Tag Archives: government

Plan To Resurrect Cell Phone and Email Monitoring

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The British government has dusted off previously shelved plans to create huge databases, enabling spy agencies to monitor every phone call, email and text message as well as websites visited by everyone in the country.

The Telegraph reports that under the plans, the government will force every communications network to store the data for one year. The plans also extend to social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and gaming sites.

The plans, drawn up by MI5, MI6 and GCHQ, the government’s secret eavesdropping agency, may be officially announced as soon as May, according to details seen by the Telegraph. Those agencies would have real time access to the records kept by companies such as Vodafone and British Telecom.

The records would allow the spy agencies to monitor the “who, when and where” of every phone call, text message and email sent, while also allowing for internet browsing histories to be matched to IP addresses.

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Why Governments Wage Endless Wars

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by , October 26, 2011

Why is the US involved in endless war around the world? Why, for that matter, do nations – or, rather, their governments – act the way they do? The number of answers is no doubt nearly equal to the number of questioners. It’s all about economics, say the Marxists (and the Hamiltonians): imperialism is the highest stage of capitalism. No, say the “realists,” it’s all about the objective “interests” of various nations, and the interplay of those “interests” in the international arena. The neocons have a different explanation: it’s all a matter of “will” and “national purpose,” or a lack of same: imbued with a sense of our “national greatness,” America will spread democracy all over the world – or else go into a shameful decline in which spiritual loss precedes the loss of the war-making spirit.

Yet none of these supposedly overarching theories provides an adequate explanation for how and why we find ourselves in our present predicament. America has bankrupted itself building a global empire with bases, protectorates, and colonies on every continent – and yet still we persist in pursuing a policy that is taking us to the brink of the financial abyss. Our social safety net is in serious disrepair, and shows

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Is The Nation-State Coming To An End?

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In 1996, US President Bill Clinton grudgingly, famously and dishonestly announced that “the era of big government is over.” Fifteen years later, a hypothetically (very hypothetically) honest President Barack Obama would be doing the world a favor by announcing that the era of political government — or at least of the Westphalian nation-state — is over.

That announcement will never come, of course. A head of state admitting that the entity over which he presides has finally devolved from merely dysfunctional and scary to entirely non-functional and irrelevant? Ain’t gonna happen. But it’s increasingly apparent that we now live in a world with very different rules from those prevailing in 1648 … or, for that matter, 1948. Borders are passe, and vestiture of “sovereign” authority in political government is on its way out.

Two recent incidents illustrate the new paradigm well: US Senator Chuck Schumer’s public meltdown over the existence of unregulated currencies and markets, and Citigroup’s disclosure of the latest compromise of customer information in a cyber attack.

What do these two incidents tell us about the efficacy and role of the state? The first tells us that it can’t work any more. The second tells us that its sole remaining function is to damage society.

Schumer’s conniption occurred after he learned about Silk Road and Bitcoin. The former is an online market which gets around the US government’s insane drug laws by effectively anonymizing transactions while still providing for the production of market information like “reputation.” The latter is a digital currency used for, among other things, transactions on the Silk Road.

The government, thundered Schumer, must investigate Bitcoin! It must shut down Silk Road, andseize their domain name!

What he’s missing — or perhaps simply can’t get his authoritarian brain around — is that both services are at least potentially, and numerous other similar services will soon be actually, beyond his gang’s powers of supervision and control (and, I should mention, taxation). The market is slipping its leash. The Schumers of the world are going to have to find another dog to walk.

But what of enterprises which remain, by choice or through lack of adroitness, under the state’s thumb? Citigroup is a prime example. In May, hackers managed to tap into their database and extract personal information on 210,000 customers. Why were they able to do so? Because even though the technology now exists (Silk Road! Bitcoin!) for secure, anonymous financial transactions to take place entirely without that information, the US government’s “Know Your Customer” laws and other regulations which benefit neither bank nor customer, but only government regulator and tax collector, require that it be gathered, stored, and made accessible to Uncle Sugar’s minions on demand.

It’s often said that people “vote their pocketbooks” in political elections. That’s true. They do so elsewhere, too. And in a competitive market, new entrants are even now exposing the cost of political government as far too high.

