“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Saturday, March 09, 2013

And now, we're arguing over whether the president of the United States in his role as commander in chief in an ill-defined, barely articulated "global war on terror" has the right to kill U.S. citizens without presenting any sort of charges to any sort of court. In fact, it's worse than that, since the president won't even share his rationale for what he may or may not believe with the country's legislature.

Nick Gillespie| Mar. 7, 2013 9:20 am reason

For all of the late-night punch-drunkiness that eventually ensued on Twitter (well, at least on my feed), yesterday's 12-hours-plus filibuster led by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is among the most electrifying and insipiring events in recent political memory. The point of the filibuster - which derailed a confirmation vote on John Brennan as Barack Obama's CIA head - was to call attention to the president's insufficient answers to questions about his policy of targeted killings via drones and, one assumes, other methods.
Here are three takeaways from yesterday's epic event:
1. It shows what one man can do to call attention to a hugely important issue that nonetheless is largley ignored by the mainstream media and the political establishment.
Elected in 2010, Rand Paul has rarely been the Republican - or the Democrat's - media favorite. He's been heckled big time from his own side (which initially worked against his election) and across the aisle as an irresponsible ideologue (he's a dirty tea-bagger don't you know!). Among a good chunk of his father's most devoted followers, he's been assailed as a neo-con war hawk who was willing to trim his libertarian bona fides to win favor with the D.C. party crowd. His sad-sack opponent in the general election, Jack Conway, set new lows with the infamous "Aqua Buddha" ad that accused Paul of everything short of devil worship; his opponent in the GOP primary, Trey Grayson, had already trotted out many of the same pathetic lines.

Yet since showing up in D.C., Paul has been exactly what Reason dubbed him: "The most intersting man in the Senate" who has offered specific legislation and made extended arguments for a unified vision of limited government that is not only fully within some great lines of American political tradition but urgently needed in the current moment. Senators who pride themselves on their foreign policy expertise and have free-loaded for decades in D.C. haven't made a speech as thoughtful and out-front as the one he delivered a while back at The Heritage Foundation, for god's sake.
Rand Paul didn't speak or act alone yesterday, of course - and props to the dozen or so colleagues (including a Democrat or two) who joined him on stage or otherwise engaged him. But the opthamologist from Bowling Green, Kentucky almost singelhandedly brought the news cycle to a halt yesterday by insisting that the American government answer some basic questions about how, when, where, and under what circumstances it thinks it has the right to kill its own citizens.
2. It shows the power of transpartisan thought and action. Make no mistake: Despite the presence of Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), yesterday's filibuster was a GOP-conducted orchestra. But what was most bracing and ultimately powerful thing about the filibuster was that none of the speakers exempted the Republican Party or former President George W. Bush, whose aggrandized view of executive power still roils the sleep of the Founding Fathers, from withering criticism and scrutiny. How else to explain that hard-left groups such as Code Pink were proud to #standwithrand yesterday on Twitter? The same with reliable Rand and GOP critic Eugene Robinson and many others who up until yesterday thought little of Rand Paul.
The filibuster succeeded precisely because it wasn't a cheap partisan ploy but because the substance under discussion - why won't the president of the United States, his attorney general, and his nominee to head the CIA explain their views on limits to their power? - transcends anything so banal or ephemeral as party affiliation or ideological score-settling.
The chills started early in the filibuster as Paul said things along the lines of, "If you're gonna kill people in America [as terrorists], you need rules and we need to know your rules," and "To be bombed in your sleep - there's nothing American, nothing constitutional, about that" (these quotes are paraphrases). Those are not the words of a career politician trying to gain an advantage during the next round of horse-trading over a pork-barrel project. They are the words of a patriot who puts his country first and they inspire accordingly.

