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Pavlovian Politics

We have all seen people on both sides of the political aisle use catch phrases routinely in response to political topics, but it seems the Democrats have honed this skill to razor sharpness. For example, in her recent “60 Minutes” interview, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) was asked by Anderson Cooper if she thought President Trump was a racist, to which her reflexive response was, 

“Yes, no question. When you look at the words that he uses, which are historic dog whistles of white supremacy, when you look at how he reacted to Charlottesville incident where neo-Nazis murdered a woman, versus how he manufactures crisis, like immigrants seeking legal refuge on our borders, it is night and day.”

Her response seemed almost robotic. I found her use of words like “dog whistles,” “white supremacy” and “manufactures crisis” illuminating as if she had been programmed to use such expressions on command, kind of like Pavlov’s dog. Say a certain word or ask a question, and the person begins to salivate automatically. Frankly, it’s kind of scary.

The expression “dog whistles” is particularly interesting as it is now commonly used by the Left to denote how they believe conservatives respond. Now I will admit I have seen Republicans use catch phrases, such as “Lock her up” and “CNN sucks,” but I have found conservatives more inclined to engage in honest debate as opposed to Democrats trained in Pavlovian responses.

Do you want to stop a left-wing Democrat in his/her tracks? Just tell them you have voted for a Democrat in the past, as you thought the person was the right candidate for the job, and then ask if they ever voted for a Republican. A wild-eyed expression comes over their face and they are at a loss for words.

I had a Democrat friend who recently told me point blank, “I will never go to any meeting where a Republican is speaking.” So much for open-mindedness. I also guess I will not see him in any of my audiences any time soon.

What I am finding with Democrats is there is less courteous debate and more conditioning in terms of talking points. Whenever I get in an argument with them, I feel I am dealing directly with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow or CNN’s Don Lemon, et al. Interestingly, if you ask them to explain their rehearsed talking points, they are at a loss. This speaks volumes about the power of the main stream media. Further, they tend to turn up the volume as if you cannot hear them. I have found both young and older Democrats becoming excessively passionate and less inclined to hear opposing views, thereby emboldening them to attack their opponents.

Now there is a movement in the media to label Republicans as racist, hate-filled liars. This is all being done as a prelude to the 2020 elections to condition their constituents to believe Republicans are evil and must be eliminated. Through the use of identity politics, the media is creating stereotypes intended for character assassination. I don’t think Hitler could have done it any better.

As to racism, let us never forget not one Republican ever owned a slave. In fact, the Republican Party was created to abolish slavery (anyone remember a guy named Lincoln?). The Left conveniently overlooks the fact that the Ku Klux Klan and Jim Crow laws were all Democrat inventions, and somehow try to blame the Republicans for their creation. Nothing could be further from the truth. Nonetheless, by training people to repetitively chant “Racist, Racist, Racist,” they are hoping people will develop a reflexive action against the Republicans.

By religiously parroting the talking points of the Left, the Democrats have become a party of lemmings controlled by the news media who has plotted them on a course to tear their opponents apart. More likely though, they will end up in the abyss.

Keep the Faith!

RELATED VIDEO: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) 60 Minutes interview with Anderson Cooper

EDITORS NOTE: This column with images is republished with permission. All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies. The featured photo is by Charles Deluvio 🇵🇭🇨🇦 on Unsplash.

Kavanaugh Allegations: Aimed at Justice or at a Justice?

Why would someone sit on an allegation for nearly six weeks, if were about a subject that everyone is supposed to be concerned about? Perhaps it’s because they are more concerned about how to use the allegation than whether or not the allegation is true.

Welcome to Washington, DC where such political theater is regularly on display, the latest episode being Senate Democrats’ efforts to derail Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh with an eleventh-hour allegation of inappropriate behavior from more than thirty years ago. Whether or not the allegation is true is one thing. We should always be concerned about the truth. But how it is being used is another — and methods have the right to be questioned.

“It’s disturbing that these uncorroborated allegations from more than 35 years ago, during high school, would surface on the eve of a committee vote after Democrats sat on them since July,” a Senate Judiciary Committee statement read. “If Ranking Member Feinstein and other Committee Democrats took this claim seriously, they should have brought it to the full Committee’s attention much earlier.”

Quite true. Instead, writes the committee, Democrats “said nothing during two joint phone calls with the nominee in August, four days of lengthy public hearings, a closed session for all committee members with the nominee where sensitive topics can be discussed and in more than 1,300 written questions. Sixty-five senators met individually with Judge Kavanaugh during a nearly two-month period before the hearing began, yet Feinstein didn’t share this with her colleagues ahead of many of those discussions.”

At the same time, many (including many women who knew him years ago) have firmly vouched for his character and integrity. Additionally, as my friend Franklin Graham noted, “Judge Kavanaugh has been through 6 incredibly thorough FBI vettings and a multitude of other inquiries, and nothing even related to these 36-year-old allegations has ever come up.” We know that many progressives and opponents of our Constitution as it is written would love nothing more than for this whole process to be derailed. Given the way this has unfolded, we have every reason to believe Kavanaugh’s opponents don’t care about justice; they care about a justice — specifically, that he not make it onto the Court.

As Franklin reminds us, we must “[p]ray for Judge Kavanaugh, Mrs. Ford who is making this accusation, their families, and for wisdom and discernment for Senate leadership dealing with these post-hearing, previously unreported, allegations from his distant teenage years.” Indeed, in a situation like this, let us all pray — for the good of our Constitution and our nation — that truth, justice, and righteousness would prevail.


Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.


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CARTOON VIDEO: Hillary’s ‘Crime Isn’t Criminal’ Children’s Book

Jimmy Kimmel sure likes to lampoon but only for one side, well we think fair play is called for in this election. We whipped up a little Children’s Book of our own for everyone’s favorite political gangster, ole Machine Gun Clinton.

HAT TIP: Semi Respectable – Cartoons

New Republican Party: The Red, Purple and Parchment Troika

In my column New Democrat Party: The Red-Green-Rainbow Troika we took a look at the Democratic Party and how President Obama has fundamentally changed it by forming political alliances, creating a Troika. The members of the Red-Green-Rainbow Troika are certainly strange bedfellows but politics makes for strange bedfellows.

Now let’s look at the Republican Party.

Who has fundamentally changed it, why and is it for the better or worse? Who are members of the New Republican Party Troika (NRPT)? These are questions that may help voters understand what happened during the presidential primary of 2016 and what will happen in the lead up to November 8th.

Just like the Democratic Party, the GOP is make up of a Troika. The Republican Troika consists of three major factions:

  1. Conservative Republicans (a.k.a. the reds). These are the Grand Old Party elite (GOPe). They joined the party after the Goldwater years and have gained in power and prestige due to their unwavering party loyalty. They normally vote the Republican ticket.
  2. Republicans In Name Only (a.k.a. the purples or RINOs). These are individuals who joined the Republican party solely to win a political seat or appointment. A perfect example is former Florida Governor, former Republican and now Democrat Charlie Crist. The purples do not hold conservative values, rather they change as does the weather in the Sunshine State. The RINOs will not necessarily vote for the Republican ticket. Some have joined movements to undermine Republican nominees for president dating back to the days of Barry Goldwater.
  3. Constitutional Conservatives (a.k.a. the TEA Party). They embrace the parchment upon which the Constitution and Bill of Rights are written and signed by the Founding Fathers. This group includes Libertarians.

What differentiates these three factions is their commitment to “conservative values”, which are defined differently by each faction.

Arizona Republican Senator Barry Goldwater and presidential candidate in his book “The Conscience of a Conservative” wrote:

I have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose to extend freedom. My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them. It is not to inaugurate new programs, but to cancel old ones that do violence to the Constitution, or that have failed their purpose, or that impose on the people an unwarranted financial burden. I will not attempt to discover whether legislation is “needed” before I have first determined whether it is constitutionally permissible. And if I should later be attacked for neglecting my constituents’ “interests,” I shall reply that I was informed that their main interest is liberty and that in that cause I am doing the very best I can.

This statement, to many Republicans, defines Conservative values at every level of government. The idea of limited government as envisioned by the Founders and enshrined in the Constitution. States rights are paramount and trump efforts to impose government laws and regulations upon the population.

But not all members of the Troika embrace Goldwater’s statement. For you see there has been no true Conservative leader of the Republican Party since Ronald Reagan. How do we know? The American Enterprise Institute’s  in a column titled A reality check about Republican presidents measured the growth of government (i.e. regulations) over the past fifty years. Murray writes:

…I think it’s useful to remind everyone of the ways in which having a Republican president hasn’t made all that much difference for the last fifty years, with Ronald Reagan as the one exception.

