reboot the republic daily July 25, 2010

Modern Political Prisoners in America

Posted: 25 Jul 2010 04:39 PM PDT

By Szandor Blestman

When I was growing up, I learned in school that one of the reasons the United States of America was better than the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was because we didn’t hold political prisoners in our jails. That was something the bad, bad communists did. That was something that was done in communist countries to keep dissidents in line and to silence them. Such a thing could never be done in America. I don’t know if this is still taught in the schools, but if it is then I believe our children are being grossly misinformed. The United States of America has become the leading nation when it comes to jailing its citizens, and the vast majority of them have been jailed for non violent crimes. We are, in effect, being jailed by the political class for disobeying rules they have deigned necessary, not for actions that have harmed another human being or his property. Most of those jailed are, in effect, political prisoners.

The federal government of the United States of America has declared war on its own civilians and the majority of those spending time in jail are prisoners of that war. They call this war many things, the war on drugs and the war on terror being the most prevalent, but it is really a war fought against people in order to try to keep a concept hidden from the public consciousness. That concept is the concept of freedom, the concept that individuals own their own bodies, their own labor, their own property and best know how to run their own lives.

The power elite and their political puppets use such emotionally charged terms as “war” to elicit specific responses from the populace. They want people to believe that anyone with a differing or divergent point of view from that of the establishment is a bad person. They want people to believe that anyone with a difference of opinion is a menace to society and a threat to all that is good and just. Nothing could be further from the truth. Most of the people who are spending time in prison are not only ordinary non violent folk who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, they are likely kind, loving individuals with family and friends who care for them and miss them dearly. Many of them were likely hard working, productive members of society until they were caught or reported breaking one of the multitude of “laws” created by control freaks who seem to see us common folk as cash cows meant to be milked for their benefit.

This war has spilled across the borders of the United States and is affecting the population worldwide. The DEA seems to think it has the right to enforce the laws of the United States in whatever country it deems necessary. I don’t know that the DEA has the right to do this, but it certainly has the power thanks to your tax dollars. A good example of this is the case of Marc Emery. Mr. Emery is a Canadian. He was simply selling marijuana seeds. This is a practice that is not illegal in Canada. Yet it is illegal in the US, though hardly ever enforced. Mr. Emery was set up by the DEA in a sting operation in which he sold seed across the border. The DEA then used its power as a federal agency of the United States to coerce the federal Canadian government into extraditing Mr. Emery to the United States.

Mr. Emery’s business harmed no one. It only maybe hurt the feelings of a few bureaucrats who felt perhaps Mr. Emery’s opinions were becoming too popular. You see, Marc Emery not only sold marijuana seeds, he ran a magazine named Cannabis Culture and used the money to fund marijuana legalization activism worldwide. He believes, as I do, that everyone owns their own bodies and can determine for themselves which substances to use and which to avoid. He would likely still be free if he had just pocketed his profits rather than using them to promote his marijuana legalization efforts. It appears as if Marc Emery was targeted not for his illegal activity, but for his political activism. And they had to use an unethical sting setup to make it look legitimate.

The same is true of tax protestors. People fighting the unethical, unconstitutional income tax have been forced into prison despite the obvious unpopularity of this theft. Even though the vast majority of the populace seems to be brainwashed into thinking the federal income tax is legitimate, the arguments against it are intriguing and compelling on both legal and moral grounds. Ed and Elaine Brown were two such protestors who wished to make such arguments during their trail. The federal judge presiding over their trail denied them the opportunity to make over thirty such arguments in their defense. As a result, they realized the court system was rigged in favor of the state and refused to take part in it any longer.

Ed, a contractor, and Elaine, a dentist, gathered together such a following that the Feds determined that the only way to get to them would be to unethically infiltrate their supporters. It appears as if the Feds are worried about their image and don’t want to be thought of by the general public as the violent agency they are. They want people to forget such incidents as Waco and Ruby Ridge, but a leopard cannot change its spots. Ed and Elaine Brown were productive members of society until the Feds put them in unproductive prison cells.

People such as Ed and Elaine Brown and Wesley Snipes aren’t in jail because they didn’t pay their taxes, they’re in jail because they refused to obey. They refused to knuckle under to the coercion and threats of the federal government and decided to exercise their rights. They refused to cower in fear before the political gang that runs this nation and decided to show them for what they are, a violent gang of thugs who believe they own us and a portion of our labor. These are arguments the authoritarian power mongers don’t want to hear because they’re true, and the truth is sometimes hard to face. They would rather do harm to those who have never harmed another than face the reality that they are greedy failures in a coercive monopoly funded by theft and unable to compete in a legitimate marketplace.

