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Category: Politics (page 2 of 11)

The Panic of 1819 and Rothbard

My readings the biographies of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe sparked an interest in the Panic of 1819, America’s first depression following the adoption of our Constitution. This panic had parallels to our present economic problems in that it was caused by credit policies of the Second Bank of the United States, federal credit policies related to the sale of western land, and changes in world trade resulting from the end of the Napoleonic wars.

Searching for a book on the event, only one kept popped up: The Panic of 1819: Reactions and Policies by Murray N. Rothbard. Frankly, this set off my crap detector. I have never read any Rothbard, but reference to his name left a bad taste in my mouth. Doing a quick Google search to investigate my reaction, I found the he had something to do with Libertarianism and was a critic of Objectivism. Not a ringing endorsement for his judgment and knowledge.

Thus, I decided to find an alternate reference by reviewing the sources and footnotes of Dumas, Ketcham, and Ammon from the biographies of the above referenced Presidents. I was surprised to find that, in addition to volumes of primary sources, both Dumas and Ammon cited Rothbard’s book. Further, Ammon praised it in a footnote by saying, “See the excellent study by Murray N. Rothbard…” As potential alternative sources, Ammon lamented the lack of a scholarly biography of Sec. of Treasury William H. Crawford, which I understand to still be true; and, he suggested Smith’s Economic Aspects of the Second Bank of the United States (Harvard Press, 1953) as a source on the public sector operations of the bank.

Lacking a better focused and concise alternative, I purchased and will read Rothbard’s book. If I can critically read authors as vile as Marx, Foucault, and Fanon, then sorting the Rothbard errors from the facts should not be too difficult of a task. I understand that this book is founded in his dissertation, so perhaps there was sufficient oversight to prevent biased analysis and omission of relevant facts. Plus, I will be able to assess Rothbard’s cited sources, if need be. I plan future posts related to the book as I read it.

Note to self: perhaps the Miller Center at UVa should organize a panel on the Panic of 1819, as it has interesting impacts upon our Presidents: Jefferson and Madison as former Presidents, and Monroe as the acting President; I suspect the same to be true of John Q. Adams as Sec. of State plus later President and legislator, and the subsequent presidencies of Jackson and Van Buren, who served during the Panic of 1837. I cannot recall any discussion associating Jackson’s veto of the Bank of the United States and the Panic of 1819, which seems like missing the elephant in the room; perhaps Remini’s trilogy on Jackson will offer me some information on that point.

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Obama Kills an American Traitor

In addition to just praise for the CIA and our military, President Obama deserves praise for today’s killing of traitor Anwar al-Awlaki. Anyone who disputes the justice of this killing is evading the facts from reality. However, there is a separate point that is worthy of discussion: Does the process for targeting Americans turned traitorous terrorists overseas offer adequate protection for the target’s individual and constitutional rights?

Looking at this concrete example, we see that this was not a case of the executive branch going off reservation and freelancing. Serious consideration has given to understanding and assessing statutes passed by the legislature and rulings by the judiciary to ensure that the procedural rights found in our Constitution and statutes were adhered to (see Washington Post article). Further, in this particular case, the judicial branch ruled that the Obama administration was acting within the executive’s political discretion.

However, in these types of cases, are our current statutes adequate for instituting procedural rights and controls to protect the individual rights of American citizens evidently involved in terrorism and rebellion against the United States? I think that is a question worthy of congressional investigation and possibly additional legislation. For example, are the procedural rights and controls to protect Americans from having their phones tapped more than those of the President ordering their killing?

This is a case in which Rep. Ron Paul, the Republican candidate, demonstrates his utter failure in his current position, which demonstrates why he should not be President at the risk of him attempting to rule by decree. MSNBC reports that Paul condemned the killing of al-Awlaki as essentially the murder of an American by his own government. Yet, Rep. Paul was a member of Congress during a period of time that everybody knew that President Obama had ordered the killing of al-Awlaki; as a congressman, what did Paul do to spark congressional action to implement procedural rights and controls by statute? As a congressman, his job is more than voting no against almost every bill on the House floor; is the extra-judicial premeditated killing of an American citizen not sufficiently important to spark Rep. Paul to action instead of hollow rhetoric?

Further, in the case of Rep. Paul, in that MSNBC piece, he is quoted as saying that “Al-Awlaki nobody ever suggested that he was participant in 9/11.” Contrary to the point of the ignorant Paul, Awlaki has been tied to giving aid to and having direct contact with 9/11 hijackers in San Diego. Given that these facts were reported by the 9/11 commission, it is shocking that Rep. Paul, a candidate for President, should appear to be ignorant of them.

