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 one to 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.

January 31, 2005

The Drug Crisis: Few people are aware that before World War I, a 9-year-old girl could walk into a drug store and buy heroin.

That's right — heroin. She didn't need a doctor's prescription or a note from her parents. She could buy it right off the shelf. Bayer and other large drug companies sold heroin as a pain-reliever and sedative in measured doses — just the way aspirin is sold today. Cocaine, opium, and marijuana were readily available as well. No Drug Enforcement Agency, no undercover cops, no "Parents — the Anti-Drug" commercials. Just people going about their own business in whatever way they chose.

Seeing today's never-ending crisis of teenagers using drugs, you can imagine how bad it must have been when there were no laws to stop children — or adults — from using drugs. But, in fact, there was no drug crisis at all. A few people were addicted to heroin or cocaine, just as a few people today are addicted to sleeping pills or Big Macs, but there was no national uproar about it. Such people, if they wanted to break their habits, could freely consult doctors without fear of being sent to prison.

There were no black-market drug dealers preying on school children. There were no gang wars over drug profits, because there were no drug gangs. After all, who would buy dangerous drugs from a gangster at outrageous prices when he could buy safe drugs made by a reputable drug company at modest prices?

Americans got a taste of what a Drug War might be like when they endorsed the 18th Amendment invoking alcohol Prohibition in 1919. The result was gang warfare, people dying from drinking bathtub gin, corruption in police departments, and non-violent citizens sent to prison for indulging in a vice that was strictly personal. Most Americans rejoiced when Prohibition was repealed in 1933. The chances of them supporting another such Constitutional amendment within the next 50 years were slim to none.

So the federal government didn't dare try amending the Constitution when politicians and bureaucrats decided to reinstate all the trappings of Prohibition in a new Drug War. This War That Will Never End was begun in stages — probably starting with the rarely-enforced Harrison Act of 1914. In my recollection, the Drug War as we know it today began during the 1960s, moved into second and third gears during the Nixon administration of 1969-1974, and shifted into overdrive during the Reagan administration of 1981-1989.

The Drug War has been easily the greatest cause of violent crime in American history: Gangs fighting over monopoly territories, children killed in drive-by shootings, families in the inner city living with the constant sound of gunfire outside their doors, police killing innocent people in misguided drug raids, crooked cops helping to spread poisonous drugs, non-violent citizens sent to prison to be terrorized by violent prisoners — none of which would exist in the absence of the federal drug laws.

There is nothing that could make our cities safer than repealing the drug laws — all of them.

Does the idea of heroin, cocaine, and opium being sold over the counter sound too ludicrous to be true? You can check it out for yourself. A marvelous website, maintained by the University of Buffalo's Addiction Research Unit, shows the actual labels and ads from patent medicines of the 19th and early-20th centuries. You can see the claims made, the ingredients used, and the acceptance of what so many Americans fear today.

That era of innocence didn't end because America was threatened by a drug crisis. It was ended in the traditional way — by politicians looking for new worlds to conquer, politicians who have no interest in examining dispassionately the chaos they cause, and who will never face a single personal consequence for the lives they have ruined.

Libertarians on the move: This past weekend, I had the pleasure of speaking at the annual convention of the San Diego County Libertarian Party. The local party is a model for regional parties everywhere. About 160 people were at the convention — more than at most state conventions I've attended. Michael Metti and Michael Benoit organized and promoted the event, and the attendees seemed to have a very enjoyable time.

One of the featured speakers was Richard Rider, a prominent local Libertarian who has been the bane of San Diego politicians for years — as he frequently appears on TV and radio, publishes letters and articles in the local the press, writes the opposition statements for tax proposals, and continually shows that it's possible for libertarian viewpoints to be noticed.

The party has a weekly Toastmaster's Club and a weekly TV show, as well as a monthly supper club, runs candidates in all local races, and constantly looks for new ways to reach outsiders with the libertarian message.

Sunday morning I had breakfast with nine of the activists, and listened as they discussed new ways to do outreach. I was there to try to help recharge their political batteries, but I found my own recharged just as much.

January 26, 2005

Bush finds more pawns to sacrifice: In his press conference today, George Bush acknowledged that the Iraqi civilians are "losing a lot of people." And he blamed the attacks on people who are trying to sabotage this weekend's elections. He realized that some Iraqis feel intimidated (wouldn't you?). So what is his advice to them? He said, "I urge all people to vote. I urge people to defy these terrorists."

