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Things to be Thankful for this Thanksgiving

Today is thanksgiving, the day traditionally set aside to commemorate the feast between the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians in 1621. We live in a much different world than the first Thanksgiving revelers. Since then, their descendants rose up against British tyranny and proclaimed a new nation. Civil war scorched the land yet the republic came through. Captains of industry brought the world into a new age. America thundered onto the world stage after the triumph of the Great War then led the world the crusade against Nazi and Italian socialism and Japanese imperialism. When the dust settled, America fought the communists for a generation until the Soviet Union collapsed. Through war and strife, depression and downturn, victory and prosperity the United States prevailed. The same cannot be said for millions. This country has a lot to be grateful for, more so than is commonly recognized. If any of those things did not occur, America would be a much different place, and almost certainly for the worse. It bears enumeration just all that the American people have to be thankful for in regards to our collective history.

Americans should be thankful for the defeat of international communism

            The extent of the crimes of the communists is not commonly understood. At a scholarly level, the horror has been known and accepted for decades but this knowledge has not yet filtered down to the public. Perhaps the most authoritative source on the crimes is the The Black Book of Communism. Drawn up about five years after the Gotterdammerung of communism in the eastern bloc it remains the most complete source on the crimes even today. Within the first few pages, the death tolls of the various regimes are laid out, coming to a grand total of 100 million (100,000,000) deaths.

            Statistics speaking of deaths of the order of magnitude one would expect in a world war takes away some of the humanity involved. The cruelty, hatred and unadulterated evil of the crimes offend the imagination to even conceptualize. What conveys more weight than the raw numbers are the words of the people who ordered the killings. A particularly chilling example is found in a telegram sent by Lenin discussing an uprising by peasants and industrial workers which he delusionally thought was a kulak conspiracy.

“Comrades! The Kulak uprising in your districts must be crushed without pity. The interests of the whole revolution demand such actions, for the final struggle with the kulaks has begun. You must make an example of these people. (1) Hang (and I mean publically so that people see it) at least 100 Kulaks, rich bastards and known bloodsuckers. (2) Publish their names. (3) Seize all their grain. (4) Single out the hostages per my instructions in yesterday’s telegram. Do this all so that for miles around see, understand it, tremble and tell themselves that we are killing the bloodthirsty Kulaks and will continue to do so. Reply saying that you have received and carried out these instructions. Yours, Lenin. P.S. Find tougher people.”

 –Vladimir Lenin quoted in The Black Book of Communism

            Lenin’s coldness in the telegram sums up the attitude of the communist authorities in the countries they enslaved. The same coldness produced the same atrocities. The torture doled out by the Soviet Cheka and NKVD was mirrored from Romania to North Korea. Starvation was mirrored from Ukraine to China. Mass killings from Hungary to Cambodia.

            America played a key role in the death of communism. They were fought on battlefields in the mountains of Korea, the island of Grenada and the fields of Vietnam. By proxy, they were fought in Afghanistan, Angola and elsewhere. The arms race precipitated by the United States drove the Warsaw Pact into spending spiral which accelerated the decline. No matter how it is viewed, the United States played a major role in stamping out the bulk of communism from the world. This Thanksgiving, America should be thankful that the collapse came when it did and that the red tide never reached our shores.

Americans should be thankful for the republican mode of government we enjoy

            The United States was founded on the self-evident truths of the Declaration in order to secure the rights guaranteed to them as Englishmen. When the crown refused to treat the English colonists as citizens but instead as serfs, the rebellion began. Victory in the revolution meant victory for liberty. It meant that America would be “A republic, if [we] can keep it.” We have no nobles and no king. Our military is apolitical and swears allegiance to no party or politician. Our popularly elected legislators and executive magistrates run the country. Our people have enough guns to fight a war by themselves. Yes, Benjamin Franklin could have said that “we have seen the future, and it works” in reference to our Constitutional experiment all those hundreds of years ago. 

Unfortunately the rust of creeping government expansion, the will to surrender liberties for security and popular passions have made the foundations of our liberties creak and groan. We have lost ground but by and large, freedom still works in America. Though tarnished by the fallout of our own political sins, the republic remains.

One cannot say this about many countries around the globe. Freedom House is the most respected player in measuring the state of freedom around the world (hence the name). They empirically measure how countries are faring on the ground taking into account the actions of the police and military, laws being passed, what leaders are saying and the like. Their results have not been encouraging for some time. As per the most recent Freedom in the World report,

“In 2018, Freedom in the World recorded the 13th consecutive year of decline in global freedom. The reversal has spanned a variety of countries in every region, from long-standing democracies like the United States to consolidated authoritarian regimes like China and Russia. The overall losses are still shallow compared with the gains of the late 20th century, but the pattern is consistent and ominous. Democracy is in retreat.”

-Freedom House

            While Freedom House is careful to say this is not a world-end catastrophe, the fact remains that freedom is losing. Gains are eroding in nations which made great strides in the last decade of the 20th century and the first few years of the 21st. Where democracy was well established, the losses are mounting with the same report stating that, “Of the 41 countries that were consistently ranked Free from 1985 to 2005, 22 have registered net score declines in the last five years.”

            Throughout her history, the United States has remained a stalwart symbol of freedom for the downtrodden of the world. While other nations rose and fell, America stood as a constant and unchanging society where men lived in freedom. Even when the yoke of tyranny ensconced most of the world, this nation was defiant. Still today, this defiance persists and this Thanksgiving Americans should be thankful for the same.

Americans should be thankful that our vote matters

            2016 was a contentious election. The news media portrayed a country torn between left and right; a country on the brink of violence in the streets and civil war. Three years ago, the right prevailed and Donald Trump became president in one of the biggest upsets in American history. Next year, he will be up for re-election facing an as of yet undetermined Democrat. Who will win is anyone’s guess. The beauty of it is that it’s all up to us. The American people are masters of their own destiny. Suffrage is universal for citizens over the age of 18 with some exceptions for felons. Anyone can run for office (socialist Eugene Debs once ran for president from federal prison and got hundreds of thousands of votes). Some states allow the voters to voter for literally anyone –even if the candidate didn’t file paperwork. In America, our vote matters and this is not something that can be said of all countries.

            Take Russia for example. Putin ran for his fourth six year term in 2018. Ran should be in quotation marks because the election was flagrantly unfair. His main opponent was disqualified by a criminal conviction that Freedom House calls “politically motivated.” The report on Russia from the same watchdog group calls into question the source of the funding of his campaign, irregularities in the vote counting among other abuses. Of course, rigging elections is not new to Russia. Their perpetually corrupt government has been doing it for a long time and likely will keep doing it for a long time to come. One way to look at it is if the Kremlin is powerful enough to meddle in American elections, imagine what it’s doing to Russian elections.

The same occurrence played out in July of this year when independent candidates running for Moscow city council positions were barred from doing so. Riots ensued. In typical Russian fashion, the regime clamped down with an iron fist. Putin’s thugs decked out in armor and batons took to the streets and cleared the demonstration. The sentences handed down to the political prisoners were excessively long with some going as long as four years. In response, new protests cropped up in September to demand the release of the imprisoned from the last protest. Police said 20,000 demonstrated in the 2nd round but anti-government groups said the number was 25,000. The number for the 1st round was reportedly around 60,000 and topped all Moscow protests in recent memory.

America has very stormy politics. This has been a constant since the beginning and there is no reason to think it will ever change and nor should it. Outside the Era of Good Feelings where the Democratic-Republican Party maintained a monopoly on power, government has been divided as a rule. With the exception of small aberrations like Adam’s Alien and Sedition Acts, Wilson’s Espionage Act and Lincoln’s suspension of Habeas Corpus during the Civil War, all of which were shot down within a few years, nothing resembling tyranny has happened on US soil. The events happening in Russia do not happen in the United States. There has been a checkered history with voting, particularly in the solidly Democratic south but those days are long gone. This Thanksgiving, Americans should be glad that their vote matters and what recently went down in Moscow would not happen here.

As a bonus thing to be thankful for, Hillary Clinton is not the president.

Disclaimer: The author is well aware the article is late and offer apologies.

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The Case Against Socialism by Rand Paul: Conservative Critique Book Review

A lot of good books came out in the last few months about politics and economics. This article starts a new type of article on The Conservative Critique: the book review. In the past, there have been reviews of several books on certain topics but those weren’t time relevant i.e. they weren’t new. For this new type of article, all books review are current and creating a buzz.

            The first book in this new series is The Case Against Socialism by Senator Rand Paul. As one can infer from the title, Senator Paul is no fan of socialism. He’s made this very clear before. Technically, he is a Republican but it would be more appropriate to call him a libertarian considering his staunch anti-war, pro-drug legalization and radically anti-surveillance views. He is harder on big government than almost all republicans, which makes him perfect to take on the ultimate incarnation of big government: socialism. The Case Against Socialism is him doing just that.

            Right at the outset, one has to understand what this book is and what it isn’t. Senator Paul is a statesmen and a physician by trade. While he certainly knows what he’s talking about, he isn’t a professor of economics or political philosophy. The Case Against Socialism is not intended to be a revolutionary debunking of socialism like Mises’s Socialism: an Economic and Sociological Analysis or Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom. Paul’s book does not slam the door on the socialist mentality and it’s not trying to. Instead, it is a distillation of the arguments of socialism’s opponents from the past into an easily readable form. Not many people will pick up a 500 page Mises treatise laden with German words and jargon but a fair bit more will pick up a simpler book with the same ideas in it. Inevitably, The Case Against Socialism will have an easier time reaching the general public than the more substantial books on the subject but the former will not be remembered like the latter.

            First, the structure of the book. This is a very non-threatening volume, as in it’s not hard to read. It is about 300 pages long, the print is decent sized and there is comfortable line spacing. For those not economically inclined, this is a good way to learn about the complex ideas surrounding socialism because it is explained without jargon. The book is divided up into six parts and just shy of 40 chapters with each chapter being like a talking point. Some examples of his chapter headings are, “Interfering with free markets causes shortages,” “Bernie Sanders is too liberal to get elected in Denmark,” “Socialism becomes authoritarianism” and so on. Senator Paul could’ve done better in making the book contiguous in theme. He skips around a lot talking about the Nazis and socialism in one chapter, fundamental principles of socialism in the next and the “green new deal” in the one after. He would have done better to lump all of the theoretical objections to socialism into one part instead of spreading them out over all of them with case studies intermixed. His rough chapter to chapter flow is a bit distracting but it is not a major issue.

            The reader will find his case studies very relevant. Everyone who follows international politics is familiar with the socialism caused catastrophe in Venezuela. Since it is an ongoing event, the analyses of it are still lacking. This commentary will not take the place of the exhaustive volumes certain to be written on it in the future but for the purposes of illustration, it is useful. Senator Paul makes frequent reference to the situation on the ground and how it connects back to the wider debate on socialism. To get a sense of the devastation, he shares some statistics in chapters one and two:

  • Due to the economic collapse and the scarcity of food that resulted from it, 75% of the country’s population has lost an average of 19 pounds.
  • 87% of Venezuelan households were impoverished as of 2017.
  • More than half a million have fled the collapsing socialist state.
  • Billions in public funds have been diverted to foreign bank accounts for the personal use of Maduro and his cronies.

These sobering numbers make the humanitarian plea for the end of the madness that created the infernal situation in the first place. Enemies of socialism traditionally trot out the lessons of history when discussing the matter and this is just the latest lesson. Perhaps the most famous use of the lessons of history attack on socialism is the Black Book of Communism. That volume amounts to a 900 page catalog of atrocities that reads like: “then 5,000 were shot here, then 10,000 were sent to gulags in Kolyma and then 750 were tortured in unspeakable ways…” Venezuela comes in front of a long line of socialistic failures that stretched the world from Havana to Budapest to Moscow to Beijing and Phnom Penh. Just like in those regimes, veritable parades of misery from Venezuela in the form of statistics, firsthand accounts and photos can be cited to decry that which made millions suffer.

Following in this tradition, Rand Paul does not content himself with unbreathing, uncaring numbers. He uses many firsthand accounts of the collapse to bring the numbers to life. Some of his quotations go as follows:

  • “Venezuelans today cannot eat. You see people eating from the garbage.”

 –Margarita Lopez Maya, professor at the Central University of Venezuela

  • “People are hunting dogs and cats in the streets and pigeons in the plazas to eat.”

 –Mayor of Chacao, a suburb of the capital Caracas

  • “We have no food. They are cutting power four hours a day. Crime is soaring.”

–Roberto Sanchez, unemployed construction worker in La Victoria

            There is something powerful that comes from personal testimony of suffering. That something cannot be captured in numbers and the inclusion of quotations to this effect humanize the deeply impersonal nature of raw stats. The only thing he could have done more would be to add pictures of the political unrest, abject poverty and borderline starvation in the country but alas, he did not.

            Rand Paul covered a lot of ground in his book. Because of this and the small scope of book reviews in general, nowhere near all of his material can be touched on here. For case studies, he also discusses Sweden and its economic history in great detail. He also touched on that Equatorial Guinea, Egypt, Nazi Germany and others.

Since this is not exclusively a history book or one of theory, Senator Paul covers a few bits of political and economic theory too. Consider Part III of his book titled, “A boot stamping on the human face forever –socialism and authoritarianism.” Opening with a clear nod to the INGSOC tyrants of 1984, Paul makes the point that socialism is intertwined with authoritarianism (as can be inferred from the title). His wording on the opening page of Part III indicts the whole history of socialist experiments:

“Socialists want to argue that each case from Zimbabwe to Nigeria to Equatorial Guinea to North Korea is an anomaly or that none of these historical examples are ‘real’ socialism. And yet the ‘liberators’ time and time again call themselves socialists.”

-Rand Paul, The Case Against Socialism

The point he makes is that socialism inevitably devolves into tyranny or collapses. This is not a new argument either. Von Hayek articulated this argument best in The Road to Serfdom where he called it “the worst ris[ing] to the top.” In the coming chapters, Rand Paul combines a simplified form of Von Hayek’s theoretical criticisms and case studies of Nazi Germany and Maoist China where those criticisms played out like a symphony orchestra.

