Monthly Archives: July 2007

Why Politics As Usual Will Always Be Politics As Usual

Even in a political climate where everyone agrees that change needs to be made, that change never happens:

WASHINGTON, July 25 — For the many critics of farm subsidies, including President Bush and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, this seemed like the ideal year for Congress to tackle the federal payments long criticized as enriching big farm interests, violating trade agreements and neglecting small family farms.

Many crop prices are at or near record highs. Concern over the country’s dependence on foreign oil has sent demand for corn-based ethanol soaring. European wheat fields have been battered by too much rain. And market analysts are projecting continued boom years for American farmers into the foreseeable future.

But as the latest farm bill heads to the House floor on Thursday, farm-state lawmakers seem likely to prevail in keeping the old subsidies largely in place, drawing a veto threat on Wednesday from the White House.

“The bill put forth by the committee misses a major opportunity,” Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said Wednesday. “The time really is right for reform in farm policy.”

Faced with fierce opposition from the House Agriculture Committee, Ms. Pelosi and other Democratic leaders lowered their sights and are now backing the committee’s bill, in part to protect rural freshmen lawmakers who may be vulnerable in the 2008 elections.

Things like this aren’t the fault of Republicans or Democrats, they are the natural outgrowth of the political system that we live in today. To a large degree, the United States Government exists as a massive conduit for the transfer of wealth from one sector of the economy to the other. In this case, the so-called impoverished family farmer has convinced politicians, largely through the exercise of political power and the power of the purse, that your tax money and mine to them.

It makes no economic sense whatsoever, and everyone agrees it’s a bad idea. And yet, it continues, and continues to grow.

This, I am afraid, is the political reality that anyone who truly advocates liberty must deal with. Until the attitude of the general public is changed, any incremental victory that liberty may win will be temporary at best.

Worst Housing Market Since Great Depression

Let’s look back a moment. How many times have we “hit bottom”, according to the financial cheerleaders on TV, over the last year? How many predictions of a “soft landing”? How many people have suggested the subprime meltdown would be “contained”?

Well, even the lenders themselves are now seeing reality:

COUNTRYWIDE Financial, America’s largest mortgage lender, says more borrowers with good credit are falling behind on repayments and that the housing market may not begin recovering until 2009 because of a fall in house prices that goes beyond anything experienced in decades.

The news from Countrywide, widely seen as a bellwether for the mortgage market, set off a sell-off in the sharemarket, which is at its most volatile in more than a year.

The S&P 500 Index fell 30.53 points, or 2 per cent, to 1511.04, its biggest one-day drop in nearly five months. The US dollar dropped to a new low against the euro, edging closer to $US1.40.

The housing slump has become the biggest worry for the sharemarket — which just four days ago set records — because of its potential impact on the broader economy.

Countrywide’s stark assessment signalled a critical change in the substance and tenor of how housing executives are publicly describing the market.

Two months ago, some executives were predicting a relatively quick recovery and saying that most home loans would be fine, with the exception of those made to borrowers with weak credit who were stretched too far.

Executives at Countrywide had for some time been more sceptical than others, but the bluntness of their comments yesterday surprised many on Wall Street. Countrywide chairman and chief executive Angelo Mozilo said home prices were falling “almost like never before, with the exception of the Great Depression”.

It’s pretty simple. The run-up of easy credit in advance of the Great Depression caused asset bubbles, which generated enormous social upheaval as they burst. The exact same thing is occurring right now underneath our very noses, and as much as the financial cheerleaders try to deny it, the result is likely to be the same.

When I hear news like this, I really worry about what will happen if Ron Paul actually won. The next American president is going to face a fiscal crisis at least as severe as the “malaise days” of Jimmy Carter. Given that Ron Paul’s policies will be hated by both parties in Congress, it’s unlikely he can take positive steps to avoid a financial crisis, and if he’s in office when it comes, he might take the blame for it. I’d almost rather that we have a Democrat in the White House simply to discredit whatever lame-brained attempt they make to solve the problem.

We’re headed for rocky times, financially. Our entitlement spending is hopelessly underfunded out into the future. Our job picture is good, but it has been fueled largely by a credit expansion that is now deflating. Government, rather than letting business alone, enacts ever more intrusive regulations in order to “save” businesses, pushing work overseas in the process. There are only three ways to solve this problem: increase taxes, reduce spending, or inflate. Two of those are painful politically, and politicians don’t like pain. I expect a combination of increased taxes and inflation (along with a healthy dose of over-regulation and trade protectionism), so we’re likely headed back to the days of stagflation. And if we see a run away from the dollar as the world’s reserve currency– now a viable option– we’re looking at the Second Great Depression.

We’re headed for a fiscal “perfect storm”. Ron Paul is an excellent weatherman, forecasting the problem, but I’m not sure he will be able to herd the cats in Congress in order to solve it. I wish I could claim that anyone in politics will solve this, but we’re more likely to see a collapse than a solution. Keep hoping for someone like Ron Paul, but I’d highly suggest you prepare for the worst in the meantime.

