Houthi rebels kill ex-Yemeni president Saleh

Yemen

I was planning on analyzing The Economist’s latest cover story, which analyzes the humanitarian tragedy in Yemen. However, today’s news of Houthi rebels killing ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh is a shocking development:

IT WAS an unceremonious end for an Arab leader who had dominated his country for decades. On December 4th Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen’s former dictator, was killed outside the capital Sana’a, which has been paralysed by a week of fighting. A video circulated online showed his bloodied body wrapped in a blanket, surrounded by militiamen. State television called the former president “the leader of the traitors”. His death is likely to escalate a three-year civil war that has laid waste to the country. It was also a microcosm of Yemen’s complexity: Mr Saleh was killed by former foes who had become allies, only to become enemies again.

As The Economist discusses above, an already-complex war has become even more so.

The implications of this murder on the plight of Yemenis, who have been suffering from starvation and cholera, could be staggering. If Daniel Larison is correct, an already-intolerable humanitarian crisis could become far, far worse:

The fighting in the capital over the weekend was already very destructive and caused many civilian casualties, and further fighting between the factions there will be even more devastating. If the breakdown of the Houthi-Saleh alliance prompts a coalition assault on the capital, the loss of life could be great. The humanitarian situation in the country continues to grow more dire as the coalition blockade deprives the population of essential food, fuel, and medicine. The civilian population needs a complete halt to the fighting now more than ever, but unfortunately that seems unlikely to follow these events.

Please pray for the poor souls suffering in Yemen.

Book review: How Alexander Hamilton Screwed Up America, by Brion McClanahan

Alexander HamiltonAs entertaining as Lin-Manual Miranda’s Hamilton is, an unfortunate side effect has been American youngsters idolizing a man that has done an immense amount of damage to the American legal and political system. While Brion McClanahan’s new book How Alexander Hamilton Screwed Up America isn’t going to compete in popularity with the Broadway musical’s hip-hop songbook, it is a welcome remedy that clearly articulates Hamilton’s impact on American government.

McClanahan discusses the impact Hamiltonianism had on American politics through four key figures in American history: Hamilton himself, John Marshall, Joseph Story, and Hugo Black. Of course, Hamilton is the key figure in this narrative; McClanahan demonstrates him as the key mover behind American nationalism. John Marshall, as the first chief of the U.S. Supreme Court, uses Hamiltonian arguments to further the nationalist cause. Joseph Story, although a Supreme Court justice, solidifies the nationalist interpretation of the U.S. Constitution primarily through publishing a three-volume treatise on the document. Finally, Hugo Black, as a Supreme Court Justice in the 1960s, finalized the dominance of nationalist Constitutional though through a series of rulings that applied the Fourteenth Amendment to the activities of the states.

Throughout the book, McClanahan shows that these men had two things in common: they each sought to establish and maintain a national government, inconsistent with how the U.S. Constitution was structured and presented to state legislatures at the time of its adoption, and they were duplicitous in how they carried out their work.

The tone of the book is established right from the beginning. McClanahan pulls no punches when discussing Hamilton’s tactics while the Constitution was being designed, debated, and ratified:

Hamilton spoke out of both sides of his mouth. Put simply, he often lied, particularly when it came to defending federal power. Hamilton would craft a narrative of constitutional authority that would fit his agenda, but that narrative was often at odds with the story he spun when the Constitution was in the process of ratification. In 1787 and 1788, Hamilton sang a tune of federal restraint and limited central authority. When backed into a corner by Jefferson or James Madison after the Constitution was ratified, Hamilton would often backtrack and advance positions he favored during the Philadelphia Convention, namely for a supreme central authority with virtually unlimited power, particularly for the executive branch. This Hamilton was the real Hamilton, but the real Hamilton would never have been in a position to direct the future of the United States had he not been part of a disingenuous sales pitch to the states while the Constitution was being debated and ratified.

McClanahan is at his best when he supported well-constructed arguments by referring to a wide variety of original sources. Simply put, he knows his original sources. He uses them, and the arguments he articulates, in a nuanced and comprehensive manner.

