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The Many Flaws of U.S. Nuclear Policy

The Many Flaws of U.S. Nuclear Policy

The threat of “nuclear proliferation” remains one of the great catch-all reasons—the other being “humanitarian” intervention—given for why the U.S. regime and its allies ought to be given unlimited power to invade foreign states and impose sanctions at any given time.

We saw this at work during the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. It was said that nuclear weapons were among the “weapons of mass destruction” being developed or harbored by Saddam Hussein’s regime. Thus, it was “necessary” that the United States invade Iraq and enact regime change.

It is now very clear, of course, that the Bush-Cheney administration was lying and there was no credible evidence that Iraq’s long-defunct nuclear program had been revived.

But let’s say for the sake of argument that Iraq was well on its way to developing a nuclear weapon in early 2003. Would it have become “necessary” for the US to invade Iraq and install a de facto puppet regime that would agree to not develop nuclear weapons?

The question is relevant, of course, because interventionists are now making the same claims about Iran as were made about Iraq in 2003.

The conventional thinking among neoconservatives and other interventionists in Washington is that yes, the United States is always justified in invading foreign states if it prevents nuclear proliferation. If this is not done, we are told, the new nuclear state will surely use its new weapons, or at least threaten to use them for purposes of blackmail.

Unfortunately for the interventionists, history has repeatedly shown this claim to be tenuous at best. Since 1945, as more and more states have become part of the “nuclear club,” each new member has failed to live up to the predictions that proliferation will quickly lead to geopolitical destabilization and war.

This has become more important in recent years, as humanitarian interventions have apparently lost their cache with the American public. In recent years, Washington has tried to drum up support for regime change invasions in both Venezuela and Syria, yet those efforts failed to catch on.

Threat of nuclear proliferation, then, likely offers the last hope for the interventionists when it comes to regime change in Iran.

Those Guys Are Crazy!

Perhaps the most-used argument made against tolerating proliferation often rests on the idea that most regimes are too insane, irrational, or incompetent to manage nuclear weapons responsibly—however one might define “responsible” stewardship of weapons that exist to destroy entire metropolitan populations.

The claim is thus made that regimes in Iran, Iraq, and North Korea—to name just three examples—are likely to be unrestrained by the instinct of self-preservation and that thus we cannot apply traditional theories of nuclear deterrence to these regimes.

Yet, this theory has yet to amass any evidence to support it. Are we to believe that the Soviet and Chinese regimes have always been headed by eminently sane people? After all, as John Mueller notes,

the weapons have proliferated to large, important countries run by unchallenged monsters who, at the time they acquired the bombs, were certifiably deranged: Josef Stalin, who in 1949 was planning to change the climate of the Soviet Union by planting a lot of trees, and Mao Zedong, who in 1964 had just carried out a bizarre social experiment that resulted in an artificial famine in which tens of millions of Chinese perished.

Mueller suggests that it is incumbent on the opponents of an Iranian bomb to show that Iran’s leaders are less sane than Stalin.

Some might nevertheless claim (however implausibly) that Muslims are somehow more naturally murderous than Stalin. Yet we might note that this doesn’t explain how the Islamic Republic of Pakistan—an occasional military dictatorship—has somehow refrained from using its nuclear arms against its hated rival India.

In actual experience, regimes that acquire a bomb tend to moderate their behavior. As Kenneth Waltz points out:

every new nuclear state has behaved exactly the way the old nuclear states have behaved. One can describe the way all nuclear states have behaved in one word: responsibly. When the United States contemplated the Soviet Union one day having its own nuclear weapons, we were horrified by the prospect. How could we live? How could the world live with such a country as the Soviet Union—which we saw as bent on world domination—having nuclear weapons? And when China developed its own nuclear weapons, we repeated the same way of thinking—“My God! China? China is crazy!”

But in fact, if you think of the Cultural Revolution, China took very good care of its nuclear weapons. They ensured that they would not fall under the hands of the revolutionaries and came through that horrible ten-year period. The fact is that people worry that a new nuclear country, once it gets a nuclear shield, would then begin to behave immoderately or irresponsibly under the cover of its own nuclear weapons. Well, that has never happened. Every country that has had nuclear weapons has behaved moderately.

(Of course, by “moderately” he only means in terms of provoking full-scale war with rivals.)

In any case, the notion that regimes that acquire nuclear warheads then go off the deep end has yet to be observed in real life.

This is why, in a 2012 forum for PBS, John Mearsheimer noted that if Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons, this would likely stabilize the region rather than destabilize it:

I think there’s no question that a nuclear-armed Iran would bring stability to the region, because nuclear weapons are weapons of peace. They’re weapons of deterrence.

And because nuclear weapons are useful only for deterring attacks, they cannot be used for so-called nuclear blackmail:

We have created this myth in this country over the past few years in talking about Iran that any country that acquires nuclear weapons can blackmail other countries or use those nuclear weapons for offensive purposes. We have a lot of theory and a huge amount of empirical evidence, 67 years now, which show that no country with nuclear weapons can blackmail another country, as long as somebody is protecting that country or it has its own nuclear weapons.

Rather, in the case of Iran, according to Waltz, if the goal is stability in the region, that answer lies in ending Israel’s nuclear monopoly in the region—which has been a source of enduring instability. In the July/August 2012 issue of Foreign Affairs, Waltz observed:

Israel’s regional nuclear monopoly, which has proved remarkably durable for the past four decades, has long fueled instability in the Middle East. In no other region of the world does a lone, unchecked nuclear state exist.

