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James Bovard

Is the US Going the Way of Afghanistan?

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Acrimony and recriminations continue to swirl around the 2020 presidential election. Three out of four Republicans believe that there was “widespread fraud” in the election, while Democrats have sought to turn criticisms of the election into a “Big Lie” heresy against democracy. Senior congressional Democrats are pressuring the nation’s largest cable providers to cease carrying conservative networks such as Fox News that raised too many questions about Biden’s victory.
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Cuomo and the Failure of Covid Absolutism

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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is falling from grace at epic speed. His administration is now the target of a Justice Department probe for policies that resulted in the death of one out of eight nursing home residents in the state. Regardless of whether the New York legislature impeaches Cuomo, the standard he championed poses a continuing peril. 

From the start of the Covid pandemic, the media idolized Cuomo for his “safety through absolute power” mantra. Last March 20, Cuomo imposed a statewide lockdown on 20 million New Yorkers, closing schools and businesses. Cuomo labeled his decree a “pause” and declared: “If everything we do saves just one life, I’ll be happy.” At that point, most counties in New York state had five or fewer people who have tested positive for coronavirus. 

Cuomo’s “just one life” standard for lockdowns should have obliterated his credibility. Instead, Cuomo’s maxim was treated as a triumph of idealism and benevolence. Cuomo’s power grab was enabled by media allies that fanned hysteria. As AIER editorial director Jeffrey Tucker recently noted, the New York Times’ Donald G. McNeil Jr. “was the first reporter from a major media venue to stir up virus panic and advocate for extreme lockdown measures… The Times allowed its voice to be used to promote a primal and primitive disease panic, which they surely knew would create a cultural/political frenzy.” Presidential candidate Joe Biden hailed Cuomo last Spring for setting the “gold standard” for leadership on Covid.
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The Biggest Lies of the Impeachment Saga

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The Senate impeachment trial of former president Donald Trump confirms historian Henry Adams's adage a century ago that politics “has always been the systematic organization of hatreds.” The impeachment process was a farce that should fortify Americans’ disdain for Washington. Considering how Democrats are using the January 6 clash at the Capitol to justify enacting a new domestic terrorism law, Americans need to recognize the frauds that permeated this process from the start.

At last week’s trial, House impeachment manager Jaime Raskin (D-MD) boasted to the Senate, “I think we have done an exceedingly thorough and comprehensive job with all the evidence that was available.” But the House Democrats did not bother accumulating evidence before the trial. Instead, House impeachment managers showed up at the Senate with video clips and tweets and a bunch of overheated rhetoric and thought that should suffice. House impeachment manager Ted Lieu summarized the proceedings: “Trump is receiving any and all process that he is due.”

Shortly before the Senate was expected to cast the final vote on the trial, Raskin announced that the House team wanted to call an actual witness. Democratic senators first voted to call witnesses and then, a couple of hours later, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) announced that, instead of witnesses, they would simply add one news article based on hearsay to the official record. Unfortunately, the only laughter that erupted on the Senate floor occurred when Trump’s lawyer threatened to summon witnesses for depositions to his law office in “Philly-delphia.” (His house was vandalized after the trial ended.)
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Troop Deployments in Washington Are a Disaster Waiting to Happen

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“Tyranny in form is the first step towards tyranny in substance,” warned Senator John Taylor two hundred years ago in his forgotten classic, Tyranny Unmasked. As the massive National Guard troop deployment in Washington enters its second month, much of the media and many members of Congress are thrilled that it will extend until at least mid-March. But Americans would be wise to recognize the growing perils of the militarization of American political disputes.

The military occupation of Washington was prompted by the January 6 clashes at the Capitol between Trump supporters and law enforcement, in which three people (including one Capitol policeman) died as a result of the violence. Roughly eight hundred protestors and others unlawfully entered the Capitol, though many of them entered nonviolently through open doors and most left without incident hours later.

The federal government responded by deploying twenty-five thousand National Guard troops to prevent problems during President Joe Biden’s swearing-in—the first inauguration since 1865 featuring the capital city packed with armed soldiers. Protests were almost completely banned in Washington for the inauguration.
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The TSA’s New Mask Mandate

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The Transportation Security Administration announced last week that it will be fining travelers up to $1,500 for failing to wear a proper facemask. The TSA could also heavily fine people for wearing a facemask improperly and maybe also for some other offenses the agency hasn’t yet created. It is ironic that a federal agency that helped compound the Covid pandemic just captured more arbitrary power over any American citizen who needs to catch a flight. 

