What’s in a Name: 3 Pieces of Legislation with Misleading Titles

name

 

Upon winning independence, our founding fathers were wary of centralized power. They understood the corrupting nature of power, and set about creating a system meant to balance power, and reduce greed and corruption. 

Our system of “checks and balances” is supposed to ensure that the government doesn’t violate the constitution, and they were successful.. for a while.

Arguably the first erosion to this system came in 1913, when the 62nd Congress voted to pass the 17th amendment. Prior to 1913; the general population would directly elect members of their community to represent their interests in the House of Representatives, while state legislatures would pick 2 citizens of the state to serve the interests of the state at the federal level. When state legislatures picked Senators to represent their state, the Senator holds no power, if you’re not living up to your obligations, than the legislature would replace you.  Counteracting the members of the house who would stay in power by using charm to win re-election. The general population lives in an echo-chamber. If you’re a liberal, you watch MSNBC and read Slate on your phone while driving the kids to school.  If you’re a republican you watch “The Five” on Fox News and listen to Rush Limbaugh on your lunch break. When you think about it, it’s incredibly easy to trigger Democrats,Republicans, and Libertarians.

For example most Democrats LOVE giving their takes on these topics:

 

  • Income inequality
  • Healthcare
  • Identity politics 
  • Environmental concerns
  • Abortion
  • Guns
  • Taxes not being high enough

 

While Republicans will lose their mind for:

 

  • Illegal immigration
  • Military spending
  • Police
  • Guns
  • Taxes
  • Christianity
  • Muslims
  • Abortion

Libertarians? We will lose our mind for just about anything, but if you want to get us going discuss:

  • Roads
  • Military
  • Public Education
  • Free Markets/Regulations
  • Entitlement Programs
  • Ron Paul
  • Government spending

 

We’re all hypocrites. Democrats care about identity politics, unless you’re a person of color who may disagree with you politically.  They want government mandated equality for every gender and race, except white guys. Republicans think we spend too much. Specifically on regulations, bureaucracy, and entitlement programs; but balk at cutting military spending, despite finding $125 billion in administrative waste, or any government spending that helps them remain in power; you’re a conservative farmer who wants to cut food stamps? Alright, how about after we cut corn subsidies? Last month I wrote about how Social Security is destroying our country and Republicans went ballistic. Libertarians are the most annoying people on the planet, nobody’s a “real” libertarian, we have a portion of the party that wants free markets, but is anti-immigration and “America first.” We have a county chair in Michigan who supports Antifa, and our Vice Presidential candidate appeared to be actively supporting Hillary. Literally no consistency.

Our general stupidity, and tendency towards hypocrisy has allowed the career politician to thrive. Knowing we react to buzz words and topics that sound sexy, they use psychology to garner support. Just look at the title of the bills they write .

The Patriot Act

patriot act.jpg

Sixteen years ago next month, on 10/26/01,  George W. Bush signed the “USA Patriot Act” into law. Passed in the aftermath of September 11th by a vote of 98-1 in the Senate, and 357-66 (it is worth mentioning that the only Republicans to vote against this bill were Robert Ney, Butch Otter, and Ron Paul) in the House, in an attempt to curb terrorism.  

To put it simply, the legislation was passed in a panic with very little debate. Former Wisconsin Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner introduced H.R. 3162 on October 23, 2001, the House passed it the next day, and within 72 hours we had passed legislation that massively expanded the scope of the federal government.

There is nothing “patriotic” about the “Patriot Act.”  The indefinite detention of immigrants? That violates the sixth amendment. “Enhanced surveillance?” That’s led to NSA wiretapping, a clear violation of the fourth amendment. A lot can be said about some of the shady things in our Constitution, but the most important political document in American history isn’t the Constitution, or the Declaration of Independence; it’s the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers. Both collections of essays helped develop this country; while the Federalist Papers defended the Constitution, the Anti-Federalists demanded there be a Bill of Rights to protect the people from the government.

The point is, the first ten amendments to the constitution are so important that it almost tore apart this country.  And in a moment of panic, we passed laws that violate the bill of rights.

The reason the Patriot Act keeps getting extended (last extended by Obama in 2011), is that no politician wants to appear weak on national security, and being against the Patriot Act means you support terrorism, so politicians continue to support it. Even though it doesn’t  work and often ruins lives.

Affordable Healthcare for America Act

obamacare

The “Affordable Healthcare for America Act,” commonly referred to as “Obamacare” was President Obama’s landmark legislative achievement. FDR had “The New Deal,” Johnson had his “Great Society,” Barack Obama has “Obamacare.”

Signed into law by the 111th Congress in March of 2010, with a single Republican voting for the legislation (Joseph Cao, Louisiana). 39 Democrats voted against the bill, bringing the final tally to 220 for, and 215 against.

The legislation is exceptionally long, and provided healthcare to 24 million uninsured Americans (at the threat of a tax for non-compliance). After surviving the Supreme Court, Obamacare premiums have continued to soar. As the “New York Times” points out;

“While fewer than 20 million Americans buy their own insurance, the tribulations of the individual market have captured most of the public’s attention. The average cost of a benchmark plan in the individual market rose 20 percent this year, according to Kaiser, as insurers tried to stem their losses. “

Although they later go on to defend the Affordable Care Act, the fact is that using the the term “affordable” is a misnomer. Being forced to pay for insurance you don’t want, that rises at a rate of 20% annually, under threat of punishment is the exact opposite of “affordable.”

The Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984

man. min..jpg

 

Unlike some other pieces of legislation, “The Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984,” enacted by President Reagan in October of 1984, doesn’t have a flashy nickname. The name itself is straightforward and to the point. An idiot could conceive what this legislation was meant to do. When enacted it became the first comprehensive revision of the United States criminal code since 1900. Like the Patriot Act for Bush, and “Obamacare” for Obama, “Comprehensive Crime Control” was meant to be, and is, a cornerstone of Reagan’s legacy.

The name itself is brilliant. Nobody likes crime, crime is bad. We need to get rid of crime.

But what is crime?

We all have our own moral code, our own sense of right and wrong. We all define crime differently. A soccer mom from Kansas is going to have a different vision of right and wrong than a poor kid from LA.

The benign nature of the name meant most people wouldn’t pay any attention to it. The goal was if you were against crime, than the average American wouldn’t give it a second glance.

Problem is the legislation was not benign. This country was founded on a set of principles that valued the individual over the community, the community over the state, and the state over the federal government. When it came to legal affairs the founding fathers preferred to leave the punishment of citizens to locals. A soccer mom in Kansas and a poor kid in LA have different experiences, values, and ways of life, it only makes sense that there would be minimal federal oversight on criminal affairs. That was true until small government conservatives created the United States Sentencing Commission, and put them in charge of normalizing prison sentencing.  Their recommendations became the “Armed Career Criminal Act,” creating mandatory minimums. Mandatory minimums have had a jarring effect on society. Disproportionately affecting people of color, and lower economic status, hurting multiple generations. Mandatory minimums created career criminals, comprehensive crime reform just created more crime.

The legislation also reinstated the federal death penalty, increased penalties for marijuana possession and cultivation, and created the despicable act of civil asset forfeiture .

All of this was able to get through because the name was self-explanatory and boring.
How a lawmaker labels their legislation matters. These pieces of legislation affect hundreds of millions of lives. What they pass matters. Using clever, or boring names and nicknames to either attract or repel attention is manipulation that pays off in votes. We need to demand better.

 

Advertisements

Wildfire Coverage Explains Trump’s Victory

 

Wildfires

While the nation recovers from the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey, and braces for the devastation of Hurricane Irma, the National Interagency Fire Center based in Boise, estimates that there are currently 80 wildfires burning across nine states, affecting 2,200 square miles.

Wildfires, like hurricane’s, aren’t uncommon, but they do lasting damage to many states across the west,  with much less fanfare. Also like hurricane’s, society names these wildfires; The Detwiler Fire, near Yosemite National Park, for example, kicked off wildfire season. Igniting on July 16th before being contained on August 24th, it burned 81,826 acres and 63 homes across California.

The Lodgepole Complex Fire, in Montana, destroyed 270,000 acres and 31 buildings in July. The Caribou fire, also in Montana, has burned ten homes, 30 other buildings, and over 19,000  acres.  Destroying several towns, and causing several hundred evacuations. Of the 9 states being directly affected by the fires, Montana has seen the most devastation.

That’s not to say other states aren’t being directly affected. This week, ash from an Oregon wildfire shut down stretches of highway near Portland, and has caused thousands of evacuations. The ash has caused health warnings throughout the West, and has led to the cancellation of events as far away as Denver.

These fires don’t get national media attention. Nobody is scheduling a telethon for West Kootenai Montana. And honestly, it’s understandable. While the long term economic damage done to small towns across Montana may not have a large national impact, it does have a significant effect on the region.  

It’s easy to see why hurricane Harvey gets so much media attention, it is expected that the hurricane could cost up to $90 billion in losses, and up to $1.5 trillion in property damage, according to RMS , a global risk modeling firm. The hurricane devastated the nation’s fourth largest city, and the surrounding region. That sort of damage affects the national economy, the destruction of a corner store in Eureka Montana affects the family that owns the business, and maybe the community.  So it makes sense that the national media would cover one more than the other; why would CNN cover a couple thousand evacuations in Washington when millions of people have been displaced in Houston and the southeast? It’s just good business.

The problem with that line of thinking is it ignores a large segment of the population that feels as though the government doesn’t give a damn about them. They feel as though nobody recognizes their hardships. Nobody in Wyoming has to worry about a hurricane, but their home could be destroyed by a wildfire, and nobody cares. But if some flooding hits a city, it’s 24/7 news.

Nobody likes to feel as though they’ve been forgotten. Everyone is petty, everyone wants to feel important and cared about, and for the last several years the left has focused 90% of their efforts on the urban setting.  Trump realized that, and used that to win the electoral vote, and now he’s President. 

Activism Isn’t For Everybody

I genuinely believe most people become involved in political activism for good reasons. Sure, there might be some genuinely power-hungry tyrants in the bunch, but those people are few and far between. It is quite possible that those who learn to be smooth and manipulative find their way to the top of the ladder, but that person probably doesn’t exist in your local activist group. Most groups are made up of average people who seek beneficial change. How beneficial that change is if implemented as policy or if elected into office is certainly up for debate, but those who give their time, money, and energy to political causes are doing so because they seek to improve the world around them.