Of course, it is easy to understand why Israel wants to remain the sole nuclear power in the region and why it is willing to use force to secure that status. In 1981, Israel bombed Iraq to prevent a challenge to its nuclear monopoly. It did the same to Syria in 2007 and is now considering similar action against Iran. But the very acts that have allowed Israel to maintain its nuclear edge in the short term have prolonged an imbalance that is unsustainable in the long term. Israel’s proven ability to strike potential nuclear rivals with impunity has inevitably made its enemies anxious to develop the means to prevent Israel from doing so again. In this way, the current tensions are best viewed not as the early stages of a relatively recent Iranian nuclear crisis but rather as the final stages of a decades-long Middle East nuclear crisis that will end only when a balance of military power is restored.

Nuclear Arms Offer a Solution to Threats of Regime Change

Indeed, the case of Israel is not unique in the sense that the United States provokes the same sort of instability worldwide.

The United States has either carried out regime change or threatened to do so in a number of cases. This means those countries targeted by the US are highly motivated to acquire arms, which these regimes correctly see as the only reliable deterrent against US invasion. Waltz continues:

There is only one way that a country can reliably deter a dominant power, and that is by developing its own nuclear force. When president Bush identified the countries that he said constituted an “axis of evil”—namely, Iraq, Iran, and North Korea—and then proceeded to invade one of them—namely, Iraq—that was certainly a lesson quickly learned by both Iran and North Korea. That is to say, that if a country wants to deter the United States it has to equip itself with nuclear force. I think we all have seen that demonstrated very clearly.

In other words, it is the United States, and to a lesser extent the State of Israel, which have created situations in which states become highly motivated to acquire nuclear arms for defensive reasons.

If the US really wanted to reduce the likelihood of regimes like Iran and North Korea seeking and expanding nuclear capabilities, the US would disavow its doctrine of regime change explicitly. It would also renounce the notion of an “axis of evil” and cut back the US’s nuclear arsenal to a force designed for minimum deterrence.

Until that happens, the United States itself remains a primary motivation for nuclear armament among regimes that have run afoul of the Washington establishment.

This, however, is unlikely to happen, because a perpetual stance of antiproliferation and regime change pays many dividends in Washington. It keeps the Pentagon’s budget sky-high, and it allows the regime to claim it is enforcing worldwide peace, even while it remains a source of instability.

In the sloppy world of public debates over foreign policy, this appears to many voters to make sense. As Mueller has suggested, it’s easy to just keep pushing the panic button and then taking the credit for the fact that World War III has yet to break out:

Alarmists have one great advantage. If their alarm proves to be justified, they will look like prophets. If nothing happens, they can claim that this desirable condition has been the result of efforts their alarmism has inspired. Thus, when New York Police Department Commissioner David Cohen is asked how he knows whether his extensive counterterrorism programs (which have had an almost perfect record of not finding any terrorists) have been successful, he curtly responds, “They haven’t attacked us.” Reporting this comment, reporters Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman note that “the absence of a terrorist attack has been the silver‐bullet argument for national security pro‐fessionals.” Although it is a “flawed argument” logically, they continue, it has been “nearly irrefutable” politically. The dodge, then, is, (1) we are trying to keep them from attacking; (2) they haven’t attacked; therefore (3) it must be our efforts that have kept them from doing so.

The question we must ask ourselves, however, is: At what cost?

How many more countries will the United States bomb or invade in the name of wiping out weapons of mass destruction? We’ve already seen the side effects of these efforts. Not only are hundreds of thousands of human beings killed in these wars—as was the case in Iraq—but these conflicts also create immense refugee and immigration crises while creating power vacuums. ISIS, for example, would have never gained much success at all had the US not destroyed Saddam’s secularist Ba’athist regime in Iraq.

These costs are sure to be studiously ignored. Whether we’re talking about global warming or covid-19, or “weapons of mass destruction,” the strategy today is that we must trust the regime to take whatever drastic steps it wishes or else we face an existential threat. We must adopt environmental regulations that would force billions of Africans and Asians back into poverty “or else.” We must destroy civil liberties and impose lockdowns on countless millions “or else.” We must carry out regime change in yet another country “or else.”

This narrative has worked wonders for regimes seeking ever more power. They won’t abandon this strategy any time soon.

This article was originally featured at the Ludwig von Mises Institute and is republished with permission.

A Bill To Reject Unconstitutional Executive Orders Passes South Dakota House Committee

A Bill To Reject Unconstitutional Executive Orders Passes South Dakota House Committee

Today, a South Dakota House committee passed a bill that would create a mechanism to review presidential executive orders and end state cooperation with enforcement of certain orders determined to violate the U.S. Constitution. This process would set the stage to nullify some executive orders in effect in South Dakota.

Rep. Aaron Aylward (R-Harrisburg), along with 16 Republicans, introduced House Bill 1194 (HB1194) on Feb. 1. Under the proposed law with an amendment passed today, the state legislature’s executive board would be required to review any executive order issued by the President of the United States, “if the order has not been affirmed by a vote of the Congress of the United States and signed into law, as prescribed by the Constitution of the United States.”

Upon a recommendation by the executive committee, the state attorney general would review the executive order.  Under the law, the state, its political subdivisions, along with any elected or appointed official or employee of this state, would be prohibited from implementing any executive order that restricts a person’s constitutional rights or that the attorney general determines to be unconstitutional during the review.

The law would cover executive orders that relate to any of the following:

  • A pandemic or other public health emergency;
  • The regulation of natural resources;
  • The regulation of the agricultural industry;
  • The regulation of land use;
  • The regulation of the financial sector through the imposition of environmental, social, or governance standards; or
  • The regulation of the constitutional right to keep and bear arms.

On Feb. 24, the House State Affairs Committee passed HB1194 by a 7-4 vote.

Passage of HB1194 would provide a process to push back against overreaching executive authority. Immediately upon a determination of unconstitutionality by the AG, the state would be required to withdraw all resources and cease any cooperation with enforcement or implementation of the action. Because the feds lack the resources to enforce all of their laws and run all of their programs, this would likely be enough to effectively end the federal action in South Dakota in most situations, nullifying it in effect.

