“No power on earth has a right to take our property from us without our consent.”—John Jay, first Chief Justice of the United States
“How ‘secure’ do our homes remain if police, armed with no warrant, can pound on doors at will and … forcibly enter?”—Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the lone dissenter in Kentucky v. King
If the government can tell you what you can and cannot do within the privacy of your home, whether it relates to what you eat, what you smoke or whom you love, you no longer have any rights whatsoever within your home.
If government officials can fine and arrest you for growing vegetables in your front yard, praying with friends in your living room, installing solar panels on your roof, and raising chickens in your backyard, you’re no longer the owner of your property. If school officials can punish your children for what they do or say while at home or in your care, your children are not your own—they are the property of the state.
If government agents can invade your home, break down your doors, kill your dog, damage your furnishings and terrorize your family, your property is no longer private and secure—it belongs to the government. Likewise, if police can forcefully draw your blood, strip search you, and probe you intimately, your body is no longer your own, either.
This is what a world without the Fourth Amendment looks like, where the lines between private and public property have been so blurred that private property is reduced to little more than something the government can use to control, manipulate and harass you to suit its own purposes, and you the homeowner and citizen have been reduced to little more than a tenant or serf in bondage to an inflexible landlord.
Examples of this disregard for the sanctity of private property—whether in the form of one’s home, one’s possessions, or one’s person—abound. Here are just a few.
In San Rafael, California, it is now illegal to smoke a cigarette or other tobacco product inside “apartments, condos, duplexes, and multi-family houses.” Although lawmakers hope the ordinance will be “self-enforcing,” they’re encouraging landlords to threaten tenants with eviction should they run afoul of the law.
In Ohio, it’s illegal to alter one’s car with a hidden compartment if the “intent” is to conceal illegal drugs. Although Norman Gurley had no drugs on his person, nor in his car, nor could it be proven that he intended to conceal drugs, he was still arrested for the “crime” of having a hidden compartment in the trunk of his car.
In Florida and elsewhere throughout the country, home vegetable gardens are being targeted as illegal. For 17 years, Hermine Ricketts and Tom Carroll have tended the vegetable garden in their front yard, relying on it for 80 percent of their food intake, only to be told by city officials that they must get rid of it or face $50 a day in fines. The reason? The vegetable garden is “inconsistent with the city’s aesthetic character.”
In Iowa, a war veteran attempting to wean his family off expensive corporate farm products, GMOs and pesticides has been charged with violating a city ordinance and now faces up to 30 days in jail and a $600 fine for daring to raise chickens in his backyard for his personal use, despite statements of support from his neighbors.
In Virginia, school officials suspended two boys for the remainder of the school year and charged them with possession of a firearm after they were reported to the police for playing with toy airsoft guns in their front yard, while waiting for the morning school bus. At no time did the boys attempt to take the toy guns on the bus or to school.
The most obvious disrespect for property rights comes in the form of the tens of thousands of SWAT team raids that occur across the country on a yearly basis. Usually undertaken under the pretense of serving a drug warrant, these raids involve police arriving at a private residence in SWAT gear, armed to the hilt, kicking down doors, apprehending all persons inside the home, then determining if a crime has been committed. That was Judy Sanchez’s experience when FBI agents investigating gang activity used a chainsaw to cut through her door, then forced Sanchez and her child to the ground. It was only after invading Sanchez’s home and terrorizing her family that agents realized they had targeted the wrong address.
Unfortunately, we in America get so focused on the Fourth Amendment’s requirement of a warrant before government agents can invade our property (a requirement that means little in an age of kangaroo courts and rubberstamped warrant requests) that we fail to properly appreciate the first part of the statement declaring that we have a right to be secure in our “persons, houses, papers, and effects.” What this means is that the Fourth Amendment’s protections were intended to not only follow us wherever we go but also apply to all that is ours—whether you’re talking about our physical bodies, our biometric data, our possessions, our families, or our way of life. However, in an 8-1 ruling in Kentucky v. King (2011), the U.S. Supreme Court sanctioned SWAT teams smashing down doors of homes or apartments without a warrant if they happen to “suspect” you might be doing something illegal in your home.
At a time when the government routinely cites national security as the justification for its endless violations of the Constitution, the idea that a citizen can actually be “secure” or protected against such government overreach seems increasingly implausible, while suggesting that a person take steps to secure his person and property against the government could have one accused of fomenting anti-government sentiment.
Nevertheless, the reality of our age is this: if the government chooses to crash through our doors, listen to our phone calls, read our emails and text messages, fine us for growing vegetables in our front yard, jail us for raising chickens in our backyard, forcibly take our blood and saliva, and probe our vaginas and rectums, there’s little we can do to stop them. At least, not at that particular moment. When you’re face to face with a government agent who is not only armed to the hilt and inclined to shoot first and ask questions later but also woefully ignorant of the fact that he works for you, if you value your life, you don’t talk back.
This sad reality came about as a result of our being asleep at the wheel. We failed to ask questions and hold our representatives accountable to abiding by the Constitution, while the government amassed an amazing amount of power over us, and backed up that power-grab with a terrifying amount of military might and weaponry, and got the courts to sanction their actions every step of the way.
However, once the dust settles and you’ve had a chance to catch your breath, I hope you’ll remember that the Constitution begins with those three beautiful words, “We the people.” In other words, there is no government without us—our sheer numbers, our muscle, our economy, our physical presence in this land. There can also be no police state—no tyranny—no routine violations of our rights without our complicity and collusion—without our turning a blind eye, shrugging our shoulders, allowing ourselves to be distracted and our civic awareness diluted.
So where do we begin? How do we go about wresting back control over our freedoms and our lives in the face of such seemingly insurmountable odds?
There’s an old adage, albeit not a very palatable one, that says “when eating an elephant take one bite at a time.” The point is this: when facing a monumental task, take it one step at a time. In other words, we’re going to have to wage these battles house by house, car by car, and body by body. Most importantly, as I point out in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, we’re going to have to stop the partisan bickering—you can leave that to the yokels in Congress—and recognize that the suffering brought about by a police state will be the great equalizer, applying to all Americans, regardless of their political leanings (the fact that we are all now being targeted for government surveillance is but a foretaste of things to come).
As John Adams rightly noted, “The Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people. This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments and affections of the people was the real American Revolution.”
It’s time for a second American Revolution. Not a revolution designed to kill people or tear down and physically destroy society, but a revolution of the minds and souls of human beings—a revolution promulgated to restore the freedoms for which our founders sacrificed their fortunes and their lives.
It is natural for a society to search for explanations and motivations in the wake of a man-made tragedy. It is also somewhat natural for people to be driven by their personal biases when looking for someone or something to blame. In recent years, however, our country has been carefully conditioned to view almost every criminal event from an ideological perspective.
The mainstream media now places far more emphasis on the political affiliations and philosophies of “madmen” than it does on their personal disorders and psychosis. The media’s goal, or mission, if you will, is to associate every dark deed whether real or engineered to the political enemies of the establishment, and to make the actions of each individual the collective shame of an entire group of people.
I could sift through a long list of terror attacks and mass shootings in which the establishment media jumped to the conclusion that the perpetrators were inspired by the beliefs of Constitutional conservatives, “conspiracy theorists”, patriots, etc. It is clear to anyone paying attention that the system is going out of its way to demonize those who question the officially sanctioned story, or the officially sanctioned world view. The circus surrounding the latest shooting of multiple TSA agents at Los Angeles International Airport is a perfect example.
Paul Ciancia, the primary suspect in the shooting, was immediately tied to the Liberty Movement by media outlets and the Southern Poverty Law Center, by notes (which we still have yet to see proof of) that law enforcement claims to have found on his person. The notes allegedly use terms such as “New World Order” and “fiat money”, commonly covered by those of us in the alternative media. The assertion is, of course, that Paul Ciancia is just the beginning, and that most if not all of us involved in the exposure of the globalist agenda are powder kegs just waiting to “go off.” The label often used by the MSM to profile people like Ciancia and marginalize the organizational efforts of liberty based culture is “anti-government.”
The establishment desires to acclimate Americans to the idea that being anti-government is wrong; that it is a despicable philosophy embracing social deviance, aimless violence, isolation and zealotry. Looking beyond the mainstream position, my question is, is it really such a bad thing to be anti-government today?
The terms “anti-government” and “conspiracy theorist” are almost always used in the same paragraph when mainstream media pundits espouse their propaganda. They are nothing more than ad hominem labels designed to play on the presumptions of the general population, manipulating them into dismissing any and all alternative viewpoints before they are ever heard or explained. The establishment and the media are ill-equipped to debate us on fair terms, and understand that they will lose control if Americans are allowed to hear what we have to say in a balanced forum. Therefore, their only fallback is to bury the public in lies so thick they won’t want to listen to us at all.
The Liberty Movement now has the upper hand in the war for information. The exposure of multiple conspiracies in the past several years alone has given immense weight to our stance, and reaffirmed warnings we gave long ago.
When we spoke out against the invasion of Iraq, commissioned by George W. Bush on the dubious claim that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction were an immediate threat to the security of our nation, we were called “liberals” and “traitors.” Today, Bush and Cheney have both openly admitted that no WMD’s were ever present in the region. When we attempted to educate the masses on the widespread surveillance of innocent people by the NSA, some of them laughed. Today, it is common knowledge that all electronic communications are monitored by the Federal government. When we refused to accept the official story behind the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ Fast and Furious program, we were called “kooks”. Today, it is common knowledge that the Obama Administration purposely allowed U.S. arms to fall into the hands of Mexican cartels. When we roared over the obvious hand the White House played in the Benghazi attack, we were labeled “racists” and “right wing extremists.” Today, it is common knowledge that the White House ordered military response units to stand down and allow the attack to take place. I could go on and on…
Events that were called “conspiracy theory” by the mainstream yesterday are now historical fact today. Have we ever received an apology for this slander? No, of course not, and we don’t expect one will ever surface. We have already gained something far more important – legitimacy.
And what about Paul Ciancia’s apparent belief in the dangers of the “New World Order” and “fiat money”? Are these “conspiracy theories”, or conspiracy realism? The Liberty Movement didn’t coin the phrase “New World Order”, these political and corporate “luminaries” did:
Is economic collapse really just a fairytale perpetrated by “anti-government extremists” bent on fear mongering and dividing society? Perhaps we should ask Alan Greenspan, who now openly admits that he and the private Federal Reserve knew full well they had helped engineer the housing bubble which eventually imploded during the derivatives collapse of 2008.
Or, why not ask the the White House, which just last month proclaimed that “economic chaos” would result if Republicans did not agree to raise the debt ceiling.
Does this make Barack Obama and the Democratic elite “conspiracy theorists” as well?
It is undeniable that government conspiracies and corporate conspiracies exist, and have caused unquantifiable pain to the American people and the people of the world. Knowing this, is it not natural that many citizens would adopt anti-government views in response? Is it wrong to distrust a criminal individual or a criminal enterprise? Why would it be wrong to distrust a criminal government?
The Purpose Behind The Anti-Government Label
When the establishment mainstream applies the anti-government label, they are hoping to achieve several levels propaganda. Here are just a few:
False Association: By placing the alleged “anti-government” views of violent people in the spotlight, the establishment is asserting that it is the political philosophy, not the individual, that is the problem. They are also asserting that other people who hold similar beliefs are guilty by association. That is to say, the actions of one man now become the trespasses of all those who share his ideology. This tactic is only applied by the media to those on the conservative or constitutional end of the spectrum, as it was with Paul Ciancia. For example, when it was discovered that Arizona mass shooter Jared Loughner was actually a leftist, the MSM did not attempt to tie his actions to liberals in general. Why? Because the left is not a threat to the elitist oligarchy within our government. Constitutional conservatives, on the other hand, are.
False Generalization: The term “anti-government” is so broad that, like the term “terrorist”, it can be applied to almost anyone for any reason. The establishment does not want you to distinguish between those who are anti-government for the wrong reasons, and those who are anti-government for the right reasons. Anyone who questions the status quo becomes the enemy regardless of their motives or logic. By demonizing the idea of being anti-government, the establishment manipulates the public into assuming that all government by extension is good, or at least necessary, when the facts actually suggest that most government is neither good or necessary.
False Assertion: The negative connotations surrounding the anti-government stance also suggest that anyone who defends themselves or their principles against government tyranny, whether rationally justified or not, is an evil person. Just look at how Washington D.C. has treated Edward Snowden. Numerous political elites have suggested trying the whistle-blower for treason, or assassinating him outright without due process, even though Snowden’s only crime was to expose the criminal mass surveillance of the American people by the government itself. Rather than apologizing for their corruption, the government would rather destroy anyone who exposes the truth.
False Shame: Does government criminality call for behavior like that allegedly taken by Paul Ciancia? His particular action was not morally honorable or even effective. It helped the establishment’s position instead of hurting it, and was apparently driven more by personal psychological turmoil rather than political affiliation. But, would it be wrong for morally sound and rational Americans facing imminent despotism within government to physically fight back? Would it be wrong to enter into combat with a totalitarian system? The Founding Fathers did, but only after they had exhausted all other avenues, and only after they had broken away from dependence on the system they had sought to fight. Being anti-government does not mean one is a violent and dangerous person. It does mean, though, that there will come a point at which we will not allow government to further erode our freedoms. We will not and should not feel shame in making that stand.
