Description

Edge of Chaos is a political podcast starring Joe Ryan and Neurotoxin. Its aim is to have a free-flowing discussion of news and current events that also examines the empirical outcomes of public policy, avoiding biases based on ideology and policy intentions. Listener discretion is both advised and encouraged.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Ukraine: From Slavery to Serfdom

My worst enemy would not accuse me of being a Putin supporter, and I'm certainly glad to see Russia slowly backing off and relinquishing its claims on Ukraine; but forgive me if I'm not jumping on the joy of freedom bandwagon for the Ukrainian people just yet. According to CNN yesterday:

"NATO foreign ministers on Wednesday endorsed a package of support strengthening the ability of Ukraine, which is not a member of the alliance, to defend itself.

...the package includes 'the creation of new trust funds to support defense capacity building in critical areas such as logistics, command and control, cyber defense and to help retired military personnel to adapt to civilian life,' according to NATO."

What does that really mean?

Put simply, Ukraine needs only look slightly past the Black Sea to Greece and Cyprus for a glimpse into its future. Countries don't have rich grandfathers that die. 'Trust fund' is just a more politically acceptable term for foreign debt; this after Ukraine has already been loaded up with 10s of billions of it to sustain its civilian economy through the crisis.

The governments of North America and Western Europe are not motivated by philanthropy or belief in democracy. They are saddled with banking systems that have been on publicly subsidized life support for the better part of a decade now, and have shown 0 signs of recovery despite the desperate re-writing of policy definitions and measurement adjustments, AND despite politicians like Obama and Hollande referencing these over and over like braindead parrots. As anti-EU parties from all sides of the spectrum sweeping the EU Parliamentary election last month demonstrated, people are catching on that central banking is a scam and are determined to let the predatory multinational corporations involved starve. Ukraine offers the banks and the center-left politicians who serve them the opportunity to pretend they are solvent for a few years by backing up toxic debt from Southern Europe with Ukrainian promissory notes. Sure, Transparency International ranks the corruption in Ukraine to be almost double that of Italy or Greece, and the World Bank ranks its development at 1/5th of those countries on a generous day; but perhaps the electorates don't know that. It just might work for a few years, and for an international criminal cartel - that's an unusually safe bet.

To make matters worse, this debt is earmarked for military expenditures, and subject to the approval of international organizations that Ukraine is not even a member of. In other words, "you will spend the money you owe us however we tell you". Even if you're still enamored with the fairy-tale of a single global economy where banks from rich countries invest in infrastructure and development in poor ones, and the poor ones then pay back the loans with stimulated domestic growth; Ukraine is not a romance novel you can curl up with by the fireplace. As we have witnessed with over a decade of military and security expenditure extravagance here in the US, it does not contribute to anything but a sharp economic downturn. This is common sense. The government cannot print the raw materials needed to produce weapons, military supplies, fuel, ammunition, or even food and other goods consumed by the war machine. It can borrow money from its own central bank, in other words PRINT it, to buy these. But supply is limited, and the increased demand drives up domestic prices without producing economic growth when they are expended; bringing us $4/gallon gasoline, runaway inflation on food which is conveniently excluded from the Consumer Price Index, and domestic businesses being forced to close their doors and lay off employees because they can no longer make ends meet. It takes a fundamental ignorance of economics to expect debt-repaying growth from security and defense loans; but from a crony capitalist perspective this makes perfect sense.

With every election, there is more and more of those rat bastard fringe politicians from both the right and the left in the legislatures on both continents - socialists, communists, nationalists, libertarians, theocrats, etc.; and the one thing they all  hate more than meddling in foreign countries using debt serfdom, is meddling there with guns and rockets. Forget boots on the ground, even a mention of a 'limited' airstrike in some desolate desert in the Middle East or North Africa raises an uproar and threats of no confidence votes or impeachment proceedings. There is simply no convincing the electorates THAT is a good idea. So if the center-left is threatened, the center-right that serves international death dealers like Halliburton and Raytheon is teetering on extinction, and the only way either can hope to create profit for their corporate masters is by holding hands. If predatory bankers are allowed to print 10s of billions of dollars or Euros to prolong their illusion of solvency, some of that money better be spent on defense or there is no hope of a majority vote in favor.

The good news is, there is no doubt in my mind that both types of corporate cartels are flying toward history's trash can. The size of Ukraine and its level of economic and political development virtually guarantee a default on any loans hastily shoved down its throat in the modern crisis; and a default that takes significantly less time to materialize than Italy's or Greece's and one whose magnitude makes bailouts simply infeasible. And unless you can do so with toilet paper fiat currency printed under the guise of some bigger project, no one is going to buy weapons and military equipment on a scale meant for superpower warfare - so when the banks go, what's left of the military-industrial complex is going with them.

But I do feel bad for the people of Ukraine. An ancient, beautiful country with an amazing culture and history; and their only option for escaping slavery to a murderous tyrant having wet dreams about a dead superpower is to sell themselves into indentured servitude to the decaying afterbirth of imperial aristocracies still struggling to preserve their nobility in a system demanding public accountability. We really haven't come remotely as far from the political and economic situations surrounding WWI, the Napoleonic Wars, or even the 30 Years War as we like to think. On the bright side though, NONE of the entrenched special interests involved in those conflicts survived them, and my hope for the modern situation is that their looming disposition is less violent.

-Toxin

Friday, June 20, 2014

Reviving the Mediacrity Award For Someone Especially Irrelevant


Thank you everyone that responded to my article earlier this week on Hillary's non-viability as a 2016 candidate for convincing me just how right I am. Her politically clueless supporters buried me in emotional tantrums employing every logical fallacy imaginable, and her detractors were not far behind with equally devoid-of-reality doomsday predictions. But not one person, out of 100s reached, could make a logical counter-case that actually took the empirical barriers I mentioned into consideration. If you think Hillary stands a chance, it is because you don't understand civics; simple as that.

Hence, this week I bring back the "you don't belong in the news" award just for her. Hillary's political career is over; and she is abusing Americans' fundamental ignorance of our own political system to create hype and see if it goes somewhere. It won't; but the media's complicity in this is downright disgusting. The real news around us right now are the colossal policy failures of both the Bush Jr and Obama administrations - Iraq, the IRS scandal, the Bergdahl swap, etc. But reporting on these without both Parties sounding indistinguishably awful is difficult even for NBC or Fox News, which is especially dangerous during the Primary season. So it's "look, there's an odious retired politician on a book tour acting like a candidate!" Pathetic. This so-called media belongs in history's trash chute, WITH Hillary.

-Toxin

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Hillary's Campaign, err, Book Tour Interview Indicates She Doesn't Stand A Chance in 2016

As Hillary Clinton continues to insult America's intelligence with her pseudo-campaign, I continue to unapologetically predict that she will not come anywhere near the White House in 2016. In fact, I stand by the prediction I've made since she started campaigning the day after Obama's re-election that she will not even make it past Florida in the Democratic Primaries. I should mention that she IS liable to remain on the ballot as the Newt Gingrich of that year - old, washed up, white, detached, with a bottomless well of money, and representing a dying party establishment. It's no secret that I DESPISE Hillary Clinton, but this post is not about that. It is my attempt to convince you that my prediction is objectively founded in things she said in today's interview with CNN.