The Case Against Socialism in the end does what it’s intended to do: give a simplified version of complex ideas and a primer on the history of socialist experiments. It is clearly not meant to be a slam dunk discussion ender like Hayek’s The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism and it doesn’t have to be in order to be a worthwhile read. History won’t remember Rand Paul as master-scholar who wrote a landmark book on the subject of socialism. But it surely will remember him as a principled right leaning libertarian who made a difference in American politics time and again.

Photo credit: “Sen. Rand Paul: We Must Restore Congressional Authority on Declaring War” via TIME

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Good Things Trump Recently did that the Leftist Media Ignored

With the leftist media singularly focused on the issues of impeachment, taxes and an array of other scandals, they ignore lots of positives of the Trump presidency. The chief executive is not perfect and no one is saying he is. Plenty of scandals with his administration have merit including the current impeachment mess. While this is true, even broken clocks are right twice a day. Just like the broken clock, Trump is doing good things even in the midst of the web of scandals.

            Yesterday, he signed an executive order creating a task force on missing and murdered American Indians. In doing so, the president highlighted an often overlooked issue, that of significant numbers of American Indian women and girls going missing. During the press conference, Trump referenced a sobering statistic that “more than 5,000” went missing in a year. As of December 31, 2017, the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database contained 88,089 active missing person records. What this task force will do in reality is make collaboration between different levels of government and law enforcement organs go smoother. Any practical affect this will have is unknown at this time.

            The only drawback of this endeavor was that the executive order was signed in the Oval Office –right in front of a portrait of Andrew Jackson. The 7th president is remembered for two things: Jacksonian Democracy, the expansion of suffrage to most white men and the Indian Removal Act. Of course, the former is laudable but the same cannot be said of the latter which resulted in the Trail of Tears. For this reason, President Jackson and American Indians do not mix terribly well. Tribal leaders were present for this occasion in the Oval Office. Signing the executive order in the presence of American Indian officials with a large portrait of Jackson on the wall was a simple blunder that could have been avoided by signing it anywhere else in the White House. Diplomatic faux-pas like this make one wonder if anyone in the White House took a history course.

            On the counterterrorism front, Trump did some work. A day before the anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, the president signed an executive order reorganizing sanctions to better combat terrorism. One of the things this act does is expand the entities classified as terroristic in nature. According to the State Department,

“Today, the Department designated Hurras al-Din, an al-Qa’ida-affiliated group in Syria, as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT).  The Department has also designated as SDGTs 12 leaders of previously designated groups, including Hizballah, HAMAS, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, ISIS, ISIS-Philippines, ISIS-West Africa, and Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan.  In addition to these actions, the Department of the Treasury has designated 15 terrorists affiliated with ISIS, ISIS-Philippines, ISIS-Khorasan, al-Qa’ida, HAMAS, and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force under the same authority.”

-State Department

            The other part of the executive order is the denial of the financial institutions of the United States to the blacklisted entities. Since more parties have found themselves on the blacklist, the logic is that financing their operations will be more difficult. Sanctioning terrorists isn’t new. America has been doing it to Islamic terror groups for a long time. In fact, the executive order Trump signed is really just an expansion of one Bill Clinton signed in 1995 (Executive Order 12947). Regardless of what someone thinks about Trump’s taxes, the mess with Ukraine or any of his other scandals, it is hard indeed to disapprove of fighting terrorism more efficiently.

            Building on that, Trump revealed on Tuesday that Mexican drug cartels will be designated as terrorist organizations. The same logic that applies to Middle Eastern terrorist groups applies to Mexican and Central American drug cartels. Regulations on commerce with the organization and material support of it will come into effect when the declaration comes down. The New York Times elaborated,

“Once a group has been designated as a terrorist organization, it is illegal for people in the United States to knowingly provide support for it, and its members are barred from entering the country. Financial institutions are also forbidden from doing business with the organization.”

-New York Times

            Beyond the economic implications of this counterterrorism move, Trump didn’t rule out the military option. In the original interview with former FOX News anchorman Bill O’Reilly, the president was asked if he would consider drone strikes in Mexico. Trump responded, “I don’t want to say what I am going to do, but they will be designated.” It is telling that force wasn’t ruled out in the interview. Whether this is precursor to further action against the cartels, even action of the military persuasion remains to be seen.

            The Trump administration is plagued by scandals and they do deserve lots of media coverage. While the press has a duty to cover those, they also should cover the genuine positives that the president has accomplished. In the midst of the constant negative pounding by the press, good things are happening –even if the press isn’t covering them.

Photo credit: President Trump Says Mexico Will Pay for the Wall. But His Tax Plan Means Americans Will” via Fortune

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Our Allies are Dying and the President Doesn’t Care

            Around a week ago, Turkey marched into Syria. Their mission is to drive back the Kurdish YPG militia. The YPG is backed by the United States because they are liberals fighting both the Al-Assad government and ISIS. Indeed, they function as one of the main ground forces fighting ISIS in the region. Ankara’s attack placed America and Turkey against each other. Trump was forced to stand or fold and the stakes were high. In the critical moment, the president’s resolve failed. He ordered American forces out of the region just before the attack.

            The conservatives unleashed a cacophony of criticism immediately. Seemingly everyone on the right responded in unison. Their condemnations took no prisoners.

“I don’t believe it is a good idea to outsource the fight against ISIS to Russia, Iran, and Turkey. They don’t have America’s best interests at heart.

–Lindsey Graham (R-SC)

“I feel very bad for the Americans and allies who have sacrificed to destroy the ISIS Caliphate because this decision virtually reassures the reemergence of ISIS. So sad. So dangerous. President Trump may be tired of fighting radical Islam. They are NOT tired of fighting us.”

–Lindsey Graham (R-SC)

“We must always have the backs of our allies, if we expect them to have our back. The Kurds were instrumental in our successful fight against ISIS in Syria. Leaving them to die is a big mistake. #TurkeyIsNotOurFriend

–Nikki Haley (former US ambassador to the UN)

“If reports about US retreat in #Syria are accurate, the Trump administration has made a grave mistake that will have implications far beyond Syria.”

-Marco Rubio(R-FL)

“This President’s decision to abandon our Kurdish allies in Northern Syria is ultimately a victory for Assad, Russia, Iran, and ISIS. The Administration must immediately reconsider withdrawing the few remaining U.S. troops who are playing a vital peacekeeping role.”

–Mitt Romney (R-UT)

            The quixotic Kentucky senator Rand Paul was one of the few who came to Trump’s defense. Predictably, his statement had nothing to do with the nuances of foreign policy and the need for compromise in such. Senator Paul contented himself with platitudes about “endless wars” and proceeded to not offer a plan for keeping ISIS from resurging.

“I stand with @realDonaldTrump today as he once again fulfills his promises to stop our endless wars and have a true America First foreign policy.”

–Rand Paul(R-KY)

            Conservatives and leftists in the House of Representatives actually united to oppose Trump’s Syria pull out fiasco by means of a non-binding resolution of condemnation. The resolution didn’t pass by a hair line margin either, it was quite the opposite. The chamber voted 354-60 in favor of it. The Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee who is a New York Democrat said “What kind of message does this send to the world? How can America be trusted to keep its word when we betray one of our close partners?” When something can draw the scorn of leftists and conservatives alike to the extent that the House passes a resolution on it, it can safely said that it deserves condemnation.  

            Trump seemed to develop a multiple personality disorder in the aftermath of the invasion; He would say one thing and then do something different. To his credit, the action taken after his grave mistake of pulling troops from the Syrian border region is tolerable. Responding to Turkey’s incursion into Kurdish territory Trump hit back with economics. A proposed $100 billion bilateral trade deal was shelved. Steel tariffs went up. The Treasury was empowered to sanction specific Turkish officials.

            That is all well and good but it is not enough. America’s European allies have taken the initiative in opposing Turkey. Germany and France have both halted their arms shipments to the country. Talk is brewing the European Union corridors of power of a complete arms embargo on the aggressing power. Beyond this, the French say that Turkey’s very membership in NATO is in question. Economic measures are just not enough. The European powers recognize this and in their seriousness to stand against Erdogan have acted on it. If Trump was serious, he would stand shoulder to shoulder with our allies.

            Not only did he not do this, his rhetoric told a different story than his actions did. Much in the vein of Rand Paul’s cookie cutter criticism, Trump took to twitter and wrote,

“I am the only person who can fight for the safety of our troops & bring them home from the ridiculous & costly Endless Wars, and be scorned. Democrats always liked that position, until I took it. Democrats always liked Walls, until I built them. Do you see what’s happening here?”

–President Donald Trump

            In the midst of a crisis, he still managed to make it about the only person he seems to care about, him. Trump’s fixation on Trump is not what is at issue here though. What he did was frame the entire Syria situation through the lens of “bringing the troops home” and in doing so committed a major oversimplification. Whenever the United States leaves a country lacking in development such as Syria, it creates a power vacuum that allows one unsavory element or another to take power. In the end the result is worse than it was when it started. That line of thought can fairly justify not intervening in the first place but that is not relevant here. America is already there and if its forces leave, there will be a power vacuum. How to pull out of this sort of situation has baffled military and civilian officials alike for decades but one clear principle of it is to not pull out in the middle of large scale war (and there are currently multiple wars raging in Syria). One can argue how much water firemen should expend on a burning building to put it out and how much to soak it down afterwards so it doesn’t start up again but who will argue that the firemen should leave while half the building is still aflame? That is exactly the situation Trump has precipitated with his pull out and yet he defends it with his absurd platitudes.

Trump’s bumbling buffoonery only continued as the days and the invasion wore on. In another bid to defend the retreat, he expressed willingness to concede US influence to our enemies. Again on twitter, he wrote,

After defeating 100% of the ISIS Caliphate, I largely moved our troops out of Syria. Let Syria and Assad protect the Kurds and fight Turkey for their own land. I said to my Generals, why should we be fighting for Syria….

….and Assad to protect the land of our enemy? Anyone who wants to assist Syria in protecting the Kurds is good with me, whether it is Russia, China, or Napoleon Bonaparte. I hope they all do great, we are 7,000 miles away!

–President Donald Trump

            Those two tweets have a lot to unpack. What stands out the most is that he admitted he would abandon US influence in the Middle East and cede it to Russia, China or judging by his reference to the long dead French emperor (who, unlike Trump, was a master of strategy) quite literally anyone else who wants to show up. No matter what way one looks at it, it doesn’t make sense for any country to voluntarily shrink its sphere of influence. But for some reason, the president is oblivious to this. Aside from this, he forgets that the Kurds are the best bet Syria has for at least part of it to become a free, liberal state. The only democracy in the region is Israel and just one other small state with a like political persuasion would aid America’s regional position. Not to mention that millions of more people would live free. Not to mention that the Kurds have fought valiantly against ISIS. Just how valiantly did they fight? They only fought hard enough to lose 11,000 troops killed in action (this is a significant amount).

            If only Trump could content himself with snubbing the Kurds and leaving them to die! He did not have the decency to even that. Instead he openly maligned them a few days later! The president said of the Kurds they are “not angels” which is a slap in the face considering they were our closest ally in the fight against the ISIS barbarians who truly, were no angels. The Guardian summed up his following comments nicely, “At one point the US president declared the Kurdish insurgents in Turkey (the PKK), strongly linked to Kurdish forces in Syria, ‘were more of a terrorist threat than ISIS.’ His remarks closely mirrored Ankara’s talking points but were starkly at odds with US intelligence and defense assessments which identify ISIS as a direct threat to US security” Even though Turkey invaded Syria, the Europeans are discussing removing the country from NATO and they are currently fighting a critical US ally, Trump expressed zero concern for the safety of US nuclear weapons in Turkey. If Erdogan has shown he cannot be trusted to not invade his neighbors, how far can he be trusted with some of the most powerful weapons ever designed within his borders?

            What this all comes down to is that Turkey is fighting a US ally and the president is standing by and letting it happen. He has done a few things to punish Turkey but the real punishment is being doled out by the Europeans. He has not expressed any desire to curb Turkey’s ambitions by means of exclusion from the NATO alliance or given serious talk to a full arms embargo. If his actions painted him as against the attack, his words painted him as indifferent to it and supportive of conceding US influence to the Russians and the Chinese. This retreat and his subsequent enabling words will be remembered as the great betrayal of the Trump presidency if nothing changes.

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Why I as a semi-Libertarian can never vote for a Libertarian Party candidate

The other day, I was scrolling through YouTube and watched an hour and half long debate at the Libertarian SoHo Forum.[1] Two libertarian activists, Dave Smith and Nicolas Sarwarck, were sparring over whether the LP should ever run candidates like Gary Johnson and Bill Weld at the top of the ticket. Considering the fact that the Johnson/Weld ticket won almost 4.5 million votes in the last election (which is an astounding feat for a third party), I was given to think that more candidates like them should run in the future. Gary Johnson is not Ron Paul, he’s not kind of like Ron Paul, and he’s not in the same football stadium as Ron Paul. The latter is a firebrand who took stands on the issues, while the former is not an intellectual and supplemented his deficiencies with eyebrow-raising gaffes (think Aleppo). Bill Weld is a lukewarm Republican who is about as energizing as a dead catfish lying on a beach.

            That being said, they did better than any other candidate in the history of the LP and that’s says a lot. The facts are that there aren’t that many libertarians in America, which precludes them from running firebrands for the Oval Office. Republicans and Democrats have a huge, (perhaps soon not insurmountable) advantage in manpower. Because of that, they can afford to run the radicals. Even so, that often fails; look at the Goldwater campaign. Therefore it made little sense to me for the LP to do anything but run Johnson/Weld like tickets even though they are lightyears from perfect, otherwise, they would have no chance of ever winning.

