Thursday, September 21, 2017

A Carbon Tax Won’t Stop Hurricanes

A Carbon Tax Won’t Stop Hurricanes

In the midst of a severe hurricane season and the destruction wrought by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, many people are claiming that man-made global warming has intensified rainfall and hurricanes. However, comprehensive facts show that rainfall and hurricane activity are well within the bounds of natural variation, and there is no cogent evidence that they have increased over the past century.

Moreover, the United States contains only 1.9 percent of the world’s surface area, and the earth’s climate oscillates widely over time and place. Hence, focusing on US-area hurricanes that occur within a single year easily distorts the issue of climate change.

The Claims

While Hurricane Irma was razing the Caribbean and barreling toward Florida, climate scientist David Hastings told the Washington Post, “Hurricane Harvey and Irma should resolve any doubt that climate change is real.” Likewise:
  • CNN’s Ron Brownstein reported during Hurricane Harvey, “There is no doubt that climate change, particularly because of warming the ocean waters and the gulf waters, makes storms like this more common.”
  • Meteorologist Eric Holthaus wrote in Politico that “climate change is making rainstorms everywhere worse, but particularly on the Gulf Coast.”
  • The BBC’s Laura Trevelyan stated, “Of course we do have a changing climate we do have warming waters. With more warming waters, you get more moisture coming into the atmosphere, and what hurricanes absolutely love is moisture because that gives them rainfall. And that’s what’s happened in this situation with Hurricane Harvey.”
In the same vein, FactCheck.org science writer Vanessa Schipani asserted that global warming “makes intense storms like Harvey more likely to occur.” In support of this statement, she declared that:
  • “A warmer world leads to greater moisture in the atmosphere, which leads to greater precipitation, which leads to more intense storms.”
  • A 2013 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report “found that scientists are ‘virtually certain’ (99 to 100 percent confident) that there has been an ‘increase in the frequency and intensity of the strongest tropical cyclones since the 1970s’ in the North Atlantic Ocean.”
  • One of the “key findings” of a draft report by the U.S. Global Change Research Program is that “human activities have ‘contributed to the observed increase in hurricane activity’ in the North Atlantic Ocean since the 1970s.”
  • The same report says that “studies that have looked at this question have come up with a ‘fairly broad’ range of contributions for humans, but ‘virtually all studies identify a measurable, and generally substantial, [human] influence,’ it adds.”
The claims above paint a distorted picture of reality by ignoring the most relevant and comprehensive facts about this issue.

Global Rainfall Trends

Contrary to the notion that global warming has caused more rain, the authors of a 2015 paper in the Journal of Hydrology studied rainfall measurements “made at nearly 1,000 stations located in 114 countries” and found “no significant global precipitation change from 1850 to present.”

The paper also notes that previous studies had analyzed shorter timeframes and found rainfall changes that some people had attributed to global warming, but those results were generally not statistically significant and “not entirely surprising given that precipitation varies considerably over time scales of decades.”

Beyond total rainfall, many climate models predict that global warming will cause the rain to fall in shorter periods, and thus, with more intensity. Yet, even according to the IPCC—which has engaged in deceitful actions to exaggerate global warming—evidence for such an outcome is highly questionable:
Since 1951 there have been statistically significant increases in the number of heavy precipitation events (e.g., above the 95th percentile) in more regions than there have been statistically significant decreases, but there are strong regional and sub-regional variations in the trends. In particular, many regions present statistically non-significant or negative trends, and, where seasonal changes have been assessed, there are also variations between seasons (e.g., more consistent trends in winter than in summer in Europe).
This issue becomes even murkier when looking at the bigger picture, because apparent changes in rainfall intensity sometimes vanish when examining longer timeframes that better account for natural variations. For example, the International Journal of Climatology published a paper in 2015 about extreme rainfall in England and Wales that revealed, “Contrary to previous results based on shorter periods, no significant trends of the most intense categories are found between 1931 and 2014.”

Global Storms and Hurricanes

A “tropical cyclone” is a circular wind and low-pressure system that develops over warm oceans in the tropics. Cyclones with winds ranging from 39 to 73 miles per hour are called “tropical storms,” and those with winds exceeding 73 miles per hour are called “hurricanes.” Technically, there are different names for cyclones with hurricane-force winds in different areas of the world, but for the sake of simplicity, this article refers to them as hurricanes.

The datasets below, which were originally published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters in 2011, show that the global number and intensity of tropical storms and hurricanes have not increased over the past four decades:




Corroborating this data, the IPCC reported in 2012, “There is low confidence in any observed long-term (i.e., 40 years or more) increases in tropical cyclone activity (i.e., intensity, frequency, duration), after accounting for past changes in observing capabilities.”

In spite of these facts, a national scientific poll commissioned by Just Facts shortly before the 2016 presidential election found that 44% of Trump voters and 77% of Clinton voters believed that the global number and intensity of hurricanes and tropical storms have generally increased over the past 30 years. This sharp disconnect between reality and perception accords with a flood of global warming-related misinformation spread by the media and environmental groups.

North Atlantic Storms and Hurricanes

In the North Atlantic region, where hurricanes Harvey and Irma formed, tropical storm and hurricane activity has  significantly increased over the past four decades. However, this trend fades in the wider context of variation over the past century. As explained by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):
No robust trends in annual numbers of tropical storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes counts have been identified over the past 100 years in the North Atlantic basin.
NOAA states that North Atlantic tropical storms show a “pronounced upward trend” since 1878, but this is because these records are “relatively sparse” in their early decades. After NOAA adjusts for the “estimated number of missing storms,” the trend in storm activity is “not significantly distinguishable from zero.” Furthermore, NOAA notes that the upward trend in the unadjusted data,
Is almost entirely due to increases in short-duration (<2 day) storms alone. Such short-lived storms were particularly likely to have been overlooked in the earlier parts of the record, as they would have had less opportunity for chance encounters with ship traffic.
With regard to the most intense storms, NOAA reports that “the reported numbers of hurricanes were sufficiently high during the 1860s-1880s that again there is no significant positive trend in numbers beginning from that era…. This is without any adjustment for ‘missing hurricanes.’”

Even more relevant to the implications of Harvey and Irma, NOAA notes that the record of North Atlantic hurricanes that reach land are “more reliable” than for the entire North Atlantic, and they “show a slight negative trend beginning from 1900 or from the late 1800s.” In other words, the most reliable data shows the opposite of what many media outlets are reporting.

