Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Minor Victory

Readers of,, Chuck Baldwin, Ron Paul, and other followers of the libertarian, paleoconservative or anti-neocon Right have surely learned of the lecherous Missouri Information Analysis Center’s February 22, 2009 report for local and national government to work together and be on the look-out for dangerous “militia groups.”

Of course, by “militia groups,” the MIAC elaborated that supporters of Ron Paul and 2008 third party presidential candidates Bob Barr and Chuck Baldwin were potential “militia members.” People caught with a Ron Paul bumper sticker on their car were to be regarded as suspected militia members.

No joke.

Granted, Glenn Beck, who has a certain amount of sympathy for the freedom message of Ron Paul, related an incident where a raucous group of Dr. Paul’s supporters overturned one of Mr. Beck’s buses, creating the image that all of Ron Paul’s supporters were a bunch of deranged anarchists.

Even that incident is divorced from the message of Ron Paul and the others. While some might have engaged in isolated acts of violence, anyone who pays attention to Dr. Paul’s message knows that he does not advocate violence but peace. People engaging in violence are obviously not heeding anything in Dr. Paul’s message, but only saw him as a leader for them to follow, and an excuse for them to take part in an event of monumental stupidity.

Anyone opposing abortion, gun control, illegal immigration, the income tax, or suspected that the sovereignty of the United States is being eroded in favor of some sort of North American Union, were to be considered potential militia members. In other words, holding political opinions that are to the right of the Missouri political establishment are dangerous. Perhaps even more dangerous is the notion that advocates for peace are considered more dangerous to the nation than a government that rushes off to war, wastes tax dollars, and would actively hunt down political opponents who held zero communist or terrorist sympathies.

Limited government hawks like myself were utterly outraged upon learning of this report. Could all of our paranoid fears of our own government be well-founded? Could we really be on the cusp of a totalitarian society that is on the look-out for any and all dissenters? Could this be the reaction we receive for holding the radical idea that our leaders should be required to follow the Constitution?

It sure looked that way. While this report was released regarding Missouri, I live with my wife on the other side of the river in Illinois, another place not exactly personified by benevolent government and virtuous public stewards. And Uncouth Ruminations is a blog that does not hold particularly understanding opinions of the government’s actions. And is some Missouri or Illinois state government or Homeland Security goon watching this blog as we speak?

Unnerving and scary to be sure, but a minor victory was scored recently.

Writing in the Campaign for Liberty blog, Anthony Gregory reported that the Missouri government has “backed down” from its now-infamous militia report.

Enough concerned citizens expressed their contempt for a measure that does not belong in the United States but in a George Orwell dystopia. Enough American patriots voiced enough outcry to their public officials that an utterly gross measure was rolled back. For once, it seems, the government listened to the cries of its people and restored a modicum of their liberty.

This is by no means over. The government will still try to infringe on our liberties, but will only try harder to cover up their activities.

But this is the way progress can be made. Gradually, peacefully, and actively protesting our government’s brazen acts of tyranny. We have unfortunately blown many opportunities (the Patriot Act and the rush to invade Iraq come to mind) to hold our leaders’ accountability and fidelity to the Constitution to the fire, but a victory is a victory.

And almost surely by no coincidence, this weekend in St. Louis, Missouri, Ron Paul’s Campaign for Liberty is holdings its first annual regional conference (which I will be attending and will provide a summary report later). Included in the weekend’s activities will be ways for liberty-minded activists to try to change the corrupt political system for themselves, instead of vainly hoping that politicians and bureaucrats will change their ways and return the government to its constitutional boundaries.

The retraction of the MIAC report was good, but it really ends nothing. Our government continues to violate our liberties and we must hold them to it.

Freedom is a precious gift. It’s humiliating if a foreign invader forcibly removes our freedom from us, but it is wholly shameful when we willfully relinquish it in the face of our government.

Dissent is not a crime. Sport a Ron Paul bumper sticker. Demand that your leaders obey the Constitution. And support freedom from your government. Do not let this victory be confined to the “Show-Me” State.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Distractions All Around

*Much to my chagrin, I provided some inaccurate information. This post originally reported that the AIG bailout was $85 billion. The cost to date is approximately $192 billion. $85 billion was the original bailout last September. I have also been habitually reporting that the stimulus bill was for $787 billion and it was actually $789 billion. I did not mean to charge President Obama with $2 billion less in wastefulness than he really got. I have corrected my errors and apologize for them.

