28 April 2011

Ames and Levine smear again

Mark Ames and Yasha Levine are at it again. You may not know who these people are. I didn't before last November, and I hadn't heard of them since until Mr. Ames tried to contact me last night and his and Mr. Levine's article was published this morning. Let me refresh your memory. Last November, when I had my run-in with the TSA, these two "reporters" wrote an article trying to connect me and other like-minded individuals with a vast right-wing conspiracy funded by the billionaire Koch brothers. I never responded to it because it was so quickly derided as a fact-free smear by all sorts of media outlets, most notably Glenn Greenwald.
It seems to be a consensus even among liberal, Nation-friendly journalists that the attack on Tyner was not merely misguided, but odious, as all such journalists who commented (at least that I know of) condemned it, often in terms at least as harsh as the ones I used.  In addition to their own Nation colleague Jeremy Scahill (who denounced it as a "shameful smear"), Mother Jones' News Editor Daniel Schulman wrote:  "This Nation story is journalistic malpractice of the worst kind"; The American Prospect's Scott Lemieux, on his blog, called it "Liberal McCarthyism" and an "embarrassment"; and the usually rhetorically restrained Ezra Klein condemned it as a "hit piece" which I had "rightfully hammered."
The Nation article utterly failed to connect me to anyone on the right or any sort of activities of an "activist" nature (other than possibly my blog). Fast forward to yesterday. In keeping with his journalistic standards, Mr. Ames waited until 8:30pm EDT to contact me for a comment on his story. He tried to goad me into calling him back telling me that he was on a deadline for that evening and by referencing a blog post about the TSA that I admitted to deleting saying that it contradicted everything that I said during my interviews following my TSA encounter in San Diego. First, who waits until 8:30pm to get a comment for a story that is going to run the following morning? It was clear to me that Mr. Ames already had his story and there was nothing that I could have said that would have made a bit of difference, and that brings me to my second question. What made Mr. Ames think that I would talk to him? It's clear from the content of his article that it's a good thing that I didn't.

The thrust of the current article is that all of the anti-TSA "hysteria" is an attempt to block the TSA from unionizing. I'll come back to that charge, shortly. The article spends only a few sentences talking about me, but I'd like to address them:
The anti-TSA campaign was at its media-hysteria peak in the weeks after the Republican election sweep, spurred on by last year’s hero, John Tyner, who refused a pat-down, telling TSA agents, “You touch my junk and I'm going to have you arrested.” Tyner disappeared from the scene after he apologized on his blog, and admitted that he didn't tell the whole story and had actively tried to erase it (Tyner did not return our call or answer our message requesting comment).*
This is all true, such as it is. The context if the story would lead the reader to believe that I had concocted the entire incident either for personal gain, or as the writers suggest, to prevent unionization of the TSA (again, I'll get to the anti-union charge). Note the asterisk at the end of the paragraph. It leads to the end of the article where this final note appears:
*“To those of you who feel duped, I apologize”—so writes John Tyner in a contrite blog post headlined “The ‘Whole’ Truth”  dated November 30, 2010. A week earlier, he was the biggest media sensation in America, freeing us from state tyranny; by the time he apologized to America, America had already lost interest and moved on.
Again, true. Mr. Ames shows his journalistic integrity, adding a final, snarky smear to his article but leaves out the immediately following sentences from my blog post, from which he quotes, because they completely contradict his premise. Here they are:
There is no reason to feel that way, though. I stand by my assertion that the encounter was not planned or staged. I stand by my account of the events that occurred at San Diego airport. And I stand by everything that I have said and written since the event. I stood up to what I saw as an affront to everyone's 4th amendment protections and dignity, and that has started a real conversation about how much liberty we're willing to give up in the name of feeling safe. Let's not lose sight of what's really important, here.
But we have lost sight. In fact, in my previous post, on April 14th, I wrote about this very idea. The point of that post was that fear of terrorism has caused us to overlook TSA misbehaviors including stealing from passengers, failing to prevent terrorist attacks/attempts, and abridging civil liberties. Mr. Ames apparently isn't concerned about the TSA's incompetence or its "Gestapo" tactics. No, he only wants them to be unionized; personal property, safety, and civil liberties be damned.

