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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

 

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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?

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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. 

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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.

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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.

 

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

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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.

A Long Fall From the Moral Mountain Top

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A few days removed from the events in Charlottesville, most people find themselves shocked at what transpired. Over the course of 48 hours, the Unite the Right rally is responsible for the world seeing Americans give the Nazi salute, the death of a protester, a helicopter crash, numerous arrests, and dozens of injuries. No, the violence was not isolated to one side of the conflict, but the event and the climate around it were certainly contributing factors to all of the separate incidents surrounding the Alt-Right rally.

Was it a mistake for the counter-protesters to show up with such an angry approach?

Yes.

Was a clash between the two groups very predictable?

Of course, it was.

Antifa and other groups who opposed the Alt-Right event were baited into a fight, and they took the bait all too willingly. If the opposition had just kept clear, or kept calm, no one would be debating who has the moral high ground. One group was either mellow, or at home, and the other was obviously having a torch-led march filled with Nazi salutes and hateful rhetoric. If cooler heads had prevailed, it was basically the Harlem Globetrotters against the Washington Generals.

Easy W.

Turn the lights off when you leave.

Unfortunately, that’s not how events unfolded, and now there is an opening for debate about who is to blame for each separate incident over the tragic Virginia weekend. I doubt very few people are going to argue that Nazism is a reasonable political ideology and a positive direction for our country, but they are also likely to denounce communism, as well as violence, in all its forms. Today, many people are condemning both sides for a deadly event, when there could have been watercooler talk, about how crazy those tiki torch-wielding Nazis are.

Lives were lost.

The battle of ideas was lost in a bloody stalemate, too.

Don’t let it happen again.

5 Republicans To Watch in 2020

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Over the weekend, while out with my friends, I asked “what Republicans will run for President in 2020?” They all sort of looked at me with strange looks, one of them said “this is why we don’t invite you to things” while another asked “who wants to play Buckhunter?” Being a politico is difficult sometimes. After most of the table cleared out to go play Buckhunter, I was left with two others. Besides myself (a Libertarian) I was left with a Republican and a Democrat. While the three of us don’t generally agree on many political issues, we all agreed that Robert Mueller convening a federal grand jury to look into Russian meddling likely meant that Trump would either be impeached, resign, or not run for re-election.

Over the next half hour we came up with a list of five Republicans who we all thought could win the nomination in 2020.

 

Mike Pence

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The most obvious choice for the Republican nomination is current Vice President, and former Governor of Indiana Mike Pence.

Nobody wants to be Vice President, the position has no purpose outside of breaking a tie in the Senate, and most find it to be an exceptionally boring, and possibly worthless job.  John Adams, our nation’s first Vice President stated:


“My country has in its wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived.”

Adams may have been the first to complain about the office, but he wasn’t the last. The office is generally sought by those who have higher aspirations, and appearances suggest that Pence wants to be President. While he has denounced rumors that he would challenge Trump for the Republican nomination in 2020, he certainly has the pedigree for the position. Prior to being Governor of Indiana he served in the House of Representatives from 2001 till 2013, serving as the chairman of the House Republican Conference from 2009-2011.  

On the issues Pence is pro-life, pushed for a balanced budget amendment to Indiana’s state constitution, opposed government bailouts, is against increasing regulations, is for “stop and frisk” policies, supports the war on drugs, and is a hawk on foreign policy issues.

Pence would have a leg up for the nomination, especially if Trump doesn’t finish his first term. If he were to audition for the office, it’s hard to imagine that Pence, an establishment favorite, wouldn’t seek the nomination in 2020.

 

John Kasich

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The current Governor of Ohio sought the Republican nomination in 2016, and has been a staunch opponent of President Trump since the beginning. Over the last few years he has done as much as he possibly can to distance himself from Donald Trump, including skipping last summer’s convention, even though it was being held in Cleveland. Kasich, also an establishment favorite, served in the House of Representatives from 1983 till 2001, and supposedly turned down Trump’s offer to become Vice President.