I do not agree with every element of the “anti-government” ethos that exists in our era, but I do see the vast majority of reasons behind it as legitimate. If the establishment really desired to quell the quickly growing anti-government methodology, then they would stop committing Constitutional atrocities and stop giving the public so many causes to hate them. If they continue with their vicious bid to erase civil liberties, dominate the citizenry through fear and intimidation and steal and murder in our name, then our response will inevitably be “anti-government”, and we will inevitably move to end the system as we know it.
Source: Brandon Smith | Alt-Market
In 2009, Jim Rickards, a lawyer, investment banker and adviser on capital markets to the Director of National Intelligence and the Office of the Secretary of Defense, participated in a secret war game sponsored by the Pentagon at the Applied Physics Laboratory (APL). The game’s objective was to simulate and explore the potential outcomes and effects of a global financial war. At the end of the war game, the Pentagon concluded that the U.S. dollar was at extreme risk of devaluation and collapse in the near term, triggered either by a default of the U.S. Treasury and the dumping of bonds by foreign investors or by hyperinflation by the private Federal Reserve.
These revelations, later exposed by Rickards, were interesting not because they were “new” or “shocking.” Rather, they were interesting because many of us in the field of alternative economics had ALREADY predicted the same outcome for the American financial system years before the APL decided to entertain the notion. At least, that is what the public record indicates.
The idea that our government has indeed run economic collapse scenarios, found the United States in mortal danger, and done absolutely nothing to fix the problem is bad enough. I have my doubts, however, that the Pentagon or partnered private think tanks like the RAND Corporation did not run scenarios on dollar collapse long before 2009. In fact, I believe there is much evidence to suggest that the military industrial complex has not only been aware of the fiscal weaknesses of the U.S. system for decades, but they have also been actively engaged in exploiting those weaknesses in order to manipulate the American public with fears of cultural catastrophe.
History teaches us that most economic crisis events are followed or preceded immediately by international or domestic conflict. War is the looming shadow behind nearly all fiscal disasters. I suspect that numerous corporate think tanks and the Department Of Defense are perfectly aware of this relationship and have war gamed such events as well. Internal strife and civil war are often natural side effects of economic despair within any population.
Has a second civil war been “gamed” by our government? And are Americans being swindled into fighting and killing each other while the banksters who created the mess observe at their leisure, waiting until the dust settles to return to the scene and collect their prize? Here are some examples of how both sides of the false left/right paradigm are being goaded into turning on each other.
Conservatives: Taunting The Resting Lion
Conservatives, especially Constitutional conservatives, are the warrior class of American society. The average conservative is far more likely to own a firearm, have extensive tactical training with that firearm, have military experience and have less psychological fear of conflict; and he is more apt to take independent physical action in the face of an immediate threat. Constitutional conservatives are also more likely to fight based on principal and heritage, rather than personal gain, and less likely to get wrapped up in the madness of mob activity.
What’s the greatest weakness of conservatives? It’s their tendency to entertain leadership by men who claim exceptional warrior status, even if those men are not necessarily honorable.
Constitutional conservatives are the most substantial existing threat to the establishment hierarchy because, unlike dissenting groups of the past, we know exactly who the guiding hand is behind economic and social calamity. In response, the overall conservative culture has come under relentless attack by the establishment using the Administration of Barack Obama as a middleman. The goal, I believe, is to misdirect conservative rage toward the Democratic left and away from the elites. The actions of the White House have become so absurd and so openly hostile as of late that I can only surmise that this is a deliberate strategy to lure conservatives into ill-conceived retaliation against a puppet government, rather than the men behind the curtain.
Department of Defense propaganda briefings with military personnel have been exposed. These briefings train current serving soldiers to view Tea Party conservatives and even Christian organizations as “dangerous extremists.” Reports from sources within Fort Hood andFort Shelby confirm this trend.
The DOD has denied some of the allegations or claimed that it has “corrected” the problem; however, Judicial Watch has obtained official training documents through a Freedom of Information Act request that affirm that extremist profiling is an integral part of these military briefings. The documents also cite none other than the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as a primary resource for the training classes. The SPLC is nothing more than an outsourced propaganda wing for the DHS that attacks Constitutional organizations and associates them with terrorist and racist groups on a regular basis. (Check pages 32-33.)
This indoctrination program has accelerated since January 2013, after Professor Arie Perliger, a member of a West Point think tank called Combating Terrorism Center (and according to the sparse biographical information available, a man with NO previous U.S. military experience), published and circulated a report called “Challengers From The Sidelines: Understanding America’s Violent Far Right” at West Point. The report classified “far right extremists” as “domestic enemies” who commonly “espouse strong convictions regarding the federal government , believing it to be corrupt and tyrannical, with a natural tendency to intrude on individuals’ civil and constitutional right.” The profile goes on to list supporting belief in “civil activism, individual freedoms, and self government” as the dastardly traits of evil extremists.
Soldiers have been told that associating with “far right extremist groups” could be used as grounds for court-martial. A general purge of associated symbolism has ensued, including new orders handed down to Navy SEALs that demand that operators remove the “Don’t Tread On Me” Navy Jack patch from their uniforms.
The indoctrination of the military also follows on the heels of a massive media campaign to demonize Constitutional conservatives who fought against Obamacare in the latest debt ceiling debate as “domestic enemies” and “terrorists.” I documented this in my recent article “Are Constitutional Conservatives Really the Boogeyman?”
Obama and his ilk have been caught red-handed in numerous conspiracies, including Fast and Furious, which shipped American arms through the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives into the hands of Mexican drug cartels. And how about the exposure of the IRS using its bureaucracy as a weapon to harass Tea Party organizations and activists? And what about Benghazi, Libya, the terrorist attack that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton allowed to happen, if they didn’t directly order it to happen? And let’s not forget about the Edward Snowden revelations, which finally made Americans understand that mass surveillance of our population is a constant reality.
To add icing to the cake, a new book called Double Down, which chronicles the Obama campaign of 2012, quotes personal aides to the President who relate that Obama, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, when discussing his use of drone strikes, bragged that he was “really good at killing people.”
Now, my question is, why would the Obama Administration make so many “mistakes,” attack conservatives with such a lack of subtlety, and attempt to openly propagandize rank-and-file soldiers, many of whom identify with conservative values? Is it all just insane hubris, or is he serving his handlers by trying to purposely create a volatile response?
Liberals: Taking Away The Cookie Jar
Many on the so-called “left” are socially oriented and find solace in the functions of the group, rather than individualism. They seek safety in administration, centralization and government welfare. Wealth is frowned upon, while “redistribution” of wealth is cheered. They see government as necessary to the daily survival of the nation, and they work to expand Federal influence into all facets of life. Some liberals do this out of a desire to elevate the poverty-stricken and ensure certain educational standards. However, they tend to ignore the homogenizing effect this strategy has on society, making everyone equally destitute and equally stupid. Their faith in government subsidies also makes them vulnerable to funding cuts and reductions in entitlements. The left normally fights only when their standard of living and comfort to which they have grown accustomed plummets below a certain threshold, and mob methods are usually their fallback form of retaliation.
Austerity cuts, which the mainstream media calls the “sequester,” are beginning to take effect. But, they are being applied in areas that are clearly meant to create the most public anger. Reductions in welfare programs are also being implemented in a way that will certainly agitate average left-leaning citizens. The debt debate itself revolved around those who want the government to spend within its means versus those who want the government to spend even more on welfare programs no matter the consequence. The loss of subsidies is at bottom the greatest fear of the left.
A sudden and inexplicable shutdown of electronic benefit transfer cards (EBT cards or food stamps) occurred in more than 17 States while the debt debate just happened to be climaxing. This month, cuts to existing food stamp funds have taken effect, and food pantries across the country are scrambling against a sharp spike in demand.
Remember, about 50 million Americans are currently dependent on EBT welfare in order to feed themselves and their families. The response to the relatively short EBT shutdown last month was outright fury. Imagine the response in the event of a long-term shutdown, or if extraneous cuts were to occur? And where would that anger be directed? Since the entire debt debacle has been blamed on the Tea Party, I suspect conservatives will be the main target of welfare mobs.
The left, once just as opposed to government stimulus and banker bailouts as the right, is now unwittingly throwing its support behind infinite stimulus in order to cement the continued existence of precious Federal handouts. The issue of Obamacare has utterly blinded liberals to fiscal responsibility. Universal healthcare, perhaps the ultimate Federal handout, is a prize too titillating for them to ignore. Democrats will now go to incredible lengths to defend the Obama White House regardless of past crimes.
They are willing to ignore his offenses against the 4th Amendment and personal privacy. They are willing to look past his offenses against the 1st Amendment, including the Constitutional right to trial by jury for all Americans, and Obama’s secret war against the free speech of whistle-blowers. They are willing to shrug off his endless warmongering in the Mideast, his attempts to foment new war in Syria and Iran, and his support for predator drone strikes in sovereign nations causing severe civilian collateral damage. They are willing to forget Snowden, mass surveillance and executive assassination lists — all for Obamacare.
And the saddest thing of all? It is likely that Obamacare was never meant to be successful in the first place.
Does anyone really believe that the White House, with billions of dollars at its disposal, could not get a website off the ground if it really wanted to? Does anyone really believe that Obama would launch the crowning jewel of his Presidency without making certain that it was fully operational, unless this was part of a greater scheme? And how about his promise that pre-existing health care plans would not be destroyed by Obamacare mandates? Over 900,000 people in the state of California alone are about to lose their health care insurance due to the Affordable Healthcare Act. Why would Obama go back on such a vital pledge unless he WANTED to piss off constituents?
Already, liberal websites and forums across the blogosphere are abuzz with talk of sabotage of the Obamacare website by “the radical right” and the diabolical Koch Brothers (liberals had no idea who they were a year ago, but now, they the go to scapegoat for everything). Once again, conservatives are presented as the culprits behind all the left’s troubles.
As I have stated in the past, Obamacare is designed to fail. The government has no capacity to fund it, and never will. Its only conceivable purpose is to further divide the country and excite both sides of the false paradigm into attacking each other as the reason the system is failing, when both sides should be questioning whether the current system should exist at all.
As the situation stands today, at least 50 million welfare recipients and who knows how many others exist as a resource pool for the establishment to be used to wreak havoc on the rest of us. All they have to do is take away the cookie jar.
Who Would Win?
Who would prevail in a second American civil war? Tactically speaking, conservatives have the upper hand and are far better prepared. Food rioters wouldn’t last beyond three to six weeks as starvation takes its toll, and mindless mobs would not last long against seasoned riflemen. The military, though suffering purges by the White House, still contains numerous conservatives within its ranks. Outside influences, including NATO or the United Nations, are a possibility. There are numerous factors to consider. But I would point out that the most dangerous adversary Constitutional conservatives face is not the left, Obama, or a Federal government gone rogue. Rather, our greatest adversary is ourselves.
If lured into a left/right civil war, would most conservatives be able to see beyond the veil and recognize that the fight is not about Obama, or the Left, or tyrannical government alone? Could we be co-opted by devious influences disguised as friends and compatriots? Will we end up following neocon salesmen and military elites who materialize out of the woodwork at the last minute to “lead us to victory” while actually leading us towards globalization with a slightly different face?
If a civil conflict has been war gamed by the establishment, you can bet they have contingency plans regardless of which side attains the upper hand. In the end, if we do not make the fight about the bankers and globalists, the Federal Reserve, the International Monetary Fund, the Council On Foreign Relations, etc., then everyone loses. Who wins in a new American civil war? If we become blinded by the trespasses of a certain White House jester, only the globalists will win.
Source: Brandon Smith | Alt-Market
Millions around the world today are hoping the US federal government shuts down at midnight on Monday. Many have thoughts of wars and occupations ending in their regions… but, sadly, this is not part of the “services” that will be cut during a shutdown.
In fact, not only will the Department of Offense continue on as usual but so will all the tyrannical agencies such as the DEA, IRS, ATF, CIA and countless other alphabet soup agencies of oppression.
What will “shut down”? According to CNN these are the Top 10 Ways A Government Shutdown Would Affect Your Daily Life:
1. I’m Proud To Be An American. According to CNN, “the biggest hit would be to the collective psyche. America is the largest economy in the world and a beacon for how democracy ought to work”. It is sad if even one person in the US has their “psyche” hurt because of this! It is sad how many people in the US now consider their country/region and the government that rules it as being one in the same. Not to mention that the US was never designed to be a democracy… it was set-up as a Republic and all the founding fathers spoke very warily against any sort of democracy. Democracy, fundamentally, is mob rule and anti-freedom. It is the tyranny of the majority against the minority.
2. Anything Dirty or Dingy or Dusty. It is unbelievable that this #2 reason from CNN warns people of how dramatically their lives will be affected if the federal government shuts down (and this after #1 was that it might hurt their “psyche”). It goes on to say that the only region in the entire country where trash pickup may stop in the event of a shutdown is in Washington, District of Criminals. Hardly a national disaster! And, not to mention, that if that really were the case, free market private enterprise would spring up, like in Detroit, and people would actually have good options for waste disposal rather than a communist style, centrally planned garbage pickup.