1. She is riding the fence on every issue.

Whether it's Benghazi, immigration reform, marijuana, the Middle East clusterfuck, or even gun control - Hillary seems incapable of taking a firm stance on anything. With the exception of gun control where she expressed tepid support for the failed Federal background check bill from early 2013, every answer cites ideological intentions and then alludes to mystical solutions that Hillary dubs bipartisan compromise. Even on Benghazi, which happened almost 2 years ago, Hillary still cannot produce a straight answer when asked what she would have done differently. Iran/Iraq/Syria, a rapidly evolving violent crisis, is a "wait and see". Immigration policy should consist of magically achieved reunions between 10,000s of children and their parents 2-3 borders away, with no explanation of feasibility, costs, or enforcement.

There was a time, say 20 years ago when Bill was President, when Americans swallowed up this idealistic, vague, centrist waffling and asked for more. Moderates ruled in the 1990s and the early 2000s, and the ticket to victory in any contested election was to get as close to the center as possible, counting on your base and winning over swing voters. But Hillary needs to check her what year it is. The country is more polarized than ever, with "bipartisan" and "compromise" being 4 letters words in DC. She, herself, lost in 2008 to a relative unknown because he moved closer to an energized, liberal base while she pandered to the center. Since then, we've seen 6 years of obstinate Tea Party stalwarts slaughtering moderate, establishment Republicans in Primaries, going so far as to unseat incumbents and refuse to vote with their party leadership. Moderate voters are far more rare now, and they're disorganized and jaded about politics. The bases, on the other hand, are energized; and they openly refuse to support moderate candidates. Advances in technology that make information cheap and easy to obtain have also given rise to a new, younger demographic of independent, issue-based voters. As we witnessed with Romney, waffling and refusing to give concrete answers alienates this demographic to disastrous proportions.

2. She is advocating Statism

Like us or hate us, but the libertarian tide is rising in both parties. And while those leaning toward it from the right and the left continue to have significant differences, the issues we agree on are the ones Hillary is placing herself on the wrong side of. First and foremost, foreign policy. All libertarians believe uncompromisingly in staying out of foreign conflicts, period. We see interventionism as executive overreach, violations of the human rights of locals, a counter-productive waste of resources, and contrary to the US's founding principles. Any politician that begins throwing out conditionals and excuses for it, acting as if funding/arming/supplying a side is acceptable because it's not "boots on the ground", or refusing to acknowledge the abject failures of both Bush Jr and Obama in this domain instantly loses every libertarian-leaning vote. Hillary's history of supporting Bush Jr's wars was a huge thorn in her side in 2008, but she still hasn't learned. Secondly, marijuana. Hillary's position on this is more insulting to libertarians than even simple prohibition. In saying she is waiting for the evidence from States like Colorado, she is implying prohibition as a reasonable default and placing the burden of proof on advocates of legalization, while glossing over the overwhelming evidence that marijuana prohibition has immense costs and no benefits at all, period. This double-whammy will destroy Hillary even in the eyes of libertarian-leaning conservatives who are not entirely comfortable with marijuana; because her stance supports Federal overreach they dried up on years ago. Gun control and immigration are slightly more divisive issues among libertarian-leaning left and right, but in suggesting trust in Federal authority to find the right solution she unites both in opposing her.

While libertarians are still clearly a minority, we are a colossal political juggernaut. Pew Research has consistently identified us as the most organized and politically educated/active affiliation in the country. We vote religiously, and we have 0 allegiance to either major party or even to our own. We will unapologetically research the necessary political steps to sink a politician we don't like, such as registering with their party for the Primary; and we are impossible to convince of anything using partisan propaganda or middle school tactics like support pledges. If you think I'm bluffing or exaggerating, I suggest a quick phone call to Eric Cantor's office. It's true that libertarians dislike Hillary to begin with, but her answers provoke an active hostility that was not always present. This will bite her in the ass remarkably in the 2016 Primaries, especially considering the first 2 States are libertarian bastions. All those Ron Paul voters that gave him 20%+ in Iowa and Vermont WILL switch parties JUST to destroy Hillary, and they'll BRAG about it.

3. She is an elitist sociopath, and her base is an absolute joke.

The primary reason I dislike Hillary is that she is extremely dishonest, even for a politician. It's rare for politicians to tell the whole truth about their motives, but Hillary's lies and political excuses are so disgustingly obviously that I can hardly hear her speak without cringing. Take the all-but-forgotten controversy over the 2008 Democratic Primaries in Florida and Texas - States that had been stripped of their delegates to the convention by the DNC for holding the contests too early. Hillary won the Primary in both large States, knowing full well it would be strictly for PR purposes, and moved on. Then, when it became clear Obama would clinch the nomination unless the weight of those States tipped the balance in the convention, she began a sleazy PR campaign claiming her "concern" for the "disenfranchised voters" in FL and TX. Americans weren't stupid enough to take this seriously, so she dropped it. As Secretary of State, she used similarly intelligence-insulting excuses for her support of murderous dictators Zine and Mubarak to their last days in office, her highly politicized dodging of responsibility for the blunders exposed by Wikileaks, and then of course for her flat out lies and denial of accountability surrounding Benghazi. Then as pseudo-candidate there was her recent claim of poverty, and just the concept of masquerading a campaign as a book tour.

Hillary demonstrates a pervasive pattern of narcissistic contempt for the average citizen, perpetually underestimating their intelligence and refusing to acknowledge her mistakes. Her answers in this interview follow this pattern very closely. This approach is reflected in her base. In my personal experience, Hillary supporters tend to be older, highly disorganized lifetime Democrats that are clueless about politics. This demographic is notoriously fickle in electoral turnout, and isn't much use as campaign workers. They're also relatively easy to sway and lead away from a candidate, or simply to discourage from turning out for her. I unapologetically remind you that the 2016 campaign has NOT started, and Hillary's apparent popularity depends heavily on a lack of alternative candidates. The first Democrat with a decent field and PR team will break her base instantly with a few well-placed attack ads, then woo her voters away with ease.


To wrap up, Hillary is running a 1990s campaign in 2016: dumping unprecedented amounts of money and starting unprecedentedly early, waffling and riding the fence to appeal to moderate voters, advocating trust in central government and executive authority, and lying persistently and unequivocally counting on her image as an elder stateswoman to make this acceptable. These were the strategies used by Bill Clinton and both Bushes and they worked splendidly, but Hillary is in denial about the fact that was a generation ago and the political field has changed. Primaries are more relevant than ever with increased competition and cheap information making spending and starting early less of factor. Advocating Statism and centrism breed widespread disgust from fringe elements that are crucial in Primaries and known for unapologetic, oppositional mischief. Being a seasoned politician is seen increasingly in a negative light, and coupled with a pattern of dishonesty and lack of accountability it brings hostility and contempt. So, barring a fundamental 180 on her strategy or something else very unforeseen, I predict Hillary Clinton's campaign will collapse catastrophically no later than Florida.

To go with my theory that Hillary's proponents are clueless sheep useless in political strategy; I've yet to see a reasonable counter-argument to this prediction. The choir is large and loud; but all of them seem to believe that Hillary's election is a given and that anyone who disagrees simply doesn't like her, dismissing political analysis because it is hopelessly over their heads. If YOU have a reasonable, founded argument for why Hillary stands a chance in 2016, I would love to see it. I don't recommend coming at me with ad hominem and hyperbole about how I'm "afraid of a strong, liberal woman being in office", however. I have no patience for folk wisdom trying to discredit empiricism, and am liable to shatter your ego in response.