Shifting to the statement of another Republican candidate, former Gov. Gary Johnson said that the case raised serious questions about whether al-Awlaki’s constitutional due process rights had been violated. As a presidential candidate, Johnson should be better informed and speak beyond platitudes to addressing specific policy issues. Frankly, he missed a good opportunity to either be informed on an issue or shut up when he is not.

What should candidate Johnson have said, informed by my prior observations?

Al-Awlaki was a vile traitor and today he received justice. I praise the CIA, our military, and President Obama for this action to protect the individual rights of all Americans.

However, I have to be honest and point out that President Johnson would have handled this situation differently; although, it would have had the same net result. When presented with this plan to kill an American turned traitor and terrorist, I would have asked for more diligence in protecting due process rights of an American citizen. It should not be the President alone without direction from the legislature and review by the courts to decide that a traitorous American should be killed by our government. I am not suggesting that a criminal conviction is required; however, if the executive branch requires court review to listen to his phone calls, then there should be some judicial protection when the President signs an unconvicted American’s death warrant.

While the courts have ruled upon al-Awlaki’s case and validated this death sentence of a traitor and terrorist, and the executive branch acted to fully consider the constitutional protections of Al-Awlaki, I think that the Congress has fallen down on this issue of establishing protections for Americans’ rights. Given the foreknowledge of this action, I question some of my fellow Republicans also running for our party’s presidential nomination: “As current legislators, what have you done to insure that statutes were enacted to protect the rights of Americans targeted for killing based upon allegations of being traitorous terrorists?”

As President, I would have started by doing as President Obama did; however, I would have done more to spark the Congress to act so as to protect the rights of Americans subject to such allegations and penalties.

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Taxing Congress

While listening to Senator Lindsey Graham’s recent talk at the Council on Foreign Relations, I heard him mention cutting congressional pay by 10% as part of a revised deficit reduction package.

As an alternative, I have a modest proposal to evade the 27th Amendment and achieve an immediate financial penalty upon Congress. In the spirit of Jonathan Swift, I suggest that Congress pass a special tax that would apply only to their salary. The rate of such a tax would be calculated based upon the size of the federal deficit; for example, if the federal deficit were 43% of revenue, then our Representatives would pay an additional 43% tax, which we could call an Incompetence Tax.

This tax would embrace erroneous principles currently in fashion with our legislators. First, it would be a use of the tax code to do what is prohibited to Congress by the Constitution. Second, like ancient Athenian democracy, the majority can target a tax upon a specific unpopular individual or group for expropriation of their wealth; is anyone less popular than Congress? Third, it uses the taxing authority not to raise revenue but as a punitive instrument.

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Answering the 14th Amendment Question

The other day, I wrote about the question that I would ask the Republican candidates for President. Today, I will answer that question as that will unpack it a bit and make the deficiencies of various candidates more evident:

I do agree that certain “Republican” candidates sound more like Jefferson Davis than Abraham Lincoln.

In some cases, they express anti-American sectionalism such as Gov. Perry endorsing secession, former Speaker Gingrich attacking federal civil rights law by endorsing essentially literacy tests as a qualification for voting, and Rep. Paul sounding like President Thomas Jefferson’s contemporary critic Rep. John Randolph of Roanoke.

Speaking about the antidisestablishment advocates, they express a hostility to the Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment in the name of an appeal to a democratic trampling of individual rights…they would make failed former Democratic presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan proud.

To be specific, this error in constitutional interpretation is expressed on the Supreme Court today by the anti-conceptual orginalist doctrine advocated by Justice Scalia.

Let me attempt to summarize my own view briefly…I agree with President Jefferson who advocated a role for the federal courts as a power to protect individuals from abuse by a state. Through the leadership of George Mason and James Madison, our constitution was enhanced with a Bill of Rights identifying civil (procedural) rights that were so fundamental, although not exclusive, that the government may not infringe them. After the Civil War, the 14th Amendment guaranteed citizens the protection of due process and equal protection of the law against abuse by a state. Through Supreme Court decisions, this has been interpreted as a federal guarantee of fundamental rights (the incorporation of aspects of the Bill of Rights) such that individuals are secure in their individual rights from abuse by state action.

