Category Archives: Uncategorized

Some Links

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Nick Turse has done some great research on the extent the US military is involved in Africa’s affairs. Apparently no single person in the US Army knows the extent of SOCOM’s operations in Africa.

Glenn Greenwald calls out most of the mainstream media’s unabashed support of Hillary Clinton and shaming anyone who questions her. (He belittles Paul Krugman’s self-perception as someone who is so brave for supporting her).

David Edwards, a math professor, writes a thought-provoking article at FEE, claiming that an 8th grade level of mathematical understanding with knowledge of Excel is adequate for the vast majority of professionals. So why is there so much emphasis placed on higher-level math?

I’m Disappointed with Scientific American

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In the December 2015 issue of Scientific American, Naomi Oreskes writes,

For the past 30 years the ideology of the unfettered marketplace has so dominated our discourse that most of use can scarcely imagine an alternative way of organizing our affairs. Individuals who try are dismissed as unrealistic, romantic, polemical or (in America) communists.

Like many others, she cites the 2008 financial crisis as the result of “deregulated capitalism” and the blames the Great Depression on “market failure.” She goes on to cite other favorite complaints of those with an anti-market ideology, such as inequality or the environment.

It seems that no matter how much the government will intervene into the economy, the “unfettered,” “deregulated” market will always be the alleged culprit. Indeed, Ms. Oreskes acknowledges the “spectacular government intervention” apparatus that was created after the Great Depression. How can she believe that with the modern regulatory state that creates thousands of new regulations every year that the US economy can accurately be described as laissez-faire? I can see one making an argument that perhaps the currently existing regulatory scheme for various sectors of the economy do not have the optimal rules or that certain regulatory agencies are under-powered. But at what point will the US economy have to be regulated in order for people like Ms. Oreskes to classify them as non-free market?

Furthermore, what I find particularly ironic about Ms. Oreskes’ article (which is called “How to Break the Climate Deadlock” but reads more like an anti-market diatribe) is that she does nothing to reassure those who question the efficacy of government efforts to abate the effects of climate change that their concern is unwarranted. Near the beginning of her essay, she makes a reference to those who suspect that empowering supranational governments to implement grand plans to combat climate change might significantly impact their freedom.However, instead of addressing their concerns (which I think would be more in line with breaking “the climate deadlock”), she seems to confirm them. Instead of explaining how people’s lives wouldn’t need be dramatically changed or how the power of the state wouldn’t need to be greatly expanded, she writes of how we “can scarcely imagine an alternative way of organizing our affairs.” She throws in the red herring of how the absence of state authority “opens the door to tyranny and tragedy.” The title of her article led me to believe that she was going to attempt to bridge the gap and try to foster a legitimate dialogue with those with differing opinions than her own. Her essay did not seem like one written by a level-headed scientist trying to find areas of agreement about climate policy, but an ideologue that should be relegated to the opinion section.

 

But is justice being served?

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Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) is an advocacy organization that pushes for criminal sentencing reform. They have had successes:

Twice since 2011, FAMM and its members have successfully campaigned for the U.S. Sentencing Commission to reduce guideline sentences for drugs—and to make those guideline changes retroactive. In 2011, the Commission voted to make its FSA-conforming amendment retroactive, a policy change that affected 12,000 federal crack-cocaine prisoners. In 2014, after receiving more than 60,000 letters, the Commission voted to make All Drugs Minus Two apply retroactively, allowing more than 40,000 prisoners to petition for resentencing.

I think the very fact that the U.S. Sentencing Commission can even consider retroactively changing sentences implies that the sentences themselves were most likely unjust. Furthermore, this problem seems to be inherent in crimes which have no identifiable victim. Since there is no identifiable victim, there is no basis for which to calculate damages. And since there is no basis to calculate damages, what foundation is there for deciding a sentence?

It is thus absurd to designate punishing victimless criminals under the rubric of “justice.” Really, justice has nothing to do with it; rather, punishment in this case is a tool that the state uses for social engineering purposes. Incarceration is not about giving the offender what is due to him, it is about bending the individual to the will of the state. Once this is generally realized, we can begin the move towards victim justice, rather than this confused notion of criminal justice.

No, Jon Stewart

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I don’t usually watch The Daily Show. The following is one reason why.

Jon Stewart (at about 2 minutes and 10 seconds into the following clip) refers to the “Hyde Amendment,” which prohibits the use of federal funds for abortion, unless the pregnancy is the result of incest or rape.

