North Macedonia and the Libertarian Fight Against Nationalism

Macedonia

An absolutely fascinating situation regarding Nationalism played out recently in that the Republic of Macedonia hoped to join the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. They were blocked in these efforts by Greece. Why? Largely because of tribal Nationalism. Let me explain.

The reason for the refusal was the people in Greece think of Macedonia with pride in regards to Alexander the Great and a province in Greece is named Macedonia. The Greeks regard this as part of their heritage and are extremely proud of it. Many of the people of the Republic of Macedonia feel the same way. In order to get into the EU and NATO the legislature of the Republic of Macedonia agreed to change the name of their nation to the Republic of North Macedonia. This change was a matter of great controversy and many people are extremely upset.

The point of Libertarians is largely that it doesn’t matter what you call something. The individual is greater than the state. As a writer I’m aware of the power of words. I’m not here to say it doesn’t make any difference to the pride of the people of both Greece and the Republic of Macedonia. I’m just saying the name we choose to call something makes no difference. I’m proud that I’m from Missouri. From a municipality called University City. That I went to the University of Idaho. That being said, the names of those places have nothing to do with my pride.

I’m proud to have played Water Polo, Swimming, Soccer, and Tennis at University City with a bunch of the best guys in the world. I wasn’t the most social fellow in the world and it wasn’t all good times, almost exclusively my own fault, but those guys, those times, that’s what gives me pride. The idea of a name change is relatable to me. When I played sports at University City, we were the Indians. The awards I earned, to be found somewhere around here, bear that logo.

Long after I graduated, the school board changed the mascot from Indians to Lions. There was the usual attempt to prevent the change but the name alteration went through and now we are the Lions. Does that change any of my memories? Does that change the good times I had with all those great friends? Does that change the victories or the defeats? The simple answer is no, it doesn’t.

Alexander the Great and Macedonia remain as they were regardless of what a nation calls itself today. People are who they are, regardless of the circumstances of their birth or their current living conditions.

I’m not telling you to stop being proud of who you are or to forget your heritage. I am saying the name you choose to call something is irrelevant. It changes nothing. What is past is irrevocable. The Greeks were wrong to deny the Republic of Macedonia entrance into the EU and NATO because of a name. The people of the Republic of Macedonia were wrong to care so much about changing the name.

It just doesn’t matter. The state is merely a name, a circumstance of birth, a way to communicate information. It means nothing and hopefully, someday, all nations will dissolve.

The individual is paramount. You are not a name, a place of birth, a high school, or a college.

Tom Liberman

Russia and the Battle for Soft Power

Soft Power

I just read an interesting article about how Russia is advancing their political cause by opening up educational opportunities to foreign students, this is an element of something called Soft Power. In the last twenty years Russia and China, perhaps realizing the United States military is largely unassailable, have been ramping up their use of this method of acquiring power in the world and we need be aware of this strategy.

I’ve written about how the United States is losing their edge in the education world more than once and you might want to peruse those articles here and here. Meanwhile, I’ll continue with this one.

The idea of Soft Power essentially means getting other nations to want to be like you. For the entire history of the United States we have enjoyed an enormous advantage in Soft Power simply because our Constitution guaranteed us freedom and with this freedom came upward mobility on a scale never before seen in the history of the world. Our colleges attracted foreign students in enormous numbers, and still do. These students went back to their home countries with stories about the plentiful opportunities the United States has to offer.

The effectiveness of this Soft Power was demonstrated particularly after World War II when it defeated the Soviet Union who, at the time, was much more interested in Hard Power. The United States offered hope and opportunity, a lady with open arms and a welcoming smile in the Upper New York Bay. When the United States came into existence there were very few nations in the world where the people were free, that has changed, largely because of our use of Soft Power rather than military exercises. Freedom has spread.

Success engenders imitation and the leaders of China and Russia, Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin, are spending a great deal of time, effort, and money in that flattery. They see it works and are now implementing various strategies across the globe designed to demonstrate the value of China and Russia to the people of other nations.

Meanwhile the United States is going in the opposite direction. We have fewer foreign students than we had ten years ago. We are actively attempting to reduce the number further. We are sanctioning more and more countries making it difficult or impossible for our greatest Soft Power asset, capitalistic ideology, to do business with foreign states.

The United States is still a leader in propagating Soft Power throughout the world but we are heading in the wrong direction while our chief rivals are moving to supplant us. An America first plan ensures that we will become America third before too long. Relying on Hard Power didn’t work for the Soviet Union and it’s not going to work for us.

Tom Liberman

Paul Whelan a Speculative Analysis

Paul Whelan

Paul Whelan was recently arrested and charged with espionage by the Russian government and this is making many headlines. There is a great deal of speculation as to whether or not Whelan was acting as a spy and I have my own thoughts about it which I’ll express here. I do want to be clear; my thoughts are largely speculative based on a limited amount of evidence. I could easily be wrong.

First a few facts about him. Whelan joined the marines as a young man but was given a bad conduct discharge for check fraud involving the use of someone else’s social security number. He visited Russia during this tenure and reportedly enjoyed his time there. He has tri-citizenship in the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Irish Republic. He has made any number of trips to Russia over the years. He was reportedly in Russia at this time to help a friend plan a wedding party.

Now comes the speculative part of my article. Whelan strikes me as someone who has an inflated sense of intellect and importance. He also strikes me as someone with delusions of grandeur. This is the sort of person Russian Intelligence, Federal Security Service, loves to exploit, see Paul Manafort. What I imagine happened is that intelligence agents became aware of Whelan and his ego. They sent someone, likely an attractive woman, to get a sense if he could be manipulated. They quickly discovered he was susceptible to such tactics.

