Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

The shooting that happened in Arizona last weekend was appalling. Anyone who would wantonly spray a crowd of people with bullets is not worth much consideration as a human. Jared Loughner’s actions are indefensible. He could have perhaps staked a very weak claim to the morality of using force against agents of the state that imposes force against us all every day. It would have been a weak and tenuous claim, a claim that I have rejected from others whenever they have advocated it in my presence. Instead, what he did was turn his gun on a crowd of innocent people. He was just a murderer. I feel deeply sorry for the families of the dead and I hope just as much for the recovery of the injured. For Loughner, I hope he is locked away forever. Executing him would just drag society down to his level.

I was in Canada when the shooting happened, so I was able to avoid the sketchy early reporting. I did get back just in time to catch a lot of leftists (H/T: Andrew) making an  unseemly spectacle out of Sarah Palin and the Tea Party’s supposed culpability in Loughner’s crime. It made me sad to see a respectable blogger like Andrew Sullivan, one of my all-time favorites, jump so quickly to this conclusion. The reality of the matter is that Loughner is an incoherent fool. He is mad as a march hare. What he did was horrible and I hope he is punished severely, but he did not do this as some sort of foot soldier of the Tea Party or because Sarah Palin put a target on a map. He did this because in his crazy mind, government is assaulting language or something like that.

And I can understand why so many leftists leapt to this conclusion. Sarah Palin is a HORRIBLE human being. She has aroused new levels of contempt in me, something that is remarkable given my inborn antipathy for statists. I dislike all of the presidents, but I am confident that were Palin elected, she would quickly find herself battling with FDR and Woodrow Wilson for the title of worst of all-time.

So yes, let us defeat Palin the lying, ignorant, Bible-thumping barbarian. But not in this way. Not in a way that manipulates the deaths of innocent people to reach a political end. If you really think some map graphic on a Sarah Palin website made this nutter kill those people, you have a serious correlation vs. causation problem you need worked out.

As for the overreactions from the agents of Leviathan, join me in vomiting on them all. First there was Rep. Bob Brady D-PA (H/T: Andrew), presumably some sort of vulgar mouth-breather who would just feel more important if he had a taxpayer-funded security detail behind him. Guess what, Bob? No one made you become one of the chief agents of the criminal gang running this country. You had a choice. You chose to become a slave overseer. If you don’t like the risks inherent in the job, then get the hell out. Just now, I saw some dumb shmuck calling for bipartisan seating at the State of the Union address. Good God. The only thing I would like about that sort of useless maneuver is that it might cause some more people to realize that this country is really a one-party (War Party) state. And then there are the worst of the worst, the people calling for limits on speech, the people calling for the Fred Phelps church to be banned from funerals, the people calling for the Fairness Doctrine to return, etc. Just shut up, all of you. I think about half of those people are really just sand-headed kneejerkers of the lowest sort, whilst the other half are hardcore statists who wanted those policies all along and are just using the current tragedy as an excuse.

Best pundit reaction? I’d have to say Radley Balko. He was one of the few people to not let the government off the hook here and remind people that the state initiates force against each of us every day. That was a hard thing for a national pundit to say after this sort of event, so good for him. From my perspective, it’s important to say that Loughner is crazy as a loon and guilty as hell. But don’t let the deranged actions of one murderer become for America what the Port Arthur massacre was/is for Australia–a blank check for kneejerkers and statists to achieve long-held goals in an emotional moment.


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I cross the U.S.-Canada border on I-5 or SR-543 in Blaine, WA at least once every two weeks. When I first started crossing in September, I was not used to the border guards’ interrogations and allowed them to intimidate me into nervous responses that led to two full searches going into Canada. But soon I figured out what they wanted to hear (yes/no answers, no headshakes, no mmmhmms, no long stories) and how they wanted me to act (calm as if I just downed a tranquilizer) and they stopped searching me. On the U.S. side, it was even less of an issue–they opened my trunk once or twice, but that was it.

Until this weekend.

