December 24, 2010

Gold and Economic Freedom

Will the real Alan Greenspan please stand up! During 1966, Greenspan wrote an impeccable defense of the gold standard in an article titled, Gold and Economic Freedom. At some point since, Greenspan turned statist. Yet, while as the economy meddling chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, Greenspan said he would not change a single word of that 1966 article. (See “End the Fed” by Ron Paul)

How do we explain the irreconciable contradiction that is Alan Greenspan?  Perhaps the answer is that most people have their price. So what price persuaded Greenspan to sell out on that which he knows is true about the gold standard?

Whatever Greenspan’s personal motives may be, I would like to draw attention to his article, Gold and Economic Freedom -- because it is still as good as gold...

Gold and Economic Freedom
by Alan Greenspan

An almost hysterical antagonism toward the gold standard is one issue which unites statists of all persuasions. They seem to sense - perhaps more clearly and subtly than many consistent defenders of laissez-faire - that gold and economic freedom are inseparable, that the gold standard is an instrument of laissez-faire and that each implies and requires the other.

In order to understand the source of their antagonism, it is necessary first to understand the specific role of gold in a free society.

Money is the common denominator of all economic transactions. It is that commodity which serves as a medium of exchange, is universally acceptable to all participants in an exchange economy as payment for their goods or services, and can, therefore, be used as a standard of market value and as a store of value, i.e., as a means of saving.

The existence of such a commodity is a precondition of a division of labor economy. If men did not have some commodity of objective value which was generally acceptable as money, they would have to resort to primitive barter or be forced to live on self-sufficient farms and forgo the inestimable advantages of specialization. If men had no means to store value, i.e., to save, neither long-range planning nor exchange would be possible.

What medium of exchange will be acceptable to all participants in an economy is not determined arbitrarily. First, the medium of exchange should be durable. In a primitive society of meager wealth, wheat might be sufficiently durable to serve as a medium, since all exchanges would occur only during and immediately after the harvest, leaving no value-surplus to store. But where store-of-value considerations are important, as they are in richer, more civilized societies, the medium of exchange must be a durable commodity, usually a metal. A metal is generally chosen because it is homogeneous and divisible: every unit is the same as every other and it can be blended or formed in any quantity. Precious jewels, for example, are neither homogeneous nor divisible. More important, the commodity chosen as a medium must be a luxury. Human desires for luxuries are unlimited and, therefore, luxury goods are always in demand and will always be acceptable. Wheat is a luxury in underfed civilizations, but not in a prosperous society. Cigarettes ordinarily would not serve as money, but they did in post-World War II Europe where they were considered a luxury. The term "luxury good" implies scarcity and high unit value. Having a high unit value, such a good is easily portable; for instance, an ounce of gold is worth a half-ton of pig iron.

In the early stages of a developing money economy, several media of exchange might be used, since a wide variety of commodities would fulfill the foregoing conditions. However, one of the commodities will gradually displace all others, by being more widely acceptable. Preferences on what to hold as a store of value, will shift to the most widely acceptable commodity, which, in turn, will make it still more acceptable. The shift is progressive until that commodity becomes the sole medium of exchange. The use of a single medium is highly advantageous for the same reasons that a money economy is superior to a barter economy: it makes exchanges possible on an incalculably wider scale.

Whether the single medium is gold, silver, seashells, cattle, or tobacco is optional, depending on the context and development of a given economy. In fact, all have been employed, at various times, as media of exchange. Even in the present century, two major commodities, gold and silver, have been used as international media of exchange, with gold becoming the predominant one. Gold, having both artistic and functional uses and being relatively scarce, has significant advantages over all other media of exchange. Since the beginning of World War I, it has been virtually the sole international standard of exchange. If all goods and services were to be paid for in gold, large payments would be difficult to execute and this would tend to limit the extent of a society's divisions of labor and specialization. Thus a logical extension of the creation of a medium of exchange is the development of a banking system and credit instruments (bank notes and deposits) which act as a substitute for, but are convertible into, gold.

A free banking system based on gold is able to extend credit and thus to create bank notes (currency) and deposits, according to the production requirements of the economy. Individual owners of gold are induced, by payments of interest, to deposit their gold in a bank (against which they can draw checks). But since it is rarely the case that all depositors want to withdraw all their gold at the same time, the banker need keep only a fraction of his total deposits in gold as reserves. This enables the banker to loan out more than the amount of his gold deposits (which means that he holds claims to gold rather than gold as security of his deposits). But the amount of loans which he can afford to make is not arbitrary: he has to gauge it in relation to his reserves and to the status of his investments.

When banks loan money to finance productive and profitable endeavors, the loans are paid off rapidly and bank credit continues to be generally available. But when the business ventures financed by bank credit are less profitable and slow to pay off, bankers soon find that their loans outstanding are excessive relative to their gold reserves, and they begin to curtail new lending, usually by charging higher interest rates. This tends to restrict the financing of new ventures and requires the existing borrowers to improve their profitability before they can obtain credit for further expansion. Thus, under the gold standard, a free banking system stands as the protector of an economy's stability and balanced growth. When gold is accepted as the medium of exchange by most or all nations, an unhampered free international gold standard serves to foster a world-wide division of labor and the broadest international trade. Even though the units of exchange (the dollar, the pound, the franc, etc.) differ from country to country, when all are defined in terms of gold the economies of the different countries act as one-so long as there are no restraints on trade or on the movement of capital. Credit, interest rates, and prices tend to follow similar patterns in all countries. For example, if banks in one country extend credit too liberally, interest rates in that country will tend to fall, inducing depositors to shift their gold to higher-interest paying banks in other countries. This will immediately cause a shortage of bank reserves in the "easy money" country, inducing tighter credit standards and a return to competitively higher interest rates again.

A fully free banking system and fully consistent gold standard have not as yet been achieved. But prior to World War I, the banking system in the United States (and in most of the world) was based on gold and even though governments intervened occasionally, banking was more free than controlled. Periodically, as a result of overly rapid credit expansion, banks became loaned up to the limit of their gold reserves, interest rates rose sharply, new credit was cut off, and the economy went into a sharp, but short-lived recession. (Compared with the depressions of 1920 and 1932, the pre-World War I business declines were mild indeed.) It was limited gold reserves that stopped the unbalanced expansions of business activity, before they could develop into the post-World War I type of disaster. The readjustment periods were short and the economies quickly reestablished a sound basis to resume expansion.

