Peace and Prosperity Ron Paul Institute's flagship blog Copyright Ron Paul Institute Fri, 09 Jun 2023 15:17:59 GMT Fri, 09 Jun 2023 15:17:59 GMT War’s First Casualty: Ukraine Reportedly Sabotaged Nord Stream and Then Lied About It Jonathan Turley

It is often said that “The first casualty when war comes is truth.” The line is attributed to Hiram W Johnson in 1929 in a debate over a dubious effort to legislatively ban war. That line is not original to Johnson but what followed should be equally notable: “this mode of propaganda whereby … people become war hungry in their patriotism and are lied into a desire to fight. We have seen it in the past; it will happen again in the future.”

This week, a new story suggests that Johnson’s prediction may be proven . . . yet again. The Washington Post is reporting that material leaked by Jack Teixeira, a Massachusetts Air National Guardsman, revealed that the Biden Administration knew three months ago that it was Ukraine that was planning to sabotage the Nord Stream pipelines. Teixeira is now criminally charged under the Espionage Act.

If true, the Administration withheld the information for months as the media widely speculated that Russia blew up its own pipeline. Russia accused the United States of approving the attack by Ukrainian forces.

President Joe Biden was presumably informed by the intelligence agencies. Yet, as speculation continued and Russia pointed fingers as Ukrainian and the US, Biden told the public “the Russians are pumping out disinformation and lies. We will work with our allies to get to the bottom (of) precisely what happened. Just don’t listen to what Putin’s saying. What he’s saying we know is not true.”

As Biden “worked with our allies to get to the bottom of what happened,” the Administration knew that months previously it was told by a Ukrainian whistleblower that the CIA was told that a six-person team of Ukrainian special forces were planning to rent a boat, dive to the seafloor and blow up the Nord Stream project. The operation was reportedly led by Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyi, commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces.

It is not clear what president Volodymyr Zelenskiy knew or when he knew it. However, we knew of this report long before the pipeline was destroyed in the very way described by the whistleblower.

Not even the environmental damage by the alleged Ukrainian attack or the blow to our allies was enough for the Administration to reveal the alleged plot. The sabotage reportedly resulted in “more than 115,000 tons of natural gas escap[ing] the damaged pipeline in just six days, with a greenhouse gas contribution of approximately 15 million tons of CO2—or the amount of carbon that can be absorbed by roughly 580 million trees in a year.”

It was also not inclined to tell the press in multiple press conferences or presumably Congress as the Administration demanded billions for the war.

Now a new environmental disaster is building after sabotaging the Kakhovka hydro-electric dam in the Russian-controlled part of Ukraine. Russia has accused Ukraine and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused “Russian terrorists.”

This follows new evidence that Ukraine appeared responsible for the drone attack on the Kremlin recently. Zelenskyy also denied any involvement in that attack. Ukraine stood back as many of us speculated that this seemed like a false flag attack by Russia. After all, it seemed almost laughable in its objective if it sought to kill Putin or cause serious damage to the government.

Western countries have stressed that their military aid to Ukraine was premised on the country not attacking Russia on Russian soil. However, the larger question is whether such intelligence should be kept from Congress and the public when we have already spent over $75 billion on Ukraine.

It also raises a continued question over the Biden Administration withholding evidence that contradicts its national security claims. The Republicans have fought to gain access to a critical State Department cable that appears to refute President Biden and other officials who insisted that they had no prior warning of the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan. We ended up leaving $7 billion in top military equipment to terrorists, costing the lives of service members, and left thousands of allies behind.

The lack of candor over Ukraine denied critical information on the conduct of our ally at a time when the public is debating the increasing costs of the war. If Ukraine is engaging in sabotage against our other allies (and the environment), we have a right to know. If committed by Ukraine, the drone attack on the Kremlin was remarkably stupid. It threatened an escalation of the conflict with little obvious military advantage. With tens of billions of dollars going to Ukraine and a world teetering on the brink of a large conflict, we (and particularly Congress) need to know if our allies are telling us the truth or whether they are reliable allies. Likewise, if Zelenskyy did not now of these major operations, it is a fair question to ask who is really in charge of the country or whether Zelenskyy is engaging in willful blindness.

It is even more troubling when Administration officials are presenting conflicting accounts or denying any knowledge of countervailing facts.

Throughout our history, Administrations have jettisoned truth when embarking on war. The most glaring example is the Tonkin Bay Incident that was used to justify the Vietnam War, an attack on US vessels that was later debunked. Likewise, the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War revealed, according to the New York Times, the government “systematically lied, not only to the public but also to Congress.”

This is precisely why Congress is given oversight authority and why war powers are shared with Congress. The most important power held by Congress is the power of the purse. It has an obligation to guarantee that money is being spent wisely and based on accurate information.

Many of us supported the sanctions against Russia and still support the Ukrainians in their fight to protect their homeland. However, that does not mean that we should be played for chumps.

Reprinted with permission from]]> Fri, 09 Jun 2023 15:17:59 GMT
‘Give War a Chance’ – A ‘War That Even Pacifists Can Get Behind’ Alastair Crooke

More than a year into Russia’s Special Operation, the initial burst of European excitement at western push-back on Russia has dissipated. The mood instead has turned to “existential dread, a nagging suspicion that [western] civilisation may destroy itself,” Professor Helen Thompson writes.

For an instant, a euphoria had coalesced around the putative projection of the EU as a world power; as a key actor, about to compete on a world scale. Initially, events seemed to play to Europe’s conviction of its market powers: Europe was going to bring down a major power – Russia – by financial coup d’état alone. The EU felt ‘six feet tall.’

It seemed at the time a galvanising moment: “The war re-forged a long-dormant Manichaean framing of existential conflict between Russia and the West, assuming ontological, apocalyptic dimensions. In the spiritual fires of the war, the myth of the ‘West’ was rebaptised,” Arta Moeini suggests.

After the initial disappointment at the lack of a ‘quick kill’, the hope persisted – that if only the sanctions were given more time, and made more all-embracing, then Russia surely would ultimately collapse. That hope has turned to dust. And the reality of what Europe has done to itself has begun to dawn – hence Professor Thomson’s dire warning:
Those who assume that the political world can be reconstructed by the efforts of human Will, have never before had to bet so heavily on technology over [fossil] energy – as the driver of our material advancement.
For the Euro-Atlanticists however, what Ukraine seemed to offer – finally – was validation for their yearning to centralise power in the EU, sufficiently, to merit a place at the ‘top table’ with the US, as partners in playing the Great Game.

Ukraine, for better or worse, underlined Europe’s profound military dependence on Washington – and on NATO.

More particularly, the Ukraine conflict seemed to open the prospect for consolidating the strange metamorphosis of NATO from military alliance to an enlightened, Progressive, peace alliance! As Timothy Garton Ash effused in the Guardian in 2002, “NATO has become a European peace movement” where one could watch “John Lennon meet George Bush.”

The Ukraine war is portrayed, in this vein, as the “war­ that even former pacifists can get behind. All its proponents seemed to be singing is “Give War a Chance.”

Lily Lynch, a Belgrade-based writer, argues that...
…especially in the past 12 months, telegenic female leaders such as the Finnish Prime Minister, Sanna Marin, German Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock, and Estonian Prime Minister, Kaja Kallas, have increasingly served as the spokespersons of enlightened militarism in Europe … ”

No political party in Europe better exemplifies the shift from militant pacifism to ardent pro-war Atlanticism than the German Greens. Most of the original Greens had been radicals during the student protests of 1968 … But as the founding members entered middle age, fissures began to appear in the party – that would one day tear it apart.

Kosovo then changed everything: The 78-day NATO bombing of what remained of Yugoslavia in 1999, ostensibly to halt war crimes committed by Serbian security forces in Kosovo, would forever transform the German Greens. NATO for the Greens became an active military compact concerned with spreading and defending values such as human rights, democracy, peace, and freedom – well beyond the borders of its member states.
A few years later, in 2002, an EU functionary (Robert Cooper) could envisage Europe as a new ‘liberal imperialism.’ The ‘new’ was that Europe eschewed hard military power, in favour of weaponising both a controlled ‘narrative’ and controlled participation in its market. He advocated for ‘a new age of empire’, in which Western powers no longer would have to follow international law in their dealings with ‘old fashioned’ states; they could use military force independently of the United Nations; and could impose protectorates to replace regimes which ‘misgovern.'

The German Greens’ Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock, has continued with this metamorphosis, scolding countries with traditions of military neutrality, and imploring them to join NATO. She has invoked Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s line: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” And the European Left has been utterly captivated. Major parties have abandoned military neutrality and opposition to war – and now champion NATO. It is a stunning reversal.

All this may have been music to the ears of the Euro-élites anxious for the EU to rise to Great Power status, but this soft-power European Leviathan was wholly underpinned by the unstated (but essential) assumption that NATO ‘had Europe’s back.’ This naturally implied that the EU had to tie itself ever closer to NATO – and therefore to the US which controls NATO.

But the flip-side to this Atlanticist aspiration – as President Emmanuel Macron noted – is its inexorable logic that Europeans simply end by becoming American vassals. Macron was trying rather, to rally Europe towards the coming ‘age of empires’,hoping to position Europe as a ‘third pole’ in a concert of empires.

The Atlanticists were duly enraged by Macron’s remarks (which nonetheless drew support of other EU states). It could even seem (to furious Atlanticists) that Macron actually was channelling General de Gaulle who had called NATO a “false pretence” designed to “disguise America’s chokehold over Europe.”

There are however, two related schisms that flowed out from this ‘re-imagined’ NATO: Firstly, it exposed the reality of internal European rivalries and divergent interests, precisely because the NATO lead in the Ukraine conflict sets the interests of the Central East European hawks wanting ‘more America, and more war on Russia’ up and against that of the original EU western axis which wants wanting strategic autonomy (i.e. less ‘America’, and a quick end to the conflict).

Secondly, it would be predominantly the western economies that would have to bankroll the costs and divert their manufacturing capacity towards military logistic chains. The economic price, non-military de-industrialisation and high inflation, potentially, could be enough to break Europe – economically.

The prospect of a pan-European cohesive identity might be both ontologically appealing – and be seen to be an ‘appropriate accessory’ to an aspiring ‘world actor’ – yet such identity becomes caricature when mosaic Europe is transformed into an abstract de-territorialised identity that reduces people to their most abstract.

Paradoxically, the Ukraine war – far from consolidating the EU ‘identity’, as first imagined – has fractured it under the stresses of the concerted effort to weaken and collapse Russia.

Secondly, as Arta Moeini, the director of the Institute for Peace and Diplomacy, has observed:
The American push for NATO expansion since 1991 has enlarged the alliance by adding a host of faultline states from Central and Eastern Europe. The strategy, which began with the Clinton administration but was fully championed by the George W. Bush administration, was to create a decidedly pro-American pillar on the continent, centred on Warsaw – which would force an eastward shift in the alliance’s centre of gravity away from the traditional Franco-German axis.