Don’t You Feel Safer? Part 785

In a stunning display of either laziness or frugality (you can guess which I ascribe this too), our government has finally admitted that their ridiculous policy of banning lighters and breast milk don’t make us safer.

Airline passengers will be able to bring many types of cigarette lighters on board again starting next month after authorities found that a ban on the devices did little to make flying safer, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said Friday.

The agency also announced that it was changing its policy on breast milk, and will allow mothers with or without children to carry more than three ounces onto planes.

I’m sure those mothers without children are quite happy about this development.

You’d almost be surprised, if you didn’t know government, to note that they’ve finally realized what the rest of us knew several years ago: that lighters don’t ignite breast milk.

And rocket surgeon Kip Hawley, the head of the TSA, explains why they’ve changed the policy:

In an interview with The New York Times, TSA chief Kip Hawley said confiscating lighters has not helped security much because other items could be used to detonate bombs.

I can only assume he’s talking about more than three ounces of toothpaste?

But in other news, the government that told us that invading Iraq would keep us safe from Al-Qaeda and allow us to fight them “over there”, now tells us that Al-Qaeda is building new cells in the US:

A top U.S. military commander said Tuesday he believes there are al-Qaida cells in the United States — or people working to create them — and the military needs to triple its response teams to counter a growing threat of attack.

Air Force Gen. Victor “Gene” Renuart, who heads U.S. Northern Command, said that as the terrorism threat within the nation’s boundaries has increased officials have strengthened intelligence sharing, particularly in an effort to shore up security at ports.

“I believe there are cells in the United States, or at least people who aspire to create cells in the United States,” Renuart said in an interview with The Associated Press. “To assume that there are not those cells is naive and so we have to take that threat seriously.”

Yep, so the same guys who have been going on and on about lighters and breast milk for the past few years, who have been promising to keep you safe for the last 6 years, can keep you safe as long as you triple their manpower. Yet these are the same guys who take credit for the fact that we haven’t had a major terror attack in the US since 9/11. It’s almost Orwellian.

A few years ago, I would have told you that government can’t do anything effectively and efficiently, but they could probably at least be effective at providing safety, if not efficient. After all, it’s their actual job, right? But the more I watch, the more I realize they can’t even do that right. I keep asking… Why exactly do we need government?

Hat Tip: Billy Beck

Is Ron Paul Running Away From The Libertarian Label ?

KipEsquire asks an interesting question…..why is it that Ron Paul isn’t acknowledging his libertarian roots ?

Can you cite to one occasion in this campaign where Ron Paul has, unsolicited and not in response to an interviewer’s question, used the word “libertarian”? Can you point to one page at his website that contain the word “libertarian”? Even his bio page omits his 1992 1988 big-L Libertarian candidacy.

Paul calling himself “a proud constitutionalist”* is like a gay calling himself “a proud alternative-lifestyler.”

And, well, I guess on one level it doesn’t matter to me. I don’t care if someone calls themselves a “libertarian”, or a “classical liberal” (which is what, given my affinity for John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, and Tom Paine, and Samuel Adams, I consider myself), or whatever they want to call themselves.

Nonetheless, it is interesting that Congressman Paul’s official biography proceeds thusly:

While serving in Congress during the late 1970s and early 1980s, Dr. Paul’s limited-government ideals were not popular in Washington. In 1976, he was one of only four Republican congressmen to endorse Ronald Reagan for president.

During that time, Congressman Paul served on the House Banking committee, where he was a strong advocate for sound monetary policy and an outspoken critic of the Federal Reserve’s inflationary measures. He was an unwavering advocate of pro-life and pro-family values. Dr. Paul consistently voted to lower or abolish federal taxes, spending and regulation, and used his House seat to actively promote the return of government to its proper constitutional levels. In 1984, he voluntarily relinquished his House seat and returned to his medical practice.

Dr. Paul returned to Congress in 1997 to represent the 14th congressional district of Texas. He presently serves on the House Committee on Financial Services and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. He continues to advocate a dramatic reduction in the size of the federal government and a return to constitutional principles.

Omitted, for some reason, in that gap between 1984 and 1997 is the fact that Congressman Paul ran for President of the United States as the nominee of the Libertarian Party in 1988, and received 431, 750 votes.

One of those votes was mine.

It was, in fact, the first Presidential election that I voted in and, even though it was cast for a guy I knew wasn’t going to win, I took it seriously and voted for him anyway, because I’d read about what he stood for, and I’d learned about his record in Congress even back then, and I looked at George H.W. Bush and Michael Dukakis and I knew there was no way I could respect myself in the morning if I voted for either one of them.

So, on some level, I guess it bothers me that Ron Paul’s official biography completely omits what I seriously considered to be a campaign I supported strictly on principles that were, to me at the time, newly discovered.

I am neither a fan, nor a member. of the Libertarian Party. Mostly, because I don’t think that third-party strategy is a viable mechanism for political change in the United States. Which is why I am not involved with politics at that level.

