Law and corruption 2

Some of our greatly valued readers have pointed out to us – in comments on this website and on our Facebook page – that right is not on the side of the Nevada rancher and his allies in their dispute with the Bureau of Land Management (see our post below, It begins?, April 11, 2014).

Cliven Bundy is breaking the law.

We believe in the rule of law. We are not anarchists. So we take their point.

However, it is not a clear-cut issue, as this article from Investor’s Business Daily explains:

It was a tense standoff in rural Nevada with armed protesters closing I-15 for a while and facing off against even more heavily-armed federal agents.

For now, that volatile Bundy Ranch confrontation has been defused. But it’s not over by any means. And we may well experience others that do not pause in non-violence.

These are profound disputes illustrative of abiding suspicions among average Americans and their government headed by a man who promised to bring people together but didn’t. And it comes in an uncertain economic time when so many have given up big dreams to just keep what they have.

The specific Nevada dispute, such as it is, has been simmering for 21 years between a Mormon cattle rancher named Cliven Bundy and the Bureau of Land Management, better-known in the West as BLMM, the Bureau of Land Mis-Management.

But the far larger issue, most intense in the West, involves a mounting distrust and suspicion of all things federal — Congress, the bureaucracy and especially an aloof president. His perceived interests are inserting an over-reaching government into the lives of every American for their own good from closing coal mines and rewriting restaurant menus to seizing private property and regulating cow farts.

Little known in the urban East, BLM is charged with managing nearly 300 million federal acres mostly across the West. That’s an area equivalent to the second and fourth largest states combined, Texas and Montana.

Nevada is the seventh-largest state with 110,567 square miles. That’s 1,626 times larger than all of Washington, D.C., 84% of it still owned by the federal government.

Anyone here ever rented from a landlord located clear across the continent? You get the set-up for conflicting priorities, miscommunication, misinterpretation, misunderstanding and missteps. Bundy’s family has ranched the area since even before Joe Biden was born, back in the 1880′s when Rutherford B. Hayes was president.

Sixty-six years later in 1946 BLM was created, ostensibly to organize a crazy-quilt of laws and regulations governing federal lands. In 1993, BLM notified Bundy that he could not graze his cattle on federal lands anymore because the desert tortoise there was now endangered.

Forget that this same federal government exploded atomic bombs in Nevada for generations with little concern for natural impacts. And it would like to store thousands of tons of nuclear waste there too.

So, for the sake of an endangered wild tortoise the Bundy family ranch became an endangered species. The feds are doing the same to thirsty California farms for the sake of an endangered minnow.

Bundy’s response was very Western. He went ahead anyway. Legally, Bundy hasn’t a leg to stand on. He doesn’t own the land. He hasn’t paid rent. And he’s lost three court battles.

Armed with a court order, BLM decided the time had come for action, eviction of about 1,000 of Bundy’s cattle, even separating newborn calves and mothers.

BLM saw no contradiction sending in dozens of armed federal agents to confront a 67-year-old man behind in his rent while the president of the United States and the nation’s chief law enforcement officer traveled to New York to dine with and speak on behalf of the notorious Al Sharpton, who’s been more than $1 million behind in his income taxes.

That’s the kind of double-standard cronyism and de facto discrimination that gets people’s backs up. …

So, in pickups and on horseback hundreds of angry strangers and militia members, alerted by email and texts, became Bundy supporters. They converged on the ranch. Tensions rose. And the BLM, remembering past deadly government-citizen conflicts named Waco, Ruby Ridge and Wounded Knee, released the seized cattle.

Now, here comes the political part that will seem quite familiar to Chicagoans:

A Chinese company has wanted to build an immense solar-panel farm in Nevada under the name ENN Mojave Energy. It would need additional tortoise habitat to mitigate its complex.

The local lobbyist who’s represented the Chinese-backed firm is a failed Democrat politician named Rory Reid, who got his gully washed in the 2010 race for governor by Republican Brian Sandoval.

Oh, look! Reid also happens to be the son of Harry Reid, the dottering Democrat Senate majority leader for a few more months, who’s somehow managed to become a millionaire on congressional pay.

Now, perhaps you understand why Bundy Ranch supporters smell a cattle-thieving, land-grabbing Washington political conspiracy where, clearly, none exists.

Oh, one other thing. Last week the Senate confirmed a brand-new director of BLM. He’s Neil Kornze, at 35 an unusually inexperienced youngster to be running such a powerful agency with sprawling powers.

However, Nevada native Kornze had something special going for him in the Senate and Obama White House drive to get him the job. He was a senior policy aide to – Wait for it! – Harry Reid, whose son represented the Chinese solar farm.

Now, go wash your hands.

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And this is an editorial from the same IBD website: 

Does the government really need to own 30% of the U.S., with the percentage in Western states much higher? The government’s agenda in this and many other land-confiscation activities is motivated by a desire to comply with a UN “rewilding” program that advocates pushing humans out of rural areas and into densely packed urban zones to promote what the UN calls “sustainable development”:

Land … cannot be treated as an ordinary asset, controlled by individuals and subject to the pressures and inefficiencies of the market,” says the U.N.’s Agenda 21 action plan. “Private land ownership is also a principal instrument of accumulation and concentration of wealth and therefore contributes to social injustice; if unchecked, it may become a major obstacle in the planning and implementation of development schemes.

So the UN and its tool, the Obama administration, are mounting a massive attack on private property. 

But our land can be controlled, apparently, by Harry Reid’s donors and relatives and former staffers as well as assorted globalists and Chinese investors. In their view, this land is not your land, it’s their land.

Bundy, who lives in a country founded by armed Americans resisting a tyrannical government, has objected, reviving the long-simmering Sagebrush Rebellion between residents of the West and a land-grabbing federal government.

In the end, Bundy and the people who rallied to his cause, some of whom carried firearms of their own while demonstrating , proved what the Second Amendment is all about.

Posted under Commentary, corruption, liberty, tyranny, United States by Jillian Becker on Tuesday, April 15, 2014

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For liberty and property 7

Victory: The Bundy family and their supporters fly the American flag as their cattle were released by the Bureau of Land Management back onto public land outside of Bunkerville, Nevada

Cowboys and patriots: Kholten Gleave, right, of Utah, pauses for the National Anthem outside of Bunkerville , Nev. while gathering with other supporters of the Bundy family to challenge the Bureau of Land Management

It begins? 19

Is the citizens’ armed revolt against the tightening tyranny of the Left over all Americans beginning on the banks of the Virgin River?  

We’re slightly surprised but pleased that we found the following at GOPUSA (here). The very fact that it is a GOP report suggests that  a libertarian mood may be spreading among Republicans.

The militiamen rolled in to draw a line in the dirt.

About 70 miles northeast of Las Vegas, they set up camp on a sun-baked patch of land next to a bend in the Virgin River, keeping supplies – like rucksacks and sleeping bags – in neat piles under the roof of an abandoned shack.

Gruff and largely unshaven, dressed in camouflage fatigues and cut-off shirts, the men kept their intentions quiet, telling news reporters the reason they pulled their trucks into this rural desert town – on one of the hottest days of the year – is simple enough: “We’re here to camp,” said one man who would not share his name.

The group even had a sign, posted for arriving members: Militia Sign In.

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But they were really here to protect one of their own from the perceived enemies: a band of federal agents recently dispatched to the scrub desert to seize the cattle of embattled rancher Cliven Bundy.

“They’re here to protect Cliven’s family and home,” said Lynn Brown, one of Bundy’s daughters.

A 68-year-old Nevada native, Bundy has long been at the center of a battle with the Bureau of Land Management, the federal agency controlling the 150 miles of desert where the rancher’s cattle have roamed for decades. A renegade when it comes to any sort of government control, Bundy – the father of 14 children – has refused to pay BLM a dime of required grazing fees for his 900 cattle, a tab that has since reached $300,000. Bundy has fought the fee, he says, because his Mormon ancestors set up shop on the land long before the BLM formed.

We forgive him his Mormonism. The issue here is liberty. And private property, namely cows. (Although some Bundy defenders deny the importance of the cows – read on.)

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The problem? The land where Bundy’s cattle graze is federally owned, and the BLM now says the livestock aren’t supposed to be there. Federal agents this week cordoned off sections of land and sparked a monthlong operation to seize the cattle.

Tensions boiled over this week when a scuffle between the BLM and Bundy’s supporters ended in violence: Agents reportedly used a stun gun to subdue Bundy’s son and knocked his daughter to the ground. Though called “brutal” by some, the brawl did not land anyone in a hospital or jail.

But the incident did prompt Operation Mutual Aid – a national militia with members from California to Missouri – to visit Bundy’s ranch and set up a camp just in case things got out of hand again. Before their arrival …  dozens of Bundy’s friends and relatives gathered at a protest camp in solidarity for the recent woes that have colored his rustic ranch.

Traveling from as close as St. George – and as far as Montana – a mix of characters waved picket signs at an encampment just before a bridge over the Virgin River, protesting the BLM’s campaign.

“This is a better education than being in school! I’m glad I brought you. I’m a good mom,” said Ilona Ence, a 49-year-old mother from St. George and Bundy relative who brought her four teenage kids to the ranch. “They’re learning about the Constitution.”

Ence’s 19-year-old son Kayden and his brothers shared their opinion with a sign of their own: “CONTROL OUR BORDERS! NOT OUR RANCHERS!” …

As the temperature crept into the 90s, supporters drove by – beeping their horns and delivering water drinks so the protesters could keep hydrated.

Jack Faught, Bundy’s first cousin, drove his forest green 1929 Chevy truck from Mesquite loaded with water and Gatorade.

“It’s not about the cows,” he said. “It’s about the freedom to make our own choices close to home.”

Polo Parra, a 27-year-old tattoo artist from Las Vegas, even showed up with two of his friends to support the rancher. Dressed in baggy clothes and covered in tattoos, the group carried signs that read “TYRANNY IS ALIVE” and “WHERE’S THE JUSTICE?” in red spray-painted letters.

One of Parra’s friends, who would not share his name, had a pistol tucked in his waistband.

“I think it’s bull, and it really made me mad,” said Parra, who decided to make the trip when he heard about the violence that broke out on the ranch. “This isn’t about no turtles or cows.”

Turtles?

The land in question — the 600,000-acre Gold Butte area — is a habitat of the endangered and federally protected desert tortoise.

Harry Pappas, a 60-year-old native and “concerned citizen,” grabbed the microphone at a makeshift podium and blasted the BLM.

“It’s all a fraud,” Pappas said, arguing the BLM’s preservation of the desert tortoise was just a way to “get rid of all the ranchers.”

The BLM does not totally oppose freedom: it allows freedom of speech, for instance, in certain defined areas! 

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The BLM drew criticism for creating “First Amendment areas” — patches of land where protests are allowed. …

The First Amendment debacle caught the attention of Gov. Brian Sandoval, who ordered the BLM not to limit the constitutional rights of Nevadans.

But the governor backed off from his statement after violence broke out at Bundy’s ranch:

“The ability to speak out against government actions is one of the freedoms we all cherish as Americans. Today I am asking all individuals who are near the situation to act with restraint,” Sandoval said. “Although tensions remain high, escalation of current events could have negative, long-lasting consequences that can be avoided.”

And here we are hoping that these events will have long-lasting consequences that cannot be avoided.

The ordeal disturbed Jeff Voorhees, a 50-year-old resident of Toquerville, Utah, who called Bundy’s lifestyle “one of the last bastions of American freedom”. 

Well said, Jeff!

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Atheism and freedom 25

The right theory of individual freedom came from an understanding of the spontaneous evolution of civil institutions and traditions. A free society no more needed an intelligent designer than did the human species.  

The similarity of process in the development of social and biological life is brilliantly explained by one of the great defenders of freedom:

Though freedom is not a state of nature but an artifact of civilization, it did not arise from design. …

[The] development of a theory of liberty took place mainly in the eighteenth century. It began in two countries, England and Fance. The first of these knew liberty, the second did not. As a result, we have had to the present day two different traditions in the theory of liberty … the first based on an interpretation of traditions and institutions which had spontaneously grown up … the second aiming at the construction of a utopia, which has often been tried but never successfully. …

What we have called the “British tradition” was made explicit mainly by a group of Scottish moral philosophers led by David Hume, Adam Smith and Adam Ferguson, seconded by their English contemporaries Josiah Tucker, Edmund Burke, and William Paley … drawing largely on a tradition rooted in the jurisprudence of the common law. Opposed to them was the tradition of the French Enlightenment … : the Encyclopedists and Rousseau, the Physiocrats and Condorcet, are their best known representatives. …

[T]here is hardly a greater contrast imaginable between their respective conceptions of the evolution and functioning of a social order and the role played in it by liberty. …

[T]he British philosophers laid the foundations of a profound and essentially valid theory, while the [French] school was simply and completely wrong. …

Those British philosophers have given us an interpretation of of the growth of civilization that is still the indispensable foundation of the argument for liberty. They find the origin of institutions, not in contrivance or design, but in the survival of the successful. …

This demonstration … represented in some ways an even greater challenge to all design theories than even the later theory of biological evolution. For the first time it was shown that that an evident order which was not the product of a designing human intelligence need not therefore be ascribed to the design of a higher, supernatural intelligence, but that there was a third possibility – the emergence of order as the result of adaptive evolution.

-From The Constitution of Liberty by F. A. Hayek , Chapter Four: Freedom, Reason, and Tradition.

It’s a Red, Red world 5

Why did the West fail to claim an ideological or moral victory at the apparent end of the Cold War?

Did the West really even win the Cold War? 

Diana West asks these questions. She goes on:

If we go back in time and listen, we hear no consensus click over signs that an unalloyed US-led triumph over communist ideology had taken place; nor do we find a sense of national thanksgiving for the forces of good – or, at least, for the forces of better – in their triumph over the forces of a non-abstract evil as manifested in Gulag or KGB or famine or purge history. “Mustn’t gloat” was about as joyous as the White House of Bush No. 41 ever got.

The inability to proclaim victory loud and clear derives from the Christian injunction to be humble.

Almost everything that handicaps our civilization comes from its Christian legacy; and everything that drives it forward to discover and innovate, to attain greater prosperity, longer life – whatever  general conditions are needed for such happiness as we may individually be capable of – is the legacy of the Enlightenment, the awakening from the long dark nightmare of “God’s” reign, the rise of reason. It only  happened to the West. Reason and its children Science, Freedom, and the United States of America, made the West great; not, as those  lovers of the darkness, the god-worshipers, like to intone, the “Judeo-Christian” tradition.

All religions are the ideological enemies of the West. But yes, the Red ones,  Communism and its conjoined twin Environmentalism, are the most dangerous at present. They suffuse and weaken our culture and our civilization.

They are the New Christianities.

Diana West is right to diagnose Communism as the transforming blight.

Was the official non-reaction due to that “crisis of confidence” we always hear about — specifically, that “politically correct” failure to believe in the worth of the West? I used to think exactly that and no more. The self-loathing West, failing to see anything of value in itself, was simply unable to take satisfaction, let alone pride, in the demise of its mass-murdering nemesis. “After all,” the PC catechism goes, “Who’s to say the Western system is ‘better’ than any other?”

But there is far more to it. At a certain point, it becomes clear that what we are looking at isn’t a West that fails to appreciate itself anymore, but rather a West that isn’t itself anymore.

Decades of subversion by communist infiltrators and American traitors, collaborators and “useful idiots” have helped make sure of that. So, even if the military enemy went away after the dissolution of the USSR on Christmas Day 1991, our ideological enemy never even had to break step.

Cold Warriors might have prevailed abroad, but America lost the ideological Cold War at home. 

This helps explain why our college campuses are outposts of Marx, our centralizing government is increasingly invasive and dictatorial, and our culture is one of metastasizing decadence …

President Obama’s recent speech in Brussels, headquarters of the European Union, reveals the chasm between what we have become and what we are supposed to be. Wearing his “Leader of the Free World” hat, Obama made the case against Russia’s annexation of Crimea by conjuring a Manichaean split between free societies and dictatorships. But does it fit? 

According to the president, there are free societies where “each of us has the right to live as we choose,” and there are dictatorships where the rule is “ordinary men and women are too small-minded to govern their own affairs.” Americans confronting government-mandated health insurance would do well to wonder exactly which society they live in.

Obama continued: “In many ways, the history of Europe in the 20th century represented the ongoing clash of these two sets of ideas.” That contest, he explained, swerving wildly away from historical fact, was won “not by tanks or missiles, but because our ideals stirred the hearts” of Eastern Bloc anti-communists.

Omitted was the fact that these revolts were mainly crushed without US aid. Omitted also was the decisive role that President Reagan’s “tanks and missiles” – and missile defense – played in the military contest.

In this post-World War II era, Obama declared, “America joined with Europe to reject the darker forces of the past and build a new architecture of peace.”

Russia’s annexation of Crimea, in sum, is an attack on that “architecture,” and, as such, is bad.

On closer examination, however, that same US-EU “architecture” doesn’t support the free-society paradigm so much as what the president calls the “more traditional view of power” – the one that sees “ordinary men and women (as) too small-minded to govern their own affairs.”

This latter view aptly describes the “soft” tyranny of the EU nanny state, whose early lights, after all, were Belgian Socialists and Nazi sympathizers with visions of a unified pan-European welfare state. In Brussels, their political progeny – unelected bureaucrats – increasingly dictate political and social norms across a “United States of Europe”.

In the US, the medical totalitarianism of Obamacare – not to mention Obama’s serial usurpations of power (not enforcing legislation he doesn’t like, making up and enforcing legislation he does like) – makes it all too clear that this president has a dictatorial temperament.

This is unsurprising when you consider that his political baby, his engine of transformative change – state-mandated health care – happens also to have been an early program of the Bolsheviks, and had as one of its earliest US boosters a noted Stalinist named Henry Sigerist. This seems like as good a moment as any to remind readers that the UN and the IMF, those leading institutions of globalist infrastructure, were fostered into post-World War II existence by a pair of notorious American Soviet agents – Alger Hiss and Harry Dexter White.

Truly, it’s a Red, Red world.

A man, a senator – and president to boot? 42

We think Senator Ted Cruz would be the best GOP candidate for the 2016 presidential election. We like what he says, what he stands for. He is strong, brilliant, confident – and right. And he has the presence, the personality, the manner a president should have. In fact we like everything about him – except of course his religiousness, but that doesn’t seem to be having any adverse effect on his political thinking. Here he is making his principles plain in an interview with Genevieve Wood of The Foundry (part of the Heritage network).  The principles he states are ours too.

We know that not all our regular readers agree with our opinion of Senator Cruz.

We hope those who do not agree will tell us why.

Posted under Commentary, Conservatism, government, liberty, United States, Videos by Jillian Becker on Saturday, March 29, 2014

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How will it be? 23

Contrary to Marxian dogma, no historical development is inevitable. And all actions have unintended consequences. So prophecy is a risky enterprise.

But we have to calculate the probable outcomes of what we do.

Daniel Greenfield has prophesied - plausibly, we think – what will happen when America ceases to be the predominant power in the world.

International organizations will be good for little except sucking up the last drops of wealth and prestige of the United States. It will be a chaotic place with everyone out for themselves. …

There will be three post-ideological powers, no longer global in scope, and one worldwide ideological alliance.

The United States, Russia and China are post-ideological states. Russia and China have abandoned Communism. The United States is even abandoning nationalism; to say nothing of capitalism, democracy or freedom. Its rulers cling to scraps of global leftist ideology that isolate them from their own people.

Russia and China are run by powerful corrupt elites who emerged from the old Communist order to build economic oligarchies enforced by the ruthless use of force. The United States is increasingly run by an oligarchy of ideological bureaucrats, corrupt technocrats and leftist academics that has a distant resemblance to the USSR and the PRC; but its long march through the institutions hasn’t turned fully totalitarian yet. That may be less than a generation away.

Russia, China and the United States are all demographically unstable. Russia and the United States are both on track to become majority-minority countries. China’s demographic disaster will be the outcome of its one child policies, gender abortion and its war on the countryside. The United States will probably weather its demographic problems better than Russia or China, because the former faces a fatal Muslim demographic takeover and the latter a conflict that will tear its society apart, but like Russia and China, the demographic crisis in the United States will be exacerbated by the lack of common bonds to see it through a period of social stress.

Russia and China will fall back into their own history, collapse and isolationism for China, barbarian rule for Russia. The United States has no such history to fall back on and its elites have abandoned any meaningful national identity that doesn’t rely on pop culture and liberal pieties.

There is little to unify Russia or China … The KGB oligarchs of Russia and the Communist princes of China are as globalist as any Eurocrat. They have few national commitments. Their goals are wealth and power for their families and associates.

Unfortunately there is even less to unify the United States after the left embraced multiculturalism at the expense of exceptionalism. The erosion of everything from free speech to the free market has reduced the American Dream from individual opportunity to vulgar exhibitionism. Uncontrolled immigration has imported masses of hostile populations everywhere from Nashville to Minneapolis radically changing quintessentially American cultures and replacing them with balkanized minority coalitions who have little in common except a mutual hostility against the United States.

In contrast to the cultural vulnerabilities of the three powers, Islam, the defining global ideological alliance, lacks a superstate as the center of its empire, though it has many state bases, but enjoys the allegiance of a worldwide population larger than any of the three powers. Demographic projections continue to favor the growth of Islam over China, Russia and the United States.

It would be a mistake however to think that China, Russia and the United States are in a conflict with Islam. While Islam is in a conflict with them, each of the three powers divides Muslims into three groups; those Muslims that are within the “empire”, part of China, Russia’s Eurasian Union or the United States, those that are outside the “empire” but allied to it, e.g. Syria for Russia, Saudi Arabia for the United States and Pakistan for China, and those that are its separatist or terrorist enemies.

Instead of coming to terms with a global struggle with Islam, each power largely concentrates on fighting Muslim separatist or terrorist groups that destabilize its sphere of influence while arming, funding and supporting those Muslim separatist and terrorist groups that destabilize rival powers.

It is therefore simplistic to act as if America, Russia and China have a common interest in fighting Islam. While that may be true, that is not how the leaders of the three powers see it. Putin fights some Islamists while incorporating others into his allied clergy and helping still others go nuclear. The United States bombs the Taliban, but would never consider bombing their paymasters in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar.

Muslim terrorists operate in all three powers, but are dismissed as unrepresentative aberrations. That is wishful thinking, but empires are shaped to fight their own kind. Islam, like Communism, is something different. It is an ideology and post-ideological powers … are poorly adapted to fighting it. Instead many of their elites secretly admire its dedication. …

Like a hyena trotting after prey, Islam is a cultural carrion eater consuming the skills and knowledge of superior civilizations to sustain its warlordism …

The collapse of the Pax Americana under Obama has freed up Russia and China to begin their campaigns of territorial expansionism. Obama’s failure to deter Russia in Ukraine will encourage China to use force as a solution to territorial disputes in the South China Sea. These events will wake the world from the dream of the Pax Americana in which American power kept the peace in much of the developed world.

The end of the Pax Americana also means the end of international law. Instead of a post-American world ushering in a stable multilateral order … no single power will predominate, but … any country or militia that can seize a piece of land or a natural resource will go ahead and do so. …

The First World may wake up to discover that it is once again living under Third World rules.

Those most immediately affected by the decline of the United States will be the Asian and European countries that outsourced their defense to the United States after WW2. Japan has a limited time in which to turn around its economy, demographics and military to be able to face down China.

Europe was able to turn inward without having to make the hard choices and its elites were even able to drag the United States into implementing their vision internationally. But that is coming to an end. …

The European Union may implode in the coming years, but whether it does or does not, Western Europe will continue to be defined by the quarrels between the UK, France and Germany. The various other players have never been anything other than places to put factories, launder money or import cheap labor from. …

Europe, unlike the United States, has not been known for its altruism, and its nations face a crippling combination of problems. Europe suffers from Japanese birth rates, Russian demographics, Chinese corruption and American economics (though it would be more accurate to say that America suffers from EU economics.) Despite its size and population, Europe does not have an optimistic future. …

Russia will not stop with Ukraine and NATO will dissolve, officially or unofficially. It may stay around and limit itself to providing humanitarian aid internationally while expelling Poland and any countries that Russia is likely to want to add to its collection. …

The budding Russian empire will find that fighting a new wave of Muslim insurgencies in formerly peaceful republics will consume too much of its time and energy. The soldiers who will march on the scattered pieces of the old red empire will be Muslims and the Eurasian Union will become a Muslim empire with a handful of churches. Like Rome, its fall will come at the hands of its own barbarians.

Iraq and Afghanistan will not prove to be as psychologically devastating to Americans as Vietnam, but they will help discourage further deployments overseas. Severe military budget cuts and a campaign against the warrior culture will leave the military in no shape for anything except peacekeeping missions.

The United States will face escalating domestic unrest, less from militias than from gangs, terrorism and the economic collapse of entire cities. It will no longer be in a position to act abroad.

None of this has to happen, but it will if the same bad decisions continue to be made.

If eight years of Obama are topped by eight years of Hillary, this is where we will end up.

The writer points out that if the civilized world fails to resolve its “economic, demographic and military crises … the civilization in which we have grown up and which we have known all our lives will die and a long interregnum of darkness will follow in its wake”.

Yes, that’s all too probable, and profoundly horrible.

But it may be that an entirely different kind of civilization will emerge. That technologies – already in the womb of time – will set the individual freer than he could ever possibly have been before. That governments will lose power. That social elites without technological skills will lose credibility. That law-making will be done by new procedures, and the nature of law and the manner of its enforcement will change to fit new ideas of how liberty may be protected. That religion – so outworn and squalid a thing, a mere relic of an ignorant past – will wither away, perceived at last to be worse than useless.

There now, we ourselves have ventured beyond speculation and touched on prophecy. And because prophecy cannot be accurate, we are not likely to be right. But by the same token, we may not be entirely wrong.

The end of Internet freedom? 2

It is a fearsome thought – that the freedom of the Internet may be coming to an end.

How can it happen?

Arnold Ahlert has investigated that question:

U.S. officials [have] announced plans to relinquish control of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which manages Internet infrastructure to the so-called “global community.” Despite denials from the administration, the consequences of that move do indeed include the possibility of the Internet falling under U.N. control.

That reality has been pursued for years by pro-censorship factions led by Russia and China. As such, enormous questions exist about the future of the Internet under the stewardship of international interests — questions that the Obama administration seems wholly unconcerned with.

There we disagree. We reckon that Obama and his gang very much like the idea of bringing the Internet under the control of the UN. “I CANN and I will” is a likely motto for them in this context. 

Ahlert goes on, informatively:

The consequences of relinquishing control of the Internet involve more than censorship. U.S. security could be jeopardized as well. “Under invariably incompetent U.N. control, it could mean a hostile foreign power disabling the Internet for us,” former Bush administration State Department advisor Christian Whiton warned. He also sounded the warning on the possibility that any U.N. control of the Internet could engender taxes. “While the Obama administration says it is merely removing federal oversight of a non-profit, we should assume ICANN would end up as part of the United Nations,” Whiton said. “If the U.N. gains control what amounts to the directory and traffic signals of the Internet, it can impose whatever taxes it likes. It likely would start with a tax on registering domains and expand from there.”

Since the birth of the Internet, which grew out of a Defense Department program that began in the 1960s, America has always played the principal role in maintaining the master database for domain names, the assignment of Internet protocol addresses and other critical Web functions. That technical system is called the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). An agency within the Commerce Department, the National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA), has contracted out IANA’s operations to ICANN on a biennial basis since 2000. The latest contract expires in September of 2015.

NTIA Administrator Larry Strickling denied the possibility of a U.N. or equivalent type takeover, insisting that ICANN must meet four conditions to make the transition. “We will not accept a proposal that replaces the NTIA role with a government-led or an intergovernmental solution,” Strickling said in a conference call. He has asked ICANN to begin the process for making a formal transition that must “support and enhance the multistakeholder model” and “maintain the openness of the Internet.”

ICANN itself wants to get out from under U.S. oversight, and their effort has been abetted by European officials whose promotion of a globalization campaign has intensified in the wake of fugitive Edward Snowden’s leaks about the National Security Administration’s overarching surveillance programs. An NTIA official denied the connection, insisting U.S. stewardship of the Internet was always intended to be temporary.

Regardless of which scenario is accurate, ICANN’s motive is transparent. The organization has elicited the wrath of many in the business community who believe their decision-making is aimed at accommodating the industry that sells domain names, and whose fees provide the lion’s share of ICANN’s revenue. They believe ICANN’s contract with the U.S. mitigates some of those abuses, and that international control would amount to no control at all.

There is little question that the selling of domain names is a huge business, one with enormous potential for fraud. As a 2012 article in the Washington Post revealed, several groups have been out to get control of names that would give them a huge advantage over their competitors. Examples include Amazon bidding for control over all the Web addresses that end with “.book,” Google for “.buy.” and Allstate for “.carinsurance.”

They further sounded the alarm about Donuts Inc., a company with close ties to a documented Internet spammer. Donuts Inc. bid $57 million for 307 new domains, including “.doctor,” “.financial” and “.school.” At the time, David E. Weslow, a D.C.-based lawyer who represents several major corporations, contended that such top-level domains would precipitate a ”Wild West for fraud and abuse.” Law enforcement officials agreed, noting that the rapid expansion of new domains would increase the likelihood of cybercrime, even as identifying the perpetrators would become more difficult. In 2012, there were 22 “top level domains.” Here is ICANN’s current–and vastly expanded–list.

ICANN manages that list via an international structure of governance comprised of “stakeholders” that include governments, corporations, and civil society activists. Under its contract with the NTIA, it could theoretically be forced to render a website nameless, effectively removing it from the Internet. When that contract ends, a new form of global governance will take its place–one that has yet to be determined. There have been several efforts over the course of the last decade to transfer control of the Internet to the U.N.’s International Telecommunications Union (ITU), whose website claims it is “committed to connecting the world.” Yet those efforts have been led by Russia and China, two countries whose commitment to “connecting the world” begins and ends with censoring content inimical to their interests.

Unsurprisingly, both believe the only stakeholders that really matter are countries. That’s because under the current contract, nations can only suppress Internet content. They can’t prevent websites from registering domain names. If those parameters change, domain name registry could be censored under the auspices of protecting one’s national sovereignty.

ICANN president Fadi Chehade dismisses that concern as well as others. “Nothing will be done in any way to jeopardize the security and stability of the Internet,” he promised. He called the Obama administration’s decision “historic”.

Republicans weren’t buying it. “While I certainly agree our nation must stridently review our procedures regarding surveillance in light of the NSA controversy, to put ourselves in a situation where censorship-laden governments like China or Russia could take a firm hold on the Internet itself is truly a scary thought,” said Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC). “I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Senate Commerce Committee and with the Commerce Department on this, because–to be blunt–the ‘global Internet community’ this would empower has no First Amendment.”

Former Rep. Mary Bono (R-CA), who sponsored a unanimously-passed 2012 resolution to keep the Internet free from governmental control, concurred. “We’re at a critical time where [Russian President Vladimir] Putin is proving he is capable of outmaneuvering the administration. … As they digest it, I think people are going to be very upset,” she contended.

As if on cue, Amnesty International revealed that Russia instituted a media blackout that included blocking a number of Internet sites in the Russian Federation prior to secession vote in Crimea. That censorship was enabled by an amendment to the Law on Internet Information signed by Putin on Feb. 1, giving the Prosecutor General’s office the authority to block websites that publish any calls for activities considered to be unlawful.

An op-ed by Daniel Castro, a senior analyst at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), reveals what’s at stake. He notes that two years ago, on the 25th anniversary of the registration of the first .com domain name, his company released a report revealing that “the annual global economic benefit of the commercial Internet equaled $1.5 trillion, more than the global sales of medicine, investment in renewable energy, and government investment in R&D, combined.” He believes all of it would be at risk if the Obama administration doesn’t resist giving up control of the Internet. He contends such a move would bring about a “splintered Internet that would stifle innovation, commerce, and the free flow and diversity of ideas that are bedrock tenets of the world’s biggest economic engine.”

Nonetheless, the effort has its defenders. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WVA) called the move “consistent with other efforts the U.S. and our allies are making to promote a free and open Internet, and to preserve and advance the current multi-stakeholder model of global Internet governance.” Gene Kimmelman, president of Public Knowledge, a hard-left group promoting itself as a public interest vehicle, concurred. “This is a step in the right direction to resolve important international disputes about how the Internet is governed,” he said.

This so-called step in the right direction is anything but.

It is useful to remember that along with Russian and China, the EU criminalizes free speech, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference [now the Organization of Islamic Co-operation - ed.] is determined to silence those who resist terror and jihad.

Steps are being taken towards the disaster even as we speak .”Discussions for laying out the appropriate transitional process” are starting this month in Singapore.

ITIF’s Daniel Castro sounds the ultimate alarm, one that should concern every American. “Yes, Internet architecture is technical and, frankly, quite boring to outsiders,” he acknowledges. “But it is an issue with huge consequences that demands attention from policymakers. It is too important to get wrong. And if the Obama Administration gives away its oversight of the Internet, it will be gone forever.”

It obviously has not been safe with the Obama gang. They were bound to give it away. They are no more for freedom than are Russia, China, or the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

Precarious life, restricted liberty, unhappiness 4

In a free country, the liberty of everyone is protected by the rule of law. If freedom is indivisible, no country is free. Some protect freedom to some extent. Many don’t do it at all.

The United States was founded on the principle that the law should protect individual liberty. But all too often, and increasingly, it fails to do so.

Let’s look at just one case where the principle was violated.

Jeff Jacoby writes at Townhall:

Nearly nine years have elapsed since the US Supreme Court, in one of its most notorious rulings, decided that seven homeowners in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood of New London, Conn., had no property rights which City Hall was bound to respect. Today Fort Trumbull is a wasteland, as a detailed new report confirms.

The court’s 2005 holding in Kelo v. City of New London gave local officials a green light to seize and demolish private homes through eminent domain, then turn the land over to developers itching to build something more lucrative. In Fort Trumbull, those private homeowners included people such as Susette Kelo, a local nurse who bought her little Victorian cottage on the Thames River because she loved its waterfront view; Wilhelmina Dery, who was born in her house on Walbach Street in 1918 and had been living there all her life; and Pasquale and Margherita Cristofaro, whose home on Goshen Street was the second New London property they lost to eminent domain, the first having been taken 30 years earlier because the city intended to construct a seawall. (The seawall was never built.)

Their homes, like those of their neighbors, were targeted at the urging of Pfizer, Inc. The pharmaceutical giant was building a major research facility nearby and wanted city officials to pave the way for a “world-class redevelopment” that would appeal to the business leaders, scientists, and other professionals the new headquarters was expected to attract. “Pfizer wants a nice place to operate,” a supercilious executive said in 2001. “We don’t want to be surrounded by tenements.”

The Fifth Amendment’s “Takings Clause” authorizes eminent-domain takings, but only when property is needed “for public use” — for example, to build a post office, widen a road, or create a reservoir. Fort Trumbull’s homeowners argued all the way up to the Supreme Court that their homes weren’t being seized for “public use” but for private use. Under the Constitution, they insisted, the city had no right to forcibly transfer their property to a private developer in the hope that new development would yield higher tax revenues or new jobs. 

But five justices — John Paul Stevens, Steven Breyer, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Anthony Kennedy — decided otherwise. With their imprimatur, New London confiscated the modest but well-cared-for homes of Fort Trumbull. The last remaining owners were forced out. The bulldozers moved in. The land was cleared for the kind of upscale redevelopment that Pfizer and its political allies in New London craved: a posh hotel, a conference center, a condominium complex, a health club, and high-end shops.

And how did it all end up?

When journalist Charlotte Allen went recently to New London to find out, what she found, as she reported in the Weekly Standard, was “a vast, empty field —  90 acres — that was entirely uninhabited and looked as though it had always been that way”. There is no hotel, no health club, no condos. The neighborhood that for generations had been home to working-class families like the Derys and Cristofaros is now a “deserted incline”,  where the only signs of life are “waist-high dead weeds”.

The homeowners were dispossessed for nothing. Fort Trumbull was never redeveloped. Pfizer itself bailed out of New London in 2009. Kelo was a disaster, as even the city’s present political leaders acknowledge. Allen writes that the current mayor, who was elected in 2011, has formally apologized to the Kelo plaintiffs, calling the decision a “black stain” on New London’s reputation. City officials agreed to install a plaque on the heights above the Thames in memory of Margherita Cristofaro, who died during the long legal battle. It notes that she and her family “made significant contributions to the Italian-American community, sacrificing two family homes to the eminent domain process”.

If anything good came of Kelo, it was the furious nationwide backlash, which led a number of states — Massachusetts, unfortunately not among them — to pass new laws protecting property ownersfrom abusive eminent-domain takings. But such still happens, and will go on happening until Kelo is overruled.

The founders put the Takings Clause in the Bill of Rights for a reason. The desolation that is Fort Trumbull is a grim reminder that where property rights aren’t secure, neither is freedom — and without freedom, there is nothing the government can’t destroy.

The flame is dying 2

Posted under cartoons, liberty, United States by Jillian Becker on Tuesday, March 11, 2014

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