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Russian Collusion? – Article by Mollie Hemingway

Russian Collusion? – Article by Mollie Hemingway

The New Renaissance Hat
Mollie Hemingway
October 1, 2017
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This essay is reprinted by permission from Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College.

The following is adapted from a speech delivered on September 7, 2017, at Hillsdale College’s Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship in Washington, D.C.

We keep being told that President Trump is not normal. This much has been blindingly obvious. He had never run for office or otherwise served in a public capacity. He has been accused, not without reason, of breaking all manner of political norms. America’s most nontraditional president was never going to conduct business as usual from the West Wing. Less than a year into his first term, he has already caused much anguish in Washington. This should be no surprise—while running for office Trump repeatedly promised to “drain the swamp” and shake things up. Americans knew who they were voting for, and history will judge the results.

That said, Trump’s nascent presidency has coincided with perhaps the greatest violation of political norms this country has ever seen—a violation that has nothing to do with Trump’s behavior. Since the election last November, there has been a sustained, coordinated attack on Trump’s legitimacy as president following his victory in a free and fair election. This has the potential to cause far more lasting damage to America than Trump’s controversial style.

Democratic operatives and their media allies attempted to explain Trump’s victory with a claim they had failed to make stick during the general election: Trump had nefarious ties to Russia. This was a fertile area for allegations, if for no other reason than that Trump had been reluctant to express criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin. By contrast, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton repeatedly condemned Russia’s 2011 elections, saying they were “neither free nor fair” and expressing “serious concerns” about them. She publicly called for a full investigation while meeting with top Russian officials. This made Putin livid. “Mr. Putin said that hundreds of millions of dollars in ‘foreign money’ was being used to influence Russian politics, and that Mrs. Clinton had personally spurred protesters to action,” The New York Times reported.

Trump’s relationship with Putin was decidedly different. In December 2015, Putin called Trump “a really brilliant and talented person.” Trump replied: “It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond.” He added, “I have always felt that Russia and the United States should be able to work well with each other towards defeating terrorism and restoring world peace, not to mention trade and all of the other benefits derived from mutual respect.”

Then rumors surfaced in the summer of 2016 that Russia probably had something to do with the alleged hack of the Democratic National Committee email system, as well as the successful “phishing” of Democratic insider John Podesta’s inbox. Russia was also alleged to have tried to hack the Republican National Committee, but without success. It remained an open question whether the Russians were trying to help Trump or were simply trying to create chaos in the election. Regardless, these Democratic Party emails were published by WikiLeaks, and they confirmed what many critics had said about Clinton and the DNC—the DNC had engineered the primary to ensure a Clinton victory; the Clinton campaign had cozy, borderline unethical relations with members of the mainstream media; Clinton expressed private positions to Wall Street banks that were at odds with her public positions; and various other embarrassing details indicating her campaign was in disarray.

According to Shattered, a well-sourced book about the Clinton campaign written by sympathetic reporters, Clinton settled on a Russia excuse within twenty-four hours of her concession speech. [Campaign manager Robby] Mook and Podesta assembled her communications team at the Brooklyn headquarters to engineer the case that the election wasn’t entirely on the up-and-up. For a couple of hours, with Shake Shack containers littering the room, they went over the script they would pitch to the press and the public. Already, Russian hacking was the centerpiece of the argument.

The Russian collusion story involves a lot of details, but there are two basic tactics that Trump’s enemies have used to push the narrative: they have put seemingly innocuous contacts with Russians under a microscope, and they have selectively touted details supplied by a politicized intelligence apparatus. And this has all been amplified by a media that has lost perspective and refuses to be impartial, much less accurate.

Meetings with Russians

If most of us can now agree that Putin’s Russia is a potential threat to the United States, we shouldn’t forget that the Washington establishment regarded this as a radical opinion not so long ago. Shortly after President Obama was elected in 2008, Time magazine ran a cover with him asking a Russian bear, “Can we be friends?” The media generally celebrated Secretary of State Clinton’s attempt at a Russian “reset” in 2009. Obama was later caught on a hot mic promising Putin more “flexibility” once he was reelected. And during Obama’s reelection campaign in 2012, when his opponent Mitt Romney characterized Russia as our greatest geopolitical foe, Obama mocked him by saying, “The 1980s called. They want their foreign policy back.” The New York Times editorial page said of Romney’s Russia comments that they “display either a shocking lack of knowledge about international affairs or just craven politics. Either way, they are reckless and unworthy of a major presidential contender.”

Trump’s election changed all that. Not since the heyday of McCarthyism in the 1950s have so many in Washington been accused of consorting with Russians who wish to undermine American democracy.

The Washington Post reported in mid-January that Mike Flynn, Trump’s incoming National Security Advisor, had spoken via telephone with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak on December 29, the day the Obama administration announced the expulsion of 35 Russian officials in retaliation for the DNC hacking. Although such conversations are perfectly legal, the Postsuggested, quite incredibly, that Flynn might have violated the Logan Act, which bars U.S. citizens from correspondence intending to influence a foreign government about “disputes” with the United States. The Logan Act, which has a long record of being cited by cranks, has not been enforced since it was passed (in 1799!) because it is widely considered to be grossly unconstitutional. In addition to the PostThe New York TimesForeign Policymagazine, and other outlets credulously repeated the same ludicrous talking point about Logan Act violations.

Let it also be noted that Flynn, while a critic of Russia and of the Iran nuclear deal that Russia helped put together, also was paid to speak at a dinner hosted by the Russian TV network Russia Today.

When then-Senator Jeff Sessions was asked, during his confirmation hearing to be U.S Attorney General, about allegations of Russian attempts to compromise the Trump campaign, he noted that he had been a Trump surrogate and hadn’t heard of any meetings for this purpose. When it turned out Sessions had met with Kislyak in a different capacity—as a U.S. Senator on the Armed Services Committee—the ensuing uproar in the media led him to recuse himself from any investigation into Russian meddling. Of course, it was Kislyak’s job to facilitate as many meetings as possible with top officials across the political spectrum, and he was seen at meetings with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senator Claire McCaskill, two prominent Democrats, as well as other Republicans. Indeed, such meetings between foreign ambassadors and U.S. elected officials are routine.

It’s true that Trump was associated with people who had ties to Russians. His former campaign manager Paul Manafort had previously done political consulting work in Ukraine for Russia-aligned groups. Carter Page, a foreign policy advisor with a limited role, is a Naval Academy graduate, businessman, and academic who has been open about his belief that America’s anti-Russian foreign policy has been counterproductive. And Roger Stone, a campaign advisor with a reputation for outlandish campaign work, reportedly spoke with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as well as Guccifer 2.0, who may be a Russian hacker.

But perhaps no meeting attracted as much scrutiny as one in June 2016 between Donald Trump, Jr., Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, and various Russians, including a Russian lawyer. According to email correspondence, the Trump associates were told they would receive opposition research on Clinton that may have been provided by the Russian government. No research was handed over, but critics said that the language in the emails supported claims of attempted collusion. After weeks of accusations, the story quickly ran out of steam when it was revealed that the Russian lawyer, who was to have provided the information, had employed a shadowy opposition research firm known as Fusion GPS—a business that had strong ties to Democratic interests, had previously tried to smear Mitt Romney donors and critics of Planned Parenthood, and had played a key role in a recent and infamous attempt to smear Trump.

Politicized Intelligence

Many allegations concerning Russia have been taken seriously based solely on the institutional credibility of the accusers. It appears that members of America’s intelligence community are some of the President’s most passionate opponents.

