Monday, December 27, 2010

How Bradley Manning Spends His Days

In a statement issued by Manning's lawyer, David E. Coombs:
PFC Manning is currently being held in maximum custody. Since arriving at the Quantico Confinement Facility in July of 2010, he has been held under Prevention of Injury (POI) watch.

His cell is approximately six feet wide and twelve feet in length.

The cell has a bed, a drinking fountain, and a toilet.

The guards at the confinement facility are professional. At no time have they tried to bully, harass, or embarrass PFC Manning. Given the nature of their job, however, they do not engage in conversation with PFC Manning.

At 5:00 a.m. he is woken up (on weekends, he is allowed to sleep until 7:00 a.m.). Under the rules for the confinement facility, he is not allowed to sleep at anytime between 5:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. If he attempts to sleep during those hours, he will be made to sit up or stand by the guards.

He is allowed to watch television during the day. The television stations are limited to the basic local stations. His access to the television ranges from 1 to 3 hours on weekdays to 3 to 6 hours on weekends.

He cannot see other inmates from his cell. He can occasionally hear other inmates talk. Due to being a pretrial confinement facility, inmates rarely stay at the facility for any length of time. Currently, there are no other inmates near his cell.

From 7:00 p.m. to 9:20 p.m., he is given correspondence time. He is given access to a pen and paper. He is allowed to write letters to family, friends, and his attorneys.

Each night, during his correspondence time, he is allowed to take a 15 to 20 minute shower.

On weekends and holidays, he is allowed to have approved visitors see him from 12:00 to 3:00 p.m.
Read the rest.

Read David House's interview with Manning on December 18-19, 2010:
Manning related to me on December 19 2010 that his blankets are similar in weight and heft to lead aprons used in X-ray laboratories, and similar in texture to coarse and stiff carpet. He stated explicitly that the blankets are not soft in the least and expressed concern that he had to lie very still at night to avoid receiving carpet burns. The problem of carpet burns was exacerbated, he related, by the stipulation that he must sleep only in his boxer shorts as part of the longstanding POI order. Manning also stated on December 19 2010 that hallway-mounted lights shine through his window at night. This constant illumination is consistent with reports from attorney David Coombs’ blog that marines must visually inspect Manning as he sleeps. . . .
Based on Bradley Manning’s description of his detention to myself and to his attorney, there are clear, unavoidable contradictions with the Pentagon’s public statements about Manning. Because of the longstanding POI order, Manning is subjected to restrictions far beyond the minimum right of other “maximum custody” prisoners held in the same brig.

Since his arrest Bradley Manning has been neither a threat to himself nor others. Over the course of my visits to see Bradley in Quantico, it’s become increasingly clear that the severe, inhumane conditions of his detention are wearing on Manning. The extraordinary restrictions of Manning’s basic rights to sleep, exercise, and communicate under the Prevention of Injury order are unnecessary and should be lifted immediately.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Michael Moore Supports Julian Assange

On Tuesday, December 14, 2010, Michael Moore said he was posting $20,000 of his own money as bail for Julian Assange.  His reasons for doing so are consistent with libertarianism.
Yesterday, in the Westminster Magistrates Court in London , the lawyers for WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange presented to the judge a document from me stating that I have put up $20,000 of my own money to help bail Mr. Assange out of jail.

Furthermore, I am publicly offering the assistance of my website, my servers, my domain names and anything else I can do to keep WikiLeaks alive and thriving as it continues its work to expose the crimes that were concocted in secret and carried out in our name and with our tax dollars.

We were taken to war in Iraq on a lie. Hundreds of thousands are now dead. Just imagine if the men who planned this war crime back in 2002 had had a WikiLeaks to deal with. They might not have been able to pull it off. The only reason they thought they could get away with it was because they had a guaranteed cloak of secrecy. That guarantee has now been ripped from them, and I hope they are never able to operate in secret again. . . .
Openness, transparency -- these are among the few weapons the citizenry has to protect itself from the powerful and the corrupt. What if within days of August 4th, 1964 -- after the Pentagon had made up the lie that our ship was attacked by the North Vietnamese in the Gulf of Tonkin -- there had been a WikiLeaks to tell the American people that the whole thing was made up? I guess 58,000 of our soldiers (and 2 million Vietnamese) might be alive today.
Instead, secrets killed them.

