disturbed some of my conservative and Christian friends. In fact, it surprises me, going as it does against my own inclinations.

As a child I acquired a deep respect for authority and a horror of chaos. In my case the two things were blended by the uncertainty of my existence after my parents divorced and I bounced from one home to another for several years, often living with strangers. A stable authority was something I yearned for.

Meanwhile, my public-school education imbued me with the sort of patriotism encouraged in all children in those days. I grew up feeling that if there was one thing I could trust and rely on, it was my government. I knew it was strong and benign, even if I didn’t know much else about it. The idea that some people — Communists, for example — might want to overthrow the government filled me with horror.

G.K. Chesterton, with his usual gentle audacity, once criticized Rudyard Kipling for his “lack of patriotism.” Since Kipling was renowned for glorifying the British Empire, this might have seemed one of Chesterton’s “paradoxes”; but it was no such thing, except in the sense that it denied what most readers thought was obvious and incontrovertible.

Chesterton, himself a “Little Englander” and opponent of empire, explained what was wrong with Kipling’s view: “He admires England, but he does not love her; for we admire things with reasons, but love them without reason. He admires England because she is strong, not because she is English.” Which implies there would be nothing to love her for if she were weak.

Of course Chesterton was right. You love your country as you love your mother — simply because it is yours, not because of its superiority to others, particularly superiority of power.

This seems axiomatic to me now, but it startled me when I first read it. After all, I was an American, and American patriotism typically expresses itself in superlatives. America is the freest, the mightiest, the richest, in short the greatest country in the world, with the greatest form of government — the most democratic. Maybe the poor Finns or Peruvians love their countries too, but heaven knows why — they have so little to be proud of, so few “reasons.” America is also the most envied country in the world. Don’t all people secretly wish they were Americans?

Read the rest, and also see his hilarious primer on how to teach your children about the state.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Flanders Does Islam (Don Emmerich)

Don Emmerich rails against the anti-Islam hystery widely seen in American Christianity:

Why does just about every Evangelical blogger on the planet think he’s an expert on Islam? Have you ever noticed that? Any mention of Islam in the news and they’ll go off on the Qur’an and all the evil things it supposedly teaches. What’s so crazy about this is that these people can’t even agree about their own scriptures. Just get a group of them together and ask what the Bible says about, say, baptism or eschatology, and you’ll be amazed at all the fights that erupt. And yet they think they have credibility when telling us, with the utmost of confidence of course, that they understand the Qur’an?

Now I myself have never read the Qur’an. I’d like to. Just as I’d like to one day read Finnegan’s Wake. But you know how it is: too much to read, too little time.

Nonetheless, I have a suspicion that most of what these Evangelicals say is total crap. More than anything else, I base this suspicion on the way I’ve seen them butcher their own holy book. Prooftext, prooftext, prooftext—’tis the mantra of most Christians today. Never mind understanding a passage’s historical context. Never mind trying to get at the author’s original intent. Your average Evangelical can twist almost any verse of Scripture to justify pretty much anything he desires.

Now I know the Qur’an has some problem passages. But so does the Bible. In the Old Testament, for instance, Yahweh repeatedly commands his people to commit genocide, sometimes even demanding that they slaughter innocent children. And in the New Testament, we find Jesus commanding his followers to hate their parents and spouses and children. And we find the Apostle Paul telling women to submit themselves to their husbands. Yet these Evangelical bloggers, with all the chutzpah humanly possible, claim that it is Islam, not Christianity, that is the religion of violence, hatred, and injustice.

I’m not trying to impugn Christianity. And I’m not suggesting that there aren’t adequate explanations for the above passages. But, for crying out loud, why don’t these Christians extend the same charity to Muslim apologists that they would like for themselves? Why all the energy spent slandering Islam? It’s not like discrediting Islam will somehow prove Christianity.

If these Evangelicals want to see their numbers increase, if they want to lead others to Jesus, then they should try showing a little restraint, exercising a little humility. Because, when you get down to it, people join religious communities, not because of dogmas, not because of arguments, but because those communities make them feel loved and accepted. And this, it seems to me, is why so many young people are turned off of Christianity and why church attendance continues to fall.

Ron Paul: Let the Housing Market Normalize!