Many Republicans recently cheered when the Supreme Court incorporated the 2nd Amendment as a check against overreaching state and municipal gun control laws. Yet, as if ideas and principles do not matter, many of these same Republicans (some currently running for the Presidency) oppose the incorporation of the 1st Amendment’s establishment clause. Given the history of ours states abusing Christians of various sects, including the sects of these same people, they have failed to learned the lessons of history, which led to disestablishment–the separation of church and state.

Some may say that these are a lot of words that do not amount to much, so let me concretize it with a couple of examples of protections against state power that you risk taking for granted:

* buying condoms in Connecticut (Griswold v. Connecticut 1965)
* marrying the person you love in Virginia, even if you are of a different race (Loving v. Virginia 1967)
* attending school as a Jehovah’s Witness without getting beaten up for failing to pledge allegiance (West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette 1943)
* just compensation for property seized by the state (Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad v. City of Chicago 1896)

While I could go on, these examples demonstrate the principles and consequences of those who seek democratic state governments unchecked by federal constitutional protections for individual rights.
* they promise to make abortion illegal, and they will take your condoms
* they seek to revoke the voting rights of blacks, and they will decide who you can marry
* they command praising the Christian god, and they will oppress the wrong kinds of Christians
* they take a citizen’s property for Pfizer’s benefit today, and they will take your property as a gift to the collective tomorrow

Related to court appointments, I would not advance advocates of Justice Scalia’s anti-conceptual originalism nor Justice Breyer’s subjectivist living constitution model; instead, I would nominated judges who appreciate that the purpose of government is the protection of individual rights and that our Constitution, civil rights statutes, our laws, and regulations are to be means to that end.

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“Republican” Presidential Candidates vs. 14th Amendment

For tomorrow’s FoxNews/Google Republican presidential debate, YouTube was soliciting questions; unfortunately, I did not make the effort to construct a video question…such a hassle to find a period without ambient noise; yes, little girls I refer to you.

However, I did have an idea for a question, for which I wanted to understand the answer. As a visual, consider a war weary picture of President Lincoln with the following scripted audio, spoken with my own personal drawl:

In this here Republican candidates’ debate, I am surprised to see participants who are not Republicans, but are in fact neo-con-federates! Yes, Perry, Gingrich, and Paul, I am especially referring to you. Much has been and should be said about the 10th Amendment; however, some of y’all’s rhetoric is outright antagonistic to the 14th Amendment. As someone who puts yourself forward as the nominator of the federal judiciary, please expound upon your view of the 14th Amendment, equal protection, due process, and the incorporation of the Bill of Rights as a check upon the abuse of individual rights by state authorities. In praising recent decisions about the incorporation of the 2nd Amendment by the Supreme Court, please do not neglect the more vital Establishment Clause from the 1st Amendment.

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Did FreedomWorks Lie or Are They Clueless?

On Sunday, I received a forwarded newsletter from FreedomWorks. It advised readers to contact their congressman to support important legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives, which “would push back against the EPA’s unconstitutional, outrageous rules and regulations that raise energy prices for consumers, destroy jobs and increase our dependence on foreign sources of energy.”

Sign me up for that! Seriously, the jackbooted heel of President Nixon still undermines America through EPA regulation and abuse of producers.

However, the proposed silver bullet of the TRAIN Act fails to achieve the goals promised by FreedomWorks:

The TRAIN ACT would:
– Fight back against EPA regulations that would raise energy prices for consumers and destroy jobs
– Reject the EPA’s attempt to shut down coal as one key source of our energy needs
– Ensure that America continues to be able to use its own natural resources for energy, as opposed to relying more on foreign sources of energy

What does it actually do? Let me allow the Congressional Research Service explain it:

Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation Act of 2011 – Requires the President to establish the Committee for the Cumulative Analysis of Regulations that Impact Energy and Manufacturing in the United States to analyze and report on the cumulative and incremental impacts of covered rules and actions of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concerning air, waste, water, and climate change for each of calendar years 2016, 2020, and 2030.

Requires such analysis to include: (1) estimates of the impacts of the such rules and actions on the global economic competitiveness of the United States, electricity prices, fuel prices, employment, and the reliability and adequacy of bulk power supply in the United States; and (2) a discussion and an assessment of the cumulative impact on consumers, small businesses, regional economies, state, local, and tribal governments, local and industry-specific labor markets, and agriculture.

Includes among “covered rules” specified national standards for air quality and air pollutants and hazardous and solid waste and other rules promulgated under specified provisions of the Clean Air Act on or after January 1, 2009.

Defines “covered action” as any action on or after such date by the EPA, a state, a local government, or a permitting agency as a result of the application of specified Clean Air Act (CAA) provisions with respect to an air pollutant that is identified as a greenhouse gas.

