Israeli abstinence

As long as I touched on some unorthodox to libertarian ideas about abortion and immigration yesterday, I might as well keep that ball of controversy rolling with the Israel/Palestine conflict.

In general, libertarians tend to believe that the Israelis are engaged in occupation of land stolen from the Palestinians by the foreign power of England after WW2, and have expanded their reach into Palestinian territory consistently over the following decades with slow-moving land grabs.  My wife, among others, considers herself a Jew for Palestine because they’ve been mistreated by what can be seen as a foreign occupier.  In general, when pressed, libertarians that are honest will concede that the Israeli government domestically is much more libertarian than the Palestinian Authority or really just about any of the surrounding Arab states.  This probably is why Ayn Rand and her Objectivist followers are so pro-Israel.  Concurrent to both leanings is a libertarian preference for non-intervention and neutrality in foreign affairs.

There’s a complicated set of issues like the right of return, the wall, trade, retaliatory airstrikes, a monopoly on the ability to provide basic things like water and power, border demarcation, and of course terrorism both from Palestinians and the Israeli military that often come into play with each new twist.  Oftentimes, the more immediate concern is on current and ongoing expansion of Israeli territory via settlements into disputed land.

Today, in what I hope isn’t an already ingrained and established precedent, Trump lead his foreign policy preferences with a tweet.  He wrote…

The resolution being considered at the United Nations Security Council regarding Israel should be vetoed.

As the United States has long maintained, peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians will only come through direct negotiations between the parties, and not through the imposition of terms by the United Nations.

This puts Israel in a very poor negotiating position and is extremely unfair to all Israelis.

The only possible objectives of this tweet are (1) an attempt to influence Obama’s vote (2) an attempt to signal his posture towards Israel once he becomes President (3) just a vague attempt at virtue signaling for the consumption of domestic supporters who lean towards the AIPAC side of foreign policy preferences (4) some combination of those or (5) there is no objective and he just wrote it out on a whim.

I suspect that Obama supports this resolution in practice, while Trump is calling for a veto, and they’re both wrong.  Were I advising an American President on the matter, I’d suggest an abstention on nearly any issue involving a dispute between the two groups.  There are at least two things that the US getting involved in any of these matters won’t accomplish, regardless of the vote or what America attempts or even how.  One, a lasting peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and two, a perception among either side that America is an honest and impartial broker of negotiations.  These are the goals that America’s publicly claimed to pursue since the Camp David Accords, and both are unachievable, or at very least unachievable by American actions.

American policy on matters like this, historically, has been to veto every such proposal.  The rationale is that the Palestinians are attempting to bypass negotiations with Israel and instead get a hearing in a more sympathetic venue like the UN, where they have the absolute backing of nearly every Arab state, and plenty of allies of convenience opposed to what is seen as US interests.  There are good reasons to suspect that Palestine lacks the ability to negotiate effectively one on one with Israel, given their relative lack of power in any meaningful respect.  There are also good reasons to believe that Israel will never get a fair hearing in the UN, with so many countries opposed to it.  So the current paradigm has been a stalemate.  Palestine offers resolutions that they know will be vetoed by the US, in order to point to America’s bias which supports Israel in order to bolster support among domestic audiences in Palestine and throughout the middle east.  It’s all been for show for so long and so consistently, that it’s hard to envision that we could take another path.

What would abstaining from a vote accomplish?  The better question is what participating would accomplish.  The resolution at hand pertains to Jewish settlements in Judea, Samaria, and eastern Jerusalem.  I am among the vast majority of Americans who couldn’t point to any one of those outside of maybe Jerusalem on a map without English text.  The majority of American politicians couldn’t point to these places without the aide of an AIPAC representative, and even then they wouldn’t even know which side of the wall they sat on or whether they were even in the Gaza strip or the West Bank.  Even if America had a better sense of geography, middle eastern politics, religion, and history… it would only serve to highlight the absurdity of being anything other than neutral, and the utter foolishness of any hubris that believed a lasting peace could be obtained through American diplomacy in the region.  There is no American interest advanced by giving a veto for Israel indefinitely at every proposal pushed by Palestine.  There is plenty to lose, and plenty which has already been lost by taking sides throughout the region in local disputes and civil wars.

–Gary Doan

Libertarian orthodoxy is still an anti-individualistic system of control

If you have never taken issue with a single utterance from Ron Paul or Bernie Sanders, if you believe entirely in every plank of your party’s platform or the current consensus of it’s members, or if you trust every story from your favorite news source to be accurate, it’s the same conformist disease of applying faith rather than reason to what should be your own beliefs.  As libertarians (especially counter-culture ones, which really all are given libertarian’s place in the American political hierarchy), we all arrived here after finding prevailing ideas inadequate and opening up our thinking to something new.  That questioning attitude and openness to the kind of reason that isn’t accepted by the masses is integral not only to libertarianism, but to personal growth and individuality that allows liberty and freedom to be effective enough to deliver prosperity.