Dr. Paul's latest Texas Straight Talk:

Ron PaulRecently there have been some encouraging signs that Congress is finally willing to admit what should have been evident two years ago. Even after a $150 billion bailout, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are still bankrupt and should be abolished. Indeed Rep. Barney Frank, a longtime champion of Fannie and Freddie has made a few statements alluding to this and I have signed on to a letter asking him to clarify his remarks and hold hearings on this topic. There seems to be a growing consensus in favor of abolishing Fannie and Freddie. This is the good news.

The bad news is that instead of simply returning to the free market, Fannie and Freddie will probably be replaced with something equally damaging, and at this point we can only guess what that will be. One possibility is that instead of these two giant Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) the government will deputize thousands of smaller banks to do the same thing – that is to securitize mortgages with taxpayer guarantees to encourage lending that otherwise would not happen. In other words, there will be a myriad of smaller Fannies and Freddies, and government involvement will reach even deeper into the financial sector.

Fannie and Freddie, and thus the taxpayer, has an alarming $5 trillion exposure to the mortgage market. To some, spreading out this risk might seem tempting, and a smart thing to do. But the fact remains that if a bank expects to lose money on a loan, so will the taxpayers. Playing around with structures and definitions will still not deal with the root problem – government meddling in the housing market, playing fast and loose with our tax dollars, and central planning by the Federal Reserve.

Banks have complex risk assessment strategies in place that help them forecast if a particular loan will make them any money or not. If they expect to make money, they will approve the loan. If they have doubts, sometimes they will ask for a co-signer to improve their odds. You might do this willingly for a friend or a relative if you didn’t mind losing some money on their behalf, but current government policies essentially force taxpayers to become cosigners for risky borrowers that are complete strangers, who the banks have already determined to be bad risks. Taxpayers have no choice in the matter because politicians decided a few decades ago that dangling homeownership in front of more people seemed like a good way to garner votes.

That was sold to voters as a compassionate gesture to the poor and beneficial to society as a whole. After all, how could giving more Americans an ownership stake in society be bad? The combined policies of loose credit and government backing increased the demand for housing and drove prices sky high. When the housing market heated up to the breaking point everything came crashing down. Those suddenly facing foreclosure saw the reality of government compassion. Truly, when government offers you a gift, you should eye it with great suspicion.

Another tragedy is that many job seekers are now tethered to their locations because of upside down loan obligations. It takes a lot of effort with their bank and damage to their credit scores to figure out how to get out and move to a place where there are jobs. Will the government now be seeking ways to subsidize renters in some way because of this lack of mobility? Some think so.

My hope is that for the long term stability and health of the economy, the government will extricate itself from the market altogether and let it normalize. My fear is that in its usual misguided efforts at solving one crisis, it will create a thousand others.

Ron Paul: Left and the Right Demagogue Mosque, Islam

Dr. Paul injects some truth into the "Ground Zero" mosque debate:

Ron PaulIs the controversy over building a mosque near ground zero a grand distraction or a grand opportunity? Or is it, once again, grandiose demagoguery?

It has been said, "Nero fiddled while Rome burned." Are we not overly preoccupied with this controversy, now being used in various ways by grandstanding politicians? It looks to me like the politicians are "fiddling while the economy burns."

The debate should have provided the conservative defenders of property rights with a perfect example of how the right to own property also protects the 1st Amendment rights of assembly and religion by supporting the building of the mosque.

Instead, we hear lip service given to the property rights position while demanding that the need to be "sensitive" requires an all-out assault on the building of a mosque, several blocks from "ground zero."

Just think of what might (not) have happened if the whole issue had been ignored and the national debate stuck with war, peace, and prosperity. There certainly would have been a lot less emotionalism on both sides. The fact that so much attention has been given the mosque debate, raises the question of just why and driven by whom?

In my opinion it has come from the neo-conservatives who demand continual war in the Middle East and Central Asia and are compelled to constantly justify it.

They never miss a chance to use hatred toward Muslims to rally support for the ill conceived preventative wars. A select quote from soldiers from in Afghanistan and Iraq expressing concern over the mosque is pure propaganda and an affront to their bravery and sacrifice.

The claim is that we are in the Middle East to protect our liberties is misleading. To continue this charade, millions of Muslims are indicted and we are obligated to rescue them from their religious and political leaders. And, we're supposed to believe that abusing our liberties here at home and pursuing unconstitutional wars overseas will solve our problems.

