Archive for September, 2012

Targeting Civilians

One of the great tragedies of Democracy is that it breeds the notion that the actions of the ruling class represent the general will of the people.  From this line of thought comes the practice of total war which helped to make the 20th century the bloodiest in history.  Regardless of whether or not each individual finds their own government’s foreign policy deplorable, they are nevertheless targeted as being enablers of these policies.

The British arguably began the modern practice of targeting of a civilian population en masse with their naval blockade of Germany during and after WWI which starved somewhere around a half-million people.  In more recent history, the US had employed this tactic by imposing crippling sanctions on Iraq from 1990 through 2003 which largely affected the most vulnerable members of a population – the very young and the very old.  Most studies report somewhere between 100,000 and 500,000 excess child deaths due to a combination of direct killings from bombings, infrastructure damage from these bombings affecting sanitation, and the economic sanctions themselves.  When asked about these tactics and their cost in terms of innocent lives, former UN ambassador and former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright infamously remarked, “The price is worth it.”

For some time now, the US has been repeating history by imposing sanctions on Iran that are mainly affecting cancer patients, hemophiliacs, and other vulnerable members of their society.  The sanctions have been put in place to penalize Iran for a nuclear weapons program which all 16 US intelligence agencies agree does not exist.  Through their connections and privileged status, the people who are the ultimate targets of these sanctions, the governing elite, never have any trouble acquiring the goods and services they need.  While admittedly not as severe as the Iraqi sanctions, the US is essentially waging a war on sick Iranians who, I’m sure, aren’t as concerned about the geopolitics of their rulers as they are about knowing whether or not they might get to see their kids grow up.

These acts of war targeting a civilian population are typically instituted with the hope that the people will eventually rise-up in anger against their own government and effect a regime-change.  To believe this, one has to completely disregard the lessons learned from the Iraqi sanctions which did nothing to achieve their stated goals and instead likely contributed to the blowback of 9/11.  If you believe that foreigners targeting civilians in an effort to make them change the policies of their own government is an effective strategy, let me ask you this:  Towards whom did the American people direct their anger after they were attacked on 9/11?

Advertisements

Insanity

After yesterday’s announcement from the Federal Reserve, Ron Paul issued the statement below.  As usual, he’s right and, as usual, nobody seems to care.  Sooner or later, these guys are just going to have to suck it up and read Rothbard.

No one is surprised by the Fed’s action today to inject even more money into the economy through additional asset purchases. The Fed’s only solution for every problem is to print more money and provide more liquidity. Mr. Bernanke and Fed governors appear not to understand that our current economic malaise resulted directly because of the excessive credit the Fed already pumped into the system.

For all of its vaunted policy tools, the Fed now finds itself repeating the same basic action over and over in an attempt to prime the economy with more debt and credit. But this latest decision to provide more quantitative easing will only prolong our economic stagnation, corrupt market signals, and encourage even more misallocation and malinvestment of resources. Rather than stimulating a real recovery by focusing on a strong dollar and market interest rates, the Fed’s announcement today shows a disastrous detachment from reality on the part of our central bank. Any further quantitative easing from the Fed, in whatever form, will only make our next economic crash that much more serious.

Update (9/15/12):

Here’s some great analysis on the Fed’s announcement from Peter Schiff (the guy who predicted the last crash and wrote the highly recomended book, The Real Crash):

If you’re able to articulate a sound economic reason why the Fed’s policy won’t end in disaster, please let me know in the comments.  I would love to believe everything will turn out fine, I just don’t see how.

Know Your Enemy

It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle. – Sun Tzu

I decided to take some of Sun Tzu’s advice (or Rage Against the Machine’s if you prefer) and visited the MoveOn.org Facebook page.  It was a painful experience and measurably reduced my optimism for the future.  Once I started reading some of the comments, it didn’t take long to find a lot of hatred directed towards us Liberty types.

Let me try to break this down.  Leftists apparently hate liberty-loving folks because we do not wish to be complicit in their efforts to plunder property in order to execute their ill-conceived schemes.  Libertarians who have studied economics and history realize that these schemes are doomed to fail because the principles on which they are based are faulty and unworkable.  We do not want mistakes that have caused so much suffering in the past to be repeated – for this we are labeled selfish, heartless, or worse.

