• Robert Taylor
  • 31
  • Oct
  • 10

As November approaches in a year that is divisible by two, politics turns from its background nuisance into an obsession. Television ads dominate the airwaves, pamphlets urging citizens to vote for or against certain measures litter the streets, and the debate between friends and co-workers grows deeper and more volatile.

The question inevitably comes up, “so, who are you voting for?” I often get a lot of curious and even angry looks when I explain that I don’t vote. But, comes the usual response, voting is your voice, your chance to participate in our democracy, to change things for the good, and so on.

But when I take a look around, what has been accomplished by voting? There exists poverty, bailout  rip-offs, stupid wars in countries most Americans can hardly pronounce, inflation, and debt.

It’s easy to blame the politicians and bureaucrats for these troubles since they are the ones calling the shots, but the blame lies squarely on us. By voting, we are choosing between the the lesser of two evils, to entrusting our lives and our property to a third party, and at its core, voting implies consent to political rule.

Like inmates in a prison who feel “free” when our wardens give us longer breaks, better meals, or loosened chains, voting gives legitimacy to the State. The State is founded upon naked aggression or the threat of it, but ultimately its authority rests on the consent of the governed.

This is the heart of why I don’t vote: I do not consent to being taxed, regulated, controlled, restricted, lectured, conscripted, and ultimately coerced. As a free and sovereign individual, I feel it is the most patriotic thing one can do.

Just imagine for a second, as the great Frank Chodorov once asked, if no one voted?

Such abstinence would be tantamount to this notice to politicians: since we as individuals have decided to look after our affairs, your services are no longer needed. Having assumed social power we must, as individuals, assume social responsibility – provided, of course, the politicians accept their discharge. The job of running the community would fall on each and all of us. We might hire an expert to tell us about the most improved firefighting apparatus, or a manager to look after cleaning the streets, or an engineer to build us a bridge; but the final decision, particularly in the matter of raising funds to defray costs, would rest with the townhall meeting. The hired specialists would have no authority other than that necessary for the performance of their contractual duties; coercive power, which is the essence of political authority, would be exercised, if necessary, only by the committee of the whole.

By voting, we give consent to a social order that relies on a top-down, monopolistic institution and discourages or eliminates the infinite other ways that order, goods, and services can be provided. As Thomas Paine pointed out, a large majority of the order that exists in society comes from every man’s rational self-interest to improve his existence and the voluntary exchange of goods, labor, and services in the marketplace.

Can you imagine what the reactions in the corporate media and the halls of Congress would be if no one showed up to vote on Election Day? It would send shock waves throughout the entire institutionalized structure of DC’s parasitic empire.

Instead of handing away your life to a snake in a suit who’s sole purpose is to get re-elected, I recommend committing the most revolutionary act you can do and engage in self-improvement. Lead by example and withdraw consent, read voraciously, work hard, and live as freely as you possibly can.

Peaceful sedition, quiet rebellion, and skepticism are the soul of the American contribution to the world. Just ask the great Emma Goldman:

The poor, stupid, free American citizen! Free to starve, free to tramp the highways of this great country, he enjoys universal suffrage, and, by that right, he has forged chains about his limbs. The reward that he receives is stringent labor laws prohibiting the right of boycott, of picketing, in fact, of everything, except the right to be robbed of the fruits of his labor…

Or Henry David Thoreau:

All voting is a sort of gaming, like checkers, or backgammon, a playing with right and wrong; its obligation never exceeds that of expediency. Even voting for the right thing is doing nothing for it. A wise man will not leave the right to the mercy of chance, nor wish it to prevail through the power of the majority.

These sentiments echo the conclusions of many, like Franz Oppenheimer, who argued that there are essentially two ways that human beings can interact with each other: the political means and the economics means.

The economic means include any voluntary, consensual, mutually-beneficial activity, whether it be grocery stores, farmers markets, neighborhood watches, homeowners associations, the internet; spontaneous, horizontal structures of activity that benefit mankind since they are done voluntarily. The political means are the means of all States and private criminals: force, fraud, aggression, or theft.