Late last December, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI put out a 13-page report touted as definitive proof of Russian state involvement in the DNC server hack and the phishing attack on John Podesta’s emails. It was remarkably paltry—vague and non-specific in a way that really didn’t help clarify the precise nature of Russia’s involvement. Cyberwarfare expert Jeffrey Carr wrote that the report “adds nothing to the call for evidence that the Russian government was responsible” for the hacks. It listed every threat ever reported by a commercial cybersecurity company that was suspected of having a Russian origin, Carr noted, lumping them under the heading of Russian Intelligence Services, without providing any supporting evidence that such a connection existed. Former Air Force cyberwarfare officer Robert Lee said the report was of limited use to security professionals, in part because of poor organization and a lack of crucial details.

Senior intelligence appointees tried again in early January, with a report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. It was also lacking in specifics. But comments from high profile Democrats, supported by a leak campaign to media outlets, did have an effect. By late December, more than half of Democrats believed—despite the lack of evidence—that “Russia tampered with vote tallies in order to get Donald Trump elected President,” according to a YouGov.com poll.

When Trump responded to these reports with dismissals and a few begrudging admissions of minor contacts with Russians, critics gleefully warned him that partisans at intelligence agencies would retaliate. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said, “Let me tell you, you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you. So even for a practical, supposedly hard-nosed businessman, he’s being really dumb to do this.” Former George W. Bush speechwriter and current never-Trump activist David Frum echoed this sentiment: “CIA message to Trump: you mess with us, get ready for a leakstorm of Biblical proportions.” Essentially, intelligence agencies were being publicly encouraged to abuse their power to stop Trump before he had even assumed office.

In January, the big story dropped. “Intel chiefs presented Trump with claims of Russian efforts to compromise him,” blared the headline from CNN. According to highly placed anonymous sources, top intelligence appointees had informed Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Trump that “Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump.” A former British intelligence operative had compiled a damaging “dossier” on the President-elect. CNN reported that intelligence officials considered this operative’s past work credible. But he had paid his Russian sources for the compromising information, and CNN published its report on the dossier without confirming any of the allegations. Within the hour, BuzzFeed published the actual text of the dossier. It said, among other things, that a senior Trump advisor and three of his colleagues had met with Kremlin operatives in Prague in late August or early September to undermine the Clinton campaign. And the Russians were said to have a kompromat file on Trump, including an amazing story about him renting a hotel room the Obamas had used and paying prostitutes to urinate on the bed.

One of the claims was quickly disproven: Michael Cohen, Trump’s lawyer who was alleged to have gone to Prague for a clandestine meeting with Kremlin operatives, had never been to Prague. And to date, no media organization has provided any independent evidence to confirm a single claim made in the dossier. It was soon revealed that the firm that had hired the former British operative and put together the dossier was the aforementioned Fusion GPS. What’s more, the FBI allegedly sought to pay the British operative to continue gathering dirt on Trump.

Aside from a lack of concern about the accuracy of the charges against Trump, intelligence chiefs were not discriminating about who got caught up in their anti-Trump crusade. In March, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) announced that “unmasking” of Trump transition team members had occurred during the last three months of the Obama presidency—that is, significant personal information from and about Trump associates had been collected and widely disseminated.

“I recently confirmed that, on numerous occasions, the intelligence community incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition,” Nunes said. The information collected, he added, had little or no foreign intelligence value, and nothing to do with Russia. Obama’s National Security Advisor Susan Rice, UN Ambassador Samantha Power, and National Security Council spokesman Ben Rhodes were later reported to be involved in this rampant unmasking activity.

Trump created one of the biggest firestorms of his presidency in May when he fired FBI Director James Comey. The embattled FBI head, who let Hillary Clinton slide after her illegal handling of classified information, had been routinely criticized by both Democrats and Republicans and was officially fired for general ineptness. However, Trump said it was also because Comey was playing games with the Russia investigation. In his letter relieving him of his duties, Trump mentioned that Comey had told him three times he was not under investigation. Many journalists scoffed at this claim, since Comey was publicly intimating otherwise. When he was fired, stories favorable to Comey about private meetings between Comey and Trump came out in the media.

In testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee a few weeks later, Comey admitted he had, in fact, told Trump at least three times he was not under investigation by the FBI. Comey also admitted under oath that his leaks to The New York Times were designed to force the hiring of a special prosecutor. His strategy paid off when his close friend and former colleague Robert Mueller was appointed to head an investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign. That investigation has since spiraled out to include leads “that have nothing to do with Russia,” according to media reports.

The egregious behavior of influential officials such as Comey has encouraged people to think that the verdict of the intelligence community was more conclusive than it was. During a 2016 presidential debate, Clinton said, “We have 17 intelligence agencies, civilian and military, who have all concluded that these espionage attacks, these cyberattacks, come from the highest levels of the Kremlin and they are designed to influence our election.” Clinton’s claim wasn’t true. It was only three agencies—the FBI, the CIA, and the National Security Agency—that made the claim. Yet media outlets such as NBC, CBS, CNN, and The New York Times repeated the number 17. In late June, The New York Times corrected a story that made the false claim. So did the Associated Press.

In general, the media have overstated the confidence and public evidence in support of Russian hacking. One group of skeptical intelligence analysts, the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), issued a memo in late July arguing that the hack of the DNC emails wasn’t a hack at all, but an internal leak. VIPS is generally thought to be sympathetic to the Left—the same group had cast doubt on the quality of intelligence that led the United States to invade Iraq in 2003. The VIPS memo raises questions about why the FBI failed to perform an independent forensic analysis of the Democratic emails or servers in question. In fact, no federal agency performed a forensic analysis, leaving that to CrowdStrike—a company with strong ties to the Clinton campaign that had an incentive to blame foreign governments for the attack. Surely, more forensic scrutiny of the centerpiece of the Russia hack claim is in order.

To date, despite all the misleading claims in news reports, the only actual crime related to the Trump-Russia investigation is the criminal leaking of classified information about U.S. citizens by intelligence officials.

Media Problems

A compliant media responded to the Clinton campaign’s “blame Russia” strategy by pushing stories alleging wrongdoing by Russia. Many of the early ones fell apart. The Washington Post published a story saying that “fake news”—a term originally used to describe the dissemination of blatantly false news reports intended to go viral on social media—was a Russian operation designed to help Trump. An editor’s note was appended backing away from the report a couple weeks later. (Trump would famously appropriate the term “fake news” to describe reports from the mainstream media he found unfair.) A few weeks later, the Post ran an even more incendiary story alleging that Russian hackers had penetrated the U.S. electrical grid. This turned out to be false. One media outlet headline read: “Trump, Russian billionaire say they’ve never met, but their jets did.” Presumably, these inanimate objects exchanged pleasantries and discussed sensitive foreign policy matters.

CNN has had particular trouble. Breathless headlines such as “Trump aides were in constant touch with senior Russian officials during campaign” fail to be supported with evidence. Anonymous officials would say that such communications “are not unusual” and investigators had not “reached a judgment” of any nefarious intent. Other CNN stories had bigger problems, such as the one reporting that Comey would testify he never told Trump he was not under investigation. As mentioned previously, Comey admitted under oath that he’d said this three times, just as Trump claimed. Another story reporting a problematic meeting between a Trump associate and a Russian, again based on a single anonymous source, was quietly retracted, and three employees who worked on it were dismissed.

Journalism in the Trump era has become far too dependent on unreliable and anonymous sources. And considering the steady drumbeat in the media about Trump having a strained relationship with facts, there is plenty of irony in the fact that the media have had to correct or retract an unprecedented number of stories about him and his administration.

There are three primary ways of viewing the Trump-Russia narrative.