In short, this is an excellent book that demonstrates how Alexander Hamilton and his fellow travelers throughout history moved American politics away from the decentralized general government, as articulated and originally understood in the Constitution, towards a national government. Lovers of American history, and American culture, would do well to read this brief yet powerful book.

 

The Economist: The case for taxing death

Death tax

This author has a love-hate relationship with The Economist. I love to hate it.

My dissatisfaction with it rests primarily on its hiding behind the moniker of being a conservative, free market magazine while advocating for the worst statist positions possible. With a straight face, and far too many words, they persistently push for central banking, neocon foreign policies, and policies designed to “confront” global warming.

The latest example of its chicanery is its latest cover story, which makes a case for the estate tax.

The magazine claims that the estate tax pits “two vital liberal principles against each other.”

One is that governments should leave people to dispose of their wealth as they see fit. The other is that a permanent, hereditary elite makes a society unhealthy and unfair. How to choose between them?

The Economist creates a false sense of tension through its selection of these principles. The second one presumes that a permanent elite can arise in a society without the help of the state. However, the only way a permanent ruling class can arise is through the state.

To paraphrase Murray Rothbard and Franz Oppenheimer, there are two ways of acquiring wealth: by selling products and services through the free market, or by stealing other people’s stuff. A free market won’t allow a permanent elite to exist, unless that elite constantly provides value through providing goods and services to people across generations. That is highly unlikely.

However, the state is essentially a framework through which stealing other people’s stuff is legitimized and made permanent. The only way an elite can be made permanent, let alone hereditary, is if a state is set up in such a way that allows for the designated elite to remain.

One would think that a publication located in Great Britain – which, after all, has a monarchy and used to have an active aristocracy – would appreciate this simple fact.

The rest of the article works through the exercise of resolving the supposed tension between the above two principles. In the end, the magazine argues that the estate tax should remain, primarily because it is the “least distorting” of taxes.

Unlike income taxes, they do not destroy the incentive to work—whereas research suggests that a single person who inherits an amount above $150,000 is four times more likely to leave the labour force than one who inherits less than $25,000. Unlike capital-gains taxes, heavier estate taxes do not seem to dissuade saving or investment. Unlike sales taxes, they are progressive. To the extent that a higher inheritance tax can fund cuts to all other taxes, the system can be more efficient.

However, Hans Sennholz argues in “The Envy Tax” that none of these arguments hold water.

Death duties are no painless levies, as the taxmen want us to believe; they actually affect the conditions and actions of three parties: wealthy owners, their heirs, and the public. Owners who created the wealth usually are aware of the confiscatory nature of their future estate levies and therefore may adjust their life styles while they are still alive. They may seek early retirement in leisure and play, enjoy their wealth, or give it away. Wealthy retirees support the fastest growth industry of our time, housing and entertainment of a large leisure class congregating in affluent retirement communities. Or they may redirect their talents and efforts toward estate tax avoidance or evasion in order to leave more wealth to the family.

The loss of capital is compounded by an army of tax accountants and attorneys who thrive on the administration and distribution of estates. The indirect costs of estate taxation often decimate productive capital as effectively as the death duties themselves. Billions of dollars are spent every year for devising and administering trusts and foundations which, loaded with tax attorneys and accountants, wage expensive battles with their counterparts in government, all frittering away productive capital. Many billions of dollars are sent abroad in search of reliable tax havens.

Death duties do not visibly destroy capital goods such as factories, oil wells, refineries, or stores; but the heirs may be forced to sell all or part of the estate in order to raise the cash needed for the tax payment. The cash consists of someone’s savings which will never build a factory or store, never drill an oil well, never manufacture a tool or die. They merely replace the capital consumed by government. When the death duties fall on a large private enterprise, many stockholders may take the place of the family paying the duties. Their investments are simple replacements of productive capital lost. The media may then speak of the “passing of an era.”

While The Economist recognizes that the estate tax forces heirs to sell business, farms, and homes to pay the tax, it pretends to come up with the practical suggestion that heirs should be allowed “to pay the duties gradually, from cashflow rather than by fire-sales.”

