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The Internet Memory Hole – Article by Wendy McElroy

The Internet Memory Hole – Article by Wendy McElroy

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 The Google form for requesting removal asks the legally relevant question of why the link is “irrelevant, outdated, or otherwise objectionable.”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.

Will the Swiss Vote to Get Their Gold Back? – Article by Ron Paul

Will the Swiss Vote to Get Their Gold Back? – Article by Ron Paul

The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
September 14, 2014
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On November 30th, voters in Switzerland will head to the polls to vote in a referendum on gold. On the ballot is a measure to prohibit the Swiss National Bank (SNB) from further gold sales, to repatriate Swiss-owned gold to Switzerland, and to mandate that gold make up at least 20 percent of the SNB’s assets. Arising from popular sentiment similar to movements in the United States, Germany, and the Netherlands, this referendum is an attempt to bring more oversight and accountability to the SNB, Switzerland’s central bank.
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The Swiss referendum is driven by an undercurrent of dissatisfaction with the conduct not only of Swiss monetary policy, but also of Swiss banking policy. Switzerland may be a small nation, but it is a nation proud of its independence and its history of standing up to tyranny. The famous legend of William Tell embodies the essence of the Swiss national character. But no tyrannical regime in history has bullied Switzerland as much as the United States government has in recent years.

The Swiss tradition of bank secrecy is legendary. The reality, however, is that Swiss bank secrecy is dead. Countries such as the United States have been unwilling to keep government spending in check, but they are running out of ways to fund that spending. Further taxation of their populations is politically difficult, massive issuance of government debt has saturated bond markets, and so the easy target is smaller countries such as Switzerland which have gained the reputation of being “tax havens.” Remember that tax haven is just a term for a country that allows people to keep more of their own money than the US or EU does, and doesn’t attempt to plunder either its citizens or its foreign account-holders. But the past several years have seen a concerted attempt by the US and EU to crack down on these smaller countries, using their enormous financial clout to compel them to hand over account details so that they can extract more tax revenue.

The US has used its court system to extort money from Switzerland, fining the US subsidiaries of Swiss banks for allegedly sheltering US taxpayers and allowing them to keep their accounts and earnings hidden from US tax authorities. EU countries such as Germany have even gone so far as to purchase account information stolen from Swiss banks by unscrupulous bank employees. And with the recent implementation of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), Swiss banks will now be forced to divulge to the IRS all the information they have about customers liable to pay US taxes.

On the monetary policy front, the SNB sold about 60 percent of Switzerland’s gold reserves during the 2000s. The SNB has also in recent years established a currency peg, with 1.2 Swiss francs equal to one euro. The peg’s effects have already manifested themselves in the form of a growing real estate bubble, as housing prices have risen dangerously. Given the action by the European Central Bank (ECB) to engage in further quantitative easing, the SNB’s continuance of this dangerous and foolhardy policy means that it will continue tying its monetary policy to that of the EU and be forced to import more inflation into Switzerland.

Just like the US and the EU, Switzerland at the federal level is ruled by a group of elites who are more concerned with their own status, well-being, and international reputation than with the good of the country. The gold referendum, if it is successful, will be a slap in the face to those elites. The Swiss people appreciate the work their forefathers put into building up large gold reserves, a respected currency, and a strong, independent banking system. They do not want to see centuries of struggle squandered by a central bank. The results of the November referendum may be a bellwether, indicating just how strong popular movements can be in establishing central bank accountability and returning gold to a monetary role.

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.

US Sanctions on Russia May Sink the Dollar – Article by Ron Paul

US Sanctions on Russia May Sink the Dollar – Article by Ron Paul

The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
August 10, 2014
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The US government’s decision to apply more sanctions on Russia is a grave mistake and will only escalate an already tense situation, ultimately harming the US economy itself. While the effect of sanctions on the dollar may not be appreciated in the short term, in the long run these sanctions are just another step toward the dollar’s eventual demise as the world’s reserve currency.

Not only is the US sanctioning Russian banks and companies, but it also is trying to strong-arm European banks into enacting harsh sanctions against Russia as well. Given the amount of business that European banks do with Russia, European sanctions could hurt Europe at least as much as Russia. At the same time the US expects cooperation from European banks, it is also prosecuting those same banks and fining them billions of dollars for violating existing US sanctions. It is not difficult to imagine that European banks will increasingly become fed up with having to act as the US government’s unpaid policemen, while having to pay billions of dollars in fines every time they engage in business that Washington doesn’t like.

European banks are already cutting ties with American citizens and businesses due to the stringent compliance required by recently-passed laws such as FATCA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act). In the IRS’s quest to suck in as much tax dollars as possible from around the world, the agency has made Americans into the pariahs of the international financial system. As the burdens the US government places on European banks grow heavier, it should be expected that more and more European banks will reduce their exposure to the United States and to the dollar, eventually leaving the US isolated. Attempting to isolate Russia, the US actually isolates itself.

