Harry Browne's Journal

This Journal provides random thoughts on news items and other issues. There won't be new postings every day, but most weeks there should be three or four new entries. This isn't an interactive blog where you can post your thoughts. However, you can email me — and if your email seems to be of general interest, I might respond in this Journal. I can't provide a personal answer, because I don't have the time to do many things I'd like to do.

December 30, 2004

The Press: In today's new article, "The Future Is Not Hopeless," I cite a number of public-opinion polls that demonstrate the public's aversion to big government and its skepticism toward the ability of politicians to improve their lives. The polls I cited were actually only a few of a great many that have shown the same results over the past decade or two.

And yet, how many times have you read of such polls in the newspaper — or heard anyone on television discussing them? I've never seen or heard a single reference to them.

Given the continuing and decisive voting in public-opinion polls for smaller government, you would think that a journalist interviewing one of the many presidential candidates of the  past year or so — or one of the debate moderators — would have asked a question along these lines:

Many public-opinion polls have shown that the American people in general would much prefer a government that's smaller, does fewer things, and reduces taxes accordingly. Do you agree with that sentiment? And whether or not you agree with it, do you plan if elected to propose an overall reduction in government? If so, how much smaller do you think the government should be?

Why have you never heard such a question asked?

In my opinion, it's because almost no journalist has any interest in reducing government, and in fact most journalists will deliberately ignore any suggestion that people want smaller government.

For years, it was easy to assume that the great majority of reporters and journalists were liberal or pro-Democrat. Now, in recent years there's been much talk that conservative Republicans dominate talk radio and such TV channels as Fox News and MS-NBC.

Both viewpoints are understandable, but I believe they miss the point.

While individual reporters may be Democrats or Republicans and even strongly partial to their chosen parties, the most important characteristic of the press in general is that it is pro-government.

When the Democrats controlled the White House and Congress, conservative reporters like Brit Hume never used their position to point out the failures of government programs. And now that Republicans are riding high, even long-time Democrats like Chris Matthews (who worked for Jimmy Carter, Tip O'Neill, and various Democratic senators) are cheer-leading the war in Iraq and various other Bush programs.

Part of the reason for such sycophancy is, of course, that they don't want to displease those in power and risk losing access to news and interviews. But it's also true that most of the people who go into the various communications fields are social reformers at heart. They may disagree among themselves over which reforms they want, but there's little disagreement with the idea that government is there to do the reforming.

If you have any doubt that the "liberal media" will support George Bush as easily as Bill Clinton, think back to last year. Virtually every TV report on the Iraqi War carried a caption on the screen that said "Operation Iraqi Freedom." Do you think it's a coincidence that all the networks eschewed such phrases as "War in Iraq" or "The Invasion of Iraq," and happened to light upon the same phrase to describe the war?

Of course not. They simply repeated the phrase that was carefully chosen by the Bush Administration to divert attention from the fact that the U.S. military was invading a country that had neither provoked nor threatened America.

You couldn't find a more compliant press in communist Romania at the height of the Cold War.

December 24, 2004

Happy holidays, whatever you believe: Or, as the Irish comedian Dave Allen used to say, "May your God go with you."

Martha Stewart lives!: Read the short Christmas message from a woman with more class than all the people who've condemned her, combined.

You also might find it interesting to read the "Reply Brief of Martha Stewart" summary on pages 1-5 of her attorneys' appeal of her conviction. This case is one more example of the prosecutorial power and inevitable abuse of that power mentioned below.

Incidentally, you might remember Stewart's prosecutor telling the world on national TV that "this is a case about lying." Well, on pages 48-49 of that appeal, I learned for the first time that a key prosecution witness in the Stewart case (the forensic "expert" who testified that Stewart had doctored her log to cover up her alleged insider trading) was later prosecuted by the government for committing perjury in the Stewart case.

December 22, 2004

From the mailbag: Here are a few of the emails I've received in the past month, together with my comments . . .:

What is your definition of a "Neo-conservative."

