Read Marx

Obama began the last press conference of his Presidency by thanking the press. By contrast, Trump used his first press conference as President specifically to attack the press.

 
There’s two obvious reasons for this.
 
One, obviously the press have in general viewed Obama as one step above savior and done everything they could to elevate and protect him, even during his more indefensible scandals… while with Trump they did all they could after the primaries to vilify him and took on the difficult, unenviable job of trying to make him look even worse than he actually is.  They both have personal motivation based on how they’ve been treated.
 

The other reason is the style of each man. Obama, even when handling the rare hostile interview or question that he was good at avoiding in the first place, tended to handle himself with poise and grace, while the man about to have control of our nation’s nukes takes even imagined slights and decides they’re grounds for scorched earth responses.

Both reactions disturb me for different reasons.  In Trump’s case, his emotionally based angry attacks towards the press, hostile or not, could portend how he’ll approach conflict as President at a time when Presidents are essentially given free range on foreign policy especially when they don their commander-in-chief hat.  In Obama’s case, thanking the press is little more than an affirmation that they haven’t been doing their jobs for the past eight years, despite how much the press was actually needed during the least transparent administration in history.

These press conferences highlight the need… for us.  They highlight the need to burn down the gatekeepers of information who have proven themselves more than willing to either lock the doors or to use information as a weapon rather than a window.  Their last ditch effort to prevent this from happening is to point out the major flaw of alternate news sources, which they dub “fake news”.  Consumers of media shouldn’t believe everything they read on the internet (even short of the ones created in a parent’s basement or Ukraine), nor should they believe everything they read in the papers or see on TV.  However, the major six media outlets that control 90% of the market are right about one thing.  There are limits to the extent of their lies that do not exist on the internet.  They are wrong to imply that makes them trustworthy.

The only lasting solution to this problem, as I see it, is to be discriminating and realistic consumers of information.  Some sources are more trustworthy than others, yet we should always demand proof.  More than that, we should demand other perspectives on the truth.  There is a tendency among even the most rational to seek out sources that provide confirmation bias rather than news per se, and to wrap oneself further into a bubble that excludes any dissension.

I, for one, may find sources like Reason or my favorite podcasters more comfortable and credible, and there is a place for them.  Republicans tend to be most comfortable with Fox News, Progressives tend to be most comfortable with MSNBC, and Clinton supporters with CNN.  What I suggest is that if your favorite news source is Breitbart or Drudge, that you read a bit of the Huffington Post or the Daily Kos to see another take, or vice versa.  If your favorite source is NPR, check out those whackadoodles on The Blaze.  If your favorite source is Infowars or NaturalNews or any site telling you the world is flat as anything more than a metaphor, well… maybe you should stay off the internet.  But in general one should at least try to consume both sides and the middle when digesting information, and only when we can filter our way towards the truth can we avoid being deceived by fake news, whether on the internet or on major cable news networks, through our own efforts rather than faith in someone else’s.

If you like this blog, as you should… maybe once you’re done reading one of our articles, you should check in to see what Occupy Democrats, Bernie Sanders, or the Communist Party USA have to say today, if only to troll them mercilessly and destroy their comment section with facts.

Go.

–Gary Doan

Pleasant sounding lies

Obama’s farewell address was masterful. Despite his obvious oratory skills guiding him through successful speechifying for years, he’s never lost his touch… and this is one of the best speeches he’s ever given.

We as a nation would have had such a great eight years if his leadership ever rose to the level of his language, if his actions even tried to mimic his words, making them more than hypocritical empty rhetoric running contrary to how he ran this country. Although we still wouldn’t have agreed with each other on everything, if he simply tried to practice the ideals he expressed… he would have easily been the greatest Democrat President since JFK, rather than the worst one since LBJ.

One line in particular near the start of the speech was a dead giveaway, for those who were paying attention, that this was likely to be nothing other than emotionally powerful, masterfully delivered in Orwellian language exercise in deception and evasion to those who have actually paid attention to his presidency.

Whether we’ve seen eye-to-eye or rarely agreed at all, my conversations with you, the American people – in living rooms and schools; at farms and on factory floors; at diners and on distant outposts – are what have kept me honest.

Honest.

