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Why Does the Afghanistan Quagmire Never End? – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

Why Does the Afghanistan Quagmire Never End? – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

The New Renaissance Hat
Jeffrey A. Tucker
June 24, 2017
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What exactly is the US military doing in Afghanistan? I’m hardly alone in wondering. The confusion is so widespread that opposition has bled into public indifference. After a decade and a half – six years longer than the US had troops in Vietnam – it’s just something we do.

What we are doing and why is another matter. Initially, the invasion had something to do with finding those responsible for 9/11. After that, there was never a clear answer, and so people who care turn to conspiracy theory, and understandably so.

Actually, Afghanistan has been on my mind much longer. I recall when the Soviets were trying to remake the country, and we Cold-War kids reveled in their failure. That they ever attempted such a thing in this vast country of seasoned warriors and fierce tribal loyalty seemed to underscore the bankrupting arrogance of the Soviet regime and the unrealizable delusion of communism.

As a kid, I wondered how the Russian people put up with it, knowing that their own government was sending its citizens to this vast and dangerous country, putting their lives at risk, killing and being killed, for no apparent reason. I recall feeling proud to live a country where the government would not do such a thing.

Such naivete.

Today, we mostly try not to think about this war, unless a friend or family member is directly affected by it.

The Determined General

For this reason, it’s a great thing that Netflix’s 100-million subscribers have the opportunity to watch War Machine, a Netflix exclusive written and directed by David Michôd, and starring Brad Pitt, Anthony Hayes, John Magaro, and Emory Cohen. It is being advertised as a comedy but the reason is unclear. It is not particularly funny, unless you find humor in watching confused human failures unfold under impossible conditions.

It is based on the true story of General Stanley McChrystal, a forgotten figure today but briefly in the news in 2010. A story in Rolling Stone revealed the drunken aimlessness of the forces under his one year of command in Afghanistan. The story was a personal humiliation for him and he retired to teach classes at Yale University and run his own business consulting firm.

The film is a respectful and penetrating analysis of the mindset that drives missions such as the war in Afghanistan, the pretension that courage, determination, and will can in any way substitute for a lack of realism and clarity about mission and purpose.

In the film,  Gen. Glen McMahon (Brad Pitt) arrives fresh from some victories in Iraq, ready to take on the job of winning the war in Afghanistan. He is full of bravado and ready to whip the demoralized and cynical troops into shape. He has his full entourage in tow: press secretary, scheduling agent, trainers and assistants, and various other toadies and flatterers. Here is a picture of military greatness.

He lets it be known that a new boss is in town, and this one surely has the experience, prowess, and determination necessary to turn this war around.

The troops start to ask questions about precisely what they are supposed to be doing in this far-flung corner of the world. For starters, who precisely is the enemy? It seems that most every native of this country wants the Americans out. Every second civilian would gladly pull the trigger to kill an American soldier if he could. If the Americans are really there to serve the people and defeat the enemy, it becomes a problem that most everyone, so far as anyone can tell, is on the spectrum somewhere in between.

The general retorts that the goal is to make Afghanistan democratic and bring the people roads, schools, and jobs. But the soldiers caution that democracy doesn’t seem to mean the same thing here as in the US. People generally vote for the person the tribal leader picks, and no one is willing to acquiesce to the dictate of the person who wins if it turns out not to be their choice.

That is not a crazy view, if you think about it. It takes some degree of civic indoctrination to make people believe they should be ruled by someone they can’t stand.

Forging Ahead

Still, the general is fearless and undeterred by these cautionary notes. To his way of thinking, all that is really missing around this place is an iron will to succeed. He has exactly that. He eats only one meal a day. He sleeps four hours at night and no more. He runs 6 to 7 miles every morning. He is a pillar of discipline, hard work, and focus. Surely he is the right man for the job. And surely there is no job beyond mastery under his command.

He gets to work, starting with…meetings. And more meetings. There are Skype calls with D.C., various commanders to glad hand, logistics to master, and plans to be made. At some point, he meets with the president of Afghanistan, hand picked by the Americans. It turns out that he is just a figurehead whose health is not good. He spends much of his day and evening watching American movies on his VCR and large screen TV. The general consults him regularly, and the president routinely approves whatever he wants to do.

The film provides a compelling picture of the core problem in Afghanistan, a vast country, dangerous terrain, absolutely no central place of control, and a massively diffuse structure of authority. The American troops have no trouble suiting up, slinging around some serious weaponry, and driving here and there in military trucks. What precisely that accomplishes is unclear. Yes, the Americans technically control the ground underneath the wheels of their trucks but that’s about it.

You are halfway through the movie when you realize that…nothing much is actually happening. Everyone is working hard, going through various routines, meeting with each others, getting briefed and giving briefings, staying in contact. Always the general steels himself for battle with his eating, sleeping, and running routines.

