• Robert Taylor
  • 20
  • Dec
  • 09

When news stories started reporting that DC might be closed this weekend due to a blizzard that was sweeping across the East Coast, I finally got into the Christmas spirit; let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. For the brief bliss of one weekend, Americans would be spared  from the draconian legislation that usually crawls its way out of DC.

Members of the Imperial Senate, however, did find time on Friday to put the finishing touches on President Obama’s 2010 “defense” budget (H.R. 3326, which passed 93 to 6 in the Senate and 400-30 in the House), a $636 billion appropriations bill. It is loaded with all the corruption you would expect in the largest welfare program in US history, $20.5 billion more than President Bush’s last defense bill.

While taking a look through the bill, it’s easy to see why so many members of Congress enthusiastically voted in favor of such a monstrosity. Americans will be robbed of nearly a trillion of their dollars in order to fund pork, pet projects, foreign aid to abusive governments, defense contractors, and all of the politically-connected cronies that always gravitate towards DC when “defense” budgets are being voted on.

I say “defense” because if Congress or the President were interested solely in the defense of this country, than the amount of money needed for effective intelligence gathering and protection of our shores would be about 2-3% percent of this.

George Orwell famously noted that manipulating the language is an essential task of any government, and labeling this a “defense” bill would make Orwell laugh (or cry).

For example, $30 billion is guaranteed to the Israeli government over ten years, which means that the US taxpayer will be funding about a fifth of Israel’s military expenditures every year. $500 million is headed to the thuggish Palestinian Authority. Additionally, Israel is required to spend at least 75% of this money on US contractors. Who says Obama isn’t creating any jobs!

$130 billion of it will be used to keep funding the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which despite claims by the Obama Administration that we’ll be leaving just in time for his re-election run, we’re not leaving anytime soon.

So far under President Obama’s watch, 231 soldiers (and counting) have died in Afghanistan since he took office, over one-fourth of the total American casualties of Operation Enduring Freedom. In 10 months. After that $130 billion is spent, how many more Marines will have died? And how much more money will be thrown at this mess?

The bill also increases funding to the US Navy, which already has 11 nuclear-armed warships patrolling every ocean and is larger than the next thirteen biggest navies combined. Part of this money has probably funded the US Navy’s new PR campaign, asking more farm-boys and poor blacks to join the “global force for good.”

Even our Navy admits that the US is a global empire.

In addition to the Democrats who voted yay, 34 out of 40 Republicans in the Senate and 170 out of 178 Republicans in the House also voted for this Leviathan bill, which means the Boeing’s and Lockheed Martin’s in their district will continue to supply the money and lobbying power to get them reelected again and again.

This “defense” bill proves that Congress and the President are not divided; they are united behind a single, imperial cause: war.

_

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

  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati
  • Hala V. Furst
  • 17
  • Dec
  • 09

A woman’s relationship with her breasts is complicated.  Little pink ribbons serve as a constant reminder that affixed to your chest are two ticking time bombs. Every time you put on a bra, every time you have someone help you take one off, you wonder if the twins will accompany you through life. Beyond basic self-esteem related body issues, breasts are the scariest part of a woman’s anatomy.

Take for example last week, when I’m getting aggressively groped by my RNP. She stops, and asks one of the least comforting questions in the English language: “How long has this lump been here?” For those of you who don’t have boobs, you do not want to hear the word “lump.” Lumps are never good. In gravy, in mashed potatoes, in a mattress, in your boob. Lumps are bad.

My mind spiraled into grotesque fantasies of a protracted disease, without health insurance. Chemo, mastectomies, 2-Day Walk-a-thons in pink head scarves; all of these things loomed above me as I continued to stare up at the ceiling for the rest of my annual exam. I heard her say “it’s probably nothing,” in the way that doctors always do, right before they tell you to go get more tests.

In the week between the discovery of the lump and the follow up appointment, I figured I would have to encounter my mortality. I didn’t. What I did encounter was my vanity. Like most women, I don’t love a lot about my body, but I do love my boobs and my hair, the very two things that breast cancer destroys. I didn’t fear death, I feared going through life ugly, boob-less, and bald. It was challenging enough finding a mate, how was I going to do it without the only two things that saved me from being a repugnant troll?

By the time my follow up rolled around, the lump had dissipated, due to hormonal fluctuations. The doctor who examined me couldn’t even find what my RNP was talking about, assuring me that nurses tended to be overly cautious. I wondered if it was the fact that my RNP was a woman, and this doctor was a man. His relationship with breasts was as a spectator, a hobbyist, an enthusiast. He didn’t have to deal with the day to day emotional roller-coaster of breast ownership. He didn’t look in the mirror and imagine himself transformed into a prematurely menopausal 27-year-old, unable to have children, bald, with two ugly, jagged scars where her nipples used to be.

But you can bet my RNP has.

  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati
  • Rob Spectre
  • 16
  • Dec
  • 09

We greeted this century as a screaming bastard greets the doctor there to catch him as he is unceremoniously ejected from a diseased womb.  Disoriented, ungrateful and angry without cause, we shrieked at it as it embraced us, blinking like we were using our eyes for the first time.  Going hoarse after only a few minutes of sucking oxygen, we may have slowly cried ourselves out of the panic of those first few moments, but we never stopped being shit scared.

