Hornberger's Blog

Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
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Hornberger’s Blog, February 2008


Friday, February 29, 2008

Did the CIA Effect Regime Change in November 1963?

by Jacob G. Hornberger

In my blog yesterday, I noted that contrary to a popular refrain in the controversy over the John Kennedy assassination, government officials can, indeed, keep secrets. I pointed out that if three district attorneys in Dallas could keep the existence of a vault containing a trove of information in the Kennedy investigation secret for some 45 years, it is entirely conceivable that federal officials could just as easily keep a conspiracy to kill Kennedy secret as well — and would obviously have a much greater interest in keeping it secret.

That’s not to say that such is evidence of a conspiracy in the Kennedy killing. It’s simply to say that those who claim that if a conspiracy did exist, one of the conspirators would have leaked the secret by now is silly and meritless. The fact is that government officials, especially those in the CIA, can and do keep secrets very well.

Consider Mafia kingpin John Roselli, who was murdered in 1976. It’s highly probable that Roselli was the victim of a conspiracy because his body was found in a 55-gallon drum floating in Miami Harbor after he had been strangled and stabbed and had his legs sawed off.

Why was Roselli killed? No one knows for sure, but one possibility is that some people were not very pleased that he had revealed too much information to Congress about the partnership that had been entered into between the CIA and the Mafia to murder the president of Cuba, Fidel Castro, prior to the Kennedy assassination.

Have any of the conspirators who killed Roselli come forward and leaked information about the murder during the past 30 years? No. The conspirators (who may well have been members of the CIA-Mafia partnership, given that they were the ones whose secrets Roselli revealed) have remained silent. They have kept their secret secret for three decades.

Should President Johnson and the CIA have appointed an independent prosecutor in the Kennedy assassination rather than a political body such as the Warren Commission? As I pointed out yesterday, if the CIA did, in fact, participate in the Kennedy assassination, as a practical matter the only way that was ever going to be ferreted out was through an honest, independent special prosecutor (such as Patrick Fitzgerald in the Scooter Libby case) backed up by a fearless, independent-minded federal judge (such as Judge Sirica in the Watergate case). There was never any chance that a political body like the Warren Commission could have broken through the stone walls that obviously would have been erected to protect The Secret.

The problem, however, is that President Johnson couldn’t have appointed such a prosecutor. Why? Because in 1963 it wasn’t against federal law to assassinate a president. Thus, if CIA officials were in fact involved in the assassination, they would not have had to fear the possibility of an independent federal prosecutor investigating the case. Instead, they would have faced the possibility of a criminal investigation performed by a county prosecutor, to wit: the district attorney of Dallas County, who shut down his investigation into Kennedy’s murder soon after Oswald was killed and then, as it turns out, locked away the evidence he had compiled in a secret vault.

Of course, there will always be those who claim, “Not my CIA! There is no possibility that my CIA would ever do such a horrible thing. That’s what intelligence services do in other countries, such as Pakistan, but not my government’s intelligence service.”

Yet, it’s not clear what they mean when they make such a claim. Surely, they’re not saying that the CIA is incapable of murder and regime change. After all, everyone knows that that’s what the CIA is all about — murder and regime change, along with kidnapping, torture, and other nefarious things. There’s nothing new about that. Everyone agrees that the CIA has been doing such things for decades and is still doing them.

Ten years before Kennedy was assassinated, the CIA conducted regime-change operations in Guatemala and Iran, under the rubric of “national security.” There was also the CIA’s involvement in a regime-change operation in Vietnam, which included the murder of the man who was ousted from power, under the rubric of “national security.” The CIA also assassinated Dominican Republic dictator Rafael Trujillo, under the rubric of “national security.” The list goes on.

We also shouldn’t forget the partnership between the CIA and the Mafia, in which CIA officials and Mafia hoodlums conspired and worked together to kill Cuba’s president, Fidel Castro, and effect regime change in Cuba, again under the rubric of “national security.”

Those who categorically hold that that there is no possibility that the CIA would ever assassinate a U.S. official, including a president, must mean that CIA officials, as patriots, would never have used their talents to effect a regime change within the United States.

Yet, what if CIA officials had concluded that Kennedy himself was a threat to “national security” and that a regime change here would save the country from being taken over by the communists? Don’t forget, after all, that the fear and paranoia that infects the nation today with respect to a conquest by the Muslims is miniscule compared to the fear and paranoia over communism that gripped the nation in the 1950s and 60s. In fact, it was that fear and paranoia that led the CIA to effect those regime changes in Guatemala, Iran, and Vietnam and that ultimately led Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and the Pentagon to send 58,000 American men to their deaths in Vietnam.

We shouldn’t forget also that in the minds of many CIA officials, Kennedy had betrayed the CIA at the Bay of Pigs, resulting in the deaths of CIA agents and their anti-Castro allies, and had betrayed the nation by promising the communists that they would never again have to fear a CIA regime-change operation in Cuba, 90 miles away from American shores. Moreover, there is strong circumstantial evidence that Kennedy was ready to “surrender” to the communists by withdrawing U.S. troops from Vietnam and engaging in dialogue with Soviet leaders. With Lyndon Johnson at the helm, those “national-security” concerns diminished.

None of this, of course, is direct evidence that the CIA effected a regime change in the United States in November 1963. It’s just to say that if it had been a federal criminal offense to assassinate a president in 1963, people could have made a good case for the appointment of an independent federal prosecutor with a mandate that included a close examination into the CIA as a “target of interest” in the investigation. It’s a shame that no such law existed and that no such appointment and investigation were made because they would have gone a long way in settling longstanding doubts among many people over whether the CIA used its considerable talents of murder and assassination of foreign leaders to effect a regime change here at home.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Keeping Secrets in the Kennedy Assassination
by Jacob G. Hornberger

The Dallas County district attorney, Craig Watkins, recently held a press conference in which he announced a big surprise about the John Kennedy assassination. Watkins disclosed the existence of a secret vault in his office that contained documents and other items relating to the Kennedy assassination. The materials had been compiled by Henry Wade, who was the Dallas district attorney during the Kennedy assassination.

It is still too soon to know whether the contents of the safe will reveal any new information about the Kennedy assassination, but the disclosure of the safe does pierce one important myth of those who maintain that there could not possibly have been a conspiracy to kill Kennedy, including a conspiracy that involved the CIA.

A popular refrain among the no-conspiracy crowd is that if there had been a conspiracy, one of the conspirators would have talked by now. The refrain suggests that people in Washington are unable to keep a secret and, therefore, the absence of a confession from a co-conspirator, especially given the long lapse of time since the assassination, constitutes proof that no conspiracy existed. (Of course, when CIA agent E. Howard Hunt disclosed the existence of a conspiracy to kill Kennedy before Hunt’s death last year, no-conspiracy advocates said that that didn’t count because Hunt, they said, wasn’t credible.)

Yet, here we have a trove of information relating to the Kennedy assassination that government officials successfully kept secret from the American people, including the mainstream press, for 45 years. In fact, not only the information was kept secret but also the existence of the vault that contained the information. The people who kept it secret included three district attorneys — Wade himself and the two district attorneys who succeeded him, along with possibly some of the Dallas police who had turned over investigatory information to Wade.

The fact is that government officials can keep secrets, especially big, important ones. This is especially true with respect to the CIA, which is undoubtedly the government agency that is most successful at keeping its secrets secret. If the CIA was involved in the Kennedy assassination, that’s a secret that the conspirators would obviously have had an interest in keeping secret forever — much more so than, for example, the Dallas district attorneys had in keeping their Kennedy information secret.

If the CIA was involved in the Kennedy assassination, there was no way that the American people were ever going to find out about it without the appointment of an honest, independent federal prosecutor, with grand-jury subpoena power, charged specifically with the task of investigating the CIA as a “target of interest” in the Kennedy assassination and backed up by a fearless, independent-minded federal judge.

That is, if the CIA did actually played a role in the assassination, a politically appointed investigatory commission, such as the Warren Commission, would never have been able to pierce through the stonewalling that the CIA would obviously have engaged in to prevent anyone from getting too close to The Secret. This is especially true given that one of the members of the Warren Commission included the former head of the CIA whom Kennedy had fired, along with other government officials who would never have seriously considered that the CIA would have been capable of such an act.

Consider Watergate, for example. If it had not been for an independent-minded federal judge, the Watergate burglary conspiracy would never have come to light. It was only by squeezing the burglars with high jail sentences that they were forced to begin squealing.

The same principle applied to special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s recent prosecution of Scooter Libby. Fitzgerald was able to pierce the conspiracy of silence surrounding Libby’s perjury through his power to subpoena people to the grand jury and force them to testify, on pain of contempt for refusing to do so. Private authors and the mainstream press, which was largely indifferent to the matter, would never have been able to prove that Libby had committed perjury.