Libertarians tend to be contrarians, and disagree nearly as much with each other as they do with “statists”, or at least libertarians seem to spend more time and effort doing so than enlarging the tent.  Often, libertarians will even argue about what it means to be a libertarian.  However, those arguments generally revolve around one of two things.  One, is arcane points that those outside of the movement often can’t even distinguish between.  I mean, debating whether the Austrian or Chicago school is preferable, whether Objectivists are actually libertarians, or whether praxeology is even a branch of science… these arguments do little outside of our own echo chamber.  The other thing arguments tend to revolve around is merely a matter of degree.  On the most extreme end, there are those in the libertarian party who advocate literal anarchy, and then there are those on the more minarchist side, still extreme by common standards of accepted thought.  However, the first steps towards whatever goal is in mind tend to be the same first steps, and politics always advances incrementally when it doesn’t resort to violent revolution.  That said, there are two issues in particular that I don’t categorize myself as “libertarian” on which don’t fall into either category, and both were subjects with trending news stories today.

The first is Lena Dunham making comments about how she wished she had had an abortion.  Obviously she’s never had children, because nobody who has children ever say they wish they had instead had an abortion.  There may be an exception somewhere, but this is true in general, because we’re not a society of sociopaths.  This statement is not only offensive to those who have pro-life views, but also to those who are pro-choice and have made the difficult one of choosing an abortion, whether they regret it or not.  Obviously she makes her money off of being offensive, and if I had a significant amount of followers, mentioning the story would only help her.  There was a time when the most outspoken voices in the pro-choice community would say, in rote, that they wanted abortions to be “safe, legal, and rare”, not celebrated and desired, and though I’m not offended, I do find the remarks to be detestable.

Given the slant I’ve used, it’s probably easy to guess which way I lean, but in general I try to keep myself from the topic entirely.  It’s the one political topic that you can never win, where the actual facts don’t matter, and is likely to produce anger and frustration even among people who are comfortable debating any other political topic.  Among the libertarian community, the debate generally focuses on whether or not abortion violates the non-aggression principle, or how to resolve issues that involve conflicting sets of rights, but the majority of libertarians are pro-choice.  My position is more nuanced than one or the other, because “life” and “choice” are oversimplifications of what I see as a complex legal and moral issue, but I’m going to play censor right now and cut myself off before I write an entire post getting into the weeds right after telling you I personally avoid the topic.

The other news story making the rounds that highlighted a non-libertarian position of mine was the Christmas market massacre in Germany.  Now, whenever there’s a terrorist attack in an EU country, which is becoming more common, the left tends to make it about guns, the right tends to make it about Islam or immigration, and libertarians tend to posit it as Europe’s problem, and not our concern.  In this case, this is part of a trend of terrorists not using guns because trucks are easier and more effective.  The right has grabbed onto the fact that it was committed by not just an immigrant, but an immigrant that by law was meant to be deported months ago, in a continent-wide union with open borders in a year that the Brexit vote was successful.

Like abortion, I don’t find immigration as an issue that’s as simple as “pro” or “anti”, “open borders” or “closed borders” or even “legal” versus “illegal”.  Not all immigration is equal or has equal effects on a nation, and not all immigration follows the same pattern.  Here in the US, much of modern immigration to this country is from, predictably, our own hemisphere.  The immigrants who come from our north, tend to be more highly educated, share our language, and hold cultural values and norms more compatible with what currently exists.  Hell, Canada is practically just another state.  From south of our border, we tend to get younger workers, who tend to have less skills, education, or proficiency in English, but provide a strong benefit all the same, from diversity of experience to a generally high work ethic and focus on self-reliance.  In fact, immigration from south of our border I think is one of the primary reasons that social security hasn’t completely collapsed yet and is merely in the red.

In other parts of the world, immigration is much different.  For instance, in England, immigrants tend to be more educated than it’s native population.  The immigrants most common to Europe as a whole have a much different set of cultural and religious values than the native population, and taken as a whole they present a security risk that isn’t as comparable to any of the violence of the drug war in the US.  What Europe allows in terms of immigration, whether they keep their open border policy among EU nations or not… well, I think the American government should remain largely silent on these matters, but my opinion would be much more important if I lived in Europe.

Taken as a whole, America accepts more legal immigrants than any other country in the world.  I believe that despite this, it can still be advantageous to take in more.  However, I accept that some limitations are desirable, that separate groups of immigrants are not interchangeable, that there are valid concerns about cohesion, culture, security, and the like, and that even Milton Friedman conceded that open borders weren’t compatible with a massive welfare state.  This is an issue that both libertarians and the left tend to always fall on the open border side of the coin, while those on the right tend to be much more nativist in their approach, while reality doesn’t fit nicely into either extreme.

Alright… now that I’ve offended or alienated much of my audience, I’d like to open the floor.  What opinions do you have that conflict with libertarian orthodoxy (or if you’re not actually a libertarian, what opinions do you have that conflict with the orthodoxy of the grouping that most closely aligns with your political beliefs)?  Send your article submissions to doangary@gmail.com .

–Gary Doan

On Ron Paul and 300

Reprinted in it’s entirety, with permission from Sam Moore.

The big surprise coming out of today’s electoral college vote was the one, single vote for Ron Paul. With his permission, I have been given the great honor of publicly sharing the identity of the brave Texas Elector who cast that lone ballot for Ron Paul.

But first, everyone should understand the gumption it takes to stand up for something when the world expects you to play a different role. I’ve been chatting with this particular elector for months, and his decision to vote for Ron Paul never wavered the entire time. Was he nervous? Absolutely. Seeing the stories on the news of death threats, removed electors, etc….you’d be stupid not to be nervous and even a bit afraid.

