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Compelled Speech and the Perils of ‘PruneYard v. Robins’

Compelled Speech and the Perils of ‘PruneYard v. Robins’

Humans are speakers. When we go to work, buy paintings, send birthday presents to friends, vote, and choose TV shows to watch at night, we don’t merely “do”—we say. We say what our preferences, ideals, and distastes are in the realms of commerce, art, love, and politics. 

But sometimes we show the world who we are by not speaking. By deliberately refraining from saying the Pledge of Allegiance, for example, we convey either disinterest in or opposition to what the flag represents. Thus, if our constant speaking serves an important expressive function, then our regular not speaking serves an important expressive function as well. Some libertarians and anarchists argue that the latter serves such an important function as to render compelled speech unjustifiable in every conceivable case. But we need not adopt this absolutist position in order to doubt the justifiability of the heavy-handed approach to compelled speech that the Supreme Court, pursuant to its decision in PruneYard Shopping Center v. Robins (1980), has asked us to embrace. 

The controversy in PruneYard erupted when a group of teenagers entered the PruneYard Shopping Center to circulate a petition concerning a United Nations resolution on Zionism. Enforcing the mall’s policy against circulating petitions, security guards kicked out the teenagers, who proceeded to argue in court that their right to circulate a petition at malls like PruneYard was enshrined in the California Constitution. In response, the shopping mall’s managers argued that they and other private property owners have a “First Amendment right not to be forced by the state” to use their “property as a forum for the speech” of members of the public.  

Speaking through Justice William Rehnquist, the Supreme Court sided with the teenagers, finding that a statute forcing the shopping mall to host these young speakers did not amount to an impermissible imposition on the shopping mall managers. The Court reasoned, in the first place, that because the mall was open to large numbers of people, those who encountered the teenagers were unlikely to assume that the views of these young speakers reflected the views of the shopping mall’s managers. Besides, if the managers were concerned that their own views would be conflated with those of the teenagers, the managers could always post signs indicating that the shopping mall’s management did not necessarily endorse the views of people speaking in the mall.

The Court also argued that because the state was not requiring the shopping mall managers to host any particular group of speakers but was instead requiring them to host speakers generally, the state was not using the shopping mall managers to promote a particular point of view. Against that backdrop, the Court concluded, any compulsion to speak in this case was on balance justified. 

Insofar as the Court, relying on its decision PruneYard, would be prepared to deploy this reasoning in efforts to compel individuals (rather than corporations) to support speech with which those individuals would prefer not to associate, this reasoning is quite dangerous indeed. To see how, imagine that the leadership of some small town (say, Leith, North Dakota) declares, in the interest of “communal bonding,” that every town citizen must wear a tee shirt decorated by the citizen’s neighbors once a year. Surrounded by white supremacist neighbors, an anti-racist is thereby forced to wear a tee shirt adorned with swastikas on an annual basis. The anti-racist objects, arguing that it disgraces those who perished in the Holocaust for her to affix such an odious symbol to her person.

The Court, if guided by PruneYard, would presumably reject the anti-racist’s claim. For widespread knowledge of this annual “tee shirt decoration event” suggests that people will not conclude that the tee shirt’s anti-racist wearer actually supports Nazism. And, in any event, if the anti-racist is worried about the message that her tee shirt is conveying, she can always match her tee shirt with a hat that says, “I despise Nazism and am wearing this vile tee shirt only because I have a legal obligation to do so” (if she can fit all of that on one hat!). Moreover, the state is mandating, not that the anti-racist endorse any particular message, but “merely” that she serve as a walking forum for speech to be determined by private citizens. 

If the Court’s reasoning here would serve as adequate consolation to the anti-racist, then perhaps PruneYard is convincingly argued after all. But there are reasons to suppose that the anti-racist would not be—and should not be—satisfied. In the first place, potential speakers can have good reason to desire not to speak even when those speakers know that others would not consider the speakers’ speech “sincere.” It is the reason that some actors refuse to use the most vile racial slurs on stage, for example, and the reason that most refuse to engage in intimate sexual acts for an audience. No matter what others would think, the would-be speakers themselves would feel that they are acting discordant with their values. By the same token, the anti-racist would feel, probably appropriately, that she is being untrue to herself by wearing a swastika tee shirt, even if nobody would assume that her wearing the shirt signifies a genuine commitment to Nazism. 

Still, defenders of this hypothetical mandate—like the defenders of Rehnquist’s reasoning—might point out that the government itself would not be requiring the propagation of any particular message in this case and that, in practice, a multitude of views would probably make their way onto the anti-racist’s tee shirt. Perhaps this is right; even so, it hardly justifies the decree. Suppose instead that the law materializes during WWII amid the outbreak of hostilities between the Soviet Union and Germany. Even if just half of the anti-racist’s neighbors draw swastikas on the anti-racist’s shirt (and everyone else draws a hammer and sickle), the anti-racist can still rightly object to her being forced to display the swastika. And if the coerced individual is pacifistic or apolitical, she can rightly object to being forced to display either symbol. 

On these grounds, one can and ought to condemn the Court’s justification for siding with the teenaged protesters in PruneYard. This is not to say that the outcome of the case was wrong; perhaps corporations, being creatures of the state, have more in common with the state than they do with citizens, and perhaps corporations’ speech interests, therefore, should not be treated as solicitously as the speech interests of humans should be. However, it is to say that, given the centrality of speech to our self-definitions, (1) the general perception that compelled speech is insincere, (2) the possibility of disclaiming compelled speech, and (3) the state’s non-requirement of a particular type of speech, are not adequate justifications for requiring people to promote messages against their will.

Military Honor, the Virtue and the Curse

Military Honor, the Virtue and the Curse

Honor is a powerful idea. Those who live by it take it seriously. It is not will, courage, or even valor, though it does demand such things. It is the code that exists within, demanding one to do what is right, regardless of risk or reward. Honor for is paramount to the warrior. The honorable warrior will fight on and conduct himself with a dignity that shall leave a legacy long after his death. Honor is at times wrapped with glory, pride, dedication and loyalty. But what about the honor that deals in moral principles?

In the modern era of total war, fundamentalist philosophies have romanced past glories, empowering the warrior to execute the will of politics in an ever intrusive manner. The world over, the warrior takes the fight to familiars and strangers with an energy that deploys the bayonet as easily as it does the remote-controlled assassin drone. The twentieth century was the bloody gushing wound of human history, where civilizations savaged the planet repeatedly with wars and conflict. The new century is repeated with similar mentalities and a call to honor.

The Prussian military is often associated with honor, influencing many war states in their ideals and practices. The Prussian virtues—which can be traced back to the Teutonic Knights—ensured that soldiers conducted themselves with a discipline and loyalty needed for war. The individual was removed, as the importance of servitude and sacrifice to the state itself was romaticized. Such virtues would pave the way for Germany to become an eager modern empire, conquering and ruling until ultimately it faced repeated defeats in the World Wars.

Such Prussian virtues helped the German state to humiliate China, snatch whatever remained of Africa, and place various naval stations in the Pacific. In doing so the German military imposed itself upon the native peoples, and in the case of German South West-Africa, commit genocide. The honour of the German soldier in practice showed an ugly nature in the coming decades when such a code of military virtues was enlisted by a national socialist ideology soaked in chauvinistic racism. It became a code of honor that perpetuated hatred and unreason. Courage and obedience were not lacking, but the honor of moral dignity most certainly was.

The United States came out of the nineteenth century as the great industrial power. on paper it was anti-imperialist and yet its recent acquisitions of Hawaii and the former Spanish colonies revealed a very imperial nature, one that could be traced back to the attempted conquest Canada in 1812, the invasion of Florida, the war against Mexico, and the ‘opening up’ of Japan. Not to mention the breathing room it afforded itself under the guise of Manifest Destiny at the expense of the independent American nations outside the original thirteen colonies. Its military was one that prized itself on honor, its independence having been won by military actions. There was an inherent dignity in war; the republic with ideals of individual liberty grew into an empire which by the end of the nineteenth centur honored twenty of the soldiers responsible for the massacre at Wounded Knee with the Medal of Honor.

The twentieth century would end in U.S. dominance, presupposed by victories in the World Wars and then the Cold War, with its ignored imperial blips and atrocities. The terrors of the war in South East Asia would for a time influence the appeal of the military and its own sense of honor but that would be reshaped in the 1990s. To be called a warrior, the soldier must have a strong military ethos and patriotism. Soldiers embraced abstract ideals that could be wielded by a government that saw itself anointed with the God-given-right to intervene wherever it chose to. It was honorable and a modern Manifest Destiny to do so. Countless revelations and examples of civilian murder would be concealed, and should they come to light were treated as blips, marks on the road map to forever war. The honor it seemed was to be silent—to look the other way or to even kill without mercy, without any regard to the rules of war.

Japanese military culture, a Samurai nation of modern technological innovations and medieval chivalry, is often associated with honor. The Bushido codes of the warrior both direct and drive the soldiers of empire to do what is needed in the service of the emperor. After the western nations had helped Japan to become a modern power, its many social and military engineers reinvented the Bushido memory. With the Last Samurai likely committing ritual suicide at the battle of Shiroyama in 1877—defeated by the modern conscript army of new Japan—the state would conjure up images of the samurai to promote its conquests in Asia. The new Japanese soldier had many outside inspirations, from the U.S. to the militaries of Europe, adopting methods and ideals from each while embracing Bushido. Like the nations that inspired it, modern Japan would conquer others and in minds of the killers, it was honorable to do so.

Much to the misery of the people on Okinawa, Formosa, Korea, and China, the young Japanese Empire slaughtered and sought to enlighten the rest of Asia with its new ways. The Japanese Empire would go to war with Tsarist Russia in a conflict of wave attacks, machine guns, torpedo boats, and disease. The Japanese military consumed much of the nation’s wealth and resources, and despite victory was then unpopular with the civil populace. It would take decades to cultivate a cult of military honor and imperial loyalty defined by sacrifice and bloodshed for empire. Honor became a word of loyalty and subservience to an emperor who had little control over his army in Manchuria, as it waged its own war of conquest.

Mass murder and sadistic crimes would become the legacy of the imperial Japanese warrior; courageous certainly but honourable? Only in the reinvented imaginations of the martial artist would such a culture and the Bushido code be considered such a thing as honorable. Integrity, often a hallmark of the honored class, was on full display by the Japanese warriors as they repeatedly promised safe treatment to the thousands of surrendering Chinese soldiers outside Nangking. Instead via deception and devious coordination, the Japanese warriors murdered tens of thousands of prisoners—often cruelly—going on to slaughter children and civilians and abducting females of all ages who became slaves to be raped and tortured. What ever virtues of honor and integrity had been ingrained in these men of war soon manifested into murdering rapists surrendering to the crudest of human lusts.

The other European empires each held dear the virtues of glory and imperial honour. The British convinced themselves that they had brought trade and order to much of the world, despite conquering it by festering division and limiting trade in their favor. The French, supposedly champions of brotherhood and justice, imposed with cruelty a dishonor that no French king could have imagined before the revolution. To have an empire was itself an honor, one to rule and to exploit. Many of these European states clung to such relics of the past, even as post-war socialist policies and reforms were attempted at home (often being funded by the blood of empire). Pride in such control, seeing the colored shapes on a map taught in the schools of the imperial powers, was likely of great honor for many, just not those yearning for home rule and independence.

For lesser nations like Australia, the military heritage is proud. War was a key element for the continent even before Federation. Australians served British interests in New Zealand, the Sudan, China, and in South Africa. The honor of the Australian fighting man was held highest after the futile landings at Gallipoli, whose anniversary is now a national holiday. The spirit of the digger soldier runs deep inside the ranks of the relatively small military, but the honors at the Canberra war memorial run long. Not just with those fallen who gave everything in service for the Commonwealth but in the names of the places visited by the Australian military. The honor is in the fight, in helping a mate when they need it. In Australia’s case the mate is always the most powerful empire: the British and now the United States. The honor is in being there, taking care of ones fellow soldiers during battle and helping the U.S. with its many policies abroad.

As an investigation on Australian war crimes in Afghanistan continues, how widespread the atrocities were will likely never be known, except to the victims. One of the most decorated soldiers of the Australian military, Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith, may himself be charged with war crimes. A brave warrior no doubt, but if the accusations are true, what honor is found in executing an unarmed man? Is courage under fire and a willingness to serve—anywhere—for the state itself honorable? If more men had the courage like former soldier and whistle-blower Braden Chapman to come out on war crimes, then perhaps the concept of honor could be re-defined in matters of military affairs. And not just for Australia.

The Great War would match the empires—old and new—in a terrible conflict. It was a war of glory and horror. Poisonous gas, the killing of prisoners, rape, the murder of the innocent, and starving millions in blockades revealed that men of great honor are willing to commit a dishonourable series of actions to achieve victory. The first Christmas truce of the war, in 1914, is one remembered with religious fondness, revealing an honor to share a common peace. Afterwards, to kill that man who shared your cigarette, maim the boy who sung a carol with you, was the normality of the war. Despite having a common God, it was an honor to kill, merely to serve a distant stranger ruling from a capital left untouched by the horrors of the front. All after giving thanks to the same God of peace.

Robert Fisk, the great war journalist, talks about his father’s service in the First World War with a certain reverence. Not because he served, but because of the courage he showed in not killing a man. Fisk describes his father as a man of many views that he disagreed with, but there is a pride when he mentions the moment that his dad, a British soldier, refused to execute an Australian soldier convicted of a crime. It is a pride in knowing that his father exhibited a moral dignity, a moment when his father acted with honor.

Contrast this with the book The Pity of War, where author Niall Ferguson describes the distrust of both sides, including the murder that continued through Christmas of 1915, even as soldiers attempted to duplicate the truce of the year prior. Or the killing of prisoners, especially by Australian and Scottish soldiers. To take no prisoners, the passionate actions of aggressive, war-weary warriors became motivated not so much by honor, but by revenge for brothers-in-arms unable to survive a horrible situation. Honor would be a word used after the war, in peace, only to be lost again in the next one.

It would take World War Two to perfect the mayhem, the fleets of aircraft capable of raising cities, those Bushido warriors of the Samurai  would pillage and savage Asia and the Pacific, the atrocious pinnacle being the rape of Nanjing.  Was there honour in stabbing babies, murder raping women with a gore of excess that even Nazi observers would condemn the Japanese army for? It would be a sign of things to come.  Perverse scientific intrigue into weaponizing disease so that it could be used on the Chinese populace, cruel experiments all run by a military that obsessed with its own social status on the home islands.  The word honour but a blanket used to drape across the rot of disgraceful perversity. In defeat one found dishonour but in victory by slaughtering the innocent, one achieved honour. The perverse fundamentalism, a modern adaption of the ancient codes that likely never were practiced in the first place. Warriors were always brave, and they often killed the innocent.

For the pilots of the Swiss Air Force flew as men of honour during the Second World War, they may not be defined by conquest but defence. During the war they fought both allied and axis. Even having their civil populations bombed by allied aircraft. To the Swiss fighter pilot, they were acting with an honour to defend their skies from aggressive belligerents that were destroying Europe and attacking their people. To defend ones homeland, especially when no prior aggression has been expressed is no doubt an honourable cause for a warrior. The Swiss did not win the war, they survived it as neutrals.  But from within their nation itself, those pilots were heroes of honour.

For imperial minded policy makers defence is something that can be based upon buffer zones and force projection, where another’s lands may be used as a proxy or an instrument for wider national defence. A unique exceptionalism that is both arrogant and aggressive, yet very much the entitled mentality of the great power.  Every warrior defending or fighting for their homeland believes it is the best, and are often willing to kill for it, to die for it.  For the warriors serving the great power, national interest is defence of homeland, in their minds this is an honourable sacrifice.

Honour will go on to be a word of majestic value to those who live it, to the families of service, those who lost a warrior. It is also a word that can give purpose to those aimless in life, in need of guidance who now finds themselves wrapped inside a uniform, handed a set of values and those who love their nation and love the military.   But for this honour, where does it stand when 1 in 4 women serving in the US military are sexually assaulted.  Where are the romantic cheers for honour and warrior codes as individuals hurt in shame because one of their own defiled them, and others help to cover it up. To drape a flag of silence across those lost inside a system that often protects the rapist, is this honour? To look the other way while brothers in arms do terrible things or to even cover such things up is not honour, it is at best corruption.

In the modern war on terror it was not the cold-blooded killer, Chris Kyle ‘the American Sniper’ that was the most honourable warrior but instead a transwoman who risked it all to reveal the hidden dark truths of that very war.  Chelsea Manning acted with moral dignity, according to the ideals that she believed, in doing so she became at best divisive figure and yet she acted with honour regardless of not taking an enemies life but in exposing to all of us the nature of a horrible war.  She was imprisoned for it.  She received more punishment than William Calley, the man blamed for the My Lai massacre and while Calley and the My Lai murderers could move on afterwards with their lives, Manning is likely going to be pulled into court repeatedly and threatened with more jail and solitary confinement by a system that declares itself just and honourable punishing someone for showing that it is not.

There is no doubt that it takes great courage to charge with bayonets yelling ‘Banzai!’ or as a Kamikaze pilot to drill your plane into a warships deck. Sacrifice itself is not honour. There is courage in fighting on as a zealous fiend as Berlin falls and the dictator dead or to stand with Custer in a remote frontier chasing glory at the expense of those defending their homeland.  Loyalty and stubbornness are not honour. There is also courage in flying a plane into a building, or even robbing a bank.  Courage is distinctly different to honourable. And yet if one can find a narrative massaged enough with ideology, patriotism or even a desire for revenge then courageous and deadly acts can by some be deemed as the conduct of the honourable.

Is honour merely servitude to a master, to nation or government? In Bushido it is expressed that to die in service of ones master is of great honour, what does the servant gain from such sacrifice if the master was never worthy?  Other than the uniquely Japanese flavour of honour, to serve the Emperor, what is in it for the agnostic, atheist or even follower of the prince of peace other than to willingly serve an indifferent regime or state?

Perhaps all of it is honourable.  The outcome remains the same. The brave is sacrificed, those who survive return home broken and those who sent them have already moved on to the next generation and wars. When it should be heralded to be that individual who stands strong and rejects the misdeeds and atrocious acts of their peers? To protect an unarmed stranger because that is the right thing to do, or to blow the whistle on crimes that have led to the death of far too many.    That should be celebrated as honourable. The Bushido or Prussian codes may have created brave warriors, but in the end, they lost after taking millions with them.  There was no honour in the atrocities.  If we celebrate honour for its own sake, then it will only be used to justify actions of great dishonour.

H L Mencken said that “Honor is simply the morality of superior men”, moral, not technological, industrial or military supremacy.  Honour is doing what is right, the universal right, in those moments of desperation and when even if it means you will lose everything, that you still did the right thing. That is honour.  It is hard to look back at many of the wars of our collective pasts to uphold them as being morally just, no matter how wicked and vile the enemy was, or how heroic many were.  The real sides of good and evil are between the innocent and the powerful, those who murder, rape and destroy and their victims.  There is no moral supremacy in waging a war on the unarmed, the child, the mother, the village who did nothing to you or yours.  You cannot win that war; you can only kill more people. And that is never honourable.

Don’t Trust ‘Waco Whitewasher’ John Danforth’s Election Advice

Don’t Trust ‘Waco Whitewasher’ John Danforth’s Election Advice

Trump’s attack on the debate commission is an attack on the election itself,” blares the headline from today’s Washington Post op-ed page. That article was written by former senator John Danforth, who has been a member of the Commission on Presidential Debates since 1994. Danforth, an ordained Episcopal priest whose piety earned him the derisive nickname, “Saint Jack,” is one of Washington’s favorite useful idiots of Leviathan. It is no surprise that he would be a permanent fixture on a commission that appears determined to perpetuate the swamp.

Danforth wails in the Post that accusing the debate commission of favoritism “destroys public confidence in the most basic treasure of democracy, the conduct of fair elections” and “paves the way to violence in the streets.” Danforth warns that the “damage to our country is incalculable” if Americans lose faith in “the fairness of our presidential debates, and, in turn, the presidential election.”

The usual Twitter mob quickly affixed a halo over Danforth’s head for his proclamation. But few people remember how Danforth previously appointed himself as the nation’s political faith healer after the biggest federal law enforcement debacle in modern times.

On February 28, 1993, 70 federal Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms agents launched an attack on the home of the Branch Davidians near Waco, Texas. After the assault was rebuffed, the FBI arrived and, on April 19, 1993, sent in tanks that demolished much of the Davidians’ home before a fire broke out. Eighty corpses of men, women, and children were discovered in the wreckage.

Read the rest of this article at The American Conservative.

The Intellectual Fraud of ‘Listen to the Science’

The Intellectual Fraud of ‘Listen to the Science’

With the arrival of COVID-19 on the scene, many people have been seduced into believing that they must “listen to the science” and do whatever the self-proclaimed experts tell them to do. That this is charlatanry pure and simple follows from the fact that science says absolutely nothing about what we should or should not do. Those are questions of value, answers to which are provided by intelligent, conscious, and sentient human beings who thereby advance a perspective and promote their own values. Waving a “Follow The Science” flag distinguishes one not as a person of superior intellect and moral constitution but as someone who is easily duped and slings slogans as a way of covering up a lack of understanding—specifically, of how empirical science actually works. To refuse to wave a “Science” flag in support of political policies put forth by persons with specific value-laden agendas does not mean that one is a Luddite or an ignoramus but that one in fact grasps the fundamentally skeptical nature of the scientific enterprise.

All of the ongoing clamor about “the science” reminds me of what I observed while a graduate student in philosophy at Princeton University, where many of my peers seemed to believe that by specializing in areas such as philosophy of science or logic, they distinguished themselves as intellectually superior to those who wallowed in ethics or other forms of value theory. Having earned my undergraduate degree in biochemistry, conducted a good bit of research in organic chemistry, and taught chemistry at two different universities before pursuing graduate studies in philosophy, I was never vulnerable to the prevailing climate of scientism—the elevation of science as a form of religion—for I already knew what science could and could not do.

Science can tell you about the facts. Not all of them at once, and not immediately, but over time, as data is amassed and theories are proposed and rejected or confirmed. Those facts are always tentative, mere hypotheses covering very specific and limited ranges of reality. A theory of physical chemistry, for example, tells one nothing about botany, for the two types of theory cover completely different strata and phenomena. What are believed to be scientific facts are always subject to disconfirmation as more data is accumulated over time and better theories emerge. Apparently recalcitrant data must be somehow explained away by the best confirmed current theory, and when that proves impossible to do, then the theory must, rationally speaking, be abandoned.

Scientists throughout history have clung religiously to their favorite theories (especially those devised by themselves), but eventually, as new generations of scientists emerge, older theories become amenable to revision and even wholesale rejection by researchers not religiously devoted to them. It is not easy to do such a thing because one risks offending the true believers, some of whom may wield extraordinary institutional power and will vehemently resist suggestions to the effect that they are wrong. No one wants to believe that they have devoted their entire professional career to the elaboration of a theory which was false all along.

Philosopher Thomas Kuhn wrote a gripping book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), about the social and psychological dynamics involved in theory construction and testing, the nuts and bolts of the scientific enterprise, which, like it or not, is conducted by human beings, with all of their foibles. It seems safe to say that the COVID-19 cheerleaders for The ScienceTM have never read the work of Thomas Kuhn. To refuse to subject data to scrutiny, to decline to reevaluate initial hypotheses, naïvely accepting instead the prescriptions of select gurus on faith, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that they were wrong, is to succumb to the charlatanry of scientism, not to champion science.

Not everyone accepts Thomas Kuhn’s rather derogatory depiction of how scientists operate; some prefer to uphold the image of scientists as supremely rational and objective analysts. But even if Kuhn’s picture was an exaggeration—some would say a caricature—even supposing that scientific hypothesis testing were some sort of supremely rational and objective endeavor, what could even the best confirmed and most widely accepted theories of science tell us about what we ought to do? The answer is: absolutely nothing. For a scientific theory’s having survived in tact over a reasonable period of time does not alone dictate anything whatsoever about human action. To suggest otherwise is to commit what is known in philosophy as “the is-ought fallacy,” usually credited to David Hume, an eighteenth-century Scottish philosopher with a skeptical bent. Facts are one thing; normative prescriptions for action are quite another. People blinded by science (who I have noticed tend to be those with no higher education in science), those who, like Milgram’s unwitting experimental subjects, accept the decrees of men in white lab coats and decline to examine the values and interests being promoted by them, have simply been duped. A most stunning aspect of this intellectual submission (which has analogues in foreign policy as well) is when subjects are persuaded to believe that conflict of interest is somehow impossible among scientists—despite being possible in every other realm. Why are scientists supposed to be untainted by worldly temptation? Because they are scientists! As though human beings did not choose to become scientists.

To see the distinction between the deliverances of science and the promotion of values, consider one example of a fact widely considered to be true, based on many decades of data collection. Science tells us that smoking will greatly increase the chances of one’s dying prematurely. One’s decision whether to smoke or not, however, depends on one’s values. If you find the pleasure of smoking great enough, then you may simply not care today that at the terminus of your life some number of years will likely have been shaved off as a result of your insistence on smoking. (No guarantee, of course. There are examples of chain smokers who somehow beat the odds to become nonagenarians or even centurions.) All things considered, you are much more likely to die of a lung-related illness if you smoke than if you do not. In fact, all activities in which human beings engage involve risks along with benefits. Each individual must make his own choices for his own life about which benefits do and do not outweigh the risks incurred in doing those things—driving, drinking, rock climbing, flying, scuba diving, traveling to countries where violent crime is prevalent—the list goes on and on.

What has happened in 2020 is that a few COVID-19 policymakers have decided for all of humanity that the risk of dying from COVID-19 outweighs all other considerations about what we ought to do. This is a value judgment, pure and simple, yet it has been fobbed off as some sort of “expert” wisdom. Those who crafted the initial responses to the virus, beginning with the very labeling of COVID-19 as a pandemic, have rallied the “listen to the science” troops for many months, with the result that their stance has become very difficult to challenge. Few of them seem capable of assessing the new data and revising their theory as the scientific method would require. Despite adamantly claiming that they “listen to The science,” they fail altogether to recognize that science is not a static, eternal totem, but a method used to marshal a dynamic, metamorphosing body of hypotheses. The irony, of course, is that the most vociferous denouncers of anyone who questions the gospel are conducting themselves in the manner of religious fanatics incapable of admitting that mistakes may have been made.

