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"Hilarious." – Daniel Hannan

Archive for March, 2011

What’s that funny writing on the White House’s toilet paper?

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Under what authority is president Obama committing the U.S. military to attacking Libya?

It is clearly, and most significantly, not the consitution.

It is clearly not the War Powers Resolution of 1973.

It does not even seem to be U.N. resolution 1973 which, while rather vague, appears to endorse only the establishment of a no-fly zone and “safe zones” for civilians.

The only apparent “justification” for military action is precedent — other presidents have abused their executive power and so this one shall as well, when and where he sees fit.  The constitutional limits on government power are quite literally void, replaced by some kind of executive power stare decisis in which executive power is limited only by precedent, public opinion, and imagination.

The last concerted effort to constrain the power of the federal government resulted in brutal opression and over 600,000 American deaths.  What kind of repressive dictator would engage in bloody, all-out civil war against his own people to maintain the power of the state?  We built a monument to him, and all of us have at one time or another carried a picture of him in our wallets.

Where will the American people next draw the line limiting the power of the state?  The only thing we can be certain of is that it isn’t going to be drawn for us.

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Written by MikeM

March 31st, 2011 at 9:14 am

Strategery

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Confined by the vague and awkwardly limiting mission of “protecting civilians”, NATO forces in Libya have run into their first rather predictable tactical stumbling block (ignoring for the moment the overall muddled strategy).  It seems Gadhafi’s military discovered fairly quickly that driving tanks across open desert to threaten civilian population centers wasn’t going to work out very well for them.  Now they are on the defensive, able to hunker down in urban areas surrounded by the civilians it is NATO’s mission to “protect”.  Since it’s suicidal for a few guys in a pickup truck to attack a coordinated group of tanks, the rebels must rely on NATO air power to do the job. 

So the question becomes, is NATO going to drop bombs on tanks entrenched in defensive positions in residential areas, near schools, hospitals, mosques etc.?  They can, certainly, and generally with great accuracy.  But when they start dropping bombs in residential neighborhoods it’s going to feel a lot more like a war than a clean, limited “UN mandated humanitarian action”.  If NATO accidentally blows up an apartment building, do we just subtract the lives lost there from all the ones we’ve “saved”, and call it a net positive?  Gadhafi is trying to save his grip on power with bombs, NATO is trying to save his people with bombs…as in any war, even one with lofty humantarian motives, the civilian population is caught in the middle.

This “humanitarian action” isn’t going to end until Gadhafi is removed, or his military loses its ability or will to fight.  The UN mandated mission will result in neither outcome.  President Obama is undoubtedly (well, if he bothers to) reading reports that if we just send in one Marine Expeditionary Unit and some tanks, we’ll have Gadhafi gone in a week.  He has absolutely no problem going back on promises great or small, so we’ll see whether his love of international coalitions wins out over political pressure to just get the job done.  It’s unfortunate that the competence and impressive capability of our military masks the utter foolishness of war fought by political fiat.  One would think we would’ve learned at least that lesson from Vietnam.  Instead, our military is the personal plaything of “humanitarians” and warmongers alike.

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Written by MikeM

March 29th, 2011 at 8:40 am

Hail to the Chief

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Via Reason.com, a succinct article which rejects partisan melodrama to encapsulate the real problem with our executive branch:

Every administration expands power where it wishes, but no power is ever repealed.  The result is a one-way ratchet that tightens the grip of government, click after inexorable click.  The problem is not that presidents are sometimes inconsistent—but that their apparent inconsistencies turn out to have such a remarkably consistent effect.

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Written by MikeM

March 25th, 2011 at 12:03 pm

Cookie Crackdown

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Hazelwood, MO — the city does not like girl scouts selling cookies from their front yard.  It violates city code!

The fact that we did have this code in place, it’s the responsibility of every good citizen to respect the laws that we have.

Respecting the rule of law is one thing.  Bowing to petty city officials and their ordinances is another entirely.  Like any bully, government bureaucrats will be angry but quickly irrelevant if you just ignore them.  Which these girls and their mother did, fortunately.  Good for them — the sand castles of petty bureaucrat kingdoms will wash away if we simply ignore their plaintive admonotions to obey.

