Author Archives: Robert Morris

About Robert Morris

Robert Morris Tweets @TheFederalGovt, posts video as the More Freedom Foundation, and has written a quick pamphlet on the drug war that can be found here.

The Republicans are the real socialists

Commie Romney

“The Republicans are a bunch of communists.“

For years, this statement has been my way of pointing out to people that my Libertarian beliefs place me to the right of Atilla the Hun. Lately though, I have realized that the statement is true.

With their full throated support of the military industrial and prison industrial complexes, the Republicans are the originators and protectors of all the cushiest government jobs in the country. The Democrats are of course 99% as bad as the Republicans are on these issues, but at least some of them, occasionally, try to find non-lethal ways to waste our tax dollars. You shouldn’t vote for any of them.

The Northrup Grumans and the Corrections Corporation of Americas of this world are the true welfare queens. You can put a Gingrich-ian gloss on it, and claim that these companies are in the private sector because they work for corporate structures, but you would be fooling yourself. If an entity makes all of its money selling things to the government, then it is functionally a branch of government. It might be easier to fire people than it is at the Department of Education, but the folks at the top of the DOE don’t take home tens of millions of dollars a year.

This is socialism in practice. Our defense industry is make-work on a scale that would make FDR blush. At least his Works Progress Administration didn’t do anything. Since 1989, our defense industry has worked tirelessly to make us less secure, and invent reasons to send our soldiers off to die in deserts. What the defense industry does to our soldiers, and Islamic weddings, the prison industry does to the rest of us. It turns poor pot smokers of color into violent criminals, and poor white people into the commandants of rape camps.

These industries have locked whole regions of our country into a culture of dependency. Munitions workers, prison workers and their representatives in congress continue to vote for these depraved policies. Anyone who looks honestly at the results of our war on drugs, and our absurd policy of militarizing the world, can see that their effects are malign, but these policies are too entrenched to stop. Too many good government jobs depend on them.

So yes, when Republicans say that we are in danger of becoming a socialist country, they are absolutely right. This process did not start four years ago, however, it has been going on for a lot longer, and both parties are its authors and (hopefully not) finishers. Let me leave you with a little Abraham Lincoln*

From Whence shall we expect the approach of danger? Shall some transatlantic giant step the earth and crush us at a blow? Never! All the Armies of Europe and Asia could not, by force, take a drink from the Ohio River or set a track on the Blue Ridge in the trial of a thousand years. If destruction be our lot, we ourselves must be its author and finisher. As a nation of free men, we will live forever, or die by suicide.

*Sadly I am not enough of a Lincolnologist to come by that quote honestly, all credit is due to Titus Andronicus, an awesome band, for making me aware of it.

Robert Morris has written at some length on US foreign policy and the drug war. His videos and writings can be found here.

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Time to Wake Up: A Brief History of the 21st Century

So 9-11 happened.

19 losers decided to end their lives in the most pathetic way possible, but they did so in a contemptibly clever way. Rationally speaking, their actions called for one thing. Locks on Airplane cockpit doors. Afghanistan had to happen too. But logic and reason don’t really come into it.

We were hurt and angry. I was certainly angry. Personally and, I think, as a nation we saw the world through a red haze of rage. This Onion Article from September 26, 2001 describes where we were pretty well. We wanted to break something. The mess the first George Bush made of the cold war peace dividend provided an easy option. So we went into Iraq. In its way it was effective. Gaddafi sheepishly handed us his nuclear program years before we killed him. The only state sponsored organization planning terrorist attacks in the United States today is the FBI.

Remember the Washington Metro bombing plot? The New York subway plot? The guys who planned to blow up the Sears Tower? The teenager seeking to bomb a Portland Christmas tree lighting? Each of those plots, and dozens more across the nation, was led by an FBI asset.

We have convincingly demonstrated that anybody who has anything at all to lose should know better than to fuck with us. Is that all we are though? The red haze of rage is dissipating. American Casualties are falling as we outsource the fighting to contractors and robots. We have stopped caring. We shouldn’t.

The past week’s news has been horrifying. The machinery we built up in anger is still working very very hard. We are killing people in countries most of us couldn’t find on a map. We’re killing people for saying things and for listening to ideas we don’t agree with. We are making martyrs out of morons. Is that what we want to be?

The war on Terror is over. We won. Anybody who tells you different is trying to defend an appropriation or a talking point. We have won and it is terrible. What it has cost us is sometimes hard to see, but vast.

There will be real terror attacks in the United States again. We have shown that those who perpetrate them, and all who surround them, will suffer mightily. Who benefits from keeping up a constant level of suffering? Again, we are making martyrs out of discredited fools. Our current policies are making the inevitable next terrorist act more likely rather than less likely. Are we slowly turning into something that should be fought? My country, right or wrong, but I would rather be right.

It is time to wake up, look around and realize that our half-forgotten anger has taken us to some new and nightmarish places. It is time to wake up.

Robert Morris has written in a similarly hopeful fashion about the drug war

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The fundamental truth of American foreign policy

Nobody cares.

Among Americans, that is. The folks world-wide who have to deal with our choices care a great deal. Among Americans though, nobody really cares. Living in Turkey I hear a lot about how US foreign policy is corruptly guided by the “Jewish Lobby”, and the oil companies.* The more sophisticated among those I talk to claim that US foreign policy is owned and run by the defense industry. There are elements of truth to these critiques, but they miss the bigger picture.

