Politicians and bureaucrats are notorious for manufacturing euphemisms -- clever but deceptive substitutes for what they really mean but don’t want to admit. That’s how the phrase “revenue enhancement” entered the vocabulary. Some of our courageous friends in government couldn’t bring themselves to say “tax hike.”
“It is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future,” says a proverb often attributed to Yogi Berra. Imagine the world of freedom, or lack of it. Who could foresee the technologies that make our lives so rewarding and convenient? The same technologies have us all under the government’s giant microscope. Thankfully, the brave have turned the microscope around.
In the months since Edward Snowden revealed the nature and extent of the spying that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been perpetrating upon Americans and foreigners, some of the NSA's most troublesome behavior has not been a part of the public debate.
National Treasury Union President Colleen M. Kelly recently described the 2014 IRS budget allocation as “woefully inadequate.” But the agency has not proven itself to be an efficient steward of taxpayer dollars. Here are ten ways the IRS lost the trust of the American people.
It’s easy to be negative about the U.S. economy these days. Find a glint of silver, and folks come running to point out all of the dark clouds looming about. This, of course, is what we got last week when the monthly jobs report was released from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Folks pooh-poohed the number of jobs and whining that they’re not enough or that it’s less than a bunch of economists thought that it might be. But you know what? Stuff ’em.
Given how poorly states like California and Illinois have funded the pension funds for their own employees, one would think that this would stop dead in its tracks any plan to have the government assist in managing private sector funds too. The spate of recent activity, however, suggests otherwise.
Facts are easy. You can check facts. What supporters of the Affordable Care Act are doing, on the other hand, transcends factual bungling. It’s far more advanced: a warping of reality so debauched it looks like something out of a tale by H.P. Lovecraft.
The problem for NSA apologist is that when guys like Snowden disclose that the government conducts comprehensive surveillance in ways that would have made 1984’s O’Brien drool, it puts the entire progressive agenda in jeopardy.
The east coast and parts of the southern U.S. were to varying degrees paralyzed by blizzards a few weeks ago. The snow as expected rendered the roads treacherous, and in anticipation of slick streets, shoppers flocked to the grocery stores in advance.The rush into grocery stores, and its aftermath, offers worthwhile lessons in economics.First up, […]
The financial world is plodding along like a drunken sailor avoiding debt collectors by keeping no cash in his wallet. It’s not the kind of calm that’s going to last or end well. But the storm will have to wait until after the Olympics.What a game! We’ve never watched ice hockey closely before. But watching […]
“When they come for my gun, they will have to pry it out of my cold, dead hands,” is a common refrain I often hear from the Neo-Cons when there is a threat, credible or otherwise, that the U.S. government is going to take their firearms.And, when I hear this crazy talk, I agree with […]
The highest form of charity, argued the 12th-century Jewish philosopher Maimonides, is when the help given enables the receiver to become self-sufficient.But our systems of state charity — aka welfare — have too frequently had the opposite effect: They have actually created dependency. It is time to rethink the way we help people.I’m going to […]
In times of war and national emergency, it’s sometimes necessary to sacrifice civil liberties to secure vital gains in public safety. In those cases, we may have to accept a loss of privacy or freedom rather than invite mass slaughter of Americans.The National Security Agency’s domestic phone records collection is not one of those.Never have […]
President Obama crowed in his State of the Union speech about the economy, even mentioning “a rebounding housing market.” Maybe he was referring to friends in high places, like the seller of Penthouse One in New York, which just closed for $50.9 million, all cash. Millions of mere-mortal homeowners likely wanted to throw something at […]
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is acting in a bipartisan way to cover up the biggest single threat to the bipartisan political alliance that is stripping America of its wealth: the United States Congress.There is no question that the following policy is bipartisan. Democrats and Republicans in Congress are completely agreed that the following information […]
Recent difficulties with implementing the Affordable Care Act have increased opposition to the program. A majority of Americans now oppose it. Problems with the HealthCare.gov website are in all likelihood temporary. However, there are serious long-term problems, particularly considering long-term finance and labor supply issues. Given the mounting difficulties with and growing concerns about the […]
Amidst all the revelations about how the American people, many of whom are absolutely convinced they live in a free society, have their telephone calls, emails, website visits, and who knows what else under surveillance by their own government, let’s not forget the massive infringements on financial privacy that have gone on for decades.Consider, for […]