NOAA emphasizes that one cannot logically assess hurricane trends based only on those that reach land because they are “much less common” than the full number of hurricanes that form at sea. This highlights the absurdity of drawing conclusions based on hurricanes that make landfall, much less hurricanes that make landfall in one region in a single year

After reviewing the data above, NOAA states, “In short, the historical Atlantic hurricane record does not provide compelling evidence for a substantial greenhouse warming-induced long-term increase.”

Similarly, the very same 2013 IPCC report cherry-picked by FactCheck.org states, “No robust trends in annual numbers of tropical storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes counts have been identified over the past 100 years in the North Atlantic basin.” This is word-for-word the same as stated by NOAA.

“Scientists Say”

Three times in her FactCheck.org article, Schipani used the phrase “scientists say” as if she were citing the universal opinion of scientists. Given the contents of her article, a longer but honest rewording of this phrase would be that “some scientists who have previously misled the public about global warming say so, but some scientists disagree.”

For example, Schipani quoted climate scientist Michael Mann—creator of the notorious hockey stick chart and inventor of a “trick” to “hide the decline“ in temperatures—as though he were an unquestionable authority. Mann claimed that global warming may have caused Hurricane Harvey to stall over Houston and drop a devastating amount of rain in this location. However, Schipani failed to inform her readers that some other climate scientists, like Roy Spencer, disagree with Mann and write:
I don’t know of any portion of global warming theory that would explain why Harvey stalled over southeast Texas. Michael Mann’s claim in The Guardian that it’s due to the jet stream being pushed farther north from global warming makes me think he doesn’t actually follow weather like those of us who have actual schooling in meteorology (my degree is a Ph.D. in Meteorology). We didn’t have a warm August in the U.S. pushing the jet stream farther north.
Similarly, Schipani uncritically cited:
  • The IPCC, whose scientists wrote an array of incriminating emails in which they said things like, “I tried hard to balance the needs of the science and the IPCC, which were not always the same.”
  • Kevin Trenberth, an IPCC lead author who participated in a press conference where he misrepresented the facts about global warming and hurricanes. As a result, Chris Landsea, a scientist who Trenberth had tasked to draft a chapter on Atlantic hurricanes for the IPCC, quit the IPCC and stated, “I personally cannot in good faith continue to contribute to a process that I view as both being motivated by pre-conceived agendas and being scientifically unsound.”
  • The U.S. Global Change Research Program, which cited a certain paper as evidence that climate change is causing more floods, while in reality the paper states, “In none of the four regions defined in this study is there strong statistical evidence for flood magnitudes increasing with increasing” greenhouse gas levels.
In Conclusion

Certain media outlets have linked Hurricanes Harvey and Irma to global warming by ignoring wide-ranging facts and cherry-picking timeframes, geographical locations, report contents, and the opinions of scientists. As explained in an academic book about analyzing data, “One of the worst abuses of analytics is to cherry pick results. Cherry pickers tout analysis findings when the results serve the purpose at hand. But, they ignore the findings when the results conflict with the original plan.”

Webster’s College Dictionary defines science as the “systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation.” By this standard, there are no grounds to claim that global warming has increased rainfall or hurricane activity.


James Agresti


James D. Agresti is the president of Just Facts, a nonprofit institute dedicated to publishing verifiable facts about public policy.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.


Internet Raises $80K for Hot Dog Vendor Mugged by Government

Internet Raises $80K for Hot Dog Vendor Mugged by Government

Like all entrepreneurs, Beto Matias saw an opportunity to support his family while simultaneously creating value for his community.

Finding a prime spot right outside UC Berkeley’s football stadium, Matias began selling his craft hot dogs to willing consumers. No one complained about the quality of Matias’ hot dogs, nor did anyone have any objections to his presence outside of the stadium. But that didn’t stop the state from intervening.

Street Theft

Officer Sean Aranas approached Matias as he was going about his business and asked to see identification. Matias, in complete compliance with the officer’s demands, began sifting through his wallet in search of his identification. But this is where the story took a devastating turn.

Before Matias was given the opportunity to hand Aranas his ID, the wallet was ripped from his hands. And instead of merely examining his identification, Officer Aranas proceeded to confiscate the $60 Matias had in his wallet at the time. It was not until after this strong-arm mugging that the officer finally explained to Matias that he was being cited for failing to obtain a business permit.

Luckily, one of Matias’ customers filmed the entire encounter on his smartphone and the video has since gone viral.  

Martin Flores knew something wasn’t right when he saw the officer reach for Matias’ wallet. Thankfully, as so many of us are trained to do in the digital age, he pulled out his smartphone and immediately began documenting the encounter. And he did so just in the nick of time.

In Flores’ footage, viewers see the wallet physically taken from Matias as his hard-earned money is stolen right before his eyes. In the background, Flores can be heard saying, “That’s not right.”

Flores even took his role in the matter one step further and while filming, inquires why the officer deemed it necessary to target this innocent vendor over the loud display of public intoxication that was occurring directly across the street. The only response Aranas supplied Flores with was, “Yeah, well he doesn't have a permit. He doesn't have a permit.”

Penalized for Hard Work

To be sure, Matias never denied his lack of a business permit. But he was shocked and taken aback by Aranas’ actions. To be handed an arbitrary citation is one thing, but to have your cash simply snatched by an officer of the law is especially egregious.

Matias later told Telemundo 48:
“I had already shown him my ID. They saw that I was not doing anything wrong, neither stealing nor anything, I was just working to support my family.”
Unfortunately, this kind of thing happens every day.

The most innocuous activities now require state permission: from selling hot dogs to playing tennis. No one can economically survive without a job. And yet, for many, our government makes it impossible to do so without first running an obstacle course of red tape. For a country founded on freedom of opportunity, something has gone horribly wrong. 

In the American workforce, over 30 percent of jobs require an occupational license before an individual can legally earn a living. To make matters worse, many of these permits and licenses target those in the most vulnerable socioeconomic brackets. Not only are these licenses often expensive and require a great deal of paperwork, they are completely arbitrary.

As often as “public health and safety” is cited as justification, licensing does very little to ensure this. It doesn’t matter how well-intentioned the state may be, a permit cannot prevent food poisoning. Occupational licensing has, however, been extremely successful in limiting the number of individuals entering a given work sector. It has also helped protect established industries from unwanted competition, for example, shutting down a “rogue” hot dog vendor operating without a license.

But of the many things licensing does, protecting the consumer is most certainly, not among them.

The market has its own means of protecting consumers through feedback. Even before platforms like Yelp and Google allowed for a free flow of review culture, word of mouth has always served to help keep business owners accountable.