From there it was relatively straight-forward. Have someone approach Whelan claiming to be disenchanted with the Russian government. Have that person claim to know important intelligence information. Whelan then plays the fool. He goes somewhere the FSS has wired for video and sound. He solicits this agent for secret information. The agent turns over a thumb drive with said information to Whelan. Whelan leaves thinking he has pulled off a major spying victory for the United States. He will be a hero! The CIA will welcome him with open arms, maybe he will get to visit President Trump. Boom, down come the clamps.

I repeat, I’m speculating based on the limited information I have. It’s entirely possible Whelan is completely innocent and was picked up by the FSS and a fake thumb drive is being used as evidence. That he is going to be used by Vladimir Putin to trade for Maria Butina or Russians held here in the United States.

It’s also possibly Whelan was actually working for the CIA. That he was on some covert operation and the Russian’s caught him.

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Still, I think my explanation has the ring of truth to it. It’s quite likely we’ll never know the full truth. What do you think?

Tom Liberman

Welfarm and the Demise of the Family Farmer

Family Farmer

I just read an article written by a family farmer, Jim Goodman, who recently sold his herd of forty-five cows because economic conditions made continuing untenable. The article laments the steady demise of the family farmer in the United States and the growth of both factory farms and what the writer calls Land Barons. These are wealthy individuals who purchase smaller farms but don’t actually work on them, they own them simply as investments. While I feel sorry for Goodman, I won’t shed a tear for a group of people who vote for the bed they sleep in with unwavering devotion.

Let me explain. Welfarm caused this entire mess and Goodman acknowledges all the factors that caused the problem without once accepting the slightest bit of responsibility for it. Goodman contradicts himself in almost every paragraph. He blames ineffective government subsidies, apparently wanting more, when it is this very Welfarm that caused the oversupply he so passionately understands is the root of the issue.

The United States has a system of government that includes the Senate. The Senate doesn’t care about population. There are two senators per state and this gives rural states disproportionate power in Congress. This power has been used since the 1970s to expand a policy of get big or get out. Those who own small farms eagerly and continuously voted for politicians who perpetuated this policy as they handed out enormous sums of money to the family farmer. I need say no more than Ethanol and cheese although there are many, many more examples of this strategy.

Basically, the taxpayers of the United States have been pouring money into the pockets of farmers encouraging them to grow more and more. These policies have encouraged the family farmer to produce more milk. These policies have aided the enormous growth of factory farms.What needs to be done? Stop Welfarm. Yes, it will hurt farmers initially, I do not deny this fact. However, what will happen is output will shrink to match actual demand and only then will farmers get what Goodman says is the only thing they want, fair prices. Sadly, that’s not the only thing they want. They want tax dollars by the bushel and this dependence on government has destroyed them. They got exactly that for which they voted.

If a Libertarian Revolution is to sweep this country, and I hold out high hopes that it someday will, it will begin in rural areas only when people like Goodman recognize the policies of their picked politicians led to the destruction of the family farmer. Goodman recognizes the problem but his vote perpetuates it.

Tom Liberman

Why Does the Federal Reserve Raise Interest Rates?

Federal Reserve

The Federal Reserve and the President of the United States seem to be at odds over the idea of raising interest rates. I’m of the opinion that most people, including many of my fellow Libertarians, don’t really understand the base purpose of the Federal Reserve and the point of increasing interest rates. I’m not an economist by trade but the issue is relatively straight-forward and I thought I’d take a few moments to go over it.

As I said, it’s relatively simple. Pretty much since the beginning of human history there has been something called the business cycle, or in common parlance, the boom-bust cycle. Basically, when times are good and people have plenty of money, they tend to spend it on speculative interests in the hope of gaining much more money. In contrast, when times are not good and money is in short supply, people have a tendency to hoard what they have. These two things exacerbate the business cycle.

Essentially, because people are spending more money on potentially enriching schemes during boom times the bubble goes to extremely high levels before it bursts and creates devastating economic destruction. Once the bust takes hold it is difficult to stop the downward spiral because people are reluctant to borrow money.

The solution created by Alexander Hamilton and the founders was the First Bank of the United States. Its primary idea was to raise interest rates during boom times thus curtailing people’s willingness to borrow money and fuel the boom and to lower interest rates during times of bust to encourage people to take out loans and pull the economy from its collapse.

It did not stop the business cycle altogether and thus its opponents, who felt there was artificial manipulation of the economy at the expense of growth abolished it. The booms and bust then grew much worse and so the Second Bank of the United States was formed with essentially the same goals as the first. Once again, the business cycle continued although with tempered effects because of the policies of the bank. As can be expected, people grew unhappy with the bank because they felt it was impacting the booming economy negatively and so it was abolished.

Immediately thereafter there again began a more virulent series of business cycles until Congress established the Federal Reserve which still exists to this day. As expected, the business cycles continue to be a problem as we have seen recently. One of the things that has happened since President Reagan is that the Federal Reserve has acted more to promote economic growth but not to slow it. This means, naturally that the boom cycle is not properly tempered.

That is the point of the Federal Reserve in their recent raising of interest rates. They desire to slow economic growth to temper the boom section of the business cycle. These actions anger the President of the United States in the midst of that cycle. Politicians desire to brag about the good they have done and lay blame for the bad, but the business cycle is beyond their control. The Federal Reserve cannot stop the cycle, the people who make policy can only hope to temper the catastrophic effects of the inevitable bust.

That is why it is generally considered a bad idea for politicians to dictate policy to the Federal Reserve. Their actions are often, and for good reason, opposite of those wished by the politicians.

Tom Liberman

Baby It’s Cold Outside and Political Affiliation

Baby It's Cold Outside

The latest political controversy involves the song Baby It’s Cold Outside and whether or not radio stations should be playing it this Christmas season. I think the divide neatly illustrates a strong political division that embroils our nation. Basically, we have Democrats and Republicans on one side and Libertarians on the other. This is the special frustration of Libertarians because if you ask most Republicans and Democrats, they will vehemently deny they are on the same side of this issue. I’ll explain.

