Aircraft Carriers: Give Truman and Ford a Burial at Sea

The US Department of Defense wants to retire an old aircraft carrier early while building two new ones (and adding other goodies to their shopping list).

Surprise, surprise — politicians from states with the shipyards and naval bases that employ their constituents want to keep the old carrier AND build the new ones.

America and Americans would be better off if Congress retired the USS Harry S. Truman,  nixed the DoD request for two new Ford-class carriers, and worked up plans for an orderly retirement of several more carriers too. The US Navy’s surface warfare ship complement is too large, too expensive, and too “fighting previous wars”-oriented to serve any rational “defense” purpose.

The US Navy operates 20 of the world’s 41 active aircraft carriers, including 11 flat-top “super-carriers,” each Carrier Strike Group disposing of more firepower than most countries’ entire militaries.  There’s precisely zero danger of the US falling into a flat-top “carrier gap,” even if that was something to be avoided. And it isn’t.

World War Two, in which  carriers replaced battleships as the central factor in naval warfare, ended three quarters of a century ago.  Carriers as such may not be entirely passe, but 1,000-foot “super-carriers” like the existing Nimitz-class and the forthcoming Ford-class are. If carriers have a future, it’s in STOBAR (“Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery”) ships. They’re smaller, cheaper, less vulnerable, and over the last 75 years aircraft have been developed that don’t need a thousand feet of deck to take off  from or land on.

The notional lifespan of a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier is 50 years,  but none are quite that old.  The USS Nimitz‘s keel was laid 50 years ago last June, but the ship wasn’t finished, commissioned, and deployed until the mid-1970s ( it’s undergone 19 reduced availability periods, including two “complex” overhauls, since then; it’s in the middle of a state of “planned incremental availability” at the moment).

The reasons these old ships remain in service (and new ones designed on the same general concept are under construction)  aren’t defensive, or even military, in nature. They’re about money. Money for “defense” contractors, money for the politicians they contribute to, and paychecks for the employees who vote for those politicians.

Unfortunately, once that money’s spent and the ships and weapons make it into active service, the temptation to use them tends to overwhelm good sense, dragging America into non-defensive wars neither it nor the world around it needs.

The US government’s “defense” budget is the single largest discretionary area of federal spending. It’s an aging hippie in dire need of a clean shave and a buzz cut. There’s no better place to start trimming than the US Navy’s carriers and their supporting ships and infrastructure.

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Courts Have Institutionalized Revenge

I’ll never understand how the output of the government’s court system passes for “justice.” If you ever find justice in a courtroom it will be a fluke; an accident.

Justice doesn’t require government, or even laws. Those only obstruct justice.

Justice is the attempt to return a victim to their pre-violation condition. Justice is made unnecessary by self-defense, which nips crime in the bud. Justice is mainly restitution, if self-defense fails.

The state is never the victim, and is never owed compensation from a wrongdoer; only the individual human victim or their survivors are owed.

The right to defend yourself against bad guys does not come from laws. Laws are not what creates a debt from an act of aggression or property violation, and they don’t create your right to restitution. You have those rights whether or not laws agree.

Punishment isn’t justice. I understand the desire to see a person suffer when their actions have hurt you. I’ve been there. But that’s not justice, it’s revenge; justice’s polar opposite. Government courts — the misnamed “justice system” — are founded on ritualized revenge.

Maybe you believe revenge is justified and, if so, remember this if you’re ever on the other side. I don’t believe revenge is justifiable, even though I have personally wanted revenge a few times in my life. I was wrong. If you embrace revenge through government courts, you are also wrong.

This doesn’t mean people “just get away with it.” Could you continue to treat someone like a good person, knowing they did wrong and never tried to make it right? Justice is your job. You can’t pawn it off on anyone else.

