Monthly Archives: November 2014

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Waltz #10, Op. 77 (2014) – Musical Composition and Video by G. Stolyarov II

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Categories: Music, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
November 29, 2014
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This bright, gentle waltz for four piano parts and one cello part was composed by Mr. Stolyarov on November 28-29, 2014. It is played using the Finale 2011 software and the Steinway Grand Piano and Cellos Arco instruments.

Download the MP3 file of this composition here.

See the index of Mr. Stolyarov’s compositions, all available for free download, here.

The artwork is Mr. Stolyarov’s Abstract Orderism Fractal 9, available for download here and here.

Remember to LIKE, FAVORITE, and SHARE this video in order to spread rational high culture to others.

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The Fed and the “Salvador Dali Effect” – Article by Dante Bayona

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Categories: Art, Economics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
Dante Bayona
November 28, 2014
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There is a story about the great Catalan surrealist painter Salvador Dali. It is said that in the last years of his life, when he was already famous, he signed checks knowing that they would not be submitted to the bank for payment. Rather, after partying with his friends and consuming the most expensive items the restaurants had to offer, he would ask for the bill, pull out one of his checks, write the amount, and sign it. Before handing over the check, he quickly turned it around, made a drawing on the back and autographed it. Dali knew the owner of the restaurant would not cash the check but keep it,put it in a frame, and display it in the most prominent place in the restaurant: “An original Dali.”

It was a good deal for Dali: his checks never came back to the bank to be cashed, and he still enjoyed great banquets with all of his friends. Dali had a magic checkbook.

But what would have happened if one day art collectors concluded that Dali’s work really did not capture the essence of surrealism, and therefore that his art was not of great value? If that had happened, every autographed check would have come back to the bank (at least in theory), and Dali would have had to pay up. If Dali had not saved enough money, he would have had to find a job painting houses.

While the analogy is not perfect, we may find that something similar can happen with the Fed and the dollar. For now, The Fed has a magic checkbook that allows it to spend without paying the bill because it thinks the checks will never come back to be cashed.

Dali died long before people stopped valuing his art, but the US economy does not enjoy such a convenient escape. What if, as in the case of art collectors who might no longer see great value in Dali’s work, the world loses faith in the quality of the dollar and stops using it for large international transactions? If that happens, in the same way Dali would have had to pay his bills, the US would also have to make good on the checks it signed. Would the US be able to pay its checks with more checks?

Since each country has its own currency, every central bank around the world has to print more of its national currency to buy the excess of dollars entering the country whenever the US expands its money supply. Thus, in the 1970s, in the wake of the Nixon Shock, members of OPEC accused the US of exporting inflation.

Recall that during the mid-1960s, the US central bank was financing a war in Vietnam and as well as funding Lyndon B. Johnson’s programs of “The Great Society”that supposedly would eliminate poverty. As the Fed was printing money, OPEC members had to inflate their currencies to buy the excess of dollars.

Central banks around the world have to buy excess of dollars entering their countries so their exports do not lose competitiveness. Thus, a double inflation is imposed on every country in the world, one created by its own domestic central bank, because all central banks inflate on their own, and another created by the US central bank. Hans-Hermann Hoppe wrote about the perils of monetary imperialism:

The dominating state will use its superior power to enforce a policy of internationally coordinated inflation. Its own central bank sets the pace in the process of counterfeiting, and the central banks of the dominated states are ordered to use its currency as their own reserves and inflate on top of them. Thus, along with the dominating state and as the earliest receivers of the counterfeit reserve currency, its associated banking and business establishment can engage in an almost costless expropriation of foreign property owners and income producers. A double layer of exploitation of a foreign state and a foreign elite on top of a national state and elite is imposed on the exploited class in the dominated territories, causing prolonged economic dependency on and relative economic stagnation in comparison with the dominant nation. It is this — very uncapitalist — situation that characterizes the status of the United States and the US dollar and that gives rise to the — correct — accusations concerning US economic exploitation and dollar imperialism. 1

While it is true that in the 1970s the dollar enjoyed a worldwide hegemony — given that all European countries had their currencies separated, and given that China and Russia were outside the capitalist world — now the situation is different. Vladimir Putin recently stated that “The international monetary system itself depends a lot on the U.S. dollar, or, to be precise, on the monetary and financial policy of the U.S. authorities. The BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) want to change this.” 2

Salvador Dali had devised an ingenious method for not paying his bills. Similar stories are told about Pablo Picasso. But the Fed does not produce tangible items that people would rather hold on to, like an original Salvador Dali. The Fed does not produce work or items of value. The Salvador Dali effect, i.e., the ability to prevent checks from being cashed by creating something of real value, does not apply to the Fed. That is why it is good to remind the Fed, and the government, to be careful with the expenditures when partying, just in case the magic checkbook disappears.

