During an interview with the Associated Press on April 23, President Donald Trump was asked about Wikileaks and Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recent announcement that the United States will seek charges against Wikileaks.
“When Wikileaks came out … never heard of Wikileaks, never heard of it. When Wikileakscame out, all I was just saying is, ‘Well, look at all this information here, this is pretty good stuff,'” Trump said, but refusing to suggest he supports the organization. “No, I don’t support or unsupport. It was just information. They shouldn’t have allowed it to get out.”
Though he acknowledged the importance of the information Wikileaks released, he distanced himself from casting judgment on Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ announcement the Department of Justice will seek to prosecute Wikileaks. “I am not involved in that decision, but if Jeff Sessions wants to do it, it’s OK with me. I didn’t know about that decision, but if they want to do it, it’s OK with me,” Trump said. This rhetoric is a stark contrast from his comments about Wikileaks during an October 2016 campaign rally. “I love Wikileaks,” Trump said. “It’s amazing how nothing is secret today when you talk about the Internet.”
The announcement from Sessions has sparked controversy both from Wikileaks supporters and supporters of the free press, because these kinds of charges are a dangerous precipice to the government prosecuting media publishers for publishing information the government doesn’t like and eliminating the freedom of the press.
CIA Director Mike Pompeo alleged in a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington that Wikileaks “directed Chelsea Manning to intercept specific secret information, and it overwhelmingly focuses on the United States.” Pompeo also asserted that Wikileaks is “often abetted by state actors like Russia,” though he cited or provided no evidence for either accusations. These have been cited as the likely avenues in which Attorney General Sessions will seek charges against Wikileaks and its founder, Julian Assange, under Section 793(e) of the Espionage Act, which broadly could be used against first amendment rights without having to offer an proof Wikileaks was involved at all in obtaining the documents its leaked.
In Obama’s last press conference as President he said, “I haven’t commented on WikiLeaks generally. The conclusions of the intelligence community with respect to the Russian hacking were not conclusive as to whether WikiLeaks was witting or not in being the conduit through which we heard about the DNC e-mails that were leaked.”
Sessions affirmed one of his top priorities is prosecuting Wikileaks. “We are going to step up our effort and already are stepping up our efforts on all leaks,” he said on April 20. “This is a matter that’s gone beyond anything I’m aware of. We have professionals that have been in the security business of the United States for many years that are shocked by the number of leaks and some of them are quite serious. So yes, it is a priority. We’ve already begun to step up our efforts and whenever a case can be made, we will seek to put some people in jail.” In a following interview with CNN, Sessions refused to respond to a question as to whetherWikileaks’ charges would open the door to prosecute other media outlets that have published leaked information. “That’s speculative, and I’m not able to comment on that,” Sessions said.
Wikileaks has been under U.S. investigation since 2010, when it released with cooperation from several large media outlets, thousands of classified cables from US embassies leaked by Chelsea Manning, whose sentence was commuted by Obama before he left office. Though public opinion on Wikileaks has waned given the release of emails from the DNC and ClintonCampaign Manager John Podesta that embarrassed the Democratic Party, prosecutingWikileaks for publishing leaked information sets a dangerous precedent for other media outlets who have done the same.
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), North Korea, or Communist Korea is one of the most systematic targets of the pejorative and slanderous propaganda carried out by capitalist-controlled media at a global scale.
But the DPRK has never succumbed to Washington’s intimidation. This has generated, around the world, admiration for the very fact of its survival; and solidarity for the courage with which it faces so much negative propaganda.
Pyongyang has never shown signs of wavering in the face of such threats and, on the contrary, it has even dared to develop a reduced arsenal of nuclear weapons for self-defense in the event that the United States tries to assert its dominance by launching another war like the one it carried out in the nineteen-fifties.
In the wake of the most recent US military provocations against North Korea and the usual firmness of its replies, the US journalist Mike Whitney has published a comprehensive article in the digital magazine CounterPunch recalling that:
“Washington has never made any effort to conceal its contempt for North Korea. In the 64 years since the war ended, the US has done everything in its power to punish, humiliate and inflict pain on the Communist country.”
“Washington has subjected the DPRK to starvation; it has prevented its government from accessing foreign capital and markets; it has strangled its economy with crippling economic sanctions; and has installed lethal missile systems and military bases on its doorstep.”
“Negotiations aren’t possible,” says Whitney, because Washington refuses to sit down with a country which it sees as its inferior. Instead, the US has strong-armed China to do its bidding by using their diplomats as interlocutors who are expected to convey Washington’s ultimatums as threateningly as possible. The hope, of course, is that Pyongyang will cave in to Uncle Sam’s bullying and do what they are told.”
“There’s no country in the world that needs nuclear weapons more than North Korea. Brainwashed Americans, who get their news from FOX or CNN, may differ on this point, but if a hostile nation deployed carrier strike-groups off the coast of California while conducting massive war games on the Mexican then they might see things differently. They might see the value of having a few nuclear weapons to deter that hostile nation from doing something really stupid.”
According to Whitney, “the only reason Kim Jong Un hasn’t joined Saddam and Gadhafi in the great hereafter, is because the DPRK has the capacity to reduce Seoul, Okinawa and Tokyo into smoldering debris-fields. Absent Kim’s WMDs, Pyongyang would have faced a preemptive attack long ago and Kim would have faced a fate similar to Gadhafi’s. “Nuclear weapons are the only known antidote to US adventurism,” says the journalist.
“In the early 1950s, during the Korean War, the US dropped more bombs on North Korea than it had dropped in the entire Pacific theater during World War II. This carpet bombing, which included 32,000 tons of napalm, often deliberately targeted civilian as well as military targets. Whole cities were destroyed, with many thousands of innocent civilians killed and many more left homeless and hungry.”
The United States killed over 2 million people in a country that posed no threat to US national security.
Like Vietnam, the Korean War was just another muscle-flexing exercise the US periodically engages in whenever it gets bored or needs some far-flung location to try out its new weapons systems. The US had nothing to gain in its aggression on the Korean peninsula.
“In the US, most people think the problem lies with North Korea, but it doesn’t,” explains Whitney.” The problem lies with the United States; it’s unwillingness to negotiate an end to the war, its unwillingness to provide basic security guarantees to the North, its unwillingness to even sit down with the people who –through Washington’s own stubborn ignorance– are now developing long-range ballistic missiles that will be capable of hitting American cities.
According to Whitney, “relations with the North can be normalized, economic ties can be strengthened, trust can be restored, and the nuclear threat can be defused. The situation with the North does not have to be a crisis, it can be fixed. It just takes a change in policy, a bit of give-and-take, and leaders that genuinely want peace more than war.
Translation by Walter Lippmann at Cuba News.
“He [distinguished mathematician Otto Nicodym] disliked what he called “careerism” and “careerists,” scholars eager for fame and recognition who would play politics within universities … to advance themselves. He likewise disliked what he called “sham,” superficial appearances of excellence not founded on real truth and virtue.”
— Eugene Paul Nassar, “Otto Martin Nikodym: a Personal Reminiscence”
“To resist radical evil is to endure a life that by the standards of the wider society is a failure…It is to be a lifelong heretic.”
— Chris Hedges, The Price of Resistance
For people who do not introspect, I am not sure I can make persuasively the case that the main motivator in the liberal world today is not love or compassion (this should not come as big news!), not even anger, nor even fear, though there is plenty of that….but shame. Shame, low self worth, crippling dispiritedness rule the minds and hearts of the best, unbeknownst and unopposed.