For that reason, my friend has decided to take a vacation starting tonight, so contacting him will be difficult for the next while. Please don’t hesitate to try and reach out to him, though. He deserves all the thanks you can give him.

So why did he do it? I cannot put words into his mouth, but he didn’t do it because he thought Ron Paul would win. We all know better than that. From what he’s shared with me over the past few months however, he did it out of a profound sense of duty. That duty, as one of only 538 Electors, is to choose the best person for the POTUS/VPOTUS, period. That duty does not include the coronation of someone who may not be the best person for the job or the appointment of what they consider simply the lesser-of evil.

The 12th Amendment of the Constitution mandates that electors choose the POTUS/VPOTUS. The popular vote has no bearing on the selection of the POTUS. According to the Constitution, the popular vote the media is in love with doesn’t even exist. This is not common knowledge to most Americans, but it is an important safeguard given to us by our Founding Fathers.

As a professor, this gentleman is well-aware of this often-overlooked fact. I can personally tell you that regardless of the words he would choose to explain his electoral vote, his love for this country, his love for the Constitution, and his love for freedom and liberty was the basis for his decision.

In fact, immediately after the vote, all he wanted to do was return to relative obscurity. No fame-seeking. No grandstanding. Just doing his job, then returning to his life. As it should be.

One vote for Ron Paul. A mere scratch that the news cycle will forget in a day. A lone vote that they are already ignoring. So why do it? Why fight for years to become an Elector, just to (as some would wrongfully claim) ‘throw your vote away?’ The best way for me to explain is via example:

Have you have seen the movie ‘300’? In the movie, the all-powerful giant/god Xerxes was nicked from a spear thrown by a defiant Leonidas. Leonidas chose to fight for what he thought was right up until the last minute of his life, despite the odds. Did anything of direct consequence happen as a result of Leonidas’s spear? Did Xerxes die, get an infection, or cry like a baby? Nope. Both him and all his troops were utterly slaughtered as a result.

However, the people later heard about what Leonidas had done. That act sparked hope within others. Soon, the returned in greater numbers and eventually defeating the tyrant Xerxes for good, winning back their freedom.

My friend voted today, knowing that he may be in a world of political pain from those who don’t understand such things, from those who don’t understand the Constitution, from those who don’t understand intent of the 12th Amendment, or from those who don’t understand deviations from the mainstream narrative. To stand up and do this anyway makes my friend a hero.

@Bill Greene, thank you for casting your vote for peace, liberty, freedom, fiscal responsibility, and a return to following the Constitution. May your one vote be the spear that fans the flames of freedom across the country in elections yet to come.

–Sam Moore

https://www.facebook.com/samuel.keller.moore

Undiagnosed Democratic Autopsy

Yesterday, unsurprisingly, the electoral college officially elected Trump President.  Also unsurprising was that the number of faithless electors broke several new records, the most important of which was the greatest amount of faithless electors for President since the passage of the twelfth amendment.  Technically, Horace Greeley was an exception to that, but given that he died after the popular vote and before the electoral college voted, I’m not convinced he’s a valid exception (in fact the votes that did go for him posthumously were labeled invalid by Congress).  What was surprising, however, is where those votes came from.

Recently, I made the case that the so-called Hamilton Electors wouldn’t even come close to preventing Trump’s victory (they didn’t), but that they should try all the same… and that victory would look like new precedents set with record numbers of defections away from Trump.  Part of the reasons I listed were based on showing that Trump doesn’t stand for all Republicans and that much of the party still views him as unacceptable.  As it turns out, over 70% of the defections came from Democratic electors pledged to Hillary, and that number would have been even higher if Maine, Minnesota, and Colorado hadn’t all disallowed and invalidated attempts at faithless votes.

I can’t think of a single way she can blame this on the Russians, the system, James Comey, fake news, or any of the boogeymen that Democrats have used to blame anyone other than Hillary or themselves for her loss.

In 2012, after Romney’s loss, the RNC announced the “Growth and Opportunity Project“, commonly known as the ‘Republican Autopsy’.  Using interviews with over 2,600 people, focus groups, polling, and all the analytics and metadata they could muster, the GOP tried to figure out just what they did wrong to lose an election they believed they should have won.  This hundred page report explored how they might improve their messaging, how they might reach out better to other demographics, how they viewed data, fundraising efforts… you name it.  It was cold and calculating (which was, ironically, one of the problems Republicans had), and comprehensive.  It was an honest assessment aimed at self-reflection, with the intent of improving what the party was and how it operated.

In 2016, the Libertarian Party is anything but short on definitive (though differing) opinions on why Gary Johnson wasn’t able to capitalize more on two of the most hated major party candidates to have ever run.  Whether it’s a lack of party principle purity, a lack of knowledge about foreign affairs, a deficiency in public speaking, his pick of Bill Weld, his attempts not to scare off the Bernie-type disaffected Dems by talking too much about economics, the perception that he just represented Libertarians as the party of pot… there is no lack of accusations or suggestions within the party about what should be done next go around.  The infighting was apparent before election day even came, which was probably part of the problem.