3. It ties a direct line between the abuses of power and the growth of the state.
Despite using various self-identifiers over the years (he's called himself a libertarian, a conservative, a constitutional conservative, etc.) Rand Paul has always been rightly understood as an advocate of sharply limited and small government. During his Senate race, for instance, he said questions about drug legalization should be pushed back towards the states, where different models could be tried in accordance with the wishes of the people most directly affected. He presented a budget that was heavy on spending cuts that would have balanced the budget in five years. He has called for either actually declaring war on countries such as Iraq and Libya or getting the hell out. What unites his positions is a default setting against giving the federal government a free hand to do whatever it wants irrespective of constitutional limits.
A year or so ago, we were debating whether the government had the right to force its citizens to engage in particular economic activity - that was the heart of the fight over the mandate to buy insurance in Obamacare. That overreach - and the fear that a government that can make you buy something can also theoretically make you eat broccoli - was at the heart of Rand Paul's opposition to the Affordable Care Act. The Supreme Court ruled that in fact, the federal government not only has the right to regulate commercial transactions that take place anywhere in these United States, it has the right to force them to take place.
And now, we're arguing over whether the president of the United States in his role as commander in chief in an ill-defined, barely articulated "global war on terror" has the right to kill U.S. citizens without presenting any sort of charges to any sort of court. In fact, it's worse than that, since the president won't even share his rationale for what he may or may not believe with the country's legislature.
By foregounding the issues of limited government, transparency, and oversight as they relate specifically to the most obvious and brazen threat to civil liberties imaginable, Rand Paul and his filibuster have also tied a direct line to a far more wide-ranging and urgently needed conversation about what sort of government we have in America - and what sort of government we should have.


  1. McCain really is a loathsome character. I can’t believe that I voted for the jerk.

    1. How quickly we become our enemies.

      Our military can win wars, our intelligence agencies can disrupt networks and cripple and kill Al Qaeda and associated terrorists, but until our politicians and the people who elect them recognize that governing out of fear of another terror attack happening is not protecting the Constitution’s
      freedoms nor this nation, Al Qaeda will keep on winning in the only way that matters, wrecking our freedoms and rights.

      Most Democrats in the US are as corrupt as the Republicans.

      Their silence on civil liberties is tantamount to approval of such despicable and criminal practices of our government.

      Once our government claims its actions have something to do with "national security", most Americans have duped into accepting them without questioning the methods used by the government. Worse yet is the fact that hardly any Americans question what our government does outside the country's borders. Horrendous crimes may be committed under the shroud of secrecy and very few seem to be concerned about them.

  2. One of the benefits of a long life, an ability to reflect on your foolishness.

    1. Stewing in my aged juices is really just not my cup of tea.

      McCain never disappoints. (Chris Matthews)

    2. Live and learn. Who said that?

  3. How is this for FUBAR?

    KABUL, Afghanistan – The long-awaited transfer of the U.S. detention center in Afghanistan has been delayed once again as a deal struck between the two governments broke down the day before a planned handover ceremony.
    As recently as Friday morning, Afghan workers at the Defense Ministry were arranging transport for dignitaries and journalists to attend Saturday's ceremony at the detention center adjoining the Bagram Air Field, a U.S. base about an hour outside of the capital.
    Then on Saturday morning, organizers told journalists that the ceremony had been canceled. Afghan officials declined to give a reason for the cancellation.
    U.S. forces spokesman Jamie Graybeal says details of the transfer still needed to be worked out and a full agreement has not been reached.

    Read more:

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. The Definitive FUBAR will be Obamacare in action.

      More Are Quitting the Workforce Than Getting Jobs

      Jobs: Who can complain about nearly a quarter-million jobs created in February? Until, that is, you learn that more people left the labor force than got new jobs, continuing a long-term trend under President Obama.

      If anything, there are still some deeply troubling signs in the labor force that the February numbers have not dispelled. While the country gained 236,000 jobs, the ranks of those not in the labor force — people who don't have a job and stopped looking — swelled by 296,000.

      That continues a trend throughout the Obama recovery, which has seen the non-workforce climb almost twice as fast as people with jobs.

