Analysis

National Healthcare is the Health of the State


Ever since the Libertarian Party was formed in December 1971 there has been a hope by some that electing libertarians to high office could slow or reverse the march to greater government control over private affairs.

We just had a crystal-clear proof that it’s a fatally-flawed theory.

In 2016 the American electorate voted for a Republican president and Republican majorities in both houses of Congress pledged to repeal the Democratic-Party-passed Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare.

The Republican leadership in the House and Senate crafted a bill that was alleged to do that. It would have repealed the tax penalty for those who did not purchase health insurance. But that’s about the only “repeal” that would have been meaningful since nothing in the bill would have lowered healthcare insurance premiums or expanded healthcare options.

Even that bill failed to pass, leaving the current laws unchanged.

Re-peel BananaCare!

Debates endlessly rehash everything except the obvious: only a small caucus of Republican legislators had any desire to repeal the ACA and the GOP replacement bill was merely a reshuffling of how government-provided benefits were to be managed.

After two terms of railing against the Democratic Party’s health-care law the Republican Party turned out to be derailed even for its own.

There’s a lesson here for all political observers, but particularly libertarians: socialistic programs, once enacted into law, can’t be repealed. Politics, itself, foils it.

Republicans and Democrats — and Libertarians, if ever elected to political power — are constrained by the nature of politics: a game of Three-Card Monte by which a mark is cheated out of his money. A politician shows only the benefits available to the mark and conceals the costs to the mark.

The Republicans never had any intent to “repeal and replace” Obamacare. It was empty campaign rhetoric.

Donald Trump knew that.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker Paul Ryan knew that.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi knew that.

Freedom Caucus member Senator Rand Paul knew that.

The only people who didn’t know it were the marks — the poor working American.

If Republicans want to repeal the Individual Income Tax ACA Mandate they can do that as a stand-alone bill.

If Republicans want to make it legal to purchase health-insurance policies across state lines they can do that as a stand-alone bill.

If Republicans want to make it legal for medical doctors, nurses, physicians assistants, acupuncturists, chiropractors, and witch doctors to practice throughout the United States regardless of where they studied and previously practiced, they can do that as a stand-alone bill.

If Republicans want to allow Americans to buy drugs and supplements across state and national borders without federal interdiction or penalty, they can do that as a stand-alone bill.

If Republicans want to stop the War on Drugs, they can do that as a stand-alone bill.

But they won’t because just as much as Democrats, Republicans don’t give a rat’s ass about anyone’s medical choices or well-being. All they care about is maintaining their ability to fleece you and hand out the benefits to those from whom they want votes.

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Rational Security

Two of my favorite authors – Robert A Heinlein and Ayn Rand – favored a limited government that would provide an effective national defense against foreign invaders and foreign spies. Rand died March 6, 1982; Heinlein on May 8, 1988 – both of them well before domestic terrorism by foreign nationals or immigrants was a major political issue.

Both Heinlein and Rand, however, were aware of domestic political violence, industrial sabotage, and foreign espionage by both foreigners and immigrants, going back before their own births — Rand February 2, 1905, Heinlein July 7, 1907.

Both Heinlein and Rand wrote futuristic novels portraying totalitarianism (including expansive government spying on its own citizens) within the United States. Both authors also portrayed in their fiction writing and discussed in their nonfiction writing the chaos caused by capricious government control over individual lives and private property.

In their tradition, I’ve done quite a bit of that, also, in my own fiction and nonfiction.

So has my libertarian friend author Brad Linaweaver, whose writings I try never to miss an opportunity to plug.

Brad, like myself, writes in the tradition of Heinlein and Rand – more so even than I do, since Brad also favors limited government while I am an anarchist. Nonetheless I am capable of making political observations and analysis from a non-anarchist viewpoint.

Three authors -- Heinlein, Rand, Linaweaver

We come to this day in which Brad and I find ourselves without the comfort and living wisdom of Robert A. Heinlein and Ayn Rand. We are now both in our sixties, old enough to be libertarian literary elders.

Oh, we’re not the only ones. L. Neil Smith still writes libertarian novels and opines on his own The Libertarian Enterprise. There are others of our “libertarian writers’ mafia” still living and writing, but none as politically focused as we are – and often, in our opinion, not as good at keeping their eyes on the ball.

We see a duly-elected president whose legitimacy has been severely compromised by the very national intelligence agencies tasked with protecting that legitimacy.

