Archive for February, 2012

Conversations with Dio

I lived in Nanjing, China when Oliver Stone’s movie, JFK, came out. We were cut off from a lot of news over in China. You felt like you were on the other side of the world because you were. So something had to make a big stir in the U. S. for us to know about it in Nanjing. The Los Angeles riots after police beat Rodney King and the first Persian Gulf war were two events that made a stir. Oliver Stone’s film did, too.

I didn’t see the film until much later, well after we returned to the United States. Before that I saw an interview where a journalist asked Stone whether he believed the story he told in JFK. He smiled slightly and said, “I just make movies.” I thought it was a good answer. I didn’t feel so comfortable if, after nearly thirty years of controversy…

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The GOP is Imploding                                                                                 February 17, 2012

The 2012 Republican presidential race has been, so far, one of the most intriguing contests in recent memory.  It has consisted of multiple frontrunners, a sex scandal, one state and potentially a second state changing who it declared the winner of its caucus weeks after voting, the resignation of two state party chairman, and a candidate who is less interested in winning elections than he is in accumulating delegates to win the nomination.  Put together, this has not been your typical Republican primary where a frontrunner is declared early and is swept through the primaries with little challenge all the way to their coronation moment at the party’s convention.  Instead, this year we are witnessing the implosion of the Republican Party.

By implosion I am not saying the Republican Party is going to disintegrate into nothing.  What I am saying is that by the time the party crowns its nominee this summer it may look a lot different than it does today.

As most Ron Paul supporters know, the Good Doctor kept much of his campaign apparatus in place from 2008.  This included his allies in the various states being elected or appointed to party positions.  This seems to have paid off since his former state campaign co-chair A.J. Spiker was just elected as the new chairman of the Iowa Republican Party in the aftermath of the previous chair’s demise for voting irregularities in this year’s Iowa Caucuses.  Additionally, Nevada’s Republican state chair also resigned due to allegations of irregularities during that state’s caucus.  It’s been reported that several Ron Paul backers are poised to step up to fill the void.

Then there is the turmoil surrounding Maine state chair, Charlie Webster.  He is being censured by that state’s Republican Party and forced to recount votes from the caucuses statewide as well as include Washington County’s in the final vote tally.  The new result could force the Maine GOP to change its declared winner of the caucus from Mitt Romney to Ron Paul.  In all three instances, Ron Paul loyalists called out the Establishment and will potentially overthrow the old regime by supporters of sound money, a non-interventionist foreign policy, and support for civil liberties.

But, perhaps the biggest reason why the GOP is imploding is because it’s chosen one has faltered.  2012 was supposed to be Mitt Romney’s turn and he was expected to cruise to the nomination.  The rules were even fixed in his favor.  With strong support in the Florida, Nevada, and Arizona contests, they were moved up in the calendar to benefit Romney.  Realizing he would win very few contests in the Bible Belt those contests were changed from winner take all to proportional allocation.

Yet Romney has struggled losing 6 of 9 contests and 4 in a row (yes, I am counting Maine because with potential widespread corruption he still could only out poll Ron Paul by 194 votes).  Current polls in his boyhood state of Michigan have him trailing Rich Santorum.  And let’s face it, there are still many southern primaries to come and your typical Evangelical voter is not going to vote for a Mormon.  Things are looking grim for the Romney campaign.

As all 4 Republican candidates have vowed to stay in the race all the way to the convention, it is looking more and more like a brokered convention in Tampa.  If none of the candidates has enough delegates to win the nomination, intense horse trading would ensue.  However, I can’t see any of the current combatants for the nomination cutting a deal and dropping out.  They all represent vastly different wings of the party and after spending so much time, energy, and money to win the thing through a grueling primary season it seems unlikely that enough could be given to make that happen.

At that point, other party candidates would be offered as a compromise.  Delegate totals for each candidate would be diluted with the exception of Congressman Paul.  Because of his strategy of winning delegates by out hustling his opponents and because his supporters would never switch allegiance he could become a kingmaker.  He may not get the nomination himself, but the party would be changed.  His delegates could influence the eventual nominee, change the platform, and return to their states and become the party’s leaders.

The consequences of such a scenario would lead to a future run by a Ron Paul heir.  As the Barry Goldwater campaign paved the way for the Conservative “Revolution” of 1980, what could transpire this year could pave the way for a Libertarian Revolution in the future.