American foreign policy is owned and guided by American foreign policy practitioners. This is usually described as a Military-Industrial complex, but that label over-states the importance of the defense industry. Foreign policy practitioners, defined widely, include literally millions of Americans. Yes, this includes defense contractors, the Department of Defense, and Representatives and Senators whose only concern is the amount of military money they can grab for their constituencies. More importantly, however, this also includes tens of thousands of academics, think tank analysts, consultants and journalists. It is their failure of imagination, not just congressional greed, that has gotten us into our many current messes.

The main problem is not corruption but a lack of ideas. Since 1989 this establishment has been casting around for a reason to continue to exist. The modern foreign policy establishment was forged during the Cold War. The all consuming battle with communism, on ideological, sociological, economic and military fronts created a vast infrastructure.

For 23 years this infrastructure has lacked any clear purpose. It has only had a question: “What are we here for?”. So yes, when Halliburton or Northrup Grumman or AIPAC provides an easy answer the foreign policy establishment grabs it with all the vigor and idiocy of a drowning man. These are not the only entities providing easy answers. The half-baked Wilsonianism of the “Duty to Protect” crowd comes to mind. This is not corruption. This is desperation. see more…

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Why Social Media is Better Than the Blogosphere: Gay Marriage, Drug Legalization, and Ron Paul

Courtesy of Jane Q. Social MediaI love me the blogosphere. It is a fantastic thing. Blogs gave us the first chance to get out from under the mainstream media. They provide an incredible opportunity to connect with like minded people and get the information that you want. I am committed to the medium and hope to continue to produce in it. They have a downfall as well though. James Lileks has talked about the concept of “non-contiguous information streams”. Blogs, and the increasingly fragmented cable news market, allowed people to get the information they wanted, and ONLY the information they wanted, to the exclusion of all other information. This made it easier for otherwise smart people to maintain some really silly ideas. On the left, it convinced people that the run up to the 2004 election was a really good time for a gay marriage push. On the right, it tragically maintains the idea that we need a bigger defense budget to deal with a bunch of fanatical Islamist peasants in tents than we needed to deal with Hitler or the Soviet Union.

Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook are now dramatically more important than the blogosphere. Pundits who used to maintain well thought out blogs, are devoting more of their time to these other services. It is a bit of a tragedy for those of us who remember the vibrancy of thought and significance that blogs once had. But, crucially, these systems avoid the problem described above. By expressing yourself on Twitter, and especially on Facebook, you are getting out of the echo chamber. see more…

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The Economist Flubs the Best News of the Year…

The Economist This article documents something pretty incredible. In the face of rising food prices and a global economic crisis, poverty is falling. For the first time in history it is falling world-wide, in every region. It’s a beautiful thing.

This is the internet though, and putting fingers to keyboard for a purely positive purpose wouldn’t be appropriate. This article is also a great example of the massive distortion that infects all journalism and advocacy on this topic. Take this quote for example:

If you exclude China, the numbers are less impressive. Of the roughly 1.3 billion people living on less than $1.25 a day in 2008, 1.1 billion of them were outside China. That number barely budged between 1981 and 2008, an outcome that Martin Ravallion, the director of the bank’s Development Research Group, calls “sobering”.

Hmmm. Sobering. Can you think of any other data points that might be relevant in this comparison? Has anything changed between 1981 and 2008? Anything statistically significant?

How about the fact that in those 27 years world population has increased almost 50 percent, from 4.5 billion in 1980 to 6.8 Billion today? see more…

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Assad vs. The Robots

This video blew up on the internet last week.

A team of engineers at the University of Pennsylvania has built a fleet of flying robots. At first glimpse it is another in a long line of Gee-Whiz/Not too useful Robot designs. This idea is different from the rest however, because it is possible to envision an instant, revolutionary use.

Can we put cameras on them?

Can we send a couple thousand in to Syria?

Any regime that is actively killing its people denies it. They can get away with this because they control the territory and they control the information. Syria’s ruling regime recently accepted observers from the Arab League, to try to smooth over the 5,000-odd civilians it has murdered recently. The observers were supposed to guarantee the safety of the Syrian people, but they had to leave because the country got too violent. By definition, being around state violence is a dangerous pursuit. A flying robot costs less than an international diplomat, and is infinitely braver. These robots don’t look expensive. There is probably a Qatari or Silicon Valley billionaire that would be happy to pay for them. These little flying robots could quickly expose and document in real time any on-going massacres. This would make it harder for President Assad to kill people, and therefore harder for him to retain power. Who knows, perhaps Syria’s impending civil war could be averted, or at least sped up. We could do all this without dropping a single bomb.

What if the spy-bots were crowd-sourced?

Way back in 2002, web-comic artist Patrick Farley imagined an alternate history of the war in Afghanistan. Instead of bombing the Taliban, we sent in millions of spy robots, individually manned by common citizens. This is now a possibility.

What if the next time a Darfur-type situation develops, the UN could pass a resolution and send in a fleet of a million mini-helicopters? The robots could be manned by video-gamers world-wide. Instead of playing Call of Duty, they could follow real armed groups across European plains or African cities. Each potential murder could be documented, making it less likely to happen. Unlike other observation schemes, this one has the benefit of letting the murderers know they are being filmed. Hopefully this would make them less likely to carry out their plans.

