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When Peace Breaks Out With Iran…

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This has been the most dramatic week in US/Iranian relations since 1979.

Last weekend ten US Navy personnel were caught in Iranian waters, as the Pentagon kept changing its story on how they got there. It could have been a disaster for President Obama’s big gamble on diplomacy over conflict with Iran. But after several rounds of telephone diplomacy between Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif, the Iranian leadership – which we are told by the neocons is too irrational to even talk to – did a most rational thing: weighing the costs and benefits they decided it made more sense not to belabor the question of what an armed US Naval vessel was doing just miles from an Iranian military base. Instead of escalating, the Iranian government fed the sailors and sent them back to their base in Bahrain.
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Oregon Standoff: Isolated Event or Sign of Things to Come?

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The nation's attention turned to Oregon this week when a group calling itself Citizens for Constitutional Freedom seized control of part of a federal wildlife refuge. The citizens were protesting the harsh sentences given to members of the Hammond ranching family. The Hammonds were accused of allowing fires set on their property to spread onto federal land.

The Hammonds were prosecuted under a federal terrorism statute. This may seem odd, but many prosecutors are stretching the definition of terrorism in order to, as was the case here, apply the mandatory minimum sentences or otherwise violate defendants’ constitutional rights. The first judge to hear the case refused to grant the government’s sentencing request, saying his conscience was shocked by the thought of applying the mandatory minimums to the Hammonds. Fortunately for the government, it was able to appeal the decision to judges whose consciences were not shocked by draconian sentences.
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Purism is Practical

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Those who advocate ending, instead of reforming, the welfare-warfare state are often accused of being “impractical.” Some of the harshest criticisms come from libertarians who claim that advocates of “purism” forgo opportunities to make real progress toward restoring liberty. These critics fail to grasp the numerous reasons why it is crucial for libertarians to consistently and vigorously advance the purist position.

First, and most important, those who know the truth have a moral obligation to speak the truth. People who understand the need for drastic changes in foreign, domestic, and, especially, monetary policy should not pretend that a little tinkering will fix our problems. Those who do so are just as guilty of lying to the public as is a promise-breaking politician. Attempting to advance liberty by lying is not just immoral; it is also a flawed strategy that is doomed to fail.
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What Are The Chances For Peace in 2016?

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Each year more than one trillion dollars goes up in smoke. More accurately, it is stolen from the middle and working classes and shipped off to the one percent. I am talking about the massive yearly bill to maintain the US empire. Washington’s warmongers have sold the lie that the military budget has been gutted under President Obama, but even when the “Sequester” was in effect military spending continued to increase. Only the pace of increase was reduced, not actual spending.

None of this trillion dollars taken from us is spent to keep us safe, despite what politicians say. In fact, this great rip-off actually makes us less safe and more vulnerable to a terrorist attack thanks to resentment overseas at our intervention and the blowback it produces.
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Do We Need the Fed?

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Stocks rose Wednesday following the Federal Reserve’s announcement of the first interest rate increase since 2006. However, stocks fell just two days later. One reason the positive reaction to the Fed’s announcement did not last long is that the Fed seems to lack confidence in the economy and is unsure what policies it should adopt in the future.

At her Wednesday press conference, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen acknowledged continuing “cyclical weakness” in the job market. She also suggested that future rate increases are likely to be as small, or even smaller, then Wednesday’s. However, she also expressed concerns over increasing inflation, which suggests the Fed may be open to bigger rate increases.
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If You Want Security, Pursue Liberty

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Judging by his prime-time speech last week, the final year of Barack Obama’s presidency will be marked by increased militarism abroad and authoritarianism at home. The centerpiece of the president’s speech was his demand for a new law forbidding anyone on the federal government’s terrorist watch list from purchasing a firearm. There has never been a mass shooter who was on the terrorist watch list, so this proposal will not increase security. However, it will decrease liberty.


Federal officials can have an American citizen placed on the terrorist watch list based solely on their suspicions that the individual might be involved in terrorist activity. Individuals placed on the list are not informed that they have been labeled as suspected terrorists, much less given an opportunity to challenge that designation, until a Transportation Security Administration agent stops them from boarding a plane.
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Will the IRS Take Your Passport?

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A little-noticed provision in the highway funding bill Congress passed this week threatens a right most Americans take for granted: the right to travel abroad. The provision in question gives the Internal Revenue Service the authority to revoke the passport of anyone the IRS claims owes more than $50,000 in back taxes.

Congress is giving the IRS this new power because a decline in gas tax receipts has bankrupted the federal highway trust fund. Of course, Congress would rather squeeze more money from the American people than reduce spending, repeal costly regulations, or return responsibility for highway construction to the states, local governments, and the private sector. On the other hand, most in Congress fear the political consequences of raising gas, or other, taxes. Giving the IRS new powers allows politicians to increase government revenue without having to increase tax rates. Some even brag about how they are “cracking down on tax cheats.”
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Are We In A Clash Of Civilizations?

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The credibility of all American politicians now requires acknowledging that America is engaged in a great war for survival – “the war against Islam.” Fear of “radical Islamic terrorists” requires our undivided attention. We’re to believe that the ugly and vicious violence of a very small percentage of the 1.7 billion Muslims around the world, without an army, navy, or air force, is on the verge of engulfing America and Western civilization. The claim is that the Western concept of Christianity, liberty, and free markets is threatened. If this is so, it speaks more about the weak support for these values than for the strength of a small group claiming to speak for all of Islam. It may not make much sense, but it provokes the fear required for war-mongering.
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The War on Terror is Creating More Terror

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The interventionists will do anything to prevent Americans from seeing that their foreign policies are perpetuating terrorism and inspiring others to seek to harm us. The neocons know that when it is understood that blowback is real – that people seek to attack us not because we are good and free but because we bomb and occupy their countries – their stranglehold over foreign policy will begin to slip.

That is why each time there is an event like the killings in Paris earlier this month, they rush to the television stations to terrify Americans into agreeing to even more bombing, more occupation, more surveillance at home, and more curtailment of our civil liberties. They tell us we have to do it in order to fight terrorism, but their policies actually increase terrorism.
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Who Should Pay For the Syrian Refugees?

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Last week the US House dealt a blow to President Obama’s plan to resettle 10,000 Syrians fleeing their war-torn homeland. On a vote of 289-137, including 47 Democrats, the House voted to require the FBI to closely vet any applicant from Syria and to guarantee that none of them pose a threat to the US. Effectively this will shut down the program.

The House legislation was brought to the Floor after last week’s attacks in Paris that left more than 120 people dead, and for which ISIS claimed responsibility. With the year-long US bombing campaign against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, there is a good deal of concern that among those 10,000 to be settled here there might be some who wish to do us harm. Even though it looks as though the Paris attackers were all EU citizens, polling in the US shows record opposition to allowing Syrian refugees entry.
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