Because after all, what matters to The Economist is that government gets the revenue it deserves.

The magazine closes its attempt to have a “sensible discussion” on the issue by articulating three “design principles” behind an appropriate estate tax: target the wealthy, keep it simple, and reduce other taxes.

The Economist‘s last principle is the most ridiculous. Government are rarely inclined to reduce taxes while putting new taxes in place.

Rather than focusing on how a tax that shouldn’t exist be designed, I have an even better idea.

How about if governments stop getting involved in monetary policy, stay out of the affairs of other countries (and the affairs of its constituents, I might add), and protect property rights?

While this wouldn’t be anarcho-capitalism by any stretch of the imagination, these moves would lead to far smaller governments, thereby reducing the amount of taxpayer money needed, cutting the number of parasitical elites that would live off of government largesse, and eliminating the need for a death tax.

Your welcome, Economist.

I solved your problem for you.

 

The Narrative must die so that civilization may live.

Civilization without The Narrative

For those of us who yearn to live in civilized society, there is this gnawing feeling that society is not well-ordered because the framework in which it functions is not well-ordered. In fact, there is a clear sense that the framework is based on nothing but a basket of lies. That is because the framework upon which contemporary society rests is The Narrative.

Vox Day describes the Narrative in his book SJWs Always Lie in this way:

The Narrative is the story that the SJWs want to tell. It is the fiction they want you to believe; it is the reality that they want to create through the denial of the problematic reality that happens to exist at the moment. And there is no one definitive Narrative. Instead, there are many Narratives, all of them subject to change at any time, thereby requiring the SJW who subscribes to them to be able to change his own professed beliefs on demand as well.

My issue with Day’s description of the Narrative isn’t that it is too broad; if anything, it is not broad enough. SJWs are merely foot soldiers for the ruling elite. Politicians, crony capitalists, lazy academics, mainstream journalists, and the like ultimately benefit from the many Narratives, because they justify their continuing control over society. However, these Narratives are based on the flimsiest of reasons, and in far too many cases, lies.

Narratives may be helpful to those in power, but they ain’t no way to run a civilization. If falsehood is the basis of power and authority, the simple result is continuous conflict and violence across society. Stefan Molyneux, in his book The Art of the Argument, summarizes the challenge well:

In the hurly-burly of human interactions, we will always have disagreements, which is nothing to be upset about, as these productive conflicts produce the very sparks of progress. The fundamental question is: how will we resolve these disagreements? Historically, two “answers” have been implemented – fundamentalist religiosity, and government power. The third alternative – far more civilized – is The Argument, the reasoned debate, the honest willingness to submit to the higher standards of reason and evidence.

In the absence of this mutual surrender to a higher standard, we end up surrendering to lower standards – superstition, government force, bullying, intimidation, sophistry, you name it. In human society, it is literally The Argument – or else.

We all possess an animalistic side that seeks power over others, over resources. Curbing this side is the essential task of civilization, and the only tools it has at its disposal are philosophy, reason, evidence, and empiricism – the anti-madness magic of clear and critical thinking. We either surrender to facts, or we must be forced to surrender to each other. We are either dominated by reality, or by force and lies. As the old song says, you have to serve somebody.

In the current conflict between The Argument or The Narrative, The Narrative is the prevailing force throughout society.

And what havoc has it wrought.

The Narrative’s primary strength is it is impervious to The Argument. It could care less about reason and evidence. Rather, it seeks the highest rhetorical ground from which to destroy its intellectual opponents, otherwise known as enemies. To those who convey The Narrative, what matters isn’t finding the truth, but holding power.

Such Narrators see interactions with intellectual opponents in martial terms because to them, engagement with such opponents is not a dialogue but a battle to win. Vox Day observed that the Narrator’s primary tool is to play upon the emotions of their audience to get them to agree with The Narrative in question. Arguments per se don’t work with them; narratives, stories, and fairy tales do.