By using NATO enlargement to weaken the old power centres in Europe that might have occasionally stood up to [Washington] such as in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, Washington ensured a more compliant Europe in the short-term. The upshot, however, was the formation of a 31-member behemoth with deep asymmetries of power and low compatibility of interests” – that is much weaker and more vulnerable – than it believes itself to be.
Here is the key: “the EU is much weaker than it believes it to be.” The outset of the conflict was defined by a cast of mind entranced by the notion of Europe as a ‘mover and shaker’ in world affairs, and mesmerised by Europe’s post-war prosperity.

EU leaders convinced themselves that this prosperity had bequeathed it the clout and the economic depth to contemplate war – and to weather its reversals – with panglossian sanguinity. It has produced rather, the converse: It has put its project in jeopardy.

In John Raply and Peter Heather’s The Imperial Life Cycle, the authors explain the cycle:
Empires grow rich and powerful and attain supremacy through the economic exploitation of their colonial periphery. But in the process, they inadvertently spur the economic development of that same periphery, until it can roll back and ultimately displace its overlord.
Europe’s prosperity in this post-war era, thus was not so much one of its own making, but drew benefit from the tail-end of accumulations hewn from an earlier cycle – now reversed.

“The fastest-growing economies in the world are now all in the old periphery; the worst-performing economies are disproportionately in the West. These are the economic trends that have created our present landscape of superpower conflict — most saliently between America and China.”

America may think of itself as exempt from the European colonial mould, yet fundamentally, its model is... updated cultural-political glue that we might call “neoliberalism, NATO and denim,” which follows in the timeless imperial mould: The great wave of decolonisation that followed WW2 was meant to end that. But the Bretton Woods system, which created a trading regime that favoured industrial over primary producers and enshrined the dollar as the global reserve currency – ensured that the net flow of financial resources continued to move from developing countries to developed ones. Even when the economies of the newly-independent states grew, those of the G7 economies and their partners grew more.
A once-mighty empire is now challenged and feels embattled. Taken aback by the refusal of so many developing countries to join with isolating Russia, the West is now waking up to the reality of the emerging, polycentric and fluid global order. These trends are set to continue. The danger is that economically weakened and in crisis, western countries attempt to re-appropriate western triumphalism, yet lack the economic strength and depth, so to do:
In the Roman Empire, peripheral states developed the political and military capacity to end Roman domination by force… The Roman Empire might have survived – had it not weakened itself with wars of choice – on its ascendant Persian rival.
The final ‘transgressive’ thought goes to Tom Luongo: “Allowing the West to keep thinking they can win – is the ultimate form of grinding out a superior opponent.”


Reprinted with permission from Strategic Culture Foundation.]]> Fri, 09 Jun 2023 14:36:25 GMT
Kakhovka Dam Breach is a Perfect Crime Melkulangara Bhadrakumar

The breach in the Nova Kakhovka dam on the Dnieper River in war-ravaged Ukraine on Tuesday is no doubt a catastrophe of colossal proportions, a veritable ecological and human disaster that may outlive the war itself.

However, the striking thing about the White House reaction to the event from John Kirby, Coordinator for Strategic Communications at the National Security Council, is that he tactfully avoided endorsingUkraine President Vladimir Zelensky’s finger-pointing at the Russians. 

Kirby said, “We’ve seen the reports that Russia was responsible… We’re doing the best we can to assess those reports.  And we are working with the Ukrainians to gather more information.  But we cannot say conclusively what happened at this point…”

Kirby wouldn’t be drawn onto a turf that fools only enter, where angels fear to tread. And, interestingly, his remark has been on similar lines as UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s also — “it’s too early to say definitively.” Sunak, who was en route to Washington on June 6, said the UK defence intelligence is to “thoroughly investigate” with the aim of establishing who was responsible for the catastrophe.

Of course, it is entirely conceivable that Britain will eventually find a way to somehow put the blame on Russia. But for the present, it has nothing concrete in hand to vilify Moscow.

Indeed, what complicates matters is that by the classical Latin canon cui bono (for whose benefit?) about identifying crime suspects, both Ukraine and Russia can be deemed as “winners” or “losers” alike. This needs explaining.

Take Ukraine first. It is a winner as Russia apparently shot itself in the foot by destroying the dam, since the topography of the place is such that it is the lower eastern side of the Dnieper in the Kherson region, which the Russians held, that are more affected by the flood. Second, the flood has washed away the mines and much of the fortifications Russians had painstakingly prepared to prevent a large-scale Ukrainian offensive. The Ukrainian forces would now get an open path, arguably, when the flood abates.

Third, it is a huge propaganda stunt for Kiev to drum-beat, with able help from western media, that Russians committed a war crime. Zelensky wrote on Facebook: “Russian terrorists. The destruction of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant dam only confirms for the whole world that they must be expelled from every corner of Ukrainian land. Not a single meter should be left to them, because they use every meter for terror. It’s only Ukraine’s victory that will return security. And this victory will come. The terrorists will not be able to stop Ukraine with water, missiles or anything else.” 

This big psychological victory also coincides with the launch of Kiev’s expected “spring offensive.” Besides, Kiev is a big-time winner if the destruction of the Kakhovka dam affects the cooling system of the reactor(s) in the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant (which would make it a first-rate European crisis) and/or imperil water supply for the Crimean peninsula  (which could alienate Russian public opinion.) Equally, Kakhovka dam was a hydro-electric plant, and there could be power shortage in the Russian-held areas.

But the biggest “win-win” for Kiev will be that there is nothing stopping its future amphibious assaults in the strategic Kherson region once the water levels out, since Russia has already used the trump card of engineering floods from the Kakhovka dam to wash away the Ukrainian landing forces on the eastern bank of the Dnieper.

On the other hand, when it comes to Russia, the big question that begs an answer is: Why would it want to destroy the dam when it always had the easier option to create huge floods to drown the Ukrainian deployments by simply lifting the floodgates at any point?

In a rare statement of its kind, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu offered an explanation that after having suffered very heavy losses in the first 2-3 days of the ongoing Ukrainian offensive in the Donetsk direction, Kiev has an urgent need to “redeploy the units and hardware from Kherson direction to its offensive area” in the north and resorted to the terrorist act to flood the region “to prevent Russia’s offensive actions.”

It is a logical explanation but there is a contradiction insofar as by thinning out the deployment in the Kherson front, especially the positions inside the marshy islands in the Dnieper river where force multipliers like drone repeaters and relays were deployed,  Ukrainian forces have placed themselves at a disadvantage, which the Russian side can always take advantage of once the flood subsides.

Clearly, Russia is the winner if it decides to cross the Dnieper in Kherson Oblast and liberate the historic Odessa region (and link up just beyond with the Russian troops isolated in Transnistria, Moldova), now that there is no more dam for the Ukrainian side to flood the region and impede the Russian march westward!

Second, it is a net gain that the floods have submerged all the ammunition depots the Ukrainians had been building up in Kherson for an offensive in the southern region. Third, the current floods prevent any amphibious assaults by Ukrainian forces, which enables the Russian military to take its eyes off Kherson front and concentrate instead on the northern front where the main thrust of the Ukrainian offensive seems to be developing.

Meanwhile, according to Russian media reports citing expert opinion:
  • Mass evacuation of Novaya Kakhovka town due to the destruction of the dam will not be necessary, as the bulk of the population had left the city in the fall during the regrouping of troops from the Kherson direction; 
  • The water level is expected to drop to normal within 72 hours;
  • The water level in the North Crimean Canal is not affected in any way, thanks to additional reservoirs that had been built during the 2014-2022 period when Kiev had imposed a “water blockade” on Crimea; 
  • Russian military  had anticipated the present events in Kherson and had prepared layered defence fortifications behind which the troops are now positioning.   
A Russian military expert, Col. Vitaly Kiselyov said on TV: “Our guys, our experts, foresaw the risk that not only Kakhovka reservoir but also the Kiev one and some others may be prone to blasts and sabotage… As regards changes to our defensive fortifications, yes, to some extent, they will have to be moved. But this is not critical. It is also not critical that the enemy may try to attack in this area.”

Incredible as it may seem, in a meticulous, insightful “post-mortem” of the Kakhovka dam breach, the well-known blogger Simplicius the Thinker offers a novel “natural theory, which is that the dam collapsed on its own.”

Here is a dam that already took so much battering from Ukrainian and Russian militaries through the past year and was in serious disrepair, with satellite photos in the days leading up to the breach already showing that it was leaking massively at the centre. Perhaps, the dam, which had seen glorious days in the Soviet era, couldn’t take it anymore. The breach actually “looks like a clean break.”

The unkindest cut of all is that Kiev, which controls several other dams upriver — such as a hydro plant in Zaporozhye city and in Dnipro city — also began playing with their water levels and filling up the Kakhovka reservoir, putting immense pressure on the 67-year old dam. That is to say, “the dam collapsed on its own rather than direct fire or explosives sabotage, but it was still pushed into collapsing by direct action from the Kiev regime.” Read the masterly analysis here.

]]> Thu, 08 Jun 2023 14:22:51 GMT
Blame Game Over the Bombing of the Nova Kakhovka Dam Kurt Nimmo

In post after post yesterday morning, the corporate war propaganda media is attempting to blame Russia for the terrorist bombing of the Nova Kakhovka dam and hydroelectric power station on the Dnieper River. It is doing this by underscoring an accusation made by a documented serial liar, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and his coterie of Nazi-worshipping thugs, that Russia punched holes in the dam in order to flood the battlefield.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres shifted the blame on Russia following the terrorist attack. Guterres said the incident at the Kakhovka dam is “another devastating consequence of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.”

Mr. Guterres is either clueless or unable to process information contrary to the cynical and easily debunked lies and dissimulation of the USG and its corporate war propaganda media (long ago infiltrated by the CIA and converted into a “Mighty Wurlitzer” of disinformation, now ubiquitous).

Guterres is a well-trained circus animal that jumps through flaming hoops on command. He ignores that fact Russia’s SMO was launched not only to prevent NATO from pushing its war machines and troops up against the Russian border, but also to put an end to eight years of terror bombing of ethnic Russians in the Donbas by the indisputably neo-nazi military of a post-coup regime installed by the USG State Department in Kyiv.

Is it possible Guterres suffers from the onset of dementia? In 2005 the United Nations adopted R2P, the Responsibility to Protect, a document addressing genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity. Russia is following the R2P as it prevents genocide in the Donbas and other ethnic Russian areas of Ukraine.

Guterres, the USG, and its European satraps in Brussels, Berlin, and other European capitals, are pushing the narrative that Russia is an updated version of the Huns, raping and pillaging Ukraine with an evil eye on the rest of Europe. The terror attacks by avowed “nationalists” (wearing Nazi symbols and regalia) on women and children in the Donbas are ignored. The ethnic cleansing of Russians is not an issue for the USG-dominated United Nations.

The corporate war propaganda media is pairing genocide and the Geneva Conventions (that do not apply to the Zelenskyy regime) with a roundabout insinuation that Russia blew up the Kakhovka dam.

This is, on its face, absurd. What strategic value is there in flooding your own troop positions and terrorizing ethnic Russian and Ukrainian civilians downstream in Kherson and other communities on the Dnipro River?