Consider the CIA’s role in the George Joannides matter. Joannides was a CIA agent who was called out of retirement to serve as the CIA’s liaison with the House committee that was investigating the Kennedy assassination during the 1970s. Joannides succeeded in keeping secret a big secret involving his role (and the CIA’s role) with an anti-Castro group in New Orleans with which Lee Harvey Oswald had had an unusual contact. After Oswald had first volunteered his services to the anti-Castro group, he then switched directions and got into a ruckus with the group as a pro-Castro proponent. Joannides and the CIA kept secret that the CIA had been funding the group prior to the assassination. In fact, to this day the CIA is fighting fiercely to keep its Joannides files secret, which strongly implies that there are still 45-year-old secrets in the Kennedy assassination that are successfully being preserved.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Are Cubans Freer than Americans?
by Jacob G. Hornberger

The U.S. government’s policy toward Cuba is a textbook example of the malevolence and hypocrisy of U.S. foreign policy.

In the wake of Fidel Castro’s resignation as Cuba’s president, U.S. officials, led by President Bush and members of Congress, appear all too ready to have the U.S. government “help” the Cuban people achieve democracy and freedom.

Now, doesn’t that notion suggest a love and concern for the welfare of the Cuban people?

Yet, look at the cruel, inhumane, and brutal economic embargo that the U.S. government has enforced against Cuba for decades. Year after year, U.S. officials have steadfastly enforced the embargo with the full knowledge of the horrific adverse effects it was having on the Cuban people. U.S. officials simply blamed the economic misery on Castro’s socialism, even while Castro blamed it on the embargo. The truth is that the Cuban people have been squeezed by both sides of the vise — Castro’s socialism and the U.S. embargo.

In calling for a change in direction in Cuba, U.S. officials suggest that Castro’s communist, totalitarian regime is a miserable place in which to live. That’s certainly true. But then what do U.S. officials do to people who escape Cuba? They attack them on the high seas with such weapons as water cannons, then they kidnap them, then they cooperate with Cuban communist coast guard officials, and then they repatriate the defenseless refugees back into the communist society that U.S. officials say is a miserable place in which to live.

Meanwhile, both Republicans and Democrats continue to tell us that sacrificing 60,000 American men in the Vietnam War was worth it to try to prevent the South Vietnamese from having to live under communist tyranny. Now, they say that it’s worth it to use U.S. force to repatriate people into communist tyranny in Cuba.

Oh, did I mention that there is no U.S. embargo against Vietnam today and that Americans are free to travel to Vietnam and trade with the Vietnamese communists?

U.S. officials, both Republican and Democrat, usually limit their criticisms to Castro’s political system rather than his socialist economic and educational systems.

Why is that?

The answer is simple: Castro’s economic and educational systems are no different, in principle, than those embraced by Republicans and Democrats. That makes them very uncomfortable because they’ve always felt that while Castro is a Cuban socialist, Republicans and Democrats have always been “American free-enterprisers.”

Consider the core element of Castro’s economic system: free, universal health care. Sound familiar? Isn’t that what Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama want? And the Republicans aren’t much better. Don’t they continue to be proud supporters of Medicare and Medicaid and don’t they have their own plans for more federal intervention into health care?

Consider the core element of Castro’s educational system: free public schooling for Cuban children. Can you show me even one U.S. official, either Republican or Democrat, who opposes free public schooling for American children?

Consider the secondary elements of Castro’s economic system: licensing for businesses, income taxation, equalization of wealth, drug laws, economic regulations, old-age retirement assistance, subsidies, a central bank, and government-issued paper money.

How many U.S. officials, either Republican or Democrat, oppose any of those programs here in the United States?

Consider these features of Castro’s legal system: kangaroo military tribunals, condemnation of independent criminal-defense attorneys, denigration of an independent judiciary, torture, denial of due process, arbitrary arrests, no restrictions on search and seizure, and indefinite incarceration. Why, those principles are a dream-come-true for U.S. officials, especially the Republican ones. Why would it surprise anyone that they established their torture camp in Cuba rather than the United States?

Americans view the embargo against Cuba only as an attack on the well-being of the Cuban people, but it is much more than that. It is also an attack on the freedom of the American people. If an American travels to Cuba and spends money there without the permission of U.S. officials, he will be criminally and civilly prosecuted by his own government. Doesn’t freedom entail the fundamental right to travel wherever you want and spend your money in any way you want?

While Cubans understand that the economic and educational systems under which they live are socialism, Americans honestly believe that their economic and educational systems, albeit the same, are “free enterprise.”

Given Goethe’s pithy observation, “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believed they are free,” one cannot help but wonder whether the Cuban people, despite their misery and suffering, are actually freer than Americans.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Loving America and Hating the Government
by Jacob G. Hornberger

One of the silliest campaign attacks so far has come out of Bill Kristol, a neo-conservative who now has a regular column in the New York Times. Pulling out the old “patriotism” canard from his neo-con campaign playbook, Kristol takes Barack Obama to task for refusing to wear a flag lapel pin. Kristol suggests that that is just plain unpatriotic.

The problem with Kristol and other neo-conservatives — and, for that matter, most conservatives — is with their conception of patriotism. In their minds, the federal government and the country are one and the same thing. Thus, the failure to wear a flag label pin, which one might well identify with either the government or the country, evidences a lack of patriotism.

This conservative and neo-con conception of patriotism is precisely why conservative presidential candidates such as John McCain, Rudy Guliani, and Mitt Romney were both angry and befuddled when Ron Paul blamed the U.S. government’s foreign policy for the terrorist blowback that resulted in the 9/11 attacks. In their minds, Paul was part of the “blame America” crowd because in their minds, the federal government and America are conflated into one entity.

One irony of all this is that conservatives and neo-cons still pay lip service to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Yet, those two documents openly acknowledge the distinction between the federal government and the country. In fact, a close reading of the Bill of Rights reveals that it isn’t really so much an enumeration of rights as it is an express means to protect the country from the federal government.

Conservatives and neo-cons always have a difficult time explaining why they support the people who signed the Declaration of Independence. After all, contrary to popular misconceptions, those signers were not great Americans. They were actually great Englishmen. That’s right — not only were the signers of the Declaration British citizens who were condemning their own government and not only were they refusing to support the troops, they were actually counseling people to disobey the laws of their government and to shoot and kill their government’s troops. Talk about unpatriotic, at least from the standpoint of the conservative and neo-conservative conception of patriotism.

If you ever want to leave a conservative or neo-con with a confused look on his face, ask him who the real patriots were during World War II — those Germans who supported their government and its troops or those Germans like Hans and Sophie Scholl and their White Rose associates who condemned their government and called on Germans to not support the troops.

Conservatives and neo-cons are not the only ones whose minds conflate the federal government and the country. Don’t forget that Bill Clinton shares the same mindset. He once suggested that it is impossible for a person to love his country and hate his government. He could not understand how anyone could claim to love America while condemning the federal government’s massacre of men, women, and children at Waco.

The conservative and neo-con mindset is no different than that of Clinton, for they cannot understand how anyone can love America while condemning the federal government’s invasion, war of aggression, and occupation of Iraq. For them, criticizing the federal government’s massacre of hundreds of thousands of people whose citizenry and government never attacked the United States is just plain unpatriotic. In the mind of the conservative and neo-conservative, the genuine patriot simply puts on his flag label pin, expresses love for his government, and stops hating America.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Feeding at the Federal Trough
by Jacob G. Hornberger

For an excellent summary of what is wrong with America, both morally and politically, all you have to do is read an editorial in the February 22 issue of the Galveston County Daily News. The newspaper’s reasoning reflects the horrible damage that both the welfare state and warfare state have done to the American people.

The purpose of the editorial was to endorse a congressional candidate named Chris Peden, who is Ron Paul’s opponent in the Republican primary. What’s revealing about the editorial is not the endorsement itself but rather the reason for the endorsement.

First, consider what the paper says about Ron Paul:

“There is much to admire about Paul. Whether you agree with him or not, it took enormous courage to oppose the war in Iraq. His stands on civil liberties are equally courageous and timely. His voting is scrupulously in line with smaller government. His views are consistent with those of the Libertarian Party. He was once that party’s presidential candidate. We can say without reservation that he is courageous and principled.”

Now, those are some rather nice things to say about a candidate that the newspaper is not endorsing, right?

So, why is the paper endorsing Paul’s opponent instead of Paul?

Because, the paper points out, Paul “makes it a point to cast no votes on government spending, even if those funds are going to be spent in his own district or in a neighboring district. In the next two years, leaders in Galveston County will join those from other counties in District 14 in asking for a lot of federal funding. They’ll ask for help on projects such as research at the Galveston National Laboratory and on NASA’s mission to Mars.”

Peden, according to the paper, will be a “more effective representative of the district” than Paul because he will be more likely to bring home the bacon and the pork to those who wish to feed at the federal trough.

So, there you have it. Here’s how this evil and corrupt system works. Everyone sends his tax monies to Washington, thanks to the IRS and the income tax, where they become available as a great big pool of “free federal money.” Then, each Congressman fights to get his share of this loot in order to bring home the bacon to “political leaders” in his community. Those who are more “effective” succeed in bringing home more bacon than the IRS collects from the people of that district. Those who are “less effective” are those who bring home less of the bacon.