For those of you who think it's wrong to support Julian Assange because of the sexual assault allegations he's being held for, all I ask is that you not be naive about how the government works when it decides to go after its prey. Please -- never, ever believe the "official story." And regardless of Assange's guilt or innocence (see the strange nature of the allegations here ), this man has the right to have bail posted and to defend himself. I have joined with filmmakers Ken Loach and John Pilger and writer Jemima Khan in putting up the bail money -- and we hope the judge will accept this and grant his release today.

Might WikiLeaks cause some unintended harm to diplomatic negotiations and U.S. interests around the world? Perhaps. But that's the price you pay when you and your government take us into a war based on a lie. Your punishment for misbehaving is that someone has to turn on all the lights in the room so that we can see what you're up to. You simply can't be trusted. So every cable, every email you write is now fair game. Sorry, but you brought this upon yourself. No one can hide from the truth now. No one can plot the next Big Lie if they know that they might be exposed.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Mercola: FNB's Vitamin D recommendations far too low

Joseph Mercola:
On November 30, 2010, the Institute of Medicine's Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) released their updated recommendations for vitamin D (and calcium), which has sent shockwaves of disappointment through natural health community.

According to the FNB, the new recommended daily allowance (RDA) for pregnant women and adults up to 70 years of age is the same as that for infants and children – a measly 600 IU's. This despite the overwhelming evidence showing that vitamin D is extremely important for a wide variety of health conditions besides bone health, and that most people need about ten times this amount or more.

Rothbard: Libertarians Hate the State

Murray Rothbard (Originally published in The Libertarian Forum, Vol. 10, No. 7, July, 1977):
I have been ruminating recently on what are the crucial questions that divide libertarians. Some that have received a lot of attention in the last few years are: anarcho-capitalism vs. limited government, abolitionism vs. gradualism, natural rights vs. utilitarianism, and war vs. peace. But I have concluded that as important as these questions are, they don’t really cut to the nub of the issue, of the crucial dividing line between us.

Let us take, for example, two of the leading anarcho-capitalist works of the last few years: my own For a New Liberty and David Friedman’s Machinery of Freedom. Superficially, the major differences between them are my own stand for natural rights and for a rational libertarian law code, in contrast to Friedman’s amoralist utilitarianism and call for logrolling and trade-offs between non-libertarian private police agencies. But the difference really cuts far deeper. There runs through For a New Liberty (and most of the rest of my work as well) a deep and pervasive hatred of the State and all of its works, based on the conviction that the State is the enemy of mankind. In contrast, it is evident that David does not hate the State at all; that he has merely arrived at the conviction that anarchism and competing private police forces are a better social and economic system than any other alternative. Or, more fully, that anarchism would be better than laissez-faire which in turn is better than the current system. Amidst the entire spectrum of political alternatives, David Friedman has decided that anarcho-capitalism is superior. But superior to an existing political structure which is pretty good too. In short, there is no sign that David Friedman in any sense hates the existing American State or the State per se, hates it deep in his belly as a predatory gang of robbers, enslavers, and murderers. No, there is simply the cool conviction that anarchism would be the best of all possible worlds, but that our current set-up is pretty far up with it in desirability. For there is no sense in Friedman that the State – any State – is a predatory gang of criminals.

Ron Paul: Wikileaks controversy a diversion

Ron Paul:
We should view the WikiLeaks controversy in the larger context of American foreign policy. Rather than worry about the disclosure of embarrassing secrets, we should focus on our delusional foreign policy. We are kidding ourselves when we believe spying, intrigue, and outright military intervention can maintain our international status as a superpower while our domestic economy crumbles in an orgy of debt and monetary debasement.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Assange and Wikileaks - Dec. 8, 2010

STD Fears Sparked Assange Case blog post by Michael S. Rozeff

WikiLeaks No Threat to Free Society by Steve Greenhut

The Wikileaks sex files

Still Not Convinced on Amazon Boycott by Bob Murphy

Don't Shoot Messenger for Revealing Uncomfortable Truths by Julian Assange

Australia blames U.S. for leaks, Assange in U.K. Jail - Reuters - "Suspected attacks by hackers sympathetic to Assange and against censorship brought down the websites of the prosecution Swedish authority and of Borgstrom's law office."