The kind of shame that dogs us today was well known in the ancient world; viewed as one of the seven deadly sins it was called acedia, commonly referred to as sloth, or apathy. This was not laziness in the simplistic way we think of it, and in fact does not mean the refusal of gainful employment, but rather, a failure to keep in mind that something was expected of the man or woman who is a child of God. Implied in the sin of acedia was a prior love, or at least a prior being seen, that one was answerable to. When this relationship to deity is simplified and rigidified by exoteric religion into “obedience” to a Father God who carves His commandments into stone, the best response is probably disbelief; this is certainly the answer to ‘the God problem’ for most modern secular men and women. The thought that the bathwater we threw out so self-righteously with the discredited theism may have contained the ‘baby’ of our vitality occurs to few.
With the marvelous way the mind has to help us adapt to changing conditions, to assimilate and thus to physically survive, we have learned a whole set of habits and behaviors that assist us to live with a semblance, a “reasonable facsimile” of energy and vitality and purpose without that problematic relation to the mythic layer in ourselves which also is the means of access to genuine human vitality. With the passage of generations, with the habit of repression that goes on even in a single lifetime, the memory that there is some other reality existing “beyond” or “behind” or “above” or “below” this one (all words translatable to interior space) has been so effectively banished that its practically vestigial existence has become menacing. Nobody wants to “go there;” we have many effective ways to ward off the few openings the society provides to the spiritual dimension with its contemplative requirement, mainly not challenging assumptions such as that poetry is boring; that psychotherapy is a bunch of cranks, expensive, and “doesn’t work for everyone;” that devotion to an art is nice but better have a plan B, etc. Very effective in this regard is the practice of keeping our high school youth super busy with extracurricular activities, and the graduates in debt!
The most widespread and pervasive tool for discouraging genuine vitality is unquestioned religiophobia, and its necessary companion, our obsessive way of keeping busy and distracted, mindlessly obedient to the old commonplaces about “idle hands” and “keeps me out of trouble.” By and large people on the secular left, that is, liberals, are as rigid in their aversion to the realm of the “religious -” which includes interior reality, the invisibles of relatedness – as people are on the religious right to insults to the flag, or to homosexuality.
In the absence of the authoritative relationship with theos that’s been thrown out with religion, the reality of relationship – the invisibles connecting us all in nature – is uncertain, a matter of the mind only, a matter for “convincing,” and conviction pressured from without can always be overturned.
The consequence of this rigidified, reflexive refusal of serious spiritual reality, is there can be no spirited defense of the relationships that connect everything; the relatedness is not felt. The natural world – everything outside my own head – is as if dead.
Recently I was reminded of how this shame, this dispiriting worthlessness, shows itself in relation to a certain kind of concern with cleanliness. Watching a young party host work diligently at a spot of spilled wine on her beige carpet, using club soda to bubble it up, discussing methods with a guest versed in stain removal, hearing her say I never give up, the thought came to me she must have been a popular guest at parties in the days before her marriage! As I mused, it seemed to me the person who will come in and get rid of the stain performs a symbolic act of purification, not just an act of cleaning up a mess. Gone then – banished – is the shame accompanying the consumption of alcohol, a shame hardly diminished by the regularity with which it is consumed, at least here in Utica.
Historically I guess this hatred for the stain comes from Catholicism; from that notion of the soul as a pure white sheet that we then proceed to mess up with stain after stain until after a point we’re lost; there’s no point in trying for righteousness ever again. I know personally few people, even among Catholics, who’d subscribe to this belief literally anymore. But I see it alive and well in the excessive love of cleanliness in the by now thoroughly secular world. Considering this, its a wonder we do not pay our cleaners better!
When it means more than simply the absence of dirt, cleanliness brings a kind of redemption from shame. I suppose it may have meant this to the ethnic women, vulnerable to being shamed by the meddigons, who were so uncompromising in the cleanliness of their homes. Spotlessness is also a mark of bourgeois respectability. For cleanness to mean so much, there must be a “dirty.” The cost to individuals and to the world of so many of us carrying the underlying sense of dirtiness that is never consciously faced is immense. The cost is our spiritual energy – the only human drive that is more powerful than hate.
In his blog on the TruthDig website Chris Hedges quoted Reinhold Niebuhr who said of traditional liberalism that it “lacks the spirit of enthusiasm, not to say fanaticism, which is so necessary to move the world out of its beaten tracks. It is too intellectual and too little emotional to be a force in history.” I found an echo of this idea in the words of Emma Goldman in her autobiography, Living My Life. Writing of her year in prison as a 25-year-old, the atheist Goldman mentions the young priest who was the “most interesting” person she met there. She calls him “devout, entirely consecrated. He observed every fast and he would lose himself in prayer for hours…My own ideal, my faith, was at the opposite pole from his, but I knew he was as ardently sincere as I. Our fervour was our meeting ground.”
Fervor, enthusiasm, passion, fanaticism, zeal, ardor; all highly colored words that so easily can cause disturbance in the soul of the liberal committed to the workings of reason. This is because the unconscious liberal has no contact with enthusiasm; deferential always to the civilizing voice which exacts enormous amounts of repression in order to “succeed’ in this world, ( i.e., to score high as possible on SAT’s and LSAT’s), these words today conjure mobs, lynchings, bacchanals, DWI’s; never the exalted condition of happiness, the reality of the gods that are constituent in the souls of men and women.
Recently a student from neighboring Hamilton College sang at our little nonprofit Utica arts space during an evening dedicated to instrumental musical performance. She, lovely and African American, was indeed exceptionally talented. Her scatting rendition of There Will Never Be Another You elicited oohs and aahs from all of us. We learned she is going on to some sort of marketing or business career. Clearly we were seeing yet another talented young person do the reasonable thing, sacrifice talents to the career, curbing her passion, fervor, enthusiasm, in the name of deference to authority. She is well on the path to becoming a liberal, to, though I pray not, joining with the soul-murderers in the socially condoned practice of animacide.
Harsh sounding words, even to me. But it is exactly that spark of passion that is being unquestioningly sacrificed, for who will advise her to court failure rather than aim for success? And in taking that turn away from the expression that feels wonderful, that service to a god of joy one might say, or at least to the god that wants your/my singular voice, we make righteousness impossible, and firmly embed shame into our being. In taking up the career we will forever be forced to be deferential to those with power over our fortunes and to abandon the intuitive voice within that is our only access to a living god or gods and a life of passion, fervor and enthusiasm that connects us with other beings.
By silent agreement we act as if we do not know that in the eyes of this corporate-dominated, secular reality that has replaced the old repressive God, each of us is a loser who must prove her/himself to be a “winner” by going to “their” schools and adopting “their” priorities, subverting our indigenous dignity as surely as any first nation child sent to the government school. Those of us who cannot meet this challenge will fall by the wayside one way or another; these losses will be judged as evidence not of the evil of the system but of the personal weakness of the person who failed to “make it.” If the liberal progressive is going to regain her/his passion and energy, which must happen for resistance to be possible, this intrinsic sense of worthlessness, which is private but also in common, must be addressed. Though I have enough solid accomplishments to my credit that I might get a nod from St. Peter when my time comes, I never have been able to banish the powerful voice of shame in me. In my unworthiness I ascribe to others qualities, talents, gifts I do not have – even if in fact I do have them. Always the pendulum swings back: I am worthless and you are worthwhile (excepting of course those who are my inferiors!) This unconscious, unseemly, base struggle for one-upmanship, essential for all class systems, stratifications, pogroms and wars, camps out in our being, its efforts to undermine inherent worthiness ceaseless. Like rust, like capitalism, it never sleeps. Its sole opponent is the inherent dignity of the righteous man or woman, impartable only by means of the invisible soul.