You have the right to shun unrepentant violators. If not for government’s laws you would be free to shun them to death — to refuse to sell them food, housing, energy, clothing, or any other necessity — and to convince others to join you. Those who intentionally harm people but won’t take full responsibility aren’t worthy of your consideration or help. Leave them to the wolves. You would be well within your rights, and their cold, lonely death would be an acceptable substitute for justice.

If, however, you choose to shun someone who made a tragic mistake, admitted it and tried to make things right, I would probably not join you. Mistakes are human. Without the intent to cause harm they can’t be crimes and shouldn’t be treated as crimes, even though they can hurt just as much.

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We Need a Substitute for the Word ‘Support’

I support good things because I’m good!

Almost every time someone uses the word ‘support’ it sounds nice but means something nasty.

When people say they support something, it usually means they want governments to make laws that will advance that thing. Legislation is not like business, or family, or society. Those institutions require persuasion and value creation to get the thing you support to win. Legislation is a different beast. The single feature that distinguishes governments from every other institution is that they initiate violence to back everything they do.

So when someone supports something by wishing there were government action, ‘support’ has a very different meaning from the nice one we give it. The nice kind of support might mean you invest your money in or say nice things about something. ‘Support’ as most often used, however, means desire for government action.

To bring clarity and prudence, we should use a more accurate phrase. Try this out with yourself and others, and see if it changes the way you think about things.

Every time you see the word ‘support’, replace it with the phrase, ‘advocate violence on behalf of’. That’s what it usually means.

That’s why supporters of things tend to be regressive and uncivilized. To advocate violence on behalf of something is the approach of very bad children and animals. Humans can do better in 99 out of 100 situations.

In fact, if you modified the statement to ‘advocate the initiation of violence on behalf of’, you could do better 100 times out of 100. Violence sucks, but as a defense against violence may be the least bad approach. Initiating violence never is.

It’s also interesting when you consider the fact that most ‘supporters’ – of wars, drug bans, wage mandates, border walls, land use restrictions, etc. – would find it unthinkable to initiate violence directly on behalf of these things. How many, when they say they support bans on fossil fuels, head to their neighbor’s house with a gun and promise to cage or kill them if they don’t destroy their car and buy a Prius?

But those same people happily vote for people to vote for bills to fund other people to hire others to order others to send threats to their neighbors, the ultimate end of which is the same should they refuse to comply.

The state is that great obfuscating abstraction where we hide our violence in a fog of procedure and collectivism.

It is the most dangerous institution in human history.

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The Real Emergency Isn’t About the Wall; It’s About the Separation of Powers.

US president Donald Trump recently declared a “national emergency” under which he intends to divert money from the US Department of Defense’s budget and use it to build a wall on the US-Mexico border.

No biggie, Trump said as he announced the “emergency.” Happens all the time (59 other times since 1976, to be exact).  Purely routine.

But it’s not routine at all. It is, in fact, a declaration of presidential dictatorship that shreds the US Constitution’s separation of powers requirements.

Most presidential emergency declarations have been either on matters supposedly requiring immediate action which Congress could be expected to subsequently approve (for example, George W. Bush’s 2001 declaration of emergency in the wake of 9/11), or pursuant to policies already approved by Congress (for example, specific sanctions on countries already condemned by Congress to general treatment of that type).

Trump’s declaration is different — but there is applicable precedent to consider. We’ve been down this road before, just not quite so far.

In 2013, Republicans in Congress flirted with refusal to raise the  “debt ceiling” — a limit on how much money the federal government allows itself to borrow.

As  a deadline approached after which the US government would be in default to its creditors,  House Democrats urged president Barack Obama to ignore Congress  and raise the debt ceiling by emergency decree.

How are the two situations alike?

Article I, Section 8 of the US Constitution assigns the power to “borrow Money on the credit of the United States” exclusively to Congress.

Article I, Section 9 of the US Constitution similarly empowers Congress to decide how money may and may not be spent: “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law.”

By unilaterally raising the debt ceiling, Obama would have become an outlaw, an extra-constitutional dictator rather than a president. Republicans pointed this out at the time. Fortunately, an 11th-hour deal averted the possibility of Obama following his co-partisans’ advice.