And it’s one of the reasons I had at least some hope for Congressman Paul’s campaign. I hoped that it would attract the support of Americans interested in protecting individual liberty and turning that suppport into a movement that would do more than just turn up at the most recent meeting of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors.

And that’s the problem with politics. The more you see of it up close, the more you realize just how corrupt the internal structure is, and just how pointless it is for vanguards like Ron Paul to continue fighting wars when the outcome has, seemingly already been decided.

Ron Paul, The Polls, And Reality

I’ve written enough about the 2008 Presidential Campaign in general, and Ron Paul specifically, to know just how the die-hard supporters are going to react to this post, but, nonetheless reality is reality, and, as Ayn Rand once said A is A.

In his case A would be the results of a poll showing just how well Ron Paul would fare against the undisputed Democratic Presidential frontrunner, Hillary Clinton:

The first national telephone survey by Rasmussen Reports of Republican Congressman Ron Paul’s presidential candidacy shows him trailing New York Senator Hillary Clinton by fifteen points and Illinois Senator Barack Obama by twenty.

Overall, the numbers show Clinton getting 49% of the vote when matched against Paul while the Republican hopeful picks up just 34%. Obama leads Paul 50% to 30%.

Among Republicans, Paul manages just 65% support when matched against Clinton and only 55% against Obama.

This isn’t an I-told-you-so moment for me. Yes, I’ve believed for a long time now that preaching individual liberty to an American public who had grown used to the idea that the state existed to provide for them was about as doomed to failure as you could get, but I’ve always held out hope that freedom would win out. If only half of the people who identify themselves as Republicans would even think of supporting Ron Paul (or, more importantly, the ideas he talks about) in `08 (and just in case you’re thinking about it, don’t even delude yourself with the idea that anything Ron Paul advocates would be supported in the Democratic Party), then we’re in far worse shape than I thought.

Critics Of Chavez To Be Deported

So I can understand (at least to a small extent) how Chavez had cover for shutting down RCTV, as they were participants in the coup against him. It’s a stretch to defend him there, but I can at least give people a little benefit of the doubt on that one.

But I don’t see how anyone can defend this. I don’t see how his defenders can call him anything but an anti-free-speech dictator:

President Hugo Chávez said Sunday that foreigners who publicly criticize him or his government while visiting Venezuela will be expelled from the country.

Chávez ordered officials to closely monitor statements made by international figures during their visits to Venezuela — and deport any outspoken critics.

“How long are we going to allow a person — from any country in the world — to come to our own house to say there’s a dictatorship here, that the president is a tyrant, and nobody does anything about it?” Chávez asked during his weekly television and radio program.

The Venezuelan leader’s statements came after Manuel Espino, the president of Mexico’s conservative ruling party, criticized Chávez during a recent pro-democracy forum in Caracas.

Government opponents argue Chávez — a close ally of Cuban leader Fidel Castro — is becoming increasingly authoritarian and cracking down on dissent as he steers oil-rich Venezuela toward what he calls “21st-century socialism.”

Chavez’ playbook is open to the world. We’ve seen this before. How can anyone believe that this won’t end badly, and continue to defend him?

What do you think Barbara Walters will have to say about this?

Hat Tip: QandO

“SiCKo” Patients Received Better Treatment than the Average Cuban

Back in May in this post, I made the following statement about Michael Moore’s crockumentary on his claim that the average Cuban receives better healthcare than many Americans:

It probably won’t occur to anyone in the MSM that perhaps Castro would want Moore’s propaganda to cover up the failings of his government. Moore is doing Castro a great service by acting as his propaganda minister. Does anyone for a second believe that Castro would allow Moore to show these 9/11 heroes being treated as the average Cuban?

My basis for my comment was that in Moore’s previous efforts such as Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 911 he deliberately played fast and loose with the facts. History also shows that Communists lie. When you take a dishonest dictator and a dishonest individual such as Michael Moore you have propaganda (though each does a fine job of propagandizing on his own). Other than that, I had no other basis to assume that Moore’s movie SiCKo would have any misleading information…

That was until I stumbled across this Reuters article which repots that the 9/11 responders who Moore brought with him to Cuba received special VIP treatment:

The 9/11 responders spent 10 days on the 19th floor of Cuba’s flagship hospital with a view of the Caribbean sea, a sharp contrast to many Cuban hospitals that are crumbling, badly lit, and which lack equipment and medicine…

[…]

But the hospital where SiCKO’s patients were treated is an exception in Cuba, where patients of many other hospitals complain they have to take their own sheets and food.

The only question is whether or not Moore knew he was being conned or if he willingly participated to make his point. Does our healthcare system need improvement? Of course it does. But before we replace our system with one like Cuba’s, Canada’s, or England’s, shouldn’t we be just as critical of these systems as we are our own? Shouldn’t we at least try to find out what sort of problems the average citizens in these systems are dealing with before we throw ours away and replace it with a system which is possibly worse?