Additionally, consumer loyalty says a lot about a product or service. This is not the first time Matias has sold hot dogs from his cart, and his consumers keep coming back. And “shockingly” enough, no one has died or even reported any instances of foodborne illnesses.

The quality of a service speaks for itself, and this is something that cannot be obtained through a government license.

Outsourcing Justice

Stories like Matias’ occur every day in this country. Unfortunately, many victims of state abuse are never vindicated. But our digital age is changing all this.

Not only is video footage like Flores’ helping to keep law enforcement accountable for their actions, but crowdsourcing is helping to right the wrong done to Matias, something the state is unlikely to do anytime soon — or ever.

After the footage went viral, social media activists started a GoFundMe page to mitigate the financial losses felt by Matias and his family. The original fundraising goal was set at $10,000. But since the campaign’s launch on Monday morning and the continuous sharing of the footage of the encounter with the officer, over $80,000 has been raised to help cover Matias’ pay for legal fees and recoup his losses. And the donations keep pouring in.  

As for the officer involved, an online petition calling for his immediate termination has already garnered 20,000 signatures. However, the university seems apathetic to the entire incident, claiming that the officer was conducting business as usual.

A representative did make a statement saying:
We are aware of the incident. The officer was tasked with enforcing violations related to vending without a permit on campus. UCPD is looking into the matter.”
In other words, Officer Aranas was “just doing his job.” And unfortunately, the promise of the UCPD “looking into the matter,” does little to calm the fears of many Americans who are tired of having to read about these stories on a weekly basis. Even worse, are the many Americans forced to become part of this narrative as a result of bureaucratic licensing.

But fortunately, social media has acted as the arbiter of justice. And while Officer Aranas’ future in law enforcement is probably just as secure as it was before the incident occurred, at least voluntary crowdsourcing has provided the means to keep the Matias family afloat and perhaps, help him expand his venture and add even more value to his community.


Brittany Hunter


Brittany Hunter is an associate editor at FEE. Brittany studied political science at Utah Valley University with a minor in Constitutional studies.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Constitutional Ignorance Led to a Tyranny of the Majority

Constitutional Ignorance Led to a Tyranny of the Majority

Constitution Day—September 17—marks the anniversary of its 1787 signing. Students will be taught about it...but not because of its importance. It is now a mandatory topic for every educational institution receiving federal aid. However, what won’t be taught is the irony of that requirement, which originated from the man then-described as the Senate’s leading Constitutional scholar, while clearly conflicting with the Constitution.

In 2004, Senator Robert Byrd (D.-WV) added this requirement to a pork-filled spending bill that was blatantly inconsistent with Americans’ general welfare. It also clearly overstepped the 10th Amendment’s restriction of the federal government to only its enumerated powers.

His “solution” aside, Byrd was correct about Americans’ inadequate Constitutional knowledge. As one National Constitution Center poll concluded, only one in six of us claimed detailed knowledge of the Constitution—despite the fact that two-thirds said it was “absolutely essential” to have.

Lack of Knowledge Is a Dangerous Thing

In other words, Americans know too little about our Constitution to maintain the freedoms it was designed to protect. Instead, our ignorance leads us to sacrificing rights out of undue deference to majority rule.

America’s Constitution did not endorse majority rule. Our founders did believe in voting to select who should be entrusted with the power of government, but the more important and prior question they addressed was: “What powers do the people delegate to the federal government to exercise on their behalf?” That is why so much of the Constitution, particularly the Bill of Rights, is devoted to what the government is not allowed to do, regardless of majority sentiment. As Jefferson said, our founders fought not for democracy, but for a government “tied down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.”

In fact, our founders had a great distrust of majority rule. Alexander Hamilton asserted that “Real liberty is not found in the extremes of democracy.” James Madison said “democracies…have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.” Thomas Jefferson warned that “an elective despotism was not the government we fought for,” and that “The majority, oppressing an individual, is guilty of a crime, abuses its strength, and by acting on the law of the strongest breaks up the foundations of society.”

That is why the Constitution contains multiple non-majority rules to protect Americans against federal abuses, such as presidential veto power and the super-majorities required to change the Constitution. Its defense is the rationale for the Supreme Court’s power to strike down unconstitutional laws, regardless of how many congressional votes they received.

“Individual rights are not subject to a public vote."

Despite our founders’ antipathy toward pure majority rule, many today feel that our founders’ opposition to unlimited democracy can be squared with political determination of everything by adding the phrase, “also protecting the rights of the minority.” However, as Ayn Rand put it, “Individual rights are not subject to a public vote; a majority has no right to vote away the rights of a minority; the political function of rights is precisely to protect minorities from oppression by majorities (and the smallest minority on earth is the individual).” Consequently, our lack of Constitutional knowledge means that believing in protecting the rights of minorities does not actually protect them when they are outvoted.

Since Americans don’t clearly understand their Constitutional rights against government abuse, the unwise habit of deference to political majorities results in those rights being steamrollered whenever more than 50% vote to do so. Examples are plentiful because—despite the Constitution’s imposition of strictly limited, enumerated federal powers—there is no area it does not now reach, if not dominate. And with our protections eroding, majority voting controls more and more of what our founders thought they had made off-limits to political determination.

Sadly, as we can’t effectively defend what we are only vaguely aware of, American inattention to the highest law of the land puts our most essential rights and liberties at risk. We may think we have inalienable rights, as the Declaration of Independence asserts. But those rights are protected by the Constitution only if we know what they are and we remember that the federal government was not granted power to take them away based on any simple majority vote. Unless we once again take our rights as seriously as our founders and vigorously defend the Constitutional safeguards that maintain them—even against majority pressures—the system of self-government our founders left us will continue to erode. But when we don’t even recognize the irony of a federal mandate to promote understanding of the Constitution, especially when it is inconsistent with the Constitution, we are unprepared to do anything to effectively preserve its protections against government abuse.


Gary M. Galles


Gary M. Galles is a professor of economics at Pepperdine University. His recent books include Faulty Premises, Faulty Policies (2014) and Apostle of Peace (2013). He is a member of the FEE Faculty Network.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

Trump’s Lumber Tariffs Hurt Hurricane Recovery

Trump’s Lumber Tariffs Hurt Hurricane Recovery

As the flood waters from Hurricane Harvey dry up, the residents of affected areas are turning to the task of rebuilding their storm-ravaged communities.