Frederic Bastiat best described this corrupt and immoral system: “The state is the great fiction by which everyone is trying to live at the expense of everyone else.”

As long as the state has the power to confiscate wealth from those who own it for the purpose of sending the booty to those who don’t, the temptation to participate in this evil and immoral game will continue to skew people’s moral compass, as the Galveston Daily News editorial shows so well.

One thing is for sure: If a major economic or monetary collapse hits America as a result of ever-expanding government spending, no one will be able to deny that Americans will bear moral responsibility for it, given their steadfast allegiance to both the welfare-state and warfare-state way of life, a way of life in which “effective” is defined by whose congressional representative is the best feeder at the public trough. The upside of such a collapse is that at least it will once again confirm that God has created a consistent universe — one in which immoral means produce very bad consequences.

P.S. In today’s FFF Email Update, we have excellent articles by three speakers at our upcoming June 6-8 conference “Restoring the Republic 2008: Foreign Policy and Civil Liberties”: Joseph Margulies in the Washington Post, Andrew Bacevich in the Boston Globe, and Glenn Greenwald on Salon.com. To register for the conference, go to: www.fff.org/conference2008/index.htm.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Who Owns Your Income?
by Jacob G. Hornberger

As economic conditions in America continue to degenerate, Americans would be wise to use this period of time to reflect on the role that the federal government plays in their economic affairs, especially in comparison to the radically different way that our American ancestors viewed the matter.

President Bush and Congress have enacted an “economic-stimulus package” which entails the federal government’s sending of money to U.S. taxpayers. The money is being billed as a reduction in people’s income taxes, and the idea is that most taxpayers will go out and spend the money, thereby “stimulating” the economy by increasing consumption of goods and services.

Some people claim, however, that the solution to America’s economic woes lies in savings, not consumption. So, their solution is that the federal government should establish a wider range of savings-retirement accounts, whereby savers would receive an income-tax deduction for moneys put away in such accounts.

Do you notice a common denominator in both solutions? They both entail the federal government’s manipulating people’s economic decision-making, either with money sent to them or through an income-tax deduction.

Compare those two proposed solutions with how our American ancestors viewed the role of government in their economic activities. The idea of stimulus packages and income-tax deductions would never have occurred to them. Why? Because under their way of life, the federal government didn’t tax their income at all. They kept 100 percent of everything they earned. No IRS audits, no IRS investigations, no IRS prosecutions. No IRS or income tax at all! Therefore, there wasn’t any reason to think in terms of income-tax reductions or deductions or economic-stimulus packages.

It wasn’t as if our American ancestors hadn’t heard of income taxation. Throughout history, governmental officials have taxed people’s income. Our ancestors simply had a different understanding of the term “freedom” than modern-day Americans. Our ancestors believed that an absolutely essential part of being free is the right to keep the fruits of your labor and decide for yourself what to do with your own money — all of it.

Today’s American believes otherwise. He defines “freedom” by the extent to which the federal government is able to tax his income and manipulate his spending and savings habits through such devices as income-tax deductions and tax credits.

When Americans were free to keep everything they earned and decide for themselves what to do with their own money, people naturally disposed of their money in different ways and in different combinations. Savings, consumption, hoarding, investing, donating.

The result was the most remarkable society in history.

For one, the amount that people voluntarily saved was the key to the greatest rise in economic prosperity that mankind had ever seen. The reason for this was that the massive savings that took place provided the means by which businessmen could acquire the capital to purchase more productive tools, equipment, and machinery. That increase in productivity provided the additional income that enabled enormous rises in real wages for their employees.

Second, when people were free to accumulate wealth, there was the greatest outpouring of voluntary donations that mankind has ever seen. Keep in mind that this was a society in which people had knowingly and intentionally rejected such socialist confiscate-and-transfer programs as welfare, subsidies, Medicare, Medicaid, public (i.e., government) schooling, and Social Security. They believed that genuine freedom entailed the right to make charitable decisions with one’s own money. When Americans did have the freedom to live without socialism, the outcome was museums, opera houses, churches, associations, and all sorts of financial assistance to those in need — all voluntarily done — and not because of an income-tax deduction because, again, there was no income tax.

Today, the situation is the opposite of the way of life that our American ancestors embraced. Today, the federal government effectively owns the nation’s income. Through such devices as income-tax deductions and economic-stimulus packages, it decides how much of an allowance people will be permitted to keep each year and then manipulates them into disposing of it in ways that federal officials desire. Under the rubric that a good and caring government means a good and caring citizenry, one of the government’s primary roles is taking money from one group of people and transferring it to another group — in a word, socialism. Ironically, most modern-day Americans view this federally controlled and regulated, socialist way of life as “freedom.”

As the economic situation in America today continues to degenerate, Americans would be wise to raise their thinking to a higher level, above tax deductions and stimulus packages, asking themselves which paradigm — that which guided our ancestors or that which now holds the nation in its grip — is the moral one and the economically beneficial one.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Pakistan Demonstrates the Wisdom of America’s Founding Fathers
by Jacob G. Hornberger

The situation in Pakistan provides another good reason why the American people should put a stop to the U.S. government’s meddling in the affairs of other countries.

For years, U.S. officials have had a close, working partnership with Pakistan’s president Pervez Musharraf, which has included the delivery to him of millions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer money. Keep in mind one important fact: Musharraf is a dictator. A brutal military dictator who has ruled over Pakistan with an iron fist for many years. He took power in a coup and refused to allow democratic elections in the country.

U.S. officials have known all of this. Yet, despite all their glorious talk about the virtues of democracy, especially in Iraq, they have nonetheless been funneling U.S. taxpayer money into the coffers of Musharraf and the military goons that have kept him in power.

Several months ago, Musharraf dissolved the country’s Supreme Court and began jailing lawyers and judges? Why? Because the judiciary and the attorneys believed in an independent judiciary. That is, they believed in the same type of judicial system that we have here in the United States, one in which the Supreme Court is the ultimate arbiter of what is constitutional and unconstitutional.

Like all dictators, Musharraf could not countenance a constitutional order. When a dictator issues an order, he expects everyone, including the lawyers and the judges, to obey it. If they don’t, that’s what the military and the police are for — to round up those who don’t understand and appreciate the nature of dictatorship and put them in jail until they do.

Through it all, including Musharraf’s crackdown on the judiciary and the lawyers, the U.S. government has remained loyal to Musharraf, continuing to funnel U.S. taxpayer money into his coffers (even while killing untold numbers of people in Iraq for the sake of democracy). But why should that surprise anyone, especially given the Bush administration’s and Pentagon’s denigration of lawyers and the U.S. Supreme Court with respect to such issues as torture, rendition, Guantanamo Bay, and the “war on terrorism”?

What U.S. officials never counted on, however, is that the Pakistani people hated Musharraf’s military dictatorship. In the recent parliamentary elections in Pakistan, the vote was so overwhelming against Musharraf that even the dictator could not rig the outcome. Of course, in the process the Pakistani people also implicitly rebuked the dictator’s loyal partner, the U.S. government.

Let’s recall that this isn’t the first time that the United States has experienced this type of blowback from its foreign policy of interventionism. In Iran, the CIA ousted the democratically elected prime minister from office and installed a brutal dictator, the Shah of Iran, in his stead. After decades of brutal dictatorial rule, including the torture of his own people, the Shah was ousted from power by the Iranian people. Not surprisingly, the Iranian people resented not just the Shah but also his loyal partner and supporter, the U.S. government.

What does the U.S. government now do in Pakistan as part of its foreign policy of interventionism? Does it continue supporting its loyal partner, a dictator, and continue funneling U.S. taxpayer money into his coffers? Or does it align itself with the citizenry who are trying to restore democracy and a constitutional order to their land?

Such questions arise for one — and only one — reason: the U.S. government’s foreign policy of intervening and interfering in the internal affairs of other countries. If the United States had a policy of non-intervention, then the rebuke of a dictator by his own citizens would be not simultaneously serve as a rebuke against the United States.

In other words, at the risk of belaboring the obvious the reason that Pakistanis who have risen up against Musharraf also resent the United States is because the U.S. government is Musharraf’s partner, a partner that has financed much of his brutal dictatorial rule. In the absence of intervention, the Pakistani people would resent their dictator without also resenting the United States.

Once again, we are learning the wisdom of our nation’s Founding Fathers, who counseled in favor of friendly relations with all nations but entangling alliances with none. The key to America’s future — the key to freedom, peace, prosperity, morality, and harmony — lies in liberating the private sector of America to freely engage with the people of the world while, at the same time, prohibiting the federal government from interfering with the internal affairs of other countries.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Lead Cuba to Freedom by Example
by Jacob G. Hornberger

In the wake of Fidel Castro’s resignation as president of Cuba, President Bush is, not surprisingly, lecturing the Cuban people as to what they now need to do to achieve a free society.