Or it at least starts that way.

When it comes to politics, the best of people show the worst of themselves. Normally, when a person is passionate about a topic, it becomes their obsession. As soon as the alarm clock goes off when the sun comes up, their mind goes straight to the issue which they feel is plaguing society or their community, and they don’t stop thinking about it until their brain turns off at night. Given the obsessive nature of this, activists do become genuine experts on the issues they invest themselves in. Their heads become filled with facts, figures, and anecdotes regarding their topic of interest, and they can regurgitate them, ad nauseam, for hours on end. Despite logical conclusions and an incredible grasp of facts, there is not always a translation into a political victory.

Which is frustrating.

Oftentimes, when well-reasoned messaging fails time and time again, the once calm and jovial person can become frustrated and impatient while they try to gain more converts to their cause. Those who were once patient and opportunistic, inserting salient topics at the right times and offering a friendly smile when discussions became contentious, become militant and ferocious while reciting all the reasons the world is going up in flames, alienating new acquaintances and old friends alike. Invites to get-togethers with old friends dry up. Your phone stops ringing. The only people left to talk to, are those of the same ilk.

And then there’s social media.

Facebook is a blessing and a curse for the politically active. It is certainly a quick way to start linking up with people who are also passionate about activism, but the actual positives of the experience vary greatly from person to person. Some can handle the stress, and others retreat into an echo chamber of like-minded individuals. Those who are thick-skinned and patient, can wade through the muck and make great headway regarding creating political change. These people are good with forging strange coalitions, building long-distance bonds, and knowing when to put certain discussions to the side to preserve harmony.

Unfortunately, that isn’t everyone.

Those who occupy the opposite side of the spectrum, begin to struggle with engaging in thoughtful conversation. Initially, it’s only with those who simply disagree with the general concept of a greater philosophy and ideology, but then the turmoil evolves into something different. The “us vs. them” battle becomes even more factionalized. What once was being part of a group who is fighting a greater evil, becomes being a part of a wing who is fighting for a faction of a small political organization which seeks to bring about great and meaningful change. So now, before one can fight the greater evil, they have to organize the wing to take over the faction, and then grow the faction large enough to take over the organization. Meanwhile, the greater evil has grown, the organization has lost some of its political capital, your wing is small and powerless, the faction is full of lunatics, and nobody likes you.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Let’s face it; full time politics isn’t for everyone. Some people can keep their smile and never lose their light while dealing with the most angry and hateful people imaginable. Other people start to fade, and then through some political osmosis, take on the anger and hate. Sure, the anger and hate is rooted in some of the best places in the human spirit, but the darkness will eat away at that spirit until it is a fraction of itself, lingering inside an empty vessel which has lost any sense of joy or hope.

It isn’t selfish to care about yourself.

As much as a person might want to give of themselves to a cause, there has to be something left for you. Treading water is never fun, and it’s even harder when it feels like most people are against you. If you find that the mental exhaustion has taken its toll and you’re feeding on scraps, just let it go! Movements will carry on without you. Ideas will carry on without you. Life will carry on without you, but you’re the only person who can carry your life.

Take a break.

There are certainly some people, who simply need to stay out of the political arena. The environment is too toxic and it’s best if they keep politics at a minimum for their own well-being. Other activists simply need a break. Maybe you took on too much, too quick, and it was all a bit much to handle. The level of help found in most levels of politics is very limited except for presidential election years, and oftentimes one can find themselves with far more to do than their limited resources can handle. Man-hours are few and far between, and a person can easily find themselves burned out. There’s no shame in pulling back for your own health and wellness. If you aren’t at 100%, is that good for you or the organization you are representing?

Come back when you’re ready.

Take the time to get your own affairs in order. Enjoy your friends and family. Keep your news intake at a minimum (if there is a national emergency, I’m positive someone will let you know). Enjoy the upcoming fall colors. Give commentary about the market saturation of pumpkin spice…everything. Fondly remember when life was simpler, and the worst thing about the President was his grammar. Laugh at something stupid, and laugh at yourself when necessary, because we don’t have to be serious all the time. Make an underprivileged child’s Christmas a memorable one. Pick up some trash in your community. Go through your pantry and bring some cans to a food bank. Hug your kids. Pet your dog. Call your mother. Help a neighbor. Have a beer.

Remember how to enjoy life and do it.

Something Needs to Be Done About Social Security

 

Last week, while the media covered North Korea and political extremist groups, President Trump sent out a series of tweets about government spending, and our national debt. It was kind of an exciting moment – politicians don’t like to talk about the debt, or out of control spending – it’s not a popular subject. Lawmakers have till September 29th to raise the debt ceiling, or else we will default. As a businessman, you would expect President Trump would understand the need to cut spending; his tweets suggest otherwise.

When it comes federal spending, social security programs made up almost half of all federal spending in 2014, and it’s set to increase dramatically over the next decade. In 2003 entitlement spending accounted for 44% of federal spending, in 2014 entitlement programs accounted for 49% of all spending.  Government spending is set to increase by 66% (from 2014-2024). 85% of the projected growth in spending can be attributed to entitlement spending, and interest on the national debt.  To give you an idea of how bloated the social security budget is; in 2014 social security programs cost $845 billion dollars, in 2024 it’s projected that those programs will cost north of $1 trillion dollars a year.Where every dollar goes

As of 2015, 163 million American’s paid into Social Security, while 59 million collect monthly benefits. With costs on the rise, the “Social Security Trust Fund” is set to run out in about 17 years. Unfortunately, politicians are unlikely to make any meaningful change to the programs.