            I mentally mused on these points throughout the debate and was not swayed throughout its course. While watching it, I couldn’t help but notice the rhetoric they used with regards to foreign policy and the military. It is a policy plank of the libertarian movement that they are anti-war and are for a limited international role for the United States. That is all well and good, but the phraseology they use is troubling at the highest order. When I listen to them talk on this subject, they talk more like revolutionary Marxists than rightists. They are, of course, not rightists, but libertarianism is fundamentally a lot closer to conservatism than leftism. With that in mind, I did not expect rhetoric invoking Hitler and Stalin when talking about the US government’s security infrastructure and vitriolic attacks on the US military.

            In the first ten minutes of the debate, Dave Smith said the following:

  1. “we’ve got a warfare state that can’t find a conflict that it doesn’t want to get bogged down in … and a police state that would make Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin impressed”
  • “You think that Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler wouldn’t look at what we have and go ‘god damn, they gave the department of education a SWAT team. These bastards are good.’”
  • “Do you guys remember the George W Bush administration? ‘[Imitating George Bush] Ooh, the terrorists are wrong and the troops are the good guys’ and he [Ron Paul] went ‘eh not so much. The troops are kind of the bad guys in this fight and the terrorists are kind of acting how any of us would if someone did that to them.’”

I feel compelled to respond these claims so, one by one, responses follow. To the first part of point one, it is indeed true that the US is involved in a large amount of global conflict. That’s an objective reality. Why is this? The US is by far the strongest power in the free world and no other nation comes close. She is the international vanguard of liberty. America does the hard jobs around the world that no-one else wants to or is able to. Lots of mistakes have been made and no one is going to say otherwise. The 2000s Middle Eastern wars were beset with blunders –mostly by Washington bureaucrats sticking their nose into the military’s sphere. The profuseness of America’s campaigns abroad is not indicative that they are about shoring up an empire or subjugating foreigners; rather, they could be chalked up to fighting the global war on terrorism that no other nation seems to want to help in.

            The Hitler and Stalin references are completely uncalled for. A long time ago, my high school AP European History teacher had a saying that goes like this, “Don’t talk about Hitler in politics unless we’re actually talking about Hitler. The first person to bring up Hitler loses.” In other words, if a person starts talking about Hitler when the subject is not history, or the political theory of the Nazis or the like, it is an act of desperation. It is a last ditch appeal to emotion made by a losing party. With that aside, the reference is not even accurate. It is very true that the technology the state can use for surveillance has rapidly increased from the 1930s, ‘40s and early ‘50s. Governments around the world have webs of surveillance that are far too expansive. Those two dictators would be impressed, but they would be impressed by the technology – not how we use it. If America is a totalitarian state comparable to the Soviet Union’s Stalinist era, then we are making really bad use of our technology. How many political prisoners are sent to gulags every year? How many dissidents are shot in front of bullet-riddled brick walls every day? Most importantly, do we the people have to live in fear of the state because of this? Those questions have self-evident answers. America has all a lot of surveillance tech, but they don’t use it in a way that would constitute totalitarianism. If that were not the case, Freedom House which is the preeminent watchdog group for democracy and freedom would not be producing more or less glowing report on America’s situation. If Hitler and Stalin had this kind of tech, the story would be different. If that were the case, then the history of those two bastions of evil would be significantly worse than the Orwellian nightmare 1984. That being said, a lot of work has to be done to dismantle much of the surveillance apparatus the state has accumulated. This includes getting rid of that Department of Education SWAT team.

            I can stomach the Hitler and Stalin references and the criticism of American foreign policy as a “warfare state,” though I patently disagree, but I draw the line at what came next. When I heard what Dave Smith said in point three, I said something completely unprintable. Saying that the troops are the bad guys is my line in the sand. When that is crossed, I can’t in good faith, support that figure or what he represents. There are, indeed, some instances where American forces have committed atrocities; take the Biscari massacre in WWII where dozens of Axis prisoners were killed. Wanton acts of violence against prisoners like that are unconscionable and no one would defend them. The commission of atrocities is the only case where specific US troops should be called “bad guys.” But that is not what this libertarian activist meant:  He was saying not only were the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan wrong (a fair position), but the troops themselves were the “bad guys,” which then leaves the terrorists as the “good guys,” (a completely unfair position). Forgive me for believing that the terrorists who suicide bomb civilians, drive trucks into crowds, and fly planes into towers are the real “bad guys.” Forgive me for believing that upstanding men and women sometimes, not out of their teens who join the armed forces to defend freedom and justice, are the “good guys,” even when the mission they are sent on falls short of the high ideals they signed up for. There can be legitimate disagreements over the necessity of a military operation, but one has to realize that the US does not embark on manifestly unjust campaigns. America does not go around annexing countries, going to war with other democracies, and outside of instances of total war, (such as the WWII carpet bombing campaigns), She does not kill civilians just to kill civilians. Those actions are unjust, but the United States does not do things like that. Without doing things like that, in what world would those men and women who joined the armed forces be the bad guys?

            My family has a long history of military service in this country going all the way back to the days of WWI. I love America because I learned about the sacrifices they made to defend freedom and justice at an early age. Those veterans are all long since dead now, but the sacrifices they made do not die. Freedom has not been consigned to books long since burned by one totalitarian power or another because the international vanguard of liberty that is America was there when the world needed Her. Without men and women like those who served in my family, the world today would resemble a dystopian Hell as envisioned by Ray Bradbury or George Orwell.

The libertarians that I watched on the SoHo Forum don’t seem to see this and that is a reflection of both the LP and the wider movement itself. Voting for LP candidates, doing activist work for them, donating to them, or doing anything that would give them material support is, thus, untenable for me. I’ve always considered myself a conservative with some libertarian leanings and I probably still will, but I will make two changes from now on:

  • I will need to forever make the distinction that I support the libertarian movement only on the basis of freedom and economics – never on foreign policy or the military.
  • I will never vote for a candidate running on the LP ticket because that would imply my endorsement of not only the freedom and economics angle, but also the foreign policy and military angle, which is unacceptable.

Photo credit: “Libertarian dream ticket stumbles at convention” via Legal Insurrection

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Rhetoric Over Guns Burns White Hot

                Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke said last week, “Hell yeah we’re going to take your AR-15. If it’s a weapon designed to kill people on the battlefield, we’re going to buy it back.” This was the start of a now viral twitter exchange which is keeping the debate on guns hot. Texas representative Briscoe Cain retweeted O’Rourke with the caption “My AR is ready for you Robert Francis.” The Democrat took advantage of Cain’s aggressive tweet and responded, “That is a death threat, representative. Clearly you shouldn’t own an AR-15 –and neither should anyone else.” This exchange shows in sharp relief how toxic the gun control argument has become.

                That wasn’t the only time O’Rourke was in the news on gun control lately. He also has been squaring off with Mayor of South Bend Indiana Pete Buttigieg on and off twitter. Buttigieg, seeing the political danger of openly calling for gun confiscation turned on his fellow Democrat. On CNN, Buttigieg remarked that O’Rourke’s comment “will be played for years at Second Amendment rallies with organizations that try to scare people by saying Democrats are coming for your guns.” He further said that this is a “golden moment” to move on gun control. In a thinly veiled reference to Buttigieg, O’Rourke tweeted, “Leaving millions of weapons of war on the streets because Trump and McConnell are ‘at least pretending to be open to reforms’? That calculation and fear is what got us here in the first place. Let’s have the courage to say what we believe and fight for it.”

                News coverage wise, O’Rourke has been popular as of late. He also has been making headlines because his rhetoric has been heating up in a different sense –he is constantly cursing. It has become such a phenomenon that Politico even wrote a story about it appropriately titled, Can the F-Bomb Save Beto After the El Paso shooting, reporters questioned him about Trump’s role in the violence which incensed O’Rourke. Feeling the president’s role was obvious he responded by saying, “members of the press, what the f-ck?” Politico also noted that O’Rourke described the rash of mass shootings as “f-cked up.”

                It says something about the state of American politics that a mainstream publication ran a story weighing the pros and cons of obscenity. This is not the time for moral grandstanding about cursing. It is not hard to hear obscenity on TV, read it on the internet or even hear it shouted on the highway. Cursing pervades society but does it really have a place at the highest level of political discourse? Extreme obscenity hurts the dignity of the office O’Rourke is pursuing. While the topic is at hand, Donald Trump should refrain from public cursing for the same reason –it is simply below the office. If it’s the shock value O’Rourke and to a lesser extent Trump wants, this isn’t the way to get it. Even so, this suffers from diminishing marginal returns as it would be called in economics jargon. Every time it is invoked, the shock value decreases. It may have grabbed both the president and the prospective president a headline or two early on (indeed, we’re still talking about it) but the political capital that can be harvested from it will steadily decline until the cost (being below the office) outweighs the shock value.

                Elsewhere, the city of San Francisco in their infinite wisdom decided it was a good idea to brand the National Rifle Association a terror group. The city made their declaration in response to the shooting that occurred at the Gilroy Garlic Music Festival and was passed on September 8th. In response, the NRA filed suit against the city. One would expect something so bizarre to be the work of Saturday Night Live or some other satire show but this is serious. One would not imagine that the proper conduct of local government includes branding their political enemies as terrorists but that is exactly what happened. There is something very dark about even symbolically declaring that political enemies are actual traitors and codifying it in resolution. In the background are echoes of the conduct of authoritarianism. To the historically inclined, it may even conjure up images of the Soviets denouncing supposed traitors as capitalists, imperialists, foreign spies, Trotskyists and the like before they brought the hammer down. America treads on dangerous territory.

Post script: The post frequency of The Conservative Critique has dropped off as of late as I have started a new semester of college and my studies have made me devote less time to this website. I apologize sincerely to those who read these articles because I cannot convey to the readers how the readers mean to me. The Conservative Critique will continue indefinitely, but for the foreseeable future, the post frequency will be diminished. All I ask is that readers do not unsubscribe because of this. I will continue to strive for quality and intellectual honesty.

Photo credit: GunDailyNews.com

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We will never forget

Today is 9/11. 18 years ago America was changed forever by 19 men with box cutters. In a brazen act that could not be imagined by civilized men, the innocents were slaughtered by the hundreds and the thousands. Women, children and men of peace were blown away without discrimination. They had not war’s decorum to take up their grievances with the men and women tasked with protecting the people. Rather, they picked targets that could not defend themselves. In all the annals of history, few more cowardly displays of hate can be found. They knew they would die in the attacks and would never sit in an American court room where they would be found guilty and if there was any justice in this world, executed. They choose the coward’s way out by perishing in the attack rather than face righteous retribution. The depth of the cowardice, savagery and abject evil of the 9/11 attacks cannot be overstated.

                2,977 Americans were killed that fateful day. Almost two decades since, the death toll continues to climb. When the towers fell, the dust cloud filled with contaminants swept over the city. Untold thousands were exposed to toxic substances from the burning jet fuel to asbestos and everything in between. Terrible illnesses resulting from 9/11 have claimed over 1,700 lives as of 2018. At the same time, just shy of 10,000 cases of cancer have been attributed to that evil day. What’s even worse is that the current cancer numbers are likely just the tip of the iceberg.

“I don’t think we have reached 15 percent of the cancer we’re going to see,” -Dr. Ray Basri, New York Medical College professor

In the years ahead the price in human lives is only set to increase. The terrorists still kill even though they are almost two decades dead.

                The costs in terms of dollars are just as staggering. The Balance cited a New York Comptroller’s office survey which found the attacks cost America $55 billion. $24 billion of that came from the lost income generated by the thousands of dead, cleaning up the site cost another billion, treating injuries initially cost $5 billion, repairing other buildings cost $5 billion, fixing the subway system cost $6 billion, big ticket items like cars cost another $6 billion and replacing the towers with the new building cost $8 billion more. When one factors in extra spending on the military, homeland security and the healthcare that will be needed by war veterans, as the New York Times did, the estimate rises to an eye popping $3.3 trillion.

                In the end it really doesn’t matter just how much productivity was lost by the thousands killed or the amount America shelled out on defense. None of that can ever equal the damage dealt in terms of innocent men, women and children blown away. Like the Civil War and Pearl Harbor in generations gone before, 9/11 is a hole in heart of America. The damage dealt is so gargantuan, so titanic, so obscene and absurd that it is tattooed on the nation’s spirit.

                18 years have passed. The rubble is cleared away. Monuments have been built. Old buildings have been fixed and new ones erected. What remains of it all? As another year passes, what still lasts? The only way one can answer that is the sacrifice of the thousands. Dollars don’t stack up next to lives and neither do towers of glass and steel. All that matters are the 2,977 who died that day and all those who died because of the lethal dust since. Those fine Americans gave their lives for their country even though they never saw a battlefield. The victims of 9/11 are heroes and as platitudinous as it may sound we must never forget their sacrifice.

We must face our enemies and proclaim that we will never forget. We will the people will never forget the ash in the New York sky. We will never forget the flames over Washington. We will never forget the heroes who went down in the Pennsylvania field. We will never forget the over 5,000 US servicemen who perished in combat since 9/11. America will never forget.

Photo credit: “Iconic 9/11 flag, missing for years, returns to New York City” via CNN

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The Greenland Purchase

Recently, a bizarre saga has been playing out between Washington, DC, Copenhagen and Nuuk. Reviving the old American strategy of purchasing large tracts of land from foreign powers to enlarge the country, President Trump has been looking into buying Greenland. There is much to unpack here. Without diving into the strange world of geopolitics, this proposal looks off the wall. There is method to the madness, though, much to the chagrin of the habitual Trump bashers.

Greenland as a strategic location

America has a long history of military involvement in the territory. It started in 1940 when the Nazis overran Denmark – Greenland’s mother country. To keep the island out of German hands and thereby prevent it from being used as a staging base for operations against Britain, or even Canada, or the American homeland, US forces were sent in. A military presence in Greenland was maintained throughout the war and continued on since then.

