Archive for September 2010

Attacking Dissent

Paul Craig Roberts announces that the US is a police state. Mr. Roberts points out that the recent raids on anti-war activists portend future prosecutions for anyone who opposes the empire. Mr. Roberts stance is well justified.

Picking out communists, and other politically unpopular targets, is standard operating procedure. If you can establish that the politically unpopular may be attacked, then attacking other dissidents becomes much easier.

The federal material support for terrorist laws are vague and flexible enough to serve as a vehicle for all sorts of mischief. The law criminalizes speech furthering lawful activities. If you can criminalize speech furthering lawful activities, why even bother to pretend that you have a First Amendment?

One of the pernicious aspects of the current raids is that the government has seized records from a large number of people. Anything the FBI found, whether it pertains to a material support charge, or any other federal law, can be used as a basis for bringing charges.

Given the number of laws at the disposal of prosecutors, virtually anyone can be convicted at any time. There are an enormous number of vague and elastic federal laws armed with draconian punishments. Hence, federal prosecutors can almost invariably get a defendant to plea bargain rather than fight. The principle was eloquently expounded by Jay Leno in the documentary A/k/a Tommy Chong.

In the past, wars have been the locus for repression. Lincoln jailed political opponents during the Civil War, as did Wilson during the first World War. Other examples abound. In the past, the repression has ceased with the war. Now, the wars are expected to last forever no matter who is in power. The question now is whether the storm will ever abate, or will arbitrary power be granted to the government endlessly.

As Orwell said, “If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.”

Posted September 26, 2010 by Brian Cantin in Uncategorized

Feeling a Draft

Calls for a military draft in the United States continue.

* Congressman Charlie Rangel has been pushing a bill for years that would re-institute a draft. Congressman Rangel thinks that the Iraq war would have never happened if there had been a draft at the time.

* Peace activist Cindy Sheehan has proposed a draft for presidents, Congress critters, and Federal Reserve CEOs. The draft would also apply to CEOs of companies that profit from the war, as well as anyone who favors the war. Finally, the draft would apply all of the age appropriate dependents of the foregoing. Cindy Sheehan acknowledges that her proposal has no chance being instituted.

* Former CIA agent Philip Giraldi proposes a constitutional amendment that mandates a popular vote before going to war. Voting would be mandatory and open. Those voting for the war, and their families, would be subject to a draft, plus taxation to pay for the war. Philip Giraldi acknowledges that his proposed amendment has no chance of passing.

* Constitutional attorney Bruce Fein has called for a return of the draft.

Note that in terms of what is often laughingly referred to as the political spectrum, Rangel and Sheehan are thought of as leftists, while Giraldi and Fein are thought of as men of the right. Despite the differences in their political viewpoints, all of these folks call for a draft in order to put restraints on the ability of the government to wage war.

First, calling for a draft is calling for a return of slavery. You can put all kinds of pretty words around it, but slavery in service of the government differs from chattel slavery only in that the term of service may be shorter. In addition, military conscription amounts to taking young people and feeding them into a meat grinder.

At least in the case of Sheehan and Giraldi, the call for a draft is rhetorical. Sheehan and Giraldi attempt to direct penalties toward those that are responsible for the war. However, both of them extend the penalties toward family members. Extending penalties to family members would have great utility as a deterrent, but the notion raises both moral and constitutional questions.

There is no immediate prospect of a draft. If a draft comes, it will not be passed in order to limit war powers. If Congress wanted to limit wars, it could do so via the purse strings. So, why would Congress pass draft legislation in order to raise opposition to wars?

If a draft comes, it will be imposed as a means of continuing the imperial project. Currently, there is enough money, and enough willing canon fodder, to provide the mercenaries that work for the public and private entities that support the empire. However, given the Federal deficits and the debasement of the currency, someday the money will effectively run out. At that point, the government will be faced with a choice between drawing down the empire and imposing a draft.

