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Nationalism, Statism and Propaganda

This month’s major political conventions will be historic. Nationalist Donald Trump, presumptive nominee of the philosophically bankrupt Republican Party, and welfare-statist Hillary Clinton, presumptive nominee of the New Left-dominated Democratic Party, are the most untrusted and, incidentally, unpopular presidential candidates in modern history. Clinton, exonerated this week by the Obama administration under a cloud of suspicion after the attorney general met with her spouse, the ex-president Bill Clinton, will be the first woman nominated for the presidency by a major party. Trump, generating controversy as always and this time by re-posting a Star of David superimposed on a pile of money via social media, will be the first non-Republican and explicit anti-capitalist nominated by the party which once advocated some degree of capitalism and individual rights. Both will be nominated in American states which were once great industrial centers; Clinton in America’s first capital, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Trump in Cleveland, Ohio.

Look for what today’s digital public relations, marketing and social media types call optics at the GOP (July 18-21) and Democratic (July 25-28) conventions. Halting, hair-splitting, cackling Clinton may try to come off as softer, less harsh and hostile and more easygoing as a leader; the safer choice. Spewing, ear-splitting, rambling Trump may try to pass himself off as essentially charismatic and strong, less harsh and hostile and more decisive as a leader; the stronger choice. He will try to be a man of the people, an unapologetic village crier and throwback to pre-Obama days, undoing Obama’s legacy by throwing up tougher, state-sponsored fixes at the strongman’s sole discretion. She will try to appear as a woman of the people, a servant carrying on the Obama presidency’s New Left agenda while silently signalling that the age of statism and egalitarianism—policy dictates defining one’s identity by race, sex or culture—has just begun. The next few weeks will be heavy on optics for two power-lusting frauds in American politics.

Look closer for signs of propaganda, however. Whether at the statist’s or the nationalist’s convention, despite whatever riots, anarchy and attack may be carried out, the coming conventions and 2016 will be filled with symbolism and signs of what’s to come. Trump is a master of this—Clinton is not—as he demonstrates by tagging media personalities, streams and channels to generate greater exposure and attract new followers (read my post on The Circus Cycle). Though Trump polls as a loser, polls have been wrong for years, from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s upset loss to this summer’s Brexit victory. I suspect the Trump voter conceals his planned vote from others. Watch for propaganda to foreshadow (unless Libertarian Gary Johnson is elected president) the new presidency.

TCOHG

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Propaganda, as shown at a recent exhibit at the Richard Riordan Central Library in Downtown Los Angeles, has the power to push a civilized nation to dictatorship. Through visual manipulation, such as digital memes, cartoons and posters, especially in today’s increasingly anti-conceptual, perceptual-level culture, the public can more easily be persuaded of certain assertions. National Socialist propaganda, including promotions for Hitler’s Mein Kampf (which translates as My Struggle), was thoroughly premeditated. Read Leonard Peikoff’s The Cause of Hitler’s Germany for a fundamental explanation of Nazi Germany.

As displayed in “State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda”, which runs at the Downtown LA library through August 21 (read about the traveling exhibition here), the Fuhrer (“leader”) and his top Nazis clearly grasped the importance of graphic arts in disseminating their philosophy of duty to the state and submission of the individual to serving others, i.e., altruism, in the name of the god-state-people-race. In certain cases, graphics and images glorify the upshot of National Socialism in practice: mass death and total government control of the individual’s life.

The exhibitionproduced by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, shows how “the Nazis used propaganda to win broad voter support in Germany, implement radical programs, and justify war and mass murder”. The exhibit continues in Texas and Louisiana (see the schedule here).

