How to Cure Your Writer’s Block

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I am embarrassed to say that my most recent blog post was published back on September 24th of this year. To put that in perspective, this was in the midst of the Kavanaugh confirmation fiasco and more than a month before midterm elections.

I have some legit reasons for being less able to publish recently, but I’m not here to make excuses. Instead, in an attempt to reignite my creative flame, I will indulge in a stream-of-conscious-like list of opinions on happenings in current events, politics, and news.

Climate Change

Based on my own perception through the lens of social media, there seems to be an increase in climate-related articles and op-eds pouring out of the web. This is likely due to the Trump administration’s supposed disregarding of a federal climate report as well as recent revelations of the international community’s astounding failure to curb carbon emissions (they are once again on the rise).

As an avid snorkeler and explorer of the natural world, I have a special interest in the environment and the life that abounds within it. However, being a nature lover does not make me an environmentalist. I firmly believe that the well-being of the individuals who comprise mankind vastly outweighs environmental conservation, and that those who wish to preserve the natural world ought to bear the burden of doing so rather than using legislation and the brute force of the state to shift the cost onto others.

I am also a glutton for logic, or perhaps something of a logic addict. I do not mean to say that I am the most logical person in the world (as the simulation of logic, being just as satisfying as the real thing, is bound to fool me more than once in a while), but that I depend on logic to feel content.

Being interested in nature without being an environmentalist and being a logic glutton or addict has resulted in my opinion on climate change and climate policy culminating as follows:

  • Climate Change will probably cause some problems in the future, but the solutions proposed in mainstream politics are impossible (in terms of political will [see France’s anti-gas tax riots]), ineffective (in terms of mitigating temperature rise), or worse than simply allowing Climate Change to take its toll (in terms of economics and quality of human life [this would not be a reason cited by an environmentalist, which I am not]).
  • The best way to deal with Climate Change is to have faith in supply-side economics (which is creating a vastly underappreciated utopia). As I laid out in a post about two years ago, maximizing economic growth and innovation via deregulation and decentralization of government is the best way to continue humanity’s miraculous rise from poverty and despair, which will, in turn, allow more people the luxury of being able to care for and nurture the environment in addition to providing abundant and reliable resources to alleviate the damage caused by Climate Change in the future (oddly enough, Jordan Peterson laid out my ideas quite eloquently during a recent appearance at Cambridge University… has he been reading my blog?).

The Mueller Probe

The three branches of the United States federal government are as follows: executive, legislative, and judicial. The executive branch mainly deals with government personnel and international relations, the legislative branch makes the laws, and the judicial branch settles disputes.

There is no FBI or Robert Mueller branch of government, and, regardless of how anti-Libertarian Trump’s policies are, I am growing sick and tired of unelected, extra-constitutional bureaucrats trying to run the show in Washington. The FBI and their special counsel are subordinate to the president whether you like the president or not.

I am undecided on how exactly to feel about Robert Mueller. Dan Bongino is in the midst of presenting a compelling case against the entire Russia-gate operation, essentially calling it a red herring being used to undermine Trump and, possibly more malevolently, cover up illegal intelligence activity directed against the Trump campaign during the Obama administration. I have not read Bongino’s book, so I am sticking with compelling for now.

#TheResistance (which includes the whole of the mainstream media as far as I can tell) has been telling me for about two years that Mueller and the gang are inches away from bringing the Trump presidency crashing to the ground. Watergate will look like jaywalking by comparison, they say. But as so-called bombshell after so-called bombshell fades into oblivion, the little confidence I had in this stale fairy tale has completely evaporated.

Mueller needs to sign his book deal and find a new hobby.

Climate Change, Mueller, and the Media

There’s a bit of a tie-in between the Mueller probe and Climate Change, which the media has brought about.

After the aforementioned federal climate report was made public, major media outlets pounced on the revelation that the US economy could shrink by 10% by the end of the century. Incredibly important information is, I suspect, intentionally (though maybe stupidly) left out of this claim. For starters, the 10% reduction is not in relation to the current economy. It’s 10% of the projected economy of 2100, which is expected to be 300% of today’s economy per capita. This means the economy of 2100 will be, as Bjorn Lomborg puts it, “a slightly smaller bonanza.” Furthermore, the report uses predictions of improbably high levels of warming. As Lomborg writes:

“[The 10% figure] assumes that temperatures will increase about 14 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century. This is unlikely. The US climate assessment itself estimates that, with no significant climate action, American temperatures will increase by between 5 and 8.7 degrees. Using the high estimate of 8.7 degrees, the damage would be only half as big, at 5 percent.”

Mentioning these factors should reduce anxiety over climate change consequences and contradicts the likelihood that they will occur at all.

The main takeaway from all of this, even for those who disagree with me about climate and environmental policy, should be that it is the media, not the scientists, who are spreading hysteria about the future of the natural world.