MasterCard site partially frozen by hackers in WikiLeaks 'revenge' - The Guardian - Operation: Payback' hacks into MasterCard site over payment network's decision to cease taking donations to WikiLeaks

WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange is denied bail - USA Today - "Visa said it would 'suspend Visa payment acceptance on WikiLeaks' website pending investigation into the nature of its business and whether it contravenes Visa operating rules.' MasterCard said it would suspend payments 'until the situation is resolved.' PayPal, a popular online payment service, has already cut its links to the website, and Swiss authorities closed Assange's new Swiss bank account on Monday, freezing tens of thousands of euros, according to his lawyers.

"WikiLeaks is still soliciting donations through bank transfers to affiliates in Iceland and Germany, as well as by mail to an address in Australia, Assange's birthplace."

Why WikiLeaks Is Winning Its Info War By MASSIMO CALABRESI, Time -  "First, the U.S. government pushed WikiLeaks off the servers of Amazon, its U.S. host — thanks in part to an effort by the office of Senator Joe Lieberman, who heads the Senate Homeland Security Committee. After the rogue site was pushed off a smaller, backup host in the U.S., it moved first to a Swiss domain, then to a simple numeric one. WikiLeaks has complained, and some news outlets have reported, about apparent hacker attacks against the website. The effect of all that pressure, however, was very much like cutting the head off the mythical Hydra. By Tuesday evening, WikiLeaks listed 507 Web addresses that it said were hosting the site worldwide."

TIME's Julian Assange Interview - Richard Stengel - "JA: This organization [Wikileaks] in its four years of publishing history — we don't need to speculate, it has a history — has never caused an individual, as far as we can determine or as far anyone else can determine, to come to any sort of physical harm or to be wrongly imprisoned and so on. That is a record compared to the organizations that we are trying to expose who have literally been involved in the deaths of hundreds or thousands or, potentially over the course of many years, millions."

Truth in Chains by Chris Floyd - "It has been, by any standard, an extraordinary campaign of vilification and persecution, wholly comparable to the kind of treatment doled out to dissidents in China or Burma. Lest we forget, WikiLeaks is a journalistic outlet – just like The New York Times, the Guardian and Der Spiegel, all of whom are even now publishing the very same material – leaked classified documents -- available on WikiLeaks."

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Mises on the Early Days of the Industrial Revolution

Remarks About the Popular Interpretation of the "Industrial Revolution"
Ludwig von Mises
Human Action, Scholar’s Edition, pp. 613-619

It is generally asserted that the history of modern industrialism and especially the history of the British "Industrial Revolution" provide an empirical verification of the "realistic" or "institutional" doctrine and utterly explode the "abstract" dogmatism of the economists. (13)

The economists flatly deny that labor unions and government prolabor legislation can and did lastingly benefit the whole class of wage earners and raise their standard of living. But the facts, say the anti-economists, have refuted these fallacies. The statesman and legislators who enacted the factory acts displayed a better insight into reality than the economists. While laissez-faire philosophy, without pity and compassion, taught that the sufferings of the toiling masses are unavoidable, the commonsense of laymen succeeded in quelling the worst excesses of profit-seeking business. The improvement in the conditions of the workers is entirely an achievement of governments and labor unions.

Such are the ideas permeating most of the historical studies dealing with the evolution of modern industrialism. The authors begin by sketching an idyllic image of conditions as they prevailed on the eve of the "Industrial Revolution." At that time, they tell us, things were, by and large, satis- factory. The peasants were happy. So also were the industrial workers under the domestic system. They worked in their own cottages and en- joyed a certain economic independence since they owned a garden plot and their tools. But then "the Industrial Revolution fell like a war or a plague" on these people.(14) The factory system reduced the free worker to virtual slavery; it lowered his standard of living to the level of bare subsistence; in cramming women and children into the mills it destroyed family life and sapped the very foundations of society, morality, and public health. A small minority of ruthless exploiters had cleverly succeeded in imposing their yoke upon the immense majority.