History of Social Security

While public entitlement programs didn’t become prominent in America till the great depression, they all have their basis in the English “Poor Laws” which were first enacted in 1601. These laws were the first acts passed in Europe to outline the state’s duty to provide relief to the poor.

The idea of entitlement programs – specifically programs to the elderly, poor, and disabled – in this country has its roots in a pamphlet published by Founding Father Thomas Paine. In his last pamphlet, Agrarian Justice,” published in 17 in 1795, called for a 10% inheritance tax. This tax would be used to pay a pension to the elderly, and a Agrarian Lawuniversal basic income for everyone over 21 years old.

In modern times, President FDR signed the “Social Security Act” in August 1935 as part of his “New Deal.”  The act was passed at a time when a lot of people had lost their life’s savings during the great depression, and was meant to provide relief to retirees. This pension was created by  the “Federal Insurance Contribution Act” (FICA), which created the “payroll tax” that funds social security. The fund is made available to retirees, but when you were born determines when you’re eligible to receive benefits. For example, if you’re 62 in 2017, you’re eligible for benefits at 66 and 2 months.

 

Why is Social Security Such a Mess?

This week, former Republican Senator Alan Simpson appeared on CNBC to discuss one of the ways to reduce spending on social security ; increasing the retirement age from 66, to 68.

Raising the retirement age was a key component of the “Bowles-Simpson Plan,”  a plan that was designed by Simpson and Erskine Bowles in 2010, to tackle the national debt by cutting expenditures and raising taxes.  One of the options presented in Bowles-Simpson, was referred to as “The Zero Plan.” This plan called for devoting $80 billion annually to eliminating the debt.  The “Tax Policy Center” laid out the 3 main components of “The Zero Plan”:

 

 

  • Eliminate all tax expenditures—for both income and payroll taxes—except the EITC, the child credit, foreign tax credits, and a few less common preferences.
  • Eliminate tax expenditures only for income taxes, not for payroll taxes.
  • Eliminate tax expenditures only for income taxes—not for payroll taxes—but cap and restructure the tax benefits for mortgage interest, employer-sponsored health insurance, and retirement saving instead of eliminating them.

 

As with all plans determined to “fix” social security, Bowles-Simpson revolves around raising taxes and cutting benefits. Both options are universally unpopular.

Most plans would gradually increase the “payroll tax” to reduce the spending gap. The payroll tax, created by the “Federal Insurance Contribution Act” (FICA) is a flat tax withheld from your paycheck by your employer to fund social security programs. The tax is assessed at a rate of 12.4%. The median household income in the United States is $56,000. That means the average household is paying $6,944 in payroll taxes, on top of income tax, property tax, sales tax, etc.

Michael Tanner, of the Cato Institute, outlined the follies involved with trying to “fix” social security, and how these “fixes” hurt minorities and women.

The current Social Security system contains a host of inequities, many of which disadvantage minorities and women. For example, because lifetime Social Security benefits are closely linked to longevity, people with shorter life expectancies can expect to receive less in retirement benefits. At every age and every income level, African Americans have shorter life expectancies than do whites. As a result, an African American who has the same lifetime earnings and pays the same payroll taxes as a white person can expect to receive a lower rate of return. This problem is exacerbated by the facts that African Americans are more likely to begin working earlier than whites and that African-American marriages are more likely to end in divorce in less than 10 years. Indeed, no group may be as poorly treated by Social Security as African Americans. None of the proposals advanced by opponents of privatization would change this unfair situation—and many would make it worse. For example, African Americans, who on average earn lower wages, would be disproportionately affected by proposed increases in the payroll tax. Even worse would be increases in the retirement age supported by Aaron and other foes of privatization. The current system also penalizes many women, especially women who work outside Even under assumptions vastly more optimistic than can be expected, Social Security remains insolvent. If add-on accounts are funded by mandatory contributions, they become simply another tax increase.   For instance, under Social Security’s “dual entitlement rule” for spousal benefits, the spouse with lower lifetime earnings, nearly always the wife, is eligible to receive either a benefit based on her own earnings or one-half of her spouse’s benefits, but not both. Effectively, this means that many women pay Social Security taxes but receive no additional benefits for those taxes. Moreover, the current spousal system may set up situations in which a two-earner couple may actually receive less in benefits than a single-earner couple with the same lifetime earnings.”

Should We Privatize Social Security?

One option in the ongoing entitlement debate is privatizing social security. There are generally 3 main arguments for privatizing social security:

 

  • it can lift the rate of return workers obtain on their retirement contributions;
  • it can boost national saving and future economic growth;
  • it has practical political advantages in comparison with a Social Security rescue plan based on higher payroll taxes and a bigger accumulation of Social Security reserves.