Farley’s idea has endless potential. Our “duty to protect” could be satisfied without having to bomb or invade anyone. Another excuse for maintaining our excessive defense budget would be swept away.

This is all a fantasy. The robots are flimsy. The controlled conditions of a Philadelphia lab are not the jungles of the Congo. If they did work, they would be just as likely to be used by governments to spy on their people. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying.

Rob is branching out into sci-fi blogging from his usual drug war stomping grounds.

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Paul Krugman Has No Idea What He’s Talking About; First of a series

Paul Krugman is a very smart man. He has won the Nobel prize in economics for work on impressive sounding stuff like economic geography, and liquidity traps. He is also an opinion journalist for the New York Times. He comments from a proudly progressive perspective, and does so very successfully. The topics he covers include the causes of the financial collapse, inequality, the national debt and much, much more. His arguments are quickly recycled in discussions across the land, both electronic and personal. The problem is, when he weighs in on topics outside of his particular branch of alchemy, he is almost always wrong. This is infuriating because his work is taken as gospel by many otherwise intelligent people. Therefore, I’ve decided to start this series. It is perhaps presumptuous of me to try to take on the Krugster, but hey, if I wasn’t into Quixotic pursuits I wouldn’t be writing opinion pieces on the internet.

Here goes…

Last month Krugman released a column entitled “Nobody Understands Debt“. The column adds nothing to understanding. The message is that the national debt is no big deal, and we should be spending more to deal with unemployment. This is absurd. Thankfully, He provides all the ammunition we need to prove him wrong in the column. He says governments can happily live with high levels of debt pointing out that “Britain, in particular, has had debt exceeding 100 percent of G.D.P. for 81 of the last 170 years.” He links to an older post with a helpful graphic, reproduced above. He “marvels” at how over-blown our current “debt panic” is.

With this particular post Krugman is either entirely ignorant of history, or just lying to his readers. Britain got away with its first period of massive debt because as first movers in the industrial revolution and victors in the Napoleonic wars they had a financial and military hegemony we can’t imagine. The US got closest to that kind of dominance after the second world war, which is the other period of high debt to GDP he references in the opinion piece. In each of their respective periods of victory, Britain and the US moved quickly to pay off their debts. In the second period of massive debt, Britain had to ration food for a full decade after World War II. With the Suez Crisis of 1956, Britain’s debt ended the country’s ability to act independently on the world stage in the most humiliating way possible. Krugman’s “Massive Debt’s just fine!” message is completely disproved by his own example. My sense is that he knows this, but doesn’t care.

Krugman makes much of the fact that we hold a lot of our own debt. This can cut both ways, however. We are not as insulated as he portrays us, but if we were we would have little incentive to clean up our fiscal act. This is not a good thing. Unsurprisingly, Krugman doesn’t bring up the most sterling (yen-ish?) example of an excessive debt-to-GDP ratio maintained by patriotic savers. The current Japanese ratio is over 200%

High savings were sustainable when the population was younger, wealthy, and growing. Instead, Japan is old, stagnant and saving less every year. That investors have repeatedly failed to short Japanese debt since the early 1990s doesn’t mean that Japanese debt is a good bet tomorrow. The country will eventually find itself in a financial catastrophe when the public stops lending money at floor-scraping 1.5 percent rates. Consider this alarming fact: If its interest rates doubled to 3 percent, interest payments would suddenly consume half of government revenue.

Japan may be able to continue like this for a while because 95% of their debt is held by patriotic locals. Nobody else wants it, for obvious reasons. Almost 50% of US debt is held by foreign investors. Ironically, the mess we’ve made of the international economy has been helpful over the past couple years. US government debt is still seen as a slightly better bet than everything else. The problem that Krugman doesn’t acknowledge is that it is an only slightly better bet, and that this won’t last.

Too sum up, Britain and the US were able to withstand excessive debt to GDP ratios after the Napoleonic Wars and after World War II. They were able to do this because they had bombed all their potential financial rivals into rubble. Europe today is in fiscal disarray, but it is not a smoking ruin. If Europe doesn’t fall apart, it will emerge as a tighter, more stable fiscal union, under stronger German influence. It will emerge as a ferocious competitor as a reserve currency and as a destination of international investment. When less people want our debt, the sky-rocketing interest rates Krugman laughs about in the beginning of the opinion piece will be a reality.

Debt matters. With this column Krugman ignores Europe. He ignores Japan. He ignores the history surrounding his own data sets. Either Krugman doesn’t understand debt, or he just doesn’t want you to. Paul Krugman has no idea what he’s talking about.

Rob Morris likes the drug war even less than he likes Paul Krugman’s commentary, and he talks about it here.

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Nobody Understands Poverty or Taxes

Bethesda Mansion

Bethesda Mansions: Your Tax Dollars at Work

Today I read something heart-rending. Melissa Chadburn’s account of how she spent her childhood in poverty, navigating bureaucracies, and abused by everyone, at every turn, is extraordinary. We should all read it. Everyone should be more aware of the plight of the poor in our country. If we leave it to the “experts” it will never improve. Chadburn has made it out of poverty, and her story is important.