Effective

Based on James Madison’s advice for states and individuals in Federalist #46, a “refusal to cooperate with officers of the Union” provides an extremely effective method to render federal laws, effectively unenforceable because most enforcement actions rely on help, support and leadership from the states.

Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano agreed this type of approach would be extremely effective. In a televised discussion on federal gun laws, he noted that a single state refusing to cooperate with enforcement would make federal gun laws “nearly impossible” to enforce.

The federal government relies heavily on state cooperation to implement and enforce almost all of its laws, regulations and acts. By simply withdrawing this necessary cooperation, states can nullify in effect many federal actions. As noted by the National Governor’s Association during the partial government shutdown of 2013, “states are partners with the federal government on most federal programs.”

Legal Basis

The provisions prohibiting the state from enforcing or implementing certain federal acts rests on a well-established legal principle known as the anti-commandeering doctrine. Simply put, the federal government cannot force states to help implement or enforce any federal act or program – whether constitutional or not. The anti-commandeering doctrine is based primarily on five Supreme Court cases dating back to 1842. Printz v. U.S. serves as the cornerstone.

“We held in New York that Congress cannot compel the States to enact or enforce a federal regulatory program. Today we hold that Congress cannot circumvent that prohibition by conscripting the States’ officers directly. The Federal Government may neither issue directives requiring the States to address particular problems, nor command the States’ officers, or those of their political subdivisions, to administer or enforce a federal regulatory program. It matters not whether policy making is involved, and no case by case weighing of the burdens or benefits is necessary; such commands are fundamentally incompatible with our constitutional system of dual sovereignty.”

No determination of constitutionality is necessary to invoke the anti-commandeering doctrine. State and local governments can refuse to enforce federal laws or implement federal programs whether they are constitutional or not.

What’s Next?

HB1194 now moves to the House floor for further consideration.

This article was originally featured at the Tenth Amendment Center and is republished with permission.

Can Libertarians Oppose Short Selling?

Can Libertarians Oppose Short Selling?

Amid the controversy over GameStop, many cynics argued that something sinister was clearly afoot because the hedge funds had shorted 138 percent of the outstanding shares. In this article I’ll review that particular claim, as well as another seemingly dubious practice, so-called naked short selling. My conclusion is that shorting more than the total outstanding shares isn’t perverse or fraudulent, whereas naked short selling—depending on the context—might be.

A Review of Short Selling

Before diving into the specific variants, let me first explain the basics of short selling and why it can be a healthy activity in a free market. (In this section I reproduce material I published in an earlier mises.org article.)

In general, those who speculate in the stock market provide a “social” service—if they profit—by steering asset prices to their correct levels, as I explain in this article. If investors believe a particular stock is underpriced, they can buy shares of it and then unload them once the stock has met or surpassed what they view as its “proper” level. In this way, the speculators push up the (initially) underpriced stocks, helping to correct the “error” in the original price structure. Notice that it doesn’t matter whether the investors who notice the initial underpricing own any of the stock at the outset.

However, things are different when an investor believes a stock is overpriced. If the investor happens to own shares of the stock in question, the obvious move is to sell some or all of the position, which both earns a relative gain for the investor and also speeds the downward move in price.

If this were the end of the story, there would be an obvious asymmetry in the market’s ability to rely on the dispersed knowledge of experts in diverse fields. Namely, it would mean that the only people who could act on their belief that a stock is overpriced would be those who already own the stock.

Fortunately, the market allows short selling, where someone who has zero shares of a stock can, in effect, sell shares and end up holding a negative position. In other words, a person “going long” might end up holding a hundred shares of a stock, whereas someone “going short” might end up holding minus a hundred shares.

Suppose stock XYZ is trading at $50, but Sam the Speculator believes tomorrow’s news will contain something very unfavorable for the stock. Further suppose that the rest of the market isn’t seeing things the way Sam is. Sam can borrow, say, a hundred shares of XYZ from Harold the Shareholder, sell them today for $5,000, and then wait for the news to hit. When it does, and the stock sinks to $40, Sam buys back the hundred shares for $4,000, and returns them to Harold (along with a fixed fee). Harold is better off, because he earned the fee; the price drop would have hit him in any case. (If Harold wants to unload his XYZ stock as the price drops but before Sam returns his shares, then Harold himself can short a hundred new shares and end up no worse off than he otherwise would have been.)1For example, suppose the bad news hits (as Sam anticipated but Harold did not), and the price of XYZ begins falling over the course of a few hours from $50 down to $40. If Harold originally would have closed out his position once XYZ fell to (say) $45, then he can still borrow and short a hundred shares once XYZ hits that threshold. Selling the borrowed shares at that price garners him $4,500, and then Harold gives the hundred shares plus the fee to the person from whom he borrowed the shares, once Sam closes out the original short position. When the dust settles, Harold ends up with $4,500, which is exactly what he would have had in an alternate universe where he never met Sam and instructed his broker to sell his shares of XYZ if they ever fell to $45. Meanwhile, Sam has netted $1,000 (minus the fee) from his superior foresight.

Things get more complicated when the short seller takes longer to return the shares; we have to worry about dividend payments, interest, etc. But the basic principle is simple enough: just as a speculator who wants to go long can borrow money to buy stocks, so too a speculator who wants to go short can borrow stocks to “buy money.” Short selling is no more mysterious than buying stocks on margin.

How Can There Be More Shorts Than Total Shares?

Now that we’ve reviewed the basic framework of short selling, we can answer the question: How can it be possible to short more shares than exist? The answer is pretty straightforward: the same share can be shorted multiple times as it passes hands from one owner to the next.

