DHS Has Never Used the ‘Terrorism Advisory System’

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manchin-toomey postgame rant

The recent universal background check defeat is not a symptom of a system that has gone awry. In fact, it is the system working EXACTLY as the founders intended. That’s right, the founders INTENDED that it be practically impossible for the majority’s passion of the moment to carry us into taking away essential liberties. In fact, the very term “tyranny of the majority” was coined by none other than John Adams, during the Constitutional Convention (de Toqueville later cribbed it, though he properly attributed it. The attribution never gets quoted though) and amplified on in the Federalist Papers. We can debate whether or not the system’s historically worked, but this one time, the system did exactly what we asked it to do; protect our essential liberties from ourselves. We keep hearing about this mythical 90% majority that wants to barter away our essential freedom (90% is pretty much the definition of an echo chamber, you typically can’t get 90% of the people to agree that the sky is blue), yet it wouldn’t matter how much of a majority wants to remove a freedom, so long as there’s one person that says “NO, you won’t have my freedom today” (a brave heart, if you will) that’s enough for the founders, and should be enough for any Constitutionally-elected official. Unfortunately, it seems that it isn’t, as literally within hours of this defeat, certain gun control advocates that shall remain nameless carped about how the system was broken, some of which should have known better. It is a sad state of affairs when an alleged Constitutional scholar can’t figure out that “the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” doesn’t mean “well, we can infringe it with a background check, or a registration form, those aren’t REALLY infringements, amirite?”. The aftermath of this defeat of gun control also provided another “interesting” effect: there were numerous items on social media “doxing” the senators that voted against invoking cloture, on Facebook there’s a photomosaic of all the Senators voting against it conmingled with a photomosaic of the Newtown victims; on Twitter, they published the Senators’ Twitter handles . While these are pathetic attempts at “Doxing” (public airing of personal information, typically on one’s enemies, oftentimes spelled “d0x”), it provides a chilling reminder that the people that want you to provide further information to buy a gun via background checking or registration are the LAST people that can be trusted with that information. If they are willing to air Senators’ personal information just to make a political point, just imagine what happens when they want further concessions and they have access to YOUR information (Don’t laugh, it’s happened, a New York paper published the names and addresses of all registered gun owners in their area during the ramp up to this debate). In sum, the Constitution won, but it won’t be the last fight by a long shot.

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BOSTON MARASSACRE: This what world like now…

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HAPPENING: Libertarian Party officially accepts bitcoin donations…

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Companies drag out interview process…
“It’s like one of those horror movies, an economic Friday the 13th, where this recession never seems to die.”

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Kerry welcomes Chinese investment in America’s infrastructure…

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Solar panels could destroy U.S. utilities, according to U.S. utilities…

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Taxing the Fruits of Your Labor

It is once again “tax time,” that time of year when the IRS claims tax forms are due. There are some people who say that based on the wording of the IRS code the average worker is not required to file a tax return. Some of those people have even gone to jail for failure to file. Others like to point to statistics similar to the infamous 47% figure that gained notoriety during the 2012 Presidential election, which is the approximate percentage of people who do not pay federal income taxes. Most of the people who mention that statistic, do so in an effort to shame those who don’t pay any federal income tax. Every time I hear a statistics like this, I’m reminded of the Whitey Harrell trial. Mr. Harrell was charged with not filing an Illinois State tax return and was acquitted by the jury. Marcella Brooks, the juror that was vocal in getting the acquittal, recounts in America: Freedom to Fascism that the other members of the jury said “but he’ll get away with it.” Mr. Harrell was acquitted because the IRS couldn’t show the law that proved he was required to file a federal income tax. Millions of Americans are like the members of that jury – they’re not really upset that others aren’t paying; they’re upset that they are!