  • 1. See Hans-Hermann Hoppe, “Marxist and Austrian Class Analysis.” Journal of Libertarian Studies 9, no. 2 (Fall 1990). www.mises.org/journals/jls/9_2/9_2_5.pdf
  • 2. See Vladimir “Putin, No plans for BRICS military, political alliance.” Russia: RT. Retrieved 16 July 2014. www.rt.com/politics/official-word/172768-putin-brics-economies-alliance

Dante Bayona received his master’s degree in Austrian economics under the direction of Jesús Huerta de Soto in Spain. He was a 2014 Summer Fellow at the Mises Institute, works in the banking sector in New York, and collaborates with MisesHispano.org.

This article was published on Mises.org and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution United States License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

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Diversity in Goals Brings Diversity in Value – Article by Frank Shostak

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Categories: Economics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
Frank Shostak
November 28, 2014
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A major problem with the mainstream framework of thinking is that people are presented as if a scale of preferences were hard-wired in their heads. Regardless of anything else this scale remains the same all the time. Valuations however, do not exist by themselves regardless of the things to be valued. On this Rothbard wrote,

There can be no valuation without things to be valued. 1

Valuation is the outcome of the mind valuing things. It is a relation between the mind and things.

Purposeful action implies that people assess or evaluate various means at their disposal against their ends. An individual’s ends set the standard for human valuations and thus choices. By choosing a particular end an individual also sets a standard of evaluating various means.

For instance, if my end is to provide a good education for my child, then I will explore various educational institutions and will grade them in accordance with my information regarding the quality of education that these institutions are providing. Observe that the standard of grading these institutions is my end, which, in this case, is to provide my child with a good education. Or, for instance, if my intention is to buy a car, and there are all sorts of cars available in the market, then I have to specify to myself the specific ends that the car will help me achieve. I need to establish whether I plan to drive long distances or just a short distance from my home to the train station and then catch the train. My final end will dictate how I will evaluate various cars. Perhaps I will conclude that for a short distance, a second-hand car will do the trick.

Since an individual’s ends determine the valuations of means and thus his choices, it follows that the same good will be valued differently by an individual as a result of changes in his ends. At any point in time, people have an abundance of ends that they would like to achieve. What limits the attainment of various ends is the scarcity of means. Hence, once a larger variety of means become available, a greater number of ends — or goals — can be accommodated (i.e., people’s living standards will increase).

Another limitation on attaining various goals is the availability of suitable means. Thus to quell my thirst in the desert, I require water. If no one willing to sell water is nearby, any diamonds in my possession will be of no help in this regard.

Frank Shostak is an adjunct scholar of the Mises Institute and a frequent contributor to Mises.org. His consulting firm, Applied Austrian School Economics, provides in-depth assessments and reports of financial markets and global economies. See Frank Shostak’s article archives.

This article was published on Mises.org and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution United States License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

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Second Interview of Gennady Stolyarov II and Wendy Stolyarov by Roen Horn of the Eternal Life Fan Club – November 27, 2014

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Categories: Art, Philosophy, Science, Self-Improvement, Transhumanism, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II and Wendy Stolyarov II
November 27, 2014
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ELFC_DIW_Second_Interview
 

Today Wendy Stolyarov and I had an excellent second interview and conversation with Roen Horn of the Eternal Life Fan Club. We discussed our recent activities related to the life-extension movement, the impact of “Death is Wrong”, and many philosophical and practical ideas surrounding the pursuit of indefinite longevity.

Watch the recorded interview here.

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The Internet Memory Hole – Article by Wendy McElroy

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Categories: Justice, Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
Wendy McElroy
November 24, 2014
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Imagine you are considering a candidate as a caregiver for your child. Or maybe you are vetting an applicant for a sensitive position in your company. Perhaps you’re researching a public figure for class or endorsing him in some manner. Whatever the situation, you open your browser and assess the linked information that pops up from a search. Nothing criminal or otherwise objectionable is present, so you proceed with confidence. But what if the information required for you to make a reasoned assessment had been removed by the individual himself?