What happens when the practices used by the policing agencies are used against them? Barry Cooper is a good example to look at. A former narcotics officer, he created a sting operation to catch the police breaking the law and disobeying the constitution. His police training served him well as he had learned to setup drug dealers. He filmed the police breaking their own laws and streamed it to the web in such a way so that their guilt could not be denied. This angered the cops. As a result, Barry Cooper and his family have been harassed by authorities ever since. Candi, his wife, lost custody of her eight year old son. They have both been arrested and charged with filing a false police report. They await trial on said charges. It seems what’s good for the goose is not good for the gander. It seems that the police can setup and harass ordinary folk to catch them breaking laws, but when ordinary folk do the same to the police, the ordinary folk better watch out.

The system is plagued with unfairness. It is set up so that those with authority aren’t burdened with any personal responsibility for their decisions. They are not held accountable for their actions even when such actions harm others or are financially unsound. It takes those who rail against it and make honest, sensible arguments and silences them by removing them to cold prison cells. We might not have the cruel and unforgiving gulags the Russians had under communist rule in the last century, but we have prisons populated with political prisoners who don’t even know they are political prisoners. Our government has interrupted and ruined the lives of millions for its political power, expediency and agenda.

The war against the people needs to end. The federal government needs to step aside. The common folk need to reestablish their lust for freedom. The bureaucrats need to start respecting the rights of the individual once again. The federal government needs to be recognized for the monstrous mechanism of tyranny it has become. Hopefully, the cogs inside that mechanism will start refusing to allow it to run smoothly. We should be allowed to spend our money as we see fit, to smoke what we want to smoke, to say what we wish to say, and to live our lives as we wish to live them without fear of government intrusion and imprisonment. The disobedience of a few have shown us the ugly truth. The disobedience of many will help set us free.


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Hoovers Dam Folly

Posted: 25 Jul 2010 11:41 AM PDT

From The Mises Institute

Economics professor Bernard Malamud not once but twice invited the crowd in Las Vegas to visit nearby Hoover Dam to see for themselves an example of the productive assets that were created by Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s (FDR) New Deal. Professor Malamud was recruited to plead the Keynesian side of the argument in an “FDR’s Depression Policies: Good Deal or Raw Deal?” debate with the Foundation for Economic Education’s (FEE) Lawrence Reed during FreedomFest.

I finished my masters degree from UNLV under the tutelage of Murray Rothbard but I started my coursework with a class or two from professor Malamud, who, while being as Keynesian as they come, is at least sympathetic to the Austrian view when it comes to explaining speculative bubbles. He certainly took on Mr. Reed with good humor in front of an unfriendly, anti-FDR audience.

Malamud’s thesis is that no matter what your ideology, New Deal economics worked! The economy was in the midst of a terrifying deflation spiral. Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon was saying things like “Liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate farmers.” The money supply was dropping, strangled by a rigid gold standard. The private sector was not eager to invest, so an alphabet soup of federal programs — like the CCC, CWA, WPA, FDIC, SEC, FSLIC — had to fill the void, putting people back to work, stimulating aggregate demand and providing for FDR’s four freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of belief, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. At the same time, FDR’s “playing with the price of gold” as Malamud put it, loosened up the money markets.

Recovery (or reinflation) started as soon as 1933 and was only sidetracked in 1937, when the stimulus was pulled back. The “mistake of 1937″ was made, according to the UNLV professor, when FDR’s administration went back to listening to Andrew Mellon and instituted the austerity programs FDR had promised during his initial campaign.

When his turn came for rebuttal, Reed joked that he “felt like a mosquito at a nudist camp; I know what I need to do, but I don’t know where to begin.” After his free-market case was made and the Keynesian case was destroyed, Reed quipped, “The economy recovered when FDR didn’t.”

Keynesians erect a pretty low bar when judging the productivity of government stimulus projects, but the results of the concrete monster known as Hoover Dam have been devastating. Hoover described the dam as “the greatest engineering work of its character attempted by the hand of man.” The massive structure cost $49 million (or $736 million in inflation-adjusted dollars) and measures over 726 feet in height and more than 1,200 feet in length. It took five years and 4,360,000 cubic yards of concrete to build, and was finished two years ahead of schedule. About 16,000 people worked on constructing the dam, with over 100 losing their lives in the process.