I’m not really concerned with whether or not there is a law, statute, regulation, or ordinance in place that says anyone must file a tax return. I’m not concerned, because there are many laws, statutes, regulations, and ordinances in place around the world that attempt to control people, by forcing them to do or not do certain things. In the past, there were laws that said one human could own another human against his will, that if a slave escaped he would be returned to “his master,” and that it was illegal to assist a run-away slave. Did those laws make involuntary servitude moral? No, nor did the laws that allowed the Germans to incarcerate and murder anyone of Jewish descent, make those acts any less heinous. Just because something is mandated under law does not make it right any more than a law prohibiting something makes it wrong.

The real unanswered question regarding taxes is not “what is someone’s fair share?” But rather: Does anyone else own the fruits of your labor?

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North Korea threatens to shoot missile to Colorado Springs, has no idea where that is…

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Will The Future GOP Be More Libertarian?
HoT NAILED IT: The GOP isn’t fracturing, it’s transforming into libertarians…

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Just Say “NO” to War with North Korea

Is war with North Korea inevitable? Some people are hinting that it can’t be avoided. CNN asked retired General James Marks to explain the military strategies likely to be used by North Korea and the United States in a conflict. Fox News has reported on the “Foal Eagle” exercises conducted by the American military in South Korea. ABC reported, “It appears North Korea is on the march toward war… [On April 3, North Korea] blocked entrance to an industrial park shared with South Korea, an industrial park that generates about $2 billion worth of revenue every year for North and South Korea.” On the same day, the North Korean government warned nuclear war could begin “today or tomorrow.” These threats by North Korea even have some in China scared.

South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-Jin has confirmed that North Korea has moved a missile with “considerable range” to the east coast. Though Kim explains the missile appears to be a mid-range variety, and is likely meant for a test firing or a drill, not an actual war.

Jason Ditz from Antiwar.com reports, “North Korea doesn’t even have missiles capable of hitting the US coast, and its best functional missiles would make any US territory, even Guam, a long-shot.”

The real question is not: will Kim Jong-un attack South Korea or attempt to attack the United States of America? The real questions is: why is the defense of South Korea the responsibility of the United States military? Pat Buchanan answers the question by saying if the American military weren’t in South Korea, and if the American government weren’t part of an entangling alignment with the South Korean government, “we would not be in the middle of this crisis now… U.S. policy, seemingly frozen in the 1950s, is in need of review. We cannot indefinitely be responsible for the defense of South Korea.”

It is also important to remember that George W. Bush wanted to go to war with North Korea in 2002 saying that North Korea was part of the “axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.”

Looking at the last ten years, and the number of deaths caused by the militaries of North Korea and the United States of America, which nation has been more of a threat to the peace of the world?

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Big Decisions from the High Court

The U.S. Supreme Court has received a lot of coverage regarding the recent hearing related to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), California’s Prop 8 and the definition of marriage. With much less fanfare the Court has issued several important decisions within the past couple of weeks.

There were three “big” rulings made by the court within the last two weeks. In a unanimous ruling, the Supreme Court ruled the federal government can be sued when a law enforcement officer intentionally injures or harms someone. In another ruling, the Court, in a 5-4 decision, ruled that police cannot bring drug-sniffing police dogs onto a suspect’s property to look for evidence without first getting a warrant for a search. Justice Antonin Scalia said a person has the Fourth Amendment right to be free from the government’s gaze inside their home and in the area surrounding it, which is called the curtilage. Opponents of the decision claim, this ruling may limit how investigators use dogs’ sensitive noses to search out drugs, explosives and other items hidden from human sight, sound and smell.

The other major decision of the Court involved the “first sale doctrine” which states that a copyright holder only has the authority to control the first sale of an item. For example, if you purchase a book at a store, that is the first sale, any transaction you make with the book after that purchase can not be controlled by the copyright holder.

Before the Court issued their ruling, some people were saying that Kirtsaeng v John Wiley & Sons could set a precedent to shut-down yard sales. That claim was not based on the facts of the case. John Wiley & Sons had sued Supap Kirtsaeng because Kirtsaeng had purchased cheaper text books overseas and was selling them on his college campus. Wiley claimed this, and not the original purchase overseas, was the “first sale.”