But Cubans — and, for that matter, the American people and the people of the world — would be better served if Bush were to leave the Cuban people alone and instead focus on what the United States needs to do to lead the world to freedom through example, to wit:

1. Immediately lift the decades-long cruel and brutal economic embargo against the Cuban people, thereby freeing Americans and others to freely travel to Cuba and spend money there without fear of criminal and civil prosecution from U.S. authorities.

2. Immediately lift all controls on the free movements of goods and services across U.S. borders, thereby freeing the Cuban people and the people of the world to travel to the United States and trade with the American people without fear of criminal and civil prosecution from U.S. authorities.

3. Immediately grant amnesty to every American who has traveled to Cuba or spent money there in violation of the cruel and brutal U.S. embargo against the Cuban people.

4. Immediately shut down the U.S. government’s torture facility and prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, terminate the Pentagon’s kangaroo military-tribunal system, and restore habeas corpus and due process to people suspected of having committed acts of terrorism.

5. Immediately divest the U.S. government of all ownership or leasehold rights to Guantanamo Bay, especially given that such rights reflect anti-American principles of imperialism and socialism (i.e., U.S. government ownership of Cuban real estate).

6. Immediately dismantle all overseas U.S. bases and posts and bring all U.S. troops stationed overseas home and discharge them into the private sector.

7. Immediately withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq, apologize to the Iraqi people for invading, occupying, and destroying their country and killing and maiming more than a million Iraqi people under fake and false pretenses (e.g., WMDs, democracy-spreading, war on terrorism, Muslim hatred for Christians, Islamo-fascist threat, etc.), followed by a genuine promise never again to wage a war of aggression against another country.

8. Immediately cease interfering in the internal affairs of other countries, including through assassinations, foreign aid, coups, regime change, support of dictators, invasions, and occupations.

9. Immediately cease all kidnappings, renditions, and torture and sex abuse of prisoners and detainees, including, but not limited, to water-boarding.

10. Immediately repeal the USA Patriot Act and Military Commissions Act, end warrantless searches, and restore civil liberties.

11. Immediately repeal all U.S. socialist programs, including those that are the pride and joy of Fidel Castro himself — socialized healthcare (i.e., Medicare and Medicaid), public (i.e., government) schooling, and Social Security.

12. Immediately repeal U.S. drug laws and grant amnesty to all non-violent drug offenders.

13. Immediately cease all federal spending in excess of tax revenues, thereby staunching the continuous destructive debasement of the dollar, and abolish the engine of inflation, the Federal Reserve System.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Immigration Land Grab Along the Border
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Last Saturday’s Washington Post had an interesting story about the federal government’s land grab along the Rio Grande to build its anti-immigrant Berlin Fence. Not surprisingly, Texas landowners, many of whom have owned their property for generations, are fighting this federal tyranny as hard as they can.

Isn’t it interesting — and revealing — that conservatives are silently supporting what the federal government is doing to these people? Weren’t conservatives crying “Kelo! Kelo! Kelo!” not so long ago? Are Texas landowners supposed to feel better that their privately held property is being taken to build a Berlin Fence as compared to a shopping mall?

Even though the anti-immigration crowd likes to refer to America as our national home (which is the same way that Castro views Cuba), I thought the border between Mexico and the United States nonetheless runs through the middle of the Rio Grande. That was certainly the case in Laredo, Texas, where I grew up.

So, why don’t they simply put their beloved fence in the middle of the river? Why are they taking private property on the northern side of the Rio Grande on which to build it? In fact, the Berlin Fence is actually going to leave some people’s property between the river and fence, effectively making it part of Mexico? Now, isn’t that ironic, especially since so many anti-immigrant conservatives fear that Mexico is about to take back the lands that the U.S. government stole from Mexico in the Mexican War?

Conservatives say that the Berlin Fence isn’t really like the Berlin Wall because it’s designed to keep people out while the Berlin Wall was designed to keep people in. But isn’t that a distinction without a difference, especially in a moral sense? Moreover, let’s not forget that conservatives are constantly exhorting the Mexican government to play the same role that the East German government played — i.e., using violent means to prevent its own citizens from crossing the Fence.

All this tyranny and oppression is just part and parcel of what Ludwig von Mises pointed out about interventionism — that one government intervention inevitably leads to more and more interventions, which ultimately lead to a police state. From making border crossing illegal, to making transport of illegal aliens illegal, to making harboring illegal aliens illegal, to fixed checkpoints on U.S. soil north of the border, to roving Border Patrol checks, to making it illegal to hire illegal aliens, to raids on American businesses, to military troops along the border, to the construction of a Berlin Fence, to the forcible taking of people’s private property, to national ID cards. It’s another classic example of how interventionism breeds interventionism.

Like the many other crises facing our nation, there is one — and only one — solution to the immigration “crises”: the free market, private-property way of life on which our nation was founded. More and more interventions will only lead to more tyranny and oppression, as Texas landowners are unfortunately now discovering.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Socialism for Big Business
by Jacob G. Hornberger

If you want a great insight into how the lobbying game works in Washington, D.C., take a look at a very insightful article entitled “Mickey Goes to Washington” by Jeffrey H. Birnbaum, which appeared in last Sunday’sWashington Post Magazine. The article focuses on the process by which Walt Disney Parks and Resort and other big-business members of the U.S. tourism industry have been using well-heeled Washington lobbyists in an attempt to persuade members of Congress to allocate U.S. taxpayer funds to promote U.S. tourism to foreigners.

Recognizing that the U.S. government’s Iraq War had damaged America’s credibility abroad, Disney and its lobbying coalition argued that foreigners should be encouraged to come to America to see how nice Americans really are. The Disney coalition even views its efforts as a joint public-private exercise in U.S. diplomacy.

In other words, while the U.S. government continues to kill and maim people in Iraq, a country that never attacked the United States, Big Business will use U.S. taxpayer money to induce foreigners to visit Disneyland and other U.S. tourist sites to show that Americans are actually very kind and caring people.

So, why didn’t Disney and the members of its lobbying coalition simply come out with an open attack on the federal government’s invasion and occupation of Iraq? Why not also, at the same time, openly go on the attack against its prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, its kidnapping and renditions, its torture and sex abuse of prisoners and detainees, its kangaroo military tribunals, and its denial of due process? Why not attack the federal government’s attempt to isolate the private sector from the rest of the world, with its stringent visa requirements, its fingerprinting of tourists, and the building of walls around the United States?

Wouldn’t bringing all wrongdoing to a screeching halt be a much better, more direct, and more honest way to improve America’s image abroad? And given that American taxpayers are already getting fleeced to fund Iraq, where’s the justice in fleecing them more to subsidize the tourist industry?

Why wouldn’t American businessmen take the more direct approach rather than the indirect approach of using lobbyists in an attempt to further fleece the American people? Well, there could be a number of reasons, but a likely one is that these businessmen are just plain scared to take on the federal government, for the following possible reasons:

1. Disney and the members of its tourism coalition know that Congress would deny their application for taxpayer funding if they were to criticize U.S. foreign policy.

2. They know that the federal government could take away tax breaks and other privileges that the federal government has bestowed on the tourism industry.

3. They know that the federal government indicted Qwest CEO Joseph Nacchio for regulatory violations after he refused to cooperate in the illegal transfer of customer information to the federal government and that the feds are fighting fiercely to secure immunity for those telecommunications companies that cooperated with the illegality.

4. They know that the federal government could go after any big company that gets out of line, for technical violations of Sarbanes Oxley or, for that matter, the IRS code.

Thus, in the regulatory world under which American businesses now operate, businessmen find it in their interests to keep their mouths shut about the horrific things that the U.S. government, with U.S. taxpayer money, is doing to people overseas.

To mitigate the adverse effects of such things, however, American businessmen attempt to further fleece the American people by arguing that a taxpayer subsidy to the tourism industry will show foreigners that despite what the federal government is doing to the Iraqi people, private Americans are kind and caring people at Disney World and other U.S. tourist sites.

Apparently, that’s what passes for “courage, principle, and patriotism” within the American business community today.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Economic Nonsense about Immigrants
by Jacob G. Hornberger

I don’t know anything about Virginia Republican Delegate Jeffrey Frederick’s educational background but based on his understanding of economics, my hunch is that he is a product of public schools and state-supported universities, many of which, as a general rule, teach absolute nonsense in their economics classes.

Exclaiming against illegal immigrants in Prince William County, Virginia, where government officials have imposed a severe crackdown on illegal immigrants, Frederick said,

“They want to come here and take what they can and send it home and leave when they can — take billions of dollars out of our economy and send it to Central and South America.”

Even for a nation that is accustomed to hearing inanities erupt from the mouths of politicians, that is one inane, ludicrous statement.

Frederick’s contention seems to be that by sending the money they earn back to their families in Latin America, illegal immigrants are stealing money from the U.S. economy and thereby hurting America.