Government takes half your money. As for the rest of it, government manipulates it through fiat currency schemes, erects costly barriers — the “borders” of Westphalia-style states being a prime example — to its movement, and continually noses around in what you’re doing with it, using tools that put it at even further risk.

Now that alternatives which can’t be co-opted or crushed are available, is it any wonder people are beginning to move their wealth and their economic activity elsewhere, evading those regulations, ignoring those borders, and leaving the Chuck Schumers to stew in their own broth? If you haven’t started doing so yet (and you probably have, for years, if only by dealing in cash or barter when you can), you will soon. And so will everyone else.

The state’s revenue base is shrinking, and its ability to do anything about that shrinkage is disappearing. That’s not to say the state doesn’t remain dangerous. Like a 500-ton chicken with its head cut off, it can certainly do a lot of damage in its death throes. So watch out! … but find yourself a bib, because dinner is coming soon and it’s going to be extra crispy.

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Church Fined $4,000 For “Excessive” Tree Pruning

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By Brittany Penland
Posted: Saturday, May. 28, 2011

Eddie Sales looks over some of the trimmed crape myrtles on the grounds of Albemarle Road Presbyterian Church. Diedra Laird – dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

Every two to three years, Eddie Sales trims and prunes the crape myrtles at his church, Albemarle Road Presbyterian Church.

But this year, the city of Charlotte cited the church for improperly pruning its trees.

“We always keep our trees trimmed back because you don’t want to worry about them hanging down in the way,” said Sales, a church member.

The church was fined $100 per branch cut for excessive pruning, bringing the violation to $4,000.

“I just couldn’t believe it when I heard about it,” Sales said. “We trim our trees back every three years all over our property, and this is the first time we have been fined.”

The fine will be dropped if the church replaces each of the improperly pruned trees, said Tom Johnson, senior urban forester for city of Charlotte Land Development Division.

“When they are nonrepairable, when they have been pruned beyond repair, we will ask them to be replaced,” Johnson said. “We do that for a number of reasons but mainly because they are going to come back unhealthy and create a dangerous situation down the road.”

Charlotte has had a tree ordinance since 1978, and when trees are incorrectly pruned or topped, people can be subject to fines, Johnson said.

Trees planted as a result of the ordinance are subject to the fines if they are excessively trimmed or pruned. These include trees on commercial property or street trees. They do not include a private residence.

“The purpose of the tree ordinance is to protect trees,” Johnson said. “Charlotte has always been known as the city of trees. When we take down trees, we need to replace these trees.”

Individuals who would like to trim their trees should call the city foresters to receive a free permit to conduct the landscape work.

Foresters will then meet with the person receiving the permit and give instructions on how to properly trim their trees, Johnson said.

The state Division of Forestry recommends that anyone trimming trees should be certified by the National Horticulture Board, but certification is not required to receive a permit.

On private property, fine amounts are based on the size of the tree improperly pruned. For small trees such as cherry trees or crape myrtles, the fine is $75 per tree. Excessive cutting can increase that fine to $100 per branch.

For large trees such as oaks or maples, the fine is $150 per tree.

Because there is a widespread lack of understanding on how to prune crape myrtles in the Charlotte area, Johnson said, residents found in violation regarding these trees are asked to simply replace them, and the fine will be lifted.

Sales said trees found in violation at the church must be cut down and replaced with new trees by October, but the church plans to appeal. Sales doesn’t know how much it would cost to replace the trees.

“We trimmed back these trees in the interest of the church,” Sales said. “If we were in violation, we certainly did not know we were.”

Typically during the course of a year, Johnson said, about six private residents are found in violation of improper topping or pruning.

“We are trying to be pro-active and not trying to fine people excessively,” Johnson said.

Brittany Penland is a freelance writer for the Observer’s University City News. Have a story idea for Brittany? Email her at penland.brittany@gmail.com.