But the process of cure was misdiagnosed as the disease: if shortage of bank reserves was causing business decline-argued economic interventionists-why not find a way of supplying increased reserves to the banks so they never need be short! If banks can continue to loan money indefinitely-it was claimed-there need never be any slumps in business. And so the Federal Reserve System was organized in 1913. It consisted of twelve regional Federal Reserve banks nominally owned by private bankers, but in fact government sponsored, controlled, and supported. Credit extended by these banks is in practice (though not legally) backed by the taxing power of the federal government. Technically, we remained on the gold standard; individuals were still free to own gold, and gold continued to be used as bank reserves. But now, in addition to gold, credit extended by the Federal Reserve banks ("paper reserves") could serve as legal tender to pay depositors.

When business in the United States underwent a mild contraction in 1927, the Federal Reserve created more paper reserves in the hope of forestalling any possible bank reserve shortage. More disastrous, however, was the Federal Reserve's attempt to assist Great Britain who had been losing gold to us because the Bank of England refused to allow interest rates to rise when market forces dictated (it was politically unpalatable). The reasoning of the authorities involved was as follows: if the Federal Reserve pumped excessive paper reserves into American banks, interest rates in the United States would fall to a level comparable with those in Great Britain; this would act to stop Britain's gold loss and avoid the political embarrassment of having to raise interest rates. The "Fed" succeeded; it stopped the gold loss, but it nearly destroyed the economies of the world, in the process. The excess credit which the Fed pumped into the economy spilled over into the stock market-triggering a fantastic speculative boom. Belatedly, Federal Reserve officials attempted to sop up the excess reserves and finally succeeded in braking the boom. But it was too late: by 1929 the speculative imbalances had become so overwhelming that the attempt precipitated a sharp retrenching and a consequent demoralizing of business confidence. As a result, the American economy collapsed. Great Britain fared even worse, and rather than absorb the full consequences of her previous folly, she abandoned the gold standard completely in 1931, tearing asunder what remained of the fabric of confidence and inducing a world-wide series of bank failures. The world economies plunged into the Great Depression of the 1930's.

With a logic reminiscent of a generation earlier, statists argued that the gold standard was largely to blame for the credit debacle which led to the Great Depression. If the gold standard had not existed, they argued, Britain's abandonment of gold payments in 1931 would not have caused the failure of banks all over the world. (The irony was that since 1913, we had been, not on a gold standard, but on what may be termed "a mixed gold standard"; yet it is gold that took the blame.) But the opposition to the gold standard in any form-from a growing number of welfare-state advocates-was prompted by a much subtler insight: the realization that the gold standard is incompatible with chronic deficit spending (the hallmark of the welfare state). Stripped of its academic jargon, the welfare state is nothing more than a mechanism by which governments confiscate the wealth of the productive members of a society to support a wide variety of welfare schemes. A substantial part of the confiscation is effected by taxation. But the welfare statists were quick to recognize that if they wished to retain political power, the amount of taxation had to be limited and they had to resort to programs of massive deficit spending, i.e., they had to borrow money, by issuing government bonds, to finance welfare expenditures on a large scale.

Under a gold standard, the amount of credit that an economy can support is determined by the economy's tangible assets, since every credit instrument is ultimately a claim on some tangible asset. But government bonds are not backed by tangible wealth, only by the government's promise to pay out of future tax revenues, and cannot easily be absorbed by the financial markets. A large volume of new government bonds can be sold to the public only at progressively higher interest rates. Thus, government deficit spending under a gold standard is severely limited. The abandonment of the gold standard made it possible for the welfare statists to use the banking system as a means to an unlimited expansion of credit. They have created paper reserves in the form of government bonds which-through a complex series of steps-the banks accept in place of tangible assets and treat as if they were an actual deposit, i.e., as the equivalent of what was formerly a deposit of gold. The holder of a government bond or of a bank deposit created by paper reserves believes that he has a valid claim on a real asset. But the fact is that there are now more claims outstanding than real assets. The law of supply and demand is not to be conned. As the supply of money (of claims) increases relative to the supply of tangible assets in the economy, prices must eventually rise. Thus the earnings saved by the productive members of the society lose value in terms of goods. When the economy's books are finally balanced, one finds that this loss in value represents the goods purchased by the government for welfare or other purposes with the money proceeds of the government bonds financed by bank credit expansion.

In the absence of the gold standard, there is no way to protect savings from confiscation through inflation. There is no safe store of value. If there were, the government would have to make its holding illegal, as was done in the case of gold. If everyone decided, for example, to convert all his bank deposits to silver or copper or any other good, and thereafter declined to accept checks as payment for goods, bank deposits would lose their purchasing power and government-created bank credit would be worthless as a claim on goods. The financial policy of the welfare state requires that there be no way for the owners of wealth to protect themselves.

This is the shabby secret of the welfare statists' tirades against gold. Deficit spending is simply a scheme for the confiscation of wealth. Gold stands in the way of this insidious process. It stands as a protector of property rights. If one grasps this, one has no difficulty in understanding the statists' antagonism toward the gold standard.


(Greenspan's article originally appeared in a newsletter, “The Objectivist” published in 1966. It was reprinted in Ayn Rand's “Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.”)

December 21, 2010

Defend Bradley Manning

American Soldiers Should Be First in Line To Defend Bradley Manning
by Andrew Mason and Mark R. Crovelli
Source: LewRockwell.com

One of the most curious facets of the ongoing Wikileaks saga is the conspicuous silence of the American military about the Bradley Manning case. The military’s silence is absolutely deafening, for example, on the pages of Stars and Stripes, where only two articles in the turbulent month of December have even deigned to mention Mr. Manning. One would expect that, in a case involving the largest leak of classified documents in the history of the world, the armed forces would be staking out a concrete position on this case for the entire world, and especially the armed forces, to see. After all, it was one of the armed forces’ own who allegedly released the documents to Wikileaks, and other active-duty servicemen with access to classified documents may be considering doing the very same thing as Manning.