Nazi Propaganda Poster LAPLNazi propaganda posters, movies, art and designs also illustrate attacks on Jews, capitalism and profit. There are other lessons, too. Note the cult of personality employed to foster worship of the charismatic leader. Observe similarities to recent U.S. campaign themes, such as Obama’s “hope and change” paraphernalia, the controversial “Ready for Hillary” capital H with its arrow, and, of course, Trump’s chronic emphasis on himself as the charismatic leader for nationalism, bellowing against others—illegal immigrants, Moslems, Apple, businesses that trade with China—as causing America’s downfall. Clinton, and especially Sanders, target others, too—businesses, Apple, traders on Wall Street, the wealthy—and both sides explicitly target the individual for persecution.

What is so alarming about the 2016 presidential election, and what makes National Socialist propaganda particularly relevant, is the erosion of freedom of speech in America. Obama’s administration attacks free speech, from censoring news to censoring movies and intimidating Americans who would exercise free speech (read Obama Vs. Free Speech). Clinton, who once proposed outlawing divorce for couples with children, has been a part of Obama’s assault on the First Amendment and she sought to evade public and press scrutiny during her entire four years as secretary of state while denouncing an American film as the cause of an Islamic terrorist act of war on the United States. Trump, who cuts off microphones at press conferences, proposes eliminating free speech by weakening libel law and jokes, then says he means it seriously, about having journalists targeted for state-sponsored death.

NaziFlowChartThese are explicit policy ideas, plans and actions. Insidious state sponsorship of media and the arts, like something emanating from the Nazi flow chart pictured here, includes quasi government control of the Oscars (Michelle Obama Ruins the Oscars) and arts and technology conferences (SXSW).

As the free press, too, diminishes with the spread of quasi-government control of industry, subsidizing state-favored cable TV monopolies like Time Warner and Comcast which own and operate major media (CNN, HBO, Warner Bros. Pictures, MSNBC, NBC, Universal Studios), coupled with the dumbing down of American education and culture, it becomes both easier and less apparent for the state to impose controls, cronyism and influence, i.e., blacklists. Only this summer did Tribune Publishing, which owns the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and Baltimore Sun, change its name to the term “tronc” (without the quotation marks but with the bad punctuation), an amalgamation of “Tribune online content” in what appears to be a bid to seem modern, generic and anti-conceptual.

Convergence of today’s aggregated, dumbed down media with secretive, oppressive censorship cannot be far behind.

Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, whom the world lost last week, lived his entire life warning of the danger of staying silent while ominous government insidiously gains the power to destroy life. As the summer of ’16—with Clinton, tronc and Trump—goes down shoveling propaganda in conventions and toward a darker history, this is the moment to stay tuned, call statist and nationalist propaganda what it is and speak out.

Book Review: Our Republican Constitution (2016)

OurRepublicanConstitution

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Taking account of the United States Constitution, Georgetown University scholar Randy Barnett, whom I interviewed about ObamaCare after it became law (read it here), makes the case that this historic document is essentially republican in his simply titled new book, Our Republican Constitution: Securing the Liberty and Sovereignty of We the People.

The author proves his thesis. It’s worth mentioning the book’s problems, however, which, in general, are to be found with works by most right-wing, libertarian intellectuals: the intended audience appears to be fellow libertarians and conservatives, so the assumed context of knowledge may not apply to the leftist, liberal or general reader. Also, given the dense material, certain sections are uneven. Barnett writes like the legal scholar he is, so the back and forth can be exhausting. And, as he did in our interview about ObamaCare, Barnett declines to name the correct moral premise of his argument.

With the republic urgently at stake, though, Our Republican Constitution is extremely informative and Randy Barnett makes a powerfully important case for activism in order to save the American republic. He accomplishes this by reducing multiple ideas, if circuitously, to the rights of the individual.

As he observes in the introduction:

At its core, this debate is about the meaning of the first three words of the Constitution: “We the People.” those who favor the Democratic Constitution view We the People as a group, as a body, as a collective entity. Those who favor the Republican Constitution view We the People as individuals.”

From here, incorporating the ideas of John Locke, Montesquieu and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Barnett tells stories based on facts, quotes and history, of American government in decline, from major mistakes during the nation’s founding to the suspicious Supreme Court decision to uphold ObamaCare, in which he notes that “it was reliably reported” that the nation’s Chief Justice—conservative John Roberts—switched his vote on the individual insurance mandate, possibly due to intimidation.