Michael Tracey tweeted a Washington Post article from 2022 earlier today. “Washington Post article from December 2022 said Ukraine ‘conducted a test strike’ on the Nova Kakhovka dam in preparation for its offensive in Kherson.” The “test strike” focused on flooding Russian supply lines and preventing the replenishment of ammunition, according to the article.

In addition, The New York Times, also in 2022, reported “Ukraine intentionally flooded one of its villages when troops opened a nearby dam. This was ‘not an outlier,’ the article adds: ‘Ukraine has been swift and effective in wreaking havoc on its own territory, often by destroying infrastructure,’”  Tracey writes

In more sane times, the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, would be called out as a liar and warmonger for casting blame on Russia for the destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam, minus any evidence. “Shocked by the unprecedented attack of the Nova Kakhovka dam,” he tweets. “The destruction of civilian infrastructure clearly qualifies as a war crime—and we will hold Russia and its proxies accountable.”

One would think, as a globalist “leader,” Michel knows all the facts, including plans by the ultra-nationalist Zelenskyy regime to target the Nova Kakhovka dam in order to slow down the advance of the Russian army, a plan spread far and wide by The Washington Post and The New York Times. Short of this, we can dismiss Michel as a useful idiot and apologist for war crimes. In a more perfect world, he would be warming a seat at The Hague.

The breach at the dam will lower water levels and threaten the cooling systems of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest such facility in Europe. If the plant melts down or does a Chernobyl, the corrupt political classes in the USG and Europe, along with the corporate war propaganda media, will demand NATO attack Russia in defense of Europe in response to nuclear terrorism. An out-of-control nuclear crisis will add plenty of drama to the narrative Russia is a ruthless aggressor that must be confronted and defeated.

The Zelenskyy regime and its neo-nazi vanguard are war criminals. However, as we now live in an increasingly hermetically sealed world where truth is equated with “white supremacy” and prosecuted as terrorism, a contrived neoconized fantasy reality will likely prevail for the indeterminate future, at least until Ukraine and the USG confront defeat.

In the meantime, we should pay attention to the prospect of a direct conflict between the USG, NATO, and Russia—a conflict that will quickly go nuclear, and thus put an end to psychopathic neocons in addition to the rest of humanity.

Reprinted with permission from Kurt Nimmo on Geopolitics.]]> Thu, 08 Jun 2023 13:54:11 GMT
The Korean War Was a Senseless Waste of American Lives Laurence M. Vance

The remains of an American soldier were laid to rest on Memorial Day at the Andersonville National Cemetery in Georgia after a police car with lights flashing escorted the casket to the cemetery. What made this funeral service so unique and so tragic is that Pfc. Luther Herschel Story was killed on September 1, 1950, during the Korean War.  He was just eighteen years old.

Story left high school during his sophomore year and enlisted in the Army. In the summer of 1950, he deployed to Korea with Company A of the 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment. After he was wounded when his unit came under attack by three divisions of North Korean troops, Story seized a machine gun and killed or wounded about 100 men according to his Medal of Honor citation that his father received at a Pentagon ceremony in 1951.

“Realizing that his wounds would hamper his comrades, he refused to retire to the next position but remained to cover the company’s withdrawal,” the award citation said. “When last seen, he was firing every weapon available and fighting off another hostile assault.” An unidentified body recovered from the area where Story was last seen fighting was buried in 1950 with other unknown service members at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii.

According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, of the more than 36,000 American soldiers who died in the Korean War, more than 7,500 of them remain missing or unidentified.

Story’s remains were disinterred in 2021 as part of a broader military effort to determine the identities of unknown Korean War veterans. DNA from Story’s bones was matched with DNA samples submitted by his mother and his niece.

It is good that Story’s remains were identified and his surviving family members notified. But this doesn’t change the fact that Story’s death was senseless, in vain, pointless, unnecessary — and entirely preventable.

After World War II, the United States and its allies divided Korea at the 38th parallel, with the Soviets occupying the north and the Americans occupying the south. After three years and three million, mostly civilian, deaths, the Korean War ended in 1953 in a stalemate roughly along that same miliary demarcation line, which then became the border between North and South Korea.

There was no U.S. declaration of war against North Korea. There was no congressional authorization for the president to use military force in defense of South Korea. There was no cry from Americans for the government to take sides or intervene in a civil war halfway around the world. There was no duty for the United States to contain communism. There was no threat to the United States by North Korea. No American in Alaska, Hawaii, California, Topeka, or Peoria was in any danger from anyone in North Korea. There was absolutely no reason for 1,789,000 American soldiers or one American soldier to go to Korea. President Harry Truman simply ordered U.S. troops to go to Korea, and they obeyed — just like they obeyed orders and went to Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

The result of the president’s personal attack force going to Korea was the senseless battle deaths of 33,686 Americans and nonbattle deaths of 2,830 Americans. That is over 36,000 American sons, grandsons, fathers, brothers, uncles, and/or nephews who perished and left a void in over 36,000 families. That is over 36,000 Americans who went to Korea in one piece and came home in body bags or flag-draped coffins, died in some gulag after the war, were buried unidentified in a military cemetery, or remain missing and unaccounted for to this day. That is over 36,000 Americans who might have been engineers, physicians, athletes, musicians, writers, teachers, or entrepreneurs. We will never know.

It is said by some that something good came out of the war. It is true that North Korea is today a communist, authoritarian state — while South Korea is today Westernized, modernized, industrialized, prosperous, and democratic.

We can never know what might have happened to South Korea had the United States not intervened in the Korean civil war. Regardless of whatever good things happened in South Korea after the war, however, it was not worth 36,000 dead Americans, or even one dead American. Ask the families of the U.S. soldiers who died in the Korean War if the loss of their loved ones is worth whatever became of South Korea.

No American soldier should ever have to die in defense of some other country.

Reprinted with permission from Future of Freedom Foundation.]]> Wed, 07 Jun 2023 14:40:09 GMT
It Was All in Vain: Edward Snowden’s Sacrifice 10 Years On Patrick Eddington

This week marks the 10th anniversary of the first story featuring National Security Agency (NSA) contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden’s initial revelation: the role of Verizon in aiding NSA’s telephone metadata mass surveillance program.

As the Guardian noted at the time, “The court order appears to explain the numerous cryptic public warnings by two US senators, Ron Wyden and Mark Udall… that the US government is relying on ‘secret legal interpretations’ to claim surveillance powers so broad that the American public would be ‘stunned’ to learn of the kind of domestic spying being conducted.”

The Verizon revelation and the many others that followed in the months after it underscored the most consequential effect of Snowden going public: NSA’s ostensible overseers – the House and Senate Intelligence Committees – had been witting of the mass surveillance and instead of stopping it had gone along with it.

Worse, through the annual appropriations process, Congress had given NSA (and the FBI) the money to continue that mass surveillance. American taxpayers were paying for the “privilege” of being spied on at scale by their own government.

And as I’ve noted previously, Snowden’s efforts to inform his fellow Americans of the surveillance dragnet under which they now operated were met with scorn or outright attacks, some from the press but most from members of Congress whose oversight failures Snowden had effectively exposed.

Fifty years earlier, in an era that saw similar whistleblower-driven revelations of widespread illegal federal government surveillance, Congress was far less amenable to such executive branch misconduct. In 1975, the work of the Senate investigative committee, led by the late Senator Frank Church (D-ID), exposed massive, previously undisclosed unconstitutional surveillance and political repression operations aimed at literally hundreds of thousands of Americans.

Church and his colleagues subsequently passed legislation designed to prevent such abuses in the future: the creation of the House and SenateIntelligence Committees, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), and the Inspector General Act. And even though one can argue persuasively that the FBI, NSA, and other federal intelligence and law enforcement entities have found ways around the Church Committee’s reforms, at least Church and his colleagues understood the magnitude of the threat to the constitutional order posed by executive branch surveillance overreach and tried to do something to end it.

In contrast, Snowden’s revelations produced a nearly opposite reaction, with no public hearings into the breadth and damage caused by the mass surveillance he exposed and only one weak and ineffectual legislative fix for the NSA telephone metadata program: the 2015 USA Freedom Act. It was the legislative and constitutional equivalent of putting a Band-Aid on a sucking chest wound.

It was also a testament to the power and influence of the nation’s national security establishment in shutting down any kind of meaningful surveillance reform effort, in no small part by indicting the whistleblower under the Espionage Act (no proof has ever surfaced that Snowden acted as the agent of a foreign power or gave legitimate U.S. secrets to one), seizing the royalties from his memoir, and refusing to consider allowing him to mount a public interest defense for his actions.

In that memoir, Snowden mused on the disparity in the treatment meted out to him and other whistleblowers versus officially sanctioned leaks (pp. 238-239):
“What makes one disclosure permissible, and another not? The answer is power. The answer is control. A disclosure is deemed acceptable only if it doesn’t challenge the fundamental prerogatives of an institution… To blow the whistle on secret programs, I’d also have to blow the whistle on the larger system of secrecy, to expose it not as the absolute prerogative of state that the [Intelligence Community] claimed it was but rather as an occasional privilege that the IC abused to subvert democratic oversight.”
Snowden’s error was in believing that meaningful, forceful, and effective democratic oversight of NSA, FBI and other federal law enforcement and intelligence components actually exists. The historical record at the time Snowden went public said otherwise, and that remains the case today.

Despite a fresh set of revelations of FBI and NSA abuses of the FISA Section 702 electronic mass surveillance program, no FBI or NSA officials have been sanctioned by the FISA court, much less lost their jobs as a result of their misconduct. That program is set to expire at the end of 2023, but anyone who believes its demise is a sure bet is only fooling themselves – in the same way that Edward Snowden tragically fooled himself into believing that exposing NSA and FBI surveillance crimes would somehow trigger a new age of surveillance reform and accountability.

Americans will continue to be federal government surveillance targets unless the public ejects from Congress and the White House those federal officials who continue to act as if Americans are suspects first and citizens a very distant second.

Former CIA analyst and ex-House senior policy advisor Patrick G. Eddington is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.

Reprinted with permission from]]> Wed, 07 Jun 2023 14:10:25 GMT
'The Durham Report Unmasks the Deep State' RPI Staff
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Rule by Decree: The Emergency State’s Plot to Override the Constitution John W. Whitehead & Nisha Whitehead

We have become a nation in a permanent state of emergency.

Power-hungry and lawless, the government has weaponized one national crisis after another in order to expand its powers and justify all manner of government tyranny in the so-called name of national security.

COVID-19, for example, served as the driving force behind what Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch characterized as “the greatest intrusions on civil liberties in the peacetime history of this country.”

In a statement attached to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Arizona v. Mayorkas, a case that challenged whether the government could continue to use it pandemic powers even after declaring the public health emergency over, Gorsuch provided a catalog of the many ways in which the government used COVID-19 to massively overreach its authority and suppress civil liberties.

Yet while the government’s (federal and state) handling of the COVID-19 pandemic delivered a knockout blow to our civil liberties, empowering the police state to flex its powers by way of a bevy of lockdowns, mandates, restrictions, contact tracing programs, heightened surveillance, censorship, overcriminalization, etc., it was merely one crisis in a long series of crises that the government has shamelessly exploited in order to justify its power grabs and acclimate the citizenry to a state of martial law disguised as emergency powers.