Early estimates of the damage suggest they have their work cut out for them. The Texas Division of Emergency Management reports that the storm destroyed 9,407 single family homes. Another 44,013 experienced major damage. Moody's Analytics estimates that the cost of the hurricane will be in the $51–$75 billion range.

President Donald Trump has pledged $1 million of his own money to Harvey relief efforts, along with a $15 billion aid package for areas affected by the storm. But he's also pushing protectionist policies that will raise the cost of the basic building materials, making recovery a longer, more difficult, and more expensive process.

The Price of Protectionism

In April, the Trump administration imposed countervailing trade duties averaging 20 percent on imported softwood Canadian lumber, a common material in home construction. In June, he hit them again with anti-dumping duties of 6 percent.

The initial application of these tariffs aggravated consumers of Canadian lumber, says Kevin Mason, managing director of ERA Forest Products Research (a timber market analyst firm), and the damage done by the storm has only made those consumers' situation worse.

"Some people who've just gone through this devastation—they've had their house flooded or it's been destroyed," Mason says. "To the degree that they've got to go out and get lumber to do some repairs, they're going to be paying close to record high prices. And part of the reason prices are as high as they are is because of these duties."

Tariffs Are Hurting Importers

The U.S. has imposed tariffs on Canadian lumber imports periodically since the mid-1980s. What makes the latest round of tariffs unusual, Macon says, is the degree to which U.S. consumers have eaten the costs of those trade barriers.

"Historically the Canadians have had to absorb half if not the bulk of the duties," says Mason. "This time the U.S. consumer has borne the entire brunt."

According to a pricing index put out by the timber market publication Random Lengths, lumber prices hit a peak of $430 per thousand feet of board in April, the month countervailing duties were first imposed. That's 20 percent over where lumber prices were in January, and nearly 25 percent higher than where prices were in April 2016.

The increase has not gone unnoticed by builders, including those in areas affected by Hurricane Harvey.

"A lot of our distributors, and lumber companies that we deal with, were buying a lot of that imported lumber because they got a much better price, and that rolls over into the prices that we pay," says Patrick Mayhan, vice president of purchasing for the Houston-area company Westin Homes.

That dependence on cheaper Canadian lumber meant that Mayhan's company was particularly vulnerable to Trump's tariffs.

"It was a significant hike at the time. It was a 20 percent increase," he tells Reason, adding that "we had no choice but to pass that along to our retail pricing for the home. And that's a significant amount, because lumber is a big part of the cost of building a home."

Adding Insult to Injury

Increased demand from the storm would push up prices regardless. But thanks to the tariffs, that price increase is starting from an artificially inflated baseline. For some, that could be the difference between a new home and no home at all.

"Currently for each $1,000 that you tack on to the price of a new home, about 150,000 people nationwide can no longer afford homeownership," says David Logan, director of tax policy analysis for the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). Logan says the tariffs have increased the costs of lumber for NAHB members by 15 to 20 percent, increasing the cost of a new home by some $1,700.

Zoltan van Heyningen, executive director of the pro-tariff U.S. Lumber Coalition, disputes the numbers coming from the NAHB, saying the impact of tariffs on home prices and homeownership has been overhyped.

"The impact on consumers is negligible to none. The impact on producers is life or death," he tells Reason.

But builders like Mayhan are quickly approaching the point where they cannot pass added costs onto the purchasers of homes. Though it's still too early to tell, the expected price increases coming in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma might push them past that point.

For some builders, that pressure to contain retail prices will lead them to compensate for higher lumber prices with lower profit margins. For others, particularly those operating at lower margins, reduced returns might mean forgoing new construction projects.

That's particularly true for people planning to rebuild in the aftermath of Harvey and Irma. In addition to near-record-high lumber prices, the costs of other materials—drywall, sheetrock, siding—have gone up as well.

Trump told reporters recently that the response to the recent storms is "gonna cost a lot of money." Without his tariffs on imported lumber, the cost could be considerably less.

Reprinted from Reason


Christian Britschgi


Christian Britschgi is a reporter for Arizona Watchdog.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Government Run Amok at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms

Government Run Amok at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms

 

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF) must be anxious to get on my list of government bureaucracies that shouldn’t exist.

The bureaucrats have engaged in some really silly and petty behavior (such as confiscating Airsoft toy guns because they might be machine guns), and they’ve engaged in some behavior that is criminally stupid and dangerous (running guns to Mexican drug gangs as part of the “Fast and Furious” fiasco).

If It's Not One Thing, It's Another

Now we have another example. Though it’s so bizarre that I’m not sure how to classify it. Basically, the bureaucrats created an illegal slush fund, and then used the money illegally.

The New York Times has been on top of this story. Here are excerpts from the latest report.
For seven years, agents at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives followed an unwritten policy: If you needed to buy something for one of your cases, do not bother asking Washington. Talk to agents in Bristol, Va., who controlled a multimillion-dollar account unrestricted by Congress or the bureaucracy. …thousands of pages of newly unsealed records reveal a widespread scheme — a highly unorthodox merger of an undercover law enforcement operation and a legitimate business. What began as a way to catch black-market cigarette dealers quickly transformed into a nearly untraceable A.T.F. slush fund that agents from around the country could tap. …One agent steered hundreds of thousands of dollars in real estate, electronics and money to his church and his children’s sports teams, records show. …At least tens of millions of dollars moved through the account before it was shut down in 2013, but no one can say for sure how much. The government never tracked it.
Oh, by the way, the BATF was breaking the law.
Federal law prohibits mixing government and private money. The A.T.F. now acknowledges it can point to no legal justification for the scheme.
But you won’t be surprised to learn that there have been no consequences.
…no one was ever prosecuted, Congress was only recently notified, and the Justice Department tried for years to keep the records secret.
And it’s also worth noting that this is also a tax issue. As I’ve noted before, high tax rates encourage illegality.
Though cigarettes are available at any corner store, they are extraordinarily profitable to smuggle. That’s because taxes are high and every state sets its own rates. Virginia charges $3 per carton. New York charges $43.50. The simplest scheme — buying cigarettes in Virginia and selling them tax-free in New York — can generate tens of thousands of dollars in illicit cash. By some estimates, more than half of New York’s cigarettes come from the black market.
By the way, I can't help but wonder why the federal government is engaging in all sorts of dodgy behavior to help enforce bad state tax laws. Yes, I realize the cigarettes are crossing state lines, but so what? The illegal (but not immoral) behavior occurs when an untaxed cigarette is sold inside the borders of, say, New York. Why should Washington get involved?

