Politics

Biden’s New Budget Busting Bill

Since the 1800s, surly Americans have derided politicians for spending tax dollars “like drunken sailors.” Until recently, that was considered a grave character fault. But Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act shows that inebriated spending is now the path to national salvation.

It was a common saying in America in the 1930s that “we cannot squander our way to prosperity.” But that was before the latest “best and brightest” crop took the helm of the federal government.

The Rescue Act is based on blind faith in government spending—the revival of the “Magic Bean School of Political Economy.” When he signed the bill on March 12, Biden declared, “We have to spend this money to make sure we have economic growth, unrelated to how much it’s going to help people.” The act’s $1.9 trillion price tag is proof of its beneficence. Biden boasted that he would be sending federal “stimulus” checks to more than 100 million Americans in the following 10 days. The White House called the bill “the most progressive piece of legislation in history.”

The biggest fear in Washington is that federal agencies will not be able to throw tax dollars at citizens, businesses, and local and state governments quickly enough. The Washington Post frets that “the sheer volume of new programs threatens to swamp federal agencies.” This is the sixth federal COVID bailout since last spring, and “a slew of other efforts to help struggling businesses…have been trapped in the federal bureaucracy.”

The purpose of this Rescue Act is to rescue faith in Big Government. In his televised address, Biden declared that in order to “beat this virus,” Americans must “put trust and faith in our government to fulfill its most important function, which is protecting the American people…We need to remember the government isn’t some foreign force in a distant capital. No, it’s us. All of us. We, the people.” At the time of Biden’s speech, the U.S. Capitol was surrounded by high fences topped with razor wire. Thousands of National Guard troops prowled the grounds of the Capitol and elsewhere in the District of Columbia to deter any unpleasantness from uppity citizens. Luckily, most of the Washington media continued to vouch that the political class was dutifully serving Americans behind closed doors.

Oversight

Biden promised “fastidious oversight to make sure there’s no waste or fraud” in the multi-trillion-dollar bonanza. But politicians define “waste” differently than taxpayers define the term. Any handout that produces political gratitude is a fruitful investment according to Washington scoring. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), promised, “We’re going to be watchdogging this every single step of the way.” However, the attendance by senators at congressional oversight hearings is on par with attendance at baseball games during COVID lockdowns. Most members of Congress will pay little attention to the details of the law as long as their constituents get deluged with free money.

The Biden bill includes barrels of new handouts that Congress rushed into law without careful examination. When federal benefits exceed what someone could earn on the job, they can become a penalty fee on work. University of Chicago economist Casey Mulligan estimated that the extra unemployment payments and other benefits in the Biden bill could result in employing eight million fewer Americans later this year. But collateral damage doesn’t matter as long as politicians get campaign contributions and applause for programs that wreak economic havoc with perverse incentives.

The Biden administration is bringing the same solution to America that previously failed in Afghanistan. After Barack Obama decided to “surge” U.S. troops into Afghanistan, the Christian Science Monitor noted in 2010, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) “created an atmosphere of frantic urgency about the ‘burn rate’—a measure of how quickly money is spent. Emphasis gets put on spending fast to make room for the next batch from Congress.” One Kabul-based analyst employee lamented, “As long as you spend money and you can provide a paper trail, that’s a job well done. It’s a perverse system.” The Washington Post noted in 2019, “Many aid workers blamed Congress for what they saw as a mindless rush to spend.” John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), lambasted a system where it seemed that “only those who can shove the money out the door or meet the required ‘burn rate’ are to be promoted and rewarded.” The “burn rate” produced endless absurdities in Afghanistan, including collapsing schools, impassable roads, failed electrification projects, and a nonexistent health clinic.

In his televised address on March 11, Biden promised, “I’m using every power I have as the president of the United States to put us on a war footing.” But who was Biden going to war against?

Alas, Americans’ rights and liberties could be in the cross-hairs of the latest attempt by the U.S. government to buy submission. Shortly after the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, pallets stacked high with newly printed $100 bills were flown into Baghdad. U.S. military officers handed bundles of cash to local residents to buy influence and undermine resistance to the U.S. occupation. The “Money as a Weapon System” (MAAWS) program scattered $10 billion with little or no oversight. The handouts were valuable for “demonstrating positive intent or goodwill” and helped “gain access or influence,” according to a 2012 Pentagon analysis. Such payments came in especially handy after U.S. troops inadvertently killed children or sheep. MAAWS subsidized Bush administration boasting about Iraq and, later on, Obama administration boasting about Afghanistan.

