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.

May 30, 2005

Steroids: I unfortunately stumbled into watching on TV a short portion of the Congressional hearings on steroids in sports. Such events are painful to witness, because those being interrogated (harassed) aren't able to come up with quick, appropriate, decisive answers — even to the ridiculous statements made by Congressmen.

For example, when the head of the baseball players' union proposed a testing program in which a player would be banished for life from baseball if he failed a drug test for the fifth time, a representative delivered the coup de grâce: "Would you give your child five chances to use drugs?" When the union man ignored the question, the representative hammered it home again.

The obvious answer, of course, was: "Sir, we are not talking about my children or your children. We're talking about grown men who are responsible for their own lives. If you want to transform them into children, that's your business. But it isn't mine."

And of course no one mentioned the tremendous evil that the Drug War has inflicted upon society. Why anyone would want to extend that evil to professional sports is beyond me.

If you want a perfect example of how far Congress has strayed from the Constitution of the United States, you need only look at the ridiculous example of Congressmen threatening to pass laws governing the rules of professional sports.

Love letter: I recently the following email:

I appreciate your columns. But your genius stops short from this obvious question: Don’t the Israelis’ fellow Jews in America run the print and electronic media here, and thus — based on their ethnic and racial interests — censor the question of why the U.S. government never criticizes Israel, but always attacks Israel’s enemies?

On this obvious point of Jewish dominance (and destruction) of the U.S., you yourself are just as hypocritical as the media you criticize — and evidently more cowardly. What a "libertarian"!

You are very compromised morally, Harry. And totally ineffective — if you won’t even name the enemy of liberty and peace.

If you'll provide some of what you consider evidence that the American media are owned by Jewish interests, or that there is "Jewish dominance (and destruction) of the U.S.," I'll be glad to respond. But since I know of no such evidence, there's no way I can comment on it now.

Wouldn't your time be better spent trying to reduce government to its absolute minimum — so that no one could use it to dominate America?

May 28, 2005

Apology #27: Once again I must apologize for a long lapse in entries in this Journal. I have been traveling quite a bit lately, and I don’t write very well when I’m on the road. Fortunately, I will be home for most of the next month or two. The most important exception to that will be a vacation(!) June 4-11. It will be my first non-working vacation in several years, and Pamela and I are looking forward to it.

How government works: In 2002-2003, the Army’s National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC) told the Bush administration that aluminum tubes the Iraqis were using were suitable only for nuclear weapons.

However, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had published a report in 1996 showing that the tubes were the type used for rocket-motor cases — not for nuclear weapons — and the U.S. Department of Energy published a similar report in 2001. The NGIC experts simply didn’t bother to look for any available evidence; they just pronounced that the tubes were proof that Iraq was developing nuclear weapons.

If you’re thinking that the NGIC experts have probably been fired by now, think again. They received Pentagon job performance awards for 2002, 2003, and 2004. The whole story is in today’s Washington Post.

Work for the government, mess up an investigation, cause the deaths of thousands of people, get a performance award.

You got a problem with that?

Who government programs hurt: In my article, "The Immigration Scam," I tried to point out that any laws passed to "secure the borders" and stop illegal immigration will — just as with so many laws to stop "crime" — hurt law-abiding people more than the violators.

A good example comes to us from Arizona, where a state law allows a special
anti-illegal-immigration task force to freeze all Western Union money transfers of $750 or more, while investigators examine each transfer to determine whether it is a payment for smuggling immigrants across the border.

Is making such a money transfer proof that you're a criminal?

No, of course not. And, according to a state spokeswoman, if you're innocent you can get your own money back within a matter of days.

Is this a great country — or what?

But you might want to keep this in mind when you think the government can do something you want. At worst, you just might wind up in jail — or, at best, begging to get your own money back.

Couldn't happen to you?

Read the article about the way the Arizona law has been administered.

All-purpose agitation: Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty (U.S. government agencies) have published an aerial photo showing an actual Iranian nuclear facility. As it happens, however, the same photo was used to show that North Korea had a nuclear facility. And, as though that weren't embarrassing enough, the file name on the photo was
Iraq-nuclear.jpg.

Brad Friedman discovered this example of the reliability of information you get from the U.S. government, and he published his findings on his blog.

The interesting aspect of all this is very simple: Government officials misled us about Iraq, they publish questionable photos, they categorically deny that U.S. military torture is authorized by the government and say they would never send prisoners to other countries to be tortured, only to be refuted by new evidence coming to light. And yet those who are champing at the bit to go after Iran, Syria, or other countries will cite facts about the "enemy" that justify aggressive action — "facts" that come from the same source, the U.S. government, that has been proven wrong so many times.

The next time someone recites all the dangers from Iran, North Korea, Syria, or some other presumed enemy, just remember where all the information about that country has come from. 