In 2016, the Democratic party and it’s activists have been pretty persistent in labeling or implying that half of voters are simply racist, even in the 194 of 207 counties that were won by Obama once which went to Trump (not to mention Trump taking a third of the counties which voted for Obama twice).  Reports have shown they have been much more likely to “unfriend”, both online and in real life, people who disagree with their political opinions.  They have clamped down even harder on their insistence on what language is even allowable when having conversations to prevent deviation from the groupspeak.  Their insistence has merely grown on expanding safe spaces in order to protect themselves from free speech.  They have resurrected blaming “right wing conspiracies” from the 90s, the Russians from the 80s, and the rich from the 70s.

In other words, while Republicans and Libertarians have been working on self-improvement, Democrats have been avoiding self reflection and lashing out at everything but themselves.

Whether Hillary was sunk by her untrustworthiness, her corruption, her pandering, her warmongering, her hypocrisy, her secrecy, or something else entirely, and what order these things should go in in terms of importance, I don’t know.  Neither, apparently, do Democrats, many of whom might even find an issue with one of these characterizations of their candidate.  I’m not preaching catastrophe– they’ll survive as a national party whether they consider their mistakes or not.  But to simply ignore them, retreating back into an echo chamber, and to refuse to allow their supposed tolerance to motivate themselves reach out past their circles to understand people who don’t think like they do or pause to consider that the problem might be their candidate or themselves?  They won’t remain an effective party in any years that the Republicans aren’t simply worse, they’ll be unable to expand their base, and they will shrivel.  It’s not terminal, I assume it’s treatable… but without diagnosing the problem, there simply is no solution.

Smug self-righteousness is always easier than self-reflection, and Democrats are nothing if not easy.

–Gary Doan

The most truthful liars


Apparently, one of the day’s top stories is a spat over which liar is more trustworthy.

Recently, I argued that there are plenty of reasons not to trust the CIA or James Clapper, and to demand they provide proof before believing either.  This has been especially true since the NDAA of 2013 amended the Smith-Mundt Act to allow for the US government to conduct domestic propaganda, but would have been true regardless given the history of the agency’s unwillingness to follow domestic or international law.  James Clapper in particular has lied, under oath, to Congress about the very existence of large-scale spying programs leveled against the American people, and he’s currently the head of seventeen intelligence agencies.  This isn’t to say that “it wasn’t the Russians”, merely that there are plenty of reasons to demand proof of these claims by Clapper and the CIA rather than to take them by faith, with the realization that for the past three years the government can legally lie to you and wage propaganda campaigns against it’s own citizens.

On Friday, President Obama bragged that in September, he talked to Putin about the hacking at the DNC, told him to “cut it out”, and Putin listened.  On Sunday, Donna Brazile contradicted that, saying the Russians continued hacks right up until the election.  I guess it’s possible that the DNC was aware that hacks were still going on while the President was not.  Maybe the DNC was following the actions of Cozy Bear, while the President was being briefed on Fancy Bear and Guccifer (I really love some of these hacker monikers, by the way), and they are both right rather than one or both lying to us.

Honestly, if one were to assume if one of those two stories is correct, Brazile’s is more believable.  The narrative that Obama told Putin to quit, and Putin backed down is laughable despite Obama representing the most powerful country in the world.  Obama is nearing the end of his term, and the past eight years offered Russia only reset buttons rather than red lines.  There is no real chance that there is any threat Obama could make that he could still carry out which would cause Putin to act any differently.  On the world stage, there is not a country or region in the world that Obama has improved US standing in, and there is no reason to think anything about his statecraft has changed now that he no longer has the power to back up threats.

On the other side, we have Donna Brazile, best known for her utter lapses in any basic journalistic integrity that are so extreme that even major players at CNN and The New York Times have called her out on the inappropriate conduct, calling it “very, very upsetting” and “journalistically horrifying”.  CNN went as far as to sever ties with her over this, given how her actions, made public, reflected on them.

But this isn’t just something that points out her lack of credibility when making claims… this is linked to the story itself.  Politically speaking, she is just about the worst choice to represent the DNC on this matter.  The DNC’s whole narrative is based on getting people to ignore the content of the leaked DNC emails by focusing on who released them and why.  Granted, it’s a stupid and ineffective narrative, because nobody’s been actually claiming that the information released wasn’t factual, but it’s really all they have.  One of the things the DNC emails showed, was Donna Brazile, while working for CNN, was leaking debate questions to Hillary in order to give her an advantage.  Whether she was made the Chair of the DNC as a reward for helping Hillary to cheat, I don’t know.  But I do know that her acting as a spokesman for the DNC about the email scandal she was personally involved in is completely counterproductive to their attempts to make this about anything other than the content of the information wikileaks released.

Who’s more believable… the CIA, James Clapper, Vladimir Putin, Barack Obama, Guccifer 2.0, or Donna Brazile?  How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?  Not a single character in this entire manufactured drama has an ounce of credibility (unless you count wikileaks), and not a single one has offered sufficient proof of their version of events.  It often seems that a prerequisite for political power is lying to the people you represent.  Was it “the Russians”?  Probably.  But if this information is meant to have an actual effect in policy, we should demand more than a “probably”.  If it was the Russians, how long did their hacking go on?  Well, I don’t see any reason why it would have stopped… but does that matter at all?