Consider this article that Reuters published this past Tuesday. It tells about American farmers who have moved their farm operations into Mexico. One reason they have abandoned the United States for their farming operations is that thanks to the U.S. government’s war on immigrants, there is a shortage of workers to pick their crops. For example, two years ago farmer Larry Cox left 750,000 pounds of tomatoes unpicked on his California farm because he couldn’t find the workers to harvest them. Cox now hires hundreds of Mexican workers on his Mexican farm.

What does Cox do with the profits he is earning on his Mexican farm? Well, the article doesn’t say but one can safely assume that he sends the money back to the United States. Does that mean that Cox is a thief? Well, under Frederick’s fascinating economic reasoning, we would have to conclude that he is. After all, isn’t Cox stealing from the Mexican economy and sending the money back home in the United States? Even worse, I’ll bet that Cox has absolutely no intention of permanently settling in Mexico, that he fully intends to retain his U.S. citizenship, that he continues to say the Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag, and that he continues to root for American sports teams.

When you stop to think about it, under Frederick’s interesting reasoning on economics, a massive amount of stealing is taking place every day in Virginia. After all, think about the amount of money that Virginians spend on out-of-state items. All that money being stolen from the Virginia economy by being sent out of state. Somebody ought to tell the Virginia Attorney General so that criminal indictments can quickly be secured. Gosh, if we’re not careful all that trade could steal every bit of money out of the Virginia economy. Start pacing the floors!

Maybe Congress ought to pass a law that encourages foreigners to buy products from America but prohibits Americans from buying anything from overseas. And why stop there? Why not state laws in all 50 states encouraging people to sell things to people from other states but prohibiting them from buying things from people from other states? And why stop there? Why not do the same at the county level to stop people from sending their money outside the county?

If an American farmer wishes to hire Mexican workers on his farm in California, that is his business. If an American farmer wishes to own a farm in Mexico and send his profits back to the United States, that is his business. If a Mexican immigrant enters in a labor relationship with an American employer and wishes to send his money back to his family in Latin America, that is his business. The key to prosperity and harmony among the people of the world lies in the freedom of people to do whatever they want with their own money, including buying and selling goods and services with anyone they want anywhere in the world. That’s what freedom, free enterprise, and economic prosperity are all about.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Torture and Kangaroo Justice Are Un-American
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Justice Scalia’s remarks about torture reflect a fundamental problem with conservative judges. While oftentimes sound on economic liberty, they are absolutely atrocious with respect to civil liberties.

Scalia’s approval of torture in certain circumstances ignores an important point that every first-year law student learns in his constitutional law course: that people are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law — and, equally important, are sometimes adjudged innocent when the trial is ultimately held.

In other words, when the government takes someone into custody and begins torturing him, how do we know that that person is deserving of torture or has important information that can be tortured out of him? Ordinarily, we don’t permit the government to determine the guilt or innocence of a person it is accusing of a crime. That’s the very purpose of the trial.

Yet, under Scalia’s reasoning on torture (and under the government’s reasoning), that basic principle is thrown out the window. Scalia effectively says, “While a trial will later determine whether the accused is guilty or not, we must vest the government with the pre-trial power to torture anyone it suspects of being guilty, despite the fact that a trial may later confirm that the person was in fact innocent.”

How’s that for a bit of judicial nonsense?

After all, if we’re going to have that much faith in the government, then why not dispense with a trial altogether? Why not simply let the government decide not only who is worthy of pretrial torture but also who is guilty of the crime?

While on the subject of torture, I would remiss if I didn’t comment on the Pentagon’s latest antics with respect to its aberrant and dysfunctional kangaroo tribunal system in Cuba.

After some six years of delays, the U.S. military has announced that it will finally hold a “trial” for six accused terrorists at its Guantanamo Bay prison camp. In a press briefing regarding the upcoming “trial,” Air Force Gen. Thomas Hartmann remarked on the importance of complying with “the rule of law.”

Sorry, General, but that’s already impossible. What “the rule of law” means is that everyone accused of the same crime answers to the same law and is accorded the same process as everyone else.

In the “war on terrorism,” however, the government has the discretion to determine whether a suspected terrorist is accorded either the federal-court route or the kangaroo military-tribunal route.

Don’t forget that Zacharias Moussaoui (one of the military’s 20th hijackers on 9/11), Yaser Hamdi, Jose Padilla, Timothy McVeigh, and many other accused terrorists have been accorded the federal-court route. The accused terrorists at Guantanamo are being railroaded down the kangaroo military-tribunal route.

It all depends on the discretion of government officials. That’s precisely what “the rule of law” is intended to avoid. The Pentagon’s system constitutes “the rule of men,” which holds, “We’ll decide which route you’re going to get.”

The Pentagon has also announced how it intends to get around the problem arising from its torture of the defendants in its upcoming “trial.” Ordinarily in a criminal case, coerced confessions are not admissible into evidence. To surmount that obstacle, government officials returned to the defendants and got them to admit their crimes, this time without being tortured.

So, the government’s rationale is that the confessions should be admitted into evidence because they were adduced without torture the second time they were made. Never mind, of course, that the defendants had presumably already sung like canaries while being tortured and, therefore, there was no reason for them to withhold the information, especially since they knew what would likely happen to them if they didn’t talk “voluntarily” the second time around.

But let’s follow the logic of the government’s position. If the initial torture had no effect on the subsequent confessions and if the government secured everything without torture that it did with the torture, then wouldn’t that be rather conclusive proof that the torture of the defendants was unnecessary?

Faithfully and obediently following the orders of the president, the Pentagon has brought shame and disgrace upon our country, not only by invading and occupying a country that never attacked the United States, not only by establishing a regime that has led to torture and sex abuse of prisoners and detainees, but also by hijacking America’s criminal-justice system and establishing an alternative, anti-constitutional system of kangaroo military “justice” in Cuba. Unfortunately, the Pentagon’s mockery of all that is right and just continues.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Attention, Neo-Con Automatons!
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Fury has erupted in Britain over letting a 12-year-old Afghan boy attend school. The boy had trained as a suicide bomber in Afghanistan because after his father, who had a member of the Taliban, was shot and killed by British soldiers, an Afghan elder told the boy, “You must avenge his death by becoming a martyr.”

Can’t you just hear the neo-cons issuing the following proclamations to their supporters?

“Attention, neo-con automatons! Repeat after me: That Afghan boy hates us for our freedom and values, not because British military forces killed his father.”

“Attention, neo-con automatons! Repeat after me: The 9/11 terrorists hated us for our freedom and values, not because of the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children who died as a result of the brutal sanctions against Iraq, not because UN Ambassador Madeleine Albright said that the deaths of those Iraqi children had been “worth it,” not because U.S. soldiers were stationed on Islamic holy lands, not because of the illegal no-fly zones over Iraq, and not because of the unconditional U.S. foreign and military aid to the Israeli government.”

“Attention, neo-con automatons! Repeat after me: If another terrorist attack takes place on American soil prior to the 2008 presidential election, it will be because the terrorists hate America for its freedom and values, not because the U.S. government has invaded and occupied Iraq and killed, injured, maimed, and tortured hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, none of whom had ever attacked the United States.”

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Imperialism, Interventionism, and Isolationism
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Conservatives and neo-conservatives sometimes claim that libertarians are “isolationists” because we oppose empire and interventionism. Their suggestion is that if the U.S. government did not have the unrestrained power to drop bombs on countries around the world, that would mean that America would be an “isolationist” country, sort of, I suppose, like Switzerland, whose government does not drop bombs on anyone. One of the amusing aspects to all this is that at the same time that conservatives and neo-cons declaim against “isolationism,” they’re building walls around the United States and harassing people who enter our country, including those who come here legally.

Let’s clarify the issues.

The conservative/neo-conservative position contains two core elements:

(1) The U.S. government must continue to wield the unrestrained, omnipotent power to do whatever it wants to any country anywhere in the world. This power encompasses such things as military attacks, invasions, sanctions, embargoes, wars of aggression, bombing, kidnapping, coups, regime changes, assassinations, torture, military tribunals, overseas prisons, foreign aid, and renditions.

(2) To protect the American people from retaliation from the victims of U.S. foreign policy, the U.S. government wields the power to isolate Americans from the rest of the world. This includes such things as building walls along America’s borders, visa restrictions on foreigners, fingerprinting tourists, and travel restrictions on Americans traveling abroad.

The libertarian paradigm is exactly the opposite.

(1) The U.S. government’s overseas power would be reined in. That would entail the dismantling of the U.S. Empire and the restoration of a limited-government republic. That would mean the dismantling of the 700 U.S. military bases in more than 100 countries. It would also mean bringing all U.S. troops stationed overseas home and discharging them into the private sector. The U.S. government would be prohibited from interfering in the internal affairs of other countries, including the use of military attacks, invasions, sanctions, embargoes, wars of aggression, bombing, kidnapping, coups, regime changes, assassinations, torture, military tribunals, overseas prisons, foreign aid, and renditions.

