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America’s Real Welfare Queens: Fortune 100 Companies

in Liberator Online Archives, Welfare by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 14 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Welfare QueensEarlier this year Open the Books, a non-partisan watchdog group advocating transparency in public spending, issued a genuinely shocking report that added up all federal grants, loans, direct payments, and insurance subsidies going to private companies.

Among its findings: corporate-welfare payments from the federal government to the Fortune 100 companies, from 2000 to 2012, amounted to more than $1.2 trillion.

The bulk of this was in the form of contracts between government agencies and private firms, with the largest going to the military-industrial complex. While these provide some services to taxpayers, such spending is difficult to control because the huge sums also fund a massive lobbying industry busily working for more such spending.

But contracts aside, staggering amounts of money were just given away as outright subsidies — taxpayer-funded handouts to the biggest businesses in America.

Writing in National Review Online, economist Stephen Moore summarizes: “$21.3 billion… was doled out in the form of outright income-transfer subsidies to corporate America. On average, each Fortune 100 company received about $200 million in such [taxpayer-funded] handouts.

“So who are the major corporate-welfare queens? The biggest grant recipients were General Electric ($380 million), followed by General Motors ($370 million), Boeing ($264 million), Archer Daniels Midland ($174 million), and United Technologies ($160 million).

“About $8.5 billion of this largesse came in the form of taxpayer-subsidized loans. The big winners here were Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Ford Motor Company, and other multibillion-dollar corporations whose franchisees received Small Business Administration loans.

“Archer Daniels Midland got just under $1 billion for USDA farm-program loans, and this doesn’t include ethanol subsidies. Another $10 billion was doled out through federal insurance…”

And the problem goes beyond even these staggering sums. Says Moore:

“That $1.2 trillion number does not include the hundreds of billions of dollars in housing, bank, and auto-company bailouts in 2008 and 2009, because those payments are kept mostly invisible in the federal-agency books. It also doesn’t include the asset purchases of the Federal Reserve, indirect subsidies such as the ethanol mandate that enriches large agribusinesses like Archer Daniels Midland…

“Amazingly, all but one of the Fortune 100 stood in the federal soup line to take at least some form of corporate-welfare benefit.”

Sums up Moore: “Imagine for a moment that you are sitting on your couch watching TV and there is a knock on the door. There in a corporate suit is an employee of General Dynamics with a tin cup and he asks if you would contribute a dollar for a research project. You would slam the door in his face. But somehow when the government collects a dollar from each of us and gives the money to General Dynamics, this is considered in Washington a wise ‘investment.’”

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Are You on the Fed’s Terrorist Watchlist?

in Liberator Online Archives by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 14 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

You can be pulled into the NSA’s database, put on a terrorist watchlist, and receive discriminatory treatment from local, state, and national law enforcement agents — without warning or notice, and for something as innocent as a Facebook or Twitter post.

So reports journalist Arjun Sethi in a shocking story in The Guardian, August 30, entitled, appropriately enough, “The US government can brand you a terrorist based on a Facebook post.”

“Through ICREACH, a Google-style search engine created for the intelligence community, the NSA provides data on private communications to 23 government agencies. More than 1,000 analysts had access to that information. …

“It was confirmed earlier this month that the FBI shares its master watchlist, the Terrorist Screening Database, with at least 22 foreign governments, countless federal agencies, state and local law enforcement, plus private contractors…

“The Terrorist Screening Database watchlist tracks ‘known’ and ‘suspected’ terrorists and includes both foreigners and Americans. It’s also based on loose standards and secret evidence, which ensnares innocent people. Indeed, the standards are so low that the U.S. government’s guidelines specifically allow for a single, uncorroborated source of information — including a Facebook or Twitter post — to serve as the basis for placing you on its master watchlist.”

Indeed, according to the investigative journalism website The Intercept, the Terrorist Screening Database has about 680,000 people on it — and more than 40 percent are described by the government itself as having “no recognized terrorist group affiliation.” That’s a whopping 280,000 people.

Continues the Guardian: “These eye-popping numbers are largely the result of the US government’s use of a loose standard — so-called ‘reasonable suspicion’ — in determining who, exactly, can be watchlisted.

“Reasonable suspicion is such a low standard because it requires neither ‘concrete evidence’ nor ‘irrefutable evidence.’ Instead, an official is permitted to consider ‘reasonable inferences’ and ‘to draw from the facts in light of his/her experience.’”

Further, the loose rules allow watchlisting without even the minimum standard of  reasonable suspicion. Non-citizens can be watchlisted just for being associated with a watchlisted person, even if the relationship is totally innocent. If a source or tipster describes a non-citizen as an “extremist,” a “militant,” or some similar term, and the FBI can make some vague connection, this could be enough to watchlist a person. The watchlist designation is secret, so no one is able to challenge these allegations.