Presidents and members of Congress are not formally carrying out a counterinsurgency campaign against the American people. But politicians of both parties have long relied on MAAWS to buy votes or buttress their power. Last year, Donald Trump made sure that the federal COVID checks Americans received had his signature. Democrats took control of the U.S. Senate, thanks to Biden’s promise that voters would receive $2,000 federal checks if Democrats won the January runoff elections in Georgia.

Can politicians convert the big checks they send voters into a blank check for additional power for themselves? Biden recently told congressional Democrats that “Americans are in lockstep on each major element” of his rescue act. Concerned observers are still waiting for Biden to reveal where he will order Americans to march.

Disruptions

As the feds launched the deluge of new handouts, Biden declared, “We have to continue to build confidence in the American people that their government can function for them and deliver.” But neither Biden nor other Democratic politicians nor their media allies will admit that the COVID “relief” payments are a response to the horrendous damage previously inflicted by politicians.

After the COVID-19 pandemic began, politicians tightened tourniquets that were supposed to vanquish the virus by cutting off the economy’s blood supply. Governors in state after state effectively placed hundreds of millions of citizens under house arrest—dictates that former Attorney General Bill Barr aptly compared to “the greatest intrusion on civil liberties” since the end of slavery. New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, set the standard when he effectively declared that he was entitled to inflict any burden on his state’s residents to “save just one life.”

But heavy-handed government decrees were more effective at wrecking lives than at vanquishing a virus. More than 10 million jobs were destroyed. Almost 40 percent of households earning less than $40,000 per year have someone who lost his job in recent months, according to the Federal Reserve. Prohibiting people from living normal lives resulted in surging rates of suicide, drug abuse, and depression. The Disaster Distress Helpline, a federal crisis hotline, received almost 900 percent more phone calls compared with the prior year. A California health organization recently estimated that 75,000 Americans could die from “despair” as a result of the pandemic, unemployment, and government restrictions. Maybe the shutdown champions will solve that problem by making antidepressants mandatory for all citizens?

One of the greatest continuing disruptions of the pandemic is the continued shutdown of government schools. During his presidential campaign, Biden promised to deluge schools with enough federal aid that they could reopen safely within 100 days. That 100 days came and went, and many of the nation’s largest school systems remain padlocked despite evidence that they could safely reopen. Teachers’ unions feel that their members are entitled to full pay and zero risk, and the Biden administration is kowtowing to one of its largest political supporters. While many parents who depended on government schools are seeing their kids fall far behind academically, many private schools have reopened with little or no problem. The exodus from government schools is one of the bright spots from the pandemic.

Addicting citizens to government handouts could be the easiest way to breed mass docility and enable politicians to stretch their power. The bigger the government becomes, the more votes it can buy. At some point, soaring government spending and the taxation to finance handouts becomes a Damocles sword over the entire political system. As economist Warren Nutter warned, “The more that government takes, the less likely that democracy will survive.”

Politicians cannot undermine self-reliance without subverting self-government. Thomas Jefferson warned, “Dependence…prepares fit tools for the designs of [political] ambition.” Plutarch observed of the dying days of the Roman Republic: “The people were at that time extremely corrupted by the gifts of those who sought office, and most made a constant trade of selling their voices.” Montesquieu wrote: “It is impossible to make great largesses to the people without great extortion: and to compass this, the state must be subverted. The greater the advantages they seem to derive from their liberty [of voting], the nearer they approach towards the critical moment of losing it.” As economist Friedrich Hayek noted, “The conception that government should be guided by majority opinion makes sense only if that opinion is independent of government.”

Anything that encourages people to view politicians as saviors imperils freedom. The more people there are who depend on Washington, the more difficult it becomes to leash politicians. But the profusion of handouts will enable politicians to yank in the reins on average citizens. The Supreme Court ruled in 1942, “It is hardly lack of due process for the government to regulate that which it subsidizes.” Government controls have followed a short step behind the subsidies; as a result, more and more activities in our society and economy are now dependent on political approval. Subsidies inherently represent a transfer of sovereignty and power from private citizens to politicians and bureaucrats.

Biden may be confident that deluging Americans with government checks can put the federal government back on a pedestal. But as a top U.S. government official lamented regarding Afghanistan, “We had no legitimacy if we weren’t flooding the area with cash.” At some point, the federal government’s ability to carpet bomb citizens with free money will fizzle out. In the meantime, the biggest mistake Americans could make is to permit politicians to absolve themselves by giving away more of other people’s money.

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

The Political Prisoners of January 6th

The recent felony conviction and eight month prison sentence of January 6th protester Paul Hodgkins is an affront to any notion of justice. It is a political charge and a political verdict by a political court. Every American regardless of political persuasion should be terrified of a court system so beholden to politics instead of justice.

