Jason Ditz:”Jeff Bezos Puts the Pentagon on His Monopoly Board”

Speaking at the Wired 25th anniversary last month month, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced that his company will continue to accept Pentagon contracts. That includes a very controversial cloud-computing contract that Google and Microsoft have already backed out of due to vocal employee opposition to working with the U.S. military.

Amazon was long considered the front-runner for this contract, but Bezos’s rationale for taking it goes well beyond its being low-hanging fruit. He’s argued that the government’s job is to “make the right decision, even when it’s unpopular,” and that large tech companies should support those decisions irrespective of politics.

The $10 billion tied to the contract can’t hurt either. Whatever his motivation for sucking it up and taking one for team tech, Bezos’s public justification is a poor one, and it isn’t hard to see why. The Pentagon has a long history of immoral and reckless behavior, actions that objectively aren’t beneficial to the defense of the United States. Any company that blindly works with them does so at its own peril.

Employees at Google and Microsoft have already made a powerful case for why tech giants shouldn’t collaborate with the Defense Department. They don’t want to be responsible for developing technology that causes substantial harm, surveils others in violation of international norms, or contravenes human rights. The Pentagon can be counted on to do all three, and more.

Furthermore, the Pentagon’s growing interest in artificial intelligence (A.I.), particularly as it relates to warfighting, sounds out of the preamble for a dystopian novel. Hence why Google employees forced their company not to renew a controversial Pentagon contract in June involving A.I. While Amazon will be signing on to cloud computing, not A.I., it’s still more than a little concerning that Bezos was so adamant about the virtues of the DoD. (For what it’s worth, Amazon already works with the CIA.)

But Amazon has an interest that extends far beyond this single deal. The real prize is to become the military’s sole procurement source for off-the-shelf components. Disdainfully labeled Amazon.mil by critics, this initiative is a result of a congressional mandate that the Pentagon shift procurement to a single online marketplace.

The mandate is supposed to save the Pentagon money when buying run-of-the-mill items like bottled water. It would also give Amazon, the presumptive facilitator, a virtual monopoly on selling a vast array of items to a government department with nearly limitless money that’s notorious for overpaying for things.

Amazon is one of very few online companies that could even claim to provide this sort of service. In eagerly contracting with the Pentagon elsewhere, Bezos is laying the groundwork for this much bigger relationship.

Full Commentary by Jason Ditz @ The American Conservative https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/amazon-joins-the-military-to-further-its-dominance/

Ron Paul: Liberty Is Still Popular

Listening to the media, one would be forgiven for thinking that the “Libertarian Moment” has passed. After all, few candidates are running on a platform of limited government, individual liberty, and a non-interventionist foreign policy. Instead, both parties push expansions of government power, whether nationalized health care, increased surveillance, or tariffs. And for all the partisan invective coming out of D.C., both parties are more than willing to work together to increase spending and debt.

However, a poll from last month conducted by Liberty Government Affairs and Gravis Marketing, shows that liberty is still popular. It also shows that a growing number of Americans are rejecting the D.C. consensus on many issues.

For example, the foreign policy establishment insists that America must stay in Afghanistan for as long as it takes to achieve victory—even though no one can define what victory would look like. The Liberty-Gravis poll found that 46.1 percent of Americans favor withdrawal from Afghanistan. Only 29.1 percent of Republicans support continuing to stay, while 37.4 percent of Republicans disagree with President Trump, and agree with candidate Trump, that the U.S. should end its longest war.

The drug war is another issue where grassroots Republicans disagree with most Republicans politicians. Forty-seven percent of Republicans in this poll support ending the war on marijuana, compared to 34 percent of Republicans who support continuing marijuana prohibition. Ending the federal war on marijuana is also overwhelmingly popular with Democrats and Independents. Legalizing marijuana is yet another issue where voters side with candidate Trump over President Trump—or at least his authoritarian Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The poll does not just contain bad news for the authoritarians of the right. The survey found that 46.6 percent of Democrats answered “yes” to supporting politicians who would “seek to reduce the size of the federal government, lower federal taxes, and end continuing conflicts abroad.”