Monday Open Thread: Getting To Liberty From Here

Alright… So yesterday I alluded to one of my older, more optimistic posts, where I suggest that the internet will fundamentally change the world and be an enormous force for liberty. But on other days, I get very pessimistic, and worry that America has gone too far down, and that the trappings of “society” will forever crush liberty. On those days, I feel like the only way we’ll ever have liberty is to make our way to the frontier, and in the modern world, that’s going to have to be outer space.

But I wonder what you guys think:

Do we have a chance at restoring liberty? If so, what will be the cause?

Or, if you think we’re pretty well doomed, explain why.

The Founders, The President, And Iraq

In today’s New York Times, Adam Cohen points out that the Founders had a very different idea about Presidential authority in war time from the one the Bush Administration puts forward:

The Constitution does make the president “commander in chief,” a title President Bush often invokes. But it does not have the sweeping meaning he suggests. The framers took it from the British military, which used it to denote the highest-ranking official in a theater of battle. Alexander Hamilton emphasized in Federalist No. 69 that the president would be “nothing more” than “first general and admiral,” responsible for “command and direction” of military forces.

The founders would have been astonished by President Bush’s assertion that Congress should simply write him blank checks for war. They gave Congress the power of the purse so it would have leverage to force the president to execute their laws properly. Madison described Congress’s control over spending as “the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people, for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure.”

The framers expected Congress to keep the president on an especially short leash on military matters. The Constitution authorizes Congress to appropriate money for an army, but prohibits appropriations for longer than two years. Hamilton explained that the limitation prevented Congress from vesting “in the executive department permanent funds for the support of an army, if they were even incautious enough to be willing to repose in it so improper a confidence.”

Things are far different today, of course. And that isn’t just the fault of the Bush Administration. For the most part, Congress has been a willing participant in this unprecedented expansion of Executive Branch power.

What’s So Bad About John Doe Protection ?

Last week, the Democrats in Congress blocked an effort to give immunity from civil lawsuits to private citizens who reported what they believed to be suspicious activity from fellow airplane passengers:

[L]ast March, the House of Representatives passed by a 304-121 vote the Rail and Public Transportation Security Act of 2007, with language protecting from such lawsuits airline passengers who might report suspicious activity. All seemed well.

But last week, as Republicans tried to have the “John Doe” protection included in final homeland security legislation crafted by a House-Senate conference committee to implement the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations, they found Democratic conferees blocking its inclusion.

“Democrats are trying to find any technical excuse to keep immunity out of the language of the bill to protect citizens, who in good faith, report suspicious activity to police,” said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y. “I don’t see how you can have a homeland security bill without protecting people who come forward to report suspicious activity.”

But that, it would seem, is exactly what the Democratic Congress is proposing.

All of this, of course, goes back to the case of the so-called Flying Imams, a group of six supposed Muslim Imams who were flying on US Airways flight from Minneapolis to Phoenix.

As more than one person who was present on the flight has stated, these “imams” exhibited behavior that could, at best, have been described as suspicious.  They apparently refused to sit in their assigned seats, requested seatbelt extensions that they plainly did not need, traveled on one-way tickets, and were overheard praising Osama bin Laden.

Whether any of this is true or not is, quite honestly, is irrelevent.

What matters is whether someone who notices these things and reports them to those in charge should be held liable in a civil court for doing so.

Given the current state of the world, and absent any evidence of an intent to specifically injure a specific person, the answer, it would seem should be quite obviously no.

Quite honestly, the War on Terror is far too serious to start getting the trial lawyers involved.

There’s No Good Reason To Bring Back The Draft….And Plenty Of Bad Ones

Motivated mostly by his opposition to the Iraq War, Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha, along with New York Congressman Charles Rangel, has been among the most vocal members of Congress talking about the idea of bringing back the draft, and forcing young men, and presumably women, into military service whether they like it or not.

Let’s leave aside for the moment the individual rights argument against the draft….and it is a powerful one in that it argues that no person should be forced to put their life at risk against their will, or otherwise forced to engage in “service to their country” that they don’t wish to perform, and ask ourselves if it is really militarily efficient.

According to a study requested by Congressman Murtha himself, the answer is no:

The report, requested by Rep. John Murtha, D-Penn., chairman of the defense subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, says that drafting people could make it easier for the Army to reach its 2012 goal of 547,000 soldiers. It might also save some money if Congress opted to pay draftees less than volunteers. But the downside, the report claims, would be a less effective fighting force, thanks to a sudden influx of draftees who would remain in uniform for much shorter spells than today’s all-volunteer soldiers.

“Usually, greater accumulated knowledge and skills come with increased experience,” the report notes. “Because most draftees leave after completing a two-year obligation, a draft might affect the services’ ability to perform those functions efficiently.” To maintain the same capability, the CBO suggests, the Army might have to grow, which could eliminate any savings. On the other hand, increased training costs for draftees – with less time in uniform, more have to be trained – could be offset by cuts in advertising and bonuses now used to entice volunteer recruits.