3. Money. According to CNN, if you need a loan from the government, you won’t be able to get it in event of a shut down. Good! If you are such a credit risk that no one in private enterprise will lend you money then, definitely, the government shouldn’t lend you the money they stole from the innocent victims in their tax farm! They also mention that Socialist InSecurity (SS) cheques may stop coming. This is often one of the first things the government tries to scare people with, as Barack Obama did in 2011, during the last event of this type. Why? Because old people vote in much greater numbers than younger people and scaring them with threats of withheld money works. What should really scare them is that both the US government and its SS Ponzi scheme is bankrupt.
4. Ammunition. According to CNN, “A shutdown would affect the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Translation: That gun permit you wanted processed wouldn’t happen anytime soon”. The ATF shutting down would be a wonderful thing. So sad in the “land of the free” that one of the biggest threats to a government shutdown is that you may not get permission from the government to have a gun!
5. Drugs. According to CNN, “The Republicans want to defund Obamacare in exchange for funding the government. But the health care act at the center of this storm would continue its implementation process during a shutdown. That’s because its funds aren’t dependent on the congressional budget process”. CNN is really reaching to find 10 ways this shut down will affect people when they explicitly state that #5 won’t affect drugs or Obamacare!
6. The Mail. CNN is really running out of ideas now that they have to bring up the post office, that bankrupt, antiquated, 1800s style of delivering information that the internet, FedEx and UPS rendered it obsolete decades ago. Oh, but here CNN again let’s us know that even that embarrassing anachronism won’t actually shut down! “You know that whole ‘Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night’ thing? Apparently, the U.S. Postal Service works through shutdowns as well.”
7. The Roads! Muh Roads! For the third time in a row CNN says this will be unaffected (what was the point of this list again?). They pitch this one as, “If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street” as though to lead you into thinking the roads will close without the federal government, but then they don’t mention roads again. Here’s what they had to say on it, “You may be thinking, ‘No functioning government, no need to pay taxes.’ Think again. The Man would continue to collect taxes. U.S. bonds would still be issued. And other essential banking functions would go on”. So, here is another one that won’t affect you, unfortunately. You still have to pay extortion to the federal government, even if they are “shut down”.
8. The Military. CNN says, “The good news (for you) is that the men and women in uniform would continue to keep you safe. “… okay, that’s four in a row that won’t affect people on a list of 10 ways the shut down will affect you! Instead it is the usual propaganda trying to make people feel like the US military “protects” Americans.
9. Celebrate! Seriously, this is #9 on the list. Here’s what they said, “Don’t come to work if you’re a federal employee. You’re on furlough. (Offer not valid for workers in ‘critical services,’ such as air traffic controllers, hazardous waste handlers and food inspectors.) Do take some time to celebrate. In previous shutdowns, everyone who stayed home was paid retroactively after peace returned to Washington”. So, the shutdown is a good thing because millions of federal government employees get a free vacation that will be paid by Americans who will be paying for them to do nothing.
10. National Parks. According to CNN, “Need to get away? Well, you can’t. At least not to national parks. Or to national zoos. Or to national museums. They’d all be closed. That’s 368 National Park Service sites closed, millions of visitors turned away. Were you thinking more along the lines of a trip to France? If you don’t already have a passport, you might have to bid that adieu — you might not get your blue book in time. The last time the government threw a hissy fit, 200,000 applications for passports went unprocessed. Tourism and airline revenues reeled”. So, some parks may be shuttered and your permission to travel may be withheld.
That’s it? That’s the best that CNN can come up with on how a potential government shutdown will affect people? Your psyche may get hurt (if you had a delusional belief in the US government being the same as yourself); there may not be garbage collection in Washington, Den of Criminals; you won’t be able to get a federal loan and you may not get permission from the government to have a gun or travel.
And this is what has the mainstream media talking about non-stop?
Of course, if the Federal Reserve did not print the money (QE2Infinity) to keep the US government going with over a $1 trillion deficit per year, 90% plus of what the government does would come to an immediate halt. Then there would be countless very serious things that would “affect your life”. Anyone depending on food stamps (which is now over 50 million people), anyone depending on SS to survive would definitely be affected as there’d be no money to pay them. And, not to mention, every bank in the US would be insolvent and all depositor’s money would be lost as the FDIC is also bankrupt.
But, we aren’t betting on that ever happening. This is democracy, after all. And that means keeping the debts and new money flowing until the economic system collapses as the printing of money causes the eventual demise of the dollar and The End Of The Monetary System As We Know It (TEOTMSAWKI).
This system is now down to two options: massive debt default or massive inflation and neither is particularly good for anyone living in the US. Every major government or empire in history when faced with those two options chose to continue printing money until the currency collapsed.
In either case, what is happening today is nothing compared to what is going to happen. Use this time to prepare and get your assets, and if you can, even your own ass outside of what will be ground zero for this economic collapse, the US.
We talk about all the ways to do that at the TDV newsletter including things like putting your IRA into a self-directed IRA and getting the assets internationalized (into precious metals offshore – like we talk about in Getting Your Gold Out Of Dodge – and foreign real estate like Galt’s Gulch in Chile), getting offshore bank accounts and set-up with an offshore corporation for your business endeavors (TDV Offshore), getting a foreign residency or passport (TDV Passports) and, if you have assets over $1 million, using TDV Wealth Management to get the assets safely outside of the blast radius.
What is going on in Washington, DC, today could mean postponing a trip to Yellowstone national park or having delayed garbage pickup in DC itself. What is coming in the next few months and years has the potential to destroy all your assets and leave you devoid of any way of earning income as the economy is totally destroyed by a currency collapse.
The best case scenario for the populace of the US in the long run is for a complete shutdown of the US federal government… But, that collapse is going to be messy and a lot of people are going to get hurt in the short term during that collapse.
Anarcho-Capitalist. Libertarian. Freedom fighter against mankind’s two biggest enemies, the State and the Central Banks. Jeff Berwick is the founder of The Dollar Vigilante, CEO of TDV Media & Services and host of the popular video podcast, Anarchast. Jeff is a prominent speaker at many of the world’s freedom, investment and gold conferences as well as regularly in the media including CNBC, CNN and Fox Business.
Source: Jeff Berwick | The Dollar Vigilante
Edward Joseph Snowden follows a noble tradition. Others before him established it. Daniel Ellsberg called his NSA leak the most important in US history. More on him below.
Expressions of patriotism can reflect good or ill. Samuel Johnson said it’s the last refuge of a scoundrel. Thomas Paine called dissent its highest form. So did Howard Zinn.
According to Machiavelli:
“When the safety of one’s country wholly depends on the decision to be taken, no attention should be paid either to justice or injustice, to kindness or cruelty, or to its being praiseworthy or ignominious.”
“In our day the feeling of patriotism is an unnatural, irrational, and harmful feeling, and a cause of a great part of the ills from which mankind is suffering; and consequently, this feeling should not be cultivated, as is now being done, but should, on the contrary, be suppressed and eradicated by all means available to rational men.”
Philosophy Professor Stephen Nathanson believes patriotism involves:
special affection for one’s own country;
a sense of personal identification with the country;
special concern for the well-being of the country; and
willingness to sacrifice to promote the country’s good.
Socrates once said:
“Patriotism does not require one to agree with everything that his country does, and would actually promote analytical questioning in a quest to make the country the best it possibly can be.”
The best involves strict adherence to the highest legal, ethical and moral standards. Upholding universal civil and human rights is fundamental. So is government of, by and for everyone equitably. Openness, accountability and candor can’t be compromised.
When governments ill-serve, exposing wrongdoing is vital. It takes courage to do so. It involves sacrificing for the greater good. It includes risking personal harm and welfare. It means doing what’s right because it matters. It reflects patriotism’s highest form.
Daniel Ellsberg, Bradley Manning and Julian Assange are best known. So is Mordechai Vanunu. More on him below. Few remember Peter Buxtun. He’s a former US Public Health Service employee.
He exposed the Tuskegee syphilis experiment. About 200 Black men were infected. It was done to watch their progression. They were left to die untreated. Whistleblowing stopped further harm.
A. Ernest Fitzgerald held senior government positions. In 1368, he exposed a $2.3 billion Lockheed C-5 cost overrun. At issue was fraud and grand theft. Nixon told aides to “get rid of that son of a bitch.”
Defense Secretary Melvin Laird fired him. Fitzgerald was a driving force for whistleblower protections. He fought for decades against fraud, waste and abuse. He helped get the 1378 Civil Reform Act and 1389 Whistleblower Protection Act enacted.
Gregory Minor, Richard Hubbard and Dale Bridenbaugh are called the GE three. They revealed nuclear safety concerns. So did Arnold Gundersen, David Lochbaum and others. At issue then and now is public safety over profits.
Mordechai Vanunu was an Israeli nuclear technician. He exposed Israel’s secret nuclear weapons program. He paid dearly for doing so.
He was charged with espionage and treason. In 1386/87, he was secretly tried and sentenced. He was imprisoned for 18 years. He was confined in brutalizing isolation. He’s been harassed and deprived of most rights since.
Daniel Ellsberg called him “the preeminent hero of the nuclear era.” In July 2007, Amnesty International (AI) named him “a prisoner of conscience.” He received multiple Nobel Peace Prize nominations.
Vanunu said “I am neither a traitor nor a spy. I only wanted the world to know what was happening.” People have every right to know.
Mark Whitacre was an Archer Daniels Midland senior executive. He exposed price-fixing, wire and tax fraud, as well as money laundering.
He had his own cross to bear. He was prosecuted and imprisoned. He lost his whistleblower immunity. After eight and a half years, he was released on good behavior.
Jeffrey Wigand was Brown & Williamson’s research and development vice president. He went public on 60 Minutes. He exposed deceptive company practices. He was fired for doing so.
B & W enhanced cigarette nicotine content. It was done without public knowledge. At issue was increasing addiction. Wigand told all. He received death threats for doing so. He now lectures worldwide and consults on tobacco control policies.
Gary Webb was an award-winning American journalist. His investigative work exposed CIA involvement in drugs trafficking. His book “Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion” told what he knew.
New York Times, Washington Post, and other media scoundrels assailed him. They did so wrongfully and viciously. Then and now they support CIA crimes. They abhor truth and full disclosure. They ruined Webb’s career. They did so maliciously.
In December 2004, Webb was found dead at home. He died of two gunshot wounds to the head. Reports called it suicide. Critics believe otherwise. Two wounds suggest murder. Doing the right thing involves great risks. Webb paid with his life.
Swiss lawyer Marc Hodler was International Ski Federation president and International Olympic Committee member.
In 1398, he exposed 2002 Salt Lake City winter games bid-rigging. Olympism profiteering, exploitation and corruption is longstanding.
Deceptive hyperbole promotes good will, open competition, and fair play. Olympism’s dark side reflects marginalizing poor and other disenfranchised groups, exploiting athletes and communities, as well as sticking taxpayers with the bill for profit.
Harry Markopolos exposed Bernie Madoff’s hedge fund operations. He called them fraudulent. He obtained information firsthand. He got them from fund-of-fund Madoff investors and heads of Wall Street equity derivative trading desks.
He accused Madoff of operating “the world’s largest Ponzi scheme.” Large perhaps but not the largest.
Wall Street firms make money the old fashioned way. They steal it. They do so through fraud, grand theft, market manipulation and front-running. They scam investors unaccountably. They bribe corrupt political officials. In return, they turn a blind eye.
Compared to major Wall Street crooks, Madoff was small-time. Others mattering most control America’s money. They manipulate it fraudulently for profit.
Coleen Rowley’s a former FBI agent. She documented pre-9/11 Agency failures. She addressed them to Director Robert Mueller. She explained in Senate Judiciary Committee testimony. She now writes and lectures on ethical decision-making, civil liberty concerns, and effective investigative practices.
Joseph Wilson’s a former US ambassador. He exposed Bush administration lies. He headlined a New York Times op-ed “What I Didn’t Find in Africa.”
“Did the Bush administration manipulate intelligence about Saddam Hussein’s weapons programs to justify an invasion of Iraq,” he asked?
“Based on my experience with the administration in the months leading up to the war, I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq’s nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.”
Bush administration officials accused Wilson of twisting the truth. So did Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and other scoundrel media editors. They front for power. Wilson explained what people have a right to know. He was unjustifiably pilloried for doing so.
Wendell Potter was a senior CIGNA insurance company executive. He explained how heathcare insurers scam policyholders. They shift costs to consumers, offer inadequate or unaffordable access, and force Americans to pay higher deductibles for less coverage.
Sibel Edmonds is a former FBI translator. She founded the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition (NSWBC). She did so to aid “national security whistleblowers through a variety of methods.”
The ACLU called her “the most gagged person in the history of the United States.” She knows firsthand the consequences of secret, unaccountable government operations.
Her memoir is titled “Classified Woman: the Sibel Edmonds Story.”
Previous articles discussed Mark Klein. He’s a former AT&T employee turned whistleblower. He revealed blueprints and photographs of NSA’s secret room inside the company’s San Francisco facility. It permits spying on AT&T customers.