First, here’s the history of the most commonly used measure of growth in the regulatory state, the number of pages in the Federal Code of Regulations.

murray_05132016

We can fairly blame LBJ’s Democratic administration for the initial spike in regulations, and Jimmy Carter’s years saw another steep rise. But using number of pages as the measure understates what happened during the Nixon years, when we got the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, plus much of the legislation that gave regulators the latitude to define terms such as “clean” or “safe” as they saw fit.

After the Carter years, the slope of the trendline was shallowest in the Reagan and Clinton administrations (with the Clinton result concentrated in his second term, when a Republican House imposed a moratorium on some new regulations). The increase during the Obama years remained on the same slope as the one during George W. Bush’s years. And if you’re thinking about the Democrats’ most egregious regulatory excess, Dodd-Frank in 2010, recall that Sarbanes-Oxley passed in 2002, when Republicans controlled both the House and the Senate.

I should add that presidents don’t bear a lot of blame for failing to reduce regulation — their power to restrain the activities of the regulatory agencies is limited — but neither has electing a Republican president done any good, with Reagan as a partial exception.

Read more.

With the GOP nominee process ending and Donald Trump as the nominee, what has changed? Who is now the leader of the GOP?

Many would say Trump, as the nominee, will be driving the policy and politics of the Republican Party. However, their are those who write and speculate that their remains an internal discord within the party between one of the three factions. The most likely faction to cause this discord are the purples/RINOs. The other two factions have begun uniting behind Trump.

Ayn Rand wrote, “The uncontested absurdities of today are the accepted slogans of tomorrow. They come to be accepted by degrees, by dint of constant pressure on one side and constant retreat on the other – until one day when they are suddenly declared to be the country’s official ideology.”

What are the uncontested absurdities of the Republican Party elite? Here’s a short list:

  1. Fear. Republican elites fear being called out by Democrats, the media and at times by fellow Republicans. The fear is palpable.
  2. Political correctness. Republicans succumb to the pressures of being politically correct (see #1 above).
  3. Compromise. Republicans are prone to compromise their values when it is unnecessary or by dint of constant pressure from the Democrat Troika. Compromise is the art of losing slowly. Something the GOPe is accustomed to.
  4. Elitism. The Republican elite (GOPe) has consistently ignored the voices of primary voters in 2008, 20012 and in 2016.
  5. Old guard career politicians. The old guard is not focused on retaining the core values of the party of Abraham Lincoln, rather it is focused on winning re-election.
  6. Lack of leadership. The GOP has controlled Congress for the past 4 years yet has failed to stop the agenda of the Democrat Troika. The leadership of McConnell/Boehner and now McConnell/Ryan have failed to make headway.
  7. Politics by press release. Republicans have become the party of the press release. They send out press statements that sound good on the surface but seldom become political reality, law or have an impact on public policy or Main Street Americans.
  8. Ignoring the base. The GOPe believe they can win presidential elections with old guard, politically correct, compromising, career politicians.
  9. Going along to get along. The best way to win re-election is to go along with the GOPe and Democrats. Shutting down the government to keep from increasing the national debt or reducing the size of government spending goes against the grain of the GOPe.
  10. The GOPe eats its own. The GOPe in the name of items #1-#9 will attack candidates and elected Republicans. Moderate means purple.

So what’s the solution to all of these Republican absurdities? As Newt Gingrich wrote in an article in The Washington Times on January 8, 2016 titled “Donald Trump”:

You’re sick of politicians, sick of the Democratic Party, Republican Party, and sick of illegal’s. You just want this thing fixed. Trump may not be a saint, but doesn’t have any lobbyist money influencing him, he doesn’t have political correctness restraining him, all you know is that he has been very successful, a good negotiator, he has built a lot of things, and he’s also not a politician, so he’s not a cowardly politician. And he says he’ll fix it. You don’t care if the guy has bad hair. You just want those raccoon’s [rabid, messy, mean politicians] gone. Out of your house!

Donald J. Trump has changed the political paradigm. Will the purples follow or become the thorn in the side of Trump. That is the question.

lincoln quote

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Why Do We Believe These Pathological Liars? by B.K. Marcus

How do you feel when someone lies to you?

It probably depends on who is doing the lying. A stranger’s fabrications may not phase you, but dishonesty from a friend or lover can end the relationship. The more you feel the liar is supposed to be “on your side,” the more his or her deceptions feel like betrayal — unless, it turns out, the lies come from a politician you support.

When I shared a link on Facebook to Rick Shenkman’s article “Why Are Trump Voters Not Bothered by His Lies?” someone immediately replied by asking, “Why are Hillary voters not bothered by her lies?” Why, in other words, focus on only one mendacious candidate when lying to voters seems like a prerequisite for running for office?

Shenkman, who is the editor of HistoryNewsNetwork.org and the author ofPolitical Animals: How Our Stone-Age Brain Gets in the Way of Smart Politics, might respond with his claim that Trump “has told more lies than any other leading political figure probably ever has.” But his article is in fact about neither Trump’s astonishing number of fibs nor his supporters’ astonishing tolerance for them; it is about how widespread both such lying and such tolerance are across party lines and throughout the era of mass-media mass democracy.

Shenkman is writing for a left-leaning readership, thus his headline’s righteous indignation toward a right-wing candidate, but most of the examples he gives are of deliberately deceitful Democrats. He starts with candidate Kennedy’s campaign claim that the Soviets had more nuclear missiles than the United States:

He continued to insist that there was a missile gap to the Soviet’s advantage even after he was briefed by General Earl Wheeler that there wasn’t. After the election his secretary of defense, Robert McNamara, told the press on background that a study had found there was no missile gap, leading to blaring headlines the next morning.

JFK’s reaction? He ordered his press secretary, Pierre Salinger, to tell the media that there had been no study and that there was a gap. The truth was that JFK himself didn’t take his own rhetoric about the missile gap seriously. At cabinet meetings he cracked on numerous occasions, “Who ever believed in the missile gap” anyway?

Four years later, President Johnson “told the American people that the North Vietnamese were guilty of making repeated unprovoked attacks on [US] naval vessels in the Tonkin Gulf.” As with Kennedy, we know that Johnson was being dishonest, not mistaken. “Hell,” LBJ told an aide, “those dumb stupid sailors were just shooting at flying fish.”

Shenkman barely touches on Nixon’s perfidy in Watergate and never mentions Nixon aide John Ehrlichman’s 1994 interview, admitting that the war on drugs was not about crime or health but was rather a politically motivated attack on war protestors and American blacks. “Did we know we were lying about the drugs?” said the president’s former domestic affairs advisor. “Of course we did.”

And while he may have given Ms. Clinton a pass, Shenkman does mention the millions of supporters who refused to believe the allegations against her husband “until prosecutors revealed they possessed [Monica Lewinsky’s] infamous blue dress.”

No one should be shocked by the frequency of politicians’ duplicity, but it is frustrating when a candidate is caught in an undeniable falsehood and his or her supporters never waiver.  Our political culture expects politicians to perjure and prevaricate left and right, but that doesn’t make their deceptions defensible. So where is the outrage?

“Our brains are partisan,” Shenkman writes:

While we are quick to seize on the misstatements of other candidates, we give them a pass when it’s our own. When the social scientist Drew Westen put voters in an MRI machine he discovered that their brains quickly shut off the flow of information contrary to their beliefs about their favorite candidates. The neurons actively involved in the transmission of this information literally went inactive.

It’s not just the political candidates who are lying. So are the voters. “We lie,” Shenkman points out, “about our unwillingness to put up with lies.”

If politicians keep lying and voters keep shrugging it off, isn’t that an indictment of democracy? Aren’t voters supposed to act as a check on the people in power?

In theory, an election is supposed to be more than a popularity contest. Candidates are supposed to represent an approach to policy making, which is in turn supposed to reflect both facts and a theory of cause and effect. What we have instead is a formalized tribalism, us versus them, facts be damned.

Shenkman assures the reader that the liars don’t get away with it forever, but his evidence for that conclusion is questionable. Johnson and Nixon are remembered as liars by both Democrats and Republicans, but the reckoning for Gulf of Tonkin and Watergate are outliers in the steady stream of deception flowing out of DC and the state capitals. Meanwhile, Mssrs Kennedy and Clinton will be remembered more for deceiving their wives than the voters.

Westen’s research on cognitive dissonance and party politics is troubling, but well before there was any hard data on how voters process unwanted facts, the theory of rational ignorance told us why so many facts are so unwanted: to the individual voter, the cost of acquiring the relevant knowledge far outweighs the practical benefits of knowing the truth when casting a ballot.