“Well, sometimes the impossible takes a little longer”, remarked Lynne Stewart, December 31, 2014, on her arrival in New York, released from federal prison in Texas, after a vigorous family and internationally driven campaign on her behalf. (She was suffering from advanced cancer.)
Stewart lived three more years, nearby her family, always with a smile for visitors. This was the woman who dared this mild rebuke to her sentencing judge: “I do not intend to go gentle into that good night” she told him.
Last Saturday, almost 500 friends and admirers of the brave lawyer who had the courage to challenge U.S. Homeland’s chief John Ashcroft fifteen years ago, gathered to celebrate a remarkable and honorable life.
April 22nd, the same day when tens of thousands were gathering in cities across the country to support our scientific community under threat by Trump administration budget cuts, one is struck by the contrast with those memorializing this “people’s lawyer”.
That modest assembly in a quiet corner of New York, the city where she grew up and where Stewart worked all her life, represented a revolutionary era whose very place in U.S. history is dangerously marginal. Moreover, that history is barely recognized by the rather belated post-November 8th arousal—the new liberal movement– now gathering with its multitude of committees, mass parades and lefty celebrity speeches: part of Bernie Sanders’ Our Revolution. Fine. But a far cry from what Lynne Stewart’s celebrants represent.
Unarguably America needs organized massive resistance to threats posed by the current administration; push back is essential on all fronts: healthcare, the arts, environmental protections, bank regulation, civic rights, and on and on. One hopes that the thousands of communities mobilizing nationwide, from villages to city centers and suburbs will– after the committees are settled, the speeches made, the funds raised, the petitions signed– act. They have organizing tools unavailable in past revolutions. Digital platforms flowing into every hand can inform with virtual velocity; Google maps assure you that your small effort is fed into a nationwide net of tens of thousands; you are not alone. Leaders can materialize in weeks with Twitter and Facebook skills at their command, cameras everywhere recording their emergence. Film celebrities join in, drawing even greater numbers to the effort. These are essentially what we have, and they may indeed be what are appropriate at a time when representatives of our police state are more numerous and more heavily armed, endowed with more authority and less tolerance.
Those gathered to remember Lynne Stewart last week were authentic, tried revolutionaries: poets Nat Turner and Amina Baraka; former political prisoners, attorneys who had stepped forward to defend unpopular characters, teachers, organizers in solidarity with Cuba and Palestinian statehood from the 1960s to today; Vietnam war veterans and the unjustly imprisoned; defiant elected representatives from New Jersey and Brooklyn; the journalist and theologian Chris Hedges who refuses to join the liberal voice that claims it is the rightful alternative to the Republican party.
Each woman and man reminded us what makes a revolution. Each invoked the grass roots experience of Stewart, a librarian and teacher who turned to law in order to fight injustices she witnessed in the lives of her students. Eventually she took on the case of Muslims wrongly accused in the early 1990s when the government was using secret evidence to illegally charge and convict. Where other attorneys shied away from representing terror suspects, Lynne Stewart remained committed. There was some success when the government was eventually prevented from further use of secret evidence.
Then came the 9/11 attacks, and everything changed. Only Stewart insisted on defending attorney-client privilege (a right the government suspended). She had to be stopped. And they had to put Stewart, at the age of 73, in jail to do so.
As Brooklyn assemblyman Charles Barron reminded us on Saturday, “Lynne was a sweet person.” Even as she presented her cases and spoke to the media, she was always mild and respectful, always witty and bright-eyed. It’s not simply that she’s missed. We need to believe others as courageous and well equipped as Stewart was can come to our aid today.
The machinations to install a 31-year-old prince to the Saudi throne is a Verdi Opera in four acts
Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.
There was a wide variety of responses to my most recent column which asked if we could finally get over Bernie Sanders. Quite a few scorned my words for their alleged bitterness and nastiness towards Sanders, which I can handle, but it also occurred to me that I really should have teased out one final point that indicates what is wrong with the current coordinates.
Perhaps it is worth pointing out a few things. First, as someone who follows the entryist tactical playbook of Irving Howe and Michael Harrington’s Democratic Socialists of America, he has always been and always will be a Democratic Party politician regardless of whether CNN and MSNBC put an (I) next to his name. As Paul Street wrote in 2015,
“[I]n 1988, Sanders got a lesson on the perils of third party politics when he ran for federal office. In the election for Vermont’s seat in the House of Representatives, the independent Sanders and Democrat Paul Poirer divided the majority vote and the contest went to a Republican. Sanders responded by drifting right and cutting a deal with the Vermont Democrats: the party would permit no serious candidate to run against him while he blocked serious third party formation in Vermont and adopted positions in line with the national corporate war Democrats.”
The notion that Sanders somehow is an independent anything is part of a larger campaign that is intended to consolidate the Democratic Party’s control of a base they do no have a firm grasp on yet (thankfully). Whether Sanders sticks to the noble goals of Howe and Harrington, to transform the Democrats from the inside out without a third party creating an equal external pressure, is besides the point, in effect by refusing to work with third parties he is simply doing a very nasty and duplicitous job in a more effective fashion than Hillary Clinton was able to (which is not exactly a large feat with all things considered in hindsight, by the way).
Second, as someone who was involved with the Rhode Island Green Party’s efforts in 2016 and has remained involved with them since Election Day, I can dutifully report that Sanders has made absolutely zero outreach to any third parties at all. In my mind, this is an issue of high school level political physics. You need to have pressure exerted both internally and externally on the Democratic Party to hope for any change. Yet instead the Democrats have done the following to hinder this. First, they perpetuate a myth about Jill Stein being the reason Trump was elected. Second, the leadership of booster clubs like the Progressive Democrats have remained ambivalent if not outright hostile to Greens, instead allowing random brain fart balloons to float into the aether every once in a while about how “we need a new party” as if good people have not already been working on that issue for over 20 years.
Third, the so-called “resistance” is really not much more than middle-class flash mobs who congregate in a location with signs and feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of a day where no tangible gains were made. Sorry folks but the Civil Rights movement actually got a tangible set of policies from the Democrats. And even then Martin Luther King, Jr. threw up his hands in disgust and denounced the Democratic Party, which at that time was controlled by an entire generation of politicians who were far to the left of Sanders on major issues.
The reason for what is wrong here is borne out by this old myth.
Many people already know the apocryphal tale of when FDR hosted A. Phillip Randolph at the White House. After being presented with demands, he is alleged to have said “Very good, I agree with your demands. Now go make me do it.”
