Saturday, January 31, 2009

Thinking Beyond the Issues

I was organizing some files on my computer today and stumbled across some questions I had to answer for an application for an Institute for Humane Studies summer seminar last year. I took a glance at my answers and was struck by the quality of some of them. Sure, after a year more of school, there's several things I'd say a little differently now, but I loved the raw feel of this, so I thought I'd share:

The question:
Choose a political or social issue that is of importance to you and that you believe is of pressing concern. (This issue may be, but need not necessarily be, related to the topic of the seminar you wish to attend.) In 500 words or less, discuss why this issue is significant to those it affects and to the larger community or the world. What is the best way, in your view, to address this issue?

My answer:
One of the most important social issues today is that we can’t stop this silly talk about issues. This is rooted in a deeply impoverished view of human beings, political discourse, and the world in general. This view leads us to think in terms of “issues” rather than in terms of larger frameworks that provide reasons for thinking the way we do on particular matters. People will yell all day back and forth about their opinions about particular policy preferences, but it seems no one wants to have a calm discussion in which people give reasons for actual truth claims. It is extremely amusing and mildly disturbing to me that the one thing that most voters want to know about a candidate is “where he stands on the issues.” Far too few people bother to ask why a candidate stands where he does on the issues. The problem is that we just want someone who shares our policy preferences. We don’t want someone who can justify policy preferences.

The cause of this is simple: we’ve bought the great lie of the modern world: that I know what’s best for me and that’s what matters. We’ve stopped giving reasons. Our political science has reduced the concept of reason to a matter of getting what one wants. This is a sickly, impoverished view of human reason. We’ve abandoned the concept of the Good for the concepts of good which each individual has for himself. The human mind has become to us nothing more than a machine that we use to get what we want. There is no Truth to be discovered, no Good to be found and pursued. And without Truth and Good how do we deal with our conflicting aims, our incompatible conceptions of good? Ironically enough, we shove our conception of the good down one anothers’ throats. This shoving of preferences down throats is what we’ve made democracy. Democracy has become nothing more than people yelling “I like this, you should too,” and like a high school pep rally, whoever yells loudest wins.

How do we fix this? It’s simple but it’s not easy: we have to start having actual rational discourse. We have to start asking what is really Good, rather than what I like. We can’t keep yelling and we can’t give up. Many people seem to have decided that since moral discourse has become a yelling match, that’s all it will ever be. But we must talk about what is true and good and real. And the only way we can do that is if we stop shoving preferences down one another’s throats, both in the manner in which we discuss and in the policies which we pursue. The great irony is that if we ever stop bickering about preferences, and start talking about truth, we are much more likely to get a government which allows us to freely pursue our preferences. Wouldn’t it be beautiful if we could stop pointing the guns of the government to enforce mere preference, and start using the power of our minds to pursue truth?

Friday, January 30, 2009

2009 Edelman Trust Barometer - A Study of Global Opinion And Trust


Earlier this week, Humble Libertarian reader Ray, who works in the DC office of the public relations firm Edelman, alerted me to the firm's yearly study of public opinion, particularly how much trust individuals have in corporations, the government, media, NGOs, and even their peers. The results of the study were announced Wednesday.

I highly recommend you visit the link and hear how public opinion has changed and been shaped by recent events. It has a series of embedded YouTube videos of the firm's CEO, Richard Edelman, announcing the results. The cool thing about it is that they are all relatively short and break up the talk into its smallest meaningful pieces with helpful, descriptive headings so that you can actually skim through video. I was just talking to Humble Libertarian contributor Ben Bryan yesterday, who told me how he seldom watches videos on the Internet because they're impossible to skim like text to quickly gain important information and determine if the whole thing is worth taking in.

Here's a little about the methodology:

  • 4,475 people in 20 countries on 5 continents
  • Aged 25 to 64
  • College-educated
  • Top 25% of household income per age group in each country
  • Report significant media consumption and engagement in business news and public policy

So in terms of their education, income, and engagement in world events, these are the elite that are being polled and studied, the movers and shakers of public policy and private success or failure. We can learn a lot from knowing what they think and who they trust. The international scope of the study makes its results very interesting for purposes of comparison. To give just an example, all of the industries that Americans and Europeans are losing trust in- energy, automobiles, and finance- are the same industries that are gaining trust in Asia, where they are associated with progress and prosperity. Business as a whole also suffers from severe distrust in the US, Europe, and Australia, but is well-trusted in Asian countries.

Here are some interesting finds from the study:

  • Nearly two-thirds of informed publics (62%) trust corporations less than they did a year ago
  • When respondents in the United States were asked about trust in business in general, only 38% said they trust business to do what is right—a 20 percent plunge since last year—and only 17% said they trust information from a company’s CEO. Both are lower levels of trust than those Edelman measured in the wakes of Enron, the dot-com bust, and Sept.11.
  • By a 3:1 margin, respondents say that government should intervene to regulate industry or nationalize companies to restore public trust. In the major Western European economies of the U.K, France, and Germany, three-quarters say that government should step in to prevent future financial crises (73%, 75%, and 74%, respectively); in the United States, not even half (49%) say that the free market should be allowed to function independently. Globally, the call for government intervention also extends to issues like energy costs, global warming, and access to affordable healthcare, as respondents, by at least a 2:1 margin, say government has the primary responsibility for solving these issues.
  • In contrast to the lack of trust in the Western economies that have historically shaped the global agenda, trust in business in several emerging economies increased. In China, the “trust in business” score rose from 54% to 71% among 35-to-64-year-olds. In Brazil, trust in business climbed to 69% from 61% a year ago. And while trust in banking dropped by 33 percentage points in the United States, trust in banks rose from 72% to 84% in China, and from 52% to 59% in Brazil.
  • Trust in nearly every type of news outlet and spokesperson is down from last year. Trust in business magazines and stock or industry analyst reports—last year’s leaders—decreased from 57% to 44% and from 56% to 47%, respectively.

My Analysis:

The so-called "informed public" in Western countries is apparently the misinformed public. Their lack of trust in corporations shows they know enough to see that many corporations have screwed them over badly and cannot be trusted. I should hope at least that much is clear to anyone who's been paying attention to the news over the past year. But their call for an even closer relationship between these corporations and the government shows that "the informed public" lacks the sophistication to understand that it is precisely the relationship between corporations and the government that has spawned this mess of abuse, fraud, scandal, and economic downturn.