The Supreme Court issued a 6-3 ruling that Kirtsaeng had not violated any law, and reversed a lower court order that Kirtsaeng pay John Wiley & Sons statutory damages of $600,000. The majority opinion written by Justice Breyer reads, in part, “we ask whether the ‘first sale’ doctrine applies to protect a buyer or other lawful owner of a copy (of a copyrighted work) lawfully manufactured abroad. Can that buyer bring that copy into the United States (and sell it or give it away) without obtaining permission to do so from the copyright owner? Can, for example, someone who purchases, say at a used bookstore, a book printed abroad subsequently resell it without the copyright owner’s permission?
In our view, the answers to these questions are, yes. We hold that the ‘first sale’ doctrine applies to copies of a copyrighted work lawfully made abroad.”

What does this mean? It means the next time you go on vacation to a foreign country and purchase something, you can then sale it at a yard sale, or on eBay without worrying whether you have “permission” to do so. It also means that libraries and second-hand stores will not be burdened with requirements to prove the items on their shelves were not purchased in a foreign market before entering the United States.

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Hammer of Truth going to 2013 Libertarian Party of CO Convention

I'll be the one wearing a hoodie the whole timeI’ll be at the LPCO convention doing daily blogging for Hammer of Truth and doing a little of this and that. I’ll be assuming everyone new I meet is a Fed unless they toke.

I sometimes find use for a secretary/intern/whatever, so any LPers with great organizational skills: hit me up and I’ll cover your ticket.

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I should buy Alcoa stock before posting this…

So… worried about cellphone snooping?

What if I told you that the FBI has had the capability to impersonate and man-in-the-middle cell towers since about 1995?

Paranoid yet?

What if I told you that the information about Stingray (the snooping system) has been in the public domain since at least last year, when it was used in a case in Texas? What about the worst possible case, that it’s been in the public domain for more than a decade? (To be fair with the last one, even I, your intrepid news-gatherer, dismissed that out of hand, as Shimomura is pretty much a blowhard)

Now remember, this is five or so years BEFORE the DHS was even thought of, so god only knows what those intrusive idiots came up with in the ensuing decade.

Yet these guys have a black budget in the billions, and we have nary a dime to spend on, say, educating our Army.

Happy fishbowl, suckers!

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Life and death: Hyperbole is a politician’s best friend

Not random enough

I’ve been non-watchdogging the political world for a few weeks, nay a month. I feels *sane* to be more productive rather than ranting about our continuous loss of freedoms. Freedoms wrought from us by an incompetent bureaucracy and powerful police state being erected in contempt of America’s history. We’re galloping into 2013, the Chinese year of the snake. Maybe the Gadsden flag will get dusted off for Tea Party 2.0. Wherein I expect some under-appreciated discontents will finally undigitize the revolution.

Mankind is currently having an identity crisis between eloquent promises of liberty-loving (mostly for themselves) and outright distaste for their fellow man (through their actions of edict and decree). Me? I’m just a programmer coding the shit out of PHP making glorious websites and sometimes issuing my own decree (this is one).

Maybe I’m a selfish prick too, just looking out for #1. Nah, I’ve somehow managed to rope others (ahem, dad) into helping us all tag-team the Revolution while I pretend to do that work thing in an office for pay, (and probably drink too much with coworkers and potential clients).

{cue laugh track with smattering of claps}

Colorado, COLORADO… oh sweet ***Colorado***

I hardly know you, but I’m concerned with your bureaucratic parasites sucking away the freedoms of guns, god and gold (and apparently ganja). Pretty soon they’ll be taking your whiskey away and then it’s back after the weed. How in the world would you fight that again without guns? You wouldn’t, so you shouldn’t back down now.

Dudes… are you smothering them with pot smoke, in which case okay kudos.

The Pueblo and Colorado Springs scene sucks my breath away. Not just because I’ve previously been bopping my head to Ohio’s Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Kid Cudi. But because with indifference and 5000ft altitude, we here also suck when we give them the power over our bodies and minds. But we’re not.