Once the Nazi threat was destroyed by the combined might of American factories and Russian blood, the US faced a new arch nemesis: the very people who they partnered with to defeat the Germans. The globe-trotting war against communism invariably found Greenland playing a role. What the island represented was a halfway mark between the Soviets and the Americans. Whoever controlled it would have a leg up on the other. Since the US still had a presence there left over from WWII, it was obvious who would control it. Greenland was bolstered with a ring of radar stations which would take any surprise out of a surprise Soviet attack in the Arctic. There was even a massive underground base built there called Camp Century which Star Wars fans might liken to Echo Base from The Empire Strikes Back. Better than that was the plan to put nuclear missile silos under the ice, which did not pan out. US Cold War policy in Greenland had hits and misses certainly, but the value of the successful ventures such as the radar cannot be overstated.

The arctic island has shown itself to be an important piece of real estate for a very long time. Greenland was a strategic garrison against Nazi expansion in WWII and it served an array of purposes in the Cold War. If Trump purchased it, the strategic effect it has had in the past will not diminish at all. With tensions between America and Russia at a high point since the fall of the Iron Curtain, the value of Greenland is evident.

Natural resources

All considerations of the location of Greenland aside, it has real economic potential. With only a small population of a few tens of thousands, industry is not the island’s strong point. What it lacks in factories and fields, it makes up in minerals. The Brookings Institute studied the mineral wealth of the territory in 2014 and made some promising statements. Loads of oil could be found in Greenland with two oil fields that could be brought online before 2025, with one containing half a billion barrels and the other four times that. Interest was also shown in the East Greenland Rift Basins Province which could contain upwards of 30 billion barrels of hydrocarbons. The same group reports that mineral firms have been eyeing Greenland for investment for some time. It is important to note that a crucial lack of infrastructure complicates all exploitation of natural resources.

Conclusions

There are strategic and economic cases to be made for the purchase of Greenland. On those merits, it seems fair for President Trump to proceed with the deal if he can get Copenhagen and Nuuk to agree. Most of the United States was either bought from foreign powers or won as spoils of war. Buying Greenland would not be out of the ordinary in American history. Analysts are saying that Greenland is analogous to how Alaska was when it was bought from Russia. The former of the two has vast mineral wealth and is an excellent location for power projection in the region; just the same can be said of the latter of the two. Investment in no slight magnitude will be required to realize Greenland’s full potential, but no one is more suited to develop than Americans. To keep Russia in check in the Arctic, more resources are needed and Greenland is the perfect place to house them.

At this point though, it looks like no amount of musing about oil, rare earth metals and military bases will make the deal go through. Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has said in an interview that Greenland is “not for sale.” While Copenhagen has rebuffed Washington’s quasi-offer, they have not rebuffed America. PM Frederiksen went on to quip that, “jokes aside, we would naturally love to have an even closer strategic relationship with the US.” The US-Danish relationship at that point was not put in jeopardy – much to anger of the habitual Trump haters in the press who manufactured a way for this to prove Putin is Trump’s puppet master. After the olive branch from Denmark, President Trump countered by dropping a meeting with PM Frederiksen in a few months. This snub was undiplomatic and does strain bilateral relations, but Denmark cannot afford to hold a grudge against the country that is in the words of Denmark’s PM, “our most important ally.” What the next movement is, in this odd geopolitical dance, is anyone’s guess.

Photo credit: “Could Greenland be the new Alaska?” via Forbes

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Shots fired at San Antonio ICE office a result of left wing hysteria?

Early Tuesday morning, gunshots rang out in San Antonio. They were directed at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office. Luckily, no one was killed or wounded in the attack. FBI special agent Christopher Combs who runs the San Antonio wing of the bureau condemned the attack and said it could have caused “the assassination of a federal employee.” All evidence of the shooting was recovered inside ICE offices which makes it certain that it was targeted. The FBI will be opening an investigation into the incident. ICE officials pulled no punches in casting the blame. Daniel Bible who heads the local ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) office had this to say,

“political rhetoric and misinformation that various politicians, media outlets, and activist groups recklessly disseminate to the American people regarding the ICE mission only serve to further encourage these violent acts.”

This is just another episode in a series of attacks on ICE facilities by radical leftists and immigration activists. The Federalist recently provided a list of similar incidents.

  • On July 12, immigration activists ripped down an American flag outside an ICE office in Aurora, Colorado and replaced it with a Mexican flag. They then vandalized the building with spray paint.
  • On July 14, a self-described “anti-fascist” and “anarchist” assaulted an ICE facility in Tacoma, Washington. Using a rifle and flammable material, he started a car on fire and attempted unsuccessfully to detonate a propane tank. He was shot dead by police.
  • On July 16, 11 leftist immigration protestors were arrested for illegally storming an ICE office in Washington DC.

Counting this latest attack, there have been 4 within the past month. Bible was spot on in his implication of the radical left in these incidents. The root of violence against ICE is unfortunately, the political rhetoric of the radical left.  

If there is any doubt of the validity of the previous statement, one need only take an overview of the prevailing talking points of the radicals. Back in June, socialist representative Ocasio-Cortez made headlines once again for a remark about ICE facilities for detaining illegal aliens. In her own words, “The United States is running concentration camps on the southern border. And that is exactly what they are. They are concentration camps and if that doesn’t bother you, I don’t, I got nothing. Like we can have — I wanna talk to the people who are concerned enough with humanity and that never again means something.” One of the cardinal rules of politics is to not make comparisons to Hitler, the Nazis or the Holocaust. Dissecting American politics objectively, nothing on either side is directly comparable to the Holocaust. Making that comparison cheapens the genocide itself and is a slap in the face to its survivors. The claim itself is very untrue considering that the nature of a concentration camp is to extract physical labor, murder on a mass scale or detain political prisoners –all of which contrast with ICE facilities. A recent walkthrough of an ICE facility in Adelanto California revealed it the migrants housed there had access to all of the following: medical, dental and mental care, legal counsel, a law library, outdoor soccer fields, XBOX video games, unlimited phone calls, physical contact visitations and other services while never being locked in cells.

A few days ago presidential hopeful Kamala Harris accused president Trump and his administration of running a “campaign of terror” in reference to his immigration policy. She missed the fact that the raids she refer to were carried out on illegal aliens who had no right to be in the country in the first place and immediately played the race card by insinuating it was an attack against Hispanics. Harris demagogued the perfectly reasonable position which holds that illegal aliens should be deported into an attack based solely on skin color.

An Illinois state senator recently made headlines for a mock assassination of the president that occurred at his fundraiser. One man dressed in Hispanic attire wore a mask that is unmistakably meant to be Trump posed with another who brandished a fake rifle. The phony Trump then pretended to be shot. Mock assassinations of elected officials are a bit inflammatory and that point is not controversial. Governor Pritzker (D) called the incident “insensitive and wrong.” State senator Martin Sandoval, the politician whose fundraiser this occurred at tried to distance himself from it as well writing “The incident that took place is unacceptable, I don’t condone violence toward the President or anyone else. I apologize that something like this happened at my event.”

What was really the crux of over the top rhetoric in recent weeks was the saga of the movie The Hunt. It received widespread media attention for being about rich leftists flying to a private island to murder Trump supporters for sport. Victims slated for killing are labeled “MAGA types” which is a reference to Donald Trump’s campaign slogan make America great again. They are also referred to as “Deplorables”, another Trumpian term deriving itself from a Hillary Clinton speech in which she called half of the president’s supporters a “basket of deplorables.” If any inkling persists that these terms could refer to something else it is rendered void by the fact that the film’s original title was “Red State vs. Blue State.” The very fact that someone conceptualized creating a movie about the murder of political opponents is shocking in the highest order of magnitude. Killing those who disagree with one’s perspective on politics and choice of presidential candidate is not entertainment in any way, shape or form.

With the state of the political discourse and that of the wider culture like this, acts of political terrorism such as what occurred at the ICE facilities can only be expected. Mock assassinations, ICE facilities cast as concentration camps and entire movie devoted to senseless, politically motivated murder have no place American culture. It is about time that everyone takes a step back and tones down the volume and venom of the debate for the unity and stability of America demands it.

Photo credit: “Officials blame ‘political rhetoric and misinformation’ after shots fired at San Antonio ICE office” via USA Today

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2nd Amendment strategies in 2020

Anyone who is acquainted with contemporary politics is aware of the gun control debate in America. For better or for worse, it currently looms large in politics. Both sides of the aisle are weighing in on how to make the country a safer place, though they have come to much different solutions. Leftists are launching a no-holds-barred assault on the 2nd Amendmentand will deal it as much damage as possible if given half a chance. Tragically, conservatives are split in their response. One camp, which sometimes includes the president, waffles on the 2nd Amendment whenever the pressure is on, while another stands firm for liberty.

The purely American political circus that is the presidential election is ramping up by the week. 2nd Amendment issues, while not the most popular campaign plank for either side, have a very far reach. When one speaks of liberty, the right to keep and bear arms is one of the most fundamental freedoms that can be cited. America is anomalous on the world stage for our freedom regarding this and that is something worth protecting. Gun control policies are largely ineffective in the way of reducing violence. In fact, the only thing that it excels in is restricting liberty on a large scale. For this reason, 2nd Amendment issues are truly paramount in value. The right to keep and bear arms is as fundamental and inalienable as the right of speech or religion. When the left demands to castrate the former right, the conservatives who seek to preserve the values of the American Revolution must not back down.

Make no mistake; this is not right wing fear mongering. Radical leftists have taken their zeal to destroy freedom to a level rarely seen. Case in point, Congressman Eric Swalwell demanded a national gun buyback program on twitter. With this point alone, nothing is unusual, as that point is often made by leftists. What he said next though was shocking. Responding to a tweet from Infowars reporter, Joe Biggs, saying that a program like that would cause resistance, Swalwell wrote,

“And it would be a short war my friend. The government has nukes. Too many of them. But they’re legit. I’m sure if we talked we could find common ground to protect our families and communities.”

-Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell

There is no shame in re-reading the tweet a time or two to ensure that the reader’s initial interpretation was accurate. A Democratic congressman threatened nuclear annihilation against a prospective revolt by gun owners against power mad Washington. How does one even respond to this?

Foremost, it should be obvious to anyone and everyone that using chemical, biological or nuclear weaponry against a government’s own citizenry is inexcusable. Conduct like this is not the realm of civilized, liberal nations like America. This is the exclusive domain of dictatorial hell states. Perhaps Swalwell should be reminded of the chemical attack on Kurdish civilians at Halabja. Five thousand were killed (mostly women and children), and the man who ordered the attack, General Ali Hassan al-Majid, was given not 1, but 4, death sentences, and was hanged. Saddam himself was also hanged for his atrocities. This is the appropriate response given when chemical, biological or nuclear weapons are used against one’s own civilians. Crimes of that degree must be punished severely and in Iraq, justice was indeed served in the case of Halabja. Swalwell was not proposing using mustard gas or Sarin, he was talking about nuclear weapons. The crime against the American people and against humanity as a whole for something so evil and barbaric would outweigh everything done by Saddam by a factor of 100. The sheer horror that he calmly contemplated is unthinkable. One could only pray that Britain, France, and the rest of the world’s friends of freedom would come to the rescue of the American people with weapons loaded if such an atrocity were committed by our own government.

For all due diligence, Swalwell may not even be correct in his assumption that the US government could suppress a determined revolt by millions of gun owners. Lawrence Freedman, Emeritus Professor of War Studies at King’s College London, wrote a wide-ranging and enlightening book on strategy in 2013, appropriately called Strategy a History. In it, he wrote extensively about guerrilla warfare. He draws on the campaigns of T. E. Lawrence against the Turks in which his Arab Revolt forces did heavy damage on the Palestine front in the First World War. Lawrence (the soldier, not the book’s author) quipped that “to make war upon a rebellion is messy and slow –like trying to eat soup with a knife.” The author then goes on to trace the development of the revolutionary Maoists in China before the Second Sino-Japanese war until their victory in 1949. Mao showed that rebellions can survive virtually anything. Revolutionary forces, when they fail to win in the cities, can retreat to the countryside and survive for a long period of time as Mao did, which will allow ample time to regroup. Lawrence (the writer, not the solider) called guerilla warfare a “strategy of exhaustion,” where a smaller force fights a much more powerful one with the weapons of attrition. Guerilla warfare is not about winning conventionally as Swalwell seems to think, but, rather, about winning on the grounds that it becomes too painful for the occupying force to continue. It is not about the decisive battle and regular troops; it is about outlasting the opponent. The Vietcong against the Americans, the Spanish insurgents against Napoleon, the Mujahedeen against the Soviets, and the American militiamen against the British hammer home the fact that a small force can exhaust a much larger one.

This is just a thought exercise about why nuclear weapons could not even be used against the kind of rebellion that Swalwell speaks of. It simply wouldn’t work because guerrillas do not hold the ground, they strike and retreat. Using weapons as powerful as that on small bands of revolutionaries in the mountains and forests is idiotic on so many levels. This is not endorsement in any way, shape, or form for revolutionary conduct or violence against the state –it is merely an outlay of the tactics and strategy of revolutionaries through history and why they show that it is not at all certain that even the might of the US military could defeat a nationwide rebellion. Interpreting the history of revolution and finding a clear pattern that small forces can defeat large forces is no more incendiary or criminal than interpreting the history of astronomy and predicting that tomorrow the sun will rise.

Blind and borderline dangerous fervor like Swalwell’s is what America faces. He is not a nonentity in the leftist movement either –in fact he dropped out of the 2020 presidential race just a month ago. Swalwell will not be president in 2020, but the spirit of animosity towards the 2nd Amendment lives on among the other leftist contenders.