The report says that while 91% of last year’s recruits were high school graduates, only 80% of U.S. residents aged 18 to 24 have attained that level of education. And high-school graduates, the military says, make better soldiers than dropouts. The CBO, which does not make recommendations but only charts options for lawmakers, estimates that somewhere between 27,000 and 165,000 would be drafted each year. That relative small slice – some 2 million males turn 18 each year – could resurrect the problems seen in the Vietnam era when deferments and friendly draft boards kept some well-connected young men out of uniform. Under current law, women could not be drafted.

If it doesn’t make military or economic sense to launch the draft, what about the notion of fairness? Critics have claimed that minorities are over-represented in the all-volunteer military because they have fewer options in the civilian world. The CBO disputes that, saying that “members of the armed forces are racially and ethnically diverse.” African Americans accounted for 13% of active-duty recruits in 2005, just under their 14% share of 17-to-49-year-olds in the overall U.S. population. And minorities are not being used as cannon fodder. “Data on fatalities indicate that minorities are not being killed [in Iraq and Afghanistan] at greater rates than their representation in the force,” the study says. “Rather, fatalities of white service members have been higher than their representation in the force,” in large part because whites are over-represented in the military’s combat, as opposed to support, jobs.

As more than one military expert has made clear in the years since 9/11, the draft simply doesn’t make sense in the modern military. In the past — whether it’s World War I, World II, Korea, or Vietnam — brute force of arms was a far more important factor on the battlefield than it is today. Today, it’s not the number of men that matter, it’s their ability to use and understand the technology of modern warfare that matters.

And that’s not something you can instill in a raw draftee off the streets the way you could teach him to march and shoot a rifle at Nazis or Japs in WW 2.

But that’s only part of the equation. The other part is the one I mentioned before, the individual rights part. Outside of an immediate threat to the internal security of the United States, what right does the Federal Government have to force me, you, or our children to fight and die in a foreign land ? None that I can think of and, quite honestly, the Thirteenth Amendment would seem to make clear that no person can be forced into servitude against their will.

And then there’s yet another part to the equation.

When a government is able force it’s citizens into military service, it has the ability to raise an army that can accomplish nearly anything, including expanding spheres of influence and creating empires. As Randolph Bourne said, war is the health of the state. And a state capable of making war when it wishes, is capable of expanding its power, both at home and abroad, far beyond what anyone ever intended.

H/T: Outside The Beltway

autoDogmatic Reports On SC Ron Paul Rally

Aaron, one of the bloggers over at autoDogmatic and the founder of the Mortgage Lender Implode-O-Meter, recently attended a Ron Paul rally in South Carolina, particularly looking for freaks and fringe groups.

He found none:

You see, I went in expecting an audience which was somehow “not normal”, indescribably; maybe quirky or geeky; paranoid; socially-awkward; heavily biased towards “fringe” types. You know, internet people.

Well, if these were “internet people,” we apparently need to rethink our notion of what the internet consists of. Because this audience was America.

That is perhaps the most succinct way I can put it. It was as if 2,000 of my nicest neighbors were brought together in one place.

No trace of “fringe groups”; this was as far from a “circus” as you could get.

Now, I always knew that Ron Paul was supported by “regular people” (though I’m not sure I consider myself one). But after reading mainstream Ron Paul “expose`” articles like this one, I expected to see a few more conspicious “9/11 Truthers”; ranters-on about the Bilderbergers, “gold-bugs,” whatever. Pick your clique. I don’t mean to diminish these groups — in fact I sympathize with all their views somewhat — but they are simply considered “fringe” in the popular conception. You aren’t supposed to associate with them.

And there was no sign of them at the rally.

Ok, I saw one young man with a “Kissinger – war crimes” t-shirt (which I’m actually sympathetic to), and maybe one guy with a 9/11 Truth t-shirt. That was it.

I think I may have seen fewer such “fringe” themes displayed at the Ron Paul rally than I might have seen walking down the street on a typical day.

What’s the signifiance of all this? Well, to me, the above is incredibly encouraging. It means the support for Ron Paul, and more importantly the ideas of his campaign, is broad-based. “Average Americans” — middle-class, hard-working, honest folk — buy into Ron Paul’s freedom message big-time. They just need the chance to hear it.

And that means the sky is the limit for the “Ron Paul Revolution.” It means anywhere you find an honest American, you’ve found a potential Paul supporter. The only limit is how fast the message can travel, and once again, the internet appears to be breaking records on that front.

This is a positive sign. One of the typical criticisms of Ron Paul is that only freaks and weirdos support him. Some of the commenters at this site have certainly shown that some of those people support him, but don’t prove that only those people support him.

The simple fact is that there are a lot of people in this country who are sick and tired of pulling a lever to choose between big, intrusive government, and bigger, more intrusive government. There are a lot of people out there who may not agree on everything, but agree that they’re ready for a new message. They’re not getting that from any of the mainstream candidates on either side.

