May 132013
 

U.S. Government vs. DEFCAD: You Can’t Fix Stupid

| May 12th, 2013

There’s nothing quite so funny as the sight of the authoritarian functionaries of a dying order trying to suppress a revolution they don’t understand — and failing miserably.

The State Department’s attempt to censor 3-D printable gun files from DEFCAD is the latest — and one of the most gut-bustingly hilarious — attempts by the Lords of Scarcity to wrap their minds around the revolution of Abundance that threatens their power. Less than a day after DEFCAD was forced to remove them, the files appeared on The Pirate Bay and Mega. The latter is especially funny; Kim Dotcom is probably laughing himself silly over it.

Anyone who’s ever heard of the Streisand Effect could have told you this would happen. Attempting to suppress information on the Internet just draws more attention to the original information — which remains readily available — as well as embarrassing the would-be suppressor as the attempt at suppression becomes a story in its own right. I lost count of the number of people yesterday who said they’d never heard of Cody Wilson or 3-D printable guns until the story of the State Department’s action came out, but intended to go to TPB and check it out. Thanks to the U.S. government’s inadvertent promotional efforts, probably a hundred or a thousand times more people know where to get Cody Wilson’s printable gun files than did before.

But the clowns who congratulated themselves a couple days ago over shutting down those printable gun files aren’t exactly the sort of people you’d expect to have heard of the Streisand Effect — obviously. They’re the straight men in this piece, just performing for our amusement. They’re like the Society Matron who walks into the dining hall in a Three Stooges short and demands “What is the meaning of this?!!” To them the Internet is just a big Series of Tubes, and all they have to do is shut off a valve somewhere to control the flow of information. Only the Internet doesn’t work that way. In the memorable phrasing of John Gilmore, it treats censorship as damage and routes around it.

Remember Joe Biden’s quip about “theft” of “intellectual property” being no different from a “smash-and-grab at Macy’s”? The U.S. government’s approach to DEFCAD illustrates the same fundamental misconception. It treats infinitely replicable digital information as if it were a finite, excludable good existing in one physical location, that one can exert physical control or possession over just like a shoe or a chair.

Their legal rationale — export control legislation — displays the same conceptual failure. They couldn’t quite grasp that the “goods” that DEFCAD was “exporting” arrived in their destination ports around the world the second the files were uploaded to the website.

A digital file can be replicated infinitely at near-zero marginal cost; the same pattern of information can exist in an unlimited number of places simultaneously. A digital file can be replicated infinitely at near-zero marginal cost; the same pattern of information can exist in an unlimited number of places simultaneously. See? I just did that with the copy-and-paste function of my browser. Try doing that with jewelry from Macy’s. You can’t “steal” a digital song or movie — the act of replication doesn’t affect the copies already in others’ possession, but only increases the number of copies in the world. That’s why copying is not theft. Likewise, you can’t deny the world access to information by removing the copy from one website.

Watching these people try to use scarcity-age conceptual tools to combat abundance is like watching Napoleon try to defeat Heinz Guderian or Erwin Rommel with hub-to-hub artillery and massed infantry in line-and-column formations. They lack the conceptual tools to understand, let alone fight, the new society they’re attempting to prevent the birth of.

This is why the government’s attempts to impose artificial scarcity fail every time, no matter how many times they change the name — ACTA, CISPA, etc. — and try again. You can’t fix stupid.

So to you Lords of Scarcity — represented this time around by your flunkies in the U.S. Departments of State and “Defense,” I have a message: You have no authority that we are bound to respect.

May 132013
 

Does Innovation Require the Patent Office?

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Two years ago, I spoke to a gentlemen who had started and sold four companies. He was currently working on a new project that sounded very promising (for all I know, he has already sold that one too). We had just heard a talk in which the speaker told people that the whole key to business success in our time is patent ownership. Without it, no business can really succeed.

So I asked this gentleman what he thought of the talk. His response was quick (I paraphrase here):

“I’ve never once bothered with patents. They are expensive and pointless. They produce no revenue on their own. They sell no product or service. And they harm development by hemming in a company on a preset track. I need to be able to customize offerings and change what we do day to day. Patents bias a company toward old solutions even when they don’t work anymore.”

That’s an interesting perspective. And it raises the question: How much do patents have to do with innovation in the real world?

As much as we hear about patents, we might suppose there is some sort of direct link between them and the innovations we enjoy in our lives. Someone invents something and shows the plan to a bureaucrat. The exclusive license is issued, and away we go.

Economic historians have usually assumed a direct link between patents and innovation, basing much of their chronicle of history on records at the Patent Office. Much of what we think we know — that Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin, that the Wright Brothers were first in flight, that Thomas Edison holds the record for inventions because he has the most patents — comes from these records.

But is it true? Most patent holders assume so. They cling to them as a source of life and defend them against all encroachment. Some businesses build up their war chests with patents as purely defensive measures. The more you own, the more you can intimidate your competitors to stay out of your territory.

So how important are patents in generating innovation? The answer is not much, according to four economists from the Technical University of Lisbon. They are circulating their research on a platform sponsored by the St. Louis Federal Reserve. They looked at the best innovations between 1977-2004, as listed by the R&D awards in the journal Research and Development. They matched 3,000 innovations against patent records to establish the relationship.

Their findings are remarkable: Nine in 10 of the innovations were never patented. They were just created and marketed, and changed the world. In other words, it’s the market, not the bureaucracy, that innovates. The authors grant that there might have been downstream versions of the same innovations that were patented. But that fact actually doesn’t change the implications of the study, namely that there is no relationship between the existence of the Patent Office and direction and pace of innovation.

As you dig through their citations, you find other nuggets of information. It turns out that other researchers have found the same thing in early parts of the 20th century and even all the way back to the middle of the 19th. The results keep coming up the same way: There are patents and there are innovations, but they have little or nothing to do with each other.

These results are a classic case of the huge chasm between pop science and real science. In the pop version, people imagine that they will dream up some idea, file a patent, and then bring it into production and become a billionaire. The reality on the ground is that 90% of patents go completely unused. They are suitable for hanging, but not much else.

The patents that are actually in play in this world are used as weapons by big shots to hurt their competitors. They don’t cause business to succeed; it’s the reverse. The bigger the business, the more it is in the market for patents to help the big business hold its place in the market. They prompt lawsuits that go on for years that are eventually settled with an exchange of cash. Meanwhile, rather than actually fueling the innovative process, they put it on hold. So long as a patent is in existence, other innovations are legally bound not to do what they do best.

The software industry is an excellent case in point. In the 1970s and 1980s, patents were rare to nonexistent. Companies made money by making stuff and selling it, just as free enterprise would suggest. Then, the industry grew. People like Steve Jobs who once touted that talent for stealing the ideas of others began threatening other companies with lawsuits. Young programmers today know for a fact that if they ever come up with anything that threatens a big player, the small company is going to be hammered.

Two parallel streams of innovative software strategies have been running over the last 10 years: 1) highly protected and 2) patentless open source. Apple and Microsoft represent the patented style. Google is much more inclined to the open model. Companies like WordPress reveal their code to the world and make money in other ways. A good test case comes from the big smartphone war between Apple’s iOS, on the one hand, and Google’s Android operating system on the other.