The nineteen suicide bombers didn't come from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan or Iran. Fifteen came from our ally Saudi Arabia, a country that harbors strong American resentment, yet we invade and occupy Iraq where no al Qaeda existed prior to 9/11.

Many fellow conservatives say they understand the property rights and 1st Amendment issues and don't want a legal ban on building the mosque. They just want everybody to be "sensitive" and force, through public pressure, cancellation of the mosque construction.

This sentiment seems to confirm that Islam itself is to be made the issue, and radical religious Islamic views were the only reasons for 9/11. If it became known that 9/11 resulted in part from a desire to retaliate against what many Muslims saw as American aggression and occupation, the need to demonize Islam would be difficult if not impossible.

There is no doubt that a small portion of radical, angry Islamists do want to kill us but the question remains, what exactly motivates this hatred?

If Islam is further discredited by making the building of the mosque the issue, then the false justification for our wars in the Middle East will continue to be acceptable.

The justification to ban the mosque is no more rational than banning a soccer field in the same place because all the suicide bombers loved to play soccer.

Conservatives are once again, unfortunately, failing to defend private property rights, a policy we claim to cherish. In addition conservatives missed a chance to challenge the hypocrisy of the left which now claims they defend property rights of Muslims, yet rarely if ever, the property rights of American private businesses.

Defending the controversial use of property should be no more difficult than defending the 1st Amendment principle of defending controversial speech. But many conservatives and liberals do not want to diminish the hatred for Islam -- the driving emotion that keeps us in the wars in the Middle East and Central Asia.

It is repeatedly said that 64% of the people, after listening to the political demagogues, don't want the mosque to be built. What would we do if 75% of the people insist that no more Catholic churches be built in New York City? The point being is that majorities can become oppressors of minority rights as well as individual dictators. Statistics of support is irrelevant when it comes to the purpose of government in a free society -- protecting liberty.

The outcry over the building of the mosque, near ground zero, implies that Islam alone was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. According to those who are condemning the building of the mosque, the nineteen suicide terrorists on 9/11 spoke for all Muslims. This is like blaming all Christians for the wars of aggression and occupation because some Christians supported the neo-conservatives' aggressive wars.

The House Speaker is now treading on a slippery slope by demanding an investigation to find out just who is funding the mosque -- a bold rejection of property rights, 1st Amendment rights, and the Rule of Law -- in order to look tough against Islam.

This is all about hate and Islamaphobia.

We now have an epidemic of "sunshine patriots" on both the right and the left who are all for freedom, as long as there's no controversy and nobody is offended.

Political demagoguery rules when truth and liberty are ignored.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Ron Paul: Washington's Idea of Fiscal Restraint

Dr. Paul's latest Texas Straight Talk:

Ron PaulIt has been months now since the new healthcare reform bill was passed into law. As is so typical, this massive piece of legislation was passed with a sense of urgency so acute that leadership declared America could not afford to wait until legislators, their staff and the general public had time to thoroughly read the bill.

The truth comes out eventually, however. Much like the recently discovered exemption from Freedom of Information Act requirements for the SEC that was slipped into the equally massive and “urgent” financial reform bill, we are finally seeing what other insidiousness has been hiding in the fine print of the healthcare reform bill. It seems that all provisions in this poorly written and poorly conceived monstrosity need to be repealed as soon as possible.

One such disaster-waiting-to-happen is one of the revenue generating provisions used to claim that the healthcare reform bill was “paid for”. $17 billion in additional tax revenues is supposed to come from an onerous new IRS reporting requirement that any taxpayer with business income who spends over $600 in one year with one business will have to report those expenditures to the IRS. Mind you, this is a cumulative total of $600 in transactions in one year. This will involve so much extra accounting and paperwork that the IRS claims it will be unable to deal with it effectively, and even the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (to whom it should be a boon) has come out against it! Apparently they realize they will actually lose customers, especially small businesses, to bankruptcy because of this!

Gold dealers are especially alarmed by this provision, as most of their transactions easily top $600. This represents a significant outlay of time and paperwork and no additional revenue for businesses with which to hire people. Not to mention this makes every business a de facto IRS agent, as if they didn’t have enough to worry about already!