By voting, we give power and legitimacy to the political, exploitative means of human interaction, that a group of fallible individuals (whether called a King, Monarch, President, or Legislature) has the right or the ability to manage the infinitely complex and unpredictable results of human action.

So this November, I will gladly stand quietly, firmly, with my liberty and my dignity, and withdraw my consent. Can you imagine if a million others did the same?

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  • Robert Taylor
  • 03
  • Jan
  • 10

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about how the outlets of the mainstream press in the US are rapidly losing readers and relevancy. These rags of wasted ink and paper, these “news” programs with screaming talk heads, are not “liberal” or “conservative.” They are nothing more than mouthpieces for the centralized whims of the DC war machine.

This theme was echoing through my mind as I witnessed the coverage of the latest events unfolding in the US military’s ongoing occupation of Afghanistan.

Last week, the Taliban launched a suicide attack on a US base that is directing deadly drone strikes over the skies of Afghanistan and Pakistan, killing a handful of CIA agents in the process.

The mainstream press jumped all over the story, warning Americans about the “dangerous instability” in those Central Asian mountains. They noted that the female station chief at the US base who was killed was “a mother of three children.” The prescription of course, is more killing.

This story is definitely news worth reporting, but contrast the coverage of this Taliban bombing with the attention given to another significant story, and the media’s bias is revealed.

In a horrific incident, US troops dragged innocent children out of their bed during a raid, handcuffed them, and shot them, execution style (including an 11-year old girl!). Here is an eyewitness testimony from The London Times (a non-American news outlet, of course):

In a telephone interview last night, the headmaster [of the local school] said that the victims were asleep in three rooms when the troops arrived. “Seven students were in one room,” said Rahman Jan Ehsas. “A student and one guest were in another room, a guest room, and a farmer was asleep with his wife in a third building.

“First the foreign troops entered the guest room and shot two of them. Then they entered another room and handcuffed the seven students. Then they killed them. Abdul Khaliq [the farmer] heard shooting and came outside. When they saw him they shot him as well. He was outside. That’s why his wife wasn’t killed.”

A local elder, Jan Mohammed, said that three boys were killed in one room and five were handcuffed before they were shot. “I saw their school books covered in blood,” he said.

The investigation found that eight of the victims were aged from 11 to 17. The guest was a shepherd boy, 12, called Samar Gul, the headmaster said. He said that six of the students were at high school and two were at primary school. He said that all the students were his nephews.

For some reason, Afghans don't like being occupied (Ahmad Masood/Reuters).

As dlindorff notes in his excellent blog, there was only one report about this war crime in the US. The New York Times mentioned it once, and only about how those pesky civilian killings are getting in the way of the war effort.

The report of this massacre has sparked outrage all over Afghanistan, and more and more Afghans are protesting the US occupation (with its daily dose of bombings and raids) and demanding that Obama stop the bloodshed.

If only Obama were listening. Unfortunately, our chickenhawk-emperor just deployed an extra 30,000+ American troops and is telling us that the US will continue to be killing Afghans indefinitely because of the supposed “threat” the Taliban poses to the US.

Yes, the Taliban are basically Nazis with turbans, but they have no desire to harm the continental US. As attacks like the recent bombings show, they want nothing more than US and NATO troops out of their country. The Taliban are simply responding as most people tend to do when foreign soldiers build bases all over their country, kick in doors pointing machine-guns, and rain down bombs.

The US media could end this trillion dollar war in a heartbeat if it truly valued honest journalism and reporting. They could simply show the countless pictures of maimed Afghans and Marines, or report cowardly bombings from 10,000 feet and the CIA’s soulless drone strikes (Obama’s favorite imperial tool).

Thankfully, information-starved Americans are starting to flock to the free and mostly unregulated Internet for their news as CNN, FOX, NBC and mainstream “news”papers are on life support.

Good riddance.

_

For more of Robert’s work, please visit his Libertarian Examiner blog.

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  • Robert Taylor
  • 28
  • Dec
  • 09

While I spent my Christmas weekend surrounded by family, friends, and the warm central California weather, I tried for just a few days to escape the whirlwind circus of American politics.

