June 30, 2008
Kent Snyder: Hail and Farewell
I had the fortune of knowing Kent as a friend and a brother-in-arms. Kent was the first person in Dr. Paul's inner circle to suggest that Dr. Paul run for President, without Kent there would have been no Ron Paul 2008 presidential campaign and think where the freedom movement would be without the rEVOLUtion. For one thing, imagine all the young people who are joining our movement who, absent Dr. Paul's campaign, would have drifted to Obama because they associated free markets with neoconservatism.
Kent defined "grace under pressure." No matter how tough things got during the campaign, whenever I spoke to him he was friendly and calm. Kent also never failed to thank everyone for their contributions to the cause. Unlike so many in DC, Kent never judged people by status or how they could help him. Kent treated everyone the same and had a genuine interest in his fellow human beings, and was one of the most generous people I have had the privileged to know.
Thank you, for everything Kent, I know I speak for everyone who knew and loved you when I say the world seems a much darker and confusing place without you there to help light our way.
BTW- Here is Ron Paul's tribute to Kent.
A story from Newsbusters suggests that the Obama campaign (or its supporters) may have used Blogspot's spam control system to flag and thus shut down several anti-Obama blogs.
Apparently, this campaign merely took advantage of Google/Blogger's flawed system of finding spam blogs. So, it looks like what we have here is an Obama dirty trick to shut down political opposition.
Newsbusters remarks, "Looks like Obmatons aren't much for that whole democracy thing, eh?"
If this is indeed what happened, the Obama crew may very well understand democracy.
In a sense, flagging spam is like voting. "Spam" is a subjective classification. Spam is unwelcome, useless, or even harmful information. Who should decide what is spam and not spam? There is much discussion of the "Wisdom of Crowds" in generating knowledge, especially through the Net. Do we allow ideas that go against the crowd?
There is a false notion that by installing voting systems that aggregate preferences of the public that we get liberal protections for speech and action. In fact, it is liberal concepts and institutional protection of these concepts that defend our "rights" against the will of the majority. Democracy, in replacing autocratic regimes, may generate liberalism. But democracy has also been a force for oppression.
Obama has lovely transpartisan rhetoric, but we should recognize that many of his policy proposals will increase the power of the state and diminish liberty. We should not be surprised that rabid supporters of statist policies will violate discourse ethics in the process of getting their way.
Using the Second Amendment as Intended
I have long argued that, should the D.C. Gun ban be revoked, the Democracy movement, as well as other dissident movements, take full advantage of the right to bear arms by doing so very publicly. For instance, the Capital Pride Festival was held a week prior to the decision. Next year at this time, the festival should include an armed contingent. Gay rights activists should also take up arms in their demonstrations in support of marriage. The next time the Congress disrespects the citizens of the District of Columbia - or the Court does for that matter by say overturning the ban on handguns, DC activists should hold one of their usual protest marches, but this time do so armed.
Congress and the Supreme Court may rethink their attitudes about both the rights of D.C. residents and the right to keep and bear arms if faced with such a protest. If permits are not issued for such protests, the denial should be challenged on both First and Second Amendment grounds. This also applies in states with odious policies, such as the denial of the right to marriage to gays and lesbians. It would be entertaining to see the reaction in Richmond to a contingent of armed queens demanding their rights to marriage (or even the rights to marriage equivalent contracts that have been denied by the State of Virginia).
June 29, 2008
Goodbye Raymond Burke
The Vatican announced the promotion of pro-life Archbishop Raymond Burke to the Vatican Signatura (its Supreme Court). This means that he is effectively silenced in telling Catholic politicians who they should put on the American Supreme Court - just in time for the election. I knew I liked this Pope. Read more on my Christian Left blog.
June 28, 2008
Taking Olbermann and Obama to Task for FISA Support
Just because Obama supports Bush's unconstitutional FISA expansion doesn't mean that it is any more legitimate or better policy. While MSNBC's Keith Olbermann has often been an opponent of the Bush Administration's war and privacy policies, his principles apparently don't extend to keeping Democrats from doing the same things.