This silence emanating from the armed forces regarding Manning raises a fascinating and important question: What position should the armed forces take with regard to the Manning case? We all know what stance the Pentagon is likely to take, given that many of the embarrassing documents actually refer to people in the Pentagon, but the question that truly needs to be answered concerns the position the armed forces should take – especially the position that average soldiers should take on Bradley Manning.

The answer, it turns out, cannot be discovered by facilely pointing out that it is illegal under military law for soldiers to release classified information to the public. This is true, because the document classification system has been manipulated by political and military elites in a way that is extremely prejudicial to average soldiers. Ironically, this fact has itself been revealed by the Wikileaks releases, because it is clear that political and military elites are over-classifying documents in order to protect their own asses. They have been classifying documents "secret" even when they involve nothing more than gossip about foreign diplomats and royalty, for example. Peruse the Wikileaks files for two minutes and you will get a good sense of just how absurd the document classification system in the United States has become.

Insofar as the document classification system in the U.S. has been absurdly extended and abused, this has created a serious moral problem for conscientious soldiers in the armed forces. For, by over-classifying documents, political and military elites are able to hamstring their subordinates and make the exposure of what they are doing virtually impossible, unless it is leaked. Any unsavory, illegal, untruthful or even just plain embarrassing information can be hidden from public view simply by stamping the offensive document "secret." It is also a way for political and military elites to avoid prosecution for crimes in the United States by claiming that their defense involves "sensitive" or "secret" documents that cannot be revealed in open court. This strategy is so common in our corrupted day and age that it even has a name: "greymail."

In essence, then, the document classification system in the United States has warped into an instrument of intimidation against average, conscientious soldiers who might be appalled by their superiors’ words or deeds. Superior officers and civilian bureaucrats can preempt dissent by simply stamping incriminating documents "secret," and use that tiny word as a threat against conscientious soldiers that they had better keep their mouths shut – or else. This threat is all the more unconscionable while two wars are going on that are killing average American soldiers, not political and military elites, in droves. When lies are used to get American soldiers killed, and soldiers are intimidated to preempt the exposure of those lies, you have a recipe for tragedy on a massive scale.

It is important to bear in mind, moreover, that we are not talking about documents upon which the safety of the United States rests. No high-ranking officers would be stupid or reckless enough to share such sensitive documents with low-level officers and enlistees. If they were that mind bogglingly idiotic, then the entire Pentagon and officer corps ought to be forced to resign for incompetence immediately. In addition, the fact that people in Washington routinely leak documents to the press that are far more sensitive to national security than those Manning released, like the National Intelligence Estimate, testifies to the existence of a revolting double standard being applied to political and military elites as compared to the standard being applied to average soldiers like Mr. Manning.

Bearing these observations in mind, it ought to be obvious that average soldiers should celebrate Bradley Manning as a hero who stood up to this unconscionable intimidation from above. He didn’t just reveal to the world that the upper echelons of the political and military establishment are engaged in outright crimes and deception; he revealed and took a stand against conscientious soldiers being silenced by asinine document over-classification. He is, in other words, a defender of the honor and integrity of the average soldier and the Army’s own core values, which stands in stark contrast to the depravity of the political and military elites that we meet in the Wikileaks documents, and who are now trampling on the constitution even in their detention of Mr. Manning.

Thus, average soldiers ought to be the first in line to defend Bradley Manning. They ought to insist that he only be punished if it can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the documents he released were indeed of vital importance to the security of the United States. If this cannot be proven, then Mr. Manning ought to be immediately and unconditionally released. (Proving this in Mr. Manning’s case will be extremely difficult, however, given that Defense Secretary Gates has already asserted that the documents have harmed no one, and the fact that the Pentagon didn’t even think it necessary to redact names from the documents). The assumption going forward, now that we know for a fact that documents are being over-classified in abundance by political and military elites, is that any released document is not vital to national security until conclusively proven otherwise. If average soldiers were to operate under this assumption, moreover, political and military elites would be forced to take the time to actually hide any truly sensitive documents from the view of hundreds of thousands of people, as they should have been doing from day one.

It was long overdue for someone to stand up against the practice of over-classifying documents in order to intimidate average soldiers. Bradley Manning has courageously done so, and all members of the armed forces should rejoice for it.

December 22, 2010

Andrew Mason is a former corporal in the U.S.M.C. Mark R. Crovelli [send him mail] writes from Denver, Colorado.


Copyright © 2010 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.

Masters of War

WikiLeaks exposes the masters of war; the Empire has struck back with persecution and the dubious accusation that WikiLeaks endangers lives. However, Congressman Ron Paul asks, "Which has resulted in the greatest number of deaths; lying us into war, or WikiLeaks’ revelations or the release of the Pentagon Papers?" And, "Could it be that the real reason for the near universal attacks on WikiLeaks is more about secretly maintaining a seriously flawed foreign policy of empire than it is about national security?"





Come you masters of war
You that build the big guns
You that build the death planes
You that build all the bombs
You that hide behind walls
You that hide behind desks
I just want you to know
I can see through your masks.

You that never done nothin'
But build to destroy
You play with my world
Like it's your little toy
You put a gun in my hand
And you hide from my eyes
And you turn and run farther
When the fast bullets fly.

Like Judas of old
You lie and deceive
A world war can be won
You want me to believe
But I see through your eyes
And I see through your brain
Like I see through the water
That runs down my drain.

You fasten all the triggers
For the others to fire
Then you set back and watch
When the death count gets higher
You hide in your mansion'
As young people's blood
Flows out of their bodies
And is buried in the mud.

You've thrown the worst fear
That can ever be hurled
Fear to bring children
Into the world
For threatening my baby
Unborn and unnamed
You ain't worth the blood
That runs in your veins.

How much do I know
To talk out of turn
You might say that I'm young
You might say I'm unlearned
But there's one thing I know
Though I'm younger than you
That even Jesus would never
Forgive what you do.

Let me ask you one question
Is your money that good
Will it buy you forgiveness
Do you think that it could
I think you will find
When your death takes its toll
All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul.

And I hope that you die
And your death'll come soon
I will follow your casket
In the pale afternoon
And I'll watch while you're lowered
Down to your deathbed
And I'll stand over your grave
'Til I'm sure that you're dead.