Go ahead, assholes.  Arrest girl scouts for selling girl scout cookies.  Good luck.

A word of advice to all city councilmen and other minor functionaries of the world:  if you create a “law”, and later realize that there are some circumstances where it would be ridiculous, unfair, or tragicomical to attempt to enforce it, you never should have created that “law” in the first place.  It is a sure sign that your intervention was immoral and you have overstepped the bounds of your position and likely your competency.

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Written by MikeM

March 24th, 2011 at 9:52 am

Obamacare Waiver For New York City?

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Congressman Weiner says implementing Obamacare in New York City might be a little complicated.

Central planning always is, Weiner…

It is a mystery to me why the 20th century didn’t at least interalize the concept of the impossibility of central planning into the human consciousness.  Tens of millions dead and we’re still daydreaming of government-sponsored utopia.

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Written by MikeM

March 24th, 2011 at 7:07 am

Terrorism, Evolved

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Apparently the definition of terrorism is evolving.  This is not particularly surprising, since broadening the definition is a useful tool for an ambitious Department of Homeland Security looking to increase its scope and power.  It is, however, bad news for anyone who doesn’t see eye to eye with the federal government.

A North Carolina resident has been convincted of (from the FBI report)

making coins resembling and similar to United States coins; of issuing, passing, selling, and possessing Liberty Dollar coins; of issuing and passing Liberty Dollar coins intended for use as current money; and of conspiracy against the United States.

It’s probably worth noting that under those guidelines, Utah’s recently passed legislation to accept gold coins as legal tender might not be very well received by the federal government.

Now I’m not going to defend the actions of someone attempting to coin his own currency out of silver, except to say that I doubt he posed any existential threat to the United States government.  Although the incarceration of a senior citizen for such a victimless crime is disturbing, I am especially bothered by this statement (also in the FBI report) from US attorney Anne Tompkins following the guilty verdict in the Liberty Dollar case:

Attempts to undermine the legitimate currency of this country are simply a unique form of domestic terrorism.  While these forms of anti-government activities do not involve violence, they are every bit as insidious and represent a clear and present danger to the economic stability of this country.  We are determined to meet these threats through infiltration, disruption, and dismantling of organizations which seek to challenge the legitimacy of our democratic form of government.

Making silver coins is “every bit as insidious” as exploding a bomb in a train station or crashing airplanes into buildings?

Clear and present danger” has become something of a catch phrase for government officials looking to justify stomping on the rights of the individual.  Our country was founded upon, and has a proud tradition of, “insidiuous anti-government activities”.  Now the modern American state has become a jealous guardian of her own power, just as the British Empire once was, and recoils even at the idea of a citizen creating his own currency for barter — as if the Federal Reserve itself weren’t an insidious danger to our economic stability.

It is not a particularly significant mental leap to replace “our democratic form of government” with “the state”:

We are determined to meet these threats through infiltration, disruption, and dismantling of organizations which seek to challenge the legitimacy of the state.

Is this a statement by a federal prosecutor, or the mission statement of the state secret police?  Again — in her statement she referred to “our democratic form of government”, and that may be enough for some — but I don’t see much distinction between our modern blind reverence of “the democratic process” and past reverence of “the state”.

  • Mission statement of the Nazi secret police (GESTAPO):  “The Gestapo has been entrusted the mission by the Fuehrer to watch over and to eliminate all enemies of the Party and the National Socialist State as well as all disintegrating forces of all kinds directed against both. The successful solution of this mission forms one of the most essential pre-requisites for the unhampered and frictionless work of the Party.”
  • Mission statement of the Soviet Secret Police (Cheka):  “1. To investigate and liquidate all attempts or actions connected with counter-revolution or sabotage, no matter from whom they may come, throughout Russia.  2. The handing over for trial by Revolutionary Tribunal of all saboteurs and counter-revolutionaries, and the elaboration of measures to fight them.”