-Toxin

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Hillary's Pauper Moment

I just wanted to weigh in on the stunning and stupefying comments Hillary Clinton, presumptive front runner Democratic presidential candidate of 2016, made in last night’s Diane Sawyer interview on ABC. I’m going to leave aside her dodging the question on what, if anything, she actually ACCOMPLISHED or made better as Secretary of State, and focus instead on her claims that she and Bill were “dead broke” upon leaving office in 2000. Seriously?! Do I even need to pull up publicly available tax returns to respond to bullshit this obvious and egregious? Does she honestly think any sane or rational person not already in the tank for her is going to believe shit like this? And the way she said it: that they had “mortgageS” (PLURAL…mortgageS with an S, as in more than one) to pay, houseS (also with an S, also more than one) to find/maintain, a college education to pay for (Stanford…I bet most people wish they could even get into Stanford, let alone have their parents pay their way) and the like. This after she had already written one book, was about to release a second, after having a legal defense fund to pay for the Lewinsky mess that she now claims wiped them out, and after having the means to carpet bag herself into New York to run for the Senate (and win, lest we forget). Is this honestly what she thinks poor is? Or does she honestly think this will win her favor with the working class members of this country? See America: THIS is the kind of disingenuous bullshit we have to look forward to from the Clinton camp between now and 2016. Do not let this woman be the nominee, and stop Jeb Bush too. Send these faux, poseur, carpet bagging assholes out on a rail where they belong, and out of politics like they deserve --Joe.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Bergdahl Swap: Everything That's Wrong W/ Our Foreign Policy In A Single Case

"So the house is burning and the butane blames the spark
Both can't comprehend that I'm with neither,
But the fire's indifferent so while it may seem dark -
You fleas don't stand a chance so I side with her."

(Neurotoxin, Alienation, From the Poetic Compilation "A-PATHY".)


For once, I'm actually impressed that a relevant, consequential political issue is dominating public discourse; a welcome change from the kindergarten quarrels of "all you have is Benghazi" vs "stop blaming Bush Jr". However, while the quantity of coverage is somewhat hope-inspiring, its quality boils down to the same desperation of 2 political establishments with nothing to offer trying to appeal to disgruntled, independent voters in a lackluster election year - and failing miserably. Put simply, the Bergdahl case is all the policy belligerence, Constitution neglect, and tolerance of executive overreach of the last 13 years finally coming back to bite us in the ass as a country. Both major party establishments are equally and egregiously responsible for these policy failures, and an electorate that grasps this will become even more disillusioned with them, speeding up their already in progress electoral purge and general move toward nullification of Federalism. For this reason, both mainstream and social media are afire with propaganda designed to manipulate public opinion to blame one side or the other. While I wish them a quick but painful mutually assured demise, my mission here is to make you impervious to propaganda - so let's examine what is really happening beneath its despicable barrage:


Is Bergdahl A Deserter and/or Traitor? (The belligerence factor.)

WE DON'T KNOW. There is not sufficient information to make these determinations. Desertion and treason are not just morally reprehensible behaviors - they are very serious crimes rightfully punishable by death. IF Bergdahl is in fact guilty of one or both of them, he deserves the appropriate legal repercussions. Conscientious objection while on deployment is a ludicrous idea, both because our service members enlist voluntarily, and because it endangers the lives of other service members and destroys the collective morale necessary for an effective military. However, I hold the old world belief that he should be presumed innocent until proven guilty in a trial or military tribunal. You know, where evidence is presented, witnesses are subpoenaed and their accounts are taken under oath and penalty of perjury, he has the right to be represented by an attorney - all those RIGHTS guaranteed to any citizen accused of a crime.

I revel in the discomfort of political propagandists as I insist on this. The memes and catchphrases thrown together from selective name drops and declarations is not worth dried dogshit as evidence; and every idiot making and spreading these is responsible for the decay of a justice system founded on presumption of innocence. I'm as emotional as anyone about combat casualties and the seriousness of the allegations against Bergdahl, but I REFUSE to surrender my Constitutional protections to calm the anxiety of immature, impatient mobs being manipulated by a Republican establishment desperate to link Obama to treason. The same public hysteria inspired by "no time to wait for conclusive evidence" arguments ushered in the Patriot Act, the invasion of Iraq in search of WMD the government had 0 evidence was there, AND the passage of Obamacare; so I unapologetically spit in the face of anyone advocating for more of it. Grow up and think critically, or be treated as a propaganda tool that must be neutralized. My incivility is self-defense against your assault on my civil liberties, and your hypocritical accusations are music to my ears.


Is Anyone Involved An Actual POW? (The Constitution neglect factor.)

THIS question ought to be central to the debate, but both sides are desperately downplaying it because it is so horridly inconvenient. The problem here is that the Taliban is a private international organization - NOT a government - and we lack a legal framework for dealing with such organizations. When our policymakers encounter a situation like this, it is their responsibility to develop such a framework, and one that fits into the bounds and restraints prescribed by the US Constitution. Instead, both Bush Jr's administration and Obama's have abjectly neglected this responsibility. They have used obsolete frameworks because these served their short-term political agendas, justifying themselves with the same hysteria-baiting rhetoric described in the last section. In doing so, both have enabled the Taliban and endangered the US Constitution.

Bush Jr. went to war against the Taliban knowing full well it was a private organization. He then rounded up 1000s of combatants fighting for it, slapped on them the highly adaptable label "terrorist", tortured them trying to extract LIES about WMD in Iraq, and proceeded to lock them up indefinitely. When it became convenient to remember the Taliban was a non-State actor, he justified these actions by cherrypicking the fact that it was not party to the compacts and treaties that define POWs. While I agree, where was that realization when we went to war against them? Because the pressures that exist on any government like compliant constituencies and tax revenue don't exist for the Taliban - it remains intact and battle-ready despite us technically having won a war a against it. This IS Bush's fault, he should have thought about it before treating them like a government.

When Obama inherited this clusterfuck, it was his responsibility as President to fix it. In fact, many younger voters supported him over Hillary and Edwards because they believed he would. Instead, he let it sit on the shelf for 6 years because it was too politically volatile. Now he is repeating Bush Jr's mistake of treating the Taliban as a government - only for the purposes of negotiation rather than war. THAT is the purpose of suddenly, conveniently labeling both sides' detainees as POWs; to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table as we prepare for our final withdrawal from Afghanistan. Needless to say, because the pressures that exist for governments don't apply to the Taliban, this will not work. The Taliban has 0 incentive to follow the terms of any agreement that is reached, and within a year they will lynch Karzai (who is a crook, a murderer, and deserves it) and take Afghanistan to its pre-2002 state. That, in turn, makes releasing their high level officials dangerous and stupid, and the prospect of the corrupt and double-dealing Qatari government supervising them is a colossal insult to Americans' intelligence. The aftermath of this, a powerful Taliban back in control of Afghanistan boasting a 2-0 score against superpowers WILL be Obama's fault - he inherited many mistakes but he had plenty of opportunity to address them and failed to do so.

I love to break Neocon hearts by pointing this out; but legal frameworks are not just convenient luxuries we can afford in times of peace and prosperity. They are necessities to keep the government on task and within the bounds of the Constitution; and without them it will neglect both responsibilities to serve special interests and enable our enemies. In this particular case, the reason we shouldn't negotiate with the Taliban isn't that it's morally wrong; our government has NEVER had a problem with morally wrong. We shouldn't negotiate with them because it's doomed to fail, and emphatic claims that we don't have time to develop a better alternative or any other concoction of emotional distractions in no way negate that reality. Hence, anyone defending Obama's foreign policy decisions with these Straw Men is contributing to enabling the Taliban, and I will unapologetically disregard civility in using my organizer skills to expose their ignorance and deny them a captive audience. When your ignorance is a personal attack, my aggressive exposition is self-defense for which I will not apologize; deal with it.