Glenn Greenwald over at Salon.com takes Olbermann, Jonathan Alter, and other unprincipled lefties to task for endorsing Bush's power grab.
June 27, 2008
"...in the home."
The key passage in yesterday's landmark Second Amendment Supreme Court decision is: The Constitution does not permit “the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home.”
While I'd prefer the qualification be "on one's property," the point is people have the right to protect themselves and their families with potentially lethal force. Arguing the opposite seems utterly untenable, so my view is Scalia and the majority framed this issue properly.
The Supremes move glacially, with the occasional lurch and sometimes those lurches are in a virtuous direction. This is such a time. Time will tell how the Court hones this new direction in jurisprudential thinking. What CAN be prohibited, what CAN be regulated, and where CAN the State limit the carrying and use of firearms remain open questions.
June 26, 2008
Obama is Right on Leviticus
If you haven't been paying attention (and I don't blame you if you haven't), there has been an ongoing controversy between James Dobson and Barack Obama over whether the Bible endorses slavery and prohibits shellfish. While I don't support everything this short video has to say, it does quote directly from the passage in Leviticus that endorses slavery and proscribes rules for buying and selling slaves. There has been a lot of discussion elsewhere about whether or not the Bible actually endorses slavery. I think the answer is "yes."
Making public policy based on the Bible or any religious document is a dangerous business.
2A, Kelo and Federalism
As we all wait to hear what the Supremes have to say about the DC gun ban, I'll be especially interested in the take that our paleo states rights colleagues will say. Some believed Kelo was properly decided, based on a states rights perspective.
I didn't, and I won't.
The way I see it, the Bill of Rights is a national governing law. It carves out certain rights for all US citizens, including the right to keep and bear arms, at least on one's property. That which is not carved out in the Constitution should be left to the states or individuals. Banning all firearms -- as DC has done -- is off the reservation, as I see it.
June 25, 2008
DEBATE: How Much to Spend on Climate Change?
A Climate Change Debate at the Humanist Society
June 30, 2008, 7:30 pm, Meeting at the Unitarian
Should we be trying to reduce carbon dioxide emissions
A debate and discussion led by Bruce Britton and Paul Hoekstra.
No RSVP required.
June 22, 2008
Move Over, Somalia
Liberty lovers are sometimes accused of being "atomistic," taking individualist values out to its most extreme. It's a perspective that could easily be ridiculed at its edges, even if the thrust of individualism is an American virtue.
One theorist last year suggested that modern-day Somalia is a pretty neat place, as it is a stateless geographical area. Starvation rates have declined slightly, seemed to be the nub of the observation.
Now we have a first-world experiment in extreme individualism brewing. A Shetland Island, inhabited by one tent dweller, is claiming sovereignty.
While I wish this Shetlander all the best, a society of one seems hardly to be a good experiment. Even Robinson Crusoe had Friday, yes?
June 19, 2008
The Job of President
The discussion by MicahTillman Robert Capozzi and my comments on RC's blog relate as much to the job of President as the job of government as a whole. Joel Achenbach looked at the job of President a few months ago in the Outlook section of the Washington Post. There is a great deal of agreement in the political science community that the job of President, as written, is undoable. Most presidents have aides make many decisions that could better be made by an elected official. This is not necessarily salutory for representative government.
The way around this is to homogenize regional boundaries across agencies and create regional vice presidencies and regional congressional caucuses to handle most of these affairs (from base closings to regional economic policy). Regional VPs could be elected by the electoral college, with each nominee appointing a slate and the winner of the most votes in that region elected to office. In other words, in New England/New York, you would likely have a Democratic RVP. In Dixie, you would have a Republican, etc. The stability would be good for government.