Whether your want a radio station to play Baby It’s Cold Outside or not is irrelevant. If you are making posts on Social Media, urging people to listen to or boycott a station because they are or are not playing the song; you are attempting to enforce your sensibilities on other people. You are one in the same either way. You are a force of coercion. Republicans and Democrats will come up with every excuse in the book to pretend they are not part of this concerted effort to enforce their will upon others who disagree. I’m not actually telling them, I’m not holding a gun to their head, I’m not passing a law about it. You are bringing pressure to bear in order to force others to do as you want.

The other side of that coin is a Libertarian. If a radio stations wants to play the song, go right ahead. If you don’t want to play Baby It’s cold Outside, that’s just fine also. If I have strong feelings one way or the other, I will listen to that song when it comes on or I will turn the channel. I will not attempt through boycott or other method of coercion to force my sensibilities on you. I trust you, as an adult, to make your own decision on the matter.

This misconception about Democrats and Republicans being on the opposite of issues is apparent in many different musical ways. One group has no problem with a country song that glorifies killing one’s wife and watching her bleed to death while the second has no problem with a hip-hop song encouraging the killing of law enforcement officers. And, of course, they absolutely decry and attempt the reverse from playing on any radio station because we must protect the children!

In summary: You are a lowly worm, afraid of your own shadow, thinking you are better and kinder than others, you believe that which you support should be forced upon everyone and that which you despise should be forbidden to all. I am a Champion of Freedom. When someone comes to take your music, I will stand against them regardless of the nature of that music. Despite this I extend my hand to you, join me, climb aboard, you are welcome here.

Should you decline my offer and continue on your current course; that’s fine also, you be you.

Tom Liberman

Cyber-Security Minister Never Used a Computer

Cyber-SecurityThere’s an absolutely fascinating story hitting the news about the Cyber-Security minister recently appointed in Japan. Yoshitaka Sakurada was unable to answer relatively simple computer related questions, eventually said he had never used a computer in his life, and went on to say he didn’t think it would be an issue.

Is he right? Is he delusional? Must the minister of Cyber-Security have intimate knowledge of computers? Must any manager have a strong understanding of the job her or his workers are performing?

At first glance it would seem a manager is in the best position to succeed if she or he has firm knowledge of the work being done, but management philosophy doesn’t necessarily support this idea. It is generally considered a good idea to promote an excellent worker into a management position over a project with which she or he is unfamiliar. The idea being that if the manager is overly hands-on it is detrimental to the project. The job of a manager is to get the most out of people, not do the actual work.

It’s quite possible Sakurada will be an excellent Cyber-Security Minister. His specialty might be in managing people and that’s good enough. It’s also possible that his lack of knowledge over the division he is managing might prove a liability in the minds of those working under him. He might end up being a terrible minister. The point is, we don’t know. That’s what performance-based evaluation is all about.

The person who promoted Sakurada to Cyber-Security minister needs to accept responsibility for the outcome of this move. That’s the way it should be. We can certainly say a person appears to be unqualified for a position. We can argue that a recent trade involving our favorite sports team was misguided. We can criticize or praise any such decision, that’s well and good. But we can’t know the outcome until we see the results.

What is vitally important is to assess the results with critical thinking skills. The person who appointed Sakurada wants him to succeed and we see, all too often, excuse after excuse, spin after spin, justification after justification, to explain why failure is actually success. That’s the real problem. Not the hiring of Sakurada or anyone else for that matter.

It is important to make the hire for good reasons rather than political expediency. That being said, it’s also important to withhold judgment until a body of evidence is presented. Good hires turn out bad and bad hires turn out well.

The best strategy is to hire the person you think best qualified and if they are unable to handle the job, accept responsibility and move on. The worst strategy is to hire someone not particularly qualified and make every excuse in the book to keep them in the position. Sadly, when it comes to politics, we often see the latter.

In this case, we’ll see.

Tom Liberman

Angry and Intolerant this is Who We Are

Angry IntolerantA number of angry, intolerant, unreasoning, and disgusting attacks have taken place recently and everywhere I see politicians and others talking about how “This isn’t who we are.” The reality is that this is exactly who we are. We might not like looking in the mirror. We can certainly pretend we don’t want this, don’t fuel it by passing along intolerant rhetoric without regard for truth, but the reality is this nation has become increasingly angry and intolerant.

Not a day goes by without a friend of mine on social media, people who undoubtedly consider themselves to be decent, moral, and kind; saying something nasty about a person who disagrees with them on some social or political issue. Moron! Idiot! Sheep! Trying to destroy our country!

Not a day goes by when a media personality doesn’t angrily denounce and make outrageous claims about the fate of the nation if a particular person is allowed to get away with their agenda.

Not a day goes by without an angry politician vilifying someone from the opposite party for their vision of the United States.

We are angry and intolerant. That is what the people of our nation are today. Perhaps it was different in the past and maybe it will change in the future but not today. This is exactly who we are as a people. If you agree with my politics then I will support every vile thing you say, I will excuse every disgusting action you take, I will pass along any lie that supports you. If I disagree with your politics there is nothing about you worthwhile. You are out to destroy this nation and there is no lie, no misinformation, no twisting of the facts that I won’t pass along in an attempt to hurt you.

This is exactly who we are. This fact is displayed loudly by the politicians we elect, by the news shows we watch, and by our own vitriolic and unreasoning mindset available on display at the social media platform of your choice. I see it every day, over and over again. You cannot convince me with your meaningless words, spoken only after horrific tragedy, that you, that we, are not in some way enabling the violence.

The more the anger rises, the greater the chance for violence. We are angry, we are intolerant, and some people are twisting this irrationality into violent and deadly assaults.