December 19, 2010

The God in the Cave by G.K. Chesterton

Traditions in art and literature and popular fable have quite sufficiently attested, as has been said, this particular paradox of the divine being in the cradle. Perhaps they have not so clearly emphasised the significance of the divine being in the cave. Curiously enough, indeed, tradition has not very clearly emphasised the cave. It is a familiar fact that the Bethlehem scene has been represented in every possible setting of time and country of landscape and architecture; and it is a wholly happy and admirable fact that men have conceived it as quite different according to their different individual traditions and tastes. But while all have realised that it was a stable, not so many have realised that it was a cave. Some critics have even been so silly as to suppose that there was some contradiction between the stable and the cave; in which case they cannot know much about caves or stables in Palestine. As they see differences that are not there it is needless to add that they do not see differences that are there. When a well-known critic says, for instance, that Christ being born in a rocky cavern is like Mithras having sprung alive out of a rock, it sounds like a parody upon comparative religion. There is such a thing as the point of a story, even if it is a story in the sense of a lie. And the notion of a hero appearing, like Pallas from the brain of Zeus, mature and without a mother, is obviously the very opposite of the idea of a god being born like an ordinary baby and entirely dependent on a mother.

Whichever ideal we might prefer, we should surely see that they are contrary ideals. It is as stupid to connect them because they both contain a substance called stone as to identify the punishment of the Deluge with the baptism in the Jordan because they both contain a substance called water. Whether as a myth or a mystery, Christ was obviously conceived as born in a hole in the rocks primarily because it marked the position of one outcast and homeless....
It would be vain to attempt to say anything adequate, or anything new, about the change which this conception of a deity born like an outcast or even an outlaw had upon the whole conception of law and its duties to the poor and outcast. It is profoundly true to say that after that moment there could be no slaves. There could be and were people bearing that legal title, until the Church was strong enough to weed them out, but there could be no more of the pagan repose in the mere advantage to the state of keeping it a servile state. Individuals became important, in a sense in which no instruments can be important. A man could not be a means to an end, at any rate to any other man's end. All this popular and fraternal element in the story has been rightly attached by tradition to the episode of the Shepherds; the hinds who found themselves talking face to face with the princes of heaven. But there is another aspect of the popular element as represented by the shepherds which has not perhaps been so fully developed; and which is more directly relevant here.

Men of the people, like the shepherds, men of the popular tradition, had everywhere been the makers of the mythologies. It was they who had felt most directly, with least check or chill from philosophy or the corrupt cults of civilisation, the need we have already considered; the images that were adventures of the imagination; the mythology that was a sort of search; the tempting and tantalising hints of something half-human in nature; the dumb significance of seasons and special places. They had best understood that the soul of a landscape is a story, and the soul of a story is a personality. But rationalism had already begun to rot away these really irrational though imaginative treasures of the peasant; even as a systematic slavery had eaten the peasant out of house and home. Upon all such peasantries everywhere there was descending a dusk and twilight of disappointment, in the hour when these few men discovered what they sought. Everywhere else Arcadia was fading from the forest. Pan was dead and the shepherds were scattered like sheep. And though no man knew it, the hour was near which was to end and to fulfil all things; and, though no man heard it, there was one far-off cry in an unknown tongue upon the heaving wilderness of the mountains. The shepherds had found their Shepherd.

And the thing they found was of a kind with the things they sought. The populace had been wrong in many things; but they had not been wrong in believing that holy things could have a habitation and that divinity need not disdain the limits of time and space. And the barbarian who conceived the crudest fancy about the sun being stolen and hidden in a box, or the wildest myth about the god being rescued and his enemy deceived with a stone, was nearer to the secret of the cave and knew more about the crisis of the world, than all those in the circle of cities round the Mediterranean who had become content with cold abstractions or cosmopolitan generalisations; than all those who were spinning thinner and thinner threads of thought out of the transcendentalism of Plato or the orientalism of Pythagoras. The place that the shepherds found was not an academy or an abstract republic; it was not a place of myths allegorised or dissected or explained or explained away. It was a place of dreams come true. Since that hour no mythologies have been made in the world. Mythology is a search....

The philosophers had also heard. It is still a strange story, though an old one, how they came out of orient lands, crowned with the majesty of kings and clothed with something of the mystery of magicians. That truth that is tradition has wisely remembered them almost as unknown quantities, as mysterious as their mysterious and melodious names; Melchior, Caspar, Balthazar. But there came with them all that world of wisdom that had watched the stars in Chaldea and the sun in Persia; and we shall not be wrong if we see in them the same curiosity that moves all the sages. They would stand for the same human ideal if their names had really been Confucius or Pythagoras or Plato. They were those who sought not tales but the truth of things; and since their thirst for truth was itself a thirst for God, they also have had their reward. But even in order to understand that reward, we must understand that for philosophy as much as mythology, that reward was the completion of the incomplete....

The Magi, who stand for mysticism and philosophy, are truly conceived as seeking something new and even as finding something unexpected. That sense of crisis which still tingles in the Christmas story and even in every Christmas celebration, accentuates the idea of a search and a discovery. For the other mystical figures in the miracle play, for the angel and the mother, the shepherds and the soldiers of Herod, there may be aspects both simpler and more supernatural, more elemental or more emotional. But the Wise Men must be seeking wisdom; and for them there must be a light also in the intellect. And this is the light; that the Catholic creed is catholic and that nothing else is catholic. The philosophy of the Church is universal. The philosophy of the philosophers was not universal. Had Plato and Pythagoras and Aristotle stood for an instant in the light that came out of that little cave, they would have known that their own light was not universal. It is far from certain, indeed, that they did not know it already. Philosophy also, like mythology, had very much the air of a search. It is the realisation of this truth that gives its traditional majesty and mystery to the figures of the Three Kings; the discovery that religion is broader than philosophy and that this is the broadest of religions, contained within this narrow space....