(2) All restrictions on the freedom of the American people (i.e., the private sector) to interact with the people of the world would be lifted. Foreigners would be free to travel back and forth to the United States for work, tourism, cultural activities, or investment. Americans would be free of all U.S. governmental restrictions to travel to foreign countries for the same reasons.

Notice the big difference between the two paradigms. It’s the conservative/neo-con paradigm that inevitably leads to isolationism of the private sector in order to protect the unrestrained, omnipotent power of the public sector. In the libertarian paradigm, the effect is the exact opposite — the government’s power is reined in and the American people are free to interact with the people of the world.

Conservatives and neo-conservatives sometimes argue that it’s necessary for the U.S. government to wield unrestrained, omnipotent power in foreign affairs in order to help foreigners who are suffering tyranny, citing Iraq as an example. They say that the Iraqi people are better off today than they were before the U.S. invasion of their country despite the fact that there are now an estimated million dead Iraqis and countless more maimed, including many Iraqi children. They maintain, oftentimes somewhat cavalierly, that the U.S. invasion of Iraq has been worth it, the same position that they (and liberals) took with respect to the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children who died from the brutal sanctions imposed on Iraq during the 1990s.

Yet, the libertarian paradigm provides a much better solution to help people who are suffering under foreign tyranny. Rather than invade their countries and kill and maim hundreds of thousands of their people in the process, the libertarian paradigm sends out the following message: “If you are suffering tyranny or economic oppression in your country, our government will not come to save you with invasions, bombs, missiles, sanctions, assassinations, and occupations. Instead, if you are willing and able to escape your plight, know that there is always at least one country to which you can come without fear of being repatriated to your nation — the United States of America.”

Although certainly not perfect, the libertarian paradigm is certainly a much more humane approach to foreign tyranny and oppression than the conservative/neo-con approach. In fact, isn’t it ironic that while the conservatives and neo-cons claim to be occupying Iraq out of love for the Iraqi people, they have absolutely refused to permit more than a few thousand Iraqis to immigrate to the United States, despite the fact that other nations are permitting millions of Iraqi immigrants to enter their countries?

As the various crises facing our country increase in magnitude and intensity, both here at home and abroad, there is at least some solace in knowing that there is a solution to them. That solution is libertarianism. It’s just a matter of time and pain before Americans finally reject the conservative-neo-con paradigm of imperialism, interventionism, and isolationism, and embrace the libertarian paradigm of limited government and peaceful and harmonious relations with the people of the world.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Going the Way of Zimbabwe and Venezuela?
by Jacob G. Hornberger

The next time some conservative or neo-conservative tells you that inflation is a good thing for Americans because it makes “our” exports less expensive for foreigners, ask him why the citizens of Zimbabwe are having a difficult time making ends meet. In that country, inflation is estimated at more than 26,000 percent. If a little inflation is beneficial to the people of a country, wouldn’t you think that a lot of inflation would be even better?

According to an article in the Washington Post, families in Zimbabwe are struggling just to survive. Growing numbers of people are becoming foot commuters, given that a short trip to work can cost commuters an entire week’s salary.

Yet, only a decade ago Zimbabwe was one of Africa’s most prosperous nations. What happened? Socialism and interventionism happened, along with the printing of the money to pay for the government’s ever-increasing expenditures.

The government confiscated land owned by white-owned commercial enterprises to give it to the poor, which destroyed the businesses and left many poor blacks out of jobs. It also engaged in urban-renewal projects, which threw the poor out of their homes, leaving them further away from their places of work. It engaged in massive spending projects, printing the money to pay for them.

The situation is not much different in Venezuela, where President Hugo Chavez has foisted socialism and interventionism onto that nation. Despite the fact that the government owns the nation’s oil and gas, the nation is being plunged into greater depths of poverty.

Inflation in Venezuela is soaring, given the fact that the government is simply printing the money to pay for its socialist projects. It’s even against the law for anyone to publish the true exchange rate (i.e., the black-market rate) of the national currency.

Venezuelans are growing increasingly disenchanted with Chavez’s domestic policies. Staple foods are difficult to find, no doubt because of government price controls. Chavez is even threatening to nationalize food distributors that are caught hoarding food.

Not surprisingly, Chavez is drumming up foreign policy crises to distract people’s attention and to cause them to rally ’round the flag, much as U.S. officials do here in the United States when the citizenry begin to stir.

Any U.S. conservative or neo-conservative would quickly recognize the root of the problems facing both Zimbabwe and Venezuela, which is why neo-cons spend much of their time writing about the problems facing foreign countries. The blind spot that neo-cons have is that they cannot bring themselves to recognize is that just like the situations in Zimbabwe and Venezuela, the U.S. government is the root cause of the economic problems facing Americans.

That’s why the dollar is crashing in international markets. The Federal Reserve is working the printing presses overtime to pay for the ever-mounting federal debt and expenses, just like the Zimbabwe and Venezuelan governments are doing. Given that the American people are beginning to stir, the federal government is sending American taxpayers some “free money” that is intended not to stimulate them, as the government claims, but rather to calm and pacify them, which is no different from what the Zimbabwean and Venezuelan governments do to calm and pacify their people.

Of course, there is also the constant drumbeat of fear from “the terrorists” that serves to remind Americans that their only real friend and protector is the federal government. Never mind that it’s the federal government’s own policies (e.g., killing people in Iraq) that is the source of the terrorist threat. It’s not a new trick. As Madison pointed out, “Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt [among the citizenry] was apprehended.”

Unfortunately, most Americans still don’t want to confront the truth — that their federal government and its socialist, interventionist, and imperial policies are the problem, not the solution. That’s why most Americans continue to look to the federal government as their savior, even as many Zimbabweans and Venezuelans are beginning to recognize the truth about the economic problems in their countries.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Friday, February 8, 2008

A Confluence of Cultures along the Border
by Jacob G. Hornberger

For those of you looking for something patriotic to do to celebrate George Washington’s birthday, you might want to consider traveling down to my hometown of Laredo, Texas, on the weekend of February 22.

Laredo, a city along the Texas-Mexican border has the biggest George Washington birthday celebration in the nation. What’s special about the celebration is that it represents a perfect confluence of Mexican and American cultures. After all, how many celebrations of America’s Founding Fathers are going to have a festival featuring Mexican music, dancing, and food?

It is impossible to describe to anyone who has never visited the border how different the culture is on the border compared to the rest of the United States. I am simply rendering a guess but I’d estimate that about 95 percent of Laredo is Hispanic-surnamed. On a trip back to Laredo a few years ago, I did an informal survey of a local restaurant by walking around the various tables to see how many people were speaking English. Most all of them were speaking Spanish. In fact, I would estimate that while most of the Hispanic population is bilingual, at least 20 percent of the population cannot speak English despite the fact that most of them were born in the United States and were forced to participate in the government’s education system.

None of this is a shocking thing to Laredoans. No one ruminates on the fact that there is a large number of Americans who can’t speak English. No one paces the floors over the fact that the city is predominantly Hispanic. No one complains that local stores feature signs in both English and Spanish. No one says anything when greeters at stores instinctively shift from “Good morning” to “Buenos Dias” according to the skin color of the person who is entering the store. No one lobbies to change the names of streets from Juarez and Mier, who are Mexican heroes, to Jefferson and Madison.

Everyone simply understands that Laredo was once part of Mexico — that is, until the United States stole the northern half of Mexico through the Mexican War. Why should it shock Laredoans that much of the culture, language, food, and relationships are closely intertwined with Mexico even after some 150 years since the theft took place?

While there were Americans who opposed how the U.S. government concocted the reasons for starting the war (e.g., Abraham Lincoln and Henry David Thoreau), everyone quickly became accustomed to the fact that the United States was willingly absorbing a large portion of Mexico, a country that was steeped in Indian, Mexican, Spanish, and French culture, language, religion, food, history, and custom. That is, there wasn’t a bunch of hand-wringing among our American ancestors about how the acquisition of this land and its people was going to adversely affect the culture of the United States.

There are, of course, Anglos living in Laredo, some of whom can’t speak a lick of Spanish. While knowing Spanish would greatly benefit them, it never occurs to anyone to mandate that the Anglos learn Spanish for their own good. The decision is left entirely up to them. Most Anglos do very well in the business world without ever learning how to communicate in Spanish. If an Anglo doesn’t like the atmosphere, he quickly recognizes the futility of trying to “Anglify” Laredo and accepts that his choice is simply to stay and enjoy life as it is or simply move away to, say, Iowa.

Laredo’s George Washington Birthday celebration includes a great big downtown parade with beautiful floats that feature the local debutantes. The girl who is chosen to be Pocahontas leads the parade on her horse. When I was a kid, the border would be completely open, enabling people from Mexico to freely cross over to enjoy the parade. I doubt if that is the case today given the U.S. government’s “war on terrorism.”

I have three pieces of advice in case you do decide to make the celebration.