We see in the United States official government intelligence operatives tasked with detecting and disrupting foreign threats yet by ubiquitous domestic surveillance and selective leaks instead act to advance their own partisan policy objectives. This clandestine force has invented a completely false narrative — paralleling the John Birch Society’s paranoid charges against President Dwight D. Eisenhower — that President Trump is a Russian agent.

We see a foreign-based journalistic service, Wikileaks, that acts as the Fourth Estate intended by the American founders – informing the American people of what our government is up to behind our backs – while our domestic major media almost universally have replaced independent news coverage with partisan talking points and debate.

Our president, in his belief that the military needs to be well-outfitted to perform its job of national defense, nonetheless seems intent on outfitting the military to fight the last war, not the next ones.

We see the two major political parties debate existing and even new entitlements as if the government — already twenty trillion dollars in debt and with ten times that in unfunded mandates — has a way to pay for these transfers of earned wealth other than life-destroying taxes combined with increased reliance on Federal Reserve issued fiat money leading to life-destroying hyperinflation.

Oh, national defense? The excuse for that “limited” government?

It doesn’t work.

The American military is so bogged down in foreign quagmires there isn’t even enough money to pay for as basic a national defensive force as the United States Coast Guard.

The Transportation Security Administration — charged with stopping “another 9/11″ — commits daily sexual assault on airline passengers while attempting (often not even successfully) to disarm the very civilian passengers who time after time have been the only effective militia stopping terrorist attacks.

The government is so focused on keeping out foreign workers to “protect” American jobs that it fails to recognize that these same foreign workers – because of their local proximity — must be deputized as the front line of defense to detect the terrorists camouflaged among them.

Writing in the days immediately following the 9/11 attacks – before there was even a Department of Homeland Security joining a shadow government/deep state in being more afraid of the American people than actual foreign threats – I noted that the American people, well-armed and staged at points of weakness, had to be the primary defense against terrorist attacks planned in secrecy and launched without warning.

Instead we have a Security State that disables the people’s ability to defend and protect ourselves, and instead has become more of a threat to the people’s privacy and liberty than foreign and immigrant terrorists post-9/11 attacks.

That Security State is now a direct threat to whatever government Heinlein and Rand would have seen as necessary — especially the Executive.

I don’t know what to tell you to do to fix this problem since as an anarchist I have no faith in government to begin with.

I do know, however, that there are good people – I include in that President Trump and Brad Linaweaver – who think it conceivably can be fixed.

Short of a revolutionary libertarian underground such as the one I’ve portrayed in my novel and movie Alongside Night, I ask them:

How?

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The Fake Court


We’ve been hearing a lot in the news about applications for a “FISA court” warrant by someone in the executive branch — possibly by request of the 44th President, or the previous Attorney General, or by someone in the FBI, or elsewhere in the “intelligence” community — to conduct electronic surveillance in a building owned and occupied by the then Republican nominee for president, and currently the 45th President, Donald J. Trump.

But no application for such a warrant was ever made to a federal judge, appointed by the President and approved by the Senate.

So what is this so-called FISA court?

Let’s start with everything the Constitution of the United States has to say about the federal Judiciary and its jurisdiction:

Article III

Section 1. The judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behaviour, and shall, at stated times, receive for their services, a compensation, which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.

Section 2. The judicial power shall extend to all cases, in law and equity, arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties made, or which shall be made, under their authority;–to all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls;–to all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction;–to controversies to which the United States shall be a party;–to controversies between two or more states;–between a state and citizens of another state;– between citizens of different states;–between citizens of the same state claiming lands under grants of different states, and between a state, or the citizens thereof, and foreign states, citizens or subjects.

In all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a state shall be party, the Supreme Court shall have original jurisdiction. In all the other cases before mentioned, the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, with such exceptions, and under such regulations as the Congress shall make.

The trial of all crimes, except in cases of impeachment, shall be by jury; and such trial shall be held in the state where the said crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any state, the trial shall be at such place or places as the Congress may by law have directed.

Section 3. Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.

The Congress shall have power to declare the punishment of treason, but no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture except during the life of the person attainted.

Amendment 4

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment 5

No person shall be held to answer for a capital or otherwise infamous crime unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.

Amendment 6

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor; and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

Amendment 7

In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment 8

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment 11

The judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit, in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by citizens of another state, or by citizens or subjects of any foreign state.