May 7, 2005

Irregular entries: I'm sorry that entries to this Journal show up in spurts. I have never been busy on so many fronts as I am now. I'm doing two weekly radio shows and a weekly Internet TV show, developing another TV show, and writing a book. Some of this involves traveling, which makes getting normal work done much more difficult; I've been away from home eight times already this year.

In addition to all that, I'm involved in several deals with ex-finance ministers from African nations, getting ready to split up enormous profits in hidden government funds. Any day now.

I don't want to abandon this Journal. It gives me a chance to unload my thoughts without putting each of them into a formal article. But the writing probably will continue to come in large spurts — such as with the number of entries today.

I hope you'll be patient with me.

National Sales Tax: I've been opposed to the idea of a national sales tax from the first time I heard of it — so long as it does not involve a dramatic reduction in federal spending. Without a reduction in spending, it is just rearranging the burden of big government (which is also the case for any tax cut that doesn't involve a reduction in spending). And thus is a complete waste of our time and effort if we support it.

I've said that, once the poor have been made exempt and all the politically strongest industries have exempted their products from the tax, the rate will have to be at least 30% — and probably even more than that. Because of this, it's very unlikely that the tax will ever even be enacted.

Now Bryan Russel has written to me to provide a number of other reasons to shun the idea of a national sales tax. Here's some of what he said:

It would hurt the economy because it would be an incentive for people not to buy new products, but to buy used items instead (garage sales etc.) to avoid the huge tax.

Immediate criminal element in all retailing. Can you say "black markets"?!

Endless companies lobbying for their product to be tax exempt or at a reduced tax because it is environmentally friendly or is produced by a minority owned company, etc. In short, we would end up with a complicated sales tax code similar to the income tax mess.

We might end up having to carry "tax I.D. cards" because sooner or later the politicians would decide that poor people should pay at a lower rate and maybe rich people would pay at a higher rate.

We would need to keep records of how much sales tax we pay — to make sure someone who is making $200,000.00 a year is not paying only $500 in sales tax and thus must be "cheating" by buying things in the new black market or whatever.

Government regulations would be overwhelming. The government would be prying into inventory books, as well as tracking all goods to make sure the tax is paid. TVs and other high dollar items might have to include microchips to track them to make sure the tax gets paid.

The more you think about it the more problems you can imagine, and the bottom line is that we will still have to pay too much, special interests will still get exemptions, and government will still be collecting the bulk of our earnings to make war and force expensive political schemes on us.

Amen, Brother Bryan.

It's just a minor difference in how you define it: Today George Bush said, "Freedom is etched in everybody's soul" — the kind of sentiment he's uttered over and over in the past year or two. But you have to wonder what he means by it.

I think that, to him, the word freedom means, among other things:

The ability to go anywhere you want in the world — all expenses paid — with an enormous security guard, worth tens of millions of dollars per year;

The opportunity to speak before cheering crowds that include not a single dissenter; and

The resources to send troops into a foreign country, devastate it, and then declare it liberated.

Unfortunately, for the rest of us peons the "freedom" George Bush is proclaiming includes much more mundane things, such as:

Paying federal, state, and local income taxes, Social Security taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, excise taxes, and import taxes that add up to almost half of what you earn;

Standing in long security lines at airports, being forced to remove your jacket and shoes, submitting to searches that are made without any warrant or probable cause, in violation of the 4th amendment to the Constitution;

Knowing that your email might be filtered and monitored — without a warrant or probable cause;

Knowing that your bank accounts and other personal affairs are subject to inspection by U.S. Treasury agents — without a warrant or probable cause;

Knowing that a mistaken identification could cause you to be arrested but never charged with a specific crime, put into prison, denied access to an attorney, and even denied the ability to tell your family where you are — in violation of the 5th and 6th amendments to the Constitution;

Being forced to testify against yourself by revealing all your income and expense information to the IRS — in violation of the 5th amendment.

No wonder George Bush smirks and we cringe.

Fair & balanced bashing: Tomorrow (Sunday, the 8th), Fox TV News will rerun a one-hour documentary called "Iran: The Nuclear Threat."

From start to finish, it assumes (without presenting any evidence) that Iran is building nuclear weapons and is a horrendous threat to the peace of the world. The only dissenting views shown are there merely to demonstrate how stupid or devious some people are (people such as a UN weapons inspector and an Iranian spokesman).

Watching it, the sense of déjŕ vu is overwhelming. It's almost exactly like the buildup to the attack on Iraq: call the inspectors woolly-headed, call the deniers liars, call the dissenters cowards. Assert the case but offer no evidence to support it. Iran's links to Al-Qaeda are undeniable (and Iran "might have" been involved in 9/11). You can't believe anything the Iranian leaders say. The Iranian people must be liberated. "Europe doesn't get it." George Bush says, "Iran cannot have a bomb" ("Saddam Hussein must disarm or we'll disarm him").