The central conflict in Our Republican Constitution is between these two opposing views, the Democratic Constitution—”first comes government, then come rights”—tied to Rousseau’s notion of the General Will, which Barnett eviscerates, and the premise of the Republican Constitution: “first come rights and then comes government.” After outlining his case with ample historical sourcing and documentary evidence, the author sets it up, asking the reader: “Were the founders really against democracy? You bet. They blamed the problems in the states under the Articles of Confederation on an excess of democracy.”

Differentiating between both sides’ views of popular sovereignty, which he acknowledges are both consistent with the idea of representative government, Barnett breaks down the story of slavery in the United States, which he develops throughout the book. He points out that Democrats defended slavery as a form of socialism, as against capitalism, because, Democrats argued, slaves are cared for from cradle to grave. He digs into details and aspects of whether, “given the sovereignty of the people as individuals, the people cannot be ‘presumed’ or ‘supposed’ to have confided in their legislature any power to violate their fundamental rights.” The answer is No.

Not according to Democrats, of course, who believe that a majority of the people gets to speak for everyone (President Martin Van Buren’s idea of democracy, he writes, was close to Rousseau’s: “He ‘seems to have conceived of the democracy almost as a unified body with a single true will’). Barnett adds: “And the majority, if it wishes, can even authorize the enslavement of the minority!”

Along the journey, which is in turns jaw-dropping, illuminating and, given today’s political context, terribly depressing, the reader learns about an Ohio senator who, in 1854, demanded to know “[w]hat kind of popular sovereignty is that which allows one portion of the people to enslave another portion? Is that the doctrine of equal rights? Is that exact justice? Is that the teaching of enlightened, liberal, progressive Democracy? No, sir; no! There can be no real democracy which does not fully maintain the rights of man, as man.” Or that the Civil Rights act of 1866 granted that:

citizens, of every race and color, without regard to any previous condition of slavery or involuntary servitude…shall have the same right…to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, give evidence, to inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold, and convey real and personal property, and to the full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of person and property, as is enjoyed by white citizens…any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom, to the contrary notwithstanding.

Midway through Our Republican Constitution, it is evident that that’s not the civil rights act that today’s students learn about in state-controlled U.S. history classes (to the extent American history is taught in government schools) and the state of the union today might be very different, which is to say better, if they did!

Piling on shocking tales of early American acts of anti-capitalism, Barnett goes on. Democratic Constitution proponents include Democrats, Rousseau and Oliver Wendell Holmes, whom Barnett demonstrates believed that “if there exists anyone who is rational and fair who thinks that a measure is constitutional, then it is.” Other arch-opponents to a republican Constitution were Woodrow Wilson, who sought to subject America to parliamentary rule, and Theodore Roosevelt who once said of the judiciary: “our prime concern is that in dealing with the fundamental law of the land, and assuming finally to interpret it, and therefore finally to make it, the acts of the courts should be subject to and not above the final control of the people as a whole.”

After establishing the arguments for and against and setting the contrast, the Georgetown University professor sums up the cold, hard truth that America’s “system of voting does not [in fact] allow the sovereign people to ‘rule,’ and it is a pernicious myth to claim that they do.”

Though he never fundamentally, philosophically challenges “the social compact” or General Will, it’s easy to apply the detailed, persuasive points of Barnett’s thesis to today’s ominous possibilities. The prospect of Donald Trump‘s proposed strongman rule comes to mind as Barnett quotes Montesquieu, who explained that: “There is no liberty if the judiciary power be not separated from the legislative and executive. Were it joined with the legislative, the life and liberty of the subject would be exposed to arbitrary control; for the judge would be then the legislator. Were it joined to the executive power, the judge might behave with violence and oppression.”