In contrast, the benefits of supporting a candidate accrue, not from any actual effect on the electoral outcome, but largely from the signaling that it provides the voter: this is the sort of person I am, and these are the sorts of causes I support. Symbolic affiliation isn’t dependent on the truth of any particular facts, so why should we expect inconvenient falsehoods to change anyone’s political alignment?

As I wrote in “Too Dumb for Democracy?” (Freeman, spring 2015), “getting an issue like the minimum wage terribly wrong takes no work and has the immediate payoff of feeling like you’re on the side of the angels. It also solidifies your standing within your own ideological tribe. Bothering to understand supply and demand … offers no practical reward after you pull the lever in the election booth.”

The lies we care the least to uncover are precisely those for which the cost of caring outweighs the benefits of our vigilance. That describes almost anything we may ever be asked to vote on. But when knowing the truth directly matters to the decisions we make every day — the truth about our jobs, our homes, our families and loved ones — the relative benefits of knowing the truth are far greater, and we therefore penalize the liars in our lives. Cognitive dissonance may be a barrier to accepting hard truths, but even cognitive dissonance is price sensitive.

The more decisions we cede to the political process, the less we should expect anyone to protect our interests. Even we don’t bother to do it, because the rules of the game — majority rules — render our efforts ineffectual. Worse than that: we’re not even rewarded for knowing what policies really are or aren’t in our best interest.

The truth can win out, but it’s a lot less likely in an election.

B.K. MarcusB.K. Marcus

B.K. Marcus is editor of the Freeman.

Trump Campaign Dismisses America First Controversy

George Santayana’s careworn expression may be invoked yet again over the meme adopted in Trump’s first Foreign Policy speech delivered at the Center for National Interest (CNI) in Washington, DC on Wednesday April 27, 2016. America First.  Santayana said: “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Trump in his CNI speech issued his emphatic clarion call to the remaining primary voters across America:

It’s time to shake the rust off America’s foreign policy. It’s time to invite new voices and new visions into the fold, something we have to do. The direction I will outline today will also return us to a timeless principle. My foreign policy will always put the interests of the American people and American security above all else. It has to be first. Has to be.That will be the foundation of every single decision that I will make. America First will be the major and overriding theme of my administration.

He did have this welcomed comment on Israel:

Israel, our great friend and the one true democracy in the Middle East has been snubbed and criticized by an administration that lacks moral clarity. Just a few days ago, Vice President Biden again criticized Israel, a force for justice and peace, for acting as an impatient peace area in the region.

That gave rise to criticism by the ADL’s Greenblatt cited in a Ha’aretz article:

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) urged Trump to reconsider the phrase Thursday citing its “anti-Semitic use in the months before Pearl Harbor by a group of prominent Americans seeking to keep the nation out of World War II.”

According to a statement released by the Jewish watchdog, the most prominent leader of the “America First Committee” was Charles Lindbergh, who “sympathized with the Nazis and whose rhetoric was characterized by anti-Semitism and offensive stereotypes, including assertions that Jews posed a threat to the U.S. because of their influence in motion pictures, radio, the press, and the government.”

Nonetheless, ADL chief Jonathan A. Greenblatt said “the undercurrents of anti-Semitism and bigotry that characterized the America First movement … are fortunately not a major concern today.”

“However, for many Americans, the term ‘America First’ will always be associated with and tainted by this history,” he said, adding that “in a political season that already has prompted a national conversation about civility and tolerance, choosing a call to action historically associated with incivility and intolerance seems ill-advised.”

For those of us old enough to have some knowledge of the isolationist anti-Semitic American First movement championed by Hitler admirer, Charles Lindbergh, who was given a personal award by Der Fuhrer for his aviation exploits, Trump’s use of it was jarring.

When I read the transcript of his speech, I asked a source in the Trump campaign about Dr. Walid Phares, one of Trump’s foreign policy advisers, who I knew personally from a decade of interaction including co-hosting radio shows on common subjects dealing with the Middle East, Israel and Jihad. I asked whether he had written Trump’s  America First speech. The answer was,” no.”  instead  I was directed to Phares’ Fox News opinion article that purports to lay out Trump’s foreign policy vision. There was no America First meme presented in his discussion. Lots of suggestions on changes in the traditional Americans alliances, prevention of Iran getting the nuclear weapon, that it may already possess, getting our allies in the NATO alliance to ante up the required annual defense budget allotments, dealing with ISIS and its global affiliates and the Muslim Brotherhood both here and abroad. Phares’ ringing conclusion:

A new popular majority is sweeping the country during these primary elections and another greater national current will legitimize these new principles with the election of Donald Trump as president in November. These new foreign policy directions will have a deeply informed public backing them, so that President Trump can muster the energies of the American people to create a sustainable defense, encompassing clear objectives coupled with a strong international presence.

Now more than ever, confident American leadership is vital for a world in disarray.

The meme of new policy directions figured prominently in a PBS News Hour  discussion on the merits of Trump’s Foreign Policy speech with Phares and former State Department official, now Hoover Institute scholar, Nicholas Burns. Burns found what he deemed lots of contradictions in Trump’s CNI speech. Phares demurred saying it was really about replacing old worn out failed policies with new ones.

Watch the PBS News Hour interview with Phares and Burns.

Phares was interviewed by Steve Inskeep of NPR’s Morning Edition. I have to issue a disclaimer on my part. I had found NPR’s news biased against Israel back in 2003. I participated in coordinating a national one day protest against NPR local affiliates in more than 40 locations, including the one I led in Connecticut. That led to a series of abrupt exchanges with the VP for News at the DC headquarters for several weeks following that protest. Notwithstanding, my attention was drawn to the transcript of NPR interview with Phares. Inskeep of NPR pressed  Phares on what Trump’s speech was all about with alleged contradictions upending the old policies in favor of new directions.  Phares pushed back on that until the inevitable occurred. Inskeep asked him about the American First meme as it brought memories of the pre-WWII American Firster isolationists led by Lindbergh. Here is the transcript exchange:

INSKEEP: Dr. Phares, one other thing. And we’ve just got about 30 seconds here. He uses this phrase, America First. It’s got a particular historical resonance. He’s borrowing a phrase that was used by people who opposed U.S. Involvement against Germany in World War II – 1939, 1940, 1941. Very, very briefly, is there a message here?

PHARES: If you are criticizing Mr. Trump, you will find all the bad connections.  He is very optimistic, and he is very positive none of these sentences that he pronounces go back to dark ages or go back to negative aspects at all.

I returned to the Campaign source and asked about that history. The response:

“America First” is a simple phrase that Mr. Trump uses to describe his approach to all aspects of American relations with the world, including trade, immigration and national defense. Under President Trump, the interests of the American people will be paramount. Putting it in the old category of the isolationists of the past who fought against American involvement in WWII is a mistake.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

VIDEO: The Rise of America’s First Muslim Brotherhood Political Party

star spangled shariahThe wolves have been at work for a while preparing for such a time as now. These wolves are cunning, patient, low profile, and terribly focused like a laser beam on their target; only their target is not simply a herd of sheep but an entire country that daily becomes increasingly like a herd of sheep. The country is the United States, and the wolves that have been at work are members of the Muslim Brotherhood and affiliate Islamic groups sworn to fulfill the Quran’s commandment to establish a Caliphate; a One-World Muslim religion, culture, law, and maniacal allegiance to their Prophet Mohammed. Any obstacle standing in their way of total achievement and domination is to be fully and completely eliminated – not tampered with, coddled or made friends with, but eliminated.

While a prodigious number of elected officials work diligently to make nice to all people everywhere, and struggle to bring about “political correctness” to win favor and reelection rather than lead for the sake and safety of the citizens to which elected them, and many citizens mumble and resent political correctness but go along with the ever multiplying tentacles, the wolves continue to pick off an institution or significant politician here and there, as they never once stray from their intended target, the elimination of our country! Many law enforcement senior commanders and chiefs have become politically neutered from being the once strong, respected, and proud sheepdog that historically stood post placing himself between the vulnerable flock and the wolves. Add the many facets of “transformation and change” Obama has brought forward, and very few have aggressively opposed, and the public herd is all the more confused and overwhelmed, and simply returns to eating and enjoying life for the moment. Thinking past the moment is too difficult, too scary, too mind boggling so the herd simply continues to enjoy the moment. All the while the wolves continue to focus on their target(s). One target in particular that has been illuminated is the American political process. The wolves’ intention is to become their own political force, but only insofar as to use this force to establish the Islamic Faith form of government and law supplanting the Constitution of the United States with Sharia Law!