The regional VPs could meet in a council headed by the VPUS, who could also oversee domestic agencies with a national mission - such as a Department of Science containing NASA, Air Traffic Control, Highway Safety, Fuel economy, Environmental Superfund, Medical Research and Drug regulation, National Parks and Patents; the Department of Treasury and Commerce, which would focus on the gathering of economic statistics, the Census, Engraving and Printing, Comptroller of the Currency, the public debt, social security privatization and collection of an income surtax on the wealthy; and the Department of Justice and Civil Rights, which would monitor the civil rights performance of regions, executive clemency, representation of the United States, workplace safety and wage and hour regulation (which some regions will likely do poorly).
This arrangement would free the President to focus on what is really important: defense, foreign affairs and homeland security. The existence of regional vice presidencies would also narrow the field of presidential "eligibles" to people who have held this office and high level flag officers. Governors and Senators would be outclassed.
For more on this proposal, see the relevant chapter of my book at http://www.geocities.com/christianlibertarianparty/regionalgovernment.html.
I brought this topic up in one of the weekly editorial events. It was treated cooly, so I am bringing it up again in blog format for reading and comment.
What do you believe the President should be doing - and who should do the other stuff?
The Future of Tax Reform
Recently, while surfing the net in search of a real job having to do with tax reform from a Value Added Tax (VAT) perspective, I found both comments attacking the use of a VAT, as well as a copy of the VAT analysis from the final report of the President's Advisory Panel on Tax Reform. (Frequent readers know that I contributed analysis to this effort, which is provided on my Geocities page.
Overall, I am encouraged by the Panel’s treatment of this topic. (although they did not agree to make an official recommendation on it). Their overall approach is similar to mine – combining a VAT and a simplified income tax. Due to the scope of their assignment, they were not allowed to consider the replacement of Payroll Tax revenue with the VAT, even though this would be the most natural use of such a tax. Payroll taxes function essentially as a hidden VAT as they add to the cost of labor at a fairly uniform rate, with the exception that the contribution to disability, retirement and survivors insurance is capped. Additionally, in order to keep rates on both taxes low, the Panel “split the difference” by assuming a 15% VAT and a 15% high income tax rate (with a lower 5% rate for lower incomes). Work and family size credits were also assigned to the simplified income tax. This results in a system with three tax systems – consumption, payroll and income. In the end, this proposal was not adopted because fiscal conservatives on the panel believed that the VAT would make it to easy to raise revenue.
This echoes the comments of the Hoover Institute, Citizens for Tax Reform and the Heritage Foundation. These denizens of the right favor a flat tax or the Fair Tax, largely because they wish to have every citizen pay taxes in as obvious method as possible (including by eliminating withholding and requiring the submission of a monthly tax payment by every citizen), believing that this will lead taxpayers to demand less government services. They also fear that an income tax will still be included in any VAT scheme (Grover Norquist considers this the worst possible scenario), which exactly what the Panel’s analysis showed. I proposed such a scheme as well, as has prominent Yale Law Professor and former George H.W. Bush official Michael J. Graetz , although I would institute a higher VAT and lower residual income tax rate.
What I am proposing would not be as horrible as Grover Norquist and company make it out to be. I would divide the VAT into a transparent tax to fund government services and a hidden component to directly fund transfers to larger or poorer families, remedial education services to adults, disability and health care costs (employee and retiree) and education funding contributions to parents, public schools or private schools. The hidden VAT costs could be directed to non-governmental providers or to governmental providers, at the choice of the firm’s employees and shareholders. The hidden portion of the tax would be administered by the states and federal – and possibly matching local – funding of these spending priorities would be supplanted by the new tax structure. The remaining federal income tax would be enacted at a lower rate and would be set aside to pay for net interest on the debt, foreign aid and debt forgiveness, overseas military operations – including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, transfer costs in privatizing retirement insurance and repayment of the Social Security Trust Fund, repayment of the debt held by the public and the transition to hard currency from the Federal Reserve System. When international commitments can be fully funded by customs duties and tariffs and all real and contingent obligations are exhausted, the income tax would sunset until needed to fund armed conflict.
So, what are your thoughts on the direction and possible inevitability of tax reform in the next administration - which must either allow the Bush tax cuts to expire or do something else?