Don’t tell me what we are not. Show me.

Tom Liberman

Expansion of Executive Power via National Security False Flags

National SecurityThe Constitution of the United States is fairly clear about separation of power between each of the branches of government. In a nutshell: The Legislative Branch makes laws, the Executive Branch enforces laws, and the Judicial Branch interprets laws. The Executive Branch is generally quite limited although, when it comes to issues of national security, these limits are often relaxed. Those limitations, or more specifically, what constitutes national security is my topic today.

Let’s examine foreign treaties to get started. The President of the United States gets to negotiate treatise with foreign powers, including trade agreements. These agreements become binding when the Senate agrees with a two-thirds majority. How these treaties can be broken is somewhat open to interpretation but, by and large, it has been only when Congress agrees to do so.

Likewise, we can take a look at the power to declare war. This is supposedly only the purview of Congress. There are other examples but let’s leave it at that for today.

This all being said; Executive Power is given a great deal of discretion when it comes to matters of national security. If the security of the nation is at risk, the courts have shown the president a great deal of deference in what can be done. This is a problem if the president decides virtually every single issue facing the nation is a matter of national security. This is a dangerous precedent to be setting for any president or any party. It is inevitable that another party or president will eventually come to power and once we’ve decided that trade with Canada, border crossings, gang violence, the price of steel, and who knows what else is a matter of national security; we cede all power to the Executive. The Constitution was written specifically to prevent this sort of behavior.

The question then becomes what defines national security? If we take a broad interpretation it means anything that might pose a threat to some citizens of the nation. A narrow view would be anything that threatens the nation as a whole. The current administration takes a broad view, possibly the widest interpretation in the history of our country. Whenever the Legislative or Judicial Branch does not accede to the wishes of this Executive, the next words we hear are National Security, usually followed by an exclamation point or three.

You can support the current Executive in this fantasy of national security concerns but I suggest to you this way of thinking is extraordinarily short-sighted. Tomorrow is a new day, a new executive. You might regret granting such power.

I have a decidedly narrow take on the idea of national security. I wish you would join me.

Tom Liberman

The Harsh Interrogation of Jamal Khashoggi is Perfectly Reasonable

jamal khashoggi harsh interrogationWhy all the faux outrage about the regrettable and accidental death of Jamal Khashoggi over a little bit of harsh interrogation? These things happen. It’s war. The safety of the nation is in the balance. We can’t tie the hands of our intelligence community, that would be putting our lives at risk. Our friends the Saudi Arabians have used harsh interrogation techniques on prisoners we sent to them in extraordinary renditions. The head of the CIA, Gina Haspel, was in charge of such a prison and accidently destroyed many tapes where such useful and humane techniques were used on evil journalists, er, I mean, terrorists.

The former Vice President of the United States, Dick Cheney, is a vocal and active supporter of such techniques. Many of my good Christian friends have told me personally they support enhanced interrogation, in between patting themselves on the back and going to church. Our Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, has rightly and with the power of the holy spirit denounced efforts to end our heroic use of harsh interrogation and black prisons. It is Pompeo who was sent to consume excellent food and pat his belly in bloated satisfaction while meeting with the architect of this supposed crime, Prince Mohammad bin Salman. I’m sure they enjoyed a good chuckle at all the phony outrage.

The United States of America is a leading proponent of harsh interrogation techniques and happily uses countries like Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Turkey, and many others to carry out our bidding. President Trump himself has rightly suggested harsh interrogation is an excellent and useful technique. Sure, sometimes a prisoner dies, but it’s obviously well worth the risk.

In a representative republic, our politicians reflect our moral and ethical outlook. We clearly want harsh interrogation and relish in punishing those leftist journalists, er, I mean, terrorists. This will clearly send a good message to the leftists that they can’t write negative stories about our glorious leaders. If you don’t want to be subject to harsh interrogation techniques while being held against your will where you might well accidently pass away, well stop writing such articles. It’s fairly simple. Get a clue, idiots.

Why pretend to be outraged at all? Own it. Amerika!

Tom Liberman

What do Unused Water Bottles in Puerto Rico say to You?

Water BottlesThere’s been an interesting image of a large number of water bottles sitting on a runway in Puerto Rico circulating throughout the news and my social media feeds. It shows tens of thousands or perhaps millions of water bottles sitting on a runway apparently unwanted and unused. What conclusions have you drawn from this event? I’m going to tell you what conclusions I originally drew and then what I found out when I investigated the issue.

Government waste of my tax dollars. Some stupid government agency either ordered way too many water bottles, didn’t arrange for transport of the bottles to needy citizens of Puerto Rico, or simply forgot about them and left them on the runway. Then I did some research. In my original guess as to what happened I thought it was one of three stupid things; surprise, it was all three.

FEMA purchased, loaded, shipped, and unloaded far too many water bottles. The water bottles on the runway were not needed. FEMA didn’t release the water bottles to the government of Puerto Rico until they had been sitting in the open, exposed to the elements, for months. FEMA didn’t make any arrangements to distribute the water. Finally, someone noticed the water and contacted FEMA, who released them to the government of Puerto Rico, who then began to distribute them but found the water was fouled by its exposure. So, there it sits. Now someone has to clean it all up, again, using tax dollars.

Yay! Government hard at work as usual. Is it any wonder the disaster relief in Puerto Rico and other places has been less than stellar in its execution? I’m not saying disaster relief is an easy thing to do. There are many moving parts and a huge amount of coordination is required. We need professionals in charge of this sort of thing, not people who raised a lot of campaign dollars and want a nice salary. People suffer because of failed government and my tax dollars are given to bottled water companies for no good purpose. At least those businesses are happy.

My final question is to you. What did you assume when you read the story about those water bottles? Something different? Don’t lie.