In practice, privatization has shown some promising results. Chile privatized social security in the 1970’s, Jose Pinera, Chile’s former Secretary of Labor and Social Security wrote:

jose pinera

Jose Pinera



Some 93% of Chilean workers chose the new system. They trust the private sector and prefer market risk to political risk. If you invest money in the market, it could go up or down. Over a 40-year period, though, a diversified portfolio will have very low risk and provide a positive rate of real return. But when the government runs the pension system, it can slash benefits at any time.”

“Today, all workers in Chile are capitalists, because their money is invested in the stock market. And they also understand that if government tomorrow were to create the conditions for inflation, they would be damaged because some of the money is also invested in bonds — around 60%. So the whole working population of Chile has a vested interest in sound economic policies and a pro-market, pro-private-enterprise environment.

There have been enormous external benefits: the savings rate of Chile was 10% of gross national product traditionally. It has gone up to 27% of GNP. The payroll tax in Chile is zero. Of course we have an estate tax and an income tax, but not a payroll tax. With full employment and a 27% savings rate, the rate of growth of the Chilean economy has doubled.”

Despite the benefits, privatization faces stiff opposition, primarily from Democrats, most Republicans, and the AARP.  

It’s easy to understand why Democrats distrust the private sector, most of them get elected on platforms that mistrust the free market. Some have gone so far as to propose allowing the government to invest in the stock market. This idea would politicize the economy and undermine free market ideals.

It’s also easy to understand the AARP’s position; raising the retirement age, cutting benefits, or any change at all would hurt their business model. The AARP really cares about keeping the status quo, they have spent $4.6 million on lobbying efforts in 2017, and in 2005 the group spent upwards of $36 million on lobbying efforts.

The Republicans, in theory at least, should be pushing social security reform as often as possible, the party is supposed to stand for less government. In practice politicians just want to get re-elected, and the elderly make up a large portion of the voting block, disenfranchising them could cost you an election.

The economy is important. By kicking the can down the road, and increasing entitlement spending, all we’re doing is putting our financial future at risk. Until we start talking about serious entitlement reform, starting with social security, we cannot hope to stabilize our economy.
Continue reading

What is Antifa?

Anti Fascist Action

Since Donald Trump announced his candidacy for President a few years back, those on the left have held his rhetoric responsible for the rise of the “alt-right” and the normalization of white supremacist organizations in America.  It’s hard to argue with that fact; two years ago I couldn’t name anyone associated with the white supremacist movement. Sitting here today, names like “Richard Spencer,” “Augustus Invictus,” “Chris Cantwell,” and asian television personality – “Tila Tequila” all come to mind when I think of modern white supremacists. While not everyone associated with the alt-right is a racist, it seems as though many members of the movement are comfortable moving within those social circles, which doesn’t help their public perception.  

While the “alt-right” has been emboldened by the Trump Administration, so have those on the far-left end of the spectrum.The actions, and perception, of the Trump Administration have led to a steady rise in Antifa. The purpose of the far-left organization is to rid the world of “fascists” be any means necessary, even violence. In the mainstream media, “Antifa” are often referred to as “protesters.”

Militant leftists didn’t greet white supremacists in Charlottesville, “protesters” did.

Far left extremists didn’t protest Ann Coulter’s appearance at Cal-Berkeley; “protesters” did.

Radicals didn’t stop Republicans from marching at a Portland parade under threat of violence; “a group of protesters” did.

Their historical aim is to fight fascism, but recently the group defines fascism as anyone they disagree with. Actual fascism if much worse.

What is Fascism?

fascism.jpg

 

Fascism is a political ideology that dominated many parts of central, eastern, and southern Europe in the early to mid 1900’s.  Generally, fascism is a  radical form of authoritarian-nationalism, characterized by a dictator and suppression of opposition. Historian Mark Bray defines Fascism as:

“a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.”

The most famous name in Fascism is former best friend of Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini.

In 1922 Mussolini was named Prime Minister of Italy.  Two years later, in 1924, he named himself dictator.

Fascist Italian Propoganda One

Fascist propaganda under Mussolini



Millions of fellow citizens meanwhile concluded that, if not the man to finish what the great work of national unification had begun, Mussolini was at least a lesser evil.

In 1924, there was a near-meltdown when Fascists murdered Giacomo Matteotti, a Socialist parliamentarian. Bosworth surmises that he was about to blow the whistle on hanky-panky with a U.S. oil company.

Mussolini rode out the crisis by declaring himself dictator. He then kept regular office hours and maintained an ostentatiously clean desk. By the 1930s, membership in the party approached 5 million, and membership in one or another Fascist affiliate extended to nearly half the population.”

Eventually Mussolini was so loathed the Italians ended up executing him in April of 1945, then dragged his body, along with the bodies of other fascists, to the “Piazzale Loreto” for public display.

Fascism, at its core, values the good of the nation over the good of the individual. It is an ideology that is directly incompatible with liberty. In general, there are 14 characteristics of Fascism, including:

  • Powerful and continuing nationalism
  • Disdain for Human Rights
  • Identification of enemies/Using Scapegoats
  • Strong military

When you read through the characteristics it’s easy to see the overlap between beliefs held by Mussolini and Hitler. You can also see some shared characteristics between white supremacy groups and fascism, and if you, like Antifa, believe that Trump is supporting white supremacy than it is easy to understand why Antifa is calling Trump and his supporters “fascists.”

 

So What is Antifa?