Going to Canada was the same old thing. The border guard even recognized me and was friendly. But coming back to the U.S. just after midnight on Monday morning, the border crossing at I-5 Peace Arch was extremely dead. There was only one car in front of me. He got through quickly and I pulled up to the guard shack. The guard started into his usual questions, I started into my usual answers…and then he informed me that I’d been selected for a random screening. I stopped talking entirely and stared straight ahead. He gave me instructions for where to pull up and wait for a guard. Then he randomly said “You’re welcome,” either out of conditioning or because he wanted to piss on me a little bit more.

I pulled my car off to the left and parked. I waited. Five minutes passed. No guard emerged from the building. I looked around, wondering if maybe I was not in the right place. I turned the car on and began to inch it forward. Suddenly, two guards came out of the building and told me to stop and back up. They then instructed me to come inside.

The customs building is massive and sparkling. Ah, the wonderful things that 9/11 did for America’s police state bureaucrats! And on this night, it was also completely empty, save for three thugs at keyboards and one thug walking around behind them. I walked to the front of the “line” and then a surly red-haired thug who looked like he hadn’t seen a smile since the first Bush administration told me to come forward. Yes, told. He did not ask. I complied.

He started into the usual questions, too: “Why were you in Canada?” “How long were you there?” “Are you bringing anything back?” “What do you do for work?”

To this, I replied that I was a writer. He then followed up and said, “What kind of writing?” At last I had had enough. I said flatly, “I’m not going to answer that.”

“Why not,” he asked.

“It’s not relevant to my visit to Canada and I’m not going to answer it.”

“You are either going to answer it or you can go sit in the corner over there until you feel like answering it.”

I reemphasized that this question was not relevant and I would not answer it. Another guard yelled at me to go sit down. I continued to defend myself as a third guard then entered the fray. I asked him if he was familiar with “some guy v. Puerto Rico from the 1960s” (I could not remember the name of the decision, which is apparently U.S. v. Valentine), a ruling that stated that one of an American citizen’s rights is reentry into his own country. The guard said that he was aware of this right, but that I would need to answer some questions first.

With three of them telling me to sit down, I went and sat in “time out.” I haven’t felt more like a child since I was taking naps on towels and playing Transformers in kindergarten. I sat there and fumed, refusing to even look at them, planning what my next step would be, how long I would be willing to tolerate time out.

After five minutes, the red-haired thug told me to come back over. Again, told–he did not ask. So I complied.

“I need your keys so I can search your car.”

Now, first, let me point out that he did NOT re-ask me the same question about what kind of writing I do. That he did not re-ask this question necessarily proves my point that the question was irrelevant. Back to the dialogue.

“Ok, but I would like to be present for any search,” I said.

“That’s now allowed. Why do you care? Is there something I should know about?”

“No, I just want to see how my property is treated and would also like to make sure you do not plant anything.”

This suggestion made Mr. Thug angry, almost as if I had hurt him.

“Why would I plant something?”

“I have no reason to trust you,” I replied. Looking back on it, I should have said, “I am on this side of the desk and you are on that side. That’s reason enough.” But I was flustered.

So the dialogue continued. I offered to watch them search my car through a window, which, I pointed out, I have been allowed to do in Canada. No. I asked them if they had a warrant. Oh, ho-ho–the Supreme Court has ruled that the 4th Amendment does not apply at borders! So I continued to refuse the search and was ready to either ask for my passport back so I could just return to Canada (though I suspect this would not be allowed) or just go back to the corner.

Before I could act, the pacing thug walked over and asked what was going on. They explained the situation. He then looked at me and said, “Ok, so here is how this is going to work. You can either give them the keys and let them search your car, or I will put you in handcuffs, lock you in a cell, take your keys, and then search the car. Which one is it going to be?”

Knowing well the indefinite detention record of U.S. border guards, I decided the cell would not be in my best interest. Instead, I said, “I will give you the keys, but I want everyone’s name here so I can be sure to complain about you all.”

“Fine, I am the supervisor,” the pacing thug said.

So I gave them the keys. Two of them practically sprinted out of the building. They returned within a few minutes, much faster than the searches have taken in Canada. The reason, after all, is that they cared very little about searching my car but very much about making me kneel down and kiss Leviathan’s ring and acknowledge my own enslavement. They called me back over to the desk. The pacing thug returned and, wordlessly, wrote down his name (Rick Gattis, 360-332-5771) on a piece of paper and gave it to me.