For example, suppose there are a total of a thousand shares of XYZ stock. Ten different speculators each want to short a hundred shares each. So each of the ten speculators makes arrangements with the original holders of XYZ stock in order to borrow a thousand total shares from them to sell at the original market price.

Now when a speculator shorts a stock, he is selling it. That means there must be a buyer of the shares on the other side of the transaction. When a new person enters the market to buy shares of a stock, there isn’t a Post-it note affixed to some of the shares saying “This share was obtained as part of a short sale, so it is forbidden to be lent out again.” No, all the shares are fungible, and each one just as “shortable” as any other. When a speculator borrows shares of XYZ in order to sell them (with the hopes that the price will go down), the person on the other side of the transaction is engaging in a normal purchase. That new owner acquires full rights to the shares, including the right to lend them out to a new short seller.

Therefore, continuing our scenario, suppose that after the original thousand shares of XYZ have been borrowed as part of ten different short sales the price of XYZ is still too high, in the view of a speculator. This speculator approaches the new owners of the stock, and borrows 380 shares from them to short. At this point, the total (gross) short position is 1,380 shares, even though there are only a thousand total shares in existence. In other words, the gross short position is 138 percent of the outstanding shares.

To understand the situation, consider the gross vs. net positions: there are currently a thousand shares owned outright by various individuals. There are also people who are owed 1,380 shares in total, because they lent out their shares for a short sale; they are “long” the XYZ stock, because they benefit if its price goes up. On the flip side of this, there are the short sellers who collectively owe 1,380 shares to the people from whom they borrowed the stock. (They are clearly “short” the stock, and benefit if its price drops.) Therefore, the gross short position is 1,380 shares, which is 138 percent of the total supply, but the gross long position is 2,380 shares. Thus, the net position is long 2,380 – 1,380 = 1,000 shares, which is 100 percent of the total quantity of shares. Nothing weird here, folks.

Before leaving this section, let me address one potential objection. Isn’t there a sense in which it’s physically impossible for the short sellers to close out their positions? After all, how can they collectively buy back 1,380 shares when there are only a thousand shares total?

The answer is that they don’t have to do this in one fell swoop. (This is also why it’s possible for a community to pay interest plus principal on money loans.) One of the original speculators can buy a hundred shares of XYZ and return them to the original owners, thus reducing the gross short position to 1,280 shares. Then a different speculator could buy another hundred shares and do the same, reducing the shorts to 1,180 shares, and so on. The cumulative short position can be unwound in stages, just as it was originally wound up in stages.

Now it’s true, the speculators might find it expensive to convince the current holders of the XYZ stock to sell some of their shares in order to close out the original short. But this is true regardless of the scale of the operation. In other words, whether the gross short position on XYZ is 138 percent or 1 percent, if the current holders hang on tight to their shares, it might be prohibitively expensive for the shorters to close out their positions. There is nothing peculiar to a gross short position being greater than 100 percent in this regard.

A More Dubious Practice: Naked Short Selling

With “naked” short selling, the transactions are marked up “on paper” without first locating and obtaining actual shares of the stock. To adapt our scenario, if a speculator wants to short a hundred shares of XYZ when it’s selling for $50, perhaps his brokerage will allow him to do so even though it hasn’t gotten possession of a hundred shares. When the speculator closes out his position, the brokerage calculates what his profit/loss would have been if he really had obtained the shares and credits/debits his account accordingly.

The potential problem here occurs if something goes wrong and the speculator can’t close out his original position because XYZ has gone up in price too much. For example, suppose that after shorting the hundred shares at $50 (and thus temporarily earning $5,000), the speculator is horrified to see that XYZ shoots up to $1,000 per share! In order to close out his position, the speculator would need to spend $1,000 x 100 = $100,000 to obtain the hundred shares on the open market and return them to the brokerage. If the speculator doesn’t have that kind of money, he can’t do it.

The victims in this type of scenario are the people who thought they were buying those hundred shares of XYZ back when it was selling for $50. (After all, that’s where the original $5,000 came from.) For small enough dollar amounts, the brokerage itself would cover the speculator’s loss. But in principle, if a brokerage allowed many of its clients to engage in naked short selling, then a surprising spike in stock prices could cause such aggregate losses that even the brokerage itself couldn’t afford to cover them. In that case, investors who thought they were buying shares of stock from the brokerage would discover that even though it had taken their money and told them the transaction went through, they in fact did not own actual shares.

Readers will note the similarity between naked short selling and fractional reserve banking. It’s true in both cases that contracts could carefully spell out the details, and give the brokerage/bank the legal right to refuse redemption, but there is a line in Austrian economics (going from Mises through Rothbard to many of today’s Rothbardians) which argues that legal niceties don’t really matter, it’s commercial practice that does. If bank depositors treat demand deposits as immediately redeemable (and hence equivalent to money proper), then fractional reserve banking causes the boom-bust cycle. Likewise, one might argue as an Austrian that naked short selling is a dubious practice that could foster instability in the financial markets. (Note that my own position on this latter issue has evolved since I previously wrote on naked shorting for mises.org.)

Conclusion

In a free market, short selling is a healthy practice that allows farsighted speculators to push down overpriced stocks. There is nothing inherently dubious or fraudulent should the gross short position exceed the total number of shares. However, the practice of naked short selling could be problematic, if it became large relative to overall trading.

This article was originally featured at the Ludwig von Mises Institute and is republished with permission.

The Insurrection That Wasn’t

The Insurrection That Wasn’t

Somebody still needs to get a memo to the Justice Department about the so-called insurrection at the Capitol on January 6 because it has yet to charge anyone with that offense. All I is see is a range of criminal offenses like disorderly conduct, assault, trespass, illegal gun possession, and “conspiracy” to commit these types of offenses. (Question: How come no one ever accuses the Justice Department of being a “conspiracy theorist,” given the countless times it charges people with conspiracy?) Yet, all we continue to hear from the mainstream press and the liberal (i.e., progressive, leftist, socialist) establishment is that the protestors were hell bent on taking control of Congress.