The same is true of the Mueller probe.

Robert Mueller is not going on national television exclaiming that the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency is upon us. He is not trolling the president and his associates with hyperbolic headlines or spreading conspiracy theories on Twitter.

Mueller is, on occasion, releasing information about largely benign findings uncovered by his investigation and making no comment on what they mean in regard to president’s future or past.

Anti-Trump media outlets like CNN and The New York Times, by politicizing issues like Climate Change and the special counsel, are tarnishing the reputations of experts in their fields, be they prosecutors or climatologists. They are replacing rational discourse with hackneyed talking points. And they are ruining any chance the public they claim to serve may have to engage with complex and important issues in an adult and civil manner.

Yemen

Spencer Neale at 71Republic compiled a list of the 37 senators who recently voted to continue the War in Yemen. All 37 are Republicans, which illustrates why Libertarians must invade the GOP or vote third party, not succumb to the lesser-of-two-evils ultimatum. Political correctness and reckless welfare spending are not worse than endless war and the bill that comes with it, so the Democrats should not be avoided any more than the Republicans. Both are plagues upon the USA.

By the way, Americans are still dying in Afghanistan. What the hell are we doing over there?

***

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How to Cure Your Writer’s Block

For GOP Senators, Confirming Kavanaugh Goes From Option to Duty

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I do not know who Casey Mattox is, but a June tweet of his popped up in my Twitter feed the other day:

I rate this a perfect tweet. It is both concise and evergreen.

The Supreme Court of the United States is supposed to be the clear third of three branches of the federal government. The Judicial Branch is not supposed to make laws or give orders of any kind. Courts are meant to determine the constitutional legality of disputed actions between individuals and groups. The legislature legislates, the executive executes, and the judiciary judges. It’s not a difficult concept.

Unfortunately, bad-faith reading of the Constitution has resulted in a politicized court system in which many actually make the ridiculous argument that judges should conjecture what the consequences of a law will be, instead of simply reading the law itself, and rule based on those assumptions. SCOTUS Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Sonia Sotomayor do not even try to hide their use of this method when writing decisions from the bench.

As outraged as everyone should be with the state of liberal jurisprudence, Brett Kavanaugh is not my ideal Supreme Court justice either. As Judge Napolitano has eloquently explained, Kavanaugh’s understanding of the 4th Amendment is wrongheaded and dangerous. If this were the case being made against Kavanaugh, I would be all ears.

Instead of criticizing the processes and actions of the federal government based on constitutionality, philosophy, and the individual human rights the United States of America was founded upon, hazy memories from many decades ago, that have conveniently resurfaced exclusively in their owners’ minds only as Kavanaugh’s illustrious career is set to culminate in the highest court in the land, are being used to railroad his confirmation.

The accusations made against Kavanaugh are unverifiable and uncorroborated within themselves. They are also immaterial to the situation at hand.

As someone who generally disagrees with but respects Ronan Farrow, I am shocked and disappointed that he agreed to publish something as salacious, hazy, and irrelevant as his September 24th story. Its publishing undermines the credibility of actual sexual assault victims and needlessly politicizes the #MeToo movement which the entire country, albeit to varying degrees, is generally supportive of.

The point of view of the Democrats regarding this matter deserves no consideration from honest and thoughtful people. They decided to vote against Kavanaugh as soon as he was nominated and almost entirely forewent asking relevant questions during his confirmation hearings. Instead, they delayed the process on the basis of arcane technicalities and focused on creating sound bites and video clips throughout the duration of an agonizing and embarrassing process. They have since done their best to capitalize on allegations against Kavanaugh to delay his confirmation even further, certainly hoping that they can run out the clock through midterm elections or at least keep Kavanaugh from being confirmed before the Supreme Court begins their October session.

GOP Senators now have a choice. They can allow the media and opposing political party to bully and shame them into submission, or they can grow a pair by taking a stand against a ballooning culture of hyperbole and hysteria.

The GOP Senators will set a historical precedent either way. The former choice would make it clear that loosely-characterized sexual assault allegations from decades ago are a political weapon they will not fight back against. This will be the end of the current GOP and likely the end of textualist jurisprudence in the Supreme Court for decades. The latter choice would promote the dignity of the accused and take the wind out of bad-faith political actors’ sails, at least for the time being.

I am not a Republican and have never voted for a Republican. I registered as a Democrat when I first became eligible to vote and will officially become a member of the Libertarian Party in 2019. If GOP Senators cave, they can bet that more and more of their constituents will join me in the LP or simply stay home and laugh as Democrats wipe the floor with them in November.