The left is resolute in their convictions on the 2nd Amendment. So resolute are they that one of them proposed nuclear annihilation of rebellious gun owners. Conservatives must adopt their stalwart demeanor and entrench themselves on this issue. Radicals like Swalwell unapologetically fight against this sacred freedom, so why should the conservatives not return the favor? As a broad strategy for 2020, Trump and the GOP need to fight over gun control. Not every hill is Little Round Top, whose capture or defense can change everything, but every once in a while, there is a time to make a stand and not apologize for its bluntness. The 2nd Amendment is one of these places. Liberty is on the line and conservatives must fight over gun control like it is Verdun. (For those who wish to misinterpret this, fighting in this paragraph refers to things like voting, winning person to person debates, and traditional activism -not literal violence).

Conservatives have solutions to gun violence just like leftists do. Concealed carry laws, broken windows policing, filling the cracks in the background check system without new laws, and the like are real solutions. The right will be less effective in the national conversation if they cannot propose their own plans to answer the leftist designs. It is time for these ideas to take center stage as the right wing gun violence plan. Leftists have their plan which relies on heavy-handed, freedom-reducing means such as bans on certain elements of firearms, more red tape on acquiring them, among others. All too often, the GOP is seen as the party that doesn’t have a solution, but doesn’t want the leftist solution either. That may work with committed conservatives who loathe the left’s plan, but it will not work as well with the moderates who are less ideological. To capture the moderate demographic, there needs to be action on the part of conservatives, but it must be well thought out action that will not hinder liberty and will actually get the job done. Action needs to be more than just digging in to defend the 2nd Amendment; it also has to include a pro-freedom answer to gun violence. 2020 is fast approaching and the right needs to have a plan to give to the voters and then they must carry it out.

Photo credit: GunNewsDaily.com

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Democracy Worldwide: Unrest in Hong Kong escalates as Beijing’s response looms

The semiautonomous city of Hong Kong has been rocked by protests for the 9th straight week. What began as a protest against an extradition proposal has become a wide-ranging offensive for democracy. On the ground, the situation gets more volatile by the day. Demonstrators have converged on the Hong Kong airport and will remain there for a 3 day sit in. No room for doubt of their motives is left by their signs and slogans. TIME Magazine reports that,

“Tourists came up to take pictures of the protesters, who sang ‘Do You Hear the People Sing?’ from ‘Les Miserable’, and handed out fliers in a variety of languages that said things like ‘welcome to Hong Kong, not China’ and ‘please ask me about Hong Kong.’ At least three people waved big American flags, while a banner was unfurled that read ‘Liberate HK Revolution Now.’”

–TIME Magazine

The references to classical liberal values could not be more evident. Around the world, America epitomizes the ideal of freedom, of citizenship and civil government more so than any other country. America’s Constitution, Declaration of Independence and the Federalist Papers created the template for future liberal states and did so in the most eloquent way possible. The people of Hong Kong recognize the beauty of the American system to the extent that they will wave our banner while under threat from the authoritarian Chinese. Their courage is to be admired. Not content with references to the American Revolution, the pro-democracy demonstrators also pulled from the history of revolutionary France in the form of a song from the musical version of Les Miserable. “Do you hear the people sing” could be called the theme song for classical liberalism. The song refers to the liberal revolt that occurred in Paris in 1832 (Paris being in chaos is rather topical). Scores of liberals were killed when the boot came down. It is a romanticized anthem for freedom and self-government which makes it a perfect choice for the Hong Kong protestors.

In the 2014 unrest in Hong Kong, “Do you hear the people sing” was a favorite of the protestors as well. Evidently, Beijing has had enough of these toxic liberal ideas because they have decided to censor it across China. Another popular protest song is the Christian hymn “Sing Hallelujah to The Lord.” This is particularly noteworthy considering China’s renowned persecution of Christians which the Guardian has called, “the worst crackdown on religion in the country since the Cultural Revolution when Mao Zedong’s government vowed to eradicate religion. China’s persecution of religious minorities –especially Christians, is a long running trend that was grandfathered in from the communist days. It is also a subject so expansive that it merits its own article so this deviation must end here.

These ultra-liberal demonstrations come at a time when Chinese police and military forces are massing just outside Hong Kong. It does not take a military genius on par with Karl von Clausewitz or Helmuth von Moltke the Elder to see that nothing good can come of this development. Without mincing words, it is reasonable to assume that China is preparing to put down the pro-democracy demonstrators with extreme prejudice. Hong Kong is on the brink of another Tiananmen Square. Today, few Chinese are aware of the massacre at Tiananmen Square because of the government’s monopoly on the media. Few Chinese are also aware of the concentration camps set up by the regime Uighur region of Xinjiang. George Orwell would soberly nod at seeing how well Xi’s Jinping China has mirrored Big Brother’s Oceania in 1984.

Photo credit: “US monitoring Hong Kong border as Chinese forces gather en masse” via the New York Post

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The motivations of the gun control movement examined

All political designs have supporters who will back them for different reasons. This can be best imagined as a conflict between idealism and Machiavellianism used in a loose context. Former of the two, the idealist relies on what he really believes is right. Politics for him is not about attaining power and influence. It is only about affecting the change that he sees as necessary to promote morality, maximize utility or suit an end similar to these. Is he always correct in his assertions? Certainly not. Who can in good faith say that he has not a hint of hypocrisy or fallacy in his views? The idealist is the true believer, the one who seeks change because it is right, not because it is profitable. The Machiavellian (here defined loosely as unscrupulous and scheming in nature) is the antithesis to the idealist. He feeds parasitically off of the energy and goodwill of the idealist. The idealist is the tool of the Machiavellian to pose like a puppet. He will control the masses by means of oversimplified arguments and half-truths mixed with fiery rhetoric. Machiavellians are demagogues if they are to be called by any other name. They spout cooked statistics, misleading testimony and lie by the omission of important facts. When the Machiavellian does this, the conclusions reached become absurd.

Gun control is no different than any other issue. On this question there are Machiavellians and idealists. Some seeking greater restrictions of firearm ownership are genuine and some are not. Most of the garden variety supporters are authentic and perhaps even some of the leaders of the movement are too. Perhaps is the key word though. The rhetoric of the gun control crowd has become so twisted and the statistics so manipulated that it is hard to believe that they buy what they are selling. A few of examples of their blatant untruths are below to show the absurdity of the leftist claims and support the notion that the main gun grabbers can’t buy what they’re selling.

Myth #1: Guns aren’t often used for self defense

A series of studies have arrived at very different conclusions. Criminologists Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz studied this and estimated that every year there were 2,200,000-2,500,000 defensive gun uses by civilians. This number may seem shocking to some but other studies have reached similar conclusions. A few years later, the National Institute of Justice published a wide-ranging study on guns in America including their defensive uses. While lower than the Kleck and Gertz study, it is still massive coming in at 1,500,000. The authors commented on the other study here cited saying that the National Institute of Justice’s findings were “directly comparable” and that “it is statistically plausible that the difference is due to sampling error.” The Kleck and Gertz study is often maligned by the left for a number of reasons. One of them is that it was compiled in the mid-1990s when crime was significantly higher. The other study cited is a few years newer, but still Clinton era. Crime was significantly higher back then and since crime has fallen it makes sense for defensive gun uses to fall too. That criticism is fair but Kleck still militantly defends his findings. Even outlier studies like a 1993-2011 study cited by the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) show that annually there are around 67,000 defensive gun uses in America. Any serious gun grabber must answer the question of what he expects all these tens or hundreds of thousands or even millions to do without guns to defend themselves.

Myth #2: Guns are one of the biggest dangers to kids

Statistically speaking, that statement is simply untrue. Other much more mundane things are responsible for more child deaths than guns. Economist Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner wrote on this subject in their book Freakonomics,

“In a given year there is 1 drowning of a child per 11,000 residential pools in the United States. (In a country with 6,000,000 residential pools this means that roughly 550 children under the age of 10 drown each year). Meanwhile, there is 1 child killed for every million plus guns. (In a country with an estimated 200 million guns this means that roughly 170 children die each year from guns).The likelihood of death by pool (1/11,000) versus death by gun (1/1 million plus) isn’t even close.” [Freakonomics page 150]

 Perhaps it is not common sense gun control that is needed but rather common sense pool control.

Myth #3: Waiting periods for buying guns prevent rash crimes

The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) traced the time between acquisition of a firearm and its use in a crime when they are recovered in the United States and its territories. The ATF’s term for the duration between the acquisition of the weapon and its unlawful use which is oddly not some piece of legal newspeak is, time-to-crime. Every year, this figure is made available. As of 2016, the national average time-to-crime was 9.79 years. The lowest state or territory average was 7.39 years in Missouri and though it was a bit of an outlier, the highest was Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands at 20.97 years. Excluding Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, the next highest was Hawaii coming in at 14.94 years. Nothing more needs to be said. The argument for waiting periods is exploded by just looking at the numbers.

These 3 leftist lies about guns are fairly representative of the entire body of rhetoric utilized by the gun grabber crowd. Other lies and half-truths about guns and mass shootings were cut down in an article published yesterday and more will be debunked in coming articles. It is easy with a handful of statistics or examples to refute most of the claims and demands of the left on the matter of gun control. It all begs the question, if gun control is so absurd then why are so many swindled by it and how can the conservative and libertarian movement undo its support?

Gun control’s popular support can be summed up as resulting from misinformation, leftism as an ideology and misguided idealism. Misinformation can and must be answered with abundant statistics and well developed logic. This can be achieved by further educating the conservative and libertarian movement as a whole so the arguments against greater gun control can proliferate organically. Leftism as an ideology is rooted in control – control by the state over as much of the lives of the people as possible. The Second Amendment is perhaps the greatest expression of freedom outlined in America’s founding documents. It is a final check on government making literal the Lockean principle of the ability of the people to displace and replace a government destructive to the ends of the preservation of freedom and property. Leftism conflicts fundamentally with this principle and to this end, those subscribing to said ideology will forever be hostile to the idea of an armed citizenry. For the converse reason, all those subscribing to the ideals of Locke and the American Revolution must forever be aligned with the idea of an armed citizenry. Finally, the misguided idealism is the desire to “do something” in response to a problem. For the gun control advocates, for both foot soldiers and leaders alike, the supposed need to “do something” is absolute. Idealism becomes absolute (and thus dangerous) when the zeal to “do something” eclipses objective morality, the immutable laws of economics or the founding principles of classical liberalism. Such is what separates the leftist from the conservative and libertarian. When conservatives and libertarians “do something,” they do not allow their zeal to subvert morality, economics or classical liberalism. So often, this is not the case with the left, which makes their idealism misguided at best and downright dangerous at worst. Beyond that, gun control is a textbook case of doing something that “feels good,” but governing on that principle will never produce the sought results. Rather, good governance in the arena of “doing something” must rely on the utilitarian principle of “doing good.” What “feels good” and what “does good” are two entirely different things. It may “feel good” for the leftists to take away the guns and enact sweeping bans, but it won’t “do good.” If there is no utility in enacting the designs of the left on gun control, and freedom is to be curtailed in its enactment, what sane society would accede to that?

Photo credit: “Gun confiscation next move in Washington state” via Law Officer: Training, tactics, technology

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Calls for gun control in the wake of mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton: What’s not being said

Tragedy has struck America. In El Paso, a mass public shooting occurred in a Walmart which killed 20. It was perpetrated by 21-year-old Patrick Crusius of Dallas who has been apprehended by police and is being held without bond. The Houston Chronicle reported that he posted a message on an 8Chan account in the lead-up to the shooting where he expressed concern over Hispanic immigration and advocated for America to be divided up into different zones by races. He denied being a “white supremacist” but his support for the heresy of physically dividing the United States along racial lines makes it appear that race was a factor in this shooting. Federal authorities are considering hate crime charges as well which carry the death penalty.

Hours later, tragedy struck again in Dayton when a man named Connor Betts killed 9. It occurred in the vicinity of several popular bars which had many people milling about when the shooting started. Among those murdered was his sister Megan Betts. Dayton police responded swiftly and severely. 5 officers and a sergeant were on engaged the shooter immediately. He was killed in less than 30 seconds. Nothing more can be expected of the police judging by their response time. Figuring out a clear motive on the Ohio shooter is more difficult but some facts are known. The Daily Caller described his political beliefs as “far-left” citing his now suspended twitter account. This is not a stretch considering his bio read in part “leftist” and the unnerving words, “I’m going to hell and I’m not coming back.” He also retweeted attacks against fascists and voiced his “support for Satan” to quote the aforementioned article.

Predictably, it took no time for the left to capitalize on bloodshed to suit their political ends. Leftist gun control groups converged on the NRA headquarters building in Virginia to hold a vigil for the dead. The fact that this was done not at the place where the attack happened showed the true nature of this stunt. A vigil held outside NRA headquarters has nothing to do with remembrance and everything to do with the politics of gun grabbing. It is as if the National Rifle Association itself perpetrated the shootings by the response obligatorily given to it. Major stunts like this only follow mass public shootings so sensibly, the schwerpunkt of the gun control argument are these events. To follow the Clausewitzian principle of attacking at the center of gravity, the mass public shooting angle must be studied to determine the legitimacy of the pro-gun-control argument.

When attempting to determine the quantity of mass shootings, the definition is important. Often it is defined as an incident where 4 or more are killed excluding things like gang warfare and family annihilation. Differences in methodology and data points accounts for serious discrepancies in statistics about these events. Economist John Lott and Michael Weisser writing in the New York Post examined this. They took a look at an often cited study by criminologist Adam Lankford which studied mass shootings from 1966 to 2012 in America and the world. Lankford came to the conclusion that in that space of time, America had 90 mass shootings while the rest of the world had 202. His list of data points has not been provided. The closest Lankford came to doing that was to cite a New York Police Department study which by the admission of the NYPD was severely biased against international incidents because of the language barrier. Oversampling of domestic incidents makes the Lankford study skewed and misleading.