Thus we find that without any evidence whatsoever for the efficacy of lockdowns, and in fact a recent pronouncement by the World Health Organization (WHO) that lockdowns have side effects which vastly outweigh any alleged benefits, the lockdowns of western states, along with border restrictions and quarantine requirements, continue on, with local authorities tweaking their policies only slightly whenever they decide that the latest “case” tally is too high. No matter that different kinds of tests are administered differently and to different groups in different places. No matter that the very accuracy of the tests has been impugned. No matter that there is no other example of a respiratory disease (to my knowledge) for which one may repeatedly test positive as “infected” while manifesting no symptoms. No matter that cases in younger persons are rarely fatal, yet serial, obligatory testing of college students continues on. The COVID-19 gurus have decided that a case is a case. None of the death data matters because these people, who never understood the scientific method in the first place, much less the fact-value dichotomy, continue to claim that The ScienceTM is on their side and that those who disagree are selfish and illiterate ignoramuses. In the United States, the people of California, Michigan, Massachusetts, and other states have had to endure severe restrictions of their liberty and much economic hardship for eight months, with no end in sight. Across the pond, both Wales and Ireland, along with various counties in England, recently re-imposed strict lockdowns as a form of “circuit breaker” after surges of cases in some places where no or nearly no new COVID-19 deaths had been reported.

Proclaiming that we must “listen to the science” has become the worst type of virtue signaling on the part of people many of whom have nothing to lose from the lockdowns (their own financial security being immune to whatever policies are imposed). Shutting down the hospitality and tourism sectors of entire cities, counties and countries causes untold harm to anyone working in the gig economy, and yet the victims are themselves portrayed as immoral for refusing to sing along with the cheery refrain, “We’re all in this together!” Few among the populace have been able effectively to press these points, because the media and tech industries have overwhelmingly joined forces with the COVID-19 policymakers, promoting The ScienceTM company line while silencing those who demur. Needless to say, there is nothing more unscientific than censorship, for the scientific enterprise requires a continual reassessment of the facts. When new hypotheses are forbidden because they conflict with what one believed to be true, then science has come to a screeching halt.

Even more devastating than the effects in Europe, Britain, and the United States are the same policies enacted in third world countries by leaders who emulate western politicians religiously committed to their initial responses. The same lockdown and quarantine “strategies” have been implemented in places where they could never, even in principle, diminish the incidence of COVID-19 death, even if it were true—which is not supported by data—that lockdowns worked in the West. In countries where large populations live in extremely close proximity to one another in open-air shanty towns—places such as Brazil, South Africa, Kenya, India, and many other countries as well—there is no chance that staying in one’s hut is going to prevent transmission of the dreaded disease. Meanwhile, police have ended the lives of persons in violation of emergency laws which in no way serve the people’s interests. But to understand how absurd it is to impose curfews and quarantine requirements on the residents of shared outdoor space, one would have to be familiar with basic concepts of molecular entropy, which we know from the many closed beaches and outdoor mask requirements in the West are altogether beyond the capacity of the COVID-19 gurus to comprehend.

Perhaps the grandest irony of all is that, by focusing exclusively on the hope of minimizing the deaths of the small percentage of the population vulnerable to the dreaded disease, the medical professionals who have been advising the COVID-19 policymakers have violated the most sacred oath of physicians: Do No Harm. Lockdown policies have harmed every person whose risk of death by other causes has been increased by preventing them from doing whatever they would have done, left to their own devices: working, visiting the doctor, and engaging in normal social activities which make life worthwhile, including interacting with family and friends.

With regard to scarce resources and policies which affect entire populations, science is silent about who should and should not be saved. Should limited health resources be dedicated to the mass testing of young people not at serious risk from COVID-19? Should healthy children at nearly no risk of death be used in experimental vaccine trials? These are value judgments about which science has nothing to say. Anyone who suggests otherwise is a shyster or confused, and anyone who believes that men in white lab coats should be the ones to answer such questions has been fooled.

Kamala Harris and the Rise of the NatSec Dems

Kamala Harris and the Rise of the NatSec Dems

Last week, in the 2020 campaign’s sole vice presidential debate, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) presented herself as part of a growing wing of “national security Democrats” who are quickly populating Congress and—depending on next month’s election results—the White House.

Harris’s positioning is no sudden revelation. As previously reported in The Washington Post, “Those close to Harris describe her as a ‘Truman Democrat,’ a nod to her willingness to use American power to promote American values and interests.”

The comparison to the 33rd commander-in-chief is appropriate. As America’s first post-World War II president, Harry Truman oversaw the expansion and entrenchment of the permanent national security state—including the creation of the Central Intelligence Agency and the rebranding of the War Department to the Department of Defense.

That is the calling card of the natsec Dems: a thorough adherence to maintaining the status quo machinations of the Pentagon, an unshakable faith in any pronouncement of a U.S. intelligence agency (no matter how flawed the methodology or tainted by institutional bias or politics), and a muscular flexing of American military strength overseas.

In the vice presidential debate’s brief exchange on foreign policy, Harris was sure to check every box on the NatSec Dem list. “I serve on the Intelligence Committee of the United States Senate. America’s intelligence community told us Russia interfered in the election of the president of the United States in 2016 and is playing in 2020,” said Harris.

The investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election by former Obama officials James Clapper and John Brennen has been the source of such partisan acrimony that there is very little either side would agree on today, including whether the probe was fundamentally skewed, and how much of a threat Russia is to the United States at this very moment. However, Harris went on to cite “public reporting” that the Russian government had put bounties on American soldiers in Afghanistan, and admonished Donald Trump for not addressing the claim in conversations with Vladimir Putin.

As previously explained at Responsible Statecraft, the Russia bounty allegation has its origins in a single CIA report sourced from Taliban prisoners, and in over three months no other agency has been able to validate it. But this has not prevented other NatSec Dems like Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) from regularly promoting the story as authentic. She is even introducing legislation to sanction anyone tied to the so-far unconfirmed bounties.

The more attention Harris and company give to the Russian bounty story, however, the less she gives to the ongoing, 19-year presence of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. During her brief presidential campaign, Harris refused to commit to leaving Afghanistan in her first term. A refusal to depart the Central Asian sinkhole is a characteristic shared by every NatSec Dem, particularly Rep. Jason Crow of Colorado, who in July partnered with Republican warhawk Elizabeth Cheney (Wyo.) to block any congressional funding for a potential withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Compared to the neoconservative ideologues of the Republican Party, NatSec Dems are more selective about where they drop bombs. Previously, Harris co-sponsored legislation to end the U.S. participation in the Saudi-led genocide in Yemen and opposes boots-on-the-ground in Venezuela (while still supporting efforts to oust Nicholas Maduro through other means).

These marginal differences don’t preclude political alliances, however. “Of course we have the support of Democrats, but…in fact, seven members of President George W. Bush’s cabinet are supporting our ticket,” said Harris, bragging about seeing eye-to-eye with the old guard of the most bellicose presidential administration of the past 50 years.

Only a month ago Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass)—a particularly hawkish NatSec Dem—made a similar comment that he “never once questioned the loyalty of George W. Bush…to our Constitution,” implying that Moulton believes in the legality of the Iraq War, mass warrantless surveillance, and the torture program.

Harris continued, adding that “over 500 generals, retired generals, and former national security experts, and advisors are supporting our campaign.” This demonstrates the crossover of support between the national security state and their NatSec Dem patrons like Harris (and Duckworth), who earlier this year voted against a progressive amendment to transfer 10 percent of the $740.5 billion Pentagon budget into domestic welfare programs.

Many NatSec Dems learned where their bread was buttered in their careers as either soldiers or intelligence operatives, prior to their election to Congress. Duckworth, Crow, and Moulton are all veterans, while other NatSec Dems like Reps. Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, and Abigail Spanberger of Virginia cut their teeth at the CIA. They represent “the absurd gulf between hawkish Hill-dwelling veterans and their brethren back on Main Street,” writes Danny Sjursen, referring to polls that indicate 73 percent of veterans support a full withdrawal from Afghanistan and other less interventionist policies. So do the American people.

But that seems to matter little. In Senator Harris these NatSec Dems have a former prosecutor and a Trumanesque partner on the ticket who would give them an oversized voice in a prospective Joe Biden presidency and a chance to flex their muscular foreign policy vision, their way.

This article was originally featured at Responsible Statecraft and is republished with permission of author. 

Interview: Learn How Marxist Revolutionaries Massacred Ethiopia’s Christian Monarchy

Interview: Learn How Marxist Revolutionaries Massacred Ethiopia’s Christian Monarchy

“What happened was a catastrophic revolution that really ate its own bright people. The very people who were behind the revolution were the ones who were its victims,” Prince Ermias Sahle Selassie has said on the 1974 Marxist revolution that overthrew his grandfather, Ethiopia’s Emperor Haile Selassie.

I had the rare opportunity to interview Prince Ermias Sahle Selassie, president of the Crown Council of Ethiopia, and the grandson of Ras Tafari, Emperor Haile Selassie. In my discussion, I heard a first-hand account of the mortal dangers of populations adopting a socialist revolution that we should carefully consider in our own country.

Watch my exclusive interview with Prince Ermias Sahle Selassie here:

Emperor Haile Selassie was a pivotal figure for Ethiopia and the whole of Africa. He implemented several reforms such as a written constitution and land reform to accelerate agricultural development. He was world renown for his defense of his people from Italian fascist imperialism. In 1963, his creation of the Organization of African Unity sowed the seeds for solidarity and liberation of African nations from colonial rule.

In a time in which corporate media look to act as self-appointed gatekeepers of African history, it is telling that so few young Americans are informed of Emperor Haile Selassie’s out-sized role in defeating fascism and colonialism in Africa. The answer lies in the fact that Emperor Selassie was a staunch defender of Christianity, a symbol of patriarchy, and was murdered by socialists promising democracy.

As a devout Christian emperor, Emperor Haile Selassie was a symbol of fatherhood in Africa. Just like all radical groups driven by envy and a hatred for boundaries, the Marxists who tortured and murdered an elderly Emperor Selassie in 1974 were simply living up to their global creed: kill strong fathers first, loot the rest of the people next.

This was nothing new. The Soviets who backed the overthrow of anti-colonialist Emperor Haile Selassie were operating under the same twisted religious playbook they used to gain power in their own country. Financed by western corporatists that benefited from preventing market competition at home and abroad, the Bolsheviks used the disaster of World War I as the animus to murder Tsar Nicholas II’s family—not sparing a single young child—and take over Russia. Everything the revolutionaries complained about under the monarch—lack of food, stolen land, violent prisons, police abuse—they did tenfold in their never-ending transition to utopia.

In my interview with Prince Ermias Selassie, he recounts a similar formula for the revolutionaries in Ethiopia:

They closed all the churches, executions were very rampant, and it didn’t fare well for the Marxists. I mean, they never got the support of the people.

Today, Western corporatists and their press organs continue to sell a whitewashed view of African history that diminishes the voices of African heroes like Emperor Haile Selassie. Outlets like The New York Times live up to their legacy of covering up the crimes of Marxists like the ghastly 1930s Holdomor genocide in Ukraine, resulting in 12 million deaths. They amplify voices that celebrate the same anti-market, anti-freedom, anti-family sentiments that fueled the murder of Emperor Selassie.

The coprorate press does all this under the guise of social justice. Yet the only slavery The New York Times crowd will condemn are instances that took place 200 years ago. Meanwhile, they openly campaign for a candidate like Vice President Joe Biden, who led the butchering of another independent African country, Libya, and yawn at the unleashing of a modern slave trade in that country. Indeed, The New York Times used its pages to push the public for war in Libya. As they did in Syria. Millions of people of color have been displaced, dismembered, and killed as a result.

Wherever we go in history, the problem with the corporate press and their violent revolutionary foot soldiers is that they suffer the same delusion that Jesus confronted in his own time from self-proclaimed authorities:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous. And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets. So you testify against yourselves that you are the sons of those who murdered the prophets.

Media elites act as if they care about vulnerable lives. They act as if they only care about facts and fairness. But the record of history shows they cover up the voices that get in the way of their religious devotion to socialism. Just like Jesus was sacrificed by a leader named Caiaphas who proclaimed “it is better that one man die than the whole nation perish,” socialist revolutionaries and their would-be myth-makers in the press believe it is better that Emperor Haile Selassie die, and the truth of his impact with him, than the whole global project of socialism perish. They truly believe it is okay to sacrifice some, including millions in the poor and middle class, who stand in the way of their god—the all encompassing, all seeing, all knowing, all caring, cradle-to-grave state.

In a now deleted statement of beliefs page on blacklivesmatter.com, the corporate press-lauded organization declared:

We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and ‘villages’ that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable.

To the young adults who have been drawn into America’s acute bout with revolutionary anger, I will leave them with Prince Ermias Selassie’s warning about Marxism:

I would say to them that it’s very interesting to read and understand concepts but when you live and experience it you realize how complex it is and it’s not such a black and white issue. Idealism, I think, leads to a lot of fanaticism; it’s your way or the highway. That has led to a lot of problems: a lot of blind hatred, a lot of blind murders. All about…being the sacrificial lamb to justify your right and that man is God and is in charge of his own destiny, which I don’t believe in.

The Marxists who killed Emperor Selassie failed. Ethiopia’s churches and markets are open again and healing is underway. The revolutionaries attempting to overthrow family and faith in America will fail too. The question is, will we learn from the lessons of the past and reject sacrificial revolution at its infancy or take the long, sad path of ignorant repetition?

How Data Collection Drives State Intervention In Our Lives

How Data Collection Drives State Intervention In Our Lives

The U.S. Census made the news recently, as a dispute over the deadline for its data collection made it to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Trump administration successfully lobbied for a deadline of Friday October 16, over the objections of the National Urban League who instead wanted the deadline extended to the end of October due to COVID-related delays.

The traditional census has been conducted every decade since 1790, as mandated in the Constitution. The population count is used to determine representation in congressional districts for the next 10 years.

The data is also “used to distribute billions of dollars in federal funds for health care, housing programs and education,” as ABC News described.

Local communities emphasize high census response rates so that they aren’t “underrepresented” when it comes to the federal government dole.

But that’s not all. Indeed it’s far from it.

As detailed in this Census Bureau document, the census also asks a litany of other questions of households, including income, sex, age, home value, education attainment, kitchen facilities, number of vehicles available, and dozens more.

The census, however, is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to government data collection.

As Murray Rothbard wrote even decades ago, “The vast bulk of statistics is gathered and disseminated by government. The overall statistics of the economy, the popular ‘gross national product’ data that permits every economist to be a soothsayer of business conditions, come from government.”

In an essay first published in 1961 by the Foundation for Economic Education, and much more recently re-produced at Mises.org, Rothbard argued that the “burgeoning of government statistics offers several obvious evils to the libertarian.”

Steep Compliance Costs

Forced compliance to the government’s massive apparatus of data collection imposes significant costs, especially burdensome on the nations’ small businesses.

“Private industry, and the private consumer, must bear the burdensome costs of record keeping, filing, and the like, that these statistics demand,” Rothbard wrote. “Not only that; these fixed costs impose a relatively great burden on small business firms, which are ill equipped to handle the mountains of red tape.”

Data collection represents yet another means by which big government hurts the little guy.

While it’s impossible to know the severity of the burden, Rothbard did report on a Hoover Commission task force which found “The chemical industry alone reports that each year it spends $8,850,000 to supply statistical reports demanded by three departments of the Government. The utility industry spends $32,000,000 a year in preparing reports for Government agencies.”

Recall that this data is from an article written in 1961, so today’s burden on businesses will be several multiples higher in dollar terms. The millions (or more) in resources devoted to compliance to government data collection schemes diverts scarce resources that could otherwise be devoted to job creation, capital investment that increases productivity which in turn drives up wages, or research and development devoted to developing new products to improve the lives of consumers.

A Precursor to Fovernment Intervention

Even more nefarious, however, is how government data collection serves as the foundation upon which government intervention and control is built. According to Rothbard:

Not only do statistics gathering and producing go beyond the governmental function of defense of persons and property; not only are economic resources wasted and misallocated, and the taxpayers, industry, small business, and the consumer burdened. But, furthermore, statistics are, in a crucial sense, critical to all interventionist and socialist activities of government.

The data and statistics collected by the government, Rothbard argued, serves as a substitute for market data for government planners. Consumers, for instance, have little need of such statistics. Instead, Rothbard wrote, the consumer uses localized knowledge made available “through advertising, through the information of friends, and through his own experience” in order to understand the markets around him and help inform his decisions.

Likewise, business owners “must also size up his particular market, determine the prices he has to pay for what he buys and charge for what he sells, engage in cost accounting to estimate his costs, and so on.”

None of this activity by consumers and businesses, however, is dependent upon the “statistical facts about the economy ingested by the federal government,” Rothbard noted. Instead, “The businessman, like the consumer, knows and learns about his particular market through his daily experience.”

But government bureaucrats, Rothbard continued, “are in a completely different state of affairs.”

They are decidedly outside the market. Therefore, in order to get ‘into’ the situation that they are trying to plan and reform, they must obtain knowledge that is not personal, day-to-day experience; the only form that such knowledge can take is statistics.

As such, only through the mass gathering of statistics can the government make “even a fitful attempt to plan, regulate, control, or reform various industries—or impose central planning and socialization on the entire economic system,” Rothbard wrote.

Without gathering statistics on various industries, how could it even begin to regulate prices or other aspects of their economic activity? How could the government attempt to “regulate” the business cycle without knowing whether business activity was going up or down?

“Statistics, to repeat, are the eyes and ears of the interventionists,” Rothbard declared. “Cut off those eyes and ears, destroy those crucial guidelines to knowledge, and the whole threat of government intervention is almost completely eliminated.”

Lastly, because perhaps the most common pretext for government intervention into the economy is to “correct” for market failures, if the government were deprived of its data collection, there would no longer even be the slightest “pretense of rationality in government intervention” left.

As a result, Rothbard concludes by suggesting that “the simple and unspectacular abolition of government statistics would probably be the most thorough and most effective” check on government intervention. “Statistics, so vital to statism, its namesake, is also the State’s Achilles’ heel.”

Bradley Thomas is creator of the website Erasethestate.com and author of the book “Tweeting Liberty: Libertarian Tweets to Smash Statists and Socialists.” He is a libertarian activist who enjoys researching and writing on the freedom philosophy and Austrian economics. You can follow him on Twitter @erasestate.

Utah Proud Boys and BLM Join Together Against Racism, Call for Police Reform

Utah Proud Boys and BLM Join Together Against Racism, Call for Police Reform

Something pretty incredible happened earlier this month in Utah and because it showed two ostensibly opposing groups come together instead of promoting divide, it was curiously absent from nearly all mainstream media. The Proud Boys—who are considered a hate group by the SPLC—came together with Black Lives Matter—who they are allegedly supposed to hate—and did something inspiring. They denounced racism and white supremacy and explained how they are now working together.

Not surprisingly, over the past several weeks, the mainstream media has run with stories of protesters and counter protesters fighting with each other rather than show Black Lives Matter of Northern Utah finding common ground with the Salt Lake chapter of the Proud boys. But that is why The Free Thought Project exists, to bring you the news that shows it is possible to think past labels and petty fighting and realize that we are all human.

DISCLAIMER: It is sad that this disclaimer is necessary but before anyone claims that The Free Thought Project is a supporter of the Proud Boys, we are not. We are supporters of peace and unity and putting differences aside to create a more freer world, and the following scenario out of Utah is a perfect example of this.

Jacarri Kelley, the leader of Black Lives Matter, Northern Utah said she was perplexed during a protest two months ago in Cottonwood Heights when she saw a member of the Proud Boys, who was not white, being accused of being a white supremacist.

“How can he be a white supremacist if he is Hispanic?” Kelley asked. “Or Polynesian? I originally thought he was black.”

This made the open minded BLM head reach out to the Proud Boys, who told her they were there simply to make sure that “nothing goes down.”

That is when they got together and decided they could help each other. For two months that is what they have done and during a protest in Salt Lake City two weeks ago, they held a press conference to talk about the importance of unity and reaching across labels to find out that just because someone has a different political view than you, doesn’t make them a bad person—unless of course they advocate hating people or superiority for having a certain skin color.

But Kelley dispelled that myth quite swiftly—at least with the Proud Boys at this particular protest—noting that they are not white supremacists. She also stated that they agree on more issues than which they disagree. She said they both have a problem with how the media is stoking constant divide.

Kelley explained that the rioters and looters don’t represent what the BLM movement is about, but that is how many in the media portray them. Kelley went on to say that her grandfather and her father served in the military and they have a right to say they are “proud Americans” just like the Proud Boys have a right to say it.

Kelley then said the Proud Boys “just need a little bit of respect and education to bridge gaps,” before introducing the chief of the Salt Lake Proud Boys to speak. She said the two groups have worked together for a couple of months and their work has opened the Proud Boys’ eyes to what Black Lives Matter is all about.

“Obviously, I am not black, so I cannot understand what Jacarri goes through every day,” said Thad, the group’s chief. “But meeting with them has given us understanding and now we can work together.”

Imagine that. A little empathy can go a long way.

When questioned about the group’s founder, Gavin McInnes—whose racism has been heavily documented online—the two Proud Boys explained that he is an instigator and is no longer part of the organization for that exact reason.

“He’s gone, he’s not part of the organization anymore,” both men said before officially denouncing racism all together.

“I will go out and say that the Proud Boys as a whole—I will say this on behalf of the entire national organization—denounce White supremacy,” the chief of the Proud Boys Salt Lake Utah Chapter said when the reporter questioned him, adding that being called white supremacists threatens their safety.

Thad said that the Proud Boys are simply “proud” of their country. “It means that the west is the best—western civilization is the best. That’s our opinion,” Thad said.

“We are in no way, shape or form White supremacists,” Thad said. “We have a vetting system that gets those people out of our hair. We do not have anything to do with White supremacy. We do not have anything to do with the Ku Klux Klan. We denounce those organizations.”

After Thad spoke, the president of the Salt Lake Proud Boys, who gave the name Seth, got up to speak.

“I don’t care what color your skin is, we’re all Americans, and we need to find a way to come together instead of divide,” he said.

Seth then explained that this bridging of the divide has led to the Proud Boys working with BLM to achieve police reform.

“Meeting and talking and having that understanding allowed us to move forward with working together on police reform,” Seth said.

Kelley, who first met the Proud Boys at a protest in Cottonwood Heights, says the partnership is real.

“We do need to be able to reach across the aisle and have these tough conversations,” Kelley added. And she is right, according to KUTV, the Salt Lake chapter of the group says they’ll continue to link arms with Black Lives Matter, Northern Utah.

This is how progress is made. When people put their differences aside and have meaningful conversations while practicing empathy, peace is the inevitable result. Sadly, the media is so hell bent on pushing divide and keeping people inside their own little bias-confirming bubbles, that conversations like this one are rare.

Instead, we see people blindly hating each other, screaming in each other’s faces and now have resorted to violence.

The world can learn a lot from Jacarri, Seth, and Thad, they just have to listen. It is high time we start doing more listening than screaming.

As the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “one day we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal we seek, but that it is a means by which we arrive at that goal. We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means. All of this is saying that, in the final analysis, means and ends must cohere because the end is preexistent in the means, and ultimately destructive means cannot bring about constructive ends.”

Matt Agorist is an honorably discharged veteran of the USMC and former intelligence operator directly tasked by the NSA. This prior experience gives him unique insight into the world of government corruption and the American police state. Agorist has been an independent journalist for over a decade and has been featured on mainstream networks around the world. Agorist is also the Editor-at-Large at the Free Thought Project. Follow @MattAgorist on TwitterSteemit, and now on Minds. This article was originally featured at The Free Thought Project and is republished with permission. 

My Statement on the Prosecution of Julian Assange

My Statement on the Prosecution of Julian Assange

This written statement was made by Daniel Ellsberg, acting as an expert witness for the defense, on September 18, 2020 in front of the British magistrate during the extradition trial of Julian Assange. This transcript is republished from RCReader.com

1. I provide this statement in the ongoing proceedings USA v Julian Assange. I am aware of the allegations against Mr. Assange and have read the indictments. I am familiar with the nature of the content of the publications in question. I have met Mr. Assange on a number of occasions during the past ten years and have had lengthy discussions with him on issues relevant to the charges he faces.

2. I have been asked by Mr. Assange’s UK lawyers to provide such evidence as I am able. (i) On the basis of my knowledge of Mr. Assange and his work to comment upon what I understand to be the assertion by the prosecution in his case that he does not have “political opinions” or rather, any of relevance to the request for his extradition. I am asked whether I consider opinions of relevance in the context of the indictment he faces can be categorised as recognisable political opinions and such as have been exercised by him in thought, speech and actions to have been intended to alter (and in fact to have altered) the actions of relevant government institutions in particular those of the USA. (ii) On the basis of my knowledge and experience, of the restrictions upon the exposure of classified information even where the intention is to expose grave illegalities carried out within particular wars; and the impact of further restrictions if prosecuted under the Espionage Act.

3. My personal details are these: I was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1931. I was educated at Harvard University, where I received a B.A., summa cum laude, in 1952 and a Ph.D. in Economics in 1962. In 1953-53 I was awarded a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship for study at King’s College, Cambridge University, and in 1957-59 I was a member of the Society of Fellows, Harvard University. From 1954-57 I was an infantry officer in the U.S. Marine Corps.

4. I am a co-founder and current board member of the Freedom of the Press Foundation; Distinguished Research Fellow of the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI), UMass, Amherst; Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (NAPF).

5. I am a receipient of numerous awards, many citing my revelation of the Pentagon Papers, including the Right Livelihood Award, 2006; Dresden Peace Prize, 2016; and the Olaf Palme Prize, 2018, in addition to: ACLU Civil Liberties Award, 1971; Americans for Democratic Action Fredom of Speech Award, 1972; Eleanor Roosevelt Peace Award (SANE) 1973 (with Andrei
Sakharov); Gandhi Peace Award, 1978; Society of Profesional Journalists Freedom of Information Award, 2004; German Federation of Scientists Whistleblowerpreis Award, 2004. Nuclear Age Peace Foundation Distinguished Peace Leader Award, 2005; Ron Ridenhour Courage Prize, 2010; Hugh Hefner First Amendment Award, 2013; Bertha Foundation Ben Bagdikian Award, 2013; Media Law Resource Center (MLRC) William J. Brennan Jr. Defense of Freedom Award, 2016.

Relevant Background

6. I set out below my background and experience of relevance to the matters on which I am commenting in this statement.

7. In 1964-65 I was Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, with the “super-grade” GS-18: highest level in the Civil Service, the civilian equivalent to major general. In 1965-67, having volunteered for service in Vietnam, I served in the Embassy in Saigon with the grade of FSR-1, as Senior Liaison Officer, and as Special Assistant to the Deputy Ambassador with the duty of evaluating pacification.

8. In 1967-69, I was a member – as a consultant to OSD from the Rand Corporation, to which I had returned – of a McNamara Task Force which produced a 47-volume Top Secret study entitled “History of U.S. Decision-making in Vietnam 1945-68,” later known as the Pentagon Papers. In this role, I had access to documents classified at the ‘secret’ and ‘top secret’ leve. In late 1968 and early 1969 I was a consultant to the Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, Henry Kissinger, on Vietnam options and initial governmental studies on Vietnam.

