“U.S. intelligence agents have been hacking computer networks around the world for years, apparently targeting fat data pipes that push immense amounts of data around the Internet, NSA leaker Edward Snowden told the South China Morning Post on Wednesday. Among some 61,000 reported targets of the National Security Agency, Snowden said, are thousands of computers in China — which U.S. officials have increasingly criticized as the source of thousands of attacks on U.S. military and commercial networks. China has denied such attacks.”
Snowden just jumped the shark. It’s commendable to let Americans know that they’ve been lied to by their leaders with respect to domestic surveillance. It’s something closer to treason to let a foreign power know our government has breaking into their computer systems. I suspect Snowden thinks that these revelations will help him avoid extradition—that the Chinese government will protect him in gratitude for these disclosures. But if his goal was to change American domestic policy, he’s just made that change far less likely. A good portion of the American public was with him; now they won’t be. I find this incredibly sad. And I feel bad for Snowden, because he’s made a huge miscalculation that’s going to haunt him for the rest of his life.
I think Jeff has the right of it. I can respect the whistleblower who releases specific information in a targeted manner. As that looks less and less targeted, he looks less and less like the whistleblower and more and more like the guy who should never have been given a security clearance.
I have to reluctantly agree that Snowden has jumped the shark. By stating publicly that the NSA is spying on foreign countries, Snowden isn’t necessarily revealing anything we couldn’t reasonably infer was already happening. Nonetheless, Snowden is revealing precisely the type of information that his critics can now credibly claim will endanger American lives. And this time, they won’t be entirely wrong. Allegations like this could cause an international incident that will disrupt the relative diplomatic detenté that has existed between the U.S. and China for the past two decades. That is something that actually could put lives at risk.
Furthermore, and more regrettably, all critics of the PRISM program will now be vicariously discredited, despite the genuinely horrifying and outrageous implications of its existence. Snowden has crossed over from the realm of courageous truth-teller to actions that constitute actual, legitimate treason, and all of his supporters and peers who are opposed to government secrecy are the worse off for it.
First, I find “treason” to often simply be a victimless crime; when it is not, there are already crimes with which individuals can be charged. Just laws protect life, liberty, and property of the individual and are thus against the initiation of aggression; they are axiomatic consequences of self-ownership - “laws against theft, assault, battery, murder, slavery, rape, fraud, trespass, destruction of property, and the threats thereof.” Treason simply does not fit. I side with Lysander Spooner in this regard.
Second, we must understand what this exposed activity precisely is. The nomenclature already suggests that hacking is aggression (cyber-attacks, cyber-war, cyber-terrorism, etc.). Therefore, if a government which ostensibly represents a people commits an act of aggression, it must (at the very least) do so with the people’s consent - which cannot be done when the people themselves are unaware that said actions are taking place. Furthermore, to be a morally justified act of aggression, it must be defensive. If these cyber-activities are legitimately defensive then the people must be made aware of the actions that precipitated them and of course that a response would be made. This way, the people can come out in favor or against such a response (putting aside that the political process in place is illegitimate and, by its very nature, ultimately ill-equipped to gauge the people’s response and mobilize/react accordingly).
Let’s consider these actions outside the realm of the digital. If Snowden had leaked that the U.S. was secretly committing physical acts of aggression against another country - say a covert bombing campaign - without U.S. citizens being aware, there is no doubt that civil libertarians (like LTMC and jeffmiller above) would find reason for concern. They would demand to know what provoked such actions, if the reaction was proper, what steps were being taken to minimize collateral damage, if the actions were worth the risk, if there were better alternatives that would induce less blowback, etc.
The gentlemen above may be correct that Snowden has made a grave miscalculation and are likely correct that public opinion may turn against him after this leak. It’s a shame, but it’s probably true that this latest leak may serve to bolster support for the state’s ability to keep secrets (particularly from neo-cons and unprincipled Obama supporters) as well as potentially function to discredit those of us with genuine concern about a powerful and unaccountable government’s actions.