In other words, I like the fact that borders limit the power of government. It’s why I don’t like global schemes to undermine tax competition (why should Swiss banks be required to enforce bad U.S. tax law?), and it’s why I don’t like the so-called Marketplace Fairness Act (why should merchants in one state be required to enforce the sales taxes of other states?).

But I’m digressing.

Let’s get back to the Bureau’s misbehavior. Here’s some additional reporting from the U.K.-based Times.
A US government crime-fighting agency ran a secret bank account that its employees used to buy luxury cars, property and trips to casinos. Officers for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), charged with investigating smuggling and gun crimes, built up a slush fund worth tens of millions of dollars through illicit cigarette sales, ostensibly as part of an operation to catch traffickers. The scandal is the latest controversy to hit the agency, which has been criticised in recent years for lack of accountability and allowing the flow of guns and drugs to go unchecked. …Cash from the slush fund generated at an ATF field office in Bristol, Virginia, …funded activities such as a trip to Las Vegas, donations to agents’ children and the booking of a $21,000 suite at a Nascar race.
But That's Not All

And what about the overall BATF bureaucracy? Well, it’s getting some unfavorable attention. Keep in mind that this scandal is on top of the “Fast and Furious” scandal of the Obama years.
The ATF has said that it has “implemented substantial enhancements to its policies, and has markedly improved leadership, training, communication, accountability and operational oversight”. Under the previous administration, it was widely derided for a botched weapons operation known as “Fast and Furious”. The agency allowed licensed firearms dealers to sell weapons to illegal buyers, hoping to track the guns to Mexican drug cartel kingpins. But out of the 2,000 firearms sold, only a fraction have been traced. The secret account scandal has renewed calls from across the political spectrum for the department of about 2,000 agents to be reformed or shut down.
Last but not least, I think we have a new member of the Bureaucrat Hall of Fame.
Thomas Lesnak, a senior ATF investigator, began the scheme. …Mr Lesnak retired with his pension and was not reprimanded.
Just like Lois Lerner and the IRS, engaging in corrupt and crooked behavior and then escaping any punishment.

Maybe the two of them should hook up? They’d make a great couple. I’m sure they could even figure out a way to make taxpayers finance their wedding and honeymoon.

P.S. The “Fast and Furious” scheme was just one of the scandals that occurred during the Obama years, but it may have been the most foolish. Didn’t anybody at the BATF realize that it wasn’t a good idea to funnel weapons to Mexican drug gangs?!?

P.P.S. The silver lining to that dark cloud is that we got a couple of good one-liners about the Obama Administration’s gun-running scandal from Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon.

Reprinted from Intentional Liberty


Daniel J. Mitchell


Daniel J. Mitchell is a Washington-based economist who specializes in fiscal policy, particularly tax reform, international tax competition, and the economic burden of government spending. He also serves on the editorial board of the Cayman Financial Review.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.


Friday, September 15, 2017

Beware the Broken Window Fallacy

Beware the Broken Window Fallacy

On Friday morning, with Hurricane Irma having wrecked the islands of Saint Martin and Barbuda, CNBC published a story cheerily laying out the silver lining embedded in the tropical disasters:
Hurricanes Harvey and Irma actually will lead to increased economic activity over the long run, New York Fed President William Dudley said in an interview.

Speaking just as Irma is about to start battering Florida as a Category 4 storm, Dudley said the initial impact in both human and economic costs will be harmful. But in the long run, economies tend to snap back from such major events.

"Those effects tend to be pretty transitory," Dudley said. . . . "The long-run effect . . . is it actually lifts economic activity because you have to rebuild all the things that have been damaged by the storms."
A few days earlier, Euronews had run a similar story: “Hurricane Harvey pushes up petrol prices, but 'economic outlook positive.'” Over at Yahoo Finance, a roundup of expert opinion quoted Goldman Sachs’s Jan Hatzius, who predicted a surge in the wake of the storms, “reflecting a boost from rebuilding efforts and a catch-up in economic activity displaced during the hurricane.” The Los Angeles Times, meanwhile, focused on one particular “glint of silver lining” in all the hurricane destruction — the bonanza it would spell for car dealers:
Floodwaters in and around Houston severely damaged or destroyed hundreds of thousands of cars and trucks, most of which will be replaced. Those new and used vehicle sales will benefit automakers and the economy, providing a glint of silver lining amid terrible tragedy.
It never fails. A terrible disaster wreaks havoc and ruin, and is promptly followed — or even, as in this case, preceded — by experts insisting that the devastation will be great for the economy.

Could anything be more absurd?

The shattering losses caused by hurricanes, earthquakes, forest fires, and other calamities are grievous misfortunes that obviously leave society poorer. Vast sums of money may be spent afterward to repair and rebuild, but society will still be poorer from the damage caused by the storm or other disaster. Every dollar spent on cleanup and reconstruction is a dollar that could have been spent to enlarge the nation’s reservoir of material assets. Instead, it has to be spent replacing what was lost. That isn’t a “glint of silver lining.” It is the tragedy of vanished wealth and opportunity, to say nothing of immense human suffering.

As a matter of theology or philosophy or psychology, there may be a certain validity to interpreting tragedy as a blessing in disguise. But as a matter of economics, it is madness. If your car is totaled in a crash, you don’t celebrate your good fortune because the insurance company is going to send you a check to pay for a new car. Sure, the auto dealer will be glad to make a sale, but his gain will not outweigh your loss. Nor will the economy as a whole be better off: The money you have to spend to get another set of wheels is money that might otherwise have been devoted to enlarging society’s stock of capital. All it can do now is restore capital that was wiped out.

Yet the fallacy that disaster is a boon never seems to go out of style. Even Nobel laureates indulge in it.

“It seems almost in bad taste to talk about dollars and cents after an act of mass murder,’’wrote Paul Krugman in The New York Times, just after the 9/11 horror 16 years ago today, but the terrorist attacks could “do some economic good.’’ After all, he continued, Manhattan would “need some new office buildings’’ and “rebuilding will generate at least some increase in business spending.’’

Ugh.

All the increased spending on earth will never bring back those who died. It will never undo the fear and trauma and sorrow of the survivors. And it can never restore the millions of man-hours required to repair and rebuild and recover.

No, hurricanes are not good for the economy. Neither are floods, earthquakes, or massacres. When windows are shattered, all of humanity is left materially worse off. There is no financial “glint of silver lining.” To claim otherwise is delusional. To make that claim in the midst of a catastrophe is callous beyond words.