I don’t even know where to begin.  This is a President whose signature promises of his signature legislative accomplishment were that “the cost of a typical family’s premium would be cut by $2,500 a year” rather than increase by an average of $4,865, that “if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor” and “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan”.  This is a President who has had the least transparent administration, quantified by a record number of rejected FOIA requests, more prosecutions for whisteblowers under the espionage act than all other Presidents combined… hell, just last month he signed a law creating a government agency tasked with creating propaganda for domestic audiences.  His primary pitch during his party’s primary in 2008 is that he was the anti-war candidate, and when he leaves office he’ll create the historical first of being the only two term President in all of American history to have been at war literally every day of his Presidency, and increased the amount of countries we were bombing from Bush’s two to seven.  Other promises made in 2008 included closing Guantanamo and reaching across the aisle to work with Republicans.  Under his Presidency, Clapper lied to congress about the NSA spying, Holder covered up for the Fast and Furious scandal, and, yeah, sure… he blamed a video and set a red line.  Politifact, which is more than kind to him, has literally four pages of of quotes from him that are false, and that doesn’t even include statements that are “mostly false”.

W. Bush may have lied about WMDs, Clinton may have denied sexual relations with that woman, H.W. Bush may have told us to read his lips, and Reagan probably knew more than he let on about Iran-Contra.  But Obama’s lies were a constant, systemic part of his Presidency, and his oratory nearly perfected the art of making them believable to much of the country despite his actions and the availability of information to the contrary.  If “conversations with the American people” kept him “honest”, I find it hard to imagine the level of depravity he would have been able to unleash upon the truth without them.  In any case, it’s pretty obvious those conversations were completely ineffective at any aim from keeping him honest to allowing him to understand much of the country’s concerns, rather than dismissing them as bitter folk clinging to their guns and their God.  Honestly, the only positive to his level of truth telling is that he’s succeeded in keeping informed Americans of all political stripes skeptical of their own government and politicians.  Unfortunately, even that comes with the unfortunate side effect of Obama midwifing the phenomenon of Trump.

I think it’s likely that President-elect Trump will surpass Obama in terms of the number and magnitude of lies during his Presidency.  Trump lies, provably, constantly, often on Twitter or while he inevitably goes off script in nearly every speech.  The only solace I find is that Trump’s lies tend to be so brazen and so disprovable, and that he’s so unconvincing a speaker, that it will be incredibly easy to tell, and he won’t fool nearly as many Americans.  Obama is like a convincing, successful conman pulling off feats so impressive that you want to give credit to deceptive ability before condemning the actions themselves.  Trump is like an unsuccessful used car salesman who miraculously closed the deal to get into the office despite himself.

–Gary Doan

Don’t read this

Trump logic: Celebrities shouldn’t make political statements because their celebrity status both gives them no special knowledge of policy intricacies and insulates them from the concerns and culture of “everyday Americans”. They should, however, run for President with no qualifications other than celebrity status, and win.

Anti-Trump logic: It’s brave to tell a room full of like-minded individuals exactly what they want to hear.  Namely, a woman whose net worth is upwards of 65 million dollars should claim that her and the rest of Hollywood are vilified, using a platform only possible because America worships and adores Hollywood Stars as heroes and celebrates just that with every self-congratulatory award show they watch.

Actual logic: I can’t blame celebrities for using the platform fame provides to advance their political beliefs, because I certainly would, were I in their shoes.  That said, celebrity political pronouncements, especially at award shows, tend to be vapid, self indulgent drivel that add nothing meaningful to the national dialogue and are inevitably delivered by someone who vastly overestimates themselves, their intelligence, their wit, their importance past their career, and who lack any basic self-reflection or appreciation of any values not held universally by their own Hollywood bubble.

According to trends, over a million Facebook users are, at this moment, talking about Meryl Streep’s Golden Globe speech attacking Trump.  You are reading this.  I took the time to write this.  It’s all a huge waste of time on the part of all of us, and the attention only encourages this behavior.  Today, Jeff Sessions will be confirmed, and there are a host of important confirmation hearings the rest of the week.  This weekend, a US Navy ship fired warning shots at Iranian vessels in the Straight of Hormuz.  The Ivory Coast is heading towards chaos.  There are important budgeting bills that would have huge impacts on the affordable care act, planned parenthood funding, and the national debt.  Obama is sending troops to European countries like Germany, saying it’s meant as a deterrent to potential Russian invasion, implying that such an immediate invasion is plausible.