So, what about the charge that I'm part of this vast right-wing conspiracy? Much like his last attempt to associate me with the TEA party (of whom I've been critical), the Koch brothers (if only I could get them to send me some of their billions), or any other right-wing entity, Mr. Ames presented no evidence to support his charge: absolutely none. Here's where Ames' and Levine's journalistic standards really shine. Here is a blog post of mine from October of last year, previous to any of these events, where I stated that I don't vote. (I did vote from approximately 2004 to 2008. I registered as a "decline to state" voter, California's equivalent of non-partisan.) Here's a blog post from February of this year where I argue that democracy is a tool by which the majority can and does oppress minorities (note the specific mentions of drug legalization and gay marriage, some issues the "right" is very against). Good work tying me to right-wing ideologues, guys.

And finally, what about the charge that my encounter was rigged to prevent TSA unionization? Again Ames and Levine are wildly off-base. Here's a blog post of mine from February of this year in which I argue that preventing unions is illegal under the First Amendment. I clarified my position in response to a commenter to this post. I had suggested that the proper remedy was for the government to fire workers who wanted to unionize, not restrict their civil liberties. The commenter responded that firing workers would also be a violation of First Amendment protections because it was a different method of "breaking the union". I responded:
Firing workers does not violate the workers' freedom of association. The first amendment protects the right to freely associate. Nothing grants a person the *right* to be hired/employed by another.

Employers want to pay as little as possible; employees want to be paid as much as possible. Let them sit down and negotiate. If they can't reach an agreement, then they don't contract with each other. End of story.

Typically, in a (non-union) negotiation, the employer has more power because the prospective worker needs the job more than the employer needs the *particular* employee. Unions are an attempt to deal with this by predicating a significant number of jobs on any particular member's job. So, employees [sic] fired union workers to try to break the unions, and then the government made it illegal to fire workers because they are in a union, a clear violation of the employers' property rights.

Now the government is suffering the blowback of its own policy. It can't fire the workers because of the Wagner Act, but to try to regulate them is a violation of the first amendment. It's such delicious irony.
For those of you who missed it, I believe the Wagner Act to be unconstitutional for the same reasons that I believe union regulation to be so: it violates the freedom of association. My own writing, from months ago, again contradicts Ames' and Levine's "reporting". Good work tying me to anti-union factions of the right-wing, guys.

Ames' and Levine's assertion that my encounter with the TSA was a stunt is based on my own "admission" which, as it turns out, is an unequivocal denial that it was anything other than a stand against an infringement of civil liberties. Their attempt to tie me to right-wing entities is based on... well... nothing. It is contradicted by my numerous writings critical of any number of things that the right wing does. And finally, the implication that I'm anti-union is again contradicted by my own writing. I hesitate to call Ames and Levine hacks. Arguments should be about issues, not the people promoting them. Ames and Levine have twice now, though, smeared me in clear contradiction of the facts, in an attempt to make their case. It's really a wonder to me that anyone continues to print what they write.

14 April 2011

An ounce of prevention

I don't like the TSA. I think what it does is an affront to liberty, to moral sensibilities, and certainly to the Constitution that supposedly defines U.S. federal power. That is not to say that I oppose transportation security; I just happen believe that the damage done by the TSA to the aforementioned list of things far outweighs whatever benefit it might be providing. As such, I would characterize it as useless. That much is probably obvious to anyone reading this, either because you've read my other writings or because you're aware of my run-in with the TSA. What is probably unknown to most is that my encounter with the TSA has turned me off to reading about it and, even more so, to writing about it. Being a bit of a news junkie, I tend to remain "aware" of most major occurrences involving the TSA, but I don't, as I imagine most people believe, go out of my way to keep up on every little detail concerning it. In fact, I tend to ignore most of the stories I see about the TSA because I get a very "resistance is futile" feeling whenever I do.

Part of the this feeling comes simply from the fact that no matter what the TSA does, no matter how badly it screws up, the (government) solution has been and will always be to throw more money at the problem. Why people accept this situation is completely incomprehensible to me. Just from a purely economic perspective, it's preposterous. The TSA is a monopoly, and its parent, the federal government, openly and actively uses its monopoly position and power to not only prevent but prohibit competition. This is something that that same federal government makes illegal in the private sector. Moreover, the TSA continues to fail to carry out its own mission statement in which it claims that it "protects the Nation’s transportation systems ...". The TSA has racked up a number of high profile failures on this front including the shoe bomber, the underwear bomber, the loaded gun that cleared screening, and the failures of its own internal tests. The TSA can't even design tests for itself that it can pass (even after the 4th or 5th try depending on which story you read). If the TSA was a private company, it's stock would be worthless, and it would be out of business.