Witness for example, the glaring inconsistency of a public that hates lobbying and lobbyists for the relationship they create between government and businesses, yet calls for more of that kind of relationship from government regulators. Regulators and lobbyists are just two sides of the same coin. They both have the same ugly result, the intrusion of government power into private commerce, which ends by misallocating resources and creating incentives for fraud. The fact that recent events have "the educated public" running scared from free markets, shows they don't understand what free markets are, and they miss the glaringly obvious point that we have had nothing remotely approaching a free market in the United States or Europe for a century.

Meanwhile, in the developing economies, the places where wealth is actually being created rather than destroyed, the educated public displays a trust in business and free markets. Is it only the results they're getting that cause these attitudes? Or could it be that these attitudes help to create such fantastic results and such explosive growth? I am inclined to believe a little of both.

More Information About The Economy And State
7 Reasons Why The Stimulus Package Will Be Bad For America
The US Government And The Real Biggest Ponzi Scheme
What is Capitalism? The Nature and Advantages of the Free Market
Criticisms of Barack Obama
Problems With America's Two-Party System


More From Edelman
Edelman.com/news

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Plan To Get Out Of Debt- "Don't Buy Stuff You Cannot Afford" (SNL Skit)

It's sad that the solution is so obvious that ignorance of it is laughable... and yet so many are still so ignorant, or worse, they know better and get into debt anyways. If only our politicians used this kind of common sense:



Look familiar? If not, it's because you didn't watch this (it's in there).

BTW, even though it's totally unrelated, if that mention of Natalie Portman at the very end of the skit made you go, "Awe man, I'd love to see that," here it is (and it's really, really funny):



See? Told you it's really funny. Too bad Natalie Portman's political views aren't so great (but you're awesome, Natalie! I heart you!):



Wow. Got a little stream-of-consciousness there. What am I trying to say? Be smart. Live within your means. Don't buy stuff you cannot afford. Natalie Portman rocks. Her political views, not so much. And call the Senate if you have not already done so to let them know not to vote for one of the worst spending bills to ever come across their desks!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

House Passes Trillion Dollar Stimulus Package In Win For Obama (No Republicans Voted For It)

After coming to a vote late Wednesday, the $819 billion spending bill cleared the House in a vote of 244-188. Eleven Democrats opposed the bill. Zero Republicans supported it. I keep seeing varying figures for the legislation's price tab, so I'm not sure which one is exact- just remember that over the next decade the total cost of the bill will exceed $1 trillion.

The American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009 promises to make "supplemental appropriations for job preservation and creation, infrastructure investment, energy efficiency and science, assistance to the unemployed, and State and local fiscal stabilization." This website makes it easier to read through and navigate, and provides commentary from a liberty-minded perspective.

The ultimate problem with this "stimulus" package is that it doesn't stimulate anything. It is not as if this money comes from some magical place and infuses our economy with new cash. It comes from our economy and goes to other places in our economy. It just moves money around. In all probability, the money ends up in a less productive place than it was to begin with. Regardless, it's not the government's place to decide that for us.

Now Now Now! We Must Act Now!

The shrill urgency of the Obama administration in pushing this bill through Congress was disconcerting:

President-elect Barack Obama on Thursday said Congress must take "dramatic action" on his economic aid package as soon as possible, warning that a failure to do so would have devastating long-term consequences for the nation.

"If nothing is done, this recession could linger for years. The unemployment rate could reach double digits," he said.

"For every day we wait or point fingers or drag our feet, more Americans will lose their jobs. More families will lose their savings. More dreams will be deferred and denied. And our nation will sink deeper into a crisis that, at some point, we may not be able to reverse," he said.


Rushing people to make such a decision with that many zeroes after it is not the behavior of a responsible politician, it's more like the tactic of a sleazy used-car salesman. Where's your exit strategy, Mr. President? When Congress takes the President's cue and rushes a trillion dollar spending bill to the floor and passes it, something not-so-good probably just happened. It's as if Barack Obama took a page right out of George W. Bush's playbook. Remember the fear-mongering he used to rush the Patriot Act and Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq through Congress?

But we've got to do something!

To be clear, you mean "the government has to do something," and no it doesn't. It certainly doesn't have to do this. There are a lot of other actions the government could take that would help the economy, which involve lowering spending and decreasing the size of government. Obama can say "There is no disagreement that we need action by our government, a recovery plan that will help to jumpstart the economy," but he's simply wrong. If you would like to read a brilliant alternative to the policies just approved by the House, try this:

A massive increase in spending on hurried projects of uncertain value, financed by borrowing, is a promise to raise taxes in the future and to squander resources in the meanwhile. That is not the road to recovery. That is not the road to prosperity.

Instead, I'm proposing today a radical re-imagining of our tax system. I am recommending the elimination of the payroll tax. The payroll tax is a regressive tax that falls harshly on the poor. And it is deceptive, an unacceptable characteristic of a tax in a democracy.

Unlike a temporary rebate of payroll taxes, eliminating the payroll tax will change incentives facing firms and workers. The result will be job creation and increased worker compensation. The permanence of the change raises the effectiveness of that encouragement, again in contrast to a temporary rebate.

But eliminating the payroll tax without reforming the budget and entitlement programs would be irresponsible and would rob the tax cut of much of its kick.

The payroll tax currently generates about $700 billion. We will pay for that reduction with three other changes:

--Eliminating all corporate welfare. Corporate welfare rewards those corporations that excel at lobbying rather than serving their customers. Eliminating it will save $100 billion annually.

--Implementing spending reductions in all departments of 10%, saving over $250 billion. Such cuts in a federal budget heading toward $3 trillion are hardly draconian. They merely return spending to the level of a year or two ago.

--Making small across-the-board increases in the income tax rate, yielding $350 billion. The poorest workers will in fact see a significant improvement in their after-tax income because the elimination of the payroll tax will overwhelm the increase in income taxes. The richest Americans will see a slightly larger increase because their payroll tax contributions are currently capped.

At the same time, I will appoint two bipartisan commissions to reform the budget process itself and the Social Security and Medicare programs. The budget process is out of control. Signaling to the private sector that the public sector will live within its means and avoid the erratic behavior of the past year will go a long way toward rejuvenating the economy. So will reform of Social Security and Medicare.

It's not too late to act to stop this bill from becoming law

This is the biggest spending bill in history. Stop and reread that sentence. Again, more slowly. Let it sink in. For that much money, this bill should be more than mediocre and risky. It is unfortunately both. It will destroy over a trillion dollars worth of productive capital, substantially increase the national debt, and push the deficit a trillion dollars past the already historically unprecedented levels of the Bush Administration.