First, fly into San Antonio, one of the most beautiful cities in the United States, and stay a night there. That city, which I’d estimate has a balance of 50 percent Hispanic and 50 percent Anglo, is one of the finest confluences of Mexican and Anglo cultures anywhere in the world. Be sure to spend your evening along the River Walk, where you’ll be able to sample an array of restaurants featuring both Mexican and American food. You might also want to visit the Alamo, where courageous Mexican patriots, including both Anglos and Hispanics, took up arms against their own government for violating the nation’s constitution.

Second, don’t make plans to visit Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. That used to be a favorite destination spot for tourists — and rightfully so because it was once so much fun to visit. Not anymore though because of the federal government’s 30-year-old failed war on drugs. It has made things very dangerous and very nasty for everyone in Nuevo Laredo.

Third, be sure to take your papers with you to Laredo, even if you do not plan to cross into Mexico. Everyone leaving Laredo to go northward, either on the highways or airport, is required to show his papers to federal officials. Carrying your papers with you is especially important if your skin is dark because while Anglos are usually quickly waved through the checkpoints, without having to show their papers, darker-skinned people, especially poor ones, can expect to have to show their papers before being permitted to travel north. No papers, no travel.

If you want to get a taste of the fun that people have on the border during the George Washington celebration, and the absence of angst about the predominantly Hispanic population and Mexican language, culture, and custom in Laredo, here’s a video of the Taste of Laredo Festival, including the annual Jalapeno Eating Contest, that is part of the George Washington Birthday Celebration. Also, here are some pictures of the downtown parade. By the way, a cousin of mine just emailed me to tell me that famous Mexican rock singer Gloria Trevi (the Madonna of Mexico) will be performing at this year’s festival.

Taste of Laredo Festival

Laredo, Texas, Parade 2007

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

U.S. Soldiers Will Pay the Price for Bush’s Torture Policy
by Jacob G. Hornberger

After years of hearing President Bush proudly proclaim to the American people and the world that “We don’t torture,” yesterday the American people and the world learned that it was just one more lie on top of all the others. The White House and the CIA have come out and publicly admitted that they have in fact been waterboarding detainees. Now it becomes clearer why Bush was so insistent on Congress’s including a provision in the Military Commissions Act granting criminal immunity to any U.S. official who had tortured someone.

How does the president reconcile the waterboarding with his repeated proclamations that “We don’t torture.” He says that subjecting someone to forced drowning does not constitute torture. Therefore, since it’s not torture, he claims, it’s legal.

Well, if it’s legal then why was he so persistent in getting Congress to include an immunity provision for torture in the Military Commissions Act? What was he so afraid of that he felt it necessary to secure such a provision? And if he is against torture, as he has so often proclaimed, then why would he be so insistent on immunity being given to U.S. torturers?

The last ones to be celebrating this decision are U.S. troops because now the floodgates are open for torturing U.S. soldiers taken captive in any future conflict or war. At least one thing is for sure — Bush’s policy decision operates not only as an authorization for U.S. officials to waterboard prisoners and detainees, it also simultaneously operates as a full license for enemy forces in the future to waterboard U.S. soldiers taken captive.

All that enemy forces have to do is read the president’s legal opinion to the U.S. soldier being waterboarded. How is the soldier supposed to respond? I suspect that if he responds, “It’s legal when my president does it but not legal when your president does it,” isn’t going to prove very convincing to his torturers.

Moreover, keep in mind that this form of torture stretches all the way to the Spanish Inquisition and that people who have utilized it have even been prosecuted for war crimes — by U.S. officials. Why is that important? Well, since Bush has relegated to himself the power to redefine torture to exclude his favorite method of torture, what grounds will the U.S. have in the future when enemy forces exercise the same power of redefinition with respect to the torture of U.S. prisoners? Why should the president of the United States be the only ruler in the world who wields the power to make various forms of torture legal by simply redefining them as non-torture?

The entire sordid process only reflects how deeply the United States has plunged with respect to basic principles of morality, right conduct, and civilization? And for what? All to protect a corrupt and bankrupt foreign policy of empire and intervention, which produces terrorist blowblack, which then produces the torture reaction.

The temptation among some Americans might be, “Oh, well, at least it’s not likely to happen to me, only to foreigners.” Not only is that a morally bankrupt position, it is also not exactly an accurate one. Just ask Jose Padilla, an American citizen who was mentally and psychologically tortured through extreme isolation and sensory deprivation for some three years while in Pentagon custody. But of course, under the new Orwellian definitions of the post-9/11 era, that isn’t torture either.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Why Doesn’t Obama Turn Himself In?
by Jacob G. Hornberger

In a Washington Times article on the drug war today, Steve Chapman points out that Barack Obama was for decriminalization of marijuana before he was against it. According to Chapman, who cites a Washington Times story on the matter, in his 2004 U.S. Senate race Obama came out for decriminalization. Now that he’s running for president, however, he’s come out against decriminalization.

That means, of course, that Obama, like all the other presidential candidates except Ron Paul, believes that people should be punished by the state for possessing marijuana (and other non-approved drugs).

So, the obvious question arises: Why shouldn’t Obama, as a moral matter, turn himself in the authorities and ask to be punished for his crime?

After all, Obama has openly admitted to possessing and consuming marijuana — and even cocaine — in his younger days. As a strictly legal matter, it is entire possible that the statute of limitations has run on prosecuting him. It is also possible that the state might have difficulty in compiling the necessary proof to convict Obama of a drug-law violation before a jury of his peers.

However, we’re talking here about a moral principle. Obama obviously believes that people who possess and consume drugs need to be punished by the state. Okay, fair enough — that’s what any good statist believes. But then, as a moral issue why should Obama exempt himself from the principle to which he subscribes?

There is nothing to stop Obama from appearing before a state judge and declaring, “Your honor, I firmly believe that people in our society who break the law by possessing non-approved drugs, including marijuana and cocaine, need to be punished by the state. I confess to you, under oath, that I have broken the law by possessing and ingesting both marijuana and cocaine. While my offenses occurred many years ago, I do not feel that that should affect the principle in which I believe — that people who break drug laws need to be punished by the state. Because I believe that this principle should be applied universally and because I wish to avoid being considered a hypocrite, I am here requesting the state to punish me, in accordance with the principle that I believe should be applied to others.”

To ensure that Obama’s guilty plea is accepted, he could even have any witnesses with whom he consumed dope appear before the judge to verify and confirm that he is truly guilty of the offense that he has openly admitted.

Why won’t Obama do this? Because like all the other presidential candidates who have admitted to possessing or consuming drugs, including George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and John Kerry, he’s a hypocrite. While believing that society would be well-served by the state’s punishing those drug users whom it catches in the act of possessing drugs, the hypocrites obviously feel that society would not be well-served by the state’s punishing those drug users it doesn’t catch, especially those drug-law violating politicians who have openly admitted to breaking the law so that the revelation doesn’t bite them during their presidential campaigns.

It’s all reminds me of what the famous Texas criminal-defense lawyer Percy Foreman once said: “My clients don’t want justice. They want freedom.”

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Businessmen as Enemies of the Market
by Jacob G. Hornberger

One of the most common myths is that businessmen favor free enterprise — that is, enterprise that is free from government interference. Historically businessmen have been among the biggest proponents of government interference in market transactions, especially in order to use government power to gain a privileged position against their competitors.

The latest example of this tragic phenomenon is Google, the leading search engine on the Internet. Faced with the possibility of Microsoft’s takeover of Yahoo, Google is running to Congress in a desperate attempt to use government to block the deal. Of course, there might be payback involved owing to Microsoft’s campaign last year to use government force to interfere with Google’s purchase of DoubleClick.

Employing its battery of Washington lawyers and lobbyists, Google plans to beseech congressmen and federal regulatory bureaucrats to block the proposed merger between Microsoft and Yahoo on the ground that it would violate federal anti-trust laws. It’s a classic example of how businessmen use federal regulations to block competitive threats to their firms.

Under principles of economic liberty, people in the marketplace should be free to become as prosperous as they can. Unlike the Postal Service, which relies on government force to secure its privileged position, firms in an unhampered market economy can get big and successful only by pleasing the consumer. They do this by furnishing goods and services that people are willing to buy. The more a company pleases consumers, the larger its market share and the larger its profits.

Just because a firm becomes big and successful, it is not a “monopolist.” A genuine monopoly, such as the USPS, depends on government to suppress competition. The big, successful company must constantly please consumers, no matter how big it gets. If it doesn’t, consumers, who are among the most fickle people in the world, will take their business elsewhere.

Consider IBM. Do you remember when the government was suing IBM for antitrust violations, claiming that IBM was a “monopoly”? The government finally dropped its suit, and rightfully so. Yet, where is IBM today? It’s lost market share to competitors in the marketplace. If it had been a genuine monopoly, it would still be at the top today.

Consider Microsoft. Do you remember that federal officials sued Microsoft, claiming that is was a “monopoly”? People were saying, “Microsoft is just too big. No one could ever get the necessary capital to compete against Microsoft. We need the federal government to protect us from Microsoft.”