First it was the earmarks in the famed $410 billion omnibus bill and then it was the bonuses the government-owned AIG executives paid to each other. Both are relatively small issues placed under the microscope and both are issues which require little courage to oppose.

Let’s begin with earmarks. Earmarks are simply money that’s provided in the budget, for projects in the home districts of congressmen. Most sound sensible enough: clean up water supplies, revitalizing a public park, or money for foster programs but we usually only hear about the most absurd of them. Money for experiments on the mating patterns of whales, research on pine trees, or the infamous “Bridge to Nowhere.”

It does not take much for a politician to grandstand about the perceived wastefulness of earmarks. Earmarks, which account for less than 1% of the federal budget, are easy for politicians to use to delude the public into believing that it’s all the other politicians who are wasting their money. They can pick out an absurd earmark like the bridge to nowhere and convince enough people that they are fiscally responsible bureaucrats.

Take Missouri Democratic senator Claire McCaskill. Ms. McCaskill, who voted for President Obama’s $789 billion stimulus, railed about the earmarks that showed up in the recent omnibus bill, and carved for herself an image of a fiscal conservative in the Democratic Party. She’s okay with $789 billion that’s either coming from China or being printed out of thin air, but $24,000 for an abstinence program in Pennsylvania is unacceptable? It’s the same reason John McCain can convince people he’s fiscally dependable by opposing earmarks, while being the biggest supporter of the biggest chunk of the federal budget: defense spending.

The president and his cronies lectured to the nation that the $789 billion stimulus had to be rushed through before the earth opened and swallowed us all whole. Then the omnibus comes up and suddenly $20,000 here and $40,000 there are scandals that rival the treason of Benedict Arnold. There is a problem in there somewhere.

How about scrutinizing stimulus and omnibus bills with the fervor the paltry earmarks receive?

Now for the other orchestrated crisis: those damnable AIG bonuses. This is yet another example of the lack of courage required to make a grand political stand.

Last fall, the all-knowing, all-powerful, all-fallible federal government, determining that AIG, the insurance giant, was “too big to fail,” became its 80% owner via a $192 billion bailout. Then, as if out of nowhere, this week it was revealed that AIG was issuing $165 million in bonuses to its executives, an agreement decided upon in 2008, and presumably known by then-New York Federal Reserve president and current Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.

Like earmarks, anger over executive bonuses is easy to orchestrate. When the American public learns that the executives of a failing company award themselves with $165 million, they’re tempted to grab the nearest pitchfork.

But compared to the government’s purchase of the failing institution, the bonuses are but table scraps. Both the bailout and the bonuses are odious moves, but bonuses stir more rage than the bailout. Nobody can truly comprehend $192 billion or $165 million, but most can comprehend bonuses fairly well and they know that failures don’t deserve them. So, AIG executives become the new object of all ire, earmarks being soooo last week.

Like earmarks, it does not take much courage for politicians to criticize the bonuses (that they implicitly condoned when they bailed them out last year), suggesting odious new legislation that would tax the bonuses at 90%, or propose that the government forcibly take it all away.

When Old Right essayist Frank Chodorov opined that taxation was robbery, he probably did not have insurance execs in mind, but his sentiments are not far off when the government commandeers money they technically okay-ed last year.

As repulsive as these bonuses and earmarks are, what they really amount to is a big plate of nothing.

In a world of billion dollar stimuli and billion dollar wars, earmarks and executive bonuses are nothing more than distractions from the disasters the government is creating by bailing out (socializing, nationalizing) every company or trying to police every corner of the world.

The federal government has taken on far too much for either realistic or constitutional expectations.

Instead of confronting the realities of the bloated government, the solution seems to be to spend more, rather than cutting back, reducing all around, and saving. And instead of doing that, they repeatedly point to others and blame the problems on those who have remarkably little to do with the current situation: earmarks and disastrous executives.

As more money filters in from China, further indebting us to the Orient, and as the Federal Reserve leviathan prints increasingly worthless paper, is the problem really a park in Kansas or an executive getting another $300,000, only to be taxed away?

What, pray tell, will happen if the economy further tanks after the bonuses are taxed away? To adapt from Richard Nixon, you won’t have AIG execs to kick around anymore.

And when the dollar becomes as worthless as a Weimar Mark, shall we hang executives who accepted hand-outs most of us would accept for ourselves, or shall we hang the criminals who gave us the fiat dollar, instigated by egregiously wasteful spending that is giving us the socialistic paradise that is modern America?

There is more at stake than an earmark.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The War Drums Beat On

President Barack Obama was elected last November to bring change to America’s governing establishment and end our senseless foreign wars.