Image: ShutterstockBitInstant CEO Charlie Shrem, along with alleged co-conspirator Robert Faiella, was arrested by federal authorities last week for allegedly laundering more than $1 million worth of Bitcoins. This is a tiny amount compared to the largest drug-and-terrorism money laundering case ever. Yet when British bank HSBC was found guilty in 2012 of laundering billions, […]
Do you trust your doctor? Most patients assume their doctor is working in their best medical interests whenever he or she orders a diagnostic test or recommends a particular treatment. Customers might wonder whether an unscrupulous auto mechanic is being truthful when he recommends a brake job or a new transmission. But most patients trust […]
The exercise had an awesome name, inspired by the movies: “Quantum Dawn 2.”On July 18, scads of U.S. banks, stock exchanges and government agencies took part in a digital fire drill — a practice run in the event all of Wall Street came under massive cyberattack.This isn’t the first time banks have come under an […]
The faces of the Detroit bankruptcy are the thousands of pensioners whose promised benefits are suddenly part of the restructure negotiation. When Motown filed for Chapter 9 last July, the city had $11.5 billion in unsecured liabilities. The vast majority of this was pension and health care benefits owed to retired city employees.The images of […]
So you’ve maneuvered the Obamacare website, plugged in your top-secret information and found out how much you are forced to pay to avoid a fine.And for some of you, it turns out you qualify for a government subsidy — making the premium sound like a bargain. But signing on that line to accept the government’s […]
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”As the inequality gap grows, there is an ideological battle unfolding in the West.On the one hand, there are those who think government can fix things. It must do more, tax more, […]
On Feb. 7 the United States will once again reach its statutory debt limit, meaning it cannot legally borrow any more money. Since the obvious option of cutting spending to match the amount of revenue that the government collects is off the table for some inexplicable reason, Congress will have to pass a new, higher […]
The New York Times published an interminable article on health care recently. Plenty of facts — how scrupulous are these journalists! — but the article displayed absolutely no comprehension of the basics of cause and effect. I was left wondering about the whole point.The article details how the health care system rewards specialists to an […]
For critics of the surveillance state, it is tempting to see President Obama’s speech a few weeks ago as a partial victory: Prompted by Edward Snowden’s leaks and the public pressure for National Security Agency reforms, he announced significant changes to the program that collects and stores information about all telephone calls. And he promised […]
We put in a good-citizen call to the SEC the other day.“There’s a massive scheme to manipulate stock prices,” we told the friendly agent.“I have to tell you that your call is being monitored so that we can better serve the public,” he replied.“Oh, don’t worry about that. The NSA is tapping our call anyway.”“Are […]
Twitter began by calling it “libertarian porn” — the longest and most sustained attack on leviathan from the Senate floor in modern history. But then it became more. And more. It went on for 13 hours. It was about halfway through when the junior senator leaned over to an aide and whispered: “Can I get a candy bar?”
He deserved it. Before the end of the night, the significance of what he was doing was being described as “epic.” What began as a surprise political move became a bipartisan cry against all the evils of our times, which somehow all come down to the egregious power of the executive state and its omnipotent power over our lives and property. It became political theater unlike any we’ve seen in many years. The target: all terrible things.
In short, it was a beautiful day on Capitol Hill.
It all came courtesy of Sen. Rand Paul, the man who has brought truth, excitement, fun, and the appearance of real-life morality back to the Senate.
We aren’t used to this. What normal person pays attention to politics, much less to the Senate? Here was something that actually happened — for once. Something important. Something even… epic.
This is a story about one man who decided to say, “Enough.” It’s a so-called “talking filibuster,” a last-ditch effort that stops legislative action completely. Something undertaken only in an epic case, a time when there is a hinge of history. Is this that hinge?
Alice in Wonderland? Nicely played, Senator.
“Stand with Rand” and send a clear message to your senator by clicking here.
Sen. Rand’s action began just before noon. He started by standing alone against the nomination of John Brennan for the head of the CIA. This Brennan guy is the top advocate of the drone program and the White House’s super-creepy claim of the right to kill American citizens on American soil using unmanned aircraft.
The White House that wants him appointed refuses to rule out killing you and me if dear leader thinks it is necessary. The policy as fact has been in place for a long time, but this administration wants it formalized.
Are civil liberties at stake? It’s a no-brainer. Well, why is there any controversy about this at all? How much despotism can the American people stand? How did we come to this point? How long will the politicians in Washington pretend like this isn’t happening?