Under “the right to be forgotten,” a new “human right” established in the European Union in 2012, people can legally require a search engine to delete links to their names, even if information at the linked source is true and involves a public matter such as an arrest. The Google form for requesting removal asks the legally relevant question of why the link is “irrelevant, outdated, or otherwise objectionable.” Then it is up to the search engine to determine whether to delete the link.

The law’s purpose is to prevent people from being stigmatized for life. The effect, however, is to limit freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and access to information. Each person becomes a potential censor who can rewrite history for personal advantage.

It couldn’t happen here

The process of creating such a law in the United States is already underway. American law is increasingly driven by public opinion and polls. The IT security company Software Advice recently conducted a survey that found that “sixty-one percent of Americans believe some version of the right to be forgotten is necessary,” and “thirty-nine percent want a European-style blanket right to be forgotten, without restrictions.” And politicians love to give voters what they want.

In January 2015, California will enforce the Privacy Rights for California Minors in the Digital World law. This is the first state version of a “right to be forgotten” law. It requires “the operator of an Internet Web site, online service, online application, or mobile application to permit a minor, who is a registered user … to remove, or to request and obtain removal of, content or information posted … by the minor.” (There are some exceptions.)

Meanwhile, the consumer-rights group Consumer Watchdog has floated the idea that Google should voluntarily provide Americans with the right to be forgotten. On September 30, 2014, Forbes stated, “The fight for the right to be forgotten is certainly coming to the U.S., and sooner than you may think.” For one thing, there is a continuing hue and cry about embarrassing photos of minors and celebrities being circulated.

Who and what deserves to be forgotten?

What form would the laws likely take? In the Stanford Law Review (February 13, 2012), legal commentator Jeffrey Rosen presented three categories of information that would be vulnerable if the EU rules became a model. First, material posted could be “unlinked” at the poster’s request. Second, material copied by another site could “almost certainly” be unlinked at the original poster’s request unless its retention was deemed “necessary” to “the right of freedom of expression.” Rosen explained, “Essentially, this puts the burden on” the publisher to prove that the link “is a legitimate journalistic (or literary or artistic) exercise.” Third, the commentary of one individual about another, whether truthful or not, could be vulnerable. Rosen observed that the EU includes “takedown requests for truthful information posted by others.… I can demand takedown and the burden, once again, is on the third party to prove that it falls within the exception for journalistic, artistic, or literary exception.”

Search engines have an incentive to honor requests rather than to absorb the legal cost of fighting them. Rosen said, “The right to be forgotten could make Facebook and Google, for example, liable for up to two percent of their global income if they fail to remove photos that people post about themselves and later regret, even if the photos have been widely distributed already.” An October 12, 2014, article in the UK Daily Mail indicated the impact of compliance on the free flow of public information. The headline: “Google deletes 18,000 UK links under ‘right to be forgotten’ laws in just a month: 60% of Europe-wide requests come from fraudsters, criminals and sex offenders.”

American backlash

America protects the freedoms of speech and the press more vigorously than Europe does. Even California’s limited version of a “right to be forgotten” bill has elicited sharp criticism from civil libertarians and tech-freedom advocates. The IT site TechCrunch expressed the main practical objection: “The web is chaotic, viral, and interconnected. Either the law is completely toothless, or it sets in motion a very scary anti-information snowball.” TechCrunch also expressed the main political objection: The bill “appears to create a head-on collision between privacy law and the First Amendment.”

Conflict between untrue information and free speech need not occur. Peter Fleischer, Google’s global privacy counsel, explained, “Traditional law has mechanisms, like defamation and libel law, to allow a person to seek redress against someone who publishes untrue information about him.… The legal standards are long-standing and fairly clear.” Defamation and libel are controversial issues within the libertarian community, but the point here is that defense against untrue information already exists.

What of true information? Truth is a defense against being charged with defamation or libel. America tends to value freedom of expression above privacy rights. It is no coincidence that the First Amendment is first among the rights protected by the Constitution. And any “right” to delete the truth from the public sphere runs counter to the American tradition of an open public square where information is debated and weighed.