I remain skeptical of that story and have previously speculated my own counter. After he was inaugurated, FDR called for a multi-day banking holiday and hosted the executives of Wall Street in Washington. Not only was Roosevelt their former Governor in a geographical sense, he was a member of their class in the Marxist sense of the term. It is merely conjecture here on my part but it seems pretty obvious in the hindsight of history that he told these bankers “Look, you all know what is at play here. The people are in the streets calling for these Welfare state programs. Now we either agree to give them to them now or the next stop for each and every one of us is going to be the guillotine.” This was less than twenty years after the Russian revolution and at a time when both the Communist Party and the nascent fascist movements neared their moment of most swollen ranks. I tend to believe FDR and his banker classmates accepted an obvious reality and allowed the Democratic Party to be changed from a traditional liberal party into a labor party. Of course the climax here is the anti-Communist hawk John F. Kennedy, son of FDR’s first SEC chairman, began the revocation of these Welfare state measures through a series of tax cuts only after his brother, the left hand man of Joe McCarthy, had delegitimized and defenestrated the Left that had created this Welfare state and helped incubate the nascent Civil Rights movement during the 1930s and ’40s.
The distinction between a labor party and a liberal party might be quite obscure to our unfathomably anti-intellectual republic but it is quite real. Liberal politicians and their parties are in favor of policies and actions that favor the unhindered movement of capital, opposing Welfare state policies that require financing through a progressive tax code, protectionist trade policy, deficit spending, and the public sector generating employment opportunities to move as close as possible to full employment. By contrast, labor parties articulate via legislation the demands of the working class and enact such policies to stave off the guillotine. It is true that since prior to the Civil War that the Democrats had included the labor movement in their base. However, as described by W.E.B. Du Bois in his Black Reconstruction in America when he profiles ‘The White Worker’, this was the segregated element of labor movement, based around the antecedents of Horace Greeley and the AFL, that was alienated from the Abolitionists and also in favor of a colonial-genocidal westward expansion. Du Bois writes:
In 1857, George I. Holyoake sent an anti-slavery address to America, signed by 1,800 English workingmen, whom Karl Marx himself was guiding in England, and this made the black American worker a central text… This English initiative had at first but limited influence in America. The trade unions were willing to admit that the Negroes ought to be free sometime; but at the present, self-preservation called for their slavery; and after all, whites were a different grade of workers from blacks. Even when the Marxian ideas arrived, there was a split; the earlier representatives of the Marxian philosophy in America agreed with the older Union movement in deprecating any entanglement with the abolition controversy.
The difference between the two is quite obviously the power dynamic. The ruling class is in charge of liberal parties and the working class is in charge of labor parties.
And so we need to ask a pretty simple question at this point, who is in charge of Bernie Sanders and his Our Revolution (TM) organization? Are the near-catatonic labor unions dictating terms of engagement to either? Do we see the Rainbow Coalition or the NAACP or other minority rights advocacy groups interacting with either of them? Is there any indication that either is just barely maintaining control of a swollen and agitated mass of activists who are thinking fondly of the guillotine at this point?
I have not personally gotten involved with either the Sanders campaign or now Our Revolution. But my overwhelming sense from observation is things are the exact opposite. Bernie Sanders is a curmudgeonly rock star whose every word is clung to with devotion. Trying to organize for real progressive issues like single-payer healthcare or ending war or transition to renewable energy is just a little bit harder these days because really genuine and good progressives who I want to work with are saying “No, we have to wait for what Bernie does first.” The power dynamic here is all wrong and needs to be flipped for anything to develop.
Just consider as an example the single-payer issue. Sanders has been saying for a few months now that he intends to submit a single-payer bill to the Senate. Already Rep. John Conyers has introduced HR 676, considered the gold standard of single payer bills. But as Russell Mokhiber pointed out on March 27, “Sanders has been telling people he will introduce health care reform legislation in the Senate within a couple of weeks. But it’s not going to be a companion bill to HR 676. Instead, Sanders is telling reporters he wants to ‘move toward Medicare for all.’”
Someone once told me that procrastination and masturbation are essentially the same thing because in the end you are just f%cking yourself. But the fact Sanders is doing this at the expense of literally millions, including myself, who need a decent healthcare plan, makes this closer to a lewd act that usually gets one put on a sex offenders registry after a stint in jail.
As for my scorn for Sanders in the past 24 months, perhaps it deserves explanation. I never had interest in Bernie and I was always scornful of his routine, tempting as it was, because I was seeing every day exactly what the Democratic Party actually was, is, and always will be regardless of what a singular politician from Vermont says to the contrary. I work daily with inner city students in Providence, the poorest of the poor. The city is under a type of austerity that mandates what in any decent civilization would be deemed child abuse. My anger at Sanders, which I kindle and harbor every day I walk into work, is based primarily on the fact he dared try to give anything but scorn and condemnation to the Democratic Party whose machine cities, like Providence or Boston, do such awful things to children. I have seen enough children, at the peak of their adolescent development, eating bags of potato chips for breakfast because things are that tough at home. A few months ago, after a minor bout of snow closed schools across the state for a few days, Providence by contrast opened as soon as possible. Reporter Dan McGowan explained why :
When Providence residents woke up to very little new snow Monday morning, it looked as though Mayor Jorge Elorza made the right call by deciding schools would open on a two-hour delay rather than close altogether… “City families rely on the support services and programs that Providence Public Schools provide, including the more than 20,000 free or reduced-price meals provided daily to qualifying students,” Laura Hart, a spokesperson for the school department, said Sunday… If the mayor chose to close schools Monday, it would have been the fifth consecutive day off for students. (That includes school closures on Thursday and Friday, plus the weekend.) Elorza didn’t want to take a chance that some students would be missing out on breakfast or lunch for another day.
The impoverishment of those children did not come from Donald Trump or Paul Ryan. That was all done by a Democratic Party machine whose xenophobia and racism shuns the “ill-ee-gullz” and excludes them from hiring for even measly jobs. So every day I was seeing this in the morning and at night would go home to see Sanders on television, in his gruff and manipulative way, corral progressives back into the pen of the Democratic Party. How dare he. I was so furious and heartbroken by this that I had nothing but bile in my mouth when I saw his visage on television or heard how people Felt the Bern. Finally one night, after a day of watching this sort of stuff being done to children by the blessed Democratic Party, I finally put on Paul Robeson’s rendition of Shenandoah, one of the most beautiful songs recorded in human history, and cried for a good hour in a way I have not since I was a child.
It was one of those epic sobs that hits the bottom of your stomach like a good sucker punch and cakes your nose with snot so thick it feels like you inhaled a half-quart of cake frosting.
If I am asked if I choose between Bernie Sanders or the kids I work with, what the hell do you expect from me? That is ultimately the crux of what I felt the Sanders campaign was asking of me, to forgive the Democratic Party for this sort of child abuse. I respect the people who follow Michael Harrington’s lead with the Democratic Socialists of America and correspond quite frequently with some. But in Providence, money talks and all else walks. Just a few weeks ago Brown University alumnus and DNC Chair Tom Perez rolled into town and indicated the future of progressive politics in the Democratic Party was embodied by…Gina Raimondo, the queen of privatizing public services and utilities! Whoopee!
Around this same time, a certain ornery New Lefty told me I was a liberal rather than a radical because I said that I think getting those kids decent breakfast was revolutionary. Maybe s/he’s right, saying that kids should be fed decently with a slogan like PEACE-LAND-BREAD-ALL POWER TO THE SOVIETS never got anywhere. Either way, here is what one Bolshevik said about that sort of thing:
Say we want a revolution
We better get on right away
Well you get on your feet
And into the street
Singing power to the people
If progressives want to have Bernie Sanders involved in their efforts for change, make him beg for your respect. Lead him rather than letting him lead you, preferably in a fashion akin to the dog walker who barely has control of his wards as he is dragged down the sidewalk. The collapse of the Old Left was based around a failure to keep that paramount. Instead, they allowed Joseph Stalin to turn their revolution into a top-down organization that was primarily about worshipping him and excusing his awful behavior. That mistake caused the holocaust of the Vietnam War. We owe it to the children to not make that mistake again. And with climate change broiling the Arctic at an accelerated pace, we don’t have the time to make it.