Read more: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2011/05/28/2333197/church-fined-for-improper-tree.html#ixzz1NqbXAyqc


Genocide is Democratic

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by Mark R. Crovelli

Recently by Mark R. Crovelli: The Futility of Fighting Government Corruption in India

It is a curious thing that people in the modern world have come to worship democracy at the very same time that they have come to abhor genocide. One would think that if democracy is such a wonderful thing for giving majorities the right to do what they will, then genocide is wonderful for that very same reason. After all, genocide is usually nothing more than the brutal expression of majority opinion in a given territory that some minority population ought to be exterminated. Is there anything more sublimely democratic than that?

There is more than passing resemblance here. The concept of democracy and the concept of genocide are identical in every ethically relevant way. Democracy is a system for reaching political solutions that are deemed to be acceptable to a majority of the population. This is precisely what genocide typically is. It is a political solution to a perceived problem that is deemed to be acceptable to the majority of the population in a given territory. Sure, there are some people in a genocidal bloodbath who don’t really have their hearts in it, but the same is just as true of any democratically derived outcome. Just think about all those people who voted for Hilary Clinton in the Democratic primary in 2008, but settled half-heartedly for Obama in the general election.

It is of no use to object that the concept of “democracy” is nonviolent by definition. The same used to be commonly said of the concept of “socialism,” which was also claimed to be nonviolent by definition—at least, that is, until the socialists’ death count reached a point where it was too embarrassing for honest men to ignore. The death count for democracies hasn’t quite caught up to the impressive death count of the socialists, but it is certainly large enough that it should embarrass anyone out of claiming that democracy is nonviolent by definition. This is in addition to the fact that defining something as nonviolent by no means makes it so in reality.

It is also of no use to object that democracies sometimes have constitutions to protect minorities from attack by majorities. This objection overlooks the glaring fact that constitutions can be amended or abolished by…majority vote! A constitution will thus only protect minorities as long as the majority accepts the idea that minorities have rights; a fact conspicuously highlighted by the American constitution’s defense of black slavery. Should the majority change its mind about minority rights, it always has the ability to amend, abolish or simply ignore the constitution standing in the way of its intentions. In other words, there is no reason why a majority in a given population could not commit genocide with the explicit sanction of the democratically-created constitution.

Given this fact, it is an intellectual error of gargantuan proportions to assume that democracy and individual rights go hand in hand, or to assume that democracy and genocide are antithetical to one another. Democratic government, even representative democratic government, is merely a means for the majority to impress its will on minorities. It is mob rule dressed up in fancy legal livery. Genocidal bloodbaths committed by majorities around the world may lack the legal finery and the fancy ballot boxes, but they are thoroughly democratic nonetheless. In fact, genocide approaches the ideal of “participatory democracy” even more closely than the effeminate, representative form of democracy practiced in the West, since the majority of people in a genocidal bloodbath actually participate in the action.

If you happen to believe that individuals have God-given or nature-given rights that mobs should not violate, then you should have no business defending a system of government that makes the law dependent upon what the democratic mob happens to think from moment to moment. In fact, if you believe in individual rights, then you should detest the very idea of so-called “majorities” doing anything whatsoever. For, acceptance that majorities can legitimately create law or select “leaders” or do anything else is only one step removed from acceptance of majorities deciding who should live and who should die. Encouraging democratic mobs to do what they will in one area of the law only encourages them to do what they will across the board.

If you defend democratic mob rule today when it suits you, on what grounds will you object when its impulses turn ugly or murderous? At best you will be rightly labeled a hypocrite for only defending democratic government when it benefited you, as is the case with so many pro-democracy types in Washington who weep about Rwanda’s democratic genocide at the same time that they attempt to export democracy around the world. At worst, you may find that you are one of the minorities the democratic mob has its sights set on, and you may find yourself rotting in prison or an unmarked mass grave. After all, the democratic mob used to target the blacks just because they were black and it currently has its sights set on drug-users, many of whom find themselves pointlessly locked up in cagesbecause the mob doesn’t like certain plants, but the democratic mob could just as easily change its mind and target minority groups of which you are part.

For the sake of intellectual consistency and of human civilization in general it is critical that man lose his reverence for democratic mob rule. He must come to appreciate that his own rights and dignity should never be subject to majority opinion, and that he should not participate in mob decision making that robs other men of their rights through voting or any other means.