The red-haired thug then started into some spiel about “thanking me for my cooperation.” I took the keys and didn’t even look at him, let alone respond. I couldn’t get away from those vile fascists fast enough.

Allow me to quickly say that it is incidents such at this one, an incident that proves that supposed Constitutionally-guaranteed “rights” we have are a sham, that make me look forward evermore to the day when I can walk into a U.S. embassy abroad and throw my passport in some shocked bureaucrat’s face. This country is a fraud. The only existential danger America faces is not some religious idiots hiding in a cave in Pakistan, but the ever-greater demands of empire. Terrorists cannot destroy this country. What can destroy it is the incredibly successful alliance of a credulous, stupid, and scared citizenry, ever happier to allow themselves to be enslaved by an army of bureaucrats, eager to get fat paychecks and pensions whilst searching the slaves and reading their emails.

And you know what? I look forward to the end of it all. Once America’s empire is gone (Ed. note: I am not advocating for America’s enemies, either, since they are mainly medieval religious fanatics), maybe it can be a decent country again or, better yet, many separate decent countries. I am not one to like the idea of a state at all, but several smaller, humbler Americas would be infinitely preferable to the present imperialistic behemoth that blows up Afghan weddings, holds people in cages indefinitely and without charge, and supports all manner of evil men, whether it be Somalis employing child soldiers or Netanyahu plowing under Palestinian homes, all in the name of freedom and democracy. Would that it could all be ended tomorrow. Would that the American people, no better or worse than any others, could be allowed to live peacefully and freely in small and humble communities, without the threat of coercion.

Whatever America’s future may be, I do not expect to be part of it. I would rather live in exile than continue to support this stupid empire any longer.

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Pfc. Bradley Manning is believed to be the man responsible for leaking most of the Iraq, Afghanistan, and diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks. Thanks to an entrapping series of online chats with ex-hacker and likely government agent Adrian Lamo, Manning was arrested last spring. Since then, he has been held in solitary confinement  for seven months. Mind you, Manning has never been charged with a crime and likely will not be in the near future.

Glenn Greenwald was the first person I saw really address this topic. He hit all of the most horrifying points: that Manning is kept in his cell for 23 hours a day, that he is denied even sheets and a pillow, that he may not exercise in his cell, that he is forbidden from any access to the news, etc. Most importantly, Greenwald pointed out that solitary confinement, especially for this length of time, has a demonstrable effect on mental health and could likely be considered torture.

More details were added by Manning’s lawyer, David Coombs (H/T: Lew Rockwell). Coombs revealed that Manning is kept awake from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. by guards walking past his cell and asking him to verify his status every five minutes. Can you imagine how horrible this must be? To be kept awake in a cell with nothing to do for 15 hours straight? It is amazing that Manning is not already insane, though if Manning visitor David House’s report that Manning wants to some day use the GI Bill to get a B.A. in PoliSci and a grad degree in Physics is true, maybe insanity has already arrived. There are draconian restrictions on his access to reading materials. His clothes are taken away from him each night.

And yet somehow the U.S. government that treats a man, let alone a man convicted of no charges, in this manner has the gall to criticize other countries for torture. There was a time when those criticisms might have rung true. That time is long since past with this country’s shameful collapse into a police state.

The good news, if there is any, is that the efforts of people like Greenwald and Coombs have led the UN to investigate Manning’s treatment. There is little reason to expect any sort of fast action from such a bureaucratic organization, and even less reason to suspect any sort of satisfactory action from an organization run by imperialists, but at least maybe it will shame the U.S. government into doing something to ameliorate Manning’s condition.

We must not forget Bradley Manning, as I am afraid some of us, myself included, did in the excitement of the diplomatic cables being released. That this man remains imprisoned without charge in such shameful conditions is a moral outrage. Together maybe we can do something to rescue him.

In the meantime, I love what Kevin Carson at Center for a Stateless Society wrote: “If there’s a soldier anywhere in the world who’s fought and suffered for my freedom, it’s Pfc. Bradley Manning.”