But the continued influx of money, increase even, allows the TSA to continue to fail to uphold the second half of its mission statement as well: "... to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce". The TSA's website expands on this principle stating that it is composed of "people who conduct ourselves [sic] in an honest, trustworthy and ethical manner at all times". This stands in sharp contrast with reality.

Freedom? I certainly wasn't "free" to move about the country, no pun intended. My "freedom of movement" was conditioned on being groped by a thug in a government-issued costume (h/t William Grigg for that phrase; he likes to call them tax-feeders instead of thugs). It's very fitting that the very first definition of freedom is "the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint" because that is exactly the opposite of what the TSA offers. And what happened to me is, by no means, an isolated incident. The TSA recently went so far as to screen passengers (read: violate their freedom) after they had disembarked from an Amtrak train in Savannah. TSA's "Blogger Bob" tried to explain this away as a Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) operation but then, at the end of the explanation, says that "this particular VIPR operation should have ended by the time these folks were coming through the station". Not only does the TSA's right hand not know what the left is doing, but its explanation that "disembarking passengers did not need to enter the station" and therefore willfully submitted themselves to the search is at odds with a first-hand account stating that "[T]here were about 14 agents pulling people inside the building and coralling [sic] everyone in a roped area".

Honest and trustworthy? Ethical? Finding stories about the TSA stealing from passengers is not a difficult task. A quick search turned up this blog post on the TSA's website in which the TSA talks about the theft for which it is responsible. That post is from early 2008. In late 2008, TSA screener Pythias Brown was arrested after "appropriating" over $200,000 from airline passengers. Long aware of its problems, the TSA has yet to do anything about them. Theft is still a problem for the TSA, but it's not just at the lowest levels as even managers have been found to be accepting "kickbacks" in return for "looking the other way". The TSA has also become very adept at lying to the traveling public as one commenter at the TSA's blog points out. In November of last year, the TSA said that those under 12 years of age would receive a modified pat-down when extra screening was required. Today, the TSA said that the pat down it gave to a 6 year old, in which the agent used the front of her hands for the majority of the pat down and even put her hands inside the child's waistband and shirt collar, is standard operating procedure just like for those over 12. And, of course, there's still the "debate" about exactly how much radiation you get from the TSA's AIT machines and whether or not they can store pictures.

Yet, the TSA remains in business, which brings me to the other reason that I don't typically follow stories about the TSA. Initially, the response to my encounter was very positive (for/to me and the cause of liberty). But as my story reached more and more people, I was subjected to very visceral reactions to what had happened. Many called me an attention-whore, claiming that the whole thing was set up. Some suggested that instead of blaming the government for trying to feel me up, I should blame the terrorists who made the whole thing necessary. But the majority, in various colorful ways, simply said that it was this way or the highway. That is, get felt up or get blown up, and this is the reason that I don't like hearing about the TSA. People are so afraid that they accept the TSA as a given. It makes me angry to read stories or responses along these lines knowing that no amount of rational discussion can be had about what the TSA does (or doesn't do) because the thinking behind those stories and responses is based on fear. No rational or logical discussion can be had with someone who is arguing from a place of fear.

It's a funny thing, emotion. In spite of seemingly infinite documentation of TSA abuses and screw-ups; in spite of the evidence that one is more likely to die in a car on the way to the airport than on the plane or that the odds of getting a fatal cancer from one of the TSA's AIT machines is roughly equivalent to a terrorist attack on a plane, we continue to allow the TSA to go on about its business in the name of "prevention". In fact, I would argue that more liberties are lost (or given up) in the name of prevention of some "terrible" event than any other cause. Guns are taken away and demonized to prevent crime. Gay marriage is outlawed lest it lead to the decay of society. Drugs are prohibited on the grounds that people might overdose and hurt themselves. Gambling is made illegal because people might overindulge and lose their money. Parents aren't allowed to pack their children's lunches because they may not be healthy "enough". Privacy and due process are lost in the name of preventing terrorism. The list goes on and on.