The consensus today is that Android is winning hands down in terms of new users. The open-source system is roaring ahead with more than half the smartphone market already and a growing percentage of the tablet market. In terms of moneymaking, the app economy of the iOS is actually doing much better. But consider that it had a huge start, whereas the Android came much later. My own impression from dealing with both is that Android is moving ahead in every area fast.

We need to rethink our assumptions about the role of patents and innovations. If they have nothing to do with each other, and if patents actually dramatically slow down the pace of development, why not get rid of them altogether? That’s exactly what many of the old liberals of the 19th century pushed, and it the case is further bolstered by Stephan Kinsella’s Against Intellectual Property.

Government planning never works. Laissez Faire isn’t perfect, but it provides the best chance for innovations to appear and thrive and for prosperity to result. The lesson for anyone with a business idea: Run with it and don’t wait on a bureaucracy.

Sincerely,
Jeffrey Tucker

May 112013
 

The War on 3D Printing Begins

Tony Cartalucci
Infowars.com
May 11, 2013

May 11, 2013 (LocalOrg) – It was inevitable. A technology like 3D printing that essentially puts cheap labor, manufacturing, and retail all in the same place – upon one’s desktop – spells the absolute, utter and permanent end to the monopolies and unwarranted power and influence of the corporate-financier elite who have lorded over humanity since human civilization began – a permanent end the elite will fight against with the total summation of their ill-gotten power and influence.

The pretext being used to begin this war, is a 3D printed gun built and demonstrated by Defense Distributed in Austin, Texas. After designing, printing out, and firing the 3D printed gun, the US State Department demanded that the designs, distributed for free on the Internet, be taken down – claiming tenuously that by posting the designs on the Internet, arms export bans may have been violated – this the same government that is on record, openly shipping arms, cash, and military equipment to its own listed terrorist organizations from the Mujahedeen e-Khalq (MEK or MKO) in Iraq and Iran, to the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) in Libya, to Al Qaeda’s Syrian franchise,Jabhat al-Nusra.

In the Independent’s article, “US government orders Cody Wilson and Defense Distributed to remove blueprint for 3D-printed handgun from the web,” it’s reported that:

The US government has demanded the removal of online files which allow users to 3D-print their own unregistered gun at home.

The blueprint has so far been downloaded more than 100,000 times since Defense Distributed – which spent a year designing the “Liberator” handgun – made it available online.

Last week Defense Distributed built the gun from plastic on an industrial 3D printer bought on eBay for $8,000 (£5,140), and fired it.

The Office of Defense Trade Controls Compliance wrote to the company’s founder Cody Wilson demanding the designs be “removed from public access” until he could prove he had not broken laws governing shipping weapons overseas.

3D Printing: The Sum of All Corporate-Fascist Fears

For several years now, buzz has been growing about 3D printing. Small companies have begun opening up around the world, selling 3D printers, or using 3D printers for small run production, filling niches, or shifting markets from large corporations and their globalized supply chains, to local, decentralized business models. While governments like those in China have embraced the technology and wholly encourage a grassroots, bottom-up industrial revolution, others, like the US have only feigned enthusiasm.

US President Barack Obama, in his 2013 State of the Union address, according to CNET’s “Here’s the 3D-printing institute in Obama’s State of the Union,” referred specifically to 3D printing, claiming:

After shedding jobs for more than 10 years, our manufacturers have added about 500,000 jobs over the past three. Caterpillar is bringing jobs back from Japan. Ford is bringing jobs back from Mexico. After locating plants in other countries like China, Intel is opening its most advanced plant right here at home. And this year, Apple will start making Macs in America again.

There are things we can do, right now, to accelerate this trend. Last year, we created our first manufacturing innovation institute in Youngstown, Ohio. A once-shuttered warehouse is now a state-of-the art lab where new workers are mastering the 3D printing that has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything. There’s no reason this can’t happen in other towns.

Caterpillar, Ford, Intel, and Apple are large globalized monopolies – the personal manufacturing revolution would not see “state-of-the art labs” open up in towns across America to help augment the bottom lines of these Fortune 500 corporations, but would see decentralized alternatives to these corporations cut into and utterly gut their bottom lines – a reality US President Barack Obama and the corporate-financier interests that dictate his agenda must surely be aware of.

The War on 3D Printing Begins local motors rally fighter

Image: Local Motors’ Rally Fighter vehicle. The unspoken fear the establishment holds regarding 3D printing and other forms of personal manufacturing is that their central globalized monopolies will be replaced by increasingly smaller, localized companies like Local Motors who already provides a model for “microfactories” and the localization of auto-manufacturing. Job creation, profits, wealth, power, and influence will be redistributed locally, not through government handouts, but by way of technology and local entrepreneurship – ending centuries of disparity between the people and the “elite.”

….

In the case of Ford and other big-auto giants, who by right should be shuttered and out of business already had it not been for their unwarranted influence and power buying them immense bailouts from America’s taxpayers, there are already alternative business models undermining their monopolies. In America itself, there is Local Motors who recently gave a short tour of their manufacturing facility they called a “microfactory.” These microfactorires represent the next step in industrialization where small companies will cater to smaller, local markets and niches, entirely replacing the centralized Fortune 500 corporations of Detroit, barely clinging to life and their unsustainable, antiquated business model as it is.

Video: Inside Local Motors’ Rally Fighter and open-source collaborative microfactory production.

The only conceivable means by which big-auto monopolies could hope to survive is by having the same bought-and-paid for politicians it used to bail its collapsed business model out with, impose sweeping regulations to make it illegal for “microfactories” to operate. We can already imagine, by extrapolating from the US State Department’s move against Defense Distributed, the arguments that will be made. These will be centered around “safety,” “taxation,” and perhaps even claims as bold as threatening “jobs” of autoworkers at Fortune 500 monopolies.

Similar ploys are currently working their way through a legislative and sociopolitical gauntlet in regards to the organic food movement.

In reality, whatever excuse the US government has made to take down the first fully 3D printed gun’s CAD files from the Internet, it is fear of lost hegemony that drives this burgeoning war on personal manufacturing. James Ball of the Guardian, in an article titled, “US government attempts to stifle 3D-printer gun designs will ultimately fail,” predicts that:

This is a ban that’s going to be virtually impossible to enforce: as almost any music company will testify, stopping online filesharing by banning particular sites or devices is roughly akin to stopping a tsunami with a bucket.

Another approach might be to attempt to ban or regulate 3D printers themselves. To do so is to stifle a potentially revolutionary technology in order to address a hypothetical risk – and that’s even before the practical problems of defining a 3D printer for the legislation. It would have to be defined broadly enough for a law to be effective, but narrowly enough so that enforcing the law doesn’t take out half of the equipment used in every day manufacturing. It is likely a futile ambition.

Indeed – as a 3D printer is essentially nothing more than circuit boards, stepper motors, and heating elements to melt and extrude layers of plastic – it would be as impossible as it would be ridiculous to try to stem the tide of 3D printing by regulating printers, as it will be to attempt to regulate and ban any and all “prints” that threaten the current establishment’s monopolies and hold on power.

Everyone is eventually going to have access to this technology and by consequence, the ability to print out on their desktop what Fortune 500 corporations have held monopolies over for generations, including arms manufacturing, automobiles, and electronics. The age of empire, corporatism, and elitism is drawing to a close, but apparently not without one last battle.