The TSA mask mandate was perhaps inevitable with a new president who portrays forcing people to wear masks as the 21st century version of the Emancipation Proclamation. Airlines have a right to require masks of their passengers and to refuse service to customers who refuse to comply, regardless of the studies raising questions on the efficacy of masks. But the TSA’s new regulations could become another bureaucratic Pandora’s Box from an agency with a long history of pointlessly vexing Americans.

The new TSA regulation mandates: “Mask should fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face.” How will TSA checkpoint screeners assure compliance? Will they run their fingers between the mask and the face to assure sufficient tightness – the same way TSA agents are notorious for fondling female travelers’ panty liners? Regulations also prohibit “masks that do not fit properly (large gaps, too loose or too tight).” Will we have a Goldilocks and the three bears’ porridge “maybe so, maybe not” routine here? Any procedure which involves TSA agents pawing travelers’ masks boosts the risk of contagion.
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Masking America’s Greatest Natural Monuments

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The Biden administration just issued an edict that will spur endless pointless conflicts for Americans seeking to peacefully enjoy hundreds of national parks. On Groundhog Day, the National Park Service (NPS) mandated wearing face masks on all National Park Service lands “when physical distancing cannot be maintained, including “narrow or busy trails, overlooks and historic homes.”

Probably 95% of the Park Service’s 800+ million acres is uncrowded 95% of the time. But the new mandate is an entitlement program for anyone who wants to harass anyone on federal land who is not wearing a mask, regardless of social distancing, wide open spaces, or trails wide enough for 18-wheel trucks.

As the Idaho Statesman noted, “It’s unclear how park officials will enforce Biden’s federal mask mandate.” The Outdoor Society hailed the new regulation: “It is straight forward and very simple to follow, helping to keep everyone safe.” That organization insisted that the policy “is not going to be invasive” but told readers: “If you see violations of the mask requirement: Find the closest ranger or volunteer in the area and let them know.”
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In a Paranoid Nation, 'Treason' Is Everywhere

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FBI agents across the nation are tracking down and arresting Trump supporters who walked into the US Capitol during the January 6 protest that turned into a brawl. Scores of protestors have already been charged with unlawful entry—“knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted building or grounds without lawful authority.” The media is treating this as a heinous and self-evident offense, but my own experience at Washington protests makes me wary of treating transgressions as treason.

I roamed downtown Washington on the day before the inauguration. The city was a ghost town, and most of the stores were either boarded up or out of business. More than a dozen subway stops were barricaded shut to prevent any guys wearing furry hats with horns from suddenly appearing from underground to strike terror into the hearts of the media.

Practically the only folks on the streets were National Guard troops touting automatic weapons (mostly without ammo magazines). There were snipers on rooftops and helicopters occasionally buzzing overhead—all part of what DC mayor Muriel Bowser hailed as the “peaceful transition of power in our country.” If it had been even more “peaceful,” drones would have been blowing up manhole covers. Deploying twenty thousand troops in the nation’s capital was noncontroversial for the nation’s media, because the soldiers were supposedly protecting America against right-wing extremists.
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The Year in which Comforting American Myths Were Ravaged

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Thanks in large part to Covid lockdowns, this year has left vast wreckage in its wake, with ten million jobs lost, more than 100,000 businesses and dozens of national chains bankrupted or closed. Up to 40 million people could face eviction in the coming months for failing to pay rent, and Americans report that their mental health is at record low levels. But the casualty list for 2020 must also include many of the political myths that shape Americans’ lives. 

Perhaps the biggest myth to die this year was that Americans’ constitutional rights are safeguarded by the Bill of Rights. After the Covid-19 pandemic began, governors in state after state effectively placed scores of millions of citizens under house arrest – dictates that former Attorney General Bill Barr aptly compared to “the greatest intrusion on civil liberties” since the end of slavery.

Politicians and government officials merely had to issue decrees, which were endlessly amended, in order to destroy citizens’ freedom of movement, freedom of association, and freedom of choice in daily life. Los Angeles earlier this month banned almost all walking and bicycling in the city, ordering four million people to “to remain in their homes” in a futile effort to banish a virus.
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