Just at the point the audience realizes that nothing much is happening, General McMahon seems to realize it too. He has heard that the Southern territory of the Heldman province had been completely lost to the Taliban. The general decides that this should be the focus of his efforts. He will show that the Americans can win here, and this will change the direction of the total war. And let there be no question: under his blessed leadership, American will win.

Strike that Sword

In real life, this was known as Operation Strike of the Sword, and became legendary as a real turning point in the war, with the full entrenchment of a new realization: this war cannot and will not be won. The operation involved some 4,000 American troops, 460 soldiers from Afghanistan, and some logistical support from Europe allies.

This part of the film is a genuine achievement for its harrowing realism, terrifying aloneness, and randomized violence and treachery. As it opens, American helicopters drop off the troops in the dead of night, somewhere in the desert, and they move in for hours and finally reaching what seems to be a ghost town by sunup. Already days before, the Americans had dropped leaflets telling all civilians to evacuate, so the troops just assumed that anyone remaining was an enemy combatant.

The soldiers move from building to building with a slow burning sense of inner terror. What exactly are they seeking to do around here anyway? They are trying to stay alive, that’s for sure. But who are they trying to subdue? There doesn’t seem to be anyone around, until one soldier is hit by a sniper bullet. Here matters get real and they stake out positions on a roof and start shooting back at nothing in particular, and dropping small-scale explosives on buildings.

I’ll stop the narrative here to avoid spoilers.

What I appreciated most about this presentation was what seems to be its realism, a gripping visual of the sheer aimlessness of this mission. The soldiers are all trained and suited up for conventional war but this war is anything but conventional.

A Failing Empire

War Machine is nowhere near the epic quality of a film like Apocalypse Now (the devastating film about Vietnam) but each leaves you with a sense of what has gone incredibly wrong in US war missions abroad. Apocalypse leaves the viewer with the sense that this was the wrong mission at the wrong time, conducted in the wrong way.

War Machine’s critique of the Afghanistan war has further reaching implications. On one level, it is a fantastic illustration of the principle that courage, strength of will, and dogged determination do not suffice to make fantasy reality. More broadly, the film seems to reveal an entire empire in decline, a machine that runs off a memory of some past heroism that has absolutely no relevance in the 21st century. The subplot of the general’s own marriage (a heartbreaking story) seems to serve as an allegory of the American empire itself: it has all the old form but none of the substance.

It does raise the question again: what precisely are we doing there? So long as I’ve been on this earth, the United States has been involved in one main war and one or two smaller wars. It never seems to end.

Is there some checklist in Washington somewhere that says that this must always be true, no matter what, and everything else is just an excuse? Is this what justifies the budgets, the funneling of tax dollars from the revenue agents to the military contractors and to the military bureaucracies, so that everyone can get their cut and so the status quo can last long after it ceased to have much relevance?

If there is any truth to this suspicion, it becomes clear that it doesn’t actually matter that there is no way to win the war in Afghanistan. The point is not to win but rather to keep the appearance of fighting going as long as possible. After all, if this can go on for 16 years, why not 20? Why not 50 years? Maybe Washington has discovered that a quagmire is not a failure or a defeat but rather an opportunity.

Patriots, please forgive me such dark thoughts. I await a better explanation.

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Content for the Foundation for Economic Education. He is also Chief Liberty Officer and founder of Liberty.me, Distinguished Honorary Member of Mises Brazil, research fellow at the Acton Institute, policy adviser of the Heartland Institute, founder of the CryptoCurrency Conference, member of the editorial board of the Molinari Review, an advisor to the blockchain application builder Factom, and author of five books. He has written 150 introductions to books and many thousands of articles appearing in the scholarly and popular press.

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.

Trump Turns Back the Clock With Cold War Cuba U-Turn – Article by Ron Paul

Trump Turns Back the Clock With Cold War Cuba U-Turn – Article by Ron Paul

The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
June 24, 2017
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Nostalgia seems to be very popular in Washington. While the neocons and Democratic Party hard-liners have succeeded in bringing back the Cold War with Russia, it looks like President Trump is determined to take us back to a replay of the Bay of Pigs!

In Miami on Friday, June 16, the president announced that he was slamming the door on one of President Obama’s few foreign-policy successes: easing 50 years of US sanctions on Cuba. The nostalgia was so strong at Trump’s Friday speech that he even announced participants in the CIA’s disastrous 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in the audience!

President Trump said Friday that his new policy would be nothing short of “regime change” for Cuba. No easing of US sanctions on Cuba, he said, “until all political prisoners are freed, freedoms of assembly and expression are respected, all political parties are legalized, and free and internationally supervised elections are scheduled.”

Yes, this is the same Donald Trump who declared as president-elect in December that his incoming Administration would “pursue a new foreign policy that finally learns from the mistakes of the past. We will stop looking to topple regimes and overthrow governments.” Now, in another flip-flop toward the neocons, President Trump is pursuing regime change in Cuba on the pretext of human rights violations.