Amendment 14

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. ….

The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

Note the 9th and 10th amendments to the Constitution, which limit the jurisdiction of the federal government to only those powers specifically mentioned in the Constitution:

Amendment 9

The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment 10

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

US Courts

Now, here’s what Wikipedia tells us about FISA:

The United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC, also called the FISA Court) is a U.S. federal court established and authorized under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) to oversee requests for surveillance warrants against foreign spies inside the United States by federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Such requests are made most often by the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Congress created FISA and its court as a result of the recommendations by the U.S. Senate’s Church Committee.[1] Its powers have evolved to the point that it has been called “almost a parallel Supreme Court.”[2]

Since 2009, the court has been relocated to the E. Barrett Prettyman United States Courthouse in Washington, D.C.[3][4] For roughly thirty years of its history (prior to 2009), it was housed on the sixth floor of the Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building.[3][4]

In 2013, a top-secret order issued by the court, which was later leaked to the media from documents culled by Edward Snowden, required a subsidiary of Verizon to provide a daily, on-going feed of all call detail records – including those for domestic calls – to the NSA.

https://en.wikipedia.org/…/United_States_Foreign_Intelligen…

FISA court
Main article: United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court

The Act created the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) and enabled it to oversee requests for surveillance warrants by federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies (primarily the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency) against suspected foreign intelligence agents inside the U.S. The court is located within the E. Barrett Prettyman United States Courthouse in Washington, D.C. The court is staffed by eleven judges appointed by the Chief Justice of the United States to serve seven-year terms.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreign_Intelligence_Surveillance_Act#FISA_court

So, these 11 judges are not part of the federal judiciary. They are not appointed by the President with the consent of the Senate. Their appointment by the Chief Justice of the United States may qualify them as clerks to the Chief Justice but the Chief Justice has no constitutional authority to appoint other judges, and such appointments made by the Chief Justice certainly do not meet the constitutional standard for considering or issuing warrants for anything — and certainly not in a secret kangaroo court.

We see now the “shadow” government has its own secret court and its own goons to carry out its secret orders.

The President of the United States is now learning that such powers have been targeting him and his administration in what appears like nothing other than an attempted coup d’etat by his political enemies, likely loyal to the previous president.

This is something that belongs not in our daily news but in a play by Shakespeare.

Edward Snowden went rogue to alert the American people to this danger.

President Donald Trump, who during his campaign declared Edward Snowden a traitor (he’s not; see the Constitution’s definition of treason quoted above) should reconsider his campaign statement and pardon Edward Snowden so that Snowden might return to the United States and advise President Trump as to what intelligence tools are being used by a hidden and unaccountable power structure to target whoever might attempt to bring them to justice.

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Weaponizing Grief

I think many of us who followed the criminal and civil trials of O.J. Simpson will never forget Fred Goldman, father of the slain Ronald Goldman, standing alongside Simpson’s L.A. County criminal prosecutors as an accuser; later, when the criminal prosecution failed, personally suing O.J. Simpson in a second, civil trial. Ronald Lyle Goldman died a few weeks short of his 26th birthday.

Fred and Ronald Goldman
Fred Goldman & Ron Goldman

More recently we’ve seen family members of Kate Steinle, victim of a ricochet bullet allegedly fired by undocumented immigrant Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, suing the “Sanctuary” City of San Francisco for wrongful death. At the time of her death Kathryn Steinle was 32.

Liz Sullivan and Jim Steinle
Liz Sullivan and Jim Steinle

At the 2016 Democratic National Convention and interviewed afterwards we’ve heard “Gold Star” parents Khizr and Ghazala Khan accuse Hillary Clinton’s Republican opponent, Donald J. Trump, of failing to appreciate the sacrifice of their son U.S. Army Captain Humayun Khan who died during a 2004 deployment to Iraq. Captain Khan died at age 27.

Khisr and Ghazala Khan
Khizr and Ghazala Khan

Very recently we’ve learned of a lawsuit filed by the parents of movie actor Anton Yelchin against Fiat-Chrysler, manufacturers of an SUV that self-shifted into gear due to poor engineering design and crushed their son to death. Anton Yelchin died at age 27.

Victor and Irina Yelchin
Victor and Irina Yelchin

It’s an odd notion that the parents of an adult have legal standing to recover monetary damages from the death, wrongful or not, of their offspring, as has been sought in three of these four instances.