Stewart says that it’s called the “Hyde Amendment” because Republicans have to sneak it into bills and facetiously remarks that “just because the procedure is legal doesn’t mean it has to be treated that way.” I take issue with this second statement, which seems to imply that because something is legal, it should be federally funded.

But obviously this is false on its face, and I’m sure if Stewart took just a minute to think about it, he could come up with things that are legal that he would not want to be federally funded. The free practice of religion is legal, but should it be federally subsidized? I imagine that most of those who support the federal funding of abortions would respond in the negative and consider being forced to fund something they don’t agree with (if that happens to be the case regarding religion) to be morally abominable.

Exactly.

Regardless of what one thinks about the efficacy of abortion, there are those who very much dislike it and want to have nothing to do with it. Some oppose it to such an extent that their opposition is literally part of their identity. For the sake of argument, let’s say these individuals are completely wrong in their views and demonstrably so (whatever that may mean). Even if that is the case, should they be forced to fund something they ardently oppose?

Thom Hartmann Proves Any Idiot Can Get Their Own TV News Show

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Recently, I decided to tune in to Russia Today, testing the hypothesis that a news channel funded and run by a foreign government might be more critical, and therefore present a more interesting view, of the US government. That might be the case with RT (they did have Adam Kokesh as an anchor, after all) but within the first 24 hours of watching RT I was introduced to Thom Hartmann, who is billed as “America’s #1 progressive radio host,” and has a show called “The Big Picture.” Almost immediately after I turned on Hartmann’s show, I was pleasantly surprised to see the Libertarian Party’s emblem displayed, and though I have no particular affinity for the LP, I thought there was a possibility that a political view outside of the mainstream might actually be presented. However, Hartmann proclaimed that “libertarian economics” has screwed millennials. This made no sense to me, but I’m open to hearing criticisms of libertarianism and patiently waited for the relevant segment. Here it is, should you care to watch it:

"The deregulation, the privatization, the Iraq"

“The deregulation, the privatization, the Iraq”

What struck me at first was how many times Hartmann says “libertarian economics” (12 times in less than 5 minutes) and other phrases he thinks are synonymous (“Reaganomics” he says 3 times and “libertarianism” twice). The reason he does this, of course, is that he really has no idea what “libertarian economics” is; otherwise, he would mention specific policies instead of vague ideas. The most specific he gets is with “the massive tax cuts, the deregulation, the privatization” of Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover (his excessive use of “the” reminds me of Miss South Carolina of 2007). He also mentions “the free trade mantra” which is apparently why millennials don’t have jobs and “deregulation of the stock market” which somehow caused a housing boom and bust. But how has “libertarian economics” screwed millennials the most? Through student loan debt.

That’s right. An industry that was massively subsidized and now effectually monopolized by the federal government is an institution of “libertarian economics.” Upon watching this, the audience feels the urge to check the calendar to make sure it’s not April 1st, to pinch themselves to make sure they aren’t in some Newspeak nightmare, to do anything to gain their own assurance that something so unbelievably stupid could not be said by a serious TV news anchor with the approval of his producers and whomever else helps make this content. And yet Thom Hartmann is completely serious. He puts two and two together: George W. Bush (who bailed out megabanks, created the greatest expansion of the federal government’s role in medical care since the passage of Medicare, and under whose presidency the national debt grew more than all previous presidencies combined) pursued “libertarian economic policies,” and the US has never had student loan debt problems like it does today. Ergo, libertarian economic policies caused the student loan crisis.

Hartmann apparently finds the effort to even do a Google search to check basic historical facts too taxing. Apparently, “the free trade mantra” is part of “libertarian economics,” and yet a cited practitioner, Herbert Hoover, signed what is probably the best known trade barrier (the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act) into federal law, which caused FDR to later pledge to reduce the tariff rates as part of his election campaign. Might FDR be a shill for “libertarian economics” as well?

Ultimately, one must come to the conclusion that Thom Hartmann has an inchoate conception of whatever he thinks he’s referring to with “libertarian economics” (and I doubt he even has a coherent conception of what his own progressivism is, either). By leaving his bogeyman of “libertarian economics” undefined, he can blame for everything. Even ISIS. What a world we live in.