Thankfully, this bill is not law yet. It still has to pass through the Senate. You must take action now to make sure this doesn't happen. If the Republicans in the Senate hold solid against this legislation like their colleagues in the House, and just a couple Democrats vote against it like those in the House, we could block this bill from ever becoming law. So call your Senators ASAP! Here is a list of all the Senators with their contact information and phone numbers. Call, write e-mails, leave messages, call other state's Senators (they're spending your money after all!) -and let them all know not to pass the stimulus package. Be polite, intelligent, concise, and adamant. Write out what you're going to say first if you might stumble for words.

Do this as soon as possible. We have very little time to lose. Thank you.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I.O.U.S.A - A Documentary About The Soaring Nation Debt (byte-sized 30 minute version)

This is an incredibly eye-opening documentary about America's runaway government spending and enormous deficits. It's especially timely and relevant as President Obama proposes to raise spending by $1 trillion over the already unprecedented spending of the Bush Administration. Its graphs and charts are also brilliant in their ability to help you really see and visualize what all the numbers mean. You should definitely make yourself a cup of tea and watch this right now.



Here's their description:
By now, you may have heard about our acclaimed documentary I.O.U.S.A., a film that boldly examines the rapidly growing national debt and its consequences for the United States and its citizens. The film has been a huge hit, getting rave reviews from Roger Ebert and others.

Now, we proudly release a 30-minute condensed version of I.O.U.S.A. designed specifically for watching and sharing on the web - for free.

So if you haven't had a chance to see the movie yet, watch the condensed I.O.U.S.A. today. If you've already seen it in a theater, check out the abbreviated version for a refresher. Then, tell your friends, your family, your Facebook friends and your Twitter followers about the staggering amount of money - $53 trillion - in financial obligations owed by the federal government to foreign investors and to every single American in the form of pensions, health benefits, Social Security and Medicare.

Then, visit http://www.IOUSAtheMovie.com and join us in our Fiscal Wake-Up Movement. Together, we can make American fiscal responsibility a reality.

The Peter G. Peterson Foundation has teamed up with mtvU to create InDebtEd, a new campaign for college students that raises awareness about the dangers of personal and government debt and promotes action to help stop the fiscal crisis in the United States.

Applicants 18-28 years old, individually or in teams, must come up with a creative, original idea for a video game that addresses the nation's fiscal crisis, with a $10,000 prize at stake.

To get more information, or to apply to the contest, go to http://indebted.mtvu.com/the-challenge. And if you're not between the ages of 18-28, forward the site to a friend who is!

H/T: The Holy Cause (saw it in the sidebar)

Barack Obama's Environmental Policy and Inauguration Carbon Footprint

Source Material (edits are mine and Copyright of the Humble Libertarian 2009)

Today we have this headline: Obama presses for tougher controls on US car emissions

Barack Obama made his opening move in the greening of America's economy yesterday, using his presidential authority to press for tougher emissions controls on cars and promising global leadership on climate change.

In signing a pair of executive orders, Obama delivered his strongest repudiation to date of the policies of George Bush, inviting environmentalists to the White House to announce that America would play a global leadership role on climate change.

Less than a week after an inauguration unprecedented in size, cost, and pollution levels, Obama has shown some audacity for sure. This is another example of America's systemic failure to live up to the wise adage of the venerable Mahatma Gandhi- to be the change that we want to see in the world. Instead we force the change that we want to see in the world on everyone else and in many cases fail to live up to the demands of that change ourselves.

An Inconvenient Truth

How could Obama and the environmentalists believe that our climate and pollution situation is an emergency and yet emit over 500 million pounds of CO2 in an unnecessarily extravagant inauguration? Why can't Obama and his followers suit action to words? What I personally find even more appalling, is the 130 tons of trash left behind by the crowds, which didn't consist exclusively of garbage, but included left behind tables, sleeping bags, blankets, hand warmers, and other personal effects. In an event that was supposed to exemplify unity, change, responsibility, and "the putting away of childish things," we have people committing a selfish, common, irresponsible, and entirely childish act- that of failing to clean up after themselves.

"No we can't!" save the environment.

Echoing what may become a common theme on this blog, this is yet another example of the "No we can't!" mentality at work. We have said collectively as a nation by voting for Barack Obama and his environmental policies, "No we can't be the change we want to see in the world and live up to our values by purchasing cleaner and more efficient cars voluntarily. No we can't put economic pressure on car companies to produce the vehicles we desire by refusing to buy vehicles we believe harm the environment. Hell, we can't even pick up our own newspapers and sleeping bags and throw them away or carry them out because it's easier to leave them in the street for someone else to deal with! So it's great to have a President who will force us all to be responsible, especially people who disagree with us."

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Barack Obama's Hillary Clinton Appointment Violates The Constitution

Clinton speaking at a rally in support of Barack Obama; October 2008. (source)


Article I, Section 6 of the Constitution addresses compensation and says the following:

No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been increased during such time; and no Person holding any Office under the United States, shall be a Member of either House during his Continuance in Office.

In other words, if a Senator or Representative was serving in Congress at a time when the salary of a civil office was increased, they cannot be appointed to that civil office during the time for which they were elected, because it would create a conflict of interests. That Senator or Representative would be benefiting directly, personally, and financially from legislation that passed through their house and became policy.

Because the President's Cabinet has had pay increases during Clinton's tenure as Senator, by Bush's executive order and with the authorization of Congress, Hillary Clinton is not presently eligible under the rules clearly defined in the Constitution to be appointed to the office of Secretary of State. By appointing her, President Obama has ignored the Constitution, by accepting his appointment, Hillary Clinton shares in his ignorance (or willful defiance), and the 94 Senators who voted to confirm his nomination also show that they are unfamiliar with the Constitution or just don't care what it has to say.

Just one more of disgustingly-too-many instances which confirm that Obama's feigned caution over the Constitution was just a big, fat exception to a record of being very comfortable with violating it. Is anyone else starting to get disturbed at how easy it is for me to find and point out examples of our leaders' gross negligence of the Constitution and rule-of-law? I've been busting these out every other day for the past two weeks like it's a cakewalk. They just keep violating the Constitution, and I just keep telling you about it.

Live Footage of The U.S. Senate Violating the Constitution:

Friday, January 23, 2009

Barack Obama Doesn't Care About The Constitution

United States Constitution (source)

Wednesday night, President Barack Obama and Chief Justice John Roberts had a do-over of the flubbed Oath of Office in an otherwise smooth Inauguration the day before. Their reasoning for administering the Oath of Office a second time was that the Constitution specifically prescribes the words to be used, and they wanted to be sure to do everything by the book.