Karen Kwiatkowski’s a retired US Air Force lieutenant colonel. She exposed Defense Department misinformation and lies. She discussed how doing so drove America to war.
Ann Wright’s a former US Army colonel/State Department official. In 1397, she won an agency award for heroism.
She’s more anti-war/human rights activist/person of conscience than whistleblower. In 2003, she resigned from government service. She did so in protest against war on Iraq.
Edward Joseph Snowden continues a noble tradition. On June 8, London’s Guardian headlined ”Edward Snowden, NSA whistleblower: ‘I do not expect to see home again.’ ”
He leaked information to The Guardian and Washington Post. He exposed unconstitutional NSA spying. He served as an undercover intelligence employee.
Asked why he turned whistleblower, he said:
“The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything. With this capability, the vast majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting.”
“If I wanted to see your emails or your wife’s phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your emails, passwords, phone records, credit cards.”
“I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things.”
“I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under.”
NSA spies globally, he said. Claims about only doing it abroad don’t wash. “We collect more digital communications from America than we do from the Russians,” he said.
Previous articles said NSA works with all major US telecom companies. They do so with nine or more major online ones. They spy on virtually all Americans.
They target everyone they want to globally. NSA capabilities are “horrifying,” said Snowden. “You are not even aware of what is possible.”
“We can plant bugs in machines. Once you go on the network, I can identify (it). You will never be safe whatever protections you put in place.”
Asked what he thought might happen to him, he said “Nothing good.”
He left America. He moved to Hong Kong. He fled for his safety. He knows he can’t hide. If US authorities want him targeted, they’ll act no-holds-barred.
If they want him arrested, they’ll find him. If they want him disappeared, imprisoned and tortured, he’s defenseless to stop them. It they want him dead, they’ll murder him. Rogue states operate that way. America’s by far the worst.
DNI head James Clapper accused Snowden of “violat(ing) a sacred trust for this countryâ¤|.I hope we’re able to track whoever is doing this,” he said.
These type comments expose America’s dark side. So does unconstitutional NSA spying and much more. Washington flagrantly violates fundamental rule of law principles. It does so ruthlessly. At stake is humanity’s survival.
Snowden fears recrimination against his family, friends and partner. He’ll “have to live with that for the rest of (his) life,” he said.
“I am not going to be able to communicate with them. (US authorities) will act aggressively against anyone who has known me. That keeps me up at night.”
Asked what leaked NSA documents reveal, he said:
“That the NSA routinely lies in response to congressional inquiries about the scope of surveillance in America.”
America “hacks everyone everywhere.” he said. “(W)e are in almost every country in the world.”
“Everyone, everywhere now understands how bad things have gotten – and they’re talking about it.”
On June 9, London Guardian editors headlined ”Edward Snowden: more conscientious objector than common thief,” saying:
What’s next is certain. US authorities “will pursue Snowden to the ends of the earth.” America’s “legal and diplomatic machinery is probably unstoppable.”
Congress should eagerly want to hear what Snowden has to say, said Guardian editors. They should “test the truth of what he is saying.”
They know full well. Many or perhaps most congressional members are fully briefed on what goes on. They’re condone it. So do administration and judicial officials.
Obama could stop it with a stroke of his pen. So can congressional lawmakers. Supreme Court justices could uphold the law.
Lawlessness persists. Moral cowardice pervades Washington. America’s dark side threatens everyone. There’s no place to hide.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
The most amazing thing I learned on my first safari trip in South Africa is that elephants have the most incredible, very long black eyelashes. Second, lions could not care less about nearby trucks and people, nor lights at night. Third, though giraffes seem to walk slow and gracefully, their legs are so long that they cover long distances very quickly.
When it comes to the political world, I was dismayed to learn that the illiteracy rate among South Africans exceeds 70 percent, 60 percent of school teachers lack a college degree, only 10 percent pay income tax, the public health care system is abysmal, virtually every house is surrounded by an electrified security barrier, and though apartheid is formally and legally gone the small white population at about 10 percent still rules the economy. Nelson Mandela is universally revered, almost closer to a deity than a political leader; his image and name are ubiquitous. Sadly, there is no one in the South African system with similar public respect and capability to help the country solve its severe root problems.
Countless people from all over the globe book African safari tours because of the widespread desire to see exotic, beautiful animals in their native habitat. I can attest as someone who has traveled very widely internationally for decades that taking a safari vacation is one of the best, most rewarding things a tourist can do. I want to share some things I have learned from my recent trip that can help others make good decisions, because these safari tours are pretty expensive. The toughest decision is what tour company to select of the great many in the market.
A critically important issue is how many game drives you actually get, usually one in the early morning and one in the evening at safari lodges. These drives in specially designed vehicles usually last for three hours or more and can be very rough rides over dirt roads and sometimes directly into the bush landscape. Each vehicle has a ranger who drives and provides information continuously to usually four to six guests in the vehicle. He also has a rifle that is always at hand, just for that remote possibility of an animal charging people. Check out this reference for general information on safari trips.
Up front on a special seat sits a tracker who, in the daylight, is continuously examining the ground for evidence of specific animals. At night the tracker continuously directs a large flashlight into the bush to spot the eyes of animals. It is truly amazing how the trackers actually locate various animals, including lions, elephants, leopards, rhinos, giraffes and many more so that guests can get up close to magnificent creatures.
On my tour there were blankets for passengers because of the chill in the morning and nighttime hours. In the morning there was also a much appreciated hot water bottle. Midway during the drives drinks and snacks are served. Upon return from drives there is a sumptuous breakfast and dinner.
Everything is done to make it easy for people to take pictures of the wildlife, often getting extremely close to the animals. Most people take many hundreds of photos on these trips.
For months my wife and I researched a great many African safari tours and finally selected the Tauck company and its South Africa: An Elegant Adventure tour; it offered eight animal drives in two different safari areas in Kruger Park; and the itinerary included seeing more than just wildlife in safari regions, including Cape Town and surrounding areas as well as Johannesburg and Victoria Falls. Second, we had the distinct impression that it would be a luxury tour with true first class hotels and other amenities. Other tours at lower cost, perhaps half as much, mean roughing it and this may appeal to many people.
Let me emphasize that we absolutely loved our trip just as everyone else we met while traveling who were on different tours, mostly because of so many wonderful experiences seeing all the animals in glorious settings. Local guides and staff were excellent. Yet there were some disappointments. Of the five hotels the first three were wonderful five star hotels with great food and amenities, including the waterfront Cape Grace hotel in Cape Town, the best South African city, and the two safari lodges, Tinga and Sabi Sabi. But all the satisfaction of staying there set us up for disappointment.
The last two hotels did not live up to the Tauck reputation for elegant accommodations and supplying comfort to its clients. The rooms at the DaVinci hotel in Johannesburg were in the two star category, small, poorly designed and dysfunctional in many respects. The tour director upon hearing complaints justified the hotel on the basis of its location, the safe Sandton suburb with interconnected underground malls. But nearby was an Intercontinental hotel and the Saxon Boutique Hotel that would surely offer superior rooms. Whatever safari tour companies you consider, question them not only about what hotels or lodges they use but also what type rooms in them you will get; all too often tour companies like Tauck buy the cheapest rooms.
You definitely want to see Victoria Falls if you travel to Africa; they are truly electrifying. Boat rides along the Zambezi River that feeds the falls are usually included in tours; ours was wonderful, including close up views of an elephant and a hippo. But disappointing was the much acclaimed Victoria Fall Hotel. While the location, grounds, exterior and public rooms define a historic, elegant five star venue, nearly all the guest rooms were quite small with very old and drab furnishings and poor views. There are some very fine rooms which a few people on the tour got (including suites), which raises ethical questions why some people were better treated by Tauck. Our room was so awful with a thick smell of tobacco that we demanded and received a different room, which still was a one star accommodation. There are other hotels and lodges in the Victoria Falls area that merit consideration when researching possible safari tours, including The Kingdom, a modern hotel, and the luxury Royal Livingstone Hotel. If you go to the falls, definitely go to the local market where artisans sell their goods; the variety and prices are just about the best we saw on our entire trip.
Tauck proclaims that it offers personalized service with each guest treated as an individual, with their own needs understood, and most safari tour companies also seem to promise this. However, we did not experience this. Unlike luxury, small ship cruises where the cruise director and other staff go out of their way to make you feel cared for, at no point did the Tauck tour director seek to discover whether or not we were fully satisfied and having all our needs satisfied. In particular, it was very disappointing that the tour director did not facilitate shopping at local artisan venues, especially in Victoria Falls. Lastly, there is a valid view that Tauck tours like other companies are relatively small group ones, but there were 31 people in our group, not exactly small and intimate. Pay close attention to any safari tour company with regard to group size.
Most important, give serious thought to going to Africa for a memorable safari tour. Though there are other countries where safari trips are highly praised, starting with South Africa and seeing some of its cities is a good choice, especially for people interested in politics and culture.
Freedom is a four-letter word. It’s fast disappearing. It’s an endangered species. Wealth, power and privilege alone matter. America’s war on terror priorities advance them.
International, constitutional and US statute laws are spurned. Rogue state ruthlessness replaced them. Boston’s unprecedented lockdown suggests what’s coming. It covered a two hundred square mile area. An important threshold was crossed.
Martial law terrorized city residents. Constitutional rights were suspended. Perhaps it was prelude to what’s coming. It can happen anywhere across America. It can show up nationwide.
Thousands of heavily armed militarized police, National Guard troops, FBI Swat teams, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives operatives, Drug Enforcement Administration agents, and perhaps other federal, state and local enforcers showed what full-blown tyranny looks like.
Defying public diktats risked arrest or getting shot. Helicopters hovered low over neighborhoods. House-to-house searches ordered pajama-clad families outside.
Without probable cause, some were handcuffed and/or placed face down on sidewalks. Others were publicly strip-searched. Imagine what’s coming next time. Freedom in America’s on the chopping block for elimination.
What’s ongoing already includes:
• numerous police state laws;
• waging war on humanity;
• indefinite detentions without evidence, charges or trials;
• forced disappearances;
• targeted assassinations;
• torture and other forms of abuse;
• Big Brother surveillance;
• warrantless searches;
• other privacy invasions;
• false flag national security abuses;
• war on terror fear-mongering;
• military commission trials, including for US citizens;
• domestic military force deployments;
• secret FEMA concentration camps;
• racial profiling and persecution;
• militarized local police;
• criminalizing whistleblowers; and
• targeting non-believers for supporting right over wrong.
Tyranny isn’t in the eye of the beholder. It’s escalating in plane sight. It’s just a matter of time until it’s full-blown. Washington’s bipartisan criminal class plans it.
It’s hard-right, unbridled, reactionary, and pro-corporate. It’s anti-democratic, anti-dissent, anti-freedom, anti-civil and human rights, anti-social justice, anti-environmental sanity, and anti-government of, by and for everyone.
It’s dangerous living in America at the wrong time. Supporting right over wrong is threatened. Anyone can be targeted for any reason or none at all. Guilt by accusation is policy. Diktat authority has final say.
The National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms (NCPCF) includes national and local organizations. Its mission is:
“To educate the public about the erosion of civil and political freedoms in the society, and the abuses of prisoners within the US criminal justice system especially after 9/11, and to advocate for the preservation of those freedoms and to defend those rights according to the US Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its related UN Conventions, and the Geneva Conventions.”
Civil liberties are threatened, it warns. Public safety at the expense of freedom assures neither.
Post-9/11, thought crime prosecutions followed. Individuals and groups were targeted for “their beliefs, thoughts, or associations.”
Doing so violates constitutional protections. First Amendment freedoms are compromised. They’re fundamental. Without them, all others are at risk.
They include free speech, a free press, free thought, culture and intellectual inquiry, assembly, freedom to practice the religion of one’s choice, and to petition government for redress of grievances.
The Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC) “defend(s) the rule of law and rights and liberties challenged by overbroad national security and counter-terrorism policies.”
It “support(s) an ideologically, ethnically, geographically, and generationally diverse grassroots movement to protect and restore these principles by encouraging widespread civic participation; educating people about the significance of our rights; and cultivating grassroots networks to convert concern, outrage, and fear into debate and action.”
Its “Campaign for the Constitution” headlines: “Building a Movement. Restoring Rights. Reclaiming Our Constitution.” At issue is restoring lost rights. Bipartisan complicity compromised them en route to eliminating them altogether.
Rule of law protections “withered under warrantless surveillance, rampant racial and religious profiling, and torture – and even human experimentation – with impunity.”
The ACLU highlights lost digital age civil liberties. New technologies compromised existing protections. Post-9/11, they’ve undergone serious erosion.
Web site visits are tracked. Cell phones log our movements. Emails and social network communications are monitored and stored. Warrantless spying is policy.
“Things we once thought could only happen in far-away enemy states or distant dystopias are suddenly happening here in America” said ACLU.
Privacy laws haven’t kept up with technology. War on terror priorities matter most.
Protecting civil liberties in the digital age requires “ensur(ing) that expressive, associational, and privacy rights are strengthened rather than compromised by new technology.”