9. In 1969, together with my colleague Anthony Russo, I made several copies of the Pentagon Papers. I believed that these 7,000 pages of top secret documents demonstrated that the conduct of the war in Vietnam had, over more than one administration, been started and continued by the US Government in the knowledge that it could not be won, and that President Johnson and his administration had lied to Congress and to the public in relation to its origins, costs and prospects.

10. Eventually, in 1971, having provided the documents I had copied to The New York Times and The Washington Post, those newspapers published excerpts of the Pentagon Papers. As a result of the Nixon administration to restrict prior
publication, the US Supreme Court ruled in New York Times v United States that The New York Times had the right to publish the materials which were protected by the First Amendment.

11. I was prosecuted in 1971 for my giving truthful information to the public. The Nixon administration utilised the Espionage Act (intended for spies) against me and my co-accused, we having informed the public of that truthful information.

12. Initially, three charges were brought against me with a possible sentence of 35 years; by the end of the same year I was indicted on 12 counts with a possible sentence of 115 years. Despite the importance and necessity of the action I took I was not permitted to rely upon any justification in my defence to the Espionage Act charges. My trial instead, ended eventually as a result of the revelation of the U.S. government’s criminal actions towards me which led in turn to the convictions of several administration officials.

My Actions

13. It took me months to copy the papers from my safe at the Rand Corporation, one page at a time. I collated the documents as they came off the Xerox machine, and cut off the “top secret” classifications from the top and the bottom of all the pages. I knew then that my actions could result in my going to prison, but I believed that the public had to know about this.

14. I considered my actions then, and now, to be essential and the actions of a patriot.

15. There is strong basis for the widely-held belief that my own action had a tangible effect, as I intended and hoped, on the ability of the American public, Congress and courts, to end both the deaths and the deceptions associated with U.S. involvement in the Vietnam war.

The Impediments to Alternative Means of Disclosure

16. Without publication in the press, it would have proved impossible for the content of the Pentagon Papers to be placed in the public domain. I spent over a year and a half attempting to get hearings in Congress without success.

17. Making the public aware of the Pentagon Papers took years. I tried a number of routes. It was the specific example of Randall Kehler, whom I met in August 1969 as he prepared to go to prison for two years for refusing to cooperate with his draft board, that put in my head the question: “What can I do—non-violently and truthfully—to help end this war, if I am willing to go to jail for it?” And that question found its answer within weeks, at which point I began to copy the documentary evidence in my safe of governmental deception and law-breaking. I decided to demonstrate the truth about the war to Congress and the public, though I expected to spend the rest of my life in prison for doing it.

18. Prior to my releasing the Pentagon Papers, I had possession in my safe in the Pentagon, documents which gave lie to claims of an “unequivocal, unprovocated” attack on U.S. destroyers in the Tonkin Gulf. False claims about the incidents in the Gulf of Tonkin led to the passage of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution by Congress, which gave President Johnson legal justification for engaging in war against North Vietnam. I was later told by Senator Morse (one of the two senators who had voted against the resolution), that if I had given him that evidence at the time, instead of waiting to 1969 when I provided it to the Senate foreign relations committee, the resolution would have been voted down.

19. I have long regretted not releasing the documents in August 1964, or in the next few months, and it is a heavy burden for me to bear. Had I or one of the scores of other officials who had the same high-level information acted then on our oath of office—which was not an oath to obey the president, nor to keep the secret that he was violating his own sworn obligations, but solely an oath “to support and defend the constitution of the United States”—that terrible war might well have been averted altogether. But to hope to have that effect, we would have needed to disclose the documents when they were
current, before the escalation—not five or seven, or even two, years after the fateful commitments had been made.

20. The routes to exposure in courts of law were entirely blocked. I had been asked to be an expert witness in the trial of a number of highly principled college students and seminarians who had destroyed draft files as a way of protesting peacefully against a continuing believed illegal war. I was not permitted however to present copies of the Pentagon Papers as documentary evidence to support my testimony that the government had been manipulating the democratic process—and concealing its own law-breaking—by lying to the public, a situation that called for dramatic challenge of the sort the defendants
had done. But the Pentagon Papers did not get into the public record on that occasion. The federal judge in that case refused to allow me to offer evidence (the Pentagon Papers, in a briefcase by my side on the witness stand) to support my assertion of that several presidents had lied. When he heard me use the word “lie” he warned the defense lawyer questioning me that both the lawyer and myself would be held in contempt if I used that word again. He had earlier warned the defense attorney that he would not entertain expert testimony “critical of the federal government.”

21. It was precisely this sort of consciousness that seemed to me to need changing if our democratic system were to end the Vietnam tragedy, and I saw nothing other than the Pentagon Papers that might do the job. But that meant that I had to be willing to take measures that would sharply increase the risk of spending the rest of my life in jail.

22. In fact, the disclosures that ended my trial on May 11, 1973—daily revelations for two weeks of a whole series of criminal actions that the Nixon Administration had taken against me to stop further truth-telling about government policy by me
or others—further strengthened Congressional determination to cut off spending on American weapons and bombs that were still killing Vietnamese, even though U.S. casualties had ceased. (The first House majority vote to suspend funding on the war, for bombing of Cambodia, came on May 10, the day before my trial was finally dismissed).

23. It is in the context of the above experience that I can comment upon the position facing Julian Assange, having studied carefully the subject matter of the WikiLeaks publications in 2010 and 2011 concerning the conduct of the Afghan and Iraq wars and detentions in Guantanamo Bay and US diplomatic cables commenting upon aspects of U.S. actions. I have observed the extraordinary breadth and depth of those revelations: revealing as they do the reality of the consequences of war. The exposure of such would be imperative to bring about any alteration of US government policy. I have followed closely the impact of a number of those publications and consider them to be amongst the most important truthful revelations of hidden criminal state behaviour that have been made public in U.S. history. My own actions in relation to the Pentagon Papers and the consequences of their publication have been acknowledged to have performed such a radical change of understanding. I view the WikiLeaks publications of 2010 and 2011 to be of comparable importance

Re: Mr Assange’s Political Opinions

24. I comment that I find extraordinary the assertion that Mr. Assange does not possess political opinions of direct relevance to his intended prosecution in the USA and the ongoing attempt to extradite him for charges under the Espionage Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Acts. The opinions that it is very obvious that he has, (amongst many of sophistication and complexity on a range of issues), in particular in the light of the prosecution he faces, are very clearly focussed fairly and squarely at the centre of political movements of which I regard myself as part and which much of my life has spent committed to pursuing. (i) The movement to bring transparency to government actions which required to be exposed for the public to understand them and to achieve alteration, in particular those that touch upon the gravest of issues, (very frequently where the claim for “national security” has been erected to obscure illegality and deceit often on a major scale). (ii) In respect of the “anti-war”/”peace” movement I have heard and read many of Mr. Assange’s public statements on these issues. They have constituted an important part of public debate and knowledge on the subject of war and in particular the subject of the Afghan and Iraq wars, the publications for which he is being prosecuted having constitued an enormous body of incontrovertible data that has allowed for a universal body of knowledge and consequent understanding and action. I have also spoken to him privately over many hours on the same subjects. Indeed I spoke to him during the course of 2010/2011 at a time when some of the published material had not yet seen the light of day. I was able to observe his approach was the exact opposite of reckless publication and nor would he wilfully expose others to harm. WikiLeaks could have published the entirety of the material on receipt. Instead I was able to observe but also to discuss with him the unprecedented steps he initiated, of engaging with convential media partners, for the purpose of ensuring that the impact of publication was not only widespread, but that
it might be the most likely route to have effect upon U.S. government policy and its alteration.

25. I hope that my comments might assist the Court in its understanding of what it is that Mr. Assange faces and its context. I observe the closest of similarities to the position I faced, where the exposure of illegality and criminal acts institutionally and by individuals was intended to be crushed by the administration carrying out those illegalities; in part in revenge for my act of exposing them but in part to crush all such future exposure of the truth and when there was no other way. I have closely observed the actions of the US government, its military and its intelligence agency the CIA and that the actions in question were never intended to be revealed (including rendition and torture, the use of “black sites” and crimes against humanity). I have also observed that those who have been party to exposing them have been and continue to be themselves threatened and criminalised. The actions brought against me involved a political determination (later exposed) that the Department of Justice be used to bring those actions even where the justification for their publication had been acknowledged. By the eventual time of my trial in 1973 US policies had indeed already been put into reverse as a result of the newspapers’ publications years before.

WikiLeaks’ Publication of the Afghan War Logs

26. When stories based on the Afghan war logs began to be published, I felt that the comparison between those publications and the Pentagon Papers was inevitable in one major respect: in terms of volume, there had been nothing like it since the Pentagon Papers. It was the first unauthorised disclosure of such magnitude in nearly 40 years. Moreover, it had the advantage of being more current; the most recent of the Pentagon Papers were dated three years before their release but some of the documents in the Afghan war diaries were dated six months earlier than their release.

27. There were also some differences which I noted. The Pentagon Papers were high-level, top-secret documents on internal estimates, alternatives being debated, presidential directives, and so forth. The Afghanistan documents are lower-level field reports, of the kind that I was reading and writing when I was a foreign-service officer in Vietnam. In fact, I could have written a number of them—they were very like the ones I wrote, with the place names changed. Which confirmed my view held for a number of years that I saw the war in Afghanistan as ‘Vietnamistan’ in that it was a replay of the stalemate the USA had been in 40 years ago. My further observation is that the civilian victims of the population ceased to be seen as human beings whose lives had the same worth as those involved in the bringing of war to their respective countries; in those circumstances, crimes against humanity of the worst kind, and mass atrocities could and did become the norm.

28. My attention, as with the rest of the world was first caught by the video of the Apache helicopter assault in Iraq, which became known as ‘Collateral Murder.’ That title, given by Assange, was often criticised as overly accusatory. On the contrary, as a former battalion training officer (Third Battalion, Second Marines) and rifle company commander, I was acutely aware that what was depicted in that video deserved the term murder, a war crime. (In fact, deliberate as the killing of civilians was, it was the word “collateral” that was questionable.) The American public needed urgently to know what was being done routinely in their name, and there was no other way for them to learn it than by unauthorized disclosure.

29. I came to appreciate, in relation to the publication of subsequent material, the ways in which Assange had developed and was continuing to develop technology which enabled whistleblowers to bring evidence of such criminality into the public domain. I understood at the time that Assange planned to offer this same technology to newspapers at the time and I note that since 2010, most major media outlets, and even the CIA, have developed secure technology to allow whistleblowers to share information in a secure and anonymous way. Indeed, the Freedom of the Press Foundation—of which I was a co-founder and am a current board member—has developed and widely made available to media just such a software system, “Secure Drop.”

My Prosecution Under the Espionage Act

30. It is widely acknowledged that the copying done by me and the much later, the publication of the Pentagon Papers, can reasonably be held to have contributed first, to the ending of U.S. casualties in Vietnam, and subsequently to the ending of the war and to the destruction of Vietnam and the deaths of its people. However those effects depended in large part on the Nixon adminstrations over-reaction to my actions, its actions having been taken in fear of the political consequences of better public information on a policy that was still being conducted largely in secret to hide its reckless illegality.

31. As has become very well known, after the publication of the papers, President Nixon was so disturbed by the media’s portrayal of my actions that he ordered his aides to look for damaging personal information to destroy my reputation. “Don’t worry about his trial” the President told then Attorney General John Mitchell, “Just get everything out…we want to destroy him in the press” and a clandestine White House unit led by Gordon Liddy and Howard Hunt broke into the offices of my psychiatrist in September 1971, discovered only after a further attempted burglary took place (the Watergate burglary). Further still, President Nixon and his associates had brought in a dozen CIA assets, under the direction of Howard Hunt and Gordon Liddy, from Miami on May 3rd 1972, with orders to incapacitate me totally. Bernard Baker, a CIA asset, later told me that his mission was to break both of my legs and I later learnt (from the special prosecutor in their case) that there was a plan for these CIA assets to attack me in the course of a rally that I was speaking to on the steps of the Capitol on May 3 1972. Three days before my trial came to an end, evidence of unlawful wire tapping surveillance surfaced. The trial judge, William Byrne on May 11th 1973 stated “The totality of the circumstances of this case…offend a sense of justice. The bizarre events have incurably infected the prosecution of this case.” He dismissed all charges with prejudice (so that I could not face these charges again.)

32. I do not canvas in this statement the fact that a collateral challenge was intended to be argued at my trial. However, so far as the Espionage Act itself and any challenge based on the necessary action that I would wish to have made, the response of my trial judge is very well known. When I attempted to answer my lawyer’s question as to “why” I had copied the Pentagon Papers—in part, to explain my judgment that the documents were improperly classified to keep them not from an enemy but from the American public and to argue the necessity therefore of their being made public because of their content—the court ruled the question as “irrelevant” and I was silenced before I could begin. My lawyer said that he “Had never heard of a case where a defendant was not permitted to tell the jury why he did what he did”. Judge Byrne responded “Well you’re hearing one now.” (Of grave concern was the revelation I later learned that the President, intent on preventing the revelation of criminal acts against me surfacing during the trial, had offered the trial judge, Matthew Byrne, the thenopen post of Director of the FBI (a childhood ambition of Byrne’s), on the understanding that he would end the trial expeditiously (presumably, with conviction).

33. Without the revelation of these supervening illegal events above, if facing the same circumstances today, and charged under the Espionage Act, I am certain that I would be convicted. I observe that this has been the pattern since in prosecutions under the Espionage Act of whistleblowers seeking to raise the public interest attaching to the publications in question. I noted that the military judge at the trial of Chelsea Manning did not allow Manning or her lawyer to argue her intent, the lack of damage to the U.S., over classification of the cables or the benefits of the leaks until she was already found guilty.

A History of Libertarian Party Presidential Messaging, 1972-1996

A History of Libertarian Party Presidential Messaging, 1972-1996

Friends of liberty inside and outside the Libertarian Party are waiting patiently—some passively—for three more weeks until the conclusion of the November presidential election. Not to find out whether Donald Trump or Joe Biden will come in first, but how many votes their own candidate will receive on the margin.

Jo Jorgensen, a businesswoman, university lecturer, and longtime party activist received the presidential nomination in May, with the (virtual) convention selecting activist and podcaster Spike Cohen as her running mate. Not long afterwards, the Jorgensen/Cohen ticket became the focal point of a bitter dispute within the liberty movement about messaging, with particular rancor towards their social media team.

While ascribing to nearly identical ideas, the rhetorical divide between libertarians seems almost insurmountable. Differences of opinion include what issues libertarians should prioritize, which demographics their message should be aimed at, what a unifying movement leader would look like, and whether political activism is even worth investment.

It would be instructive for libertarians to have a sense of how past candidates have portrayed themselves and sold their policies to voters. In its nearly fifty-year history, the Libertarian party has run presidential tickets from different factions and backgrounds, with different personalities, all while collecting different results. Finding what works, what’s unappealing, and what can be improved is necessary for future endeavors.

This article will focus on four of the Libertarian Party’s most prominent presidential campaigns—1976, 1980, 1988, 1996—comparing and contrasting the pamphlets that were meant introduce libertarianism to the voting public.

Bc77a77b E7d7 4c52 A4e5 E58549176b76First, a special aside should be made for the Libertarian Party’s first nominees, philosophy professor John Hospers and radio producer Tonie Nathan. Founded in Colorado in 1971, Murray Rothbard described the organization’s inauspicious beginnings: “There’s no finances, there’s no people, there’s nothing.” Professionally made literature was out of reach for the upstart campaign, but they did make one pin that asked voters, in Nineteen Eighty-Four fashion, to “Break Free From Big Brother.” On the ballot in only two states (Colorado and Washington), the Hospers/Nathan ticket won only 3,600 votes, less than one tenth of one percent. And yet this newborn third party shot to notoriety when a faithless elector in Virginia gave them a lone tally in the Electoral College.

That faithless elector went on to be the party’s 1976 presidential nominee. Roger MacBride had formerly worked as a lawyer and, as the inheritor of the Laura Ingalls Wilder literary estate, co-created the NBC television series Little House on the Prairie. MacBride built his campaign around the phrase “a new dawn,” in which the Libertarian Party would break the country’s political duopoly and present Americans with a fresh direction. The brochure reads:

Who could deny that the politics of contemporary America should fade into the sunset and disappear forever? Most Americans, if we are to believe the public opinion polls, do desire a new dawn—a fresh approach to politics and a reappraisal of the appropriate role of government in a free society. The problem is, the candidates of the Republican and Democratic parties are from the old school of political wheeling and dealing. They sense that the public is ready for a new direction but they don’t know or care what that direction should be

MacBride’s brochure is heavy on rhetoric, candidate biography, and even includes a retelling of the party’s founding. What it lacks is policy proscriptions, with only a single page of bullet points quotes meant to inform the reader of where libertarians stand on the issues. With such limited space, it’s both curious but predictable that television producer MacBride would save special ire for the Federal Communications Commission, which he calls “one of the most dangerous agencies of government” for its censorship and intimidation of broadcasters. The FCC is one of the executive agencies MacBride promised to abolish, along with the FTC, ICC, and CAB, saying they “employ a virtual army of bureaucrats who are leeches on the productive sector of society.”

Despite the brevity, MacBride’s statement on U.S. foreign policy is worth quoting at length because of its foresight:

If I were elected President I’d retire Henry Kissinger as one of my first orders of business. The United States government has no right running around the world using tax dollars—the money you and I earn—to make ‘deals’ with foreign governments. The U.S. should stop intervening in other peoples’ affairs. I’m particularly concerned that the current Administration’s policy of involvement in the Middle East is going to lead to another Vietnam.

In November 1976, Roger MacBride won 172,000 votes, or one-fifth of one percent.

Where the MacBride brochure lacked on substance, Ed Clark’s indulges. A corporate lawyer, Clark gained appeal as a candidate after his 1978 campaign for California governor overperformed (he won almost five and a half percent). Riding high, he sailed to the presidential nomination in 1980.

While including photos of the candidate and a standard introduction, Clark’s brochure opens to reveal six pages of policy summations, making it by far the most detailed of the bunch. Clark elucidates his opinions on issues including, but not limited to, energy, unemployment, inflation, and crime, while even including separate subheads for civil liberties and the draft, along with foreign affairs and defense spending.

The Ed Clark campaign and its handlers earned the eternal enmity of Murray Rothbard when during a television interview, Clark used the phrase “low-tax liberalism” to explain libertarian ideology. This blunder has permanently attached the label of moderate or shallow to Clark’s run for office in the minds of many libertarians who proudly wear the moniker “radical.”

On that scale, Clark’s stated positions are a mixed bag; he goes all the way on some issues, but only partway on others. On one hand, Clark promised to abolish the newly formed Department of Energy, repeal all price controls, and eliminate the minimum wage. But on the other, while calling public education “a disgrace,” he goes no further than favoring tax credits for charter schools. Wonderfully, Clark refers to the draft as nothing more than “short-term slavery.” But while he favors reducing military expenditures, he gives no indication of how much.

One of the stances Clark was hit hardest on by other libertarians was taxes. In in the brochure’s introduction, taxes are the first issue mentioned, with Clark promising “the largest tax cut in American history.” It’s a phrase used repeatedly on other pages. To Rothbard and others, this fell too far short of calling for a full repeal of the income tax or destroying the IRS. In the same campaign, Ronald Reagan was making a similar promise, once again making Clark’s brand appeared watered down.

Like MacBride, the strength of Clark’s foreign policy stance and his recognition of blowback is worth quoting at length:

The United States supplies arms and aid to the world’s worst military despots. Indeed, in this century, we have supplied arms to both sides in seventeen different wars…The consequences and costs of this bankrupt foreign policy are becoming increasingly apparent, both at home and abroad. Our years of support for the despotic shah of Iran against the will of the Iranian people caused the Iranians to react violently against the United States. It is just one of many examples, from Vietnam to Nicaragua, of the failure of foreign adventurism. We must resolve now to avoid foreign crises in the future by staying out of the affairs of other countries.

On top of paper, the Clark campaign ran a litany of professionally produced, five-minute television ads. This surely benefited when come November, Ed Clark won 921,000 votes, or just over one percent. His 1980 campaign would hold the record on raw vote total and percentage until the Gary Johnson presidential runs of 2012 and 2016, respectively.

In 1988, Dr. Ron Paul was the most experienced presidential nominee in the Libertarian Party’s less than two-decade history. After a career in medicine, Paul had been elected to the U.S. House as a Republican four times, serving from 1976 to 1977 and 1979 to 1985. Despite having the most prominent career (both before and after his nomination), Paul has far and away the simplest brochure.

9b0df3a6 7124 4f30 86f6 D38d884b6190Only three pages of policy positions and biography, Paul’s brochure is precise, albeit brief. The prospective voter is greeted by a cartoon drawing of Alice in Wonderland characters Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, with an “R” and “D” painted on their chests. It tells the reader that, “Ron Paul’s message of liberty is the same one that inspired the Founding Fathers to fight for our independence, that galvanized mass movements in the 19th century for hard money and personal liberty, and that mobilized millions in the 20th century.”

This appeal to the past is one of the hallmarks of the Paul brochure. While MacBride’s mentions the American Revolution twice, and Clark’s not at all, Paul references the Founding Fathers five times in a much shorter print.

Much of the substance in Paul’s brochure will discussed further on, but for now his skewering of U.S. foreign policy is once again worth quoting from:

The job of the U.S. government is to defend the people, property, and liberty of the United States. Period. It is not to run the world. It is not to fund wealthy clients like Germany and Japan. It is not to install and overthrow dictators in Central America. It is not to intervene on the side of totalitarian socialist Iraq and Big Oil in the Persian Gulf.

In November 1988 Ron Paul received 431,000 votes, or just under half a percent.

In his 1996 brochure, Harry Browne sells himself as much as the libertarian message. Taking an aside from explaining the budget to tell voters where they can buy his new book, the best-selling author and investment advisor was a natural marketer. In this instance, he does so by directly comparing himself to his Democrat and Republican opponents. In punchy bullet points, Browne presents what the major parties believe on spending, taxes, and social security, and follows with how he’s different.

The language is purposely dramatized to draw attention; balance the entire budget now (emphasis in original). And the issues are all geared towards matters that affect the daily lives of Americans. That specialization, while smart for voter targeting, leaves much to be desired in delivering the libertarian message. For instance, there is no mention of foreign policy, the only brochure to ignore the subject. The language, however, is the most accessible to the average person, using clear, simple direction to inform voter’s about Browne’s policies.

Harry Browne won 485,000 votes in 1996, or exactly half a percent. His performance was strong enough—the highest vote count since Ed Clark in 1980—and his personal appeal so universal that he was re-nominated by the Libertarian Party four years later.

Bringing all four brochures together, the first impression is their diverse color aesthetic. Each campaign appears to have chosen to lean on a single-color pallet; MacBride on a deep blue, almost purple; Clark on Green; Paul on light blue, and Browne on red. And like most political paper, a picture of the candidate included on the front, bar MacBride’s, which allotted for the “new dawn” imagery.

Both MacBride and Clark include a page of media mentions and favorable quotes from publications. They both even go so far as to recycle a quote from Nicholas von Hoffman in the Washington Post that he wrote in 1974. Paul has no media quotations but does include a list of organizations that had presented him with awards, including the Mises Institute. And Browne’s biography includes a list of the national television networks he had spoken on.

One of the pillars that unites all libertarians is opposition to the state’s monopoly on money production, and the devaluation of the U.S. dollar caused by the Federal Reserve. Both MacBride and Clark refer to the Fed’s monetary expansionism as “legalized counterfeiting,” and Clark provides a short explanation of how inflation benefits incumbent politicians and hurts workers. MacBride gives no further elaboration on a solution, and Clark calls for a return to “sound money,” but neither explicitly call for ending the Federal Reserve System.

Ron Paul does not mince words in his condemnation of the central bank. He promised to “protect the value of your money by restoring the gold standard and abolishing the Federal Reserve.” Whereas Harry Browne declines to mention monetary policy and sticks strictly to fiscal policy.

Something all four candidates do mention is the War on Drugs, although not necessarily in the same language. Roger MacBride takes a firm, but general stand against all victimless crime:

If there is no victim there can be no crime. This business of passing a law to prevent people from doing something simply because we think it’s morally wrong is nonsense. How we conduct ourselves is a moral question that can be answered by our own conscience.

Ed Clark likewise makes a broader, but more detailed statement about crime, and how it’s ill-handled by the police. He argues that drugs ought to be decriminalized, because “narcotics prohibition actually creates crime, just as alcohol prohibition created the gangster problem.” Both he and MacBride further argue that police should be made to focus on violent crimes “like rape, robbery and murder” (MacBride) instead of “wasting time and money on vice squads, drug busts and political spying” (Clark).

Ron Paul’s brochure, like Clark’s, uses the Prohibition era as a parallel, writing “In the 1920s, the unbelievable violation of our liberties called Prohibition strengthened public and private criminals at the people’s expense. The same is true of the War on Drugs.” This is included in a longer list of civil liberties violations, in which Paul mentions the invasion of the doctor-patient relationship, parental rights over children, and the state spying apparatus.

Like other issues, Harry Browne compares the Republican and Democratic Party’s insistence on “more federal powers, more police, more prosecutions, more prisons.” Whereas Browne would end the “insane” War on Drugs immediately:

This will take away the obscene criminal profits of drug pushers, break up street gangs, and make our cities safe again. Pardon non-violent drug offenders to make room in prisons for rapists and murderers who terrorize our citizens.

It is no secret that there are aspects of the liberty philosophy that are more difficult to pitch to non-libertarians than others. For instance, it is obligatory for a libertarian to believe in the right of association, that a person and property owner can associate or discriminate for any reason. Many libertarians prefer to ignore this philosophical cornerstone in ‘polite company,’ or other issues like state-mandated racial quotas and affirmative action. The closest any brochure comes to acknowledging this is MacBride’s, which obliquely references liberals “forcing an unending stream of ‘social engineering’ programs on us.” In all others, it is left unsaid.

Another dicey topic can be the welfare state, where even most conservative Republicans are happy to continue the social safety net instituted by Lyndon Johnson. Both MacBride and Clark chose to ignore the issue of welfare, while addressing nearly every other government program. In contrast, Ron Paul is very matter of fact, promising to eliminate “$500 billion in corporate welfare, social welfare, and foreign military welfare.” Instead, “churches and other private charities should be freed to care for the needy in a humane, non-governmental manner.”

The subject of welfare is where Harry Browne excels the most. In his brochure, Browne says the government’s “welfare system promotes dependency, irresponsibility, and poverty.” He further acknowledges without fanfare that gutting the federal budget and returning the government to its constitutional parameters “means ending all federal social programs.”