Join the OffNow Coalition

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Today, I would like to tip my hat to Michael Boldin, The Tenth Amendment Center, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, and all those who have joined the OffNow Coaltion. If you’re visiting this page on Tuesday, February 11,  you’ll notice “The Day We Fight Back” banner covering the bottom half of the page (and if you’re visiting this page after February 11, I trust that you probably visited a website that was displaying a banner). Efforts like these are great at uniting people and getting a boatload of messages to Congress all in a single day. But I don’t want the enthusiasm to all be spent in that one day.

Michael Boldin OffNow Coaltion

Michael Boldin

This is why I highly encourage those who desire to stop NSA spying to join the OffNow Coalition. I did and now I am constantly updated on the efforts around the country to nullify unconstitutional data gathering (of course, you don’t have to get every update if you don’t want to). It is coalitions such as these that overcome the coordination problem facing any political movement and the bigger it is the more effective it is in stopping the spying.

The OffNow Coalition has already helped to get the 4th Amendment Protection Act bills to get proposed in several states, including Maryland, where a data center is located. While writing and calling Congress is important (at least in the sense that our consent was expressly denied, thus decreasing the federal government’s claim to legitimacy), I think the effective political means of stopping the spying is through state nullification. In fact, while others are rightfully sour on using political means to change things, I think the nullification movement can be a game changer and indeed already has when it comes to things like the REAL ID Act and marijuana criminalization.

Thus,  I would ask you to consider joining the coalition and letting me know your decision.

Snowden OffNow Coalition

In Case You Thought Foreign Aid Was About Helping the Poor

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Foreign AidOnce again, I am here to share an email I got from some guy named Jim who lives in Washington, D.C., whom I’ve never met, but for some reason thinks he is my “representative.” We’ve actually become pen pals of sorts, though he insists on making me fill out a form to write to him, while he just sends me email directly.

In this series of discussion, we talk about foreign aid. You know, that stuff that lifts poor countries out of poverty (or so we’re told, even though this has never happened in the history of mankind). I’m glad Jim doesn’t pull that crap with me, but fully admits that the purpose of foreign aid is for the US to exert its dominance in the world.

Dear Mr. Fegley:

Thank you for contacting me regarding U.S. foreign aid. I appreciate hearing from you.

The U.S. government spends about one percent of the federal budget on assistance programs because we have vital strategic interests across the globe. Providing specific foreign assistance to strategically important countries gives us leverage and permits us to influence and otherwise affect decisions and events in those countries.

First of all, I would hate for the “about one percent of the federal budget” part to obscure the how much money that actually is. The actual reported expenditures of the US government in 2012 was $3.538 trillion dollars, according to the Congressional Budget Office. This means that over $35 billion was spent on “assistance programs.” This is $35 thousand million. Nothing to scoff at.

And, like my previous post regarding Jim, I ask questions about treating others like one would like to be treated. Does this idea go out of the window when it comes to foreign policy? What Jim is describing here, that is, giving money to other governments to influence their decision making, is also known as bribery. If you or I gave money to a politician in order to influence his or her decision making in an official capacity, we would be brought up on charges (unless we get away with it). There is absolutely no way most Americans would accept foreign governments paying the US government money in order to affect governmental decisions. This would obviously be a mockery of the idea of representative government. Kind of seems contradictory to “spreading democracy,” doesn’t it?

With all aid programs, it is important they are routinely scrutinized to determine if they are the best use of American taxpayer dollars, particularly in this difficult economic climate. I have supported efforts by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and others, to limit U.S. assistance to countries such as Egypt, Libya and Pakistan unless they cooperate with U.S. policies.

Yes, indeed. Withholding highway funding from states who don’t cooperate with US government policies ought to be considered extortion. But since Egyptians, Libyans and Pakistanis don’t pay taxes to the US government (that I know of), this ought to be considered a textbook definition of bribery.

As a member of the Committee on Foreign Relations, I closely monitor our aid programs around the world.

I really value your effort to get in touch with me to share your thoughts, as many Idahoans do. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future on this or other issues.

Very Truly Yours

James E. Risch
United States Senator

 

My Radio Interview on “The Nomad Capitalist Report”

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Recently, I was invited by the Nomad Capitalist to be a guest on his radio show to talk about the government’s monopoly on money. You can listen to it here.

If you haven’t seen what NomadCapitalist.com has to offer, you are missing out. It is run by Andrew Henderson, who specializes in several aspects of international diversification, including offshore banking, obtaining a second passport, expatriation, and lifestyle design. He travels all over the world and provides interesting and actionable information about freedom and opportunities in other countries.

Please take a look at his website and tell him that Anarcho-Buddy! sent you.