Friday, June 14, 2013
The Nightmare built into Immigration Reform
Any proposal to reform immigration must begin with real border security, mandatory employment verification and banning of public benefits to those illegally in our country.
My response to Grassfire:
In short, illegal immigration is a complex set of problems. I don't have any particular insights into how to fix this mess, but cracking down on employment has nothing to do with fixing any of these. Instead, it creates a far more dangerous threat.
If "mandatory employment verification" (MEV) such as E-verify becomes the law, two things will happen:
One, the system will trap many American citizens into a "no-work" status. Supposedly E-verify currently has an official error rate of only 500 in 100,000 when dealing with American citizens. I'm skeptical that it's nearly this good, but if it is that would make one's chances of being put on a "no-work" list one and one half times greater than being the victim of any violent crime (368 in 100,000). Sure, you can appeal, it's easy and fun! OK, it's not easy and fun, it's a hellish bureaucratic nightmare as you are threatened with losing not only your current job but all future employment through no fault of your own. While you are fighting for your very survival (how long can you go without a paycheck again?), for the bureaucrats you're dealing with you're just another case, all in a days work for them, and how it comes out is of no particular concern. Hopefully they'll do a better job than is done with the no-flight lists. Since you're an American citizen, it's not as though you can just leave for employment elsewhere.
But even worse...
Two, once we give government officials a tool or a power, they will exploit it to the maximum and use it in ways never intended (or at least never admitted). MEV will be exploited for political purposes. Targeting political opponents with false "nonconfirmations" would have chilling effect far greater than any of the IRS abuses we've seen. The power of the taxman is fearsome, but it's nothing compared to the power of someone who can prevent you from earning a living in the first place. "Oh, that could never happen in the U.S., where's your *credible* evidence?" Anyone asking this is in denial. It's a law of political economy that government officials will exploit any tool or a power given them to the maximum and use it in ways never intended.
Of course, if you really want to do MEV right, you need truly tamper proof biometric ID. And what better way to do this than with a mandatory implantable chip? The technology was approved by the FDA in 2004, I blogged about it in 2006, and since then has been removed from the market. If MEV is part of a reasonable solution to illegal immigration, is there one good reason why we shouldn't use Verichip?
No one has proposed chipping (that I know of) but why even mess around with national ID's? In fact, E-verify and MEV in general are tyrannical ideas; chipping everyone isn't necessary for this to be a nightmare. Our immigration status quo is far superior to any solution currently proposed by left or right.
Note: the planned mandatory Animal ID program mentioned in my 2006 post was cancelled, and Real ID essentially put on hold, both due to popular opposition. These hardly made the MSM, but were important defeats for the political class. It didn't take that many people to do this, just resolute and vocal ones. Let this be a lesson to us.
NSA spying program predates 9/11?
If this is true, it isn't very surprising. In 1999 there was a joint agency intelligence report, not classified but also not very available to the public, that warned that in the "new millenium" states were on the verge of losing control over flows of people, of capital, and of information. Open borders, freer trade, internet and similar technologies got the thanks, or blame, depending on whether one isn't or is a member of the political class.
This was back in my pre-blogging days so I never commented on it, but since then much of what Western governments have been doing looks an awful lot like fighting to reverse these trends. For example, I think it likely that this is really the reason why the PATRIOT Act was written and ready long before 9/11, and just kept ready for a moment at which Congress was likely to be sympathetic to it.
In this way, it doesn't require a conspiracy theory to account for what is happening. The self-interest of politicians and bureaucrats is enough, that, plus understanding that the advance of civilization frees and empowers individuals, and that's a threat to the political class.
What we're seeing today is, in part, a desperate gamble by the political class to control the advance of civilization. This gamble can't succeed, but the danger is that it could conceivably wreck civilization. Market processes are benign, but government ones have a tendency to be malignant.
Commemorating Flag Day
14 June is the anniversary of the adoption of the American flag by the Continental Congress in 1777, and also the birth (two years earlier) of the Continental Army. Both were born in resistance to tyranny. May we continue that tradition.
The photo shows my favorite version of the flag, the Nyberg Three Percenter flag. I shot it this spring, somewhere in not-so-rural Pennsylvania. The spirit of liberty lives. Happy Flag Day.