View one is that Russians hacked the election and Donald Trump committed treason by knowingly colluding with them. The Obama administration didn’t surveil Trump or his associates, but if it did, it was simply doing its job.

View two is that Russia was probably involved in the hacking and releasing of emails from the DNC and John Podesta. Some Trump associates had ties to Russia, but there is no evidence of Trump or his campaign colluding with Russia.

View three is that the Russia story is a complete fiction concocted by sore losers unable to deal with the reality of their electoral loss.

It shouldn’t be difficult to ascertain which one of these views is most grounded in facts. Despite his friendly rhetoric toward Russia and Putin during the campaign, Trump’s presidency has been marked by a bombing of Russia-backed Syria, bombing of the Russia-aligned Taliban in Afghanistan, stricter enforcement of economic sanctions, support for the expansion of NATO, liquid natural gas exports to Europe that undercut Russia’s economy, the selling of U.S. missile defense to Poland and Romania, and opposition to the Russian-negotiated Iran nuclear deal.

In the meantime, the self-styled anti-Trump “resistance” has created a standard it must meet to justify the broken norms and political trauma to which it has subjected the country. That standard is nothing less than proof that Donald Trump is a traitor put into the White House through collusion with Russia to undermine our electoral system. The better part of a year into his presidency, Trump’s enemies have not come close to meeting that standard.

Mollie Hemingway is a senior editor at The Federalist and a Fox News contributor. She received her B.A. from the University of Colorado at Denver. She has been a Philips Foundation Journalism Fellow, a Lincoln Fellow at the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy, and a Pulliam Distinguished Visiting Fellow in Journalism at Hillsdale College. She has written for numerous publications, including The Wall Street JournalThe Washington Post, and Christianity Today, and is the author of Trump vs. the Media.

Will Congress and Trump Declare War on WikiLeaks? – Article by Ron Paul

Will Congress and Trump Declare War on WikiLeaks? – Article by Ron Paul

The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
September 3, 2017
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The Senate Intelligence Committee recently passed its Intelligence Authorization Act for 2018 that contains a chilling attack on the First Amendment. Section 623 of the act expresses the “sense of Congress” that WikiLeaks resembles a “non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors and should be treated as such.” This language is designed to delegitimize WikiLeaks, encourage the federal government to spy on individuals working with WikiLeaks, and block access to WikiLeaks’ website. This provision could even justify sending US forces abroad to arrest WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange or other WikiLeaks personnel.

WikiLeaks critics claim that the organization’s leaks harm US national security. However, these critics are unable to provide a single specific example of WikiLeaks’ actions harming the American people. WikiLeaks does harm the reputations of federal government agencies and politicians, however. For example, earlier this year WikiLeaks released information on the CIA’s hacking program. The leaks did not reveal any details on operations against foreign targets, but they did let the American people know how easy it is for the government to hack into their electronic devices.

For the last year, most of the news surrounding WikiLeaks has centered on its leak of emails showing how prominent Democrats worked to undermine Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. In order to deflect attention from these revelations, Democrats, aided by their allies in the media and even some Republicans, promulgated a conspiracy theory blaming the leaks on Russian hackers working to defeat Hillary Clinton. Even though there is no evidence the Russians were behind the leaks, many in both parties are still peddling the “Putin did it” narrative. This aids an effort by the deep state and its allies in Congress and the media to delegitimize last year’s election, advance a new Cold War with Russia, and criminalize WikiLeaks.

If the government is successful in shutting down WikiLeaks by labeling it a “hostile intelligence service,” it will use this tactic to silence other organizations and websites as well. The goal will be to create a climate of fear to ensure no one dares publish the revelations of a future Edward Snowden or Chelsea Manning.

Some have suggested that criticizing police brutality, the surveillance state, the Federal Reserve, or even federal spending aids “hostile foreign powers” by weakening the people’s “trust in government.” This line of reasoning could be used to silence, in the name of “national security,” websites critical of the welfare-warfare state.

By labeling WikiLeaks a “hostile intelligence service” and thus legitimizing government action against the organization, the Senate Intelligence Authorization Act threatens the ability of whistleblowers to inform the public about government misdeeds. It also sets a precedent that could be used to limit other types of free speech.

President Trump should make it clear he will veto any bill giving government new powers to silence organizations like WikiLeaks. If President Trump supports the war on WikiLeaks, after candidate Trump proclaimed his love for WikiLeaks, it will be further proof that he has outsourced his presidency to the deep state.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, along with notable whistleblowers, foreign policy experts, and leading champions of peace and liberty, will be addressing this important issue at my Institute for Peace and Prosperity’s conference on Saturday, September 9 at the Dulles Airport Marriott Hotel in Dulles, Virginia outside of Washington, D.C. You can get more information about the conference and purchase tickets at the Ron Paul Institute.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.
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This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.
Are You Being Tricked into Voting for the System? – Article by Sandra from The Right Side of Truth

Are You Being Tricked into Voting for the System? – Article by Sandra from The Right Side of Truth

The New Renaissance Hat
Sandra from The Right Side of Truth
June 29, 2017
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For years, we’ve been sold the idea that the political system of the United States is a choice between two very different parties. On the Left, we have the progressive-liberal Democratic Party championing forward thinking and social good, and on the Right, we have the conservative Republican Party, sometimes called the GOP (short for Grand Old Party), touting the ideas of less government and traditional values.

At least that’s what we’ve been told. These stark differences are pushed at every debate and every public event. However, what the parties rarely discuss is how similar most of their policies are in practice.

So exactly how is it that these two parties continually trick us into voting for one or the other? How is it they manage to stymy progress time and time again, thrusting us further into the past? Not surprisingly, their tactics are both extraordinarily basic and brutally effective. Here’s how they do it.

Drumming Up the Non-Issues

The favored tactic by public masters of deception is presenting non-relevant ideas to distract us from what truly matters. Every election we see it, and 2016 was a perfect example of this. Both candidates kept their audience focused on personal attacks and empty promises, constantly avoiding the real issues.

Take for example the issue of “the wall.” Democrats historically voted in favor of constructing a border wall with Mexico; Hillary Clinton, largely seen mocking Donald Trump on the topic, was quite in favor of it in the past. While the two candidates bickered over the wall and who should pay for it, there was never any real debate between the two about whether or not it was a good idea because under the surface both candidates supported it.

Yet if we return to the present, we can see very little being done in terms of large-scale action. The President—who is not a legislator—has not suddenly conjured up a solid concrete wall across the entire US-Mexico border. That it was suggested this would happen was absurd to begin with and little more than a distraction.

And it’s not the only distraction we see virtually every election. “Major” issues come up conveniently every four years regarding topics such as abortion, marriage, and military spending. Yet the moment the elections end, these issues become silent. No significant changes or votes are held because neither party ever intended to do anything in the first place.

The third-party candidates that seriously have an interest in changing our policies never receive a serious moment in the public’s eye. Debates are always between two parties, and the results are always the same no matter who wins. Alternative ideas are shut out, even when they come from within one of the major parties, as we saw in the 2012 election with Ron Paul’s repeated media blackballing despite a commanding voter base in the primaries.

The “Outsider” Candidate

Those who genuinely believe the idea that the controlling parties would allow an outsider (that is, someone with different views than the status quo) to become a serious candidate are sorely deceived. This is another tactic used to mislead the public into thinking they have a real choice.

While it pains me to use the same example repeatedly, the 2016 election is just one of the best in a long time to truly demonstrate how good these parties are at fooling us. We were fed two choices—Hillary Clinton, the “safe, regular Democrat” choice (and trust me, the party never gave Bernie Sanders a second thought), and Donald Trump, the Hollywood businessman with a mouth.