Barnett delivers a good explanation of the rise of the omnipotent state, closing the loop with an excellent summary and warning from Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas:

we have too long abrogated our duty to enforce the separation of powers required by our Constitution. We have overseen and sanctioned the growth of an administrative system that concentrates the power to make laws and the power to enforce them in the hands of a vast and unaccountable administrative apparatus that finds no comfortable home in our constitutional structure. The end result may be trains that run on time (although I doubt it), but the cost is to our Constitution and the individual liberty it protects.”

To his credit, Barnett, who has written several Constitutional volumes and whose new book includes a foreword by George Will, is aware that this thoughtful, timely and intelligent book isn’t exactly what you’d buy for reading at the beach—after one section, he admits that “perhaps you had difficulty even following it”—but he doesn’t identify the ends where we’re heading, merely referring to “whatever progressive political agenda may be at any given time”. Our Republican Constitution would benefit from stronger connecting of the dots, as Barnett himself seems to grasp. For instance, perhaps sensing that an outright socialist such as Bernie Sanders might follow the disaster of a Trump or Clinton presidency, he rightly observes that “[f]or our modern-day progressives, what matters is the end, not the means. Social justice, not democracy.”

Though he does not spell out what this really means in practice, let alone demonstrate why socialism is evil, a chronic libertarian deficiency, and in the following chapter, he magnifies the minutiae, Randy Barnett leaves the reader with an abundance of historical facts and useful intellectual weapons with which to fight for Our Republican Constitution, all but daring the reader to use it or lose it with the words of President Calvin Coolidge: “We live in an age of science and abounding accumulation of material things. These did not create our Declaration. Our Declaration created them.”

And, while his defense manual for “securing the liberty and sovereignty of We the People” was undoubtedly written before the rise of the orange-haired fascist and state-bred crony and the impending end of the Republican Party, Barnett clearly anticipates danger ahead. Referring to Coolidge’s above quote on freedom as the precondition for progress, Barnett boldly concludes that “we need a Republican Party that can say this, understand this, and truly believe this once again – and, if not the existing Republican Party, then a new one to replace it.”

With an index, extensive notes and a poignant acknowledgment of his father, a victim of Alzheimer’s—”this book is dedicated to the memory of the man who had the greatest influence on my political convictions: my father and personal hero, Ronald Evan Barnett — who was a true “Republican” as I am defining the term”—Our Republican Constitution is a thoughtful Father’s Day present and an eye-opening self-defense for the rational American which offers historical enlightenment about America’s true origins.

Preview: Oliver Stone’s Snowden

Oliver Stone’s new movie about Edward Snowden, the whistleblower whose act of defiance against the Obama administration led to his persecution and exile and awareness of the surveillance state, debuts on September 16.

The title is Snowden. The tagline: “The only safe place is on the run.”

snowden-movie-poster-useJudging by the polished, paranoia-themed trailer, Snowden will be typical of Stone, the Academy Award®-winning director of Platoon, AlexanderBorn on the Fourth of July, JFK, Wall Street and World Trade Center. The trailer looks like it bears his usual marks; creative license apparently taken with what’s known about Snowden’s motives, relationships and life, to the extent this is discernible, Stone’s dark, moody look and an all-star cast including Melissa Leo (The Fighter), Zachary Quinto (Star Trek), Rhys Ifans (The Amazing Spider-Man), Nicolas Cage (Ghost Rider), Tom Wilkinson (Batman Begins), Shailene Woodley of the Divergent series and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (The Walk, Mysterious Skin, Lincoln) as Edward Snowden (watch Snowden‘s trailer here and read my thoughts on Edward Snowden here.)

At least Gordon-Levitt, an excellent actor (he’s marvelous in the exquisite The Walk), is a fine choice as the lead. Also, in this case, unlike leftist Stone’s compelling but flawed JFK, the movie’s apparent subject, the essential story of the man who unmasked the American surveillance state, is, in fact, a conspiracy, by the government’s admission. Snowden is a hero if you think, as I do, that the United States is becoming totally controlled by the state, and a traitor if you believe that the state’s proper role is security regardless of individual rights. What he did, whatever your philosophy, has an undeniable impact on Americans’ lives and liberty, including influence on Apple’s courageous decision to defy the government, and Snowden could be better than Stone’s previous pictures, including Alexander, his mixed and wrongly maligned 2004 movie about Alexander the Great.