A Democrat who has infiltrated the Republican Party.

I've read your self-serving tripe. The only explanation for it is that you must be an idiot, but at least one level above any super idiot who would actually pay to hear you speak or waste their time. God save America from you and your ilk.

I have bad news and good news for you. The bad news is that I’m going to continue writing the self-serving tripe. The good news is that you don’t have to read it.

In "What Government Is Doing for (to) You" you wrote: "Helping those who can't help themselves" is a paraphrase of Karl Marx' famous dictum: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need." That wasn't Marx. It was Peter Kropotkin, from Mutual Aid.

Bartlett’s 15th edition says that the phrase probably came from either Louis Blanc, who was a French socialist leader and historian, or someone named Morrelly. Karl Marx popularized the expression in Critique of the Gotha Program in 1875.

While Marx’ paraphrase may be more famous, his dictum originated with the early Christian church and shouldn’t be disparaged without qualification. "All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need." Acts 2: 44, 45. This dictum is a perfectly acceptable, though inefficient, principle for organizing a church or other organization so long as participation is voluntary. It is only when married with coercion through government or other aggression that it becomes an instrument for harm.

While our attention must be focused on coercive communism, I believe the principle is harmful even in a voluntary organization. The best example is that of the Massachusetts Pilgrims. As William Bradford relates in Of Plymouth Plantation, they nearly starved to death from three years of putting all their production in a common house, to be distributed according to need. Only when they divided up the real estate and let each family produce for itself did production increase to the point that called for a Thanksgiving celebration.

A Canadian pro-family activist says the majority of immigrants to his country come from areas of the world that don't believe in Christian values — and that there is now a push by Muslim immigrants to replace Canadian law with Islamic law. He goes on to say that Canada has gotten to the point where every segment of the population could have its own laws, which would create a chaotic nation that would be in deep trouble.

The problem isn’t immigration. The problem is big government. If whoever controls government can impose his way upon you, you have to fight constantly to prevent the control from being harmful. With small, limited government, it doesn’t much matter who controls it, because it can’t do you much harm.

Regarding "What Government Is Doing for (to) You," I believe that we agree that protecting America and Americans from invasion is a legal function of our federal government. Brown tree snakes, from what I've read, are a very invasive species that has already destroyed most birds and ground-dwelling small mammals on Guam. Hawaii would be devastated if invaded by brown tree snakes. Invasive species have already created havoc in many areas of America.

I too am concerned about ever-expanding pork projects. But I think that we should be careful about condemning all government projects — when some, even if by accident, serve a legal and needed purpose.

If Hawaii has a problem with brown tree snakes, Hawaii should deal with it. It makes no sense to force Floridians to pay for Hawaii’s problem — and then force Hawaiians to pay for hurricane damage in Florida. Just because some cause serves a "needed purpose" is no reason to make it a government project. In fact, the more needed the cause, the more reason to keep it out of the hands of government. Considering the unintended consequences that have arisen from government’s War on Drugs and its War on Poverty, we can assume that a government War on Brown Tree Snakes will lead to having a boa constrictor in everyone’s bedroom.

You said, "And once people see that there's nothing substantial or valuable behind the curtain, the game will be up — and we'll have one generation in which to find a way to ‘bind them now from mischief’ permanently, in a more secure way than the founders discovered in 1789."

As much as we might want you to be correct, how can a country who would vote in some incompetent scam master (who's only claim to fame is his willingness to keep the same sex from marrying) ever develop the gray matter to understand that control equals failure and corruption?

The "country" voted in the incompetent scam master because the only visible alternative was (in their eyes) an even more incompetent scam master. No third alternative had a chance to present its case to America. 

We are completely surrounded by control freaks who want to run and control every aspect of our lives. What do we do about these religious
self-righteous ‘Hamilton’ big government sheeple who out-vote us at the poles?