      Looked at another way, just 58.6% of Americans work today, down from 60.6% when Obama took office. The average over the previous two decades was 63%.

      Demographic changes can't explain these results, particularly given the many other signs that desperation, not retirement, is the driving force behind the explosive growth of nonworkers.

      There are, for example, 6.8 million people who aren't in the labor force but would be if there were jobs available. That's up more than 1 million since the recovery started in June 2009. The number of long-term unemployed is still higher than it was 3-1/2 years ago — and it jumped more than 90,000 in February.

      There's also the fact that 3.7 million workers have gone on the Social Security disability program since mid-June 2009, the fastest enrollment pace ever.

      And as we now know from the Fed's latest beige book, ObamaCare is playing a major role here as well, with businesses telling Fed banks across the country the law has caused them to lay off or not hire workers.

      Because of all this, the economy is still 3 million jobs below its previous peak. When you factor in population growth, the jobs deficit is more like 10 million.

      In this context, the February jobs report shouldn't be a cause for celebration so much as a rallying cry for pro-growth economic policies.

  5. At least nine people have been killed in an explosion outside the Afghan defence ministry in Kabul as US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel visits the country, officials have said.

    A police officer said all the dead were civilians and that "two or three" ministry personnel were among the injured in Saturday's blast.

    Officials said an apparent suicide attacker on a bicycle detonated explosives near the main entrance to the ministry.

    "A suicide attacker has detonated himself within 30 metres of the defence ministry gate," ministry spokesman Zahir Azimi said.

    The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

    "This was not a direct attack to target him [Hagel] but we want to send a message that we are always capable of hitting Kabul even when the top US defence official is there," Zabiullah Mujahid told the AFP news agency by telephone.

    Hagel was in a meeting at a coalition facility in the capital and defence officials said he was in a safe location and unharmed.

    Reporters travelling with Hagel were in a briefing when they heard the explosion, and were moved to a lower floor of the same building.

  6. Outsourced, your paycheck

    New findings show that the real earning power of men is on the decline, with most earning less today adjusting for inflation than they did when Jimmy Carter was president 34 years ago.

    Women, however, are doing much better, taking home more than they did in the late 70s, although they still earn less overall than their male counterparts.

    In 1979, according to Face the Facts, a project of George Washington University, the median weekly wage for men 16 and older was $844, compared to $832 in 2011.

    Read Latest Breaking News from
    Urgent: Should Obamacare Be Repealed? Vote Here Now!

  7. The empire strikes back

    Sixty-thousand federal employees responsible for securing the nation’s borders and facilitating trade will be furloughed for as many as 14 days starting next month because of $85 billion in cross-government spending cuts.

    The federal government notified the workers on Thursday, CNN reports.

    U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said the furloughs and other austerity measures would cause delays at ports of entry, including international arrivals at airports, and would reduce the number of border patrol officers on duty at any one time, CNN reports.

    Read Latest Breaking News from
    Urgent: Should Obamacare Be Repealed? Vote Here Now!

  8. McCain calls Filibuster a stunt.

    Van Jones says it is wrong to call it a stunt.

    Van Jones showing more insight than long gone John!

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  10. One last time, the Facts - from the

    BLS Website

    The Number of People Employed Rose from 143,322,000 to 143,492,000.

    1. The number of people in the Unemployed category Fell by 300,000.

    2. .

      But, (as I pointed out on the last stream),

      QuirkSat Mar 09, 02:24:00 AM EST

      It's good to see private sector jobs picking up even as government jobs drop.

      However, what is troubling is the macro look. The employment-to-population percentage is the same today as it was in 2009 at the bottom of the recession.

      And even the private sector, after four years, still hasn't gained back 3 million of the jobs it lost from the great recession.


    3. Automation, and Globalization.

      That's why "housing" is so important. It is resistant to both of these trends.