Oh great! So we can expect this level of careful attention to the Constitution and rule of law for the rest of Obama's administration, right? Wrong. Barack Obama has already demonstrated abundantly that he doesn't give a flip about the Constitution or rule of law. He demonstrated it when he voted for the Troubled Asset Recovery Program, a huge spending bill that originated in the Senate even though the Constitution requires spending bills to originate in the House; then again when he promised to illegally and unconstitutionally extend the funds authorized in that bill to non-financial institutions; then again when he appointed Tim Geithner to be Secretary of the Treasury despite his violation of immigration laws and tax evasion from 2001 to 2004 (he brushed these off as minor issues), and again when he said that Roland Burris should not be seated in the Senate despite having no legal or Constitutional grounds not to seat him.

Barack Obama, like most politicians today, does not care what the Constitution says. He's more interested in pushing his agenda forward regardless of legal or Constitutional obstacles. The fact that he took so much care to obey the law down to the letter in taking the Oath of Office only serves to highlight by inconsistency, his lack of care for the Constitution in other matters. The fact that he said specifically in his inaugural address that we will not sacrifice the Constitution or rule of law to expediency further compounds his inconsistency and adds to his hypocrisy. Barack Obama is pulling a fast one on you. He's saying the opposite of what he means and not suiting action to words- the same old politics as usual in Washington. Change has decidedly not come to America.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Dick Cheney Looking Like A Villain and Rahm Emanuel Making Faces

Okay, before we move on to more serious business here on the Humble Libertarian, we just have to take a moment out for a caption contest. These photos from yesterday's inauguration ceremony are too good to pass up:

First we have former Vice President Dick Cheney looking like a comic book villain:


My caption? "And I'd have gotten away with it too... if it weren't for those meddling kids!"

Then we have White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel making faces and wiggling his fingers in front of his face in a moment of levity (the text is my edit):


Ooh... and here's another good caption: "Time to put away childish things." Please submit more captions for these two pictures in the comment thread.

And this is a really cool satellite photo of the massive crowds at the inauguration. It really gives you a sense of the scale.

And here is a hilarious headline that you bet CNN took down fast!

Tomorrow... in contrast to yesterday's post, in which I was very unreserved about my criticisms and concerns over Barack Obama, I am going to try to say as many positive things as I can about him and my hopes for his administration. Though I believe the positives will be vastly outweighed by the negatives, they still deserve mention and analysis. Yesterday's post was also broad in its criticism- in upcoming posts I plan to analyze the specific aspects of the incoming administration's policies and offer commentary and criticisms.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Criticisms of Barack Obama

Photo by Pete Souza

Watching the inauguration of President Barack Obama today, I was struck by what an amazing country America is. Here we have one group of people with all the power, and they willingly and peacefully hand that power over to another at the decision of the electorate. A stable democratic system in the context of a liberal society (by which I mean a free society) can certainly be a blessing. It's unfortunate then, to note on this day of triumph for American electoral democracy, that we have used it to elect for ourselves a leader who is likely to wield more power than any who preceded him, and to do so in favor of an ever-expanding, more intrusive government.

President Obama ran a campaign on the theme of hope, using the slogan "Yes we can!" At a time when Americans desperately needed words of hope and optimism, Obama convinced America that he was the candidate of hope. We were duped. Listen again to the words of his campaign- it was a cynical campaign, utterly bankrupt of genuine hope. Obama's message to America was "No you can't! No you can't provide for yourselves. No you can't create new jobs and wealth on your own. No you can't thrive and prosper without handouts from the government. You are helpless and inept. You need a powerful, charismatic leader who is smarter than you are and knows what's good for you and how to spend your money better than you do."

The central note of the Obama-Biden Campaign was not hope, but despair. They capitalized on our fears and stoked them with alarmist rhetoric about our future. It was a lie of Orwellian dimensions- they said the exact opposite of what they really meant- and it worked. And as President, Obama and Congress are likely to continue saying together, "No you can't." No we can't keep the wealth we create; it will have to be taxed to fund Obama's make-work programs. No we can't choose how to save and invest our own money for our own retirement; the government knows better and will "keep it safe" for us in a Social Security account. No we can't voluntarily choose to be virtuous and care for the needs of the less fortunate; we will have to be forced to do it. And no we can't choose to be selfish; Obama is arrogant enough to force us to do what he considers to be the right thing.

Also consider Obama's staff and administration as further evidence of his cynicism. Selecting Joe Biden, a long-time Washington insider, as his running mate created a glaring inconsistency with Obama's campaign message of reform. Obama didn't have enough hope in his vision of reform not to select the same tired old faces from Washington to populate his administration, the same people who have been part of the same problem for years and even decades. The Obama administration looks eerily like the Clinton administration. At every level from his Vice Presidential pick, to his cabinet level positions, and down through the Executive hierarchy, Obama has failed to suit action to words in his hope for change and reform. Make no mistake- the same old politics are now at work in D.C. and Barack Obama is the same old kind of politician.

At a time of celebration over our new president, when an overwhelming majority of Americans approve of the Obama administration, I am proud to number myself among the minority of Americans who see increasing regulation, spending, inflation, and centralized power in the hands of a corrupt and inept government, and who mourn rather than celebrate, who grieve over the death of liberty and the decay of civil society.

Monday, January 19, 2009

George W. Bush's Sorry Record in Office: A Review of The Bush Presidency

Photo from WhiteHouse.gov

With just a day left before he leaves office, here is a review of the major actions and results of George W. Bush's presidency, a post-mortem- if you will- on the Bush Administration. As the title of this article discloses, the review is quite unfavorable. Twice, the so-called conservative wing of the Republican Party was instrumental in electing Bush to office on promises of limited government and reform. It was the con of the century. Bush's presidency has looked nothing like his campaign promises.

If we assign to the words "conservative" and "liberal" their conventional (and confused) meanings in modern American usage, with "conservative" meaning "someone who supports more limited government" and "liberal" meaning "someone who supports more active government," then Bush is by far the least conservative and most liberal president we have had in decades, or possibly even our entire history as a nation. If we use these words in their classical sense, Bush is neither conservative, nor liberal. More apt descriptors would include: statist, imperialist, autocratic, warmongering, socialist, fascist, and on and on the list could go!

The following is a list of Bush's accomplishments as president:

1. Steel Tariff- Right off the bat, he did not work to improve international relations and free trade, but antagonized the European Union and blocked free trade with the passage of a protective steel tariff. He bought this favor for the steel industry at the expense of every other domestic industry that uses steel by forcing them to pay artificially-enforced, higher-than-market prices for steel.

2. Regulation- Businesses in the United States are strangled by a vast array of pointless regulations that cost billions in compliance costs. Instead of acting to reform these in favor of a healthy and free economy, uninhibited by the arbitrary interventions of the state, Bush has added to them over his presidency, most notably with the passage of Sarbanes-Oxley, an unprecedented Federal expansion into American business.