None of this does.  I don’t feel comfortable about a foreign power trying to influence a domestic election in America, but I’m not surprised by it and there’s a limited amount of counter-responses we could give, none of them likely to be pursued by our next President.  I don’t like how corrupt the leak has shown a major party in the US to be, but I’m even less surprised by that.  I’m entirely uncomfortable with how cozy Trump seems to be with Putin and how unwilling he seems to be to accept the CIA’s assessment as plausible, but on the other hand Hillary’s stated approach would have been more likely to lead us into war with Russia.  We are where we are, and anything our government might do in response to the hack, if it was Russia, we’ll be unlikely to read about in the paper for quite some time.  Every actor on this stage traffics in lies as part of their job in the kabuki theater of politics, and the only solace is that they’re getting less competent at it.

–Gary Doan

The potentials and pitfalls of human longevity

Recently, a paper published by a group of researchers claimed that human lifespans have a hard limit of about 125 years.  I’m not a scientist, but I call bullshit all the same.

Their methodology seems to have nothing to do with how much degradation the human body can realistically take or, much more importantly, how much information the human brain can handle processing.  Despite this research being conducted by a geneticist, it’s not based upon genetics at all.  The limit which defines their peak is not based on the biological sciences, but on historical data which quantifies medical trends.  They have found that the top life expectancies, in practice, seemed to have plateaued in the eighties, and we’ve seen little improvement by historical standards especially since the nineties.  As someone who makes his money in the market, there is a phrase for this… they are using past performance to indicate future results.

“Old age” as a cause of death is really just a substitute for specific incidents or diseases that are more likely to kill you once you’re older.  After abortion, the top two causes of death in the US are cancer and heart disease.  There are, from all accounts major tipping points that could happen in research that could address both of these things in the future.  Even setting aside pie-in-the sky concepts like uploading human consciousness into computers, thereby bypassing physical biological limitations altogether, there are intermediary steps on the way.  Direct gene modification, tailored DNA before birth even takes place to remove imperfections and weaknesses, cloning or manipulation that allows us to grow new organs in pigs, through 3D printers, or even the cloning of brand new bodies altogether… there’s no shortage of science fiction ideas with the potential to become science fact with enough research.  Any one of these concepts is deserving of exploration and would take volumes of books to fully appreciate their potential applications and the brand new world they could create.

Biology has given all creatures an instinct for self-preservation, and the apex of that basic desire are attempts at extending life and dreams of immortality.  This is a goal that mankind is genetically programmed to pursue, as we are the only creatures we know of capable of effectively pursuing the premise that is the natural conclusion of the universal aspiration.  Basic survival for any animal not man cannot be pursued on a generational level, as other creatures lack both the necessary intelligence and the sense of history which man alone has a monopoly on.  The only limits I see to longevity of human life stretching into the future is the desire of the aged to continue on.  The limit to human life, once the requisite technology allows for it, is not a technological or biological limit.  The limitations I see are the limits of how much the aged desire human existence due to quality of life concerns and the limits of what defines us as still human.

This leads to a balance of what it makes the most sense for our science to pursue.  The extension of human life comes into conflict with advances which promote actual quality of life.  What good is living to, say, two hundred, if the last hundred years leave you infirm and unable to enjoy existence in any meaningful way or contribute to humanity?  How much does a prolonged physical existence matter if mental degradation robs us of what makes us, us?  When my mother was facing the end of her life, she had ceased fearing death.  But she was terrified of losing her dignity, her composure, and more than anything her cognitive abilities.  She feared sliding in and out of awareness without being able to comprehend coherently, as herself, her surroundings and the greater world.  I don’t think I’m going to die anytime soon.  I’m not diseased, terminal or otherwise, and I’m not even approaching retirement age.  But the more I consider her end-of-life reactions, the more terrified I am of experiencing her exact fear.

I’m optimistic enough in just how limitless humanity’s potential is.  I’m pessimistic that humanity will pursue what’s best for it’s long-term best interests effectively.  We are very good at pursuing short-term gains, and these are often best pursued at the individual and specific group levels which best benefit collective humanity as a whole better than a universal collective plan.  However, there are some things we’re ill-equipped to even consider at the individual level, much less plan for.  We as a species are, as a general rule, short sighted, though we have the potential to be so much more.  This isn’t a conversation that is much had outside of boring guys in lab coats, but it’s important all the same.  Medical advances aimed at prolonging human lifespans while ignoring quality of life concerns are likely to get dystopian quick.

I don’t have the answer, and I’m not even sure I’ve been able to formulate the right kinds of questions, but I’ve tried to outline some considerations.  End of life issues are about more than prolonging life, and oftentimes comfort for the infirm or limitations beyond simply what is physically possible aren’t even considered until there is an extinction of hope in longevity completely.  At the individual level, it’s generally a good idea to talk about these types of issues long before it’s apparently necessary with those who will be responsible for your care and legacy.  But at the level of humanity, science, and culture?  It’s already long past time for us to evaluate the actual trade-offs, rather than ignoring the actual experience of old age until we get there, and assuming longevity is a more worthy goal than actual life.

–Gary Doan

The impudence of false hope

I’ve always hated campaign slogans, for two reasons.  One is how little they actually say about a candidate or what they stand for, and the other is how much those slogan’s effectiveness say about us as voters.  Hope and change?  Hope in what and what should change?  Making America Great Again?  What does the candidate think made America Great in the first place, and how did it stop being great?  This type of language is intentionally open-ended with the express aim of letting the listener fill in the blanks with what they choose to see, while saying nothing of note… and the fact that it works is an indictment against Democracy.