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Chances are you don’t know much about Central Asia, the club of five ex-Soviet “stans” located just north of America’s bloodiest and most corrupt fiefdom, Afghanistan. Kazakhstan is probably the most famous, thanks to the infamous Borat Sagdiyev. Kyrgyzstan gets a decent amount of news play because of the Tulip Revolution they had in 2005 and then the unnamed revolution and ethnic violence they had last summer. Of the five–Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan–only Kyrgyzstan can lay any sort of claim to being a democracy, and the Kyrgyz democracy is rotten with corruption and heavily dependent upon foreign powers.

The weirdest one has to be Turkmenistan. Turkmenistan is a sandy place that used to be quite poor until they discovered they sat on top of an untold wealth of natural gas. When the Soviet empire fell, the Communist First Secretary Saparmurat Niyazov just stayed on for the next 15 years until his death. But given the absence of a communist cult and the addition of natural gas money, the next 15 years were a wild time for the country. Niyazov rechristened himself Turkmenbashi (father of the Turkmen), wrote an autobiography that became a “textbook” for proper living, renamed months of the calendar after himself and his mother, changed the alphabet, and built golden statues of himself. It was a cult of personality so stupid and so eccentric as to almost invite laughter, had it not been paid for and foisted upon his unwitting subjects.

He died suddenly in 2006 and was replaced by an obscure dentist, Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedov. Surely things would be better under him than the ghastly Turkmenbashi!

WikiLeaks says no. WikiLeaks documents show U.S. authorities calling Berdimuhammedov an extremely paranoid intellectual lightweight who built a $79 million presidential yacht that would have been larger if only the Caspian Sea canals were bigger. This as the Turkmen people continue to live in poverty. Of course, his wife and daughters live in Western Europe.

Elsewhere in the region, WikiLeaks shows General Petraeus being told to suck up to Tajik dictator Emomali Rakhmon, a vile old drunk who has a strange habit of seeing opponents die in jail. Cables also show the U.S. standing idly by as Kazakh dictator and U.S. ally Nursultan Nazarbayev fixes another election.

These are the sort of things desperate empires do as they cling to power whilst fighting disastrous wars at the farthest fringes of their realms. The American war machine needs Manas AFB in Kyrgyzstan in order to keep fighting in Afghanistan, so politicians will be lied to and cheated and ultimately throw money at bad, corrupt contracts in Kyrgyzstan, just to keep the body bags coming. They will suck up to Nazarbayev, just to keep overflight rights. They will add Uzbek Islamists to terrorist watchlists, just to curry some favor.

The Ottoman Empire was once called the Sick Man of Europe. America is now the Sick Man of the World–still represented across the globe, but increasingly stretched thin, increasingly devoid of ideas and money. I look forward to the end of this empire that has brought economic ruin at home and death and destruction abroad.

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The newspaper stories coming out of Canada in the past couple of weeks have not been kind to freedom. They could have just as easily come from the U.S. or any other Western country, but they happened to come out of Canada this time, so I’m going to do a mini-link roundup, just for Canada.