Surely Trump, with his uncouth speech and disrespect for the Republican Party, was the outsider—right? Yet in office we see him making the same choices any GOP candidate would have made. He is still pro-War, pro-Keynesian economics, and shows no major signs of instigating any promised changes.

Other than speech patterns, nothing would have been different under any other GOP candidate or under Hillary Clinton. To begin with, the president is the head of executive power; he or she does not independently pass laws nor create funding for public projects. All of these faculties fall to the House and the Senate, which are also dominated by shills that vote nearly exclusively on the party line.

The running of candidates such as Donald Trump, Barack Obama, and even Ronald Reagan are simple feints to distract us from the real issues. And the real issue is the perception that there are no alternatives. By funneling our votes into a predictable “A or B” pattern, the parties work together behind closed doors to ensure they remain in power with no challenge to their plans or wealth.

The “Thrown-Away Vote” Fallacy

Dictating how things are from above with tools such as the mainstream media or political announcement is only so effective. On many levels, people can see through the deception of public figures and come to different conclusions. How is it then that so many of us continue to fall victim to this scam?

Surprisingly, the problem is truly at the root of our culture, and it’s been instilled in most of us basically since birth. It’s the idea that voting outside of the two choices we’re given (Red or Blue) is a wasted vote. We’re taught to think voting for a third or fourth party is somehow a vote for whichever candidate we don’t want to win.

This is a logical fallacy that’s been perpetuated for decades to discourage us from breaking away from the two-party system. If enough people believe it, it becomes true to some extent—people fear throwing away their votes and thus don’t vote for anyone outside the standard parties.

But we already know from the Senate and the House that this is simply incorrect. While no third-party president has served to date, several unaffiliated or third-party candidates serve or have served in Congress. Their ideas were different, and their voter bases were small enough to avoid widespread control.

Breaking the Illusion of Choice

If we truly wish to end the illusion of choice in the voting system, we need to recognize the inherent flaws within the system. From the outset, the American system was designed to discourage the illiterate mob from having final say over major candidates. It was designed back when few citizens had a formal education, thus the Electoral College that supersedes the popular vote.

Because of this, changes need to be made within and without the current major parties. We must collectively vote out the leadership of both the Democratic and Republican parties while simultaneously pushing for third-party representation. Not just for a single party such as the Libertarians either—we need multiple parties represented because not all interests overlap.

No single party could ever hope to represent the needs of conflicting groups. Farmers do not share the same values as corporate America, and manufacturers run counter to mom-and-pop businesses just the same as the interests of the wealthy conflict with the poor. And this is totally natural!

We the voters must take responsibility by researching the issues that are important and by seeking candidates that suit our needs. That means watching documentaries, reading books and blogs, and listening to podcasts. Even entertainment venues such as Netflix—when the content is locally available—have something to offer to help us broaden our perspective.

And as might be expected, no perfect political system exists. At the end of the day, the real enemy of freedom isn’t just some evil council of political masterminds striving for world domination. The biggest opponent of choice is staring at us in the mirror. Will you overcome your fear of uncertainty? Tell us in the comments.

About the Author: Sandra is a political activist and free thinker who’s never afraid to speak her mind. Despite the seemingly hopeless situation in Washington, she’s confident that by coming together we can make real changes for the better. See her website at The Right Side of Truth.

No Good Can Come from Trying to Resurrect the Cold War – Article by Brittany Hunter

No Good Can Come from Trying to Resurrect the Cold War – Article by Brittany Hunter

Brittany Hunter
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A few days go, as I sat with my eyes fixated on my television screen during a particularly riveting Netflix marathon, an alert on my iPhone went off and interrupted an otherwise perfect night of binge-watching.

As I glanced down to see what fresh new hell awaited me in the hectic non-fiction world, I noticed that it was an alert from an Apple news app that I never bothered to deleted when I upgraded to a newer iPhone over six months ago. The app only goes off if there is significant breaking news, which, usually means a terrorist attack or another lost airliner.

This time, however, the news that disrupted my luxurious night of lounging was a headline about Jared Kushner, Trump’s loyal son-in-law, and his connection to Russia. The content of the alert was vague at best, something along the lines of “Kushner has Russian connection Proving Malicious Intent,” or something equally over-dramatic and sensationalized.

Enough Is Enough

Normally, I would roll my eyes at the media rushing to conclusions and go about my day, but after the roller coaster of an election cycle that the nation is still attempting to recover from, this alert somehow managed to become my own personal “straw that broke the camel’s back,” as they say.

For the record, I am no fan of Jared Kushner nor of Trump, but that is because I am no fan of any politician. However, given the amount of times I have personally been subjected to the “ fear Russia” rhetoric, I find myself quickly losing faith in what passes for “news” these days and am even more concerned that this fear-mongering will inevitably turn to warmongering if the drums of war continue to beat in Russia’s general direction.

Between hearing the term “Russian meddling” every 30 seconds on CNN, and Time Magazine’s controversial cover depicting the White House being taken over by the Kremlin, I have had just about enough of this return to 1950s Cold War speak.

While I am wary of any news story that justifies the military industrial complex’s lust for war, the Time cover speaks volumes about the modern day media industry as a whole. When it comes to the purposefully shocking Time cover, no one bothered to notice that the “Kremlin” seen swallowing the White House into a sea of red is in fact St. Basil Cathedral. The sensationalism of the story, despite its possible consequences, was of more importance than fact-checking the actual content.

Some might argue that this is a small detail to get worked up over in the long-run, but as the country “celebrates” Memorial Day today, it is important to remember that any rhetoric that aims to perpetuate our country’s obsession with war should always be questioned and scrutinized to the utmost degree.

Reinventing the Red Scare

Russia has recently replaced the millennial generation as America’s favorite group to collectively throw under the bus every time something goes wrong.

At a pivotal moment just a few weeks shy of voting day, Wikileaks revealed leaked emails that showed collusion between the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Hillary Clinton campaign (as if either can be distinguished from the other). The content of these emails seemed to shed light on the combined efforts of the DNC and the Clinton campaign, who together had done everything within their power to rig the election against Bernie Sanders.

But rather than blame those actually responsible for the constructed demise of the Sanders campaign, Russia somehow became the enemy — again.

Suddenly, the shadiness on the part of the DNC and the Clinton camp were pushed aside as “Russian hackers” became the main cause for concern. While there has yet to be a definitive answer on the matter, the authenticity of the leaked emails was not a source of outrage for devoted Democrats. Instead, they wanted justice because how dare we let Putin interfere in our elections! This is America! This is a Democracy!

Overnight, the Democrats began to sound like the bloodthirsty Republicans of the Bush/Cheney era, calling for war without any logical forethought. What their candidate did was of less importance than punishing those who may or may not have brought the information to light.

Appearing almost out of thin air, Russia became the culprit even though there was evidence to the contrary and Wikileaks maintains that Russia is not involved. For those insistent that the Red Scare be brought forth from its warmongering grave, the idea of a foreign body meddling in the U.S. presidential elections was too egregious a reality to live with in an allegedly free country.

Apparently, these same people have forgotten about the numerous times throughout history where the United States Government has interfered in foreign elections over the years.

Blood on Our Hands

If for example, Russia was found to be explicitly and directly tied to the election of Donald Trump, it does not, at least thus far, come close to the disastrous consequences that arose from America’s role in the Iranian coup d’etat in 1953. It also pales in comparison with the American backing of the President of the Republic of Vietnam, Ngo Dinh Diem in the 1960s. In the predominantly Buddhist territory of southern Vietnam, the United States ushering a devout Catholic into the powerful role of President was not appreciated, as history proved.