The show glorifies the preemptive attack made by Israel in bombing an Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981 (Iraq denied that the reactor was used for bomb-making, but doubting Israel's assertions is like doubting that George Bush is a good Christian), and cheers on the idea that either Israel or the U.S. will attack the Iranian nuclear facilities. One expert said there's a 50% to 70% chance the U.S. will attack Iran — pointing out that it can be done with air strikes, so no U.S. troops need to be diverted from Iraq.

How many times have we heard it said that "Democracies don’t make war"? But in the past 3˝ years the "democratic" U.S. has made war against two countries and is gearing up for a third.

And Americans wonder why someone would want to attack us.

I know all about this show because I saw it last Sunday — stumbling onto it by chance, and then sitting with my jaw in a permanently dropped position. I was surprised to see that it's being aired again tomorrow evening (Sunday, May 8th) at 9pm Eastern time.

If you don't want to sit through it, you can get a sense of it by reading a Fox article.

Don't forget the Fox TV News slogan: "We report; you decide our way."

Speaking of Iran: George Bush likes to remind us over and over that an Iranian nuclear bomb would be a violation of the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Iran signed that treaty and agreed not to develop nuclear weapons.

However, the treaty also calls for the five countries who had nuclear weapons in 1970 — the U.S., Britain, France, Russia, and China — to begin reducing their stockpiles and eventually eliminate them entirely. To the best of my knowledge, not one of the five countries has intentionally destroyed a single nuclear weapon. So are we going to have to attack Britain, France, Russia, China, and the United States as well?

Neither Pakistan, India, nor Israel signed the pact, and each of them developed nuclear weapons. But the U.S. government is only harassing Iran who, by the terms of the treaty, has allowed international inspectors into its country to see what it’s doing. And so far, the inspectors have found nothing.

Since the United States is not only dishonoring the treaty by not reducing its weapons, but in fact has been developing new nuclear weapons, non-nuclear nations are condemning the U.S. for violating the treaty while trying to impose it upon other nations.

George Bush has responded to these condemnations by saying that — you guessed it — 9/11 changed everything. If we take his words literally, he’s saying that the U.S. can develop new nuclear weapons and use them to bomb terrorists. But that would certainly mean the murder of enormous numbers of innocent civilians.

No one has answered — or until now, even asked — the obvious question: Why is it that the United States can have a nuclear arsenal far larger than that of every other country in the world combined, but that Iran can’t have even a single nuclear bomb — especially when Israel, Pakistan, and India have nuclear weapons?

But then, that's the mission of TV news: to avoid asking the obvious questions.

Speaking of TV news: One reason I was happy to develop a new TV show for the Free Market News Network is because there are so many obvious questions that never get asked on television. So each of my shows looks at some recent news items and tries to provide the background information that's ignored on television, and raises the questions I think should be asked. The same is true in my interviews with guests. Most of the time, the guests are people I disagree with — people with a point of view that's never challenged on normal TV.

Archives of the show are available permanently, so you can watch them at your leisure.

I believe the future of TV is on the Internet — where you can watch what you want, when you want to watch it. I'm glad to have the opportunity to help advance this new medium.

The Empire strikes again: There was a time in America when we weren't afraid of our own shadows. One aspect of that time was that schools in many parts of the country had gun clubs — just like the chess clubs, glee clubs, art clubs, and such. Children would bring rifles to school, and after school hours participate in target practice and gun-safety classes.

Boy, does that seem like a fantasy today!

As an example of how being the rulers of the world has turned Americans into frightened, whimpering, simpering, sniveling scaredy-cats, consider this story from Missoula, Montana. A 12-year old boy found a broken BB gun on the way to school. The gun's handle contained a pipe for smoking drugs. He put the gun in his backpack and took it to school with him. When the authorities became aware of this, the boy was expelled from school for one year, ordered to undergo regular urine testing, and required to attend anger management classes!

Not only that, because of the the federal Gun-Free Schools Act, he is forbidden for one year from attending any government school in America. (I didn't say it was all bad.) I remember the politicians' assuring us in the 1960s that the newly enacted federal aid to education law would never mean federal control of education. But any school district that doesn't respect the 12-month expulsion provision will lose its federal funding.

(I also remember that the original Medicare bill said nothing in the bill should be construed to affect the way a doctor or hospital treats a patient.)

The Missoula story isn't the only recent example of the way America has become an armed state with unarmed citizens. In Clovis, New Mexico, the police were called, snipers were placed on school rooftops, nearby streets were closed, and a school was in panic.

Why? Because an eighth-grade student brought a strange package, 30 inches long, to school.

It turned out to be a super-duper-sized burrito — created as part of a school project.

April 2005 Journal

 

 

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