When it comes to the issues, Kasich has been a staunch advocate for criminal justice reform; signing bills in 2012 and 2011 that make it easier for felons to find jobs, and advocating for shorter rehabilitation over prison for nonviolent offenders. Kasich favors “common core,” wants to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, and while he wants to cut corporate taxes, he also wants to raise taxes on oil companies, and move away from the income tax.

Governor Kasich has failed to rule out a 2020 Presidential run, and is planning several “policy forums” across Ohio and New Hampshire.

 

Nikki Haley

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The former Governor of South Carolina, and current UN Ambassador has never been a Trump supporter (despite serving in his cabinet). Her reputation is helped by the rumor that one of the key reasons she was chosen as UN Ambassador is because her former Lt. Governor in South Carolina, Henry McMaster, was a vocal Trump supporter. When Haley was named UN Ambassador McMaster became South Carolina’s Governor, the rumor is this was McMasters reward for supporting Trump.

Nikki Haley presents a unique opportunity for Republicans. Her Indian-American ancestry would essentially negate any perceived advantage Democrat Kamala Harris, another Indian-American, would have based on gender and ancestry alone. The fact that female minorities would have two qualified candidates to choose from would mean that they would be more likely to vote on policy issues, rather than following their heart strings.

While serving as Governor of South Carolina, Haley reduced unemployment from 11% to 4% and created 85,000 new jobs. She’s anti-Obamacare, pro gun rights, anti-immigration, and pro-life.

 

Rand Paul

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Another former presidential candidate, Senator Rand Paul is among the most ideologically consistent members of the Senate who easily won re-election last year. Senator Paul is a favorite among libertarian leaning republicans. During his time in office he has been critical of the NSA and the surveillance state that is supported by many establishment leaders, he’s been critical of our foreign policy, he’s one of only a few Republicans who has recently advocated for a full repeal of Obamacare, he’s  co-sponsored legislation with liberal Senators like Kamala Harris and Corey Booker on issues like criminal justice and bail reform. He’s been critical of Washington’s spending problem, while consistently vocalizing his opposition to new taxes and regulations.

While Paul may have some issues with establishment republicans; his crossover appeal with both libertarians and (some) democrats, as well as his popularity with millennials could mean a well-run campaign leading up to 2020 could secure his nomination.

 

Ben Sasse

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The freshman Senator from Nebraska has always been a vocal opponent of Donald Trump. In the lead up to the 2014 election, Sasse ran as the “anti Obamacare” candidate and ran as a strong social conservative.  

When it comes to Obamacare, he has consistently voted to repeal as much of the act as possible. In his short time in office, he has also taken a surprisingly libertarian view on foreign policy issues; joining Senator Paul in opposing additional sanctions against Russia, and opposing selling weapons to Saudi Arabia.

When it comes to the economy, Sasse has consistently been against government regulations, while calling for more privatization and a revamp of the tax code.

Like Kasich, Sasse also hasn’t ruled out a 2020 run. In the last few months, Sasse has popped up across the state of Iowa; whether he’s talking policy, or just driving for Uber, the Nebraska Senator has made sure that Iowans know who he is.

 

As Republicans continue to distance themselves from President Trump, it doesn’t look like the party would have much difficulty in finding a better candidate in 2020.

A Brief Overview of the Major Players in the Syrian Civil War

Current military situation: Red: Syrian government, Green: Syrian opposition, Yellow: Rojava (SDF)/Syrian Kurds, Grey: Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, White: Tahrir al-Sham (formerly known as the al-Nusra Front)

 

To put it simply, The Syrian Civil War is a quagmire. There are alot of different factions at play here. It can be a little confusing to those getting into this topic to navigate. This guide hopefully will provide you with a brief overview of the situation down there as of today.