Why not? After all, it's not his life at risk. The people who will die are just anonymous numbers (not even counted by the U.S. military). If everyone tries to vote, enough of them will climb over the dead bodies and make it to the polling booths to allow George Bush to claim that he's brought democracy to Iraq.

Debasing the language: In that press conference, in the first seven minutes George Bush used the words "freedom," "free," "liberty," and "liberate" a combined total of 24 times — or over three times a minute.

This from the man who has put America in a state of siege — increasing government at a rapid rate; having thousands of armed, freedom-protecting guards at his inauguration; appointing a torture-promoting Attorney General; making America more and more resemble a police state.

Ah, I'm old enough to remember when words actually had real meanings. 

Fόhrer-ing all over the place: Sometime back, I mentioned that George Bush keeps talking about "leading" us, being our "leader," and where he intends to "lead the country" — even though that sounds terribly contrary to the state of freedom he keeps babbling on about.

Today, at that very same press conference, our Prez outdid himself:

"I’m looking forward to leading the Congress."

"I am excited by the challenge and am honored to be able to lead our nation in the quest of this noble goal, which is freeing people in the name of peace."

"I look forward to leading the world in that direction for the next four years."

Today, Congress. 
Tomorrow, the Universe.

January 25, 2005

The war justified: I don't believe human beings can predict the future reliably. So for my final 20 years in the investment business, I never made a forecast. But one future event seems about as certain to me as anything could possibly be.

After the Iraqi elections this weekend, when the U.S.-installed interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's party has amazingly won the most seats, the war team in Washington — along with a good part of the media — will somehow see the completion of the elections as a great victory for George Bush, a confirmation that his decision to invade Iraq was the right choice after all.

They did this when Baghdad fell, they did it when Hussein was captured, they did it when "sovereignty" was turned over to the Iraqis last June, and I can't imagine that they won't do it when Iraq holds its first free elections! in history. Of course, we here in America will have no evidence available that these elections will have been any more free than the elections held during Saddam Hussein's regime. But no matter. All that counts is appearance, and the appearance will prove that George Bush was right all along.

It's as though we who opposed the war did so because we said the U.S. military could never defeat the Iraqi army and capture Baghdad, that the U.S. could never capture Hussein, that the U.S. could never appoint some Iraqis to ceremonial positions in the occupation, and that the Iraqis couldn't hold an election. And now we have to admit how wrong we've been proven to be!

What everyone knows: Forgive me for repeating something I've said before, and before, and before. But in reporting Tuesday's Senate debate on the nomination of Condoleezza Rice to be Secretary of State, some Democrats blasted Rice as being part of the team that made the false claims that led to the Iraqi War. CNN reports:

Sen. John Warner, a Virginia Republican, defended Rice, calling attacks on her integrity "somewhat astonishing" and noting that many governments had considered Iraq "a grave and gathering threat."

The only reason that many governments had considered Iraq "a grave and gathering threat" was because the U.S. government claimed it had overwhelming evidence that Iraq was "a grave and gathering threat." I really doubt that Poland or Spain or the United Nations or Portugal or South Korea — much less Micronesia or the Marshall Islands — had its own CIA operatives in Iraq discovering evidence of mobile laboratories and unmanned airplanes that could drop biological weapons on the East Coast of the United States.

It is an old tactic to dispense false information, and then cite those who repeat the false information as evidence that your disinformation has been independently verified.

January 19, 2005

Bill of Rights, Part XXII: Some people can't seem to get enough of the Bill of Rights. I keep getting emails explaining to me why the Bill of Rights doesn't apply to foreigners. But I just can't seem to get it. Here's a good representative sample of the arguments I'm receiving:

We should never give the same legal rights to foreigners. One prominent current example of how the system has gone awry is with the rights the courts have granted to illegal immigrants.

If I understand you correctly, you're upset that illegal immigrants are getting drivers' licenses, emergency-room hospital care, welfare, and all kinds of other benefits. But you're talking about two areas that have nothing to do with the Bill of Rights:

(1) Programs created or mandated by the federal government that have no Constitutional authority to begin with (such as free hospital care), and so are inappropriate for citizens, green-card immigrants, and illegal immigrants alike: It's the programs (which are clearly unconstitutional, per the 10th Amendment) that should be terminated, not the illegal immigrants.