These attempts to use various crises to override the Constitution are still happening.

It doesn’t even matter what the nature of the crisis might be: civil unrest, the national emergencies, “unforeseen economic collapse, loss of functioning political and legal order, purposeful domestic resistance or insurgency, pervasive public health emergencies, and catastrophic natural and human disasters.”

They have all become fair game to a government that continues to quietly assemble, test and deploy emergency powers a long laundry list of terrifying powers that override the Constitution and can be activated at a moment’s notice.

We’re talking about lockdown powers (at both the federal and state level): the ability to suspend the Constitution, indefinitely detain American citizens, bypass the courts, quarantine whole communities or segments of the population, override the First Amendment by outlawing religious gatherings and assemblies of more than a few people, shut down entire industries and manipulate the economy, muzzle dissidents, “stop and seize any plane, train or automobile to stymie the spread of contagious disease,” reshape financial markets, create a digital currency (and thus further restrict the use of cash), determine who should live or die.

While these are powers the police state has been working to make permanent, they barely scratch the surface of the far-reaching powers the government has unilaterally claimed for itself without any pretense of being reined in or restricted in its power grabs by Congress, the courts or the citizenry.

As David C. Unger, observes in The Emergency State: America’s Pursuit of Absolute Security at All Costs, “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness have given way to permanent crisis management.”

The seeds of this ongoing madness were sown several decades ago when George W. Bush stealthily issued two presidential directives that granted the president the power to unilaterally declare a national emergency, which is loosely defined as “any incident, regardless of location, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the U.S. population, infrastructure, environment, economy, or government functions.

Comprising the country’s Continuity of Government (COG) plan, these directives (National Security Presidential Directive 51 and Homeland Security Presidential Directive 20), which do not need congressional approval, provide a skeletal outline of the actions the president will take in the event of a “national emergency.”

Just what sort of actions the president will take once he declares a national emergency can barely be discerned from the barebones directives. However, one thing is clear: in the event of a national emergency, the COG directives give unchecked executive, legislative and judicial power to the president.

The country would then be subjected to martial law by default, and the Constitution and the Bill of Rights would be suspended.

Essentially, the president would become a dictator for life.

It has happened already.

As we have witnessed in recent years, that national emergency can take any form, can be manipulated for any purpose and can be used to justify any end goal—all on the say so of the president.

he emergency powers that we know about which presidents might claim during such states of emergency are vast, ranging from imposing martial law and suspending habeas corpus to shutting down all forms of communications, including implementing an internet kill switch, and restricting travel.

Yet according to documents obtained by the Brennan Center, there may be many more secret powers that presidents may institute in times of so-called crisis without oversight from Congress, the courts, or the public.

Remember, these powers do not expire at the end of a president’s term. They remain on the books, just waiting to be used or abused by the next political demagogue.

So, too, every action taken by the current occupant of the White House and his predecessors to weaken the system of checks and balances, sidestep the rule of law, and expand the power of the executive branch of government makes us that much more vulnerable to those who would abuse those powers in the future.

These presidential powers—acquired through the use of executive orders, decrees, memorandums, proclamations, national security directives and legislative signing statements and which can be activated by any sitting president—enable past, president and future presidents to operate above the law and beyond the reach of the Constitution.

This is what you might call a stealthy, creeping, silent, slow-motion coup d’état.

If we continue down this road, there can be no surprise about what awaits us at the end.

We must recalibrate the balance of power.

For starters, Congress should put an end to the use of presidential executive orders, decrees, memorandums, proclamations, national security directives and legislative signing statements as a means of getting around Congress and the courts.

At a minimum, as The Washington Post suggests, “all emergency declarations [s]hould expire automatically after three or six months, whereupon Congress would need to vote upon any proposed extension.”

We’ve got to start making both the president and the police state play by the rules of the Constitution.

As I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, it must start with “we the people.”

Reprinted with permission from The Rutherford Institute.]]> Tue, 06 Jun 2023 15:48:09 GMT
Snowden and the Fight for American Privacy James Bovard

Edward Snowden did heroic service in awakening Americans to Washington ravishing their privacy. Snowden’s “reward” is to be banished in Russia without a snowball’s chance in hell of a fair trial if he returns to America. But as he courageously declared, “I would rather be without a state than without a voice.” He explained why he leaked classified information: “I can’t in good conscience allow the U.S. government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.”

To recognize Snowden’s contribution to liberty, it helps to review the political and legal  landscape before his revelations. In 2008, Sen. Barack Obama’s denunciations of the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretaps secured his image as a champion of civil liberties. Campaigning for president, Obama pledged “no more illegal wiretapping of American citizens…. No more ignoring the law when it is inconvenient.” Unfortunately, Obama didn’t promise not to ignore the law when it was “really, really convenient.”

Barack Obama: American spy-in-chief

After Obama clinched the Democratic Party presidential nomination, he reversed himself and voted for granting immunity to telecom companies that betrayed their customers to Uncle Sam. This was a bellwether for Obama’s future constitutional depredations. After Obama took office, his appointees speedily expanded National Security Agency seizures of Americans’ personal data. The Washington Post characterized Obama’s first term as “a period of exponential growth for the NSA’s domestic collection.” 

The acid drip of revelations of illicit surveillance that began after 9/11 continued regardless of Obama’s “Hope and Change” mantra. Shortly after Obama’s inauguration, former NSA analyst Russell Tice declared that the NSA was monitoring “all Americans’ communications. Faxes, phone calls and their computer communications.” Tice also revealed that the NSA had targeted journalists and news agencies for wiretaps. Tice’s revelations failed to hold the media’s attention.

In June 2009, the NSA admitted that it had accidentally collected the personal information of vast numbers of Americans. The 
New York Times reported that “the number of individual communications that were improperly collected could number in the millions.” But it wasn’t a crime; it was merely inadvertent “overcollection” of Americans’ personal data which NSA would retain for (at least) five years. 

In 2010, the 
Washington Post reported that “every day, collection systems at the [NSA] intercept and store 1.7 billion emails, phone calls and other type of communications.” In 2011, NSA expanded a program to provide real-time location information of every American with a cell phone, acquiring more than a billion cell phone records each day from AT&T. Regardless, the media continued portraying Obama as a civil liberties savior. 

Obama perpetuated perverse Bush-era legal doctrines to totally shield federal surveillance from judicial scrutiny. After the Supreme Court accepted a case on warrantless wiretaps in 2012, the Obama administration urged the justices to dismiss the case. A 
New York Times editorial labeled the administration’s position “a particularly cynical Catch-22: Because the wiretaps are secret and no one can say for certain that their calls have been or will be monitored, no one has standing to bring suit over the surveillance.”

The Supreme Court endorsed surveillance

Cynical arguments sufficed for five justices. Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority, declared that the court was averse to granting standing to challenge the government based on “theories that require guesswork” and “no specific facts” proving federal targeting, based on fears of “hypothetical future harm.” The Supreme Court insisted that the government already offered plenty of safeguards — such as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court — to protect Americans’ rights. Law professor Stephen Vladeck commented on the decision: “The coffin is slamming shut on the ability of private citizens and civil liberties groups to challenge government counterterrorism policies.”

Three months later, newspapers around the world began publishing confidential documents leaked by Snowden. Americans learned that the NSA can tap almost any cell phone in the world, exploit computer games like Angry Birds to poach personal data, access anyone’s email and web browsing history, remotely penetrate almost all computers, and crack the vast majority of computer encryption. The NSA used Facebook and Google apps to send malware to targeted individuals. NSA filched almost 200,000,000 records a month from private computer cloud accounts. Obama’s Justice Department secretly decreed that all phone records of all Americans were “relevant” to terrorism investigations and that the NSA could therefore justifiably seize everyone’s personal data.

Snowden exposed the surveillance state

Snowden revealed how the NSA had covertly carried out “the most significant change in the history of American espionage from the targeted surveillance of individuals to the mass surveillance of entire populations.” The NSA created a “repository capable of taking in 20 billion ‘record events’ daily and making them available to NSA analysts within 60 minutes.” The NSA is able to snare and stockpile a billion times more information than did East Germany’s Stasi secret police, one of the most odious agencies of the post-war era. Snowden later commented, “Suspicionless surveillance does not become okay simply because it’s only victimizing 95 percent of the world instead of 100 percent.”

Seeking to defuse the controversy, Obama justified NSA surveillance as simply “a tradeoff we make…. To say there’s a tradeoff doesn’t mean somehow that we’ve abandoned freedom. I don’t think anybody says we’re no longer free because we have checkpoints at airports.” 

On Capitol Hill, the response to Snowden’s disclosures ranged from vacuous to devious. House Speaker John Boehner declared, “When you look at these programs, there are clear safeguards. There’s no American who’s going to be snooped on in any way, unless they’re in contact with some terrorists somewhere around the world.” Other congressional leaders quickly denounced Snowden as a “traitor.” House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and former NSA chief Michael Hayden publicly joked about putting Snowden on a government kill list. Rogers won the “D.C. Knucklehead of the Week” Prize when he defended illicit surveillance: “You can’t have your privacy violated if you don’t know your privacy is violated.” 

Regardless of Snowden’s proof, Obama administration appointees and spokesmen insisted that NSA only targeted individuals linked to terrorism, but NSA’s definition of terrorist suspect was ludicrously broad, including “someone searching the web for suspicious stuff.” If someone used encryption for their emails, that alone justified wiretapping them. Snowden commented in 2014: “If I had wanted to pull a copy of a judge’s or a senator’s e-mail, all I had to do was enter that selector into XKEYSCORE,” an NSA program that required no warrant from FISA or any other court. 

President Obama sought to quash the controversy by boldly proclaiming: “There is no spying on Americans.” The New York Times headlined its report on Obama’s PR effort: “President Moves to Ease Worries on Surveillance; Talks of New Openness.” Talk was cheap.

The Washington Post analyzed a cache of 160,000 secret email conversations/threads (provided by Snowden) that the NSA intercepted and found that nine out of ten account holders were not the “intended surveillance targets but were caught in a net the agency had cast for somebody else.” Almost half of the individuals whose personal data was inadvertently commandeered were U.S. citizens. The files “tell stories of love and heartbreak, illicit sexual liaisons, mental-health crises, political and religious conversions, financial anxieties and disappointed hopes,” the 
Post noted. If an American citizen wrote an email in a foreign language, NSA analysts assumed they were foreigners who could be surveilled without a warrant. 

FISA court rulings “created a secret body of law giving the National Security Agency the power to amass vast collections of data on Americans,” the 
New York Times reported in 2013. The classified rulings (leaked by Snowden) showed that FISA judges rubber-stamped massive seizures of Americans’ personal data that flagrantly contradicted Supreme Court rulings on the Fourth Amendment. The Times noted that the FISA court had “become almost a parallel Supreme Court, serving as the ultimate arbiter on surveillance issues” — and almost always giving federal agencies all the power they sought. The vast majority of members of Congress were unaware that a secret court had secretly nullified much of the Bill of Rights. That did not deter Obama from proclaiming that the FISA court was “transparent” — though only the White House could see. 