I’ve said that I don’t think America is truly ready for freedom, at least as Ron Paul and many libertarians understand it. But America is changing. I really see the internet as a liberating force in America, and the internet is inherently libertarian. The internet’s weight behind Ron Paul has been the difference between him being a third-tier nobody candidate and a second-tier candidate rapidly gaining name recognition.

But Aaron’s experience reminds me of something. “Internet support” no longer means a bunch of freaks and weirdos, sitting in their pajamas in their parents’ basement, hoping to someday make a friend. That might have been true of the internet of 1997, but the internet of 2007 is a cross-section of America. Ron Paul’s message is reaching those people.

I can’t say whether Paul will win the nomination, or win the presidency. Like co-blogger Doug, I support Paul but I think the chances are low. I don’t know that America is ready for him. But when I see the effect he’s having at this early stage, I think that maybe, just maybe, America still has a chance. I support Ron Paul because I want to advance freedom, and that’s something that I want to do whether he makes it to the Oval Office or not.

America: More Likely To Elect A Gay, Muslim, Former Drug User Than An Athiest

That is the somewhat interesting result of a recent New York Times poll:

THE probing about his Mormon beliefs has by now become familiar to the Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. But when Mary Van Steenis, a teacher at a local Christian school, took the microphone at a recent “Ask Mitt Anything” forum in Pella, Iowa, to ask her question, it still felt as if some sort of unspoken boundary of social etiquette had been breached.

Mrs. Van Steenis wanted Mr. Romney to say where the Book of Mormon would figure in his decision making as president.

“Where would the Bible be?” she asked. “Would it be above the Book of the Mormon, or would it be beneath it?”

Although the Constitution bars any religious test for office, if polls are to be believed, Mr. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, faces a serious obstacle to winning the presidency because of his faith. Surveys show a substantial percentage of Americans would be less likely to vote for a Mormon, or for that matter a Muslim or an atheist. But how rigid is that sentiment?

Just take a look at the numbers and it seems pretty rigid.

This is why candidates appearing at churches and Presidents invoking God are part of the public religion of the United States. The voters expect it, heck in some parts of the country I’d go so far as to say they demand it. This is hardly surprising, since the United States has always been a far more openly religious country than most of the West.

And repression has often been part of the package.

The Puritans, for example, didn’t come to the New World for religious freedom so much as they came so that they’d be able to impose their own brand of religious tyranny free from interference by the Church of England. And it happened in other colonies as well, with the exception of Quaker dominated Pennsylvania. That’s why we have a First Amendment and that’s why the Constitution specifically provides that there is no religious test for holding office.

But Constitutional amendments can only go so far. Toleration for other’s beliefs is not something that can be imposed, it must be learned. And it would seem we still have a long way to go.

H/T: Althouse

Ron Paul In The New York Times

Sunday’s New York Times Magazine features a profile of Ron Paul, his campaign for President, and the motley crew of supporters that he’s attracted.

For The Times, it is, I suppose, a mostly positive piece. Being The Times, of course, there is much discussion of his position on the Iraq War:

Alone among Republican candidates for the presidency, Paul has always opposed the Iraq war. He blames “a dozen or two neocons who got control of our foreign policy,” chief among them Vice President Dick Cheney and the former Bush advisers Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, for the debacle. On the assumption that a bad situation could get worse if the war spreads into Iran, he has a simple plan. It is: “Just leave.” During a May debate in South Carolina, he suggested the 9/11 attacks could be attributed to United States policy. “Have you ever read about the reasons they attacked us?” he asked, referring to one of Osama bin Laden’s communiqués. “They attack us because we’ve been over there. We’ve been bombing Iraq for 10 years.” Rudolph Giuliani reacted by demanding a retraction, drawing gales of applause from the audience. But the incident helped Paul too. Overnight, he became the country’s most conspicuous antiwar Republican.

Paul’s opposition to the war in Iraq did not come out of nowhere. He was against the first gulf war, the war in Kosovo and the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, which he called a “declaration of virtual war.” Although he voted after Sept. 11 to approve the use of force in Afghanistan and spend $40 billion in emergency appropriations, he has sounded less thrilled with those votes as time has passed. “I voted for the authority and the money,” he now says. “I thought it was misused.”

Though I think he was wrong to oppose the first Gulf War on the simple ground that naked aggression such as that displayed by Saddam Hussein in August 1991 cannot be tolerated, he was right about Kosovo, and, as time has shown, he’s right about Iraq. Of all of America’s recent military ventures, the war in Afghanistan is clearly the most justified, but it’s undeniable that it’s execution has been less than satisfactory. And, of course, the Times loves him for his anti-war stance.