Tom Liberman

Millions to Stop Drug Trafficking in Haiti to no End

Haiti Port au PrinceFor the last two years a pair of Drug Enforcement Agent whistleblowers have been fighting their way through the system in regards to an incident in Haiti. The big complaint is that a large shipment of drugs was found by dock workers and immediately looted by everyone including drug enforcement agents before anyone tried to stop it. This might seem egregious to you but it’s not my problem with events.

What I’d like to talk about is the $250 million of my tax dollars that have gone to Haiti with $18.7 million of it earmarked to train drug enforcement agents at the port in question. This is the War on Drugs. The tax dollars the United States sends to countries like Haiti supposedly to stop drugs is largely used to line the pockets of who knows how many people. The entire War on Drugs has created an industry devoted to taking that money and doing just enough to get more while pocketing most of it.

Haiti is a perfect example of this situation but hardly the only one or even the largest. The DEA has an enormous budget and employs huge numbers of people. They are tasked largely with prosecuting the War on Drugs. Does anyone think they are winning? Would there be more drug addiction, more violence, more harassment, more illegal seizures, more anything if the DEA were to simply cease to exist? I think it’s fair to say there would be less of most of those things.

The United States spent $250 million over eight years to help Haiti police stop drug shipments. That’s a quarter of a billion dollars. That’s a lot of money. Yet, it’s really not. Compared to what we send to other countries for the same reason it’s really just a drop in the bucket. After we spent $250 million of which, as I mentioned, almost nineteen million, went to secure the port at Port-au-Prince; the authorities not only allowed drugs to be taken from a ship docked there but some of them participated in the theft. Is that a good use of our tax dollars?

For two years DEA whistleblowers have attempted to call attention to this incident and been essentially silenced. One was so harassed by a supervisor that it affected her or his health. The names of the whistleblowers are not being released. With the amount of money the United States is throwing at people in Haiti and all over the world, it’s unusual to not want to steal it. You’re a weirdo if you actually don’t want to dip your hand into the never-ending slush fund. You’d likely be the same, face facts.

Almost everyone is stealing tons of money, no one is caught, the people who don’t steal get harassed and fired, more cash keeps piling in, there is no accountability, and no one cares. Tell me you wouldn’t participate. Go on, I dare you.

Tom Liberman

No Planning means no Military Parade

Military ParadeThere’s an interesting story in the news about plans, or lack thereof, for a military parade in Washington D.C. The parade was on but then it was off again. I wasn’t that interested in the story until I read the sequence of events that led to President Trump announcing the parade was cancelled, not that I think it is permanently cancelled, the president is a man of mercurial whim and anything can change. That being said, I think this incident gives us some insight into the nature of his administration. Lack of planning.

Trump wanted to have a military parade ever since he saw the Bastille Day celebration in France back in July of 2017 and has been credibly reported as saying he wanted something similar in Washington D.C. He’s been talking about this idea with various members of the Armed Services and others for over a year now. Apparently, his insistence finally started some action but this is what I want to discuss.

If you speak with the women and men charged with planning any sort of a parade, even a kindergarten march through the school, they will explain to you the necessity of making plans. Lots can go wrong in such events and a military parade through downtown Washington D.C. is something that I hope anyone, regardless of political affiliation realizes, is a complex affair. There is much organization and coordination between various groups required.

City officials were notified on August 8, 2018 to be aware planning for a parade was under way and they would be involved. The letter from Homeland Security listed one detail and that one being vague, it would happen on or around November 10, 2018. The announcement the parade was cancelled because of cost came on Aug 17, 2018. That’s eleven entire days. Which is hardly enough time to make a proper estimate, but it gets much worse.

The city didn’t receive any other information about the parade until Aug 14, 2018. Even then officials were not told how long the parade would last, how many people were involved, what route was planned, what military equipment was involved, or apparently much of anything. They were then asked to estimate the cost to the city!

It’s hard for me to put into words how idiotic is this request. How can anyone make an approximation without at least some information? The data given to them made it impossible to make an estimate. City officials then threw out a number, a mistake if you ask me, of $21.6 million. I’m guessing they looked at expenses for other such events with extra pay for police, fire, and emergency services, cleanup costs, etc. Still, they should have just told the White House they had no idea and needed more information before any sort of an estimate could be offered.

The Pentagon has apparently long resisted this parade and someone began throwing out numbers with one being $92 million. General Mattis, who would supposedly be in a position to know about the plans, in an overt admission said that no one had any idea how much the parade would cost and any estimates should be discounted. Mattis at least had the courage to admit no one planned a damn thing and it was impossible to guess the cost. Maybe he hoped no one would comment on the incredibly stupidity of the entire organizational failure. Wrong. General Mattis, you bear some responsibility for this nonsense.

The worst part about all of this is that it seems like standard operating procedure for this administration. If you support it, please take note of how lack of planning is a sure-fire recipe for disaster. From tariffs, to immigration, to travel bans, the entire administration simply fires on the whim of the president. Maybe you like that, maybe you support that, but don’t come complaining to me when things go horribly awry. Without plans, as even the most ardent support of the president knows in their heart, chances are things will spiral into disaster.

Tom Liberman

Ajit Pai Thinks he Didn’t Lie about Cyber Attack

Ajit PaiIn the IT world there’s been a heated and interesting debate going on for over a year about a denial of service attack Ajit Pai claimed happened to the FCC after his Net Neutrality announcement. The veracity of the attack has long been doubted and now Pai finally admits the truth but he is, of course, innocent of all wrongdoing.

I wrote an article detailing the entire episode which you can read to learn more about the actual events but what I’d like to focus on today is the smug expression of joy that Pai utters in assuring us he did nothing wrong. I’m pleased that this report debunks the conspiracy theory that my office or I had any knowledge that the information provided by the former CIO was inaccurate and was allowing that inaccurate information to be disseminated for political purposes.