Another effect of sanctions is that Russia will grow closer to its BRICS (Brazil/Russia/India/China/South Africa) allies. These countries count over 40 percent of the world’s population, have a combined economic output almost equal to the US and EU, and have significant natural resources at their disposal. Russia is one of the world’s largest oil producers and supplies Europe with a large percent of its natural gas. Brazil has the second-largest industrial sector in the Americas and is the world’s largest exporter of ethanol. China is rich in mineral resources and is the world’s largest food producer. Already Russia and China are signing agreements to conduct their bilateral trade with their own national currencies rather than with the dollar, a trend which, if it spreads, will continue to erode the dollar’s position in international trade. Perhaps more importantly, China, Russia, and South Africa together produce nearly 40 percent of the world’s gold, which could play a role if the BRICS countries decide to establish a gold-backed currency to challenge the dollar.

US policymakers fail to realize that the United States is not the global hegemon it was after World War II. They fail to understand that their overbearing actions toward other countries, even those considered friends, have severely eroded any good will that might previously have existed. And they fail to appreciate that more than 70 years of devaluing the dollar has put the rest of the world on edge. There is a reason the euro was created, a reason that China is moving to internationalize its currency, and a reason that other countries around the world seek to negotiate monetary and trade compacts. The rest of the world is tired of subsidizing the United States government’s enormous debts, and tired of producing and exporting trillions of dollars of goods to the US, only to receive increasingly worthless dollars in return.

The US government has always relied on the cooperation of other countries to maintain the dollar’s preeminent position. But international patience is wearing thin, especially as the carrot-and-stick approach of recent decades has become all stick and no carrot. If President Obama and his successors continue with their heavy-handed approach of levying sanctions against every country that does something US policymakers don’t like, it will only lead to more countries shunning the dollar and accelerating the dollar’s slide into irrelevance.

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.

Why Won’t Obama Just Leave Ukraine Alone? – Article by Ron Paul

Why Won’t Obama Just Leave Ukraine Alone? – Article by Ron Paul

The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
August 4, 2014
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President Obama announced last week that he was imposing yet another round of sanctions on Russia, this time targeting financial, arms, and energy sectors. The European Union, as it has done each time, quickly followed suit.

These sanctions will not produce the results Washington demands, but they will hurt the economies of the US and EU, as well as Russia.

These sanctions are, according to the Obama administration, punishment for what it claims is Russia’s role in the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, and for what the president claims is Russia’s continued arming of separatists in eastern Ukraine. Neither of these reasons makes much sense because neither case has been proven.

The administration began blaming Russia for the downing of the plane just hours after the crash, before an investigation had even begun. The administration claimed it had evidence of Russia’s involvement but refused to show it. Later, the Obama administration arranged a briefing by “senior intelligence officials” who told the media that “we don’t know a name, we don’t know a rank and we’re not even 100 percent sure of a nationality,” of who brought down the aircraft.

So Obama then claimed Russian culpability because Russia’s “support” for the separatists in east Ukraine “created the conditions” for the shoot-down of the aircraft. That is a dangerous measure of culpability considering US support for separatist groups in Syria and elsewhere.

Similarly, the US government claimed that Russia is providing weapons, including heavy weapons, to the rebels in Ukraine and shooting across the border into Ukrainian territory. It may be true, but again the US refuses to provide any evidence and the Russian government denies the charge. It’s like Iraq’s WMDs all over again.

Obama has argued that the Ukrainians should solve this problem themselves and therefore Russia should butt out.

I agree with the president on this. Outside countries should leave Ukraine to resolve the conflict itself. However, even as the US demands that the Russians de-escalate, the United States is busy escalating!

In June, Washington sent a team of military advisors to help Ukraine fight the separatists in the eastern part of the country. Such teams of “advisors” often include special forces and are usually a slippery slope to direct US military involvement.

On Friday, President Obama requested Congressional approval to send US troops into Ukraine to train and equip its national guard. This even though in March, the president promised no US boots on the ground in Ukraine. The deployment will be funded with $19 million from a fund designated to fight global terrorism, signaling that the US considers the secessionists in Ukraine to be “terrorists.”

Are US drone strikes against these “terrorists” and the “associated forces” who support them that far off?

The US has already provided the Ukrainian military with $23 million for defense security, $5 million in body armor, $8 million to help secure Ukraine’s borders, several hundred thousand ready-to-eat meals as well as an array of communications equipment. Congress is urging the president to send lethal military aid and the administration is reportedly considering sending real-time intelligence to help target rebel positions.

But let’s not forget that this whole crisis started with the US-sponsored coup against Ukraine’s elected president back in February. The US escalates while it demands that Russia de-escalate. How about all sides de-escalate?

Even when the goals are clear, sanctions have a lousy track record. Sanctions are acts of war. These sanctions will most definitely have a negative effect on the US economy as well as the Russian economy. Why is “winning” Ukraine so important to Washington? Why are they risking a major war with Russia to deny people in Ukraine the right to self-determination? Let’s just leave Ukraine alone!

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.

End Torture, Shut Down the CIA! – Article by Ron Paul

End Torture, Shut Down the CIA! – Article by Ron Paul

The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
July 30, 2014
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Remember back in April, 2007, when then-CIA director George Tenet appeared on 60 Minutes, angrily telling the program host, “we don’t torture people”? Remember a few months later, in October, President George W. Bush saying, “this government does not torture people”? We knew then it was not true because we had already seen the photos of Iraqis tortured at Abu Ghraib prison four years earlier.
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Still the US administration denied that torture was torture, preferring to call it “enhanced interrogation” and claiming that it had disrupted so many terrorist plots. Of course, we later found out that the CIA had not only lied about the torture of large numbers of people after 9/11, but it had vastly exaggerated any valuable information that came from such practices.

