Politics

The Libertarian Party Will Never Have Political Power

The Libertarian Party Will Never Have Political Power

Just give it up already. Those who are holding onto the dream that the LP will be able to wield any significant political, or cultural power have not thought this through. An ideology of non-aggression and voluntary interactions has no place in the political sphere unless they are willing to become like the other two parties. Their message is that we are not like them. It is one of incompatibility when it comes to Machiavellian power structures.

The purpose of politics is to seize power and centralize it to your party. The Left knows how to do this even when they aren’t in power and the Right fails even when they hold all the cards. As Curtis Yarvin puts it,

“Progressives see power as an end; conservatives see power as a means to an end. As soon as conservatives get even a sliver of power, they start trying to use this power to create good outcomes. This is irrational.

The rational way to use power is the progressive way: to make more power. Your power grows exponentially. Eventually you have all the power, and can get all the outcomes you want.

There is not one progressive idea which does not yield a power dividend. I cannot think of a conservative idea that does. If one did, the progressives would steal it. Then the conservatives would persuade themselves to oppose it, and all would be well.”

Anyone paying attention knows this. In our lifetimes the Left has grown their power – especially over the culture – to an insurmountable level. The Right has become what the Left was 25 years ago, and they always play catch-up. I hear echoes of Michael Malice saying, “Conservatism is Progressive driving the speed limit.”

What does this all mean for the Libertarian Party? It should be obvious. What is described above IS politics. It is the dirtiest, slimiest, most reprehensible way of gaining power over mankind. To argue against that is to be naive beyond measure. An ideology promoting the Non-Aggression Principle entering into the American political realm is like a kindergartener entering a UFC match. The outcome is inevitable.

And don’t think I’m just talking about the 202-area code. No, local politics is just as bad. If you’re walking in there as “the good guy” the inevitable “bad guy” will rear their head and take you out. And if you’re a Libertarian and you are “consistent” in your ideology, you won’t fight dirty because once you do you are out of the realm of libertarianism. You’ve just became “The Swamp” (even the local Swamp).

Once you understand this you realize that the old argument about whether the purpose of the Libertarian Party is one of “education” or “getting people elected” to institute political change is easily answered. You are a party of education. And one that will always be a joke in the eyes of those who understand the Machiavellian nature of politics. But is education even possible if you won’t do what it takes politically to even get on a debate stage ignoring the inability to centralize all power to you if you do get elected?

Maybe there are better ways to spend your time rather than tilting at windmills.

Rebel With A Cause: 2020 In Review Ep. 138

Rebel With A Cause: 2020 In Review Ep. 138

Eric Hailar of Rebel With A Cause joins me to discuss the crazy wacky carnival of 2020 from voter fraud to guns, the military, Obama birther conspiracies, South Park, COVID19 and the “Barksfield bubble.”

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Suffocating Dissent Ep. 137

Suffocating Dissent Ep. 137

The Great Keith Knight joins me once again as I share how I recently made a scene at Papa Johns. We demolish the theory that masks are effective at preventing the spread of COVID-19, and use economic parallels to illustrate how COVID-19 adversely affects small businesses.

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Show Notes:

The Federalist: These 12 Graphs Show Mask Mandates Do Nothing To Stop COVID

 Liberty Weekly: Economics, Eugenics, and the Minimum Wage Ep. 14

Elections Are Becoming Coffin Nails for Legitimacy

Elections Are Becoming Coffin Nails for Legitimacy

This year’s presidential election is the fourth since 2000 to be marred by either widespread allegations of voter fraud or of foreign interference. Politicians and pundits have long counted on elections to wave a magic wand of legitimacy over the reign of whoever is designated the winner. But Americans are increasingly wondering if the endlessly-trumped “consent of the governed” has become simply another sham to keep them paying and obeying.

Twenty years ago, America was in the throes of a fiercely disputed recount battle in Florida. Democratic presidential nominee Vice President Al Gore won the national popular vote but the Electoral College verdict was unclear. Florida’s 25 electoral votes would give either Gore or Republican candidate George W. Bush the 270 votes needed to win the presidency. Six million votes were cast in Florida, and Bush initially had a winning margin of 537 votes. But the count was a complete mess.

Some Florida counties had antiquated voting equipment while others had harebrained ballot designs that confounded voters, resulting in “dangling chads,” “butterfly” ballots, and other unclear preferences. After the Florida Supreme Court ordered a manual recount of disputed votes in all counties, the Bush campaign legal team quickly filed briefs with the Supreme Court seeking to stop the process.

In a controversial decision, the Supreme Court, in a 5-to-4 ruling, stopped the recount because it could result in “a cloud upon what [George W. Bush] claims to be the legitimacy of his election,” Justice Antonin Scalia wrote. Justice John Paul Stevens dissented: “The Florida court’s ruling reflects the basic principle, inherent in our Constitution and our democracy, that every legal vote should be counted.” No such luck. Two days later, the same Supreme Court majority blocked any subsequent recounting because it was “not well calculated to sustain the confidence that all citizens must have in the outcome of elections.” Sustaining confidence” was more important than counting votes. Justice Stevens again dissented: “We have never before called into question the substantive standard by which a State determines that a vote has been legally cast.”

The 2000 election results seemed almost as shaky as the story of the Lady of the Lake giving the Excalibur sword to Arthur, thereby signifying his right to rule England. At a minimum, the outcome of the 2000 presidential election was decided by lawyers and political appointees (justices), not by voters. Former President Jimmy Carter observed in 2001, “As we have seen in Florida and some other states… the expected error rate in some jurisdictions is as high as 3 percent of the [vote] total.”

Four years later, George W. Bush narrowly won reelection after a campaign that was boosted by numerous false terror attack warnings that helped frighten voters into giving him another four years. Ohio was the key state determining the outcome that time, and its results appeared tainted by numerous decisions by Republican election officials who favored Bush. Democrats also charged that the electronic voting machines used in much of Ohio had been manipulated to produce misleading vote totals.

In January 2005, Democratic members of the House of Representatives launched a brief challenge to the legitimacy of the 2004 presidential election. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Cal.) complained that many states used more sophisticated technology for lottery tickets than for elections: “Incredibly even in those few jurisdictions that have moved to electronic voting… we do not require a verifiable paper trail to protect against vote tampering.”

Republican Congressmen went ballistic. Rep. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) accused the Democrats of seeking to “obstruct the will of the American people.” Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-Ariz.) bewailed that the protest “serves to plant the insidious seeds of doubt in the electoral process.” Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), the House Majority Whip, sought to put the entire government above questioning: “It is the greatest democracy in the history of the world and it is run by people who step forward and make a system work in ways that nobody would believe until they see it produce the result of what people want to have happen on Election Day.” Blunt’s “nobody would believe” phrase was more prescient than he intended.

For tens of millions of Americans and for convention halls full of editorial writers, the 2016 presidential election results were forever tainted by allegations that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians to score an upset victory. Those allegations spurred a Special Counsel investigation that haunted most of Trump’s presidency and helped Democrats capture control of the House of Representatives in 2018. In 2019, Special Counsel Robert Mueller finally admitted that no case of collusion existed. But we have since learned that there was pervasive collusion between Obama administration officials and federal agencies to target Trump’s 2016 campaign. And, as George Washington University professor Jonathan Turley observed, the media ignored “one of the biggest stories in decades. The Obama administration targeted the campaign of the opposing party based on false evidence.”

Instead, the media cheered secretive federal agencies that had interfered in American politics. Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson captured the Beltway’s verdict: “God bless the Deep State!” The media’s veneration will make it easier for the FBI, CIA, and National Security Agency to meddle with if not fix future elections.

This year’s presidential election may be the most fraud-ridden event since 1876, when four states had disputed results and Congress gave the presidency to Republican Rutherford Hayes despite ample evidence of conniving. Earlier this year, some states mailed ballots to all the names on the voting lists, providing thousands of dead people the chance to vote from the grave. More than 92 million people voted by mail.

President Trump warned that the shift to mail-in voting could result in “the most corrupt vote in our nation’s history.” A 2012 New York Times analysis concluded that “fraud in voting by mail is… vastly more prevalent than the in-person voting fraud that has attracted far more attention.” But that blunt admission vanished into the Memory Hole as the media endlessly derided any apprehension of electoral foul play.

Shortly before Election Day, Democratic candidate Joe Biden boasted, “We have put together I think the most extensive and inclusive voter fraud organization in the history of American politics.” A Reuters “Fact Check” analysis revealed that Biden’s comment was a “slip of the tongue” and that he likely meant “voter protection.” Since Election Day, the same media outlets that insisted that there was no corruption in the Biden family now assure Americans there was no significant voter fraud.

The 2020 election controversies are being fought out by lawyers and judges. The media is hoping that hailing Joe Biden as the rightful ruler will speedily restore legitimacy to the political system. But 70 million Trump voters are unlikely to be swayed by the same media that endlessly belittled both the president and his supporters.

Perhaps the real problem with the current American political system is that elections are practically the last remaining source of apparent legitimacy. Presidents take an oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” But this has long been a nonbinding throwaway gesture – if not a laugh line for Washington insiders. Elections failed to prevent every recent American commander-in-chief from expanding and exploiting the dictatorial potential of the presidency. 

Should we expect anything different from Biden? When he was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he co-authored numerous oppressive drug laws and forfeiture laws that helped obliterate much of the Bill of Rights. His political philosophy never went beyond his famous utterance: “Lock the S.O.B.s up!” He supported expanding federal power whenever there were votes or campaign contributions to be pocketed.

Biden has said he would dictate a national mask mandate and could impose a national lockdown if Covid infection rates rise. The same media outlets that served as Biden’s Basement Barricade during the campaign – helping him avoid challenges that might have raised questions about his positions and mental capacity – will cheer any restrictive Covid policy Biden imposes. In lieu of constitutionality, we’ll hear that it is the “will of the people” or some such pablum.

Nor will there likely be any way to constrain Biden if he follows the advice of his bellicose foreign policy advisors. Counterpunch editor Jeffrey St. Clair asked: “Which country will Biden bomb first in order to ‘restore America’s place in the world?’” The Biden campaign promised to “increase pressure” on Syrian president Bashar Assad – presumably by providing more arms and money to the terrorist groups that Obama began aiding almost a decade ago. Biden will sanctify his foreign bombing campaigns with the same lame legal tautology that the Obama administration used to justify killing Libyans in 2011. The Justice Department announced that Obama “had the constitutional authority” to attack Libya “because he could reasonably determine that such use of force was in the national interest.”

The more power presidents capture, the more facts they can suppress. The federal government is creating trillions of pages of new secrets every year, effectively making it impossible for average citizens to learn the truth about foreign policy until long after U.S. bombs have dropped. Biden is unlikely to end the pervasive secrecy that makes a mockery of self-government. 

In his victory speech last Saturday, Biden pledged to “restore the soul of America.” But Americans were not voting for a faith healer; they were selecting a chief executive for a federal government. Only 20 percent of Americans nowadays trust the government to “do the right thing” most of the time, according to a Pew Research Center survey. The election results will likely further erode federal legitimacy at a time when Uncle Sam has no trust to spare. How many more election debacles and brazen abuses of power does Washington believe the American people will tolerate?

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

Gun Control and Racism: The Laws and Taxes Meant to Limit Minority Gun Ownership in America

Gun Control and Racism: The Laws and Taxes Meant to Limit Minority Gun Ownership in America

“There’s a direct correlation between gun control and black people control.”

Stacy Swimp, President of the Frederick Douglass Society

Every schoolchild knows that the Declaration of Independence declares that the basic equality of man is “self-evident.” The United States Constitution enumerates what the inalienable rights only alluded to by the Declaration. An inalienable right is one that exists regardless of whether or not it is recognized by the state. For example, you have a right to free speech regardless of whether or not the Constitution recognizes it. Thus any restrictions on free speech are curbs of this pre-existing right, not an actual elimination of that right. One of them is the right to keep and bear arms. Another is the right to a speedy and public trial.

However, particularly with the Second Amendment, there’s long been a struggle between the ideals of America and the reality on the ground with regard to race. What’s more, minorities in the United States are disproportionately the victims of violent crime. Both of these things together make it crucial to understand self defense and the Second Amendment from the perspective of race in America.

Part of the problem is that, unlike European nations which grew organically, America is an invention of a handful of Englishmen. They founded the nation on a set of ideas and there has always been a tension between those ideas and the reality. This is, in some sense, unavoidable: reality will always have trouble living up to an ideal. A failure to live up to that ideal in the past according to terms established today doesn’t make the entire project – or any specific part of it – worthless or suspect.

Before we get into the meat of the matter, we should note that the American ideal has expanded the Second Amendment (and the rest of the Constitution for that matter) to de jure include all Americans. One can be skeptical of the notion of “progress” while seeing the moves to repeal race-based restrictions on firearms ownership as big steps in the right direction.

Finally, it is worth noting – and we will do so at length later – that none of the racially-motivated laws on the books in America are uniquely American. Racism, in the sense employed by the average person not the expanded version used by left-wing ideologues, was not a uniquely American institution, but the norm throughout human history.

The History of Oppression in America through Gun Control

Gun Control and Racism: The Laws and Taxes Meant to Limit Minority Gun Ownership in AmericaThe Second Amendment does not “give” Americans the right to keep and bear arms. The Second Amendment recognizes the pre-existing right to keep and bear arms that exists independently of the Constitution. Anyone reading this website, however, knows that this right is in constant peril from gun grabbers. And, unfortunately, until the 1960s, this right was particularly imperiled for black Americans and other minorities. It is worth exploring the history of racially motivated attacks on the Second Amendment.

The first gun laws were drafted even before the founding of the United States, with the first General Assembly of Virginia passing what might well be the first gun control law in America in 1619. It was specifically designed to restrict the right of Native Americans to own firearms:

“That no man do sell or give any Indians any piece, shot, or powder, or any other arms offensive or defensive, upon pain of being held a traitor to the colony and of being hanged as soon as the fact is proved, without all redemption.”

There was, of course, logic to this: The government of Virginia was looking for ways to punish colonists who were supplying potentially hostile Indian tribes with weapons that might level the playing field.

Such laws were by no means limited to the English colonies – they were present virtually everywhere in the world. America and the colonies that preceded it are not unique at all in this sense. Until abolition began, first in the UK and later in the United States, slavery was the norm throughout the world. Alongside this came a racial caste system and a series of laws that largely robbed people of their right to keep and bear arms.

While it is currently fashionable to view the United States as somehow a “necessarily racist” nation or even “built on slavery and genocide,” this is simply not the case. In fact, no less a light of the abolitionist movement than Frederick Douglass considered this point of view to be a slander against the Founders. The fact is that the Founders were a product of their time – nothing more, nothing less.

Thomas Jefferson, the very man who wrote that “all men are created equal,” is an excellent study in the contradictory and complex nature of the Founding Fathers. He came from the patrician Southern planter class. As such, he owned over 600 slaves. But he also spoke against slavery and even made some attempts to legislatively curb it. He called slavery both “a hideous blot” and “moral depravity.”

Among the legislation that he proposed to curb slavery in North America were a Virginia law prohibiting the importation of new African slaves and an ordinance to ban slavery in the Northwest Terrirory. Yet, he held slaves until he died and, even though it was legal to do so, only manumitted a slender few on his death.

The 1619 Project view of American history – that slavery is the defining institution of the United States – is simply false. Few Americans owned slaves and those who did tended to own either one or two or a whole lot. America did not invent slavery, but it did fight one of the bloodiest wars in human history to get rid of it.

In the same year, the first African slaves were brought to America when the privateer White Lion had its cargo of 20 African slaves seized from a Portugeuse slave ship and brought to Jamestown, Virginia. It took another 21 years for slave codes to begin appearing in the colony. One of the first of these made it illegal for all “free mulattos and negroes” to bear arms. South Carolina instituted similar slave codes in 1712.

Starting in 1751, the French Black Code – aka “Code Noir” – required Louisiana colonists to stop any blacks, and if necessary, beat “any black carrying any potential weapon, such as a cane.” This included a “shoot to kill” authorization for any blacks who would not stop on demand or was on horseback. New Spain likewise prohibited all blacks from carrying arms of any kind.

After the Revolutionary War, there were both federal gun control laws, as well as those issued by the states, with Louisiana, Florida, Maryland, Georgia, North Carolina, Mississippi and Delaware all passing multiple laws designed to prohibit people of color from owning and carrying firearms. In 1857, the Supreme Court made the Dred Scott decision which, among other things, determined that free black descendants of slaves cannot be citizens of the United States. Thus, they were not considered to be protected by the Second Amendment or any other provisions of the United States Constitution. Following Turner’s Rebellion, Virginia repealed the law, allowing slaves to bear arms in extremely limited circumstances.

During the War Between the States, the Union Army was badly in need of soldiers and began calling upon blacks to fight with the Militia Act of 1862. Black soldiers generally received lower pay and were often laborers supporting the war effort by taking on other tasks so that the white soldiers could fight. The Militia Act offered freedom to black soldiers and their families for their service. By the end of the war, approximately 185,000 black soldiers served in the United States military through the War Department’s Bureau of Colored Troops. Many of these troops brought their military arms back with them when the fighting was done, only to lose them or be legally prosecuted under the so-called “black codes.”

After the War, a number of states passed black codes to restrict the rights and even movement of freed blacks. This often meant the prohibition of keeping firearms and even certain classes of knives. During the Reconstruction Era, black Southerners not only enjoyed the same rights as their white counterparts, but often held positions of power in the state governments. For example, the first minority governor in the United States was a black man, P. B. S. Pinchback, who served as Governor of Louisiana in 1872 and 1873. No fewer than six black men served as Lieutenant Governors of southern states.

At the end of Reconstruction, however, many of these rights were repealed in clandestine ways, to say nothing of the constant terror attacks from groups like the White Brotherhood and the Ku Klux Klan. In January 1866, Harper’s Weekly reported that in Mississippi, such groups had “seized every gun and pistol found in the hands of the (so called) freedmen” in parts of the state.

The Black Codes, which attempted to rob newly freed blacks of their freedom, were not without resistance, both from the Reconstruction-era federal government and the black citizens themselves. The first civil rights act in American history made freedmen citizens and criminalized any attempt to rob them of their rights. Senator James Nye explicitly stated that freedmen were entitled to “equal right to protection, and to keep and bear arms for self defense.”

Self defense and the right to keep and bear arms were raised during debate and discussion over the 14th Amendment. Representative John Bingham of Ohio saw the crux of the matter being the “privileges or immunities,” which he said were “chiefly defined in the first eight amendments to the Constitution.” Jacob Howard of Michigan, who sponsored Bingham’s amendment in the Senate, specifically mentioned “the freedom of speech and of the press,” “the right to be exempt from unreasonable searches and seizures,” and “the right to keep and bear arms.”

We believe that the Second Amendment is not restricted to militias as its detractors claim. But even if we grant that it were, the 14th Amendment, which dramatically changed the meaning and function of the Constitution, clearly specifies that it is not. Yale law professor Akhil Reed Amar noted that, “Between 1775 and 1866, the poster boy of arms morphed from the Concord minuteman to the Carolina freedman.”

Many Southern states simply began regulating firearms through statute and firearms owned by black Americans more heavily as a matter of custom. Tennessee and Arknsas passed laws banning all handguns except expensive models that most minority populations couldn’t afford, while Alabama and Texas placed heavy taxes on firearm sales. Mississippi took it a step further and enforced gun sellers to keep a record of who purchased handguns and handgun ammunition, basically keeping a gun registration that would later be demanded and used to confiscate the handguns of blacks.

The state of California passed the Mulford Act, gun control legislation that prohibited people from carrying loaded weapons in public and was a direct response to the armed Black Panthers who would patrol black communities.

Indeed, the entire civil rights movement informed what was, at the time, largely a conservative-led backlash against Second Amendment rights. There is, of course, the famous example of Governor Ronald Reagan passing the most sweeping gun control law of its time in direct response to armed Black Panthers at the state capitol building. Although Martin Luther King was denied a concealed carry permit during the Civil Rights Movement, his home was described as being like “an arsenal” due to the need to defend himself against violent attacks.