F.A. Hayek. One of the fathers of Austrian Economics.

The reality is, we don’t ask for anything but to be left the hell alone.  They, in turn, want our property, our obedience, and our lives.  Our resistance to picking up the hammer and sickle on their behalf is, in their eyes, the ultimate sin.  What does this tell you about their character?

Those of us who believe in Liberty and wish to see our fellow man achieve and flourish, unencumbered by a tyrannical state and the people who support it, are the evil ones?  No my friends, your desire to appropriate the property of others with the goal of improving society reveals nothing less than your contempt for economics, history, and human dignity.  Society advances when each actor is free to pursue his own individual interests – not when he is harnessed to your yoke and forced to sow the seeds of his own destruction.

None of this should be taken to imply that I believe Republicans are any better.  I simply find the average Democrat especially noxious simply because they advocate evil but are too ignorant to realize it – on the contrary, they honestly believe that the very things that make them evil are actually virtues.  At least Republicans make little attempt to conceal their corruption – they more or less revel in it.  Just about everyone knows Republicans are creeps, but for some reason, Democrats have been largely successful at marketing themselves as the party that cares.  As usual, facts don’t really matter.  Besides, I think there’s a fairly good chance that the GOP’s days are numbered anyway.  Given Ron Paul’s tremendous success in attracting young people to the cause of Liberty, I think it’s likely that the main rivalry going forward will be Leftists vs. Libertarians.

I created a little flow chart to help you determine if you are an advocate of evil:

Metal and Powerlifting

I’ve been forced to take a break from Olympic weightlifting for the past few weeks in order to address an immobile knee.  Thanks to my physical therapist wife, the rehab has been progressing nicely (rehab consists of a combination of ultrasound, Graston, and manual mobilization).

Not being one to sit around and do nothing just because my favored activity is off limits, I’ve found ways to move forward without aggravating the injury.  Specifically, I’ve been following the Power to the People program by Pavel Tsatsouline.  This program consists mainly of deadlifting coupled with some sort of press.  I’ve chosen the bench press for my pushing exercise and have included chin-ups for more pulling volume.  In addition, I’ve been doing some high-intensity conditioning, mainly with kettlebells, about once a week.

IMG_6484

As powerlifting and metal go together like seeking and destroying, I’ve been listening to a lot of heavy music during my training sessions.  I thought I’d share some choice motivational pieces so that you may listen, lift, and be less crappy than you were yesterday:

Lamb of God, “Now You’ve Got Something To Die For” – Because “strong people are harder to kill than weak people, and more useful in general.” (Mark Rippetoe)

Pantera, “Mouth For War” – Because when someone needs a punch to the face, you better be ready to deliver it.

Pantera, “A New Level” – Because this song is more motivational than Tony Robbins.

Slayer, “Raining Blood” – Because the zombies aren’t going to kill themselves.  When the apocalypse comes, you need to be prepared.

Motorhead, “The Ace of Spades” – Because Lemmy.

Sepultura, “Territory” – Because you want to look hot for Carnival!

Machine Head, “Davidian” – Because the only way to get more amped up is with amphetamines.

Clutch, “The House That Peterbilt” – Because “Steve McQueen got nuthin’ on me.”

Clutch, “Walking in the Great Shining Path of Monster Trucks” – Because monster trucks crush shit – just like you are going to do with your PRs.

Clutch, “Promoter“- Because I love Clutch and most of their catalog is appropriate for a list like this.

Basically, if you’re in doubt, just listen to something from Pantera or Clutch.  Their music is dripping with so much testosterone you will likely test positive for PEDs.  Consider yourselves warned.

So what songs get you primed for physical exertion?  Let me know in the comments.

Letter to a Political Agnostic

Last week I found myself in a political discussion with an in-law.  I know, bad move, but I honestly didn’t start it!  The next day I received a link to this video from the person I had spoken with:

During our discussion, I felt like I wasn’t given an opportunity to clearly present my position so I wrote the  letter below as a response….