The essence of human civilization comes not from arbitrary, mob-created democratic law, but rather from voluntary contract, voluntary exchange, peaceful coexistence, and private property rights. The defense of the values and the creation of law to support them does not require ballot boxes or of mob decision making of any kind. It only requires that individual men come to believe in peace, prosperity and property, and that they reject individuals and organizations that destroy these values. This includes, first and foremost, the taxing, war-making, regulating and suffocating democratic state.

May 11, 2011

Mark R. Crovelli [send him mail] writes from Denver, Colorado.

Copyright © 2011 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.
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Good Funding Evil

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By Larken Rose

Even if an individual is never personally victimized by “law enforcement,” never has a run-in with the police, and sees little if any direct impact by “government” upon his day-to-day life, the myth of “authority” still has a dramatic impact, not only on his own life but also on how his existence affects the world around him. For example, the millions of compliant subjects who feel an obligation to surrender a portion of what they earn to the state, to pay their “fair share” of “taxes,” continually fund all manner of endeavors and activities which those people would not otherwise fund–which almost no one would otherwise fund, and which therefore would not otherwise exist. By way of “taxes,” those claiming to be “government” confiscate an almost incomprehensible amount of time and effort from millions of victims and convert it into fuel for the agenda of the ruling class. To wit, millions of people who oppose war are compelled to fund it via “taxation.” The product of their time and effort is used to make possible something they morally oppose.

The same is true of state-controlled wealth redistribution programs (e.g., “welfare”), Ponzi schemes (e.g., “Social Security”), the so-called “war on drugs,” and so on. Most of the programs of “government” would not exist if not for the belief among the general population in a moral obligation to pay one’s “taxes.” Even “government” programs purported to have noble goals– such as protecting the public and helping the poor– become bloated, inefficient and corrupt monstrosities, which almost no one would willingly support if there was no “law” requiring them to do so.

In addition to the waste, corruption, and destructive things which “government” does with the wealth it confiscates, there is also the less obvious issue of what the people would have done with their money otherwise. As “government” takes the wealth of the producers to serve its own purposes, it also deprives the producers of the ability to further their own goals. Someone who surrenders $1,000 in “taxes” to the ruling class may not only be funding a war he morally opposes, but he is also being deprived of the ability to put $1,000 into savings, or donate $1,000 to some charity he considers worthwhile, or pay someone $1,000 to do some landscaping work. So the damage done by the myth of “authority” is twofold: it forces people to fund things that they do not believe are good for themselves or society, while simultaneously preventing them from funding things that they do view as worthwhile. In other words, subservience to “authority” causes people to act in a manner which is, to one extent or another, directly opposed to their own priorities and values.

Even the people who imagine that their “tax” dollars are doing good by building roads, helping the poor, paying for police, and so on, would almost certainly not fund the “government” version of those services, at least not to the same degree, if they did not feel compelled– by moral obligation and the threat of punishment– to do so. Any private charity that had the inefficiency, corruption, and record of abuse that AFDC, HUD, Medicare, and other “government” programs have, would quickly lose all of its donors. Any private company as expensive, corrupt, and inefficient as “government” infrastructure programs would lose all of its customers. Any private protection service which was so often caught abusing, assaulting, and even killing unarmed, innocent people would have no customers. Any private company that claimed to be providing defense, but told its customers it needed a billion dollars every week to wage a prolonged war on the other side of the world, would have few, if any, contributors, including among those who now verbally support such military operations.

The feeling of obligation to pay “taxes” seems to be little hampered by the fact that “government” is notoriously wasteful and inefficient. While millions of “taxpayers” struggle to make ends meet while paying their “fair share” of “taxes,” politicians waste millions on laughably silly projects–everything from studying cow farts, to building bridges to nowhere, to paying farmers to not grow certain crops, and so on, ad infinitum–and billions more are simply “lost,” with no accounting of where they went. But much of what people make possible through payment of “taxes” is not just wasted but is quite destructive to society. The “war on drugs” is an obvious example. How many people would voluntarily donate to a private organization which had the stated goal of dragging millions of non-violent individuals away from their friends and families, to be put into cages? Even the many Americans who now recognize the “war on drugs” as a complete failure continue, via “taxes,” to provide the funding which allows it to continue to destroy literally millions of lives.