You scoff and say this can’t happen! My very good colleague, Clare Lopez, Senior Vice President of The Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C. shares the evidence to demonstrate otherwise. Watch the five minute YouTube presentation below. Please take steps to understand what is transpiring all around you as the culture and fabric of America is deliberately being shredded. Some of us “sheep dogs” have already engaged in the fight against the wolves consumed with diabolical schemes to eliminate the whole herd, America. While a remnant of the herd have heeded our warnings and have responded to being educated on the clear and present danger, most of the herd continues to eat placidly with not a care on their mind – just as the wolves would like.

Star Spangled Shariah: The Rise of America’s First Muslim Brotherhood Political Party

“The U.S. Muslim Brotherhood’s stated goal in America is to ‘destroy the Western civilization from within.’ Star-Spangled Shariah: The Rise of America’s First Muslim Brotherhood Party reveals the newest weapon in their arsenal for doing so – a self-described Political Party called the U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO). This new monograph connects the dots between the Muslim Brotherhood’s secret plan to impose Sharia in America, and the insidious use it intends to make of our democratic political system to that end.”

EDITORS NOTE: The Muslim Brotherhood centrist US Council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO), which is holding a Muslim Capital Day during the week of April 18th is made up of: American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), Muslim Alliance in North America (MANA), Muslim American Society (MAS), Muslim Legal Fund of America (MLFA), Muslim Ummah of North America (MUNA), The Mosque Cares (Ministry of Imam W. Deen Mohammed).

Two-Thirds of Americans Believe Money Buys Elections by Daniel Bier

Everybody knows that money buys elections. That’s what opponents of theCitizens United decision have been ominously warning us for six years, and their message resonates. A CNN poll found that 67 percent of Americans think that “elections are generally for sale to the candidate who can raise the most money.”

The trouble is that there is very little evidence for this. Even though the candidate with the most money usually wins, the general rule is that moneychases winners rather than creates winners. People give to candidates they think are likely to win, and incumbents (who almost always win) and candidates in safe districts still raise money, even if they’re not challenged. On the flip side, donors and parties don’t waste support on long-shot races.

More importantly, money never guarantees any election. For instance, billionaire Meg Whitman spent $144 million of her own money on the California governor’s race; Jerry Brown spent just $36 million but crushed Whitman, 53 percent to 40 percent.

Mitt Romney, the GOP, and their PACs outspent Barack Obama and friends by over $120 million, and we know what came of that. Anthony Brown (D) outspent Larry Hogan (R) almost five to one in the 2014 Maryland governor’s race and lost, in a state that is two to one Democrat.

We can likely add Jeb Bush’s candidacy to this list. The Jeb! campaign and pro-Jeb groups have collectively raised $155 million. Only Hillary Clinton has raised more. According to the New York Times, he’s dominating “the money race” among Republicans.

But in the actual race, he got a dismal sixth place in Iowa, with 2.8 percent of the vote. Polls put Jeb fifth in New Hampshire and fifth nationally. Currently, Betfair places his odds of winning the nomination at 5.2 percent.

In fact, the whole Republican race shows that money can’t simply buy votes. Scott Walker raised $34 million in three months, spent all of it — and then dropped out, five months before Iowa. Meanwhile, Donald Trump has dominated news coverage and polls for months with only $19 million.

When you plot money vs. poll numbers, what jumps out is how little correlation there is:

… And money vs. Iowa caucus votes:

… And money vs. odds of winning the nomination:

Jeb and Jeb-PACs have spent $89.1 million so far and received 5,238 votes — over $17,000 per vote received. Trump has spent just $300 per vote.

This is not to say that money doesn’t matter — you can’t run a campaign without it, and campaign finance laws are designed to make it difficult for upstart challengers to become competitive. But after a certain amount (about $500,000 for a typical congressional race), there are rapidly diminishing returns, and dumping more money on a failing campaign will not save it.

There’s a lot of baseless fears about free speech, but the idea that the people with the most expensive microphone will always get their way is one of the easiest to disprove. More speech, more discussion, and more competition in the field of ideas is not what’s wrong with American politics — but they might be part of the solution to it.

Daniel Bier

Daniel Bier

Daniel Bier is the editor of Anything Peaceful. He writes on issues relating to science, civil liberties, and economic freedom.

Why Bernie Sanders Has to Raise Taxes on the Middle Class by Daniel Bier

Willie Sutton was one of the most infamous bank robbers in American history. Over three decades, the dashing criminal robbed a hundred banks, escaped three prisons, and made off with millions. Today, he is best known for Sutton’s Law: Asked by a reporter why he robbed banks, Sutton allegedly quipped, “Because that’s where the money is.”

Sutton’s Law explains something unusual about Bernie Sander’s tax plan: it calls for massive tax hikes across the board. Why raise taxes on the middle class? Because that’s where the money is.

The problem all politicians face is that voters love to get stuff, but they hate to pay for it. The traditional solution that center-left politicians pitch is the idea that the poor and middle class will get the benefits, and the rich will pay for it.

This is approximately how things work in the United States. The top 1 percent of taxpayers earn 19 percent of total income and pay 38 percent of federal income taxes. The bottom 50 percent earn 12 percent and pay 3 percent. This chart from the Heritage Foundation shows net taxes paid and benefits received, per person, by household income group:

But Sanders’ proposals (free college, free health care, jobs programs, more Social Security, etc.) are way too heavy for the rich alone to carry, and he knows it. To his credit, his campaign has released a plan to pay for each of these myriad handouts. Vox’s Dylan Matthews has totaled up all the tax increases Sanders has proposed so far, and the picture is simply staggering.

Every household earning below $250,000 will face a tax hike of nearly 9 percent. Past that, rates explode, up to a top rate of 77 percent on incomes over $10 million.

Paying for Free

Sanders argues that most people’s average income tax rate won’t change, but this is only true if you exclude the two major taxes meant to pay for his health care program: a 2.2 percent “premium” tax and 6.2 percent payroll tax, imposed on incomes across the board. These taxes account for majority of the new revenue Sanders is counting on.

But it gets worse: his single-payer health care plan will cost 80 percent more than he claims. Analysis by the left-leaning scholar Kenneth Thorpe (who supports single payer) concludes that Sanders’ proposal will cost $1.1 trillion more each year than he claims. The trillion dollar discrepancy results from some questionable assumptions in Sanders’ numbers. For instance:

Sanders assumes $324 billion more per year in prescription drug savings than Thorpe does. Thorpe argues that this is wildly implausible.

“In 2014 private health plans paid a TOTAL of $132 billion on prescription drugs and nationally we spent $305 billion,” he writes in an email. “With their savings drug spending nationally would be negative.”

So unless pharmaceutical companies start paying you to take their drugs, the Sanders administration will need to increase taxes even more.

Analysis by the Tax Foundation finds that his proposed tax hikes already total $13.6 trillion over the next ten years. However, “the plan would [only] end up collecting $9.8 trillion over the next decade when accounting for decreased economic output.”

And the consequences will be truly devastating. Because of the taxes on labor and capital, GDP will be reduced 9.5 percent. Six million jobs will be lost. On average, after-tax incomes will be reduced by more than 18 percent.

Incomes for the bottom 50 percent will be reduced by more than 14 percent, and incomes for the top 1 percent will be reduced nearly 25 percent. Inequality warriors might cheer, but if you want to actually raise revenue, crushing the incomes of the people who pay almost 40 percent of all taxes isn’t the way to go.

These are just the effects of the $1 trillion tax hike he has planned — and he probably needs to double that to pay for single payer. Where will he find it? He’ll go where European welfare states go.

Being Like Scandinavia

Sanders is a great admirer of Scandinavian countries, such as Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, and many of his proposals are modeled on their systems. But to pay for their generous welfare benefits, they tax, and tax, and tax.

Denmark, Norway, and Sweden all capture between 20-26 percent of GDP from income and payroll taxes. By contrast, the United States collects only 15 percent.

Scandinavia’s tax rates themselves are not that much higher than the United States’. Denmark’s top rate is 30 percent higher, Sweden’s is 18 percent higher, and Norway’s is actually 16 percent lower — and yet Norway’s income tax raises 30 percent more revenue than the United States.

The answer lies in how progressive the US tax system is, in the thresholds at which people are hit by the top tax rates. The Tax Foundation explains,

Scandinavian income taxes raise a lot of revenue because they are actually rather flat. In other words, they tax most people at these high rates, not just high-income taxpayers.