She is an admirable person, and a tremendous writer. Unfortunately the entire article is shot through with a standard and misguided understanding of how poverty and tax policy work in the United States. Rather than blame the folks who crafted the systems that failed her, she seems to think it’s GE’s fault. She resents the fact that entities seek to pay the smallest amount of taxes legally possible. Through a literary alchemy I don’t understand they are meant to be exemplars of the spirit of greed. Its got something to do with kindergarten and reality TV.

Chadburn does some angry math in her article. Let’s do some more. The Federal budget in 2010 was 3.456 Trillion dollars on 2.2 trillion in Tax receipts. There are currently 46.2 million people under the poverty line. In tax receipts that’s $54,112 for every poor person in the country. In the budget, that’s $73,593. Many of those in poverty are looking after multiple poor children, so those in Chadburn’s magical anti-greed poverty-curing re-distribution machine should be doing pretty well.

As her article demonstrates, this is not the case. The money that gets funneled to the federal government mostly goes towards bombing things, our half-socialized and absurdly expensive medical system, and rich folks welfare like the social security system. This is where the money goes on paper. In practice, much of the money goes to government workers and contractors. These 14 million professionals use their expertise mostly to feed themselves. The security experts make us less secure, the poverty experts make us poorer. They do so subconsciously, but they do it. It is the only route to job security.

Chadburn movingly thanks the people who got her to where she is today. She thanks the teachers, the social workers, the bus drivers and the firefighters. This is an interesting list. With the exception of the social mobility enhancing military, none of these people got a dime from the federal government. These local officials could have done so much more for Chadburn and her family with another 50 grand per client. The money that could have made all the difference in the lives of Chadburn and millions of others has been building mansions for contractors in Bethesda, Maryland instead. How is that better? Why would we want to send more money to Washington to make more of this happen?

Even the way the federal government’s money is collected has perverse effects. The mortgage income tax deduction, and other policies, have inflated housing prices nation-wide to the point that Chadburn’s mother could never hope to afford decent housing. Viewed in this context, the money that HUD spends on affordable housing is hard to feel good about. The brutal and oppressive war on drugs is the most significant way our national government interacts with the disadvantaged, and it functions mostly to create poverty. All in all, the federal government provides a terrible deal to the poor. You should read more about Chadburn’s struggle. A lack of money going to Washington, DC is not responsible for it.

Prior to this post, Rob had a broader audience because he mostly just talked about the drug war.

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An open letter from the US Government to the Republics of France and Turkey

Dearest Frenchmen and Turks,

We here in Washington, DC would like to applaud the French parliament for breaking new ground in the policing of people’s thoughts. If President Sarkozy steps up and signs the legislation it will be a crime to express doubt about the Ottoman Empire’s supposed Genocide of Armenians. The French are making revolutionary progress in the arena of thought crime! Bliss it is to be alive in this dawn, and to be a young bureaucrat is very heaven!

Turkey is already accomplished in this arena. Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code makes it a crime to insult the Turkish Nation. Now that France has weighed in on Turkey’s history, the Turks may want to return the favor. As the descendant of Protestants allow me to propose that Turkey make it a crime to deny the Huguenot Genocide! The Huguenots were French Protestants. France’s Catholic government exiled and exterminated them in the 16th and 17th centuries.

There was all manner of religious cleansing. Huguenots were exiled, sold into slavery, and massacred in great numbers. This century and a half of persecution culminated in the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. The Edict of Nantes was a sensible piece of paper that said that people could worship as they wished. Louis the XIVth revoked it in 1685, making it illegal for a whole class of people to exist. Over the next decade almost a million Huguenots were forced to leave the country.

What’s that you say? This isn’t quite a genocide? Doesn’t matter. That’s the beauty of what the French are doing. If you legislate historical fact you can’t discuss it. We’re not interested in historical truth here, just political gain. If we wanted truth, Turkey could focus on the Vichy regime’s eager participation in the Nazi holocaust, but that would be too close to rational. The truth doesn’t need to be legislated.

Great job guys! Once we deal with this pesky 1st Amendment thing, we’ll be doing the same!

Hugs,
The Federal Government of the United States of America

Satire, Obviously

The Federal Government tweets @TheFederalGovt. More from Robert Morris can be found at the More Freedom Foundation.

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Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales Victory Tour takes him to Turkey

Wales Watches
Fresh off of a (hopefully not temporary) victory over SOPA, Jimmy Wales has a new campaign unrolling in Turkey. He’s selling watches.

This particular “Oh shit, globalization” moment happened on my commute yesterday. American actors have long used their celebrity to hawk goods in foreign markets. It’s odd to see Wales doing the same. When you think about it though, it makes sense. Wales is in that odd class of individuals who have been revolutionary in information technology without making any real money. It is hard to begrudge him some extra cash. Really, there are few items in commerce less morally objectionable than Swiss watches. I could be wrong, but I don’t think there are many sweatshops in Zurich. Now that Wikipedia has taken such a political stance, however, some will try to call him out on it.

This is apparently quite old news. He has been involved in the campaign for over a year. It is new to Turkey and this correspondent, however. Expect the haters to try to make hay of in in the coming weeks.

This correspondent talks about all sorts of old news, especially the drug war, here.