***

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For GOP Senators, Confirming Kavanaugh Goes From Option to Duty

Quick Thoughts on the Kavanaugh Allegations

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I would like to share a few thoughts about the sexual assault allegations being made against SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh by Christene Blasey Ford. I will not provide an adequate summary of the situation within this post, so please do some research before checking out my analysis. I would prefer to have written this in essay format, but I believe the bullet points below will do a better job of summing up the way I see it.

Sexual Assault

  • Being 17 and drunk does not excuse sexual assault.
  • What constitutes sexual assault is not well-defined or well-understood. The lines between playing around, making a sexual advance towards someone, having a momentary slip in judgment, and earnestly attempting to force someone into a sexual encounter can be blurry. It is even blurrier for teenagers, and was certainly even blurrier for teenagers of yesteryear.
  • As a socially liberal individual, I do not believe that government or public oversight of teenage sexual interaction is a good idea. Sex and human relationships are generally too complicated for third parties to be able to fully comprehend, so authorities should only be consulted in extreme circumstances. Otherwise, young people as well as adults should be free to take risks amongst each other.

The Law

  • As the alleged incident between Kavanaugh and Ford took place 35 years ago, we are long past the statute of limitations. This issue is about conduct and character, not the law.
  • Although our legal system places the burden of proof on the accuser and presumes non-guilt until guilt is proven beyond a reasonable doubt, this is irrelevant in the court of public opinion or SCOTUS nominations.
  • Believing someone is innocent until proven guilty is a value that I happen to share, but outside a court of law, it is a personal view, not a legal one. Reasonable people can disagree here.

The Sniff Test

  • Christene Blasey Ford is probably telling the truth at least in part. There is some documented history of Ford discussing the matter in the past, and it is hard to imagine that she or anyone else would make up a story like this completely out of thin air.
  • Remembering the exact details of an event from 35 years ago is impossible for both Kavanaugh and Ford. Our brains remember certain details of our history, and our imaginations fill in the rest. This makes it difficult to accept either party’s version of the story without substantial evidence or witness testimony.
  • Emotion can also cloud our judgment as what we feel we experienced may not mirror what we actually experienced.
  • Ford’s lawyer Debra Katz defended Al Franken when he was accused of sexual misconduct, saying, “He did not do this as a member of the U.S. Senate.” This is obviously true, but, unlike Kavanaugh, Franken was an adult when his misconduct took place. Katz appears to be a partisan lawyer, not an impartial defender of the Constitution or human rights.
  • Ford is on the left-wing of the political spectrum, so certainly has a political bias against a textualist judge like Kavanaugh.
  • Neither Katz’s nor Ford’s partisanship has any bearing on the accuracy of Ford’s story, but it does make them less credible.
  • Kavanaugh and Mark Judge, the other individual accused of assault and Kavanaugh’s friend, deny the allegations wholesale.
  • By all accounts, the alleged incident between Kavanaugh and Ford is in no way representative of Kavanaugh as a person. However, one’s generally saintly behavior does not negate one’s sins.

Politics

  • Senator Dianne Feinstein knew of Ford’s allegations before Kavanaugh’s senate confirmation hearing, but chose not to question him about it in any way. Feinstein is obviously using Ford’s story as a political weapon, which is shameful.
  • Regardless of how true Ford’s allegations are, Feinstein clearly timed the release of her name and story as a way to derail Kavanaugh’s nomination in the 11th The senate vote to confirm him is scheduled to be completed within a week.
  • Democratic Senators have been against Kavanaugh’s confirmation since long before his confirmation hearings and put on an embarrassing and hysterical display of partisanship during them. This includes attempting to smear Kavanaugh’s assistant as a white nationalist for momentarily resting her hand in the “a-okay” position, which is falsely described as a racist dog whistle by some on the left and in the media.
  • Senate Republicans can afford to delay the vote for at least another month without any risk of losing the senate and their ability to confirm justices without any Democrat support in November’s midterms (though I am completely unaware of how senate judiciary committee rules would come into play here).
  • Up until Democrats’ blocking of Ronald Reagan’s nomination of Robert Bork, there was little partisanship in these proceedings. Until Bork was blocked in 1987, the average SCOTUS nominee received 87% senate approval and 49% were confirmed unanimously. Since Bork, partisanship in voting has dramatically increased, especially from Democrats.
  • Trump’s first SCOTUS nominee, Neil Gorsuch, had no allegations of misconduct of any kind alleged against him, yet was confirmed by the Senate by a slim margin of 54-45 with only three Democrats voting in his favor. Justice Alito received only four votes from Democrats in 2005. This shows that Democrats are clearly in it for the politics, not justice, character, or whatever else they claim to be standing for.
  • Republicans have certainly become more partisan too, and refused to even hold confirmation hearings for President Obama’s last SCOTUS nominee Merrick Garland, arguing that it is tradition to deny a lame duck president’s nominations until after ensuing elections.
  • It can be argued that 11th hour sexual assault allegations to derail SCOTUS nominations sets a terrible precedent, but with as much partisanship as we are seeing now, the precedent has already been set.