This piece ran at the Boston Globe 


Jeff Jacoby


Jeff Jacoby has been a columnist for The Boston Globe since 1994. He has degrees from George Washington University and from Boston University Law School. Before entering journalism, he (briefly) practiced law at the prominent firm of Baker & Hostetler, worked on several political campaigns in Massachusetts, and was an assistant to Dr. John Silber, the president of Boston University. In 1999, Jeff became the first recipient of the Breindel Prize, a major award for excellence in opinion journalism. In 2014, he was included in the “Forward 50,” a list of the most influential American Jews.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.


Equifax Hackers Demand Ransom in Bitcoin

Equifax Hackers Demand Ransom in Bitcoin

There’s a new wrinkle in the story of one of the largest data breaches in history. The hack of Equifax may have compromised the personal data of one in five Americans. The hackers have now demanded a ransom with the threat of releasing that information to the commercial marketplace (“monetizing the information”).

They are demanding 600 Bitcoins, which is worth about $2.4 million.
"We are two people trying to solve our lives and those of our families. We did not expect to get as much information as we did, nor do we want to affect any citizen. But we need to monetize the information as soon as possible.”
All told that is not a high price for this company, given the stakes. If it is paid, it will happen quietly. And at that point, presumably, the newly minted millionaires will have sold the data back to its rightful owners and will move on with their lives.

But note that the hackers did not demand dollars. They did not demand euros. They did not demand gold, silver, or diamonds. They demanded a digital currency that didn’t even exist 10 years ago. They demanded what is now correctly described as the most valuable currency in the world.

One response might be: of course they demand bitcoins, because this is the preferred money of the criminal class. If that is true, we might reflect for a moment on why that might be so. Cryptocurrency is not anonymous, contrary to what people think. All transactions exist on a public ledger, so you can actually follow transactions around, even if you can’t easily discover the identity behind the movement.

So what’s the appeal? It is a global currency that works in every nation, thus removing the costs of converting one national money to another. It is lightweight and portable in a way that cash or gold are not. It can be moved quickly at very low cost.

But can’t you do this with dollars using electronic payment systems? Contrary to what you see in Hollywood movies, consumers can’t move millions or even hundreds of thousands of dollars using any existing technology. And you can’t even move a few thousands of dollars without using a financial intermediary based on some trusted relationship. Forget PayPal or Venmo. Not even Google Cash can do this.

Like Real Property

Bitcoin is completely different. Its built-in payment system works peer-to-peer. You get settlement of the transaction without being permissioned in by some centralized force. Once the transaction is confirmed, it is done, as if physical property were handed from one person to another. And it can take place without regard to geographic proximity.

Is it any surprise that the criminal class prefers it as the best way to extract ransom? That fact should tell us something about the future of this currency. That people who specialize in moving large amounts of cash around the world quickly prefer it to every existing national money points to what the future of money looks like.

Why Bitcoin and not one of the thousands of other cryptoassets that are out there? Bitcoin has become the base money of the crypto world, the standard by which all the others are measured and into which everything else is converted. That may not be a permanent condition, but it is where we are today.

Disintermediation

Consider all the features of money (fungibility, divisibility, portability, durability), and add to them being weightless and spaceless, and you already have the highest quality currency in the world today. But there’s another factor that works in favor of cryptocurrency: it lives on a decentralized network. And this network is capable of doing much more than enlivening a new type of money.

The trouble with centralized networks is highlighted by the Equifax compromise itself. Once a hacker gets in, there is no end to the mischief he can cause. This is because there is a central point of failure. This is also true for all financial intermediaries. We just have to trust that their security systems are solid, and, if they are not, we have no real recourse.

In decentralized networks, there is no single custodian of the data. It is observed in operation by anyone and everyone, and it cannot be compromised in whole just because one code slinger made a mistake. A decentralized network provides the maximum in security for this reason.

Might there be some blockchain-style solution to the problem that our financial data is being held by these highly centralized corporate entities? If such a solution does exist, it will be found within the frameworks being developed today. The Equifax hacking illustrates the need for change.

And it also illustrates the value of the leading currency unit. Pay attention to the preferred denomination of ransom money, and you see the future of money and payment systems.


Jeffrey A. Tucker


Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Content for the Foundation for Economic Education. He is also Chief Liberty Officer and founder of Liberty.me, Distinguished Honorary Member of Mises Brazil, research fellow at the Acton Institute, policy adviser of the Heartland Institute, founder of the CryptoCurrency Conference, member of the editorial board of the Molinari Review, an advisor to the blockchain application builder Factom, and author of five books. He has written 150 introductions to books and many thousands of articles appearing in the scholarly and popular press.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The EU’s Attitude Towards Brexit Will Cause More Exits

The EU’s Attitude Towards Brexit Will Cause More Exits

 

Last week's headlines in the United Kingdom focused once again on the words of two men: the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and Brexit secretary for the UK government, David Davies.

In the ongoing negotiation between Her Majesty's Government and the European Union, three main issues remain unresolved, notably the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, EU citizens’ rights who reside in the United Kingdom, and the infamous 'Brexit divorce bill'. The latter has caused considerable outrage in the British public, as the French negotiator demands a full £90 billion ($117 billion) in payments in order to pay for the expenses caused by the British exit.

The measure is so unpopular that even a majority of British people who voted to remain in the European Union now oppose it.

Make An Example of the UK



A week ago, the UK government refused to cover this large sum and has since issued thorough explanations why it holds that position. This apparently left EU leaders flabbergasted, whose clear intent is to make an example out of the United Kingdom. With Brexit being the first time an EU-member state has chosen to get out of the union, the team around Michel Barnier and EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has every interest in making the Brexit situation a deterrent for large eurosceptic movements in other European countries. In fact, Barnier has been crystal clear on this. As the BBC reports:
Speaking at a conference in Italy on Saturday, Mr Barnier said he did not want to punish the UK for leaving but said: "I have a state of mind - not aggressive... but I'm not naïve."

"We intend to teach people… what leaving the single market means," he told the Ambrosetti forum.
Asked by the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag if other member states would follow Britain's example of quitting the union, Commission chief Juncker said: "No. Britain's example will make everyone realize that it's not worth leaving."

How exactly is the EU expecting to bring other members off their eurosceptic tendencies remains unclear. With a considerable trade imbalance in favor of the Brits, which are still one of the most important economic players on the globe, it is hard to imagine that Angela Merkel will want angry Volkswagen producers before her decisive parliamentary elections and that Emmanuel Macron will want to deal with enraged Bordeaux wineries before the upcoming senate elections.