  • A d v e r t i s e m e n t

How to Win the Battle

While some may be paralyzed in fear over the prospect of their neighbor one day having the ability to print out a fully functional weapon, it must be realized that like all other prolific technologies, the fact that it will be in “everyone’s” hands means that more good people than bad will have access to it, and it will be in their collective interests to create and maintain stability within any emerging technological paradigm. Just like with information technology, where malicious activity certainly exists, more people are interested in the smooth, stable function of this technology in daily life and have created a paradigm where disruptions happen, but life goes on.

People must embrace, not fear 3D printing. Key to its integration into society is to ensure that as many people as possible understand it and have access to it. This must be done as quickly as possible, to outpace inevitable legislation that seeks to strangle this revolution in its cradle.

Education: We must learn as much about this technology as possible. 3D printing incorporates skills in electronics, 3D design, and material science. Developing skill-sets in any of these areas would be beneficial. There are endless resources available online for free that offer information and tutorials on how to develop these skills – just an Internet search away.

Alternatively, for people curious about this technology and seeking to get hands-on experience, they could seek out and visit their local hackerspace (an extensive list of spaces can be found here). Hackerspaces are essentially technological fitness clubs, where one pays dues monthly for access to a space and the equipment within it to work on projects either individually or in a collaborative effort.

The War on 3D Printing Begins
Image: Cover of “Hackerspaces @ the_beginning,” which chronicles the creation, challenges and successes of hackerspaces around the world. The original file can be found here, and an online version can be viewed here, on Scribd.

….

Hackerspaces generally attract people with the necessary skill-sets to assemble, use, and troubleshoot 3D printers currently on the market today. They also possess the skill-sets needed to build 3D printers and other computer-controlled manufacturing systems from parts that as of yet have not been “regulated.” Generally, hackerspaces host monthly workshops that help new people develop basic skills like soldering and programming, or 3D design and even “builds” where purchased 3D printer kits are constructed with the guidance of a resident expert. The proliferation of this knowledge will make the already daunting task of stripping personal manufacturing technology from the people, all but impossible.

Developing Local Institutions: It is essential to both expand existing hackerspaces and their use of personal manufacturing technology, as well as establish and build up new spaces. Ingraining hackerspaces as essential local institutions in our communities is one of the keys to heading off the coming war on personal manufacturing and other disruptive technologies sure to gain the ire of legislators as corporate-financier monopolies begin to suffer.

A place where people can go learn and use this technology, as well as collaborate in its advancement will turn 3D printing and other disruptive technologies from curiosities, into practical tools communities can use to reinvigorate their local economies, solve local problems, and overall improve their lives themselves, independently and self-sufficiently.

A hackerspace can start with something as simple as a single table with several chairs around it and some shared equipment used during weekend get-togethers with friends, and can develop into something as significant as a full-fledged organization with hundreds of members and global reach.

For more information on existing hackerspaces, and inspiration for those seeking to start their own, please see: “Inspiration for Starting a Hackerspace.”

Ignoring and Circumventing Illegitimate Governments and Their Declarations: As already cited, the US government is currently funding a myriad of its own listed terrorist organizations to horrific effect from Iraq and Iran, to Libya and Syria. To declare a 3D printed gun “outlawed” and its presence on the Internet a “violation” of arms export laws, is as hypocritical as it is illegitimate.

The government, in a free society, works for the people. The people have not asked the government to ban 3D printed guns, just like they have not asked for the myriad of laws the government is currently citing as justification for its unilateral declaration. The government does not dictate to the people what they can and cannot have or what they can and cannot make. As such, we are not obligated to respect their declarations in regards to 3D printing any more than we have demonstrably respected their declarations regarding so-called “intellectual property.”

Just as file sharing continues unabated, while alternative media supplants what is left of the corporate-media’s monopolies, a similar paradigm must be developed and encouraged across the tech community in regards to 3D printing, personal manufacturing, and other emerging disruptive technologies such as synthetic biology.

Conclusion

Already, parallels are being drawn between 3D printing and the shifting paradigms of information technology and file sharing. Whether or not the average person joins in against the war on 3D printing and personal manufacturing, the tech community will almost certainly continue on with their success from the realm of shaping and moving information to the world of shaping and moving atoms. However, for the average person clearly aware that “something” is not quite right about where things in general are going and who are seeking solutions, establishing local institutions that leverage unprecedented technology to solve our problems ourselves, without disingenuous politicians and their endless schemes, seems like a sure choice.

There is already a burgeoning community of talented people working on bringing this technology to its maturity and leveraging it for the benefit of communities and individuals. If we are to ensure this technology stays in the people’s hands and is used in the best interests of the people, then as many of “the people’ as possible must get involved.

Do some additional research into 3D printing, locate your local hackerspace, and/or start a hackerspace of your own. Start looking into buying or building a 3D printer and developing ideas on how to use this technology both for education and for local, tangible development. The future is what we make of it, and if we – with our own two hands – are making nothing, we have no future.

This article was posted: Saturday, May 11, 2013 at 8:10 am

May 072013
 

Surveillance in the Police State

IRS to Spy on Our Shopping Records, Travel, Social Interactions, Health Records and Files from Other Government Spies.

U.S. News and World Report notes today:the IRS tools will be able to track all credit card transactions, for starters. The agency has also instructed agents on using online sources such as social media and e-commerce sites including eBay, as well as the rich data generated by mobile devices. In one controversial disclosure in April, the ACLU showed documents in which the IRS general counsel said the agency could look at emails without warrants, but the IRS has said it will not use this power.

While the agency has declined to give details about what third-party personal data it will use in robo-audits and data mining, it has told government and industry groups that its computers are capable of scanning multiple networks at the same time to collect “matching” comprehensive profiles for every taxpayer in America. Such profiles will likely include shopping records, travel, social interactions and information not available to the public, such as health records and files from other government investigators, according to IRS documents.

May 062013
 

Anti-Bitcoin Socialist Panel Discussion Propaganda in New Zealand

This “panel” of apologists for socialism and big Government, “discuss” all the problems with BitCoin.  What is a “social contract” exactly anyway.  Is that the one where you are sold into bondage, without your consent? And  you are required to continue to pay into a system that provides no value to you, just because this is  what you have done all your life, when you realize the whole thing is a fraud?

The first shill talks about how we are “bound” to the commitment to certain “obligations” and rules to how our “currency” actually “works”.  What if I don’t agree with being bound to obligations to supposed currency that works only for the RULING CLASS?  I am not allowed to boycott it.  Well under  the old system you get the manipulated currency that is controlled by banks and government.  If you don’t like it then there is no other choice.  With anything else if I dont want to buy a certain product or service, don’t buy it.  How can one boycott the currency? Well before BitCoin, YOU CAN’T.  This is a gigantic problem when you are a government this is a big Problem, they can not allow people to boycott them!

Shill #1 is bothered and you can see he is shuddering over the fact that it is “Free” of politics, “Free” from the “obligation” to society actually he means the Banks and Government.  He also describes FaceBook as networking system and BitCoin as an ANTI-networking system, probably because there is no central authority to get paid, every single time you make a transaction.

BitCoin is also “Highly Individualistic” It is strikingly interesting how opposed he is to the idea that individuals have rights.  All this factors make it “sinister”!  After touching on the possibility that people can conduct private transactions to buy drugs (non_government approved ones) or money laundering (private transactions) he goes back to how this contributes to the a “Highly Individualistic Society”.  A highly individualistic society is a gateway to Peace, Love, Creativity and and Ethical Society.