I, however, still think Snowden’s leaks are commendable. If we are to take the stance that exposing secret U.S. actions against foreign nations is wrong because it’s treasonous to inform a foreign power of U.S. government activities against them, then this gives the U.S. cover to commit atrocities so long as they are secret. (Where would the likes of Bradley Manning and Julian Assange fit in this conversation?) And if the counter is that only morally unjustified acts are apt for leaking, then we are left allowing a small handful of potential leakers to make judgements as to what may or may not be morally reprehensible instead of allowing the very public, who the actions are said to represent, judge for themselves. In this circuitous scenario, a leaker could choose to leak only the most grave of offenses so as to not risk losing the public’s protection and in so doing leave countless injustices in the dark (as well as leave himself unable to know beforehand what actions the public would find acceptable).
I think the proper response is in educating the public that essentially all government leaks are welcome (though I might accept that there are scenarios in which a warning before leaking may be justified so as to minimize harm).
To me, Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden are and remain heroes.
… To me, watching out for those who need it most is one of the great ends of society. It’s a duty we can’t ignore. (And this is one of the places where my politics are religiously informed. The whole loving of the neighbor and honoring of the fathers and mothers isn’t particularly negotiable). Maybe I can offer a clear answer to Bart’s question on how much we should be willing to spend to care for those who need it:
As much as it takes. Everything, if need be. …
But if we spend “everything” for the poor, what would we have left for the “sick”? And if we save some for the “sick,” then which illness, disease, or injury gets more?
It’s easy to be “generous” with other people’s wealth. It’s also easy to be wasteful. You do not occupy the moral high ground by couching your threats of violence as noble altruism.
You paraphrased Hinkle’s assertion that there be a “ceiling” on what’s given to the poor as: “Fuck it. Taking care of others is just too hard.” Perhaps an equitable paraphrase of your position would be: “Fuck it. It’s much easier to address my priorities if I put a gun to everyone’s head.” Because that is what you are pushing for, ultimately.
My position is, essentially, the middle ground - that there be no floor or ceiling on charitable giving. Or, rather, that each individual decides his or her priorities, and determines how much or how little to give to what charities with no third party setting any limits.
This not only minimizes the use of force to right societal wrongs, it also maximizes the efficiency of how those wrongs are righted.
We shouldn’t be surprised by the ever-growing costs of entitlements. As more money is funneled in this way, more cronies find ways to make the bludgeon of government work in their favor. And with greater bureaucracy and greater distance between the purported beneficiary and his benefactor, there naturally comes less efficiency and accountability.
The question isn’t simply “how much should we spend for the poor,” but how should we spend it.
Unlike individuals expending their own wealth by employing their own subjective valuations, the state is inherently incapable of achieving value and efficiency.
There are four ways money may be spent:
- Spend your own money on yourself. When you spend your own money on yourself, you make sure that you get exactly what you want and that you get the most bang for your buck (obviously, it is your hard-earned wealth and you would logically not wish to waste it).
e.g. From the television in your living room to the juice in your refrigerator.
- Spend your own money on someone else. Here, you are still concerned about getting the most bang for your buck, but you are not as careful about what you get.
e.g. A holiday gift for your company’s gift exchange.
- Spend someone else’s money on yourself. Since no one knows better than you what exactly you want, you are then uniquely capable of doing so - but you are not as concerned about saving or being efficient with the money.
e.g. A lunch on the company’s expense account.
- Spend someone else’s money on someone else. In this situation, the spender is less concerned with both efficiency and value …
e.g. All government spending (that is, when cronies, politicians, and bureaucrats don’t find ways to grease their palms in the process, which is #3).
Government is not only inefficient, but there is even incentive to be inefficient - a government agency that fails always has the same solution: increase its budget! Further, there is no way that a favored few - no matter how angelic or intelligent - making economic decisions for millions of individuals can be as concerned for their specific desires as those millions of individuals making decisions for themselves.
