Monday, July 27, 2009

Democracy; Only Good When it Serves the Elite?

“The American republic; it's not your founding forefathers' representative democracy anymore”
Szandor Blestman

I'm not a huge fan of democracy. I think it's over rated and that the propaganda espousing its greatness has indoctrinated many people into believing that mob rule is the best political system ever created. My favorite description of a democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what's for dinner. Early on in the history of the American federal government certain changes were made to the Constitution to help establish more of a democracy type government that certain influential founders had warned against. The corruptible influences of such disregard for the original intentions and spirit that our forefathers wanted to impart upon our nation is now obvious for all to see. Democratic rule is well intentioned, however, even if it is true the a majority of people can at times be wrong about a given issue. It is the system we as Americans must deal with in our everyday lives, so we may as well make the best of it as often as possible.

Lately, however, it has become more than evident that those in power care nothing for the tenets of democracy they so publicly embrace. While they dutifully sit behind television cameras and explain the need to send soldiers to every corner of the world in order to bring the benefits of democracy to oppressed peoples, they ignore the concerns coming from the majority of their own constituents. This is in no way a new phenomenon, but it is one that has become more blatant in recent years.

I suppose the easiest place to start is to look at the bailouts of the past year. Certainly, I can point out many other past instances where the principles of democracy were ignored by our elected officials. When the big bank bailout was approved it wasn't the first time Congress decided to act against the will of the American people, but it was perhaps one of the most egregious. One only needs to rewind to some of the comments made by certain congress critters to understand this. When congressmen are getting 300 emails against a bill to every email for the same bill and they still vote for it, what could be more undemocratic? When the sitting Speaker of the House makes the claim that she knows better than her constituents what's good for them and how to best spend their money, could she make a statement that shows more disdain and disregard for the people she is supposed to serve?

In the case of the bailouts, the benefit to the ruling elite is obvious to some. The banks, with their trillions, can afford to donate quite a bit of money to campaigns of politicians. They can afford to pay for lobbyists and (dare I say it?) bribe elected officials. When they got into trouble because they had decided to loan money to people who eventually couldn't pay it back, they did not take responsibility for their mistakes, they chose to use the force of government to rectify their misguided decisions and to ensure that their wealth would not be lost. The people instantly understood that this meant they and their progeny would be paying for the mistakes of a few through taxation, and the vast majority of the populace used the system of representative democracy to voice their opposition to such an action. The people could not have been any clearer that they did not want these bailouts to take place. Still, that kind of democracy was not recognized by the political elite and they went ahead with their plans, using the claim of trying to prevent economic collapse to excuse their inexcusable ignorance.

It seems to me that perhaps this disregard for the will of the people was at least partially responsible for the election wins of many of the Democrats in the 2008 federal elections. Let us not forget that Mr. Bush's administration was responsible for starting what would become a very unpopular war and for bullying the congress into passing some extremely unconstitutional legislation. The Democrats took power at least in part as a protest to unpopular policies such as the Iraq war, torture and secret prisons, and support for laws like the Patriot Act and the Military Commissions act. People have shown that they would prefer to keep their freedoms rather than give in to allow government to run roughshod over their rights for the illusion of security. But it doesn't matter whether the Democrats or the Republicans are in power. The government doesn't listen to the people. It would not serve the interests of the political elite to do so. Instead, they do what they want and as they feel they must in order to control the masses and keep their secrets hidden.

The Obama administration is not going to reverse any of the harm done by the Bush administration. That would mean relinquishing some of their power. Instead of bowing to the will of the majority and focusing on dismantling the mechanisms that have made the executive branch of the federal government far too powerful, and that power far too easy to abuse, the Obama administration has decided to focus on centralizing power even more, putting real power into the hands of fewer and fewer people. This will certainly make it easier for the powerful who pay for the federal government to control it.

Bailing out the banks wasn't enough. With the blessings of this new administration and despite popular opposition, the few who make the laws decided to bail out the auto industry. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say they purchased as much of the industry as they could so that its loses would be shouldered by this nation's common folks rather than the wealthy elite who would have otherwise bore that burden. Unlike the majority who seem to understand that a private business succeeds or fails as dictated by the market and the will of the people to purchase the goods or services offered, the wealthy elite believes itself to be too big to fail and uses the force of government and stolen tax money that should not be available to them to ensure that competitive entrepreneurs will not be able to bring their innovations to market. This is how the economy stagnates.