    4. The most important number in this jobs report might have been the 48,000 Construction jobs.

    5. Rufie loves The Definition of "Unemployed" much more than the reality.
      It supports his love affair w/BHO.

    6. Construction jobs courtesy of the Fed Managed Economy that brought us the Big Bust.

    7. ...which you confidently predicted would be no big thing when I first brought it up, long before it was widely recognized.

  11. I needed to thank you for this great read!! I certainly enjoyed
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  12. Obama, Rand Paul, John McCain, and the Drones -

    Is anyone else getting the feeling of a

    "Please, Sir, Don' throw Me in the Briar Patch" moment?

  13. Perhaps, but why is it that Congress hasn’t fulfilled its Constitutional responsibility to declare war since 1941? There has certainly been a lot of US fighting, dying and killing since then.

    There are at least six important questions concerning the handling of terrorism:

    1. What constitutes terrorism? - Schoolshootings?

    2. What are the causes for terrorism?

    3. Is the war on terror reducing terrorism?

    4. Is anti-terror legislation needed in order to reduce/prevent terrorism or terrorist attacks? What factual evidence do we have?

    5. If anti-terror legislation does reduce the probability of terrorist attacks, to which degree? Is it justified to keep it in place? - I mean we defend the second amendment fiercely although it costs innocent citizens’ lives, because we consider it to be an essential part of the democratic balance of power yet we are willing to have legislation like the Patriot Act in place although it constitutes a very strong intrusion into our rights and quite likely prevents few lives being lost.

    6. What effects have anti-terror legislations had on the international sphere, especially concerning American soft power and the proliferation of democratic values?

    1. Excellent, Jenny.

      I really think Rand Paul is pretty nutty; HOWEVER, if he can get our people talking seriously about those points that you delineated, he might be one of the most Valuable nutjobs in History.

    2. Can you imagine in the 1970's the following: renditions, secret prisons, drones, secret courts? The answer is no. The American people need to wake up and understand that the government is made up of people. And people make mistakes, become overzealous, and are stupid. We need safeguards and Senator Paul did a good thing.

  14. Terrorism? How about 19,000 American woman in the US military being raped and sexually assaulted by American military men:

    Only 240 cases of sexual assault in the military were prosecuted in 2011, out of more than 3,000 reported cases. The Department of Defense estimates that the number of actual sexual assaults in the military each year is closer to 19,000, although many service members never come forward out of fear of retaliation.

    Any man that rapes a woman is a criminal low life. We arm these savages and turn them loose world wide. They are an integral part of the US military. Think about that. How many rapes occurred in Iraq? How many killings of innocents?

    The Pentagon has tolerated this. What else have they tolerated?

  15. While the military has been accused of ignoring rape cases for years, the recent sexual assault scandal at the Lackland Airforce Base in Texas has focused national attention on the problem. Six basic training instructors at Lackland were charged with sexual misconduct involving at least 43 women, but the punishments for some of the perpetrators so far have been mild. After one of the instructors, Jason Manko, confessed to having had a sexual relationship with a trainee, he was sentenced to only 45 days in jail and was allowed to remain in the military.

    Panetta said he doesn't think the Lackland scandal is an isolated problem.

    "What we learned from what happened at Lackland Air Force Base is that there's a power game that can go on here that I think reflects what's happening in society in general," Panetta said. “When you’ve got 19,000 sexual assaults taking place, this is something that’s- happening elsewhere as well.”

    Is that even close to being true? There are 435,000 IBM employees worldwide. The US Army has 500,000 worldwide. Remember reading about all those IBMers raping and pillaging worldwide lately?

  16. “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark."

    1. Well, I'm going to share something that is really good (relax, it's Not about biofuels, ethanol, Wind Turbines, or Solar Panels.)

      It's about livestock, and stopping "desertification." I'll guarantee you, it's not what crossed your mind immediately.

      You've gotta watch This. Really, you do.

      Using Livestock to Reclaim Wasteland.