Social Security, the original bedrock of the modern welfare state and one of the third rails of American politics, is addressed specifically. Instead of inane reforms like adjusting the Consumer Price Index, Harry Browne would:

Sell off federal assets and use the proceeds to buy private retirement annuities for senior citizens who are dependent on Social Security—annuities from companies who keep their promises and never change the rules. Browne will end the 15% Social Security tax and leave Americans free to choose their own retirement.

The reason welfare can be a difficult topic for libertarians is because too often market alternatives can come across as unempathetic, or unrealistic, if not phrased right. Browne is able to perfectly encapsulate why abolishing the welfare state is not only financially necessary, but ethically the only possible solution:

You—not some bureaucrat—will decide who’s actually doing some good, who’s helping the needy become self-supporting, who’s earning your charity dollar—and how many charity dollars you’ll give them. So will your co-workers, neighbors, and other members of your community.

Charity, not welfare. Private compassion will succeed where government compulsion has failed.

On the other hand, taxes can be a libertarian’s favorite issue to discuss with the general public, and all the candidates jump at the opportunity. MacBride complains that “feudal serfs in the Middle Ages kept a higher percentage of their income than we Americans do today.” His simple fix is to “persistently seek to lower all taxes” because “they’re far too high—all of them.”

As previously mentioned, the key platform plank of Ed Clark’s campaign was the largest tax cut in American history. His brochure says he’ll explain the details of his tax program later on in the campaign, leaving the reader with the “economic fact of life” that allowing people to keep money they earn and “to save and to spend as they choose” leads to prosperity.

Ron Paul’s position is to not only lower taxes but abolish the income tax altogether. He has certain venom for the IRS collection agency in particular:

10,000 ravening, machine-gun-toting IRS agents oppress the people and eat out their substance. They have the license to confiscate your wealth, seize your bank accounts, and force you to incriminate yourself without due process of law.

Harry Browne shares that stance, and sought to it home in how uncompromising it was:

What will Harry Browne ‘replace’ the Income Tax with? A flat tax? No. A sales tax? No. A Value Added Tax? No. He’ll replace it with nothing.

Once again, Browne takes the time to explain the implications of this policy in a way to emotionally connect with voters and make them feel more comfortable about such a dramatic shift in government revenue:

Look at last year’s 1040 tax form. What would you do with the money the government took from you—money you earned—if it were yours to spend? Would you put your children in a private school that offers a better education and teaches your values? Would you put your money into savings or investments or perhaps use it to start that business you’ve always dreamed of? Would you move to a better home? Give more to your favorite charity or cause or church? Leaving all your earnings in your hands lets you make these choices for yourself, your family, and your community.

A7cd877a 0d9a 476a A67d D637debb3a91Lastly, its curious which candidates choose to acknowledge that they’re on a ticket, campaigning alongside a vice presidential nominee. MacBride was gracious enough to give his running mate, lawyer David Bergland, nearly equal biographical space in the brochure; Bergland went on to be the Libertarian Party’s 1984 presidential nominee. Ed Clark includes zero mention of his running mate, New York business executive David Koch, despite the latter providing millions in funding to the campaign. David, along with his brother Charles Koch, became infamous later in life as some of the Republican Party’s wealthiest financiers. Likewise, Ron Paul’s brochure is devoid of his running mate Andre Marrou, who as one of the Libertarian Party’s few elected officials had served a term in the Alaska House of Representatives. Marrou was the party’s 1992 presential nominee, in a campaign marked by scandal and possible criminality. Finally, Harry Browne includes a short, paragraph biography and picture of his running mate, and current Libertarian Party presidential nominee, Jo Jorgensen, bringing everything full circle.

MacBride, Clark, Paul, and Browne possessed few ideological differences between each other. But in their presidential campaigns and voter outreach, they were very different in their choice of strategies. Analyzing their successes—and mistakes—is an important component of forming the best libertarian pitch going into 2021 and beyond.

Denver’s Replacement of Cops With Mental Health Workers Has a 100% Success Rate

Denver’s Replacement of Cops With Mental Health Workers Has a 100% Success Rate

As The Free Thought Project has previously reported, the Virginia-based Treatment Advocacy Center, an organization dedicated to eliminating the barriers faced by those with severe mental illnesses, released a jaw-dropping report in regard to police interactions with the mentally ill. In their report titled, Overlooked in the Undercounted: The Role of Mental Illness in Fatal Law Enforcement Encountersresearchers discovered that people with an untreated mental illness are16 times more likely to be killed during an interaction with police than anyone else.

According to the study, by all accounts—official and unofficial—a minimum of 1 in 4 fatal police encounters ends the life of an individual with severe mental illness.

Where official government data regarding police shootings and mental illness have been analyzed – in one U.S. city and several other Western countries – the findings indicate that mental health disorders are a factor in as many as 1 in 2 fatal law enforcement encounters.

This startling number highlights a critical problem with police and how they handle incidents with the mentally ill and it explains why so many people who simply need help, receive bullets instead.

“If this were any other medical condition, people would be up in arms,” John Snook, the report’s co-author and executive director of the Treatment Advocacy Center said.

One would assume that since these numbers are so great, police have taken action and are training their officers to interact with the mentally ill. However, one would be wrong. Even cops who voluntarily attend Crisis Intervention Training (CIT), have shown that they are quick to the trigger when dealing with the mentally ill.

As The Free Thought Project has pointed out in the past, the overwhelming majority of time spent by police during training is devoted to shooting their weapons. Very little time is set aside for training in de-escalation tactics, and most departments receive zero training in dealing with the mentally ill.

The list of unarmed and often completely innocent mentally ill people killed by police is immense. TFTP archives are full of tragic stories in which police were called to help someone in a crisis and end up murdering them. People are killed even when they aren’t in a crisis and simply act differently like Elijah McClain, who was on his way home from buying groceries and was murdered by police because he was an introvert and wore a ski mask.

Instead of attempting to save the sinking ship that is cops responding to mental health crises, some municipalities are thinking outside of the box. Denver, Colorado is one such place. After the George Floyd protests sparked the debate the problem of police killing the mentally ill was pushed to the forefront of the conversation and many municipalities like Denver asked the question, should trained gunman, whose only tool is violent escalation, be the first line of response to those in a mental health crisis?

The obvious answer to that question is no. The over whelming majority of calls involving mentally ill people do not involve crimes, so why on Earth would we send in armed state agents to address them?

On June 1, Denver began the Support Team Assistance Response (STAR) program, which sends a mental health professional and a paramedic to some 911 calls instead of cops. According to their latest data, STAR has responded to nearly 400 calls to 911 in which police would have normally been sent out. The STAR team — armed only with experience and compassion — has never once called police to back them up.

They have settled every single call without killing someone, beating them, ruining their lives, or using violence. Imagine that.

“We’re really trying to create true alternatives to us using police and jails,” said Vinnie Cervantes with Denver Alliance for Street Health Response, one of the organizations that helped start the program.

“It really kind of proves that we’ve been working for the right thing, and that these ideas are getting the recognition they should,” Cervantes said.

This situation is a win win as it also frees up police time so they can focus on actual crimes like rape, theft, and violence.

“It’s the future of law enforcement, taking a public health view on public safety,” Denver police Chief Paul Pazen said. “We want to meet people where they are and address those needs and address those needs outside of the criminal justice system.”

Carleigh Sailon from the Mental Health Center of Denver—who has responded to many of these calls, spoke to lx.com last week to explain the program’s success.

Those who have called for help or to report someone slumped against a fence, camped out on private property, or simply talking to themselves, are impressed when the STAR team shows up and resolves the problem without tasering, choking, or shooting anyone.

“We’ve gotten great feedback from the community, from individuals who’ve said that this felt really comfortable, really supportive, that we were able to show up and offer other solutions that were really helpful in that moment,” Sailon told lx.com. “People have been just overwhelmingly positive and very accepting of the options that we have to offer. And kind of surprised, I think, too, that a social worker and a medic kind of hop out of this van in street clothes and are there to help vs. police or an ambulance.”

When we hear catch phrases like “defund the police,” this is what it’s about. The apologist crowd says things like, “let me know how it turns out when you send a social worker to deal with a violent criminal” in an attempt to discredit this movement but as more cities like Denver continue to show a 100% non-violent success record, that crowd looks sillier and sillier.

The idea of a state function shifting its focus from violence to compassion is revolutionary on many fronts. While a 100% success record nationwide is unlikely, it is obvious that this is the direction in which we need to head.

Matt Agorist is an honorably discharged veteran of the USMC and former intelligence operator directly tasked by the NSA. This prior experience gives him unique insight into the world of government corruption and the American police state. Agorist has been an independent journalist for over a decade and has been featured on mainstream networks around the world. Agorist is also the Editor-at-Large at the Free Thought Project. Follow @MattAgorist on TwitterSteemit, and now on Minds. This article was originally featured at The Free Thought Project and is republished with permission.

Gretchen Whitmer Is Both a Victim and Perpetrator of Terror

Gretchen Whitmer Is Both a Victim and Perpetrator of Terror

#StopTrumpsTerror is one of the hottest trending topics on Twitter, with more than 90,000 tweets. Yesterday, the FBI announced the arrest of six people yesterday in a plot (perhaps government-hatched) to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and put her on trial for treason for destroying the state’s economy with the lockdowns she imposed. Seven other individuals were arrested and charged with violating Michigan’s anti-terrorism law.

Trump had no connection to the plot, and at least one of the alleged plotters denounced Trump as a “tyrant” and “the enemy.” But Trump’s condemnations of lockdowns was enough for Gov. Whitmer to denounce Trump yesterday as “complicit” with the plotters. She derided Trump for spending “the past 7 months denying science, ignoring his own health experts, stoking distrust, fomenting anger and giving comfort to those who spread fear and hatred and division.” Former FBI official Frank Figliuzzi told MSNBC that Donald Trump should be investigated for “aiding and abetting” the Michigan plot.

Whitmer, one of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s favorite governors, enraged many Michiganders by locking down the state after the outbreak of COVID-19. Whitmer placed almost the entire state under house arrest, dictating a $1,000 fine for anyone who left their home to visit family or friends. Business owners faced up to three years in prison for refusing to close their operations. Whitmer severely restricted what stores could sell and prohibited purchasing seeds for spring planting after she decreed that a “nonessential” activity. (Purchasing state lottery tickets was still an “essential” activity.) Though Covid infections were concentrated in the Detroit metropolitan area, Whitmer shut down the entire state—including northern counties with few cases, boosting unemployment to 24 percent statewide. In a tweet yesterday, Trump said Whitmer “has done a terrible job. She locked down her state for everyone, except her husband’s boating activities.”

Whitmer’s actions infuriated many Michiganders and no informants were necessary to spur much of the anti-government rhetoric recited in the federal indictment yesterday. Plenty of hotheads say things online or in allegedly encrypted messages that look menacing or idiotic in cold print afterwards. Threatening violence against government officials—or anyone else—is reprehensible. But how far did those guys move to actually carrying out their plot? Last month, some of the conspirators “drove to the area surrounding the [Whitmer vacation] residence and discussed detonating explosives to divert police—even checking the underside of a bridge for spots to place a charge,” as the Washington Post summarized the indictment.

The FBI admits that it paid one informant $8,600, and there may be other payments that are revealed in the coming days or weeks. FBI agents have been taught that subjects of FBI investigations “have forfeited their right to the truth,” which helps explain the vast increase in federal entrapment operations in recent decades. Trevor Aaronson, author of The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI’s Manufactured War on Terrorism, estimated that only about 1% of the 500 people charged with international terrorism offenses in the decade after 9/11 were bona fide threats. Thirty times as many were induced by the FBI to behave in ways that prompted their arrest. The bureau’s informant program extends far beyond Muslims. It bankrolled an extremist right-wing New Jersey blogger and radio host for five years before his 2009 arrest for threatening federal judges. A long-term FBI informant organized the Ku Klux Klan rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in July 2017.

The alleged Michigan plot is almost too idiotic to believe. The alleged conspirators purportedly planned to kidnap Gov. Whitmer and take her to Wisconsin for a private trial. This is on par with the 2006 FBI-fabricated terror plot of the Liberty City Seven, where an informant swayed a bunch of dimwits to babble about blowing up government buildings. That group was so knuckle-headed that they asked the informant for military uniforms and wanted to conduct a parade.

The Michigan conspirators are receiving vastly more coverage than a recent Michigan Supreme Court decision, which effectively labeled Whitmer a lawless dictator who had extended a “state of emergency” far beyond what an unconstitutional state law allowed. Instead of obeying the ruling of the highest state court, Whitmer responded by having the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services issue “new COVID-19 emergency orders that are nearly identical to her invalidated emergency orders,” as the Mackinac Center noted.

Four months earlier, the Michigan Court of Claims condemned Whitmer for contorting a Michigan workplace safety law to unjustifiably inflict additional penalties on businesses and individuals who failed to submit to her pandemic commands.

But, according to the media, locking down Michigan isn’t tyranny—it is public service.

Anyone who protests or heartily condemns lockdowns will also be presumed collectively guilty with the Michigan plotters. The same media moral framework will likely be used to exonerate new lockdowns that may be imposed in the name of curbing COVID-19. Earlier this week, many pundits denounced Trump as a would-be Mussolini for his statement on the White House balcony after he returned from Walter Reed Hospital. Commentators were horrified that Trump, who was standing outside not close to anyone, removed his facemask.

If Biden is elected president and fulfills his promise to impose a national facemask mandate or dictates a national shutdown of the economy, such actions will be portrayed as benevolence at its best, rather than the most foolhardy federal interventions since the 55 mile per hour speed limit.

Will the Michigan plot be touted by the media to valorize every government official who placed any American under house arrest in response to the pandemic? It is possible to heartily condemn both nitwit conspirators and oppressive politicians. Unfortunately, the media will likely pay far more attention to the bluster of boneheads than to actual devastation produced by unjustified shutdowns.

This article was originally featured at the American Institute for Economic Research and is republished with permission.

Why the NRA Should Seek Refuge Outside New York

Why the NRA Should Seek Refuge Outside New York

The state of New York has wasted no time reminding Americans about its pathological disregard for personal freedom.

Its COVID-19 lockdown policies were among the most heavy-handed responses implemented by a state government in the country. Controversies surrounding the state government’s decision to place recovering COVID patients in retirement homes, arguably a major factor behind the state’s deadly retirement home outbreak, were major black eyes for Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration. The Empire State’s overreach hasn’t been confined to COVID-19, though.

New York policymakers are taking crisis opportunism to another level by attempting to dissolve the National Rifle Association. Led by New York State Attorney General Letitia James, the state of New York moved forward with a lawsuit last month in an attempt to gut the organization during a time when the NRA is mired in financial scandals. The New York suit alleges that the NRA has been involved in extensive cases of misallocation of funds and corruption, therefore requiring the state to dissolve America’s oldest and most powerful gun lobby.

How Bureaucrats Target Their Ideological Enemies

While state governments have the power to investigate organizations for potentially defrauding donors, the case the state of New York is pursuing against the NRA reeks of political grandstanding. The NRA is an easy target for the Left, which is ecstatic about any opportunity to demonize gun owners and institutions that encourage lawful use of firearms. In the case of New York Attorney General James, her record of antigun crusading speaks for itself. While in her previous position as a public advocate for New York City, James attempted to force banks to break their ties with firearms manufacturers after the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016. James is a politician with an ax to grind, and the current COVID-19 lockdown hysteria gives her an opportunity to poke a “deplorable” group in the eye.

The NRA is no steadfast paladin of gun freedom, at least when compared to hard-line rivals or the many grassroots organizations that don’t rely on big donor money to stay afloat. Be that as it may, its recent confrontation with New York’s state government should concern any organization advocating for even stronger firearm-related freedoms.

Previously, I wrote about the increasingly politicized nature of the political speech and activities that nonprofit organizations participate in. Historically, politicians have used the levers of tax power to harass political organizations that rub them the wrong way. It wasn’t too long ago that the Obama administration’s IRS made went after Tea Party organizations and excessively scrutinized their internal operations. While the IRS issued an apology for its behavior during the Obama years, the threat of government sticking its nose in the affairs of political organizations is still present at all levels. For now, activist state governments will be more than happy to make people’s lives miserable.

Gun owners face threats from all corners—from state and nonstate actors. To mitigate these threats, it would be wise for Second Amendment organizations to go where free speech and political organization are treated best. As riots across have vividly demonstrated, we cannot assume all jurisdictions will uphold their side of the proverbial “social contract” and protect basic liberties. Mises Institute President Jeff Deist candidly observed, “Selective prosecution and selective nonprosecution are terrifying features of the crappy U.S. justice system. Any of us could have our lives ruined tomorrow by a political DA.”

Politicians are picking up on the divergent political paths states are taking. South Dakota governor Kristi Noem made a name for herself by refusing to enact a statewide lockdown. Similarly, Arkansas attorney general Leslie Rutledge came to the NRA’s defense by penning a piece for NBC News condemning her New York counterpart and demonstrating how her state offers more favorable conditions for gun owners and advocacy for the concept. After all, Arkansas is a constitutional carry state and is not going to go out of its way to persecute political organizations for wrongthink by using the excuses of campaign finance violations or trumped-up charges of misuse of funds.

The NRA’s current dilemma is emblematic of our political era—mass polarization and a widening gulf between the values of states dominated by major urban centers and those with more rural constituencies. Let’s face it: New York hasn’t been a gun-friendly jurisdiction in recent decades. From New York City’s assault weapons ban during the early 1990s to the passage of the SAFE Act in 2013, which established universal background checks and broadened the definition of so-called assault weapons, the State of New York has demonstrated a clear antipathy toward gun ownership. It is no surprise that it’s ranked dead last according to Guns and Ammo magazine’s annual rankings for gun friendliness.

The Benefits of Decentralization

America’s federalism still provides a fallback option for Americans living in states that are hostile to economic and cultural interests. If states become overzealous in their policymaking, people can vote with their feet by moving to states that are friendlier to personal and economic freedoms. We are already witnessing this trend in action, as 6 million Americans have already left states like California in the past decade for more business-friendly and affordable places such as Arizona, Colorado, and Texas. So, the movement of people is not just a hypothetical scenario in today’s climate of polarization.

President Donald Trump sagaciously suggested the NRA move its headquarters to Texas, a state known for its gun culture and policies that are receptive toward lawful gun ownership. From 2020 and beyond, many gun owners will have to grapple with the grim reality that certain jurisdictions will not be amicable toward wedge issues that span the spectrum from abortion to gun ownership. A number of gun owners have already gotten the memo and have begun to explore unorthodox ways of getting around the existential threat of gun control in their respective localities. Some have launched the notorious Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions movement. Although there are legitimate critiques about the efficacy of said sanctuary movements, gun owners are at least getting into the right mindset of using local action to effect change as opposed to waiting for the Executive Branch or the Supreme Court to save them. Moreover, some have rocked the boat even further by suggesting state lines be redrawn. For example, West Virginia invited rural counties of Virginia to join the state, while disgruntled residents of Oregon and Northern California are attempting to break away from their respective states to become part of a Greater Idaho that better represents their values.

More states should make it a point to differentiate themselves from progressive bastions. Americans can see for themselves that there are other jurisdictions in the country that treat certain freedoms better than others. The potential loss of a significant portion of their tax base could be enough for blue states to start to reconsider their divisive policies. The question is, Are they ready to see the error of their ways?

We will have to see.

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

TGIF: Is Socialism Good in Theory?

TGIF: Is Socialism Good in Theory?

This is an expanded version of something I wrote for The Freeman, October 2003, during my tenure as the editor.

Socialism has been mortally discredited on economic grounds, thanks to Ludwig von Mises, F. A. Hayek, and history. But for many people it has not been discredited on moral grounds. You can tell this by how often people say that while socialism doesn’t work in practice, it is good, even beautiful, in theory. (Even Thomas Sowell has said that.)

Strange notion—that a theory which doesn’t work in the world can somehow still be good. Where else is it to be judged? William Graham Sumner, I believe, pointed out the contradiction: there must be a good theory that explains the system that does work in practice, but that theory would conflict with the other theory also held to be good. So we end up with two good but conflicting theories. Something is wrong.

Moreover, one would think that a theory whose consistent realization requires gulags, secret police, and terror would be morally disqualified even if by some weird standard it “worked.” (Notice that Mussolini gets no break for having the trains run on time–as well he shouldn’t.)

I guess the people who say socialism is good in theory really mean they regret that it doesn’t work without the attendant unpleasantness. Why should that be regrettable? The typical answer is that in socialist theory people are not acquisitive or self-regarding; they are more concerned about others. (Right.) The regret about socialism turns out to be a regret about human nature.

Leaving aside the facts that the taint on self-interest is assumed not established and that one prospers in free markets by competitively and imaginatively attending to others, is statement regarding socialism socialism and self-interest valid? Originally socialism promised a superabundance of goods—so much of everything that no one would have to do without anything. That would make sharing unnecessary because scarcity would be abolished. Wasn’t that an appeal to acquisitiveness, even gluttony? To be sure, socialism’s miserable record in providing for consumers compelled its advocates to discover the “age of limits,” but that was only to make a virtue of necessity.

Socialism of course did promise to reconstruct humanity, but the message was always mixed. It promised to subordinate individuals to the service of society while also liberating them to be fully themselves—free of the necessity to make a living. Leon Trotsky wrote that “Communist man … will become immeasurably stronger, wiser and subtler; his body will become more harmonized, his movements more rhythmic, his voice more musical. The forms of life will become dynamically dramatic. The average human type will rise to the heights of an Aristotle, a Goethe, or a Marx.”

But the nice Bolshevik also said, “In a country where the sole employer is the State, opposition means death by slow starvation. The old principle: who does not work shall not eat, has been replaced by a new one: who does not obey shall not eat.”

Was the new Socialist Man to be a self-centered achiever or a group-centered worker bee? It was never clear how both could be accomplished.

Maybe all that people mean when they lament socialism’s impracticality is that the theory held out hope for an end to material inequality. As intellectual historian Ralph Raico reminded us, it didn’t exactly do that. Marx promised only “to each according to his need.” He never said we all have the same needs. Besides, it is markets not socialism that have achieved essential material equality. As George Mason University Professor Donald Boudreaux has written:

Do a mental experiment. Imagine resurrecting an ancestor from the year 1700 and showing him a typical day in the life of Bill Gates. The opulence would obviously astonish your ancestor, but a good guess is that the features of Gates’s life that would make the deepest impression are that he and his family never worry about starving to death; that they bathe daily; that they have several changes of clean clothes; that they have clean and healthy teeth; that diseases such as smallpox, polio, diphtheria, tuberculosis, tetanus, and pertussis present no substantial risks; that Melinda Gates’s chances of dying during childbirth are about one-sixtieth what they would have been in 1700; that each child born to the Gateses is about 40 times more likely than a pre-industrial child to survive infancy; that the Gateses have a household refrigerator and freezer (not to mention microwave oven, dishwasher, and radios and televisions); that the Gateses’s work week is only five days and that the family takes several weeks of vacation each year; that each of the Gates children will receive more than a decade of formal schooling; that the Gateses routinely travel through the air to distant lands in a matter of hours; that they effortlessly converse with people miles or oceans away; that they frequently enjoy the world’s greatest actors’ and actresses’ stunning performances; that the Gateses can, whenever and wherever they please, listen to a Beethoven piano sonata, a Puccini opera, or a Frank Sinatra ballad.

In short, what would likely most impress a visitor from the past about Bill Gates’s life are precisely those modern advantages that are not unique to Bill Gates–advantages now enjoyed by nearly all Americans.

And while we modern Americans focus on how much more money Bill Gates has than the rest of us, our time-traveler would likely find the differences separating Gates from average Americans to be much smaller than the gargantuan differences between his own preindustrial life and that of today’s ordinary Americans.

He would also likely find the wealth differences between ordinary Americans and the richest Americans trivial compared to the differences between most preindustrial folk and the royalty who ruled them.

Moreover, as Michael Cox and Richard Alm have shown, the number of hours it takes the average worker to earn enough to buy virtually anything has shrunk dramatically over the decades. (Using work time as the standard avoids the problem of comparing prices in the light of inflation.) This progress is even more dramatic than it seems when you consider how much better goods are today.  And let’s not forget all the things that average earners own that did not exist in, say in the 1970s, the passing of which many state socialism oddly seem to lament.

As Cox wrote in an update to his and Alm’s 1999 work:

At the average wage, a VCR fell from 365 hours in 1972 to a mere two hours today. A cellphone dropped from 456 hours in 1984 to four hours. A personal computer, jazzed up with thousands of times the computing power of the 1984 I.B.M., declined from 435 hours to 25 hours. Even cars are taking a smaller toll on our bank accounts: in the past decade, the work‐​time price of a mid‐​size Ford sedan declined by 6 percent.

Simply put, we get more and better services from our products for less and less toil–in other words, we get lots of stuff for free. The great liberal Frédéric Bastiat explained this in the first half of the 19th century in his magnum opus, Economic Harmonies, especially chapter 11, “Private Property and Common Wealth.” (I discuss this in my book What Social Animals Owe to Each Other, chapter 18.) 

The ugliness of socialist theory now comes into focus. Under individualist and free-market theory (and practice) each person is free to determine his own needs and, through the division of labor and voluntary exchange, to produce what’s required to satisfy them. (As the Spanish proverb has it, “Take what you want and pay for it.”) Under socialist theory the individual’s needs are determined and “satisfied” collectively, i.e., coercively. Dissent and venturing out on one’s own are not options. As Trotsky chillingly acknowledged, everyone is an employee and tenant of the collective—that is, the state.

It’s a mystery why anyone would find that theory beautiful or regret that it doesn’t work.

TGIF–The Goal Is Freedom–appears occasionally on Fridays.

Where the Fourth Wave Went Wrong

Where the Fourth Wave Went Wrong

The recent deaths of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and pop singer Helen Reddy provide an opportunity to take stock of the fourth-wave of the feminist movement, and how dramatically it has changed since the intial achievements of the second-wave (circa 1960-1990)

Ginsburg’s first major court case as an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) attorney was Reed v. Reed (1971), in which the ACLU argued that Idaho’s legalized preference for male administrators of estates violated the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause, on the basis of sex. When the case reached the U.S. Supreme Court, Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote a unanimous 7-0 opinion striking down Idaho’s law. The Reed decision began the movement towards gender-neutral law and almost overnight required the rewording of hundreds of state and federal statutes.