 

Antifa

““Of course we’ll have it (fascism). We’ll have it under the guise of anti-fascism.” – Huey Long

In short, Antifa is a far-left militant group dedicated to fighting “fascism” in the United States and abroad. According to historian, and antifa expert Mark Bray, activists believe that “fascists” lose their first amendment rights when they use violence and intimidation to repress people.

This belief means that individuals must take any and all action necessary to stop their enemies; even if it means using violence and intimidation to repress people.

History of Fighting Fascism:

Antifa is hardly a new idea. As long as there has been fascism, there have been people resisting the idea, most groups do so peacefully. The idea of violent resistance to fascism is hardly new, however.  It seems likely that the violent version of modern Antifa protesters has it’s roots in a protest from 1936. After Francisco Franco became Spain’s fascist dictator; people in London protested the British Union of Fascists in the “Battle of Cable Street.” The “Battle of Cable Street” provided a blueprint for future antifascists; a strong, unified front willing to fight can defeat anyone.

The modern term “Antifa” has it’s roots in the “Anti-Fascist Action,” a German anti-fascist movement most popular in Europe during the 1930’s, but saw a spike in popularity again in the 1980’s. The movement gained some momentum with punk rock bands in the 80’s and 90’s, however, the leaders of the movement determined that most American’s weren’t familiar enough with Fascism to take a stand.  For this reason the American counterpart to the “Anti-Fascist Action” that was popular in Europe, went by “Anti-Racist Action.” After all, almost everyone is against racism.

The movement received its most media attention, prior to this year in 2002. During a meeting of white supremacists belonging to “World Church of the Creator” in Pennsylvania, “Anti-Racist Action” protesters showed up. 25 people ended up getting  arrested in the fighting that followed.

How Are They Organized? And What Do They Believe?

What makes Antifa so difficult to understand, and so easy to discredit, is the fact that there is no nationally organized Antifa. Antifa exists as a network of regional affiliates. While they all aim to fight racism, the loose affiliations mean that there is never any official statement. This also means that people (myself included) often fall for fake antifa accounts.  

Antifa free speech

Antifa protester showing his opposition to the first amendment.

Antifa members are anti-racist, anti-homophobic, anti-Nazi, and anti-capitalism. The Washington Post describes them as a far-left group dedicated to fighting the alt-right. The majority view themselves as communists and socialists (or the seemingly contradictory “anarcho-communist”). Emboldened by the “Battle of Cable Street,” modern Antifa groups relish the opportunity to violently resist anyone they deem as a “fascist,” often resorting to violence while dressed in bandana’s and glasses as a way to conceal their identity.

 

What Have They Done?

The growing problem with Antifa is their inability to distinguish between dissenting idea’s, and fascism. On pro-Antifa website “refusefascism.org,” as part of their “Call To Action!” the author (without including any examples of the Trump/Pence administration of repressing anyone), wrote:

The Trump/Pence regime will repeatedly launch new highly repressive measures, eventually clamping down on all resistance and remaking the law… IF THEY ARE NOT DRIVEN FROM POWER.”

The irony of this sentiment is that Antifa fully supports repressing rights. Remember, according to historian, and antifa expert Mark Bray; activists believe that “fascists” lose their first amendment rights when they use violence and intimidation to repress people. Because of this belief, Antifa can justify being against just about anyone. Hell last week Boston Antifa groups hung up posters around the city that would help people identify “fascists.” The symbols included a thin blue line (in support of cops) and anyone with an “Infowars” symbol near them. 

Boston Antifa Hate Symbols.jpg

Hate symbols, according to Boston Antifa

With all that being said, it’s not as though Antifa has been acting with any subtlety. In Portland, Antifa used slingshots to fling human waste at police officers. Last weekend Antifa confronted free speech protesters in Boston, leading to 33 arrests.  And in Charlottesville earlier this month, Antifa confronted white supremacists, resulting in violence and the death of a woman.

Earlier this year they rallied against free speech in Berkeley, CA, when Ann Coulter was scheduled to speak, leading to violence and at least 6 arrests. Protesters claimed they were protesting “bigots trying to normalize hate.” While ignoring the fact that in doing so they were spreading hate and suppressing dissenting points of view (a key element of fascism).

Antifa is the reason Politico called Portland “America’s Most Politically Violent City.”  Antifa sent threatening emails to parade organizers in Portland telling them the parade would end in violence if the Multnomah County Republicans were allowed to have a float in the annual “Avenue of the Roses” parade. In the emails Antifa made it clear that they considered anyone who supported Trump to be a fascist. The parade was then cancelled because of the threat.

How is Antifa Viewed?

In years past, the mainstream left has, condemned the violent actions of those on the fringe left who would be willing to use violence on enemies. While some on the left reject the idea that Antifa is anything other than an organizing strategy, other’s on the left have fully fed into the hyperbole that Trump is a fascist.

Over at “The Nation,” Frida Berrigan exclaims we’re living in a fascist society under Trump, explaining that with Trump in the White House, the end of life in America is upon us.  Osita Nwanevu, at “Slate,”  posted a video praising protesters who took violent action against the despicable white supremacist Richard Spencer.  While this week over at CNN, Sara Ganim and Chris Welch profiled antifa with the original headline “Unmasking the leftist Antifa movement: Activists Seek Peace Through Violence.” After a few hours of bad press, the headline was changed.