Does that mean that all is lost to stories and fairy tales based on nothing but lies? By no means! Rhetoric needs to be met with rhetoric as fire needs to be met with fire. In a conflict set in the world of ideas, bad ideas communicated through Narratives need to be mocked, scolded, jeered, and just plain old rejected.

However, rhetoric that confronts The Narrative must be based on truth. The Argument needs to support any narrative that attacks The Narrative. Otherwise, there is the risk that, just as in The Who’s We Won’t Be Fooled Again, the new boss is the same as the old boss, and society operates on just another set of lies.

That does not mean Narrative-crushing rhetoric can’t evolve over time, or be supported by arguments from other perspectives that, while complementary to one’s world view, is not wholly consistent with the author. On the contrary. Honest conversations between such voices can only help strengthen their respective positions while sharpening the attacks against those lies that they commonly abhor.

For far too long, the ruling elite have been able to maintain power while the purchasing power of money continues to decline, foreign wars continue unabated, migration patterns suffocate already-suffering welfare states, poverty and homelessness increase in both town and country, and high taxes and bloated administrative states throttle the entrepreneurial spirit. These antisocial forces have been justified by many Narratives. However, the value these Narratives provide to the elite decline with each successive statement. The Age of the American Empire is nearing its end. What matters now is what will replace it. Will it be a society based on The Narrative, or The Argument?

To anyone who values the truth in any meaningful way, and is concerned about the future for their children and their progeny, there is only one side to take.

Civilization itself depends on it.

Spain (and Europe) are losing control of the narrative

FILE PHOTO: Northern League party leader Matteo Salvini (C) poses with the Lion of Saint Mark flag, with politicians Luca Zaia (L) and Roberto Maroni, during a rally downtown Rome, February 28, 2015. REUTERS/Max Rossi/File Photo

As Catalonia appears to be preparing to declare independence from Spain early next week, central governments across Europe are feeling increasingly anxious about their ability to control their respective secessionist movements.

Catalonia

The primary argument made by the Spanish government and its alles against Catalonian secession is that the region’s process to secede has been inconsistent with established law.

Thomas Harrington, professor of Hispanic Studies at Trinity College, calls that argument hogwash:

Do you remember all the procedurally pristine processes that led to the independence (and, in numerous cases, subsequent rapid entry into the EU) of countries like Kosovo, Croatia, Slovenia and a long list of others? I don’t either because they didn’t take place. And I certainly don’t remember any of today’s legion of newborn “proceduralists” raising any objections about it then.

What took place was that EU leadership class led by Germany saw in these countries as a new set of relatively virgin markets that were also filled with low wage labor that would allow them serve, in Emannuel Todd’s words, as Germany’s “Near China”.

Arguably more important that [t]his was NATO’s – which is to say the US’s – desire to surround the former Soviet Union with countries loyal to its geopolitical aims. They knew that by pressuring the Europeans to swiftly acquiesce to the independence of the newly declared independent countries of the east, they could quickly corral those countries into serving as part of the US’s emerging anti-Russian coalition, an absolutely essential element of the American’s long-term geopolitical plans.

In addition to avoiding these realities, the new army [of] oh-so-concerned proceduralists obviate the fact that from the very beginning of the current drive for independence in 2010 it has been precisely the Catalanists who have talked constantly about the need to carry the referendum off in the most transparent way possible, only to be told again and again by the Spanish state that there was nothing to talk about.

To hold up the lack of pristine procedure as a fatal strike against the Catalan cause when their natural interlocutor will not allow talks about proper procedure to even begin, is tantamount to severely penalizing a woman who finally walks out the door of her house after having had her perennial requests for a peaceful, no-contest divorce dismissed out of hand by the man she no longer loves.

Finally, if there is one thing that established states can always do, as we saw on Sunday in a particularly crude way, it is to sabotage the “procedures” of the the incipient states within its borders. To appoint the potential sabotager of democratic procedures, in this case Spain, as the judge of whether proper procedures were followed in the region seeking independence is, in addition to being patently absurd, to hand the established state an effective veto power sine die in the clash of political interests

I don’t remember anyone granting the Serbs or the Russians this absurd privilege in earlier times. Why then are supposedly liberal and democratic people bending over backwards to provide the Spaniards with it now?