How can anyone really buy into this nonsense, especially when the Justice Department and its grand juries are not? It’s like these people live in an alternative universe in which they convince themselves of a false reality and then all reinforce it to each other.

By now, we are all accustomed to what happens when someone wants to kill people. He takes a high-powered rifle or a handgun and starts shooting people. Columbine comes to mind. So does Las Vegas. There are many other examples.

That’s what people who were hell bent on taking control over the Capitol would have done. They would have gone into the Capitol and begun shooting and killing people. They didn’t do that. At most they did what the Justice Department is accusing them of doing — committing disorderly conduct, trespass, assault, etc.

Let’s assume the worst and imagine that the trespassers had entered the Capitol and begun shooting people, with the aim of taking control over the Capitol. Despite the manifest fears expressed by the mainstream press and the liberal establishment, there was zero chance that they would have succeeded in their ultimate aim.

The Capitol would have been surrounded by FBI officers and National Guard troops. There might have been negotiations for surrender. There might have been a siege in which the malefactors were denied food and water. But the final outcome would never have been in doubt. If the marauders refused to surrender, law-enforcement officials and National Guard troops would have stormed the Capitol and retaken control of it. Protestors who survived would have been charged with such crimes as insurrection, kidnapping, and murder.

A much more interesting and different situation, however, would have occurred if President Trump had orchestrated a violent and deadly takeover of the Capitol with the expressed aim of remaining in power as president. In that case, you would have had what many people in the mainstream press and liberal establishment were fearing in the run-up to inauguration day — a situation in which Trump was refusing to give up the reins of power and, in the process, orchestrating the violent takeover of the Capitol by his supporters.

Then what?

That possibility was undoubtedly the reason the Pentagon decided to issue its public declaration that Joe Biden was going to be the new president of the United States. (See my article “The Pentagon Speaks.”) The Pentagon’s statement was essentially a declaration to Donald Trump: Don’t even think about it.

What if Trump had ignored the Pentagon’s pronouncement and proceeded to remain in power and have his supporters violently take control over Congress? How could law enforcement officials and National Guard troops act to remove the marauders from Congress without lawful orders to proceed, especially when their commander-in-chief was ordering them to cease and desist?

To understand what then would have happened, we can turn to what occurred on 9/11 in 1973 in Chile. The national-security branch of the government was insisting that the president of the country, Salvador Allende, step down in the middle of his term. Allende refused, and a war broke out between two branches of the national government — the executive branch and the national-security branch.

The national-security branch surrounded Allende’s position in the National Palace with tanks and infantry and began firing at his position. Air Force jets fired missiles into the palace with the intent on killing Allende.

For his part, Allende, who was wearing a military helmet and firing a high-powered rifle, valiantly fought back, along with some loyal aides. But they never had a chance against the overwhelming power of the military-intelligence branch. When the war was over, Allende was dead and many of his aides were captured, imprisoned, tortured, and reeducated.

As we now know, that Chilean coup was instigated and supported by the U.S. national-security establishment. In fact, when the overall commander of Chile’s armed forces, Gen. Rene Schneider, stood in opposition to the coup because of his duty to support and defend the Chilean constitution, U.S. national-security state officials conspired to have him violently kidnapped to remove him as an obstacle to the coup. Schneider was shot and killed during the kidnapping attempt.

Thus, what happened to Allende is precisely what would have happened if Trump had decided to remain in office and have his supporters take violent control over the Capitol. The message that the Joint Chiefs of Staff were delivering to Trump with their proclamation that Biden was now the new official president was that Trump, if he decided to remain in power, was going to meet the same fate that Allende met at the hands of the Chilean military-intelligence establishment.

In other words, if Trump had chosen to remain in power, as his critics feared he would, the Pentagon would have ordered tanks and infantry to surround the White House and begin firing on the president’s position, just like what happened in Chile. Air Force jets would have begun firing missiles into Trump’s position in the White House. While Trump and his supporters would have tried to fight back, they never would have had a chance, any more than Allende did. The overwhelming power of a national-security establishment makes it the ultimate decider of who is going to be in power.

Maybe Trump never seriously considered it, as his critics feared. But if he did, he was smart to see the handwriting on the wall and not to try it. At the end of the war, he would have lost, just like Allende did. And those who had supported Trump and who survived would then have been charged with insurrection.

This article was originally featured at the Future of Freedom Foundation and is republished with permission.

No Warrant, No Problem; How Government Buys Its Way Around the 4th Amendment

No Warrant, No Problem; How Government Buys Its Way Around the 4th Amendment

When the Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that law enforcement agencies need warrants before they can request geolocation data from cell phone companies, civil liberties advocates touted the judgment as a major win for privacy.

But since then, government agencies have devised a new surveillance method: instead of getting warrants to force companies to provide data, they simply purchase the information from brokers. Call it entrepreneurial innovation in the market for tyranny.

The scope of this activity has been slowly revealed over the last year, beginning with a February 2020 Wall Street Journal article, which reported that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has “bought access to a commercial database that maps the movements of millions of cellphones in American and is using it for immigration and border enforcement.” Later reports revealed that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) purchase similar data.

Had the world not essentially collapsed about a month later, this might have been big news. Alas, government’s data purchases have gone largely unpublicized in the midst of pandemics, riots, elections, and so on.

Even though geolocation data purchases are a norm in government, there are some public officials who agree with civil libertarians that the programs are unconstitutional. For example, in a memo made public this week, the inspector general for the Department of Treasury criticized the IRS for purchasing location information.

According to the IG’s memo, the IRS subscribed to a geolocation database provided by the data broker Venntel. The inspector general shared his view that the IRS program likely violated the Fourth Amendment and the precedent set by the Supreme Court in Carpenter v. US.