With Sanders, you must go make him do it or else it will be our ruination. It seems clear that many want Sanders involved in the opposition to Trump. I hope he will take up such a challenge rather than arresting the development of a movement.
The French presidential race is now down to two candidates. On the evening of the final selection, the winners and losers addressed their supporters and the television audience. Almost all of them concluded their remarks by saying: “Vive La France, Vive La République.”
For a Francophone audience, this may be a traditional signing off. For an American observer this was unusual. Recent American presidents have traditionally ended their victory speeches with a reference to God. George H.W. Bush 1988: “Thanks for everything, and God bless America.” Bill Clinton 1992: “God bless America.” Bill Clinton 1996: “Thank you, goodnight and God bless America.” George W. Bush 2000: Thank you very much, and God bless America.” George W. Bush 2004 “God bless you, and may God bless America.” Barack Obama 2008: “God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.” Obama in 2012: “Thank you America. God bless you. God bless these United States.” Donald Trump was the first newly elected president since Ronald Reagan in 1984 not to end his victory speech with a reference to God.
A reference to God also appears on U.S. money. “In God We Trust” was historically on coins and became the official U.S. motto in 1956. It first appeared on paper money in 1957 to distinguish the United States from the godless Soviet Union.
But does this mean that the United States is a religious country? While court cases have tested whether the name of God should be invoked as a motto and on currency, the U.S. legally separates God and the state. Walter A. McDougall’s insightful The Tragedy of U.S. Foreign Policy: How America’s Civil Religion Betrayed the National Interest argues that the U.S., although a non-religious country, has had a civil religion that has tragically led it to believe that God is always on its side. This explains why modern presidents, except Trump, have invoked God’s blessing.
Are the French more patriotic than Americans? Why is it so important to call for the continuation of the country as well as the République? One could understand why right-wing nationalists would use this invocation, but it seems to be used by a wide political spectrum. To call for the continuation of the country is odd for an American, but then again the United States has never been occupied by a foreign power. To call for the continuation of a republican form of government is also odd for an American, but then again there have been other forms of government in France while the United States has had the same form of government since its beginning over almost 250 years ago. Americans have never lived under a monarchy, thanks to Washington’s refusal to be king.
Election speeches appeal to the general public. They are the most obvious form of communication between elected officials and their constituents. Therefore, the words used are important indications of the coded understandings between the electorate and the elected. The words used are signifiers of the accepted assumptions.
As a matter of fact, Trump may turn out to be the first president in modern history to be both godless and unpatriotic. At the recent Easter Egg Roll on the White House lawn, the national anthem was played. As reported in the press: “First Lady Melania Trump and 11-year-old son Barron both immediately put their hands over their hearts while the president stood with his hands by his side. It appeared that Melania then gave her husband a gentle nudge with her left arm, prompting him to also cover his heart.”
Trump as godless and unpatriotic! A truly unique president.
Turkish President condemns decision to put country back on Council of Europe watch list as 'entirely political'
Detention orders have been issued for 1,000 people across 81 of Turkey's provinces
Journal of Markets and Morality, Forthcoming, 21 PagesAbstract
Scholars of John Maynard Keynes’ life and contributions to economics have tended to approach his involvement in the early 20th century eugenics movement by either:
(1) historicizing it as a regrettable political curiosity with only minor connections to his larger system of economic thought or,
(2) positing an evolutionary turn in Keynes’ thinking that led him to abandon his earlier neo-Malthusian principles in the late 1920s.
In this paper, we reexamine the role that eugenicist beliefs played in the formation of Keynesian macroeconomic theory, particularly as it concerned the problem of unemployment. Turning to a historical analysis of Keynes’ writings and accompanying archival material, we present evidence of a continuity of eugenicist themes that links his early work on population control to his embrace of state-organized economic design at the mature phase of his career. Taken in sum, eugenics adds a complicated moral dimension to the genesis of Keynesian thought, though one that we also note is highly consistent with the technocratic inclinations of progressive era policymaking.The Economic Eugenicism of John Maynard Keynes was first posted on April 26, 2017 at 2:16 am.
Mike Pompeo, in his first speech as director of the CIA, chose to declare war on free speech rather than on the United States’ actual adversaries. He went after WikiLeaks, where I serve as editor, as a “non-state hostile intelligence service.” In Pompeo’s worldview, telling the truth about the administration can be a crime — as Attorney General Jeff Sessions quickly underscored when he described my arrest as a “priority.” News organizations reported that federal prosecutors are weighing whether to bring charges against members of WikiLeaks, possibly including conspiracy, theft of government property and violating the Espionage Act.
All this speech to stifle speech comes in reaction to the first publication in the start of WikiLeaks’ “Vault 7” series. Vault 7 has begun publishing evidence of remarkable CIA incompetence and other shortcomings. This includes the agency’s creation, at a cost of billions of taxpayer dollars, of an entire arsenal of cyber viruses and hacking programs — over which it promptly lost control and then tried to cover up the loss. These publications also revealed the CIA’s efforts to infect the public’s ubiquitous consumer products and automobiles with computer viruses.
When the director of the CIA, an unelected public servant, publicly demonizes a publisher such as WikiLeaks as a “fraud,” “coward” and “enemy,” it puts all journalists on notice, or should. Pompeo’s next talking point, unsupported by fact, that WikiLeaks is a “non-state hostile intelligence service,” is a dagger aimed at Americans’ constitutional right to receive honest information about their government. This accusation mirrors attempts throughout history by bureaucrats seeking, and failing, to criminalize speech that reveals their own failings.
The post The CIA director is waging war on truth-tellers like WikiLeaks appeared first on The Libertarian Institute.The CIA director is waging war on truth-tellers like WikiLeaks was first posted on April 26, 2017 at 2:03 am.
President Trump, who flipped his position on NATO (amongst his many other flips) is now trying to explain why he originally and accurately called the military bureaucracy “obsolete.”
Trump’s new excuse is that he “didn’t know much about NATO,” when he said it, which isn’t very encouraging considering he was running for President of The United States!
But then Trump let out a massive truth that should have stopped everyone in their tracks. He said: “You know, back when they did NATO there was no such thing as terrorism.”
What a HUGE statement! And it’s true!
Sure there was localized terroristic activity inside certain countries. Groups are always trying to get in control of wielding state power. Terrorism is a tactic.
But Trump is correct. There was “no such thing as terrorism” compared to what we see today. The Western World wasn’t constantly on alert and forming police/surveillance states at home out of fear of terrorism.
No, in fact, the Western World was foolishly on alert in fear of bankrupt Communism.
The West was forming police/surveillance states at home under the guise that the commies were coming.
Well the commies folded like a cheap deck of cards.
Poof! … Gone.
Did America do the intelligent thing and fold up the military empire after the commies disappeared?
It was off to the Middle East!
Kuwait, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria…
Killing on a massive scale. Estimates range that over a million people have died. When it came to the death of 500,000 children in Iraq, the U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright said that it was “worth it.”
As a consequence, terrorism filled the void that was left by the commies. A new official enemy.