3. Welfare state/Entitlement Programs- Rather than working to reform and eliminate the wasteful spending of the Federal government's entitlement programs, Bush has worked actively to increase their size, power, and budgets. The prescription drug benefit that he pushed for to expand Medicare was the biggest infusion of money to any government program in 40 years. It will ultimately cost as much as $7 trillion to taxpayers. To ensure passage, his administration knowingly gave a deflated price estimate to Congress and as a matter of record, threatened to terminate certain Medicare employees if they disclosed the true estimate of its costs.

4. No Child Left Behind- The NCLB Act represented an unparalleled expansion of Federal power over education, which has traditionally been, and Constitutionally should be, a local and state issue. It also represented an unprecedented increase in Federal dollars for education, but its requirements have prompted many to call for even more, and depending on your philosophy of education, these dollars are being wasted.

5. Socialization- While John McCain- the GOP's candidate to succeed Bush in office- was smearing his opponent Barack Obama as a socialist (which is incidentally true, by the way), the Bush Administration was busy nationalizing Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac, buying toxic assets from the finance industry for $700 billion (actually, that's how much Congress authorized for this purpose when it passed TARP, the administration has currently spent more than a trillion dollars bolstering the finance industry, much of it unaccounted for), and illegally and unconstitutionally using funds from TARP to extend loans to the auto industry (much of this was done with both McCain's and Obama's help and support).

6. Deficit Spending- To finance his expansive government agenda, Bush has run deficits greater than any other in US history, pushing the United States National Debt to unprecedented levels. This is quite an impressive feat when you stop to consider that his administration inherited a budget that was yielding surpluses. Though America went into the new millennium with a reasonable hope of getting its debt situation under control, it now looks as though the national debt will grow exponentially to unsustainable levels in our lifetimes.

7. Department of Homeland Security- Instead of acting to slim and streamline government in the aftermath of 9-11, Bush's solution to government inefficiency and disorganization was to create another entire department of the Executive Branch, which has since then become notorious for its wastefulness and inefficiency.

8. The Patriot Act- Conservatives should have been alarmed at an act that grants the Federal government greatly-increased and broadly-defined powers over it citizens, increasing its surveillance abilities and allowing it to act with greater impunity and less accountability for its actions. Its Orwellian name and hurried passage give it a chilling touch. Bush took it even further however, when he issued an executive order to allow the NSA to engage in warrantless, illegal wiretapping of US citizens in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

9. Guantanamo Bay/Abu Ghraib Prisons- With the passage of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, Bush and Congress suspended habeas corpus for enemy combatants, and while it also outlawed torture (as if we needed more legislation to outlaw torture), it provided for the president to use his discretion in determining what constitutes torture. Bush himself noted that the purpose of building Gitmo in Cuba was to put enemy combatants in legal "outer space."

10. Iraq War- Bush's doctrine of preemption set a dangerous and aggressive precedent for US foreign policy. He explicitly campaigned on a foreign policy of no wars, no major troop deployments, and no nation building. He campaigned on what he called a "more humble foreign policy" and argued that we should not police the world. Instead he has stretched the military and treasury to their limits waging a very questionable war.

11. Global War on Terrorism- Defending America is an important role the Federal government plays. George W. Bush used it as an excuse to declare a "Global War on Terror." Notice that the enemy is not defined. It's not a war against a specific organization or country, but against a tactic, a broadly-defined abstraction. Thus it is unlimited in time and could proceed indefinitely. Notice that it is not confined to a geographic location, but is "global." Thus it is unlimited in space and justifies possible government involvement anywhere and everywhere. Notice that the war has been pitched to Americans not as a matter of national defense against radical terrorist organizations, but a "clash of civilizations" that we fight for our very existence.

Summary

In closing, let me say that I do not hold George W. Bush exclusively responsible for all the things I list above. He is very responsible and holds a hefty share of the blame, but Congress shares equally in that blame. Legislators in D.C. like Hillary Clinton who posture against Bush, yet vote for many of the policies he has signed into law are guilty of all the things listed above as well as lying about it. We as Americans must hold them responsible as well and vote like it!

Also let me say that I am not thrilled about our incoming president, Barack Obama. My criticism of Bush should in no way be misconstrued to imply an endorsement of Obama. Please join me again tomorrow, on the day of his inauguration, for a list of my appraisals and predictions for the incoming administration.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Bushisms: George W. Bush's Funny Quotes and Gaffes

With President George W. Bush on the way out, it's time for us to exercise one of my favorite freedoms as an American, the freedom to make fun of our own leaders, even our President. From the beginning, Bush wasn't known for his sparkling oratory skills. Here's a list of hilarious Bush gaffes and quotes:

Here's a video clip of President Bush saying, among other things, the following quotes:

"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we." -Washington, D.C., Aug. 5, 2004

"Tribal sovereignty means that; it's sovereign. I mean, you're a -- you've been given sovereignty, and you're viewed as a sovereign entity. And therefore the relationship between the federal government and tribes is one between sovereign entities." -Washington, D.C., Aug. 6, 2004

"I hear there's rumors on the Internets that we're going to have a draft." -presidential debate, St. Louis, Mo., Oct. 8, 2004"

"I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully." -Saginaw, Mich., Sept. 29, 2000

"Families is where our nation finds hope, where wings take dream." -LaCrosse, Wis., Oct. 18, 2000

"They misunderestimated me." -Bentonville, Ark., Nov. 6, 2000

"I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family." -Greater Nashua, N.H., Chamber of Commerce, Jan. 27, 2000

"I'm the decider, and I decide what is best." -Washington, D.C. April 18, 2006

"There's an old saying in Tennessee -- I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee -- that says, fool me once, shame on --shame on you. Fool me -- you can't get fooled again." -Nashville, Tenn., Sept. 17, 2002

It's followed by commentary on whether Bush is actually an "idiot" or just inarticulate.