To counter the Lankford study, Lott did his own research and came to a much different conclusion. Limiting the timeframe to the past 15 years (1998-2012) because of the difficulty of finding mass shooting data for developing nations back into the 1960s, a total of 1,423 foreign mass shootings were found. Using these numbers, the share of American mass shootings plummets from 31% to 1.43%. Considering that the United States contains about 4.6% of the global population, by his methodology America is underrepresented in mass shootings worldwide. Lott then makes another illuminating point,

“Of the 86 countries where we have identified mass public shootings, the US ranks 56th per capita in its rate of attacks and 61st in mass public shooting murder rate. Norway, Finland, Switzerland and Russia all have at least 45% higher rates of murder from mass public shootings than the United States.”

-Economist John Lott

If Lott’s numbers are to be believed, the mass shooting debate is exaggerated. This statement is not to be misinterpreted. A single murder in a mass shooting is unacceptable. A single murder by any means under any circumstances is unacceptable for that matter. Nothing to the contrary is being perpetuated by the statement that the mass shooting portion of the debate is overrepresented. The Heritage Foundation put out a report on mass shootings in the aftermath of the Parkland shooting that helps with perspective.

  • Mass killings are very rare, accounting for only 0.2% of homicides every year and approximately 1% of homicide victims.
  • Only 12% of mass killings are mass public shootings. Most mass killings are familicides (murders of family members or intimate partners) and felony-related killings (such as robberies gone awry or gang-related “turf battles”).
  • Although there has been a slight increase in the frequency of mass public shootings over the past few years, the rates are still similar to what the United States experienced in the 1980s and early 1990s. –The Heritage Foundation

Heritage’s statistics are merely for the purpose of regaining some well needed perspective in this debate. Mass shootings are a huge problem but when they are compared by the numbers to other facets of the gun control debate such as general homicide, one sees that there is less damage done by the former than the latter. Ergo, the debate should really focus on how to curb firearm homicide in general but that is a topic for another day.

With the questions of the scale of the mass shooting problem dealt with as much as it can be in a brief article, one thing remains. What are we to do about it? Action must be taken to solve this problem. On this, there is universal agreement but the answers put forward by the left and the right are starkly opposed.

The answer given by the left is heavy handed attacks on Second Amendment liberty to take guns away from the law abiding while being ineffectual at doing the same to criminals. To this one must ask, what would stop a tragedy like Dayton or El Paso? Will more gun free zones make the problem go away? Not so. Research indicates that 94% of mass shootings from 1950 to 2018 occurred in gun free zones. Will banning “high capacity magazines” make the problem go away? Not so. Few shooters use “high capacity magazines” and a there is “no evidence” that a delay of a few seconds to reload will reduce the casualties in these events. Knee jerk “do something” gun control measures will not help, they will just reduce freedom.

 The answer given by the conservatives and libertarians relies on hardening soft targets with security measures, less restrictive concealed carry laws and the like to empower the law abiding citizenry in concert with authorities for collective protection. But do law abiding citizens with concealed firearms ever stop these attacks? Indeed they do. An extensive list can be found here. Common sense dictates that any armed and trained man who could in the event of an emergency utilize his weapon against a shooter makes that place safer. The more law abiding armed and trained men able to fight back against the shooters the safer the soft targets will be.

Photo credit: “Hundreds hold vigil for mass shooting victims outside NRA headquarters” via CBS News

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Shake ups in the Democratic presidential field –Avenatti considers running and Gravel drops out

                The war of attrition raging in the Democratic Party continued in the past few days with two new developments. Former Alaska congressmen Mike Gravel has ended his campaign and leftist lawyer Michael Avenatti may run for president. These two events, though they concern some of the lesser figures in the drama of the 2020 election, are the beginning of the juicy part of the campaign. Twenty candidates debated a few nights ago –so many that it had to be divided into two nights. Most will be eliminated before the end of the primaries next year leaving only the frontrunners for the convention. Up until now, most of the news relating to the Democratic field has been about new candidates joining the fray, but they are starting to drop out. The narrowing of the choices illustrated by the loss of Gravel is the main takeaway from this news, but the matter with Michael Avenatti is too bizarre to be excluded from any commentary.

                Mike Gravel was an Alaskan congressman that has run an eyebrow-raising campaign that Politico can only characterize as “quixotic,” but more on that later. It must be noted that he is 89. If somehow he pulled off an upset that would put Bill Clinton’s reputation as the “comeback kid” to shame and won the White House, he would be by great lengths the oldest chief executive in American history. Donald Trump is currently the oldest man to be elected to the same office (70 at start of term) and the oldest president at the end of his term(s) was conservative giant Ronald Reagan (77 at end of both terms). Gravel is obviously far older than both men which would raise serious doubts as to his longevity in office. For context, he left elected office at the start of the Reagan Revolution in 1981 though he attempted to run for president in 2008 with little success. Pundits hammered the 40th president on his age and he was 69 going into his first term in 1981. What they would say about Gravel if he were a major player would safely eclipse what was said of Reagan and, given the partisan nature of the media, that would be no small feat.

                Politico’s description of Senator Gravel’s policy and actions is accurate. Just a quick search of his campaign website and social media reveals much surprising material. When researching this article, I visited his twitter account to get an idea how he conveys his ideas and was immediately taken with some interesting items there. For one thing, his twitter banner showed his slogan which was apparently “No more wars.” Peacenik Democrats are not uncommon, but criticizing war itself as unnecessary or immoral is rare for politicians; that rhetoric is more the realm of hippies who seem to avoid showering. Hours before this article was written he got into a profane twitter war with a Newsweek columnist whom he had trolled in the past. Hours before this article was written, he tweeted “F-ck off @NYTimes” in response to an article criticizing the activism of a Swedish climate activist. He also tweeted “F-ck off Tom Perez” for a reason that is difficult to discern from his utter lack of context. Also on twitter he advocated for the House Oversight Committee to subpoena every detained migrant in order to derail the immigration system. On numerous other occasions does his twitter contain the word “s-it” and “f-ck.” Judging by his track record on twitter, he will likely tweet “f-ck you” to me, but I digress. One wonders why Donald Trump’s sharp tongue monopolizes coverage of incivility in politics when there is material like this on the opposite side.

                His actual plans are so far to the left that he would seem a radical even among the radicals. His campaign website while it is still functional, relates numerous disastrous possible policies of his, some of which will be listed here. Under the heading, “ending the nuclear threat,” he discusses his intent to cripple the US nuclear arsenal, thus leaving America vulnerable to atomic blackmail by authoritarian Russia and China and rogue states like North Korea and Iran. Under several headings such as “Non-aggression abroad”, “Big cuts in military spending” and “Bring every troop home” he proclaims his intent to discontinue the use of sanctions, promises not to invade foreign countries unless they will imminently strike first, discontinue the use of drones, cut the Defense Department budget by 50% and retool the DoD for stopping asteroids. Under the heading “Opposing Israeli apartheid,” he goes on about his zeal for abandoning the only democracy in the Middle East and praises anti-semitic radical Ilhan Omar. It is important to note that the phrase “Israeli apartheid” is a trope often used by anti-Semites. He calls the Green New Deal (which has been covered here before) “absolutely necessary.” Gravel reiterates the need for a $230 per ton carbon tax, reviving and exponentially expanding the ancient Tennessee Valley Authority to decarbonize the energy industry, spending untold billions (trillions?) on infrastructure, etc. The heading “Internet access as a right” speaks for itself as does the one that reads “Supporting sex workers.”

                Radicalism like this does not grow on trees. America can only thank God that Gravel has dropped out of the race, but the ghost of his dysfunctional campaign (which was run by teenagers interestingly enough) lives on in the form of a think tank called the “Gravel Institute.” Here policy papers will be churned out that will espouse the same leftist lunacy that his campaign did.

                Gravel’s collapse is the real news here, but it is accompanied here by farce. The buffoonery of leftist lawyer Michael Avenatti, who is best known for defending porn star Stormy Daniels before he defrauded her and was dropped only continues with this news. He has recently come out with a statement saying to “never say never” on the topic of him running for president. Avenatti then lamented the Democrats not having a tough candidate to go toe-to-toe with Trump in the general election. News like this is entertaining in its fantastical nature. If he did run, few other campaigns would be so embattled or mocked. Perhaps Eugene V. Debs’s presidential run of 1920 when he garnered 915,000 while he was in prison for sedition under Woodrow Wilson’s 1917 Espionage Act could have been more fantastical, but only perhaps. Avenatti has been maligned severely for his time representing porn star Stormy Daniels. Most notably, he has been branded “The creepy porn lawyer” by none other than cable news anchor Tucker Carlson. FOX News has even ran headlines like “Creepy porn lawyer toying with 2020 run,” “Does America want creepy porn lawyer as pres,” “Stormy Daniels Lawyer as creepy porn president” etc. That nickname stuck around in the political discourse which did not make him look more serious or less greasy.

At the end of the day, Avenatti is a sideshow and Gravel is insignificant, but the real story is that the Democratic Party’s internal war of attrition is heating up.

Photo credit: “Judge: Michael Avenatti must pay $4.85 million in ex-lawyer’s suit” via Politico

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Democracy Worldwide: Authoritarian crackdown in Russia

Old liberalism never really sunk in in Russia. When the winds of freedom swept over Europe in the 19th century, Eastern Europe was only minimally touched. Through the strong hand of the state, the Russian people were kept down. Only in 1860s was serfdom abolished. Even when reformers such as Czar Alexander II were in power, the government did not transform into a true democracy. To add insult to injury, whatever liberalization occurs is reversed as soon as said reformer no longer occupies the seat of power. Alexander III did so to the works of his predecessor and used his autocratic power to crack down on minorities. In the Soviet days, a similar pattern repeated itself with Brezhnev’s violent hostility to liberalization resulting in the use of arms to put down a marginally more liberal movement in Czechoslovakia. Through sheer force, democracy was never allowed to take root in Russia. Whenever the Russian people get close to become a true democracy, it is snatched away by a strong man.

Their current strong man is Vladimir Putin. Just like all of the czars and red dictators that ruled Russia before him, he is the antagonist of the reformer. Recently, Putin continued the pattern of hard handed government by cracking down on pro-democracy protestors in the streets of Moscow. Around 1,300 people were detained by police after gathering to demand electoral reform, specifically the ability for opposition candidates to run for local offices. The Heritage Foundation marveled at their size noting that they were the largest over a decade. When protestors attempted to tear down barricades, riot police sprang into action and wounded multiple protestors. Activists Van Zhdanov, Ilya Yashin, Valery Rodin, Lyubov Sobol, and Dmitry Gudkov were assaulted and detained. Opposition leader Alexei Navalny (more on him later) was also taken to a hospital with an “acute allergic reaction” in the aftermath of the protests which aroused suspicion of poisoning since that had never happened to him before.

It must be made clear that Russia is in no way, shape or form a democracy. The czars may be long dead and communism may have fallen but freedom has not arisen in its place. The Washington, DC based 501c group Freedom House makes this very clear. On a scale of 1-7, with 1 being the most free and 7 being the least free, Russia’s freedom rating is 6.5, their political rights are 7, and their civil rights are 6. Freedom House’s bleak summary of the situation in the country, they write:

Power in Russia’s authoritarian political system is concentrated in the hands of President Vladimir Putin. With loyalist security forces, a subservient judiciary, a controlled media environment, and a legislature consisting of a ruling party and pliable opposition groups, the Kremlin is able to manipulate elections and inhibit genuine opposition. The country’s rampant corruption is one notable threat to state power, as it facilitates shifting links among bureaucrats and organized crime groups.

-Freedom House

The group also goes on to notes that in 2017 all of the state took many repressive actions. Among these were banning Putin’s opponent Alexei Navalny from challenging him, banning the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and two journalists were murdered in strange circumstances.

 What passes for democracy in Russia would be called authoritarianism in the west. Allowing opposition to go ahead unmolested is one of the hallmarks of a free society. What has been occurring in Russia in the past few years in this regard is not the conduct a democracy, it is one of despotism. Free countries do not kill journalists, imprison opposition leaders on irrelevant charges or arrest thousands of protestors with great violence and vigor in the streets of the capital. The very fact that events like these are not uncommon in Russia makes clear that Russia is not free and so long as Vladimir Putin is in power, it will never be.

Photo credit: “Protests in Moscow reveal a disparity in Russian democracy” via the Heritage Foundation

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Socialists either don’t understand economics or are liars Part 2 of 3

                As was stated in part one[1], the Democratic Party has substantially changed. Capitalist elements of the party are taking a back seat to a new breed much farther to the left of them. To the whole country’s dismay, this new element is socialistic to a European degree. Democrats have been trending leftward for a very long time, but only recently have they embraced the socialist image openly. What started that was, of course, the candidacy of Vermont socialist Bernie Sanders in the last presidential election cycle. He was defeated, but the energy he mobilized lived on. Sanders tapped into a dormant socialist bloc that had been building on the left and activated it. In the 2018 midterms, the aforementioned socialist energy was enough to elect a number of hard-left congressmen and women most notably Ocasio-Cortez. Emboldened by their capture of the House of Representatives, new policy proposals for 2020 are being advanced which have little coherence. In the article previous, the Medicare for all plan advanced by Bernie Sanders was examined and it was found that multiple estimates[2] placed its 10 year budget at over $30 trillion ($30,000,000,000,000) dollars.[3] This article will focus on the impracticality of the Green New Deal advanced by representative Ocasio-Cortez. The third and final entry in this series will focus on the plans to pay for these central planning schemes. Get ready for frustration, because this article is about to enter the leftist Twilight Zone.

                The Green New Deal styled after the 1930s programs of Franklin Roosevelt is a plan to systematically destroy the US economy and rebuild it in the image of a centrally planned green party paradise. Greens are elated at the idea and their website is plastered with its utopianism. To get an idea of what their version[4] of it is (there indeed have been multiple versions), a few excerpts will be provided from its platform.