The truth is that economic conditions were highly unsatisfactory on the eve of the Industrial Revolution. The traditional social system was not elastic enough to provide for the needs of a rapidly increasing population. Neither farming nor the guilds had any use for the additional hands. Business was imbued with the inherited spirit of privilege and exclusive monopoly; its institutional foundations were licenses and the grant of a patent of monopoly; its philosophy was restriction and the prohibition of competition both domestic and foreign. The number of people for whom there was no room left in the rigid system of paternalism and government tutelage of business grew rapidly. They were virtually outcasts. The apathetic majority of these wretched people lived from the crumbs that fell from the tables of the established castes. In the harvest season they earned a trifle by occasional help on farms; for the rest they depended upon private charity and communal poor relief. Thousands of the most vigorous youths of these strata were pressed into the service of the Royal Army and Navy; many of them were killed or maimed in action; many more perished ingloriously from the hardships of the barbarous discipline, from tropical diseases, or from syphilis. (15) Other thousands, the boldest and most ruthless of their class, infested the country as vagabonds, beggars, tramps, robbers, and prostitutes. The authorities did not know of any means to cope with these individuals other than the poorhouse and the workhouse. The support the government gave to the popular resentment against the introduction of new inventions and labor-saving devices made things quite hopeless.

The factory system developed in a continuous struggle against innumerable obstacles. It had to fight popular prejudice, old established customs, legally binding rules and regulations, the animosity of the authorities, the vested interests of privileged groups, the envy of the guilds. The capital equipment of the individual firms was insufficient, the provision of credit extremely difficult and costly. Technological and commercial experience was lacking. Most factory owners failed; comparatively few succeeded. Profits were sometimes considerable, but so were losses. It took many decades until the common practice of reinvesting the greater part of profits earned accumulated adequate capital for the conduct of affairs on a broader scale.

That the factories could thrive in spite of all these hindrances was due to two reasons. First there were the teachings of the new social philosophy expounded by the economists. They demolished the prestige of Mercantilism, paternalism, and restrictionism. They exploded the superstitious belief that labor-saving devices and processes cause unemployment and reduce all people to poverty and decay. The laissez-faire economists were the pioneers of the unprecedented technological achievements of the last two hundred years.

Then there was another factor that weakened the opposition to innovations. The factories freed the authorities and the ruling landed aristocracy from an embarrassing problem that had grown too large for them. They provided sustenance for the masses of paupers. They emptied the poor houses, the workhouses, and the prisons. They converted starving beggars into self-supporting breadwinners.
The factory owners did not have the power to compel anybody to take a factory job. They could only hire people who were ready to work for the wages offered to them. Low as these wage rates were, they were nonetheless much more than these paupers could earn in any other field open to them. It is a distortion of facts to say that the factories carried off the housewives from the nurseries and the kitchens and the children from their play. These women had nothing to cook with and to feed their children. These children were destitute and starving. Their only refuge was the factory. It saved them, in the strict sense of the term, from death by starvation.

It is deplorable that such conditions existed. But if one wants to blame those responsible, one must not blame the factory owners who - driven by selfishness, of course, and not by "altruismn” - did all they could to eradicate the evils. What had caused these evils was the economic order of the pre-capitalistic era, the order of the "good old days."

In the first decades of the Industrial Revolution the standard of living of the factory workers was shockingly bad when compared with the contemporary conditions of the upper classes and with the present conditions of the industrial masses. Hours of work were long, the sanitary conditions in the workshops deplorable. The individual's capacity to work was used up rapidly. But the fact remains that for the surplus population which the enclosure movement had reduced to dire wretchedness and for which there was literally no room left in the frame of the prevailing system of production, work in the factories was salvation. These people thronged into the plants for no reason other than the urge to improve their standard of living.

The laissez-faire ideology and its offshoot, the "Industrial Revolution," blasted the ideological and institutional barriers to progress and welfare. They demolished the social order in which a constantly increasing number of people were doomed to abject need and destitution. The processing trades of earlier ages had almost exclusively catered to the wants of the well-to-do. Their expansion was limited by the amount of luxuries the wealthier strata of the population could afford. Those not engaged in the production of primary commodities could earn a living only as far as the upper classes were disposed to utilize their skill and services.