Snowden’s revelations outraged some judges. In December 2013, Federal judge Richard Leon issued a ruling denouncing the NSA surveillance regime as “almost Orwellian”: “I cannot imagine a more indiscriminate and arbitrary invasion than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval.” 

Obama sought to defuse the controversy by selecting an expert panel that he expected to vindicate his surveillance. But the panel reported that there was not a single case where the telephone data roundup had been necessary to stop a terrorist attack. The panel’s report also warned: “Americans must never make the mistake of wholly trusting our public officials.” The panel concluded that the “bulk collection of American citizens’ phone records served little useful purpose in combatting terrorism,” ABC News reported. Panel member Richard Clarke commented, “There are very few pieces of data that have been collected in this program that have been useful.” But as Snowden observed, “These programs were never about terrorism: they’re about economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. They’re about power.”

The Obama administration made few substantive changes in response to Snowden’s exposure of sweeping criminality. Author and NSA expert James Bamford observed shortly before the 2016 election, “Over his two terms, Obama has created the most powerful surveillance state the world has ever seen.” Despite the uproars over Snowden’s revelations, neither Congress nor federal courts fundamentally pulled in the reins on the Surveillance State. 

 Snowden observed, “The consent of the governed is not consent if it is not informed.” Any such consent to Washington has become increasingly a mirage. The pervasive secrecy that has proliferated in post-9/11 America has made it far more difficult for citizens to leash their rulers. Regardless of the health of U.S. democracy, Snowden’s warnings on the “architecture of oppression” are more relevant than ever. 

Another Snowden lesson for our democracy is the futility of passive obedience. Vast numbers of Americans presume they will be safe from government wrongdoing or other federal debacles if they simply keep their head down and don’t complain. By blighting resistance to government, however, surveillance unleashes rulers to do far more mischief. If politicians drag this nation into a major war, keeping your mouth shut won’t protect you against incoming missiles. 

Citizens cannot acquiesce to illegal government surveillance without forfeiting their right to any remaining privacy. There is no reason for people to trust secretive federal programs more than Washington trusts American citizens. The biggest delusion is that Americans will be more secure after the feds further decimate their privacy.

Reprinted with permission from Future of Freedom Foundation.
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'The Rise of Nihilism' - Ron Paul at the RPI Houston Conference RPI Staff
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The Biden Administration’s Latest Tone-Deaf Foreign Policy Positions Ted Galen Carpenter

U.S. leaders rarely have been noted for being able to gauge changing sentiment in the international arena and adjusting their foreign policy accordingly. The Biden administration, however, may be setting new records for the tone-deaf quality of its policies. Three incidents in the past few weeks illustrate the problem.

There has been obvious movement in recent months on the part of leading Arab powers to temper their feud with Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. Only a few years ago, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and other countries were in a partnership with Turkey and the United States to unseat Assad – largely because of his close alliance with Iran. Now, those same powers have changed course dramatically, seeking a rapprochement with both Damascus and Tehran. Important signals of the new political environment were Saudi Arabia’s restoration of diplomatic relations with Iran and Syria’s re-entry to the Arab League.

Instead of going along with the new diplomatic and geopolitical realities in the region, the Biden administration chose this moment to escalate its increasingly futile attempts to isolate Assad. On May 30, Washington imposed new economic sanctions on Syria. As Dave DeCamp noted, the businesses were targeted using the Caesar Act, a law the US has used to impose sanctions on Syria that are specifically designed to prevent the country’s reconstruction." One could scarcely imagine a more ill-timed move, given the powerful, contrary diplomatic trends in the region.

The administration’s clumsy policy regarding Syria is not an aberration. Washington’s attempt to oust Venezuela’s Marxist regime headed by Nicolas Maduro shows unmistakable signs of unraveling. On May 29, Maduro visited Brazil for a very cordial summit meeting with President Lula da Silva. A Bloomberg account of the meeting accurately assessed its importance. Maduro’s visit "is the latest evidence of an ongoing thaw toward the Venezuelan government after leftists won elections in Brazil and Colombia last year."

Eunomia’s Daniel Larison predicts: "There will be a temptation in Washington to criticize the Brazilian government for repairing its relations with Venezuela, but this should be resisted. Regional governments know better than anyone what the consequences of economic warfare are for Venezuela and for neighboring countries, and they reject the policy of isolation that produced them." As in the case of policy toward Syria, though, there is no indication of a needed awakening on the part of Biden administration officials.

The worst case of a tone-deaf policy is the administration’s petulant response to countries that decline to go along with Washington’s efforts to isolate Russia. In the past few weeks, US policymakers even have hinted about imposing economic penalties on South Africa for continuing to trade with Moscow. In mid-May, the US ambassador to South Africa specifically accused that country of covertly providing arms to Russia. His accusation drew an immediate, angry rebuke from Pretoria.

Such behavior reflects Washington’s broader frustration with the faltering of its anti-Russia campaign. Early on, Biden and his aides fostered the myth that the world was united in its desire to punish Russia for the Kremlin’s aggression against Ukraine. Officials continue to grasp at straws, especially the two toothlesssymbolic votes in the UN General Assembly condemning Russia’s invasion, as evidence of such supposed unity. The reality is that the vast majority of countries, including such major players as China, India, Brazil, and South Africa, have refused to impose sanctions on Russia, much less support NATO’s policy of providing military aid to Kyiv.

As the South Africa incident suggests, the Biden administration is not reacting graciously to such dissent. In October 2022, Biden personally threatened Saudi Arabia with "consequences" because Riyadh made a cut in oil production, thereby keeping global prices high and indirectly aiding Russia. In February 2023, Secretary of State Tony Blinken threatened China with negative consequences (implying serious sanctions) if it sold any weapons to Russia. Earlier, Washington had made it clear to India that the country was running severe risks if it continued its close security ties to Russia while the war in Ukraine raged.

The Biden administration’s practice of parochial foreign policy narcissism is increasingly out-of-touch with regional and global realities. By defying the wishes of important powers in a particular region, such measures have little hope of achieving their stated objectives. Worse, Washington’s boorish behavior is alienating countries whose support the United States may want or need with respect to other issues. The recent episodes provide further evidence of the administration’s intellectual bankruptcy regarding foreign affairs.

Reprinted with permission from]]> Mon, 05 Jun 2023 06:13:57 GMT
Never Again? DeSantis and Torture Peter Van Buren

During a press conference at the Museum of Tolerance in West Jerusalem in April, Ron DeSantis was questioned about a former detainee’s claim that as a naval attorney at Guantanamo DeSantis watched as the prisoner was force fed, something the UN regards as torture. “Do you honestly believe that’s credible? It’s 2006, I’m a junior officer, do you honestly think that they would’ve remembered me?” DeSantis responded angrily.

Mansoor Adayfi, a Yemeni citizen, was held at Guantanamo Bay for 14 years, and has told news outlets that DeSantis witnessed him being force fed during a hunger strike in 2006. Adayfi in an op-ed for Al Jazeera said “As I tried to break free, I noticed DeSantis’ handsome face among the crowd at the other side of the chain link. He was watching me struggle. He was smiling and laughing with other officers as I screamed in pain.” Two former detainees, as well as defense lawyers and base officials, have told The Washington Post DeSantis had a “close up views” of disturbing incidents at the camp during his time there.

What might DeSantis have seen? In addition to Adayfi’s account, we have Imad Abdullah Hassan’s more detailed rendition, from a man who spent twelve years in Guantanamo in a cage without ever being charged with anything. A judge cleared Hassan for release, finding there was not enough incriminating evidence to justify keeping him imprisoned (779 men were held at Guantanamo since it opened in 2002, with 12 ever charged with crimes. Only two have been convicted.) Hassan’s clearance came, yet he remained at America’s off-shore penal colony without explanation or hope of release. He went on a hunger strike in 2009 in protest (the U.S. military refers to it as a “long-term non-religious fast”), and was force-fed.

Hassan unsuccessfully sued the president of the United States, claiming the conditions under which he is being force-fed at Guantanamo are torture. The lawsuit Hassan filed describes his treatment. His description matches Adayfi’s on key details. See if you’d remember things like this:
Prisoners are strapped to a hospital bed or special restraint chair for feeding.

A funnel or bag was used to channel large amounts of liquid into the tube to feed him faster. So much liquid was forced through that the second time Hassan underwent this procedure, he lost consciousness and spent two days in critical condition.

Prisoners were simultaneously force-fed laxatives causing them to defecate on themselves as they sat in the chair being fed. “People with hemorrhoids would leave blood on the chair and the linens would not always be changed before the next feeding,” said Hassan in the lawsuit. Prisoners would be be strapped down on top of others’ stool and blood for up to two hours at a time.

Hassan was at times forcibly sedated so he could be force-fed more easily. If Hassan vomited on himself at any time during the procedure, the force-feeding would restart from the beginning.

Air-conditioning was sometimes turned up and detainees were deprived of a blanket. This was particularly difficult for the hunger strikers, as they felt the cold more than someone who was eating.

Guards would bang hunger-striking prisoners’ cells every five minutes day and night to prevent sleep. Another detainee reported when he was brought back to his cell, the guards laid him on his stomach and cause him to vomit by pressing forcefully on his back.
It was all something a young naval officer would not easily forget seeing.

But bringing up the possibility that a young Ron DeSantis witnessed some of this is disingenuous. Whether DeSantis was present or not is only of interest given his likelihood of running for president. But if he was not present, he would have heard about the torture while at Gitmo, and issued legal opinions in line with it. But whether or not DeSantis wrote such opinions is of little consequence, given the number of military and civilian personnel who certainly not only witnessed torture but performed it. Their numbers stand shallow next to their bosses who created the torture regimes, legalized them, and promulgated them, men like Bush, Obama, Cheney, and Biden. If DeSantis supported torture in his role as naval attorney at Gitmo, he was among the smallest of wheels in a very large machine to do so.

Not a single American has been punished for what happened at Guantanamo, and the first should not be Ron DeSantis.

But DeSantis is not just anyone, he is one man out of hundreds of millions in the U.S. who says he wants to be president and has a decent chance of achieving just that. So instead of speculating on what DeSantis saw, let’s instead demand from him as a candidate a statement on torture itself. Knowing what he knows now, was torture the right thing post-9/11? As president, would he support torture in the future? As president, would he seek to close Guantanamo and set the thirty prisoners still there free? We know what Trump thinks about torture, know Biden as president has made no real efforts to close Gitmo or reduce its headcount. We know what a young naval officer named DeSantis did, more or less, when faced with torture by the United States of America in the name of justice for the Republic.

Later, at various points in his career DeSantis repeatedly argued that the United States was correct in imprisoning detainees outside the legal system, and after joining Congress in 2013, he became a leading voice to keep the prison open, even though few of the detainees there were ever charged and most have been released. He has described the hunger strikes as part of a jihad against the United States, and characterized claims of abuse from detainees and their lawyers as attempts to work the system. Asked about the hunger strikes, DeSantis said in an interview in 2018 that “what I learned from that… is they are using things like detainee abuse offensively against us. It was a tactic, technique, and procedure.”