We might well be content to say that mythology had come with the shepherds and philosophy with the philosophers; and that it only remained for them to combine in the recognisation of religion. But there was a third element that must not be ignored and one which that religion for ever refuses to ignore, in any revel or reconciliation. There was present in the primary scenes of the drama that Enemy that had rotted the legends with lust and frozen the theories into atheism, but which answered the direct challenge with something of that more direct method which we have seen in the conscious cult of the demons. In the description of that demon-worship, of the devouring detestation of innocence shown in the works of its witchcraft and the most inhuman of its human sacrifice, I have said less of its indirect and secret penetration of the saner paganism; the soaking of mythological imagination with sex; the rise of imperial pride into insanity. But both the indirect and the direct influence make themselves felt in the drama of Bethlehem. A ruler under the Roman suzerainty, probably equipped and surrounded with the Roman ornament and order though himself of eastern blood, seems in that hour to have felt stirring within him the spirit of strange things. We all know the story of how Herod, alarmed at some rumour of a mysterious rival, remembered the wild gesture of the capricious despots of Asia and ordered a massacre of suspects of the new generation of the populace. Everyone knows the story; but not everyone has perhaps noted its place in the story of the strange religions of men. Not everybody has seen the significance even of its very contrast with the Corinthian columns and Roman pavement of that conquered and superficially civilised world. Only, as the purpose in this dark spirit began to show and shine in the eyes of the Idumean, a seer might perhaps have seen something like a great grey ghost that looked over his shoulder; have seen behind him filling the dome of night and hovering for the last time over history, that vast and fearful fact that was Moloch of the Carthaginians; awaiting his last tribute from a ruler of the races of Shem. The demons in that first festival of Christmas, feasted also in their own fashion.

December 17, 2010

Does WikiLeaks endanger lives?

"Let the eye of vigilance never be closed."
~Thomas Jefferson to Spencer Roane, 1821.

The US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, attacked WikiLeaks over U.S. embassy cables, claiming the publication of private diplomatic communications represents an attack on the fabric of "responsible government" and "it puts people's lives in danger". A White House spokesman also said that the stealing and dissemination of classified information is illegal and the Obama administration is considering legal action against WikiLeaks.

Let us briefly consider the aforementioned claims, the last one first. As far as I can determine from the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Daniel Ellsburg case, WikiLeaks has done nothing illegal by merely disseminating U.S. documents sent to WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks had no part in the theft of those documents. That is why the Obama administration is still considering legal action against WikiLeaks. Any new laws would not apply to WikiLeaks due to the illegality of ex post facto laws. The government's problem and contacts with Wikileaks pre-dates any newly created laws.

That being the case, in the Ellsburg matter Supreme Court Justice Stewart’s opinion, joined by White, set the standard for what the Supreme Court would support for national security-based restrictions on press freedom: disclosure must “surely result in direct, immediate, and irreparable harm to our Nation, or its people.”

Stewart wrote: “We are asked, quite simply, to prevent the publication by two newspapers of material that the Executive Branch insists should not, in the national interest, be published. I am convinced that the Executive is correct with respect to some of the documents involved. But I cannot say that disclosure of any of them will surely result in direct, immediate, and irreparable harm to our Nation, or its people. That being so, there can under the First Amendment be but one judicial resolution of the issues before us.”

Justice Stewart also said: “In the absence of the governmental checks and balances present in other areas of our national life, the only effective restraint upon executive policy and power in the areas of national defense and international affairs may lie in an enlightened citizenry – in an informed and critical public opinion which alone can here protect the values of democratic government.”

Stewart described Executive power over internal security as “an awesome responsibility, requiring judgment and wisdom of a high order. I should suppose that moral, political, and practical considerations would dictate that a very first principle of that wisdom would be an insistence upon avoiding secrecy for its own sake. For when everything is classified, then nothing is classified, and the system becomes one to be disregarded by the cynical or the careless, and to be manipulated by those intent on self protection or self-promotion. I should suppose, in short, that the hallmark of a truly effective internal security system would be the maximum possible disclosure, recognizing that secrecy can best be preserved only when credibility is truly maintained.” (See all opinions, New York Times Co. v United States)

Hillary Clinton's claim to responsible government begs the question. If Clinton and the U.S. government took seriously the Constitution and international humanitarian law, then her remark would not appear so laughable. Clinton is an example of the kind of duplicitous politician who is responsible for the stark absence of credibility in the federal govenrment.

The accusation that WikiLeaks is endangering lives is so far answered by the fact there is no evidence to support to claim. Nonetheless, government officials repeat the "endangering lives" accusation ad nauseam. (See the BBC report Has release of Wikileaks documents cost lives?)

The accusation of "endangering lives" should be directed, rather, to the federal government. Inarguably, U.S. interventionist foreign "policy" is what endangers lives. It is a policy, if one can call it such, that runs roughshod over the Constitution and human rights. The WikiLeaks' disclosures leave no doubt as to where the real problem lies. 

If the U.S. government did not recklessly endanger lives, and conducted its affairs in a manner befitting a "responsible government", then it would have little to fear from WikiLeaks. The disclosures with have hardly gained public attention. Alas, this not the case.

The Empire will, as it must, persecute the whistleblower who revealed so many of its dirty little secrets. The following video examines the U.S. miltary's practice of turning prisoners over to the Iraqi government to be tortured. This is just one of countless atrocities that gives the lie to Hillary's claim that the federal government is a "responsible government."




See next, Wikileaks Iraq: data journalism maps every death

For myself, the data journalism maps call to mind General Tommy Franks bald-faced lie: "We don't do body counts", and George Bush's ludicrous statement: "Saddam Hussein is no longer in power. That’s for certain. He was in power, and now he is not. And therefore, the Iraqi people’s lives will be much better off."

Bush also said, "I’ve always said democracy is going to be hard. It’s not easy to go from being enslaved to being free. But it’s going to happen, because the basic instincts of mankind is to be free. They want to be free." So many Iraqis murdered -- that is an awfully strange way to spread democracy.

There is an inherent contradiction in the attempt to bring democracy to a country by totalitarian means. These means have done incalculably more harm to the Iraqi people than Saddam ever dreamed of doing, or was even capable of doing. 

Despite Bush's publicly stated reasons for unleashing war on Iraq, which were mere pretext, we know the neoconservatives real reasons for the invasion and occupation.

Assange's next project

Julian Assange to Launch Social Network for Diplomats, Twofacebook

WikiLeaks Founder Plans ‘Portal of Deceit’

LONDON (The Borowitz Report) – Moments after being released on bail, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was already making plans for his next venture, a social network for diplomats called Twofacebook.

Mr. Assange said he came up with the idea for the new site while combing through hundreds of thousands of pages of WikiLeaks documents: “I realized that diplomats didn’t have a way to reconnect with old colleagues so they could lie to them.”