Full Commentary by former Congressman Ron Paul @ Reason https://reason.com/archives/2018/10/29/liberty-is-still-popular

Gravis Marketing Poll @ https://www.libertygovernmentaffairs.com/news

Libertarian Party of California Voting Guide

The Libertarian Party of California has posted recommendations on the propositions on the California Ballot.
The Libertarian Party calls for a No Vote on the bond issues – Propositions 1, 2, 3, & 4:

Proposition 1: Veterans and Affordable Housing Bond Act of 2018 Vote NO
Proposition 2: No Place like Home Act of 2018 Vote NO
Proposition 3: Water Supply and Water Quality Act of 2018 Vote NO
Proposition 4: Children’s Hospital Bond Act of 2018 Vote NO

The Libertarian Party urges a Yes Vote on Proposition 5 & Proposition 6
Proposition 5: People’s Initiative to Protect Proposition 13 Savings Vote strong>YES
Proposition 6: Voter Approval for Increases in Gas and Car Tax Vote YES

The Libertarian Party has no position on Proposition 7, concerning Daylight Savings

The Libertarian Party urges a No Vote on Proposition 8, Proposition 10, and Proposition 11
Proposition 8: Fair Pricing for Dialysis Act Vote NO
Proposition 10: Affordable Housing Act Vote NO
Proposition 11: Emergency Ambulance Employee Safety and Preparedness Vote NO

The Complete Libertarian Voting Guide to the California Propositions includes explanations of the
Propositions on the Libertarian Party stand on the issue: see the Guide @ https://ca.lp.org/voting-guide/

Daniel Larison on “Trump’s Nuclear Arms Race”

Trump just threatened to increase the U.S. nuclear arsenal:

President Donald Trump told reporters Monday that the United States would increase its nuclear arsenal until other nations “come to their senses,” threatening an arms race days after he said he would withdraw the US from a Cold War nuclear treaty.

“Until people come to their senses, we will build it up,” Trump said from outside the White House.

The U.S. doesn’t need to build more nuclear weapons, and increasing the arsenal will not make America or the world the slightest bit safer. On the contrary, a new nuclear arms buildup would cause other nuclear weapons powers to increase their own arsenals. Building more nukes would be extremely expensive, and it would make the world less secure by heightening international tensions, casting aside decades of arms control and arms reduction work, and encouraging more states to develop nuclear weapons for their own protection. This wouldn’t cause other governments to “come to their senses,” but it would show the world that our government has completely lost its own.

Trump seems to think that other states will be intimidated by a new buildup of nuclear weapons, but it is much more likely that they will be terrified into responding in kind. There is no way that the U.S. will be able to make any progress with North Korea if our government is simultaneously developing new kinds of nuclear weapons and increasing the number of weapons that it possesses. Other would-be proliferators may take this as a cue to pursue their own weapons programs. If reneging on the JCPOA was a body blow to the cause of nonproliferation, a new arms race could prove to be a fatal blow.

The cost of what Trump is proposing would be exorbitant at a time when the U.S. already spends far too much on the military. There could nothing more senseless and gratuitously militaristic than expanding a nuclear arsenal for its own sake. The U.S. needs to be be building on the successes of existing arms control agreements to get the world’s largest nuclear weapons states to cut back on their arsenals. It won’t be able to do that if it is throwing countless billions of dollars down a black hole of wasteful spending on new weapons that the U.S. doesn’t need.

Source:The American Conservative https://www.theamericanconservative.com/larison/trumps-nuclear-arms-race/

Nick Taber on “The Worst Totalitarian Since Mao”

This summer, a UN panel received reports of a human rights crisis unfolding in China’s far western Xinjiang province. The information showed that as many as two million people had been subjected to an intense political indoctrination and reeducation program. The backlash has largely focused on the ethno-religious nature of this crisis. Pakistan, China’s closest and most economically dependent ally, has asked China to ease restrictions on Muslims, and Uighurs (the ethnic minority group targeted) living in America are beginning to condemn China’s human rights abuses.

But over-interpreting the religious aspect of the crackdown distracts from the true nature of repression in China. The crisis in Xinjiang should be interpreted more as an assault on basic freedoms and the expansion of a totalitarian tyranny than an expression of ethnic superiority. To be sure, this is nothing less than a cultural genocide. But as far as we know, the Chinese government is not Sinicizing this group simply because they are Muslim or ethnically Turkic. It is doing so because they are a perceived threat to the power of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Intense repression has been rapidly growing throughout the country, cementing the power of the CCP in all corners of society. Indeed, the human rights abuses in Xinjiang are strikingly similar to what’s been happening elsewhere in China since Xi assumed office. Human rights reports of Xinjiang describe mass political indoctrination, the creation of a digital police state, arbitrary detention, and pervasive controls over daily life. Let’s look at each of those components individually.

Indoctrination: Mass political indoctrination is the central purpose of the reeducation camps established in Xinjiang. Elsewhere in the country, however, the Chinese government has instituted a wide variety of indoctrination programs, with the explicit goal of expanding the CCP’s control over people’s minds. This includes overhauling all of China’s major educational institutions, increasing the ideological content of all media, and controlling the spread of foreign ideas and influences within the country.