We’ve seen this movie before and it does not end well.

Worse than this miscarriage of justice is the despicable attempt by the prosecutor in the case to label Hodgkins – who has no criminal record and was accused of no violent crime—a “terrorist.”

As journalist Michael Tracey recently wrote, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Mona Sedky declared Hodgkins a “terrorist” in the court proceedings not for committing any terrorist act, not for any act of violence, not even for imagining a terrorist act.

Sedky wrote in her sentencing memo, “The Government…recognizes that Hodgkins did not personally engage in or espouse violence or property destruction.” She added, “we concede that Mr. Hodgkins is not under the legal definition a domestic terrorist.”

Yet Hodgkins should be considered a terrorist because the actions he took—entering the Senate to take a photo of himself—occurred during an event that the court is “framing…in the context of terrorism.”

That goes beyond a slippery slope. He is not a terrorist because he committed a terrorist act, but because somehow the “context” of his actions was, in her words, “imperiling democracy.”

In other words, Hodgkins deserved enhanced punishment because he committed a thought crime. The judge on the case, Randolph D. Moss, admitted as much. In carrying a Trump flag into the Senate, he said, Hodgkins was, “declaring his loyalty to a single individual over the nation.”

As Tracey pointed out, while eight months in prison is a ridiculously long sentence for standing on the floor of the “People’s House” and taking a photograph, it is also a ridiculously short sentence for a terrorist. If Hodgkins is really a terrorist, shouldn’t he be sent away for longer than eight months?

The purpose of the Soviet show trials was to create an enemy that the public could collectively join in hating and blaming for all the failures of the system. The purpose was to turn one part of the population against the other part of the population and demand they be “cancelled.” And it worked very well…for awhile.

In a recent article, libertarian author Jim Bovard quoted from Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago about how average people turned out to demand “justice” for the state’s designated “political” enemies: “There were universal meetings and demonstrations (including even school-children). It was the newspaper march of millions, and the roar rose outside the windows of the courtroom: ‘Death! Death! Death!’”

While we are not quite there yet, we are moving in that direction. Americans being sent to prison not for what they did, but for what they believe? Does that sound like the kind of America we really want to live in?

While many Biden backers are enjoying seeing the hammer come down on pro-Trump, non-violent protesters, they should take note: the kind of totalitarian “justice” system they are cheering on will soon be coming for them. It always does.

This article was originally featured at the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity and is republished with permission.

“Independent” Media Sells America’s New Cold War Ep. 176 ft. Connor Freeman

Connor Freeman is a writer at the Libertarian Institute, where he covers issues in noninterventionist foreign policy, focusing on the middle east and America’s new cold war footing against Russia and China. His writing has also appeared at antiwar.com. Find all of his work here.

Connor joins me to discuss his most recent piece “Faux Populists Shill for the Permanent War State.” We also cover America’s New Cold War and those who are selling it. this is what appears to be a coordinated campaign involving prominent “alternative” voices, some of whom are beloved by libertarians. We also send a tough love wakeup call to fellow libertarians who spend more time talking about messaging, strategy, and drama than performing substantive work.

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Leaked: How GOP Insiders Torpedoed Attempt To Add ’28 Pages’ Declassification to Party Platform

According to leaked emails obtained by Middle East Eye, an unnamed Republican Party figure orchestrated the defeat of a proposed 2016 GOP plank calling for the declassification of 28 pages on Saudi government links to the 9/11 plotters.

That individual then notified Trump presidential campaign manager Paul Manafort of the plank’s defeat and claimed credit for providing instructions to “our political team” to kill it.

Manafort forwarded the news to Tom Barrack—Trump’s billionaire friend, surrogate and fundraiser—who notified Yousef al-Otaiba, the United Arab Emirates ambassador to the United States.

The behind-the-scenes communications seem to suggest that Trump campaign officials and associates, eager to strengthen their relationships with Gulf officials, supported efforts to thwart the release of the 28 pages even though candidate Trump had spoken favorably of it.

Months before the Republican convention intrigue, however, Trump implied he would release the 28 pages if elected, and suggested they could reveal Saudi guilt for 9/11.

At a February 2016 campaign event, Trump said, “It wasn’t the Iraqis that knocked down the World Trade Center. We went after Iraq, we decimated the country, Iran’s taking over…but it wasn’t the Iraqis, you will find out who really knocked down the World Trade Center, because they have papers in there that are very secret, you may find it’s the Saudis, okay? But you will find out.”

“Really confidential but important. Please don’t distribute.”

During proceedings of the platform committee at the July 2016 Republican national convention, the national security subcommittee approved a plank urging the release of the 28 pages. However, it was rejected when it went before the full platform committee.