Just as the Keynesian policies of the New Deal tried to cheat the laws of economics, government’s damming of the Colorado River attempted to cheat Mother Nature by bringing water to the desert southwest — water that just isn’t and never was there. The great western explorer John Wesley Powell was booed out of the room when he told the irrigation congress, “Gentlemen, you are piling up a heritage of conflict and litigation over water rights, for there is not sufficient water to supply the land.”

But 75 years ago, when the dam was nearly completed, FDR proclaimed during his dedication speech that millions of present and future residents of the southwest could count on “a just, safe, and permanent system of water rights.” The turbulent Colorado River that vacillated between droughts and floods would be tamed and become “a great national possession” and be counted on for irrigation to support a human migration seeking mild winters and new opportunities.

“The nation took him at his word,” writes Michael Hiltzik, author of Colossus: Hoover Dam and the Making of the American Century. “Since that dedication year, the population of the seven states of the basin has swelled by about 45 million. Much of this growth has been fueled by the dam and its precious bounties of water and electrical power.”

As Hiltzik points out, the dam’s water promise gunned the growth of southern California cities and attracted farmers to the west to grow water-intensive crops like cotton despite the lack of normal rainfall required to support this kind of agriculture.

Just as government stimulus programs and artificially low interest rates that promise to spur growth and make up for the lack of private investment never work, Hoover’s promise that his dam would, as Hiltzik writes, “provide all the water their states could conceivably need to fulfill their dreams of irrigation, industrial development and urban growth” is literally drying up. The water level at Lake Mead is down 120 feet from its high-water mark, revealing a white “bathtub ring.”

Now that millions have migrated to the southwest and private industry has invested millions of dollars, Hoover and FDR’s promises have confined those living and doing business in the west “in the straitjacket of an ever-intensifying water shortage,” notes Hiltzik. And while Interior Secretary Gale Norton claimed to have stilled the “conflict on the river” back in 2003 with the signing of two-dozen agreements transferring water rights between various Indian tribes, cities, and governments, the battle for water will rage on. The supply will never catch up with the demand.

After the ten-year drought, another $700 million is now being spent to install an additional intake pipeline into the diminishing Lake Mead. Almost 90 percent of the drinking water for Las Vegas comes from the lake. The new intake pipeline, officially known as Intake No. 3, “will reach deeper into the reservoir to protect the valley’s water supply should the lake shrink low enough to shut down one of the two shallower straws,” reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

However, the cost of this project is likely to rise, because the tunnel being excavated for the pipeline unexpectedly filled with water earlier this month. But this cost overrun shouldn’t trouble Keynesians, because the additional taxpayer money just provides more stimulus, right?

Those in government never learn. They can’t print prosperity, and more water won’t magically appear if they dam a river. While the man on the street believes government infallible, politicians and bureaucrats cannot calculate the economic profits and losses of government interventions. Ludwig von Mises made the point that government interventions inevitably lead to unintended consequences, leading government to constantly intervene further. So governments will fight over scarce water, and private use is increasingly being restricted by local ordinances.

The New Deal dam project that professor Malamud is so proud of provided a few thousand jobs 80 years ago, but has spurred migration, farming, and development that is likely unsustainable and may ultimately be the biggest malinvestment in history.


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Britain Plans to Decentralize Health Care

Posted: 25 Jul 2010 10:18 AM PDT

From The New York Times

LONDON — Perhaps the only consistent thing about Britain‘s socialized health care system is that it is in a perpetual state of flux, its structure constantly changing as governments search for the elusive formula that will deliver the best care for the cheapest price while costs and demand escalate.

The new British government’s plan to drastically reshape the socialized health care system would put local physicians like Dr. Marita Koumettou in north London in control of much of the national health budget.

Even as the new coalition government said it would make enormous cuts in the public sector, it initially promised to leave health care alone. But in one of its most surprising moves so far, it has done the opposite, proposing what would be the most radical reorganization of the National Health Service, as the system is called, since its inception in 1948.