Summary

  • The allegations against Kavanaugh should not be categorically denied, but should certainly not be believed at face value. Both Republicans and Democrats are playing politics, and it is unclear to me that Kavanaugh’s alleged discretions are so damning that he should be denied an opportunity to serve on the Supreme Court. If Republicans have a way to investigate the situation and still have time to nominate Kavanaugh before midterms, they should do so. However, it would be hard to blame them for proceeding as planned as there is nothing they can do to satisfy the Democrats short of leaving Justice Kennedy’s seat vacant until a left-wing justice is nominated.
  • President Trump could have avoided this mess by nominating Amy Coney Barrett instead of Kavanaugh. Besides being a far better judge, nominating a woman would have taken the #MeToo card out of Democrats’ hands.

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Quick Thoughts on the Kavanaugh Allegations

It’s Time to Calm Down about Russian Meddling

As the Trump-Russia collusion conspiracy theory has, via lack of evidence, all but withered away, it is time to set the record straight on Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election. What many dramatically refer to as an attack on our democracy or even an act of war was actually closer to a non-event that US foreign policy is to blame for. Instead of fear, anger, or hostility, we should react to Russia’s alleged involvement in the 2016 election with empathy, pity, and national self-reflection.

In an ideal world, the Kremlin and the US federal government would be mutually respectful allies, and American and Russian people would engage in commerce with each other freely. But we do not live in an ideal world. We live in a world in which choices made by contemporary governments and individuals as well those made in the past (along with circumstances outside of anyone’s control) have inculcated Americans and Russians with different languages, cultures, values, and fears. Because of this, it may be impossible for the US and Russia to ever eliminate hostilities wholesale and create a live-and-let-live type of atmosphere.

Even so, I feel that a Washingtonian/Jeffersonian foreign policy is our best and safest bet. Instead of getting caught up in entangling alliances, we should seek to make the best of an imperfect world by accepting countries for what they are and allowing their and our people to seek legitimate and independent roads to happiness and prosperity when they see fit.

George Washington and Thomas Jefferson summed up what I believe to be the core of good foreign policy in each’s farewell and inaugural addresses respectively:

“It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world…Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest.” -George Washington

“Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none.” -Thomas Jefferson

Instead of sanctioning Russia and allowing NATO to usurp our national interests, we should knock down any roadblocks in our trade routes that we have the power to. If Russia reciprocates, great. If they don’t, our liberal policies will serve to the betterment of all anyway. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

I empathize with the heart of neoconservative foreign policy which, the way I see it, refuses to stand idly by as nations are invaded or as genocides and other human rights violations occur. There is virtue in universal recognition of the individualist philosophy preached by our Forefathers and in seeking to approach foreign affairs this way. One problem, however, with this foreign policy is that it can create a hammer-without-a-nail mindset. What may actually be an internal dispute that the US has no business getting involved in can appear to be a simple conflict of good vs. evil from the outside. Histories that are external to American consciousness, when they are acted out or avenged in real time, do not reveal their depth to our media or intelligence agencies. Here again, President Washington provides wisdom:

“Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification.”

Despite my awareness of the complexity of history and geopolitics (which is another way of saying my awareness of my infinite ignorance) as well as my strong non-interventionist leanings, I am still sympathetic to the notion that the US must treat Russia with an exceptionally strong level of distrust. I can even rationalize our massive military presence blockading what was once the epicenter of the Soviet Union. The map I have created below (and I apologize ahead of time for my computer graphics inadequacies) shows Russia, the United States, and the countries/regions surrounding Russia that are occupied by at least 5,000 US troops from a top-of-the-world point of view:

Russia Blockade

Whether you support the Neoconservative tendency towards caution or the Libertarian preference for sovereignty, such an immense military presence around Russia is going to have consequences. These may include, but are not limited to, intimidating military exercises, expansion of territory via brute force, increased centralized control over the flow of information internally, and a greater focus on collecting intelligence from adversaries. It should be no surprise that the Russian government engages in all of these defensive practices.

The counter to this claim could be that the consequences of the US and its NATO allies easing up would be ever worse. One might say that the only reason Russia has been so meek in its hostilities is because of the current robust military presence.

This is a chicken or the egg dilemma that I cannot solve, but, for the sake of argument, I will give the benefit of the doubt to the neocons and concede that western military might in some form is needed to keep Russia at bay. Accordingly, we must accept the consequences of this choice, one of which is Russian intelligence agencies seeking information and causing disruptions, i.e. their involvement in the 2016 US election.

From what I understand, the extent of Russia’s “meddling” in the 2016 US election does not amount to much. Based on the latest indictments brought by the Mueller investigation, Russian military intelligence operatives may have tried to hack the DNC’s server to expose information about Hillary Clinton. Previous indictments allege that Russians may have purchased Facebook ads aimed at sowing discord within the American public (not simply backing Donald Trump for president, as many lazy and/or biased media outlets continue to assert).