 

Choosing the President 2016

With five major candidates remaining in the Republican and Democratic political parties, the 2016 presidential campaign is, like the nation, coming to a climax.

This Tuesday’s Wisconsin primary may prove to be a turning point for the GOP, whose frontrunner is a lifelong anti-Republican who is running as a Republican, because the challenger is expected to win by a wide margin. Later this month, the New York primary may similarly prove to be a Democratic Party pivot point because that party’s challenger, a socialist running as a Democrat, may defeat the frontrunner. By May, with over two more months to go before the summer party conventions, the 2016 race could be totally undecided.

DNC2012CharlotteAs in 2012’s election, the nation’s future hangs in the balance. The essential nature of America’s republican form of government—a constitutional republic based upon individual rights—is at stake in this election.

Especially this time, I think it is important to remember that, as loaded with volatility as the races are, and as divided as the nation is, anything can happen to change the whole campaign—economic catastrophe, acts of war, assassination, riots, smears, blackmail, indictment, illness, a third or fourth major candidacy, secret deal-making and maneuvering—and throw the American political process into a tailspin.

Already, for instance, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, whom I interviewed when he ran for president as the Libertarian Party’s candidate in 2012 (read the interview here) embraced a recent poll that puts him at 11 percent in a contest against frontrunners Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Johnson would certainly be a better president than either Clinton or Trump, who both seek government control of people’s lives, though his election as a third party candidate is currently unlikely.

t1larg.ryan.romney.mar30A more likely scenario is that Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, a status quo Republican who said he would never run to be speaker of the House, will try to become the GOP’s nominee for president. The Speaker, who was chosen as Mitt Romney’s running mate in 2012, clearly has higher aspirations and, contradicting himself on every other issue such as the budget, being speaker and his endorsement and subsequent disavowal of Ayn Rand, Congressman Ryan is the typical politician. Also in the typical/status quo camp is Ohio Governor John Kasich (pronounced KAY-SICK), an altruist for the welfare state who seeks religion in government. Kasich is running as a spoiler to frontrunner Trump’s main challenger, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, jockeying for deal-making position, probably all the way to the GOP’s Cleveland, Ohio convention, despite having only won his home state.

To his credit, 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney, the candidate against President Obama last time who failed to identify Obama’s death premise and fully differentiate himself as the candidate of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, has denounced Trump, whom he said he will not vote for. This is more than most conservatives, libertarians and Republicans have done. Indeed, it’s more than Cruz has done. Romney announced that he would vote for Cruz, though he stopped short of an explicit endorsement. Romney himself may want to become the party’s nominee, though it may be more magnanimous and patriotic if he makes a deal with Cruz to abandon Cruz’s worst positions, such as pledging to support Trump if he’s the nominee, building a wall, banning abortion and opposing marriage for gays, in exchange for Romney’s endorsement.

DonaldTrumpTrump is running to be America’s strongman whether as a Republican or as an independent candidate. He opposes free trade, free choice in medicine, immigration, free speech, property rights, capitalism and individual rights. He’s expressed admiration for states with socialized medicine. He talks about having journalists murdered and seeks to be “neutral” with Israel’s enemies. He agrees with Barack Obama in opposing Apple’s individual rights and he says he would build a wall around America. Kasich wants American government to be ruled by religion and so does Cruz, though he at least says he wants to unite the nation around two key secular proposals: unyielding national defense against the Islamic jihad and restoring America’s government to a Constitutional republic.