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Is Obama Secretly Awesome on the Drug War?

No. But his policies might have some awesome unintended consequences. You may be aware that the Department of Justice has recently invaded the state of California. The state’s well established medical marijuana community is being destroyed by the DOJ’s enforcement of Federal drug laws. The Obama administration’s choice to prosecute these “crimes”, that are not crimes in the state of California, is a betrayal of his campaign promises, and a reversal of two years of policy. As awful as this is it might have some salutary effects.

In November 2010, California voters rejected Proposition 19, which would have legalized Marijuana (ed- fully legalized and taxed like alcohol). This was a bit surprising. If any state would be pro-legalization, surely hippy-dippy California would be the one? Medical marijuana has been legal in California for years.

Surprisingly, this hurt the legalization vote. Medical marijuana users already had access to marijuana. They were leery of a change in the system that might endanger their supply, or put it in the hands of larger corporations. Many farmers and owners of medical marijuana dispensaries were also reluctant to wholeheartedly support legalization efforts. They did not want the competition. Much of legalization’s natural constituency, users and producers, was at best ambivalent about Proposition 19.

Eric Holder’s Department of Justice put the final nail in the coffin. The DOJ threatened to rigorously enforce the federal drug laws if Proposition 19 passed. This didn’t just mean legalization wouldn’t happen, it meant that California’s medical marijuana system would be crushed as well. Marijuana was already functionally legal in California, why risk what they had?

The DOJ’s invasion of California this past fall shows the folly of that approach. Holder got what he wanted, and then invaded anyway. Small businesses have been destroyed, people are being arrested for providing a service to their community, and patients can no longer access the medicines they need. This is all horrible, but there is a silver lining.

The pro-marijuana community in California will not be fooled again. The DOJ has already done its worst. The next time California decides a marijuana legalization proposition they will be much more likely to vote for it. Proposition 19 lost by a small margin, 46% to 54%. Obama’s heavy-handed approach is likely to have moved that 4% and more. Thanks to the DOJ, we may see individual states legalize marijuana as soon as this year.

Rob has put together a series of videos to advocate legalization that can be found here

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Tim Tebow’s Jihad

Jihadis all

Tim Tebow is on a Jihad. No seriously, bear with me. He is showing the power of faith in the same way that Mohammed’s successors did in the 7th and 8th Centuries. Tebow’s presence in pop culture, the only reason I’m aware of him, focuses on his obsessive Jesus talk.

In the beginning of the 21st century it’s weird to have a prominent American figure focus on that topic who isn’t some sort of disgusting bigot. This is a refreshing change, but doesn’t get at what is truly interesting about Tebow.

Whether or not his play is divinely-inspired, it is clear that he is an inspiring leader. His faith is what lets him do this.

In 634 the Caliph Omar began his reign. He was the second person to hold power after the death of Muhammad. When he came to power the Muslims controlled a series of dusty towns in Arabia. The epic battles of Islam’s founding had mostly been tribal squabbles. When his reign ended 10 years later, Islam had conquered most of the known world, and defeated two great empires, absorbing one of them completely. This feat of military expansion was more significant than anything Alexander the Great had done.

We are still feeling the effects almost 1400 years later. The Byzantine and Persian empires had no idea what hit them. Faith powered the conquest. The more sophisticated militaries of the day wanted land and riches, but the Jihadis had something more. They had an idea.

Caliph Omar had these successes with un-inspiring material. The Arabs were the poor inhabitants of the dusty wastes on the periphery of two great empires. The Denver Broncos were a mediocre team at this season’s outset. Tim Tebow himself has many draw-backs as a football player. Both of these phenomena, the Broncos success and the Jihadis conquest of the known world, are due to the power that a unifying idea can have. Every NFL player is well-paid, but you need more than that to reach greatness. Tebow’s religion provides that intangible motivation, much as Caliph Omar’s did.

Will Tebow’s jihad prove powerful enough to carry him through to the Super Bowl, or will the New England Patriots prove to be his own personal walls of Constantinople? I haven’t been this interested in the NFL in years.

When Rob is not doing pretentious sports journalism he is complaining about the drug war and more here.

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Fire Them Both: American two-party system has lost legitimacy

Petty Plutocrats

I don’t see why anyone should vote for the Republican or Democratic party ever again. They don’t stand for anything. They work for the interests of the same elites on Wall Street and in Washington. There are slight, temperamental differences between the parties. On all the big issues though, foreign policy, civil liberties, the drug war, financial regulation, they are the same, they are horrible, and they are against the will of the people they haven’t frightened into agreement.

The Republicans will give your money to defense contractors and energy companies. The Democrats will give your money to the same people, and take some more to give to the health insurance companies. Some claim they have meaningful differences on tax policy, but this is largely an illusion.

We all get fooled into voting for these petty plutocrats (Russian Oligarchs at least own and do things). They are very good at convincing us to look for the lesser of two evils. I can’t see the lesser evil anymore. I’m not saying we should all vote for the Libertarians (though I wish we would). Those of you who still believe the federal government has some positive potential can vote Green. This two party system has lasted for 150 years, but it is not immortal. All we have to do is stop voting for it.