(2) Opportunities (such as acquiring drivers' licenses) that are matters of law at the state level: These have nothing to do with the Bill of Rights; they are simply issues to be decided by each state legislature.

I suggest you read the Bill of Rights, and then ask yourself which of the ten amendments has anything to do with your concerns over illegal immigrants.

Or maybe I'm misunderstanding your objection. Perhaps what you want is to lock up all foreigners, deny them access to attorneys or their families, hold them indefinitely without trial, and torture them — just in case one of them knows something useful about terrorists.

Then again, maybe you believe in the Bill of Rights and realize that such hard-won Anglo-Saxon rights as habeas corpus and due process of law shouldn't be discarded for anyone

I have to return over and over again to my original point: Without due process of law, there's no way to know whether someone held as a "terrorist" really is a terrorist. And that's the case whether the suspect is a citizen or a non-citizen.

Deja oooops!: In my Journal entry for January 18, I listed the prohibitions imposed on Congress by each of the ten amendments in the Bill of Rights. Through sheer carelessness, I listed for #8 "Don't impose excessive bail." That's correct, but there's a far more relevant prohibition also in the 8th amendment: Do not inflict cruel and unusual punishment. I've made the change below. My thanks to Brian in CyberSpace for catching that.

Incidentally, I appreciate any emails pointing out typos, mistakes, or smarmy writing. I'm also glad to receive emails with links to articles I might learn something from. I usually can't answer each email, but I'm very grateful to receive them.

January 18, 2005

Endorsing the war in Iraq: I've said over and over that voting for a Republican or Democrat will be taken as an endorsement for all the big-government programs your candidate voted for — no matter what reason you had for voting for him.

You may have thought you were voting to limit the damage — to prevent the "greater of two evils" from being elected. But that isn't the way your vote will be interpreted.

Your candidate will look at his victory and say, in effect, "The public has endorsed my plan to 'fix' government schools with a new government program. The voters have said they like my ideas to involve government in prescription drugs. The people have spoken, and they have endorsed every vote I've made in Congress and/or every new government program I outlined in my campaign."

And no endorsement you've ever given could be as disastrous as the vote you cast last November, if you voted for George Bush. If you don't think your vote was taken as an endorsement of all the killing in Iraq, just look at these statements from last Sunday's Washington Post interview:

THE POST: In Iraq, there's been a steady stream of surprises. We weren't welcomed as liberators, as Vice President Cheney had talked about. We haven't found the weapons of mass destruction as predicted. The postwar process hasn't gone as well as some had hoped. Why hasn't anyone been held accountable, either through firings or demotions, for what some people see as mistakes or misjudgments?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we had an accountability moment, and that's called the 2004 election. And the American people listened to different assessments made about what was taking place in Iraq, and they looked at the two candidates, and chose me, for which I'm grateful.

Remember this the next time you're tempted to vote for anyone who doesn't present a specific, detailed plan to reduce government dramatically.

Bush vs. Hussein: My article "Can You Imagine?: Hussein Was Right & Bush Was Wrong" pointed out that Saddam Hussein's assertions about Iraq's weapons programs turned out to be correct, while George Bush's assertions have turned out to be all wrong. That prompted a few emails. Here are some of the dissenters:

You said, "It's a sorry state of affairs in America when you can trust the words of Saddam Hussein more than those of your own President."

Surely you are not that naive...?

Naοve? Just ask yourself: How many lies has Hussein told in the past four years? I'm not aware of any, but perhaps you could fill me in.

Now think about the many lies that George Bush has been caught in.

Is it naοve to distrust someone who has lied to you over and over and over and over?

. . . and over.

While it may be true that information about Iraq getting nuclear information and material from America may have been removed from the report, it is understandable. It doesn't alter the fact that Hussein had plans and was involved including partial bankrolling the 9/11 terrorists.

If there were any hard evidence that Hussein was involved in bankrolling the 9/11 terrorists, we would have heard about it from George Bush a hundred times by now — because it would have been the only thing he could offer to justify invading Iraq and killing tens of thousands of innocent people, with no discernible gain to offset the bloodbath.

So the weapons were destroyed by the Iraqis under the supervision of the UN? That is a bunch of crap and you know it. If that had been true, the leftist news media would have run that in oversize headlines until everyone would have been throwing up their guts.

No, the "leftist news media" were too busy repeating all the accusations against Iraq made by the Bush Administration, and too busy promoting "Operation Iraqi Freedom." And so they didn't have time to mention anything that might throw some light on the Iraqi situation.