We have the resistance rising up out of antipathy, and it’s going to come from people like you and me, dontchaknow.

So I want you to wish deeply and….

aaaaaaaand…..

aaaaaaaaannnnnnnnnnnddddd…..

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNNNNNNNDDDDDDDDD!!!!!….

….

…AND THAT’S WHY I TURNED OFF THE ADS AT HAMMER OF TRUTH.

{cue theme song, roll credits}

Seriously though, the rest of the editors around here suck, you’re all fired. Just kidding, maintain your post sitting there consuming Hammer of Truth instead of driving it while I was gone, but without ad revenue no one’s ever getting paid, ever… mwuahahahaha…. /our remaining readers are probably laughing at you

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U.S. Senate Passes a Budget; Now the Work Begins

For the first time in 4 years, the U.S. Senate has passed a budget, as opposed to a continuing appropriations resolution which authorizes government agencies to fund their agencies at the current level until either the resolution expires, or an appropriations bill is passed. Reuters reports, “The budget plan passed 50-49 at about 5 a.m. [on March 23] after a marathon voting session in the Democratic-controlled chamber. Four Democratic senators facing tough re-election campaigns in 2014 joined all the Senate Republicans in opposing the measure, which seeks to raise nearly $1 trillion in new tax revenues…”

The budget that passed through the Senate also includes a proposal, the so-called Marketplace Fairness Act, that would give States the ability to require businesses to collect sales tax on products imported into the State. This proposal, if it actually becomes part of the law, would obliterate the physical presence standard which has been upheld by the Supreme Court “to protect businesses and their customers from predatory tax administrators.”

The Senate version of the budget includes a dozen other amendments, many of which are not part of the budget passed by the House of Representatives. Among the more interesting proposal that were adopted, are a pair of amendments from the Senators from Oklahoma, James Inhofe & Tom Coburn. The purpose of the Inhofe amendment is “to uphold Second Amendment rights and prevent the United States from entering into the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty” while the purpose of the Coburn amendment is unknown, even after it was adopted by a vote of 62-37.

The Senate also rejected 33 amendments via roll-call vote, including two amendments from Sen. David Vitter “to end the mobile phone welfare program” and “to ensure election integrity by requiring a valid government-issued photographic ID for voting in federal elections.” A third amendment proposal from Sen. Vitter was passed and would “end ‘Too Big To Fail’ subsidies or funding advantage for Wall Street mega-banks (over $500 billion in total assets).”

Reuters reports the White House welcomed the Senate move, with White House spokesman Jay Carney stating, “Today, the Senate passed a budget plan that will create jobs and cut the deficit in a balanced way. Now it is time for our leaders to come together to find common ground. The president has put a plan on the table that reflects compromise, and he will continue to work with both sides to see if there is an opportunity to reach a solution to our budget challenges.”

Not only is the budget a challenge, finding compromise between the two House & Senate budget will be a challenge, as well. The Senate budget would “reduce deficits by $1.85 trillion over 10 years through an equal mix of tax increases and spending cuts.” While the House budget “seeks $4.6 trillion in savings over the same period without raising new taxes.”

Whether a compromise can be reached is yet to be seen, and once again there is a threat of “government shut down” with the Treasury expected to exhaust its borrowing capacity around late July or early August. I don’t really expect a budget to be passed, and can safely predict that the House and Senate will pass a continuing resolution at the last minute to continue funding the wars, theft and oppression committed by the federal government.

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Rand Paul wins CPAC 2013 straw poll

Big ups to the torch-bearer Paul, winner of the 2013 CPAC Presidential Straw Poll:

Today, the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC 2013) concluded with Senator Rand Paul winning the CPAC Straw Poll. The Straw Poll was sponsored by The Washington Times and conducted by Fabrizio, McLaughlin & Associates.

Today’s 40th Annual National CPAC was a high-energy three-day conference bracketed by dynamic remarks by top regional and national conservative leaders.