What did Meryl Streep really say?  She asked us to feel sorry for Hollywood and the Press, because both have deservedly earned bad reputations.  She made the same tired accusation that foreigners have something to fear, and let the Trump supporters slide into their tired accusation that “this is why Trump won”, both of which are arguments that are headed into eye roll territory.  She attacked Trump, and for some reason football and mixed martial arts.  If you can find me the portion of that speech that merits further consideration, especially post-election, and contributes anything to the national discourse outside of filling Facebook with virtue signalling, then you’re viewing something I completely missed.

I’ve tried to keep in mind what is considered “the big news of the day” when determining what the content on this blog considers and covers.  But I just wasted fifteen minutes writing this, you just wasted a few minutes reading this, and we’ll never have this time back.

I apologize.

–Gary Doan

Obstructionism as a Positive, Reading the bills one at a time.

In 2013, Republicans told us that they couldn’t pass any of the laws they campaigned on, because they only controlled one house of Congress.  Because the Senate would reject any of it, they weren’t even going to try, choosing to bide their time rather than force votes onto the record.  In 2015, Republicans gained both houses of Congress, and moved on to telling us that Obama would veto anything important, they didn’t have a veto-proof majority, and that we should wait on a Republican President who would actually sign whatever legislation was passed.  Beginning in less than two weeks, Republicans will hold the Presidency, both houses of Congress, the greatest majority of Governorships since 1922, and similar state legislature control.

The first, top priority Republicans have set is repealing Obamacare, and they’ve already told us that they don’t have the filibuster-proof votes needed to do so in it’s entirety.

I mention this all not to claim that they are wrong, but to place into context the obvious frustration of grassroots Republicans in their elected leaders, who have simply piled on excuses for years that may or may not be reasons, producing little in tangible results for their constituents at the federal level.  It’s already old hat to take the phrase “this is why Trump won”, and apply it to everything you don’t like about your political or cultural opposition.  But in this case, I don’t think it’s even contested to say frustration with Washington and elected politicians was a big part of his rise.

This frustration has lead to calls for suspension of Senate rules with the nuclear option, passing partial repeal in a budgetary bill with it’s 51 rather than 60 vote requirement, and worst of all, kicking the can even further down the road with changes not taking effect for years.

It is progressives and leftists who are well known for claiming that the ends justify the means as part of their ideology, expressed most famously through Trotsky’s “Their morals and ours” and Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for radicals”.  It is conservatives, traditionally, who have respected the process and institutions and tended to confine their advocacy within it, giving respect to the reasons for some of the very rules confining them.  The filibuster may currently be a roadblock to repeal, but much more often it’s used as a roadblock to prevent new legislation and the expansion of government rather than the opposite.  If anything, there are other rules for confining congressional action that could have prevented some of the worst parts of Obamacare and could prevent new negative legislation in the future that Congress would be more just in pursuing than tanking Senate procedure for this short term gain.

Obamacare, which overhauled the entire healthcare system of the US, was thousands of pages long, and many members of congress weren’t even presented with the full bill until just before the vote, with no time to even study it.  Democrats did not allow Republican amendments, or substantial debate, or any kind of niceties usually used to build consensus, even if that consensus generally just comes in the form of adding pork.  It was passed in the short window of time where Democrats had exactly enough votes, and without a single Republican signing on.  I’m not sure there has been a passed bill more partisan in my lifetime.

The most important first steps I see to addressing these problems are common sense, universally (outside of congress and among all major parties) supported changes like the Read the Bills Act and the One Subject at a Time Act.  The only people I know of who oppose either of these, are those who directly benefit from things remaining as they are, and that’s a very small group comprised entirely of lobbyists and congressmen.  And this is exactly why neither would actually be passed by Congress.  Like term limits or a balanced budget amendment, these reforms (despite being supported overwhelmingly by those who elect Congress) are destined to fail because Congress is unlikely to ever vote to limit their own power.  The ability to silently slip in laws and projects into bills that are thousands of pages in order to avoid transparency is, in this century, how consensus is built in Congress.  It allows favors to be distributed discretely, and the process is prized by those who couldn’t justify their actions to their constituents in sunlight.  The law of dispersed costs and concentrated benefits which relies on apathy would face too many hurdles if every action was viewed singularly.