I suppose there is some chance Pai is an abject moron and wasn’t suspicious about the claim of an attack and therefore passed along the information in all honesty but I find that all but impossible to believe. Pai is an intelligent man whose parents are both doctors. He got an undergraduate degree from Harvard and a law degree from the University of Chicago. There is no possible way he is moronic enough to have believed the lies told to him by the former Chief Information Officer of the FCC. Certainly, he wanted to believe those lies because they made his own announcement regarding the ending of Net Neutrality apparently less controversial.

Those lies served his purpose quite well but there is no way he didn’t at the very least recognize the statements he was making were highly improbable. What a person of integrity does under such circumstances is wait before publicly repeating the lies. A person with character interviews other people and makes a determined effort to find the truth rather than immediately disseminating the information for political gain.

Pai is not any of those things. He is a self-serving punk who is now patting himself on the back because technically he didn’t lie. He repeated things that were almost certainly lies without making any effort to find the truth. If I do him the disservice of believing the statement he didn’t suspect something was wrong, then I’ll apologize for calling him a lying punk, he’s just a complete and utter moron. But, I’m fairly certain that’s not the case.

It’s this kind of delusional thinking that is destroying our country. Well, technically I didn’t know it was a lie therefore I’m in the clear. Please, don’t inform me of any important facts because then I’ll know the truth and I’m so much happier simply not knowing anything because it gives me plausible deniability. What a leader! Isn’t this the kind of person you want in charge?

Tom Liberman

Why Hate Crimes and Unmasking Antifa Legislation Show Political Hypocrisy

antifaThere is a new piece of legislation making its way through Congress that proposes an extra fifteen-year penalty for people who commit a crime while wearing a mask, Antifa. There is already similar such legislation in many states and the federal government for people who commit a crime motivated by hate. Who opposes and supports such legislation shows us the bankruptcy of the ethical philosophy of both Democrats and Republicans.

The gist of the problem is that government is trying to give extra penalties to people who commit similar crimes for different motivations or because they are wearing a mask. So now we have three classes of assault. If you assault someone you have committed a crime and are punished. However, if you do the same and are motivated by hate, you get an extra penalty. If you do the same and are wearing a mask, essentially Antifa, you get an extra penalty. The crime is the assault; not the motivation behind it or the clothes you wear while committing it.

Largely, Republicans are opposed to hate crime legislation because there is no need for it. Assault is a crime in itself. There is no need to add the person’s motivation to it. Democrats are, generally, for this legislation because people who commit such crimes deserve longer punishment and hopefully that will deter them.

Largely, Democrats are opposed to Unmasking legislation because there is no need for it. Assault is a crime in itself. There is no need to add the person’s choice of clothing to it. Republicans are, generally, for this legislation because people who commit such crimes deserve longer punishment and hopefully that will deter them.

I’m confident you can see the tremendous hypocrisy in this situation and I won’t spend any more time on that. What I will talk about is the enormous danger the government presents to all of us when it attempts to legislate such matters. What the government is attempting, in both cases, is to legislate against groups they see as aligned against their interests. In one instance it is Democrats against white supremacists and in the other it is Republicans against Antifa.

In both cases such legislation doesn’t reduce the risk of violence but increases both it and the danger of armed revolution. If enough people feel the government is willing to make up laws in order to put them in jail, they will simply attempt to create a new government. We see this path throughout history. In the United States we have the ability to vote in a new government and have largely avoided violent attempts at revolt.

Our government seems increasingly willing to imprison those they see as political enemies. This course of action is expressly forbidden in the Constitution of the United States. The Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eight Amendments all attempt to prevent the government from enacting such legislation. They do so not only to protect the people but to save the nation from the inevitable violent revolt that such imprisonments eventually engender.

A politician must not take sides in political debate. She or he must simply present arguments and persuade people to vote accordingly. Anything else tempts disaster.

Don’t be a hypocrite, be a Libertarian.

Tom Liberman

A Study of Tariffs and Laws and the Tomato

tomatoWith all the talk of tariffs in the news these days, I’ve been doing a bit of research and came across an interesting Supreme Court case related to the Tariff of 1883 and the humble tomato. Our friend the tomato is almost universally referenced as a vegetable in common parlance, this despite the fact that it is undeniably a fruit in botanical definition. This became an issue when the two food categories were treated differently in said tariff legislation.

If you were a seller of produce back in 1883 and sold tomatoes the tariff became an enormous issue. You see, fruits were exempted from tariffs while vegetables were not. The government, being the government, decided to include as many things in its revenue scheme as possible and that included tomatoes.

A fellow named John Nix founded a company called John Nix & Co. which became the largest sellers of produce in New York. They shipped produce from Virginia, Florida, and Bermuda to the city. Naturally, Nix didn’t want to pay extra tariffs on tomatoes. This is one of the problems with such tariffs. They raise revenue, certainly, but that revenue is taken indirectly from tax payers. While Nix’s company certainly has to pay the tariff directly to the government, they recoup this loss by raising the price on their produce. Thus, any tariff is really just an indirect tax. That is beside the point.

The point here is that the case went all the way to the Supreme Court in Nix v. Hedden, Edward L. Hedden being the Collector of the Port of New York. Hedden collected that money and Nix wanted it back. From a botanical perspective, the tomato is undeniably a fruit and therefore clearly exempt from the vegetable tariff.

The Supreme Court decided, unanimously and against nature, the tomato is not a fruit, it is a vegetable. The argument being that it is commonly thought of as thus. It is eaten as dinner rather than dessert. Therefore, Nix had to pay the tariff.