While the Cuban government may not have a spotless record when it comes to human rights, this is the same President Trump who just weeks ago heaped praise on perhaps the world’s worst human rights abuser, Saudi Arabia. There, he even participated in a bizarre ceremony to open a global anti-extremism center in the home of state-sponsored extremism!

While President Trump is not overturning all of President Obama’s Cuba policy reforms – the US Embassy will remain open – he will roll back the liberalization of travel restrictions and make it very difficult for American firms to do business in Cuba. Certainly foreign competitors of US construction and travel companies are thrilled by this new policy, as it keeps American businesses out of the market. How many Americans will be put out of work by this foolish political stunt?

There is a very big irony here. President Trump says that Cuba’s bad human-rights record justifies a return to Cuba sanctions and travel prohibitions. But the US government preventing Americans from traveling and spending their own money wherever they wish is itself a violation of basic human rights. Historically it has been only the most totalitarian of regimes that prevent their citizens from traveling abroad. Think of East Germany, the Soviet Union, and North Korea. The US is not at war with Cuba. There is no reason to keep Americans from going where they please.

President Trump’s shift back to the bad old days on Cuba will not have the desired effect of liberalizing that country’s political environment. If it did not work for fifty years why does Trump think it will suddenly work today? If anything, a hardening of US policy on Cuba will prevent reforms and empower those who warned that the US could not be trusted as an honest partner. The neocons increasingly have President Trump’s ear, even though he was elected on promises to ignore their constant calls for war and conflict. How many more flip-flops before his supporters no longer recognize him?

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.

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.

Are We Fighting Terrorism, Or Creating More Terrorism? – Article by Ron Paul

Are We Fighting Terrorism, Or Creating More Terrorism? – Article by Ron Paul

Ron Paul
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When we think about terrorism, we most often think about the horrors of a Manchester-like attack, where a radicalized suicide bomber went into a concert hall and killed dozens of innocent civilians. It was an inexcusable act of savagery, and it certainly did terrorize the population.

What is less considered are attacks that leave far more civilians dead, happen nearly daily instead of rarely, and produce a constant feeling of terror and dread. The victims are the civilians on the receiving end of US and allied bombs in places like Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Somalia, and elsewhere.

Last week alone, US and “coalition” attacks on Syria left more than 200 civilians dead and many hundreds more injured. In fact, even though US intervention in Syria was supposed to protect the population from government attacks, US-led air strikes have killed more civilians over the past month than air strikes of the Assad government. That is like a doctor killing his patient to save him.

Do we really believe we are fighting terrorism by terrorizing innocent civilians overseas? How long until we accept that “collateral damage” is just another word for “murder”?

The one so-called success of the recent G7 summit in Sicily was a general agreement to join together to “fight terrorism.” Have we not been in a “war on terrorism” for the past 16 years? What this really means is more surveillance of innocent civilians, a crackdown on free speech and the Internet, and many more bombs dropped overseas. Will doing more of what we have been doing do the trick? Hardly! After 16 years fighting terrorism, it is even worse than before we started. This can hardly be considered success.

They claim that more government surveillance will keep us safe. But the UK is already the most intrusive surveillance state in the western world. The Manchester bomber was surely on the radar screen. According to press reports, he was known to the British intelligence services, he had traveled and possibly trained in bomb-making in Libya and Syria, his family members warned the authorities that he was dangerous, and he even flew terrorist flags over his house. What more did he need to do to signal that he may be a problem? Yet somehow even in Orwellian UK, the authorities missed all the clues.

But it is even worse than that. The British government actually granted permission for its citizens of Libyan background to travel to Libya and fight alongside al-Qaeda to overthrow Gaddafi. After months of battle and indoctrination, it then welcomed these radicalized citizens back to the UK. And we are supposed to be surprised and shocked that they attack?

The real problem is that both Washington and London are more interested in regime change overseas than any blowback that might come to the rest of us back home. They just do not care about the price we pay for their foreign-policy actions. No grand announcement of new resolve to “fight terrorism” can be successful unless we understand what really causes terrorism. They do not hate us because we are rich and free. They hate us because we are over there, bombing them.

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.

Can We Take Back Our Election Process and Make the Parties Listen to Us? – Article by Tom DeWeese

Can We Take Back Our Election Process and Make the Parties Listen to Us? – Article by Tom DeWeese

The New Renaissance HatTom DeWeese
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The clamor is growing louder every day. “They don’t listen.” “We have no real choice of candidates.” “The system is rigged for the elite.” “There’s no difference between the two parties.”

You hear it every election. Endless talk about the need to create jobs, build the economy, make the nation a “better place to live for our families,” and, my favorite – “restore trust!”  Who’s not for those wonderful things?! The slogans work for Democrat and Republican alike. These so-called issues are interchangeable. They are, in fact, nothing more than empty rhetoric.