Kenn Jacobine teaches internationally and maintains a summer residence in North Carolina

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The Flag Pin

Do you remember President Obama wearing his flag pin so prominently during the middle of his term? I don’t. Now it features prominently in the photographs of him that appear in the media. Now the campaign season has begun, you see the red, white and blue blazing on his lapel. He started wearing the pin during the 2008 campaign when journalists asked him why he didn’t wear one. Now we see it again – I suppose he doesn’t want some self-appointed member of the patriot police to ask him why it’s not there.

The pin might as well be a badge that says, “Screw You, The Establishment Owns Me”. Or it might say, “I Stand for Liberty, Justice, and Freedom for All”. A third one might be, “Support Our Country, Vote for Me”. The first one would be the obvious truth, the second one would be an obvious lie, and the third one would be the campaign statement Obama actually wants to make.

I wonder how Obama feels when he puts that pin on. I do not doubt that he is a patriot in his own heart. The question is why he needs to tell people that on his lapel. George W. Bush began the practice of wearing this obnoxious pin not long after 9/11, when he plainly stated, “If you’re not with us, you’re against us.” The pin became the president’s way of saying, “And you better believe it.”

Now President Obama has continued the practice, as he has continued so many other post-9/11 innovations he inherited from his predecessor. If he were a strong leader, he would take that pin off in front of a pack of journalists, and tell them why he would no longer wear such a thing at their behest. He wouldn’t have to fling it at them. He could just set it aside quietly. His aides would make sure someone had a video camera there to record the event.

No discerning person suggests that absence of a flag pin is unpatriotic, just as no discerning person suggests that absence of a cross, a yarmulke, or a veil is unreligious. Likewise no one suggests that presence of such a pin is proof of patriotic allegiance. In fact, the obvious meaning of this lapel symbol, “The Establishment Owns Me,” calls one’s true allegiance into suspicion. No one thinks right now that people with money and power care much for the country’s future or welfare.

A quick check of the four Republican presidential candidates in the Florida primary election debate shows that Santorum, Romney, and Gingrich all sport lapel pins. Paul is the only one who does not. Good for him. We already know he’s the only honest candidate we have. The fact that he declines to wear that pin attests to that.

Remember that the flag symbolizes our country, not our government or its trappings. The flag flies from our ships and it flies over our military bases. That’s a reminder that our men and women in uniform ought to fight for our country.  Yet we have seen our armed forces become the tool of a crazed government that goes to war even when war makes our country less secure, not more so. We have seen our flag fly in places overseas where people hate us because we torture them and kill them. That is not what our flag is supposed to symbolize.

Here at home, the flag flies in front of government offices everywhere. It is so ubiquitous that it has become the government’s logo. Can you imagine what an insult that is, when a criminal government uses the symbol of our beloved country to market itself? Do they think they can violate the Constitution even more blatantly than they already do if only they keep their image brushed up. When governmental institutions and leaders have failed so utterly in their basic duties, the sight of our flag used as a marketing logo becomes one more assault on our hearts. Talk about alienation. It’s like a rapist asking his victim to like him.

For now, we have to watch governmental institutions and officials wear the flag like some kind of laurel wreath. Perhaps they actually do regard it as a badge of honor. For us, living with the consequences of their incompetent, criminal acts, the practice of honoring themselves with this symbol has become obnoxious. If institutions and officials cannot act for our country, as we instructed them to do in our Constitution, they should not pretend they do. Every new travesty they come up with proves they act for themselves.

We love our country. We’re proud to be citizens of this republic. Our forebears built it, as we have ourselves. We want to pass it on in good shape. Within this American community, we tolerate government as a necessary evil. Governmental officials are servants we hire to do an unpleasant job. We expect them to do their jobs loyally. We like them or even love them because they do a good job, not because they stand for our country. We stand for our country.

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Romney is Focusing on the Wrong Mechanism

Coming off derogatory remarks he recently made about the underclass in America, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney apparently felt the need to throw them a bone.  Last week, he reaffirmed his support for linking regular increases in the minimum wage to the rate of inflation.  Given that Romney has held this position since he ran for governor of Massachusetts in 2002, one could assume that he really believes the proposal would go a long way to helping the working poor.  But, what he is really doing is focusing on the wrong mechanism to help them.

On the surface, Romney’s proposal seems reasonable.  As prices increase, so should wages.  After all, aren’t Social Security benefits indexed for price inflation?

However, the first realization that must be acknowledged is that government economic policy causes the price increases that allegedly make the minimum wage necessary for some to live a minimal existence.  In other words, if the federal government would simply live within its means and cease using the Federal Reserve to monetize huge amounts of debt and maintain artificially low interest rates there would be little or no need for a minimum wage.
As the late, Austrian economist, Murray Rothbard pointed out in his book, The Mystery of Banking, from the mid-eighteenth century until 1940 prices in the United States actually fell on average from year to year with the exception being during war years.  Since 1940, the Federal Reserve which became responsible for maintaining price stability and the value of the dollar through monetary policy oversaw a decline in the dollar’s value by more than 93 percent.  That calculates to a 1506% annual rate of inflation change!  It’s no wonder we have become a society with a low savings rate and two partners working to make ends meet.