Moreover, even true information can have powerful privacy protection. For example, the Fourth Amendment prohibits the use of data that is collected via unwarranted search and seizure. The Fourteenth Amendment is deemed by the Supreme Court to offer a general protection to family information. And then there are the “protections” of patents, trade secrets, copyrighted literature, and a wide range of products that originate in the mind. Intellectual property is controversial, too. But again, the point here is that defenses already exist.

Reputation capital

Reputation capital consists of the good or bad opinions that a community holds of an individual over time. It is not always accurate, but it is what people think. The opinion is often based on past behaviors, which are sometimes viewed as an indicator of future behavior. In business endeavors, reputation capital is so valuable that aspiring employees will work for free as interns in order to accrue experience and recommendations. Businesses will take a loss to replace an item or to otherwise credit a customer in order to establish a name for fairness. Reputation is thus a path to being hired and to attracting more business. It is a nonfinancial reward for establishing the reliability and good character upon which financial remuneration often rests.

Conversely, if an employee’s bad acts are publicized, then a red flag goes up for future employers who might consider his application. If a company defrauds customers, community gossip could drive it out of business. In the case of negative reputation capital, the person or business who considers dealing with the “reputation deficient” individual is the one who benefits by realizing a risk is involved. Services, such as eBay, often build this benefit into their structure by having buyers or sellers rate individuals. By one estimate, a 1 percent negative rating can reduce the price of an eBay good by 4 percent. This system establishes a strong incentive to build positive reputation capital.

Reputation capital is particularly important because it is one of the key answers to the question, “Without government interference, how do you ensure the quality of goods and services?” In a highly competitive marketplace, reputation becomes a path to success or to failure.

Right-to-be-forgotten laws offer a second chance to an individual who has made a mistake. This is a humane option that many people may choose to extend, especially if the individual will work for less money or offer some other advantage in order to win back his reputation capital. But the association should be a choice. The humane nature of a second chance should not overwhelm the need of others for public information to assess the risks involved in dealing with someone. Indeed, this risk assessment provides the very basis of the burgeoning sharing economy.

History and culture are memory

In “The Right to Be Forgotten: An Insult to Latin American History,” Eduardo Bertoni offers a potent argument. He writes that the law’s “name itself“ is “an affront to Latin America; rather than promoting this type of erasure, we have spent the past few decades in search of the truth regarding what occurred during the dark years of the military dictatorships.” History is little more than preserved memory. Arguably, culture itself lives or dies depending on what is remembered and shared.

And yet, because the right to be forgotten has the politically seductive ring of fairness, it is becoming a popular view. Fleischer called privacy “the new black in censorship fashion.” And it may be increasingly on display in America.

Wendy McElroy (wendy@wendymcelroy.com) is an author, editor of ifeminists.com, and Research Fellow at The Independent Institute (independent.org).

This article was originally published by The Foundation for Economic Education.

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Why Do We Advocate for Rejuvenation Research? – Article by Reason

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Categories: Science, Transhumanism, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
Reason
November 24, 2014
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Yesterday, I had occasion to spend six hours or so in the emergency room of a medical center largely focused on treating serious conditions that are most prevalent in old people. A part of that experience by necessity involved listening to the comings, goings, and conversations of those present. These are not private places: they are typically divided visually by screens but with no way to avoid overhearing the staff and patients. The people there are generally not too concerned about privacy in the immediate sense in any case, having far more pressing matters to focus upon.

So, by proxy, one gets to experience small and somewhat wrenching slices of other people’s lives. It is very easy for even those who follow aging research and speak up for rejuvenation treatments to forget just how hard it is to be very old. It’s one thing to know about the catalog of pain, suffering, and loss of capabilities, the conditions we’d like to find ways to turn back, and another to watch it in action. It is, really, a terrible thing to be frail.

A fellow was brought in a little while after I arrived, a 90-something man who looked a lot better on the exterior than perhaps your mental picture of a 90-something individual might be. Tall, and surprisingly lacking in wrinkles stretched out on the rolling gurney under blankets, a mess of cables, and an oxygen mask. That he had fallen was what I heard from the conversation of the medics, and was in pain. He cried out several times as he was moved from the gurney. It took some time and care to do it without hurting him more, given his weakness.