The double talk continues as he states “People can operate anonymously!”, “Nothing Traceable!”, “Avoid Paying Taxes!” and  “Avoid Foreign Exchange Rates!”.   He babbles on about being “bound” as a society.  Have you ever been “bound hand to foot and gagged? I have and it’s not a pleasant experience.   Do you like being Arrested?  You are bound feels great doesn’t it?  Then he goes back to sneering at a individualized Society is such a horrible thing. All of his supposed “reasons” are the exact “reasons” I support BitCoin!

May 052013
 

This is Larken Rose’s submission for the “Paul Revere” video contest being held by Alex Jones (www.infowars.com). Unlike most of my videos, this was a major production, and is a feature-length documentary. I’ve been working pretty much non-stop on it for a month, to get it finished by the deadline (today)–while neglecting almost everything else.

Way to Go Larken! So now we know that the Government is  a corrupt gang of psychopathic thugs with guns, who like to Lie, Steal, Threaten, Extort, Murder, Defraud all in the name of Fairness, Freedom and Justice.  Then it turns out nothing could be further from the truth.  Do you ever get the feeling your living in a science fiction movie.  I do.  Maybe that is why I go by Morpheus!  LOL!

Apr 292013
 

The BORG is ready for War with YOU!

By Morpheus – with Bob Podolsky

Fargo is North Dakota’s largest city, yet its placid lifestyle seldom sees the chaos common in other urban communities.  This quiet city has averaged fewer than two homicides a year since 2005, and there’s not been a single international terrorism prosecution in the last decade.

But that hasn’t stopped BORG Agents in Fargo and its surrounding county from going on an $8 million buying binge to arm police officers with the sort of gear once reserved only for soldiers fighting foreign wars.

Borg Police armored truck

Every paramilitary BORG squad car in Fargo, is equipped today with an assault rifle and Kevlar helmets, able to withstand incoming fire from battlefield-grade ammunition. BORG officers can now summon a new $256,643 armored truck, complete with a rotating turret. The truck is used at the annual city picnic, where it’s been parked near the children’s bounce house. This way the BORG can CON-vince the populace what a great investment it has made by spending stolen funds, known to the BORG as taxes, granted to the city by the federal government.

“Most people are so fascinated by it [the armored truck], because nothing happens here,” says Carol Archbold, a Fargo resident and criminal justice professor and spokesperson for the BORG at North Dakota State University. “There’s no terrorism here.”  In reality the eyesore activates the Reticular Activating System in the brain that stimulates levels of FEAR in the minds of unawakened people in the quiet town.

Thousands of other local police departments nationwide have been amassing stockpiles of military-style equipment in the name of homeland security, aided by more than $34 billion in Stolen Funds by federal grants since the False Flag terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

The buying spree has continued the transformation of local peace keeping departments into paramilitary-like forces, and using intimidating equipment to strike fear into the minds of civilians is no doubt part of the overall psychology of the BORG agents.  Without this constant low level of fear, concerning a problem that the BORG created in the first place, what need for this parasite would there be?

“The argument for up-armoring is always based on the least likely of terrorist scenarios,” says Mark Randol, a former BORG terrorism expert at the Congressional Research Service, the nonpartisan research arm of Congress. “Anyone can get a gun and shoot up stuff. No amount of SWAT equipment can stop that.”  It needs to be noted that the government’s passage of such freedom destroying legislation such as SB 1867, turns all Americans into potential terrorists. SB 1867 follows in the footsteps of Bill of Rights nullifying “Patriot Act” with provisions to murder and detain INDEFINITELY any malcontented American to places like Guantanamo, Cuba without trial or due process.

BORG Agents and their PR firms known as “The News”, aptly known as the “Lame Stream Media” (LSM), become hostile at the mere suggestion that police agencies have become “militarized”.  They justify the need by citing examples for these upgrades in firepower and other equipment by claiming it is necessary to combat criminals with more lethal capabilities. Or at least criminals not franchised by the BORG.  They never seem to mention that governments kill more people than all other criminals combined!  They point to the 1997 Los Angeles bank robbers who pinned police for hours with assault weapons, the gun-wielding student who perpetrated the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007.  The LSM are generally complacent in mentioning examples where armed members of We the people have thwarted criminal activity.

The new weaponry and battle gear, they insist, helps save lives in the face of such threats. “I don’t see us as militarizing police; I see us as keeping abreast with society,” former Los Angeles Police Chief (and BORG Agent) William Bratton says. “And we are a gun-crazy society.”  In reality, the BORG is scared to death of the populace, as one day they may wake up from their mass hypnosis and realize the BORG is the problem – not the solution.

BORG agent and Police Lt. Ross Renner, who commands the regional SWAT team: “It’s foolish to not be cognizant of the threats out there, whether it’s New York, Los Angeles, or Fargo. Our residents have the right to be protected. We don’t have everyday threats here when it comes to terrorism, but we are asked to be prepared.”  Actually the BORG asked themselves and they agreed with the decision they made already:  to continue to inspire FEAR into the hearts and minds of people everywhere as a mechanism to continue the extortion by stealing money from We The People to “protect us” from the boogeyman they, the BORG, created in the first place.  It is Paramount to note when the populace WAKES UP and gets uppity about being robbed from, their rights being turned into privileges, and being turned into SLAVES, the BORG have all the necessary hardware to quell any SLAVE rebellion.

The skepticism about the Homeland spending spree is less severe for Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and New York, which the BORG, have determined to be their likely targets. The nagging question persists:  is the stolen tax money handed out without any regard for risk assessment or need?  Adding insult to injury is gap in accounting for the decade-long spending spree. The BORG-U.S. Homeland Security Department says it doesn’t closely track what’s been bought with its tax dollars or how the equipment is used. BORG in State and local governments don’t maintain uniform records either.  The BORG have no problem monitoring every single phone call, email and financial transaction We The People make; but when it comes to monitoring how the money (taxes) stolen from We the People is spent on military hardware, that’s not even a little bit necessary.

Apr 292013
 

True Causes of the Civil War

Irreconcilable Differences

Simmering animosities between North and South signaled an American apocalypse

Any man who takes it upon himself to explain the causes of the Civil War deserves whatever grief comes his way, regardless of his good intentions. Having acknowledged that, let me also say I have long believed there is no more concise or stirring accounting for the war than the sentiments propounded by Irish poet William Butler Yeats in “The Second Coming,” some lines of which are included in this essay. Yeats wrote his short poem immediately following the catastrophe of World War I, but his thesis of a great, cataclysmic event is universal and timeless.

First Slaves brought to America

It is probably safe to say that the original impetus of the Civil War was set in motion when a Dutch trader offloaded a cargo of African slaves at Jamestown, Va., in 1619. It took nearly 250 eventful years longer for it to boil into a war, but that Dutchman’s boatload was at the bottom of it—a fact that needs to be fixed in the reader’s mind from the start.

Of course there were other things, too. For instance, by the eve of the Civil War the sectional argument had become so far advanced that a significant number of Southerners were convinced that Yankees, like Negroes, constituted an entirely different race of people from themselves.