Today, no one would openly suggest that the rights of black Americans to keep and bear arms should be restricted. Thus, those who would restrict the rights of black Americans to defend themselves seek more covert ways of doing so. In the past, Ammo.com has supported organizations dedicated to arming Jews and blacks legally in the United States.

Economic Factors and Gun Control

Slightly tangential to this are a number of gun control laws passed during the late 1800s, designed to deprive freed blacks and poor whites – who had been political allies in the immediate post-bellum period – from owning guns. It was now impossible, thanks to the Reconstruction Amendments, to simply bar blacks from owning guns using statute. Instead, gun grabbers used economic bills, which banned cheap guns generally owned by both freed blacks and poor whites.

Tennessee (1870 and again in 1879), Arkansas (1882) and Texas (1907) all passed laws banning cheap handguns now known as “Saturday Night Specials,” but which were known as “Suicide Specials” in those days. South Carolina went one step further in 1902, by banning gun ownership except for police and specially deputized citizens, many of whom happened to be Klansmen.

These are all worth thinking about today, as well as high costs associated with applying for concealed carry permits, high taxes on guns and ammunition, and bans on guns in public housing, as well as the prohibition on felons owning firearms or receiving concealed carry permits – which includes many non-violent drug offenders who are disproportionately black. Remember that the days of explicit race-based bans on gun ownership are gone. All attempts to disarm black and other minority Americans in the United States will also rob poor and working-class Americans of their rights.

A Brief History of Armed Minority Self Defense: Robert Williams and the Roof Koreans

Gun Control and Racism: The Laws and Taxes Meant to Limit Minority Gun Ownership in AmericaWe have two excellent examples in recent history on the special need for self defense in minority communities: Robert F. Williams and black gun clubs during the Civil Rights Era and the so-called “Roof Koreans” during the 1992 LA Riots. We have more extensive articles on both topics elsewhere on this website, but they are worth retelling here briefly.

Robert F. Williams

First, there was Robert F. Williams, a militant black civil rights leader in the 1940s and 1950s. Tired of harassment by the local branch of the Klan and frustrated by a lackadaisical attitude of law enforcement toward his own safety, he began organizing under the auspices of the National Rifle Association for self defense of himself and his community.

This ended up with serious legal consequences for Williams: He was charged with kidnapping and fled to Cuba and China.

Roof Koreans

“Roof Koreans” is a term used for the Korean-American community of Koreatown who defended themselves against what was effectively a racial pogrom against Koreans during the 1992 LA Riots. Korean-Americans in that time and place did not want for economic independence, however, they did not have much in the way of political connections. Thus, when the riots broke out, the City of Los Angeles effectively left them defenseless against the rioters.

The Roof Koreans did see their neighborhood largely destroyed. However, it is worth asking the question about how much worse the damage would have been if they were not defending themselves with their own arms. One thing is clear – the LAPD certainly weren’t going to defend them. Without weapons, all of Koreatown might have been destroyed.

Both of these illustrate a point: Minority communities have a special, vested interest in the Second Amendment and oftentimes in collective self defense. The Roof Koreans in particular show that “self defense for minorities” is not simply confined to black Americans.

Modern CCW Statistics

Since the outbreak of the Wuhan Coronavirus and the Black Lives Matter riots, there has been an explosion of gun ownership and concealed carry permit applications. Gun sales spiked a whopping 145 percent in June 2020, with over two million guns sold. The spring of 2020 saw a total of three million more firearms on the streets.

Black Americans account for the biggest part of this increase.

While hard stats are unavailable, with concealed carry permits increasing regularly and annually, it would be surprising if the number of CCW applicants had not spiked dramatically to keep pace with the massive increase in firearms sales in the United States. And, as black Americans have been driving this massive increase in gun ownership, it would be surprising if they were not also overrepresented in the number of applicants for concealed carry permits.

Previously, the increase in permits had been relatively slow, growing from roughly 2.7 million permit holders in 1999 to 4.6 million in 2007. But the number of concealed handgun permits exploded during the Obama presidency. In December 2011, the Government Accountability Office estimated that there were at least 8 million concealed handgun permits. By June 2014, it was 11.1 million. Now, in 2018, the number is now up to 17.25 million. All of our numbers are according to 2019 research by John Lott.

What’s more, there are 16 states with Constitutional carry laws. This means that no permit is required to carry a concealed weapon in public. There would necessarily be no statistics about who is carrying and what their demography is in such states. In all of these states except Vermont, gun owners can obtain a concealed carry permit for the reciprocity it provides in other states.

Unique Obstacles Minorities Face with Concealed Carry

Concealed handgun permit holders are extremely law-abiding. In Florida and Texas, permit holders are convicted of misdemeanors and felonies at one-sixth of the rate at which police officers are convicted.

The current state of dysfunction in the black community (astronomically high crime rates, very low rates of home ownership and single motherhood as the norm – a majority of black Americans claim to know someone who has been shot) are not the natural state of the black community in the United States, but closely tied to the role that social welfare programs play. The bottom line is that with the extreme violence in many areas of the black community, legal concealed carry is just common sense.

For firearm owners in particular, the growth in the “prison-industrial complex” is troubling because felons are forbidden from owning firearms and ammunition under the 1968 Gun Control Act. As the number of laws has grown and the cultural shift for police has gone from a focus on keeping the peace to enforcing the law, more and more Americans are being stripped of their 2nd Amendment rights (not to mention other civil rights like voting – as of 2017, 6.1 million Americans cannot vote because of their criminal records). All told, eight percent of all Americans cannot own firearms because of a felony conviction.

There is a fundamental question of rights involved here: When a person is released from prison, do they or do they not have all of their rights restored? Currently, either with firearms or voting, they do not.

Are Black Americans Becoming Second Amendment Voters?

Gun Control and Racism: The Laws and Taxes Meant to Limit Minority Gun Ownership in AmericaIs there about to be a “Blexit” from Democrats to the Republican Party around the issue of guns? It doesn’t seem very likely. But it does appear that there is some movement away from the formerly hard line of most black voters against gun rights as younger black Americans embrace the value of self defense.

American radio personality Charlamagne tha God made a bit of a stir when he suggested that black Americans needed to start arming themselves in the name of self defense. Rapper Killer Mike chimed in with similar sentiments around the same time using language that will be familiar to any champion of the Second Amendment: “[T]he only person you can count on to protect yourself and your family is you.”

The National African-American Gun Association (NAAGA) isn’t much like the NRA: It focuses on self defense and training without skimping on legislative efforts. They do not make their membership numbers public.

While there might not be evidence of a sea change with regard to black voters and gun rights, there’s one thing we do know: Gun ownership is highly correlated with voting Republican. Whether or not there is a long-term trend of gun ownership among black Americans and a related pattern of voting Republican remains to be seen.

Defund the Police?

The question of self defense for minorities is particularly pitched with all of the recent talk about “defunding the police.” This is largely a movement in urban areas and, it is worth noting, not actually very popular: Black Americans oppose defunding the police by 78 percent. However, cities such as Minneapolis are abolishing their police force entirely, while others, such as New York and Los Angeles, are subjecting their police departments to significant cuts in funding.

While there certainly is reason to be critical of the degree to which the police have been militarized – and we have been – this is not the same thing as targeting the police for elimination or significant budget cuts. The New York Police Department, for example, was forced to cut their entire plainclothes division.

Who will be most impacted by this? Poor and working-class communities, among whom minorities are disproportionately represented, who are unable to afford their own private security forces to replace the police. While this issue is by no means limited to minority communities, it would be naive to suggest that they will not be heavily impacted by the removal of police.

Because black Americans have a higher chance of being victims of crime both from the government and private citizens, the right to self defense is absolutely crucial. But a right is like a muscle – when it’s not exercised, it begins to atrophy. Thus it is absolutely crucial for minorities to understand their rights, as well as exercise them. The Resistance Library offers a variety of resources for all Americans seeking to exercise their Second Amendment rights.

What’s more, members of other, often overlooked minority groups such as Asian Americans and those who identify as LGBT should be interested in self defense both collectively and individually. This is particularly important for “model minority” groups who can often become scapegoated during times of social upheaval, as seen with the experience of Roof Koreans during the 1992 Los Angeles Riots.

Self defense is not tied to any other political belief or set of beliefs and stands on its own. For those who feel that they cannot trust the police to protect their lives, their property and their rights, there is no other alternative than armed self defense.

Gun Control and Racism: The Laws and Taxes Meant to Limit Minority Gun Ownership in America originally appeared in The Resistance Library at Ammo.com.

Cultural Superiority Isn’t Racism: Why Western Values Underpin the World’s Best Countries

Cultural Superiority Isn’t Racism: Why Western Values Underpin the World’s Best Countries

Cultural Superiority isn't Racism: Why Western Values Underpin the World’s Best CountriesElements of the left and their allies in the media are constantly driving this point home: White people are bad and so is the culture that they have created. Everything we value as a society is bad and, more than that, little more than an ex post facto justification for the subjugation of non-whites. Western culture is white culture, and all things white are bad.

But as with everything else which these elements of the left and their allies in the media push, this is simply false. While the overlap between white people – that is, people of European descent and some Christian populations in the Caucasus – and Western culture is undeniable, it is likewise undeniable that Western culture is no longer the exclusive domain of whites. What we can call, without the slightest bit of stretching the truth, Western culture is present not just in Western Europe, North America and Australia, but also in former British colonies such as Israel, Singapore and Hong Kong.

What’s more, a country simply being part of Europe does not make it “Western” in any meaningful sense. While there is a certain Western cultural continuum based around Christianity that extends from Lisbon to Vladivostok, it would be overly simplistic (and indeed, a bit demeaning) to label the post-Soviet countries as “Western.” They have a similar set of cultural values rooted in Christianity, however, even the introduction of democracy has not made many post-Soviet and post-colonial nations more liberal in the true sense of the word – open markets, an emphasis on free speech, strong private property rights, an independent, impartial judiciary, and the primacy of the individual over that of the group.

Throughout this article we will provide some terms to define what we mean by “Western culture.” We will also make the case that Western cultural values have a universal aspect in the sense that they can be applied with success anywhere in the world, that these values are objectively superior to other value sets at maximizing human freedom, quality of life, and potential, and that the belief in this superiority has nothing to do with “racism” in the sense that it is commonly understood by ordinary people.

One demonstration of the proof that these values are objectively superior is that “people vote with their feet”, as Dr. Jordan Peterson points out: “The fundamental assumptions of Western civilization are valid. Here’s how you know: Which countries do people want to move away from? Not ours. Which countries do people want to move to? Ours! Guess what, they work better. And it’s not because we went around the world stealing everything we could get our hands on. It’s because we got certain fundamental assumptions right – and thank God for that.”

What Are Western Values?

Cultural Superiority isn't Racism: Why Western Values Underpin the World’s Best CountriesBefore going any further, it is necessary to define what we mean by “Western values.” Indeed, what we mean by this is very specific and has a basis not in the West at large, but specifically in Anglo-Saxon culture. Virtually all of the values that we will identify in this article as being “Western” are perhaps more accurately termed “Anglo-Saxon values.” However, as the former term is more concise, succinct and in greater general use, we will use “Western values” throughout this article.

So what are these values? What is their origin? Where do they come from?

Again, it is our belief that what we call “Western values” are rooted firmly in the Anglo-Saxon tradition above all else. The formalization of these values can be found in the Magna Carta, but this simply codifies values that had been practiced in long standing in post-Anglo-Saxon Britain and likely long before it in some sense, going back to the days when the Angles and Saxons roamed the border regions between what is now Germany and Denmark.

While the Magna Carta is a complicated document, for our purposes it means something succinct and simple: it means that the king is not above the law.

There are a number of principles that flow from this general recognition that form the bedrock of Western civilization: Legal norms apply to everyone regardless of social class. The right to a fair trial by a jury of one’s peers and the right to face one’s accuser in open court. The right to one’s own property and the right to defend that property using deadly force. While these rights have all been hemmed in – in extreme ways in some cases, particularly since the events of September 11, 2001 – the point is that they form the bedrock of our legal structure and value culture in the West.

To boil this down to a single sentence: the West believes that men have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and that these rights can only be deprived through due process of law. Both national constitutions and prevailing moral attitudes prevent angry mobs or powerful oligarchs from systematically depriving unpopular and powerless minorities of their rights.

Are Western Values Universal?

Western values are not universal in the sense that they will eventually be arrived upon by all cultures given enough time. They are not, contra Francis Fukuyama, an endpoint of history, a teleological goal post that all of humanity has been moving toward for its entire existence. It comes out of a very specific lineage, the Anglo-Saxon culture of yeoman farmers, freeholding lords, restive barons and, more than anything else, a total rejection of the notion of authoritarian kings who could rule at their whim without, at the very least, the consent of the men providing armed bodies for their war efforts and paying the lion’s share of taxes.

But perhaps Western values are universal in another, different respect. Consider what we said earlier: These values are by no means limited to the Anglosphere, though they do seem to be strongest in former British colonies – North America, Australia, Israel, Singapore, Hong Kong. These values manifest in different ways in each of these places and it would be more than a little odd if they didn’t.

Property Rights

However, the basic notion that there are a set of legal norms applying to everyone and, perhaps more importantly, that property rights are as important as other rights such as free speech, seem to have a universality about them. By this we mean that everywhere they have been put into practice, they have yielded impressive results in allowing human society to reach a greater potential while also providing better results for greater numbers of people.

Why does this matter? Well, Communist nations have historically raised living standards dramatically. Compare Russia during the waning days of the Romanovs to the Soviet Union in the 50s, 60s and 70s, or China today to China 70 years ago. But this is only impressive if you ignore the failure of Communism with regard to the rights of the individual and the rather sterile record of Communists with regard to innovation and invention. Sure, the Soviets beat America in the space race by putting a few dogs and satellites in the air – and then promptly did nothing else. Similarly, China is known far more for stealing Western intellectual property than it is for innovating its own.

Quality of Life

Innovation is necessary for both maintaining quality of life for large and growing populations, and for increasing quality of life. Again, China presents an important test case in what happens in a growing economy without transparency, an emphasis on the rights of the individual and the freedom to innovate that comes with an open, liberal economy: China’s one-child policy, which has been demographically disastrous beyond the humanitarian considerations, as well as its environmental degradation are both symptoms of a society that has become aggressively anti-liberal, stifling innovation.

Indeed, the results are plain to see: Of the ten countries in the world with the best quality of life, three of them are former British colonies – Canada came in at number one, Australia and New Zealand. One was in personal union with Britain (the Netherlands), four are Nordic countries with a similar emphasis on the rights of the individual and due process (Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland), and one is arguably the country in the world with a value system most closely resembling that of the Anglo-Saxons (Switzerland). Former British colony Singapore comes in at number 20, behind only Japan and China (which includes Hong Kong – and we wonder how much lifting that former British Crown Colony is doing for the People’s Republic) in Asia. Malaysia and India, both former British colonies, come in the top 30, beating out even a number of European countries outside of what we have defined as “the West,” such as Russia, Bulgaria and Slovakia.

Quality of life is an important metric because it includes non-material and non-economic factors. How subjectively happy are people? Are they satisfied with their lives or are they simply awash in money? Do they want to have children? Are they invested in society through mechanisms such as home ownership? All of these questions will yield a far more accurate picture of a country’s quality of life than simply looking at their GDP or per capita income.

Nobel Laureates

There are other ways of demonstrating the kind of cultural superiority that we are talking about. One of these is by looking at the countries who have produced the most Nobel Laureates: Despite the prize being of Norwegian extraction, two Anglosphere countries, the United States and the United Kingdom, absolutely dominate the rest of the world with regard to winning Nobel prizes: Of the 866 individuals who have received Nobel prizes as of 2020, 516 of them (nearly 60 percent) have been from these two countries.

All five of the top five slots are occupied by Western nations, with these five countries (the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Sweden) making up a whopping 83 percent of all recipients. Within the top ten, we see an additional three Western countries (Switzerland, Canada and Austria) and the share of Western countries in the top ten expands to fully 92 percent of all Nobel prize recipients.

This achievement is so lopsided that it must be discussed by anyone seriously considering this topic.

Technological Achievements

Technological achievements are difficult to quantify. What one considers to be an important technological achievement might be rejected by another as insignificant. However, this list created by The Atlantic is not a terrible representation of the most important technological achievements since the invention of the wheel. While nearly all of these were invented somewhere on the continent of Europe, what is more striking and important is how many of them were created in the West in the way that we have defined it – i.e., those cultures most embracing the values summarized in the Magna Carta and its extrapolations.

Corruption and Transparency

Finally, there is the matter of corruption and transparency in government. The Corruption Perceptions Index ranks 180 different nations around the world in terms of transparency, accountability, general fairness and other important factors. Of the top ten countries for 2019, nine are in Europe. The one that is not is the former British colony of Singapore, a country that is light on democracy but heavy on freedom, transparency, accountability and the rule of law. Former British crown colony Hong Kong – thankfully ranked separately from the People’s Republic of China – comes in at number 16, ahead of Japan, Ireland and Belgium. Indeed, the two Asian former British colonies come out ahead of the United States according to the terms established by the Corruption Perceptions Index.

One of the reasons for America’s low rank among Western countries is because Americans often watch in disbelief as top government officials leave public service and cash in on their expertise in the private sector, regardless of the crimes they committed while in office – whereas in a place like Sweden, when a politician is caught violating the public’s trust for even minor infractions like drunk driving, they immediately resign. Consider how Edward Snowden and Julian Assange are fugitives facing charges while General David Petraeus (who provided his illicit lover and favorable biographer information so secret it defied classification, including the names of covert operatives and the president’s private thoughts on matters of strategic concern), former director of the NSA General Keith Alexander (who lied under oath to Congress and the courts about the NSA spying on U.S. citizens), and former CIA Director James Clapper (who also lied under oath to the Senate Intelligence Committee in order protect his agency from oversight) all breathe free air.

Are Western Values Superior to Other Value Systems?

Cultural Superiority isn't Racism: Why Western Values Underpin the World’s Best CountriesWhether or not Western values are “superior” to other value systems is entirely reliant upon what one considers to be the ideal results for a society. Honest and good people have disagreements on this topic. However, we believe that in the West, there is a general, broad agreement on what constitutes a “good” result for society best summed up by two principles: freedom and fairness.

Freedom and fairness are, in fact, two ideas that are in tension with one another because they are often mutually contradictory. What makes one man free might be unfair in a meaningful sense to another. Indeed, the left-right spectrum in the United States and the Anglosphere might be described as the Party of Freedom (for example, the Republicans) versus the Party of Fairness (in this case, the Democrats).

Both of these values are important to everyone to varying degrees. The resolution of this tension – drawing the line at some point between fairness and freedom – is effectively what our entire civilization is about. It is about maximizing results for the greatest number of people, creating a society that is as fair as it can possibly be while minimally infringing on the rights of individuals.

In a word, Western values can be described as “liberalism” in the sense that John Stuart Mill and John Locke would have understood the term. While there are coherent and important arguments about the limitations of liberalism on both the left and the right, both sides of the political spectrum have thus far failed to offer an alternative to classical liberalism that provides the same degree of generalized prosperity and individual liberty that Western civilization has provided using classical liberalism as its de facto political ideology.

If one believes that freedom and fairness are not important, this doesn’t mean much. However, most Americans and most Westerners believe, whether they are aware of this specific description or not, that freedom and fairness are important and perhaps the most important values that a society can aspire to.

What’s more, we believe that these values are directly responsible for the material prosperity and plenty that characterizes these societies. Individuals are able to pursue happiness in their own way and, for the most part, retain the fruits of their labor. This creates motivation for innovations that raise the standard of living across the board, from top to bottom.

Is It Racist To View Western Values As Superior?

When the superiority of Western values is touted, the retort is often that prizing these values above all others – indeed, recognizing them as “superior” in some way – constitutes “racism.” We believe this is not an unreasonable response to the claims that we are making and that it requires specific attention. Ultimately, however, we find that the argument that Western cultural superiority is racist to be lacking.