He seemed confused at first, but that was just my misperception: you try being 90 and in pain some time and see how well you do while you’re being moved around and told to hold this and let go of that. The fellow answered the bevy of questions the receiving staff had for him, but the thing that caught at me was the time he took with the answers, and the questions he just missed. He was coherent, even quite sharp at times, not on any more painkillers than a handful of Tylenol, as I later heard, but he clearly struggled with something that we younger folk all take for granted: parse the question, find the information, form up a reply and speak it. Cognitive ability in all these areas becomes ever less efficient with old age, and there’s something hollowing about hearing what is clearly a capable guy set back for a dozen seconds by a short question about one of the details of his fall. The medic repeated the question a few times and in different ways, which was clearly just making the information overload worse.

It sticks with you to be the observer in this situation and clearly and suddenly realize that one day that faltering older person will be you, trying and often failing to force your mind into the necessary connections rapidly enough for the younger people around you. I know this, but knowing it and having it reinforced by being there are two very different things. An aged person is no less intelligent, far more experienced, wiser and all the rest, but the damage to the structure of the brain that occurs even in those without dementia means that making use of all of that in the way it deserves is near insurmountable.

The fellow’s 60-something daughter arrived a little later to provide support and fill in more of the details. A story was conveyed in bits and pieces: that he was near blind now, and just about too frail to walk safely, even with a frame. The blindness explained a great deal of what had sounded to my ignorant ears as confusion in the earlier part of the fellow’s arrival: we assume all too many things about those around us, such as the use of sight in an unfamiliar environment, or the ability to walk, or think quickly – and all of this is taken from us by aging. The fellow lived with his wife still, and she was of a similar age to him. His wife was not there because she herself was too frail to be undertaking even a short trip at such short notice. That seemed to me a harsh blow on top of the rest of what old age does to you. At some point you simply cannot do everything you’d want to as a partner. You are on the sidelines and at the point at which your other half is most likely to die, you are most likely unable to be there.

In this case the fellow was in no immediate danger by the sound of it. By good luck this was in no way likely to be a fatal accident, but rather another painful indignity to be endured as a part of the downward spiral of health and ability at the end of life. Once you get to the point at which simply moving from room to room bears a high risk of accident, and this is by no means unusual for a mentally capable person in their 90s, then it really is just a matter of time before you cannot live for yourself with only minimal assistance.

When talking with his daughter while he waited on a doctor and medical assistants to come and go with tests and updates, the fellow was much faster in his responses, though this was interrupted by a series of well-meaning but futile attempts to ease his pain by changing his position, each as much an ordeal as the move from the gurney had been. The conversation between father and daughter had the sense of signposts on well-worn paths, short exchanges that recapitulated the high points of many discussions that had come before. She wanted her father to move into an assisted living facility, and this fall was the latest in a line of examples as to why it was past the time for this – she simply could not provide all of the support needed on her own. She wasn’t even strong enough herself to be able to safely get him back up on his feet after a fall. He was concerned about cost and the difficulties of moving, uncertainties and change. They went back and forth on this for a while. “We have to accept that it’s just going to be more expensive as we get older,” she said at one point, and he replied “I think you’re getting the picture now,” and laughed. There wasn’t much to laugh about, but we can all do it here and there under these circumstances. I believe it helps.

I walked out of there after my six hours of hurry up and wait was done. They were still there, and whenever it is he leaves to go home it is unlikely it will be on his own two feet. But this is a scene I’ll no doubt be revisiting at some point in the future, some decades from now, playing the other role in this small slice of life. What comes around goes around, but I’d like it to be different for me, and more importantly to be different for millions of others a lot sooner than my old age arrives.

Which leads to this: why does Fight Aging! exist? Why do we do this? Why advocate, why raise funds for research programs into ways to treat aging that may take decades to pay off? We do this because we can help to create a future in which there will be no more emergency rooms like the one I visited, no conversations about increasing disability, no pain, and no struggles to answer questions as quickly as one used to. No profound frailty. All these things will be removed by the advent of therapies that can effectively repair the causes of aging, curing and preventing frailty and age-related disease, and the sooner this happens the more people will be spared.

Reason is the founder of The Longevity Meme (now Fight Aging!). He saw the need for The Longevity Meme in late 2000, after spending a number of years searching for the most useful contribution he could make to the future of healthy life extension. When not advancing the Longevity Meme or Fight Aging!, Reason works as a technologist in a variety of industries. 
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This work is reproduced here in accord with a Creative Commons Attribution license. It was originally published on FightAging.org.