And, then, there’s mention of an old friend of The Liberty Papers, Eric Dondero:

Anyone who is elected to Congress three times as a nonincumbent, as Paul has been, is a politician of prodigious gifts. Especially since Paul has real vulnerabilities in his district. For Eric Dondero, who plans to challenge him in the Republican Congressional primary next fall, foreign policy is Paul’s central failing. Dondero, who is 44, was Paul’s aide and sometime spokesman for more than a decade. According to Dondero, “When 9/11 happened, he just completely changed. One of the first things he said was not how awful the tragedy was . . . it was, ‘Now we’re gonna get big government.’ ”

Dondero claims that Paul’s vote to authorize force in Afghanistan was made only after warnings from a longtime staffer that voting otherwise would cost him Victoria, a pivotal city in his district. (“Completely false,” Paul says.) One day just after the Iraq invasion, when Dondero was driving Paul around the district, the two had words. “He said he did not want to have someone on staff who did not support him 100 percent on foreign policy,” Dondero recalls. Paul says Dondero’s outspoken enthusiasm for the military’s “shock and awe” strategy made him an awkward spokesman for an antiwar congressman. The two parted on bad terms.

Given Dondero’s rhetoric, both here and elsewhere on the Internet, I’m inclined to take the Congressman’s side in this dispute. Like him or not, Congressman Paul is a man of principle and his stand on the Iraq War , which I happen to agree with, is entirely consistent with those principles. Dondero has always struck me as, to put it nicely, a political opportunist.

There’s alot more to the article, including reference to the fact that many Ron Paul meetups have brought in John Birchers and other kooks, but, on the whole, its a rather positive piece, and the closing paragraph may be the best part:

[W]hat is “Ron’s message”? Whatever the campaign purports to be about, the main thing it has done thus far is to serve as a clearinghouse for voters who feel unrepresented by mainstream Republicans and Democrats. The antigovernment activists of the right and the antiwar activists of the left have many differences, maybe irreconcilable ones. But they have a lot of common beliefs too, and their numbers — and anger — are of a considerable magnitude. Ron Paul will not be the next president of the United States. But his candidacy gives us a good hint about the country the next president is going to have to knit back together.

In other words, it’s the same thing I’ve said many times before. Ron Paul may not win the Republican nomination, but his candidacy is important because it gives voice to ideas that haven’t been spoken loudly by a Presidential candidate for at least the past three decades.

Tax Protester Acquitted Of Tax Evasion

To be honest, I’ve never really thought much of most of the legal arguments put forward by the tax protest crowd. For the most part, such as in the case of those who try to argue that the 16th Amendment was never really ratified, they just sound nutty.

But, that may have to change, now that a Federal Court Jury in Louisiana has acquitted a tax protester:

A Shreveport attorney who has challenged the government for years on the legality of filing federal income taxes has been acquitted on charges he failed to file returns.

A federal jury unanimously found Tommy Cryer not guilty this week on two misdemeanor counts of failure to file.

And according to Cryer, the prosecution dismissed two felony charges of tax evasion prior to trial.

Attempts by The Times on Thursday to reach U.S. Attorney Donald Washington or Bill Flanagan, first assistant U.S. attorney, were not successful. Calls made to the two were not immediately returned.

“The court could not find a law that makes me liable or makes my revenues taxable,” Cryer said. “The Supreme Court has ruled that the government cannot impose an income tax on anything but the profits and gains. When you work for someone you give your service and labor in exchange for money, so everything you make is not profit or gain. You put something into it.”

And just how did he pull this off ?

Cryer created a trust listing himself as the trustee, and received payments of dividends, interest and stock income to that trust, according to the indictment. He also was accused of concealing his receipt of the sources of income from the IRS by failing to file a tax return on behalf of that trust.

“I determined that my personal earnings were not 100 percent profits, some were income,” Cryer said. “I refuse to file, I refuse to pay unless they can show me I have a lawful reason to pay.”

“What I earned was my own personal labor. I am giving something in exchange. I’m giving my property and I don’t belong to anyone else.”

Cryer says he stopped filing returns more than 10 years ago after he investigated claims that income tax was a sham. He contends the law doesn’t actually tax personal earning.

Something tells me there’s more to this case than meets the eye and that the reasons for Cryer’s acquittal aren’t exactly what he would have us believe. Nonetheless, this is interesting.

America: From Freedom to Fascism

Aaron Russo, a former Libertarian Party presidential candidate, has made his documentary, America: From Freedom to Fascism, available for viewing online. I don’t agree with all of his points and I think some of it is far fetched, but it is a very good documentary about the history of the income tax and the abuses of power brought on individuals by the Internal Revenue Service.

H/T: Lew Rockwell

Ron Paul And Gay Rights

Ron Paul is widely considered, rightfully so I would argue, to be the most libertarian candidate for President running in either party. At the same time, a few bloggers have raised questions about some of his public policy stands and whether they really are pro-liberty. He favors restrictions on immigration, while most libertarians would argue in favor of (more) open borders. He has voted against every major free trade pact that has come before Congress and while his points about so-called “managed trade” are well taken, the fact remains that regimes like NAFTA, CAFTA, and individual free trade agreements with nations like Israel have made foreign trade vastly more free. He’s pro-life, though personally I don’t think being a libertarian necessarily requires you to be on either side of the abortion issue.