Although the U.S. Constitution doesn’t include an equal rights amendment, the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment currently functions as a robust substitute. Almost all gender-based legal classifications are viewed as inherently suspect by courts today, subject to strict judicial scrutiny. The movement toward gender-blind law began with Reed v. Reed and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

While Ginsburg was advancing feminism legally, Helen Reddy was contributing culturally. Reddy’s breakout musical recording came in 1972 with her signature song “I Am Woman” which reached number one on the Billboard music charts in December of that year. The song’s opening lyrics “I am woman, hear me roar …” and its closing lyrics “I am strong, I am invincible, I am woman …” are a paean to female empowerment. And when she accepted the Grammy Award for for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance of 1972, Reddy notably thanked God “because She makes everything possible.” Reddy’s song enshrined the narrative that women are strong, independent beings who shouldn’t aspire to be clinging vines, their lives revolving around the men in their life.

Consequently, two pillars of second-wave feminism were that 1) gender-neutral law should replace existing gender-specific “protective” legislation, statutes which ultimately hindered the advancement of women; and 2) the sexual revolution, with its emphasis on reproductive rights (abortion) and female sexual agency, was a positive force for women’s liberation.

The year after the Reed decision in 1972, the civil rights law Title IX was passed in Congress to ensure that, “No person in the United States shall, based on sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Title IX reinforced the concept of gender-neutral law.

And the commercial introduction in 1960 of birth control pills (“the pill”), followed a few years later by women’s increased access to safe and legal abortion, ushered in the sexual revolution and granted women reproductive rights and control over their bodies.

Similarly, the late 1960s witnessed a broad movement across the United States towards coed schools, universities, and workplaces. Women joined police forces, fire departments, and beginning in 1976, the military, naval and air force academies. On college campuses, coed dormitories began replacing male-only dorms and female “virgin vaults,” the latter of which often implemented strict curfews, hours generally not enforced in male dorms. And the abandonment by colleges of in loco parentis, while facially gender-neutral, impacted women even more beneficially than men, acknowledging that females should be granted agency over their personal life decisions. Finally, during second-wave feminism, women began to exercise more autonomy over the selections of their romantic and sexual partners, including their partners’ race, class, gender and religion, choices which before were often overridden by the wishes of their family and parents.

In short, second-wave feminism embraced strong, independent women—females who could perform “men’s jobs” and women who didn’t need men “protecting” them by legally controlling their options over which career paths to pursue, for example, and which men (or women) to date, have sex with and marry. Second-wave feminists told the government to keep your laws off my body and out of my bedroom.

The heroic battles for these gender paradigm shifts were led by second-wave feminists, usually against the opposition of conservative societal forces.

And by any objective measure, today the feminist goals of 1970 have been completely realized. Today, 12.8% of police officers in the U.S. and 8% of firefighters are women, 16% of the U.S. military is female, along with 56% of college students, 53% of U.S. law school students and 50.5% of U.S. medical school students. Even the purported gender wage gap, properly analyzed, is now a relic of the past.

And although the #MeToo movement mourned the deaths of Ginsburg and Reddy, the battles currently being waged by fourth-wave feminists could ultimately reverse many of the hard-fought gains of second-wave feminism.

This is because today’s #MeToo movement has replaced the second-wave feminist view of women as strong, empowered females possessing agency with a depiction of women as the subordinate gender, oppressed victims in an inherently conflictual relationship with the dominant gender (men). For example, the views of law professor Catharine MacKinnon of the University of Michigan and the late feminist scholar Andrea Dworkin, perspectives which can loosely be described as critical gender theory, are now the reigning orthodoxy among contemporary feminists. In 1987, MacKinnon argued that “Politically, I call it rape whenever a woman has sex and feels violated…To me, part of the culture of sexual inequality that makes women not report rape is that the definition of rape is not based on our sense of our violation…” Later in 1989, Dworkin described male penetration of a female during consensual sexual intercourse as a form of “occupation” and a “violation of female boundaries.”

Consequently, to #MeToo feminists, whenever American women today interact with men, they always “get screwed.” Even during consensual sex. This is a return to the antiquated view of sex as something men do to women, instead of the modern notion of sex as something men do with women. And it’s a corollary to the argument made by many progressives today that workers, no matter how well-paid, are always “screwed” by owners and capitalists.

And if the woman is younger and less powerful than her male sex partner, even her ability to grant consent is now called into question. For example, the Clinton-Lewinsky sex scandal of the 1990s is now being re-interpreted through an intersectional lens, with Monica Lewinsky now portrayed as the victim of an older, more powerful male, Bill Clinton. This is despite evidence suggesting that it was Lewinsky who pursued a sexual relationship with Clinton, when she was 24, to “get her presidential kneepads.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, the #MeToo movement has not yet taken to task Brigitte Trogneux, the wife of current French president Emmanual Macron, who began a romantic relationship with Macron in 1994 when he was 16 and she was 41 and married to another man.

College campuses are where the impact of fourth-wave feminism is most acutely felt. The last quarter century has seen the rise at American universities of a Title IX industrial complex, even though females today are overrepresented at universities. And although Title IX was originally intended to address sex-based discrimination in American education, the issues of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment have become the primary focus of today’s ever-expanding Title IX offices. This inspite of the fact that the overall rape rate in the U.S. has fallen by more than 25% since 1990, while during the same period the definitions of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment were expanded. Evidence also suggests that college women today are underrepresented among rape and sexual assault victims in the overall 18-24 year-old American female population.

Critical gender theory is so pervasive in today’s Title IX offices that even the definitions of rape and sexual assault are now considered subjective enough to be in the eye of the beholder. In their much-overlooked 2017 book The Campus Rape Frenzy, KC Johnson and Stuart Taylor, Jr. cogently note that reports of rape and sexual assault are significantly higher at elite universities, which are more likely to teach critical gender theory, than they are at state universities and community colleges. This suggests that female students who are adherents of critical gender theory, which holds that the United States is a sexist, patriarchical society, are more likely to define as rape or sexual assault a male date trying to reach third base or home plate with them. On pp. 48-49 of The Campus Rape Frenzy, Johnson & Taylor note that in 2014, “…one in every 181 female undergraduates at Ivy League universities reported to their university that they had been raped…That’s more than three times the rate—one in 665—at nearby non-elite institutions.” Johnson and Taylor surmise that “[T]he difference in reporting rates is due to the fact that moral panic about sexual assault is most feverish at institutions where identity-politics activism is most prevalent.” This suggests that the subjects of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment have become thoroughly politicized in the U.S. today, with even the terms and definitions of these subjects much less objective than in the past.

Third-wave feminism (circa 1990-2010) ushered in the transition from the second-wave feminist vision of women as strong, independent beings to the current fourth-wave view of women as the subordinate gender, oppressed by a patriarchal, misogynistic American society. Perhaps the first instance of this development was the 1991 Anita Hill testimony during the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Hill testified that Thomas had sexually harassed her when she worked for him during the early 1980s. She first worked for Thomas in 1981 at the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights and the next year she followed him to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission when Thomas became chairman in 1982. In her testimony, Hill claimed that the harassment consisted of Thomas asking her out for dates numerous times and Thomas discussing sexual matters in her presence.

Hill was the first prominent feminist to argue that a boss asking her out socially and/or discussing sex with her at work constituted sexual harassment. Before the late 1980s, sexual harassment was narrowly defined as quid pro quo sexual bribery, with payment rendered in the form of sex instead of money. In this conception of sexual harassment, instead of the most qualified persons being hired, retained, or promoted, a company’s jobs are filled by workers willing to pay their boss under the table through sexual favors. Consequently, in this scenario the boss is defrauding the company and honest workers should report him to his superiors. Like any form of private workplace corruption, if discovered by the company, quid pro quo sexual bribery almost always ends in termination for both the boss and the worker if the bribe was mutually arranged, or the firing of only the boss if s/he offered the bribe arrangement to an unwilling, incorruptible worker. Note that with this narrowly drawn definition of sexual harassment, companies have a built-in incentive to stamp it out since they want to employ the most qualified people. Also, workers shouldn’t feel hesitant about reporting what is essentially internal company fraud. And with this properly defined concept of sexual harassment, there’s no need for heavy government regulation of internal company practices.

But in 1986, in Meritor Savings Bank, FSB v. Vinson, a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court—broadly interpreting Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act—added the vague, nebulous concept of “hostile working environment” to the quid pro quo component of sexual harassment. Since almost any statement or action of an overbearing boss or an unfiltered co-worker could constitute a “hostile working environment,” it was only a matter of time before someone like Anita Hill would claim “hostility” or “discomfort” from requests for dates or “unwanted” private discussions of sexual matters in the workplace, which is a daily occurrence at thousands of American companies. Also, many senators questioned the severity of Hill’s harassment claims since she followed Thomas from the Dept. of Education to the EEOC. Hill even stayed in contact with Thomas after she no longer worked for him. The Justice was eventually confirmed by a narrow 52-48 Senate vote.

Anita Hill’s charges were followed in 2002 by Rachel Witlieb Bernstein, a former Fox News producer who received a confidential settlement from Bill O’Reilly who made her feel uncomfortable as a woman for allegedly shouting at her while she worked for him at the O’Reilly Factor. Unlike other women who sued O’Reilly for sexual harassment, Bernstein didn’t allege that O’Reilly made sexual advances toward her. Unfortunately, Bernstein and her lawyers successfully argued that expressions of anger from an overbearing, demanding male boss like O’Reilly constituted “gender” harassment of women.

But the floodgates of the greatly-expanded conception of sexual harassment didn’t open until the advent of the #MeToo movement in October 2017 during feminism’s current fourth-wave (circa 2012-Present). Many powerful men were terminated from their jobs, often without much due process, for having engaged in consensual relationships with female co-workers, sometimes decades earlier. The firing of Matt Lauer, the former NBC News anchor, is a case-in-point. And the women making the allegations often sound like Howard Zinn or Bernie Sanders, with claims that the power asymmetries and power imbalances between themselves and their older male partners invalidated their consent.

Some surveys show that more than a third of Americans have dated someone from work, so it’s imperative that we settle on an objective, narrowly drawn definition of sexual harassment. If not, unmeritorious and frivolous claims of sexual harassment—subjectively defined, such as many made by fourth-wave feminists in the #MeToo era—will necessarily increase government intervention in the daily interactions between employees at millions of American businesses.

A few post #MeToo examples from millennial women further illustrate how many young females today are chafing at the freedom achieved by second-wave feminists like Ginsburg and Reddy as they stretch the concepts of sexual harassment and sexual assault to their breaking points. In this viral YouTube video from 2018, a 21-year-old Georgia waitress was “hailed as a hero” for attacking a male customer at work who pinched her buttocks. Since the entire incident was captured on the restaurant’s video camera, the police were called and the man was arrested. While murders, robberies, and rapes were occurring in other parts of Savannah, Georgia, the local police were arresting a man for making non-verbal advances towards an uninterested female. And in this opinion piece in a September 2019 issue of The Daily Texan—the student newspaper at the University of Texas at Austin—columnist Jennifer Beck argued that “[U]nwanted advances and stares [at females at the school gym] are examples of predatory behavior and should be treated as such.” Beck never explains how a man can discover whether a stare is unwanted or not until he advances, at which point it’s too late. He’s a predator even if he immediately backs off. So much for due process. Another opinion piece in the same student daily from late 2018 argued for a return to a female-only section of the school gym, utilizing many of the same “you gotta keep ‘em separated” arguments made by anti-feminist conservatives in the 1960s against coeducation.

The argument that “unwanted” advances make women “uncomfortable” and therefore requires government intervention into the most private forms of human interaction, including romantic and sexual relationships, is an attack on freedom itself. Freedom includes the freedom to fail and in the context of dating and sex in the post-sexual revolution age, freedom means that many women today will have to kiss a lot of frogs before finding their Prince Charming. Freedom also means that many desirable women and men will have to deal with an abundance of romantic offers and sexual advances from persons they have absolutely no interest in. Second-wave feminists, unlike today’s feminists, understood this. They remember the pre-sexual revolution days of chaperoned dates, with fathers and older brothers choosing which men were suitable for them. Maybe that’s why they fought so hard for agency over their relationships and sex ,and for coed colleges, dorms, and workplaces, realizing that this newfound freedom would often be accompanied by unwanted offers and advances. Freedom always does. It’s unfortunate that today’s fourth-wave feminists are so casually willing to toy with throwing away many of the hard-fought gains of second-wave feminists like Ginsburg and Reddy.

Also, many fourth-wave feminists don’t grasp the irony that if a young college woman today can study to be a police officer or a firefighter, attend one of the nation’s military academies and even fight in combat, then surely she can handle a date trying to get to third base with her without labeling it sexual assault and filing a Title IX complaint. And if she does file a Title IX complaint, certainly she is strong enough to handle cross examination of her accusations, ensuring some due process rights to her alleged assailant. And surely she’s not so delicate that even before her Title IX case concludes, her alleged perpetrator must be kicked out of the dorm she shares with him and be forced to drop any classes they are both enrolled in.

In the final analysis, both women and men today who are interested in long-term gender equality must work for a return to the central goal of second-wave feminists like Ginsburg and Reddy—a world of strong, independent women who favor gender-neutral law and wish for the government and college Title IX offices to keep their laws off their bodies and out of their bedrooms.

Clark Patterson is a freelance writer based in Austin, Texas. Email him at clarkryanpatterson@gmail.com

Home for Christmas: Trump’s New Promise to U.S. Troops in Afghanistan

Home for Christmas: Trump’s New Promise to U.S. Troops in Afghanistan

On Wednesday, President Trump made a new comment on the pullout of Afghanistan, saying that it is now his intention to have all remaining U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by Christmas. That’s substantially sooner than previous statements on the matter.

This seems to be a very recent policy change. Just hours before Trump’s comments, the national security adviser said that there would still be 2,500 US troops left in Afghanistan by early 2021. This is roughly in line with previous comments on the matter.

Troop cuts in October and November are intended to get troop levels to around 4,500 in November, a goal that the Trump Administration has pushed for some time. With troop cuts ahead of schedule, even more cuts were possible.

Having the last troops out of Afghanistan by Christmas puts even more pressure on the Afghan government and Taliban to make good on efforts to make a deal, at least on a framework, or risk a new round of violence.

This article was originally featured at Antiwar.com and is republished with permission.

Police Threaten to Quit If Public Keeps Demanding Accountability

Police Threaten to Quit If Public Keeps Demanding Accountability

Faced with an armed assailant at the Parkland school shooting in 2018, sheriff’s deputy Josh Stambaugh ran away and hid while children were gunned down. He was later fired for his lack of action, but last month arbitrators ruled that Stambaugh must be rehired by the sheriff’s department, and he will likely receive more than $100,000 in back payIn 2018, at the time of his firing, Stambaugh earned $152,000 in base pay and overtime. It looks like he’ll soon be back on the payroll “protecting and serving” the community.

When faced with unarmed suspects, however, some police officers are quite a bit more enthusiastic. For example, when Mesa, Arizona, officer Philip Brailsford gunned down a crawling, sobbing, and unarmed man in a hotel hallway, he paid no price beyond losing his job. He was acquitted in the shooting and was soon thereafter rehired by the police department so he could claim a $31,000-per-year-for-life pension.

It is cases like these which help explain the growing popularity of police reform efforts in recent years. The public is becoming increasingly aware of the fact that police don’t face sanctions for doing nothing to protect the public from violence. Indeed, it’s even a well-established legal principle in this country that police are under no obligation to protect the taxpayers. Meanwhile, when police open fire on unarmed members of the public, officers frequently walk free, and some even continue to get paid.

Some of this is a result of aggressive police unions, which make it extremely difficult to fire law enforcement officers like Stambaugh. State laws also have been enacted to protect police from any personal liability, far above and beyond what is enjoyed by any worker in the private sector. In short, the deck has long been stacked in favor of both police agencies and individual police officers.

In response to incidents like those involving Stambaugh and Brailsford, and countless similar cases, Colorado in 2020 passed new police reform measures. The legislation is designed to end police immunity in some cases, to mandate the use of body cameras, limit when an officer can shoot a fleeing suspect, and rein in police unions.

As we’ve noted here at mises.org, many of these reforms should have been enacted long ago.

But many police officers are apparently less than thrilled with the reforms, and police agencies are claiming they’ve been unfairly targeted, while “warning” the public that few people will now want to become law enforcement officers.

In August, for example, the Denver Post reported that more than two hundred law enforcement officers in the state had retired or resigned since the new police reform law had passed. It was strongly implied that much of this was a result of the law’s passage.

The Post article contends many law enforcement officers are quitting especially because they object to potentially being held personally liable for misconduct. The state’s reform allows for officers to be sued personally and held liable for 5 percent of any judgment or settlement against them or $25,000, whichever is less.

“I don’t want myself and my family at risk,” one police officer—a veteran who’s enjoyed a taxpayer-funded paycheck for thirty years—complained. A sheriff’s deputy claimed police are leaving because they’re being unfairly targeted by “politics” and lamented, “Who wants to be a cop anymore?”

Meanwhile, the Durango Herald, a paper in southern Colorado, reports that police say the new accountability law is “too much for them and their families.”

But there is unlikely to be a shortage of police due to “too much” accountability.

In the case of Durango, for instance, local police supervisors note “enrollment numbers are up despite current liability concerns. Last year, there were 16 or 17 cadets, but there are 20 or 22 people enrolled for the fall.” And the Post story admits the number of separations statewide is only “slightly higher” than the average. The total also included officers who were fired.

Moreover, men and woman who work in private security have never enjoyed the sorts of special legal protections that police do. This is in spite of the fact that private security work may be even more hazardous than police work. Yet, somehow, these private firms manage to find willing workers.

Nationwide, the median annual pay for police officers is well above the median overall wage. According to a 2015 report from the Marshall Project, “In 25 of 50 states, [law enforcement officers] are paid 150 percent or more of the median salary—and that’s not including their pension or the hefty sums they are provided for clocking overtime and buying equipment and uniforms.”

Nor is police work remarkably dangerous. Law enforcement isn’t in the top twenty dangerous professions and is less dangerous work than being a crossing guard, a truck driver, or a farm worker. That is, police work often pays more than many jobs that are more dangerous.

Whether or not these comparisons apply to specific police departments and sheriff’s departments in Colorado depends on local conditions, of course. But claims that police officers will be forced to quit en masse as a result of added accountability fit into a dubious national narrative. In this narrative police departments will lose their most heroic members because the police are being unfairly targeted by a public that doesn’t properly appreciate them.

As Slate reported last week:

Law enforcement officials have met calls for defunding police and protests against police violence with an implicit threat: be careful what you wish for. More officers are quitting in frustration at the lack of respect, police officials often tell the press, and public safety will surely suffer. This summer, reports of cops quitting en masse have popped up across the country: ColoradoNorth CarolinaGeorgiaIllinois, and New York City, a major center of the 2020 demonstrations.

But there’s as of yet no evidence that a mass exodus of officers will happen or is likely to happen. After all, many of the separations we hear about are officers who are retiring, and many of these were hired during the “hiring spree” in police departments during the 1990s. It’s now been more than twenty-five years for many of these officers, and it’s only natural that they’re now more than happy to retire as policing faces more scrutiny. Staff members who need to show up to earn a living, on the other hand, may find that private sector jobs—or other kinds of government employment—don’t exactly come with all the perks of being a police officer.

Nor should it be assumed fewer police officers will mean higher crime. After all, the data shows that in spite of more officers and bigger budgets in recent decades police agencies haven’t actually improved their performance.

But if police reforms such as those in Colorado are causing some officers to quit, it would seem that’s all to the good. Those officers who are most adamant about quitting when faced with added accountability are exactly the ones we’d want to leave. Those who assume they’re most likely to be on the losing end of a police brutality case aren’t exactly the sorts of people we need to stick around.

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

The Lies Behind the Oklahoma City Bombing

The Lies Behind the Oklahoma City Bombing

Despite the seemingly simple conclusion behind the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing, the investigation was exceedingly complicated. To this day, it is still the FBI’s most massive investigation, comprised of millions of pages of evidence. Careful analysis of this paper trail shows that the official narrative of the FBI and ATF is in fact a half-truth that ignores findings supported by the records. The FBI and ATF’s positions are frequently backed up with misleading statements, and in some instances, total fabrications.

In an honest investigation, there would be no reason to concoct and disseminate lies. If we believe that the FBI and ATF investigations were fair and legitimate, then we would expect to not find so many blatant examples of dishonesty. Yet, they exist: one after another, often repeated, and affirmed as truth. Some lies are small, others large. But what they have in common is a systemic problem that speaks to the very integrity of the agencies tasked with investigating this crime. The FBI is not a person suffering from a disorder that causes delusions. If an FBI or ATF official is formulating a lie, or propagating an extant lie, there is an objective.

All too often, it appears at the aim of these agencies is to conceal an inconvenient truth, to hide something that may otherwise invalidate the official narrative or camouflage something to heinous for the public to accept. Federal agencies’ overall deceptive pattern points to shared complicity or guilt, which should be of great concern.

In this essay we’ll examine some of the lies and wrongdoing that officials at the FBI and ATF have engaged in regarding their investigation(s) of the Oklahoma City bombing. I have uncovered half a dozen examples throughout investigating this case. Initially, I did not go out of my way looking for deception. It was something I continually discovered naturally. In some cases, the lies may be related to one another and will provide insight and clarity about what happened on the morning of April 19, 1995.

There Were No Eyewitnesses

I came upon the first example while reading On Scene Commander by Weldon Kennedy. Kennedy was the FBI’s first on-scene commander of the Oklahoma City bombing investigation and could be found hosting press conferences to discuss developments in the early days after the attack. In his memoir, Kennedy wrote that “this was going to be a case largely built from forensic evidence since there were no eyewitnesses.”1Kennedy, Weldon L. On-Scene Commander: From Street Agent to Deputy Director of the FBI. Potomac Books, 2007, pp. 224. (Kindle Edition)

Full stop: no eyewitnesses? This assertion is a blatant lie and should be a clue to the discerning reader that whatever the eyewitnesses saw must be important. It is surprising that Kennedy would write this, given the vast number of mainstream media reports that included eyewitness accounts2Thomas, Jo. “Sightings of John Doe No. 2: In Blast Case, Mystery No. 1.” The New York Times, 3 Dec. 1995., along with the FBI’s 302 reports that detailed eyewitness interviews. Even Kennedy himself, during his April 20, 1995 press conference, described a second suspect who was spotted alongside Timothy McVeigh: “The second man is also of medium build. He is further described as 5 feet 9 inches to 5 feet 10 inches tall, weighing approximately 175 to 180 pounds, with brown hair and a tattoo visible on his left arm, below his t-shirt sleeve. He is possibly a smoker.”3Statement by FBI Special Agent in Charge Weldon L. Kennedy. Press Release: U.S. Department of Justice, FBI. 20 Apr. 1995. Three eyewitnesses from Elliott’s Body Shop provided this description of a man who, alongside McVeigh, picked up the bomb-truck on April 17. This same suspect would be spotted with McVeigh at the crime scene on April 19.

The FBI uncovered about two dozen key eyewitnesses over the course of their investigation. These individuals observed Timothy McVeigh and the Ryder truck as it approached the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on the morning of the bombing, most of them between 8:30 AM and 9:02 AM when the bomb went off. Following the explosion, FBI agent Danny Coulson was in charge of the crime scene, occupying a position of authority similar to Weldon Kennedy as an on-scene commander. In 2007, Coulson spoke candidly to the BBC about the voluminous eyewitnesses that came forward: “We know there were 24 people that were interviewed by the FBI that said they saw Mr. McVeigh on April 19 with someone else.”4“Call to Reopen Oklahoma Bomb Case.” BBC Two, 2 Mar. 2007 <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/6275147.stm>; The Conspiracy Files: Oklahoma City, BBC. 4 Mar. 2007. Coulson’s statement is corroborated by the FBI’s 302 reports which contain the descriptions these witnesses provided agents.

For example, catering truck driver Rodney Johnson spoke to the FBI on the night of the bombing and for several days after. Johnson described how he had to slam on his truck’s brakes to avoid hitting two men running across the street as they exited the Ryder truck.5FBI 302 report. SA John Hippard. Interview w/ Rodney Johnson. 21 Apr 1995, File #174A-OC-56120 D-3253 He got a good look at both John Doe #1 and John Doe #2, and his description of the suspects matches the one given by Weldon Kennedy during his April 20 press conference. Rodney Johnson’s catering truck co-worker, Billie Hood, also saw the fleeing pair and was interviewed by the FBI.6FBI 302 report. SA John Hippard. Interview w/ Billie J. Hood. 27 Apr. 1995. FILE #174A-OC-56120 D-3428 Following McVeigh’s arrest, Johnson was re-interviewed and confirmed McVeigh was one of the two men he saw.

According to Weldon Kennedy, both Rodney Johnson and Billie Hood are the product of fever dreams “since there were no eyewitnesses.”

Another witness, Mike Moroz was interviewed by the FBI numerous times in the week after the bombing. Moroz was a mechanic working at Johnny’s Tire, an automotive repair shop located a few blocks from the Murrah Building. On the morning of the bombing, Timothy McVeigh pulled the bomb-truck into Johnny’s Tire at about 8:30am to ask for directions.7Oklahoma County Grand Jury #CJ-95-7278, testimony of Mike Moroz, September 15th, 1997; FBI 302 report. SA John Elvig. Interview w/ Mike Moroz. 21 April 1995, file #174A-OC-56120 D-68; “Man Who Says McVeigh Wasn’t Alone Testifies Before Grand Jury.” Rocky Mountain News, 16 Sept. 1997; Clay, Nolan. “Nichols’ jurors hear of McVeigh sightings.” The Daily Oklahoman, 14 May, 2004. He was looking for a one-way street downtown, a route leading to the Murrah Building. Moroz recounted the interaction to the FBI, explaining that he had spoken to McVeigh face-to-face. His co-workers, Allen Gorrell and Byron Marshall, were also interviewed and confirmed that McVeigh had stopped for directions.8FBI 302 report. SA John Elvig. Interview w/ Allen Gorrell, 24 April 1995, File #174A-OC-56120 SubD-70 and FBI 302 report. SA John Elvig and OSBI SA Terry Wade. Interview w/ Byron Marshall, 24 April 1995, File #174A-OC-56120 SubD-760

Moroz also said that McVeigh had a passenger in the Ryder truck with him. Moroz’s account was so significant that the FBI brought him downtown to their command center, where he selected Timothy McVeigh out of a live line-up the weekend following the arrest.9Trammell, Robby and Nolan Clay. “FBI Downplays Man’s Account Of Truck Driver.” The Oklahoman, 16 Aug. 1995. Print. See also: Oklahoma County Grand Jury #CJ-95-7278, testimony of Mike Moroz, September 15th, 1997. Mike Moroz would have been a damning trial witness for the prosecution, able to put Timothy McVeigh in downtown Oklahoma City and finger his destination as the Murrah Building. Rodney Johnson, too, would have been an incredible asset. He could have placed McVeigh with the Ryder truck at the Murrah Building prior to the explosion. Unfortunately, their testimonies were forsaken in favor of forensic evidence because authorities preferred to pretend they didn’t exist.