Turkey

Turkey seeks to quell its own Kurdish uprising and increase its influence in the Middle East

The Turks are against the Syrian Kurds and Assad and ISIS roughly in that order and nominally allied with the US however Russia has been recently trying to make friendly overtures towards them. The Turks mainly seek to quell the local Syrian Kurds to keep their own Kurdish separatist movement in check as well as gain a greater influence in the Middle East at the expense of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the other Gulf States as well as Iran.  They sent a military intervention into Syria with the goal of fighting both ISIS and the Syrian Kurds.  Recently, there has been an uptick in violence between the Syrian Kurds and Turkish forces as ISIS-held Raqqa nears collapse

Assad

Assad seeks to stop the rebellion with the help of Russia and Iran

Assad has, with the support of Russia and Iran, been focusing mostly on non ISIS rebels which are themselves a patchwork of different factions of shifting alliances running the gamut from hard core Islamists of a different ideological stripe from ISIS to secular militarists to straight up secular liberal democracy proponents. However the Syrian regime is also at war with ISIS but have largely let the US coalition fight them, keeping their military operations concentrated to the southern and western parts of Syria.  Until the Russian intervention Syria government forces were on the brink.  The Iranian militias supporting them “unofficially” were not enough to stem the tide. However the arms and military support from Russia allowed them to take the offensive and make considerable gains in the war.  They are trying to stay out of the Syrian Kurds way as the Syrian Kurds have been the main force fighting ISIS with the perceived strategy of letting them fight it out and taking down the winner.

 

The Gulf States

The Gulf States seek to fight ISIS with the nominal help of the US coalition but also seek to check Iranian and Turkish influence.

The Gulf States (UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, etc) generally back support and arm various rebel groups within Syria shifting their support as the map and battlefield changes. They tend however to support the hardcore Islamists as a way of staying “tough on seculars​” They are also nominally allied with the US as ISIS and Iran are common enemies. They do this mostly to maintain their local hegemony over the region and to prevent Iran and non Gulf Muslim States (like Turkey and Iran) from gaining the upper hand, influence wise. Also as one of ISIS’s stated goals is the utter destruction of those states they must work with the US to prevent that.

Iran

Iran seeks to maintain its influence in Syria as well as fight ISIS in nominal cooperation with Russia

Iran seeks to maintain its last foothold of influence in the Arab world (Iranians are Persians) and thus supports Assad as the Syrian regime was one of the few that had a pro Iranian policy. They are nominally allied with Russia as the two share similar goals of keeping the Syrian regime alive. They also are against ISIS as their special brand of Islam is not ISIS’s special brand of Islam so they fight their own completely separate battle against them.  This is done mostly through unofficial militias as well as “Iranian volunteers.”

Russia

Russia continues its quest for warm water ports and increased influence in the Middle East on the side of Assad and Iran.

Russia also seeks to maintain its last foothold in the Middle East. Continuing it’s long-standing policy of warm water ports, it seeks to preserve the military base in Tartus that it has in Syria ( the Syrian regime has granted them military access and a base there) as well as gain new bases in Syria to continue its bid for control and access to the Eastern Mediterranean and the trade routes that pass through it. It also is against ISIS largely out of an outgrowth of the Chechen conflict (many former Chechen rebels went to ISIS after they lost.) As such they back the Syrian regime to the hilt against the Syrian rebels, ISIS, and the US and Gulf state interests roughly in that order and nominally work with Iran.

Syrian Kurds

The Kurds seek to form their own nation and are the main ground force against ISIS

The Syrian Kurds are straight up fighting for their own country. Kurds are the largest and oldest “Stateless Nation”. They haven’t been able to form a state as traditional Kurdish lands straddle Turkey, Syria, Iran, and Iraq.  (Guess which countries in the Middle East are against the Kurds!)  They are the main ground force fighting ISIS as the territory they control is right smack dab next to ISIS controlled territory. The US backs them against the protests of Turkey and they are nominally allied to the Iraqi Kurds in the east.  The Iraqi Kurds are the ones who actually sent an artillery force to help relieve Kobani a couple years back. The Syrian Kurds are leftist while the Iraqi Kurds are right wing which makes for some tensions but are still united in the idea of a Kurdish state. After ISIS though the Syrian Kurds are opposed to Turkey. The US has been trying to keep Kurdish and Turkish forces apart but once ISIS is gone all bets are off.