Meanwhile, do we hear a discussion about our money becoming more worthless every day from federal-government spending and rampant inflation? What about the destruction of our education system as it is used for behavior modification while true academics are eliminated for the curriculum? Does any candidate dare mention the hopelessness taking over our inner cities as federal welfare policies are enslaving whole generations to the ever-expanding government plantation? And of course there is the fear campaign in every city in the nation about the need to control development and population, leading to the utter destruction of private property.

None of these issues are ever mentioned in local, state, or federal campaigns. Any candidate who tries is immediately labeled an extremist!

So our political parties choose for us candidates that are “acceptable,” middle-of-the road, not rocking the boat, and not too extreme. In short, we are forced to choose the lesser of two evils. Election after election the drone goes on. And what are we to do? These are the candidates those in charge have chosen for us for city council, county commission, state legislature, Congress, and President. Yes, we have primaries to choose, but I think we all know those are pretty much rigged to assure the powers in charge get whom they want – just ask Bernie Sanders.

Is it any wonder that there are millions of Americans who don’t vote or participate in our nation’s debate because they think it doesn’t matter anyway? The “average voter” increasingly feels that the decisions have been made for them.

Those who hold conservative points of view that our nation should live within the Constitution now believe socialism is inevitable, so why bother going to the polls?

The poor think they are simply pawns in a vice grip between big money and special interests which control the elections. Why bother? Helplessness now rules the world’s greatest representative democracy. As people stay home or trudge to the polls to unenthusiastically vote for the next lesser of two evils, 93% of incumbents are routinely returned to office – year after year after year.

The instant a candidate is elected and joins the ranks of the incumbents, he/she begins the dance. Get the money for the next campaign. How? Special-interest groups, corporations, and foreign interests flood into their offices to make deals, promote their personal agendas, and show the way to fame, fortune, and perpetual office – if only the incumbents go along. They have the whole process well in hand. Campaigns become little more than big PR projects, promoted in positive platitudes, specifically designed to assure nothing negative sticks. Just get through it and keep the gravy train running.

Above all, do not talk about controversial subjects like dollar values, global trade, or immigration; just stick to issues like health care and the environment – coincidentally, two issues bought and paid for by the special interests. See how it works?

So year after year, we officially hold elections and politicians pontificate about how our going to the polls is a revered right, a valued tradition, the underpinning of a free society. And they wonder why there is such division in the nation. How did we end up in such a mess? We voted for these guys. But did we enjoy it? Are we satisfied with the results? Would we like to demand a do-over?

So is it hopeless? Is there any way to change it? Do you want the people to, again, have control of the election process and of the choice of candidates offered? Do you want to force the power elites to listen to you? I’ve got a solution.

Don’t despair. Don’t give up. There is a logical, effective way out of this. But it won’t happen by depending on political parties to lead the way. We have to take things into our own hands. We need an effective, binding form of protest to say “NO” to bad candidates. There is such a way.

Imagine going into the voting booth and looking down the list of candidates offered. None really appeal. None seem to offer satisfaction as an answer to the issues that concern you. If only there was something else you could do. A write-in won’t help. It would take such a difficult, expensive effort. It rarely works.

Then you look further down the ballot. Something new. It says “NONE OF THE ABOVE.” It’s a final choice after each of the candidates in every category, from president, to congress to city council. What does it mean?

It means you have the power to decide who will hold office – not the power brokers. When the votes are tallied, if “NONE OF THE ABOVE” gets a majority of votes over any of the candidates listed, then “NONE OF THE ABOVE” wins. And that means none of those candidates will win the office. The office will remain vacant until a new election is held. To set up another election and fill the spot would work exactly like the process provided in the Constitution when an incumbent dies or resigns, and a special election is held. Now new candidates will have to try to win the public’s support.

Fixing the election process could be that simple. You, the voter, would be completely in the driver’s seat with the power to reject candidates, forcing a new election with new choices. The political parties would be forced to provide candidates the people want — or face being rejected. They would have to talk about real issues – or face being rejected. Incumbents would have to answer for their actions in office – or face being rejected. “NONE OF THE ABOVE.” Period. The power of labor unions and international corporations would be broken.

Think of the consequences. No longer would voters have to settle for the lesser of two evils. If all the candidates are bad – none would be able to force their way into office. It would mean that powerful special interests could no longer rely on their money to buy elections. They could buy all the ads they wanted, spend millions on “volunteers” going door to door and sling their dirt, but if the voters aren’t buying, none of it will save their candidate from being rejected by “NONE OF THE ABOVE.”

Moreover, the power of entrenched incumbents who have been unbeatable because of their massive war chests and party ties would be broken. Picture John McCain or Nancy Pelosi unable to run for office because they were rejected by “NONE OF THE ABOVE.”

However, in order to work, “NONE OF THE ABOVE” would have to be binding. It would have to have the power of law behind it. It cannot be just a “protest” vote that has no other meaning.