We have to help people understand how much they’re losing to government and how much they’re being hurt by government. We must build a movement big enough to sweep the "control freaks" out of government. This will be a very difficult task, but it’s not an impossible one.

I am beginning to think countries, like people, have to hit rock bottom first, and George W. might just be the megalomaniac to take us there.

I’m afraid that when countries hit rock bottom (as in the 1930s in America or Germany), they turn to the worst kinds of demagogues (Roosevelt and Hitler) to save themselves. I want to turn America around before we hit rock bottom.

December 21, 2004

Bye, bye Bill of Rights: The Founding Fathers created a Bill of Rights to assure that Americans would never have to fear government prosecutors the way people in the Old World did.

Unfortunately, the Bill of Rights is a dead letter in too many ways in America. It has now become possible for prosecutors to get a conviction in virtually every case where they choose to indict — whether or not the defendant is guilty.

Fortunately, however, a number of prominent writers are alarmed about the problem — including some people you might expect to be law-and-order conservatives.

Here are some articles that explain aspects of this prosecution crisis — a crisis that, to the best of my knowledge, no Republican or Democratic candidate raised in the last election.

"How Government Breaks the Law" by Andrew P. Napolitano
A new public hero emerges to call attention to the way that government — at all levels and with both parties — has discarded the Bill of Rights.

"The Defense Rests — Permanently" by Craig Horowitz
Prosecutors have so much power that defense attorneys are now concerned mostly with negotiating plea bargains, rather than arguing cases in court. Mandatory-minimum-sentence laws have taken the power of sentencing away from judges and given it to prosecutors — thus allowing the prosecutors to force plea bargains on guilty and innocent defendants alike.

"A System Bereft of Justice" by Paul Craig Roberts
An excellent overview of the problem by one of America's premier investigative journalists.

"Turning Lawyers into Government Spies" by Paul Craig Roberts
How the government is prosecuting attorneys and trying to destroy
attorney-client privacy.

"Federal Mandatory Sentences Are Unconstitutional"
by William L. Anderson and Karen S. Bond
A rebuttal to those who argue that the suffering of people hurt in violent crimes justifies long sentences imposed on people who have never engaged in violence.

"All about Lying" by William L. Anderson
Government agents are allowed to engage in the very misdeeds, such as lying, for which civilians are prosecuted.

"The Death of Due Process" by Peter Brimelow
How prosecutors can intimidate defendants into pleading guilty.

"Judge Rejects Sell's Request for Trial" by Carolyn Tuft
A doctor is considered delusional for saying he's being persecuted by being incarcerated for eight years without benefit of a trial.

December 16, 2004

Oops!: In the December 13th entry "Déjà vu again?," I implied that the Bush administration folks might have gone after Iraq when they really meant Iran, "since there’s only one letter difference between them."

Unfortunately, earlier in the entry I said Iraq when I meant Iran. So that one letter was as much a hurdle for me as it apparently was for Condoleezza Rice. (I've corrected the mistake below.)

Incidentally, I welcome corrections of typos, misspellings, dunderheadness, and poor choice of ties. Better to make the correction than to go on looking as though I know what I'm talking about.

Even though I rarely can provide a personal answer to an email, I read everything that comes in. So thanks in advance for any enlightenment you provide.

Your tax dollars at work: Our compassionate president never stops doing nice things for people.

The latest gift he has provided (with your money) is a million Christmas cards sent from the White House.

I would wonder how much that cost, but I don't want to be crassly materialistic.

The royal lineage: On last Friday's Hannity & Colmes show on Fox TV News, Sean Hannity was talking to someone who is boosting Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination in 2008. I wasn't paying a lot of attention until Hannity jolted me upright by asking, "Do you really think Hillary can beat Jeb Bush?"

Jeb Bush????

Are we creating a dynasty here?

First we had George H.W. Bush for four years, and now we have George W. Bush for eight years. Do we have to have eight years of Jeb Bush as well? Bushes until 2016?