Here’s a key question: Did Islam exist when NATO was formed? Did Islam exist during the 1700s, 1800s, 1900s?
Of course it did.
Islam isn’t a religion that sprang up yesterday. Islam came to be many hundreds of years ago.
So why was terrorism never a worry? Why did it become a worry after the U.S. went into the Middle East? Why wasn’t it a worry before?
You know who has been trying to tell Americans this very thing for years?
Of course you know:
The post Trump Vocalized A Massive Truth About Terrorism…But Is Anyone Paying Attention? appeared first on The Libertarian Institute.Trump Vocalized A Massive Truth About Terrorism…But Is Anyone Paying Attention? was first posted on April 26, 2017 at 1:54 am.
Lately, a big question on everyone’s mind has been: Do I have to give my password to customs agents?
As anyone who’s ever watched any cop show knows, the Fifth Amendment gives you the right to remain silent and to refuse to provide evidence against yourself – even at the border. If a CBP agent asks you a question, you can tell them you choose to remain silent and want to speak to an attorney, even if you don’t have one retained yet. That choice may not stop CBP agents from pressuring you to “voluntarily” talk to them, but they are supposed to stop questioning you once you ask for a lawyer. Also, beware that government agents are permitted to lie to you in order to convince you to waive your right to remain silent, but you can be criminally prosecuted if you lie to them.
CBP agents are unlikely to advise you that you have this choice because the government generally argues that such warnings are only required if you are taken into “custody” and subjected to a criminal prosecution. And at least one federal court of appeals has determined that secondary inspection – the separate interview area you get referred to if the CBP officer can’t readily verify your information at the initial port of entry – doesn’t qualify as “custody.”
But you don’t have to be in custody or subject to a criminal prosecution before you choose to invoke your Fifth Amendment rights to remain silent or to object to being deprived of your property without due process of law. For example, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals has held that a person’s request for an attorney is enough to invoke the privilege against self-incrimination, even at the border.
And that privilege includes refusing to provide the password to your device. For example, in 2015, a Pennsylvania court held that you may properly invoke the Fifth Amendment privilege to avoid giving up your cell phone passcode – even to an employer’s phone – because your passcode is personal in nature and producing it requires you to speak or testify against yourself.
Some courts have been less protective, overriding Fifth Amendment protections where the information sought is a so-called “foregone conclusion.” In 2012, a Colorado court ordered a defendant to provide the password to her laptop, only after the government had obtained a search warrant based on the defendant’s admission that there was specific content on her laptop and that the laptop belonged to her. On appeal, the Eleventh Circuit clarified that the government “must [first] show with some reasonable particularity that it seeks a certain file and is aware, based on other information, that . . . the file exists in some specified location” and that the individual has access to the desired file or is capable of decrypting it.
So, Fifth Amendment protections do apply at the border, and they protect your right to refuse to reveal your password in most circumstances. That said, individuals passing through the border sometimes choose to surrender their account information and passwords anyway, in order to avoid consequences like missing their flight, being made subject to more constrictive or prolonged detention, or being denied entry to the US.
As we have noted in our Digital Border Search Whitepaper, the consequences for refusing to provide your password(s) are different for different classes of individuals. If you are a U.S. citizen, CBP cannot detain you indefinitely as you have a right to re-enter the country. However, agents may escalate the encounter (for example, by detaining you for more time), or flag you for heightened screening during future border crossings. If you are a lawful permanent resident, agents may also raise complicated questions about your continued status as a resident. If you are a foreign visitor, agents might deny you entry to the country entirely.
But whatever your status, whether you choose to provide your passwords or not, border agents may decide to seize your digital devices. While CBP guidelines set a five-day deadline for agents to return detained devices unless a CBP supervisor approves a lengthier detention, in practice, device detentions commonly last many months.
We recommend that you review our pocket guides for Knowing Your Rights and Protecting Your Digital Data Privacy at the border for a general overview or take a look at our Border Search Whitepaper for a deeper dive into the potential issues and questions you may face.
The post Fifth Amendment Protections for Account Passwords and Device Passcodes appeared first on The Libertarian Institute.Fifth Amendment Protections for Account Passwords and Device Passcodes was first posted on April 26, 2017 at 1:44 am.
Somebody give Attorney General Jeff Sessions a copy of the Constitution.
And while you’re at it, get a copy to President Trump, too.
In fact, you might want to share a copy with the nation’s police officers, as well.
I have my doubts that any of these individuals—all of whom swore to uphold and defend the Constitution—have ever read any of the nation’s founding documents.
Had they actually read and understood the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights, there would be no militarized police, no mass surveillance, no police shootings of unarmed individuals, no SWAT team raids, no tasering of children, no asset forfeiture schemes or any of the other government-sanctioned abuses that get passed off as law and order these days.
Just take the policing crisis in this country, for instance.
Sessions—the chief lawyer for the government and the head of the Justice Department, which is entrusted with ensuring that the nation’s laws are faithfully carried out and holding government officials accountable to abiding by their oaths of office to “uphold and defend the Constitution”—doesn’t think we’ve got a policing problem in America.
In fact, Sessions thinks the police are doing a great job (apart from “the individual misdeeds of bad actors,” that is).
For that matter, so does Trump.
Really, really great.
Indeed, Sessions thinks the nation’s police forces are doing such a great job that they should be rewarded with more military toys (weapons, gear, equipment) and less oversight by the Justice Department.
Excuse me for a moment while I flush what remains of the Constitution down the toilet.
Clearly, Sessions has not been briefed on the fact that it has never been safer to be a cop in America. According to Newsweek, “It’s safer to be a cop than it is to be a fisher, logger, pilot, roofer, miner, trucker or taxi driver.”
You know what’s dangerous?
Being a citizen of the American police state.
Treating cops as deserving of greater protections than their fellow citizens.
And training cops to think and act like they’re soldiers on a battlefield.
As journalist Daniel Bier warns, “If you tell cops over and over that they’re in a war, they’re under siege, they’re under attack, and that citizens are the enemy—instead of the people they’re supposed to protect—you’re going to create an atmosphere of fear, tension, and hostility that can only end badly, as it has for so many people.”
Frankly, if there’s a war taking place in this country, it’s a war on the American people.
After all, we’re the ones being shot at and tasered and tracked and beaten and intimidated and threatened and invaded and probed.
And what is the government doing to fix this policing crisis that threatens the safety of every man, woman and child in this country?
Not a damn thing.
Incredibly, according to a study by the American Medical Association, police-inflicted injuries send more than 50,000 Americans to hospital emergency rooms every year.
Yet as Slate warns, if you even dare to criticize a police officer let alone challenge the myth of the hero cop—a myth “used to legitimize brutality as necessary, justify policies that favor the police, and punish anyone who dares to question police tactics or oppose the unions’ agendas”— you will be roundly denounced “as disloyal, un-American, and dangerous.”
As reporter David Feige concludes, “We should appreciate the value and sacrifice of those who choose to serve and protect. But that appreciation should not constitute a get-out-of-jail-free card for the vast army of 800,000 people granted general arrest powers and increasingly armed with automatic weapons and armored vehicles.”
The fact that police are choosing to fatally resolve encounters with their fellow citizens by using their guns speaks volumes about what is wrong with policing in America today, where police officers are being dressed in the trappings of war, drilled in the deadly art of combat, and trained to look upon “every individual they interact with as an armed threat and every situation as a deadly force encounter in the making.”