The top marginal tax rate of 60 percent in Denmark applies to all income over 1.2 times the average income in Denmark. From the American perspective, this means that all income over $60,000 (1.2 times the average income of about $50,000 in the United States) would be taxed at 60 percent. …

Compare this to the United States. The top marginal tax rate of 46.8 percent (state average and federal combined rates) kicks in at 8.5 times the average U.S. income (around $400,000). Comparatively, few taxpayers in the United States face the top marginal rate.

The reason European states can pay for giant welfare programs is not because they just tax the rich more — it’s because they also scoop up a ton of middle class income. The reason why the United States can’t right now is its long-standing political arrangement to keep taxes high on the rich so they can be low on the poor and middle.

Where the Money Is – And Isn’t

As shown by the Laffer Curve, there is a point at which increasing tax rates actually reduces tax revenue, by discouraging work, hurting the economy, and encouraging tax avoidance.

Bernie’s plan already hammers the rich: households earning over $250,000 (the top 3 percent) would face marginal rates of 62-77 percent — meaning the IRS would take two-thirds to three-quarters of each additional dollar earned. His proposed capital gains taxes are so high that they are likely well past the point of positive returns. The US corporate tax rate of 40 percent is already the highest in the world, and even Sanders hasn’t proposed increasing it.

The only way to solve his revenue problem is to raise rates on the middle and upper-middle classes, or flatten the structure to make the top rates start kicking in much lower. You can see why a “progressive” isn’t keen on making more regressive taxes part of his platform, but the money has to come from somewhere.

The bottom fifty percent don’t pay much income tax now (only $34 billion), but they also don’t earn enough to fill the gap. Making their taxes proportionate to income would only raise $107 billion, without even considering how the higher rates would reduce employment and income.

The top 5 percent are pretty well wrung dry by Sanders’ plan, and their incomes are going to be reduced by 20-25 percent anyway. It’s hard to imagine that there’s much more blood to be had from that stone.

But households between the 50th and the 95th percentile (incomes between $37,000 to $180,000 a year) earn about 54 percent of total income — a share would likely go up, given the larger income reductions expected for top earners. Currently, this group pays only 38 percent of total income taxes, and, despite the 9 percent tax hike, they’re comparatively spared by the original tax plan. Their incomes are now the lowest hanging fruit on the tax tree.

As they go to the polls this year, the middle class should remember Sutton’s Law.

Daniel Bier

Daniel Bier

Daniel Bier is the editor of Anything Peaceful. He writes on issues relating to science, civil liberties, and economic freedom.

Tech Sector Bears Brunt of Capital Taxes, Random Regulation by Dan Gelernter

According to our president’s final State of the Union, we’ve recovered from the economic crisis and now enjoy the strongest, most durable economy in the world. Obama does acknowledge that startups and small businesses may need some help, so he wants to reignite our “sprit of innovation” — which he plans to do by putting Vice President Biden in charge of curing cancer.

But the problem facing startups is not a lack of innovation. We are being killed by the economy, which, for those of us who have to live in it, is not good at all. Young entrepreneurs may have spent last year working hard, innovating and building, only to find their companies are worth less now than when they started.

The market is adjusting downwards. Valuations are sinking. The investors I’ve spoken to feel the Fed’s free-money policy has created a dangerous over-valuation of companies and stocks and, now that the rates are coming back up, the air is being let out. 2015, they say, was a tough year because we knew this was coming. 2016 is going to be even tougher.

There is something else weighing on the minds of entrepreneurs and investors alike — regulatory uncertainty. No startup can deal with compliance by itself — not even software companies with no physical products to sell. Startups have to hire lawyers and compliance experts to help them, and this is money we’re not spending on product development or marketing or making our prices more competitive.

The way Obamacare is being implemented, for example, makes our hair white. The rules seem to change with bureaucratic whim; various parts of the law are suspended by executive order. How will we comply next year, and what will it cost? Nobody knows.

In the meantime, the Democratic candidates for President are proposing large hikes to the capital gains tax, which increases effective risk for investors and depresses valuations. Will these hikes ever take place? We don’t know, and that uncertainty carries an additional price.

We’re already seeing more investors decide to weather the storm on the sidelines, keeping an eye on their current affairs and declining to invest in companies they would have snapped up a year ago. A tech startup with a working product will find it harder to raise money today than it would have two years before with nothing but a concept. Not only are we faced with a weak market now, the trend is even more disturbing.

The problem is easier to diagnose than to repair. As an entrepreneur, I’d like to see less regulation and lower taxes. And not just lower taxes on the companies themselves, but on the people who can afford to invest in them. This may come as a surprise, but it’s the hated “one percent” that invests in startups and helps entrepreneurs’ dreams come true. When taxes cut deeper into the pockets of the wealthy, it most negatively affects us — the entrepreneurs and the people we would have hired — not the wealthy.

Regulation remains erratic, and the policies of the next administration cannot be foreseen. 2016 is going to be a hard year for the startup. Investments will continue to decline until investors see a stable market. And they’re not looking at one right now. Companies will die as a result, and not for lack of innovative ideas.

Dan Gelernter

Dan Gelernter is CEO of the technology startup Dittach.

VIDEO: Excuse Me, Professor! Correcting the slant on campus

excuse me professor book coverToo often, the message students get in college is that government is the answer to all social and economic problems. This happens in classes on history, sociology, politics, literature, and even in economics. You can graduate having heard only one narrative: the market has failed, so it must be replaced by all-controlling government bureaucracies.

FEE president Lawrence Reed is the editor of a wonderful collection of essays that address myth after myth. The book is Excuse Me, Professor (buy it from FEE). The essays deal with a huge range of issues that confront students every day. Unless young thinkers have an alternative paradigm in mind, the cause of human liberty will continue to lose the intellectual battle.

In this presentation at the Acton Institute, Reed discusses his new book and why it is an important contribution to setting the record straight. (Talk begins around 4:30 mark.)

Jeffrey A. TuckerJeffrey A. Tucker

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Digital Development at FEE, CLO of the startup Liberty.me, and editor at Laissez Faire Books. Author of five books, he speaks at FEE summer seminars and other events. His latest book is Bit by Bit: How P2P Is Freeing the World.  Follow on Twitter and Like on Facebook.

Snopes during White House visit produces Barack Obama’s genuine birth certificate

Snopes.com, which brands itself as “the definitive Internet reference source for urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors, and misinformation,” has recently made a claim that any stories about its alleged ties to the White House, as well as to Democratic activist groups and donors, are nothing more than “urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors, and misinformation.”

Snopes.com representatives, hereinafter referred to as SNOPES, made this statement at a recent meeting with Democratic activist groups and donors that happened at the White House.

SNOPES further promised to up their game debunking anything “fishy” anyone says about Obama, his administration, the Democratic activist groups and donors, or their proxies, as well as about their alleged ties with SNOPES.

SNOPES supported their statement with a substantial list of news stories and rumors they had discredited without any joint effort or coordination with Democratic organizations, which should serve as definitive proof of the Internet company’s uncoordinated, disjointed, and disorganized position on political issues.

In one example, SNOPES had proven without a shadow of a doubt that when a young Barack Obama registered at Columbia as a foreign student, it didn’t mean that he was a foreigner, or a student, or Barack Obama. Being registering at Columbia as “Barack” didn’t mean he was registered as “Barry Soetoro,” or anyone else impersonating anyone else, and that a man who was born in Nairobi wasn’t also simultaneously born in Honolulu and Jakarta; it should appear reasonable that a man with audacity can be born in several places at any one time, or “reborn,” or beamed to Earth from the dreams of his father, or someone else’s father – an explanation that should have satisfied anyone not totally deranged.

SNOPES had also clarified the confusion over the social security card issued to young Barry in Connecticut, a state that only gives such cards to those who were born and lived there. According to SNOPES, the fact that young Obama never visited Connecticut didn’t mean that he was the John Smith who had the same social security number and who had died decades before Barry was born, as clearly evidenced by the undeniable fact that the deceased had never filed a complaint of identity theft, nor had there been any record of a police report filed against Barry Soetoro in 1922. Furthermore, a dead man in one state having the very same number as one living in another didn’t mean that that Barack Obama’s younger self was not born ever, or that he never lived somewhere, which proves, ipso facto, that Barack Obama was indeed born and lived somewhere sometime.

Proving the skeptics wrong, SNOPES further produced Barack Obama’s genuine birth certificate printed from a real PDF file with five certified and notarized digital layers, which they copied from the Daily Kos website and reproduced on a vintage Hewlett-Packard inkjet printer using authentic 1961 HP ink cartridges. That the certificate contained a computer font from Microsoft Word was later explained in a signed statement from Bill Gates, assuring SNOPES readers that Windows operating system existed prior to Obama’s birth, as further evidenced by the 1954 movie Rear Window, directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring James Stewart with Grace Kelly.