Lombardia and Venezia

Meanwhile, Catalonia’s relatively successful attempt at holding a secession vote has given northern Italians an additional impetus to seek further autonomy from the central Italian government:

This month the Lombardy region and the city of Venice will both vote on new powers of autonomy at referendums which are now taking on increasing levels of controversy.

Previously seen as a low-scale vote on local powers, the referendums are now experiencing symbolic overtones following last Sunday’s Catalonian chaos.

Last weekend more than 800 people were injured by police as a referendum on independence for Catalonia was held – against the express wishes of leaders in Madrid and Brussels.

And now  is facing similar chaos with two referendums set to be held on October 22, although in these instances the votes are state-approved and will not face violent opposition.

The autonomy referendums for Lombardy, a region which includes Italy’s second-largest city of Milan, and the travel hotspot of Venice will also differ from Catalonia in that they are not binding.

The referendums will ask voters if they want their regional council to invoke the third paragraph of Article 116 of the Italian Constitution.

This allows regions with a balanced budget to ask the Italian government to entrust them with new powers and a greater degree of autonomy.

(h/t Vox Day)

Just the beginning?

Additionally, the Express correctly observed that “the consequences of two yes votes could be shattering for Italy, sparking other separatists movements across the European Union nation.” (By the way, isn’t it interesting that the article calls the EU a “nation”?) For example, in addition to Catalonia, many Basques want to be independence from Spain. Scotland is considering seceding from Britain. Furthermore, Belgium, France, and Denmark have to contend with secession movements of their own.

While EU bureaucrats had been dreaming about creating a European superstate, for now it appears that they’ll have to turn their attention to helping their member states remain in current form.

Whether they will be successful remains to be seen.

 

Catalonia votes for independence from Spain

From the Daily Mail:

Catalan officials claimed 90% of 2.2million voters had called for independence in an ‘illegal’ referendum blighted by violent scenes which left at least 888 people injured.

World leaders condemned the brutal scenes after officials revealed that hundreds of protesters have been injured so far.

Officers were seen kicking and stamping on protesters as they stormed buildings and seized ballot boxes.

Footage captured in the village of Sarria de Ter in the province of Girona showed authorities using an axe to smash down the doors of a polling station where Catalan president Carles Puigdemont was due to cast his vote.

He said the region had won the right to become an independent state with the referendum results due in a few days.

And in Barcelona, the region’s capital, officers fired rubber bullets at thousands of protesters demonstrating against their votes being denied.

While one can argue over whether the referendum truly reflects the general sense of Catalonians, one thing is clear: Spain has lost the moral high ground. As Vox Day writes:

Spain is losing the moral level of war in Catalonia. Badly. The Spanish can cry “the vote is illegal” all they like, but the Spanish government can no longer pretend to have democratic legitimacy in Catalonia or to be anything but an imperialist state governing an unwilling people by force. The vote is no longer even necessary at this point; world opinion is actively turning against Spain. Had Spain encouraged the vote and offered incentives for a No vote, it might well have won. But by fighting against it and resorting to violence – even well-restrained violence of the sort it has utilized thus far – it has significantly increased the likelihood that Catalans will vote for independence.

I also agree with Vox when he argues that while the Catalonian elite may well be a collection of economically ignorant fools, and rule by the will of the people may well be an illusion, Catalonians have the right to decide for themselves how they wish to be governed. Or put another way, regardless of what Spanish law may say, Spain does not have the right to prevent Catalonians from seceding.

Of course, this devolution from the center could lead to the further splintering of Spain. And Catalonia, for that matter. After all, the principle of self-determination naturally flows down to the individual.

In any event, Spain and the European Union have their hands full. Central governments have been plying their socialist trade for far too long. They have clearly failed their subjects (as if the elite cared about them in the first place), and the subjects are fighting back. Time will tell how Spain’s Catalonian problem will resolved.