Saying that he hopes to build the site into a “portal of deceit,” Mr. Assange said, “This will be a must-visit destination on the Internet for sworn enemies to friend each other.”

The WikiLeaks founder said that Twofacebook would also enable members of the diplomatic community to share information about music, movies and TV shows “that they say they like but actually detest.”

Additionally, he said he had high hopes for the site’s first online game, Harmville, in which diplomats can kill or maim each other’s sheep.

December 15, 2010

Ron Paul: Lying is Not Patriotic (text)

This is the text of Congressman Ron Paul's speech before the House of Representatives.

WikiLeaks’ release of classified information has generated a lot of attention world-wide in the past few weeks.

The hysterical reaction makes one wonder if this is not an example of killing the messenger for the bad news.

Despite what is claimed, information so far released, though classified, has caused no known harm to any individual, but it has caused plenty of embarrassment to our government. Losing a grip on our empire is not welcomed by the neo-conservatives in charge.

There is now more information confirming that Saudi Arabia is a principle supporter and financier of Al Qaeda and this should set off alarm bells since we guarantee its Sharia-run government.

This emphasizes even more the fact that no Al Qaeda existed in Iraq before 9/11, and yet we went to war against Iraq based on the lie that it did.

It has been charged, by self-proclaimed experts, that Julian Assange, the internet publisher of this information, has committed a heinous crime deserving prosecution for treason and execution or even assassination.

But should we not at least ask how the U.S. government can charge an Australian citizen with treason for publishing U.S. secret information, that he did not steal?

And if WikiLeaks is to be prosecuted for publishing classified documents, why shouldn’t the Washington Post, New York Times, and others that have also published these documents be prosecuted? Actually, some in Congress are threatening this as well.

The New York Times, as a result of a Supreme Court ruling, was not found guilty in 1971 for the publication of the Pentagon Papers. Daniel Ellsberg never served a day in prison for his role in obtaining these secret documents.

The Pentagon Papers were also inserted into the Congressional Record by Senator Mike Gravel with no charges being made of breaking any National Security laws.

Yet the release of this classified information was considered illegal by many, and those who lied us into the Vietnam War and argued for its prolongation were outraged. But the truth gained from the Pentagon Papers revealed that lies were told about the Gulf of Tonkin attack which perpetuated a sad and tragic episode in our history.

Just as with the Vietnam War, the Iraq War was based on lies. We were never threatened by Weapons of Mass Destruction or Al Qaeda in Iraq, though the attack on Iraq was based on this false information.

Any information that challenges the official propaganda for the war in the Middle East is unwelcome by the administration and supporters of these unnecessary wars. Few are interested in understanding the relationship of our foreign policy and our presence in the Middle East to the threat of terrorism. Revealing the real nature and goal for our presence in so many Muslim countries is a threat to our empire and any revelation of this truth is highly resented by those in charge.

Questions to consider:

1. Do the American people deserve to know the truth regarding the ongoing war in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen?

2. Could a larger question be: how can an Army Private gain access to so much secret material?

3. Why is the hostility mostly directed at Assange, the publisher, and not our government’s failure to protect classified information?

4. Are we getting our money’s worth from the $80 billion per year we spend on our intelligence agencies?

5. Which has resulted in the greatest number of deaths; lying us into war, or WikiLeaks’ revelations or the release of the Pentagon Papers?

6. If Assange can be convicted of a crime for publishing information, that he did not steal, what does this say about the future of the First Amendment and the independence of the internet?

7. Could it be that the real reason for the near universal attacks on WikiLeaks is more about secretly maintaining a seriously flawed foreign policy of empire than it is about national security?

8. Is there not a huge difference between releasing secret information to help the enemy in the time of a declared war – which is treason – and the releasing of information to expose our government lies that promote secret wars, death, and corruption?

9. Was it not once considered patriotic to stand up to our government when it’s wrong?

Thomas Jefferson had it right when he advised: “Let the eyes of vigilance never be closed.”

December 11, 2010

December 8, 2010

What your tax dollars buy

You probably never suspected your tax dollars help pay for drugs, bacha bazi parties and pimping of Afghan boys.

WikiLeaks: Texas Company Helped Pimp Little Boys To Stoned Afghan Cops

Another international conflict, another horrific taxpayer-funded sex scandal for DynCorp, the private security contractor tasked with training the Afghan police.

While the company is officially based in the DC area, most of its business is managed on a satellite campus at Alliance Airport north of Fort Worth. And if one of the diplomatic cables from the WikiLeaks archive is to be believed, boy howdy, are their doings in Afghanistan shady.

The Afghanistan cable (dated June 24, 2009) discusses a meeting between Afghan Interior Minister Hanif Atmar and US assistant ambassador Joseph Mussomeli. Prime among Atmar's concerns was a party partially thrown by DynCorp for Afghan police recruits in Kunduz Province.

Many of DynCorp's employees are ex-Green Berets and veterans of other elite units, and the company was commissioned by the US government to provide training for the Afghani police. According to most reports, over 95 percent of its $2 billion annual revenue comes from US taxpayers.

And in Kunduz province, according to the leaked cable, that money was flowing to drug dealers and pimps. Pimps of children, to be more precise. (The exact type of drug was never specified.)

Since this is Afghanistan, you probably already knew this wasn't a kegger. Instead, this DynCorp soiree was a bacha bazi ("boy-play") party, much like the ones uncovered earlier this year by Frontline...

Read rest of this story

December 7, 2010

Assange - The Truth Will Always Win

The Truth Will Always Win
by Julian Assange

In 1958 a young Rupert Murdoch, then owner and editor of Adelaide’s The News, wrote: “In the race between secrecy and truth, it seems inevitable that truth will always win.”

His observation perhaps reflected his father Keith Murdoch’s expose that Australian troops were being needlessly sacrificed by incompetent British commanders on the shores of Gallipoli. The British tried to shut him up but Keith Murdoch would not be silenced and his efforts led to the termination of the disastrous Gallipoli campaign.

Nearly a century later, WikiLeaks is also fearlessly publishing facts that need to be made public.

I grew up in a Queensland country town where people spoke their minds bluntly. They distrusted big government as something that could be corrupted if not watched carefully. The dark days of corruption in the Queensland government before the Fitzgerald inquiry are testimony to what happens when the politicians gag the media from reporting the truth.