“NONE OF THE ABOVE” is completely non-partisan. There is no way to control its outcome. There is no need for a massive campaign chest to support “NONE OF THE ABOVE,” although it could certainly be done. But the option, once permanently placed on the ballot, would always be there. America’s representative system would be restored.

To get the job done, activists in every state would have to begin a campaign to demand that “NONE OF THE ABOVE” be given a permanent spot on the ballot. It would not require a Constitutional Amendment. It would have to be done state by state. Some states have ballot referendums and initiatives using petition drives to get an issue on the ballot so the people can decide. It’s difficult and expensive to do, but popular ideas have a chance.

In other states, “NONE OF THE ABOVE” advocates would have to find a friendly state representative or senator to introduce the idea before the state legislature and then get enough votes to pass it in both houses and then have it signed by the governor. The main drawback to that effort is that, if the effort is successful, then every one of those legislators is an incumbent who will have to face “NONE OF THE ABOVE” on the ballot for their re-election. They probably won’t be too excited about the idea.

So why would they support the idea? It would be only because supporters succeed in creating a strong movement of voters who demand it. No one is saying this will be an easy process. But such movements have succeeded before. For example, local activists could begin by demanding that candidates support the measure much like they now sign “no tax” pledges. In short, they would support it because there is strong popular support, and they simply have no choice.

Of course, one of their main objections to the “NONE OF THE ABOVE” idea would be the requirement for holding a new election, should it win. “Too expensive,” our responsible public servants would say as they dismissed the idea. However, if it means getting better candidates, isn’t it worth it to hold a new election, especially considering how much a very bad candidate would cost us if he actually got into office?  The fact is, such a need for a new election would probably not arise often once political power brokers began to understand that they must offer candidates acceptable to the people rather than to the special interests. That’s all they really have to do. It’s all we want. It only takes a couple of “None of the Above” victories to see that the electorate is back in charge.

The idea of “NONE OF THE ABOVE” has been around for a long time. Over the years, most states have had some kind of legislation introduced supporting the concept. Nevada actually has it on the ballot – but it is not binding. It doesn’t force a new election. It is just a measure of protest. That’s not good enough to make it effective.

One of the reasons it has not been successful is because there has never been a serious national drive to promote the idea. However, with the growing dissatisfaction voters are feeling with the lack of quality candidates seeming to get worse every election, perhaps there has never been a better time to start a national discussion on the issue.

The best part is that “NONE OF THE ABOVE” isn’t a conservative or liberal idea. It’s not a Republican of Democrat proposal. In fact, Republican leadership might see it as a good way to break the back of big labor’s influence over elections. Equally, Democrats could see it as a way to stop the power and influence of the Republicans’ big-business money. However the parties want to look at it, the bottom line is that the voters win.

This will be a long-term process and is primarily aimed at local, state, and congressional candidates. While it should certainly be used in presidential elections as well, the real power comes from rejecting the lower-level candidates.

But all of that depends on the voters. Do you want to take back control, or are you satisfied to have your choices made for you behind closed doors? Because that’s what we have now. How’s that working for you?

Tom DeWeese is President of the American Policy Center and one of the nation’s leading advocates of individual liberty, free enterprise, private property rights, personal privacy, back-to-basics education and American sovereignty and independence.

The Evidence Weighs in Favor of Immigration – Article by Luis Pablo de la Horra

The Evidence Weighs in Favor of Immigration – Article by Luis Pablo de la Horra

The New Renaissance HatLuis Pablo de la Horra
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In a previous article, I analyzed the economics of immigration from a theoretical perspective. I concluded that economic theory clearly supports immigration-friendly policies since they benefit all parties involved. In this article, I will examine the empirical evidence on the effects of immigration on host countries and immigrants themselves.

Effects on Employment, Wages, and Public Finances

High immigration rates are often associated with rises in unemployment. The logic behind this (flawed) reasoning is straightforward: if an economy can only absorb a fixed number of jobs and the labor force increases, the unemployment rate will inevitably rise. What’s wrong about this statement? Simple: the economy is not a zero-sum game.

In other words, the number of jobs available increases as the economy grows. After World War II, the US labor force increased dramatically due to immigration and the massive entry of women into the labor market. It moved from 60 million in 1950 to around 150 million workers in 2007. And yet, the unemployment rate in 2007 was as low as 4.6 percent, near full employment.

In a survey paper on the economic effects of immigration, published in 2011, Sari Pekkala Kerr and William R. Kerr concluded that the long-term impact of immigration on employment is negligible. In their own words,

The large majority of studies suggest that immigration does not exert significant effects on native labor market outcomes. Even large, sudden inflows of immigrants were not found to reduce native wages or employment significantly.

As suggested by the research conducted by Giovanni Peri, professor of Economics at UC Davis, immigration has positive effects on productivity since it expands the productive capacity of the economy, which in turn results in higher wages in the long run. Nonetheless, there are certain disagreements on how immigration affects native, low-skilled workers (mainly high school dropouts).