It’s an odder notion, still, that the parents of an adult who died while in military service have some special grace, and media-granted immunity from counter-criticism, when they choose to stand before a national political convention to make a personal attack against the character of another political party’s nominee.

Fred Goldman never conducted a personal investigation into the death of his son. He has never known anything other than representations made to him by lawyers, trial witnesses, media pundits, and — frankly — bigots who were certain that his Jewish son was killed by a famous schwartze.

Yet with no special knowledge Fred Goldman has been allowed with no media criticism to denigrate a man whom a criminal jury acquitted and file a lawsuit for wrongful death after that criminal acquittal to recover damages on behalf of a grown-up son.

The parents of the adult Kate Steinle have been pawns used in a media campaign by Fox News pundit Bill O’Reilly to pass federal legislation.

And whether or not the wonderful actor Anton Yelchin was killed due to incompetent automotive engineering, why are the parents of this adult entitled to a pay day?

In our progressive-minded legal system grief has become an entitlement. Grievers have become another victimized class, not to be criticized, but able to throw political and legal assaults with a political and media-manufactured code that says it’s wrongful to fight back.

This is utter statist villainy and it’s got to stop.

I wrote on this topic previously: Grief as a Pointed Gun

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Petition: No US Money or Arms to Foreign States with Gay Death Penalty

A few days ago I started a petition on Change.org with the title “No US Money or Arms to Foreign States with Gay Death Penalty.” The recipients of the petition are President Barack Obama, Senator Rand Paul, and Representative Justin Amash.

Here is the text of the petition:

We demand an immediate end to any U.S. taxpayer funding, military aid, or provision of military-grade weapons to any foreign State that has laws providing a death penalty for being gay or being part of any LGBT community.

It’s unusual for any libertarian to write and circulate a petition like this since begging political officials for anything isn’t exactly radical or revolutionary. But in this particular case I’m taking an opportunity to reach beyond the libertarian movement.

The left is trying to make the narrative regarding the shootings at Pulse about the need for more gun-control and bigotry against both the LGBT community and Muslims.

The right is trying to make the narrative regarding the shootings at Pulse about the need to go to war against “radical Islamic terrorism” — and fuck any inconvenient liberties and due process that gets in the way.

Libertarians are largely either trying to avoid the political crossfire (Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson, for example) or just be reactionary to the assaults from both sides.

The purpose of my petition is to combat both left-wing and right-wing hypocrisy. It’s focusing on current United States government policy subsidizing and arming the very governments that systematically violate the human rights the United States claims to be defending.

If you’re libertarian, anti-interventionist, pro-LGBT, or simply anti-hypocrisy, I ask you to sign this petition at https://www.change.org/p/barack-obama-no-us-money-or-arms-to-foreign-states-with-death-penalty-for-gays?recruiter=6671293&utm_source=petitions_show_components_action_panel_wrapper&utm_medium=copylink

J. Neil Schulman

Sign the Petition!

Petition Tweet

Full text of the petition to President Barack Obama, Senator Rand Paul, and Representative Justin Amash:

We demand an immediate end to any U.S. taxpayer funding, military aid, or provision of military-grade weapons to any foreign State that has laws providing a death penalty for being gay or being part of any LGBT community.

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The Race Card Used as a Trump Card

Donald Trump is not a racist.

Mexicans are a nationality, not a race — despite “The Race” used in Spanish as “La Raza” being an organizing meme used by Hispanics and Latinos.

And let’s define those terms: “Hispanic” is a person whose primary language is Spanish. “Latino” is a person whose primary language derives from Latin — and properly used without political exclusion would include not only speakers of Spanish but also Portuguese, Italian, and French.

Muslims are not a race. It’s a religion spanning many nationalities, ethnic groups, and cultures. There are Chinese Muslims, Indian Muslims, Arab Muslims, Persian Muslims, African Muslims, Polynesian Muslims, European Muslims.

Donald Trump has a problem with a judge he thinks should have dismissed a civil law suit against him when the primary plaintiff was dropped. The judge who declined to do so, Gonzales Curiel — an American whose parents emigrated to the U.S. from Mexico — is a member of a pro-Hispanic bar association that has boycotted Trump businesses — clear grounds for recusal due to prejudice.

Donald Trump also concludes that the set of Islamic-motivated terrorists exists within the set of adherents to Islam. That is a tautology.