But being on the watchlist can bring terrible consequences, notes the Guardian:

“Life on the master watchlist can trigger enhanced screening at borders and airports; being on the No Fly List, which is a subset of the larger terrorist watchlist, can prevent airline travel altogether. The watchlist can separate family members for months or years, isolate individuals from friends and associates, and ruin employment prospects.

“Being branded a terrorism suspect also has far-reaching privacy implications. The watchlist is widely accessible, and government officials routinely collect the biometric data of watchlisted individuals, including their fingerprints and DNA strands. Law enforcement has likewise been directed to gather any and all available evidence when encountering watchlisted individuals, including receipts, business cards, health information and bank statements. …

“A watchlist based on poor standards and secret processes raises major constitutional concerns, including the right to travel freely and not to be deprived of liberty without due process of law.”

Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, agrees: “We’re getting into Minority Report territory when being friends with the wrong person can mean the government puts you in a database and adds DMV photos, iris scans, and face recognition technology to track you secretly and without your knowledge. The fact that this information can be shared with agencies from the CIA to the NYPD, which are not known for protecting civil liberties, brings us closer to an invasive and rights-violating government surveillance society at home and abroad.”

The Guardian concludes with a question you’re probably already asking yourself:

“Indeed, you can’t help but wonder: are you already on the watchlist?”

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VIDEO: Fire Sale on U.S. Military Tanks — Get One for Your Town Today!

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online Archives, Military, National Defense by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 14 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Millions of Americans were shocked to see protestors in Ferguson, Missouri met with a militarized police force decked out in Kevlar vests, helmets, and camouflage, armed with pistols, shotguns, automatic rifles, and tear gas, and riding in armored military vehicles.

Though the weapons came from a variety of sources, such scenes brought public attention to the Pentagon’s 1033 program, which supplies military-grade equipment to local police departments, often for free.

Now the crack investigative journalists at Reason TV have unearthed a Pentagon commercial advertising the program to law enforcement. (Or so Reason TV says…)

Watch “Pentagon Has ‘Everything Must Go’ Sale.” Laugh, cringe… and laugh again. Then share with friends!

Approximately 1:37 in length. Performed by Will Neff. Written and produced by Neff and Paul Detrick.

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Burger King: “Bye” to U.S. High Taxes

in Liberator Online Archives by James W. Harris Comments are off

Burger King(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 14 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

This popular meme floating around the web pretty much says it all:

Statists: If you don’t like the laws, then leave!

Burger King: K, bye.

Statists: OMG NO, YOU CAN’T DO THAT, YOU UN-AMERICAN, TRAITOR, GREEDY PEOPLE! WE WANT TO STEAL MORE FROM YOU!

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THEY SAID IT…

in Communicating Liberty by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the They Said It section in Volume 19, No. 13 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Conor Friedersdorf

LIBERTARIAN VICTORIES: “If fewer people are caged for inhaling the smoke of a plant, that’s a libertarian victory. If fewer people’s doors are kicked in late at night by police officers dressed in combat fatigues, that’s a libertarian victory. If more cancer patients can legally obtain a substance that alleviates their suffering, that’s a libertarian victory. If fewer assets are seized by police without proof of guilt, that’s a libertarian victory.” — Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic, “Libertarians Can Be a Significant Force for Good in U.S. Politics,” refuting critics who charge that libertarianism is not changing U.S. politics.
REFUTING THE LATEST PROGRESSIVE LIE ABOUT LIBERTARIANS:

Elizabeth Nolan Brown“There seems to be a meme going around that libertarians don’t care or aren’t talking about what’s going on in Ferguson, Missouri. And like most things mainstream left/right pundits say about libertarians, it has almost zero relation to the truth. … If you don’t think libertarians are talking about (and outraged over) Ferguson, you’re clearly not reading or talking to many libertarians.” — Elizabeth Nolan Brown, “Where Are the Libertarians on Ferguson? Here, LMGTFY,” The Dish, Aug. 14 2014. Her article provides many examples of libertarian activists and organizations fighting against police militarization now and in the past.

DESTRUCTION OF PROPERTY BY… BLEEDING: “Police in Ferguson, Missouri, once charged a man with destruction of property for bleeding on their uniforms while four of them allegedly beat him.” — Michael Daly, “The Day Ferguson Cops Were Caught in a Bloody Lie,” The Daily Beast, Aug. 15, 2014.

OBAMA VS. FREEDOM OF THE PRESS: “He [Obama] is the greatest enemy Jim Risento press freedom in a generation.” — Jim Risen, Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist facing imprisonment for his investigation of the Bush-Obama surveillance state, quoted in “Where’s the Justice at Justice?”, New York Times,  Aug. 17, 2014.