Of course, there is a tremendous outcry against this. Several other legislators also see how unreasonable this is and are trying to repeal it. However, this would simply mean that $17 billion in healthcare funding will have to come from somewhere else, and there are no good options. Taxes from some other equally bad collection scheme? Borrowing and more debt? Creating more money from thin air and adding to inflationary pressures?

The best answer, of course, would be to repeal the entire health care law, along with all other unconstitutional spending. But Congress is more likely to continue the shell game to cover the fact that we are broke and can afford none of this.

This whole idea of “paying for” new programs is a political euphemism that suggests that raising taxes is just as good as cutting spending since neither one increases the national debt. Raising taxes and overwhelming small businesses with paperwork and regulations still increases governmental burden on our fragile economy. But this is our government’s idea of “fiscal restraint” in action. Washington needs to stop creating new programs and spending so much money. That would be true fiscal restraint.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Ron Paul: The Cycle of Violence in Afghanistan

Dr. Paul's latest Texas Straight Talk:

Ron PaulLast week the National Bureau of Economic Research published a report on the effect of civilian casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq that confirmed what critics of our foreign policy have been saying for years: the killing of civilians, although unintentional, angers other civilians and prompts them to seek revenge. This should be self-evident.

The Central Intelligence Agency has long acknowledged and analyzed the concept of blowback in our foreign policy. It still amazes me that so many think that attacks against our soldiers occupying hostile foreign lands are motivated by hatred toward our system of government at home or by the religion of the attackers. In fact, most of the anger towards us is rooted in reactions towards seeing their mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and other loved ones being killed by a foreign army. No matter our intentions, the violence of our militarism in foreign lands causes those residents to seek revenge if innocents are killed. One does not have to be Muslim to react this way, just human.

Our battle in Afghanistan resembles the battle against the many-headed Hydra monster in Greek mythology. According to Former General Stanley McChrystal’s so-called insurgent math, for every insurgent killed, 10 more insurgents are created by the collateral damage to civilians. Every coalition attack leads to 6 retaliatory attacks against our troops within the following six weeks, according to the NBER report. These retaliatory attacks must then be acted on by our troops, leading to still more attacks, and so it goes. Violence begets more violence. Eventually more and more Afghanis will view American troops with hostility and seek revenge for the death of a loved one. Meanwhile, we are bleeding ourselves dry, militarily and economically.

Some say if we leave, the Taliban will be strengthened. However, those who make that claim ignore the numerous ways our interventionist foreign policy has strengthened groups like the Taliban over the years. I’ve already pointed out how we serve as excellent recruiters for them by killing civilians. Last week I pointed out how our foreign aid, to Pakistan specifically, makes it into Taliban coffers. And of course we provided the Taliban with aid and resources in the 1980s, when they were our strategic allies against the Soviet Union. For example – our CIA supplied them with Stinger missiles to use against the Soviets, which are strikingly similar to the ones now allegedly used against us on the same battlefield, according to those Wikileaks documents. As usual, our friends have a funny way of turning against us. Manuel Noriega and Saddam Hussein are also prime examples. Yet Congress never seems to acknowledge the blowback that results from our interventionism of the past.

Our war against the Taliban is going about as well as our war on drugs, or our war on poverty, or any of our government’s wars – they all tend to create more of the thing they purport to eradicate, thereby dodging any excuse to draw down and come to an end. It is hard to imagine ever “winning” anything this way.

We have done enough damage in Afghanistan, both to the Afghan people, and to ourselves. It’s time to re-evaluate the situation. It’s time to come home!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Aug. 6, 1945: "Now I Am Become Death, Destroyer of Worlds"

Today marks the 65th anniversary of the horrific nuclear attack on Hiroshima. Incredibly, there are still many who consider the murder 0f 200,000 people there and in Nagasaki to have been justifiable. If you are among them, please read Ralph Raico's powerful article on the bombings.

It begins:

The most spectacular episode of Truman’s presidency will never be forgotten, but will be forever linked to his name: the atomic bombings of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, and of Nagasaki three days later. Probably around two hundred thousand persons were killed in the attacks and through radiation poisoning; the vast majority were civilians, including several thousand Korean workers. Twelve U.S. Navy fliers incarcerated in a Hiroshima jail were also among the dead.