Soon after, a Republican party source, whose name is not known, sent a self-aggrandizing email to Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. In part, it read:

“Paul. Something you can pass along to your friend Tom Barrack. I made certain that language that was anti the Saudi Royal Family was removed from the platform. It was inserted by AIPAC lobbyists and would have been a part of the 2016 Platform. When I saw the amendment that was passed in the subcommittee, I gave instructions to our political team to remove the language in the full committee.”

The full email follows this story. Middle East Eye concluded that “Paul” is Paul Manafort via other context in the leaked email conversations. (Below, I’ll dismantle the bizarre suggestion that AIPAC was behind the plank and reveal who actually wrote it.)

After receiving news of the plank’s defeat from Manafort, Barrack—who later chaired Trump’s inauguration committee—forwarded it to al-Otaiba, calling it “really confidential but important. Please don’t distribute.”

Since the platform proceedings were carried live by CSPAN, Barrack’s request for confidentiality seems intended to conceal Manafort and Barrack’s support of the plank’s demise, as they quietly worked to curry favor with the Saudi-aligned UAE and the kingdom itself.

Manafort, who now stands famously indicted for a variety of charges that include obstruction of justice, conspiracy to launder money, making false statements, witness tampering and acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign principal, was once a registered agent of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, along with many other regimes known for violating human rights.

“The emails will be of interest to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who has widened the scope of his inquiry into potential Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election to include whether the Emiratis and Saudis funneled payments to Trump’s election campaign,” writes Hearst.

His report also paints a picture of an increasingly warm personal relationship between Barrack and the UAE’s al-Otaiba. “You’re an amazing man,” gushed Barrack after al-Otaiba hosted him at a dinner that also included Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir. Barrack thanked his host for serving “irreplacable wine.”

The emails also illuminate Barrack’s project to mold Trump’s thinking about the region. “I would like to align in Donald’s mind the connection between the UAE and Saudi Arabia which we’ve already started with Jared (Kushner),” he wrote to al-Otaiba.

Saudi Guardians at the GOP Convention

If the unidentified Republican figure’s boast was truthful, then, by all indications, that person’s instructions to kill the 28 pages plank found their way to Steve Yates, a former deputy national security advisor to vice president Dick Cheney.

A member of the platform committee and then-chair of the Idaho Republican Party, Yates moved for the plank’s rejection and gave a brief speech heavy on fallacious arguments echoing those being contemporaneously advanced by Saudi-accommodating CIA director John Brennan.

Before it was voted down, two Trump-aligned members of the platform committee also spoke against the plank:

  • Thomas Dadey, who co-chaired Trump’s New York campaign and was later named to Trump’s transition team.
  • Darcie Johnston, Trump’s Vermont campaign manager who went on to receive a job as a special assistant in the new administration’s Department of Health and Human Services.

Yates become an informal advisor to the Trump transition team, where he played a supporting role in Trump’s controversial receipt of a congratulatory phone call from Taiwan’s president.

Barrack Sought to Curtail Trump’s Exploitation of Clinton-Saudi Links

Hearst provided 28Pages.org with another email exchange not quoted in the Middle East Eye story, one that shows Barrack’s high interest in shielding Saudi Arabia from embarrassing comments by Trump on the campaign trail, and in making sure the UAE ambassador knew about it.

On June 22, 2016, Trump delivered a formal, high-profile campaign speech at the Trump Soho hotel in New York in which he attacked opponent Hillary Clinton, accusing her of corruption during her tenure as secretary of state.

On the same day, in an email to al-Otaiba, Barrack wrote, “I also made sure in his speech against Hillary today that he did not mention or antagonise the issue of her taking Saudi Arabian money! All good.”

Al-Otaiba replied, “I think he did mention Hillary taking Saudi money :)”

The ambassador was correct: Trump said “Hillary took $25 million from Saudi Arabia…where being gay is also punishable by death.”

The Saudi-Clinton monetary connection was one of many dimensions of Clinton’s record that dampened progressive liberal enthusiasm for her, and thus contributed to the low Democrat turnout that proved fatal to her campaign. However, in Barrack’s own political and perhaps financial calculus, fully exploiting that dynamic apparently took a back seat to protecting the interests of Saudi Arabia.

28 Pages Plank Not the Work of AIPAC

The unidentified Republican party member’s claim that the plank was the brainchild of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is not merely odd—given the under-the-table alliance between Saudi Arabia and Israel—it’s also false.

The plank was introduced by delegate and Maine state senator Eric Brakey—and the language was personally drafted by me, Brian McGlinchey.