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Defeat of USA FREEDOM Act is a Victory for Freedom – Article by Ron Paul

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Categories: Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
November 24, 2014
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It will not shock readers to hear that quite often legislation on Capitol Hill is not as advertised. When Congress wants to do something particularly objectionable, they tend give it a fine-sounding name. The PATRIOT Act is perhaps the best-known example. The legislation had been drafted well before 9/11 but was going nowhere. Then the 9/11 attacks gave it a new lease on life. Politicians exploited the surge in patriotism following the attack to reintroduce the bill and call it the PATRIOT Act. To oppose it at that time was, by design, to seem unpatriotic.At the time, 62 Democrats voted against the Act. On the Republican side there were only three no votes: former Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH), former Rep. Butch Otter (R-ID), and myself.
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The abuses of the Constitution in the PATRIOT Act do not need to be fully recounted here, but Presidents Bush and Obama both claimed authority based on it to gut the Fourth Amendment. The PATRIOT Act ushered in the era of warrantless wiretapping, monitoring of our Internet behavior, watering down of probable cause, and much more. After the revelations by whistleblower Edward Snowden, we know how the NSA viewed constitutional restraints on surveillance of American people during the PATRIOT Act period.

After several re-authorizations of the PATRIOT Act, including some cosmetic reforms, Congress last October unveiled the USA FREEDOM Act. This was advertised as the first wholesale PATRIOT Act Reform bill. In fact, the House version was watered down to the point of meaninglessness and the Senate version was not much better. The final straw was the bill’s extension of key elements of the PATRIOT Act until 2017.

Fortunately, last week the USA FREEDOM Act was blocked from further consideration in the US Senate. The procedural vote was significant and important, but it caused some confusion as well. While some well-meaning pro-privacy groups endorsed the FREEDOM Act as a first step to reform, some anti-liberty neoconservatives opposed the legislation because even its anemic reforms were unacceptable. The truth is, Americans should not accept one more extension of the PATRIOT Act and should not endorse its continued dismemberment of our constitutional liberties. If that means some Senators vote with anti-liberty colleagues to kill the extension, we should still consider it a victory.

As the PATRIOT Act first faced a sunset in 2005, I had this to say in the debate over whether it should be re-authorized:

“When Congress passed the Patriot Act in the emotional aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks, a sunset provision was inserted in the bill that causes certain sections to expire at the end of 2005. But this begs the question: If these provisions are critical tools in the fight against terrorism, why revoke them after five years? Conversely, if these provisions violate civil liberties, why is it acceptable to suspend the Constitution for any amount of time?”

Reform is often meant to preserve, not repeal bad legislation. When the public is strongly opposed to a particular policy you will almost never hear politicians say “let’s repeal the law.” It is always a pledge to reform the policy or law. The USA FREEDOM Act was no different.

With the failure of the FREEDOM Act to move ahead in the Senate last week, several of the most egregious sections of the PATRIOT Act are set to sunset next June absent a new authorization. Congress will no doubt be under great pressure to extend these measures. We must do our very best to make sure they are unsuccessful!

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

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Living the Easy Life – Article by Doug Bandow

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The New Renaissance Hat
Doug Bandow
November 24, 2014
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CAIRO — “I could be arrested when I leave here,” said a journalist I met at the tony Marriott near Cairo’s Tahir Square. A student activist acting as an interpreter observed that he, too, could be detained at any time. A veteran human rights activist calmly stated, “Some of our groups will be closed. Some of us will be imprisoned. It is inevitable.”

Most foreigners travel to Egypt to play tourist. I visited with a human rights delegation. As a result, I came away with a very different picture than do most foreigners of this fascinating nation.

I was also reminded how lucky Americans — and, indeed, most Westerners — are. Forget American exceptionalism or manifest destiny.

Most important are the basic characteristics of a free society. The rule of law. Civil liberties. Criminal procedures. Legal safeguards. Democratic processes. Obviously, even nations that purport to have all of these often fall short. However, few Americans, Europeans, or citizens of democratic Asian nations live in constant fear of arrest, imprisonment, and torture. Those in rule-oriented societies rarely see every authority figure as a threat.

In Egypt, the uncertainty began when I arrived. On both of my trips the government knew about me because my host organization had requested meetings on my delegation’s behalf. Both times I was pulled aside. The first time an entry guard took my passport and I waited for an hour before being waved on. The second time the delay was far shorter, with security officials formally welcoming me — after asking for my phone number and hotel destination.