While these are just a few instances of many, the aforementioned examples have both caused and perpetuated conflicts that are still ongoing today. The United States’ reputation of meddling in the Middle East is exactly what gave rise to the sentiment seen with Islamist extremists, such as ISIS. But it didn’t begin in 2003 with the Invasion of Iraq.

The United States left Vietnam in shame after forcing their own men to go off and die in foreign jungles without a clear purpose. But U.S. intervention was largely to blame for the escalation of the conflict in the first time.

Simply knowing and understanding that the federal government has an unfortunate tendency of being all too hasty to declare war — or just attack without any formal declaration — should be enough to caution those who are calling for the nation to retaliate against Russia.

Let’s Really Remember

Memorial Day has unfortunately become a holiday that glamorizes war and glorifies professional federally sanctioned killing, rather than urging caution against escalating foreign conflict. While the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) has been an utter and complete disaster when it comes to honoring those who went off to die for undefined “American interests” abroad, the government has instead declared that Memorial Day is sufficient enough to at least calm the masses.

But as we spend the majority of the day enjoying our paid time off with BBQs and pool time, may we not forget to be increasingly skeptical of any propaganda that seeks to put the federal government’s interests ahead of individual life.

To be sure, the atrocities committed by Putin and other Russian agents of the state are reprehensible. However, not only does this not explicitly prove that Russia was involved in the leaks, those seeking to perpetuate this rhetoric are doing so only to save face and distract from the actions of the DNC and the Clinton camp.

For those who continue attempting to reignite the Cold War, protecting partisan politics is more important than sparing innocent lives from the brutal realities of war.

Brittany Hunter is an associate editor at the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). Brittany studied political science at Utah Valley University with a minor in Constitutional studies.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author. Read the original article.

Secede and Decentralize: An Open Letter to Clinton Supporters – Article by Justin Murray

Secede and Decentralize: An Open Letter to Clinton Supporters – Article by Justin Murray

The New Renaissance HatJustin Murray
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Dear Clinton Voters:

I know this election has been painful for you. Many feel betrayed and even believe yourselves no longer living in the country you thought you were. Reflect on that pain and frustration for a moment. Now recognize how you feel now is how an equally large, possibly larger, number felt for the past eight years. Those who are of a liberty bent feel it all the time, no matter who ends up in office. Reflect on it, feel it, understand it, own it.

Before you get the wrong idea, this is not my attempt at rubbing in your face the loss of your candidate or an endorsement of President-elect Donald Trump. If anything, I share your pain and frustration, just for an entirely different reason. What you’re feeling, this hopelessness, this feeling that you’re no longer represented, this feeling that people other than you are now able to dictate your way of life, this is all a result of the massive expansion of the Federal government. Elections have long ceased being voting for someone you think represents the lifestyle you want to live and are, in practice, an exercise on determining whether or not you get to impose your preferred lifestyle on someone else.

This is the nature of elections, especially the “first past the post” method utilized in the United States. This system is, by its nature, one where one group of people enjoys the ability to effectively dictate to those who did not win how they will be living their lives over the next term period. The effect of this on voter frustration, which manifests as cultural divisiveness, only gets magnified the more powerful that government becomes. A weak federal government would produce little divisiveness because there is little to be divided over. A strong Federal government would produce significant divisiveness since there is much to be divided over. It also goes to say that an absolute government would create absolute division while the absence of government would not produce a division because there isn’t any risk of having your life dictated by distant populations. When we add in factors of geographic distance and cultural diversity, we end up with a horrible mud-slinging process where people actively dislike both candidates and the electorate openly attacks one another over the political process, completing the division process. These issues won’t go away with vague calls of being civil, coming together or getting along. One group or another will always feel put out and ignored since those in office only truly represent those that got them elected.

However, you need not despair. The liberty movement has the answers you seek to not only distance yourself from future risk of being dictated to by distant populations and political heartache but also be able to more quickly and nimbly get policies and lifestyles you prefer without having to fight someone else for it.

Option 1: Demand Your Representatives Shut Down DC

Nothing Obama signed into law or created through regulatory diktat had to be done at the national level. Not the Affordable Care Act. Not raising minimum wages. Not identifying tax rates. Not regulatory agencies. Not even food stamps and various other welfare programs. None of it has to be done in Washington DC. All of it can be done at your State level and even locally. To prove a point, Colorado had an opportunity to form the nation’s first European-style single-payer health care system. Had that referendum passed, residents of Colorado could have been able to copy the Canadian model of medical care delivery. And it would have been entirely legal and done so without having to collect the opinions of 320 million people or impose it on residents of other States that would not have wanted it.

However, as noted in the linked article, the referendum was opposed on grounds that it could not be sufficiently paid for. This is not because of the common argument that the entire nation needs to be tapped to afford it. Colorado is wealthier than the national average, so Colorado would realistically end up having to pay residents of other States if such a scheme went national. So why is this law fiscally impossible in today’s environment? It is mainly because the Federal government is already taking all those resources for itself.

On average, the Federal government consumes 50 percent of all the taxes paid in this country. This means that, if the average holds for Colorado, and the State is likely further disadvantaged because of the higher income bracket, residents are sending $1 in taxes to the federal government for every $1 in taxes that are collected from them that go to the State or Local governments. In other words, Colorado residents have no say in how half their tax resources are used. Worse, Colorado residents would likely do a better job administering the exact same programs and do so for less because most Federal programs do little more than return the money back to equivalent State agencies. This means your State is having to cover the overhead of 2.7 million Federal employees whose sole purpose is to take money from your State then give it back again with orders on how to spend it.

By eliminating these programs wholesale on a national level and utilizing your existing State systems, you can avoid any disruptions in the programs and also enjoy a less expensive process. Instead of the Federal government collecting its pound of flesh, you will send it to your State capital. This not only allows you to continue the policies and even amend and adjust them more readily without having to convince up to 59 other Senators, hundreds of House representatives and a sitting president, along with an unknown and distant bureaucracy. All you need to do is ask your State representative, who is probably far more available to talk to than the senator you send to DC. With an added bonus, the people living the next State over aren’t going to feel threatened by your political philosophy because they are safe knowing that whatever system you decide to live under does not apply to them if they so choose not to.

Option 2: Secession

This is a more extreme process, but it is also just as valid and allows for more culturally compatible people to have a stronger option at self-determination. This strategy further removes the chances of having a central power structure usurping the wishes and desires of your more culturally compatible group by incompatible groups elsewhere. If one looks at the 2016 election map:

us_2016_election_map

We can find that, at minimum, save for a couple of orphans in the form of New Mexico, Denver, Minneapolis, and Chicago, the United States as it stands is perfectly set up for a secession movement to split the nation into at least three separate entities.

This would allow a greater level of freedom for residents of these three newly formed entities. Further, this split is more than possible from economic size. For the purposes of this exercise, I’ll name the three new nations Cascadia (Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada and let’s throw Hawaii in there), New England (all the blue colored States from Virginia through Maine), and the United States (everyone else). If the USA split into these three entities, here is how the top 20 nations by GDP would look:

us_3_countries

These new nations would rank second, fourth and sixth in world GDP and two of them, USA and Cascadia, are one decent year of growth away from jumping up a rank.

An additional benefit of secession is the ability to further harmonize the new nation with more desirable trade practices, immigration policy, foreign policy, military spending, court systems, and monetary policy. These decentralized entities even have the option of altering how the government itself works, such as dispensing with individual State identities, removing the Electoral College and applying a direct vote system or even converting into a European-style Parliamentary system. Secession allows for even greater self-determination missing in today’s system.