  • Initiate a WWII-scale national mobilization to halt climate change, the greatest threat to humanity in our history. Create 20 million jobs by transitioning to 100% clean renewable energy by 2030, and investing in public transit, sustainable (regenerative) agriculture, conservation and restoration of critical infrastructure, including ecosystems.
  • [The Green New Deal includes an] “Economic Bill of Rights” – the right to single-payer healthcare, a guaranteed job at a living wage, affordable housing and free college education.
  • Enact energy democracy based on public, community and worker ownership of our energy system. Treat energy as a human right. (Presumably they will wish to rewrite the Declaration of Independence to read “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal and are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of solar energy.”)
  • Redirect research funds from fossil fuels into renewable energy and conservation. Build a nationwide smart electricity grid that can pool and store power from a diversity of renewable sources, giving the nation clean, democratically-controlled, energy.
  • End destructive energy extraction and associated infrastructure: fracking, tar sands, offshore drilling, oil trains, mountaintop removal, natural gas pipelines, and uranium mines. Halt any investment in fossil fuel infrastructure, including natural gas, and phase out all fossil fuel power plants. Phase out nuclear power and end nuclear subsidies. End all subsidies for fossil fuels and impose a greenhouse gas fee/tax to charge polluters for the damage they have created.”
  • The implementation of the Green New Deal will revive the economy, turn the tide on climate change and make wars for oil obsolete. This latter result, in turn, enables a 50% cut in the military budget, since maintaining bases all over the world to safeguard fossil fuel supplies and routes of transportation could no longer be justified.[5]

Congratulations for getting through the highlights of the Green New Deal for anyone who hasn’t closed the page yet. It is not difficult to see that this plan is off-the-rails insane without even going into the numbers but for due prudence, the numbers are ahead. The only question is where to start?

No, there won’t be an economic boom

                Displayed loudly and proudly on the Green New Deal platform page is the claim that it will produce “20 million new jobs” but that is not true. Since the plan is so expansive and incorporates the entire economy, it is impossible to measure all its effects. Undeterred, the Heritage Foundation[6] tried to model part of it and reached telling results. Though not mentioned in this version of the GND, the way it is most likely to be done is via a carbon tax as mentioned in Ocasio-Cortez’s version’s FAQ that has since been taken down. The actual carbon reducing portion of the plan is going to cost massive amounts of jobs. Where the 20 million figure originally came from is suspect and its reasoning is even more so.    

Did I mention it could cost $90 trillion dollars?

                The last article exposing the outlandish proposals of the socialists focused heavily on the price tag of the Medicare for all plan. It is only necessary then to discuss at brief the price tag of the GND at least for the sake of consistency. A report by the American Action Forum peered at the pricier portions of the program and proclaimed that it would at least $50 trillion and could cost a whopping $90 trillion[7] ($90,000,000,000,000) dollars. The aspects analyzed were: redoing the electrical grid, redoing the transportation infrastructure, jobs for everyone, healthcare for everyone, housing for everyone and food security for everyone. With all these other things that seem to have little to do with the environment it looks almost like an attempt to impose central planning on the whole economy cloaked in the rhetoric of saving the planet. The electrical grid will cost at least $5.4 trillion ($5,400,000,000,000) to go green and earlier estimates have even put it at $13 trillion ($13,000,000,000,000). The transportation angle of it wishes to replace air travel with high speed rail lines which will cost $1.3 trillion ($1,300,000,000,000) to $2.7 trillion ($2,700,000,000,000) and hundreds of billions more for the trains themselves. The jobs guarantee will cost $6.762 trillion ($6,762,000,000,000) over the next decade and if workers making less than the wage of the new government guaranteed jobs switched over, the price tag could rise to $44.6 trillion ($44,600,000,000,000). Again, healthcare is a big ticket item and costs a pretty penny. This report gave the number to be $36 trillion ($36,000,000,000,000) over the next decade (this report is all about costs over the next decade). Housing will cost another $12 billion, but if GND building standards are applied to government subsidized buildings, the cost of compliance to that will bring the total to around $4.2 trillion ($4,200,000,000,000). The food program isn’t that bad when looking at these numbers coming in at less than two billion.

Final thoughts

Here, America runs into a strange situation: the leaders of the country that is the vanguard of freedom and the bureaucrats under them are running into the problems of Soviet-style central planning. That is what the GND represents, a massive effort of central planning in which various levels of the state will direct massive swaths of the economy. There are references to government control of the energy sector, but by and large this plan is not about government ownership, but rather control. Advocates of this plan gleefully tell of how they will shut down the fossil fuels industry, invest untold billions or trillions into windfarms and move around tens of millions of living, breathing, thinking and free human beings like they were so many inanimate chess pieces. That is central planning whether advocates like that term or not. It is socialistic whether the advocates like that term or not. Parts of it –especially references to “public, community and worker ownership of the energy system” approach being communistic whether they like the term or not. This plan is unworkable, utopian and utterly Soviet in spirit. If the socialists try to sell this plan, they either do not understand its economics or they don’t care about the same. Stated another way, socialist green new deal advocates either don’t understand its economics or are lying about the same.

Photo credit: “The unserious face of an unserious movement” via the National Review

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[1] https://theconservativecritique.com/2019/07/24/socialists-either-dont-understand-economics-or-are-liars-part-1-of-3/

[2] https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/questions-medicare-all-supporters-must-answer

[3] https://www.mercatus.org/system/files/blahous-costs-medicare-mercatus-working-paper-v1_1.pdf

[4] https://www.gp.org/green_new_deal

[5] https://www.gp.org/green_new_deal

[6] https://www.heritage.org/energy-economics/report/assessing-the-costs-and-benefits-the-green-new-deals-energy-policies

[7] https://reason.com/2019/02/25/study-green-new-deal-could-cost-more-tha

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Socialists either don’t understand economics or are liars Part 1 of 3

It is time to face facts. The Democratic Party is dead and in its place has risen a European-style socialist party while still maintaining the old moniker. In days past, the Democrats were Keynesians like Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson but no more. Keynes and the economic theory that bears his name while being leftist in orientation, is still a capitalist outlook. It was and still is mainstream in capitalist economic theory and the old Democrats latched onto it like it was going out of style. Over time, socialists rose in the ranks of the party and in the past few years they have gained new prominence. The baton has been passed and the old guard of the Democratic Party that still accepts capitalism is fading away. Today socialists like Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez have seized power in their party and stand ready to test it in the coming elections. Socialists have supplanted the liberal capitalists on the left and this is a major problem.

This is so because the socialists either don’t understand economics or are plain and simple liars. A series of three articles will be written to back up this claim with this first focusing on the folly of a Medicare for all plan, the second focusing on that of the Green New Deal and the third focusing on the insufficiency of their plans to pay for all of it. Without further ado, onto the facts. Exhibit A of the case against the socialists is one of their new favorite pet projects: Medicare for all. Through the peachy words of a career politician Sanders’s campaign website[1] proclaims, “[that we must join] every other major country on Earth and guarantee health care to all people as a right, not a privilege, through a Medicare-for-all, single-payer program.” Here Sanders displays a great nonchalance for an expenditure that is by leaps and bounds outside of reality. There is not a single number on his official campaign website about how much that will cost. Nor is there a word about how to pay for this.

How expensive would Medicare for All be? Estimates vary a bit but they all suggest that it would be too extravagant for the Soviet central planning board to consider let alone the American congress. In July of last year, the Mercatus Center[2] asked this question to and came to a disturbing conclusion. Quoting from the abstract:

“The leading current bill to establish single-payer health insurance, the Medicare for All Act (M4A), would, under conservative estimates, increase federal budget commitments by approximately $32.6 trillion during its first 10 years of full implementation (2022–2031), assuming enactment in 2018. This projected increase in federal healthcare commitments would equal approximately 10.7 percent of GDP in 2022, rising to nearly 12.7 percent of GDP in 2031 and further thereafter. Doubling all currently projected federal individual and corporate income tax collections would be insufficient to finance the added federal costs of the plan. It is likely that the actual cost of M4A would be substantially greater than these estimates, which assume significant administrative and drug cost savings under the plan, and also assume that healthcare providers operating under M4A will be reimbursed at rates more than 40 percent lower than those currently paid by private health insurance .”

-Charles Blahous, Mercatus Center

Nothing more need be said. The plan is unworkable via their analysis. But is this study an outlier? Not quite. The CATO Institute[3] found that the upper estimates for how much a Medicare for all plan would cost figures out to $38 trillion ($38,000,000,000,000) over the next decade.  When trillions start being thrown around like they are beginning to be, that looks like a rounding error. For perspective, only China, the combined European Union, India and America[4] have a higher gross domestic product than this rounding error as of 2017. The discrepancies alone in the new mandatory spending estimates for a Medicare for all program are greater than the total value of all final goods and services produced in almost any individual nation on Earth. This is not feasible.

 As alluded to in the abstract of the Mercatus Center study, this cannot be paid for. The socialists claim to be geese capable of laying golden eggs. They claim that corporate greed and the ultra-rich present to paraphrase Orwell, a boot stamping in our face that they can not only remove but enrich everyone with said removal. What they don’t say is that the supposed plutocracy a misnomer, and that even by placing their own hammer and sickle emblazoned boot in the face of business and the rich, they cannot steal enough money to fund their programs. America is not Europe –what works across the Atlantic will not work here and any attempt to say different is either ignorant of the facts or just lying.

Photo credit: “Bernie Sanders” Wikiquote

Thank you for reading The Conservative Critique and I hope you will subscribe and read the future articles.


[1] https://berniesanders.com/issues/health-care-for-all/

[2] https://www.mercatus.org/system/files/blahous-costs-medicare-mercatus-working-paper-v1_1.pdf

[3] https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/questions-medicare-all-supporters-must-answer

[4] https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2001rank.html =

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Unfunded liabilities: The untold story of the American debt

Every American knows that the debt Uncle Sam has racked up is mindboggling. A single visit to the website USDebtClock.org, a website that shows real time economic statistics for the United States, shows this well enough. As of the 7th of July 2019 the figures do indeed look grim. The federal government owes $22.523 ($22,523,000,000,000) trillion dollars which would figure out to $68,387 per citizen and $183,031 per taxpayer. Note, the website has a feature called “the debt clock time machine” where it predictably states what figures looked like in the past or what they estimate they will look like in the future. Incidentally, by 2023 the national debt is projected to be $29.908 ($29,908,000,000,000) trillion, $87,274 per citizen and $224,663 per taxpayer.

Those figures do not bode well for our economic future at all but that does not even tell half of the story. Back in good old 2019 at the bottom of the page rests much scarier numbers. As one could infer from the title of this article, they are the unfunded liabilities. Simply put, an unfunded liability is mandatory government spending on programs such as social security and Medicare that are just that, unfunded. The money is not there to give out. Eventually, the welfare coffers will run dry and severe changes will need to be made. Such shocking changes as will inevitably be inflicted by the collapse of the welfare state aside, the real problem are how it relates to the national debt. Some of these liabilities must be paid out each year (social security for today’s retirees) and if the money is not there to pay that out it must be acquired somehow. This can be done through raising taxes to increase revenue, borrowing or printing more money. However it is done, there are negative economic effects. Raising taxes has a self-evidently negative effect. Borrowing makes the problem worse and increases the cost to service the debt. Creating more money runs the risk of inflation which reduces the value of all money and drains savings.

With the inherent dangers of unfunded liabilities in mind, now their size can be appreciated. The debt clock places the total at $125.015 trillion ($125,015,000,000,000) at this time. Social Security stands at a cool $19.895 trillion ($19,895,000,000,000) and Medicare at $30.680 trillion ($30,680,000,000,000). Before panic sets in, not everyone agrees that these numbers are accurate. Some think the number should be far higher. Forbes recently claimed that the total amount of unfunded liabilities is actually an incomprehensible $210 trillion ($210,000,000,000,000). Keep in mind that at this moment, democrats running for the presidency in 2020 are pitching programs like Medicare for all, universal healthcare, universal basic income and other prohibitively expensive programs. Just because they are just that, prohibitively expensive won’t stop the left from implementing them if given half a chance. Any grandiose program like those proposed by the socialists would astronomically increase not only the debt but the unfunded liabilities.

One would imagine that every news outlet in America would be sounding the alarm about financial commitments like this. After all, anyone watching the news is bombarded with rhetoric about the national debt but there are almost never any words spoken on this subtopic of it. Indeed, searching the internet for articles on this topic reveals only a few articles –the Forbes article sourced above and a stray Real Clear Politics editorial. The silence is deafening from the media on a critical issue that has the possibility of blowing apart the American economic system. If real solutions are to be advanced, attention must be paid to it by both the media and the American people at large.

Photo credit: Screenshot of USDebtClock.org

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Translating Trump: the ‘go back’ saga

                A few days ago president Donald Trump touched off yet another firestorm with a series of tweets directed at radical left wing congressmen. The liberals in Trump’s sights are the four members of the so-called “squad” representatives Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib, Pressley and Omar. As of late they have captured headlines with radical policy proposals. In late 2018, Cortez made the obscene demand of $40 trillion for Medicare for all for the next decade, loan forgiveness, paid family leave and a myriad of other giveaways. Representative Omar has a history of flagrantly anti-sematic statements such as when she claimed the Jewish lobby was forcing congressmen to “pledge allegiance” to Israel and on another occasion she suggested that “Israel has hypnotized the world.” Representative Tlaib’s record is so anti-sematic that the Zionist Organization of America has formally called for her expulsion from the Democratic Party. Representative Pressley is yet to do anything extravagantly radical while in office. 

                The record of the so-called “squad” puts them in stark opposition to President Trump and the conservative movement. Clashes between the two have already happened but it heated up with Trump’s July 15th tweets. In their entirety the tweets in question go as follows:

“So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly……

….and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how….

….it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!”

                Immediately, the leftists responded in force starting with a condemnation from the so-called “squad.” At a press conference Omar retorted, “This is the agenda of white nationalists, whether it is happening in chat rooms or on national TV. And now it’s reached the White House garden. He would love nothing more than to divide our country based on race, religion, gender orientation or immigration status because this is the only way he knows he can prevent the solidarity of us working together despite all our differences.”