Mind you, the federal government is the one responsible for turning our police into extensions of the military, having previously distributed billions of dollars’ worth of military equipment to local police agencies, including high-powered weapons, assault vehicles, drones, tactical gear, body armor, weapon scopes, infrared imaging systems and night-vision goggles—equipment intended for use on the battlefield—not to mention federal grants for militarized training and SWAT teams.
Thus, despite what Attorney General Sessions wants you to believe, the daily shootings, beatings and roadside strip searches (in some cases, rape) of American citizens by police are not random occurrences, accidents or isolated, anecdotal examples of a few bad actors.
Rather, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, this is what happens when you allow so-called “law and order” to matter more than justice: corruption flourishes, injustice reigns and tyranny takes hold.
Yet no matter what Trump and Session seem to believe, nowhere in the Constitution does it say that Americans must obey the government.
Despite the corruption of Congress and the complicity of the courts, nowhere does the Constitution require absolute subservience to the government’s dictates.
And despite what most police officers seem to believe, nowhere does the Constitution state that Americans must comply with a police order.
To suggest otherwise is authoritarianism.
This is also, as abolitionist Frederick Douglass noted, the definition of slavery: “I didn’t know I was a slave until I found out I couldn’t do the things I wanted.”
You want to know what it means to be a slave in the American police state?
It means being obedient, compliant and Sieg Heil!-ing every government agent armed with a weapon. If you believe otherwise, try standing up for your rights, being vocal about your freedoms, or just challenging a government dictate, and see how long you last before you’re staring down the barrel of a loaded government-issued gun.The Iron Jaws of the Police State was first posted on April 26, 2017 at 1:38 am.
The dire situation in Venezuela holds valuable lessons for the American people.
The first lesson involves Venezuela’s economic system, which is based on socialism and interventionism. It has produced nothing but chaos, crisis, misery, conflict, discord, and poverty. That’s what socialism does. As an economic system, it is a total failure.
Why is that a valuable lesson for Americans? Because the welfare state economic system that Americans adopted in the 1930s is a variation of socialism. That’s what such programs as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, subsidies, public schooling, the postal service, Amtrak, immigration controls, the Federal Reserve, and progressive income taxation are all about. They are based either on the socialist concept of taking money from those who own it and give to people who don’t own it or the socialist concept of central planning. That’s precisely why all these programs have produced chaos, crisis, misery, conflict, discord, and poverty. The only reason that things are not as bad here as they are in Venezuela is because Venezuelan public officials have embraced socialist principles to a greater degree than U.S. officials have.
Second, the ongoing economic chaos and crises in Venezuela have led to greater and greater government control over people’s economic activities, to such a point that the nation is now living under a democratically elected authoritarian police state. That’s because, as Ludwig von Mises pointed out, each economic intervention inevitably leads to more interventions to fix the crises caused by previous interventions. As the interventions add up, the result tends toward a complete government takeover of economic activity, which inevitably is enforced with brutal police-state measures.
We especially see this phenomenon here in the United States in three areas — healthcare, drug laws, and immigration controls.Venezuela’s Lessons for America was first posted on April 26, 2017 at 1:30 am.
“Two corrupt cops from the NYPD licensing division were plied with strippers, wined, dined and taken on lavish vacations to Mexico and the Bahamas,” reports the New York Daily News. Why? Because in return for nice things, they were allegedly willing to “expedite” the process of applying for and receiving gun permits.
Left unmentioned in the story is the other why. Why would someone be willing to blow that kind of money on gun permits?
Simple: Because New York City’s government requires such permits, then makes the process for getting them long (3-6 months), tedious (in addition to the application, up to nine pieces of paperwork and one or more “personal interviews”), expensive (a non-refundable application fee of $340, plus $87 for a fingerprint check) and, worst of all, discretionary. After rolling around in all that red tape, maybe the police bureaucrat “assisting” you doesn’t like the way you look that day and it turns out you just wasted a bunch of time and money.
It’s unsurprising that a secondary industry would spring up to make the application process easier (although obviously more expensive). It’s equally unsurprising that people with more money than time would farm out their permit needs to that industry. And it’s not surprising at all that that industry would, if necessary, resort to bribery to deliver the goods.
The US Constitution is crystal clear on the subject at hand: “[T]he right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Legally conditioning exercise of that right on possession of a permit is most manifestly an infringement.
Additionally, leaving issuance of permits under the clearly unconstitutional scheme to the discretion of bureaucrats is a recipe for both tyranny and corruption.
Finally, as a practical matter, the permit scheme only wastes the time and money — and places at risk the lives — of those who choose to be “law-abiding.” Criminals who want to carry guns don’t apply for permits to do so. They’re criminals, remember? They don’t care if they’re breaking laws, nor do they want their identities tied to the guns they use in the commission of their crimes.
It might be going a bit far to describe cops who “expedite” gun permits in return for cash bribes or favors as heroes. But they’re not nearly as corrupt as the system they’re accused of subverting. New York City needs to abandon its evil and unconstitutional “gun control” schemes.
The post NYC Gun Permit Scandal: Graft is Inevitable in a Corrupt System appeared first on The Libertarian Institute.NYC Gun Permit Scandal: Graft is Inevitable in a Corrupt System was first posted on April 26, 2017 at 1:26 am.
Neil deGrasse Tyson has released a new video aimed at a what he sees as a growing anti-intellectualism problem in the United States. It was released at the same time as the March for Science and many Earth Day demonstrations. He reflects on what he thinks made America great and what’s stalling progress today. Science used to be respected, but today, there is a growing crowd of science-deniers who threaten our “informed democracy.”
The real anti-intellectual move, however, is conflating science, the scientific method, and truth to be one and the same. Fundamentally, science is any human attempt at discovering truth. What is true exists independently from what humans believe to be true or how humans arrive at truth claims. The scientific method, the process of using repeated experiments in an attempt to validate or falsify the conclusions of previous experiments, is but one way humans attempt to discover truth.
The purpose of the video was to call out the obstinate, ignorant voters who deny what many regard as certain truths handed to them by a body of elite, trustworthy scientists. Yet Tyson and the marchers border on an equally dangerous view: scientism.Scientism isn’t scientific
Scientism is the over-reliance on or over-application of the scientific method. Scientism has many forms, one of which is the use of empirical methods to do economic science, or the dismissal of claims not based on experiment results that question other claims that are based on experiment results. Mises dealt with scientism repeatedly, and closely guarded the boundary between economics and other sciences.
The scientific method is not universally appropriate. Consider an extreme case: if you measured a few right triangles and observed that the sides did not correspond to what the Pythagorean theorem says, would you toss the Pythagorean theorem, or would you reexamine your measurement method? Would you dismiss the logical geometric relation in favor of the scientific method?
The scientific method is particularly suited for the natural sciences. It’s hard to recommend a different method than experimentation and observation to answer questions about chemical reactions, astrophysics, quantum mechanics, and biology.
The scientific method is unnecessary or even ill-suited in other areas, however. Consider these questions, and what sort of approach is appropriate to answer them: What is 17 divided by 3? All else held equal, what are the effects of an increase in demand for blue jeans? Who should I invite to my party? What are the effects of expansionary monetary policy on employment, prices, incomes, production, consumption, and borrowing? How should I treat people?