Sadly, I couldn’t help myself.

While scanning the Internet for news stories (since TV and newspapers are anemic sources of information), I stumble across President Obama quietly signing a Christmas Eve executive order giving another bailout to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, two of Obama’s largest campaign contributors. And I could barely keep from laughing while watching Senator Max Baucus (D-Pharmaceutical Industry) resurrect the ghost of Ted Kennedy while drunkenly stammering and slobbering all over the Senate floor.

But the thing that stood out to me the most was Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Pentagon) calling for preemptive military strikes on Yemen after the failed attack by what is now being called the “underwear bomber.” On a flight bound for Detroit, a Nigerian man put firecrackers in his pants in an apparent attempt at terrorism. He received training and supplies from Yemen, and Al Qaeda, whose presence is growing in the southern tip of the Persian Gulf, is taking credit for the foiled attack.

Immediately, security agencies (there are too many to count) began beefing up security at domestic and international airports, and President Obama assured us today that he is doing everything he can to keep us safe and will soon be launching “accelerated offensives” in Yemen.

There is so much wrong with the responses to this plot it’s hard to know where to begin.

Increasing government “security” only provides the illusion of safety and at great costs to what’s left of our civil liberties.

As Congressman Ron Paul (R-Constitution) pointed out in a great debate on CNN today, the US is spending nearly $75 billion on security measures that are ineffective and easily outmaneuvered. He correctly notes how markets do a far better of job of providing protection, as it is up to individual owners of factories, hotels, banks, etc. to care of their property. If airlines were in charge of their own security instead of the clumsy and pushy TSA, flights would likely be much safer (and no strip searches either!)

Coming back to the suggestion of Lieberman that the US preemptively rain terror on Yemen, I wonder if he is aware that US special forces have been launching raids inside of Yemen for months, that the US-funded Saudi government is continually bombing the Yemeni border, and that President Obama fired a handful of cruise missiles into Yemen a week and a half ago, killing 120?

These minor points aside, the growing calls to blitz Yemen is typical of US policymakers: counterproductive overreaction. It might come as a shock to some, but terrorism comes to the continental US as a direct response to the terror that the US military has been inflicting on the Arab world for decades.

Initiating sanctions that starve half of a million Iraqis; bombing city after city; propping up corrupt governments in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan that torture, rob, and kill their own citizens; handing out billions of dollars a year for the last five decades to Israel so that they can wage indiscriminate warfare on their neighbors and cage the Palestinians in their own cities.

These are the reasons gullible young Muslim men are willing to blow themselves up. Losing a family member, a home, or a mosque in a US air strike might piss some people off.

Responding to acts or threats of terrorism with overwhelming military force is like chopping a machete to a problem that needs the calculated scalpel of effective intelligence gathering and police work. Using the logic of the Lieberman and Obama, the British had every right to launch air raids on the Irish Mafia in Boston for helping to fund IRA bombings and India should nuke Chicago for the Mumbia attacks.

The attempted attack last weekend fits the cyclical nature of America’s imperial foreign policy perfectly: we intervene militarily around the globe, terrorists strike back, more socialist security; we intervene militarily around the globe, terrorists strike back, more socialist security…

Under this rubble of fear-mongering and the bogeyman of terrorism, Americans become more and more willing to sacrifice freedom for the illusion of security. Eventually, we will run out of liberties to hand over.

_

For more of Robert’s work, please visit his Libertarian Examiner blog.

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  • Rob Spectre
  • 23
  • Dec
  • 09

Of the many institutions that failed us during this decade of American decline, none took the face-first diver into a freshly laid steamer like journalism.  The once critical Fourth Estate has not suffered post-modernity well, and its decay only accelerated as humanity turned the corner of another millennium of civilization.  The sensationalism and spectacle for which it was derided during the celebrity trials and presidential impeachment of the Nineties became the only way to sell newspapers and 30 second spots.  The news business became one OJ trial after another where headlines read like car dealership billboards, stories bloated with corporate spin and the street-savvy, careful  insight of the American journalist was replaced by the doe-eyed, photogenics of the beauty-pageant runnerup communications major fresh from community college.

