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Jeff Deist

About Those Spooky Federal Cops in Portland

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Dear Portlandia progressives: a federal government big enough to take care of you is a federal government big enough to "take care of you."

Scary unidentifiable police, federal black sites, and procedureless snatching of individuals from the streets are the wholly predictable and natural consequences of the very policies you advocated for decades. Why do you imagine a big government with lots of power will restrict itself to the cozy "social issues" and economic takings you support? Government can seize the means of production, but not seize you? You wanted everything run from DC, and you got what you wanted. Plus you certainly would be every bit as outraged if federal agents concerned about the undermining of America surreptitiously snatched up a few "white supremacists," right? 

Progressives of all parties have cheered the relentless centralization of state matters—and the rejection of Tenth Amendment—for nearly 150 years. The shaky and infirm Incorporation Doctrine federalized the Bill of Rights, the Supreme Court federalized social and economic issues, and the the alphabet soup of federal agencies created by progressive administrations federalized the regulatory state. Foreign policy was ripped away from Congress and commandeered by bureaucratic Deep State actors at the DOD, CIA, NSA, and the State Department. Thousands of new federal crimes were created by statute. These statutes in turn created a vast federal police state, one heavily influenced and provisioned by the residual weaponry and machinery of our overseas wars. 

So now you wonder why the Feds are sent in to quell an uprising in Portland?
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Coronavirus Propaganda Mimics War Propaganda

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In the period leading up to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Bush administration and its media accomplices waged a relentless propaganda campaign to win political support for what turned out to be one of the most disastrous foreign policy mistakes in American history.

Nearly two decades later, with perhaps a million dead Iraqis and thousands of dead American soldiers, we are still paying for that mistake. 

Vice President Dick Cheney, Attorney General John Ashcroft, Assistant Attorney General John Yoo, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, were key players behind the propaganda—which we can define as purposeful use of information and misinformation to manipulate public opinion in favor of state action. Iraq and its president Saddam Hussein were the ostensible focus, but their greater goal was to make the case for a broader and open-ended "War on Terror." ​
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How Bad Is It?

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How bad is it?

That is the question on everyone's mind as we come to grips with the economic carnage caused by global economic shutdowns, supply chain disruptions, and ongoing quarantines of million of people. Do we face another Great Depression, or simply a deep recession more like 2008? And equally important, are soft Americans prepared for either? Have we started to process all of this psychologically? Have we really come to terms with the enormity of the situation, with the unprecedented risk posed by business shutdowns? Are Americans so accustomed to a certain material standard of living that they do not understand how fragile it is?

Here is what we know. 

Since February, 30 to 40 million of Americans have been thrown out of work. Four or 5 million file new unemployment claims each week. The real unemployment rate is probably over 20 percent, while the labor force participation rate drops like a stone. In states like Hawaii unemployment may approach 35 percent. Deutsche Bank economists predict an absolutely staggering 40 percent reduction in US GDP for the second quarter of 2020.
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Will It Take Food Shortages to End Support for the Shutdown?

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Americans are uniquely privileged, to the point of simply imagining they can stay home for months and months without suffering severe economic hardship as a result. Our unique privilege is delusion, the mentality that America is rich and will remain rich without particular effort on our part. Abundance simply materializes around us, regardless of incentives, and the job of politicians is to rearrange this abundance more equitably.

Polls such as this one showing widespread American support for quarantines and business shutdowns are evidence of this American privilege. Eighty percent of respondents think shutdowns by various state governors are justified as a response to the COVID-19 virus, and one-third support extending closure for another six months! 

This reflexive and unthinking complicity from the American public is partially explained by media hype, of course, over an illness which at this writing has killed fewer than sixty thousand Americans. Fear and hysteria always sell. The press clearly wants the coronavirus to be a major event, one that unseats Trump in the fall. (For its part, the administration is doing a terrible job, starting with the awful Dr. Fauci, whom the president should have sacked months ago.) And clearly the various governors' responses are wildly out of proportion to the actual public health threat, even if initially well intentioned due to sheer uncertainty of the virus's lethality.
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All Crises Are Local

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"South Dakota is not New York City." 

A seemingly innocuous statement, made last Wednesday by Governor Kristi Noem in response to calls for her to issue a coronavirus shutdown across a state with the motto "Under God the People Rule."

South Dakota, after all, is one of the least densely populated states in the vast American West. Surely local circumstances should inform local responses to a communicable disease? 

Not so, according to Noem's scolds at Change.org. They want the same "theory" applied in Brooklyn and in prairie towns with eleven residents per square mile. 

To her tremendous credit, Governor Noem has held firm against the tide of state officials ordering lockdowns and shelter-in-place directives. As of today five US states do not have statewide shutdown orders in place, and some sheriffs too have stood bravely against impositions of soft martial law.
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Politics Drops Its Pretenses

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Can the increasing politicization of life in America be stopped, or even slowed?