DeSantis saw what he saw; with the passing of time does he still believe in what happened in Guantanamo? Vying to be Commander-in-Chief, “I was only following orders” will not be enough. In the name of never again, we need to know what would President DeSantis do.

Reprinted with permission from]]> Mon, 05 Jun 2023 05:58:29 GMT
Republicans Fiscally Irresponsible Act Ron Paul

The political and financial class breathed a sigh of relief when Congress passed the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023. The bill suspends the debt ceiling for two years, thus avoiding the establishment’s nightmare of a government default on its debt. Rather, it allows the government to continue adding trillions of dollars of debt that will be monetized by the Federal Reserve.

Of course, this default will be felt by the people in the form of an inflation tax. This inflation tax may be the worst of all taxes, because it is both hidden and regressive. Politicians love to point the finger at greedy corporations, labor unions, and even consumers for increasing prices instead of taking responsibility for the legislation they pass that incentivizes the Federal Reserve to create more inflation.

Republican supporters of the bill claim it begins to roll back the excessive spending of the Biden years. While the bill does rescind $28 billion of unspent COVID funds, it  just recycles that money into the Fiscal Year 2024 budget. Thus it does not save taxpayers a dime. The bill does cap domestic discretionary spending for Fiscal Year 2024 at $704  billion and spending for Fiscal Year 2025 at $711 billion. However, these caps come from a budget whose baseline includes the increased COVID spending. The bill only cuts spending by 0.1 to 0.2 percent of gross domestic product over the next two years  - assuming Congress does not reverse the cuts. Of course, it makes no attempt to actually cut spending, much less eradicate any illegitimate and unconstitutional government agencies, cabinet departments, or programs. 

Even though “defense” is the third largest item in the budget (behind social security, Medicare, and interest in the national debt), our annual military budget alone is more than the combined  budgets of the next ten biggest spending countries. The Fiscal Responsibility Act doesn’t take a penny away from the military budget; instead it matches President Biden’s request for a 3.2 percent increase.  This increase comes despite the fact that the Pentagon has never complied with the law requiring it to pass an audit.  

Biden’s military budget is the largest in United States history and probably world history. Deep  State Republicans like South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham never met a war he didn’t love.  Graham and his allies threatened to block passage of the bill unless the military spending was increased and more taxpayer money—and Ukraine and Russian lives — wasted in the Ukraine Russian conflict.

Hawks alienate current and potential allies with their hyper-interventionist policies. This along with the increasing national debt is leading to increased challenges to the US dollar's status as the world’s reserve currency. The dollar’s status is the only reason Congress has been able to run up such a huge deficit without causing a major economic crisis.

The Fiscal Responsibility Act will result in increased government spending, debt, and deficits. It will also further erode the value of the United States Dollar, thus making it more likely that the US dollar will lose its world reserve currency status sooner rather than later. The Fiscal Responsibility Act is to fiscal responsibility as the Affordable Care Act is to affordable health care and as the Patriot Act is to true Patriotism. Perhaps a future Congress will introduce legislation that actually begins to cut back on the size and scope of government called the Fiscal Irresponsibility Act!
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WHO Initiative Would ‘Promote Desired Behaviors’ by Surveilling Social Media Michael Nevradakis, Ph.D.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is proposing a set of recommendations for “social listening surveillance systems” designed to address what it describes as a “health threat” posed by online “misinformation.”

The WHO’s Preparedness and Resilience for Emerging Threats (PRET) initiative claims “misinformation” has resulted in an “infodemic” that poses a threat — even in instances where the information is “accurate.”

PRET has raised eyebrows, at a time when the WHO’s member states are engaged in negotiations on two controversial instruments: the “pandemic treaty” and amendments to the International Health Regulations (IHR).

The latest draft of the pandemic treaty contains language on how WHO member states would commit to “social listening.” Under article 18(b), WHO member states would commit to:
Conduct regular community outreach, social listening, and periodic analysis and consultations with civil society organization and media outlets to identify the prevalence and profiles of misinformation, which contribute to design communications and messaging strategies for the public to counteract misinformation, disinformation and false news, thereby strengthening public trust and promoting adherence to public health and social measures.
Remarking on PRET’s “social listening” proposals, Michael Rectenwald, Ph.D., author of “Google Archipelago: The Digital Gulag and the Simulation of Freedom” and a former New York University liberal studies professor, told The Defender:
The WHO’s PRET initiative is part of the UN’s attempt to institute global ‘medical’ tyranny using surveillance, ‘social listening’ and censorship. PRET is the technocratic arm of the WHO’s proposed pandemic treaty, which, if accepted by nation-states, would amount to the surrendering of national and individual sovereignty to this ‘global governance’ body.

What better way to establish a one-world government than by using so-called global crises that must be addressed by nothing short of ‘global governance’? I remind readers that you cannot comply your way out of tyranny.
WHO could use artificial intelligence to monitor social media conversations

A WHO document outlining the PRET initiative — “Module 1: Planning for respiratory pathogen pandemics, Version 1.0” — contains a definition of infodemic:
Infodemic is the overabundance of information — accurate or not — which makes it difficult for individuals to adopt behaviors that will protect their health and the health of their families and communities.

The infodemic can directly impact health, hamper the implementation of public health countermeasures and undermine trust and social cohesiveness.
The document recommends that in response to the “infodemic,” countries should “incorporate the latest tools and approaches for shared learning and collective action established during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

According to the WHO document, this can be done if governments “establish and invest in resources for social listening surveillance systems and capacities to identify concerns as well as rumors and misinformation.”

Such resources include “new tools and approaches for social listening … using new technologies such as artificial intelligence to listen to population concerns on social media.”

According to the document:
To build trust, it’s important to be responsive to needs and concerns, to relay timely information, and to train leaders and HCWs [healthcare workers] in risk communications principles and encourage their application.
Risk communications “should be tailored to the community of interest, focusing on and prioritizing vulnerable groups,” the WHO said.

“Tailored” communication was a hallmark of public health efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For instance, in November 2021, the Rockefeller Foundation, the National Science Foundation and the Social Science Research Council launched the Mercury Project, which aimed “to increase uptake of COVID-19 vaccines and other recommended public health measures by countering mis- and disinformation” — in part by studying “differential impacts across socio-demographic groups.”

Similarly, PRET states that it will “incorporate the latest tools and approaches for shared learning and collective action established during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

These “tools and approaches” could be deployed during “acute respiratory events,” according to the document, which recommends that governments:
Develop and implement communication and behavior change strategies based on infodemic insights, and test them during acute respiratory events including seasonal influenza.

This includes implementing infodemic management across sectors, and having a coordinated approach with other actors, including academia, civil society, and international agencies.
This is not the first time the WHO has addressed the so-called “infodemic.”

A WHO review published Sept. 1, 2022, titled “Infodemics and health misinformation: a systematic review of reviews,” found that “infodemics and misinformation … often negatively impact people’s mental health and increase vaccine hesitancy, and can delay the provision of health care.”

In the review, the WHO concluded that “infodemics” can be addressed by “developing legal policies, creating and promoting awareness campaigns, improving health-related content in mass media and increasing people’s digital and health literacy.”

And a separate, undated WHO document advises the public on how we can “flatten the infodemic curve.”

WHO, Google announce collaboration targeting ‘medical misinformation’

The WHO’s PRET proposals coincided with a new multi-year collaboration agreement with Google for the provision of “credible health-related information to help billions of people around the world respond to emerging and future public health issues.”

The agreement was announced on May 23 by Dr. Karen DeSalvo, Google’s chief health officer, on the company’s blog. She wrote:
Information is a critical determinant of health. Getting the right information, at the right time can lead to better health outcomes for all. We saw this firsthand with the COVID-19 pandemic when it was difficult for people worldwide to find useful information online.

We worked with the World Health Organization (WHO) on a range of efforts to help people make informed decisions about their health — from an SOS alert to surfacing locally relevant content about COVID-19 to YouTube policies on medical misinformation.
One way Google will collaborate with the WHO is through the creation of more “knowledge panels” that will prominently appear in search results for health-related questions on the platform.

“Each day people come to Google Search looking for trustworthy information on various health conditions and symptoms,” DeSalvo wrote. “To help them access trustworthy information our Knowledge Panels cite content from reliable sources covering hundreds of conditions from the common cold to anxiety.”

“Working closely with WHO, we’ll soon expand to cover more conditions such as COPD [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease], hypertension, type 2 diabetes, Mpox, Ebola, depressive disorder, malaria and more,” she added.

Google will make these Knowledge Panels available in several languages, including English, Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish.

DeSalvo’s May 23 post also addressed an ongoing collaboration between Google and the WHO, Open Health Stack (OHS), which “help[s] accelerate the digital transformation of health systems around the world” and “lower[s] the barrier to equitable healthcare.”

Google also awarded the WHO with more than $320 million “in donated Google Search advertising via ad grants” allowing the agency “to publish health topics beyond COVID-19, such as Mpox, mental health, flu, Ebola, and natural disasters.”

Google is slated to provide an additional $50 million in ad grants to the WHO this year.

According to Google, the ad grants to the WHO represent the company’s largest such donation to a single organization.

Separately, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tweeted on May 22 about the agency’s own efforts at combating purported “misinformation” and “disinformation.”

The tweet contains a 35-second video, which claims “misinformation” travels “six times faster than the facts,” while promoting the FDA’s “Rumor Control” initiative.

A top priority of FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf, “Rumor Control” was launched in August 2022 and joins other agency initiatives to fight “misinformation” and “disinformation.”

“The growing spread of rumors, misinformation and disinformation about science, medicine, and the FDA, is putting patients and consumers at risk,” according to the FDA’s Rumor Control webpage. “We’re here to provide the facts.”

The initiative asks the public to do “three easy things” to “stop rumors from spreading”: “don’t believe the rumors,” “don’t pass them along” and “get health information from trusted sources like the FDA and our government partners.”

“Rumor Control” appears to have been inspired by an initiative developed by the Virality Project, “a coalition of research entities” from six institutions “focused on supporting real-time information exchange between the research community, public health officials, government agencies, civil society organizations, and social media platforms.”

Documents released as part of the “Twitter files” in March revealed that the Virality Project, based out of the Stanford Internet Observatory, also called for the creation of a disinformation board just one day before Biden announced plans to launch his government-run Disinformation Governance Board.

Similar to PRET’s recommendations to target “accurate” information that nevertheless contradicts establishment public health narratives, the Virality Project worked with Twitter and other social media platforms, recommending they “take action even against ‘stories of true vaccine side effects’ and ‘true posts which could fuel hesitancy.’”

These censorship efforts included at least one tweet by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., chairman on leave of Children’s Health Defense.

Reprinted with permission from The Defender.]]> Thu, 01 Jun 2023 13:08:25 GMT
University of Colorado Site Declares Misgendering an 'Act of Violence' Jonathan Turley

The University of Colorado Boulder (Boulder) is under fire this week for a statement on the “Pride Office” website stating that misgendering people can be considered an “act of violence.”

The guide on pronouns is reportedly the work of students associated with the office and states that “choosing to ignore or disrespect someone’s pronouns is not only an act of oppression but can also be considered an act of violence.”