Of course, the United States occasionally stops people from entering, but not typically because the visitors want to assess America’s human rights record. Most often, foreigners get blocked from visiting if officials believe they want to stay.

Even after leaving the arrivals area on my first trip, I had to wait again while the videographer joining us unsuccessfully tried to persuade officials to let him bring his camera into the country. The Egyptians said no. (He went on to rent a smaller one.) While there are places in the United States where you can’t film, no one’s going to stop you from having a camera of any sort.

Both visits were filled with interviews relating all sorts of harrowing stories. Most every society has injustice, and errors are sadly common in US jurisprudence. However, most Americans don’t expect a visit to a friend to turn into a stint in prison.

In Egypt, for reasons of political repression and personal revenge, people face arbitrary arrest, perpetual detention, fraudulent trials, and horrific imprisonment. No doubt, some of the accounts we heard could be exaggerated or even false, but reports from people in many walks of life and across the political spectrum were consistent and demonstrated that the slightest resistance to state authority risks freedom and even life. Indeed, being in the wrong place at the wrong time can be equivalent to a death sentence.

Moreover, those with whom we met were vulnerable to arrest. Students told us about classmates arrested at demonstrations. Journalists discussed colleagues detained after criticizing the regime. Attorneys reported on lawyers detained while representing defendants. Family members described the arrest of husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers. No one is exempt from persecution.

Nor is there any effective oversight or appeal to limit official abuse. If you were tortured or suffered from inhumane prison conditions, you can complain only to the public prosecutor. But that government office seems strangely uninterested in following up on allegations against government officials. Accountability obviously is less than perfect in the United States, but here, at least, there are alternative channels of protest: private lawsuits, media coverage, public demonstrations. That’s one of the advantages of pluralistic societies. Authoritarian regimes rarely view themselves as bound by any rules.

While members of my delegation, largely Americans and Europeans, felt relatively secure, we knew other foreigners had been arrested for various offenses. At least in the United States no meeting other than one involving a criminal conspiracy could land a listener in jail.

In fact, on my second trip we found ourselves attacked by a pro-coup television talk show host (government critics long ago were driven off the air) and the head of a “human rights” council (sponsored by the regime) who cheerfully mixed fact and fantasy. No harm was done since I don’t plan on running for office in Egypt, but the regime obviously has tools short of prison for use against foreign critics.

Evidence of extreme force is everywhere. Tanks next to prisons; armored personnel carriers in city squares and on city streets; concrete blast barriers, barbed wire, and armed sentries around sensitive government installations; portable fences piled high near potential protest points; and a ubiquitous mix of uniformed and plain clothes security personnel.

It is unsettling enough to be stopped by a policeman in the United States. After hearing stories of dubious arrests followed by months of detention, no one wants to end up anywhere near an Egyptian cop. After clearing passport control to leave on my second trip, I waited with a friend for a couple of other members of our group to emerge. While we were talking, a border agent came over and asked us for our passports. I assume we were targeted since we were conveniently nearby. He gave our passports back after barely glancing at them. But I felt uneasy the entire time.

Egypt is a fascinating country with hospitable people. Although there was much to frustrate typical Westerners — for instance, we joked about being on “Egypt time” — the chaotic streets were a source of energy. The economic and social challenges facing Egypt would be enormous in the best of cases, but, tragically, the nation suffers under an unashamed military dictatorship. Consequently liberty is limited and frequently at risk.

Despite all of the problems faced by those in the West, even imperfectly free societies offer extraordinary advantages we should never forget and should work to protect. Walking the streets of Cairo, I thought: there but for the grace of God go I. With my US passport I can leave and return to a society that, despite enormous problems, generally respects people’s lives, liberty, and dignity.

Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and the author of a number of books on economics and politics. He writes regularly on military non-interventionism.

This article was originally published by The Foundation for Economic Education.