I disagree with Donald Trump on immigration policy, economic policy, and 4th Amendment policy.

I am not a Donald Trump supporter because I’m a libertarian and reject his embrace of statism.

Donald J. Trump
Donald J. Trump

But Donald Trump is nowhere near as racist as the people accusing him of racism and if they keep this up I just might have to vote for him in the hopes these lying hypocrites are eliminated from political power and media attention.

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Unidentified

What’s the most frightening thing about UFO’s — Unidentified Flying Objects? After all, it’s common to look up and see birds, aircraft, clouds, and other things flying in the sky.

What’s frightening is the first word in the acryonym: “Unidentified.” We’re scared because certain objects perform maneuvers unlike other things we see in the sky and we don’t know what they are.

Alleged UFO

Remember the phrase “Going postal?”

According to the Wikipedia article the expression originates in a series of more than 20 workplace rage cases between 1986 and 1997 where United States Postal Service (USPS) workers shot and killed managers, fellow workers, and members of the police or general public in acts of mass murder.

Postal Workers Statue

Despite my libertarian suspicion that working at a government post office would be such a bureaucratic nightmare — akin to the 1985 satire Brazil — that psychotic violence is predictable, Wikipedia informs us that postal workers actually have a lower rate of workplace violence than in comparable private-sector jobs. Nonetheless, the phrase entered popular usage to mean a stultifying job site where explosive behavior is understandable. See the hilarious 1999 Mike Judge movie Office Space.

Now.

One week ago 14-year-old high-school student Ahmed Mohamed was arrested after bringing a science project to school showing the inner workings of a digital clock. Never mind that the device had nothing in its workings that looked like a bomb — no sticks of dynamite, no liquids like in Die Hard 2 that appeared to be explosive when mixed, no cell phone that could have remotely detonated a charge left in his locker. It was enough that it looked like a clock, a necessary component shown in dozens or hundreds of movies and TV episodes for any time bomb. Zero tolerance, you scared the crap out of us, kid, bring out the handcuffs. In the years after Columbine High School, that a student’s device was “Unidentified” — plus the kid had a Middle Eastern name — was sufficient to assume the kid was going postal.

Ahmed and his Clock

It’s September 2015, fourteen years after September 11, 2001. The United States has never recovered from what happened that day. It’s still a benchmark for every political discussion about what the government should do to “keep us safe.” Since 9/11 the Bill of Rights — once considered the constitutional centerpiece of American civil liberties — has been made about as irrelevant in practical politics and jurisprudence as the Magna Carta. Congress passes laws, the President issues executive orders, and the courts ignore massive violations of what except for wartime — the Civil War, the two World Wars — would have been unthinkable violations of individual privacy and freedom.

World Trade Center 9/11

But in terms of the number of U.S. troops deployed in active combat zones, the United States is closer to being at peace than at any time in recent memory. Yet the operations of government are not only premised on being in a state of heightened alert but assume that embedded among the civilian population are enemy saboteurs waiting to repeat 9/11 … or worse.

It has turned our major news media into war propaganda media, not censored by a government office but defining what is an approved talking point — an allowable subject for discussion — entirely as if such a censor had his finger on the dump button.

Orwell’s Big Brother State in his prophetic novel Nineteen-eighty-four would have been overwhelmed by the challenge of running a propaganda operation like the Fox News Channel — FNC — an acronym which might as well stand for the Fox National Committee akin to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Republican National Committee (RNC).

This was my response when my friend Brad Linaweaver told me he thought the Republican Party was more responsive to FNC’s Chairman Roger Ailes than to RNC Chairman Reince Priebus.

The events of September 11, 2001 — and every day of violence since then — have ultimately left the American people — and often other people outside our national borders — with what I’ll now call Unidentified Post Traumatic Stress Disorder — UPTSD.

Something is Out There. We do not know when it will attack us and bring on an Apocalyptic Day of Judgment. We’re so scared we can’t think straight.

Our movies and TV shows reflect our obsession with Living Dead who still look vaguely human but are in truth hideous monsters living among us.

Our news shows — the commercials on news shows — report on topics that when I was young could not even have been imagined, much less discussed on television. Same-sex marriage? Transgendered people? Pills that produce erections? Fetal body parts? Orgasms?