Back to Square One
The fictional Tony Soprano character reported that he had a near-death experience in which the question came up: Who am I?
Simple yet vexing square-one questions may well open Pandora's Box, but they are unavoidable for adults. If we don't have a crisp answer for square one questions, how can we possibly assess beef or chicken?
Of course, we can't really answer the square-one-type inquiries, but we can't avoid them, either. Instead, we need to ask better and better questions that guide us on a path to an improved experience, perhaps even Nirvana or Heaven on earth.
But, then, maybe not. Still, my colleague Micah Tillman asks are very good square-one question: What is government?
My answer -- for now -- is a peacekeeping, conflict-resolution institution for humans. I'm open to a better answer, however.
The Most Important Question
. . . for every candidate and voter is this:
What is government?
You don't want people messing with it if they can't pick it out of a lineup. They might confuse it with a daycare center or a terrorist organization for all you know.
So, let's not even worry about the purpose of government ("What should government do?" "Why was government instituted?") for the moment. You can't have a purpose if you're not the kind of thing that can fulfill that purpose.
So every candidate for office should be asked: What is government? And every voter should be asking her- or himself: What is government?
After all, if we don't know what government is, how will we be able to tell which of the candidates has the right answer?
June 18, 2008
Veepstakes, Life and Choice
Normally – or should I say in years past – the VP candidate of the Rs and Ds do not matter too much. Maybe it can be shown to help in the VP's home state, but even that seems to be a stretch. People mostly vote for the top of the ticket, or perhaps against the other candidate.
This time could be different. McCain's age makes his VP choice more important than usual. Obama's youth and relative inexperience makes his choice important, too. The optics of "balancing" the ticket seems to be practical and of a higher priority this go 'round.
Michael Bindner's idea of pro-life Bob Casey is interesting, but I suspect unlikely. The Ds seem to have a low tolerance for pro-lifers, especially on the national ticket and platform. Ditto the Rs for pro-choicers, witness Mitt Romney's possibly-sincere-but-suspicious "change of heart" on abortion.
(The Libertarians seem to be the only party that respects this obviously gray area, having nominated pro-life and pro-choice standardbearers in recent years. Their platform recognizes that this is an issue of individual conscience. This year's ticket is balanced, with Barr being pro-life and Root pro-choice.)
If McCain wants to be bold, he'll select Carly Fiorina or Condi Rice, but my money's on Romney. Obama needs gravitas more than anything, so that suggests Joe Biden or even Wes Clark.
Like Abba vs. Garth Brooks, these R and D machinations are to me not real choices.
Mr. Casey of Pennsylvania may give Obama a double electoral punch. First, he can bring in Pennsylvania and possibly Ohio, which would be no small feat. The second advantage would be in how he and Obama handle the abortion issue. If he can convince Catholics that they can vote for the ticket and still go to communion, he will have assured a Democratic victory in November.
June 16, 2008
Personally, I kinda want to slay the dragon...Let's Get to Work
Thursday I got a call from a friend disappointed over the end of Ron Paul's Presidential campaign. I told my friend that this is not an ending, but the beginning of the next chapter in an ongoing rEVOLUtion and, thanks to the Ron Paul campaign, the movement for peace and liberty is now stronger than it has been at any time in recent history. Therefore, this is not a time for mourning but a time for celebrating what has been accomplished and preparing for the hard work ahead of us in the ongoing struggle for liberty.
Headline comes from the last scene of the last episode of Joss Wheldon's Angel, where we see the champions refusing to give up the fight no matter the odds or the setbacks. It seems appropriate reference for this posting.
June 11, 2008
Dancing and the Law
Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction. Sure, you probably remember the movie Footloose where a bunch of small-town kids got in trouble with the law for dancing. But recently, it seems that dancing is running afoul of the law on a regular basis.
Take this case from Detroit when heavily armed cops dressed in commando-style uniforms broke up a dance party being held by a nonprofit that, for 29 years, has promoted art and art education in Detroit. Certainly, dancing without a permit doesn't rise to a criminal offense and certainly not one necessitating such a harsh police response.