Labels Notwithstanding, Does Obama Have the Authority To Swap Bergdahl? (The overreach factor.)

No. Plain and simple. Remember when Joe laughed at the simple-mindedness of Americans who believed Obama's excuse for the powers granted him by the NDAA? "I'd never actually use it!" Well, here he is overstepping even the authority that completely unconstitutional legislation grants him. The 30 days notification of Congress clause was openly and admittedly neglected, and neither Obama nor any of his associates have even made a significant effort to justify this. Hagel, Carney, and others are lazily making up excuses that will barely convince even the most dedicated and thought-challenged Obama-zombies, counting on a newly developed culture that grudgingly accepts the executive branch acting unilaterally.

THIS CULTURE, not the status of some confused soldier that went AWOL in Afghanistan or attempts to negotiate with a private criminal organization as if it were a government, is the greatest threat to this country. It is the invariable product of swallowing propaganda as if it were fact and accepting the government's authority on faith in its intentions rather than demanding it produce evidence and remain within the bounds of the Constitution. I was talking about the dangers of this mentality on September 12, 2001, and now I proudly declare "I WAS RIGHT, AND THE HYSTERICAL CIRCUS THAT GAVE BUSH JR. HIS 95% APPROVAL RATING THAT DAY WAS WRONG".


So, We're Completely Screwed?

Not necessarily. The pendulum seems to be swinging in the other direction. Despite the propaganda on both sides being well-funded and acting as effigies for each other to eclipse third alternatives; independent voter registrations continue to hit new records and neither party appears to have any hope of accomplishing the political hegemony Republicans held 2002-6 and Democrats held 2008-10. Even the wave of Republican victories we witnessed in 2010 has fizzled out because many in the Tea Party have failed to stick to their electoral promises, instead negotiating with the GOP establishment and trying to advance obsolete issues like homophobia. What all this constitutes is an overall distrust for government from all sides, resulting directly from this chain of broken promises, neglected responsibilities, and overreach from all sides.

Coupled with and perpetuating the hopeless deadlock in DC, this effect will eventually kill the Federal government as we know it. As I predicted 3-4 years ago, nullification is now everywhere - from legalized recreational cannabis to Cliven Bundy to the myriad of social service alternatives rising up all over the country as Federal funding dries up. It's only a matter of time before the lack of resources reaches foreign policy and law enforcement, before there is no one to answer a belligerent President's call for a victimless citizen's arrest or a negotiation with a dangerous foreign entity. The United States' #1 advantage has always been our geographic location - a resource-plentiful land that is very far removed from the majority of foreign threats - and my hope is that this advantage can carry us through the coming re-alignment. The world is falling into chaos with the violent crises in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Bahrain, Nigeria, Ukraine, Viet Nam, Thailand, the CAR, and a myriad of other places, as well as the looming political disintegration of the EU, Russian Federation, and perhaps even China. As long as we rediscover non-intervention, they're likely to all be too busy killing each other to reach us even if they hate us - which is EXACTLY how Thomas Jefferson envisioned it.

-Toxin

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Reaction To Tony Stiles' Detention

http://benswann.com/breaking-exclusive-radio-host-tony-stiles-arrested-and-detained-in-texas/#ixzz31vYbfQTe"

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

Heard of the Appendix to the Constitution that lists exceptions and special circumstances where that doesn't apply?

Me neither.


I believe Tony Stiles and his team have been handed a golden opportunity to challenge a blatantly unconstitutional practice that way too many Americans have come accept as normal - the practice of domestic checkpoints. In the video, the Deputy refers to 'probable cause' in the form of a canine identifying a "hit" on the vehicle. I don't know what kind of canines the Federal government is breeding, but I'm not aware of any dogs that can smell anything in a vehicle passing by at freeway speed. Hence, before the canine "hit" on the vehicle, the vehicle was stopped, and neither the Sheriff nor the DHS officers provided any warrant or cause for that stop.

Leaving border enforcement out of this debate, there is absolutely nothing in the Constitution (Federal or ANY State) that authorizes any government agency to blanketly stop all motorists on any public street or highway. Further, the 4th Amendment expressly forbids this; as a vehicle you own, lease, or rent is pretty obviously your "personal effect". What this means is that every DHS checkpoint not set up at a border crossing, every curfew sweep for teenagers, every sobriety checkpoint, and every checkpoint established as a result of a declared state of emergency is a blatant violation of the Constitution. Special security circumstances (i.e. Boston Marathon bombing), angelic intentions such as safety from drunk drivers, and the general acceptance of these practices as "routine" all have 0 bearing on Constitutionality. I could go into long, evidence-backed rants into why these practices are thoroughly counter-productive and accomplish the opposite of what they intend, but Constitutionality trumps that debate. Even IF government could keep us safe from terrorists and criminals using these tactics, I would still be opposed to them until the Constitution was amended to allow them. The Constitution is a set of laws for the GOVERNMENT to follow, and allowing the government to define exceptions and conditions defeats its point entirely. A government whose functions are not strictly and narrowly defined is infinitely more dangerous than any terrorist or criminal, and simple democracy has always proven to be an insufficient check on this condition.

I'm not suggesting you endanger your life and others by blowing through the types of checkpoints listed in blatant disregard. I AM, however, suggesting remembering that the only authority under which you are being stopped is force, and that upon stopping you peacefully refuse to comply with anything while politely engaging the officers in a debate of Constitutionality; preferably while recording the incident. This applies to all law enforcement belligerence in general, and while it helps to know Constitutional basics - you in no way have to be an expert on case law to do this effectively. The REALLY challenging part is remaining calm while surrounded by trained people with firearms who are well-practiced at being intimidating and manipulative; seeing as if you become agitated and come off as a threat, they will be able to justify using force to subdue you. However, remind yourself that they have the burden of proof; no matter how emphatically they insist otherwise. I'm familiar with many cases - and have publicized a couple here - when someone being unconstitutionally harassed by law enforcement was eventually left alone because they maintained their composure in this fashion.

If, however, you are not one of the lucky ones, remember that you win when you leave them no choice but to subdue you by force, or threat of force. Anything they charge you with in that case is less likely to stand up in court, and more importantly this raises the overall costs of law enforcement belligerence. Law enforcement does not like it when people understand this, but their resources are limited and they are expected to perform to a certain standard of maintaining public safety. Forcing every incident of harassment to tie up multiple officers for a long period of time stretches them thin, and publicizing these occurrences diminishes public trust both in law enforcement in general and specifically in the bullshit they peddle as they try to manipulate and intimidate us. If even 10% of this country committed to this relatively safe and cheap form of peaceful disobedience, law enforcement agencies would be forced to rethink these practices in the interest of their own job security and avoiding political scrutiny from many sides.

On the other hand, by complying when you're not required to, you are shirking your duty as a citizen and contributing to the problem. As Joe pointed out when I talked to him about this incident, the underlying problem is that law enforcement is bored, drunk with power, and doing anything to justify its continuous funding while record low crime statistics endanger it. By buying into the many myths surrounding the "need" for these practices to keep us safe and compliance equating to respect for law enforcement; you are enabling not only a police state, but colossal amounts of government waste in economic times when we REALLY cannot afford it.