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Thanks to lewrockwell.com (of all things!) for highlighting this. Enjoy.
The Obsolete Man from Ryan Sebo on Vimeo.
Sunday, June 09, 2013
Unforeseen Contingencies to award prize! (An open letter to Professor Christopher Swindell)
After an infamous rant in which he suggested executing the 5 million members of the NRA, he's apologized. Perhaps he went a little too far, he thinks. But still, he notes, "running around saying the sky is falling is pretty close to criminal activity." So my letter:
Dear Professor Swindell,
Wow, that's some apology, professor. I'm glad you no longer want me shot, but no doubt my previous blog post qualifies as criminal activity. May I ask what charges and punishment you, as a "journalism expert," would prescribe?
I don't think your rhetoric should be criminalized, Prof. Swindell, but I'm pretty concerned about it. Repeated calls from you and others for executing gun owners, the repeated attacks on Tea Party members, the slanders that everyone opposing Obama is a racist -- this isn't mere political rhetoric. This is an attempt by those of you doing it to dehumanize your opposition and to desensitize the public to wholesale violations of our rights. It doesn't have to be execution (although it could be). Why shouldn't the IRS target and harass conservatives and libertarians if we're so evil, why shouldn't the NSA spy on us, and why should we receive protection under the First Amendment, as Dick Durbin and Lindsay Graham wonder?
I don't ask these as rhetorical questions. I assume, Prof. Swindell, that you and people like Durbin and Graham and Obama et al. really would have the government shut down this blog and other critics of ever-expanding government. And maybe at some point the government actually will do it. But they will have to actually do it. I won't be intimidated into silence, nor shamed into it by your phony outrage, and I doubt others will be, either.
That brings me to my favorite part of your apology. Prof. Swindell, you ask if we "can put our guns down and talk" and then you note that our talk is worthy of being criminalized! Wow! Superb! What an astounding tour de chutzpah! What a brilliantly ironic juxtaposition of ideas! You do indeed deserve some sort of journalism award for this; I'm sure we at Unforeseen Contingencies can think of something. Perhaps we should establish a named prize in your honor.
But still, since those are your conditions, no, we won't put our guns down, we won't give up free speech, and while I'm always happy to talk, your "offer" is spectacularly idiotic, and you may go to hell for all I care.
Charles N. Steele, Ph.D.
Note to readers: I like my response, but for eloquence and succinctness, nothing beats Mike Vanderboegh's reply.
P.S. To Prof. Swindell: You say that the problem with us warning about dangerously out-of-control government is that this"threatens civil society." You mean this must never, ever be said? But what if government is dangerously out of control? Pointing this out, loudly and publicly, defends civil society. It's a great tragedy that no one sounded sufficient warning in Russia in November 1917, or in Germany in 1932. Obama isn't Lenin or Hitler, but he and the federal government are dangerously out of control, and yes, they are setting up a police state. Saying so does not threaten civil society. Suggesting that our free expression of our thoughts verges on criminality does.
Why fears of "armed revolution" in America are nonsense
A recent survey from Fairleigh Dickinson University asked whether "In the next few years, an armed revolution might be necessary in order to protect our liberties." Twenty nine percent of respondents agreed, and another five percent answered "unsure." I'm somewhat skeptical of this and other surveys, but it's rather "interesting" that one in three surveyed took this position. The survey also asked about attitudes towards gun control.
One of the researchers, political scientist Dan Cassino, gives this analysis: “The differences in views of gun legislation are really a function of differences in what people believe guns are for...If you truly believe an armed revolution is possible in the near future, you need weapons and you’re going to be
wary about government efforts to take them away.”
In fact, I think the survey was entirely misframed. There's a much better question that would go much farther to revealing what people are thinking in the "gun debate." I suspect the FDU researchers would be incapable of asking it, though; it's too politically incorrect.
What they should have asked was this: "In the next few years, the federal government might start a civil war against the American people." Ask this question, and I think you'll get at least one third of respondents agreeing, and likely more. I certainly agree. And you'll also be understanding the real reason Americans have been arming themselves at an unprecedented rate since last November.