However, Clinton administration retreads populate the Obama administration through and through. There has been no scaling back of the intrusive and controversial government measures the Bush administration enacted such as the Patriot Act or FISA, no less spending, and no less transparency in government. Altogether, the scope of the Obama administration looks remarkably similar to the Bush administration.

The one area where it was suggested that there might be a change is the one area where we see the most consistency: foreign policy.

Despite all the best efforts of the Republican Party hacks and talk radio bobbleheads in 2008, Barack Obama is not an isolationist, not willing to “surrender” in the “War on Terror” and perfectly willing to use the American military with the same aloofness as his predecessor.

Take, for example, President Obama’s pledge to remove American combat troops from Iraq by August 2010. That pledge comes with a caveat: 50,000 are staying. This is not the same as American generals staying in Saigon until the Communists were breaking down the door. This is no residual force.

If as many as 50,000 American troops are staying in Iraq to train the local army and police forces, then they will inevitably be called upon to continue fighting all of the warring elements in Iraq. If post-2010 Iraq descends into rampant violence again, what is to stop President Obama from sending more American troops back to Iraq? By keeping one foot in the door, he leaves open the probability that he will have to bring the other one back in as well. It is not as though American troops are leaving the region.

And what exactly is the withdrawal plan for this “residual force” of 50,000 troops? If the plan is for the end of 2011, why keep such a large force there? If I was a cynical guy, I would say that just keeping them there re-opens the possibility that we could be in Iraq for 100 years. What then, would be the difference between President Obama’s plan with these 50,000 troops and John McCain’s plan that would keep some form of military presence in Iraq for 100 years if that’s what it took?

Now let us look at President Obama’s Afghanistan plan. In what could have been as many as 30,000 additional troops, the president settled on sending 17,000 to the graveyard of empires beginning sometime this month.

This plan calls for 17,000 troops, many of whom have already served in Iraq or were trained for duty in Iraq, only to shift them to a completely different theater. Afghanistan, a place probably worse than Iraq, is isolated and highly tribal, whereas Iraq was fairly centralized and comparably united. The military has already acknowledged that Iraq tactics which these soldiers were already trained for will be obsolete in Afghanistan due to the latter's hazardous terrain. Do we have time, in a war about to enter its 8th year, to wage a war by trial-and-error? What will be the reaction of the American people when hundreds of Americans are photographed in flag-draped coffins this year?

And how will the American people react when embattled Afghan president Hamid Karzai, who faces a difficult election this year, might be tempted to cut a deal with a rejuvenated Taliban that controls at least as much of Afghanistan as he does, in order to consolidate power? What will President Obama do then? How will they react when hundreds of young Americans lose their lives for a nation that no longer houses Osama bin Laden but are instead stuck in another inescapable nation-building venture?

If Secretary of War Robert Gates is correct and there is "no military solution for Afghanistan," then why is our military still in Afghanistan?

This does not even cover the drums that are beating for war with Iran. Everyday there is another "new revelation" about Iran’s capability to build the bomb. Everyday there is a new scare tactic employed by the government and the media to convince the American people that there is a nuclear bomb being secretly built in Iran with their name on it. Everyday we are told that our way of life could end in any instant, at the hands of a figurehead in Iran who has no control and barely any support in his own bankrupt country.

Couple all of that with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who as a presidential candidate threatened war on Iran over the security of Israel, is now saying that diplomacy is not likely to work on Iran. What does it mean when the nation’s top diplomat says diplomacy is not expected to work? It’s not that diplomacy might not work on Iran, it’s that it is not even being considered.

Did we really learn nothing from the Iraq debacle? How many "news reports" were we subjected to that Saddam Hussein was behind the anthrax attacks, the 9/11 terrorist attacks or the next nuclear attack?

Hussein at least had weapons of mass destruction in the past, which made the pre-war claims plausible. Ahmadinejad has no weapons, no military, and losing support in his own country. A mountain has been made that they have the capability to launch a satellite. And after all that happened in Iraq, shouldn’t at least an ounce of skepticism be permitted before marching off to war on the drop of a hat?

We have wars that won’t end in Afghanistan and Iraq, we have a war being prepared for in us in Iran, we are firing missiles into Pakistan supposedly intended for Osama bin Laden that kill as many civilians as suspected terrorists.

Considering all the military quagmires, all the negative capital around the world generated from our escapades, the military budget that contributes to the bankrupting of this country, and the fact that bin Laden is still at large, tell me this, what have our military excursions actually done for America?

And what of any of this makes President Obama antiwar?