On hacking, I am not convinced that the Russians are responsible. As the race in the Democratic Party between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders was extremely divisive and contentious, it would be unsurprising to find out that various pro-Bernie members of the DNC with access to various servers decided to leak damaging documents about Clinton and her campaign. The motivation makes sense, and so do the logistics. It would have been far easier to get inside and download files at close proximity than from Russia (or, for that matter, Romania).

Patrick Lawrence, in a summary of a memo released by Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), writes in The Nation:

“On the evening of July 5, 2016, 1,976 megabytes of data were downloaded from the DNC’s server. The operation took 87 seconds. This yields a transfer rate of 22.7 megabytes per second.

“These statistics are matters of record and essential to disproving the hack theory. No Internet service provider, such as a hacker would have had to use in mid-2016, was capable of downloading data at this speed. Compounding this contradiction, Guccifer claimed to have run his hack from Romania, which, for numerous reasons technically called delivery overheads, would slow down the speed of a hack even further from maximum achievable speeds.

“What is the maximum achievable speed? Forensicator recently ran a test download of a comparable data volume (and using a server speed not available in 2016) 40 miles from his computer via a server 20 miles away and came up with a speed of 11.8 megabytes per second—half what the DNC operation would need were it a hack.”

This forensic evidence combined with Occam’s Razor makes it difficult for me accept the accusation of Russian hacking at all, no matter how many US intelligence agencies say otherwise. I am not saying that the Seth Rich conspiracy theory is likely to be true, but I find it equally as persuasive as the Russian hacking theory.

The indictments of the Russian operatives accused of hacking the DNC server will not result in extradition or trial, so the accusations will never be tested in a court of law. And some of the most fundamental pillars of reason, liberty, and the Bill of Rights dictate that we cannot accept claims ad verecundiam. In fact, it is assertions from those in power, like the FBI and NSA, we must cast the most doubt upon. The indicted Russians are not guilty until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. It would be nice to have civil libertarian organization like the ACLU actively reminding us of these things, but identity politics and Trump hatred have resulted in many such groups losing their way.

Beyond all this, the documents released by Wikileaks provided the public with more truthful information, which is most certainly a positive development for the democratic process. For those who purport to care about an informed public determining their destinies via the vote, it would be quite hypocritical to claim otherwise.

Even if it were irrefutably the Russians who hacked the DNC server, the US has no moral high ground when it comes to intervening in foreign elections (or intervening militarily for that matter). The map below highlights the nations that have faced election interference from the US since the end of WWII (a total of at least 80 instances):

Bringing these facts to light in the current climate can result in accusations of treason as Senator Rand Paul has been subjected to. While this is to be expected when it comes to warmongering neoconservatives, hearing it from self-described Liberals has a chilling effect. This sort of with-us-or-against-us, pseudo-Patriotism is far more reminiscent of Nazism than the enforcement of immigration law.

To once again be extremely generous to the opposition, let’s accept three premises:

1) That the US must take extreme measures to contain Russia

2) That Russia directly hacked the DNC server at least partially as a means of promoting Trump’s campaign

3) That the US does not have to practice what it preaches in terms of respecting the right to self-determination of foreign peoples

Even with all of this accepted as fact, there continues to be zero proof that Russian “meddling” changed anyone’s vote. And there are monstrous hurdles one must overcome to prove the positive claim that Russia successfully influenced the 2016 election.

The first is that the amount of money Russia allegedly spent on influencing the election is a drop in a bucket at the bottom of a massive sea of campaign financing and media coverage. Unbiased America illustrates the incredible disparity between Russian spending and other spending in the image below:

And even without juxtaposing the amounts spent to influence the election, there is no scientific proof that voters can be persuaded via campaign contact or advertisements in the first place. In a study published by Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business in 2017, researches concluded that “the best estimate of the effects of campaign contact and advertising on Americans’ candidates choices in general elections is zero.” In other words, if you are looking to alter someone’s vote, it is going to take more than slogans, attack ads, and memes to do so.

I imagine that the way to get voters on your side is to stump for policies they prefer and to create some kind of unified identity. Trump ran on making America great again, draining the swamp, defeating the establishment, protectionist economic policy, restricting immigration, non-interventionism, lowering taxes without lowering welfare spending, and owning the libs. I imagine this formula is what put him over the top, not these crude supposedly Russian-made memes:

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To sum up, any genuine hysteria over Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election is misguided. There is no reason to believe Russia affected the US election in any way of their own volition, nor that they broke any laws. Freedom of speech is a human right, not one reserved for everyone except those who have some distant connection to the Russian government. Any attempts to impact the election were impeded by human nature and far greater influences. And Russian meddling in US affairs is a small price to pay for containing them (or, in my opinion, bullying and threatening them).