The concept of divided government used to be very appealing. As long as two packs of scoundrels were working at cross purposes, the rest of us could get away relatively unscathed. Two recent developments have convinced me that even this last-ditch consolation no longer functions. We are losing rights that used to be sacrosanct. Our government now maintains death lists featuring American citizens. With the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act, Congress has endorsed the executive branch’s past decade of tyrannical over-reach. No one in power is challenging these decisions. Our leaders are so ignorant of our own traditions that they don’t see these developments as problems. Government is no longer divided on anything that matters.

Third party candidates, who have been working at the margins for decades, at least have principles of their own. They have thought about issues, and have ideas. Most of our current leaders think exclusively of campaign donations. It is hard to imagine how a Congress full of Libertarians and Greens could be any worse than the one we have now. So let’s fire the bastards. Its time for a new party system, one that respects the rights that any 19th century subsistence farmer could have taken for granted.

The Democrats are the party for killing Americans (Al-Awlaki, Waco). The Republicans are the party for killing everyone else. I’m voting Libertarian.

More propaganda from Rob Morris can be found at The More Freedom Foundation.

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Costa Rica: Another paradise lost to the drug war

Costa Rica is one of the most interesting social experiments of the 20th century. This Central American country of 4.5 million people spent the century’s first half on the same depressing path as the rest of Latin America. The people of Costa Rica had the same succession of military coups, bloodshed, malign US influence, and tin-pot dictators as their neighbors. They figured it out though. The problem was the military. Without it, there was no force to threaten democracy.

Costa Rica abolished the military in 1949. Surprisingly, the US acquiesced in this closing of a market to its defense contractors (The military industrial complex wasn’t as big a deal pre-McNamara). Costa Rica then embarked on a unique development path. It turns out that not having a military frees up a ton of money for other things. While the rest of the hemisphere has begun to catch up, for years Costa Rica was the freest and fairest democracy south of Texas. The people’s human development indicators are among the highest in the hemisphere. Costa Rica is one of the world’s premiere Eco-tourism destinations, and has a reputation as an environmental paragon. At the turn of the century, Costa Ricans could pride themselves on proving what was possible without a military.

Too bad that’s over.

Our drug war has now arrived in Costa Rica, and with it heavy-handed US “support”.

Beefing up Costa Rica’s security forces is a priority for the United States, which has helped build a new police academy, a national intelligence center to eavesdrop on phone communications, and highway checkpoints with cargo-scanning equipment. But many vulnerabilities remain, and Costa Rica didn’t even have a centralized database with the country’s criminal records until this year.

This makes me nauseous. We are offering paradise the same sorts of help that turned Mexico into a war zone. How does nobody see the idiocy of this? We chased these problems into Costa Rica. Our response is to give them the civil liberties trampling military that they benefited so much from not having. The US sponsored “cure” is so much worse than the disease. How many countries do we need to destroy before we grow up and end prohibition?

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Google Zeitgeist pro-imperialism caption contest

Google has put out its annual year’s end Zeitgeist video. Initially, this year’s edition struck me as more annoying than usual. They spend a lot of time using the world’s triumph and tragedy to sell their failing Google+ product. A bit distasteful, but hey Google does a lot of good, so whatever. On my second view this afternoon though I noticed something disturbing. They end the film with a rapid-fire montage of 2011 images that ends on and lingers on the image below:

What the hell? Maybe I’m missing something, but it looks to me like a child of indeterminate nationality high-fiving an American service-person. This is the image that Google chooses to end its summing up of 2011 on? Is Google taking product-placement money from the Department of Defense? Inexplicable.

Here at Hammer of Truth, the only appropriate response to the inexplicable is a caption contest. Here are a couple to start you off.

“Thanks for blowing up that wedding, I was really nervous about being ring-bearer!”

“If I smile for this picture does that mean you won’t send the robots to kill my daddy?”

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Non-interventionists and isolationists are right, still shoved aside

Lately there has been a lot of criticism of the libertarian approach to defense and foreign policy. It is derided as isolationist and somehow “dangerous for America” to not be all amped up to bomb Iran. Isolationism has been a dirty word in American politics for around 70 years, for some fairly well thought out reasons. This pose has long out-worn its utility, however. It continues because most of our leaders and pundits are historically ignorant. Let’s help them out.

In the run up to World War II there was a significant portion of the US population that had no interest in getting involved. They remembered the 100,000 Americans that died in World War I and had no desire to add to their number. Even after Adolph Hitler demanded part of Czechoslovakia in 1938, they were not interested. The UK Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, seeing no help from the US, and remembering the British Empire’s 1,000,000 war dead, flew to Munich and signed an embarrassing peace treaty giving Hitler what he wanted. This came to be known as “appeasement”. The treaty turned out to be a worthless piece of paper, and the ensuing decade revealed just what a monster Hitler was. The justly reviled appeasement is paired with the concept of isolation in the minds of our pundits. World War II was one of our best wars, fought to rid the world of one of history’s greatest abominations.

But why did Hitler exist in the first place? The last veteran has died, it’s time to look at this honestly. Hitler would never have come to power without Woodrow Wilson’s disastrous decision to jump into World War I. The war started with the assassination of the heir to the throne of one of Germany’s allies. Looking back through the lens of Hitler, though, the Germans have been made out to be the bad guys. This is not fair.