But now a different principle came into operation. The factory system inaugurated a new mode of marketing as well as of production. Its characteristic feature was that the manufactures were not designed for the consumption of a few well-to-do only, but for the consumption of those who had hitherto played but a negligible role as consumers. Cheap things for the many, was the objective of the factory system. The classical factory of the early days of the Industrial Revolution was the cotton mill. Now, the cotton goods it turned out were not something the rich were asking for. These wealthy people clung to silk, linen, and cambric. Whenever the factory with its methods of mass production by means of power-driven machines invaded a new branch of production, it started with the production of cheap goods for the broad masses. The factories turned to the production of more refined and therefore more expensive goods only at a later stage, when the unprecedented improvement in the masses' standard of living which they caused made it profitable to apply the methods of mass production also to these better articles. Thus, for instance, the factory-made shoe was for many years bought only by the "proletarians" while the wealthier consumers continued to patronize the custom shoemakers. The much talked about sweatshops did not produce clothes for the rich, but for people in modest circumstances. The fashionable ladies and gentlemen preferred and still do prefer custom-made frocks and suits.

The outstanding fact about the Industrial Revolution is that it opened an age of mass production for the needs of the masses. The wage earners are no longer people toiling merely for other people's well-being. They themselves are the main consumers of the products the factories turn out. Big business depends upon mass consumption. There is, in present-day America, not a single branch of big business that would not cater to the needs of the masses. The very principle of capitalist entrepreneurship is to provide for the common man. In his capacity as consumer the common man is the sovereign whose buying or abstention from buying decides the fate of entrepreneurial activities. There is in the market economy no other means of acquiring and preserving wealth than by supplying the masses in the best and cheapest way with all the goods they ask for.

Blinded by their prejudices, many historians and writers have entirely failed to recognize this fundamental fact. As they see it, wage earners toil for the benefit of other people. They never raise the question who these "other" people are.

Mr. and Mrs. Hammond tell us that the workers were happier in 1760 than they were in 1830. (16)  This is an arbitrary value judgment. There is no means of comparing and measuring the happiness of different people and of the same people at different times. We may agree for the sake of argument that an individual who was born in 1740 was happier in 1760 than in 1830. But let us not forget that in 1770 (according to the estimate of Arthur Young) England had 8.5 million inhabitants, while in 1831 (according to the census) the figure was 16 million. (17)  This conspicuous increase was mainly conditioned by the Industrial Revolution. With regard to these additional Englishmen the assertion of the eminent historians can only be approved by those who endorse the melancholy verses of Sophocles: "Not to be born is, beyond all question, the best; but when a man has once seen the light of day, this is next best, that speedily he should return to that place whence he came."

The early industrialists were for the most part men who had their origin in the same social strata from which their workers came. They lived very modestly, spent only a fraction of their earnings for their households and put the rest back into the business. But as the entrepreneurs grew richer, the sons of successful businessmen began to intrude into the circles of the ruling class. The highborn gentlemen envied the wealth of the parvenus and resented their sympathies with the reform movement. They hit back by investigating the material and moral conditions of the factory hands and enacting factory legislation.

The history of capitalism in Great Britain as well as in all other capitalist countries is a record of an unceasing tendency toward the improvement in the wage earners' standard of living. This evolution coincided with the development of pro-labor legislation and the spread of labor unionism on the one hand and with the increase in the marginal productivity of labor on the other hand. The economists assert that the improvement in the workers' material conditions is due to the increase in the per capita quota of capital invested and the technological achievements which the employment of this additional capital brought about. As far as labor legislation and union pressure did not exceed the limits of what the workers would have got without them as a necessary consequence of the acceleration of capital accumulation as compared with population, they were superfluous. As far as they exceeded these limits, they were harmful to the interests of the masses. They delayed the accumulation of capital thus slowing down the tendency toward a rise in the marginal productivity of labor and in wage rates. They conferred privileges on some groups of wage earners at the expense of other groups. They created mass unemployment and decreased the amount of products available for the workers in their capacity as consumers.