It is a familiar position for many in higher education. Opposing viewpoints are now routinely declared to be violence. That allows professors and students to rationalize their own act of violence or censorship.

The most vivid example was recently seen at Hunter College, which is part of the CUNY system. Professor Shellyne Rodríguez recently was fired after holding a machete to the neck of a New York Post reporter and threatened to “chop you up.” However, Hunter College decided not to fire her over a prior incident in which she trashed a pro-life table run by students.

Rodríguez spotted students with pro-life material at the college. She was captured on a videotape telling the students that “you’re not educating s–t […] This is f–king propaganda. What are you going to do, like, anti-trans next? This is bulls–t. This is violent. You’re triggering my students.” Even after a remarkably polite student said that he was “sorry,” Rodríguez would have nothing of it. After all, espousing pro-life views is now “violence.” Rodríguez rejected the apology and declared “No you’re not — because you can’t even have a f–king baby. So you don’t even know what that is. Get this s–t the f–k out of here.”

Just a week earlier, a professor stopped another “violent” display of pro-life views in New York. Professor Renee Overdyke of the State University of New York at Albany shut down a pro-life display and then resisted arrest.

At the University of California at Santa Barbara, feminist studies associate professor Mireille Miller Young criminally assaulted pro-life advocates on campus, and later pleaded guilty to the crime. She was defended by faculty and students, including many who said she was “triggered” by a pro-life display and that pro-life advocates were “terrorists” who did not deserve free speech.

It is that easy. You simply declare opposing views “violent” and then you can justify your own violence as a matter of self-defense.

The Colorado controversy does not involve acts of violence over misgendering. Moreover, the guide reflects a deep-felt concern that using someone’s pronouns incorrectly, even unintentionally, leads to “dysphoria, exclusion and alienation.” There are also some positive recommendations in dealing with these difficult situations.

However, this is a university site and there are countervailing free speech costs to characterizing of opposing views on pronouns as violence. As have previously discussed how other countries are prosecuting those who “misgender.” Schools in the United States have promised disciplinary action against any misgendering despite some court cases ruling for faculty with opposing views on pronouns. Even passing out “he/his” candies can result in a university investigation.

Conservative sites like Campus Reform have reported on the Colorado controversy and sought clarification.

Universities are often presented with difficult countervailing interests. On one hand, it must maintain a welcoming and tolerant environment. On the other hand, it must protect free speech values, including the right to express unpopular views or values.

Colorado students have every right to declare misgendering as violence in their eyes, even if many of us disagree. However, the university has an obligation to clearly establish that such views are not the policy or approach of the university itself. The site states “This information was created by students, for students. The university supports an inclusive environment.” It should state that “while the university supports an inclusive environment, the statements on this site are not official statements or policies of the university.” Otherwise, the university should have address the free speech implications of declaring misgendering as a violent act.

Reprinted with permission from]]> Wed, 31 May 2023 13:07:51 GMT
Conspirators for the Constitution: When Anti-Government Speech Becomes Sedition John W. Whitehead & Nisha Whitehead

Let’s be clear about one thing: seditious conspiracy isn’t a real crime to anyone but the US government.

To be convicted of seditious conspiracy, the charge levied against Stewart Rhodes who was sentenced to 18 years in prison for being the driving force behind the January 6 Capitol riots, one doesn’t have to engage in violence against the government, vandalize government property, or even trespass on property that the government has declared off-limits to the general public.

To be convicted of seditious conspiracy, one need only foment a revolution.

This is not about whether Rhodes deserves such a hefty sentence.

This is about the long-term ramifications of empowering the government to wage war on individuals whose political ideas and expression challenge the government’s power, reveal the government’s corruption, expose the government’s lies, and encourage the citizenry to push back against the government’s many injustices.

This is about criminalizing political expression in thoughts, words and deeds.

This is about how the government has used the events of Jan. 6 in order to justify further power grabs and acquire more authoritarian emergency powers. 

This was never about so-called threats to democracy.

In fact, the history of this nation is populated by individuals whose rhetoric was aimed at fomenting civil unrest and revolution.

Indeed, by the government’s own definition, America’s founders were seditious conspirators based on the heavily charged rhetoric they used to birth the nation.

Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Marquis De Lafayette, and John Adams would certainly have been charged for suggesting that Americans should not only take up arms but be prepared to protect their liberties and defend themselves against the government should it violate their rights.

Had America’s founders feared revolutionary words and ideas, there would have been no First Amendment, which protects the right to political expression, even if that expression is anti-government.

No matter what one’s political persuasion might be, every American has a First Amendment right to protest government programs or policies with which they might disagree.

The right to disagree with and speak out against the government is the quintessential freedom.

Every individual has a right to speak truth to power—and foment change—using every nonviolent means available.

Unfortunately, the government is increasingly losing its tolerance for anyone whose political views could be perceived as critical or “anti-government.”

All of us are in danger.

In recent years, the government has used the phrase “domestic terrorist” interchangeably with “anti-government,” “extremist” and “terrorist” to describe anyone who might fall somewhere on a very broad spectrum of viewpoints that could be considered “dangerous.”

The ramifications are so far-reaching as to render almost every American with an opinion about the government or who knows someone with an opinion about the government an extremist in word, deed, thought or by association.

Get ready for the next phase of the government’s war on thought crimes and truth-tellers.

For years now, the government has used all of the weapons in its vast arsenal—surveillance, threat assessments, fusion centers, pre-crime programs, hate crime laws, militarized police, lockdowns, martial law, etc.—to target potential enemies of the state based on their ideologies, behaviors, affiliations and other characteristics that might be deemed suspicious or dangerous.

For instance, if you believe in and exercise your rights under the Constitution (namely, your right to speak freely, worship freely, associate with like-minded individuals who share your political views, criticize the government, own a weapon, demand a warrant before being questioned or searched, or any other activity viewed as potentially anti-government, racist, bigoted, anarchic or sovereign), you could be at the top of the government’s terrorism watch list.

Moreover, as a New York Times editorial warns, you may be an anti-government extremist (a.k.a. domestic terrorist) in the eyes of the police if you are afraid that the government is plotting to confiscate your firearms, if you believe the economy is about to collapse and the government will soon declare martial law, or if you display an unusual number of political and/or ideological bumper stickers on your car.

According to one FBI report, you might also be classified as a domestic terrorism threat if you espouse conspiracy theories, especially if you “attempt to explain events or circumstances as the result of a group of actors working in secret to benefit themselves at the expense of others” and are “usually at odds with official or prevailing explanations of events.”

In other words, if you dare to subscribe to any views that are contrary to the government’s, you might already be flagged as potentially anti-government in a government database somewhere—Main Core, for example—that identifies and tracks individuals who aren’t inclined to march in lockstep to the police state’s dictates.

As The Intercept reported, the FBI, CIA, NSA and other government agencies have increasingly invested in corporate surveillance technologies that can mine constitutionally protected speech on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in order to identify potential extremists and predict who might engage in future acts of anti-government behavior.

And then there is the treatment being meted out to those such as Julian Assange, for example, who blow the whistle on government misconduct that is within the public’s right to know.

Since his April 2019 arrest, Assange has been locked up in a maximum-security British prison—in solitary confinement for up to 23 hours a day—pending extradition to the US, where if convicted, he could be sentenced to 175 years in prison.

This is how the police state deals with those who challenge its chokehold on power.

This is why the First Amendment is so critical. It gives the citizenry the right to speak freely, protest peacefully, expose government wrongdoing, and criticize the government without fear of arrest, isolation or any of the other punishments that have been meted out to whistleblowers.

The challenge is holding the government accountable to obeying the law.

Following the current trajectory, it won’t be long before anyone who believes in holding the government accountable is labeled an “extremist,” relegated to an underclass that doesn’t fit in, watched all the time, and rounded up when the government deems it necessary.

We’re almost at that point now.

Eventually, as I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, we will all be seditious conspirators in the eyes of the government.

We would do better to be conspirators for the Constitution starting right now.

Reprinted with permission from The Rutherford Institute.]]> Wed, 31 May 2023 12:42:24 GMT
Libertarian Apologists for Ukraine’s Authoritarianism Ted Galen Carpenter

It should not come as a surprise that US officials and members of the foreign policy establishment have falsely portrayed Ukraine as a noble democracy. Such deceptions in pursuit of assorted US foreign policy objectives around the globe are nothing new. Throughout the Cold War, Washington routinely contended that "friendly" dictatorships were members of the "free world." More recently, officials in George W. Bush’s administration conducted a concerted propaganda effort that Iraqi exile leader Ahmed Chalabi was the George Washington of Iraq. Obama administration officials and their allies in the news media even sought to make the case that the Islamic jihadists trying to unseat Syria’s Bashar al-Assad were really democratic freedom fighters.

A similar effort is taking place to portray Ukraine as a vibrant democracy and the country’s leader, Volodymyr Zelensky, as a courageous champion of freedom. Biden administration officials and most members of the news media have dutifully promoted those images. The fawning reception given to Zelensky as he addressed a joint session of Congress in December 2022 was an especially graphic example.

There is extensive evidence, however, that Ukraine is in fact run by a corrupt, repressive oligarchy. That situation was true even before Russia’s February 2022 invasion gave Zelensky and his associates a rationale for intensifying their authoritarian practices. Matters have grown steadily worse since then.

The alarming trend is evident in Freedom House’s 2023 report on global liberty. Ukraine received an anemic score of 50 out of 100 points in the overall freedom assessment, putting the country squarely in the middle of the "partly free" category. Kyiv’s score in the "democracy" subcategory was even worse—a 39, which meant that Ukraine was considered a "hybrid" system, embodying both democratic and outright dictatorial features.

The partly free designation actually is a generous rating from an organization that has been extremely friendly to Kyiv’s views and positions for years. Even Freedom House, though, was not willing to try to shoehorn Ukraine into the "free" category. Moreover, the drop in Ukraine’s score from the 2022 report was among the largest of all countries measured.

It is bad enough that policymakers and journalists are willing to ignore or minimize Ukraine’s ideological warts. The situation is worse when supposed libertarians are willing to do so. Jonathan Casey of Students for Liberty states flatly that "the Ukrainian people are in a fight for their freedom, and we do not advance liberty by denying that reality." One might well ask what "freedom" he is talking about.

In a February 2022 open letter signed by more than 90 European self-proclaimed advocates of free markets and individual liberty hailed Ukraine as "a young democracy" with no reference to the country’s mounting authoritarian tendencies. Later, the signatories asserted that "although the road to a free society is never an easy one, we should applaud the efforts made by millions of Ukrainians to move away from the socialist past." Genuine democracies, though, do not shutter opposition media outlets, ban opposition partiesoutlaw designated churches, engage in arbitrary arrests and imprisonment of political opponents, or put domestic and foreign critics on a blacklist, much less smear them as "disinformation terrorists" and "war criminals." The Zelensky government has committed all of those abuses.