I spend a certain amount of time in gun stores, at shooting ranges, at gun shows, attending libertarian and Constitutional conservative events. I read (and agree with) the Three Percenter philosophy. I have never heard anyone suggest we should have an armed revolution. I have even occasionally met and talked a bit with some of the more extreme militia types (former heads of the Montana Militia, who always struck me as bit off), and they don't suggest armed revolution either. The common question -- and it is very common -- is this "what will we do if the federal government decides to come after us?" As in "come after us, with armed thugs, for owning guns, come after us for believing in and working within the system for smaller government, or come after us for simply holding religious and philosophical views that progressive-diversity- multiculturalists find intolerable."
Not only did the FDU researchers fail to ask the question that would actually capture what a large segment of the American people is thinking, their idea of an "armed revolution to protect our liberties" is inherently confused, both philosophically and with respect to current events. There is a revolution underway, but it is being conducted by the NSA, IRS, ATF, DHS, EPA, ETC, Obama administration, and parts of Congress and the judicial system and it is against our liberties. A substantial share of federal government activity is far outside what is authorized by the Constitution. A great amount of it is also plainly outside of federal law (e.g. IRS leaking of the tax records of Barack Obama's political opponents to leftwing Pro Publica). The First Amendment, the Second Amendment, the Fourth Amendment, the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth and Tenth Amendments are all under deadly assault. So too the separation of powers between legislative, executive, and judicial branches -- with ever increasing power in all these areas going to the administrative bureaucracy. It's the federal government that is in revolt, not the American people.
The FDU question confuses things on a fundamental level. Rights are inherent in the individual; they are not granted by governments. Authority flows from the people's consent; it is not inherent in government. We now have a government that is engaged in massive wholesale spying on the people, beyond anything ever imagined by the KGB or the Gestapo, and it's coordinated by a president who is absolutely hostile to individual liberty. We have a government that is targeting Americans for harassment and investigation not because of possible criminal activity but rather for holding perfectly legitimate political positions that those in power do not like. We have a government that is working hard to strip the people of any real control over their political system. This question "an armed revolution might be necessary" is stupid. We have a revolution going on right now, it is being conducted by elements of the political class, and it is against the American system of limited government.
By political class, I mean those politicians, bureaucrats, judges, businessmen, intellectuals, and activists who identify their interests with a powerful, unconstrained state. It's the left, but not just the left. Another name for them is "statists." Consider despicable idiots like Sen. Lindsay Graham (R, SC), who not only supports NSA's wholesale spying on the American people but can't believe the First Amendment applies to bloggers like me. Here Graham is simply parroting communist and scoundrel Dick Durbin (D, IL) who also finds the First Amendment antiquated and thinks we need one of those "national conversations" to decide if it should apply to bloggers and other mere citizens. It's really a political class that believes in its own power, and finds limited government anathema to that. Obama represents a particularly virulent strain of this thinking, and he is leading the way in trying to kill limits on government power once and for all. "Fast and Furious," the accelerated NSA domestic spying, the DoJ's AP spying, spying on Congress by DoJ, the many efforts to ram gun control and confiscation on us, the IRS war on advocates of limited government, the turning of DHS into an internal paramilitary...this is what "hope" and "change" really mean. "Country club" Republicans like Graham, McCain, Toomey and their ilk might imagine their "reaching out across the aisle" shows how reasonable they are, or perhaps they too are totalitarian at heart. It doesn't matter that much -- they are enemies of liberty.
Not everyone in government, nor everyone in the administrative bureaucracy is the enemy, I should note. The government isn't a monolith, and we're not up against some all-powerful monolithic conspiracy. And it's hardly obvious that the statists have a winning hand, something I'll discuss in a future post. But if our political system fails to respond adequatley to the crisis of Obama, and fails to control and dismantle out-of-control bureaucracies, if we lose what is left of the constraints on government, then it doesn't matter how "well intentioned" our leaders might be (hah), the logic of interventionism and power will lead to catastrophe. And in that case, sooner or later -- and it increasingly looks like sooner, the federal government will decide to come after us. In such case, expect them to come with guns blazing.
Friday, June 07, 2013
Mark Levin: The Elements of a Police State
No, we don't yet have a police state. Yes, almost all the pieces have been put in place for one. Levin's analysis is worth watching. (If you prefer to read excerpts, click here.)