Different studies point at a wage decline between 0 (no effects at all) and 7 percent for this segment of population. Even when assuming the worst-case scenario of a 7 percent decline (which does not consider the investment in capital undertaken by companies to compensate for a decline in the capital-labor ratio), low-skilled immigration has net positive economic effects for host societies, allowing native workers to perform more productive jobs and increasing the specialization of the economy.

One of the most popular arguments against immigration is the issue of welfare benefits. Immigrants are believed to pose a burden on the host economy. Their net fiscal impact (defined as taxes paid by immigrants minus public services and benefits received) is thought to be overwhelmingly negative when compared with the fiscal impact of natives. Yet the evidence does not support this idea. As pointed out by Kerr and Kerr,

It is very clear that the net social impact of an immigrant over his or her lifetime depends substantially and in predictable ways on the immigrants’ age at arrival, education, reason for migration, and similar […] The estimated net fiscal impact of migrants also varies substantially across studies, but the overall magnitudes relative to the GDP remain modest […] The more credible analyses typically find small fiscal effects.

Therefore, there are no good reasons to impose tough restrictions on labor mobility in the name of fiscal sustainability.

The Place Premium: How to Reduce Poverty by Lowering Immigration Barriers

Wage differentials among countries can be explained by drawing on the concept of Place Premium, that is, the increase in earnings that a worker automatically experiences when moving to a high-productivity country. This increase is due to several factors: differences in capital stock, infrastructure, proximity to other high-productivity workers, etc.

The Place Premium of potential immigrants moving to the US has been estimated for a few countries. A Haitian worker that were to relocate to the US would see her PP-adjusted earnings automatically rise by 700% when compared to the same worker in Haiti performing an equivalent job (or a job that requires the same skills and education). Similarly, a worker from Guatemala or Nicaragua would more than triple her earnings, while a Filipino would increase her purchasing power by 3.5 times. In other words, relaxing barriers and letting more immigrants into higher-productivity countries seems to be one of the most effective ways to improve the life of millions of people worldwide.

All in all, the economic benefits of immigration seem obvious for both host countries and immigrants. The data shows that restrictive immigration policies have adverse effects on host economies and prevent would-be immigrants from increasing their income by migrating to higher-productivity countries. Thus, the path to take is clear: we should gradually reduce immigration barriers so that more and more people can take advantage of the benefits of capitalism.

Luis Pablo de la Horra is a Spanish finance graduate from Vlerick Business School.

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.

Economic Theory Really Is Pro-Immigration – Article by Luis Pablo de la Horra

Economic Theory Really Is Pro-Immigration – Article by Luis Pablo de la Horra

The New Renaissance HatLuis Pablo de la Horra
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In his now-classic work The Myth of the Rational Voter, Bryan Caplan identifies four systematic biases about economics held by the average citizen: make-work bias (an inclination to overestimate the disadvantages of temporary job destruction due to productivity increases), anti-market bias (a tendency to overlook the benefits of the market as a coordination mechanism), pessimistic bias (an inclination to underestimate the present and future performance of the economy), and anti-foreign bias (a tendency to underestimate the economic benefits of interaction with foreigners).

Widespread biases on economics are far from being harmless. Wrong ideas held by voters usually lead to catastrophic policies due to the inherent nature of the democratic process. In other words, in most cases, politicians undertake those policies that they deem popular among voters in order to get reelected. If those policies beget pernicious consequences for the economy, harmless beliefs turn into lower living standards for all.

Of those four biases, the most potentially harmful is the anti-foreign bias. This inclination to underestimate the benefits of economic cooperation with foreigners manifests itself politically in two main ways: protectionism and anti-immigration policies. Despite the recent surge of protectionism in some developed countries, free trade is now the rule rather than the exception in most parts of the world. However, when it comes to immigration, only a few steps have been taken worldwide over the last few decades in a direction of liberalization (even though the consensus about the benefits of more open borders in the economics profession is probably as strong as the consensus around free trade).

As I will show in this series of two articles [see the second article here], anti-immigration policies reduce the well-being of both potential immigrants and host societies, as shown by economic theory and empirical evidence. Or, to put it differently: even a partial liberalization of immigration restrictions would, in the long-term, contribute to improving the standards of living globally.

Economic Theory Supports Immigration-Friendly Policies

The economic case against less restrictive immigration policies rests on shaky pillars. The most common anti-immigration arguments are related to the supposedly negative effects that immigration has on the host country’s labor market, and, more specifically, its impact on employment and wages. According to advocates of immigration restrictions, immigrants do not only take natives’ jobs, but also have a depressive effect on wages.