The libertarian Brakey contacted me after hearing my July 6, 2016 appearance on The Tom Woods Show, in which I discussed the growing, nonpartisan drive to declassify the 28 pages. He expressed his interest in introducing a plank supportive of the cause and I drafted language for him to use.

Reached with news of the intrigue surrounding his plank, Brakey says, “It doesn’t necessarily surprise me. There’s a lot that happens (at party conventions) out in front for people to see, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If there were really powerful people trying to stamp it out, we must have been on to something, and we found out we were on to something when they were released.”

As it turned out, the 28 pages were declassified just days after the platform battle, albeit with many remaining redactions.

Among other things, the 28 pages revealed many troubling connections between the 9/11 hijackers’ support network and other people of interest to investigators and then-Saudi ambassador to the United States Prince Bandar bin Sultan.

However, thanks to a perfect storm of major competing stories, a comprehensive U.S. government campaign to downplay the pages’ significance, and the media tendency to report official stances with little or no questioning, their impact was muted.

“It’s kind of a shame they’ve been swept under the rug,” says Brakey.

Tom Barrack’s Email to UAE Ambassador Yousef al-Otaiba Regarding 28 Pages Platform Plank

Middle East Eye provided me with a copy of the content of this email chain

From: Tom Barrack

Sent: Wednesday July 13, 2016 8.02 AM

To: His Excellency Yousef Al Otaiba

Subject:

Really confidential but important. Please don’t distribute. Where are you this summer. Would love to get together

Sent from my iPhone

Removed from Platform

Paul

Something you can pass along to your friend Tom Barrack.

I made certain that language that was anti the Saudi Royal Family was removed from the platform.

It was inserted by AIPAC lobbyists and would have been a part of the 2016 Platform.

When I saw the amendment that was passed in the subcommittee, I gave instructions to our political team to revoke the language in the full committee.

The final report of the Platform Committee does not contain the language.

1.       Saudi Arabia

a.     Removed a section in the Platform that was inserted to embarrass the royal family. The section called for the release of 28 pages of sensitive documents gathered during the 911 investigation. The pages allegedly contain information that asserts involvement by the Saudi Government/Royals as related to the alleged Saudi funding of terrorists who were involved in the 911 bombings

This article was originally featured at Stark Realities and is republished with permission.

America’s Gubernatorial Dictatorships

There are no fact-checkers for victory laps. Last week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo summarized his experience with the COVID-19 crisis: “Speaking for myself, it was a tremendous personal benefit.” Cuomo made that declaration in a speech concluding his one-year chairmanship of the National Governors Association. Because Cuomo’s spiel sought to rewrite history to exonerate politicians who ravaged Americans’ rights and liberties, it requires a rebuttal.

Cuomo declared that “we maximized the moment as governors. Governors have a new credibility. Governors have a new status.” Cuomo epitomized the rush to “absolute power” that occurred in governor’s mansions across the nation. After he fueled pandemic fears, the New York Times proclaimed, “Andrew Cuomo Is the Control Freak We Need Right Now.” A New Yorker profile, titled “Andrew Cuomo, King of New York,” explained that Cuomo and his aides saw the battle over COVID policy as “between people who believe government can be a force for good and those who think otherwise.” Cuomo denounced anyone who disobeyed his edicts, including condemning sheriffs as “dictators” for refusing to enforce his mask mandate inside people’s homes.

Cuomo justified placing almost 20 million people under house arrest: “If everything we do saves just one life, I’ll be happy.” Though his repressive policies failed to prevent New York from having among the nation’s highest COVID death rates, he became a superhero thanks largely to media scoring that ignored almost all of the harms he inflicted. Cuomo won an Emmy Award for his “masterful use of television” during the pandemic. Media valorization helped make Cuomo’s self-tribute book, American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic, a bestseller.

Cuomo had plenty of power-mad accomplices in the governors’ association. Oregon Governor Kate Brown banned residents from leaving their homes except for essential work, buying food, and other narrow exemptions and also banned all recreational travel. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer imposed some of the most severe restrictions, prohibiting anyone from leaving their home to visit family or friends. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti even banned people from walking or bicycling outside. The CDC eventually admitted that there was almost no risk of COVID contagion from outdoors activity not amidst a throng of people. But that did not stop politicians from claiming that “science and data” justified locking people in their homes.

Some governors have acted as if their shutdown orders gave them unlimited sway to decree when normal life could resume. California Gov. Gavin Newsom decreed that COVID restrictions would be perpetuated in California counties based on voter turnout, alcohol availability, and other non-health factors. California assemblyman Kevin Kiley groused, “An entire county can be kept shut down because certain areas are judged to be lacking in ‘equity,’ even if the whole county has relatively few cases of COVID.” The end of COVID restrictions turned into hostage release negotiations with domineering rulers clinging to all their new prerogatives.