Here are other Bush quotes that might raise an eyebrow:

You know, one of the hardest parts of my job is to connect Iraq to the war on terror." -interview with CBS News' Katie Couric, Sept. 6, 2006

"The same folks that are bombing innocent people in Iraq were the ones who attacked us in America on September the 11th." -Washington, D.C., July 12, 2007

"I'm the commander -- see, I don't need to explain -- I do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being president." -as quoted in Bob Woodward's Bush at War

"Oh, no, we're not going to have any casualties." -discussing the Iraq war with Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson in 2003, as quoted by Robertson

"I would say the best moment of all was when I caught a 7.5 pound largemouth bass in my lake." -on his best moment in office, interview with the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag, May 7, 2006

"For every fatal shooting, there were roughly three non-fatal shootings. And, folks, this is unacceptable in America. It's just unacceptable. And we're going to do something about it." -Philadelphia, Penn., May 14, 2001

"This is an impressive crowd -- the haves and the have mores. Some people call you the elite -- I call you my base." -at the 2000 Al Smith dinner

"I know what I believe. I will continue to articulate what I believe and what I believe -- I believe what I believe is right." -Rome, Italy, July 22, 2001

"See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda." -Greece, N.Y., May 24, 2005

"I wish you'd have given me this written question ahead of time so I could plan for it...I'm sure something will pop into my head here in the midst of this press conference, with all the pressure of trying to come up with answer, but it hadn't yet...I don't want to sound like I have made no mistakes. I'm confident I have. I just haven't -- you just put me under the spot here, and maybe I'm not as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one." -after being asked to name the biggest mistake he had made, Washington, D.C., April 3, 2004

"The most important thing is for us to find Osama bin Laden. It is our number one priority and we will not rest until we find him." -Washington, D.C., Sept. 13, 2001

"I don't know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don't care. It's not that important. It's not our priority." -Washington, D.C., March 13, 2002

"I just want you to know that, when we talk about war, we're really talking about peace." -Washington, D.C. June 18, 2002

"I trust God speaks through me. Without that, I couldn't do my job." -to a group of Amish he met with privately, July 9, 2004

"I'll be long gone before some smart person ever figures out what happened inside this Oval Office." -Washington, D.C., May 12, 2008

"Rarely is the questioned asked: Is our children learning?" -Florence, South Carolina, Jan. 11, 2000

"If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator." -Washington, D.C., Dec. 19, 2000

"Too many good docs are getting out of the business. Too many OB-GYNs aren't able to practice their love with women all across this country." -Poplar Bluff, Mo., Sept. 6, 2004

There's also the classic Bush video where he flips off the camera:



And in an event that has exemplified our country's utter dislike of George W. Bush and his presidency, an Iraqi journalist throws a shoe at the President, and instead of rallying around our President, Americans mostly just thought it was really funny:



And if you want to be really confused, check out this video alternating clips of Bush in 1996 running for Governor of Texas, and Bush in 2006 as President of the USA. He used to be very articulate and intelligent by comparison:

Friday, January 16, 2009

Bank of America Nationalized - Receives $20 Billion in Federal Treasury Money

Source: Photo of a Bank of America branch in Lowell, MA.

They've done it. Bank of America has been nationalized. It's government owned now:

Two weeks after closing its purchase of Merrill Lynch at the urging of U.S. regulators, the government cemented a deal at midnight Thursday to supply Bank of America with a fresh $20 billion capital injection and absorb as much as $98.2 billion in losses on toxic assets, according to people involved in the transaction.

....

The second lifeline brings the government's total stake in Bank of America to $45 billion and makes it the bank's largest shareholder, with a stake of about 6 percent.

....

In exchange for the new support, Bank of America will give the government an additional $4 billion stake in preferred stock. It has also agreed to cut its quarterly dividend to a penny, from 32 cents, and accept more stringent restrictions on executive pay.

When will the madness stop? It said nothing in the article about Congress. Is the Treasury just going around making financial deals with companies and giving them billions in loans? Where is that money coming from and who has authorized its use? Spending money is a power that belongs to the House of Representatives exclusively among the Federal government.

How is this happening? I would really like to know. Is there some legal explanation for this? Anyone who knows what twisted rationale is behind this kind of activity- please share in the comments below.

How many more companies are they going to nationalize before Americans wake up to the reality of what's happening to their country?

And an important discussion point: What can we do to protest this? Please share ideas in the comment thread. The most frustrating thing about this is that it's so difficult to directly face and protest. It's not like they are violating my rights directly. Instead they are violating everyone's rights and they are doing it in a very indirect manner. Any ideas you might have that are creative and inspiring, ideas that involve protest or civil disobedience, please share and discuss. We have got to take action!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

George W. Bush's Original Foreign Policy (he was against the war before he was for the war)

A few days before George W. Bush leaves office it is maddening to consider what things could have been like if he had only stuck to his original campaign promises and pursued a humble foreign policy of no nation building and no wars. It leaves me frustrated to no end to watch this series of clips from a 2000 debate with Al Gore:



As with his statements back in November defending capitalism and the free market while he poo-pooed all over both, if the man had just governed according to the words coming out of his mouth, America would have been a lot better off.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Tim "Doesn't-Pay-His-Taxes" Geithner Also Bailout Architect and Fed Bank President

Tim Geithner (left) meets Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus - Source

A big headline yesterday was that Tim Geithner, Barack Obama's pick for Treasury Secretary didn't pay his taxes from 2001 to 2004. Whoops! There are plenty of people in Congress however, standing up in Geithner's defense, saying things like:

"I believe that these errors, although serious, do not rise to the level of disqualification. He is an extremely competent man. The errors were, in my judgment, honest mistakes. He did not in any way intentionally make those mistakes." -Finance Committee Chairman Max "Voted-for-the-Bailout" Baucus, D-Montana

Senator Baucus, I certainly hope that this was an honest error and that our new Treasury Secretary is not a crooked, dishonest man who would do something so petty as cheating on his taxes while serving a powerful international banking organization. But if that is in fact the case, then it necessarily calls into question his competence. This guy is supposed to be like a big deal when it comes to handling money. He's about to get appointed to the office of Treasury Secretary, for heaven's sake. And he didn't even know how to properly file his taxes? You're telling me that for four years this supposed finance guru didn't know that he was even supposed to pay his Medicare and Social Security taxes? That's a glaring record of incompetence if you ask me, Senator Baucus. You cannot in the same sentence call him honest and competent. You get to pick one. Either way, he's not qualified.

It makes me wonder if Geithner's vocal supporters in the Senate like Baucus, Hatch, and Schumer (all three of whom voted for the bailout) would have the same flippant attitude towards a conservative Republican nominee with the same record of breaking the law, especially if it were a Supreme Court nominee who didn't care much for abortion.

But folks, it's not just the fact that I have the fifth striking example in like a week that our politicians don't really bother about keeping the law anymore. It's the fact that this man, Tim Geithner is part of the problem, not the solution. He was a chief architect of the wildly unpopular, immoral, and unconsitutional Wall Street Bailout last Fall. He even butted heads with current Treasury Secretary Paulson over how the financial crisis was handled because he thought the Federal government should have taken even more drastic action than it did.