Amends the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to increase and extend appropriations for FY2012-FY2016 for diesel emissions reduction.

So the solution to abusive federal regulations is to form another committee, require that the EPA do some math, and create another report that the Congress will fail to act upon? Really?

What would real reform look like? Instead of listing statutes and actions that trigger additional reporting, the proposed legislation would repeal those statutes or specific statutory authorities granting overly broad regulatory discretion. Seems so simple that it requires a massive evasion to consider the proposed legislation as a real check on the EPA.

That giant sucking sound that you hear….it is the Republicans in the House sucking at their jobs as the Obama Administration continues to suck the life blood out of America’s economy.

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On Foreign Policy, Our Founders vs. Ron Paul

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvo8Sc6l5PQ]

It has been asserted that Ron Paul’s foreign policy is consistent with that of our Founders.  Let me list some of the actual foreign policies of the early American government so that supporters of Paul can reconsider whether he is actually consistent with them.

•     As an ambassador overseas, John Adams undermined foreign governments by giving aid to revolutionaries; further, he sought to promote American constitutional republicanism as superior to the monarchies of Europe and democratic proposals of French intellectuals.

•     As Minister to France, both Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe sought to increase American trade with France in part to weaken Britain. Jefferson offered detailed reforms to French laws that were necessary to rollback intrusive economic regulation.

•     American governments consistently made it a matter of policy to obstruct sovereign native tribes’ relations with European powers; manifestations of this policy include:  the War of 1812, Jackson’s invasion of Spanish Florida during the Monroe Administration, and a policy of pushing Indians west of the Mississippi that began in the Washington Administration.

•     A key policy plank of the Democratic – Republican Party before 1801 was a strong alliance with and preference for post-revolutionary France as part of a policy to expand republican governments in the world.

•     As President, Jefferson secured the purchase of Louisiana by advising the French that their failure to transfer New Orleans and navigation of the Mississippi to the Americans would result in war.

•     During the Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe Administrations, Spain was under threat of war with America over Spanish West Florida; during the Napoleonic wars, an American invasion of Spanish Florida was considered so as to prevent it from falling into British hands.  As President, Monroe invaded Florida twice to suppress piracy and the Seminoles.

•     During the Jefferson Administration, the United States engaged in regime change in Tripoli.

•     The Monroe Doctrine opposed further colonization by Europeans in the Americas.

•     Madison and Monroe both championed colonization in Liberia by freed American slaves.

•     During the Jefferson and Madison Administrations, American trade with Britain and France was subject to a series of federal restrictions to prevent such commerce.  The stated object of these policies was to compel Britain and France to change their own policies.

I do not find such early American foreign policies to be consistent with an evaluation of a non-interventionist American government that “didn’t pretend to know all the answers” while staying out of other people’s business.

For a study of early American foreign policy, I recommend the following definitive biographers:  Douglas Southall Freeman on Washington, C. Bradley Thompson on John Adams, Dumas Malone on Jefferson, Ralph Ketcham on Madison, and Harry Ammon on Monroe.  I am looking forward to reading Samuel Flagg Bemis’ volume John Quincy Adams and the Foundations of American Foreign Policy; while it is out of print, it can be found and I have it.

On Jefferson in particular, Malone’s account of his time as Minister to France, Secretary of State, and President demonstrates that Jefferson established principles for American foreign policy that have been consistent to the present.

Foreign policy is just another area in which Ron Paul is anti-Jeffersonian.

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FBI Dropping the Intelligence Ball

Over a week ago on 9/10 (evidence that I am backed up on my reading), Scott Holleran had an interesting post about a tipped link between a 9/11 hijacker, a woman, Lake Tahoe, and a FBI investigation with unknown results.  He is particularly concerned about this as a possible thread leading to a state sponsor of terrorism or Saudi Arabia.

This reminded me of comments made by John Lehman (9/11 Commissioner) during a 10 year 9/11 retrospective hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations.  Mr. Lehman appeared during the third session titled “Counterterrorism and Homeland Security: Does the United States Have the Right Strategy?

Relevant to the topic of FBI investigations of Saudi links to the hijackers, Mr. Lehman said in the context of intelligence issues (from the transcript):

And could I just take one addenda to that?  On the issue of domestic intelligence, I couldn’t agree more.  I think our domestic intelligence is very, very inadequate.  And in the 9/11 commission, I think all of us were, as the weight of evidence grew, convinced that we should split the FBI, that a cop shop should not be a domestic intelligence agency.  And we decided not to recommend that, because it was just too much going on.  You couldn’t — that kind of major surgery right after 9/11, with all the new changes that had to be done, was just not very wise.

