Tag Archives: Obama

The Best Analysis of Edward Snowden and the Security State I’ve Read

Standard
Photo of Ben O'Neill

Ben O’Neill

Ben O’Neill has published a series of articles on mises.org, seriously analyzing the ethics of the Edward Snowden revelations and NSA spying. What I really like about it is that, unlike what you’ll see in the mainstream media or even many liberty-oriented blogs, it seriously analyzes the issue: did Snowden have the ethical requirement to maintain confidentiality? O’Neill points out the fact that, by definition, whistle blowers have to break non-disclosure agreements that they’ve signed, and thereby break government laws. Thus, all whistle blowers are law breakers.

But in contract law, there are certain situations that make contracts invalid, such as when they are signed under duress. Another example is confidentiality agreements that require the signer to not disclose illegal activities. Clearly, the spying that the NSA has been involved in is not legal – it does not satisfy the requirements of the 4th Amendment. Therefore, any non-disclosure agreement Edward Snowden may have signed is invalid.

But most ordinary Americans who are against what Snowden did aren’t against him because of their desire to uphold the rule of law (except Aaron’s grandma). If they did, they ought to be much more concerned about the disregard for rule of law by the NSA. Rather, their main concern is the security state, and the idea that this spying is necessary to keep Americans safe. But O’Neill destroys this idea as well. NSA documents show that they use their surveillance apparatus for political ends. It certainly seems strange to fear rag-tag bands of terrorists from third world countries more than a multi-billion dollar secret agency that claims it can legitimately spy on your electronic communications without a warrant, and also possesses the ability to kidnap and assassinate people.

People often compare what’s happening in America to the environment in 1984. What I found most interesting about 1984 wasn’t the surveillance of the totalitarian state, so much as the concept of doublethink, the ability to hold two contradictory thoughts at once. It seems that many Americans who consider themselves “patriots” will defend any government action in the name of “security,” even if it contradicts their supposed fidelity to American principles and the Constitution. A member of the Oath Keepers forwarded me this article, for goodness sake! What enables the security state, more than any data center, spying program, or weapon, is the consent of the majority of the governed. By freeing minds, more than by winning elections, we will free ourselves.

Advertisements

Living Under Drones

Standard

This is a piece about a subject that is very near and dear to my heart. It seems so obviously repugnant to any sense of decency or morality and yet it seems to be a subject seldom talked of. The President of the United States is mass murdering civilians at will. Of course, this in itself is nothing new. What is new, to my knowledge, is that presidents have not previously had the ability to create murder lists and the ability to carry them out with remote control planes of death.

Even more amazing is that this is not limited to foreigners, the lives of whom most Americans couldn’t really care less about. The President has murdered multiple Americans without trial. Now the government is trying to push the use of drones over American soil. I don’t think one need be a conspiracy theorist to be concerned for their freedom and safety in light of this issue.

Finally, what is most baffling to me is why those in the media and elsewhere who seem to very much dislike the president are relatively silent about this, as far as I can tell. If you were running for president against this man, how could you possibly have a better trump card? “You murder children!” would seem to win just about any argument in such a context. And yet, I don’t recall Mitt Romney ever bringing such an issue up (probably because he wanted the same power himself).

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the video and continue the fight against evil, in whatever form it may take.

“I Like the Health Insurance Plan”

Standard

I think this is a very interesting video:

I’m quite baffled and disappointed that 1) people are so grossly uninformed about someone whom they are ready to give the god-like powers of the US presidency, and 2) are ready to pardon a murderer because they like his health care plan. I talk more about the cognitive dissonance displayed in this video at the website, notime4bull.com. What I would like to talk about here is disappointment number 3) that people for whom a health care plan is so important that they will excuse extensions of the Patriot Act and the indefinite detention provisions of the NDAA and the kill lists, they clearly don’t know ANYTHING about it. Here are some excerpts from an article by Cato health care policy analyst, Michael Tanner.

Of course, it is not just the “rich” who will be hit with Obamacare taxes next year. Nearly 30 million workers, most of them middle-class, currently participate in Flexible Spending Account programs at work. Next year, the maximum tax-exempt contribution to those accounts will be cut in half, from $5,000 to just $2,500. That change will hit nearly 5.7 million workers who currently exceed the $2,500 cap, and will now have to pay more of their medical bills with after-tax dollars.

Middle-class workers will also be among the biggest losers from the changes that Obamacare imposes on tax-deductible medical expenses. Currently, Americans can take a tax deduction for medical expenses above 7.5 percent of their adjusted gross income (AGI). According to the most recent IRS data, 6 percent of all taxpayers, 7.5 million Americans, took advantage of this provision. But starting next year, that floor will be raised to 10 percent of AGI, meaning that millions of middle-class workers will lose this deduction. Among those most likely to feel the pinch are older and sicker workers, especially older workers and near-retirees with limited incomes but high medical bills. For a family with an adjusted income of $80,000 per year and medical expenses of just under $8,000 per year, a not uncommon situation, this amounts to a $500 tax hike.

As well,

Workers will also be indirectly socked with the cost of Obamacare’s new business taxes. For example, next year there will be a new 2.3 percent excise tax on medical-device manufacturers. Especially pernicious, this tax is assessed against a firm’s total revenue rather than its adjusted income, making the real impact far greater than for a traditional income tax of the same size. While the industry’s 360,000 employees could pay the highest price in lost jobs and lower wages, all of us could end up paying more in higher medical costs, as much of the tax will be passed on in higher prices. We can expect everything from pacemakers to wheelchairs to become more expensive.

And

Another wave of Obamacare tax hikes will hit in 2014, including the individual-mandate “tax,” courtesy of John Roberts, that is expected to fall on as many as 6 million workers, as well as the tax accompanying Obamacare’s employer mandate. There will also be another batch of business taxes, including some levied on hospitals and insurers. Notably, there is a new assessment levied on health plans for three years starting in 2014, designed to raise $25 billion to cushion health-insurance companies from the costs of covering people with pre-existing conditions. This just-announced fee, which will start at $63 per person and fall on employer and individual health plans covering an estimated 190 million Americans, appears to be the latest invention of the far-reaching discretion granted to HHS under the health-care law.

I highly recommend reading the full article. But from these excerpts, we can gather this:

  1. People will have to pay more in taxes for their medical expenses. If people cannot afford to pay for medical care, surely they can’t afford to pay taxes on it!
  2. Same case with health insurance. It seems strange that a plan that ostensibly intends to increase health care coverage would do things to make it more expensive.
  3. Obviously, increasing taxes on medical-device manufacturers will not do anything to make them any less expensive, but the opposite. Yet this plan does so anyway.

Conclusion: It doesn’t take much understanding of economics to know that raising taxes on something does not make it cheaper. A person who wants to make medical care and health insurance more affordable would do THE OPPOSITE of much of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act prescribes.

It is my sincerest hope that those who would consider themselves compassionate and caring would at the very least put in the effort to find out whether these politicians and policies they claim to support would do anything even close to what they promise and are promised to do. And then they should read some Rothbard.