This past year George Bush has continually referred to himself as our leader (Führer in German). What will Jeb Bush be? Our Tsar? Kaiser? Emperor? Il Duce?

When Jeb Bush's two terms are over, the Bush twins will be old enough to run for president. In fact, they'll turn 35 in November 2016. And so our first woman president may actually be a twosome.

When I close my eyes I can see a 2017 headline:

Jenna & Barbara to Switzerland:  Disarm Now or Else!

December 13, 2004

Apologies: My apologies for the 10-day gap in entries for this Journal. I’ve done an inordinate amount of traveling the past couple of months, which has severely crimped my style. But now I look forward to being home for almost all of the next couple of months. And I have an awful lot on my mind, so you may decide I’m suffering from logorrhea.

Déjà vu again?: This morning I watched a few minutes of Fox & Friends — the Fox TV News network’s version of Today and Good Morning America. Two of the three hosts were interviewing one of their foreign policy experts. Among the three of them, they made the following points about Iran:

  • Iran is developing nuclear weapons (you know, weapons of mass destruction).

  • The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors are doing a terrible job of monitoring nuclear installations in Iran.

  • The IAEA work should be replaced by a UN Security Council resolution ordering Iran to give up its nuclear work, since such a resolution can be backed up by force.

  • The European countries aren’t backing the U.S. against Iran, because the French and Germans are greedy and want to get rich doing business with Iran.

  • The U.S. should bring about regime change in Iran.

  • This all sounded eerily familiar, but I couldn’t put my finger on where I’d heard this before.

    Don’t tell me. I’m sure it will come to me.

    Aha! I remember now. This is exactly what was being said about Iraq two years ago.

    Not once in the Fox discussion was Iraq mentioned — no references such as "We were wrong before about Iraq, but I’m sure we’re right now about Iran" or "We were wrong before because it’s easy to get those two countries mixed up, since there’s only one letter difference between them."

    It is amazing how people can seriously suggest repeating the Iraqi debacle.

    Incidentally, for an excellent report of what Iran is really like, read "A Few Thoughts Before We ‘Liberate’ Iran" by Steven LaTulippe.

    The Defense of Buicks act: Suppose you drive a Buick. And you discover that a racist bigot also drives a Buick. Would you try to get a Constitutional amendment passed to prevent racist bigots from driving Buicks? Would you need to do this to defend your right to drive a Buick?

    Suppose you have a favorite restaurant, and you discover that the town atheist also frequents that restaurant. Would you try to get a law passed affirming that this restaurant is for God-fearing citizens only? Would that be necessary to defend your right to enjoy the restaurant?

    I realize that both these ideas seem ridiculous. But, then, so does the idea that marriage needs to be "defended" from homosexuals who want to get married. How does a "Defense of Marriage" act defend marriage?

    Why is marriage even a subject for government legislation?

    I resent the idea that I’m really married only if the state has blessed my marriage. I should be able to marry my cat if I want to — even if it offends Trent Lott or George Bush.

    I also resent the idea that, after pouring money into a fraudulent Social Security system all my adult life, when I die the death benefit can be paid only to someone designated by the state.

    If I have a private insurance policy I can name anyone I want as my beneficiary — my wife, my secret lover (if I had one), my brother, my best friend, my dog, my favorite charity, or the federal government (oops, forget that one). But with Social Security, I have no choice.

    And if I were a homosexual, I’d doubly resent it. Imagine: on your death all the money you poured into Social Security is lost because you’re not legally married to anyone — especially not legally married to the person you love.

    I realize that some people are resisting the idea of homosexual marriages because some parts of the "gay pride" movement include a lot of in-your-face flaunting — the "we’re here, we’re queer, and we’re not going away" sort of thing.

    But that shouldn’t cloud our judgment. Marriage is none of the government’s business. You know it, I know it, and we shouldn’t pretend that we’re somehow protecting our life, liberty, or property by denying homosexuals the same rights of marriage that are available to heterosexuals.