What was the difference between these two economic epochs in our nation’s history?  The first had a Gold Standard and the second was based on a fiat dollar standard.

The bottom line is that minimum wage laws are a reaction by politicians to their own historical bungling of the economy.  If Mitt Romney and his ilk really wanted to help the working poor in America they would endorse a sound money policy instead.  In particular, a gold backed currency that would alleviate the ability of politicians and central bankers to devalue the dollar and cause price inflation by printing money and running deficits.  In short, a return to the Gold Standard would stabilize and eliminate the need for a minimum wage.

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J. R. Dunn published an article today at American Thinker called Tarnished Halos. It’s about Planned Parenthood and other organizations whose reputation for good doing exceeds the actual amount of good they do. He calls these groups halo organizations. Halo organizations conceal unpleasantness beneath their lustrous public appearance. Planned Parenthood runs abortion clinics. Abortion is an unpleasant business whether or not you think it is a questionable type of culling. The United States government runs torture chambers and prisons where it keeps people in solitary confinement. Mistreating prisoners is an unpleasant business whether or not you think it is a necessary evil.

From the time we learn to recite the Pledge of Allegiance with our hands over our hearts in school, we’re encouraged to regard the United States government as a halo organization. From the pages of our textbooks and the mouths of our teachers, we learn that it deserves our loyalty. It may not be perfect, but it protects us and we must preserve it. That’s the message.

If the entire federal government functions as a halo organization, the dirty work it performs on our behalf is meant to stay hidden. You don’t want to see the rats in the dark corners. If that’s so, Dunn’s conclusions about such organizations apply to the United States government as a whole:

Halo outfits deserve to be attacked. They are not immune, and, as in this case, the saintly façade is almost always hiding vast quantities of internal rot. Planned Parenthood to some extent is a criminal organization, and it needs to be treated as such.

But attacks on such outfits must be carefully coordinated and carried out. They cannot be made without preparation… What is needed is a dedicated organization… Once this is in hand, then the time will come to take action, destroy the suspect outfit’s reputation, shut down its funding, and isolate it from any form of public support.

Such a program is far from hopeless – consider the current reputation of the New York Times, which seemed unassailable even twenty years ago. It simply requires a little preparation, a little strategy, and a little diligent effort.

A strategic response to organizations that actually do harm when they claim to do good is consistent with Gene Sharp’s argument in From Dictatorship to Democracy. Sharp writes that to replace an illegitimate government, you have to plan, prepare, and act persistently to carry out your plan. You have to anticipate that when the government recognizes your plan, it will act to stop you. You have to be prepared for that, too.

Another element of Sharp’s perspective concerns the wise fable of the monkey keeper. A long time ago, a monkey keeper kept the animals to serve him. They gathered food and brought it to his table, they fanned him and brought him water to keep him cool in the hot afternoons. They followed all his strict rules for proper behavior in the household, because they knew he would punish them severely if they did not. At last, one day, the monkeys realized they did not have to continue such a servile life. They simply left to live in the forest. The old man had become so dependent on them, he languished and died for lack of food and drink.

As free individuals, we have the same option. We do not have to live a servile life. We have no obligation to serve any person or institution that has arrogated illegitimate power. The monkey keeper gave himself a halo and expected obedience. With the Pledge of Allegiance and a thousand other cues, the government gives itself an aura of legitimacy and expects our loyalty in consequence.

We hear a couple of phrases nowadays, on the grid and off the grid. Think about what those phrases mean. Who created the grid of taxes, fees, permits, compulsory education, health insurance and immunizations, license requirements, economic regulation, rules of social behavior, and so on? It wasn’t us. The monkey keeper created them. Right now, we can live on the grid with a W-2 job, or we can try to live off the grid, usually at great material and emotional cost to ourselves and our families. We don’t think about what we would have to do to create a new grid. The task appears too gargantuan.

When the keeper’s monkeys ran off into the forest, they still had to feed themselves. They still had to settle disputes. They still had to raise families, live in groups, take care of each other, fight with each other, protect themselves from predators and so on. They had to create a new grid. They put the monkey keeper’s grid aside, but they could not live without a new one. The moment they rejected the keeper’s grid of servility and punishment, they had to set their minds to the task of how to create a new one to nourish freedom and dignity.