Where is Microsoft today? Struggling against the competition of Google, once an upstart company.

In an unhampered market economy, no firm, no matter how big and successful, can afford to rest on its laurels because there is always the prospect of new firms suddenly appearing and taking customers away. Businessmen realize that. That’s why big, established businesses are among the most ardent supporters of government regulations. They know that the more regulations there are, the harder it will be for new, upstart companies to put themselves into a position to compete against the big firms.

There is also the delay factor involved with securing government approval of mergers and acquisitions, which plays into the hands of companies who are trying to block market-based deals. According to the New York Times, “The size and complexity of a Microsoft-Yahoo deal is such that a government review is unlikely to be completed quickly, particularly in an election year, and may not be final before a new administration takes office in 2009.” Of course, by that time who’s to say what market conditions will be like, especially given the rapidly changing technological world?

What’s the best solution to this interventionist, regulatory mess? A total separation of economy and the state. Just as we don’t permit the government to regulate speech and religion, so it should be with people’s economic activity. Or as the French would put it, “Laissez faire, laissez passer”: Let it happen, let it pass — without government interference.

Unfortunately, many American businessmen would oppose a genuine free-market economy with every resource, lawyer, and lobbyist at their disposal. Google’s shameful attempt to use government to block the Microsoft-Yahoo deal is just the latest example of that phenomenon.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Squeezed by the Welfare-Warfare Vise
by Jacob G. Hornberger

In my article “Brace Yourselves,” I pointed out that owing to the refusal of the American people and U.S. officials to slash either welfare-state spending or warfare-state spending, federal spending will continue to soar out of control. That will add to the ever-increasing amount of U.S. government debt. The Federal Reserve in turn will continue printing the money to pay off that soaring debt. That in turn will result in increased debasement of the dollar and possibly to a very serious monetary crisis, especially if the Chinese communists and other big holders of U.S. government debt decide to head for the exits one panicky day by dumping their debt holdings in international markets.

Given that this is an election year, I think most everyone would agree that there is no way that there is going to be any serious reduction in welfare-state spending. Over the decades, Americans have become as dependent on their welfare as an addict on heroin. Moreover, long ago government officials discovered the value of keeping the citizenry calm and pacified with welfare, especially during times of crisis. As I stated in my article, there is no possibility that either the American people or U.S. officials are going to abolish any welfare-state programs or even seriously reduce spending on them.

Last week the warfare boot dropped with the Pentagon’s announcement that proposed military spending in 2009 would reach a $515.4 billion. Adjusted for inflation, it will be the highest level of military spending since World War II.

Now, you might say that that expenditure is worth the military adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan, except for one thing. That half-a-trillion dollars doesn’t include any expenditures for Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s another $600 billion, which the Congress approves in supplemental budgets so that Americans remain confused over the total amount of military spending.

That means more than one trillion dollars for the Pentagon in 2009. Who would have ever predicted that, especially after the fall of the Berlin Wall, when the Pentagon was desperately looking for some new mission that could be used to justify its existence, including fighting the war on drugs.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon announced over the weekend that it had accidentally killed nine “civilians” in Iraq. The “civilians” were Iraqi citizens who had been employed by the Pentagon to serve as “guardsmen.” Thinking that the targeted victims were members of “Al Qaeda of Mesopotamia,” U.S. military forces dropped some bombs on them, only to discover that they had bombed the wrong people.

Oh well, it’s just a few more deaths on top of the million Iraqis who have already been killed as a result of an invasion of a country whose government and citizenry never attacked the United States — an invasion that U.S. officials say is now justified by the fact that there are Iraqi people resisting the occupation of their country by a foreign invader.

Prior to the invasion of Iraq there was no al Qaeda in Iraq and there was no al-Qaeda of Mesopotamia in Iraq. After the invasion of Iraq, Iraqis began resisting the foreign occupation of their country, much as Afghani citizens began resisting the foreign occupation of their country following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. It is those resisters to the U.S. occupation of Iraq, including al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, who now provide the principle justification for continuing the indefinite occupation of Iraq. Those were the resisters that those U.S. bombs were targeting when they accidentally killed the Iraqi “civilians” employed by the Pentagon as “guardsmen.”

In the mind of Pentagon officials, all that chaos, mayhem, and violence in Iraq (which didn’t exist prior to the U.S. invasion) confirms that the world is an unsafe place, which in turn confirms that the American people need to be spending more on the U.S. military-industrial complex than ever, in order to keep American free and safe.

The welfare-warfare vise continues to squeeze the American people, especially through a constantly depreciating currency to pay ever-increasing welfare-warfare expenses. Time will tell whether this turns out to be just another recessionary blip in the history of the welfare-warfare state or whether Americans are indeed facing a perfect storm of welfare-warfare crises.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Electing Our Dictator
by Jacob G. Hornberger

The debate between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton over Iraq, along with the positions on Iraq taken by the Republican presidential candidates (except for Ron Paul) reflect what the presidential race is all about. It might not be politic to say so but the fact is that what Americans will be electing in November is not just a president but also a dictator.

Look at Clinton’s position on Iraq. She says that she signed on to the resolution authorizing President Bush to use force against Iraq because she was under the impression that the president only intended to use it as a negotiating tool. Clinton says that she was shocked when the president actually went to war against Iraq and would never have agreed to a resolution to go to war against Iraq if she had known that the president actually intended to go to war against Iraq.

Obama’s position is simply that it was a bad decision to go to war against Iraq. He says that he would not have made such a bad decision. As president, he would exercise only good judgment as to when to go to war against another country.

Mitt Romney, John McCain, and Mike Huckabee all believe that the president exercised sound judgment in going to war against Iraq. They’re just unhappy with how the war and the occupation have been handled. If they had been in charge, they would have exercised better judgment in managing the war and the occupation.

Do you notice something significant here? Notice that everyone — including all of the mainstream pundits — make an important assumption: In the United States, the president wields the power to send the entire nation into war.

If that’s not dictatorial power, what is?

How many times have you seen any questioner in the presidential debates say, “Candidates, the Constitution requires a congressional declaration of war before a president can send the nation into war. Do you believe that that constitutional provision is outmoded and, if so, do you believe that the president should nonetheless be required to obey it until the Constitution is amended to modify it?”?

That’s the problem with the mainstream press. Their mindset is stuck in the same paradigm of democratic dictatorship that holds the various presidential candidates (again, except for Ron Paul) in its grip, at least when it comes to war. The feeling is that president should be the Decider when it comes to war no matter what the Constitution says.

That’s why there is so much fuss over which candidate has more “experience” and which one has sounder judgment. When you’re electing a dictator, you want the one who will will exercise the best judgment and also be the most benevolent toward his own people.

In principle, the matter is no different on the domestic scene. Notice how the mainstream pundits always ask the candidates’ for their plan to “run the economy.” Yet, what could be more dictatorial then having a ruler with the power to “run the economy”? The notion that the president shouldn’t have the power to “run the economy” doesn’t even enter their minds. It’s just taken as a given that whoever we’re electing will be “running the economy.”

Thus, is it any wonder that the debates inevitably revolve around which candidate is best equipped to be dictator? Yes, I know that it’s not phrased like that. Nonetheless, that’s the reasoning that is taking place.

Thus, is it any wonder that the other candidates and the mainstream commentators and pundits feel so uncomfortable whenever Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul speaks? Sometimes when he makes a point, the others behave as if he were appearing at a party that he wasn’t invited to. The reason is that Paul speaks in the context of an entirely different paradigm — one in which the president’s powers are strictly limited. That’s why Paul continually mentions the Constitution.

The Constitution, as Paul rightly points out, is the higher law of restraints and constraints that we the people have imposed on the president and Congress. If they are entitled to break this higher law, then what’s the point of having the higher law? Equally important, if they’re free to violate the constraints of the higher law, how is that different from a dictatorship?

Those are questions that are not supposed to be asked in polite mainstream political circles, as Paul’s experience in this presidential race has shown.

Since the Constitution says that the power to go to war lies with Congress, not the president, how is it that the president is deciding whether to go to war or not? Since it’s the law that Congress, not the president, makes this decision, aren’t both the president and Congress supposed to obey it? Isn’t that what they expect us to do with the laws they impose on us?

Since the Constitution doesn’t vest power in the president to “run the economy,” does it really matter whether the president or Congress think it’s important that the president “run the economy”? They might not like the law that we have imposed upon them, but is that any excuse for them to break it? Do they permit us that excuse when we break the laws they impose on us?

For decades, Latin Americans have mocked their own democratic elections by admitting that the only freedom they really have is the freedom to elect their dictators every four years. In doing so, at least the Latin American people have a grip on reality. The problem Americans have is that they honestly believe that because they have the freedom to elect a president who wields dictatorial powers, including the power to ignore the higher law of the Constitution, that proves how free Americans are. The American presidential campaign brings to mind Goethe’s famous quote, “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.”

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

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Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.