Even the most vocal critics of the various abuses being perpetrated by the evergrowing police state are often among those making that abuse possible, by providing the funding for it. Whether the issue is blatant oppression, or corruption, or mere bungling bureaucratic inefficiency, everyone can point to at least a few things about “government” that do not meet with his approval. And yet, having been trained to obey “authority,” he will continue to feel obligated to provide the funding which enables the same bungling, corrupt, oppressive “government” activities that he criticizes and opposes. Rarely does anyone notice the obvious inherent contradiction in feeling obligated to fund things that he thinks are bad.

Of course, people who work for non-authoritarian organizations can also be inefficient or corrupt, but when it comes to light what they are doing, their customers can simply stop funding them. That is the natural correction mechanism in human interaction, but it is completely defeated by the belief in “authority.” How many people are there who are not currently being forced to fund some “government” program or activity that they morally oppose? Very few, if any. So why do those people keep funding things which they feel are destructive to society? Because “authority” tells them to, and because they believe that it is good to obey “authority.” As a result, they continue to surrender the fruits of their labors to fuel the machine of oppression– a machine which otherwise would not and could not exist.

“Governments” produce no wealth; what they spend they first must take from someone else. Every “government,” including the most oppressive regimes in history, has been funded by the payment of “taxes” by loyal, productive subjects. Thanks to the belief in “authority,” the wealth created by billions of people will continue to be used, not to serve the values and priorities of the people who worked to produce it, but to serve the agendas of those who, above all else, desire dominion over their fellow man. The Third Reich was made possible by millions of German “taxpayers” who felt an obligation to pay up. The Soviet empire was made possible by millions of people who felt an obligation to give to the state whatever it demanded. Every invading army, every conquering empire, has been constructed out of wealth that was taken from productive people. The destroyers have always been funded by the creators; the thieves have always been funded by the producers; through the belief in “authority,” the agendas of the evil have always been funded by the efforts of the good. And this will continue, unless and until the most dangerous superstition is dismantled. When the producers no longer feel a moral obligation to fund the parasites and usurpers, the destroyers and controllers, tyranny will wither away, having been starved out of existence. Until then, good people will keep supplying the resources which the bad people need in order to carry out their destructive schemes.

[Reprinted from the Voluntaryist. Excerpt from THE MOST DANGEROUS SUPERSTITION by Larken Rose pp 87-92 (2011). Available from Box 653, Huntington, PA 19006 or amazon.com or by visiting http://www.larkenrose.com/store.html ]

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Government- Cohesive Monopoly?

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Government Is Not a Coercive Monopoly

Taken from Lew Rockwell’s Libertarian Anarchism:Responses to Ten Objections

Now, one objection that’s sometimes raised isn’t so much an objection to anarchism as an objection to the moral argument for anarchism: well, look, it’s not really a coercive monopoly. It’s not as though people haven’t consented to this because there’s a certain sense in which people have consented to the existing system — by living within the borders of a particular territory, by accepting the benefits the government offers, and so forth, they have, in effect, consented. Just as if you walk into a restaurant and sit down and say, “I’ll have a steak,” you don’t have to explicitly mention that you are agreeing to pay for it; it’s just sort of understood. By sitting down in the restaurant and asking for the steak, you are agreeing to pay for it. Likewise, the argument goes, if you sit down in the territory of this given state, and you accept benefits of police protection or something, then you’ve implicitly agreed to abide by its requirements. Now, notice that even if this argument works, it doesn’t settle the pragmatic question of whether this is the best working system.

But I think there is something dubious about this argument. It’s certainly true that if I go onto someone else’s property, then it seems like there’s an expectation that as long as I’m on their property I have to do as they say. I have to follow their rules. If I don’t want to follow their rules, then I’ve got to leave. So, I invite you over to my house, and when you come in I say, “You have to wear the funny hat.” And you say, “What’s this?” And I say, “Well, that’s the way it works in my house. Everyone has to wear the funny hat. Those are my rules.” Well, you can’t say, “I won’t wear the hat but I’m staying anyway.” These are my rules — they may be dumb rules, but I can do it.