In the 1960′s Walter Cronkite or Huntley-Brinkley would have been thrown off the air if they had done a story on any of these. Even Paddy Chayefsky’s and Sidney Lumet’s brilliant 1976 movie satire Network — with fictitious news anchor Howard Beale’s on-air screed against “bullshit” — is comparatively tame compared to an average hour of 2015 television.

A comedian such as John Oliver is today as respected a source of investigative journalism as former WW2 foreign correspondent Edward R. Murrow was on CBS News in the 1950′s — this now when there are three domestic cable news operations, four major broadcast networks, and a World Wide Web with 24/7 ability to cover news.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Call this social insanity what authors before me have.

Heinlein writing science-fiction in the 1940′s called it “the crazy years.”

Futurist Alvin Toffler called it “future shock.”

I’m calling it UPTSD — a general social malaise in which ordinary people have a shortened attention span in which eternal verities are buried under the 24-hour news cycle and in which even totalitarian brainwashing has to be refreshed on a daily basis because yesterday’s brainwashing is already history.

Brad Linaweaver sees that as the Death of Western Civilization and the Enlightenment.

Me, I take that level playing field, where their ever-changing daily propaganda is no less crazy than my own anarchist rantings, as good news.

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Flag Banning


I’m a native New Yorker. Had I been alive in the past centuries with my current beliefs I would have been a slavery Abolitionist and if possible both an activist in the Underground Railroad smuggling slaves to freedom in Canada and an agitator for slave rebellions against slaveholders in states where slavery was legal.

That said, I oppose the current move by retailers including Amazon, Walmart, Target, Sears and eBay to ban sale of merchandise displaying the Confederate Battle Flag and of Warner Brothers to stop making toy “Dukes of Hazzard” cars carrying the Confederate flag decal.

Dukes of Hazzard General Lee
Dukes of Hazzard General Lee

This wiping out of American history, putting the Confederate flag into an Orwellian Memory Hole, can only benefit a totalitarian view where the honoring of any rebellion against central government is tagged as unallowable. The cause of preserving slavery was an evil motive for rebellion but the Constitution as permitting no exit clause for dissenters against hegemonic centralism is also evil.

I would have agreed with abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison that, if anything, the non-slave-owning states should have seceded from the Union and been a haven for slaves escaping from the slave-holding states.

Libertarians make a mistake if we believe our freedom can only be lost to government edict. The surrender without a fight to trendy historical censorship is as quick a path to tyranny.

When private companies ban merchandise because the fragile among us object, it will never stop. Banning sales of firearms and ammunition when evildoers use them against the innocent will follow. The battle flag of the American Revolution — the “Dont Tread on Me” Gadsden Flag — will disappear if some demented Tea Party zealot commits a lone-wolf act of terrorism and embraces that symbol while doing it.

And when we see drone-strike “collateral damage” burning the Stars and Stripes should Americans pull down their national flag in sympathy as well?

Abandon your past and you condemn your future.

If flags can be banned, so can books and movies.

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Absolute Paranoia

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
–Lord Acton

Secrecy begets tyranny.
–Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
–Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States

Not liking or trusting governmental power is how the United States began as a country separate from Great Britain, but as the British Lord Acton’s famous quote demonstrates you don’t need to be American like science-fiction author Robert A. Heinlein to distrust State power.

Lord Acton - Robert A. Heinlein
Lord Acton / Robert A. Heinlein

National Review editor, Rich Lowry, recently appeared on the Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity show, arguing that National Security Agency collection of metadata on a customer’s telephone messaging did not violate the customer’s Fourth Amendment right to be secure from government snooping because the metadata was not the customer’s private property but belonged to the phone company.

As an NR alumnus writer I emailed Rich pointing out that his Social Security number was issued by the government, therefore also not protectable private property, but nonetheless could be used along with other easily obtainable personal data to access bank accounts, open new lines of credit, and possibly even sell his house like in the 1995 movie The Net. Rich wrote me back with a balanced response inspiring me to write this article.

The specifics of the debate on government casting a wide net to collect information on the citizenry, ever since Edward Snowden revealed the intelligence agencies were lying about not doing it, are beside my point here. I’m not seeking a balance between government doing what the Bill of Rights forbids it to do versus the utility of government employees lawyering themselves out of these prohibitions because they imagine it will enhance national security.

What I am pointing out here is that such massive spying not only uncorks limits on government power established because of numerous examples of past abuse but also destroys trust in law itself — constitutional, legislative, regulatory, judicial, or even arbitral — because what is done in absolute secrecy is by nature exercise of absolute power.