By asserting the “emergency” power to spend money on  a project that Congress has explicitly declined to fund by appropriation (multiple times, in fact), Trump has effectively resigned the presidency and declared himself an absolute monarch.

And THAT, friends, is a REAL emergency.

If Congress has any desire to save what’s left of the Constitution — and any political will to act on that desire — the obvious, immediate, and absolutely necessary next step is the impeachment of Donald Trump and his removal from the office of President of the United States. Nothing less will suffice, and the case against him is airtight.

Over the course of more than two centuries, the Constitution has frayed, and sometimes broken. Maybe it’s time to let it go. If that’s the case, I’d personally rather it gave way to something better than the banana republic style dictatorship the American presidency has descended toward in recent decades.

If Congress doesn’t make Trump the bottom of that slide, there is no bottom, and we are doomed to suffer through a dark new era of uncontested presidential tyranny.

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The First Rule of AIPAC Is: You Do Not Talk about AIPAC

Washington’s political establishment went berserk when US Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN) publicly noted that US-Israel relations are “all about the Benjamins”  — slang for $100 bills, referring to money shoveled at American politicians by the American Israel Public Affairs Group (AIPAC).

Omar was accused of antisemitism — immediately by Republicans, shortly after by members of her own party — and bullied into apologizing. She may or may not be prejudiced against Jews,  but even if she is, that wasn’t her real offense.

Her real offense was  publicly mentioning the irrefutable fact that many members of Congress take their marching orders from a foreign power’s lobbying apparatus (an apparatus not, as required by law, registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act), at least partly because those marching orders come with promises of significant donations to those politicians’ campaigns.

AIPAC itself doesn’t make direct donations to political campaigns. But AIPAC and other pro-Israel lobbying groups like Christians United For Israel punch well above their weight in American politics, largely by motivating their supporters to financially support and work for “pro-Israel” candidates in general elections and help weed out “anti-Israel” candidates in party primaries.

By the way, “pro-Israel” in this context always means “supportive of the jingoism of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party,” and never “supportive of the many Israelis who’d like peace with the Palestinian Arabs.”

One AIPAC supporter  alone, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, spent $65 million getting Republicans elected, including $25 million supporting Donald Trump, in 2016.  But that $25 million was only put into action after Trump retreated from his early position of “neutrality” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, publicly prostrated himself to AIPAC in a speech at one of its events, and pronounced himself “the most pro-Israel presidential candidate in history.”

But: We’re not supposed to talk about that. Ever. And it’s easy to see why.

If most Americans noticed that many  members of Congress (as well as most presidents) are selling their influence over US policy to a foreign power, we might do something about it.

For decades, howling “antisemitism” any time the matter came up proved an effective tactic for shutting down public discussion of the “special relationship” under which Israel receives lavish foreign aid subsidies, effective control of US foreign policy in the Middle East, and lately even state (and pending federal) legislation requiring government contractors to sign loyalty oaths to Israel’s government.

The Israeli lobby’s power to prevent that discussion seems to be slipping, however. Why? In part because the lobby’s money and political support, which used to be spent buying both sides of the partisan aisle, has begun tilting heavily Republican in recent years, freeing some Democrats to not “stay bought.” And in part because the newest generation of politicians includes some like Ilhan Omar who aren’t for sale (to Israel, anyway).

Decades of unquestioning obedience to the Israel lobby has drawn the US into needless and costly conflicts  not even remotely related to the defense of the United States. We’ll be better off when the “special relationship,” and the corruption underlying it, ends.

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Walter Block: Defending the Undefendable (52m)

This episode features a lecture by economics professor and Austro-libertarian Walter Block from 2016 about his two books which present defenses of some of society’s seemingly worst actors. Purchase books by Walter Block on Amazon here.

Listen To This Episode (52m, mp3, 64kbps)

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