What should be of far greater concern to all Americans are reactions to the Trump-Russia narrative by individuals, the media, and especially the US government. Sanctions against Russia will harm the Russian people and strengthen it’s government. Already suffering from a lackluster economy, sanctions will further thin out their opportunities. On a global scale, sanctions and other barriers to trade create an invisible domino effect that hits sectors of economic activity around the world too. Growing economic anxiety and economic hostility from NATO combined with a global media that paints Trump as Russia’s lapdog will inevitably guide the Russian people deeper into the protecting arms of Vladimir Putin.

Many members of the public and in congress have called for increased regulation of the internet and social media as a way to prevent Russia from “meddling” in future elections, a dangerous undermining of free speech and expression no American should tolerate.

Instead of making peace and harmony with Russia more difficult, we should accept the minor consequences of containing Russia, or be done with NATO and leave Russia be. The men who fought off a bullying foreign nation to found the United States of America would have preferred the latter option.

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It’s Time to Calm Down about Russian Meddling

The Pledge of Allegiance is Commie Gobbledygook

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The first semester of the Thai school year is a few weeks from completion. Unlike the US, the Thai school calendar is divided into two college-like semesters. The first begins in mid-May and runs through September. After an October recess, the second term starts around November 1st, and the school year culminates in early March.

This has been one of my least favorite aspects of my seven years teaching English in Thailand. As it takes place in the middle of the first semester, I have not had the pleasure of coming home for an American summer since residing abroad. The same goes for Thanksgiving and all but one Christmas. This is beginning to weigh on me, and plans for my wife and I to transition home for good are in the works.

Another aspect of teaching in Thailand that I dislike (though I mostly love what I do) is my students’ morning ritual. When the 2nd or 3rd attendance bell rings (depending on the school), the entire student body stands in rows (either in the halls or an assembly area), sings the national anthem, chants a few Buddhist prayers, and sings or repeats a jingle or hymn unique to each school.

Each step of this routine is undertaken mindlessly and unwillingly by the average student. Social pressures and faculty commands guarantee that they stand in line without protest, and the Buddhist prayers are spoken in Sanskrit that few people, let alone children, even understand. And ever since the Royal Thai Army’s 2014 coup d’etat, I’ve noticed an even greater dip in enthusiasm.

As the US school year is set to be underway, I am reminded of my own mindless chanting as an American schoolboy. Every morning, I put my hand over my heart and pledged allegiance without ever thinking about what pledging or allegiance even mean. I was not persuaded to stand through reason or understanding, but instead through the same social pressures and faculty commands that my students in Thailand are subject to. I do not recall any instances of a fellow student declining to stand, but I know I would have hated that student for doing so. I embodied the social pressure I was subjected to.

Now 12 years removed from high school and 7 years removed from university, I have had ample time to begin my education. And as a now somewhat-educated critical thinker, I can look back at the words I was all but forced to say throughout my youth and see them for what they truly are: bullshit.

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America

A free country like the United States should be above archaic symbols like flags, monuments, and other images of state worship, so pledging allegiance to a piece of cloth (especially one whose design has been altered several times throughout US history) is a backwards idea from the start.

Admittedly, I often get teary eyed when I see the stars and stripes waving in the wind as our national anthem plays before a baseball game. But I want that feeling for myself, not as a part of an obligatory chant among an unthinking cult.

If anything, we should pledge allegiance to the Constitution or, better yet, to the individual human rights and constraints on government it espouses. And we should do it when we feel like it, not force the youth do it in a supposedly educational setting.

And to the republic for which it stands

As the Constitution lays out a framework for a republic (and certainly not a democracy), I am least butthurt over this line.

Pledging allegiance to the republic itself, however, contradicts the character of a free country. If our so-called republic veers off course by, say, plunging its people $21 trillion in debt, establishing a destructive interventionist empire abroad, founding an alphabet soup of unauthorized federal agencies, and imprisoning 2 million of its own people often for victimless crimes, should we continue to commit ourselves to its agenda?

Again, pledging allegiance to our Constitution or our rights would be a more unconditionally honorable promise. The state should commit itself to us, not the other way around.

One nation

The United States of America is not meant to be one nation as much as it is meant to be 50 states. The United States in singular form represents what was intended to be a small legislative body that manages the few, constitutionally-enumerated responsibilities the 50 states are unfit to manage independently.

In plural form, the United States are Alabama, Wyoming, and everything in between. The states are supposed to have tremendous authority as they are far more aware of what is best for their inhabitants than a faraway field of castles in Washington DC. Instead of recognizing one nation, we should recognize the 50 sovereign states.