My sources here aren’t exactly peer-reviewed academic papers, but the purpose of any state secret police organization is obvious enough anyways.  I don’t lose sleep at night over shadow-government conspiracy theories, and I’m not immediately concerned that the Justice Department/DHS is going to turn into the GESTAPO, but the course of human history is not one characterized by respect of individual liberty and limited government.  The United States is an aberration in human governance, and a relatively brief one at that.

We would be foolish to blindly follow those among us who offer up “our democratic form of government” as incontrovertible evidence that individual liberty will never face any threat in America.  There is already considerable mounting evidence to the contrary.  Democracy is simply the latest fashion in human governance — one of the least objectionable our species has come up with so far, but deeply flawed.  Liberty is something distinctly different, and far more precious — it is the great American experiment, and a fundamental human right that the founders of this country bled for.

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Written by MikeM

March 23rd, 2011 at 1:54 pm

The Humanitarian Missile Barrage

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Being President of the United States is complicated.  Being a President who feels compelled to micromanage the affairs of other nations using French planes, British special forces, and a massive number of cruise missiles is impossible for any one person, but the arrogance of those who view themselves as the ruling elite knows literally no bounds.

If United States intervention in the affairs of Libya was essentially inevitable (as our meddling seems to be these days), it should have been timely.  That is to say, help the rebels when they are advancing on Tripoli, Gaddafi is backed into a corner, and his military commanders are eyeing the next plane to Syria .  FAIL

Once we have committed to intervention, commit with a clear goal and ensure that both allies and enemy understand your intent (one would assume we have to remove Gaddafi at this point, not just fly combat air patrols for rebels in pickups for the next couple years).  FAIL

With that clear goal in mind, provide leadership that the coalition can look to for direction in accomplishing the mission (in the absence of US leadership, the French have proposed some sort of non-NATO “political steering committee” to direct the action in Libya).  FAIL

If you have no idea how to accomplish these goals, or worse, don’t even know that these things are necessary, then fire up the Tomahawk missile factory and set up a rotation schedule for our military — we’re going to be there for a while.  Doing…something.  Good thing we have plenty of room in the budget for a third war.

Also it’s worth noting that if our mission is purely a humanitarian one and humanitarian reasons alone compel us to military action, we ought to be intervening in (bombing?) most of Africa, much of the Middle East, North Korea, and probably Russia and China.

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Written by MikeM

March 23rd, 2011 at 9:19 am

Green economy for US, reality for Brazil

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From Investor’s Business Daily (editorial):

Obama wants to develop Brazilian offshore oil to help the Brazilian economy create jobs for Brazilian workers while Americans are left unemployed in the face of skyrocketing energy prices by an administration that despises fossil fuels as a threat to the environment and wants to increase our dependency on foreign oil.

That about sums it up.  In the Gulf of Mexico, oil wells are environment-destroying barriers to green progress.  In Brazil, they are key to “secure-energy supplies”.  What’s the difference?  Perhaps it’s George Soros’ investment in Petrobras.  Perhaps it’s just that those who consider themselves the elite rulers of the ignorant masses feel absolutely no accountability to be consistent in thought or policy, or that we’ve given our politicians license to toy with our economy like a child with an anthill.  Either way the United States is left with massive untapped oil reserves just sitting in the ground.  For some reason we provided the president a switch that turns off a significant portion of domestic oil production, and he felt that flipping it would look good politically in the midst of the BP oil spill crisis.  Shame on us.  Hopefully that ridiculous assumption of executive power wont hold up in court.

Do we really need two heads of state standing next to each other talking at cameras to ensure that America and Brazil cooperate in the future on mutually beneficial business deals?  Shouldn’t we simply leave oil exploration to oil companies with the necessary specialized knowledge?  On the other hand, Brazil is still predominantly socialist and Obama thinks government has the prerogative to fiddle with absolutely any and every aspect of our economy.  So it seems political photo-ops and press conferences stuffed with platitudes are the way business will be conducted in the future.

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Written by MikeM

March 22nd, 2011 at 9:52 am