Libertarians who ignore or excuse such conduct are being willfully blind, at best. Cato Institute Cultural Studies Fellow Cathy Young’s strained apologia is an especially depressing example. In a debate with Will Ruger in the May 2023 issue of Reason, Young contends that "Ukraine’s liberal democracy" deserves US aid. "Ukraine has already paid its dues as a would-be liberal democracy. Unless one buys into Kremlin narratives about the 2014 ‘US-sponsored coup,’ which reduce mass protest to puppetry, it is clear Ukrainians have collectively cast their lot with liberty."

She does concede that Ukraine is not "a perfect liberal democracy," but given Kyiv’s abuses of liberty, that description is akin to saying that Bonnie and Clyde were not the best, law abiding citizens. It is a monumental understatement. She also tries to excuse Ukraine’s defects by attributing them to the country being "the target of eight years of low-level warfare by Russia before full-scale war began."

Such an apologia damages the credibility of the entire pro-liberty cause. Libertarians above all others should never shrink from criticizing the abuses that foreign clients of the US government commit. An unwillingness to do that makes such individuals willing tools of an unprincipled and extremely dangerous foreign policy. Ukraine is a corrupt autocracy, and people who are truly committed to the principles of liberty should not hesitate to say so.

Ted Galen Carpenter is a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute and a senior fellow at the Libertarian Institute. He also served in various policy positions during a 37-year career at the Cato Institute. Dr. Carpenter is the author of 13 books and more than 1,200 articles on international affairs. His latest book is Unreliable Watchdog: The News Media and US Foreign Policy (2022).

Reprinted with permission from]]> Tue, 30 May 2023 12:45:19 GMT
No Laughing Matter: John Cleese Holds Line Against Calls to Cancel Scene in Life of Brian Jonathan Turley

We have previously discussed how comedians have been objecting that woke activists are killing comedy. The complaint is that a group of perpetually pissed off, humorless people are remaking the world in their own image. It began with college campuses which comedians are now saying are dead as venues since you cannot safely make any joke that insults any group other than white straight males or Christians or conservatives.

Others have objected to hate speech laws limiting comedians, particularly after some comedians have been prosecuted for “malicious communications” or insulting groups or religious figuresSix out of ten students view offensive jokes as hate speech. This week, however, activists appear to have met their match in a legend of comedy who has opposed the cutting of a scene from the movie The Life of Brian. No, activists are not upset with the endless jokes about Italians, Christians, and Jews. It is the scene involving a man who wants to become a women and have a child. John Cleese is refusing to yield.

In The Life of Brian, the scene involves “Stan” who announces that he wants to be a woman named Loretta and have babies. Activists objected that it made fun of transgender people and demanded that it be cut from the film.

The scene shows Stan declaring “I want to be a woman… It’s my right as a man. I want to have babies… It’s every man’s right to have babies if he wants them.” After Cleese’s protest, the character snaps, “Don’t you oppress me!”

Some reported that Cleese had agreed to cut the scene. However, Cleese tweeted out a correction of the “misreporting.”
What is interesting is that Rob Reiner is reportedly working on the reboot. Reiner is known as someone who is a champion of the left in Hollywood. This may be an inauspicious start for the reboot effort.

Cleese is not alone in raising this alarm. Comedians including Chris Rock blamed “unfunny TV shows” on the fact that “everybody’s scared to make a move”. Ricky Gervais objected that the BBC is now paralyzed in fear of offending anyone. Jennifer Saunders said people now “talk themselves out of stuff now because everything is sensitive.”

The same complaint has been made in the age of woke advertising that funny commercials seem increasingly rare as opposed to corporate virtue signaling.

The director of the classic comedy Airplane! observed that humor is being squeezed out of Hollywood and the movie today would have virtually every joke removed. David Zucker called it the “death of creativity.”

They are now set upon by a legion of humorless people who seek to reduce the world to their own narrow range of acceptable levity or irony. These comedy giants are set upon by an Army of Lilliputians who have contributed little to culture beyond chilling artists and writers into obedient silence or compulsive comedy criteria.

Of course, Cleese could always use the line from Bryan’s mother: “He’s a very naughty boy! Now, piss off!”

Reprinted with permission from]]> Mon, 29 May 2023 14:54:28 GMT
Homeschooling is Key to Preserving Liberty Ron Paul

The most recent release from the federally funded Nation’s Report Card shows that 40 percent of eighth graders lack even a basic understanding of US history, while only 14 percent are proficient or advanced in history. This score from 2022 showing so many students lack basic understanding is bad. It also indicates a continuation of a decline that started in 2018, the last time the score was previously reported.

This report should frighten everyone who wants to restore limited, constitutional government and a true free-market economy. Students who graduate high school without basic knowledge of how the government is supposed to work and why the drafters of the Constitution designed it the way they did, as well as the history of the US, are more likely to fall for the lies of authoritarian demagogues who promise economic and personal security in exchange for the people’s liberty.

Even scarier is the fact that many government schools have replaced history and civics with critical race theory, transgender ideology, and other forms of cultural Marxism. Contrary to claims of its defenders, opponents of critical race theory do not object to teaching students the truth about America’s racial history. Instead, critics object to teaching students that the free market is irredeemably racist and thus must be replaced by rule by the “woke.”

Similarly, critics of promoting transgender ideology in schools are not motivated by a desire to punish adults who decide they wish to identify as a different gender. Instead, the motivation is a desire to protect children from being exposed to these and similar topics at an inappropriate age. There are also legitimate concerns over allowing children to have life-altering gender reassignment medical treatments. How is it rational to tell a 13-year-old he cannot choose to have a beer but he can choose to alter his gender? And how is it rational or fair to allow boys to play on girls sports teams simply because the boys have switched pronouns?

The good news in all this madness is that it is encouraging more parents to look into alternatives to government schools such as homeschooling. I have long believed that future leaders of the liberty movement will come from the ranks of homeschoolers. This is a reason why I have started my own homeschool curriculum.

My Ron Paul Curriculum provides students with a well-rounded education that includes rigorous programs in history, mathematics, and the physical and natural sciences. The curriculum also provides instruction in personal finance. Students can develop superior communication skills via intensive writing and public speaking courses. Another feature of my curriculum is that it provides students the opportunity to create and run their own businesses.

The government and history sections of the curriculum emphasize free-market economics, libertarian political theory, and the history of liberty. However, unlike government schools, my curriculum never puts ideological indoctrination ahead of education.

Interactive forums ensure students are engaged in their education and that they have the opportunity to interact with their peers outside of a formal setting.

I encourage all parents looking at alternatives to government schools — alternatives that provide children with a well-rounded education that introduces them to the history and ideas of liberty without sacrificing education for indoctrination — to go to for more information about my homeschooling program.]]> Mon, 29 May 2023 14:26:05 GMT
A Memorial Day Message From a Former US Marine Lucas Gage

It’s Memorial Day and Americans are out barbequing, having a few beers, and spending time with their loved ones; they are celebrating to honor the fallen warriors who have died to protect our nation, our freedoms, and our way of life.

But I have a serious question that may make you uncomfortable: Did they really die protecting those things?

If you believe that every war we have ever started, engaged in, or supported was just, then your answer will be a resounding “Yes!” But I think more and more American are beginning to realize they have been lied to about many of these wars, especially all the wars the came out of the so-called “War on Terror.” Many of those Americans being war veterans just like myself.

America is 246 years old, yet has been at war for over 96% of its existence. Certainly, some of these wars must have been just, but most of them, especially after 1913, have been nothing but special-interest wars that benefited the Military Industrial Complex at the expense of Americans. We were warned about this entity by people who worked for it: once by General Smedley Butler, who wrote a short book (a mere 12 pages) called War is a Racket; and another time by General Dwight D. Eisenhower, in his farewell address. I highly recommend every American read both to get the truth directly from those who were on the inside.

By the way, did you know despite all the fighting our nation has been/is involved in, it has only formally declared war five times? The last time the United States formally declared was in 1942 against the Axis Powers, yet it has been engaged in “military led operations,” “police actions,” and “humanitarian interventions” for over eight decades since then. Just like our government changed the “Department of War” to the “Department of Defense” in 1949, it uses these sanitized terms to avoid calling what these things really are: wars. And as I stated in the last paragraph, most of these wars do not benefit the American people at all; in fact, they cost them everything.

If you agree with what I’m saying, then you are then left with the question: What did our troops really die for? Again, in some cases, they most certainly did die for our freedom and way of life, way back in the War of Independence and the War of 1812, including other conflicts which helped found, shape, and secure our great nation; but I argue every war after those could have been avoided, for they were results of terrible foreign policy; were driven by special-interests; and led to costs far greater than benefits.

Another question many Americans don’t ask themselves is: How are our troops fighting to protect our freedoms, and to preserve our way of life, when every time they go out to fight some “evil dictator” in a foreign nation, or help “spread democracy” to liberate some supposedly oppressed people, our own government passes things like the Patriot Act and NDAA, both of which stripped away our rights here at home? We have hundreds of military bases around the world, with thousands of troops deployed; in fact, according to researchers at Brown University, we are currently engaging in “combat operations” in over 14 countries—only seven of those being acknowledged by the Pentagon—yet somehow our freedoms are under attack, and we are less safe than we ever were before.

When we hear that one of our helicopters crashed in Syria and everyone on board died, which of our freedoms was protected? When one of our convoys is hit by a daisy chain of IEDs, resulting in the deaths of several of our troops, while they were illegally occupying a nation (Iraq) they never should have been in in the first place, which part of our way of life was preserved? How does engaging in these never-ending conflicts protect anything?

How is our way of life being preserved when the moral fabric of American society, along with the family unit, are being attacked by our government’s “Woke” domestic policies? How do these wars benefit Americans when our education system, health, infrastructure, and economy are all literally deteriorating right before our eyes, due to the high cost of funding these wars?

Be honest with yourself, and you will come to the same realization I and millions of others have.

Now, I am not here to diminish the deaths of our troops on this Memorial Day; despite the fact most of the wars we engaged in were unjust and for special interests, there is one thing that we troops did defend: each other.

I was deployed to Iraq twice: once during Operation Iraqi Freedom, in 2003; and another time during Operation Enduring Freedom, in 2004. I, and every other marine, along with most Americans, were unaware that our government was lying us. But once we got into the warzone, the politics no longer mattered; it became a life-or-death situation. So, whether we should have been there or not, the only way we were getting out of there, was to survive and fight our way out. And this is precisely why we must be vigilant and never allow our government to dupe us into another conflict based on lies.

All this is a hard pill to swallow, but we cannot let our patriotism and pride blind us from these uncomfortable truths; this is why I am posting this important message on this special day. It is our responsibility and duty as Americans, to make sure we never put our troops in harm’s way for no good reason, precisely because it is an absolute tragedy when we them in a situation where they must fight for their lives. It is not only an absolute tragedy when we lose someone on our side, but also when the other side loses someone on theirs. Moreover, it makes matters worse when we are the aggressors and invaders, rather than the liberators and freedom fighters we were told we were.

So please, enjoy your Memorial Day and honor the fallen as you should, but keep in mind: in order to truly honor our fallen, we must also hold the traitors and special-interests who sent them to die in vain accountable for their actions, otherwise, we will never see an end to the Military Industrial Complex and its illegal and unjust forever wars.  
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