Black Friday could impact the future of money

shutterstock_85850728-750x420Often called the busiest shopping day of the year, Black Friday was a little less so than in years past. Time reports that Black Friday sales at brick and mortar stores were down almost $1.2 billion from 2014, and Thanksgiving Day sales were also down slightly. At the same time, Fortune reports that “shoppers spent $4.45 billion online on Black Friday and Thanksgiving Day” which represents a 14% increase from a year ago. Fortune adds, “The increase came during a week of online sales and promotions leading up to Cyber Monday on Nov. 30, forecasted to be the biggest e-commerce sales day of the year.” see more…

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Should refugees be surveilled, refused or interned?

refugeesIn the days after the attacks in Paris, France that were claimed by The Islamic State, reports, “there has been a growing backlash against refugees, particularly among US Republicans.” see more…

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In defense of fantasy sports gambling

The New York Attorney General’s office recently sent cease and desist letters to “daily fantasy sports (DFS) wagering sites DraftKings and FanDuel… ordering both companies to immediately stop accepting wagers inside New York.” Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said, “Our investigation has found that, unlike traditional fantasy sports, daily fantasy sports companies are engaged in illegal gambling under New York law, causing the same kinds of social and economic harms as other forms of illegal gambling, and misleading New York consumers.” see more…

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Can libertarians have success outside the two-party system?

end-evil-step-out-of-line-vote-third-partyEven with the 2016 election a full year away, the next election cycle is in full-swing. Along with the discussions about which candidates, if any, are worthy of support of libertarians, there is an ongoing discussion about whether or not libertarians should work within the two major parties. The argument goes like this: “Libertarians will never get elected or be successful, therefore the only way to win is to join the Republican or Democratic Party.” see more…

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What do Hillary’s emails reveal about the creation of The Islamic State?

150311104309-04-hillary-clinton-0311-restricted-super-169Earlier this year it was discovered that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may have violated federal law when she used her personal email account to conduct government business as Secretary of State. She was then ordered to turn over nearly 55,000 pages of emails to the State Department. These emails have since been released in batches. Most of the emails however have not gained much, if any, attention from the media. That all changed with an email released in mid-October. see more…

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The case for legalizing meth

prohibition doesnt workThe vast majority of Americans, Prohibition Party members excluded, will admit alcohol prohibition was a dismal failure. The so-called noble experiment, which lasted from January 16, 1920 until December 5, 1933, has a lot of similarities with the War on Drugs, and a few differences. see more…

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Freedom Caucus wishlist won’t end partisan powerplays

When John Boehner last month announced his intentions to leave Congress, many thought the election of the next Speaker of the House would be relatively unexceptional. That all changed when Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy dropped out of the race. The Wall Street Journal reports, “McCarthy… hit a wall before gathering the 218 commitments required to win a vote on the House floor, where Democrats also get to vote.” Adding that the biggest impediment to a majority is “a bloc of 30 to 40 conservative House Republicans” who are members of the House Freedom Caucus. see more…

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Harvard Really Is Trying to Kill Us…

Last week Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs released some disturbing news. In a video and report entitled “Destined For War: Can China and the United States Escape the Thucydides Trap”, a Harvard professor claims that war between the United States and China is likely within the next 10 years. They also put some of these claims in an article in the Atlantic that has been very popular.

That’s terrifying.

Thankfully there’s almost nothing to it. As this video explains, their own data fails to support their argument.


Wow… That’s terrifying. That’s a Harvard professor saying we’re going to war with China within the next ten years, Because history says so. Is this really true? Not at all, and today we’ll look at why that is.

Over the past few months, I’ve been documenting how the Military Industrial Complex is constantly pushing the United States to fight more, and fight dumber. I’ve talked about how universities and think tanks are very much a part of this process, but I haven’t been too specific. Thankfully, last week the Belfer Center at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government was kind enough to provide a perfect example.