Before we go any further, we wish to clarify that we will only use the terms “racist” and “racism” in the sense that they are commonly understood by the average person: racially motivated hatred, domination and subjugation. We will not use the Marxist-influenced definition, which effectively defines entire groups of people as “racist” regardless of their views, actions or motivations.

We have already discussed above that there are a number of countries that have adopted Western cultural values outside of Europe. This is not an insignificant point when it comes to defending the viewpoint of Western cultural superiority against racism. There is also the small matter of generalized racial, ethnic and religious tolerance that characterizes the West. Western nations have, on average, the greatest degree of tolerance and pluralism in the world. Much of our public discourse in the West is about how to best balance tolerance with the above mentioned principles of fairness and freedom.

Western nations often include in the upper echelons of their academic, cultural, economic and political structures, prominent members who are of non-European extraction, either the descendents of African slaves or more recent immigrants from other parts of the world. This is not to be hand-waved away – can, for example, Arab nations boast of black politicians, entertainers and entrepreneurs? Is there a similar phenomenon of Asian achievement within the African cultural sphere? Put simply, there is no equivalent to the social mobility that Western nations offer diasporic, immigrant and formerly enslaved populations anywhere else in the world. This speaks to the universal quality that we mentioned previously – Western values do not advantage or disadvantage any specific group.

We would also be remiss if we did not recognize the institution of chattel slavery and the degree to which it has largely been ended in the West – and indeed, throughout the world, thanks to the efforts of Western nations. Chattel slavery is flagrantly incompatible with Western cultural values, which is why it has largely been eradicated in the West and its former colonies. It’s largely a legal non sequitur throughout the world today. And while there are forms of bonded and unfree labor, they are aberrant and concentrated in areas where Western influence is at its weakest. Enslaving another human being is generally seen as the worst crime a person can commit, dwarfing even rape and murder in its magnitude, being in roughly the same category as war crimes and genocide.

The role of slavery in the West is a complicated one, but it is worth noting that while Western nations did not invent slavery, an institution as old as recorded history at the very least, they have done more than anyone else to end it. The British Empire abolished slavery throughout the empire in 1833. The United States fought one of the bloodiest wars in human history to end bonded labor within its borders. Each of these together acted as a one-two punch that effectively ended slavery in the West. Where slavery persisted in Europe, it did so largely under the auspices of the Islamic Ottoman Empire and the Orthodox Russian Empire.

Finally, a significant portion of Western discourse in the intervening years has been about how to increase participation, toleration and pluralism throughout Western societies. Greater and greater inclusion is a hallmark of Western civilization as part of its generalized emphasis on freedom and fairness. None of this is representative of Western civilization being “racist,” thus prioritizing the values of Western civilization above that of other cultures is not racist.

What of Multiculturalism?

Cultural Superiority isn't Racism: Why Western Values Underpin the World’s Best Countries“Multiculturalism” is one of those words that is often bandied about with very little thought as to what it actually means. Being a multiculturalist does not mean that one finds something of value in other cultures. It means that one considers all cultures to be of equal merit and that cultural values and practices become beyond reproach simply because they are cultural practices.

Like many things that the left pushes, multiculturalism is not a good faith position. No one, for example, argues in earnest from a position of multiculturalism that Confederate monuments ought to remain standing because they are a part of Southern culture. Indeed, those most loudly touting the multiculturalist line are those least respectful of the cultural norms and mores of Appalachia, South Boston or Deer Lodge, Montana. Multiculturalists are quite vocal about their distaste for the cultural practices of unwoke whites, and this distaste is by no means limited to outbursts of violent racism. See, for example, the current cultural jihad against debutante balls in the American South.

What’s more, the multicultural appreciation of other cultures tends to be very shallow and performative. The affluent and educated like to “travel,” but largely spend their time cooped up on resorts or at pubs and restaurants catering to tourists such as themselves. One can scarcely get ten seconds into a conversation about immigration without hearing a multiculturalist moan about who will make our tacos. Much rarer is the person who speaks Arabic, has read Proust in the original French, or has spent a summer living with a Cuban family in Havana. The average multiculturalist generally doesn’t even know the capital of Zimbabwe or the chief export of Vietnam.

There is certainly much to appreciate about and learn from other cultures, but the same types of people touting multiculturalism are generally opposed to this, lambasting it as “cultural appropriation.” Whites, we are told, are not allowed to have dreadlocks or wear hoop earrings. No word on whether or not non-whites are allowed to get vaccines or fly in airplanes, but we do see a growing consensus among the left that “there’s no such thing as white culture.”

Multiculturalism must be understood for what it really is: it is a form of weaponizing the Western sense of “live and let live” and fair play for the purpose of subverting and attacking that culture. One manifestation of this phenomenon is the No Go Zone, a place where law and order has broken down and the area is effectively governed by parallel powers openly hostile toward Western cultural norms.

No Go Zones happen because those in power don’t believe in the primacy of Western cultural values, and don’t want to insist on those values being “imposed” on newly arrived immigrants from other cultures. They selectively celebrate multiculturalism in their own country, even when those cultures are acting in ways they find abhorrent in their home town.

Against Western Cultural Cringe

So what does all of this add up to? A call for pride in the West?

Not necessarily. But consider the inversion of pride – shame and guilt. White guilt is a popular sentiment in the United States and the West, whereby one is supposed to feel directly responsible for any crimes committed by or in the name of Western civilization. This is a patently absurd view. If one is responsible, for example, the trans-Atlantic slave trade, then one is equally responsible for vaccines, toilets and antibiotics.

What we would call for rather than Western cultural chauvinism is, instead, a call for Westerners to end their cultural cringe against Western values.

Cultural cringe is where one feels embarrassed or uncomfortable about their culture, seeing it as somehow “less than” others or emphasizing its shortcomings over its achievements. The West as a whole seems to be suffering from widespread cultural cringe, though it is worth noting that this sentiment is largely inorganic. Rather than being a natural outgrowth of prevailing cultural attitudes, it’s instead manufactured by the media and academia, which incessantly propagandize about the evils of white men, the nuclear family, Christianity and Western values.

The assault on our cultural institutions is largely successful because of historical illiteracy. While many Americans are embarrassed about America’s slaveholding past, few know how limited slave ownership was throughout the country, the degree to which it was opposed while it still existed, and barely think about how slavery is an institution extending all the way back to the dawn of human history, and is thus not a uniquely American invention. America simply did what the rest of the world did at the time and what virtually all of the world had done since the beginning of time.

Lacking a proper historical context, it’s easy to convince anyone of anything.

One need not become a braggart about Western culture to combat this. Indeed, doing so might well be counterproductive. However, one certainly should refuse to feel guilt about the color of one’s skin or the broader values of Western civilization. It is important to remember that the people who seek to weaponize guilt about historical crimes of the West – which are certainly a matter of historical record, but by no means exclusive or unique to the West and, as we have pointed out above, have been aggressively combated by the West more than anyone else – do so out of a position of bad faith. They are not seeking to make the world a better place or reflect thoughtfully on the sum total of the West’s history. They simply seek to weaponize your guilt for their own personal political gain.

It is the West’s insistence on equal treatment and fair play that makes this so easy for anti-Western leftists. Because, as a culture, we strive to make men equal before the law, it is easy for us to be guilted and shamed when we fail to live up to our values. Leftists do two things when they attack Western culture: First, they say that because we have not always lived up to our stated values, that we have failed as a society. But then they commit a rhetorical sleight of hand, declaring that because of this, our values must be bad, then attempting to substitute a radical, alien and totalitarian set of values in their place – the values of radical equality and social leveling.

This is the most important part to remember: virtually none of the people demanding that you hate yourself and your culture’s values have anything better to offer in its place. Replacing cultural cringe with an honest cultural confidence does not require looking down on other cultures. It simply requires you to acknowledge that, when compared to all of human history, the West has done a great job of increasing human freedom and human prosperity, as well as encouraging an overall sense of fair play.

Cultural Superiority Isn’t Racism: Why Western Values Underpin the World’s Best Countries originally appeared in The Resistance Library at Ammo.com.

The False Dichotomy of Voting

The False Dichotomy of Voting

A false dichotomy is when one is presented with two options as if those were the only options. American presidential elections present voters with a false dichotomy. This election, we are led to believe that Donald Trump and Joe Biden are the only real options for the next president of the United States. Granted, one of them will win, so, conceding this circular logic, even the naysayers have to admit that “the system” has worked in so far as it will produce a president from one of the two major parties.

But this is a false dichotomy because every four years the game is rigged to give voters two pre-arranged choices, and probably two choices of which we all had little input. There are primaries and caucuses and conventions, but all of this is only about narrowing down the options to two: Option A and Option B, like a boring grade school quiz. In states where anyone can vote in primaries—i.e. open primaries—oftentimes voters will vote for the weakest candidate from the opposite party to stack the deck in their favor for when the candidate from their party eventually runs. This is relevant because it undermines democracy at every turn; which isn’t to say that most libertarians are so high on democracy in the first place, but if the rest of the country is going to hold up “fair and open elections” as the pinnacle of the free West, then they should at least be honest about how democratic democracy is.

Readers may recall the Republican field in 2015 and 2016, which included notables such as Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, and Rand Paul. Most voters would have been crazy at the time to predict that Donald Trump would beat any of these names and win the election. In other words, it’s fair to say that many Republicans along the way did not vote for Trump in state primaries. SNL mocked his debate performances, celebrities (and Barack Obama) arrogantly asserted again and again that “Donald Trump will never be President.” And yet, he is. Some contingency, whether private donors, self-interested corporations, or the “Silent Majority” in flyover country, managed to elevate Trump to office 2016. But it seems odd to call this process democratic when most mainstream Republicans (which is to say centrist and party-line) were working hard behind the scenes for other candidates. We might also be interested to see how many primary voters voted for a different Republican before eventually voting for Trump in the general election.

All of this doesn’t even account for the contingency on the left who believed Bernie Sanders was unfairly pushed aside both in 2016 and 2020, in favor of more “electable” and party-loyal candidates. In short, what we called democracy in 2016, and what we’ll call it this election cycle, is not really “the rule of many” at all, it is a duopoly that, as Patrick Henry said of the Constitution, “squints toward monarchy.”

Oftentimes voters think their vote is an expression of their individualism, their freedom as Americans, and their influence on an election. None of these is true. Elections present a false dichotomy. Voting may make one think that their vote does all of these things, and thus it may bring some psychic satisfaction or a sense of belonging to a group. But it’s not individualistic, it doesn’t expand their freedom, and a single vote never influences an election. What we saw in 2016 after Trump was the clear nominee, and what we see today since Joe Biden has become the Democratic nominee, is that voters bend their preferences and principles to fit the candidate, not the other way around. Maybe this is just anecdotal but when the Democratic field was wide open, I didn’t know anyone on the left who wanted Joe Biden. They wanted someone “progressive” like Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, or even Beto O’Rourke.

After Biden “won” the nomination (if we can call the Democratic convention process fair given unelected “superdelegates”), most voters on the left whom I knew still didn’t like him. He’s too old, he isn’t progressive, he has a bad record on crime and voted for the War in Iraq, many liberals said. And yet, we all know they will still vote for him next week, if they haven’t done so already. For the voters I’m describing, how is voting for a candidate they never actually preferred until now an expression of their individualism? For that matter, how is doing something that at least 50 million other people will do “individualistic”? The American voter has less realistic options on a presidential ballot than their second grade kid has on a multiple choice test. This is democracy?

Voting is not about freedom. Voting confers legitimacy on the most powerful man on earth. This man can start wars, can send drone bombs to kill people overseas, can authorize domestic spying and nearby torture, can enact tariffs that just make domestic prices higher, and can appoint unelected and unaccountable judges to the highest bench in the United States. If we go back in time a bit, apparently the president can also order the internment of whole groups of Americans simply based on their race. And they can also choose to drop atomic bombs on women and children. How is voting for this office an expression of freedom?

Yes, we have the “freedom” to vote, the same way we tell our children they have the “choice” to obey. It’s presented as freedom, and as a choice, but it’s really not. It’s a false dichotomy that is self-supporting and self-perpetuating. If every election is “the most important election of our lifetime,” then we can never “sit this one out.” We can never not vote. We can never vote for a third party candidate because doing so, according to left and right, only helps the opposition. So we can and should and have to vote for a candidate that, all things considered, we don’t really like or want, but because we live in a “democracy,” he is the best we have. And this is freedom? There’s more freedom in choosing a coffee creamer than choosing a president.

A single vote does not influence an election. As I’ve suggested previously, voting incurs an opportunity cost, which, while potentially small, necessarily means we can’t do something else while we’re spending time voting or toward the election process. If one works on a campaign, or at a phone bank, or puts up signs, or anything else beyond just voting, their opportunity cost goes up even more. Maybe to some this is worth it, but if voters confronted the reality that their single vote doesn’t matter, I doubt any opportunity cost would be worth it.

The response, then, is “if everyone thought this way no one would vote.” This is true, and would happen, but this isn’t what really happens. Millions of people are going to vote in every election for the foreseeable future. But, their vote only matters as part of a group, not as a single vote. One’s vote is always on the margin, that is, negligible in terms of its influence. If 250,000 people vote for Candidate X in your county or district, and then you also vote for Candidate X, your vote didn’t do anything more to help him or her get elected. It is insignificant. Therefore we have to realize that unless we can get a whole lot of people to vote the way we do, then our single vote doesn’t influence an election.

If I went and voted for Jo Jorgensen, the Libertarian candidate, it might bring me personal satisfaction, but it won’t help her win. She’s not going to win. So we see then that unless I get millions of people in Texas to vote for Jo Jorgensen, my single vote won’t have any effect on the election. This is true of mainstream candidates as well. In most districts in Texas, for example, if I vote for Trump, I’m only doing what everyone else is already doing, and thus my marginal vote doesn’t help him win; and if I vote for Biden, knowing that in most districts Trump will win easily, then I’m also having no effect on the outcome. Voting only matters in groups, and thus the idea that our individual vote influences elections is simply not true.

As I’ve said before, if someone votes out of self-defense because they want to keep their money, or they think a candidate will not wreak as much havoc as the other, this is completely understandable. Voting doesn’t make you a bad person, and all of us live in a very undemocratic system where money and power present us with two real options and then tell us to pick one. And they call this “choice,” democracy, and freedom. So given the unfortunate situation, we can understand why many voters vote for the “lesser of two evils.” For that matter, voting for a Republican or Democrat is the only way a voter can have even a fractional (though negligible) effect on an election.

But it’s still a false dichotomy to say that we have to vote for one or the other. We can vote for a third party, we can write someone in, or we can join the largest political group in the country: non-voters. Not voting is a vote: it’s a vote of no confidence. So whether we vote or don’t vote in this year’s presidential election, let’s all admit the presence of this false dichotomy, and also the deflating reality that a single vote doesn’t do what we often think it does.

The American People’s Justified Cynicism

The American People’s Justified Cynicism

“The biggest threat to our democracy is cynicism,” declared former president Barack Obama two years ago. But as we enter the final days of another demagoguery-drenched presidential campaign, it is time to give cynicism the credit it deserves. In an era of clueless voters, conniving candidates and media bias, cynicism can be one of the most effective checks and balances on political power run amok.

In modern American history, the most audacious liars have been the greatest self-proclaimed enemies of cynicism. “The only deadly sin I know is cynicism,” declared President Lyndon Johnson in a 1967 press conference on how the Vietnam War was going great. In a 1973 nationally-televised speech, President Richard Nixon declared, “I reject the cynical view that politics is inevitably, or even usually, a dirty business” prior to deluging viewers with false claims on the burgeoning Watergate scandal.

In 1994, President Clinton derided citizens who “indulge themselves in the luxury of cynicism” for betraying the American soldiers who died on D-Day in 1944. In 1997, Clinton declared that people can make America “better if we will suspend our cynicism.” This is the Peter Pan theory of public service: if only people believed government has magical powers, politicians could achieve miracles. After his impeachment, Clinton castigated “fashionable cynicism” as “self-indulgent arrogance that has no place in America.” But it wasn’t cynics’ fault that Clinton helped make presidential candor an endangered species.

Cynicism is a Natural Blowback to Deceit

George W. Bush exploited the revulsion against Clinton, promising America “a fresh start after a season of cynicism” when he launched his presidential campaign in 1999. In his first inaugural address, President Bush touted positive thinking about politicians as civic duty, lecturing Americans of their “calling” to make a “determined choice of trust over cynicism.” In the same 2002 State of the Union where he uncorked “the Axis of Evil” to pave the way to war with Iraq, Bush declared, “Deep in the American character, there is honor, and it is stronger than cynicism.” Bush repeatedly rebuked the cynicism of anyone who refused to cheer his invasion of Iraq.

Barack Obama exploited the revulsion against Bush, proclaiming in 2007 that “my rival in this [presidential] race is not other candidates. It’s cynicism.” Six years later, President Obama exhorted college graduates to beware of the “creeping cynicism” and people who “warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner.” He did not seize that opportunity to how he acquired the prerogative to order drone killings of American citizens on his own decree.

Politicians denouncing cynicism are akin to used car salesmen telling customers to ignore the clunking sound from the engine during a test drive. Cynicism is blowback from decades of deceit. Most of the major political power grabs in modern history have been propelled by official falsehoods, as have all the major wars since 1950. Perpetual bipartisan chicanery explains why only 20% of Americans trust the federal government nowadays.

Cynicism often arises because politicians judge themselves by their rhetoric while citizens judge them by their (mis)deeds. The alternative to cynicism is pretending that politicians are more honest than they sound. Are politicians, like underage delinquents, entitled to have all their prior offenses expunged?

Cynicism is necessary because the political playing field is often tilted in favor of servility. Politicians are almost never held personally responsible for their falsehoods, follies and fiascos. Thanks to pervasive federal secrecy and surveillance, rulers hold far more cards than citizens. People have been schooled and hectored to submit, to believe and to reflexively defer to officialdom. Scores of millions of people will unquestioningly obey no matter what Washington commands.

Cynicism is a form of political damage control. An ounce of cynicism can save a pound of repenting. Cynicism functions as a brake on political steamrollers. Timely doubts loudly expressed can stop presidents from driving a nation over a cliff or into a foreign quagmire.

Don’t Intellectually Disarm Yourself for Political Aggressors 

Politicians seek to banish cynicism without repenting their rascally ways. Why should citizens intellectually disarm themselves in the face of political aggressors? Why should they accept the passive obedience that was preached for centuries to the politically downtrodden? Are citizens obliged to continually cast their common sense and memories overboard as if they were seeking to placate an angry pagan god?

The derision of cynicism goes to heart of citizens’ role in a democracy. If citizens have a duty to believe, then politicians are entitled to deceive. If citizens are obliged to trust, they become sacrificial offerings for the next political con job. A cynic is often merely someone who trusts politicians as little as politicians trust each other.

Cynicism is simply a discount rate for political honesty. Even cynics should not presume that all politicians are perfidious all the time. There are decent folks in every profession. Instead, citizens should judge politicians like federal judges treat accused criminals—97% of whom are convicted.

Cynicism can be pro-freedom, spurring resistance rather than resignation. Stalwart citizens should be cynical when politicians concoct new pretexts to subvert freedom of speech and press, cynical when politicians conspire to violate the Constitution, cynical when politicians seek to drag America into new foreign conflicts, and cynical when politicians propose sweeping new federal programs to replace disgraced boondoggles. Most importantly, citizens should be cynical when politicians absolve themselves for all the damage they have inflicted on this nation.

Winning politicians often enjoy a honeymoon after Election Day, but neither Donald Trump nor Joe Biden deserve any honeymoon from cynicism. “Think well of your masters” will be the death of democracy. The more cynical Americans become, the less power politicians can seize.

This article was originally featured at USA Today and is republished with permission.