In first place, Rand Paul secured 25% percent of the vote by registered CPAC attendees, followed by Senator Marco Rubio at 23% percent. Former Senator Rick Santorum received 8% percent of the vote, closely followed by Governor Chris Christie with 7% percent and Representative Paul Ryan with 6% percent.

Speaking of straws, apparently Rubio did a better job of podium drinking on the job this go around:

Let me tell you what the stakes are. Because the stakes are not just America. The stakes are bigger than that. [thank you. never in the history of the world has water been so popular. I appreciate that.].

Let’s start the Senator Rubio game, when he talks about water: you have to pick up your drink from the floor and slowly sip it.

Also, we are totally not implying that Rubio drinks on the job.

In contrast, Rand Paul seems to also have his faux pas moments of style (wearing cargo shorts with a suit top is certainly not one of them, endorsing Mitt Romney assuredly was), but he beats Rubio hands down n the categories of substance and genuineness. Senator Paul is also the tea party favorite and certainly what remains of the Ron Paul Revolution’s best shot at the White House in 2016. Maybe if Rubio would toe the libertarian line more often, his brand of mostly boring republican glass-eyed charm would be an asset.

Let’s take a moment to commemorate the great news that they both stomped the fuck out of Chris Christie and Rick “Spreading” Santorum and elevated a known libertarian and what is probably an honest to god conservative. That’s some great news showing the sanity of CPAC voters (who I assume are an accurate cross-section of the entire Republican Party and not just people off the street).

Congrats to all of them though, I’m sure it’s going to be tough staying positive once the dramatic theater of primary campaigning forces everyone to become an asshole to the enemy opposition.

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Secret Spying by the Government Means “No Standing, for You!”

Many civil rights advocates have long-known that the federal government had a secret spy program in place. Matt Sledge from HuffingtonPost reports, “Journalists and human rights advocates worried they are being swept up in an electronic dragnet cannot challenge the U.S. government’s secretive warrantless wiretapping program.” On March 12, the US Supreme Court issued a 5-4 ruling in the case of Clapper v. Amnesty International USA that the plaintiffs lacked legal standing.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote in his opinion, the plaintiffs’ argument that they have the standing to challenge the program was based on a “highly speculative fear.” He also wrote they “have no actual knowledge of the Government’s … targeting practices,” and “can only speculate as to how the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence will exercise their discretion in determining which communications to target.”

Jim Babka & Perry Willis from DownsizeDC explain that the Court made it’s decision “[b]ecause there is no evidence that the federal ‘government’ has directed such spying at the plaintiffs.” However, “The State asked for the power to do this kind of spying and to be allowed to keep it secret, therefore… we can assume that The State is doing this kind of spying, but… because the spying is a secret, the Court feels the plaintiffs lack specific cause or evidence for complaint.”

This is just one more case in which the government has given itself immunity from accountability. Babka & Willis conclude, “The State has just taken another step to establish its own illegitimacy. The Court here adds to the evidence that new forms of government should be erected. We continue to prefer reform, but we will add this latest abuse and usurpation to a case for the institution of new government.”

I don’t necessarily agree that there should be a new government instituted, at least not at the federal level. I would much prefer the federal government to simply vanish; then the people of each of the 50 States, 4 organized territories, 2 inhabited unorganized territories, and the Native Americans living in the 310 reservations would be able to decide for themselves what form of government they wish to have. I would further like to see jurisdictions that are no longer tied to geography, whereby each individual or family would be able to grant or withdraw consent from a particular “government” while not affecting the governmental choice of their neighbors. Such systems have existed in the past. In Medina during the time of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad, “Pagans, Jews, and Muslims shared the same roads, traded in the same markets, and drank from the same wells. They were part of different social spheres, sharing no obligations to each other except those they contracted. Legal systems were not separated by territorial boundaries, as States are today. They existed right on top of one another, shifting according to consent, not jurisdiction.” Similar overlapping governments existed in Gaelic areas during the middle ages, and to a lesser extent in the United States before the New Deal when most people received social services from fraternal organizations or mutual aid societies. I believe these systems of overlapping governments could flourish in the near future due primarily to the advances in technology over the last 500 years.