Cuomo was proud that, when he visits a school, he is no longer asked “‘What does a governor do?” because “people know what governors do and how important governors are.” Governors can wreck kids’ futures by shutting down schools and placing children under indefinite home detention, costing millions of children almost an entire year of learning. In some areas, private schools remained open and took precautions that kept children safe in the classroom. As Washington Examiner editor Tim Carney noted, students in Catholic schools in Montgomery County, Maryland continued attending school and were kept safer than public school students: “Kids learning remotely got COVID at 3 times the rate as kids learning in person.” Unreliable “distance learning” produced a more than 500 percent increase in the number of black and Hispanic students failing classes in Montgomery County government schools.

Journal of the American Medical Association analysis concluded that shutting down the schools would reduce the current crop of students’ collective years of life by more than five million, based on “lower income, reduced educational attainment, and worse health outcomes.” School shutdowns blighted the lives of millions of children in part because the Centers for Disease Control proclaimed that six feet of “social distancing” was necessary to avoid contagion – an arbitrary standard pulled out of thin air that was denounced by former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Scott Gottlieb.

The lockdowns that governors imposed also pointlessly ravaged many Americans’ mental health. The Centers for Disease Control last month reported a 51% increase in emergency room visits for suspected suicide attempts by teenage girls in early 2021. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey found a 300% increase in the percentage of adults reporting symptoms of anxiety disorder and/or depressive disorder (41% of adults in January 2021). The CDC also reported a record number of drug overdose deaths last year, due in part to the lockdowns and other government-imposed disruptions.

Cuomo boasted that the COVID-19 responses “were probably the most consequential decisions that governors had made in generations. They were literally about life and death. You make the wrong decision, people could die.” Thousands of New Yorkers died because of Cuomo’s mistakes and cover-ups. New York state initially reported barely half of the total of more than 12,000 New York nursing home patients who died of COVID—one out of eight nursing home residents in the state that occurred after Cuomo ordered nursing homes to admit COVID patients. Early in the pandemic, Cuomo pushed to include a legislative provision written by the Greater New York Hospital Association to give a waiver of liability to nursing homes and hospitals whose patients died of COVID. A report earlier this year by the New York Attorney General warned, “The immunity laws could be wrongly used to protect any individual or entity from liability, even if those decisions were not made in good faith or motivated by financial incentives.” As the Guardian noted, “Cuomo’s political machine received more than $2 million from the Greater New York Hospital Association, its executives and its lobbying firms.”

Any politician who recited the magic words “science and data” became entitled to outlaw any activity he chose. Cuomo and other governors acted as if they had discovered a “good intentions” exemption to all limits on their power. Federal judge William Stickman IV condemned Pennsylvania’s COVID restrictions: “Broad population-wide lockdowns are such a dramatic inversion of the concept of liberty in a free society as to be nearly presumptively unconstitutional.” But Cuomo and other governors presumed that proclaiming emergencies nullified the constitutional rights of any citizen under their sway. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down Cuomo’s restrictions on limited religious gatherings because they were “far more restrictive than any COVID-related regulations that have previously come before the Court… and far more severe than has been shown to be required to prevent the spread of the virus.”

Cuomo’s spiel to the governors included Washington’s most revered banality: “We spoke truth to power.” But Cuomo’s own appointees suppressed the data on nursing home deaths while he was negotiating a $5 million advance for his book on pandemic leadership lessons. Last August, the Justice Department announced an investigation into state nursing home policies that boosted COVID death tolls in New York, New Jersey, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Cuomo is probably confident that Biden’s Justice Department will throttle any such investigation that could tarnish Democratic governors. But will other investigations or Freedom of Information Act disclosures eventually obliterate the bragging rights of the COVID lockdowners?

Governors’ response to COVID was supposedly a glorious triumph because not every nursing home patient died, not every small business was bankrupted, and not every teenager attempted suicide from isolation and despair. Despite the severe repression of everyday life, more than 620,000 Americans reportedly died of COVID and more than 114 million were infected. According to the CDC more than ten million jobs were lost thanks to lockdowns, a major reason why life expectancy in the United States last year had its sharpest plunge since World War Two. CNN reported last month that “New York’s economy is America’s worst,” with economic activity at only 83% of pre-pandemic levels.