There’s one area that bothers me, though, and that’s when it comes to his views on the right of homosexuals to live their lives as they choose.

Several months ago, Kip Esquire blogged about this issue and asked just how libertarian you’d think someone who made this statement was:

I oppose federal efforts to redefine marriage as something other than a union between one man and one woman[.] … In fact, the institution of marriage most likely pre-dates the institution of government!

If I were in Congress in 1996, I would have voted for the Defense of Marriage Act[.]

I was an original cosponsor of the Marriage Protection Act, HR 3313, that removes challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act from federal courts’ jurisdiction.

If I were a member of [a state] legislature, I would do all I could to oppose any attempt by rogue judges to impose a new definition of marriage on the people of my state.

The division of power between the federal government and the states is one of the virtues of the American political system.

[I]f federal judges wrongly interfere and attempt to compel a state to recognize the marriage licenses of another state, that would be the proper time for me to consider new legislative or constitutional approaches.

The author ? Ron Paul back in 2004

In response, Kip made this point that I find hard to refute:

Libertarians do not invoke history — especially the history of religion — as a justification for anti-gay bigotry or unfair and unequal treatment under law.

(…)

Libertarians do not pretend that discrimination, the suppression of individual rights or the betrayal of the principles of the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments are any “better” when they occur at the state level rather than at the federal level. Libertarians understand that “states’ rights” is an insolent fiction: individuals have rights; states have powers — powers that they can and do abuse unless properly checked.

Finally, libertarians do not fear the shibboleth of “activist judges” — sorry, “rogue judges.” No libertarian fears a judge more than a politician (or bureaucrat). No libertarian fears a federal court more than a state legislature (or city council).

In other words, liberty is liberty whether you’re talking about the state government or the federal government. Congressman Paul’s argument is not the argument of a libertarian, its the argument of a conservative traditionalist.

And its an unfortunate position for someone who so eloquently proclaims liberty to be taking.

A Politician’s Rare Moment Of Candor

The Politico reports on the reaction of Alaska Congressman Don Young to efforts by Congressional Republicans to cut back on pork to his state:

Rep. Don Young attacked his fellow Republicans on the House floor Wednesday, as he defended education funds allocated to his home state of Alaska.

“You want my money, my money,” Young stridently declared before warning conservatives that “those who bite me will be bitten back.”

It’s rare that a politician speaks in public what they will never admit to, that they consider your tax dollars and mine to be theirs to do with as they wish. Apparently, Congressman Young was so outraged by what his fellow Republicans did that he forgot that you shouldn’t say what you’re thinking all the time.

Then, it got better, as Young continued his rant:

During his brief tirade Wednesday, Young suggested Republicans lost their majority because Garrett, whom he did not specifically name, and others had challenged spending during the GOP’s tenure. He also had disparaging things to say about the great state of New Jersey — home to the Sopranos and Bon Jovi.

Leaving aside for the moment Young’s attack on the state of my birth, his theory basically boils down to the argument that the GOP lost control of Congress because they didn’t spend enough money on wasteful pork.

And just in case you forgot who Young is:

Young, who used to chair the House Transportation Committee, is responsible for the so-called “Bridge to Nowhere,” a proposed span connecting Ketchikan, Alaska, with the tiny island of Gravina that would have cost $315 million — and eventually came to symbolize profligate spending under Republican rule.

No wonder he’s so upset.

A Ron Paul Surprise In Iowa ?

Patrick Ruffini is predicting that Ron Paul will place second in the non-binding straw poll to be held in Ames, Iowa in August:

You heard it here first.

He leads the second tier in cash-on-hand. He was able to get 1,200 people out to the Hy-Vee (has any candidate done something that big on their own, not at an RPI event?). His home base in Texas isn’t that far of a drive, and his people are motivated enough to come in from out of state for him. And he’s making a big push on his Web site, which for all intents and purposes, is his campaign.

Romney, given his dominant position organizationally in Iowa, should still win. Even with the rest of the top tier not participating, he won’t be able to let his guard down, lest he be ambushed by one of the second tier. Should Romney underperform against someone not even playing at Ames, or against someone not taken seriously, that’s a blow to his Iowa inevitability.

A few caveats are in order. First of all, Ruffini predictions don’t have a history of accuracy, especially when it comes to Ron Paul. Back in June, he made predictions about Paul’s second quarter fundraising that proved to be wildly inflated. Second, the straw poll itself hasn’t been a good historical indication of later success; in 1987, Pat Robertson got a lot of press when he won the poll over both VP Bush and Bob Dole but it was Bob Dole who won the Iowa Caucus six months later, and Bush who won the nomination. Finally, this years poll will not be a true test of the GOP field since two of the big-name candidates, McCain and Giuliani, will be skipping it entirely.

Yes, Ron Paul will be get alot of positive press if he does well in Ames, even more so if he embarrasses Romney, but don’t take that as indication of anything. There’s still a long way to go before the first votes are cast.

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