Then, there is the case of the "DC One" which resulted in a person being arrested by the Park Police for silently dancing at the Jefferson Memorial.
Lastly (at least of the cases I'm aware of), there is the San Tan Flat bar in Arizona that had to take the County to court in order to allow dancing on the premises.
You would think that with Bin Laden still on the run and crime rates rising in many cities that police would have something better to do than to go after people for dancing. Then again, dancers are a lot less dangerous for the cops than real criminals...and certain kinds of dancers can even be fun to arrest.
Bridging on Kevin Rollins point here about Obama's windfall profits tax notion, it gets worse. If the government taxes "Big Oil," or anyone, more, what happens? We'll get less oil, as the more marginal projects that are currently profitable will be scaled back or canceled.
With less oil, what happens? Hmm, if supply goes down and demand remains the same, I suspect all economists would easily predict prices will go UP! The end result is consumers still get squeezed. Government takes in more revenues. And oil shareholders lose return dollars, although profit RATES may remain the same, depending on the quality of management.
It gets worse. Most oil companies are conducting R&D projects, some for alternative energy, others to make fossil fuels more efficient and less polluting. The putatively Green Obama's windfall profits tax is at cross purposes with his desire to go green.
So, on the one hand, Obama correctly calls McCain gas tax holiday a "gimmick." But then he trots out his own gimmick.
A 'course, McCain -- alleged expert in foreign affairs -- is prone to all sorts of ham-handed, garbled thinking, such as confusing Shia and Sunni. And then there's the emotional instability....
Politicians are often criticized for breaking campaign "promises," as if the individual pol has control of collective outcomes. They of course don't, so making promises is itself a grandiose, futile effort. All they can do is promise to propose X or Y policy.
Still, this is one campaign promise we can only hope that President Obama will break. There is much to criticize about in the energy and environment areas, but mostly it's about convoluted, contradictory, counter-productive government policy. Gas prices are high mostly because of bad policy, starting first and foremost with the Iraq War, and torqued up by anti-Iran saber rattling.
All indications are that McCain has spun off into Grand Geopolitical Construct World, one that rationalizes warring for speculative greater goods. And Obama seems -- still -- to not understand the flow of economic give and take. Squeeze the balloon here, the balloon expands elsewhere.
If one of these gents is elected, we can only hope that their hidden agendas will be squelched by wiser staff.
What Does Barack Obama Know?
He also singled out Exxon Mobil Corp., the world's biggest oil refiner. Obama said he would seek to tax oil companies such as Irving, Texas-based Exxon on their record profits.
But, can Mr. Obama tell us the difference between net profits and percentage profits(also known as Return on Investment)?
Do taxes reduce or increase the price of gasoline? Now and in the future? Will the windfall tax be equivalent to the free money giveaway? Or will there be wastage?
June 09, 2008
Mr. Obama, come here to this website. Come here to this page. Pick this man, Mr. Obama. Pick this man.
Bill Richardson for VP.
Obama has charisma.
Richardson has experience.
As his governor's page tells us:
During the 2002 campaign for Governor, Bill Richardson broke a world record. He shook 13,392 hands in an 8-hour period – shattering the record that former president Theodore Roosevelt set on inauguration day in 1907.
Aside from being impressive for a man of large stature as Gov. Richardson, his stamina and willingness to *shake hands* means he is unlikely to work against the common man. Or at least not do too much damage. His past association with "third way" Bill Clinton doesn't hurt either.
And let's get Richardson out of New Mexico to make way for Gov. Paul Gessing. Maybe not yet, but soon.
June 08, 2008
Moving my Blogging
I am moving my blogging to this venue, which means I will likely post less on the others, which can still be accessed through my main blog at http://xianleft.blogspot.com..
I will be blogging about everything, from abortion to tax reform, education to crime, multinationals to defense and peace - and how all of this interrelates. For those that don't know, I am the designated anarcho-syndicalist on TFL.