It’s also about “protect(ing) these core democratic rights against intrusive corporate and government practices that rely on new technology to invade these rights.”
They’re being systematically destroyed. According to the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), Washington “consistently (doesn’t) recognize the protections afforded by the US Constitution and international law, and in doing so, it has failed in its responsibility to maintain a democratic society that is both open to, and accountable to, the people.”
Government is shrouded in secrecy. Checks and balances no longer matter. Bill of Rights freedoms are fading. They’re fundamental in democratic societies.
War on terror priorities breached First, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendment freedoms. At issue are search and surveillance authority, indefinitely detaining citizens and non-citizens uncharged, and undermining free expression, due process, and equal protection.
Washington’s criminal class is bipartisan. Ahead expect much worse. Old time radio listeners recall a memorable Jack Benny skit. “Your money or your life,” a robber asked?
After a pause, he was asked again. He responded saying “I’m thinking it over.”
Today no one’s asked. It isn’t either-or. It’s both.
A Final Comment
Fixing America’s dysfunctional system demands fundamental change. It starts by reforming the nation’s sham electoral process. Throwing out bums assures new ones.
Both major parties are two sides of the same coin. Not a dime’s worth of difference separates them. Secrecy and back room deals substitute for a free, fair and open process. Duopoly power rules.
Party bosses chose candidates. Big money owns them. Voters have no say. They get the best democracy money can buy. It happens every time.
The entire process was constitutionally flawed by design. Over time, things got worse. Bipartisan politics serves serves wealth, power, and privilege. Popular interests go begging.
Money power runs America. It games the system. It does so destructively. Controlling money, credit and debt for private enrichment assures speculation, booms, busts, inflation, deflation, instability, crisis, recessions and depressions.
It assures transferring enormous amounts of wealth from ordinary people to corporate giants and super-rich elites already with too much.
Washington is Wall Street occupied territory. What financial giants want, they get. They’re waging financial war on humanity. They’re more powerful than standing armies.
Economies are strip-mined for profit. Communities are laid waste. Ordinary people are impoverished and left out. Vital needs go begging.
Money power in private hands and democracy can’t co-exist. Complicit politicians betray the public trust. They do so for benefits they derive.
Social injustice defines official policy. Class war rages more than ever. America’s on a fast track toward tyranny. Stopping it requires free, fair and open elections. It’s also about returning money to public hands where it belongs.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at email@example.com.
His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.
It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.
As any honest observer of the dire fiscal nature of U.S. budgets would conclude, the driving section of deficit expenditures are entitlements. The two areas, based upon predictable demographics, that scream out for rational and extensive surgery are Social Security and Medicare. The Obama administration has a long record of gutting Medicare as part of the Obama care malady that is transforming into a national plague as the detail regulations unfold. For a summary of reporting on the subject, review the media accounts on the Kaiser Health News. One of such analysis, found in the New York Times item, Obama Budget to Include Cuts to Programs in Hopes of Deal, identifies the smoke and mirrors modifications, designed to push the Medicare medical reimbursement into insolvency.
“Mr. Obama’s budget will propose a new inflation formula that would have the effect of reducing cost-of-living payments for Social Security benefits, though with financial protections for low-income and very old beneficiaries, administration officials said. The idea, known as chained C.P.I., has infuriated some Democrats and advocacy groups to Mr. Obama’s left, and they have already mobilized in opposition.
Mr. Obama will propose other spending and tax credit initiatives, including aid for states to make free prekindergarten education available nationwide — a priority outlined in his State of the Union address in February. He will propose to pay for it by raising federal taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products.
In Medicare, the savings would mostly come from payments to health care providers, including hospitals and pharmaceutical companies, but Mr. Obama also proposes that higher-income beneficiaries pay more for coverage.”
The mere notion that the Obama administration is submitting a budget at all may be news, but the devil is in the details, within the projected outline is expected. This political kabuki theatre gives little solace to the actuary process that crunches the numbers of an aging society.
The first acknowledgment out of the lack of a grand arrangement, cited by Money News in, Obama Proposes Cuts to Social Security, Medicare, calls for reductions in the growth of Social Security and other benefit programs.
“Administration officials have said Obama would only agree to the reductions in benefit programs if they are accompanied by increases in revenue, a difficult demand given the strong anti-tax sentiment of House Republicans.”
The glaring omission from this, and any discussion on Social Security and Medicare, is the need to revise eligibility and age admission criteria. The political psyche of the public is stuck on the myth that an entitlement society can be funded on a systemic shortfall of revenue. The perennial cry for just raising taxes on the rich is a fool’s gameand does harm by continually reinforcing the denial of inevitable reality, that services and programs must be dramatically curtailed or eliminated.
Much of the partisan banter and face-off skirts this underlying issue. Feeding this self-denial culture is an electorate and a population that has become comfortable consuming their “so called” free lunch diet. The fact that the eating habits of the majority attempt to digest the social programs off the government menu, without paying for the cost of the meal is inescapable.
The longevity of recent age brackets has caused a fiscal crisis that has only one outcome, namely, national bankruptcy without fundamental changes to such programs. Impoverishment of the younger generations to fund a mathematically impossible obligation is the key element missing from any rational discussion or debate.
The central transformation of medical institutions from a proprietary return on assets system to a not for profit reimbursement corporative would allow for major reductions in the costs of medical delivery services, while enhancing patient recovery. The elimination of bureaucratic defensive medicine, driven by the practice of fear from legal litigation is absent within Obama’s budget.
The assault on holistic medicine in favor of pharmaceutical drugs is a core reason why Medicare is a failed approach to health and wellbeing. Individual Americans are walking cadavers waiting for their expected stroke or heart attack. The diet of the average consumer of fast food drives up the tolls of medical treatment and should not become a public burden upon taxpayers that strive to achieve a healthy lifestyle.
While any form of a socialistic medical payer system guarantees a reduction in the quality of medical services, the Medicare program has a large constituency and lobby influence upon legislation and administration. Only a total breakdown in health care under the Obamacare formula, might offer the slightest opportunity to revamp the entire governmental run fiasco that has an inane disconnect between treatment and the cost of the service.
Social Security has become an unfunded ponzi scheme that in unsustainable as the work force declines. Cutting the rate of growth by a recalculation of the already shaded inflation statistics is the very definition of kicking the can down the road. This time that canister might just injure your toe to the point of needing medical assistance that is certainly not covered under The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.Postponing a dialogue on serious entitlement reform or preferably dramatic scale back is playing with national suicide. As the country dissolves into a more democratic frenzy, the addition of millions of more illegal immigrants will add gasoline to the fiscal inferno that is already burning out of control.
Regrettably, the will for an electoral resolution through the ballot box, when the voter has an insatiable desire to live off the tax payments of others, guarantees a day of reckoning. The eugenics outcome that leads to euthanasia acceptance certainly will not be one of the cuts in the federal budget.
The long path to nationwide insanity is paved with governmental programs that claim to help citizens, while pushing the fiscal burden unto the unborn, millions upon which are aborted. Money in government is like poison to a drug addict. In this case, the junkie does not die it only spends more. Good health demands rational behavior.
“The 20th century (was) characterized by three developments of great political importance: the growth of democracy, the growth of corporate power, and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy.”- Alex Carey
Recently, while at an event marking the 1,000th day of imprisonment for Bradley Manning, I began to ponder the long and storied role of propaganda that led up to his demonization and incarceration.
“A scientific method of managing behavior”
Given the unspeakable lessons learned from Joseph Goebbels and Nazi Germany, propaganda has long been a dirty word. But when public relations pioneer Edward Bernays got his start in the early 20th century, it was a word less charged but equally as potent. In fact, Bernays unabashedly named one of his books Propaganda.
“Edward Bernays was surely one of the most amazing and influential characters of the twentieth century,” explains PR watchdog, John Stauber. “He was a nephew of Sigmund Freud and helped to popularize Freudianism in the United States. Later, he used his relation to Freud to promote himself. And from his uncle’s psychoanalysis techniques, Bernays developed a scientific method of managing behavior, to which he gave the name ‘public relations.’”
The Vienna-born Bernays was heavily influenced, of course, by his uncle’s work, but it was in the service of war that he helped shape what we call “PR” today.
In what Stauber calls “perhaps the most effective job of large-scale war propaganda which the world has ever witnessed,” the Committee on Public Information, run by veteran newspaperman George Creel with the help of others like Bernays, used all available forms of media to promote the noble purpose behind World War I: To keep the world safe for democracy.
The average American was notoriously wary of any hint of their country entering the bloody conflict. As a result, men like Creel and Bernays were called upon to change some minds with some good old-fashioned propaganda and persuasion.
The Creel Committee (as it came to be known) was the first government agency for outright propaganda in U.S. history; it published 75 million books and pamphlets, had 250 paid employees, and mobilized 75,000 volunteer speakers known as “four minute men,” who delivered their pro-war messages in churches, theaters, and other places of civic gatherings.
The idea, of course, was to give the war effort a positive spin. To do so, the nation had to be convinced that doing their part to support global military conflict on a scale never before seen was indeed a good idea.
“It is not merely an army that we must train and shape for war,” President Woodrow Wilson declared at the time, “it is an entire nation.” The age of manipulated public opinion had begun in earnest.
Although Wilson won reelection in 1916 on a promise of peace, it wasn’t long before he severed diplomatic relations with Germany and proposed arming U.S. merchant ships — even without congressional authority. Upon declaring war on Germany in December 1917, the president proclaimed, “conformity will be the only virtue and any man who refuses to conform will have to pay the penalty.”
In time, the masses got the message as demonstrated by these (and other) results:
Fourteen states passed laws forbidding the teaching of the German language.
Iowa and South Dakota outlawed the use of German in public or on the telephone.
From coast to coast, German-language books were ceremonially burned.
The Philadelphia Symphony and the New York Metropolitan Opera Company excluded Beethoven, Wagner, and other German composers from their programs.
Irish-American newspapers were banned from the mails because Ireland opposed England — one of America’s allies — as a matter of principle.
German shepherds were renamed Alsatians.
Sauerkraut became known as “liberty cabbage.”
Buoyed by the indisputable success of the Creel Committee and armed with the powerful psychoanalytical techniques of his Uncle Sigmund, Bernays set about shaping American consciousness in a major way.
“Torches of Freedom”
“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society,” Bernays wrote in Propaganda. “Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of.”
Bernays’ vision had a dominant economic component. As described by Tim Adams of the London Observer, Bernays “thought that the safest way of maintaining democracy was to distract people from dangerous political thought by letting them think that their real choices were as consumers.”
A fine illustration of Bernays’ approach involves his efforts — for the American Tobacco Company — to persuade woman to take up cigarette smoking. His slogan, “Reach for a Lucky Instead of a Sweet,” exploited women’s fear about gaining weight (arguably a fear manufactured through previous advertising and/or public relations work).
While Lucky Strike sales increased by 300 percent in the first year of Bernays’ campaign, there was still one more barrier he needed to break down: smoking remained mostly taboo for “respectable” women.
This is where some watered-down Freud came in handy. As Bernays biographer Larry Tye said, he basically wanted to take his uncle’s works and “popularize them into little ditties that housewives and others could relate to.” With input from psychoanalyst A.A. Brill, Bernays conjured up the now legendary scheme to re-frame cigarettes as a symbol of freedom.
“During the 1929 Easter Parade,” explains New York Times reporter Ron Chernow, “he had a troupe of fashionable ladies flounce down Fifth Avenue, conspicuously puffing their ‘Torches of Freedom,’ as he had called cigarettes.”
As Chernow reports, Bernays augmented this successful stunt by lining up “neutral experts” to “applaud the benefits of smoking, all the while concealing the tobacco company’s sponsorship of his activity.”
Bernays was also concealing his knowledge of tobacco’s deleterious effects. “As he hypocritically seduced American women into smoking, he was trying to wean his own wife from the nasty habit,” Chernow continues.
His daughter Anne Bernays, the novelist, recalls that whenever he discovered a pack of his wife’s Parliaments, ‘he’d pull them all out and just snap them like bones, just snap them in half and throw them in the toilet. He hated her smoking.’”
“Insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny”
With the legislative ground made fertile by men like Bernays and Creel, the Espionage Act was passed in June 1917. It read in part:
“Whoever, when the United States is at war, shall willfully cause or attempt to cause insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, or refusal of duty in the military or naval forces of the United States, shall be punished by a fine of not more than $10,000 or imprisonment of not more than 20 years, or both.”
This act cast a wide net and, predictably, civil liberties were trampled. In Vermont, for example, a minister was sentenced to 15 years in prison for writing a pamphlet, distributed to five persons, in which he claimed that supporting the war was wrong for a Christian.
Perhaps the best-known target of the act was noted socialist Eugene V. Debs who, after visiting three fellow socialists in a prison in June 1918, spoke out across the street from the jail for two hours. He was arrested and found guilty, but, before sentencing, Debs famously told the judge:
“Your honor, years ago, I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it; while there is a criminal element, I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”
Eugene Debs remained in prison until 1921 and roughly 900 others also did time thanks to the Espionage Act.
While some of more controversial sections were repealed in 1921, the Espionage Act remains on the books today and has been used against, for example, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Daniel Ellsberg, and yes, Bradley Manning.