The most recent folly of the undemocratic government we have been saddled with is the “Cap and Trade” regulation recently passed in the House of Representatives, albeit by a razor thin margin. Again, an unpopular piece of legislation has been passed because a working democratic process would not be good for the interests of the ruling elite. The people of this nation, for the most part, understand that this legislation is nothing more than a tax increase disguised as an ecological “feel good” measure. The trust in the federal government is quickly disappearing as more and more of these tomes of laws are imposed upon the American people. One can only hope that somehow the Senate shows some sign of sanity as the people continue to bombard their “representatives” with their opposition and concerns. There is still some hope as some senators are becoming nervous and beginning to realize that they cannot keep denying the people's will forever.

In the near future there will be a vote on health care reform. The people of this nation, in my opinion, have made it clear that they do not wish the government to be involved in health care. While the media and the political elite that use it for their propaganda rant and rail about how unaffordable health care is and how many people are without insurance, they do not discuss the positives of our health care system (such as choice and quality) nor do I hear much discussion about the true causes of the failings of this nation's health care system which have nothing to do with the free market and everything to do with the already heavily socialized institutions that have grown like cancers in this field of human endeavor. As I write this there is much debate in the halls of federal politics about another mega page piece of legislation involving health care and it looks as if it will have problems passing. Perhaps there is hope yet for the democratic process if the congress critters can finally decide to do the people's will in this matter and get out of health care altogether rather than doing what would be good for the political elite and passing legislation that would completely socialize medicine.

It is not enough to point out just the unpopular legislation that has been passed by congress. There is popular legislation out there that congress will not even consider. One of my personal favorite pieces of legislation is's “Read the Bills Act.” This is a piece of legislation that would require congress to read all their bills aloud to a quorum and allow seven days where the law would be posted online to be reviewed by anyone interested and to allow time for those parties to contact their representatives to support or oppose the bill. In addition, the bill makes provisions that if a law is altered than the altered bill must again be read and posted with another seven day waiting period. What person could possibly find fault with such a bill? What are we paying these lawmakers for anyway, if they don't read and understand the bills they pass? I believe if a poll was conducted we would find that such a bill would be supported by a super majority of the common folk. Had such a law been the law of the land back in 2001 the tomes known as “The Patriot Act” and “The Military Commissions Act” would have never gotten to the floor. We would no longer have to worry about laws being so long and complicated and perhaps even contradicting themselves. Unfortunately, this law has yet to find a congressional representative brave enough to introduce it and it likely wouldn't pass because it is a law that constricts the power of the ruling elite instead of increasing it.

The last example I would like to discuss truly illustrates the total breakdown of our democratic system when it comes to the will of the people versus the will of the elite and just how powerful the ruling class really is. I am talking about Ron Paul's bill HR 1207, the “Federal Reserve Transparency Act of 2009.” This is a simple bill that would not take long to read aloud in congress and would simply allow the GAO to completely audit the Fed. The last I heard there were 275 cosponsors to this bill. This means that not only would a majority of us common folk be in favor of such a bill, but so would a majority of our representatives. There is, however, one person that can prevent this bill from coming to the floor of the House for a vote. Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, has the power to do this. Since this bill will adversely effect some very powerful people, she has been hesitant to allow it to be voted on. This does not seem very democratic to me. One can only hope that the common folk can continue to exert enough political pressure on the powerful to get them to reconsider their positions.

I'm fairly certain that if this bill was thousands of pages long, a benefit to the powerful and detrimental to the common folk or their rights than the lawmakers would have voted it into law moments after it had been written. That seems to be the way modern democracy works. Its good to those who can afford to pay for it and their opinion is well represented, but if you are among the lower, middle or even some of the upper middle classes than your opinion matters little. This is not freedom, but a way of making sure that everyone knows their proper place in society. Bring Ron Paul's HR 1207 to vote and then audit the Fed. Perhaps then we will realize the depth of the corruption and do something to correct it. Perhaps then we will create a system where even the most common of the common can use the money he has as a vote by deciding for himself what services to pay for rather than being forced to pay for services provided by the federal government monopoly. Now that would be a democratic system I could get behind.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Spilling the Blood of the Peaceful

I’ve recently moved. As a result, I’ve been meeting new and interesting people. The more neighbors I meet, the more common folk I speak with, the more I realize that the vast majority of people realize and understand the principles upon which this country was built and that our government and governments around the world have subverted these principles. As a society, we have entrusted groups of people to uphold the values that made this a great and prosperous nation and slowly over the decades those values have been degraded. We have problems even defining what it means to be principled anymore. If we wish to live as peaceful and prosperous freemen, we should try to understand the motivations and mechanisms of those who wish to prevent us from realizing such a society.