It is unclear who first put forth this curious interpretation of American history, but just as the great schism burst upon the scene it was subscribed to by no lesser Confederate luminaries than president Jefferson Davis himself and Admiral Raphael Semmes, of CSS Alabama fame, who asserted that the North was populated by descendants of the cold Puritan Roundheads of Oliver Cromwell—who had overthrown and executed the king of England in 1649—while others of the class were forced to flee to Holland, where they also caused trouble, before finally settling at Plymouth Rock, Mass.

Southerners on the other hand, or so the theory went, were the hereditary offspring of Cromwell’s enemies, the “gay cavaliers” of King Charles II and his glorious Restoration, who had imbued the South with their easygoing, chivalrous and honest ways. Whereas, according to Semmes, the people of the North had evolved accordingly into “gloomy, saturnine, and fanatical” people who “seemed to repel all the more kindly and generous impulses” (omitting—possibly in a momentary lapse of memory—that the original settlers of other Southern states, such as Georgia, had been prison convicts or, in the case of Louisiana, deportees, and that Semmes’ own wife was a Yankee from Ohio).

How beliefs such as this came to pass in the years between 1619 and 1860 reveals the astonishing capacity of human nature to confound traditional a posteriori deduction in an effort to justify what had become by then largely unjustifiable. But there is blame enough for all to go around.

From that first miserable boatload of Africans in Jamestown, slavery spread to all the settlements, and, after the Revolutionary War, was established by laws in the states. But by the turn of the 19th century, slavery was confined to the South, where the economy was almost exclusively agricultural. For a time it appeared the practice was on its way to extinction. Virginia’s Thomas Jefferson probably summed up the attitude of the day when he defined the South’s “peculiar institution” as a necessary evil, which he and many others believed, or at least hoped, would wither away of its own accord since it was basically wasteful and unproductive.

Then along came Eli Whitney with his cotton gin, suddenly making it feasible to grow short-staple cotton that was fit for the great textile mills of England and France. This in turn, 40 years later, prompted South Carolina’s prominent senator John C. Calhoun to declare that slavery—far from being merely a “necessary evil”—was actually a “positive good,” because, among other things, in the years since the gin’s invention, the South had become fabulously rich, with cotton constituting some 80 percent of all U.S. exports.

But beneath this great wealth and prosperity, America seethed. Whenever you have two people—or peoples—joined in politics but doing diametrically opposing things, it is almost inevitable that at some point tensions and jealousies will break out. In the industrial North, there was a low, festering resentment that eight of the first 11 U.S. presidents were Southerners—and most of them Virginians at that. For their part, the agrarian Southerners harbored lingering umbrage over the internal improvements policy propagated by the national government, which sought to expand and develop roads, harbors, canals, etc., but which the Southerners felt was disproportionately weighted toward Northern interests. These were the first pangs of sectional dissension.

Then there was the matter of the Tariff of Abominations, which became abominable for all concerned.

This inflammatory piece of legislation, passed with the aid of Northern politicians, imposed a tax or duty on imported goods that caused practically everything purchased in the South to rise nearly half-again in price. This was because the South had become used to shipping its cotton to England and France and in return receiving boatloads of inexpensive European goods, including clothing made from its own cotton. However, as years went by, the North, particularly New England, had developed cotton mills of its own—as well as leather and harness manufactories, iron and steel mills, arms and munitions factories, potteries, furniture makers, silversmiths and so forth. And with the new tariff putting foreign goods out of financial reach, Southerners were forced to buy these products from the North at what they considered exorbitant costs.

Smart money might have concluded it would be wise for the South to build its own cotton mills and its own manufactories, but its people were too attached to growing cotton. A visitor in the 1830s described the relentless cycle of the planters’ misallocation of spare capital: “To sell cotton to buy Negroes—to make more cotton to buy more Negroes—‘ad infinitum.’”

Such was the Southern mindset, but the tariff nearly kicked off the war 30 years early because, as the furor rose, South Carolina’s Calhoun, who was then running for vice president of the United States, declared that states—his own state in particular—were under no obligation to obey the federal tariff law, or to collect it from ships entering its harbors. Later, South Carolina legislators acted on this assertion and defied the federal government to overrule them, lest the state secede. This set off the Nullification Crisis, which held in theory (or wishful thinking) that a state could nullify or ignore any federal law it held was not in its best interests. The crisis was defused only when President Andrew Jackson sent warships into Charleston Harbor—but it also marked the first time a Southern state had threatened to secede from the Union.

The incident also set the stage for the states’ rights dispute, pitting state laws against the notion of federal sovereignty—an argument which became ongoing into the next century, and the next. “States’ rights” also became a Southern watchword for Northern (or “Yankee”) intrusion on the Southern lifestyle. States’ rights political parties sprang up over the South; one particular example of just how volatile the issue had become was embodied in the decision in 1831 of Nathaniel and Elizabeth Gist (ironically from Union, S.C.) to name their firstborn son “States Rights Gist,” a name he bore proudly until November 30, 1864, when, as a Confederate brigadier general, he was shot and killed leading his men at the Battle of Franklin in Tennessee.

Though the tariff question remained an open sore from its inception in 1828 right up to the Civil War, many modern historians have dismissed the impact it had on the growing rift between the two sections of the country. But any careful reading of newspapers, magazines or correspondence of the era indicates that here is where the feud began to fester into hatred. Some Southern historians in the past have argued this was the root cause of the Civil War. It wasn’t, but it was a critical ingredient in the suspicion and mistrust Southerners were beginning to feel about their Northern brethren, and by extension about the Union itself. Not only did the tariff issue raise for the first time the frightening specter of Southern secession, but it also seemed to have marked a mazy kind of dividing line in which the South vaguely started thinking of itself as a separate entity—perhaps even a separate country. Thus the cat, or at least the cat’s paw, was out of the bag.

All the resenting and seething naturally continued to spill over into politics. The North, with immigrants pouring in, vastly outnumbered the South in population and thus controlled the House of Representatives. But the U.S. Senate, by a sort of gentleman’s agreement laced with the usual bribes and threats, had remained 50-50, meaning that whenever a territory was admitted as a free state, the South got to add a corresponding slave state—and vice versa. That is until 1820, when Missouri applied for statehood and anti-slavery forces insisted it must be free. Ultimately, this resulted in Congress passing the Missouri Compromise, which decreed that Missouri could come in as a slave state (and Maine as a free state) but any other state created north of Missouri’s southern border would have to be free. That held the thing together for longer than it deserved.

In plain acknowledgement that slavery was an offensive practice, Congress in 1808 banned the importation of African slaves. Nevertheless there were millions of slaves living in the South, and their population continued growing. Beginning in the late 18th century, a small group of people in New England concluded that slavery was a social evil, and began to agitate for its abolition—hence, of course, the term “abolitionist.”

Over the years this group became stronger and by the 1820s had turned into a full-fledged movement, preaching abolition from pulpits and podiums throughout the North, publishing pamphlets and newspapers, and generally stirring up sentiments both fair and foul in the halls of Congress and elsewhere. At first the abolitionists concluded that the best solution was to send the slaves back to Africa, and they actually acquired land in what is now Liberia, returning a small colony of ex-bondsmen across the ocean.

By the 1840s, the abolitionists had decided that slavery was not simply a social evil, but a “moral wrong,” and began to agitate on that basis.