They published a research project on their website. They launched it with an article in the Atlantic by Graham Allison, the Harvard professor we saw at the beginning of this video. It talks about his concept of the “Thucydides Trap”. It’s named after the Ancient Greek historian who told the story of the war between a rising Athens and the more established Sparta. THIS IS SPARTA! Sorry I couldn’t resist. The general idea of the “Thucydides Trap” is that when one country is powerful, and another accumulates power quickly, war is likely to result. China’s rising economy has rightly gotten people thinking about this challenge.

The last paragraphs of Professor Allison’s article in the Atlantic are actually excellent on this. He calls for serious thinking by Chinese and US policy makers, and for careful engagement between the two governments to avoid this trap. It’s exactly the kind of seriousness we’d want from a Harvard Professor. The stakes are incredibly high, seriousness is required.

Unfortunately those paragraphs are the only serious thing about this project. There is nothing in the report or the article to justify the professor’s extraordinary claim that war is likely within the next 10 years. What the project does do is present a list of Thucydides Trap type situations from the past 500 years, and draw some simplistic and frankly foolish lessons from it. In 12 out of 16 situations war was the result, therefore war with China is more likely than not.

If we were talking about coin tosses then maybe this conclusion would make sense. But we’re not we’re talking about history. We’ve grown a lot over the past 2700 years, and especially over the past 500 years. This famous scene from the Movie 300 actually has a historical basis. The Spartans and Athenians really were the kinds of people who kicked ambassadors down wells. Modern diplomacy is a little more sophisticated than that.

Most of the data from the Harvard report comes from the silly hat era of European politics, where millions died because of the ambitions of single individuals who ruled as kings and emperors. We really only grew out of the era of dynastic politics in the 20th century, and it has made a massive difference. Harvard’s data shows this. Over the past 500 years, 75% of these situations have ended in War. Over the past 100 years 50% have ended peacefully, and over the past 50 years, we’ve got a perfect no-war record among great powers. The data demonstrates that we’re getting better at this.

But that’s not the message Harvard is selling here. This is PR, not history. The goal here is to be scary, and it has been very effective. What’s with the military drum soundtrack? The article is currently the most read on the Atlantic website, as it has been for the past week. The first half of the article talks about how modern times are just like the run-up to World War I, a ridiculous assertion I’ve dealt with elsewhere. The headline itself is pretty scary. Why is Harvard doing this?

The answer comes down to money. Harvard’s Belfer Center, and thousands of other institutions across the country, owe their existence to the Cold War. If there isn’t a big enemy to talk about fighting, there isn’t much of a reason for these think tanks to exist. So they create Fear. As Thucydides could tell us, the only way we will end up in a war with China is if we are ruled by exactly the kind of fear the Belfer Center is spreading. Harvard may just be trying to pay the bills, but when they publish stuff like this, they really are trying to kill us.

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US military has international assistance in “kill decisions”

Catholics protesting drone warsThe New York Times reports “When President Obama declared that the American combat mission in Afghanistan would end on Dec. 31, 2014, becoming a training mission instead, exceptions were made for two situations: counterterrorism and force protection. The counterterrorism mission was intended to continue hunting militants with Al Qaeda hiding in Afghanistan, and force protection would allow for attacks on Taliban insurgents if they posed a threat to American or NATO forces.” see more…

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DC Court of Appeals refuses to rule on NSA spying; may be forced to

nsa logo - ILLEGALThe US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia dealt a blow to a lawsuit challenging the NSA’s use of warrantless surveillance, claiming the plaintiff did not prove standing. The Washington Post reports, the court “ruled that public-interest lawyer Larry Klayman, the founder of Freedom Watch, has not proved that his own phone records were collected by the NSA — and so has not met a condition of bringing the lawsuit.” The ruling sent the case back to a lower court for further deliberation on the issue, and did not address the constitutionality or legality of the program. see more…

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Donald Trump’s immigration policy violates human rights

trump immigrationDonald Trump recently published a policy statement on immigration, stating, “A nation without borders is not a nation. [Therefore] There must be a wall across the southern border.”

Adding that “Mexico must pay for the wall.”