The SNOPES statement was followed by a short Q&A, during which former broadcast professional, Dan Rather, insisted that Obama’s four known birth certificates, as well as his multiple social security numbers and his sealed student records at Columbia contained proof that George. W. Bush was in Kenya during the Mau Mau uprising and could not have landed on the moon at the same time to meet with Dick Cheney, who was an extraterrestrial organizing the hobbits to assassinate JFK as Oliver Stone had claimed.

Before leaving the room, SNOPES took a moment to wipe off their fingerprints from the microphone and the podium, as well as to thoroughly debunk the allegation that they had ever been in that room, or ever met with the White House team, or contributed money to Barack Obama’s campaigns of 2007 and 2011 respectively – a statement that the White House immediately confirmed, adding, “but it wasn’t enough.”

EDITORS NOTE: A special thanks to Komrade Kommissar General Vassily Ilyich Chernobylski for major contributions to this reporting. This political satire column originally appeared on The Peoples Cube.

Katniss vs. Power: The Hunger Games Finale by Jeffrey A. Tucker

Now that the final movie in the series is out, we know that The Hunger Games is not just a pop movie series for young adults, a fantasy tale about about a young girl’s heroism. It is far more sophisticated than that: It is a political allegory, one of the best known of our time, about power and the complications of its displacement.

In this way, it covers the same intellectual terrain as Aristotle’s Politics, Machiavelli’s The Prince, and de Jouvenel’s On Power, but in a way that is more penetrating for readers and viewers, and particularly relevant for our times.

The final installment is a fitting and dramatic end to the tale. It deals with the greatest conflict in history, that between liberty and power. Those who have followed the story until the last movie might have supposed that the problem was rather stark. One man, President Snow, held all the power. He was a cruel man and he used every means to keep his power. He sat at the center of a capital city that pillaged the districts of resources and held power through fear.

If that is all there is to the problem, the solution would be clear: President Snow has to be killed. The source of the problem out of the way, all will be well.

The Plot Thickens

This was the thinking of heroine Katniss Everdeen for most of the series. And one can see why she would believe this. Snow was a ghastly figure, and he was personally responsible for vast cruelty and crimes. He deserved to be overthrown and for justice to prevail.

Plus, she supposed that everyone she knew shared her vision: a normal life without oppression, without violence, without pillaging, without rigid geographic and caste classifications, and without televised death matches orchestrated to instill fear in the population.

Previous installments had strong hints, however, that there was more going on beneath the surface. The capitol city Panem was an autocracy but also the center of a nation-state, which is to say that the bureaucracy, the administrative apparatus, a standing military, and its methods of rule could survive the death of the leader. This is the difference between a personal state and a nation state. The power apparatus of the nation state seeks immortality, a continuing life regardless who happens to head it.

The problem of creating a world without power, then, is more complicated than the overthrow of the existing autocrat. In every revolutionary situation, those who are most motivated to achieve the aim are those who seek to hold power themselves. So long as the machinery of legal violence exists, there will be those who seek to control it — and, as Hayek said, it is usually the worst who make it to the top. Therefore, it is not just those who rule but also those who seek to rule who constitute a threat to liberty. This is how the existence of powerful nation-states end up creating multiple layers of dangers.

Revolutionaries as Bad as the Regime?

Anyone who seeks to end oppression has to keep his or her eye out for those who would use the chaos and confusion of political upheavals to seize and exercise power in the future. This is what Katniss learns, as she gradually discovers that her one-time allies had become skilled in the conduct of war, appreciative of the status that comes with leadership, and lusty for exercising state power themselves.

She learned that great lesson of history: It is not just despots who need to be kept at bay but also those who most passionately seek to overthrow despots. In order to realize liberty, you need more than just loathing of those in charge; you need the ascendance of the love of true liberty itself.

Once Katniss catches on to what is happening around her, she has to make a decision. Does she comply with the dictate of the increasingly centralized revolutionary forces or take a different turn and go her own way? The urgency of this decision is what turns The Hunger Games from being a simple Manichean struggle between one good and one evil into a real-life version of a Massive Multiplayer Online game.

US Foreign Policy

Let us apply this principle.

In the 1980s, the US sought to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan by supporting Islamic fundamentalists, who were then called “freedom fighters,” and they were given weapons and massive logistical support. After the Soviets left, the rebellion gradually metastasized into the Taliban, who ruled with an iron hand, and were then overthrown after 9/11, leading to 15 years of US occupation, which has stirred resentment among the population.

This saga coincided with a similar situation in Iraq after 2003, following a decade of embargoes, intermittent bombing, and harsh sanctions. The overthrow of the brutal dictator Saddam Hussein brought to power not liberty-loving constitutionalists, but rather a Shiite majority that oppressed in turn on the Sunni minority that Hussein had represented.

The Sunni insurgency against the Iraqi state caused a bloody civil war in Iraq that eventually spilled over into the rebellion against Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and mutated into the Islamic State. Over the course of 25 years, Iraq went from a defeated and relatively quiescent state to a seething hotbed of poverty, violence, and hatred.

Fast forward to the Libyan case where the overthrow of another evil dictator Muammar Gaddafi sparked a grim populist blowback. Combined with all the other interventions, and alongside a surreptitious attempt to boot the Syrian overlord, we’ve seen the spread of ISIS into a region-wide insurgency that truly intends to rule through bloodshed.

Such is politics. You think that getting the bad guy will end the problem. What this doesn’t consider is the possibly that something even worse is waiting in the wings. This is not a case for tolerating tyranny, but it is a case for a good dose of humility to go with revolutionary impulses.

The Problem of Democracy

And it’s not just about foreign regimes. A famous trait of democracy is that the urge to kick out one group of leaders is necessarily tied to bringing another group into power. The latter are often no better and sometimes worse than the former. This is one of the reasons for so much political nostalgia in US politics: a look back almost always provides a better picture than a look at the present.

I can’t count the number of times I heard people tell me how much they long for the good old days of Reagan or Clinton — people who loathed them at the time… until their replacements came along. Or think of the number of people who believed that getting rid of Bush and replacing him with Obama would lead to peace, prosperity, and understanding, only to find that the new regime continued the practices of the old. And heads up: it seems like this history is likely to repeat itself in the case of Obama.

The simple lesson of The Hunger Games is that powerful people can do terrible things. We must resist in order to stop them. The more complicated lesson is that powerful institutions themselves corrupt, and that there will always be those lacking in moral scruples who are willing to assume the mantle of power.

At the end of the movie, we see Katniss out of battle gear, sitting in the grass, at her home, being bathed by sunlight, tending to her own life, cultivating her own personal vision of freedom, out of the limelight. Ruling herself, not others. Perhaps that scene offers the best lesson of all.

Jeffrey A. TuckerJeffrey A. Tucker

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Digital Development at FEE, CLO of the startup Liberty.me, and editor at Laissez Faire Books. Author of five books, he speaks at FEE summer seminars and other events. His latest book is Bit by Bit: How P2P Is Freeing the World.  Follow on Twitter and Like on Facebook.

Lebanon: Unraveling the Enigma

Politics and War in Lebanon book coverTo paraphrase Winston Churchill, “Lebanon is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” Unraveling the Lebanese enigma is the objective of a new book by Dr. Mordechai Nisan, Politics and War in Lebanon. Nisan is an accomplished Israeli political scientist and retired Hebrew University lecturer. His  body of work covers Zionism, Islam, Arab history, minority peoples, Lebanon, U.S. Middle East policy and the Arab-Israeli conflict. It is rare that a book achieves its objective of unraveling the complex nuances of the Lebanon puzzle in both an astute and yet literate manner. Dr. Nisan has views on many issues including why the 80 year old confessional political system persists and has resilience. It has a lot to do with the adoption of the Maronite Christian independence ethos arising from the historic resistance against centuries of Muslim and later Ottoman rule under Islamic Sharia law.