In 1914 European civilization decided to kill itself. Every major power in Europe made the decision that “national honor” was more important than millions of lives. After three years, and an atrocious cost, the war was finally beginning to exhaust itself. Wilson jumped in and picked a winner. The European powers were equally guilty, but because of our participation Britain and France got to impose the Treaty of Versailles on Germany, with massive war reparations, and a loss of territory to go with its 2 million dead soldiers. Germany went insane.

So yes, appeasement is a bad thing, and we should not go for Tokugawa-style isolation. It is important to remember, however, that while our glorious arms did rid the world of Hitler, Woodrow Wilson’s military adventurism also created him. This knowledge of the root causes of WWII is something that our foreign policy establishment lacks. This hobbles them. Everything becomes about appeasement and isolation. 1938 is the only relevant year in history according to too many. In our half-century struggle with the USSR (another fight Wilson picked BTW ), this was occasionally useful. Now that the main enemies are preachers in caves and tin-pot dictators who occasionally mouth off about Israel the mental handicaps of our leaders need to be addressed. Our military might is capable of solving some problems, but it also creates them. More people in power in the US should be aware of that.

Robert Morris Tweets @TheFederalGovt, posts video as the More Freedom Foundation, and has written a quick pamphlet that can be found here.

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‘Operation Ivy League’ drug case shows money corrupting justice

It’s common sense to us at the Hammer of Truth that the poor are the only people who get locked up for long stretches for drug offenses. Drug warriors are sensitive to this critique and every now and then they try to confront it in some high profile display.

“Operation Ivy League” is an excellent example. In December of 2010 the NYPD arrested 5 Columbia University frat boys for dealing marijuana, cocaine, LSD, MDMA and sundry other party favors to their classmates. The NYPD conducted an exhaustive 5-month sting operation, involving 31 transactions totaling $11,000 worth of substances. The story was national news. The drug warriors successfully sent out their message. At great cost, the NYPD showed that even the most privileged have to worry about our drug laws.

Or had they? There has been surprisingly little follow up for such a big story. This gets a little technical, but bear with me, it’s worth it. The operation picked up five privileged Columbia frat boys, and three off-campus drug dealers. All of the off-campus drug dealers are serving or have served time. Miron Sarzynski, the supplier, initially charged with 9 counts including attempted kidnapping and the sole count of first degree Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance (CSCS) is now serving six years. He seems to be a legitimately bad guy, whose incarceration is hard to lament. Megan Asper, his girlfriend, got 45 days for possession. Roberto Lagares, charged with a single count of 2nd degree CSCS is now serving a 6 year prison term (all information on charges can be found here).

It is instructive to compare Lagares to Harrison David, the only one of the Frat boys to have made it to sentencing at this point. David was the most comprehensively charged of the frat boys. In addition to the same 2nd degree CSCS charge that Lagares was charged with, he was charged with an additional 11 counts of drug distribution of varying levels and substances. This is the frat boy that the NYPD had the best case against. Undercover police purchased substances from him on multiple occasions. This is the guy that they spent 5 months trying to put away. This is the guy they were going to prove their point with. They proved a point. Despite being charged with dramatically more than Roberto Lagares, Harrison David is now serving a 6 month prison term. The injustice of our system could not be laid out more starkly. The rich kid, charged with dramatically more criminal activity, received a sentence 1/12th the length of the one given to the poor one.

The frat boys must all have fantastic legal representation. The second most charged frat boy has now been offered a clear criminal record if he completes a year-long marijuana treatment program. The other three frat boys, who are charged with less, will receive more lenient treatment. I bet the frat boys are having a really tough time. It may take them years to get back on the path to the investment-banking house or grad-school of their choice. It won’t take them as much time as Roberto Lagares will spend in prison though.

Robert Morris Tweets @TheFederalGovt, posts video as the More Freedom Foundation, and has written a quick pamphlet that can be found here. This is an excerpt from the pamphlet.

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Manufacturing Tea Party dissent against Ron Paul

The Atlantic has an article up claiming that Ron paul isn’t loved by Tea Partiers. The basis for this story is a recent loss of a call-in tele-conference poll to every other candidates except Utah Governor John Huntsman. The candidates got to speak their piece, and then the listeners voted.

The article goes on at some length about what this means about how Paul’s views are too out there for security conscious tea party voters. You can quibble with a lot about this article. Who are the Tea party Patriots? Who gets on their lists for these tele-conferences? The writer asserts that the poll was scientific, mentioning a sample size of 23,000 but mentions nothing about how those people were selected. It could easily have been some kind of poll specifically geared towards making Paul look bad. You can argue that, but you’d be easily dismissed as a kook or a crank.

The article was posted at 1:18 PM ET. Just in time for lunch hour for most of the country. The article got most of it’s 11,447 views as of this writing. Tea party folks who read it thought again about what they saw at the debates. “The rest of the tea partiers are worried about Iran, maybe I should be too.” Some Paul supporters read it and may have gotten a little discouraged. Some Republican donors brushed off what little enthusiasm they had gotten for Paul’s straight talking. All in all a little depressing.

And all completely manufactured.