And that brings me to Tony Stiles' and Ben Swann's own take on the situation. I'm proud of Tony and his associates for challenging the authorities peacefully and respectfully despite the officers getting rude and agitated. It warms my heart to see anyone in uniform get outraged when they are asked to explain their cause or warrant. THIS is why we have to constantly remind them that they work for us and are bound by Constitutional limits, because they forget the minute we stop.

However, I don't think it's safe to assume these events are the result of any government agency targeting Tony Stiles and trying to derail his liberty tour. That's certainly within the realm of possibility, but empirical analysis cannot be based on suspicion and speculation, even when it concerns your friends and political allies being harassed by the authorities. I'm also hesitant to jump to this conclusion because there is 0 reason to believe government agencies are that coordinated and clever. Their policy and procedure manuals may prescribe inter-agency cooperation and sharing of information, but the burden of proof that anyone actually reads - much less implements - these is on the claimant. I have seen nothing but volumes of evidence to the contrary both in my education as a political scientist and professional experience as an organizer. I think Joe's take that law enforcement is bored and on a power/waste trip is a far more plausible theory. Is it really worth all those resources paid for with your tax dollars to allegedly locate a "use" quantity of marijuana in a vehicle occupied by 3 grown men? Because even giving the authorities all the benefit of the doubt imaginable, that's the best anyone could accomplish here.

My suggestion to Tony, who is my friend and a close affiliate of Edge of Chaos, is to focus on the Constitutionality and empirical ridiculousness of this incident as it progresses. He has the resources and the virality to become a champion for a very worthwhile cause that lies at the core of our struggle both for civil liberties and against government waste, as well as to go down in history as an example of belligerent law enforcement harassing the wrong guy and paying for it nationwide. Focusing on how this effected him and his associates personally may be satisfying and draw short-term support, but government apologist pundits are likely to drown him out with arguments that stopping "potential" (read "non-existent") threats is worth the discomfort.

-Toxin

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Commentary On the Latest In the Ukraine Saga

Let me start off by saying that anyone sensationalizing this conflict as unprecedented or catastrophic is blowing smoke. It is violent, it is serious for the people there; but it is still par for the course and highly unlikely to escalate into any prolonged global war.

One thing that seems to specifically make westerners uncomfortable about this situation is the difficulty of telling the good guys from the bad guys. Few people in western Europe are old enough to remember a war on their own soil, and no one born in the US is; creating in the majority of us the deeply flawed impression that war is a clear cut us-vs-them environment. The reality, however, is that civil unrest and armed conflict are usually multi-sided and messy. The #1 reason our occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan failed miserably was that the people we were there to 'liberate' and the various ones trying to blow up our service members looked indistinguishable from each other until the IEDs went off; hare-brained politicians contorting to form a narrative on identifying a clear enemy notwithstanding. The same multi-sided chaos is evident in modern conflicts we've MOSTLY stayed out of such as Syria, Libya, and Egypt; although you couldn't tell from the hogwash pouring out of the mouths of washed up Neocon pundits like Hannity and Limbaugh. These conditions are perhaps more normal for Ukraine than even for Arab Countries.


'Just Another Crisis' For Ukraine

In the WWI era, there were the Russian Imperial Army, the armies of the Central Powers, and a slew of independent militias with all kinds of regional and historical ties. In the Russian Civil War that evolved from it, the Russian Imperial Army became the several, loosely allied White Armies, the regional militias morphed into 2 major factions in the Nationalist Green Army and the Anarchist Black Army, and of course there was the new player in the Bolshevik Red Army that eventually won. Put together, that's roughly 7 years of armed conflict with 5+ major players, countless minor ones, and the frequent re-drawing of maps and territorial claims - all less than 100 years ago.

In the WWII era, the USSR was originally an Axis Power that forcibly took today's West Ukraine from Poland. Then Nazi Germany turned on the USSR and invaded the same territory, culminating in 5 years of Ukraine being a brutal battleground between 2 of the most murderous regimes in recent history. Needless to say, there were again countless partisans and independent militias; the most notable of these the separatist Bandera Army that put a Ukrainian Nationalist spin on Nazism. That was ANOTHER major armed conflict with 3+ players, side-switching, frequent regime and boundary changes, and so forth - and that was only 70 years ago.

Broadening our perspective with history rather than accepting the narrow, politically-motivated generalizations of government and media, suddenly the situation in Ukraine doesn't look so extra-ordinarily scary.


The Interim Government Is Actually Quite Impressive

My worst enemy wouldn't accuse me of giving any government undeserved credit, and I have to acknowledge that considering the factors on the ground - the Interim government has performed colossal feats. The most important of these is keeping the various elements of its coalition unified in spite of massive economic problems and the breakdown of infrastructure. There are, of course, nationalist militias that have taken up arms and called for ethnic cleansing; but the leadership of non-extreme nationalist politicians has kept these marginalized as idiots undeserving of serious attention from nationalist-minded Ukrainians. On the other hand, the left of the coalition has managed a reasonable truce with the people in Eastern Ukraine that were once supporters of Yanukovich; involving politicians once affiliated with his party in the political process and cutting deals to insure adequate participation for this minority. This, in turn, marginalizes the idiot extremists on that side of the spectrum, although I still have a very difficult time believing that more than a handful of people there want to be annexed by Russia. What the Interim Government is demonstrating, for the first time in Ukrainian history, is that the various sides in the equation CAN in fact resolve their differences using the democratic process and not violent conflict. This is highly problematic for Putin, who is merely the latest in a centuries-long dynasty of Moscow dictators to exploit internal rivalries in Ukraine in subjugating to Russia. Some Russian citizens buy into his propaganda precisely because Russia itself is decades away from anything resembling representative democracy; decades of cleansing, repressing, and exiling dissidents have seen to that.


Russia IS Meddling In Ukraine, A LOT

The idea that any of the organizations that have taken over buildings in Eastern Ukraine are civilian "separatist" or "Pro-Russia protesters" is complete bullshit. The evidence for this is very simple; these supposed civilian militias are heavily armed and equipped, just as the supposed Crimea Defense Forces were. We just witnessed a violent and bloody overthrow of the Ukrainian government that involved a populist movement of 5 million people, and they took on riot police with sticks, Molotov cocktails, and the occasional hunting rifle. I'm sorry if my logic is disrupting Mr. Putin's propaganda stream; but I think if Ukrainian civilians had access to combat armor, fully automatic rifles, sub-machine guns, and grenades - they would have brought them to the fight against Yanukovich. These supposed "separatist militias" are Russian Special Forces without their uniforms; Putin's para-military KGB consists of about 400,000 such trained brutes, and they are the only Federal agency actually loyal to him.

If you need more evidence these impostors draw 0 support from Ukraine, I direct your attention to the events in East Ukrainian cities Sloviansk and Odessa this weekend. In the former, the Ukrainian military marched into the town and violently crushed the so-called "civilian uprising", with actual civilians mostly sitting in their houses avoiding the gunfire. That civilian uprising, BTW, apparently had missiles that could down helicopters; I don't think that's a standard household item in Eastern Ukraine, Mr. Putin. In Odessa - an actual civilian uprising favoring the Kiev government came and violently destroyed the pretend pro-Russia occupying a trade union building, culminating in a fire that killed 40 of them. Not one actual civilian came to the pro-Russian side's aid, and even the police mostly sat by and watched the KGB plants get burned alive. Prime Minister Yatseniuk has shown political prowess by condemning the action as lawless in an effort to keep peace with potential sympathizers. I am under no such political bond, and I say when you burn 40 meddling KGB agents alive, you make your country a better place.

