Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Dictatorship a Fait Accompli, Unless...

The Executive and Legislative branches of the Federal government have unmistakably announced their intentions to become even more dictatorial.

Obama believes he has the authority to fire corporate CEOs and dictate how to run their businesses. The House is mulling over a bill that will decide not only executive salaries, but all salaries at companies that receive Federal funds. If passed, it will quickly include all salaries at any company since, in one way or another, every business is now tainted with Federal money, or can be made to appear so by political whim.

If there was any doubt before, there is none now: it's time for the Supreme Court to step in and declare every single one of these acts unconstitutional. TARP, auto loans, AIG bonus rules, and on and on. It all must go.

There is no holding back the Administration and Congress otherwise because they have correctly assessed that the citizens of the United States will do nothing but grumble for the time being. Unless there are mass demonstrations — and not just over impending tax increases and outrageous budget deficits but the entire modus operandi of the Progressives now in power — within the next few years there will be either dictatorship or civil war. (No, the 2010 elections will not fundamentally alter the current trajectory because there are too few Republicans who oppose the basic principles driving the current actions.)

Neither war nor dictatorship is a desirable prospect; both will have uncertain outcomes beyond the certainty that everyone will suffer enormously either way. The only means of stopping this now is a series of rulings by the Supreme Court. Otherwise, the United States of America is fini as even a semi-free country.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Mark Steyn on Obama's False Choices

Steyn is a very mixed writer, sometimes comically brilliant, other times simply comic. But here, in a more serious tone, he skewers Obama's/Geithner's plans in a superb way, pointing out more than the economic foolishness they entail, but how those plans are not-so-secret cover for encroaching dictatorship. The entire article is well worth a read, but here's an excerpt:
If you listen to the principal spokesmen for U.S. economic policy — Obama and Geithner — they grow daily ever more explicitly hostile to the private sector and ever more comfortable with the language of micro-managed government-approved capitalism — which, of course, isn’t capitalism at all. They’ll have an easier time getting away with it in a world of “global oversight” where there’s nowhere to move to.

Unfortunately, even then it won’t work. Think about it: It takes extraordinary skill to create and manage a billion-dollar company; there are very few human beings on the planet who can do it. Now look at Obama and Geithner, the two men currently “managing” more money than any individuals in human history: not billions, but trillions.

Notwithstanding the Treasury secretary’s protestations that the Yes/No prompt buttons of Turbo Tax were too complex for a simple soul such as himself, it’s no reflection on the hapless Geithner that he’s unable to fix the planet. When the Bolsheviks chose to introduce Russians to the blessings of a “command economy” 90 years ago, they were dealing with a relatively simple agricultural society largely contained within national borders.

Obama and Geithner are trying to do it with a sophisticated global economy in which North American consumers, European bankers, Asian suppliers, Saudi investors, and Chinese debt-holders are more tangled than an octopuses’ orgy. Even with “global oversight” — with the Toxic Tims of Germany, Argentina, and India all agreeing on how to fix the game — it can’t be done.
In their first two months, Obama and Geithner have done nothing but vaporize your wealth, and your children’s future. What began as an economic crisis is now principally a political usurpation. And, to return to the president’s “false choice,” that “chaotic and unforgiving capitalism” is exactly what we need right now. It’s the quickest, cheapest, fairest, most-efficient route to economic stabilization and renewal. A regimented and eternally forgiving global command economy with no moral hazard will destroy us all.
Exactly so.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Poll Says Feds Should Limit Pay

According to Rasmussen
Thirty percent (30%) of Americans believe the government should make it illegal to pay movie stars and athletes more than $1 million per year.

There is more support—but not much more--for capping the pay of corporate executives. Thirty-six percent (36%) say the federal government should make it illegal to pay any executive more than $1 million a year. The majority (54%), however, disagree.
If true, that's 30/36% who need a serious education, probably best gained by deportation to Cuba. Outrageous.

Tea Parties, Media AWOL

A recent Investors Business Daily editorial names the reason the major media are giving scant coverage to the Tea Party protests taking place around the country.
But the real reason the major media aren't interested in these protests is that they don't agree with them. In the final analysis, these affairs are really taking issue with the political party they helped elect without hiding bias in the last election.

That's why a small scrum of Acorn-financed wackos on a bus tour to intimidate AIG execs last weekend made the news while the tea parties didn't.