June 07, 2008
The Swimming Brits
The British government is in a tizzy about funding free swimming pools. The Guardian has the story here
The story is remarkable for several reasons.
1. There is no rationale for government to subsidize any of this nonsense.
June 06, 2008
Jon Stewart Takes on AIPAC
As usual, Jon Stewart takes on issues that other media outlets refuses to discuss and does so in a humorous way. Check this video on the candidates for President (including Hillary) efforts to pander to the powerful America Israel Public Affairs Committee.
June 03, 2008
Some voters have always thrown away their votes...
Stuart Rothenberg -- editor of the The Rothenberg Political Report, and a regular columnist for Roll Call Newspaper – attempts to dismiss the Libertarian Party's ticket of Bob Barr and Wayne Allyn Root in this essay. He finds the LP standard-bearers "tone deaf."
Perhaps. Perhaps any third party candidate is tone deaf. Perhaps Ross Perot was tone deaf, although perhaps Rothenberg forgets that Perot was at one time leading in the national polls.
And, yes, perhaps voting for Perot or Ralph Nader or John Anderson or Teddy Roosevelt is a vote "thrown away." Of course, voting for George W. Bush could be characterized as a "wasted vote," too, as most of Bush's supporters are now feeling rather betrayed and disappointed by W's performance.
And perhaps the fact that the electorate is leaving the Rs and Ds to be independent voters is also a waste. Could it be that voters are increasingly disgusted with the corruption in the two "major" parties?
We know, of course, that human beings are not saints, and anyone's character could be called into question, including Barr and Root's. Heck, I sometimes wonder whether Moses was not pushing the truth with the 10 commandments. And did Jesus really have to go ballistic in the temple? And didn't Buddha leave his wife and family?
Children may have unrealistic expectations of their parents, and Rothenberg seems to gloss over his apparent preferences of John (Let's Stay in Iraq 100 Years and Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran) McCain and Barack (I Never Heard Anything Like That In the Pews of Trinity for 20 Years and I Enjoy Hanging Out with Weather Underground Conspirators) Obama.
Who exactly is delusional?
Even if in his heart he knows it's highly unlikely he'll actually win, it seems wise to me that Barr claims "he's in it to win." His resume is deeper than Obama's, and he's had the good judgment to quit the GOP for its Patriot Act and disastrous Iraq War. Is Rothenberg surprised that gas is $4 a gallon when the Middle East is still in flames? One need not agree with all of Barr's positions to see that he's qualified for the job.
Then there's Rothenberg's quoting Michael Barone:
"He [Barr] says that he has no close friends on Capitol Hill and usually sleeps in his office."
This sounds like frat boys discussing whether to induct a pledge. Call me cynical, but Barr's personal distance from the rest of Congress sounds like his best qualification of all!
Avoiding snakes seems most wise.
June 01, 2008
Splitting the Baby
Living one day at a time -- as we all do, like it or not -- can be quite liberating. Yet, try as we might, projecting forward does also seem to be the human condition. Election 08 is fraught with drama, hence the propensity to project becomes irresistable.
The latest grist for the projection mill is the DNC's decision to count half the primary voters in MI and FL. Seems kinda fair, kinda not. Obama maintains his lead, though a skinnier one. Nobody's satisfied in either camp, yet the Ds limp into Denver fractured and divided.
Paying $4 per gallon should be -- by itself -- a prescription for D triumph. The war to maintain free-flowing oil has backfired and tensions run high. Maxing out the credit cards and skipping drive-thru McDonald's this week makes for an angry electorate. Someone else must be to blame for this misery!
Straight talk gives way to Beltway agitprop. Shiite/Sunni confusion is understandable in a septuagenarian's mind, but what steps will be put in place to avoid confusion about which button to push?
"Rejoice, rejoice," we've been told, "we have no choice, but to carry on."
Free-for-all (frfr-ôl) -- n. A disorderly fight, argument, or competition in which everyone present participates.