(Post-publication update: According to a Russian-speaking Ukrainian source, the "civilian uprising" had large volumes of temporary-paralytic gas grenades stored inside the building. When the building was torched, these detonated; immobilizing them inside and leading to the high death toll. Where does a civilian uprising get large volumes of riot control weapons?)

Putin's endgame, of course, is to create in his own citizens' eyes an excuse for invading Ukraine. This is driven by nothing more than desperation. The economic situation and interdependence are such that unless he can bring Ukraine back under Moscow's control in the next few months; his regime will collapse and the Russian Federation likely disintegrate into smaller countries just like the USSR did. I have covered the details of this in several previous posts.


This Will STILL Invariably End With Putin's Demise

As the details of the violence this weekend demonstrate, Putin has 0 support in Ukraine; and Ukrainian civilians are taking up makeshift arms in what he claims are pro-Russian parts of Ukraine to lynch his meddling agents. An actual military invasion would be met with a bloody, populist mass resistance backed by the entire world and reinforced at the very least by Polish and Lithuanian volunteers who have already flooded to Ukraine in droves offering to defend it from their ancient common enemy. Such a conflict would bring the already struggling Russian economy to the point of famine, and result in lots and lots of hapless Russian soldiers being shipped home in boxes. Unlike the thug-for-hire KGB, these are involuntary conscripts whose families are not likely to think it a worthwhile sacrifice. No amount of propaganda can stand up to mobs driven by famine and grief, and despite all the faith many westerners put in Putin's misinformation machine; his regime would unravel, violently, in a matter of weeks.

As much as I despise Putin, I don't think he is genuinely stupid enough to take this route over a relatively bloodless economic disintegration. He is a crook, not an ideological tyrant, and prefers exile into Zine-like retirement to a brutal Ghadhaffi-like lynching to the fervent cheers of the entire world. Hence, I still don't think a full-fledged armed conflict is happening. He is posturing in a desperate effort of self-preservation, and various elements in Ukraine and the West are exploiting this situation for their own gain; but in terms of actual forceful confrontation everyone in positions of power realizes Putin does not stand a chance.

Meanwhile, actual Ukrainian civilians are simply caught in the middle of global conflict yet again, especially the Russian-speaking ones in the East who are predominantly not fond of any major player involved. They are stocking up on food and hiding in their basements waiting for the gunfire to cease, listening to their elders compare this to their 1940s experiences. THESE are the only good guys, in any conflict.

-Toxin

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Donald Sterling, the Ban, and the Fight the NBA Needs To Have

By now, if you are reading this, you have most likely heard about the lifetime ban of Clippers owner Donald Sterling handed down by the NBA for racist statements Sterling made about Hall of Fame basketball legend Magic Johnson to his girlfriend.  I will not re-hash the comments here, but you can read all about them if you want to catch up on the controversy.  Regular readers of this space may be surprised to see an article about sports, but this particular controversy, I feel, is one that has crossed over into mainstream culture and become not just a sports story, but a cultural story.  With this in mind, I felt it incumbent upon Edge of Chaos, and myself personally, to share my thoughts.

For a bit of history and context, it should be made known to those who are not familiar with the NBA, the Clippers, or Donald Sterling, that his ownership of the team has long been regarded as pathetic and, by many measures, one of the worst in sports.  The Clippers were, for most of their history, regarded as a pathetic laughingstock of a team masquerading as an NBA franchise.  Players practiced at a junior college gym, and later a local athletic club until 2008, and were expected to launder and care for their own uniforms.  The Clippers, until moving to the Staples Center in 1999, always played in LA Memorial Arena on the USC campus, far from the more notable locations occupied by the Lakers and Kings, or the Ducks further south in Anaheim.  Sterling the skinflint routinely cut costs wherever he could, with the focus being frugality over fielding a winning team.  It was only within the last few years that spending went up, culminating with the NBA basically gifting them the best point guard in sports in Chris Paul, who teamed with draftee Blake Griffin and others in finally building a winning Clippers team.  The Clippers are now unarguably a far more talented team than the perpetually more successful Lakers, at least at the moment, and have real championship ambitions this year, and going forward as well.  But one wonders if the team is successful only in spite of Sterling, not because of him, and whether the NBA basically gifted this man the team he has in light of their manipulation of the Chris Paul trade.  But that is another discussion more suited for a sports blog. 

On the racism side, Sterling's reputation is extremely established and well-known to those who follow the NBA, and those who follow the Clippers.  It is also known to many tenants of his various real estate holdings, and the local legal community as well.  Sterling has been known to spend large amounts of money glorifying himself in full-page LA Times advertisements detailing a new homeless center that has yet to be built, further frustrating the local citizenry.  He also has a dubious history with his NBA management staff, most notably the last two general managers who both sued for wrongful termination, one of which was NBA legend Elgin Baylor who was quoted as saying Sterling had a "vision of a Southern plantation-like structure" for the Clippers.  Baylor's lawsuit was dismissed but all of these things, to me, constitute smoke.  There was not "fire" to be found here until just last week, when Sterling was admittedly set up for a fall at his team's most critical time of year.  But circumstances around how this information came to light are irrelevant at this stage.  The question before the NBA now, and it is a question NBA Commissioner Adam Silver vehemently answered yesterday at his press conference, is how does the NBA deal with this guy now that it's impossible to ignore who he is and what he stands for?

The NBA, of course, has its own dubious racial past, but it takes someone much older to remember those days.  You have to talk to guys like Celtics great Bill Russell and legendary Laker Elgin Baylor to really get a sense for what it was really like playing in the NBA during Jim Crow, and during a time when it was just "understood" that the NBA is a white league and that each team was limited to two black players each.  Such was life in the 1950s and early 1960s NBA.  They have admittedly made many, many strides towards racial and cultural diversity since then, and can boast inclusion of African-Americans, foreign-born players, and in Jason Collins' case, openly gay players.  It is for this reason, I believe, that the NBA and Commissioner Adam Silver have chosen to make Donald Sterling and his racist comments/views an issue.  In short, I believe that this is an unprecedented fight that the NBA needs to have, for its legacy and future viability as a league going forward.

Very often in sports, the owners hold all of the leverage, and frequently get their own way during times of labor strife.  Such was the case in the lockout of 2011, which was itself colored with racial tensions and comments.  The owners basically offered the players a 51/49 split of league revenue for the first year of the deal, switching to 49/51 in subsequent years in favor of the owners going forward, take it or leave it.  Clearly the owners were holding all the cards and the players, short of playing overseas for pennies, forming their own league from scratch or something similarly drastic, had no choice but to submit.  History has shown this same pro-owner tilt in other professional leagues, including hockey, baseball and football.  But this time, the players, with social media rallying the public behind them in solidarity, finally had a plurality beyond anything they had seen in NBA history.  Fans, sponsors, and the players themselves, were all prepared to abandon the NBA en masse if something drastic was not done.  Game 5 in Staples Center, for example, was devoid of in game promotions and was dotted with covered-up advertisements as sponsors fled the team in droves.  The Warriors, and likely the Clippers also, along with other teams around the league, were prepared to walk off the court at tipoff and essentially boycott the playoffs if the league did not act, and severely.  Not to take anything away from Adam Silver or his leadership, but what choice did he and the Board of Governors have with such a consensus ready to drop the hammer on the entire league if it did not respond strenuously enough?  Such a thing is unheard of in professional sports.  And I say it's about time.  Fans and players are finally being heard, loud and clear.  Enough is enough.