I admire that you see injustice in the world and wish to correct it. I, too, cannot stand injustice. My family makes it a priority to give to various charities - not just checks, but food and clothing and time. But it is my very disdain of injustice that cannot accept your answer that greater injustice - direct threats of violence - is needed to make things right.
Furthermore, It is rather utopian to believe that ultimate power (a monopoly on force) bequeathed unto an entity to achieve good deeds would not, just as it has throughout time, become ultimate power usurped for tyranny and corruption.
There is no reason to believe that what anyone owns was “earned”.
There is no reason? I can agree that not all wealth was earned. Certainly countless plutocrats, bureaucrats, and corporations use the state’s monopoly on force to coerce wealth from people against their will (just as it would be incorrect to view the “profits” of an average criminal as earned). But absent such force, any exchange in which all parties involved consent to is eo ipso mutually beneficial - they each value what they receive more than what they offer, otherwise they would not consent. Property merely represents the exchange of one’s past. At some point, person A gave up X amount of time for Y purpose in exchange for Z property. So Z is merely what A exchanged for X. To deny a person’s claim to Z (property) is to deny a person’s claim to use one’s time as one sees fit. And, more consequentially, such a denial - by interfering with the free and mutually beneficial nature of legitimate exchanges - keeps people from cooperating and thus benefiting one another.
Mr. Callus and I are on the same page for once. Things can get a bit tricky when a toddler learns the word “mine.” Parents get to explain that while their acquisitive nature doubtlessly promises conventional success in a capitalist world, you can’t make something yours just by grabbing off the shelf in the store and saying, “Mine.” While you do in fact possess it, that does not give you a legal or a moral claim to ownership.
"I earned this" works in about the same way.
Indeed. You are unwittingly touching upon a key caveat that invalidates your conclusions. That toddler does not own something “just by grabbing [it] off the shelf in the store and saying, “Mine.”” There must be a consensual agreement in which willing participants engage in mutually beneficial exchange. That store wants money more than the item on its shelf, and the customer would want the item more than what she gives up otherwise the exchange would not take place. The store “earned” the money by interchanging with a willing partner, and the customer “earned” the shelf-item by doing the same.
Insisting that you “earned” all the money you possess, however fleetingly, does not give you a legal or a moral claim to it. If the money is taxable, you don’t have a legal claim to it.
My possessions are not “earned” simply because I insist that I earned them. I “earned” them because at no point did I commit violence, or threaten to commit violence, to acquire them - every exchange with every trading partner was voluntary. Only governments - and criminals - make the argument that insisting something belongs to them simply makes it theirs (sometimes giving themselves permission in writing, under the illegitimate claims of democratic will). But yet, your argument is that the government can and does have a higher claim to my wealth than I do despite using the fallacious argument you denounce. In fact, the state has no moral claim to the properties of peaceful traders, and its legal claims to anyone’s property - as an intervener (that is, “one who intervenes violently in free social or market relations”) - are dubious.
And if you’re making ten times more than a guy putitng (sic) the same kind of time and energy into his job, the moral case is pretty tough too.
A person’s well-being - life, liberty, property - is not damaged because someone else has more - even someone who makes “ten times more.” Valuations are subjective. Two laborers may both invest the same amount of “time and energy” into their work, but ultimately a consumer decides whose work is more productive, beneficial, artistic, delicious, etc. I can spend my life chipping away at marble, pouring my heart and soul into the work, but I’ll never be able to create anything remotely as beautiful as Auguste Rodin’s The Kiss.
We can and do question the idea of entitlement to wealth with redistributive policy. I am uncovinced (sic) that the dubious belief that someone earned their wealth is worth the real suffering caused by vast disparities in wealth.
Suffering is not “caused by vast disparities in wealth.” To repeat above, A person’s well-being is not damaged because someone else has more. A person may suffer because he or she may be unable to afford those items he or she desires. It is not the disparity that is the problem, it is the poverty. And couching the issue in terms of covetousness obscures the true problem (poverty) as well as effective solutions. We cannot alleviate perceived injustices by committing further, and perhaps greater, injustices. It is the state that is instrumental in both creating much poverty and fostering the conditions that keep many people from overcoming their hapless circumstances.