On Tuesday, Antiwar Voters Might Decide the Presidential Election

On Tuesday, Antiwar Voters Might Decide the Presidential Election

On Monday [two weeks ago], on the 19th anniversary of U.S. soldiers hitting the ground in Afghanistan, dozens of people gathered in West Chester, Pennsylvania, with the goal of ensuring that our men and women in uniform won’t be in Afghanistan for another anniversary.

The event was organized by the conservative veteran’s organization Bring Our Troops Home, founded in January 2019 by former Sgt. Dan McKnight, who served 10 years in the Idaho National Guard with an 18-month tour in Afghanistan, the organization advocates a military withdrawal from “endless wars” in the Middle East and a requirement that all future wars be declared by Congress, as mandated by the Constitution.

The borough of West Chester, the county seat of suburban Philadelphia’s Chester County, was selected for the event because it was the home and final resting place of Marine Major General Smedley Butler, who, at the time of his death in 1940, was the most decorated Marine in U.S. history. Following a distinguished career – where he saw action in World War I and Central America and served a brief stint as Philadelphia’s chief of police – the two-time Medal of Honor recipient spent the last decade of his life as an antiwar advocate and lecturer. Butler is best-remembered today as the author of the 1935 book War is a Racket.

The event took place at Oaklands Cemetery, next to Butler’s gravesite, and featured speakers included McKnight, fellow veteran, and former West Point professor Danny Sjursen, and Scott Horton, author of Fool’s Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan.

They were joined at the podium by the Republican nominee for Pennsylvania’s 6th congressional district, John Emmons. “In order to commit troops someplace, the Congress needs to declare war. So that’s one thing we’re here to reinforce today,” Emmons said in an interview. “Here we are, nineteen years later, and we’re still trying to extract our troops from Afghanistan. I’m certainly in support of that, and what’s curious is that there’s people in Washington who have been fighting President Trump to bring the troops home, including my opponent [Democratic Rep. Chrissy Houlahan].”

Mark Griego, a Villanova University student who served five years in the Marine Corps, was unfamiliar with Bring Our Troops Home before the event. “I think that what they’re fighting for, considering that they’re focusing on the whole bipartisan aspect is really important, it’s more about America, and keeping America whole and one. I think it’s really good what they’re doing with that,” he said.

Also in attendance was Rich Schwartzman, a Philadelphia native who served in the Air Force from 1968 to 1972 and was deployed to Thailand. His message to Washington was clear. “Follow the Constitution,” he said. “I can’t even name all the places we have troops right now, fighting. None of it is constitutional. And that is wrong.”

While most voters are motivated by domestic issues, such as health care and the economy, there remains a smaller, decisive number of Americans who will cast their ballot in November based on their opposition to continued U.S. intervention in the Middle East.

That was the conclusion of Professors Douglas Kriner of Boston University and Francis Shen of the University of Minnesota, whose 2017 study determined a positive and statistically significant correlation between a community’s casualty rate in the War on Terror and its support for Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, in which the candidate promised to draw down the American military presence in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. Recent polling has reinforced this judgment, including a 2019 Pew Research survey that found 58% of veterans believe the war in Afghanistan was not worth fighting, while 64% believe the same about the war in Iraq.

These numbers are particularly relevant for Pennsylvania, which, since 2001, has endured the third-highest casualty count among the states. That includes 301 U.S. military casualties, 47 members of the Pennsylvania National Guard killed overseas, and over 3,000 native sons of the Keystone State wounded in action.

“Our statistical model suggests that if three states key to Trump’s victory – Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin – had suffered even a modestly lower casualty rate, all three could have flipped from red to blue and sent Hillary Clinton to the White House,” wrote Kriner and Shen.

Once again, Pennsylvania is a political battleground for Trump. Under his administration, while thousands of U.S. troops remain engaged in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, military casualties are down significantly when with the tenures of his predecessors – 63 Americans dead in Afghanistan, compared to 630 under George W. Bush and 1,758 under Barack Obama.

Bring Our Troops Home, and the majority of veterans they represent will continue to speak out, organize, and lobby until those casualty rates are down to zero. Meantime, on November 3, we will find out if Trump has done enough to reap the political rewards of peace.

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

The ‘Private’ Dilemma

The ‘Private’ Dilemma

There is an issue that “Libertarianism” refuses to take a nuanced approach to that will inevitably further marginalize it in the eyes of the general public. When it is brought up the “consistent” libertarian/anarchist retreats into the world of informal fallacies, most notably the “false dilemma” fallacy, in which it is assumed by the participant that there are only two opinions to hold on the presented subject. This is usually characterized by canned answers such as, “they’re a private company bro, they can do what they want,” when a company is allegedly acting on its own accord, and in one example, temporarily bans the nation’s oldest newspaper from their platform.  

When people such as this author presents evidence that a certain platform will delete accounts on the orders of the American and Israeli governments, they are met with the same vapid response about private companies, yadda, yadda, yadda. In the mind of some who claim to be all about private property, but also preach an anti-State message, it becomes clear they haven’t given consideration to the fact that government actors (GAs) have planned out these schemes with the express intent of making it so that the libertarian/free market type is forced into a corner of not wanting to abandon their principles while GAs construct a system of tyranny around them that they refuse to criticize. 

What is even more maddening is that when someone tries to sound the alarm on this loophole the GAs have found, many are met with the insane response that they want the government to do something about it so that makes them statists. Did you hear what they said? The government is the one using this to their advantage. Can thought lacking nuance be abandoned for five seconds so that a third way can possibly be found besides the two that have been defaulted to?  

How about loudly speaking out against this arrangement (GAs)? Unfortunately, many are not only so steeped in one mode of thinking when it comes to that “private company bro,” but they also may not want to be seen as being “anti-business” like their blood-enemies the socialists. Where is that going to leave you? Technically, the monopoly power provider in a certain neighborhood may decide they don’t want to do business with the local “white supremacist” (whatever that means anymore). If they turn their power off in 100-degree heat is it just a “private company bro?”  

Libertarian/ANCAPS need to address this exploding phenomenon of government using “private” companies as a shield to carry out their war on everything from free speech to mask enforcement. At present, the Right is ramping up efforts to repeal Section 230 which would effectively allow the government to regulate social media platforms, or any contribution sites, as if they’re the public square. This author sees the government as the problem in almost all instances and never the solution. That does not mean these “private” companies should be let off the hook for their collusion. On the contrary, everyone needs to start calling them out on it. That would be a good start for the “libertarian.” 

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.

The ACB Hearings & The Problem with SCOTUS Ep. 134

The ACB Hearings & The Problem with SCOTUS Ep. 134

Keith Knight and I unpack the ACB hearings from this morning. We discuss separation of powers, conservative vs. progressive vs. libertarian judicial philosophy, and objective morality.

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Show Notes:

“The Structure of Liberty” by Randy Barnett

“Chaos Theory” by Robert Murphy

Liberty Weekly: The Conspiratorial Corruption of the Constitution Ep. 2

Ted Cruz Opening Remarks to Amy Coney Barrett

Amy Coney Barrett Opening Statement

William J. Watkins, Jr.; Popular Sovereignty, Judicial Supremacy, and the American Revolution: Why the Judiciary Cannot be the Final Arbiter of Constitutions

Against the Unconstitutional Suspension of Jury Trials Ep. 133

Against the Unconstitutional Suspension of Jury Trials Ep. 133

In an unprecedented abridgment of the most basic rights of an ostensibly free society, American citizens are being wholly deprived of their right to Due Process in the name of an amorphous “public health emergency.” This must not stand.

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In In re the Matter of the Extension of Orders and Interim Rule Concerning Continuation of Jury Trials, Suspension of Statutory Deadlines for Non-criminal Jury Trials, and Remote Hearings During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Liberty Weekly: The Real Magna Carta Ep. 58

Liberty Weekly: Lysander Spooner on Jury Nullification Ep. 56

Lysander Spooner “Trial by Jury” Full Text

US Tensions Post-RBG Ep. 130

US Tensions Post-RBG Ep. 130

Oh boy, are we in for a rough six weeks. In this episode I discuss the effect of Ruth Bader-Ginsburg’s death on the upcoming election in light of growing political division.

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Show Notes:

The Conspiratorial Corruption of the Constitution Ep. 2

Liberation Library [2]: Reclaiming the American Revolution: The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions and Their Legacy

Business Insider: Late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s ‘fervent’ last wish was that she ‘not be replaced until a new president is installed’

*CORRECTION* It was Justice Rebecca Bradley who authored a wonderful dissent to Wisconsin’s State Order suspending jury trials

The Atlantic: The Violent Defense of White Male Supremacy

Making Politics More Like a Free Market

Making Politics More Like a Free Market

Free-market capitalism is the most successful economic system in history, as it has brought unprecedented prosperity and powered vast improvements in all aspects of human well-being.

However, in spite of capitalism’s success, the application of economic ideas to politics is limited—which is very unfortunate, for many of the challenges characterizing contemporary politics could be solved if we apply the principles underlying free markets, such as free competition and dispersal of power. Making politics more like free markets would improve the quality of governance by making people’s lives less dependent on a divided and perpetually gridlocked national capital and empowering localized decision-making and spirit of free competition. 

Free Competition

Competition should be not only between political parties, but also layers of authority. Thanks to free competition, consumers obtain goods and services at the lowest prices possible, as there are many competing players. In politics, however, the state does not face any competition, and thus has little incentives to improve. 

Nevertheless, there is greater competition at the local level, between states, municipalities, and neighboring communities, of the kind that the central authority does not face. This is because people can relatively easily migrate to another state or city, but not to another country. Thus, competition is possible only in a system where power is decentralized and is distributed among many actors. 

When states and municipalities have more sway over people’s lives than the central government, citizens can “vote by their feet” and migrate in case they are dissatisfied with the local situation. As Milton Friedman wrote in Capitalism and Freedom, “if government is to exercise power, better in the county than in the state, better in the state than in Washington.”

This is happening in modern California, from which many people and companies are fleeing because of high taxes, burdensome regulations, etc. Likewise, following the adoption of racially discriminating laws in the American South, a lot of African-Americans moved to the North. 

Small-Scale Experiments

The intrinsic feature of a free market system is continuous and relentless technological progress. After all, the majority of technological advances have come from independent innovators rather than government-led projects—the most prominent examples being the Wright brothers, James Watt, Thomas Edison, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, etc. Experimentation and trial and error are essential to innovation in a free market system—and therefore need to be introduced to the political system as well. 

Colorado’s legalization of marijuana, for instance, brought more revenues, reduced crime and led to the drop in the use of the drug among teenagers. On the other hand, there is California’s failed approach towards homelessness. These experiences can serve as valuable lessons when crafting policies on a national level.

In a decentralized country, local and state authorities have enough independence to be able to carry out what Karl Popper called small-scale social experiments, thereby creating a national laboratory for new ideas. “It is one of the happy incidents of the federal system,” the Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis wrote in 1932, “that a single courageous state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.” Piecemeal social reforms are small changes to the system aimed at resolving social ills; they are limited in their scope and impact, hence allowing us to scientifically analyze causes and effects of such changes and learn from experience. 

Dispersal of Power

In a free-market economy, decentralization of economic decision-making power reduces the likelihood of failure in the system as a whole. For instance, if one bread-producing company becomes bankrupt, the supply of bread won’t disrupt, because there are plenty of other competing firms. Decentralization also prevents the abuse of power by a single producer; no one can legally arbitrarily increase prices in a free-market economy. 

In politics, just like in free markets, dispersal of power, by making the system less susceptible to failures, will mitigate the negative effects of misguided decisions of the federal government and prevent the abuse of power by a single agent.

The government is the biggest player in society, and it is not infallible. The more power the central government has, the more the effects of its decisions, both positive and negative, will be felt across the country. By limiting the size, scope, and power of the government, the mistakes made by the center will have less adverse effects on the citizens. Distribution of power will also limit the government’s ability to abuse its power—the federal government, state and local authorities will act like checks and balances against each other. 

Decentralized Decision-Making

There is another benefit stemming from the dispersal of power: utilization of available knowledge is more effective when decision-making process is dispersed.  

In his seminal work The Use of Knowledge in Society, economist F. A. Hayek argued that the free-market system is successful because it distributes the process of economic decision-making among many participants rather than concentrates it in the hands of the state. 

Individuals are free to make their own decisions based on their intimate “knowledge of circumstances of time and place,” the “knowledge of people, of local conditions, and special circumstances” which cannot be conveyed to the central government in any form. As Hayek wrote, 

…the shipper who earns his living from using otherwise empty or half-filled journeys of tramp-steamers, or the estate agent whose whole knowledge is almost exclusively one of temporary opportunities, or the arbitrageur who gains from local differences of commodity prices, are all performing eminently useful functions based on special knowledge of circumstances of the fleeting moment not known to others.

Put differently, knowledge necessary for the wise wielding of power is decentralized; therefore, in order to effectively utilize available knowledge, power should be dispersed between many players as well. The recognition of the fact that the central authority is unable to collect and analyze “knowledge of the circumstances of time and place” is the reason for the decentralization of economic decision-making in free-market economies. 

The same principle should underpin political decision-making. Especially in big and diverse countries, smaller units can adapt to the local peculiarities and specifics of their situation—unlike the central government. Local authorities, who are closer to the facts of the situation, should be endowed with power to make decisions themselves because they are better familiar with the peculiar circumstances and the needs of the citizens. Indeed, according to the polling by Gallup, while only 35 percent of Americans trust the federal government, 72 percent have “great deal” or a “fair amount” of confidence in their local government.

And small groups, since they meet face-to-face, are more likely to reach compromise on local issues, as opposed to polarized Washington. Face-to-face interactions with other humans are restrained by our physical closeness to them, while with big imaginary entities, like the state, there is no such physical feeling of responsibility. At the top, all societal problems seem abstract, and we do not grasp the abstract as efficiently as we do the emotional and the physical.

Concluding Remarks

In free markets, truth is arrived at by the combination of multiple views, and fallibility inherent to each of them ultimately cancels out, thereby making prices, rather than the whims of a central planning board, indicators of the true worth of a particular commodity. Likewise in politics, no one is infallible; this is why political power is dispersed and limited, and the best solutions usually result not from unilateral decisions but continuous interactions aimed at the attainment of consensus by multiple participants. 

In both economics and politics, we need free competition and the dispersal decision-making power, since they encourage better governance by allowing people to “vote by their feet,” limit the influence of the center on people’s lives, allow for small-scale social experiments, and empower local communities.

Sukhayl Niyazov is an independent author and researcher whose work has been published in Areo magazine, Human Events, Global Policy Journal, Merion West, and others.

Toxic Partisanship: A Gateway Towards Authoritarianism

Toxic Partisanship: A Gateway Towards Authoritarianism

For years a consistent refrain in American politics has bewailed an increasingly polarized political atmosphere.

As the Pew Research Center observes, for the first time in almost 25 years, “majorities in both parties express not just unfavorable but very unfavorable views of the other party.” Americans, the Pew study shows, now look across the aisle with fear, anger, and contempt, committed more strongly than ever to their respective teams. On college campuses, disagreements that might have been thoughtful, even friendly debates have erupted into violent melees, ending in injury and damaged property. Attacks and intimidation, it seems, have become a part of American political life.

But the conspicuousness of America’s political polarization belies a counterintuitive insight: the belligerents of the nation’s social and political war are actually very much alike. Culturally and aesthetically, the groups appear quite different, yet their political philosophies share a common heritage, rooted in the anti-Enlightenment ideas of the first half of the twentieth century.

Gripped by reductionist groupthink, a toxin generated by the United States’ acrid culture-war politics, left and right are moving—regressing, in fact—toward their most crudely authoritarian incarnations. Their declension recalls the totalitarian communist and fascist ideologies of the early twentieth century.

Classical liberalism effectively sidelined, the familiar battles of that period are reborn in the violent confrontations between the MAGA alt-right and black-clad antifascists, both groups equally enthralled by collectivism and intolerance.

President Trump, protectionism his gospel, has successfully conjured the old arguments for internal self-sufficiency, or autarky, so central to the rhetoric of the Italy’s Fascists and Germany’s National Socialists. The goal was to possess all that was economically necessary within the borders of the homeland.

If conquest and empire were essential to that nationalistic end, then they were the proper goal of the state, its right and destiny. History seems poised to repeat itself given the current political climate.

In the early twentieth century, the various socialist schools outstripped classical liberalism as the dominant idea on the Continent, their message capturing European hearts and minds. Communists and fascists fought each other for converts and for political power. As historian Mary Vincent observes, “[T]he battle for the streets was very real. In an age of genuine mass politics, street violence became the leitmotiv of interwar Europe.” Vincent explains that the “new politics,” divided between fascism and communism, “filled public space with disciplined, uniformed bodies,” ready to advance the collective goals of party and state.

These warring authoritarians, socialists all, shared a common disdain for the Enlightenment’s liberal conception of freedom, namely the freedom of the individual to live out her life autonomously, un-coerced and pursuing goals of her own imagining.

Modernity required something more of the individual—that she be absorbed into the body of the total state, the consecrated instrument variously of the nation, or the proletarian revolution, or even history itself, depending on the socialist school.

The new conception of freedom, deeply embedded in today’s politics, reflects this submersion of the individual, the Hegelian idea that the state precedes the individual in importance.

Superficial differences notwithstanding, both the leftmost and rightmost spaces of today’s political spectrum, as popularly understood, seem to have absorbed Hegel’s idea of the organic state, the state as “the Divine Idea” and source of the individual’s “spiritual reality.”

This wrongheaded way of thinking about the nature of political power has metastasized through the body politic. As before, both sides represent authoritarian populism, even as they vie for control of the governing apparatus.

Indeed, it may be that the family resemblance between the two sides is somewhat ironically to blame for much of their mutual hostility. Developing the work of the English anthropologist Ernest Crawley, Sigmund Freud labeled such antagonism the “narcissism of small differences”—enmity based on the propinquity of two groups.

This theory offers a useful lens through which we can view and better understand the prevailing political conversation, “to explain,” as social psychologist Siamak Movahedi suggests, “the battle between in-groups and out-groups.”

At present, group identity and its insignia are an all-consuming obsession of both the left and the right, just as they were of the fascists and communists who marched in the streets, eager to spill each other’s blood. Both sides carry and carefully guard the kind of sustained righteous indignation that comes with certainty of the religious kind.

That kind of certainty is dangerous to a free society; once it takes hold, the virtues of the cause, held beyond any doubt, seem to excuse any crime committed in their pursuit. Orders must be followed, because the ends justify the means.

A free and open society requires the round rejection of both left and right flavors of failed twentieth-century authoritarianism, the restoration of the classical liberal ideas that transformed the world and yet were never given their due.

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

A Question of Motives

A Question of Motives

People who regard themselves as members of the ideological environmental movement may or may not have good science on their side in any particular matter, but they do themselves no service when they speculate wildly about the motives of their opponents.

I frequently hear such environmentalists characterize their opponents as people who want to make the planet uninhabitable for human beings and other living things. I suspect I’m not alone in finding that motivation highly implausible, and I’m surprised that those who traffic in such accusations don’t realize that they undermine their own cause when they try to sell that implausible story to the public. It may explain why they have yet to close the sale after all these years.

Note what I am not saying. I am not saying that those environmentalists accuse their targets of being in denial or of being ignorant about the alleged dangers of their policy preferences. No, they accuse them of wishing to destroy the planet. If you don’t believe me, watch this video in which Noam Chomsky, a bright guy who has made many important intellectual contributions, does just that. (In this video Chomsky says that Trump is more dangerous than Hitler was because Trump seeks an end to life on earth.)

Are we really to believe that the individuals named as public enemies seek an end to life or just don’t care if human life becomes impossible in the near or distant future? Do these people have no children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, or friends with such? Even in the unlikely case that the answer is no, what motive could they possibly have for not caring about what happens to humanity after they die? Greed? Don’t many of them think they have enough money–or are we to believe they’re all Scrooge McDucks?