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Holder’s “No” Is Not Acceptable

John McCain and Lindsey Graham  also showed their true colors this weekOn Wednesday March 6, Senator Rand Paul delayed the Senate confirmation of John Brennan as the new head of the CIA. He began his 13 hour filibuster, which was essentially a political show, by stating “I rise today to begin to filibuster John Brennan’s nomination for the CIA I will speak until I can no longer speak. I will speak as long as it takes, until the alarm is sounded from coast to coast that our Constitution is important, that your rights to trial by jury are precious, that no American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found to be guilty by a court.” Paul added, The President says, he hasn’t killed anyone yet, and has no intention of killing Americans. But he might. Paul asks, “Is that enough? Are we satisfied by that? Are we so complacent with our rights that we would allow a President to say he might kill Americans? … No one person, no one politician should be allowed to judge the guilt, to charge an individual, to judge the guilt of an individual and to execute an individual. It goes against everything that we fundamentally believe in our country.”

After the filibuster, Attorney General Eric Holder, sent a letter to Rand Paul that reads: “It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: ‘Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?’ The answer to that question is no.”

Rand Paul found this answer to be acceptable, I do not! At first glance it appears that Eric Holder is saying the President can not kill an American on American soil. However, the statement deserves a closer look. The word combat can be both a noun and a verb. When used as a verb, combat is defined as “to fight or contend against; oppose vigorously.”

At this very moment, it could be construed that I am “engaged in combat” as I vigorously oppose the very existence of the federal government. I also vigorously oppose the the destruction of civil liberties, the foreign policy of the American government and the lack of fiscal responsibility. I contend that, based on the definition of combat as a verb, I, along with many thousands of others, could potentially be targets of domestic drone attacks. Despite the potential threat, I will not be silenced!

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Cody Quirk: ‘A continuing appeal to all Constitutionalists and Principled-Conservatives’

by Cody Quirk

I’ve recently heard that the National IAP is going to attempt to get on the ballot in Utah, despite the fact that the CP is already on the ballot in that state.

However, despite the personal help and involvement I have given to the National IAP on bipartisan matters, on this I cannot contribute, being that I am a member of the Constitution Party, and the leader of the Clarion Call To Unite Committee, for it would both create a conflict of interest for me and also be unfair of me to put one party’s interests above another party’s interests.

Yet I still respect and understand why the National IAP is doing this; while they are true constitutionalist patriots and have endorsed and contributed to the efforts of the CCTUC, as well as reached out to CP’ers in cooperation and friendship, they still need to represent and advance their interests for the time being, until the CCTUC finally calls all the parties together for a official sit-down meeting and work out an actual formula for unification.

But that said, my point I am making in this statement is this; I consider it sad and a unfortunate waste of resources when one constitutionalist party tries on get on the ballot while another constitutionalist party is already on the ballot in the same state; an example like this shows why we need to unite and to stop using money, time, and resources on something like this, when, in a unified national constitutionalist party, such money, time, and resources could instead go to building up and organizing that unified national party.

However, please do not take this criticism as being leveled against the National IAP; for they are good-intentioned patriots that will eventually play a very important part in organizing a unified party when we reach that point in due time.
This criticism is instead leveled at the years, even decades, of division that has existed among the constitutionalist and principled-conservative parties which is the main obstacle and reason why the CP, and especially the other parties have yet to elect candidates to major offices on a widespread scale- because of the splintering of resources and talents, which only make such efforts for the CP, the National IAP, and other parties vain and petty when attempting the same thing on their own, without any help or cooperation from the rival parties…

-to read the entire article, click here.