Practical details of the plan are still sketchy. But its aim is clear: to shift control of England’s $160 billion annual health budget from a centralized bureaucracy to doctors at the local level. Under the plan, $100 billion to $125 billion a year would be meted out to general practitioners, who would use the money to buy services from hospitals and other health care providers.

The plan would also shrink the bureaucratic apparatus, in keeping with the government’s goal to effect $30 billion in “efficiency savings” in the health budget by 2014 and to reduce administrative costs by 45 percent. Tens of thousands of jobs would be lost because layers of bureaucracy would be abolished.

In a document, or white paper, outlining the plan, the government admitted that the changes would “cause significant disruption and loss of jobs.” But it said: “The current architecture of the health system has developed piecemeal, involves duplication and is unwieldy. Liberating the N.H.S., and putting power in the hands of patients and clinicians, means we will be able to effect a radical simplification, and remove layers of management.”

The health secretary, Andrew Lansley, also promised to put more power in the hands of patients. Currently, how and where patients are treated, and by whom, is largely determined by decisions made by 150 entities known as primary care trusts — all of which would be abolished under the plan, with some of those choices going to patients. It would also abolish many current government-set targets, like limits on how long patients have to wait for treatment.

The plan, with many elements that need legislative approval to be enacted, applies only to England; other parts of Britain have separate systems.

The government announced the proposals this month. Reactions to them range from pleased to highly skeptical.

Many critics say that the plans are far too ambitious, particularly in the short period of time allotted, and they doubt that general practitioners are the right people to decide how the health care budget should be spent. Currently, the 150 primary care trusts make most of those decisions. Under the proposals, general practitioners would band together in regional consortia to buy services from hospitals and other providers.

It is likely that many such groups would have to spend money to hire outside managers to manage their budgets and negotiate with the providers, thus canceling out some of the savings.

David Furness, head of strategic development at the Social Market Foundation, a study group, said that under the plan, every general practitioner in London would, in effect, be responsible for a $3.4 million budget.

“It’s like getting your waiter to manage a restaurant,” Mr. Furness said. “The government is saying that G.P.’s know what the patient wants, just the way a waiter knows what you want to eat. But a waiter isn’t necessarily any good at ordering stock, managing the premises, talking to the chef — why would they be? They’re waiters.”

But advocacy groups for general practitioners welcomed the proposals.

“One of the great attractions of this is that it will be able to focus on what local people need,” said Prof. Steve Field, chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, which represents about 40,000 of the 50,000 general practitioners in the country. “This is about clinicians taking responsibility for making these decisions.”

Dr. Richard Vautrey, deputy chairman of the general practitioner committee at the British Medical Association, said general practitioners had long felt there were “far too many bureaucratic hurdles to leap” in the system, impeding communication. “In many places, the communication between G.P.’s and consultants in hospitals has become fragmented and distant,” he said.

The plan would also require all National Health Service hospitals to become “foundation trusts,” enterprises that are independent of health service control and accountable to an independent regulator (some hospitals currently operate in this fashion). This would result in a further loss of jobs, health care unions say, and also open the door to further privatization of the service.

The government has promised that the new plan will not affect patient care and that the health care budget will not be cut. But some experts say those assertions are misleading. The previous government, controlled by the Labour Party, poured money into the health service — the budget is now about three times what it was when Labour took over, in 1997 — but the increases have stopped. The government has said the budget will continue to rise in real terms for the next five years, but it is unlikely that the increases will keep up with the rising costs of care and the demands of an aging population.

“The real mistake that is being made by the health secretary is to drive through an ideologically determined program of reorganization which is motivated by the principle of efficiency savings,” said Robin Durie, a senior lecturer in politics at the University of Exeter. “History shows clearly that quality will suffer as a consequence.”

Dr. Durie added, “The gulf between the rhetoric of the white paper and the technicalities of what is involved in the various elements of the overall reorganization being proposed is just extraordinary.”

For example, he asked, how will the government make good on its promise to give patients more choice — a promise that seems to require a degree of administrative oversight — while cutting so many managers from the system?

“How will the delivery of all this choice be funded?” Dr. Durie asked. “And how will the management of the delivery of choice be funded?”

Dr. Vautrey said the country needed to have a “mature debate about what the N.H.S. can and cannot afford.”

He said: “It is a sign of the mixed messages that government sends out. They talk about choice and competition and increased patient expectations at the same time as they tell the service they need to cut costs and refer less and prescribe less. People need to understand that while the needs of everyone may be met, their wants will be limited.”