UPDATE: for a while there was a message "Account Disabled" for the Daily Caller video link. It is back up now, but I also include the link on Real Clear Politics. Watch it, it is really quite important. I'm also providing the text, below:
On Thursday’s broadcast of Fox News Channel’s “Your World with Neil Cavuto,” conservative talk show host Mark Levin reacted to recent revelations that the National Security Agency had been collecting the phone records of millions of Verizon customers. He said that the NSA news in addition to other openings for intrusion by the federal government are the makings of a “police state.”
MARK LEVIN: I tell you what I make of this — we have the elements of a police state here, and I’m not overstating it. When you step back and realize the Supreme Court the other day ruled 5-to-4 that law enforcement can take DNA from you even if you’re arrested — by the way, you’re arrested even when you’re stopped for a speeding ticket, and Scalia was right, concerned about a national database. That goes way over the line of our traditions.
You look at the Internal Revenue Service, what’s going on there today, and they collect extensive financial and personal information, and they put it on a database. This Obamacare is a massive data collection as well of our private personal medical conditions, procedures, drugs, mental, physical illnesses. The Transportation Department, people forget, has proposed black boxes in all of our automobiles to track how they function and how far they go in accidents. We now have domestic drones from EPA to make sure farmers aren’t stepping out of line.
The Department of Homeland Security now is checking laptops and iPhones and other data, making copies of it and keeping it, and now we have this. And some of my brothers and sisters in law enforcement, prosecutors, are saying, ‘Look, look, this is permitted. We need to be able to go through and match —’ wait a minute. You don’t throw a whole net on the entire country and everybody’s phone numbers and check the duration and see if you can come up with some overlaps. That’s not law enforcement. That’s not how national security works. I don’t care what the hell the Supreme Court said 30 years ago or what some judge said 15 minutes ago. This is America, and our government is collecting way too damn much data on we the private citizen.
CAVUTO: Now, they did this under the auspices of, I think, just tracing back to when this call came out to get these call records, of these hundred and ten-plus million Americans, presumably right after the Boston terror incident. So that was the guise under which they requested this information, and Verizon then gave it to them. What do you make of using that event? On paper that would sound fine, I guess, but then to extend it to the degree they did?
LEVIN: That is about the dumbest defense that I’ve heard today. And I’ve heard it today on this from the administration and others. The Russians were begging us to get ahold of this guy, Terrorist #1, the dead terrorist. They shared information with our domestic and intelligence operations, the Department of Homeland Security concludes that we don’t have enough to hold the guy, he goes back to his Chechnya neighborhood, thereabouts, and comes back so now they’re going to throw a net on a hundred and twenty million Americans? To try and track this down?
This is so absurd, and it is a pretext, and I don’t like any of it. Whether it comes to health care or taxes or ObamaCare or transportation. Everything. They are collecting way too much information, and as far Obama: He doesn’t know what’s going on… Well he knows what’s going on right now for God’s sake. What’s he going to do about it now? Anything?
CAVUTO: You know what’s interesting? As a Senator, he was very critical of the PATRIOT Act, that it was an overreach, and that the president at the time, President Bush, was overdoing this. Again, under the guise of keeping us safe. Now, it would appear whether it’s at his direct orders or not, that he’s doing it on steroids. Where is all of this going?
LEVIN: His direct orders or not. What is this, rope-a-dope? He’s the President of the United States. Hes the commander-in-chief---
CAVUTO: So, what do you want him to do, Mark?
LEVIN: I want him to clean house, or give a speech to the American people and tell us why we need to live in this semi- or soft-police state, why we need to have all these records collected, whether it’s health care or automobiles or our DNA, whether it’s all these other things. I mean, come out of the shadows, Mr. President, be honest with the American people and tell us about your fundamental transformation. That’s what I want him to do.
CAVUTO: What I’m worried about is, if you look at all of these various scandals or privacy invasions, Mark, the common theme is snooping on people. Whether it is conservative groups being targeted by the IRS, and then individuals, or the Justice Department going after what we were told was a few AP reporters, and then expanded to James Rosen and FOX, and then other Fox personnel. To what’s going on at HHS, forcing private companies to cough up to pay for publicizing the healthcare law that they’re in charge of policing. There is a common thread of just Big Brotherness in all of this. It scares me.