Sometime between the all important lunch hour and 6:46 PM ET a small clarification was entered:

“Clarification: Ron Paul, Rick Perry, and Jon Huntsman weren’t on the conference call.”

see more…

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Nailing Ron Paul on racism: the media’s inevitable, futile exercise

Ron Paul’s ascent over the past few weeks has been thrilling. Everything from his willingness to tackle issues that no one else will, to the fact that he actually answers questions is deeply impressive. He has gotten further than anyone expected, and after his performance in last week’s debates even the media is going to have to start taking him seriously.

This means that we are going to hear a lot on racism.

It will be tempting to just call it a smear, but that is not what it is. My own research has made it clear that Paul and his campaign need to address this issue. They need to address it very well if Paul is going to retain skeptical voters. There are some very disturbing places on the internet. I won’t dignify them with a link. Trust me when I say, however, that to the extent that there is a white supremacist vote, Paul owns it. No big deal, right? As the Republican most likely to beat the black guy, he was probably going to have that anyway.

Unfortunately, there is a lot more. From 1987 to 2001 a series of newsletters were published in Ron Paul’s name. James Kirchick of the New Republic and the Weekly Standard tracked down some of the older newsletters. He has highlighted language from these articles that can only be described as racist. Not that kind of icky feeling you get when old white dudes talk about race, but flat-out, old-school racist filth. The links above contain the details.

For the past decade Paul has denied writing the newsletters. He has also apologized for them and accepted moral responsibility for allowing the newsletters go out under his name. This is a good start, but it is not enough. see more…

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Office of National Drug Control Policy: decadent and depraved

Few government bureaucrats have any connection to reality, but the ONDCP lives in an extra special world of its own creation. Did you know that communications director Rafael Lemaitre has a twitter feed? I am one of the 200-odd people following it, so you don’t have to be. If you want to follow someone, follow me @TheFederalGovt.

The Monitoring the Future survey for 2011 (MTF11) gives figures on youth drug use. Lemaitre live-tweeted the release of the results at the National Press Club this past Wednesday. (Best read from the bottom up)

Seriously!?!?! This is the lesson he draws? We primarily tackle alcohol and tobacco through regulation, taxation, education and treatment. Teen use of those substances is down dramatically. We primarily tackle marijuana with criminal sanctions, and teen use is at a 30 year high. I can’t think of stronger evidence against the status quo. Yet the drug warrior’s response to colossal failure is – more of the same.

How much longer do we have to pay for this idiocy?

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New Contributor Introduction: Robert Morris

Howdy all, glad you seem to be enjoying my post on Cato the Younger and Ron Paul. The editor asked me to introduce myself so here goes:

I am a recently-minted US Lawyer practicing in Istanbul, Turkey. Political argument has always been a hobby of mine. A particularly depressing law school internship convinced me to take it beyond Facebook. Our absurd war on drugs is my main concern to date. I post videos on the topic as the More Freedom Foundation. You may remember The Drug War is Awesome parts one, two and three.

There is also a short, angry pamphlet on the topic available on Amazon.

I am currently tweeting as @TheFederalGovt.

The piece below is my first for the Hammer of Truth. Hope you like it.

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Ron Paul’s tragic Roman forebearer: Cato the Younger

He is a lone voice of reason, standing up for his country’s constitution. In the face of incredible corruption, he alone stands for keeping the government within traditional limits. When you compare him to his “peers” he doesn’t just seem to have different views, but to be a completely different kind of person. I am talking about not just Ron Paul, but also about Cato the Younger, a Roman politician in the time of Caesar in very similar circumstances. The parallels are striking.

Cato was legendarily incorruptible — Unlike every other Roman politician he never took a dime from his public offices. Dr. Paul, or Dr. No as he is known, is probably Washington, DC’s most loathed congressman among lobbyists. His refusal to vote for anything he sees as unconstitutional mirrors Cato’s.

I was hit with the comparison watching the most recent Republican debates. The rest of the politicians were cycling through small variations of the same talking points. They were going to take care of us, and keep America secure. They were going to create jobs. There is little to differentiate their programs from Obama’s. Paul on the other hand stood up there and outlined a philosophy of liberty.

Cato was the same way. He was rigorously for the Roman Republic’s original laws and traditions. He was opposed to Julius Caesar and his efforts to rule as a dictator. His obsession with stoic philosophy, and tales of his forgoing material comforts was legendary.

Cato is known as one of the first users of the filibuster. He spoke for hours rather than let Caesar change the laws of the country. Paul has also achieved through oratory endurance. He has been pushing the same program, and saying the same things for over 30 years. Against all expectation he is poised to make a real run at the Republican nomination, and he has indisputably changed the conversation.

So what happened to Cato? This is where it gets depressing. Cato was exiled and eventually took his own life after Caesar crushed the last armed opposition to his rule at a battle in Tunisia. Cato’s spirited defense of the Roman Republic is well known because it was one of the last. Within 20 years of Cato’s death, Caesar’s nephew Augustus finally killed the Republic, instituting the Roman Empire.

Ron Paul is almost certainly not going to end up disemboweling himself in Utica. He will probably die in his bed, and sooner than we would like. But will his legacy be any different? Will Ron Paul be remembered, like Cato, as one of the last true defenders of our old Republic? Are we going to continue to elect increasingly imperial presidents, who will promise to watch over us benevolently, while taking more and more of what makes us unique? That’s ultimately up to us.

Cato the Younger – [Wikipedia]
Apologies to Lee Vanwallene and VoteDave

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