Great controversy has always surrounded the bombings. One thing Truman insisted on from the start: The decision to use the bombs, and the responsibility it entailed, was his. Over the years, he gave different, and contradictory, grounds for his decision. Sometimes he implied that he had acted simply out of revenge. To a clergyman who criticized him, Truman responded, testily:

Nobody is more disturbed over the use of Atomic bombs than I am but I was greatly disturbed over the unwarranted attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor and their murder of our prisoners of war. The only language they seem to understand is the one we have been using to bombard them.

Such reasoning will not impress anyone who fails to see how the brutality of the Japanese military could justify deadly retaliation against innocent men, women, and children. Truman doubtless was aware of this, so from time to time he advanced other pretexts. On August 9, 1945, he stated: "The world will note that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a military base. That was because we wished in this first attack to avoid, insofar as possible, the killing of civilians."

This, however, is absurd. Pearl Harbor was a military base. Hiroshima was a city, inhabited by some three hundred thousand people, which contained military elements. In any case, since the harbor was mined and the U.S. Navy and Air Force were in control of the waters around Japan, whatever troops were stationed in Hiroshima had been effectively neutralized.

Read the rest

(And if you're not aware of why I titled the post this way, that quote was made by J. Robert Oppenheimer, the scientific director of the Manhattan Project, after witnessing his handiwork at a test site in New Mexico. It is said that most of the scientists involved in the Manhattan Project later expressed remorse for what they had wrought.)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Ron Paul: On the Bloated Intelligence Bureaucracy

Dr. Paul's latest Texas Straight Talk:

Ron PaulI have often spoken about the excessive size of government, and most recently how waste and inefficiency needs to be eliminated from our military budget. Our foreign policy is not only bankrupting us, but actively creating and antagonizing enemies of the United States, and compromising our national security. Spending more and adding more programs and initiatives does not improve things for us; it makes them much much worse. This applies to more than just the military budget.

Recently the Washington Post ran an extensive report by Dana Priest and William M. Arkin on the bloated intelligence community. They found that an estimated 854,000 people hold top-secret security clearances. Just what are all these people up to? By my calculation this is about 11,000 intelligence workers per al Qaeda member in Afghanistan. This also begs the question - if close to 1 million people are authorized to know top secrets, how closely guarded are these secrets?

They also found that since the September 11 attacks, some 17 million square feet of building space has been built or is being built to accommodate the 250 percent expansion of intelligence organizations. Intelligence work is now done by some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private contracting companies in about 10,000 locations in the United States.

The former Director of National Intelligence, Adm. Dennis Blair, has asserted that US intelligence now has the authority to target American citizens for assassination without charge or trial. How many of these resources are being devoted to spying on American citizens for nefarious reasons at home rather than targeting foreign enemies abroad?

It has been pointed out how much information we had about the impending attacks on 9/11, but because of layers upon layers of bureaucratic inefficiencies, our intelligence community was unable to act meaningfully on that information. Obviously we needed drastic change. But it was pretty clear that we did not need more bureaucracy, more confusion, more expenditures and more government.

It is even claimed by some leaders that the intelligence community has grown this way by design; that it is advantageous to have more than one set of eyes looking at the same information. With this logic, is there any number of intelligence employees at which we achieve diminishing returns? Can there ever be too many cooks in the kitchen, in their view?

Are there any problems at all that the government wouldn’t attempt to solve by throwing more money at them? Even now, the government is trying to solve our economic problems related to too much government spending and debt, with more government spending and debt.

The problem with our intelligence community before 9/11 was not an inability to collect information. Therefore, the post-September 11 build-up of the surveillance state does nothing to enhance safety. Instead what Americans have gotten in return for the billions of tax dollars spent on security is a surveillance state that reads our e-mails, wiretaps us without warrants, and strip searches grandmothers at airports. This is yet another instance in which Americans would be safer, richer and freer if our government would simply look to the Constitution and respect the boundaries it has set.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Ron Paul's Statement on the Flood Insurance Reform Priorities Act

Statement of Congressman Ron Paul
House of Representatives

H.R.5114, the Flood Insurance Reform Priorities Act of 2010

July 15, 2010

Ron PaulMr. Chair, the Flood Insurance Reform Priorities Act makes a number of changes to the National Flood Insurance Program. Some of these changes are in the interests of taxpayers, such as the new restrictions on subsidies for second houses and vacation homes, while others, particularly the coverage limits, are in the interest of those who own property in flood plains. However, taken in its entirety this bill is not really in the interest of taxpayers or property owners because it creates new federal programs that appear to serve no useful purpose and it continues to allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to impose unnecessary costs on local communities.