Contrary to Weldon Kennedy’s assertion, the FBI attested to these witnesses in a preliminary hearing on April 27, 1995. During his testimony, FBI agent Jon Hersley referred to the observations of both Johnson and Moroz as central to the ongoing investigation.10U.S. vs. Timothy McVeigh, № M-95–98-H (Western District of Oklahoma.) Preliminary Hearing, 27 Apr. 1995. Testimony of Jon Hersley. p 76 and p 93 However, by the time of the McVeigh and Nichols trials—and Weldon Kennedy’s book—these witnesses would disappear from the narrative, rendered nonexistent. Why? Was it because all of these eyewitnesses saw another man in the Ryder truck with McVeigh?

Rodney Johnson, Billie Hood, Mike Moroz, Alan Gorrell, and Byron Marshall are only five of the more than two dozen eyewitnesses who saw Timothy McVeigh in downtown Oklahoma City on the morning of April 19. All of these individuals—described by Danny Coulson and denied by Weldon Kennedy—have something in common: each one confirmed that they saw McVeigh with a second person. This common denominator suggests that the impetus for Kennedy’s lie about “no eyewitnesses” was a concentrated effort to avoid explaining who the man spotted with McVeigh was.

Why did the FBI want to obscure this other suspect, going so far as to lie about witnesses? What does this tell us about who this person might be? One informed and reasonable speculation is that this other suspect was an informant connected either to the FBI or other federal authorities. If this were true, the FBI would have a reason to conceal his existence.

FBI documents obtained via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) give credence to this theory. Generated during the FBI’s interviews with Terry Nichols in 2005, these documents say that Nichols was scheduled to be interviewed by then-Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), who was chairing a subcommittee tasked with writing a report on terrorism.

In a memo dated June 24, 2005, the FBI writes that, “DTOU [Domestic Terrorism Operations Unit] expressed concern regarding John Doe #2’s name surfacing during the congressman’s interview.”11Memo from FBI Denver Squad 12 to Director FBI, re Terry Lynn Nichols. June 24th, 2005. pp 11 The DTOU is the FBI unit responsible for running informants and sting operations in terrorism cases. If John Doe #2 doesn’t exist, why would the FBI’s DTOU be worried? In a separate email, the FBI’s counterterrorism (CTD) division writes that they “share DTOU’s concern about the John Doe #2 information.”12FBI email from [REDACTED] FBI Denver to [REDACTED] FBI CTD re: Congressman Rohrabacher’s interview of Terry Nichols, 27 May 2005 Why so much caution over a person that the FBI insists isn’t real?

The only scenario that makes sense is that the second suspect pegged by eyewitnesses, John Doe #2, was a federal informant. You can imagine the concern that would follow after FBI investigators discovered that the second person they were seeking was, in fact, part of their ongoing operations. This constitutes a strong motive to cover-up and obscure John Doe #2 at all costs to avoid embarrassment. Ask any retired agent, and they’ll tell you candidly that the biggest sin one can be guilty of at the FBI is embarrassing the bureau. It is only within the context of this unwritten rule that the behavior and statements of the FBI begin to make sense.

Bob Ricks Says: Nothing To See Here

Weldon Kennedy isn’t the only FBI official who has misled the public. Bob Ricks, former Special Agent in charge of the Oklahoma City FBI field office, made some curious statements to the Daily Oklahoman newspaper in October 1995. Ricks had just retired from the FBI, and the same week he left the bureau he granted an interview where he made claims we now know to be entirely false. The piece was headlined “Ricks Blames Curbs for Intelligence Gaps,”13Randy Ellis, and Diana Baldwin. “Ricks Blames Curbs for Intelligence Gaps.” The Oklahoman, 1 Oct. 1995. and has the former agent informing us that the FBI had no active counterintelligence investigations at the time of the Oklahoma City bombing. Why would Bob Ricks lie about that?

Ricks claimed that meddlesome oversight by Congress had hamstrung the FBI and rendered them incapable of gathering intelligence due to excessive red tape. He cited the FBI’s investigation of communist front groups in the 1970s, saying that “following the congressional hearings there, that pretty much took us out of the intelligence business (in the mid-1980s).” In response to criticism, Ricks claims that “we buried our head in the sand.”

His interview’s overall theme was to suggest that the FBI was unprepared for the Oklahoma City bombing because they could not—or would not—carry out intelligence-gathering operations targeting radicals. This is not true. The FBI possessed a vast network of intelligence-gathering tools at their disposal in 1995. They had confidential informants (Cis) and undercover agents (UCAs) infiltrating radical groups.14R.M. Schneiderman. “I Was an Undercover White Supremacist.” Newsweek, Nov. 2011, p. 38. They had pen-register and trap-and-trace mechanisms on the phones of specific targets that recorded inbound and outbound phone numbers.15The State of Oklahoma vs. Terry Nichols, № F-2004-68 (District Court of Pittsburg County), Terry Nichols Motion to Dismiss Based on State’s Failure to Comply w. Brady vs. Maryland, April 12 2004. They had cooperating witnesses in ongoing investigations. All of these tools allowed the FBI to infiltrate and monitor the rightwing, while available evidence indicates they actively used these methods.

In the years leading up to the Oklahoma City bombing, the FBI instituted a “Major Case Domestic Security/Terrorism Group 1 Undercover Operation” called PATCON that targeted militias and other right-wing radicals.16Schneiderman 38-48. A “Group 1 Major Case Undercover Operation” is a big deal at the bureau. It requires continual funding authorizations (based on operational performance), in-place undercover operatives, and is signed-off on by an undercover review committee. The operation’s name, PATCON, was FBI shorthand for “Patriot Conspiracy.”

At the time of Ricks’ comments to the Oklahoman, PATCON was a tightly held secret at the FBI. It would be over a decade before the operation was exposed, and its full scope is still shrouded in mystery. What can be said, based on documents released via FOIA, is that the FBI operation had infiltrated three right-wing groups located across the country with several undercover informants. They had even established their own phony “front groups” whose purpose was to network with targets. One front, a group dubbed the “Veterans Aryan Movement” (or VAM), had an agent posing as an armored car robber with connections to racist groups.17Ibid.

The FBI’s undercover agents and informants, connect to the various PATCON front groups, reported detailed intelligence on their targets, which included people and radical organizations with ideologies similar to Timothy McVeigh’s. One example is an investigation into the black-market sale of Stinger missiles and stolen military-grade night-vision goggles, items that were available for sale to mercenary groups throughout the country in the early 1990s.18Berger, J.M. “PATCON Revealed: An Exclusive Look Inside The FBI’s Secret War With the Militia Movement” Intelwire. Oct. 8, 2007; Berger, J.M. “Patriot Games: How the FBI spent a decade hunting white supremacists and missed Timothy McVeigh” Foreign Policy. April 18, 2012 Another example is how undercover PATCON agents targeted the Texas Reserve Militia/Texas Light Infantry Brigade, a militia group based in Texas with links to white supremacist Louis Beam. In the same period, undercover PATCON assets targeted the American Pistol and Rifle Association, run by Dr. John Grady. Another target was Tom Posey’s Civilian Material Assistance (CMA), an American paramilitary group from the 1980s with shadowy connections to Iran-Contra figures. These examples show that through the branches of the PATCON operation, the FBI had a vast intelligence-gathering program, the exact opposite of what Ricks said in October 1995.19Ibid.

Of course, at the time of Ricks’ comments, the operation was a guarded secret. It’s clear in retrospect that he was lying; the FBI not only had active intelligence-gathering operations, but one that was tailor-made for inciting and entrapping people like Timothy McVeigh. What was Bob Ricks’ intention when he went to the newspaper and covered up the existence of PATCON? His last act of service to the bureau, rendered unto them the same week Ricks retired, was to tell the press preemptively that something like PATCON didn’t exist.

In effect, Ricks was claiming ‘Nothing to see here, we’re not doing anything that could conceivably be connected to McVeigh.’ Now knowing that this was a lie, we must ask what Ricks was protecting when he volunteered to falsely answer a question he hadn’t yet been asked. If this deliberate deception is any indicator—remember, no matter how clumsy, every obfuscation serves a purpose—there is reason to suspect a connection between PATCON and the Oklahoma City bombing. That theory is corroborated by one of the operation’s undercover assets.

The week of the bombing, John Matthews was sitting at home with his father watching television coverage. Matthews had worked for the FBI as an undercover PATCON agent and had his story told in Newsweek, headlined “I Was an Undercover White Supremacist.” The original article contained a passage about Timothy McVeigh. Newsweek editors cut this, and many other sensitive details, from the published piece for reasons that are still unclear. The original, unedited article states that when Matthews saw McVeigh’s face on television, he recognized him.20R.M. Schneiderman. “I Was an Undercover White Supremacist.” Newsweek, Nov. 2011, Unedited Original Draft, obtained from the writer via researcher Roger Charles.

Years before the bombing, when John Matthews had infiltrated the Texas Reserve Militia, he had attended one of their many weekend paramilitary training exercises. Matthews says that it was there, at a ranch in San Saba, Texas, that he met a tall, skinny ex-soldier with a buzzcut named Tim.21Ibid. The veteran was accompanied by a buck-toothed man with a German accent named “Andy.”22Ibid. Note: the black-haired man with a German accent named “Andy” is widely believed to have been German national Andreas Strassmeir. Strassmeir was indeed socializing with the Texas Reserve Militia/Texas Light Infantry around the time Matthews says he saw him at the San Saba ranch with McVeigh and he was later kicked out of the group after some members strongly felt that he was an undercover informant or provocateur. Strassmeir’s story is a long one, for details concerning his time with the TLI/TRM see also the following sources: J.D. Cash. “FBI Says Strassmeir Was Government Operative.” McCurtain Gazette, 14 Jul. 1996; J.D. Cash and Roger Charles. “FBI Document Links Former Green Beret To McVeigh, Bombing.” McCurtain Gazette, 31 Aug. 2005.

Regarding McVeigh, Matthews said “he [Tim] was a nobody. Just another ex-soldier, but I remember his face. He was at one of the meetings, where a bunch of [stolen] ammunition was brought in from Fort Hood.”23Ibid. Matthews informed his FBI handler, Don Jarrett, that he had seen McVeigh at the ranch training with the Texas Reserve Militia. Jarrett told him, “Don’t worry, we got it covered.”24Ibid. Yet McVeigh’s crossed path with PATCON was never released and was even scrubbed from the Newsweek report. Was this indeed “covered,” as Jarrett had promised, or was it covered-up?

Was Ricks’ lie about intelligence operations related to Weldon Kennedy’s lie about having no eyewitnesses? Recall that all of the witnesses saw a still-unidentified man with McVeigh. Was John Doe #2 an FBI informant or asset? Is this what the FBI is hiding when it denies they were carrying out intelligence-gathering operations? How closely related are lies from the two agents charged with supervising the investigation of the bombing?

Fabricating Evidence

Weldon Kennedy’s assertion that the FBI would have to build its prosecution on forensic evidence due to the non-existence of witnesses amounted, in effect, to two different misdeeds. The first, of course, was saying there were no witnesses. The second is what Kennedy left out of his statement; not only would the FBI rely on forensic evidence, but it would also use fabricated evidence to bolster its case.

FBI forensic scientist Dr. Frederic Whitehurst first raised concerns about unscientific practices occurring at the FBI crime lab, after which an extensive investigation discovered fabricated evidence used in the Oklahoma City bombing case.25Kelly, John and Phillip Wearne. Tainting Evidence: Behind the Scandals at the FBI Crime Lab. Free Press, 1998. Notes: The Wearne book documents the Whitehurst story in great detail.   From 1986 to 1998, Whitehurst served as one of the crime lab’s supervisory special agents, where he was widely considered the leading authority on explosives and explosive residue. Possessing a Ph. D. in chemistry from Duke University and a J. D. from Georgetown University, Dr. Whitehurst was the highest qualified analyst in the crime lab at the time, with qualifications often surpassing his superiors. For example, the Chemistry & Toxicology Unit’s chief, Roger Martz, did not have a degree.26Peter Israel, Stephen Jones. Others Unknown: Timothy Mcveigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing Conspiracy. PublicAffairs, 1998, 2001. Kindle Edition. pp 278-280. Notes: The Jones book summarizes the Whitehurst/FBI crime lab scandal very well. Details concerning Whitehurst’s peers lack of degrees and qualifications were noted in this book.  Likewise, the head of the crime lab’s Explosives Unit, David Williams, had a degree in zoology and made his bones not in academia, but through serving time in the bomb squad.27Ibid. Whereas Dr. Whitehurst was a scientist first and foremost. The crux of the doctor’s complaints was that his crime lab peers and supervisors were dedicated less to science than they were securing successful prosecutions—even if that meant violating the standards of any respectable scientist.

Dr. Whitehurst began observing and documenting practices at the crime lab that constituted notable examples of misconduct. As a whistleblower, he was treated severely. He was first fired by the FBI, who ultimately settled in court, paying him $1.2 million and an undisclosed sum for damages. In addition, the Justice Department’s Inspector General investigated the crime lab and produced a damning report. The IG examined several high-profile FBI cases—including the Oklahoma City bombing—and concluded that the crime lab’s investigation contained “serious flaws,” used “unscientific” practices, and had made “unjustified” conclusions which “lacked scientific foundation.”28Ibid, 281. Notes: The Inspector General’s report on FBI crime lab is quoted verbatim in the Jones book. See the full report here: USDOJ/OIG Special Report: The FBI Laboratory: An Investigation into Laboratory Practices and Alleged Misconduct in Explosives-Related and Other Cases (April 1997) <https://oig.justice.gov/sites/default/files/legacy/special/9704a/index.htm>

The FBI had assigned to the Oklahoma City bombing case the same crime lab investigators who had worked on the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing. Explosives Unit chief David Williams headed up the lab’s investigation, and he chose Steven Burmeister as his lead forensic examiner. The IG stated that Burmeister had fraudulently altered his reports at the direction of his supervisor, Williams. In one report, concerning Timothy McVeigh’s pocketknife, Burmeister initially wrote that “the presence of PETN [explosives] could not be confirmed.” He later altered the report to say “traces of PETN were located on specimen.”29Ibid, 330. A qualified uncertainty was turned into a forensic certainty, resulting in a report containing false information that was used as evidence at the trial. Just as Dr. Whitehurst had documented, the FBI fabricated evidence for prosecutors—not an anomaly in their behavior, but a pattern. The IG report confirmed that among the cases it examined, the errors “were all tilted in such a way as to incriminate the defendants.”30Ibid, 281-282.

The IG concluded that David Williams ought to be reassigned to another unit because he “lacks objectivity, judgment, and scientific knowledge.” This was one of several reassignments and changes recommended in the IG report, all necessary to reform the crime lab’s practices. As a result of Dr. Whitehurst’s whistleblowing and the subsequent investigation, the FBI was forced to adopt forty different reforms to ensure forensic reliability. The IG report impeached not only the credibility of the FBI crime lab, but the entire bureau. Even with the imposition of reforms, with that credibility gone, how are we expected to trust the FBI’s work in other areas of the investigation? How far did the corruption extend?

It is appalling that such a thing could happen in the highest-level investigation ever carried out by the United States’ premier law enforcement agency. Questions of integrity aside, fabricating evidence also displays an immense arrogance. The FBI was willing to risk a successful prosecution of Timothy McVeigh, when fabricating evidence wasn’t necessary to win a conviction; the extent of the available evidence, even without eyewitnesses, would have been enough to easily secure a conviction. So why do it?

The answer appears to be either ‘because we can,’ or worse, ‘because that’s how we do things.’ The evidence supporting the latter conclusion is plentiful, since criminal activity by the feds goes beyond Oklahoma City. One needs only to look at other high-profile FBI cases. For example, in the espionage case against defense contractor Christopher Boyce and his childhood friend Daulton Lee, the FBI claimed it had recovered Lee’s fingerprints from the secure “black vault” at TRW Inc.31Boyce, Christopher. American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman (40th Anniversary Edition). Glass Spider Publishing, 2018. Kindle Edition. pp 98-99. The black vault was where Boyce made copies of sensitive documents that Lee then hand-delivered to the KGB in Mexico City. One problem: Daulton Lee had never in his life been on TRW Inc. property, much less made his way to the highly secure black vault.32Ibid, 100. This inconvenient fact did not stop the FBI as they apparently fabricated Daulton Lee’s fingerprints to use as a “trump card” in case the evidence against him wasn’t enough to convict. Like McVeigh, there was enough legitimate evidence against both Boyce and Lee to make any fabrication unnecessary, to say nothing of egregious. But ‘that’s how we do things.’

Destroying Evidence

Acting on a tip, in 2005 the FBI raided the former Kansas residence of convicted bomber Terry Nichols, where they seized a cache of explosives. Nichols told the FBI in interviews that among the carefully wrapped and preserved explosives they would find the fingerprints of an unindicted co-conspirator in the bombing. Unfortunately, we’ll never know whether this was true. The FBI—grudgingly acting on Nichols’ tip—destroyed most of the evidence.

Only after enduring pressure from congressional staffers and at least one congressman did the FBI act, taking over two years to produce a report on the results of the raid. The report, dated February 21, 2008, noted that a fingerprint—named redacted—was lifted from a book found among the explosive cache. The inventory—seventy kinestik binary explosives, detonators, fuses, and flares—was destroyed, along with any fingerprint evidence.33FBI Lab Took Nearly Three Years to Analyze Terry Nichols Bomb Cache. Intelwire. 3 Feb. 2011 <http://news.intelwire.com/2011/02/fbi-lab-took-nearly-three-years-to.html>

In his 2005 interviews with the bureau, Terry Nichols said that the fingerprints of Roger Moore and other bombing conspirators would be found among items in the explosives cache. Despite this indication, the FBI crime lab made no identification in their reports. However, in a December 2012 interview on The Scott Horton Show, investigator Roger Charles suggested that the FBI did recover prints from the stashed explosives. Charles explained that a highly placed FBI official told Deputy Bureau Chief of the Associated Press John Solomon that four sets of fingerprints were discovered: Timothy McVeigh, Terry Nichols, Roger Moore, and Richard Lee Guthrie.34Interview with Roger G. Charles. The Scott Horton Show, 4 Dec. 2012.

Mcveigh Sketch2Guthrie, who died in prison in 1996, was a leading figure in the Aryan Republican Army (ARA), a neo-Nazi bank robbery gang, and has long been suspected of possible involvement in the Oklahoma City bombing plot. Likewise, in reports produced by McCurtain Gazette reporter J. D. Cash and Indiana criminology professor Mark Hamm, they suggest that McVeigh might have been involved in one or more of the ARA bank robberies. One of the stick ups was carried out on September 21, 1994 in Overland Park, Kansas. According to Cash, “witnesses provided a sketch of him [one of the robbers], you look at it, and there’s no question it’s McVeigh.”35Interview with J.D. Cash. The Scott Horton Show, 22 Jul. 2005. Mark Hamm agrees, telling Cash, “I believe that sketch of the other subject is Timothy McVeigh and not [Peter] Langan. It’s almost a perfect likeness of McVeigh.”36J.D. Cash and Roger Chales. “Sketch could link McVeigh with Aryan Nations’ plot.” McCurtain Daily Gazette, 6 Dec. 2003

Another ARA bank robbery that Timothy McVeigh may have participated in occurred at the Third Federal Savings and Loan in Middleburg Heights, Ohio on December 9th, 1994. On December 5th, members of the ARA checked into a motel near Kent, Ohio. FBI investigators, suspecting that McVeigh was linked to the robbery, analyzed video footage from the crime in an attempt at identification. Reportedly, the FBI crime lab’s comparison of McVeigh and he bank surveillance video was inconclusive. Unfortunately, we can no longer examine the video because it was destroyed by the FBI in 1999, despite evidentiary rules to the contrary.

The FBI also destroyed blasting caps wrapped in Christmas paper recovered from the gang’s safehouse in Ohio. According to the ARA’s co-founder, Peter Langan, those blasting caps were obtained from Timothy McVeigh.37J.D. Cash. “National Media Barred from Interviewing Inmates About OKC Bombing.” McCurtain Gazette, 1 May 2003; Affidavit Peter Langan, 9 Apr. 2007. Can we trust the FBI’s word that Langan is lying, and that neither the caps nor the surveillance video was connected to McVeigh? The FBI’s bureaucratic culture is to collect and preserve every last scrap of paper or conceivable bit of evidence. If something is destroyed, it is to serve a purpose.

The FBI also managed to destroy crucial audio dispatch tape recordings and transcripts that had been obtained during the investigation. In a November 1995 interview, Assistant Chief of the Oklahoma City Fire Department Jon Hansen said that the fire department had received a call from the FBI on the Friday before the bombing. The FBI warned them that there might be an imminent terrorist attack, and to maintain heightened security levels. When asked if the fire department had kept a recording the call, Hansen said that “all the transmission tapes have been erased. We made a boo-boo.”38J.D. Cash and Jeff Holladay. “Bombing Trial Judges Absence on Day of Blast ‘an Amazing Coincidence.” McCurtain Gazette, 1 Dec. 1995. A boo-boo? Really?

During his trial, McVeigh’s defense team requested that the FBI provide all transcripts and transmissions related to Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995, and two weeks prior. The FBI glibly responded to this request by informing them that these tapes and transcripts were “accidentally destroyed.”39Painting, Wendy S. Aberration in the Heartland of the Real: The Secret Lives of Timothy McVeigh (Kindle Location 1150). Trine Day. Kindle Edition. Was this another “boo-boo?” Or was this destruction of key evidence intentional? The reader can make an informed decision.

McVeigh’s defense team also made a request for transcripts of the Oklahoma City Police Department dispatch tapes, which would have included the APB that police issued on April 19 for a brown truck connected to the bombing. The FBI responded that these too had been “accidentally destroyed.”40Ibid. Once again, we find a convenient “accident” that invariably strengthens the FBI’s narrative of the bombing.

Any lawyer will tell you that your case is only as good as the evidence it’s based on. The evidence in a criminal case must be carefully preserved with a documented chain of custody; nothing should be destroyed or otherwise mishandled. It appears, however, to have been commonplace in the Oklahoma City investigation. The handful of examples highlighted above show a pattern of behavior that, when combined with the conclusions of the IG report on the FBI crime lab, indicates that the destruction and fabrication of evidence was part of an overall effort to conceal specific facts in order to slant the case in favor of the prosecution. We must ask: what is being concealed by this pattern, and what common denominators exist in each instance where evidence was mishandled, destroyed, or fabricated?

ATF: ‘We Weren’t There’

On the morning of April 19, 1995, several ordinary Oklahomans had disturbing encounters with ATF agents the Murrah Building blast site during the subsequent rescue operations. These individuals include rescue volunteers and emergency first responders who were triaging the wounded while working with ambulance and rescue personnel. Several of these people testified before a grand jury impaneled to investigating the bombing what ATF agents had told them that morning.

Prior to testifying, these witness accounts were published in the McCurtain Gazette newspaper by award-winning journalist J. D. Cash. Three of their statements were broadcast on Oklahoma City television station KFOR-TV on September 12, 1995. The first two witnesses interviewed by KFOR’s Brad Edwards were Bruce Shaw and his supervisor, Tony Brasier. Shaw’s wife had worked at the Murrah Building, and upon hearing about the bombing, Shaw and Brasier immediately left work to assist in rescue efforts. Arriving at the blast site, Shaw spotted an ATF agent among those gathered, and he approached to inquire about rescue efforts. Shaw explained that his wife worked in the federal credit union located in the building. The couple knew many of the ATF personnel who worked at the Murrah Buidling, and Shaw informed the unfamiliar agent, “I’ve got to find some of the local ATF agents to help me find her…They know me.”

Bruce Shaw recounted that the ATF agent he spoke to attempted to reach someone on a two-way radio but couldn’t get a response. “He said they were in debriefing, that none of the agents had been in there. They’d been tipped by their pagers not to come in to work that day. Plain as day out of his mouth. Those were the words he said.”41J.D. Cash and Jeff Holladay. “Did ATF Expect Bomb Blast Earlier, Let Down Its Guard?” McCurtain Daily Gazette. 16 May 1996; Oklahoma Bombing Investigation Committee. The Final Report on the Bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. The Oklahoma Bombing Investigation Committee, 2001. pp 270-272 Shaw’s supervisor, Tony Brasier, had been standing next to his subordinate and the agent when this discussion occurred. Brasier affirmed on-camera to KFOR that the agent had indeed said that the ATF had been “tipped off by the pagers not to come in to work that day.”

A third witness, Katherine Mallette, was interviewed by the television station on the September 12 broadcast. Mallette was an emergency medical technician with the Emergency Medical Service Authority (EMSA) and participated in rescue efforts the morning of April 19. She stated that as she was prepping an ambulance to transport victims to area hospitals, two ATF agents walked by, and she overheard their discussion. One agent said to the other, “Is this why we got the page not to come in today?” Mallette attested to this disturbing exchange on-camera for KFOR, and later provided the Oklahoma Bombing Investigative Committee a signed affidavit attesting to what she had seen. 42The Final Report on the Bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. The Oklahoma Bombing Investigation Committee, 2001. pp 270-272

A second rescue worker, Tiffany Bible, was a paramedic with the EMSA who participated in rescue efforts that morning. Bible’s first impression was that there was some sort of natural gas explosion, and when she approached an ATF agent on-site, she asked how a gas explosion could have caused so much damage.

The agent told her that it was not a gas explosion, but a truck-bomb. This exchange occurred only five minutes after the blast. Knowing that the ATF was housed in the Murrah Building, Bible expressed her concern for the agent’s co-workers. He responded that, “No, we weren’t in there today.”43Ibid, p 342. Like the other witnesses, Bible testified to this encounter in an affidavit submitted to the grand jury impaneled to investigate the bombing.

Why was the ATF not at work on the morning of April 19, 1995? The rescue workers’ accounts—aired on television and reported in newspapers—caused the ATF to panic and issue statements later proven to be lies. The ATF agents’ admissions that they were not in the building, combined with the agency’s later explicit denials, may contribute to understanding a fundamental truth about the bombing. The ATF’s lies and contradictions can, like the FBI’s, be interpreted in a wider context.

Panic, Lies

To counter what the ATF said were “widespread rumors” that agents had evacuated the Murrah Building before the blast, the agency acted in a typical bureaucratic fashion: they issued a press release.44J.D. Cash and Jeff Holladay. “ATF’s Explanation Disputed.” McCurtain Sunday Gazette, 30 Jul. 1995. In the May 23, 1995 press release, ATF Special Agent-in-Charge of the Dallas regional office Lester Martz claimed that Oklahoma City ATF agent Alex McCauley and DEA agent David Schickendanz were trapped in the building’s elevator when the truck-bomb exploded. According to Martz, McCauley and Schickendanz were both victims and heroes, carrying out a fantastical escape to help others who laid dying around them.45Ibid. Martz asserted that the elevator dropped in a free-fall from the eighth floor to the third, where the two men remained trapped. In this account, McCauley and Schickendanz escaped from the elevator’s smoking rubble only after forcing the doors open. This story is, by all measures, entirely fictional.