But unlike the staged, sparsely attended Acorn event, the tea parties are national, growing and indicative of a shift of public sentiment. If proof is needed, one need look no further than the attention the protests are getting from the Obama administration.
Yet more evidence, though we are long past needing it, that the major 'news' outlets are more anti-freedom than the politicians they have a responsibility to watchdog.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Congressional 'Bonuses'

While many in the ignorant mob are wallowing in the schadenfreude of executive bonuses being taxed at 90%, they might pause long enough to consider some of the 'bonuses' awarded by Congress in the recent budget.
    - Removing tattoos from gang members (California): $200,000

    - Polynesian Voyaging Society (Hawaii): $238,000

    - Swine odour and manure management (Iowa): $2m

    - Preserving Lahontan cut-throat trout (Nevada): $250,000

    - Stable fly control (Nebraska): $866,000

    - Blackbird management (North Dakota): $265,000

    - Encouraging teenagers to abstain from sex (Pennsylvania): $24,000

[Hat Tip Powerline]

AIG Executive Shrugs

I've written many times that the majority of business executives are not the sort of person one would invite to dinner, more Taggart than Rearden. So it was with an indescribable pleasure, and much sadness, that I read this resignation letter from Jack Santis of AIG to the CEO, Edward Liddy. He states his reasons eloquently and in detail. He doesn't whine, but neither does he shy from claiming the righteousness of his position. Here is a small portion:
I think your initial decision to honor the contracts was both ethical and financially astute, but it seems to have been politically unwise. It’s now apparent that you either misunderstood the agreements that you had made — tacit or otherwise — with the Federal Reserve, the Treasury, various members of Congress and Attorney General Andrew Cuomo of New York, or were not strong enough to withstand the shifting political winds.

You’ve now asked the current employees of A.I.G.-F.P. to repay these earnings. As you can imagine, there has been a tremendous amount of serious thought and heated discussion about how we should respond to this breach of trust.

As most of us have done nothing wrong, guilt is not a motivation to surrender our earnings. We have worked 12 long months under these contracts and now deserve to be paid as promised. None of us should be cheated of our payments any more than a plumber should be cheated after he has fixed the pipes but a careless electrician causes a fire that burns down the house.
The pleasure came from seeing that rare sight: an executive with a conscience, and a very healthy and proper one at that, full of the pride he has earned. The sadness, of course, comes from his grotesque betrayal -- by his CEO, the Congress, and worst of all, far too great a percentage of the American people.

Jack Santis, you are a true hero. And may the Taggarts of the world burn on Earth for failing to come to your defense when it mattered.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The State Claims Ownership... Of You

A 2004 law, the ironically-named American Jobs Creation Act, in essence declares that even if you renounce your citizenship and leave the country, the U.S. Government still owns you for 10 more years. Briggs Armstrong explains:
The American Jobs Creation act of 2004, passed by the Republican-controlled government, amended section 877 of the Internal Revenue Code. Under the new law, any individual who has a net worth of $2 million or an average income-tax liability of $127,000 who renounces his or her citizenship and leaves the country is automatically assumed to have done so for tax avoidance reasons and is subject to some rather unbelievable tax laws.

Any individual who is declared to have expatriated for tax reasons is forced to pay US income taxes on all US based income for 10 years following expatriation, regardless of the country in which the individual resides. Additionally, in the 10 years following expatriation, if a qualifying individual spends 30 days in the United States during any year, he or she is taxed as a US citizen on all income derived from any place in the world. To make matters worse, if an individual happens to die in a year in which he or she spent at least 30 days in the United States, the entire estate is subject to US income tax law.
This sort of law is one of the hallmarks of a dictatorship. Jews in Nazi Germany, for example, were permitted to leave the country (until about 1938), but could not take their money with them.

One more step down the road.

Obama's Policy Contradictions

In a somewhat rambling but generally fine column, John Steel Gordon points out many of the contradictions of Obama's policies, particularly the effort to implement Cap and Trade (otherwise known as Hobble and Pretend) and the goal of increasing employment and improving the economy.

One very interesting stat is stated therein: In 1901 the Federal Government spent a grand total of $524 million.

Obama Administration Seeks Dictatorship

The Administration continues to seek dictatorial powers over the economy.

As if the desire to dictate executive pay weren't sufficiently impractical and immoral, Geithner now seeks the power to nationalize any finance-related company at will. Paulson, Jr. has grown up, and he is a very nasty brute, indeed.

This will come as no surprise to my readers. I've said many times in one form or another that Progressives are thinly-disguised totalitarians and the veneer is as shallow as Obama's character.

Adam Smith Correctly Names Economic System

From Powerline:
Marx has not exactly proved a sage prophet, but his terminology has triumphed. He succeeded in giving capitalism its name. Far preferable is Adam Smith's designation of free enterprise as "the system of natural liberty."
Bravo, Adam Smith! Now, if only his understanding of the link between freedom and prosperity were more widely appreciated today.