Such went the leftist line of attack. The strategy was to brand Trump as a racist even more so than they already have. In the past, accusations of racism against the president have relied on his comments about “Sh*t hole countries” and the desire to build the wall. With these new tweets, playing the race card has become significantly easier for leftists.

The Democrat controlled House of Representatives followed up the racism argument by approving a resolution to condemn the president’s tweets. Four republicans threw in with the Democrats to condemn him –Will Hurd, Fred Upton, Brian Fitzpatrick, Susan Brooks and Independent Justin Amash. Six republicans abstained from the vote with the rest voting against it. At this point in this chronicle, the argument of the conservatives defending Trump was basically went like this: “The tweets were worded poorly but this is a question less of race and more about love of country. Anyone who does not like this country is free to leave it and go to a country they do. It appears that those congresswomen do not love America and therefore, they are free to leave.” The racial angle of it is downplayed to whatever extent possible as another Trump gaffe that failed to communicate his ideas effectively.

The situation changed after a Trump rally in Greenville, North Carolina. After lambasting the so-called “squad” at some length, a chant of “send her back” started up. With parts of a crowd chanting that a rally, it any racial element of the matter had been exacerbated. More conservatives denounced the president or his supporters for that. Former GOP congressman Joe Walsh tweeted, “‘SEND HER BACK, SEND HER BACK,’ is ugly. It’s ignorant. It’s dangerous, and it’s un-American. It’s flat out bigotry. And every Republican should condemn this bigotry immediately. Stop this now.” Illinois representative Adam Kinzinger (R)similarly wrote, “I deeply disagree with the extreme left & have been disgusted by their tone. I woke up today equally disgusted – chants like “send her back” are ugly, wrong, & would send chills down the spines of our Founding Fathers. This ugliness must end, or we risk our great union.” Representative Tom Emmer responded by saying that “there is no place [for Trump’s rhetoric.”

Trump did disavow the chant saying, “I was not happy with it, I disagree with it.” At that point unfortunately, the damage was done and the entire debacle had colored Trump and portions of his base as racists. In the coming days the president would tweet multiple times defending himself by either doubling down on the “love it or leave it” line sans any hints of racial commentary or by sampling saying that he “doesn’t have a racist bone in [his] body.” This strategy represents Trump realizing albeit late, that the tweet was worded poorly and he is being more concise in his criticism of the hard left. He has distanced himself from anything wording to the effect of “go back to your country” in favor of the old conservative tag line “love it or leave it.”

Leaving out any wording that suggests any racial commentary –even if none was meant, is a must for Trump going forward. He was wrong to use any wording related to the phrase “go back to your country” or any similar theme. The president is not a racist; he touts the prosperity brought to minorities under his administration every other day on twitter. He has appointed minorities to high government offices such as black neurosurgeon Ben Carson as the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Elaine L. Chao who was the first Asian-American to be appointed to a cabinet position as Secretary of transportation etc. The American people seem to believe this too considering that his poll numbers among blacks are significantly higher than they were for him in 2016 and far better than Mitt Romney’s before him. The tweets that set off this mess appear to be one-off mistakes that will not be repeated. Now, he is sticking with the race neutral message that anyone who does not love America is free to leave it, inferring that his radical left wing opponents do not love America of course. Wording like that is largely safe from misinterpretation. Senator Ron Johnson (R) concurred with this recently declaring on CNN that, “the whole America love or leave it is not a new sentiment. Back in the 1960s, that wasn’t considered racist” he then went on to blame race creeping into to every facet of life for mischaracterizing the phrase as racist. With any luck, Trump can keep from sticking his foot in his mouth with more poorly worded tweets and chants like that which happened in North Carolina do not repeat themselves.

Image credit: CNN “Donald Trump isn’t learning from his mistakes (opinion) – CNN”

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Rand Paul blocked the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund bill but there are better things to cut

                Today, GOP senator Rand Paul blocked a bill that would extend the timeline of the 9/11 victims compensation fund. Though he is technically a Republican, Paul is a stalwart libertarian that is tough on the national debt. It should then come as no surprise that the reason he objected to it was on economic grounds saying that, “It has long been my feeling that we need to address our massive debt in the country and therefore any new spending … should be offset by cutting spending that’s less valuable. We need to at the very least have this debate.” Admirable that he stood up for his principles as it is, the debt hawks like Paul should look elsewhere for things to cut.

                Enter Citizens Against Government Waste. Its roots go back to the administration of the great Ronald Reagan and his crusade against waste. In 1982 the Grace Commission was created to find any and all examples of government waste and provide recommendations to eliminate them. The real beauty of it was that it was privately funded and cost the taxpayers exactly nothing. Reagan instructed them to “work like tireless blood hounds to root out government inefficiency and wastes of tax dollars” and for two years that is what they did. Their report made thousands of recommendations that would have saved upwards of $400 billion dollars over the course of three years. Over the next two decades, their recommendations would save over one trillion dollars. Today they boast over a million members and they are one of the most influential sources on the topic of blatant waste.

Every year, Citizens Against Government Waste publishes a report entitled “prime cuts” where they list the worst sources of waste and provide recommendations on how to eliminate them. They boast of big savings that could be had if congress followed their advice going as far as writing “The 2018 version contains 636 recommendations that would save taxpayers $429.8 billion in the first year and $3.1 trillion over five years.” Waste is abhorrent in scale and needs to be slashed. It is this that should be cut not the 9/11 victims compensation fund. For the purposes of illustration, a few of the prime cuts will be examined from the most recent (2018) report linked to in this paragraph. All statistics come from the report unless otherwise noted.

  1. Repeal the Davis-Bacon Act

Created in 1931, this piece of legislation has the innocent sounding objective of ensuring that laborers on federal projects receive the prevailing wage. What could possibly be wrong with that one may inquire? The fault lies in the idea of a “prevailing wage” which is a term that refers specifically to the union wage. Quoting from Prime Cuts 2018, “Davis-Bacon was passed as part of an effort by high-skilled, high-wage, mostly white workers to keep out lower-paid, non-union, minority competition. In 1931, Rep. Miles Allgood (D-Ala.), arguing for the act’s passage, complained of ‘that contractor [who] has cheap colored labor which he transports … and it is labor of that sort that is in competition with white labor throughout the country.’” The theory is that minority, non-union workers would work for less than the white union workers and thereby the former would be more attractive to hire than the latter. To stop this, the government set a something of a minimum wage on the federal projects in the form of Davis-Bacon. The act has been suspended before such as in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and shockingly, the world did not end. In 2017, the Heritage Foundation found that the federal government could add 160,000 construction jobs without increasing the deficit if it were not for this law. In 2016, the Congressional Budget Office found that eliminating it would save $15.7 billion between 2017 and 2026. Citizens Against Government Waste projected its elimination would save over $6 billion dollars in five years. Axing it would save taxpayer dollars, possibly add jobs and end a legacy of union-sponsored racism.

2. Reduce US funding of the United Nations by 25%

                America pulls her own weight in funding the UN. Perhaps more than her own weight. Perhaps way more than her own weight. The US funds 22% of the UN’s general budget and 28% of the peacekeeping budget. In 2016 this amounted to a whopping $10 billion dollars. In the past two decades, the UN has doubled its budget and tripled the peacekeeping budget. One must keep these numbers in mind when one is reminded that “former UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali once estimated that ‘perhaps half of the UN work force does nothing useful.’” As depressing as that quotation is, it does not touch the fact that the UN undermines America all too often. One must remember the vote to recognize condemn the United States for recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in which nine nations voted against –with the US and Israel included! It only makes sense to scale back our monetary support of an organization that does act in our interests and it would save $12.5 billion over the next five years.

3. Eliminate the Rural Utilities Service

What began life as the Rural Electrification Administration is another one of those old New Deal programs that needs to be put out to pasture but instead keeps growing. It was founded all the way back in 1935 to electrify the countryside. By the dawn of the Reagan years, 98.7% of the country was electrified and 95% had telephone wires. Any sane government would go drink champagne and celebrate a victory but our government didn’t do that. In 1994, it was transformed into the RUC and began giving out loans and grants to “underserved” areas. In 2002, it was then expanded again this time to include broadband services to the same areas. Citizens Against Government Waste recounts a tragic RUC story as follows: “Some of the BAP’s (the broadband delivering wing of the RUC) wasteful projects include the $667,120 given to Buford Communications of LaGrange, Arkansas, (population 122) in 2009 to build a hybrid fiber coaxial network and a new community center.  This equates to $5,468 per resident of LaGrange.” Pork spending like that is absolutely insane and needs to be cut. If congress did wise up and cut it, the savings would amount to $41 billion dollars in the next five years.

The moral of the story is that waste is everywhere. Government is like a pig, it has vital organs that must function and it has fat –lots of fat. The state does important work like provide the courts, the police, the military and basic infrastructure but it also ventures far beyond this. When government wanders into the weeds as it has a proclivity to do, the result is the RUC, the Davis-Bacon Act and sending billions to the UN. These are the cream of the crop of examples of fat that needs to be trimmed. Rand Paul today blocked a bill that would indeed cut some material off the government pig. It would save money that is true and there is merit to that too but one must look at what was cut in relationship to what still needs to be cut. Senator Paul was correct, cuts must be made but, one should look to blatant examples of fat to cut instead of the 9/11 victims compensation fund.

Photo credit: “Rand Paul Wants To Block Nation’s Top Doctor Over Gun Views” via The Physician’s News Digest

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Top 10 must read books for conservatives Part 2 of 2

Continuing the theme of must read books for conservatives from the previous article. The fields of economics and politics are very complicated as anyone who has looked into either can attest to. These twin studies underlie everything all the current events that grab the headlines. One can understand the happenings in Washington just fine from the news but to truly appreciate their depth, one must understand what is behind them. To do this, one must sit down and crack some books. Only when one obtains a solid foundation of political and economic theory can one get the most out of the daily happenings in DC. That is where this list comes in. Without further ado, here is the second half of the list of the top 10 books that every conservative should read.

5. The Road to Serfdom by F. A Hayek

                It is a classic of economics and it is Hayek’s magnum opus. In this wide ranging and beautifully written treatise, he writes about the dangers of central planning in all of its forms. If his book was to have one unifying theme it would be that the government control of the economy is fundamentally undesirable and even dangerous. Though that is his thesis, The Road to Serfdom encompasses many subtopics. He discusses the violence of totalitarian, socialistic regimes for instance. Elsewhere he determines that government can never know the desires of every man under its jurisdiction and that is what would be required for planning to function as well as a market economy in delivering the wants and needs of its citizenry. Planning can never then be as desirable as the free market. He also made the important point that socialists of all stripes be they orthodox socialists, Nazis or communists differ only in their goals and very little in their methods. Anyone looking to understand the root of the hard left philosophies and where they go wrong must should start with Hayek.

4. The Law by Frederic Bastiat

                Bastiat is one of those hidden gems in the field of economics. He is most known for this book when he is known at all. Since it is only around 60 pages, it is a quick read. His thesis boils down to the fact that perverting the law of the nation to destroy justice is as equally possible as it is immoral. Specifically that it is immoral for the government to take from one and bestow upon another without justice. Much contempt is lathered on the planners who would use the coercive instruments of the state to remake society in their own image as if they were God. A parallel can be made here with Hayek which makes these two books go especially well together.

3. A Patriot’s History of the United States by Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen

                This one is a behemoth by anyone’s standards which may turn some off but it is worth the commitment. Totaling over 900 pages, this volume tells the story of America from Columbus’s journey until the early 2000s. Unlike other historians who without mincing words hate America such as the late Howard Zinn, Schweikart and Allen look at our collective history from a viewpoint that is definitely positive without being obnoxious about it. They weigh the negatives but find that overall, American history is long narrative of the triumph of liberty, free markets and the Judeo-Christian way. No stone is left unturned in their pursuit of the truth of history. They devastate the New Deal and the Great Society, reinforce Reagan, show the selflessness of the Founding Fathers, redeem the so called “robber barons” and debunk misnomer after misnomer. For those who are seeking the conservative view of American history, this is a one stop shop.

2. 48 Liberal Lies About American History by Larry Schweikart

                Written by one of the authors of the previous selection, this read is a pleasure for history lovers. As the title suggests, it is partisan and reflects the conservative view of history. No claims are made that aren’t backed up with copious sources and no cheap shots are taken. Rather, the goal of this book is to hit back at cheap shots doled out by school textbooks about American history. He is explicit about this. At the opening of each chapter, he quotes a few textbooks that claim they teach history with some grisly misrepresentation. Then he pounces and proves it categorically incorrect no fewer than 48 times. He tackles numerous (reoccurring) lies in these books such as the free market caused the depression, Columbus killed millions of Indians, the A-bomb strikes on Japan were done to intimidate Stalin and women had no rights in early America. For the conservative unwilling to submit to leftists monopoly on history education, this is a must read.

  1. New Deal or Raw Deal? By Burton Folsom Jr.

For the final book on this list of the best books for conservatives in no particular order, we come to New Deal or Raw Deal, the defining criticism of FDR’s economic policy. Full disclosure, one of the deciding factors for adding this book to the list was that I spoke with Dr. Folsom at a conference with the student group Young Americans for Freedom. He may or may not have autographed my copy that I happened to bring with me. This aside, it is one of the best history books I have stumbled across. He theorizes that contrary to the popular belief among academics, the Great Depression was a result of the policies of Uncle Sam not Wall Street. Most of the book is made up of long, well-researched criticisms of each of Franklin Roosevelt’s most recognizable programs. Negative externalities ran rampant, business was stifled, and the crisis was actually lengthened. New Deal or Raw Deal presents a fresh look at Roosevelt’s era without the cult like worship of the man so prevalent among historians.

                Indeed, politics and economics are complicated endeavors that require deep understanding of the underlying theory. Not everyone is willing to spend the time needed to get through these books neither will they appeal to every single conservative for one reason or another. There is nothing at all wrong with that because these are merely a few ideas on where to start for he who is just beginning the research.

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