Under God

God is a subjectively manifested concept that each of us has the liberty to deal with in our own way. I was once an Atheist who scoffed at religion, and I had that right. I am now far more open-minded to the existence of God and have gained some respect for religious discipline and spirituality. But that’s up to me.

Instead of under God, we should exclaim that our nation is subservient to each of our natural, individual human rights: one nation, under us.

Indivisible

This is just plain wrong. Although the process is not easy, states are free to leave the union if they so choose. We should remind ourselves that unification is a choice (which, if you ask me, continues to be a wise decision despite the gross encroachments made by the feds), not that secession is impossible.

Instead of pledging allegiance to enslavement of the states by an out of control federal government, we should pledge allegiance to our free will to remain in the union or leave in accordance with what suits our preferences.

With Liberty and Justice for all

I certainly love the sentiment here, but it is simply not true. Compared to other nations in modern times and throughout history, the liberty and justice that exists in America is arguably on the more preferable end of the spectrum. But this is only in a relative sense and often a result of technological advancements, not good government.

Wholesale liberty and justice do not exist in America, and we should stop saying that they do. The more you say an unaccomplished goal is accomplished, the more you believe it is accomplished, and less energy you put into accomplishing it. A better alternative would be to say that we intend to establish liberty and justice for all or that liberty and justice are a work in progress.

Though it certainly fails to flow off the tongue, here is my revised Pledge of Allegiance for the 2018-2019 American school year:

I pledge allegiance,

To the Constitution,

Of the United States of America,

And to the inalienable rights of myself and my fellow man,

For which it stands,

50 Sovereign States,

Under their people,

Striving for Liberty and Justice for all.

Feel free to comment with a catchier version, and have a great school year!

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The Pledge of Allegiance is Commie Gobbledygook

Medicare-for-All would be that Damn Expensive… and then Some

Medicine Money

The Libertarian-leaning Mercatus Center at George Mason University has recently released a study which concludes that the federal government would have to spend an additional $32 trillion over ten years to cover the cost of a Bernie-Sanders-envisioned Medicare-for-all healthcare program. Conservative and Libertarian media outlets immediately reported on the study’s findings (which match estimates made by a left-leaning think tank from just a few years ago) to persuade their audiences that this plan is too expensive to even consider. Many left-wing and mainstream media outlets have countered this claim by saying that the $32 trillion cost of medicare-for-all could actually amount to overall savings in healthcare spending. The latter outlets are wrong.

The George Mason study only tells us how much it would cost to provide Medicare-for-all if all Americans were using Medicare as their sole means of healthcare financing. What the study does not mention (something we should be able to figure out ourselves) is that 90% of Medicare recipients receive supplemental health coverage from their employers, the private sector, additional federal programs, and other areas. In other words, Medicare does not get the job done. If the $32 trillion were spent on Medicare-for-all, the vast majority of Americans would be spending more on top of that if they actually wanted sufficient healthcare.

However, it is unlikely that supplemental healthcare would even be available. Medicare-for-all would increase the demand for healthcare (when people have health insurance, they use it more often whether they need it or not) without adding any new doctors, nurses, hospitals, medical equipment, medicines, or anything else patients need. When demand increases and supply does not, prices rise. And what do socialists propose when price increases are looming? Price controls! In other words, removing the incentive for doctors and nurses to work harder and doing the same for companies that invest in new medicines and medical procedures (the US is the world’s leader BY FAR in healthcare innovation… Medicare-for-all would cut it down to size).

Finally, if we throw economics and unintended consequences out the window and accept the left-wing line that we’d actually save a few trillion dollars with Medicare-for-all, you have to consider who we is. To pay for Medicare-for-all, doubling income taxes and the corporate tax rate would not even cover the federal government’s costs. And only about half the country definitely pays federal income taxes. This means that a little over half the country’s taxes would be doubled to pay for everyone’s healthcare. Those who pay no federal income taxes would be putting zero skin in the game and reaping all the rewards. With respect to those who are physically unable to provide for themselves, the most productive Americans would shoulder a greater burden while the least productive would have their check-ups paid for.

In short, Medicare-for-all would only save money if everyone accepts the quality of care provided by Medicare now. Americans would also have to accept the fact that alternative options would be in shorter supply, meaning they would be far more expensive. As Medicare-for-all would increase demand for healthcare without increasing the supply of healthcare providers, medicine, or equipment, costs would rise and/or incentives to provide healthcare would disappear (and access would be rationed further than it is now). Lastly, only some Americans would be on the hook to pay for all of this… and it would be a big hook at least twice the size of the one they are on now.