Money Market Interest, Zilch

As I continue to work on some non-political essays, I'll indulge myself with a few current event tidbits.


Money Market funds are now about 1/3 of 1%. I say that's as good a reason as any for starting the revolution now. Thank you Congress and Administration for accelerating the destruction of the U.S. economy by putting the bad policies of the Bush administration on tainted steroids.

Monday, March 16, 2009

James Madison's Birthday

In honor of James Madison's birthday today:
"Government is instituted to protect property of every sort; as well that which lies in the various rights of individuals, as that which the term particularly expresses. This being the end of government, that alone is a just government, which impartially secures to every man, whatever is his own...

That is not a just government, nor is property secure under it, where the property which a man has in his personal safety and personal liberty, is violated by arbitrary seizures of one class of citizens for the service of the rest...

That is not a just government, nor is property secure under it, where arbitrary restrictions, exemptions, and monopolies deny to part of its citizens that free use of their faculties, and free choice of their occupations, which not only constitute their property in the general sense of the word; but are the means of acquiring property so called...

A just security to property is not afforded by that government, under unequal taxes oppress one species of property and reward other species: where arbitrary taxes invade the domestic sanctuaries of the rich, and excessive taxes grind the faces of the poor...

If the United States mean to obtain or deserve the full praise due to wise and just government, they will equally respect the rights of property, and the property in rights: they will rival the government that most sacredly guards the former; and by repelling its example in violating the latter, will make themselves a pattern to that and all other governments."
-James Madison, "Property", National Gazette

In 1794, when Congress appropriated $15,000 for relief of French refugees who fled from insurrection in San Domingo to Baltimore and Philadelphia, James Madison stood on the floor of the House to object saying:
“I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.” — James Madison, 4 Annals of Congress 179, 1794

The Austrian Rapist Trial

Normally, I don't go in for posting this sort of thing. But the case is so outrageous, this particular outline seemed worth a skim.

I'm usually pretty hard-hearted about stories in the news. Humans have been doing truly revolting things to one another for millenia and modern civilization hasn't completely eradicated those still inclined to barbaric behavior. (In too many instances, it's going backwards.) But this story got me. In particular, along with all the other things about which to be truly appalled here, are the statements of this creature's defense attorney, himself a piece of work, to judge by these:
    'Leave everything you have heard aside. We are not dealing with a monster here but a man. You have to leave all the emotional stuff aside.'

    'My client could have argued that he was insane. He could have claimed that he was not normal and try to fool the psychiatrists. But he did not do that.'

    'Instead he admits he always wanted a second family, wanted to care for that second family.'

    'If he was just a rapist he would have used condoms.'

    'If he wanted to harm his family he could have stopped caring for them and gone back to his life as a respectable businessman with the message on his tombstone eventually reading, "Here lies a respectable man".'

    'He could have got rid of his family if he didn't care for them. But he did care for them, slept with them in the cellar, spent Christmas with them. He cared for his second family.'
This raises the phrase "rationalizing evil" to all new heights. After Fritzl's case is over, I'd be inclined to put the lawyer on trial.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Letter from Dr. Yaron Brook of ARI

The following is a letter from Dr. Yaron Brook, President and Executive Director of the Ayn Rand Institute. It is both a request for a well-deserved donation and an outline of the opportunity presented to all lovers of liberty.

It should go without saying, but I'll say it anyway, that neither Dr. Brook nor the ARI (nor its offshoot, the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights) is responsible for any content that appears on Shaving Leviathan. Nor does the re-printing of this letter (by permission) imply any sort of endorsement by Dr. Brook or ARI of Shaving Leviathan or its content. (And, no, neither Dr. Brook nor any one else requested that I place this disclaimer on the site.)

I urge you all to read the letter and donate as much as possible, both in money and time. Dr. Brook is perfectly right that Obama and the enemies of freedom - quite without meaning to, of course - have handed us a golden chance to make our voices heard.

I urge you also to direct any questions about Objectivism to ARI. In addition, the works of Ayn Rand form no better source for those ideas and every single one of her works is worth reading multiple times. Thinking about them is even better.

Now, without further ado, Dr. Brook:

Last November, in the wake of the election results and the mounting crisis in the financial markets, I wrote to you that the months ahead could be a golden opportunity for ARI and for the advancement of Objectivism.

It appears that this opportunity is, in fact, upon us.