Is there a moral anywhere to be found in all of this? I’m not sure. The government instituted a tariff that was vague in reference using simply the words fruits and vegetables in non-taxonomic terms. The Supreme Court decide what Congress was really trying to do was put a tariff on tomatoes even they are clearly fruit and thus changed the legal definition in regards to tariffs, although they had not the power to change the scientifically determined definition, for which we can all be thankful.

It does give us some insight into who is the one paying for these tariffs and why manufacturers and wholesalers tend to fight them to the bitter end.

And, of course, my summation. Even if the Supreme Court made Nix pay the tariff because the tomato is commonly thought of as a fruit, this does not change the nature of the tomato. It clearly fits the established definition of a fruit, like it or not. Me, I’ll go with science over government.

Tom Liberman

The Red Hen and Masterpiece Cakeshop

Red Hen Masterpiece CakeshopRecently the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, was asked to leave a restaurant called the Red Hen because they didn’t like her political ideology as expressed in her job. Before that a bakery called Masterpiece Cakeshop refused to make a wedding cake for a homosexual couple because of their sexual orientation.

The two stories are intertwined in an interesting way for this Libertarian. The battle lines have been drawn, as they say. For me the two cases do not present any sort of ethical dilemma. As far as I’m concerned, the ownership of both The Red Hen and Masterpiece Cakeshop have every right to serve, or not serve, who they want as long as they do not run afoul protected classes. Neither homosexuals or political appointees are guarded by the Constitution, so far. From a legal standpoint, I support both businesses.

From a professional perspective and from a human level I would not have done the same if I was the owner of either the cake shop or the restaurant. I think if I am going to start a business of any sort, I should respect both myself and my customers, regardless of their sexual orientation or political philosophy. From a personal standpoint, I oppose both business owners.

It’s really that simple for me. I don’t have to think much about it. I don’t have to worry about my political ideology or my personal distastes. I have a job and I try to do it as best I can regardless of other factors.

I’m aware we can get into nuance here. What if a group of Nazis wanted to have a birthday party at my restaurant? Would I allow it? Particularly if they were going to display paraphernalia supporting hatred of Jews. I’m actually of the opinion that I’d have them although I’d probably require modest, rather than overt, displays of their beliefs.

If a person with a white supremacist or a rainbow tattoo wanted to dine at my establishment I think I’d have no issue and attempt to serve them the best meal possible. I think we’d all be better off if we treated each other fairly and with decency regardless of personal convictions.

Now, if the same person was loudly and belligerently expressing their hatred of Jews or heterosexuals while dining, I’d feel within my rights to ask them to please express their beliefs in a more subdued fashion. If they refused, I’d consider asking them to leave. As long as they were polite and treated my business with respect, I like to think I’d keep any problems I had with their philosophies to myself.

Certainly, many of the people who I helped with software development were of deeply held religious beliefs. I’m an Atheist. I didn’t let that stop me from doing the best job I could. So, I have some evidence to support my convictions as expressed here.

I do find it extraordinarily interesting that, to some degree, those who support Masterpiece Cakeshop are opposed to Red Hen and vice-versa.

I think this is where critical thinking and a consistent philosophical outlook can make the world a better place. Where everyone gets to have their food or cake and eat them too. A boy can dream.

Tom Liberman

Rodrigo Duterte has Finally Gone too Far

Duterte god stupidThe Philippine President, Rodrigo Duterte, has often angered people for many statements and policies but he has finally gone too far for the Christians of his nation. He called god stupid. This is enough for Catholic Bishop Arturo Bastes to declare Duterte a madman with dictatorial tendencies. Duterte’s other sins have not raised quite as much outrage from the religious community.

Let’s take a look at what the Duterte regime has done since he was elected in June of 2016. He has publicly urged citizens of the Philippines to kill drug dealers and drug users wherever they find them. He said, “Hitler massacred three million Jews. Now, there is three million drug addicts. I’d be happy to slaughter them.” He has described drug users as not human. Any number of the killings appear not to be related to drugs in any way but simply murders carried out with drugs as the excuse. The murders were never prosecuted.

Duterte ordered the military to attack towns in the Marawi district because they might be harboring ISIS terrorists. Those assaults led to the displacement of over a million people and an enormous amount of suffering that continues to this day as the infrastructure of the region is largely destroyed and many of the former citizens are living in unsanitary camps. The terrorists were supposedly evicted although the history of the lasting effects of such actions would suggest they will return quickly enough or simply move somewhere else.

All of that was tolerated, if not supported, by his believers. But now they say he’s gone too far. In discussing the biblical story of Adam and Even Duterte came to the conclusion that god set up a ridiculous test for the young couple and because they made a decision that god apparently wanted them to make, it is moronic for all of their descendants to be branded with original sin. His exact words were, “Who is this stupid god?” and “You were not involved but now you’re stained with an original sin … What kind of a religion is that? That’s what I can’t accept, very stupid proposition.”

Even his supporters, those who believe he did the right thing in encouraging citizens to murder one another without trials simply because they were drug addicts, think he’s gone too far this time.

I’m an Atheist and I think Duterte actually got this one right. I still think he’s an evil man despite his correct interpretation of biblical insanity. I still think he’s a murderous dictator. His being right in this instance doesn’t change my overall opinion of him.

My question is what does it say about a person who supported Duterte in his desire to kill drug addicts without any judicial proceedings, without any attempt to help them recover from their addiction, to make no effort to determine if they were even drug addicts or dealers at all but simply close his eyes to the murders; but who draw the line at his assessment of the concept of original sin as stupid?

You tell me.

Tom Liberman

North Korea and the United States through Various Presidencies

North KoreaThe recent meeting between President Trump of the United States and Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un of North Korea is an interesting turn in the tumultuous relationship between the two countries and I thought it might be worthwhile to examine that history. It all began way back in 1953 when the Korean War ended with the separation of North and South Korea.