My point is not to take the side of the alleged public enemies in this or that matter. It is only to insist that the environmentalists need a more plausible story for their opponents’ policy preferences. But I’ve yet to encounter one offered by the environmental movement. Simply portraying the enemy as nihilist is inexcusable, not to say (as a friend put it) lazy. I have a hard time believing that anyone on the fence would find the standard claim convincing.

I suspect that the reason for this ridiculous tack is that to assume good-faith disagreement would violate the environmentalists’ take-no-prisoners attitude. If they allowed for good faith in their opponents, they might then have to acknowledge that much of the environmentalists’ apocalyptic claims are disputed by reputable and well-credentialed scientists–which is something ideological environmentalists are loathe to do. They’d much rather portray their adversaries as greed-crazed or religiously fundamentalist or ideological monsters, if not all three, however incompatible those things might be. Or nihilistic.

The principle of charity holds that you should take on your opponents’ strongest case, even if no opponent makes that case himself. Lazily conjuring up the most malevolent case will fail to convince any decent listener. All it will do is reinforce the feelings of those already convinced. If the goal is to actually effect beneficial change, where’s the gain in that?

That question may answer itself. Perhaps the goal is not to effect change but rather merely to engage in holier-than-thou self-pleasuring.

Matt Taibbi on the Origins of the Russiagate Hoax

Matt Taibbi on the Origins of the Russiagate Hoax

From left, FBI Director James Comey, CIA Director John Brennan, and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper sit together in the front row before President Barack Obama spoke about National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance in this Friday, Jan. 17, 2014, file photo at the Justice Department in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) ** FILE **

A New Whistleblower Exposes the ‘Cambridge Four’

This interview was recorded August 13, 2020. The computer garbled the audio terribly, but at least the auto-transcriber was able to make sense of it. The following is edited for clarity and minor mess-ups.

Scott Horton:
Alright you guys, introducing Matt Taibbi, formerly at Rolling Stone and now just doing his own thing over there at Substack. And of course, he also runs a podcast with Katie Halper called Useful Idiots, which is great. I watch it semi-regularly, at least. He’s got a brand new piece, “Our Man in Cambridge,” that goes along with this companion piece by Steve Schrage called, “The Spies Who Hijacked America.” Welcome back to the show, Matt. How are you doing, sir?

Matt Taibbi:
Good, how are you?

Horton:
I’m doing great. And you know what? I’m so glad that you’re focusing again on “Untitled-gate” here. I was pretty sad when you sort of abandoned that project for other things because I am just so curious about the origins of this gigantic Russiagate hoax, which, as my friend Dave Smith says, is as big a deal as if the accusations had been true. If everything they said about Donald Trump was true, the fact that it wasn’t is as big deal as that would have been. That’s what a crime it is that the FBI and the CIA falsely accused the president of treason for three years.

Taibbi:
Yeah, it’s funny when the story first broke in, I guess it was the end of December of 2016 when it first started becoming really a big, big deal. I remember saying to another journalist, “if this is true, it’s the biggest story ever. And if it isn’t true, it’s the biggest.” Because there was no other explanation as either as to be historic setup or, you know, historic kind of espionage tale. So it looks like the former.

Horton:
Yeah, absolutely. A lot of us knew from the very beginning. If people want to check the archives, I first interviewed Jeffrey Carr, the computer security expert, in July of 2016 about how CrowdStrike and/or the FBI don’t know who hacked into servers. The only people in the world who could know who hacked them is the NSA because they have God-like omniscient power of being able to rewind the entire internet and trace every packet wherever they want. No one else can do that. And no expert examining the server can tell you for sure who had been there, because it’s too easy to fake it. In this case, the tracks they left were so obvious, where they had references to “Iron Felix” and all these Cyrillic letters dumped in there and all this stuff. Pretty obviously, you know…

Taibbi:
From from a journalistic standpoint, the idea that we identify the source of the hack by somebody writing “Felix Edmundovich” in the code, it’s pretty ridiculous. It’s as if somebody wrote “Allen Dulles” in the middle of the Stuxnet code

Horton:
(Laughs) Right.

Taibbi:
You know what I mean? It would be very silly to think that would actually happen, you know?

Horton:
So anyway, So we have the different parts of this. And I sure would like to see your very meanest work on the hacking and leaking of those emails. I know this is a subject that you have not really focused the most on. But you know, your most recent work here, of course, is about the Steele Dossier and the group of retired old spies at Cambridge University and all of this. Steele was a part of that also, involved essentially in the framing of Page and Papadopoulos. Certainly Page. I don’t know about Papadopoulos. That’s, I guess, a different question. But anyway, so you have this new whistleblower. And so I guess I want to ask you just first of all, if you can explain who is Stephen Schrage? And why is it that it took him so long to come forward and tell the story here?

Taibbi:
Yeah, so Steven Schrage. He was a former State Department official, also was the chief of staff from Senator Scott Brown in Massachusetts. He was, you know, a fairly senior official in the Romney campaign in 2008, left government after he left the Brown office in the early two-thousand-tens, decided to go into academia and ended up pursuing a doctorate under Stephen Harper, who is the central figure in the old “Spygate” narrative, right? So he was the retired quasi-retired FBI-slash-CIA person who was teaching at Cambridge. And Schrage worked for Halper, and in fact is the reason that Halper met people like Carter Page, because he invited Page to a conference in circumstances that are quite humorous. We can get into that later. But to answer your question of why it took him so long to come forward, his take on this is that he didn’t know until Halper was named in the news, which I think was in May of 2018, that any of this had had any kind of like FBI significance to it. And he felt that he was a little bit conflicted, he said. He says he felt that his best shot to bring this story forward would be to go to the authorities. He did go to the Durham investigators last year, and then he came back again this year, and he decided to go public when he became concerned that perhaps that investigation was not going to end up being effective.

Horton:
I think he kind of accidentally unearthed this old audio that…

Taibbi:
Yes. So his relationship with Halper has deteriorated over the years, Halper being his doctoral advisor. And he says that with Halper’s permission, he had begun taping exchanges with with Halper as early as 2015, so that really so that he could go back and point out to him inconsistencies in his academic advice, I think is the idea. So he has lots of tape of Halper talking, and the two of them during these conversations. And after he met with the Durham people, the first time, he went back and reviewed some of those conversations, and some of them he didn’t expect to hear anything terribly interesting. But in one of them, it was two days before the big leak involving Michael Flynn. If you remember that story, the one that was written in the Washington Post involving reporting to David Ignatius, and he’s asking Halper, “Hey, do you think would be a good idea for me to go try to work for Michael Flynn who is now the National Security Advisor?” This guy had a long record of working with Republican politicians, you know, why not? And Halper says, “No, I don’t think he’s going to be around very long.”

Horton:
In fact, let’s just put that conversation here.

Horton:
So what did we just hear?

Taibbi:
Okay. Yeah. So basically this is January 10, 2017, and that’s two days before the Washington Post came out with this story that ended up having enormous consequences because the January 12 story said that Flynn had been on the phone with the Russian ambassador, Sergei Kislyak. And as a result of that leak, which incidentally was an illegal leak of telephonic surveillance, the FBI decided to re-interview Flynn. It was a result of that re-interview that they built their false statements charge and prosecuted Flynn. So the notion that somebody would know two days before that leak happened that Flynn was in deep trouble that he was not going to be around for very long, and that “if you know how these things work,” and that his opponents and so-called enemies are going to “turn up the heat” and all that stuff, it’s very suggestive of, you know, perhaps foreknowledge that something bad was going to happen to Flynn. From Schrage’s point of view, in the way he puts it was like, “I would have thought that the last person who would have job security issues in the Trump administration would be Flynn because he one of the only people who have real experience in Trump’s inner circle.” But, you know, the tapes incident suggests otherwise.

Horton:
David Ignatius, for people who aren’t familiar, he’s widely known as the CIA’s man at the Post. One of many, I guess. But when he writes, he’s always very, you know, keyed into what the intelligence community is saying, is really sort of the Mouth of Sauron for them in that way kind of, right?

Taibbi:
I can’t speak to his background. But certainly the idea that he’s very plugged into the CIA is kind of a known thing in the business.

Horton:
And we already know, right, that James Clapper, who right up until then was the Director of National Intelligence, I forget now the context of how we know that he had ordered this hit piece in the Post and said “now is the time to take the kill shot.” So from there, it seems like Ignatius, Halper and Clapper… that’s another sort of confirmation, right that Halper really knew something and wasn’t just making a wild guess here, and that then that would mean the director of the National Intelligence was in on it as well.

Taibbi:
Yeah, well, I believe the “killshot” quote came from Flynn’s second lawyer, Sidney Powell, who talked about… who theorized the leak traveled…

Horton:
Oh, I’m sorry about that if I screwed that up. I could have swore that was what I had read, that somebody had essentially caught Clapper giving that order.

Taibbi:
Yeah, so no, it came from Powell’s court filing.

Horton: For some reason I thought that that was what Clapper had told Ignatius. “You know what, pull the trigger on that article we’ve been waiting on here.”

Taibbi:
Yeah, but she just described it as Clapper. So yeah, “Powell also referenced a purported conversation between former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Washington Post reporter David Ignatius, claiming Clapper told the reporter words to the effect of ‘take the kill shot on Flynn,’ after he reportedly obtained the transcript of Flynn’s phone calls.” And then Clapper denied it.

Horton:
I gotcha.
So, what other indications do we have other than this guy…

Taibbi:
Steven Schrage.

Horton:
Okay, and what all indications do we have of, you know, other than just the way Halper sounded on that audio, that Halper was not just doing this with his friends, but was in league with the American intelligence agencies or even British MI-6?

Taibbi:
Well, he, he didn’t know that at the time. He only found out subsequently. At least that’s his story. But, you know, if you’re putting two and two together. And remember, Powell, who was Flynn’s lawyer, had theorized that the leak had gone through the Office of Net Assessment, which is a Pentagon office that was Halper’s employer. They paid Halper enormous sums of money, like over $400,000 during this period for these mysterious reports. So the theory is that the leak goes from somebody to the Office of Net Assessment to perhaps Halper. Or at least I think that’s what’s being suggested there.

Horton:
Yeah, I mean, well, you know, the Pentagon was certainly paying him all that money all that time for something. No other apparent publications by him at that time or any other thing, right, so seems pretty cut and dry.

Taibbi:
So, no, I mean, that’s a pretty that’s actually quite a funny subplot two this whole thing is how the whole Office of Net Assessment thing works. You know, it appears to be just a way to funnel money to informants and other people who are useful to the government. And essentially what they do, and I actually talked to some people who contributed to some of these reports, the ONA will pay somebody like $50,000 for a report on say China’s position in the world right now, right? And, and what the American will do is they will call up some person in a foreign country and offer them peanuts to put together basically a bunch of text around open source material, they send it back to him, he compiles it into a big document, sends it back to the Pentagon, does basically zero work and makes probably 10 times what the highest paid journalist in the world gets paid to do that same kind of stuff. So it’s pretty amazing. It’s amazing little subplot to the whole thing.

Horton:
Although, I mean, in this case, it doesn’t even seem like he was turning in those phony reports. He was getting paid. It seems like there’s a very good chance it was for this.

Taibbi:
Well, yeah, superficially, you can make the argument and there’s a whistleblower case involving this that’s coming out right now unrelated to Schrage, but there’s somebody in the Office of Net Assessment, who was claiming essentially that these payments were exactly for that kind of activity. If you’re interested in looking for this kind of thing, for instance, you can look for a document called “China: The Three Warfares,” and that’ll be online somewhere. You’ll see Halper didn’t really write anything in it, but I think he got paid something like $47,000 for this.

Horton:
What a racket.

Taibbi:
Yeah.

Horton:
All right now, so this guy, Schrage, he coined this new term, “the Cambridge Four,” it’s not just Halper, but it’s also Richard Dearlove — and of course Dearlove, the former head of MI-6 is most famous for having compiled the Downing Street Memos about the meeting at the so-called Crawford ranch in July of 2002, about how “we’ve decided that the policy is that we’re going to war and the facts are being fixed around the policy.” That was his job there.

Taibbi:
Yeah.

Horton: So, anyway, that’s what we know about Dearlove from before. He was the head of MI-6 at the time that the British helped lie us into war. And then there’s also of course Steele, he groups into this, and so maybe that’s an opportunity to talk a little bit more about his background as well. And then there’s this other guy, Christopher Andrew, who I think is would probably be the least known of the four. And you know, in terms of the broader public in terms of his role in all of this, but you guys both make the case that these four really were kind of working together throughout 2016 to gin this thing up. I think as you put it, then something really bad happened: Trump won anyway. This was supposed to stop him. And then once Trump won, now they’re in real trouble. So do they back down? No, they double-down. Right?

Taibbi:
Exactly. Yeah. It’s funny, though a lot of people, when they look at this scandal, imagine that it was this overwhelming, devastating conspiracy that involves, you know, really intense planning and tons of resources. And I don’t really think it played out that way. I think what you have here is a group of people who had an immediate financial interest in producing research. So somebody along the line and this is the part that we don’t really know yet. Somebody got it got it into their heads in 2015 or early 2016 that the Trump campaign had some kind of untoward relationship with the Russians. And at some point, the Democrats got interested in that topic and decided that they wanted to make political hay out of it, at which point they hired Fusion GPS and instructed them essentially to really look into the Russia issue. Fusion GPS, then hires Steele who was a former officer who had been stationed in Russia and had some expertise there, ran this private investigatory firm called Orbis, but he also had a relationship with Dearlove who was at Cambridge, and Dearlove had a relationship with Halper. So the two big wings of the pre-election investigatory effort involves Steele, who is getting paid very significant sums of money to produce research suggesting that Trump had all these relations with the Russians, and then there was Halper, who was also getting paid a lot of money to do the surveillance on Trump figures. And the interesting thing here is the sort of cross-pollination between those two plotlines. One seems to be ending up confirming the other and vice-versa. Carter Page gets invited to Cambridge by Schrage, Halper and Dearlove sees him there and then a week later Carter Page appears in Steele’s reports for the first time. And nobody even knew who this guy was before that. So that’s what’s interesting about this whole thing is that a lot of the stuff that ended up in the news later on really had their roots in just a couple of characters in this British University.

Horton:
We’ll get back to Papadopoulos here in a minute, but we know now, we found out relatively recently that the FBI discounted the Papadopoulos thing right away. I think the IG report said they decided “forget the Papadopoulos, we’re going to go with this Page thing.” So they really hung the FISA warrant applications and all of that on Page and his alleged connections to the Russians. And then this ought to be the biggest scandal of all, it almost always goes unmentioned, is the CIA told the FBI, “this guy belongs to us,” and the FBI blacked that out of their FISA application and pretended to not know that. And then think about this Matt: for three years, all those leaks from all those spooks to all those newspapers and TV stations, and nobody ever leaked that “Page belongs to the agency. He’s a loyal American patriot and when he met with the Russians, he came straight to us and told us everything.” They never leaked that in three years. We only found that out this spring in the IG report, right?

Taibbi:
Yeah, absolutely. That was outrageous on multiple levels. It was outrageous that that nobody mentioned any of the news reporters that Michael Flynn had told his agency about his planned trip to the RT dinner, and seems to have done a little little bit of reporting back to the DIA during that trip. And I think what’s most outrageous is the thing that you mentioned up top, which is that in August of 2016, the FBI concluded — this is literally within weeks after they commenced this investigation — they concluded, the direct quote is, “the evidence didn’t particularly indicate that George Papadopoulos was having any kind of interactions with Russians.” So they were admitting within weeks of starting the investigation that the entire predicate for the investigation was incorrect. And was for that reason that they moved on to Page, and as you say, they suppressed the evidence that might have might have exonerated him, or or prevented the surveillance from from going forward. And there’s some stuff that Schrage has on that too, by the way. But yeah, absolutely. The scandal here is not only that they they did all that stuff, but they kept telling reporters to dig into these questions years after they’d already moved on from them.

Horton:
Right. I mean, that really goes to show how dirty it all was that they were completely over it and continued anyway. You mentioned about how it doesn’t seem like Brennan and Comey and a couple others had a big meeting and said, “Okay, we’re going to frame Trump for treason with Russia,” in this kind of over-the-top way. But the way that the conspiracy developed, essentially was that the FBI counterintelligence division and the CIA were pretending to believe this stuff, right? Like in the case of Papadopoulos , they couldn’t even pretend to believe that anymore. So they threw that out. But I know you’ve mentioned this numerous times. To me the first thing- I didn’t even finish reading the Steele Dossier when it first came out because as soon as I got to the part that said that the Russians offered Carter Page a 19% ownership stake in the Russian state government-owned oil company Rosneft, which would have been worth billions of dollars, on the successful accomplishment of him seizing control of America’s sanctions policy from the Congress and getting all the sanctions on Russia lifted, I thought that’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.

Taibbi:
(Laughs.)

Horton:
And I’m supposed to believe that Comey read that and was really concerned? And he had his guys go to the FISA court because of this unheard of Benedict Arnold action by this active CIA asset. And I want to be clear, not “officer.” He wasn’t a CIA officer. He was a CIA asset, literally speaking, working for the CIA, as he’s going on his regular trips to Russia to meet with business people, right?

Taibbi:
Yeah. I don’t know what the term technically would be. But yes, he was giving information to them and had been for a couple of years and was in good standing with them. So the whole thing is preposterous. Yeah, the first time I read the Steele Dossier, there were so many red flags in there, that it just read like a really ridiculous piece of fiction. To me, it reminded me a lot of the Graham Green book Our Man in Havana, which is about a vacuum cleaner salesman who becomes a spy and decides to just send pictures of giant vacuum cleaners back to the home office in London, making them think that the Cubans are building one in the jungle. And they buy it, you know, and that’s what happened here. It was a bunch of goons are sort of making up a bunch of stories, but the the irony is that, yes, it turned into a real investigation. They bought it.

Horton:
And they ruined the lives of so many people, like this lady, Svetlana Lokhova.
Have you talked to her? Tell us about that. Because I think this was one of the more harmful aspects of this. It didn’t get too much play in the media, I don’t think, but it did get played in terms of how it affected Mike Flynn in his job, or in the case against him, right?

Taibbi:
Yes. This is a very dark story and I’ve worked on this and haven’t been able to really tell all of it, but the outlines of it are as follows. In February of 2014, Michael Flynn who was then Barack Obama’s the head of the DIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, he visited Cambridge, and he was at an official dinner, and during that dinner he was sitting at a table where he was surrounded by two of these figures, Christopher Andrew and Richard Dearlove, and then a fourth person was this woman Svetlana Lokhova who was a doctoral candidate under Andrew. And at that dinner she showed Flynn an old postcard written by Stalin that she had uncovered during a trip to Russia to look through the old NKVD-KGB archives, and they had a conversation lasting about 10 minutes. The entire thing was supervised and surrounded by these sort of luminaries of British intelligence. And nobody said anything about it for two years. And then after all this nonsense started in the summer of 2016, suddenly Halper — who was there that night, although he wasn’t at the dinner — Dearlove, and then later also Andrew ended up sounding the alarm and saying that that Flynn had been seduced by a Russian national at that dinner. And this is something I know for a fact, which is that multiple members of the U.S. media were told by American sources that Flynn was actively having an affair with a Russian agent around that time. And if you go back and look you’ll find that at that time there were a series of news stories that started to come out in December 2016. And then in March of 2017, about Flynn’s interaction with this woman. And it all came from this idea that these these goofballs cooked up that Flynn had been seduced in that five or ten minute conversation by a Russian, because it was the only conversation with a Russian that anybody could think that he had, which is crazy.

Horton:
Yeah, and as Schrage says in his piece about this, this woman, as you just mentioned, was Andrew’s student. And he says at that time in 2014, she was a brand new mother and they just drag this woman through the mud saying that she is a spy, a honeypot, working for Vladimir Putin to suborn Mike Flynn and compromise him in all this treason. I guess you said you talked to her. This really destroyed her life to a great degree, right?

Taibbi:
Yeah, absolutely. And it was completely sociopathic on the part of all these people. And I talked to a bunch of the journalists who covered the story…

Horton:
Like who?