With all of the bullshit fans put up with; high ticket prices, referee scandals, owners tanking teams while they line their own pockets, this scandal was truly A Bridge Too Far.  The players, with all of the concessions they made in the last CBA, were understandably tired of tolerating such an obvious adversary in their midst, a cancerous void that smugly sat courtside daring you to ignore him while the NBA ignored his bad behavior off the court and tolerated his horrendous "stewardship" of 1/30th of their league.  Donald Sterling had this coming folks, and quite frankly the NBA did too.  This was a long time coming, so please, do not get the events of the last few days twisted.  Was Donald Sterling set up for a fall?  Yes.  Did he deserve it?  Oh, most definitely.  Should he lose his team now?  He should have lost it long ago anyway.  Karma is a bitch, and the tab is due.  This moment, for all of the talk in Los Angeles about unity and brotherhood, is really about turning the pages of history, and declaring in one voice that we as fans, along with players, demand equal treatment and respect for all races, all creeds, and all cultures.  Shedding the past is the only way to step into the future, and the NBA is leaving no doubt: the future is now. 

--Joe

Sunday, April 27, 2014

RACISM! (Bundy's In This Post Somewhere)

Disclaimer: This post analyzes Bundy's ENTIRE statement, a transcript of which can be found here. It's still highly controversial, and I welcome disagreement. However, attempts to mock the analysis based on the highly selective reporting of his statement by the mainstream media will be exposed and brutally thrashed. People's ignorance of the facts when they comment on my work is not my responsibility, and condescension constitutes a personal attack that waives any claim to civility. I refuse to let anyone highjack the debate with speculation and bullying, and I will shatter as many egos as that requires.


Racism (noun)

1. a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule others.
2. a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination.
3. hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.

Source: Dictionary.com


Based on these definitions, is Cliven Bundy a racist? Absolutely. He clearly believes that differences between races account for cultural and individual achievement, and not only when he speaks to the negative outcomes for African-Americans, but the mostly positive stereotypes about Hispanics as well.

However, does this mean I'm retracting my support for his standing up to the Federal government and resurrecting the tactic of nullification? Not a chance.

The reasons for this boil down to the fact that I'm a policy professional focused on outcomes rather than intentions. The purpose of policy is to provide tangible optimize quality of life for all people, not to make them feel warm and fuzzy by countenancing objectionable opinions and motives. Cliven Bundy's actions still did more overall good than harm, his racist views notwithstanding. Let's discuss this in some detail.


Reason 1: Racism's Undeserved Pedestal

Race isn't real. There does not exist anything resembling an empirical framework for determining race. There were frameworks created by the pseudo-science of Eugenicism in the 19th century, but they have all long been debunked as arbitrary and ignoring a slew of variables. There were legal frameworks in much of the world well into the 20th century and they still exist in some places in Africa, South America, and the Carribean; but these all derive from Eugenicism and are just as unscientific. We can safely observe that people have different skin pigmentation and a slew of other physical characteristics, but I'm not aware of any study successfully quantifying or organizing these into effective race categories. Just because most people believe in race doesn't make race real; collectively held beliefs that are not backed by anything in observable reality are epidemic to humanity.

Like most collectively held beliefs with no objective foundation, the belief in race produces very ignorant derivatives. While Bundy is racist in that he attributes outcomes to race as opposed to just believing in race; there is 0 indication he believes in racial intolerance or discriminatory policies. The uneducated rancher sees the well-documented correlation between race/ethnicity and poor economic outcomes, and being unfamiliar with a slew of mitigating factors simply assumes correlation implies causation. This is the most common logical fallacy in the world, and it is by no means limited to racism. It is committed by every gun control advocate that cites the number guns in the US, by every drug prohibition advocate referring to marijuana as a "gateway" drug, and don't even get me started on homophobes that think Hellfire and Brimstone will rain from the sky. I refer to racism based on this fallacy as "casual racism", and based on sociology studies I've seen - it accounts for the grand majority of racists. Idiots like Frazier Glenn Cross who commit mass-murder in the name of racism are anomalies; and usually have a number of their own mitigating factors such as mental illness.

I'm in no way saying casual racism is harmless! On the contrary, the US suffers from an epidemic of racially biased views and most Americans aren't even aware of how widespread these are. The stereotypes translate into lenders refusing to lend, employers refusing to hire, and other diminished opportunities that keep historically oppressed groups underprivileged and blamed for their own plight by public opinion. But this does not set racism apart from the myriad of other types of destructive derivatives from collective ignorance, and as I illustrated above - said derivatives span the political spectrum. Our culture's taboo approach to sex, hysteria about firearms and drugs, and volumes of folk wisdom about economics all diminish our quality of life on a daily basis; selective acknowledgement based on political ideology notwithstanding.

Bundy's casual racism does not make him a bad person, it makes him an unsuspecting victim of popular farce like millions of other Americans. Every political ideology has its share of such victims with equally destructive views, and trying to marginalize Bundy's supporters because his views are racist constitutes is a colossal double standard. I don't care who THINKS gun control advocacy or homophobia are admirable whereas racism is despicable. Empirically speaking - all 3 are well-intentioned but destructive, and don't have an objective leg to stand on.


Reason 2: Objectionable Characteristics Don't Make One Inherently Wrong

If Charles Manson points at the sky and says it's blue, an hour-long tantrum that he is a psychotic racist murderer will not change the fact that he is right about the color of the sky. Similarly, "Cliven Bundy is a racist" is a convenient emotion-baiting distraction used by his detractors, but unless they can prove he is motivated by racism - it's hardly relevant to the issue. His stance that Federal agencies are becoming dangerously unaccountable is quite valid, based on their documented consolidation of power, militarization, and widespread abuses in recent decades. Further, despite poor grammar and articulation, even his speech regarding the counter-productive effects of handouts on recipients is not without merit. Of course it's oversimplified, erroneously focuses on race, and makes a hyperbolic comparison to slavery. But professionals who study social assistance programs agree that they invariably carry elements of enablement, free-loading, and perpetuation of dependence; and also that Federal programs carry higher risks of these due to more standardization and less accountability; meaning that mouthy liberals who emphatically declare that free-loading and welfare state abuse don't exist or don't matter are more out of touch with reality than Bundy! He is racist and they are not, but on THIS issue his views are closer to reality than theirs. Don't bother attacking me with your discomfort with that statement unless you can objectively counter it.


Reason 3: I Mostly Support Bundy's Impact, As Opposed To His Actions

Many of the speculative bullies I had to brutalize in discussion groups over their comments to my previous post glossed over this as they had 0 counter-argument to it, but I made it very clear that my support for Bundy is for the overall national precedent he set. The Federal government is an equal opportunity abuser. From Muslim citizens that agree with Al Qaeda, to Christian cultists hoarding firearms, to protesters of the Keystone Pipeline, to owners and renters of homes in public parks; with every passing year it has less respect for Constitutional limitations on its own authority and our autonomy from it as citizens. This trend is far more dangerous than casual racism or any of the other feats of collective ignorance I referenced above.

Bundy and his affiliates demonstrated that with the right organization and support, Federal agencies can be forced to back down and Federal laws nullified. I have always known this to be the case as a professional, but now it is known to the average American which alters the civil liberty equation colossally. Regardless of which of the Federal government's victims you may support or oppose, they all have now witnessed tactics they can replicate to put the Federal government in check. Racist or not, Bundy and his associates deserve credit for this, and for setting in motion a long-overdue wave of nullification. THIS is why I continue to support them, despite conceding that his personal views on race are those of an ignoramus stuck in the 1950s.