LEVIN: This is what happens when our country becomes unwarned from the Constitution. The function of the federal government are without limits. We have this all-powerful centralized government with concentrated power. Stomping all over the First Amendment. I mean look at these warrants with these reporters. I was chief of staff to an Attorney General of the United States. We didn’t take a back seat to anyone who leaked information to the media, but twenty phone-taps, a hundred reporters, James Rosen's parents? What kind of mindless idiocy is that?
CAVUTO: Now, what is it like to take phone records? They say, and I didn’t understand Verizon’s statement, I didn’t know from that statement whether they did acquiesce to this or not, so I don't know why they put out statements that make no statement? But leaving that aside, do you think that there, by just seizing peoples’ phone records, getting the phone records, and not listening to them, is the government’s way of saying, 'just in case you were going to discard these, we want the protection of having these.'
LEVIN: Well, I mean who the hell knows what their purpose is here. Other than what they say their purpose is here. And by the way, Verizon’s being picked on. Verizon has no choice. And I bet AT&T’s been hit up. I bet every single phone company in America’s been hit up. But that said---
CAVUTO: Well a lot of these companies, I don't know what happened specifically here Mark, Google and others, where they’re just asked for this information. Without a subpoena. Without anything, a warrant or anything, they just go ahead and give it.
LEVIN: They don’t have a leg to stand on. They don’t have a leg to stand on. They can go to court and fight it, I suppose.
CAVUTO: So everyone’s afraid?
LEVIN: It’s not that they’re afraid, it’s that the law’s been twisted into a pretzel. And its difficult to stop these sorts of things, so we have to stop them politically.
CAVUTO: It’s happening to us. What is going on?
LEVIN: I think people had better wake the hell up and understand something. That we are not a constitutional republic anymore. I don’t know what we are. I’m not saying we’re the most oppressive regime on the face of the earth either, but we are not a constitutional republic anymore. When you look at the first amendment, the assault on free speech under these campaign laws, the assault on religious groups, under the first amendment. When you look at the effort to create a registry under the second amendment on guns. When you look at the fourth and fifth amendments turned on their heads, the ninth and tenth amendments, they pretend they don’t even exist. We have a chief justice of the Supreme Court who twists the words of the commerce clause and the meaning of tax in order to uphold ObamaCare. This is lawlessness. And at some point we need to unravel this federal government, unravel the ruling class and push power back to the states, municipalities, and the people, or we’re going to get more of this.
Thursday, June 06, 2013
Remembering 6 June 1944
It's customary for libertarians to ignore or deride occasions like these, because of libertarian opposition to the doctrines that led to the war. This is a bad mistake. Those who fought against Nazism were doing something that was, by that point, absolutely necessary. I will at some point be continuing my "Reclaiming Libertarianism" series, but for now it's enough to note that tyranny must always be resisted; a "libertarianism" that holds otherwise isn't worth much.
Washington Post has today broken the news of the massive NSA PRISM program, an enormous spying and data mining program that includes the cooperation of major internet companies including Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Apple. With this, and the previous IRS, AP and similar scandals, anyone who doesn't think the federal government is dangerously out of control must be a member of the political class, happy at the prospect of a police state. I frequently hear friends, colleagues, and others despair that an authoritarian nightmare is imminent. Maybe. I have been working on a post showing that elements of the federal government are preparing for a possible war against the American people. The situation in America is truly dangerous; we are in an unusual state of uncertainty where major shifts of direction are possible. But uncertainty is also opportunity.
We don't have a police state yet, and I think we won't have one, if we, the American people (or enough of us) refuse to comply. Consider this calculus. There are approximately 750,000 law enforcement officers in the United States. Many of them, probably the majority, are opposed to a police state and everything it entails, including confiscation of privately held firearms. But suppose that 100% were willing to obey any order, including those that established a police state. Add in the roughly 2.3 million of the U.S. military -- again, probably most would be opposed to working for an unConstitutional police state -- and that's 3 million for the state to draw upon. On the other hand, there are 80 million American gunowners, and it doesn't take a gun to resist a police state. Those are not good odds for anyone betting on being able to physically impose a police state. Even if only Three Percent resisted, the odds are overwhelmingly against the political class. This is why they are so desperate to disarm us, and -- more importantly -- to intimidate us.