(Spoiler Alert: skip the fourth and fifth bullet points at the end if you haven’t finished reading The Hunger Games trilogy)

Forgive me for sending you so long a letter, which perhaps you did not at all need, but I have long wished to express  my views on this question. I even began a long article about it, but I shall hardly have time to finish it before death comes, and therefore I wished to get at least part of it said. Forgive me if I am in error about anything.

– Leo Tolstoy

There are certain things in life that simply don’t make sense unless you first establish the correct principles or guiding philosophy to explain your observations.  Physics has relativity and Newtonian motion.  As Theodosius Dobzhansky said, “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.”  Medicine has the germ theory of disease.  Economics doesn’t make sense unless you understand the framework established by the Austrian School.  By that same token, many of the things politicians do don’t make sense until you start viewing government as a “gang of thieves writ large” (Rothbard).

As I mentioned, my guiding philosophy is the non-aggression axiom, which states that no man or group of men may aggress against the person or property of anyone else except, of course, in self-defense.  As Murray Rothbard explains, the Libertarian political philosophy, which all stems from this statement, is the only one that is consistent:

In current terminology again, the libertarian position on property and economics would be called “extreme right wing.” But the libertarian sees no inconsistency in being “leftist” on some issues and “rightist” on others. On the contrary, he sees his own position as virtually the only consistent one, consistent on behalf of the liberty of every individual.  For how can the leftist be opposed to the violence of war and conscription while at the same time supporting the violence of taxation and government control?  And how can the rightist trumpet his devotion to private property and free enterprise while at the same time favoring war, conscription, and the outlawing of noninvasive activities and practices that he deems immoral?  And how can the rightist favor a free market while seeing nothing amiss in the vast subsidies, distortions, and unproductive inefficiencies involved in the military-industrial complex?

– Murray Rothbard, For a New Liberty

After watching the video you sent, I must admit that I’m somewhat confused.  If you understand what was presented in the video, why was there a disagreement about welfare programs, for example?  The idea that the state can provide security and eliminate risk out of life is, as we agreed, a total fallacy.  The best you can hope to do is to provide a system which enables the maximum opportunities for success.  This has been conclusively proven to be free-market capitalism.

The ideas of socialism/fascism*/collectivism have been widely and thoroughly repudiated. It’s not as though there aren’t enough examples.  Greece is one.  But the world has also had wide-scale, open-air experiments using people of similar education, upbringing, and cultural values called East/West Germany and North/South Korea that demonstrate what scholars such as Ludwig von Mises and F.A. Hayek had been telling us all along – that by necessity, these systems lead to totalitarianism, poverty, and enslavement.  For some reason, the average American believes that to fix our current socialist/fascist* institutions we need more of the same, good and hard.  They believe that somehow we will finally figure out how to accomplish what no other society in the history of civilization has: how to enable everyone to live at everyone else’s expense. (Bastiat)

When we spoke, you were also troubled over Social Security.  Social Security is the very definition of a Ponzi scheme.  What happened to people who were taken in by Bernie Madoff?  They made a bad bet and paid the price.  If someone is betting their retirement on the hope that they will be able to cash out before the scheme implodes, that’s their fault.  Ah, but you say that SS is compulsory, they have no choice – and in doing so, you have just shown why it is immoral and evil.  People who might have otherwise successfully saved or invested the money are at risk of being destitute because the scheme they were forced into, under threat of violence, WILL fail.  At least with Madoff, it was a voluntary transaction.  Oh sure, the government may try to meet their obligations by printing money, but once you go far enough down that road you end up with Weimar Germany or Zimbabwe – plenty of currency that can’t buy anything. (Although, for a variety of reasons this is unlikely to happen, but it’s not impossible.)

A major problem that we have is the ideological inconsistencies of Democrats and Republicans that Rothbard alluded to in the quote above.  Republicans are supposedly for smaller government – although history shows that they have done nothing but expand it greatly – but also want to maintain a belligerent empire.  You can’t have it both ways.  Frankly, arguing about needing more fiscal responsibility and smaller government while supporting an empire and constant war is inconsistent at best and idiotic at worst.  War and militarism are synonymous with a large and tyrannical government.  I have no hope of liberals abandoning their welfare programs – this is how they ensure their constituency.  My only hope is that true conservatives will wake up and realize that you can’t have any of the other things you purport to value while starting wars all over the world.  EVERY empire crumbles – anyone with even a passing knowledge of history knows this.