The confessional political system maintains, a Maronite as President, Sunni as Premier and Shiite as Speaker of the Lebanese National Assembly. The Lebanese Parliament has 128 members split equally between Christians and Muslims elected to four year terms in multi-member constituencies, which often produces unexpected alliances. Nisan writes: “the idea of a numerical democracy for Lebanon, as for all typical democratic states, had been, as we know, rejected in favor of political confessionalism by assigning office according to a sectarian key.” Of course the Lebonese paradox was assisted by the fact that it only had one census back in 1932 that reflected a Maronite Christian majority which has since dwindled due to war, emigration and the demographic rise of both Sunni and Shia. Even during the period of the internal wars triggered by Palestinians against the Maronite hegemony that began in 1975, there were episodes where Druze, Shia and Sunni militias protected the precinct of the Maronite patriarch. The confessional political system remains durable despite the inroads made by external enemies like Syria, the Palestinians and internal ones, like Iran’s proxy Hezbollah dominating the country’s southern border and Eastern Bekaa Valley adjoining Syria.

There is also the long standing history of Maronite Christian – Zionist mutual respect that has never been recognized in formal agreements. Yet that figures prominently in understanding  the role of Israel in episodic military operations in Lebanon – dislodging PLO-Fatah terrorist armies, only to have them replaced with Shia Hezbollah forces occupying the Southern security belt that the IDF abandoned in 2000. Now, that Southern border is crenellated with underground fortifications and tunnels, equipped with over 150,000 Iranian-supplied rockets and missiles. That could figure significantly in a new Middle East War arising from a possible nuclear deal with Hezbollah’s creator, Iran. Nisan considers that episode one of Israel’s most abject geo-political failures.

Among the issues addressed in Nisan’s timely and cogent book is the political disintegration triggered by the Palestinian war on the Maronites in 1975. He addresses the Israeli incursion in 1978 and First Israeli Lebanese War in 1982 that ousted Yassir Arafat and Fatah-PLO leaders sending them packing under UN auspices to Tunisia and nine other countries. Nevertheless, he is critical of Israel’s pell mell abandonment of the southern security belt, held by the IDF and the South Lebanese Army (SLA) in alliance with Israel. The evacuation was ordered by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak in May 2000. That catastrophe gave rise to the Hezbollah takeover and ethnic cleansing of South Lebanon. There is also the nearly 20 year predatory Syrian occupation of large sections of Lebanon that began in 1976.

Nisan has nothing but contempt for the behavior of the Assad Syrian regime of both father and son in what could only be characterized as the virtual looting of Lebanon’s economic and natural resources. There were Syrian companies grabbing Lebanese tenders, Syrian officials  pocketing tax revenues and running a protection extortion racket with local businesses. The results were a once vibrant economy faltering, with unemployment and poverty soaring. He notes that Syria never recognized an independent Lebanon in 1946. He considers the Syrian occupation the equivalent of the Nazi Anschluss of Austria comparing Lebanese Sunni and Orthodox Christians as the equivalent of pan-Germanic Austrians, because the latter identified strongly with both Syria and being Arab.

Nisan contends that the Israeli justification for the Southern withdrawal in 2000 was faulty. It was based on the following logic:

  1. Israel had to dismantle the SLA to comply with UN Resolution 425 of March 1978 that called for Israel to withdraw its forces from all Lebanese territory.
  2. Hezbollah would overwhelm and murder its Christian and Shiite elements prompted by the memories of the 1982 Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camp massacres.
  3. That if the SLA put up resistance against Hezbollah that it might complicate withdrawal leading to a possible return by Israel to assist its former allies.
  4. Israel sacrificed the SLA as a necessity to assure that Hezbollah not interfere with Israel’s withdrawal from the South.

Nisan believes that the debacle that occurred in the wake of the Israeli withdrawal might have been prevented if:

  1. Israel had bolstered the SLA as an independent force.
  2. Israel might have disarmed both the SLA and Hezbollah.
  3. Israel had called upon Syrian Forces to withdraw simultaneously with the IDF.

He concludes, “In Lebanon, Israel was drained of its political and public energy, had done little strategic planning, and in the end lacked a moral compass.”

Nisan notes the three signal events that occurred in 2000:

  1. In May the Israeli Army withdrew from Southern Lebanon and likewise forced the collapse of its SLA ally there.
  2. In June President Assad of Syria died and was succeeded by his son Bashar.
  3. Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir, Walid Jumblatt, the Druze leader, and a variety of political personalities, both Christian and Muslim, called for Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon.

In mid-July 2015, a worldwide gathering of Lebanese activists occurred in Washington, DC in the First Convention on the Cedars Revolution. It was the commemoration of the 10th Anniversary of the Cedars Revolution. Several sessions were held with Members of Congress, the State Department and the Pentagon. The issues they addressed concerned the preservation of democracy in Lebanon’s confessional political system, military and security matters with the incursion of Syrian forces, reminiscent of original issue that ignited the Cedars Revolution in March 2005. It is indicative of the abiding concerns of the Lebanese and largely Christian diaspora, estimated at upwards of 14 million.

Even during several Arab Israeli conflicts, Lebanon stayed out of the conflicts. After the failure of the 1970 Black September campaign between PLO-Fatah forces and the Kingdom of Jordan, Yassir Arafat and Palestinian resistance leadership were given sanctuary in Lebanon. Less than five years later, Arafat fomented open warfare on Christians in a ferocious and bloody conflict. It was during that period that Lebanese Maronite leaders like Etienne Sakr (Abu Arz) and Pierre Gemayel reached out to Israel whose military covertly provided training and equipment to Christian militia forces. There were hopes of an eventual enduring peace between Lebanon and Israel. That possibility ended with the assassination on September 15, 1982 of Maronite President-Elect and leader of Lebanese Forces Bashir Gemayel of the Phalange Party. He was allegedly on his way to conclude a treaty with Israel in Jerusalem.

Nisan addresses the transformation of Lebanese Shia under Sayyid Fadlaallah from willing confessional participants to Sharia infused support of an Islamic state, reducing the dominant Maronite and other Christians to dhimmi status. Along with that, Fadlaallah denied Israel’s legitimacy and boosted the Palestinian cause against the “Zionist enterprise.” Instead of involving himself in the Lebanon political structure, Fadlaallah sought out the means of supporting jihad, through zakat, Muslim charity. The person who completed the transformation of Lebanon’s Shia was Imam Musa al-Sadr who, in the political chaos of the mid-1970’s, created the Movement for the Disinherited (al Harakat al-Muhrimum) to promote Shiite social equality and political activism and its companion military wing, Amal (“Hope”). Sadr disappeared in 1978 on a flight to Rome under mysterious circumstances. Leadership of Amal fell to successors Hussein al-Husseini, who later became Speaker, and ultimately, lawyer Nabih Berri. Berri sought resistance against the PLO in the 1970’s and 1980’s including laying siege to Palestinian refugee camps. However, the ultimate destination of Lebanon’s Shia community was to Iranian theocratic influence emanating from Shia seminaries in Iraq. The pro-Khomeinist returnees from Najaf provided fertile grounds to build Hezbollah – the party of God, a Qur’anic designation. Nisan notes that the ultimate leadership of Hezbollah was drawn from Southerners like Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah and Abdul Karim Obeid, graduates of the apocalyptic Twelver seminary in Qom, Iran. By 1982, 1,000 Iranian Revolutionary Guards were stationed in the Bekaa Valley training young Lebanese Shia fighters in Khomeinist doctrine and providing them with weapons and millions in funding. Syria under the Assad family became a strategic ally during the Iran–Iraq War of the 1980’s allowing Damascus to become a transfer point for Iran to supply its proxy, Hezbollah. Hezbollah became Iran’s global terrorism arm. That is reflected in Iran’s support for Lebanese Shia émigrés in the Latin American tri-border area that provided a base for the 1992 Buenos Aires Israeli Embassy and 1994 Jewish AMIA blasts. The later is still roiling Argentine politics with the recent mysterious death of Argentine Jewish prosecutor Alberto Nisman and accusations of involvement at the highest political levels in both Iran and Argentina.

The Israel invasion of 1982 launched a series of terrorist spectacles by the late Imad Mughniyahin. In Beirut in 1983  he killed over 400 French paratroopers, US Marines and US embassy staff. That was followed by the 1986 TWA flight hijacking and killing of a US Navy diver hostage. Mughniyah, went big time with the Khobar Towers blast in Saudi Arabia in 1995. He had links to the East African US Embassy blasts in 1998 and a major role in training and facilitating the travel via Iran and Germany of the 19 Sunni perpetrators of 9/11. Mughniyah’s leading terrorist role ended in Damascus in February 2008, when his vehicle exploded in what many believe was a Mossad revenge attack.

The big breakthrough for Hezbollah was its campaign of attacks in the South of Lebanon and Israeli border incursions in the late 1980’s to 2000. Nisan notes that Hezbollah undertook 1,030 military operations over the period from 1990 to 1995, escalating to more than 4,928 operations from 1996 to 2000.