What I think made America Great was our founding principles, expressed so eloquently in documents like the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Federalist and Anti-Federalist papers.  To imagine Trump is well acquainted with any of these documents, ideas, or history is pure fantasy.  So is imagining that Obama brought us any change rather than an acceleration in the same direction we as a country had already been moving in.  The speed may have changed, but not the trajectory.  Both men have brought hope to some groups of people, fear to others, and enough apathy that nearly half of all eligible voters don’t.  Obama’s slogan was effective because it said exactly what Americans wanted after eight years of Bush.  Trump’s slogan was effective because it said nothing at all, which was especially helpful to a candidate who stood for exactly that.

Maybe it’s just the fact that I watched Rogue One, A Star Wars story last night, but I’m musing on hope.

What does America currently hope for?  The same thing we’ve always hoped for.  Love, happiness, health, family, fiends, a stable home, stable employment, for our children to have a better life than we have, a bit of extra change for some drinks at the local bar.  It’s amazing to me how many of these things that come to mind simply cannot be achieved by government, much less by a President offering unrealistic promises of some Utopian vision of a “moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal” from nothing other than the election of one man to one office.  Placing our hope in one man, or placing our hope in government rather than ourselves is an un-American aspiration unworthy of us as a nation.  Hope, while built upon faith, is not something to be accepted as an offering by politicians that require devotion.  It’s something that, if we don’t want it to let us down, we must build for ourselves.  Optimism is a recipe for disappointment, if it’s not built upon solid footing… and there’s not much that exists that’s more fluid than politicians able to reach the heights of power, using vague, mealy-mouthed expressions to manipulate us into offering power over us to them in the first place.

Trump isn’t even in office yet, and he’s walked back nearly every campaign promise he’s made, from draining the swamp to the wall to prosecuting Hillary.  After eight years of Obama governing as Bush– offering up the lowest labor force participation rate since the 1970s, a doubling of the national debt which he once called “unpatriotic”, skyrocketing healthcare costs under his signature legislation, and his bombing of seven separate nations, including while violating the War Powers Act and after running as the “peace candidate”– he has already extinguished the hope his supporters who have been paying attention had in him.  Bill Clinton offered prosperity, the trade off being the bubble the nineties created.  George Bush told us to “read his lips”, which were the lips of a politician.

Michelle Obama recently gave an interview to Oprah, in which she was asked about hope.  According to her, Barack achieved both providing and delivering on his promise of hope.  Her evidence?  “we feel the difference now. See, now we’re feeling what not having hope feels like, you know?”  Her evidence is that people were feeling hope before because they are feeling hopeless now that Trump will be the next President.  For eight years, Republicans have felt hopeless, as Obama seemed to get everything he wanted without Republican leadership so much as putting up a meaningful fight against him, and many Republicans now feel hope… so I have to assume that Michelle is only talking about Democrats rather than Americans.  The absolute audacity of her.  When her husband talked about “the audacity of hope”, he meant the willingness to take bold risks.  When she talks about hope, she’s being impudent, tone-deaf, and unable to see past the bubble that politicians always build to isolate themselves from reality.

I don’t see much hope in Trump.  I’ve seen where hope in Obama has gotten this nation.  Where I find hope is in the arms of my wife and the eyes of my children.  Placing it in the hands of politicians, even ones I respect like Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Massie, or Amash is a fool’s errand.  More often than not, hope will let you down unless it’s hope you build on and achieve yourself or in concert with your family or friends.  To place it within political leaders requires a willful ignorance of the vast majority of all human history, but the same is true for what you let extinguish your hope.  There are reasons to hope, and these are in spite of politicians and elections, not because of them.

–Gary Doan

Cheap talk and inaction

Obama has spent two terms dismissing Putin’s invasions of other nations, from Georgia to Ukraine, both of which were nothing other than brazen land grabs meant to begin reconstituting an expansion into former Soviet territory.  Two terms of ignoring Putin’s crackdowns domestically on everything from NGOs and aide organisations, to Muslims and gays, to free speech in any quarter.  From Pussy Riot to any political opposition, to state control of media, to any real pretense of Russian “democracy”, it’s all been dismissed by Obama as a price paid for avoidance of confrontation.  From constitutional changes Putin’s made to stay in power to rules crafted to exclude any meaningful participation of rival political parties, none of it has mattered.  Jailing dissidents and the functioning of domestic spying apparatuses and propaganda tactics from a former KGB agent seems, if anything, to have been emulated and respected by our last two Presidents.  Two terms of caving in on everything from trade to a refusal to call him out despite Putin dragging Russia towards Dugin’s version of the World Island have gotten us to exactly where we are at today.  In a 2012 debate, Romney only had to call Russia a “geopolitical foe” that presented unique challenges in our modern world for Obama to dismissively quip “The 1980s are calling and they want their foreign policy back.”

This morning on NPR, while he has five weeks left to his Presidency, Obama gave the toughest threat I’ve ever heard him levy at another nation.  After accusing Russia of being behind an attack on the integrity of American democracy, he had this to say…

“I think there is no doubt that when any foreign government tries to impact the integrity of our elections … we need to take action. And we will — at a time and place of our own choosing. Some of it may be explicit and publicized; some of it may not be.”

What could this threat against Russia possibly entail?  Well, he separated it out nicely for us into two categories.