The apologists of government interference with business and of labor unionism ascribe all the improvements in the conditions of the workers to the actions of governments and unions. Except for them, they contend, the workers' standard of living would be no higher today than it was in the early years of the factory system.

It is obvious that this controversy cannot be settled by appeal to historical experience. With regard to the establishment of the facts there is no disagreement between the two groups. Their antagonism concerns the interpretation of events, and this interpretation must be guided by the theory chosen. The epistemological and logical considerations which determine the correctness or incorrectness of a theory are logically and temporally antecedent to the elucidation of the historical problem involved. The historical facts as such neither prove nor disprove any theory. They need to be interpreted in the light of theoretical insight.

Most of the authors who wrote the history of the conditions of labor under capitalism were ignorant of economics and boasted of this ignorance. However, this contempt for sound economic reasoning did not mean that they approached the topic of their studies without prepossession and without bias in favor of any theory. They were guided by the popular fallacies concerning governnental omnipotence and the alleged blessings of labor unionism. It is beyond question that the Webbs as well as Lujo Brentano and a host of minor authors were at the very start of their studies imbued with a fanatical dislike of the market economy and an enthusiastic endorsement of the doctrines of socialism and interventionism. They were certainly honest and sincere in their convictions and tried to do their best. Their candor and probity exonerates them as individuals; it does not exonerate them as historians. However pure the intentions of a historian may be, there is no excuse for his recourse to fallacious doctrines. The first duty of a historian is to examine with the utmost care all the doctrines to which he resorts in dealing with the subject matter of his work. If he neglects to do this and naively espouses the garbled and confused ideas of popular opinion, he is not a historian but an apologist and propagandist. 

The antagonism between the two opposite points of view is not merely a historical problem. It refers no less to the most burning problems of the present day. It is the matter of controversy in what is called in present-day America the problem of industrial relations.

Let us stress one aspect of the matter only. Vast areas -- Eastern Asia, the East Indies, Southern and Southeastern Europe, Latin America -- are only superficially affected by modern capitalism. Conditions in these countries [in mid-twentieth century] by and large do not differ from those of England on the eve of the "Industrial Revolution." There are millions and millions of people for whom there is no secure place left in the traditional economic setting. The fate of these wretched masses can be improved only by industrialization. What they need most is entrepreneurs and capitalists. As their own foolish policies have deprived these nations of the further enjoyment of the assistance imported foreign capital hitherto gave them, they must embark upon domestic capital accumulation. They must go through all the stages through which the evolution of Western industrialism had to pass. They must start with comparatively low wage rates and long hours of work. But, deluded by the doctrines prevailing in present-day Western Europe and North America, their statesmen think that they can proceed in a different way. They encourage labor-union pressure and alleged pro-labor legislation. Their interventionist radicalism nips in the bud all attempts to create domestic industries. These men do not comprehend that industrialization cannot begin with the adoption of the precepts of the International Labor Office and the principles of the American Congress of Industrial Organizations. Their stubborn dogmatism spells the doom of the Indian and Chinese coolies, the Mexican peons, and millions of other peoples, desperately struggling on the verge of starvation.

(13)  The attribution of the phrase "the Industrial Revolution" to the reigns of the two last Hanoverian Georges was the outcome of deliberate attempts to melodramatize economic history in order to fit it into the Procrustean Marxian schemes. The transition from medieval methods of production to those of the free enterprise system was a long process that started centuries before 1760 and, even in England, was not finished in 1830. Yet, it is true that England's industrial development was considerably accelerated in the second half of the eighteenth century. It is therefore permissible to use the term "Industrial Revolution" in the examination of the emotional connotations with which Fabianism, Marxism, the Historical School, and Institutionalism have loaded it.

(14) J. L. Hammond and Barbara Hammond, The Skilled Labourer 1760-1832 (2nd ed. London, 1920) p. 4.

(15)  In the Seven Years War 1,512 British seamen were killed in battle while 133,708 died of disease or were missing.  Cf. W.L.Dorn, Competition for Empire 1740-1763 (New York, 1940), p. 114
(16)  J. L. Hammond and Barbara Hammond, loc. cit.

(17)  F. C . Dietz, An Economic History of England (New York, 1942), pp. 279 and 392.