Taibbi:
It was all off the record. You can guess by looking at the bylines. There were only five or six major characters who covered this thing. But they all said the same thing. Basically, they were approached by Americans in late 2016. And told, you know, without any hesitation, that Flynn was having an affair with a Russian. This was this was big enough news that American reporters were flown over to London to cover it. And they dug, they tore through this woman’s personal life and they eventually put her name out there. And they never had any kind of real indication that anything had happened.

Horton:
Well, and they didn’t just pick up the phone and call DIA and say “When this guy was your boss, did you guys have any indication that he was sleeping with the enemy?” How about that for a dog that didn’t bark?

Taibbi:
Well and he had passed security clearances multiple times after that, which tells you that whatever these informants thought, they certainly didn’t raise any alarm about it for a significant period of time, for years at least. So the whole thing was was absurd on its face, and I think that a good reporter would have run run screaming in the other direction from the story because there’s just there’s no there there, you know, but they did it anyway. And what was amazing about that is that it led ultimately to the exposure of Halper because he was one of the people who alerted the FBI to this nefarious connection between Flynn and this woman. And his name eventually came out in the newspapers, but they were far more concerned about protecting the identity of Halper than they were about Svetlana Lokhova. So the whole thing was crazy.

Horton:
Yeah. And then, but, you know, it really is just like the Iraq war. You made that comparison in your writing before, where, you know, the case for the war against Iraq was about 10 or 15 points long, and every single one of them was zero.

Taibbi:
(Laughs)

Horton:
But a hawk could keep talking all day about why we have to do it. It’s just at the end of his talk, 15 times zero is still zero. None of it’s true. It’s all lies, but it’s like 15 lies. And so it’s the same kind of thing with this: people talking about, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” But it’s not smoke, it’s steam. It’s hot air. It’s all bs, but there’s so much of it, when people want to believe, there’s enough there for them to believe in. You know, we saw the way people got caught up in this. The entire cult of not the left, but the liberal sort of centrist Democratic Party types in this country, by the 10s of millions got caught up in this thing.

Taibbi:
Yeah, and I think it really speaks to, you know, kind of a problem that we have with the way we do investigative journalism in this country. There’s sort of a loophole that you can drive through with national security stories, which is if somebody from one of the spy agencies or from the FBI calls up and tells you like a shaggy dog story, but says, “Hey, I’m sorry, I got to keep my name out of this,” the newspapers will very frequently just run with that stuff anyway. So the normal fact checking process that we would go through to check all kinds of other things, we just don’t do that with this kind of story, which is one of the reasons the Iraq thing happened. Right. So it looks somebody in the military tells Judith Miller that, “Hey, we know we’ve got something just over the next hill that proves he’s got the WMDs,” but it’s a nameless, faceless source, right? That stuff ends up in the newspapers with amazing frequency. That happened over and over and over again with this Russia story. You know, they just kept driving through that loophole.

Horton:
Yep. And then of course, the other thing is, you have to have two sources. But who’s to say they’re not, you know, coming up with a list together of “here are the journalists we’re going to lie to. I’m going to call him on Tuesday. You call him on Wednesday, and we’ll have it in the paper by Thursday.”

Taibbi:
Right. Yeah, exactly. Or the classic construction of an intelligence source who tells a somebody in a congressional committee that’s like the House or Senate Intel committees. And so the congressional source tells their source to call up the reporter, and then puts the person in touch with the original source, but it’s a game of telephone. It’s not like you’re getting the story independently confirmed by another source. It’s just the same story that ran through two people. And that’s the problem that you have with these kinds of stories is that when the names aren’t made public, you can’t tell whether it’s just one narrative that’s been passed around an office, or whether it’s something that actually multiple people can confirm.

Horton:
Yeah. And we actually had the argument ad-absurdum on this sort of thing just recently with the story about the Russians paying for American scalps in Afghanistan, where the next day after the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post put out this story, on Twitter all the reporters were telling each other “my story is confirmed by his story, which is confirmed by the other story.” And yet all they say is “anonymous sources tell us.” They have no evidence and no compelling narrative whatsoever. In fact, over the next couple of weeks, as they tried to create a compelling narrative, it all completely fell apart. And no one was willing to stand by the story and so it was all dead. But Charlie Savage really thought that when Warren Strobel wrote the same thing, that “See, I’m right.” And he didn’t even know how foolish he sounded. And I pick on Charlie Savage because I used to respect him a little bit.

Taibbi:
Yeah. Actually, I often thought that he was one of the better reporters that the Times had. But you know, this is an example. That story is a prime example of how this stuff works. Who among the American press corps, is going to be able to confirm that some warlord in Afghanistan got a bag of money to go assassinate Americans? That’s an unconfirmable story. The only way we’re going to ever get to that story is, is by the Americans who actually came up with it. And it could be the same anonymous source talking to five different newspapers. So they’re not confirming each other. They’re just confirming that they heard a story.

Horton:
Yep. And in fact, one more I’m sorry, It just came to mind and is so important, I think. Although I’m not sure how much of an impact it made, but last Saturday, the New York Times in the weekend magazine ran a 10,000 word hit piece on Donald Trump, essentially by the CIA. And I gotta tell you that I bet you a third or two thirds of it is true about how completely stupid Trump is. You can’t even talk to him in pictures anymore. And all he wants to talk about is his inauguration crowd size again, and this kind of garbage. I more or less believe it. But at the same time, what the hell is going on here? Another giant hit piece with what, 15 different CIA people went and talked to this reporter for this gigantic weekend magazine expose on Trump. And all it is is CIA guys complaining about the president. Who the hell do they think they are, these people? You know?

Taibbi:
And Bernie Sanders.

Horton:
Yeah, of course.

Taibbi:
That story, right? They talked about the NIE. Yeah, and I think what bothers me is somebody who kind of grew up in this business is that there was a time period where the normal attitude of somebody who worked in the news media was to be at best distrustful of people who work for the FBI, the CIA, the NSA, to a lesser extent. It was less of a thing back then. But now it’s like these people are the biggest stars in the world, and whatever they say is like gospel. And it’s not only that they get to say whatever they want in these newspapers, basically without any pushback, that, you know, they leave these agencies and immediately get million dollar positions on television and cable news. It’s like, you know, there’s just no skepticism that’s built into the media system about about information that comes from these folks anymore. And that’s that’s really depressing.

Horton:
Yeah, well, and you can see why people believe Earth is flat, or God knows what, because the same people who told them the Earth is round are the same people who lie to them about everything. And so they don’t know where to draw the line. They don’t understand. They know that it’s not the way TV and the newspapers say. So maybe it is this Q-Anon thing. Or maybe it is Vladimir Putin. Or maybe it’s some off-the-wall explanation because whatever it is, the common narrative delivered to us daily doesn’t make sense. You know? It doesn’t hold up, and so if these are the people we have to rely on, you know, people turn their back, but then which way do they go? Next thing you know they’re having a protest burning masks, or whatever it is because they’re caught up in who knows what.

Taibbi:
Yeah. And I think you brought up a good example there with the press attitude towards the Covid coverage. We went through these amazing stages right where they they first they were they were furiously angry at anybody who went outside to protest the lockdowns. Then during the Black Lives Matter protests, these the exact same sources, the exact same op ed writers simply said that it was more important to protest than it was to worry about the pandemic. And then they went back to the first thing a few weeks after that. So what’s the ordinary news consumer supposed to think watching all this? “Should I say inside? Or if I think it’s really important, can I go outside? I have no idea.” And I think people in this business underestimate the impact of those kinds of inconsistencies.

Horton:
Well, and you know, I’m sorry, because I hate the media so much, and you’re so good at talking about that. But I wanted to touch on a couple of more details here real quick if it’s okay. The recent revelations just in the last few weeks about declassified testimony from the House and Senate hearings on this stuff, where we found out finally who Christopher Steele’s sources were after being told they were high-level Russian government employees and people who work for powerful oligarchs and all this stuff this whole time. It turns out that what now? Where did he get this stuff?

Taibbi:
From a Washington-based analysts from the Brookings Institution named Igor Danchenko, who didn’t live in-country. He did travel to Russia for the story, but in an affidavit the FBI released where they interview him, he says he didn’t have any contact with any senior intelligence or any intelligence officials, that part of his M.O. was to drink heavily with the sub-sources that he talked openly about his sub-sources trying to monetize their relationship with him. It’s absurd that anybody ever took any of this stuff seriously. And if you read the FBI’s interview with this guy, you realize he was just kind of selling wolf whistles the whole time. He was openly going around telling people they can make money by giving him information. And they guessed what he wanted and gave him some information, but it’s not reliable.

Horton:
Can you refresh my memory on when it was the FBI had created… It must have been right away, or early in the investigation, when they got the Steel Dossier in the summer of 2016, they created this big spreadsheet where they crossed everything off the list as possibly being reliable information, or found that anything in there that was true, had been published in the Washington Post two days before and so we know that that was where they got it, the little kernels of truth here and there. Because that was even before they had gone to the FISA court, or at least back the second time or something, right?

Taibbi:
I’m not sure exactly when they did that process. I know that in the IG report, the Horowitz report, they talked about doing an analysis of how much of the original reporting in the Steele reports can be trusted, and the conclusion they essentially came to is that the true stuff in here has already been publicly reported. So (laughs) I don’t think they found anything original that turned out to be right in the report.

Horton:
Now, so the part about this that is to me the most interesting is the very few sporadic reports… And somewhere in the back of my head, I think you had mentioned in this, in some of your “Untitled-gate” reporting, that some of these contacts with the informants and the Trump people went back even to 2015. I can’t remember if that involved Halper or Papadopoulos. But also I don’t know the role of the Misfud and who originally put Misfud on the case of Papadopoulos. I guess the most I know about the Papadopoulos thing is from Michael Tracy’s interview with him where he talks about how he went and got this job and how immediately they were trying to set him up and figure out a way to put pro-Russian words in his mouth or some kind of thing. But who exactly was Misfud? And what was his role in this? And beginning when? I guess are to me the biggest questions. And same for Halper. What was the very first time that they started this put-on?

Taibbi: We don’t really know. My theory about how this began early-on was was based on some things that I heard a couple of years ago that I haven’t been able to really suss out since. We know for sure that by late July of 2016, that people were actively trying to approach both Papadopoulos and Page. Schrage’s account, you know, this is the guy that I’m talking to now, in his telling basically, they don’t start getting interested in Page until the second week of July 2016. And that’s basically when Dearlove runs into Page at this conference at Cambridge. And suddenly it seems like everybody’s interested in Page and any other Trump contacts. But the question of Misfud is really still one of the outstanding mysteries of this whole thing. Like where is this guy? Who is he? It’s pretty clear that the even the FBI didn’t believe that he was actually a Russian agent. He was in the U.S. briefly. I believe it was January of 2017 and released, interviewed and let go. So he couldn’t possibly have ever really been a suspected Russian spy. And yet they constructed the entire investigation based on the idea that he was one. So the whole thing doesn’t make any sense. I mean, it seems like it was much ado about nothing from the start.

Horton:
And, you know, this is not concrete. But I think the timeline is pretty indicative of a set-up here where Assange announced on I think June 14, that “Yeah, we’ve got some Hillary emails coming out here soon,” this kind of thing. And that gave the CIA three days heads up to come up with this Guccifer crap to try to sort of insinuate, you know, Russian, I guess, Cyrillic letters as part of it from from Guccifer’s thing. Wikileaks never published that stuff, but it’s sort of like with the Flynn accusations with this woman. “Well, it could be true… Men and women do have sex sometimes,” or something. So yes, it could be true that these emails all come from the same source, it sort of seems that way. And then that was right around the same time, the beginning of summer 2016. Seems like they decided “Whatever we can do to bring up the word Russia in the context of Trump, we’re going to try to do that, and blame them for the sabotage of Hillary Clinton.”

Taibbi: Yeah. The other time was really interesting. I have to admit that that’s part of the story that I haven’t looked at a whole lot. To be honest, the reason I haven’t is because my technical chops are not so hot in terms of being able to assess who is and who could have and who maybe didn’t try to hack the DNC, but certainly the all the release testimony that came out, suggests they had, they never had anything like a concrete indication that there was any kind of relationship between the Russians, this hack, Guccifer and Julian Assange. They never concretely established any of that. It was all a series of pretty thin assumptions. Obviously, the other amazing thing about that is that they never interviewed Assange about it, which tells you that they weren’t interested in the answer or, you know, I don’t know. I don’t know what that means.

Horton:
Yeah, I was actually pleasantly surprised by the language in the Muller report where some lawyer somewhere said “No, we have to go ahead and admit that we have nothing here.” And so they say they believe the Russians did the hack, but they don’t demonstrate that. And then they admit they can’t demonstrate a chain of custody to WikiLeaks. You know, after three years of “the Russians gave it to WikiLeaks,” Robert Mueller admitted that he had no causal chain, sorry.

Taibbi:
Yeah, there’s just mountains of testimony and investigation of the question of you know, whether or not there was foreknowledge or whether or not there was a relationship there, but they’ve never actually come up with anything that proves any of that story. And also, that was all going on independently of these of these other two prongs of the story with Steele and the spying. Like, I don’t know, to what degree that they might have been connected. But, you know, either way, it was all seemingly pretty absurd.

Horton: Yeah. You know, the whole thing about the Logan Act, we’re now and this is where Joe Biden comes in, is that Biden apparently was the one who brought up “Hey, maybe we can use the Logan Act as an excuse against Flynn here.” And Sally Yates at DOJ also said, “Oh, yeah, when I read the transcripts of the conversation between Flynn and Kislyak, and then I knew what he had said to the FBI, I thought ‘Oh, no! Now the Russians have compromised him because he’s breaking the Logan Act and lying about it, and so now they’ll have this over him.'” Even though the Logan Act might as well not even exist at all. And in this context, we’re not talking about a businessman from Houston making a separate deal with the UAE or something like that. We’re talking about the designated incoming national security adviser of the president elect of the United States, not in the summer, we’re talking about after the election, after the Electoral College has voted. This guy is the designated national security adviser. I mean, they might as well bring up child abuse or whatever. They’re just pretending to have a legal pretext at that point, right?

Taibbi: Yeah, especially in the context of all the other stuff that was going on with that investigation. The fact that they investigated Flynn for all these other things. They have this whole absurd Crossfire Razor sub-investigation that had come up dry. They were recommending, the people on that case were recommending that they give it up. And, you know, some folks didn’t want to, and they decided to hold on to the idea of of dirtying Flynn through this preposterous interpretation of this call to Kislyak. And the crime here, the idea that the Logan Act was violated is far less serious crime than the actual one, leaking the telephonic communication which is a felony, and that definitely happened. And you’re absolutely right that the Logan Act, even if it was something that we were ever going to prosecute, and we never have, it was not intended to cover the incoming national security adviser who was weeks away from taking power and essentially was telling the Russian ambassador, “Hey, you know, don’t overreact. Chill out.”
Like, that’s really what happened. So the whole thing was absurd.

Horton: Yeah, I mean, that is such an important point too. What was the secret big deal communication here is he was saying, “Don’t overreact in a tit for tat over Obama’s new sanctions, because after all, he’s on his way out. And we want to strike a better note.” And, you know, this goes back to what you’re saying about Flynn at DIA. This was a three star general, who was the head of the DIA and had this whole, you know, years-long liaison relationship with the Russian military. Not that he was a traitor supported by them. He was an American three star General, who had a pretty good relationship with some powerful people in the Russian military, which is the kind of thing that all other things being equal, and no Russiagate hoax involved, is the kind of thing that all Americans ought to celebrate. And think of it, probably the best thing about this kook, Mike Flynn, who after all, is sort of a Michael Ledeen co-author, Iran hawk, nutball, who said a couple good things about Syria one time. He said a couple of good things about Russia, but is otherwise a pretty dangerous character. And yet, he gets along with the Russian military. That ought to be a bright spot in the mind of all 7 billion people in the world. Isn’t that what we want, for America and Russia to get along, no matter what?

Taibbi: Absolutely, and I think a lot of the genesis of the Democratic Party frustration and the Obama administration frustration with Flynn was that he had had an open disagreement with that administration about some pretty serious strategic questions that among other things involved the Russians. Flynn was the subject of some reporting by Sy Hersh. And essentially was going public with this idea that the Obama administration was making a mistake by trying to make allies of so called moderates in Syria, who was saying we’re not really moderates, they were more like al Qaeda, and that the preferable way to go was to team up with the Russians to to combat those kinds of extremists. And, you know, there was disagreement about that. But I could understand both the arguments for both sides of that. But the notion that he was doing something that was treasonous is crazy. It was a strategic idea that he had that you could agree with or disagree with it, but it’s certainly not outside the pale of normal behavior.

Horton: And Susan Rice pretended — again going along with this narrative that it must be treason. She said that she had a conversation with Flynn, where he should’ve just humored her. What an idiot this guy. But instead he decided to get in an argument with her about how, “Nah, Russia’s fine. Russia’s no big deal. It’s China that we’ve got to worry about.” And then Rice said, “When I heard that I thought, ‘Oh no, it must be true. He really is a traitor under the control of some foreign power, because how could any American think that?'” Actually, a lot of people think that. I’m not one of them. But that’s a point of view. In fact, Trump said, “I went and talked with Henry Kissinger. And I said, ‘Henry, I think we ought to get along with Russia because the real enemy is China.’ And Henry Kissinger told me ‘You’re right, Trump go with that.'” So he’s supposed to be the longest gray beard of all. This is a strategic question: Which side of the Sino-Russian split are you on? We’re all Richard Nixon playing Risk here. Only when Trump and Flynn do it, it’s high treason.

Taibbi: Yeah, it’s amazing. I think some of that comes from Americans not having a real clue about what Russia is, you know, Russia is a geographically massive country with a pretty big military. But economically, it’s like somewhere between Italy and South Korea. It’s not a major power, it’s got very, very serious internal problems. It’s nowhere near the level of geopolitical rival that the Chinese are. Now you could say that they have a terrible government. And you could say that Putin is not a good leader. And I certainly have been very critical of him in the past. But I wouldn’t put Russia in the same category as, say, China in terms of the size of the rivalry there.

Horton: I know you lived there for many years and that kind of thing. For most of us, Russia is a place in our imagination. We don’t really know anything about it. And on one hand our government, say John McCain for example, who said “Oh, come on, Russia is a gas station with a border. It’s not even a country at all.” Obama ridiculed them and said, “Russia is a regional power at best.” But then they turn around and say, “Actually Russia’s intelligence agencies are responsible for the election results of every country everywhere in a world where we don’t like how they turn out. And they’re about to take over and conquer all of Eastern Europe again, like back in the bad old days.”

Taibbi: Right. I mean, in 2012, Obama was essentially saying the Russia “is the gnat on the bottom of an elephant,” which I thought was a pretty good description, having lived there. The old description of the Soviet Union, that I think Henry Kissinger said, was that “Russia is Upper Volta with rockets.” You know, it’s a country with a big military, it’s powerful in that sense. It certainly exerts a lot of influence on the countries that are on its borders, but internationally, it’s just not this chaotic juggernaut that they’re making it out to be in the press. And it doesn’t have anywhere near the economic power of China.

Horton: Alright, so then one last thing here is about the effect of this have on Trump. Say, for example, if they had never cooked up this Russiagate thing in the first place. And the President had been free to pursue this Russia policy in the same way that any other president would have been. I mean, for that matter, Reagan negotiated with Gorbachev, when he was the, you know, Supreme Leader of the Soviet Union and General Secretary of the Communist Party, and all of these things. And so, nevermind the opportunity costs of just what could have been in terms of progress, but just think of how backwards everything is going. You know, I interviewed Branco Marcetic from Jacobin magazine last week about all the anti-Russia positions that Trump has taken over and over again, and to a great degree, even in his own words, to protect himself from these attacks. “They keep accusing me of being soft on Russia. Well I’m not soft on Russia. I’ve done this, this and this.” Including he’s pulling troops out of Germany, but he’s moving them to Poland, which is even worse. And, you know, I’m sure you’ve got something to say about what might have been here if we, if our government was not caught up in this crazy narrative that they themselves have generated about Russia here.