To be sure, average Americans do not want this. Most people prefer not to lead overly political lives, beyond perhaps voting once in a while and grumbling about taxes or potholes. Most people prefer to focus on work, family, hobbies, sports, or a million other pursuits instead of politics. We watch the game instead of attending the Tuesday night city council meeting. But increasingly we all feel the pressure, drawing us inexorably into a highly-politicized world which demands we take binary "sides" on Trump, impeachment, abortion, guns, climate change, and far more. This politicization seeps into our jobs, family lives, neighborhoods places of worship, social interactions, and even our sports and entertainment. 

The most salient feature of national politics in 2019 America is its lack of pretenses. The two political Americas, represented by Red and Blue teams, no longer pretend to share a country or any desire to live peaceably together. Much has been made of this cold civil war on both the Left and Right, and much of what has been made is probably over-hyped. Americans, after all, are materially comfortable, soft, addled, diabetic, and rapidly aging; the over-65 population is set to double in the coming decades. Hot civil wars require lots of young men with nothing to lose who are not busy playing Fortnite. But the overall mood of the country is decidedly hostile and suggestive of irreconcilable differences.
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'They Shall Not Grow Old' is a Superb Antiwar Film

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I recently saw the documentary They Shall Not Grow Old, an account by English soldiers of their experiences in the Great War of 1914-1918. Culled from hundreds of hours of colorized actual wartime footage, it's a beautiful and heart wrenching film. It's also a superb antiwar film, simply through its graphic and accurate depiction of mass death and casualties across blood-soaked European battlefields.

Refreshingly, the film relies solely on audio transcripts from about 200 English soldiers who fought in World War I. There is no script, and no narration. The viewer simply hears the gravelly, aged voices of the soldiers themselves, never identified by name or rank. They are anonymous, but judging by the towns from which they hailed and the farm or factory jobs they left, most were enlisted men.

Though commissioned by the BBC, producer Sir Peter Robert Jackson has no political axe to grind. This is a story of men, of human beings and their oftentimes horrific experiences in perhaps the savagest of modern wars. It has little to say about particular battles, commanding officers, politicians, or any of the events surrounding the war. It stands apart from most war documentaries precisely because Jackson strenuously avoids any filter between the soldiers' recollections and the viewer.
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War Abroad, War at Home

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Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, speaking at a Ron Paul Institute conference this past weekend, predicted US troops would remain in Afghanistan another 50 years — just as they have in Germany and Korea. He also termed the ongoing US-backed campaign in Yemen the "most brutal war on earth," a war western media overwhelming ignore. 

Colonel Douglas Macgregor at the same conference called Washington DC "the place where good ideas go to die." His years at the Pentagon, coupled with his experience leading US forces into Iraq during the first Gulf War, caused him to question the DC War Party in the most profound ways. Visiting the parents of an America soldier incinerated in a tank during that foray into Iraq, a foray with few US casualties otherwise, caused him to question not only his own missions but also the larger mission of US armed forces.

Both of these men now pose the same question: what is the goal? Why do seemingly endless military conflicts persist, despite lacking any constituency for their prosecution beyond the DC beltway? And why does US military strategy appear incoherent and counterproductive, when viewed through the lens of peace? Why can't we do anything about this, no matter whom we elect and no matter how much war fatigue resides in the American public?
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Ron Paul: On War, Gold, and My Years in Congress

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Photo: Gage Skidmore

JEFF DEIST: What makes you optimistic, what makes you pessimistic about what you see in the US?

RON PAUL: Well, if I look at the big picture including a long span of time, I would say conditions aren’t that bad, even though I often talk about all the bad things I anticipate and how it could get worse in terms of the economy and foreign policy.
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Let Catalonia Decide

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Should Catalonia be independent?

Surely Catalans, and nobody else, must answer that question. Some Catalans consider themselves Spanish and some don’t. Many Spaniards consider Catalonia part of Spain, while some don’t. But it’s clear that a significant number of Catalans feel politically conquered, and resent it. Why should they live under a Spanish government, when their history, culture, and language are not Spanish?

It’s a fair question, and one for which western democracies have no easy answer. If democratic voting is sacrosanct, are the results also sacrosanct, whatever the outcome? Do democrats really want democracy?

Ludwig von Mises summed up the problem succinctly in Liberalism1:
The situation of having to belong to a state to which one does not wish to belong is no less onerous if it is the result of an election than if one must endure it as the consequence of a military conquest.
Surely many Hillary Clinton voters in the United States feel this way today. They don’t consider Trump a legitimate president (even aside from the electoral college issue), and are not particularly interested in respecting election results or the views of Trump voters. They feel “their” government not only does not represent them, but is actively hostile toward them.
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