However secret rendition of prisoners to other places was ongoing.

The US not only tortured people in its own custody, however. Last week the European Court of Human Rights found that the US government transferred individuals to secret detention centers in Poland (and likely elsewhere) where they were tortured away from public scrutiny. The government of Poland was ordered to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages to two victims for doing nothing to stop their torture on Polish soil.

How tragic that Poland, where the Nazis constructed the Auschwitz concentration camp in which so many innocents were tortured and murdered, would acquiesce to hosting secret torture facilities. The idea that such brutality would be permitted on Polish soil just 70 years after the Nazi occupation should remind us of how dangerous and disingenuous governments continue to be.

This is the first time the European court has connected any EU country to US torture practices. The Obama administration refuses to admit that such facilities existed and instead claims that any such “enhanced interrogation” programs were shut down by 2009. We can only hope this is true, but we should be wary of the federal government’s promises. After all, they promised us all along that they were not using torture, and we might have never known had photographs and other information not been leaked to the press.

There are more reasons to be wary of this administration’s claims about rejecting torture and upholding human rights. The president has openly justified killing American citizens without charge or trial and he has done so on at least three occasions. There is not much of a gap between torture and extrajudicial murder when it comes to human rights abuses.

Meanwhile, former CIA director George Tenet and other senior current and former CIA officials are said to be frantically attempting to prepare a response to a planned release of an unclassified version of a 6,500 page Senate Intelligence Committee study on the torture practices of that agency. The CIA was already caught tapping into the computers of Senate investigators last year, looking to see what information might be contained in the report. Those who have seen the report have commented that it details far more brutal CIA practices than have been revealed to this point.

Revelations of US secret torture sites overseas and a new Senate investigation revealing widespread horrific CIA torture practices should finally lead to the abolishment of this agency. Far from keeping us safer, CIA covert actions across the globe have led to destruction of countries and societies and unprecedented resentment toward the United States. For our own safety, end the CIA!

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.

Ukraine’s “Territorial Integrity” is Not Worth a Single Human Life – Article by G. Stolyarov II

Ukraine’s “Territorial Integrity” is Not Worth a Single Human Life – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
May 12, 2014
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Who likes it when a nation shoots at its own people? We weren’t against being part of Ukraine, but after the latest events, we’ve changed our minds.” ~ Natalia Vasilieva, Retiree in Donetsk, Quoted by the Wall Street Journal

On May 11, 2014, residents of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions voted in favor of independence from Ukraine. Irrespective of questions regarding the legality of this referendum (which can similarly be raised regarding the legality of Ukraine’s current completely unelected interim government) and the possibly biased sample of voters who turned out as compared to the general population of the regions, two facts are undeniable: (1) the turnout was massive, as any glimpse at the many images and videos of the referendum would show, and (2) the voters were overwhelmingly peaceful civilians, merely seeking to express their points of view. A third fact must also confront any reasonable observer of these events in the West: while the voters behaved peacefully, the interim government of President Oleksandr Turchynov and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk sent troops who fired on crowds of civilians.

NBC News – no propaganda outlet of the Putin regime – reported that soldiers from the Ukrainian “national guard” fired on crowds of peaceful voters in Krasnoarmeisk, Ukraine, and at least two people were observed killed. Irrespective of whether or not a referendum has legitimacy, the act of voting is the act of marking a piece of paper with one’s choice. Casting a ballot, in a valid election or not, is purely an act of free speech. How could casting a vote even remotely be equated to aggression? How could it justify the taking of a human life in any sane, rational person’s mind? How is it that Western politicians fail to denounce the Turchynov/Yatseniuk government’s brazen use of force in reaction to a peaceful, civil action? Has the concept of free speech lost all sanctity for Western leaders as well?

Moreover, how is the attack on crowds of civilians by the Ukrainian “national guard” morally different from the Viktor Yanukovych regime’s attacks on peaceful protesters during its last days? The crowds in Krasnoarmeisk consisted entirely of unarmed civilians trying to cast their ballots. Irrespective of whether or not some of the separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk region are agents of Vladimir Putin’s regime – as has been alleged – can gatherings of thousands of civilians be said to consist entirely or even largely of Russian special agents or their peons? Or is it likelier that Natalia Vasilieva is right and these crowds are made up of ordinary civilians who originally were not averse to remaining aligned with Ukraine – until the Ukrainian government sent troops, including recruited “civil activists” from known fascist and neo-Nazi groups such as Right Sector (some of whose high-ranking members are also officials in this interim government, as I have written earlier), to kill them and raze their homes? Indeed, as reported by the New York Times, it was a unit staffed by Right Sector “activists”, the Dnepr Brigade (or Dnieper Brigade or Dnieper Battalion), that opened fire on voters in Krasnoarmeisk.