    2. Rat, you out there? What's your take on this?

  17. I think that I will have a quarter pounder for lunch.

  18. Replies
    1. He does have some pretty compelling "before and after" results.

  19. I added the channel as a link and throw it up as a future post. It is astounding and fits into Rat’s often repeated idea on privatizing public land. Now, how can this be done without large corporations taking over the entire enterprise?

    1. The problem I see is the up-front costs. Buy the herd, feed it the first year, or two, and supply the manpower to drive/manage the herd (knowing that it will be several years - maybe decades - before you can achieve any type of positive cash flow.)

      I know this doesn't fit with the Libertarian mindset, but it looks like the type of thing that will require some government participation. At least, initially.

    2. Wonderful, HHA (Homeland Herder Authority)

  20. Ranchers against farmers, again.

    1. Doesn't have to be. You're dealing with land that is pretty much worthless to anyone under current circumstances.

    2. I think the idea is that "after a few years" you can start doing a little farming on the land (although, probably not "year after year.")

      Cooperation, in this case, should result in some sort of "symbiotic" outcome - in theory, anyway.

  21. On FOX News, Senator Paul was worried about President Obama – and presumably his successors – using a drone to kill a US citizen inside the United States. This is a legitimate point, or would have been if the Senator’s concern was not coming at far too late a date.

    Unfortunately for our country, Senator Paul’s worry about the use of drones inside the United States is already long overtaken by events. Thirty and more years of uncontrolled land and coastal borders means two things: (a) we have no idea how many of our enemies or their surrogates are in America, and (b) we have no idea what kind of weaponry those enemies already have cached either in the United States or just across the border in Mexico and Canada.

    While American politicians have for 30 years argued over “immigration reform,” they have ignored the fact that the only important concern vis-a-vis US borders is their fundamental and direct relation to national defense. That consideration comes first, last, and always; all other concerns about the border are overwhelmingly less important. And because we have done nothing to protect ourselves by controlling our borders, we will at some point in the not too distant future see a president not only using drones inside the United States, but also using martial law to maintain order and causing federal law to be changed to allow US military forces to operate inside the country.

    If you think this is far-fetched it is only because you have been lulled to sleep by the mainstream media and the politicians, all of whom know but will not speak about the vital role controlled borders must play in national defense.

    The truth is, though, that none of us need the media, the politicians, or ribbon-bedecked general officers to tell us the obvious. America lost the war in Iraq because we could not or would not close Iraq’s borders to incoming mujahedin. We lost the Afghan war because we failed to even consider closing the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. We have lost the war on drugs because we have failed to control our own borders. The Syrian regime of Bashir al-Asaad is losing its war because it can no longer control its borders and stop the incoming flow of Islamist fighters. Israel is facing a substantial future threat because the Arab tyrants are no longer there to control their side of the borders they share with Israel. In short, uncontrolled borders inevitably lead to disaster.

    And America will be no exception to this hard and fast rule. Beyond the millions of undocumented aliens now in America, the US government has for the 30 years conducted an interventionist foreign policy that has threatened and bullied foreign countries and movements – many of which clearly merit bullying if not severe punishment – and has thereby earned an often intense enmity among them.

    During the same period, the US government left our borders uncontrolled, and unless our enemies are idiots – and they are not – they have taken advantage of those open borders to prepare for the day when they can (a) no longer abide US bullying or threats or (b) Washington undertakes direct military action against them. Does anyone seriously believe that Iran and the Sunni Islamist movement have not taken advantage of our open borders to insert fighters and weapons into the United States? Does anyone really buy the FBI’s traditional mantra that “we have not found them in America so they are not here”? Isn’t it just commonsense that America’s enemies – who have not a ghost’s chance in a stand-up fight with the US military – would prepare themselves to exact revenge by being prepared to cause carnage inside the United States? And would it not likewise have been commonsense for Washington to have controlled its borders as long as it was intent on conducting an interventionist foreign policy that it knows alienates much of the world?

  22. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  23. Sen. Sherrod Brown explains why he wants to whittle the Big Banks down a bit -


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