Additionally Trump wants to “Cut-off federal grants to any city which refuses to cooperate with federal law enforcement [in regards to immigration law].” (i.e. sanctuary cities)

And he wants to end birthright citizenship, claiming “no sane country would give automatic citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants.” see more…

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In defense of the peer-to-peer economy

sharing-economy-the-rise-of-peer-to-peer-networks-infographicBernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, two of the at least five Democrats seeking that parties presidential nomination, have recently come out in opposition to a growing segment of the economy: the so called peer-to-peer economy. Sanders, in an interview with Bloomberg News, said he has “serious problems” with the popular car-hailing company Uber, claiming it to be “unregulated.” However, Uber is not unregulated. A spokesperson for the company told The Hill that 54 different jurisdictions already have regulations for ride-hailing services in place. see more…

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Appeals Court ruling sets up SCOTUS battle over cellphone data

In a departure from other federal courts, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week that governments must have a warrant in order to obtain cellphone data. The Court, in a 2-1 split decision, ruled that “the government’s warrantless procurement of the [cell site location information] was an unreasonable search in violation of Appellants’ Fourth Amendment rights.” Adding, “society recognizes an individual’s privacy interest in her movements over an extended time period as well as her movements in private spaces. The fact that a provider captures this information in its account records, without the subscriber’s involvement, does not extinguish the subscriber’s reasonable expectation of privacy.” see more…

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Debate on debates continues

Debate contestants line up for a chance to win the most powerful military machine in the worldThe first presidential candidate debates are right around the corner, and the large number of GOP candidates has inadvertently helped supporters of minor party and independent candidates in the debate on debates. Because there are currently 17 candidates seeking the Republican Presidential nomination, Fox News will hold two debates on August 6. One debate will have either 10 or 11 candidates, and the other debate will have the other GOP hopefuls. Originally Fox said that only candidates polling at least 1% in 5 national polls would be invited, however Fox executives recently said “the requirement that candidates must score 1% or higher in an average of five most recent national polls” was being eliminated. Michael Clemente, Fox News Executive Vice President, said in a statement, “Everyone included in these debates has a chance to be President of the United States and we look forward to showcasing all of the candidates,” though he made sure to include that Fox only intends to showcase all of the candidates “in the first primary event of the 2016 election season.” see more…

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“Drugs minus two” is not good enough

2015-07-26-115708_1366x768_scrotPresident Obama recently made headlines for commuting the sentences of 46 federal drug offenders. That represents less than one half of one percent of the total number of drug offenders in federal prison. During the ceremony Obama said, “in some cases, the punishment required by law far exceeded the offense.” see more…

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Will Iran nuclear deal prevent future war?

Iran-Nuclear-DealAfter what the Washington Post reports as “nearly two years of intense, and largely secret, negotiations,” a deal from the P5+1 was reached last week. Congress now has 60 days to review the deal. Since the negotiations were secret, and details are scant, there seems to be a lot of misunderstanding or outright misinformation about the deal. In saying the deal is the best proposal on the table, reports, “[security hawks will] say that [the deal] won’t prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon — and they’ll be right. They’ll say that it’ll help Iran build its conventional weapons program – and they’ll be right. They’ll say that Iran will never fully honor its word — even as the West lifts sanctions against it, and they’ll probably be right about that too.” see more…

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Officials want to close your access to open records

Government officials often tout the line “if you’ve nothing to hide, you’ve nothing to fear” in response to news about one government spy program or another.

However, many of these same officials will do everything in their power, including filing lawsuits, to prevent you from knowing what the government is doing.

The Columbia Journalism Review reports:

In March of this year “Harry Scheeler Jr. sent a request to Hamilton Township [NJ] for surveillance footage of the town-hall and police-department buildings, making the request under the state Open Public Records Act (OPRA) and the state common law right of access to public records.”

“A few weeks later, instead of responding to the request, the township sued Scheeler and asked a local court for relief from any obligation to respond, then or in the future.”