It was also Right Sector “activists” who trapped tens of initially peaceful pro-Russian protesters in the House of Trade Unions in Odessa on May 2, 2014, and threw grenades and Molotov cocktails inside to set it on fire, burning 40 protesters alive – not the same protesters who initially attacked a Ukrainian unity march that day. The Turchynov/Yatseniuk government’s shameful subsequent report on the event blamed the victims, alleging that one of the building’s occupants had dropped a Molotov cocktail onto the roof, thereby setting off the blaze. Even if this happened, how does it remotely excuse the murderous intentions and behaviors of the Right Sector thugs who were caught on video, throwing fiery projectiles at the building? If an armed assailant repeatedly fires at and injures his intended victim, but fails to kill him because the victim dies of a slip and fall in the meantime, does this excuse the assailant from the charge of murder?

Turchynov and Yatseniuk are resorting to forming military units consisting of Right Sector thugs, because sane, reasonable people refuse to fight for them. This is also why the Turchynov/Yatseniuk regime undid Viktor Yanukovych’s sole good action and reinstituted military conscription for young men aged 18 to 25. As I wrote earlier, any government that treats its people as disposable cannon fodder against their will is an evil government that is not worth fighting for. Conscription is murder by lottery, and civilized people can only hope that Ukraine’s young men will engage in mass civil disobedience and dodge this draft in the hopes of preserving their lives and moral innocence. Those Ukrainians who do join the military would do well to follow the example of earlier armored columns that were sent to the Eastern regions and were stopped in their tracks by outraged civilians telling them to lay down their arms and go home. Many of these initial waves of soldiers – the ones sent before the Right Sector units were deployed – saw the folly of fighting their own people and relented.

To all Ukrainians who respect peace and civilization, I say: withdraw from all military operations, refuse to obey your criminal government, and pursue peaceful commerce and amicable daily interactions with your fellow humans – no matter what their language, ethnicity, or spoken political beliefs! No “territorial integrity” is worth the sacrifice of moral integrity, and certainly not the life of a single actual living human being. If a “united Ukraine” can only be preserved through conflagrations and rivers of blood, then it is not worth preserving! What is a set of boundaries drawn on a map ordained by the United Nations (which in many cases does not correspond to de facto political control in any event), compared to a conscious, reasoning being with a rich and irreplaceable internal universe? Borders have been drawn and redrawn time and again throughout history, but a life, once lost, can never be regained.

In the West, all too many leaders and pundits – even some libertarians! – would cast Vladimir Putin’s regime as the antagonist and the culprit for the entirety of the violence that is transpiring in Ukraine. While I have few kind words for Putin, and there is much to condemn about Putin’s own violations of the rights of Russian citizens, it does not appear that the blame placed on him for this crisis corresponds to his actual offenses. As Ron Paul points out, “The US demanded that Russian President Putin stop eastern Ukraine from voting on autonomy, and last week the Russian president did just that: he said that the vote should not be held as scheduled. The eastern Ukrainians ignored him and said they would hold the vote anyway. So much for the US claims that Russia controls the opposition in Ukraine.” And yet Western leaders continue to threaten Russia with escalating economic sanctions over the outcome of the referendum, even though Putin expressly urged delaying it! Even from a sheer pragmatic standpoint, this is an exceedingly unwise tactic; Putin might come to recognize that even his attempts at defusing the situation or disentangling Russia from it would not affect the West’s response, and he would see no reason not to escalate the crisis, if de-escalation does not alleviate any of the punishments that Western governments have in store for him.

Without the resounding endorsements and material support – economic bailouts and shipments of physical resources, paid for by Western taxpayers’ dollars – from the governments of the United States and the countries of the European Union, the Turchynov/Yatseniuk regime would not be able to sustain its crackdowns on its own people. Why do the United States and the European Union support this criminally negligent, civilian-killing government? While I was sympathetic to the deserved overthrow of Viktor Yanukovych, I am deeply ashamed of the US government for aiding the thugs who unfortunately replaced him. Turchynov and Yatseniuk are doing to the population of Eastern Ukraine exactly what Yanukovych did to the Euromaidan protesters who disagreed with his decision to abandon a proposed trade agreement with the European Union. This time, however, the Western governments have taken the side of the oppressors, just because they are perceived to be on “our” side rather than “their” side – “they” being the Russians in the eyes of all those who have not realized that the Cold War is long over and that Cold War thinking must be resolutely abandoned if we are to avoid a hot war that could engulf all of humankind and spoil our chances at achieving radical abundance and unparalleled health and prosperity through technological progress during the next several decades.

To ensure that the progress of human civilization continues without catastrophic setbacks, the crisis in Ukraine must remain localized. Only continued intervention by Western powers would allow it to spread beyond Ukraine’s current borders. It is true that, without American and EU support, the Turchynov/Yatseniuk regime will probably fall – but this will largely be achieved by Ukrainians themselves. Putin might sweep in later and occupy Eastern Ukraine – either annexing it as he did with Crimea (even though he has denied any intent to do so), or treating it much like the autonomous regions of South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and Transdniestria, which broke away from Georgia and Moldova and are currently occupied by Russian troops. If the aftermath of the Crimean annexation is an indicator, this might actually result in fewer civilian deaths than a continuation of the status quo. Also, it need not affect life in the West, or continued efforts by civilians in the West to innovate technologically and raise human standards of living, by one iota. Why does anyone need to lose sleep over the existence of quasi-independent republics named Donetsk, Luhansk, or even Novorossiya? Are they any more threatening to Americans – of whom five-sixths cannot point Ukraine out on a map anyway – than South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and Transdniestria are today? What is threatening to Americans is their own government’s foreign policy, intervening in Ukraine apparently just to oppose any potential expansion of Putin’s power and Russia’s sphere of influence, without any compelling argument for American “national security” to be made under any remotely credible interpretation of that nebulous concept.