What happens when the prevention, the supposed "cure", becomes worse than the disease, though? Statistics show that guns save more lives than they take. Drug policy actually leads to poor quality drugs and criminal violence. Our government carries out due process free assassinations, and when we find out about it we only dare to question the secrecy of the operation not the legitimacy of the killing. Most damning of all, though, is the article that I found at the end of a link embedded in the story about the 6 year old girl that was patted down this week. TIME asked a child psychologist to explain how to make TSA pat-downs less traumatic for children. What is wrong with us when we're so afraid of our own shadows that we're willing to let government goons touch our children? Have we really come (read: regressed) so far? We're willing to accept the (false) choice: see our children naked or touch them all over. I really hate to play the "think of the children" card here as it is an appeal to emotion and not rationality, but I think it is in order. We've regressed so far that we're even once again willing to accept the "following orders" defense. Says a TSO:
I come to work to do my job. It is not up to me to decide policy, it is up to me to carry out my duties as dictated by the Transportation Security Administration. People fail to understand that neither of us are happy about the intrusive pat down I am carrying out. I am polite, I am professional [...]
And we eat it up. There was no end to the number of people who told me that I was a jerk during my encounter and that the TSO was very professional. I can only assume that the logic, if there is any, behind such an argument is that we should willingly give up our liberty if the government simply asks nicely enough.

And liberty is exactly what this should all be about. Our federal government was instituted to protect our liberty, to "prevent" infringements of it. But "infringe" is exactly what it does. Each of those preventions I mentioned is, in reality, an infringement of liberty. For example, gun ownership is not an aggressive act against another. Gay couples don't infringe anyone's liberty by loving each other, nor does a drug user in his use of drugs. Each of these acts does not, in and of itself, constitute an infringement of liberty, but our government restricts, if not outlaws, each of them which clearly is an infringement. And so 1984 is upon us as the government has taught us all to master the art of doublethink. We simultaneously believe that government protects our liberty while at the same time believing that "prevention" is a valid form of that protection, and if we allow it to continue then something is wrong with us, indeed.

07 April 2011

Gresham's law, extended by force

A few weeks ago, a man by the name of Bernard von NotHaus was in the news. If you Google the phrase "unique form of terrorism", you can read all about him. In short, he minted coins in a variety of metals and offered to "exchange" them for Federal Reserve Notes -- those pieces of paper you carry around in your wallet, usually referred to as "money". (His original site is here, but Wikipedia is probably the best place to start if you want to know more.) In 2007, the government arrested Mr. von NotHaus and charged him with a number of crimes amounting to "counterfeiting". He wasn't actually minting pennies, nickels, etc.; he was simply minting coins in denominations similar to U.S. currency that the government claims bears too close of a resemblance to official U.S curency. The government accused him of trying to "replace" the official currency of the U.S. He was eventually convicted of these "crimes", with the government going so far as to declare him a terrorist, and his case is now on appeal.

This whole episode seemed to me to be an interesting application of Gresham's law. Gresham's law is the idea that "bad" money chases out "good" money. What that means is that if there are both "bad" and "good" money in an economy, the good money will eventually disappear from that economy. Since anything could be money (as Lew Rockwell points out: shoes, shells, flash drives, or books) and people can assign whatever value they want to that money, how do we define good vs. bad? That's where the government comes in. Instead of the people assigning value to their money, the government has assumed that role (and the authority to occupy that role). Thus, Gresham's law is more accurately stated as (looking again to Wikipedia): bad money drives out good if their exchange rate is set by law.

Let me give you a personal example of how this is so. Just last week, I was cleaning up one of the bedrooms in my home when I came upon a container full of coins. They weren't particularly special in any way; it was just the type of accumulation that occurs when you come home at the end of the night and toss the change in your pocket into a jar. Thinking I might come across some rare coins -- I was hoping for some old pre-1964 silver coins -- I decided to sort through them. I happened to know that pennies used to be made of copper and nickels, of all things, of nickel and copper. A quick Internet search turned up the fact that pennies were made out of copper up until 1982 and that nickels are still made out of copper and nickel. It also revealed that copper pennies are currently worth approximately 3 cents each and nickels about 6 cents. These coins are worth more as metal than the value given to them on their face. You can probably guess what happened next. I put all of the nickels and pre-1982 pennies into a separate pile. The rest are slated to go off to the local Coinstar machine.