US led Coalition

The US seeks to keep ISIS from launching attacks on its homeland as well as to limit Russian and Iranian influence in the Middle East

The US led coalition is primarily interested in the defeat of ISIS as a way of keeping them in the Middle East and busy so as not to conduct terror attacks on domestic US soil. They are also against the Assad regime for human rights violations but also to limit Russians and Iranian influence in the Middle East.  They try to back the various rebel groups but their support is limited as they are trying to find the ever rarer secular democratic rebel group (there are a few but they are teetering.) Recently, they’ve ended their support of the anti-Assad rebels, causing uncertainty over their role going forward.  They are nominally allied with the Gulf States but behind the scenes work at cross purposes in terms of Rebel support but coordinate closely in terms of fighting ISIS.

ISIS

We won’t be displaying the ISIS flag. They hate everyone and everyone hates them.

Finally ISIS. ISIS hates everyone. Everyone hates ISIS.  ISIS’s ideology and expression of said ideology puts them at violent odds with literally everything around them that does not adhere to their very specific sub-branch of Wahhabi Islam.  As such, they have no real allies or backers on the international scene.  Their funding largely comes from the sale of artifacts looted from archaeological sites, crime, and taxes from conquered territories.  With the loss of Mosul and other territories, their income has been reduced dramatically in the past year.

CalExit Will Never Happen

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After the election of Donald Trump, many people got irrational, particularly Governor Jerry Brown, and the people of California (who ironically opened an embassy in Moscow in protest). Since then, many people, both in California and across the country, have pushed for the Golden State’s secession. Last Tuesday, California’s Attorney General decided to humor the #CalExit organizers.

Last Tuesday, California Attorney General  Xavier Becerra apparently finished his scotch, said “what the hell,” and gave his stamp of approval for a group of people to begin gathering the more than 585,000 signatures needed to allow a ballot initiative that would allow a ballot initiative calling for secession to be put on the 2018 ballot. If the ballot measure were to somehow pass, a commission would form to explore how the state could secede from the United States, unfortunately, this will never happen. calexit dos.jpg

Secession isn’t a new idea, outside the Civil War, the idea pops up every couple of years, normally in Texas, and at that time realists endlessly mock these attempts, and for good reason, the fact remains that there is no way to secede from the Union written in the Constitution.  Article IV Section 3 of the Constitution deals with how to admit a new state into the country, but the reverse is never discussed, and has been dismissed outright by plenty of respectable legal scholars.

In 2006, former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was asked by screenwriter Dan Turkewitz if a group of people suing the government for the right to secede would be a good plot point. Scalia responded saying that state’s do not have the right to secede. In his letter back to Turkewitz, Scalia said that such an issue would never even reach the Supreme Court:

“To begin with, the answer is clear. If there was any constitutional issue resolved by the Civil War, it is that there is no right to secede. … Secondly, I find it difficult to envision who the parties to this lawsuit might be. Is the State suing the United States for a declaratory judgment? But the United States cannot be sued without its consent, and it has not consented to this sort of suit.”

Scalia.jpgWhat Justice Scalia pointed out in that first line is something most people don’t realize.  In the eyes of the United States government, there no such thing as the “Confederate States of America.” The southern states, in their mind, were just occupied by hostile citizens. This line of thinking was pointed out in the 1869 Supreme Court case Texas v. White.  This case argued that Texas’s Confederate state legislature had illegally sold bonds that were owned by Texas, and issued by the United States government as part of the compromise of 1850. While ruling on this case, the justices wrote;

“The Constitution, in all its provisions… looks to an indestructible Union composed of indestructible States.”

So while Jefferson Davis and his friends may have seen themselves as an independent country, the United States hadn’t given them the go-ahead to secede, so they had no sovereignty. The Civil War was a war for independence, much like the American Revolution was a war for independence. We had to defeat the British before getting the go-ahead to secede; if we had lost, we’d have socialized medicine and a government that doesn’t respect individual rights, and do we really want that?

While it amuses us to think that a state that disagrees with our own core ideologies could soon be gone, it is unlikely to happen. So unfortunately it looks as though referring to San Francisco as a “foreign country” will remain hyperbole.

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