The challenger in both parties may yet emerge as the nominee. Self-described socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders recently swept caucuses in the West, where pockets of socialism fester, especially among indoctrinated youths, and he could win the nomination (as he explains here). An election between Sanders and Cruz could be a contest of conflicting principles. A race between Trump and Clinton will be an impossible choice between toxic policies that will destroy America and there is a degree to which all the remaining five candidates pledge to end America. But there is time and there are degrees. The American for individual rights must choose (and those who refuse to choose are choosing, be default, to check and blank out). Because, this year, anything bad can happen—including economic collapse, foreign attack and anarchism (i.e., by the Anonymous anarchists)—the good American must start by choosing to be aware, staying on alert for rational activism.

The year 2016 promises to be another sharp turn in American government. Whichever direction the United States takes—toward dictatorship or liberty—becomes known in November. The choice intensifies next week.

United States of ‘Appalling’

The proper word for today’s news is appalling.

This is the word used by conservative columnist Thomas Sowell, who endorsed Sen. Ted Cruz for president with qualifications, to describe the prospect of a presidential election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Sowell writes that these two disgraceful candidates “are not merely inadequate but appalling.”

Warning that the nation is on a “ruinous road to a point of no return”, he points out that:

The trends that brought us to this crucial day go back for years. But whatever the paths that led to this crossroads, we are in fact at a crossroads and our future, and our children’s futures, depend on whether we can come up with some presidential candidate better than either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. In other times and in other conditions, one bad president could not ruin a great nation. We survived Jimmy Carter and we may survive Barack Obama, but there is no guarantee that we can survive an unlimited amount of reckless decisions in a dangerous world. The dangers are both internal and external. Two of our bitterest enemies—Iran and North Korea—are openly declaring their desire to destroy us. And both are developing intercontinental missiles that can carry nuclear warheads.”

DonaldTrumpYet, in an apparently sweeping approval of the two parties’ frontrunners, majorities of voters in most states with today’s primaries—in Missouri, North Carolina, Illinois, Florida and Ohio—Clinton and Trump won (Ohio Gov. John Kasich, an altruistic advocate for the welfare state, bolstered by Democrats crossing over to vote for him, won in his home state). Sowell’s column (read it here) forecast today’s disastrous results and, toward the end, he calls for supporting Cruz as the only real alternative to this increasingly likely and unacceptable contest between two shrill, cackling power-lusters who seek total government control of people’s lives. Leonard Peikoff, in a recent episode of his podcast (listen to it here), said that he thinks America is in fast decline and, given the presidential campaign thus far including today’s election results, I agree.

This year’s election looks like an oncoming catastrophe for the nation based on individual rights. I’ve been observing, reporting and writing about the nation’s downward spiral for years and now that the rate of acceleration downward is apparent to everyone, it is worse than I could have imagined. Sowell is right that these two candidates are appalling. Unfortunately, most appalled Americans may be making matters worse—some, if not most, I suspect, without knowing it.

HRChissyKnowing better could stop the coming disaster. On a fundamental level, this must happen through philosophical change achieved through education. But in the few months remaining before the national political conventions, especially the Republican National Convention in July in Cleveland, Ohio, and between now and Election Day, those who know why Clinton and Trump are appalling as candidates for the presidency of this American republic should think about activism and speak out as early and as often as possible. Though time is short, the impending doom of a race between Clinton vs. Trump—an unwinnable conflict—can be stopped.

For both aspiration and inspiration, look to the words and actions of the West’s greatest business, an American computer company called Apple in Cupertino, California. Apple, as you probably know, is being persecuted by the Obama administration, which fundamentally made Trump and Clinton possible, and Apple has decided to reject granting what Ayn Rand called the sanction of the victim.

Apple is fighting back.

Invoking America’s founding fathers in a defiant appeal to reason in the nation’s judicial system (read about it here), Apple again opposed Obama’s order to violate Apple’s rights today in court by arguing that “[a]ccording to the government, short of kidnapping or breaking an express law, the courts can order private parties to do virtually anything the Justice Department and FBI can dream up.”

Apple lawyers added: “The Founders would be appalled.”