Before his nomination, Geithner was president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. You know? That giant private bank that pumped all the paper money and credit into the economy which is what caused this mess to begin with? Why on earth would you appoint a man who helped cause the problem, to solve it? Why would you appoint to an even higher office, one of the guys who was in charge when it all came crashing down and whose policies led to the crash? Why would you do that, Mr. Obama? Why would you appoint a core member of the Bush administration's crisis team to your cabinet when you promised change and new blood in Washington politics? I'm afraid that problems can only be solved at a higher level of consciousness than that which caused them.

I'm even more afraid that our politicians aren't very conscious at all about how economies actually function.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Congress Bill To Force College Football Playoff

Photo by the USMC

Okay. Seriously? I promise to get back into doing posts that affirm and defend a proper theory of government and liberty rather than just complaining about the effects of a false theory of government (or just as likely, a complete lack of deeper thinking at all), but I just could not believe my eyes when I read this today. Popular on Digg.com this morning was an article which said of college football:

It is also the only major sport that doesn’t use a playoff to determine its champion, which is the source of much debate pretty much every year. And for the last couple years, we’ve had lawmakers trying to influence the process, saying that the NCAA should have a playoff for college football.

Seriously(!)? I continued to read through the article and found a link to another on ESPN.com (from barely a month ago on December 10th) and was horrified at what I read:

Taking aim at a BCS system he said "consistently misfires," a member of Congress planned to introduce legislation Wednesday that would force college football to adopt a playoff to determine the national champion.

Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, the ranking Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, didn't specify what sort of playoff he wants -- only that the BCS should go.

He said the bill -- being co-sponsored by Reps. Bobby Rush, an Illinois Democrat, and Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican -- "will prohibit the marketing, promotion, and advertising of a postseason game as a 'national championship' football game, unless it is the result of a playoff system. Violations of the prohibition will be treated as violations of the Federal Trade Commission Act as an unfair or deceptive act or practice."

Leaving aside the issue of whether or not the NCAA should have a playoff to determine its national champion, how on earth do three congressmen actually think it's their legitimate role to regulate sports? Are our leaders really so out of their minds that they think they are justified in controlling every aspect of our lives? I guess I missed the section in Article I of the Constitution that gave Congress the power to regulate college sports. I guess these three congressmen missed the part in the 10th Amendment that says powers not specifically enumerated for the Federal government are reserved to the states and the people.

Barack Obama has also been vocal in his support for an NCAA playoff. When I read in the articles above that Obama was in support of one, I imagined that he had simply expressed his opinion and not indicated that he was actually going to do something about it as president. But watch the interview below, where he is asked specifically what he would do about it as president. He reiterates his position and says "I'm going to throw my weight around a little bit. I think it's the right thing to do." You are absolutely wrong, Mr. Obama. Using your office and power to coerce a private national sports organization into taking an action you think is best is the absolutely wrong thing to do, even if you're correct in thinking they should have a playoff.



Don't they have something better to do? As I've pointed out again, and again, and again, our leaders are no longer interested in what is legal or constitutional. Rule of law has disappeared from our country and while it may not seem like it on the surface, we have descended perilously close to a state of anarchy. If you find that talk alarmist, my response is that you ought to be alarmed. If you find that talk inaccurate, please comment and tell me the proper response to and appraisal of news items such as these. If you think I need to calm down, my response is that you need to get excited. This matters. These flagrant violations of our law and constitution matter. This is one of the biggest issues of our day and we as patriots and lovers of liberty need to make it an issue and hold our politicians to account for their actions.

--------------------

Ben Bryan pointed out to me that by "throw my weight around" Obama could mean only that he intends to speak out on the issue and levy his popular influence as a president to affect a change in policy, rather than make it a point of his legislative agenda. That's fair enough. I should give him a little more benefit of the doubt. I certainly hope this is the case. We'll just have to wait and see when he talks about it some more. I'll be sure to keep you updated here at Humble Libertarian.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Barack Obama Promises to Break the Law: The Second Half of the Financial Bailout

Photo from WhiteHouse.gov

Barack Obama has asked President Bush to submit a request to Congress for the second half of the $700 billion TARP fund so that it will be available to him shortly after his inauguration. Obama promises changes in how the funds will be used, missing the point entirely that it's the very use of the funds in the first place that is egregious and off-putting to the American people, who overwhelmingly opposed the bailout's passage. Even more alarming however, is how the president-elect says he plans to spend the money:

Separately, Larry Summers, Obama's choice for National Economic Council director, said the new president intends to broaden the goals of the remaining bailout package...

Obama intends to use the Troubled Asset Relief Program to help community banks, small businesses, consumers and homeowners as well as large financial institutions.

Excuse me, but that's illegal! It is clearly and plainly contrary to the legislation. As I noted in December when Bush illegally used TARP funds to extend loans to GM and Chrysler:

The Troubled Asset Recovery Program passed by Congress to bail out the financial industry set very clear guidelines for its money's use and the White House has blatantly violated those guidelines: "The bailout statute defines 'financial institutions' eligible for the bailout as 'any institution, including, but not limited to, any bank, savings association, credit union, security broker or dealer, or insurance company.'" Does it sound to you like automaking companies qualify?

I'm sorry but consumers, homeowners, and small businesses do not qualify under the guidelines of the law passed by Congress (unless the small business is specifically a finance business). Even if Obama will use the money better than Bush did (which is very possible, considering that its use has not been well-accounted for by the financial institutions that received it), that's beside the point. It's illegal and unconstitutional, illegal because it breaks the law, unconstitutional because it's the president defying Congress and ignoring the Constitution's clear separation of powers.

I'm getting so sick of this! This is not a partisan rant against Obama, as I have been just as vocal in my denunciation of Bush for the same exact thing. Violating the law and the U.S. Constitution is just a matter of course now for politicians in both major parties. This is yet another out of many examples to illustrate that our country's leaders no longer care about the rule of law. And what sickens me even more is that Americans sit idly by, not knowing or caring that this is happening.

Do you care? Are you an exception? I would love for you to prove me wrong and show me that Americans do care that our leaders do the right thing. Start spreading this around. Start getting angry! Hold Obama accountable -and Bush! -and Congress! Make phone calls, send e-mails, and ask questions. Let's make sure our leaders know that we take liberty and law seriously.


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Should Libertarians Invest In Gold?