OBAMA AS BIG BROTHER: 

Maureen Dowd“Obama is channeling Orwell.” — Maureen Dowd, Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist, protesting Obama’s crackdown on freedom of the press and other invasive policies in “Where’s the Justice at Justice?”, New York Times, Aug. 17, 2014.

OOPS: “The U.S. Postal service has lost $2 billion this Conan O'Brienspring. Postal officials are busy emailing each other wondering how this could happen.” — Conan O’Brien, Aug. 11, 2014.
Noted and Re-Quoted
GOV’T FAILURE:

Matt Ridley“Economists are quick to speak of ‘market failure,’ and rightly so, but a greater threat comes from ‘government failure’. Because it is a monopoly, government brings inefficiency and stagnation to most things it runs; government agencies pursue the inflation of their budgets rather than the service of their customers; pressure groups form an unholy alliance with agencies to extract more money from taxpayers for their members. Yet despite all this, most clever people still call for government to run more things and assume that if it did so, it would somehow be more perfect, more selfless, next time.” — Matt Ridley from his 2010 book The Rational Optimist. Quoted by Don Boudreaux at Café Hayek, August 14, 2014.

But Can You Fire Him? Robert Higgs on “Public Servants”

in Liberator Online Archives by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 19, No. 13 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Robert HiggsPublic “servants.” We pay their salaries, right? So they work for us, right?

Well… no. The great libertarian writer Robert Higgs recently posted this imaginary dialogue at his always-enlightening Facebook page:

Did you hire him?
No.
Can you fire him?
No.
Did you write his job description?
No.
Do you pay him?
Yes, but only because I’ll be put in prison if I refuse.
So, do you still believe he works for you.
Oh, yes, absolutely.
Why do you think so?
Because he says he does, and the people who hired him say so, too.

“A Masterwork”: Rave Review for Libertarianism in One Lesson

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online Archives by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 13 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Libertarianism In One LessonDavid Bergland’s classic introduction to libertarianism, Libertarianism in One Lesson (published by the Advocates), has been given a rave review by longtime libertarian activist and writer Charlie Burris at LewRockwell.com.

Burris begins by complimenting “the brilliant strategic insight of 1984 Libertarian Party presidential candidate David Bergland which has guided all libertarian realists for three decades in adhering to the Non-Aggression Principle and the refusal to compromise that principle  — ‘Utopia Is Not One of the Options.’

“David wrote and elucidated upon this key concept in his wonderful volume, Libertarianism in One Lesson.”

Continues Burris:  “In 1984, I had the distinct honor and privilege of reading the manuscript copy of the first edition of this brilliantly executed work. In each subsequent edition, David has finely crafted and honed this masterwork into the most concise, understandable work of its kind.”

You can order single or multiple copies at a discount of Libertarianism in One Lesson from the Advocates.

“This brief book remains the best place to begin your exploration of the ideas of libertarianism,” Burris concludes.

New York Times: End the Federal War on Marijuana

in Criminal Justice, Drugs, Liberator Online Archives, Libertarian Stances on Issues by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 12 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

In a major and historic breakthrough for libertarians and other advocates of marijuana re-"Repeal Prohibition, Again" in the New York Timeslegalization, the New York Times editorial board has called for ending the federal war on marijuana.

Here are excerpts from the July 27 editorial, entitled “Repeal Prohibition, Again”:

“It took 13 years for the United States to come to its senses and end [alcohol] Prohibition, 13 years in which people kept drinking, otherwise law-abiding citizens became criminals and crime syndicates arose and flourished. It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol.

“The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana. …

“There are no perfect answers to people’s legitimate concerns about marijuana use. But neither are there such answers about tobacco or alcohol, and we believe that on every level — health effects, the impact on society and law-and-order issues — the balance falls squarely on the side of national legalization. That will put decisions on whether to allow recreational or medicinal production and use where it belongs — at the state level. …

“The social costs of the marijuana laws are vast. There were 658,000 arrests for marijuana possession in 2012, according to F.B.I. figures, compared with 256,000 for cocaine, heroin and their derivatives. Even worse, the result is racist, falling disproportionately on young black men, ruining their lives and creating new generations of career criminals.

“There is honest debate among scientists about the health effects of marijuana, but we believe that the evidence is overwhelming that addiction and dependence are relatively minor problems, especially compared with alcohol and tobacco. Moderate use of marijuana does not appear to pose a risk for otherwise healthy adults. Claims that marijuana is a gateway to more dangerous drugs are as fanciful as the ‘Reefer Madness’ images of murder, rape and suicide. …

“Creating systems for regulating manufacture, sale and marketing will be complex. But those problems are solvable, and would have long been dealt with had we as a nation not clung to the decision to make marijuana production and use a federal crime. …

“We recognize that this Congress is as unlikely to take action on marijuana as it has been on other big issues. But it is long past time to repeal this version of Prohibition.”