But I think absolutely we should relook at that and reopen that issue, because most of our effective intelligence allies have that split function.  They don’t let the intelligence, domestic intelligence, have prosecutorial powers, and they don’t trust cops to be good intelligence tradesmen.

A perfect example was in our televised hearings — which I’m sure you all watched — which was when we asked the acting director — we referred to the evidence that had been gathered during the investigation from the intelligence communities of the five operatives in Saudi embassies who were clearly enablers for the — for the 19, and who were — helped them, you know, find apartments, drove them from one place to another, got them into flight schools.  And there were five named individuals that were clearly very friendly to these 19 people.  And so we said:  What has happened with them?

And the acting director said:  We did investigate them, but we found insufficient evidence to get an indictment, so we terminated those investigations.  Now, can you imagine an intelligence professional saying a thing like that?  I mean, here were some of the most valuable targets in the United States after 9/11, and FBI dropped — didn’t — so we followed up, said:  Well, where are they now?  Well, we don’t know.  We — didn’t I hear — didn’t you hear me?  I said we terminated the investigation.  That is the prosecutorial, law enforcement mentality which makes FBI such a fine law enforcement agency, and makes them unable effectively to do real intelligence tradecraft, in my judgment.

Combining Holleran’s report and Lehman’s statements, it seems probable that the FBI would have dropped the case of the woman at Lake Tahoe, because they lacked evidence to support a prosecution.  As the FBI has not publicly requested help finding this “person of interest,” I suspect that they know who she is, interviewed her, and did not pursue the link further.

On the separate issue raised by Mr. Lehman that the FBI’s cop and intelligence functions be separated, I am not eager to see such a reform unless temporary and circumscribed.  Such  a domestic intelligence operation would likely move from Justice to the Department of Homeland Security, which has a troubling record of hostility to individual rights (see TSA).  Given the intelligence, protection, and law enforcement liaison functions, where would this new domestic intelligence agency go logically: Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or Secret Service?

Personally, I would be very concerned that it would become a Secret Service function; thus, putting a new domestic intelligence service in close proximity to the White House.

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Unbalanced Rhetoric

Sen. Jim DeMint has demonstrated himself to be unserious about rolling back out of control spending by the Congress.  Today, he threatened to filibuster legislation to raise the debt ceiling unless a constitutional amendment is passed to balance the budget.

Consider that only a little over a week ago the Congress could have but failed to pass a balanced budget for 2010; further, a few days ago, the Republican controlled House could have passed a balanced budget for 2011, but again failed to do so.

It takes fewer votes to pass a balanced budget, or to override a filibuster, than it does to pass a constitutional amendment.

Like the empty rhetoric that will comprise DeMint’s filibuster speech, Republicans make empty promises about the panacea of a balanced budget amendment, when they should be focused on concrete and actual cuts in spending by the elimination of federal programs and real reform by a planned phase out of entitlement programs.

Under the current budget process without the requirements of balancing, our Congresses can not pass budgets on time and could not even pass a budget at all last year.

Adding constitutional constraints, which they already regularly ignore, will not magically develop integrity in our corrupt legislators.  Republican rhetoric is useless.  America requires legislators who will act upon principle (such as the enumerated limits on congressional powers) to actually cut spending.

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Mondale’s Evil Call for Raping the Producers

The fool who lost 49 of 50 states in the 1984 election has suggested that the current Administration champion tax increases.

In a time in which Republicans control the House of Representatives, such a suggestion is beyond stupid and may qualify the former V.P as an insane person requiring state protection as he definitely seeks harm to others.

For those ignorant of the Constitution like congressional Republicans, all tax legislation must originate in the anti-tax-increase House of Representatives.

There will be no increases in federal taxes unless the Republicans betray the American people….as they have done before.

Mondale lies when he states that “Polls consistently show that majorities of Americans are willing to pay taxes…” as the truth of the matter is that the majority is more than willing for someone else to pay those taxes…the rich.

Aristotle identified the degenerate from of democracy that would result in tyranny was based upon the public confiscation and transfer of wealth through majority rule.  Our republic government has been corrupted by ignorant adoration of democracy, which has made us susceptible to democratic degeneration to tyranny.

Today, Americans must stand up for the productive against the government’s lust for the wealth of the more productive of our citizens; failure to do so will embraced the tyranny advocated by the party of slavery, the Democrats.

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