    I can’t think of a less aptly named piece of legislation than the "Defense of Marriage" act or constitutional amendment. It doesn’t provide for the defense of anything — much less marriage. By wanting to get married, homosexuals aren’t attacking my marriage, your marriage, or George Bush’s marriage.

    Consequently, conservatives are racking their brains to come up with plausible reasons for opposing gay marriage. For example, that eminent philosopher Bill O’Reilly says he opposes gay marriage because he’s a traditionalist. I guess this means he opposes inter-racial marriage as well, since it was a centuries-old tradition that whites and blacks shouldn’t marry each other.

    In fact, slavery is an ages-old tradition. Perhaps he favors that as well.

    The Saving-a-City-by-Destroying-It Department: Brigadier Gen. Dennis J. Hejlik is the deputy commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force — one of the units that "liberated" Fallujah.

    After touring a section of Fallujah, he said, "What I saw out here is a bunch of professional Marines and soldiers who were protecting the property of the Iraqi people." The picture below provides a glimpse of how well the Iraqis' property was protected.

    (The picture was discovered by Lew Rockwell.)

    December 3, 2004

    Having the gall to speak one's mind: I recently received the following email concerning my article "The Bush Doctrine: Selective Bullying," in which I said that the U.S. government is eager to attack weak, relatively defenseless countries like Iraq or Iran — but cozies up to countries like Russia that have the means to fight back effectively. You may have had some of these arguments tossed at you if you've been the least bit critical of our government's foreign policy.

    Read your article with interest. It always amazes me that apparently intelligent people like you feel more qualified than the president to decide what course the United States should take.

    I have no reason to believe that the President is smarter, more patriotic, more concerned for the safety of Americans, or more far-sighted than anyone else. I know only four things about him: (1) he knows how to win an election, (2) he is making government bigger and bigger, despite his campaign promises, (3) internationally, he has taken America down a road that leads to disaster, despite his campaign promises of 2000, and (4) he smirks a lot.

    And don't tell me that everything changed on 9/11. America's foreign policy had provoked terrorist attacks before. 9/11 changed nothing.

    Do you labor under the impression that President Bush should tell you and the world exactly what he plans so you (and the world) would best know how to respond (retaliate)?

    A President with a realistic foreign policy that doesn't meddle in the affairs of other countries wouldn't have to plan anything. No one would be planning to retaliate because there would be nothing to retaliate for.

    I'd much rather that he show the world that we will take action. Better to create a lesson with a small power before deciding whether to take on the big one. Also better to let the big one feel no animosity till you decide to do something.

    Is this what you want — a government engaged in attacking, invading, intriguing? Is this what at one time made America unique in all the world? And are you suggesting that George Bush is cozying up to Vladimir Putin to lull him into complacency before the American military attacks Russia?

    One point: Iraq was the world's fourth largest army at the time of our attack. What do you mean by "the weak"?

    Iraq was totally incapable of causing harm to America if the U.S. government had simply left it alone. Instead our government invaded Iraq twice — and in between the two invasions it bombed Iraq regularly and mercilessly, and it imposed economic sanctions on Iraq that are estimated to have cost the lives of a half-million innocent Iraqi men, women, and children.

    In years past I'd have heartily agreed to let the rest of the world kill each other (isolationism). The world has changed and now isolationism is not an option.

    As far as we're concerned, the world changed because American Presidents from Roosevelt to Bush have stuck their noses in the affairs of other countries. Isolationism is in fact the only way to stop the threats and dangers that have been created by those Presidents. Switzerland is a country that is as free, as prosperous, and as democratic as the United States, but is a military weakling — and yet it has suffered no terrorist attacks and is in no danger. Why? Because it doesn't meddle in other countries' business.

    If you're trying to aid and abet our enemies I congratulate you. You do an excellent job.

    Thank you for letting me know that it is now considered treason to criticize a dangerous government policy.

    So tell me: exactly what freedoms are we supposedly trying to defend by being in Iraq?

    November 2004 Journal

     

     

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