For example, how many times have you read in a newspaper or seen on TV or heard on talk radio about the U.S. sanctions that killed at least 500,000 Iraqi men, women, and children? Or been told that as many as 100,000 Iraqi men, women, and children may have been killed so far in the "liberation"? Or seen reported the tortures inflicted by the U.S. authorities in prisons beyond Abu Ghraib?

At the most, these items get reported once and then go down the memory hole. If you blink, you're liable to miss them.

I'm afraid the "leftist news media" hasn't had much interest in letting you know what was going on in Iraq.

I heard an Iraqi say last year that Hussein's chemical-making facilities were in the middle of a milk processing plant.

I heard someone say last year that you'd robbed a bank. Of course, he didn't offer any hard evidence — much like your Iraqi friend.

WMDs have jolly well been found. They were neither experimental nor representative of working prototypes. They were part of production runs. Either Saddam was hoarding them and got rid of most or, as now seems more probable, Iraq was a transshipment point and washing machine that laundered the dealings. May I suggest that if you want to do an intelligence report that you hire a junior enlisted man to do it for you?   They do have superior knowledge of the pertinent data.

If there were any real evidence of any of the things you're saying, why has George Bush said there were no WMDs in Iraq? Why isn't he telling us four times a day that he was right about Iraq having WMDs? And if the WMDs have "jolly well" been found, why don't you tell us where they are — instead of offering various conjectures?

To whom does the Bill of Rights apply?: My article on Torture has also prompted some dissent — mostly contesting my statement that the Bill of Rights applies equally to American citizens and non-citizens. Here are a couple of examples:

The Preamble to the Constitution established an implication of American citizenship (that is, "We the people of the United States of America...")  The amendments, that we now call the Bill of Rights, were amendments to that Constitution.


That Constitution was written by and for the Citizens of the United States of America. It does not apply to Citizens or Subjects of another Country. So, what is done to terrorists by us or to others outside of the United States, as long as they are NOT citizens of the United States is NOT covered under our Constitution. Ya gotta get your facts straight or you'll sound like one of those fuzzy-headed Left Wing Communist and Socialist Retal Cavity's.

Retal cavity's?

I made the mistake in my article of focusing on the fact that the only references to "citizens" in the Constitution have nothing to do with the rights of the people. That's true but it's a roundabout way of making the case.

The important point is that the Constitution doesn't apply to Americans, it doesn't apply to citizens, it doesn't even apply to "people." It applies to the federal government. The body of the Constitution tells the federal government what it is allowed to do, and in some places it explains how to do it (election procedures and such). The Bill of Rights tells the federal government what it is not allowed to do . . .

    I. Make no law abridging freedom of speech, press, religion, or

   II. Do not infringe on the right to keep and bear arms.

  III. Don't quarter soldiers in peacetime.

  IV. Don't conduct unreasonable searches and seizures.

   V. Don't commit double jeopardy or force people to testify against

  VI. Don't deny an accused a speedy trial.

 VII. Don't deny an accused a trial by jury.

VIII. Do not inflict "cruel and unusual punishments."

   IX. Just because certain rights of the people aren't mentioned in this
         Constitution doesn't mean you're allowed to usurp them.

    X. Don't exercise any power not authorized in this Constitution.

Where exceptions were meant to apply, they are specifically stated. And there are no exceptions stated for any type of guns, for any type of speech, for any type of crimes, or for any type of people.

My overriding point in the article was that, until a suspected "terrorist" gets a fair and impartial trial, you don't know whether he is a terrorist. So even if you think non-citizen terrorists have no rights, how do you even know for sure that they are terrorists — or that they are non-citizens — until every facet of due process has been applied..

The Bush administration is trying to establish procedures whereby it can lock up a suspect for life without giving him access to an attorney, without any judicial process, without even letting him tell his family where he is. If this should apply only to non-citizens, consider this scenario:

Some men in flak jackets intercept you on your way home from work one day. They spirit you away to an Air Force base, where you're put on a plane and taken to Egypt. You are tortured daily for weeks, until you confess to being a Syrian terrorist and you give your oppressors information about terrorist cells — information you invent in order to get them to stop torturing you.

When you ask them why they think you're a foreign terrorist, they tell you that a neighbor earned a reward for informing on you. When you ask them when you'll be released, they tell you that you'll probably be confined (without trial) for the rest of your life, because the War on Terrorism will never end and terrorists are too dangerous to let loose.

Meanwhile, back in the United States, human rights groups complain that the government is imprisoning and torturing American citizens in violation of the Bill of Rights. But the President tells the press and public not to worry — that only non-Americans are being imprisoned and only terrorists with vital information are being tortured.

You can't prove that you're neither a foreigner nor a terrorist, because there has been no impartial judicial hearing in which you have the benefit of an attorney, the right to confront your accusers and cross-examine them, and the judgment of a jury of your peers.

But then, you shouldn't have those rights because law-enforcement agencies have information that you're a foreign terrorist.

But don't worry; this isn't really happening. All those people confined in Guantanamo, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and in other countries to which the U.S. government has transferred people? They're certainly guilty and they're certainly foreign — or our government would never have put them in prisons.

So go back to sleep. Your government will protect you.

January 14, 2005

Remember when?: It is now nearing two years since the "Fall of Baghdad." Do you remember the cheering over the toppling of Saddam Hussein's statue — the event, we were told, that symbolized all the joy the Iraqis felt over the end of Hussein's regime and all the gratitude the Iraqis felt toward the American military?

There were unanswered questions, but those questions were all offstage, as the politicians and the press celebrated the lightning-fast end to the Iraqi war. (As you probably know, "lightning war" means blitzkrieg in German.) More important, somehow the quick capture and occupation of Baghdad seemed to vindicate everything that George Bush had asserted — that somehow this was proof that Hussein was a threat to America, that we were wrong to question Bush's allegations, his plans, his leadership.

Oh, were we ever that young?

Today I happened to come across an article published on the Internet on April 11, 2003, by MediaLens, an Internet organization that monitors the British media — especially the BBC. The article quotes BBC commentators as they swooned over the toppling of Hussein's statue — saying that it vindicated everything Tony Blair had said and done about Iraq. The anonymous MediaLens writer does a good job of raining on the swoon parade — calling attention to the offstage questions that were still unanswered..

The quotes from the BBC reminded me so much of the way the American media treated the same event. I think you'll enjoy reading it, as it could just as easily be describing CNN, Fox News, and MS-NBC cheering "Operation Iraqi Freedom."

You might also like to read Robert Fisk's article — written that same day in April 2003, and describing what was really going on in Baghdad at the time.

Oops: My apologies for starting an article last night and then abandoning it — not realizing that I'd saved to this Internet Journal the fragment I'd written. If you saw it, you must have thought I'd been recording my thoughts while getting high on the forbidden weed.

There's also good news: Wednesday the Supreme Court ruled that federal judges no longer have to abide by the sentencing "guidelines" mandated by Congress. The Court said judges should consult those guidelines, but they don't have to abide by them (meaning the "guidelines" really are guidelines now, instead of commands). This should mean a reduction in cases where, say, a non-violent marijuana dealer goes to prison for 20 years or more.

One of my favorite reactions to the ruling came from Congressman Tom Feeney (R-FL), who said, "The Supreme Court's decision to place this extraordinary power to sentence a person solely in the hands of a single federal judge — who is accountable to no one — flies in the face of the clear will of Congress." I guess he believes that "this extraordinary power" should be "solely in the hands" of some Congressional aide — "accountable to no one" and not even identified by name — who dreams up the sentences that must be imposed by every federal judge in the country. I doubt that Rep. Feeney could tell you what the minimum sentence for a first-offense conviction of a marijuana dealer is.

So much for "the clear will of Congress."

January 12, 2005

Three Cheers for George Bush: The multi-million-dollar project searching for WMDs in Iraq has finally closed up shop. Its conclusion?: There are no WMDs in Iraq. So I think a round of applause for George Bush is in order. He said we have to go into Iraq to disarm Saddam Hussein. We went there, and now Hussein is disarmed. So three cheers for George Bush.

Am I missing something here?

January 11, 2005

MemoGate & IraqGate: As you've probably heard already, CBS has fired four high-level employees over the scandal that erupted when "60 Minutes Wednesday" aired a story on September 8, presented by Dan Rather, alleging misdeeds by George Bush while he was in the National Guard. The memos offered in support of the allegations were later determined most likely to be false.

This, of course, brought down tons of condemnation on CBS, and especially on Dan Rather — whom Republicans have hated for years.

CBS ordered an investigation, headed by former Attorney General Richard Thornburgh and former Associated Press President Louis Boccardi. It criticized the network for airing the exposι without sufficient proof — but it didn't attempt to determine whether the exposι itself was false. It also didn't establish that the memos were false, but said they shouldn't have been presented without evidence of their authenticity.

In contrast to the religious beliefs of most conservative commentators, the investigating panel doesn't believe the airing of the memos was motivated by political bias, but rather that it was done too hastily in an attempt to scoop the competition.

It's obviously a bad thing when a TV network peddles something that turns out to be false, and millions of people are temporarily misled about something.

But isn't it even worse when a President peddles falsehoods, and thousands of people are killed as a result?

And yes, President Bush did lie about Iraq. When he asserted that he had ironclad evidence about various problems with Iraq — including the WMDs Iraq supposedly had — he was lying. He didn't have ironclad evidence, he shouldn't have tried to make us believe he did, and he shouldn't have invaded another country without such evidence.

Perhaps we should make up a scorecard, comparing the two "gates":

Item MemoGate IraqGate
Number of falsehoods 1 At least 5 major ones, and many minor ones
Duration of time in which the falsehoods were maintained About 1 month Now over 2 years and no end in sight
People killed because of the falsehoods 0 Over 50,000
Investigations to determine who's at fault 1 0
Apologies made for the falsehoods 2 0
People fired because of the falsehoods 4 0
Conservative pundits making a big thing over the falsehoods Many None that I know of
Liberal pundits making a big thing over the falsehoods A few Too few
Libertarian pundits making a big thing over the falsehoods 1 Many

Seems as though too much ado has been made about a relatively harmless incident — and much too little ado about a deadly incident.

Media choices: How often we've heard complaints from war hawks that the mainline media aren't reporting the "good news" from Iraq. Soldiers there are reconstructing schools, hospitals, and water sources (that were destroyed by U.S. bombing), and making friends with the children. But none of this shows up in the mainline media — only stories of Americans being killed, fire fights, and destruction. To many conservatives, this is proof that the media is biased — and determined to make George Bush's war look bad.

Perhaps editors don't find stories of little children clutching toys donated by Americans to be as significant as the stories of families seeing their homes destroyed, shopkeepers losing their life savings when their stores are devastated, and cities like Fallujah becoming uninhabitable.

January 7, 2005

Destruction — natural & man-made: This past week the TV screen has been full of pictures showing people in Southeast Asia returning to their villages after the tsunami, only to find their homes completely destroyed.

Unfortunately, that isn't the only place where people are returning to devastation. The same thing is happening in Fallujah, Iraq. A Los Angeles Times article, reprinted in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, is just one of many detailing the tragedies that returning residents are experiencing. Here are some excerpts from the article:

Lakes of sewage in the streets. The smell of corpses inside charred buildings. No water or electricity. Long waits and thorough searches by U.S. troops at checkpoints. Warnings to watch out for land mines and booby traps. Occasional gunfire between troops and insurgents. . . .

[T]he effort to win the hearts and minds of the local population has fallen flat as soon as returning homeowners see the burned buildings, piles of rubble and heavy troop presence. . . .

After enduring three hours of military checkpoints and searches, Atiya and two brothers anxiously re-entered the city Monday, uncertain what to expect.

U.S. troops handed them leaflets warning against a myriad of dangers and advising them that the U.S. military could not guarantee their safety. Don't drink the water, the leaflets warned, or eat food left behind.

Every resident is required to carry a small card outlining special new rules for the city. There's a 6 p.m. curfew. No weapons are allowed. Graffiti and public gatherings are illegal. Cars and visitors are banned.

Males age 15 to 55 must carry special identification cards. U.S. military officials have announced plans to use fingerprinting and retina scans to prevent insurgents from returning. . . .

As Atiya and his brothers traveled through the city and saw the destruction, they braced for the worst. When he caught a glimpse of his roof, his first emotion was relief. The house was still there. As they drew closer, however, Atiya and his brothers began to curse.

A gaping hole in the two-story house appeared to have been caused by a tank, whose tracks were visible in the mud, he said. Most of the furniture was smashed. "Half my house was demolished," Atiya said.

In the kitchen, cabinets had been ripped from the walls, he said. Others were emptied of their contents, which lay in heaps on the floor. "Every dish was broken, every cup, every plate, as if someone had just stood there breaking one dish after another," said Atiya's brother Raaid Abbas, 37. "Why?"

The brothers don't know who ransacked the house, but they blame U.S. troops, who they say left muddy boot prints.

Why haven't we seen these pictures on TV? Because the U.S. military has banned TV cameras in the city. (For security reasons, I'm sure.)

Speaking of the tsunami: As soon as someone could find George Bush at his Texas ranch and inform him of the disaster (he says he doesn't read newspapers or watch TV; he gets all his news from Condoleezza Rice), he immediately announced that the U.S. government would donate $15 million in relief funds, and within days had raised that to $35 million. After he was accused of being too stingy, he upped the figure to $350 million.

Of course, this wasn't his own money he was pledging. He was being generous with your money. And he had no authority to commit even $1 of federal money to anything that hadn't been approved by Congress — which in turn had no Constitutional authority to commit even $1 of federal money to any charity, in the U.S. or overseas.

Wouldn't it have been nice to see a truly American response by a U.S. president?:

The people of Southeast Asia have been hit with a terrible tragedy. My heart goes out to the families of the dead, and to those who have suffered such terrible destruction of their homes and other property.

I hope that Americans will be generous in this time of need. I want to do my part, and so I've written a check for $10,000 as my contribution to the relief effort. I urge others to do whatever they can to help.

Of course, to do that an American president would have to have some idea of what once made America America.

Speaking again of the tsunami: One of the unfortunate aftermaths of the tidal wave is the epidemic of malaria that will follow in its wake. Forty years ago that wouldn't have been much of a problem, because the affected areas could have been sprayed with DDT. In fact malaria itself was pretty much eradicated throughout the world, because DDT helped kill the mosquitoes that cause malaria.

But benevolent souls in the U.S. got together and saw to it that DDT was banned worldwide, because it had interfered with the procreation of bald eagles in America — and because Rachel Carson in her book Silent Spring had asserted, without proof, that DDT could damage the health of human beings. And so every year more than a million souls die of malaria. Fortunately, some countries are repealing their DDT bans. But not the U.S., of course.

A lot of people have come to realize the folly of saving birds at the expense of humans. Even Nicholas D. Kristof wrote a good article on the subject in The New York Times (in about a week access to the article will require a fee).

The drug dilemma in Afghanistan: As you probably know, when the Taliban was in power opium production in Afghanistan was virtually non-existent. However, since the U.S. military overran the country, ousted the Taliban, and oversaw the election of a pro-American president (shades of the Soviet satellites!), the drug trade has been flourishing.

Now the Bush administration, facing the consequences of its own acts, is caught in a dilemma. Does it spray poison from airplanes to wipe out the opium crop (estimated to be worth $7-10 billion this year), or does it stay out of the picture, allow the drugs to sneak into America, and keep the Afghan warlords (who profit from the opium) happy so that they support the pro-American Afghan president? The dilemma is made even worse by the fact that parliamentary elections are coming up in April. Wiping out the opium crops will likely hurt the pro-American candidates.

The Los Angeles Times provided an excellent summary of the "Afghan Quandary" last Sunday. A former UN advisor uttered the unmentionable truth about the new satellite countries the U.S. is creating: "You tell them, 'You're voting for a new democratic country,' while their government is allowing foreigners to come in and destroy their livelihood?"

The U.S. administration's world-reformers are facing a negative choice: one in which either option is bad, the only question being which is the least bad.

This dilemma is also symbolic of what happens when you charge into a foreign country with no knowledge of its history, its culture, or its aspirations. Sooner or later, it's obvious that you've made a tragic mistake — but the mistake goes relatively unnoticed by the public, because meanwhile you've charged into another country.

Most likely the Bush folks will decide to solve the Afghan problem in the classic American political way — postpone the crop eradication until after the April elections.

January 1, 2005

The Future: Ever since I morphed from a passive libertarian into a libertarian activist 10 years ago, I've believed that I should never stick out my leg and trip someone who is trying to move in the same ideological direction that I am. For one thing, I have no monopoly on good sense; nor can I be positive what will be the best route to restore liberty in America.

In this regard, I have not been a big fan of the Free State Project — the program by which a number of libertarians are moving to New Hampshire to concentrate on effecting changes in one state government, as a way of demonstrating the benefits of libertarianism. But, while I have no wish to participate in such a program, I would never do anything to discourage anyone from joining it.

As I said, I have no way of knowing what good may come of someone else's efforts. So I'm glad to relay to you an email message I received from Kat, in response to my article "The Future Is Not Hopeless":

Recently I was asked to be interviewed on talk radio about the Free State Project in one of the most liberal areas of New Hampshire — Keene. I expected to be met with hostile phone calls, but the opposite happened. It was like the idea of a whole group of small-government activists moving to their area woke these people up, gave them hope. For years, they've seen the gradual encroachment from the big- government folks and have felt powerless to stop it. The callers were thrilled that the FSP would be coming here to help them reduce their taxes, ease up on the drug laws, make doing business easier. . . .

The past few months, as more of my cohorts have joined me in NH, I've felt this kind of high with the realization that we can actually make a change here. One state representative told us he was thrilled to have had the help of two Free-Staters and credited his re-election to that help. I'm finding how easy it is to get in the news in NH, and that the press treats us fairly for the most part.

I'm not sure if education is what people need most. It may be that they just need some spark of hope to know that they're not completely outnumbered.

You said, "No, you can't change America all by yourself. Neither can you do so just by wishing for it."  I think that is so true.  That's why I packed up my family and moved to New Hampshire. I wanted to try to do something, even if it wasn't the perfect plan.

I'm so happy I did.

I'm glad you did, too.

It's so easy to think that no one is receptive to libertarian ideas. But I believe there are millions of people out there who feel that way — and they won't speak up until you speak up and let them know they're not alone.

What we can do: Another email I received today:

What can we American citizens do to spread the word of libertarianism? Also, at the rate the Libertarian Party is growing, is there any chance that during my lifetime (I'm 52) we can get enough of our own candidates elected to give the Republicans and Democrats real competition — and maybe even elect a Libertarian president?

I think that we must create a wave of libertarian public opinion before we can expect to get libertarian candidates elected. However, I also believe that the Libertarian Party can be one of the most effective tools in building that public opinion. Libertarian candidates can get access to radio, television, and newspapers for interviews that aren't offered to non-candidates.

Libertarian candidates need to get it out of their heads that they have some special opportunity to get elected, and instead focus on building support for the Libertarian label by showing people how much better their lives could be if we got rid of the income tax, the Drug War, foreign wars, federal regulation, and other paraphernalia of big government.

Even if people don't accept the proposals immediately, the Libertarian candidate is helping to build acceptance for libertarian ideas as legitimate proposals — and laying the groundwork for a future candidate whose proposals will be accepted.

As for those of us not running for office, we can help to build that wave of libertarian public opinion by speaking out whenever possible — by calling into talk shows, writing letters to the editor, contributing to Internet forums, and just talking to friends. Don't sacrifice yourself; you weren't put on this earth to save the world. But don't pass up an opportunity to speak up when you can do so without jeopardizing your own position in life. You never know who might hear you and in turn make a difference.

The Messiah has arrived: Another mash note received recently:

I read your articles. You people frustrate me to no end. You would rather die articulating your ideas than actually putting them into practice.

For one you need to find a "libertarian-constitutional-independent-conservative (not neo-conservative) party" sugar daddy — a "George Soros" for the a "new party."  You need money.

Then you need to organize this new party in every state.

Then you need to compromise (did I use a cuss word?) just enough to get started. No, your libertarian ideas won't be adopted next year. I would set a 20-year goal, maybe a 40-year goal. But by the next presidential election season this new party could be in a position to promote its ideas through self-funded "debates," and enough national backing to get exposure in the mass media. You have to get into mass media, talk radio, cable news. Essentially you start with this "compromised" party and slowly bring it around to being a libertarian party.

It is so easy to debate against people who won't debate you. You have the usual two podiums. You have have a "new party" member live and a cardboard cutout for the Republican-Democrat candidate. You answer the moderator's question and a "voice" from the cardboard figure gives their standard Republican-Democrat answer. (Like "No, we won't pull out of this illegal war, but we promise to fight it smarter.")  Once you start making them look stupid, because you are scripting the debate, they'll have to really debate you.

Everything I read says the country is becoming more conservative — while still electing liberal hacks all the time. Someone has to break this chain. Take advantage of this. Most conservatives are very close to being libertarians than anything else. The constitutional party seems even closer to you. Independents are looking for an out. . . .

Mark my words. Money and compromise. Until you find those two items you will continue to be a voice in the wilderness.

You have set an ambitious program for yourself. Please keep us informed of your progress. Meanwhile, I'll just continue articulating my ideas.


December 2004 Journal



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