These things have stayed with me. WikiLeaks was created around these core values. The idea, conceived in Australia, was to use internet technologies in new ways to report the truth.

WikiLeaks coined a new type of journalism: scientific journalism. We work with other media outlets to bring people the news, but also to prove it is true. Scientific journalism allows you to read a news story, then to click online to see the original document it is based on. That way you can judge for yourself: Is the story true? Did the journalist report it accurately?

Democratic societies need a strong media and WikiLeaks is part of that media. The media helps keep government honest. WikiLeaks has revealed some hard truths about the Iraq and Afghan wars, and broken stories about corporate corruption.

People have said I am anti-war: for the record, I am not. Sometimes nations need to go to war, and there are just wars. But there is nothing more wrong than a government lying to its people about those wars, then asking these same citizens to put their lives and their taxes on the line for those lies. If a war is justified, then tell the truth and the people will decide whether to support it.

If you have read any of the Afghan or Iraq war logs, any of the US embassy cables or any of the stories about the things WikiLeaks has reported, consider how important it is for all media to be able to report these things freely.

WikiLeaks is not the only publisher of the US embassy cables. Other media outlets, including Britain ‘s The Guardian, The New York Times, El Pais in Spain and Der Spiegel in Germany have published the same redacted cables.

Yet it is WikiLeaks, as the co-ordinator of these other groups, that has copped the most vicious attacks and accusations from the US government and its acolytes. I have been accused of treason, even though I am an Australian, not a US, citizen. There have been dozens of serious calls in the US for me to be “taken out” by US special forces. Sarah Palin says I should be “hunted down like Osama bin Laden”, a Republican bill sits before the US Senate seeking to have me declared a “transnational threat” and disposed of accordingly. An adviser to the Canadian Prime Minister’s office has called on national television for me to be assassinated. An American blogger has called for my 20-year-old son, here in Australia, to be kidnapped and harmed for no other reason than to get at me.

And Australians should observe with no pride the disgraceful pandering to these sentiments by Prime Minister Gillard and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have not had a word of criticism for the other media organisations. That is because The Guardian, The New York Times and Der Spiegel are old and large, while WikiLeaks is as yet young and small.

We are the underdogs. The Gillard government is trying to shoot the messenger because it doesn’t want the truth revealed, including information about its own diplomatic and political dealings.

Has there been any response from the Australian government to the numerous public threats of violence against me and other WikiLeaks personnel? One might have thought an Australian prime minister would be defending her citizens against such things, but there have only been wholly unsubstantiated claims of illegality. The Prime Minister and especially the Attorney-General are meant to carry out their duties with dignity and above the fray. Rest assured, these two mean to save their own skins. They will not.

Every time WikiLeaks publishes the truth about abuses committed by US agencies, Australian politicians chant a provably false chorus with the State Department: “You’ll risk lives! National security! You’ll endanger troops!” Then they say there is nothing of importance in what WikiLeaks publishes. It can’t be both. Which is it?

It is neither. WikiLeaks has a four-year publishing history. During that time we have changed whole governments, but not a single person, as far as anyone is aware, has been harmed. But the US , with Australian government connivance, has killed thousands in the past few months alone.

US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates admitted in a letter to the US congress that no sensitive intelligence sources or methods had been compromised by the Afghan war logs disclosure. The Pentagon stated there was no evidence the WikiLeaks reports had led to anyone being harmed in Afghanistan. NATO in Kabul told CNN it couldn’t find a single person who needed protecting. The Australian Department of Defence said the same. No Australian troops or sources have been hurt by anything we have published.

But our publications have been far from unimportant. The US diplomatic cables reveal some startling facts:

* The US asked its diplomats to steal personal human material and information from UN officials and human rights groups, including DNA, fingerprints, iris scans, credit card numbers, internet passwords and ID photos, in violation of international treaties. Presumably Australian UN diplomats may be targeted, too.

* King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia asked the US Officials in Jordan and Bahrain want Iran ‘s nuclear program stopped by any means available.

* Britain’s Iraq inquiry was fixed to protect “US interests”.

* Sweden is a covert member of NATO and US intelligence sharing is kept from parliament.

* The US is playing hardball to get other countries to take freed detainees from Guantanamo Bay . Barack Obama agreed to meet the Slovenian President only if Slovenia took a prisoner. Our Pacific neighbour Kiribati was offered millions of dollars to accept detainees.


In its landmark ruling in the Pentagon Papers case, the US Supreme Court said “only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government”. The swirling storm around WikiLeaks today reinforces the need to defend the right of all media to reveal the truth.


December 3, 2010

On WikiLeaks

The original site for WikiLeaks, wikileaks.org, appears to be blocked. Here is the latest URL for WikiLeaks: http://213.251.145.96/

For full coverage of WikiLeaks, see the guardian.co.uk
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/the-us-embassy-cables

Western Civilization Has Shed Its Values

Reporters Without Borders Defends WikiLeaks 

Why WikiLeaks Is Good for America

From WL Central, and unofficial WikiLeaks source:
Cablegate: Journalists in defence of WikiLeaks: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3
While some of his colleagues are calling for Julian Assange to be prosecuted as a terrorist or assassinated, in an interview on Fox News' Freedom Watch on Thursday, Republican Rep. Ron Paul said that Julian Assange and WikiLeaks should get the same kind of protections as the mainstream media when it comes to releasing information.

"In a free society we're supposed to know the truth," Paul said, quoted by Politico. "In a society where truth becomes treason, then we're in big trouble. And now, people who are revealing the truth are getting into trouble for it."

"This whole notion that Assange, who's an Australian, that we want to prosecute him for treason. I mean, aren't they jumping to a wild conclusion?” he added. “This is media, isn't it? I mean, why don't we prosecute The New York Times or anybody that releases this?"

"What we need is more WikiLeaks about the Federal Reserve," he added. "Can you imagine what it'd be like if we had every conversation in the last 10 years with our Federal Reserve people, the Federal Reserve chairman, with all the central bankers of the world and every agreement or quid-pro-quo they have? It would be massive. People would be so outraged."