We entered this decade afraid.  Fearful that the magnificent machines we had made would fail us once the clock struck midnight.  Fearful that the strange, evil, brown men with the funny beards would detonate our liberty statues and our golden gates.  Fearful our gods were going to ride down from our heavens on their pale horses and judge us before we were ready.  But, perhaps most of all, fearful that this date which had so permeated our cultures high and popular, that had wormed its way into the titles of our song and film, the plots of our stories and plays, had been the end all and be all of the nebulously forecast thing we called future might not be.earth

We had done our level best not to get this far.  We spent so much of the first half of the century trying to kill one another off, we spent all of the last half quite nearly assured we would.  For every revolting way we devised to kill ourselves in greater number, we’d devise an equally despicable mechanic for justifying it.  Inhuman philosophy was synchronously developed with inhuman technology, insulating the consciences of staring at the buttons that could kill us all with game theories and defense conditions and survival scenarios.  We not only made the machine gun, we invented the mass production to spit one out for every man, woman and child.  We not only made the tank, we cleared the schools and rectories to get enough hands to build them.  We not only made the nuclear bomb, we devised the nationalism that could justify their use.

It was for good reason we feared the year 2000.  We never, ever expected to get there.

But whether through disaster or design, civilization survived a century at war, living to see the date that had served for decades as the setting for the post-apocalypse fictions we wrote and read to try to grapple with the gravity of our age.  By then, we each had stacks of bad films and worse comic books with “2000″ in big block letters on the front.  It was the milestone that meant cars could fly and men could travel through time.  It was the milestone that either meant global peace or complete catastrophe.  It was the milestone that promised lasers and jetpacks, warp speeds and teleporters, a single world government and a colony on the moon.

It was supposed to be the future.  The future we were never supposed to see.

Is it little wonder then that we have completely fucked up the 21st century so far?  Though scared fuck stupid and directionless, we were riding a relative period of calm and prosperity.  The industrialized nations were generating unprecedented wealth.  Their governments were shockingly running well and mostly in the black.  The developing nations to which those governments sent their checks were between genocides at the moment, suffering as all the poor do but quietly and without mass graves.  Humans were coming around to the idea that they were destroying the planet they were living on and were beginning to stop doing it so much.

Socially, economically, politically – we were set up for success.  We in America in particular had all the grounds for another grand decade.  It was like we had just figured post-modernity out. Like we found the rhythm that could make our complex machine go.

Having our shit figured out was so 20th century.  We entered this decade afraid and now after failing for ten straight years we are leaving it near-petrified.  In this (d)N0t series, I’ll be exploring this decade of fail, ten long years of humanity screwing the pooch in every conceivable way.  From blowing our fortune to shit-canning our health to sacrificing our privacy to obliterating our security to surrendering our liberty and finally acquiescing our sanity, these next two weeks will be a gonzo exploration of these past years and how we fucked every single one of them up.

And if we’re not all reaching for the nighty-night Kool-aid by the end, we’ll talk about the next ten and how we pull civilization back from the brink in front of us and fight this future of which we are so afraid.

  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati
  • Rob Spectre
  • 15
  • Dec
  • 09

As the final year of this decade of fail draws to a close, everyone with a keyboard is making a list and checking it twice.  It’s the hour for picking the winners and picking the losers; the snoozer season when writers can phone it in for a few weeks with top ten drivel and self-serving ratings.  For those with an eye on Washington, we are producing a familiar name on lists both favorable and failing:  Joe Lieberman.

Photo: US Senate

Photo: US Senate

He kicked off the 21st century as the base play on the Democratic ticket – the guy who was supposed to solidify the Democratic diehards behind former veep Al Gore during his impossible run against the red state calculus that had tilted in strong favor of George W. Bush.  He was the guy to whip Clinton’s old guard behind the less charismatic, but no less thoughtful, leader of a new Democratic party.  Neither he nor his commander-in-chief-to-be succeeded in either task, little match against a decade of gerrymandered districts and Karl Rove’s timely tactics.

Just under ten years ago, Joe Lieberman was the guy you went to if you needed Democrats on your side.  Now, they can barely speak his name without spitting it.  Particularly as we near the endgame for Barack Obama’s healthcare initiative, Lieberman (I-CT)  may be a pariah in cocktail party circles but his careful manipulation of the letter beside his home state has assured his spot as a power broker in the United States Congress.

This week was one where his handiwork was particularly characteristic.  With a single press conference he catapulted himself from the annoying periphery of voices regurgitating talking points to the place where he always seems to end up – the center of the action.  No sooner was a compromised healthcare package announced by Harry Reid’s Democratic caucus that was it torpedoed effortlessly by a short public statement of opposition by Lieberman.  Within hours of his remarks, party leaders were hurriedly meeting and scurrying about, with Joe’s smug smile to greet them across the table.