-Toxin

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Nullification Rising? The Significance Of the Bundy Ranch

Let's look at this somewhat sensationalized but colossally misunderstood event from an objective, neutral perspective and determine what it really means for the future of this country.

First, Stop Making Fun Of Tortoise Protection

I know I will get lots of conservative hate mail for this paragraph, but I'm no more afraid of their ideological hogwash than of the liberals'. The ranch is a large private business whose objective is to profit from its grazing animals, and it is unreasonable to expect them to voluntarily neglect or temper their own self-interest for the sake of the public good; such as restricting grazing at a loss to themselves to preserve the ecosystem. I'm not agreeing with the Greenpeace characterization of large business owners as Captain Planet villains with bizarre fetishes for pollution and habitat destruction. But like most people, they will choose their own interests over those of the community under pressure. Because the ecosystem is a community resource for a variety of other interests, there is hence a need for institutions through which other actors can preserve it. I don't know enough about the ecosystem of rural Nevada to have an opinion specifically on the tortoises; but suffice it to say that insisting communal environmental protections of some sort are unnecessary is childish at best.

OK, NOW We Can Bash the BLM

The question becomes what constitutes an adequate institution for preserving common goods that aren't easily divisible and still respecting the rights and interests of private businesses. For the purposes of this post, the answer is "not the Federal government".

For starters, the original order for the Bundy Ranch to change its business operations to protect the tortoises was in 1993. That's over 20 years of paper-pushing before they got to the point where they can enforce the order, and I don't even want to THINK about what this cost taxpayers. In other words, the BLM's mission of protecting a communal resource is a noble one. But it is failing miserably at its job by taking over 2 decades to do it and likely investing far more communal resources in the form of taxpayer money than it hopes to protect. In any remotely accountable organization, this kind of cost/benefit ratio and urgency result in the firing of the entire board of directors.

Secondly, there are its methods. Businesses, just like individuals, have limited resources and have to plan their allocation; and government agencies - particularly Federal - don't exactly have a stellar track record of being considerate of these in "serving the public interest". Eminent domain abuse, for example, is one of the most devastating government excesses of our time, by which 1000s of citizens are forced off their land by government agencies usually on behalf of large corporate interests. On paper, the government is supposed to compensate these citizens for the impounded property, but bureaucratic value calculation is so detached from reality that it mostly destroys their livelihoods.

While I haven't done specific research on the matching policies surrounding the Federal government declaring grazing lands "protected" and restricting access or changing fees; I find the mere prospect of the Federal government having that authority absolutely terrifying. Think about it for a second. Imagine your livelihood is a business that requires some quantity of access to public land in order to succeed. And a little known Federal agency answerable to a little known Federal department that's collectively answerable to 100s of representatives from all 50 States has the authority to declare you no longer have said access, or to establish fees for said access. I don't care what kind of reasonable operation and timelines such an agency is supposed to adhere to on paper; in practice they are completely out of reach in terms of recourse and as history demonstrates - that invites incompetence, belligerence, and corruption.

I can't tell you whether or not the terms of the 1993 grazing restriction were reasonable. I know nothing about grazing and I simply don't have the time to do a large volume of research on the subject. But I can tell you that even if the terms were something Cliven Bundy could theoretically have followed, I respect and applaud him for refusing to do so on the grounds that he does not believe the Federal government should have this authority. There are far bigger issues at stake here than merely his business's economic capacity to soak up the costs. He and his family are heroes protecting the rights of all Americans from the growing tyranny of unaccountable, intrusive Federal bureaucrats.

Bleeding Nevada?

And that brings us to the key point of this post. I was thoroughly shocked when the Feds announced that they were backing off; I can't recall an incident of such civil disobedience success in modern history. Following this story in recent weeks, I expected another Kent State or Waco style bloodbath. Even though most of those who joined the Bundy family in protest have been very well-behaved and non-violent, in any protest there is at least one overzealous lunatic willing to escalate things. If the government had wanted an excuse to crack down using force, it would have found him; and a few hundred ranchers wouldn't have stood a chance.

I haven't heard any credible reports yet as to where the order to back off originated, and for this and other reasons it is difficult to determine exactly what prompted it. However, considering our Federal government's overall track record for avoiding violence at home and abroad, I don't buy that concern for human rights played a significant part. Rather, it seems whoever gave the order realized that the entire country was watching this very closely and had accurate information due to the diversification of sources with social media, and decided Cliven Bundy represents a number of bulls they don't want to taunt.

The most important of these is the festering nationwide discontent with Federal authority and disregard for its preservation, as evidenced by the country's defiant response to National Park closures and other antics during the shutdown last Fall. Well-regulated militias, just as the 2nd Amendment prescribes, started showing up at the Bundy Ranch ready to insure the safety of a free State from belligerent bureaucrats wielding unconstitutional authority - and they put to shame Statist stereotypes by being disciplined and not initiating aggression. A massacre of them might have ushered in significant unrest among politically similar elements in other parts of the country, and further forceful interventions would be disastrously unpopular and spell doom for any politician supporting them.

The second bull is that of the Mormon Church, which the Bundy family belongs to. I have always had a love-hate relationship with the political activities of this religious organization, being particularly not fond of their lobbying for apartheid for homosexuals. But I cannot deny that it is powerful and robustly and organized. Mitt Romney received as much as 95% of the Mormon vote in the 2012 Primaries, indicating that in political terms - if you massacre one Mormon rancher family, you might just end up having to massacre them all. To add evidence to back this claim, I will share that Edge of Chaos has been graced with a very intelligent Mormon patron in recent months. This man has educated me on the many libertarian leanings of his Church in line with its history, as well as explained that the issue of homosexual tolerance is quite divisive between older and younger members. I wouldn't say my wariness of the political power said esoteric organization wields is completely gone, but it seems safe to assume that a bloodbath at the Bundy Ranch may have been the catalyst to it shifting entirely into the anti-Federalist, libertarian camp - an event that would spell political catastrophe for Federalism.

By backing off, however, the Feds have driven a massive nail into the coffin of Federalism. They demonstrated that nullifying Federal overreach does not require anything resembling a national or even local majority. They showed every businessman, property owner, religious leader, and citizen in general that's tired of the arrogance and unaccountable belligerence of Federal bureaucrats that a tempered, well-publicized stand-off is enough to scare the Leviathan into minding its own business. They also demonstrated what interests to reach out to for help in such a stand-off, a very important factor in organizing any sort of resistance.

My prediction is that now we will see a profound nationwide escalation in instances of nullification of locally unpopular Federal policies; whether it's cannabis prohibition, homosexual marriage, abortion, immigration, or of course everyone's favorite - Obamacare. Various issues will be nullified in various States, of course, and some of it may yet turn violent because among anti-Federalists there are plenty of trigger-happy and paranoid neckbeards. But I believe the Bundys' victory this week will commence the era of open Federalism decline that I have been predicting for a couple of years. The Feds' announcing they will continue the legal fight after they demonstrated force was off the table was as laughable as it was satisfying.

I salute Cliven Bundy, his family, and everyone that stood with them. Their resolve and discipline makes them role-models for all Americans in general, and for seekers of political change in particular. Some of you readers that find yourselves facing off against Federal agents in a similar situation in the next several years; and I encourage you to remember that patience and austerity won this fight for the Bundys without a single shot being fired. The Federal government is a barking dog that has just demonstrated it CAN be too scared to bite; stare it down rather than swinging at it.

-Toxin