However, economic theory does not support these assertions. First, the economy is not a zero-sum game: the numbers of jobs available is not finite. As pointed out by Alex Tabarrok (here and here), immigrants are not only producers but also consumers, which implies that an increase in demand triggered by the expansion of the immigrant population goes hand in hand with an increase in total employment. Also – and contrary to conventional wisdom – not only highly-qualified immigrants create positive externalities on host economies. Low-skilled immigrants tend to take lower-productivity jobs (as they often either lack higher education or do not speak the language), allowing the native-born to access higher-productivity jobs (assuming free trade and a flexible labor market).

All said above can be also applied to wages. All else equal, the law of supply and demand says that an increase in the supply of labor would inevitably cause lower wages. However, more immigrants also mean a higher demand for goods and services, which in turn results in a higher demand for labor, preventing a generalized decrease in salaries. Even in those cases when wages in a particular sector are temporarily pushed down, lower wages lead to lower costs for companies, which usually results in lower prices for consumers due to the process of competition.

Immigration-friendly policies can also help tackle the demographic problem that many developed countries have been experiencing over the last years. For instance, the progressive demographic ageing of the American population is already having an impact on the US Social Security system. According to the Population Reference Bureau, the number of Americans over 65 years old will have moved from 15% in 2014 to 24% of the population by 2060. As a result,  the worker-to-beneficiary ratio will decrease by 32%, from 3.4 in 1990 to 2.3 in 2030. This problem could be mitigated by adopting a more flexible immigration policy that increases the working population, reversing the trend that will otherwise end up with significant spending cuts in Social Security benefits.

Benefits for the Sending Countries and Immigrants

The discussion so far has focused on the benefits of immigration for receptor countries. How do the sending countries and immigrants benefit from the migratory phenomenon? Immigrants usually transfer part of their income to their countries of origin with the aim of economically supporting their families and friends. These so-called remittances are flows of capital from developed to developing countries which assist in the economic development of sending countries.

The main beneficiaries of eliminating barriers to labor mobility would be, no doubt, immigrants themselves. This is due to the concept of Place Premium. This concept, first introduced by Michael Clemens, Claudio E. Montenegro, and Lant Pritchettin in a 2008 paper, refers to the automatic increase in earnings (PPP adjusted) that a worker experiences by moving from a low-productivity country to a high-productivity country, without increasing the worker’s human capital. The factors behind this phenomenon are multiple: differences in capital accumulation, quality of infrastructures, technology, proximity to high-productive workers, different legal frameworks, etc. The empirical evidence (which will be dealt with in the second and final article of this series) shows that wage differences among countries due to Place Premium are immense. The corollary is simple: more open borders would bring about a substantial reduction in poverty levels across the world.

Potential Gains from Reducing Global Migration Barriers

What would happen if migration barriers were partially or totally eliminated on a global scale? In his paper Economics and Immigration: Trillion-Dollar Bills on the Sidewalk, Michael Clemens, senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, reviews the academic literature on the topic. If all barriers to labor mobility were to be removed, world GDP would increase in the range of 50% to 150%.

Even partial liberalizations would bring about considerable gains. For instance, a reform that allowed 7% of the population to emigrate to higher-productivity countries would result in an efficiency gain of 10% of world GDP. To put this into perspective, if all remaining trade barriers were eliminated, world GDP would grow by just 2% or 3%. As shown, the impact of relaxing migration barriers on the world economy would be extremely positive, especially for the poorest segments of population.

The theoretical analysis above clearly supports the adoption of more immigration-friendly policies as a way of increasing economic growth and improving the welfare of millions and millions of people, including those in receptor countries. However, economic theory needs to be supported by facts. In my next article, I will provide empirical evidence in support of eliminating barriers to immigration.

Luis Pablo de la Horra is a Spanish finance graduate from Vlerick Business School.

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.

President Trump: Toss Your Generals’ War Escalation Plans In the Trash – Article by Ron Paul

President Trump: Toss Your Generals’ War Escalation Plans In the Trash – Article by Ron Paul

The New Renaissance HatRon Paul
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By the end of this month, Defense Secretary James Mattis and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster will deliver to President Trump their plans for military escalations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. President Trump would be wise to rip the plans up and send his national security team back to the drawing board – or replace them. There is no way another “surge” in Afghanistan and Iraq (plus a new one in Syria) puts America first. There is no way doing the same thing over again will succeed any better than it did the last time.

Near the tenth anniversary of the US war on Afghanistan – seven years ago – I went to the Floor of Congress to point out that the war makes no sense. The original authorization had little to do with eliminating the Taliban. It was a resolution to retaliate against those who attacked the United States on September 11, 2001. From what we know now, the government of Saudi Arabia had far more to do with the financing and planning of 9/11 than did the Taliban. But we’re still pumping money into that lost cause. We are still killing Afghanis and in so doing creating the next generation of terrorists.