Ineffective, High-Horse Tactics

The calm and pragmatic Brits are virtually unimpressed by the EU's tough talk, and so is the electorate in the rest of Europe. According to a recent TNS Infratest Politikforschung poll, 42 percent of Germans favor a referendum on Germany's membership in the EU, and 62 percent agreed with the statement that the union "is not moving in the right direction".

How long European citizens will continue to support a political structure which is over-regulating the economy and people's personal habits is what should really concern EU-leaders. After Brexit, it is likely that more and more countries will no longer be willing to stay a member, starting with those in Central and Eastern Europe. Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary already have strong eurosceptic movements.

Ever since the 2004 enlargement of the European Union to include several former Eastern Bloc countries, European technocrats have believed that financing Central and Eastern European infrastructure and agriculture will make them nod along with the policies of the Brussels machine.

This political strategy is doomed to fail. There are emerging markets in the world, yet Europe is not one of them. For the continent to stay competitive, it needs to rid itself of the protectionist trade policy of the EU, and, even more importantly, of its massive regulation on businesses. The only reason why no countries have left the EU is because the member states do not let the people vote on its membership. Since the U.K.'s referendum in June 2016, they know that such a vote can produce "undesired" results.

The EU is manifestly unprepared for the Brexit negotiations and is merely letting off steam. What EU leaders need to do is to calmly overcome their ego and work in the interest of European citizens and consumers.


Bill Wirtz


Bill Wirtz is a Young Voices Advocate. His work has been featured in several outlets, including Newsweek, Rare, RealClear, CityAM, Le Monde and Le Figaro. He also works as a Policy Analyst for the Consumer Choice Center.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Computist (December 1986)

Computist (December 1986)








The Dark Crystal (Apple II)





The Dark Crystal (Apple II)

Yes, the Alt-Left Exists and It’s Terrifying

Yes, the Alt-Left Exists and It’s Terrifying

When writing this piece, a quote kept rattling around in the back of my head. It was the title of the opening chapter of “The Feminine Mystique,” Betty Friedan’s seminal 1963 feminist manifesto: The Problem That Has No Name. Apologies in advance, for appropriating and altering three of the quotes I find most meaningful from that chapter, for my own purposes here:
The problem lay buried, unspoken, for many years in the minds of American liberals…

Even so, most liberals still did not know that this problem was real. But those who had faced it honestly knew that all the media dismissals, the academic justifications, the intellectualized double speak and the manufactured outrage were somehow drowning the problem in unreality…

How can any person see the whole truth within the bounds of one’s own life? How can she believe that voice inside herself, when it denies the conventional, accepted truths by which she has been living? And yet the liberals I have talked to, who are finally listening to that inner voice, seem in some incredible way to be groping through to a truth that has defied the media.”
The Alt-Left Is Real

There is an effort underfoot, in the media and in academia, to declare the Alt-Left a myth, to sweep it back under the rug, to reduce it, in effect, back to being a sickness not spoken of, a problem that has no name. I have had well-meaning friends tell me I should not use the term Alt-Left (or any of its synonyms: Regressive Left, CTRL-Left, SJWism) because they are ‘pejoratives’ used only by the right to attack the left.

In my experience, this is not true. Like canaries in the coal mine, liberals who do not (or no longer) subscribe to the Alt-Left ideology have been sounding the alarm about this creeping plague of repressive groupthink for quite a while now. I believe this attempt to dissuade our use of the term Alt-Left is purposeful (even if not consciously recognized by individuals who are doing it) — for how can we discuss something we cannot refer to by name?

When asked to define Alt-Left, I would describe it as a leftist but illiberal authoritarian ideology rooted in postmodernism and neo-Marxism that supports censorship, condones violence in response to speech, is obsessed with identity politics (much like the Alt-Right), and functions like a secular religion that gives its believers a sense of moral self-worth.

It masquerades as a form of liberalism, but it has more in common with authoritarianism than its true believers can (or want to?) admit. It claims to speak for the marginalized, but it either ignores or attempts to hatefully shame members of marginalized groups who do not subscribe to the ideology.

It is not simply Antifa; it is the ideology that undergirds Antifa, and it has swallowed much of BLM and intersectional third wave feminism. It wishes to swallow the whole of the left, the country, the world. It is rooted in nihilism, resentfulness, and arrogance, though it presents itself as being rooted in equality, justice, and morality. It favors collectivism over individualism, statism over liberty, forced equality of outcome over freedom.

Now…imagine if I had to say that mouthful every time I wished to talk about the Alt-Left because I bought into the notion that to give it a name it would be insulting to fellow liberals. No, to speak of it by name is to out it for what it is and to reduce some of its power.

What's in a Name?

I can’t tell you how good it felt when I first discovered the work of Dave Rubin, a reasonable liberal, and realized I wasn’t alone in seeing this pernicious belief system for what it really is.

In his video, Rubin offers that it doesn’t matter which term we use, what’s important is that we are allowed to identify the problem. “Whatever name you use for this well-meaning yet painfully misguided set of ideas is largely irrelevant. We needed this phrase to identify this backward ideology which puts groups before people. And sometimes you need a label to get people to understand an idea.”

Reasonable liberal Maajid Nawaz, widely credited with coining the term Regressive Left, also made the following observation last year:
Today’s active, organized left is no longer liberal. A liberal will always prioritize free speech over offense. This behavior, censorship on the organized left, post factual behavior, violence being seen as an option and prioritizing group identity over individual rights. That isn’t liberal.”
Do yourself a favor and watch the whole video:

Yet another reasonable liberal, Tim Pool, points out that one of the few things Politico gets right about the Alt-Left is that it is a term used by centrist liberals. Pool says, “Yes, I use the term Alt-Left because I want to make sure everybody knows when I say I’m left-leaning, I’m not the kind of person that’s gonna go out and punch somebody in the face or take away their rights because I think mine are more important.”

I’m also a liberal who’s been using the term Alt-Left since I first learned to trust that voice within myself, that voice that denies the conventional, accepted Alt-Left “truths” by which I had been living.

The first time I used it in a public piece of writing was back in May while attempting to articulate my transformation in belief systems in an essay called On Leaving the SJW Cult and Finding Myself. The essay itself was a long time coming. I started to wake up to the creeping authoritarianism and endless internal hypocrisies of the accepted Alt-Left ideology over a year ago. But leaving behind a belief system to which you’ve subscribed for twenty years is a bit like razing your house to the ground and rebuilding from the ground up.