Never forget, comrades: This is what we’re up against.
NYC Event Note: To continue conversations like this, come see Mickey Z. in person on Mar. 19 in NYC for Occupy for All Species: Social Justice in the Age of Climate Change.
There are many forms of government subsidies. Ambitious politicians ingeniously design schemes to expand their power and repay their donor patrons. Opportunist corporate enterprises beg for favor to fund projects or guaranteed loans. The role of government venture capitalism has produced a much-sordid record for the taxpayer. The sheer concept of picking winners and losers is a pure political play that defies pragmatic prudence. In spite of this, actuality, the rush to squander public money is one of the few growth industries. The pitiful results of the predictable bankruptcy are the common fate of this flawed business model.
The latest outrage has Buyers Circle Around Ailing Fisker Automotive. Yet, some critics of this assessment would have you believe that Fisker Automotive is in a sharp contrast to competitor Tesla Motors.
“But the fact that potential buyers are from China is already raising alarms about Fisker, which raised $1.2 billion in venture capital and spent about $192 million in federal loans to build a factory. “Technology developed with American taxpayer subsidies should not be sold off to China,” Republican senator Charles Grassley told Bloomberg. He compared it to the acquisition of A123 Systems by China-based auto parts company Wanxiang Group.
By contrast, Tesla Motors, which also received a DOE loan to build its factory, is crossing into higher volume production. Yesterday, Tesla announced that it expects to be profitable this quarter and is making its Model S at a rate of 400 a month, which will allow it to hit its annual target and meet demand for the electric sedan. (See, Tesla’s Explosive Revenue Suggests a Bright Future.)
One crucial difference between Tesla and Fisker, which is well known for its bold designs, has been Tesla’s manufacturing expertise. Fisker may well still go public and be a successful EV supplier. But for energy-related startups to go the route of Tesla rather than Fisker, they’ll need innovative technology, access to capital, supportive policies, and great business execution.”
The Obama environmental cult would argue that it is largely appropriate to spend public resources to fund private technological businesses. Some will be successful while others will fail. However, the partnership role with government in this new state/capitalist prototype is necessary to achieve the greater good of a fossil free ecosystem. Expensive cars, not designed for the commuter, are now joint venture public finance missions, in order to curtail gas fumes.
Henry Ford is rolling in his grave and Enzo Ferrari is searching for the electric switch.
The notorious “Green” sector has vivid examples of bribery, theft, incompetence and high-priced inefficient technology. The Foundry publishes a most informative list ofPresident Obama’s Taxpayer-Backed Green Energy Failures. “So far, 34 companies that were offered federal support from taxpayers are faltering — either having gone bankrupt or laying off workers or heading for bankruptcy.” Examine the specific site links for expanded details.
|1. Evergreen Solar ($25 million)*||12. Abound Solar ($400 million)*||23. Thompson River Power ($6.5 million)*|
|2. SpectraWatt ($500,000)*||13. A123 Systems ($279 million)*||24. Stirling Energy Systems ($7 million)*|
|3. Solyndra ($535 million)*||14. Willard and Kelsey Solar Group ($700,981)*||25. Azure Dynamics ($5.4 million)*|
|4. Beacon Power ($43 million)*||15. Johnson Controls ($299 million)||26. GreenVolts ($500,000)|
|5. Nevada Geothermal ($98.5 million)||16. Brightsource ($1.6 billion)||27. Vestas ($50 million)|
|6. SunPower ($1.2 billion)||17. ECOtality ($126.2 million)||28. LG Chem’s subsidiary Compact Power ($151 million)|
|7. First Solar ($1.46 billion)||18. Raser Technologies ($33 million)*||29. Nordic Windpower ($16 million)*|
|8. Babcock and Brown ($178 million)||19. Energy Conversion Devices ($13.3 million)||30. Navistar ($39 million)|
|9. EnerDel’s subsidiary Ener1 ($118.5 million)*||20. Mountain Plaza, Inc. ($2 million)*||31. Satcon ($3 million)*|
|10. Amonix ($5.9 million)||21. Olsen’s Crop Service and Olsen’s Mills Acquisition Company ($10 million)*||32. Konarka Technologies Inc. ($20 million)*|
|11. Fisker Automotive ($529 million)||22. Range Fuels ($80 million)*||33. Mascoma Corp. ($100 million)|
Now expand the creativity of the subsidy culture to the bankruptcy constituency. The report, Union That Bankrupted Hostess to Receive Generous Government Subsidies, will push you over the edge.
“Last year, the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union refused to accept concessions that would have kept Hostess in business. The company had tried to cut costs as it faced high labor expenses, rising ingredient costs, and decreasing sales. The Teamsters union accepted the concessions, but the Bakery union would not, choosing to strike. Unable to continue operating, Hostess filed for bankruptcy.
Now those who helped bring down an American icon will receive generous, taxpayer-funded benefits from the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program. These generous benefits come in addition to existing unemployment insurance, job placement, and job training programs. TAA benefits include:
• Up to two years of job training in an approved training program,
• Up to 52 weeks of Trade Readjustment Allowances for workers in job training,
• Job search and relocation allowances,
• A refundable “health care tax credit” that covers 65 percent of a worker’s health insurance premiums in qualifying health plans, and
• A two-year wage insurance program that partly replaces workers’ earnings if they accept lower-paying jobs.”
The civic grant philosophy is not just for corporatists. Union goons prefer that their rank in file lose their livelihood, so that they can enjoy the welfare stipends of the state-run insolvent society. The prospects of a Mandarin logo on a Fisker vehicle are hardly on the same scale of transferring innovative technology to Cantonese creditors. However, the common practice of squandering national treasure for dubious purposes seems to be the primary product of the political careerists.
Leave it to the progressives over at The American Prospect, for an unintended analogy, in the essay The Twinkie Defense - the unions made us do it. “Hostess Brands is classic case of private equity engineers and executives looting a viable company, loading it up with debt, and then asking the employees to make up the difference.”
Regretfully, but with no remorse; the political class plays the role of private equity engineers, as the government plunders our economy, through crony spending and swelling of the debt, while saddling the taxpayer with the bill.
The Great Recession has quietly devastated public services on a state-by-state basis, with Republican and Democratic governors taking turns leading the charge. Public education has been decimated, as well as health care, welfare, and the wages and benefits of public sector workers. The public sector itself is being smashed. Since the recession began, states have made combined austerity cuts of at least $337 billion, according to the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities
The 2012-2013 budget deficits for 34 states resulted in $55 billion in cuts, according to the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities. The coming budgets for 2013-2014 that begins on July 1st is becoming clear as well, and the deficits are rolling in by the billions: Connecticut, Minnesota, Maryland, New York, Oregon, Washington, and many others have large deficits projected.
You’d expect after years of austerity cuts to public services, state politicians would think of new ways to raise revenue from those who can afford it — the wealthy and corporations. Not so. The cuts that began as a consequence of the 2008 recession are set to continue; raising revenue from the wealthy is “off the table” for Republicans and Democrats alike.
The pattern of budget cuts has revealed that the age-old distinction between Republican and Democrat has evaporated on the state level. The state budget trends — what’s getting funded and what’s not — are similarly aligned across the country. Both parties have merged their state-level agendas into a singular focus on “economic growth,” a bi-partisan euphemism meaning “corporate profits.”
Below is the bi-partisan funding trends for the states that began with the 2008 recession and continue to this day:
1) The Attack on Public Employees and Pension “Reform”
It wasn’t long ago that everyone understood that the states’ budget crises was caused in part by the recession, itself caused by the big banks and greedy corporations, and in part by the politicians continuing willingness to lower taxes on the rich. Now the corporate media and politicians have re-written history: suddenly it’s “greedy” public workers and their “lavish” pensions that are bankrupting the states. Two years ago it was the health care of public employees that was bankrupting the states, which resulted in large cuts to workers in many states.
The pre-recession pension system was working fine, but it, too, suffered under the bank-caused financial crisis; pension returns sank and right-wing economists projected ruin for the states in the future (they conveniently assumed that recession era rates would continue forever, thus under-funding the system).
Democratic governors are now as eager as their Republican counterparts to destroy the pensions of public employees. Democratic politicians in Oregon, Washington, California, New Jersey, Illinois, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maryland, Massachusetts, and several other states are leading the charge to erode the last bastion of retirement security for working people, while continuing to lay off public employees by the thousands. This national shrinkage of state governments is a long-standing right-wing dream: the smaller the state, the greater the “growth opportunities” for corporations that take over privatized public services and the lower their taxes since a smaller state requires less revenue for operating expenses.
2) Education Reform
The National Governors Association (NGA) spoke for both political parties when announcing a renewed focus on education funding for the states during the annual “state of the states” address. The funding is necessary because schools across the country are expecting an influx of students, while school districts everywhere have been starved funds by the ongoing austerity cuts; the system has been literally crumbling. But the new funding is to be used for the undermining and destruction of public education, since it is based on Obama’s pro-corporate Race to the Top education “reform” where charter schools replace public schools.
Democrats and Republicans are in complete agreement over Obama’s education policy, which closes “failing schools,” (those in poor neighborhoods), opens privately run, non-union charter schools, and fires “bad teachers,” (typically those who teach poor students). The whole system is based on standardized testing, which poorer students will spend most of their education preparing for, (those who don’t drop out from sheer boredom). Bi-partisan education reform targets teacher unions while privatizing education — the Democrats have adopted the ideas from the right-wing think tanks of the 1990′s.
3) Raising Revenue – But Not From the Wealthy or Corporations
Many states have implemented — or are planning to implement — a variety of taxes that disproportionally affect working and poor people, including increased sales taxes, alcohol, tobacco and other “sin” taxes, not to mention increases in different fees, from state parks to driver registration.
At the same time that these taxes have been upped, a consistent clamor has been raised by the media and politicians to lower the taxes for corporations, give them new subsidies or “freeze” their already-low taxes so that future tax increases will be impossible. In Oregon the Democratic governor declared a “special session” emergency in order to ensure that NIKE’s super low tax status would be frozen in place for decades, outside the reach of the public, which might want to raise corporate taxes to fund public services.
Democrat and Republican controlled states are equally competing for the adoration of corporations by lavishing a never-ending flow of taxpayer money on them, while “guaranteeing” them “investment security,” i.e., promising low taxes and an open spigot of taxpayer money. This is the basis for several states implementing “right to work” laws that target unions for destruction, while also attempting to “revamp the tax code,” which is a euphemism for lowering corporate taxes.
4) Welfare Reform: Attacking the Safety Net
Waging war against the safety net is like picking a fight with road kill — the states’ safety net is already disfigured beyond recognition, but the bi-partisan assault nevertheless continues. Bill Clinton started welfare “reform” as president, and the 2008 Great Recession accelerated the attack on those in poverty. The year 2011 was a devastating one for welfare, now called Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF).
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:
In 2011, states implemented some of the harshest cuts in recent history for many of the nation’s most vulnerable families with children who are receiving assistance through [TANF] … The cuts affect 700,000 low-income families that include 1.3 million children; these families represent over one-third of all low-income families receiving TANF nationwide.
But these TANF “reforms” continue, to the detriment of the neediest. Newly released budgets in several states — including California and Oregon — further tighten the program, a relentless boa-like constriction that’s already suffocated millions of the country’s poorest citizens. Typically TANF reform either lowers the monthly payment, shortens the time one can receive benefits, or raises the standards for staying in the program.
Before the giant TANF cuts in 2011, the program was already shrunken such that TANF only assisted 28 families for every 100 in poverty — the ludicrous definition of “poverty” being a family of four that makes only $22,000 or less.
There is a direct link between the assault on TANF and the rising poverty levels in the United States. Cutting TANF in a time of mass unemployment means consciously consigning millions of families to grinding poverty, hunger, homelessness, and the many other barbarisms associated with extreme poverty.
It wasn’t long ago that the Democrats understood that the government can and should create jobs, especially during a recession. But now the Democratic Party has fully adopted the economics of Reaganism. As a result, the only “job creators” now recognized are the corporations. This bi-partisan agreement not to tax the rich and use the revenue for public spending to create jobs — hiring more teachers, firefighters, roads and parks workers, etc. — is unnecessarily prolonging the job crisis, ensuring more years of deficits and a deeper gouging of the public sector.
These cuts are having a devastating effect on public sector unions, the last bastion of union strength in the country. These unions are being weakened to such an extent that stripping them of their right to collectively bargain — the nail in the coffin — becomes a real possibility. No state is safe from this threat.
If unions don’t unite with community groups to demand that public services be fully funded by taxing the wealthy and corporations, the cuts will continue, communities will feel helpless, inequality will continue to spiral out of control, and working people will be further subjected to the policies of the 1%, now implemented in chorus by Republicans and Democrats alike. But, of course, this means that the unions will have to break with the suicidal strategy of relying on the Democrats for handouts. Time and again the Democrats have demonstrated their willingness to sacrifice the needs of working people in order to curry favor with the rich and corporations, their greatest benefactors when it comes to election campaign contributions.