A month ago, I wrote that the worst scenario in Ukraine would be an escalation of military conflict, which was unfortunately beginning to occur at the time as the “anti-terrorist” operation was being launched by the Turchynov/Yatseniuk government. At present we clearly see the bloody results of this ongoing operation, as more civilians perish by the day. Of course, unleashing the Ukrainian military and ultra-nationalists within the Donetsk and Luhansk region could not be confined to dislodging armed separatists, and it has turned into a war against the civilians of Eastern Ukraine. Perhaps Turchynov and Yatseniuk did not want this, but they are now desperate, just like Yanukovych was in February 2014, and they see no other way to remain in power. They know that, if they lose, their fates will be at least as unpleasant as that of Yanukovych, and so they are willing to sacrifice the entire country to protect their hold on power. The Western governments need to cut off the lifeline they have given to this criminal regime. While the result would not be optimal from the standpoint of any cosmic justice, any local “solution” to this crisis would certainly be no worse than any “solution” that could be achieved through Western intervention. Furthermore, the effect of complete non-intervention at confining the Ukrainian crisis to a local one would be incalculably beneficial in avoiding the risk of a broader war. Let us look upward to technology and human ingenuity as the path to solving humankind’s problems, and avoid getting bogged down in the sordid muck of Ukraine’s crisis. A bright future requires and demands peace today.

What Does The US Government Want in Ukraine? – Article by Ron Paul

What Does The US Government Want in Ukraine? – Article by Ron Paul

The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
May 11, 2014
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In several eastern Ukrainian towns over the past week, the military opened fire on its own citizens. Dozens may have been killed in the violence. Although the US government generally condemns a country’s use of military force against its own population, especially if they are unarmed protesters, this time the US administration blamed the victims. After as many as 20 unarmed protesters were killed on the May 9th holiday in Ukraine, the State Department spokesman said “we condemn the outbreak of violence caused by pro-Russia separatists.”

Why are people protesting in eastern Ukraine? Because they do not believe the government that came to power after the US-backed uprising in February is legitimate. They do not recognize the authority of an unelected president and prime minister. The US sees this as a Russian-sponsored destabilization effort, but is it so hard to understand that the people in Ukraine may be annoyed with the US and EU for their involvement in regime change in their country? Would we be so willing to accept an unelected government in Washington put in place with the backing of the Chinese and Iranians?

The US State Department provided much assistance earlier this year to those involved in the effort to overthrow the Ukrainian government. The US warned the Ukrainian government at the time not to take any action against those in the streets, even as they engaged in violence and occupied government buildings. But now that those former protesters have come to power, the US takes a different view of protest. Now they give full support to the bloody crackdown against protesters in the east. The State Department spokesperson said last week: “We continue to call for groups who have jeopardized public order by taking up arms and seizing public buildings in violation of Ukrainian law to disarm and leave the buildings they have seized.” This is the opposite of what they said in February. Do they think the rest of the world does not see this hypocrisy?

The residents of eastern Ukraine have long been closer to Russia than to the US and EU. In fact, that part of Ukraine had been a part of Russia. After February’s regime change, officials in the east announced that they would hold referenda to see whether the population wanted autonomy from the US-backed government in Kiev. The US demanded that Russian President Putin stop eastern Ukraine from voting on autonomy, and last week the Russian president did just that: he said that the vote should not be held as scheduled. The eastern Ukrainians ignored him and said they would hold the vote anyway. So much for the US claims that Russia controls the opposition in Ukraine.

Even though the Russian president followed US demands and urged the eastern Ukrainians to hold off on the vote, the US State Department announced that the US would apply additional sanctions on Russia if the vote is held! Does this make any sense?

The real question is why the US government is involved in Ukraine in the first place. We are broke. We cannot even afford to fix our own economy. Yet we want to run Ukraine? Does it really matter whom Ukrainians elect to represent them? Is it really a national-security matter worth risking a nuclear war with Russia whether Ukraine votes for more regional autonomy and a weaker central government? Isn’t that how the United States was originally conceived?

Has the arrogance of the US administration, thinking they should run the world, driven us to the brink of another major war in Europe? Let us hope they will stop this dangerous game and come to their senses. I say let’s have no war for Ukraine!

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.

Dispatch from Ukraine – Article by Anonymous Ukrainian Journalist

Dispatch from Ukraine – Article by Anonymous Ukrainian Journalist

The New Renaissance Hat
Anonymous Ukrainian Journalist
January 27, 2014
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This article was originally published by the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE).

Note from FEE President Lawrence W. Reed: Events in Ukraine in recent days have gripped the hearts of people around the world. We at FEE are appalled at the repressive measures being taken by the Ukrainian state against protesters, particularly young people who are active there in the movement for peace, liberty, and representative government. We sincerely hope that the brutality of statism, on vivid and tragic display at this very moment in Ukraine, will be crushed by the forces of freedom and with a minimum of bloodshed. Below, we share with our readers a moving account of what’s happening from a Ukrainian journalist who is in Kiev on the front lines of the current upheaval. We withhold his name for his protection.