This did not sit well with the churchgoing Southerners, who were now subjected to being called unpleasant and scandalous names by Northerners they did not even know. This provoked, among other things, religious schisms, which in the mid-1840s caused the American Methodist and Baptist churches to split into Northern and Southern denominations. Somehow the Presbyterians hung together, but it was a strain, while the Episcopal church remained a Southern stronghold and firebrand bastion among the wealthy and planter classes. Catholics also maintained their solidarity, prompting cynics to suggest it was only because they owed their allegiance to the pope of Rome rather than to any state, country or ideal.

Abolitionist literature began showing up in the Southern mails, causing Southerners to charge the abolitionists with attempting to foment a slave rebellion, the mere notion of which remained high on most Southerners’ anxiety lists. Murderous slave revolts had occurred in Haiti, Jamaica and Louisiana and more recently resulted in the killing of nearly 60 whites during the Nat Turner slave uprising in Virginia in 1831.

During the Mexican War the United States acquired enormous territories in the West, and what by then abolitionists called the “slave power” was pressing to colonize these lands. That prompted an obscure congressman from Pennsylvania to submit an amendment to a Mexican War funding bill in 1846 that would have prevented slavery in any territory acquired from Mexico—which became known, after its author, as the Wilmot Proviso. Even though it failed to pass into law, the very act of presenting the measure became a cause célèbre among Southerners who viewed it as further evidence that Northerners were not only out to destroy their “peculiar institution,” but their political power as well.

In 1850, to the consternation of Southerners, California was admitted into the Union as a free state—mainly because the Gold Rush miners did not want to find themselves in competition with slave labor. But for the first time it threw the balance of power in the Senate to the Northern states.

By then national politics had become almost entirely sectional, a dangerous business, pitting North against South—and vice versa—in practically all matters, however remote. To assuage Southern fury at the admission of free California, Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which made Northerners personally responsible for the return of runaway slaves. Contrary to its intentions, the act actually galvanized Northern sentiments against slavery because it seemed to demand direct assent to, and personal complicity with, the practice of human bondage.

During the decade of the 1850s, crisis seemed to pile upon crisis as levels of anger turned to rage, and rage turned to violence. One of the most polarizing episodes between North and South occurred upon the 1852 publication of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which depicted the slave’s life as a relentless nightmare of sorrow and cruelty. Northern passions were inflamed while furious Southerners dismissed the story en masse as an outrageously skewed and unfair portrayal. (After the conflict began it was said that Lincoln, upon meeting Mrs. Stowe, remarked, “So you are the little lady who started this great war?”)

In 1854 the Kansas-Nebraska Act, sponsored by frequent presidential candidate Stephen A. Douglas, overturned the Missouri Compromise and permitted settlers in the Kansas Territory to choose for themselves whether they wanted a free or slave state. Outraged Northern abolitionists, horrified at the notion of slavery spreading by popular sovereignty, began raising funds to send anti-slave settlers to Kansas.

Equally outraged Southerners sent their own settlers, and a brutish group known as Border Ruffians from slaveholding Missouri went into Kansas to make trouble for the abolitionists. Into this unfortunate mix came an abolitionist fanatic named John Brown riding with his sons and gang. And as the murders and massacres began to pile up, newspapers throughout the land carried headlines of “Bleeding Kansas.”

In the halls of Congress, the slavery issue had prompted feuds, insults, duels and finally a divisive gag rule that forbade even discussion or debate on petitions about the issue of slavery. But during the Kansas controversy a confrontation between a senator and a congressman stood out as particularly shocking. In 1856, Charles Sumner, a 45-year-old Massachusetts senator and abolitionist, conducted a three-hour rant in the Senate chamber against the Kansas-Nebraska Act, focusing in particular on 59-year-old South Carolina Senator Andrew Butler, whom he mocked and compared to a pimp, “having taken as his mistress the harlot, Slavery.” Two days later Congressman Preston Brooks, a nephew of the demeaned South Carolinian, appeared beside Sumner’s desk in the Senate and caned him nearly to death with a gold-headed gutta-percha walking stick.

By then, every respectable-sized city, North and South, had a half-dozen newspapers and even small towns had at least one or more; and the revolutionary new telegraph brought the latest news overnight or sooner. Throughout the North, the caning incident triggered profound indignation that was transformed into support for a new anti-slavery political party. In the election of 1856, the new Republican Party ran explorer John C. Frémont, the famed “Pathfinder,” for president, and even though he lost, the party had become a force to be reckoned with.

In 1857 the U.S. Supreme Court delivered its infamous Dred Scott decision, which elated Southerners and enraged Northerners. The court ruled, in essence, that a slave was not a citizen, or even a person, and that slaves were “so far inferior that they [have] no rights which the white man [is] bound to respect.” Southerners were relieved that they could now move their slaves in and out of free territories and states without losing them, while in the North the ruling merely drove more people into the anti-slavery camp.

Then in 1859, John Brown, of Bleeding Kansas notoriety, staged a murderous raid on the U.S. arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Va., hoping to inspire a general slave uprising. The raid was thwarted by U.S. troops, and Brown was tried for treason and hanged; but when it came out that he was being financed by Northern abolitionists, Southern anger was profuse and furious—especially after the Northern press elevated Brown to the status of hero and martyr. It simply reinforced the Southern conviction that Northerners were out to destroy their way of life.

As the crucial election of 1860 approached, there arose talk of Southern secession by a group of “fire-eaters”— influential orators who insisted Northern “fanatics” intended to free slaves “by law if possible, by force if necessary.” Hectoring abolitionist newspapers and Northern orators (known as Black, or Radical Republicans) provided ample fodder for that conclusion.

The 1850s drew to a close in near social convulsion and the established political parties began to break apart—always a dangerous sign. The Whigs simply vanished into other parties; the Democrats split into Northern and Southern contingents, each with its own slate of candidates. A Constitutional Union party also appeared, looking for votes from moderates in the Border States. As a practical matter, all of this assured a victory for the Republican candidate, Abraham Lincoln, who was widely, if wrongly, viewed in the South as a rabid abolitionist. With the addition of Minnesota (1858) and Oregon (1859) as free states, the Southerners’ greatest fears were about to be realized—complete control of the federal government by free-state, anti-slavery politicians.

With the vote split four ways, Lincoln and the Republicans swept into power in November 1860, gaining a majority of the Electoral College, but only a 40 percent plurality of the popular vote. It didn’t matter to the South. In short order, always pugnacious South Carolina voted to secede from the Union, followed by six other Deep South states that were invested heavily in cotton.

Much of the Southern apprehension and ire that Lincoln would free the slaves was misplaced. No matter how distasteful he found the practice of slavery, the overarching philosophy that drove Lincoln was a hard pragmatism that did not include the forcible abolition of slavery by the federal government—for the simple reason that he could not envision any political way of accomplishing it. But Lincoln, like a considerable number of Northern people, was decidedly against allowing slavery to spread into new territories and states. By denying slaveholders the right to extend their boundaries, Lincoln would in effect also be weakening their power in Washington, and over time this would almost inevitably have resulted in the abolition of slavery, as sooner or later the land would have worn out.