  • Headline: “Why do we still subsidize care for the well-to-do?” It is every bit as stupid as it sounds. This dough-faced old socialist wants to make sure that the people who pay the highest taxes don’t get the same healthcare as everyone else by means-testing them. Look, I don’t like government healthcare one bit. But if you made me pay a damn fine chunk of change into the system and then told me I wouldn’t get to enjoy the benefits of it because I was rich, I would surely burst into flames of rage. You already soaked the rich once to get your system, soaking them again to prop it up just makes the crime worse.
  • Welcome to Kelowna, B.C., a beautiful city in the heart of the Okanagan…and now home to a waste collection policy even more draconian than the one infamously employed in Cleveland. They have installed cameras and scanners on their garbage trucks to make sure everyone is being an obedient little serf and sorting his or her garbage properly. See if this sentence scares you: “And while miscreant residents won’t face fines, they can expect a visit from the garbage police, who will offer friendly guidance on separating paper and plastic.” Or how about this one: ‘The on-board cameras’ image resolution “isn’t high enough to look at detailed information,’ he said.” Oh, sort of like how the nude scanners can’t save images? Not only is Kelowna’s program a horrifying little exercise in the slippery slope of personal liberties, but also it completely fails to make sense in the midst of a recession.
  • Headline says it all: “Sorry if progress is hurting the bottom line.” The “progress” they are talking about is the yet-more draconian DUI laws adopted in B.C. In addition to the full DUI awarded at a BAC of .08, cops in B.C. can now give you a mini-DUI at .05, such that you receive a warning point, a 24-hour suspension, and a bill for towing your car. Naturally, people are scared of getting in trouble, such that bar sales may be down as much as 25%. There is nothing that low-margin businesses like more than losing business in a recession! But hey, you silly business owners, you need to shut your damn mouths and salute the flag so we can have some progress around here! I mean, the politicians need to look tough on crime. Screw you for wanting to eat, you obstructionists!!
  • Meet Michael Schmidt, Canada’s leading raw milk advocate and the founder of Cow Share Canada. Fresh off a victory in Ontario, Schmidt is expanding his efforts across the country. The thing I love about this story is that he goes to help some raw milk farmers in Alberta, but leaves as soon as he decides their cleanliness isn’t up to his standards. Huh, what do you know, maybe individual actors can responsibly regulate themselves without the coercive intervention of the state and its cartel buddies!
  • Some idiot who used to work at a vegetarian fashion house in Montreal called Matt & Nat is complaining that the company violated her rights by not allowing employees to eat meat on site. You violent little fool, no one made you work there! If your bacon sandwich is so damn important, find another job! Or just leave the office and eat at a restaurant or in a park, geez! I can’t believe people really think they are important enough to potentially ruin the livelihood of someone else just because they had their feelings hurt. What a doltish thug.
  • Headline: “Canada’s culture can still make its mark on the internet.” Ah, and what intrepid ideas does this editorial offer? Why, by using the Canadian Media Fund to subsidize internet content providers and helping them establish intellectual property rights! Or by using money stolen from taxpayers to achieve the logistically impossible goal of supplying universal broadband access in the second-largest country on earth! It pains me to think that multiple people were paid to come up with this drivel. Do they honestly think the internet needs state support to succeed? Even though it has succeeded in spite of it for the past 20 years? The blind faith in the state baffles me.

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Let’s get some things straight.

1. If you go to an airport, there is a good chance you will be asked to told to go through a new full body scanner. There is an equally good chance that you will not be told the machine you are being asked to enter is a full body scanner.

2. The new full body scanners shoot a somewhat-obscured vision of your nude body, which is then transmitted to a TSA goon in a remote room who determines if you are a terrorist or not.

3. The radiation load these scanners hit your body with is a subject of discussion, but some respected scientists are saying it simply isn’t safe (PDF).

4. You always have the right to opt of a scan. Just say that you want to opt out. Presumably the TSA will try to embarrass you by screaming “Opt out!” and then subjecting you to a public patdown.

5. The patdown will be disgusting. They have been instructed to grope your body up to and including your groin. But this momentary humiliation and violation of your rights is far preferable to taking a shot of radiation and/or giving them a naked shot of your body that may not be deleted, as they claim.

Tl;dr–ALWAYS opt out of the scanner and take the patdown.

Ok, now let’s elaborate the case a bit. The first incident to really gain infamy under the new regime involved Free Stater Meg McLain, who was allegedly handcuffed and had her ticket destroyed at a Florida airport just for asking questions about the process. Though some details of her story were later discovered to be less serious than they first appeared, her case is illustrative of one potential danger of the system. McLain is an attractive woman who was in part upset because she thought she was singled out for scanning because of her attractiveness. Even if she was not, it is easy to see how, in the airports still selecting passengers randomly for backscatter screening, the TSA could “randomly” select attractive people for their own perverse thrills.

Then there was the sad, sad, sad case of a 3-year-old girl reduced to screaming and tears by one of the new-style patdowns. Yes, a 3-year-old potential “terrorist.” I have seen a bunch of people on a bunch of blogs say it, but imagine how hard it must be for a parent to explain to their kids that it is never ok for a stranger to touch you, unless they are a costume-wearing bully with a badge at an airport. Then they can touch your private parts all they want, kids! Just sickening.