—Lawrence W. Reed, FEE president.

Dear friends—especially foreign journalists and editors,

These days I receive from you lots of inquiries requesting descriptions of the current situation in Kiev and overall in Ukraine, express my opinion on what is happening, and formulate my vision of at least the nearest future. Since I am simply physically unable to respond separately to each of your publications with an extended analytical essay, I have decided to prepare this brief statement, which each of you can use in accordance with your needs. The most important things I must tell you are as follows.

During the less than four years of its rule, Mr. Yanukovych’s regime has brought the country and the society to the utter limit of tensions. Even worse, it has boxed itself into a no-exit situation where it must hold on to power forever—by any means necessary. Otherwise it would have to face criminal justice in its full severity. The scale of what has been stolen and usurped exceeds all imagination of what human avarice is capable.

The only answer this regime has been proposing in the face of peaceful protests, now in their third month, is violence, violence that escalates and is “hybrid” in its nature: special forces attacks at the Maidan (the central square of Kiev, the Ukrainian capital) are combined with individual harassment and persecution of opposition activists and ordinary participants in protest actions (surveillance, beatings, torching of cars and houses, storming of residences, searches, arrests, rubber-stamp court proceedings). The keyword here is intimidation. And since it is ineffective, and people are protesting on an increasingly massive scale, the powers that be make these repressive actions even harsher.

The “legal base” for them was created on January 16, when the Members of Parliament, fully dependent on the President, in a crude violation of all rules of procedure and voting, indeed of the Constitution itself, in the course of just a couple of minutes (!) with a simple show of hands voted in a whole series of legal changes which effectively introduced dictatorial rule and a state of emergency in the country without formally declaring them. For instance, by writing and disseminating this, I am subject to several new criminal code articles for “defamation,” “inflaming tensions,” etc.

Briefly put, if these “laws” are recognized, one should conclude: in Ukraine, everything that is not expressly permitted by the powers that be is forbidden. And the only thing permitted by those in power is to yield to them. Not agreeing to these “laws,” on January 19 the Ukrainian society rose up, yet again, to defend its future.

Today in television newsreels coming from Kiev you can see protesters in various kinds of helmets and masks on their faces, sometimes with wooden sticks in their hands. Do not believe that these are “extremists,” “provocateurs,” or “right-wing radicals.” My friends and I also now go out protesting dressed this way. In this sense my wife, my daughter, our friends, and I are also “extremists.” We have no other option: We have to protect our life and health, as well as the life and health of those near and dear to us. Special forces units shoot at us, their snipers kill our friends. The number of protesters killed just on one block in the city’s government quarter is, according to different reports, either 5 or 7. Additionally, dozens of people in Kiev are missing.

We cannot halt the protests, for this would mean that we agree to live in a country that has been turned into a lifelong prison. The younger generation of Ukrainians, which grew up and matured in the post-Soviet years, organically rejects all forms of dictatorship. If dictatorship wins, Europe must take into account the prospect of a North Korea at its eastern border and, according to various estimates, between 5 and 10 million refugees. I do not want to frighten you.

We now have a revolution of the young. Those in power wage their war first and foremost against them. When darkness falls on Kiev, unidentified groups of “people in civilian clothes” roam the city, hunting for the young people, especially those who wear the symbols of the Maidan or the European Union. They kidnap them, take them out into forests, where they are stripped and tortured in fiercely cold weather. For some strange reason the victims of such actions are overwhelmingly young artists—actors, painters, poets. One feels that some strange “death squadrons” have been released in the country with an assignment to wipe out all that is best in it.

One more characteristic detail: In Kiev hospitals the police force entraps the wounded protesters; they are kidnapped and (I repeat, we are talking about wounded persons) taken out for interrogation at undisclosed locations. It has become dangerous to turn to a hospital even for random passersby who were grazed by a shard of a police plastic grenade. The medics only gesture helplessly and release the patients to the so-called “law enforcement.”

To conclude: In Ukraine full-scale crimes against humanity are now being committed, and it is the present government that is responsible for them. If there are any extremists present in this situation, it is the country’s highest leadership that deserves to be labeled as such.

And now turning to your two questions which are traditionally the most difficult for me to answer: I don’t know what will happen next, just as I don’t know what you could now do for us. However, you can disseminate, to the extent your contacts and possibilities allow, this appeal. Also, empathize with us. Think about us. We shall overcome all the same, no matter how hard they rage. The Ukrainian people, without exaggeration, now defend the European values of a free and just society with their own blood. I very much hope that you will appreciate this.

To Bee or Not to Bee? – Article by Paul Driessen

To Bee or Not to Bee? – Article by Paul Driessen

The New Renaissance Hat
Paul Driessen
September 9, 2013
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Activist groups continue to promote scary stories that honeybees are rapidly disappearing, dying off at “mysteriously high rates,” potentially affecting one-third of our food crops and causing global food shortages. Time Magazine says readers need to contemplate “a world without bees,” while other “mainstream media” articles have sported similar headlines.