The Read The Bills Act, simply, says that Congress should be required to read the bills they pass.  This doesn’t seem like  a requirement that should garner any opposition whatsoever, but when Rand Paul introduced the legislation in 2012 and again in 2015, he couldn’t get a single cosponsor.  Not one.  It would have required Congress to simply certify that they have read the bill or had it read to them, and require that enough time passes between introduction of the bill and a vote on the bill based on the bill’s length to allow them to do so (24 hours for every 100 pages of text, specifically, which doesn’t seem even close to unreasonable).

The One Subject At A Time Act is also exactly what you’d expect as well.  It, quite simply, requires bills to stick to their subject matter.  For instance, if the bill relates to interstate highways, it can’t also address creating a military base in South Carolina.  If it addresses healthcare, it shouldn’t also award contracts to some construction company in Illinois to build a government office.  Only in Washington, could a requirement that require Congress consider one thing at a time, instead of bundling so many–often unrelated– things together, guarantee it’s own failure.  On this one, only Rand Paul would support it, but again… those who opposed it never did so publicly.

The lack of any coherent argument opposing such common sense requirements is exactly why none were actually made.  Instead, other Senators simply never cosponsored the bills, they were never brought up for a vote, and they died quiet deaths.  Ironically, it is exactly this kind of attitude and parliamentary maneuvering that both highlight the need for reforms like these and ensure their demise, simultaneously.

–Gary Doan

Defunding Planned Parenthood is the Pro-Choice Position

I intentionally avoid the abortion debate.  As I’ve said before, it’s the one political argument that you can never win, where the actual facts don’t matter, and it’s likely to produce anger and frustration even among people who are comfortable debating any other political topic.  Whether one views the fetus as a baby, a clump of cells, or a parasite is often more an expression of feelings than fact, and will likely cloud out dispassionate rational judgement about what the words we use even mean, what the procedure truly entails, or what “common sense” laws surrounding it should even look like.

But as I implied, I’m not here to engage in the morality of abortion, and I recognize that both “sides” can make valid arguments about it.  However, we need to start with a recognition that there are people who disagree with you, and do so strongly, from a moral standpoint that they believe in just as strongly as you believe in your side.  Scientifically speaking, the people who believe the opposite of you on abortion may just be clumps of cells, but that doesn’t mean we should dismiss them as not human merely because their morality runs counter to ours.  If it offends you that some people think that a fetus is actually a baby, or that there are some people who think it’s not, well… recognize for a second that the belief exists, rationally, that they feel strongly about it, and that there’s a large chunk of our country that feels just like they do.  Only after making that consideration, should you approach whether or not Planned Parenthood should receive federal funding.

I’ve always been annoyed with how many people fall into the trap of pretending that “federal law already prevents funds from going to abortion services” means anything.  It’s an accounting trick, just as dishonest as shell corporations or equity swaps.  Say you, as a worker, were making just $300 a week, and finding it hard to make the rent.  Say your raise took you to $500 a week, with a stipulation that the extra $200 couldn’t go towards your rent.  It would still be easier to pay your rent.  You’d merely use some of the original $300 that you were spending on, say, your energy bill or gas money or bar tab, and use it towards rent instead.  The stipulation would be completely and utterly irrelevant, as long as rent was less than the entirety of your check before the raise.  Planned Parenthood makes over 40% of their money from taxpayer donations, so as long as they could fund abortions with the rest, the stipulation is functionally non-existent.  That doesn’t even need to include “shared” expenditures like buildings that are used both for abortion and non-abortion services, employee salaries that have the responsibility to perform both abortion and non-abortion services, etc.  There is simply no honest way to segregate these funds that functionally matters.

The moral rationale for the stipulation that federal funds not be used for abortion is pretty obvious.  Even the most die hard pro-choice extremist, who believes abortion should be allowed even as a method of birth control, at any point of pregnancy before the completion of birth and has no problem even with the partial birth variety and believes that there is no moral component at all to the practice… should still be able to recognize that there are people in the world who believe the practice is literal murder in every sense but it’s legality, and who think that “evil” may not be a strong enough word for condemnation.  I think “evil” is a pretty strong word to describe anything, but forcing someone to contribute to the continuation of the practice, violating their conscience any time they pay taxes to fund what they see as evil?  That forced association is inexcusably immoral to anyone who believes in free association and morality.