One: Explicit and publicized.  Obama is not going to start a literal hot war in the next five weeks, rather than speak in the language of the cold war.  Five weeks is not nearly enough time to organize enough nations to sign on to effective sanctions.  Giving some kind of speech on TV, radio, or at the UN with useless, toothless words just highlights how weak his position is in the transition towards our next President.  Taking action “at a time and place of our own choosing” is simply not an option unless the exact time he chose was somewhere within the confines of the next several weeks.

Two: Some of it may not be (explicit and publicized).  The obvious implication is cyber-attacks and other forms of spy-craft espionage.  But if we’re going tit-for-tat here, what do the options on the cyber-front even look like?  It’s kind of hard to hack into elections that are rigged by the Kremlin already in a country whose pretense of democracy is a joke meant only for a geopolitical show that the west pretends to believe because doing so is easier.  Obama’s not going to shut down power stations or vital infrastructure to begin WW3 on his way out the door.

Obama has given his strongest statement to date against Putin, and it is completely toothless, too little, too late.  His words are as hollow as a UN-subcommittee report.  This may seem like a strange criticism from a self-described non-interventionist libertarian who would kind of like to avoid American wars and let Putin “bomb the shit outta Isis” in Syria.  I’ve made the case that Hillary’s no-fly zone support was an insane idea that risked war with Russia, in order to pursue America’s current objectives of a continuation of the civil war rather than support for one side or another winning.  But this isn’t about what we should or shouldn’t do about Russia, Syria, or Putin.  It’s about the fact that Obama no longer has the power to make that decision on behalf of our nation, and he’s only starting to talk tough now that he has no ability to back up his talk with action.

–Gary Doan

When Democrats <3 the CIA

According to Politico, about a quarter of Democrat electors in the electoral college are demanding that James Clapper have the CIA give a briefing on foreign interference in the US election, based on the CIA’s public assessment that the Russians did it.

It’s hard to pack so many absurdities into one sentence, and there’s so much to work with from that alone that I’m not sure where to begin.

Of course the CIA is upset enough to leak that Russia, a foreign power, interfered with a domestic election to get the right-wing candidate it wanted. That’s like when somebody gets a tattoo that matches yours without asking or even being your friend, cheats off your test, names their ugly child the unique name you had picked for yours, or tells your joke right in front of you without giving you credit.  Because Democrats believe that Russia was trying to interfere in our election, they want the CIA to interfere in our election instead to address it.

So what happened, and what is alleged to have happened?  Pro-Trump propaganda outlets like Breitbart are already labeling this as “fake news” to spin around the left’s allegations elsewhere, dismissing it as a conspiracy.  Many Democrats are alleging this is grounds for an electoral college revolt, The View is asking for Trump to literally step down before he even assumes office over it, Congress is pursuing investigations, and the Hamilton Electors seem to be more motivated by Putin’s influence than anything else, judging by their Facebook.  The CIA is alleging this was the Russians, and the FBI is saying there’s not enough evidence to make that claim.

The CIA has released no evidence to back up their claim.  This would be expected, given that they need to protect sources and methods… if this was a hard hack of the DNC or Clinton’s emails.  However, the Podesta incident wasn’t a hack, it was a phishing scheme.  He received an unverified email claiming to be from google, which asked him to send his password, and he did… he sent back “p@ssw0rd”, which is what he was using.  He believed this email was genuine because one of his IT aides had wrote that it was “legitimate” when they meant to type “illegitimate”.  This wasn’t a hard hack, this was rank stupidity on the part of Podesta, Delavan (the IT guy who made one of the most consequential two letter typos in American history), and the DNC.  This was so amateurish that the stereotype Republicans have about the Democrats being idiots seems to understate things.  Meaning, further… any evidence the CIA has, isn’t based on some kind of hack that required the kind of sophistication which requires state sponsorship.  So what the CIA is asking of the American public, is to trust them.  Let me pause a moment so you can take that in.

The CIA is asking us to trust them.

Specifically, James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, is asking us to trust him, and Democrats are asking him to give briefings to the electors in the electoral college.  You know… James Clapper.  Best known for lying, under oath, to Congress about the existence of the NSA program Snowden revealed.  His actions were more than just perjury, they were meant to conceal from both the American public at large and even Congress, the existence of an unconstitutional program which spies on hundreds of millions of Americans not even suspected of a crime.  This is a felony that he committed, provably, that is obviously prison-worthy and is an action that had lead to the first official impeachment of an American President.  So which prison is he in?  Nope… he wasn’t prosecuted, wasn’t charged, didn’t lose his job, and his current position has him in charge of 17 “intelligence” agencies.

It’s still quite possible that it was the Russians.  After all, as untrustworthy as the source of the allegations is, they’re still combined the largest and most effective spying apparatus in the world.  There’s not a doubt in my mind that Putin is both capable of something so rudimentary and willing to act how he’s accused of acting.  So if Russia is guilty, what are they guilty of?

The answer?  Providing the American public with truthful information about their candidates and the campaigns that they would not otherwise have had, with the intent of either causing chaos in the election and distrust among the American public about our democratic institutions, or to help decide the actual results of the election and help Trump win.  Separate out what I just said they did, and what I just said their motivations might be… and ask whether those motivations are the important part.  Although we shouldn’t take lightly foreign interference in our domestic elections, and Putin himself is one of the most dangerous geopolitical challenges that America faces, some perspective is appropriate.