Since the first of this year, sales of Atlas Shrugged have skyrocketed—selling at a rate three times that of the same period last year.

CNBC’s Rick Santelli made headlines around the world with an impassioned call for resistance to Obama’s economic plans—making clear reference to Atlas Shrugged.

On the radio, Rush Limbaugh referred repeatedly to Atlas Shrugged in broadcasts to his tens of millions of listeners—and applied the ideas of Atlas to the crisis we now face.

Elsewhere, mentions of Ayn Rand, Atlas, and the current economic and political mess exploded across cyberspace: from Instapundit to The Economist; from Forbes magazine to Michael Savage; and from Michelle Malkin to (of all places!) an online publication in Abu Dhabi, UAE. A U.S. Congressman even declared that “We’re living in Atlas Shrugged”—and gives copies of the novel to his interns. Even the New York Times felt compelled to report on the skyrocketing sales of Atlas Shrugged—as well as the so-called “Going Galt” phenomenon.

Spontaneous protests, styled as “Tea Parties,” in the spirit of America’s original 18th-century tax revolt, have erupted across the country—some with protesters making specific Ayn Rand references; more protests are planned.

In other words, people are looking for answers, as I noted last November. And they are beginning to see that those answers can be found only in Objectivism.

ARI and our Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights in Washington DC (ARC) have worked tirelessly to capitalize on this growing public discontent, and on the emerging public interest in Ayn Rand and her ideas.

ARC’s special Web page on the financial crisis adds new, hard-hitting commentary weekly; the site has attracted thousands of on-line readers—many of whom are directed there by links from the pundits listed above;

ARC’s new blog, “Voices for Reason,” has further strengthened our ability to issue rapid-response commentary on the news of the day.

Three public lectures in Washington, under the aegis of ARC, have drawn more than 600 total attendees—a turnout, we are told, that is extraordinary.

ARC is working right now to finalize several promising partnerships with think tanks, industry groups, policymakers, and media outlets. These are institutions and entities that are seeking us out, who are eager to learn the Objectivist perspective on the current crisis, and who are committed to working with us going forward.

I have received a number of invitations from a variety of groups seeking to learn more about the Objectivist perspective on the current political and economic crisis. One notable event will be an appearance at the Virginia state GOP convention in May, when I will deliver a 30-minute address to more than five thousand Republican activists.

The magnitude of the crisis appears to have served as something of a “wake up call”—at least for some Americans.

But with a growing number of citizens now roused, and aware of the need to change course, they need to understand not just the basic, summary “plot line” of Atlas. They need to know the full story—the full, philosophical background behind the novel.

In short, what’s needed—and what only we can provide—is the philosophical foundation for this nascent but growing opposition to the toxic ideas that animate Congress and the Administration. That foundation, of course, is Objectivism.

The opportunity we have at this moment in history is unprecedented. On the other hand, however, we do not know how much time we have. There is a very real risk that either:

Public attention will turn elsewhere; or

The economic and political situation deteriorates beyond the point of no return.

Which is why, in conclusion, I am turning to you for your assistance.

Please help the Institute to capitalize on this unprecedented opportunity. You can contribute right here and right now to help the ARC expand, and help us to get out the Objectivist message.

Your support will strengthen ARC’s media capabilities, our online presence; it will fund speakers and underwrite articles and publications; it will give us the resources to seek out and secure strategic alliances with organizations who are coming around to our point of view.

As I suggested might happen in November, people are looking for answers.

Better still, they are looking to us for answers.

At no point in recent history has there been such public interest in what Objectivism has to say on matters that affect the everyday life of Americans.

With your support, we will be able to take that public interest, give it a firm, philosophically-sound foundation—a foundation rooted in individual rights and reason—and help lead and give direction to the growing public discontent.

Every day, we read accounts of bad economic developments—and of even worse political ones.

Given the dire news, we should consider the fact that not only is this an unprecedented opportunity for the advancement of Objectivism—and thus an American renaissance—but that it may be one of the last such opportunities that many of us will see in our lifetimes.

With that in mind, I thank you in advance for your consideration and support.


Yaron Brook
President and Executive Director

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Blogging Goes on Irregular Schedule

Posting at Shaving Leviathan will be sporadic for the indefinite future. I've said pretty much everything that I think needs to be said about current events, politics, and the economy for the time being. Also, I don't want to go insane with rage, so a break is in order.

When I do return, the content will take on a different focus. I'll be concentrating more on cultural issues and the individual (non)thinking methods, beliefs, and values that generate what we see around us today.

My considerable gratitude once again to those who have tuned in regularly, or at all. I hope you'll check back from time to time.