Yes, the same argument could be made for pacifists being forced to fund our military, and I’m sympathetic to that argument as well.  But the fact is, our nation requires a military for it’s continued existence, even if we often misuse it, and there’s no way really to fund an effective modern military solely on individual donations rather than the theft of taxation.  Abortions will happen in this country whether or not we continue funding planned parenthood, planned parenthood will still exist and still continue to commit roughly a third of them, and the only thing that would change is who pays for the practice.

Being pro-life is not a requirement at all to accept that other people should be allowed to be pro-life, and to not be forced to fund abortions… in fact, the pro-choice position on this is to give people a choice in their participation.  The only requirements for accepting this limited argument are common decency and common sense.  I don’t agree with Paul Ryan on everything.  But his goal to defund planned parenthood is common cause.

–Gary Doan

Assange and the “hacked” “election”


The big takeaway from Assange’s interview with Hannity last night was apparently his repeated assertions that the source for the DNC emails was not Russia.  Of course, he’s been saying this for months, and he didn’t provide any evidence to verify it.  Verification here is essentially impossible without outright revealing his source, and would involve proving a negative regardless.  As it currently stands, those accusing Russia within our government have provided no concrete evidence that it was the Russians (not even to Congress, which has asked for proof), and neither has Russia been able to prove their innocence.  If this was our criminal justice system, there would be no sanctions or expelling diplomats, but this is politics.  Worse, this is likely brinkmanship foreign policy conducted for a purely domestic political audience aimed at harming an incoming government before the transition of power is complete.

As I said, this is not a court of law.  In the absence of proof, one question is how trustworthy each side is based on previous actions.  This is a case I’ve made before, that Julian Assange has been publishing troves of massive document dumps through wikileaks for about a decade without a single retraction needed, or a single allegation that he’s published something factually inaccurate.  Compare this to the word of Clapper (who lied to Congress), Obama (who lied to the American people), and the CIA (who traffics in disinformation and is no longer restricted from using propaganda on American citizens by law).  I don’t know whether or not it was the Russians, but without proof, Assange is the most trustworthy actor involved.

The only new information he provided about his source was that it was not a “state party”, which excludes more than just Russia at a time when there’s been speculation that the hack came from the Chinese who intentionally made it look like it came from the Russians.  He would neither confirm nor deny Craig Murray’s account that the information came from a leak, rather than a hack, given by a Bernie Sanders supporter in the DNC who was proving collusion against him and corruption in the Clinton Foundation by releasing the information.  In terms of new information, this interview didn’t offer much, but in terms of getting a sense of Assange… whether or not he appears honest, what his goal seems to be, what motivates him, that kind of thing… it was emotionally informative, and worth the hour or so to watch in it’s entirety.  Perhaps he merely appeared more trustworthy sitting next to Hannity, who is always just a bulleted list of Trump talking points strung together thoughtlessly, but it did nothing to make me doubt him any further.

To be fair, I believe that if the information had come from Russia (or the Trump campaign, or China) yet was verifiably truthful and accurate, Assange would still have published it and viewed the motivation of his source as irrelevant to his goal of greater transparency.  I fail to see a break in logic that the source or the motivations of the leaker would be more important to someone who values transparency above nationalism than the content of the truthful information itself.  We’re talking about an Australian who’s been living in an Ecuadorian embassy in England being pursued by Sweden on behalf of other countries, including America.  Why would he care more about whether Russia or China are trying to influence our elections with truthful information more than whether or not our media or major corporations were trying to influence our elections by hiding such information from us, when his focus is on transparency?  For that matter, why would the foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation shown by the leaks, including a big chunk of Hillary’s campaign donations coming from countries like Saudi Arabia, be less of a foreign threat to our democracy than whether or not we know about it?

This entire episode makes no sense past the headlines.  I think those promoting this story must assume that most Americans won’t read any words past the misnomer of “Russia ‘hacked’ our election”, and they won’t care to look any further than that brief and inaccurate summary.  Even if the allegations against Russia are true, the synopsis isn’t.