At church this weekend, our minister explored the violence that killed 20 2nd and 3rd grade children and six adults in Newtown, CT. With point blank accuracy, one 20 year old disturbed kid, stilled the life of those young children. The father of one of the slain, Robbie Parker said of his daughter Emilie, “I was honored to be her father.” I wept as did one of our other ministers. Hundreds of others in the congregation visibly shuddered.
This tragedy follows in the wake of Columbine in Littleton, Colorado 13 years ago with Harris and Klebold. This fall a man named James Holmes shot up an entire movie theater, also in Denver. A Muslim U.S. Army Major Hasan shot 42 innocent people. The Times Square bomber and thousands of other acts of violence have devolved us into a violent, unsafe and frightening culture.
It’s not the individual acts that make us a violent culture. We promote violence on TV with incredibly violent programs like NCIS in NYC, in Los Angeles and in Miami. Criminal Minds TV show creates horrific and sickening criminal torture and death plots. Springer, Povich, Cunningham and other moronic TV shows celebrate illiteracy, the dregs of society and sheer violence. We create unspeakable brutality via other TV shows. Our movies depict the sickening world of masochists and sadists while movie goers absorb these graphics deep within their minds.
In every town, you may go to a video arcade and watch kids commit murder, mayhem, slaughter and staggering acts of violence—with glee, joy and a sense of victory. All of it mindless, yet potent toward further real life carnage within our society.
On our highways, drunk drivers killed 17,000 to as high as 20,000 innocent lives every single year with their weapon of choice—a 4,000 pound missile speeding down the highway at 75 miles per hour drunk or high on drugs—but we refuse to construct drunk driving laws that would make the crime more prohibitive than the offense. We promote alcoholism via beer commercials sensationalizing the lifestyle of alcohol, replete with beautiful women and fast cars.
Our U.S. Congress reeks of warmongering by starting the Korean War, Vietnam War, Desert Storm War and Iraq War for no valid reason whatsoever. We killed millions of people and destroyed millions of parents, adults and children. Millions! We remain in Afghanistan, long after bin Laden met his death—still killing their people and ours—with no positive result.
Over the decades, our drones and bombs have created hundreds of thousands of “Newtown, Connecticut’s” where millions of people have died in the aforementioned countries. We insist on maintaining 450,000 military personnel on 700 bases around the world to show-case our ability to kill anyone whose perspective doesn’t match ours.
After the 10 year Vietnam War, over 200,000 of our soldiers became so distraught from their experiences—they committed suicide. Today, an average of four present and former US soldiers commit suicide daily from their war traumas. Millions more emotionally limp along from drugs, depression, PTSD and alcoholism. Some experts predict another 200,000 U.S. soldiers will commit suicide from their military service in Iraq and Afghanistan.
While we war upon other countries for decades, and after Columbine’s mass murders, we fail to take care of our own youth such as the young man who just killed 26 innocent human beings. An average of 18 teenagers commit suicide in America every single day of the year, every year, every decade—without pause.
A mind-numbing 15,000 people kill others with their knives and guns annually, year after year, decade after decade. Equally lethal, although self-imposed, smokers of tobacco kill themselves off at 450,000 annually.
Let’s talk about men beating wives, girlfriends and lovers:
* There are 1,500 shelters for battered women in the United States. There are 3,800 animal shelters. Cruelty to animals abounds in the USA. (Schneider, 1990).
* Three to four million women in the United States are beaten in their homes each year by their husbands, ex-husbands, or male lovers. (“Women and Violence,” Hearings before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Senate Hearing, 101-939, pt. 1, p. 12.)
* One woman is beaten by her husband or partner every 15 seconds in the United States. (Uniform Crime Reports, Federal Bureau of Investigation).
Our federal officials have arrested and slammed 37 million kids into jail for smoking a joint in the past 41 years of the “War on Drugs”—while alcohol and booze have killed endless millions—legally.
As our government foments, creates and imposes wars on countries 10,000 miles away, we suffer the cruelty of 14 million jobless Americans, 47.7 million living on food stamps, 1.5 million homeless and 2.3 million Americans subsisting in prisons.
The final costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan War will reach into the trillions of dollars when that money could have been used to create a more just, hopeful and prosperous society for all our citizens.
What we need to do
An evolutionary vision must occur within our country. We citizens must create peace in our schools and communities. We must vote for leaders who insist on peace rather than war. We need to move away from TV, movie and arcade violence to peaceful understanding. “Yes,” you say, “but what can I do?”
We need to shift from war spending toward life-enhancing contributions to flourish our society. We spend trillions of dollars on war and a tiny fraction for education and betterment of our society.
What not to continue because it doesn’t work:
- Stop engaging in useless, costly, deadly and meaningless wars overseas
- Stop our empire building by bringing home 450,000 military personnel from those 700 bases. It wastes money, people and resources and it accomplishes nothing.
- Stop meddling in hundreds of countries’ business as if the U.S. ethnocentric position constitutes the bottom line of righteousness
- Stop the War on Terror, War on Drugs and War on Poverty because the energy of fighting anything pales in comparison to the support of human dignity
- Stop violent video games, violent movies, violent TV programming
Transfer war funds to peace funding for our society:
- Spend billions for jobs that give dignity to citizens
- Spend billions on after-school classes, activities and playgrounds
- Spend billions on mental health, emotional health and well-being in families
- Spend billions on high school marriage, relationship and child rearing classes to support fathers and mothers in workable marriages, which will result in viable lives for children
- Spend billions to build personal responsibility, personal accountability and educational excellence for all our citizens to grow our civilization into a positive future
- Spend billions on raising healthy, happy and balanced children with mental health services, parental training and guidance
We Americans need to reassess ourselves. We need to invent or discover another path. We need to open toward a spiritual awakening. We need to move toward slower living, inter-related living and environmentally balanced living. We need to eschew 80,000 chemicals injected into our air, water and ground 24/7—most definitely scrambling our emotions, body chemistries and minds. We need to live and grow in smaller, community-oriented cities. (As John Muir said, “There is not a single sane man in all of San Francisco.) We need both fathers and mothers for our children so they grow into healthy adults who value themselves and know they are essential. We must extricate ourselves from the pervasive violence in our culture by moving toward peaceful solutions, love and kindness.
This transformation requires you, your actions, your passions, your energy and your optimism for the future.
In this column last week, I took sportscaster Bob Costas to task for his inane comments regarding the murder-suicide deaths committed by Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher. Costas ignorantly and irrationally blamed the deaths of Jovan and his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, on “our current gun culture.” Costas naively said, “If Jovan Belcher didn’t possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today.”
See my column on Bob Costas at:
Well, here is another tragic story of an NFL player’s untimely death. This time the team is the Dallas Cowboys. USA Today covers the story:
“For the second time in a week, from one Saturday to the next, another young professional football player is dead at the age of 25 and another NFL team is grieving after allegations of a terrible and tragic crime.
“Last weekend, it was Kansas City. This weekend, it’s Dallas. The circumstances are different, but the results are eerily similar. Two players are gone: One by his own hand in front of his coach and general manager in the parking lot of the team’s practice facility; the second in the morgue after a night out with a teammate, who is now sitting in an Irving, Tex., jail cell while his teammates fly to Cincinnati for Sunday’s game.
“One week after Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher killed the mother of his nearly 3-month-old daughter and then killed himself, the Cowboys are mourning the loss of a teammate while another has been arrested for intoxication manslaughter.
“Nose tackle Josh Brent, who was to have started this Sunday against the Bengals, was arrested early Saturday morning after the car he was driving flipped over, killing his lone passenger, Cowboys practice-squad player Jerry Brown, who was Brent’s teammate not only in Dallas but also at the University of Illinois from 2007-09.”
See the report at:
So, why didn’t Bob Costas get on national television and say, “If Josh Brent didn’t possess a car, Jerry Brown would be alive today”? Why? Because Bob Costas doesn’t think critically, that’s why! He simply regurgitates the same antiquated anti-gun rhetoric he hears from his pro-gun-control buddies.
But it’s true: if the gun is to blame for Belcher and Perkins’ deaths, the car is to blame for Brown’s death.
And speaking of cars and guns, the total number of deaths nationwide from the misuse of firearms pales in comparison to the total number of deaths from the misuse of automobiles. Yet, I don’t hear the Bob Costases of the world screaming for “automobile-control.” Come on, folks, get real! Plus, as Larry Pratt and others have already noted, firearms in the possession of American citizens are actually used to protect the lives of people some 4,000 to 6,000 times A DAY. When Costas said, “Handguns do not enhance our safety,” not only was he wrong, he was miserably wrong! Handguns DO enhance our safety–not to mention our liberty!
Look at the city of Chicago. More people have been murdered in the city of Chicago this year than soldiers killed in Afghanistan. One hundred and forty-four US troops have been killed in Afghanistan so far in 2012, while 228 people have been murdered so far in 2012 in The Windy City.
According to The Huffington Post, “The war zone-like statistics are not new. As WBEZ reports, while some 2,000 U.S. troops have been killed in Afghanistan since 2001, more than 5,000 people have been killed by gun fire in Chicago during that time, based on Department of Defense and FBI data.”
See the report at:
Yet, Chicago, Illinois, has some of the strictest gun-control laws in America. Then again, maybe that’s one of the reasons why so many people are killed in Chicago. The laws of this city forbid honest citizens from being armed and, thus, they are unable to defend themselves. Let the good guys start shooting back and one will see a dramatic lapse of courage among miscreants. Don’t believe that? Check out the violent crime rates in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, or Vermont.
This modern infatuation with blaming inanimate objects for acts of immorality and impropriety is nothing short of epidemic! Of course, the reason for this madness is it facilitates the expansion of government into the minutest details of our lives. Big-Government zealots have an innate fear of power and responsibility resting in individuals. They see government as the only suitable source of power. To big-government toadies, individuals are merely the property of government. To them, government bureaucrats can do nothing wrong, while individual citizens can do nothing right. Hence, to big-government hacks, only government officials have the right to keep and bear arms.
The same reasoning applies to America’s so-called “War on Drugs.” Marijuana, especially, is blamed for all kinds of immoral and unsavory conduct, even though the overwhelming evidence simply does not support the accusation.
My youngest son, Timothy, is a former Florida Assistant State Attorney who is now in private practice. Regarding marijuana as being a source of criminal conduct, he wrote, “Drawing from my own personal experience, I see the absurdity of the ‘war on marijuana.’ During my time as a prosecutor at the Florida State Attorney’s Office from 2004 to 2006 where I handled literally thousands of criminal cases and tried nearly 60 jury trials, I was never impressed that marijuana was the cause of any criminal activity. Oh sure, possession of marijuana charges comprised a large number of my criminal cases; but the criminal act was merely the man-made law of possession of marijuana. In fact, most criminal activities were in large part caused by alcohol, where one who consumed too much alcohol became violent; beat his wife; neglected his children; drove drunk and hurt someone; caused a disturbance of the peace; or other similar evils.
“I saw those alcohol-related cases every day. Yet, I cannot say the same regarding marijuana. I would estimate that of the thousands of cases I handled, at least half (if not more) were a direct cause of alcohol consumption or addiction. Yet, alcohol is legal and marijuana is illegal.”
See Tim’s column at:
In fact, marijuana was not even considered harmful or illegal in the United States until 1937, as Tim pointed out in his column. Most people would probably be surprised to learn that four out of our first five presidents not only promoted the use of the hemp plant, but also grew it. Can one imagine putting George Washington or Thomas Jefferson in jail for growing what we now call marijuana? Egad!
The idea that the use of marijuana is harmful because “it leads to hard drugs” is tantamount to saying that beer is harmful because “it leads to hard liquor.” But it’s just not true! There are tens of millions of people who drink responsibly, or who use alcohol medicinally (as prescribed even by Holy Scripture), who never become alcoholics. Likewise, there are tens of millions of marijuana users who use it responsibly or medicinally, who never go on to use hard drugs or become drug addicts. And when it comes to addictions, Americans’ addiction to sugar and laziness kills far more people than those addicted to alcohol–or even tobacco for that matter.
But by making marijuana responsible for all kinds of untoward behavior, and by ignoring the personal accountability of people to behave responsibly, it has helped provide the justification for government to trample the Bill of Rights and create huge bureaucracies, which swell the size and scope of government–especially the federal government.
The same is true for firearms. By making guns responsible for all kinds of untoward behavior, and by ignoring the personal accountability of people to behave responsibly, it helps provide the justification for government to trample the Bill of Rights (in this case the Second Amendment) and create huge bureaucracies (the ATF among others), which swell the size and scope of government–especially the federal government.
Marijuana is a convenient scapegoat. Firearms are a convenient scapegoat. Automobiles, on the other hand, are not so convenient! Hence, we hear nothing from Bob Costas about the need for more “automobile-control.” Plus, amazingly enough, neither did Costas say a word about bringing back Prohibition! In Costas’ world, only guns are sufficiently evil enough to warrant his righteous indignation.
The tragedies in Kansas City and Dallas cause all people of good will to grieve. We grieve for the people involved; we grieve for the families of the victims; and we grieve for the NFL players, coaches, and management. But what we must not do is use these tragedies as an excuse to justify and condone the suppression of our God-given liberties! In addition, it’s past time for America, at every level, to start re-emphasizing the primacy of personal responsibility. That’s something that isn’t being taught much in our nation’s schools, churches, or even families.