The war against ISIS will not end with its defeat in Mosul and Raqqa. We will not pack up and go home. Instead, the Pentagon and State Department have both said that US troops would remain in Iraq after ISIS is defeated. The continued presence of US troops in Iraq will provide all the recruiting needed for more ISIS or ISIS-like resistance groups to arise, which will in turn lead to a permanent US occupation of Iraq. The US “experts” have completely misdiagnosed the problem so it no surprise that their solutions will not work. They have claimed that al-Qaeda and ISIS arose in Iraq because we left, when actually they arose because we invaded in the first place.

General David Petraeus is said to have a lot of influence over H.R. McMaster, and in Syria he is pushing for the kind of US troop “surge” that he still believes was successful in Iraq. The two are said to favor thousands of US troops to fight ISIS in eastern Syria instead of relying on the US-sponsored and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces to do the job. This “surge” into Syria would also lead to a lengthy US occupation of a large part of that country, as it is unlikely that the US would return the territory to the Syrian government. Would it remain an outpost of armed rebels that could be unleashed on Assad at the US President’s will? It’s hard to know from week to week whether “regime change” in Syria is a US priority or not. But we do know that a long-term US occupation of half of Syria would be illegal, dangerous, and enormously expensive.

President Trump’s Generals all seem to be pushing for a major US military escalation in the Middle East and south Asia. The President goes back and forth, one minute saying “we’re not going into Syria,” while the next seeming to favor another surge. He has given the military much decision-making latitude and may be persuaded by his Generals that the only solution is to go in big. If he follows such advice, it is likely his presidency itself will be buried in that graveyard of empires.

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.

President Trump: Cancel Your Saudi Trip, Play More Golf – Article by Ron Paul

President Trump: Cancel Your Saudi Trip, Play More Golf – Article by Ron Paul


The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
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President Trump is about to embark on his first foreign trip, where he will stop in Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the Vatican, before attending a NATO meeting in Brussels and the G-7 summit in Sicily. The media and pundits have loudly wondered why hasn’t he gone on a foreign trip sooner. I wonder why go at all?

What does the president hope to achieve with these meetings? This is a president who came into office with promises that we would finally start to mind our own business overseas. In December, he said that the policy of US “intervention and chaos” overseas must come to an end. Instead, he is jumping into a region – the Middle East – that has consumed the presidencies of numerous of his predecessors.

On Saudi Arabia, President Trump has shifted his position from criticism of the Saudi regime to a seemingly warm friendship with Saudi deputy crown prince Mohammad bin Salman. He has approved weapons sales to Saudi Arabia that President Obama had halted due to Saudi human rights abuses, particularly in its horrific war on Yemen.

While visiting Saudi Arabia, one of the most extreme theocracies on earth – where conversion to Christianity can bring the death penalty – President Trump will attend a meeting of Muslim leaders to discuss the threats of terrorism and religious extremism. No, not in Saudi Arabia, but in Iran, where Christianity is legal and thriving!

Perhaps President Trump’s flip-flop on Saudi Arabia was inspired by the ten separate Washington, D.C. public relations firms the Kingdom keeps on the payroll, at a cost of $1.3 million per month. That kind of money can really grease the policy wheels in Washington.

From there, the US President will travel to Israel. Does he believe he will finally be able to solve the 70 year old Israel-Palestine conflict by negotiating a good deal? If so, he’s in for a surprise.

The problem persists partly because we have been meddling in the region for so long. Doing more of the same is pretty unlikely to bring about a different result. How many billions have we spent propping up “allies” and bribing others, and we’re no closer to peace now than when we started. Maybe it’s time for a new approach. Maybe it’s time for the countries in the Middle East to solve their own problems. They have much more incentive to reach some kind of deal in their own neighborhood.

Likewise his attendance at the NATO meeting is not very encouraging to those of us who were pleased to hear candidate Trump speak the truth about the outdated military alliance. We don’t need to strong-arm NATO members to spend more money on their own defense. We need to worry about our own defense. Our military empire – of which NATO is an arm – makes us weaker and more vulnerable. Minding our own business and rejecting militarism would make us safer.

Many pundits complain that President Trump spends too much time golfing. I would rather he spend a lot more time golfing and less time trying to solve the rest of the world’s problems. We cannot afford to be the policeman or nursemaid to the rest of the world, particularly when we have such a lousy record of success.

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.

Against War, the Greatest Enemy of Progress – Presentation by G. Stolyarov II

Against War, the Greatest Enemy of Progress – Presentation by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance HatG. Stolyarov II
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Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the U.S. Transhumanist Party and Chief Executive of the Nevada Transhumanist Party, articulates the view that war is not acceptable by any parties, against any parties, for any stated or actual justification.

This presentation was delivered to the Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) Chapter at University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), on April 24, 2017.

Read “Antipolemus, or, the Plea of Reason, Religion, and Humanity against War” by Desiderius Erasmus.

Read the Wikipedia page on the Free Syrian Army, in particular the section entitled “Allegations of war crimes against FSA-affiliated groups”, here.

Visit the Nevada Transhumanist Party Facebook group and see its Constitution and Bylaws.

Become a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free here.