- The Democrats. Obama ran a largely insurgent campaign in 2008. This meant that the people who cling to the coat tails of whomever they think will win all flocked to Clinton. The end result was that Clinton got an unmanageable operation full of egos with impressive resumes. Now all those egos are going to try to get Obama reelected. They’re a liability.
- Appalachia. Obama is not doing well in West Virginia and Kentucky primaries—even where he’s largely unopposed. That’s not too much of a problem. He wasn’t expecting to win there anyway. Unfortunately, the demographics that really don’t like Obama spill into parts of Ohio and Virginia where Obama does want to win. Some of the opposition has to do with race. Some of it has to do with messaging problems. Much of it has to do with a (reasonable) sense that Obama is not-too-keen on coal-mining.
- Wall Street. A lot of the investment bankers liked Obama in 2008. He was fresh. Technocratic. The kind of guy they could support. They were smart. He was smart. It was a good match. Except .. for some reason Obama isn’t going to let them loot the country like Romney would. This has made some people with a lot of money uncomfortable.
I like how Squashed rights off the entire midwest as racists who don’t understand Obama’s “message.” Did it ever occur to you that we don’t support his actual policies?
Here’s a brief list of why I wont be supporting Obama (and also why a lot of other college aged voters I’ve had contact with wont be voting for him).
- Gitmo is still open.
- We are still at war in the Middle East (even more so than when Obama was inaugurated).
- Drone strikes are increasing.
- Patriot Act reauthorization.
- Escalation of War on Drugs.
- Increased subsidies for “green” energy while obstructing coal, natural gas, oil exploration (hey at least one thing you said was right).
- Escalation of the deportations of illegal immigrants.
- The realization that he is just another politician who does not have the interests of the people in mind.
Note that none of these things have to do with a failure to message or the color of his skin. It’s because he fucking sucks as a human being and not to mention as a president.
I’d also like to point out that Romney and Obama agree on everything I’ve listed here except for maybe on energy.
Typical Obama Apologetics, putting “the blame of Obama’s failures squarely upon the shoulders of the unthinking masses, too stupid or self-centered or racist or confused to properly support the true savior.”
And to insinuate that Obama is no friend to Wall Street - who was bank-rolled by Wall Street, has repeatedly gifted Wall Street with bailouts, and whose administration is filled with Wall-Streeters - takes some serious chutzpah.
A partisan with any sort of intellectual integrity (I guess such a thing is an oxymoron) would start a list of Obama’s re-election hurdles with Obama himself, for reasons that include what Nate listed above. The peace president who loves war, the transparency candidate who’s denied more FOIA requests than anyone, the whistle-blower supporter who’s locked away Bradley Manning, the champion of minority causes who’s deported more immigrants in three years than Bush in eight, the constitutional scholar who signed the NDAA, Patriot Act, ACTA, and the death warrants of Americans “tried” without due process… Obama is the biggest hurdle to his own re-election. Luckily for him and his supporters, they’re right that the masses tend to be un-thinking - which is why I consider his re-election likely. But fret not, Obamaites: if Romney does win, nearly nothing will change. The support for leviathan’s expansion will continue on schedule.
Raising taxes on certain categories of people to pay for our egregious spending habits in Washington only passes the buck to future generations.
Technically raising revenue pays for the spending we’re doing now—which eliminates the need to pass the buck to future generations. Any budget has two sides. Money in. Money out. Taxes are low now. A more progressive tax system can both eliminate the deficit and allow us to fund our priorities.
By western standards, yes, taxes are relatively low. I would suggest 1) that our priorities are out of whack and 2) that 20% of GDP should be the maximum amount of revenue consumable by the Federal Government.
We’re already there. No more.