However, the IG’s opinion is far from government consensus. In fact, the IG’s memo notes that the IRS shuttered its geolocation tracking program not because of concerns about its constitutionality, but only because it wasn’t useful—a similar fate to what happened with the NSA’s bulk metadata collection.

Other departments have also expressed the opinion that bulk data purchases are constitutional. The Defense Intelligence Agency said in a memo made public last month that it can buy bulk data because the Supreme Court’s Carpenter decision only applies to law enforcement—and not to intelligence agencies.

“The court did not consider ‘collection techniques involving…national security,’” the memo said. “By extension, the court did not address the process, if any, associated with commercial acquisition of bulk commercial geolocation data for foreign intelligence/counter-intelligence purposes.”

Nor does the Biden Administration seem interested in checking the geolocation tracking programs. When new National Intelligence Director Avril Haines was asked about the programs during her confirmation process, she played lip service to the importance that “American people have an understanding of when, and under what authorities, the government is buying their private data”—but she said nothing about curtailing such surveillance.

If it’s indeed important for Americans to know how they’re being tracked, then it’s unclear why the DSH, CBP and ICE are still contesting a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union to produce records about their geolocation tracking programs. Again, this ACLU lawsuit isn’t even challenging the tracking programs— it’s only trying to wrangle records from them—and yet government is insistent on pursuing litigation that could last years.

By the time the Supreme Court would make any rulings on the geolocation tracking programs, it could be nearing the end of the decade, and government agencies will almost certainly have found another workaround by then.

“If law enforcement agencies can buy their way around the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement, the landmark protection announced by the Supreme Court in Carpenter will be in peril,” the ACLU said when announcing its lawsuit in December.

Unfortunately, it’s apparent that the Carpenter decision has long passed the point of peril, taking the entire Fourth Amendment with it.

Independent Investigation Finds Police in the Wrong for Killing Elijah McClain

Independent Investigation Finds Police in the Wrong for Killing Elijah McClain

As TFTP reported, Elijah McClain was killed by police after he was put in a chokehold and given the sedative ketamine. The incident began when someone in the neighborhood called the police because McClain was walking down the street with groceries while wearing a mask. McClain reportedly always wore the mask because he was anemic, and often got cold, and he was an introvert.

Now, more than a year and a half later, an independent investigation, commissioned by the city, has found that police had no legal basis to stop McClain that night as he had broken absolutely no law.

According to the Denver Post, the investigation also found that the department’s own investigation conducted by detectives in the Major Crimes Unit—was deeply flawed—and deliberately steered to exonerate the officers involved.

The detectives failed to ask basic, critical questions of the officers involved in McClain’s death and instead “the questions frequently appeared designed to elicit specific exonerating ‘magic language’ found in court rulings,” the report states.

“In addition, the report of the Major Crime Unit stretched the record to exonerate the officers rather than present a neutral version of the facts,” the investigators wrote.

“It is hard to imagine any other persons involved in a fatal incident being interviewed as these officers were,” the investigators continued.

“The body worn camera audio, limited video, and Major Crime’s interviews with the officers tell two contrasting stories,” the report states. “The officers’ statements on the scene and in subsequent recorded interviews suggest a violent and relentless struggle. The limited video, and the audio from the body worn cameras, reveal Mr. McClain surrounded by officers, all larger than he, crying out in pain, apologizing, explaining himself, and pleading with the officers.”

The investigation also implicated the EMTs who showed up and injected McClain with ketamine at the request of the officers. Aside from blindly following cops’ orders to inject someone with ketamine, EMTs also failed to accurately determine McClain’s weight, leading to the 140 pound innocent man receiving a dose for a 190 pound man.

“Aurora Fire appears to have accepted the officers’ impression that Mr. McClain had excited delirium without corroborating that impression through meaningful observation or diagnostic examination of Mr. McClain,” the investigators wrote.

McClain’s mother, Sheneen McClain, “is relieved that the truth surrounding the death of her son is finally coming to light,” according to a statement issued by her attorneys, the post reported.

“The Aurora officials who contributed to Elijah’s death must be immediately terminated,” according to the statement from the Rathod Mohamedbhai law firm. “Ms. McClain continues to call for the criminal prosecution of those responsible for Elijah’s death. Elijah committed no crime on the day of his death, but those who are responsible for Elijah’s death certainly did.”

At the time of his death, McClain had never gotten so much as a speeding ticket in his life.

Moments after police approached McClain claiming that he fit the description of a suspect. They claim that he resisted arrest and needed to be subdued. McClain had committed no crime when police initiated force against him. He was merely walking home from the store after purchasing some tea.

At the time, police claimed body camera footage showed McClain reaching for a gun, but this was unsubstantiated.

At a press conference after police killed him, police chief Metz told reporters that “Elijah grabbed the grip of an officer’s holstered gun. A struggle ensued to the ground where three body-worn cameras did become dislodged.”

But this was simply not true.

“He is laying on the ground vomiting, he is begging, he is saying, ‘I can’t breathe.’ One of the officers says, ‘Don’t move again. If you move again, I’m calling in a dog to bite you,’” said Mari Newman, the McClain’s lawyer, completely dismantling the official story.

During the altercation, McClain was placed in a carotid restraint, a technique that was recently banned by the Aurora Police Department. While McClain was restrained, The Aurora Fire Department was called to the scene to give him ketamine, a strong sedative. After being choked out and forcibly drugged for committing no crime, McClain went into cardiac arrest twice while on the way to the hospital.

In his last few words on this planet, McClain could be heard saying, “I’m an introvert. I’m just different. That’s all. I’m so sorry. I have no gun. I don’t do that stuff. I don’t do any fighting. Why are you attacking me? I don’t even kill flies! I don’t eat meat! But I don’t judge people, I don’t judge people who do eat meat. Forgive me…I’m so sorry.”