So long as a substantial core of Americans refuse to be disarmed and to otherwise comply with statist diktats, we'll remain a basically free people. And right now, advocates of individual liberty and limited government do have the upper hand. We can sneer "Come and take 'em," and they don't dare. We are in a much stronger position than some poor 18 year old in a landing craft at Omaha or Utah Beach. But at the same time, we need to steel ourselves, we need to understand how serious this fight is, and we need to work peacefully to constrain and dismantle our out-of-control government now, because if we fail to do this, it will be imposed on us that we do it unpeacefully.
Note: Mike Vanderboegh's D-Day post uses the same photo I do. This is coincidence (synchronicity?) but I should note that the photo is from the U.S. Army D Day website and in the public domain.
Wednesday, June 05, 2013
Carl Levin, пошёл к чорту!
Recall how Levin characterizes the problem: "The findings are the latest in a series of examinations the subcommittee has done to show how multinational companies exploit loopholes to avoid taxes, which raises the deficit and the tax burden on working families."
Got that? Apple and other multinational companies raise the deficit and raise the tax burden on "working families."
Really? Apple causes the deficit? Apple increases the tax burden on income earners? Then if Apple never existed, or if it ceased to exist tomorrow, the deficit would be less? Taxes as well?
No, that's so idiotic that even a U.S. Senator would find it hard to believe, and it's not what Levin means. Here's what he really means: in Levin's view, every dollar of earnings that Apple retains is a dollar that the federal government doesn't have... hence it is a "cost" to the federal government. This idea is promoted incessantly by advocates of big government. They explicitly see the economy as zero sum game, in which a dollar held in private hands is a dollar they could have used to further whatever might be their scheme du jour. This isn't just political diatribe on their part -- they really do see the world this way.
But there's nothing special about Apple or multinational corporations in this regard. The zero-sum argument applies to ALL dollars and all property, including yours and mine. Inherent in this way of looking at the world is that everything is fair game for the government. I've read enough policy analyses and op eds to understand that they really mean it: failing to tax something away from you is a cost to the government, in this view.
This is an extremely destructive way of designing policy. It abolishes secure private property and makes everything an implicit commons, with all of the negative economic consequences thereof. It institutionalizes rent-seeking, it increases insecurity and uncertainty thereby depressing the creation of wealth, and in the end it makes us serfs and slaves of those with enough political clout to take our property, including ourselves.
This last is exactly what Levin's damnable subcommittee hearings are designed to foster -- government power that thugs like Levin can use for their own ends.
I've been reading quite a bit of material lately on entrepreneurship and technological innovation. There are trends underway that, if they continue, promise a much, much wealthier and happier future, for both America and the rest of the world. The one thing that most threatens to derail these trends are our catastrophically terrible governments and the dreadful ethical, political, and economic ideas that tend to drive them.
Hence it's important that we tell government officials to go to hell, and do so loudly and repeatedly, because if we don't, they will take us to hell.
Translator's note: the title tells Senator Levin to "go to the devil" in Russian. This is not an expression of endearment in Slavic cultures.
Sunday, June 02, 2013
My letter to Carl Levin
Here's the text of Levin's update, followed by my reply to him:
Levin: Loopholes, offshore profit shifting cost billions
Apple Inc. has used a complex web of offshore entities - including three foreign subsidiaries the company claims are not tax resident in any nation - to avoid paying billions of dollars in U.S. income taxes, a bipartisan investigation by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which Sen. Levin chairs, has found. The findings are the latest in a series of examinations the subcommittee has done to show how multinational companies exploit loopholes to avoid taxes, which raises the deficit and the tax burden on working families.
Unforeseen Contingencies: Re Apple
Dear Senator Levin,
It is outrageous that you attack a major U.S. corporation for following the tax law. Your antics at the subcommittee hearings were shameful. Apple's behavior does not cost billions; the billions for which you lust do not belong to you, the government, or the taxpayer. They were earned by Apple and retained legally by Apple.
You should do the honorable thing and apologize, and then resign immediately. You are not fit for public office.
Charles N. Steele