Looking at increased revenue as the solution to budgetary woes is foolish. Even if the United States government took every penny of profit from all the companies on the Fortune 500, plus every penny made as income over $250,000 from every individual - it still wouldn’t be enough to pay for half the annual budget. It would take an outrageous amount of pillaging of property and net worth to get anywhere near paying off an annual budget, much less addressing existing debt. And then what happens the following year when no one’s left to cull?
This is a spending problem. Period.
Further, I contend that there is no such thing as a tax being too low, just as there couldn’t exist a stabbing by kitchen knife that was too gentle. Any taxation above zero is too high; taxation is theft.
Just a few quick examples, as to elaborate on this question:
- Minimum wage laws ostensibly exist to offer poorer workers better pay, but tend to leave the lower-skilled workers unemployed instead. 1
- Tariffs and tough anti-immigration laws purportedly protect American citizens - poor, lower-skilled individuals in particular - from the “unfair” competition of cheap foreigners. Instead, it drives businesses to other countries or raises prices on products, burdens which weigh much more heavily on the poor. 2, 3
- Drug prohibition is intended to help rid the streets of dangers, particularly in lower-income neighborhoods; instead, outrageous numbers of poor people are incarcerated (or worse) for non-violent activity. 4, 5
- The Welfare State, which supposedly functions as a “safety net” for individuals in unfortunate circumstances by providing them assistance (mostly financial), is not only wasteful and corrupt when run through the bureaucratic, palm-greasing sausage-factory that is the state - it also has been shown to function as an impediment in allowing the downtrodden to escape from the cycle of poverty and dependence. 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
- And then there is war itself, that definitionally destructive and deadly effort, which recruits heavily in poorer communities (the military billboards and recruiting offices in the neighborhoods near me are innumerable) as a way to give poor kids an alternative to gangs and a means to pay for higher education. Yet, in too many cases, it simply offers them death. There are conflicting reports as to whether the composition of military personnel is dominated by recruits from lower-income homes, but it seems at least anecdotally evident that there is a concerted effort to “help” the poor by offering them this “opportunity.” 13, 14
EDITED TO ADD:
- The Federal Reserve issues new money first to governments, banks, and connected corporate interests. This makes it easier for banks to loan money to the state, increasing debt that will be shouldered by all of us. Price inflation - a direct consequence of monetary inflation, or an increase in the money supply - thus harms most those who are last to see the new money (not the aforementioned elites). Further, it creates the cycle of boom and bust - a consequence of sector-wide malinvestment - that tends to make marginal workers most vulnerable to unemployment. 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20
Put frankly: government is no friend of the poor.
In 2010 a little over two-thirds of the receipts from personal income tax will be spent on national defense.
We need to seriously cut military spending, raise personal income taxes, or both.
I wholly agree that we need to dramatically scale back (down to zero, preferably) our imperialistic military adventures that have us meddling in foreign affairs around the world, but this statistic seems odd. How is spending separated by what dollars came in from personal income taxes vs corporate taxes or sales taxes or tariffs and fees, etc.?
Military and defense spending is actually around $1 trillion, or just under 29% - and it is discretionary spending. This includes Veteran’s affairs and DoE’s nuclear spending, among other things, which account for additional unseen costs of the military-industrial complex. But there’s a greater concern: Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid alone, on the other hand, account for $1.75 trillion or about 50% of spending - nearly all of it mandatory. This is using 2010 figures. And Medicare/Medicaid spending will only rise further once ObamaCare is more fully implemented in the next three-four years.
Again, I agree that our military/defense budget is astronomical. We should return our troops from the countless countries we’re disturbing, close most of our [around 800, though literally unknown number of] bases, begin phasing out our standing army, focus on non-interventionist defense… but to key in on military and defense spending by overstating its financial impact is like panicing about a fork in the thigh while ignoring a knife in the neck. Domestic entitlement spending - which is, at best, less of a constitutional priority of the federal government - is the greatest burden on taxpayers.
Which brings me to the second suggestion: raising taxes, aside from the fact that it takes the property of others by force (known as theft in most circles), only encourages the bastards to keep spending.