CNN Antifa.jpg

This is why it’s hard to take CNN seriously.

This week opponents of Antifa received the necessary number of signatures needed on a petition to trigger a mandatory response from the White House. The petition called on the Trump Administration to label Antifa as a terrorist organization. While Noam Chomsky, one of the most cited academics in history, and a massive liberal, called Antifa a “major gift to the right.”

 

The Impact of Antifa?

 

It’s difficult to comprehend what, if any, impact “Antifa” will have on American society moving forward.  Even though membership and notoriety has soared in response to Trump, “Antifa” still makes up an exceptionally small percentage of the left.  With that said, 18 months ago we would have said the same thing in regards to the alt-right.

Overall Antifa is a loose network of regional affiliates who fight a political ideology that calls for suppression, by attempting to suppress those that they feel are trying to suppress others. The danger presented by Antifa is their casual acceptance of violence, and willingness to suppress individual rights.

 

The Politics of Envy

politics of envy.jpg

 

It has been awhile since I’ve written for AL but I was struck with inspiration recently while listening to an audiobook, and decided to opine. Since about the age of 25, I’ve been on a journey of self improvement. I read books, listen to podcasts, attend seminars, and visit speakers to improve every aspect of my life from relationships to sales to health and everything in between. I recently purchased The 10X Rule by Grant Cardone to listen to in the car or in the gym. Basically the book is for people wanting to achieve more success in their lives and outlines the necessary work and actions one needs to commit to in order to attain it. It’s definitely a bit rah-rah, but it speaks universal truths about the relationship between success and hard work that any entrepreneur/employee/athlete/coach/etc has come to discover.

What struck me most about the book was that Cardone describes success as not only desirable, but as an ethical RESPONSIBILITY. It is people’s responsibility to achieve success for themselves, their families, and their communities. Without continuing to succeed, people, families, communities, and nations regress and fail. Success is CRITICAL for SURVIVAL. Without entrepreneurs chasing dreams of financial and business success, the economy would rapidly decline, jobs would be lost, and America as a nation would weaken and potentially die. As such, people should cheer on those in the world that accumulate massive amounts of wealth. As Cardone puts it, “If a Wall Street banker earns $400 million, that should be an inspiration to anyone that wants $400 million!” They are a shining beacon of what one can achieve in this country with enough determination. The same can be said for those that go one to create massive businesses, even those dastardly Koch brothers. Their massive accumulation of wealth has employed thousands of people, improved the lives of the consumer with their product, and donated countless millions of dollars to charities all over the country. None of this has impacted anyone’s ability to achieve their own success. In some cases, those rich families success has led to amounts of personal success, even if just a little by societal standards, that otherwise wouldn’t have been achievable to certain individuals.

As Libertarians and Capitalists, this is hardly news to us. We all know that financial success and wealth creation is not a zero sum game. A rising tide lifts all ships, as they say. However, in this political climate, people are not only NOT happy for the immense success of others, but they actively DEMONIZE it. They treat others financial success and wealth accumulation almost as an act of theft. It’s as if their gaining of wealth somehow limits their potential to accumulate wealth for themselves. But why is this? class warfare

The answer lies in the narrative people are fed from those that benefit from them believing this myth. Progressive politicians and pundits have told people for over a century now that the reason so many are in poverty is because a few people are rich. You are poor because Mitt Romney or any of the countless boogeymen that progressives create are rich beyond their “needs” (a limit conveniently determined by them while somehow being undefined. Where is the cutoff? Is $1million dollars more than one needs but $999,999 is ok? I digress).  The point is, the progressives have a vested interest in people believing that they are poor not only because of the 1% of wealthy people, but also because of racial, gender, sexual, or other prejudices that keep the common man down. eat_the_rich

Progressive politicians, both on the right and left, NEED victims. Period. It is a fact. They need you to be a victim for their very survival. Progressive not only DON’T have an interest in helping you get ahead, they actively pursue laws and rhetoric that keep you poor and pissed off. They need a perpetual dependent voting block. If every person in America was gainfully employed and happy, government would barely be needed (ah, what a dream). Therefore, liberal progressives gin up economic discontent, I.E. envy, to get people to vote for them. People need a reason for their own shortcomings. It’s human nature to point the finger at everyone else when you haven’t achieved your desired outcomes or goals, be it for a deadline at work you missed or not having the type of financial success you thought you’d have at this stage in your life. It’s always everyone elses fault or it’s because of external forces beyond your control. Progressives FEED off of this. It quite literally gives them life. Progressives don’t exist if you believe you have the power to control your own destiny and take ownership of your success. They know this, and in an act of self-preservation, they engage in creating envy and resentment between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’.