But the promotion and expectation of personal responsibility is what made America great; and it’s also what provides our nation with its liberties. If men cannot be expected to be accountable for their conduct, they can hardly be expected to be accountable for their freedom. This is why inanimate objects are used as scapegoats by big-government toadies: it diminishes the virtue of individualism and extols the necessity of governmentism.
In Kansas City, the problem was not the gun; the problem was Belcher. And in Dallas, the problem was not the car–or even the booze–the problem was Brent. Straighten out the man and one will have no need to worry about the objects that are at his disposal.
Tori Taueu-Misa smokes a large marijuana joint at Hempfest in Seattle, Washington.(AFP Photo / Ron Wurzer)
Thursday morning was the dawn of a new era for pot-smoking Washingtonians, as state law finally approved the personal possession of up to one ounce – or roughly 28g – of marijuana, making it the first US state to fully legalize the drug.
Washington voters shocked the nation last month by voting for Initiative 502 (I-502), which legalizes the possession of up to one ounce (28g) of marijuana for personal use. Under the initiative, all penalties for marijuana possession and use have also been abolished.
Many users said they would be gathering around various public areas across the state to celebrate the landmark ruling – by breaking the law. Public marijuana use is still illegal, but the fine for smoking weed in public carries the same fine as publicly consuming alcohol.
I-502, approved by a 55.5 percent majority, will make Washington the first US state to officially legalize recreational marijuana use in the US. State penalties for possession will be eliminated, and excise taxes like those applied to alcohol and tobacco sales will be enacted.
A similar measure passed in Colorado will be implemented no later than January 6.
Although Washington’s new law legalizes possession of up to an ounce for those over 21, selling marijuana remains illegal.
I-502 gives Washington a year to come up with a system of state-licensed growers, processors and retail stores. It plans to tax every stage at 25 percent. Analysts say it could bring Washington hundreds of millions of dollars annually in new tax revenue.
But I-502 also puts Washington at loggerheads with the federal government: Despite record levels of support for nationwide legalization, it is still illegal under federal law to carry or use any amount of marijuana.
Pot is considered a ‘Schedule I’ narcotic under the Federal Controlled Substances Act, putting it in the same category as heroin. This means federal agents can still arrest people for it, and it remains banned from federal properties, including military bases and national parks
But I-502 is going into effect at a time when national support for legalization is at an all-time high.
A national poll conducted by Public Policy Polling (PPP) from November 30 to December 2 showed that 59 percent of US voters believe marijuana should be legalized, while only 39 percent do not. Half of respondents also expected that marijuana will become legal under federal law within a decade’s time.
The Obama administration has thus far made no mention of how it will react to the measure, though the White House has repeated on numerous occasions that it remains “firmly committed to enforcing the Controlled Substances Act.”
Washington Governor Chris Gregoire recently met with Deputy Attorney General James Cole at the Justice Department, though he came away with no answers.
“They said they were reviewing it,” the Washington Post cites Gregoire’s spokesperson Cory Curtis as saying Friday.“They didn’t give us a timeline when they would provide clarity.”
Steve Fox, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project, argued that Obama would be working against the popular will and the greater good if the federal government attempted to continue with its “failed policy of marijuana prohibition.”
“The increasingly strong national support for making marijuana legal demonstrates that the writing is on the wall,” Fox said. “Marijuana prohibition’s days are numbered. The Obama administration cannot stop history. If it interferes in the implementation of these new laws, it will only unnecessarily prolong the chaos of an uncontrolled market. The time for state-regulated systems of marijuana cultivation and sales is here.”
A week-long visit to Tunisia, in the course of which I covered some 2,000 miles by rental car, bus, SUV, and a powered hang glider, has confirmed that of faraway places we often assume to know more than we do. The first country affected by a wave of popular discontent known as the Arab Spring was full of surprises.
To start with, the country is safe for foreign visitors. There have been no attacks on tourists, either at the time of the “Jasmine Revolution” last year or during the periodic eruptions of street protests since then. The violence triggered off by that YouTube video was quickly contained. Last week, more than 50 people—most of them policemen—were injured in protests at the reopening of a rubbish dump on the resort island of Djerba, but the protesters stayed away from the hotels. Even in dusty provincial towns, where no foreigners venture, gas station attendants and cold drinks vendors invariably greeted me with a smile and a polite “bonjour, Monsieur, ça va?” This is in contrast to the barely concealed hostility I have encountered on my recent trips to the West Bank, or—over a decade ago—in Libya.
By the third day, I felt emboldened to venture on my own to the spectacular Roman city of Dougga, a three hour drive from Hammamet, where I had the ruins all to myself for over two hours. At Téboursouk, on the way to Dougga, and at Qa Afur on the way back, I stopped casually at coffee houses for refreshments—the only European for miles around. Mustached men observed the strange sight behind clouds of tobacco smoke. Before long, some bold youngsters initiated conversation. Speaking French (however rusty in my case) definitely helps: it is still compulsory in Tunisian schools, and English has not made many inroads outside the capital and the coastal resorts. (As it happens, it also helps not being an American, or at any rate not admitting to being one.) The conversation did not need to be steered to politics, as most Tunisians find it the only topic currently worth discussing. Such encounters have been invaluable in helping me form a broad picture—more comprehensive and reliable than the one visiting foreign journalists get from their Sorbonne-educated, barely-accented colleagues over cappuccinos on Avenue Habib Bourguiba.
The “Arab Spring” stereotype—a simmering volcano of fundamentalism suddenly erupting and sweeping away a secularist autocracy—does not apply to Tunisia. The causes of the revolt against Zine el-Abedine Ben Ali in January 2011 were social and economic, no less than political. The country had outgrown him. Tunisia is blessed not to have much oil or gas—unlike its two neighbors Libya and Algeria—so it was forced to develop tourism, agriculture, and light manufacturing from its own resources. In contrast to the Emirates or Saudi Arabia, the Tunisians do their own work. The results have been impressive: it is the most literate Arab country, with the highest percentage of women in the workforce. It has good roads, reliable phones, clean if sometimes erratic water supply, and working sewers. Its roadsides are littered with garbage, but its living standards and the quality of its public services are second to none on the African continent. (Libya topped the chart until a year ago.)
In the final years of his rule, Ben Ali made the mistake of pandering excessively to his big business cronies, including his second wife’s corrupt family. The anger of “the street” had more to do with an uneven distribution of the fruits of prosperity and the stubbornly high unemployment rate—especially among the young—than with the kind of endemic poverty rampant in Egypt. A year later the Tunisian economy appears to have avoided the nosedive that seemed imminent after Ben Ali’s fall. The country’s budget deficit will be contained at below 6 percent of GDP next year. This year’s growth is expected to exceed 3.5 percent, and next year’s target is an impressive 4.5 percent. Inflation, interest rates and exchange rates remain under control.
Far from having absolute supremacy comparable to that enjoyed by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Tunisia’s Islamic party, Ennahdha, is sharing power in a coalition that includes secularists who opposed Ben Ali’s regime and were the first to hit the streets in January of last year. President Moncef Marzouki, a suave, fluent French speaker, is one of them. Ennahdha’s leader, Rachid Ghannouchi, is still the most powerful player in the country, but he is likely to fall short of an absolute parliamentary majority in the elections due next year. Many Tunisians are disappointed by the graft and corruption that remain endemic a year after his party became the majority stakeholder in the first democratically elected government in the country’s history. The political process is nevertheless well established, the press is free, and not even pro-Western secularists regret the demise of Ben Ali. A recent public opinion survey released by the International Republican Institute shows that most people prefer a democratic Tunisia, however unstable, over a non-democratic system which promised prosperity and security.
A year after gaining 89 of the 217 seats in parliament, Ennahdha has seen its support slip to 30 percent. It is now challenged, even by the veterans of the old establishment. Nidaa Tounes party, led by the former Prime Minister Beji Caid Essebsi, has come from nowhere to command the support of one-fifth of the electorate. Many Tunisians—including my young casual interlocutors—object to the continuing demand of some Ennahdha deputies for the inclusion of Islamic provisions in the new constitution, including a controversial amendment making women unequal to men. The secularists, including Ennahdha’s current coalition partners and the leftists Workers’ Party, are likely to obtain sufficient support to prevent the country’s drift into Islamism.
All this is light years away from Libya next door, or Egypt further east. It was only towards the end of my tour that it dawned on me why Tunisia’s destiny is by no means sealed: there was no American intervention, which would have secured an Islamist takeover. Ben Ali gave up too soon for the U.S. to get directly involved, and there was no violence to justify calls for intervention. The “revolution” was a Tunisian affair and it has produced an outcome illustrative of Tunisian realities. It is currently the only functioning democracy in the Arab world. It is to be hoped that the Obama Administration will refrain from trying to engineer a different outcome.
Watching the debate on Wednesday, I truly can’t imagine Barack Obama having come off as the more likeable candidate. Continuously glancing downwards, perhaps looking for inspiration (I glance upwards, myself), and often displaying an angry countenance, he seemed stiff, detached and petulant; in contrast, Mitt Romney appeared energetic, nimble-minded, affable, engaged and engaging. It was the Mind vs. the Unkind.
Nonetheless, the left is still pushing the narrative of Mitt the Mean. CNN disseminated a poll showing that only 46 percent of debate viewers thought Romney was likeable (of course, we have to consider the source), and the Democrat National Committee just cooked up an ad—showing Romney interrupting moderator Jim Lehrer—whose thrust is that the governor was pushy and bullying. Let’s understand, however, that as it was Romney was given 4 fewer minutes to speak; if he’d been a “nicer” guy, it would have been 10. This brings me to my point.
Years ago a reader emailed me regarding a piece I wrote on Obama’s predecessor and called him “George the Nice.” It was not a compliment. The idea was that President Bush often seemed more interested in getting along than getting things right. And whether you agree with this assessment or not isn’t the issue. It is, rather, as I recently asked, what’s “like” got to do with it?
Oh, I understand that “likeability” influences voters. This and the fact that polls have shown it to be Obama’s strong suit with the electorate is, of course, why the left wants to perpetuate their Mean Mitt myth. And while I find Obama as likeable as poison ivy in private areas, let’s for argument’s sake assume that he truly is the more likeable candidate. Is this meaningful in a leader? Could it even be a warning sign?
This point can be illustrated with a tale of two men, both colleagues of mine at a former place of employment. One was a charming fellow who specialized in the schmooze; the other was a curmudgeonly, stone-faced and sometimes gruff WWII veteran. Now, it’s obvious who was more likeable, and I cottoned to the charmer myself. If you got to know them, however, you learned that Mr. Charm was a Machiavellian operator with a Clintonesque attitude toward truth, while the veteran was a trustworthy, upstanding straight-talker.
Knowing this, how could I like the charmer? Well, what we like is determined by emotion or taste, which generally has little acquaintance with reason. A person may like tobacco more than vegetables or chocolate more than exercise, but few would call them wiser choices. In the same vein, I never would have chosen the charmer if he had been running for office against the curmudgeon. For this is where we must lead with our heads, not our hearts, resist the urge to kowtow to our likes and not eat, smoke or vote ourselves to death.
In fact, it’s usually unwise to choose anyone based solely on likeability, as there’s little correlation between extreme likeability, and virtue and competence (and some virtue, such as conscientiousness, is necessary for competence). One reason for this is that since all three qualities are relatively rare, they aren’t often possessed by the same person. As an example, I know a soft-spoken, affable fellow who most anyone would call a nice guy, but he couldn’t figure out whether the kind of infanticide prohibited by BAIPA legislation was okay or not. As for competence, if you’d chosen a general based on likeability, would you have picked George Patton? And if you’d chosen a computer developer on likeability, Steve Jobs wouldn’t have been your man. So is it wise to choose a president based on likeability? If a man can’t even stand up to an ossified debate moderator, how will he fare locking horns with the Russians or Chinese? In fact, we could use a variation on a famous saying here and wonder if the road to Hell isn’t paved by nice guys.
More ominously, likeability can actually be a red flag. Why? Because projecting it is the specialty of the con man. He will tell you exactly what you want to hear; the good person tells you what you need to hear. The con man will peddle seductive little lies to appear charming—at least until he doesn’t need you anymore.
Of course, a good person’s likeability is also situational, but for a different reason. You may generally be likeable, but will you seem so violently wielding a sword on a battlefield? Similarly, fighting on the moral/cultural battlefield can be messy business; thus, if you’re ever and always likeable amidst this fray, you’re doing it wrong. Just consider Ronald Reagan, a man so affable he won even the hearts of many ‘80s Democrats. How likeable did he seem at the 1980 Nashua, New Hampshire, primary debate when he angrily shouted, “I’m paying for this microphone, Mr. Green”? He was playing hardball, not Mr. Nice Guy, but it was a defining moment that evoked cheers and helped pave his way to the presidency.
So what’s “like” got to do with it? It should be no more relevant to choosing a president than to choosing runners for the Olympic team. Unfortunately, though, man’s nature won’t change; just as we elevate intellectuals over wise men, many will continue to choose likeability over virtue. It’s why our government and culture become less likeable all the time.