Hopefully it will be done so peacefully.

Pray for Las Vegas

By now, practically everyone has heard of the massacre, presumably by Stephen Paddock, at a country music festival in Las Vegas. As of this writing, at least 58 people have been killed, and 515 people injured. This makes this the biggest mass shooting in American history.

While ISIS has claimed responsibility for the shooting, the FBI said that Paddock had no ties to the organization. If anything, the whole shooting seems bizarre. Based on what little I’ve learned, Paddock could very well have attended, and enjoyed, the festival he attacked.

Nevertheless, this horrible attack has directly harmed hundreds, if not thousands, of families. While we, the living, try to sort out what an earth happened last night, may I ask that you keep those who have been killed and wounded, and their loved ones, in your prayers?

Loving God,
Welcome into your arms the victims of violence and terrorism.
Comfort their families and all who grieve for them.
Help us in our fear and uncertainty,
And bless us with the knowledge that we are secure in your love.
Strengthen all those who work for peace,
And may the peace the world cannot give reign in our hearts.

Amen.

Veritas Project releases “American Pravda: Part 1, CNN”

Last night, James O’Keefe of Veritas Project released a teaser video on Twitter in which a hidden camera captures a CNN producer saying that the Russian narrative is bull**it.

Today, Veritas Project released Part 1 of its American Pravda series, in which the focus is on CNN.

The ominous title hints in a not-so-subtle manner that the American Pravda series will be targeting other MSM outfits.

So far, the video Veritas has captured so far is damning. John Bonifield clearly states that media is a business, and their editorial slant is geared towards satisfying liberal viewers who liked Obama but hate Trump.

That’s why the network has been focusing so much on Russia. There’s no real evidence indicating Russia actually tried to manipulate the previous presidential election. However, this focus is terrific for CNN’s ratings.

If this is only Part 1 of American Pravda, I can’t wait to see what happens next!

 

 

 

 

Seymour Hersh: The US attacked Syria knowing sarin wasn’t used in “gas attack”

In an earlier post, I documented my disgust with President Trump when he launched Tomahawk missiles against Syrian targets, in apparent retaliation of Syria’s use of sarin gas in an attack.

However, Seymour Hersh reports that while the American intelligence community knew that the Syrian did not use chemical weapons in general, and sarin particular, in the attack in question, Trump ordered the bombing anyways.

On April 6, United States President Donald Trump authorized an early morning Tomahawk missile strike on Shayrat Air Base in central Syria in retaliation for what he said was a deadly nerve agent attack carried out by the Syrian government two days earlier in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun.

Trump issued the order despite having been warned by the U.S. intelligence community that it had found no evidence that the Syrians had used a chemical weapon.

The available intelligence made clear that the Syrians had targeted a jihadist meeting site on April 4 using a Russian-supplied guided bomb equipped with conventional explosives.

Details of the attack, including information on its so-called high-value targets, had been provided by the Russians days in advance to American and allied military officials in Doha, whose mission is to coordinate all U.S., allied, Syrian and Russian Air Force operations in the region.

Hersh’s article is lengthy, and is worth reading in its entirety. However, the jist of the article is clear and, frankly, shocking.

 

Trump tweets on Obama turn tables on Democrats

For months, Democrats have tried to come up with some sort of evidence, any sort of evidence, demonstrating that Trump was somehow colluding with the Russians to win the 2016 election. Since November, all of the heat was generated by the left, and directed towards Trump.

However, earlier today, Trump launched four tweets that not only can the Democrats not ignore, but will more likely send them into an uncontrollable tizzy.

Frankly, what Trump did was ingenious. He took what the Democrats have been arguing all along, and reframed the discussion that puts the spotlight squarely on them.

When Democrats whine about how Trump’s tweets are not presidential, it has nothing to do with maintaining the dignity of the office. However, it has everything to do with trying everything they can to control what he says.

The Democrats simply can’t handle Trump. Their policies don’t work, and they can’t intimidate him into backing down.

The fact that they have no idea what Trump will post next makes them extremely uncomfortable.

Good.