The Pesticide Action Network and NRDC are leading campaigns that claim insecticides, especially neonicotinoids, are at least “one of the key factors,” if not the principle or sole reason for bee die-offs.

Thankfully, the facts tell a different story – two stories, actually. First, most bee populations and most managed hives are doing fine, despite periodic mass mortalities that date back over a thousand years. Second, where significant depopulations have occurred, many suspects have been identified, but none has yet been proven guilty, although researchers are closing in on several of them.

Major bee die-offs have been reported as far back as 950, 992 and 1443 AD in Ireland. 1869 brought the first recorded case of what we now call “colony collapse disorder,” in which hives full of honey are suddenly abandoned by their bees. More cases of CCD or “disappearing disease” have been reported in recent decades, and a study by bee researchers Robyn Underwood and Dennis vanEngelsdorp chronicles more than 25 significant bee die-offs between 1868 and 2003. However, contrary to activist campaigns and various news stories, both wild and managed bee populations are stable or growing worldwide.

Beekeeper-managed honeybees, of course, merit the most attention, since they pollinate many important food crops, including almonds, fruits and vegetables. (Wheat, rice and corn, on the other hand, do not depend at all on animal pollination.) The number of managed honeybee hives has increased some 45% globally since 1961, Marcelo Aizen and Lawrence Harder reported in Current Biology – even though pesticide overuse has decimated China’s bee populations.

Even in Western Europe, bee populations are gradually but steadily increasing. The trends are similar in other regions around the world, and much of the decline in overall European bee populations is due to a massive drop in managed honeybee hives in Eastern Europe, after subsidies ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union. In fact, since neonicotinoid pesticides began enjoying widespread use in the 1990s, overall bee declines appear to be leveling off or have even diminished.

Nevertheless, in response to pressure campaigns, the EU banned neonics – an action that could well make matters worse, as farmers will be forced to use older, less effective, more bee-lethal insecticides like pyrethroids. Now environmentalists want a similar ban imposed by the EPA in the United States.

That’s a terrible idea. The fact is, bee populations tend to fluctuate, especially by region, and “it’s normal for a beekeeper to lose part of his hive over the winter months,” notes University of Montana bee scientist Dr. Jerry Bromenshenk. Of course, beekeepers want to minimize such losses, to avoid having to replace too many bees or hives before the next pollination season begins. It’s also true that the United States did experience a 31% loss in managed bee colonies during the 2012-2013 winter season, according to the US Agriculture Department.

Major losses in beehives year after year make it hard for beekeepers to turn a profit, and many have left the industry. “We can replace the bees, but we can’t replace beekeepers with 40 years of experience,” says Tim Tucker, vice president of the American Beekeeping Federation. But all these are different issues from whether bees are dying off in unprecedented numbers, and what is causing the losses.

Moreover, even 30% losses do not mean bees are on the verge of extinction. In fact, “the number of managed honeybee colonies in the United States has remained stable over the past 15 years, at about 1.5 million” – with 20,000 to 30,000 bees per hive – says Bryan Walsh, author of the Time article.

That’s far fewer than the 5.8 million managed US hives in 1946. But this largely reflects competition from cheap imported honey from China and South America and “the general rural depopulation of the US over the past half-century,” Walsh notes. Extensive truck transport of managed hives, across many states and regions, to increasingly larger orchards and farms, also played a role in reducing managed hive numbers over these decades.

CCD cases began spiking in the USA in 2006, and beekeepers reported losing 30-90% of the bees in many hives. Thankfully, incidents of CCD are declining, and the mysterious phenomenon was apparently not a major factor over the past winter. But researchers are anxious to figure out what has been going on.

Both Australia and Canada rely heavily on neonicotinoid pesticides. However, Australia’s honeybees are doing so well that farmers are exporting queen bees to start new colonies around the world; Canadian hives are also thriving. Those facts suggest that these chemicals are not a likely cause. Bees are also booming in Africa, Asia and South America.

However, there definitely are areas where mass mortalities have been or remain a problem. Scientists and beekeepers are trying hard to figure out why that happens, and how future die-offs can be prevented.

Walsh’s article suggests several probable culprits. Topping his list is the parasitic Varroa destructor mite that has ravaged U.S. bee colonies for three decades. Another is American foulbrood bacteria that kill developing bees. Other suspects include small hive beetles, viral diseases, fungal infections, overuse of miticides, failure of beekeepers to stay on top of colony health, or even the stress of colonies constantly being moved from state to state. Yet another might be the fact that millions of acres are planted in monocultures – like corn, with 40% of the crop used for ethanol, and soybeans, with 12% used for biodiesel – creating what Walsh calls “deserts” that are devoid of pollen and nectar for bees.

A final suspect is the parasitic phorid fly, which lays eggs in bee abdomens. As larvae grow inside the bees, literally eating them alive, they affect the bees’ ability to function and cause them to walk around in circles, disoriented and with no apparent sense of direction. Biology professor John Hafernik’s San Francisco University research team said the “zombie-like” bees leave their hives at night, fly blindly toward light sources, and eventually die. The fly larvae then emerge from the dead bees.

The team found evidence of the parasitic fly in 77% of the hives they sampled in the San Francisco Bay area, and in some South Dakota and Central Valley, California, hives. In addition, many of the bees, phorid flies and larvae contained genetic traces from another parasite, as well as a virus that causes deformed wings. All these observations have been linked to colony collapse disorder.