“The township also asked for attorney’s fees.” see more…

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US judge and clerk reactions to increased marriage rules

State Attorneys General issue orders; Probate judges step up; Alabama Clerks quit en mass; Wild polygamists appear; Libertarians decry more rules

marriage equalityWhen the Supreme Court recently ruled that marriage was a fundamental right that could not be denied, I doubt the five Justice majority imagined the fall-out that it would incur.

Just three days after the ruling, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued an opinion stating “the Court weakened itself and weakened the rule of law, but did nothing to weaken our resolve to protect religious liberty and return to democratic self-government in the face of judicial activists attempting to tell us how to live.”

Adding, “County clerks and their employees retain religious freedoms that may allow accommodation of their religious objections to issuing same-sex marriage licenses. The strength of any such claim depends on the particular facts of each case.”

Paxton also warned clerks that refusing to issue marriage licenses may be sued. see more…

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A New Declaration for Independence

Two hundred thirty nine years ago, Americans declared their independence. I’m suggesting that this Saturday we declare it again.

As we celebrate the freedoms already won, let’s celebrate as well our coming freedom from the tyranny of politics as usual and the yoke of corporate infotainment culture. Let’s commit ourselves to becoming a nation of grown-ups, with an eye for accounting, a respect for complexity, and a well-developed sense of humor. It’s time for the emerging libertarian majority to make itself known.

That’s libertarian with a small “l” – an ideal of personal freedom, not a political party. Parties serve their own ends, that’s one reason for the rebellion. We don’t necessarily need new parties, we just need to remind the ones we’ve got who’s boss.

My sense of this libertarian majority is based on no polling. That’s part of its strength, it doesn’t have to be validated by focus groups. Liberty is a founding principle of the country. It’s that simple. If you need anecdotal evidence that people actually want to be free, start listening to the vox populi making itself heard on weblogs (and social media). Or better yet, write a weblog of your own.

I propose that the motto of this movement be the Thoreauvian chestnut, “That government is best which governs least.” Or maybe we should quote Douglas Adams: “We demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty!”

Whatever. The plan is to legalize almost everything and let adults be adults. see more…

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SCOTUS ruling on marriage equality raises new question

Many people are celebrating the ruling from the US Supreme Court which makes same-sex marriage legal across the country. Some people, like Ted Cruz, say the ruling marks “one of the darkest hours of our nation.” see more…

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SCOTUS rules on free speech

FreeSpeechZoneThe US Supreme Court recently issued two seemingly conflicting rulings on free speech.

Scotusblog reports the Supreme Court “gave state governments sweeping new control over the messages that can be put on auto and truck license plates but restricted governments at all levels from using differing rules to control the messages put on billboards and other outdoor signs.

As a combined result of two new rulings, government both gained added power to speak for itself but faced the loss of some of its power to control what others may say in public displays.

And the meaning of the First Amendment, in general, became somewhat more confusing.” see more…

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Facebook, and free speech on the internet

WCJ-images-SCOTUS-Internet-913x512If you thought you still had free speech on the internet, you might be in for a surprise. A couple of weeks ago the US Supreme Court issued an opinion reversing a lower court’s conviction of a man, Anthony Elonis, who posted violent messages on Facebook. Forbes reports, the majority opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts, raised the level of criminality required for conviction of online threatening, “ruling that prosecutors must offer some proof that a defendant made a ‘true threat’ with the intent to hurt a specific individual.” In other words when it comes to online threats, intent matters! Bloomber adds, “The justices didn’t decide whether Elonis’s First Amendment rights were violated, instead interpreting the federal threat statute in a way that averted potential constitutional problems.” see more…

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Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi may win the prize for biggest failure ever. His historic role as the first elected leader of Egypt in thousands of years of history was a disaster. He was kicked out after around a year by a popular coup, as oxymoronic as that may sound. He’s a clown, but that doesn’t mean he should die. Unfortunately that seems very possible. He was sentenced to death on May 16th and his appeal comes up on June 16th. Killing him would be a mistake. This video delves into Turkish and Russian History to show why… see more…

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