He was innocent, successful, and a light in this often dark world, and police killed him for being different. Then, after they killed him, they went back to the scene of the crime and reenacted it for fun.

According to city officials, they will decide this week on how to move forward with this new information.

This article was originally featured at The Free Thought Project and is republished with permission.

How Malcolm X Predicted Our Modern Police State

How Malcolm X Predicted Our Modern Police State

“They think they are living in a police state, and they become hostile toward the policemen. They think that the policeman is there to be against them rather than to protect them. And these thoughts, these frustrations, these apparitions, automatically are sufficient to make these Negroes begin to form means and ways to protect themselves in case the police themselves get too far out of line.”- Malcolm X—assassinated on Feb. 21, 1965, in New York City.

The “justice” system in America is set up in such a way as to punish the African-American more than the Caucasian, to deny this racism is to deny reality.

Outspoken libertarian and anti-drug war advocate, Ron Paul, summed up this point accurately,

“True racism in this country is in the judicial system. The percentage of people who use drugs are about the same with blacks and whites. And yet the blacks are arrested way disproportionately. They’re prosecuted and imprisoned way disproportionately, they get the death penalty way disproportionately. How many times have you seen a white rich person get the electric chair or get, you know, execution? If we truly want to be concerned about racism, you ought to look at a few of those issues and look at the drug laws, which are being so unfairly enforced.”

That was taken from a 2012 debate that aired on ABC News. Coincidentally, after Paul said this during the debate, he was not allowed more than 1-2 minutes of speaking time in the debates thereafter.

Sadly, it seems, that if we look back over the past decades, there are far too many similarities to be found between the plight of one specific socioeconomic class of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, and that same socioeconomic class of today.

Little has changed for the poor in America in the last 50 years, especially for the poor people who happen to have higher levels of melanin in their skin than their neighbor.

Racism is a huge part of the problem, but it is important that we point out that it is only part of the problem. The other part of this problem is the color blue, and the violent unaccountable leviathan that it represents in America today.

A racist idiot without a badge and uniform is simply a racist idiot, add the power of the state and that racist idiot lays waste to civil rights, initiates violence, and extorts the populace; all of this, with impunity.

On June 8, 1964, Mike Wallace interviewed Malcolm X and they discussed the African American Harlem environment and the community’s hostility against policemen. During this interview, Malcolm X outlines this disproportionate targeting of the African American community by police, and why they do it.

The interview starts out as Wallace asks Malcolm X about potential resistance against police oppression within the black community. “Mr. Malcolm, you have suggested that there are all kinds of movements in Harlem that you or I don’t know about?”

Malcolm X eloquently and prophetically sums up the perplexity of this situation, not only during the 60’s, but in the 21st century as well.

“The police commissioner feeds the type of statistics to the white public to make them think that Harlem is a complete criminal area where everyone is prone towards violence. This gives the police the impression that they can then go and brutalize the Negroes, or suppress the Negroes, or even frighten the Negroes.”

Sound familiar? Malcolm X continues:

“This force that is so visible in the Harlem community, creates a spirit of resentment in every Negro. They think they are living in a police state, and they become hostile toward the policemen. They think that the policeman is there to be against them rather than to protect them. And these thoughts, these frustrations, these apprehensions, automatically are sufficient to make these Negroes begin to form means and ways to protect themselves in case the police themselves get too far out of line.”

Forty-six police NYPD officers were killed in the line of duty in the 1970s, and 41 more in the 1980s.

The last thing we need is a further increase in animosity between police and the citizens. Hopefully, police lighten their antagonistic stance and proceed with a more diplomatic approach. And hopefully, the next person on the verge of a killing spree realizes that violence only begets more violence. 

We’ve seen time and again that violently bashing heads together produces no desirable result. It’s time for a different approach.

“One day we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.”- Martin Luther King, Jr.

This article was originally featured at The Free Thought Project and is republished with permission.

Talk of Secession is the ‘New Normal’

Talk of Secession is the ‘New Normal’

Secession is a four-letter word for the millions of Americans who have gone through the conventional educational pipeline that teaches them that the American state is indivisible and sacrosanct.

However, intellectually honest historians whose minds haven’t been warped by educational institutions know better than to dismiss secessionism as some nefarious activity that only treasonous Southerners of the Confederacy are capable of engaging in.

For all intents and purposes, the founding generation was secessionist. When they signed on to the Declaration of Independence, those who fomented the American Revolution were committed to liberating themselves from the grasp of the British Empire. Quite arguably the most important act of secession in human history, the revolutionaries’ successful efforts to secede from British rule had the whole world awestruck.

More importantly, it cemented the idea of political separation in the American political consciousness. Before becoming a state, Vermont went the extra mile after the thirteen colonies declared their independence, breaking free from New York and Great Britain and establishing itself as an independent republic in 1777. It would remain that way until 1791, when it ratified the US Constitution and joined the union.

Even during the ratification of the Constitution, many states feared the idea of a government that would become excessively centralized. So they had secessionist backup plans in case things got out of hand. In the Politically Incorrect Guide to American History, Tom Woods touched on how the New York, Rhode Island, and Virginia “explicitly reserved during the ratification of the Constitution the right to withdraw from the Union should it become oppressive.”

Secession Attempts in the Early Days of the American Republic

Americans’ secessionist streak did not go away so easily after they extricated themselves from the dominion of their British overlords.

Secessionist talks grew stronger during the presidency of Thomas Jefferson. The Federalist Party, based in New England, was dismayed with having Jefferson as president and even more concerned about the ascendant Democratic-Republican Party. They viewed Jeffersonian Democrats as a political force that could potentially displace them thanks to the electoral advantages the Democratic-Republicans enjoyed in the South and the newly incorporated Western states.

