Looking ahead to 2016 elections

futurama-politicsA new year is upon us, which means a few things. First and foremost, it’s a Presidential election year which means the focus for most of the year will be on who will replace Barack Obama in the White House, and what issues will be a top priority. To a lesser degree, there will be discussions about which party will control which house of Congress. And to an even lesser degree, on the national level at least, there will be some focus on state legislative issues and state ballot measures. see more…

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Top 5 stories of 2015: a year in review

2015-YIR-coverAs 2015 comes to a close, it’s time to look back at some of the biggest stories of the year.

#5 Asset forfeiture halted!?
At the beginning of the year, Eric Holder made headlines when he announced a new policy prohibiting state and local governments from using federal civil asset forfeiture laws for most cases. The DOJ’s Equitable Sharing program has allowed thousands of local and state police agencies to have seized nearly $3 billion in cash and property since 2008. Using Equitable Sharing, a state or local police department or drug task force would seize property and then have that property adopted by a federal agency. The agency making the seizure would then be allowed to keep up to 80 percent of the value of the items confiscated. see more…

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Omnibus spending bill violates your privacy

web15-blog-cisa-1160x768Many headlines recently proclaimed that Congress averted another government shutdown. Fewer headlines proclaimed that the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill included several “useless provisions” and provisions that are not directly related to spending. see more…

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The state of Bill of Rights

billofrights-redacted-2013I recall being told as a child that the Bill of Rights was added to the US Constitution to ensure that people retained certain rights. The Bill of Rights Institute writes, the Bill of Rights were written “by James Madison in response to calls from several states for greater constitutional protection for individual liberties,” adding, “Federalists argued that the Constitution did not need a bill of rights, because the people and the states kept any powers not given to the federal government. Anti-Federalists held that a bill of rights was necessary to safeguard individual liberty.” see more…

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IRS can now restrict your right to travel

back-tax-passport-780x439The US Congress often passes legislation dealing with multiple topics. One of the most well-known examples of the Congress passing legislation within legislation is REAL ID. Jim Babka of the DownsizeDC Foundation writes, “The REAL ID Act did something Americans have always rejected. It created a national identification system. This idea had so little support it couldn’t even be brought to a vote in the Senate. But Congressional leaders got it passed anyway. They attached it to a bill Senators were afraid to oppose — the “Emergency, Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief.” (May, 2005)
Senators were scared to defeat a bill that funded the troops, so the REAL ID Act became the law of the land.” see more…

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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, Antiwar.com 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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Libertarians, libertarianism and the principle of non-aggression

Libertarian Porcupine NAPThere has recently been discussion within the Libertarian Party about what it means to be a libertarian. The main point of debate is whether or not the non-aggression principle is a core tenet of libertarianism. The non-aggression principle, also called the NAP or principle of non-aggression, has been defined in numerous ways over the years, however a generally accepted definition of the principle is something along the lings of: “All people have equal right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness as long as there is no unjust harm done to the person or legitimately owned property of another.” 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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Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is the most recent victim of war crimes

MSF bombingEarly Saturday morning, a trauma hospital run by Doctors without Borders (MSF) in Kunduz, Afghanistan “was hit by a series of aerial bombing raids at approximately 15 minute intervals.” MSF reports, “The main central hospital building, housing the intensive care unit, emergency rooms, and physiotherapy ward, was repeatedly hit very precisely during each aerial raid, while surrounding buildings were left mostly untouched.” 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.

TRANSCRIPT:

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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Boehner’s resignation sets up Speaker election

boehner pelosiAfter nearly 5 years as Speaker of the House, John Boehner has announced that he will be stepping down not only as Speaker but as a Congressman as well. This will not only set-up a special election to fill the seat held by Boehner since 1991, but also a special election within the House of Representatives to fill the Speaker role being vacated effective October 30. see more…

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Libraries, Tor, and free speech

Kilton-Library-RallyLibraries are supposed to be forums for information and ideas, and the Library Bill of Rights states, “Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.” And “Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgement of free expression and free access to ideas.” The American Library Association (ALA) explains, “Privacy is essential to the exercise of free speech, free thought, and free association.” One of the organizations that some libraries are cooperating with to protect privacy is the Library Freedom Project. see more…

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Solving the refugee crisis

556725e69Nearly half of the Syrian population has been displaced by the ongoing civil war in that country. Many of those able to flee the country have attempted to reach Europe. Not everyone seeking refuge has survived the trek, with at least 2,600 migrants having died attempting to reach Europe so far this year, many of whom have drowned in the Mediterranean. see more…

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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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