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Bradley Manning: “I Have a Clear Conscience”

Bradley Manning, the Army private who has been held in custody since May 26, 2010 on suspicion of leaking classified material to WikiLeaks, offered a plea bargain during a pretrial conference on February 28. Manning’s guilty plea to 10 lesser charges included possessing and willfully communicating to an unauthorized person all the main elements of the WikiLeaks disclosure. The UK Guardian reports, “That covered the so-called ‘collateral murder’ video of an Apache helicopter attack in Iraq; some US diplomatic cables including one of the early WikiLeaks publications the Reykjavik cable; portions of the Iraq and Afghanistan warlogs, some of the files on detainees in Guantanamo; and two intelligence memos.
These lesser charges each carry a two-year maximum sentence, committing Manning to a possible upper limit of 20 years in prison.”

An attorney who serves on the steering committee of the Bradley Manning Support Network wrote in an email, “Whether this plea helps him or not is not the critical issue. In fact, the government has already announced that they will be prosecuting him on the aiding the enemy and espionage charges, so it did not stop them from going forward with offenses that could result in life in prison for Manning.”

Reading from a prepared statement, Manning said he was not pressured by WikiLeaks to release the information and that he wanted to give the documents to The Washington Post, The New York Times, and Reuters, but they did not want what he had to offer. He also said the leaked information had “upset” or “disturbed” him, but did not contain anything he thought would harm the United States if it became public.

Regarding the Collateral Murder video, Manning said the “most alarming part to me was the seemingly delightful bloodlust,” and that those in the video “seemed to not value human life by referring to them as ‘dead bastards.’”

Manning added, “I was disturbed by the response to injured children… I wanted the American public to know that not everyone in Iraq and Afghanistan was a target that needed to be engaged and neutralized.” He also said, “I believe that if the general public … had access to the information … this could spark a domestic debate as to the role of the military and foreign policy in general,” and “I felt I accomplished something that would allow me to have a clear conscience.”

The attorney also wrote, “Manning obviously put his liberty in jeopardy in an act of conscience for the patriotic reason of trying to improve US foreign policy which has gotten horribly off-track.” The debate regarding “the role of the military and foreign policy” that Bradley Manning hoped to spark, has yet to take place. Hopefully his trial will be the catalyst for that debate.

note: You can see his full statement read in court here. The court has not allowed this to be released to the public, but an unofficial court reporter was able to make a transcript and publish it.

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The Myths and Realities of “The Marketplace Fairness Act”

The Marketplace Fairness Act is being bounced around once again, this is the proposal to allow States to require businesses to collect sales tax on all items sold via internet and catalog. The National Taxpayers Union reports several myths have cropped up about the bill and what it would do.

Some people claim that allowing States to require businesses from outside its jurisdiction to pay taxes for anything shipped into the jurisdiction is a “State’s Rights” issue. That is 100% false. The NTU reports “[g]iving states the power to collect sales taxes across their borders isn’t about states’ rights, it’s about state coercion. Governments would have fewer incentives to keep their own tax rates low, eroding the important federalist principle of tax competition.” Allowing States to tax items shipped into it could theoretically allow the States to tax those items at higher rates than items purchased within the State. Thus, harming any business that relies on online or catalog sales.

Other myths claim online stores receive a special tax loophole and that such a tax would “level the playing field.” Again, both are false. NTU reports the so-called loophole “is actually the physical presence standard, a firmly grounded constitutional doctrine the Supreme Court has upheld for decades to protect businesses and their customers from predatory tax administrators.” The bill would also “require remote sellers to collect sales tax on every item, it would force them to do so by a completely different and harsher set of rules than currently exist for brick-and-mortar sales… forcing online retailers to quiz each and every customer about their residency” in order to comply with more than 9,600 separate sales tax jurisdictions across the country. Does that sound like “fairness” to you?

The Marketplace Fairness Act is NOT fair and if enacted, there will be winners and losers. Among the losers are those customers who prefer to shop online where their purchases are mostly free from sales tax and those smaller companies who will find it difficult and/or expensive to comply. The winners will be the governments that will see an increase in tax revenue and the bigger online companies that will be able to fill the void left when the smaller companies either refuse to sale online or go out of business.