In the aftermath of the bombing, General Services Administration (GSA) and Midwestern Elevator Company inspectors investigated the blast site and the building’s elevators. The Midwestern technicians “found that five of the six elevators were stopped between floors with their doors blown inward, which caused the safety mechanisms to freeze them in place.”46Ibid. Duane James, one of the elevator maintenance technicians, was quoted saying, “Once that occurs, the doors cannot be opened—period.” James said that the elevators have safety switches that prevent excessive speed, and that he determined none of the safety switches had been tripped.47The Oklahoma Bombing Investigation Committee, pp 272.

In their final report, the Oklahoma Bombing Investigative Committee wrote that, “GSA inspectors and Midwestern technicians have stated in interviews and in sworn affidavits and/or testimony that there was no evidence of (1) free-falling elevators, (2) persons in any of the elevators who then forced their way out, or (3) failure of the safety mechanisms built into the system.”48Ibid. In other words, Lester Martz’s heroic account of federal agents was an impossible lie. Technician Duane James put it this way: “If you fell six floors and it was a free fall, it’d be like jumping out a six-story building. I’d ask them how long they were in the hospital and how lucky they were to survive.”49Ibid.

After the May 23 press release featuring this cock-and-bull story, the ATF issued several other stories to account for their agents’ whereabouts. The narrative kept changing; this indicates both incompetence and dishonesty, a hasty and ill-formed plan to conceal the truth. For example, on the day of the bombing the ATF’s public affairs spokesperson in Washington D.C. claimed that the agency had 20 agents on duty. When it became apparent this was false, ATF agent Luke Franey volunteered to bombing victim Glenn Wilburn that the agents were “out on assignment,” while “some didn’t come in because they were out of town.”50J.D. Cash and Jeff Holladay. “More Evidence Suggests Prior Knowledge of OKC Bombing.” McCurtain Sunday Gazette. 12 May 1996. In December 1995, ATF Dallas chief Lester Martz said that the missing agents were involved in an all-night “surveillance operation.”51Ibid. With all of these varying and stories to account for the lack of ATF agents in the Murrah Building that day, it is difficult to know where the lies end and the truth begins.

The ATF also issued contradictory statements about their level of situational awareness on April 19, 1995. When asked whether the agency was aware of the date’s significance—it was the two-year anniversary of the Waco massacre—agent Luke Franey flatly denied that the ATF was the least bit concerned. He told Glenn Wilburn that “No, there was no alert or any concern on our part about the significance of that day.”52Ibid. Meanwhile, ATF Director John Magaw told CNN he had been “very concerned about that day and issued memos to all of our field offices,” telling them that “they were put on alert.”53Ibid. These conflicting explanations demonstrate that ATF officials had not coordinated their responses.

The ATF’s many denials and lies about their whereabouts on April 19 share a common theme: to hide the fact that they knew something and were not at work that day. The contradictions indicate that something about their absence is important enough to conceal no matter how outrageous the cover story. What was it? Is it related to the FBI’s deceptions?

The Road to Oklahoma City

The ATF is not the only federal agency whose high-level officials concocted fictional stories about the event of April 19, 1995. There is a similar case that could possibly be related to the ATF agents’ whereabouts during the bombing.

The Special Agent-in-Charge of the Dallas FBI office, and later in charge of the crime scene in Oklahoma, was Danny Coulson. Coulson was a veteran of the FBI with a long history in dealing with terrorism. Over a decade before the bombing, he was attached to the FBI Hostage Rescue Team (which he founded) when they took down Robert J. Matthews of The Order. Coulson managed and successfully negotiated the siege on the Covenant, Sword, and Arm of the Lord radical group on April 19, 1985. His whole career, Coulson had presided over events whose history was inextricably linked to the ideology of Timothy McVeigh—he was, in fact, the perfect person to lead the Oklahoma City bombing investigation. However, for reasons not yet clear, he was not selected for that job.

In Coulson’s memoir, No Heroes, he recounted the morning of April 19, 1995. He was at home in Texas when he received a page from John O’Neil at the FBI headquarters’ anti-terrorism center.54Coulson, Danny. No Heroes: Inside the FBI’s Secret Counter-Terror Force. Simon and Schuster, 1999. O’Neil broke the news to him: the Alfred P. Murrah Building had been bombed. Coulson writes that O’Neil asked him to catch the next flight to Oklahoma City. What played out next is worthy of a Hollywood film. Coulson claims that there were no flights out of Texas due to inclement weather, so he fetched his badge and gun and hit the road. Coulson sped off to Oklahoma City, driving through a furious rainstorm, his wiper-blades swiveling on the windshield as lightning strikes peppered Texas’ pastures and fields in his rear-view mirror. The FBI’s top anti-terrorism agent was on his way.

Coulson’s biographical account cannot be verified, since John O’Neil died in the 9/11 attacks. However, cracks have emerged over the years that raise serious questions about Coulson’s recollection of events. Firstly, in an interview with C-SPAN’s BookTV in 1999 to promote his memoir, Coulson said that he was home eating breakfast when he “heard on the television” about the bombing in Oklahoma City.55C-Span BookTV appearance, Danny Coulson, Inside the FBI’s Secret Counter-Terror Force (1999). < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zuRyfZLy8ew> Since his presentation was about his book, you would have expected Coulson to describe events the same, yet the story differed ever so slightly. Then, years later, journalist J. D. Cash obtained Danny Coulson’s hotel receipt for April 19, 1995. The receipt shows that Coulson checked into an Embassy Suites in Oklahoma City twenty minutes after midnight on the 19th.56J.D. Cash. “Receipt Shows Head of FBI Anti-Terrorism Task Force in OKC Hours Before Blast.” McCurtain Daily Gazette, 21 Jan. 2002; “FBI Document Raises Questions About Prior Knowledge in OKC bombing.” News Radio 1000 AM KTOK in OKC, 17 Jan 2002; He was in Oklahoma City nine hours before the Murrah Building was bombed.

During J. D. Cash’s research into Coulson’s movements that week, he attempted to obtain both Coulson’s and FBI official Larry Potts’ travel records from the FBI. The effort was fruitless; the bureau claims some of those travel records are “missing”—in the same manner that inconvenient evidence seems to disappear. However, Cash wrote that Coulson’s trip to Oklahoma City fits within a framework of “evidence revealing weeks of planning by an elite corps of drug and counterterrorism experts who were closely monitoring members of various far-right groups.”57Ibid. What were these “weeks of planning” related to?

Cash concluded that Coulson was working on a project that included other counterterrorism agents “monitoring” right-wing groups. What we can infer is that whatever Coulson was involved with, it was sensitive enough that he decided to create an alternative explanation about how he arrived at Oklahoma City. Coulson could have written in his book that he happened to arrive in the city the night before and left it at that. Why did he choose to lie? The likeliest reason for a cover-up would be because his reason for being in Oklahoma City was directly linked to the bombing. If that were accurate, Coulson’s motivation begins to make sense.

To make the situation even more confounding, Coulson billed his April 19 travel costs to the FBI’s MC-111 on May 16, 1995. MC-111, short for Major Case 111, is also known as VAAPCON.58Ibid. Like PATCON, VAAPCON was an FBI clandestine operation. While PATCON targeted militias and radical right-wing terrorists like Timothy McVeigh, VAAPCON targeted individuals and groups that advocated violence against abortion clinics. A report published by The Washington Post in 1996 described VAAPCON as consisting of nothing more than a thin folder of papers, with few leads, no arrests, and nothing that would conceivably put an agent of Coulson’s standing far away from his field office. At best VAAPCON might garner a few conference calls, but certainly not a flight to Oklahoma City of all places. Headlined “Abortion Clinic Violence Probe Was Over Before It Started,” the Post essentially declares VAAPCON dead in the water.59Charles W. Hall and Robert O’Harrow Jr. “Abortion Clinic Violence Probe Was Over At The Start.” Washington Post, 26 Jan. 1996.

It was this same Washington Post article that revealed the existence of VAAPCON to the public. Meaning, Coulson would have no reason to conceal such an operation in his memoir, published three years after the article. If Coulson was in Oklahoma City due to his participation in VAAPCON, he could have written that without garnering a second glance. But he didn’t do that. While Coulson might have billed his time to VAAPCON—a dead operation—on May 16, we can interpret this as an effort to conceal his actual activities at the time.

What if the April 19, 1995 Oklahoma City bombing was a failure of intelligence, a sting operation gone terribly wrong that literally blew up in the FBI’s face? If this scenario is correct, it can be assumed that such a thing could never be acknowledged through travel records, much less after-action reports. The sting operation would have to remain a secret. It’s with that mind that we think back to Bob Ricks’ denial to the press in October 1995 about the existence of any intelligence operations being performed by the bureau. This theory would also explain the missing travel records of Coulson and Potts, along with Coulson erroneously billing his time to the then-defunct VAAPCON. It would give reason for Coulson to be Oklahoma City nine hours prior to the bomb’s detonation, and to lie about it in his memoir. In this scenario, if the FBI had an informant or asset within the operation—John Doe #2—that would explain the agency’s continual, adamant denial about the existence of a second suspect. It would also corroborate the FBI Domestic Terrorism Operations Unit’s “worry” and “concern” about John Doe #2’s identity being divulged to congressional investigators in 2005.

While this theory exists in the realm of speculation and conjecture, what can be said with certainty is that this scenario is the only one that makes sense given the totality of evidence. What’s more, if this were the case, it would not be the first time an FBI intelligence-gathering operation was tied into plot through informants.

Real Explosives, Real Victims

Roger Charles was a co-author of the 2012 book Oklahoma City: What the Investigation Missed and Why It Still Matters. In the book and a 2007 BBC production, Charles lays out the evidence indicating that authorities had informants close the criminal conspiracy behind the bombing.60Andrew Gumbel and Roger Charles. Oklahoma City: What the Investigation Missed and Why It Still Matters. HarperCollins, 2012; The Conspiracy Files: Oklahoma City, BBC. 4 Mar. 2007. If he is correct, it wouldn’t be the first time. Just two years before Oklahoma City, an almost identical situation played out in the first attack on the World Trade Center:

  • Terrorists loaded a rental truck with an ANFO bomb.
  • A building full of civilians was the target.
  • The FBI had an informant inside the operation.
  • The FBI failed to stop the bombing, with their focus being in favor of continued intelligence gathering.

The FBI has denied it had any advance warning of the bombing, or that it was involved in a sting operation in Oklahoma City. Bureau flunky Jon Hersley unconvincingly proclaimed that, “We don’t play games with people’s lives like that.”61The Conspiracy Files: Oklahoma City, BBC. 4 Mar. 2007. The denials, however, don’t line up with the facts.

The FBI informant involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, Emad Salem, recorded his conversations with his agency handlers. The recordings show that the FBI was more interested in intelligence-gathering—of the sort Bob Ricks claims the FBI wasn’t doing—than stopping the plot in its tracks.62Ralph Blumenthal. “Tapes Depict Proposal to Thwart Bomb Used in Trade Center Blast.” New York Times, 28 Oct. 1993. Salem suggested replacing the lives explosives that were eventually used in the bomb with harmless materials. Instead of taking his route, Salem’s handlers wanted him to wear a microphone and continue to gather vital intelligence. Salem balked at wearing a wire—while also asking the FBI to pay him more money. The feds lost Salem as an informant, while the World Trade Center bomb plot continued and matured after Ramzi Yousef came on-board with his bomb-making expertise. The end result was six people dead and 1,000 injured when the bombers attacked the towers.

The FBI’s failure to know when and where the World Trade Center attack would take place was a direct result of their inability to handle Emad Salem properly. In this example, we have the FBI close enough to a bomb plot that they had a chance to capture the conspirators early on but bungling it by not handling their informant with more finesse.

In his denial that any similar operation occurred in Oklahoma City, Agent Hersley said, “If we had any information beforehand from any informants about a potential bombing of a federal building, I can assure you that we would have taken immediate action.” That wasn’t the case, however, in 1993. The opposite is true, in fact. Given the past record of the FBI, can we trust Hersley? Was he lying–alongside Weldon Kennedy, Bob Ricks, and Danny Coulson–to protect secrets?

Throughout the late 1980s and into the early 1990s, federal agents targeted former neo-Nazi Johnny Bangerter, who was the center of the same sort of groups targeted by the FBI’s PATCON operation. Bangerter was present at the siege of Ruby Ridge and knew Randy Weaver personally. He said that in retrospect, the most striking thing about being approached by informants and undercover agents was that they always used “real explosives. Real machine guns. It was always real stuff. Very dangerous.”63Interview with author via phone, Johnny Bangerter. August 2020 Bangerter made clear that not only did these federal agents play with people’s lives, but they did so using a kind of playbook: always with a truck-bomb, always with real explosives, and always with provocateurs advocating for violence in the most overt manner. With some sadness in his voice, Bangerter added that “there were real victims, too.”

When the FBI says that “we don’t play games with people’s lives like that,” or insists that the bombing could not possibly have been “a sting gone wrong,” we’re meant to take their word for it. But the question is, can we? When the facts are examined, we find ourselves in a situation where the FBI has no credibility. They lie, they fabricate and destroy evidence. They are akin to the boy who cried wolf: it is reasonable to be skeptical of their denials based on their past behavior. Having witnessed the same sort of conduct, and being fed the same kind of lies, we can reach conclusions on what the truth might be.

It is a truth that resembles a failed sting operation, an informant the FBI says doesn’t exist, but that twenty-four people saw, and a mountain of other evidence. Whereas Jon Hersley’s “truth” that the FBI wouldn’t do this is equivalent to the “truth” that there are no eyewitnesses. Or the “truth” that the FBI had no intelligence-gathering operations. Or the “truth” that the ATF showed up for work on April 19, 1995. Or the “truth” that ATF agents karate-chopped their way out of wrecked elevators to save lives. Or the “truth” that Danny Coulson drove through a rainstorm to reach Oklahoma City after the bomb blast.

It’s all the truth because the FBI says so. And we can trust the FBI, can’t we?

Richard Booth is an independent citizen journalist and member of the Constitution First Amendment Press Association (CFAPA). A student of the OKC bombing case since 1995, Richard began researching the Oklahoma City bombing in earnest in 2012 and is currently writing a book about the case. Richard has appeared on podcasts to discuss his interest, highlighting areas that warrant additional research, and expressing the need for more students to actively research this case. In April 2020, Richard donated his archive of research materials—thousands of news reports, articles, magazine pieces, FBI documents, ATF documents, court records and trial transcripts to The Libertarian Institute. You can find this archive hereYou may contact Richard at rbooth@protonmail.com

How the Pentagon Looted America’s PPE Funding

How the Pentagon Looted America’s PPE Funding

After six months of state-imposed lockdown, the United States faces nationwide mask and COVID test shortages, record high unemployment rates, and over 200,000 COVID-related deaths. Since Congress passed the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in April, most Americans’ financial situations still haven’t recovered. Now, as Congress debates how many more trillion dollars it’s going to spend trying to mend the government-created financial crisis, one thing should be clear: the Pentagon should not receive another dime of bailout funds. 

The Department of Defense (DoD) used taxpayer money meant to address the pandemic to prop up the military-industrial complex, diverting CARES Act funds intended for medical supplies and awarding them to private defense contractors. Instead of manufacturing N95 masks, swabs, and other personal protection equipment (PPE), the funds went to projects unrelated to pandemic relief, such as making jet engine parts, body armor and uniforms, and drone technology. A third of the private companies that received Pentagon assistance already drew from another CARES Act bailout program, the Paycheck Protection Program. Defense contractors double-dipped while hospitals around the country scrounged for PPE. 

Undersecretary of Defense For Acquisition And Sustainment Ellen Lord told reporters in April that 75 percent of the $1 billion fund would be spent on medical supplies and the remaining funds would go toward defense contractors. It quickly became apparent that the Defense Department had other priorities when Lord revealed in June that more money would go to defense contractors. The administration has spent three dollars on defense contracts for every dollar it spent on acquiring PPE.

Using taxpayer money intended for manufacturing PPE for anything else is reprehensible. Pentagon officials have tried to justify padding the pockets of defense contractors by pointing out that some small businesses would not have survived without the CARES Act funds. Yet, only one third of awards granted went to small businesses.

Instead, the Pentagon funneled millions of dollars to industry giants like General Electric and Rolls-Royce. The DoD awarded GE Aviation two contracts worth $75 million in June and gave $22 million to a subsidiary of Rolls-Royce to upgrade a Mississippi plant. These massive contracts did not stop GE Aviation from announcing it planned to cut 13,000 jobs in response to the economic downturn. The Pentagon should have used the money to address COVIDthe state’s justification for shutting down the economyinstead of throwing money to big businesses who rolled out massive layoffs anyways. Why is subsidizing well-established companies like Rolls-Royce and GE a priority over providing PPE to millions of Americans? 

Democrats in Congress have called for an investigation into the Pentagon’s misappropriation of the COVID relief funds. “The reported misuse by DoD of federal funds meant for the response to the deadly pandemic plaguing our country is inconsistent with the will of Congress and may be illegal,” wrote Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Ro Khanna in a letter to the Pentagon’s inspector general asking for a review of the use of the CARES Act funds. Certainly a small business grant recipient would be held accountable if it decided to use its loan for unrelated purposes. Shouldn’t the Pentagon be held to the same standards?    

The DoD already enjoys the largest discretionary expenditure in the national budget, raking in an all-time high of $723 billion for Fiscal Year 2020. The bloated DoD budget should have disqualified them from any stimulus money in the first place, but Congress still dished out $1 billion in April. Their inability to responsibly use COVID relief funds has not stopped the Pentagon from requesting an additional $11 billion from any future stimulus bill. The misapplication of COVID relief money shows taxpayers that they cannot trust the DoD to put Americans’ safety over the profits of their contractors. 

The stimulus package was flawed from the start. Rep. Thomas Massie criticized the extraneous funding in the CARES Act from the beginning, condemning the $25 million allocated to the Kennedy Center and multiple grants for the National Endowment for the Humanities and Arts. Instead of subsidizing superfluous art programs, this money could have gone to directly purchasing PPE.

As the White House restarts talks with Congress about passing further aid measures, we must remain vigilant that any future money spent goes to benefit Americans in need rather than the war machine.

Nickie Deahl is a former research intern at the Quincy Institute. She holds a master’s degree in International Security from George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government. You can follow her on Twitter @NickieDeahl

The Individual Against the Odds

The Individual Against the Odds

There is a genre in fiction that celebrates an individual’s adversity against seemingly impossible odds. Whether this is a person who takes the war to organised crime (Mack Bolan), a secret agent saving the world for their government (James Bond), a wronged loner lost and bullied by the law and the society that rejects them (John Rambo), one who wants something so bad that they will defy social conventions (Velvet Brown), or even a rogue that hides behind a mask and inspires a revolution against tyranny (V), they are in some way inspiring. They are better than most not just because of courage, but also often principle. They are the outsider, the curmudgeon, and blowhard, or worse.

In the coming eclipse of cancel culture and layered censorship, certain allegories and metaphorical fiction will become a dangerous device for story tellers to use. It is no longer a method of sedition to lift a mirror up to a wider culture or society, to reveal an imagery that the victims or an outsider may see. The marketplace of varied opinions and diverse perspectives that is supposedly a hallmark of the abstract known as western civilization is becoming less welcome to such variations. Instead, through technology and a paternalistic tendency society is becoming a dystopia tinkering between the prose of Huxley and Orwell, but especially that found in the film ‘Demolition Man.’ It is a creation of the timid, those who shy away from difference while claiming to champion it.

Social media, like most innovations, was a promise to open our worlds and to connect and share so many different ideas and experiences. Instead it becomes a series of cultivated echo chambers that snuff out certain viewpoints and celebrate others, always confirming a particular bias. It is with an unofficial handshake that the public, made of shrill and easily offended individuals, unite with corporations and states to mash out a new moral order that mutates in instances of outrage and crisis. It clings to central planning and yet it is not necessarily centrally planned. It is a negative instinct to constrict and subvert any desires and needs for liberty. It is the widespread transformation of language to duplicate words into meanings that could only be conjured up inside the laboratories of intellect inefficiency. It is born from a need to be safe and correct, but it is a dangerous approach to any issue or problem.

The story of the individual saying no or wanting to be left alone is now one that is deemed selfish and dangerous. It is bad that one or a few may defy the collective good. The abstract religion of social contracts and duty to the state are the order and safety that a majority cling to. A society of so many dependents who demand and extract from the individual hinder productivity and creative instincts while demanding more. It would be as much of a cliché to invoke Ayn Rand as it would George Orwell—both would simplify the moment—but alas, the Randian term “moocher” is perhaps apt at times. The moochers rule. Tyranny inevitably is like a kind chef cooking a frog in warm water slowly until it boils, so that it may not leap for freedom until it’s too late.

It is with great concern that if the fiction of the past is not censored, redacted, or destroyed that it will be viewed, and that many will view the villains of the story as the hero. The individual, those who fight for freedom and liberty, are now the bad guy.  Those with the imperial conviction to control and impose law and order, however maniacal, are the true heroes, the pillars of society. John Rambo after all was carrying a knife and Sarah Connor was stockpiling weapons. Will great firemen like Guy Montag burn the pages of dangerous books and charr the words of seditious thought to maintain a society of ignorance?  It is after all a state of bliss to be hidden from such dangers.

What does it say about a society or culture that will not leave people alone? That it will not let them be or demand that they must not merely comply, but pay tribute? The one who does not want these conditions is considered selfish, while those who exist at the expense of others are normal. The myth is that the elites and rulers are the only benefactors from the centrally planned nightmares that always lead to tyranny. There are many who benefit from such a regulated society, where grants, welfare, and subsidies feed the ineffective and perpetuate an ideology of employment over outcome. The many planners, agents, and ‘moochers’ all benefit, enjoying the trappings of such a state.

The individual must speak in whispers like a thief, yet they are the one getting stolen from. They must plan around impositions as though a conspirator, but it is those in conferences and on committees who conspire against them. They are the ones whose homes are invaded if they possess contraband, do not pay enough tribute to the state, or if they speak wrongly on social media. The terror regimes of North Korea and the Peoples Republic of China are often pariahs, yet the more the open nations of the west condemn them, the more they seem to employ their methods of control and order.

The majority tends to yearn for a comfortable status quo that allows them to enjoy life, often at the expense of others. They are the opulent living city dwellers of the Capitol in ‘The Hunger Games.’ They are the humans inside the pods that will not swallow the pills in ‘The Matrix,’ and those who refuse to wear the sunglasses in ‘They Live.’ To have a bitter truth revealed is painful. That means the victims of the wars, the unintended consequences of regulation, the trampled innocent of policy, all cannot have a voice, and if they do it is often skewered and redirected. The status quo is always preserved. Partisan politics allows the steering wheel to keep turning, even as the direction stays the same.

A man like John Rambo—a vagrant used by his government and then rejected—is a danger not because of his skills and experiences, or because he carries a large knife, but because he wants to be left alone. He is directionless and does not have a generic path in mind. It is a long road, but it is his to take. In time the radical individual becomes embraced and utilised by the state, in life and fiction. In the United States, for example, Martin Luther King Jr. is no longer a dangerous emblem of civil rights defying the order of his time, but a murder victim of cause, likely killed by the very government that now enshrines his name. But his ideals?

Mack Bolan, a former Vietnam war veteran like John Rambo, comes home to a society that no longer needs him. His family is murdered and wronged by the Mafia. So, Bolan deserts the military and wages his own war. In time, as the franchise succeeds and the 1970s climate of anti-establishment thinking grows into Reagan’s America, Bolan fights the Soviets and terrorists. He works with the CIA and other covert government agencies, and like the Punisher (sinpired by Bolan), he serves Uncle Sam. Around the same time as this switch, so too does John Rambo in the sequels. These individuals become implements of the state, however begrudging it may be.

As the new century loomed it was not merely the state itself that was the danger, but corrupt actors from within. Gene Hackman and Will Smith as an ‘Enemy of the State’ do not go up against the U.S. government but instead rogue elements of it. This becomes the theme as the individuals continue to defy the odds, but only in a watered-down way. Mark Wahlberg in ‘The Shooter’ is a wary ex-serviceman, a loner, living remote with conspiracy inclinations. We are shown this as the camera pans across his library. He is bought in by the government as a consultant but is betrayed and used as a patsy. But again it is the secret agency of corrupt individuals, not the government itself.

Perhaps the peak of this genre was the 1990s when so many things culminated: the promise of a technological future where liberty and decentralised markets could thrive, and where no more would Cold War threaten the globe with nuclear misery and endless proxy wars. Instead the new century arrived, and it was like the last one. All those promises were betrayed. Like the fictional individuals ultimately going on to serve the odds, Arnold Schwarzenegger would become the governor of California. The man who championed Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose and appeared in the documentary series introduction, the Austrian ‘Austrian’ economist of free markets who starred in many ‘individual against the odds’ films, ultimately became another statist. ‘The Running Man’ would go on to run the show in the sequel. It defeats the point.

The animated film ‘Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron,’ perhaps one of the greatest tales of individual liberty told, shows a defiant horse that does not want to be owned and broken in by humans, whether that’s by a native American boy or a U.S. army cavalry officer. In the end the native American boy accepts the horse’s wishes and the cavalry officer realizes that he cannot break the stallion’s spirit. It is a beautiful and basic story,that if you love something you should let it to be free. To respect freedom itself is in a sense love.

In the follow-up sequel, the whole point is missed. It is a cynical defeat of an established franchise, an all too common theme for any fan that has seen the terrible litany of remakes in the modern era. Instead of Spirit the stallion being free—a rebel—he becomes submissive and a prop to a city girl. It is a complete about face of what the original film was about. The hero of individual defiance is again saddled and broken in by the very odds that he was heroically defying. No longer does the individual stand up to do the right thing despite personal risk, but instead he is relegated to be a vapid avatar for contemporary consumption, spiritless and all too common.

Perhaps this is the theme: no longer will individuals be this feral radical, but instead be tamed in the end. The uniqueness and dignity of their principles becomes perverted by a mandate devised inside the cauldron of academia by a committee of experts or the reactionaries on social media. In the end, like Spirit the stallion they must be broken in and ridden for some collective monolith. Maybe in the future the spirit of the individual will be found inside the broken algorithms of a machine’s mind, like WALL-E, a lowly robot with basic AI that eventually sees the world for what it is. And the comfortable obese humans wrapped in technology, having destroyed nature—both their own and the wider world’s—will be saved by the touch of a machine who simply thinks for itself and says, “no more.” By then will it be to late? Will the sacred beauty of the individual flower pushing through the filthy mess of the collective be plucked for good?