The Times followed with a six-part series on marijuana legalization, which can be found under the text of their editorial.

Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance,commented on the groundbreaking editorial:

“This is of historic consequence — far bigger than most people assume. Some people in the country may perceive the Times editorial page as a liberal organ, but they should know that on this issue they’ve been cautious to a fault, even conservative. So for them to write what they did, at this juncture, demonstrated intellectual and moral clarity as well as courage.”

It should also be noted that what the New York Times is calling for is what the Libertarian Party and Ron Paul in his presidential campaigns called for — many years earlier.

Buckley for Senate

in Liberator Online Archives, Libertarian Party by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 12 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

John BuckleyOne of the most famous family names in American political history is once again on the ballot and in the national news.

John Buckley — cousin of the renowned late conservative icon William F. Buckley and former U.S. Senator James L. Buckley — is running an active campaign as Libertarian Party candidate for U.S. Senate in West Virginia.

And he’s already drawing significant national attention. The Washington Post recently described his campaign as one of seven U.S. senate races in which a Libertarian Party candidate could win enough votes to affect the outcome of the election, thus forcing the campaigns of both older party candidates to seriously consider supporting libertarian positions if they want to win.

Said the Washington Post: “John Buckley knows something about winning political races. He’s a former state legislator in Virginia, and a former employee at the American Conservative Union, the Cato Institute and the Law and Economics Center at George Mason University.” He’s also a past National Chairman of Young Americans for Freedom and has worked for the Institute for Humane Studies and the National Tax Limitation Committee.

At his campaign website he sums this up: “All through my life, I’ve worked to promote freedom and prosperity.” His lifetime of political experience, he says, soured him on the Republican Party as a vehicle for liberty and led him to the Libertarian Party.

Buckley tells more about his background and beliefs at his Facebook page:

“I turned 60 in 2013 and, with what I see happening under the presidency of Barack Obama (and even the astonishing growth of government under President George Bush), I want to do my part to try to turn America around. We need less government, not more!

“I have also realized that principles of limited government should be applied across the board, not just as to taxes, spending, and economic regulation, but to personal, ‘lifestyle’ decisions as well. Thus, I favor drastically lowering the level of federal government taxes and spending, embracing Second Amendment gun ownership rights, and respecting private property;

“I also support the legalization of marijuana (common sense tells us it’s time to end the ruinously expensive, counterproductive, and failed ‘War on Drugs’), same-sex marriage, and ending Big Brother’s snooping and spying on American citizens.

“Most Americans don’t like being told what to do and don’t relish telling others what to do, either. The American way is ‘live and let live.’ We may not like the decisions our friends and neighbors make, but we express our moral suasion voluntarily (through churches and family and other peaceful expressions of community standards), not through laws and dictates.

“We certainly don’t like politicians, and especially not Congress or whoever is president, telling us what to do. Whether it’s fluorescent light bulbs, ‘Big Gulp’ sodas, how we run our businesses, how we choose to meet the moral obligation to help our neighbors in need, the curriculum of our children’s schools, our right to keep and bear arms, what we smoke or drink, who we can love or the terms of our health-care.

“I am in favor of liberty — that’s what ‘Libertarian’ means, favoring liberty. It’s the American way of life, but I’m afraid the principles of liberty have been largely abandoned under mainstream Republicans and Democrats. Let’s reclaim the greatness of the American system of limited government. I’ll hope you’ll join me in this campaign.”

But… Who Will Build the Roads?

in Liberator Online Archives by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 12 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Yeah, we’ve all heard that one ad nauseam. Now a British grandfather has pretty much Private toll roadsettled it.

From “Rolling in money: Man makes toll road to get around roadworks“, Yahoo! Finance UK and Ireland:

“A grandfather sick of roadworks [road construction] near his home defied his council and built his own toll road [in just ten days] allowing people to circumvent the disrupted section.

“Opened on Friday, it’s the first private toll road built since cars became a familiar sight on British roads 100 years ago. Motorists pay £2 to travel each way and bypass the 14 miles diversion.

“Mike Watts, 62, hired a crew of workmen and ploughed £150,000 of his own cash into building a 365m long bypass road in a field next to the closed A431. He reckons it will cost another £150,000 in upkeep costs and to pay for two 24 hour a day toll booth operators.

“Speaking from the road in Kelston, Somerset, Mike said: ‘Too many people are displaced by the road closure, their daily lives have been so disrupted by this.’”

Who will build the roads? Enterprising entrepreneurs like these — if the government will simply get out of the way.