“That which can be destroyed by the truth, should be.” absolutely applies here.  Nobody is seriously arguing that the information was untruthful, and transparency is a cornerstone of democracy, not an enemy of it.  There is an argument to be made that it’s a selective form of truth, because the information released was on one major candidate and not the other, but keep in mind this is undisputed truth all the same.  Just because I’d prefer as much information as possible on all candidates rather than one, doesn’t make the information unworthy of consideration by the American public.

–Gary Doan

Lost causes worth pursuing

Negan is the ultimate anti-Libertarian government.  Excessive use of force and aggression used to enforce a set of rules that aren’t based upon rights.  A tax rate of “half your shit”.  A modus operandi that institutes gun control as the first policy decree to achieve total control.  The insisting that “we are all Negan” that mirrors the statist substitution of “we”, not for “us”, but for government.  The insisting that the system is necessary for society and security while directly harming both.

While watching the Walking Dead the other night, I started thinking about how there are plenty of losing, unwinnable battles that are still worth fighting all the same.  This extends past a world that has one questioning whether the life offered is even worth living or preferable to death, because in our place in our world, it’s simply not that bad.  My belief that there are some battles worth fighting despite lacking a realistic shot at success shouldn’t come a a huge surprise–after all, I supported the Libertarian candidate for President in the last three elections.  In terms of an electoral victory, there was roughly zero chance of success.  In terms of whether or not enough third party votes would equal positive change in the major parties is a dubious position that can never fully be proven, even if that route is a success.  Was Perot a reason for Republican majorities that offered the “Contract with America” to get his voters back in the fold?  Was Nader a reason for the hard left turn of the modern Democrat Party and it’s adoption of his pet issues into their party’s platform?  Who knows.  It’s too hard to quantify, but I choose to believe the answer is “yes”.

Faithless electors have never, in the history of our nation, changed the result of the Presidential election.  The closest they’ve ever gotten was in 1836, when they changed the result of the vice presidential selection enough to throw the decision to the Senate… which chose the original winner anyway.  The Hamilton Electors, who are hoping to be the first, need to sway 37 electors to prevent Trump from winning outright, and at last count there were about 20 expected to even be entertaining the idea.  If they were to get to 37, they would then have to convince the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to choose someone other than the Republican candidate for President.

Stranger things have happened.  You could make the case that stranger things have happened… this year.  I was among those convinced that Trump would never become the Republican nominee.  I was among those convinced, once he was, that Trump would never become the President.  I was far from alone on this, and all the statisticians and predictive modeling based on polling data… was all wrong.  Given that recent track record, if you choose not to believe my assessment that the Hamilton Electors’ strategy is a lost cause, I’ll understand why.

But assuming they won’t succeed isn’t sufficient enough reason for them not to try.

First off, despite over half the states in the country having laws “binding” electors and having legal penalties for those who don’t comply, there has never been a single attempted prosecution of those who break such laws.  Some states have laws that would make such a break in vote automatically void, but again, they’ve never actually enforced that.  The Supreme Court has never actually ruled on whether these laws that punish these voters or invalidate their votes are constitutional, and can’t until it actually happens.  There is, simply, little to fear from a legal perspective from voting your conscience or for a consensus candidate.

The only real fear is retaliation from the party that such electors are, by their position, in good standing with.  However, the last Republican to be a faithless elector was Mike Padden, who voted for Reagan rather than Ford in 1976… and he’s currently a sitting member of the Washington State Senate.  The one before that was Roger MacBride, who voted Libertarian in 1972.  He became the Libertarian nominee for President in 1976, and rejoined the Republican Party after, helping to establish the Republican Liberty Caucus.  These aren’t men who were cast out or harmed by their faithless votes in the slightest.

So what can actually be accomplished by these votes?  Well, for one, I believe that a vote of conscience is never wasted, regardless of what immediate change it does or doesn’t produce.  Voting based upon principles is, when done en masse, the only kind of voting that can produce change, and it can’t wait to start until the election where it actually matters.  One of the rationales that people use for not voting third party, for instance, is that a third party can’t win.  This is true, but only because it’s a self-fulfilling prophesy.  If people stopped believing that, it would stop actually being true in short order.  Faithless electors have never switched the final results, but there’s a first time for everything that happens.  If, in 2016, they get close but not enough to switch the results, it can boost the belief that it actually can in the future.

Outside of that, this kind of action is meant to send a message.  The message being, as I understand it… Trump does not represent the entire Republican Party.  There are still Republicans attempting to resist Trump, and more importantly, there are still Republicans attempting to resist the integration of Trump’s ideas into mainstream of Republican thought.  This message is meant for several recipients.  It’s meant to embolden a Republican Congress to resist actions Trump might take by decreasing the perceived mandate he has.  It’s meant to tell future voters that Trump does not equal what Republican is, and that whatever candidate they choose to run once Trump is out is unlikely to be Trump 2.0.  And it’s meant to tell Democrats that there are areas both opposed to Trump’s actions and available for bipartisan cooperation simultaneously.

At the end of the day, the Hamilton Electors aren’t going to change the results of this one election, but that doesn’t mean they are wasting their time or energy.  Voting for Trump is a wasted vote, and their votes are not.

–Gary Doan