In reality, Cuomo’s speech relied on what Hegel called “the truth which lies in power.” As long as politicians are exalted, the actual details of their decrees are irrelevant: they have been coronated as saviors. Cuomo assured his fellow COVID-profiteering governors that “this will happen again.” This is why Americans must recognize the catastrophic failure of political iron fists during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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

American Historians Misjudge American Presidents

“They adored him as no man in a democracy deserves to be adored,” Walter Lippmann wrote, describing progressive worshippers of Theodore Roosevelt in 1916.

American historians suffer from the same malady, a predisposition to hero-worshipping chief executives (T.R. included).

What causes this persistent love affair? Is it a preference for studying big changes and swift actions, which occur most often under muscular presidents? Is it a sympathy for big government and the men who implemented the policies liberal historians themselves prefer?

Whatever the cause of this fondness, the resulting public discourse is predictable, boring, lopsided, and a poor indicator of historians’ collective ability to judge in a manner contrary to establishment narratives (most of which these same historians formulated anyway).

That is the conclusion drawn from the 2021 presidential historians survey, released Wednesday by C-SPAN. The fourth such survey conducted since 2000, it polls historians and “observers of the presidency” about their opinions and rankings of past executives based on 10 “leadership characteristics.”

Each survey has used the same benchmarks, including criteria such as “Crisis Leadership,” “Economic Management,” “International Relations,” and “Vision.” The respondents are not the same each time, and the pool has grown with each new survey. This year 142 people were consulted, including names that will be familiar to readers such as Lee Edwards of the Heritage Foundation, Paul Kengor from Grove City College, Calvin Coolidge biographer Amity Shlaes, TAC’s Scholar-at-Large Brad Birzer, and TAC’s former editor Robert Merry. Individual responses are not published, and the inclusion of these conservative heretics was not enough to counteract the great liberal mass.

Ranking our 44 former presidents in order, the survey showcases a top-10 list featuring Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Harry Truman, Thomas Jefferson, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and Barack Obama.

Needless to say, there are problems.

Asking the wrong questions. In ten categories, which go so far to include things such as “Relations with Congress,” historians are not asked what is formally the president’s only duty: maintaining their oath to uphold and defend the U.S. Constitution.

Did they upraise our founding document while in the White House? Did they shield it from bad actors, or were they its biggest violator?

Or what about the question of liberty? Did they leave the country freer than when they found it? Or was the average American left with less choice after their term in office?

When the most important questions are ignored, don’t be surprised when the answers are so miscalculated.

Recency Bias. Modern Americans will be ecstatic to know that in the 232-year history of our Republic, a majority of our greatest presidents are within living memory. Yes, even our current commander-in-chief, Joe Biden, has been alive during six of the top ten rated administrations.

The survey is handicapped by a severe recency bias, where historians prefer to relish the memories of modern presidents whose leadership they’ve personally experienced rather than long-dead 19th century politicians, whatever their qualifications.

Donald Trump. The most headline-grabbing portion of the survey was naturally the placement of our recently departed (what else do you call someone banned from Twitter?) Donald J. Trump.

The real estate mogul turned one-termer finds himself ranked the lowest of the low, above only the permanently condemned triumvirate of Franklin Pierce (who witnessed his 11-year-old son decapitated in a train crash on the way to his inauguration), Lincoln-successor and impeached reconstructionist Andrew Johnson, and indecisive James Buchanan, paralyzed in 1861 between his own unionism and fidelity to the Constitution.

And Trump is placed dead last out of all presidents in the categories “Administrative Skills” and “Moral Authority.”

The politicized, overwrought nature of this determination is hard to exaggerate.

Let’s compare, briefly, with his immediate Republican predecessor, George W. Bush. The man whose time in office witnessed the largest terrorist attack in U.S. history, who instituted a secret, international torture regime, who conducted two failed and illegal wars, and who oversaw the meltdown of the U.S. economy and commensurate corporate bailout, is in 29th place and beats Trump in every benchmark save “Economic Management” (where Trump outmaneuvers him by half a point).

Perhaps Trump should take up painting, as becoming an artist has improved Bush’s ranking by seven slots since 2009.

Trump even scored worse in the category “Pursued Equal Justice for All” than eight of our ten slave-owning presidents, and worse than Woodrow Wilson, the Oval Office’s staunchest segregationist.

How did the historical profession become more hysterical than Rachel Maddow on her worst day?

Moral Authority. When respondents are given the survey, they are not provided with explanations of what the categories represent. Each historian is tasked with interpreting the titles as they see fit. That allows a benchmark as open-ended as “Moral Authority” to be construed any number of ways.

Harry Truman is ranked ninth in this category, helping to solidify his placement in this survey as the sixth greatest president. In all likelihood, foremost in respondents’ minds was his desegregation of the military or anti-communism.