Now, one of the most famous claims made by the naked scanner advocates is that the nude images are immediately deleted upon the TSA screener deciding you are not a terrorist. As with so many government claims, Gizmodo discovered this is just not true (H/T: LewRockwell.com). It seems that the thugs operating the millimeter wave naked scanners at a federal courthouse in Orlando managed to save 35,000 images. If they were doing it there, they will do it elsewhere if they haven’t already. And once they start saving the images, it doesn’t really matter whether some pervy TSA goon is adding them to his porn collection or the government is constructing a database of biometric images, the reality is that your rights will be violated.

But people are already fighting back. Ron Paul has introduced the American Traveler Dignity Act to Congress (H/T: Jesse Walker at Reason). This bill would basically classify the new TSA screenings as sexual misconduct. I normally have no use for Congress,  but this sort of defensive legislation is potentially nice, though it surely won’t pass. Matt Kernan, an average guy from my hometown of Cincinnati, refused to submit to the completely ludicrous idea of a backscatter scanning on his way out of the airport after an international flight and, after 2.5 hours, beat the TSA and got to leave without one.

And most importantly, tomorrow–or what may already  be “today” for some of you–will be Wednesday, November 24: National Opt-Out Day. Fliers and non-fliers alike will congregate at airports to protest against the new measures by opting out of the scans en masse and taking patdowns. Hopefully it will both snarl the TSA apparatus and show to the uninformed members of the public that you actually do have a right to opt out. I’m going to be part of the protest here in Seattle. Both tomorrow and beyond, be sure to check out WeWontFly.com, a clearinghouse for information about the scanners and how to resist.

So, whatever you do, do not go through the scanners. Take your patdown for the moment, ask the screener how it feels to be a fascist who sexually assaults children, and then continue to speak out against the TSA every chance you get. They may have pushed too far on this one. We won’t be able to get the feds to unspend the billions they spent on former DHS secretary Michael Chertoff’s nude scanners, but at least we can get them out of our airports and away from our bodies.

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The National Post recently had two good articles on what are called “equalization payments” in Canada. Basically, ever year, the wealthy Western provinces like British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and especially Alberta transfer wealth to the federal authorities, who then redistribute it to have-nots in the East. The worst culprit this year is capitalism-bashing Quebec, which will receive more than $8.5 billion from “greedy” Western oil and timber barons.

The whole system is quite distasteful–to think that people in one part of the country have some claim to the wealth of people in another part of the country. If Quebecers want a slice of Alberta’s pie, then maybe they should move to Alberta. But it is unsurprising in our world of nationalism. Rather than let Quebec go, federal governments have bought them off with equalization payments and allowed them to get by with unsustainable fiscal policies. Rather than respect federalism and let people in Alberta and B.C. keep their money, federal governments act as if they are somehow entitled to arbitrarily redistribute it.

The first article I read was about how equalization payments come not just in the form of direct transfers,  but also much higher rates of federal employment in the have-not provinces. Personally, I think Alberta should feel lucky to have fewer bloodsuckers per capita running around than those on Prince Edward Island, but that’s just me. In any case, this article got my long-established anti-equalization hackles up.

But the second article sort of knocked me back on my feet. Canada’s Atlantic provinces have often benefited from equalization payments, leading Canadians elsewhere to look down on them a bit. And I would have continued to do so myself if not for this article which pointed out that Atlantic Canada had a vibrant trading relationship with the Eastern United States until the mid-19th century, when protectionist industrialists in Ontario and Quebec ganged up on them and obstructed trade with the U.S.

So yes, the equalization payments of today are a gross demonstration of the idea that some people have a claim on the wealth of others just because they happen to live inside the same imagined borders. But the equalization payments of today might not have been necessary if state-allied business owners of a century and a half ago had not used government’s coercive force to protect their interests and crush the productivity of others. Both in the 19th century and the 21st, the state is picking sides and messing things up. As the equalization fatcats in Quebec would say, plus ca change

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