Chelsea Manning Released From Prison

U.S. Army private Chelsea Manning, who was sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking classified military and government documents to Wikileaks in 2010, has been released after serving seven years at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. Her sentence was commuted by then President Obama in January.

Manning, who before the incarceration identified as Bradley Manning, announced during her prison sentence she was transgender and changed her name to Chelsea. She later complained about a lack of medical attention for her gender dysmorphia and twice attempted suicide behind bars.

Manning’s ordeal began in 2010 when she, as a junior intelligence analyst, began to see the immoral and unethical way in which the United States were prosecuting wars in the middle east, including multiple attacks on Iraqi civilians and the inhumane torture and lack of due process for detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

Per the LA Times:

“Manning was a 22-year-old junior intelligence analyst at a base outside Baghdad in early 2010 when she began to illegally copy U.S. military field reports from Iraq and Afghanistan, battlefield videos and diplomatic cables from classified computer accounts.

She later acknowledged leaking more than 700,000 documents and other materials to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.”

In a statement  read by her attorney after the conviction, Manning made clear the purpose of her leak:

“It was not until I was in Iraq and reading secret military reports on a daily basis that I started to question the morality of what we were doing.  It was at this time I realized in our efforts to meet this risk posed to us by the enemy, we have forgotten our humanity.  We consciously elected to devalue human life both in Iraq and Afghanistan.  When we engaged those that we perceived were the enemy, we sometimes killed innocent civilians.  Whenever we killed innocent civilians, instead of accepting responsibility for our conduct, we elected to hide behind the veil of national security and classified information in order to avoid any public accountability.”

The 35-year sentence is the largest that had ever been handed to a whistleblower in the U.S. Her seven years served is also the longest ever by anyone charged of similar crimes. None of this dissuades her critics, though, who believe Manning should be forced to serve out the remainder of her sentence due to the severity of her crimes. Many charge that she didn’t have the authority to release the documents and should instead have used normal military channels to air her concerns.

This criticism is so naive it borders on ridiculous. If the chain of command is complicit in the attacks and cover ups, as was made abundantly clear, how could a whistleblower possibly hope to effect change via normal channels?

After her release, Manning made this statement to ABC News, hopeful for the future:

“I appreciate the wonderful support that I have received from so many people across the world over these past years. As I rebuild my life, I remind myself not to relive the past. The past will always affect me and I will keep that in mind while remembering that how it played out is only my starting point, not my final destination.”

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Collapse of the Anti-war Left: Dems turn on Rep. Tulsi Gabbard

What do you call a U.S. Representative that’s skeptical of American military interventions, traveled to Syria to speak directly with the Assad administration about their civil war, and has the audacity to ask for some proof of Assad’s alleged gas attack before launching bombs at Damascus? Well, if you’re Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), you get called a Trump apologist that should be ousted from Congress.

This is just the latest in a line of events signalling the total collapse of the antiwar left that started under President Obama’s murderous reign and is finding its hastening under a now warmongering President Trump.

Per The Hill:

Howard Dean, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and Neera Tanden, head of the Center for American Progress, both took to Twitter to bash Gabbard for what they see as a shameful defense of Bashar Assad, the Syrian president long accused of brutal attacks on his own people in the country’s ongoing civil war.

Dean said in tweets that Gabbard “sounds like Trump making excuses” and that she “shouldn’t be in Congress.” Tanden, on the other hand, called on the people of Hawaii’s 2nd District to oust Gabbard for “meeting with a murderous dictator.”

There was a time, not long ago, when one could rely on the left to be antiwar. After all it was the left, with libertarians, that put up any opposition to the Bush administration’s lies in the run up to the Iraq war in 2003 and it was only the left and libertarians that held the administration accountable during the war.

That all changed once Obama took control of the war machine.

Even though Obama campaigned as an antiwar candidate and was bolstered by a Nobel Peace Prize in his first year in office, he left the oval office with the dubious distinction of having been the only U.S. President to be at war for every single day of his two terms. Obama escalated the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan in his first term; and proceeded to indiscriminately bomb Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, and Syria in his second term.

At no point during Obama’s two terms was there any meaningful antiwar opposition from the left. In fact, the left all but abandoned the antiwar movement under Obama. Even when Obama sought congressional approval to enter Syria in 2013, it wasn’t Democrats that stopped him, it was the Republican led House of Representatives.

Under a President Trump, I fully anticipated the antiwar left to return with a vengeance. Needless to say, it hasn’t. Never underestimate the crushing hegemony of the establishment, I guess. In fact, the strongest antiwar sentiments are currently coming from the right-wing, particularly from Trump’s own supporters. Stefan Molyneaux, Alex Jones, Paul Joseph Watson, and even white nationalist Richard Spenser all oppose intervening in Syria.