On the other side, Democrats generally want more welfare programs, and Obama has given it to them while simultaneously expanding the war in Afghanistan, starting another completely illegal one in Libya, and increasing drone strikes in Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia (which have killed far more innocents than combatants creating, according to former General Stanley McChrystal, 10 new enemies for each innocent death).  Leftists like to think of themselves as caring and benevolent people, but let me ask, does this seem like a moral, effective, or even financially viable plan?  It’s easy enough for them to deflect attention away from these unpleasantries, I suppose – all they have to do is buy votes by expanding the welfare state to show just how righteous they are.  At the end of the day, however, their guy is the one that unilaterally decided to execute three American citizens (including a 16 year old) without a trial or even formal charges and maintains a “kill list”, signed the NDAA effectively deleting the 5th amendment, and killed hundreds of innocents via robot.  Besides, it’s considered compassion when you reach into your own pocket to help, not when you reach into someone else’s.  Theft, murder, and cronyism -the hallmarks of both parties.

A10keYHCQAE-Z1o

Endless expansion of welfare and warfare does not a prosperous country make.   Ironically, if the US wasn’t so busy creating enemies around the globe, there might actually be a chance of paying for some of these domestic programs.  The only reason we have been able to get away with all this for longer than some of the EU countries is that we enjoy the privilege of having the world’s reserve currency and the machine that prints it.  Eventually, that won’t be good enough.

And this brings me to the engine that is driving all of the welfare, warfare, debt, and ultimately the country off a cliff: the Fed.  The Federal Reserve Bank, untethered by a gold standard, is free to create as much currency as they want all so that some politician can start wars, buy votes, redistribute money to favored industries or constituencies, bail-out and/or nationalize “too big to fail” firms, or all of the above.  Since the Fed’s creation in 1913, the dollar has lost over 97% of its value.  The founding fathers knew this would happen and that’s why the Constitution does not allow a central bank.  It’s also why the first two times it was tried it was dissolved.  There are many reasons why you can’t call our current economic system free-market capitalism, but the most important is the Fed’s manipulation of the money supply prevents the rational decision-making required in a free market.  He who controls money controls the economy.

When I said, “either you believe in Liberty and freedom or you don’t,” you said I was making the issue black and white.  I contend that this is not an over simplification.  The moment you accept the principle the that government has rights that we do not have as individuals – to enslave people (and call it conscription), steal from people (and call it taxation or inflation), counterfeit money (and call it monetary policy), murder people (and call it foreign policy) – you can justify virtually any expansion of this power, as we have seen throughout our own history and indeed world history.  Every government wants to become totalitarian – it is in their nature.  The only thing that restrains them is the unwillingness of the people to go along with their power-grabs.  This changes during times of crisis when the people clamor to be led to safety.  As Obama’s former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel famously stated, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”  This is why there is always a war to be fought or bogeymen to hunt.  Freedom and Liberty can only survive with unwavering dedication to their principles.

By the way, what were your takeaways from “The Hunger Games” trilogy?  In my mind, that trilogy is basically an anti-war, anti-government, libertarian manifesto:

  • Kids, without any mutual grudges, are forced to kill one another to effect a consolidation of power within the governing elite – i.e. war.
  • Districts are pitted against one another as a form of the age old imperial tactic of divide and rule – i.e. destabilize the middle east and let the various sects fight it out.
  • When the citizens are allowed to insert additional instances of their name into the tribute lottery in exchange for grain, it is a form of welfare and equates to slavery and death.  Katniss’ self-reliance and resourcefulness means freedom and life.
  • The Capitol and District 13 represent the logical conclusions of right-wing and left-wing ideologies, respectively.
  • Prim’s death was described almost exactly like the US drone strikes on first-responders in Pakistan.

I know by now you are probably thinking, “this guy is crazy.”  To that charge, I answer with a quote from Homer Simpson: “In a world gone mad, only a lunatic is truly insane.”

*When I use the term “Fascism”, it is not hyperbolic.  It’s true that this is typically a term of derision in our lexicon, however, it does represent an actual economic system that describes what we currently have better than anything else.