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Individual Empowerment through Emerging Technologies: Virtual Tools for a Better Physical World – Video by G. Stolyarov II

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Categories: Self-Improvement, Technology, Transhumanism, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
November 23, 2014
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No realm of human activity in the past century has empowered and liberated the individual as efficaciously as technological advancement. Our personal, political, and economic freedoms – though limited in many respects – today allow us to achieve quality-of-life improvements and other objectives that were inconceivable even a few decades ago. Much libertarian, classical liberal, and Objectivist theory supports this insight, but in our era of increasing salience of advanced technology, this support needs to be made far more explicit and applied toward vocal advocacy of emerging, life-transforming breakthroughs that further raise the capacities of the individual. Gamification, augmented reality, and virtual worlds can play a significant role in enhancing and preserving our physical lives.

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This video is based on Mr. Stolyarov’s essay “Individual Empowerment through Emerging Technologies: Virtual Tools for a Better Physical World“.

References

Playlist: The Musical Compositions of G. Stolyarov II
– “Ayn Rand, Individualism, and the Dangers of Communitarianism” (2012) – Essay by G. Stolyarov II
– “Carl Menger, Individualism, Marginal Utility, and the Revival of Economics” (2006) – Essay by G. Stolyarov II
– “Ludwig von Mises on Profit, Loss, the Entrepreneur, and Consumer Sovereignty” (2007) – Essay by G. Stolyarov II
– “Open Badges and Proficiency-Based Education: A Path to a New Age of Enlightenment” (2013) – Essay by G. Stolyarov II
Runkeeper
Fitocracy
Fitbit
– “Minecraft” – Wikipedia
– “Oculus Rift” – Wikipedia –
– YouTube Videos of Minecraft Computers (here and here)

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Internet Gambling Ban: A Winner for Sheldon Adelson, A Losing Bet for the Rest of Us – Article by Ron Paul

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Categories: Justice, Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
November 16, 2014
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Most Americans, regardless of ideology, oppose “crony capitalism” or “cronyism.” Cronyism is where politicians write laws aimed at helping their favored business beneficiaries. Despite public opposition to cronyism, politicians still seek to use the legislative process to help special interests.For example, Congress may soon vote on legislation outlawing Internet gambling. It is an open secret, at least inside the Beltway, that this legislation is being considered as a favor to billionaire casino owner, Sheldon Adelson. Mr. Adelson, who is perhaps best known for using his enormous wealth to advance a pro-war foreign policy, is now using his political influence to turn his online competitors into criminals.Supporters of an Internet gambling ban publicly deny they are motivated by a desire to curry favor with a wealthy donor. Instead, they give a number of high-minded reasons for wanting to ban this activity. Some claim that legalizing online gambling will enrich criminals and even terrorists! But criminalizing online casinos will not eliminate the demand for online casinos. Instead, passage of this legislation will likely guarantee that the online gambling market is controlled by criminals. Thus, it is those who support outlawing online gambling who may be aiding criminals and terrorists.

A federal online gambling ban would overturn laws in three states that allow online gambling. It would also end the ongoing debate over legalizing online gambling in many other states. Yet some have claimed that Congress must pass this law in order to protect states rights! Their argument is that citizens of states that ban Internet gambling may easily get around those laws by accessing online casinos operating in states where online gambling is legalized.

Even if the argument had merit that allowing states to legalize online gambling undermines laws in other states, it would not justify federal legislation on the issue. Nowhere in the Constitution is the federal government given any authority to regulate activities such as online gambling. Arguing that “states rights” justifies creating new federal crimes turns the Tenth Amendment, which was intended to limit federal power, on its head.

Many supporters of an Internet gambling ban sincerely believe that gambling is an immoral and destructive activity that should be outlawed. However, the proposed legislation is not at all about the morality of gambling. It is about whether Americans who do gamble should have the choice to do so online, or be forced to visit brick-and-mortar casinos.

Even if there was some moral distinction between gambling online or in a physical casino, prohibiting behavior that does not involve force or fraud has no place in a free society. It is no more appropriate for gambling opponents to use force to stop people from playing poker online than it would be for me to use force to stop people from reading pro-war, neocon writers.

Giving government new powers over the Internet to prevent online gambling will inevitably threaten all of our liberties. Federal bureaucrats will use this new authority to expand their surveillance of the Internet activities of Americans who have no interest in gambling, just as they used the new powers granted by the PATRIOT Act to justify mass surveillance.

The proposed ban on Internet gambling is a blatantly unconstitutional infringement on our liberties that will likely expand the surveillance state. Worst of all, it is all being done for the benefit of one powerful billionaire. Anyone who thinks banning online gambling will not diminish our freedoms while enriching criminals is making a losing bet.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

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