It’s unlikely that Rep. Gabbard will receive a serious primary challenge in 2018, as she was reelected in November with over 80% of the vote. It does, though, look like she’s learning the lesson of Ron Paul: when you oppose the establishment’s rush to war, you can become very unpopular.

How the Government Undermines Job Creation

During the 2012 presidential campaign, President Obama caught some flak for a speech in which he claimed that businesses aren’t responsible for their own success. Using convoluted logic, Obama said that business owners ought instead thank the government, by way of the taxpayers, for developing the business environment that allows them to succeed.

Two years later, Hillary Clinton famously remarked, “Don’t let anybody tell you that it’s corporations and businesses that create jobs. You know that old theory, trickle-down economics. That has been tried, that has failed. It has failed rather spectacularly.” She later tried to walk back that claim, saying she meant to say ‘business tax breaks’ don’t create jobs.

Statements like these reveal a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of the entrepreneur in the economy, particularly the entrepreneur’s role in job creation. Moreover, these sentiments, shared by virtually the entire establishment regardless of political ideology, grossly overstate the effectiveness of the government’s interventions in the labor market. In fact, there’s a strong argument to be made that when economies grow and jobs are created it’s despite government intervention, not because of it.

So how does the government undermine job creation? For the answer, we look to an article from economist Walter Block. In it, Dr. Block outlines a number of specific government interventions and explains how they negatively impact the economy. Some of the interventions have been covered here before, like occupational licensing. Others, such as minimum wage laws, deserve their own post and will be covered more in depth in the future.

We will cover each issue point by point because they are all important and give us a better understanding of the depth of government involvement in the economy.

Minimum Wage

Most economists, Austrian or mainstream, believe that minimum wage laws reduce employment.  More specifically, these laws reduce the employment opportunities for young and unskilled workers. These are often the workers that minimum wage laws are designed to help.

Comparable Worth

Comparable worth legislation is when the government decides that one lower paid occupation has the same social ‘worth’ or ‘value’ as a higher paid occupation and artificially adjusts the wages to match of the lower to the higher. This causes unemployment in the artificially adjusted occupation by pricing many of the lower skilled workers out of the market.

Working Conditions

Many people applaud the government’s intentions when legislating for better working conditions. We instantly think of the plight of the coal miner working 18 hour days in dangerous conditions. What we don’t often hear of are the ridiculous regulations masquerading as improved working conditions, like having to keep a restroom at 68 degrees.

Unions

Per Dr. Block:

When the government forces businesses to hire only union workers, it discriminates against non-union workers, causing them to be at a severe disadvantage or permanently unemployed. Unions exist primarily to keep out competition. They are a state-protected cartel like any other.

Employment Protection, Payroll Taxes, and Unemployment Insurance

Employment protection laws are intended to shield employees from undue termination. Instead, they give employers incentive to not to take a chance on borderline employees. When you add in payroll tax and unemployment insurance burdens, the cost to employ individuals goes up, as does unemployment.

Licensing

Occupational licensing laws and other barriers to entry overwhelmingly affect minority and lower class entrepreneurs. Block cites the example of the Florida woman whose home-based soup kitchen  was shut down for being an unlicensed restaurant. As a result, many homeless in the area go hungry. This is not an isolated incident.

Peddling

Laws against peddling hurt low income start up entrepreneurs and those that buy their wares, people that also tend to be low income. Dr. Block references that the most vocal and influential supporters of anti-peddling laws are established businesses and department stores.

Child Labor

For a young person with no skills, working can provide some pocket money, a sense of personal satisfaction, and all too important discipline and responsibility that pay off in spades when they are ready to join the labor force. Sadly, government has killed those opportunities. Paper routes, lawn mowing, and even lemonade stands are all but outlawed for ambitious children. Essentially, young people are being robbed of the chance to gain real skills, putting them at a disadvantage later in life.

The Federal Reserve

Maybe most importantly, Dr. Block addresses how the Federal Reserve, along with the government creates unemployment.

By bringing about the business cycle, Federal Reserve money creation causes unemployment. Inflation not only raises prices, it also misallocates labor. During the boom phase of the trade cycle, businesses hire new workers, many of whom are pulled from other lines of work by the higher wages. The Fed subsidy to these capital industries lasts only until the bust. Workers are then laid off and displaced.

Government interventions in the economy vary in scope and purpose. One thing they all have in common is that they create distortions in the market. Minimum wage laws, for example, distort the labor market via the pricing mechanism. Licensing, anti-peddling, and others distort the market by creating barriers to entry for new entrepreneurs, thus protecting existing firms.  These aren’t the type of actions that create and protect jobs no matter what Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton say.