Federalist apprehensions became even more palpable during James Madison’s presidency, when the US locked horns with the British Empire in the War of 1812. Many Northerners wanted to maintain peaceful relations with their British cousins and were not keen on bellicosity. As a consequence, New England members of the Federalist Party gathered during the Hartford Convention in 1814 to discuss the New England states’ relationship with the federal government, which sparked nationwide fears of secessionism in New England.

Although it did not materialize into a coherent separatist movement, the Hartford Convention did lead to the downfall of the Federalist Party due to their perception as engaging in treasonous behavior in the eyes of the Americans who were eager to resist the British invasion. Nevertheless, the Hartford Convention sowed the seeds for future secessionist movements.

How Secession Led to the Creation of Republic of Texas

Following its independence from Spain in 1821, Mexico was left with the task of building an independent nation. In contrast to Mexico proper, Mexican Texas was frontier territory and not particularly attractive to Mexicans, who found better opportunities in Mexico’s central regions. Settlements in San Antonio and Nacogdoches served as forward posts for the Spanish Empire, but there was no concerted effort to settle the region, which remained sparsely populated until the 1820s.

To populate the area, Mexican authorities came up with a land grant system to attract settlers (empresarios) to Mexican Texas. Many enterprising frontiersmen in the United States were in search of adventure and the prospect of land grants in Texas was tantalizing. For many of these explorers, settling down in Texas represented a fresh start.

The catch to the land grant program was that American migrants had to become Mexican citizens, follow Mexican laws, nominally accept the Catholic faith, and learn Spanish. American settlers started pouring into Mexican Texas, and by the mid-1830s, they significantly outnumbered the Mexican citizens there. The American settlers forged a distinct identity that did not align with the political desires of Mexican authorities, who had other plans in mind for Texas.

Tensions came to a head after General Antonio López de Santa Anna became president of Mexico and committed himself to centralizing the Mexican state. Mexico fell down the path of dictatorship after Santa Anna suspended the Mexican Constitution and declared himself dictator in 1834. Shortly thereafter, Santa Anna used the Mexican army to clamp down on Texas, which had enjoyed a quasi-autonomous status, to see through his centralist vision for Mexico. The Mexican strongman’s actions generated significant backlash from the Anglos and even some Mexicans (Tejanos) residing in Texas.

Texas had its Lexington moment on October 2, 1835, when Texans took up arms against a Mexican military detachment in the settlement of Gonzales, Texas. The Battle of Gonzales immortalized the Come and Take It flag that was flown before the battle, where Texans dared Mexican forces under the command of Colonel Domingo de Ugartechea to seize a cannon in the settlement’s possession. The Texans compelled the Mexican forces to retreat, marking the beginning of the Texas Revolution.

With the adoption of the Texas Declaration of Independence on March 2, 1836, the Texans explicitly laid out their decision to break free from Mexico. They cited Santa Anna’s actions to transform Mexico’s federal republic into a centralized military dictatorship and the reneging on guarantees to protect a number of their constitutional liberties (the right to bear arms, trial by jury, and freedom of religion) as some of the principal reasons for their decision to revolt. Moreover, separatist Anglo Texans enjoyed support from Americans in Congress who were more than happy to encourage the partition of Mexico into smaller pieces.

The Texas Revolution came to a decisive conclusion at the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836, after the Texan army captured Santa Anna and compelled him to sue for peace. Although Santa Anna returned to Mexico unharmed, the Mexican Congress did not ratify a treaty to recognize the new Republic of Texas, but several countries such as Britain, France, and the United States recognized the independent republic. Texas would later be annexed by the United States, in 1845.

Does Secession Have a Place in Contemporary American Politics?

After protesters stormed the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, the ruling class was worried about a number of bugaboos such as insurrection, sedition, and treason. The commentariat’s utter disdain for Trump supporters and those who don’t bend the knee to the managerial regime can no longer be concealed. The fact that more than 70 million Americans could be categorized as “domestic terrorists” suggests America is ruled by an occupational class who wants to browbeat its subjects into submission and modify their behavior so it comports with regime standards.

At this juncture, sober minds would stop pretending this country can remain united. Americans would be wise to not dismiss separatism just because their history textbooks said it’s illegal, racist, or treasonous. Instead, they should recognize it as a tool that could save a lot of headaches and even lives. The hyperpolarized state of American politics is not going anywhere, and can only become more heated as America’s social fabric deteriorates and politics become more divisive. Whatever civic glue held Americans together in the twentieth century has been rapidly withering away in recent decades.

Regardless of the prudence of such mob action, the aftermath of the Capitol rush stood out as a masks-off moment of the highest order. Those who may share disagreements on a number of political issues are no longer treated as fellow Americans, but rather as enemies with malicious intentions whose behavior must be corrected through a combination of state and corporate power. For the haughtiest mouthpieces of the current therapeutic regime, Trump supporters are the perfect test subjects for the experiments to deprogram Middle Americans of their recalcitrant behavior, better known as rejecting the corporate media’s narrative.

The battle lines have been clearly drawn, and sober minds would recognize that any return to previous eras of normalcy in America is a fleeting fantasy. Talk of secession from the likes of Texas Republican Party chairman Allen West and longtime conservative shock jock Rush Limbaugh may come off as partisan chest pounding, but more fundamentally it personifies a vestigial desire for self-governance. As I wrote in 2019, even standard conservative commentators are entertaining the idea of a national divorce.

Ignoring this new paradigm of hyperpolarization could prove deadly for Americans who view their political rivals as existential threats and for the numerous bystanders who want nothing to do with this political squabble. How about we don’t take any chances by preserving this flawed political order and choose the road of radical decentralization instead?

This article was originally featured at the Ludwig von Mises Institute and is republished with permission.

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