During a speech given at a Beijing kindergarten in 2015, President Xi Jinping outlined his vision of party control over education, saying, “Children should memorize the core socialist values by heart, have them melt in their hearts, and carve them into their brains.” The CCP plans to overhaul the nation’s university system to turn it into an ideological education machine. Students will undergo a hefty political indoctrination program all the way through university. Chinese professors will be forced to teach CCP propaganda. According to recent government plans, university faculty will be judged foremost by their “ideological and political performance.”

And while indoctrination and reeducation programs outside of Xinjiang do not have the same force and severity as those within the province, they are nonetheless very invasive, and are a core component of the country’s move towards totalitarianism.

Full commentary by Nick Taber @ The American Conservative https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/the-worst-totalitarian-since-mao/

Hauf:”If You Hate Big Government, You Should Oppose the Death Penalty”

From the Postal Service to the Department of Motor Vehicles, the government has proven to be as ineffective as Hillary Clinton’s campaign strategy. Conservatives, for the most part, understand the inefficient nature of government, and that’s why they often advocate for free-market policies.

However, there’s one issue where conservatives often give far too much power to the government: capital punishment. Here, many Republicans allow their “tough on crime” mentality to overrule limited government ideals and innate skepticism of state overreach.

There’s Nothing “Small Government” about Capital Punishment

This contradiction within the Republican platform, although rarely acknowledged, exposes a weakness in the party’s ideology. If Republicans pride themselves on their limited government philosophy, then why would they grant the government control over life and death?

Take Texas, for example—arguably the nation’s most conservative state. Ever since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976 after the Supreme Court lifted its nationwide suspension, 552 of the 1477 executions in the U.S. have taken place in the Lone Star State. While many Texas Republicans pride themselves on their unapologetic use of the death penalty, its enactment, like most government programs, is both inefficient and ineffective.

In Texas, a death penalty case costs about $2.3 million, which is nearly three times the cost of one prisoner’s 40-year sentence in a single cell with maximum security. And this fiscal irresponsibility is far from a Texas problem. It’s a nationwide phenomenon.

California, arguably the nation’s most liberal state, has spent over $4 billion on the death penalty since 1978 and would save $5 billion over the next 20 years if Governor Jerry Brown commuted all those on death row to life without parole.

Full Post by Patrick Hauf @ Foundation for Economic Education:https://fee.org/articles/if-you-hate-big-government-you-should-oppose-the-death-penalty/

“Happy 217th Birthday to French Liberal Economist Frederic Bastiat!”

Friday June 29 was the 217th anniversary of the birth of Frederic Bastiat, champion of free trade and personal freedom.
Mark Perry has a tribute to the 19th Century Liberal economist @ fee.org, the blog of the Foundation for Economic Education:

According to the Library of Economics and Liberty, Bastiat’s biggest contributions to economics were “his fresh and witty expressions of economic truths,” which “made them so understandable and compelling that the truths became hard to ignore.” Celebrating Bastiat’s birthday has become an annual tradition at Carpe Diem, and below I present some of my favorite quotes from the great liberty-loving, influential French economist!

1. One of Bastiat’s most famous and important writings was “The Candlemakers’ Petition,”…

“We [French candlemakers] are suffering from the intolerable competition of a foreign rival, placed, it would seem, in a condition so far superior to ours for the production of light that he absolutely inundates our national market with it at a price fabulously reduced. The moment he shows himself, our trade leaves us — all consumers apply to him; and a branch of native industry, having countless ramifications, is all at once rendered completely stagnant. This rival, who is none other than the sun, wages war mercilessly against us.”

“We ask you to pass a law requiring the closing of all windows, skylights, dormer-windows, outside and inside shutters, curtains, blinds; in a word, of all openings, holes, chinks, clefts, and fissures, by or through which the light of the sun has been in use to enter houses, to the prejudice of the meritorious manufactures with which we flatter ourselves that we have accommodated our country — a country that, in gratitude, ought not to abandon us now to a strife so unequal.”

Full celebration by Mark J Perry https://fee.org/articles/happy-217th-birthday-to-french-classical-liberal-economist-frederic-bastiat/?utm_campaign=FEE%20Daily&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=64159662&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-95PXiAGSHJE7GHbHJ2RsmLx8TRylwZgWxu8hPcaZgG7QDc42qGtuRKBws2nUTacJsPxK9WyHclaJalQgkj5Jwr17RfwQ&_hsmi=64159662