But to weigh that in aggregate against his incineration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, his decision (contra his military commanders) to atomize hundreds of thousands of civilians in the only use of nuclear warfare in Earth’s history, is sadistically sick.

To conclude that Harry Truman, or the Japanese-American concentration camp superintendent Franklin Roosevelt, or the prosecutor of Constitution-waving dissidents Woodrow Wilson, carry more moral authority than peace presidents such as Martin Van Buren or Grover Cleveland, is inhuman, barbaric, and wicked.

There is a litany of other peculiarities.

John Quincy Adams is ranked 17th for reasons not immediately apparent. Adams lived a remarkable public career, stretching from a consequential assignment as secretary of state to a long anti-slavery advocacy career in the House. But none of it occurred during his four years as president, a period of uneventful political gridlock. More likely than not most of the respondents answered while thinking fondly of Anthony Hopkins in Amistad rather than the Tariff of Abominations.

Somehow the impeached Bill Clinton still ranks 23rd in the category “Relations with Congress.”

FDR is crowned the most successful in the category of “International Relations” and third in “Economic Management” despite manipulating the U.S. into the most destructive war in world history and captaining the longest, deepest economic depression the American people have ever experienced.

Martin Van Buren is ranked 30th in “Vision/Setting an Agenda” despite establishing the Independent Subtreasury, and delineating the most economically successful banking system in American history.

Barack Obama has entered the hall of “great presidents,” likely based more on nostalgia for the pre-Trump era than Obamacare (still middling in popularity) or the Iran nuclear deal (since withdrawn).

Ulysses S. Grant has continued his modern revitalization with a 13-slot improvement since 2000, demonstrating that good intentions do mean more than successful implementation.

The organizers of the survey do not pretend that it is “scientific.” An objective ranking of the U.S. presidents is as impossible as an objective ranking of literature, or genre of art, or any other tenet of the humanities.

What can be said about C-SPAN’s survey of presidential historians is that it depicts popularity among the public more than performance in office, and contains much more about daily politics than a broad historical perspective.

This article was originally featured at The American Conservative and is republished with author’s permission.

“Stain of the Century?” An Investigation of Uyghur Genocide Allegations Ep. 173

  In the midst of the United States’ renewed great power competition with Russia and China, the western foreign policy establishment has launched a sustained propaganda campaign to steel the American public into supporting international confrontation with China. A large facet of this broader campaign is the allegation that China is actively committing genocide against the Uyghur Muslims, a Turkic ethnic minority living in the nations westernmost province of Xinjiang. Despite the dubious credibility of the evidence supporting this claim and its US State Department origins, the establishment and “alternative” media have pushed these allegations as fact. This investigation documents the sources of this evidence, exposes its credibility issues, and examines those who are pushing it as truth, focusing on alternative media darling Tim Pool. Transcript, Support, and Sources: http://www.libertyweekly.net/uyghurgenocide

Top 10 PROVEN Conspiracies ft. Keith Knight Ep. 172

Keith Knight joins me for this INSTANT CLASSIC episode of the Liberty Weekly Podcast. Keith and each picked and researched five proven conspiracies to share on air. Please review the show notes page for sources.

Episode 172 of the Liberty Weekly Podcast is Brought to you by:

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Show Notes:

Congressional Research Service: “Federal Conspiracy Law: A Brief Overview”

Legal Definition of Conspiracy

CIA Document 1035-960: Countering Criticism of the Warren Commission

What is Open Source Intelligence?

The Corbett Report

The Shadows of Power by James Perloff [Amazon Affiliate Link]

Council on Foreign Relations

Foreign Affairs

Hillary Clinton’s Remarks to the CFR

The Gardner Museum Theft

Foreign Policy Focus Episode 204 – FBI Entrapment guest Pat MacFarlane

Keith Knight: Who Was Elie Cohen?

The Creature From Jekyll Island by G. Edward Griffin [Amazon Affiliate Link]

The Lavon Affair: When Israel Firebombed U.S. Installations

Haaretz on the USS Liberty

The Wall Street Trilogy: A History by Antony Sutton [Amazon Affiliate Link]

America’s Secret Establishment: An Introduction to the Order of Skull & Bones by Antony Sutton

Trading with the Enemy Act

National Security Study Memorandum 200

John P. Holdren’s Population Control

James Corbett: Big Oil Series

Great Wars and Great Leaders: A Libertarian Rebuttal by Ralph Raico

America’s “War on Terrorism” by Michel Chossudovsky

Brzezinski’s Memo to President Carter of December 26, 1979, Regarding the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan

The Grand Chessboard by Zbigniew Brzezinski

When FDR Abandoned the Gold Standard

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