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Geeks and Hucksters: How we managed to kill innovation in the United States

Who Innovates?
Economist cover
This is a crucial question that more people should be asking. Clever people like Neal Stephenson, Peter Thiel, Tyler Cowen, and the editorial board of the Economist think that innovation is dying. Some of this is motivated by the “We were promised jetpacks!” resentments of baby boomers reaching a certain age, but they do have a point. Between 1900 and 1950 life was transformed. Airplanes, automobiles, electrification, washing machines and other technologies revolutionized home, work, and play. Other than the internet and telecoms, it is hard to point to any comparable changes since 1950. A number of theories have been floated to explain this, from the ridiculous one that there is nothing more to discover, to the more likely one that further discoveries may be harder. The worst suggestion is that the government somehow needs to do more. If only they would start funding more infrastructure, or come up with some grand plan like the moon shot, then we would start innovating again. None of these explanations are particularly satisfactory.

If you ask the question above, however, the problem becomes much simpler. Innovation requires two sorts of people. Politely, scientists and entrepreneurs, more informally geeks and hucksters. It is rare for these traits to be combined in a single person. When they are, that person tends to end up a household name like Edison or Jobs. Geekdom gets the respect it deserves. Scientific inquiry, pure and applied, is what gives us the technology that builds the future. Hucksters are less appreciated, which is a shame. It takes a visionary salesman to bring an innovation to the masses. Henry Ford would be the classic example. Automobiles were invented over a decade before he democratized them. As importantly, there were individual salespeople country-wide who brought this innovation forward. Another example would be VCRs. The technology was important, but the entrepreneurs throughout the country who were willing to set up video rental stores were vital. For innovation to occur you need a novelty, but you also need legions who are willing to take the risk of popularizing these novelties. You need geeks and hucksters.

These two classes of people are just as greedy as anyone else. A select few are really out to change the world, but most are willing to take a smaller degree of success if it is easier to come by. This makes sense, as the effort to truly create something new often ends in failure. Unfortunately, the United States has slowly built a system that increases the possibility of non-innovative success for both Geeks and Hucksters.

We have provided a sure thing to geeks in the state owned enterprise that is our financial industry. The financial and legal sectors have been sucking up our cognitive elites at an ever increasing pace for the past 20 years. A distressing amount of scientists and engineers end up in patent law. Our most promising mathematicians and computer scientists end up getting rich as spread-sheet jockeys in the hedge fund industry. The folks who should be dreaming up the future are making their millions and billions in pursuits with zero social value and a government guarantee.

Far worse, and far more extensive, is the system we have set up for hucksters. From the time of the New Deal forward the federal government slowly constructed a system that made the real estate market more and more secure. The mortgage interest income tax deduction has inflated the price of property, and given everyone an incentive to purchase that inflated asset. Quasi-governmental organizations like Fannie Mae and an alphabet soup of agencies like the FHA have insured, purchased, and guaranteed house loans, further driving up the price of these assets. This system has not guaranteed success, of course, but it has created millions of better bets than, say, funding some bicycle repairmen in their latest attempt at a flying machine. These policies laid out a shortcut to the American dream.

This shortcut has come with costs. There was the 2007-2008 financial crisis we are all still recovering from. There is the truly fantastical notion that 10 grand of drywall should be worth a million dollars. There is the creation of an underclass that cannot afford the inflated costs of housing.

But what if the highest cost is one we can’t see? What if the Henry Ford of the 1980s never appeared because he was too busy building subdivisions? What if all the salespeople who would have been willing to take a risk on the new got realtor’s licenses instead? How many people who could have been angel investors are instead paying mortgages on second homes? What if the woman who should have invented the flying car made all the money she wanted with equity derivatives?

As Robert Heinlein said: “There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch”.

Robert Morris thinks he has all the answers. He has written at some length on the Drug War and US foreign policy more of his work can be found here

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