In a Twitter post on Friday, Ron Paul wrote: "Re: WikiLeaks — In a free society, we are supposed to know the truth. In a society where truth becomes treason, we are in big trouble."
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange 'will release poison pill of damaging secrets if killed or arrested

December 1, 2010

National biometric ID cards - a costly and dangerous scheme

I should preface this discussion by saying that I do not like politics. I love political philosophy, though, but the current state of political affairs reveal that nothing is more immediately necessary, yet so starkly lacking in most politicians, than is a sound philosophy of government. The radical ideologies of many public officials, both elected and nonelected (e.g. the Federal Reserve Board), have steadily undermined constitutional government and made shipwreck of the U.S. economy. One of the latest political schemes, the national biometric identification card, is a statist threat to every American, one that compels me to address the problem.

I will first present a few ideas on the costs involved with national identification cards. Next, I will describe the threat national biometric ID cards pose to personal and constitutional liberties.

During March of this year, Senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) met with President Obama and discussed their plan for requiring biometric national ID cards. Obama, expressed his support of the new law, and later announced, "I . . . pledge to do everything in my power to forge a bipartisan consensus on this important issue so we can continue to move forward on comprehensive immigration reform."

The senators claim national identification cards are what the government needs to overhaul the immigration law; that national ID cards will "ensure that illegal workers cannot get jobs," and will "dramatically decrease illegal immigration."

[Requires that within 2 years, only fraud-resistant, tamper-resistant, and wear-resistant Social Security cards will be issued. Within one year, the DHS must issue only machine readable, tamper-resistant employment authorization documents that use biometric identifiers.]

That national biometric ID cards “are needed” is specious. The argument implies lawmakers are incapable of reforming immigration law without the Schumer-Graham ID scheme. The next statement, that national ID cards will "ensure that illegal workers cannot get jobs", is an overblown claim. At best, it will limit illegal workers to the kinds of employers they work for, employers who do not use standard payroll methods or check a worker’s identification. Thus, one unintended effect of national ID cards may be a surge in the underground economy.

Nonproductive costs

We should ask at what cost national identification cards are to American citizens and employers. Seldom do the statists in Washington give an accurate accounting of the costs involved with their radical innovations. How rare it is for them to ask how we are going to pay for this or that swell idea. It matters little to the radical innovators that the U.S. government debt exceeds $13 trillion and has been growing at the average rate of $4.13 billion each since September 28, 2007.

Rather than spending more money on new programs, as if government programs could fix the economy, the federal government should be liquidating its debt. But fiscal responsibility is nowhere to found in the short deck of cards played by Congress and the president. So, we continue to count the costs.

Count the time involved for citizens, illegal workers and government employees just for the scanning alone. This will entail a nightmare of many millions of people standing in long lines at the DMV and Social Security offices. While there is no requirement for an initial re-certification of the entire work force, new hires must be processed.

If the law passes, it will require employers to verify a worker’s identity: “An improved tamper-proof Social Security card would let employers verify that holders' identity and that they are authorized to work in the United States, based on a machine reader that would confirm an individual's fingerprints or eye scan,” the senators told the Washington Post.

Employers will need to buy scanning machines, which may cost from $800 - $1,000. The amount is a nonproductive expense for businesses. Small businesses that cannot afford the expense will have to send new hires to the DMV for scanning.

What will be the enforcement costs to ensure employers comply with the new law? Whatever the case may be, we can continue to almost no end considering nonproductive costs, but apart from such economic considerations, the national identification card entails much greater problems.

The national biometric ID card scheme is a slippery slope. It makes smooth the path to the eventual and total loss of everyone’s individual freedom. National ID cards are every statist’s wet dream.

Loss of freedom

As previously stated, a national ID scheme, complete with biometric tracking technology, is embedded in the new “Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill” being pushed by Senators Graham and Schumer, and other statists in both major parties.

The following statements on the national ID card scheme are excerpted from a newsletter by John F. Tate, President of Campaign for Liberty.

[I]f passed, the “Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill” would require a new National ID card that would:

*** Include biometric identification information, such as fingerprints, retinal scans or scans of veins on the back of hands. Depending on the technology used, the ID card could easily be used as a tracking device;

*** Be required for all U.S. workers regardless of place of birth, and make it illegal for anyone to hold a job in the United States who doesn't obtain the ID card;

*** Require all employers to purchase an “ID scanner” to verify the ID cards with the federal government. Every time any citizen applies for a job, the government would know -- and you can bet it’s only a matter of time until “ID scans” will be required to make even routine purchases, as well.

Of course, the most dangerous part of the bill is the biometric tracking technology which would allow federal bureaucrats to track our every move. Allowing our government to have this much “prying power” in our lives will ultimately result in the TOTAL loss of freedom. This is exactly the type of battle that often decides whether a country remains free, or continues down a slide toward tyranny.

Government goon squads with all our personal information -- information they do not need and constitutionally should not have -- is a recipe for disaster for our nation.

You see, once “well-meaning” government bureaucrats know exactly how we live our lives, it won’t be long until they try to run them. In fact, it will only be a matter of time until they spend their workdays making sure you and I don’t go anywhere we “shouldn’t,” buy anything we “shouldn’t,” read anything we “shouldn’t,” eat anything we “shouldn’t” or smoke anything we “shouldn’t.”

You see, this fight isn’t really about immigration. Whatever you think of that fight, it’s simply being used as cover.

[T]he statists are trying a bipartisan “backdoor” scheme to impose more control on American citizens. They’re hoping that after months of Big Media mouthpieces decrying the “poisonous and partisan politics” in Washington, the American people will jump for joy at the sight of a Democrat from liberal New York and a Republican from conservative South Carolina “working together to solve our immigration mess.”

After all, liberty activists can hardly find two Senators with bigger vendettas against the liberty movement than Senator Chuck Schumer and Senator Lindsey Graham.

Senator Graham himself has very publicly denounced the limited government REVOLUTION launched by Dr. Ron Paul. He’s stated that we’re not welcome in HIS party. And now, he’s proving why the one who should not be welcome in any party that values freedom is LINDSEY GRAHAM.

There is already a strong, “bipartisan coalition” developing, and the American people barely know what’s going on.
+++
See also

Ron Paul: A National ID Card? Outrageous!

Ron Paul’s Opposition to the National ID Card (1998 - 2010)

The National Biometric ID Card: The Mark of the Beast?
by John W. Whitehead

The National Tamper-proof ID Card Scam—Watch Out!
by Paul Huebl

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