Nisan links Hezbollah’s political rise with the adoption of the triumvirate Lebanese Presidency system with the Taif agreement. That enabled Hezbollah to secure seats in the Chamber of Deputies in competition with the Shia Amal party. Its further rise to power was the product of one of its three expressed objectives of a 1985 Open Letter:

  1. Accepting Ayatollah Khomeini as leader of the world’s Muslims.
  2. Wiping out Israel and opposing America.
  3. Forming relations with Christians in Lebanon while calling them to embrace Islam.

Nisan noted the impact of the third objective expanding the 128 member Assembly split 64 Christian/64 Muslim. He wrote, “many Muslim voters were electing Christian deputies in the South, while Christians elected a Shiite in Jbayl and Sunnis were elected by Maronites and Druze in the Shouf.”

By 1999, when the US State Department designated Hezbollah a foreign terrorist group, Hezbollah was a mini-state within a state. In May of 2000, the ring of fate was sealed in Southern Lebanon with the Israel evacuation and collapse of the SLA resistance. Under a secret agreement between Hezbollah and the IDF, the former agreed not to attack Israeli forces as they completed their retreat. That action, as Nisan notes, led Yassir Arafat to instigate the so-called Temple Mount Second Intifada triggered by the visit of Israel PM Sharon on September 28, 2000. Sharon was the Defense Minister who undertook the invasion of Lebanon in 1982.

At the conclusion of Nisan’s book, he posits three scenarios:

  1. The Iranian Shiite axis could collapse with a short time.
  2. The Arab world could continue its slide into fissured decay while distracted from its historic and national vision.
  3. The Arab-Israeli conflict will likely remain intractably irresolvable according to the tried and tested formulae for peace.

In the midst of Nisan’s speculations he draws attention to the aftermath of the Maronite Patriarch a-Ra’I 2012 visit to Jerusalem. That enraged Hezbollah, but brought commendation from Druze leader Walid Jumblatt. Maronite President Sleiman whose term ended in 2014 paid a visit to Jumblatt’s home town of Mukhtara before he stepped down. The message was one of reconciliation within the confessional system that might bring the sectarian groups together and avoid a civil war. With a vacant presidential post and parliamentary elections postponed until 2017, trouble looms for the country caught up in the vicissitudes of the Syrian civil war spilling over its borders, bringing in a flood of refugees. Currently, Lebanon is embroiled in a highly politicized trash crisis involving a protest Group “You Stink” that some believe may cover a possible power grab by the Hezbollah party and Michael Aoun’s Free Patriot Movement. The concern is the crisis might bring down the National Unity Government of Sunni Prime Minister Tammam Salam.Reuters reported both Saudi Arabia and Iran gave their blessing to the present government with a Cabinet composed of Sunni Muslim former Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri’s Future movement, Shi’ite Hezbollah and Christians. Nisan wrote about a hopeful sign, “The March 14 camp asked Patriarch Beshara a – Ra’I to suggest names for the presidential post. Maybe somehow two Maronites – patriarch and president would help save the country from oblivion.” The expression in Hebrew is, alevai. Its English meaning, “that should only be.”

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. Also see Jerry Gordon’s collection of interviews, The West Speaks.

On Privatizing Marriage: No, Matrimony Is Not Irreducibly Public by Max Borders

Marriage is society’s primary institutional arrangement that defines parenthood. – Jennifer Roback Morse

The idea of marriage privatization is picking up steam. And it makes strange bedfellows.

There are old-school gay activists suspicious that state marriage is a way for politicians to socially engineer the family through the tax code. There are religious conservatives who are upset that a state institution seems to violate their sacred values. Don’t forget the libertarians for whom “privatize it” is more a reflex than a product of reflection.

But they all agree: it would be a good idea to get the government out of the marriage business. Principle, it turns out, is pragmatic.

First, let’s disentangle two meanings for one word that easily get confused. When we say “marriage,” we might be referring to:

A. a commitment a couple enters into as a rite or acknowledgment within a religious institution or community group (private); or

B. a legal relationship that two people enter into, which the state currently licenses (public).

Now, the questions that follow are: Does the government need to be involved inA? The near-universal answer in the United States is no. But does the government need to be as involved as it is in B? Here’s where the debate gets going.

I think the government can and should get out of B, and everyone will be better for it. This is what I mean by marriage privatization.

Some argue that marriage is “irreducibly public.” For Jennifer Roback Morse, it has to do with the fate of children and families. For Shikha Dalmia, it has to do with the specter of increased government involvement, a reinflamed culture war, and a curious concern about religious institutions creating their own marriage laws.

First, let’s consider the issue of children. According to Unmarried.org:

  • 39.7 percent of all births are to unmarried women (Centers for Disease Control, 2007).
  • Nearly 40 percent of heterosexual, unmarried American households include children (Child Protective Services, 2007).
  • 41 percent of first births by unmarried women are to cohabiting partners (Larry Bumpass and Hsien-Hen Lu, 2000).

Does the law leave provisions for the children of the unmarried? Of course. So while state marriage might add some special sauce to your tax bill or to your benefits package, family court and family codes aren’t likely to go anywhere, whatever we do with marriage. This is not a sociological argument about whether children have statistically better life prospects when they are brought up by two married parents. Nor is it a question about gender, sexuality, and parental roles. It’s simply a response to the idea that marriage is “irreducibly public” due to having children. It is not. (I’ll pass over the problem for this argument that some married couples never have children.)

Dalmia is also concerned that “true privatization would require more than just getting the government out of the marriage licensing and registration business. It would mean giving communities the authority to write their own marriage rules and enforce them on couples.”

It’s true. Couples, as a part of free religious association, might have to accept some definition of marriage as a condition of membership in a religious community. But, writes Dalmia, “This would mean letting Mormon marriages be governed by the Church of the Latter Day Saints codebook, Muslims by Koranic sharia, Hassids by the Old Testament, and gays by their own church or non-religious equivalent.” And all of this is could be true up to a point.

But Dalmia overstates the case. Presumably, no religious organization would be able to set up codes that run counter to the civil laws in some jurisdiction. So if it were part of the Koranic sharia code to beat your wife for failure to wear the hijab at Costco, that rule would run afoul of criminal laws against spousal abuse. Mormon codes might sanction polygamy, but the state might have other ideas. So again, it’s not clear what sort of magical protection state marriage conjures.

What about Dalmia’s concern that in the absence of state marriage, “every aspect of a couple’s relationship would have to be contractually worked out from scratch in advance”? Never mind that some people would see being able to work out the details of a contract governing their lives as a good thing (for one, it might prevent ugly divorce proceedings). There is no reason to think that all the functions normal, unmarried couples with children and property have in terms of recourse to “default” law would not still be available. Not only would simple legal templates for private marriage emerge, but states could establish default civil unions in the absence of couples pursuing private alternatives.

There is no reason to think that all the functions normal, unmarried couples with children and property have in terms of recourse to “default” law would not still be available. 

Indeed, if people did not like some default option — as they might not now — there would be better incentives for couples to anticipate the eventualities of marital life. People would have to settle questions involving cohabitation, property, and children just as they do for retirement and for death. Millions of gay couples had to do this prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality. Millions of unmarried couples do it today. The difference is that there would be a set of private marriage choices in a layer atop the default, just as people may opt for private arbitration in lieu of government courts.

In the debates leading up to marriage equality, an immanently sensible proposal had been that even if you don’t like the idea of hammering out a detailed contract with your spouse-to-be, simply changing the name of the entire statutory regime to “civil unions” would have gone a long way toward putting the whole gay-marriage debate to bed. The conservatives would have been able to say that, in terms of their sacred traditions and cultural community (as in A), “marriage” is between one man and one woman. Gay couples would have to find a church or institution that would marry them under A. But everybody would have some equal legal provision under the law to get all the benefits that accrue to people under B. You’d just have to call it a “civil union.”

And that’s fine as far as it goes.

But I like full privatization because “marriage” is currently a crazy quilt of special privileges and goodies that everybody wants access to — unmarried people be damned. But marriage should confer neither special favors nor goodies from the state. We can quibble about who is to be at the bedside of a dying loved one. Beyond that, marriage (under definition B) is mostly about equal access to government-granted privileges.

Not only does the idea that marriage is irreducibly public represent a failure of imagination with respect to robust common law, it also resembles arguments made against privatization in other areas, such as currency, education, and health care. Just because we can’t always envision it doesn’t make it impossible.

Max Borders

Max Borders

Max Borders is the editor of the Freeman and director of content for FEE. He is also co-founder of the event experience Voice & Exit and author of Superwealth: Why we should stop worrying about the gap between rich and poor.