How the media handled the medium can bear much of the blame.  Information technology made the business of distributing information so cheap and easy, the role of the international conglomerate as gatekeeper became obsolete.  A middling deal attorney could become a tech business kingmaker with a ten dollar hosting plan, open source blogging software and a clever domain name.  Two Dutch kids with a Twitter account developed the “news wire service  for the 21st century” out of their dorm.  Even your humble author was able to cobble together a few friends, sneak some work out of a graphic designer and get a platform reaching tens of thousands for less than $500.  Where the audiences flocked in the Nineties to websites that generated compelling content, more came after the turn of the century to those that served as platforms for users to create their own.  The concept of the “broadcast network” – a medium that delivered content to audiences numbering in million -  now applied to several hundred companies instead of a dozen.  Anyone could “go viral” with a piece of reporting and reach millions and expect to get picked up by one of the traditional outlets within a few days. While information distribution became effortless, verifying it became an impossible game of whack-a-mole.

With the lower barrier of entry came competition, generating a demand entirely new to the consumers of news: flavor.  Discussions around water coolers and dinner tables was less about what the news was than where those in the discussion had received.  “Oh, I heard that on NPR/CNN/MSNBC/Fox and Friends/Hannity/Olbermann/Beck/Maddow/HuffPo/TPM/RCP” became the standard response to the news scoop of the day.  Running on half the budget of the pioneer of 24-hour news, the success of Fox News at the beginning of the decade spawned the overt marketing of bias in the reporting of news.  The taglines read “fair and balanced” and “a fuller spectrum,” but the marketing message always spoke differently.  Suddenly it was less about being the leading news source and more being the leading news source with a particular demographic.  This decade marked the final victory of advertising over the newsroom; where the stories were all the same, but all packaged differently.

Accessibility was not the only culprit of journalism’s decline.  The technology for traditional broadcasting was changing as well.  High definition television, followed quickly by full high definition, completely changed the appearance of news anchors.  Looking good enough for television went from a twenty minute session with a skilled makeup artist to a two hundred grand investment in a leading plastic surgeon.  Walter Cronkite would not survive the age of HD – old, experience reporters were out, and young, telegenic talking heads were in.  Kelly O’Donnell could no longer hide her pack-a-day habit with foundation and Andrea Mitchell only looks slightly less decayed than her ancient husband.  The Dan Rathers gave way to the Katie Courics – the harsh realities of broadcasting at near-real resolution made faces more important than the brains behind them.

And once bias became a selling point and the finest minds took a backseat to the fairest skinned, the product began to show it.  We opened the decade with the colossal failure of the 2000 election, where premature announcements plunged the entire country into unprecedented month-long uncertainty over whom its next leader would be.  The next year those same Americans would spend the fretful morning hearing the conspiracy theories of every two-star crackpot in every producer’s rolodex while watching planes crash into the World Trade Center over and over and over – no more informed than at the beginning of the crisis but a shitload more scared.

The breaking news rush to speculation became such an expected consequence of this new era of journalism that an entirely new class of celebrity was born.  “Famous for being famous” was now something one could be in America.  No longer did an American have to produce a record or write a book or win a championship or campaign for public office or land an airplane in a river to become famous.  Now all one who wanted to be famous had to do was do something really stupid.

Celebrity was now attainable through news coverage alone.  One could now have another eight kids without the ability to care for them and get a reality show development deal.  One could hide his son in the attic, launch a balloon, call the TV station and become a Top Ten story of the year.  Even just getting naked on your MySpace page could get one at least to the C-list in this new America.  And if one was just hot and rich, one could get an invitation to the Oscars every year.

For the enormous advances of technology and process that made news something you found out about in minutes instead of days, American journalism retreated to its yellow beginnings.  The news business, where it still remained, became less about the story and more about the lead-in.

This decade will not be written in history as the one where American journalism died, but it will be marked as were it started dying – the twilight of the most important instrument of democracy.

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  • Daniel Austin
  • 20
  • Dec
  • 09
This entry is part 40 of 40 in the series The (d)SP0T

Glitchy in North Beach

glitch.4

glitch.d

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