But because this evidence doesn’t fit their anti-insecticide fund-raising appeals, radical environmentalists have largely ignored it. They have likewise ignored strong evidence that innovative neonicotinoid pest control products do not harm bees when they are used properly. Sadly, activist noise has deflected public and regulator attention away from Varroa mites, phorid flies, and other serious global threats to bees.

The good news is that the decline in CCD occurrence has some researchers thinking it’s a cyclical malady that is entering a downswing – or that colonies are developing resistance. The bottom line is that worldwide trends show bees are flourishing. “A world without bees” is not likely.

So now, as I said in a previous article on this topic, we need to let science do its job, and not jump to conclusions or short-circuit the process. We need answers, not scapegoats – or the recurring bee mortality problem is likely to spread, go untreated or even get worse.

_____________

Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org) and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power – Black death.

From http://www.daff.gov.au/animal-plant-health/pests-diseases-weeds/bee/honeybees-FAQs — What effect has Varroa had on the number of managed bee hives in other countries?

Bee_Figure_1

Figure 1. The number of managed honey bee hives in the world from 1961-2008 (FAO Stat, 2011).

Varroa had no perceptible effect on the number of hives reported in Europe. The number of honey-bee hives in Europe declined sharply in the early 1990s, coinciding with the end of communism, and the end of state support for beekeepers, in the previously communist bloc countries of Eastern Europe. The number of hives reported Western European countries remained unchanged over the same period of time.

Bee_Figure_2Figure 2. The number of managed hives in the whole of Europe, former Warsaw Pact countries and former EU 15 member countries from 1961-2008 (Food and Agricultural Organization Stat, 2011).

In the United States the number of managed hives declined steadily since the late 1940s, around 40 years before Varroa became established there. This decline reflects declining terms of trade for United States beekeepers as the result of competition with lower-cost honey-producing countries in South America. In contrast, due to their competitive advantage, the number of hives in South America has grown steadily since the mid-1970s, despite Varroa already being established there. However, the J strain of V. destructor in South America is less damaging than the K strain of V. destructor in the United States.

Bee_Figure_3

Figure 3. The number of managed honey bee hives in the Unites States and South American countries from 1961-2008 (FAO Stat, 2011).

The CBO Sees the Economic Cliff Ahead – Article by Ron Paul

The CBO Sees the Economic Cliff Ahead – Article by Ron Paul

The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
June 19, 2012
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In early June 2012 the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued its annual long-term budget outlook report, and the 2012 numbers are not promising. In fact, the CBO estimates that federal debt will rise to 70% of GDP by the end of the year– the highest percentage since World War II. The report also paints a stark picture of entitlement spending, as retiring Baby Boomers will cause government spending on health care, Social Security, and Medicare to explode as a percentage of GDP in coming years.

While the mainstream media correctly characterized the CBO report as highly pessimistic, they also ignored longstanding errors of methodology in CBO estimates. And those errors tend to support arguments for higher taxes and government spending, when in fact America needs exactly the opposite.

As Paul Roderick Gregory explained in a recent Forbes column (http://tinyurl.com/cf746dl), CBO has always applied wrongheaded assumptions inherent in Keynesian economics when forecasting future deficits – no matter how many times both history and economic theory have proven such assumptions incorrect. In particular, CBO seems wedded to two enduring Keynesian myths: First, that higher taxes necessarily increase federal revenue and have no negative effect on the economy; and second, that lower government spending hurts the economy.  Neither is true, of course.

CBO also fails to factor in unexpected wars and expensive foreign entanglements, and we should not assign too much validity to predictive models based on peace. Judging from the actions and rhetoric coming from both parties in Washington, new military entanglements in Syria and Iran may well spike military spending in coming years.

Despite these sobering budget realities, the CBO report suggests that a solution is possible with merely a few minor adjustments in the way Congress handles economic issues. But what we need are not minor adjustments, but rather a fundamental shift in our philosophy of government.  If we could come to our senses about the proper role of government in America, and what level of government interference is appropriate in a free economy, we would quickly find that there is no reason for government to spend so much, borrow so much, and tax so much.

If we simply allowed markets to work free of governmental or Federal Reserve interference, bad debt would be liquidated relatively quickly and malinvestment would be curtailed. Scaled-back regulations would encourage businesses to expand. Lower taxes would jump start investment and spur job creation.

This is not rocket science, it is Economics 101. All it would take is for government to get out of the way. There would be some short term pain, of course, but only by allowing the bubble to burst and bad debt to liquidate can we ever hope to begin building a real economy again.

The CBO report was alarming to most simply because they know neither party will take the steps necessary to avoid eventual fiscal calamity. Instead, despite their rhetoric, both parties want to maintain the fantasy that “deficits don’t matter.” But the CBO report, combined with what is happening in Greece and the European Union, should finally make the undeniable case that economic realities apply even to industrialized first world economies. We must take concrete steps today to avoid having America become the next Greece.

Representative Ron Paul (R – TX), MD, is a Republican candidate for U. S. President. See his Congressional webpage and his official campaign website

This article has been released by Dr. Paul into the public domain and may be republished by anyone in any manner.