At a time when the flood insurance program is running a deficit of 2 billion dollars this legislation wastes millions of taxpayer dollars on ``outreach'' and "education" programs designed to make sure people living in flood prone areas are aware of the need for flood insurance. Madame Speaker, as a homeowner in a flood plain, I can assure you that property ownership these areas are very aware of the need for flood insurance and do not need any outreach or reminders of the need for flood insurance.

Many critics of flood insurance have pointed out that federally-subsidized insurance encourages people to develop land in areas where under a free market system flood insurance would be prohibitively expensive. This is a valid point; however, it is also true that the flood insurance program often imposes flood insurance mandates on property owners in areas where there is little actual risk of flooding. Much of the controversy over the redrawing of the flood plain maps revolves around concerns that FEMA may force local communities to spend millions of dollars refurbishing levees and dams even though these structures were constructed specifically to protect against the worst conceivable storms.

In some cases, FEMA is even demanding that communities spend money to alter levies that were constructed after consultation with the Corp of Engineers! While I am pleased the bill at least provides a phase-in of the flood insurance mandate for property owners living in the newly-mapped flood plains, I am concerned that it does not do enough to ensure communities and individuals are not forced to incur needless expenses simply to satisfy FEMA bureaucrats. At the least, Congress should not give FEMA the ability to impose new flood maps without adequate oversight. Yet, under this bill, it would be five years before Congress seriously re-examines the flood program.

The basic problem with the flood insurance program is that it assumes government officials are capable of knowing who should and who should not be required to purchase flood insurance, and also determine the premiums for every individual living in a flood-prone area. However, there is no way that government bureaucrats can determine correct amounts of coverage and premium prices for millions of individual homeowners.

If flood insurance were allowed to be provided by the market, private insurance could do an accurate job of pricing risk so that those who wished to live in flood-prone areas could do so as long as they were willing to pay for the risk. Under this market system, property owners and insurance companies would have incentives that are lacking when the program is subsidized by the government; i.e., incentives to adopt innovative ways to mitigate the damage from floods.

My district has experienced numerous storms and floods, including Hurricane Ike in 2008. After each incident, my office inevitably receives complaints from my constituents regarding FEMA's failure to provide them with timely assistance and compensation. My constituents' dissatisfaction with FEMA, along with the shameful way extension of the flood insurance program was held hostage last month in order to blackmail representatives into supporting adding billions more to the national debt, has strengthened my conviction that private markets, local communities, and states can more efficiently and humanely deal with the demand for flood insurance than the federal government.

The Flood Insurance Reform Priorities Act does take some steps toward fixing some of the problems with the flood insurance system, but it also needlessly spends taxpayer money and does not adequately address concerns that FEMA may impose unnecessary costs on local communities--communities which do have plenty of incentive to make sure they are adequately prepared for a flood. Therefore, I must oppose this bill.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Violent Christians and Iraq (Jacob Hornberger)

Jacob Hornberger has a hard time understanding why a great number of American Christians seem to believe that "God supports the killing of some people (or even just one person) for the sake of bringing democracy to everyone else":

Ever since the invasion of Iraq, I have been absolutely amazed by the position taken by many American Christians. Needless to say, I’m no theologian but it just seems to me that it would be difficult to find a clearer example of a violation of God’s prohibition against murder than what the U.S. government has done to the Iraqi people, with the full support of many American Christians.

You’ll recall that initially, the Bush administration justified its planned invasion of Iraq based on its infamous WMD scare. Bush and other U.S. officials strongly suggested that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was planning to attack the United States with the WMDs, weapons that, ironically, the United States and other Western nations had furnished him several years before so that he could use them against the Iranian people. (That’s why Bush and his people were so certain that U.S. troops would find WMDs in Iraq — they had the receipts!)

Prior to his invasion of Iraq, Bush’s goal was to implant a tremendous post-9/11 fear into the American people, a fear that would motivate Americans into supporting an invasion of the country without asking too many challenging questions.

And it worked.