Suddenly you are starting with nothing; everything you thought you knew is suspect. It takes a long time to evaluate each previously held belief and try to discern which ones hold substance. Where before my house had foolishly been built on the shifting sands of postmodernism, this time I want to ensure that, as Dr. Jordan Peterson might say, my house is built on rock.

It makes me think of George Lakoff’s “Don’t Think of an Elephant,” my first introduction to the concept of framing. Lackoff said “Frames are mental structures that shape the way we see the world….Neuroscience tells us that each of the concepts we have — the long-term concepts that structure how we think — is instantiated in the synapses of our brains…If a strongly held frame doesn’t fit the facts, the facts will be ignored and the frame will be kept.”

I devoured this book when a young SJW. It helped me understand how people could vote Republican and why my right-wing Aunt didn’t seem to be swayed to my point of view no matter how many facts I threw at her. What I didn’t think too much about was how this human tendency is just as prevalent on the left as it is on the right.

The Frog and the Pot

I am of the opinion that a lot of well-meaning people have become converts to the Alt-Left ideology without even realizing it. Like the parable of the slow boiling frog, if you had told me at the beginning that one day I’d be expected to perform mental gymnastics in order to defend censorship and violence in response to speech, I would have leaped from the pot.

Instead, I was conditioned to accept as gospel each new tenet of SJWism over a period of twenty years. I believed in the essential goodness of the ideology, and in my own essential goodness in preaching it. When facts about the direction it was taking me made themselves known to me, I rejected them because they did not fit the frame. As the ideology became more noticeably toxic, hypocritical, and authoritarian, so too did the tactics of the true believers. Whether in academia, in the media, at Google, or online — the message is clear: dare to step out of line or express an independent thought, and a mob of zealous SJW zombies will come for you. The fear of losing one’s job, status, friends or personal safety is a strong motivator in forcing reasonable people to remain silent.

I have received a lot of positive feedback about the sentiments expressed in my writing about SJWism from people all over the political spectrum. Most meaningful to me of these might be the messages I get from fellow liberals who are going through the same realization, confusion, and fear.

In addition to the public responses you can read yourself, I have received private messages from people in academia, journalism, and entertainment — many of them liberals — expressing that the piece resonated with them and that they were afraid to share it (or presumably in some cases, to express themselves about anything at all). Excerpts from a handful of these are below:
I honestly was scared to tweet that…that’s how bad things have gotten. I’ve nearly lost work…The world has gone mad.”

“I have definitely taken notice of so many of my friends on the left going to a dark place.”

“It is totally wild. These people are my friends — my community….They’re so angry.”

“…your piece on the social justice cult affected me more than words can say. After being called ‘violent’…because I used a word that someone decided was offensive…I had a bit of an existential crisis about my life and self-worth. Thus, I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit... I remain committed to the idea that privilege exists and it should be combated through both self-reflection and system action. I also am a proud liberal, and that hasn’t lessened. That said, I can’t get behind the individual scapegoating, shouting and intimidation in the name of fighting hate, or defining sharing a point of view as “educating” and “labor.” Ultimately, the world needs more compassion….I’m trying to get there on talking and writing about some of this a little more publicly, but I don’t think I’m quite there yet (also, the fact that I’m on the academic job market makes me a bit hesitant).” 

“I saw your posts and they were refreshing. I hate politics but free speech is so important to me….but then I remember I work in TV and Music and I can’t say anything that’s going to make me lose my job. It’s crazy what’s going on right now.”

“Just wanted to let you know I’m one of those people who greatly appreciates your voice on social media, but am too afraid of the thought police to voice my support.”
Actions Speak Louder Than Words

If the Alt-Left doesn’t exist, why are so many liberals and centrists afraid of expressing themselves? Why are so many people self-censoring for their own sense of safety? I was fascinated by the James Damore story, not because I have an opinion on the legality of his dismissal, but because his online stoning and subsequent firing confirmed for me what I already suspected: Google, like most of the tech space, the entertainment space, the academic space and the media space has become a panopticon of Alt-Left groupthink, self-censorship, and fear.

I know this fear intimately. As I started waking up to the illiberal nature of the growing Alt-Left ideology, I held my tongue for a long time out of fear of losing job opportunities, the safety of anonymity, and friends. After all, I built my career, and by proxy a lot of my friendships, from this SJW frame. I don’t judge anyone for subscribing to this ideology out of misplaced idealism and a desire to do good; I did for twenty years. Likewise, I don’t judge anyone who is currently waking up from it but is constrained by fear. As I tell folks who write me about it: I don’t know the exact way to get over it. I suspect it’s different for every person. But trust me when I tell you, it is so liberating on the other side.

For those self-identified liberals who may have been seduced by this belief system, by its propaganda, and are fuming at this piece, thank you for reading this far. I believe a part of you is struggling to wake up if you stuck it out this long. I encourage you to start listening to that small voice inside yourself, the one that tells you when something doesn’t seem quite right or reasonable, no matter if it’s accepted by all of your peers.

Take a look at who was really at the Free Speech Rally in Boston for starters. This, for example, is Shiva Ayyadurai. You may decide you don’t like him because he’s conservative, but to call him a “white supremacist” is a dangerous Alt-Left falsehood.

Take the time to listen to Will Johnson and Joey Gibson, two of the organizers of the Patriot Prayer Rally in SF this past weekend. Their rally was canceled after successful media (and political) attempts to smear them as “white supremacists” caused subsequent threats of violence from the Alt-Left. Ask yourself if it’s not odd that so many so-called liberals are now smearing people of color with whom they don’t agree as “white supremacists” (Charles Barkley is apparently one now too, so Johnson, Gibson, and Ayyadurai are not alone).

Then ask yourself if these people, or these people, or these people, or these people, or these people, or these people, or these people, or these people or these people, or these people, or these people, or these people, or these students, or these students, or these students, or these students are really fighting fascism, or if they are acting as footsoldiers (some witting, some unwitting) for a pro-censorship and pro-violence ideology. These facts may not fit your frame, but — do the actions depicted here reflect your liberal values?

I read a C.S. Lewis quote some time ago, that has stuck with me during my transformation in thought. Perhaps it will stick with you:
“Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one’s first feeling, ‘Thank God, even they aren’t quite so bad as that,’ or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies are as bad as possible? If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils. You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker. If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see white itself as black. Finally we shall insist on seeing everything — God and our friends and ourselves included — as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred.”

Keri Smith


Keri is Co-Founder of Whitesmith Entertainment.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.