Bryce Courtenay, in The Power of One, wrote, “Pride is holding your head up high when everyone around you has theirs bowed. Courage is what makes you do it.”

The Prelude to World War II: The Spanish Civil War and Today’s America

The Prelude to World War II: The Spanish Civil War and Today’s America

The Prelude to World War II: The Spanish Civil War and Today's AmericaAmerica is definitely not Europe, but we can find a number of parallels between European history and contemporary America. For example, we’ve previously written about the Italian Years of Lead as a possible template for urban unrest and low-level inter-tribal warfare in the United States. Another example of how things might play out in the United States is the Spanish Civil War.

The Spanish Civil War is known to historians, amateur and professional alike, as the “dress rehearsal for the Second World War.” It is so termed because it pitted one side – which was equipped, armed and funded by Europe’s fascist regimes (Germany and Italy) – against a government largely funded and propped up by the Soviet Union. However, it is worth noting that General Francisco Franco’s nationalist forces were not themselves fascist (though there were fascists within their ranks) and that Spain remained neutral during the Second World War, later becoming a close ally of the United States in the fight against Communism internationally.

While there are few perfect analogs to be found anywhere in world history, there are parallels between the contemporary domestic political situation in the United States and the period immediately before and during the Spanish Civil War. And while the situation in the United States might play out in a much similar way to the Spanish Civil War, it is worth noting that our previous Civil War was the bloodiest in human history. There is little doubt that a Second American Civil War would not be significantly more destructive.

Prologue: The Situation in Spain Prior to the Civil War

The Prelude to World War II: The Spanish Civil War and Today's AmericaAs we talk about the leadup to the Spanish Civil War, the situation will begin very much unlike modern-day America, however, it will become more like the contemporary domestic situation as time goes on.

The main difference, of course, is that Spain was a monarchy for almost all of its existence until 1931. A republic was briefly declared during the years 1873 and 1874, but it didn’t have much staying power and ultimately was not a transformative government in Spain. Following the First World War, the corrupt central government of Spain became increasingly unpopular and a military dictatorship, that of Miguel Primo de Rivera y Orbaneja, 2nd Marquess of Estella, 22nd Count of Sobremonte, arose. This fell in 1930, along with the abdication of the deeply unpopular King Alfonso XIII.

This led to the creation of the Second Spanish Republic and a new constitution in 1931. It was a radically leftist constitution in a largely conservative and Catholic country. Women’s suffrage, civil marriage, compulsory universal education, the nationalization of Catholic Church properties, the prohibition of Catholic religious orders from teaching in schools (and the Jesuit order entirely), as well as a provision allowing for the nationalization of any property that was for the “public good” were all components of the new Spanish constitution. In many ways it resembled the constitution of Weimar Germany, in that it was an attempt by the left to radically remake a country through constitutional means.

The first election saw leftist elements firmly in the saddle, but the second, in 1933, was a major victory for forces of the right. However, because the conservative party had won a plurality in the parliament, and not a majority, the left-wing president of Spain invited the centrist party to form a government. Meanwhile the socialist government alleged electoral fraud, which caused them to become further radicalized. On the ground, a radical working-class movement became hostile toward the ostensibly left-wing government after the movement was suppressed violently by the military.

Monarchist forces, with the explicit backing of Benito Mussolini and the implicit backing of King Alfonso XIII, as well as ideologically fascist forces led by José Antonio Primo de Rivera, began military drills, preparing for war. The streets of Spain became battlegrounds, with 330 assassinations, 213 failed assassination attempts and 160 religious buildings destroyed, with arson being the primary means of their destruction. The Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party, formerly a fairly standard European social democratic party, began to cleave between forces who favored moderation and those who sought a more explicitly Bolshevik party.

The Coup d’Etat of July 1936

Much as the War Between the States began with the attack on Fort Sumter, so did the Spanish Civil War begin with the Coup d’Etat of July 1936. This was effectively an uprising by all forces of the Spanish right, which included two different factions of monarchists, nationalists, fascists (known in Spain as Falangists) and conservatives.

The igniting event was the election of 1936. This saw a very, very slim (less than 1 percent of the vote) victory of the Spanish left (socialists, Communists and anarchists) over the Spanish right. The right wing in Spain stopped planning to take over the Spanish Republic and instead decided that they were going to overthrow it.

The central republican government of Spain was very weak and had been making attempts to purge suspect right-wing generals from its ranks. To that end, General Francisco Franco, who ended up becoming dictator of Spain until 1976, was removed from his office as chief of staff and put out to pasture in the Canary Islands. When the uprising began, the nationalist rebels had the unanimous support of the Army of Africa, a 30,000-strong force that boasted some of the hardest core soldiers Spain had to offer. Many of these troops were Muslims from Morocco, who had been told that the republic planned to outlaw worship of Allah.

Indeed, Spanish Morocco was the base of operations for the rebels, with Generals Franco and Goded taking control of the Canary and the Balearic Islands, respectively. Any opposition in the Spanish colonial empire was quickly crushed with leading trade unionists and leftists simply executed by the rebel forces. The two trade union federations in Spain offered to help crush the uprising, but were told that there was nothing to worry about as the uprising was confined to Morocco and other overseas possessions.

The coup was less than a rousing success for the nationalist rebels, who invaded from their overseas bases. They failed to capture any major cities, which remained significant bases of support for the republican government. The republican government remained in possession of the lion’s share of Spanish territory. However, the republican government was at a disadvantage for two reasons: First, the nationalists had split the territory of peninsular Spain in half, dividing the country between republicans in the north and south while they controlled the middle.

Second, the republican government responded to the crisis by effectively mobilizing the far left in Spain as shock troops to terrorize the population into submission. Communists in particular were unleashed to execute and torture anyone even suspected of being a nationalist sympathizer. It didn’t help that the clergy bore the brunt of this, with nuns gang raped before being summarily executed. The republicans went so far as to exhume the bodies of dead religious figures and desecrate their corpses.

The Spanish Red Terror

The Prelude to World War II: The Spanish Civil War and Today's AmericaThe Spanish Civil War continues to have a sort of romantic quality among the left, many of whom see the Civil War-era republican government as an example of “real” socialism in action or, at the very least, something close to it. However, the Spanish republican left were less bloody than their more famous Communist counterparts in Russia, China and the Eastern Bloc only due to a lack of scale and a limited time frame on which they operated.

The Red Terror in Spain predates the nationalist rebellion and was, indeed, one of the primary motivations for the uprising. It is generally agreed that the Spanish Red Terror began during an Asturian miners’ strike in 1934. Priests and the religious were targeted in what was not simply a strike, but a rebellion against the government. Supporters of the rebellion targeted clergy and religious figures, resulting in the destruction of 58 churches and convents during a period of a little more than two weeks. Ironically, the rebellion was put down by Goded and Franco at the behest of the republican government.

Once the rebellion began, the Catholic Church – its clergy, its religious orders and its lay faithful – were largely seen as fair game by supporters of the republic. The comparison between the Church in Spain 1936 and white Americans in 2020 isn’t much of a stretch. Much of the violence directed against the Church was predicated on the basis that they “deserved” this as payback for historical crimes. All told, 3,400 priests, monks and nuns were murdered during the first two months of the Spanish Civil War. Indeed, most of the deaths during the early months of the Civil War were not because of deaths on the battlefield, but rather because of targeted executions against enemies of the Spanish Republic.

In addition to the atrocity against nuns, there were a number of horrific incidents mostly involving clergy. The parish priest of Navalmoral was forced to undergo a parody of the Passion of Christ, ending with a vigorous debate about whether or not to actually crucify the priest at the end. They “mercifully” decided to just shoot the man. The priest of Ciempozuelos was thrown to fighting bulls and had his ear cut off at the end of the spectacle. In Ciudad Real, a priest was castrated and had his penis and testicles put in his mouth. People were forced at gunpoint to swallow their own rosaries. Others were thrown down mine shafts or forced to dig their own graves prior to summary execution. A Madrid nun was executed for the crime of refusing a marriage proposal from a militiaman who had participated in the sacking of her convent.

All told, the republicans destroyed over 20,000 churches and other religious sites during the war. Unsurprisingly, Spanish Catholics overwhelmingly supported the nationalist effort during the Civil War. Even among conservative allies of the republic (for example, conservative Catalan nationalists), support for the republican cause was lukewarm at best, thanks to the Spanish Red Terror.

The Red Terror’s victims are not limited to Catholics or nationalists. As the war progressed and the Communists came to have greater power in the republic (for example, when they were given the Interior Ministry and when the militias were put under centralized control), they also turned their fire on anarchists, socialists and Trotskyists. This move against the non-Communist elements of the Spanish left is detailed in later chapters of George Orwell’s memoir, An Homage to Catalonia.

A Spanish White Terror?

Some attempts have been made to create an equivalence between the Red Terror in Spain and the Francoist repression at the end of the war. There certainly were atrocities committed by the Francoist forces during the course of the war. Indeed, it would be a bit strange if there weren’t, as such atrocities are a hallmark of modern warfare. Specifically, the Francoist forces engaged in war rape and frequently confiscated babies from republican women prior to their execution. These babies were then placed with Francoist families.

However, there are also some important differences between the terror engaged in by the Francoist forces and their republican adversaries. The Francoist repression wasn’t indiscriminately targeted at the friends, family and acquaintances of anyone who fought on the republican side. It was directed squarely at people who had committed atrocities in the name of the republican regime. The large numbers run up by the Francoist forces aren’t a function of the bloodthirsty nature of the victorious nationalist forces – on the contrary, they were quite conciliatory and looking to get the country moving again after a highly destructive war. Rather, it’s because the atrocities committed by the republican forces during the Civil War were so widespread. Those executed generally received trials unlike those summarily executed by the republicans.

Forced labor was employed for projects such as draining swamps, digging canals and building national railway systems. But again, it is worth noting that the people who were being conscripted for labor were considered criminals by the new regime. Indeed, any participation in the Popular Front government of the republic was criminalized by the Law of Political Responsibility, enacted two months after the end of the war. What’s more, this forced labor is not comparable to gulag labor where the intent was to work the victims to death.

As with any fight against Communist forces, it is worth asking a simple question: What would Spain have looked like if the Communists had won? We have ample examples of what Communist regimes look like – in Eastern Europe, in Asia and in Latin America. There is little reason to believe that a Communist regime in Spain would not have been as bloodthirsty and ruthless as other Communist regimes. Indeed, the experience of the Civil War shows that a Spanish Communist regime would have been quite destructive and, it is fair to say, vindictive in its victory.

The Course of the War

The Prelude to World War II: The Spanish Civil War and Today's AmericaWithout getting too bogged down into the details of the war, the Civil War is largely the story of the nationalist forces winning victory after victory until the end of the war. This is largely because the republican military wasn’t centralized. Instead, most of the military decisions were delegated to individual autonomous militias who elected their own officers and operated on a democratic basis. Nationalist forces were unified under Franco very quickly, with everyone from conservatives to monarchists to fascists all forced to play nice in service of the nationalist cause. Such centralization did not come for the republicans until the very end of the war, and by then it was too little, too late – and also largely a power play by Moscow’s forces in the Communist Party.

The only major republican victory during the war was the Battle of Guadalajara. This was not a successful republican offensive, however – it was a successful repulsion of a nationalist attack. What’s more, the republicans didn’t even defeat a Spanish military force. They were fighting instead primarily volunteers from fascist Italy. The main impact of this loss was that the nationalists stopped trying to end the war with one big battle and instead focused on chipping away at vulnerable parts of republican Spain.

In 1939, Catalonia, the strongest base of republican support, fell to the nationalists and it was mostly all over but for the shouting. While there were major cities still under the control of the republicans (such as the capital, Madrid), everything from here on out was largely a mop-up operation for the nationalists. The republican government was in total disarray and attempted to negotiate a peace settlement with Franco, but the Generalissimo would only accept an unconditional surrender from the republicans.

Franco declared victory in a radio address on April 1, 1939. Over 500,000 republicans fled to France, where they were largely held in squalid internment camps. Some stragglers continued to fight guerilla warfare against the Francoist government even into the 1950s, but there was no significant impact. In 1944, some republican veterans who had been fighting with the French Resistance attempted to invade Catalonia from France, but the attack was repelled within 10 days.

The Relevance of the Spanish Civil War Today

So what does a European civil war that ended 70 years ago have to do with anything going on in America today? A lot, actually.

First, there is the intense political polarization of the United States. A significant portion of the country champions changing the United States into a radical liberal nation with greater centralized control and a firm Constitutional commitment to leftist social justice causes. Another significant portion of the country is opposed to any further changes to the United States Constitution and is openly hostile toward leftist egalitarian principles.

What’s more, we are already beginning to see street battles not dissimilar to those that happened in Spain in the lead up to the Civil War. It is also worth noting that the anarcho-communist ideology, which held great sway among the partisans of the Second Spanish Republic, likewise informs the insurrectionary elements of the American left that began rioting and burning down American cities in the summer of 2020.

As we prepare for the 2020 Presidential election, it is clear that whoever loses will not only be unhappy with the results, but will probably consider them to be illegitimate. On the left, there is the Russiagate hoax, the leftist conspiracy theory that alleges that the Russian intelligence services “stole” the election for President Donald Trump in 2016. On the right, there is the very reasonable fear that there will be a variety of electoral chicanery, including mass mail-in balloting, voting by dead people, voting by pets, voting by dead pets and outright fabrication of ballots from largely Democratic-controlled urban areas in swing states. Indeed, a Bloomberg article seems to be preparing the American public for a stolen election, stating that while it might “appear” that Donald Trump will win reelection in a landslide the night of the election, that further months and weeks will reveal that he did not, in fact, win as the aforementioned mail-in ballots come in.

An article from the Washington Post states that any outcome but a Biden landslide will result in massive violence and civil unrest. While Jeff Bezos’ vanity blog certainly has their reasons for promoting this notion, it’s not entirely without merit. If the president is reelected, no matter how big the margin, there will likely be another wave of urban unrest that will dwarf the events of the summer of 2020. If Biden wins by a slim margin, there will be accusations of fraud and likely more confrontations in the streets, albeit more two-sided. It seems that the only result that would be accepted as “legitimate,” particularly by the press and the American left, is one where Biden wins dramatically.

It is worth briefly considering the other side of the equation. The American Conservative ran a column in July 2020 discussing the very real phenomenon of the American right’s increasing impatience not with democracy, but with liberalism. This is a phenomenon known as “illiberal democracy,” where the forms of democracy persist, but are used for anti-liberal means. Put in simple terms: How many on the American right – even the mainstream American right – would be terribly bothered by the president taking extreme action against an insurrectionary left?

No one has a crystal ball to see the future. However, it is not a wild assertion to suggest that the real violence in America is coming after the election.

The Prelude to World War II: The Spanish Civil War and Today’s America originally appeared in The Resistance Library at Ammo.com.

We Must Prosecute American Officials For War Crimes in Yemen

We Must Prosecute American Officials For War Crimes in Yemen

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia recently announced that it was providing $204 million in aid for the impoverished and war-ravaged country of Yemen. That sounds generous, but it’s the Saudi royals themselves who are responsible for most of the death, destruction, starvation, and disease in Yemen, in which 80 percent of the population, some 24 million, need outside assistance.

Riyadh has spent more than five years conducting a brutal air campaign intended to restore a pliant regime to power. The claim that the Kingdom is generously helping the needy is a bit like a man murdering his parents only to throw himself on the court’s mercy since he is an orphan. If Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman wanted to help the Yemeni people, he would simply end the war.

But he won’t, at least in part because the Trump administration is underwriting the Saudi government’s murderous campaign. Why is the president forcing Americans to assist the Saudi royals, who respect no political or religious liberty and kidnap, imprison, and murder their critics? President Donald Trump appears to be almost bewitched by the licentious and corrupt Saudis.

Washington sold Saudi Arabia planes and munitions used to kill thousands of Yemeni civilians. American personnel serviced and refueled the same planes, as well as providing intelligence to assist in targeting Saudi strikes. That makes U.S. officials complicit in war crimes committed day in and day out for more than five years.

Read the rest of this article at The American Conservative.

Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. A former special assistant to President Ronald Reagan, he is author of Foreign Follies: America’s New Global Empire.

What ‘Experts’ Miss About Economic Inequality

What ‘Experts’ Miss About Economic Inequality

How can the U.S. reduce economic inequality?

That’s a question USA Today posed to three “policy experts on the left and the right” in this recent article. The responses, while unsurprising, were nevertheless disappointing.

For libertarians, economic inequality itself is not problematic, as long as it is in the context of an unfettered market economy free of government privileges and interference.

Of course, that’s not what we have. But instead of advocating for a more free economy to address inequality, the “experts” consulted by USA Today advocate for more state interference that would likely make inequality worse, while ignoring perhaps the largest source of inequality, the Federal Reserve.

First up is Scott Winship of the American Enterprise Institute, who focuses on income mobility. Winship points out that if every child had equal economic opportunity, then we would see an equal percentage among races of children remaining in the bottom fifth of income when they become adults.

Winship notes that roughly 30% of white children remain in the bottom fifth in adulthood, while the percent for black children exceeds 50%.

Absent from Winship’s observation, however, is the recognition of why this might be the case.

According to Pew Research, 30% of single mothers and their families are living in poverty compared to 8% of married couples and families. In other words, children are nearly four times as likely to be living in poverty in a single mother household compared to a household headed by a married couple. Meanwhile, 58% of black children are living with an unmarried parent, compared to 24% of white children and just 13% of Asian children.

Moreover, the welfare state has facilitated a dramatic rise in single-parent homes. Nationally, since LBJ’s Great Society ratcheted up government welfare programs in the mid-1960s, the rate of unmarried births has tripled.

Single parenthood fueled by the welfare state is an outsized source of inequality, but the welfare state escapes any blame by the “expert” Winship.

To his credit, Winship in his recommendations mentions in passing that “shoring up marriage where it has become an anomaly” would help reduce inequality, but fails to target the welfare state as the major culprit.

His other recommendations include the vague notion of “expanding access to high opportunity neighborhoods,” perhaps a nod to government programs to inject affordable housing projects in middle class suburbs, along with increased government spending on early childhood programs. Encouraging more state involvement in child rearing while ignoring the glaring problem of single parenthood caused in large part by the welfare state sounds like a recipe to exacerbate inequality, not combat it.

Next up is American Compass research director Wells King, who blames growing economic inequality on the fact that the “labor movement has lost power.”

King overlooks basic economic analysis while giving labor unions undeserving credit for boosting worker wages on a broad scale. As Henry Hazlitt wrote, “the blunt truth is that labor unions cannot raise the real wages of all workers.”

As Hazlitt explained, “whenever the unions gain higher wage rates for their own members than free competition would have brought, they can do this only by increasing unemployment,” in that industry, because the above market wage rates decrease employer demand.

As a result, more workers are forced to compete for other nonunionized jobs, and the increased supply of workers in other industries drives down those wages. Therefore, Hazlitt concludes, “All union ‘gains’ (i.e., wage rates above what a competitive free market would have brought) are at the expense of lower wages than otherwise for at least some if not most nonunion workers. The unions cannot raise the average level of real wages; they can at best distort it.”

As Hazlitt explained, King’s calls for a more robust union movement as a means to reduce economic inequality are ill-founded.

Moreover, King’s blinkered focus on unions as being a force for growing worker wages blinds him to a far more potent force driving inequality.

“The steady erosion of unions over the past 50 years has been responsible” for growing inequality, King insists while noting a correlation between declining union membership and growing wealth inequality during that time.

But what else happened fifty years ago that might influence wealth inequality?

Of course it was Nixon’s severing the final ties of the dollar to gold in 1971, which has enabled the Federal Reserve to create fiat money completely unchecked.

As demonstrated in multiple charts at the website WTFhappenedin1971, there is a clear divergence in incomes between high and low earners beginning sharply in 1971.

According to this 2018 Mises.org article, the base (M1) money supply ballooned by an incredible 17 times, with more than $3.2 trillion being created from 1971 to 2018. And it’s only getting worse, with another 33% increase in the first 7 months of 2020 alone.

Why does Fed money printing increase economic inequality?

In short, the rich receive a significant share of their income from investments, while the middle class primarily relies on their income from labor, and the poor a combination of labor income and government welfare payments.

When the Fed creates new fiat money out of thin air, it isn’t distributed evenly throughout the economy. Instead, it is inserted at specific points, typically via credit to business investors. As the Fed inflates a bubble, speculation with the new money also increases—which inflates the stock market, benefitting the investor class.

Meanwhile, the fiat money creation creates price inflation that permeates over time throughout the economy. Some of the more highly skilled in the middle class may receive salary increases to keep up with the inflation, while many of the lower-skilled middle class will struggle to keep up with rising prices.

Meanwhile, the poor, who lack the bargaining power to raise their wages to keep pace with inflation, and otherwise rely on relatively fixed incomes, fall further behind.

The failure of King to recognize the Fed’s major role in growing inequality undercuts any credibility his recommendations should be given.

Lastly is Economic Policy Institute research director Josh Bevins who incredibly calls for more money printing to help reduce economic inequality.

“Policymakers should re-target genuine full employment (the Fed is making good steps in this direction)” Bevins implores. How this supposed “expert” believes more asset bubble inflating money creation will reduce economic inequality goes without explanation.

Bevins further calls for a “substantially increased” federal minimum wage, without acknowledging that pricing low-skilled workers out of the workforce and eliminating their first rung on the career ladder will reduce the ability for low-income people to increase their earning power and narrow economic inequality.

More generous unemployment benefits is another of Bevins’ recommendations. But increasing the incentive to not work will result in more people, especially those already on the margins of employment, staying out of the workforce for longer periods of time—a great recipe to stymie the steady career track needed to climb out of low-income status.

How disappointing that a national publication like USA Today can do no better than “experts” who recommend government interventions that would end up increasing, rather than shrinking, economic inequality.

Bradley Thomas is creator of the website Erasethestate.com and author of the book “Tweeting Liberty: Libertarian Tweets to Smash Statists and Socialists.” He is a libertarian activist who enjoys researching and writing on the freedom philosophy and Austrian economics. Follow him on twitter @erasestate.

How the Military is Using Your Data to Fight China

How the Military is Using Your Data to Fight China

A new generation of Cold Warriors want your data to build artificial intelligence-powered weapons for their escalating conflict with China.

This has been made explicit by the U.S. National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI), a relatively new and secretive government body tasked with boosting the military’s AI capabilities. The NSCAI is a who’s who of the military-tech complex, with figures such as former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, former deputy defense secretary Robert Work, Oracle CEO Safra Catz, and Chris Darby, who heads the CIA investment arm In-Q-Tel.

According to these people, China wants to use AI to become the next dominant world power—and they’re willing to mimic some of China’s authoritarianism to stop that from happening.

“I don’t think we’re overhyping the threat from China in AI,” Work said at a public NSCAI meeting in July. “They’ve been quite clear that they think artificial intelligence will allow them to leapfrog the U.S. and allow them to become the preeminent military power on the planet. And they’re intent on doing just that.”

Right now, the United States has a leg up on China with most AI applications. But the NSCAI worries that China’s unfettered access to all its citizens’ data will propel it past the U.S. by 2030. By tapping the centralized data of the billion-plus residents and other people around the world, the Chinese government can better train its facial- and voice-recognition technology, launch more sophisticated cyberattacks, manipulate individuals, and spy on Western countries.

To the detriment of liberty, the NSCAI has suggested that the U.S. implement similar policies to maintain its lead in the AI race. While paying lip service to “AI ethics” and insisting that the U.S. needs to stay dominant to preserve global freedom, commission members have made startling proposals such as centralizing all the country’s data for the use of Pentagon researchers, limiting U.S.-China trade relations, and developing powerful new surveillance tools.

Chairman Schmidt outlined his ambitions last week during a House Armed Services Committee hearing, where he called for “broad research exemptions” on the use of big data to boost America’s warfighting efforts.

“What I would like to see is a broad research exemption that would allow the kind of data that is being collected to be used for research with appropriate safety safeguards and privacy concerns and so forth,” he said. “One of the key things to understand about AI is it needs data. It eats data; it’s how it trains it, how it learns. And the more data, the better.”

Schmidt’s statements echo his fellow NSCAI member and Google Cloud AI director Andrew Moore, who said in an interview in May that universities should pool their AI-ready data sets for the common good.

“Rather than having every university—or, god forbid, every professor—try to build their own local data store to practice their experiments on, we need to build something where the academic United States is able to share and experiment with data at this much larger level,” he said.

Commission members haven’t publicly called for government to have direct access to tech companies’ consumer data, but they have drooled over China’s ability to do that—making statements in internal reports such as “mass surveillance is a killer application” and “having streets carpeted with cameras is good infrastructure for smart cities.” Moreover, universities and tech companies frequently partner to develop AI systems, with the tech firms forking over droves of consumer data to researchers. IBM has released millions of photos so companies can improve facial recognition technology, and Google has partnered with university hospitals to run medical data through AI programs—just to name a couple examples.

If the NSCAI has its druthers, all this data and more will be accessible to Pentagon researchers. And unfortunately, many agree with the commission that this is necessary.

The specter of a dystopian AI society dominated by China has led libertarian-leaning folks to abandon their free trade, anti-war principles because they say the world is better off with the U.S. as its leader. People like Peter Thiel and others who supported Trump for his relatively non-interventionist approach to the Middle East, for instance, support decoupling the two countries’ economies because they say their core values are inimical to each other.

But what good is it for the U.S. to win the AI race if government must sacrifice whatever remaining free market and libertarian values it has? Are Americans really prepared for another Cold War-style arms race that will undoubtedly increase the use of AI for authoritarian purposes at home and abroad?

When urging the U.S. to take a less militaristic approach to the USSR in 1947, former diplomat George Kennan perhaps said it best: “The issue of Soviet-American relations is in essence a test of the overall worth of the United States as a nation among nations. To avoid destruction the United States need only measure up to its own best traditions and prove itself worthy of preservation as a great nation.”

Unfortunately, Kennan’s contemporaries didn’t heed his advice, and 40-some years of Cold War ensued—spilling over to the current ongoing quagmire in Afghanistan due to the U.S. arming the mujahedeen to fight the Soviets there in the 1980s.

A new cold war with China could be even more devastating, and libertarians should do all they can to oppose the efforts of the NSCAI and others who are leading us in that direction.

News Roundup

News Roundup 10/26/20

US News The US will deploy Coast Guard cutters to the western Pacific to combat “illegal Chinese fishing and harassment.” [Link] The US and Japan kick off major war games in the Pacific. The games are a show of force to China and will include cyber warfare for the...


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