Of course, Neil deGrasse Tyson wouldn’t recommend using the scientific method to answer all of these questions (hopefully), but the point is that empiricism and experimentation are limited in their appropriate applications. The scientific method does not have a monopoly on truth.Always open to falsification
The scientific method has another large limitation: conclusions derived solely by experimentation are always susceptible to falsification by just one aberrant observation. For this reason and others, even wide consensus among scientists should be met with at least some skepticism before the heavy hand of the government gets involved.
In 1992, the government, backed by the scientific community, told you that you needed 6-11 daily servings of bread, cereal, rice, and/or pasta to maintain good nutrition (and that saturated and animal fats are to be avoided). Many government policies and public school food offerings were based on this recommendation, including, suspiciously, agricultural subsidies and import tariffs. But then, years later, new information revealed this to be terrible advice, after a big jump in diabetes diagnoses and obesity rates.
Or, consider the government’s attempts at alleviating malaria. The National Malaria Eradication Program sprayed DDT in 4,650,000 homes and overhead by aircraft. Later, it was realized that DDT is carcinogenic and the spraying had a severe effect on the environment and wildlife, birds in particular. Birds of prey like the bald eagle are not considered endangered species anymore, and the ban on DDT is considered a major factor in their recovery. Even this conclusion is in question, including whether or not DDT is carcinogenic for humans, but the point is that the government itself backtracked on its own science-based solution to a problem. It banned a chemical it once sprayed indiscriminately.
Since the climate is such an important issue for Tyson, consider also the claims and predictions of various scientists around 1970. Earth Day had just started, and scientists were predicting rather apocalyptic scenarios, similar to what we are hearing today from climate scientists. To be clear, just because these predictions turned out to be “spectacularly wrong”, it doesn’t necessarily mean that modern claims are wrong. But it might explain a lot about the modern layperson’s skepticism, as opposed to sheer stupidity as Tyson suggests.
Sites like retractionwatch.com document the increasingly frequent cases in which academic journals must retract published research because the peer review process was a sham or when other fraudulent activity comes to light. A recent entry reports that Springer had to retract 107 papers on cancer due to fake peer reviews. Surprisingly, retraction doesn’t always mean fewer citations, as this top 10 list of most highly cited retracted papers demonstrates.Skepticism and science are good friends
These examples reveal another larger issue with Tyson’s argument. Tyson says, “every minute one is in denial, you are delaying the political solution.” The problem is that sometimes delays and denial are exactly what is needed. The scientific method requires time and attempts at falsification.
There is an inherent contradiction and arrogance in Tyson’s video. In one breath he is praising science and the way the scientific method works: “I get a result. A rival of mine double checks it, because they think I might be wrong.” But in the next breath, he declares to the doubter who also thinks some scientific conclusion might be wrong: “You don’t have that option! When you have an established, scientific emergent truth, it is true whether or not you believe in it.”
So the rival scientist is allowed to question the conclusions of other scientists because the conclusions might not be true, but nobody else is. We may not all be equipped with a laboratory, but we are all equipped with reason, experience, preferences, common sense (some more than others), gut instincts, some ideas about what is morally right and what is morally wrong, and our own areas of expertise. Surely these are not meaningless when it comes to judging the claims of a politically-connected technocratic elite and their policy recommendations.Political connections bias science
Like the food pyramid, political interference in the scientific process led to terrible consequences in scheduling various drugs. Marijuana, which is now widely accepted to be virtually harmless, is still scheduled with heroin and ecstasy, and higher than cocaine and methamphetamines. Yet researchers and agencies produced enough of Tyson’s “emergent truths” (which we are not to doubt) over the years to keep it that way. The effects of this prohibition have been devastating, including a prison system bursting at the seams, militarized local police, violent organized crime (legal and illegal), and more deaths than marijuana itself could ever cause on its own.
Indeed, when the government does or funds research, it seems to always arrive at the conclusions which involve the government getting larger in size and scope. To question these expansions is to question the science, and to question the science is to mark oneself a stubborn idiot.
Tyson is trying to convince these stubborn idiots to learn some science. Only then, he says, will they become the informed citizens this democracy needs. But what if the skeptics aren’t stupid? What if their skepticism is due to the perceived track record of the scientific community over the years (especially when the government is in the mix)?
Most of what Tyson perceives as anti-intellectualism may not be a problem with people’s ability to think, but an inability to trust a politically-connected scientific community that has led them astray in the past. Besides, if he really thinks too many Americans are too stupid, then he ought to look no further than the public education system that produced this alleged mass of illiterate science-deniers.Name-calling over debate
But I don’t think Tyson views the American electorate as 51% dumb and 49% smart. I think he knows that there are a few outliers with truly unscientific ideas and who will not be convinced of even the most obviously true scientific conclusions.
The implication in the video is that if you don’t go along with this one idea, you are just like those wacky outliers. Those who have a healthy skepticism of what the government and the intelligentsia claim are lumped together with the outliers as a rhetorical strategy.
In practice, however, even those who are on board with the science but disagree with the government solution to the problem, are also added to the same group of idiots.
It’s a rhetorical strategy that may not work for him. Having been in my fair share of debates, I know that insulting my opponents isn’t the best way to have them see things from my point of view. Suppose I come across a minimum wage proponent. Should I call them an ignorant economic-theory-denier, or should I just keep trying to convince them of the effects of minimum wage legislation? Should I treat them the same way I might treat somebody who holds to the completely debunked labor theory of value or somebody who thinks the economy is subject to the whims of lizard-people?The end goal: bigger government
At the end of the video, Tyson’s real interest becomes apparent. He wants the government to battle with the climate, stick everybody with the same vaccinations, and teach every student a materialistic explanation for the origins of the universe and human and animal life.
Tyson implies that scientific conclusions give way to political solutions, when often what is best is to simply inform the people of some new “emergent truth” and allow individuals and firms to change their behavior in light of and to the extent that they buy in. Top-down, universally enforced “solutions” often cause more problems than they solve and don’t have the flexibility, effectiveness, or economic viability that they need.
In the beginning of the video, Tyson asks, “How did America rise up from a backwoods country to be one of the greatest nations the world has ever known?” I would argue that the impressive accomplishments of the United States are in spite of and not because of government intervention. The economic development of the United States is due to a wide range of factors, including an early adherence to relatively laissez-faire economic policy, the industrial revolution, only the occasional war instead of the state of perpetual war we find ourselves in today, a relatively individualistic culture, an “entrepreneurial spirit”, and abundant natural resources and farmable land.
Certainly scientific and technological innovations played a major role. But my questions for Neil deGrasse Tyson are these: what made those scientific and technological innovations possible? Do you want Americans to be more scientifically literate as an end or as a means to establishing a political agenda? Does the government really need to get involved for us to solve all of our problems? What harm is there in further experimentation and further attempts at convincing the population of your ideas before resorting to silencing the unconvinced by labeling them “science deniers”?
Telling people not to question their government or a politically-connected scientist-class is dangerous. It’s throwing the baby out with the bath water, and it seems to run against his own values. Indeed, Neil deGrasse Tyson is frequently featured on a popular YouTube channel called “Question Everything”. We should encourage a healthy skepticism, especially when the government is involved.
When it comes to political solutions to Tyson’s list of problems, it means scarce resources must be employed toward some goal. This puts him outside of his jurisdiction, natural science, and into my jurisdiction, economics. Dare I tell him to not question my conclusions?Neil Ty, The Scientism Guy was first posted on April 26, 2017 at 1:19 am.