Or you could continue operating as-is and hope enough swing voters decide they want to go back to your philosophy so you can take your turn again imposing your lifestyle on someone else and taking the risk of playing backseat where you truly have no representation or real say in how you live.

In any case, the liberty movement can be a strong ally to allow you to avoid having to live through another Donald Trump term and forge your own destiny without all the strife and divisiveness that goes with a modern American election cycle.

Justin Murray received his MBA in 2014 from the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland.

This article was published on Mises.org and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution United States License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

Regardless of How America Votes, Americans Want a Different Foreign Policy – Article by Ron Paul

Regardless of How America Votes, Americans Want a Different Foreign Policy – Article by Ron Paul

The New Renaissance HatRon Paul
******************************

I have said throughout this presidential campaign that it doesn’t matter much which candidate wins. Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are authoritarians, and neither can be expected to roll back the leviathan federal government that destroys our civil liberties at home while destroying our economy and security with endless wars overseas. Candidates do not matter all that much, despite what the media would have us believe. Ideas do matter, however. And regardless of which of these candidates is elected, the battle of ideas now becomes critical.

The day after the election is our time to really focus our efforts on making the case for a peaceful foreign policy and the prosperity it will bring. While we may not have much to cheer in Tuesday’s successful candidate, we have learned a good deal about the state of the nation from the campaigns. From the surprising success of the insurgent Bernie Sanders to a Donald Trump campaign that broke all the mainstream Republican Party rules – and may have broken the Republican Party itself – what we now understand more clearly than ever is that the American people are fed up with politics as usual. And more importantly they are fed up with the same tired old policies.

Last month a fascinating poll was conducted by the Center for the National Interest and the Charles Koch Institute. A broad ranging 1,000 Americans were asked a series of questions about US foreign policy and the 15 year “war on terror.” You might think that after a decade and a half, trillions of dollars, and thousands of lives lost, Americans might take a more positive view of this massive effort to “rid the world of evil-doers,” as then-president George W. Bush promised. But the poll found that only 14 percent of Americans believe US foreign policy has made them more safe! More than 50 percent of those polled said the next US president should use less force overseas, and 80 percent said the president must get authorization from Congress before taking the country to war.

These results should make us very optimistic about our movement, as it shows that we are rapidly approaching the “critical mass” where new ideas will triumph over the armies of the status quo.

We know those in Washington with a vested interest in maintaining a US empire overseas will fight to the end to keep the financial gravy train flowing. The neocons and the liberal interventionists will continue to preach that we must run the world or everything will fall to ruin. But this election and many recent polls demonstrate that their time has passed. They may not know it yet, but their failures are too obvious and Americans are sick of paying for them.

What is to be done? We must continue to educate ourselves and others. We must resist those who are preaching “interventionism-lite” and calling it a real alternative. Claiming we must protect our “interests” overseas really means using the US military to benefit special interests. That is not what the military is for. We must stick to our non-interventionist guns. No more regime change. No more covert destabilization programs overseas. A solid defense budget, not an imperial military budget. US troops home now. End US military action in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, and so on. Just come home.

Americans want change, no matter who wins. We need to be ready to provide that alternative.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.


Our Media-Driven Epistemological Breakdown – Article by Bill Frezza

Our Media-Driven Epistemological Breakdown – Article by Bill Frezza

The New Renaissance HatBill Frezza
******************************

How do we know what we know? Philosophers have pondered this question from time immemorial. Julian Jaynes, in his classic book, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, speculates that before the development of modern human consciousness, people believed they were informed by voices in their heads. Today, an alarming number of people are responding to voices on the Internet in similarly uncritical fashion.

As Jesuit scholar John Culkin pointed out in his seminal 1967 Saturday Review article, “A Schoolman’s Guide to Marshall McLuhan,” “We shape our tools and, thereafter, they shape us.” Examining history through this lens, one can identify seven great epochs in mankind’s intellectual and social evolution.  Each is characterized by the way a new technology changed not only how we think about the world, but our actual thought processes. These are:

1) Spoken language, which first led to the primacy of mythology;

2) Written language, which bequeathed to us holy books and the world’s great religions;

3) The printing press, which spread literacy to the elites who went on to birth the nation state, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, and the U.S. Constitution;

4) The telegraph, which transformed pamphlets and broadsheets into modern newspapers, whose agenda-setting influence goaded America to “Remember the Maine” and become an imperialist power;

5) Radio, which placed broadcast propaganda at the service of central planners, progressives, and tyrants;

6) Television, which propelled the rising tide of the counterculture, environmentalism, and globalism; and

7) The Internet, a nascent global memory machine that puts the Library of Alexandria to shame, yet fits in everyone’s pocket.

Reason’s primacy is a fragile thing.

At each transition, the older environment and way of thinking does not disappear. Rather, it adopts an extreme defensive crouch as it attempts to retain power over men’s minds. It is the transition from the Age of Television to the Age of the Internet that concerns us here, as it serves up an often-toxic brew of advocacy and click-bait journalism competing to feed the masses an avalanche of unverifiable information, often immune to factual or logical refutation.

Rational epistemology holds that reason is the chief test and source of knowledge, and that each of us is not just capable of practicing it, but is responsible for doing so. Reason flowered when the Enlightenment overturned the ancient wisdom of holy books, undermining the authority of clerics and the divine right of kings. Wherever reason is widely practiced and healthy skepticism is socially accepted, error becomes self-correcting (rather than self-amplifying, as under a system based on superstition), as new propositions are tested, while old propositions get reexamined as new facts come to light.

So now that the voices have returned to our heads, we are inadequately prepared to defend against them.

Yet, reason’s primacy is a fragile thing. As increasingly potent electronic media confer influence on new voices, formerly-dominant media and governing elites fight a rearguard action to regain their status as ultimate arbiters of knowledge and what matters. Goebbels proved that a lie repeated loudly and frequently in a culture that punished skepticism became accepted as truth. We all know how that turned out.

Revulsion at the carnage of the Second World War crested with the counterculture revolution driven by the first TV generation. By the time the dust settled, its thought leaders had grabbed control of the academy, reshaping it along postmodern lines that included an assault on language that critics dubbed political correctness. This was intentionally designed to constrain what people can think by restraining what they can say. The intention may have been to avert a repeat of the horrors of the 20th century, but the result was to strip much of the educated populace of the mental tools needed to ferret out error.

So now that the voices have returned to our heads, we are inadequately prepared to defend against them. Digitally streamed into every nook and cranny of our ubiquitously connected lives, these voices are filtered by our own self-reinforcing preferences and prejudices, becoming our own in the process. The result is an ongoing series of meme-driven culture wars where the shouting only gets louder on all sides.

So we come back to the question: How do we know what we know?

What causes crime? Is autism linked to vaccines? Should GMOs be banned? Is global warming “settled science”? These are more than factual questions. Responses to them signal identification with an array of ever more finely differentiated identity groups set at each other’s throats. For those who wish to divide and rule, that’s the whole point.

In a cruel irony, this global outbreak of media-induced public schizophrenia has even empowered jihadists bent on taking the world back to the 10th century using the idea-spreading tools of the Internet to challenge a Western Civilization rapidly losing its mojo.

So we come back to the question: How do we know what we know? At the present time, we don’t. And therein lies the problem.