But that wasn’t bad enough for the Southern press, which whipped up the populace to such a pitch of fury that Lincoln became as reviled as John Brown himself. These influential journals, from Richmond to Charleston and myriad points in between, painted a sensational picture of Lincoln in words and cartoons as an arch-abolitionist—a kind of antichrist who would turn the slaves loose to rape, murder and pillage. For the most part, Southerners ate it up. If there is a case to be made on what caused the Civil War, the Southern press and its editors would be among the first in the dock. It goes a long way in explaining why only one in three Confederate soldiers were slaveholders, or came from slaveholding families. It wasn’t their slaves they were defending, it was their homes against the specter of slaves-gone-wild.

Interestingly, many if not most of the wealthiest Southerners were opposed to secession for the simple reason that they had the most to lose if it came to war and the war went badly. But in the end they, like practically everyone else, were swept along on the tide of anti-Washington, anti-abolition, anti-Northern and anti-Lincoln rhetoric.

To a lesser extent, the Northern press must accept its share of blame for antagonizing Southerners by damning and lampooning them as brutal lash-wielding torturers and heartless family separators. With all this back and forth carrying on for at least the decade preceding war, by the time hostilities broke out, few either in the North or the South had much use for the other, and minds were set. One elderly Tennessean later expressed it this way: “I wish there was a river of fire a mile wide between the North and the South, that would burn with unquenchable fury forevermore, and that it could never be passable to the endless ages of eternity by any living creature.”

The immediate cause of Southern secession, therefore, was a fear that Lincoln and the Republican Congress would have abolished the institution of slavery—which would have ruined fortunes, wrecked the Southern economy and left the South to contend with millions of freed blacks. The long-term cause was a feeling by most Southerners that the interests of the two sections of the country had drifted apart, and were no longer mutual or worthwhile.

The proximate cause of the war, however, was Lincoln’s determination not to allow the South to go peacefully out of the Union, which would have severely weakened, if not destroyed, the United States.

There is the possibility that war might have been avoided, and a solution worked out, had there not been so much mistrust on the part of the South. Unfortunately, some of the mistrust was well earned in a bombastic fog of hatred, recrimination and outrageous statements and accusations on both sides. Put another way, it was well known that Lincoln was anti-slavery, but both during his campaign for office and after his election, he insisted it was never his intention to disturb slavery where it already existed. The South simply did not believe him.

The Lincoln administration was able to quell secession movements in several Border States—Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland and what would become West Virginia—by a combination of politics and force, including suspension of the Bill of Rights. But when Lincoln ordered all states to contribute men for an army to suppress the rebellion South Carolina started by firing on Fort Sumter, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina also joined the Confederacy rather than make war on their fellow Southerners.

“Because of incompatibility of temper,” a Southern woman was prompted to lament, “we have hated each other so. If we could only separate, a ‘separation a l’agreable,’ as the French say it, and not have a horrid fight for divorce.”

Things had come a long way during the nearly 250 years since the Dutchman delivered his cargo of African slaves to the wharf at Jamestown, but in 1860 almost everyone agreed that a war wouldn’t last long. Most thought it would be over by summertime.


Article originally published in the September 2010 issue of America’s Civil War.

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Causes Of The Civil War

The Northern and Southern sections of the United States developed along different lines. The South remained a predominantly agrarian economy while the North became more and more industrialized. Different social cultures and political beliefs developed. All of this led to disagreements on issues such as taxes, tariffs and internal improvements as well as states rights versus federal rights.

Slavery

The burning issue that led to the disruption of the union, however, was the debate over the future of slavery. That dispute led to secession, and secession brought about a war in which the Northern and Western states and territories fought to preserve the Union, and the South fought to establish Southern independence as a new confederation of states under its own constitution.

The agrarian South utilized slaves to tend its large plantations and perform other duties. On the eve of the Civil War, some 4 million Africans and their descendants toiled as slave laborers in the South. Slavery was interwoven into the Southern economy even though only a relatively small portion of the population actually owned slaves. Slaves could be rented or traded or sold to pay debts. Ownership of more than a handful of slaves bestowed respect and contributed to social position, and slaves, as the property of individuals and businesses, represented the largest portion of the region’s personal and corporate wealth, as cotton and land prices declined and the price of slaves soared.

The states of the North, meanwhile, one by one had gradually abolished slavery. A steady flow of immigrants, especially from Ireland and Germany during the potato famine of the 1840s and 1850s, insured the North a ready pool of laborers, many of whom could be hired at low wages, diminishing the need to cling to the institution of slavery.

The Dred Scott Decision

Dred Scott was a slave who sought citizenship through the American legal system, and whose case eventually ended up in the Supreme Court. The famous Dred Scott Decision in 1857 denied his request stating that no person with African blood could become a U.S. citizen. Besides denying citizenship for African-Americans, it also overturned the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which had restricted slavery in certain U.S. territories.

States’ Rights

States’ Rights refers To the struggle between the federal government and individual states over political power. In the Civil War era, this struggle focused heavily on the institution of slavery and whether the federal government had the right to regulate or even abolish slavery within an individual state. The sides of this debate were largely drawn between northern and southern states, thus widened the growing divide within the nation.

Abolitionist Movement

By the early 1830s, those who wished to see that institution abolished within the United States were becoming more strident and influential. They claimed obedience to “higher law” over obedience to the Constitution’s guarantee that a fugitive from one state would be considered a fugitive in all states. The fugitive slave act along with the publishing of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin helped expand the support for abolishing slavery nationwide.

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabins was published in serial form in an anti-slavery newspaper in 1851 and in book format in 1852. Within two years it was a nationwide and worldwide bestseller. Depicting the evils of slavery, it offered a vision of slavery that few in the nation had seen before. The book succeeded at its goal, which was to start a wave of anti-slavery sentiment across the nation. Upon meeting Stowe, President Lincoln remarked, “So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war.”

The Underground Railroad

Some abolitionists actively helped runaway slaves to escape via “the Underground Railroad,” and there were instances in which men, even lawmen, sent to retrieve runaways were attacked and beaten by abolitionist mobs. To the slave holding states, this meant Northerners wanted to choose which parts of the Constitution they would enforce, while expecting the South to honor the entire document. The most famous activist of the underground railroad was Harriet Tubman, a nurse and spy in the Civil War and known as the Moses of her people.

The Missouri Compromise

Additional territories gained from the U.S.–Mexican War of 1846–1848 heightened the slavery debate. Abolitionists fought to have slavery declared illegal in those territories, as the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 had done in the territory that became the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin. Advocates of slavery feared that if the institution were prohibited in any states carved out of the new territories the political power of slaveholding states would be diminished, possibly to the point of slavery being outlawed everywhere within the United States. Pro- and anti-slavery groups rushed to populate the new territories.

John Brown

In Kansas, particularly, violent clashes between proponents of the two ideologies occurred. One abolitionist in particular became famous—or infamous, depending on the point of view—for battles that caused the deaths of pro-slavery settlers in Kansas. His name was John Brown. Ultimately, he left Kansas to carry his fight closer to the bosom of slavery.

The Raid On Harper’s Ferry

On the night of October 16, 1859, Brown and a band of followers seized the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia), in what is believed to have been an attempt to arm a slave insurrection. (Brown denied this at his trial, but evidence indicated otherwise.) They were dislodged by a force of U.S. Marines led by Army lieutenant colonel Robert E. Lee.