There is an elephant in the living room. That elephant has been nominated to head an agency that has been up to no good since its inception after World War II. An agency that operates in secrecy and embodies everything that is wrong with the whole institution of government. And now some guy who favors the right to kill you and me on a whim has been tagged to head the agency.
Something’s gotta give.
Sen. Paul seemed to break the taboo. He finally said it: This winner of the Nobel Peace Prize is asserting the right to kill citizens right here, without any recourse to courts or law or anything related to the dead letter called the Constitution. His appointee is ready to do the deed.
In his first hours, Sen. Paul said:
“When I asked the president, can you kill an American on American soil, it should have been an easy answer. It’s an easy question. It should have been a resounding and unequivocal, ‘No.’ The president’s response? He hasn’t killed anyone yet. We’re supposed to be comforted by that.”
Again, his one question: Why won’t the president say that he won’t kill noncombatants with drones on American soil? The White House pretended none of this was happening.
Just before noon yesterday, Rand Paul stood alone. Then others joined him. Still others. Rand talked and talked. He went on and on. The online crowd began to grow. And grow. The tweets grew and grew. Facebook went nuts. It went on all day. The Senate chamber filled up by the evening. The fracas became frenzy and then became a mania. Hashtag #StandWithRand became the Internet meme of the night.
Here is how the global Twitter map looked a few hours before the filibuster ended, with #StandWithRand as the top hashtag used around the world (the larger the hashtag, reflects a larger number of tweets emanating from that area.)
Everyone else is talking about what this means for the senator’s political career. I have high respect for him, but truly, this is not the point. It is not about who is up and who is down. It is about the power of the government over the individual. It’s been growing egregiously for a century. It’s become absurd to the point that the “peace president” claims the right to kill us. When do we say no?
Sen. Paul spoke for the multitudes. And he continued. And continued. It was brilliant. It stopped only once biological needs called.
It’s pathetic that it had to come to this to see some meaningful protest. Still. It’s thrilling that this protest has finally come. That The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times heaped disdain on the Senator confirms that he was on the right track.
I have my own theory about the meaning of all of this. I think it is about the digital revolution finally reaching the most impenetrable apparatus on the planet. Sen. Paul was the instrument, but the tune is made of technology.
I must invoke the memory of the prophet of our age Aaron Swartz. He is dead due to horrible hounding by the government. But before he died, he was working on a new software package that was extremely powerful. It offers a way to apply digital media to the cause of politics. He showed the power of his model with the 2012 attack on SOPA. Pretty much working alone, he defeated this cursed legislation that would have disabled the Internet.
Like most people, I long ago lost faith in the political process. It is a waste of time. It is a game for suckers and fools. The government owns the system, and it will always be so, no matter who is ostensibly in charge.
Yet… I respect Swartz. He might have been on to something. He posited that there is power when the people can swarm the state apparatus with digital communications: emails, petitions, tweets, memes, digital protests. This is different from regular politics. It is turning the machine upside-down and inside out, bypassing the lobbying, rallies, voting, and electing entirely in favor of direct confrontation between the ruled and the rulers.
Remember that government is the most paranoid institution on the planet. It is extremely jumpy for that reason. You know how the petty thief is always watching his back, worried that he is going to get caught? Government is like that. It is always and everywhere engaged in criminal activity. It mainly worries about being found out. It fears discovery. Digital media permit every American to say, “You have been found out!”
Is that what’s going on? It has made a difference in this case. The drone issue, which has been a big one for Laissez Faire — our petition against Brennan and his drone policies gathered 10,000 signatures — has been one that has sent a powerful signal to the power elite.
Sen. Paul is a great political entrepreneur. He stepped out in front — alone at first, but with the whole body behind him eventually, and today a large whole of the people too.
Government should fear the people. Today, at least some sectors of the government are a bit more afraid than they used to be. My friends, that’s victory. It is not about who will gain power next. It is about dismantling power completely, one step at a time.
“Can I get a candy bar?”
Someday, that candy will be freedom itself. It’s coming. It’s going to happen — with or without our political leaders.
P.S. To all people who are sending me evidence of Rand Paul’s various heresies, you can save your bandwidth. I’m not interested in saint making or witch burning. I’m only interested in one thing: progressive reductions of the role of all government power in people’s lives all the way to zero if possible. Whatever brings that about, in whatever sector it happens, and whether it happens slowly by steps or all in one fell swoop, I’m for it. I really don’t care who or what makes a contribution to this end or how it comes about, so long as it is ethical and it actually achieves the aim of human liberation, the mother of all progress, order, and higher civilization.