A couple nights ago I got into a discussion with Kamyar, one of my new neighbors. I got to know him a little better. He explained to me that he was Persian (from Iran) and that he was a member of the Baha’i faith. I know next to nothing of the Baha’i faith, so I was curious about it. He told me it was a religion based on peace, much like many religions have claimed to be. He also explained to me that he had come to the United States of America back in the late seventies and that he was unable at the time to return to Iran for fear that he would be persecuted there because of his religion. At the time of the revolution in Iran, Baha’ists were being jailed and killed.

I, in turn, told Kamyar some of the things I have heard about the persecution of such groups as the Buddhists, the Falun Gong, and the Quakers back in colonial times. This conversation started me pondering, “Why is it that those in power have a tendency to crack down hard and bring violence upon otherwise peaceful people?”

It occurs to me that throughout history the human race has experienced this scenario time and again. It is particularly well documented in modern times, but persecutions of peaceful peoples have been occurring for millennia. Why should this be? I suppose it’s not so hard to understand when considering a warlike people attacking another people to steal their lands and natural resources and to enslave them. This is particularly true of ancient times when perhaps the natural world, and life itself, was a little harsher on mankind and survival a bit more uncertain and dependent upon forces outside man’s control. It is perhaps a little more complicated or difficult to understand when the peaceful elements inside a given society are violently targeted.

One explanation that certainly seems reasonable is that the peaceful people present an easy target for those in power. Indeed, when considering the similarities between the techniques of coercive authoritarians and schoolyard bullies, one can easily note that both have a tendency to pick on the weakest element they can find. They seemingly wish to bring harm to another, either to exercise some inhuman sadistic drive or to feed their own overbearing egos and solidify some needy superiority complex they may be feeling, while minimizing the risk that they may actually be harmed.

As intriguing and complete as the above explanation is, would it not be wise and prudent for one pondering these issues to consider other possible explanations? Perhaps there is more to these peaceful philosophies than meets the eye. Perhaps there is more to this esoteric practice of bringing violence upon the peaceful then fulfilling the psychological needs and the self gratification of a few powerful psychopaths. Perhaps these peaceful philosophies are a greater threat to the established powers than many may realize.

If one looks at philosophies revolving around the concept of peace, one might come to the conclusion that these philosophies are diametrically opposed to governing philosophies. Peaceful people, for the most part, just want to be left alone. While they might espouse their philosophy rather fervently, they can really only try to persuade others to embrace it. There is no threat they can carry out that would cause undo stress upon an individual to coerce them to follow a truly peaceful philosophy. If there were, or if the group tried to implement such actions, then the peaceful philosophy they espouse would not be a truly peaceful philosophy, at least not in practice.

Peaceful people, following peaceful principles, do not wish to exercise power over others. They do wish to make their own decisions about their own lives and how to go about living it, however. Governing philosophies, however, are quite a bit different. As George Washington so succinctly put it, “Government is not reason. It is not eloquence. Government is force; like fire it is a dangerous servant -- and a fearful master.” Those who would govern others believe in the use of force to do so. They believe that they must use force to cause others to embrace their philosophy. They do not wish to leave others alone to make their own decisions, but wish to control everyone’s life as much as possible and are forever trying to expand their influence and purview. Of course, the fact that by doing this those at the top of the heap can often enrich themselves serves as quite an incentive to those who wish to play with the fire that is government.

And so it is that these divergent philosophies often collide in a given society. A philosophy of peace will begin to gain support and recognition amongst the populace and the authoritarians in control become nervous or frightened as their legitimacy comes into question. Those in power know that their power comes from the bottom and works its way up. They know that if the base erodes their ability to threaten, coerce and use physical force against those they rule is weakened. They don’t wish for these ideas to spread amongst the masses and so they strike viciously at those who threatened not their physical form, but their perceived privileges. Those who would rule and praise the ideals of exercising power over others care nothing for equality, or laws, or justice, or righteousness, or principles when it comes to their own actions, they care only for the seductive high produced by the process of controlling one’s fellow human beings and by the privileges and benefits gained by such practices. They care so much for such things that they have no qualms in seducing others with lies and propaganda and then carrying out state sanctioned pogroms of imprisonment, torture and even murder of those who simply wish to be left alone. And so the blood of the peaceful is spilled while the violent authoritarians are protected not only by the state, but by the beliefs and principles of their victims, by the very philosophies they seek to destroy.

It is in this way those in power seek to influence the masses. Should those who espouse a philosophy of peace try to defend themselves, then it is likely they will be quickly portrayed as violent militants who are a threat not only to those in power, but to the peace loving society underneath them. The masses of the populace may see the carnage taking place and so become fearful of following such a peaceful philosophy. They may even take up arms against such a resistance in an effort to gain a portion of the benefits and privileges they see those in power enjoying. On the other hand, if those espousing a philosophy of peace refuse to become violent and stick to their principles even in the face of unjust state power levied against them, they will likely experience great suffering at the hands of the powerful, but the populace might just begin to recognize the inherent corruptibility of such power and turn away in disgust from those wielding it. They may even flock to the aid of those practicing such peaceful philosophies out of human decency and despite the dangers.

The philosophies of freedom and individual liberty are peaceful philosophies. Those who practice them wish only to be left alone. They do not wish to force their will upon others, but they do desire the freedom to be able to express themselves to those who would listen. They wish only to be able to practice personal responsibility for themselves and their families. They wish only to keep that which they have earned, to decide for themselves how to best spend their money or where it would be best to apply their efforts and wealth for the betterment of their community and the world. They seek only voluntary interactions between themselves, their friends and anyone they might do business with.

This is, of course, a threat to those who wish to maintain power over the populace. It is even more of a threat to those who wish to try to centralize power and keep it in the hands of the few. While self defense remains a human right, it should be used judiciously and it would be prudent to remember that those in power at the moment can easily twist the words and motives of those who defend themselves with violence and make them seem to be the aggressor. It is my hope that as this peaceful freedom movement grows those involved remain brave in the face of state violence and adhere to their principles without resorting to the cruel and inhumane methods used by the powerful. It is my hope that, especially in these modern times with all our video and communication technology, those who espouse the philosophies of freedom and individualism and practice peaceful civil disobedience will be able to finally show even the most indoctrinated statist the violence and inhumanity of the organization he supports and worships.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

More American Injustice, the Ed and Elaine Brown Deception

I had the pleasure of being a guest on a radio show hosted in part by Elaine Brown. I found her to be intelligent and engaging. This was, of course, a couple of years ago, just before federal agents arrested the Browns for pointing out to all of us the inherent immorality of extorting money from honest folk.., I mean for tax evasion. In addition to being quite a gracious host, she struck me as being extremely intelligent, principled and peaceful. I very much enjoyed speaking with her.

Ms. Brown articulated quite well that she believed herself to be a free person and that she wanted to rid herself of the ties that bind us all to the behemoth known as the federal government. It is well known that she was protesting the way the federal government goes about its business and how their actions demonstrate that those in power have been elevated to the status of masters of the populace. Indeed, if people are not allowed to peacefully withhold their funding and withdraw their consent without fear of retribution, how are they supposed to voice their grievances and concerns in a meaningful way? From election fraud and improprieties, to wars and foreign entanglements, to using the money of the middle classes to bail out the elite and the unwillingness of the Senate to audit the Federal Reserve, time and again the voices of the people have been ignored when they have used the prescribed system set up by the governing bodies and the grievances expressed have not been redressed as supposedly guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States.

In October of 2007 the Browns were kidnapped from their home by federal agents. They then began serving their sentences in federal prisons for crimes they had been convicted of in absentia. These were victimless crimes as no fellow human was physically harmed and nobody’s property was stolen or damaged. Whether or not these so called crimes should even be considered crimes is the subject of much debate, although those in power would like us all to believe that this is not so. The Browns were sentenced to five years in prison because they had the audacity to question the system and attempt to do something about it. But this was not enough for the feds. They had to break the Browns’ spirits and try to squelch the message that the Browns were attempting to send to the masses.

Originally, Ed and Elaine Brown had planned on seeing their trial through. They had planned on using several different arguments in their defense. They had prepared many arguments meant to explain why they were doing what they were doing and why they had the right to take such actions. The judge in the case denied the Browns the ability to use any such defenses in their case. It was at this point that the Browns decided the system was rigged and that they had no other option but to step outside of the system and to withdraw their consent if their message was to be heard. Their crime wasn’t so much that they didn’t pay their taxes and that they didn’t show up to their appointed court date, it was that they dared to disobey, to question authority, and to stand up for their individual rights and to claim their freedom. This type of behavior very much frightens the federal authorities and when it occurs they feel the necessity to crack down exceptionally hard.

Last week the Browns were once again dragged into court and tried on different charges related more to the standoff that happened as a result of the government’s actions than to the original charges the Browns were arrested for. These charges were for such things as weapons violations and threatening or trying to intimidate federal agents. I’m not sure about anyone else, but to me federal agents, especially when gathered in large groups, are far more intimidating than an old retired gentleman holed up in his house. Yet the federal government felt they had to make an example of the Browns. They had to show the people who is in charge. They want you to know without a shadow of a doubt that if you disobey their dictates and refuse to go along with their demands, no matter your reasoning, no matter how much support you’ve garnered, no matter the constitutionality of your argument, you will be harshly punished. They are big, strong and possess the guns and power and you are weak, puny and insignificant. The most heinous of crimes in the eyes of those in power are the crimes of disobedience to the state and questioning their authority.

While it may be true that Ed Brown may have made some statements and accusations that seem a bit outlandish and threatening to some, it seems to me that he was only trying to express his desire to defend himself, his loved ones and his property. He did not actually harm anyone. He did not initiate any violence against any person or group of persons. He did not go out looking for trouble but merely stayed on his property and challenged the feds to come after him. Unfortunately, federal agents don’t take kindly to having their authority challenged and would rather risk their lives, the lives of their men and the lives of innocent people apprehending someone who has merely brought into question their legitimacy rather than just leaving well enough alone and allowing people to live as freemen and keep the fruits of their labor.

This latest trial was nothing but a show trial, an effort to show those who would try to protest taxes and their enslavement to the federal government that those in power mean business. The same kind of thing was happening in the eighteenth century when the British would arrest American colonists for similar victimless crimes and protests. The Browns were assigned lawyers that are beholden to the system, as all lawyers are. They have no money to hire their own because the government took it all. Even if they did, how can anyone expect to get a fair trial challenging the authority of the government when everyone involved with the justice system has a vested interest in making certain the government’s veneer of legitimacy is maintained?

Those involved with prosecuting the Browns have tried to paint them as dangerous. I don’t believe that Elaine Brown was a danger to anyone and the only people who Ed Brown may have been dangerous to are the ones who threatened him in the first place. The federal government’s legitimacy is crumbling. They have stepped far outside their mandates and pried themselves into the business of the people where they don’t belong. They have stepped outside the bounds of their constitutional authority, to the point which some have even started to question the legitimacy of that document in terms of human freedom. The courts may be able to bully individuals like the Browns and silence them, but there are many questions left unanswered and many grievances that have yet to be redressed. Sooner or later, these concerns must be addressed by those who wish to exert control over the masses as the inherent intrusions upon our freedoms created by these issues become more obvious for any thoughtful human to see. Throwing people in prison for tax violations is not a proper reaction to a request for clarification.

The courts in this nation were supposed to be set up to protect the individual from the powerful. It has not worked out that way. It seems to me that the courts have become more interested in supporting the state than defending individuals against it. Cases like this one where the Browns question the legitimacy of the income tax should be seen as an opportunity to forge new frontiers into issues concerning individual freedom. Instead they uphold practices that laud state power over the individual and a system that reflects more a collectivist mindset than that of an individualist, or a voluntary type society envisioned by this nation’s founding fathers. One can only hope that such cases help bring these issues to light regardless of how the state would like to keep us in the dark over such matters.