Photo from RepublicDomain

It is a common belief among Libertarians- especially proponents of Austrian economics- that a monetary system should be based on the gold-standard to protect it against inflationary measures taken by an expansive government. I happen to be among their number as a strong advocate for returning America to the gold standard and abolishing the Federal Reserve system. Yet it is important to remember that this claim and the claim that you should personally invest in gold with your individual savings are entirely different claims. While I'm not telling you not to invest in gold (in fact, I'm not going to give you any kind of investment advice, just information that you might find helpful), I do just want you to be aware that your support for a national monetary system based on gold does not necessarily require you to also believe gold is a sound personal investment (but you might end up believing that anyways for other reasons, which will depend on your personal investment strategy and tolerance for risk).

What kind of asset is gold?

Gold is a commodity. It is a fixed resource that has value because of its beauty, durability, and in part for its practical applications as a raw material. For advocates of gold investment, its stability is the primary appeal. Last week the article, Investing in Gold made its rounds on the Internet, making the case for gold by pointing out that, "Historically, the price of gold has remained stable compared to other investment vehicles that tend to fluctuate more drastically. And its value has held up even as worldwide currencies have fluctuated, due to more consistent prices and returns."

Why this is good news

This is good news because it means that even if the dollar collapses in its value (sadly not an off-the-wall or even unlikely scenario), gold is likely to remain valuable. It might even experience a temporary rise in value as an alternative, stable store of value in an unstable time. If the world is plunged into another global depression, the US dollar loses its value, and food becomes scarce, if you own gold coins, you can probably go out into the country and find a farmer who will accept those coins in order to house and feed you. In this sense, gold is stable and trustworthy as a store of value and it might be worthwhile to keep some stashed away somewhere just in case.

Why this is bad news

The very fact of gold's stable value works against it as an investment vehicle. It is not likely to give you high returns. Its dollar value does fluctuate and may rise (or may fall), but you are not likely to garner significant, long-term returns by investing in gold. While it may really come in handy after a catastrophic monetary collapse, as a commodity, gold doesn't generate actual cash flow. It is not a cash flow generating asset like stocks, bonds, or even a savings account. Your money doesn't earn interest when you turn it into gold, it just sits there and maybe grows in its dollar value. The only hope you have to get returns is to turn around and sell it to someone else when its value goes up. In this sense, it's no different than investing in baseball cards, which also do not generate cash flow, but which you might be able to sell at a higher price to a "greater fool" somewhere down the road.

Why this is misleading news

While gold is stable, once again, in the sense that it will always be valuable and that you can count on it in a way that you cannot count on national, paper currency, its value against the dollar is not necessarily stable, especially because the dollar's value isn't stable. Here's the price of gold in US Dollars from 1968 to 2006, which as you can see is pretty erratic (source):



In summary

I'm not telling you what or what not to invest in, but I do hope that this information helps fill in some gaps and tells you a little more about gold as an investment vehicle. In upcoming posts, I plan to outline and defend arguments for gold as a standard currency for the monetary system of a free country.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Self-Defense Alternatives In The Case of Banned Firearms

It's old news now that gun sales have been through the roof since Barack Obama's election to America's highest office in November. "Buyers and sellers attribute the surge to worries that Obama and a Democratic-controlled Congress will move to restrict firearm ownership, despite the insistence of campaign aides that the president-elect supports gun rights and considers the issue a low priority."

Then the shocking headline made its rounds earlier this week that Congress could pass legislation allowing Barack Obama's Attorney General- Eric Holder- to "ban guns at will." Let's certainly hope that this does not come to pass (I have my doubts- the backlash would be too great), but if it does, here are some great alternatives for your self-defense:



1. The Knife

Smith & Wesson SW3B Special Ops M-9 Bayonet Special Force Knife, Black

Don't worry. Handguns aren't the only thing your pals Smith & Wesson manufacture. You can feel safe and defend yourself from would-be muggers and thugs by carrying these. They look so scary, that just pulling one out might be enough to scare off an aggressor. What kind of freak carries something like that around anyways? The kind that you don't want to mess with.

If you're a serious knife enthusiast, I also recommend you check out my friend, the Panday (which means "knifesmith" in Tagalog, the language of the Philippines). I've been following his blog for a couple years now, and as a manufacturer of high-quality, custom-made knives, he consistently creates some of the most elegant, awesome knives I have ever seen. Drop him an e-mail to inquire about his prices and product selection. Here's a sample of his work:



2. Pepper Spray/Mace

Pepper Spray In Blue Molded Keycase With Belt Clip - 0.5oz

This one is a great self-defense option. It is non-threatening, inconspicuous, and easy to carry. It's light, but packs a lot of punch. You can attach it to your key-chain and deliver a blast of stinging chemicals into the eyes and lungs of an attacker. Makes a great gift for that special someone whose safety you worry about.

3. Taser/Stun Gun
TASER® C2 Black with LED light, Lithium Power Magazine (LPM)

Your attacker will go from "Give me your money!" to "Don't tase me, bro!" in seconds when you whip out a taser and threaten the pain of several hundred thousand volts of electrical energy in one powerful blast. You ladies can even use the kind that is cleverly disguised as lipstick:

350,000 Volt Lipstick Stun Gun By Cheetah Rechargeable with built in Flashlight CH-18

4. Nunchucks
BLACK DRAGON NUNCHUCKS

If you can do some scary cool nunchuck work, you will impress and intimidate your attacker. Getting one of these in response to a ban on guns would actually be quite fitting, as nunchucks were originally agricultural threshing implements in the Far East, improvised as a weapon in response to government bans on edged weapons like swords. Get yourself a pair (they're a lot cheaper than tasers) and learn how to use them from this guy:



5. Ninja Stars/Throwing Knives

Wave Shuriken (Throwing Star)

If you're going to get a set of nunchucks, you might as well complete your self-defense kit with a set of ninja throwing stars or knives. Find somewhere safe to practice throwing them, then be prepared to take action to stun and slow the progress of an attacker. This will buy you time to either make a run for it, or pull out your nunchucks and take care of business.

6. Baseball Bat

Louisville Slugger Adult Ash Wood Baseball Bats - Grand Slam Model

Like the clever peasants of the Far East who adapted every day tools like the nunchuck to use as weapons in response to government bans on conventional weaponry, we Americans might have to use our famous ingenuity to use various every day items like baseball bats as weapons to defend ourselves. My father keeps two baseball bats in his Jeep, and they almost came in handy one day when a hostile, road-enraged driver followed my family around yelling threats and provoking them to park and fight him. Thankfully, the man tired of his harassment and drove off.



In closing, remember to check your local and state laws regarding carrying concealed weapons of any kind. They are likely to vary from place to place. And do remember that if you are assaulted by someone who has a gun, pretty much none of this stuff will do you any good, and you'll learn that the hard way if you think otherwise. So let's do everything we can to stay in touch with Congress and make sure they don't ban firearms!

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