Bill Frezza

Bill Frezza is a fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the host of RealClear Radio Hour.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

The Two-Party Crackup Could Be Upon Us – Article by Stephen Weese

The Two-Party Crackup Could Be Upon Us – Article by Stephen Weese

The New Renaissance HatStephen Weese
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Imagine living in a world where there are only two choices. Chocolate or vanilla. Hot or cold. Light or darkness. There are no in-betweens. No “shades of gray.” You must explain everything as a “yes or no” dichotomy. On or off. False or true. This binary reality leaves little room for human diversity or creativity – yet it is in this exact reality we find ourselves trapped with the US political system.

Prelude to Deception

The parties are divided and their candidates are weak.It all starts with a sociological phenomenon created due to our political election process. First Past the Post means that in our elections, winner takes all and the loser gets nothing. We are told that if we do not vote for one of the two major parties, our vote is wasted. (I mathematically analyzed this myth in a previous article.)

The concept that underlies the two party phenomenon is not only mathematical in principle, it is sociological. Duverger’s law assumes that people faced with more than two choices in a First Past the Post election will vote against the most radical or undesired opponent, instead of for the candidate they most desire. This demonstrates what is called a “negative” vote – it could be more precisely described as a vote made out of fear of the worst candidate.

Another principle of Duverger’s law is that it filters out “weaker” parties in that people will not vote for a party that has no chance of winning. This weakness is only psychologically defined; a party could appear weaker simply due to less publicity. Certainly a third party could have better ideas than the main two – but if the ideas are not heard, then no one can know about them. The purely cognitive illusion that there are only two “worthy” parties is perpetuated by lack of media coverage and the false appeal to common practice that it’s the “way things always have been done.”

The simple truth is, Duverger’s law depends on the psychological basis of fear and ignorance. Without these factors in society, the mathematical differences would disappear.

The Two Major Parties are Weak

People only think of politics as “right” or “left” because this is all they have ever known.At this point, the two major candidates for election, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, have historically high negative numbers. In fact, the two frontrunners have the highest unfavorable ratings since those numbers have been tracked: Trump is net negative 33, and Clinton negative 21.

More voters see these candidates in an unfavorable light than a favorable one. This would be a perfect time for the rise of a third party, even according to Duverger’s law. It only takes a cursory look at the news to see the large anti-Trump movement among major Republicans as well as the staunch Sanders wing of the Democratic party. The parties are divided and their candidates are weak, as shown by the polls above.

The Electorate Is Polarized

If you have the feeling that in the last decade partisan politics has become more extreme and vitriolic you’d be correct – Pew research has been tracking this phenomenon. Both the extremity of Democratic and Republican views have increased, as well as dislike and intolerance for the “other” party. At this point, 92% of Republicans are to the right of the median Democrat, and 94% of Democrats are to the left of the median Republican.

There are double the amount of pure liberals and conservatives than a decade ago, and the fear of the opposing party has doubled as well. Twice as many people think that the alternate party threatens the “nation’s well-being.”

If people could overcome the fear of the “worst” candidate and voted for what they believed in, the facade would begin to crumble. This polarization affects people’s choices of where to live, shop, and travel, and even goes to the extent of opposition to a family member marrying someone of the opposing party. The Pew study also shows that those on the extreme ends of the spectrum are the most politically active – writing letters, posting on social media, travelling to political events (though this is hardly surprising.) The effect of this of course is that these parties are represented more by their extreme elements.

This polarization also results in one-dimensional thinking. People only think of politics as “right” or “left” because this is all they have ever known. As humans, are we only one-dimensional? Aren’t there more ways to look at solving the problems of a nation than just left and right?

Most of us are trapped in this one-dimensional illusory world, like a train stuck on a single track. The mere idea that we could travel in a completely different direction is a foreign concept. Even a middle-school student can tell you that we live in a world with three dimensions, that we can travel in an infinite variety of paths. Yet we find ourselves confined to this oversimplified model of reality that goes counter to our interests and only allows us choices that leave most dissatisfied.

Majority in the Middle

Another effect of this polarization is that moderate Americans find themselves in the middle of this extremism. Most voters do not view the other party as a threat to the nation and are not 100% liberal or conservative in their views. There are actually more people in the middle, yet they find themselves forced to choose to side with one extreme or the other. In 2014, the “mixed” electorate (holding views from both sides) was 39%.

There are less of them now, due to extremism, yet this 39% in the middle is enough to completely take over an election, if they only had a different option to choose from. Unfortunately, the Pew data also shows that the people in the middle are less likely to vote and participate in the election process. Duverger’s law is working here because these moderates do not know that they are a huge bloc that could elect a moderate candidate with ease.

Overcoming Ignorance and Fear

We live in the age of new media – a social movement can begin online without the backing of a major television or news network. As we have seen, voting tendencies in our system are predicated on fear of a radical candidate as well as ignorance of third-party platforms or even their existence. This is the one-dimensional illusion we live in. If we continue to be more polarized, more and more of the electorate will hate the other half.

If nothing stops this progress, those in the middle will be forced to choose a side as the tolerance for opposing views decreases. Others could stand up and speak and become a driving force pulling opinions back toward some sense of centrism – or even better, they could propose ideas outside of the traditional “left vs. right” paradigm.

The truth is, if people could overcome the fear of the “worst” candidate and voted for what they believed in, the facade would begin to crumble. If the media and others covered third parties more, unaligned voters – for example, people who believe in peace and freedom – would have a new incentive to participate and give a positive vote.

Fortunately, we now live in the age of new media – a social movement can begin online without the backing of a major television or news network. This election is the most opportune time for this to happen given the record negative views of both candidates. Thus it behooves the unaligned voter to find her or his voice in this election. If these voters together decided that “enough is enough” and realized that they are actually the most powerful voting bloc, they could simply say “no” to the two major parties – and nothing could stop them.

Stephen_WeeseStephen Weese

Stephen Weese has an undergraduate degree in Computer Science from George Mason University, and a Masters in Computer Information Technology from Regis University. Stephen teaches college Math and Computer courses. He is also a speaker, a film and voice actor, and a nutrition coach.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

 

Playing Politics Can Be Fun until It Unleashes Hell – Article by Joey Clark

Playing Politics Can Be Fun until It Unleashes Hell – Article by Joey Clark

The New Renaissance HatJoey Clark
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Most politicians and their followers are not cynical enough about politics. They hate the players but not the game. Unlike me, they are cynical sentimentalists, i.e. they idealize politics yet are cynical towards any suggestion human beings should be set free from political control.

Though it may smack of paradox, I consider myself a hopeful cynic – hopeful in man’s spirit but not his politics. Accordingly, my political cynicism flows from my disappointed sentimentality.

Most politicians are not cynical enough about politics. They hate the players but not the game. As Oscar Wilde wrote in Lady Windermere’s Fan, a cynic is “a man who knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing” and a sentimentalist “is a man who sees an absurd value in everything and doesn’t know the market price of any single thing.” Together the two bring harmony.

Torn apart, they are blind in their own unique way, and in this way, the 2016 political season has rendered much of the American populace sightless. Some wish to present this presidential election as a clear-cut contest between cynical pachyderms and sentimental jackasses, but the truth, to steal another line from Wilde, is rarely so pure and never so simple.

As much as they will deny it, political factions are motivated by a mix of cynicism and sentimentality, sometimes within the very same individuals.

Even the most sentimental nincompoops – those who shed tears or fall into fits of hosannas upon hearing the most platitudinous political speech – turn cynical and stone-faced when confronted by their political opponents.

Even the most cynical demagogues – those who spit piss and vinegar in response to the most innocuous statements from their enemies – turn sentimental and misty-eyed in the presence of a president they love.

It seems one politico’s hopes are another politico’s fears. They appraise their enemy’s price as too high yet see absurd value in their champions.