A few days later, the public option is out.  Early Medicare buy-in is out.  And several previously core provisions of a healthcare reform bill already neutered in committee now seem to be on the table.  Lieberman is playing coy, saying he is “moving towards a yes vote.”   The store might be sold outright by the time the deal is done, leading some on the progressive side of the supposed Democratic supermajority to squeal.  Even some used to the pariah label themselves are calling for an outright revolt, with former DNC chairman (and real-life doctor) Howard Dean calling for the Senate bill to be killed.

Indeed it would seem that Lieberman holds all the cards in Washington and by the masterful straddling of the aisle until the last possible second, he has usurped even the President of the United States as the sole man in America who says what will or will not happen.

If only Lieberman were that man.

But behind the eye popping headlines is the truth that Lieberman is just an instrument of a larger machine, a pawn in a game with stakes so high the odds are always certain.  Were his stand against the Medicare buy-in the principled stance of a deficit hawk holding firm, Democrats would have great cause for concern with Joe Lieberman.  The problem is, he doesn’t believe a bit of it.  Just this past September – three months ago – he said straight into a rolling camera that he believed that people should be able to buy into Medicare at the age of 55.

What caused the flip-flop?  In September, public universal healthcare looked like it could really happen.  Now with the negotiations dragged on by Republicans and Reid’s ineffective caucus coming up short in the red zone, the public option is thoroughly defeated.  With that obstacle down, Lieberman is free to turn on the firehose to water down the bill even more.  While Obama takes a bath in the negotiating room, the bill soaks up the excess until it poses little danger at all to the status quo.

How did the status quo effect such a dramatic change of heart in Joe Lieberman?  Through over $1 million in donations from health insurance in this decade.    During his last campaign in 2006, he ranked second in the Senate for health insurance donations.  And his home state is headquarters to many of the nation’s leading insurance companies, employing 22,000 in Connecticut.  The private health insurance system that raked in billions keeping America sick during the last ten years paid for Lieberman’s independent run.

And this year, that investment is looking awfully sound.

But before Joe Lieberman is vilified as the Judas Big Healthcare bought to kill the public option, before he makes the tops of the movers and the bottoms of the shakers, we should consider his company.

He’s not the only one on the payroll.

http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2009/12/15/lieberman-moving-towards-a-yes-vote/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+rss%2Fcnn_politicalticker+%28Blog%3A+Political+Ticker%29&utm_content=Google+Reader
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati
  • Robert Taylor
  • 14
  • Dec
  • 09

It has been a very impressive year for the Associated Press. A few months ago, Julie Jacobson of the AP published tragic photos of a US Marine after both of his legs were blown off in Afghanistan. Not only did she receive a verbal whip lashing from the Obama Administration, but for a brief moment, a respected and mainstream media outlet exposed Americans to the graphic and utter horror of war.

While scanning over the New York Times today, I was pleased to see that the AP is now currently investigating the corporate food giant Monsanto, accusing them of

using its wide reach to control the ability of new biotech firms to get wide distribution for their products, according to a review of several Monsanto licensing agreements and dozens of interviews with seed industry participants, agriculture and legal experts.

Monsanto has had a long history of bullying their way around the country and the AP should be commended for adding to their laundry list of sins. But despite the article’s claims, Monsanto’s excesses are the products of state intervention, not capitalism.

Monsanto owns patents on the genes of nearly 90% of America’s soy and corn products, and when these seeds eventually blow onto neighboring smaller farmers, Monsanto sues them for a violation of their intellectual property “rights.” They have even sued farmers for saving Monsanto’s patented soybean seeds.

Monsanto uses its government-granted monopoly to intimidate and violate the true property rights of its neighbors, which exposes intellectual property (IP) for the misguided policy that it is.

Human beings have inherent rights in their bodies and in their homesteaded property (the manipulation of matter) that can never be violated. These rights come not from God or governments, but from our reason, and as social beings who depend on each other for survival, enforcement of these rights is essential for cooperation. As the great Ayn Rand put it:

The right to life is the source of all rights—and the right to property is their only implementation. Without property rights, no other rights are possible. Since man has to sustain his life by his own effort, the man who has no right to the product of his effort has no means to sustain his life.

IP law, however, creates artificial scarcity out of a non-scare entity (ideas) by giving individuals a government-backed monopoly on its use and distribution for an arbitrary amount of time. This protection violates the rights of other individuals by putting restrictions on how individuals, like the farmers against Monsanto, use their property.

There is also virtually no evidence suggesting that intellectual property law encourages inventions, creation, and boosts the arts. In fact, when examining the record of anarchic or near-anarchic market societies and institutions (like medieval Iceland and common/merchant law), property rights were better respected, peaceful commerce expanded, and technological innovation flourished; and all of this without the government club.

Monsanto is an all too common feature of the US economy: a statist creature that benefits from  patents, licensing, and farm subsidies to strangle its less politically-favored competitors. It also doesn’t hurt having one of their former attorneys, Justice Clarence Thomas, upholding plant patents in the highest government court in the land.

Luckily, supporters of organic and local farming are starting to wake up and realize that their industry would be far better off in freer markets, liberated from the government’s controls (whether indirectly through IP or directly through subsidies) that allow the strong to legally prey on the weak.

_

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

  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati