Monday, January 30, 2012

The Politics of Unintended Consequences

Who could shoot down a great idea based on sound research and motivated by the best of intentions?

If the idea crept out of the incestuous swamp we call Washington, I would summarily execute that idea. No blindfold, no last cigarette, no drum roll, as fast as they could foment new ideas; I would gun them down. 

Wait, I know what you're thinking...

"I just hate all government so it stands to reason I would hate any idea that came from government officials." 

I understand why you might feel that way, but my judgment is not based on knee-jerk emotional reactions or some visceral reflex. In truth, I have a great deal of respect for government so long as the government has a great deal of respect for the Constitution, and not a second longer. You see as long as the government respects the Constitution it is bound by the ideals it embodies. The foremost of which is, the government must respect my person, my faith, my privacy, my property, my liberty, and yours as well. When one takes the time for thoughtful deliberation rather than flying off on some rash tangent because it feels good at the moment it is a sign of wisdom. The virtue of wisdom, like all other virtues, are nearly extinct in Washington.

Unintended consequences are the political equivalent of Sir Isaac Newton's third law of motion, which states “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”. 

1.      The Treaty of Versailles was not supposed to incite the German people to into provoking another world war, but it did.

2.      The “Great Society” programs were not intended to increase out-of-wedlock births and broken families, but it has.

3.      Extended unemployment benefits were not meant to discourage employment searches or dissuade entrepreneurship, but it has.

4.      Guaranteeing the solvency of the banks was not meant to make them more reckless in their lending and investing practices, but it has.

5.      Social Security and Medicare was not meant to nearly eliminate personal planning for retirement, but it has.

6.      Easy credit loans were not intended to create massive foreclosures, destroying families, and their finances, but it did.

7.      Student Loans were not intended to send tuition costs skyrocketing while trapping graduates in a crushing debt load which threatens to destroy their careers before they begin, but they did.

8.      Farm Subsidies were not intended to artificially raise the price of food and diminish the production so high that low income families required Food Stamps to eat, but they did.

9.      The welfare system was not intended to become a snare for the impoverished entrapping them at a serf like subsistence existence for generations, but it does.

10.   Public schools were not intended to produce the lowest common denominator of education with continuously declining standards, but it has.

If this were the total of the unintended consequences produced by the short-sighted, herd-mentality policy makers we seem to have no shortage of in Washington it wouldn't be so bad, however it isn't the total and it is worse... 

 And yet more unintended consequences...


And more...

I could go on but at this point I'm too disgusted to write...

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

US Compared to Other Repressive Regimes

Top constitutional law expert Jon Turley notes in a must-read Washington Post article called “We are no longer the land of the free” (I have edited slightly to remove parentheses in several places):

Americans often proclaim our nation as a symbol of freedom to the world while dismissing nations such as Cuba and China as categorically unfree. Yet, objectively, we may be only half right. Those countries do lack basic individual rights such as due process, placing them outside any reasonable definition of “free,” but the United States now has much more in common with such regimes than anyone may like to admit.These countries also have constitutions that purport to guarantee freedoms and rights. But their governments have broad discretion in denying those rights and few real avenues for challenges by citizens — precisely the problem with the new laws in this country.
The list of powers acquired by the U.S. government since 9/11 puts us in rather troubling company.

Assassination of U.S. citizens
[The U.S. assassinates its own citizens.]

Nations such as Nigeria, Iran and Syria have been routinely criticized for extrajudicial killings of enemies of the state.

Indefinite detention

[The U.S. has passed a law allowing indefinite detention of American citizens.]

China recently codified a more limited detention law for its citizens, while countries such as Cambodia have been singled out by the United States for “prolonged detention.”

Arbitrary justice

The president now decides whether a person will receive a trial in the federal courts or in a military tribunal, a system that has been ridiculed around the world for lacking basic due process protections. Bush claimed this authority in 2001, and Obama has continued the practice. (Egypt and China have been denounced for maintaining separate military justice systems for selected defendants, including civilians.)

Warrantless searches

[The U.S. routinely conducts warrantless searches.]

Saudi Arabia and Pakistan operate under laws that allow the government to engage in widespread discretionary surveillance.

War crimes

[The U.S. has committed various war crimes, then refused to hold the actors to account.]

Various nations have resisted investigations of officials accused of war crimes and torture. Some, such as Serbia and Chile, eventually relented to comply with international law; countries that have denied independent investigations include Iran, Syria and China.

Secret court

[The U.S. uses secret courts under the guise of national security.]

Pakistan places national security surveillance under the unchecked powers of the military or intelligence services.

Immunity from judicial review

Like the Bush administration, the Obama administration has successfully pushed for immunity for companies that assist in warrantless surveillance of citizens, blocking the ability of citizens to challenge the violation of privacy. (Similarly, China has maintained sweeping immunity claims both inside and outside the country and routinely blocks lawsuits against private companies.)

Continual monitoring of citizens

The Obama administration has successfully defended its claim that it can use GPS devices to monitor every move of targeted citizens without securing any court order or review. It is not defending the power before the Supreme Court — a power described by Justice Anthony Kennedy as “Orwellian.” (Saudi Arabia has installed massive public surveillance systems, while Cuba is notorious for active monitoring of selected citizens.)

Extraordinary renditions

The government now has the ability to transfer both citizens and noncitizens to another country under a system known as extraordinary rendition, which has been denounced as using other countries, such as Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Pakistan, to torture suspects. The Obama administration says it is not continuing the abuses of this practice under Bush, but it insists on the unfettered right to order such transfers — including the possible transfer of U.S. citizens.
Professor Turley stresses the fact that it is the ability of powerful men to make arbitrary decisions which defines an authoritarian country:
An authoritarian nation is defined not just by the use of authoritarian powers, but by the ability to use them. If a president can take away your freedom or your life on his own authority, all rights become little more than a discretionary grant subject to executive will.
The framers lived under autocratic rule and understood this danger better than we do. James Madison famously warned that we needed a system that did not depend on the good intentions or motivations of our rulers: “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”
In fact, we go from the land of the free to tyranny the moment we go from a nation of laws to a nation of powerful men arbitrarily making laws in secret.

Indeed, Bush and Obama have claimed some tyrannical powers that even Hitler and Stalin never claimed.

As I pointed out last month, many American leaders appear to be consciously copying China:
The American copyright bill is modeled after the Chinese system. As I noted Monday:
Given that Joe Lieberman said that America needs an internet kill switch like China, that the U.S. economy has turned socialist (at least for friends of those with control of the money spigot), and that the U.S. government used communist Chinese torture techniques specifically designed to produce false confessions in order to sell the Iraq war, I guess that the bill’s Chinese-style censorship is not entirely surprising.

Reprinted from: EquityJungle – v0.1  January 17, 2012