Taibbi: Yeah. You know, I was not a fan of Donald Trump. I didn’t vote for him. I don’t think I’ll be voting for him again, but the the degree to which all of this handicapped his presidency and all the things that happened, particularly during the transition period, when there are all these leaks, was about Flynn or about the pee tape, or handing Trump the Steele report. He entered the presidency basically from day one facing a DEFCON 5 emergency. And you know, I would argue that this is a person who, under the best circumstances would have had a difficult time doing a great job because he probably, you know, he doesn’t have the experience and it would have been a rough ride anyway. But with this going on, I think it was inexcusable. What the press and all these these creatures in the intelligence services did to handicap the presidency — I get not liking Donald Trump, but this is also the country you know, that suffered when all this took up all of our time for three years. You know, it was was really ridiculous. And so yeah, you’re right on that.

Horton: There’s got to be some kind of accountability. I can’t imagine someone publishing Jane Mayer again, for example, or David Corn. We’re going to continue to use people who, you know went so far out on the limb with this garbage? — and boy there’s exhaustive list of them. I guess I should say exhausting.

Taibbi: There’s a long history of failing upward in the journalism business, right? Like the people who were the most wrong on Iraq tended to get promoted upward. I mean, look at who’s editing The Atlantic magazine right now. You know, people like Jonathan Chait and the editorial page editor of the Washington Post who got so much wrong. I mean, basically Judy Miller was the only one who paid. Everybody else kind of got away with it. And that’s another thing. We talked about this earlier, that’s the thing: that the public sees the stuff. You know, people in journalism think that the audiences aren’t paying attention, but they do pay attention. When we screw things up there has to be some kind of reckoning, or else we lose our credibility.

Horton:
Although, you know, what you talk about in your book, about all the different “silos” of information, you can see that there are huge swathes of the liberal side who still believe in this stuff because they were never made to confront the failure of the story when it all came out. They kind of had a narrative that “well, Bob Muller gave an old man rambling testimony to the Senate,” but they didn’t break down here’s what the report actually said about all that stuff that we said. They just let it go. And so you see on Twitter, of course, but really everywhere you see Democrats still believe that, in the words of recent rando I saw that, “Vladimir Putin sure got his money’s worth with Trump.” As Nancy Pelosi said, just in the recent Afghanistan scalp story, that “all roads lead back to Putin.” She said the same thing during the impeachment. They really still believe this stuff.

Taibbi: I know. You know, there was a woman who recently resigned from MSNBC, Ariana Pekary, and she wrote a note publicly saying part of the reason she she quit is because she had come to the conclusion or she quoted one of her co-workers basically saying that, “we’re not in the business of informing, we’re in the business of comforting our audiences.” So, you know, they believe the Russia thing, and there’s news that comes out that contradicts it, they just don’t put it out there because they know it’s going to upset their audiences. So they just allow them to kind of wallow in their ignorance, which is, I think a disservice.

Horton: Alright, well, listen. Thank you so much for coming back on the show, Matt. It’s always great talking to you and reading your great journalism.

Taibbi: Thanks Scott.

Horton: The book is Hate Inc., and you’ve got to subscribe at Substack — which, by the way, can I ask you a favor? Is there a way that I can get you to turn off the paywall on “Our Man in Cambridge,” for a couple of days so we can link to it at Antiwar.com?

Taibbi: (Laughs.) I’ll try, yeah. I’ll ask the Substack guys to do that.

Horton: We ran “The Spies Who Hijacked America” by Steven Schrage there as our Spotlight the other day and I’d like to Spotlight “Our Man in Cambridge” as well.

Taibbi: Okay.

Horton: But you gotta subscribe. He’s independent from Rolling Stone, now at Substack.com. And of course you can follow him on Twitter and all those great things. And again, his show is called Useful Idiots with Katie Halper. And thank you again. Appreciate it.

Taibbi: Alright, thanks. Take care.

Scott Horton is editorial director of Antiwar.com, director of the Libertarian Institute, host of Antiwar Radio on Pacifica, 90.7 FM KPFK in Los Angeles, California and podcasts the Scott Horton Show from ScottHorton.org. He’s the author of the 2017 book, Fool’s Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan and editor of the 2019 book, The Great Ron Paul: The Scott Horton Show Interviews 2004–2019. He’s conducted more than 5,000 interviews since 2003.

Scott’s Twitter, YouTube, Patreon.

A ‘Sound Money Caucus’ Has Launched On Capitol Hill

A ‘Sound Money Caucus’ Has Launched On Capitol Hill

As the political and central banking establishment in Washington continues to bail out the economy and markets by creating trillions of unbacked pieces of paper and electronic digits, a handful of congressmen hope to shine a new spotlight on the devastating effects of this runaway financial profligacy.

Congressman Warren Davidson (R-OH) recently announced the creation of the Congressional Sound Money Caucus. According to Congressman Davidson’s office, the caucus exists to promote sound fiscal and monetary policy in the United States with the goal of preserving the purchasing power of the U.S. Federal Reserve Note.

Monetary policy, especially since the 2008 financial crisis, coupled with the recent federal fiscal response to coronavirus has re-inflated nominal asset prices and contributed to the wealth gap, while weakening the Federal Reserve Note in relation to the world’s other fiat currencies.

Reps. Alex Mooney (R-WV), Andy Barr (R-KY), Kevin Brady (R-TX), Ted Budd (R-NC), and Lee Zeldin (R-NY) also joined the caucus.

For several years, Congressman Mooney has been a leader on the sound money issue, hammering away at manipulation in the gold market and counterfeiting—and Mooney has introduced several pending bills to audit America’s gold reserves, remove income tax on the monetary metals, and resume some form of gold backing to our currency.

Congressman Davidson introduced the Sound Money Caucus on the floor of the House by saying:

“We already have a great core group of members who are leaders in this area, who understand how important it is for the U.S. dollar to be an enduring store of value and an efficient means of exchange. I look forward to hashing out policy solutions to address the economic distortions of monetary inflation, so that monetary and fiscal policy can help rebuild the middle class, restart the American economy, and get us on a path for sustainable growth.”

In an era where even so-called “conservatives” are adding trillions to the federal deficit, sound money is more important than ever. Sound money is the linchpin of a prosperous society because it protects capital and creates stability.

Individuals and civilizations thrive under a sound money regime because uncertainty is reduced, and savings are respected and preserved. People can plan, save, and invest for the future without the fear of their money being manipulated and weaponized for political purposes.

Further, sound money acts as a bulwark against big government and runaway levels of debt. Unfortunately, the United States government has proven that they can’t be trusted with an unchecked monetary monopoly. It’s no surprise that severing the tie between the U.S. Dollar and gold has resulted in frivolous, debt-funded spending by the political left and the right, depleting the value and general confidence in the U.S. Federal Reserve Note.

After being driven out of the public conciousness over the past century, sound money is an idea whose time has come (again). Americans and even Fed-bugs are grappling with the immutable truth that governments can’t print society into prosperity.

Jp 2Jp Cortez is the Policy Director for the Sound Money Defense League, a non-partisan, national public policy organization working to restore sound money at the state and federal level and publisher of the Sound Money Index. Cortez’s articles and analysis have appeared in the Washington Examiner, Huffington Post, Mises Institute, Foundation for Economic Education, and more, as well as appearing on podcasts and national radio shows.

 

Crony Capitalist Execs Cheer Selection of Kamala Harris as Dem VP

Crony Capitalist Execs Cheer Selection of Kamala Harris as Dem VP

With the prospect of longtime bank critic and progressive Sen. Elizabeth Warren being chosen as Joe Biden’s running mate now officially dead, Wall Street executives are openly applauding the presumptive Democratic nominee’s selection of California Sen. Kamala Harris as a signal that the top of the party’s ticket in November will be sufficiently “moderate” for their liking.

Charles Myers, the founder of financial advisory firm Signum, told CNBC after Biden announced the California Democrat as his vice presidential pick that his “clients really wanted to know if Biden was going to stay in the center, and his pick of Harris reinforces that.”

“While certain to generate excitement and to invite additional scrutiny of Harris’ record, we see this choice as a net positive for the Biden ticket,” Myers wrote in a note to clients late Tuesday. “Harris, who generally could be called a centrist, will not push Biden to the left or the right on major policy issues. She will be supportive of Biden and the Democratic Party’s policy platform.”

Other Wall Street executives echoed Myers’ assessment in interviews with CNBC, pointing to Harris’ experience as a senator and California Attorney General as well as her fundraising abilities. “I think it’s great,” said Marc Lasry, the CEO of investment firm Avenue Capital Group. “She’s going to help Joe immensely. He picked the perfect partner.”

Ray McGuire of Citigroup and Blair Effron of investment firm Centerview Partners also hailed Biden’s choice of Harris as “great.”

“She has a strong and active fundraising organization,” said Mike Kempner, founder of corporate public relations firm MWWPR. “She will be an important and immediate addition to the Biden fundraising effort. She is a fundraising star. Her experience as a prosecutor makes her uniquely qualified to deliver the case against Trump.”

Biden’s selection of Harris as his running mate comes months after Wall Street executives and other corporate donors warned the former vice president against picking Warren, a frequent and fierce critic of big banks and advocate for the interests of consumers.

“She would be horrible,” one anonymous Wall Street executive and Democratic donor told CNBC in April. A longtime Biden fundraiser said “a lot of the donor base, on board and coming, would prefer almost anyone but Elizabeth.”

Veteran progressive organizer and radio host Jim Hightower suggested nothing about the choice of Harris should be surprising, but said the selection only makes more clear the road ahead for those wanting much bolder social change:

While vocally opposed by corporate big-wigs, Warren was widely reported to be among the finalists in Biden’s VP search and polled as the most popular option among Black and progressive voters in a Morning Consult survey released in May. A survey of MoveOn members that same month found that 73% would be more likely to vote for Biden if Warren was his running mate.

Warren applauded Biden’s final choice in a statement Tuesday evening, saying Harris “will be a great partner…in making our government a powerful force for good in the fight for social, racial, and economic justice.”

“I will do everything I can to ensure Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are elected in November so they can get big things done for the American people starting January 2021,” Warren added.

Jake Johnson is a staff writer for Common Dreams. Follow him on Twitter: @johnsonjakep. This article was originally featured at Common Dreams and is republished with permission.

Cultural Superiority Isn’t Racism: Why Western Values Underpin the World’s Best Countries

Democide: Understanding the State’s Monopoly on Violence and the Second Amendment

second amendment and democide
Gun control is predicated on the belief that private citizens cannot be trusted with firearms. That the state should have a “monopoly on violence” because it is less violent than individuals. And that firearms should be taken away from private citizens because only the state is responsible enough to handle them.

There is, however, a major problem with this: States are statistically far more violent than individuals. After all, in the 20th century alone, 262 MILLION people died at the hands of their own governments.

The term for this sort of atrocity is “democide.” It is one of the reasons the Founding Fathers included the Second Amendment in the U.S. Constitution – to allow citizens some form of protection against agents of a tyrannical government meaning to do them harm, as the Founders were forcibly disarmed as colonists by the British prior to the American Revolution.

What Is Democide?

Democide is the murder of any person or people by their government. It’s an important concept, as it is more expansive than the better-known term genocide. While the largest genocide in history is widely thought to be the Holocaust, Adolf Hitler’s work pales in comparison to that of Josef Stalin or Mao Zedong. In fact, one aspect of Stalin’s terror was the “Holodomor,” the intentional mass starvation of Ukrainians, which killed over seven million victims in less than two years (compared to six million Jews over the four years of the Holocaust).

Soviet Union leader Joseph Stalin
Sometimes democide is ethnically motivated, as in the Holocaust. In other cases, like Stalin’s Great Purge, having the wrong politics is enough to get one killed. In the Ottoman Empire’s persecution of its Greek and Armenian populations, religion was the motivating factor. However, in all of these cases, it’s difficult to ascertain where the political, religious and ethnic motivations begin and end.

Rather than splitting hairs, democide is a more inclusive term. Government killings tend to have mixed motivations, as religion, ethnicity and politics often overlap. And, after all, do the motivations even matter? Democide treats all mass killings at the hands of one’s government as a single crime, allowing us to better compare apples to apples.

A Brief History of the Concept of Democide

Democide might be a practice as old as time, but it reached new depths in the 20th century. This is when warfare became mechanized and, as pointed out by anarchist philosopher Hans-Hermann Hoppe, war shifted from being about property disputes over pieces of land into ideological crusades. Democracy vs. monarchy or liberalism and communism vs. fascism are great examples of this.

While the act of governments killing their own citizens is not unique to this century, the concept of democide was first formulated by Rudolph Rummel, a late professor emeritus of political science at the University of Hawaii and frequent Nobel Peace Prize nominee. He studied the political violence of the 20th century with an eye toward doing all he could to end it. In doing so, he quickly noticed that not all mass killings committed by governments fell under the heading of “genocide.” Further, as stated above, the differences between mass killing for religious, political and ethnic reasons are often difficult to separate from one another. Rummel found a far more elegant term in “democide,” which could easily refer to all of this and more.

Rummel’s conclusions were based on empirical study over a period of 15 years. He penned six books on the subject, publishing his abstracts and statistics on his website as a free resource for all to read. The major conclusions that Rummel came to were that despite their other shortcomings, Western liberal democracies excelled over all other forms of government in two major respects:

  • Democratically elected governments were the least likely to kill their own citizens.
  • Democratically elected governments do not wage war against one another.

Rummel employed a broad definition of democide, which included not just lining people up and shooting them, but also deliberate neglect, intentionally poor policy or forced labor. Hence, the Holodomor, a planned famine which is widely agreed upon to have been the result of deliberate Soviet policies directed against Ukrainians, fits squarely in the camp of democide. Although he was an outspoken proponent of international liberal democracy and a critic of communism, Rummel did not support going to war for the sole purpose of replacing a dictatorship with a democracy.

Communist Party t-shirt graphic
Far and away, the worst offenders in the world of democide are communist regimes. The Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia all enter in the “million-plus” club and rank among the most democidal regimes in human history. Other forms of dictatorships, ranging from fascist to quasi-Marxist Third World nationalism, also rank high – with the autocracy of the Ottoman Empire being a relative outlier. The other major example of democide from a monarchy is the Belgian colonial authority in the Congo, which took place at the hands of a constitutional monarch (not an absolute one).

While Western liberal democracies are by no means beyond rebuke, they’re comparatively innocent when it comes to democide. What’s more, most democidal deaths at the hands of democratic powers tend to happen during times of war – such as the firebombing of Dresden. Western democracies have been known to act with undue care or even blood lust with regard to rival nations. They’re not known for wholesale mass slaughter of their own citizens or that of other nations.

While this certainly doesn’t make the victims of modern liberal democracies any less tragic, it does result in an overall body count that is much less than totalitarian regimes and military dictatorships. Incidents like the storming of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco or Ruby Ridge are noteworthy as aberrations – shocking scandals precisely because of how far they fall outside of democratic norms.

Democide: The Tale of the Tape

Chinese Chairman Mao and yuanWhile Hitler is often the symbol of ultimate evil in human history, he only gets the bronze when it comes to democide. The worst offenders were on the other extreme of the political spectrum, with the top two spots being occupied by communist governments. So who are the most blood-soaked dictators in human history? Here’s a look by the numbers:

  • Communist China under the stewardship of Mao Zedong holds the ignoble honor of being the most democidal regime in human history to the tune of 65 million people killed, including 30 million during the Great Leap Forward alone.
  • Second is the Soviet Union, with 29 million deaths. This breaks down into 20 million under Stalin, 9 million under Lenin and 7 million in the Holodomor.
  • As stated above, Hitler comes in third with official estimates of the total dead ranging from 10 million to 12.5 million.
  • Ten other countries killed somewhere between 1 million and 10 million of their own people between 1900 and 1987:
    • Japan under Emperor Tojo
    • Russia during Lenin’s Bolshevik Revolution
    • Pasha’s Turkey
    • Pol Pot in Cambodia
    • Kim Il-Sung’s North Korea
    • Mariam’s Communist regime in Ethiopia
    • Gowon in Nigeria
    • Bangladesh under Yahya Khan
    • Saddam Hussein in Iraq
    • Vietnam under Ho Chi Minh
    • Idi Amin in Uganda.
  • Nearly half – 46.6% – of all deaths in China between 1900 and 1987 were the result of democide.
  • Five different regimes have killed over 10 million people, with two of them based in China: The People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China under Chiang Kai-hek. The other three are the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany and the Congo Free State.
  • China, in one form or another, has been responsible for fully one out of every three democide deaths.
  • The top five democidal regimes are responsible for a combined 219 million deaths.

Though restricted by geography, democide is the leading non-natural cause of death in the 20th century. For example, while the chances of death by government in China were almost half during the 20th century, they were near zero in the United States and Canada.

Hitler, the Holocaust, and Gun Control

The link between gun control and the Holocaust is not clear-cut, despite it being a go-to example of gun control proceeding democide. In fact, the Nazi government loosened gun control for most German citizens, while restricting access to Jews.

The post-World War I Weimar Republic passed intensely strict gun control laws between the wars. In interwar Germany, gun ownership was effectively banned for private citizens. There were two reasons for this: First, post-war Germany was a hotbed of revolution and reaction, often teetering on the brink of civil war. Second, it was a form of compliance with the terms of the 1919 Versailles Treaty, which Germany signed upon surrender – requiring massive disarmament of the entire nation.

In 1928, the Weimar Republic relaxed the laws slightly with the Law on Firearms and Ammunition. This law instituted a strict firearms licensing system, while continuing to restrict gun ownership to private citizens deemed “trustworthy.”

Five years later, Hitler was elected Chancellor of Germany. In 1938, five years after his election and well into the Third Reich, the government passed a new weapons law in March of that year, which made it easier for most private German citizens (again, those deemed “trustworthy”) to obtain firearms, with one caveat – the law explicitly stated that “No (gun) permits may be given to Jews.”

While Hitler was liberalizing gun ownership restrictions in Germany for “trustworthy” citizens (and, it’s worth mentioning, to support the German weapons industry), he was also actively disarming people termed “unreliable.” In particular, Jews in Germany. Not only were Jews prohibited from owning firearms, they weren’t even allowed to work in their manufacture.

In November of 1938, Hitler’s government went one step further, prohibiting Jews from owning any kind of weapons, including swords, which were popular souvenirs of the First World War. This law came one day after the “Night of Broken Glass,” during which Nazi mobs attacked Jews and destroyed synagogues.

German Jews represented less than one percent of the overall German population, so it’s unfair to say that had the Jews been armed, they could have prevented the Holocaust. They were vastly outmanned and outgunned. The 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was mercilessly crushed, and at a time when German military resources were being drained elsewhere on two fronts.

Gun Confiscation and Democide

There are a number of cases where a wave of gun confiscation and registration directly presaged a democidal outbreak, including a history of gun control and genocide. Examples of this include:

  • In Turkey, gun control was tightened prior to the Armenian genocide.
  • The Soviet Union instituted gun control in 1929, disarming the formerly heavily armed Soviet populace.
  • China’s gun control program was rolled out by the Republic of China in 1938.
  • Guatemala started gun control in 1964, prior to killing 100,000 Mayan Indians.
  • Uganda’s gun control program began in 1970, almost immediately before an eight-year program of exterminating Christians began.

The question of democide’s relation to gun ownership becomes more complex when we look at which countries own the most guns. Arguably the nation with the longest-standing tradition of personal freedom, the United States, also has the highest rates of gun ownership. Beyond that, things start getting less clear. Switzerland, like the U.S., has a longstanding tradition of both freedom and gun ownership, though far fewer citizens have ammunition than have firearms. Finland, Norway and Sweden are other countries in the top ten classified as “Free” by Freedom House, with high levels of gun ownership, along with Uruguay. However, also in the top ten of gun ownership we find Iraq, Yemen and Saudi Arabia, all of which are rated as “not free” (the last of which has become a bit of a symbol for countries lacking in basic freedom and human rights).