Given a convenient scare, a draft will be imposed. You can be sure that the draft will not be directed toward the ruling class. On the contrary, the draft will be directed toward the plebeians, while the children of the ruling class will find ready escape holes. As the republic becomes a distant memory, only the dimmest of the ruling class will allow their spawn to come into the line of fire.

Posted September 14, 2010 by Brian Cantin in Uncategorized

Stossel and Good Intentions

John Stossel, in his program broadcast 9/2/2010 on the Fox Business Channel, covered the issue Good Intentions Gone Wrong on the Americans with Disabilities Act(ADA).

As usual, Mr. Stossel does a good job explicating the unfortunate effects of a government program, the ADA. As is typical of Mr. Stossel, he makes the assumption Congress passed the ADA with good intentions. However, what reason is there to believe that the Congress passing the ADA was the result of good intentions?

To determine whether the ADA was a result of good intentions, you first have to have a definition of good intentions in the context of the actions of a member of Congress. First, each member of Congress has sworn to uphold the constitution. Whatever the liabilities of the constitution, Congress has sworn to uphold the agreement. The evidence that Congress has considered the strictures of the constitution when passing the ADA, or anything else, is pretty thin. To regulate the height of bathroom mirrors in restaurants based on the interstate commerce clause is equivalent to saying that there is no constitution.

Considerations of the constitution aside, each member of Congress is generally expected to pursue the interests of his constituents. Herein lies one of the problems. There is nothing that Congress can do that will benefit some group without applying a disability to someone else. The ADA is a good example. Even if the ADA benefited people with disabilities, an assumption challenged in the program, the ADA would impose manifest disabilities on the rest of the population. So, what balance of interests constitutes good intentions?

Consider the interests of Congress. Each member of Congress has an interest in increasing his own power and financial standing. In other words, each member of Congress naturally wants to, at the very least, win the next election. If the politician can achieve higher office, so much the better. So, the politician is motivated to do whatever will insure success in the next election. Insuring success in the next election has little or nothing to do with following the constitution, or adhering to any notions of liberty or justice.

While the politician is in office, and after the politician has left office, increasing his wealth is an obvious goal. In fact, members of Congress live very well on the public teat while in office, and often live even better after they leave office. If you can pass legislation favorable to particular industries, you can be cut in on all sorts of business deals.

So, why should anyone believe that Congress has good intentions? If you could read minds, you might be able to determine the intentions of Congress. Since you cannot read minds, you can only judge by the actions of Congress. Those actions hardly warrant the assumption of good intentions.

Posted September 5, 2010 by Brian Cantin in Uncategorized

The War on Independent Truckers

Last year, independent truckers were protesting plans by the Port of Los Angeles that would put them out of business due to the high costs of complying with pollution abatement.

The latest news, reported here and here, has about 12 thousand of the 19 thousand truckers out of business. Another 3 thousand support jobs have been lost. According to reports, pollution is greatly reduced.

The Port of Los Angeles and the Teamsters Union are not satisfied with putting most of the independent truckers out of business. The Teamsters Union drew up a plan that would bar all owner operated trucks from accessing the port. The Port of Los Angeles accepted the plan. The Teamsters Union says that union drivers would get higher wages, and benefits. The legality of the plan is being fought out in federal courts. The Port of Los Angeles has won round one.

If the plan is implemented, the winners will be the Teamsters Union, which will get more members and more dues. The union members will get more renumeration. Large trucking companies will also be winners here because they will not have to compete with the low cost independent truckers. The politicians will presumably be paid off by the union and the trucking firms.

The losers will be the independent truckers, especially those who have just made a major investment in upgrading their equipment to satisfy pollution control regulations. The general public will also lose because shipping rates will go up for goods passing through the Port of Los Angeles. Thus, the costs of all those good will go up. Note that other ports around the country are carefully watching what is happening in Los Angeles before deciding whether to follow suit with similar plans.

Where ever you have a political authority controlling a major transportation facility, you have cartelization of access to the facility. Airports always have taxi service cartelized via permits and licenses.

Posted September 2, 2010 by Brian Cantin in Uncategorized