Let me give you another, more obvious example. Let's say the government issues two one ounce coins, one in silver and one in gold, and stamps $50 on their respective faces so that each can be exchanged for $50 in goods. Would you spend the silver coin or the gold coin? Hopefully, you answered, "silver". At current spot prices, an ounce of silver is worth just under $40 while an ounce of gold is a bit over $1,400. When a monetary unit's face value exceeds its intrinsic value, as the silver does in the example, it is "bad" money. It will be spent, i.e. stay in circulation, as the spender believes he/she is getting a "deal" since the seller is forced by law to value the unit greater than the worth that would otherwise be assigned to it by the "market". Gold, whose intrinsic value exceeds its face value in the example, would leave circulation as people would hoard it and/or try to sell it for its intrinsic worth (i.e. they could obtain it for $50 but sell it for almost 30 times as much). This would likely remain true so long as the gold's intrinsic worth exceeds the face value, no matter how slight that excess might be. Even if gold was intrinsically worth less than its face value but still more than the silver, you would still find the silver to be in much greater circulation than the gold for the reasons explained previously.

So, what does all of this have to do with Mr. von NotHaus's situation? Let's first (try to) understand exactly what it was he was doing. To the best of my understanding, a silver Liberty Dollar one-ounce coin would be minted with some denomination on it, let's say $10. It would be produced so long as the intrinsic value of the silver in the coin remained under $10 as denominated in official U.S. currency and sold/exchanged for $10 in official U.S. currency. When the intrinsic value of the coin exceeded $10 (in U.S. currency, due to inflation of the U.S. dollar), Mr. von NotHaus would mint one-ounce silver coins with $20 stamped on their faces (and sell them for the $20 in U.S. currency). He would also exchange existing $10 coins for $20 coins. Based on the previous paragraph and definition(s), Mr. von NotHaus was actually creating his own form of "bad" money, with one important difference. There was a limit to how bad his money would get.

Let me explain this with another example. Let's say that you have a $10 bill (official U.S. currency) and a $10 Liberty Dollar which, for the sake of argument, is accepted at the stores at which you shop. Let's further assume that the food you'll eat today costs $10. Now, let's say that you stick both the coin and the bill under your mattress and wait some amount of time, during which the dollar inflates due to the Federal Reserve's money printing processes. You dig your coin and your bill out from under the mattress and go to the store only to find that the $10 worth of food you want to buy now costs $20. The $10 bill will only buy you half of what you want. On the other hand, Mr. von NotHaus will exchange your $10 Liberty Dollar coin for a $20 version, and you can buy all of your food.

As I mentioned before, Mr. von NotHaus's Liberty Dollar is still "bad" money since its face value would always exceed its intrinsic worth. However, at the point at which it becomes "good" money, the holder would actually be able to exchange it for more "bad" money, i.e. when a $10 piece's intrinsic worth becomes worth, say, $12, it could be exchanged for a $20 piece, a much better option than selling the coin for $12. In this way, while "bad" by our earlier definition, this money is a "better" option than the official U.S. currency which always loses value over time.

If the Liberty Dollar was "better", wouldn't it have eventually been naturally forced out by the market via Gresham's law? It's hard to say; that's (unfortunately) the way markets are. Markets are made up of individual actors, or people. People may have seen the Liberty Dollar as a better preserver of their wealth since it could be exchanged for greater denominations as the U.S. dollar fell in value. Had that been the case, the Liberty Dollar may have taken off. And this would not necessarily have been a violation of Gresham's law. It turns out that "good" and "bad" money (under Gresham's law) can only be compared when their values are both fixed by (the same) law. While von NotHaus may be creating "bad" money in an absolute sense, it would likely have been viewed as "better" than the current U.S. currency. Since the exchange rates of both monetary units are not set/fixed by (the same) law, it may have been possible for the "better/good" money to chase out the "bad".

Thus, the U.S. government extended Gresham's law by force. If another monetary system -- one not controlled by the federal government -- took off, the federal government's ability to print money to pay off its debt and fund its operations would have been severely limited, if not outright destroyed. I'm not sure exactly how to sum up the idea that challenges to a government-created fiat money system will be put down with force in a neat "law" like Gresham's, but if you have any ideas, feel free to share them in the comments.