The other end of the spectrum – correlating gun control with a lack of freedom – is much more clear. Most countries without much in the way of freedom also have gun control. However, no one would accuse South Korea, Japan or Ireland of being totalitarian states ripe for democide, despite the extreme difficulty of owning weapons and the near impossibility of owning handguns. While the Imperial Japanese government committed a slew of atrocities during the Second World War, it’s almost certain that no one would place a bet on them to take that up anew any time soon.

Gun confiscation is neither necessary nor sufficient for democidal atrocities. Remember the case of Nazi Germany, where some people had their gun rights restricted, but others had them expanded. However, as we can see from the above cases, removing guns from the populace also removes at least one major obstacle. Consider, as a thought experiment, the chances of the United States government exterminating the people of Coastal California (where citizens owning firearms is frowned upon) versus their chances of doing the same in Greater Appalachia. Also consider that democide against an armed population isn’t necessarily more difficult in this day and age – especially with newer military technologies like directed energy weapons.

Perhaps one thing is uncontroversial: If you don’t resist a democide, your chances of death are almost certain. And if you do choose to resist, you’ll need something sterner than rocks and empty bottles. Firearms, at the very least, provide a fighting chance against the very real possibility that your government decides your group is the next Ukrainian kulaks – or against the far more tangible threats to your daily existence, like street crime or home invasions.

Democide: Understanding the State’s Monopoly on Violence and the Second Amendment originally appeared in The Resistance Library at Ammo.com.

Anatomy Of A Monopoly

Anatomy Of A Monopoly

Anyone who has ever tried to start a business knows the difficulty in just getting it off the ground. Ignoring licensing, etc., consider that most potential entrepreneurs start off in a financial hole. If you have to hire employees this will be your biggest expense. The necessity of a brick and mortar location adds another hurdle to success. Then, most importantly, what are you offering? Most will have to provide a good or service that the public wants or needs to stay in business and climb out of the “red.” This can take months but in many cases the timeline is longer. Much longer. 

But what if there were another way. What if one had the power to force people to consume their good or service. And not only that, but could dictate whether competition could rise up to challenge them. Imagine that they held a monopoly on the biggest guns so that anyone who would question their authority would be crushed under their feet. That might be obvious to people though. The subjects may question whether they were living under tyranny. What if some of the brightest minds in the “agency” came up with a plan to educate their “customers” from the time they begin to speak that without their services there are people who want to kill them and that their organization would be the only one capable of protecting them from the “barbarians at the gate.” 

Of course, these services will not be free so the “agency” will require payment. But don’t worry about having to come out of pocket for it, you won’t even notice because before you get paid by your employer, they will extract just the right amount they need to “service” you. They will allow you some control over the amount extracted per pay period but you will have to offer an accounting at the end of the year. If you miscalculate you will have to write them a check for the amount you tried to hold back or face consequences. And since they have the “big guns” you will comply.  

There may come a time when this “agency” decides that they cannot provide these “services” properly; that they need more help. So, they may go on a hiring spree. These are new workers that will have to be paid. Since these new employees are working for your “benefit,” the amount the agency requires from you will have to be increased. Do you have a say in this? Well, you can say something, but ultimately this is a required service and their people need to be compensated. 

The “agency” allows for businesses to register with them so that these businesses can provide services that they don’t (in some cases they may even allow competition, but on their terms). By doing so, these “non-agency” businesses submit to certain guidelines that must be followed or they suffer the wrath of the “agency.” If one of these “approved” businesses becomes successful they too will have to pay the “protection service” fees. In many cases at a greater rate than an individual.  

The smart, approved business will realize that one of the most important things it can do is get on the “agency’s” good side. So, they will send their representative to members of the “agency” and offer them additional (private) fees in exchange for special “privileges.” What kind of “privilege” would an approved business want? Since the “agency” decides who can do business and not, they may make it so that the approved business can operate with no competition. The “agency” may pass laws that say that only “approved company A” can operate within a certain land mass. In addition, the “agency” may grant members of “approved company A” certain immunities if their business were to harm one of their customers. “Approved company A” may be held liable but the person or persons within who made the ultimate decision that resulted in damages are not.  

In some special cases, especially if “approved company A” is doing business on behalf of the “agency,” the “agency” may make it so that “approved company A” cannot be held liable at all. The “agency” may decide to take on the burden of the liabilities for “approved company A.” Of course, this expense will have to be funded from somewhere so the agency will probably increase the fees charged to individuals. Again, do you have a say in this? Not likely. 

To go back to where we started, what choices does the enterprising individual have within such a system? The “agency” has obviously placed obstacles in their way that can be overcome (but in many cases such as “approved agency A,” the individual may not be able to even open a business in his location). What if the individual’s business were to interfere with “services” offered by the “agency?” They will either be denied access or forced into “going into business” with said “agency.” 

In the worst-case scenario, if the individual has a breakthrough product, one that could change the world, but the “agency” denies “permission” for it to be produced, what can the entrepreneur do? 

When faced with such obstacles that need to be overcome, is it any wonder that so few even bother trying? In the scenario of facing down a monopoly, especially one with the license to end your life, one may ask how innovation happens at all. 

Three Observations on the Second Wave of COVID-19

Three Observations on the Second Wave of COVID-19

The long-feared second wave of COVID-19 in the United States appears to have arrived. National case numbers are making new records and two states have started to move back towards quarantine.

Since news reports on the virus continue to emphasize the wrong metrics, some important facts about the new wave often get missed. Here are three things to know about the new rise in cases.

1. The recent rise in cases cannot be explained by increases in testing.

This is an important point because the onset of a second jump in cases has been declared prematurely several times before now. These types of reports came in different flavors. Sometimes, they calculated percentage growth rates off extremely small numbers (at a county level for instance) to report an eye-popping rate of growth. More commonly, they failed to highlight the fact that total testing was increasing faster than new cases–suggesting the virus was probably just as common as it had been days earlier, but the state was able to confirm more cases.

This time is different. Many states are experiencing both a rise in absolute cases, and a rise in the percentage of cases that is coming back positive (the positivity rate). This is a clear sign that things in these places is getting worse with respect to the coronavirus.

As of June 27, these are all the states that was seeing both a positivity rate above 10% and weekly rise in that rate. The original data for the table below comes from The COVID Tracking Project:

So, while not all of these states are in crisis right now, it is correct to say we are seeing a pronounced jump in cases in many places. It’s not just a figment of the data / reporting like it had been before.

2. The rise in cases is primarily occurring in places that were not hit hard before.

When you look at a chart of the national numbers of new cases, you can clearly see the second wave that’s occurring. Using the data through June 27, our weekly figures of new cases is rapidly approaching the previous peaks set in April.

The trend below shows rolling 7-day positive cases for the US (all states plus DC and Puerto Rico) per 100,000 people:

On a national basis, the second wave description looks appropriate. But this obscures very different trends at the state level. In reality, the places where cases are rising did not experience much of a peak earlier on the crisis.

Consider the trends below for four states that have been making headlines in the past few days: Texas, Florida, California, and Arizona.

In this data, we see that Texas experienced a slight uptick in April, but it was much smaller than what we’re seeing now. For Arizona, Florida, and California, the recent rise they are experiencing is their first serious increase when adjusted for population. Conversely, states like New York and New Jersey saw their large increase in March and April, but are now seeing stable or declining cases.

This pattern demonstrates one of the many problems with demanding a nationwide lockdown in a country as large as the US. In effect, all states shut down (to varying degrees) based on the experience of New York, New Jersey, and a couple other hotspots. They did this without regard to whether the outbreaks they were experiencing could possibly warrant such dramatic action.

Now that some of these same states are facing a real outbreak close to home, they’re starting to do a new round of limited restrictions. In the face of an economy on life support, widespread social unrest, and an election year, it’s unclear much people will tolerate or comply with another aggressive attempt at quarantine.

3. So far, the second wave appears to be less lethal than the first wave.

Another important characteristic of the second wave is that, at least so far, it looks like to be less deadly than the earlier spikes.

Some commentators have made this point by looking at the trends in death counts for the new hotspots. However, this is not a good way to evaluate the lethality of the second wave at this point.

Deaths are a lagging indicator in this data. According to facts summarized by Our World in Data, death typically occurs between 2 weeks to 8 weeks after the onset of symptoms, which in turn show up several days after initial infection. Many of the cases being discovered now will eventually prove fatal, but they won’t be counted for several weeks. Looking at death rates today in the new hotspots risks providing a false sense of reassurance.

A better way to evaluate the likely lethality of this second wave in real time is to look at the trends in hospitalized COVID-19 cases.

We saw previously that the rise in new cases is now above the levels seen in April. Fortunately, for now the hospitalization data is not following the same trajectory.

In the chart below, we see the national trend in per capita positive cases combined with per capita hospitalization:


Here, we see that national hospitalization data has stabilized but has started to move upward, but is not accelerated at the same pace as total cases.

When we look on a state-by-state basis, a similar pattern emerges. Below, we present the hospitalization trends for current and prior hotspot states. (Florida is omitted due to a lack of reliable hospitalization data.):

Of the new epicenters, Arizona again shows up as an outlier on hospitalization. But even so, it’s still a ways out from the extreme per capita hospitalization levels seen earlier in the northeast. Meanwhile, the other states are on a slight upswing, but still low in terms of overall numbers.

There are several different reasons that might help account for the lower hospitalization rates in this cycle.

One explanation is that the average age of COVID-19 individuals is lower than it was in the first wave of cases. CNN recently reported on this rise in infections among young people as a cause for alarm…

“It’s a little bit of a disturbing trend, and what frightens me is not only that they are younger, the potential of them infecting other people, particularly parents and grandparents,” Dr. Robert Jansen, chief medical officer at Grady Health System, told WSB.

…but in fact, it’s much better than the alternative. If more people are going to be infected, it’s obviously preferable that the people with the lowest chance of serious illness are the ones that get it.

It’s worth remembering that one of the reasons that New York and New Jersey fared worse than other states is that they had a policy which inadvertently increased the probability that older, more vulnerable people would be infected. In an attempt to preserve hospital capacity, these governments required hospitals to discharge COVID-19 patients back to nursing homes before it was confirmed that they no longer had the virus. The result was that the virus was effectively being reintroduced in nursing homes, spreading widely among a high-risk population.

Another reason for lower relative hospitalization rate in the new epicenters is that the testing is far more widespread. When New York was dealing with its peak in April, testing capacity was still being ramped up. This meant that the tests had to be reserved for healthcare workers and people with severe symptoms. In turn, we know that the total confirmed cases in April for New York and other states significantly understated the true number of cases. We just don’t know how large the understatement was.

Since the virus is hitting states like Arizona later, the testing limitations are not as severe. In all probability, this means that the confirmed case count in Arizona today is closer to the true number of infections.

This is not to suggest hospitals will have the capacity they need. When new cases are concentrated in specific parts of a state (as is occurring in Houston, Texas), hospitals will again be strained beyond their normal limits.

The point is that, at least for now, the trend is not nearly as dire as what the northeastern states saw previously. That nuance is easily lost among a sea of news headlines about record new cases.

Why Did The Police Abandon Their Posts?

Why Did The Police Abandon Their Posts?

The riots and looting that have taken place in the aftermath of a Minneapolis law enforcement officer suffocating a man to death — which was caught on video by a bystander — has people questioning the idea of policing and how it is done. Should police be taught de-escalation tactics? Would it be prudent for them to live in the area they patrol? Why is law enforcement still performing “broken window policing?” In the wake of the murder of George Floyd by Derek Chauvin these are all things to ponder. 

Taking all of this into consideration, people aren’t asking why it is that police are abandoning their precincts, leaving them to the mob, and suffering no consequences for this action. A few have asked why the police aren’t protecting the public and its property but one would think that in the least the cops would protect “their own house,” right? It is apparent that people learned nothing from the Parkland school shooting when it comes to “law enforcement” being the “security force” of the people. Even after it was determined that the officers who cowered outside had “no duty to protect,” the public still didn’t grasp the message the courts were sending. 

The idea that law enforcement is there “to serve and protect” individual members of the public has been ruled against over and over again, and the facts surrounding some of the most famous cases are particularly heinous. 

Warren v. District of Columbia (1981) 

Warren v D.C. is probably the most cited case when it comes to the fact that police aren’t mandated to protect the individual. 

The details of the case are terrifying: 

In the early morning hours of Sunday, March 16, 1975, Carolyn Warren and Joan Taliaferro, who shared a room on the third floor of their rooming house at 1112 Lamont Street Northwest in the District of Columbia, and Miriam Douglas, who shared a room on the second floor with her four-year-old daughter, were asleep. The women were awakened by the sound of the back door being broken down by two men later identified as Marvin Kent and James Morse. The men entered Douglas’ second floor room, where Kent forced Douglas to perform oral sex on him and Morse raped her.  

Warren and Taliaferro heard Douglas’ screams from the floor below. Warren called 9-1-1 and told the dispatcher that the house was being burglarized, and requested immediate assistance. The department employee told her to remain quiet and assured her that police assistance would be dispatched promptly.  

Warren’s call was received at Metropolitan Police Department Headquarters at 0623 hours, and was recorded as a burglary-in-progress. At 0626, a call was dispatched to officers on the street as a “Code 2” assignment, although calls of a crime in progress should be given priority and designated as “Code 1.” Four police cruisers responded to the broadcast; three to the Lamont Street address and one to another address to investigate a possible suspect.  

Meanwhile, Warren and Taliaferro crawled from their window onto an adjoining roof and waited for the police to arrive. While there, they observed one policeman drive through the alley behind their house and proceed to the front of the residence without stopping, leaning out the window, or getting out of the car to check the back entrance of the house. A second officer apparently knocked on the door in front of the residence, but left when he received no answer. The three officers departed the scene at 0633, five minutes after they arrived.  

Warren and Taliaferro crawled back inside their room. They again heard Douglas’ continuing screams; again called the police; told the officer that the intruders had entered the home, and requested immediate assistance. Once again, a police officer assured them that help was on the way. This second call was received at 0642 and recorded merely as “investigate the trouble;” it was never dispatched to any police officers.  

Believing the police might be in the house, Warren and Taliaferro called down to Douglas, thereby alerting Kent to their presence. At knife point, Kent and Morse then forced all three women to accompany them to Kent’s apartment. For the next fourteen hours the captive women were raped, robbed, beaten, forced to commit sexual acts upon one another, and made to submit to the sexual demands of Kent and Morse.  

Warren, Taliaferro, and Douglas brought the following claims of negligence against the District of Columbia and the Metropolitan Police Department: the dispatcher’s failure to forward the 6:23 a. m. call with the proper degree of urgency; the responding officers’ failure to follow standard police investigative procedures, specifically their failure to check the rear entrance and position themselves properly near the doors and windows to ascertain whether there was any activity inside; and the dispatcher’s failure to dispatch the 6:42 a. m. call. 

The women sought to sue the District of Columbia and several individual members of the Metropolitan Police Department on two different occasions. The results were: 

“In a 4–3 decision, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals affirmed the trial courts’ dismissal of the complaints against the District of Columbia and individual members of the Metropolitan Police Department based on the public duty doctrine ruling that the duty to provide public services is owed to the public at large, and, absent a special relationship between the police and an individual, no specific legal duty exists. The Court thus adopted the trial court’s determination that no special relationship existed between the police and appellants, and therefore no specific legal duty existed between the police and the appellants.” 

Town of Castle Rock v. Gonzales 

The importance of Castle Rock v Gonzales cannot be overstated since, unlike Warren, this case was taken to the Supreme Court of the U.S.A. for its ruling.  

The events that precipitated the ruling are tragic to say the least: 

During divorce proceedings, Jessica Lenahan-Gonzales, a resident of Castle Rock, Colorado, obtained a permanent restraining order against her husband Simon, who had been stalking her, on June 4, 1999, requiring him to remain at least 100 yards (91 m) from her and her four children (son Jesse, who is not Simon’s  biological child, and daughters Rebecca, Katherine, and Leslie) except during specified visitation time. On June 22, at approximately 5:15 pm, Simon took possession of his three daughters in violation of the order. Jessica called the police at approximately 7:30 pm, 8:30 pm, and 10:10 pm on June 22, and 12:15 am on June 23, and visited the police station in person at 12:40 am on June 23. However, since she from time to time had allowed Simon to take the children at various hours, the police took no action, despite Simon having called Jessica prior to her second police call and informing her that he had the daughters with him at an amusement park in Denver, Colorado. At approximately 3:20 am on June 23, Simon appeared at the Castle Rock police station and was killed in a shoot-out with the officers. A search of his vehicle revealed the corpses of the three daughters, whom it has been assumed he killed prior to his arrival. 

Gonzales filed suit against the Castle Rock police department and three of their officers in the U.S. District Court of Colorado claiming they didn’t protect her even though she had a restraining order against her husband. The officers were declared to have “qualified immunity” and thus, couldn’t be sued. But, “a panel of that court… found a procedural due process claim; an en banc rehearing reached the same conclusion.” 

In this case, the government of the town of Castle Rock took the decision against it to the Supreme Court of the U.S.A. and got the procedural due process claim reversed, finding 

The Court’s majority opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia held that enforcement of the restraining order was not mandatory under Colorado law; were a mandate for enforcement to exist, it would not create an individual right to enforcement that could be considered a protected entitlement under the precedent of Board of Regents of State Colleges v. Roth; and even if there were a protected individual entitlement to enforcement of a restraining order, such entitlement would have no monetary value and hence would not count as property for the Due Process Clause.  

Justice David Souter wrote a concurring opinion, using the reasoning that enforcement of a restraining order is a process, not the interest protected by the process, and that there is not due process protection for processes. 

Lozito v. New York City 

This one was saved until the end because, unlike the previous cases, the officer in this one admitted under grand jury testimony that the reason he didn’t come to the aid of Joseph Lozito is because he was scared that Lozito’s attacker had a gun. 

On February 11thMaksim Gelman, started a “spree-killing” by stabbing his stepfather, Aleksandr Kuznetsov, as many as 55 times because he refused to allow Gelman to use his wife’s (Gelman’s mother’s) car. Gelman would end up killing 3 more while injuring 5, the last injured person being Joe Lozito on a northbound 3-train while on his way to work.  

The facts of the Lozito attack are startling: 

“Joseph Lozito, who was brutally stabbed and “grievously wounded, deeply slashed around the head and neck”, sued police for negligence in failing to render assistance to him as he was being attacked by Gelman. Lozito told reporters that he decided to file the lawsuit after allegedly learning from “a grand-jury member” that NYPD officer Terrance Howell testified that he hid from Gelman before and while Lozito was being attacked because Howell thought Gelman had a gun. In response to the suit, attorneys for the City of New York argued that police had no duty to protect Lozito or any other person from Gelman.” 

Lozito had heard of the previous cases stating that the police had “not duty to protect” but decided to go to court representing himself.  

The court would have none of it: 

“On July 25, 2013, Judge Margaret Chan dismissed Lozito’s suit, stating that while Lozito’s account of the attack rang true and appeared “highly credible”, Chan agreed that police had “no special duty” to protect Lozito.” 

As segments of the country continue protesting, rioting and looting as a “response” to the George Floyd killing, and local governments are questioning funding their enforcement agencies, people should retreat a few steps and take a macro view of their “protection services.” While some are rightly railing against police brutality and aggressive policing, they should go back to the beginning and ask whether any of these “fixes” are going to work if the most basic assumption when it comes to “serving and protecting” is a farce.  

If the police are just there as a clean-up crew, or historians after the fact, why not designate them as such. If in the overwhelming amount of cases they get there after a crime has been committed, it’s time to take that 2nd Amendment seriously and remove the barriers that keep many people, especially those in high crime areas, from protecting themselves. “Armed” with the knowledge that those you have falsely believed were there to protect you are in fact serving another purpose, rational individuals should be looking for realistic options when it comes to protecting yourself from any threat that may come your way; public or private. 

News Roundup

News Roundup 11/23/20

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