The area between the two nations made up of the former Korea is considered a demilitarized zone and while there are no armaments in the zone, directly behind the lines is an area considered the most militarized place on Earth. There were a number of incidents between North and South Korea but basically the peace was held and the United States under Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson were happy with the status quo.

It was at this time North Korea began to realize their nuclear ambitions. With Soviet help, they built two nuclear reactors although could not yet produce material capable of making a nuclear bomb. It is this progress that might have spurned the actions that occurred next.

Plans for reunification of Korea took place in the early 1970s and one guesses President Nixon at least supported this strategy as there was no major U.S. intervention to prevent it. These talks eventually failed but it is the first time we see at least tacit approval for a softer approach to the relations between North Korea and the United States. It’s reasonable to conclude that the possibility of a nuclear powered North Korea spurred the talks seeking normalization.

During this time North Korea’s economy was on equal footing to that of South Korea but things soon fell apart as the disintegration of the Soviet Union led to the end of all economic support. This economic collapse resulted in immeasurable hardship on the people of the North Korea. It also spurred the North Korean government to move ahead with their nuclear ambitions.

Presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan, and George H.W. Bush basically sat idly as these events went on, apparently uninterested in establishing a lasting peace that might curtail these inclinations and equally uneager to engage in military conflict.

The North Koreans were making great progress toward developing nuclear weapons by the time President Clinton came into power. He hoped to engage with the North Koreans as a way of slowing the progress toward nuclearization and also relieving the tremendous suffering in that nation. We helped build a nuclear power plant that was far less able to produce materials needed to make nuclear bombs in exchange for the dismantling of reactors which could easily produce such material. The idea was largely to normalize relations as was last attempted when Nixon was president.

George W. Bush reversed this policy and insisted that North Korea be treated as a rogue nation. This along with the destruction of Iraq by forces led by the United States further pushed North Korea toward building nuclear weapons as quickly as possible, it also exacerbated the already terrible economic situation in that nation. At this time the nuclear power plant we helped build was raided and fissionable material of low grade was taken from it. This was fashioned into nuclear bombs of unreliable quality and an eventual nuclear detonation.

The North Koreans began to focus on rockets capable of delivering their small nuclear arsenal to distant targets and their launch of a satellite in 2009 scuttled President Obama’s attempt to reengage with North Korea as was done under Nixon and Clinton. Obama’s strategy seemed to be to engage in small treatise with North Korea but not attempt a large-scale attempt at negotiations as was promoted by Clinton and at least approved of by Nixon.

That takes us to the recent events. President Trump seems to want to engage in negotiations with North Korea. He sees that as a better way to achieve nuclear disarmament than aggressive policies of sanctions and threats of military action, despite his rhetoric to the contrary. This puts him more in line with the Nixon and Clinton presidencies.

Trump agreed to and held a one-on-one meeting with Jong-un which both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations thought would give North Korea an inadvisable standing as an equal. They always insisted upon multi-national meetings.

The United States has largely vacillated between three policies; a hard line, an indifferent line, and soft line. President Trump seems to be more eager for the latter.

The success or failure of Trump’s diplomatic policies is subject of much speculation, which I choose not to engage upon. We will see.

Tom Liberman

Lies of the FCC and Why You Choose to Believe Them

fccIn May of 2017 the FCC claimed a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack sent their website down when in reality it was complaints from concerned citizens about the proposed ending of Net Neutrality. Gizmodo writer Dell Cameron wrote an excellent piece detailing the lies and the chain of evidence that proves them. I’m not going to try and rewrite her or his excellent article, instead I’d like to examine why the FCC felt they could get away with such an obvious lie. It’s all about you.

As some background information I’ll reiterate events. When the FCC proposed eliminating the rules of Net Neutrality, comedian and television host John Oliver gave out the complaint URL for the website and urged people to contact the FCC. This also happened in 2014. Both times the website immediately went down.

In 2014 the commissioner of the FCC decided the truth was best. He simply said increased traffic and antiquated systems overwhelmed the system. In 2017 not only did the commissioner and his agents claim it was a DDoS, they also claimed it was also a secret DDoS back in 2014 but that it wasn’t reported. These claims were, naturally, lies, to cover up the enormity of the outrage over the proposed change in Net Neutrality rules. The current commissioner doesn’t want people to think there are actually a large group of outraged citizens.

Now, this lie by the FCC was blatant and obvious. At the time any number of commentators pointed it out. The timing of the supposed DDoS at exactly the same moment as the genuine anger of many people at the proposed new rules was clearly suspicious. Anyone with even a mild amount of critical thinking skills would naturally be doubtful of the story claimed by the agents of the FCC. I dare say very few of you would be bold enough to tell make such an obvious fabrication, you have too much integrity. So, why did it happen?

To my way of thinking it’s a relatively simple answer. Those who believe the current administration and support the agenda of the FCC will largely believe anything they say. Those who oppose will assume it is a lie even if evidence supports their claim. It simply doesn’t matter if you tell the truth or not anymore. Those who are in favor of your agenda will believe your lies and spread them earnestly and without question. Those who oppose will claim even your truths are simply lies.

That’s pretty much where we’ve gotten to in this country. It just doesn’t matter if you tell the truth or not, so why bother doing it? If you tell the truth you’re going to get hammered by the opposing side anyway. If you lie you’re going to be supported by your side as if you were telling the truth.

I’m of the opinion our leaders could spew forth utter gibberish and would gain the exact same amount of support and opposition as if they’d stated some sort of a policy. Well, to a certain degree it’s not an opinion, it’s a simple fact.

A young student in Georgia got up during graduation and gave a quote he claimed was one person and they all cheered. He then informed them it was actually a person from the opposite party and silence and booing ensued. His point was the same I’m making. The majority of people in this country just don’t care anymore.

Two plus two is whatever I want it to be.

Good luck to us.

Tom Liberman