Have you noticed how popular mass-media purveyors of political suspicion are ubiquitous, whether partisan Democrats seeing Republicans as evil incarnate, Republicans seeing Democrats through the same paranoid lens, or maverick social critics issuing jeremiads accusing both right and left as being incurably corrupt?

We are beyond the debate engendered by Edward Snowden’s revelation that government is collecting massive data on the People.

The debate now is given the inevitable corruption caused by absolute power exercised in absolute secrecy, how trustable is that data anyway?

It’s bad enough when a rogue cop can imprison a suspect by planting a gun or a bag of drugs, perhaps even smuggling it into a police station’s evidence room.

But what does it do to a person’s ability to imagine there is actually some honesty and fairness in any system of justice if those in charge of collecting the evidence do so in such secrecy, and on such a massive scale, that the rational response by someone not even an anarchist like me is absolute paranoia?

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Why Won’t Iran Make an Arms Deal with Obama?


The Fox News pundits will love this article for once because they’ll think it’s only about attacking Barack Obama.

It can’t be helped.

Yesterday the Iranian Ayatollahs made it clear there’s no middle ground in negotiations between Iran and the United States-led coalition to reach a treaty denying Iran the ability to make an atomic bomb. Considering how impactful economic sanctions have been on Iran, this is on the face of it a curiously obstinate position for the Iranian rulers to take.

In a lot of old Westerns there’s an phrase attributed to chiefs regarding treaties the United States broke with Native tribes: “White man speak with forked tongue.”

Given the recent success of the Islamic State including this week’s taking of the Iraqi city of Ramadi, there’s a renewed debate generated by the left about the wisdom of the United States invading Iraq in 2003 and by the right about withdrawing all remaining U.S. troops in 2011.

A wide spectrum of political opinion ranging from Patrick Buchanan on the right, Brad Linaweaver from libertarian minarchist quarters, and filmmaker Paul Greengrass on the left have criticized not per se the March 20, 2003 invasion of Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein and his rape-room sons from power. Saddam Hussein’s awful record of human-rights violations and economic banditry made him eminently worthy of being overthrown.

The primary criticism was instead not leaving the Ba’athist Party in power so U.S. forces could have withdrawn from a politically stable Iraq May 1, 2003 when President George W. Bush stood in front of a “Mission Accomplished” sign on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.

A war lasting six weeks would have bled the United States — and the Iraqi people — far less than an occupation lasting eight years.

But that’s not my point here. As Paul Greengrass’s movie Green Zone portrays, the United States was making back-channel promises with the Ba’athist leadership that the U.S. would begin formal diplomatic negotiations with them if they assisted in deposing Saddam Hussein. If anyone deserves being criticized it’s not only President George W. Bush (for attacking a country that hadn’t attacked the U.S. first) but U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz breaking promises to Ba’athist leadership turning what could have been a brief war into a bloody and totally unnecessary eight-year occupation. The rise of the Islamic State is a direct result of that treachery.

Now we get to Iran and Obama.

Muammar_Gaddafi
Muammar Gaddafi

Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi saw what happened to Saddam Hussein for refusing to reach a deal with the United States, and went the other way. Gaddafi openly allowed inspections so the United States couldn’t invade Libya on the pretext that he, also, was amassing weapons of mass destruction; renounced any ties to terrorist groups and paid reparations for the downing of Pan Am Flight 103; and dotted his i’s and crossed his t’s well enough that the George W. Bush administration took Libya off its list of terrorist states, opened an embassy with full diplomatic hoopla from U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and even a phone call from President George W. Bush ending with Bush saying, “God bless you.”

The United States was still expanding its embassy in Tripoli during the first year of the Obama admninistration.

Then the Obama administration conspired with Gaddafi’s enemies allowing him to be deposed, dragged into the streets and killed by a mob on October 20, 2011. Neither Condoleezza Rice nor George W. Bush uttered a word of protest.

The lesson to any other foreign leader was clear: Cooperating with the United States would ultimately not make any difference. Whether you were a defiant Saddam Hussein or a compliant Muammar al-Gaddafi, you were still a dead man.

The United States speaks with a forked tongue.

Now is it any wonder that Iran doesn’t think it can negotiate a treaty with the United States and feels its only safety is in getting its own arsenal of atomic bombs and intercontinental ballistic missiles?

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