Read the rest at the FFF blog

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy We-Should-Restore-The-Monarchy-And-Rejoin-Britain Day! (Stephan Kinsella)

I used to think that the Declaration of Independence was a shining example of a libertarian political document. It turns out I was wrong. Read Stephan Kinsella's blog post on the subject from last year as well as the many eye-opening links it contains:

The celebration of the 4th of July as if it’s a libertarian holiday is a bit much to bear. Secession from Britain was a mistake. It’s easy enough to realize that the Constitution was not some libertarian achievement as conservatives and libertarians delude themselves into thinking. The Declaration of Independence in 1776 led to all the standard evils of war and raising an army–in the words of Jeff Hummel, “unfunded government debt, paper money, skyrocketing inflation, price controls, legal tender laws, direct impressment of supplies and wide-spread conscription.” Hmm, doesn’t sound very libertarian to me. (See also below on the language of the Declaration.) Stealing, conscripting, enslaving, murdering. The glorification of democracy. The expansion of empire. The entrenching of corporatist interests with the state. The substitution of traditional order with worship of the democratic state.

Read the rest at the blog

Friday, July 2, 2010

U.S. Presidents and Those Who Kill for Them (Laurence Vance)

A powerful article by Laurence Vance on how tyrants can do nothing without people under them willing to do their bidding:

"The Czar can send any of his officials to Siberia, but he cannot rule without them, or against their will."

~ John Stuart Mill

What kind of a man would kill someone he didn’t know for someone else he didn’t know? I suppose our opinion of such an individual would depend on the circumstances. Most people would condemn a hit man for hire even as they would praise a man who came to the defense of a little old lady in a parking lot who was being attacked with deadly force by a gang of thugs.

But what kind of a man would kill someone he didn’t know, who had never harmed or threatened him, his family, his friends, or anyone he knew for someone he didn’t know, who didn’t know him, and had never been harmed or threatened by the person he wanted killed?

And even worse, who would do such a thing at a moment’s notice, without giving it a second thought, laugh while he did it, brag about it afterward, and then expect to be lauded as a hero?

It pains me to say that the answer is a soldier in the U.S. military.

Read the rest at

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Ron Paul on Anniversary of Department of "Justice"

Statement of Congressman Ron Paul
United States House of Representatives

Statement on H. Res. 1422

June 24, 2010

Ron PaulMadam Speaker, the House of Representatives recently considered H.RES. 1422, honoring the 140th anniversary of the Department of Justice. I voted against this resolution because of the Justice Department’s history of violating individual rights.

It is the Justice Department that leads the ongoing violations of the Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, and Tenth Amendments in the name of the “war on drugs.” It is Justice Department agents who perform warrantless wiretap, and “sneak-and-peak” searches under the misnamed PATRIOT Act. It is the Justice Department that prosecutes American citizens for violating unconstitutional federal regulations even in cases where no reasonable person could have known their actions violated federal law.

Some like to pretend that the Justice Department’s assault on liberties is a modern phenomenon, or that abuses of liberties are only carried out by one political party. However, history shows that the unconstitutional usurpations of power and abuse of rights goes back at least almost a hundred years to the “Progressive” era and that Justice Departments of both parties have disregard the Constitution and violated individual liberties.

During World War I, President Woodrow Wilson’s Justice Department imprisoned people who dared to speak out against the war. Following the war, the progressive assault on the First Amendment continued with the infamous “Palmer raids,” named for Wilson’s Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer. Just as President Wilson’s policies of foreign interventionism and domestic welfare served as a model for future presidents, Attorney General Palmer’s assaults on civil liberties served as a model for future attorney generals of both parties. Think of Robert Kennedy authorizing the wiretapping of Martin Luther King, Jr, John Mitchell’s role in the abuses of civil liberties by Nixon Administration, Ed Meese’s assault on the First Amendment with his “pornography commission,” Janet Reno’s role in the murder of innocent men, women and children at Waco, and the steady erosion of our rights over the past decade. In addition, it is the attorney general and the Justice Department that defend and justify violations of constitutional liberties by the president and the other federal bureaucracies.