The Donald’s Sentimentality

For example, even Donald Trump is not cynical enough about politics. Trump may very well be cynical and downright churlish towards, well, almost anyone (even babies) on any given day, but he is certainly a believer in the need for strong government leadership. Trump has, indeed, boosted his popularity by stoking the flames of resentment, but the essence of this resentment is the betrayed sentimentality of “the people.”

Trump and his supporters idealize America just as much as the next group. Holding true to a golden age image of the country, they are disappointed by an ever-changing world that continually shatters their “perfect” picture of the nation. They are cynical of what they see as “un-American,” and they have hitched their hopes to Trump’s politics to save their culture as they see it.

Thus, Trump’s slogan may not be “Burn America Down” as Democrats would have you believe, but he is certainly a flaming nationalist. His program may not be great for many people living in America, but “America” is, indeed, the ultimate standard of good and evil on the Trump train. One cannot be cynical about politics qua politics and a nationalist at the same time. No, nationalism is for the teary-eyed evangelicals and patriotic bomb throwers, Trump being the latter. But how about the former?

Enter Hillary Clinton.

Hillary’s Cynicism

Hillary Clinton, like most progressives, prides herself on her forward-looking and optimistic approach. She and her ilk apparently claim to loathe cynicism. As Senator Cory Booker said at the Democratic National Convention surrounded by a friendly mob of fellow sentimentalists, “Cynicism is a refuge for cowards.” Of course, by “cynicism” Cory, Hillary, and their do-gooder cronies mean anyone who does not wish to consent to their progressive plans to save the world. To hear them speak about peace, love, and community one would think such things were impossible without the imposition of the state.

What makes progressives so sentimental about people using state power yet cynical towards people acting voluntarily, I will never truly know.What makes progressives so sentimental about people using state power yet cynical towards people acting voluntarily, I will never truly know, but I suspect they do not trust the motives of many of their fellow men, especially not Donald Trump. Their assessment of Trump may be correct, but their appraisal of their own sentiments is utterly lacking. Their worship at the altar of state power seems to have turned them blind to the ironies of the “progressive” history and project.

For instance, of all the ways Hillary could take down Trump’s fear-mongering, she chose to say this in her acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention:“Well, a great Democratic President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, came up with the perfect rebuke to Trump more than eighty years ago, during a much more perilous time. ’The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.’”

Yes, Hillary, how wise of you to quote a man who brought us Japanese internment camps, turned away Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany, and set the price of gold based on “lucky numbers.” But, I suppose, since FDR is a demigod in the progressive civic religion, his cynicism and quackery can be overlooked, as can the ugly, cynical history of progressive policies such as the minimum wage.

Again, if only Hillary, Donald and their respective acolytes were more cynical about politics qua politics, we would all be better off. But what about the most cynical bunch in American politics today, the alt-right meme team?  How could a group of folks who “pretend” to be Nazis ever be helped by more political cynicism?

And why would one ever want to pretend to be a Nazi anyway?

Pretend Nazis Need Cynicism Too

Enter Charles Bukowski:

“At L.A. City College just before World War II, I posed as a Nazi. I hardly knew Hitler from Hercules and cared less. It was just that sitting in class and hearing all the patriots preach how we should go over and do the beast in, I grew bored. I decided to become the opposition. I didn’t even bother to read up on Adolf, I simply spouted anything that I felt was evil or maniacal.

However, I really didn’t have any political beliefs. It was a way of floating free.”

This is how Bukowski’s short story, “Politics”, begins, and his reasons for his posing as a Nazi – ”boredom” and “floating free” – sound quite similar to those prescribed to the alt-right “meme team” by that frivolous troll, Milo Yiannopoulos, and his colleague, Allum Bokhari, in their crash course on the alt-right:

These young rebels, a subset of the alt-right, aren’t drawn to it because of an intellectual awakening, or because they’re instinctively conservative. Ironically, they’re drawn to the alt-right for the same reason that young Baby Boomers were drawn to the New Left in the 1960s: because it promises fun, transgression, and a challenge to social norms they just don’t understand.

If this parallel continues into the future, things will probably not end well, at least not with mere lulz.

As Bukowski later relays in the story, his Nazi antics earned him disciples, but his acolytes took the whole charade much more seriously than he. After stumbling upon a Communist speaker outside of campus, one of his followers approached him with a bag of rotten tomatoes. Upon being told to put the tomatoes away, his follower said, “I wish they were hand grenades.”

“It occurred to me suddenly that my disciples hadn’t been listening to the speaker, or even if they had been, nothing he had said would matter,” writes Bukowski, “Their minds were made up. Most of the world was like that… I lost control of my disciples that day, and walked away as they started hurling their rotten tomatoes.”

The alt-right don’t want to get rid of the establishment; they want to replace it.I must hand it to the alt-right trolls – they are quite creative and prolific and, at times, hilarious in their cynical pose – but there is a difference between political cynicism and a general cynicism about the culture at large. One must be careful not to let those rotten tomatoes turn into hand grenades. Sadly, the alt-right purveyors of “ironic bigotry” may think they are simply having a little cynical fun, but their actions seem directed only towards the political establishment without rejecting the whole paradigm of political action.

They don’t want to get rid of the establishment; they want to replace it. In particular, if one is to fight, say, the excesses of political correctness for the sake of liberty (a worthy endeavor in my opinion,) the focus should be on neutering the “political” aspects of that equation rather than letting basic human decency fall into the abyss of reactionary nonsense or a babyish nihilism, all the while serving the ends of just another political faction.

Politics Pollutes Culture

Yes, politics may often be downstream from culture as Andrew Breitbart said, but it can also pollute the river of culture if allowed to become too permeating. Once politics comes to define a people, all that is left is an impending battle over whose culture will be imposed through the power of the state. In the face of such a looming war, it is understandable that people often despair only to hurl invective and material threats towards “the others” seen as the source of their angst. In such a world dominated by political power, it is understandable that politicos see anyone who is cynical about their projects as a threat to human solidarity.

But the true root of the problem is not the other nor political cynicism; it is the lust to dominate and control others within each of us. The tyrant in you is the tyrant in me, and if we are not careful, even our so-called reactions against tyranny can mutate into movements to destroy something beautiful for destruction’s sake.

What if we all become hopeful cynics – cynical of man’s lust to dominate his fellows, yet lovers of man all the same? That said, we should recognize even our enemies’ capacity for creative action and fellowship in their darkest hours. If such qualities can provide solace, even in sardonic and sadistic forms, to a select few in their most despairing moments, what can creative action and fellowship provide when we direct our cynical pose toward politics in general instead of just our opponents? What if we all become hopeful cynics – cynical of man’s lust to dominate his fellows, yet lovers of man all the same?

If I am being honest, I do not know what this pose would bring about, but this is exactly why hope is a virtue. Bukowski might disagree; he wrote in his short story, “I promise you, this will hardly be the last war. As soon as one enemy is eliminated somehow another is found. It’s endless and meaningless. There’s no such thing as a good war or a bad war.” Maybe he’s right, and the war of all against all is inevitable, but I hope not. Nor do I wish to save the world. That is much too idealistic. As our dirty old man poet says elsewhere in his novel Women, “You begin saving the world by saving one man at a time; all else is grandiose romanticism or politics.”

Maybe, just maybe, each of us can first save ourselves and then others, one by one, with a hope in the uncertain beyond for man’s society if not his politics.

Joey ClarkJoey Clark

Joey Clark is a budding wordsmith and liberty lover. He blogs under the heading “The Libertarian Fool” at joeyclark.liberty.me. Follow him on Facebook.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.