Brown was swiftly tried for treason against Virginia and hanged. Southern reaction initially was that his acts were those of a mad fanatic, of little consequence. But when Northern abolitionists made a martyr of him, Southerners came to believe this was proof the North intended to wage a war of extermination against white Southerners. Brown’s raid thus became a step on the road to war between the sections.

The Election Of Abraham Lincoln

Exacerbating tensions, the old Whig political party was dying. Many of its followers joined with members of the American Party (Know-Nothings) and others who opposed slavery to form a new political entity in the 1850s, the Republican Party. When the Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln won the 1859 presidential election, Southern fears that the Republicans would abolish slavery reached a new peak. Lincoln was an avowed opponent of the expansion of slavery but said he would not interfere with it where it existed.

Southern Secession

That was not enough to calm the fears of delegates to an 1860 secession convention in South Carolina. To the surprise of other Southern states—and even to many South Carolinians—the convention voted to dissolve the state’s contract with the United States and strike off on its own.

South Carolina had threatened this before in the 1830s during the presidency of Andrew Jackson, over a tariff that benefited Northern manufacturers but increased the cost of goods in the South. Jackson had vowed to send an army to force the state to stay in the Union, and Congress authorized him to raise such an army (all Southern senators walked out in protest before the vote was taken), but a compromise prevented the confrontation from occurring.

Perhaps learning from that experience the danger of going it alone, in 1860 and early 1861 South Carolina sent emissaries to other slave holding states urging their legislatures to follow its lead, nullify their contract with the United States and form a new Southern Confederacy. Six more states heeded the siren call: Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. Others voted down secession—temporarily.

Fort Sumter

On April 10, 1861, knowing that resupplies were on their way from the North to the federal garrison at Fort Sumter in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina, provisional Confederate forces in Charleston demanded the fort’s surrender. The fort’s commander, Major Robert Anderson, refused. On April 12, the Confederates opened fire with cannons. At 2:30 p.m. the following day, Major Anderson surrendered.

War had begun. Lincoln called for volunteers to put down the Southern rebellion. Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina and Tennessee, refusing to fight against other Southern states and feeling that Lincoln had exceeded his presidential authority, reversed themselves and voted in favor of session. The last one, Tennessee, did not depart until June 8, nearly a week after the first land battle had been fought at Philippi in Western Virginia. (The western section of Virginia rejected the session vote and broke away, ultimately forming a new, Union-loyal state, West Virginia. Other mountainous regions of the South, such as East Tennessee, also favored such a course but were too far from the support of Federal forces to attempt it.) Learn more about the battle of Fort Sumter


 

Apr 262013
 

IRS to increase “pre-crime” enforcement

by Simon Black on April 12, 2011

April 12, 2011
Vina del Mar, Chile

Did you ever see Minority Report? It’s one of Steven Spielberg’s often forgotten about movies based on the short story by Philip K. Dick. In the movie, pre-couch Tom Cruise plays a police officer in the year 2054 who works for the highly specialized ‘pre-crime’ division.

Using a bizarre array of technology and metaphysics, the pre-crime division sees into the future and stops criminals in their tracks, arresting them before they commit a crime… sometimes before they even think about committing a crime.

minority report ui IRS to increase pre crime enforcement

This very elaborate and morally ambiguous law enforcement system is predicated on the government determining what your actions and intentions will be, often before you do. It’s not all science fiction.

A number of politicians and bureaucrats in Washington D.C. are seeking to step up the Internal Revenue Service’s powers, and technology, to essentially audit taxpayers before returns are even filed.

In remarks to the National Press Club last week, an IRS spokesman unveiled the agency’s vision for the “look forward” model in which most of the pertinent reporting information for the average taxpayer (W2, 1099, mortgage interest etc.) would be submitted to the IRS well in advance of the individual deadline.

After a massive upgrade in technology, the IRS would be able to pre-calculate what it expects to receive in taxes and instantly reject any return that doesn’t comply with its determination.

This may work fine and well for some wage earners… but start throwing in a few investment accounts, small business income, private partnerships, etc. and things can quickly diverge from the IRS estimates.

Imagine you start a new business on the side of your usual employment this year and take an initial loss due to ancillary startup costs. This wouldn’t factor into the machine’s pre-calculations of your tax liability, so you would be immediately rejected and flagged for additional scrutiny.

Makes you want to run out and start a business, or invest your capital in someone else’s, right? Not exactly.

Deep down, I think these people simply want to try and make things more efficient. Pre-crime is not the way to go. There are a number of countries that have incredibly successful tax codes, and there are common themes in all of them:

1) Keep it short. The Baltic countries are a great example of this– the entire Estonian tax code is about 70 pages, roughly 1/1000th the size of the US tax code (which is still prone to so much interpretation). It takes about 15 minutes to fill out an Estonian return, and you can do it online. In the Maldives, it’s even easier.

2) Keep it simple. When you have a tax code that’s so complex it has given rise to a multi-billion dollar preparation industry, you have a problem. There are dozens of different forms at the IRS, and over 20 versions for the 1099 alone! This is a system that is prone to massive flaws and a great deal of contradiction.

Hong Kong is a great example of a simple system. Taxes are levied at a flat rate of 15% based on the “territorial principal” that only income derived from Hong Kong is taxed. There is no capital gains tax, no VAT, no estate tax, etc. And yet, the biggest problem the Hong Kong government faces regarding taxes is how to give away their massive surplus.

3) Keep it low. When you make it easy and painless for people to pay taxes, it removes most of the incentives for them to cheat. In Singapore, tax rates are among the lowest in the world with a maximum rate of 20%. The capital gains rate is zero. The corporate rate varies from 0% to 17% (and keeps falling).

Under these circumstances, why cheat? By keeping rates low, the government is removing any incentive to engage in complicated (and costly) tax avoidance techniques. From a cost/benefit perspective, it’s much easier to comply when rates are low.

4) Keep it friendly. Creating an adversarial relationship with taxpayers doesn’t do anyone any favors. One of the key themes of the world’s most successful tax regimes is that they do not operate like a police agency that’s out to get people. This is a massive hurdle for the IRS to overcome.

Perhaps the polar opposite of this is Switzerland, where tax evasion is considered a civil matter, not a criminal matter. In Switzerland, the local cantonal tax authorities actually compete with each other for your business, rather than sticking you up for cash under penalty of imprisonment.

The US government is now searching for answers. Behind close doors, politicians are likely admitting to each other that the kitty is empty and they’re completely bankrupt. They don’t have to look far for solutions– the best models in the world are already in practice and have been successfully implemented.

Rather than making things easier, less painful, friendlier, and simpler, the US government seems to be taking the opposite approach– hiring more agents to sniff out ‘suspicious’ activity (defined in their sole discretion), raising taxes, and relying on fear and intimidation.

I suspect this path will have the opposite effect– instead of raising more money for a bankrupt government, it will continue to chase out productive people. More on that in a future letter.

Apr 022013
 

Bob Podolsky on Declare your Independence

Robert Podolsky, is the son of famous physicist Boris Podolsky.

Podolsky who was a key in formulating the Einstein – Podolsky – Rosen (EPR) paper on quantum entanglement. Bob is promoting the Titania Project; self-organizing networks of humans which would displace hierarchical government, i.e. anarchy but not chaos.

2013-02-06 Hour 3 Robert Podolsky from Ernest Hancock on Vimeo.