Many civil libertarians were hopeful the new administration would be more sympathetic to civil liberties than was the prior administration. But the current administration has disregarded campaign promises to restore respect for civil liberates and has continued, and in many cases expanded, the anti-freedom policies of its predecessors. For instance, the current administration is supporting renewal of the policies of warrantless wiretapping, and other PATRIOT Act provisions. The administration, despite promising to be more open and transparent, is also continuing to use the claim of "state secrets" to shield potentially embarrassing information from Americans. According to the New York Times, the current administration is even outdoing its predecessors in the prosecution of government whistleblowers. It is little wonder that the head of the American Civil Liberties Union recently said he is disgusted with the administration’s record on civil liberties.

Of course, Madam Speaker, Congress bears ultimate responsibility for the Justice Department’s actions, as it is Congress that passes the unconstitutional laws the Justice Department enforces. Congress also fails to perform effective oversight of the Justice Department. Instead of honoring the Justice Department, Congress should begin to repeal unconstitutional laws and start exercising congressional oversight of executive branch agencies that menace our freedoms.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Ron Paul on Recognizing Juneteenth Independence Day

Statement of Congressman Ron Paul
United States House of Representatives

Statement on H.Con.Res. 546

June 22, 2010

Ron PaulMadame Speaker, I am pleased to support H.Con.Res. 546, legislation commemorating a monumental day in the history of liberty, Juneteenth Independence Day. Juneteenth marks the events of June 19, 1865,when slaves in Galveston, Texas learned that they were at last free men and women. The slaves of Galveston were the last group of slaves to learn of the end of slavery. Thus, Juneteenth represents the end of slavery in America.

I hope all Americans will take the time to commemorate Juneteenth. Friends of human liberty should celebrate the end of slavery in any country. The end of American slavery is particularly worthy of recognition since there are few more blatant violations of America’s founding principles, as expressed in the Declaration of Independence, than slavery. I am particularly pleased to join the recognition of Juneteenth because I have the privilege of representing Galveston.

I thank the gentleman from Illinois for introducing this resolution, which I am proud to cosponsor. I thank the House leadership for bringing this resolution to the floor, and I urge all of my colleagues to honor the end of slavery by voting for H.Con.Res 546.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Abolitionist Argument in 35 Seconds

An excellent article by Glen Allport on the most important lesson from Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings:

The Lord of the Rings trilogy was released on Blu-Ray in April, which reminded me that I hadn't seen the first installment, The Fellowship of the Ring, since its theatrical release in 2001. While watching the film again I was struck anew with its abolitionist message – a message that is clear, direct, and at the very heart of the story.

The exchange below, from a 35-second sequence in the film, illustrates this message well. The wizard Gandalf has just described the Ring of Power to Frodo, into whose possession the Ring has come, and has told the frightened hobbit that yes, the Dark Lord Sauron and his evil horde have learned the whereabouts of the Ring and are already heading to the Shire to take it back.

The Ring will give Sauron enough power to enslave the Earth, and so the Ring must not stay in the Shire – it must be destroyed (almost impossible to do) or at the very least, hidden from those seeking it. Showing rare indifference to the powers conferred by the Ring, Frodo sensibly offers the Ring to Gandalf, who does not live in the Shire and whose magic might be enough to keep the Ring safely hidden.

Gandalf knows better. Even he – a wise and good soul and a powerful wizard – is hypnotically drawn to the Ring; Gandalf lusts for its power despite knowing that to use the Ring would corrupt him and bring great evil into the world. With visible effort, Gandalf refuses to even touch the Ring:

(Frodo, desperately handing the Ring to Gandalf)
Take it, Gandalf. Take it!

(Gandalf, backing away from the Ring)
No, Frodo.

You must take it!

You cannot offer me this Ring.

I'm giving it to you!

Don't tempt me, Frodo! I dare not take it, not even to keep it safe. Understand, Frodo – I would use this Ring from a desire to do good . . . [long pause] . . . but through me, it would wield a power too great and terrible to imagine.

You can view this scene on YouTube, here (the sound level is a bit low; you may have to turn it up to make out the dialog). The clip is from director Peter Jackson's gorgeous and epic screen adaptation of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (part 1 of the trilogy). The dialog for this scene in Tolkien's book is longer than in the film, and makes the same point even more powerfully: that Power is almost supernaturally attractive and addictive, and creates horrifying outcomes even when wielded with the best of intentions. Many other scenes in the book and film reinforce this same message.

Read the rest at Strike-the-Root