As they prepare for the change, many doctors are wondering whether it will be permanent this time around.

“Many of our colleagues have seen this cycle of change repeatedly,” Dr. Vautrey said. “Many would look at previous reorganizations and compare it to this one and wonder how long the current change will last before the next one comes along.”


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The Free Yourself Movement

Posted: 25 Jul 2010 08:11 AM PDT

By Wendy McElory

An increasing number of libertarians I respect are joining what I call the “Free Yourself First Movement.”

Instructions on how to handle emergencies routinely advise people to take care of themselves first and only then to assist others; for example, in case of a rapid descent, airlines advise passengers to secure their own oxygen masks before assisting fellow-travelers. I do not believe the instruction to ’self-prioritize’ has any egoistic or Randian connotations, e.g. “you should be your own first value and act accordingly.” Instead, it springs from the commonsense realization that, unless you take care of your own survival in an emergency, you cannot help anyone else.

A similar phenomenon is quietly occurring within some ranks of libertarianism. In response to the economic and political emergency that is our current reality — and in preparation for a deepening crisis — people are taking care of themselves and their families first. Although focusing on your own welfare and that of loved ones is a natural part of daily life, the phenomenon I am talking about is different in that the focus is entirely conscious and in specific response to an unnatural state of affairs — again, our current economic and political reality.

There has always been a strong streak of (for want of another word) “survivalism” within the libertarian movement: gun advocates, gold owners, those who retreat to form communities, doom sayers, etc. But, again, this is different…although guns, gold and community networking certainly have an honored place in the life of anyone who values independence and freedom. One difference: although the Free Yourself First Movement may be largely in response to negative conditions, it is overwhelmingly positive in its message and sometimes joyous in its attitude. In stead of fretting about the state of the world, these people try to marginalize the negatives so that the quality of their lives is not deeply impacted by what a politician does. As much as possible, they remove their lives and their happiness from state control. You need only visit Sunni Maravillosa’s blog, for example, to viscerally feel how engaged in life that engaging woman is…IMO, more so now that she has ‘retreated’ into self-sufficiency than when she was while pursuing academia. In short, rather than crying out “the sky is falling,” the Free Yourself First Movement emphasizes the positives of empowering yourself.

Wally Conger brings this topic to mind this morning. I have been thinking about dropping his blog “Out Of Step” off my roll not because of any problem or negativity between us but because he has not posted there since September 7th, 2009. Instead, I should add his new site and venture: Smashing Wage Slavery One Job at a Time!. Wally is passionate about teaching people how to escape a circumstance that is, for most people, as soul-deadening as the State itself: being tied to a joyless job by debt and habit. He quotes Charles Bukowski, “How in the hell could a man enjoy being awakened at 6:30 a.m. by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, force-feed, shit, piss, brush teeth and hair, and fight traffic to get to a place where essentially you made lots of money for somebody else and were asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so?”

Wally epitomizes the swing toward the Free Yourself First Movement. His old site was dominated by cultural and political commentary with sections named “Essential Agitprop.” His new site is devoted to self-help that is specifically designed to enable economic (and, so, lifestyle) independence. The swing does not indicate an abandonment of libertarian activism or ideology but merely a refocusing on how to best express the goals of individualism and freedom…and to express it first and foremost within your own life. Like emergency instructions, he is self-prioritizing. Unlike those instructions, I’m sure he would argue for self-prioritization on egoistic or Randian grounds as well as commonsense ones.

I have been feeling the same drift within myself. Arguably, I have been ‘drifting’ in this direction for over ten years now — for over twenty if you count our moving from a large city to a farm where privacy, independence and self-sufficiency are far easier goals to achieve. By moving to the farm, we took a huge step toward marginalizing the state in our lives. There are taxes and laws that are close to inescapable, of course; for example, my car is licensed. But when I wake up in the morning and step outside, the situation feels similar to that described by Henry David Thoreau in “On Civil Disobedience.” Once when he was ‘huckleberrying’, he looked up at a field and thought to himself, “Here the state is nowhere to be seen.”

I have come to the conclusion that the most radical expression of freedom is to personally live it and only then — only when you have secured yourself and your loved ones — to assist others. By “assisting others”, I mean writing political commentary, attending conferences, lecturing…trying to steer the vast ship of society one iota closer to liberty and away from its Titanic like course.


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