–Gary Doan

From Grant Park to McCormick Place, three miles and eight years of failure

In 2008, I helped to set up for Obama’s election victory speech at Grant Park.  I was working for a scenery company, and much of what we did was creating sets for plays and t.v. shows, everything from Oprah to Steppenwolf Theater to Ellen.  It’s unsurprising that there are plenty of parallels to politics, and the connections between theater and campaigns are simply too apparent to even waste a misuse of the word irony on.  The main differences were all related to security… the building behind him was constructed in order to prevent any shots from MLK Drive, the glass panels littering the stage weren’t primarily for aesthetics, they were bulletproof, and the podium had a built in metal box designed for the secret service to push him into in the event of any attempts against him.  He may not have received quite as many death threats as Trump, but there were valid reasons to suspect there could be an attempt on his life, not even limited to his status as the first black President.

On January 10th, Obama is set to deliver his farewell address a little over eight years and three miles away from his victory speech.  It seems a little too easy to label his Presidency a failure by most metrics.  Under his Presidency, we’ve doubled the national debt, achieved the lowest labor force participation rate since the 1970s, taken Bush’s two wars and expanded them to seven, taken the quaint concerns of the Patriot Act and expanded government spying to virtually everyone, taken Bush’s practice of extraordinary rendition or torture and upped it to literal assassination via drone, including of American citizens on a literal “kill list”, taken the M2 of our money supply from 8 trillion to 13 trillion, costs for healthcare and education have skyrocketed, and though it’s hard to quantify, it certainly feels as though race relations have deteriorated… it’s actually difficult to find any honest metrics that paint the country’s “progress” under his Presidency in a good light.

Gas prices are lower due to fracking, but I’m not sure you can count that one given that he fought against the practice his entire time in office.  The official unemployment rate is lower, but that’s a meaningless metric next to the labor force participation rate, for the functionality of that statistic seems practically designed to hide the truth, as it’s only dropped because enough of the labor force has simply given up looking for work and therefore are no longer counted.  More Americans are insured, but this has been achieved by essentially making it illegal not to be, and fining people too poor to afford health insurance that make too much to qualify for subsidies… and to try and list it as a positive in the first place assumes that health insurance is a preferable way to fund healthcare.  He did make the call to take out Bin Laden, a call that I feel confident any President in our entire history would have made.

In the opening salvo of his 2008 victory speech, Obama declared… “young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled – Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.”  He was describing a cohesive America he claimed to be proven by his very election.  Since 2008, we’ve seen a sharp divide in voting preferences and worldviews between young and old.  We’ve seen the Occupy movement and Bernie Sanders divide us by class and demonize the rich.  Partisanship has reached new levels, as both sides have retreated into echo chambers and filtered out any dissenting opinions or information more or less en masse.  Race relations seem to have deteriorated into levels not seen since the sixties, with the rise of both the white nationalist influence on the alt-right, and critical race theory being taught in schools as an “acceptable” type of racism with black nationalism’s influence on BLM.

Don’t get me wrong– not all of this was entirely Obama’s fault and there have been significant improvements in America the last eight years.  Tesla is producing self-driving cars and revolutionizing alternate energy generation and storage.  Amazon is starting to deliver packages by drone.  SpaceX has successfully landed a rocket vertically on the ocean.  Through several companies, virtual reality headsets and experiences are entering the mainstream.  There have been several advances in early detection of cancer by big pharma, not to mention gene therapy and biomedical advances.  3D printing has become an actual thing.  Netflix has vastly improved television, both in terms of quality and method of delivery.   Advances all around in computers, from quantum computing to storage capacity and power to what we can even see as possible.  There’s plenty of other major improvements I could list, and nearly all of them have the same thing in common as all of these–they have not come from government, much less the executive branch.  Even the ones I mention that have received government subsidies, like Tesla, wouldn’t have even required them to remain profitable.

In 2008, I supported Bob Barr for President, though I was an election judge for McCain.  However, when Obama was elected, my first thought was based upon “hope”.  “At least he’ll be better than Bush”, I thought.  He failed at that simple task, and did so spectacularly.  I’d like to give him some credit for his eight years, but he’s made it too difficult to do with a straight face.  Most improvements to American life have come from outside of government.  Improvements to “public” policy have happened almost exclusively at the state level, often in direct opposition to federal law.  Judging the eight years of the “Obama-era” should be an easy task for historians, and I’m sorry that the facts won’t allow me to be more charitable to him on his way out the door.

Bye, Felicia.

–Gary Doan

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