The progressive manipulation doesn’t stop with wealth gap nonsense. They of course also use race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and any other possible identity group they can to create their useful victims. “It’s not your fault that you’re not wealthy”, they’ll say, “It’s rich, white, cis, hetero, males hogging up all the wealth for themselves and leaving nothing for the rest of us!” This is, of course, hogwash of the highest degree, but it WORKS because people would rather be victims than do the necessary work to gain success for themselves. It is infinitely easier to be a victim than to get up early every morning with a good attitude and go out into the world and do the things you know you need to do to be successful. Here is a harsh truth: everyone, from the lowest beggar to the wealthiest hedge fund manager, is responsible for their own lot in life. For all of its flaws, The USA is still a bastion of freedom wherein anyone with a dream and willpower can grow wealthy and successful beyond their wildest dreams. It’s cliché, but it’s true. But it comes at a cost, and that cost is hard work. Likely, 10 times more hard work than you ever thought it would take. 10 times more work than most people would put up with. And as such, you have a block that would rather Demand universal debt forgiveness ‘just because’ and demand a ‘living wage regardless of employment’, than go out into the world and find meaningful work that also brings them financial success. And these useful victims will keep in power progressive politicians that will wave at their occupy rally out the window of their bulletproof limo, on the way to the bank.

Consider the progressive dumpster fire that is California. Have the states absurd tax policies done anything to actually reduce poverty? 20% of residents live in poverty. This is by DESIGN. The progressives running the show in CA need a large portion of the population to be poor (outside of their Hollywood donors, of course) and they need them to believe they have no hope. Then they tax the most successful among the states residents at some of the highest rates in the country, to provide goodies to those they’ve told they can’t survive without the assistance from their friends at the government. It becomes self fulfilling. Progressive programs designed to ‘help the needy get out of poverty’ are a sham. They are designed to do nothing but foster dependence or at least, create a temporary vote. And how is California faring with this strategy? Not. Great.

The point of this is that victim mentality will get you nowhere, and it is absolutely a choice. You can choose to believe you can’t succeed because you were born poor, or black, or female, or gay, or any number of reasons. And if you believe that, then you wont. But blaming others and demanding wealth redistribution wont bring you wealth or happiness. However, it WILL keep those with the most to gain from you being poor and helpless in power.

You Probably Haven’t Heard of The Greatest Threat to Global Security

india-china-border

 

In the 2006 film “Lucky Number Slevin” Mr. Goodkat explains the concept of a “Kansas City Shuffle” to Nick Fisher, a degenerate gambler who owes two different mob bosses a large amount of money. As Bruce Willis’s character explains; a “Kansas City Shuffle” is when everybody else goes left, you go right.

This basic “bait and switch” con is used all the time in politics, anytime there is a “scandal” of any sorts, it is prudent to dig a little deeper to find out what’s really going on.  Let’s take the current geopolitical atmosphere, for example.  For weeks the media, egged on by the Trump administration and China, have been focused on North Korea.  Most rationale people see through this ploy, but nothing unites the country like a common enemy, even if that common enemy doesn’t pose much of a threat at all, so the media ran with it.  So while the media has blown this story way out of proportion, I did what I always do; looked to see what else was going on in the region.  While the Trump Administration has been threatening China over North Korea, the real threat to global security was happening a few thousand kilometers away, in a small piece of disputed territory in the Himalayan mountains between the world’s two most populous countries.

On June 16th, flanked by Chinese troops, construction began on a road in the disputed territory of Doklam.  The territory is located in the Himalayan mountains between Tibet’s “Chumbi Valley,” and Bhutan’s “Ha Valley.” The area has been claimed by Bhutan since 1961, China also claims the territory, saying it is part of Tibet and therefore Chinese land. Despite 24 rounds of border negotiations over the last 56 years, no progress has been made on the dispute. Doklam.jpg

While the mountain kingdom of Bhutan has less than a million citizens, they have been protected by a “Treaty of Friendship” with India since 1949.  This treaty states that India will protect Bhutan from foreign aggression. India takes this treaty very seriously, so seriously that India’s main garrison is located just 13 miles from the disputed territory. So it comes as no surprise that on June 18th India mobilized 270 troops to Doklam to “protect” Bhutan. Many in Bhutan view the standoff as less about protecting their country, and more of a pissing match between India and China. Whether or not India actually cares about the safety of Bhutan is largely irrelevant. The danger is that the “People’s Liberation Army of China” boasts 2.285 million soldiers, while the “Indian Armed Forces” has a standing army of over 1.4 million troops. While both governments have called for a peaceful resolution, neither nuclear power is willing to back down; culminating in a “minor scuffle” this week as  Chinese forces tried to enter Indian territory near Pangong lake near Ladakh on Tuesday.

While it is easy to ignore a story about two countries halfway around the world, both China and India play a major role in global manufacturing. China, for example,produced 90% of the world’s computers in 2011. While India continues to grow their economy through manufacturing:

“Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflows in India’s manufacturing sector grew by 82 per cent year-on-year to US$ 16.13 billion during April-November 2016.”

A military conflict between the two countries would inevitably draw attention from US-based companies like Apple, Dell, Microsoft, and others who rely on Indian and Chinese labor to build their products. A conflict would more than likely reduce supply, meaning higher prices for the consumer.

Any major conflict between the two countries could also present an opportunity for Paki

Kashmir

stan, another nuclear power, to possibly try and take control of Kashmir and Jammu, the disputed states that mark the border between India and Pakistan. This border dispute has led to three separate conflicts since 1947. A three-way conflict between nuclear powers could easily escalate into something much larger, putting us all at risk.

Much like The Boss and The Rabbi in “Lucky Number Slevin,” the United States has fallen for a “Kansas City Shuffle,” ignoring this border dispute while focusing on a hermit kingdom and a dictator, suffering from Napoleon complex.