Lew Rockwell wrote about this particular issue and had a few choice quotes:
A nation that is confident about its money’s future would not fear currency competition. A nation with a dying money uses every possible means to crush the competition.
[...] when the dollar became all paper, there has been a sense that its viability needs the backing of federal guns in order to thrive. This attitude is inconsistent with freedom. The right of private coinage is an essential part of free enterprise. Currency competition, especially in a digital age, is something that every country needs.

Bill Rounds also wrote about this issue. I think he makes a good case that Mr. von NotHaus drew the ire of the federal government, not necessarily by competing with the government, but by making his coins look a little too similar to real U.S. currency. He points out:
There are all kinds of alternate currencies in circulation in the US. Ithaca Hours, Potomacs, gift certificates, and Chuck E. Cheese tokens can all be used to barter and transact instead of legal tender coins and bills.
None of those coins have been or are being forced out of existence by the federal government. Arguably, they aren't trying to compete with the government, either, though.

It's not clear to me, from what I've read, that Mr. von NotHaus intended to defraud people or imply that his coins were legal tender or official U.S. currency. From what I can tell, he was simply trying to give them the same value as U.S. currency to make them easy to understand and trade. In the end, I have to agree with Lew Rockwell when he points out that the U.S. Constitution nowhere prohibits private coinage and even points out that it was commonplace during the settling of the West. Mr. Rounds even acknowledges that the law is, at best, nonsensical:
[...] the state of monetary law is almost nonsensical. Court opinions, federal statutes and the Constitution are logically inconsistent with one another.

Finally, I hope that the example I gave of a $10 Liberty Dollar round being exchangeable for a $20 round as the U.S. dollar depreciates drives home the idea of the inflation tax. By depreciating the dollar, the government is essentially stealing money from people who hold cash. This is why our economy is driven by consumption instead of saving. If your dollar is worth less tomorrow than today, then it makes sense to spend it instead of saving it.

05 April 2011

"Non-essential" government

This morning, the news is filled with stories about a possible government shutdown due to the budget impasse between both houses of congress and the President. At the end of this story, I found this gem:
The Committee on House Administration also sent out a memo instructing employers in the House of Representatives to determine which "essential personnel" should keep working should funding lapse. The only House employees allowed to keep working would be those whose jobs are "directly related to constitutional responsibilities, related to the protection of human life, or related to the protection of property."
I searched for the entire memo but only found it on a Washington Post blog. Here is the context of the relevant text sent out by Daniel Lungren, the committee's charman:
Should Congress and the President fail to come to an agreement continuing appropriations for the Legislative Branch, non-essential House operations must be shut down effective April 9, 2011. Because a disruption in the legislative activities of the House would prevent the House from exercising its powers under Article I of the Constitution of the United States, essential employees should continue to perform their normal duties.

Therefore, under the authority vested in the Committee on House Administration by House Rule X, clause 1(k), the Committee directs that in the event of a lapse in appropriations for the Legislative Branch, each House employing authority shall designate as essential personnel only those employees whose primary job responsibilities are directly related to constitutional responsibilities, related to the protection of human life, or related to the protection of property. All other House personnel shall be placed in a furlough status by the appropriate employing authority until appropriations are made available.
So, if the an agreement on a budget fails to materialize, then, and only then, will the government will revert to its (supposedly) legitimate responsibilities/functions by virtue of the fact that it will not be able to pay those non-essential people who are, by definition, performing non-essential tasks. One could only hope that the remaining workers, those performing "constitutional responsibilities" will also be performing these duties free of charge, at which point, the phrase "public servant" may actually take on an air of legitimacy. Obviously, the phrase "constitutional responsibilities" is open to wide interpretation as I and many others have written about before, and I know that the remaining workers will still be paid. However, without a budget and far less personnel, the responsibilities of those workers will necessarily limited.

For all of the doom and gloom that people think is possible, I think a government shutdown could be a good thing. It will force people to truly examine "whether or not government works at all". As Professor Bruce Yandle theorizes, "I think we will realize how extensively the federal government is involved in all aspects of life, and we’ll all be surprised." That's obviously a double-edged sword considering the number of people dependent on the government either for employment, unemployment assistance, or welfare. A backlash from those groups could bring the government roaring back. In 1995, the government shutdown was ended by the passage of a balanced budget. I hope our current lawmakers are principled enough to hold out for at least that much, if not more.