Now suppose that you’re at home having dinner, and I’m your next-door-neighbor, and I come and knock on your door. You open the door, and I come in and I say, “You have to wear the funny hat.” And you say, “Why is this?” And I say, “Well, you moved in next door to me, didn’t you? By doing that, you sort of agreed.” And you say, “Well, wait a second! When did I agree to this?”

I think that the person who makes this argument is already assuming that the government has some legitimate jurisdiction over this territory. And then they say, well, now, anyone who is in the territory is therefore agreeing to the prevailing rules. But they’re assuming the very thing they’re trying to prove — namely that this jurisdiction over the territory is legitimate. If it’s not, then the government is just one more group of people living in this broad general geographical territory. But I’ve got my property, and exactly what their arrangements are I don’t know, but here I am in my property and they don’t own it — at least they haven’t given me any argument that they do — and so, the fact that I am living in “this country” means I am living in a certain geographical region that they have certain pretensions over — but the question is whether those pretensions are legitimate. You can’t assume it as a means to proving it.

Another thing is, one of the problems with these implicit social contract arguments is that it’s not clear what the contract is. In the case of ordering food in a restaurant, everyone pretty much knows what the contract is. So you could run an implicit consent argument there. But no one would suggest that you could buy a house the same way. There are all these rules and things like that. When it’s something complicated no one says, “You just sort of agreed by nodding your head at some point,” or something. You have to find out what it is that’s actually in the contract; what are you agreeing to? It’s not clear if no one knows what exactly the details of the contract are. It’s not that persuasive.

Intel CEO Otellini: The Democrats Are Destroying our Economy

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This is a stunning indictment from the leader of one of America’s most successful technology companies:

Unless government policies are altered, he predicted, “the next big thing will not be invented here. Jobs will not be created here.”

The U.S. legal environment has become so hostile to business, Otellini said, that there is likely to be “an inevitable erosion and shift of wealth, much like we’re seeing today in Europe–this is the bitter truth.”

Not long ago, Otellini said, “our research centers were without peer. No country was more attractive for start-up capital… We seemed a generation ahead of the rest of the world in information technology. That simply is no longer the case…”

Otellini singled out the political state of affairs in Democrat-dominated Washington, saying: “I think this group does not understand what it takes to create jobs. And I think they’re flummoxed by their experiment in Keynesian economics not working…”

As a result, he said, “every business in America has a list of more variables than I’ve ever seen in my career.” If variables like capital gains taxes and the R&D tax credit are resolved correctly, jobs will stay here, but if politicians make decisions “the wrong way, people will not invest in the United States. They’ll invest elsewhere.”

Take factories. “I can tell you definitively that it costs $1 billion more per factory for me to build, equip, and operate a semiconductor manufacturing facility in the United States,” Otellini said…

“If our tax rate approached that of the rest of the world, corporations would have an incentive to invest here,” Otellini said. But instead, it’s the second highest in the industrialized world, making the United States a less attractive place to invest–and create jobs–than places in Europe and Asia that are “clamoring” for Intel’s business.

The most disturbing part of Otellini’s comments is that he says nothing groundbreaking, nothing unexpected, and nothing that we have not heard many times before. Otellini talks about regulation, taxation, litigation and transparency – all issues that have been cited by business leaders for years. But our ‘leaders’ in Washington ignore these concerns, and instead pile on more taxes, more regulation, more litigation costs, greater uncertainty about the climate going forward. And they do all this while claiming to be ‘pro-jobs.’

Will Congress and the White House ever realize that business leaders are telling the truth? As our government continues to make it more difficult to do business in the US, companies must increasingly look to more favorable climates abroad. If Washington really wants to spur job creation here in the US, they should repeal the health care overhaul, reduce spending, cut the corporate tax rate, give up on cap and trade, and reform litigation. Instead we have been treated to an extended experiment in government control – one that is obviously not producing new wealth, new jobs, or any real hope for the emergence of the industries of the future.

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