Want a better alternative? Let’s throw out the insurance model altogether. Have health insurance cover only medical expenses in which life or limb are in jeopardy and pay out of pocket for everything else. Let states and municipalities manage Medicare, Medicaid, and other government healthcare programs, so there is more room for experimentation and greater ability for local populations to make changes that work for them. Reduce the FDA’s role in drug approval, so patients and healthcare providers can have more options faster. Knock down trade barriers between American consumers and foreign medical suppliers, so domestic merchants have to face more competition. Legalize marijuana, so it can be used a cheap and non-deadly pain treatment. And lower taxes and spending in general, so Americans can keep more of their money and spend it on healthcare for themselves and their loved ones however they see fit.

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Medicare-for-All would be that Damn Expensive… and then Some

Rand Paul is in a Bind

It’s the rainy season in Thailand, which means commuters like me are primed to get wet on our way to and from work. To me, the worst thing about this is constantly having rain-soaked shoes. There are few worse ways to start your day than feeling yesterday’s rain water seep through a fresh pair of socks as you place your feet in shoes that have not had time to dry.

As bad as monsoon shoes are, I’d take them over Kentucky Senator Rand Paul’s shoes any day of the week.

President Trump has recently nominated Brett Kavanaugh from the United States Court of Appeals in Washington D.C. to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court. Unlike Justice Neil Gorsuch, Kavanaugh’s brand of constitutional originalism does not show much respect for the 4th Amendment. For those who do not know, the 4th Amendment intends to protect Americans against unwarranted searches and seizures. Without this amendment, police and other law enforcement officials may not be legally barred from rummaging through or confiscating our property, private documents, or even our bodies without just cause.

If you want to know more about Kavanaugh’s unfortunate history with the 4th Amendment, you can listen to Judge Andrew Napolitano, maybe the most pro-liberty judge in American history, discuss it with Tom Woods here.

Rand Paul, a 4A diehard and the 50th of the GOP’s 50-49 senator majority (John McCain, who is currently unable to vote for health reasons, would make 51) finds himself in an extremely tough situation as his vote may ultimately determine whether or not Kavanaugh is confirmed. The following are what I consider to be the most probable potential outcomes depending on the choice Rand makes.

The Sellout Scenario

If Rand votes in favor of Kavanaugh, he will almost certainly become a SCOTUS justice, which could put all of our 4th Amendment rights on the line for decades to come. In the process, Rand would lose plenty of pro-Constitution credibility. The Liberty movement would pile on with accusations that Rand Paul lacks the gumption his father Ron Paul possessed, and is just a slightly better version of the swamp creatures lurking throughout Washington.

From a political standpoint, Rand would likely secure his position in the senate if he decides to run for reelection in 2022. I imagine that the typical Republican voter is far more concerned with making sure a Liberal justice does not take the place of Anthony Kennedy than he is with the technicalities of what the 4th Amendment entails, which means Rand’s seat in the senate, unlike his credibility, would likely be safe.

In the long run, keeping Rand’s vote in the senate for years to come could serve as more valuable than having a perfectly originalist justice on the bench as Gorsuch and the four liberal justices (a majority) seem to be on Rand’s side when it comes to 4A. In other words, Kavanaugh’s impact on the 4th Amendment may be minimal anyway.

The Swamp Scenario

If Rand votes against Kavanaugh, he may still be confirmed via red state Democrats. At least three or four senators up for reelection in November are Democrats in Trump country. These senators are often forced to part ways with their party in order to maintain their positions in congress. Due to their sticky situation, Rand’s decision may not ultimately matter in the confirmation process.

Voting against Kavanaugh would preserve Rand’s pro-Constitution credibility, and would likely have little effect on his reelection prospects as his choice to stand is ground would cost Trump and establishment Republicans nothing.

The Hero Scenario

If Rand votes against Kavanaugh, he may not be confirmed. However, this could work out beautifully for Rand in the end.

By blocking Kavanaugh’s nomination, Rand would help preserve the 4th Amendment (at least temporarily) and bolster his Libertarian credentials. And although he would defy Trump and rain on Republicans’ parade in the short run, sunnier skies could be on the horizon.

If the GOP retains control of the senate after this year’s midterms (and they are expected to do so), Trump will be be given another chance to nominate a more pro-4A justice. If Trump’s next choice winds up being more Gorsuchian, Rand will have taken a massive political risk and won big for the country as well as himself.

The Scapegoat Scenario

If Rand votes against Kavanaugh, he is not confirmed, and the GOP loses the senate, Trump may not get another chance to nominate a SCOTUS justice as president. If a Democrat beats Trump in 2020, and Democrats retain control of the senate, you can bet that a “living document” justice will be placed on the SCOTUS bench, probably resulting in a liberal majority for years to come.

Under these conditions, Rand may succeed in preserving the 4th Amendment. Conversely, the 1st, 2nd, 5th, 9th, 10th, and many other rights guaranteed by the Constitution could fall by the wayside.

Rand would have committed political suicide in the process, and a future reelection bid could result in comical defeat.

Let’s hope for the best.

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Rand Paul is in a Bind