The key difference between removing Planned Parenthood’s halo, and removing government’s halo, is that we can live without Planned Parenthood. People cannot live without certain kinds of collaborative structures that enable them to live as a society. People need a grid. It may not necessarily be a government, but people need something that functions as a grid.

If you have read Revolution in the Air, you know I have thought about this subject for a long time. You know I believe the federal government has dissolved its own legitimacy. We have to replace it as soon as we can. We have to go into the forest and start again. That’s overstating the case a bit. We have to set all of the federal government’s monkey keeping, grid maintenance functions aside, and start over with other institutions that enable us to live together in liberty.

A key endeavor in this project is to restore the rights and freedoms in our Constitution, which no longer frames or lends legitimacy to our country’s government. When I wrote a second essay titled Revolution on the Ground, I wanted to work through some practical problems this restorative project presents. How, for example, do you deprive a government of revenue? That implies a tax revolt. A tax revolt has to be a unified resistance movement. Government can easily imprison numerous individual tax protesters. It cannot easily imprison millions of them. My instincts tell me that citizens must rely on state governments and other local institutions to resist the federal government’s authority. Every state has different institutions, however, and I do not see clearly how citizens in each state might act to advance such a revolution.

I learned quickly enough that civil resistance in our large country must overcome substantial problems of organization, motivation, and institutional counter-pressures. I also learned that I don’t have experience as a writer and thinker to overcome these problems! I’m confident, though, that we do have to think about them, soon. Our government is on a path toward self-destruction, and if we do not plan for the event, it will be violent. If we do not plan for the event, we will find ourselves in an environment where we cannot create a new grid. We will have lost our opportunity to regain our freedom.


Here’s a postscript, then: Multiple minds are better than one, and we have tools we can use to collaborate effectively. What first steps can we take to begin a productive planning process? How can we prepare for the revolution that has pushed its way into our expectations? What shall we do now to reduce the violence revolutionary change may bring in its train? We know from history that revolutions often bring violence, and we know violent change promotes misery, not liberty. We want an effective revolution where we Americans do not shoot, bomb, burn, beat, imprison, or otherwise mistreat each other. How do we accomplish that?

Let others know what you think in the comments below.

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Romney Does Dislike the Working Poor

Many on the Republican right do not trust Mitt Romney.  That’s a foregone conclusion.  Recently he made a policy statement which will only increase that mistrust.  Last week Romney announced that his position on the federal minimum wage has not changed.  When he ran for governor of Massachusetts in 2002 he affirmed his support for the state’s minimum wage and proposed linking automatic increases in it to inflation; as a Republican candidate for president in 2008 he affirmed his support for the federal minimum wage and you guessed it, took the position that it ought to automatically increase based on inflation.  With his latest pronouncement, it appears flip-flopping Mitt is immoveable when it comes to his stand on government wage rate fixing.  This policy of his is consistent with his distaste for the poor since it will hurt them the most.

You see, government price fixing of any variety simply doesn’t work.  Most of the time it hurts those it was intended to help the most – the working poor.  In the 1970s, Richard Nixon placed ceiling prices on beef.  The price of beef continued to rise anyway and many small plans went out of business because they found themselves selling on smaller and smaller margins.  Many of the working poor lost their jobs.

Rent controls are another form of government price fixing that always ends in disaster.  Because there is no incentive to provide decent housing at below market rates, laws mandating artificially low rent levels produce squalid units and shortages in housing for those that need it the most – again the working poor.

So it is with minimum wage laws.  Their intention is good, but they always hurt those they are meant to help – the working poor.  By fixing the minimum price for labor above market value, employers are less willing to hire workers.  Looking at a simple supply and demand graph, where the vertical axis represents price, it is easy to see that when the minimum wage is north of equilibrium the quantity of workers supplied is greater than the quantity of workers demanded.  This equals more unemployment and particularly more unemployment at the lower end of the socio-economic ladder.

Now imagine as Romney proposes, the minimum wage increasing with the rate of inflation.  It would increase every year and given how much new money has been created out of thin air by Ben Bernanke at the Fed, an increase in the minimum wage based on price inflation could be significant very soon.  As the minimum price of labor continues to rise above the market price hiring would become even more scarce at the lower socio-economic level.

At the end of the day, you have to question the commitment to the free market of any candidate that endorses the minimum wage let alone indexing it to the rate of price inflation.  Price fixing of goods and services by government is what ultimately destroys socialist states.  Besides that, it mostly hurts the working poor.  Given Romney’s recent remarks about that group, it is consistent that he would support the minimum wage.

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